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GIRLS AND WOMEN Nigeria’s first female Foreign Affairs Minister has some smart advice for young women

 

12 December 2016 6:41PM UTC  | By: GUEST BLOGGER
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This is a guest post by Dana J. Hyde, Chief Executive Officer at Millennium Challenge Corporation. It originally appeared on MCC.gov.

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Internationally recognised development economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala served as Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister — the first woman to hold either post. She has held several key positions at the World Bank, and in 2014, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Currently, Okonjo-Iweala is the Board Chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and Senior Advisor at the financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard.

During a recent visit to MCC, Okonjo-Iweala joined MCC CEO Dana J. Hyde for an engaging conversation about the challenges facing Africa, how to ensure inclusive economic growth, and what young women should keep in mind when choosing a workplace. Here are some of the highlights* from their conversation.

Dr. Ngozi, through your extensive experience, what have you learned about creating economic growth in developing countries?

What I’ve learned is how difficult it is, and that there are no easy answers. Those who say they have the magic wand to make inclusive growth and development happen are really not telling it as it is.

The first and foremost thing for growth and inclusive development is a stable macroeconomic environment. If you don’t have stability in your basic prices in the economy, the exchange rate is not well-aligned; if inflation is high, which taxes the poor; if your fiscal deficit is out of control — and you have not fixed all those, all the money you are pouring into securing development isn’t going to work.

I also learned that inclusivity for poor people means that they want jobs — they are not looking for handouts. So inclusive growth means the ability to create jobs.

What is the role of infrastructure in inclusive development?

The creation of jobs in many of our countries cannot really happen the way we would like without adequate infrastructure. I say to young men and women, “Don’t wait for the government or a company to give you a job, create a job first for yourself and then for six or more people.” To do that, you need infrastructure. You can’t do it if you don’t have power — that’s the most important thing. And power is what’s most lacking in African countries. So we need power, we need roads, we need ports, we need connectivity and infrastructure for information and communications technology, and I want to commend MCC for expending its resources on these.

What do donors get right, and what do they get wrong?

It’s also what countries get right, and what they get wrong. No country can develop just with donor support. If a country cannot set out its policies, its priorities, its strategies, then there is a problem. Because what you need is for donors to come behind those and support you — that’s the best way to operate. It’s also the hardest. It’s easier to come in, craft something and implement, but MCC should stick with its country-led approach.

MCC has a very special niche because you are an organisation that can do hard things like infrastructure. Grant money is powerful, and you have a portfolio of over $11 billion. I think MCC should use that leverage wisely for two things: one is to support countries, strongly insisting that they have a view, and they don’t just give into whatever you say; second is to leverage other donors and the private sector to put up more resources.

There is much commentary about the slowdown of economic growth in Africa. What makes you most hopeful about the continent?

There are two things that make me hopeful. First, it’s the young people — I get so excited when I meet them. Although they are frustrated with older generations for having messed things up in many ways, they are full of ideas and energy about what to do next. The second thing that gives me hope is that, for the most part, policymakers on the continent have learned that macroeconomic fundamentals like controlling inflation matter. This is the reason that Africa’s economic growth is a trend, not a fluke. The continent is experiencing a difficult period now, but if policymakers focus on good policies, there will be a turnaround.

You have been such an inspiration to young women around the world. What is your advice to young women?

When women get top posts, even in developed countries, people somehow think they have too much power. You will be judged more harshly, and people expect more of you as a woman. So it’s not easy, but does that mean that you should shy away from doing those tough things if the opportunity comes? The answer is no. But you have to be wise about it, you have to have principles.

I advise everybody, but women in particular, to try to work in places where they can quantify and measure what you are doing, so it doesn’t depend entirely on somebody’s judgement. The World Bank, where I started out in the Young Professionals Program, was good in that way. You were given a task and you produced it to quality, or you did not. Even if people did not like you — your gender, your colour or whatever — if you did a good project, a good report, a good result on the ground, it spoke for itself.

Finally, there’s no easy answer to balancing work and family. You need to do what you are comfortable with. I think the best thing I have done in my whole life are my children. All my other titles pale in contrast when I think of my children.

*This is an abridged and lightly edited version of their conversation at MCC.

Want more? Read our list of 12 women who changed the world.

 

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REFUGEES Beyond help: Taking shelter from Boko Haram in Chad’s remote swampland

 

January 5 2017  | By: REFUGEES DEEPLY
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Hundreds of thousands of families fleeing Boko Haram are now stranded in a remote and harsh border region, beyond the reach of humanitarian aid. Photojournalist Ashley Hamer documents the challenges facing the displaced who have found themselves in the Lake Chad Basin. This piece, originally published on Dec. 15, is part of a reporting partnership between ONE and Refugees Deeply.

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Mother of seven Mariam Mustafa, 35, fled an attack by Boko Haram in December 2015 with her family. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)

When Boko Haram militants attacked their village on an island on Lake Chad, 35-year-old Mariam Mustafa and her husband had to find the strength to pile their seven children into a canoe and paddle them toward safety.

Reaching a safe area on the mainland, secured by Chadian forces, was no easy feat. It was December 2015 and the family had escaped with no belongings. When they arrived at a displacement site near Bol, capital of the Lac region, they had to build their own shelter.

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Women gather to collect aid at the Dar es Salaam refugee camp in Chad, close to the border to Niger. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)

High up on the northernmost tip of Lake Chad, close to the Niger border, families continue to flee attacks by Boko Haram, as well as military offensives by a regional task force trying to defeat them.

Since the insurgency spilled out from northern Nigeria into neighboring countries, it has wrought extraordinary suffering on this border region.

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Displaced families in the Lake Chad area. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)

Some 2.6 million people have been displaced in the remote area that straddles the borders of four African countries – Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon. A million more are thought to be cut off from humanitarian aid.

This vast territory, known as the Lake Chad Basin, is an impenetrable swampland on the fringes of the Sahara at the meeting of the four borders.

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Refugees stranded in the “red zone” near Chad’s border with Niger. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)

An estimated 21 million people live in areas affected by Boko Haram violence across the Lake Chad Basin. Many of these remote areas are often beyond the reach of humanitarian aid due to restricted access, militarization and security risks.

“Access for humanitarian aid is extremely difficult. There are hundreds of islands on Lake Chad where people are hiding and insecurity remains high,” said Issa Sanogo, deputy country director for the World Food Programme in Chad.

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Chadian armed soldiers supervise aid distributions in the Lake Chad Basin. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)

The land around what remains of Lake Chad has been reduced to parched savannah and blistering sand. There are no paved roads, and access to the region for humanitarian groups opened up just this year.

Settlements for the displaced are scattered around the lake and along the border with Niger. One of the camps, called Dar es Salaam, is about 7.5 miles (12km) outside the town of Baga Sola and accommodates approximately 6,500 refugees from Nigeria and Niger. It is part of an area that is considered a “red zone,” where aid groups must travel with armed escorts.

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Displaced families await fingerprinting and digital registration meant to keep track of the total numbers. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)

Chad, a leading contributor of military forces in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency, has managed to secure its shoreline.

Yet, Sanogo said, “Chad is extremely vulnerable and at 360 degrees surrounded by crisis – Libya, Sudan, Central African Republic and Boko Haram. We cannot allow the situation to get worse.”

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Haje Fanta, 28, from Niger, is caring for two of her children at the refugee camp. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)

Seventy percent of those displaced by Boko Haram and seeking aid in Chad’s Lac region are women and children. Haje Fanta, 28, is among them. She was separated from her husband and two of her children during their escape from Niger. She is caring for her two other children alone and hasn’t heard from her husband in more than five months. The cash handouts she receives are just sufficient to buy food for her children for 20 days per month. She has to beg or borrow to cover the remaining days, or go hungry.

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An infant is weighed at the Dar es Salaam refugee camp. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)

Displaced families receive cash handouts of 6,000 Central African francs (approximately $10) per person, per month, for all their needs – from food and clothing to shelter and medicine.

The emergency has been underreported due to difficulty accessing the area, while aid groups lack sufficient funds to assist civilians.

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There are no paved roads in the area around Lake Chad. (Photo credit: Ashley Hamer)

Meanwhile, a spiraling economic crisis brought on by crashing oil prices in 2015 is crippling the Chadian government’s ability to respond to the refugee crisis. Trade union activists claim that the dwindling resources in the country are being channeled mainly into the armed forces.

As supplies dwindle and malnutrition rates among young children rise, the World Food Programme and other aid agencies are worried about providing the basics for civilians who are indefinitely stranded in this no-man’s land.

 

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Via Global Citizen

 
HEALTH Want to Live Longer? Move to a City

By Joe McCarthy|

 Jan. 13, 2017
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Across every major preventable and premature mortality category — heart disease, cancer, stroke, unintentional injury and more — US citizens who live in rural areas are dying at higher rates than their urban peers.

This might seem surprising since cities often have higher levels of air pollution, and air pollution contributes to millions of premature deaths around the world each year.

Read More: Air Pollution Is Killing 6.5 million People Each Year

But new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that this factor is not as hazardous as those affecting people in rural regions. In fact, the gap in health outcomes between people living in surrounded by tall buildings and those living in places with more grass is only growing.

The reasons for this are many and are often tied to income levels and availability of health resources.

For example, people living in rural areas are 50% more likely to die from unintentional injuries than people living in urban environments because health facilities are more dispersed, according to the CDC.

Also, the country’s opioid epidemic is concentrated in these regions. The US is facing a full-fledged opioid epidemic, with overdose deaths more than quadrupling since 1999. More than 15,000 people died in 2015 from opioid overdoses and each day, more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for abuse of prescriptions.

The CDC also believes that chronic lung diseases occur at higher rates in rural areas because people are smoking more often. The states with the higher smoking rates are Kentucky, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Mississippi, while the states with the lowest rates are Idaho, California, and Utah.   

US citizens living in cities have a higher median household income, but cities also have higher levels of poverty.

Read More: What The Panama Papers Have to Say About Inequality and Poverty

Since these variables would seem to cancel each other out, the key difference in overall health outcomes could be the prevalence of social services — cities tend to have broader social safety nets.

But if you were to look at health outcomes based on income levels within cities, the numbers would show a large disparity.  

All across the world, geography is predictor of health. People who live in rural areas of sub-saharan Africa, for example, are more likely to die from premature or preventable causes than those living in cities. This difference is most pronounced when it comes to infant mortality. In rural areas, inadequate water and sanitation are a primary driver of premature death.

Read More: What You Need to Know About Water and Sanitation

However, just like within the US, cities harbor great differences in health outcomes when you look at income levels. The world’s urban poor live much shorter lives than the world’s urban rich.   

This kind of inequality doesn’t have to exist. Simple interventions such as improved water sources, more widely available and robust healthcare, and access to contraceptives can close the gaps found within and between habitats.

 
TAKE ACTION Send petitions, emails, or tweets to world leaders. Call governments or join rallies. We offer a variety of ways to make your voice heardGet Involved
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Written by Joe McCarthy

 

Joe McCarthy is a Content Creator at Global Citizen. He believes apathy is the biggest threat to creating a more just world and tries his hardest to stay open-minded and curious. Living in New York keeps him aware of how interconnected our world is, how every action has ripples.

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Via Global Citizen

 
GIRLS & WOMEN The Humiliating Test Women Must Undergo in Afghanistan After Sexual Assault

By Colleen Curry|

 Jan. 9, 2017

Brought to you by: CHIME FOR CHANGE

 

In a small room at the police forensic center in Kabul, Afghanistan, a black cloth covers the only window, allowing what goes on inside to remain secret.

There, when girls and women are the victims of “moral crimes” including rape, sexual assault, or premarital sex, is where they are taken to undergo “virginity tests,” in which police look for signs that they were previously sexually active, according to a new report in the New York Times.

The invasive and unscientific vaginal and rectal exams  — in which investigators look for signs that the hymen is broken — are a longstanding practice in the country, though President Ashraf Ghani promised last year to end them.

Read More: Nepali Teen Dies in Menstruation Hut After Starting Fire to Stay Warm

A girls’ hymen can be broken for many reasons besides sex, but in a culture where sexual purity is prized, girls and women have begun paying as much as $1,500 to have their hymen allegedly “repaired,” according to the report.

“It is a big deal in Afghanistan,” one woman told the paper. “If your hymen is broken, it is finished — you fall into hell.”

One girl in northern Afghanistan was jailed for three months after being arrested for running away with a young man and forced to undergo an exam that showed her hymen had been damaged. A second exam then allegedly verified her virginity and she was released.

Human rights activists have long protested the exams as a method of police investigation.

Read More: Egypt Cracks Down on Female Genital Mutilation Practitioners With New Law

“The circumstances of virginity test are never humane,” Soraya Sobhrang, a commissioner at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, told the Times. “In conducting virginity tests, no one asks for the consent of the victim or the suspect — 99% of the virginity tests are conducted by force and without considerations of its legality.”

And yet since Ghani made his promise, dozens of exams have still been carried out by police.

In July, a teen girl and a young man accused of adultery were attacked by an angry mob in the streets of Kabul. The car they were found in was set on fire, and when police responded, they chased down the girl and arrested her rather than the arsonists. She was taken for a virginity test, according to the New York Times.

There were 42 virginity tests in the first half of 2016, on pace to match the year before.  

“The virginity test has been banned. However, it’s a long-lasting practice used wrongly by law enforcement authorities, especially police,” Ghani said in a statement to the paper.  “However wrong, it is going to take some time to entirely be stopped and removed. But we are determined to change this practice.”

So-called virginity tests are one way that women in Afghanistan fail to have equal protection under Afghan law. Global Citizen and CHIME FOR CHANGE are campaigning for all countries around the world to #LevelTheLaw this year, to strike discriminatory laws from their books and ensure women are given full protection in their countries.

In Afghanistan, President Ghani should help #LeveltheLaw and ban virginity tests once and for all.

 
TAKE ACTION Send petitions, emails, or tweets to world leaders. Call governments or join rallies. We offer a variety of ways to make your voice heardGet Involved
 

Written by Colleen Curry

 

Colleen Curry is a senior editor at Global Citizen. She has covered domestic and international news for outlets including ABC News, VICE News, and The New York Times, with a particular focus on women's issues, criminal justice, and LGBT rights. She is also pursuing her Master's in Creative Writing, and has had nonfiction published by Sports Illustrated and Marie Claire.

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1993

CULTURE

10 documentaries worth talking about

20 December 2016 5:00PM UTC | By: GUEST BLOGGER

 

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Social movements begin with a conversation. Documentaries provide the perfect platform for dialogue. They serve as powerful tools that bring important topics to the table and inform us about our world in a way that kindles dialogue, and ultimately, larger social movements.

 

So we encourage you to come together and watch one (or ten) of these incredible documentaries and have a discussion about the critical issues of our time.

 

1) He Named Me Malala

 

HE NAMED ME MALALA is an intimate portrait of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was targeted by the Taliban and severely wounded by a gunshot at the age of 15. She currently works as a leading campaigner for girls’ education globally as co-founder of the Malala Fund.

 

HE NAMED ME MALALA: Malala Yousafzai at the Jordan/Syrian border. Feb 16, 2014. Credit: Photo by Gina Nemirofsky. © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved 

HE NAMED ME MALALA: Malala Yousafzai at the Jordan/Syrian border. Feb 16, 2014. Credit: Photo by Gina Nemirofsky. © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

 

2) The Carrier

 

Set in a remote Zambian village, THE CARRIER offers a stunning portrait of both a family and community caught in a desperate struggle to Prevent Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and to liberate future generations from the vicious cycle by stopping the AIDS epidemic in its tracks.

 

THE CARRIER Credit: KAT WESTERGAARD 

THE CARRIER Credit: KAT WESTERGAARD

 

3) Virunga 

 

VIRUNGA is a gripping exposé of the realities of life in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the incredible true story of a group of brave people risking their lives to build a better future in a part of Africa the world has forgotten.

 

Andre With Gorilla Virunga National Park Credit: Orlando von Einsiedel 

Andre With Gorilla Virunga National Park Credit: Orlando von Einsiedel

 

4) Call Me Kuchu

 

In Uganda, a new bill makes homosexuality punishable by death. CALL ME KUCHU follows the activists working against the clock to defeat state-sanctioned homophobia while combating vicious persecution in their daily lives.

 

One of the many front-page stories published by Ugandan newspaper, The Rolling Stone, which terrorised the LGBT community 

One of the many front-page stories published by Ugandan newspaper, The Rolling Stone, which terrorised the LGBT community

 

5) Sweet Dreams

 

SWEET DREAMS follows a remarkable group of Rwandan women as they emerge from the devastation of the 1994 genocide to create a new future for themselves through drumming and ice cream. In the words of Kiki Katese, the founding member of the all-female drumming troupe Ingoma Nshya “Because of our history, people know how to fight against, but not for. We want to change that equation.”

 

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6) E-Team 

 

Anna, Ole, Fred, and Peter are four members of the Emergencies Team, the most intrepid division of the respected, international Human Rights Watch organisation. E-TEAM is the personal, intimate story of how they lead their lives as they set out to shine light in dark places and give voice to thousands whose stories would never otherwise have been told.

 

eteam

7) Pray The Devil Back to Hell

 

PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL chronicles the story of the Liberian women who came together to end war and bring peace to their country. Armed only with white T-shirts and the courage of their convictions, ordinary mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and daughters demanded a resolution to the country’s civil war.

 

: Liberian women demonstrate at the American Embassy in Monrovia at the height of the civil war in July 2003 Photo Credit: Pewee Flomoku 

Liberian women demonstrate at the American Embassy in Monrovia at the height of the civil war in July 2003                                                                                                   Photo Credit: Pewee Flomoku

 

8) Sepideh

 

Can a young Iranian woman become an astronaut? SEPIDEH: REACHING FOR THE STARS is the story of a remarkable teenage girl named Sepideh who defies societal expectations and courageously works to make her dream come true.

 

Sepideh with Telescope Credit: Paul Wilson

Sepideh with Telescope Credit: Paul Wilson

 

9) The Devil Came on Horseback 

 

THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK follows former US Marine Captain Brian Steidle as he documents the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Upon his return to the US, Steidle campaigns for international intervention and becomes frustrated by the inaction of politicians back home.

 

Brian Steidle with the African Union team 

Brian Steidle with the African Union team

 

10) Double feature: The Act of Killing/The Look of Silence

 

THE ACT OF KILLING follows former Indonesian death squad leaders as they are challenged to re-enact real-life mass killings in the cinematic genres of their choice, from classic Hollywood crime scenarios to lavish musical numbers. We recommend that you watch the “Director’s Cut” version of this film.

 

FISH Credit: Photo by Joshua Oppenheimer (framegrab)

FISH Credit: Photo by Joshua Oppenheimer (framegrab)

 

THE LOOK OF SILENCE serves as a powerful companion piece to THE ACT OF KILLING by initiating and bearing witness to the collapse of fifty years of silence surrounding the 1965 Indonesian genocide. It tells the story of a family of survivors who discover how their son was murdered and the identities of the killers through footage of the genocide perpetrators in THE ACT OF KILLING.

 

Photo by Joshua Oppenheimer (framegrab)

Photo by Joshua Oppenheimer (framegrab)

 

Influence Film Club is a non-profit organisation with an online platform that seeks to engage new and diverse audiences around documentary film. Find resources and documentary recommendations to watch alone or with your film club at Influence Film Club.

 

Via ONE

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