Quote of the Week

 

“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” 

-Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia and the first elected female Head of State in Africa, at Harvard University’s 360th Commencement Ceremony.

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African Women and Philanthropy: The Importance of Funding Our Own Movements

by Sarah Mukasa

Philanthropy in Africa has become an area of increasing interest in the past 10 or more years. A key focus for interrogation is the manifestation of philanthropy in the African context – its areas of strength and weakness. Another is how to build on the traditions of philanthropy in Africa to attain stronger institutional processes that scale up localized forms of giving and ground these in principles of social justice, equality, peace and sustainable development. Africans are challenging the notion that Africa is purely a ‘donor recipient’ continent and instead are pointing to the rich traditions of giving and philanthropic practice in Africa – which in many instances have been the mainstay of entire communities.

Whilst it is known that philanthropy is an age-old practice in Africa, there is little recognition of the contributions it has made in developing and sustaining communities.  In Africa today, much of the giving takes place in familial and informal community networks responding often to immediate/ welfare concerns. Burial societies, individual support to the payment of school fees and, building of community facilities are examples of philanthropy that can be found in many variations on the continent. Religious organizing has also formed a critical avenue for much of the more formal and institutionalised mechanisms for philanthropy, with programmes driven by local actors providing a range of services including education, health services and feeding programmes.

More recently, a number of African philanthropic actors and organisations seeking to address social, economic and political inequalities and disparities have emerged. In addition there has been an increase in the number of high net worth individuals in Africa establishing their own, more formalised philanthropic initiatives and organizations. At the same time, the private and corporate sectors in Africa are increasingly developing corporate responsibility programmes. These developments have raised the visibility of philanthropy in Africa, highlighting its critical role in our societies and communities. Initiatives such as the African Grantmakers Network- a network developed by African grant makers to promote and strengthen philanthropy in Africa– are testament to the shifts in thinking and organisation on the continent. Increasingly Africans on the continent and elsewhere are seeking to make a difference as collaborative and organised donors to the kinds of change they wish to see.

This is both evident and urgent within the feminist movement. The role of women within the growing field of philanthropy in Africa- their contributions, successes and challenges – remain largely undocumented and unrecognised. Yet the establishment of organizations such as the African Women’s Development Fund and Urgent Action Fund –Africa amongst others, has concretised the central nature of African women’s participation and influence in philanthropy, especially social justice philanthropy.

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The World Mourns the Passing of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai

NAIROBI, Kenya — Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist who began a movement to reforest her country by paying poor women a few shillings to plant trees and who went on to become the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, died here on Sunday. She was 71.

The cause was cancer, said her organization, the Green Belt Movement. Kenyan news outlets said that she had been treated for ovarian cancer in the past year and that she had been in a hospital for at least a week before she died.

“It is with great sadness that the Green Belt Movement announces the passing of its founder and chair, Prof Wangari Muta Maathai, after a long illness bravely borne,” the organisation said in a statement on its website.

“Prof Maathai passed away on the 26th of September 2011 in Nairobi. Her family and loved ones were with her at the time,” the statement, signed by the movement’s Executive Director Karanja Njoroge, added.

Dr. Maathai, one of the most widely respected women on the continent, played many roles — environmentalist, feminist, politician, professor, rabble-rouser, human rights advocate and head of the Green Belt Movement, which she founded in 1977. Its mission was to plant trees across Kenya to fight erosion and to create firewood for fuel and jobs for women.

Dr. Maathai was as comfortable in the gritty streets of Nairobi’s slums or the muddy hillsides of central Kenya as she was hobnobbing with heads of state. She won the Peace Prize in 2004 for what the Nobel committee called “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.” It was a moment of immense pride in Kenya and across Africa.

Her Green Belt Movement has planted more than 30 million trees in Africa and has helped nearly 900,000 women, according to the United Nations, while inspiring similar efforts in other African countries.

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Quote of the Week

“Development is not that hard. We now have over 300 years of evidence of what works (and what doesn’t) in increasing growth, alleviating poverty and suffering. For example, we know that countries that finance development and create jobs through trade and encouraging foreign (and domestic) investment thrive.

We also know that there is no country — anywhere in the world — that has meaningfully reduced poverty and spurred significant and sustainable levels of economic growth by relying on aid. If anything, history has shown us that by encouraging corruption, creating dependency, fueling inflation, creating debt burdens and disenfranchising Africans (to name a few), an aid-based strategy hurts more that it helps.

It is true that interventions such as the Marshall plan in Europe and the Green Revolution in India played vital roles in economic (re)construction. However, the key and (often ignored) difference between such aid interventions and those plaguing Africa today is that the former were short, sharp and finite, whereas the latter are open-ended commitments with no end in sight. The problem with an open-ended system is, of course, that African governments have no incentive to look for other, better, ways of financing their development.”

– Dambisa Moyo

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