Fighting to End Child Marriage in Lebanon

Ghassan Idriss knows firsthand the harmful effects of child marriage on society. Having married at a young age to a woman even younger than himself, Idriss and his wife faced struggles that so many other couples in his home country of Lebanon grapple with. Now, with three daughters of his own, Idriss is doing everything he can to educate those around him about the dangers of this antiquated institution. By hosting talks, he’s using his voice to spark change within his community.

Does Humanitarian Aid Have a 'White Saviour' Problem?

American missionary Renee Bach travelled to Uganda in 2007 when she was just 18 years-old and founded Serving His Children (SHC), a nonprofit organisation she said would help Ugandan women care for ill and malnourished children. Critics, though, say Bach, who had no experience in either development work or medicine, performed complicated medical procedures on hundreds of children.

In 2015, Ugandan authorities closed SHC's facility in the town of Jinja - where a number of children were reported to have died - but the organisation still operates in other parts of the country. A lawsuit brought by two women who say their children died under SHC’s care has been adjourned until January 2020, according to the Uganda-based legal services group Women’s Probono Initiative.

Bach’s case has again highlighted the issue of medical "voluntourism", while raising questions of whether some charities in the developing world have a “white saviour problem”. In response, Uganda-based social workers Olivia Alaso and Kelsey Nielsen began the No White Saviors campaign to educate and advocate for better practices in mission and development work.

In this episode, The Stream takes a look at why some Westerners get to work in the developing world without adequate experience, and what groups like No White Saviors are doing to hold them accountable.

China is Putting Muslims in Concentration Camps Because of an “Ideological Illness”

People of Xinjiang. Peter Chou Kee Liu. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

People of Xinjiang. Peter Chou Kee Liu. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

According to a UN report, China has declared Islam an “ideological illness”. One UN spokesperson claims there are approximately over a million Muslims currently in these camps. The UN report states “the evidence indicated that most of the detentions were taking place outside the criminal justice system, and targeted specifically Uyghur and other Muslim minorities, such as Kazakh”. But why is this happening? In the words of the Official Chinese Communist Party, “Members of the public who have been chosen for re-education have been infected by an ideological illness. They have been infected with religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology, and therefore they must seek treatment from a hospital as an inpatient”. The region of Xinjiang, in recent years, has faced attacks from extremist groups and because of this, have targeted the entire Uighur community in Xinjiang to prevent them from being further “infected by religious extremism and a violent terrorism disease.”

The region of Xinjiang is a highly populated by the “Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighur minority, who make up about eight million of its 19 million people”, according to a BBC article profiling the region. With the population being highly Muslim, the Chinese government has profiled that area in a subtle racist attempt to force the people of the area to renounce Islam and their practices. In a statement from the Communist Party, they state that “in order to provide treatment to people who are infected with ideological illnesses and to ensure the effectiveness of the treatment, the Autonomous Regional Party Committee decided to set up re-education camps in all regions, organizing special staff to teach state and provincial laws, regulations, the party’s ethnic and religious policies, and various other guidelines”. Furthermore, they say, “At the end of re-education, the infected members of the public return to a healthy ideological state of mind, which guarantees them the ability to live a beautiful happy life with their families”. It is disturbing to read words such as “disease” and “those infected” when it is in regards to innocent Uiguhr individuals. Using such diction creates a harmful and discriminatory connotation that the Uighur community is “sick” and “infectious”, a dangerously false narrative.

Although the camps have the intention of “[fighting] separatism and Islamic extremism”, they stem from a fear of an uprising in the Xinjiang area and has become a prejudice and gross abuse of human rights. Many of the people who were able to leave the concentration camps now are facing psychological ramifications and a complete lack of faith in the country that they are living. The camps are supposedly supposed to help threats and protect the people, yet they are harming them instead.

 In many interviews from those who were in the concentration camp, they have mentioned that the “re-education” forces them to renounce Islam, renounce the Holy Quran, admit that the Uighur culture is backward in comparison to the Communist Party, and if the detainees refuse to cooperate, they are punished harshly. Some punishments include them not being fed, solitary confinement, or physical beatings. Recently, it has come out that there has been a death in one of the camps. A Uighur writer Nurmuhammad Tohti, died at the age of 70 because "he had been denied treatment for diabetes and heart disease, and was only released once his medical condition meant he had become incapacitated", according to his granddaughter, Zorigul. But even with the criticism and the death, the Chinese government still does not believe what they are doing is wrong. 

China Daily, a popular media outlet, claimed that “Western critics of China's policies on human rights and religious freedom in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region seem to be divorced from the realities of the situation.” They stand in defense of their practices rather than understand how harmful they are and how they are creating a dogmatic perspective.

It is concerning to see how fear has created a ripple of harmful decisions and gross infringements on human rights. There is no reason for an entire community to reap the consequences of extremists actions when they are the innocents.




OLIVIA HAMMOND is an undergraduate at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She studies Creative Writing, with minors in Sociology/Anthropology and Marketing. She has travelled to seven different countries, most recently studying abroad this past summer in the Netherlands. She has a passion for words, traveling, and learning in any form. 

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African Migrants Journey to U.S. Border in Search of Asylum

The U.S.-Mexico border, pictured here from the air, is receiving more attention as Afircan migrants cross it to seek asylum in the U.S. WikiImages. CC0.

The U.S.-Mexico border, pictured here from the air, is receiving more attention as Afircan migrants cross it to seek asylum in the U.S. WikiImages. CC0.

African migrants, mostly from Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are beginning to congregate at U.S. border cities, especially San Antonio, Texas and Portland, Maine, seeking asylum. 

Many are flying to South America and joining fellow migrants in traveling well-trodden paths across Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border, since they have been proven to work. Europe has also recorded a sharp drop in the number of African migrants and refugees who have reached its border.

Migrants who do try to make the treacherous journey across the Meditteranean often never make it there. The EU began a regional disembarkation policy last June, which named Libya as the new center for processing refugee and asylum applications for those seeking to leave Africa for Europe. However, asylum-seekers stopped by the EU-trained and equipped Libyan Coast Guard are brought back to civil war-torn Libya. Roughly 700,000 refugees are in local detention centers, facing starvation, sexual violence, and torture, according to Foreign Policy. There is also the possibility of being captured by Libyan smugglers. Many people have either gone missing or died. Official numbers have not been released.

Niger is taking in refugees so they don’t need to stay in Libya while they wait to be fully resettled in a new host country, but is only accepting a limited number of people due to its own low poverty rate. The resettlement process can take anywhere from 8 to 12 months. Often, Africans are finding that it is easier to avoid the Mediterranean altogether, due to the trouble Libya’s smugglers and detention centers can cause. 12 countries have so far pledged to help resettle the refugees, though the U.S. is not one of them.

American border agents first started noticing the high numbers at the Del Rio border station in southern Texas last month. According to Time, the sheer number of people is overwhelming. “When we have 4,000 people in custody, we consider it high,” Customs and Border Patrol’s commissioner John Sanders said, according to the BBC. “If there’s 6,000 people in custody, we considered it a crisis. Right now, we have nearly 19,000 people in custody. So it’s just off the charts.”

According to NPR, one such refugee journey involved a family of six flying to Ecuador and traveling by foot across Central America to eventually end up in the border city of Portland, Maine. They were fleeing civil unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their destination was a makeshift border shelter—a converted sports arena—that was described as “paradise” by the father. Randy Capps, the director of research for U.S. programs at the Migration Policy Institute, said, "That journey through Central America and Mexico has been facilitated by these large migrant caravans, by more sophisticated and faster smuggling routes, and it's an easier journey from Guatemala onward than it has been in the past."

Once they get through the border station, migrants are brought to relief shelters. Staff have been bringing in Swahili and French translators. Portland city officials are hopeful for the future, seeing the migrants as a necessary part of the future workforce, especially since the city has an elderly population. Still, the influx has stressed the city in terms of space. The converted arena currently houses over 200 people.

Volunteers assist at the shelter, offering food and medical supplies and playing games with the children. Donations of both money and supplies have been pouring in. Maine governor Janet Mills has stated that she wants the state to help out, saying that Maine’s residents have a “proud tradition” of caring for their neighbors.




NOEMI ARELLANO-SUMMER is a journalist and writer living in Boston, MA. She is a voracious reader and has a fondness for history and art. She is currently at work on her first novel and wants to eventually take a trip across Europe.

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YEMEN: A Call for Action: The Worst Humanitarian Crisis in the World

People crowded in Rock Palace, Yemen. stepnout. CC by 2.0

People crowded in Rock Palace, Yemen. stepnout. CC by 2.0

War has torn Yemen apart. According to the 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview for Yemen, “The humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains the worst in the world”. It states that “An estimated 80 per cent of the population – 24 million people – require some form of humanitarian or protection assistance, including 14.3 million who are in acute need. Severity of needs is deepening, with the number of people in acute need a staggering 27 per cent higher than last year”. This devastating famine is a consequence of the Yemen civil war that started in 2015 and has been ongoing since. 

The civil war broke out in 2015 between two factions of Yemen: the armed movement of the Houthi and the Yemeni geovernemnt led by Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. The fighting started over legitimization of who actually runs Yemen and who gains mass support. Their feud, though, has resulted in their country becoming one of the worst humanitarian crises currently in the world. It has left thousands of adults and children “food insecure”, an official term to identify the starving people in the country. According to an article by the UN, “During the past four years of intense conflict between Government forces and Houthi rebels have left tens of thousands dead or injured including at least 17,700 civilians as verified by the UN”. These people have lost their lives because of a war that took their resources. 

In a video by CNN reporter, Sam Kiley, Kiley asked local businessman, Hussein Al-Jerbi, if he thought it was surprising that Yemen is having a problem with hunger. Al-Jerbi responded with, “Not [a] problem - it is a disaster, it is a disaster”. The famine in Yemen is a direct example of what war can bring to a country. The economy has become so poor that the people of Yemen have resulted to selling Khat - an oral drug. In the same video, Sam Kiley interviewed farmer Mounir Al-Ruba’i about why he grows he grows Khat, Al-Ruba’i states, “We only make a profit from Khat - other crops do not cover our home expenses. This is the only crop that would cover our daily and annual expenses.” 

The UN and UNICEF have on going sites and systems that allow you to donate to the crisis. While the UN focuses donations on multiple issues, UNICEF provides direct support to the children that are growing up or being born into this humanitarian crisis. On the UNICEF page where you can donate, their call to action states, “An estimated 360,000 children under age 5 are acutely malnourished and fighting for their lives”. An instagram account, @wearthepeace, made a post explaining that if reposted on their story or account, the people running the account would donate meals to Yemen. They not only have a link in their bio for anyone who wants to donate can, but their campaign, which is a post explaining that for every 10 times the post is reposted, they will donate $1 to the Yemen crisis. Their intention behind the post was to not only raise money, but also raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis so people are talking and doing something about it. With their 107K following, they have done just that. Their donations also include food baskets (the contents of those food baskets are listed in the post). On June 14th, the post was removed over controversy that the campaign was a hoax, but after contacting Instagram and providing proof of their legitimacy, their post was reinstated on June 23rd. To this day, they are still spreading awareness and raising funds for the Yemen crisis.

This is considered one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world because of the amount of innocent lives it is affecting. But we can help. With a donation, no matter how big or small, to the organizations listed above, we can make sure the funds are going to the right place. If donation is out of the question, please share and repost articles and stories about Yemen, specifically the account that donates once you repost. Ensuring that this crisis is not forgotten or swept under the rug will aid the people of Yemen. 

The livelihood of the Yemeni people are at stake. With consistent awareness and donations, we can help aid the Yemeni people and ensure the war does not destroy them. 





OLIVIA HAMMOND is an undergraduate at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She studies Creative Writing, with minors in Sociology/Anthropology and Marketing. She has travelled to seven different countries, most recently studying abroad this past summer in the Netherlands. She has a passion for words, traveling, and learning in any form. 




The LGBTQ Migrant Caravan that Sought Asylum in the US

Asylum Seekers in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. Daniel Arauz. CC 2.0

Asylum Seekers in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. Daniel Arauz. CC 2.0

LGBTQ migrants from Central America seeking asylum in the US faced hardship and discrimination not only from gangs that prey on migrants as they travel, but also from their fellow travelers. They were a part of a “caravan” of 3,600 asylum seekers, that started to journey from San Pedro Sula, Honduras in October 2018, traveled through Mexico, and reached the Northern Mexican city Tijuana, bordering the US, in November 2018. The members of the caravan were escaping all kinds of violence in their home countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

The LGBTQ group of the caravan traveled together, in a group of around 80, to provide safety in numbers. They were subject to verbal abuse from all ends, and were even denied food and access to showers by other members of the caravan and other local groups. They weren’t about to receive a warm welcome from the US either, as President Trump frequently targeted the group of migrants during the 2018 Midterm Elections.

Migrant caravans from Central America travel through Mexico in the hopes of passing through the US-Mexico border in search for freedom. Many don’t make it in, and those who do are held at the border.

The migrants were fleeing discrimination and persecution of LGBTQ people in their own countries. They were threatened to be killed or tortured because of their sexuality. They embarked on a journey to the US in the hopes of obtaining a new life, with new opportunities to make a living in a more accepting community.

The LGBTQ group of the caravan stuck together and looked out for each other, for fear of being assaulted. They slept in abandoned, dilapidated hotels rather than outside, where they are subject to more violence. To prevent attacks, human rights workers have sent two people in green vests to travel with the caravan. These groups found the migrants through strong media coverage and decided to help.

They trekked over 1,000 miles in a month. Most of the traveling is done by foot when they are unable to hitch a ride on buses, trucks, or tractor-trailers.

When they finally reached Tijuana, they were subject to anger from the local residents, who were angry that they were staying in a house in their neighborhood.


They waited at detention centers in Texas for a very long time after crossing the border. These detention centers had no experience in housing transgender women. However, recently, it was announced that ten transgender women have won their asylum cases, and were allowed to leave the detention center. The immigrant rights group RAICES helped to provide legal support for the migrants to win their cases.





ELIANA DOFT loves to write, travel, and volunteer. She is especially excited by opportunities to combine these three passions through writing about social action travel experiences. She is an avid reader, a licensed scuba diver, and a self-proclaimed cold brew connoisseur. 


Rainbow Railroad

How Rainbow Railroad is Saving LGBTQI Lives Worldwide

Person holding the Pride flag. Yannis Papanastasopoulos. CC 2.0

Person holding the Pride flag. Yannis Papanastasopoulos. CC 2.0

Love is one of the most powerful acts of humanity. Unfortunately, it is an act not all can do freely. For those in countries that disavow LGBTQI+ rights, love is illegal for them. To express it is a crime, dangerous and potentially life-threatening. For these individuals, there almost seems no hope. “I want you to imagine being beaten, interrogated, stabbed for who you love,” says Executive Director Kimahli Powell in a YouTube video by Rainbow Railroad titled SAVE A LGBTQI LIFE. “I want you to imagine this is all happening to you because you live in one of over 70 countries where your government not only tolerates, but supports and initiates this violence towards you—and in some cases, you might even face the death penalty all for loving who you love.”

Rainbow Railroad is a non-profit organization solely focused on rescuing and aiding LGBTQI+ individuals across the globe. They help those who are living in countries that do not condone the LGBTQI+ community. Rainbow Railroad is currently “working on 30-50 open cases, confirming their details, putting them in touch with local resources and helping them identify safe routes for escape.”. One of their most recent cases helped Ahmed, an Egyptian activist and Rainbow Railroad rescuee, escape.

Ahmed was persecuted by his own country solely because he made the brave decision of brandishing the rainbow Pride Flag at a Marshrou’ Lelia concert in Cairo, Egypt. The consequence of the impactful decision? Ahmed being sentenced to jail for a little over three months. “It was the worst feeling I had ever felt,” states Ahmed in a video detailing his story on the Rainbow Railroad site. “Knowing that all of the country was against you and all of the country wanted to … arrest you and kill you.” Ahmed then pauses in the video and then pridefully states, “Now I am free.”

Egypt has no explicit laws condemning homosexuality, but the country has many ways of making the law work in their favor. Many individuals who are suspected of being apart of or supporting the LGBTQI+ community can face “debauchery and public morals laws with prison terms of up to 17 years” according to Lonely Planet's advice column for LGBTQI+ travellers going to Egypt. But they are not alone in their mistreatment.

Countries such as Malaysia, Brunei, Maldives, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan have strict and life-threatening laws in place that subject anybody who is openly or suspected of being in the LGBTQI+ community in danger. The laws in place range from years in imprisonment, fines, public whipping/physical abuse, and in the worst cases, death. Rainbow Railroad has been able to aid the people in these countries, specifically Tarek and Mazen, a couple from Syria. They applied for aid and were granted asylum in Canada in 2016, where they now live happily and freely.

But how does Rainbow Railroad do it? They raise funds from donations that volunteers, visitors, or supporters of their cause can donate at any time. All donations are put into a general fund that helps the organizations overall mission. Rainbow Railroad also provides a way where one can turn their upcoming birthday party or celebration into a sponsored event. If a host opts to sponsor an event, the proceeds they will raise go directly to a case they are sponsoring. According to a spokesperson for Rainbow Railroad, “Rainbow Railroad has community sponsorship, which means the organization facilitates helping LGBTQI refugees through the government PSR program (http://www.rstp.ca/en/refugee-sponsorship/the-private-sponsorship-of-refugees-program/). Groups of community members get together, raise about $20,000 to support a newcomer as they prepare for their journey, meet them at the airport and through their first year in Canada.” Rainbow Railroad also has volunteers across the globe to help with tasks from outsourcing people to verifying individuals request for help. For more information, click on their TAKE ACTION tab on their website, rainbowrailroad.com. There they list step by step how to get involved and how to contact them regarding how one wants to get involved.

Ahmed is one of the 198 people helped in 2018, but there are still many more individuals in need of escape. If you are interested in helping Rainbow Railroad, under their TAKE ACTION tab on their website, rainbowrailroad.com, list the many ways you could get involved with their organization. The most immediate way to help is to click the DONATE tab and give whatever you are able. Our capacity to love is what keeps us powerful and Rainbow Railroad continues to exemplify the actions that can be taken with said power.

OLIVIA HAMMOND is an undergraduate at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She studies Creative Writing, with minors in Sociology/Anthropology and Marketing. She has travelled to seven different countries, most recently studying abroad this past summer in the Netherlands. She has a passion for words, traveling, and learning in any form.


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Lebanon’s LGBTI Activists: Constantly Fighting Back

Lebanon’s LGBTI activists fight every day against hostility. Slowly, gains have been made. Nancy Dowd. CC0.

Lebanon’s LGBTI activists fight every day against hostility. Slowly, gains have been made. Nancy Dowd. CC0.

Lebanon’s first LGBTI organization, Helem, was registered by the government in September 2004. In the years since, LGBTI activists have fought for their rights, as well as those of others, in an increasingly oppressive environment.

Most visibly in the past two years, the Lebanese government has begun increasing crackdowns against activists, particularly on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOTB). Obviously, on that day, organizations plan activities that bring LGBTI people and activists together, while also confirming and celebrating their rights. The government has generally taken the side of extreme religious groups that threaten the activities, and therefore completely shut down the events. Last year, activists were banned from even entering Lebanon. In the past 15 years, activists have said that hardly a day passes without a raid, arrest, or limitation of their right to privacy.

Helem was created as the result of local activism. In the early 2000s, the main concern was Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code, which criminalized sexual activity against the laws of nature. Homosexuality was widely antagonized against, for religious, socio-cultural, or moral reasons. For example, films portraying a LGBTI person in a positive manner were forbidden and public screenings and were censored.

Activists came out of the woodwork, both working with LGBTI organizations and the media by allying with and sharing their stories with journalists. Generally, LGBTI activist individuals carved out spaces for themselves in the broader civil society as the years passed. In addition to fighting for their own rights, they also fought for the rights of women, migrant workers, and for the right to freedom of expression.

Judges have passed brave rulings that don’t criminalize the right to privacy, but overall few of those judgements have been made. However, Article 534 has been rendered inapplicable, due to research with international medical references.

On the other hand, police officers still arbitrarily arrest people on the street for walking with a member of the same sex on suspicion of same-sex activity, and engineer “confessions” based on false promises or intimidation. Last September, Lebanese General Security officers attempted to shut down a LGBT conference. The officers questioned the director, Georges Azzi, and took the details of those attending from the hotel registry. Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said, according to HRW: “General Security’s latest efforts to shut down an LGBT conference in Lebanon is an attack on freedom of assembly rights and an attempt to silence the voices of courageous activists.” Though the exact reasons for attempting to shut down the conference were unclear, the previous reason the government stopped events was in order to preserve public morality. This past February, HRW also submitted a complaint to the UN regarding the police’s shutdown of LGBTI activism events.
Now, LGBTI individuals and activists are somewhere in the middle. They are not actively persecuted for their way of existence, but they are also not free to live as they wish. Unfortunately, the harassment and hostility continues, but everything has gotten better as time has passed. Last week, on May 17, which is also International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, the activists of Beirut, Lebanon agreed to fly pride flags, starting by Raouche Rock. Pride parades had been cancelled before they could take place the two years previous. An activist who wished to remain anonymous said, according to GayStarNews: “It’s saying we are here even despite the transgressions on our community.”















NOEMI ARELLANO-SUMMER is a journalist and writer living in Boston, MA. She is a voracious reader and has a fondness for history and art. She is currently at work on her first novel and wants to eventually take a trip across Europe.

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Filipino Human Rights Advocate Sister Cresencia Lucero Honored

Above is a collection of drug paraphernalia, including syringes and a cigarette. Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte began a war on drugs in 2016, and Sister Cresencia Lucero, who died May 15, fought against it as a human rights advocate. Matthew Rader. CC0.

Above is a collection of drug paraphernalia, including syringes and a cigarette. Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte began a war on drugs in 2016, and Sister Cresencia Lucero, who died May 15, fought against it as a human rights advocate. Matthew Rader. CC0.

Crescencia Lucero of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, also known as Sister Cres, passed away May 15 from a stroke. She was attending a meeting on human rights in Jakarta, Indonesia with the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) at the time, a cause she devoted much of her life to. Lucero was 77.

Lucero was a major figure in the Filipino human rights community. She headed the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines' Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation ministry (AMRSP). Lucero also worked with several human rights organizations with other religious leaders, such as the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA).

AMRSP includes hundreds of religious congregations, for both men and women. The organization as a whole works with various social issues and coordinates congregations, lay groups, and other organizations’ combined actions on those same social issues, including poverty, human trafficking, and labor rights, among others. In October 2015, it organized an ecological walk for justice. The organization was also able to arrange a justice march for the climate.

Rodrigo Duterte began the 2016 war against drugs with his presidential campaign, in which he urged people to kill drug addicts. After winning the presidency, he launched his drug policy, aiming to neutralize illegal drug personalities. Following his inauguration, Duterte said he would order police to adopt a shoot-to-kill policy. Duterte also released lists of people who were allegedly part of the illegal drug trade, which often included politicians. Since 2016, over 12,000 Filipino people have been killed due to the war on drugs, according to Human Rights Watch. At least 2,500 deaths were due to police. HRW has also shown that police reports show killings to be justified as self-defense. Lucero would stay awake nights to monitor and visit places where drug dealers had been killed. Her organizations referred people to drug rehab centers, though there weren’t very many centers or treatments at the time. Her organizations also opened churches as sanctuaries to victims whose rights were violated, including children who witnessed or were injured during drug-related shootings and raids. The drug war continues to be a major human rights issue, and in November 2018, three police officers were found guilty for the murder of a 17-year-old; the sentence was seen as a rare moment of responsibility.

Lucero spoke of the issue in October 2016, in an interview with Global Sisters Report: “But then when the killings started and those who were targeted were the small people, the poor, especially in the urban poor communities—there's no more distinction between drug pushers and drug users. The drug pushers are also users, but most of those being killed now are the users who are pushed into it because of the situation with poverty. If you look into the families and communities of those who are most victimized, it's the poor ones.

Redemptorist priest Oliver Castor, spokesman of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, said that during the martial law years (1972-1981, specifically), Sister Lucero was one of the people who assisted in providing safe haven for people. AMRSP opened convents and churches as sanctuaries for those who were in need, whether that meant families, extended families, or even grandparents. Even now, there is still a facilitation desk at AMRSP for sanctuaries, though the last case was in 2008.

During that same period, Lucero was the co-chair of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, which assisted political prisoners with moral, spiritual, material, and legal help when then-President Marcos banned organizations. The task force continued after marital law was lifted because of the vast number of political prisoners who remained. In 2014, Lucero said in an interview with Global Sisters Report that they have helped around 100 detainees a year. She made it clear that their main thought was to be supportive to the families of the victims.

When asked how she continues doing her work in the same interview, Lucero said, “I tell the Lord every night I am ready any time, “Take me. You have blessed me with so many opportunities.” So when I have to travel, I put my things in order, even my bedroom. Anything can happen.”


A number of ecunemical gatherings were held in Lucero’s honor in Manila the week of May 24. Her tireless work with human rights, the poor, and protecting people against martial law mark her as a person who truly felt for and worked with humanity. Father Toledo, a Franciscan, put it well when he said to UCA News that Sister Lucero "faithfully performed the duties of a true Franciscan and a true Christian."\






NOEMI ARELLANO-SUMMER is a journalist and writer living in Boston, MA. She is a voracious reader and has a fondness for history and art. She is currently at work on her first novel and wants to eventually take a trip across Europe.

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In India, Grassroots Initiatives Work to Undo the Period Taboo

For many Indians, lack of access to menstrual products is compounded by entrenched societal stigma. Across the country, women are beginning to make a change.

A sign in Bali, Indonesia, demonstrates stigmatization of menstruation in the Global South. dominique bergeron. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A sign in Bali, Indonesia, demonstrates stigmatization of menstruation in the Global South. dominique bergeron. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

For most people with periods in the Western world, menstruation is something of an afterthought—annoying and sometimes painful, but easily dealt with, and far from debilitating. In parts of the Global South, however, “that time of the month” is not only a serious health concern and financial impediment but also a source of profound social and cultural tension. Over the past two years, grassroots activists have brought increased attention to the plight of menstruating women in India, and begun to envision a future in which well-being and participation in society is not dictated by one’s reproductive cycle.

Shameful attitudes toward menstruation in India are deeply ingrained, and, especially in rural areas, can be actively harmful to women of all ages. Indian women experiencing their periods can be banned from entering the kitchen and preparing food, separated from family members, and removed from religious ceremonies, sometimes on the grounds of theistic tradition: In 2018, many Indian men were outraged at a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court allowing women of menstruating age to visit Sabarimala, a Hindu temple in Kerala dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, who is seen in traditional mythology to be disgusted by the concept of female fertility. Indignation at the ruling reached a peak in January 2019, when one person died and dozens were injured in protests against the judgment.

Equally dangerous, and highly imbricated with traditional views of menstruation, is the pervasive lack of access to sanitary products, which are crucial to keeping women clean and safe during their periods. An estimated 70 percent of Indian women are unable to afford such products, with 300 million resorting to unhygienic options such as newspapers, dry leaves, and unwashed rags. Menstruation is also a key driver of school dropouts among girls, 23 percent of whom leave their schooling behind upon reaching puberty.

Cost barriers can prevent Indian women from acquiring menstrual products. Marco Verch. CC BY 2.0

Cost barriers can prevent Indian women from acquiring menstrual products. Marco Verch. CC BY 2.0

In a sociocultural landscape where natural bodily functions are affecting the human dignity of people with periods, education, outreach, and access are crucial. In February 2018, Indian news outlet Daijiworld reported on one person working toward these goals: the so-called “Pad Woman” of Manguluru, who has been leading a group of young students in her southwestern port to create awareness of menstrual hygiene. The Pad Woman, Prameela Rao, is the founder of non-profit Kalpa Trust, which offers students at the Kavoor government First Grade College materials to manufacture sanitary pads for women in rural areas. The completed pads are distributed free of charge to the colonies of Gurupur, Malali, Bajpe, and Shakthinagar, obviating the need for women to purchase prohibitively expensive mainstream menstrual products. The pads are made from donated cotton clothing, which the students wash, iron, cut, and stitch to create the final product.

In the western state of Gujarat, an organization known as the Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP) is directly targeting period taboos among rural communities. Activists Manjula and Sudha told the Indian magazine The New Leam that, for the girls they have educated in the villages of Karamdi Chingaryia and Jariyavada, confusion and fear regarding menstruation have given way to confidence and clarity. For the AKSRP, which emphasizes gender equality and the societal participation of women, offering rural villagers the ability to make informed choices about their own menstrual health is key. As of The New Leam’s report in April 2019, the non-profit had reached about 60 Indian villages, providing information about sanitary pads of various designs, longevities, and price points.

While pads are a far more hygienic choice than rags or newspaper, they are not the only option: Back in Manguluru, two German volunteers have initiated a menstrual cup project known as “a period without shame.” In their pilot run, Nanett Bahler and Paulina Falky distributed about 70 menstrual cups free of charge to Indian women, as well as leading workshops on effective use for recipients. The cups, which are made of silicone and emptied around twice per day during one’s period, can be used for up to 10 years, making them a hygienic, eco-friendly, and potentially more affordable option for people of all ages.

Manguluru, where Indian and German activists are working to provide menstrual products. Aleksandr Zykov. CC BY-SA 2.0

Manguluru, where Indian and German activists are working to provide menstrual products. Aleksandr Zykov. CC BY-SA 2.0

Such grassroots efforts have been instrumental in chipping away at stigma among Indians in certain cities and villages, but broader change is unlikely without widespread publicity. One potential avenue for increased awareness is the newly released documentary Period. End of Sentence., which follows rural Indian women in their battle against period stigma. To create the film, Iranian-American director Rayka Zehtabchi visited small villages outside of Delhi to inquire after women’s menstrual health, and shot extensive footage of women who have learned to create their own sanitary products. The diligent pad-makers, many of whom are housewives who have never before held a full-time job, sell their creations to locals in their area, educating women on proper use and convincing shop owners to stock the products. By the end of the time span covered by the documentary, the women had set up a factory and manufactured 18,000 pads, earning economic self-sufficiency for themselves and an Academy Award nomination for Zehtabchi.


The work of these Delhi entrepreneurs, along with that of the AKSRP and Pad Woman Prameela, has made a positive difference for countless people—but, according to Mumbai-based journalist and author Puja Changoiwala, education and access must rise above the grassroots level and reach the legislative in order to create enduring change in attitudes toward menstruation. In a piece for Self, Changoiwala suggests that the Indian government should distribute free pads and launch an “aggressive nation-wide awareness program,” engaging celebrities and the press to address the dire consequences of long-held stigma. For anyone in India with a period, such a moment cannot come soon enough.






TALYA PHELPS hails from the wilds of upstate New York, but dreams of exploring the globe. As former editor-in-chief at the student newspaper of her alma mater, Vassar College, and the daughter of a journalist, she hopes to follow her passion for writing and editing for many years to come. Contact her if you're looking for a spirited debate on the merits of the em dash vs. the hyphen.








Ugandan Nuns Protest Trafficking, Seeing it as an Extension of the Slave Trade

Nuns in Uganda are fighting against human trafficking, seeing it as an extension of the slave trade that plagued Africa for centuries. Sammis Reachers. CC0.

Nuns in Uganda are fighting against human trafficking, seeing it as an extension of the slave trade that plagued Africa for centuries. Sammis Reachers. CC0.

Ugandan nuns are protesting human trafficking as part of the 6,000 member organization Association of the Religious in Uganda. They understand trafficking to be a basic human rights and dignity issue, seeing it as an extension of the slave trade. Their inspiration to fight the issue comes from a variety of sources including Biblical stories, African proverbs, Scripture, and the lives of the saints, notably St. Catherine of Siena, who said that silence kills the world. Groups of nuns have met with government representatives to implore them to combat the issue further.

At a three-day workshop in November 2018 organized by the Africa Faith and Justice Network, nuns examined the global issues facing Africa today, as well as the effects that the centuries of the slave trade have had upon the continent. The issue of human trafficking was seen in a much harsher light following that discussion, as the Africans participating in trafficking are essentially perpetuating the slave trade.

After the workshop, 32 nuns visited the Ministries of Internal Affairs; Foreign Affairs; Gender, Labour and Social Development; and the Uganda Human Rights Commission. These are departments that deal with travel outside Uganda, labor organizations, and citizens’ human rights.

The speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, Rebecca Kadaga, met with 13 Association-affiliated nuns after they petitioned her against abroad workers’ cases of slavery and torture. She said that she blames members of government for faltering on the issue. “Unfortunately, a number of people in government own labour export companies and I am told it is very lucrative so they continued,” Kadaga said, according to the Daily Monitor. Some of the workers who go abroad don’t come back. The nuns are also requesting that the government at least halt the employment of girls, because they are common targets for trafficking and sexual abuse. They also asked for law changes via harsher penalties for those caught trafficking.

"Human trafficking is dehumanising. It exposes our sisters and brothers to untold torture, sexual abuse and slavery. Some of our daughters are trafficked abroad and forced to have sexual intercourse with animals, while some are killed for organ transplant. For those lucky to return home, the trauma they have suffered incapacitates them and makes them social misfits," Sister Teresa Namataka, from Kenya, was quoted as saying in AllAfrica.

In all the meetings, a common point was expressed: a need for collaboration in fighting human trafficking. The nuns made a statement and called for a press conference, both of which caused the fight to gain more media attention. The nuns are currently working on setting up a joint meeting between stakeholders and collaborators to search for a way forward out of this human rights and dignity tragedy.

The religious international anti-trafficking organization Talitha Kum celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and also recently launched the Nuns Healing Hearts campaign, beginning with a photography exhibition documenting the work the organization does around the world to combat trafficking.

Other issues facing Africa today include the devaluation of currency, as well as the adverse effects of globalization. Those are particularly felt through the destruction of local economies by the buildup of discarded objects like computers and refrigerators and the importation of poisonous objects. Africa has many social ills, but the nuns are starting with human trafficking, seeing it as the most alarming.


NOEMI ARELLANO-SUMMER is a journalist and writer living in Boston, MA. She is a voracious reader and has a fondness for history and art. She is currently at work on her first novel and wants to eventually take a trip across Europe.

How LGBTQ People are Resisting Bolsonaro’s Brazil Through Art

Graffiti commemorating Rio de Janeiro city councillor Marielle Franco who was shot dead in an apparent assassination. Emanoelle Lima/photo by Catherine McNamara, Author provided

Graffiti commemorating Rio de Janeiro city councillor Marielle Franco who was shot dead in an apparent assassination. Emanoelle Lima/photo by Catherine McNamara, Author provided

Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil in October 2018 and took office in January 2019. Since then, the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights has chosen to remove the legal protection status of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) people. Some politicians are now pushing for a ban on talking about gender diversity and sexual orientation in schools.

Bathroom laws pertaining to which toilet facilities trans people are allowed to use and bills defining what constitutes a family, same sex marriage and laws enabling trans people to change their legal name are also seen to be under threat.

Brazil has a reputation as one of the most violent countries in the world and is known as the LGBT “murder capital” – 167 trans people were reported murdered between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018 alone. In the lead up to and since Bolsonaro’s election, LGBT hate crime has increased.

No wonder that many Brazilian LGBTQ people are worried that they are becoming isolated from the rest of the world. Marielle Franco – a young politician who took a strong stance against police violence – was murdered in Rio de Janeiro in March 2018.

She was a bisexual black woman who grew up in the Maré favela and pushed for social justice for marginalised people in the city. She was reportedly targeted by professional killers.

In Brazil, military police patrol the streets and are independent from the municipal police who carry out investigations. In March 2019, a year after her murder, it was reported that two ex-military police had been arrested for the killing.

Theusa Passareli – a 21-year-old art student who identified as genderqueer or non-binary – was murdered in April 2018, killed on their way home from a party.

Their work was incomplete in Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janiero’s design studio when I visited in November 2018 and will stay to commemorate their memory, as the university and the trans community mourn the murder of another young person.

Resin on glass by Theusa Passareli. Catherine McNamara, Author provided

Resin on glass by Theusa Passareli. Catherine McNamara, Author provided

A safe place to protest

I was in Rio for a short residency with the TransArte festival – a three day art show that explores gender identity and sexuality. The festival brings together trans people and allies to exchange ideas, make and share work, and celebrate the strengths of the LGBT community in Brazil within a place of safety.

It’s not easy to protest when faced with violence, nor is it easy to enjoy culture – particularly for people living in poverty where basic needs are difficult to meet. Trans artists have said that being trans is a barrier to participating in the arts, but “safe spaces” such as the TransArte festival allow protest art to flourish and create opportunities for LGBTQ people to express themselves.

Trans and LGB artists, activists and educators from Rio de Janeiro and London. TransArte Festival Team, Author provided

Trans and LGB artists, activists and educators from Rio de Janeiro and London. TransArte Festival Team, Author provided

Trans and LGB artists, activists and educators from Rio de Janeiro and London. TransArte Festival Team, Author provided

A theatre company led by trans people created Come As You Are – a series of autobiographical stories with physical theatre and improvisation. The stories were about family – supportive and loving family as a source of strength, and familial rejection as a result of being trans.

They explored life as trans men and women in a culture of toxic masculinity, normativity and police brutality. A photography exhibition of several artists included Bernardo de Castro Gomes, whose work also explored his identity as a black trans man facing intimidation, harassment and violence.

Queer drag artists such as Le Circo de la Drag spoke about their political performance – using their bodies to resist toxic masculinity and defy the threats of violence they often receive.

Le Circo de la drag pay tribute to Marielle Franco and Theusa Passareli. Marianna Cartaxo, Author provided

Le Circo de la drag pay tribute to Marielle Franco and Theusa Passareli. Marianna Cartaxo, Author provided

The show Monster, Whore, Bitch – Waldirene’s Dreams, directed by Dandara Vital, compiled the everyday experiences of Brazilian trans people interwoven with a re-telling of the story of Waldirene – the first trans woman to undergo gender reassignment surgery in Brazil in December 1971, at the height of the military dictatorship.

Resistance is clearly flourishing in Brazil against the odds and not only within festivals like TransArte. A Portuguese translation of Jo Clifford’splay The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven was due to open in Londrina, a city in southern Brazil, but the venue cancelled at the very last moment.

The lead, a trans woman called Renata Carvalho, received death threats. The company moved to a semi-derelict space where they performed by torchlight instead, despite injunctions from both Pentecostal and Catholic groups to stop the production.

My own experiences working with the TransArte festival team in Rio have shown me the value of safe places free from judgement and hostility. The people we worked with told us that being there in solidarity with the trans communities of Rio felt like a powerful action in itself, resisting the culture of violence that thrives in Bolsonaro’s Brazil.

CATHERINE MCNAMARA is Head of School (Art, Design and Performance) at the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries at the University of Portsmouth.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION.

Honor in its Most Dishonorable Form

Khalida Brohi sitting at a table, smiling. Joi Ito. CC 2.0

Khalida Brohi sitting at a table, smiling. Joi Ito. CC 2.0

“Even if I have nothing, I should have honor”. But what does “honor” mean for Khalida Brohi, now thirty-one years of age and continuously fighting to redefine the word. Brohi is a Pakistan native and women’s activist currently fighting to end honor killings in her small village just outside Balochistan, Pakistan. She is well-known for her numerous campaigns, the most notable being WAKE UP, Youth and Gender Development Program, and Sughar. She has been featured in multiple newsletter articles such as Newsweek 25 Under 25, Forbes 30 Under 30, and Forbes 30 Under 30: Asia for her accomplishments and hard work. Brohi started her activism at just nine years old when she discovered her cousin had been murdered in an “honor killing”, a decision made from the family that is in no way honorable.  

In her captivating memoir titled I Should Have Honor, Brohi tells us her thrilling story of her fight to end the practice of “honor killings” in her tribal village. Her memoir details her story, from the beginning to now, showing the birth of her many organizations and what sparked her passion for dismantling this horrible practice.

But what are honor killings? Honor killings are in no way honorable – they are power grab and a way to mend someone’s pride. Many cultures in Northern Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia conduct these lawful murders which affect around 93% of women in these areas. They are brutal, unjustified, and tear families apart – all for the cause of “honor”. Honor killings happen when someone rebels against what their family deems appropriate. Thousands of individuals are losing their lives every year because they just wanted to live the life that they preferred over their families judgments.

When Brohi was only 14-years-old, she found out her cousin, Khadija, was murdered by her father. The reason? Khadija did not marry the man her father choose for her, rather eloping with the man that she loved instead. Brohi, upon learning this news states, “people often become poets when they fall in love, but I became a poet when hate entered my heart” (Brohi 71). Brohi knew then, at only 14-years, that no one should go through what he cousin did.

Using the strength she found within herself that day, Brohi transformed her anger into poetry, writing and eventually performing for her father’s nonprofit organization titled Participatory Development Initiatives. Brohi’s father made her master of ceremonies, and she wowed every crowd with her passion and her words. This exposure allowed her to be discovered by a local organization called WE CAN End Violence Against Women. After being contacted by them, she collaborated and brought the organization to her local village. Brohi knew that the woman in the village would be hesitant to come to any meetings, so being clever, she framed the meetings in another light. Once all the attendees that were coming arrived, Brohi eased in conversation about “honor killings” and how to go about stopping them. The crowd got silent once she mentioned her real agenda, but soon enough, people being telling their stories and sharing their thoughts and feelings on the matter.

From that tense first meeting, Brohi used the WE CAN organization to kick start her organization, Youth, and Gender Development Program (YGDP) which focused on “educat[ing], empower[ing], and strengthen[ing] youth against cultural restrictions, enabling them to speak up about customs like honor killings” (Brohi 87). Her new organization also gave the women in her village a platform and space were they could air their grievances and address what they believed needed to be addressed. In Brohi’s words: “Until [then], they’d simply had no resources to bring them up to par” (Brohi 89).

Though her personal organization gained more traction, she also unfortunately gained unwanted attention. The work Brohi was doing threatened the power structure and patriarchy around her. Not only was Brohi, herself, being threatened, but her family as well. It was not easy for Brohi to go through the decision that she did because since she was gaining momentum and a following, she was also gaining a following of people who do not like her. They did not like her speaking out on what she believed in. Their threats did not stop Brohi, though.

Brohi, with the momentum WE CAN and YGDP was getting, traveled to Australia and America to speak at multiple conferences and events, some including Clinton Global Initiative, Women in the World, and MIT Media Lab. At those events, she railed the crowd and gave more publicity to what was happening in her tribal village back home.

In 2009, she founded the Sugar Foundation, “a non-profit dedicated to providing tribal and rural women in Pakistan with opportunities to evaluate their abilities and nurture their leadership skills in an environment of growth and development” (quote taken from her “about me” page on "her" blog, khalidabrohi.com). From there, she has also founded The Chai Spot in Arizona with her husband, David Barron. The Chai Spot, is a forum where Americans cannot only help fund her cause, but also learn the lively and enriching culture and lifestyle that Brohi, herself, grew up in. Advertisements on her blog show that she is set to open a new Chai Spot in New York City soon.

Brohi, through her activism and sympathy, created organizations and gave a platform to people who believed they could not even acknowledge their experiences. She shows the power and agency women have and how they can use it to their own advantage. She is an inspiration for all of us. If you would like to support her, visit sugharfoundation.org and click the Donate tab to fund her important and impactful nonprofit. Let Brohi continue to define and redefine what “honor” truly is.





OLIVIA HAMMOND is an undergraduate at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She studies Creative Writing, with minors in Sociology/Anthropology and Marketing. She has travelled to seven different countries, most recently studying abroad this past summer in the Netherlands. She has a passion for words, traveling, and learning in any form.


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Living With Albinism in Sub-Saharan Africa

In Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and beyond, children and adults with this rare condition face widespread violence based on superstition—and fight for the right to live their lives free of persecution.

On the left, a baby with albinism. Kaysha. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

On the left, a baby with albinism. Kaysha. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

On January 1 of this year, unknown assailants climbed through the window of Kwenda Phiri’s home in Nhkata Bay, Malawi, and hacked him to death, chopping off his hands and fleeing with them. Their motive? Phiri had albinism, meaning that—due to a rare genetic condition—he was born without pigment in his skin, hair, or eyes. Unfortunately, Phiri’s killing was far from an isolated incident. Across sub-Saharan Africa, people with albinism face physical violence and persecution based on superstition, often leaving them unemployed, isolated, and fearful of even leaving their homes.

Kidnapping and dismemberment, such as in the case of Phiri, is common, as body parts from people with albinism can bring in up to $75,000 on the black market. Witchdoctors perpetuate myths about the magical qualities of people with albinism, and make outlandish claims that their body parts can be used in charms and potions to summon wealth, power, and good luck. Babies born with albinism may be considered a curse and slaughtered at birth, especially in certain regions: in Tanzania, where the condition affects up to 1 in 1400 citizens, people with albinism are called zeru zeru, meaning “ghosts,” and assumed to bleed a different color or be immortal. Such superstitions have fueled more than 520 recorded attacks in 28 countries since 2006; Tanzania had the highest number, at more than 170 incidents. Attackers and witchdoctors rarely face legal action, and not a single buyer in this gruesome segment of the black market has ever been prosecuted.

The Nkhata Bay, Malawi, area, near where Kwenda Phiri was killed. Matthew and Heather. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Nkhata Bay, Malawi, area, near where Kwenda Phiri was killed. Matthew and Heather. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

For people with albinism who manage to escape fatal attacks, prospects for education and gainful employment are often dim. In Tanzania, only half of children with albinism complete primary school, and even fewer attend secondary. The condition typically affects vision, leaving children without access to glasses to struggle and underperform academically. Adults with albinism are met with few job opportunities, and often fall into poverty. Women with albinism suffer specific and especially dangerous injustices. Unfounded myths run rampant that sex with a women who has the condition can cure HIV/AIDS, leading to many women with albinism contracting AIDS through this heinous variety of ritual rape. Even after death, persecution persists: Many families whose relative with albinism has passed away do not hold the funeral in public, for fear that the grave might be dug up and the corpse stolen. This practice of quiet, unnoticed burial may also perpetuate superstitions regarding immortality.

Attacks are especially prevalent in certain countries—namely Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique, according to Turkish news outlet TRT World. Indeed, Nyasa Times, the online breaking news source that reported Phiri’s murder, stated that “Malawi faces ‘systematic extinction’ of people living with albinism if they continue to be murdered for their body parts.”

The general culture of neglect and harmful behavior toward people with albinism also exacerbates concerns about skin cancer, to which people with albinism are particularly susceptible given their lack of pigmentation. Parents often do not know about the importance of covering up in the sun and copiously applying sunscreen; in fact, some actually take their children with albinism into the sun to intentionally darken their skin, leading to dark-colored pre-cancerous lesions that only encourage the parents to continue. Only 2 percent of people with albinism in sub-Saharan Africa live beyond age 40—largely due to the scourge of cancer—and most children with albinism as young as 10 already have some early form of the disease.

In response to the unchecked spread of skin cancer, a company called Kilimanjaro Suncare, or Kilisun, has designed a sunscreen especially for people with albinism. When the product was released in 2012, it was used to help 25 children; as of 2017, it was being given free of charge to 2,800 people at clinics taking place every four months. Over half of those receiving Kilisun were children.

While skin cancer can be mitigated with appropriately distributed medical care, resolving the culture of violence against people with albinism will be a longer and more arduous process. In its 2017–2018 report, Amnesty International acknowledged the situation of people with albinism in Mozambique for the first time ever, estimating that 30,000 people experienced discrimination for their condition and pointing to a spike in incidents of persecution. In Tanzania, a charity called Under One Sun runs an education program for students with albinism and a summer camp for students who have been abandoned by their families due to their condition, as well as performing public advocacy and outreach through seminars and film screenings. The Albino Foundation offers similar advocacy services in Nigeria, aiming to empower people with albinism and educate the Nigerian and global societies about the realities of the condition.

For some individuals with albinism, art has served as a powerful means to address the injustices hindering their lives on a daily basis. Singer-songwriter Salif Keita—who endured bullying and rejection as a child in Mali due to his albinism, and who founded a global foundation in 2006 to aid those who are afflicted—dedicated a benefit concert in November 2018 to a five-year-old girl with albinism who was kidnapped, tortured, and killed in Mali in May of that year. More than 100 politicians, diplomats, and people with albinism attended the event.

Arriving to Sengerema region in Tanzania, where a life-sized statue dedicated to people attacked due to their albinism can be found. TANZICT Project. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Arriving to Sengerema region in Tanzania, where a life-sized statue dedicated to people attacked due to their albinism can be found. TANZICT Project. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In Sengerema, Tanzania, a monument has been erected to honor those who have been assaulted and murdered due to their albinism. The statue portrays a dark-skinned father and mother; the father holds his light-skinned child with albinism on his shoulders, and the mother places a hat on the child’s head to keep them safe from the rays of the sun. Around the monument are etched the names of people with albinism who have been attacked, representing an homage to those lost to the anachronistic attitudes of the past. Standing tall above the ground, the life-sized statue—which was made by Tanzanian artists with disabilities—imagines a possible future in which people with albinism can live safely and normally regardless of their pigmentation.





TALYA PHELPS hails from the wilds of upstate New York, but dreams of exploring the globe. As former editor-in-chief at the student newspaper of her alma mater, Vassar College, and the daughter of a journalist, she hopes to follow her passion for writing and editing for many years to come. Contact her if you're looking for a spirited debate on the merits of the em dash vs. the hyphen.

TAYLA PHELPS.png








#MeToo Movement Reaches South Korea, Shaking the Foundations of a Society in Flux

In a deeply patriarchal culture, feminist activists face constant setbacks and scrutiny.

Park Geun-hye meeting with former President Barack Obama in 2014. Republic of Korea/Jeon Han. CC BY-SA 2.0

Park Geun-hye meeting with former President Barack Obama in 2014. Republic of Korea/Jeon Han. CC BY-SA 2.0

In 2017, TIME Magazine named “The Silence Breakers” as its Person of the Year, marking the influence of the #MeToo movement and commending the women who have shattered decades of complacency regarding sexual harassment. Yet despite the movement’s place at the forefront of the American cultural zeitgeist, the effects of #MeToo are far from confined to the United States. On the other side of the globe, in South Korea, generations of women—long oppressed by the sexism that has proliferated in Korean society—are now uniting to push back against gender discrimination and question the influence of the patriarchy.

A glance at the numbers reveals the gender bias deeply embedded in Korean culture. On average, women earn 37 percent less than their male colleagues, creating the most severe gap among the 35 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Countrywide, women account for only 11 percent of managerial positions and 2.1 percent of corporate boards, in comparison to the OECD averages of 31 percent and 19 percent, respectively. In its glass ceiling index, The Economist ranks South Korea as the worst developed nation for working women.

The problem is a self-perpetuating one, as female role models in positions of power are few. In 2013, Park Geun-hye became Korea’s first female president—but far from sharing in her victory, women’s rights organizations strongly opposed her candidacy, recalling her father’s 18-year dictatorship. Only two of Park’s 19 ministers were women, and the aspects of her platform that did promote women’s rights and access were not much more progressive than those of the male presidential hopefuls she defeated. More important, Park lost all credibility when she became embroiled in an extortion scandal in 2016. In April 2018, she was found guilty of 16 out of 18 charges relating to abuse of power and coercion and sentenced to 24 years in jail.

February of that year witnessed an incident that encapsulated Korea’s suspicious attitude towards women’s liberation: Singer Son Naeun of the all-female group Apink was attacked for posting a photo on Instagram of her holding a phone case with the words “Girls can do anything.” In a culture that responds to even such minor displays of feminism with scorn and shame, sexual abuse toward women often goes unnoticed, and survivors who try to make their claims public are met with mockery.

However, despite these hostile attitudes, #MeToo principles in South Korea are finally gaining traction, and Korean women’s accounts of sexual abuse are beginning to garner at least a modicum of respect in the public eye. In January 2018, attorney Seo Ji-hyun—who had experienced years of sexual harassment at the hands of Ahn Tae-geun, the former chief of the Seoul prosecutors’ office—came forward with her allegations on the nightly news, precipitating Ahn’s two-year prison sentence for abuse of power. (He claimed not to remember the incident.) The next month, Choi Young-mi published a poem effectively accusing 85-year-old poet Ko Un of molestation, coerced sex, and harassment. The piece, titled “Monster,” has since gone viral.

The ensuing wave of sexual abuse allegations reached into the hundreds, with presidential hopeful Ahn Hee-jung and award-winning movie director Kim Ki-duk among the accused. Throughout 2018, both traditional and social media networks grew increasingly saturated with talk of societal change, and issues of gender discrimination entered public discourse. Online profiles owned by male and female Koreans alike sported the English-language hashtags #MeToo and #WithYou.

In March 2018, the burgeoning movement reached a watershed moment: a marathon protest in downtown Seoul, during which nearly 200 women publicly shared their stories of sexual harassment for 2018 consecutive minutes. In May, 15,000 people turned out to Daehangno in central Seoul to attend a rally for government accountability on sex crimes; a follow-up in July brought around 60,000, and continuing protests have earned a nickname that translates as “Uncomfortable Courage.”

Gwanghwamun Gate, at the edge of the plaza where almost 200 women shared their experiences with sexual assault as part of a massive protest. Dickson Phua. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Gwanghwamun Gate, at the edge of the plaza where almost 200 women shared their experiences with sexual assault as part of a massive protest. Dickson Phua. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Younger generations have been at the forefront of the movement, and some have pushed for change specifically within the culture of schools. Using the hashtag #SchoolMeToo, students at more than 65 Korean schools have come forward with allegations of verbal and physical sexual abuse by teachers. Their stories led to several criminal investigations, and in February of this year, a former middle school teacher was sentenced to a year and a half in prison on charges of repeated assault. In response to the multiple allegations, hundreds of female students turned out for a march in downtown Seoul, which culminated in a gathering outside the presidential palace to protest inadequate responses to abuse.

The Blue House, Seoul’s presidential residence, where students gathered to protest the lack of response to sexual abuse. Julio Martínez. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Blue House, Seoul’s presidential residence, where students gathered to protest the lack of response to sexual abuse. Julio Martínez. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

On the legislative side, there are signs of incremental change. As of September 2018, maintenance staff in Seoul are now required to check public restrooms daily for hidden cameras, which are often used to secretly record footage of women that is later sold to porn websites. The administration of President Moon Jae-in, who was elected following Park’s impeachment, has announced extensions to the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases, and a process for anonymous reporting of sexual assault crimes.

Despite progress, activists continue to face persecution. For instance, in the city of Gwangju, where 11 teachers and the principal at one school were criminally charged with sexual abuse, a newspaper editorial questioned the value of the movement and accused students of undermining teachers’ authority. Progressive politicians, such as Shin Ji-ye, a 28-year-old Green Party leader who ran for mayor on a feminist platform last June and finished impressively in fourth, may usher in more substantial shifts. For now, isolated policy decisions and grassroots uprisings are chipping away at the inequities entrenched in Korean ways of life—and #MeToo, from one side of the world to another, continues to stake a claim against centuries of injustice.







TALYA PHELPS hails from the wilds of upstate New York, but dreams of exploring the globe. As former editor-in-chief at the student newspaper of her alma mater, Vassar College, and the daughter of a journalist, she hopes to follow her passion for writing and editing for many years to come. Contact her if you're looking for a spirited debate on the merits of the em dash vs. the hyphen.

TAYLA PHELPS.png








New Zealand’s “Headscarf for Harmony” Effort

Women wear headscarves to stand in solidarity with New Zealand Muslim community.

This week, women in New Zealand are wearing hijabs to stand in solidarity with the Muslim community following the shooting of 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch.

The effort, called “Headscarf for Harmony”, was created by Auckland doctor Thaya Ashman. After hearing a Muslim woman say that she was afraid to leave her house wearing a hijab, Ashman wanted a way to show her support and solidarity. “I wanted to say: We are with you, we want you to feel at home on your own streets, we love, support and respect you,” she told Reuters.


Ashman spoke with the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand and the Muslim Association of New Zealand before putting the effort into action. She told the New Zealand Herald that she used the word headscarf instead of hijab to recognize the cultural difference present for non-Muslims.

The Headscarf for Harmony hashtag continues to spread across social media. where New Zealanders are posting pictures of themselves in headscarves accompanied by captions offering their support for the Muslim community.

"These people are New Zealanders, just like I am,” twenty four-year-old Cherie Hailwood told CNN. “I understand that one day is very different to wearing it all the time, but I am honored to be given the permission of the Muslim community to walk in their shoes. Even just for a day.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wore a black headscarf when meeting with members of the Muslim community. Even news anchors and reporters joined the effort, wearing headscarves on live television. At an open prayer at the Al Noor mosque where the attack had taken place, New Zealand women wore head scarves as a gesture of respect and solidarity.

“Being a Muslim, I’m overwhelmed,” one man tweeted, “I have never seen this kind of solidarity in my entire life—the vigils, the Haka performances, the scarves. It’s just amazing and heartwarming.”

Not all supported the effort. On Stuff.co.nz a Muslim woman published an unsigned article saying that while the movement may mean well, it is no more than “cheap tokenism”.

She wrote that the effort, “stinks of white savior mentality, where Muslim women need to be rescued by (largely) white folk. This type of ideology plays a part in the pyramid of white supremacy and must be acknowledged so people can stop virtue signaling and understand the impact of their actions.”

She went on to say that the attack, “was not just about Muslims, it was against any person of colour in a 'white' country so this focus on hijabs is derailing the examination of white supremacy, systematic racism, orientalism and bigotry. We don't want to be turned into a caricature.”

 

 


EMMA BRUCE is an undergraduate student studying English and marketing at Emerson College in Boston. While not writing she explores the nearest museums, reads poetry, and takes classes at her local dance studio. She is passionate about sustainable travel and can't wait to see where life will take her.

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Fighting to End Child Marriage in Lebanon

Ghassan Idriss knows firsthand the harmful effects of child marriage on society. Having married at a young age to a woman even younger than himself, Idriss and his wife faced struggles that so many other couples in his home country of Lebanon grapple with. Now, with three daughters of his own, Idriss is doing everything he can to educate those around him about the dangers of this antiquated institution. By hosting talks, he’s using his voice to spark change within his community.

Canada’s Genocide: The Case of the Ahiarmiu

A family of Ahiarmiut, including David Serkoak pictured behind his mother Mary Qahug Miki (centre) at Ennadai Lake in the mid-50s before the Canadian government forcefully relocation them.

A family of Ahiarmiut, including David Serkoak pictured behind his mother Mary Qahug Miki (centre) at Ennadai Lake in the mid-50s before the Canadian government forcefully relocation them.

As a human rights scholar, I have long argued that Canada committed cultural genocide against Indigenous peoples. But recently, I’ve come to conclude, in the case of the Ahiarmiut, that it’s not cultural genocide —it’s actual physical genocide.

An article in the Globe and Mail last summer by Gloria Galloway told the story of what happened to the Ahiarmiut, a small group of Inuit in 1950.

The Canadian government forcefully relocated them 100 kilometres from their original home in what is now Nunavut. The government’s reason for moving the Ahiarmiut people was that they were becoming too dependent on trade with federal employees at a nearby radio tower.

Galloway got much of her information from David Serkoak, an Elder who lived through the relocations. Recently, Serkoak collaborated with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) to tell his story and to be a storyteller for his community.

RHODA E. HOWARD-HASSMANN is a Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, at Wilfrid Laurier University.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION

Acid Attacks: A Regional or Global Phenomenon?

Many assume acid attacks are typical of Southeast Asia, but studies show they occur globally.

Acid attacks survivors in Bangladesh (Source: Photograph by Narayan Nath/FCO/Department for International Development). CC-BY-2.0.

Acid attacks survivors in Bangladesh (Source: Photograph by Narayan Nath/FCO/Department for International Development). CC-BY-2.0.

What do you think of when you see an acid attack report in the news? Likely you think of a woman in Southeast Asia who was attacked by a man.


Unfortunately this immediate association many of us make with Southeast Asia, obscures a global trend that encompasses both developing and industrialized nations. Notably in 2016 most cases of acid attacks were actually in the United Kingdom, where 454 cases were reported compared to 300 in India. The United Kingdom is also one of the few areas where acid attacks are directed against other men, usually because of gang violence, rather than women.

Still there is some truth to the regional associations some might make. Around “90% of global burn injuries occur in developing countries” according to research presented by Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI). The other truth is the disproportionate targeting of women. ASTI estimates that out of 1,500 cases of gender violence each year, 80% of cases are women. Considering  60% of cases go unreported according to ASTI, it is clear that acid attacks are not a rare event.

The major motive for acid attacks is a desire to disfigure the victim and take away their chance for a future; especially with women, perpetrators often hope to take away their beauty. According to a 2011 study sponsored by programs at Cornell University Law, acid was also viewed as a punishment against women who stepped outside traditional gender roles in patriarchal societies. Other reasons included rejected love, disagreements over land, or marriage disputes (dowry issues).


For Nepalese victim Sangita Magar, gender violence is particularly relevant. Her perpetuator, Jiwan B.K., attacked Magar—who almost lost her eyesight in addition to the scarring—after arguing with her brother over their apartment complex’s shared bathroom. Like most survivors she required extensive treatment.


However when she was attacked in 2015, Nepalese law provided no compensation for her injuries. The required treatment was also not included in the free care the Nepalese government provides it citizens.


So in 2017 Magar and a fellow plaintiff challenged the law in a public interest case to benefit future victims. They successfully brought about financial support for treatment to victims and stronger punishments for perpetrators with a minimum prison sentence of five years as well as fines ranging between 100,000 and 500,000 rupees, dependent on the victim’s injuries. Although the regulation of acid sales has yet to take effect, Nepal’s Supreme Court implemented the other measures in August 2018.

Many hope these changes will help decrease the number of acid attacks in Nepal, where around 40 cases are reported every year according to local NGO Burns Violence Survivors. Indeed, many look to the example of Bangladesh. Following changes in the law in 2002 and regulation of acid sales, reported cases dropped from 494 in 2002 to only 44 reported cases in 2016.


And it is the availability of acid that underlies the global trend. Where guns are not as readily accessible, acid is an easy choice. Acid is easily found in areas that utilize it in agriculture or produce it. But even if an area does not use or produce it, acid is found in household cleaners and paint.


Most places also do not regulate the sale of acid: Europe is one of them. However Belgian Patricia Lefranc, whose ex-lover attacked her in 2009, is leading a campaign to push for identity card checks to regulate acid sales within the European Union.


Currently, the main voice for change is London-based NGO Acid Survivors Trust International., founded in 2002. ASTI strives to “mobilise resources to support in-country partners to assist survivors” with medical treatment as well as therapy for psychological trauma. ASTI also promotes education, advocates policy changes, trains medical professionals, and funds research.


Most importantly, as outlined by the UN in 1992 under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, ASTI is holding countries accountable to their obligation to protect individuals from gender violence and provide services to victims. Their successes reflect this: ASTI helped change Cambodia’s acid laws and reached 6,360 community members in Nepal and Pakistan in an awareness campaign about acid attacks, among other successes.


And it is awareness of the global scope of acid attacks that gives space for all survivors to speak out, if they wish. Awareness also supports NGOs that have been pushing for change. In other words, being aware shows that survivors and their advocates have been heard.



TERESA NOWALK is a student at the University of Virginia studying anthropology and history. In her free time she loves traveling, volunteering in the Charlottesville community, and listening to other people’s stories. She does not know where her studies will take her, but is certain writing will be a part of whatever the future has in store.

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