I firmly believe that in most social causes, it is as equally important to raise awareness as it is to raise money. I also firmly believe that if we are to truly alleviate a social problem, we must attack the root causes. In combining the two (awareness and root causes), we can eliminate many problems. For example, hunger could be combated if we informed those who aren’t hungry about the situation and then all worked together to find solutions to the problems that cause hunger in the first place.
I’ve been thinking about this approach, especially as it relates to Darfur. I desperately want to see the genocide ended in Western Sudan, and I want to relate to the average American ways in which he or she can help to bring that about. This is why I write every Monday about this very topic. I seek to raise awareness and show folks the little things they can do stateside to end the killing.
Lots of groups have sprung up regarding this issue. There have been public protests and elected officials have spoken about the situation. The UN has written a resolution. Some (albeit very little) press has drawn some (albeit very little) attention to the conflict. But, people continue to be raped, murdered and abandoned.
Solutions have been myriad. When thinking of a solution that ends the genocide, what is being recommended is a certain message to a certain audience. In terms of awareness, this message has been to the world’s citizens, the UN, or the White House. This audience is then encouraged to send a message to the Sudanese government in terms of military or economic pressure. Thus, the action step looks like this:
A campaign from social organization sends a message to American public to send a message to the White House saying “We, the American people, want people to stop being killed in Darfur” so that the White House will then tell Khartoum to stop killing or else face serious consequences.
The part about the White House or the UN sending a message gets sticky because white soldiers killing black people doesn’t look good, and China isn’t quite ready to sever oil-related economic ties with a supplier. So, the genocide continues.
Genocides always continue on too long, no matter when they’re stopped. Rwanda went on for too long, as did Hitler's terror in Eurpoe. Darfur is the next place in this unfortunate sequence of mass murder.
Unless a new approach is taken. Welcome to my world.
For the next six weeks, I will outline a plan that I think just may work. It may work simply because the other attempts at messages and targets haven’t. We’ve been advocating for the wrong message to the wrong audience.
I will be taking a page out of strategies that have worked to end foot binding in China and female genital cutting in parts of Africa. In both cases, despite laws and Western pressure, deeply embedded violent cultural practices were halted due to sending a message to those perpetrating the violence.
I believe this same process could work in Darfur, if we send the right message to those committing the atrocities: the Janjaweed soldiers.
Tune in next week when we explore the basic framework of how this will work. In the subsequent weeks, we’ll get into how the message will be delivered. Get ready to think big.