This is a great perspective more of us need to understand. Whenever you go to developing countries you see signs of people trying to help without listening. Whether you are in this line of work or not create some space today and shut up and listen.
Buy a pair of shoes, give a pair of shoes to someone in need. It’s a shortsighted and increasingly common model rooted in generosity. Shortsighted in the sense if the people that are getting the shoes are not involved in the process, then it’s one more example of a process that is not creating sustainable change or impact. But what if someone’s shoe purchase could do even more? What if mothers who once accepted “free” shoes now have the dignity and self-worth to be able buy their own childrens’ shoes. That’s the question those involved in Life In Abundance’s new initiative asked themselves. It was what led to the creation of Konjo.
Konjo is an economic development initiative aiming to change the lives of people living in Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya—one of Africa’s largest slums. The initial product is a pair of unique, handcrafted sandals made of local resources. Unlike anything made in a factory, each sandal helps provide not only food, shelter, and clothing, but a sense of dignity and self-worth for the local people working towards a brighter future for them and their families. The men and women involved are living in poverty and may have previously been unemployed or unskilled, but now have both the skills and knowledge to be empowered to make a difference in their lives.
Rule29 is excited to be a part of the development and creation of Konjo and proud to announce the launch of Konjo.is. Please visit the site to learn more about the process and buy a pair of shoes or two. Limited quantities are available, so purchase today and be one of the first to own a pair Konjo sandals!
It’s been a little over two weeks…two weeks since I was in the most remote, undeveloped, recovering, and beautiful place I have been to date. I traveled to South Sudan with Wonderkind Studios for Life In Abundance to see and experience our world’s newest country.
And I need to be really honest here before I go on—I was pretty nervous. My time in Ethiopia and Kenya were life-changing and very different. But this trip to South Sudan was even more unique, on so many levels. It still had some of the elements I had been witness to: a lack of material goods, generations of struggle, and beautiful brothers and sisters who are in desperate need of empowerment. Read the rest of the entry >
When I first read this article in Fast Company Design (Why Designers Need to Stop Feeling Sorry for Africa) my reason for reading was purely because the title annoyed me. If nothing else, this article is brilliant just for its title alone! After reading through the article quite a few times, and really looking into the heart of what the author’s argument is about, I think I really agree with what he is saying.
Take, for example, the prevalence of poverty porn. We can all picture Sally Struthers on a late-night commercial with emaciated children that you can save for $10/month. This is poverty porn at its worst (or best depending on how you look at it). In fact, one of the significant challenges that R29 has faced with some of our Africa-focused clients is the volume of poverty porn among similar organizations.
‘What’s the big deal,’ some might say? People need to be moved to act, and moving images, design and media can really be effective means that justify a better end for the poor and vulnerable. Someone would see an image that moves them to give and that gift provides a better quality of life for the image-bearer.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Africa and every time I leave a slum, I can’t help but marvel about how truly innovative and ingenious our African brothers and sisters really are. From toys made from trash to home-made water-purification units; the poor and marginalized people of this world deserve much more credit than we often give them. And yet, it would be really easy to take a picture of one of these brilliant African’s and make him look desperate.
Instead, let’s look at the assets that are already present and walk alongside our African friends toward a new day of prosperity and peace. There are many ‘good news’ stories coming out of Africa. I hope that these begin to outweigh the glut of poverty porn that is commonplace in today’s world.
Here’s my hope: what if the world began to view the poor as innovators, entrepreneurs, and future leaders – this perspective swings the dignity pendulum back to the complete opposite side and paints an entirely different picture of the reality of our world’s poor. This is where we need to be, and I believe that by working together (especially as designers) this could be reality. So thanks to a blog title that got me all riled up, I felt compelled to write and share about a shift in perspective. At least it’s something for us all to think about.
Shame on us for stealing one of the few assets they may have left: dignity.
Thanks to Justin Narducci from Life In Abundance for having an ongoing dialogue (the last 5 years) with me and Rule29 on how to “see” the poor and the amazing complexities of Africa. And for being the co-writer of this post.