Thursday, April 03, 2008

And the winner is?

Bocoio, 2007

Well, I'm sorry to say that I have no idea who won Miss Landmine Angola 2008. The pagaent was last night, but it wasn't broadcast on TPA (1 or 2) and I haven't heard any updates on the radio. Apparently there were more important things to put on TPA last night, like a Portuguese league futebol game and a Mexican telenovela.

Perhaps it was just a big deal in the Western media, not Angolan media. I'll ask some colleagues if they have heard anything. From the various articles and blog posts I've read, people either love or hate this idea.
I'm one of the people who love this idea. Not having seen the pagaent, I can't judge it completely, but from what I've seen on the website and in media reports, it's a positive event made to bring awareness to the cause of landmines in Angola and to give attention to these women who, otherwise, would be completely ignored by society. These women are typical Angolan women: largely single mothers, out of work and selling qualquer coisa (anything) just to make some money to feed their children. The pagaent won't likely change any of that, but I'm not sure that's the purpose. If a few hours in a fancy hotel and fancy clothes can make them feel better about themselves, then I'm all for it.
Some have made the argument that the $80,000 spent on this event would have been better spent on an NGO or on activities. Well, guess what? There are several NGOs dedicated to landmine destruction/removal in Angola. (The Halo Trust, Mine Action Group and UMCOR are a few.) They've all been here for a number of years and do wonderful work. But I argue that this one event has brought more attention to people who had never heard of Angola or this problem than donating $80,000 to an NGO.
People outside of Angola may not believe this, but $80,000 doesn't go very far here. Let me give a bit of perspective. I mentioned earlier that my organization is in the middle of developing a response to the flooding in Cunene province. We've been calling some of the embassies in Luanda to see if they have funds available, etc. One embassy offered us $50,000 or so for food and blanket distribtuion. The people assigned to the project went to some of the warehouses here to get prices. The price of ONE BLANKET is $100. So if we spent that $50,000 on nothing but blankets, we could only provide 500 blankets. So I'm actually pretty impressed that the organizers were able to put this event together for $80,000 in a city where a run-down apartment rents for $10,000 per month.

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