The words we use can speak volumes about who we are and what we believe. When we write something, we often think about how the reader might feel, but we don’t give enough time to think about how the person at the centre of the story may feel. How does a child in Ghana feel about the language we use to talk about them and their experience?
As a child-centred organisation, this is something that we have been reflecting on. We know how powerful language is and we believe that it is an important tool in shifting the power and dismantling outdated and colonial views of international aid. We recognise that if we truly want to make a change through our work, then we must also change the way we talk about it by listening and receiving feedback from the communities we work with.
We want our language to reflect our values, and most importantly, we want our language to help ensure that every child in Africa can play, grow, learn and thrive. To do this we need to create a positive narrative that stands in solidarity with the children and communities we work with, celebrating and supporting community-based organisations to deliver their own solutions. That is why we have made some changes to the way we talk about our work.
We support people, not beneficiaries.
To tackle the root causes of poverty we need to recognise the critical role and agency of individuals and communities. That’s why we refer to the people that we work with as children, parents and communities, not as beneficiaries.
We don’t use labels.
We want to recognise the resilience of the people we work with rather than use narrow and harmful labels. That’s why we choose to use words such as ‘children in vulnerable situations’ rather than ‘vulnerable children’.
We don’t define a child by their situation.
We use words that show the wider context such as ‘children experiencing disability’ rather than ‘disabled children’
We believe that every child has the right to be heard.
We support our local partners to facilitate spaces for children to reflect on our programmes and communications so their feedback can inform our decision-making processes. We will work to ensure that all children have the same rights in how their stories are told.
We don’t view the communities we work with as ‘other’
As an anti-racist organisation, we want to help dismantle harmful, negative stereotypes that portray children in Africa as helpless and poor. We will work to ensure that all children have the same rights in how their stories are told.
These may seem like subtle differences to some, but to us they represent a critical shift in our communications, ensuring that dignity is the golden thread that runs throughout all of our work.