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Skoll Day 2: Confusing Culture and Context

By Alisha Miranda on March 27, 2008No Comment

The second day of the Skoll World Forum began with sunny skies over Oxford and the hundreds of delegates refreshed and ready to begin the day with the first round of panel discussions. Attendees were able to choose from topics ranging from “Innovation and Change in Government Culture” to “Hybrid and For-Profit Business Models.”

I chose a subject that I am (as mentioned in my previous post) quite passionate about “Women, Culture, and Social Change.” The panel of activists, NGO leaders, and social entrepreneurs discussed the increased focus on women and girls within social entrepreneurship and the ways culture and help or hurt their empowerment.

Each panelist started with a personal story and for this post, I’d like to leave you with one, particularly pointed one from panelist Fiona Muchembere:

Fiona, currently the Programme Manager for Institutional Development with CAMFED (an organization that, laudably, is a recent recipient of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Initiative), told us about her childhood in Zimbabwe, where her family struggled through poverty. She went on to become the first woman in her family to receive higher education, but only after her family sacrificed for years to afford her school fees. After performing extremely well on her exams, it was only financial resources limiting her potential – she sought university funding from CAMFED and got it, afterward going back to work for the organizations that supported her upward rise. Muchembere told us how not only did her life completely change, but the lives of her family and community as well – “there’s a ripple effect of sending one woman to school.” On the point of cultural barriers, she was quick to point out that:

    “In Africa, in rural communities we do value education – it’s the context of chronic poverty and HIV/AIDS that make this difficult. It is important that we do not confuse culture with context.”

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