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GUEST COLUMN: Think globally and be a good citizen of the world

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Ryan Winch

Down my street a new Pizza Hut just opened. It’s in a mall that has a skating rink, a movie theatre and a bowling alley. This mall may not seem noteworthy at first glance, but it is. Why?

Ryan Winch
Ryan Winch

The shopping mall is in Dar es Salaam.

I’m currently working with a Tanzanian NGO called Equality for Growth, an organization empowering women in Tanzania’s informal sector. I arrived in March and since then Tanzania has been regularly upending the way I think about Africa.

At first, the prevalence of Western brands was a shock. Tanzania seemed so foreign before I arrived, yet soon I found it has many more comforts of home than I expected. Brands and products clearly are no longer constrained by borders.

Beyond brands, there is another connection I’ve noticed.  Many Tanzanians wear clothing that seems reminiscent of the early 2000s.  Just today, I saw a Boston Pizza T-shirt, an “Operation Iraqi Freedom” T-shirt and a Blue Jays ball cap. This, despite the fact most people here don’t know what baseball is!

Why are the locals decked out in old North American clothing? The answer: clothing donations, which actually present a bigger problem than you’d think.

While charities usually have good intentions sending clothing abroad, often these donations actually undercut domestic clothing manufacturers and don’t provide clothing to those in need.

Second-hand clothing that makes it to Africa is almost never given away, but sold at lower prices than new clothing. This means the poorest still can’t afford proper clothing, and it puts local clothing manufacturers out of business because they can’t compete with low cost, second-hand goods.

Think about it, why buy new when you can get cheap clothing sent as donations?

My point here is that clothing donations, including those from Sarnia, have a direct impact on the African clothing manufacturing industry. These impacts are much more complex, and often more negative, than they appear at first glance. To be clear, not all clothing donations are bad, especially those for disaster relief efforts.

This is why it’s now important to adopt a global mindset, to see ourselves as both Canadians and global citizens.

Goods, money and information are flowing across borders faster than ever before and, accordingly, knowing how our actions impact the broader world, as well as how the broader world impacts us, is essential to making constructive decisions.

Practicing global citizenship doesn’t require drastic lifestyle changes. It simply requires you to make an effort to be informed about the world beyond Canada’s borders. Understanding global issues can help you decide which charities or businesses to support or even what political party to vote for next election.

To follow up, http://globalhive.ca/ has information on global citizenship or you can read my blog at daladaladar.wordpress.com.

Sarnia native Ryan Winch is the resource mobilization, monitoring and evaluation officer with Equality for Growth, an NGO based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

 

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