• Thursday, October 23, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    Timeless wisdom: traditional healing in Africa

    31 Aug 2009


    Tall, thin and dreadlocked, Kwame Sousa is an artist, a documentary film producer, and an avid soccer player. Whenever he sprains a muscle, he visits his granny or the neighbourhood traditional healer for a rub with a homemade herbal potion.

    “It smells strongly of wine gone vinegary but it works ,” he says.

    The forest is their pharmacy. Photo: M. Sayagues

    The forest is their pharmacy. Photo: M. Sayagues

    Last year, when he was scratching madly with chickenpox, his  granny’s ointment of coconut oil and leaves relieved the itchiness.

    When his friend  Geane Castro  feels a cold coming, his grandmother makes him a hot bath with water infused with leaves and bark, then a special tea with plants she gathers in the forest. Presto, he recovers.

    I meet them at Teia D’Arte, an art gallery in Sao Tome, the capital of the tiny two-island nation of Sao Tome and Principe, off the coast of Gabon.

    With a rich biodiversity of 600 botanical species and 132 endemic plants, the islands’ rainforest is a well-stocked pharmacy for herbalists.

    Their knowledge is captured in a decade-long  ethno-pharmacological study published last year. Researchers worked with 40 traditional healers, midwives and grandmothers to identify and classify 325 medicinal plants, note 1,000 recipes and test 25 plants in the lab. Many look promising for developing new medicines. More »

    Runner Caster Semenya: gender, sex and discrimination

    26 Aug 2009


    Open letter by South African gender activists

    Courtesy of Zapiro, Mail & Guardian

    Courtesy of Zapiro, Mail & Guardian

    Some of those championing Caster Semenya’s cause accuse those wanting to sex-test Caster of imperialism and racism (as well as sexism). Others plead to wait before reaching a verdict, arguing that the realities of sex testing are enormously complex

    Firstly to address the issue of terminology, over which there seems to be confusion. Gender is the dominant society’s views on how women and men should look, behave, what roles they should play in society, how they should perform and frequently what rewards they receive – hence gender inequity. This has usually led to lower status and discrimination against girls/women but has increasingly been seen as limiting the options and potentially harming boys/men too.

    Gender is not a politically correct term for sex. Sex testing would be just that – establishing whether a person is biologically female or male. So gender testing is not the term that should be used this case, but sex testing. More »

    The shutter that shatters gender stereotypes

    16 Jun 2009


    Photo:Sudiptorana/WACC

    Photo: Sudiptorana/WACC

    The women paddling in this stunning photo are having fun and a good workout – while breaking cultural barriers. They are competing in a traditional race against men in their village in West Bengal, India, racing against the gender-based division of labour and leisure, paddling energetically into a male space. More »