Friday, 9 March 2012
The hunt for treasure
By Mariana Bazo
On my numerous trips around the outskirts of Lima I’ve long been struck by the sight of elderly women combing garbage dumps and lugging huge bags filled with recyclable items. I’ve photographed several of them and while talking to them I always get the same story – they pick up bottles, paper and cans they can sell later, and that little money allows them to survive. Some of the women are abandoned and have no relatives, but others prefer to live on their own means rather than depending on handouts. It’s common to hear them say that this is the only job they can get at their age. I often notice a certain glimpse of happiness when they talk about their hard-earned independence.
Peru’s national statistics bureau has published figures that older adults who don’t have retirement plans are forced to develop strategies for survival, to avoid being economically dependent and socially vulnerable, and these garbage pickers fit exactly that description. Many poor elderly women are excluded from social services and have never been in the formal workplace. Many are Andean migrants without the same education opportunities as men, to the extent where many are illiterate.
This describes my most recent subject, Victoria Ochante, 65. Victoria left her home in the highland town of Ayacucho 30 years ago to escape the violence of the Shining Path guerrilla movement. Illiterate herself, she’s been living in Lima slums since then, and with six children has managed to maintain her family in the humble shanty she built of recycled material.
Victoria’s neighborhood, Ticlio Chico, is part of the poverty belt that surrounds Lima. Here, in one of the world’s driest regions, it rains enough in winter to flood many of the precarious homes. She lives with her two grown, unemployed daughters and a husband who doesn’t earn enough to help their economy.
I accompanied Victoria on her hunting trips for recyclable garbage in the nearby streets. We left at four o’clock in the morning, an hour when we could see the lights of the entire city from her hillside slum.
She rushed out and sped through the piles of garbage, before anyone else could beat her to it. She followed her regular route passing the corners where residents normally dump their refuse, scaring off stray dogs and tearing open bags where she found cans and bottles, flies and horrible smells. Every so often she would exclaim, “Too late. They’ve already been here.”
Victoria says her hunt is an adventure. She never knows what she’ll find.
If she finds discarded wood or sticks, she uses those as cooking fuel. Discarded lettuce goes to feed the ducks she raises. One day she came across a homeless person trying on discarded clothing. He said to her, “Be careful, those clothes have fleas, but I don’t care. I’m cold.” Laughing, the man looked at me and my camera, and asked, “Wow, did you find that here?”
These women don’t recycle garbage to help the environment. It’s an economic activity. Victoria considers herself a treasure hunter.
As we walked I wanted to ask her so many things, but the communication was difficult as she constantly mixes her native Quechua with Spanish. On my last day visiting her I took along a Quechua-speaking friend of mine, also from Ayacucho.
Victoria is a simple person with obvious emotions. She never stops working. Even after finishing her daily hunt she continues with home chores, washes dishes, cleans the kitchen, loads firewood. Her daughters stand around watching. Her husband appears and disappears, but says nothing. She boils water with the recycled wood, fixes up the home and feeds the ducks. She is a survivor.
Victoria wishes that her parents had gotten a better education for her, because only her brothers were given the chance. She never learned to read or write. She told me in Quechua, “I suffered and cried so much for my Mom and Dad to put me in school. If only I knew how to read and write, how far could I have gone?”
Victoria has a husband, but he’s often drunk and claims he has another family. Her daughters are unemployed and uninterested in working. They live from what their mother earns picking garbage.
“The mornings I find a lot to recycle I’m happy, but many times I search and don’t find anything, and go home with an empty bag.”
The best thing she ever found was 50 dollars in the garbage, and although she competes with dogs, drug addicts and gang members, she never had a serious problem in the early morning. She dreams of returning someday to Ayacucho, but thinks that she’ll never save enough for the trip.
We went together to sell all the items she accumulated over a month – several kilos of plastic bottles, scrap iron, cans and paper. All that brought in 78 soles (30 dollars). I asked her what she would do with that money and she explained that she was saving for an operation for a detached uterus she likely got from giving birth to all of her children alone, with no doctor, no nurse, no help from anyone. She cut the umbilical cords herself. The money is to pay for donated blood. She’s on a waiting list at a public hospital.
Sighing, she said, “I want to be healthy to live happy.” She hopes that after the operation she won’t have to pick garbage anymore, and can find another job. Her daughters say they will work, but I see serious doubt on her face.
Disclose Detailed Information About Health, Food SafetyMarch 9, 2012In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster the Japanese government struggled to respond, as any government would in such a crisis. But one year later Fukushima residents have a right to know if the food they are eating is safe and if their children continue to be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation.Kanae Doi, Japan director
(Tokyo) – Many residents of Fukushima prefecture still lack basic information and clear answers about the level of radiation in their food and environment, Human Rights Watch said today, releasing a slide show of individuals affected by the Fukushima nuclear plant explosion in advance of the one-year anniversary on March 11, 2012.
Although the explosion at the Daiichi plant is considered the most severe radiation crisis worldwide since Chernobyl, many residents of Fukushima prefecture report that they have not been able to have their children tested for radiation exposure. They also told Human Rights Watch that the government provides contradictory information about the impact of radiation on human health.
“In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster the Japanese government struggled to respond, as any government would in such a crisis,” said Kanae Doi, Japan director at Human Rights Watch. “But one year later Fukushima residents have a right to know if the food they are eating is safe and if their children continue to be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation.”
Human Rights Watch conducted interviews with individuals in four cities around the mandatory evacuation zone, looking at their access to healthcare and information, living conditions, and impact on their livelihood. Human Rights Watch also took portraits of individuals presented as a slide show paired with their testimony. Many of those portrayed were struggling to access information about the health of their children, and the safety of the food and water supply.
One father told Human Rights Watch, “When I think about my children, I want to get these tests over with as soon as possible so that I can tell them they are fine and healthy, but there’s only so much one person can do on his own. I just wish the authorities would act decisively.”
The 9.0 level earthquake struck on March 11, 2011, off the coast of northeastern Japan and created a tsunami that traveled 10 kilometers inland. The tsunami cut electrical power to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and flooded rooms containing emergency backup generators, leading to the overheating of reactors. A meltdown of three reactors led to the release of radiation into the surrounding community.
The Japanese government created a 20-kilometer mandatory evacuation zone and urged residents of an additional zone where radiation had been measured at levels of 20 mSv/year or more to evacuate as well. Although the government announced that all areas outside of the evacuation zone were safe, officials in Tokyo have documented elevated levels of cesium-137 more than 200 km from the plant that were equal to those within the 20 km exclusion zone.
A particular source of concern for families living in Fukushima prefecture is food safety. The prefecture government has assured residents that food is tested before it is brought to markets. But the government has yet to set up a systematic process for measuring radiation levels in food from the area and communicating the results to the public, Human Rights Watch said.
Fukushima residents interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that citizens have begun to conduct their own radiation testing.
“Neither the central government nor the prefecturalgovernment is giving people enough information to be able to understand the risks that they face,” Doi said. “On the one hand the government will announce that tap water is safe for everyone to drink, and on the other it will suggest that children drink only bottled water. Parents can’t get a clear answer on what the level of risk really is.”
Parents told Human Rights Watch that although many schools provide radiation monitors to measure ongoing exposure, it has been very hard to get health tests for their children to determine past exposure. The prefecture government has announced plans to offer thyroid gland tests for 360,000 prefectural residents ages 18 and under, but the details of how the testing will be implemented across the prefecture are still unclear. In lieu of developing a plan to test all children for radiation, the government sent out health questionnaires to Fukushima prefecture residents asking questions about their activities after the earthquake to determine the level of risk for each child. The ability of parents to recall meals and specific actions that took place months earlier, and the validity of these reports, is questionable, Human Rights Watch said.
Plans to decontaminate affected zones are estimated to cost 1 trillion yen (US$13 billion), but the government has not created a detailedplan to show where, when, and how decontamination will take place. These steps have been seen as inadequate by many Fukushima residents, who are also asking for compensation for lost homes and livelihoods, and for damage to their health.
Parents are demanding a more straightforward method of assessing the effects of radiation exposure on their children’s health, starting with actual health checks, like urine and whole body counts, which will provide clear information on levels of exposure.
Japan is party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Both treaties obligate Japan to protect the health of its children, to provide health information, and to ensure access to healthcare. Under international law, while the delivery of healthcare may be dependent upon available resources, health information may not be arbitrarily censored or withheld.
“The government of Japan should put the health and safety of children at its top priority. Yet the details of its current plans for cleanup and health testing are never adequately explained to concerned residents,” Doi said. “Greater accountability and transparency are needed to restore trust and faith in the government, and the government should start by providing clearer information on past and on-going health risks.”
Testimony from individuals interviewed
“Radiation tests at private facilities cost a lot and I was told they have a waiting list of 200 to 300 appointments already, so I have no idea when my children will be able to get these tests done. When I think about my children, I want to get these tests over with as soon as possible so that I can tell them they are fine and healthy, but there’s only so much one person can do on his own…. I’m most worried about the future of my daughters.”
–A father of twin daughters aged 12 whose home in Koriyama City is approximately 60 km away from the Fukushima Daiichi plant
“Some mothers decided to move away, others moved and came back, and others decided to stay in Fukushima. Whatever decision they make, no one is sure their choice is the right one. Some people said, “Are you prepared to stay and live in Fukushima, at the risk of your health?” To be honest, I do not know. I do not know whether my decision is the right one. I cannot believe any information anymore.”
– A mother of a 5-year-old boy who lives in Fukushima City, approximately 60 km away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant
“People are not getting enough information at all. Local newspapers frequently accept whatever the prefecture says on faith. National newspapers are sending out information, but they don't really reach the local people. There is a lot of unreliable information on the Internet.”
– A doctor at a hospital in Minami Soma City, approximately 30 km away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant
Design a space plaque and win an HP Z1 and a copy of Avid Studio
40 years ago, Nasa launched its Pioneer space probe. Attached to it was a gold plaque featuring information about Earth and humanity just in case it was found by intelligent life-forms from another planetary system. Wired.co.uk is inviting designers, artists and scribblers to create a modern interpretation of that plaque for a chance to win an HP Z1 workstation and a copy of Avid Studio.
The plaque should represent human life on Earth in 2012. It should provide a visual snapshot that would help extra-terrestrial life forms understand what human beings look like and what wonders they could expect to find should they stumble upon Earth. It can be serious or silly, realistic or impressionistic.
How to enter
1) Read about the original Pioneer plaque here
2) Come up with a design for a modern plaque that you think would best represents humanity and Earth to extra-terrestrial intelligent life forms. Make sure it is landscape and at an aspect ratio of 1.5:1.
3) Send in your design as a JPEG or PNG by midnight on Monday 12 March to wiredcompetitions [at] gmail [dot] com
4) The best entries will be shortlisted and posted onto Wired.co.uk for voting by Friday 16 March
5) The shortlist will be open to public vote until 30 March
6) The winner will be announced on 2 April
HP's Z1 is the World's First 27-inch All-in-One Workstation, combining the performance of a workstation with the good looks of an all-in-one to meet the most demanding visualization and computing needs. The Z1's 27-inch white LED diagonal display supports more than 1 billion colours and snaps open to let you easily swap out parts and make upgrades.
The soon-to-be-launched workstation is generously equipped with quad-core Intel Xeon processors, huge amounts of storage and memory to give you all the space you should ever need. With a wireless keyboard, mouse and HD camera the Z1 is a must have for anyone wanting to keep up with the latest technology.
Avid Studio is a piece of consumer video creation and editing software that lets hobbying videographers and editing enthusiasts transform their videos, photos and audio files into rich, multimedia experiences. This high-performance yet easy-to-use editing solution delivers powerful media editing features, stabilisation technology, and interface functionality leveraged from Avid Media Composer -- the software used by the majority of Oscar-winning film editors in the past two decades.
Terms & Conditions
Terms of entry for this competition can be found on Wired.co.uk's Competition Terms & Conditions page.
By Alejandro Acosta
The first time I’d heard of the “Vampire Woman” was on a TV show and honestly, I didn’t give much thought to the woman who had 90 per cent of her body tattooed and modified with subcutaneous implants.
But then I was introduced to Maria Jose Cristerna in 2011 at a Body Suspension event by her manager Pepe where she was suspended with hooks placed in her upper back.
Her tattooed skin, body piercings and transformations make her look stunning, even to a person familiar with extreme body modifications. She is famous and a regular on television shows and events.
A while later I was assigned to do a story on Maria Jose, focusing more on her personal and daily life. So I asked her and she agreed to let me accompany her for a while in her life as a woman, mother, artist and friend. We ended up working together for almost a month without a set schedule. She is very busy and travels often, but during that time spent together I got to know details of her life, worthy of telling and listening to.
The simplest thing that might involve going out, like taking out the garbage or going to the farmer’s market, can become quite an ordeal. She never goes anywhere unnoticed; people ask her continuously if she really is the “Vampire Woman”. She becomes the center of attention be it in a supermarket or in a concert. She seldom picks up her kids from school herself because she is immediately accosted by crowds of parents and students. She tells me with a big laugh that her “friends and family jokingly refuse to go to the movies with her because people will come up non-stop asking for autographs or to have their picture taken with her and there is no way to enjoy a movie like that….”
She is kind and very patient with everybody but she prefers the intimacy and comfort of her home in her daily routine. Maria spends time with her four children from a previous marriage. She says that sometimes it’s hard to deal with teenagers, yet she manages to talk with them, be aware of their problems, assist them with their homework, go for strolls or eat out and her children respond with a deep sense of admiration. “I’m a traditional woman who likes to look after her family.”
Whatever time off she has, she dedicates to creating her art. She sews her clothes, does paintings and sculptures and in almost all of her pieces she includes painted eyes “They are what surrounds me, they are the others, and it’s also me looking at difficult passages of my life, not to forget that behind my peace as a woman is a past that, though less now, hurts.”
Maria is friendly, polite, and quiet. She is trained as a lawyer in a conservative society like Guadalajara. Women in her neighborhood respect her and ask her for advice. She is a lecturer in women’s groups and they share their concerns with her.
“My daughter wants a tattoo Maria, please talk to her”’, “I have a daughter who is addicted to drugs, I don’t know what to do Maria, please help me” or “My husband beats me Maria, I’m so tired.”
She knows about these problems, having gone through them herself. She lived for 10 years with an abusive and drug addicted husband until she found the courage to take their four children and leave him.
Mexico has a General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence but it is still difficult for women to speak out as they might face an unsympathetic justice system in a country where violence against women is common, so Maria takes advantage of her position in the media, channeling to authorities the problems these women are going through.
Maria is still a little suspicious, she knows the world is not the wonderful place, “I have a lot of stars tattooed on my face as a tribute to my late mother. She always told me to look up to the stars if I had problems, and that she would be there to help me.”
David is Maria’s partner now; he wears dark clothes and his hair long, an old-style rocker with a big smile and even bigger heart. Maria’s children call him Daddy and he seems to enjoy it. They have been together for 10 years and he takes care that things at home run smoothly when she has to travel.
Maria, David, the kids and friends share a taste for heavy metal music. Her eldest daughter is about to celebrate her 15th birthday, an important date for Latin American girls as it marks their “coming-out” in society, and has asked her mother for a ticket to a Black Sabbath concert.
Maria looks at the future with caution; she is expanding her business and has opened a new tattoo parlor barely a month ago that also features a boutique offering Goth clothes and accessories. She has taught David to tattoo so he can tend to clients and take care of the store while she is traveling and attending other engagements related to her persona as “Vampire Woman”. Although she prefers to be identified as the Jaguar Woman, in concordance with her Mexican roots.
Maria’s life has changed now, she speaks of her travels to other countries “If I had been told that this would happen one day, I would have not believed it.” Her past now shows mostly in her paintings.
By Bobby Yip and Cheryl Ravelo
DATELINE: HONG KONG
Like most of the domestic helpers from the Philippines, Imelda “Susan” Famadula smiles a lot. She has been working in Hong Kong for 15 years, waking early in the morning, dropping the kids off at school, going to the market, bringing the kids back, all along taking care of various household tasks which last until midnight, and for six days a week.
Imelda loves Sunday. She can meet friends in the city’s financial Central district, where bankers and office workers make way for domestic helpers. Imelda also goes to church, but most importantly, she is free to meet her family – via the Internet.
Every month she sends nearly all of her salary back to the Philippines for her family. Only once every two years does she manage to save enough to travel back to her hometown. “I may not go back this year, second year in a row, as my kid needs more money while studying in the university”, she said, still smiling.
Internet is her lifeline, connecting her soul with those she feeds thousands of miles away.
In Hong Kong, she has two boys to take care of. When she started working for her current family eight years ago, they hadn’t even been born yet.
“They like me very much.” The work makes her happy, keeps her busy, and helps her mind from straying to homesickness.
Foreign domestic helpers make up around three percent of Hong Kong’s population. Nearly half of those are from the Philippines. There are many other Imeldas here, helping to keep the city running. For them, there is as much sweating as smiling.
As International Women’s Day neared, I was assigned to look for a family in the Philippines living off the remittances of a female member of the family. With 4,000 Filipinos leaving everyday to work abroad, I thought it would be easy to find my subject. I was wrong.
I solicited help from my friends and contacts from different organizations caring for overseas Filipino workers. I also surfed Facebook and Twitter and even assigned my younger cousins, nieces and nephews to look for classmates whose mother worked as domestic help abroad. But most of the families we found, if not separated, were broken.
After weeks of searching, I found my subject in the province of Pangasinan, located about 98 miles north of Manila
The Famadulan’s are a family of five. Susan, the mother, has been working in Hong Kong since 1997. Erly, the father, on the other hand, has been working in their town as a carpenter, electrician, and driver to help provide for their three children, Raymund, Reliza and Dan Mark.
I traveled early in the morning to avoid traffic. After more than 3 hours, I arrived at their two-storey unfinished stone house. In between shoots, Erly talked about their life, he recounted that back in the 1990’s they were just renting a small house made of wood. He did not have a permanent job back then, so he tried applying to work abroad but it was Susan who had the opportunity. Helped by her cousin, Susan accepted a job as a domestic helper. Their youngest, Dan Mark, was only two years old when she left.
While Susan raises her employer’s children, her own children can only see her through photos or read about her through letters. As she cooks, irons and cleans in her employer’s house abroad, her children grow up doing it for themselves. But despite these shortcomings, she makes up for it by calling or chatting online as much as possible and spends holidays at home every two years – if the savings permit, or if there’s a special occasion like a graduation.
Browsing through their albums, I noticed there was not a single family photo. Most of them were of Susan showing her activities in Hong Kong. With Susan’s absence, her family’s daily lives vary. They don’t eat together, nor do activities as a family. But the children help out in household chores and assist their father in his electrical work and sound system rental service.
The money sent home by Susan and the other 10 million overseas workers has not only added $20.12 billion into the economy last year, but also changed the life of their families. Susan’s monthly remittances allow her family to acquire much, like build a house, buy a jeepney and motorbike, start up the light and sound system rental service, pay household bills and most importantly, send her children to good schools.
After 15 years of sacrificing abroad, Susan’s eldest son is now a graduate computer technician, her daughter is in her second year of college studying Hotel and Restaurant Management, and her youngest is in high school. Susan may have missed a lot of birthdays and Christmases, but it’s a price she and other female overseas Filipino workers have made to give a comfortable life for her family and a better future for their children.
We got trouble.
Please note that posting date has been edited to keep this at the top of the page. Post written March 7, 2012. Updates follow below, more reading here.
I do not doubt for a second that those involved in KONY 2012 have great intentions, nor do I doubt for a second that Joseph Kony is a very evil man. But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the KONY 2012 campaign.
KONY 2012 is the product of a group called Invisible Children, a controversial activist group and not-for-profit. They’ve released 11 films, most with an accompanying bracelet colour (KONY 2012 is fittingly red), all of which focus on Joseph Kony. When we buy merch from them, when we link to their video, when we put up posters linking to their website, we support the organization. I don’t think that’s a good thing, and I’m not alone.
Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This is far from ideal for an issue which arguably needs action and aid, not awareness, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they lack an external audit committee. But it goes way deeper than that.
The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. These books each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.
Still, the bulk of Invisible Children’s spending isn’t on supporting African militias, but on awareness and filmmaking. Which can be great, except that Foreign Affairs has claimed that Invisible Children (among others) “manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.” He’s certainly evil, but exaggeration and manipulation to capture the public eye is unproductive, unprofessional and dishonest.
As Chris Blattman, a political scientist at Yale, writes on the topic of IC’s programming, “There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. […] It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming.”
Still, Kony’s a bad guy, and he’s been around a while. Which is why the US has been involved in stopping him for years. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent multiple missions to capture or kill Kony over the years. And they’ve failed time and time again, each provoking a ferocious response and increased retaliative slaughter. The issue with taking out a man who uses a child army is that his bodyguards are children. Any effort to capture or kill him will almost certainly result in many children’s deaths, an impact that needs to be minimized as much as possible. Each attempt brings more retaliation. And yet Invisible Children supports military intervention. Kony has been involved in peace talks in the past, which have fallen through. But Invisible Children is now focusing on military intervention.
Military intervention may or may not be the right idea, but people supporting KONY 2012 probably don’t realize they’re supporting the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away. If people know this and still support Invisible Children because they feel it’s the best solution based on their knowledge and research, I have no issue with that. But I don’t think most people are in that position, and that’s a problem.
Is awareness good? Yes. But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture, as hard as that is to swallow. Giving your money and public support to Invisible Children so they can spend it on supporting ill-advised violent intervention and movie #12 isn’t helping. Do I have a better answer? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it’s something. Something isn’t always better than nothing. Sometimes it’s worse.
If you want to write to your Member of Parliament or your Senator or the President or the Prime Minister, by all means, go ahead. If you want to post about Joseph Kony’s crimes on Facebook, go ahead. But let’s keep it about Joseph Kony, not KONY 2012.
~ Grant Oyston
Grant Oyston is a sociology and political science student at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Please do not email me except to provide alternative causes, or with media requests, as I am no longer able to read emails (which I’m receiving at a pace too rapid to keep up with).
EDIT: Please read Invisible Children’s response here.
08 3 / 2012
I’m not alone in my criticism. Many others have shared their concerns, and I am pleased to see an explosion in the amount of ongoing discussion. A brief reading list for anyone who wants to understand what’s going on:
Joseph Kony and Crowdsourced Intervention - Jack McDonald, Kings of War - McDonald, of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, writes about the challenges of cooperation between states in Central Africa, and about what role public opinion should have in conflict management and military affairs.
Invisible Children founders posing with guns: an interview with the photographer – Elizabeth Flock, Washington Post – An interview with the woman who took the controversial photo of the founders of IC holding guns with the SPLA. Also quotes IC’s response to this photo.
Joseph Kony is not in Uganda (and other complicated things) – Michael Wilkerson, Foreign Policy – Wilkerson is a PhD candidate who has, importantly, lived and worked in Uganda. He’s concerned about the contents of the KONY 2012 film.
Stop #Kony2012. Invisible Children’s campaign of infamy – Angelo Opi-aiya Izama – Izama is a Ugandan journalist who says that to “call the campaign a misrepresentation is an understatement” and that the campaign is “disempowering” to African voices.
Kony2012; My response to Invisible Children’s campaign – Rosebell Kagumire – Kagumire is an award-winning Ugandan journalist and holds a Masters in Media, Peace and Conflict Studies from the University for Peace. In her video, she says: “The war is much more complex than one man called Joseph Kony.”
Joseph Kony 2012: growing outrage in Uganda over film – Mike Pflanz, The Telegraph – Pflanz sums up the Ugandan concerns about the campaign. He quotes Fred Opolot, spokesman for the Ugandan government, expressing the government’s concerns about the campaign.
Questions We Can Ask About Kony 2012 - Meg Nanson – I’m trying to keep my links to major publications, well-known journalists, and blogs written by those with expertise in the issues, but I feel that this is worth reading. Nanson is the founder of an NGO, and although her work is not linked to Africa, this post lists important questions that I’d encourage you to consider.
I’ll end with a long-ish quote from an interview Polly Curtis of the Guardian did with Arthur Larok, Action Aid’s director in Uganda:
“Many NGOs and the government, especially local government in the north, are about rebuilding and securing lives for children, in education, sanitation, health and livelihoods. International campaigning that doesn’t support this agenda is not so useful at this point. We have moved beyond that.
“There are conflicts in the north – several small conflicts over natural resources. Land is the major issue: after many years of displacement, there is quite a bit of land-related conflict.
“But many organisations and governments are focusing on this. We need to secure social stability, health and education. These are the priorities. This is what we’re trying to focus on. Poverty is high compared to the rest of the country. That’s the practical issue that needs to be addressed.
“I don’t think this is the best way. It might be an appeal that makes sense in America. But there are more fundamental challenges. Kony has been around for 25 years and over. I don’t think in the north at the moment that is really what is most important. It might be best on the internet and the like but, at the end of the day, there are more pressing things to deal with. If the Americans had wanted to arrest him, they would have done that a long time ago.
“At the moment I think the work of Invisible Children is about appealing to people’s emotions. I think that time has passed. Their reputation in the country is something that can be debatable. There is a strong argument generally about NGOs and their work in the north.
“The video would have been appealing in the last decade. Now we just need support for the recovery rather than all this international attention on this one point. Getting the facts right is most important for the international media. That would help the situation as it is.”
Permalink 474 notes
07 3 / 2012
Your numbers are wrong.
I’m talking about the amount of money that Invisible Children spends on active aid, as opposed to advocacy. I understand that their mission is primarily advocacy – my question is whether this is what’s best at this part of the conflict.
They’re working on the CharityNavigator score
Great! I think Invisible Children does lots of great work. I wouldn’t know about any of this if it weren’t for them. All I want you to do is decide if an organization that focuses on filmmaking and advocacy is the best way to end the conflict.
They’re doing a good thing at their heart.
I don’t know, and I think you should think about that too. Invisible Children often talks about getting rid of Kony, but doesn’t talk about its implications or how it supports doing that. Killing one man isn’t likely to quash the entire organization, nor will it help his past victims. Certainly the world would be better off with him captured or killed, but what is Invisible Children doing to this end? It professes to speak against violence but uses fiery rhetoric like “STOP AT NOTHING.” KONY 2012 is trying to raise awareness of a war criminal, but what is this going to achieve? It’s similar with breast cancer – when we’re all aware, then what? This is film #11.
Please do not email me and expect me to read it. At this point, it’s not possible – I receive hundreds of emails each hour and I have many other commitments in my life as a full-time student.
Permalink 323 notes
07 3 / 2012
What was my intent?
When I wrote this, there was almost no ongoing discussion of KONY 2012.
I am not an expert - there are flaws in my rhetoric, and I appreciate people taking the time to find them, just as there are flaws in Invisible Children’s. I’m a second-year Political Science student, not an expert, and the audience for this post was originally a group of approximately 30 friends whom it was emailed to originally. It has now received well over a million hits in less than 24 hours. This was not my intent.
The goal of writing it was to create dialogue. Given that the LRA is arguably on the decline, I wondered if spending hundreds of thousands on a polished awareness campaign was the best option, and if this money could be better spent in direct aid to victims, of whom there are many.
Is Kony fundamentally bad, and is IC fundamentally good? Yes, absolutely. Should you support IC? If you want to, sure. Personally, I feel that other organizations focused on active aid are more productive at this stage in the conflict, but that’s your decision. I just want you to talk about it. I urge you to meet with other concerned people in your community to discuss some of the articles I link to in my article and the KONY 2012 video and decide what you want to do. Thank you.
~ Grant Oyston
Please do not anticipate my being able to read your emails at this stage – I am now receiving hundreds of emails an hour, and cannot read them all. If you would like to talk about anything non-urgent, I respectfully ask that you email me in approximately a week.
Permalink 195 notes
07 3 / 2012
Got a better idea?
A lot of people are bemoaning the perceived negative tone of my article, which wasn’t necessarily my intent. The article below is written to create discourse on issues I feel are important, and to a degree I am playing devil’s advocate.
People are looking at alternative ways to support Central Africa and those impacted more directly, with less focus on awareness and more on action. One preliminary list of charities comes from the Daily What:
Each operates in central Africa.
Iceland's former prime minister will appear in court to answer charges over his role in the 2008 financial crisis.
Geir Haarde became a symbol of the get-rich bubble for Icelanders, many of whom lost their jobs and homes after the country's main commercial bank collapsed, sending inflation soaring and its currency into a nosedive. Haarde is accused of negligence in failing to prevent the financial implosion from which the island country is still struggling to emerge.
Haarde's trial – the culmination of a long fight by the politician to avoid prosecution – marks a new chapter in the aftermath of the meltdown: accountability. The former prime minister has rejected the charges, calling them "political persecution" and insisting he will be vindicated when he appears at the Landsdómur, a special court convened for the first time in Iceland's history to try him.
Legal experts say he has a strong chance of beating the charges, because of the strength of his legal team, growing sympathy for a politician alone in shouldering blame, and because the court's structure – laid out in 1905 – is flawed because it allows lawmakers, not lawyers, to press charges.
In the immediate aftermath of the crisis, as unemployment and inflation skyrocketed, many sought to apportion blame for the havoc across the 330,000-strong nation. A wave of public protests forced Haarde out of government in 2009.
Some have argued that Iceland's financial meltdown was tied to the global crisis, and that the government could not have predicted or prevented it. But a parliament-commissioned report put much of the blame on Haarde and his government, saying that officials "lacked both the power and the courage to set reasonable limits to the financial system".
It was up to lawmakers whether to indict those officials. After heated debate, Haarde was referred to the special court. Legal experts say such a vote makes the road ahead particularly rocky.
"This whole scenario has demonstrated that we need to change the system," said Robert Spano, law professor at the University of Iceland.
Politicians are not trained in determining if there is an adequate basis for prosecution, said Spano. The financial crisis – which he likened to "a national natural disaster created by humans" had emotional connotations for Icelanders and politicians alike, which could have affected the vote, Spano added.
The vote exposed a deep divide among Icelandic lawmakers. Ultimately, Parliament voted 33-30 to pursue charges again Haarde, but not against three other members of his government.
Haarde pleaded not guilty and has sought to have all charges dismissed, calling the proceedings "preposterous". He has insisted Icelanders' interests were his "guiding light" and blamed the banks for the crisis, saying government officials and regulatory authorities tried their best to prevent the crisis and that his "conscience is clear".
A last ditch attempt by Haarde's independence party to have the charges dropped was rejected last week in Parliament and the case was given the green light to move forward Monday.
Robert Wade, a professor of political economy at the London School of Economics, argued for "accountability at the top of the system".
"In the public mood, there's a fair bit of sympathy that it is somehow unfair to put Haarde on trial on his own," Wade said, noting that he expects Haarde to beat the charges. "But it's better that somebody go on trial than nobody, because there was very clear ministerial irresponsibility."
The special court will consist of 15 members – five supreme court justices, a district court president, a constitutional law professor and eight people chosen by parliament. The court was founded to deal with criminal charges against Icelandic government ministers.
Kasese’s stolen angels - In2EastAfrica - East African news, Headlines, Business, Tourism, Sports, Health, Entertainment, Education
Sarah Biira is a 19-year-old secondary school student. Clad in a blue skirt and white blouse, she heads to Maliba Secondary School in Kasese District.
However beyond the self-assured smile on Biira’s face, is a story that not many girls in Kasese are able to overcome.
Biira was married off when she was only 13-years-old. “I was in Senior Two when I became pregnant, the man was 25-years-old,” Biira narrates.
“My parents decided since I was pregnant, they would not take care of me. When I asked them where they expected me to go, they said “go look for that man who is responsible”.
Biira was lucky the man, a primary school teacher, accepted responsibility. She went on to live with him and her in-laws in one house where she experienced violence.
“He wanted to pay my father a fine but my parents refused his money saying it was not right.”
In many cases in Kasese, when a girl is defiled, the man responsible pays a fine that is supposed to repay the money ‘wasted’ on the impregnated teenager. Most often after the fine, the girls are married off no matter what age.
Biira’s parents gave her husband one condition, to take her back to school. “They said take your money and take your woman but we want her back in school.”
Biira’s husband agreed to pay her school fees but only when she had given birth to a second child because “he said he wasn’t sure I would return to him after going through school.”
Biira was determined to go back to school. “I told him if it meant having another child with him, I would but I needed to go to school.”
So at 16, Biira had her second child and after that went back to school.
She has two sons who stay with their father and the first born, now six-years-old, also goes to school.
However Biira’s life is a struggle and many times her parents pay the bigger part of the fees.
She lives in a hostel and only sees her husband and children during holidays.
“I am not the only girl who has children at school, we are many but we face a lot of stigma both at school and from the community,” she says.
But the teenager says she knows what difference education will make to her and the children and that stigma will not deter her.
According to new study by Isis-Women’s International Cross Cultural Exchange (Isis-WICCE), many girls in Kasese are married off between 12 and 17 years old.
The study, carried out in Bukonzo East and Busongora North, involved 304 respondents (291 girls and 13 boys).
The children included those who were married, those that had divorced and those who had fled their marriages and gone back to school.
The age of most of the men/boys whom the girls were married off to, ranged from 15 to 80 years.
In another case of teenage motherhood, Jovia, became pregnant in Primary Six and when she was married by the man, she discovered that he was married to two other young girls.
Parents of the girls later reported the case to the police and the man was imprisoned for three months.
His parents had to sell off a half -acre piece of land they had given him to get him out of prison.
However, after his release, the man fled to Kampala and abandoned the three teenage mothers, who are now living with their in-laws.
“This is sexual abuse and it is a setback for economic growth. This kind of a population where a child of 12 is a mother, can no longer be accepted. We must face the culture and ensure women’s rights are respected,” says former Kasese Woman MP Loyce Bwambale.
Police, LCs faulted
Juliet Were, Isis-WICCE lead researcher, says defilement in Kasese has been normalised with the help of the police.
“The police share the fines from offenders with parents and in one case we found the LC1 of the area had married a 14-year-old girl and yet these are institutions that should be protecting rights of girls.”
Ms Were says early marriages coupled with marginalisation of the area, have led to high levels of poverty.
“The Girl child is being used as a form of currency in these areas where four decades of war have left many impoverished,” she adds.
Ms Were says several girls in these marriages reported high rate of violence with and forcible sexual intercourse leading.
“This has a big impact on how Kasese can recover the from effects war.”
Kasese has faced various conflicts with the most recent being the Allied Democratic Forces rebellion from 1986 to 2003.
Despite the loss of lives, property and livelihood, Kasese has seen no proper recovery programmes, either from government or development agencies.
It was just last year that government came up with the Luweero-Rwenzori Development Plan that aims to spend £120 million within five years to support households and ensure social service delivery.
Lack of funds
Ms Bwambale, who is now the first premier in the Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu Kingdom, said lack of funds to implement various policies, has kept the region undeveloped and thus making practices like child marriages difficult to stamp out.
She says the Kingdom would use the study to campaign against child marriages by availing information to families and stakeholders.
Mr Were says: “Early marriage is a reality and a crisis that calls for immediate action and responsive mechanism.”
Unwanted pregnancy: A study by Isis-WICCE, indicates that the main cause of teenage marriages in Kasese were early, unwanted pregnancy with Bukonzo East at 38 per cent and 22.4 per cent in Busongora North.
Poverty: Several girls also stated that they had been forced to marry because their parents were unable to pay school fees.
Bride wealth: Most of the weddings were traditional and in more than 40 per cent of the marriages, dowry had been paid. Paying a fine, according to the research, was the most common way of settling defilement and early marriage issues.
Family planning: Many of the girls interviewed had no access to family planning or information.
Delayed justice: Parents interviewed cited delayed justice in many cases of defilement as the reason they preferred to take fines and marry off their pregnant teenage daughters.
By ROSEBELL KAGUMIRE, Daily Monitor
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The viral video campaign that put the name “Joseph Kony” atop Google searches and Twitter trends has stirred up frustration in Uganda, where the crimes of the infamous guerrilla leader are nothing new.
"The war is much more complex than just one man called Joseph Kony," Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire argues in the YouTube video above, saying the campaign gives a dated picture of Uganda. She added, "This is another video where I see an outsider trying to be a hero, rescuing African children."
Some Ugandans complained that with Kony out of the country, problems like nodding disease were far more important than capturing the militia leader. Others were suspicious of the aims of the San Diego-based nonprofit Invisible Children that put out the wildly popular video.
Here are some more Ugandan takes on the campaign by Invisible Children to stop Kony:
Angelo Izama, journalist and founder of the Fanaka Kwawote think tank based in Kampala: "The Kony 2012 campaign will primarily succeed in making Invisible Children, not Joseph Kony, more famous. It will also make many, including P.Diddy, feel like they have contributed some good to his capture. For many in the conflict prevention community, including those who worry about the further militarization of Central Africa, this campaign is just another bad solution to a more difficult problem."
TMS Ruge, co-founder of online platform Project Diaspora: "This IC campaign is a perfect example of how fund-sucking NGO’s survive. “Raising awareness” (as vapid an exercise as it is) on the level that IC does, costs money. Loads and loads of money. Someone has to pay for the executive staff, fancy offices, and well, that 30-minute grand-savior, self-crowning exercise in ego stroking — in HD — wasn’t free. In all this kerfuffle, I am afraid everyone is missing the true aim of IC’s brilliant marketing strategy. They are not selling justice, democracy or restoration of anyone’s dignity. This is a self-aware machine that must continually find a reason to be relevant."
Julian Mwine, communications consultant: "Kony is a terrible man, everyone knows that. But it doesn’t go beyond raising the issue, something that has been around for a really long time. ... Whatever intervention is suggested, there needs to be more focus on keeping the army accountable. To monitor their activities. Armies from all these three countries have their own issues. If you are not watched or held accountable, you’re making a situation that is already bad worse."
Fred Opolot, Ugandan government spokesman, quoted in the Telegraph: “It is totally misleading to suggest that the war is still in Uganda. I suspect that if that’s the impression they are making, they are doing it only to garner increasing financial resources for their own agenda.”
Musa Okwonga, British-born writer of Ugandan descent, blogging in the Independent: "[T]hough President [Yoweri] Museveni must be integral to any solution to this problem, I didn’t hear him mentioned once in the 30-minute video. I thought that this was a crucial omission. Invisible Children asked viewers to seek the engagement of American policymakers and celebrities, but -- and this is a major red flag -- it didn’t introduce them to the many Northern Ugandans already doing fantastic work both in their local communities and in the diaspora. It didn’t ask its viewers to seek diplomatic pressure on President Museveni’s administration."Stephen Obeli, poet, via Twitter: [View the story "New Story" on Storify] Alan Kasujja, radio host, via Twitter: [View the story "New Story" on Storify] John Kimbe, radio host, via Twitter: [View the story "New Story" on Storify] Timothy Kalyegira, journalist, via Twitter: [View the story "New Story" on Storify] Sarah Akelly, student and blogger, via Twitter: [View the story "New Story" on Storify]
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Video: Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire responds to the Kony 2012 campaign. Credit: YouTube
A video gaining international attention is trying to use the power of the Internet to stop Joseph Kony, the head of a small but infamous militia that has terrorized northern Uganda with killings, kidnappings, mutilations and torture.
The unusual and controversial new campaign spotlights the horrors inflicted by the Lord's Resistance Army, a militia that for years has been notorious for abducting children to fight as soldiers and suffer as sex slaves, as well as for mutilating its victims.
But the campaign has also spurred a debate about whether the nonprofit behind the effort and its empowering tools of social media -- Twitter, YouTube and Facebook -- are dangerously oversimplifying the dilemma.
The video campaign was launched this week by Invisible Children Inc., a San Diego-based nonprofit that produced a half-hour documentary that aims to ramp up international pressure to arrest Kony. The militia leader is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of committing war crimes.
Kony has been pursued by the United States, which launched a military mission in Uganda last year to stop him and other Lord's Resistance Army leaders. U.S. officials said the brutal militia had pushed at least 400,000 people out of their homes. Yet Kony has so far remained on the loose.The campaign argues that Kony must be made so famous that global pressure will stay on for the U.S. to continue its quest, helping governments in the region to track him down. It plans to paper cities with Kony posters on April 20, hoping to making the guerrilla leader a household name.
"If the world knows who Joseph Kony is, it will unite to stop him," says the Invisible Children website, which seeks donations and urges visitors to sign a petition calling for Kony to be brought to justice
The video quickly went viral; more than 32 million people had watched it on YouTube by Thursday morning. The phrase #stopkony is trending on Twitter as celebrities such as Rihanna and Zooey Deschanel urge their online followers to watch the video.
But the campaign also spurred sharp criticism of Invisible Children and its tactics. The group has been criticized for downplaying government abuses under Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, and accused of commercializing the conflict to profit from it. Its spending and overhead also have come under fire.
The film calls Kony "the bad guy," writer Musa Okwonga blogged in the Independent, but doesn't say "that when a bad guy like Kony is running riot for years on end, raping and slashing and seizing and shooting, then there is most likely another host of bad guys out there letting him get on with it."
The fear is that in the rush to capture Kony, the problems with Museveni could be overlooked or exacerbated. Opposition leaders have argued in the past that the threat from the militias has helped Museveni keep Western support. Uganda has been somewhat shielded from criticism of its human rights abuses because the U.S. relies on its army, Human Rights Watch recently wrote.
"Stopping Kony won't change any of these things, and if more hardware and money flow to Museveni's military, Invisible Children's campaign may even worsen some problems," freelance journalist Michael Wilkerson blogged for Foreign Policy, calling the campaign simplistic and misleading.
Invisible Children has taken on the criticism in a statement on its website, laying out its financial statements and philosophy. The nonprofit says that although it has focused on Kony, it doesn't defend human rights abuses perpetrated by the Ugandan government and isn't seeking war.
However, "the only feasible and proper way to stop Kony and protect the civilians he targets is to coordinate efforts with regional governments," the organization wrote.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Video: The Kony 2012 campaign video. Credit: Invisible Children / YouTube