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“It is no exaggeration to suggest that African children whose lives have been destroyed by a vaccine—given for a disease that isn't a concern to them—were used as lab rats by the Gates Foundation, PATH, UNICEF, and WHO. Their existence proves the vaccine is extremely dangerous. Nonetheless, it was hailed as a success. ~ Gaia Health Summary”—Vaccine Injured African Children Used as Lab Rats
A New Vaccine in the Long Battle Against MalariaThe Takeaway from PRI and WNYC
A New Vaccine in the Long Battle Against Malaria
- Produced by Jen Poyant, The Takeaway
Malaria kills about 780,000 people a year, and most of them are children in Africa. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made eradication of the disease a top priority. On Tuesday, the organization touted the results of a study that showed a vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline protected nearly 50 percent children from severe malaria. As far a success rates for vaccines go, those are not the best odds, but even that amount of protection would save millions of lives over a even just a decade of use. And the news does indicate that scientists are on the right path toward eventually preventing malaria.
But Nathan Ford, medical director for Doctors Without Borders warns about the possibility that by focusing too much on this promising research, the global donor community might forget about the standard preventative measures, like mosquito netting and spraying, that still need to be funded until a vaccine is 100 percent effective.
on white devil sophistry: exploring the gates foundation’s control over the production of knowledge of women of the global south
In 2009, the World Bank reported, “The face of poverty is female. She is 18.5 years old. She lives in a rural area. She has dropped out of school. She is single, but is about to be married or given in marriage to a man approximately twice her age. She will be the mother of six or seven kids in another twenty years” (quoted in Specter 2011). A statement like this is not unusual for Developmental aid organizations like the World Bank. In fact, most citizens of the Global North would not question it.
By the World Bank’ standards, I met the face of poverty in a small village in Northern Sierra Leone last year. She was a dropout, working on her family’s farm, newly pregnant, and sure to be married soon. But this was not her only story. As Westerners involved in the large field of Development, we often claim to speak for the “voiceless,” or at least those who do not have a voice in the ways the Global North sees relevant. But at what point do our voices begin to drown out those of the Global South, at what point do they change the story completely?
Although many young African women certainly deal with incredible hardship due to deep structural inequalities, the portraits of poverty presented by Development institutions like the World Bank or Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) like the Gates Foundation can be extremely one-sided. Women are presented as “abject victims, the passive subjects of development’s rescue,” furthering myths and fables about Development and gender (Cornwall 2007). For most Development workers the presentation of such ideas about women is not perceived as flawed; they see “’development’ agencies as part of a great collective effort to fight poverty, raise standards of living, and promote one or another version of progress” (Ferguson 1990: 9). The assumed benevolence of the Development project makes it incredibly difficult to critique because any flaws are inevitably overshadowed by such “good intentions.” When critiqued today, development “is almost always challenged in the name of ‘real development.’ Like ‘goodness’ itself, ‘development’ in our time is a value so firmly entrenched that it seems almost impossible to question it” (Ferguson 1990: xiv). This notion follows Antonio Gramsci’s theory of “common sense” in which ideas become so entrenched in culture that they go unquestioned (Gramsci 1972). Development may be well intentioned but we must be critical of its role as “common sense” in Western culture.
Assuming that NGOs are somewhat benevolent entities, how do they nonetheless unknowingly participate in silencing the complex and real stories of the Global South? In this paper I will conduct a discourse analysis of the Development paradigm to understand howaid workers control the production of knowledge around women of the Global South. In exploring how the development apparatus depicts women, I will analyze the representations of women in real marketing materials from the Seattle-based NGO, The Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation. I am drawing largely on Arturo Escobar and Chandra Mohanty to argue that the Gates Foundation constructs reductive images of women through their roles as mother and farmers, without specificity, credible evidence or historical context, thereby reducing the agency and the complexity of the everyday lives of women from the Global South. These simplistic interpretations have real effects by informing the policy of development workers on the ground.
I have chosen the Gates Foundation because of their Seattle headquarters and enormous global influence. The Gates Foundation is the largest private foundation in the world, with an endowment of 33.5 billion US dollars (Gates Foundation 2011). In Seattle, the Gates Foundation functions as an incredibly dominant voice in how Development operates through funding of local NGOs, academic research and awareness campaigns. Its philanthropic efforts focus largely on global development, specifically healthcare, agriculture and poverty all through out the Global South. Although the Foundation does not have a program expressly focused on empowering women many of its health and poverty objectives target women’s needs. The Gates Foundation follows the Gates family’s belief in the possibilities of science and technology to bring people out of poverty. In the context of women, an emphasis on science technologizes women’s bodies as objects of development.
In following with feminist geopolitics, meaning an analysis of international relations through the lens of gender with a focus on the politics of the everyday and the body, it is critical to this paper that I situate my own knowledge (Hyndman 2004). I am a white, upper-middle class, American female, rooted in Western feminist ideals. In the summer of 2010, I travelled to Sierra Leone to conduct an ethnography on “rural women” and soon realized that the ocean of cultural difference made it almost impossible for me to understand the “Other.” When I was asked over and over to explain my time there, I was hesitant to tell the stories of people whom I barely understood with any authority. I became very disillusioned with the role of development in the Global South, especially as a respected source of information about people’s lives. But despite this critical standpoint, I cannot discount the role development has had in shaping my own view of the world. It is difficult for me to ignore the language of a single modernity, or the idea that there is only one acceptable (and proven) way for a society to develop. This project then is an intensely personal undertaking to deconstruct my own relationships with the Global North and the Global South. If anything, it is an ode to my colonial guilt and development angst.