business of charity
The business of charity Public figures such as rock star Bono and Bill Gates, and some Indian and Pakistani business houses, have woken up to the relationship between poverty, health and conflict, and are investing in a big way to address these issues, reports
Public figures such as rock star Bono and Bill Gates, and some Indian and Pakistani business houses, have woken up to the relationship between poverty, health and conflict, and are investing in a big way to address these issues, reports
An Irish rock star seeks justice for the poor in Africa; Indian and Pakistani businesspersons use economic investment as an incentive for peace; two computer engineers build the world’s largest charity to alleviate human suffering. These developments are indicators of a growing trend of leadership by individuals not conventionally associated with peace-building.
In 2005, Irish musician Bono of rock band U2 was a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to "make poverty history" in Africa. He teamed up with Bill and Melinda Gates whose foundation gave him a grant to start the policy-advocacy group DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa). Time magazine named them ‘Persons of the Year’ (2005). Bono and the Gates have set out goals that are indeed ambitious — to save the lives of the two African children that die every minute, the nine people who are infected with HIV in that same minute; and the thousands who die of hunger. They are using their public profiles, their celebrity status and the world’s largest charitable foundation — the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — with an endowment of $ 29 billion to accomplish these goals.
In 2005, Bono’s campaign to lift the world’s one billion out of poverty received a major boost when the G-8 approved a $50 billion aid package for the world’s poorest countries. His efforts also led to the G-8 cancelling the debt of the 18 poorest African countries, many of which are ravaged by armed conflict.
The fact that public figures lend their names to social causes is not new. What is refreshing is the consistency with which they pursue their cause and the sheer impact of their efforts on policy-making (as seen in the case of Bono). In addition, the vast resources that they are willing to invest — for example, to prevent the outbreak of a life-threatening disease in a refugee camp — is what has propelled many political leaders to dialogue and partner with them.
This trend assumes significance in the context of the findings of the Human Security Report 2005 (published by the Human Security Centre at the University of British Columbia, Canada), which exposes a complex and messy relationship between conflict, hunger, poverty and global health. In many regions of conflict, people die not from bombs and bullets, but from war-exacerbated disease and famine.
For example, in pre-war Rwanda, only 1 per cent of the population was HIV+; in 1997, 11 per cent were HIV+. In 1994, cholera and dysentery killed 50,000 refugees in the first month after they fled from the Rwandan genocide. These ‘indirect causes’ of death do not receive the type of media attention that the ‘direct causes’ do. World attention wanders once the guns go silent, even though people continue to suffer after the cessation of hostilities.
Public figures such as Bono and the Gates have been quick to notice this relationship between poverty, health and conflict, and have invested huge amounts of resources to reverse the trend. In so doing, they have addressed one of the most complex challenges that the field of peace-building faces today: namely, the ‘indirect’ consequences of armed conflict.
Also significant is the leverage that these public figures — not conventional actors in peace-building — bring. They employ unique methodologies derived from their own lived experiences. For example, Indian and Pakistani business leaders are making the argument that if they are allowed to invest in each others’ countries, they can help create an environment where the desire to ‘bleed’ the other is subsumed by a recognition that one’s own prosperity is inextricably linked to the growth of the other.
For instance, the recently launched Friends Without Borders initiative, which seeks to build relationships between Indian and Pakistani schoolchildren through letters of friendship, has received support from diverse sources, mostly corporate and media — Mahindra & Mahindra, Godrej, Parle G, CNN-IBN, NDTV, Ten Sports, DNA, Mumbai Cricket Association and Camlin.
While profit might remain the primary objective, the true significance of this trend lies in the fact that they recognise their ability (and in some cases even a responsibility) to contribute to peace-building.
Similarly, Salman Ahmad, co-founder of the Pakistani rock band Junoon, conceptualised Ghoom Taana, a musical short film that seeks to transform long-held enemy images. The product of a cross-border collaboration between Ahmad, Indian classical singer Shubha Mudgal, and Indian actors Naseeruddin Shah and Nandita Das, the film has been used to initiate dialogue between youth groups at various forums in the two countries. Ghoom Taana, with its potential for mass-level impact, is a good example of how actors and approaches not conventionally associated with the task of peace-building can play a valuable role.
How do we make sense of this growing trend? Due to information technology, we now know about communities that are not as privileged as us. We have full knowledge of the stories of individuals who have lived in regions ravaged by conflict. This, along with a growing awareness (particularly among young people) that we live in an interdependent and interconnected world, has propelled several individuals and groups to contribute to peace-building.
Commenting on the growing number of people involved in peace-building efforts globally, the Human Security Report draws attention to the power of ideas — the idea of ‘a war-averse world’. It suggests that there is a gradual normative shift against the use of violence in human relationships and a greater focus on dialogue and reconciliation (reflected in the large number of ‘truth and reconciliation commissions’ that have been set up in the last decade).
Further, the report notes that ideologies that glorify violence are notable by their absence (Nazism, xenophobia) or receive widespread condemnation (if they do exist). Almost simultaneously, the world has witnessed the rapid growth of a ‘peace industry’ (NGOs, peace departments within governments, educational programmes at schools and universities) with the UN spearheading a phenomenal rise in peace-building activities.
This trend is also reflective of a growing belief among individuals that social change begins with the self. Each person can take responsibility for transforming attitudes and behaviour patterns that perpetuate violence and intolerance. Sometimes, all you need to do is transform a personal conviction into an altruistic action. — WFS
Anjana Sarin on the hip accessory doing the rounds of the fashion circuit
Whether it is Bipasha Basu, who ties an expensive one to her bag or Kim Cattrall who is wearing it around her head, scarves and stoles are the latest thing to jazz up your outfit with. And these are probably the easiest thing to buy, with famous retail outlets to streetside vendors selling it. Here are some tips on how to incorporate them into your outfit.
So the next time you’re wearing a traditional salwar-kameez, be innovative. Buy a stole in a matching colour and perhaps you can tie it around your hair with the ends loose. This will give you a younger appearance. But be careful — garishly coloured stoles or scarves in your hair can look tacky.
You can wrap it around the end of your handbag’s shoulder strap to give it a look which matches your outfit. Many women prefer stoles and scarves to dupattas and chunnis because they are easier to handle and give the outfit a slightly western look. So if you want, you can buy one to sling around your neck instead of your regular dupatta. Colourful stoles and scarves are the best to break up an ethnic outfit in a single colour. On a summery day, a white churidar or salwar can look stylish by wearing a colourful scarf around your neck.
If you are one of the many who went out and bought yourself a salwar-kameez with a collar, wear a scarf under the collar to give it a sleek look. But with sarees and heavily embroidered ethnic outfits, stay away from these.
If you think your office wear is too starched and formal, here’s your saviour. The next time you feel your pants and blouse corporate wear is looking bland, rope in a stole or scarf. There are many ways this can brighten up your outfit. Ditch your conventional belt for the day.
Wear a matching or contrasting colour stole through your belt loops, but don’t knot it on the edge or have the ends loose because this can instantly transform office wear into casual wear and we still want to retain the gravity of the outfit. Wind the stole or scarf around your waist and tuck the ends into the edges and pin it up discreetly so that it looks like a neat wrap. You can also use scarves around your neck to give your otherwise neutral outfit a feminine touch. A scarf in a matching or contrasting colour can be wrapped loosely around the neck and tied into a small knot on the side. If you’ve chosen a longish stole or scarf, it can be simply slung around the neck.
Now for all those party people — this one’s for you! A scarf or stole can make your outfit look chic even in a club where the mantra of less-is-best works. Team up your outfit with matching or contrasting stole which can be worn in many simple ways but can oodles of oomph. A head wrap may be an acquired taste but guarantees to turn heads. Wrap a scarf around your head but make sure it doesn’t overwhelm your forehead — start from a little ahead of your hairline. Complete the look with dangling earrings to give yourself the ultimate Bohemian look. You can also create a retro look with the following. Tie the stole or scarf like a sash over your hair, and tie it behind one of your ears. The knot should not take up both the ends but you should allow one of the ends to be much longer than the other.
For casuals, just drape a nice stole or scarf around your waist, whether you’re wearing pants, jeans or a skirt — this universal accessory goes with anything. You could also try a variation of the head sash by not letting any ends trail. Put on your big shades and have a good time relaxing. So with stoles and scarves, it’s easy to be creative. If you find one big enough to wrap around yourself, pair it up with a simple tee or tank. Remember, anything goes if you’re confident. So go ahead and make your mark. — MF
Salesman, the word conjures up images of an intruder, trying to sell unwanted goods. Probably the most abused and dis-respected person in India, yet experts say he is the real cutting edge of any marketing success. "It is time to remove negative perceptions and bring in credibility, respect and pride back into the job of selling," says Pingali Venugopal, Dean, and Professor (Marketing) Xavier Labour Relations Institute, Jamshedpur, in a new book Managing Your Sales Force. The National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) estimates that the middle-income category is expected to cross 63 per cent in all Indian households by the end of this year. The middle class constitutes the major market for consumer goods.
The fact remains that consumers have some deeply ingrained negative stereotypes about the salesman. They feel that neither are the salespersons honest nor do they give correct information. A poll on the honesty and ethics of salesman in 32 different professions found that insurance and car salesman ranked close to the bottom, says the book. Another survey found that the commissioned salesman were perceived as less honest than non-commissioned ones, says the book, noting this is primarily because selling is unattractive. Even the salesperson is not very comfortable in referring to himself as one. Salespeople, especially in India, do not think highly of their profession, notes Venugopal.
But, he says, unless they take pride in their work, they are unlikely to perform to the best of their abilities. This, in turn, is bound to affect the organisation in terms of both its growth and its profit. — PTI