Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Increased Human Rights Leading to Development

Tostan is an NGO that has worked in various African countries. It works to eradicate illiteracy, reduce poverty, and promote human rights. The aid organization is claiming that there is a link between human rights and national development. The group has found that once natives learn their rights, they begin to restructure their communities to better assert these rights. Tostan’s work has led many in Senegal to abandon the hotly debated practice of female circumcision. The group has educated both women and men about why the practice is a violation of human rights and natives who were once proponents of the practice now speak out against it. Does this show that we do not have to be culturally relative on this issue and other, similar issues as well? Or are were merely imposing our western values and brainwashing Africans when we help them learn “their rights” and they then demand that they are respected?

5 comments:

Kiki L. said...

I really liked this article. It seems so simple, but at the same time so effective. The leader of Totan in Senegal said in the article, “When people learn their rights, they begin to demand that those rights be respected.”
While development is obviously not that simple, it seems like this is a step that is sometimes overlooked and yet such a giant. If people do not know they deserve more, they don’t know to ask for it. Once their rights are recognize and acknowledged, they know what to fight for. It really does show what a powerful tool education is but a different dimension then we normally think of.

Libby said...

I believe Tostan is one of the first organizations to not only understand certain African cultures’ needs but also has the right approach and attitude towards the issues being addressed. While other NGOs have directed their efforts towards raising billions of dollars in hopes that it will be translated into more accessible education or healthcare in Africa, Tostan takes the more necessary approach of assimilating themselves in the villages first to truly understand the needs of the people. This "intense integration" into the community is definitely beneficial as the people of the community can trust them and therefore are more willing to learn from them. For example, Tostan was able to understand that the mothers "hoped the young people would learn how to profit from the cattle and not leave for the city to find work" and could then work off of that and respond appropriately. They do so without force but rather educating the people and helping them implement such changes. Overall I really respect Tostan as an organization and think it has come a lot further than many NGOs that have had similar objectives have in helping African villages.

Libby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ana o said...

I would agree with libby that Tostan is a worthwhile NGO in which the practices and cultures of the countries it works in are respected, which seems rare for NGOs these days. I believe that in order for change to really occur it is important to inform and help mobilize the people who are actually being affected. If they are not on board for change then it really cannot happen. While it is possible to interpret some of the work Tostan is doing as forcing Western beliefs on these cultures they in fact seem to be simply providing women with information. From that point on its up to them what to do with it. If this approach was to be implemented in other places and even with other issues I think we would see a huge issue. I strongly believe in tradition and feel that it should be preserved, but I also think that the preservation of human life is more important and in the end its possible to reach a legitimate compromise between the two.

Kat said...

This is a sensitive and delicate issue. On one hand, we are positive that (for example) female circumcision to women is a human rights violation and we want cultures to stop this practice or at least let women choose. If we have the means and man power to help spread these beliefs, why not? On the other hand, we don't want to step on toes on soil that isn't familiar to us. We don't know their culture as well as they do. We also don't want to sound preach and 'convert' them. I think educating is a great idea, and if the natives are willing or want to learn, then we should provide material for them.