Meet the EHF Fellows: Elie Losleben Calhoun


(clapping) (speaking in foreign language) – I wanna thank the people in
the government of New Zealand, and the Edmund Hillary Fellowship on behalf of all of the fellows
for making this possible. It’s truly a dream come true, and I’m looking forward to sharing what I’m working on right now, but, of course, the seeds for
what I will be working on here are just being planted. So, as a bit of an introduction my background is in humanitarian aid, and international development. I grew up as the daughter
of humanitarian aid workers so we talked about social justice at the dinner table
pretty much every night, and I’m really grateful for that. It gave me a strong
awareness of disparity, and of the impact that unequal
systems have on health, on education, on people’s futures, and a strong desire to
disrupt those systems, and make better ones because these systems are
agreements between us all. So one of the things I love to do is use tools to amplify change, and technology is exactly that. So, over the course of the last 10 years I’ve been privileged to
work with UN organizations, governments from sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East, and a range of partners to amplify really amazing solutions for change. They aren’t my solutions. I didn’t invent them, but I am able to listen, and able to create platforms, and co-create with a wide
range of stakeholders. So I’m gonna take you through a quick tour of what those are, and, of course, these are
some of the principles that we’ve come up with
to not fail so much when we try to do that. There’s a tremendous
amount of failure to listen in many industries that
are trying to help people. And I think that’s a really
important thing to acknowledge. The other thing I want to
point out is open source. You gonna hear me talk a
lot about free and open and how these solutions that we scale are free and open and that’s one of the things that we really thing
social change should be, open source and available to all. So, these are my stakeholders. I built them an app, many
of us built them an app but they’re members of self-help groups and these are members of self-help groups in Kongwa District in Tanzania. It’s a food insecure region but it turns out, well, first of all, it
turns out microfinance is actually really terrible for the poorest of the poor. It’s an amazing intervention and when you’re ready for it at a certain socioeconomic level but receiving external
capital involves risk and collateral and that
is really not appropriate for the poorest of the poor. The poorest of the poor turns out if you use a different model they can lift themselves out of poverty and I know this can
sound a bit challenging because it’s a bottom-up approach, so I want to acknowledge
bottom-up approaches also need top-down approaches. The way that we change things is not just from the grassroots, we really do need change from both sides of the system but turns out self-help groups are different than
microfinance in a few key ways. Namely there’s no external capital. These mostly women, although they do let some men in because they really want in so sometimes they’re like
all right, you can come but only one of you. They’ve saved together
meager amounts of money but over time that grows and that capital is what
propels their business and they stay together over decades and talk to me about this
model more if you like but what we decided to do was take that model and standardize it into an app. So, the person you see holding the tablet has a primary school education. His name is Demani and he is leading five self-help
groups in his community because we’ve been able to standardize the self-help group process, appify it if you will and create a job aid for him and for the other government and organization-supported facilitators who run these groups around the world and so, we’re working in India, across sub-Saharan Africa, starting to work in the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean
with our project as well. So, really cool thing is it allows people like Azguard who you see
smiling in the middle to create change in their communities. Azguard is a lot like us. Went to school, went to university, got a good job but he wants
to help the community, so he’s at the forefront
of helping us figure out how we can use technology appropriately in these communities. So, wanna be really clear, the people doing the hard work are people like him. These are the people
that we’re building for. I think that’s really cool. So, the other thing, I’m gonna switch ’cause there’s two more projects, so the transition between
them isn’t seamless but something else that
really makes me angry is sexual violence and one in four women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime. The number is actually higher depending on what community
you’re looking at. This is something that affects all genders and actually it turns out if you are able to go to the hospital in those few days or even hours after this crime has been committed, you have a much better likelihood of getting on with your life and that includes things not just like oh, you may receive post-exposure
prophylaxis for HIV to prevent that happening but actually psychosocial support and that means that the
incidence of anxiety, of post-traumatic stress,
of suicidal ideation, of depression is dramatically reduced with an intervention
that is only a few hours and that really anybody can do but how scary to try to do that if you don’t have training. And I can tell you having
supported survivors, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re not that effective ’cause all you wanna do is do no harm. So, what we’ve done is
standardize and appify the rape crisis counseling training that is given around the 300
or so rape crisis centers that exist in the world. It’s really not quite meeting the need and to bring that to free
and open source platform so that anyone who is unfortunately in this position can train themselves to become an advocate or to be an advocate in the moment, to access this in-hand
resource at the health center or if you’re a survivor on your own, that’s there for you too so that you’re not alone in that moment so that you know what to
do to navigate a system that is quite frankly against you, that quite frankly sees the
crime that’s happened to you as your fault. So, we’re changing that and it’s not just an app. There are many of us who
are working on this problem, we need a lot of support for this platform and for the next one too. This is was the view
outside my house in Liberia. And it was really useful, I love looking at this picture because you can see the barbed wire. It reminds me what disparity is and who we need to be building for and that we cannot close our eyes to this kind of thing. It’s easy not to see. We started a social enterprise in Liberia. That’s my house under the tree. We did live in a little tent every weekend for a couple of years but it wasn’t enough to try to do community-led ecotourism businesses because what happened was Ebola. It destroyed everybody’s hard work after a decade plus of civil war and that was awful for everybody but especially for the people there who had already been through so much. So, a good friend of mine created a culturally appropriate
group trauma intervention with no drugs, no therapy, no what happened to you,
tell me what happened, none of that. It is over 80% effective
at reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress and depression. People are going back to work, people are reducing drug dependency. The effects are amazing but
it’s really hard to get support for this kind of platform. So, it’s one of the things
that I’m grounding here and I wanted to just say thank you so much to everyone for bringing me here. I wanted to close by saying we’ll be basing ourselves in Tahiku in the far north and to see
what seeds grow from there. (speaking in foreign language) (clapping) (lively music)

You May Also Like

About the Author: Oren Garnes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *