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Jan 02, 2009


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David Ker

Michael, please allow me to disagree.
This sounds like a bunch of idealistic nonsense. Not just the chain of non sequiturs, but also the implied subversion of local cultures in traditional societies where a young girl is at the bottom of the social hierarchy and people are certainly not going to stand by while one of their daughters are "empowered" from the outside without family members immediately seeking to subvert that action.

And how will a girl stay in school if she's taking care of a cow? And what about the majority of the developing world where cattle culture doesn't even exist?

It's a great looking video, however! ;-)

Michael W. Kruse

Good points. More thoughts.

As I pointed out in my recent series, there is no single strategy that works in every setting. However, in many cultures (as in Bangladesh) the empowerment of women has been a key to economic growth.

Educated girls have more "tools" at their disposal for making life decisions. Women in most cultures tend to be more conservative and responsible with their economic assets. Even in many male dominated cultures, women still have virtually total control over the household business (often dealing with livestock and agriculture). Aid to them in their businesses is not a direct threat.

As to subversion of local cultures, I'll plead guilty as charged (to a degree.) Women are in the image of God, called to be stewards of creation, every bit as much as men are. The marginalization of women should be challenged but not necessarily in a combative "give me my rights" mode. The objective here is to make women indispensable contributors. Cultures are changing as women come to be seen as productive members.

Is the video idealistic and simplistic? Absolutely! Any attempt to energize people around a complex paradigm of aid is necessarily going to be so. But unlike so many of the idealistic vids I see floated around about poverty, this one is rooted in years of development experience, particularly in India, Bangladesh, and S. E. Asia.

David Ker

Excellent answer, Michael. On my lingalinga blog I'm considering a more indepth look at this kind of marketing of development projects.

I get a lot of great ideas from your blogging. Keep it up in 2009.

Michael W. Kruse

Thanks David.

I'll also add to comments that the part I like the least about the add is its opening where it suggests that things are getting worse and worse. Looking from a perspective of decades and centuries, things are getting far better.


Once her herd gets big enough her assets will get bought out by either her milk buyers - who see it as a good move to vertically integrate, or competitors. That's assuming the drought, pestilence, lack of grazing land or floods haven't wiped her out first.

Michael W. Kruse

But being bought out means capital to invest in other enterprises, assuming some semblance of rule of law is present. She is still ahead. I have one friend who has been in on the ground floor of starting two successful businesses that were later bought out. It made considerable money for him.


Michale, yes point taken. Unfortunately for many small land holders (i.e. fruit growers in Sth America as a case study) asset buy out often leads to ruin. Small producers of relatively unrefined goods don't have the negotiating power to secure a good price. When the buyers are also the downstream consumers of the goods (who are looking to vertically integrate back up the supply chain) the producer is forced to sell up at low price becasue to refuse would likely result in the loss of their customer anyway. I realise this isn't the rule, but it has happened often enough and is the subject of great debate among development theorists.


I remember reading some material produced by the UNWHO a few years back. Their conclusion was that female literacy (not simply asset provision) was the key to poverty reduction. Only wish I remembered to keep a reference copy of the paper. .. .

Michael W. Kruse

All true. It seems development is a three steps forward with two steps back type experience. If we drop back 100, 200, or 300 years in many now developed countries, we had to stumble through the same problems.

Yes, literacy. I've seen this conclusion reported on several occasions over the years. Literacy dramatically increases access to information for all kinds of decisions, not just economic ones. Interesting to remember that one of the key issues for slaveholders in America was that their slaves never learn to read.

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