Good and bad technologies for development – some nice examples of both

September 15, 2011

In York at the Development Studies Association conference next week? Come and say hello

September 15, 2011

Nike v Commonwealth – who's best on women's rights?

September 15, 2011
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Here’s a brief workout for your gender analysis skills, in advance of this weekend’s launch of the 2012 World Development Report on gender and inequality. Two superficially similar short (2 minute) videos on women’s empowerment: one from Nike Foundation, and the other from the Commonwealth. Your task – compare, contrast and identify what’s missing. Then vote. [update – you can now vote for the parody version, which I’ve just included as a third video – h/t Toby Quantrill ]

First the Nike Girl Effect video

Next up, the Commonwealth Countries League Education Fund (they really need a new name….)

and now for the parody


and over to you [h/t Ines Smyth]


  1. For a local perspective on gender issues, in this case in Afghanistan, people could get great insight from some of the 10 short films made by local Afghan filmakers and made available for public viewing online, til Oct. 7th, by Community Supported Film. I have just been watching these, and they are amazing.

    Seven of the 10 films focus on women and women’s issues; four of which were filmed and produced by Afghan women. They focus both on everyday life and on specific issues. The series is called The Fruit of Our Labor.

  2. Beautiful videos, lovely sentiments, but where’s the piggybank? And why would an educated girl with a thriving business ask to be on a male council? In the Girl Effect scenario she would form her own council and the men would want to join hers.

  3. It’s tricky to convey nuance in a short video; highlighting women’s disadvantage without presenting women as victims and illustrating important possibilities, so as to encourage increased funding for women’s rights, without suggesting that women’s empowerment might be a panacea for sustainable development.

    But perhaps, in their efforts to encourage investment in women’s empowerment and gender equality, these videos make it seem too easy, as if business as usual is ok for women.

    Both videos champion microfinance, for example. Since this is fairly pervasive in across the developing world, one might conclude that current aid policies are working, they just need more cash. But it’s not obvious that microfinance is a magic bullet. Across sub-saharan african urban markets are saturated with workers retrenched during structural adjustment. Reselling imported cheap Chinese goods and local vegetables may create sufficient profits to buy relish but it’s hardly a pathway out of poverty or sustainable national development. Authors like Milford Bateman and Ha Joon Chang highlight the problems with these strategies.

    Similarly with elections – championed by the commonwealth. Obviously good governance is more complex than this. Why dum it down? More importantly, why suggest ‘job done’? – since elections are pervasive in most of the world.

    What happened to feminism? E.g. quotas – in employment and politics. I like quotas for two reasons: (1) They provide opportunities for women to prove themselves in a context where they might underestimate themselves or be underestimated by others who are subconsciously predisposed to think it’s a man’s job. (2) Quotas create role models, thereby normalising the idea that women can undertake male-dominated roles, and inspiring others either to follow suit or support similar endeavours.

    Since when did campaigning for money for women’s rights mean forgetting about feminism, i.e. radical affirmative action, that might actually make some difference?

  4. Wow, the World Bank’s video is actually pretty awesome. Recognising unpaid work! Talking about equality, not just harnessing women for smart economics! Encouraging reflection not prescribing answers!

    Rock on!

  5. Oddly enough I like both the videos and the parodies (look for the Boy Effect on YouTube).

    Maybe what’s missing is men: What if her father had a good job with union benefits in the formal sector? What if her brother sent home remittances from France so she could go to school, afford medical care, etc? What if her future husband was faithful and used a condom? See recent debates on targeting girls and women: I see the value in focusing attention and investment(and responsibility) on girls, but I don’t think including boys and men would hurt.

    I also find the Girl Effect is missing human rights (we shouldn’t just invest in girls because it’s good for the economy and an efficient way to tackle child health) and something about the macro picture of the enabling environment: What if her government invested more in agricultural development and less on guns? What if tariff barriers were lowered so she ? What if climate change didn’t result in devastating floods that destroyed her little micro-enterprise?

    Duncan: well I’m pretty sure this isn’t what you are thinking of Megan, but check out ‘The Boy Effect’ – another parody……

  6. The Nike video was played to us at an Oxfam shop conference and did the trick both in terms of raising awareness and hitting the spot emotionally. I suppose what it comes down to is audience- seasoned readers of gender studies will call for feminism, systemic change and the like. But if we’re talking to other businesses or to shop volunteers or to my dad or finance students, any of those videos get the conversation started.

  7. More than anything, I am appalled at the uncompelling nature of these commercials. These are words on a screen! Even worse, on the Commonwealth commercial, there is someone actually READING the words on the screen. Come on, people – have you not ever heard of death by PowerPoint? Who wants to be subjected to that on YouTube, too?

  8. The Nike video seems to focus solely on girls’ agency, making them solely responsible for their own empowerment. And usually it’s an uphill battle that results in backlash when girls try to challenge norms. The other video does a better job of including a systems change approach, but as others have mentioned the logic is a bit flawed about the results.

  9. I love the Girl Effect video. Where it falls short for me is after it grips you, it gives very little direction of where you can go to help bring along this effect they talk about.

    I think it’s great storytelling that opens up opportunities for engagement and conversation with folks who might not be entrenched and aid and development work.

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