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February 05 2014

Meet 3 Talented African Lady Geeks Involved in New Media

The new technology sector is booming on the African continent. The force behind this growth is mainly driven by the talent and passion of young Africans for innovation and information technology. However, these talented young people are also well aware that various areas of the tech industry in Africa are still a work in progress: skill development, competitiveness and equal opportunities for all.

We asked three talented bloggers from Francophone Africa for their opinions on new media in their region and what being a female geek (known as a ‘geekette‘) means for them.

Mariam Diaby [fr], who is based in Côte d’Ivoire, defines herself above all as an entrepreneur interested in all things digital. Her studies took her as far as London to the London South Bank University.

Julie Owono is studying law in Paris and is currently studying to take the bar exam. Originally from Cameroon, she contributes regularly to online publications such Global Voices and Quartz Magazine and is head of the Africa office of Internet Sans Frontières (Internet Without Borders).

Lalatiana Rahariniaina, based in Antananarivo, Madagascar, has been blogging since 2008. Passionate about writing and photography, Lalatiana shares her views on Malagasy society on her French-language blog Ampela Miblaogy (Woman Who Blogs). One of the winners of Radio France International's Mondoblog competition in 2011, she received training from the Atelier des Médias [fr] – RFI in Senegal. Atelier des Médias is a francophone social network that studies the evolution of media around the world.

Mariam Daby with permission

Mariam Daby. Photo used with her permission

Global Voices (GV): Do you think of yourself as a geek (or geekette)? 

Mariam Diaby (MD): Alors là, pas du tout. C'est vrai que j'ai toujours adoré les jeux vidéos (même si je n'y joue plus très souvent), que mon premier réflexe est de “tripatouiller” tout nouvel appareil technologique qui me tombe sous la main, que l'informatique a fait partie de mon cursus universitaire et que je travaille dans le domaine, mais non, je ne suis pas une Geek. Je suis juste attentive au monde des NTIC.

Mariam Diaby (MD): Not at all. It's true that I've always loved video games (even if I don't play them very often), that my first instinct is to play around with any new device that falls into my hands, that IT is major part of my studies at university, and that I work in that field, but I'm not a geek. I just pay close attention to the world of IT.

Julie Owono (JO): Qu'est-ce qu'être une Geekette, aurais-je envie de demander. Dans l'imaginaire, Geek et son féminin Geekette représentaient des êtres peu sociables, toujours le nez dans leur ordinateur, à la poursuite du dernier gadget électronique. Cette vision a sûrement changé aujourd'hui, et si Geekette, c'est être une personne qui utilise de manière intensive les nouveaux médias, dans un but précis, je pense en effet pouvoir dire que j'en suis une. Internet et les outils qui en sont des dérivés offrent des possibilités en terme de démocratie, de participation multi-acteurs dans le jeu politique, de gouvernance, de transparence, toutes ces questions qui m'importent. Je suis à ce sujet très fière d'un outil nommé Feowl sur lequel j'ai travaillé, et qui permet de mesurer le défaut d'électricité dans les métropoles africaines.     

Julie Owono (JO): ”What does it mean to be a geekette?” is what I want to ask first. It used to be that geeks and geekettes were thought of as unsocial, with their noses pressed to their computer screens, searching for the latest electronic gadget. This perception has surely changed today, and if being a geekette means being someone who uses new media intensively with a specific goal, I think I could say I'm one. The Internet and related tools offer possibilities in terms of democracy, multi-stakeholder participation in politics, government, transparency, all of these things which are important to me. In this respect, I'm really proud of a tool I'm working on called Feowl, which allows the electricity deficit in African cities to be measured.

Lalatiana Rahariniaina (LV): Si geek veut dire être passionné dans un domaine précis – dans mon cas le blogging – alors je pourrai peut-être en faire partie. Je tiens juste à préciser que ma vie n’est pas que virtuelle.

Lalatiana Rahariniaina (LV): If being a geek means being passionate about a specific topic – in my case blogging – then maybe I am one. But just to be clear, my life is more than just the online world.

GV: How are female African geeks seen in the world of new media?

MD: Je crois que les femmes africaines ont su s'imposer ces dernières années. Des femmes comme Marieme Jamme représentent le visage de la “Technology African Woman”. Il n’ y a pas de différence entre femmes et hommes, il n'y a que les compétences qui parlent, et sur ce point il n'y a rien à redire. Pour moi, elles ont le mérite qui leur revient.

MD: I think African women have known how to find a place for themselves in recent years. Women like Marieme Jamme represent the face of the ‘Technology African Woman'. There is no difference between women and men, what's important is their skills, and on that point there's no more to be said. For me, those women deserve a lot of credit.

Julie Owono avec sa permission

Julie Owono. Photo used with her permission

JO: Il faut d'abord signaler que nous ne sommes malheureusement pas si nombreuses… ou alors nous nous cachons bien ! J'organise parfois des formations portant sur l'utilisation des nouveaux médias, les candidatures féminines se font rares ! A quoi cela est dû, peut-être est-ce à cause de l'éducation distributive, en fonction des genres, qui irrigue encore le système éducatif et l'inconscient de beaucoup de parents dans l'éducation qu'ils transmettent à leurs enfants : les filles auraient plus des âmes de littéraires que de techniciennes. Il faut croire que les choses ne sont pas si différentes ailleurs qu'en Afrique, mais fort heureusement, elles sont en train de changer progressivement. On voit se développer sur le continent de plus en plus de programmes pour encourager les vocations de femmes technophiles, et celles-ci, surtout parmi les jeunes générations, ont une idée différente de leur place dans ce monde des nouveaux médias, et de leur rapport avec ces nouveaux médias. Et puis, le fait d'avoir de plus en plus de modèles ne peut qu'aider. J'ai moi-même été, et suis toujours, très inspirée par le parcours d'Ory Okolloh. Donc pour répondre, la geekette africaine c'est encore une perle trop rare, mais c'est aussi un formidable réservoir d'idées, de projets, et de progrès.

JO: First of all, it needs to be said that there aren't many of us… or we're hiding somewhere! Sometimes I organise training events for using new media, and female participants are rare! Why that is, maybe it's because of distributive education, based on gender, which still guides the principles and subconscious of lots of parents in educating their children: girls are seen as literary, not technical. Things aren't very different outside of Africa, but happily they are changing slowly. We're seeing more and more programmes being developed to encourage girls to choose technical careers, and these women, particularly in younger generations, have a different idea of their place in the world of new media and their relationship to new media. And the fact that they have more and more role models must help too. I myself was, and am, always inspired by Ory Okolloh. So as an answer, the African geekette is still too rare, but she's also an incredible reservoir of ideas, projects and progress.

LR: Je ne pense pas que dans le monde des nouveaux médias on distingue particulièrement les femmes des hommes. Cependant, si on parle de Madagascar, on constate qu’il y a peu de femmes par rapport aux hommes qui s’intéressent réellement aux nouveaux médias.

LR: In the world of new media, I don't think we really discriminate between women and men. But if we talk about Madagascar, you can see that there are few women in relation to men really interested in new media.

GV: Regarding ‘bro’ culture in Silicon Valley, is the glass ceiling more difficult to break through in the world of new media?

MD: Je ne pense pas du tout, au contraire. Les réseaux sociaux sont tellement efficaces en terme de viralité, qu'il est encore plus facile de diffuser l'information sur les geekettes comparé aux médias traditionnels.

MD: I don't think so at all. To the contrary, social networks are so effective in terms of going viral that it's even easier to diffuse information about geekettes compared to traditional media.

JO: Finalement, à force de vouloir être totalement différent, “disruptive” comme on dit, le secteur des nouveaux médias a fini par ressembler aux secteurs d'activités plus traditionnels : un monde sexiste, où les femmes n'aurait qu'exceptionnellement un rôle important à jouer. Pour autant, contrairement à avant, le plafond de verre est peut-être moins insurmontable : avec Internet, et l'ouverture que cet espace offre, il peut être un peu moins compliqué d'accéder à un réseau d'autres femmes ayant réussi, et de se faire introduire, d'être soutenu lorsqu'on a des idées, de mettre en application ces idées avec trois sous pour commencer, recevoir des financements, avoir des modèles de réussite (je pense à Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Meyer et al.), comme je l'écrivais plus haut. Le plafond de verre il est surtout dans le mental à mon avis : penser que pour y arriver dans ce domaine, il faudrait avoir le cerveau d'un homme dans un corps de femme.

JO: At the end of the day, by seeking to be completely different, ‘disruptive’ as we say, the new media sector has ended up resembling more traditional branches of business: a sexist world, where women only rarely have an important role to play. Nevertheless, compared to before the glass ceiling is maybe less impossible to break through; with the Internet and the opportunities that it offers, maybe it's a bit less complicated to get in touch with a network of other women who have succeeded, to be introduced as a newcomer, to be supported in our ideas, to start working on these ideas without the need for a huge amount of capital, to get financial aid, to have successful role models (I'm thinking of Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Meyer etc.), as I mentioned before. In my opinion, the glass ceiling is above all psychological: thinking that to get somewhere in this field, you need to have a man's brain in a woman's body.

Lalatiana Rahariniaina avec sa permission

Lalatiana Rahariniaina. Photo used with her permission

LR: Je ne crois pas. Dans le cas de Madagascar, comme je l’ai dit précédemment, les intérêts des femmes sont ailleurs. C’est ma façon de voir en tout cas. Mais j’avoue que c’est un défi permanent entre les tâches, les devoirs, les activités qui m’incombent. Et c’est peut-être l’une des raisons de cette grande absence des femmes malgaches dans le monde des nouveaux médias. Sinon, puisqu’on parle du sujet, le glass ceiling n’a pas sa raison d’être. Si les femmes veulent vraiment s’y mettre, je ne vois aucune raison qui pourrait les en empêcher. Il faut arrêter de se passer pour des victimes. C’est une grande opportunité pour montrer ce dont femmes sont également capables de faire sans toujours vouloir « s’immiscer » ou entrer « de force » dans une « culture bro ». A croire qu’on doit demander la permission aux hommes. Pourquoi ne pas créer notre « propre culture » ? Petite précision, je ne cherche pas à dénigrer qui que ce soit en disant cela – genre groupe d’hommes contre groupe de femmes. C’est juste pour dire que de notre côté, nous les femmes, nous pouvons également faire les choses, alors faisons-les.

LR: I don't think so. In Madagascar, as I said before, women's interests lie elsewhere. That's how I see it, anyway. But I admit that it's a constant challenge, between the tasks, the obligations and the activities that fall to me. And maybe that's one of the reasons for this absence of Malagasy women in the field of new media. But seeing as we're on the subject, there is no reason for the glass ceiling to exist. If women really want to do so, I don't see any reason why they shouldn't achieve their goals. The victim culture needs to stop. It's a great opportunity to show that women can achieve just as much without always wanting to ‘interfere’ or push their way into the ‘bro’ culture. You would think we need men's permission. Why not create our own culture? Just to be clear, I'm not trying to take away from anyway by saying that – I don't see it as women against men. All I want to say is that we, as women, can also do things, so let's do them!

GV: What are the strengths and weaknesses of geek culture in your country?

MD: En Côte d'Ivoire, nous avons des Geeks, des informaticiens et des sympathisants de la technologie. Parmi les Geeks, il y a ceux qui pensent innovation et développement, et il y a les autres. Nos technologues font bouger les choses à petits pas avec la communauté qui grandit, mais l'accès technologique n'est pas optimal pour qu'une culture geek s'impose et que notre Silicon Valley locale éclose réellement. Cependant, ces dernières années, ça bouge fort avec les forums et évènements technologiques.

MD: In Côte d'Ivoire, there are geeks, IT technicians, and people who like technology. Among the geeks, there are some who focus on innovation and development, and some who don't. Our technologists are making progress in small steps with a community that is growing, but access to technology isn't good enough for a geek culture to really get off the ground and for our own Silicon Valley to really flourish. Despite that, in recent years there has been a lot of movement, with forums and technology events.

JO: La culture geek au Cameroun évolue rapidement, elle est dynamique, inventive. Elle se créé ses propres opportunités, et je pense qu'elle fera évoluer la société. Sa principale faiblesse : les pouvoirs publics camerounais n'ont pas encore compris l'intérêt d'investir massivement dans les nouvelles technologies. C'est d'ailleurs le sens d'une préoccupation que j'ai quand je pense à mon pays : le coût prohibitif de l'accès à Internet. Quelle culture geek peut sereinement s'épanouir sans un Internet de bonne qualité et à un prix raisonnable ?

JO: The geek culture in Cameroon is changing rapidly, it's dynamic, inventive. It's creating its own opportunities, and I think it will make society change too. The main weakness is that the administration in Cameroon hasn't yet understood why it should make huge investments in new technology. That's the reason behind one of my preoccupations when I think about my country: the prohibitive cost of Internet access. What sort of geek culture could blossom without high quality Internet at a reasonable price?

GV: What would you like to see changing in the near future regarding IT?

MD: De la vulgarisation  des investissements pour la formation et l'équipement. C'est entre autre, ce dont le secteur IT a besoin en Côte d'Ivoire.

MD: Greater investment in education and equipment. That's one of the things the IT industry needs in Côte d'Ivoire.

JO: Plus de femmes bien sûr, et un Internet beaucoup moins cher en Afrique Sub saharienne.

JO: More women, of course, and much cheaper Internet access in Sub-Saharan Africa.

LR: Une meilleure utilisation des outils TIC par les citoyens.

LR: People making better use of ITC tools.

July 16 2013

@InsakaChat: A Twitter-Based Platform For Zambians to Discuss Social Issues

U.S.-based Zambian writer and blogger Bwalya Chileya has created a Twitter-based space for Zambians at home and abroad to discuss social issues and learn from each other.

Global Voices Online recently caught up with Chileya about how the platform is giving Zambians “a safe place to speak their truths”.

Global Voices Online (GV): Will you briefly tell us about yourself?

Bwalya Chileya (BC): My name is Bwalya Chileya, otherwise known as @MissBwalya on Twitter and my blog, Miss Bwalya Writes. I’m a Zambian writer and blogger currently based in the U.S. Professionally, I’m a project manager with a background in Economics. I was raised in Lilongwe, Malawi and Lusaka, Zambia.

GV: What exactly is InsakaChat? What does the word Insaka mean?

BC: InsakaChat is Twitter based platform for people to discuss social issues. It’s a space for people to speak up on issues, share ideas and ultimately learn from others. The idea was borne out of a need to engage with fellow Zambians on Twitter on topics that aren’t solely focused on politics and politicians.

MissBwalya

Zambian writer and blogger MissBwalya

I firmly believe that we are more similar than we are different and when we come together to discuss or even problem solve issues that affect many of us, we’re better for it.

Insaka takes place every Sunday at 6 p.m. Central African Time. While many of the topics are targeted at a Zambian audience we welcome contributions from anyone with interest in the topic at hand.

The word Insaka comes from the Bemba language (spoken in Northern Zambia) and means “a place to gather.” It’s derived from the verb isa “come.”

GV: Who is involved in this initiative?

BC: I’m the primary lead on this platform. I also have support from veteran Zambian journalist Laura Miti (@LauraMiti) who has served as moderator when needed.

GV: How do you run Insaka? Who suggests topics for discussion?

BC: I typically announce the topic for discussion on Tuesday or Wednesday, and spend time between then and Sunday advertising and reminding regular contributors to brainstorm and come prepared.

On the day of, Sunday, I spend much of the time during the 1.5-2 hours moderating the discussion. This is done by asking questions and following up on different threads, and helping steer the conversation based on what points are being raised. I follow this up by compiling a sampling of the tweets into Storify. Storify is handy because it helps people who missed the discussion to catch up, and also serves to educate people on what exactly we do on Insaka.

Topics are typically crowd sourced from folks on Twitter; these have been sent via email, WhatsApp, and direct message. I have these compiled into a list along with some of my ideas.

GV: How many topics have you discussed so far?

BC: As of July 14, we have had ten Insaka discussions.

GV: Do you use any other tools apart from Twitter for this initiative?

BC: Twitter is the primary tool we are using for the actual discussions, and Storify to compile tweets thereafter to share with friends.

GV: What has been the most popular topic so far?

BC: Our post popular topic so far has been the two-part series we did on changes in traditional Zambian marriage processes. We discussed the practice of lobola [dowry], and other ceremonies that lead up to marriage including icilanga mulilo (when the groom is formally welcomed to the bride’s family by introduction to foods typically prepared in the bride’s family), kitchen parties (a take on the western-style bridal shower) and weddings. Much has evolved over time in these various practices and it was interesting to see what people thought about the changes and the value they still have today.

GV: Are most participants living in Zambia or in the Diaspora?

BC: At this time it’s a pretty even split – 50/50. This is good because the intent is to engage Zambians both at home and abroad in the various topics because we have much to learn and share among us.

GV: What do you intend to accomplish with this initiative?

BC: What I hope to accomplish with Insaka is giving people a safe place to speak their truths. Some of the topics we have discussed are quite contentious such as the treatment of domestic workers in our culture. These are topics we often talk about among friends and in our homes but not always in the open. By bringing these to the fore I believe we challenge ourselves and others to think and act differently. And ultimately people have a voice. We don’t always have to agree on issues but at least having honest discussions is a start.

One point I always try to emphasis, is “what are the next steps?” What can we do with the resolutions we reach to take our words to actions? There is definite interest from my generation of Zambians to be more than talkers and be part of the needed changes in our society, and I see Insaka as being just one vehicle for us to share ideas, collaborate and start projects offline.

GV: Any future plans?

BC: I’m currently engaged in conversations to take Insaka to a radio platform. There is interest to make the discussions open to a wider audience which radio provides. There are number of issues to consider – the correct program format to facilitate robust conversations, scheduling, and other technicalities to have the program streaming online and live on radio simultaneously. If this works out, a radio show would not replace the Twitter platform but rather complement it.

Follow @InsakaChat (#Insaka) on Twitter and Storify.

June 09 2013

Ahmed Jedou: Blogging for Change in Mauritania

He is the young activist son of an exiled activist, who had died leaving behind a widow and young children to continue the struggle after him. He is also prolific blogger. He has become the voice of his country on many platforms, including Global Voices in Arabic, Mideast Youth and Jadaliyya [ar], to name a few.

He also has his own blog [ar] and Twitter account, where he writes about his country Mauritania and its troubles. And his blog has been chosen by netizens as the best blog in Arabic for the Best of Blogs (BoBs) award, organised annually by the Deutsche Welle.

He is Ahmed Jedou from Mauritania and here's a discussion with him, a few days before the publication of the BoBs results.

Ahmed as a child. From the blogger's Facebook page

Ahmed as a child. From the blogger's Facebook page

Global Voices: Ahmed, can you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Ahmed Jedou: [ar]

أنا مدون وناشط موريتاني اكتب من اجل دولة مدنية ديمقراطية تقوم على المساواة والموطنة واحترام حقوق الإنسان
معارض للنظام العسكري  في بلدي واكره العنصرية والعبودية وكل أشكل استغلال الانسان لأخوه الانسان من مواليد مدينة بوتلميت التي تبعد عن العاصمة الموريتانية نواكشوط 150 كلم .

بدأت التدوين في عام 2006 من خلال منصة مكتوب من خلال مدونتي التي تحمل اسم (ياعرب)ثم انتقلت لاحقا إلى منصة البلوجر وذلك مع بداية الربيع العربي حيث فتحت مدونة تحمل إسمي .وقد قررت التدوين بعد أن  تخمرت في دهني  فكرة انه بالتدوين والكتابة وخلق ضجيج على الانترنت يمكنني ان أساهم في عملية التوعية في بلدي وأن أساعد في فضح النظام العسكري الذي يحكم موريتانيا مند 1978. كذلك لإعجابي بالحركة التدوينية المصرية  .لكن مع تفاعل رواد الانترنت من خارج موريتانيا  مع نشاطي التدوين بدأت طموحاتي تتوسع حيث اصبحت أسعى إلى التعريف ببلدي ونقل صوت شعبي إلى عالم أكبر .

I am a Mauritanian blogger and activist. I write for a civil and democratic state, established on the basis of equality, citizenship and respect for human rights. I am an opponent of the military regime in my country. I hate racism and slavery and all forms of exploitation of humans by their fellow brothers. I was born in the town of Boutilimit, around 150km South East of the capital Nouakchott.

I started blogging in 2006, through my Maktoob platform and my blog was entitled back then (ياعرب) meaning “Hey there Arabs”. I then moved to Blogger with the eruption of the Arab Spring. My blog simply held my name. The decision to blog came after I was convinced that by blogging and creating a buzz on the web, I can contribute to raising awareness in my country and help in unmasking the military regime ruling Mauritania since 1978. I was also influenced by the blogging movement in Egypt. But with the interaction of non-Mauritanian with my blog posts, my ambition started to grow and I strove to introduce my country and convey the voice of my people to a bigger world.

GV: How did you get to contribute to Global Voices?
Ahmed:

كان انضمامي للأصوات العالمية نقلت نوعية في مشواري التدويني وأظن انه كذلك في مشوار التدوين الموريتاني .فالأصوات العالمية ساعدتني في تحقيق أحد احلامي وهو التعريف بموريتانيا على الانترنت حيث اصبحت اكتب عن الاحداث الجارية في بلدي وأسوق ما يكتب المدونين الموريتانيين ليتم ترجمته إلى كل لغات العالم وهو ما جعل أصوات جديدة تتعرف على بلدي المجهول للعالم .كذلك ساعدتني في ربط علاقات مع نشطاء مهمين عبر العالم كان أغلبهم لا يعرف شيء عن موريتانيا وأصبحوا لديهم معلومات عنها وساعدوني في التعريف بها ونقل صوت شعبها المحتج إلى كل بقاع الأرض.

وهذا هو دور الأصوات العالمية وهو إعطاء الفرصة للشعوب التي تقع خارج نطاق التغطية من أجل أن تحكي قصصها وتتشارك مع العالم تجاربها ومعاناتها.

فقبل انضمامي للأصوات العالمية كان للاقتباسات التي يقوم ياخدها بعض كتابها من مدونتي دور مهم في الترويج لها حتى اخدتها الجزيرة الانجليزية مصدرا وكدالك ذكرتها الجار ديان ؟

Ahmed at the GV Summit in Nairobi, Kenya

Ahmed at the GV Summit in Nairobi, Kenya

Joining GV was a qualitative leap in my blogging path and I also reckon it is so for the Mauritanian blogging movement as well. GV has helped me in fulfilling one of my dreams, which is to introduce Mauritania globally on the web where I wrote on current affairs in my country and also promoted what other bloggers wrote. So through GV, their blogposts where translated into many languages, which made my unknown country known by new readers. GV also helped in getting me acquainted with renowned activists from all over the world. Most of them knew nothing of Mauritania and now they are informed about it. GV has helped me in conveying the voice of my country's protesting people to every corner in the world.

GV: What does blogging means to Ahmed ?

Ahmed:

التدوين بالنسبة هو الوسيط الذي أستطيع من خلاله ان انقل صوت الانسان الموريتاني إلى العالم واحكي قصة شعبنا وأودي دوري في مشروع التغيير في بلدي .وهو الهواية الأقرب إلى قلبي فقد اصبح جزء من وجداني ومن تفاصيل شخصيتي وحياتي وهو أفضل طريقة للنشر تلائم طريقة تفكيري فأنا ضد كل أنواع الرقابة .

Blogging for me is the medium through which I can convey the voice of the Mauritanians to the world and relate the history of my people and play my role in promoting the change project in my country. It is my most cherished hobby and it even became part of my conscience, and an integral part of my personality and my life. It is the best means, which suits my way of thinking because I am against all forms of censure.

GV: Aside from blogging, what are the other platforms on which you are active online?

Ahmed:

أنا أنشط على مواقع فيسبوك وتويتر وبنسبة أقل على جوجل + .

فالفيسبوك يساعدني في نشر ما اكتب على مدونتي الى جمهور أكبر خاصة الموريتانيين كذلك يساعدني أنا وبقية النشطاء المطالبين بالديمقراطية في الحشد لوقفاتنا الاحتجاجية التي ننظم فمن خلاله عبئنا لأول خروج للشباب الموريتاني للمطالبة بالدولة المدنية وذلك في 25 فبراير 2011 ومازلنا نحشد به . اما تويتر فيساعدني في نقل احتجاجاتنا إلى عالم أكبر وربط الصلات بنشاطاء من بقية البلدان .

I am quite active on Facebook and on a lesser degree on Google +. Facebook helps me in disseminating what I write and reaching to a bigger audience, especially among Mauritanians. It also helps me and other Mauritanians demanding Democracy, to mobilize for our protests, which we organize. Through Facebook, we mobilized for our first Mauritanian Youth Demonstration, demanding a civil state, on the 25th of February, 2011. We still resort to Facebook for that purpose. Twitter helps me in conveying our protests to a bigger number of people and to network with activists from other countries.

Ahmed at a protest in Nouakchott. From the blogger's Facebook page

Ahmed at a protest in Nouakchott. From the blogger's Facebook page

GV: How do the Mauritanian Authorities deal with bloggers and digital activists?

Ahmed:

يتعرض المدونون في موريتانيا وحتى الصحفيون لشتى انواع المضايقات فالشرطة حين تقمع المتظاهرات لا تفرق بين الصحفي والمدون والمحتج وتعتقل الجميع وتنكل به . صحيح أنه لا يوجد مدونون في السجون لكن كل حين يتم توقيف احدهم اثناء تغطيته لحدث ما .

لكن السلطات الموريتانية تحاول دائما قرصنة حسابات النشطاء وكذلك تتعمد إبطاء الانترنت في موريتانيا بحيث يصعب على الناشط تحميل الفيديوها او حتى ولوج مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي .

Bloggers in Mauritania and even journalists are subject to all kinds of harassment. When the police repress protests, they do not make the difference between a journalist, a blogger and protester and thus arrest everyone — and torture everyone. It is true that there are no bloggers in prisons but every now and then someone is arrested while covering a certain event. Moreover, Mauritanian authorities always try to hack activists’ accounts and resort to slowing the internet so that it is difficult for activists to upload videos or even access social networks.

GV: In that context, you have been arrested yourself a while ago. What can you tell us about this?

Ahmed:

انا سبق وتم توقفي مرتين أثناء الاحتجاجات التي ينظم الشباب الموريتاني والتي تعرف بانتفاضة 25 فبراير .فأول توقيف كان في 25 إبريل 2011 حيث كنت أصور قسم الشرطة بعد ان تم اعتقال مجموعة من النشطاء من أصدقائي والمرة الثانية كان يوم11 فبراير 2012 وذلك أثناء مسيرة تطالب برحيل النظام العسكري.لكن تم توقيفي مرة أخرى ولكن ليس في احتجاج ولا بسبب التدوين لكن في حظر تجول غير معلن وغير قانوني حيث رفضت الانصياع له وكتبت عنه على مدونتي وحاولت مع بعض النشطاء أن نخلق حالة من الرفض لحالة الطوارء التي تقوم بها السلطات في سرية وهو خرق للقانون.

I have already been arrested twice during protests held by Mauritanian youth, during what is known by 25 February Uprising. The first time was on the 25th of April, 2011, where I was photographing the police offices following the arrest of some of my activists friends. The second time was on the 11th of February, 2012, during a march calling for the end of the military regime. And the last time (on March 8, 2013) I was not arrested because of a protest or for a blog post but because I refused to yield to an unannounced and illegal curfew. I even blogged about it and attempted with some fellow bloggers to initiate a state of refusal for this emergency state enforced by the authorities.

GV: Even though you write mostly about Mauritanian affairs, we notice that from time to time you blog about other countries. Why is that?

Ahmed:

صحيح انني موريتاني واكتب غالبا عن واقع بلدي لكن في النهاية انا مواطن عالمي وإنسان يشعر بآلام الآخرين والظلم الذي يتعرضون له وتعجني نضالات كل الشعوب وتجعلني أتفاعل معها واكتب عنها . فأنا كل محتج في العالم يمثلني وكل طالب حق هو اخي وتوأم فكري.

فثورة البحرين ثورتي وكذاك ثورة مصر وتونس وليبيا وسوريا واليمن والمغرب وأنتظر بفارغ الصبر إنتفاضات في بقية بقاع الأرض الملطخة بالدكتاتورية والظلم واعتبر أن الكتابة عن الاخرين واجب فقيم الإنسانية تملي علي ذالك.فأنأ اعيش من اجل حرية الإنسان والفكر .

Though I am Mauritanian and I write mostly about my country, I am also I am a citizen of the world and human being who empathizes with the suffering and injustice incurred by others. I feel the struggle of other people and I interact with them and thus I write about them. Every protester in the world represents me and every right seeker is my brother and the twin of my intellect. The Bahraini revolution is my revolution, so are the ones in Egypt, Tunis, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Morocco and I am looking forward to uprisings in the rest of the countries tarnished by dictatorship and injustice and I consider that writing about others is a duty implied by the principles of humanity. I live for the freedom of the human being and of the freedom of the thought.

GV: Despite the low penetration rate in Mauritania, the country presence this year on the web is noticeable. The biggest proof is that you and and your fellow Mauritanian blogger Nasser Weddady have both been selected for this year's BoBs awards. Also, Weddady gave a speech in front of US President Barack Obama, representing the Muslim Community, following the Boston Marathon Bombings. How do you explain this?

Ahmed:

اعتقد ان ترشيحي انا لجوائز البوبز لهدا العام هو إفراز من إفرازات النشاط الذي بدأ به المدونين الموريتانيين على الانترنت وعملهم المكثف والمستمر ومحاولتهم التواصل ونقل أصواتهم للعالم رغم ضعف الوسائل وعدم انتشار الانترنت بالشكل المطلوب.كذلك ارى اني انضمامي للأصوات العالمية نقل مدونتي لعالم اوسع وعرف بها مجتمع أكبر وهو ما ساعد مدونتي في دخول المنافسة .أيضا كوني جزء من الحراك في موريتانيا والعالم العربي وأحد أصواته وأن مدونتي احدى منابره قد يكون عامل أخر.
اما بخصوص ناصر ودادي فهو شخص استثنائي في كل شيء فلغاته الخمس التي يتحدث وعلاقاته التي صنع طوال سنين ونشاطه المتميز على الشبكة ووقته وجهده الذي يبذل من اجل الدفاع عن الحريات والمظلومين. تجعل وقوفه امام اوباما والحديث باسم المسلمين في أمريكا وترشيحه للبوبز أمر طبيعي وغير مستغرب و ما وصل إليه هو مجهود فردي.فناصر معروف لدي الكثيرين من الذين لا يعرفون أين تقع موريتانيا ولا أي شعب يسكنها .

I think my selection for the BoBs this year is one of the results of the dynamic initiated by Mauritanian activists on the net and their extensive work and attempts to communicate and transmit their voice to the world despite the lack of means and the low internet penetration rates in my country. I also believe my contribution to Global Voices has transferred my blog to a wider world and made it known by more people, which helped in it being considered for the competition. Another factor could be the fact that I am part of the dynamics in Mauritania and in the Arab World and one of its voice and that my blog is one of this movement's platforms.

As for Nasser Weddady, he is an exceptional person who speaks five languages and who has built relations for years and has an exceptional activity on the net, where he spends lots of time, deploying great efforts to defend freedoms and oppressed people. All these elements made his speech in front of Obama and the fact he was representing Muslims something natural and not surprising. All this is the fruit of an individual effort. Nasser is known by many who ignore where Mauritania is even located and where its people live.

GV: Finally, let's suppose you're tweeting and so in just 140 characters you have to tell GV readers about your country, using the hash-tag #Mauritania. What would you say?

Ahmed:

#موريتانيا بلد غني بالموارد قليل السكان متعدد الأعراق.تجري فيه احداث صراع سرميدي بين المواطنبن الحالمين بالديمقراطية والنظام العسكري الفاسد!

#Mauritania a country rich in resources, multi-ethnic. An eternal conflict between the citizens dreaming of democracy and the rotten military regime is taking place.

All photographs in this post were taken from Ahmed's Facebook account and used with permission.

May 27 2013

From Guinea to Italy to France and Back: An Interview with Blogger Abdoulaye Bah

Global Voices author and translator Abdoulaye Bah, originally from Guinea, is a retired Italian citizen who has worked for the United Nations. He splits his time between Rome and Nice and has collaborated [fr] with GV since December 2008, having contributed to thousands of written posts and translation in French as well as a considerable number of posts [it] for the Italian group and some more in English.

Bah also runs his own blog, the Konakry Express, where he writes about Italian and African politics. His latest post unfortunately details [fr] his recent encounter with racism in an Italian restaurant in Nice in which a man roughly shoved him out the door of a restaurant, an incident he is speaking to anti-racist NGO SOS Racisme for help.

Before that terrible incident, we had the opportunity to speak with Bah about his life, from his experience hiding in a bathroom to enter Italy without the proper papers, to his marriage in the Vatican, from his foray into cinema to his multi-belief family.

Global Voices (GV): You are originally from Guinea Conakry. When did you arrive in Italy? How would you describe your experience of arriving clandestinely in the country?

Abdoulaye Bah (AB): Precisely last April it was 50 years since I first arrived in Italy, in Florence, to study. However, it wasn't then that I arrived clandestinely in the country. Nevertheless, shortly after my arrival, my documents expired and I was faced with the experience of being “sans-papier”. The life of a student without a scholarship is difficult, however the Italian police didn't employ all the xenophobic measures that they use today.

Despite the help I received from many friends, I experienced hunger to the point where I sat my first university exam in a state of dizziness. Luckily, the Archbishop of Florence, H.E. Ermenegildo Florit, under the recommendation of Mayor Giorgio La Pira, offered me the possibility to eat at the charity Caritas’ canteen and sleep at the homeless shelter [it].

GV: So when did you illegally enter Italy?

AB: It happened after the end of my studies in Florence, in 1967, just after obtaining my diploma in statistics. I continued with a specialisation course, then I went to Paris where I wanted to work and save up to buy a ticket to return to my country. When my father found out, he came to find me and advise me against returning to Guinea because the dictatorship had become more merciless, with tens of thousands of arrests and massacres of innocent people, particularly among the academics of our ethnicity.

Not having any documents, it was not easy to obtain a visa to return to Italy. I took the train from Paris to Rome the day after Che Guevara's death, 9 October, 1967. Arriving on the border at Ventimiglia, I instantly felt the police controls, I went into the bathroom leaving the door open and clung to the partition above the toilet cubicle. When the police agents entered they looked around without noticing me and closed the door. And that's how I managed to re-enter Italy.

A priest who had just founded UCSEI [it, Ufficio centrale studenti esteri Central Office for Foreign Students] took me on as a writer for 20,000 lire a month, with which I could pay the rent. I also managed to find extra activities to earn a little more. I summarised and translated scientists’ biographies, in particular for the Pontificia Accademia delle Scienze [Papal Academy of Science], and later I worked for the IRI [Institute for Industrial Reconstruction] as a public relations consultant in their office for international co-operation.

I clandestini di oggi,

Today's clandestines, “I'm in Italy, I'll become rich!!”, by Gianluca Costantini (2005) under licence CC 3.0

GV: Your nation is, from a religious point of view, predominately Muslim. What can you tell us about marrying in the Vatican and can you explain how it came about?

ABIn Guinea, religion is practised in a tolerant manner. From a young age I experienced a lot through contact with my grandfather, who was an important religious leader and died at Mecca. I followed many of his sermons, full of compassion. After secondary school my father paid for my studies at a school run by priests, the best in Guinea. Given the environment in which my personality developed, different religions have never been a problem for me.

In 1969, when I met my soulmate and we decided to marry, I couldn't obtain any documentation from my country. I was living illegally in Italy. I couldn't supply complete documentation to ask for a civil marriage. Father Remigio Musaragno [it], the director of UCSEI, made the proposal of marrying in the Vatican. The instruction on mixed marriages issued on the 18th March 1966 [it] solicited a few guarantees from me – relevant also in my country -, the respect of my wife's religion, the commitment to not obstruct the religious education of our children, and the understanding of the indissoluble nature of marriage contracted in church.

By and large I've kept to my commitments, we are still married and I have not obstructed the Catholic education of our children. Our eldest has even become a Franciscan Tertiary, on this past 7 April, while our second-born is agnostic. I've become a member of the Radical Party.

GV: Would you like to tell us something about your son's experience who became a Franciscan Tertiary?

AB: In all the countries I have visited, my wife and my three children have always practised the Catholic religion. Furthermore, in our house we have always received priests as much as in Addis Abeba, my first place of work for the United Nations, and in Vienna, where we lived for a longer time.

In Vienna we tried to teach our children about the Muslim religion as well, in order to allow them to choose between Islam and Catholicism. However, teaching Islam is difficult in a European environment because one should learn to read and write Arabic. So we asked some North African students who studied in Vienna to explain the foundations to them.

When our children decided to be baptised, Ahmed, the eldest, didn't want to do it and leave me being the only Muslim follower in the family. We had already explained to him that it wasn't the case because I didn't practise any religion. Only then did he too get baptised. Returning to Rome, to carry out work, he started to attend a Franciscan community and work voluntarily for Caritas, discovering his vocation.

GV: Your relationship with the Catholic Church also includes a small role in Nanni Moretti's film “Habemus Papam“: How did that come about and what role did you have?

AB: That participation was pure coincidence. When the director set about making the film, he needed immigrants of a certain age from all over the world. Unfortunately when filming started I was ill and I only took part in a few scenes. I was close to Michel Piccoli, to his left. I was the Cardinal of Zambia. I've never dreamed of working in film even though I had the fortune of participating in films by famous directors such as Federico Fellini and Gillo Pontecorvo in the 1960′s in the Cinecittà and De Laurentiis studios.

Abdoulaye Bah

Abdoulaye Bah

GV: How did you get involved with Global Voices? And the blog Konakry Express [fr]?

AB: One evening in December 2008, by then I had retired, to avoid arguing with my wife about what to watch on TV, I started to search on the Internet for a voluntary activity I could undertake. Among the sites I came across was Global Voices. I read a few posts and liked them. Immediately, I contacted Claire Ulrich, the person in charge of the French group and I started to partake.

I didn't have any blogging experience beforehand. I didn't even know what Facebook, Twitter, netizen, citizen media, blogs or posts were. My only previous activity had been the creation of a forum for the victims of the dictatorship in my country. I became a blogger thanks to the patience of Claire Ulrich, who helped me create Konakry Express [fr], a blog designed to broadcast information of the grave violations of human rights that occurred in Guinea on the 28th September 2009.

GV: What relationship is there between your activity as a blogger and your involvement in politics with the Radical Party?

AB: I experienced the 1968 protests in Italy, I followed or took part in many of the youth protests for the decolonisation in Africa, the fight against Apartheid, condemnation of the Vietnam War, the fight against segregation in the USA. The topics which were at the forefront for the Radical Party in Italy could not but engage me: the fight for the rights for abortion and divorce and against world hunger. It is also thanks to the radical initiatives which arose in the 1990′s with the creation of the International Criminal Court, with the discussions about suspension of capitol punishment worldwide or the successes against female genital mutilation.

My sensitivity towards human rights is the fruit of the experience faced in my country and during the peace missions in which I participated, in places where these rights were being violated, such as Cambodia, Haiti and Rwanda. In my blogs, I try to write or translate posts on these topics which are in my heart.

GV: Speaking of which, what is your opinion of the situation in Guinea Conakry today?

AB: In 2010, Alpha Condé, a former academic professor of rights at Sorbona, was elected as president. Many citizens expected improvements but, unfortunately, he is the worst president the country could have had so far due to the rifts his politics are creating among ethnic groups. In his government, there are people accused of crimes against humanity, not only by international NGO's or the UN, but also by Guinean justice, and yet they maintain the same positions of responsibility which they occupied when they committed these acts or they have even been promoted. They should have been able to have elections a few months after the presidential elections but there is no common ground of understanding between the government and the opposition. The future doesn't look promising. [Read this previous interview [it] with Abdoulaye for more on this topic.]

 

May 07 2013

Remembering Dennis Kimambo

Rising Voices note: This tribute post was written by Janet Feldman, upon learning about the death of Dennis Kimambo of the Rising Voices grantee project REPACTED on April 29, 2013. At the time of publication, the circumstances surrounding his death are still being investigated.

When I first heard the news that Dennis Kimambo had been missing for over a week, I was worried, but envisioned him in a rural part of Kenya, conducting an HIV/AIDS educational outreach, or in Dubai, where he had been invited at one point to play in a golf tournament, one of his favorite pastimes.

After the news came that his body had been discovered on April 29, and that he had met a violent death, I could not fathom or accept it. Stan Tuvako, a close friend of ours and the person who actually introduced us, said in the aftermath of the announcement: “it was shocking how much violence this man of peace encountered.” That this courageous soul faced violence and death again and again over the decade I knew him, and continued to do the work for which he seemed born, was just one of the remarkable qualities we so loved and admired in him.

Dennis Kimambo

Dennis Kimambo

Dennis had a motto: “humanity before politics.” During the 2007-2008 post-election conflict in Kenya, which threatened to spiral into civil war, Dennis and many others faced threats to their lives and safety on a daily basis, yet continued to reach across political and cultural lines in attempts to quell the violence and encourage tolerance, understanding, and cooperation.

I knew Dennis virtually for many years before we met in 2007, the only time I would ever see him in person. Our relationship was forged via email and phone, and built on several mutual passions, including the use of arts and media to address HIV/AIDS and health issues, the empowerment of young people, and the peaceful resolution of conflict. I was a mentor in the beginning, but felt like a student myself as he forged ahead in the many forms of activism that distinguished his brief but meaningful life.

Dennis began his career in several youth groups based in his hometown of Nakuru, Kenya. After we met, he became one of the mainstays in the ActALIVE arts coalition I founded in 2002, whose mission was to bring together artists and others using creative approaches to health and development issues, specifically focusing on HIV/AIDS.

In 2001, Dennis and young theatre artists from the Nakuru Players Theatre Club founded the theatre-for-development nonprofit, REPACTED (Rapid Effective Participatory Action in Community Theatre Education and Development), which uses a new and unique form of audience participation and interaction–called “magnet theatre”–to educate young and old, women and men, prisoners, and people already HIV-positive on health issues, behavior change, stigma and discrimination, and self-empowerment. The “Mr. and Miss Red Ribbon” contest, held each year on World AIDS Day (December 1), is an innovative beauty pageant emphasizing the importance of self-esteem and healthy lifestyles for those who are HIV-positive.

Several other opportunities emerged that would carry Dennis and his peers in new directions, including a grant from the MTV “Staying Alive” Foundation that funded HIV/AIDS education and prevention efforts among the male and female inmates at the prison in Nakuru. The grant also allowed community-theatre outreaches to young people to educate them about HIV/AIDS, encourage use of prevention measures, and promote voluntary counselling and testing (VCT).

Dennis (on the right) and colleagues at the REPACTED offices in Nakuru. Photo by David Sasaki and used under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

Dennis (on the right) and colleagues at the REPACTED offices in Nakuru. Photo by David Sasaki and used under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

Dennis and other members of ActALIVE in Kenya, India, Thailand, Nigeria, USA, Uganda, South Africa, and elsewhere became involved in 2005 in the first World AIDS Day activities of the Global Peace Tiles Project, an arts endeavor using collaged tiles as a means to convey messages about peace, health education, HIV/AIDS prevention, and sustainable development.

In 2007-2008, Dennis and other peace activists in Kenya faced perhaps their greatest challenge to date: quelling the violence that was threatening to kill thousands and destroy the fabric of Kenyan society. He and a group of Kenyans and others from around the world, myself included, became involved in a project called “Pyramid of Peace,” a name coined from an acrobatic act created by the Nafsi Afrika Acrobats based in Nairobi, whose theme is peaceful co-existence among the various tribal groups in Kenya.

Dennis Kimambo. Photo by David Sasaki and used under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

Dennis Kimambo. Photo by David Sasaki and used under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

The Pyramid of Peace, created under the auspices of the Lithuania-based think-tank Minciu Sodas, helped members in Kenya to confront violence and seek peaceful resolution to conflict. One unique feature of this endeavor was the use of cellphone credits to help us communicate with each other and also to distribute within areas of conflict to the various factions. Dennis credited this approach with saving his life at one point, when he was confronted by an angry mob.

REPACTED began to incorporate the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) during this time, and the two Rising Voices grants the group received helped immensely to increase and improve their efforts. The first grant enabled the purchase of equipment (video and photo cameras, a computer, and a modem) that allowed REPACTED to introduce a group of 27 young people to the digital world. Blogging was a focal point, and this resulted in invaluable participation in RV's “Blogging Positively” project, which has produced an e-guide, a map of bloggers who write on HIV/AIDS themes, and follow-on discussions about next steps, such as development of a curriculum.

The Rising Voices grant also allowed REPACTED to organize a Youth Media Consultative Forum, to train local residents to gather news and stories and share them with an international audience. Various forms of citizen media were envisioned and used in this project, and magnet theatre formed a central part of these efforts. In addition, REPACTED helped Kenyans displaced by the civil disruptions of 2007-2008 to tell their stories, and in more recent times has organized civic-education activities regarding elections, voting, and constitutional matters, all in hopes of ensuring that history does not repeat itself.

The REPACTED weblog at RV contains four years (2007-2011) of informative and insightful postings about the group and their work.

“Denno,” as his friends often called him, has been described in recent days as a loving father, a wonderful husband, a leader of great vision, a cherished friend, a person of “light,” a force for good, an activist who helped change hearts and minds. He had the dreams of a Martin Luther King, and the courage and determination of a Gandhi. He was a hero to so many of us, and he will be always.

In trying to find a way to recover the inspiration and hopefulness he embodied, and move forward with the work to which Dennis gave his life–and perhaps for which he gave his life (a police investigation is now ongoing as to the motives behind his death)–I am reminded of the lyrics to a song I know he would have loved, called “Times Like These” (Foo Fighters): “it's times like these you learn to live again, it's times like these you give and give again, it's times like these you learn to love again, time and time again.”

Thanks so much for teaching us how to live, to give, and to love, Dennis! You were and always will be a man for times like these, and what you gave to the world will be remembered and cherished time and time again.

April 29 2013

Lenin Paladines: Science Fiction from Ecuador

With his blog [es] about science fiction, the young writer from Loja, Lenin Paladines, keeps his passion for writing alive while working to promote reading among young people.

When he was 19 Lenin won the Ángel Felicísimo Rojas novel prize, awarded by the House of Ecuadorian Culture [es] in 2010, for his only novel that had been published at that time: El Diario de Lorenzo (Lorenzo's Diary). Lenin, a student of Social Communication at the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja [es] and a Law student at the Universidad Nacional de Loja [es], has other works that still have not been published.

We talked to Lenin about his life, his experience as a writer and his blog.

Lenin Paladines dialogando con global voices

Lenin Paladines talking to Global Voices. Photo by Gina Yauri.

Global Voices: What was your childhood like?

Lenin Paladines: Mi mamá trabaja en una biblioteca. Ella siempre me llevaba allá. No me gustaba jugar con niños de mi edad sino encerrarme con los libros. Toda la vida he vivido rodeado de libros; desde ahí nace la cuestión de escribir.

Lenin Paladines: My mom worked at a library. She would always bring me there. I didn't like to play with the kids my age, I preferred to close myself in with the books. I've lived my whole life surrounded by books; that's where writing comes from.

GV: What is writing for you?

LP: Es una forma de expresar lo que puedes, porque el problema de la mayor parte de las personas es no tener los medios para poderlo hacer, aprovechando la manera de contarles a los demás lo que uno tiene por dentro.

LP: It is a way of expressing what you can, because the problem that the majority of people have is not having a way to do that; it is making the most of the method to tell everyone else what you have inside.

GV: Do you choose the characters or do they choose you?

LP: Uno tiene una idea, pero las cosas o los personajes van apareciendo a medida que se va trabajando, sin que se lo haya planificado la mayor parte del tiempo.

LP: You have an idea, but the things or the characters appear while you are working, without it being planned most of the time.

GV: Is the work of a writer never-ending?

LP: No es tanto que te dedicas a escribir, sino es ponerse a leer. Desde el punto de vista del lector nunca se va a terminar de leer. Sí, es interminable.

LP: It is not so much that you focus on writing, but that you spend time reading. From the point of view of a reader, you will never stop reading. Yes, it is never-ending.

GV: What do you read?

LP: Novelas de ficción de Julio Verne. Ahora estoy leyendo bastante Lovecraft y Stephen King.

LP: Fiction novels by Jules Verne. Right now I'm reading a lot of Lovecraft and Stephen King.

GV: Is each book an adventure for you?

LP: Sí, cada libro te permite conocer lugares que nunca imaginaste y te permite sentir de alguna manera lo que ese escritor quiso dejarte en especial.

LP: Yes, each book allows you to learn about places that you never imagined and it allows you to feel in some way what that writer wanted to leave especially for you.

GV: What has been the most gratifying experience that you have had as a writer?

LP: El poder incentivar la lectura en mis amigos y que estos me digan que les ha servido de algo.

LP: Being able to encourage reading among my friends and that they tell me that it was worth it to them in some way.

GV: People are reading printed material less and less due to the innovation of new technology. What do you think about this?

LV: No es culpa de la tecnología. Es cierto que la gente no lee, pero para incentivar a la lectura es necesario hacer buen uso de la misma, buscar la manera atractiva de la tecnología para que las personas lean. Una forma es el hipertexto que se complementa con información extra a la lectura.

LV: It is not technology's fault. It is true that people don't read, but to encourage reading we have to make good use of it, we must find the attractive technological way so that people read. One way is hypertext that complements the reading with extra information.

GV: What do you think is happening in Latin America as far as reading is concerned?

LP: Ecuador está mucho más atrás en comparación con otros países. En Guayaquil y en Quito hay clubes de lectura, en otros países son mucho más común. Es importante que las personas se den cuenta que leer es importante para poder avanzar.

LP: Ecuador is far behind compared to other countries. In Guayaquil and in Quito there are reading clubs; in other countries they are much more common. It is important for people to realize that reading is important to be able to move forward.

GV: What would your advice be for promoting the culture of reading?

LP: Tarde o temprano se darán cuenta que es necesario leer. Y otro es que los profesores deberían incentivar con el ejemplo en el ámbito de la lectura; necesitan forman profesionales integralmente completos, no sólo teóricos o formación técnica, que les permitan desarrollar otro tipo de competencias.

LP: Sooner or later they will realize that reading is necessary. And another thing is that professors should lead by example in the area of reading; they need to produce professionals that are well-rounded, not just with theories or technical training, they should allow them to develop other types of abilities.

Lenin keeps up his blog Este lugar… Donde el horizonte no es más que el principio de esa dimensión que nunca encontramos (This place… Where the horizon is no more than the beginning of that dimension that we never find) [es], where he writes about science fiction, which is what he is most passionate about. He also reads and follows other blogs, like Tejiendo el mundo [es], Raguniano el blog para el libre pensamiento [es], El Blog de Laura [es] y Fumamos de gorra, y no por necesidad [es].

GV: Why did you decide to write a blog?

LP: Escribo regularmente columnas para un periódico de la ciudad, pero lamentablemente los periódicos tienen esquemas demasiado cuadrados y restringidos que no te permiten ir más allá, como por ejemplo escribir narrativa dentro de las columnas de opinión. Eso sumado a los problemas de límites en cuanto a la extensión de la escritura y sobre todo a la posibilidad de que más gente me lea me hizo decidirme a abrir un blog.

LP: I regularly write columns for a newspaper in the city, but unfortunately newspapers have guidelines that are too square and restricting and don't allow you to go further, like for example writing a narrative in the opinion columns. That, added to the problems of limits on how long the piece can be, and above all the possibility that more people would read me, made me decide to start a blog.

GV: How has having a blog helped you?

LP: Me ha ayudado en el sentido de aprender la responsabilidad de tener un blog. Actualmente cualquiera podría tener uno y escribir sobre lo que se le dé la gana sin ningún problema o filtro editorial, para eso es Internet. Pero la responsabilidad que tú tienes al estar tu nombre expuesto a que cualquiera lo revise y cualquiera critique tu trabajo hace que te fijes más en pequeños detalles y realices mejor tu trabajo.

LP: It has helped me in the sense that I have learned the responsibility of having a blog. These days anyone can have one and write about whatever he or she wants with no trouble and no editorial filter – that is what the Internet is for. But the responsibility that you have with your name on it, so that anyone can look at it and criticize your work, makes you focus more on small details and do a better job.

GV: What are the long-term objectives for your blog?

LP: Mantenerme escribiendo sobre todo, porque si uno no escribe se olvida de cómo hacerlo, y promover el hábito de la lectura entre los jóvenes.

LP: Above all that I keep writing, because if you don't write you forget how to do it, and encouraging the habit of reading among young people.

GV: What would you say to the readers that still haven't heard of you so that they decide to read your blog?

LP: Que en el blog podrán encontrar literatura joven interesante, original, que busca utilizar las bondades de las nuevas tecnologías para mejorar los niveles de lectura en los chicos.

LP: That in the blog they can find young, interesting and original literature that tries to use the good things about new technology to improve the reading levels of young people.

Close to finishing his two university degrees, Lenin is a little more on track for working in education.

You can follow him on Twitter: @lvpaladines

March 25 2013

Attention! Baby on Board: An Interview With a Travelling Blogger Family

An interview with The Family Without Borders: Anna and Thomas Alboth, parents, travellers and bloggers who've been around the Black Sea and around Central America with their two small daughters.

In 2010, a young couple from Berlin – Anna, a Polish journalist, and Thomas, a German photographer – decided to live on their globetrotting dream – and they decided to do it with their 6-month-old daugther Hanna on board. With a fully-packed Renault Espace they made a half-a-year-long road trip around the Black Sea, through the Caucasus to the Caspian Sea. The idea worked out so well that in 2012, already with their second daughter Mila, they travelled in Central America from Mexico down to Guatemala, Belize and Honduras.

From their first trip on they decided to share their unusual experiences through their blog, The Family Without Borders [en; Facebook]. The interest turned out to be so significant that in 2011 the blog was named the Best Travel Blog by the Polish edition of the National Geographic.

Global Voices (GV): Let’s imagine 25 years forward. Your daughters have their own children and want to go travelling with their babies. What is your reaction?

Mexico (yukatan), Holbox Island. Picture used with the permission of Thomas Alboth. Copyright: Thomas Alboth

Mexico (Yukatan), Holbox Island. Photo © Thomas Alboth, used with permission.

Anna (A): I hope it will be this way. Recently, we've had some discussions about parents, kids and grandkids and how it all can change. We were a bit afraid that maybe they will choose a totally other way of life than we did and that it would be hard to accept it if they would start saying things like, “I want to go to a hotel.” But on the other hand, the more they grow up the more I feel that I’m scared that something can happen to them, all these mother-ish things.

Thomas (T): I would have wanted it. But I’m also not so sure if they will like this lifestyle, I have friends who grew up in a community flat and then they turned into the opposite. I’m also pretty happy to be completely different from my parents. So maybe one day they will stay in a hotel, will have nice rolling suitcases and that’s ok.

GV: You received the National Geographic title for the Best Travel Blog in 2011. Why do you think your blog became so successful?

A: I think it was two things. First, we didn’t plan for it to be big, so we were just doing what we liked, and I think these things are always going bigger when you just do what you love. We have known all these travel bloggers who had business plans, but for us it was basically writing for the grandparents, so that they could see Hanna safe and smiling. That was the beginning. After a while we started to check the statistics and we saw that people from 20, 40, 50 countries were visiting the blog, and we were like, “wow”. There is this generation of young Europeans who are studying abroad, travelling, making international couples and they think that if they have kids it will be all over. I think when they see what we did, they see hope that it all really doesn’t have to be over.

The whole family in their flat in Berlin. Photo by Kasia Odrozek

The whole family in their flat in Berlin. Photo by Kasia Odrozek

GV: Did you have a clear work division: who is writing, who takes pictures and so on?

A: Yes, we had clear divided tasks. It happened that I made some pictures but not often, normally the camera was in his hands all the time. I was writing the posts, Thomas wrote maybe two posts in these three years. For the blog he does all the technical things and I do all the human communication work. And on the road Thomas usually drives and I usually tell him where we are going [laughing]. The whole thing works when we are doing it together. A couple of weeks ago, he was in Burma and I was in Palestine and we didn’t post anything on the blog, and it felt strange.

GV: Would your experience be different without the blog?

A: For me having the blog was very motivating to get more knowledge about everything. On the second trip, I was writing in a much more journalistic way, so I was noting many more things, asking for more context while talking to people, taking leaflets in museums and so on. I don’t know if I would do all of this without knowing that I will publish it.

T: I was a bit jealous, because writing means reprocessing, while editing pictures is not the same experience, you don’t need more knowledge, you don’t have to understand the situation to make a picture.

At Lake Sevan in Armenia. Photo © Thomas Alboth, used with permission.

At Lake Sevan in Armenia. Photo © Thomas Alboth, used with permission.

GV: What is your favorite memory when you look back at your travels?

T: More than a memory it is a feeling of being self-paced, that you decide about your own life. When you stay in one place you get into this daily rhythm, you get up, grab a coffee in the morning, you take a tram or metro and you go to your office, and 80 percent of your day is predictable. That’s what I liked about the trip, for a half of the year you decide what you want to do.

GV: Was there a moment when you thought, “This was a mistake”?

A: There was one such moment when I was scared and I thought that all these people saying that we were irresponsible parents were right. It was the night at a hotel in Guatemala where we saw three big men with guns passing by the corridor, talking angrily on the phone. We had to do something to feel better, so we asked them if they were dangerous. We didn’t speak too much Spanish but, luckily, we knew the word peligroso, dangerous. They answered “yes, but not for you and not here.” Then we learned that in Guatemala everybody has guns because they hadn’t been disarmed after the civil war.

GV: You say that your travels were about people and their stories. What was the craziest thing you heard or experienced?

T: If you come from a different world, even just the way people live their everyday lives seems interesting and sometimes strange.

The family has a hard time to say goodbye to their hosts in Guatemala, Chilasco Waterfall. Photo © Anna Alboth, used with permission.

The family has to say goodybe to their hosts in Guatemala, Chilasco waterfall. Photo © Anna Alboth, used with permission.

A: During the second trip, in Guatemala, we were hosted by a Mayan family in their small house with plastic chairs and a TV. After we talked to them, they were surprised, but not by the fact that we were travelling for so long – but that we could live without a TV for so long. Then in the evening, when I started to cut potatoes for a soup, all these small girls immediately started to help me because that’s what they do, they do everything together. When we were leaving, they were asking when we would come back and it was heartbreaking, we wanted to say that we would call but they didn’t have a phone, they wanted to write a letter but they didn’t know how to write.

GV: Any plans for the future?

A:We have to go on a trip again, of course. But before we do it, I need to finish my book on Central America, then we will go travelling again.

On March 26, 2013, The Family Without Borders will share their pictures and stories at a slideshow presentation at the Globetrotter shop in Berlin. For more details, please visit their blog or Facebook.

January 23 2013

Sina Picks Kai-Fu Lee as China's Most Influential Micro-blogger

The former head of Google China Kai-Fu Lee, is the most influential man among all the micro-bloggers, according to Sina Weibo. He topped the popular micro-blogging platform's recently released list [zh] the “100 Most Influential Weibo Celebrities.”

Apart from his day-to-day job as the helmsman of a Beijing-based company that helps fund start-ups, Kai-Fu Lee is also a social media veteran —putting his spin on various hot topics and interacting with his more than 26 million  ollowers every day on Weibo, a Twitter-like microblog service that is three years old. He has even written a book about social media, “Microblog: Changing the World.”

Kai-Fu Lee. By Flickr user Hubert Burda Media CC: BY-NC-SA.

Kaifu Lee’s Number 1 title is anything but accidental. He constantly weighs in on China’s thorny issues that resonate with the general public. He recently had this to say in response to the highly strained online train ticket booking system [zh]:

@李开复:有人说买票软件网民才会用,民工不会用,导致社会不公平,所以违法。若这也算违法,那以后是否:民航局禁止用去哪儿买票、交通部禁止用导航抄捷径,商务部 禁止用淘宝买便宜货、教育部禁止用英语学习软件准备高考、卫生部禁止网上挂号看医生?若要照顾民工,只有铁道部从源头做起,线上线下做分配。

Some people say only netizens know how to use the booking software, migrant workers don’t, which leads to social injustice, therefore ( the booking software) is illegal. If this should be counted illegal, should the Civil Aviation Bureau ban “Qu Naer” to assist ticket buying? Should the Ministry of Communications ban GPS that helps people cut through the road, Should the Ministry of Commerce ban people from buying stuff on Taobao, should the Ministry of Education ban the use of English learning software for students preparing for the entrance exam to universities, should the Ministry of Health ban online registration for seeing doctors? If (we) want to care for migrant workers, we should start from the source, the Ministry of Railways, and achieve a combination of online and offline distribution.

And he never shys away from voicing his own opinions. Earlier, Global Voices published posts of a censorship row involving the liberal-leaning Southern Weekly newspaper. The heavy-handed censorship in which a newspaper editorial was brutally altered enraged netizens and an ensuing newspaper staff strike gained the support of many, including Lee.

@李开复:真相永远只有一个,掩耳盗铃只会使事态恶化、公信透支。权力属于人民,人民需要真相

There is only one truth, to deceive oneself is only going to make things worse and lead to credibility deficit. Rights belong to people and people need to know the truth.

Lee also retweeted several posts showing support for the newspaper as the censorship row continued to reverberate in the cyberspace. Then he was reportedly invited to “have tea” with the police which means some form of interrogation and presumably he would be warned to rein in his comments on the very matter. Later Lee vented his frustration in his micro-blog:

@李开复:好难喝的茶!!

The tea was awful!!

Besides lee, the top ten list is mostly made of entertainers and pop-stars. Coming in 2nd and 3rd are He Jiong and Xie Na, both hosts of a weekly show, Happy Camp aired on China’s flagship entertainment channel, Hunan Satellite TV. Actress Yao Chen and Yang Mi, who rose to fame by starring in popular TV series and movies are among the top 10.

Some prominent Chinese journalists and news personalities also made the top 100 list including, State broadcaster CCTV’s Rui Chenggang, Hongkong-based Phoenix TV’s Luqiu Luwei, self-employed talk show host Yang Lan and the Global Times editor-in-chief, Hu Xijin.

The site also revealed top performers in four categories [zh] which included weibo accounts of media, websites, universities, enterprises and government departments.

Sina Weibo said the rankings were based on activity level, coverage ratio of the posts, and number of retweets. However, many believe that platform has been in cooperation with the Chinese government in promoting opinion leaders.

January 19 2013

Profile of Brazilian Blogger Nessa Guedes, the Coca-Cola Girl

[All links lead to Portuguese language pages, except when otherwise noted.]

The Global Voices Online community works together to share the voices of thousands of bloggers and citizen journalists who live around the world. Sometimes, however, these same bloggers are the target of our curiosity.

In the interview below, we will discover a little bit more about Nessa Guedes, a 23 year old blogger from the south of Brazil relocated in São Paulo. A feminist, programmer, and vegetarian, the Coca-Cola Girl is above all somebody who does not stand down in the face of injustices in the world.

Global Voices: Who is Nessa Guedes?

Nessa Guedes: Programmer? Blogger? Project Manager? Volunteer? Feminist? Vegetarian? Cyclist? Bonne vivant? Digital activist? Open software enthusiast? Even today I can’t say who I am, because I never know if I’m speaking about my profession, activism, or activities. I left Porto Alegre to meet new people, and because I found myself identifying with a lot of different causes. I wanted to better understand what to do in order to participate in those causes and to experience other perspectives.

Blogger and activist, Nessa Guedes

Blogger and activist, Nessa Guedes

Bloghttp://garotacocacola.com.br/
Twitter@nessoila
Facebook: Nessa Guedes
Favorite Link: ANDA (News Agency for Animal Rights)

GV: Why write a blog?

NG: The blog came about in a totally different context. I was 17 and had a lot of free time – I wanted to express my impressions of the word and share them with whoever was interested. With time, I stopped talking about my personal indignations exclusively and opened the blog topics to a more general realm, thinking about mobility, choices, politics, professions, careers, behavior and relationships.

This all was part of a long and continuous growth of perception and of the world. You can say that the blog is a faithful reflection of an adolescent girl becoming a woman.

GV: Why the “Coca-Cola Girl?”

NG: Coca-Cola Girl comes from a feeling of being a part of a world I don’t totally agree with, and from which I can’t effectively leave, which at times kills me. I have often thought about becoming a hermit, but even if I chose to live in a cave, private property would still follow me, since there is no land on the Earth that doesn’t have a landlord. So I would either have to buy a cave or invade it, which would leave me at the mercy of things that I don’t necessarily support. Another thing that doesn’t let me “abandon” the world in the way I would like is the fact that I know that there are people who need help, precisely because they don’t have the consciousness of living in an unjust context which forces the underprivileged to count on the bare minimum of food, sanitation, and freedom of choice.

Ser uma “garota coca-cola” é estar eternamente presa a propriedade privada, à mídia, à legislação, sem poder escolher estar ou não dentro delas. É não beber coca-cola mas ainda ser alvo de um mundo viciado em refrigerante. Apesar de que eu bebo coca-cola às vezes.

Being a ‘coca-cola girl’ is being eternally subject to private property, to the media, to legislation, without being able to choose whether or not you want to be a part of them. It’s not drinking coca-cola but still being the target of a world hooked on soda. That said though, I do drink coca-cola from time to time.

GV: What is your favorite post on the blog? And why?

NG: I think the post in which I admit to watching pornography – it’s a big taboo in Brazil to say that women consume this type of content. Another is the post in which I vent about the meritocracy and talk about the horrible experience when I saw a guy in agony in front of me and wasn’t able to do anything. The saddest thing about this post was the banality of the death of homeless people just because they live in the streets. It was as if life didn’t mean anything if the person didn’t have any possessions. Life, by itself, didn’t have any value. You have to be something to get protection, respect, and help: this is wrong. Very wrong.

GV: And how do people react to your posts?

NG: My friends are used to being the main readers of the blog. A lot of people e-mail me instead of commenting on the blog: as many to congratulate me as to disagree with me. I think it’s great, since I can exercise my ability to argue my ideas while also being able to look at my posts from a different point of view. Every once and a while a discussion will come up that is more intense and goes on to other topics outside the context of the original post, like lists of e-mail discussions and re-posts from other blogs.

Eu gosto dessa movimentação. Às vezes, inclusive, mudo de idéia sob certos aspectos - e acho isso extremamente importante para quem busca estar sempre à frente no entendimento das coisas que compreende como erradas no mundo.

I like this exchange. Sometimes I even change my opinion about certain aspects – and I think this is extremely important for anybody looking to be at the forefront of understanding things I think are wrong with the world.

GV: Has your activism caused you any problems?

NG: In 2011 I had problems when a video from the Folha de São Paulo, in which they interviewed me about the SlutWalk in São Paulo [en], I lost my professional standing because of the repercussion. But it was a manageable crisis that, along with other factors, culminated in my firing. I don’t regret having maintained my opinion, and I will never be ashamed of having it being exposed in my workplace; I never committed any crime. Criminals can be people who hide from unjust situations and don’t do anything to make it better, but people who speak up when they thing something is wrong and take the step to get out of their chair and really change the situation are never criminals. I’ve learned that lesson for life: to never get upset with myself if I loose an opportunity to work because of my opinions and ideas or because of things that I have done in my life. I thank the heavens for not having had to invest my time in jobs and people who don’t respect me like I would respect them.

Nessa Guedes holds a Blogueiras Feministas (Feminist Bloggers) sign dring the SlutWalk in São Paulo

Nessa Guedes holds a Blogueiras Feministas (Feminist Bloggers) sign dring the SlutWalk in São Paulo

Favorite quote:

Be the change you want to see in the world.” Dalai Lama

Favorite person to follow on Twitter:

At @srtabia, because I admire the way with which she touches all the communities involved, and how she always expresses her opinion without compromising, or without offending people. She’s always very gentle and subtle with a lot of respect.

GV: Are blogs important in an era in which Facebook and other social networks dominate?

NG: Well, blogs are more than important in the era of social networks: They are our guarantee of political autonomy on the internet. When we use social networks or non-independent blogging clients, we all submit to the their use and privacy policies. With independent blogs, we are truly free.

GV: And what else does Nessa Guedes do?

Nessa Guedes in her developer hat at the iMasters hackathon, Intercon 2012. São Paulo, Brazil.

Nessa Guedes in her developer hat at the iMasters hackathon, Intercon 2012. São Paulo, Brazil.

NG: Nessa works with digital production for a publicity agency. I’ve always liked technology and every once and while I get a freelance web developer job. I’m used to doing volunteer work in the area of Information Technology, and I participate as much as possible in any related events. One of my passions is to teach, and whenever I can I tech a developer course for people outside the industry. It’s not always for free, but always with a lot of enthusiasm. I’m a jedi member of the Garoa Hacker Club, and an outreach volunteer for the Mozilla Foundation. I’m also a member of the Blogueiras Feministas (Feminist Bloggers), a discussion board and portal about feminism in Brazil. I also write about web development on my other blog.

My background is in networking and computers, but I have done a bit of everything in my life, from a volunteer phone operator at an NGO which took care of dogs, to studying Physics as an undergrad for three frustrating years at UFRGS (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul). I always loose myself when I’m asked what more I want to do beyond working, or beyond blogging; there are so many things…

GV: To finish up, an idea in one tweet to change the world:

NG: Don’t put off something you can do in the next 5 minutes.

 

January 15 2013

Interview with Szabolcs Panyi, Editor of Global Voices in Hungarian

Szabolcs Panyi, 26, is the author and editor of a popular Hungarian blog, Véleményvezér (”Opinion Leader”). He joined Global Voices in Hungarian in September 2011, and since March 2012 he has been the site's co-editor.

Global Voices: Junior Prima Award [hu] is handed to talented young Hungarians every year. Is it possible that in 2012 you were the first blogger to receive it [hu]?

Szabolcs Panyi: Yes, I'm the first one who received it as a blogger. It's extraordinary for sure, but it's not only about me, but about the blog [hu], and therefore it's about the other authors as well. On the other hand, with this [award] the importance of blogs is also recognized.

GV: Before you joined Global Voices, I often quoted Véleményvezér on our English site, because I believed its name reflected what it did: it's an opinion leader blog for Hungarian readers. What was the key to making a blog dealing with public affairs so popular?

SZP: I think mostly the fact that we are trying to write Anglo-Saxon style texts, brief and as even-tempered as possible. Blogs and Hungarian op-eds are usually quite passionate, partial and ironic in style. We wanted something different. Our aim is not to reach agreement, but to make people think. We drifted more towards critizing the government lately, though, but the whole Hungarian politics has changed.

Szabolcs Panyi

Szabolcs Panyi, blogger of Véleményvezér

The concept [of the blog] is that we highlight the most important event of the previous day, so we basically help those who are not following politics so closely to always find important stories, and they don't have to go through a bunch of things. In addition to this, we are cooperating with Index [a news site], and we owe a lot to Index and Blog.hu [a blog service of Index], because they promote us on their main page, among their own content, and this way they send a lot of readers to us.

GV: Do you know your readers, do you have an idea about who reads Véleményvezér?

SZP: According to the statistics of our Facebook page, it is mostly people between 25 and 45, male, residents of Budapest [the capital]. I often meet people who tell me that they read it, and it's always good to hear that. Recently, mainly middle-of-the-road, disillusioned, disappointed right-wingers, and long-time critics of the governing party have started reading us. But those who we'd rather like to address are a little bit like us, under 45, [people in their] 20s and 30s, who want to see Hungary following Western norms and maintaining good relations with its Western allies, rather than with the oppressive regimes, since we belong in the West. And, of course, [those who want] the government to pursue a reasonable, pragmatic economic policy because that makes the country strong. That is to say, classic right-wing moderates who have been watching the events of the Hungarian politics with a long face for a while now.

Our name is Véleményvezér [“Opinion Leader”] because the aim is not only to reach out to a lot of people, but to reach those more important people who have influence and opinion-making powers, or are in decision-making positions. Capitalizing on this, we are trying to draw attention to issues we find important, that's why we deal more with certain things than the broader audience would find it important - for instance, with the country's communist secret service past.

GV: At some point you invited public figures, journalists and experts to comment on your posts. What was the procedure you followed?

SZP: We disabled commenting to the broader audience, everyone can comment on our articles on Facebook [hu] using their real names, there we usually receive 50-200 comments to each text. On the blog, 20-30 invited commenters can reply, they are mainly economists, journalists, political commentators, university professors, experts from different backgrounds, who are all under 45 and have produced something valuable in their fields. They would be our ideal readers, and they are the ones we would like to present to our readers as figures who are more noteworthy than those run-down, old columnists who grew up during socialism and have been repeating the same things since then.

GV: Was there any other reason for directing commenters to Facebook?

SZP: The level of the Hungarian commenting culture is pretty low, and we wanted quality comments on our site, and to develop quality debate culture there. We received plenty of comments on the posts, let's say more than a thousand, and to find something meaningful, you had to scroll through the whole thing, thus it was totally worthless content, or rather the valuable content was lost among the worthless [comments]. But by taking this step we were able to make sure that comments were adding value in every case.

The latest example was a comment by Lászó Varró of the International Energy Agency [Head of the Gas, Coal and Power Division], and when Index highlighted the comment on their main page, that directed an additional 20,000 readers to us. Only by having that comment featured.

GV: In your article [hu] published on the occasion of the Blog Action Day you wrote that the Hungarian bloggers were free, they could publish anything. Do you still believe that?

SZP: Yes, they can publish virtually anything. Of course, there are bloggers leaning to political parties, whose blogs are financed by parties in one way or another, or they themselves work close to politics. Obviously, they don't write about certain things or are not framing so harshly even when criticizing their own people, while they are promoting certain topics popular on their political side.

GV: If bloggers can write freely, can we say that they have taken over the role of journalists to some extent?

SZP: We bloggers can react faster and can work on our stories almost without any restraint, while poor journalists have to sit in newsrooms and [publish news wires] around the clock, and they often remain with an almost total lack of creativity and no time to write opinion. It's in the genre of op-eds where bloggers have to a large extent taken over the role of journalists. There are not many traditional, well-known, respected columnists left in Hungary, those who are around are outdated, they publish in dailies, so the people we are addressing are not really reading them.

From left to right: Emőke Kilin, Szabolcs Panyi, Tamás Novák, Kata Molnár, Nóra Netoleczky, Andrea Buzás, Andrea Höll, Diána Dobsinszki – volunteers of Global Voices in Hungarian.

GV: Why was it important for you to volunteer on Global Voices?

SZP: I'm very interested in the situation in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Third World semi-dictatorships and dictatorships. During the spring of 2011, on a blogger trip to Germany, I met bloggers from Tunisia, Indonesia, Mongolia and other places, and I was very moved by the fact that we had the same occupation, we were members of the same generation, and how different were the consequences of blogging in Hungary and in those countries. I was looking for opportunities to advocate their causes in my country, or at least to draw attention to them. Global Voices is a very good opportunity to do this.

GV: What are the biggest challenges that GV's Hungarian team is facing?

SZP: The most challenging aspect is that topics from outside our borders that are not directly related to Hungary are less interesting to Hungarian readers, except for tabloid topics. For example, the sexual assault case in India was one of our most popular posts and was re-published by other sites as tabloid news. But many have also read the post on the death of the Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti, which was a bit surprising to me, but I was happy that people at least heard about this terrible story in Hungary. Unfortunately, it's very hard to find readers interested in issues such as net freedom and free speech online.

GV: What was the most popular post or issue that Global Voices translated into Hungarian?

SZP: In addition to the ones mentioned above, the most popular were our translations on the Safarov case - because those were related to Hungary, since it was the Hungarian government that for economic advantages set free the Azeri Ramil Safarov who had killed an Armenian fellow student in Budapest. The axe murderer received amnesty from the Azeris right after being released, and he was celebrated as a hero - even the Azeri president's unofficial Facebook page cover was swapped for Safarov's photo. The translations told this story, and it was then circulated in the Hungarian online media.

December 20 2012

Mirelis Morales' ‘City of Fury': A positive view of Caracas

The blogger, tweep and journalist Mirelis Morales Tovar is a “genuine caraqueña.” She was born in the Venezuelan capital and says that “although the traffic and safety problems are almost always overwhelming,” she can't imagine living anywhere else.

Mirelis runs the blog Caracas Ciudad de la Furia (Caracas City of Fury) [es], where she invites readers to describe the positive side of Caracas: experiences, places, images, flavors and sounds missed by many people who haven't taken the opportunity to get to know their city.

On her blog Mirelis describes herself [es] as a “citizen on foot, on a moto, on a bus, on the Metro and in a car.” In an interview with Global Voices, Mirelis told us:

I love the view of El Avila [a national park in Caracas] and this exceptional climate. Besides, I owe everything to this city and to my country. My family, my friends, my loves, my work, my relations… everything I am. For this, I should repay it somehow.

Mirelis took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her blog.

GV: How, when and why did Caracas Ciudad de Furia begin?

Mirelis Morales T.: Originally the blog began in September of 2009 to archive the pieces I had published in the Caracas section of the Diario El Universal [a Caracas newspaper]. But when I stopped working at the newspaper, the blog became my means to continue practicing my profession. I decided to focus on the theme of the city because it's what I had been doing and because very few people speak about Caracas from a positive angle.

So I dedicated myself to write about the city from a more constructive perspective, which would help show us its potential and to reflect on what we as citizens can do to make it more livable or less hostile.

Mirelis Morales Tovar

Mirelis Morales Tovar in Caracas. Photo: Carlos Armas.

GV: Why did you call it “Ciudad de la Furia”?

MMT: I got the sentiment from the music of [Gustavo] Cerati. And I believe there is no better phrase to describe Caracas than City of Fury. Caracas is just that: it's furious, rebellious, chaotic, unpredictable. It's a city of contrasts and contradictions. But in spite of everything, it refuses to die.

GV: Various blogs [es] focus on Caracas. What makes yours different? What do you hope to achieve with this blog?

MMT: I'm trying to show an image of Caracas beyond that of chaos, traffic and danger. Why? Because I'm convinced that Caracas is more than that. Those of us who live in the city have faith that it is. When you're capable of defying prejudices a little and you begin to walk through the city, to get to know it, to discover its curiosities, you begin to reconcile with it, to see it from another perspective. And the city will also calm down and begin to show you the best of itself.

The only way to generate a sense of belonging and identification with your city is to know it. And I believe that this is a big problem for caraqueños [people from Caracas], that they don't know their own city. Fear keeps them locked up. Because of this, I do my best to invite readers to go out, to offer them alternatives, to tell them my experience in this or that place, so that they venture out and live Caracas.

Many of the blog's readers have accepted this invitation and have shared their own experiences in Caracas by participating in Ciudad Positiva (Positive City) [es], a photo competition that Mirelis has organized since 2010. On November 4, 2010, Mirelis wrote:

Our proposed challenge was to focus our gaze –if only for a minute- on a friendly side of the city. On that thing -natural or constructed- that characterizes us as the capital city or that differentiates Caracas from all other cities in the world.

Photos from the 2010 and 2011 editions can be found on Flickr.

GV: Tell us a little more about the photo contest Ciudad Positiva.

MMT: In addition to being a blogger I also tweet. While on Twitter, I noticed that people love to post photos of Caracas and I thought that maybe I could use the blog to promote a contest to choose the best photos and to disseminate them in another format. This is how I came up with the idea of creating notebooks of Caracas with the winning images. Why notebooks? Because it seemed to me that they would be a good way to carry the best of the city with you or to exchange it with others.

The contest has had three editions. And each year we have a different theme. The first year, we showed what characterizes Caracas; the second, its people; and the third, its colors. Every edition we have added more allies who believe in a positive city and we hope to have an open-air exhibition to share our vision of the city.

GV: What's in store for Caracas Ciudad de la Furia in 2013?

MMT: I would love to be able to change the blog's image. I've already begun to move to WordPress. I would like to create a logo. Essentially, to make it more professional. I want to include information that will be useful for people visiting Caracas, since the city lacks maps or guides. Thanks to the blog I've been in contact with people from Argentina, Spain, Costa Rica and Chile who have written to me asking for recommendations about the city. With that in mind, I would like to make the blog a little more formal and offer more alternatives.

GV: Do you have any advice for bloggers writing about cities?

MMT: To keep their eyes open. A city is a living being that always has something to offer. To look without prejudice. To be open to trying new things. I believe that every city has good things to offer. And it is good to be critical, but always with a constructive vision. To be a blogger is also to be a public servant.

Mirelis has received various acknowledgements for her blog. In 2010, she received the Premio Arturo Uslar Pietri del Colegio Nacional de Periodistas [Arturo Uslar Pietri Prize from the National School of Journalists] for “best web site” [es], and the “Caracas through a journalist's eyes” -mention in online category- award granted by the Caracas Chamber of Commerce. This year, the mayor of Baruta gave her a “Citizen Values” [es] award for promoting civic coexistence.

Follow Mirelis and her blog on Twitter (@mi_mo_to).

December 13 2012

Meet Global Voices Contributor - Janet Gunter

Whenever members of the Global Voices community travel to another country, they usually find a way to meet one or more fellow ‘GVers'. A few days ago, contributor Janet Gunter was in Lima, Peru, and I arranged to meet over some typical Pisco Sours, and talk about her involvement with GV.

Here are some questions and answers based on our conversation; alternatively watch Janet's interview on video (English subtitles available):


Juan Arellano (JA): How did you get involved with GV?

Janet Gunter (JG): Through Sarita [GV Portuguese Language Speaking Countries Editor], and our blogs about East Timor. We actually met in person for the first time in East Timor. Then I met Paula [GV Multilingual Editor] here in London. GV has always been for me about meeting and working with good people. On the GV Portuguese email list, I feel like I have dozens of friends around the world with similar interests and values. That's something really rare for me.

Janet Gunter, photo by pattamanuch.com used with authorization.

Janet Gunter, photo by pattamanuch.com used with authorization.

JA: So you started collaborating with GV Portuguese as a translator, an author, or both?

JG: As an author - covering Portuguese speaking Africa. Then when people started writing in Portuguese, I started translating their work into English. I mostly translate our African authors.

JA: Tell us about your role in GV's special coverage “Europe in Crisis“.

JG: I'm the instigator / cheerleader! I lived in Portugal for three years and I feel things that are happening there have a personal importance to me. Sara and I thought that there needed to be more coverage of citizen voices with the deepening crisis in Europe in 2011. And so we just started a Special Coverage page, and there has been a tremendous response from authors, translators and from our audience. Plus Greek, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French GV sites all have very “engagé” [engaged] editors. It's been a real pleasure linking and getting to know everybody across Europe. We're now 60-70 authors and translators collaborating and communicating.

JA: Is there something new you think could be done to improve GV's coverage of Europe (in crisis)?

JG: We need an RSS feed, and ideally we need an editor but we are looking for institutional sponsorship for this.

As a freelancer you work with NGOs whilst at the same time keeping another foot in other areas. How do you reconcile these sometimes very different worlds?

JG: With 30 columns on my Tweetdeck and having no “personal life”! In all seriousness, I realize that a lot of my activist skills - especially around networking and communication, are useful in my professional life. In the “professional sphere”, many respond increasingly favorably to my description of myself, which is very real about what motivates me and what kind of person I am. The person and professional are mutually reinforcing. If that makes sense. (This really came out when I “mapped” my interests.)

JA: Two questions then: What really motivates you? And, what challenges have you faced in your different jobs?

JG: What motivates me? First, other people! I want to work with dynamic, good people. Beyond people, a combination of reacting to injustice, creativity, and wanting to be out in the world. Challenges are dealing with burnout, systems that are not responsive or made for real people, convincing management and institutions to take risks.

JA: You say you're a bad tourist but at the same time you have travelled a lot. Tell us something about this.

JG: The only reason to accumulate money or wealth is to then spend it on experience! I don't own a house, don't have a car, don't own much at all. I travel a great deal for work. But I also enjoy slow train journeys and visiting my many friends in far flung places.

JA: Can you share some of those great travelling experiences with us?

JG: Too many - that would be a book in and of itself! Last winter I took the train from Los Angeles to New Orleans, departing from my California family, stopping in the west Texas plain for a couple of days and ending up with friends in New Orleans. It was slow, magical, meditative. I love empty spaces, so west Texas was a perfect interlude. There is nothing like travelling alone in short spells, then arriving to friends or family. In New Orleans I finally reconnected with a long lost friend, and New Orleans meant so much more to me, after having worked and travelled in Brazil and other places. Then I went to see my 94 year-old grandfather who was born in New Orleans, and drove two days back to my hometown of St Louis, with my dad, dodging tornado warnings and listening to country music on AM radio, arriving in time for my mother's warm soup for dinner. This is the kind of trip I love.

Apart from all the things she is currently doing, Janet finds time to work on a personal project: the restart project. She talks about this project in the following video:

You can find Janet online here and also on Twitter (@JanetGunter).

November 26 2012

Chris Moya, SpainRevolt and Cyberactivism

This year's Global Voices Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, provided the perfect opportunity to do video interviews with the blogging community in attendance. Software developer, cyberactivist and Global Voices collaborator Chris Moya was one such interview.

Chris is equal parts innovator, software developer, musician, citizens empowerment activist and co-founder of the website spainrevolution.com [es] - precisely the project we discuss in the following video:


Recently Cibervoluntarios and Empodera.org [es] published an e-book entitled Redvolution: el poder del ciudadano conectado [Internetvolution: The Power of the Connected Citizen] (PDF in Spanish). Chris was asked to contribute to the project, and based on what he wrote we learn the following about the internet and the value of information:

Information can be found on the internet immediately, as it is occurring, now there is no need to wait for traditional means of writing, editing, censuring and publishing. Those who own the information will continue to have power, but this has changed, now we hold the information while they are the same: those that desire to control information, those that offered it to us on a platter.

They first handed us the tools thinking that they would still be able to control how a citizen used that tool, and immediately thereafter the first netocracies popped up; networks defined by their horizontal structure, lack of defined leadership or hierarchy, no longer limited to only those you know or restricted to any particular group, but with a new idea of society, one adapted to the time in which we live. Once you cross that tipping point, there's no going back.

Chris believes that it is in the internet and through cyber empowerment and networking, where unjust governments can be confronted:

At any moment, while sitting at your desk in your bedroom you have options. You could contact the “Department of Citizens' Affairs,” something you know will not work. Or you can join communities of social activists that are advocating for decisions on global issues. You could also write a blog post detailing your point of view and then someone sends the post to one of those sites that distributes news and overnight you have seven million hits, perhaps garnering attention from the President Secretary who, after dying from embarrassment from the poor social image he now has and the number of votes that are slipping away, decides to rethink his methods.

The other option you have is to share your ideas on social networking sites, discovering thousands of people think as you do, and in a moment getting those same thousands of people to take to the streets in protest.

You close your computer and think: today I feel like more of a citizen than ever.

Chris offers details about some tools for today's activists:

cyberactivism, social innovation, social technologies, networks, empowerment projects, citizen participation, internet transparency, open government, crowdfunding, free discourse on the internet…

All of these and many more are the tools every activist has in his toolbelt. These actions, movements, ways of thinking, processes of building the internet, manners of sharing information and culture, are lines of thought for a twenty-first century citizen.

Chris talks about these digital tools in the following video:


In a final moment of reflection, Chris shared:

In a world that revolves around the drive for money, which promotes individuality, the selling of ideas, the selling of nearly anything, people are turning up, and not just a few people but thousands that believe in proposing, sharing, organizing, and developing ideas with a singular objective: putting the common good above the benefit of the self.

This is as paradigm shift as exceptional as the model of industrialization.

As this idea matures, the virtual frontiers of the internet will transcend into the daily life of civil society, in each one of us and each of you and another world will be altogether possible.

Finally, it is worth noting the other projects on which Chris is currently collaborating: Apps4Good (an initiative with Dale Zak of Canada), with artists like Jordi Abello, developing banking apps for cell phones and supporting journalists like Lali Sandiumenge on projects such as MésCafèambllet [es] (find out more about it here).

Other related posts:

Afef Abrougui, Blogging From Tunisia
Talking With Rebecca MacKinnon About ‘Consent Of The Networked'

The first video was subtitled in english by Anuj Kumar
The second video was subtitled in english by solana.larsen
This post was originally published on the blog Globalizado.

November 24 2012

Made in Libya: Blogger Ahmed Ben Wafaa

Ahmed Ben Wafaa is a science teacher who started blogging in 2000 in order to express himself on the state of things in his country and through his blog “Made in Libya” [ar] he succeeded in becoming a source of information during the Libyan revolution.

On his blog, Ahmed introduces himself as follows [ar]:

اسمي أحمد علي بن وفاء ، ليبي ، ولدت بقرية “أبوروية” في مدينة مصراته سنة 1981، أحمل شهادة بكالوريوس من كلية العلوم (قسم علوم الحياة). عندي شغف كبير بالتدوين – لكنه الكسل!

My name is Ahmed Ben Wafaa. I am Libyan. I was born in the village of Aburuya in Misratah in 1981. I hold a BS from the Faculty of Sciences (Life Sciences department). I am very fond and passionate about blogging but it is laziness [which prevents me from blogging more].

I interviewed Ahmed following many attempts to contact Libyan bloggers due to the weakness of means of communication in Libya nowadays. It took him a month to respond, he said, because he was unable to get access to a good Internet connection.

Photo of Ahmed posted on his blog “Made in Libya”.

GV: When did you start your activities on the Internet and what attracted you to the blogosphere?

أحمد بن وفاء: بدايتي مع الإنترنت كانت عام 2000، وقتها كان التدوين العربي يتعثر في خطواته الأولى، وقد أعجبتني فكرة أن يكون للمرء صفحة خاصة - خلال بضع دقائق - يعبر فيها عن أفكاره واهتماماته المختلفة (سياسية، تقنية، فنية الخ) بحرية، بعيداً عن جمود واحتكار وسائل النشر التقليدية.

Ahmed: My story with the Internet dates back to 2000. Back then, blogging in the Arab World was still in its first steps. I liked the idea of having one's own and private page where he can express his ideas and various interests (political, technical, artistic …) freely, away from the monopoly of mainstream media.

GV: Can you tell me a bit about the dangers that faced Libyan bloggers during [former Libyan dictator Muammar] Gaddafi's regime?

أحمد بن وفاء: كان التدوين عن السياسة أمراً شبه مستحيل لأن أي انتقاد تفسره الأجهزة الأمنية - ضيقة الأفق - كتهجم على رأس النظام (القذافي شخصياً) فيتم قمعه بشكل فوري، ومازلت أذكر ما تعرض له الصحفي ضيف الغزال عام 2005 حين كتب مقالاً على الانترنت ينتقد فيه الفساد والقمع الذي يتعرض له المواطن، فتم اختطافه وعثر على جثته لاحقاً وعليها آثار التعذيب (ومبتورة الأصابع) في إشارة واضحة لا تحتاج إلى تعليق!

Ahmed:Blogging about politics was almost an impossible thing because any criticism interpreted by the narrow vision of the security apparatus as an attack on the head of the regime (Gaddafi in person) and is met with an immediate crackdown. I still remember what journalist Daif el Ghazal went through in 2005 when he wrote a piece on the net criticizing corruption and oppression faced by people. He was kidnapped and his body was found later on with marks of torture (his fingers cut) in a clear sign that needs no comment.

GV: Everybody knows that the blackout in Libya and the banning of foreign channels to enter the country, made the bloggers the most important source of news during the Libyan revolution. Could you tell us about experiences which reflect this reality?

أحمد بن وفاء: بصراحة لم يكن للمدونات دور كبير أثناء الثورة لأسباب كثيرة ربما من ضمنها خشية المدون من اكتشاف هويته من قبل النظام، فلجأ معظمهم للكتابة بأسماء مستعارة والانتقال لمخاطبة الشريحة الأكبر التي تستخدم فيسبوك بالإضافة لسرعة انتقال المعلومات هناك وسهولة مشاركتها، وأذكر أنه في يناير الماضي قام بزيارتي صحفي اسمه عبد الله السالمي من قسم (BBC Monitoring) -وهو قسم مهتم بالحصول على الأخبار من مصادر إعلام المواطن كالمدونات وتويتر وغيرها - وأخبرني أن مدونتي كانت ضمن 3 مدونات ليبية كانوا يحرصون على زيارتها بشكل يومي أثناء الثورة الليبية، وأعتقد أن عدد المدونات النشطة أثناء الثورة لم يتجاوز 10 مدونات (من داخل البلاد).
وقد كانت مهمتنا في غاية الصعوبة بسبب سيطرة النظام على قطاع الإنترنت بشكل كامل وقيامه بقطعه على كامل البلاد بعد وقت قصير من اندلاع الثورة! مما جعل من دخولنا للانترنت (عبر وسائل بديلة) في غاية الصعوبة، بالإضافة لانشاء مخابرات النظام ما يسمى “بالجيش الالكتروني” الذي كان مهمته حجب واختراق المواقع وصفحات فيسبوك المؤيدة للثورة.

Ahmed:Honestly, blogs didn't have much of a role during the revolution for many reasons, like, for instance, the bloggers fear that their identity is discovered by the regime. So most of them started using fake nicknames or addressed the biggest segment which uses Facebook, in addition to the speed of information transfer on this platform and the easiness of sharing it. I remember last January, I got a visit by BBC monitoring journalist (a department which looks for information through citizen media such as blogs, Twitter and more), Abdullah Al Salemi, who told me that my blog was among three Libyan blogs they visited on a daily basis during the Libyan revolution. But I think that the active blogs during the revolution didn't exceed 10 (from inside the country) and our mission was really difficult because the regime had a complete monopoly and control on the Internet and it blocked it shortly after the start of the uprising. This made our access to the net (through alternative means) very difficult, in addition to the creation by the intelligence service of the regime to what was called “the electronic army” which was tasked with hacking sites and Facebook pages that supported the revolution.

GV: Gaddafi's regime fell and so did dictatorship. Did the situation change? Are bloggers safer now in Libya or there are still redlines and taboos which should not be crossed?

أحمد بن وفاء: لم تعد هناك خطوط حمراء أو تابوهات، وأصبح انتقاد الحكومة والسخرية منها بالكاريكاتير أو المقال أمراً عادياً، لكن الكاتب بات يخشى عمليات الانتقام الفردية بسبب عدم تشكل الجيش واستتباب الأمن في البلاد بشكل كامل وانتشار السلاح.

Ahmed: There are no longer redlines or taboos. Criticizing and mocking the government through cartoons or articles is something quite ordinary now. But the author now fears individual retaliation because there is still no army or security entirely in the country and there are still arms all over the place.

GV: How do you perceive the future of blogging and citizen media in Libya?

أحمد بن وفاء: متفاءل طبعاً، فقبل حقبة القذافي كان الدستور يكفل حرية التعبير وكانت تجرى سجالات فكرية ساخنة في عشرات الصحف اليومية قبل أن يختزلها القذافي في بضع صحفحكومية بائسة لا يشتريها أحد.

Ahmed: I am optimistic of course, because prior to Gaddafi the constitution guaranteed the freedom of expression and there used to happen intense debates in the newspapers on a daily basis before Gaddafi put an end to all this and started public newspapers which no body would buy.

You can also follow Ahmed on Twitter and on Facebook.

October 31 2012

Afef Abrougui, Blogging From Tunisia

As many might remember, it was in Tunisia, as a result of the demonstrations in Sidi Bouzid, where the revolutions and uprisings, collectively known as Arab Spring, came into being. However, in spite of the revolution and the changes it brought about, some people still think that “nothing has changed.”

In this regards, it is illustrative what Afef Abrougui, a Tunisian blogger and activist, tells us about what people have experienced and what they are still going through in her country. It also helps us to know a bit more about a country which, when separated from the Middle East, we actually do not know much about.

Afef Abrougui, Tunisian blogger and activist

Afef Abrougui, Tunisian blogger and activist

The interview has two parts, the fist one is a video recorded in July in Nairobi, Kenya, during the last Global Voices Summit; the second is a written interview conducted by e-mail. You can find both below.

Global Voices (GV): Alef, tell us something about yourself.

I'm student of International Relations at a Tunis based college. I worked before with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and Index on Censorship. I do not have a personal blog but I have recently launched the Arab Region in Media Monitoring Blog. The blog is a project for the Young Leaders Visitors Program, which I recently took part in. The blog aims at monitoring the coverage of the Arab region in the most influential mainstream media outlets. I started with a blog to develop good content until I get funding to launch a website (hopefully.)

GV: What are your feelings about the protests against the anti-Islam film? Is it justified or is it an over reaction?

The violent reactions to the amateurish film outraged me more than the film's content. And I'm not the only Muslim who believes so. Nothing can legitimize violence. However, we need to take into consideration the socio-economic background at the reactions of these protesters who attacked the US embassy in Tunis. Most of them are unemployed, deprived, ill-informed and manipulated. All these factors put together can easily lead to the creation of a religious extremist.

GV: This takes us to religion, I know is a very personal thing, but, how important is religion for you in your daily life?

Religion, though important to me, remains a very private part of my life. I don't discuss it much in public. Since you asked me about religion's role in my daily life I would not mind answering you. People deal with stress in their daily lives in different ways by drinking alcohol, doing Yoga, taking a walk or partying. For me the teachings and values of Islam [honesty, tolerance, patience, gratitude, humility, generosity…] is what keep my daily life less stressful and brighter. I guess this illustrates how important religion is to me in my daily life.

GV: We used to think about women in the Arab world as oppressed and with very little freedom. Please tell us your personal and close experience on this.

This stereotype about Arab women is very common in the West. This stereotype is  disseminated by mainstream media which erroneously depict the Arab region as a homogenous entity that looks like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan (though the last two countries are not Arab), that oppresses women. Being born, raised and educated in Tunisia, I did not face any pressure for being a woman.

GV: Tell us about your city and your country. What are your favourites spots?

Well I'm in love with my country's historical heritage. Tunisia is a mosaic of Amazigh, Phoenician, Roman, Arab and Ottoman civilizations. This makes the country diverse and unique. Taking a walk in the Medina (Old city, in Tunis) is priceless for me. Tabarka, a coastal city in the north-west of Tunisia famous for its coral fishing, international jazz festival, and our forests are a good place for peace of mind.

GV: How do you see the future of Tunisia and the Arab Spring? What are the next important things that are going to happen in your country?

I think we as Tunisian citizens longing for democracy and the respect of human rights, are going to face tough and challenging days. It is urgent for Tunisia to have a new constitution as soon as possible (the country already suffered from almost two years without a constitution) and to set an election date. Also, as long as there are still thousands of Tunisians suffering from social injustices and deprivation, the country will still suffer from instability.

In the video interview we talk a bit about Afef's life, her work, her participation in Global Voices, her opinion about the Global Voices Summit, people's reaction to her writings, Tunisian politics and of course, her experience in the demonstrations in Tunisia.



If you like reading Afef's posts in Global Voices, you can read them from her author profile. You can also follow her in Twitter.

Acknowledgments:

Picture by Laura Schneider in Flickr for Global Voices Online, reproduced under a license of Attribution-NonDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0).

October 16 2012

The Authors Behind the Venezuelan Literary Boom

This post is the last of a two part series on our conversation with Venepoetics' author Guillermo Parra about Venezuelan literature (online and offline) and his translations of Jose Antonio Ramos Sucre. You can read the first post here.

In the first part of this interview, Guillermo Parra told us about his experiences with Venezuelan poetry, his contact with new movements thanks to social media, and his take on what could be considered a new boom in the literature of the country. In this part of the interview we will share Guillermo's take on the new authors who are painting the landscape of new Venezuelan narratives.

En cuanto a escritores, me parece fascinante que hay varias generaciones que están publicando cosas muy interesantes. Las ocasiones cuando he estado en Caracas entre 2007 y 2010, me ha sorprendido la cantidad de presentaciones, lecturas y otros eventos literarios. Poder encontrarme con el poeta Rafael Cadenas revisando libros en las librerías […] fue impactante para mí, hasta que me acostumbré a su presencia en los eventos literarios caraqueños. Pero las primeras veces que lo vi en público fue un poco intimidante, ya que su obra ha sido tan importante para mí.

Regarding the writers, I think it's fascinating to see different generations publishing a lot of very interesting things. The times I've been in Caracas, between 2007 and 2010, I've been surprised by the amount of presentations, readings and other literary events. Being able to meet poet Rafael Cadenas while checking books in bookshops impacted me until I grew used to his presence in Caracas' literary events. The first times I saw him in public was intimidating, since his work has been so important to me.

We also asked Antonio to give us some hints about some of the main characters of this “boom”. He told us:

Books, image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock, copyright Falconia.

Hay un montón de escritores venezolanos contemporáneos que me parecen increíbles. En la narrativa, en particular, se está publicando tanto que no me ha dado tiempo para mantenerme al día. Algunos favoritos de las generaciones recientes son Carlos Ávila, Mujeres recién bañadas (Mondadori, 2009), Rodrigo Blanco Calderón, Una larga fila de hombres (Monte Ávila Editores, 2005), Dayana Fraile, Granizo (El perro y la rana, 2011), Ana García Julio, Cancelado por lluvia (Monte Ávila Editores, 2005), Liliana Lara, Los jardines de Salomon (Universidad de Oriente, 2008), Mario Morenza, Pasillos de mi memoria ajena (Monte Ávila Editores, 2008) y Gabriel Payares, Cuando bajaron las aguas (Monte Ávila Editores, 2008). [Pero hay] gran un problema: los libros venezolanos no se consiguen fuera de Venezuela, no circulan ni en Latinoamérica ni aquí en los Estados Unidos)

There are a lot of Venezuelan contemporary writers that I find amazing. In narrative, particularly, there is so much being published that I haven't been able to stay up to date. Some favorites from recent generations are Carlos Ávila, Mujeres recién bañadas (Mondadori, 2009), Rodrigo Blanco Calderón, Una larga fila de hombres (Monte Ávila Editores, 2005), Dayana Fraile, Granizo (El perro y la rana, 2011), Ana García Julio, Cancelado por lluvia (Monte Ávila Editores, 2005), Liliana Lara, Los jardines de Salomon (Universidad de Oriente, 2008), Mario Morenza, Pasillos de mi memoria ajena (Monte Ávila Editores, 2008) y Gabriel Payares, Cuando bajaron las aguas (Monte Ávila Editores, 2008). [Nevertheless,] there's a big problem: Venezuelan books can't be found outside Venezuela. They don't circulate neither in Latin America, nor here in the US.

And about influences and literary connections, Guillermo says:

No veo mucha diferencia entre las historias de estos escritores y las que me han influido a mí en los Estados Unidos. Sus propuestas literarias reflejan una amplia red de influencias, desde el español Enrique Vila-Matas hasta la venezolana Teresa de la Parra y el estadounidense David Foster Wallace…

I don't see much difference between these writers' stories and the ones that have influenced me in the US. Their literary proposals reflect a wide set of influences, from the Spanish Enrique Vila-Matas to the Venezuelan Teresa de la Parra, as well as the North-American David Foster Wallace…

Finally, he adds:

Pienso que los lectores, dentro y fuera de Venezuela, deberían conocer a estos narradores porque nos dan una muestra de los diversos rumbos que podría tomar la literatura venezolana en los años que vienen. Son apasionados de la literatura, pero ante todo, escriben historias que revelan la poesía o la magia que a veces surge en nuestras vidas cotidianas.

I think readers inside and outside the country should know these storytellers. They give us a taste of the different ways that Venezuelan literature could go in the years ahead. They're passionate about literature, but above all, they write stories that reveal the magic and the poetry that sometimes come up in our daily lives.

You can find more about Venezuelan literature, and also some of Guillermo's translation of Ramos Sucre, in his blog Venepoetics.

October 15 2012

October 09 2012

Brazil: Speaking Out About Hydroelectric Plants and the Amazon

This post is part of our special coverage Dossiê Belo Monte (Belo Monte Dossier) [pt] and Indigenous Rights.

[All links lead to sites in Portuguese, unless otherwise stated]

Aiming at generating electrical energy for residential and industrial consumption, the Brazilian government is constructing a series of hydroelectric powerplants in the Pantanal and Amazon areas, such as the Tapajós river power plant and the Teles Pires river power plant, among others.

According to the consortium Norte Energia, responsible for the construction of the controversial Belo Monte plant, energy consumption has been growing in the country and the power plant “is the guarantee that this demand can be met”, reinforcing the argument of development in the country.

Like the Belo Monte project, the São Luiz do Tapajós plant project (in the Tapajós river) and the Teles Pires plant project (in the Teles Pires river, which flows into the Tapajós river) have been challenged in court for failing to have adequately consulted local people and for misguided integrated environmental assessments. They have also been accused of carrying out deforestation and agricultural advancement.

Here you have the second part of our interview series with Sany Kalapalo [en], a young indigenous activist from Xingu.

Global Voices (GV): Considering the current challenges, how do you see the future of forests and the indigenous people that inhabit the Amazon area?

Sany Kalapalo (SK): Como sempre nós indígenas do Xingu falamos: “Homem Branco acha que é dono da natureza e pode fazer o que quiser com ela, mas uma hora a mãe natureza não aguentará mais e se vingará”.

O único interesse desses mega-corruptos de construir uma mega-usina como Belo Monte é dar lucro para as empresas iluminantes, ou seja os ricos ficarem mais ricos e os pobres ficarem mais pobres. Se o governo estivesse realmente interessado e preocupado com o desenvolvimento do país, implantaria redes de energia onde estão faltando e beneficiaria aquelas regiões que sofrem apagões. Nós, indígenas, não somos contra a energia em si, somos contra o projeto e a maneira como estão sendo desenvolvidas essas hidrelétricas, prejudicando o meio ambiente e os povos locais. Principalmente a hidroelétrica de Belo Monstro (Belo Monte), que afetará múltiplas famílias pobres e povos indígenas. Pra quê construir uma usina que só vai gerar eletricidade por duas estações do ano?, porque nas outras estações o rio Xingu costuma ficar na seca. Durante isso, como fica usina?? E como fica a eletricidade na sua casa ou na sua empresa?? Pense nisso. Brasil tem capacidade de gerar uma energia limpa e justa para o povo brasileiro. Sabe qual é futuro dos povos locais? Inundação, perda de casas, perda de plantações, perda de identidade, ou seja, perda de tudo e com certeza miséria na certa, e isso é o que o governo quer, [verdade] nua e crua.

Por isso que eu não chamo Belo Monte de Desenvolvimento, pois chamo de Sub-destruição ou total destruição, tanto para indígenas quanto para não indígenas, e para o meio ambiente.

Sany Kalapalo (SK): As we indigenous people from Xingu always say: “The White Man thinks he owns nature and can do whatever he wants to it, but there'll be a time when Mother Nature won't take it anymore and will retaliate.”

The only interest these mega-corrupt people have in constructing huge power plants such as Belo Monte is to generate profit for electricity companies, so the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. If the government was really interested and worried about the country's development, it would implant energy networks where they are missing; networks that would benefit those regions that are experiencing blackouts. We, the indigenous population, aren't against the energy itself, we are against the project and the way that these hydroelectrics are being developed, damaging the environment and local people. Especially the Belo Monster (Belo Monte) that will affect multiple poor families and indigenous people. Why construct a power plant that will only generate electricity two seasons of the year? For the other two seasons the Xingu river is usually dry. And what about the power plant? What about the electricity for them and the company? Think about it. Brazil has the capacity to generate clean and fair energy for the Brazilian people. Do you know what the future is for local people? Flooding, loss of homes, loss of crops, loss of identity… loss of everything, and misery for sure. That is what the government wants- that is the cold, hard [truth].

That's why I don't call it Developmental Belo Monte. I call it Sub-destruction or Total Destruction, both for indigenous people and non-indigenous people alike, not to mention the environment.

Jose Carlos Arara, the chief of the Arara tribe, discusses the negative impact of Belo Monte on the people who depend on the Xingu River for their livelihoods. Photo by K. L. Hoffmann copyright Demotix (August 13, 2011)

Jose Carlos Arara, the chief of the Arara tribe, discusses the negative impact of Belo Monte on the people who depend on the Xingu River for their livelihoods. Photo by K. L. Hoffmann copyright Demotix (August 13, 2011)

GV: National and international NGOs have been criticized as being “enemies of Brazil”. Members of the Xingu Vivo para Sempre Movement suffered from the same accusations. Which organizations do you think are doing a good job in the region?

SK: Conheço os idealizadores do Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre e os ativistas, inclusive são nossa principal parceria atualmente. Tenho ouvido muita coisa em relação ao Xingu Vivo. Na verdade, os governantes querem iludir e tentar persuadir o povo brasileiro dizendo que [eles] são inimigos do Brasil, e assim enxergar eles com os outros olhos, como invasores, e não levar em consideração o que eles reivindicam, que é proteger a natureza ao pedido dos índios, já que não somos ouvidos no nosso próprio país. Essa é a jogada do governo, sendo que o lobo mau de verdade são eles do Governo, que sempre querem tampar o olho do povo pra não ver o podridão que andam fazendo pelo país. E um movimento que está ativo desde o início de 2011 e que acordou Brasil para a luta de novo, em apoio ao movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre, é o Indígenas em Ação (MIA).

SK: I know the creators and activists of the Xingu Vivo para Sempre Movement, who are also currently our main partners. I've been hearing a lot stuff about Xingu Vivo. Actually, the governors want to delude and try to persuade Brazilian people by saying that [they] are enemies of Brazil, and in this way make them see them differently, as invaders, and not taking their claims into account; that is that they want to protect nature at the request of the indigenous population, since our voices are not heard in our own country. This is what the government is doing, when they are the real “big bad wolves”; they always want to close people's eyes so that they don't see the mess that they have made in the country. Another movement, that has been active since early 2011 and woke Brazil up to fight again in support of the Xingu Vivo para Sempre movement, is the Indígenas em Ação Movement.

GV: Since 2011, the mobilization and court decisions have been successful in stopping the Belo Monte plant, but soon another court decision could authorize the resumption of work. Is it time to accept the plant construction as a fact or is it still worth fighting against it?

SK: Fico feliz que de 2011 pra cá a mobilização contra Belo Monte aumentou muito, acredito que por causa das grandes manifestações que organizamos e realizamos aqui em São Paulo pelo Movimento indígenas em Ação (MIA) com apoio do Xingu Vivo para Sempre, e por todo o Brasil, juntamente com o movimento Brasil pelas Florestas, que luta pela melhoria do novo Código Florestal. Nós indígenas estamos decididos a lutar, como sempre fizemos todo esse tempo. Se os construtores querem sangue do índio, vão ter. Se isso é o que o juiz branco quer, nos contrariar, o massacre de 512 anos vai continuar, sabe por quê? Os povos indígenas do Xingu não aceitam ser assassinos da natureza como esses governantes.

SK: I'm glad that since 2011 the mobilization against Belo Monte has increased a lot. I believe this is because of the huge protests we organized and carried out here in São Paulo for the Indígenas em Ação Movement with the support of the Xingu Vivo para Sempre movement, and indeed all over Brazil with the support of the Brasil pelas Florestas Movement, which fights for the improvement of the new Forest Code. We indigenous people are determined to fight, as we have done all this time. If the constructors want indigenous blood, they will have it. If this is what the white judge wants, to fight against us, the massacre that has lasted 512 years will continue, you know why? The indigenous people of Xingu don't accept being murderers of nature as these governors do.

On October 20, 2012, at 2 PM, a protest is planned against the Belo Monte hydroelectric power plant in front of the United Nations office in São Paulo. The goal is to ask for support from the UN for the problems related to the Xingu river.

This post is part of our special coverage Dossiê Belo Monte (Belo Monte Dossier) [pt] and Indigenous Rights.

October 02 2012

Brazil: Sany Kalapalo - Young, Indigenous and a Xingu Activist

This post is part of our special coverage Dossiê Belo Monte (Belo Monte Dossier) [pt] and Indigenous Rights.

[All links lead to Portuguese language pages]

With this interview, divided in two parts, we get to know Sany Kalapalo, a young indigenous activist from Alto Xingu in the Brazilian state Mato Grosso. At only 22 years old, she is one of the coordinators of the mobilization against the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric powerplant, which is being constructed in the Volta Grande do Xingu region in the state of Pará.

Identified in her blog as a “daughter of Xingu river, from the Kalapalo and Aweti ethnicities, from the Karib dialect,” “indigenous activist,” and “daughter of Pajé Kunue,” Sany is a student about to attempt to enter college in São Paulo and also a teacher of Xingu indigenous culture.

Global Voices (GV): Who is and what does Sany Kalapalo do?

Sany Kalapalo. Image from her personal collection, authorized for publication on this post.

Sany Kalapalo. Image from her personal collection, authorized for publication on this post.

Sany Kalapalo (SK): Sou Sany, indígena do Alto Xingu, no Mato Grosso. Kalapalo por parte da etnia do meu pai e Aweti por parte da etnia da minha mãe, por isso meu nome completo é Sany Aweti Kalapalo, mais conhecida como Sany Kalapalo. Moro na cidade juntamente com uma parte da minha família, e estamos fazendo intercâmbio cultural. Nas férias sempre vamos para o Xingu visitar todos os parentes. Sou estudante e ativista em prol do meio ambiente e povos indígenas.

Sany Kalapalo (SK): I'm Sany, an indigenous person from Alto Xingu, Mato Grosso. I'm Kalapalo through my father's ethnicity and Aweti through my mother's, that's why my complete name is Sany Aweti Kalapalo, mostly known as Sany Kalapalo. I live in the city with some of my family, and we are doing a cultural exchange. On holidays, we always go to Xingu to visit all the relatives. I'm a student and activist for the environment and indigenous people.

GV: How did you get involved with the Belo Monte campaign?

SK: Em março de 2011 eu e a minha amiga e parceira de luta Miryám Hess organizamos o primeiro protesto contra a Usina de Belo Monte em São Paulo. Foi um fracasso, só compareceram 12 pessoas, e depois organizamos com muito mais divulgação nas ruas e pela internet, aí conseguimos bom público na maior cidade do Brasil. Também para divulgar mais, quebrei o medo da câmera e fui a algumas TVs online, como JustTV, TV Orkut, e algumas entrevistas nas ruas. Daí por diante participei de vários encontros ambientais, como o Rio+20 também.

SK: In March, 2011, me and my friend and campaign partner Miryám Hess organized the first protest against the Belo Monte hydroelectric powerplant, in São Paulo. It was a failure - only 12 attended - then we organized it with a lot more publicity on the streets and the Internet, so we got a great recption in the biggest city in Brazil (São Paulo). Also in order to promote it more, I put an end to my fear of cameras and went to do some online TV, like JustTV, TV Orkut, and gave some interviews on the streets. From then on, I participated on several environmental meetings, as Rio+20.

GV: Nowadays, is your contact with the Xingu people and monitoring of the plant's construction being made at a distance, or do you have a story of life and presence in the local?

SK: Já faz 9 anos que eu e a minha família moramos aqui [em São Paulo]. Na verdade alguns dos meus irmãos chegaram há pouco tempo, e não ficamos direto na cidade. Nas férias vamos ao Xingu para visitar os parentes e a nossa mãe. Meu contato com o meu povo às vezes é pessoalmente quando eu vou para lá, via telefone, via internet. Sempre tento estar por dentro de tudo que está acontecendo por lá. Tiro informações através das lideranças locais, até porque o Xingu é muito grande, dividido em três partes: Alto Xingu, Médio Xingu e Baixo Xingu.

SK: It's been nine years since my family and me moved here [in São Paulo]. Actually, some of my brothers recently got here, and we don't stay all the time in the city. During our vacations, we go to Xingu to visit our relatives and our mother. My contact with my people sometimes is personally when I go over there, or via telephone, via Internet. I always try to keep up with everything that is going on over there. I get information from local leaders, because Xingu is so big, divided in three parts: High Xingu, Medium Xingu, and Low Xingu.

GV: The mobilization against the hydroelectric took over the streets in some Brazilian cities and generated great buzz over the Internet. In which ways has the use of social networks and virtual tools contributed to enhance the mobilization?

SK: A internet tem sido uma ferramenta superimportante para mobilizar as pessoas, já que as grandes mídias ignoram e manipulam as informações vindas dessa construção Monstruosa!

Por exemplo, em fevereiro de 2011 eu criei minha conta no Facebook voltada para o ativismo contra Belo Monte. Em três meses já estava com cinco mil pessoas na minha página por causa das postagens pesadas e reais que falavam sobre Belo Monte. Muitos que não conheciam a respeito dessa mega Usina passaram a conhecer, e muitos deles se tornaram ativistas em defesa do Xingu. E juntos começamos a fazer grandes manifestações.

SK: The Internet has been a super important tool to mobilize people, seing that big media ignore and manipulate information coming from that monstruous construction!

For instance, in February 2011 I created my Facebook account focused on activism against Belo Monte. In three months, I had 5,000 people on my profile because of the real and heavy posts about Belo Monte. Many of those who didn't know anything about this mega plant got to know, and many of them became activists in favor of the Xingu. And together we started to make great protests.

Protesters against Belo Monte hydroelectric, Altamira. Image by K. L. Hoffmann copyright Demotix (August 19, 2011)

Protesters against Belo Monte hydroelectric, Altamira. Image by K. L. Hoffmann copyright Demotix (August 19, 2011)

GV: During 2011, you created you Twitter profile (@sanyakalapalo) and a personal blog, and in 2012 a YouTube channel. How do you use and appropriate these pages?

SK: Já estou com Twitter desde o ano passado, só que nunca entrava antes, até porque não sabia mexer direito e agora tô aprendendo aos poucos. rsrs. O blog também criei ano passado e não entro muito nele devido a falta de tempo, já no Facebook entro todos dias. Acredito que as redes sociais ajudam bastante para divulgar qualquer coisa e estão me ajudando muito a divulgar a cultura indígena e a minha luta.

SK: I'm in Twitter since last year, though I would never use it before, even because I didn't know well how to use it and now I'm learning little by little. Hehe. I also created the blog last year and I don't use it much because of lack of time; however, Facebook I use everyday. I believe social networks help a lot to disclose anything and they're helping a lot to disclose indigenous culture and my campaign.

GV: Right on the cover of your blog, you describe yourself as “loved by some, hated by others,” and this intrigues me a little. To what do you refer to in this passage? What affects your reputation?

SK: “Amada por uns, odiada por outros”. É, coloquei assim, porque vejo que tem pessoas que gostam de mim, acompanham meu ativismo, e tem pessoas que se incomodam comigo e me xingam e até hackearam algumas contas que eu tinha nas redes sociais. Às vezes recebo ameaças pelas redes, mas não me incomodo muito com isso e continuo lutando.

SK: ”Loved by some, hated by others.” Yes, I put this because I notice that there are some people who like me, follow my activism, and there are people that are bothered by me and offended by me and even hack some of the profiles I had in social networks. Sometimes I receive threats through these networks, but I don't bother very much with this and I keep fighting.

GV: You are a young indigenous but very active, and you have inclusively created the Indigenous in Action Movement, that has an page on the internet. Are other young indigenous who have also been using the Internet as a platform of expression and fight?

SK: Faço alguma coisa pelo meu povo e pelo meio ambiente de coração. Escolhi seguir os passos do meu vô, que foi um grande guerreiro xinguano. Ele foi um guerreiro da Paz e tenho muito orgulho de ser neta dele. Criei o Movimento Indígenas em Ação em março de 2011 com o intuito de dizer para todos que índio não é do passado, que ainda existimos e queremos nossos direitos respeitados. Também criei a campanha Orgulho Indígena e recebi alguns prêmios por isso. Atualmente sou presidente-fundadora do Movimento Indígenas em Ação e logo teremos um escritório aqui em São Paulo. Vi que inspirei alguns jovens indígenas. Eles mesmos chegaram e me falaram isso. Acho isso muito bom, cada vez mais jovens indígenas estão participando da política voltada aos nossos direitos.

SK: I do something for my people and for the environment from my heart. I chose to follow the steps of my grandfather, who was a great Xingu warrior. He was a peace warrior and I'm really proud of being his granddaughter. I created the Indigenous in Action Movement and received some awards because of that. Nowadays I'm Founding-President of the Indigenous in Action Movement and soon we'll have an office here in São Paulo. I noticed I inspired some young indigenous. They got here and told me by themselves. I think it's really great, more and more young indigenous are participating in the politics focused on our rights.

After starting some university courses, Sany decided to try to enter in the Languages course at Universidade de São Paulo. She intends to be writer to take indigenous culture to other audiences. In a few days we will publish the second part of this interview, in which Sany talks about hydroelectric powerplants, development, indigenous people, and the Internet.

This post is part of our special coverage Dossiê Belo Monte (Belo Monte Dossier) [pt] and Indigenous Rights.

September 06 2012

Mujeres Mundi, “What is the Role of Women in Your Society?”

This is the second and final part of a two-part interview.

Bajo la forma de biografías, Mujeres Mundi es un homenaje a la Mujer: en su rol de madre, luchadora por los derechos humanos, artista, viajera, aventurera, diferente.

Under the guise of biographies, Mujeres Mundi is a tribute to the woman: as a mother, as human rights defender, as an artist, as a traveller, as an adventurer… just being different.

In the first part of this interview, Xaviera Medina de Albrand told us about her blog, Mujeres Mundi [Women's World], where she publishes interviews with women around the world. In this second part, Xaviera talks about the importance of sharing her interviews with people that speak other languages. She also talks about a special project entitled “What is the role of women in your society?”

Mujeres Mundi can be read in English, French, and Spanish. Do you do the translations yourself?

Xaviera Medina de Albrand

Xaviera Medina de Albrand, photo used with permission

Sí. El proyecto es mi responsabilidad de A a Z, las traducciones soy yo, como dije alguna vez, encontrarán errores en inglés y francés, por seguro, y me disculpo por ello. Soy como el personaje Salvatore de la película En el Nombre de la Rosa, ¡hablando muchos idiomas pero ninguno a la vez!

Yes. The project is mine from top to bottom, the translations are mine, though as I said once, I'm sure errors can be found in English and French, and I apologize for that. I'm like the character Salvatore in the movie The Name Of The Rose, speaking many languages but never just one at a time!

Why did you decide to translate the material that you publish?

Hubiera sido mucho más sencillo trabajar los textos solamente en español a pesar de entrevistar en otros idiomas, lo difícil no es tanto hablar sino dar la forma al texto, sobre todo en idiomas que no son mis idiomas maternales. Pero también quería que las entrevistadas que no hablan español (en su mayoría) sepan lo que escribo sobre ellas, y segundo porque mientras más gente pueda leer sus historias, más gente podrá conocerlas, quizás contactarlas y dar a conocer sus ejemplos. Es un sistema de cadena, mientras llegue a un mayor público, mejor.

It would have been much easier just writing the articles in Spanish, despite interviewing in other languages. The hard part is not so much speaking but rather putting it all in an article, above all in languages that I don't speak natively. But I wanted the women that don't speak Spanish (which is the majority) to know what I write about them. Secondly, I wanted more people to be able to read their stories, so more people could get to know them, perhaps contact them, and raise awareness about their example. It's a chain, as long as it reaches a wider audience, the better.

There is a section of your blog titled “What is the role of women in your society?” Tell us a bit more about this project.

Se trata de los estereotipos que se tiene de las mujeres en ciertas sociedades. A veces nos hacemos una idea de una sociedad especifica pero esta idea o estereotipo es contraria a la realidad. De manera individual, realizo un estudio sobre los diferentes estereotipos de mujeres en diversas sociedades y las comparo con el rol que tienen en realidad.

It deals with stereotypes that exist about women in certain societies. Sometimes we create our own idea of a society but this idea or stereotype is contrary to reality. With an individualistic approach, I am carrying out a study about the different stereotypes of women in various societies while comparing them with the role they actually have.

What are the goals of the project?

Este proyecto tiene tres objetivos:

a. Aumentar la conciencia sobre algunos estereotipos creados ya sea por los medios de comunicación o por otras sociedades con respecto a las representaciones de mujeres en diversas culturas.

b. Describir cómo la creciente influencia política, económica y social de las mujeres puede tener un efecto positivo en la sociedad.

c. Describir los problemas comunes que enfrentan las mujeres dentro de su propia sociedad, así como motivar a los jóvenes a participar en algunas de las soluciones a estos problemas.

El lado de investigación lo vengo avanzando sola. Pensé que podría hacer un llamado al público para que participe con textos o con imágenes narrando cual es el rol de la mujer en su sociedad y si creen que hay estereotipos creados. Por el momento el lado gráfico no avanza mucho, tenía pensado realizar un video de presentación con las imágenes para acompañar la investigación. Los resultados los compartiré con organizaciones femeninas o simplemente, con quien lo desee.

This project has three goals:

a. To increase awareness about some stereotypes created either by the media or by other societies with respect to the representations of women in various cultures.

b. To portray how the growing political, economic, and social influence of women can have a positive effect on society.

c. To portray the common problems that women face in their own society, as well as to motivate young people to participate in some of the solutions to these problems.

I continue working on the research side by myself. I figured I could call upon the public to contribute text or images narrating the role of women in their society, and to share whether they believe there are established stereotypes. At the moment the graphical presentation still needs work, I had thought of making a video with the images to accompany the research. I will share the results with women's organizations or with anyone that wishes to see it.

How can people participate in “What is the role of women in your society?”

Es simple. Solo deben enviar imágenes (fotos, videos o ilustraciones) sobre los estereotipos creados sobre la situación de la mujer en su sociedad, y/o sobre el rol de la misma en la comunidad.

It's easy. They should simply send images (photos, videos, or illustrations) that show the established stereotypes and status of women in their society, and/or about the role of women in the community.

Finally, where do you see Mujeres Mundi in the near future? Have you thought about publishing these interviews in a book or other format?

La primera etapa del proyecto esta en curso, que es la publicación on-line. Dentro de un año y medio se trabajarán los textos y ciertos perfiles en un libro, exactamente. Pero el objetivo final (y a más largo plazo) es de crear un documental con perfiles de ciertas de nuestras entrevistadas, de cuatro a cinco minutos por perfil.

La idea de crear una revista y un organismo Mujeres Mundi ronda mi cabeza, pero es un trabajo mayor y se necesitará de un equipo de trabajo así como de fondos. Quiero que la primera etapa cobre una forma más importante aún para poder subir los siguientes escalones!

The first stage of the project, online publication, is underway. Within a year and a half, the text and certain profiles will be put in a book, yes. But the final goal (in the longer term) is to make a documentary with certain profiles of our interviewed women, spending four to five minutes on each profile.The idea of creating a magazine and a Mujeres Mundi organization is in my head, but it is a bigger job and a work team will be needed, as well as the funds. With the first stage, I can increase the importance of Mujeres Mundi, and then will be able to take the next steps!

You can follow Xaviera and Mujeres Mundi on Twitter and on Facebook.

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