Archive for November, 2009
Usually when I write about technology it’s in a negative light, causing climate change, destroying indigenous ways of farming, etc. But one woman from a tribe in Idaho brought her computer skills back to her tribe and this is a case in which technology helped preserve, not destroy, a cultures history.
From YES magazine:
After a stint in the Army and a corporate career in computers, Valerie Fast Horse returned to her Northern Idaho Indian reservation nine years ago and brought her knowledge home to her people.
Fast Horse and her staff built a $3.5 million broadband network from scratch, aiming to preserve Coeur d’Alene tribal history, language, and culture.
Internet technology, Fast Horse believes, can give voice to Native people and dismantle stereotypes. Rezkast.com, a website developed by Fast Horse and her staff, provides a space for Native people to express themselves while sharing ideas, language, and culture with others.
A former member of the Coeur d’Alene tribal council, Fast Horse now wants to improve democracy on the 2,000-member reservation by broadcasting council meetings online.
Fast Horse hopes to inspire a new generation: “I refuse to hear the word ‘no’; instead, I hear ‘not yet.’?”
During dinner with week, my friends and I have been talking about the different customs that take place during the meal. My perspective as an American is that dinner time is the place where everyone gets to talk about their day, however as I have learned it is customary in India to give respect to the food and not talk at all during the meal. Going with that theme, I wanted to post a few of the different kinds of way people say grace, found on Yes Magazine as part of their Food For Everyone series. These are just the few that I liked, but feel free to check out the whole series along with beautiful drawings by Nikki McClure.
|LATIN AMERICAN To those who have hunger
And to those who have bread
Give the hunger for justice.
This food is the gift
|ASHANTI, GHANAEarth, when I am about to die
I lean upon you.
Earth, while I am alive
I depend upon you.
|SIOUX, NATIVE AMERICAN I’m an Indian.
I think about the common things like this pot.
The bubbling water comes from the rain cloud.
It represents the sky.
The fire comes from the sun,
Which warms us all, men, animals, trees.
The meat stands for the four-legged creatures,
Our animal brothers,
Who gave themselves so that we should live.
The steam is living breath.
It was water, now it goes up to the sky,
Becomes a cloud again.
These things are sacred.
Looking at that pot full of good soup,
I am thinking how, in this simple manner,
The Great Spirit takes care of me.
The poorest billion people on the planet contribute only 3% of the global carbon footprint. Those same billion people will also bear the brunt of climate change. Those people tend to be farmers, and they tend to be women.
The UN Population Fund has issued a new state of the world’s population report about the impact of global climate change on women, stating that “Drought and erratic rainfall force women to work harder to secure food, water and energy for their homes…Girls drop out of school to help their mothers with these tasks. This cycle of deprivation, poverty and inequality undermines the social capital needed to deal effectively with climate change.”
In response to the stunning inequality of the impact of climate change, UNFPA calls for measures to improves the lives of women and mitigate the impact of climate change. That includes supporting education for women and girls, expanding access to reproductive health services, and doing better research on gender and population dynamics in climate change. It’s small stuff compared to the magnitude of the problem of climate change. Better, though, than nothing.
This is ridiculous. Carin Froehlich of Perkasie Pennsylvania is fighting with her neighbors for the right to hang her laundry outside. She’s not the only one either. While there are no laws against hanging her clothes, neighbors have sent anonymous notes stating that her clothes line makes the town look like trailer trash, and also that no one wants to see her “unmentionables.” Froehlich, who is now writing a book on this phenomenon, insists she leaves her underwear inside to dry. Sadly, Froehlich is not the only one struggling for the “right to hang”. People all across America are picking the same fight.
Project Laundry List, the group that represents those individuals fighting with their town, says the benefits of hanging clothes outside of drying are numerable.
Their interests are represented by Project Laundry List, a group that argues people can save money and reduce carbon emissions by not using their electric or gas dryers, according to the group’s executive director, Alexander Lee.
Widespread adoption of clotheslines could significantly reduce U.S. energy consumption, argued Lee, who said dryer use accounts for about 6 percent of U.S. residential electricity use.
Florida, Utah, Maine, Vermont, Colorado, and Hawaii have passed laws restricting the rights of local authorities to stop residents using clotheslines. Another five states are considering similar measures, said Lee, 35, a former lawyer who quit to run the non-profit group.
Froehlich maintains that hanging her clothes saves her $83 a month and makes the point that if her husband has the right to own a gun, she should have the right to hang her laundry.
Well said, Carin.
I was very proud when a friend of mine shared an article with me about a new restaurant opening in my home state of New Jersey. The concept for the restaurant is based off a “Robin Hood” model that was started by a woman in Ohio. Basically, the menu offers suggested prices for items, and a community item which is free. If you can’t pay anything, you must eat the community item, or volunteer for an hour and have other options to choose from. People who pay more for items help subsidize for others.
|Pay what you can at A Better World Cafe|
Some customers we’re so inspired by the concept that one woman who dined there paid $6 for a $1.50 cup of soup. The restaurant is not only kind to the community, but also kind to the environment. The food they use comes from mostly local farms, they also use no plastic or Styrofoam and compost all food scraps.
Denise Cerreta, founder of One World Everybody Eats in Salt Lake City is spreading the word on her idea and is talks with 50 or 60 other east coast groups interested in copying this model. She says the idea took off so fast that she moved out of her home and is now on tour spreading the idea with just a suitcase and her cat.
Read the rest of this inspiring story by the Star Ledger here.
Eight women from commonwealth countries Cyprus, Ghana, India, Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, Jamaica and the United Kingdom are undertaking what seems like the impossible – skiing over 900 kilometers from Antarctica to the geographic South Pole.
Marking the 60th aniversary of the Commonwealth, the expedition aims to demonstrate the potential of greater intercultural understanding and exchange, while at the same time highlighting the achievements of women across the world.
The team members from Brunei, Cyprus, Ghana and Jamaica will be the first person from their nation to ski to the South Pole. Those from India, Singapore and New Zealand will be the first women from their country to do so.
Fantastic as these achievements will be, the expedition is about much more than national and global records. The team members will return to their home countries as role models to inspire others, particularly women, to reach beyond the expectation of others and follow their own path.
Representing a Commonwealth of 52 nations and 2 billion people around the globe, the expedition team is a diverse group of real women selected from over 800 applicants. Before joining the expedition many of the team members had never been in sub-zero temperatures, put on a pair of skis or spent the night in a tent – a fact which makes the challenge they are undertaking even more remarkable.
The 900km journey from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole will take around 40 days. The team will survive on lightweight dehydrated rations and melted snow. They will sleep in tents on the ice at night and pull sledges containing all the food, fuel and equipment they will need. Travelling without a guide, the team will need to rely on each other to navigate themselves safely to the bottom of the world.
The team expect to arrive at the South Pole around New Year’s Day 2010.
By Kathambi Kinoti
This article is the third in a four-part series that explores the gendered impact of climate change. The first article discussed how women are impacted by climate change, while the second examined how women address climate change. This third article looks at how some women’s organizations are engaging with the process leading up to and during the UN Conference on Climate Change to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009.
The Earth Summit, which was held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, established United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which came into force two years later. While the UNFCCC is aspirational, its Kyoto protocol which came into force in 2005, goes further in setting binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.
Since the Earth Summit, parties to the UNFCCC meet every year to negotiate targets for mitigating climate change. This year’s talks will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark in December, and are particularly critical to ensuring that a comprehensive international climate change mitigation framework is in place by 2012.
Neither the UNFCCC nor Kyoto recognise the gender dimensions of climate change, and women’s organizations have been working hard in the lead-up to Copenhagen to ensure that the conference’s outcome document is gender responsive. One of the organizations at the forefront of this work is the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO). Cate Owren, who co-ordinates WEDO’s gender and climate change work, spoke with AWID about the participation of women in the Copenhagen conference and their hopes for the outcomes.
AWID: What has WEDO been doing in preparation for the Copenhagen conference?
CATE OWREN: WEDO has been working on climate change for several years now in a variety of capacities: by conducting research and analysis, broadening and strengthening our network of women’s organizations around the world, and engaging in targeted advocacy at the national and global levels, WEDO seeks to raise awareness about the gendered dimensions of climate change, advocate for gender, and make project implementation more effective for both women and men. In 2007 at the Bali Conference of Parties, WEDO co-founded – together with UNDP, IUCN and UNEP – The Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA) . Now comprised of 38 UN and civil society institutions, the GGCA works toward a mission of ensuring that all climate change policies, decision-making processes and finance mechanisms are gender-responsive.
AWID: What concerns do women have firstly about climate change in general, and secondly about the content and process of the Copenhagen conference in particular?
CO: Women are caretakers and managers of natural resources around the world, so stress to or changes in the natural environment have a direct impact upon women and their families and wider communities. Women still make up the large majority of the world’s poorest, as well, which puts them at great risk. There are countless ways in which women, unfortunately, remain in the “most vulnerable” category. But what is far more critical right now – especially in the lead up to and outcome of Copenhagen – is that women’s capacity to act and contribute to climate change solutions at all levels is fostered and ensured. Women are innovators, teachers, caregivers, leaders, organizers, providers, and more. Their experience and expertise must inform all aspects of climate change decision-making and implementation.
AWID: What advocacy opportunities exist for women’s organizations within the Copenhagen process?
CO: Civil society participation has strengthened and expanded in the past few years – certainly in alignment with increasing global recognition of the gravity of climate change as a major crisis of our time. Women have participated in numerous ways and this year a major achievement was made: the Gender and Women Constituency was given provisional status. Finally, women and gender equality observer organizations have a formal opportunity to work together to input into the process.
For WEDO, and as part of the GGCA, we work with member institutions to work meaningfully with Parties to secure effective places for gender text in thenegotiating documents.
AWID: What outcomes do you hope for from Copenhagen?
CO: First and foremost, we are hoping for a strong, comprehensive agreement. Ideally, gender equality language would be reflected in each area: Shared Vision, Adaptation, Mitigation, Technology, Capacity Building, and Finance. Throughout this year, gender language has been in each of these areas! But as negotiations continue, language is streamlined, and the specific references have fallen out in most places. We are hoping that the momentum will not be lost and that a gender-sensitive strong outcome is indeed possible. We continue to work with our partners and with governments to find ways to make this happen.
1. Women provide the bulk of health care but rarely receive the care they need
2. Women live longer than men but these extra years are not always healthy
3. Despite some biological advantages, women’s health suffers from their lower socio-economic status
4. Policy change and action is needed within the health care sector and beyond
The study also concluded that HIV is the leading cause of death and disease of women ages 15-44
From the NYT:
In its first study of women’s health around the globe, the World Health Organization said Monday that H.I.V. is the leading cause of death and disease among women between the ages of 15 and 44. Unprotected sex is the leading risk factor in developing countries for these women of childbearing age; others include iron deficiency and lack of access to contraceptives, said the W.H.O., a United Nations agency. Throughout the world, one in five deaths among women in this age group is linked to unprotected sex, the agency said. The data was included in a report intended to highlight the unequal health treatment a woman faces from birth to death.
Two years ago Anajai Calcano gave birth to a baby with no arms
She lives in a small wooden house with no indoor plumbing in a rural village in northern Dominican Republic, not far from where coal ash generated by Virginia-based AES Corp. wound up at the edge of the sea. More than 50,000 tons of coal ash laden with heavy metals was left at a port abutting local homes for years while the company, politicians, prosecutors, environmental activists and bureaucrats argued — and residents got sick.
Roger C. Fine, the man responsible for bringing the ash into the country, says it was only supposed to be there 90 days, but when officials shut down the operation, it ended up sitting for over 2 years.
Robert Vance, who filed the suit with Steve Phillips of Levy Phillips & Konigsberg in New York and Ian Conat of the Bifferato law firm in Wilmington, Del., sent medical experts to the town.
“Over 1,000 people got sick,” said Vance, who accompanied The Miami Herald on a visit to the area. “We tested 42 people, and more than half of those tested had abnormal, unsafe levels of arsenic in their blood.”
Read the full story on Common Dreams
Latrice Davis of Women’s News reports that even though there are efforts to get clean, safe drinking water to the women who need it most, it is unlikely any of the programs working toward that goal will have much of an impact.
Here’s the full story:
Improving water quality and access can help lower maternal mortality rates, say advocates. Now a new fellowship program is being launched to explore various solutions to the maternal health problem in the world’s poorest nations.
(WOMENSENEWS)–Knowledge has long been cited as the tool most needed to lower maternal mortality rates, but Global Water, a volunteer organization based in Oxnard, Calif., says what women in developing countries also need to combat this problem is water.
“Not having the proper amount of water on a daily basis puts stress on the body, which affects a woman’s life span,” said Ted Kuepper, the organization’s executive director, in a telephone interview. “It also affects their ability to further their education and break out of poverty.”
To help disrupt this cycle, the New York-based international reproductive health organization EngenderHealth is launching a fellowship program with Ashoka, an organization of social entrepreneurs with headquarters in Arlington, Va., to focus on improving maternal health in the world’s poorest nations. The initiative will concentrate on parts of the world with the highest maternal and child mortality rates, says Tim Thomas, senior advisor of the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth.
“The rates are highest in Africa and South Asia,” he said in a telephone interview, but added that “we’re not committing to any particular countries at this point.”
That’s because EngenderHealth and Ashoka–who plan to recruit 32 candidates through its Changemakers online competition–are seeking proposals that focus on applicants’ areas of interest. Those selected for the program will spend nine months working on a tangible solution to a specific maternal health challenge, starting in September 2010.
Water Use Soars
Water use has grown at more than twice the rate of the world’s population over the past century, mostly for agricultural purposes, according to the 2009 United Nations Millennium Development Goals Report. This has left 884 million people at risk for–or already facing–a water shortage. The situation poses a huge threat to maternal health, but Thomas said it’s not the only contributing factor.
“There’s a panoply of factors that contribute to maternal mortality–everything from (the drug) misoprostol not being available to treat postpartum hemorrhage to the insufficient distribution of magnesium sulfate for preeclampsia in rural clinics,” he said. “This is where research is needed to coalesce and bring consensus, and that’s one of the jobs of the task force.”
Grace Lusiola, director of the EngenderHealth office in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, works in conjunction with the government on strategies like the One Plan, a federal campaign unveiled in April 2008 to reduce maternal and child deaths. The campaign’s contributions to policy development include providing post-abortion care.
“Unsafe abortion is the leading cause of maternal death in Tanzania,” Lusiola said in an e-mail interview. “We’re increasing the number of facilities at the community level where women who have had unsafe abortions can go for medical care. Being able to get emergency care locally and not having to travel (long distances) saves lives.”
Another way to improve maternal health is through building latrines and hand-washing stations. Global Water assembles such facilities for elementary schools in rural areas, working with the Peace Corps to promote good hygiene and halt the spread of waterborne illnesses such as cholera, diarrhea, hepatitis and typhoid fever. On one visit to a village in Guatemala, Kuepper said, volunteers taught children about hygiene–despite lacking the basic tools.
“Those schools didn’t have any water, so they had the students pretend to wash their hands and brush their teeth,” he said. “It was an amazing sight.”
Still, good hygience practices are not common in many countries. A 2009 study published in the journal Health Education Research found that only 29 percent of 802 women surveyed in Kenya washed their hands with soap after using the bathroom, often due to lack of time and energy. (Washing one’s hands with just water is the norm throughout the country.)
“Key motivations for hand washing were disgust, nurture, comfort and affiliation,” wrote lead author Valerie Curtis of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Fear of disease generally did not motivate hand washing,” as 43 percent of the women polled felt that diarrhea “is a normal part of growing up.”
Contaminated water is also commonplace in developing countries. The World Health Organization, or WHO, and the United Nations Children’s Fund issued a report in 2004 that found the definition of “safe water” varied from region to region. WHO has issued guidelines for maintaining water quality around the world since 1982, but leaves it up to each country to implement their own standards. Such inconsistency is why Global Water bypasses the government when it comes to installing water treatment systems.
“We’re trying to fill a void that’s been created by the leaders of the developing world themselves,” Kuepper said. “There’s a real lack of concern among these leaders to take care of their own people.”
The U.N. Millennium Development Goals Report indicates that at the global level maternal mortality rates fell by less than one percent annually between 1990 and 2005–far below the 5.5 percent annual improvement needed to reach the world body’s 2015 target. Of the eight Millennium Development Goals–U.N. benchmarks to reduce poverty and improve health–originally set in 2000, it’s the area that has seen the least amount of progress.
“Women’s health and empowerment is at the heart of all the development goals. I don’t think any of them can be achieved unless we scale up a full range of reproductive health services and policies for women in every part of the world,” Thomas said. “There’s such great momentum around maternal health because the crux of women’s reproductive health and rights is the saving of lives of women who are dying needlessly because of pregnancy or childbirth.”
Improving women’s access to clean water is directly linked to increasing their life expectancy. For example, a 2006 WHO survey found that women in countries such as Tanzania were only expected to live to the age of 51; one of the causes of death was consuming excessive levels of fluoride found in contaminated water. Those who do survive in countries with unsafe water have to deal with side effects like stiff joints.
“The body acclimates to some degree to accommodate the level of contamination in the water,” Kuepper said. But he pointed out that such adaptation only applies to microorganisms like bacteria and viruses, not minerals like fluoride and arsenic. Since water contamination remains an environmental hazard to women and children in the world’s poorest nations, he doesn’t envision the development goals being fulfilled within the next six years.
“I don’t see anything on the horizon to fix the problem. There’s not enough funding efficiently being spent in water-short areas of the world,” he said.