The subtle power of images - reinforcing stereotypes without even planning to...

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  • Euphresia
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Re: The subtle power of images - reinforcing stereotypes without even planning to...

Elizabeth, you are so onpoint!

I agree withSusanah Clemence reply that  striking balanceis important. Worse is use of Poverty porn ( https://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/08/health/poverty-porn-danger-feat/index.html )as described by Nathalie Dorton as a tactic by nonprofits and charity
organizations to gain empathy and contributions from donors by showing exploitative imagery of people living in destitute conditions. Thisarticle by the NewYork Times Editorial Board ( https://www-nytimes-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.nytimes.com/2021/02/13/opinion/africa-foreign-aid-philanthropy.amp.html ) describes it as images of starving children used to raise money for famine relief that portrays Africans as helpless victims so that American and European organizations can collect funds. These images also remind me of ‘White saviour
complex’, check this video by Radi-Aid Awards — https://youtu.be/HpjbkQr0JAE



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  • Euphresia
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Re: The subtle power of images - reinforcing stereotypes without even planning to...

To provoke our thinking furtehr, I also attach the work of Omar Bah, an African anthropologist with a book of cartoons on decolonization. He notes that he completed his PhD, but no academic journal agreed to publish any part of it, so he turned it into a graphic novel and publish it online You  can find his work here: https://mdgcomics.com/  

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  • Depinder Kapur is a senior development professional with experience in WASH, Livelihoods and NRM.
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Re: The subtle power of images - reinforcing stereotypes without even planning to...

Thanks.
Really liked the work of Omar Bah shared by you.
It is rare to see this critique of western development work and workers, presented with such clarity and wit.

What has surprised or dismayed me the most, in WASH sector - has been the reliance on overtly marketing approaches to promoting WASH Behaviour Change. Often disguised as complex frameworks and tools. Often undermining the role of social engagement and outreach, face to face meeting and communication, addressing bottlenecks that are deeper for individuals and communities in changing their behaviour. CLTS, though was introduced from Asia(Kamal Kar and Bangladesh NGOs), also relies the same western concepts - of seeing the community as a homogenous entity that cannot think rationally, can be forced to change behaviours by making the children or the youth policy those who dont use toilets. 

These approaches also reinforce stereotypes - often the negative ones - that people are brainless and can be pushed into buying a toilet, just like buying a bottle of coca cola or perfume. The communication, posters and films, reinforce stereotypes of mothers as care givers and men as technical hard working doing physical work of building latrines.

At a larger level - of say institutions like government(municipal and sub national), engineering utilities and even systems, the stereotype image of women - is never challenged in any Behaviour Change Communication in WASH. As if only the communities(all homogenous with no caste or class differences) are responsible and need to be addressed.  
Depinder Kapur is an independent Senior Development and WASH expert. He was till recently leading the Sanitation Capacity Building Platform of National Institute of Urban Affairs in New Delhi that is focussed on non sewered sanitation systems( scbp.niua.org). He has worked with AKRSP, SPWD, CARE(Director NRM), Oxfam(Program & Advocacy Director), WaterAid India(Country Head) and WSSCC(National Coordinator).

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