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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

G8, Africa and saving lives

John Kamau, a senior reporter for the Sunday Standard newspaper, is keeping a diary for the BBC about the G8 summit, which I think is really worth reading.

In a related article for Panos about "Making Poverty History" he had this story to tell:

"Every morning 46-year-old Lucy Mwihaki walks through the crowded alleys of Nairobi to her wooden stall in Gikomba market, the largest second-hand clothes open-air market in East Africa. Mwihaki doesn't know much about the G8 summit in Scotland or the campaign to wipe out Africa's debt, but recently a Catholic priest in the sprawling Dandora slums, where she lives, 12 kilometres east of Nairobi, handed her three Make Poverty History posters. She has prominently pinned one of those in her stall. "It means we work hard and make poverty history," she says. "Even the president said that lazy people have no place here". Some of her fellow traders burst into laughter, others nod in agreement."

The story reminded me of when I went to Sudan with my daughter (who was six at the time). I organised with her teacher to take drawings done by her classmates with me so that I would have something to offer the children in schools I visited. It was one of the first years of "Comic Relief" or "Red Nose Day" in Britain where lots of money is raised, with the help of famous British comics, for projects in developing countries. The idea is sound - no pathetic pictures of sad Africans, but money raised through fun and laughter - and a plastic red nose on everything. The problem was that I took with me, much to the delight of my daughter's classmates, lots of wonderful drawings of people, cars, parents, and pets - all wearing a big red nose. Much as they appreciated the sentiments behind receiving the pictures, I don't know if any of the children or teachers in Sudan ever understood what on earth the drawings could be about!

However, it was the same the other way round. I brought back drawings from children in schools in Sudan for my daughter's classmates. The children's drawings were very didactic (no such things as art classes!) There were pictures of things like a BIG FLY hovering round a gourd (on the floor) full of milk with a sick man lying at the side. The message written in Arabic warned against leaving milk in a gourd without a cover. As I collected up the pictures to take away with me one very black little girl asked me (through the interpreter) if I thought the pictures could really help save English people's lives in London.


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