Month: April 2013

Image Courtesy of USAID

Mobile Technology: The Future of International Development

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the World Wide Web. Over the past twenty years, internet technology has grown exponentially. In fact, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) predicts that by 2015, 50 percent of the world will have access to the internet. Today, internet technology not only incorporates desktop or laptop computers, but mobile networks as well. Driving mobile technology is the fact that, of the seven billion people in the world, approximately six billion are cell phone subscribers. In Latin America alone, the World Bank recently announced that the region has surpassed 100 percent mobile phone penetration, meaning there are currently 107 mobile phones for every 100 people. In recent years, mobile technology has grown to what we now know as “smart phones,” a mobile device that integrates various social media platforms, email, and applications. Unfortunately, smart phones are not quite as prevalent in developing countries as in the developed world. However, if history tells us anything, it is that smart phones will soon become the dominant mobile technology around the world. So what …

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India’s Outcasts: Dalits

Did you know that India has more slaves than all other countries have together? Did you know that more than 200 million people in India are traditionally regarded as untouchable and live in the shadow of the wealthy and high-technological society as India is today?  Did you know that every day, 1.3 million people in India are forced to clean human excrement with their bare hands? Dalit means beaten into pieces or smashed, and refers to those who fall outside any of the four castes of the Hindu caste system, and the Dalits are history’s longest standing oppressed people. This group of people designated as Dalits are denied the right to education and healthcare. In many areas in India, Dalits are denied to enter the police station, denied access to the national security system that is supposed to stand up, represent and help people in need. The socially and economically vulnerable situation Dalits are living in, put them in high risk of discrimination, dehumanization, degradation and violence every day. Also, Dalits are also at great risk …

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The Right to Quality Education: Katelyn Campbell’s Protest

Seventeen-year-old Katelyn Campbell just wants a quality education. She wants it for herself and she wants it for her peers. She recognizes that it is something that is her right along with the right to speak out against poor education. What she doesn’t want is to be threatened when she speaks up for her rights. She doesn’t want her future jeopardized because of it. She doesn’t want to have to sit through a misguided moral presentation that misinformed and slut-shamed her and her peers. But, this is exactly what happened when Katelyn protested against a recent abstinence-only speaker who spoke at an assembly at her high school in West Virginia. And, so her principal threatened to contact the college she had already been accepted to, Wellesley College (with an impressive list of outspoken female alumni), to inform them of her “bad behavior” and that she was a “backstabber.” It’s baffling why schools are even still teaching abstinence-only programs, given that they have been shown to have poorer outcomes (i.e. those who go through the program, …

Protecting girls and women at what cost

Anti-Rape Underwear in India, condoms with teeth in South Africa – protecting women and girls, but at what cost?

In the past couple of weeks, my social media feeds have been flooded with news about new “anti-rape underwear” that was developed by a group of engineering students in India to protect women from rape. Apparently, this underwear is capable of sending out 82 electric shocks when pressure sensors are activated by a rape attempt, and is also equipped with GPS and can send out an SMS to the local emergency number, as well as the victim’s family. This approach to prevent rape reminds me of the “female condom with teeth”, developed a couple of years ago by a doctor in South Africa. This device is essentially a condom that a woman inserts inside herself. Within the condom are jagged, sharp “teeth”, which will attach on a man’s penis during penetration in a very painful manner. Once the teeth have been lodged into the flesh, only a doctor can remove it – so not only does the man now have a condom with teeth stuck to his penis, but he can now also clearly be …

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I’M BEAUTIFUL AND I DON’T NEED YOU TO TELL ME THAT

Dove recently launched a new ad that complimented women on their natural beauty. “Women are more beautiful than they think” the ad said. Quite predictably, thousands of women updated their Facebook and Twitter statuses with “We are more beautiful than we think we are” and “Treasure yourself, you are beautiful.” What many read to be a flattering source of self-respect and realization of the self, can be seen as unmistakably condemning to the women race- a shamelessly shallow justification of beauty, I would argue. Are we really defined by our outer appearances? If you watch the ad, you will see that the experiment conducted by Dove in the ad involves a tall, blonde woman who doesn’t see herself as beautiful enough. People around her describe her to be more beautiful than she perceives herself. She leaves the room in tears, convinced that she is more beautiful than she imagines. A happy ending. Not really. It’s astounding how unquestioning and shallow women can sometimes be. Blogger Jazz Brice correctly points out in her blog (http://jazzylittledrops.tumblr.com/post/48118645174/why-doves-real-beauty-sketches-video-makes-me), that the ad …

Photo Credit: Toronto Star

Let’s Change Our Perspective

Among many undertakings, Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS) periodically trains volunteers to operate a sexual assault crisis hotline that is available 24 hours to victims of sexual assault in Connecticut. Volunteers are trained to understand the historical context of feminism, the intricacies and psychology of sexual assault, and basic counseling skills to assist callers in returning to a “pre-crisis” state. In addition to answering calls made to the hotline, volunteers may be required to meet victims at hospitals or police stations to provide support. The CONNSACS sexual assault crisis volunteers empower victims and provide information regarding short-term and long-term resources. CONNSACS consists of a coalition of various sexual assault crisis agencies located throughout Connecticut, whose mission is to “end sexual violence and ensure high quality, comprehensive, and culturally competent sexual assault victim services”(CONNSACS). Through community education such as primary prevention efforts, workshops and trainings, and victim assistance, and policy advocacy such as research, publications, and lobbying, CONNSACS works to ameliorate and end sexual violence (CONNSACS). CONNSACS’ overarching technique for preventing sexual violence is empowering …

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What WASH Means to Girls

I have the great honor of being an Auntie (they call me “TT”) to two precious children – Daniel and Lucy. I had the privilege of holding each of them when they were just hours old and being a part of their lives as they grow. I’ve also had the privilege of meeting and getting to know children in other countries, like Honduras and Ghana. I have seen the differences in the lives of those children and of my niece and nephew. I have seen the girls skipping school to carry 40 pounds of water on their heads. I have seen them vulnerable, searching for a place to go to the bathroom because there are no toilets. I have seen the girls and women who are sick from drinking contaminated water, unable to perform the plethora of daily tasks that are left to them. I can’t imagine my niece, Lucy, living in those conditions, and therefore I must imagine a better world where these girls do not have to either. Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) …

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America’s Dark Secret: Violence Against Natives

Recently, US President Obama signed a revised version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), adding protections for Native American women.  The new revisions seek to improve tribal jurisdiction by increasing tribal governments’ ability to govern and to bring perpetrators to justice. Not only are Native American women often the subject of domestic abuse and rape, but reports state that sexual predators travel to reservations with the specific intent to rape. Because the 1978 US Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for tribal courts to try non-Native Americans without Congress’ consent, sexual offenders are rarely brought to justice. In Minnesota, accounts of violence against women living in tribal communities increase during hunting season, as non-Native American perpetrators take advantage of immunity from prosecution. Lisa Brunner, an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in the Native American community, had this to say about sexual predators at Native American reservations: “I call it hunting – non-natives come here hunting. They know they can come into our lands and rape us with impunity because they know …

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Inspiring Nepali Women: Parijat

Written by Rajina, a former Women LEAD participant and intern. The woman I most respect and get inspired from is Parijat. Born with the original name Bishnu Kumari Waiba, she later changed to Parijat, the name of a flower. She was physically handicapped, but achieved greater things in life than other healthy people could. Being a woman in a highly male dominated society is itself a challenge, and it only gets harder when you are a pioneer. Getting out of the typical literature, she is one of the women who started portraying women’s sexual psychology through her writings. An author of a total of 21 published books, she didn’t have a tough childhood, but lost her mother when still young. After getting paralyzed at the age of 26, she lived with her sister, and never married. Although her life seems lonely, with few friends and family, she learned to live through her dreams, poems and stories. Her zeal and determination inspires me. She was in physical pain, which she depicted through most of her writings, …