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Old media reports deprive Rwandan genocide survivors of the right to be forgotten

Audience at the main Rwandan genocide commemoration event at Amahoro Stadium in Kigali on the 7th of April, 2014. Photo: Sally Hayden.

One of the biggest challenges following the Rwandan genocide was getting it classified as such. As the international community faltered and fiddled and failed to appreciate what was happening, Rwandans shouted their experiences through shrouds of shock, grateful to anyone would listen and believe that such horror was possible.

Now with each anniversary those stories and images reappear throughout the media. And many survivors, once so grateful for a voice, have come to resent this exposure.

This issue first came to my attention in a conference in the Rwandan parliament on the weekend that this year's official period of mourning began. As questions were taken from the floor, a passionate voice piped up. “I'm not asking about what happened because I was there and I have seen it, but there is another issue now. As survivors we all wanted to tell and to say what had happened. There are at least two or three women I know pregnant from rape, they only wanted to talk. But twenty years later you still see your image coming out from BBC, CNN...” Speaking, I learn, is Odette Nyiramilimo, a physician, former government minister and current East African senator. Ethnically a Tutsi, she survived the genocide in the Hotel des Mille Collines, a scene later depicted in the film 'Hotel Rwanda'.

We meet again a few weeks later. Nyiramilimo sits in a bright, airy office, on the fourth floor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A portrait of President Paul Kagame hangs over her head. She's busy; her phone buzzes as we talk.

She tells me story after story.

The story of a girl, aged 15 during the genocide, who was taken by her parents' killers to the DRC and raped. When she escaped she was pregnant, and after she gave birth to a son she handed him to relatives to raise so she could attend university and start her life anew. She met a boy and they got engaged; then he travelled to Canada to finish his schooling. There, on the TV, he saw old footage of her speaking about her rape and called her in shock. With her engagement over, the girl called Nyiramilimo asking “what do I do? I don't want that story to be following me my whole life. Now I am well, I just finished university and I want to be normal.”

Integration and empowerment of women can break the cycle of poverty and discrimination

Judith from Rwanda took out a microfinance loan from VisionFund after taking in her nephew Moses who had been abandoned. By trading fruit and expanding her business, she has managed to feed and clothe Moses and send him to school. Photo: VisionFund.On Friday (March 15), the UN Commission on the Status of Women ratified a declaration entitled ‘End Violence Against Women’, matching the theme of International Women’s Day, which was marked earlier in the month. VisionFund’s Dianne Lowther writes about the place of women in the fight against poverty.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.” It was another reminder of women’s central role in society and the hardships that too many women face. The World Bank states that violence can be both a result and a cause of poverty and women and children are among those worse affected.

According to the United Nations, women bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty as they are more likely to be poor and at risk of hunger due to discrimination they face in education, health care, employment and control of assets.

Some estimates suggest that women make up 70% of the World’s Poor and headlines, even in developed countries, indicate that many women face wage gaps compared with their male counterparts. Not only are they often paid less but they can also be relegated to unsafe and low salaried work. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, approximately 8 out of 10 women workers are considered to be in vulnerable employment.

However when these women are given a chance at engaging in economic development, it can have a hugely positive impact on helping families to climb out of poverty. Aid organisations the world over have marvelled at women’s fortitude and determination to strive for their families and build a better future.

Dignity, equality, violence, death and toilets

The woman on the right is the proud caretaker of a Liberian public sanitation facility with separated toilets and showers for men and women. In a country where up to 77 percent of women say they have been the victim of sexual violence, it is important to minimize the risk of assault. Photo: EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie.

Picture the scene: you urgently need to go to the loo. You look around for the nearest toilet and realise with a sinking heart there is no facility around. Where do you go? What do you do?

How would you feel if you had to go to the toilet out in the open every single day? No privacy, no dignity and nowhere to wash your hands afterwards. Do you feel disgusted? Of course you do. No one should have to live like this.

But this is the stark reality for some 2.5 billion people in the world who do not have access to proper sanitation, including latrines. Almost one-seventh of the world’s population live in urban slums where a lack of access to safe toilets and adequate sanitation is most acute.

Today is World Toilet Day. It’s time to stop being embarrassed about poo and to talk dirty.

It is common knowledge for us that without toilets, human waste can impact an entire community. Open defecation poses serious health risks, particularly to children. Every 20 seconds, a child dies from diarrhoea. More children die from diarrhoea-related disease than from HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined. This horrendous situation could be remedied by ensuring that everyone has access to improved sanitation and hygiene facilities, including supplies of clean water.

Philippines among countries let down by donor promises on climate change adaptation

Super Typhoon Haiyan Approaches the Philippines, 07 November, 2013. Photo: NOAA.[BRUSSELS] Yet another round of UN climate talks begins today (November 11), this time in Warsaw, occurring against the backdrop of Typhoon Haiyan, which has reportedly killed at least 10,000 people in the Philippines. But two new papers point out that funding promised to help countries adapt to climate change have been insufficient and untransparent.

In fact, from 2010 to 2011, commitments for adaptation finance decreased in the Philippines, according to a joint paper by Oxfam, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). The paper looked specifically at a 2009 commitment made by rich countries - which came to be known as “fast-start finance” - to fund developing countries’ adaptation efforts. Another recent Oxfam paper also showed that rich countries have failed to keep that 2009 promise.

At the opening of the UN talks in Warsaw, Naderev Sano, the Philippines’ climate change negotiator, reportedly announced that he would embark on a voluntary fast until there was action that would protect his country’s future.

Funds short

The 2009 fast-start finance commitment, which called for developed countries to provide US$30 billion between 2010 and 2012, was made at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Copenhagen. At the same meeting, the developed world promised to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020.

A number of think-tanks and academics have since underlined the difficulty of identifying and accounting for this money because of discrepancies in reporting, the lack of a common understanding of what “adaptation” and “vulnerability” mean, and a lack of transparency. 

DRC: Analysts cautious about significance of M23 peace delcaration

Congolese refugees board a truck at Bunagana on the Uganda-DRC border. Over 800,000 may been displaced by conflict since it began March 2012. Government forces captured the M23 rebels main base in Bunagana on October 30, 2013. The sides declared an end to hostilities on December 12. Photo:  Samuel Okiror/IRIN, May 2012.The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the former rebel group known as the M23 Movement signed declarations on 12 December formalizing agreements to end hostilities in eastern DRC.

The declarations, together with a Final Communique on the Kampala Dialogue, were released by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Southern African Development Community - which together sponsored almost a year of fitful peace talks in the Ugandan capital. The documents articulated each sides’ commitments on a range of issues, including M23’s renunciation of rebellion and transformation into a political party; the government’s limited offer of amnesty to combatants; the release of prisoners; the demobilization and reintegration of former rebels; national reconciliation and justice; and social security and economic reforms.

Kinshasa also committed itself to quickly moving ahead to facilitate the return of refugees, in line with tripartite agreements signed with neighbouring states, and to help internally displaced civilians, who number more than two million in eastern DRC, go back home.

Through his spokesman, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the declarations constituted a “positive step towards ending cycles of deadly conflicts that have caused immense suffering to the Congolese people.”

Yet analysts remain divided on whether political dialogue or military means is best to address the problem of armed rebellion in eastern DRC, even as focus now shifts to the northeastern Orientale Province, after relative success in North Kivu. Some argue for a mix of both: “neutralizing” armed groups while engaging in security sector and institutional reforms.

Palestine: A Female Founder Providing Therapy to the Arab World

Attendees of a Nablus Tech Meetup event in association with Arab Women in Computing (ArabWIC). Photo: Ayah Soufan.

World and Media aims to support journalists to improve media coverage of global development issues. It should not be surprising that we are highly critical of the quantity and nature of media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In common with most war reporting, media convey a distorted image of both Palestinians and Israelis. Acts of violence are highlighted, while normal life is sidelined, as are its voices. Joseph O’Connor travelled to the West Bank where he met a number of inspiring female entrepreneurs, among them the co-founder of a start-up providing therapy to the Arab world.

'Making it' as a female entrepreneur in Palestine is no mean feat. In fact, merely existing as any kind of entrepreneur poses particular challenges due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For instance, there is currently no 3G network available in Palestine. The Government of Israel controls mobile networks there and has still to grant 3G licences to Palestinian operators. Businesses can invest in better connections inside their offices but they’re expensive, certainly for cash-strapped start-ups or SMEs.

There is also the challenge of restrictions on movement. It’s difficult for Palestinians to travel freely to and from the West Bank and Gaza, while receiving visitors can prove complicated too. There’s no airport in Palestine and without Israeli ID, Palestinians have to fly out of Jordan and then undertake an arduous three-hour journey through the Jordanian border to come home, and these are just the lucky ones that can obtain travel visas. Then there’s the various checkpoints scattered across Palestine that make the most basic journey feel like an eternity.

However, the situation in the Fatah-controlled West Bank is very different to that in Hamas-controlled Gaza; the latter is still recovering from its 50-day war with Israel in 2014.

It is to Ramallah in the West Bank, which serves as the de facto administrative capital of Palestine, where I focus my attention. It’s there that I meet a number of female entrepreneurs who seem undeterred by the social, political and cultural barriers that surround them.

Togo: Solar Grandmothers

Mialo Tassi, a Solar Grandmother erecting a solar panel on a small home in Agame Sevah village, Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.

The lives of four grandmothers from the rural village of Agome Sevah, Togo in West Africa have undergone an amazing transformation. The women travelled 5000 miles to Rajasthan in India where they trained over a six month period in Solar Electronics at the famous Barefoot College. There, they were mentored by like-minded Indian women, some of whom were themselves graduates of the College.

Leaving their families in Togo for such a long period of time was difficult for them but their reward was to become Solar Grandmothers with the prospect of electrifying their village on their return.

On completion of their training at the college, the Solar Grandmothers returned to their villages to install, maintain, and train others in solar electrification. Schools, clinics, places of worship and private homes could now have artificial light, with the potential to improve the education, health and social lives of the villagers.

The women Barefoot Solar Engineers of Africa aim to improve the lives of the rural poor living on less than €1 a day in remote inaccessible villages off the energy grids in the 21 least developed countries in Africa, supplying their communities with clean, low cost household lighting from solar energy.

Obama's Africa legacy may be judged by what happens in South Sudan

President Obama at a Ministerial Meeting on Sudan on September 24, 2010. Photo: U.S. State Department.The Economist's Matthew Bishop described this as 'an incredibly important week' for Africa. The biggest ever summit between the US president and African leaders concluded on Wednesday (August 6, 2014) in Washington DC. During the summit, President Barack Obama announced $33 billion in new investment and trade with Africa.

President George W Bush significantly grew aid to Africa relative to his predecessors, though sometimes controversially, particularly in relation to AIDS prevention. The Obama administration has continued to provide significant funds to tackle global health issues, including new health funding announced Monday (August 4).

However, there have been distinctive policies under the current administration. For example, there appears to have been a significant shift towards focusing on trade and direct investment with Africa, mirroring the shifts that have occurred in government policy in several other countries, such as Ireland and the UK. This week's US-Africa summit is important as a symbolic statement as it is practically. It recognises the continent's emerging economic power and potential over the last 15 years. The summit may be seen as an important part of the Obama administration's Africa legacy, as will its handling of the Arab Spring.

The US has also been heavily involved in the process which led to independence for South Sudan.

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Gender-based violence in Sierra Leone

Freetown Rainbo Centre staffRainbo Centre signWorking to prevent violence
Midwife Annie MafindaSafiatu Jalloh, counselorMidwife Many Sowa
Rakel LarsonChief Officer Balogun DixonMadam Julia Sarkodie Mensah
Police Family Support UnitCourtroom posterJoseph Rahall

Freetown Rainbo Centre staff

Staff, including midwives, counsellors and security guards, at the Freetown Rainbo Centre, in the Princeses Christian Maternity Hospital, which deals with rape crises. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

Rainbo Centre sign

Rainbo Centre sign which hangs in all three centres in Sierra Leone. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

Working to prevent violence

Six members of a men's group in Kenema, Sierra Leone run by IRC. They are working to change men's attitudes and stop violence before it starts. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

Midwife Annie Mafinda

Midwife Annie Mafinda, with toys in the counselling room at the Freetown Rainbo Centre. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

Safiatu Jalloh, counselor

Safiatu Jalloh, counselor with the Rainbo Centre in Kenema. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

Midwife Many Sowa

Many Sowa, midwife at the Kenema Rainbo Centre, Sierra Leone. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

Rakel Larson

Rakel Larson, United Nations Displaced Persons representative, working with Irish Aid on the Saturday Courts project. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

Chief Officer Balogun Dixon

Balogun Dixon, Chief Officer Pademba Road Prison, at the Freetown Courthouse. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

Madam Julia Sarkodie Mensah

Madam Julia Sarkodie Mensah, Consultant Master and Registrar of the Sierra Leone Judiciary. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

Police Family Support Unit

The Family Support Unit in the Kenema Police Force, pictured outside their station. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

Courtroom poster

Poster on the walls of a courtroom in the Freetown Courthouse building offering socio-legal support for victims of gender-based violence. Photo: Niamh Griffin.

Joseph Rahall

Joseph Rahall, Executive Director of eco-NGO 'Green Scenery', at their offices in Freetown, Sierra Leone.