June 23, 2021

6: So much NGO language reinforces stereotypes – Sarika Bansal, ethical language expert

This episode features Sarika Bansal, a journalist and author based in Nairobi, Kenya. Sarika was the founder and editor in chief of BRIGHT magazine, an award-winning digital magazine that told fresh, solutions-oriented stories about social change. In June 2021, she published Bright magazine’s final project, Tread Brightly: Notes on Ethical Travel – a collection of essays which to gets to the heart of what it means to travel ethically. 
Sarika has written extensively about the impact the language we use to tell stories in the NGO sector can have on the policies and decisions people make about faraway people and places. She has been published by the New York Times, Al Jazeera, The Guardian and others, and developed curriculum and tools for journalists at the Solutions Journalism Network. 
In this episode, we discuss Sarika’s biggest bugbears when it comes to language use in the international NGO sector, scrutinising words and phrases such as "giving voice to the voiceless," “capacity building," “third world,” and “beneficiaries”. We also get her top tips on how to language that empowers contributors and upholds their dignity, as well as delving into the moral quandary that is voluntourism and asking: Is there an ethical way for a young, privileged person to spend time in a poorer community? How might they channel their good intentions in genuinely useful ways?
Useful links:
Check out Sarika’s book Tread Brightly: Notes on Ethical Travel

Check out Sarika’s New Humanitarian op ed on voluntourism