Spendenmarathon 2007

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The person who designed this billboard may have agreed with me about the beauty of this kid (who btw reminds me of Jirani), but just after taking this snapshot tonight, I immediately realized what bugs me about this advertisment for an upcoming fundraising campaign to be aired on tv on November 22nd:

poorly dressed + small + black + kid = poverty?

As long as such stereotyped messages are used to raise attention for the fact that still a lot of people are living in poverty, I will keep on hearing phrases like “..but you are white, you’re supposed to be rich!”.

Not yet convinced? Then do a quick image search on Google with the keyword “poverty”….

17 comments » Write a comment

  1. it is sad but in advertising the images that already work are used, no one wishes to invest more time and money in a project i know many houses do for free so i guess for a lot longer we shall continue to see such images on bill boards and printed matter soliciting funds to “alleviate” poverty.

  2. And poverty never seems to go away. Have you come across ‘Save Darfur/Sauvons Darfour’ stickers? To think that all there is about Africa is save, rescue, sympathy just irks.

    Why can’t they stop interfering with Africa’s resources and governance and we might soon start ‘saving’ the west?

    The sad thing is that this perception is reinforced by some of our brothers and sisters who take the begging spirit abroad in the name of ‘NGO this or NGO that working with the poor in Africa’.

    Look closely and you’ll find an African dude in the whole thing.

    Why can’t we undo this ‘misery’ tag by behaving and talking otherwise especially among the many Western chaps who think Africa is all about extended bellies and begging bowls in frail hands?

  3. Ich freu mich, dass Du das gepostet hast, mir ist dieses Plakat gestern bei einem Spaziergang bitter aufgestoßen, möchte sogar noch einen draufsetzen:
    ich finde jegliche Werbung mit Kindern, und sei sie auch noch so charity-esque, ekelhaft.

    Liebe Grüße,
    Riemer

  4. Not to be cynical but how are the UNs, the Oxfams etcetera to continue raising money to fund all those fancy jobs, cars, houses and God knows what other privileges they enjoy in the name of bettering “third world hell-holes”?

  5. I’d be really careful to not condemn the work of NGOs and other orgs working in aid and development too quickly. It is true – there is a lot of abuse, stereotypes, and politics involved in the “aid industry”. However, it is also true that the great majority of the poor of this world live in Africa and Asia. To deny that is to deny the facts. Therefore I don’t think it is wrong to visually communicate that message. Of course it’s not All of Africa or All of Asia. There are other orgs that work in eastern Europe and use white kids that live in poverty as “motivational visuals”. It’s not so much a question of skin color, I think.
    What I find sad, rather is that more and more severe visuals are actually needed to raise finances and awareness. Truth is, the majority of western people do not have a social conscience that leads to action without these imagery. That’s the sad thing. And regarding the RTL image above, I am not sure that this really looks like poorly dressed + small + black + kid = poverty. Rather it looks like a smiling, well fed, well dressed happy girl – with the association that kid’s well-being and care is what this fundraiser is about. What’s wrong about that? I can’t quite see it.
    Just because someone’s salary is paid from it as well and maybe a car in some project, doesn’t negate the need for the care and support of lets say orphans or people with disabilities etc… To call that “ekelhaft” or disgusting to me sounds like an easy excuse to judge this thing and not give financially and turn around and forget about those that really need help. And finally, to blame and judge “them” and turn away from the issue is not of help, either. Governance, honesty, integrity, business development, investment and aid and development go hand in hand – there needs to be both in a balanced approach. Forget the stereotypes …. even in your argumentation.

  6. Well…to US it may look like a happy child, but I guess that it still looks like a poor kid to many others out there just because they are used to such visuals from the media.

    My point of criticism is that this campaign is run in Germany, so I would rather expect to see a poor German child (if necessary at all).

    Why should I forget about the stereotypes if they exist?

  7. @Gathunuku: You have nailed it, there some groups out there who will continue to hope that Africa wallows in poverty for their mortgages and good lifestyle . Someone even in that “fundraising” campaign is going to get paid . For example
    The lighting company that is going to put up the Mic and the media,
    The Catering company that will need to feed the :chairman of the Harambee (sic)
    The graphic designer for the brochures
    The consultant or what they call these days :Development/fundraising consultant need his professional fee and per diem reimbursement taken care of…
    The President of the organization who we cannot forget need to be compensated for the time used to organize and spearhead the organization in the right direction of helping poor kids in Africa and that takes a whole lot strategizing etc = over $100k .After retiring from some major corporations and need spare time to do good and give back to the society.

    That is one of the many examples of expenses the so called fundraising campaigns rake in or rather the organization worldwide who are there to eradicate poverty in Africa. You should see the Budgets of some of the organizations. The expenses of just the consultants and other personnel outweighs almost the so called project that are put in place in poor rural Kenya etc.

    Question remains, why not use a local consultant and local people to do all the strategising and planning if at all one want to help. Why does a project in Kisumu need someone who has never lived there spearheading it. If it is for transparency purposes, put mechanism in place to monitor the project and visit periodically but does that require a team of some “westerners” to camp in kisumu, to support a project lending a helping hand when that monies they are going to spend could have easily been used to pay a capable and educated Kenyan thus killing two birds with one stone?

    Sure there are many NGOs that try to do good but many out there are just taking advantage of situations and poverty is a cash cow for someone and the more the poverty , the richer they become.

    Unfortunately, Africa has been blinded by all this and the day Africans will start to take matters into their own hand and shape their own destiny , with their own tools and brains, perhaps then poverty will be eradicate.

    Oh what am I saying.(out of context) we cannot even strategize using our own brains to defeat an incumbent from the political office, we require an outsider to help us ?mmmmhhh dream on Irena

    As of the face on some campaign, a poor smiling African girl/or boy sells,it is the in thing these days JKE. I’m surprised her nostrils are actually clean and no flies buzzing around her ….now that is the image that really sells!!

  8. Hey guys, thx for the tremendous feedback, but let me remind you: the issue i am having with the image above is that they’re using a black little girl to make ppl think about donating money, and that it only serves this stereotype.

    AS FOR THE NGO world of good and bad business…*sigh*….you know there’s this “don’t mention the war” phrase which could be applicable to this matter as well.

  9. Jke: Like I said, using the black girl = “image that sells”. As stereotypical as it is and we all have issue with it, youknow if they put a white girl, perhaps it may not create much attention unless “she has been kindapped or lost during vacation” = A known stereotype that the media only covers “white little girls who have disappeared” Sorry it is the world we live in…

  10. @Zed
    It is not necessary to display faces of children, every advertising agency can use fonts showing the topic.

  11. @JKE re.the tremendous feedback: It is a bit of a hot potato, and there are no easy answers – there is truth in all of the opinions expressed. Maybe the question should be – what do I do against poverty and for the needy, even the homeless in our western cities. What’s my personal response to the whole issue of living selflessly? Is it judging all the attempts of caring, helping, empowering, restoring, good governance and business development to deal with these issues – now matter how imperfect,ill conceived, unbalanced, paternalistic unsustainable they might be – or is it seeing my own responsibility in making this world a better place, and reaching out to the needy? Can I give up that neext new gadget (e.g.) and donate that money to an org you trust and have seen do good work, and they are there – working in local grassroot community development and all the other more ideal scenarios suggested in this discussion. It’s so darn easy to argue, discuss and condem “them” for all of these wrong things and the many failures. But then please let’s also walk the talk and do it better.

  12. … oh and why forget about stereotypes if they exist? Because stereotypes create wrong answers. Most of the time ;-)

  13. We? I am already contributing my share of altruism since a few years now.
    As for the indirect help through contributions: I can see a need for emergency responses for which donations are required, but sustainable help is – in my opinion – best (not only) achieved by supporting economic progress in a Ayittey sense. Pls remember that my criticism isn’t against the donation-business or on overhead costs of some NGOs, but about the usage of this image above to generate attention.

  14. Ach und nochmal auf Deutsch: es geht wirklich nicht ums Spenden oder um das öffentliche, eh schon verzehrte Afrikabild, sondern um diesen Hype, wie Spenden medienwirksam eingetrieben und dazu Bilder verwendet werden, die bei Spendern positive Gefühle auslösen sollen. Solche Aktionen finde ich gerade kontrakproduktiv für die kleinen Hilfsvereine, die bei wirklich geringen Verwaltungskosten ihren Beitrag auf unterster Ebene leisten.

    Aus diesem Grunde gehe ich auch auf die angesprochene Kritik zu den NROs nicht weiter ein, weil das imho ganz unterschiedlich ist, und manche selbst auf Regierungsebene ihren guten Beitrag leisten können in einem bestimmten Bereich.

  15. @Mr.Zed: Some if us talk the talk and walk the walk hence know that local folks are capable of taking care of the problem without too much interference but collaborations

  16. aaargh! so true. all this “poverty = africa” talk blots any other image of africans and africa.