Monday, December 9, 2013

Sexism in Media, Still


Every semester I show Jean Kilbourne's  film series on the depiction of women in advertising, Killing Us Softly. Kilbourne has been making these documentaries for 40 years. Above we have, "How Media Failed Women in 2013." It still appears to be smart, clever, appropriate and sadly, normal, for people to bash women as fat, old and stupid. I can still hear Rex Harrison lamenting, "Why Can't a Woman be More Like a Man?"

After watching the video, check out Carol Hay's, "A Feminist Kant" in the New York Times.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Grafitti in Queens No More

Robert Stolarik for The New York Times
Hans Von Rittern and Marie Flaguel, from the 5Pointz graffiti community, mourned outside the whitewashed building Tuesday.
There is street art in 5Pointz no more. A mecca for 1500 graffiti artists from around the world had their canvas whitewashed recently in Queens, New York, to make way for housing. Artists mourned, vigils were held, developers apologized. If all agreed that this graffiti was art, not vandalism, why not find a way to preserve the paintings for other 'pilgrims' to visit? Stone-by-stone, wealthy art patrons brought medieval architecture to Manhattan, why not move a local warehouse facade to a new home in one of the boroughs?

For the full story read, Night Falls, and 5Pointz, a Graffiti Mecca, is Wiped Out in Queens.

Photographs of the graffiti, before the fall, from The New York Times.

Related blogs:
City Streets Art
Graffiti: vandalism or art?





Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Waste Scavengers of India

 As today is World Toilet Day, I am re-posting the UN Secretary General's comments for this occasion. I am also posting below a short video on the Bhangis of India. They are of the lowest of the low, the dalits, or untouchables. It is the job of these Bhangis, generation after generation, to work as waste scavengers. This includes the emptying of public toilets in their communities, everyday, with their bare hands. Illegal since 1993, waste scavening continues. While one group has the benefit of basic sanitation, another endures hardship and disease to make it possible.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

New York, 24 July 2013 - Statement by the Deputy Secretary-General on adoption of the General Assembly resolution 'Sanitation for All'

I am delighted and grateful that Member States have adopted a resolution officially designating November 19th as World Toilet Day.  I thank the Government of Singapore for its leadership on a crucially important global issue.  This new annual observance will go a long way toward raising awareness about the need for all human beings to have access to sanitation.

Despite progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, one in three people do not have a basic toilet.  Almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases. Poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually in developing countries. 

Proper sanitation is also a question of basic dignity.  It is unacceptable that women have to risk being the victims of rape and abuse, just to do something that most of us take for granted.  It is also unacceptable that many girls are pushed out of school for lack of basic sanitation facilities. 
This new resolution builds on the General Assembly’s “Sustainable sanitation: the drive to 2015”, agreed in 2010, and adds momentum to the Call to Action on Sanitation that I, on behalf of the Secretary-General, launched in March this year. 

I urge every country to accelerate progress towards a world in which everyone enjoys this most basic of rights.  I look forward to working with all partners to make Sanitation for All a reality.



Monday, November 18, 2013

World Toilet Day


toilet shaped house in South Korea
Jae-Duck's toilet shaped house.

World Toilet Day, celebrated every year on November 19, is an international day of action "that aims to break the taboo around toilets and draw attention to the global sanitation challenge." Today, 2.5 billion people do  not have access to clean water and a safe toilet. To honor 2013's World Toilet Day,  here are photos posted by Reuters of the world's only "toilet theme park" located 19 miles south of the capital city of Seoul in Suwon, South Korea. There is even a souvenir shop!
The museum opened in 2012. It is located in the home of the former mayor, Sim Jae-Duck, who was born in his grandmother's toilet. Today, Jae-Duck lives in a toilet shaped house and has "made it his life's work to advocate for clean, efficient, and working sanitation for more than 2 billion people living without toilets worldwide."
His house is a 4,520-square-foot steel, concrete, and glass structure that cost $1.1 million to build. At it's center is a glass walled bathroom that occupants can turn opaque at the touch of a button. The home also has a roof-top balcony reached only by a "toilet drain" staircase.

Friday, November 15, 2013

In France, Art in the City

Article illustrative image

In France a case of the government renewing urban spaces with art in mind. I like that, re-purposing and transforming cities, not just renovating, what they call a 'trans-disciplinary' approach, with architects, landscapers and designers. Re-posted here from Le Monde via Worldcrunch.

Also visit Gender Roles Meet Urban Planning and City Streets Art.


IVRY-SUR-SEINE — The Plateau special planning district in this small town south of Paris could almost be mistaken for a regular construction site. Since 2007 the multidisciplinary artist Stefan Shankland has guided the construction of some 1,000 apartments according to an “action research” program launched by the city government and developed over the course of 10 years.
The idea? “To integrate art with the transforming city,” by putting into place a HACQ ("high artistic and cultural quality") project.

In New Zealand, Warriors Behind Bars


 

 Once Were Warriors trailer.

The US has the highest rate of prisoners per 100,000 people in the world . Housing these prisoners costs on average $25,000 per person a year.  However, America is not alone when it comes to high rates of incarceration. New Zealand too has seen an increase in people behind bars since the 1980s. Despite low crime rates, in twenty years the number of prisoners has doubled, in part due to 'tough on crime' laws - a situation similar to that in America. Also as in America, a minority is disproportionately affected. While in the US African Americans make up 13.6 per cent of the population, black males account for 40.2 per cent of prison inmates. By comparison, in New Zealand,  indigenous Maoris make up 15 per cent of the population but account for 50 per cent of prisoners, costing the government $94,000 a year each. High rates of child poverty, low rates of education, drug addiction, broken family ties, gang membership, and what seems to be the normalization of prison, all play a part. These social and economic issues mirror those found among incarcerated African Americans in the US.

In Al Jazeera's "Locked Up Warriors" you can read more about New Zealand's high rates of jailed Maoris. The article cites the fact that these disturbing incarceration rates occur at the same time that New Zealand is listed as the third most peaceful country in the world by the the Global Peace Index (Iceland is number one). In contrast, the US is rated a disturbing 99 out of the 162 among nations surveyed. (Could this be linked to the doubling of gun violence since 1950 in films targeting the 13 and under audience?)

Above is the trailer of Once Were Warriors, a film written by Alan Duff who adapted the screen version form his novel of the same name.  Released in 1994, the film, while fiction, gives a powerful view of how identity loss and poverty lead to violence in one Maori family.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

One Dog's Story Peaks on Mt. Everest

To all my friends who volunteer to walk and foster and otherwise support abandoned pets, especially dogs. Here's a heart-warming report reprinted from TIME about a little stray dog rescued from India. Rupee and his owner reached the highest peak in the world, Mt. Everest, and it is believed that this Himalayan mutt is the first dog to do so!


Dog climbs Everest
Caters News Agency
Rupee, a formerly homeless dog rescued from a dump by his current owner Joanne Lefson, is thought to be the first dog in the world to climb Mount Everest.
A former stray dog has pulled himself up by the bootstraps and created a better life for himself. A life that includes becoming the first dog ever to climb Mount Everest.

Say hello to Rupee, the formerly homeless pup who was found starving in a dump in India. His owner, Joanne Lefson, rescued him and helped nurse him back to health, feeding him a high protein diet of boiled eggs and rice, the Daily Mail reports. Now, Rupee is strong, healthy and capable of climbing mountains. He’s become the first canine on record to climb Mount Everest after trekking for 10 days with Lefson to base camp, 17,000 feet above sea level.

Lefson told the Daily Mail that her biggest concern was whether or not Rupee could make it through the grueling hike. But his vet confirmed that he wouldn’t suffer from altitude sickness since he was born in the Himalayas, and indeed, the pooch fared just fine. Before, his biggest accomplishment was probably being, like, the cutest dog on the planet.

For information on helping abandoned dogs in the US, visit Dogs on Death Row.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tomb Keepers


Friedhof auf den Philippinen: Eine Junge springt von Grab zu Grab.

From Spiegel Online,  people in the Philippines working, playing and 'everyday living' in the cemetery - some for nearly 30 years. The 54 acres of the North Cemetery is home to 3,000 families. One hundred new bodies are buried each day, from artists and movie stars to politicians. Children inherit tombs to maintain from their parents. Gives new meaning to the words, 'till death do us part.' Here, it is death that binds families in work for these poorest of the poor.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Empathy and Inequality, Not

Food for thought from today's New York Times.
October 5, 2013, 2:25 pm

Rich People Just Care Less

Turning a blind eye. Giving someone the cold shoulder. Looking down on people. Seeing right through them.

These metaphors for condescending or dismissive behavior are more than just descriptive. They suggest, to a surprisingly accurate extent, the social distance between those with greater power and those with less — a distance that goes beyond the realm of interpersonal interactions and may exacerbate the soaring inequality in the United States.

A growing body of recent research shows that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little such power. This tuning out has been observed, for instance, with strangers in a mere five-minute get-acquainted session, where the more powerful person shows fewer signals of paying attention, like nodding or laughing. Higher-status people are also more likely to express disregard, through facial expressions, and are more likely to take over the conversation and interrupt or look past the other speaker.

Bringing the micropolitics of interpersonal attention to the understanding of social power, researchers are suggesting, has implications for public policy. Of course, in any society, social power is relative; any of us may be higher or lower in a given interaction, and the research shows the effect still prevails. Though the more powerful pay less attention to us than we do to them, in other situations we are relatively higher on the totem pole of status — and we, too, tend to pay less attention to those a rung or two down.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Reimagining "Homeless"

Alpha Manzueta, who has lived in a homeless shelter for three years, says she feels “stuck.” Michael Nagle for the New York Times

Yesterday in class my lecture was about qualitative data collecting in cultural anthropology, I spoke about the pluses and minuses of surveys. One problem in standard questionnaires can be that participants misunderstand your terminology. For example, if you are doing research on the 'homeless,' everyone must be in agreement as to what it means to be homeless.  I then asked my class, "What does it mean to you to be homeless? What kind of picture comes to mind?"  Like every other semester, these college freshman said, "Someone living on the street," "Someone who doesn't have anything," or "Someone who has to go to a shelter." They never really bring up families or employed people in their scenarios. They also think of homeless people as dirty and disheveled.

I then talk about a family I once knew, an employed mother of three whose son participated in sports with my son. They lived during the week in hotels, and not always the same one. On weekends the children often stayed with relatives in a nearby city. In the summer they stayed with relatives who lived out-of-state. The children never missed school. They went to play dates and parties at the homes of their classmates, played sports, joined after school activities in art and dance, and on some days spent afternoons at the library. We live in suburban Connecticut and these children knew the city bus system backwards and forwards. Their mother often shopped at Goodwill stores for their clothing. "Would this family be considered homeless?"I asked my class. "Do you think the family sees themselves as homeless?" I'm not sure myself, and I never asked.

While indeed this family may have been 'situationally homeless" by some definitions, the mother worked very hard to keep the children in their routine of school, play and family. Fortunately, this episode in the lives of this family passed. The mother obtained a good job, they moved to another city and the children thrived. Always outgoing socially and excellent students, the older two are now in college.

While this scenario may sound like an anomaly, sadly it is not.  Today, in a New York Times article by Mireya Navarro, "In New York, Having a Job, or 2, Doesn’t Mean Having a Home,"
we learn that more and more single people and families, even though they are employed, cannot move from shelters to their own homes. Barriers include low wages, poor credit records, high rents and a lack of low income housing units. People living in shelters and maintaining respectable jobs juggle dual identities everyday. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the same edition of the New York Times shows that "Household Incomes Remain Flat Despite Improving Economy." Or, in a related issue, the "Percentage of Americans Lacking Health Coverage Falls Again." The way out of poverty and into the middle class seems to become a steeper mountain to climb even as corporate profits grow and the economy, on paper, improves. Which leaves me where we began - redefining the word "homeless."

For the complete article on the working homeless in New York, click here or continue below.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Foreign Adoption Dutch Style - from America

 Seventy Dutch families who adopted U.S. kids gather for an annual Fathers Day picnic in June.
Seventy Dutch families who adopted U.S. kids gather for an annual Fathers Day picnic in June.
CNN profiled recently how the Dutch are at the forefront of foreign adoption  - of black American children. Dutch parents are often the first and only choice of mothers considering placing their black children with another family. The mothers are often in difficult circumstances - poor, in jail or addicted to drugs - and they hope for a better life for their children. Placing their children with families in the Netherlands seems a very smart choice.

On the United Nations Gender Equality Index , the Netherlands is number one, followed by Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Finland, Slovenia, and France: the US is ranked at 42 (just behind Albania and tied with Hungary). In addition, the US has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world (25% of the world's prisoners are in the US), while the Netherlands ranks 163. Moreover, blacks, mainly males, make up one million of the 2.3 million in US jails, imprisoned at six times the rate of whites. While the US is building prisons, the the Netherlands is closing them. For mothers placing their black children with new 'forever families,' based on this information, their belief in chances of a better life in Holland vs. the US looks well-founded.

The Netherlands also boasts less income inequality, as do other developed nations in comparison to the US (see below). In addition, efforts to increase racial inequality in the US is a continuing story. A CNN Money infographic shows blacks at the lowest end of the racial wealth income gap. Lack of home ownership and financial investments are contributing factors.

Of course, white families in America do adopt black children too - including, recently, several well-known celebrities like Charlize Theron and Sandra Bullock. In these and other families, most kids do just fine; but, in others, adopted children may face problems in sorting out their racial identity.

Darron Smith, author of "White Parents, Black Children: Experiencing Transracial Adoption," believes that few Whites are truly equipped to help Black children prepare for survival in America. Smith is quoted as saying, "You would need to change your circle of friends, move to an integrated neighborhood and unlearn the racist history you learned about being an American."  In addition, while the National Association of Black Social Workers  no longer oppose transracial adoption, they are concerned about keeping black families together.

Which brings us back to Holland.

Despite their often limited educational and financial circumstances, American mothers who place their children with Dutch families are keenly aware that their children will probably face less racial stigma and gain more social and economic opportunities living abroad in what they see are 'exotic locales.' After they are adopted, these mothers often have more open contact with their children and their new families. Regarding the placement of their black children with white families, these mothers also do not face the scrutiny of American blacks or whites whose history of racial relations is still evolving. From the looks of it, the choice of these mothers to 'go Dutch' seems like a very wise decision.

Click here for Sophie Brown's report, "Overseas Adoptions Rise - for Black American Children."
Or, continue reading below.
http://www.economicpopulist.org/files/indexincomeinequality_gif.gif
Global Income Inequality

The Great Recession has widened the wealth gap, and race is a major factor.
The Great Recession has widened the wealth gap, and race is a major factor.

Gender Roles, Meet Urban Planning


A view into one of the courtyards at Women-Work-City. (Image courtesy archive Franziska Ullmann)

In the Atlantic Monthly, in a section called, Atlantic Cities section, "Place Matters," Clare Foran explores how urban planners in Vienna, Austria, take into account how men and women use public space differently.  This program began in 1999. City administrators used questionnaires to solicit information on the daily habits of their citizens. They found that "The majority of men reported using either a car or public transit twice a day -- to go to work in the morning and come home at night. Women, on the other hand, used the city’s network of sidewalks, bus routes, subway lines and streetcars more frequently and for a myriad reasons." More probing allowed designers to create an environment that made daily activities convenient for all people, regardless of age and ability. Despite the success of the project, city administrator Ursula Bauer still finds that "Gender can be an emotional issue . . . When you tell people that up until now they haven’t taken the women’s perspective into account they feel attacked. We still have people asking, ‘Is this really necessary?'"

The article is so well done I encourage you to scroll down and read. I would also ask you to consider how the gender division of labor (both at work and at home) and cultural norms regarding male and female safety influence the "social construction of space," and not just in Vienna. That is, how the use of space is shaped by how we live. I think what Vienna is doing is ingenious, humane, feminist. It's just downright smart. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sex Work and Safety

Sex boxes
Sex boxes in Zurich


BBC News recently reported that according to a study carried out in Europe most of the prostitutes working on the streets are Roma (Gypsy) women from central and eastern Europe. Many have children to support. In particular, along Zurich's 'sex mile,' most are Hungarian Roma, serving six to 30 or more men a night. Their work often leaves these women exposed to violence.

To address their safety and others social issues surrounding sex work, Zurich recently opened 'sex boxes,' for these prostitutes. The drive-in garages (wooden sheds) set outside the city center provide a safe and secure place (no cameras) for these legal working girls to ply their trade. In the compound are security officers, counselors, toilets and showers, and a kitchen. Workers have access to an alarm button should they need assistance.


New regulations also require prostitutes to buy a daily 'sex workers license' for a nominal fee, and have health insurance. While the project cost the Swiss a million Euros to implement, it would seem the savings in terms of health, security (for both the women and their children for whom they are often sole support) well worth the investment.


In other countries where sex work is legal, there's an app for sharing information among prostitutes about violent clients.  Created in Ireland by Safe IQ, the The “Ugly Mugs” feature allows users to "screen calls from men whom other sex workers have reported for violent attacks, aggressive behavior, harassment, theft, and other bad behavior rarely reported to police." While prostitutes living in Ireland, the UK, Sweden, Norway, and soon, in Canada can access the app, those in New York and other cities where prostitution is illegal, can not.  Even if it were available, Attorney Siena Baskin of the Sex Worker’s Project, a legal advocacy branch of New York’s Urban Justice Center, says sex workers may be reluctant to use it for fear the information may be sourced by law enforcement officials.

Whatever one's moral stance on sex work,  it is interesting to consider that in countries where prostitution is legal participants appear that through either sex boxes or phone apps to work in an overall safer environment than in countries where it is not.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bread House 'GLOWs' in Veliko Tarnovo

GLOW counselors and their fresh-baked bread!
Nadezhda Savova of Bread Houses in Bulgaria visited with Leadership Academy GLOW this past August and at left you can see the 'fruits of her labor" (it was delicious!).

The first Bread House Cultural Center, www.bread-art-house.org, was born in the mountain town of Gabrovo, Bulgaria, on May 9th, 2009, housed at the old family house of I3C President, Nadezhda Savova, who ceded the space for service to the community as an experiment with a community cultural center where the core of art activities is food, and in particular the sculpture-like making and decorating of bread, being perhaps the most universally-appealing art/creative activity. 

The Bread House strives to foment inter-religious dialogue and cooperation among different generations and professional and ethnic groups as all knead together around the same table and during the baking time in a fire oven people share their artistic talents, from poetry and music to theater and sewing. The major aim is to enable people to discover their creative potential and identify the social assets of the community – rather than delving into local problems - to help one another move forward.

The counselors and campers of LA GLOW were inspired by Nadezdha's mission and her enthusiasm. GLOW teaches respect of others, goal setting, and team work, all important aspects of the Bread House mission.
Mixing the dough, all hands in the bowl!

There are Bread Houses in England, Russia, South Africa, Egypt, Brazil, Romania and many more countries, including the US. Harlem, New York, has an 'evolving' Bread House for low income children and their parents at Emmaus House (www.emmaushouse-harlem.org) Theater of Crumbs Program. Many of the parents have been recently released from prison. Bread making is used as a tool "to form family bonds and inter-generational cooperation."  Other activities include "improvising and performing bread puppet plays as socially transformative theater (inspired by the Brazilian "Theater of the Oppressed" by Boal)."

Many thanks to Nadezdha for spreading her unique approach to creating community from the local to the global!

Poverty, Entitlement and Gender Violence


 Protesters hold signs in outrage over the gang-rape and death of a 23-year-old student in Delhi in 2012. 
In a report published in the Lancet about why men rape, some disturbing and other not so surprising characteristics of men who sexually abuse women was revealed. The authors conducted surveys in Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka. Conducted by the Partners for Prevention, 10,178 men were questioned about their lives. The word 'rape' was never used, but the men were instead asked if they had ever forced sex upon a woman.
 

In the Lancet study, the majority of men who raped started in their teens, were unmarried, had low levels of education, were victimized as children, and were raised without a father present. Moreover, these men gave as their primary reason for rape a "sense of entitlement" (73%), followed by a search for "entertainment" (58%). 

Gender inequality creates an environment where gender violence and male entitlement thrive, particularly in poor countries. The graph above shows that PNG has twice the number of rapists as the next closest country. In August, Medicins sans Frontieres stated that 70% of women in this country will be physically assaulted in their lifetime. Some estimates are even higher. Moreover, "PNG ranks 134 out of 148 countries in the 2012 UNDP Gender Inequality Index, and 156 out of 186 in the Human Development Index - the lowest in the Pacific."

While this week Indian courts sentenced to death four men convicted of gang raping a New Delhi woman last December, other women - and girls - continue to suffer, and also sometimes die, as result of cultural and political norms. Recently, a Dubai news agency reported that an eight-year old bride died as a result of vaginal tearing after sex with her 40 year-old husband. Indeed, the World Health Organization reports that 39,000 girls under 18 are married everyday. Many of these marriages are the result of poverty, but that cannot excuse a warped sense of male privilege that robs women of their dignity and their lives.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Himalayan Exchanges


The team, Rupin Valley 2013
New reading glasses!
This summer I had the privilege and pleasure to volunteer with the Himalayan Health Exchange on a medical/dental trek to the Inner Himalayas. Our team consisted of four medical doctors, 15 medical students and two anthropology professors from all parts of the US and Britain. As an anthropology professor, I gave lectures on health and inequality, medical anthropology and shamanism. Other lectures included Ayurvedic healing and the history of India, parts one through three!

Our trip took us over the Chansal Pass to the remote villages of Dodra and Kwar in Himachal Pradesh, on the border of Uttarakhand, in India. The worst rains in 50 years cut short our clinic days as we evacuated our riverside campsite and moved to higher ground, gaining refuge at the home of a local teacher. Thanks to this wonderful family who welcomed our midnight visit as the river raged.

The doctors treated headaches, body aches, infections, cuts, and venereal disease. They gave referrals for more serious conditions and handed out reading glasses, antibiotics, vitamins, toothbrushes and tooth paste. In all, about 800 patients were seen over a dozen clinic days.
On the road, before the rains.
Ravi Singh, founder of HHE, is very wise in calling this an 'exchange.' As a seasoned humanitarian volunteer on international trips, medical and otherwise, I believe that in many ways we always take-away much more than we give. Sure, we bring medical expertise, supplies, technical knowledge, money and man power to under served peoples, but we bring back cultural, political and social knowledge of another society whose language, customs, world view may be very different from our own. In this globalized environment, knowledge is power and these kinds of trips provide an understanding of community and of service that can only make all of us better citizens of our own country and of the world.

'Everybody' Helps

Willson and Mat painting with one of the older boys.
 In July, 14 volunteers traveled to Vratsa, Bulgaria, with Humanitarian Travel Abroad to teach, play and paint at Assen Zlatarov, a social home for 70 children aged 7 to 18 whose families are unable to provide for them. Arranged along with Tabitha Foundation, we want to thank all of the people who donated through Fundrazr. Without your support, we could never have repaired and painted as much as we did: five rooms and a common area.

Our volunteers, all from Connecticut, ranged in age from 15 to 74. There were college students from WCSU and the University of Connecticut, a lawyer, a social worker, university professors, a UPS driver, an IT specialist, a nursing student, and a kid in high school. A special thanks to all of you!

Our oldest volunteer was very moved by the home as his own half-brother was raised in an orphanage in the US. In fact, a Bulgarian colleague insisted that there were no more orphanages in Bulgaria when I told her of our project. She was quite shocked to learn that indeed they do exist. While the children are safe and cared for, they still live in an institution with scheduled meals and play time. The children must be let in and out of the building and younger children leave the grounds only on prearranged outings. There is a stigma associated with orphanage living, and the children do not attend the nearby school but are bussed to another one.

A high percentage of the children are Roma, known more commonly outside the region as Gypsies. The Roma constitute a minority population in Bulgaria and many families live in poverty. Many other children at the orphanage have developmental disabilities - one girl could not speak. As this is not a home designed for children with special needs, they receive no therapeutic assistance.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Help Us Brighten Their Day

In July, a group of 10 volunteers will travel with Humanitarian Travel Abroad, LLC, to Bulgaria and try, with a little elbow grease and paint, to brighten the home of 90 orphans living in Vratza at “Assen Zlatarov.” About 25 of the children face mental and physical challenges. Our trip is in conjunction with Tabitha Foundation, an NGO registered in Bulgaria.


 As in much of Bulgaria, this orphanage is an uninteresting cement block building with large rooms and high ceilings - more an 'institution' than a 'home.' Moreover, while summers are hot, the winter temperatures are below freezing and the heat comes from inefficient old radiators. At “Assen Zlatarov,” the plaster walls are peeling and chipped in many places, their former white color grey, dingy and dirty.

Young resident of Assen Zlatarov.
Many people may not realize that children in institutional care seldom leave their residence for recreational outings or receive one-on-one attention. With this in mind, along with painting and fixing up the building, we will take the children on an excursion or two. We are very excited about sharing our 'hugs.'

In order to make the most of our trip, HTA LLC is funding repairs in advance of our trip. It seems every room needs refurbishment so we could use a little help! We have set up a Fundrazr account and 100% of donated monies will go towards the orphans. Any amount will be greatly appreciated!

Click here to  make a donation through Fundrazr!


Friday, May 10, 2013

Wise Women and Maternal Health in Malawi

Chief Kwataine, right, with the president of  Malawi, Joyce Banda.
Joyce Banda with Chief Kwataine
While biomedical techniques in childbirth, including the use of doctors, hospitals and modern technology, have aided health outcomes in pregnant women and their babies in Africa, it's sterile, institutionalized methods are often unavailable, unaffordable or culturally inappropriate. The last is a particularly important element in health seeking behavior to the poor or those living in tribal areas. To remedy this and to help improve its maternal mortality rate, Malawi is introducing  “safe motherhood committees,” including the use of 'secret mothers' who serve as liaisons between expectant women and health care professionals.

This represents a change in approach unique for national administrations whose health reforms, often implemented at the expense of local cultural norms, despite good intentions often fail. Good for you, President Joyce Banda and village Chief Kwataine for you wise decision to promote cultural change while utilizing empowerment and respect, not coercion or methods based on Western cultural norms.

On a similar note, changes too are at work to irradiate genital cutting in Senegal through information sessions deemed 'cultural diffusion' by Molly Melching of Tostan. Read about both in The New York Times Malawi's Leader Makes Safe Childbirth her Mission.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pretty Politics on the Wall





Do you know about my fascination with graffiti art and politics? Reprinted from from Al Jazeera, painted walls in Lebanon.

Walls That Speak

The graffiti on the walls of Beirut offers an intriguing insight into both the city and the psyche of its people.

Last Modified: 03 Apr 2013 13:06
The walls of Beirut talk volumes about the city and its habitants. Many of the city's bullet-scarred walls are covered in words, drawings, signs, slogans and graffiti art. They offer a glimpse both of a vibrant and emerging art culture as well as the abiding dark force of political sectarianism.

"Walls communicate with people in different ways. Sometimes they
whisper. Sometimes they shout. And sometimes they choose to speak more eloquently," says Tarek Chemali, a researcher. "Walls keep many memories and express opinions."

Which country has more female than male science majors?

From Unesco. Are you surprised?

Embedded image permalink

Monday, March 11, 2013

Immigration's Winners and Losers

In the New York Times op ed piece, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, and Your Economists Too,  Harvard professor Gregory Mankiw gives three main reasons to support immigration to the US. While I, too, am pro-immigration, I find his reasoning another example of an academic mired in theoretical assumptions, disconnected from reality. 

For instance, Mankiw says, “If an American farmer wants to hire a worker to pick fruits and vegetables, the fact that the worker happens to have been born in Mexico does not seem a compelling reason to stop the transaction.” Of course not, especially when the worker has no health insurance, and the farmer has no obligation to the worker to provide a safe work setting, adequate cost of living wages, or any kind of employment security.

He continues that, “When thinking about immigration, there is little doubt that the least fortunate, and the ones with the most at stake in the outcome, are the poor workers who yearn to come to the United States to make a better life for themselves and their families.” True – to a point. Unfortunately, not all immigrants to America arrive with the same advantages, and once here, those who are disadvantaged may find it more difficult to obtain the American Dream. Without a visa, they may lack an easy road to citizenship, an obstacle to legitimate employment even if they have an advanced degree; they lack political power if they cannot vote; and they may suffer poor health if their socioeconomic status is low or their families far away and cannot provide socio-economic support when needed.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Money and Happiness Redux

In my blog Bhutan Suggests to US How to Measure Happiness, I wrote how the leaders of Bhutan spoke before the United Nations and suggested a new measure of happiness, one not based simply on a country's GDP, but one that includes a holistic look at a person's well being. At the end of the post I wrote, "I hope it takes hold: perhaps after academics have found a way to quantify the spiritual . . . " Well, it seems that has happened. While not an academic exactly, senior correspondent Derek Thompson wrote in the Atlantic, Yes, Money Does Buy Happiness: 6 lessons from the newest research on income and well being. I've reprinted the 6 points below, would love to hear a response from Bhutan, am concerned about #6. Particularly in light of the recent report on the health failings of the US as well as its high rates of violence when compared to other developed nations.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Gender Wage Gap and Me

Just today, I went to my workplace, a state university where I teach, and spoke to the chair of my department about offering an independent study opportunity to students. I am teaching medical anthropology, my specialty, on an exciting medical/dental trip to the Inner Himalayas with the Himalayan Health Exchange next June. State universities, like all state agencies, are bureaucratic. Having offered travel study courses in the past, I was hoping to streamline the process by letting students sign up individually (an independent study) vs. via a new course offering, a process with enrollment restrictions requiring a review by the department, the Dean and the Provost. In providing the details of the trip to the chair,  I actually said, "I don't even care if I get paid, I just think this is a great opportunity for students." The chair wisely responded, "No, you will get paid for sure! And if nine students sign-up it will be the same as offering a course!"

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Fly Larvae Anyone?

China's Maggot Factories Hoping To Feed The World
Photo by - World Entomophagy
A while back I wrote a post about deep fried maggots in Nigeria. I was browsing around a country market that was selling natural remedies made of reptiles and herbs, 'bush meat' and all sorts of produce and seafood when I saw what appeared to be skewers of shrimp being deep-fried  and looking delicious. Once informed that these were not shrimp but maggots, I sadly declined (so hungry for those shrimp!) and snapped a photo of our host enjoying a maggot snack instead. Now, apparently, these delicacies are becoming a bit more mainstream than I thought.  Read below about how China's Maggot Factories Hope to Feed the World from Le Monde by way of Worldcrunch.  When it comes to Chinese capitalistic ventures, economic development and food, leave no insect behind!


By Harold Thibault
LE MONDE/Worldcrunch
KUNYANG - Li Jinsui is an ambitious man. He invested 250,000 euros of his own money in this insect factory, sitting amidst the hills of Kunyang, on the outskirts of Kunming, the capital of the southwestern province of Yunnan. With seven patents, production officially kicked off in 2009.
Since then, no visitor comes by without being offered a plate of bamboo worms, one of the dishes in his catalogue. Yunnan Insect Biotechnologies also offers dried larvae, protein powder from insect exoskeletons and actual insects for human and animal consumption.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Graffiti Smart


 


 A re-post about graffiti art in Miami from the New York Times. Of course, one of my favorite forms of visual art! Continue below click here for the full article.

Also check out:
 Grafitti: at 'home' and 'in the street'
urban Art Brazil 
Urban Art in Kabul
Grafitti: Vandalism or Art?
Grafitti and Vandalism Redux
City Streets Art

December 8, 2012

Breathing Life, and Art, Into a Downtrodden Neighborhood

MIAMI — Ski, a New York graffiti artist, swirled a can of spray paint, blasting a riot of neon in this once-forlorn slab of Miami called Wynwood. A few doors down, in a pop-up store, another artist, Asif Farooq, was selling an array of firearms — actually cardboard replicas for those who like everything about a gun except the shooting.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Volunteer in the Inner Himalayas

In June, I'll be traveling to the Inner Himalayas with Himalayan Health Exchange on a medical/dental mission to the Rupin Valley (see below). Along with other anthropology professors, I'll be teaching about non-Western healing traditions, medical anthropology and other aspects of health and illness. The trip is open to medical and university students.

For further information, go to:  Himalayan Health Exchange.

Dharamsala
Medical-Dental Trek to 'Rupin Valley' in the Inner Himalayas
This medical-dental expedition/trek takes us to a remote tribal region of the Western Himalayas. Team members will depart from various international gateways on their way to New Delhi. A combination of rail and road takes us from New Delhi to Shimla for an overnight stay. The next morning we will begin our overland journey towards the Greater Himalayan Range and to the trailhead to begin our exciting trek of several days to reach settlements and tribal villages of 'The Rupin Valley'. A trail over a 11,800 feet high pass connects these villages to the outside world. This region remains cut- off for 6 months of the year due to heavy snow accumulations on Chansal, leaving the native population with little or no access to health care. Our team will run clinics in 4 different sites, totaling ten clinic days, and provide care to approximately 1,500 patients.

Please Note: This is a moderately strenuous trek that involves extended outdoor camping. Altitude can make this a challenging experience. As a team member you must be in excellent physical shape and be willing to adjust, adapt and accept changing weather and camp conditions.