Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

February 14 2014

As a Federal State, Yemen Marks the Third Anniversary of Its Revolution

February 11th marked the third anniversary of Yemen's revolution which toppled former President Ali Abdullah's Saleh's 33 year rule. Just a day before, on February 10, Yemen's president Abdu Rabu Mansour, based on the National Dialogue‘s recommendation for the political transition and after deliberating with a Region Defining Committee, approved turning the country into a six-region federation state.

Nadia Al-Sakkaf, an activist, member of the National Dialogue and editor-in-chief of The Yemen Times, tweeted:

The federal system was a solution to counter the failure of the centralized government and to give the south more autonomy while preserving Yemen's unity. Yemen's parties had been divided on whether to split the federation into two or six regions. A north-south divide which was suggested by Southerners was rejected due to fear that it could set the stage for the south to secede. The six agreed regions included four in the north, comprising Azal, Saba, Janad and Tihama, and two in the south, Aden and Hadhramaut.

Azal includes the capital Sanaa, which will be a federal city not subject to any regional authority, in addition to the provinces of Dhamar, Amran and Saada. Aden would comprise the capital of the former south, as well as Abyan, Lahej and Daleh. The southeastern Hadhramaut province would include Al-Mahra, Shabwa and the island of Socotra, while Saba comprises Bayda, Marib and Al-Jawf. Janad would include Taez and Ibb, and Tahama also takes in Hudaydah, Rima, Mahwit and Hajja.

Yemen_updates tweeted a link showing the new regions:

There were many reactions among Yemenis and Arabs both for and against this decision.
Yemeni youth activist, Jamal Badr jokingly tweeted a still shot from a scene of a famous Egyptian comic play:

Isn't Yemen fine?? Yes, every region is fine but separate

Farea Almuslimi disapproving the haste in the decision making tweeted:

It took my father and uncles a longer and more thoughtful time to divide the (small) land they inherited from my grandfather then it took to determine the form and number of the regions in Yemen

Egyptian visual artist and film maker, Mahmud Abdel Kader, commented:

Nobody is saying that the UAE is divided because it is federal … because the idea of federalism is to add not divide, what happened in Yemen is a division not an addition

Lebanese Karl Sharro sarcastically tweeted:

Yet there were many questions in people's minds, which Sam Waddah raised on Facebook:

Major question marks remain on dividing power, authority, duties between regions and central state, defining the new system, how local governments will be elected, etc. Tentatively federal system is a good one but it's too early to tell here and by leaving these issues undefined I think Hadi and the regions defining committee are putting the cart before the horse!

Adam Baron also wondered:

Nadia Al-Sakkaf shed some light on the new federal system in her article in The Yemen Times:

The relationship between the regions and the federal government will be written into the constitution. The details will be defined in a Federal Regions Law after the constitution has been approved via a national referendum, expected to take place three months after the creation of the Constitutional Drafting Committee. Each region will have the autonomy to devise its own regional laws to define the relationship among its various states.

Three years after the revolution, on February 11, Yemenis were back on the streets but for various reasons. There were those who went out to celebrate the anniversary of a revolution which awed the world with its power and peacefulness and there were those who went out to protest against the government's corruption and for not realizing the revolution's demands.

Majda Al-Hadad, an activist spearheading the campaign against the government's continuous electricity power cuts tweeted:

It is not necessary for me to list the reasons for me to go out tomorrow, there is nothing positive that would make me hesitate. No rights, no dignity, no law, no justice, and no presence of the government except corruption and injustice.

Journalist Khaled Al-Hammadi tweeted:

The people want to topple corruption“, “the people want the fall of the government“, “a new revolution all over again“, “oh government of corruption, leave the country” chanted protesters across the streets of Sanaa.

(Video posted on YouTube by Ridan Bahran

Akram Alodini also highlighted the political division in his tweet:

In the morning, marches for the republic of Sabeen and the sport stadium, and in the afternoon for the republic of Seteen, and the citizen is helpless

Lawyer Haykal Bafanaa wondered how would corrupt politicians counter corruption:

Researcher, blogger and activist Atiaf Al-Wazir tweeted:

This video by SupportYemen is a reminder of what the revolution was about and what it still needs to achieve:

And as Rooj Al-Wazir, tweeted, some of the revolutionary youth, three years later, were still behind bars:

Journalist Benjamin Wiacek tweeted with disappointment, a bitter sentiment shared by many of the revolutionary youth:

Journalist Iona Craig, who has been living in Yemen since 2011, and as the rest of Yemenis has been suffering from frequent and lengthy electricity cuts tweeted:

Many Yemenis did not feel a change in their daily living conditions – quite the contrary, many were disappointed and frustrated with its deterioration. In a question posed on Facebook by journalist Ahmed Ghurab, “In your opinion what change has occurred in the living conditions of the average citizen in the last three years since the outbreak of the revolution?!!”, the majority complained about the hike in prices, the continuous power outages, the insecurity and instability along with the increase of assassinations, the car explosions and kidnappings and the failure of the government to address or manage these issues.

Nevertheless, there were those who were celebrating the revolution's achievements so far and were still hoping for more. Photos of the marches all over Yemen commemorating the third anniversary of the start of the revolution were posted all over Twitter and Facebook.

Yemen-based journalist Adam Baron tweeted:

A photo from the Friday marches in Sanaa in 2011 demanding the fall of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh

A photo from the Friday marches in Sanaa in 2011 demanding the fall of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh

Activist, photographer and member of the National Dialogue, Nadia Abdullah,posted photos of the marches in Sanaa on facebook.

Marches in Sanaa's Seteen street celebrating the 3rd anniversary of Yemen's revolution (Photo by Nadia Abdullah)

Marches in Sanaa's Seteen street celebrating the 3rd anniversary of Yemen's revolution (Photo by Nadia Abdullah)

On a more positive note, Baraa Shiban, a youth activist and also member of the National Dialogue, tweeted:

He summarized in his Facebook post, what many would undoubtedly agree is the greatest achievement of Yemen's revolution:

Yemen has a new generation of men and women who believe in the principals of democracy and human rights. Yemen's youth now believe in equal citizenship, women's rights and minorities. Yemen's youth today believe in achieving their demands by following the peaceful method.

The revolution continues…

Sponsored post
feedback2020-admin

Protests Against Death of Immigrants in Ceuta, Spain: “No One Is Illegal”

Image from Fotomovimiento taken at the Barcelona protest

Image from Fotomovimiento taken at the Barcelona protest. Used under CC License.

A group of 200 people tried to enter Spain from Morocco by swimming around the fence at Ceuta, and some 14 sub-Saharan African migrants were crushed to death or drowned. The Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) has been condemned by the immigrants and by a number of civil society organisations alike that argue that the security forces neither assisted [es] the immigrants nor alerted the coastguard to rescue those who were at sea. They also condemn the use of rubber bullets and tear gas against the immigrants in an attempt to prevent them from crossing the border.

The Guardia Civil has denied the accusations and created confusion by daily changing their version [es] of the events of Thursday 6th February.

Map of the border zone between Morocco and Spain - Wikipedia

Map of the border zone between Morocco and Spain – Wikipedia

A week after the tragedy, protests were convened in 15 Spanish cities to condemn the immigrants’ deaths. At the citizen gathering in Madrid, the most popular slogans [es] were: “They didn't drown, they were murdered”, “Natives or foreigners, we're all the same working class”, “No one is illegal” and “Where are the pro-lifers now?”, the latter in reference to those who support the controversial reform of the Abortion Law that the Spanish conservative government is currently preparing. 

The Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz finally acknowledged the use of riot gear by the security forces, although he claimed that it was used “only as a deterrent” to prevent the migrants from crossing the border. While the minister was appearing in the House of Representatives and facing the questions and accusations of the opposition parties, Twitter was transformed into a vehicle for people to express their indignation via the now trending topic #muertesCeuta [#Ceutadeaths]:

It seems that when prospecting for oil the borders are a lot wider than when for saving lives #muertesceuta

— Leire Iglesias (@leireis) February 13th, 2014

The minister acknowledges that rubber bullets were fired but not at people… what were they firing at then, the seagulls? #muertesCeuta

— Lorena Sainero (@Anerol27) February 13th, 2014

There are some things which we should never allow to happen. #muertesCeuta
— Ani ツ (@Vaquesinmas) February 13th, 2014

Shooting into the water near people who are desperate and can't swim isn't deterring them “for humanitarian reasons”, it's something entirely different #muertesCeuta

— Juan Luis Sánchez (@juanlusanchez) February 13th, 2014

There are still many questions to be answered: 

Autor Dani Gago - DISO Press

Photo by Dani Gago – DISO Press. ‘More bridges, no walls’

What is the existing protocol for managing the entry of immigrants in Spain? Did the Guardia Civil's actions in Ceuta show respect for the law and the immigrants’ human rights? Were some of the immigrants who did manage to reach Spanish territory returned to Morocco, in spite of the illegality of such an action? 

One Twitter user briefly summarises the need for accountability: 

Why should the minister provide answers to the mysteries surrounding the #Ceutadeaths? Above all, for them: http://t.co/TzhPH6zS9M

— Gabriela Sánchez (@Gabriela_Schz) February 13th, 2014

Ending Illegal Logging and Launching Forest Carbon Credits in Madagascar

 Illegally logged rosewood from Masoala and Marojejy in Antalaha, Madagascar via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

Illegally logged rosewood from Masoala and Marojejy in Antalaha, Madagascar via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

The new administration in Madagascar is seemingly making a concerted effort to curb down deforestation in Madagascar. First, new president Hery Rajaonarimampianina has made ending illegal logging of Madagascar rosewood a priority at his first executive meeting[fr]. Second, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced that the Government of Madagascar has approved carbon sales with Microsoft and its carbon offset partner, The CarbonNeutral Company, and Zoo Zurich. The funds from carbon sales will be used by Makira REDD+ Project for conservation, capacity building, and enforcement activities related to conservation of Madagascar's rainforest. It is yet to be seen whether these measures will be implemented in the field. 

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”.

Brazilian Activists Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance

The day the world has come together to take a stand against mass surveillance, on February 11, 2014, Brazilian citizens, organizations and collectives too are bringing momentum to #TheDayWeFightBack campaign.

Anti-surveillance collective Antivigilancia.tk (@antivigilancia on Twitter), one of the 15 Brazilian signatories of the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, has a website with complete information, in Portuguese, on how to participate in #TheDayWeFightBack, as well as several resources for the day of action, such as banners and memes.

Cartoon by Latuff with D'Incao (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Latuff with D'Incao (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Well-known Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff took on the challenge launched by Web We Want early in February to create original visual works on online surveillance and the right to privacy. 

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

On Twitter, many Brazilians are linking the day of action with the country's pioneer bill of rights for Internet users, the “Marco Civil”, which is going to be discussed in a plenary session [pt] in the House of Representatives today. A group of civil society organizations is expected to meet the Minister of Justice [pt] to let him know of “serious concern” toward the latest modifications to the bill, especially with respect to “the right to the inviolability and secrecy of the flow and content of private communications, the right to privacy and freedom of expression.”

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Latuff with Operamundi (2013). Shared by WebWe Want on Flickr (BY SA 2.0)

 All submissions to the Web We Want contest are available on Flickr.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

Remembering Dr Alison Jolly, Lemurs of Madagascar Expert

Dr. Alison Jolly, Primatologist  1937-2014- Public Domain

Dr. Alison Jolly, Primatologist 1937-2014- Public Domain

After leading a distinguished career as a primatologist at the Berenty Reserve of Madagascar, Dr. Alison Jolly has died at home in Lewes, East Sussex, aged 76. Dr. Jolly, a PhD researcher from Yale, made her name as the first scientist to do an in-depth account of the behaviour of the ring-tailed lemur, L. catta, beginning field work in 1962. David Attenborough recently wrote : ‘not only they but the people and land of Madagascar captured her heart’. 

February 09 2014

Discovering Malagasy Diverse Street Food

Koba, a snack from Madagascar, made from peanuts, brown sugar and rice flour - Public Domain

Koba, a snack from Madagascar, made from peanuts, brown sugar and rice flour – Public Domain

Malagasy cuisine is a mix of its many diverse influences from Asian, African and European migrants that have settled in the Island. It makes for a rich culinary experience, as seen from its multitude of snacks and street foods. Hanta Ramanatsoa highlights some of those on her facebook page, la cuisine de Madagascar (Malagasy Cuisine). Here is a sample of the street foods and snacks photos shared on her page [mg]:

 

February 08 2014

What Do the Streets Sound Like in Spain?

el sonido de las calles

“The sound of the streets”

What do the streets sound like? This questions opens “The sound of the streets” [es], a documentary that portrays the work and life philosophy of five street musicians — Manuel Marcos, El Terraza de Jeréz, Pedro Queque Romero, Little Boy Kike, including two singers, and a group, Los Milchakas, who work outdoors.

Produced by BuenaWille [es] – a space that promotes cultural projects – the documentary was released in May 2013 under a Creative Commons license. As a nonprofit, its goal is to promote street music and expose these musicians’ testimonies to the public. 

“I play for the love of music and because of necessity,” says Abdul Yabbar, singer and guitarist on the streets of Granada, who after losing his job saw no other option but to use his talent to “get by.” The film's protagonists live and offer their art in southern Spain, where the weather is warm and the people are more receptive, according to them. Most of them report the most positive aspects of their work, but also talk about the difficulties that come with this lifestyle, like the indifference of pedestrians, low tolerance from authorities, economic insecurity, and even complaints from neighbors that sometimes go as far as throwing objects and food at them because they consider them annoying, which is what happened to Abdul. 

Here is the complete documentary [es]: 

There are also people who appreciate musicians who try to enliven the streets. A YouTube user posted a video from a group called Milchakas, which appears in the documentary, getting over 7,000 visits. The following comment is in the description: 

This wonderful group in Granada, Spain brings so much joy and happiness to the constant stream of tourists and locals that pass them on the way to Alhambra or perhaps, Sacromonte. Their music is a blend of Spanish, reggae and a few other styles.

These artists are united by their talent and love for music, but most dream of promoting themselves, gaining visibility, and being able to play in bars. The streets are not easy and working in them seems increasingly difficult. This is how it is, for example, in the Spanish capital where the Madrid City Council has restricted their job. Whoever wants to play in the streets of the capital must pass an audition to have a license that authorizes them to work in the Central District. Artistic street activities that have passed the test still face a series of restrictions [es] on schedules, distance between each musician, width of the streets where they are permitted to play, and the level of noise pollution, among others. 

These new measures have generated criticisms, above from the artists. One video in particular in which two musicians criticize the impositions of the city council. Both the media and social networks have embraced the humorous and critical video that already has had over 350,000 views on YouTube [es]:

Here is a snippet of the song starring a group that called itself the Potato Omelette Band: 

Ay mi Madrid, pobre ciudad mía, que quitan artistas para poner policías, tú que eras toda alegría, ahora gris color ceniza, no hay mejor jurado que el de la gorra, a veces no hay nada, a veces te forras …pobre músico que no se ha vendido, esta ciudad no es para artistas.

Oh my Madrid, my poor city that removes artists to be replaced with police, you who used to be all joy now are the color of gray ash, there is no better jury than the one in the cap, sometimes there is nothing, sometimes you make a killing… poor musician that has not sold himself, this city is not for artists. 

February 07 2014

Change From the Ground Up in War-Torn Central African Republic

Refugees of the fighting in the Central African Republic via wikipédia Public Domain

Refugees of the fighting in the Central African Republic via Wikipedia – Public domain

Full-time volunteers from the ATD Fourth World Movement in the Central African Republic (CAR) have been working with those most disadvantaged since before the violent religious conflict there began to tear the country apart. The actions they have taken to support local populations have preserved unity and social cohesion in some of the communities weakened by the fighting between Seleka rebels, mostly of Islamic confession, and anti-Balakas, mostly composed of Christian youth groups. The group's continued presence within the community has rendered them key players and observers of the current situation.  

Global Voices approached the volunteers to learn their perspective on the situation and what they think needs to be done to rebuild the country. What follows is the second part of an interview with Michel Besse, the local team leader of the ATD Fourth World Team in Bangui and his collaborators. You can read the first part of the interview here

Global Voices (GV): Which of the actions taken so far have proved to be most useful to the population? 

Michel Besse: Pendant l'année de plomb qu'à vécu le pays en 2013, une douzaine de membres du Mouvement ATD Quart Monde, sont venus de leurs quartiers et de leurs villages chaque semaine jusqu'au Centre-Ville. Ils ont procédé à l’élaboration du programme d'action du Mouvement pour 4 ans, exprimer ce qui est le plus important pour leur pays ne pas laisser se perdre l'intelligence des enfants, et rejoindre d'autres qui souffrent plus encore ! Dans un pays ou même le lendemain est incertain, ils ont persévéré et résisté : malgré la pression de l'urgence et des dangers, malgré les incertitudes du présent, pour eux penser l'avenir était important. Ils voulaient semer l'espoir maintenant pour garantir l'avenir et ils continuent.

Michel Besse: During the year of carnage that the country endured in 2013, a dozen or so members of the ATD Fourth World organization travelled every week from their neighbourhoods and villages to the town centre. The members worked on the movement's four-year action programme, identifying what matters most for their country; not allowing children's intelligence to be wasted, and joining forces with others who are suffering even more! In a country where even the next day is uncertain, they have persevered and resisted hatred; despite the pressures of the emergency situation and the dangers involved, despite the present uncertainties, it was important for them to think of the future. They wanted to sow the seeds of hope in the present to secure the future, and they are continuing to do so.


Video of children in Bangui, CAR  with schoolchildren from other countries.

GV: You say that it is crucial for communities to talk to each other and maintain dialogue to resolve problems. What conditions do you consider to be necessary for this dialogue to take place? How can the international community assist with this?

MB: Ce que le Mouvement ATD Quart Monde a appris de l'expérience, pour l'avoir vécu ailleurs aussi, c'est que partout où il y a des catastrophes, des crises, les premiers à y faire face, ce sont les gens du pays, et en particulier les gens d'en bas : les habitants des quartiers qui s'organisent sans attendre l'aide internationale, ceux dont les paroles et les actes restent encore invisibles.  La plus grande crainte, c’est que le fossé ne se creuse trop entre les communautés, et qu’il soit trop difficile ensuite d’envisager la réconciliation. Alors, chaque perte en vie humaine est une souffrance pour tous ceux qui veulent la paix. Il faut soutenir les initiatives qui vont dans le sens de la paix, aider à faire entendre les voix et voir les gestes qui portent cette aspiration profonde de fraternité et d’unité.

Les jeunes n'ont pas attendu que le recensement du camp de personnes déplacées de 100.000 soit fait à l'aéroport pour commencer des bibliothèques de rue. Chancella, Kevin et Herbert l'ont fait sans autres moyens qu'un tout petit peu de matériel, quelques crayons et leurs chansons mais surtout toute leur personne. Ils n'ont pas attendus pour se mettre au service communautaire dans les camps : aider les personnes malades à prendre leurs médicaments, aller chercher de l'eau pour les plus faibles, enterrer les morts, mais aussi les mères de familles à réorganiser leur petits commerces pour les besoins du camp et pour nourrir leur familles. Comme ces jeunes, ce que les habitants du pays espèrent, c'est d'être aidés mais en étant soutenus dans leurs initiatives.

MB: The ATD Fourth World Movement has learned from experience, having gone through it elsewhere, that wherever disasters and crises occur, the local people are the ones who have to deal with things first, especially the poorer people; the neighbourhood residents, who organize themselves without waiting for international aid, and whose words and actions remain invisible. The greatest fear is that the gap between the communities will become too wide, making reconciliation a difficult prospect. Every human life lost causes suffering for those who want peace. It is important to support peace initiatives, to help ensure the voices and actions that convey this deep desire for brotherhood and unity are heard and seen.

The young people of Bangui did not wait for the 100,000 displaced people camped at the airport to be listed before starting to set up street libraries. A few of the youngsters who volunteered to help, Chancella, Kevin and Herbert, achieved that with nothing more than a tiny scrap of material, a few pencils and their songs, but most importantly, they put themselves into it. They didn't hesitate to put themselves at the service of the community in the camps, helping the sick to take their medicine, fetching water for the weak, burying the dead, and helping mothers to rebuild their small businesses supplying the needs of the camp and to feed their families. Like these young people, the country's inhabitants wish to be helped, but by being supported in their own initiatives.

GV: How can international aid help rebuild the country, without overlooking those who are the country's driving force?  

MB: On l'a souvent vu ailleurs, l'état a été dénigré et contourné par l'aide internationale.  Il faut soutenir les initiatives des gens du pays et ne pas les écraser. Comment dire qu'on ne peut se mettre derrière ceux qui sont engagés et ont une expérience et une réflexion sur ce qu'il faut faire, nourrie par des années d'engagement ? Les responsables  d'une « maison » pour enfants vulnérables a vu des tonnes de riz distribué en rations individuelles… et les plus faibles se faire dépouiller, ou le vendre à vil prix pour avoir quelques sous. Ces responsables auraient su comment procéder avec ses collègues pour qu'il serve à tous les enfants, plus équitablement.

MB: We've seen it happen elsewhere, the state being denigrated and bypassed by international aid. The initiatives of the country's people have to be supported, not crushed. Why refuse to support those who are involved and have experience and an appreciation for what needs to be done, gained through years of involvement? The people in charge of a “home” for vulnerable children have seen tonnes of rice distributed in individual portions… and the weakest ones having it stolen from them, or it is sold at a low price just to have a few cents. The people in charge of these homes would know how to work with these colleagues to ensure that the rice was used to help all the children more fairly.

GV: How should we go about gathering the people's views and ideas and engaging with them as partners?

MB: Alors qu'elle était Maire de Bangui, l'actuelle Chef de l’État de la transition avait expliqué lors d'une table ronde des organismes humanitaires cet enjeu central : « des chefs de quartier peuvent sembler de vieux messieurs, des instituteurs sans travail depuis des mois ou des responsables d'associations de jeunes dont les locaux sont détruits depuis des années peuvent ne pas ressembler à des interlocuteurs habituels pour ces ONG, mais c'est pourtant avec eux qu'une action passe et peut être acceptée par les habitants ». C’est vital, et c’est d’ailleurs le principe de respect des peuples et un sens profond de la solidarité qui garantie la paix et le vrai progrès avec tous.

MB: While she was Mayor of Bangui, the current transitional Head of State explained the key issue at a round table for humanitarian organizations: “It may seem that some community leaders are old men, teachers who have been out of work for months, leaders of youth associations whose premises were destroyed years ago, and they may not seem to be the kind of people these NGOs are used to liaising with, but it is through them that measures are achieved that are acceptable to residents”. It is vitally important, as it involves the principle of respect for the people and a profound sense of solidarity, which ensures peace and progress for everybody.

The French Expatriate Perspective on France's Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

Total of french citizens abroad as compiled by the Foreign Affairs Ministry - Public Domain

Total of French citizens abroad by continent as compiled by the Foreign Affairs Ministry – Public Domain

The immigration debate has increasingly polarized public opinion in France over the past few years. The rise of the far right, such as the National Front party, in recent elections catalyzed an anti-immigration rhetoric that seems to permeate into the more moderate conservative parties. The most notorious stories involved the “pain au chocolat” [fr] (chocolate croissants) affair, in which the leader of the opposition JF Copé stated that he was distraught knowing that children in some districts get harassed by Muslim youngsters [fr] for eating chocolate croissants during Ramadan.

The push for more restrictive immigration policies that would limit unqualified (without high school diploma) candidates to migrate to France has found echoes [fr] in the current progressive government. In fact, a book published by philosopher Alain Finkelkraut called “L'idendité malheureuse” (The Unhappy Identity) attempts to justify imposing more strict regulations on immigration in order to protect the French identity [fr]:

Les autochtones ont perdu le statut de référent culturel qui était le leur dans les périodes précédentes de l’immigration. Ils ne sont plus prescripteurs. Quand ils voient se multiplier les conversions à l’islam, ils se demandent où ils habitent. Ils n’ont pas bougé, mais tout a changé autour d’eux. […] Plus l’immigration augmente et plus le territoire se fragmente.

The “original” French people have lost the status of cultural reference, a status they held in earlier periods of immigration. They are no longer the normative reference. When they see increased conversions to Islam, they wonder where they live. They have not moved, yet everything has changed around them. [...] The more immigration increases, the more the nation becomes fragmented.

Frederic Martel, director of IRIS, a research institute on international relations, explains why Finkelkraut's discourse is misguided [fr]: 

 Il y a, c’est certain, une forte anxiété dans la France d’aujourd’hui. Mais pourquoi caricaturer tous les «étrangers» comme s’ils ne voulaient ni s’intégrer ni accepter le passé de la France? Que sait-il des Français de deuxième et troisième génération? De leur langue, de leur culture? De l’énergie créatrice des quartiers? [...] L’identité française, pourtant, n’est pas malheureuse. Elle bouge, elle change, elle se cherche, elle fait des allers-retours avec son passé. Et tous ceux qui pensent qu’exalter «l’identité nationale» permettrait de sortir des difficultés sociales et économiques que nous traversons se trompent.

There is certainly a lot of anxiety in France today. But why caricature all foreigners as if they do not want to fit in nor accept the history of France? What does [Finkelkraut] know of France's second and third generation of immigrants? Their language and their culture? The creative energy they bring to their neighborhoods? [...] The French identity is not an unhappy one.”It moves, it changes, it goes forward, backward towards the past, then forward again. Anyone who thinks that exalting  ”national identity” would solve our social and economic challenges is just kidding themselves.

The natural counterpoint to the rising anti-immigration policies is the fact that there is a rising number of French citizens who have chosen to live abroad. Christian Lemaitre from think tank Français-Etranger (French Abroad) points out that the total number of French citizens outside of France is quite important and might be larger [fr] than the official total shared by the French Foreign Affairs Department: 

En dix ans, la population française établie hors des frontières se serait accrue de 40% soit une augmentation de 3 à 4% par an et un total de plus de 2 millions de Français installés à l'étranger. Estimation seulement car l'inscription au registre mondial n'est pas obligatoire. Le think tank francais-etranger.org pense que ce chiffre serait beaucoup plus proche de 3 milions. Pourquoi sont-ils partis ? 65% des expatriés affirment rechercher une nouvelle expérience professionnelle et près du tiers, une augmentation de revenus. Le désir de découvrir un nouveau pays est évoqué devant les motivations professionnelles ou linguistiques.

In ten years, the French population abroad have seen an increase of 40 percent, an increase of 3 to 4 percent per year, and a total of more than two million French now live abroad. This is only an estimate because sign up in the consulate's register is not mandatory. The think tank French-etranger.org thinks that number would be much closer to three million people. Why have they left France? 65 percent of expatriates say that they were looking for new work experience and nearly a third of them wanted a better income. The desire to discover a new country is also mentioned first, before any professional or linguistic motivations.

Indeed, the viewpoint on immigration differs when seen from French citizens outside France. 

In fact, despite the popular belief that French citizens living abroad were mostly conservatives, their votes have increasingly leaned towards the left in the past decade. Cécile Dehesdin [fr] explains:

Depuis 1981, elle a gagné plus de vingt points chez les Français de l'étranger, et l'écart avec son score national y était de moins d'un point en 2007 (46,01% contre 46,94%)  

Since 1981, [the left] has won more than 20 points in French from abroad voting and the gap with the national score there was less than one point in 2007 (46.01 percent against 46.94 percent). 

Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam, an analyst, adds [fr]:

C’est un public qui est plutôt au centre-droit qu’à droite et pas du tout à l’extrême-droite, plutôt droite humaniste que Droite populaire, et l’écart avec la gauche est de moins en moins important

This is a voting group that is more center-right and right, but not attracted at all to far-right views; it is rather leaning towards progressive right than radical right, and the gap with the left has become less and less important

Additionally, the experience of living abroad seem to have given many French citizens a different perspective. Etoile66, in Toronto, opines [fr]:

Ma France pourrait regarder vers ces pays où les habitants parlent plusieurs langues sans aucun problème et circulent à l'aise dans le monde, alors qu'elle a dressé ses habitants à avoir peur de ce qu'ils appellent la “mondialisation”. La peur ressentie pas bon nombre de mes compatriotes devant “l'étranger” en général et la “mondialisation” en particulier, ne serait plus s'ils avaient confiance en eux. Celui qui a confiance n'a pas peur de l'autre ni de l'étranger, ni du monde, bien au contraire, il échange dans le respect mutuel. 

The France I want to see should look to those countries where people speak different languages ​​without any problems and move at ease in the world. So far, France has only taught its people to be afraid of what they call “globalization”. The fear felt by many of my countrymen of “foreigners” in general and “globalization” in particular, would vanish if they had confidence in themselves. People who have self-confidence do not fear the “other”, “foreigners”, nor the world. On the contrary, they interact with them with mutual respect.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

Puerto Rico’s Debt Downgraded to “Junk” Status

Un cuarto de dólar estadounidense, o peseta, como se le llama en Puerto Rico. La expresión

A U.S. quarter, or peseta, as it’s called in Puerto Rico. The expression “everything has gone to hell now” [in Spanish the expressions plays with the word "peseta" that means "quarter"] is commonly used to mean that the cost of living has suddenly gone up or that life has suddenly got more complicated. Image from the public domain, taken from
Wikimedia Commons.

What everybody feared finally happened: Puerto Rico’s debt was downgraded to junk or speculative level on February 4, 2014, by the rating agency Standard & Poor’s. The consequences of degradation had already been mentioned in a previous article [es] by Sergio Marxuach, the Director of Public Policy of the Puerto Rican based think tank Center for a New Economy:

… [U]na degradación del crédito de Puerto Rico a nivel “chatarra” tendría repercusiones adversas para todos los que vivimos en Puerto Rico ya que desataría una crisis financiera. Eso significa, entre otras cosas, que: el gobierno tendría poco o ningún acceso a los mercados financieros; veríamos una depreciación del valor de los bonos y obligaciones de Puerto Rico de entre 30% y 50%; la liquidez y la solvencia de las instituciones financieras y compañías de seguro en Puerto Rico podrían verse afectadas adversamente; veríamos un aumento en las tasas de interés y una contracción significativa del crédito; y aumentarían tanto las quiebras como el desempleo. Nadie en Puerto Rico estaría inmune de los efectos de esa tempestad.

Degrading Puerto Rico’s credit to ‘junk’ level would have adverse repercussions for everybody who lives in Puerto Rico because it would set off a financial crisis. That means, among other things, that the government would have little or no access to financial markets; we would see a depreciation between 30 to 50% of the value of Puerto Rican bonds and obligations; the liquidity and solvency of financial institutions and insurance companies in Puerto Rico could be adversely affected; we’d see an increase in interest rates and a significant credit crunch; and an increase in bankruptcies and unemployment. No one in Puerto Rico would be immune from the effects of this storm.

The degradation of the Puerto Rican debt comes after a series of unpleasant measures implemented by both the New Progressive Party and the Popular Democratic Party, which is currently in power. Among the measures implemented were the laying off thousands of public employees, the imposition of new taxes, and reform of the retirement systems. The Government Development Bank (BGF in Spanish) of Puerto Rico and the Department of Treasury issued a joint press release to calm the concerns of the public, but especially of investors:

Si bien estamos decepcionados con la decisión de Standard & Poor’s, seguimos comprometidos con la implantación de nuestros planes fiscales y de desarrollo económico. Creemos que la comunidad inversora reconocerá oportunamente el impacto positivo de las reformas que la Administración [del Gobernador Alejandro] García Padilla ha implantado.

Entendemos que S&P reconoce los esfuerzos significativos de Puerto Rico hasta la fecha para enfrentar problemas estructurales de mucho tiempo, según queda demostrado por nuestra significativa reforma de retiro, el incrementar la independencia de una serie de corporaciones públicas y los recientes aumentos en los recaudos.

[...]

Estamos confiados en que tenemos a mano liquidez para satisfacer todas las necesidades de liquidez hasta fines del año fiscal, incluyendo cualquier necesidad de efectivo que surja como resultado de la decisión de hoy.

While we are disappointed with Standard & Poor’s decision, we remain committed to the implementation of our fiscal and economic development plans. We believe the investment community will recognize the positive impact of the reforms that the Garcia Padilla Administration has enacted in due course.

We appreciate that S&P recognizes the Commonwealth’s significant efforts to date to tackle long- term structural issues, demonstrated by our significant pension reform, increasing the independence of a number of public corporations, and recent revenue increases.
[…]

We are confident that we have the liquidity on hand to satisfy all liquidity needs until the end of the fiscal year, including any cash needs resulting from today’s decision.

However, Cate Long, market analyst of municipal bonds for the Reuters news agency, who has closely followed Puerto Rico’s situation during the past few years indicated:

For several months, there has been a climate of pessimism in Puerto Rico with regard to the economy, if Twitter comments serve as a barometer for the national mood:

Right now we all have better credit than our government…

The ‘junk’ is here, and now the situations is verrrrrrry bad…

Things have definitely gone to hell now.

Of course, there were also humorous comments amidst the preoccupation:

We announce that for now, we will not downgrade your tweets. But the outlook remains negative.

Janizabeth Sánchez produced a Storify [es]  with more Twitter reactions.

February 05 2014

Meet 3 Talented African Lady Geeks Involved in New Media

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

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

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

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

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

Mariam Daby with permission

Mariam Daby. Photo used with her permission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julie Owono avec sa permission

Julie Owono. Photo used with her permission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lalatiana Rahariniaina avec sa permission

Lalatiana Rahariniaina. Photo used with her permission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LR: People making better use of ITC tools.

Youth Orchestra ‘Jafraa’ a Bright Spot in War-Torn Syria

1455988_762600453756599_40165774_n

Jafraa Band. Source: Jafraa Facebook page. Used under CC BY 2.0

Shakespeare once said, “If music be the food of love, play on.” But what if this “food of love” risks the player's life? This is case for the young musicians who make up the Jafraa orchestra at the Palestinian returnees camp in Homs, Syria.

Led by music teacher and children's coach Amer Shanati, the band counts 45 to 55 children from ages seven to 17 years. Though music is often described as the language of the world, it pays a heavy price in war-torn Syria to survive. Most of their “relatively expensive” instruments are either borrowed or donated due to the poverty of the residents of the camp. Their music is a welcome distraction from the noise of bombardment and fighting that takes place outside besieged Homs.

Jafraa is 100 per cent dependent on social media to broadcast their performances as Syria lacks any kind of public musical activities since the government prohibited musical productions at the provincial and state levels. Shanati mainly uses Jafraa.Music on YouTube and Jafraa.homs on Facebook to post the band's work and to show the world that beyond the horror in Syria, there are still talented people who deserve not to be forgotten in the chaos. 

In the few emails that I exchanged with Shanati, he expressed his enthusiasm and pride for Jafraa, which performs “committed art”, a term that in Syria means the music of classic singers and musicians who enriched the Arab world's musical culture for generations, like Mohamed Abdel WahabFairuzUmm Kulthum, and Wadih El Safi, among many others. These young players are making magnificent efforts to underscore their talent by playing the 1969 classic song by Um Kulthum “Alf Leila wa Leila” (One Thousand and One Nights):

Shanati introduces the band on Facebook page as follows [ar]:

فرقة_جفرا_للفن_الملتزم فرقة موسيقية غير تابعة أو مموّلة من أي جهة حكومية أو مؤسسة من مؤسسات المجتمع المدني أو جمعية
أو مشروع على اختلاف انتماءاتهم..
فرقة جفرا أُسّستْ منذ عام 2007 بجهودٍ ذاتية متواضعة لتغني اللحن والفن الأصيل
تتألف من مجموعة كبيرة من الأطفال و الشباب يقوم الأستاذ “عـــــامر شناتي” بتدريبهم في غرفة صغيرة في مخيم العائدين/حمص/سوريا.

ولكل من هؤلاء الأطفال حلمه في الحياة العملية سيجتهد ويدرس لتحقيقه , ولكن ستبقى جفرا هي ركنهم الدافئ والخاص يحلقّون مـن خلاله في فضاء اللحن الأصيل والكلمة الملتزمة لينثروا عبرهما معاني الحب والسلام والجمال لكل من حولهم ..

وعليه تقبل فرقة جفرا للفن الملتزم فقط تبرعات و إحياء حفلات برعاية أشخاص أو مؤسسات لغايات إنسانية و ثقافية أخلاقية بحته
دون أي شــــــــروط تُفرض على الفرقة …

The Jafraa band of “committed art” is an orchestra which is not affiliated nor funded by any party, civil community institution, association or any other project.

The Jafraa band was established in 2007 with modest intentions to perform melodies and original art. It consists of a large group of children and young people led by Amer Shanati, a music teacher who trains them in a small room in the returnees camp in Homs, Syria.

Each of these children has a dream for his future; however, Jafraa will remain their warm and private corner from which they fly into space, with melody and committed music to spread the meaning of love, peace and beauty around them.

1237572_705711542778824_102092182_n

Jafraa Band. Source: Jafraa Facebook page. Used under CC BY 2.0

The Jafraa band accepts only donations and concerts sponsored by people or institutions for humanitarian and cultural purposes, purely without any conditions imposed on the band.

The band takes its name from a famous poem about a pretty young Palestinian girl named Jafraa (or Jafra) who captured a poet's heart. Despite uncertainty around the story, generations considered Jafraa an icon of beauty and love in the Palestinian culture from which Shanati and many of his little heroes are descended. 

Answering a few questions about how Jafraa is operating, Shanati responded modestly:

I use social media to ease the delivery of the voice of children to the world where is no media coverage exist in our neighborhood. Our followers reactions are significant, give us hope and we feel happy to know that they are waiting every new video we upload.

Nevertheless financial aid is very tiny, but it is important, even though I know the reason of material lack and extreme poverty. We are still looking for more funds so that we can own our musical and audio equipment and become more independent with a spacious room to accommodate a larger number of children. We are suffering from the slow Internet connections and power outages which complicate our communications and hamper our future plans; however, we aim to continue despite the difficulties.

Our work is a message to show that we insist on living our lives, although it seems impossible, and despite the restricted potential for growth we need to show to the world our talents to help us grow instead of being defeated.

I dream of developing this band to a higher level of fine musicians and of finding more talent to help the children overcome the recent crisis that has affected them psychologically.

Back to Shakespeare's quote: “If music be the food of love, play on / Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting / The appetite may sicken, and so die.”

It's doubtful that he was talking about physical death. I wish all talent of the world better circumstances than those of the little Syrians in the Jafraa band, who give hope, a tiny light at the end of Syria's dark bloody tunnel.

Fighting the Poor Instead of Poverty in Angola

In a move aimed primarily at improving the image of Luanda, Angola's capital and largest city, the government of this Southern African country announced a controversial measure: from now on, it would be illegal to engage in street trading in Luanda. Buyers as well as sellers would be fined.

Street sellers have been a way of life in Luanda since colonial times [pt], and there are several songs from well-known national musicians that celebrate this particular part of the culture. These men and women sell just about anything and everything on the streets.

Angola is currently one of Africa's strongest economies and is enjoying new-found wealth coming primarily from its oil industry. However, the wealth does not trickle down to the great majority of Angolans, and the country has maintained one of the worst social inequality levels in the world.

“Fruits vendor on a street near the Alvalade Hotel (Average price per room per night 450 US dollars). You can't find a decent hotel room in Luanda for less than 400 US dollars/night. A basic lunch in a decent restaurant (Just one course meal and a bottle of still water) will cost you about 75. The poor are finding harder and harder to manage to survive here.” Photo and caption by Ionut Sendroiu copyright Demotix (8 October 2010)

The Governor of Luanda Fights Street Vendors” [pt] was the title of one of the most liked and shared posts last week by Mana Mingota (Sister Mingota, in English), one of Angola's most popular Facebook pages. A fictitious character, almost no one knows who is behind it. Yet the page, which posts advice, humor, and commentary about a diverse range of subjects that appeal to the country's younger, Internet-active generation, has nearly 76,500 fans – more than most well-known brands and celebrities in Angola.

The post reads:

Tantos problemas para combater, água, luz, saneamento básico, emprego para os jovens, falta de casa, comida cara, prostituição legalizada, venda de bebidas a menores de idade, consumo exagerado de álcool pela população, acidentes de viação, falsificação de documentos, burocracia na emissão de documentos, propinas elevadas das universidades privadas, gasosas nos polícias, corrupção nas escolas, mau atendimento das repartições públicas, ene problemas, e a sua excelência senhor governador está com todas flechas apontadas para as zungueiras que com sacrifício tentam ganhar a vida para alimentar famílias e colocar os filhos na escola para não virarem delinquentes. Sinceramente muitos aqui pensam ao contrário!!!

So many problems to resolve – water, electricity, basic sanitation, employment for the youth, lack of housing, expensive food, legalized prostitution, the sale of alcohol to underage kids, an exaggerated consumption of alcohol in our society, motor vehicle accidents, document falsification, bureaucracy in the emission of new documents, high cost of education in private universities, police corruption, corruption in schools, horrible public service, so many problems and his Excellency the governor has all guns pointed at the street vendors who make many sacrifices and are just trying to earn some money so that they can feed their families and put their kids through school so that they don't turn into criminals. Seriously, a lot of people here think backwards!!!

The banning of street traders – or zungueiras, as they are locally known – appears to be part of a larger effort to hide Luanda's poor and dump them in the city's outskirts. Out of sight and out of mind, if you will. Besides zungueiras, inhabitants of Luanda's sizeable slums are also frequently awakened by the sound of bulldozers razing their homes to the grounds without prior warning, and then they are taken on buses to land without basic livable conditions.

“For most of the inhabitants, the skyscrapers of Luanda mean nothing but a background.” Photo and caption by Ionut Sendroiu copyright Demotix (8 October 2010)

Due to a variety of factors including a prolonged civil war and notoriously low investment in education, the majority of Angola's workforce is unskilled and over a quarter are unemployed.

According to the recently released “Bertelsmann Stiftung, BTI 2014 Angola Country Report“ [pdf], which covers transformation towards democracy and market economy in 129 countries:

[...] the population in [Angola's] cities often depends on informal commerce to make ends meet. This is especially the case in the capital Luanda, where an estimated one-third of the population lives, and which is alone responsible for 75% of GDP production.

Zungueiras. Photo shared by the blog O Patifúndio under a Creative Commons license (BY-NC-ND)

Zungueiras. Photo shared by the blog O Patifúndio under a Creative Commons license (BY-NC-ND)

The same report states that 70 percent of the informal workforce is made up of women. Invariably, the government's latest policy will adversely impact women, who are the most vulnerable in these sorts of cases. And it didn't take long. The anti-corruption watchdog Maka Angola recently reported that nearly 50 women, children and men were detained, some for three days, in the same cell in a Luanda police station for being caught selling goods on the street.

But this is nothing new. As Louise Redvers states in an article published last week examining this same issue on the website of Open Society Initiative for South Africa:

[...] worse still, these women are regularly abused by exploitative police officers and government inspection teams, who beat them, steal or damage their goods and subject them to bribes. You can read more about the scale of this horrific abuse – and the seeming impunity of the officials involved – in this damning Human Rights Watch report released last September.

Popular reaction to the government's latest measure has been one of incredulity mixed with widespread condemnation, but it's important to note that not everyone thinks this way. Many have applauded the government's decision, saying that street selling was getting out of hand and that it was detrimental to the city's image. And I've seen how zungueiras can turn any empty patch of concrete or asphalt into an unsanitary open-air market.

But as Angolan rapper MCK sings:

em vez de combater a pobreza estão a combater os pobres.

Instead of fighting poverty they are fighting the poor.

Street selling is not the problem – rather, it is the effect of a much larger issue, which is the government's inability to address the massive gap between the haves and the have-nots. It is the government's inability to address poverty despite the huge oil riches that the wealthiest Angolans are enjoying. And it is their mistaken belief that the way to deal with poverty is by hiding it.

“Commercial street in Luanda.” Photo by Ionut Sendroiu copyright Demotix (31 October 2010)

A quote in Louise Redvers’ piece cited above is particularly eye opening:

I remember very clearly one very well-dressed and expensively US-educated Angolan oil worker telling me: “We can’t have these people on our streets anymore, not in the city centre next to places like Sonangol. We need to improve our image, we are a modern country, these people can’t be here like this.”

Angola is a country where the National Registry is closed for four days because there's no “system” (read: intranet). Where a routine Western Union or Moneygram transfer can take several trips and several hours. Where there is no reliable water or electricity distribution. Where the government is incapable of providing even the most basic services to its population. Where the government spends only a small fraction of its budget on health and education, amongst the lowest figures in Africa. Where corruption is a way of life and where the government has forgotten its promise from independence that the most important thing to do was to resolve the people's problems.

The zungueiras and the country's poorest will continue to bear the brunt of this image-conscious makeover until more serious policies aimed at reducing poverty and giving the poor another option to sustain themselves are enacted.

Also read Clara Onofre's post on Global Voices (2008): Angola: Hawkers face a hard life with dignity and courage

Photos: Wedding Photo Shoots in China

For most brides and grooms-to-be in China, wedding photo shoots are an important part of wedding planning. The photo shoots, usually require multiple outfit changes and various props, can cost up to $15,000.

ChinaFile features photographer Guillaume Herbaut's wide-angle shots of soon-to-be newlyweds posing (or taking a break from posing) for their portraits. Instead of wedded bliss and joy, the photographer sees alienation and a sense of loneliness.

February 03 2014

A “Freedom Train” for the Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women in Spain

Tren de la Libertad

Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, Minister of Justice in Mariano Rajoy’s government, is spearheading a bill that seeks to repeal the existing standard in Spain—the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy Law (VIP) and Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) 2010— by promoting a reform that would mean a 30 year setback in the exercise of sexual and reproductive rights in that country.

A campaign opposing this bill, which has not yet been approved, has been spearheaded by feminist movement of Asturias, specifically the Tertulia Feminista les Comadres [es] led by the florist Begoña Piñero Hevia. Named by its creators “The Freedom Train” [es], the initiative was launched through social networks on January 2:

Las mujeres de la Tertulia Feminista les Comadres y de Mujeres por la Igualdad de Barredos consideramos que la reforma de la ley del aborto planteada por el Gobierno de Rajoy constituye un ataque injustificable a la libertad de decidir de las mujeres.

Invitamos a la sociedad asturiana a sumarse a las acciones que se organicen desde los distintos grupos, asociaciones y colectivos de mujeres para conseguir la retirada de ese Anteproyecto de Ley.

The women of Tertulia Feminista les Comadres and Women of Barredos for Equality believe that reforming the abortion law proposed by Rajoy’s government constitutes an unjustified attack against the free will of women.

We invite Asturian society to join actions organized by various groups, associations and women’s collectives to achieve the withdrawal of this proposed law.

Leaving from Asturias and arriving in Madrid on February 1st, the “Freedom Train” comprises a series of actions and activities, and the creation of supporting materials such as banners and bibs, all  created and run by the participants themselves.

Imagen tomada del sitio de la iniciativa

Begoña Piñero Hevia wearing the Freedom Train bib

From the start, the initiative has found support in several countries, and has inspired other activities and collateral actions. The text “Because I Decide” [es], which has been translated into seven languages, will be delivered to the Spanish Council of Deputies. One of the paragraphs says:

Porque yo decido, soy libre y vivo en democracia exijo del gobierno, de cualquier gobierno, que promulguen leyes que favorezcan la autonomía moral, preserven la libertad de conciencia y garanticen la pluralidad y diversidad de intereses.

Porque yo decido, soy libre y vivo en democracia exijo  que se mantenga la actual Ley de salud sexual y reproductiva y de interrupción voluntaria del embarazo por favorecer la autonomía moral, preservar la libertad de conciencia y garantizar la pluralidad de intereses de todas las mujeres.

 

Because I decide, I am free and I live in a democracy, I demand that the government, any government, enact laws that promote moral autonomy, preserve freedom of conscience, and ensure plurality and diversity of interests.

Because I decide, I am free and I live in a democracy, I demand that the current law on sexual and reproductive health and abortion is maintained, fostering moral autonomy, preserving freedom of conscience and ensuring the plurality of interests of all women.

Activists from 13 Spanish communities will come together to take the text to the Council.

Tweeted from Galicia:

We’ll see you on February 1 in Atocha. Not one step back. I’m going, are you?

And from Granada:

Coming with us on the Freedom Train? We're leaving on February 1 at 6 a.m. We'll expect you there!

A group of women filmmakers [es] (directors, producers, photographers) joined the mobilization to film and record the events of February 1st, when the “Freedom Train” arrived at the Atocha terminal in Madrid. Some of these women artists are: Inés París, Gracia Querejeta, Chus Gutiérrez, Ángeles González-Sinde, Iciar Bollaín and Isabel Coixet.

At the same time, a group of approximately 1500 intellectuals, at the initiative of Yo Decido Tren de la Libertad Pilar Aguilar, analyst and critic, have signed a manifesto [es]. Writers Mercedes Abad, Lola Beccaria, Isabel Cienfuegos, Laura Freixas, Rosa Montero and university professors Carmen Valcárcel and Almudena Hernando are among the supporters of this manifesto.

The Freedom Train also features a song, expressing the dissatisfaction of women with the law promoted by Mariano Rajoy's government:
  
Compinchado con Rajoy y sus muchachos  
ha tomado nuestro cuerpo de rehén  
con una aberrante ley demoledora  
que pretende sin empacho denigrar a la mujer.  

Rajoy in cahoots with his boys
have taken our bodies hostage
with a devastating, abhorrent law
which aims to shamelessly denigrate women.

The initiative has also had an impact in Latin America, mainly Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, noted in the publication of several messages on the social network Twitter. In Ecuador, through the Slut Walk, the plan is to go to the Spanish Consulate in the capital city of Quito and demand that the permanence of current law on sexual and reproductive health.

From the Caribbean:

Also, there have been petitions for asylum based on health issues linked to abortions by a group of people at the French Embassy in Spain:

More than 200 petitions for abortion asylum at the French embassy. This Saturday we get on the Freedom Train.

Besides the Gallic nation, other European nations will be protesting, among them Belgium and Italy. In Brussels, on January 30 a demonstration was held against the so-called Gallardón reform, with thousands in attendance.

Support from Italian and French women

Here, the The Freedom Train theme song:  

 

Lessons of Peace from the Central African Republic's Most Disadvantaged

Une école à Bangui, Centrafrique via wikipédia - license  Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

A school in Bangui, Central African Republic via Wikipedia. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Full-time volunteers from the organization ATD Fourth World in the Central African Republic (CAR) have been working with those most disadvantaged since before the violent religious conflict began to tear the country apart in early 2013.

The Central African conflict between the government and Seleka rebels has worsened alarmingly for the past year. The initially political conflict has now evolved into a religious conflict between Seleka Rebels, mostly of Islamic confession and anti-Balakas, mostly composed of christian youth groups. ATD Fourth World's mission in CAR is to support the more disenfranchised civilians living in extreme poverty by providing shelters for the neediest and some schooling for a few children.  

The actions they have taken to support local populations have preserved unity and social cohesion in some of the communities weakened by fratricidal fighting. Their continued presence within the community has rendered them key players and observers of the current situation. 

Global Voices approached the volunteers to find out how they see things and what they think needs to be done to rebuild the country. What follows is the first part of a lengthy interview with Michel Besse and the ADT Fourth World team in Bangui.

Global Voices (GV): What are the most  pressing issues for the Central African Republic right now?  How could they be resolved?  

Michel Besse (MB): Pour nous, ce dont le pays a besoin pour reconstruire,  c'est de tenir compte de ceux qui ont résisté, et compter avec eux, s’appuyer sur leur expérience et leur savoir. Des familles, des personnes qu'on considère pour rien, isolées de tous et sans appuis chez les « kotazo » (les puissants, en sango langue nationale), ont maintenu malgré tout un lien de paix et de survie, au cœur des conflits. C'est ce lien dont le pays a besoin pour se rassembler après toutes ces distensions brutales. En revanche ceux qui sont restés comme des « blocs » par l'usage de la force (les milices armées) ou par l'usage de la ruse pour la survie de leurs intérêts politiques ou autres, n'ont pas cette vision de résistance et de reconstruction. Nous souhaitons que cette sagesse de paix des très pauvres puisse être connue de ceux qui sont dans leurs sécurités, ceux qui peuvent se protéger, ou ceux qui sont à l'abri. 

Michel Besse (MB): For us, what the country needs in order to rebuild itself is to take into account the views of those who are fighting the hatred, and trust them, rely on their experience and their knowledge. Families and people who are being left stranded now, isolated from their loved ones and without any influence over the “kotazo” (the powerful ones, in the national Sango lauguage) have, despite it all, managed to maintain peaceful social relationships in the midst of conflict. It is these kind of links that the country needs in order to come together after all of these brutal flare-ups. On the other hand, those who remained in their fighting stances like “blocks of violence” (the armed militia) or by ruse in order to preserve their own interest or political agendas, these people do not hold the vision of resistance to hatred and reconstruction. We hope that the wisdom for peace held by the poorest can be felt by those who are in more privileged positions, those able to protect themselves, or those who are sheltered. 

GV: What is the current situation in the area where you are?  Are their refugees, and if so, where are they coming from?

MB: On peut dire que depuis le 24 décembre, toutes les maisons dans notre quartier ont accueilli des familles déplacées fuyant les quartiers devenus dangereux ; nous-mêmes, à la Maison Quart Monde, nous accueillons désormais une vingtaine de personnes, des membres du Mouvement venant de quartiers proches. Par ailleurs, un site de déplacés existe à quelques rues de chez nous, avec 19.000 personnes déplacées.
Des jeunes de ces familles déplacées sont souvent envoyés pour essayer de passer une nuit dans les maisons familiales, mais au bout de quelques essais ils retournent à nouveau dans des quartiers plus sûrs, à cause de regain de violences et de scènes de tueries qui ont eu lieu dans les zones d'affrontement. La situation, d'après ce que nous entendons de leur part, ainsi que par d'autres amis du Mouvement ATD, l'instabilité d'un jour sur l'autre est la marque de cette insécurité. Elle empêche de pouvoir se réinstaller durablement chez soi.
Beaucoup de ceux avec qui nous sommes en lien, entre autres des jeunes qui viennent prendre des matériaux d'animation pour les Bibliothèques de Rues dans leurs sites, et qui nous racontent leur vie quotidienne dans ces camps dont le plus grand à l'aéroport compte 100.000 personnes, nous le disent : « Ça fait très mal quand je vois ma famille sur cet aéroport. Quand je fais l'animation avec les enfants, la douleur est enlevée, j'ai moins de soucis ni de tracas, pas de douleur ».

Quand il y a de l'électricité, nous pouvons rester en lien avec des membres du mouvement, donner et recevoir de nouvelles des uns et des autres. Comme les déplacements sont limités, ces liens se font par téléphone mobile, surtout avec des familles qui sont dans zones de combats, avec un SMS, un appel de quelques secondes, parfois ces familles répondent en murmurant, de peur d’être entendues par les groupes armés qui passent, dans les ruelles près de leurs maisons. Nous faisons tout le possible pour que les nouvelles circulent : nous savons que c'est vital pour ne pas se sentir seuls.

Nous avions un projet de faire découvrir aux enfants et aux animateurs de Bibliothèque de rue et d’action Tapori dans sept zones de la capitale un DVD de chansons Tapori . C’était prévu pour Fin 2013, début 2014 : malheureusement, la flambée du 5 décembre nous a empêché de vivre ce projet : « C'est reporté, pas annulé », disait un de ces animateurs. « Dans le pays, un jour le calme viendra, alors ça sera possible ». Mais en attendant, les animateurs ne restent pas les bras croisés. Ils ont rejoints les enfants dans différents camps de déplacés. A l’aéroport, ils les réunissent plusieurs fois par semaines autour des livres, des chansons, du dessin. C’est ainsi que les enfants de la BDR du Camp de Mpoko, ont réalisé des coloriages, et ont choisi de les offrir à l’hôpital-mobile de MSF [ Doctors Without Borders] lors de l'inauguration , et avec leur fameux DVD en prime ! En recevant ce cadeau, la Directrice de l’hôpital, une MSF qui avait travaillé dans bien d'autres pays, disait sa joie de voir pour la première fois de sa carrière, que la force des enfants à travers leurs paroles et leurs chansons des enfants pour la joie d'autres enfants était mise en avant.

MB: I can tell you that since 24 December all of the houses in our part of town have taken in displaced families fleeing those other parts which have become danger zones. At the ATD Fourth World HQ, we are also hosting 20 people from surrounding neighbourhoods. A refugee site for displaced people is set only a few streets away from us and it holds 19,000 displaced people.

Youngsters from the displaced families are often sent to try and spend the night in the family's homes, but after a few failed attempts, they return to safer neighbourhoods due to the increased violence and the killings which have taken place in the trouble spots. The situation, according to what they tell us, as well as what other friends of the ADT Movement say, is one of day-to-day volatility. It prevents people from going back home for good.

Many of those who we are in contact with, including the youngsters who come to get materials for use in activities at the street libraries, a collection of children’s artwork to decorate hospitals in Bangui on their sites, tell us about their day-to-day lives in these camps, the biggest of which is at the airport and holds 100,000 people. They say that “it makes us feel really bad to see our families at the airport. When we lead activities with the children, their pain is alleviated and they have fewer worries, less pain”.

When there is electricity, we can stay in contact with members of the movement, exchange news. As travel is limited, these exchanges are made by mobile phone, especially with families who are in the combat zones, by text message or a call lasting only a few seconds. Sometimes these families answer with only a whisper, scared of being heard by armed groups who pass by near their houses. We are doing everything we can to make sure news gets round: We know it is essential in order to combat feelings of isolation.  

We had a project to introduce a DVD of Tapori [a worldwide network of young members of the ATD Movement] songs to children and facilitators at the Street Library and Tapori action in seven zones around the capital. It was planned for the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014. Unfortunately, the flare-up on 5 December prevented us from carrying out the project: “It is postponed, not cancelled” said one of the facilitators. “One day, calm will come back in the country, that's when it will be possible”.  But in the meantime, the facilitators are not just sitting around. They have travelled to the children in the various displacement camps. At the airport, they bring them together several times a week around books, songs and drawing. This is how the children of the Street Library in the Mpoko camp produced their colouring picture book, and decided to give them to the MSF mobile hospital during it's inauguration. On receiving the gift, the hospital's director, who has worked with MSF in many other countries, expressed her joy at seeing for the first time in her career that the strength of these children, coming from their words and their songs for the joy of other children, was being showcased.

GV: The day-to-day situation is truly worrying. How do you manage the uncertainty? What are the most pressing needs at present?

MB: Nous voyons que pour les familles qui sont déplacées, l'important est de pouvoir continuer à gagner de quoi vivre. Pour deux mères de familles qui sont avec nous, il s'agit de vendre de la farine de maïs : pour cela il faut aller acheter le grain en vrac, puis le mettre à tremper une nuit, le sécher et aller trouver dans le marché Lakouanga à deux kms un moulin qui fasse la farine à bon prix, et enfin organiser la vente au détail dans l'un ou l'autre marché « spontané » qui est né du déplacement de la moitié de la ville. Toute cette activité de survie donne à la famille toute entière une raison de se lever, de se battre, d'espérer.
L'incertitude, c'est de vendre suffisamment pour pouvoir acheter de quoi manger à la famille ; c'est aussi d'avoir à traverser des quartiers où les conditions de sécurité sont tellement changeantes : celui qui a moulu mon grain aujourd'hui sera-t-il encore vivant demain ? C'est par exemple sur ce trajet de fabrication de la farine de maïs qu'une des mamans a été témoin devant ses yeux du lynchage d'un homme par la foule. C'est aussi l'incertitude de pouvoir rentrer avant le couvre-feu et la tombée de jour à 18 heures, alors que des bandes commencent à sortir pour aller piller des maisons désertées. L’autre souci des parents, c’est l’éducation des enfants, ils ne veulent pas que les enfants soient témoins de scènes de violence. depuis le début des tensions, les animateurs disaient : « il nous faut continuer nos Bibliothèque de rue pour désarmer l’esprit des enfants ». c’est aussi pour cela que nous allons soutenir l’initiative de l’école qui se trouve proche de la Maison Quart Monde. elle accueille depuis quelques jours plus de 1000 enfants et proposent des activités ludiques.

Depuis le jeudi 20 janvier 2014 et la prestation de serment de la Présidente de la transition, les radios nationales donnent des communiqués sur les réalités de violence qui continuent de toucher le pays : cela fait que les déplacés qui vivent avec nous, et d'autres qui passent nous voir, se posent beaucoup de questions pour le devenir de leur pays. Si malgré un deuxième gouvernement de transition les choses en restent à la violence, alors qu'est-ce qu'on va devenir?

La situation est très compliquée, c'est vrai. Mais on ne peut pas dire que tout le monde est ennemi. On ne peut pas sous-estimer les risques que prennent certains pour sauver d'autres qui ne sont pas de leur communauté. Par exemple, telle maman musulmane qui un midi voit passer une jeune fille chrétienne, ployant sous le poids du sac de grain qu'elle est allée moudre, et s'avance dans une rue ou des exactions viennent d'avoir lieu : « Viens ma fille »,dit-elle pour faire croire qu'elle est une parente, « je t'aide à porter »… et elle lui montre une ruelle pour éviter le quartier ! Dans ce même quartier, 17 lieux de culte chrétiens ont étés protégés par des groupes de jeunes musulmans qui ont voulu que l'honneur de leur voisinage soit respecté. Un autre exemple, un jeune chrétien a sauvé un homme poursuivi par une foule qui le soupçonnait d’être un ex rebelle. Lorsqu’on lui a dit : « mais pourquoi tu as sauvé ce rebelle ? » il a répondu : « j’ai sauvé un homme ».

En parlant de l'avenir du pays, un éducateur spécialisé dit : « Qu'on en finisse avec la haine. C'est une catastrophe. Les centrafricains veulent quelqu'un qui peut assurer cette transition, faire grandir un esprit qui bannit la haine et la jalousie. Qui favorise que l'un accepte l'autre. Un esprit de pardon pour assurer la paix, quelles que soient les origines de l'un et de l'autre. Les politiques doivent accepter que les gens veulent vivre en paix. Les gens réfléchissent : des dirigeants créeront-ils encore des divisions ? Car depuis si longtemps nous arrivions à vivre sans tenir compte de l'appartenance religieuse».

MB: We can see that for the displaced families, the most important thing is to continue to be able to earn enough to live on. For two of the mothers who are with us, it's a question of selling maize flour: to do that, they have to go and buy the grain in bulk, then leave it to soak overnight, dry it and then go to the market at Lakouanga, two kilometres away, to find a miller who will mill the flower at a decent price, before arranging to retail the flour at one or other of the “pop-up” markets which have been born out of the displacement of half the town. Any survival activity gives the family a reason to get up, to fight, to hope.

Uncertainty comes from whether enough flour will be sold to be able to buy the family something to eat; it is also about being able to cross neighbourhoods where the security situation is very changeable. Will the person who milled my grain today still be alive tomorrow? It was, for example, via the production of maize flour that one of the mothers came to witness the mob lynching if a man. Uncertainty also comes from not knowing whether you'll be able to return before the 6 p.m. curfew when gangs begin to appear looking to loot the deserted houses. Another worry for parents is their children's education; they don't want their children to witness scenes of violence. Since the beginning of the troubles, the facilitators have said, “We need to continue on with our street library in order to take away violence from the children's spirits”. This is also why we are going to support the initiative of the schools. For the past few days, the schools have entertained more than 1,000 children and offered fun activities.

Since Thursday, 20 January 20, 2014 and the swearing into office of the transitional president, the national radio stations have been broadcasting bulletins on the reality of the violence that continues to affect the country. This has lead to the displaced people who are living with us, and others who stop by to see us, to ask a lot of questions about the future of their country. If, despite a second transitional government, the violence continues, what will their future hold?

It is true that this is a very complicated situation. But it cannot be said that everyone has suddenly become an enemy The risks which some are willing to take in order to protect others not from their own communities shouldn't be underestimated. For example, a Muslim mother saw a young Christian girl passing by one midday, buckling under the weight of a sack of grain she was taking to be milled and heading for a street where scenes of violence had recently played out. “Come on, my darling girl”, she said to indicate that she was the girl's parent, “I'll help you carry it,” and she showed her a side street to bypass the neighbourhood! In this same neighbourhood, 17 places of Christian worship have been protected by groups of young Muslims who want to ensure the honour of their neighbours is respected. In another example, a young Christian saved a man who was being pursued by a crowd who suspected him of being a former rebel. When he was asked, “But why did you save this rebel?” he replied, “I saved a man.”

Talking about the future of the country, an educational specialist said, “The hate needs to stop. It's a catastrophe. Central Africans want someone who can ensure a transition, engender a spirit which banishes hate and jealousy. One which encourages acceptance of one another. A spirit of forgiveness in order to ensure peace, whatever each others origins. Politicians need to accept that people want to live in peace. People are thinking, will our leaders create further division? Because for a long time we managed to live without religious affiliation being an issue.”

The second part of this interview on how the Central Africans can be helped will be published in a follow-up post. 

Clashes between Police Forces and High School Students in La Réunion Island

Clashes between students and police forces broke out on January 31 and February 1 in Saint-Denis, La réunion Island. Some shops in the district of La Chaudron were looted and some vehicles were torched, according to a police source. Anne Mariotti, a reporter at  Journal de l’île de la Réunion, writes that residents are confused about the causes of the violence [fr]:

L’incompréhension, aussi, parce qu’il ne s’agit pas de magasins de première nécessité! J’ai parlé à la gérante d’un magasin de hi-fi, qui ne comprenait pas: ça n’a plus rien à voir avec une manifestation contre la vie chère.  

[Residents] don't understand because the shops that were attacked are not selling staple products. I talked to one audio shop manager who was at loss with the attacks : this has nothing to do with protesting the cost of living anymore.

This infographic shows the statistics on violence in La Réunion Island in the recent years [fr]:

Statistics on violence in La Réunion Island via Insee - Public Domain

Statistics on violence in La Réunion Island via Insee – Public Domain

February 01 2014

Philippine Typhoon Haiyan Victims Join ‘People Surge’ Protest

'People Surge' protest gathering in a public university in Leyte. Photo from Tudla

‘People Surge’ protest gathering in a public university in Leyte. Photo from Tudla

Also see Haiyan Devastates the Philippines, our special coverage page.

More than 10,000 typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) victims in the Philippines joined a protest dubbed ‘People Surge’ to condemn the slow arrival of relief and rehabilitation efforts in their communities. The ‘People Surge’ is also an alliance of typhoon Haiyan victims mainly from the provinces of Leyte and Samar.

Haiyan, the world’s strongest storm of 2013, battered the Visayas islands of the Philippines last November 8 which killed more than 6,000 people. Thousands more were left homeless after a tsunami-like storm surge devastated several towns in the region.

Participants of the ‘People Surge’ are complaining about the lack of government assistance in restoring the homes and livelihoods of typhoon victims. They are also opposing the ‘No Build Zone’ policy which they claim will lead to the displacement of thousands of residents in coastal areas.

The ‘People Surge’ first assembled in a public university before marching around the city of Tacloban, the ground zero of the Haiyan disaster.

A Catholic nun, convenor of the People Surge, introduces the objectives of the action. Photo from Tudla

A Catholic nun, convenor of the People Surge, introduces the objectives of the action. Photo from Tudla

'People Surge' assembly in Tacloban. Photo from Tudla

‘People Surge’ assembly in Tacloban. Photo from Tudla

Residents hold improvised placards declaring their opposition to the 'No Build Zone' policy. Photo from Tudla

Residents hold improvised placards declaring their opposition to the ‘No Build Zone’ policy. Photo from Tudla

Residents, both young and old, are calling for the scrapping of the 'No Build Zone' policy. Photo from Tudla.

Residents, both young and old, are calling for the scrapping of the ‘No Build Zone’ policy. Photo from Tudla.

A typhoon victim voices out her concern to some aspects of the government's rehabilitation program. Photo from People Surge

A typhoon victim voices out her concern to some aspects of the government's rehabilitation program. Photo from People Surge

A participant of the rally calls for immediate rehabilitation of typhoon-affected villages instead of militarization. Photo from Tudla

A participant of the rally calls for immediate rehabilitation of typhoon-affected villages instead of militarization. Photo from Tudla

Protesters warn against land grabbing in favor of big business. Photo from Facebook of Elle Freem

Protesters warn against land grabbing in favor of big business. Photo from Facebook of Elle Freem

The event used the Twitter hashtag #PeopleSurge. Angel de Guzman† thinks the ‘People Surge’ was one of the biggest rallies in the region in recent years:

Leon Dulce, an environmentalist, explained why residents are against the ‘No Build Zone’ policy:

Compounding the survivors’ woes is the no-build zone policy that government imposed over the devastated coastal areas, which supposedly removed settlements away from the hazards presented by storm surges, but divorced the fisher folk and other coastal communities from shelter and livelihoods in the process.

Amando Doronila, a veteran journalist, warned the government not to undermine the anger of the poor victims:

After enduring for more than two months deprivations in food, shelter and medicines, more than 12,000 residents of Leyte and Samar converged on devastated Tacloban to express their indignation against the agonizing inaction of the national government, whose relief workers were still recovering decomposing corpses from the ruins at the rate of three a day, so the relatives of the dead can give the remains a decent burial. Under Filipino custom, nothing can be more sacrilegious and profane than leaving the dead unburied, especially by a negligent state

Elle Freem, a volunteer worker, observed how the organized campaign unfolded in Tacloban:

The Eastern Visayas region is probably the epitome if resilience, the people are ready to rise up in face of not only the material and psychological hardship of the super storm but also in face of an apathetic government who is profiteering on the aid pouring in. Tens of thousands of people made their way to the university of eastern visayas to voice their perspective on how to rehabilitate their homes and region. The communities here are organized and have a clear plan on how they want to proceed but will the government listen?

Also see Haiyan Devastates the Philippines, our special coverage page.

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.
(PRO)
No Soup for you

Don't be the product, buy the product!

close
YES, I want to SOUP ●UP for ...