The Moment of Lift

The Moment of Lift

The book started off slow but the more I read, the more compelled and inspired I was. It’s simple, eloquent yet touches on so many issues and topics that I love reading about, framing them in ways I did not see.

& the absolute importance of uplifting and empowering women in the fight against global poverty, improving healthcare and life as a whole. I don’t even know how to frame the book but it’s one that I would love to keep.

Huge number of notes/quotes I’ve taken from the book:

On Poverty

  • Poverty is not being able to protect your family. Poverty is not being able to save your children when mothers with more money could. And the because the strongest instinct of a mother is to protect her children, poverty is the most disempowering force on earth. It follows that if you want to attack poverty and if you want to empower women, you can do both with one approach: Help mothers protect their children.
  • “Their cup is not empty; you can’t just pour your ideas into it. Their cup is already full, so you have to understand what is in their cup.” If you don’t understand the meaning and beliefs behind a community’s practices, you won’t present your idea in the context of their values and concerns and people won’t hear you.
  • Poverty is created by barriers; we have to get around or break down those barriers to deliver solutions. But that’s not all. The more I saw our work in the field, the more I realised that delivery needs to shape strategy. The challenge of delivery reveals the causes of poverty. You learn why people are poor. You don’t have to guess what the barriers are. As soon as you try to help, you run into them.
  • Overcoming the need to create outsiders is our greatest challenge as human beings. It is the key to ending deep inequality. We stigmatise and send to the margins people who trigger in us the feelings we want to avoid. This is why there are so many old and weak and sick and poor people on the margins of society. We tend to push out the people who have qualities we are most afraid we will find in ourselves and sometimes we falsely ascribe qualities we disown to certain groups, then push those groups out as a way of denying those traits in ourselves. This is what drives dominant groups to push different racial and religious groups to the margins.
  • If we are on the inside and see someone on the outside, we often say to ourselves “I’m not in that situation because I’m different.” But that’s just pride talking. We could easily be that person. We all have things inside us. We just don’t like to confess what we have in common with outsiders because its too humbling. It suggests that maybe success and failure aren’t entirely fair…we say it’s about merit or tradition when it’s really just protecting our privilege and our pride

On Education

  • In fact, women getting an education threatens traditional roles. Politically, it’s instructive to see that the most extremist forces in the world, like Boko Haram, have been especially hostile to girls’ education. The extremists are saying to women, “You don’t have to go to school to be who we want you to be.” So they burn down schools, kidnap girls, hoping their families will keep their girls home out of fear.
  • Sending girls to school is a direct attack on their view that a woman’s duty is to serve a man.

On Contraception

  • Eugenics is morally nauseating, as well as discredited by science. Yet this history is being used to confuse the conversation on contraceptives today. Opponents of contraception try to discredit modern contraceptives by bringing up the history of eugenics, arguing that because contraceptives have been used for certain immoral purposes, they should not be used for any purpose, even allowing a mother to wait before having another child…the simple appeal of letting women choose whether or when to have children is so threatening that opponents strain to make it about something else. And trying to make the contraceptive debate about abortion is very effective in sabotaging the conversation. The abortion debate is so hot that people on different sides of the issue won’t talk to each other about women’s health.
  • So yes, there is a Church teaching about contraceptives – but there is another Church teaching, which is love of neighbour. When a women who wants her children to thrive asks me for contraceptives, her plea puts two Church teachings into conflict and my conscience tells me to support the woman’s desire to keep her children alive. To me, that aligns with Christ’s teaching to love my neighbour.

The chapter on Agriculture, religion and how it linked to gender bias was one of my favourites

  • But when you learn that women are more than half of all the farmers and can’t get what they need to make their plots productive, and as a result their children go hungry and their families stay in poverty, it forces you to choose. You can keep doing the same thing and reinforce the biases that keep people poor. Or you can help women get the power they need to feed their children and reach their potential. It’s a clear choice – challenge the biases or perpetuate them.
  • Fighting for gender equity in agriculture was never our plan – that is one of the great challenges for anyone who wants to help change the world: How do you follow your plan and yet keep listening for new ideas? How do you hold your strategy so lightly, so you’ll be able to hear the new idea that blows it up?
  • Jimmy Carter’s book calls the deprivation and abuse of women and girls is the most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge and he lays the principal blame on men’s false interpretation of scripture.
    • “This system of discrimination is based on the presumption that men and boys are superior to women and girls and it is supported by some male religious leaders who distort the Holy Bible, the Koran and other sacred texts to perpetuate their claim that females are, in some basic ways, inferior to them, unqualified to serve God on equal terms. Many men disagree but remain quiet in order to enjoy the benefits of their dominant status. This false premise provides justification for sexual discrimination in almost every realm of secular and religious life.
  • I believe without question that the disrespect for women embodied in male-dominant religion is a factor in laws and customs that keep women down. This should not be surprising, because bias against women is perhaps humanity’s oldest prejudice, and not only are religions our oldest institutions but they change more slowly and grudgingly than all the others – which means they hold on to their biases and blind spots much longer,
    • There is no chance that a church included women priests – and bishops and cardinals and popes – would ever issue the current rule banning contraceptives. Empathy would forbid it. An all-male, unmarried clergy cannot be expected to have the empathy for women and families that they would have if they were married, or if they were women, or if they were raising children. The result is that men make rules that hurt women.
    • Putting aisde the irony of leaving women out of the leadership of an organisation whose supreme mission is love, it is demoralising that men who make rules that keep men in power would be so unsuspicious of their own motives. Their claims might have been more convincing in the past centuries but male dominance has lost its disguises. We see what is happening.
    • One of the weightiest moral questions facing male-dominated religions today is how long they will keep clinging to male dominance and claiming its the will of God.

On diversity, one of my favourite excerpts:

  • Early in our work we realised that there was an underlying ehtos to our philanthropy: the premise that all lives have equal value.
  • This for me is the defining argument for diversity: Diversity is the best way to defend equality. If people from diverse groups are not making the decisions, the burdens and benefits of society will be dividend unequally and unfairly – with the people writing the rules ensuring themselves a greater share of the benefits and a lesser share of the burdens of any society. No group should have to trust another to protect their interests, all should be able to speak for themselves.
  • That’s why we have to include everyone in the decisions that shape our cultures because even the best of us are blinded by our own interests. If you care about equality, you have to embrace diversity.
    • We are at an infant stage at AI – we don’t know the uses that will be made of it – health uses, battlefield uses, law enforcement uses, corporate uses – but the impact will be profound and we need to make sure its fair. If we want a society that reflects the values of empathy, unity and diversity, it matters who writes the code
  • I’ve never held the view that women are better than men, or that the best way to improve the world is for women to gain more power than men. I think male dominance is harmful to society because any dominance is harmful: it means society is governed by a false hierarchy where power and opportunity are awarded according to gender, age, wealth and privilege – not according to skill, effort, talent or accomplishments. When a culture of dominance is broken, it activates power in all of us. So the goal for me is not the rise of women and the fall of man. It is the rise of both women and men from struggle of dominance to a state of partnership

On Personal notes,

  • These gender expectations have been significant for me and for many women I know because they foster qualities that lead to perfectionism – the effort to compensate for feelings of inferiority by being flawless. “If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimise the painful feelings of shame, judgement and blame.” Perfectionism for me comes from the feeling that I don’t know enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not hardworking enough.
  • Ultimately, for me perfectionism means hiding who I am. It’s dressing myself up so the people I want to impress don’t come away thinking I’m not as smart or interesting as they thought. It comes from a desperate need not to disappoint others. So I overprepare. And one of the curious things I’ve discovered is that when I’m overprepared, I don’t listen as well. I go ahead and say whatever I’ve prepared, whether it responds to the moment or not. I miss the opportunity to improvise or respond well to a surprise. I’m not really there. I’m not my authentic self.

On Pain and heart break

  • You have to let your heart break. Letting your heart break means sinking into the pain that’s underneath the anger. If you don’t accept the suffering, hurt can turn to hatred. This is what the life of Christ means to me. The high priests wanted to break him, they did everything they could to hurt and humiliate him. And they failed. His ability to absorb pain was beyond their ability to inflict it so he could answer their hatred with love.
  • This to me is the model ofr all nonviolent social moments, religious based or not. The most radical approach to resistance is acceptance – and acceptance does not mean accepting the world as it is. It means accepting our pain as it is. If we refused to accept our pain, then we’re just trying to make ourselves feel better – and when our hidden motive is to make ourselves feel better, there is no limit to the damage we can do in the name of justice. Great leaders never combine a call for justice with a cry of vengance. Leaders who can master their pain have taken self-interest off their agenda so their voice rings with moral power. They are no longer speaking their truth. They are speaking truth.

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