When I was young, I lived in a house at the top of a hill on a dead-end street. Our suburb was barely serviced by buses and had no train station. We never locked our front door, and the back door was always left ajar so the dog could come and go as she wished. Muddled scrub turkeys drifted from the nearby bushland into our kitchen and since we had no fence, the children of the street used our swimming pool as if it were theirs. It was, in every sense, an open house.
My father explained our no-lock policy to my brother and me by saying that if anybody was desperate enough to make their way to our street, then tackle the thirty-six wobbly railway sleeper steps that led to our door, they needed our stuff more than we did. Admittedly, it was a low-risk activity to open our door to an empty street – we were never robbed. But the message I took from my childhood was that sharing with those who have less than you is the right thing to do. It’s a message most parents try to pass on to their children: don’t be greedy, share. Share, because we’re all in this together.
The larger message, hammered home at the dinner table, was that the world’s ills could be solved by the redistribution of wealth. I believe that, with caveats. First, capitalism won’t allow for it on a grand scale, so that’s the end of that discussion. And despite capitalism being a system that’s working for very few people, we seem unable to think of anything better. Second, sharing wealth might not rid us of problems that are born of religion, racism and sexism. Or pride and insecurity. Or stupidity. Still, how much better would the world be if everyone had roughly the same amount of money and the same access to healthcare, education and housing?
Making the first issue of our iPad magazine, Open Field, has done nothing to sully what some may consider a childish optimism that things can be made better, little by little, by the simple act of sharing. Open Field is a collection of creative work – some written, some visual – from twenty-eight amazing women across the globe. The work is tied together by the theme ‘Change’.
Everyone involved in making Open Field has given their time and talent for free. Writers, designers, photographers, artists, musicians, businesswomen, and publishers The Royals – who tirelessly and ingeniously tackled the challenges thrown at them by Adobe and iTunes – all worked without payment. All of the content comes from women and all of the proceeds go to the charity CARE, to assist them in empowering women in developing communities. We have no affiliation with CARE – we simply want to contribute to the incredible work they do.
As with many philanthropic activities, we derived great joy from making this publication, due to the fact that every generous person involved was smart, positive and inspiring. We feel sure that people will enjoy reading it too, as the stories and beautiful artwork are witty, wise and fascinating. Open Field shares tales about meeting nuns in Israel, creating the television show Afghan Idol, surviving a summer without speech, and a life without cigarettes.
Contributors include: writer Fatima Bhutto, actor Claudia Karvan, musician Sally Seltmann, writer Anne Summers, New Yorker Cartoonist Liza Donnelly and artist Lucy McRae.
We’ve been asked why we want the proceeds to go to women in developing communities. As CARE explains, giving money to programs that empower and educate women is essential and intelligent:
Educating girls has cascading benefits. Educated women are:
- less likely to die in childbirth
- more likely to have healthy babies
- more likely to send their children to school
- better able to protect their children from HIV, trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Put simply, educating women and girls provides the single highest return on investment in the developing world.
While making Open Field has been a delight, we’ve remained steely-eyed about the problems the money will go to address. From CARE, we learned many things that appalled us. For instance:
- Of the 960 million adults in the world who cannot read, two-thirds are women.
- Seventy per cent of the 130 million children who are out of school are girls.
- A woman dies every minute from childbirth-related causes, and millions more suffer from preventable pregnancy-related injuries.
- In many countries, women work more hours per day than men, disproportionately caring for children, the sick and elderly, and managing household affairs. This leaves little time to seek paid work. Yet when women earn an income, they spend 90 per cent of it on their family, compared to 30 to 40 per cent for men.
We’re not idealistic or delusional; none of us think the funds raised from one magazine will change the world. We do hope that people find this concept a fresh and enjoyable way to donate to an exceptional charity. And that everyone who reads Open Field takes a moment to think about the way in which we respond to the problems of our neighbours. It’s not always possible to live with an open door, but it is endlessly possible to open one’s heart and mind.
Open Field is an annual iPad magazine. All content comes from women and all proceeds go to assisting women in developing countries through the charity CARE. Issue One is created around the theme of Change. Issue One of Open Field is available from the App Store here. Open Field, Issue Two, will be released in March 2013. The theme will be Place.
Kirsten Alexander is a Melbourne-based writer, copywriter and the Editor of Open Field.