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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Friday, May 11, 2007

The politics of charity

Talk about serendipity. 4pm yesterday l returned to my office after doing 5 hours in the studio to record the show, l had just done a show on the Darfur crisis and was feeling emotionally drained. I got on the computer to check my mails and keep a vigil for bellanaija's (still trying to be 1st) weekend post. Amongst my correspondence was a chain mail (l hate them) from a dear friend of mine. They were iconic images of poverty with a message for us to be thankful to God for your lives and not to waste food and water as well as a warning not to break the chain. Maybe it was the exhaustion but this was the reply l sent her

"l have seen many of these pictures before and l am shocked when people profess not to knowing these realities. Even more vexatious is the call to thank God for what we have, and ourselves. How totally selfish! Such pictures should inspire us to work for societies and a world where such atrocities are not allowed to happen. God did not sanction that this happen to any body and that we did not experience or are not experiencing it is often a matter of chance i.e. not being born at the wrong place and the wrong time. The Pulitzer winner of the last picture committed suicide not really because he wasn't thankful for his life but probably because he was wracked by his inability to save that child. We can save children like these, we can eradicate poverty globally if we thought less about ourselves".

After a couple of hours, l finished work and gave up the vigil. 6am today and l go back to Bella and wade into the controversy around her post on celebrities giving back so l know this charity discourse is pursuing me. This therefore is my widow's mite.

As a background let me state that my first television show 12 years ago was on street children and quickly "degenerated" into a rescue mission for runaway and stolen kids (story for another day). A defect in my journalistic instinct is an inability to see people as just story. We are currently working on the story of a 6 year old that was raped and we will not air the story unless there was a way to bring justice and succour to that family. Therefore in the past twelve years l have used TV as a billboard for change, often being the first and consistent media promoter of thought, stories, issues and projects along those lines. I have never accepted payment for such, not even a hamper ☺. Given such a background, people are often shocked when l say l don't believe in charity and quickly add it to their "Funmi Iyanda is crazy list". However what l mean is that the word charity like the word tolerance, accords the bestower a sense of superiority, a salve to the ego, which has nothing to do with the true emotions that promote change. Also if we all did our bit in the universal scheme of things without undue avarice (many state policies in Nigeria are an implementation of the board resolution of companies owned by a few favoured ones) we will have fewer "charity cases". During a keynote address on the relevance of the Singaporean experience to Africa in 1993 Lee Kuan Yew spoke tongue in cheek abut meeting the Nigerian minister of finance Chief Festus Okotie Eboh in 1956 and how the chief had told him that he was eager to leave politics to devote time to his business; a shoe factory and that he had increased taxes to protect the viability of the shoe factory. Injustice happens because some people perpetuate it but mostly because many people allow it. Every time we refuse to stand up for systems, structures and thought that strengthens a society's ability to grow and prosper the majority; we create a few hundred more "charity cases". My other pet peeve with the charity tag is that it is often seen as an occasion, something we do at certain times of the year or at a point in our life or when we have certain resources or attain certain visibility or position. The need for intervention arises everyday all around us and everybody can help, right here, right now. The question should not be what are celebrities giving back but what are we all giving back? Often times it is not the books (these are welcome as are our time, knowledge and skills) we donate but the important decision we make everyday in our offices and homes and how it affects others.

My biggest charity peeve are the ones who are profiting from the poverty, ignorance, lack and disease of the very ones their ilk had created with selfish policies down the decades. They are the "inspirers". They set out from day one to inspire, role model and educate the rest of us. That is open fraud. Bill Gate who own one of the biggest, most powerful charities in the world set out to build computers, charity found him, Oprah just wanted to do a damn good talk show about issues and challenges and people, charity found her. In its true self, charity finds you. You cannot appoint yourself an inspiration or a role model or a hero, others bestow this upon up you when they are inspired by your body of work, actions or utterances. Nigeria is full of motivational speakers, role models and inspirers but very little innovations, inventions and true interventions. It the same "so much God so little good" scenario. The shame is that a lazy, poor and easily buyable media promotes such whilst ignoring the true silent workers of charity. They are silent usually because they have no time, money or mindset for mindless promotion. They also are usually people who do it only because it needs to be done and because they cannot rest unless they were doing something about it.


Toni Payne said...

About the 6 yr old girl, I still think you should air the story and others like it regardless of justice or no justice, at least to create awareness and then have a follow up when the bastard has been castrated.

It just makes me sooo angry that people can easily be swayed by cash. I think the more media pressure they have the more likely they are to prosecute him. Maybe you should dedicate a whole show to finding such victims because I am sure there are plenty, not just 6yr olds getting raped, young school girls, house helps, etc etc..

Naija needs to get with the program and begin to see this as a major issue. No its not ok to sleep with an underaged girl when your ass is old enough to be her uncle, no its not ok to intimidae your house help into dropping her panties because you have no morals, no its not ok to play with someones education because you are in a place of authority and want to use that for your instant gratification. no its not ok to sleep with a 13 yr old because she is well developed. Its sickening I swear.

Naija has a ridiculous amount of sexual predetors who probably do not see themselves as sexual predetors. We have a big problem as a society and we either dont realize it or just don't care enough to do something about it. Somethings gotta give 4sure.

~Mimi~ said...

You couldnt have said it better Ms Iyanda.
People need to stop focusing on what 'celebrities' are doing and start focusing on what they can do.After all if a 'celebeity' decides not to give to charities, whose business is it?
'Funmi Iyanda is crazy list??' That got me laughing.

catwalq said...

I have never expected much from our people when it came to service to the society. I mean, if you cannot do something as simple as not drop your litter on the floor so that filth does not overrun the society, how do you expect them to be concerned about social injustice.
Hired help are one step above livestock. We do not even treat ourselves well in the way we eat and live, how then do we expect to know how yo treat others.
Why do Oprah, Gates and all others keep getting richer? Because they keep giving. that is the only secret. Give...and do not expect anything in return.

pam said...

On point as usual. So many do incredible selfless things in this country invisibly. Celebrities inspiring people to acts of charity may not hit at the root of what needs to be done. Most of these things we damn well know about if we are honest. Until celebrity XYZ came out why wasnt it worthy of my attention? EVERYBODY needs to try to be a decent human being, and show some appreciation to the next person who is doing so much. Its that simple and difficult. The whole six year old girl thing has me hyperventilating. I want to round up all the people that swear rape is a result of the skimpy outfits and have them explain what is titilating about a 6 year old body.

@toni payne.... dont you know Nigerians dont have sex? Oops were pregnant... how did that happen?

Abi said...

Ms. Funmi you have spoke very well...truly we all have a part to play. it is our responsibility as human beings to help if we have been given the opportunities and stop looking at the govt. or stars to do something.

I do agree with toni on the molestation issue.....however, given d way naija is...i think u wud have to keep the girl's details private...cos we live in a society that always sees things as being the girl's fault. i have heard of girls who were molested and when their partners found out didn't want to have anything with them cos they had become "impure"...very very sad but true. So I can see how difficult this must be for you too, cos if u do air and he gets away with it then that girl's life dat he has already destroyed (only God can heal her again)...will be hunted even more for life and also by society...God help us...there really must be a change in our country.

Funmi Iyanda said...

@toni payne, l cannot tell you the huge obstacles l face with the censors on the issue of rape. the way you speak l know you will be interested in the chain of hope project we ae starting. will send you a mail on details by months end.
@mimi, yup! l am constantly called aje (witch) and were (mad) which l choose to see as terms of endearment. l intend to grow old disgracefully having seen how wicked most of our "graceful, pillars of society" are.

Sherri said...

Thanks for setting me back a couple years in my madness...
very profound!

Ladybrille said...

Funmi, rape and sexual molestation of our girls and women are issues I definitely think Nigeria and Africa as a whole needs to declare war on. The revolution to fiercely protect our children begins with us women. I have heard, way too much than I care to, "what did she expect? Look at what she was wearing, she asked for it." I have also heard the "move on" or "get over" it. The legislative, executive and judiciary branches of Nigeria need to work effectively. If EFCC is gaining grounds on the corruption stampede, they can come up with similar aggressive pursuits of sexual offenders. The key is the power of Nigeria's judiciary/legal system[s] to prosecute these offenders.

Re: charity. I have been actively involved in charity organizations in the States for a while now. Charity in the States advocate on a grassroot level and also have accountability. There are yearly meetings which includes lobbyist legislative advocacy to further their goals. There are walks, community outreach events, training and education done throughout the year. I have not observed or been involved in any Nigerian charities to come to any real conclusions. However, what I will say is that in my coverage of Africa related charities in Africa, the organizers have the best of intentions and put in tremendous amounts of work for their events BUT, the demands of the "elites" looking to participate in the one time events are a bit much and atimes hinder economically and socially the purpose of the charity.


HMn well said, there so much going on in this country its crazy!!! i used to have a cousin who was raped @ the age of 8 by her lesson teacher, these things happen righ tunder our noses and we all just turn away from it and do nothing about it, its annoying, its sickning to think that because u r whoever u r, u can toy with someones life and body. please email me details of the hope project as well, id do anything to help. missbrownlegs@yahoo.com.

uknaija said...

I like your e mail response to your friend

Iyaeto said...

There are a lot of sick people around .You should run that 6yr old girl story but you don't have to show her face and all.

cleo.kelvin said...

you know u will remember my telling u i dont beloieve in charity and u tried convincing me maybe den i said it out of hurt but am glad u still see some point about de rape it an everyday stuff in our society de worst is de young who go thru it.remember i didn't reply but i hav to now
first we all sit and talk of it even de upholders of de law lik lot is being done to stop it but i say no tell me how many rapists hav gotten der fair term without immoral dressing and indecency but tell me wat can a 6yr hold wear to seduce an old man abi no bi craze but still de man if wealthy gets away wit it
hav everseen parents let der children who are victims talk or do u tink it doesnt happpen no but de consider de trauma shame and babes future cos de know de man wud walk oir de effects on youths as de die in silence and carry out der frustrations on de younger gner
get back soon