*Podcast now available on googleplay, iTunes, and podcast apps like Castbox.
Should EWB Exist? (Part I): Another Survivor Comes Forward
CW: sexual violence, racism, victim-blaming, institutional retaliation
Aakhil Lakhani talks about their 5 years of experience with Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB), including their own experience of sexual assault as a Junior Fellow (JF) on an overseas placement, and the botched response of the organization. Aakhil is a chemical engineer who works as an organizer for environmental and social justice.
3:18: “I was so deeply personally impacted by the trauma of being involved in EWB that I felt that it was important to lend my voice and my story.”
4:10: “I so distinctly remember after being assaulted in Ghana, coming back and talking to George [the former CEO] about it, and him just looking me directly in the eyes and saying to me, “assault doesn’t happen to our overseas volunteers.””
IS EWB EQUIPPED TO SUPPORT THEIR OVERSEAS STAFF/ VOLUNTEERS?
Aakhil and Chelsey discuss the systemic issues at EWB, including health and safety issues and sexual violence response (or lack thereof).
7:49: “When I asked for services and follow-up, the response was unanimously, “we are not equipped to provide this service”… Folks who were in management positions did not have the training to do support.”
11:52: “I firmly believe that the sending of JFs in this cohort was wholly unethical.”
13:24: “It seems that they don’t know what they don’t know through wilful ignorance.”
CAN EWB CHANGE?
Aakhil and Chelsey ask whether EWB has the capacity to change or be accountable.
14:08: “We’re looking at the symptoms of a systemic problem here. The symptoms of systemic injustice.”
22:13: “EWB ideology is governed by two white men with no international development or anti-oppression frameworks for understanding the world… It’s an echo chamber.”
24:12: “In a situation in which we were able to build a functioning Board, that might be one of the only mechanisms that change could be effective without going through the legal system.”
SHOULD EWB EXIST?
Aakhil and Chelsey discuss EWB’s problems with white saviourism and paternalism, lack of diversity, lack of a coherent strategy, suppression of critical thought, the ill-advised move to a “venture/social enterprise” model of development, and possible solutions to the issues at the organization.
[*Note: brief mention of “Dorothy.” For EWB’s description of this concept, see Chapter 4 of their unfortunate publication “Good Luck and Don’t Have Sex”.]
Aakhil and Chelsey wrap up Part I of their conversation by pondering the question, “Should EWB exist?”
Guest: Aakhil Lakhani
Hosted by: Chelsey Rhodes
Musical theme: by Buda Bap Beats https://www.instagram.com/budabapbeats/