Words Words Words

Links to many online dictionaries for many professions.


Many English lessons and English-Mongolian side-by-side PDF books


Learning English and Buddhism in Mongolia


Learning Medical English for doctors, nurses and dentists in Mongolia

Monday, October 28, 2013

TED: How Mr. Condom made Thailand a better place

Original posted on TEDxChange in Sept, 2010

Welcome to Thailand. Now, when I was a young man -- 40 years ago, the country was very, very poor with lots and lots and lots of people living in poverty. We decided to do something about it, but we didn't begin with a welfare program or a poverty reduction program. But we began with a family-planning program, following a very successful maternal child health activity, sets of activities. So basically, no one would accept family planning if their children didn't survive. So the first step: get to the children, get to the mothers, and then follow up with family planning. Not just child mortality alone, you need also family planning. Now let me take you back as to why we needed to do it.

In my country, that was the case in 1974. Seven children per family -- tremendous growth at 3.3 percent. There was just no future. We needed to reduce the population growth rate. So we said, "Let's do it." The women said, "We agree. We'll use pills, but we need a doctor to prescribe the pills," and we had very, very few doctors. We didn't take no as an answer; we took no as a question. We went to the nurses and the midwives, who were also women, and did a fantastic job at explaining how to use the pill. That was wonderful, but it covered only 20 percent of the country.

What do we do for the other 80 percent -- leave them alone and say, "Well, they're not medical personnel." No, we decided to do a bit more. So we went to the ordinary people that you saw. Actually, below that yellow sign -- I wish they hadn't wiped that, because there was "Coca-Cola" there. We were so much bigger than Coca-Cola in those days. And no difference, the people they chose were the people we chose. They were well-known in the community, they knew that customers were always right, and they were terrific, and they practiced their family planning themselves. So they could supply pills and condoms throughout the country, in every village of the country. So there we are. We went to the people who were seen as the cause of the problem to be the solution. Wherever there were people -- and you can see boats with the women, selling things -- here's the floating market selling bananas and crabs and also contraceptives -- wherever you find people, you'll find contraceptives in Thailand.

And then we decided, why not get to religion because in the Philippines, the Catholic Church was pretty strong, and Thai people were Buddhist. We went to them and they said, "Look, could you help us?" I'm there -- the one in blue, not the yellow -- holding a bowl of holy water for the monk to sprinkle holy water on pills and condoms for the sanctity of the family. And this picture was sent throughout the country. So some of the monks in the villages were doing the same thing themselves. And the women were saying, "No wonder we have no side-effects. It's been blessed." That was their perception.

And then we went to teachers. You need everybody to be involved in trying to provide whatever it is that make humanity a better place. So we went to the teachers. Over a quarter of a million were taught about family planning with a new alphabet -- A, B for birth, C for condom, I for IUD, V for vasectomy. And then we had a snakes and ladders game, where you throw dice. If you land on anything pro-family planning, you move ahead. Like, "Mother takes the pill every night. Very good, mother. Move ahead. Uncle buys a condom. Very good, uncle. Move ahead. Uncle gets drunk, doesn't use condom. Come back, start again." (Laughter) Again, education, class entertainment. And the kids were doing it in school too. We had relay races with condoms, we had children's condom-blowing championship. And before long, the condom was know as the girl's best friend. In Thailand, for poor people, diamonds don't make it -- so the condom is the girl's best friend.

We introduced our first microcredit program in 1975, and the women who organized it said, "We only want to lend to women who practice family planning. If you're pregnant, take care of your pregnancy. If you're not pregnant, you can take a loan out from us." And that was run by them. And after 35/36 years, it's still going on. It's a part of the Village Development Bank; it's not a real bank, but it's a fund -- microcredit. And we didn't need a big organization to run it -- it was run by the villagers themselves. And you probably hardly see a Thai man there, it's always women, women, women, women. And then we thought we'd help America, because America's been helping everyone, whether they want help or not. (Laughter) And this is on the Fourth of July. We decided to provide vasectomy to all men, but in particular, American men to the front of the queue, right up to the Ambassador's residence during his [unclear]. And the hotel gave us the ballroom for it -- very appropriate room. (Laughter) And since it was near lunch time, they said, "All right, we'll give you some lunch. Of course, it must be American cola. You get two brands, Coke and Pepsi. And then the food is either hamburger or hotdog." And I thought a hotdog will be more symbolic. (Laughter) And here is this, then, young man called Willy Bohm who worked for the USAID. Obviously, he's had his vasectomy because his hotdog is half eaten, and he was very happy. It made a lot of news in America, and it angered some people also. I said, "Don't worry. Come over and I'll do the whole lot of you."


And what happened? In all this thing, from seven children to 1.5 children, population growth rate of 3.3 to 0.5. You could call it the Coca-Cola approach if you like -- it was exactly the same thing. I'm not sure whether Coca-Cola followed us, or we followed Coca-Cola, but we're good friends. And so that's the case of everyone joining in. We didn't have a strong government. We didn't have lots of doctors. But it's everybody's job who can change attitude and behavior.

Then AIDS came along and hit Thailand, and we had to stop doing a lot of good things to fight AIDS. But unfortunately, the government was in denial, denial, denial. So our work wasn't affected. So I thought, "Well, if you can't go to the government, go to the military." So I went to the military and asked to borrow 300 radio stations. They have more than the government, and they've got more guns than the government. So I asked them, could they help us in our fight against HIV. And after I gave them statistics, they said, "Yes. Okay. You can use all the radio stations, television stations." And that's when we went onto the airwaves. And then we got a new prime minister soon after that. And he said, "Mechai, could you come and join?" He asked me in because he liked my wife a lot. So I said, "Okay." He became the chairman of the National AIDS Committee and increased the budget fifty-fold.

Every ministry, even judges, had to be involved in AIDS education -- everyone -- and we said the public, institutions, religious institutions, schools -- everyone was involved. And here, every media person had to be trained for HIV. And we gave every station half a minute extra for advertising to earn more money. So they were happy with that. And then AIDS education in all schools, starting from university. And these are high school kids teaching high school kids. And the best teachers were the girls, not the boys, and they were terrific. And these girls who go around teaching about safe sex and HIV were known as Mother Theresa. And then we went down one more step. These are primary school kids -- third, fourth grade -- going to every household in the village, every household in the whole of Thailand, giving AIDS information and a condom to every household, given by these young kids. And no parents objected, because we were trying to save lives, and this was a lifesaver. And we said, "Everyone needs to be involved."

So you have the companies also realizing that sick staff don't work, and dead customers don't buy. So they all trained. And then we have this Captain Condom, with his Harvard MBA, going to schools and night spots. And they loved him. You need a symbol of something. In every country, every program, you need a symbol, and this is probably the best thing he's ever done with his MBA. (Laughter) And then we gave condoms out everywhere on the streets -- everywhere, everywhere. In taxis, you get condoms. And also, in traffic, the policemen give you condoms -- our "cops and rubbers" programs. (Laughter) So, can you imagine New York policemen giving out condoms? Of course I can. And they'd enjoy it immensely; I see them standing around right now, everywhere. Imagine if they had condoms, giving out to all sorts of people. And then, new change, we had hair bands, clothing and the condom for your mobile phone during the rainy season.


And these were the condoms that we introduced. One says, "Weapon of mass protection." We found -- you know -- somebody here was searching for the weapon of mass destruction, but we have found the weapon of mass protection: the condom. And then it says here, with the American flag, "Don't leave home without it." But I have some to give out afterward. But let me warn you, these are Thai-sized, so be very careful. (Laughter) And so you can see that condoms can do so many things. Look at this -- I gave this to Al Gore and to Bill Senior also. Stop global warming; use condoms. And then this is the picture I mentioned to you -- the weapon of mass protection. And let the next Olympics save some lives. Why just run around? (Laughter) And then finally, in Thailand we're Buddhist, we don't have a God, so instead, we say, "In rubber we trust." (Laughter) So you can see that we added everything to our endeavor to make life better for the people. We had condoms in all the refrigerators in the hotels and the schools, because alcohol impairs judgment.

And then what happened? After all this time, everybody joined in. According to the U.N., new cases of HIV declined by 90 percent, and according to the World Bank, 7.7 million lives were saved. Otherwise there wouldn't be many Thais walking around today. So it just showed you, you could do something about it. 90 percent of the funding came from Thailand. There was political commitment, some financial commitment, and everybody joined in the fight. So just don't leave it to the specialists and doctors and nurses. We all need to help.

And then we decided to help people out of poverty, now that we got AIDS somewhat out of the way -- this time, not with government alone, but in cooperation with the business community. Because poor people are business people who lack business skills and access to credit. Those are the things to be provided by the business community. We're trying to turn them into barefoot entrepreneurs, little business people. The only way out of poverty is through business enterprise. So, that was done. The money goes from the company into the village via tree-planting. It's not a free gift. They plant the trees, and the money goes into their microcredit fund, which we call the Village Development Bank. Everybody joins in, and they feel they own the bank, because they have brought the money in.

And before you can borrow the money, you need to be trained. And we believe if you want to help the poor, those who are living in poverty, access to credit must be a human right. Access to credit must be a human right. Otherwise they'll never get out of poverty. And then before getting a loan, you must be trained. Here's what we call a "barefoot MBA," teaching people how to do business so that, when they borrow money, they'll succeed with the business. These are some of the businesses: mushrooms, crabs, vegetables, trees, fruits, and this is very interesting -- Nike ice cream and Nike biscuits; this is a village sponsored by Nike. They said, "They should stop making shoes and clothes. Make these better, because we can afford them." And then we have silk, Thai silk. Now we're making Scottish tartans, as you can see on the left, to sell to all people of Scottish ancestors. So anyone sitting in and watching TV, get in touch with me. And then this is our answer to Starbucks in Thailand -- "Coffee and Condoms." See, Starbucks you awake, we keep you awake and alive. That's the difference. Can you imagine, at every Starbucks that you can also get condoms? You can order your condoms with your with your cappuccino.

And then now, finally in education, we want to change the school as being underutilized into a place where it's a lifelong learning center for everyone. We call this our School-Based Integrated Rural Development. And it's a center, a focal point for economic and social development. Re-do the school, make it serve the community needs. And here is a bamboo building -- all of them are bamboo. This is a geodesic dome made of bamboo. And I'm sure Buckminster Fuller would be very, very proud to see a bamboo geodesic dome. And we use vegetables around the school ground, so they raise their own vegetables.

And then, finally, I firmly believe, if we want the MDGs to work -- the Millennium Development Goals -- we need to add family planning to it. Of course, child mortality first and then family planning -- everyone needs family planning service -- it's underutilized. So we have now found the weapon of mass protection. And we also ask the next Olympics to be involved in saving lives. And then, finally, that is our network. And these are our Thai tulips.


Thank you very much indeed.


Definition List:
  • mortality: the number of deaths in a particular situation or period of time
  • tremendous: very great
  • contraceptive: a drug, device or practice used to prevent a woman becoming pregnant
  • perception: the way you notice things, especially with the senses
  • IUD: the abbreviation for ‘intrauterine device’ (a small plastic or metal object placed inside a woman's uterus (= where a baby grows before it is born) to stop her becoming pregnant)
  • vasectomy: a medical operation to remove part of each of the tubes in a man's body that carry sperm, after which he is not able to make a woman pregnant
  • microcredit: The lending of small amounts of money at low interest to new businesses in the developing world.
  • denial: a statement that says something is not true or does not exist
  • airwaves: radio waves that are used in broadcasting radio and television
  • endeavor: an attempt to do something, especially something new or difficult
  • geodesic dome: a dome which is built from panels whose edges form geodesic lines
  • underutilized: not used as much as it could or should be
Pronunciation MP3:
= mortality
= tremendous
= contraceptive
= perception
= intrauterine
= vasectomy
= denial
= airwaves
= endeavor
= geodesic
= underutilized

Monday, October 21, 2013

NEWS: Bhutan - Why this could be one of the happiest countries on earth?

Originally posted on BBC.co.uk on July


Bhutan is one of the poorest and least developed nations in the world but it has been ranked the happiest nation in Asia and eighth happiest in the world in a survey.

Plastic bags are banned, tobacco is almost illegal and the country measures the wellbeing of its people by Gross National Happiness (GNH) rather than Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Carmen Roberts went to find out why Bhutan is such a land of contentment.

Monday, October 14, 2013

NEWS: Plight of Mongolia's Reindeer Herding People

Originally posted on EnvironmentalGraffiti.com
Written by Yohani Kamarudin and photos by Uluc Kecik

Reindeer are milked twice a day by women of the tribe.
The yogurt-like milk is four to five times more fatty than cow’s milk.

The mountainous boreal forests of the taiga are harsh, wild, and achingly beautiful. Although not as well known as the either the Gobi Desert or the grassy steppe of Mongolia, the taiga nevertheless represents the world’s largest biome.

Beginning where the frozen tundra ends, the taiga’s dark, coniferous woodlands stretch almost continuously from Eurasia across to sub-arctic North America. It is an important place because of its tremendous environmental value and as the home of the indigenous Dukha people and their reindeer herds – yet it is currently under threat.

Fall camps, like this one, are typically found on the edge of forests
and provide protection from the elements.

This is not an easy place in which to live. Mostly, it is cold: the average temperature is below 32°F (0°C) and can drop all the way to a bone-chilling -65°F (-53°C). However, in the summer months the heat can shoot all the way up to 70°F (21°C), a massive variation from the usual chill. Yet, for the forests of the taiga and its flora and fauna, these are the perfect conditions for life.

The woman pictured, Chechek (Flower),
was host to the photographer and is a shaman of the taiga.

For over 3,000 years, the Dukha people (also known as the Tsaatan) have lived here, adapting their nomadic lifestyle to the extreme weather and landscape of the taiga. During this time they have become bound to their reindeer herds, which provide them with everything from meat, hides and milk to a vital system of transport. They are a hardy people – as they would have to be to survive in this challenging terrain. Yet the population of the Dukha, and the reindeer on which they rely, are dwindling, and urgent changes are needed if they are to continue with their ancient way of life

A Dukha pole house, or “alajy og”

Photographer Uluc Kecik traveled into the taiga to capture these pictures and meet the Dukha in Mongolia’s northernmost reaches. “Today, the Dukha represent Mongolia's smallest ethnic minority, with approximately 45 nomadic households herding reindeer,” says Kecik. “They are, to varying degrees, facing threats to their cultural survival – transitions to market-based economies, tourism, global warming, language loss and assimilation into the dominant majority.”

An 'Ereen' – colorful cloths tied to each other –
represents a protective spirit and is a sacred object.

The Dukha’s Mongolian name “Tsataan” can be translated as “reindeer herder”, reinforcing just how inextricably their whole way of living is tied to these animals. As recently as 15 years ago, the Dukha (along with three other nomadic tribes of the region) herded up to 15,000 reindeer between them. These days, the number has dwindled to 2,200 and is still falling.

Gombo, seated, is the eldest male and so is current leader of the tribe.

Reindeer are not simply domestic animals to the Dukha; they also hold a special place in their social and religious culture as totems. “[The Dukha’s] spiritual traditions are powerfully defined by shamanist beliefs and [are] among the most enduring in the world,” says Kecik. Enduring, despite attempts by the government to repress the Dukha culture during the Communist era and the many pressures it still faces today.

Everything on the reindeer, down to the antlers, is used by the Dukha.

The reindeer themselves are tame and will often respond when called. Traditionally, the Dukha have primarily hunted wild animals for meat, slaughtering their reindeer only when the animals were past breeding age and too old to be used for transport. However, these days, difficult economic times and the decreasing amount of wildlife in the forests mean that, more and more, herders are forced to kill and eat their reindeer to survive.

The nuts of the pine cone are a popular snack at community gatherings.

As one United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) document puts it, “Taiga reindeer herders, including the Dukhas, have been likened to hunter-gatherers, rather than true pastoralists, because hunting wild meat has played as important a role in their livelihoods as herding.”

The Dukha and their reindeer move between six and ten times a year.

The taiga is normally a rich habitat, sustaining creatures such as bears, squirrels, rabbits, badgers and, of course, reindeer. Yet, in recent times, commercial hunting and other factors have severely diminished the wild animal population. And not only does this result in there being less for the Dukha to hunt, but also less for their hunting competitors, the wolves. This means that, like the herders, wolves are also preying on the reindeer stocks.

The Dukha ride on the reindeer as well as using them to transport goods.

Another environmental problem for the taiga – and therefore the reindeer herders – is unregulated mining. These small-scale operations, generally searching for gold or jade, cause large-scale damage to the forest ecosystem. Some of the undesirable side effects of the mines are deforestation, wildfires, and contamination with toxic chemicals that affects both the land and water sources. All of this has adverse results for the animals living within the forest and the herders needing to pasture their animals.

Like people who live off the land all around the world, the Dukha are also being affected by climate change. “The taiga – the Dukha homeland – is a hotspot for biodiversity and is rich in natural resources,” says UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “But it is also one of the regions of Mongolia which could suffer the greatest impacts of climate change over the coming decades.”

A man named Davaajav tries to lasso a reindeer.

The effects of climate change in the taiga include disastrous weather patterns. In the last twelve years, there have been seven erratic weather events – from droughts to extreme winters – a sobering statistic, considering the fact that there had only been three such extreme weather events in the 60 years leading up to the year 2000. These changes create added demand for suitable grazing land and put more stress on the ecology and herding communities like the Dukha.

Reindeer antlers are trimmed before the migration
to make it possible to move through the thick forest.

Bad weather, overhunting, wolves and mining are unfortunately not the only problems for reindeer herds. Another major factor in their declining population are the effects of inbreeding and disease. For thousands of years, the Dukha have been experts in reindeer husbandry – a skill passed down through families for generations. In the past, this was sufficient to keep the herds strong and healthy, but sadly it is perhaps no longer enough.

Unfortunately, much of the collective knowledge about reindeer husbandry was lost during the mismanagement of the Soviet years. Inbreeding among herds meant weaker stock that was more susceptible to diseases such as brucellosis. Caused by bacteria, brucellosis leads to reproductive problems and joint swelling in the animals it infects. Researchers think that up to a quarter of the Dukha reindeer herd may have the disease.

In the old days, pole houses were covered with reindeer hide;
now, canvas is used.

Even those reindeer uninfected by brucellosis are showing the other adverse signs of inbreeding. For one thing, new calves are born small and sickly. Females will also sometimes be born with fewer teats and, when they reach child-bearing age, give birth to twins, which normally die – two clear signs that there is not enough genetic variety in the herd.

During the 1960s and 1980s, the Soviet government tried to deal with the low population and inbreeding problem by replenishing the herd with reindeer from Siberia. Since the fall of the USSR, however, there have been no more outside additions. While some suggest bringing in reindeer, or at least their semen, from herds in Siberia, or from even further climes such as Canada or Scandinavia, the matter remains a topic of debate among researchers.

As suggested, not everyone agrees that introducing foreign stock into these reindeer herds is a good idea. Some think that introducing new genes will mess with the generations of adaptations the Dukha have bred into the taiga reindeer to make them suitable for their use, particularly as transport animals. Opponents have also pointed out that molecular research has been done on the taiga herds, and that so far they have been found to be no more inbred than many other similar populations. The research continues.

The pole houses are anchored by three pine trunks tied together;
about a dozen other pine trunks are then balanced around them.

Yet despite these objections, plans to introduce new blood to the herd continue. According to a Dukha herder Bayandalai, it is definitely a good idea. “The reindeer our ancestors used to herd were healthy,” he says. “Today I have only one wish, and that is for the government to bring in reindeer from Siberia, Scandinavia, or Canada. If not reindeer, then reindeer semen.”

The canvas coverings are draped over the structure, overlapping one another on a gradient, so that rainwater always runs along the seams in a spiralling motion.

Getting the semen from its source – probably in North America – to the Dukha will be a challenge in itself. The precious fluid will need to be frozen and kept in a container of liquid nitrogen, which will then have to be carried across the Mongolian steppe on horseback, before it completes its journey by reindeer. Quite an adventure for a vial of reindeer sperm!

Whatever impact inbreeding has on the health of the reindeer herds, there are also other factors contributing to the problem. One of these is the increasingly stationary lifestyle of the Dukha people. Once, the Dukha were nomadic wanderers, but the younger generations are being lured to settle down by the promise of schools and consumer goods. Border closings, such as that between Mongolia and Russia, and the degradation and commercial use of land, also mean the Dukha are not as free to graze their herds as they once were.

Like reindeer, horses are an important form of transportation in the taiga.

This restricted movement means the reindeer herds now have difficulty getting the lichen they need for nutrition. The Dukha also believe that the disruption of natural migration patterns, as well as climate change, has led to more health problems like parasites and diseases. They also blame increased transportation of the reindeer from the taiga to the steppe, and the contact they make with livestock along the way, for spreading infection. Added to this is the limited availability of veterinary care for sick animals.

On the positive side, organizations such as UNEP and international NGOs are working to help the people of the taiga retain their culture and way of life. UNEP has made several proposals, including making a record of traditional Dukha knowledge and promoting biodiversity in the region. They also propose that strategies be drawn up for future land use and that this be closely monitored for its impact on the environment.

UNEP also advises that tourism be regulated so that it has a positive rather than negative impact on the sensitive ecosystem. For this, they recommend talks between tour operators, local government, land users and herders to reach agreements for the benefit of all. Further, they suggest that current hunting regulations be evaluated to measure their impact on the Dukha and their means of support.

The Dukha of the taiga

Of utmost importance will be a program to grow the reindeer herds and provide them with veterinary care using, as UNEP say, both Western and traditional knowledge. Aiding them in this is a New York-based organization, The Totem Peoples Project, which is raising funds to research the diseases and health problems of the taiga reindeer as well as lobbying the local government for more support for the Dukha.

“Reindeer are more than simply the animal which provides a livelihood in the taiga,” says Daniel Plumley, founder of the Totem Peoples Project. “They represent the culture here. Without the reindeer, the culture would cease to exist.” Batulga, a Dukha reindeer specialist, agrees. “Without the reindeer we are not Dukha,” he says.

Of the current work being done to help the Dukha and their herds, Batulga says, “We have had success in our difficult work, but we have only just begun. We give our deepest thanks to all who can help us, the Dukha, to continue the proud way of our people.”

For our part, we can only hope that efforts to keep alive the millennia-old way of life for these reindeer nomads prove successful, and that the Dukha people and their herds will always remain part of the Mongolian taiga.

Monday, October 7, 2013

NEWS: Social and online media for social change: examples from Thailand

Originally posted on East Asia & Pacific On the Rise on July 24, 2013
by Anne Elicano

Also available in: ภาษาไทย
In Bangkok, a campaign to save land from being turned into another mega mall brings people together online--and offline.

As a web editor and as a digital media enthusiast I’ve seen all sorts of content online: a close-up photo of someone’s lunch, a video of singing cats, selfies (for the blissfully uninitiated- these are self-portraits taken from mobile devices), and more.

Can such content change the world for the better? What if these were more substantial or inspiring, would it spur change more effectively? While messaging is important, I think the real power of social and online media is in its convening power. The changing the world for the better bit happens when the communities formed by social media take things offline and act.

Recently, in Bangkok, I took part in #WBSync.Lab, an (offline) gathering of people who are working for, volunteering with, or interested in organizations which added digital/online layers to social advocacies. To give you a background, Thailand has 25 million online users and 18 million social media users. There’s plenty of potential for online-driven campaigns and online communities to thrive.

Here are some of the successful home-grown initiatives we discussed that evening:

WhereisThailand.info, a group that visualizes data comparing Thailand to other countries, made an infographic out of a World Bank report about the public expenditure of provinces in Thailand. By transforming several pages into one powerful visual and rendering it in the Thai language, they were able to generate a vibrant online discussion with hundreds of comments. The infographic was shared a whopping 2,237 times. You can find out about more World Bank social and online initiatives in this presentation by my colleague, Jim Rosenberg.

Tul Pinkaew is the campaigns director of www.change.org/Thailand, which is the Thailand chapter of the global online campaign platform Change.org. He told us about the Manhole campaign, where cycling enthusiast Nonlanee Ungwiwatkul launched a campaign asking the Bangkok City Hall (BMA) to fix or replace damaged steel grating pothole covers that are dangerous to cyclists and pedestrians alike. Nonlanee decided to start an online petition and, within a week, more than 1,500 people joined her campaign. Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra officially launched a statement soon after in response to the petition, promising to fix all the steel gratings throughout Bangkok.

Another great initiative was the Greenspace campaign. Web/graphic designers Jatuporn and Poolap wanted to save 200 acres of land in central Bangkok from becoming another mega mall complex. They think that the land could be better used as a green space for everyone to enjoy. They were able to collect 23,000 signatures in an online petition and organize an awareness-raising concert with thousands attending. The city government then committed to reviewing the situation.

I asked Tul about the success rate of these online campaigns. There are about half a million petitions created but only a few thousands achieve victories.

“The campaigns that achieve great impact and are able to mobilize passionate new supporters are the ones that are able to communicate the problem from a personal narrative. These have a strong direct call to action,” he said, “Each campaign comes from the grassroots up, reflecting what the average person wants to see improved. This results in a greater response and participation by the public and greater media attention, making it hard for decision-makers to ignore.”

Another netizen pointed out that such online campaigns catered to urban dwellers only. This may be true, for now, but we should also consider that mobile phones and internet rates are increasingly getting cheaper, thus widening the space for people to join in the conversation. For instance, mobile phones are already being used by farmers in the Philippines for getting advice on rice.

What can be done for those who are excluded from social/online media because of lack of access? I think we should recognize that social media isn’t a magic bullet. It’s just one among the range of communication tools at our disposal. There are radio programs that will reach far-flung rural communities better or town hall meetings for certain groups that cannot be replicated in any online platform.

What are the social or online media for social change initiatives that you have participated in? What kind of online campaigns for advocacies are successful in your part of the world?

Definition List:
  • blissfully: extremely happy; showing happiness
  • uninitiated: people who have no special knowledge or experience of something
  • substantial: arge in amount, value or importance
  • inspiring: exciting and encouraging you to do or feel something
  • to spur: to encourage somebody to do something or to encourage them to try harder to achieve something
  • convening: to arrange for people to come together for a formal meeting
  • advocacy: the giving of public support to an idea, a course of action or a belief
  • infographic: graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge.
  • to render: to express something in a different language
  • vibrant: to express something in a different language
  • to launch: to start an activity, especially an organized one
  • mega: very large or impressive
  • petition: a written document signed by a large number of people that asks somebody in a position of authority to do or change something
  • to mobilize: to work together in order to achieve a particular aim; to organize a group of people to do this
  • passionate: having or showing strong feelings of enthusiasm for something or belief in something
  • narrative: a description of events
  • grassroots: the ordinary people in a community, country, or organization instead of its leaders
  • netizen: a person who uses the Internet a lot
  • magic bullet: a fast and effective solution to a serious problem
  • at our disposal: available for use as we prefer
  • far-flung: a long distance away
  • to replicate: to copy something exactly
Pronunciation MP3s:
= blissfully
= uninitiated
= substantial
= inspiring
= spur
= convene
= advocacy
= render
= vibrant
= launch
= mega
= petition
= mobilize
= passionate
= narrative
= grassroots
= netizen
= magic bullet
= disposal
= far-flung
= replicate