Focus on Energy
One thing that President Barack Obama has not yet done is repeal the “Global Gag Rule” which prohibits NGOs that receive US federal funds from providing or counseling women on abortion. The Global Gag Rule (so-called because it prevents NGOs from even mentioning abortion) was imposed by executive order nearly as soon as former President George W. Bush took office, and people in the international health and women’s rights community expect that President Obama will rescind the order in his first few days in office.
That would be a great start toward a new day in international reproductive health and family planning efforts but there is much more to be done. Official international family planning assistance is pitifully small–only about $450 million was allocated for it in FY 2008.
Today, five former directors of the Population and Reproductive Health Program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) laid out a plan for how the new Obama administration can restore U.S. leadership in global family planning. Making the Case for U.S. International Family Planning Assistance argues for a 100% increase in USAID administered family planning programs to $1.2 billion in FY2010, rising gradually to $1.5 billion in FY 2014.
According to the report an investment of $100 million in Family Planning yields the following health impact:
*Contraceptive users added – 3.6 million
*Unintended pregnancies avoided – 2.1 million
*Abortions prevented – 825,000
*Infant deaths prevented – 70,000
*Maternal lives saved – 4,000
It’s time for President Obama to repeal the Global Gag Rule and show his commitment to global development by supporting international family planning.
A young woman was stripped naked and burned alive at the stake in Papua New Guinea, possibly because she was accused of being a witch, newspapers reported on Wednesday.
The woman, believed to be between 16 and 20 years of age, was blindfolded, gagged and lashed to a pole on a pyre of tyres and firewood on a garbage dump in Mount Hagen, a witness told the Post-Courier newspaper.
‘The girl was stripped naked and could not shout for assistance or resist as she was tightly strapped and her mouth gagged,’ said Jessie James, 21, who lives in a settlement near the town in PNG’s volatile Highlands region.
He said several men who had arrived with the woman in a truck then poured petrol over her and set the pyre ablaze.
Highlands divisional police commander Simon Kauba told the paper he was appalled by the crime.
‘I don’t know the right words to describe it but it’s barbaric … can you find the best word to describe such acts which are rampant here?’ Mr Kauba said, pledging to track down and prosecute the killers.
More from CNN:
The country’s Post-Courier newspaper reported Thursday that more than 50 people were killed in two Highlands provinces last year for allegedly practicing sorcery.
In a well-publicized case last year, a pregnant woman gave birth to a baby girl while struggling to free herself from a tree. Villagers had dragged the woman from her house and hung her from the tree, accusing her of sorcery after her neighbor suddenly died.
She and the baby survived, according to media reports.
Killings of witches, or sangumas, is not a new phenomenon in rural areas of the country.
Emory University anthropology Professor Bruce Knauft, who lived in a village in the western province of Papua New Guinea in the early 1980s, traced family histories for 42 years and found that 1 in 3 adult deaths were homicides — “the bulk of these being collective killings of suspected sorcerers,” he wrote in his book, From Primitive to Postcolonial in Melanesia and Anthropology.
In recent years, as AIDS has taken a toll in the nation of 6.7 million people, villagers have blamed suspected witches — and not the virus — for the deaths.
According to the United Nations, Papua New Guinea accounts for 90 percent of the Pacific region’s HIV cases and is one of four Asia-Pacific countries with an epidemic.
“We’ve had a number of cases where people were killed because they were accused of spreading HIV or AIDS,” Mauba said.
Yesterday I attended an Internet and Politics conference convened by Harvard’s Berkman Center. Berkman’s mission is to “explore and understand cyberspace; to study its development, dynamics, norms, and standards.” I was on a panel to discuss various aspects of online mobilization. I relayed some of my experiences working with Hillary Clinton and the challenges (and opportunities) for campaigns and organizations communicating, fundraising and organizing using the web.
Toward the end of the panel discussion, I said there’s a tendency to expect too much of the medium and that despite the dramatic growth of the Internet as a political tool, we have a long way to go before it becomes a lever of true power for individuals and a mechanism for sweeping reform. As an example, I recounted the horrific story of Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, a 13-year-old Somali girl who was gang-raped and then stoned to death in a packed stadium as “punishment” for adultery, an unfathomably cruel fate for this innocent child.
I noted that if we can’t stop something like that using the Internet, then we should acknowledge the medium’s limitations. I was being a bit hyperbolic of course – I realize that it’ll take a lot more than technology to address the atrocities that take place across the globe and to deal with the savage elements of human nature. But the point stands that a critical measure of the Internet’s role is how effectively it is used to combat violence, poverty, hunger, and the many ills that plague our planet. That question is addressed in depth in CauseWired, a new book by Tom Watson (a friend and fellow blogger). Tom offers insight into how a new generation is using technology for advocacy and activism, covering everything from Kiva and DonorsChoose to Facebook Causes and other aspects of the new “wired philanthropy.”
The United Nations has been sounding the alarm for a while that the most vulnerable are likely to bear the brunt of the global economic downturn. Still, it is shocking to hear the Secretary General of the United Nations–in the year 2008--warn that deteriorating global economy may push people into slavery.
“Poor people are likely to be driven further into poverty, making them more vulnerable to slavery-like practices. Those who consciously exploit them will have to extract even more to profit, and consumers who may not be aware of the consequences will be more likely to purchase products whose labour costs are kept unreasonably low.”
Mr. Ban called on governments, civil society, the private sector and individuals to join the fight against slavery, protect victims and raise awareness of the issue.
“We need new strategies to deal with this old curse.”
In fact, some 27 million people around the world are victims of modern day slavery. This includes trafficked sex workers and examples like this from west Africa:
The [Anti-Slavery] Society estimates that there are 8,000 girl-slaves — slaves in the fullest sense of the term — in West Africa today. These girls are hierodulic slaves, combining the roles of agricultural slave, domestic slave, temple slave and sex slave.
Originally offered as human sacrifice to ensure success in war, these girls are the helpless victims of a traditional form of slavery which has survived intact since the pre-colonial era. These slaves live in villages just a half-day’s journey inland from the very coast from which slaves were once shipped to the Americas.
Taken from their mothers from the age of four, these girls work from dawn to dusk in the fields. From the age of five they are beaten with canes or with specially-made wire whips. They are raped from as young as eight years old. Their masters, the voodoo priests, claim the traditional right of masters since the dawn of history to free sexual access to the slaves, and the girls are beaten into submission if they refuse.
Check out the Anti-Slavery Society for more information and ways you can help.
Earlier today, I posted about the savage stoning of 13-year-old rape victim Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, saying that “it’s difficult not to become disillusioned with the grim reality that this kind of brutality continues across the globe and that it’s more often women and children who bear the brunt of it.”
Speaking of women and children bearing the brunt of violence, last week we heard about acid attacks on Afghan schoolgirls:
No students showed up at Mirwais Mena girls’ school in the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace the morning after it happened.
A day earlier, men on motorcycles attacked 15 girls and teachers with acid. The men squirted the acid from water bottles onto three groups of students and teachers walking to school Wednesday, principal Mehmood Qaderi said. Some of the girls have burns only on their school uniforms but others will have scars on their faces. One teenager still cannot open her eyes after being hit in the face with acid.
“Today the school is open, but there are no girls,” Qaderi said Thursday. “Yesterday, all of the classes were full.” His school has 1,500 students.
To get a visceral sense of what these women and girls endure, watch this clip:
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.