There is a saying about daughters in Nepal: Raising a girl is like watering your neighbor’s garden.
Nepali girls are less likely than their brothers to get an education or earn an income, and in some families are considered temporary mouths to feed, as they will move in with their husband’s family at marriage.
In the country’s poorest rural villages of southwestern Nepal, there is a specific kind of discarded daughter found only among the ethnic Tharu farming families:
Kamlaris are house slaves, as young as five, who toil away their childhoods cooking, cleaning and babysitting in the homes of higher caste families.
Tharu fathers sell their daughters to work as kamlaris for the equivalent of $50 a year. It’s a fortune for the Tharu, sharecroppers who live on less than $1 a day. In exchange, “employers” make promises to feed, clothe and educate the girl. Trusting, illiterate, and desperate, Tharu parents rationalize the sale by saying their daughter won’t have to beg for food in the village, and her price tag will feed the rest of the family.
But bonded girls report being beaten, raped, starved, and forced to sleep on the floor. Their masters often break the work contracts, paying less or not at all. Few kamlaris go to school. In the worst cases, the girls disappear.
Read more about “Olga’s Girls” and indentured servitude in Nepal on Human Rights Day 2013.
NELSON MANDELA, A REMEMBRANCE
“What will he say? What will Mandela say after 27 years in prison?”
That was the question on everyone’s mind as the multitudes gathered in the center of Cape Town on the day when the leader of the African National Congress walked to freedom, recalls Pulitzer Center grantee Roger Thurow. Roger, who was then the South African-based correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, was in the crowd that February afternoon nearly a quarter of a century ago.
With crisp eloquence, Mandela delivered his message of tolerance, dignity and freedom from oppression—a message that would guide not only his native South Africa along the path to democracy, but would inspire oppressed people in every corner of the world.
“When I’m asked what Nelson Mandela was like then, I answer with one word: ‘Serene,’” says Roger. “Not the serenity of a man leaning back in a chair with his feet on the desk, good heavens no. When he left prison, he developed the habit of frequently checking the time; he was a man in a hurry, for too much time had already been wasted in building a new country. Rather, it was the serenity of a man resolute in his convictions, confident in the correctness of his ideas, his words and his works.”
At the Pulitzer Center, we join the rest of the world in mourning the passing of this towering figure of our time.
A STEP FORWARD IN JAMAICA
In a small but significant step forward in the struggle against discrimination based on sexual orientation, Pulitzer Center grantee Micah Fink’s powerful documentary, “The Abominable Crime,” had its first public screening in Jamaica last week. As the title implies, homosexuality is still a crime in Jamaica and harassment of gays is widespread and occasionally deadly. Micah’s film tells the story of two Jamaicans forced to flee their homeland fearing for their lives.
Despite opposition from some church leaders and public officials, the screening at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies drew about 50 people.
A NICE CABERNET AND THE PEACE PROCESS
The best journalists have a knack for spotting the unexpected story. Pulitzer Center grantee and Foreign Policy national security correspondent Yochi Dreazen always seems to discover something out of the ordinary. Earlier this year, while reporting a story for The Atlantic on northern Mali’s worrying slide into the hands of jihadists, Yochi also brought back a marvelous tale about how a fast-thinking band of locals managed to rescue the medieval manuscripts of Timbuktu from almost certain destruction by Islamic fundamentalists.
This time, fresh from a reporting project in Israel on the spread of drone technology, Yochi returns with a fascinating story on how a nice, crowd-pleasing cabernet sauvignon may turn out to be the latest obstacle to peace in the Middle East. In a dispatch for Smithsonian, Yochi reports that the West Bank’s high altitude, dry air and sandy soil are ideal for producing grapes. This has given a determined group of Jewish settlers near the ancient town of Shiloh an opportunity to sink their own roots ever deeper into Palestinian territory.
Until next week,
On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison—a free man after twenty-seven years. Tall and thin, he carried his head high as he always had. But something was different. His good friend Bishop Desmond Tutu said he had grown in generosity of spirit for now he understood the fears and anxieties of his adversaries. He had left his anger behind, saying, if he had not done so “then they would still have me.”
Mandela was relentless in his fight against apartheid and he beckoned the world to come to his side. “We have walked and not fainted,” he told a crowd of two thousand gathered at Riverside Church in New York that June as he asked for support in maintaining sanctions against South Africa. “Our destination is in sight. Our victory will be your victory.”
Unrest, bloodshed, secret talks, and negotiations followed. In April 1994, while South Africa held its first free elections tens of thousands stood in long lines or slept on the ground waiting to vote. On May 10, one billion television viewers witnessed the inauguration of the country’s first black president.
Mandela served a five-year term all the while embracing the power of truth to heal. He gave women a voice, he granted individualized amnesty, he advocated for free health care, and he supported the Springboks (mostly white) rugby team.
When Mandela left office he devoted himself to the welfare of children—working towards an integrated school system, rebuilding dilapidated schools, creating new ones in rural areas, starting school feeding programs to keep children in school. Although he came late to the cause he fought the stigma against HIV/AIDS, saying, “AIDS knows no custom. It knows no colour. It knows no boundaries.”
Returning to his home in Qunu when he saw that people washed their clothes in the stream, the same water they used for drinking, he took on the fight for access to clean water.
On July 18, 2013, crowds gathered outside the hospital in Pretoria to sing “Happy Birthday, Madiba” in celebration of Mandela Day, the 95th birthday of their former president. Brass bands played and vuvuzelas blasted in what may have been the biggest birthday party ever. People from all walks of life painted houses, cleaned streets, planted trees, and volunteered in schools. Meanwhile birthday greetings poured in from Africa, Australia, Europe and the Americas. Bishop Tutu told the world that Mandela “makes us walk tall as South Africans.”
Mandela’s long walk ended yesterday, on December 5. He died having shown the world what one individual can achieve by putting aside bitterness to pursue a dream. Many Mandela Days still lie ahead.
– Kem Knapp Sawyer, Associate Editor via her blog
With the sad news of Nelson Mandela’s death, my thoughts went back to a glorious February afternoon in 1990.
What will he say? What will Mandela say after 27 years in prison?
That was the feverish question infecting the multitudes who had gathered in the center of Cape Town on the day when the leader of the African National Congress walked to freedom. I was in the crowd, as the South African-based correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. For hours we waited as Mandela, who had been freed earlier that day, reunited with his family, friends and comrades in the struggle against apartheid.
Suddenly, he appeared — a thin, gray stranger, for nobody except a precious few had seen him in nearly three decades. And then he spoke, and a familiarity settled in.
In a deliberate, thoughtful cadence, he uttered pretty much the same words that had landed him behind bars all those years earlier. He repeated the tenets of the ANC’s Freedom Charter, the words he spoke the last time he had been heard in public, at his treason trial: Above all, the end of exclusive white rule, the abolishment of apartheid and racial oppression and the government that enforced it, the demand for equality, dignity, freedom; but also, the continuation of the mass struggle until a new democratically elected government would be formed and the economy reordered to share the country’s great natural wealth for the benefit of all races. Though more than one-third of his life had been taken away from him, he spoke not of revenge but of reconciliation. South Africa needed to come together, not remain apart.
It was a masterful performance, I thought, a demonstration that he hadn’t lost his touch. Mandela needed to convince his supporters, and his foes as well, that he hadn’t changed during all those years away. Physically yes, but in substance certainly not; he was still the same.
This was imperative to maintain the support of the ANC’s hard-edged youth, who knew Mandela only as an imprisoned myth and who had been raised on a campaign of resistance to authority. Here standing before them now wasn’t an old man who had sold out, who had gone soft. The white government hadn’t gotten to him. Nelson Mandela would still be their champion; like the boxer he had once been, he hadn’t backed down. Now he exhorted his countrymen of all races to seize the moment, to be strong and move forward with him.
Read the rest of Pulitzer Center grantee Roger Thurow’s piece about Mandela.
CHINA’S EYE ON THE PRIZE
Several recent Pulitzer Center projects have focused on China’s increasing interest in Africa and the growing dominance of the Chinese in various extractive industries. The latest is Alexis Okeowo’s account in Fortune of trouble in a Chinese-run coal mine in Zambia, a country in which Chinese investors have already acquired a huge stake. The Collum Coal Mine in southern Zambia has been the scene of repeated bloodshed—Chinese bosses have fired on Zambian workers and one Chinese boss was killed by rioting miners—forcing the Zambian government to rethink its relationship with the Chinese.
“Zambia’s people, over half of whom live in poverty, are doubtful they will ever get their own share of the country’s abundant resources,” writes Alexis. “China has invested more than $2.5 billion in Zambia and created thousands of jobs. Nevertheless, Zambians say they fear those new jobs will go to Chinese immigrants, who have already entered the country’s market for unskilled work.”
Alexis’s reporting from Zambia has also been featured in The New Yorker. Meanwhile, for an in-depth look at China’s designs on another African nation, we recommend Pulitzer Center grantee Jacob Kushner’s new multimedia e-book, “China’s Congo Plan: What the Economic Superpower Sees in the World’s Poorest Nation.” Jacob’s book is now available on Amazon, the iBookstore, the Nook store, and the free Creatavist app.
WAR WITHOUT END
Veteran radio journalist and Pulitzer Center grantee Reese Erlich has a knack for getting himself into—and just as important, out of—hard places. Earlier this year, Reese reported from inside Iran. Now he returns from a reporting trip to Syria where, as one of the few journalists to be accredited by the beleaguered Syrian government, he gleaned important insights into the staying power of regime that was supposed to be long gone.
Reese’s fascinating dispatches from Hezbollah strongholds in Damascus and his conversations with senior regime officials can be found on CBS News podcasts and on the GlobalPost website.
RED LIGHT RIO
At $20 per “program,” the women who work Rio’s gritty Vila Mimosa district are engaged in what Pulitzer Center student fellow Lauren Wilks describes as “survival sex.” Poor working conditions, social stigma and daily risks to health and safety are just some of the issues that concern the many women who see prostitution as the only way to make ends meet.
With Brazil gearing up for next year’s World Cup extravaganza, Lauren reports that efforts to “clean-up” the country’s reputation as a global destination for sex tourism are not making life easier for the most vulnerable.
Until next week,
The University of the West Indies’ St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago campus premieres the Pulitzer Center-supported documentary “The Abominable Crime,” a film directed by Micah Fink with Common Good Productions. The event is dually hosted by I Am One TnT, a new lobbying group seeking full equality for the LGBTQ citizenry of Trinidad and Tobago, and Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS) at the UWI campus.
The full-length documentary tells stories of homophobia in Jamaica, and of people such as Simone Edwards (pictured above) who faces the choice of fleeing the country after her experience with hate crime, and of advocate Maurice Tomlinson, and the decisions he faces in advocating for what he believes. Both Micah Fink and Maurice will be Skyping in to join the discussion after the film. See the event listing on Facebook.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
7:00 p.m. Doors open
7:15 p.m. Film begins
UWI-St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago
IGDS Seminar Room