Important lessons on development from Devex World
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Important lessons on development from Devex World

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“What do we do with this moment we are in?”

Raj Kumar, President and Editor-in-Chief of Devex addressed the crowd of Devex World 2018 with this question. More technology and interconnectivity in the world than ever is changing how organizations approach development issues. We’re in a moment unlike any other. So, what do we do with it?

Devex World 2018 brought hundreds of organizers, activists, CEOs, and entrepreneurs together for a jam-packed day of forums and talks. Every person has the same passion: identify barriers and tear them down. But, how do we achieve this goal? How do we know what the barriers are, and how do we find the best solutions to dissolve them?

Jaha Dukureh, founder of Safe Hands for Girls, Nice Nailantei Leng’ete, with Amref Health Africa, and Ntokozo Zakwe, with DREAMS, discussed the barriers in their own lives during their talks.

Dukureh’s organization seeks to end female genital mutilation (FGM) throughout Africa and the United States. Leng’ete works in Kenya and Tanzania to end the practice of FGM within Maasai communities. Zakwe raises awareness of gender-based violence throughout Africa as a DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe) ambassador.

These three incredible advocates all spoke and each, along with multiple other speakers, conveyed a similar and essential belief: change does not happen unless affected communities are engaged.

Dukureh, a survivor of FGM and child marriage, created a survivor-led movement to end FGM. She successfully led a campaign to get the practice banned in the Gambia, her home nation, and led the first national survey to track the prevalence of FGM in the United States. She believes that empowering FGM survivors and giving them the tools to combat the practice within their communities is the key to ending the practice within this generation.

Leng’ete gave a similar message. Tackling FGM within communities allows them to end the practice while maintaining their cultural identity. She says that involvement with the whole community, including youth, has allowed more than 15,000 girls in Kenya and Tanzania to experience rites of passage without undergoing FGM.

Through DREAMS, Zakwe helps young girls deal with gender-based violence by providing counseling and information about health services. She believes that breaking down stigmas regarding HIV and gender-based violence is essential to providing safe health care access for women. Changes in mentality must happen on a local level, not just on national or global levels.

Communities that suffer from FGM, gender-based violence, HIV, or any other problem must be allowed to take the lead. If an obstacle exists, the people it harms must be at the forefront when figuring out how to knock it over.

In this moment, there are plenty of barriers that contribute to inequality, oppression, and suffering. Luckily, there are also plenty of people who are ready to help tear them down.

Devex World serves as an important reminder of what can be accomplished when people are brought together. We don’t only need the perspectives of those who face these obstacles — we need to allow them to lead. When people are empowered to create solutions, no wall is too tall to be torn down.

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