The War on Drugs, Media and Democracy: The Philippines Case

It has been widely acclaimed by academics and media watchdogs that the Philippines has the freest media system in Southeast Asia (Beltran, 2017; Brooten, 2011; Rosenberg, 1974; Smith, 1996). Journalists have traditionally enjoyed freedom of expression by actively critiquing government decisions (Siebert et al., 1956). And in the age of information technology, the Philippines’ prolific rise in internet users should theoretically enable all individuals to participate in a public sphere (Habermas, 1992; Beltran, 2017). But is total media freedom always a good, realistic practice in all contexts? (Huntington and Nelson, 1976). In actuality, is it threatened by repressive powers taking advantage of platforms, thus monopolising the representation of voices (Morozov, 2012)? Taking the case of the Philippines, what does this mean for its media development and the co-existence of media and democracy?

Does Media Freedom Still Exist?

In 1972 former president Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law over all newspaper, radio and television stations within the country (Rosenberg, 1974). Journalists criticising the Marcos administration were silenced and killed, and public civil liberties were taken away, which Marcos argued was the “necessary price Filipinos must pay for social order and economic progress” (ibid: 472). By this virtue, the media were no longer able to perform their watchdog function, which is where journalists could hold the government accountable for their actions – a concept which Siebert et al. (1956) associated with the social responsibility of the media. According to Rosenberg (1974), media freedom no longer existed.

Despite the ban being officially lifted in 1981, which Smith (1996) defines as the transition from “liberalisation” towards “democratic consolidation”, the extent to which this has had an overall success for media democracy and development is questionable. Perhaps this reflects political scientists Huntington and Nelson’s (1976) theory on how press freedom may not always be attainable, particularly for fragile states in transitional processes. With President Duterte’s current ‘War on Drugs’ campaign, is the state of media in the Philippines now entering a new stage of authoritarianism?

Violence and the Culture of Impunity

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Image 1 Al Jazeera covers CCTV capturing killing in lack of reporting

Duterte’s ‘War on Drugs’ is his government’s initiative to crackdown on the number of drug users in the Philippines. A story covered recently by Al Jazeera reveals CCTV footage capturing the killing of a seventeen-year-old boy by the police (Image 1). The violence itself is common with the thousands of killings in the fifteen-month campaign thus far, but the way audiences find out about it is unusual. This lack of reporting is not by mere lack of media interest or journalism training but lack of capacity. Individuals critiquing Duterte’s tactics are being silenced through contemporary strategies such as false news fabrication, as this Channel 4 report explores. The report also exposes Duterte’s influence on alternative media. For example, Margaux Uson previously used her blog “Mocha Uson Blog” as a platform to discuss sexual topics: she now “talks about Duterte” as a “self-confessed volunteer for the present administration” (Beltran, 2017: 71). This highlights an interesting parallel between the ways in which Marcos and Duterte have denied alternative, critical voices into the public sphere, and embodies Morozov’s critique of press freedom whereby repressive powers can use the media as a power-enhancing tool, reproducing further inequalities by refusing alternative opinions freedom of expression, which is arguably vital for democratic progression (Habermas, 1992).

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Image 2: Studio Radyo Cagayano in ruins after attack, Kodao Productions

Violence towards journalists has also been relatively common in Philippine media history (Brooten, 2011). In her comparison between the militarisation of Burmese and Philippino media, Brooten (2011) illustrates the burning down of ‘Radyo Cagayano’ in 2006, a community radio station whose group of attackers remained unpunished (Image 2). “Now it’s not in operation”, which “is really instructive on the lack of democracy in the Philippines” (ibid: 232). However, she also draws upon this idea of ‘structural violence’ which considers how layers of political and economic inequality accounts for this culture of impunity. Arguably, media reformers have too often been concerned with journalist safety and training and press freedom, as we have mostly discussed, where the focus should really be on the larger, structural factors behind why violence against the media and democracy exists at all.

Arguably, media reformers have too often been concerned with journalist safety and training and press freedom, where the focus should really be on the larger, structural factors behind why violence against the media and democracy exists entirely.

What does this mean for media development?

Where the Philippines was supposedly meant to have the freest press in its region, it has instead highlighted the challenges of pursuing press freedom in an environment experiencing unstable political transitions (Huntington and Nelson, 1976). Evidently, it also exposes dangers for democracy, particularly when powerful elites take advantage of the platform, influencing contemporary media, such as bloggers, to support them. (Morozov, 2012). Therefore, I am inclined to agree with Brooten (2011) that it is increasingly vital to be considering long term, structural problems initially, before addressing shorter term issues if we want to protect the co-existence of media and democracy.

 

Bibliography

Beltran, J. (2017). The Emergence of the Philippine “Anti-Media”: The Duterte Factor. Jurnal ILMU KOMUNIKASI, 14(1), pp.61-74.

Brooten, L. (2011). Media, Militarization, and Human Rights: Comparing Media Reform in the Philippines and Burma. Communication, Culture & Critique, 4(3), pp.229-249.

Habermas, J. (1992). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into A Category Of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge: Polity Press

Huntington, S.  and Nelson, J. (1976). No Easy Choice. [S.l.]: Harvard University Press.

Morozov, E. (2012). The New Delusion. New York: Public Affairs, pp.ix-xvii.

Rosenberg, D. (1974). Civil Liberties and the Mass Media under Martial Law in the Philippines. Pacific Affairs, 47(4), pp.472-484.

Siebert, F. S., Peterson, T., and Schramm, W. (1956), Four Theories of the Press, Urbana, University of Illinois Press.

Smith, D. (1996). Democracy and the media in developing countries – The case of the Philippines. University of Leeds.

 

 

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‘The Disruptors’

What does Silicon Valley and Gender and Development have in common? The clue is in the title. That’s right, they both want to be seen as ‘disruptors‘. But the way that these actors in these very different fields approach this sense of disruption is worlds apart – just like them.

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Jamie Bartlett in his two-part documentary ‘The Secrets of Silicon Valley’ BBC1

Let’s first take Silicon Valley. Home to some of the world’s largest tech and start-up companies, including HP, Apple and Google, and even Uber and AirBnB, these innovative companies are gradually revolutionising the way in which we behave in the world around us. As a species, humans have evolved in such a short space of time, from the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, to what many in this field are now calling the “technological revolution”. VR, wearable technology? We’re wholly and irrevocably immersed in it. It’s truly amazing how we put can be putting our potential into fruition. But to what cost? And more importantly, whose?

If you watched Jamie Bartlett’s two-part documentary ‘The Secrets of Silicon Valley’, perhaps you would be thinking twice about how much we are all investing not only our money into such technology, but our time, too. In the first part, also titled ‘The Disruptors’, Bartlett meets with CEOs from some of the largest companies mentioned, most of which have the mindset that the work they do is simply to find solutions to problems – not be part of the problem itself. For example, Uber, which was only created in 2009, was to solve the issue of having more convenient transportation for people to get from A to B. And along the way, this concept has evolved into reducing costs and carbon footprints. Now, operating in 633 cities across the world, this company has globalised. Watch Uber’s Co-Founder, Travis Kalanick give a Ted Talk on ‘Uber’s plans to get more people into fewer cars’:

However, as Bartlett found out, drivers who have signed on to Uber in countries such as India are having an excruciating time trying to manage their costs of owning such a mode of transport in such an economically-restricted country. Uber claims to set up schemes whereby individuals can be paying back the cost of the car in instalments, similar to that of microfinance or microlending, but this is just falling through, leading to gargantuan amounts of debt for such individuals.

This is much the same for individuals across the world wanting to sign on to AirBnB, where scandalous landlords are increasing the rent of homes at the expense of residents. Thus, places will only become cheaper for tourists to stay, but more expensive to actually live.

And then there is what is possibly the most common injustice. For tech companies requiring materials such as cobalt for their products, such as Apple, not only are there poor working conditions for factory workers, but young children in countries such as Congo are cobalt mining for the smartphones we generally take for granted.

So yes, you are “disruptors”, but your idea of creating a better world through the use of technology and innovative thinking is costly in so many more ways.

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Sustainable Development Goal No. 5, dedicated to Gender Equality | Source: UNDP

On the flip side, let’s explore another group of disruptors: women in development. Over the past couple of weeks, I have been doing an online course on FutureLearn called ‘Gender and Development’ which, even if you don’t study development (or don’t study at all) is an extremely eye-opening short course to broaden your mind about issues regarding gender equality and women’s rights, and this is where I realised that women could also be considered ‘disruptors’.

When a woman is empowered, she can not only change her world but the world around her. She can attend school and receive a good education, which will enable her to find a good job. She’ll be conscious of family planning, and if she does decide to have children (and she will have the power to make such a decision), she will be able to raise them healthily and happily. This is what is explored in Sheryl WuDunn’s Ted Talk, which you can also watch down below.

The FutureLearn course also includes some wonderful resources and in one session, we focus on the World Bank and how their 2012 Development Report was dedicated entirely to Gender Equality and Development. And this is because gender equality matters in its own right.

Women all over the world are now taking on jobs that were once only considered for men. They are now participating in armed conflicts on the front line, for there cannot be sustainable peace from conflict without both genders participating and explaining the support they want and need. Likewise in Microfinance programmes in countries such as Bangladesh in South Asia, often it is the woman who will receive such loans, and should she invest this effectively, can enjoy the rewards of her work.

And while there is still a lack of women working in the sciences and technology, campaigns are underway to change this, or rather disrupt the status quo, such as the L’oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science campaign; the World Bank as already mentioned as well as Project Girl Code, a non-profit organisation which is “teaching digital literacy skills and providing IT training to girls and young women who are vulnerable to trafficking, slavery or forced marriage. We aim to prevent poverty and fight exploitation through education and technology.”

I think that before we start hyping over driver-less trains and trucks and even flying cars, surely we need to ensure that all women enjoy the same rights and status as men to drive these vehicles on land in the first place *cough* Saudi Arabia *cough*.

So with this in mind, which type of disruption are you more likely to support? I know which one I’m more likely to.

 

Grenfell: United We Stand

Grenfell: United We Stand

On June 14th, the lives of hundreds of people, thousands even, changed overnight. A fire, which attacked and seized all within reach, grew higher, attacked higher, seized higher, for hours on end, with little respect for future consequences. Some have called it ‘social cleansing’, others a mere accident. But in light of this, in light of what this tragedy represents, it also demonstrates the human solidarity and unity which collects itself; you shrug off the smoke and the ashes, and get back up to help others. To keep moving. To keep people living. To keep the faith. This is a photo essay about the Grenfell Tower fire, and how ‘United We Stand’.

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Photo 1: Grenfell Tower from afar, burnt to a crisp but still standing

This photo of Grenfell Tower weeks on from the fire, taken from afar, is a bold and striking reminder of a fatal incident. You can see the building from miles away, and which is only really within walking distance from Latymer Road Underground Station, West London. Location is a particularly significant part of this puzzle. This piece of wounded architecture standing tightly in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea seems to represent the inequality within the area between working-class people and those with power and authority; those who have the power to make decisions – which are clearly not always well-thought through. More so, just around the corner are wealthier, middle-income earning individuals and celebrities, which only has led to people theorising over the concept of ‘social cleansing’, which, while I believe this to be a horrible use of language, can only be deemed as a possible explanation given the contemporary climate. Within a developed country in the world, who would have thought that this would be possible?

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Photo 2: Photos of missing peoples stuck onto a door of the Nottinghill Methodist Church

These are the faces of the individuals, whose whereabouts are still unknown. Families are being separated, with both young and older people still missing. Police are keeping the death toll at around 80, but people are not stupid. There are so many questions to ask, and so few people willing to answer them.

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Photo 3: Among flowers, notes and candles is a child’s toy

All around the neighbouring area are candles, notes and flowers scattered to mark the loss of a loved one, or from those hoping that more are still alive. But in the centre of this photo is a children’s toy, ‘Eeyore’, a well-known character, taken from a well-loved children’s story, ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’. I loved Winnie-the-Pooh when I was younger, so to have this symbolise a child’s life either sacrificed or still missing, only honed in the harsh reality of this fateful incident even more so. Very, very young children have lost their lives to this, with the world missing out on what they could have seen, been and done.

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Photo 4: A Liverpool scarf is hung onto the gates by Nottinghill Methodist Church

This fourth photo I thought was very interesting. It both resembles this sense of unity and support from the local, national and international community, but it also reminds me of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. In an article I read in the New York Times a week before taking these photographs, I found that there are some harrowing similarities between this historical disaster and Grenfell. Both young and working-class people were victims of poor decision-making on behalf of authoritative powers (do I hear social-cleansing again?). And these so-called authorities seemed to blame the incident, which was a semi-final match taking place at Hillsborough Stadium in Liverpool, on those aforementioned ‘rowdy’ young and working class. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t take almost another 30 years for a thorough inquiry to be published, let alone a genuine apology.

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Photo 5: Signs are displayed to voice the injustice faced by Grenfell Tower victims

People want their voices heard. There is so much loss, uncertainty, anger…

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Photo 6: A star hangs on a gate, with the slogan ‘United We Stand’

… and hope. This last photo I thought I would save for the end of this photo essay to reiterate just how strongly people come together in times of despair, whether its an incident like Manchester, Finsbury Park, London Bridge or Grenfell. The peace, the love, the harmony – it’s all wrapped up within this one symbol, which serves as a sign that while Grenfell tower still stands, albeit for some time, so will we.

*

I am currently working on a video I filmed about these tributes to Grenfell Tower victims, including shots of people that are still missing. A friend will also be composing original music for this short video. We hope to edit and publish this as soon as.

Trump, you troublesome troll, who will bridge the gap now?

The man who is prepared to cut US foreign aid in developing countries, particularly in areas of family planing, who I hope knowingly leads to various catastrophic consequences, goes by a name none other than Donald Trump.

Indeed, this isn’t a character assassination as such, but more of a rant on one singular man’s poor political decision-making

The problem: According to articles published in The Guardian today, and in the last few days, his actions include: planned budget cuts (having already decided to cut ObamaCare), and adopting a sterner approach towards the ‘Global Gag’ rule (otherwise known as the Mexico City rule), which, for those of you who are not familiar, ‘requires NGOs to certify that they will not perform or promote abortions anywhere in the world as a condition for receiving US family planning funds’. Those of which who refuse to sign will be denied access to health assistance, such as for HIV, TB and malaria programmes, and nutrition.

The ‘Global Gag’ rule will lead to an amalgamation of catastrophic consequences, particularly for NGOs who promote sexual and reproductive rights, and who are tackling high demands for abortion. However, in countries such as the Philippines, a country which is 78% Catholic, abortion is not allowed under the eyes of the law, nor the Catholic Church. Emergency contraception is not an option, not even for rape victims.

As a result, this leads to clandestine and unsafe abortions. In a documentary, also produced and edited by The Guardian, it was noted that 610,000 abortions occur each year in the Philippines, of which 3 women die every day due to unsafe circumstances. I ask you, Trump, is this really the reality you intend on enforcing?

It’s torture. Pure torture.

Women are having their abdomens punched and kicked; having barbecue sticks inserted into their vaginas in order to potentially puncture the fetus, all for a lack of funding – which had previously seen progress in population control.

This is true in the case of Nigeria, which now poses risks of a population boom as a result of the ‘Global Gag’ rule. ‘Cuts to US foreign aid enacted by the US administration mean that supplies of contraception are dwindling in Nigerian family planning services.’ As a result, this means that Nigeria is set to overtake the US in becoming the third largest country by 2050, just after India and China. Philippines will be 13th.

Contraception, you may suggest? Well, as ideal as this sounds, contraception is majoratively inaccessible, and individuals also choose to not take it for a variety of reasons. In the Philippines, 65% of women don’t use contraception. This is because of a fear of side-effects, lack of knowledge, and even embarrassment (in asking parents for contraception, such as condoms or the pill). Children as young as 12 and 13 are considering having sexual intercourse, and end up becoming pregnant due to the stigma of being deemed sexually promiscuous, as well as the fact that schools don’t have sex-education/contraception sessions.

The wider problem: Women do not have the choice in controlling their own bodies – governments and patriarchy do. Women are seen as second-class citizens in many developing countries. This is leading to many problems, including both deaths and population increase at the same time.

The debate: Understandably, many countries are against abortion because of societal norms, traditions, and culture, stemming from their religious beliefs and values. This is certainly the case in the Philippines. Yet, women should not want to seek abortions, should they have the materials, resources and support in place in order to plan their pregnancies more effectively and carefully. However, with lack of access or even knowledge of contraception, most of which is because of a LACK OF FUNDING, how are women practically meant to get themselves out of this vicious circle they call day-to-day reality? Trump, I ask you again, who will bridge the gap now?

Solutions… Fortunately, there are some individuals who, collectively, want to implement further sustainable family planning. Starting with Melinda Gates from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), along with the UK Department for International Development (DIFD) and the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, together they have co-hosted summit in London, where Gates will announce a big funding increase for family planning. However, this is still not enough.

If we want to see a world with a sustainably controlled population growth, and lack of ‘botched’, tortuous abortions, we need to have the world’s most powerful coming together to tackle these challenges. Rather than diverting funds towards waging wars, or spending half of your time on Twitter feuds, why not target your time and money towards allowing women to have more control over their bodies. This may be asking for a lot, but certainly and most positively when a woman is empowered, her whole family (or planned family) is, too. Think about it. I dare you, Trump, just think.

 

Here are the number of articles I refer to in this post:

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jul/11/melinda-gates-deeply-troubled-by-trump-cuts-to-family-planning-funds

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jul/10/how-bitter-herbs-and-botched-abortions-kill-three-women-a-day-in-the-philippines

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jul/09/trump-abortion-crackdown-risks-stoking-nigerias-population-boom

Garment Workers’ Rights

Garment Workers’ Rights

Poor working conditions for workers in South Asia and South-East Asia are not new phenomenon. With long hours, in high temperatures, low wages and little to no breaks, this is hardly any different from slave labour. While a lot of the literature on this area of employment is interesting, it certainly reveals some of the harsh realities mentioned, which workers, particularly garment workers, who produce the clothes supplied by household names, such as Nike, Primark and Monsoon, have to face on a daily basis.

The following image depicts a handful of informative booklets I picked up when popping into Traid, which is a charity dedicated to reducing the waste from the clothes that we buy and wear – to stop them from being thrown away. I love their mission, aims and values, as they not only advocate towards reducing clothes waste, but also funds projects to campaign for and empower workers to know their rights, and improve their working conditions. Check out their website to find out more.

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Booklets produced by Traid covering poverty and workers’ rights

What has inspired this particular blog post is an article I read in The Guardian this week. It reminded me of a piece which I wrote and published in my university’s student newspaper: Concrete. It describes some of the changes I have noticed in myself regarding the injustices in the world, which I have learnt about in my first year of studying International Development, and how my way of thinking and being has slowly evolved. You  can read the full Guardian article by clicking on the link below, and read on to find my original piece:

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jun/25/female-cambodian-garment-workers-mass-fainting

 

How my Degree is Reshaping Who I Am

Chloe Howcroft

 

I’m a first year undergraduate in the school of International Development, with my second year now fast approaching. A common motif within my field of study is change, which can sometimes be perceived as a pleasant experience in some communities yet, more often than not, is detrimental for others. And while I find many aspects of studying International Development incredibly fascinating, I do think that the most noteworthy of all is its subtle ability to gradually change one’s worldview. This is an account of how my degree is already reshaping who I am.

I began to notice a change somewhere within the first few weeks of the course, when the realities of being a ‘fresher’ at university reigned in. I felt excited. The soft haze of summer just gone was slowly slipping away, and I was beginning to settle into university life. However, I also felt something else. I felt disgust. Sitting in a politics lecture, I was learning about the ‘politics of production’, which, to my understanding, is the study of power relations within each strand of the supply chain, from the factory floor on an operational level, to a more decision-making level from (majoratively) Western retailers, such as the likes of Tesco, Monsoon, and Nike, to name but a few. And Primark. The collapse of the Rana Plaza building near Dhaka, Bangladesh, some four years ago today, which accommodated a number of garment factories for retailers including Primark, was used as a case study to illustrate the inequalities among the supply chain. More than one thousand garment workers died in this unnatural disaster.

When this occurred, I was still in high school, only vaguely aware of such global development issues. In fact, I frequently shopped at Primark, knowing that I would practically be buying a whole new wardrobe at a ridiculously low price. But fast-forward a few years later, and I now cannot fathom walking into such a store; simply walking past one makes me squirm. In this way, my degree makes me question the clothes and other products I buy and wear from certain retailers, for I am now more conscious of broader structural inequalities. If anything, I much prefer traipsing around car boot-sales or charity shops at the very least.

Along the same vein, another retailer that crops up more often than not is Apple. Almost all students in DEV appear to own an iPhone – an observation which, admittedly, somewhat surprises me. Now the last thing I want to do is cast judgements on others’ choice of mobile phone device, but it is far from unknown that iPhones are an overstated, superficial fashion trend. Apple (or rather, Foxconn), also have their own ethical issues, namely poor working conditions, which have led to several cases of suicide, hence my disillusionment in finding so many DEV students with a phone that not only reproduces inequalities in labour conditions and the capitalist system, but is also unnecessarily pricey. I thought that DEV students encouraged sustainability and ethical living, not superficiality and consumerism.

Furthermore, my degree has altered the types of food I consume. If there is one thing that DEV students also have in common, it’s vegetarianism or veganism – and everything else in between. Though I am not a self-proclaimed veggie (as of yet), I am certainly advancing towards the lifestyle. My consumption of meat has decreased considerably since being at university, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that Norwich seems to be a Vegan haven (or could it be watching a certain DiCaprio movie on climate action, I wonder?) I rarely buy meat in my weekly shop, and if I feel tempted, I usually buy substitutes of Quorn or succulent Linda McCartney sausages. Such good food.

Finally, my degree has invigorated my interests in learning more about other religions and beliefs. Recently, I took part in an introductory course into Buddhism, where I had an overview of several Buddhist teachings and values, most of which resonate with my own interests in practicing mindfulness and interconnectivity. This not only helps with self-development and growth, but also is an insight into other cultures in the Far East and South, which predominantly practice Buddhism, namely China, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. These countries are where I only dream of travelling to, and doing potential development work. Thus, learning about other cultures is a large part of why I love studying International Development.

I don’t mean to sound like a cynical, judgemental nag, but I do strongly believe that your degree, or whatever you do, should have some influence in the choices you make in your life. Next time you find yourself in a store like Primark, think about the effort that has gone into producing yet another ridiculously cheap top. In fact, think about why it is so cheap.

 

 

 

The White Helmets

The White Helmets

‘I’d much rather save a life than take a life…’

This is a quote from one of the volunteers from Syria Civil Defence, a volunteer organisation which operates in rebel-controlled Turkey and Syria. Unofficially, they call themselves ‘The White Helmets’, and a short documentary film of the same name was produced about them last year.

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The White Helmets film poster: Website

‘I’d much rather save a life than take a life…’

Imagine, even just for a minute, that one day you feel safe – inside your home with your nearest and dearest – and the next, that feeling of warmth and security has been snatched so barbarically from you. What do you do? How do you feel? How is anyone meant to cope in such unwelcome, UNEXPECTED, situations? This is where The White Helmets enter.

In aid of Refugee Week 2017 Books for Amnesty in Hammersmith joined forces with Hammersmith and Fulham Refugees Welcome  to organise the film screening of ‘The White Helmets’, which creates a visual representation of the true reality facing civilians within Syria and Turkey.

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Books for Amnesty, Hammersmith – the film screening venue

A White Helmet is no superhuman, although one could easily argue otherwise. They have backgrounds in various avenues of life: some previously working as pharmacists, bakers, tailors, some even students (like myself). All 3,200 of these like-minded individuals unite under one shared motto: ‘to save one life, is to save all of humanity’. Despite the many risks they may face in the aftermaths of bombed areas and airstrikes, these volunteers seek to save lives, having already saved close to 100,000 en-counting.

‘to save one life, is to save all of humanity’.

With reference to the screening, and as their website states:

“When the bombs rain down, the Syrian Civil Defence rushes in. In a place where public services no longer function these unarmed volunteers risk their lives to help anyone in need – regardless of their religion or politics. Known as the White Helmets these volunteer rescue workers operate in the most dangerous place on earth.”

As is probably evident, my thoughts are still processing themselves. Sitting in the centre of a bookshop, which fundraises and advocates for the rights and freedoms of every single human being, it’s almost difficult to believe that these brutal conditions are what many people are still facing as a result of a civil war.

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Inside the bookshop

It’s touching. It’s human. And it’s happening right now.

The film, which runs for approximately 40 minutes, can be found on Netflix. While I was aware of this, I still wanted to attend the screening to be in the presence of those who also feel strongly about advocating for the rights of vulnerable people who have to leave their home countries to seek refuge. And any Amnesty International location has such an inspiring atmosphere. Attending the Refugee Week Conference earlier this year made me even more determined to fight for what I believe in and pursue my interests. And the bookshop also seeps a similar feeling.

I would highly recommend watching ‘The White Helmets’ to get a visual understanding of those who are in danger, and those who risk their lives to save others.

It’s touching. It’s human. And it’s happening right now.

Fundraising, FUND-raising, FUN-draising: The Story Shop

Fundraising, FUND-raising, FUN-draising: The Story Shop

In the middle of a busy shopping centre in White City, West London, it was once possible to step into a cosy pop up stall, enclosed by elegant furniture and chests of drawers and sit and chat with a lady for a few minutes or so about…well…children. Sounds slightly odd, and for a number of reasons too, but let me clear this up. WorldVision came up with a creative, innovative and, dare I say, immersive idea with the aim of taking away passing members of the public from their intense shopping endeavours and talk to them, albeit for a few minutes, about how they can donate to WorldVision and make a difference to the lives of vulnerable children around the world, all within a domesticated setting. This creative, innovative and immersive idea became known as The Story Shop.

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The Story Shop’s pop up stall in Westfield, White City

According to their website, WorldVision is the world’s largest international children’s charity, which aims to bring hope to this vulnerable demographic in disaster-stricken areas for immediate relief, or long-term, ongoing issues. You can donate, which contributes towards providing commodities, including food, water, and access to medical care, or even sponsor a child. And The Story Shop is a so-called campaign of WorldVision to help with these aims. Their byline is: CONNECTING TWO WORLDS – indeed, implying that of the first and the third, I presume? Watch this video for a more visual representation of what The Story Shop is:

Indeed, when traipsing around Westfield with my mum, we took a few moments to stop and appreciate the work that had gone into creating such as immersive, technological form of fundraising.

“CONNECTING TWO WORLDS”

The pop up included frames of children’s stories, a chest of drawers which opens up to find out more information about them and the immersive mirror-like screen, which seemed quite a hit for passers-by. A child stands at the foreground of the screen, with their hand outstretched to touch yours. How can this be ignored? When my mum approached, the child’s story read: ‘We have no healthcare and my brothers and sisters are sick from diseases that can be easily treated.’

“We have no healthcare and my brothers and sisters are sick from diseases that can be easily treated.”

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Mirror-like screen attached to chest of drawers for the public to interact with

Despite the fact that this was approximately two months ago, and the stall is no longer there, it is a concept that had embedded itself in my mind up until now,  due to its unique quality, hence why I felt compelled to talk about it here.

I believe that the way forward in fundraising is through immersive and interactive forms of communication and technology, which can help generate interest in the general public,  and to truly ‘connect two worlds’. It starts with sharing compelling, real-life and factual stories, and taking a step back from previous techniques of enforcing guilt upon publics, which has often resulted in compassion/media fatigue, which Chouliaraki (2012) and other academic thinkers have noticed within the area of fundraising and media and development. Instead, a FUN and guilt-free approach should be advocated.

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Framed children’s stories and the East Africa Crisis Appeal

As I have probably mentioned a fair amount of times within my blog, Communication for Development (C4D) is what I want to do (as a career, as a life goal). I believe that this particular branch of fundraising is interesting, and should be talked about more widely as a form of communications and fundraising technique, which have the potential of raising awareness of the issues facing children in some of the most vulnerable and deprived areas of the world.

We can all make a change, and it starts by not looking on and walking away, but stepping up the challenge, listening to the stories of some people perhaps less fortunate than ourselves, and remembering that we are all human, and no amount of borders should separate that fact.

 

On a side note, if any of you have ever done any street fundraising with charities, please do share with me your experiences as I am interested in doing this over the Summer.

Click on the link below also to check out some of the interesting blog posts I have been reading over on the BBC Media Action page: http://view.e.bbcmail.co.uk/?qs=20f64e5646817f3a62dea5474aacc1cf8312ac90407f5d82f63b7e0d89aefbe48b1ea27bf0189b02b5c54b9806c4eef3318e893a2c27cacbd55e5dbc1d4fa244