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February 27 2014

One Third of Pregnancies Are Unintended in Burkina Faso

Social Researchers at L’Institut supérieur des sciences de la population (High Institute of Population Science) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso published a report entitled “Grossesses non désirées et avortements au Burkina : causes et conséquences” (The causes and consequences of Unintended Pregnancies and Abortions in Burkina Faso). The report highlights a few important statistics [fr]: 

  •  Un tiers de toutes les grossesses ne sont pas intentionnelles, et un tiers de ces grossesses non intentionnelles se terminent par un avortement.
  •  La taille de la famille désirée est en moyenne, de 6 enfants dans les zones rurales, contre 3 à Ouagadougou. 
  • Entre la moitié et les deux tiers de l’ensemble des femmes qui avortent sollicitent des praticiens traditionnels sans compétence particulière

-A third of all pregnancies are unintended, and one third of these unintended pregnancies result in an abortion.
-The size of the desired family is on average of 6 children in rural areas, against 3 in Ouagadougou.
-Between half and two thirds of women who seek abortions are going to traditional practitioners who do not have the required medical skills. 

February 26 2014

Mozambican Tech Woman Talks Local Impact of Social Networks

This Portuguese-language interview was originally published by the Mozambican citizen media platform Olho do Cidadão (Eye of the Citizen) on July 10 2013. 

Ludmila Maguni (@_mwaa_ no Twitter e Instagram)

Ludmila Maguni (@_mwaa_ on Twitter and Instagram)

At a time when more and more Mozambicans are utilising the Internet as a way to show the world their local reality, as well as to share with their locality what is happening in the world, we spoke with Ludmila Maguni, an influential Mozambican on Twitter, who speaks about the impact that social networks are having on Mozambican society.

It is estimated that just 4.8 percent of the 25 million Mozambicans have Internet access, according to 2012 data. In Mozambique, the Internet and social networks provide a space for greater openness of expression. In terms of press freedom, the country was placed at number 73 in the report published by the Reporters Without Borders organisation in 2013 (the recently launched 2014′s report puts the country six places down, at 79).

Ludmila is the head of the Department of Information Systems of the Ministry of Science and Technology in Mozambique. But just like the majority of Mozambicans with access to the Internet, she uses the web for information, socialising and entertainment. On Twitter she is known as @_Mwaa_. She was born in Maputo, but identifies herself as cosmopolitan, or in other words, a citizen of the world. As described on her profile, she is “1st Mozambican, 2nd African, 3rd Citizen of the World”. She posts in both Portuguese and English. 

Ludmila argues that the reason social networks have found success in Mozambique is that the people feel free to interact with each other and to share information:

Quando falamos de redes sociais, a primeira coisa que nos vem a cabeça são as redes sociais que usamos no dia a dia pela internet, mas penso que não podemos nos esquecer que naturalmente os seres humanos sempre se organizaram em grupos, e as redes sociais sempre existiram. E penso que é por isso que as redes sociais eletrônicas tem tanto sucesso hoje em dia, porque naturalmente sentimos vontade de nos comunicar uns com os outros, de partilhar informação, etc.

When we talk about social networks, the first thing that comes to mind are the social networks we use every day on the Internet, but we should not forget that human beings always organise themselves naturally into groups, and that social networks have always existed. And I think that this is why the online social networks are so successful today, because we always feel a natural desire to communicate with each other, to share information, etc. 

And thanks to social networks, citizens have gained the courage to debate the country's affairs in an open and candid manner: 

Os Moçambicanos estão a usar esta plataforma para expressarem os seus sentimentos (bons ou maus) sobre o nosso pais, sobre o que está acontecendo na vida política do país e no dia-à-dia. Todos nós como cidadãos temos uma palavra a dizer sobre o que quer que seja, penso que com a capa das redes sociais muitos ganham coragem e conseguem realmente dizer o que lhes vai na alma.

Mozambicans are using this platform to express their feelings (good or bad) about our country and about what is happening in the political world and in everyday life. As citizens, we all have something to say, no matter the topic. I think that through social networks, they are able to find the courage to say what is really on their mind.

Ludmila believes that social networks can, in some way, serve as a bridge between citizens and the government:

Conheço alguns países em que através do Twitter, Facebook, blogs, os governos usam estes instrumentos para estarem mais próximos do cidadão, gostaria que em Moçambique também fosse assim.

I know that in some countries, politicians use Twitter, Facebook and blogs as tools to reach out to the citizens and I would like it to be like this in Mozambique too. 

During the month of December Ludmila was involved in organising the third edition of Hackathon, which took place in the city of Maputo and whose objective was to promote the development of smartphone apps to respond to the specific needs of the market. 

February 25 2014

PHOTOS: Venezuelan Women March for Peace in Caracas

Caracas, Venezuela. 22nd February 2014 -- Thousands of women rally in Caracas to demand an end to the violence sweeping the country. A woman holds a sign that reads: 'Hail to peace and love'. Photo by Jesus Gil, Copyright Demotix.

Caracas, Venezuela. 22nd February 2014 — Thousands of women rally in Caracas to demand an end to the violence sweeping the country. A woman holds a sign that reads: ‘Hail to peace and love'. Photo by Jesus Gil, Copyright Demotix.

Women who support the government of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro took to the streets on Saturday, February 22, to demand an end to the violence that has been sweeping the country as protests continue.

Photographer Jesus Gil shared photos of the demonstration on Demotix:

Caracas, Venezuela. 22nd February 2014 -- Thousands of women rally in Caracas to demand an end to the violence sweeping the country.  A woman with a Hugo Chavez poster joins the march. Photo by Jesus GIl, copyright Demotix.

Caracas, Venezuela. 22nd February 2014 — Thousands of women rally in Caracas to demand an end to the violence sweeping the country. A woman with a Hugo Chavez poster joins the march. Photo by Jesus GIl, copyright Demotix.

Women march for peace in Caracas, Venezuela. Photo by Jesus Gil, Copyright Demotix.

Women march for peace in Caracas, Venezuela. Photo by Jesus Gil, Copyright Demotix.

The day before the march, Andreína Tarazón, Minister of Women's Affairs and Gender Equality in Venezuela, invited women to join the demonstration:

 We march to demand an end to vandalism and violence, and [to demand] respect for the Constitution.

You can see more photos, reports and opinions under the hashtags #MujeresPorLaPaz (Women for peace) and #MujeresContraElFacismo (Women against fascism)

Protesters who oppose the government also denounced violence during demonstrations held that same day. You can read more about the opposing marches under the hashtag #22F.

February 24 2014

Celebrating Puerto Rican Poet Julia de Burgos on the 100th Anniversary of Her Birth

Julia de Burgos

Julia de Burgos. Screencap from video.

Poem titles given in English correspond with dual-language collection Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos.

February 17th marked 100 years since the birth of Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos (1914-1953), considered by many be the country's national poet. Although her body of work was relatively small, consisting of some 200 poems, the poetry of Julia de Burgos has succeeded in capturing readers’ imaginations and touching their hearts ever since her first book of poems, Poemas exactos a mí misma, was published in print in 1937.

De Burgos only published three books of poems during her life: the aforementioned Poemas exactos a mí misma [Exact Poems to Myself], Poemas en veinte surcos [Poems in Twenty Furrows, 1938], and Canción de la verdad sencilla [Song of the Simple Truth, 1939]. A fourth book, Mar y tú y otros poemas [The Sea and You and Other Poems], was published in 1954, after her death at age 39. The high quality of de Burgos’ poetry has earned her work a permanent place among the best Latin American poetry of the 20th century.

Julia de Burgos was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, and was the only one of 13 siblings to attend university. Although she did not graduate, she succeeded in obtaining a teaching certificate at the University of Puerto Rico. In 1936 she joined the women's branch of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, The Daughters of Liberty, who advocated for Puerto Rican independence under the leadership of Pedro Albizu Campos. She spent time living in Cuba and in New York, where she died of pneumonia in 1953. Because she carried no identification at the time of her death, she was buried in an anonymous grave in New York. Her remains were later transferred to a burial site in Carolina thanks to friends who were able to find the grave and claim her body.

De Burgos has become deeply imbedded in the collective imagination of Puerto Ricans living on the Island, as well as those of the diaspora. In the following video, Puerto Ricans of New York read excerpts from one of de Burgos’ most famous poems, “Yo misma fui mi ruta” (I was my own route).

According to José Gómez Biamón in his article for the online publication El Post Antillano [es], most of the activities commemorating de Burgos’ centennial took place outside of Puerto Rico:

[...] En el ámbito del Caribe Hispano, ha habido actividades, que demuestran un gran interés por el centenario, según se ha visto en la prensa recientemente. Específicamente, en la República Dominicana han develado un busto en honor a Julia de Burgos, en una plaza de la capital dominicana. Además, en Cuba la editorial Casa de las Américas ha expresado comunicados de júbilo, por la celebración del centenario. Igualmente, en los Estados Unidos ha habido varias actividades culturales, específicamente recuerdo ver en la prensa las fotos de un vistoso mosaico en una Calle del “Barrio” en Harlem, New York. Cabe mencionar, que en España, durante los últimos meses, también ha habido actividades y varias publicaciones relacionadas con Julia de Burgos.

[...] Judging by what has appeared recently in the media, there have been activities in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean that demonstrate a great interest in the centennial. Specifically, in the Dominican Republic, a bust in honor of Julia de Burgos was unveiled in a plaza in the Dominican capital. Furthermore, in Cuba, cultural organization Casa de las Américas has shared messages of celebration of the centennial. Likewise, there have been various cultural activities in the United States; in particular, I remember seeing photos of a remarkable mural on a street in “El Barrio,” in Harlem, New York. It should also be mentioned that in recent months, there were various activities and publications related to Julia de Burgos in Spain.

However, it should be noted that a large number of commemorative and celebratory events [es], like lectures and concerts, have taken place in Puerto Rico as well.

In an article on 80 Grados [es], Puerto Rican singer and composer Zoraida Santiago remembers Julia, who has been one of her great inspirations:

Este año hay mucha celebración de centenario. Sinceramente, me alegro. Pero espero que nos sirva para algo.

Que la celebración del centenario de Julia de Burgos nos sirva para rescatar la poesía. La suya y la de todos y todas las poetas.

This year the centennial is being widely celebrated. I'm sincerely happy. But I hope that it will serve a purpose.
I hope the hundredth anniversary of Julia de Burgos’ birth will serve to rescue poetry. Her poetry, and that of all poets.

Juan Camacho, in his blog post about Julia de Burgos, warns about the danger of her memory being reduced to the stereotype of the bohemian poet who lived a tragically short life:

Como cualquier ser humano de su época y de la nuestra, Julia enfrentó problemas e inconvenientes en el transcurso de su vida. Unos los pudo vencer, otros no. No obstante, entendemos que es injusto que se le recuerde, más allá del consenso de su calidad como poetisa, como la mujer fracasada, alcohólica, excesivamente romántica y pasional, enajenada de la realidad.

Julia fue más que un poema romántico; fue más que una relación amorosa; fue más que una mujer que enfrentó problemas.

Es hora de rescatar, sin que tengamos que reescribir la historia, a la otra Julia. A la otra Julia que también reclama la joven escritora Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro cuando escribe:

“Quiero conocer a la Julia revoltosa y desobediente; a la Julia de la rebelión, la que se codeó con Don Pedro Albizu Campos; que escribió cartas a favor de la excarcelación de Juan Antonio Corretjer; aquella que sostenía reuniones con grandes pensadores y libertarios como Juan Bosch…”

Like any human being of her time, or ours, Julia faced problems and obstacles over the course of her life. Some, she could overcome; others, she could not. Regardless, beyond the consensus about her excellence as a poet, it's unfair to remember her as a struggling alcoholic, excessively romantic and passionate, estranged from reality.

Julia was more than a romantic poem; she was more than a love affair; she was more than a woman who faced problems.
Without rewriting history, it's time to rescue the other Julia. The Julia sought by the young writer Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro when she writes:
“I want to know the unruly and disobedient Julia; the Julia of the rebellion, the one who rubbed shoulders with Don Pedro Albizu Campos; the one who wrote letters advocating for the release of Juan Antonio Corretjer from prison; the one who met with great thinkers and libertarians like Juan Bosch…”

Puerto Rican writer Luis Rafael Sánchez [es] has perhaps best articulated the reasons why we remember Julia de Burgos and, furthermore, how we should remember her:

Alargada en el espíritu de cuantos admiramos su hembría insurgente, enroscado su nombre en los labios de a quienes nos deslumbra su universo hecho de verso, a Julia de Burgos la llamaremos Poeta ahora, después y siempre. Y no porque la recordemos. Y sí porque la sentimos. Que como un grito integral, suave y profundo, estalló de sus labios la palabra.

Embedded in the spirit of all those who admire her rebellious femininity, her name entwined on the lips of those stunned by her universe of verse, we call Julia de Burgos a Poet, now, later, and always. Not because we remember her, but because we feel her. Like a primal cry, smooth and profound, her words burst from her lips.

You can find more information on Julia de Burgos here [es].

February 23 2014

Not All Bad, Talking Korean Plastic Surgery from Biz Perspective

There have been mounting criticisms on both local and international media's coverage of rampant plastic surgeries in South Korea; many reports are highly sensational, describing how reckless and ignorant plastic surgery patients are (focused on females ones rather than male) and have successfully generated numerous crass jokes and harsh comments not only about patients, but also about the country as a whole. Wangkon936′s post in Marmot's Hole blog leads readers to drop the narrow ‘good’ and ‘bad’ value position and approach the issue from a purely business perspective. Some of the highlights are: 

When it comes to South Korea, much of the press is negative and borders on reporting mostly on the strange and/or weird such as the so-called “tower of jaw bones”[...] However, is it all bad? If we are to take perhaps subjective values out of the equation and just look at economic impact, then is this all “bad,” per se? From an economic and business perspective, Korea’s highly demanding aesthetics culture is creating an expertise, technology and infrastructure base [...]

February 21 2014

Photos from The Fashion Pakistan Week

Fashion blogger Amara Javed posts photos from the ongoing Fashion Pakistan Week in Karachi showcasing the Summer 2014 collections by many Lahore designers.

There Will Be No Peace in Colombia Without Women

[Links are to Spanish-language pages except where noted otherwise.]

The documentation centre No habrá paz sin las mujeres [There will be no peace without women] enables female leaders, professionals and survivors of the armed conflict in Colombia to express themselves and share their experiences so that, according to the website, “the lifework they have dedicated to peace is not forgotten.” Their testimony is offered through an online photography exhibition and video interviews.

Historiadora, documentalista e integrante del colectivo H.I.J.O.S. Afiche del proyecto No habrá paz sin las mujeres.

Alejandra Garcia Serna, historian and documentary filmmaker. Poster for the project “There will be no peace without women”. 

All peace processes should actively involve women.

Alejandra Garcia Serna, a historian and documentary filmmaker, also works for justice and memory as part of the H.I.J.O.S. cooperative. She is the orphaned daughter of Francisco Gaviria, a student leader murdered along with 4,000 militants and sympathizers of the Unión Patriótica by State agents and paramilitaries between 1985 and 1994 in a campaign of political genocide.

The project, created by the Asturian Cooperative Development Agency, gives voice to Colombian women so they can ”learn from each other's experiences and strategies, be empowered in the fight to build a more just society, and advance their own proposals for peace in the process of reconciliation, reconstruction, reparation and justice.

No habrá paz sin las mujeres began with the experiences of Colombian women during the armed conflict [en] that has endured for more than 50 years. The group maintains that, although there are signs of hope in ongoing peace talks [en] taking place in Havana, Cuba, between the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) [en] and the Colombian government, “women are noticeably absent from the peace process: neither the issues crucial to them nor their claims or proposals for peace are being listened to.” 

The website goes on to explain that talks have not taken into account United Nations Resolution 1325 [en], which calls attention to the issue of gender in conflict resolution. 

Y precisamente son las mujeres las que más sufren las consecuencias de la guerra: la violencia sexual ha sido empleada por los tres actores de la guerra, los paramilitares, el Estado y la guerrilla; el reclutamiento de menores ha afectada a las niñas como combatientes pero también como esclavas sexuales; son el mayor porcentaje de población desplazada y la mayoría con cargas familiares…

It is women who suffer most from the consequences of war: sexual violence has been used by all three factions, the paramilitary, the State and the guerrillas; the recruiting of minors has damaged girls both as combatants and as sex slaves; displaced persons are disproportionately women, most of whom have families…

Efforts to help redress the situation are publicized on the website's home page through video interviews and testimonials.  

One of these videos is about the artist Patricia Ariza, who found a way to express the Colombian reality through her work. Patricia also uses artistic expression to exorcize the injustice she sees in her country and of which she herself is a victim, her family having been displaced because of the violence. 

</p> <p>Another video shows a campaign where Colombian women are committed to safekeeping their land and not allowing the multinational&nbsp;<a href="http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/AngloGold_Ashanti">AngloGold Ashanti</a>&nbsp;to set up gold-mining operations. The<a href="http://nohabrapazsinlasmujeres.com/2013/12/campesinas-contra-la-fiebre-del-oro/">&nbsp;following video</a>&nbsp;is an interview with a local woman, Judith P&#233;rez Guti&#233;rrez, who lives on a country road in the municipality of Cajamarca, Tolima; and it speaks to the dedication of women to protecting their surroundings.&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, the interview reveals the fear and anxiety of P&#233;rez Guti&#233;rrez and her neighbours&#8212;the vulnerability and lack of support they feel at the hands of Colombian authorities, as evidenced by the&nbsp;<a href="http://prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article10730">serious confrontations they have had with security forces</a>:</p> <p></p> <p>Ester Carmen Mart&#237;nez, a teacher in <a href="http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitalito">Pitalito</a>, Huila, [a major coffee-producing area] tells her personal story and that of her neighbours, who were murdered, evicted or displaced by paramilitary groups.&nbsp;</p> <p></p> <p>The project also publishes texts&nbsp;<a href="http://nohabrapazsinlasmujeres.com/2014/01/mas-mujeres-en-riesgo-por-reclamar-derechos-de-ley-de-victimas/">such as this one</a>, which explains some of the dangers faced by women who choose activism:</p> <blockquote><p>En Bajo Cauca por lo menos otras cuatro l&#237;deres han sido amedrentadas y obligadas a abandonar la regi&#243;n en los &#250;ltimos cuatro a&#241;os. La restituci&#243;n no avanza, y el miedo hace que ni siquiera re&#250;nan las mesas de v&#237;ctimas.</p> <p>[...]</p> <p>&#8220;Las v&#237;ctimas estamos arrinconadas&#8221;, dijo el testigo consultado. &#8220;Hay muchas amenazas. La &#250;ltima fue contra una mujer que fue v&#237;ctima de desplazamiento forzado y se fue para el barrio Par&#237;s. All&#225; lider&#243; la junta de acci&#243;n comunal y los pillos la amenazaron nuevamente y hasta iban a atentar contra su vida y se tuvo que ir del municipio. Lo m&#225;s triste es que ni la Administraci&#243;n Municipal ni la Fuerza P&#250;blica atiende nuestras peticiones. &#191;Usted cree que alguna de nosotras, pese a las amenazas, tiene esquema de seguridad?&#8221;</p></blockquote> <blockquote class="translation"><p>In Bajo Cauca at least four other leaders have been intimidated and forced to abandon the region in the last four years. Restitution is no further ahead, and fear means the victims don't even dare meet together anymore.</p> <p>[...]</p> <p>&#8220;We victims are cornered,&#8221; said the witnessed we consulted. &#8220;There are many threats. The last was against a woman who was a victim of forced displacement and went to the Par&#237;s area. There she led the committee for communal action and the thugs threatened her again, they were even going to try to kill her, and she had to leave the town. The saddest part is that neither the municipal government nor public security paid attention to our petitions. Do you think that any of us, despite the threat, receives any protection?&#8221;</p></blockquote> <p><span>The project </span><a target="_blank" href="http://nohabrapazsinlasmujeres.com/descargate-las-postales-y-posters/">has several posters</a><span>&nbsp;depicting the reality of the many ways women suffer, in particular sexual violence.</span></p> <div id="attachment_226940" class="wp-caption aligncenter"><img height="1002" alt="Superviviente de la matanza de El Salado (Foto: Patricia Sim&#243;n)" src="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/sexual-afiche.png" width="723" class="size-full wp-image-226940" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Yoladis Z&#250;&#241;iga, survivor of the massacre in El Salado (Photo: Patricia Sim&#243;n)</p></div> <blockquote><p><strong>I suffered sexual violence but it did not defeat me.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Yoladis Z&#250;&#241;iga was raped by ten paramilitaries in front of her husband, who was later murdered, in a massacre that claimed the lives of 100 people in five days in the town of El Salado in 2000. Sexual violence is used as a weapon of war by all three factions in the conflict: guerrillas, paramilitaries and the State.</p></blockquote> <p>The posters also highlight the work of women who have dedicated their lives to peace and activism.&nbsp;</p> <div id="attachment_227006" class="wp-caption aligncenter"><img height="991" alt="Defensora de derechos humanos (Foto: Alex Zapico)" src="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Captura-de-pantalla-2013-11-30-a-las-22.38.57.png" width="710" class="size-full wp-image-227006" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Mari La Negra, defender of human rights (Photo: Alex Zapico)&nbsp;</p></div> <blockquote><p><strong>Words motivate, examples convince.</strong></p> <p>Mari La Negra began her career as an activist for workers and human rights when she was 14 years old. Not long afterwards, she was raped by State agents and jailed for three months, where she was tortured because of her efforts on behalf of organized labour. At 40, she has survived many attempts on her life and continues to be threatened by paramilitaries because of her fight for the rights of those most marginalized in society.</p></blockquote> <div id="attachment_227008" class="wp-caption aligncenter"><img height="1002" alt="Feminista e investigadora integrante de Mujeres Feministas Antimilitaristas (Foto: Alex Zapico)" src="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Captura-de-pantalla-2013-11-30-a-las-23.16.17.png" width="724" class="size-full wp-image-227008" /><p class="wp-caption-text">Marta Restrepo, feminist and community organizer (Photo: Alex Zapico)&nbsp;</p></div> <blockquote><p><strong>Freedom for women means removing the right to take advantage of them.</strong></p> <p>Marta Restrepo, a member of&nbsp;Mujeres Feministas Antimilitaristas (Antimilitarist Feminist Women), has dedicated her life to exposing the murder of women, a plague that claims the lives of more than 1,100 victims a year in Colombia. She also militates against the use of women as sex slaves, which in many cases leads to them becoming prostitutes in Spain, and the exploitation of women as a form of currency in the war economy that rules her country.&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>For more information, videos, and posters, visit <a href="https://www.facebook.com/nohabrapazsinlasmujeres">Facebook</a>&nbsp;and Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/Nopazsinmujeres">@nopazsinmujeres</a>.</p> <p class="gv-rss-footer"><span class="credit-text"><span class="contributor">Written by <a title="View all posts by Lully" href="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/author/lully-posada/">Lully</a></span> &middot; <span class="contributor">Translated by <a title="View all posts by Victoria Robertson" href="http://globalvoicesonline.org/author/victoria-robertson/" class="url">Victoria Robertson</a></span></span> &middot; <span class="source-link"><a title="View original post [es]" href="http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/2014/02/18/no-habra-paz-sin-las-mujeres-en-colombia/">View original post [es]</a></span> &middot; <span class="commentcount"><a title="comments" href="http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/02/21/there-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women/#comments">comments (0) </a></span><br /><a title="read Donate" href="http://globalvoicesonline.org/donate/">Donate</a> &middot; <span class="share-links-text"><span class="share-links-label">Share: </span> <a target="new" title="facebook" id="gv-st_facebook" href="http://www.facebook.com/share.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F"><span class="share-icon-label">facebook</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="twitter" id="gv-st_twitter" href="http://twitter.com/share?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F&#038;text=There+Will+Be+No+Peace+in+Colombia+Without+Women&#038;via=globalvoices"><span class="share-icon-label">twitter</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="googleplus" id="gv-st_googleplus" href="https://plus.google.com/share?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F"><span class="share-icon-label">googleplus</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="reddit" id="gv-st_reddit" href="http://reddit.com/submit?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F&#038;title=There+Will+Be+No+Peace+in+Colombia+Without+Women"><span class="share-icon-label">reddit</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="StumbleUpon" id="gv-st_stumbleupon" href="http://www.stumbleupon.com/submit?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F&#038;title=There+Will+Be+No+Peace+in+Colombia+Without+Women"><span class="share-icon-label">StumbleUpon</span></a> &middot; <a target="new" title="delicious" id="gv-st_delicious" href="http://del.icio.us/post?url=http%3A%2F%2Fglobalvoicesonline.org%2F2014%2F02%2F21%2Fthere-will-be-no-peace-in-colombia-without-women%2F&#038;title=There+Will+Be+No+Peace+in+Colombia+Without+Women"><span class="share-icon-label">delicious</span></a></span> </p>

February 20 2014

Jamaica: Breakespeare & Bob Marley

Inspired by Cindy Breakspeare's recent lecture on Bob Marley, Annie Paul republishes a 2007 interview she did with her, in which Breakspeare discusses her youth, her Jamaican-ness and of course, meeting Bob.

February 17 2014

Dancing and Rising for Justice in Southeast Asia

Filipino activists hold a 'One Billion Rising' dance protest near the Philippine presidential palace to push for greater subsidy to social services.

Filipino activists hold a ‘One Billion Rising’ dance protest near the Philippine presidential palace to push for greater subsidy to social services.

The ‘One Billion Rising’ campaign was supported by many groups and individuals in the Southeast Asian region. This year, the theme was broadened to include the call for justice aside from the particular demand to end violence against women.

In Cambodia, the violence inflicted on striking garment workers was highlighted during the preparation of the event:

…there have been crackdowns and violence on garment factory workers who demonstrated for better working conditions which resulted in many (casualties). Other female land rights activists had also been savagely beaten, arrested and detained without investigation. Reparations have never been made for the victims and until (today) the perpetrators have not been brought to justice

But the biking activity on February 14 was blocked by the police since it was seen as a threat to peace and order.

Cambodia's bike event was blocked by the police

Cambodia's bike event was blocked by the police

In Indonesia, ‘One Billion Rising’ activities were held in seven cities across the country.

The 'One Billion Rising' dance was performed in seven cities in Indonesia

The ‘One Billion Rising’ dance was performed in seven cities in Indonesia

'Rise for Justice' in Indonesia

‘Rise for Justice’ in Indonesia

Members of the Women in Hai Hau in Nam Dinh province, Vietnam led a practice session for the ‘One Billion Rising’ dance event. Below is a video of their rehearsal:

In Thailand, students of Chiang Mai University supported the ‘One Billion Rising’ campaign. Below is a video of their practice session:

Another 'One Billion Rising' photo in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Image from Facebook page of Lisa Kerry

Another ‘One Billion Rising’ photo in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Image from Facebook page of Lisa Kerry

In the Philippines, the women’s group Gabriela coordinated the ‘One Billion Rising’ campaign and they were able to mobilize thousands of women in various parts of the country. Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela, explained the importance of the campaign to eliminate all forms of violence against women:

Sometimes, because of the impunity of poverty, human rights violations, violence against women and children, people tend to be desensitized. We need to realize that such situations must not be the norm and that these have to change. We need to act collectively and make our call for justice stronger because things could only get worse when we keep silent and just watch idly by.

In the city Davao located in the southern part of the country, the issue of corruption was underscored in the fight for meaningful justice:

With the state of the country marred by corruption especially with the anomalous use of the public funds, then all taxpayers should be with us in dancing to call for justice

'Justice' is the theme of this year's 'One Billion Rising'

‘Justice’ is the theme of this year's ‘One Billion Rising’

'Rise, Release, Dance' activity in Davao City, located in the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines

‘Rise, Release, Dance’ activity in Davao City, located in the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines

'Justice for typhoon Haiyan victims' is one of the demands of the campaign

‘Justice for typhoon Haiyan victims’ is one of the demands of the campaign

Workers called for a wage hike as part of the campaign for social justice

Workers called for a wage hike as part of the campaign for social justice

On the 11 Wives of Convicted Zimbabwean Preacher

Following the conviction of End Time Message church leader Martin Gumbura on multiple charges of rape, Sibusisiwe Bhebhe asks whether his 11 wives are victims, villains or victors:

In past weeks, Zimbabwean gossip – from the mainstream media to social media to bars and public transport – has been dominated by talk of the conviction, on multiple charges of rape, of End Time Message church leader Martin Gumbura’s, and the accompanying fate of his eleven wives.

“Who will now have his women?” asked one online publication.

An interesting question, and one which suggests these women are in need of rescuing – and salvation from (sexual) solitude – after their husband has been sentenced to 40 years in prison on four counts of rape and one for possession of pornographic material. It is also quite interesting that while such questioning suggests that these women are “his” (Gumbura’s), it is concurrently implied that these women are now public and charitable goods that someone must take over ownership of.

February 13 2014

Doubts Arise Over Nigerian Journalist's Undercover Human Trafficking Exposé

A screenshot of the

A screenshot of the exposé.

A gritty undercover exposé of a human trafficking in Nigeria is making waves in the African country – but not for all the reasons you may think. 

Tobore Ovuorie (@DaughterofMit), a reporter for Nigerian online newspaper Premium Times, wrote about her experience going undercover to shed light on a ruthless human trafficking syndicate. The motives for the story, according to Ovuorie, were:

It had all started in Abuja, with me deciding to expose the human traffic syndicates that caused the death, through Aids, of my friend Ifuoke and countless others. As a health journalist, I had interviewed several returnees from sex traffic who had not only been encouraged to have unprotected sex, but who had also been denied health care or even to return home when they fell ill. They were now suffering from Aids, anal gonorrhoea, bowel ruptures and incontinence.

The human traffickers were not only involved in recruiting and exporting young Nigerian ladies to Europe as prostitutes, but were also training them to pickpocket. Ovurie also recounted an incident of cold-blooded murder: 

What happens next is like a horror movie… As we ‘unlucky’ four, are standing aside, Mama C talks with five well-dressed, classy, influential-looking visitors.The issue is a ‘package’ that Mama C has promised them and that she hasn’t been able to deliver. The woman points at me, but Mama C refuses and for unexplained reasons Adesuwa and Omai are selected. We all witness, screaming and trying to hide in corners, as they are grabbed and beheaded with machetes in front of us. The ‘package’ that the visitors have come for turns out to be a collection of body parts. The mafia that holds us is into organ traffic, too.

Ovurie however was able to escape from the mafia and publish her story, which stunned the Nigerian blogosphere. It also prompted an investigation by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters.

However, the shock had barely worn off when doubts over the veracity of Ovurie's report began to surface.

Literary critique Ikhide R. Ikheloa picked holes in Ovuorie's investigation in post entitled “Tobore Ovuorie's Story: Fact or Fiction”

Ikhide R. Ikheloa (Image sourced from his Twitter profile - @ikhide - and used with his permission)

Ikhide R. Ikheloa (Image sourced from his Twitter profile – @ikhide – and used with his permission)

Tobore Ovuorie (whose twitter handle is @DaughterOfMit) is enthusiastic, if anything else, as evinced by her vociferous testimonies on her timeline. If her narrative turns out to be true, Ovuorie and her sponsors (Premium Times and The Zam Chronicle deserve the Pulitzer. And her sponsors deserve to be censored for reckless endangerment of a reporter. As far as I can tell, Ovuorie is walking the streets of Nigeria unprotected after making serious claims against powerful interests. It is a mystery to me why she so brazenly attached her name to the story. If indeed there is a mafia, she is being quixotic and reckless to boot. She could be badly hurt or killed. As for the external sponsor of the adventure, The Zam Chronicle based in Amsterdam, it seems highly unusual for a Western outfit to sign on to such a risky venture without putting many things in place to minimize actuarial risk, the financial consequences may be too much to bear. What if she had been murdered? Her family could have sued the sponsors.

Ikhide asked seven questions

1. Why is the Nigerian Police silent on this story? Ovuorie seems to know many geographic details of the places where she was taken to and where she witnessed horrific crimes. She knows names of important personalities, there is even a name of a policeman provided. Has Premium Times contacted the Nigerian authorities? …

2. When she witnessed the beheading of two abducted girls, she had her phone (or seemed to). Who did she text? Who did she call? Forensic experts can learn a lot from these transcripts.

3. At what point did she and her sponsors realize that this was possibly an unwise venture and she needed to be rescued? Where there any discussions about this?

4. I am having trouble believing that she did not text any of the pictures that were in her cellphone to someone else. That just seems unlikely. Does anyone have pictures or anything?

5. How sophisticated can this syndicate be if they allow the girls keep their cellphones and presumably let them continue to chat with the outside world?…

6. Ovuorie seemed close to the two girls who were beheaded, does she have their phone numbers? Can they be traced back to their families? Why are people silent about all this?

7. The report talks of a “multibillion dollar syndicate” but the “syndicate” doesn’t appear very sophisticated, a reporter walks the streets asking for the leader and is promptly hooked up with one, gains the trust of the syndicate and along with the other “abducted girls” has access to her cellphone and even a charger. Interesting, but then we are talking about Nigeria. Nothing seems to stretch credulity:

Ikhide received a response from Editor of Premium Times Dapo Olorunyomi:  

In amusement, I notice the ambivalence in your review as you tried to challenge the veracity of the story.  This is how you put it: “How sophisticated can this syndicate be if they allow the girls keep their cell phones and presumably let them continue to chat with the outside world? There are so many tracking devices on a cell phone, you wonder if and why the game plan of the reporter did not include these free tools.”

Let’s cut to the chase. The logic in your question is erected on the assumption of the implausibility of infiltrating a syndicate and still use a cell phone. Thus, on account of your logic, if one gets to operate a cell phone in the environment of the syndicate, then the story automatically becomes false. Seriously? Sorry, this is either empty or dubious.

This twist has split the Nigerian blogosphere into those standing by Ovuorie's story and others swayed by Ikhide's scepticism. “Onas” wrote on Facebook

If she went undercover in November, when and where did she receive treatment for the trauma she allegedly underwent? When was she discharged? For how long was she there? Which hospital did she go to? Can we have the medical records? (Even though we know that her medical records are private and personal but the controversy surrounding the story has made the issue a matter of public interest). The Tobore that was at the conference in December was the life of the conference. She was bubbly, talkative and the soul of everything that transpired there. Someone that almost got beheaded, did stunts at the border and checked into a hospital won’t be the most talkative person with the brightest makeup in a human trafficking class. She did not betray any sign of distress even when the heart-rending stores of those who have been victims were told in the class.

Another blogger, Semiu A. Akanmu, asked for more clarification from the Premium Times. This time, Managing Editor Musiklu Mojeed responded:

I can tell you categorically that the story is not fiction. It was well reported by the reporter. It is cruel that Ikhide and others are casting aspersion on a reporter who risked her life to tell us an important story. I agree the story could have been better done, but it was such a dangerous assignment. We warned her against pushing too hard. Her safety was more important to us… 

…We knew what our organization and the reporter went through to tell that story. So, for anyone to declare, without any shred of evidence, that the story was a fabrication is simply cruel and annoying. It's an injustice to us and the woman who risked her life and dignity to tell us this story. But this is not the first time Ikhide has mounted a campaign to discredit our work… 

Nigerian blogger Akin came up with a series of questions and scenarios to question the authenticity of the story. He concluded his post by saying:

Too convenient and sadly expedient
Finally, it is all too convenient that critical evidence that could give the real truth to this story was lost, like why she had not immediately transmitted pictures, conversations and much else for most of the time she had her mobile phone. At worst, there should have been an electronic dead drop to collect all this data for the use of the expose.
In the end, we only have Tobore’s word and the threatened reputations of Premium Times and ZAM Chronicle through obfuscation, bluster, bullying and ad hominem attacks to go by, the rest in text messages and Facebook posts is hardly independently verifiable. It is a crying shame.
You cannot trust this
If Tobore was exposed to such evil and unconscionable human traffickers with connections to people in high places in Nigeria and abroad, she and her handlers must be recklessly bold, careless, and utterly irresponsible to reveal her identity where she must daily be at risk of being apprehended and assassinated.
I am sorry, it is time for Premium Times to cut loose of this travesty or both it and its reputation would sink with it, considering the reporter they are supporting has hardly been with the outfit for 6 months, the level of naïveté demonstrated by the seasoned journalists at Premium Times is befuddling to the point of bafflement.

The end of this story is no where in sight, yet one thing is certain: human trafficking is a vicious business in Nigeria, and it's about time attention is given to it.

February 12 2014

Opponents of France's School Gender Equality Initiative Wage Misinformation War

13 January 2013 -

13 January 2013 – “We want sex, not gender.” A sign in French at a protest for family values. Photo by Mon_Tours via Flickr. CC BY-NC 2.0

[This post was co-authored by Jean-Pierre WetzelsElise Lecamp and Suzanne Lehn. All links forward to French-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

A recent pilot study in France about gender equality in schools has encountered heated opposition from those who view it as an attack on traditional family values and gender roles.

Called “ABCD de l'égalité” (the ABCD of gender equality), the initiative aims to break down gender stereotypes in schools, and French education authorities launched a pilot study in a few select schools over the course of four months to see how new teaching tools and materials would work with children.

But opponents see the initiative as an affront to what they call the natural differences between boys and girls and argue that the state should not be teaching children about private matters. A strong anti-ABCD campaign to stop it has been mounted on blogs and social network platforms and protets were organized in several cities under the moniker “Day of Anger“. Text messages encouraged parents to pull their children from schools on designated “School Boycott Days“.

logo_abcdegalite

Logo for France's ABCD of gender equality initiative

Public debate on the issue has been polluted by “untruths” to such an extent that the French education minister ordered information sessions at schools for parents to combat the rumors. Daily newspaper Le Monde also attempted to debunk some of the misinformation in an article called “Five rumors about the gender theory debate” published on 28 January 2013. The report highlighted several inaccuracies being cited by opponents, including a misquoted statement by French senator Laurence Rossignol that “children do not belong to their parents, they belong to the state”.

The second part of the sentence has proven to be entirely fictional, as shown by the following video posted by the website “Arrêt sur images”

In fact, the whole quote goes as follows:  “Children do not belong to their parents, the school must provide them with tools so that they can make choices for themselves later.”

In an interview, Rossignol explained that she never said the words “children belong to the state” and that she will take to court anyone who claims otherwise:

Another misconception about the gender equality initiative was the notion that teaching gender theory will be made mandatory in schools. Gaëlle Dupont wrote the following about that rumor:

Deuxième intox : l'enseignement de la « théorie du genre » devient obligatoire: Ce climat d'hystérie autour des questions d'égalité hommes-femmes ou de lutte contre l'homophobie débouche sur des phénomènes assez dramatiques, comme cette vague de SMS appelant les parents à retirer leurs enfants des écoles un jour donné pour dénoncer cet « enseignement obligatoire » du « genre ». Derrière ces rumeurs, on trouve l'extrême droite. Plus précisément, des militants proches de l'extrême droite qui ont monté un « jour de retrait de l'école », assurant que « l'Etat, sous couvert de lutter contre l'homophobie, introduit à notre insu la théorie du genre à l'école : homosexualité, bisexualité et transsexualité entrent dans tous les programmes scolaires ».

Rumour number 2: Teaching of  “gender theory” will be mandatory:  The current atmosphere of hysteria surrounding the issues of equality between men and women or the fight against homophobia has given rise to somewhat dramatic phenomena, such as the deluge of text messages inciting parents to withdraw their children from school on a specific day in order to protest this “obligatory teaching of gender”. The far-right wing is again behind these rumors. Or to be more precise, campaigners with far-right sympathies who have initiated this “School Boycott” day. Thet claim that “under the cover of addressing homophobia, the state is introducing gender theory at school without our approval: the notions of homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality are being introduced in school curricula”

Armed with this misinformation, opponents invoked the spectors of gender theory and government intrusion on social media and blogs to mobilize those against the initiative.

How Facebook and text messages are used to whitewash the wild rumour about “gender theory”

Spearheading the campaign against the ABCD of gender equality is Farida Belghoul [en], who once was an immigrant rights activist in the early 1980s. She set up several “information meetings” and called on parents to keep their children home as a boycott of the initiative and the supposed teaching of gender theory that the initiative implies.

The website Journée de Retrait de l'Ecole (School Boycott Day) was set up to document and organize the movement, and in just a few weeks, the Facebook page for the website, JRE2014, received 18,000 hits. Created on 19 December 2013, the page now counts 20,000 likes. Comments from parents who received text messages requesting them to remove their children from school are posted on the page. Céline Violette writes on the page [fr] :

Y-a-t-il une PETITION OFFICIELLE pour l'interdiction de l'INTRUSION de la théorie du genre à l'éducation nationale? Afin de permettre de compter tout le monde, père ET mère, et tous les citoyens qui n'ont pas d'enfant et qui sont conscients de ce qui se passe.

Is there an official petition to prevent the introduction of gender theory in school  ? It would allow to determine how many people, mother, father and citizens without children but who are aware of the risk at hand.

Statements from parents’ associations highlighted the links between the organizers of these boycott days and far-right movements and dispelled the rumor that gender theory would be taught at kindergarten level. Still, instructions were being given to parents by the “Boycott School Day” movement that these “Boycott School” days take place in private locations and not on public roads. 

The more irrational the rumor, the more the public seems drawn to it. In an article published on 1 February entitled “Day of anger, night of darkness”, journalist Jean Birenbaum expressed his concerns:

Pour le moment, ce compagnonnage avec un sombre nihilisme condamne les collectifs colériques à l'impuissance politique. Mais c'est aussi lui qui les rend si difficiles à combattre pour les partis traditionnels, de droite comme de gauche. […] Il y a ici un cauchemar pour quiconque demeure attaché à une éthique de la rationalité, qu'elle soit religieuse ou politique.
[…]
Par-delà les slogans politiques, la galaxie de la « colère » représente donc un défi lancé aux pratiques d'enseignement et aux institutions démocratiques. Si ce défi n'était pas relevé, alors le « jour de colère »pourrait bien devenir la nuit pour tous.

At the moment, this affinity for dark nihilism condemns these angry groups to political impotence. But it is also what makes the fight with them so difficult for traditional parties, be they right-or left-wing [...] This is a nightmare for those who remain faithful to an ethic of rationality, be it religious or political.
[…]
Over and above political slogans, this constellation of anger constitutes a challenge to both teaching methods and democratic institutions. If this challenge is not met, then the ‘Day of anger” could quite well become a dark night for us all.

In a somewhat reassuring turn of events, a humoristic page called the “Children's Plea” was created on the parody website Gorafi.fr. The Children's Plea demands that adults put a stop to the rumor fabrication and start acting as, well, adults [fr]:

Les enfants demandent donc que cessent ces rumeurs et fausses informations, qu’on les laisse retourner à l’école. Quant à la théorie du genre, ils estiment qu’elle n’a pas lieu d’être. « Des fois, les filles elles sont fortes comme les garçons, et même que hier Joachim il a perdu toutes ses billes contre Sofia de la classe de madame Dumas, on a bien ri » 

The children ask for an end to the rumors and false information so that they may be allowed to return to school. As for the whole gender theory issue, the children don't think that it means anything: “Sometimes, girls are as strong as boys. Just yesterday Joachim lost all his marbles to Sophia from Mrs. Dumas's class and we all had a good laugh”

Other initiatives have also pushed back against the campaign's rumor-mongering. Seeing how easy it was for rumors to take root in some disenfranchised areas with a large minority population, Kaissa Titous asked her former colleague and now campaign leader Farida Belghoul, who is of Algerian descent, to stop her School Boycott movement movement:

Tu voudrais qu’aujourd’hui nous faisions des alliances avec des forces politiques qui n’ont pas arrêté de prospérer sur la haine de nos quartiers et de ses habitants, qui nous agitent comme repoussoirs à chaque élection, qui nous accusent d’être des envahisseurs, qui arrachent les pains au chocolat et le pain de la bouche des Français de souche

Today you would want us to make alliances with political forces that have thrived on hating our people [minorities] and our neighborhoods. They are pointing at us as the culprits for France's aches at every elections, calling us invaders, who take away chocolate croissants and bread from the mouths of the “real” French people

February 11 2014

In Support of Lebanese Skier Jackie Chamoun

Lebanon's netizens found themselves having to defend Jackie Chamoun, Lebanon's Alpine Skier representative at the Soshi Olympics, after pictures of a past photoshoot in which she posed topless were released online.

Screenshot of LebaneseBlogs.com showing Lebanese bloggers supporting Jackie Chamoun

Screenshot of LebaneseBlogs.com showing Lebanese bloggers supporting Jackie Chamoun

The scandal erupted after a video of her photoshoot was released on Al Jadeed TV and escalated when Caretaker Youth and Sports Minister Faisal Karam demanded an official investigation into her case.

This resulted in an overwhelming wave of support from Lebanon's netizens.

Blogger Abir Ghattas mocked the minister by suggesting he should sort out his priorities:

The minister is scared on the reputation of Lebanon, you know, Lebanon the country where:

Men beat their wives to death (and walk free)
Armed Militia roam the roads killing on identity
Tripoli is a live version of Red Alert meets Counter Strike
Ministers, and Deputies, spend years in power with no work done
Corruption is the daily bread of every official
Kids die on hospital doors
Artist’s work is censored
Al Assir appears on Prime Time TV and his hateful speeches are broadcasted live
Freedom of speech is an illusion
Ministry of tourism ads are borderline erotic
Jackie’s boobs are the national security risk, the bad image of the country and the blow that will break Lebanon’s back, Out-fucking-rageous!

She then went on to say:

“The scandal is not the topless photos of Jackie Chamoun, the real scandal is the low media standards, the patriarchal dinosaur-ish mentality, and sick moral compass that makes a photo that partially show some boobs a threat on Lebanon amazing image!”

Gino Raidy from Gino's Blog took a more aggressive approach:

The horribly backwards reaction to the surfacing of these old photos, makes you all look like savage brutes living in some theocracy in the mountains between Pakistan or Afghanistan, or in Iran, or Saudi. You are in fucking Beirut, the city that placed ads in Playboy Magazine in the 60s, and had its own red light district back in the day. Today, in 2014, you want to turn it into some religious theocracy that’s afraid of sex and hates women unless they’re 72 virgins you get for blowing your stupid self up? Or some savage tribe that still believes women are property and carry “the honor” of the family or whatever it is you call what you congregate yourself in?

Elie Fares from A Separate State of Mind points out the difference in reactions between Beirut and the rest of Lebanon:

When it comes to sex, we have a long way to go. Perhaps things are slowly changing. But there’s more to Lebanon than Beirut and its surroundings.

And he, too, points out that we should sort our priorities:

I can think of so many things that warrant are true scandals about this country, that warrant a discussion much, much more than Jackie Chamoun’s breasts. At the top of my head, I can think of the several explosions that have taken place within the past couple of months alone and the fact that they’ve become second nature to life in this place. I can think of a TV station that figured instagramming the body parts of a suicide bomber was a good idea. I can think of the fact that we haven’t had a decently functioning government for the past year and nor will we have one for the next year, it seems. I can think of the fact that presidential elections are literally in 3 months but we’re still waiting for the savior president’s name to be “inspired” by neighboring countries. I can think of the fact that going to a mall requires you to go through more checkpoint than an airport’s border control. I can even think of the graffiti artist that was arrested only two days ago by some unknown party’s henchmen because of him being at the “wrong” place. I can even think of the many pictures of the living conditions of some Lebanese in the North that should be scandalous.

Tarek Joseph Chemaly from Beirut NTSC reminded us of how Lebanon's own ministry of tourism put an ad in a 1971 issue of PlayBoy featuring Lebanese Miss Universe Georgina Rizk:

“Lebanese Ministry of Tourism uses public funds to put a scantily clad lady in Playboy Magazine to advertise the country at large. Don't believe me? Well, “Meet Lebanon

Writing on my own blog, Hummus For Thought, I pointed out how the very man who is criticizing Jackie Chamoun blocked a law that would protect women from domestic violence.

“Caretaker” Youth and Sports Minister Faisal Karami thinks it’s more damaging to Lebanon’s reputation that one of our best athletes, Jackie Chamoun, participated in a photoshoot where she showed as much skin – less, actually – as what we find in every lingerie shop and in every night club rather than his own refusal to sign a law protecting women from domestic violence?

Beirut.com blogger Omar Al Fil listed his top 10 favorite responses to the scandal, among which are:

Nonetheless, Jackie Chamoun apologized on her Facebook page for offending her more conservative supporters. And her apology was met by thousands of people telling her that she has nothing to apologize for. Echoing their sentiments, Najib from Blog Baladi wrote:

You don’t need to apologize for anyone. We love you and wish you the best of luck in your upcoming races!

And as usual, there was bound to be a Tumblr somewhere responding to a “scandal”.

China Central TV Accused of Targeting Vulnerable Women With Prostitution Exposé

State media China Central Television's (CCTV) report on the flourishing sex industry in China’s manufacturing hub Dongguan City has triggered mockery and ridicule on Chinese social media.

The 25-minute report video details the city’s rampant prostitution. Using concealed cameras, the report showed women lining up for selection by customers in hotels and karaoke bars known as KTVs, and accused local police of ignoring prostitution and allowing the industry to thrive.

After the report, a 6,000-strong force reportedly raided 12 hotels and entertainment venues, leading to 67 arrests.

Dongguan is well-known as a hub for the sex industry, with 10 percent of the population said to be employed in the industry.

The CCTV report was widely watched across China and generated large amounts of comments on social media. On microblogging website Sina Weibo, “Dong Guan” became the most researched word on February 9, 2014. Many online celebrities and netizens wrote that they thought CCTV was reporting an open secret, some even mocking that it serves as a good tourism ad for the city. Others worried that the report is only targeting vulnerable people.

Screenshot of CCTV's report on Dongguan's prostitution (from youtube)

Screenshot of CCTV's report on Dongguan's prostitution (from YouTube)

Tencent news commentator “Liu Yanwei” wrote [zh]:

中国比这类事情重要得多的新闻,从来不见央视记者正经去报道。

There is much more important news to report about in China, I’ve never seen the CCTV reporters reporting it.

Online celebrity “Wuyue Sanren” [zh] commented:

做小姐的是这个社会的弱势群体,我哪怕要曝光此事,也只会找背后的原因,不会用猎奇的手法拍下她们跳艳舞的镜头哗众取宠。一个掌控着巨大媒体资源的机构,它的使命绝对不该是如此做新闻。在你们拍下她们的艳舞之时,难道不明白这是让自己的职业蒙羞、跳了一场精神上的脱衣舞么?

Sex workers are vulnerable in this society, so even if I plan to expose the industry, I will only investigate the reasons behind it. I will not try to attract an audience and gain popularity by shooting them dancing. A huge organization of abundant media resources shouldn’t report the news this way. When you shoot them dancing, do you not understand that you’re embarrassing your own profession and doing a spiritual strip yourself?

Miracledemocracy” analyzed the stories behind the prostitution:

今天看了央视东莞扫黄的新闻,挺难受的。感想如下:1,可以好好过日子谁也不想成小姐,中国贫富差距过大。2,中国社会有选择性生育以及天天加快经济改革建设,导致男多女少以及很多人背井离乡。3,这是一个上层社会制定制度的错误与结果,却让底层人民买单

Today after watching the CCTV report, I feel very uncomfortable. Thoughts as follows: 1) Who wants to be a prostitute if they can live a good life, there’s such a huge gap between the rich and the poor. 2) Chinese society’s imbalanced gender ratio at birth; the economic reforms and construction forced many people to leave their own homes. 3) This is a mistake caused by the system made by upper society, but the people at the bottom have to pay for it.

 “Zhongguo Zuozhuan” echoed the same sentiment:

官僚社会的逼迫迫使很多人走上了这条路 反过来官僚们又假装正义对其打击。。。。。我们更需要的是扫除贪官健全体制而不是官僚人渣的假正经!

The bureaucratic society forced many people to embark on this path, on the contrary, the bureaucrats pretend to show justice by attacking these people. . . . . We need a sound system to eliminate corruption rather than fake justice!

Journalist Liu Xiangnan wrote:

在东莞事件里,我最鄙视央视的一点是,暗访时对那些女孩不打马赛克,警方今晚抓嫖的新闻里对被抓的那些女孩仍旧不打马赛克。这是无视人权与人的尊严!

I despise CCTV for not pixelating the girls in the report during their unannounced visits, same with tonight’s news about the police crackdown on the prostitutes. This is disregard for human rights and human dignity!

February 10 2014

Somali Activist's Personal Account of Female Genital Mutilation

Activist Asha Ismail via

Activist Asha Ismail via “Save a Girl, Save a Generation” Facebook page.

Somali activist Asha Ismail recounted her own experience with female genital mutilation (FGM) and her fight to eradicate it to radio Onda Vasca on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on February 6, 2014 (hear the full interview in Spanish here).

Asha Ismail was born in a Somali village and subjected to FGM when she was just 5 years old. She promised herself that she would never let her own daughter suffer such torture. Currently, she directs the organization Save a Girl, Save a Generation, which campaigns against FGM and other practices that violate women's rights such as forced marriage.

Asked whether about the practice's cultural and religious ties, a factor that could complicate efforts to combat it, she said that FGM violates women's rights and dignity, and in many cases, women stay in situations in which their own will is totally defeated.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted in his message for the day, “Just because a harmful practice has long existed does not justify its continuation. All ‘traditions’ that demean, dehumanize and injure are human rights violations that must be actively opposed until they are ended.”

February 09 2014

An Info-Activism Tool-Kit on Women's Rights Campaigning

Tacticaal Tech's Info-activism Toolkit on Women's Rights Campaigning

Tactical Tech's Info-activism Toolkit on Women's Rights Campaigning

The Women's Rights Campaigning: Info-Activism Toolkit by Tactical Technology Collective is a new guide for women's rights activists, advocates, NGOs and community based organizations who want to use technology tools and practices in their campaigning. This has been developed in collaboration with advocacy organizations from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Egypt.

This Toolkit has been customized from an updated version of two earlier toolkits: Message in a Box and Mobiles in a Box. The website will soon be translated into Arabic, Swahili, Bengali, and Hindi.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

Campaign to Demand Saudi Nationality Gender Equality

A campaign aimed at enabling the children of Saudi women to be granted the Saudi nationality is currently underway.

The Campaign to Amend Article 7 of the Nationality Act demands granting Saudi nationality to children whose mother is Saudi and whose father is not. Currently, only children whose father is Saudi are granted the nationality. This means that the children of Saudi mothers, whose fathers are of another nationality, cannot benefit from public education and health coverage, among other perks.

The campaign website shares this example [ar]:

سيف بن يزن، كغيره الكثير، ابن مواطنة سعودية من أب غير سعودي. لا يعرف وطناً غير المملكة العربية السعودية. حصل على الثانوية العامة بمعدل 98٪. بعد ذلك حاول ان يدرس الطب ولكن مُنع من تحقيق هذا الحلم بحجة أنه “أجنبي” لذلك اضطُر إلى أن يكمل تعليمه في احدى التخصصات الأخرى المتاحة للأجانب “في نظر النظام” في ذلك الوقت. فالتحق بكلية الحقوق “القانون” بجامعة الملك عبدالعزيز. وفي عام 2010 تخرج من جامعة الملك عبدالعزيز مع مرتبة الشرف بمعدل 4.69 من 5. ثم قرر مواصلة تعليمه في الخارج. لكن مرة أخرى، برنامج الابتعاث لم يقبل ضمه نظراً لأنه من “الأجانب”. إيماناً بأهمية العلم، قرر والده أن يرسله على حسابه الخاص للدراسة، وبذلك اقتطع والده من دخل العائلة وتحملت العائلة مشقة مالية مُرهِقة. حصل على ماجستير القانون التجاري الدولي من جامعة بوسطن ثم حصل على قبول بجامعة هارفرد وألتحق بها. الآن يعيش الحلم واقعاً بدراسة ماجستير القانون في جامعة هارفرد.

Saif bin Yazen is, like many others, the son of a Saudi mother and a non-Saudi father. He does not know any home but the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He graduated from high school with an overall 98 percentage. He tried to study medicine but he was prohibited from that dream for being a “foreigner” and because of that, he had to join a different field to complete his education in one of the specialties that are open to foreigners (according to the law then). He joined the Rights College at King Abdulaziz University and in 2010 he graduated with an honours degree with a 4.69 out of 5 GPA. He decided to complete his education abroad, but, again, the Scholarship Program did not accept him because he was a “foreigner”. Since his father believed in the importance of education, he decided to pay his son's expenses, which the family had to bear with very expensive costs. He got the Masters degree in International Commercial Law from Boston University and he was accepted to and joined Harvard.

Article 7 states the following:

يكون سعوديا من ولد داخل المملكة العربية السعودية أو خارجها لأب سعودي، أو لأم سعودية وأب مجهول الجنسية أو لا جنسية له أو ولد داخل المملكة لأبوين مجهولين، ويعتبر اللقيط في المملكة مولودا فيها ما لم يثبت العكس.

Those who were born inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or outside it are considered Saudis if their father is Saudi or their mother is Saudi and their father is of an unknown nationality or with no nationality or was born for unknown parents. Illegitimate children are considered born in the Kingdom unless proven otherwise.

The campaign has launched a petition and called people to sign it.

Twitter user @Delilah_SD commented:

We grant [the Saudi] nationality to football players and singers, and those who do not belong and who have never done anything for the nation, and the children of a Saudi mother are not grated the nationality!

Abdull Yazan adds:

Women are half of society. They are the ones who give birth to and bring up the other half.

And Jameel concludes:

Isn't it a shame when a Saudi woman has to go to the Immigration department to get a visit permit for her own son?

Veteran Sri Lankan Journalist Murdered in Her Home

The Home of murdered former Sri Lankan Agence France-Presse (AFP) journalist Mel Gunasekera is probed by police investigators at the capital Colombo on February 2, 2014. Gunasekera was stabbed to death after a break-in at her family's home. Image by Tharaka Basnayaka. Copyright Demotix (2/2/2014)

The home of murdered former Sri Lankan Agence France-Presse (AFP) journalist Mel Gunasekera is probed by police investigators at the capital Colombo on February 2, 2014. Gunasekera was stabbed to death after a break-in at her family's home. Image by Tharaka Basnayaka. Copyright Demotix (2/2/2014)

Melicia “Mel” Gunasekera, one of Sri Lanka's prominent journalists, was stabbed to death in her house in Battaramulla, a suburb of the city of Colombo on February 2, 2014. She was the assistant vice president at Fitch Ratings Lanka and the founding editor of the Lanka Business Online, an online financial news service website. She was a former reporter for French news agency Agence France-Presse and also worked as a freelance journalist.

D. B. S. Jeyaraj notes that Gunasekera was very popular and was loved by her colleagues in the media. A construction worker was arrested within the same day and preliminary investigation indicates burglary may have been the motive. But her fans and followers think otherwise.

Nalaka Gunawardene questioned “Who Really Killed Mel Gunasekera?” on Groundviews blog:

According to police, the killer stole just LKR 1,200 (USD 10) and her mobile phone. No other motive is suspected.

Any death is a tragedy, but what do we make of a killing done for small change and a piece of metal?

The reactions in Sri Lanka after her murder include reflections on how this country has become brutalized. Policy entrepreneur Rohan Samarajiva noted in a eulogy in Lanka Business Online:

She should be writing my eulogy, not me hers. The young should not predecease the old. We should have built a country where a young journalist could take the bus with no fear and spend a Sunday morning in her own house without getting murdered. The war brutalized us. Killing became nothing.

Others mourned the journalist on Twitter:

Campaigning for Women's Rights Made Easy

Women's rights campaigning is the focus of a new info-activism toolkit by Tactical Technology Collective.

The toolkit is particularly useful to women's rights activists, advocates, NGOs and community-based organisations who want to use technology tools and practices in their campaigning.

It includes step-by-step guides from basics like how to launch a campaign to more complex issues such as digital security and privacy.

The Toolkit was developed as part of a project with CREA, along with seven partner organisations
based in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and East Africa. It is now available in English only but will soon be translated into Arabic, Swahili, Bengali and Hindi.

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