Let’s Get Ready to Rumble

Our initial reaction when we first saw Samahope was: Man, what brilliant satire. It so perfectly skewers the particular sort of poverty porn-y, competitive victimhood-encouraging NGO that we’re always ranting about. But as we clicked through the site, which posts pictures of Sierra Leonean women and girls suffering from fistula and asks for donations to pay for surgical intervention, we began to get that uncomfortable tingling that accompanies the realization that something you thought was a hilarious send-up of a disturbing phenomenon is actually just one more example of the disturbing phenomenon itself. (What? It’s a real feeling. We get it all the time.)

We didn’t want to jump to any conclusions, though, because Samahope is backed by Leila Janah, the founder of Samasource, which is “an innovative social business that connects women and youth living in poverty to dignified work via the internet” that we’ve been fans of for years. But when we reached out to Leila on Twitter, she told us that Samahope is totally for reals. We mentioned that we were having a lot of uncomfortable, squicked-out feelings about the whole “repair a broken vagina for just $3 a day” approach and that we were going to blog about them (because that’s why people have blogs), and offered Leila the chance to share her perspective as well.

So tomorrow Wednesday we’re going to have an Onion-style Point/Counterpoint in which we’ll explain why this hurts our brains, and Leila will explain why Samahope is doing important and necessary work. Hopefully we’ll all learn and grow.

Amanda and Kate


  1. Do you remember a thing where Oxfam was soliciting donations of used bras to send to Africa?

    Yeah. I thought that was satire, too.

  2. Despite the fact that we held opposite opinions on Kony, I subscribed to this site because I thought you may have something relevant to say. It has proven not to be the case. I still find you to be over-educated, over-privileged, elitist and whiny.

    Those who can, do. Those who can’t, blog. (Now for the part where you tell me all about your wonderful and valuable work all around the world and how good you are to have offered equal time. Save it.)


    • And those who won’t, sling personal insults in blog comments without even reading dialogue over which said insults are slung.

      • Assuming that an article about such a devastating topic was “brilliant satire” created for your amusement shows a lack of compassion and a lack of connection with the world around you. I have read the Leila’s response and find it compelling and rational – certainly deserving of more respect than you initially afforded it.

  3. Is this the Kiva model of fistula repair? While I don’t particularly like Kiva because of their deceptive marketing strategies, in some sense, I hope that Samahope operates similar to Kiva, because let’s be honest, random people who happen across the web site with a few bucks in their pocket and peruse a few photos, are obviously not the best qualified people to decide who requires the most urgent care. The Kiva model is deceptive in that it makes its users (“online lenders”) THINK that they are being connected to “entrepreneurs” in developing countries, and that the online lenders can CHOOSE the recipient/entrepreneur that wil receive those funds. Similar to the Samahope web site, it let’s you click on an individual and you can see how much money they are trying to raise and how much has thus far been funded. In reality, the people pictured on the Kiva web site have already recieved, or are already in the process of receiving funding from one of Kivas partners. Thus the 1 to 1 lender/entrepreneur model, and *hopefully* the 1 to 1 donor/person in need of urgent surgery model – really isn’t quite what it seems. It’s a (rather deceptive) marketing strategy to try to get more funding. I haven’t had a chance to look at Samahope in depth, but it looks like a similar strategy since their web site says, “We partner with local clinics and hospitals in poor communities with a track record of excellent care and fiscal discipline. Partners post profiles of real patients who have recently received or are waiting for a surgery.” This of course raises a whole new set of questions… While I don’t personally like deceptive marketing, it does seem marginally better than having random non-medically qualified people with Visa cards being able to determine who is the most deserving of a fistula repair surgery half way around the world, based solely on a photo and a couple of sentences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *