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October 29 2013

TribeWanted: Sustainable Eco-Tourism Communities

A new model of self-sustainable eco-tourism is enjoying great success thanks to online supporters from around the world. From Sierra Leone to the heart of Italy, these are locally managed communities that welcome motivated visitors to take part in both the fun and the work at incredibly beautiful sites.

Tribewanted @ Monestevole, Italy

Welcome @ Monestevole

It all began in 2006 with an online community or “tribe” called TribeWanted started by social entrepreneurs Ben Keene and Filippo Bozotti. Their mission was to build a sustainable tourism community on the Fijian island, Vorovoro, in partnership with villagers.

The campaign caught fire and within a few weeks 1000 people from 21 countries had supported the project with an average of $250 each. Over the next four years, a rotating group of 15 tribe-members, built the cross-cultural island community together with the landowners and 25 Fijian employees.

This success story soon led to the creation of new eco-villages in John Obey Beach, Sierra Leone in 2010 (check their beautiful videos here) and Monestevole, Italy in 2013.

These communities are funded by worldwide members, starting at £10 ($12) per tribe member per month. Members can then vote on new locations and money surplus distribution, visit Tribewanted.com sustainability experts and content, top up their credit and stay at any location for less.

Dinner at TribeWanted in Monestevole, Italy (photo by Ariel Parrella, CC BY)

Dinner at TribeWanted in Monestevole, Italy (photo by Ariel Parrella, CC BY)

In the ‘Green Heart’ of Italy

Over a few, rainy days in early October I traveled with my daughter and a group of 15 other people (mostly Germans) to the new “eco-tribe” in Italy to experience this communal living experiment.

We helped with farming activities and hearty meal preparation, played music together and spent time wandering and marveling over the beautiful scenery.

It's a collaborative, social experiment based on a simple truth: another world is possible, here and now. When you build a sustainable business model around conviviality and sharing, people can actually put into practice a new lifestyle around this belief.

Here is a video introducing the TribeWanted Monestevole community, near Umbertide (Umbria, Italy). To learn more check their Facebook page.

“Where We Feel at Home”

Co-founder Ben Keene explains in his personal blog earlier this year how the overall structure of the community influences the experience of visitors:

Each project has had its successes and challenges. But what has connected them all is a sense that, together with our local partners and supportive members we’ve created places where we all feel at home. Like a part of us has always belonged there – even though the language, diet and culture may seem very different to the place we might normally call home. And because we feel ‘at home’ we’re open to engage with different ideas, foods, experiences, and people as well as rejuvenate and play. With the leadership of our local teams and communities we’ve been able to reinforce the importance of protecting cultural heritage as well as the natural environment and resources.

To underline their commitment to improving local quality of life in “tribe” locations, 30% of all membership fees go towards community projects for health, education, conservation, enterprise and clean energy. Members and visitors are also encourage to engage in these issues during their stay and when they return home.

The next step is to expand TribeWanted with 10 new locations, through partnerships with other eco-tourism projects and by scaling the innovative membership model.

A crowdfunding campaign for equity in Tribewanted Ltd is currently underway on a new platform, Crowdcube, and there is already planning underway for new communities in Mozambique, Laos, Nicaragua, the United Kingdom and Bali.

If successful, this crowd funding effort will help push forward a broader approach to eco-tourism and toward a more participatory culture across the globe, as Filippo Borzotti says in an update on the crowd-funding campaign:

We also think this goes beyond tourism, we are investing in a lifestyle. We like to think we are ahead of the curve: living sustainably and promoting green energy and green architecture, local food, public water, minimizing waste and minimizing our carbon footprint; we want to be an example for how hopefully we will all live in the next 50 years.

August 02 2013

News Websites Indicted over Land Grab Report

News Websites Rue89 and Basta Mag are indicted [fr] following charges by French investment and industrial holding group Bolloré over a report in which they implicate Bolloré [fr] in land grab activities [fr] in Africa. The report lists the group's  activities in Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Politis, a weekly analysis website, reacted to the news on twitter :

 

Freedom of Press : Basta ! and Rue89 are indicted following charges by Bolloré Group : Our friends at Basta…

Rue89 is a partner of Global Voices en Français.

April 02 2013

‘Tribewanted’ Creates, Connects Eco-Villages

Renewable energy, permaculture and green building, along with local traditions and eco-tourism: welcome to Tribewanted – an online community launched in 2006 based on the idea of “global citizenship” and harnessing the energy of social media to meaningfully connect and practice positive behavior change. Thanks to crowdfunding strategies, the project plans to build 10 eco-villages around the world: after Vorovoro (Fiji Islands) and John Obey (Sierra Leone), a new village just launched in Monestevole [it], in Umbria, the heart of Italy. Connect with Tribewanted people via web, Facebook or Vimeo.

November 17 2012

Sierra Leone: Mapping Out Real-Time Election Data

Sierra Leone holds its third national election since the end of their civil war on 17 November, 2012. A coalition of monitoring organisations in the country, National Election Watch, will map out real-time election-related data using OneWorld's monitoring technologies.

In an email conversation, Amanda Fortier, OSIWA Communications Assistant, describes the project:

The election monitoring project, Sierra Leone Elections Live: Citizens' Situation Room implemented by National Elections Watch, is named for the wartime situation room, and uses an online tracking tool to monitor polling results in real time. It was used for the first time ever in Nigeria, Liberia, Senegal and now in Sierra Leone. The idea is to ensure credible elections that are fair and transparent, and to help put civil society at the forefront so they can diagnose, anticipate and prepare for immediate action in the event of fraud or violence. It was a very successful project that Hilary Clinton even mentioned during her recent visit to Senegal a few weeks back.

Map of districts of Sierra Leone. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) by Wikipedia user Acntx.

What exactly is Sierra Leone Elections Live?:

Sierra Leonean civil society will have unprecedented access to real-time data on information including turn-out, voter demographics, corruption levels and results during their national election on November 17. In Freetown, National Election Watch (a coalition of monitoring organizations), will receive coded SMS reports sent from a statistically significant sample of their 9,493 trained election observers - based in every polling stations across the country. The messages will be deciphered, verified and mapped using OneWorld’s real-time monitoring technologies, enabling NEW to make informed and immediate interventions. The data will also be published on this website for anyone to see, in real-time - or as soon as local internet access permits!

Why does Sierra Leone need real-time election data?:

Traditionally, collecting and analyzing data from election observers can take hours or even days, which is often too late to affect the course of events. A Situation Room, powered with real-time data from a statistically significant sample of polling stations, will enable NEW to coordinate immediate responses to serious incidents (calling on election officials, law enforcement and local and international media) and to make informed pronouncements about the status of the elections as they are happening.

Who are the people behind Sierra Leone Elections Live?:

The National Election Watch (NEW) is the largest coalition of monitoring organizations in Sierra Leone. It began operations in 1997 and deployed over 5,500 observers during the 2007 Presidential elections. OneWorld has seventeen years’ experience of innovating and deploying cutting edge technologies for social good, in some of the most challenging countries and environments in the world. SMAG Media were behind the votentext.org initiative in Liberia during the 2011 elections. Salonevote.com is supported by OSI West Africa.

One has to wait and see if real-time data from Sierra Leone Elections Live will enable the National Election Watch and other stakeholders to coordinate immediate responses to violence during and after the elections. There have been incidents of violence between supporters of the main political parties, each party blaming the other side:

Last weekend`s clashes were between supporters of the APC and those of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), and it comes just 19 days before voting.Reports say at least ten people were wounded.
Both parties have claimed the other side attacked first. Kono is the home of the incumbent Vice President Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana, but the area previously voted in favour of the opposition SLPP.

The main opposition party, Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), claims that supporters of the ruling party have been engaging in illegal activities:

The SLPP alleges that the Sierra Leone Police on one occasion on the 20th of October arrested members of a dance troupe coming out to support the party after the dancers were accused of being Kamajors.

[… ]Lastly, the opposition party says that posters of its presidential candidate Julius Maada Bio are turned down by APC supporters. The party is calling on the police, NEC, and PPRC to take note as the laws of Sierra Leone guarantee certain rights to all political parties.

Mohamed Kabbah Turay argues that election violence sabotages nationalism in the country:

Violence seems to be garnering weight of momentum amongst some political gurus, one needs no evidence, but only to scan through the literature of their political discourse you could find your answer. Comments like: we are not going to tolerate political intimidation without retaliating further, by few people who called themselves state-men or working to be one are indeed reckless and un-nationalistic.

Only yesterday a man was beaten and lost his car through vandalizing act at the Saint John roundabout just because he was expressing his political freedom of choosing party regalia bearing the emblem of red. This simple democratic value cannot be stomached by certain party hoodlums and power drunkards who left their fellow citizen for the hospital. This uncultured act was carried out by no lesser political party, but the one that prouds itself with the spirit of ‘one people one country philosophy’, forensic the act only spells doom and cast negatives as against the kind of leaders we are breeding for the mere feature.

Another isolated incident is a case of where the flag-bearer of the SLPP party Julius Maada Bio was not welcomed in the spirit of democracy and as a Sierra Leonean, especially the leader of the second most powerful political party in the country at the Dwarzark community is despicable and militates against nationalism.

Another organisation, Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), has a campaign to keep Sierra Leone's elections free and fair. You can view JHR's film about the need to keep elections coverage balanced in Sierra Leone or to find out more information about the campaign here. You can also visit them on Facebook.

October 14 2012

Sierra Leone: Is Ami Musa the Saddest Pinterest Page in the World?

One blog, Lovelyish, considers a Pinterest campaign by UNICEF UK to raise awareness about children living in poverty in Africa “the saddest Pinterest page in the world.” The campaign involves a 13-year-old girl Ami Musa from Kenema District, Sierra Leone.

Ami Musa

Pinterest profile, Ami Musa, from Sierra Leone.

Pinterest is an online pinboard website that allows users to create, manage and share image collections of events, humor, interests, etc. Users can re-pin or like images.

Ami Musa's board titled “Really Want These” has images of basic needs that she wants with the message:

This is what 13-year-olds like Ami from Sierra Leone really want. Repin to remind people of what the world’s poorest children dream of. www.unicef.org.uk…

The images show that what she really wants are basic necessities such as clean water, food, school supplies and clothing.

Each pin is linked to a donation page that says:

Children like Ami need basics that many of us take for granted: food, education, healthcare, a clean supply of water.
Your donation can help us provide these and other essentials. Thank you.

Lovelyish says that the campaign reminds people of what poor children dream of:

Pinterest shoes

Ami Musa needs shoes. Image source: Ami Musa's Pinterest page.

While many of us pin hairstyles that we like, tips for making our smaller bathroom look larger and ways to make a recipe better, Ami Musa's board, titled “Really want these.” reminds people of what the world's poorest children dream of: food, clean water, basic clothing and the opportunity to learn.

I'm not going to lie, when I found this board and clicked back to my homepage, which mainly consists of designer wear that I admire and graphic design work, I cried. Most of us truly do not realize how lucky we are.

Jan Angevine, a Pinterest user, comments on the page:

I lived in Asia for a year. The first thing that struck me when I returned ot the U.S. and walked into the Los Angeles airport was that every, single, person wore shoes. I cried.

Pinterest education

Ami Musa wants education. Image source: Ami Musa's Pinterest page

Another user, Michelle LeBlanc, says:

Great campaign to put all of my “wants” in perspective.

Hilton Foundation congratulates UNICEF UK for creative use of Pinterest:

Congratulations on a really creative use of Pinterest! Hope it wins you even more fans.

Tom Murphy argues that Pinterest represents a bit of a brave new world for NGOs to reach newer audiences:

The pins were sent out at the beginning of September, a point in time that coincided with the developing cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone and Guinea. Each received over 100 repins, over 40 likes and a handful of comments.

Pinterest represents a bit of a brave new world for NGOs to reach newer audiences. There is an opportunity for fundraising because the majority of the audience is quite homogenous. Over 2/3 of Pinterest users are women, roughly half are between 25 and 44 years of age and a quarter have an annual household income above $100k (not really sure how this is calculated). All that adds up to potential donors.

Marion aan ‘t Goor at Viral Blog asks, “Pinterest Campaigns: Effective Or Overhyped?”:

I need food. Image source: Ami Musa's Pinterest page.

The question is, will UNICEF receive more donations, solely by setting up this campaign on Pinterest? Or are they just using the buzz around Pinterest without thinking about what they want to achieve? The “really want these” board contains only 9 pins, the last one dated 2 weeks ago. Some might say UNICEF should keep Ami’s account up to date, by showing followers images of possible improvements of circumstances children like Ami are living in, because of donations made. Others say the possibility for users to repin the photos that are already pinned and virally spread them across the platform makes updating the account with new photos unnecessary.

Either way, all we really know is that awareness was raised among Ami’s 915 followers, because the pins were repinned several hundred times. But is this enough to speak of a successful campaign, despite of the fact UNICEF did not actively involve Facebook or Twitter?

Tom Murphy concludes his post by saying:

Who is going to truly innovate on the ways that issues are discussed with the public in a manner that is not just a slick repackaging of Live Aid?

September 03 2012

2012 Paralympics: A Successful Start, Remarkable Stories

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

[All links forward to French articles unless otherwise stated] 

From August 29 until September 12, 2012, 4,200 athletes from 166 countries will take part in the 14th edition of the Paralympic Games in London and compete in twenty disciplines .

Here is a video presenting the Paralympic Games by  paralympicSportTv [en]:

The organizers needed 15 days after the London 2012 Olympics to rearrange and make infrastructure accessible.

Charles El Meliani on JOL press writes that a record number of tickets were sold for these games:

Londres a fait des efforts colossaux en matière de billetterie, mettant sans cesse en avant les Jeux paralympiques dans tous ses points de vente. Avec un résultat impressionnant : au total, ce sont déjà près de 2,3 millions de tickets qui ont trouvé preneur. Sur 2,5 millions mis en vente. En bref, ces Jeux pourraient bien se dérouler à guichets fermés : exceptionnel.

London has put forward tremendous efforts in terms of ticketing and exposure, consistently showcasing the Paralympics in all of its vending outlets. The results are impressive: in total, almost 2.3 million tickets have already been sold out of the total 2.5 million initially planned. This games could very well be a sellout:  just amazing.
The Burkina Faso delegation during the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games

The Burkina Faso delegation during the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games. Screenshot of a video of the ceremony provided by paralympicSportTv

The competing athletes are not all born with disabilities. Jacqueline Mallet on the blog ‘Province de l'équateur' explains and illustrates some remarkable stories in the following post ‘“I was given up for dead”: the incredible destiny of disabled athletes‘:

Certains de ces sportifs ont grandi avec leur handicap, tandis que d’autres ont dû apprendre à le surmonter à la suite d’une guerre ou d’un accident. Frappés par le destin, ils ont trouvé dans le sport un moyen de se reconstruire.

Some of these athletes have grown with their disabilities, while others have had to learn to overcome it as a result of war wounds or accidents. Struck by fate, they found in sport a way to rebuild themselves.

Mallet also writes about the journey of several athletes: Martine Wright, a survivor of the London bombings; Derek Derenalagi, a soldier born in Fiji, given up for dead; Rim Ju Song, the first North Korean participant who, a few months ago, could not swim; and Hassiem Achmat, who survived a shark attack.

Another blog post entitled ‘A war mutilated Afghan en route to the London Games …‘ shares the story of Malek Mohammad, an Afghan athlete who lost both his legs in 2005 when he stepped on a land mine near his home in Kabul.

Afghan swimmer Malek Mohamed at home before the Paralympic Games.

Afghan swimmer Malek Mohamed at home before the Paralympic Games. Screenshot of a video of Malek Mohamed provided by AFP on Youtube

In the blog post ‘Once a war victim, now a paralympic hero‘ [en], Damon van der Linde in Freetown, Sierra Leone, tells us about  the story of Mohamed Kamara who was only four years old when he was captured by rebels during the civil war. They eventually cut off one of his arms during his captivity.

On the France Handicap Info website,  Stéphane Lagoutière writes:

L'autre grande star de ces jeux seront bien sur les déficients mentaux, avec un retour après 12 ans d'absence.

Of course, the other big events of these games will be the return of the mentally challenged to the paralympic Games, the athletes are back 12 years after they last took part in the games.

In France, only a regional television channel will broadcast all of the events.

On Twitter, user @ThePositive1 posted a picture of the Jamaican team.

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

May 02 2012

Sierra Leone: Reflections on Charles Taylor and Justice

Robtel Pailey reflects on Charles Taylor's verdict: “What Charles Taylor’s verdict signifies for me is the need to reconfigure Africa’s domestic systems of justice, so that we don’t have to rely on the West to judge when, where, and under what circumstances we can punish for transgressions that we deem unacceptable….International justice is clearly blind to the atrocities committed by Western agents as well as non-Western countries that wield international clout or power.”

Africa: Calls for Transparency Over Marked Increase in Land Deals

The UK Guardian newspaper's Global Development blog reports that an international coalition of researchers and NGOs has released the world's largest public database of international land deals. This marks an important milestone in highlighting a developmental issue that has received little attention in the international news cycle.

The report states that almost 5% of Africa's agricultural land has been bought or leased by investors since 2000, and emphasizes the fact that this is not a new issue, yet points out that the number of such land deals has increased tremendously in the past five years.

Many observers are increasingly worried that these land deals usually take place in the world's poorest countries and that they impact its most vulnerable population, the farmers. The benefits seldom go to the general population, partially because of a lack of transparency in the proceedings of the transactions.

An additional report by Global Witness, entitled Dealing with Disclosure, emphasizes the dire need for transparency in the making of land deals.

World's poorest nations targeted 

The Global Witness report lists that 754 land deals have been identified, involving the majority of African countries for about 56.2 million hectares.

Target countries of land deals from the Land Matrix Project

Target countries of land deals from the Land Matrix Project

The nations targeted are usually some of the poorest in the world. The countries with the most deals in place are Mozambique (92 deals), Ethiopia (83), Tanzania (58) and Madagascar (39). Some of those deals have made headlines because they were conducted to ensure control over food imports, when the targeted regions faced major food crises.

The NGO GRAIN has already explained in detail the gist of their concerns in an extensive report released in 2008:

Today’s food and financial crises have, in tandem, triggered a new global land grab. On the one hand, “food insecure” governments that rely on imports to feed their people are snatching up vast areas of farmland abroad for their own offshore food production. On the other hand, food corporations and private investors, hungry for profits in the midst of the deepening financial crisis, see investment in foreign farmland as an important new source of revenue. As a result, fertile agricultural land is becoming increasingly privatised and concentrated. If left unchecked, this global land grab could spell the end of small-scale farming, and rural livelihoods, in numerous places around the world.

In Malawi, land deals have grown increasingly prevalent to the detriment of the local farmers. A report from Bangula explains the challenges faced by Malawian farmers, Dorothy Dyton and her family:

Like most smallholder farmers in Malawi, they did not have a title deed for the land Dyton was born on, and in 2009 she and about 2,000 other subsistence farmers from the area were informed by their local chief that the land had been sold and they could no longer cultivate there. […] Since that time, said Dyton, “life has been very hard on us.” With a game reserve on one side of the community and the Shire river and Mozambique border on the other, there is no other available land for them to farm and the family now ekes out a living selling firewood they gather from the nearby forest.

Land construction in Madagascar. Photo by Foko Madagascar, used with the author's authorization

Land construction in Madagascar. Photo by Foko Madagascar, used with the author's authorization

Farmers in Madagascar share similar concerns because they do not own the rights to the land they farm and an effective land reform is yet to be implemented. The Malagasy association Terres Malgaches has been at the forefront of land protection for the local population. They report that [fr]:

 Les familles malgaches ne possèdent pas de document foncier pour sécuriser leurs terres contre les accaparements de toutes sortes. En effet, depuis la colonisation, l’obtention de titres fonciers auprès de l’un des 33 services des domaines d’un pays de 589 000 km2 nécessite 24 étapes, 6 ans en moyenne et jusqu’à 500 dollars US. (..) .  Face aux convoitises et accaparements dont les terres malgaches font l’objet actuellement, seule la possession d’un titre ou d’un certificat foncier, seuls documents juridiques reconnus, permet d’entreprendre des actions en justice en cas de conflit.

Malagasy families do not usually own an estate property document that enable them to secure their lands against land grab. In fact, since colonial times, one has needed about 24 steps, 6 years and up to 500 US dollars to get such documents. There are merely around 33 agencies in the country that deliver such documents for a country that is 589,000 kilometres square […] In the face of the increasing land grabs that Malagasy land is currently at risk of, this certificate is the only document that can trigger legal action in case of conflict.

The association also reports on the practices of a mining company Sheritt, in Ambatovy, which have created a buzz in the local blogosphere because of environmental concerns for the local population and business malpractices (via MiningWatch Canada):

Sherritt International’s Ambatovy project in eastern Madagascar – costing $5.5 billion to build and scheduled to begin full production this month – will comprise a number of open pit mines (..) it will close in 29 years. There are already many concerns about the mine from the thousands of local people near the facilities. They say that their fields are destroyed ; the water is dirty ; the fish in the river are dead and there have been landslides near their village. During testing of the new plant, there have been at least four separate leaks of sulphur dioxide from the hydro-metallurgical facility which villagers say have killed at least two adults and two babies and sickened at least 50 more people. In January, laid-off construction workers from Ambatovy began a wildcat strike, arguing that the jobs they were promised when construction ended have not materialized. The people in nearby cities like Moramanga say that their daughters are increasingly engaged in prostitution.

Video of a worker's testimony in Ambatovy.

Solutions for the local population? 

The plight of Madagascar's farmers' plight may be slowly changing though. Land reform discussions are in progress, according to this report:

 According to a paper presented at the 2011 International Conference on Global Land Grabbing, about 50 agribusiness projects were announced between 2005 and 2010, about 30 of which are still active, covering a total land area of about 150,000 ha. Projects include plantations to produce sugar cane, cassava and jatropha-based biofuel.
To prevent the negative impacts of land grabbing, (The NGO) EFA has set up social models for investors, with funding from the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The goal is to help investors negotiate with the people in the area where they want to implement projects, as a way to prevent future problems.

Joachim Von Braun, formerly  of the International Food Policy Insitute (IFPRI), wrote the following regarding land deals:

 It is in the long-run interest of investors, host governments, and the local people involved to ensure that these arrangements are properly negotiated, practices are sustainable, and benefits are shared. Because of the transnational nature of such arrangements, no single institutional mechanism will ensure this outcome. Rather, a combination of international law, government policies, and the involvement of civil society, the media, and local communities is needed to minimize the threats and realize the benefits.

The need for transparency in land deals is further emphasized by  Megan MacInnes, Senior Land Campaigner at Global Witness:

Far too many people are being kept in the dark about massive land deals that could destroy their homes and livelihoods. That this needs to change is well understood, but how to change it is not. For the first time, this report (Dealing with Disclosure)  sets out in detail what tools governments, companies and citizens can harness to remove the shroud of secrecy that surrounds land acquisition. It takes lessons from efforts to improve transparency in other sectors and looks at what is likely to work for land. Companies should have to prove they are doing no harm, rather than communities with little information or power having to prove that a land deal is negatively affecting them.

 

February 23 2012

Sierra Leone: Postcards From Freetown: Then and Now

Babak uses old postcards from Freetown, Sierra Leone to compare what was then to what is now: “The series of “Once Salone: Freeown’s then and now” is a photography project that sent him sometimes to the most unlikely places to identify the locations.”

February 11 2011

Sierra Leone: Youth to Youth Fund accepting applications

Written by Ndesanjo Macha

Youth to Youth Fund for Sierra Leone is now accepting applications from youth led organizations in Sierra Leone: “The Youth to Youth Fund is a competitive grant scheme for youth employment. It supports innovative, small scale youth employment projects submitted by youth led organizations from Sierra Leone.”

February 10 2011

Sierra Leone: Do you believe in witchcraft?

Written by Ndesanjo Macha

Do you believe in witchcraft?:”A 20yr old girl, Edwina Esther Thorpe has supposedly confessed to being a witch in Wilberforce and is being kept at the chief's house for safe keeping after she accused a neighbor of “feeding ‘witch meat' to an 8yr old girl and burrying a ‘witch pot' inside one of the trees in the compound”.

November 26 2010

Sierra Leone: CIVICUS supports government accountability

By Ndesanjo Macha

CIVICUS to support government accountability in Sierra Leone: “In Sierra Leone, a country that receives 70% of its money in overseas aid, civil society organisations are big business. Weak regulation and limited collaboration between CSOs have shaped a civil society sector marred by poor governance, minimal transparency and cases of corruption.”

October 18 2010

Sierra Leone: Meet Bajah and The Dry Eye Crew

By Ndesanjo Macha

Africa is a Country music monday features “the super crew from Sierra Leone, Bajah + The Dry Eye Crew, remix Vampire Weekend and Paul Simon, who are well known, of course, for remixing (appropriating?) sounds from across the African continent.”

October 16 2010

Sierra Leone: The Vickie Remoe Show

By Ndesanjo Macha

Africa is a Country introduces his readers to the online and broadcast TV lifestyle show, The Vickie Remoe Show: “I’ve been following Sierra Leonean Vickie Remoe’s lifestyle and culture blog Swit Salone for a few years now. Blogging from Freetown since 2007, Vickie has been a consistent source of information via the web…”

Sierra Leone: Supporters of Leone Stars in Action

By Ndesanjo Macha

Photos of supporters of Sierra Leone national soccer team Leone Stars by Sierra Leonean blogger Vickie Ramoe.

September 17 2010

Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone Fragments

By Ndesanjo Macha

A video of everyday life in one of the richest diamonds mines area, Kono District, in Sierra Leone.

September 12 2010

Africa: HIV Positive Women Sterilized, Discriminated Against and Stigmatized

By Abdoulaye Bah · Translated by Lova Rakotomalala · View original post [fr]

On August 31st  2010, PlusNews and IRIN in Johannesburg highlighted the story of Veronica (a pseudonym), a HIV+ woman, who found out that she has been sterilized by nurses without any warnings [fr]:

Veronica* did not realize she had been sterilized while giving birth to her daughter until four years later when, after failing to conceive, she and her boyfriend consulted a doctor.
“I was like ‘Okay, fine', because there was nothing I could do by then, but I was angry. I hate [those nurses],” she told IRIN/PlusNews. Veronica tested HIV-positive during a routine antenatal visit and was given a form to sign by nurses at the hospital where she went to deliver.
“I didn't know what it was all about, but I did sign,” said Veronica, who was 18 at the time and had been scolded by the nurses for being unmarried.

On June 4th,  Servaas van den Bosch of IPS asked: «Are Namibian Women Being Forcibly Sterilised? (Les femmes sont-elles en train d’être stérilisées de force?)»[fr] :

Un procès historique, prétendant que des femmes séropositives ont été stérilisées de force dans des hôpitaux publics en Namibie, a commencé le 1er juin à la Haute cour à Windhoek, la capitale du pays.
Des groupes de défense des droits humains affirment que la pratique a continué longtemps après que les autorités ont été informées.
Le Centre d'assistance juridique (LAC) basé à Windhoek est en train de défendre 15 cas présumés de stérilisation forcée. Les cas de trois femmes seront entendus au début. Chaque femme demande l'équivalent de 132.000 dollars US de dommages et intérêts.

A historical trial took place June 1st at the High Court of Windhoek, the capital city. HIV+ women assert that they were sterilized by force in public hospitals of Namibia.
Human rights activist groups affirm that the practice continued long after the authorities were informed
The Legal Assistance Center (LAC) based in Windhoek is defending 15 cases of alleged forced sterilization. Three cases will be heard first and each women are asking for $132,000 USD for damages and interest.

The first cases of sterilization were found first by the International Community of Women (ICW) living with AIDS. Veronica Kalambi of ICW declares [fr]:

Les premiers cas sont apparus au cours des réunions communautaires au début de 2008. Dans les mois qui ont suivi, nous avons interrogé 230 femmes, parmi lesquelles 40 ont été stérilisées contre leur gré”,

The first cases appeared during communitarian meeting in early 2008. In the following months, we interviewed 230 women, of which 40 were sterilized against their will.

Reacting to the article about forced sterilization in 2009 in Namibia in the comment section, Maxi opines:

Despicable brutes! - do you also castrate HIV+ men ? So Dr Menguele's legacy is still alive and well in Namibia. What a shame, these doctors who soil the ethics of their mission.

Zimunina M. adds:

Hi there! Dear doctor, what will you tell these women that you just sterilized if tomorrow a cure for AIDS becomes available in Namibia ? In my opinion, you belong in prison and the government and the WHO should take away your diploma

The website osi.bouake.free.fr also reposted an article on The Guardian by David Smith from  Johannesburg that denouces those practices:

In South Africa, cases are being referred to the Women’s Legal Centre with a view to a possible action. Promise Mthembu, a researcher at Witwatersrand University, said coerced sterilisations were happening in “very large areas” of the country.
Many patients were forced to undergo the operation as the only means of gaining access to medical services, Mthembu told the Mail & Guardian newspaper.

rmbengou, on AIDS RIGHTS CONGO also denounces these medical practices. He writes in a post entitled: “In Central Africa, HIV-positive women are blamed for their sexuality“:

Gabriel Maliyere, the head of the AHVV program, emphasizes how “the behavior of medical personnel is deplorable. After their prenatal exams, HIV-positive women are condemned for the fact that they’re pregnant.”

HIV-positive women are expected to cease having sex and conceiving.  In this sense, women are blamed for their sexuality. Yafouta-Kaïe, a member of the National Congress of Young Women Living with HIV/AIDS (CNJFV+), claims: “Above all, it is the hurtful words and the coldness of certain midwives, during childbirth, towards women living with HIV.”

.

In the same article, he indicates that a few projects are underway to change this situation:

Other public campaigns, HIV/AIDS film screenings, and debates over the rights of HIV-positive persons, were organized on December 8 and 9, 2009, northwest of Bangui and in the 8th arrondissement. During these campaigns, speakers presented on the following themes, which were especially chosen for this educational day : “I am secure, I am accepted, I am receiving treatment, I am in firm possession of my rights, the right to live, and to wellbeing.”

Unfortunately those are not isolated cases. In an article on afrik.com, Habibou Bangré reveals that [fr]:

…exceptée celle du Togo, toutes les lois des pays africains - et celles d’autres Etats hors du continent - peuvent s’appliquer pour pénaliser la transmission du VIH de la mère à l’enfant. En conséquence, une femme séropositive qui transmettrait le virus à son enfant au cours de la grossesse, l’accouchement ou l’allaitement pourrait être poursuivie en justice. La Sierra-Leone va même plus loin et condamne spécifiquement la transmission mère-enfant, remettant ainsi en cause le droit des femmes séropositives à procréer.

Except for Togo, the legal write-up of most african countries- and as a matter of fact, outside the continent- can be implemented in a way that will penalize the the mother to child transmission of HIV. Therefore, a HIV+ woman who would transmit the virus to her child during pregnancy, child birth or nursing can be charged in a court of law. In Sierra Leone, it goes further and condemns specifically the mother-to-child transmission, therefore possibly revoking the reproductive rights of HIV+ women.

Two bloggers were outraged and commented thusly:

pvvih says :

A state that implements such measures must make ARVs available to all first. I am an African student and I am taking ARVs. ARVs that many consider a panacea are not easy to take. They sometimes bring more suffering than good. Countries must support research for better treatments and therefore give more money.

Mona adds:

Some of these women were abused, violated and raped etc. Why must they be punished? And men in all that, don't they have some responsibilities in this matter? Let's cure these women instead of punish them. Let's give them contraceptives, guidances etc… this is really scandalous.

August 20 2010

Liberia: Charles Taylor Trial Update

By Ndesanjo Macha

Alpha Sesay writes about the testimony Isa Sesay, the former interim leader of the Sierra Leonean rebel group that Charles Taylor is accused of providing support at the Charles Taylor trial at the Hague.

August 17 2010

Sierra Leone: Sierra Leonean Kansas City Wizards soccer star

By Ndesanjo Macha

Vickie writes about Sierra Leonean football star Kei Kamara: “Back in July over 50,000 football fans watched Sierra Leone's Kei Kamara of the Kansas City Wizards score the winning goal for a 2-1 victory over Manchester United.”

August 09 2010

Sierra Leone: Aging Alone

By Ndesanjo Macha

“Most elderly people in Africa live in their communities, but in Sierra Leone so many young people died and so many communities were destroyed that what started as a poor house in eastern Freetown has evolved to become the King George Home for the Aged,” Glenna Gordon observes.

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