Sunday, February 15, 2009

An Open Letter to Nicholas Kristof

Dear Mr. Kristof:
Thank you for your weekly reports on issues that matter - especially the issues that are of great importance to me like international women's rights and increased maternal health.

It is your articles regarding women's issues that solicits my letter today. Mr. Kristof, please help your readers want to know the women about which you write. Help us understand that women in the United States and women who live on less than $1 per day are more alike than different. If other readers are like me, they walk away from your words too overwhelmed to act - and seemingly too distant from the issues to engage.

Several months ago you wrote about the acid attacks on women in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A friend was reading the article to me and I finally had to say, "Stop. Don't read another word." What are we going to do about the issue? There has to be another problem solving action besides condemnation. One shaming doesn't necessarily call for another. Yes, we must highlight the issue, but somehow encouraging an international Violence Against Women Act doesn't seem like enough to me.

If your readers can't connect with the women about which you write, they will not be as inclined to speak up for the women and ultimately themselves. If they can't see themselves in the women about which you write, they will close the paper and walk away trying to think about other things. Overwhelmed often equals inaction.

Mr. Kristof, tell the women's stories or better yet, let the women speak for themselves. Highlight the humanity in each of them. Tell us what they long for and who they named their children after. I believe that when we get to know people for who they are and not what is done to them, we are more likely to connect. When our mutuality is emphasized, we are more likely to see one another as partners on the journey. We, the women of the United States, have so much to learn from our sisters around the world. Help us realize that we know these women because we are these women.

With sincere appreciation,
Suzanah D. Raffield

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Academia is such a two edged sword. Sitting in a missiology caucus this week I was amazed at the girth of egos in the room. We were talking about the missiology of sustainability and someone mentioned wealth redistribution.

Here's my question . . . If I give you something because I have too much, how is that mission? How does that honor what you have for me? Mission isn't about wealth redistribution. Not in my opinion.