“The fallacy is to assume that because I have studied and lived in a society that somehow wound up with prosperity and peace, I know enough to plan for other societies to have prosperity and peace.”
Ever since I have discovered this quote by American economist William Easterly, I have reflected a lot on how I can use my privilege and my social upbringing to help others. It is easy to get caught up with knowing how to do things and assuming the right way of doing things coming from a country like America, but everything has its own context and history and culture that needs to be understood first. Discovering the Global Social Impact Fellowship was the best thing that could happen to me and I believe that it is a perfect opportunity that will help me answer my question. What I like best about the fellowship is that its participants take the time to understand the context of the problems before diving in headfirst with an idea or a potential solution that we have no clue if it will work or not. The year-long commitment to researching not just the problem, but the country itself and the social, political, economic, and cultural components that make up the system is an aspect that I absolutely love. I want to take advantage of this program to understand as much as I can about the high maternal mortality rates in Sierra Leone and wrap my head around the context of the issue as well.
When it comes to my goals for this course, as someone who has never left the state of California or experienced a plane ride until college, I have big ambitions to travel around the world. I want to see for myself the different cultures and societies that exist across the globe and directly immerse myself into new communities. I want to experience firsthand that simply because a country is labeled as “developing” or “Third World” or even “traditional,” this does not mean that the people there are not innovative. People easily say that the countries of the global North are “modern,” but this term then suggests that nations in the global South are far behind and beneath us without appreciating the people there. As an anthropology and global studies major, I hope that this course will give me the opportunity to truly understand the concept of cultural relativism and make an impact on communities not by imposing my own lifestyle, but by getting to know the culture and the people first before figuring out ways I can make an impact that is acceptable to them. Additionally, I hope to gain professional skills during my fieldwork and research in this project that will aid me in whatever career I choose to pursue in the future.
As for the eyeglass issue, before I get into the potential solutions, I am aware that in some areas, glasses are socially looked down upon and can act as a barrier for people when they need to find a spouse. I do not really know how to go about that problem but I do believe that having as many people as possible get eye examinations is important for everyone. The first step to creating a solution to an issue is figuring out the extent of the problem and I think that in school settings, teachers should make it mandatory for the students to get their eyes checked up. When doctors from nations that have the resources go to places like Kenya, they should go out to densely populated areas where they will be able to get as many eye check-ups done as possible. From there, for cultures that are more readily accepting of eyeglasses, they should mass produce cheap glasses based on the different averages of their prescriptions and make them available at low prices so that people can afford them.
As for the cultures that see them as a sign of infirmity, since culture is a dynamic concept rather than a static one, eyeglasses should still be made accessible to them. Whether or not people choose to buy the spectacles will be their choice, but they should still be available. There’s bound to be at least some people who will purchase and wear them and perhaps this could start a movement just like cellphones did, especially since people wearing the glasses will now be able to see clearly and eyesight is such a valuable ability that is necessary for performing basic activities in daily life.