Sarah Dodeen

HR professional, UNHCR


This conversation is closed.

Why Poverty? Is empowering Women at Rural Areas is the solution? or educating their community is more important as a first step?

I hereby invite all my fellow TEDsters to watch this short movie titled "Solar Mamas: RAFEA" about a Jordanian Bedouin Woman who fought to grab the chance to get a lifetime opportunity to be educated and acquire a new skill to support her family and herself. One of the film makers is a TED Speaker: Ms. Jehane Noujaim:

Awaiting your thoughts and feedback.


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    Mar 10 2013: Sarah, Just a theory, but I think that the answer is cultural. In matrical and patrical societies approaches are different and therefore important within the community.

    It cannot be ignored that the hand that rocks the cradle has a certain value if not a lasting influence.

    Within the United Nations I am sure you take this into consideration.

    I wish you well. Bob.
    • Mar 19 2013: Bob, I'd like to know more about what you are implying? You refer to the differences between matriarchal and patriarchal society and I see your point. The hand that rocks the cradle certainly does have value. Are you suggesting therefore that you feel that hand should remain and therefore the mother/carer, in this case Rafea would be better to not leave her children to take up an opportunity to be educated elsewhere? By "better" I guess I could be talking about better for her, her children or her community and I guess the answer would be different in each case. In view of the conversation the issue we are addressing is poverty in the community. Or are you suggesting that her value and lasting influence can be enhanced by building her education and self worth (the latter is an observation on my part of how education changed Rafea). Of course neither of these interpretations may reflect your thinking so I'd love to hear more about your comment. Thanks.
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        Mar 19 2013: Ellen, As you do not post a location I cannot associate any cultural references to you. That would allow me to make a better response.

        You infer specifics about Refea ... I was responding to the question regarding rural areas, specifically in undeveloped countries. To enter a male dominate society with the goal being to empower women immediately would be a fools mission. That does not mean that it should not be the long term goal. I was simply stating that a understanding of the culture is a valuable asset in the approach.

        I assume by your name you are female ... have you been to a county where it is totally male dominate? I was with a female US Captian who ask the bus to stop so she could get off ... the driver would not take orders from a female. She had to ride until a male ask for the bus to stop.

        The role of the female in much of the world is very difficult and much of the "more liberal" countries who recognize women do not totally appreciate this fact.

        I am afraid you read more into my statement than I intended.

        Thanks for the reply. Bob.
        • Mar 23 2013: Thanks for your comments Bob. My comment was intended to build my understanding and although I may have sounded like I had drawn some conclusions, in fact, I am happy to engage in conversation.
          I can see you are an experienced contributor to this site and I am keen to learn more.
          I am from Sydney and have no direct experience with rural areas let alone undeveloped countries. My current understanding is limited to that which I can obtain from mainstream media (albeit selected ) and conversations with those who have had direct experience. I work in an area with a high population of new immigrants and refugees and enjoy hearing their stories and perspectives.
          The description you give of the day to day experiences of women in cultures very different to mine is enlightening and it is that level of understanding I would like to build as well as realistic ( but hopeful - if that is possible) ideas on what and how a difference can be made for women like Rafea who have a desire for change.
          Am I correct in saying that in answer to Sarah's question you would be inclined to say that the first avenue would be to address the issue at a community level with a focus on the impact of the local culture? I am very interested to know if I have interpreted your thoughts correctly and to learn more...
          Kind regards
          Ellen ( yes, female :))
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        Mar 23 2013: Ellen, My reply was intended to show that the goal is very important and that we should use the correct tool in the correct situation.

        Rafea's story is great ... however the story is about someone who beat extreme odds. For every Rafea there are thousands of others who suffered great pains in their failures and even death. If her journey was not exceptional it would never have become a TED talk.

        I wish you well. Bob.
        • Mar 25 2013: Thanks for that perspective Bob. While Rafea's story is inspirational it doesn't reflect the experience of many other women. In answer to the debate question, goals and strategies aimed at addressing poverty on the larger scale are more likely to have that effect if they address the needs and circumstances of the wider community. I guess Rafea's story gathers interest and harnesses a sense of hope in those of us "looking on". Taking action is a different matter.
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    Gail .

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    Mar 10 2013: Why poverty? Because our global paradigms all for a "power -over" hierarchy. It isn't necessary. It's a choice that those who see themselves as powerful make for those who do not see themselves as powerful.
  • Mar 10 2013: Everything that can be done which is affordable seems reasonable to me
  • Mar 10 2013: Thank you Sarah. I am new to TED conversations and this is my first post. My first reaction is to say that Rafea's journey in making the decisions that she did was driven by a strong sense of determination and belief in herself. I am not sure that educating the community first (as an alternative) could re-create this level of determination and passion for change that she was then able to use to inspire other women and hopefully the community as a whole. My perspective is not informed by any background other than being an educated woman in a privileged society. While I am grateful for being exposed to a very different context via this video I would be very grateful to hear from those more informed than myself.
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    Mar 10 2013: G'day Sarah

    A good education is a great thing to have however it can have it's down turns. Take into consideration of having an education & not being able to do anything with it like with one’s culture, economics situation or isolation, it would be quite stressful to the learned.

    But in saying this you can’t beat becoming more aware of oneself & one’s environment through education.

    • Mar 13 2013: This is a great comment Mathew. I do have one question, not just for you, but for all: if a culture that does not make being educated easy (the stress of being learned), how reasonable is it to overturn this culture and increase the awareness through education? Is it plausible and if so, what will it take?
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        Mar 13 2013: G'day Sarah Chang

        That would depend on the culture if it is flexable or not & how educated the male populus are to allowing women to be educated? Men are afraid that women will become smarter & in a chauvinist society that would make it rather difficult for women to become educated I could imagine.

        Educate the people not just men on human individual rights but of course in certain cultures women wouldn't have this avenue to go down. It really depends on how well the men are educated in human rights & equal opportunity.

  • Mar 10 2013: Why Poverty? Frankly I don't know the answer to this question. What I have seen till date is that it's inherited from family and Not that I am saying it's totally passed from family but the difficulties which yo find in the way to step out of it sometimes break you so much that people usually give up(Here I am not talking about the exceptional cases). Well Empowering women should be the first step as of what I think about it because in rural areas unless and until women are not shown what they are capable of they will continue living the life of mediocrity that they have been provided by their family. The moment they understand the relevance of getting higher uplifting themselves and the moment they taste a bit of self dependence they will encourage it for their daughters and hereby forming the chain! It can go Vice-versa too but i think first step should be taking out elder women and then empowering them and showing them what their children can get from it would signify the purpose of empowerment in their lives. For them significance of the idea matters a lot because you can't ask them to just rebel the environment they have been born and brought up into!
  • Mar 10 2013: It is certainly one way and it seems the easiest and best way to get started on the path to a better life for the families and the community as a whole.
    There are organizations that support this approach, Kiva being one. I have about 160 micro loans out through kiva mostly to groups of women who have self organized. I also have found CHES (Canadian Harambee Education Society) to be an organization that puts girls in Tanzania through high school.
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    Mar 10 2013: Sarah, thanks for sharing the video. I was surprised to notice the ability of the women to learn and connect, in spite of not understanding English.
    "Is empowering Women at Rural Areas is the solution? ",
    Your question reminds me of the 'Grameen Bank' , the microfinance organization started by the Nobel prize laureate Muhammed Yunus. The organization has faced similar cultural problems as exemplified by Rafea's story in the video as the majority of the users of this bank are women as well.
    Women, especially mothers in general ,seem to be more motivated to improve the quality of life of their children.
    The two links below from Kiva, offer a great explanation as to why empowering women would be a big solution to eliminate poverty.

    " educating their community is more important as a first step?"
    Educating the community would be of great help..not necessarily as a first step. Training the community to make a livelihood ( either providing micro loans or teaching practical skills) has been proven to be more useful than formal education.