Prof. Justice Bawole, Dean, University of Ghana Business School - The writer
Prof. Justice Bawole, Dean, University of Ghana Business School - The writer

COVID-19 and Poverty Pornography: The “nakedness” of the Ghanaian poor

Poverty pornography has become a global ethical concern in development work. The term refers to “ … the worst of the images that exploit the poor for little more than voyeuristic ends and where people are portrayed as helpless, passive objects”. Often, the phenomenon of poverty pornography emanates from the penchant by a powerful and exploitative, sometimes shrewd organisations/persons to elicit empathy and sympathy from donors at all cost through the use of images of the poor and vulnerable without their informed and willing consent.

The current COvid-19 pandemic has exposed many organisations and particularly politicians who are hiding behind the provision of food to the poor, weak and vulnerable, to shamelessly display these poor people on cameras and national TV without their consent. This is ethically wrong on a number of fronts:


1) that in many cases, the key reason behind these donations is to reap political capital;

2) that in some instances, the resources used as donations may actually be public resources wrongly acquired either now or in the past;

3) that the “images portray people as helpless victims, dependent, and unable” to care for themselves, without acknowledging the roles that may have been played by the same benefactors in creating and penetrating the conditions the victims find themselves in;

4) that these benefactors rarely consider the longer-term implications of their actions on the self-worth and dignity of these individual’s and

5) that citizens may have been rendered incapable by a cocktail of the impact of COVID-19, a historical residue of bad governance, poor management of the Ghanaian economy and the greed of the benefactors.

For the dignity of our citizenry, the moral obligations of not announcing our good in public, the need not to strangle the spirit of our hardworking people, the need not to take political advantage from a global pandemic (brought on our people by the very rich through their international travels), and the need to bring sanity into the management of the pandemic in Ghana, I call on all, especially the political class, to cease their promotion of poverty pornography under the guise of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Give your donations without the funfair and do not demean the Ghanaian people.

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