Being Who We Are

How important is it to you to be able to be and think and believe in freedom and safety?
How important is it to our societies to afford citizens these rights?
What happens when these freedoms are denied and meet with punishment and even torture?
How does this oppression curtail our development as societies?
As people?

How commonly are these rights withheld?

As We Agreed Earlier*

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

 Article 2 

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

*1949 to be exact

Visibly Good

The Butterfly Effect is easy to understand – one small change can result in a huge change down the line. A ball rolling down a hill hits a tiny pebble which changes the ball’s trajectory so much it ends up miles and miles away from where it was originally headed. This effect is neither good nor bad in itself, it is simply a fact of nature.

But it is a fact.

Use it to make small differences that can change the world for the better.

Many of you will have seen the Kony 2012 campaign already – if not, watch the trailer and – when you have a half an hour to spare – watch the movie itself.

It’s time the good in people became visible…

As Seen on TV…

Fikirte is a young and poor Ethiopian woman, with many problems whose life goes rapidly downhill when she meets the handsome Damtew. Damtew, is obsessed with wreaking revenge on Fikirte’s (innocent) grandfather and so he murders him and then begins to prey on poor Fikirte.

He swindles her of what little she has and then seduces her half-sister, giving her HIV. He spreads vicious rumors to turn Fikirte’s family against her and to crush her dreams of finishing school. And as if that’s not enough he tries to murder her – twice.

If you think poor Fikirte sounds like a character in a soap-opera you’d be correct – she is one of a cast of characters of Yeken Kignit (“Looking Over One’s Daily Life”) who kept millions of Ethiopians glued to their radios for two and a half years. It also persuaded some of them to change their lives.

Because Yeken Kignit isn’t your run-of-the-mill melodrama – it’s a drama created to deliver life-saving messages in an entertaining way.  And it’s not the only one.

In 1993, a radio drama—Twende na Wakati—began to air in Tanzania.  At that time, myths about HIV and Aids were rampant in Tanzania, many of them causing actual harm such as a belief that HIV was transmitted by mosquitoes and that using condoms could cause you to become infected.  Two years later, Tanzanians who followed the drama talked more about AIDS, reduced their number of sexual partners, understood the dangers of unprotected sex and increased their use of condoms.

These soap operas are part of a concerted effort to use drama as a strategy for education and social change. And it all began in the 1970s…

(cue exciting music)

At that time, Mexican TV research executive, Miguel Sabido hit upon the idea of using long-running TV drama – telenovelas – to promote social change.

From 1977-1986, Sabido produced six telenovelas each of which contained a number of social messages – this was very effective, especially in the area of family planning. During this time Mexico’s population growth went down by 34% and a lot of research has pointed to the influence of Sabidos telenovelas on this social trend.

These telenovelas are very much in the style of the soap-opera, but planted within the melodrama are characters and story-lines designed to increase understanding and thereby engage the audience as agents of social change in their own lives.

Nowadays known as the Sabido Method – the goal of these dramas is social change and they are thought to be one of the cheapest and most effective strategies that can be used for this purpose.  This method – widely used now in all forms of entertainment – is proving particularly effective in disseminating education about family planning, HIV, teen pregnancy and gender equality.

Stay tuned for further developments in this application of technology and the arts to help effect social change.


Teach a Girl – Change the World.

Camfed (Campaign for Female Education) is an international, non-profit organisation focused on educating and empowering girls and young women in a bid to eradicate poverty and help develop societies.   Camfed programs operate in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi.

In 1993, an English woman named Ann Cotton started Camfed at her kitchen table after a visit to Africa.  Nineteen years later, Camfed has helped 1,451,600 children with their education.  In addition, they have also set up the Cama Network – an offshoot of Camfed which trains and organises women to provide support, healthcare and education to others in their communities,

Wonderful as these things are there has been an unexpected outcome from this whole endeavour – the Camfed graduates have become individual philanthropists themselves.

The girls who have benefitted from the help given by Camfed, are now helping an average of 5 other girls at any one time – not including their own families who they also help.

As Ann Cotton says – “They are becoming real role models in their communities. It may be that the neighbor’s child can’t go to school because she doesn’t have a skirt, so she’ll provide that. Or maybe she’ll pay another girl’s school fees.  This was something we didn’t expect at all. It shows the power of education.”(1)

Human beings.  Endlessly wonderful once they get a chance.


(1) Half the Sky, Nicholas D. Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn, p. 203

Little by Little One Walks Far*

UNFPA is the United Nations agency that deals with providing much needed family planning and reproductive health services in the developing world.  In 2002, the American government decided not to give a promised 34 million dollars to UNFPA.

In different parts of the country and without ever having met, two ordinary American women, Jane Roberts and Lois Abraham, asked the women of America to send $1 dollar each to UNFPA.

Nobody – not even UNFPA – thought it would work. But it did.  Soon a deluge of envelopes with single dollar bills began arriving at the UNFPA offices from women – and men – all over the United States.

From this an organisation called 34 Million Friends of UNFPA ( was formed and millions of dollars were raised to help families all over the world.

In 2009, the U.S. administration restored the funding to UNFPA but 34 Million Friends still continues to work to support this vital service.

And all from the efforts of two ordinary women – a social action butterfly effect if ever there was one.

(*Peruvian Proverb)

Vision Quest

Roll up!  Roll up!

Unique human capacity awaiting development.

See past the pain that creeps up along you, threatening to warp and smother you.

Avoid destroyers-in-pleasure’s clothing – Siren-songs dripping poison honey.

Instead try this –


The only way to live in the moment and not be seduced by its pleasures and pains.

This capacity is standard in every human model but may be hidden in a compartment labelled with other names such as Fanciful or Crazy or Impossible, or even, Waste of Time.

Be careful to check the contents of each compartment carefully because the labelling process is faulty and you may well miss out on your Vision because of this on-going problem.

You need to search and find and develop this capacity (you definitely have it) no matter what you want to do.  Even scientists need Vision – in fact they might need it more than the rest of us.

Good luck with your quest.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Albert Einstein

Two Busloads of People

7 billion is a very big number – much too big for any of us to really connect with.  We understand the numbers in theory but it’s hard to really feel the impact of the imbalances in our world when the figures are so huge.

But what if we could see all of the ‘facts’ about our world on a scale to which we can easily relate?

100 people.

Less than two busloads.

Would that change the impact?

Photograph –