Around this time four years ago, 27th December 2008, I remember watching the news with my family, and we were all crying. Nearly 200 Palestinians had been killed, with hundreds more injured. This was after the Israeli air force launched dozens of air raids on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip (1). This is the first time I remember feeling so strongly about people that I didn’t know first-hand, and that weren’t filmed in black-and-white, accompanied with heartbreaking music for a charity appeal. Although the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004 also made me feel a need to help, too, this was a case of natural disaster relief, rather than due to the actions of individuals- which can be altered, whereas a tsunami cannot be stopped by people. Since this time, I knew I wanted to work in a field which tried to improve peoples’ lives. I was outraged that people could treat one another as such. As a half-Serbian girl growing up in the UK in the nineties, I had been exposed from an early age to the persecution and malice that people are capable of inflicting on one another. Who decides that these things can happen? This isn’t fair! What about the people starving in African or Asian countries? I wanted to contribute to efforts to reduce these things happening. My sentiments have remained since a young age, and as such, I consider taking International Development at Sussex as one of the best choices I’ve made in my twenty years of life.
A year or so prior to the course, I was filled with what I can only describe as hopeless naivety, believing that with enough fundraising, organisations such as Comic Relief would do the rest and eventually poverty would be alleviated. In the year before starting at Sussex, I read articles and books on development, including Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid, which began to reveal to me that the situation with aid was not as simple as I had first thought. Even with billions of US dollars worth of aid, it is often misspent or gouged away at through corrupt government officials. Although I viewed the African peoples that Moyo talks about as vibrant, intelligent peoples with so much potential for prospering, I suppose I still saw them as ‘victims’ to some extent. The notion of which now agitates me. Who was I to decide who was a victim and who was not? They may be victims by Western standards, but tradition and culture mean people have different values. Of course, human rights should not be breached, but anything other than that becomes a bit more of a grey area, as I’ve learnt.
The course so far has helped me form and solidify my own opinions on various issues: that I believe social reform and female empowerment the most key element to development, and that I believe that the legalisation of drugs and prostitution would be more beneficial worldwide than detrimental. Reading about rights for sex workers, especially, sparked interest in the sexuality and gender areas of development. The course has also helped open my eyes to new initiatives and technologies- such as The Wonderbag.
‘Wonderbag’s clever insulating properties allow food that has been brought to the boil to finish cooking while in the bag without the use of additional energy. So, families can cook appetising hot meals, while saving energy – and money. It also means less time tending cooking food – time that can be better spent looking after children, earning an income or doing essential chores.’ (2)
Such things have informed and inspired me in ways that I hope will be useful for not only myself in the future, but also what I hope to contribute to development.