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Tuesday
Feb142017

Remembrance is important

As I rang in the New Year in Canada over the holidays and observed the extra hoopla surrounding Canada’s 150th Birthday year, I have pondered how to situate the persistent problems of colonialism that exist in Canada, with Haiti’s history.

In 1492, when Christopher Columbus “discovered America”, he arrived on this beautiful island I have come to call home. The anchor of his ship, the Santa Maria, can be seen at the National Pantheon Museum in Port au Prince, which I visited with my mom when she was visiting in early January. Most startling about Columbus’ arrival on this island, is how quickly the island’s original Ayitians, the Taino peoples disappeared due to warfare, smallpox and other diseases. Terms such as wiped out, near extinction and disappearing peoples are used to describe these people. As I think back on the history courses I took, I realize how this fact was underemphasized when I was busy memorizing poems about the years that explorers arrived in the “new world”. An entire population was eliminated, and it disturbs me that prior to living on this island, I had given this fact very little thought. Our guide at the National Museum took a significant amount time to remember the Taino peoples, the first Ayitiens on this island.  

This remembrance is important, as it includes the Taino peoples in Haiti’s historic origin story. Last year in Ottawa, I attended a roundtable discussion led by Dr. Kathleen Mahoney, whose research highlights the importance of origin stories. As Canada celebrates 150 years, the narrative of two founding nations, England and France, continues to be our origin story. The First Nation groups that not only contributed to the founding of the country, but also were the first to occupy this territory, have been largely ignored in traditional history.

Therefore Canada’s 150th Birthday is an opportunity to reconsider what being Canadian means to us by revisiting this origin story. Artist Kent Monkman’s exhibit, Shame and Prejudice, shakes up the perceptions we have of being Canadian by juxtaposing First Nation images with images of Canadian historic events. Canada has a “darker history” that must be re-learned moving forward[1]. In the same vein, Haiti’s history should not be forgotten, not only of the disappeared Taino peoples, but of slavery, revolution, and liberty.

*   *   *

On another note, there is exciting news in Terrier Rouge. A group of women have taken part in jam training sessions through ISCA, and have launched the company “Onz Manman” meaning 11 mothers. They sell delicious jams in mango, papaya, grapefruit and pineapple flavours, sometimes adding rum to the jam. Before Christmas, their sales surpassed 1000 USD, and we are working hard to create a product that can be sold at hotels in Cap Haitien nearby. Take a look at this beautiful line-up of jams!


[1] http://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/shame-and-prejudice-art-exhibit-1.3950579

Marie Dumont is working as a Value-Chain and Agri-Business Coordinator with ISCA partner Les Soeurs Notre Dame du Sacré Cœur in Terrier Rouge, Haiti.

Tuesday
Feb072017

Gag to the Global Gag Rule and the forces that reinstated it

January 23, 2017 marks the day that the Trump Administration reinstated the Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy. This act of injustice strips all US funding from foreign aid groups, who not only provides abortions, but also educates and advocates for the service. This action will devastatingly affect millions, lead to an increase in abortions (predominately unsafe), devastate the global health system, and most importantly, deny the rights of women to have access to comprehensive reproductive health services.

Under the Reagan Administration, the Global Gag rule originated in 1984 at a United Nations population conference in Mexico City.[1] This was the first initiation of integrating domestic abortion politics into the international aid agenda. Since then, it has been a political seesaw. Each US Republican president has reinstated this rule, being in effect for 17 of the past 32 years, and has subsequently been repealed by Democratic Presidents (most recently by Obama).2

Along with a multitude of critics, including global health leaders, the Trump Administration has widely broadened the Rule’s impact compared to previous years. The language of the memorandum applies to an estimated 9 billion USD of international health funding used to fight malaria, HIV, Zika virus, Ebola, and others.[2]  Health clinics around the world relying on US funding will be forced to close their integrated family planning programs. In addition, the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress made large accusations that US tax dollars were currently being used to financially assist abortions and the purpose of this bill was to prohibit this.[3] However, this is a large misconception as the Hyde Amendment has prevented this from happening since 1976.[4] Tax dollars were never spent on abortion services, and this has introduced a massive misconception to American citizens and arguably has increased societal support of the bill. Fundamentally, using and violating women’s sexual and reproductive rights as political ammunition is unethical and inhumane.

For foreign NGOs funded by the US, they are forced to choose between two options:[5]

1. Accept the policy and continue to receive U.S. family planning funds and being prohibited from providing abortions, abortion counseling, referrals, and/or advocacy efforts. This is in exception to cases of rape, incest or life endangerment.

2. Refuse the policy, promote and support women’s rights, and seek alternative sources of funding to prevent health clinics from closing down, provide comprehensive and a large range of sexual and reproductive health services to clients, and continue advocacy efforts for law reforms in their respective countries to decrease unsafe abortions.

This grave situation calls for a serious reflection on power and decision-making processes. I ask, how does the stroke of a pen in the Oval Office, surrounded by only men (who are white, there I said it), stand against years of advocacy, scientific evidence, reproductive health progress, and the blood, sweat and tears put in to improve access to reproductive services? To make matters even more un-imaginable, and makes you question if vegetables are even good for you anymore, this all happens just 48 hours after millions of women marched the streets across the world, calling for the protection of women’s reproductive rights. Not only did he forbid international organizations around the world from receiving U.S. aid funding, the Trump Administration also passed H.R. 7, which permanently prohibits money from using federal funding for abortions, making the Hyde Amendment permanent. If successful, this will continue to devastate vulnerable, low-income, and underserved populations right in the United States, as well as penalizing private health insurers who cover abortion services.[6] Finally, Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, has an alarming history of interfering with reproductive rights and health. For example, he ruled that bosses should be able to deny women access to birth control coverage. 

As demonstrated extensively in other global contexts, such as Africa and Latin America, extensive research has shown that this Bill has indirectly resulted in significant cuts in funding for family planning services, HIV/AIDs treatment, emergency contraception, not solely just abortion services.[7] Studies have shown that this rule has increased abortion rates in sub-Saharan African countries, reduced access to contraceptives, increase unintended pregnancies, and has put women’s health and lives at risk.[8] High rates of unsafe abortions are strongly acute in the Caribbean and Latin America. Between 2010 and 2014, there was an estimated 6.5 million induced abortions each year in both regions. At least 10% of all maternal deaths (900 in total) annually were due to unsafe abortion. About 760,000 women in the region are treated annually for complications from unsafe abortion.[9][10] The most common complications from unsafe abortion are incomplete abortion, excessive blood loss and infection. Less common but very serious complications include septic shock, perforation of internal organs and inflammation of the peritoneum.

The political forces of the reinstated GAG rule has re-enforced how my role, as an intern working for the Jamaica Family Planning Association (JFPA), is greatly influenced by incomprehensible forces. JFPA is an organization that uses integrated approach to serve low-income citizens and responds to the country’s everyday context: extremely high rates of adolescent pregnancy, sexual abuse and assault, unsafe abortions, and rape. Further, since abortion is illegal here, one might think the rule does not have a significant impact for family planning services; however, this is not the case. Jamaica relies heavily on US funded grants and initiatives, therefore, any grant or current program that is funded by the government poses our organization at risk to receive funds. To stay afloat as an organization with day-to-day activities, JFPA is lucky in the sense that we are heavily funded by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), a large organization that does not receive a significant amount of US funding. They have already confirmed they will not sign the policy.[11]

Further, JFPA is a large advocate for women’s rights and we continually urge the government to amend the law for women to have choice and access safe and affordable abortion services. Abortion is illegal in Jamaica under the Offenses Against the Persons Act of 1864 that is based on the 1861 English Act of the same title. Those who seek abortion services and their providers are at risk of prosecution. The consequences of criminalizing women who seek abortions (or the healthcare providers who do or refer the procedure), is still a significant issue. This forces innocent individuals to spend years incarcerated even though this is a complete violation of human and reproductive rights. The illegality of abortion makes individuals more vulnerable to unsafe abortion practices. About 1,200 cases of abortion complications are treated every year in Jamaican public hospitals. Physicians in Jamaica are hesitant to perform an abortion as the law provides then with no real protection, and many fear prosecution. As such, access to adequate sexual and reproductive healthcare can reduce the demand for abortions.

All these abortion restrictions, the anti-abortion legislation—what you’re doing is not stopping us from getting abortions, but driving us into the back alleys, making abortion more costly, dangerous, and stigmatized.6

- Melissa Madera  

The Gag Rule affects countries who heavily rely on US funding dramatically, whether abortion is illegal or not. It puts developing countries where abortion is legal at great risk to looking services, and puts countries where abortion isn’t legal even further behind achieving equality for women. Global leaders, such as the US, should be champions of sexual and reproductive health given the vast availability of resources, knowledge, and evidence. Human rights are at stake. It is devastating that certain state politicians and world leaders are putting unjust value systems that stand against women’s rights and affordable, comprehensive and scientifically accurate sexual education and services.

My small reflection on the current global dialogue on the Gag Rule is a reminder to those of us who have the privilege to stand-up to women’s rights that we cannot sit back and wait until the next extreme attack on fundamental rights is being debated before the Supreme Court. If the world wants to protect global health, we must stand together with allies for social justice and it has to be today. With current strong activist moments on the streets demanding justice for all, there is indeed hope and a network of solidarity to fight the good fight! For instance, last Wednesday, the Dutch government has announced plans to establish an international fund to fill the gap created by this reinstatment of the Rule, funding contraception, abortion and education for women. This was quickly supported by Belgium and Canada is currently under consideration. As Canadians and global citizens, we can play an important role. I highly recommended keeping up to date with Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights and to take action: http://www.sexualhealthandrights.ca/ggr-take-action/

President Trump is now following a worrying tradition that has a dangerous impact on the sexual and reproductive rights, health and life of women and girls across the world, particularly those who are most at risk of human rights abuses. The gag rule during both Reagan and Bush´s administration was a barrier to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health in many parts of the Global South7

- Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

 


[1] Talbot, M. 2017. Trump makes the Global Gag Rule on abortion even worse. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/trump-makes-the-global-gag-rule-on-abortion-even-worse

[2] The New York Times. 2017. Mr Trump’s Gag Rule will harm global health. The New York Times Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/26/opinion/mr-trumps-gag-rule-will-harm-global-health.html

[3] Crockett, E. 2017. The House just passed a sweeping abortion funding ban, Here’s what you should know. Vox. Retrieved from: http://www.vox.com/identities/2017/1/24/14370748/taxpayer-funded-abortion-house-passed-permanent-hyde-amendment

[4] Diamond, A. 2017.. Trump Strikes at Abortion with a Revived Foreign-Aid Rule. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/01/mexico-city-policy/514010/

[5] Centre for Health and Gender Equality. 2017. Global Gag Rule. Retrieved from: http://www.genderhealth.org/the_issues/us_foreign_policy/global_gag_rule/

[6] Modera, M. 2017. I talked to 200 women who had abortions –here’s my letter to congress. Self. http://www.self.com/story/i-talked-to-200-women-who-had-abortions-my-letter-to-congress

[7] Guevara-Rosas, E. 2017. Trump’s global gag a devastating blow for women’s rights. Amnesty International. Retrieved from: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/01/trumps-global-gag-a-devastating-blow-for-womens-rights/

[8] Schvey, A. 2017. Trump’s global gag rule hurts the world’s most vulnerable women. The Hill. Retrieved from: http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/the-administration/316930-trumps-global-gag-rule-on-abortion-hurts-the-worlds

[9] Guttmatcher Institute. 2016. Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean. Retrieved from: https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/facts-abortion-latin-america-and-caribbean#2

[10] Sedgh G et al., Abortion incidence between 1990 and 2014: global, regional, and subregional levels and trends, The Lancet, 2016, http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)30380-4/abstract.

[11] IPPF. 2017. What is the Global Gag rule? Retrieved from: http://www.ippf.org/global-gag-rule

 

Georgia Venner is working as Health Education Programme Manager with Jamaica Family Planning Association/FAMPLAN in Jamaica.

Friday
Feb032017

Profile of an M&E Officer

Every day at CALID I learn something new. Even after four months I am constantly learning new things about Ghana, its history, its people, and the social and economic challenges that CALID is working to change. I learn these things through my work and from my friends and co-workers here in the office, like Alhassan.

Shani Alhassan is one of the dedicated and hard working staff of CALID. We spend a lot of time together because we share an office. As such, he is often my first resource if I have any questions. He often teaches me about Dagomba traditions and history, Ghanaian politics, and development issues that affect the northern regions.
Alhassan was born and raised right here in Tamale, however his family is originally from a village called Sunsong in the Yendi district. His father’s uncle is the chief of Sunsong, where his aunties and uncles still live. Even now, he and his sibling return home every year to help with the harvest. Although Alhassan’s father moved to Tamale, his family still keeps strong ties with their home. He comes from a polygamous family, which is quite common in the north. Alhassan’s father has 3 wives and 13 children. Although he is his father’s third son, he is the eldest of 4 on his mother’s side.

Alhassan always knew he would work in development. He studied Integrated Development Studies at the University of Development Studies (UDS) right here in Tamale. Growing up he went to a public school with a leaky roof, but was fortunate that his father could pay for home tutoring. He saw how he and his siblings advanced beyond the other students, and understood that not all of his classmates were as privileged as he was to get a quality education.  He grew up in a society where a large proportion of the population is marginalized; he noticed that poor children couldn’t afford school, or people got sick because they didn’t have access to potable water.  Alhassan knew that one day he would work to end these inequalities.

 

In his university studies, Alhassan specialized in Environment and Resource Management, looking at subjects like biodiversity, conservation of forests and water, protecting species, and climate change. He is especially passionate about the relationship between environment, resource management and human development. These are important issues in Northern Ghana where desertification is catching up fast and is detrimental to people’s livelihoods. Northern Ghana is considered the breadbasket of the country. It is heavily reliant on agriculture, and most of the country's staple foods, yams, maize, millet, and so on, are cultivated here.  Environmental degradation therefore threatens the economy and the livelihoods of much of the population. It is the poorest, most vulnerable groups who are most affected by these issues. Extractive industries are also a problem in Ghana. They can be a cause of tension when foreign companies make profits without benefiting local communities. In his spare time, Alhassan works as a research assistant with Venceremos Development Consults, a Research, Development and M&E consultant group, on a project working with mining communities that have been affected by competition with foreign mining companies.

Although we do not deal directly with these issues, Alhassan likes working here because of CALID’s focus on education.  He believes that many social, economic, and environmental issues the Northern Region faces could be solved with the creation of a more educated population. CALID also has strong programs for youth and encouraging participation in governance. CALID is working with youth and with wider communities to create a strong voice for change at the local government level.

As the M&E Officer, Alhassan gets to be involved in all of CALID’s education and governance projects. He says that working here has been an eye opening experience. Through CALID’s projects he has seen how communities and marginalized groups are empowered with information, and with the right knowledge, are able to advocate for their rights.

In the future Alhassan will continue to work in development, and on issues that he is passionate about. He hopes one day to be in a position to shape policies that will benefit the most marginalized groups.

Travis Jacox is working as a Resource Mobilization and Management Specialist with Centre for Active Learning and Integrated Development (CALID) in Tamale, Ghana.

Friday
Feb032017

Doug bikes to tennis

Hello! I'm Doug and welcome to Tamale, Northern Ghana! Follow me as I bike to the local tennis courts. Enjoy the sights, songs and near crashes as I make my way through town...

www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuruha2ChNE

More information you say?

Okay. Fine.

I am taking part in the International Youth Internship Program (IYIP), an initiative established by Global Affairs Canada to provide Canadian Youth the opportunity to gain professional experience through international development work. My internship is coordinated by the Atlantic Council for International Cooperation (ACIC) and you can find me working at an NGO called NORSAAC. NORSAAC focuses on empowering women and youth via a variety of programs throughout Ghana’s Northern Region.

For more information about ACIC please visit their website: www.acic-caci.org

For more information about NORSAAC please visit their website: www.norsaac.org

Monday
Jan232017

Cookin’ up something sabroso with Mama Nina

Every Wednesday since my arrival in Bolivia I have had lunch at Doña Severina’s home. Doña Severina is a wonderfully kind woman that hails from Valle Grande, a small city bordering the department of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. She left her home a the young age of fourteen when her father died, finding work in the booming city of Santa Cruz to help support her mother and younger siblings.  For nearly four decades now she has made Yapacaní her home. Here in Yapacaní’s local “2 de Febrero” Market, she has been the proud businesswoman and cook of her booth #3.

Only with a ridiculous amount of luck can one find an empty stool at Doña Severina’s booth. Better known as Doña Seve to her acquaintances and friends, knowledge of her incredible abilities in the kitchen is widespread throughout town. Doña Seve has been gracing “2 de Febrero” Food Market’s locals and passersbys with her delicious traditional Bolivian cooking for the past ten years. Her most famous dishes are Majadito, Pique Macho and my personal favorite, Sopa de Maní.

Although Bolivia is not as well known internationally for its cuisine as some of its neighboring countries, it by no means lacks a unique and delightful flavor in many of its popular dishes especially when it comes to Sopa de Maní.

Sopa de Maní translated means Peanut Soup and the region of Cochabamba proudly claims to be its birthplace. Sopa de Maní is a favorite soup of many Bolivians with its earthy flavor of ground peanuts, and one I have come to crave more often; then I probably should admit to, it’s a must have when visiting Bolivia.

While visiting Doña Seve at her booth in the market you will no doubt hear her saying “Una buena sopa es la solución para todos los problemas,” a good soup is the solution for all of your problems. If you feel unwell, or wish to grow tall and big, or lose some weight, or even become more intelligent, you will be told without a doubt by Doña Seve to have some soup! She tells me that the only time one is not to enjoy Sopa de Mani is when one has an upset stomach, and that is what Caldo de Pollo (chicken soup) is for. 

In her home, Doña Severina is just known as Mama Nina to her adult children and grandchildren.  I feel honored to count myself amongst the lucky few who get’s to call Doña Severina, Mama Nina. Over a bowl of incredibly hot Sopa de Maní I asked the question that had been bothering me since my arrival, why is it that on sweltering summer days such as today Bolivians eat ridiculously hot soup?

Mama Nina looks at me laughing and says “Comiendo comida fría no da el gusto. Cuando se come frio no estas amando ni la comida ni a ti mismo, debes amar lo que metas a tu cuerpo,” eating cold food isn’t appetizing and eating cold food shows your lack of love for your food and yourself, you most love what you put in your body.

It’s hard to argue Mama Nina’s point, so I continued eating my deliciously hot soup. 

Mama Nina informs me that I’m not the only one at the table with a love for Sopa de Maní and shares an anecdote of Josemaría, her twelve-year-old grandson, much to his embarrassment. “Cuando Josemaría estaba en el kínder de las Oblatas, yo le recogía después de el almuerzo y todos los días mi nieto me preguntaba si había hecho Sopa de Maní ese día, a lo cual yo contestaba que si. Y luego me preguntaba si había sobrado algo de sopa, y con las manos estrechas Josemaría me señalaba la cantidad que quería y luego se acercaba sus manos poco a poco y decía aunque así de poquito quiero, hasta que terminaba con las manos casi pegadas que ni para una cucharada podría alcanzar.”When Josemaría was in Kindergarten, I would pick him up after school and bring him home after my lunch rush, every day on the walk home my grandson would ask if I had made Sopa de Maní. To which I would say yes my dear. He would then ask if there was any left for him. Josemaría would gesture with his hands widely spread how much soup he wanted, and then he’d move his hands closer and closer together until his hands were so close that it wouldn’t be enough for a spoonful of soup. Imploring even if there’s only a little little bit grandma.

I firmly believe that there are more Sopa de Maní lovers out there in the world who like Josemaría and I will be wishing for seconds! For this reason, Mama Nina and I have decided to share this delectable dish with you all.  The Instructions below will lead you to create this appetizing Sopa de Maní Mama Nina style.  Happy cooking!

Required Ingredients:

3/4 lb Beef short ribs

2 Carrots

4 Cloves of garlic

1  Large onion

3 Branches of Celery

1 Green pepper

A handful of fresh Parsley and/or cilantro

1 Cup of Unsalted Peanuts

1/2 Cup of Peas either fresh or frozen

4  Medium sized potatoes

1/2 Cup of small shaped pasta such as pipettes, elbows, and orzo work best (you may substitute the pasta for rice).

Salt and pepper

2 tbsp Vegetable oil

6 Cups Beef Stock or water

** Sopa de maní is most often made with beef, but you can easily use chicken or only use all vegetables for a delicious and nutritious vegetarian meal.

                         Serves: 4-6 people                                         Total cook time: 2 hours

Instructions:

1.    Leave the peanuts soaking in a bit of water overnight, making them easier to peel and blend.  Or if you are in a rush for deliciousness you can do a quick soak leaving the peanuts sitting in hot water for five minutes before peeling.

2.    In a large pot add 4 L of water, your meat with bone, a bit of salt and pepper. On high heat.

3.    Finely mince the garlic and onions. Peel the carrots and cut them into small dices along with the celery and green pepper.

4.    In a frying pan with a bit of vegetable oil over medium heat sauté garlic, onion, carrots, green pepper, celery and sauté well for 3-5 minutes.

5.    Throw the peanuts in a blender or food processor and add 1 cup of water to them. Process peanuts until you have a thick, relatively smooth paste, adding more water if necessary. Add the peanut paste to the soup and stir well. Lowering the heat of the stove. Simmer soup for an hour or so, covered. Make sure you respect the time otherwise Mama Nina says you’ll spend most of your day in the bathroom instead of the table due to an upset stomach.

6.    You may use the same frying pan used for the vegetable, to sauté the pasta in a tbsp. or two of vegetable oil over medium heat until golden (roughly 8 minutes).

7.    Peel the potatoes, reserving 1 for later use. Cut the rest into small wedges and add them to the soup. Add some water or more stock to the soup if needed. Cover and simmer until potatoes are well cooked.

8.    Add the pasta and simmer for 10 minutes more.

9.    Taste soup for seasoning. Insert the peas, and simmer, turn down to low heat.

Optional but highly recommended:

10.    Cut the remaining potato into matchsticks. That’s right, this soup has fries in it. Heat a 1/2 inch of oil in a small pan and cook the potato sticks until golden brown. Remove, drain on paper towels, and season with salt.

11.    Serve soup in bowls garnished with the matchstick fries and chopped parsley or cilantro. I would recommend the cilantro over parsley any day!

Sit back and enjoy your little taste of Bolivia. Buen provecho amigos!

Carolina Malloy is working as a Community Facilitator with Sociedad Salesiana in Bolivia.

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