Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The pros and cons of ulterior motives

The most recent World Vision newsletter has a brief article about a mother in Uganda. It managed to flag up my concerns about organisations like World Vision.

The first paragraph mentions that this mother was "married in the traditional way and then we were married again at the St Maria Catholic Church". The third paragraph is this:
On the matter of names for our children, my husband is the one who decides. We named our first children after his relatives. Then he gave me permission to name our last child after my mother Abeda, so our last child is called Catherine Abeda.
I know that World Vision is a Christian organisation, but I have always figured that helping a family have enough to eat, and basic medical and education facilities was way more significant than any religious indoctrination that might come with it.

This article, however, throws sharp relief on the hypocrisy of these organisations. Apparently it is ok to change their religion and have people marry twice, but it isn't ok to address sexism in the culture.

On the other hand, I don't see many non-Christian organisations doing this sort of thing. Clearly, successfully raising 7 of 11 children with Christian overtones in a sexist society is better than losing 7 of 11 children without Christian overtones in a sexist society.

We have been sponsoring a child for a few years now. The first little girl we sponsored died just after her 4th birthday of malaria. This is, of course, the reality check. Philosophy matters very little when your daughter's life is in such peril. Sadly our sponsorship was not enough. I cried for a night, and still tear up when I think of her.

We have another little girl now, one month younger than Ben. It annoys me that World Vision seem to think religious aspects of these people's lives are fair game, but it isn't appropriate to mess with other aspects of their culture. I don't think you can have it both ways.

Then again, this may be nitpicking. When saving lives, maybe a little philosophical indulgence is permissible. I won't stop sponsoring her because World Vision allows her to be raised in a sexist society - at least she is being raised.

Maybe when she gets bigger I can start some subtle indoctrination by letter...

1 comment:

  1. Providing girls in these societies with an education is one of the most effective tools for combating sexism. An educated and therefore economically empowered female population is much less amenable to being "kept in their place" so even if your subtle letter writing does nothing more than encourage her to stick with her schooling you'll be doing some good.

    Which reminds me, I really should make the effort to write to our WV foster child on occasion....