• Saturday, December 20, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    Out of darkness: facing breast cancer

    28 Dec 2009


    Guest blogger: Paola Rolletta, IPS stringer in Mozambique.

    I feel neither more “good” nor more “patient”. I am a hard-headed woman, as always. Attached to life, as ever!

    Paola Rolletta by Luis Abelard

    Paola Rolletta by Luis Abelard

    The day when my friend Pigi, my oncologist, told me that I had breast cancer, I cried desperately. The first thing I did was to phone my partner to tell him this piece of news, of which I had had some premonition. And I understood that premonition really exists.

    Curiously, I did not wonder “Why me?”  My reaction was: “This cursed disease has hit me too!” More »

    Fabrications around AIDS in 2010

    26 Dec 2009


    By Mary  Crewe and Pierre Brouard
    Center for the Study of AIDS, University of Pretoria, South Africa

    csa-calendar-red Fabrications is the theme of the  2010 calendar produced by the  Center for the Study of AIDS.  The gorgeous images are digitally manipulated African textiles.

    The notion of “fabrications” was inspired by the many stories of the AIDS quilts –  designed to tell a story about someone who had died of AIDS, to honour them and to create a memorial to them that could be used as part of the fabric of people’s daily lives.

    A fabrication is in this sense both a physical construction of fabrics, but also a psychological and social construction, the story of a life.

    We need to tell people’s stories but we also need to acknowledge that we use stories to make sense of AIDS, to cope with it, to fashion it into something bearable, to give it meaning. More »

    Living a woman’s life

    04 Dec 2009


    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 »

    Foreign aid, elites and entrepreneurs

    28 Sep 2009


    On my way to the Sao Nicolau waterfall on the island of Sao Tome, I stumbled upon two Jurassic Parks of failed industrial development.

    Ghost factory. By M. Sayagues

    Ghost factory. By M. Sayagues

    At the coffee plantation Monte Café, to the left of its dilapidated pink colonial buildings, stands a huge shed. The caretaker unlocks a gigantic padlock and we step into a surreal décor for a tropical Blade Runner movie.

    The shed houses a web of pipes and drums, coffee-processing machinery made by the Brazilian company Pinhalense. It is huge, complex – and never used.

    The caretaker remembers when the machines were put in place, about a decade ago, but he never saw them working.

    Donors pulled the plug on this US$24 million project after US$14 were spent and a few siphoned off.                             More »

    No longer invisible: caregivers speak out

    04 Sep 2009


    Guest blogger: Glenda Muzenda, Care Work Manager at Gender and Media Southern Africa (GEMSA)

    I just attended the Grassroots Women’s International Academy on Home Based Care in Johannesburg, South Africa.

    It was a mixed bag of fun meeting women from all walks and works of life from Kenya, Cameroon, Uganda, Malawi, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zambia, Ghana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

    Caregiving in Mozambique. Photo: Janine Morna

    Caregiving in Mozambique. Photo: Janine Morna

    The Huairou Commission and the Land Access Movement of South Africa brought us together to share experiences of home-based care.

    It is fascinating how in Malawi the care givers alliance has moved forward. Victoria Kalomba, of the Malawi Group of Women Living with HIV and AIDS told us that the ministry of health and social development had spearheaded a campaign to raise awareness about people infected and affected by HIV.

    The process had the ministry informing the support groups of individuals who had tested positive after visiting clinics so they could be reached and helped.

    I am worried about this way of outing positive people even in the aim of  mobilizing support groups. I feel that it is a human right violation to have to give information of someone’s HIV status.

    More »

    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 »

    Whose pleasure? Notes about male circumcision and female sexuality

    24 Aug 2009


    Guest blogger: Pierre Brouard, Deputy Director, Centre for the Study of Aids, University of Pretoria, South Africa

    Permanent erection, permanent pleasure?

    Hard task: defining sexual pleasure. Photo: M. Sayagues

    So what headlines have grabbed you lately about male circumcision in South Africa? These caught my eye:

    “The death toll in the Eastern Cape’s winter circumcision season has risen to 31”
    “Circumcision ‘scam’ probed”
    “Two on run after initiate dies”

    As alarming and distressing as these headlines are – and the sad, desperate and greedy subtexts embedded in them – they don’t say much about the other big debate that is raging across southern Africa: the value of male circumcision to prevent HIV acquisition in heterosexual men, and what’s in it for women. More »