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February 21 2014

December 04 2013

Football, Building Social Cohesion in Niger

Football tournament organised in the region of Tahoua, Niger. Republished with permission from Mapping for Niger blog

Football tournament organised in the region of Tahoua, Niger. Republished with permission from Mapping for Niger blog

Niger is twice as large as France in area, composed of eight regions and six different ethnicities. It was also the country with the lowest Human Development Index in 2012. These factors make for a fragile social fabric in Niger, due perhaps to increasing inequalities and heterogeneous demographics. Sport is at times an ideal vehicle to reinforce social links in Nigerian communities. This is why the community of Kalfou in the department of Tahoua organise an annual football tournament, bringing together various clubs from around the region.

Hamzajaba, a member of the Rising Voices’ project Mapping for Niger, participated in this tournament. He says [fr]:

Ce tournoi a été organisé par un ressortissant d’un village appelé « Guidan Toudou ». Le tournoi est composé de huit (8) villages qui sont répartis en deux poules A et B. La poule A est composée de : Guidan Toudou, Alibou, Toudouni et Tounga et la poule B est composée de : Samo, Karaji Sud, Guidan Gara et Galmawa. [..] la finale a opposée Guidan Toudou& Karaji Sud avec un score de 3 buts à 0 en faveur de Guidan Toudou suite au forfait de Karaji Sud. Ce tournoi s'est déroulé dans une parfaite ambiance, pleine de faire play et l’objectif a donc été atteint. J’ai rencontré pas mal des jeunes et même des collègues avec qui j'ai été au collège. Guidan Toudou a gagné le trophée avec comme récompense 70 000 FCFA; le 2ème, Karaji Sud, a été recompensé de 40 000 FCFA et le 3ème Galmawa 20 000 FCFA. Toutes les équipes qui ont participé ont bénéficié d’un ballon.

This tournament was organised by the village group Guidan Toudou. The tournament is composed of eight (8) villages who were divided into two groups, A and B. Group A is composed of: Guidan Toudo, Alibou, Toudouni and Tounga and group B is composed of: Samo, Karaji Sud, Guidan Gara and Galmawa. [...] the final placed Guidan Toudou and Karaji Sud with a score of 3 goals to 0 in favor of Guidan Toudo, following a forfit from Karaji Sud. This tournamet took place in a perfect ambiance, full of fair play and thus the objective was obtained. I met quite a few young people and even some colleagues with whom I attended secondary school. Guidan Toudou won the trophy with 70 000 FCFA as a reward; the second, Karaji Sud, was awarded 40 000 FCFA and the third Galmawa 20 000 FCFA. ALl of the teams who participated received a football.

Le département de Tahoua, cartographié par le projet Mapping for Niger

The department of Tahoua, mapped by the project Mapping for Niger. See the larger map here.

Football has always been a passion for Nigerians. One of the most well known celebrities in Niger is a former footballer, Moussa Kanfideni, who was the captain of the national team in the '80s. His name was immortalised in the the creation of the first training center for future leaders in football, the Souley Académie Sports (SACA-Sports). Ousmane Keïta explains the role of this training center and foodball [fr] in general in the education of young Nigerians:

L’ambition de la Souley Académie Sports est claire : combler un grand vide en contribuant non seulement à la formation du champion, mais aussi de l’intellectuel de demain. En d’autres termes, le centre vise à forger le citoyen modèle, préparé pour évoluer dans l’adversité, la concurrence.

The goal of the Souley Académie Sports is clear: to fill a large gap and to contribute not only to the training of champions, but also to the intellectuals of tomorrow. In other words, the center aims to form a model citizen, prepared to perform in the face of adversity, competition.

Tournoi de football dans le département de la Tahoua, Niger. avec la permission du projet mapping for Niger

Football tournament in the department of Tahoua, Niger. Republished with permission from Mapping for Niger.

Other academies, like Atcha académie [fr], have created programs to target the schooling of young people through sport. Equally, the technical center of the Nigerian Federation of Football (FENIFOOT) was recently established in the north of Niamey, the capital of Niger. News blog A Niamey explains the goals of this center [fr]:

Les premiers pensionnaires du centre sont au total 52 jeunes talents, de moins de 15 ans, qui ont été présélectionnés sur l’ensemble du territoire national. le Niger compte sortir de ces jeunes formés l’équipe nationale qui va représenter le pays à la Coupe d’Afrique des moins de 17 ans prévue en 2015 à Niamey.

The first members of the sport center are in total 52 talented youth under age 15, who were preselected through the national territory. Niger counts on these young trainees of the natinoal team who will represent the country in the uner-17s African Cup in 2015 in Niamey.

The national team is also a vehicle for solidarity and national mobilisation. The following video is a message from members of the Nigerian football team about the famine in Niger:

 

November 25 2013

Global Voices Meetup in Skopje, Macedonia

gv-meetup-logo-gvmeetup-400Global Voices in Macedonian is thrilled to invite you to a meeting of the members and supporters of the community, happening on Saturday, November 30, 2013 from 12:00 to 15:00 at the GEM Club in Skopje, Macedonia.

During the event, we'll introduce the possibilities for becoming part of the Global Voices community, but also the opportunities for micro-grants by Rising Voices. The event will be used to strengthen the Global Voices community in Macedonia, by mixing old and new members to define the future of the team together.

Some of the topics of the event are:

  • Why are we here and what we want to achieve?
  • Overview of the work that we do at Global Voices, including Rising Voices, Advox, and Lingua
  • How to improve the process of Rising Voices micro-grants
  • What can we do to strengthen Global Voices in our community

If you want to attend, and we know you do, please fill out the following form, so we have a better picture of the number of participants: http://0.mk/GVMeetup

Gvmk-meetup

See you on Saturday!

November 22 2013

Notes From the GVMeetup in Cairo

Throughout the months of November and December, Global Voices is organizing six in-person ‘meetups’ in Karachi, Kampala, Skopje, Porto, Phonm Penh and Cairo. The meetups are led and facilitated by Global Voices members, who live and know those local communities.

The Cairo meetup took place on November 16, 2013 in “The Workshops” facility in Maadi.

Mohamed El-Gohary, Mohamed Adel and myself facilitated the event. We often encounter people who are interested in all the activities taking place in the GV universe, but aren't really sure how to volunteer, so we set up the gathering to introduce people to Global Voices and its daughter projects, Lingua, Advox and Rising Voices.

We also wanted to connect people who have ideas related to using social media for good, but are searching for others to join them or ways to seek funding.

After a short presentation, we asked the attendees to introduce themselves. We live-tweeted while everyone spoke using the #GVMeetup hashtag to share links to projects, blogs and hobbies of attendees.

One of the attendees used to study industrial design, and showed us her blog, Selouk.me, where she writes about the use of design to change people's behaviour. She talked about “gamification” and highlighted creative ideas to encourage people not to throw their litter on the ground.

Two other attendees, an investigative journalist and a law student, found common ground to discuss how laws related to freedom of information in Egypt need to be changed for journalists to carry out their work.

One attendee was interested in Rising Voices, and wanted to know more about the application process because she has an idea for an online platform to help people of her district speak up about the lack of government services in their area.

Yet another attendee was into voice and video editing, and was interested in GV podcasts. A few attendees asked to become authors, while another is developing on a new blogging platform, and we agreed to discuss the possibility of partnerships in the future.

During our conversation, we had some discussion about the importance of copyleft laws. We pointed out that all GV articles are published under a Creative Commons license. Mohamed Adel then gave a quick presentation about Creative Commons and the different license options.

I also gave a quick presentation about how GV authors build their stories from social media updates.

الأصوات العالمية: من نكون. from Global Voices on Vimeo.

We continued talking during coffee and lunch. We also played some short videos about Global Voices, and El-Gohary spoke about how fun it is to be a member of such a huge worldwide community.

GVMeetup in Cairo

GVMeetup in Cairo

We ended the day by sharing our contacts and encouraging attendees to contact us any time they need advice about their personal projects or joining any part of Global Voices.

Global Voices Meetup in Kampala, Uganda

gv-meetup-logo-gvmeetup-400Our third Global Voices Meetup will take place in Kampala, Uganda on November 23, 2013 at the Hive Colab.

This Meetup is especially targeted at the hundreds of Rising Voices microgrant applicants from across Uganda. Over the past three years, we received the most number of applications from East Africa, including from all corners of Uganda. We hope that this Meetup will help facilitate connections.

The Meetup will bring together many of these community members to share their experiences and help facilitate connections between others that share similar interests or missions. Hosted by two of our community members Maureen Agena (@maureenagena) and Rosebell (@RosebellK), as well as other GV volunteers, the gathering will focus on:

  • Explaining the work of Global Voices, Rising Voices, Advox, and Lingua, and how the Ugandan community can get involved,
  • Exploring new ways that local community can support each other by sharing skills and resources and discussing projects and ideas,
  • Discussing how social media can be used in their work, including personal experience from attendees.

Since the focus of this meetup is primarily for past microgrant applicants, the invitation was initally sent to these groups, and all of the slots are filled. 

Follow the event through Twitter via #GVMeetup and for more information, please contact: rising [at] globalvoicesonline.org

November 12 2013

Global Voices Meetup in Cairo, Egypt

gv-meetup-logo-gvmeetup-400We are pleased to announce that the second Global Voices Meetup will take place in Cairo, Egypt on November 16th at the Workshops from 11 am to 3 pm.

Traditionally, Global Voices has had a strong community of volunteer authors, translators, and editors living around the Cairo metropolitan area. This community members are involved in a wide range of citizen media, technology, and journalistic projects and activities, and may serve as a valuable resource for others interested in becoming more active in this field.

In addition in 2010, Rising Voices held a microgrant competition specifically for citizen media outreach projects from Egypt. Out of this cycle, we funded and support three projects: Nazra, Women of Minya Day by Day, and Mokattam Blog Tales.

The Meetup will bring together many of these community members to share their experiences and help facilitate connections between others that share similar interests or missions. Hosted by two of our community members Mohamed El Gohary (@ircpresident) and Tarek Amr (@gr33ndata), as well as other GV volunteers, the gathering will focus on:

  • Providing an overview of the work that we do at Global Voices, including Rising Voices, Advox, and Lingua
  • Sharing ways that the wider community can get involved with Global Voices
  • Networking activities so that participants can share information about their own digital projects or ideas for projects
  • Maximizing the use of social media in their work based on the experiences of other attendees

If you are interested in taking part, please complete the following sign-up form, and our team will reply with more information, including the exact address of the Meetup. The event is open to all, but participants must sign up ahead of time.

For more information, please contact: rising [at] globalvoicesonline.org

November 07 2013

‘How Can We Stay Indifferent?': A Concern for Niger's Orphans

A sobering statistic found in UNICEF's annual “State of the World's Children” report revealed that the country of Niger has 970,000 orphans living within its borders out of a total population of approximately 17 million people. Those children left orphaned as a result of the death of one or both parents may face difficult times ahead, including lower school attendance and being obligated to work at a much younger age to support themselves or other siblings.

This video produced by UNICEF follows the story of a 15-year-old Nigerien girl who found work as a street vendor, during which she was indecently propositioned by older men. She then took a job as a domestic household employee at the age of 12, eventually leaving the house because of the abusive family: 

The heartbreaking stories of these orphans affect many Nigeriens, including one of the new bloggers from Rising Voices grantee project Mapping for Niger, which chose to address this topic. Fatiman writes in the Mapping for Niger blog: ”To be an orphan in Niger is a very important problem, and a situation very close to my heart – as I live surrounded by orphans.”

She continues by summarizing some of the troubles that orphans may face without a parental figure in their lives [fr]:

Mais malheureusement je constate que l’orphelin, quelque soit la société, vit dans des problèmes sérieux de plusieurs ordres. Surtout au niveau de l’éducation, car n’ayant pas profité de l’amour parental. Il s’est trouvé sans modèle, sans guide ou maitre qui soit le garant de son avenir et de son devenir. Par ailleurs, il faut aussi rappeler que la famille constitue le premier moyen pour l’enfant de s’épanouir. La société vient en second lieu. Et en plus ce dernier reste toujours insensible à la situation des orphelins, pire, elle les utilise pour d’autres fins. A ce niveau, les enfants orphelins sont voués à plusieurs phénomènes sociaux tels que : le grand banditisme, la délinquance juvénile, les travaux forcés, l’esclavage moderne. Cet ainsi que les enfants issus des milieux défavorables sont les plus touchés, car n’ayant aucun revenu dans ce monde purement matérialiste et capitaliste.

Unfortunately, orphans in any society live with a variety of serious problems. Especially when it comes to education, and a life without parental love. These orphans find themselves without a model, guide, or master who can guarantee them a future and prospects. Also, one must also keep in mind that that family is the first way for a child to blossom. The society takes second place. And it is this society which continues to be indifferent to their situation, and worse, at times uses them for other ends. Child orphans can end up the victim of social phenomena including organized crime, juvenile delinquency, forced labor, modern slavery. Thus, it is these children coming from the worst situations who will suffer the most, living without income in this purely materialist and capitalist world.

Religious organizations play a major role in providing relief and care to orphans in Niger. Both Muslim and Catholic organizations have helped build facilities where orphans can receive food and shelter. Alher takes a photograph of one of these orphanages built by a Qatari-based organization, which is located near his house:

Photo of orphanage in rural Niger taken by Alher

Photo of an orphanage in rural Niger taken by Alher with his permission

Fatiman concludes by asking a serious and reflective question [fr]:

En définitive, il faut noter que l’orphelin, en tant qu’être délaissé pour son propre compte, est exposé à des sérieux problèmes. Cependant, le soutien de l’État reste à désirer dans ce sens, bien que la situation des orphelins doive toucher au plus profond de notre humanisme. Comment rester insensible face à la situation que vivent les orphelins du monde?

Finally, we have to say that an orphan, when all is taken into account, is exposed to serious problems. The support given by the state leaves a lot to be desired, even though the situation of these orphans touches the most profound depths of our humanity. How can we stay indifferent to the situation of the lives of orphans of the world?
Special thanks to Laura Morris for translating the excerpts in this post.

October 31 2013

Meetup with Global Voices!

gv-logo-below-square-144You may feel as if Global Voices community members are already longtime friends after being a regular reader of their posts and translations highlighting the online conversation in their countries. Perhaps you may also follow them on Twitter or are familiar with their digital projects and activities. Certainly these virtual connections can help make the world feel like a smaller place, but there is still something elemental about offline interactions that can only help strengthen these online bonds.

Throughout the months of November and December, we are organizing six global in-person ‘meetups’ led and facilitated by Global Voices members, who live and know those local communities.

However, these gatherings are much more than networking social events. They are opportunities for knowledge sharing, skills building, and future collaboration among peers who share similar missions.

Perhaps you have an idea for a citizen media outreach project and you want to find potential partners. Or you may want to learn new strategies for digital storytelling for a global audience. You can also learn more about Global Voices’ work and how to become a volunteer. These and much more may be a part of the half-day program.

The six cities for this first round of meet ups are:

Karachi, Pakistan – November 1, 2013
Cairo, Egypt – November 16, 2013
Kampala, Uganda – November 16, 2013
Skopje, Macedonia – November 30, 2013
Porto, Portugal – December 14, 2013
Phonm Penh, Cambodia – To be announced

These meetups are free to attend, but RSVPs are required. With each meetup, we will publish a post, as well as a Facebook Event invite with more details on how to sign up and the proposed agenda. This post will also be updated with these details. Special invitations will also be sent to previous applicants from our Rising Voices microgrant competitions, many of which come from these cities.

We're also launching a hashtag – #GVMeetup to follow along even if you one of these meetups are not scheduled for your city.

These six meetups are part of a pilot project to explore ways that our vast Global Voices community in all corners of the world can help facilitate peer learning and exchange among readers and other individuals and organizations in the field of citizen media. We hope to build upon this experience for more meetups in 2014!

In the meantime, for more information please write to rising [at] globalvoicesonline [dot] org

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.

March 18 2013

A Look Inside the Indigenous University of Venezuela

What is it like to be a student at the Indigenous University of Venezuela [es]? Three students from the department of edu-communication recently took part in a workshop led by Rising Voices in order to learn how to take better digital photographs and how to upload and share them on the internet

These three students are part of an effort to showcase this unique university designed to provide an intercultural and experimental form of education to students from Venezuela's indigenous communities. By accessing the university's satellite connection, which was provided by the government program called Infocentros [es], the students are able to access the internet to share images of activities, facilities, and the stunning nature that surrounds the 2,000-hectare campus located in the state of Bolívar.

To read more about the university and the workshop held in February 2013, please read the post on the Rising Voices blog.

These are some of the photographs taken by the students and uploaded to the university's Flickr account. Click on the photograph to visit the original photograph.

 A typical hut-like structure called a "churuata" where the students gather for meetings and other group activities. Photo by Akaneto.

A typical hut-like structure called a “churuata” where the students gather for meetings and other group activities. Photo by Akaneto.

A mural of "Kiwxi" an indigenous leader assassinated in Brazil and whose image adorns the inside wall of the churuata. Photo by Akaneto.

A mural of “Kiwxi” an indigenous leader assassinated in Brazil and whose image adorns the inside wall of the churuata. Photo by Akaneto.

Symbols used as marking during traditional activities and during communal work. It can also be used as protection from bad spirits. Photo by Wadaana.

Symbols used as marking during traditional activities and during communal work. It can also be used as protection from bad spirits. Photo by Wadaana.

Preparation of a meal by the river that runs through the UIV campus. Photo by Akaneto

Preparation of a meal by the river that runs through the UIV campus. Photo by Akaneto

Typical fried fish prepared by the students. Photo by Kuranicha.

Typical fried fish prepared by the students. Photo by Kuranicha.

Bridge over Caño Tauca, a small river that runs through the campus, where the students can bathe and also fish. Photo by Kuranicha.

Bridge over Caño Tauca, a small river that runs through the campus, where the students can bathe and also fish. Photo by Kuranicha.

Portrait of Jedewanadi from the Ye'kwana indigenous community. Photo by Wadaana.

Portrait of Jedewanadi from the Ye'kwana indigenous community. Photo by Wadaana.

More photographs can be found here.

February 26 2013

Brazil: Citizen Journalists Expose City's Unfinished Works

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

A citizen-led investigative journalism effort in a small Brazilian city ignored by the country's mainstream media has shed light on the failure of a local government, marred by a legacy of administrative wrongdoing and poor accountability, to complete public works projects on time.

Project Amigos de Januária [Friends of Januária], a 2011 Rising Voices grantee [en], has worked to keep the government of Januária [en], a city of 65,000 residents in the northern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, honest since 2004. With a newly elected mayor and other local representatives assuming their roles on January 1, 2013, the citizen journalism outfit has recently reported on several city projects, including the construction of a sports complex, pavement repairs, and renovations to river docks, that began in early 2012 with a deadline set for May of the same year that the previous administration has left unfinished.

Construction of a sports court in Januária. Photo by Amigos de Januária, under Creative Commons license.

Construction of a sports complex in Januária. Photo by Amigos de Januária, under Creative Commons license.

In late December, days before the city's new political administration assumed power, the project visited the construction of a sports complex in the Novo Milênio neighborhood and said:

A obra possui apoio do Governo Federal e esta estimada em R$ 437.022,25. Acontece que na placa o prazo de execução é de 180 dias, mas não existe data de início da obra, o que dificulta o acompanhamento por parte da população em verificar se existe atraso na execução.

The works are financed by the Federal Government and it is estimated at 437.022,25 reais [about 221.390 US dollars]. What happens is that the license states an original deadline of 180 days, but there is no starting date, which makes it difficult for the population to monitor the works and check if there's a delay in execution.

Members of the project promise to keep track of the sports complex construction, in order to push “the new political administration to resume it in 2013″.

Hole in the crossing of Leão XIII street with Brasil Avenue, during a summer rain. Photo by reader Wellington Silva, published by Amigos de Januária.

Works left unfinished in the crossing of Leão XIII street with Brasil Avenue during a summer rain. Photo by reader Wellington Silva, published by Amigos de Januária.

The city's docks and several works of street pavement passed their deadlines and were left unfinished by the former political administration. The organization's post shares concern over the misuse of public taxes and reports about risks faced by the population, especially during the rainy season.

To celebrate 152 years since the founding of Januária, the local government began works to reform the city's docks on December 13, 2011, with an estimated date of conclusion set for May 8, 2012. However, the docks were not ready on time. As the city lies on the São Francisco river [en], the docks are its most important touristic attraction.

O ponto turístico da cidade rebebeu [sic] barras de segurança a sua volta, bancos de madeira no estilo clássico e calçamento plano adequado a deficientes visuais. Entretanto apenas uma parte do projeto esta pronto, a grande maioria da passarela não está calçada e os postes de iluminação mencionados na publicidade não foram feitos nem instalados.

The town's touristic attraction now boasts guardrails all along, classic wooden benches and flat pavement appropriate for the blind. However, only a section of the project was completed, and a great majority of the promenade has no pavement and the streetlights mentioned in ads haven't yet been installed or even manufactured.
Docks of Januária. Photo by Amigos de Januária, used under CC license.

Docks of Januária. Photo by Amigos de Januária, used under CC license.

The Getúlio Vargas Square was one of the few completed works.

Getúlio Vargas Square reformed in the town of Januária, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. Photo by Amigos de Januária, under Creative Commons license.

Works at Getúlio Vargas Square were completed in the town of Januária, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. Photo by Amigos de Januária, under Creative Commons license.

All around the city, unfinished public works are a reminder of what the new political administration has inherited from the the city's previous leadership. Beyond stagnant constructions projects, the new administration must solve a budgetary mess leftover from before the transfer of power - civil servants’ pay for December has been delayed, and no estimate was given for January. Amigos de Januária reported that salaries had not yet been paid in early February.

Januária isn't, however, an isolated case in Brazil. The lack of payment to public officials and the unfinished state of public works are features of a fragile political commitment to the city. Issues of physical and services-based infrastructure often rise in political transition periods, affecting the population. Members of the Amigos de Januária project are addressing these issues in order to keep their city running.

November 13 2012

Blogging the Earthquake's Aftermath from Huitán, Guatemala

Rural communities in Guatemala were severely affected by the strong 7.4-magnitude earthquake that struck the country's Pacific coast on November 7, 2012.

The blog [es] for the community library Mi Nuevo Mundo (My new world) -part of the Rising Voices grantee project Xela Civic Libraries, located in the Huitán village in the Quetzaltenango department- has been sharing photos and reports of the earthquake's impact on the families living in this rural area of Guatemala.

In a post [es] published on November 10, community librarian Roman Díaz Castañón reported that several houses collapsed and families were left homeless in an area called Huitancito in Huitán:

las familias lloran por ese desastre,ellos están en extrema pobreza y están pasando una situación alarmante, no han llegado ayudas de instituciones como víveres, alimentos, necesitamos de su ayuda.

the families cry because of this disaster, they are in extreme poverty and are going through an alarming situation. Help, such as food, has not arrived from institutions, we need your help.

Family from Huitancito, Huitán

Family from Huitancito, Huitán, photo from blog Biblioteca Comunitaria Mi Nuevo Mundo.

House destroyed in Huitancito, Huitán

House destroyed in Huitancito, Huitán, photo from blog Biblioteca Comunitaria Mi Nuevo Mundo.

Rubble after the earthquake in Huitancito, Huitán

Rubble after the earthquake in Huitancito, Huitán, photo from blog Biblioteca Comunitaria Mi Nuevo Mundo.

Two days later, Roman reported [es] that on Sunday, November 11, Riecken Foundation Guatemala and the community library had provided aid to ten families affected by the earthquake in Huitancito, Huitán. The post highlighted that the village still needed help with food, kitchen utensils, blankets, and building houses. Furthermore, Roman added that 100 families were affected by the earthquake, and 20 lost their houses.

Residents of Huitancito, Huitán receive aid from Riecken Guatemala and community library Mi Nuevo Mundo

Residents of Huitancito, Huitán receive aid from Riecken Guatemala and community library Mi Nuevo Mundo, photo from blog Biblioteca Comunitaria Mi Nuevo Mundo.

Later that day, a short post [es] announced that help from the government had arrived on November 12. The blog will keep readers informed about the distribution of food and other aid.

Government arrives with food for families affected by earthquake in Huitán

Government arrives with food for families affected by earthquake in Huitán photo from blog Biblioteca Comunitaria Mi Nuevo Mundo.

Guatemala has been hit by several aftershocks since November 7, including a 6.5-mangitude earthquake on November 12. The official death toll for the whole country is currently at 42 casualties.

October 25 2012

Global Voices Seeks Rising Voices Editor

Global Voices seeks a Rising Voices Editor to produce and manage its online content flow related to citizen media development and outreach in global underrepresented communities. This content highlights innovative people, initiatives, and tools that are contributing towards promoting greater participation in the global digital space, especially through knowledge and skills sharing.

The editor will work with our growing community of volunteer authors to expand this content to be more representative of more regions and languages. Through the writing of regular blog posts and managing other online RV content, s/he will be instrumental in articulating the need for a greater diversity of voices and the work taking place to approach this ongoing goal.

The Rising Voices Editor will be responsible for the following:

  • Daily writing and editing of online content on the Rising Voices (RV) website;
  • Recruiting, supporting and editing Rising Voices volunteer authors to produce online content related to RV's mission;
  • Working with RV partner organizations to promote RV content through mass media, social media, and other public forums;
  • Coordinating with the broader Global Voices community, including working with GV Managing, Deputy, Regional, and Lingua Editors to ensure content is posted and translated as needed;
  • Assisting with the management of RV's social media accounts, mailing list, and Delicious account;
  • Assisting with the management of a centralized compendium of guides, tutorials, and resources related to citizen media development and outreach, and writing and updating RV guides and tutorials as needed. Coordinate translation of guides into target languages.

We seek a candidate with the following qualities:

  • Deep experience in citizen media development, training, and mentoring;
  • Professional editing and writing in English;
  • Strong familiarity with digital media technology, blogging, social media, and tools used to bring new voices into the global conversation;
  • Ability to support and manage distributed, virtual communities;
  • Initiative to engage in outreach and research to identify new topics to feature;
  • Familiarity with open source software and open content communities;
  • Ability to work independently and to produce results in a timely manner.

To work effectively with our community, we would prefer that candidates:

  • Have experience living and working internationally, or have traveled extensively in the developing world;
  • Are active bloggers or creators of online media;
  • Are multilingual, with fluency in English and at least one other language;
  • Have experience working in diverse, multicultural environments;
  • Are strong communicators and facilitators;
  • Are able to work independently, in a virtual environment.

The Rising Voices Editor will report to the Rising Voices Director.

The ideal candidate must have a passionate commitment to the values and goals of Global Voices. S/he will be joining a well established core team who are dedicated to amplifying the voices of world. There is no geographic requirement associated with this position; Global Voices has no office or physical headquarters. Candidates must have access to broadband Internet connectivity and be comfortable working in a wholly virtual environment. We strongly welcome candidates from outside North America and Western Europe, and encourage people currently working on the Global Voices project to apply.

The position is part-time, but should be treated as a freelance contract.

Interested candidates should send a CV and letter of interest explaining why you would be a good candidate for the job to “rising AT globalvoicesonline DOT org” by no later than November 5, 2012.

August 17 2012

Paraguay: Struggles and Threats Over Aché Indigenous Lands

For the past nine years, sixty families from the Aché indigenous community of Kuetuvy have been fighting to reclaim their ancestral lands located in northeastern Paraguay. Some 4600 hectares of this territory called “Finca 470″ were finally transferred back to this community by the Paraguayan government on July 26, 2012.

These lands are especially important because they are located within a protected area of the Mbaracayú Biosphere Reserve, as declared by UNESCO. These lands contain rich biodiversity including many species of medicinal plants, which is something that the Aché people pledged to preserve as part of their agreement with the Ministry of the Environment.

The Aché celebrating the granting of land titles. Photo courtesy Aché djawu.

This month was supposed to be one of prolonged celebration with the land titles now in the hands of the Aché. Margarita Mbywangi, a blogger from the Rising Voices grantee project Aché djawu, wrote about this sense of pride of finally accomplishing their goal [es]:

Fue una lucha muy sufrida, hemos recibido mucha discriminación institucional, pero el pueblo Aché pudo sostener esta lucha hasta el final.

It was a very difficult struggle, and even though we received a lot of institutional discrimination, the Aché people were able to sustain this fight until the very end.

However, an ongoing conflict with peasant groups that claim that this land should be ruled in excess has put a damper on this joyous occasion. Many of the peasant groups have begun to construct settlements in hope of being awarded this land, as well as taking part in illegal logging activities. For those Aché that have attempted to stop these activities, as well as journalists that have entered to cover the story, the peasant groups have issued death threats [es].

Ricardo Mbekrorongi, who is also a part of the Aché djawu project, has been updating the community's Twitter account (@AcheKuetuvy) [es] via SMS with occasional updates about this turn of events. On August 5, 2012, he tweeted:

@AcheKuetuvy: Los Ache de kuetuvy preocupado por la invacion de los campesinos, donde ya fue transferido a los ache

@AcheKuetuvy: The Aché from (the community of) Kuetuvy are concerned about the peasant invasion of land that has already been transferred to the Aché.

In the group blog, Mbekrorongi also uploaded photos from a visit by journalists [es] that went to investigate this illegal logging.

Journalists visiting illegal logging activities. Photo by Ricardo Mbekrorongi.

And most recently, community leader Mbywangi received a threatening phone call saying that if young Aché hunters would venture out into these lands that they would be killed. Her son, Mbekrorongi was the first to publicly denounce this threat on the group blog [es]:

Ayer a la 19:30 hora de la tarde en un descanso en su casa nuestra lider Margarita Mbywangi recibe amenaza de muerte en su celular, donde el sujeto se identifica que es campesino, en su llamado dice a nuestra lider Margarita que si los jovenes van de caceria cerca de ellos lo van matar. Margarita se lamenta ante esta llamado, y mientras tanto nuestras autoridades no hacen nada.

Yesterday (August 15) at 19:30 hours, while our leader Margarita Mbywangi was resting at her house, she received a death threat on her mobile phone from a man, who identified himself as a peasant. He told our leader Margarita that if the young men would come close to them while hunting, that they would be killed. Margarita is saddened by this call while our authorities do nothing.

Members of the six Aché communities across Paraguay are coming together in solidarity asking government officials to enforce the removal of these peasant groups from the lands that now rightly belong to the Aché people. They hope that they can resume the celebrations that were scheduled to take place in commemoration of the historical awarding of the land titles.

July 30 2012

Brazil: Concerns Over Public Health in Januária

Participants of the citizen journalism project Amigos de Januária [pt] are carrying on the mission to monitor the local government of Januária, in Minas Gerais, Brazil. The project, a Rising Voices grantee, consisted of a seven-week training to youth on principles of journalism and use of government data to make their city a better place.

Following a series of corruption scandals, participants monitor government activities to raise awareness and foster accountability. Their latest blog posts focus on health and public safety. On June 18, Loreci Farias, who is also a local schoolteacher, reported on an improvised public healthcare unit that makes patients uneasy in the district of São Joaquim. He writes [pt]:

Você já se consultou em uma cela de presídio? É isso mesmo, em São Joaquim os pacientes estão sendo atendidos em uma cela do prédio construído para sediar o Posto Policial do Distrito supracitado. Como o prédio da Unidade Básica de Saúde está caindo aos pedaços e para prevenir possíveis acidentes, o médico optou por mudar o atendimento para o prédio do Posto Policial.

Have you ever been to a doctor inside a prison cell? That's right, in the district of São Joaquim, patients have their medical appointments in the cell of a facility designed to be the district's Police station. However, since the healthcare facility is falling apart, the doctor decided to transfer the clinic to the Police station to avoid accidents.

Photo of the improvised healthcare unit, posted on the Amigos de Januária blog and used under a Creative Commons license.

The healthcare unit was transferred to a police station that was closed three years ago, and since then there has not been a government initiative to solve this. However, this transfer was made possible due to another problem: there are not enough police officers in town to reopen the police station. He adds the district is “very dangerous, with a high delinquency rate and intense drug use”.

On June 27, the anonymous profile Mídia Cidadã [Citizen Media] wrote [pt] about the renovation of the town's Farmácia Popular [People's Drugstore], which was financed by a federal program with over 66,000 Brazilian reais (approximately US$ 33,000). The construction was photographed 60 days before the post was published, and there was no progress since:

Por que as obras não estão em andamento? E se a reforma já foi concluída, por que o prédio não está sendo utilizado?
[…]
A expansão do Programa visa oferecer alternativas de acesso à assistência farmacêutica, com vistas à promoção da integralidade do atendimento à saúde.

Why aren't the construction works taking place? Or, if the facility's renovation work has been concluded, why isn't it open?
[…]
The program's expansion aims to offer alternatives to pharmaceutical assistance, in regards to a complete promotion of health care.

Photo of the People's Drugstore posted on the Amigos de Januária blog and used under a Creative Commons license.

In front of the building, a billboard provides information about the construction company, cost, and the deadline of 120 days, although it leaves out mandatory information about when renovation works began.

Track of National Highway 479 leading to the Mountain of the Araras, distant 1 km from the district of São Joaquim. Photo posted on the Amigos de Januária blog and used under a Creative Commons license.

Members of Amigos de Januária also worry about the way residents dispose their trash and the potential health problems. Farias writes about a dumpsite[pt] located near a village just beside a national highway. He talked to a resident and quoted him:

É muito comum a gente matar cobras e ratos aqui por causa desse lixo ai, junta ratos dai vem as cobras por causa dos ratos.

Too often we kill snakes and rats here because of that garbage. Rats come and then snakes appear because of the rats.

Cattle on the dumpsite. Photo posted on the Amigos de Januária blog and used under Creative Commons license.

Besides, Farias reports that the dumpsite serves as an open “food court” for cattle. He comments:

[…] quem garante que estes bovinos não estão contaminados por alguma doença e ainda se você mesmo não já comeu carne de bovinos dos quais se alimentam daquele lixo.
[…]
Vamos ver quais providências serão tomadas pela adimistração municipal sobre determinado assunto ja que estamos em ano político [em referência às eleições municipais de outubro].

[…] who can ensure the cattle are free from contamination with a disease or that you haven't eaten the beef from a cow fed by that trash.
[…]
Let's see the measures the municipality administration will take on this matter since this a political year [referring to the October municipal elections].

April 04 2011

Announcing the Newest Rising Voices Grantees

Written by Eduardo Avila

Rising Voices is pleased to announce the five newest members to join its global community of citizen media grantees. Each of the selected projects will receive microgrants to implement their proposed project to teach others how to use various citizen media tools. This latest competition round resulted in an impressive amount of interest from around the world. In all, Rising Voices received more than 750 applications from more than 90 countries, and it was a difficult decision narrowing down the selection to just five grantee projects. There were many deserving projects with great ideas that addressed specific needs in local underrepresented communities that we were unfortunately unable to fund. The five projects selected from Brazil, India, Greece, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau are diverse and represent four different continents. We think they will add much to our community, please join us in welcoming them. To read the full announcement, please visit the Rising Voices website.

January 20 2010

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Technology for Transparency Network

For those, who want to copy the whole introductory article

Announcing the Technology for Transparency Network

by Rising Voices (a branch of Global Voices) in their soup, you can do it from here
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