Two years on…and thanks

Dear all,

Last week marked two years since I first started this blog – which seems almost unbelievable to me.

I never really had any particular plans for Development Truths (ugh what a name) and I certainly didn’t anticipate it developing into something like this. But along the way I had grand plans to be more consistent (anyone with a blog will tell you that consistency is key to a successful blog ;)) and to be more thorough and to talk about this and that and investigate more and to do incredible amounts of in-depth research and to build a proper website and to stop ranting and to host regular guest posts and many other things besides.

I think it’s quite clear that the vision has yet to become reality, and perhaps it never will- and I think that’s ok. Starting work with The Rules (which feels like an equally valuable use of my time) and life and health and travelling and ‘busyness’ and British oppressive concepts of time got in the way. I’ve been beating myself up about it for months. You have no idea how many times I wanted to write a post or to research or write about this and that: my hard drive is bursting with half-written posts and folders of articles and research. Today however, I feel peaceful. Today I’ve realised that it’s ok. It’s ok to not be where I’d told myself I should be. It’s really ok that this doesn’t look like what ‘success’ looks like – it was never meant to be about ‘success’, or targets, or numbers of visitors, or me. Sure it’s great when people visit and read and engage, but two years ago I began this blog with the intention of having a conversation I couldn’t, at the time, see the ‘mainstream’ having, asking questions and de-learning/learning . Happily, on those terms, i’d say its been a success.

So I’m not going to promise anything today, or revisit articles or posts or moments from the past year. I’m not going to talk about the things I’ve learnt or reconsidered – there have been many. Today I’m simply incredible grateful for my faith in putting one foot in front of the other always and trusting that those little actions move you on. I’m grateful for patience and unfolding. I’m grateful for the ability we humans have to un-teach ourselves many of the things we have been taught and for all the many wise and inspiring seekers, rebels, writers, artists, activists, co-conspirators and inquisitors around the world who I have met along the way who have shared their knowledge and questions and critiques and beautiful alternatives with me. And finally I’m deeply, deeply grateful to you and everyone who has followed or visited the blog and humoured me, even just for a minute – the support, challenges and knowledge that there are many of us with shared feelings and perspectives on the world have been lifesaving.

Much love and appreciation always,



Solidarity with Ghanaian drivers striking today

Solidarity with all the trotro and taxi drivers striking today in Ghana because of yet MORE fuel price hikes – 27% this year alone thanks to the government and the IMF. Tax now constitutes 70% of the fuel price.

I know reliance on oil and government subsidies are not sustainable, but it’s ridiculous that for the rest of the world the cost per barrel is going down (US$38 a barrel on the world market yesterday) and here it’s costing GH¢15 (US$3.8) per gallon. Compare that to the US where it’s currently US$2 a gallon.

This is a country that produces oil but is forced to process it elsewhere because the refinery has been closed down due to indebtedness and ‘maintenance’ issues. Ghanaians are STILL paying for the debt of the Tema Oil Refinery in their fuel taxes (yes, even though it’s not functioning).

For a litre of fuel, which today costs roughly GH¢3.9 (roughly US$1) the taxes per litre now constitute the following:

  • Excise duty – 2.78 pesewas
  • Energy Debt Recovery Levy – 41 pesewas (To pay the debt for the Tema Oil Refinery)
  • Road Fund Levy – 40 pesewas
  • Energy Fund Levy – 1 pesewa (Intended to be spent on renewable energy projects – although things aren’t looking good)
  • Price Stabilisation and Recovery Levy – 12 pesewas (established to be used as a buffer for under-recoveries in the petroleum sector, stabilise petroleum prices for consumers)
  • Primary Distribution Margin – 4.5 pesewas
  • BOST (Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company Limited) Margin – 3 pesewas
  • Fuel Marketing Margin – 1.5 pesewas
  • And in addition – 17.5% VAT on product price

Between January 2011 and June 2015 the Ghanaian Government bagged GH¢3.2 billion from taxes imposed on petroleum products. Many Ghanaians are wondering where that money has been spent.

For instance, while the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) Debt Recovery Levy generated over GH¢1.6 billion within the four-and-half years, the refinery remains closed due to huge indebtedness.

Data examined by The Finder indicates that within the same period, an amount of GH¢880 million also accrued from the Road Fund to the state, yet roads in the country are in deplorable state.


Read more about the protests in January –

People rely on fuel to live – they cannot afford these taxes without alternative support.


Is it time for #PornWarnings?

So the proliferation of mobile phones around the world has increased accessibility to online pornography.

This…PLUS terrible sex education for young people, which I think we can all agree is a pretty international problem…(*flashbacks to awkward afternoons with your maths teacher trying to explain periods to a room of giggling children*) means that, increasingly, porn is becoming a de facto sexual education for many teenagers (boys in particular).

Not only are young people learning about sex via what is essentially often extreme ‘theatre’, but they are also given no sense of what good sexual health looks like. There’s no warning or discussion of contraception, STIs, pregnancy risks, consent…etc…in porn. All they are shown is often submissive women ‘performing’ for the male gaze. Frequently without condoms.

This is dangerous.

And I anticipate this becoming an increasingly huge problem for countries where access to sexual health services is difficult and costly at best (I know of sexual health clinics where they are unaware of chlamydia, for example) and in countries where sex education is either non-existent or uncomfortable and basic (which I think might be almost everywhere).

Whatever you think of porn, I wonder if it’s about time that the porn industry took responsibility and ensured all their content came with an engaging/fun health warning, or were required to produce short sexual health and consent films for a global audience that users MUST watch before viewing… What do you think?



Redefining ‘international development’

I’ve been thinking a lot about the term ‘international development’ and what it truly means. In fact, scrap that. I’ve been thinking more about what it means to different people and from different perspectives and the potential for what it COULD mean.

So according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) the definition of international is:

“existing, constituted, or carried on between different nations; pertaining to the relations between nations.”

and of development is:

“the process or fact of developing; the concrete result of this process.”

So…why is it that when you put these two words together the meaning suddenly become (According to the Cambridge Business English Dictionary – it doesn’t exist in the OED):

a country with little industrial and economic activity and where people generally have low incomes.

I would like to redefine ‘international development’ (and therefore the intention and everything that goes with it) as:

A global system of equality and interdependence, where nations, organisations and citizens respect each other, collaborate, share and support each other to collectively reach their highest potential and regenerate the planet.

What do you think? Can you improve? How would you like to redefine ‘international development’? Let me know!


A question for Justine Greening, Melinda Gates, Tewodros Melesse and Justin Forsyth

I received an email last week from the Guardian Development Professionals Network inviting me to submit a question to a panel of speakers taking part in a discussion on the rights of women and girls. The event is hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Save the Children.

This is what I submitted:

“I feel that a lot of development dialogue perpetuates unfair stereotypes of developing countries and does not give fair representation of their citizens (the discourse focuses disproportionately on poverty, suffering, corruption, war etc and treats the people involved as a collective, homogeneous group and thus dehumanizes). Do you agree with this and if so do you also agree this is damaging? What can be done to stop this?”

The speakers at the event include:

  • The UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening
  • Co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates
  • CEO of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Tewodros Melesse
  • CEO of Save the Children, Justin Forsyth

The event takes place on Wednesday in London and will focus on the steps towards improving the lives of women and girls around the world, through family planning, ending female genital mutilation, child marriage and infant mortality.

I doubt that this is a question that will get asked, but I will be interested to hear the responses if it does.

What do you think of my question? What would you have asked instead?