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ideas have consequences

You are here:Home>>Archive>>Displaying items by tag: Madonna
Displaying items by tag: Madonna
Tuesday, 16 April 2013 19:22

Madonna and Africa's 'celebrity saviors'

 

So finally, Madonna's honeymoon with Malawi has ended with a spat. Malawi's minister of education accused Madonna of "bullying officials" and exaggerating the extent of her charity in the country.

 

Trouble started when the government withdrew her VIP status and she therefore had to wait in line like everyone else to go through immigration. President Joyce Banda said that Madonna felt her charitable work meant that Malawi should "be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude."

 

For her part, Madonna described the reports as inaccurate, and says they are the result of a spat with the president's sister, Anjimile Mtila Oponyo, who was fired as president of Madonna's charity Raising Malawi and is suing for wrongful termination.

 

For some years now, Madonna had literally and figuratively adopted that country, and two of its children. She also made a documentary. But it was clear that her relationship with Malawi, like many other patron-client relations, would lead to quarrels and recriminations.

 

Oprah Winfrey poses with the graduates of the school she funded, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Henley on Kilp, South Africa, in January 2012.Oprah in South Africa


Many of the current Western missions of charity in Africa carry an underlying tendency towards self-righteousness on the part of donors and with it, a sense of entitlement. Some of those who give charity expect the recipients to treat them with deference and to attend to their every whim.

 

Yet Madonna is not alone. There is a growing movement in the West by celebrities to champion causes in poor countries.

 

Lately, Angelina Jolie has become the champion of the people of eastern Congo. She joined George Clooney, who has been leading the cause of the new state of South Sudan.

 

Oprah Winfrey is educating teenage girls in South Africa. And most prominent of them all is Irish rock star Bono, of U2 fame. He is the leading spokesman for the entire continent on matters of poverty and aid. Even Western governments listen to him when discussing their economic policies towards Africa -- preferring his counsel to that of the continent's democratically elected leaders.

 

All too often, these campaigns are not about the welfare of the people they claim to be helping but act as a platform for celebrities to promote their brand to their audiences at home by exhibiting their humanity.

So some come to save orphans, others to defend human rights, feed the hungry, treat the sick, educate our children, protect the environment, end civil wars, negotiate aid and promote family planning, lest we overproduce ourselves.

 

It is almost as if Africans cannot do anything by themselves and need a combination of Mother Teresa and Santa Claus to survive.

Of course, these initiatives have on occasion contributed something positive to the wellbeing of those affected by such generosity. They have also shed light on the problems that sometimes get ignored and thus brought international attention to them.

Yet for the most part, the long-term consequences of these celebrity campaigns far outweigh whatever short-term benefits they bring. For example, the Africans subject to this generosity are not active participants in the campaigns meant for their own good. Instead, they are depicted and presented as passive recipients of international charity.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visits Somali refugees in Tunisia in April 2011.Angelina Jolie in Somali

George Clooney attends the independence referendum vote in Juba, South Sudan, in January 2011. Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project, which uses satellite imagery to watch for aerial attacks and troop movements in Sudan and South Sudan.George Clooney in S. Sudan


The tendency to treat Africans as children to be helped is a relic of our colonial past. For then, white superintendents treated every African, whatever their age, as a child. This patronizing attitude sometimes gets accepted by its victims and is central to the stifling of self-initiative and to creating a dependency mentality among Africans.

 

For celebrities to "save" Africa they need a specific presentation of the continent and its people. So they use images of starving children, sick mothers, hungry villages, rampaging warlords, and corrupt politicians.

 

While these images depict a part of Africa's reality, they do not tell the whole story about the continent. They crowd out the other part of Africa's reality -- of innovative youth, enterprising individuals, creative organizations and reformist governments. The consequence of this one-sided presentation has been to perpetuate the narrative of Africa as a place of hopelessness, poverty, misery and adversity -- often obscuring the opportunities that abound on the continent.

 

Thus, as a result of these campaigns, our continent tends to attract the most compassionate people of the West who come to give charity. However, its negative side effect is to scare away the most enterprising people of the West who would bring capital to invest and make money. Even when they do try to do something in Africa, like Bill Gates has done through his foundation, they come as merchants of charity, not enterprise.

 

Thus, although it has achieved short-term humanitarian objectives, in the long term, celebrity activism has killed the goose of private enterprise that is supposed to lay the golden age of prosperity.

 

Andrew M MwendaAndrew M. Mwenda is managing editor of Ugandan news magazine The Independent. He has also been named one of Foreign Policy magazine 's top 100 Global Thinkers, and is a former TED speaker.

 

"Madonna sends Malawi president an error-filled handwritten letter, leaves the country without meeting Joyce Banda. A handwritten note from Madonna to the President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, asking for a meeting. Madonna returned to Malawi in April 2013 for the first time in two years with her four children, including two adopted from the tiny African nation.

 

Madonna initially planned to build a $15 million 500-bed Raising Malawi Academy for girls, before changing plans to help fund several community schools, which led to some controversy in Malawi. She also closed the Malawi office of Raising Malawi and fired staff for misappropriating funds. The country’s education minister, Eunice Kazembe, told the BBC she perceives the change as a slight.

"She promised an academy and we agreed on standards but she just changed her mind on the project without consulting us," Kazembe said. "We'd like them to work with us so that they can be absorbed into the strategy of Malawi's education and that goes not just for Madonna — any group that comes to Malawi to assist us in education."

But in a press statement before she left, Madonna said the project she did complete, which cost about $400,000 to build and benefits approximately 4,000 children, was worth the effort. “I feel very welcome here, and I want to say that my reasons for being here have never changed,” she said. “I’m here because I care deeply about the children of Malawi. That is my main priority.” - NY Dailynews

 

 

 	A handwritten note from Madonna to the President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, asking for a meeting. Madonna returned to Malawi in April 2013 for the first time in two years with her four children, including two adopted from the tiny African nation.

Madonna and her two children David Banda (l) and Mercy James (r) visited schools in Malawi, the country the pop diva adopted them from. Madonna and her two children David Banda (l) and Mercy James (r) visited schools in Malawi, the country the pop diva adopted them from. credit: NY Dailynews

Madonna, flanked by daughter Mercy (l.) and son David, speaks to news media in Namitete, Malawi as Yasinta Chapomba (far l.), Executive Director for Mphandula Childcare Centre, listens on Friday, April 5. The center was built with donations from Madonna's Raising Malawi organization.Madonna, surrounded  by daughter Mercy (l.) and son David, together with Yasinta Chapomba (far l.), Executive Director for Mphandula Childcare Centre. credit: NY Dailynews

Madonna, joined by her children David (r.) and Mercy (l.), waves with kids from the Mkoko Primary School during her visit. 'I’m here because I care deeply about the children of Malawi,' the pop star said.Madonna, joined by her children David (r.) and Mercy (l.), waves with kids from the Mkoko Primary School during her visit. 'I’m here because I care deeply about the children of Malawi,' the pop star said. credit: NY Dailynews

Madonna's daughters Lourdes (l.) and Mercy clap their hands during an April 2 visit to Mkoko Primary School in Kasungu, central Malawi. Madonna's daughters Lourdes (l.) and Mercy clap their hands during an April 2 visit to Mkoko Primary School in Kasungu, central Malawi.

Raising Malawi- was initiated by Madonna with a partner that is dedicated in contributing to the well being of less privileged women and children of Malawi. Madonna who was known as a material girl was projected as being mundane by the media. But with this African venture she has defined herself and show to the whole world what is important to her. Family, children and philanthropy are the core and at center of Madonna’s life.

She is now building a modern Academy school for girls in Malawi while caring for AIDS orphans. According to her the Academy school can become a model for girl schools in Africa. Madonna’s love for Malawi started when she adopted a boy from Malawi, since then she has adopted a girl from the country. Madonna was known for being compassionate but this strategic move on her part was unexpected. Thinking in the line of uplifting the poor by laying a strong foundation for scholarship and education is a strategic move. By providing education to the less privileged girls of Malawi she had opened a door of opportunity and empowerment that cannot be taken away from them.

No type of philanthropic effort that can be undermined nor underrated but some are more durable and everlasting than others. When you feed a hungry person, it is a noble gesture. But when you give a poor person a skill, you have changed the life. When the poor can feed herself especially in developing world the significance is enormous. Instead of the continuous lecture about caring for the poor, Madonna is doing something about it. African leaders will receive thousand of recommendations on how to eradicate poverty but a Madonna is taking the step to change the lives of young girls. By empowering these young girls the entire village has been empowered. Education is the greatest tool to eradicate poverty for it will enable the recipient to think wisely and venture into the world without ignorance and illiteracy.

The greatest strike against young girls of Africa is lack of opportunity, in some instances they are compelled to start working at every tender age. As a result of poverty and lack of opportunity, girls and boys could not even attend primary school in some parts of Africa. When young minds are condemned to life of ignorance, they dwell in darkness and abject poverty.

Madonna deserves a lot of credit for helping the poor of Malawi and it shows the content of her character. Madonna, one of the greatest musicians of our time and Hollywood actress do not have to put her money, time and prestige to help a nation that is very far away. But she has compassion and love on the suffering children and blighted youths. Instead of calling meetings and conferences she set a project in motion to solve the problem the best way she can. She put her money where her compassion was and by so doing pushed our collective humanity to a brighter corner.

Poverty and lack of opportunity have destroyed lives of children in Malawi and Africa. Madonna project in Malawi involved helping thousands of children that were orphaned by AIDS. These children need somebody to help and guide them. Nobody is saying that Madonna is an angel but she done something that only a person with the fear of God will do.

Education and healthcare will bring a great beginning for the children of Malawi and Africa. Madonna has become part of the solution and this is a victory for the children of the world.

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