Living a woman’s life

Posted on December 4, 2009, by mercedes, under Gender Masala, adolescents, culture, health, media, politics, women, men and more.

Today at noon my daughter graduated from high school. In the afternoon, the email brought news about very dear friends.

Motherhood, sisterhood, friendship.

Motherhood, sisterhood, friendship.

In Paris, the Chilean researcher, novelist and feminist Ana (Nicha) Vazquez Bronfman had died, aged 71. She was a beacon for a generation of Latin American women for her insights on identity  and gender. One concept she elaborated specially was “transculturation” - the permanent construction of identities in this world of global migration. In 2006 she wrote superbly about sexuality among the elderly – transgressions and secrets, she called it.

In Rome, my friend and fellow journalist Paola Rolletta underwent the next to last chemotherapy session against breast cancer. She was jubilant to see the end of the chemical bombardment. Like antiretrovirals, chemo saves lives but is no picnic.   (more…)

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A spiritual gift

Posted on November 23, 2009, by mercedes, under Gender Masala, arts, children, culture, human rights, religion, stereotypes, violence, women, men and more.

Patriarchal in all senses. By M. Sayagues

Patriarchal in all senses. By M. Sayagues

What drives a 17-year-old girl to enter a monastery? Today she is 30, and still happy about her choice. Her eyes sparkle and her laughter comes easy. She exudes peace.

I will call her Gabra (gift, in Amharic), for our conversation was private. I met her at a monastery near Lalibela, the mystical city of rock-hewn churches in northern Ethiopia.

Monastic life has a long tradition and prestige in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The oldest monastery dates from the 6th century. A monastic renaissance between the 13th and 16th century brought great moral and political authority to clergy.

Custodians of tradition

Custodians of tradition

Gabra’s rock-hewn monastery dates from the 12th century. Her room is excavated in the pink tufa rock. Two built-in-the-rock platforms, covered with a thin mattress, do as couch and bed. An old cupboard holds a few plates and cooking utensils, three of the long green robes worn by Ethiopian peasants, the white headscarves that nuns wear, and two pairs of sandals.

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Family health managers

Posted on November 20, 2009, by mercedes, under Gender Masala, children, culture, health, women, men and more.

Women are the agents of family health in Ethiopia. By M. Sayagues

Women manage family health in Ethiopia.

...on top of all their other duties. By M. Sayagues

Pics by M. Sayagues

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Children’s health and the invisible Ethiopian men

Posted on November 17, 2009, by mercedes, under Gender Masala, children, culture, health, stereotypes, women, men and more.

Guest posting by Gifti Nadi. After ten years with the International Women in Media Foundation in Washington DC, she is back in her home country, Ethiopia.

By Gifti Nadi

By Gifti Nadi

This was not an ordinary polio vaccination day for the children of Babile and Kombolcha, small towns about 500 km East of Addis Ababa.  Ferenjis (foreigners in Amharic) had arrived!

About 100 Rotarians from the USA and Canada paid their way to Harar and Dire Dawa in Eastern Ethiopia to join local health workers in a massive drive to vaccinate 11.5 million children under five nationwide.

In recent years, 24 cases of polio have been detected in Ethiopia, likely coming from Sudan, says the World Health Organisation.

We travelled in small groups to the towns nestled against the backdrop of stunning mountains. We went door to door and were warmly welcomed by the primarily Muslim, Oromo and Somali families. (more…)

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Beauty as an optical illusion

Posted on October 12, 2009, by mercedes, under Gender Masala, adolescents, arts, children, culture, media, stereotypes, women, men and more.

Fashion models in ads are optical illusions and the award-winning  video Evolution of Beauty, from the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty proves the point eloquently. Watch it at:

http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.ca/bblank.asp?id=6895

Digital cosmetic surgery - nip-and-tuck, botox and liposuction, on the screen, with a click - render these models picture-perfect (excuse the pun) and thoroughly unreal.

There is no way a non-photoshopped  woman can attain that perfection. Hey, we are human. We have flaws.

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Missing the Point? A critical review of MDG

Posted on September 14, 2009, by mercedes, under children, health, human rights, women, men and more.

Next time you read a story or a press release moaning about how country X will not reach the Millennium Development Goals, think twice - whose goal and whose target is it? We know the deadline but do we know the baseline?

Instead of striking a balance between ambition and realism, the MDGs have become “money-metric and donor-centric”, “meaningless catch-all phrases.”

So says Jan Vandemoortele, a Belgian national, a United Nations senior official and one of the architects of the MDGs, in a thought-provoking article in the July issue of  Development Policy Review of the Overseas Development Institute. (read it here)

Unrealistic? A crowded classrom in Guinea Bissau...

Unrealistic goal? A crowded classroom in Guinea Bissau...

The author recalls that the MDGs were set up in 2000 as collective targets based on extrapolations of global trends.  They are vague by definition; they are not one-size-fits-all.

Instead, one should look at countries’ historical backgrounds, natural endowments and specific problems, then adapt the Goals to each circumstance, as Mozambique, Cambodia and Ethiopia have done.

Otherwise, this puts undue pressure on the poorest countries and, given that most of these are in Africa, nurtures Afro-pessimism.

For example, the global target for education “is not realistic” for countries in conflict, he says.                              (more…)

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HAPPY BIRTH-DAY TO ALL MOTHERS

Posted on September 7, 2009, by mercedes, under Gender Masala, children, health, human rights, reproductive health, stereotypes, women, men and more.

Safe motherhood for all. By F. Beaumont.

Safe motherhood for all. By F. Beaumont.

My daughter Esmeralda turns 18 today. Like all parents, I am amazed at how time flies. Like all mothers, I get reminiscent about those days, 18 years ago.

I was very pregnant and very happy. I lived in Rome, Italy, and I wanted a home birth.

I wanted music, soft light, friends, baby on my stomach still attached by umbilical cord, no drugs, and no epidural. A birth by my own rules, not by a cold hospital’s.

I found a group specialized in home births – Il Melograno. Their package included ob-gyn and midwife, courses, support and, more importantly, a woman-friendly feel. A photographer from Marie Claire magazine would do a photo reportage on my happy home birth.

Our premise: pregnancy is neither a disease nor a disability. Pregnancy and birth have become over-medicalized; women should reclaim it from doctors overly fond of control and caesareans. (more…)

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Gabon’s people-friendly hospital

Posted on August 11, 2009, by mercedes, under Gender Masala, culture, health, women, men and more.

The Ogooué seen from Dr. Schweitzer's home. Photo: M. Sayagues

The Ogooué River seen from Dr. Schweitzer's home. Photo: M. Sayagues

I decided to visit my Nicaraguan friend who stays in a village called Fougamou, in central Gabon. So I looked up the nearest town,  Lambaréné. It turned out to have a museum honouring Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who arrived there in 1913, built a hospital, and won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1952.

I had never been interested in him but it seemed like a truly off-the-beaten path museum, just my kind. But what sold me on Lambaréné was the name of its river:    Ogooué.  I HAD to see a river with such a wondrous name.

So I set off to Lambaréné on my way to Fougamou. Believe me, I was in the green heart of Africa. Green, as in rainforest.

I am glad I went. The river is awesome. The museum is charming. It preserves the old hospital and personal quarters from the 1920s as they were originally.   (more…)

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Until death do us apart…?

Posted on May 19, 2009, by admin, under human rights, violence.

Mukhtaran Mai, the brave woman who defied custom, religion and patriarchy in Pakistan in 2002 when she brought charges against her rapists, is in the news again. She has married her former bodyguard, a police constable who already has one wife and four children.
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