The Young Carers Project

July 28, 2012 § 2 Comments

Lucie Cluver, whose pioneering work was recently highlighted in the New York Review blog, was an instructor in my master’s program at the University of Oxford. A kind but confidently strong-willed and focused personality, Cluver has dedicated her passion, time and talents over the past decade to better understanding the situation of children in South Africa who have lost or cared for parents with HIV/AIDS. Her research has reported that children in these circumstances are more likely to be bullied, have mental health problems, display educational deficits, and contract HIV as adolescents than their counterparts (whose parents have either died from other causes or do not have HIV/AIDS). From both a public health and a social justice perspective, the situation of these children (an estimated 1.4 million) must be recognized and addressed.

The Young Carers project, conceived by Cluver, has interviewed 6000 children and 2600 caregivers in South Africa. You can read some of their research findings here, which have contributed to a number of policies and plans by the South African National and Provincial Government, the Southern African Development Community, the Government of Lesotho, UNICEF, Save the Children, WHO and USAID.



Africa’s Global Image: Justified or Prejudiced?

July 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

image: Cape Coast, Ghana

There has been a push in recent days to ‘re-brand’ Africa in a positive light. Is this push empowering, or is it illusory? In this BBC debate, a group of experts and involved individuals (largely Africans themselves) discuss the question of whether or not mainstream media and public perceptions of Africa as war-ravaged and wallowing in poverty and corruption are ‘justified’ or ‘prejudiced.’

I happen to agree with the Indian doctor in the audience who argues that these terms (‘justice’ and ‘prejudice’) are too hyperbolic for categorization. The truth of any situation will lie somewhere in between the poles. But nevertheless, this debate (broadcast from Uganda) is interesting and provides many perspectives from throughout Africa and abroad.

“What we need to do, we need to learn the principle that Google applies. In Google they say, “You know, if you want to negate any other comments about you,  you need to flood the social media with your opinions.” Africans need to flood the media with African opinions, and African media needs to be encouraged to grow. Whether it’s one person, a hundred persons, urban, or rural–as long as Africans are talking about Africa, we should be excited because we are beginning to tell the African story by Africans, for Africa.” – Thebe Ikalafeng

An Unspeakable Act – Episodes 1 & 2

July 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

A rather disjointed post:

Fighting has flared up again in eastern DRC, with M23 (the rebel movement) continuing to rape, pillage and forcefully enlist child soldiers. There is a continuous stream of defections to this rebel group because of the abysmal conditions of the Conogolese army (note that this fact should make you second guess the standard “good vs. evil” paradigm in the context of this conflict), and the US recently annouced that it would cut military aid to Rwanda because of claims that Rawanda is giving support to M23. With such unrest, it is reasonable to be concerned that violence may escalate.

Listen : An Unspeakable Act – Episode 1 (BBC – Tinderbox)

Listen : An Unspeakable Act – Episode 2 (BBC – Tinderbox)

In this podcast, narrator Will Storr hears the personal testimonies of rape victims and their families in the DRC.

‘An Unspeakable Act,’ it is entitled, and yet these men and women speak. In fact, their speaking is what struck me. They (as opposed to a narrator alone) speak–despite the taboo, despite the trauma, despite the ongoing war. Sadly, as Storr notes, this production is in many ways not novel; it is just one more link in the chain of such stories that have gone before before and many such stories that will continue to be told as the problems in the DRC persist–with rape and atrocities being committed by both sides. Yet hearing the voices of men and women (victim and criminal) added something more to the humaness and reality of it.

[Contraposto: There is concern that our focus on sexual violence has perhaps invigorated soldiers to perpetrate further acts (e.g. they know that if they perpetrate such acts they will be granted a voice at the negotiation table), and that focusing on the symptoms (e.g. rape) may ignore the causes (e.g. poverty in the DRC army and a convolution of perceived gender roles)…I welcome your thoughts]

There is always a bit of theatre in these British radio productions (I could have done without the falsetto piano, for example), but in terms of being ‘dramatic’ in the sober sense of the word, this topic needs no assistance. My only regret is the fact that the narrator insists on us listeners “bearing witness” and implies that the victims are speaking largely so that we will hear them…but then he gives us no directive for further action. Who should we bear witness to? What should we do with our hearing? Why is it our responsibility, and how on earth can we do anything about it?

Now, realistically, I’m likely to question any suggestions the narrator might give, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that a broad swath of BBC listeners will be new to this topic and unfamiliar with the terrain of international politics, ngos and the chaotic conundrum that is DRC mining, land disputes and power strifes. As it stands, many listeners will be hindered by the massive informational barrier that lies between them and their desires to do something.

I will be learning more about this issue and in coming days. I’ll be sure to share links as I come across them.

Please contact me with your comments on this podcast, and with your own perspectives, connections and concerns about this issue.


Photojournalism – Women in the DRC

Where is your Vital Voice?

July 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Vital Voices Global Partnership is an international non-profit organization that works to empower and highlight empowered women throughout the world by engaging in topics such as economics, political participation and human rights.   Their mission is to “identify, invest in and bring visibility to extraordinary women around the world by unleashing their leadership potential to transform lives and accelerate peace and prosperity in their communities.”

Imageimage credit:

Vital Voices recently highlighted some magnificent and inspiring women via their 11th Annual Global Leadership Awards. Not only is their award website clean and innovative, but the simple clarity of their stories emits a potency of inspiration  that will likely leave you feeling as though you ought to do something–or at least it did me. And unlike so many other organizations who hire disconnected narrators to muddle to messages they convey, these videos are a direct conduit from the vital voices whose lives they highlight.

Take the time this weekend (or whenever you happen to read this post) to watch and read a few of the stories. You’ll not regret it.

Both images on this post link to the first two stories that I watched on Vital Voices. For example, below you can hear a few of the vital female voices arising from the Arab Spring, and learn why

“Fear doesn’t prevent you from death. It prevents you from life.”

Image image credit:

David R. Dow: Lessons from death row inmates

July 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

If needs be, skip to minute 7:15….only if you are in a rush though; otherwise, I would recommend giving the whole thing a chance. Not breath-taking, but insightful.


July 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

As we celebrate our freedom, others still fight for theirs:

“They beat us and said, “You want freedom? You want democracy? Here is your freedom. Here is your democracy.”

(Syrian citizen, 2012)

Watch the video to learn more. Or read the report in its entirety.

Human Rights Watch is newly utilizing common mapping technology to publicly track and disseminate information about this modern fight for freedom.

What can you do? As always, learn more. Run a google search for recent news and organizations working in the area. I recommend looking at a minimum of ten sources to generate a balanced spread. Educating yourself about this issue is likely to elicit many options for involvement.

Seems like a good way to celebrate independence.

Happy 4th.

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