Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Boniface Mwangi, a Kenyan activist and photographer

An increasing number of Americans are volunteering abroad. The New York Times reports that an estimated 1 million Americans go overseas to volunteer each year, and African countries are the most popular destinations for these trips. Boniface Mwangi, a Kenyan activist profiled in a New York Times Op-Doc video, wants to know: “why?”
The video documents a visit Mwangi made to Carrborro High School in North Carolina, posing this same question. One student tells Mwangi she wanted to volunteer abroad as an advocate for women’s rights in India, Africa, and the Middle East.
So as a woman of color, why would you travel all the way to India to talk about women when you have race issues in your country that affect your people, people who look like you, and young black men? If you speak about it here, they’ll hear you more, because you’re local,” Mwangi says bluntly, before apologizing for putting her on the spot.
She stares at him for a moment and blinks, obviously taken aback. “Um…I don’t know,” she says and shrugs. “I guess people in India, the Middle East, and Africa suffer more than women here do.” She then quickly reconsiders, acknowledging that it might be better to gain experience in women’s advocacy in the United States before taking her ambitions abroad. Their brief discussion brought to mind a great bit by The Daily Show’s new correspondent Trevor Noah on the inaccurate perceptions Americans have of African nations versus the reality.
There’s a clear sense of glorification and faux heroism. When I’m here locally in Durham doing very similar work, people aren’t as excited by it,” one Duke University student says, a participant of an international volunteer program that invited Mwangi to speak during his trip to the United States.

Africa Doesn’t Need a Savior, America Does”

by Dana Driskill

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