Reply: "We do not portray children as helpless victims"

The concept of fundraising galas is not without its problems and it may seem strange to arrange a glamorous event focusing on other people's misery, but tonight's gala "Children of the World" is a tool for fundraising and education. The purpose is not to convey an image that "we" are before "them" or to arouse feelings of guilt by portraying helpless children, writes Radio Aid's general secretary Per Byman in a reply.

In a debate article on Biståndsdebatten, Alma Wallengren believes that the fundraising gala Children of the World is an example of how colonial ideas live on in Swedish fundraising galas and how Radiohjälpen and SVT thereby contribute to spreading the perception of "the white man's superiority".

I agree that the very concept of a fundraising gala is not entirely without problems, but I think that Wallengren goes too far in his conclusions. Let me take a few examples from her article:

Wallengren believes that Radiohjälpen, through the use of stereotypical images of poor children with bloated stomachs and watery eyes, reinforces an image of children as victims of their poverty, something that should evoke feelings of empathy and guilt. I do not recognize that image from any of our programs. Radiohjälpen and SVT are careful not to use that type of image of children, but the children should be portrayed as subjects, not as passive objects. In the films we show, we try to show the children's own power and how it is always the affected people themselves who have the solutions to the problems that undeniably exist. On the other hand, it is quite natural that a fundraising campaign that aims to raise money for children in particular also uses pictures of and interviews with children in its communication. Since I took over as Secretary General of Radio Aid, we have also tried to strengthen the rights perspective in everything we do, and that work includes not portraying children as helpless victims. On the contrary, we want to emphasize that all projects we support must show a local anchorage and start from a local perspective. The last thing we want are Western "benefactors" who go to Africa, pat a child on the head, hand out some candies and go home again. We always go through the films to be shown in connection with the gala and for example this year we stopped a film that we did not consider met those criteria.

Nor is it the intention to give a picture that "we" would be ahead of "them" in a development process. Sweden has had one annan development than, for example, Kenya, which has led to us having the opportunity to contribute resources, so that Kenyans can realize their own plans. Just as Wallengren writes, it is not a question of us going out into the world and teaching a lot of things - the fundraising gala can give us resources to contribute, but the knowledge needed to bring about change is in the people concerned. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to convey a sufficiently multifaceted and nuanced picture of a project during a short film. Then we have to focus on some aspects of the project that work in a shorter format and that can help create an image for TV viewers. Then we try to supplement this with dialogue, in-depth studies and interviews. That is also why, on the Sundays before and after the gala itself, we broadcast in-depth discussion programs, in order to be able to convey a deeper analysis of the situation in the countries we work in.

However, I share Wallengren's view that the very concept of 'fundraising gala' is not entirely unproblematic. It often gets strange to mix a glamorous event with competitions and music with reports from misery in other countries. The result is easily a superficial image that is conveyed and there is a risk that the surface takes focus away from the seriousness of what we are trying to do - "no I did not win the car and I do not like this artist so now I take a little more chips in front of the TV ”. But the fundraising gala, with all its problems and weaknesses, is still an important tool for combining Radiohjälpen's two missions - the fundraising and the educational. However, it is extremely important to always have the business in focus and try to find a balance, which retains the seriousness of the purpose while we speak to the audience with a tonal language that is attractive.

I am glad that Wallengren thinks that Radiohjälpen and SVT have become better at providing viewers with a broader knowledge and a varying picture of the concept of poverty - it is one of our cornerstones and I am happy when I see that the program is still described as informative and relatively in-depth. . The work of developing the fundraising activities in TV and radio is constantly evolving and we try to find concepts that are both appealing to the audience and put people in focus. Therefore, I also appreciate a debate about the benefits of (or the danger of) this type of fundraising program and would like to open up a discussion on how we can make our business even better.

By Byman

Secretary General Radio Aid

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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