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‘Films for Action’ Website Shares List of Top 100 Documentaries ‘We Can Use to Change the World’

After years of promotion and reviews of documentaries devoted to social change, the site Films for Action released a list of what they consider to be the 100 most influencial and provocative. From critiques to manistream media to the corporate world, passing through the ideas and solutions proposed in and by the majority world, this list of films present a wide view of ideas that many consider crucial to discuss.

The list includes documentaries like The Economics of Happiness (2011), which will be available for free in August, and The Crisis of Civilization (2011), based on the Book by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed.

Documentaries have an incredible power to raise awareness and create transformative changes in consciousness both at the personal and global levels […] All of the films have been selected because they are either free to watch online, or can be rented online. There are several films we would have loved to add to this list, but they currently don't have an accessible way to view them. As that changes, we'll be updating this list over time. Enjoy!

How a Young Kenyan Doctor Fell in Love With Medicine

Dr. Claire Kinuthia, a Kenyan doctor and blogger, writes about how she fell in love with medicine:

How it all began.

Medicine found me when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I have a particularly vivid memory of hearing my dad get up in the middle of the night to go attend to an emergency in the hospital. Dad was already a hero in my little beating heart but that night, lying in bed imagining what he’d been called to do and how many lives he’s get to save, he was elevated to superhero status. I remember trying hard to stay awake and wait for him to tell me all about his “adventures”. Sadly, sleep won that battle. However, the seed had been sown and I always knew I’d be a doctor one day, a superhero who saved lives

After Citizen Uprising in Burkina Faso and Burundi, Are Niger and Togo Next?

Protests in Niamey, Niger via Abdoulaye Hamidou on twitter (with his permission)

Protests in Niamey, Niger via Abdoulaye Hamidou on twitter (with his permission)

20,000 Nigeriens took to the streets in Niamey, Niger on June, 6. There are multiple causes for the protests: endemic poverty, mediocre governance and restricted free speech are among the main grievances from Nigerien civil society.   These protests come on the hill of similar uprisings in Burkina Faso, Burundi and Togo. The government resigned in Burkina Faso while elections are postponed in Burundi. In May, citizens in Lome protested presidential election results  that saw Togolese president Faure Gnassingbe won a third term.

Angani: First Operational Cloud Service in East Africa

Last month, Angani launched first operational cloud service in East Africa:

Angani, the first fully automated cloud infrastructure company in the region, today officially launched their cloud and hosting services. Angani also announced their partnership with local data center operators that will make it safe and cost effective to provision cloud solutions. With Angani’s cloud platform, users can have a new server operational in a secure, reliable datacenter within 15 minutes.

Angani also offers the following services
• Virtual office includes E-Mail, data backup and PABX
• CCTV Storage and Backup
• Media Storage and Playout

Tracking Infrastructure Damage in the War in Yemen

Hundreds of people have been reportedly killed in fighting in Yemen since Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign against the country on March 26. Backed by its Gulf Arab allies, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco,and Sudan, Saudi Arabia started an airstrike operation, dubbed Decisive Storm, against Houthi fighters who took control of Yemen in January.

Reports from the ground say that a refugee camp, schools, airports, a bridge, factories and homes have been destroyed so far.

Yemeni blogger Noon Arabia explains:

She adds:

We are tracking news and stories on the infrastructure damage in Yemen in this war at Global Voices Checkdesk, a partnership project with Meedan.

Checkdesk is a liveblogging tool for journalists, with built-in tools to allow citizen journalists and staff journalists alike to make and verify reports. Anyone from the newsroom community can submit a report — a Tweet, a photo, video or other type of media — and add details that bring important context to the report. Staff journalists can then add these reports to a developing story.

Email us here to join our team.

Documenting the Systematic Decline of Women's Rights in Macedonia

Although southeast European countries are progressive in many other ways, the decline of women's reproductive rights in some Western Balkan countries has been a worrying trend. In Macedonia, several small protests have been held in recent years to demonstrate people's opposition to government involvement in determining public sentiment on issues like abortion and family planning, after the government implemented a national anti-abortion campaign that began in 2011.  

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“My body – my decision” sigh at a protest against new abortion law. Photo by Vanco Dzhambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

Recently, Macedonian equal rights activist Ana Vasileva, known as @Amateuress on Twitter, provided a lengthy overview of the systematic decline of women's rights in Macedonia on her blog:

In recent years Macedonia has undergone a very subtle, yet dreadfully pervasive deterioration of the situation with women's rights. Mainly unnoticed or overlooked, the government latched on the popular, deeply misogynist sentiment of the suffering mother (a metaphor often used for the country itself) and after the initial surge of promise with the introduction of the gender quotas in 2006 and the adoption of the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, which paired with the history of equal treatment from the previous system led to even higher percentages in female representation in certain areas compared to the EU average[1], things started moving downwards steadily, without sufficient public resistance.

It can arguably be claimed that the ploy began with the anti-abortion posters and newspaper ads which started littering the public space out of nowhere circa 2006-2007 without anyone claiming responsibility for them…

Call for Urgent Climate Change Action After Cyclone Pam Devastates Vanuatu

Following the devastation of Pacific islands nation Vanuatu by Category 5 Cyclone Pam, John Englart (aka @Takvera) looks at links with climate change:

Vanuatu has suffered its worst disaster on record with the impact of Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Pam, with the President of Vanuatu blaming climate change for extreme weather (Guardian 16Mar2015).

…Cyclone Pam and the devastation of Vanuatu and other Pacific nations is one more step on the road to a climate agreement in Paris in December 2015.

John also speculates about Australia's contribution to foreign aid and its role at the UN Climate Change Conference COP21 in Paris later this year.

His post also has links to organisations where you can give donations for emergency relief for Vanuatu.

14 Open Source Products Based in Africa

Despite many problems facing the African continet, African open source innovators are not lagging behing. Here is a list of 14 open source projects coming out of the continent.

Malawian Student Makes His Own TV Station

Chisomo Daka, a student at the University of Malawi’s chancellor college, has created his own TV station, Paul Ndiho reports:

Innovation is happening across Africa, in all different sectors, from education to energy, banking to agriculture and in television broadcasting. In Malawi, a university student has created a community TV station called “analog TV project” one that he hopes will transmit all social events taking place on campus. Malawi TV Project
Chisomo Daka is a student at the University of Malawi’s chancellor college. He is pursuing a degree in education science and he is trying to make his mark in the television broadcasting industry. By his own admission, he says that he is not an engineer by training, nor does he claim to know much about engineering. But his love and passion for tale-communications has inspired him to build from scratch a community television station. Daka says he hopes to use this TV station to broadcast social events and student projects throughout the entire campus.
“We have been able to transmit a video signal and we have been able to capture that. But by the end of the day, we would want to finalize it and make it a full working television station for the campus.”
Before his first broadcasting test signal, he was just a normal student, and few students knew about his innovation. Today, Chisomo Daka has created a name for himself as the new kid on the block. His community TV station is a hit on campus and everybody is talking about him. He says operating out of the norm is what is drove him to be innovative.

Updates on the 18th SAARC Summit On Social Media

The ongoing summit of the The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was covered by international media with different perspectives. However non-official initiatives such as 18th SAARC Summit blog, Facebook account, Twitter and Google+ account are aggregating updates on the summit for easy archiving.

Here are some examples:

African Startups Win FinTech for Agriculture 2015 Competition

Two African startups have emerged winners of a regional competition organised by Village Capital:

Village Capital today announced the first winners of its innovative program, East Africa: FinTech for Agriculture 2015. The program supports entrepreneurs in making financial services more affordable and accessible for smallholder farmers and other underbanked individuals in East Africa. It is supported by the DOEN Foundation, The MasterCard Foundation, and Duncan Goldie-Scot.

Over 65% of Sub-Saharan Africans do not use financial institutions or mobile money accounts to save or borrow money. Access to financial services can be especially difficult for smallholder farmers, often far from a financial access point. Furthermore, many promising early-stage entrepreneurs addressing this issue cannot find the resources they need to get off the ground.

Village Capital East Africa: FinTech for Agriculture 2015 provided these resources to 12 high-potential, early-stage entrepreneurs from across East Africa. The program also supported them through business development training, mentorship, and opportunities to meet potential customers and pitch to investors. At the end of the 12-week program, the entrepreneur-participants ranked each other on six criteria, and chose two companies to each receive a 50,000 USD investment. The two top peer-ranked companies are:

Atikus Insurance (Rwanda); expands access to credit by increasing the capacity of MSME lenders via reimagined insurance and technology risk solutions.

Farmerline (Ghana, expanding to East Africa); provides accurate and timely agricultural information to farmers and also provides technology to stakeholders to work better.

#GirlsCan Campaign Kicks Off with FIFA Women's World Cup to Empower Girls in Sports

Credits: Women deliver, posted with permission

Credit: Women deliver, posted with permission

As the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada started kicked off on June 6, a number of organizations joined forces in launching the #GirlsCan advocacy campaign. Women Deliver, UNICEF, Right to Play, GAIN and One Goal are using the FIFA as a backdrop to raise awareness of how sports can positively influence girls’ lives and call for more research and funding for girls’ sports.

Lauren Himiak, Women Deliver's Communications Manager, explained it to Global Voices:

The #GirlsCan hashtag and campaign kicked off encouraging the public to share photos of themselves playing sport and talking about why it was important in their development. We have seen everything from female racecar drivers in training to boxers in Africa participate, and we cannot wait keep the buzz growing. The great thing about #GirlsCan is to see the messages coming out of Twitter…”#GirlsCan change the world; #GirlsCan do everything boys can do; #GirlsCan be the next president”!

The campaign is calling on people worldwide to take action, either by participating in the #GirlsCan campaign and advocating on girls’ involvement in sports in their communities, or by spreading the word on social networks. Those interested in the on-going campaigns can follow hashtags  #GirlsCan, #PowerInPlay or #InvestInGirls.

Sports programs represent a highly effective, low-cost means of addressing some of the most pressing global development challenges. Involvement in sports improves the overall health of adolescents and young women, including sexual and reproductive health, and it gives children and youth opportunities to be more successful and achieve gender equality in their communities.

Part of the campaign is the Girl Power in Play Symposium which will be held June 18-19, 2015, in Ottawa, Canada. The symposium's agenda this year focuses on the most pressing global gender issues, including girls’ right to play sports and related topics within the fields of health, education, nutrition, life-skills, and gender norms. The pinnacle of the #GirlsCan campaign is expected on October 11, 2015, when the organizations will share collected stories, research, blogs, and ideas on how can sports empower girls on and off the field.

Can Africa Really Maintain Its Own African Centers for Disease Control?

Anna K. Mwaba discusses the future of the newly established African Center for Disease Control:

The establishment of such a center in Africa is not a particularly new idea; talks on the need for more effective means to combat epidemics on the continent were held in July 2013 at the Special Summit of the African Union on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, in Abuja, Nigeria.

In her opening remarks at that meeting, AU Chairwoman Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma emphasized the need for the AU to act and for “the final push” to tackle HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria. These sentiments echoed those made at previous meetings on the matter. The fact that this was not the first time this issue has been discussed at such a high level, raised doubts as to the ability of the African Union to undertake such an endeavor.

Two main, and related, reasons for these doubts are the AU’s current financial capacity and the political will of its member nations. It is common knowledge that the AU faces significant funding challenges, compounded by the fact that many member states continuously fail to pay their annual contributions. This inability to contribute to the AU’s operating budget casts doubt on member state willingness to prioritize AU activities while facing their own domestic, often economic, challenges.

Colombia's Festival on the Value of Data in Development

The Cartagena Data Festival has just wrapped up in Cartagena, Colombia. The festival is an international event committed to discussing data deployment for human development and related topics, like open data, data journalism, big data, and other analysis tools.

The festival, which ran from April 20 to April 22 and took place in downtown Cartagena, attracted more than 500 participants and reporters from around the world. Several groups played an organizing role, including the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Population Fund, the ODI Development ProgressCentro Europeo de Pensamiento Estratégico InternacionalAfrica Gathering, and others.

Archived webcast footage from the event is available online, and social media content about the festival can be found searching for the hashtag #data2015.

Cartagena Data Festival - Día 1 // Foto: Helkin René Díaz CEPEI, con autorización

Cartagena Data Festival, Day 1. Photo: Helkin René Díaz CEPEI, used permission

Mapping Vietnam's Socio-Economic Indicators

vietnam_world_bankThe World Bank has launched mapVIETNAM, an interactive map that shows various socio-economic indicators in Vietnam such as poverty rates, employment, and electricity connectivity. The photo above shows the number of households living on $2 dollars a day. Using the map, we can see that poverty rates are high in the northern and central parts of the country.

The Collapse of Civilisation Is Already a Reality for the Children of Ambovombe, Madagascar

Children in Ambovombe, Madagascar. Photo by John Strauss Kotovaoarivelo, posted on Facebook.

Children in Ambovombe, Madagascar. Photo by John Strauss Kotovaoarivelo, posted on Facebook.

A scientific publication in the Journal of Ecological Economics argues that “over-exploitation of either Labor or Nature will result in a societal collapse” if nothing is done to prevent it.

Based on a mathematical model, the study explains (via The Guardian) that the convergence of ” the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity” and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor]” will increase the likelihood of the fall of society as it was observed for previous human civilizations.

That collapse is already a reality in the south of Madagascar, a region that has suffered recurrent bout of famine over the past decade. 300,000 people are at risk of famine in the region because of a severe and prolonged drought since November 2014. 90% of the Malagasy population live with less than 2 USD/day, a stark reminder of the growing inequity on the African continent. John Strauss Kotovaoarivelo is an accountant manager from the region. He visited the city of Ambovombe and could not hold back his tears from what he saw. He hesitated but felt compelled to share the urgency of the situation by posting photos of children fighting for their lives because of lack of food. Kotovaoarivelo writes :

Je ne peux pas me taire et faire comme si de rien n’était devant la gravité de la situation vécue au quotidien par nos compatriotes dans le sud. Ces photos parlent d’elles même. Je ne vais pas vous prendre la tête pour ces photos, mais quand même en vous bousculant juste un peu pour réfléchir avec moi sur les pourquoi et les comment de toutes ces choses qui font chaque jour le calvaire de ces pauvres gens. Je vais vous révéler là des photos pour ne pas dire des informations qui passent presque inaperçues [..]  Nos dirigeants sont occupés ou aveuglés par d’autres choses qu’ils ne pourront jamais déchiffrer le message sur les regards de ces pauvres enfants

I cannot keep quiet any longer and pretend as if nothing is happening in the face of  the grave situation that our countrymen in the south face on daily basis. These photos speak for themselves. I will not bludgeon your head with these photos, but I hope they will jost your awareness a little and help you reflect with me about the plight of these people. I am merely sharing my pictures so that their suffering will not go unnoticed [..] Our political leaders are so busy or so blinded by other things that they cannot feel the message in the eyes of these children, seeking help. 

Why Students in Chad are Protesting and It's not Just About the Helmet Law

Bus on fire during student protests in Chad via Makaila blog

Bus on fire during student protests in Chad via Makaila blog

Police are violently repressing student protests in Chad since March 10. The official reason for the protest is the new safety regulation that require bikers to wear a helmet. Motorbikes are often used as taxis in the capital city, Ndjamena. However, the reason for protests are more profound than the new law. One student explains why they are protesting:

Croyez-vous que c’est une question de port de casque ? Personne ne s’oppose à l’utilisation de casque. Il y a une sorte d’impréparation de la mesure par les autorités et d’exploitation de la vente par les commerçants. Jusque quand allons-nous accepter d’être sauvagement exploités ? Le ciment, le sucre, le pétrole…savez-vous que le marché de casque a permis à certains responsables de s’enrichir ? 

Do you really think that the protests are about just helmet law ? No one is opposed to the use of helmet. The authorities are not prepared to properly implement the measures and the law is quite beneficial to all retailers. When will we say enough to this brutal exploitation ? It is the same thing for cement, sugar, oil … do you know that the helmet has allowed some officials to get rich quite rapidly ?

  During the repression of the protests by the police, one student, Hassan B. Daoud was killed. Here is a video of police brutality against some students posted by ABDELKERIM YACOUB KOUNDOUGOUMI on facebook: 

 

Fast-Growing City of El Alto Turns Thirty

El Alto graphic by Tonny Lopez (@tonnylp)

El Alto graphic by Tonny Lopez (@tonnylp)

Relatively young by Bolivian city standards, the city of El Alto celebrates its 30th anniversary on March 6th, 2015. What initially started as a small suburb of the city of La Paz, the seat of government located 4,070 meters above sea level, it became its own municipality in 1985. It is now Bolivia's second largest city according to the 2012 Census.

The city's population is comprised primarily of Aymara migrants from the Altiplano that take part in informal and formal commerce and manufacturing. While it counts on a rich cultural tradition, El Alto is also known for its role in the 2003 “Gas War,” that ultimately led to the resignation of then-President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada in the wake of 80 people left dead. The slogan “El Alto on its feet, never on its knees,” has been used since the 1980s, and is still used today to reflect the resilient character of its residents.

To celebrate El Alto's anniversary, the hashtag #ElAlto30 has been making its rounds on social media.

Video: Amazon Indigenous Tribe Protests Hydroelectric Dam Construction

Indigenous people from the Munduruku ethnic group are fighting against the construction of the São Luiz do Tapajós dam in the state of Pará, Brazil. The dam will mean the flooding of 700,000 km2 in their homeland.

The Brazilian Federal Government plans to build up to five dams in the Tapajós River, where dozens of indigenous communities live. Together with São Luiz do Tapajós, the Jatobá dam was due to begin construction in 2015, but socio-environmental difficulties may have postponed that deadline to at least 2020. The two dams will cost together US$7 billion.

The Munduruku claim they have not been consulted about the project. For years, the Munduruku people from the Sawré Maybu community, which will be directly affected by the construction of São Luiz do Tapajós dam, have pressured the federal government to demarcate their lands. The demarcation would create a legal obstacle for the continuation of the dam's project.

A documentary about the issue was produced by videomaker Nayana Fernandez.

UPDATE 09/12/2014: Together with other organizations, Nayana Fernandez has launched a crowfunding campaign to help the Munduruku pressure the government to demarcate their territory, officialize two associations, build a website and translate and dub the documentary into their native language (most Mundurku people do not speak Portuguese). Supporters can contribute with a minimum of US$10. 

The Internet of Things and Smart Crops

Today, it's not enough to just talk about the Internet. This concept has broadened and it's a good challenge for those who want to become electronic engineers. César Viloria Núñez, a professor at the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla, Colombia, explains what the Internet of things is:

Consiste en que las cosas en general estén conectadas y que no solo las personas ingresemos información a la red, sino que las cosas mismas generen información, la compartan entre ellas y tomen decisiones con el fin de automatizar distintos procesos.

It's about things in general being connected, and it's not only people feeding data to the web, but the things themselves generate information that they share it amongst themselves and make decisions with the aim of automating different processes.

Viloria Núñez tries to explain the concept with the example of a ‘smart refrigerator’, but he also mentions smart crops. He wonders:

¿Qué tal una red de sensores en el terreno cultivado que identifique qué tan húmedo o seco está el suelo para activar automáticamente el sistema de riego? Tal vez dependiendo de qué tan maduro esté el producto cultivado se requiera más o menos agua, o más o menos fertilizantes, o los sensores pueden identificar si el cultivo está siendo atacado por alguna plaga para activar el suministro automático de insecticida.

What about a network of sensors in a cultivated piece of land that identifies how irrigated or dry the soil is to automatically activate the irrigation system? Maybe relying on how mature the cultivated product is, it will need more or less water, or more or less fertilizer, or the sensors might be able to identify if the crop has been attacked by some plague to activate an automatic supply of insecticide.

Welcome to the Internet of things.

If you are interested in science, don't forget to follow César Viloria Núñez on his accounts on LinkedIn or Twitter.

This post was part of the 28th #LunesDeBlogsGV (Monday of blogs on GV) on November 10, 2014.

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