Reblog: Telling a Story of Africa Through Youth and Innovation: ‘My Africa Is’

June 29, 2012 § 1 Comment

Recently, A View from the Cave highlighted “My Africa Is,” a collaborative effort to follow and share the stories of change-makers in 13 cities across sub-Saharan Africa. This series marches in cadence with other recent initiatives (see Mama Hope and Dynamic Africa) that hope to rehouse the world’s perception of Africa within a more positive, optimistic, eclectic and empowered framework.


Domestic Violence

June 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

A social worker took a group of children from abusive families on a walk in the a park. The group came across a caterpillar and the social worker held it in her hand as they looked at it.

“That’s a mommy catapillar,” said one young boy.

“How do you know?” asked to social worker.

“Because she is frightened and curled up,” he replied.

This true story was recently told at the 2012 National Institute of Justice Conference in Washington D.C. It was told by a panel member in the discussion “New Research on Domestic Violence Courts and a Summary of Research on Domestic Violence for Advocates and Service Providers.”

The panel provided a flutter of discussion and some insightful presentations by Melissa Labriola (Senior Research Associate at the Center for Court Innovation) and Barbara Hart (Director of Strategic Justice Initiatives) in particular.  They spoke of the need for coordinated community response (CCR) between the practitioners who help victims of domestic violence (DV), and the researchers who help to understand and innovate the interventions that are used to protect them. However, they also lamented the lack of funding in this area of research, and acquiesced to the point that studies on this topic (DV) often include such small Ns (the number of participants able to be included in the research) that findings are weak and hard to replicate. Still, the panelist and expert audience members remained hopeful and emphasized the good work of groups like the NIJ and Center for Court Innovations in addressing the issue. If you happen to be a researcher, this is an area that is shamefully understudied and which, should you persevere, could greatly benefit millions of women, men and children.

Some interesting insights that I took away from this meeting (and another meeting on trafficking, which I will discuss later):

Victims of domestic violence in prison are a hugely underserved community; for example, many women who are jailed for prostitution or child neglect have been victims of domestic violence, many drug users/peddlers and some women convicted of DUIs began their habit or trade as a means to self-medication or to escape the pain of their situation. In other words, when domestic violence is involved, the concept of ‘victim’ and ‘criminal’ can become convoluted.

Home visits show significant promise for reducing the amount of intimate partner violence, increasing the level of maternal and child health, and aiding the development of children. Take a look  at some reports and studies here,  here and here (you may need library access…so contact me and I’ll send them to you). Also, stay tuned for a forthcoming Cochrane review on the topic of DV (summarizing the evidence for all DV prevention interventions) here.

– Not surprisingly, one of the hardest parts about serving and prosecuting abusers in cases of DV is the inability to get victims to stand as witnesses; nevertheless, because of the emotional, physical and psychological complexity of the situations, practitioners would rather not refer to victims as “not cooperating” if they don’t appear willing to testify–but rather as “not engaging.” This may seem like semantics, but the word “engaging” removes guilt from the victims and allows the colloquial argot of law to be more fair toward a victim’s potential inability to act on their own behalf.

– Many of the most difficult instances of DV in court are those that involve multiple abusers (e.g. gang violence against women). In such cases, should the victim be brave enough to engage with law enforcement and prosecute their abusers, the victim is required testify in court multiple times (for each abuser). This leaves victims vulnerable  to  being abused between hearings and stalked, attacked and harassed unless protections are put in place to guard or hide them. It also increases the likelihood of cases being dropped because victims are no longer willing to engage with the legal process. One solution to this problem may be to track cases according to prosecutors (i.e. the victims) rather than by the prosecuted (i.e. the abusers).

– Victims are more likely to participate as witnesses in court if their cases are brought to the court quickly–thus necessitating the expedition of such cases to the ‘front of the line’

Approximately 1 in 4 women in the US has been or will be a victim of domestic violence. If you happen to be in the DC area and would like to get involved in your community to support victims of domestic violence, you can volunteer with DC Safe or the DC Rape Crisis Center…just to name a few.

Why Women Still Can’t Have It All

June 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

In a recent article for the Atlantic, Anne-Marie Slaughter–Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University and former Director of Policy and Planning for the U.S. State Department–discusses the need for a cultural shift in the way we perceive and practice the work-life balance of women in America.

“I want you [employers] to realize that unless you make it possible for the women who work for you to balance their work and family in the way they want to–with flexibility, with all sorts of different kinds of options–you are going to loose a huge amount of talent, and that’s not going to be smart for you, for your business, for the society.”

Anne-Marie Slaughter (video clip)

This Land Is…

June 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

“We don’t need help in the form of money. The help we need is support in speaking to the white people, so they listen and respect us and allow us to live on this land.” – Yaomami citizen

Survival International is a non-profit that helps tribal peoples protect their lives, lands and human rights. They work to change racist attitudes towards, and false beliefs about, tribal peoples. They also monitor the media and counter false and damaging stereotypes which portray tribes as ‘backward’ and ‘primitive’, support legal work to ensure tribes are expertly representedproduce educational materials for schools and the public, showing who tribal peoples really are and how they live, and fund medical and self-help projects directly with tribal people.

Their vision is to foster an understanding of, and respect for, tribal peoples and the choices they make about their futures.

To list some of their own concerns for tribal people, I reproduce here a section of the Survival International website:

Tribal people are still violently attacked, and sometimes killed, particularly in parts of South & Central America, Africa and Asia.
Violence, often self-inflicted, is also a big problem in wealthy countries, which have largely dispossessed their indigenous peoples (such as Canada and the USA, Australia and New Zealand).

In some areas, tribal people are still held in a form of slavery, called ‘debt-bondage’, where they are forced to produce raw materials to pay a supposed debt to an outsider.

The view that tribal people are ‘primitive’ and not able to make rational choices about their own future derives from a colonialist, racist ideology. It is still used to justify their dispossession.

Land theft
Tribal peoples are generally self-sufficient and dependent on their land to provide their food and support their way of life. It also forms the bedrock of their identity. It is stolen for ‘development’, such as mining, dam-building, farming, etc., as well as for ‘conservation’ projects.

Resource theft
Even where the land itself isn’t taken, its resources often are. These can be timber or minerals.

Forced progress
All peoples are changing all the time, but changes forced on tribal peoples in the name of ‘progress’ result in a far lower quality of life than before, with increased illness, suicide, imprisonment, substance abuse and dependence etc. Changes should be under the control of the people themselves.

To learn more, visit

On a similar note, Human Rights Watch recently addressed an issue of forced migration:

US Holocaust Memorial Museum wins Webby for New Site

June 8, 2012 § 1 Comment


“Children. They are the most vulnerable victims of war and genocide. Between 1933 and 1945, millions of children were displaced as a result of persecution by the Nazis and their collaborators. After World War II, relief agencies photographed some of the children who survived to help find their families. Now, more than 65 years later, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is working to discover what became of these young survivors. Will you help us find them?” – US  Holocaust Memorial Museum

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has recently developed an innovative new website that enlists the public’s help to identify photos and preserve the stories of child survivors of the Holocaust and World War II using social media. It’s called, Remember Me?

When this project began, the Museum didn’t know if they would identify even a handful of the 1,100 photos posted on the site. One year later, with the participation of people from around the world, they have identified nearly a third of the photos. The site has been honored by a Webby Award (the “Oscars of the Web”).

Here is an example that I stumbled upon:

Solicitation: “This child was one of millions whose lives were disrupted as a result of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution. If you have any information about this person, please click the “I remember this child!” button below and share with us what you know.”

Visitor’s response: “I know him! He is my father. He is 80 years old, has a wife, 4 children and 10 grandchildren. Lives in Israel since 1948. In the past year our family discovered detailed documentation about his whereabouts during the war, in the camps. He was taken from Lodz, Poland with his parents to aushwitz in 1942, then went on to other camps.”

Where Am I?

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