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Stories from Quick Reads

The Political Apartheid Against Women in Venezuela

Desireé Lozano, a blogger for the Spanish-language website Voces Visibles (Visible Voices), reflects on the existing limitations on women’s political participation in Venezuela. According to the sociologist Evangelina García Prince, a kind of political apartheid that excludes women from decision-making reigns in the Venezuelan parties:

En los partidos venezolanos, el discurso oficial no incluye una perspectiva de género ni una propuesta de las mujeres sobre las mujeres o de la organización sobre sus frentes internos o externos. Estos esconden la exclusión efectiva de la consideración del tema de la igualdad y la atención a las diferencias de género

In the Venezuelan parties, the official discourse does not include a gender perspective or any proposal from women about women, or a perspective on the organization of their internal and external fronts. These hide the effective exclusion from considering the issue of equality and focus on gender differences.

On the other hand, Sonia Sgambatti, a lawyer and professor at the Central University of Venezuela, explains that there is still a long way to go in this matter. For example, the Chamber of Deputies of the National Assembly of Venezuela consists of 167 deputies, out of which only 31 are women, representing 18.6% of the total:

Con la mirada en el futuro, Sgambatti indica que las mujeres venezolanas deben, con valentía y tenacidad, participar activamente de la vida política y social del país. “Por la tanto debemos exigir a la Asamblea Nacional reformar la Ley Orgánica de Procesos Electorales para incorporar la cuota electoral femenina o promulgar una Ley Orgánica de Cuotas Electorales Femeninas, con el objetivo de lograr la igualdad de género en esta materia”.

Looking ahead, Sgambatti indicates that Venezuelan women must, with courage and tenacity, actively participate in the political and social life of the country. “Therefore, we must demand the National Assembly to reform the Organic Law on Electoral Processes to incorporate a female electoral quota or to enact an Organic Law of Women's Electoral Quotas, with the goal of achieving gender equality in this matter.”

You can follow Desireé Lozano and Voces Visibles on Twitter.

This post was part of the 44th #LunesDeBlogsGV (Monday of blogs on GV) on February 23, 2015.

Unlawful Deals by 5 Biggest Ebola Contractors in Sierra Leone

Five companies are said to have misappropriated funds for fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone:

Here are the 5 companies who were awarded the biggest contracts to provide goods and services to Sierra Leone’s ebola response as listed in the Ebola Funds Audit Report covering the period from May – October 2014. The following contracts did not meet the country’s procurement laws and policies and documentation to support the awarding of these contracts were missing, and unaccounted for. This makes it possible for fraud, waste, and misappropriation of funds to occur therefore crippling the nation’s ability to quickly respond to the crisis.

The Translation Detail Everyone Missed in the China Internet’s Incredibly Surreal Anthem

Below is an edited version of “The Translation Detail Everyone Missed in the China Internet's Incredibly Surreal Anthem“ by Jason Li, originally published on the blog 88 Bar and republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

In case you missed it, the New York Times, ProPublica, the Guardian and the Atlantic all wrote about this incredibly surreal but voted best of event anthem celebrating China’s glorious Internet. Thanks to ProPublica, we have a subtitled YouTube video above.

As James Fallows at the Atlantic pointed out, one of the most stirring phrases in the song that is repeated eight times during the chorus is 网络强国. The New York Times and ProPublica both translated this as “Internet power,” while Fallows points out that:

English speakers might think of “Internet power” as comparable to “soft power” or “girl power” or “people power.” But to my amateur eye there is a more explicit connotation of China’s becoming a national power in cyberspace. I’m sure Chinese speakers will tell me if I’m wrong to read 强国 as meaning a powerful country, as in “rise and fall of the great powers” etc. Thus the refrain would emphasize “a powerful Internet country.” The impression I got from this was of a strongly nationalistic message about a supposedly borderless medium.

I wanted to add to the translation and confirm Fallows’ viewpoint by examining one of the lines from the chorus:

网络强国 告诉世界中国梦在崛起大中华

Both the New York Times (Paul Mozur) and ProPublica (Sisi Wei and Yue Qiu) translate this to some variant of: “An Internet power: Tell the world that the Chinese Dream is uplifting China.” (Emphasis mine.)

Actually, the line in Chinese does not end with the phrase “China” (中国) but “the greater Chinese” (大中华). Not only does “the greater Chinese” sometimes mean Greater China, but it also hints at overseas Chinese people (华人 or 华侨) and, as Fallows put it, the “borderless” greater Chinese culture/civilization.

Submissions Needed for White History Month 2015

Organised by Africa is a Country blog, White History month 2015 is coming next month:

Last March was the inaugural White History Month here on Africa is a Country, and without tooting too loudly on our own vuvuzela, it was kind of brilliant. So we’re going to do it again.

We featured stuff like Kathleen Bomani’s Leather from Human Skin in 1880s Philadelphia and pulled together a wide range of material, from Britain’s mass torture regime in 1950s Kenya to that time the South African government sent a delegation to the USA to find out how “reservations” worked.

If you would like to participate, you should:

Get in touch using editorial [at] africasacountry [dot] com and let us know what you want to write about. Take a look at what was featured last year to get an idea of what we’re looking for.

2015 Presents an Opportunity for Free and Fair Elections in Africa

Wekesa Sylvanus hopes that 2015 will be a year of free and fair elections in Africa:

https://wekesasylvanus.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/will-2015-be-a-year-of-free-and-fair-elections-in-africa/

Since the advent of multi party democracy in Africa, electoral contests have become a do or die affair in majority of African countries. Elections in Africa are a high risk affair and in the recent times, they have been a trigger of conflicts. Kenya and Ivory Coast are good examples of how mismanaged elections can plunge a country into a conflict. Half a century after gaining independence, majority of African states have not got it right in terms of conducting and managing free and fair elections. The year 2015 will see a host of African countries go through elections. Presidential elections and/or legislative elections will be held in Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Togo, Ivory Coast, Mauritius, Central Africa Republic, Burkina Faso, Niger, Guinea, Chad, and Egypt and may be South Sudan depending on the peace deal to be signed. Most of these countries have struggled to institute the practice of democracy in recent times. 2015 therefore presents a great opportunity for them to show the world that they have matured democratically.

Film: The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo

The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo is a film by filmmaker Yaba Badoe:

The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo, explores the artistic contribution of one of Africa's foremost women writers, a trailblazer for an entire generation of exciting new talent.
This feature-length documentary charts Ama Ata Aidoo's creative journey in a life that spans 7 decades from colonial Ghana, through the tumultuous era of independence, to a more sober present day Africa where nurturing women's creative talent remains as hard as ever.

The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo (Teaser) from Big Heart Media on Vimeo.

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.

The Release of South Africa's “Prime Evil”: It's Time to Confront The Evil of Apartheid

Nicknamed “Prime Evil”, Eugene de Kock was the commanding officer a counter-insurgency unit of the South African Police that kidnapped, tortured, and murdered numerous anti-apartheid activists during apartheid era. He was recently granted parole after serving 20 years of his 212 prison sentence.

Pierre de Vos reacts to his release by arguing that it is time to confront the evil of apartheid, not only of De Kock who defended it:

What De Kock did was monstrous – far more monstrous than anything an ordinary beneficiary of apartheid did. Whether he deserves to be granted parole is, therefore, at the very least, debatable. But singling out De Kock as particularly evil is also comforting for those of us who benefited from apartheid and continue to do so because of its lingering effects.

It’s an archetypal example of “Othering”. We pinpoint one wrongdoer (the torturer in the attic) in order to obscure our own complicity in upholding and benefiting from the system in whose name De Kock committed his crimes.

Supporting the prosecution and conviction of De Kock and his continued incarceration, and insisting on depicting him as uniquely evil, allow us to avoid having to confront the fact that the system itself was evil through and through.

It helps us white South Africans who lived through apartheid (or whose parents did) to retain the idea that we were, for the most part, “decent” people – lawyers, accountants, government clerks, railway workers, doctors, school teachers, insurance brokers – who read and discussed the merits of good books and movies with friends, who went to the opera and the symphony concert, who swooned over the yodelling Briels, who cried when that dog was killed in that children’s movie, who treated our servants with condescending kindness. In our own minds we would never, ever deliberately endorse cruelty and violence towards others.

Yet, we benefited from the system whose very raison d’être was to oppress and exploit others and to uphold and defend the sham superiority of whites and what is ironically termed “Western civilisation” – the same “civilisation” that produced Hitler, Stalin, Vietnam and Iraq, and embraced and benefited from slavery and colonial oppression.

Two Latin Americans Nominated for Index Freedom of Expression Awards

Afiche de los premios Index a la libertad de expresión

Index's poster for the Freedom of Expression Awards

The communication platform, Courage for Tamaulipas, and Ecuadorian sketch artist, Xavier “Bonil” Bonilla, were the only Latin Americans nominated at the Index Freedom of Expression Awards, which recognizes organizations and individuals in the fight against censorship. 

The awards were created by Index on Censorship, an international organization dedicated to defending freedom of expression. Awards are given out in four categories: journalism, art, campaigns, and digital activism. Out of a total of 2,000 nominations, only 17 advanced to the final round.

Bonilla, who's nominated in the art category, has been the target of fines and various legal battles in Ecuador. In 2013 President Rafael Correa passed a law allowing the government to control certain content by journalists. Among the first victims were the newspaper El Universo as well as Bonilla himself. Both had to retract a drawing and pay a fine.

Meanwhile, Courage for Tamaulipas is competing in the digital activism category, and here the public can vote by clicking on the following link. The Mexican site was created in one of the most dangerous areas for journalism. Since 2010, six journalists have been killed, and violence by drug cartels in the region has resulted in a media blackout. Now drug-related violence is reported anonymously by the citizens. 

Misbehaviour Trumps Murder in Trinidad & Tobago Headlines

While Trinidad and Tobago is in the midst of political woes and police try to determine the identity of the country's latest murder victim, at least one blogger thinks that mainstream media is doing its level best to ignore these pressing issues and capitalise on the pre-Carnival frenzy. (Trinidad and Tobago Carnival takes place on February 16 and 17).

aka_lol accused the leading national daily of “us[ing] its precious mind-swaying front-page to highlight a suspected personality flaw in the country’s top, home-grown, international Soca superstar, Machel Montano”:

Maybe it was because his alleged bad attitude took place at a town school fete is the reason it was given grossly exaggerated importance or some other ulterior or political motive – I don’t know. I doubt the newspaper is being paid off by some Big Men with shares and money to distract the public from the real issues that are, have always been plaguing the nation for some time [...]

That Mr. Montano might be throwing temper tantrums all over the place for some very good reasons and a couple bad ones is not new, news or close to headline news. However, the discovery of a decomposing body which might be that of the missing Caribbean Airlines director is depressing and frightful thus should be fitting as a the main headline and a lifesaver given the need to alert unsuspecting visitors merrily flocking our shores for Carnival.

Facebook Campaign Garners Iranian Journalist Masih Alinejad Women's Rights Award

 

The cover photo from Masih Alinejad's Facebook page "My Stealthy Freedom"

The cover photo from Masih Alinejad's Facebook page “My Stealthy Freedom”

London based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad won the 2015 Women's Rights Award at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy for her Facebook page “My Stealthy Freedom” this past week. The page invites Iranian women to post pictures of themselves without a Hijab, in defiance of Iran's Islamic laws that enforce compulsory hijab. With over 750, 000 followers, this page has been considered something of social media movement for Iranian women.

Below is a video from her acceptance speech at the Summit: 

Indigenous Tweets Highlight International Mother Language Day in Australia

Wamut,aka @kriolkantri on Twitter, and blogger of ten years, shared indigenous tweets on Storify: “February 21 is International Mother Language Day and this year, Australians showed off Aboriginal and Islander languages in a spectacular way and highlighted the amazing-yet-fragile linguistic diversity found across the continent”.

For more details: Tweet in Your #Motherlanguage to Celebrate Linguistic Diversity Online

A Passenger Ferry Capsizes in Bangladesh. Again.

Recovered bodies are brought to the shore in a dinghy. Image by Reporter#7619314. Copyright Demotix (22/2/2015)

Recovered bodies are brought to the shore in a dinghy. Image by Reporter#7619314. Copyright Demotix (22/2/2015)

On Sunday noon a passenger ferry reportedly packed with more than 100 passengers was hit by a cargo vessel 40 kilometres northwest of Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital. It subsequently sank.

A rescue vessel located the capsized vessel and attempted to pull it up. According to reports 37 bodies have been found and many are feared missing.

Collisions with other craft is the top reason for ferry disasters in Bangladesh, which are quite common according to this study. Overcrowding and poor safety measures are the catalyst.

Passenger lists are rarely kept accurately, making it difficult to know how many people are missing when accidents occur. Many people have already been rescued from this particular craft, but it will take days to determine precise numbers. This is the country's second deadly boat accident in less than a fortnight.

Divers at work to pull the bodies out of the capsized passenger ferry.

Divers at work to pull the bodies out of the capsized passenger ferry. Image by Reporter#7619314. Copyright Demotix (22/2/2015)

Argentina Creates Registry of Interpreters of Indigenous Languages

Enia Pilagá de la provincia de Formosa - Imagen de Laura Schneider

Pilagá Indigenous from Formosa Province in Argentina – Image: Laura Schneider

Following the case of Reina Maraz, a Bolivian Quechua who was detained in Argentina for three years without knowing why, the Court of Buenos Aires province has approved the Registry of Translators for Indigenous Languages.   

According to research from the Instituto Nacional de Asuntos Indígenas (National Institute of Indigenous Affairs), during 2004-2005 it recognized the existence of 38 native people communities based on a Complementary Poll of Indigenous Communities from Argentina:

Los pueblos con mayor población a nivel nacional en orden descendente son: el pueblo Mapuche con 113.680, el pueblo Kolla con 70.505 y el pueblo Toba con 69.452 habitantes. En cuanto a los de menor población, se encuentran los pueblos Quechua con 561, los Chulupí con 553, los Sanavirón con 528, los Tapiete con 484 y por último, el pueblo Maimará con 178 habitantes.

The most populous communities nationwide in descending order are: Mapuche with 113,680, Kolla with 70,505 and Tobas with 69,452 inhabitants. As for the smaller population, Quechua are 561, the Chulupí 553, the Sanavirón 528, the Tapiete with 484 and finally the Maimará with 178 inhabitants

Similar registers already exist in Peru, with its Registry of Interpreters of Indigenous and Native Languages, and Bolivia, whose General Law of Linguistic Rights and Policies outlines its main objectives as:

1. Reconocer, proteger, promover, difundir, desarrollar y regular los derechos lingüísticos individuales y colectivos de los habitantes del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia.

2. Generar políticas públicas y obligaciones institucionales para su implementación, en el marco de la Constitución Política del Estado, convenios internacionales y disposiciones legales en vigencia.

3. Recuperar, vitalizar, revitalizar y desarrollar los idiomas oficiales en riesgo de extinción, estableciendo acciones para su uso en todas las instancias del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia.

1. To recognize, protect, promote, disseminate, develop and regulate individual and collective linguistic rights of the citizens of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.2. Generate public policies and institutional requirements for implementation, under the State Constitution, international conventions and legal provisions in force.3. Recover, vitalize, revitalize and develop the official languages at risk of extinction, setting actions for use in all instances of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.

10 African Children’s Illustrators You Should Know

Jennifer Sefa-Boakye highlights 10 of Golden Baobab Prize for African Illustrators’ finalists:

Late last year Ghana-based pan-African literary organization Golden Baobab introduced us to a shortlist of talented illustrators, whose work ranged from 3-D Ashanti folktales to intricately drawn Moroccan cityscapes and African barbershop-inspired murals in Durban. Awarded in November, the inaugural Golden Baobab Prize for African Illustrators was one of the foundation’s six prizes recognizing the year’s best African writers and illustrators of children’s stories.

Ireland's Cricket World Cup Win Against West Indies No Laughing Matter

Irish satirical website Waterford Whispers News certainly enjoyed the Ireland cricket teams’ victory over the West Indies on 16 February in Nelson, New Zealand:

THERE were concerns this morning among the Irish Cricket Union after the success of the Ireland team at the World Cup caused massive strain on the Irish Cricket bandwagon, leading to fears that the axles may not be fit to cope with the strain.

Axles On Irish Cricket Bandwagon Beginning To Show Signs Of Strain

But for Irish fans this is no laughing matter.

The African Union is Failing South Sudan

David K. Deng argues that the African Union is failing South Sudan after deciding that the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (AUCISS) should not release its report:

On the evening of 29 January, African heads of state gathered in Addis Ababa for a meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC). Among the items on the agenda was a presentation by the chairperson of the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (AUCISS), former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo. More than a year after the African Union (AU) announced its investigation into violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in South Sudan, the AUCISS was set to formally present its final report to the AUPSC.

Instead of Obasanjo, however, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, who doubles as the chairperson of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), walked to the podium and raised a motion to defer consideration and publication of the AUCISS report until peace is achieved, saying that it would jeopardise the ongoing IGAD-led peace process. President Jacob Zuma of South Africa seconded the motion, followed by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. With that, the matter was closed and a public release of the AUCISS report was put off indefinitely.

The AUPSC’s decision not to publish the AUCISS report casts doubt on the prospects for justice and accountability in South Sudan. It also raises questions as to whether the AU and IGAD are genuinely committed to ending the impunity that they themselves acknowledge to be a driver of violence in the country.

The AUCISS was formed in December 2013 with a mandate to “investigate the human rights violations and other abuses committed during the armed conflict in South Sudan and make recommendations on the best ways and means to ensure accountability, reconciliation and healing among all South Sudanese communities.” Over the course of six months, from March to September 2014, the AUCISS interviewed hundreds of South Sudanese across the country and in the diaspora. Rumor has it that the report provides a detailed account of war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by all sides in the South Sudanese conflict. It is even said to include a list of people responsible for atrocities, including senior figures from both sides.

Emerging Threats in Cybersecurity Legislation in Africa

Access, an international human rights organization is troubles by emerging threats in cybersecurity and data protection in Africa. Ephraim Kenyanitto explains:

The Convention was originally scheduled to pass in January 2014, but was delayed for modifications after protests by the private sector, civil society organizations, and privacy experts—all of whom had very little involvement in the drafting process. But a number of countries promulgated harmful new cybersecurity legislation after it was improved in June.

As Access noted in analyzing both versions of the Convention, the Convention has some positive provisions but still needs strengthening. It requires states to consider human rights in implementing cyber security legislation, but it also supports greater government control of private user data. For example, the Convention permits governments to process private data when “in the public interest,” a confusingly vague standard.

Keeping Up the Fight on World Cancer Day

Captura de pantalla del blog Tengo cáncer y sigo brillando.

Screenshot of the I Have Cancer and Keep Shining blog.

¡Hola! Mi nombre es Alejandra Baca, pero todos me dicen Ale, excepto los doctores, ellos me dicen “Karlita”. Vivo en Chihuahua, México. Me gusta estudiar, bailar, leer y salir con mis amigos. Estudio la Lic. en Administración y soy misionera.

Hi! My name is Alejandra Baca, but everyone calls me Ale except the doctors, who call me “Karlita.” I live in Chihuahua, Mexico. I like to study, dance, read, and go out with friends. I'm working on my degree in administration, and I'm a missionary. 

The introduction from Alejandra Baca's blog, I Have Cancer and Keep Shining, where she writes about having non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Her cancer was diagnosed when she was 17. After a bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy sessions, she's had to give up modeling.

“Big changes are always accompanied by a big blow. It's not the end of the world. It's the beginning of a new one. 

February 4th is World Cancer Day (#DiaMundialcontraelCancer).

Trinidad & Tobago: Am Gay; Will Travel

What is it like to be gay in the Caribbean? The Travelling Trini occasionally gets emails from young gay Trinidadians who “have the burning desire to go abroad, travel, and see the world”. She deduces that this wanderlust stems from the fact that “the Caribbean is a incredibly homophobic place with a raging macho-man culture, and coming out is an incredibly difficult, and often dangerous, thing to do.”

The post goes on to list several songs that promoted homophobia and gay violence back in the nineties: Buju Banton's Boom Bye Bye was unsurprisingly at the top of the heap, but the blogger describes them all as “dark, violent and downright disgusting.” She asks:

Why is it not considered hate speech? Why are radio stations allowed to play it? [...] The question is, why is it okay to still be so violently anti-gay in 2015?

She connects this constricted reality with the desire many gay Caribbean people have to migrate and testifies that the Far East, where she currently resides, “is a very gay friendly place, indeed”:

There are thriving gay scenes in every country, from the liberal far east to the conservative Middle East and everywhere in between.

The whole world is not straight. It never has been, and it never will be. [...]

Unfortunately these liberal lifestyles are not tolerated in the Caribbean, and are in fact still criminalised under law. There is no legal protection for LGBT citizens [...] just as people fought for equal rights based on race, and equal rights based on gender, the next step in our human evolution is equal rights for all people regardless of their sexual orientation.

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