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Shari Cohen

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Humanizing Development

There is always a reason why people do the things they do and such reasons range from the inspiring to the unremarkable and in some cases to the outright stupid. The reasons for doing anything at all, are not limited to only productive undertakings that will transform mankind but extend through the entire spectrum of human existence to include mundane decisions like which shirt to wear, for example. People who have made positive contributions to the advancement of mankind including scientists like Albert Einstein, philosophers like Michel Foucault always had a reason that propelled them to move forward. However, that does not mean that despicable human beings like Adolf Hitler who have earned their position in infamy through the most horrific crimes against humanity did not have a reason which they strongly believed in.

 

However, many of us do not take the time to reflect on why we do what we do, and maybe if we did this often enough our attitude towards work and the people we work with would be different. Being asked to think about why I do the job that I do was the last thing that I expected from this learning lab but in the true spirit of unpredictability that has become the hallmark of this workshop, that is exactly what I was asked to do in one of the sessions and this truly made me sit back and question myself. With such a deep reflection, peddling clichés like “we all need money” that are tossed about in less serious forums is completely out of question. Surely if that is my reasoning, then there is no distinguishing me from people who earn money through criminal enterprises, be it through the dark art of conning people or the savage enterprise of mugging and robbing through threats or actual administration of violence.

 

This question made me realize that sometimes I find myself in conflicts that I shouldn’t be in sometimes I back off from conflicts that I should be pursuing to the bitter end. This is not to suggest that my work life is all about conflict because there are many good times of laughter and camaraderie, but shining a spotlight regularly on why I do what I do is a good reminder that I do not work for myself. As long as women continue to die in childbirth, as long the leading killers of children in Malawi continue to be preventable, and as long as half of all children in this country continue to be stunted, then my work is not done. It is time to strengthen partnerships not just for the sake of peaceful coexistence, but for results. It is time to advocate and lobby for resources, not just for fancy communication products, but for stimulating and tangible change in peoples lives.

 

But above all, it is time to remember that the people we claim to work FOR do have a voice and a role to play in their own wellbeing and therefore, we need to work WITH them for better results but also, because of Umunthu which demands that they have a Voice in their own development.

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