I finally meet Nick Kristof

May 3, 2009 at 8:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Just wrapped up the Women’s Funding Network conference in Atlanta. One theme I heard throughout  was the need for foundations to use strategic communications to tell their stories, influence policy, raise more money etc.   Nick Kristof, the conference keynote, summed it up when he said, “the average toothpaste has better messaging than humanitarian organization.”  Here, here!

So, I have been waiting for my chance to meet Kristof for years. In his remarks he talked about the most effective interventions for keeping  girls in school – things like de-worming medication or sanitary napkins as opposed to building more schools.  Well, he said the magic words for SHE, and I had a chance to go up to him afterward and make the pitch:  SHE is launching women-led businesses in Africa that keep girls in school by selling low-cost locally made sanitary napkins!   He wanted to know how much it costs to keep a girl in school by providing a sanitary napkins – he is all about the best return on investment.

Fine.  But then my new favorite woman Yassine Fall from UNIFEM took the mic and told him the reason why girls don’t go to school was that structural adjustment from the IMF has stopped governments from investing in public goods like education and eliminating school fees.   Policy is the problem, not as Kristof suggested, men spending less of the family income on alcohol and entertainment and more on education and health. She said his analysis was demonizing African men as irresponsible fathers who only drink beer.  The confrontation was an exciting moment in the fancy hotel ballroom.

Well, its too late for Kristof to add Yassine’s perspective in his upcoming book called “Half the Sky” all about women’s rights.  He both opened and closed his speech saying: “I truly believe the struggle of the 21st century is a struggle for greater gender equity in the world.” Good messaging — take note women’s funds!

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2 Comments »

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  1. Woah. Cool that you got to speak with him. And sounds like an interesting and nuanced conversation.

  2. Your first paragraph makes a very important point about something that many NGOs and development organisations struggle with. The first is how to communicate the importance of the work that we have undertaken to do; the second is how to better share and celebrate our achievements.

    I know that in my professional experience so far, the reality all too often is that we are too involved in ‘doing’ and aside from funder-required reports spend very little time recording what progress we have made. Sometimes, it feels like very little progress is being made so to take note of it seems premature. However, this process of documenting and sharing gives us more channels of feedback for our work and can help us refine our work.

    My organisation is trying to use web 2.0 tools as much as possible to raise awareness about the issues we work with, as well as keeping our stakeholders and the wider public informed about our programmes and other milestones. It’s hard work, but we hope will pay off in the long run.


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