By Sarah Nunes and Melissa Rink
This week, we’ve been thinking a lot about power dynamics in the desire to help the less privileged on individual and international levels. The power dynamics that put the United States (US) in an economic position to give conditional donor aid to “poorer” countries like Namibia stem from hundreds of years of colonial exploitation and profit off of the labor of black and brown people, to create North American and European economic dominance that prevails today. Erasing this narrative through history, and presented in the Eurocentric way history is presented to us in many public high schools in the US today, creates a new power dynamic, a new form of racism that sees the needy recipient as powerless, as deserving of and depending on our pity and charity. As we occupy the positions of privilege in this discourse, if we don’t reconsider the power dynamics of aid on an international and personal level, we run the risk of perpetuating more harm than good.
Andrew Williams, Finance Director and Executive Officer of USAID,
presented USAID's mission and work in Namibia to our development class
|Namene Tekula Nekwaya, in a still from his video interview |
at the Young Achievers Center in Katutura.
|Cover of the September 2013 Sister Namibia Youth Issue|
The USAID presentation and Namene’s GNH helped us to connect the dots between power relations between countries and power relations on an individual basis, and how it is often better for the privileged person or person with unearned power to step back and learn from people who, (surprise surprise!), may have their own ideas for moving forward in a way that is best adapted to their culture and benefits them the best. In fact, the best solutions can only appear if the realm of possibilities is opened as wide as possible, and “truths” we take for granted, such as the poverty discourse, are reconsidered.
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1 Andrew Williams, USAID Finance Director/Overseer spoke to our development class on 4 October, 2013.
4 Sister Namibia facilitated workshop with Young Achievers at the Katutura Multipurpose Center on 8 October, 2013
5 Sister Namibia is a local feminist organization advocating for women’s rights