Grassroots Empowerment in Africa: A Personal Reflection

Tai Salih (she/her)
ZORA
Published in
4 min readNov 28, 2023

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

As a Black woman born in Sudan, my journey has been intertwined with the harsh realities of persistent poverty, instability, and the questionable impact of international charity efforts. I’ve come to realize that these efforts often fall short, creating dependency rather than fostering genuine, lasting change. Audre Lorde’s powerful words about the “master’s tools” resonated deeply with my own experiences, providing a language to articulate the shortcomings I witnessed.

In my youth, family visits to Sudan exposed me to the relentless heat and the consistent poverty that seemed impervious to charity initiatives. I questioned the impact of well-funded organizations, symbolized by the imposing UN compound with its high walls and gates. Foreign workers would come and go, initiating projects that often remained incomplete, leaving our communities in a perpetual state of need.

It became evident that these foreign entities lacked a true understanding of our needs, how we operate, and what we aspire to achieve. Collaboration was rare, and our people were seldom employed in our own country by these so-called benefactors. Their lack of genuine investment became apparent when they would abandon projects as soon as the political climate shifted, leaving us to navigate the challenges alone.

It dawned on me that these entities, with their high walls and gated compounds, weren’t interested in dismantling the root causes of issues. If they eradicated the sources of problems, they risked making themselves obsolete. Corporations benefiting from the exploitation of our people and resources had no incentive to disrupt their supply chains or profit margins for the “greater good,” and politicians influenced by their lobbying ensured this status quo.

Charity Watch List of NGO CEOs making over 1 million in salary.

Indeed, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

The alternative, as I see it, lies in uplifting and empowering those who are already doing the work within the community. While every approach has its faults, fostering change won’t come from within the existing systems. Instead, it emerges from those directly impacted, individuals invested in the well-being of their community because they are an…

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Tai Salih (she/her)
ZORA
Writer for

Yogi E-RYT® 500, YACEP® | Founder @ Red Ma'at Collective | Integrative Counsellor www.redmaathealing.com