I’ve returned to Los Angeles, and am in my third year studying Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Southern California. It’s certainly been an interesting past year of independently traveling & volunteering, but I’m very grateful to be back at school and able to apply all that I’ve seen, experienced, and learned.
One of the most important things that I’ve learned is that gender inequality/discrimination hinders economic progress and contributes to important social issues that we all care about, such as HIV/AIDs, violence, cyclical poverty, lack of access/impact of education, and the list goes on. So because I care about all of these issues, I’ve decided to focus on bringing to light the issue of gender discrimination as a root cause of problems across cultures and nations.
Another thing that I’ve learned is that change should start within the community. I’ve seen enough people working in completely unsustainable, rather condescending and ethnocentric NGOs to understand that they will not change the system: they do not understand the system, or they do not want to understand how important it is to collaborate with locals and to commit significant time to their communities. Let’s not begin to talk about the number of people like this in governments: simply, too many. I’ve met enough well-intentioned, intelligent people who became completely fed up with what they saw in the “humanitarian” world and have left for good. I’ve read enough about the lack of accountability, cultural sensitivity, respect, transparency, and scope that many NGOs have. I realize that I want a different model of “humanitarian” work: one that is deeply local and formed by locals, but also deeply collaborative so that change can also take place at a national/policy level. I believe that my generation can innovate the way that the West views social justice and intervenes in other countries. I believe that my generation cares about civic issues, but is at the same time, analytical and critical of the lack of ethics in many civic projects.
With this in mind, I am working with two organizations this semester that I believe fulfills certain criteria for me and both work for gender equality.
Write Girl is a Los Angeles based nonprofit organization for high school girls centered on the craft of creative writing and empowerment through self-expression. Through one-on-one mentoring and monthly workshops, girls are given techniques, insights and hot tips for great writing in all genres from professional women writers.
Los Angeles is home to some of the worst high schools in the nation. 55% of 9th graders in LA end up graduating. Moreover, high school environments are very toxic for girls and teenagers are naturally anxious and insecure at this phase in their lives. Write Girl strives to show girls that they have a voice, that they have something to say, and that they are strong.
I’m interning with Write Girl and will work in Public Relations, Book Publishing, and Workshop Planning.
Yellitaare means empowerment in the African language of Fulaani. The word embodies their goal for Africa and its people. It’s mission is to help transform the African-born person into a citizen who is conscious of his or her rights, who desires to banish violence, intolerance, war, and ethnic and religious conflict and who embraces civil and political rights. Through film and other media, Yellitaare seeks to educate African-born citizens to make informed economical, social and cultural decisions allowing them to be proactive solutions to the current state of Africa and who ultimately, through hard work and dedication, make a profound impact on the rebirth of the African continent and her people.
Among other projects, Yellitaare focuses on the social development of women. An equitable and peaceful Africa is where women are equal partners with men in determining the values, directions and governance of their societies for the benefit of all. They aim to advance women’s status and well-being through increasing their political and educational opportunities, civil participation and economic empowerment.
I will collaborate with Yellitaare in Public Relations and Event Organization : they are organizing a conference on eradicating early/forced marriages at USC on October 26-28, 2011. Many African leaders, government officials, and international NGOs will be there. It should be amazing and if you are an USC student, contact Mossaum Bocoume to see if you can attend without paying the hefty conference fee!
I’m inspired by these NGOs and their models of local change coupled with policy work/collaborative efforts. Way to go! If you guys know of any great organizations that you think would be great to feature on IndieVolunteer so that people can work for them or learn more about their work, please contact me! Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep independently thinking & volunteering!