Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Carnaval em Quelimane

These pictures are from the site Memórias de Quelimane e da Zambézia. As I am finishing up celebrating Mardi Gras here in New Orleans, I wanted to post a little something about Carnaval in Zambezia. The thing is, I don't know much at all. I only know that Quelimane is really the only place in Mozambique to celebrate it in full force. Please feel free to add any information you might have about this event!

Quelimane Carnval em 1972

Quelimane em 2006

Fotos de Carnaval 2009 aqui!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dirty Water

Here is a shocking picture making a shocking point. Dirty water is responsible many, many child deaths, all over the world. I'm conflicted about this image; it seems wrong to have a child in this position. But the image is disturbing because what it symbolizes is disturbing. This relates well to the last post on my other blog, about
breastfeeding. Baby formula is problematic for a variety of reasons. But mixing baby formula with dirty water is a huge part of why it is wrong to promote formula in the developing world.

Friday, February 6, 2009

O Jardim do Outro Homem

I just got this movie on Netflix and it was really good. The film quality is poor, it looks kind of like a home movie. But the plot is interesting and the acting is good too. The story follows Sofia, a student in Maputo who dreams(literally) of being a doctor. Her family and boyfriend are not very supportive of this dream. The family has a saying that educating a girl is like watering another man's garden. I guess this means that, well, since she's going to grow up and be someone else's wife, what kind of investment is it for us?

The storyline touches on many classic Mozambican/Maputo issues; the father is in South Africa working in the mines, teachers mysteriously die from something everyone really knows is AIDS, the grandmother speaks Shangaan and dresses more traditionally while the younger women wear Western clothes and speak Portuguese even to each other. School corruption was a major theme too; one of Sofia's teachers tries to blackmail her into sleeping with him when he catches her cheating on a test.

Sofia's character was well developed. She isn't perfect, but she tries to be good. In the film we see her cheat, steal a shirt, but she is also smart and dreams of delivering babies and helping her community. I like the fact that we see she has a sexual relationship with her boyfriend. Often, stories about female students sleeping with teachers are dependent on the virgin/whore dichotomy. The crime is either wrong because she's a virigin or less wrong because, a least he didn't take her virginity and she was a slut anyway. But in this story we see that Sofia has a sexual life that she's in control of, and that is healthy. What is wrong is that she isn't in control of the potential sexual relationship with the teacher. He's trying to take away her dignity, not her virginity. I just felt that was a different take on an old story.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Protecting Futures Program, Somewhere in Africa

My next class project has also turned into a blog post, inspired by this commercial:

As someone interested in Africa, at first the Protecting Futures Program sounded like a wonderful idea. And there are still parts of it that really can improve girls' lives. But getting them hooked on expensive, disposable pads isn't necessarily one of them.

Here's a quote from the website:

In some parts of the world, girls can't go to school if they have their period.
That's what happens to some girls in Southern Africa. Why? They don't have tampons or pads.

This is not entirely accurate, but it is definitely being played up for a Western audience, most of which will have a hard time understanding just what girls might be doing with their blood if they don't have tampons or pads. Most women in Africa use cloth, which they wash and use again.

The truth is, there are a myriad of reasons why girls in Africa will miss school. UNICEF cites high school fees, sexual harassment from teachers and pregnancy as just a few. It is true that girls will stay home from school during their period, but not just because they don't have tampons or pads. Many schools don't have adequate latrines or water, meaning there is no place for a girl to change whatever method of protection she might be using.

Procter & Gamble, along with donating millions of pads to "Africa" (it's annoying that in the commercial they don't specify's just some quintessential "African" village) is installing latrines and pumping in water to some of the schools they have partnered with. The hygiene part of the program seems untouchable. How could you really criticize that? But the donating of pads makes me very skeptical. Here are the questions I have, that I can't find answers to on the website:

1. If the girls receive free pads while they are students, what are they expected to do when they graduate? How will they receive or buy the pads they've grown used to?

2. Why is P&G not teaching the girls reusable methods of protection? Wouldn't that be better for the girls' economic situation and their nations' environmental situations?

3. What will P&G teach the girls to do with the waste? If they throw the pads down the latrine, the latrines P&G built will fill up faster. If they put them in the trash, they must be burned, using up firewood or kerosene- also not cheap or easy to come by.

4. Are there plans, somewhere in the vaults, that P&G has about opening up a vast market share in Somewhere, Africa? In all honesty, could the company say that it isn't looking at these girls as future customers?

I don't want to minimize the good this program could be doing. It's possible that, rather than looking to open a new market, P&G is looking to solve a problem the only way it knows how. And traditional cloth protection has it's pitfalls too. When girls can't wash or dry them in sanitary ways, they can lead to more problems.

But from an economic and environmental perspective, this is not the direction we should be moving. If anything, Western women should be looking to traditional reusable protection methods themselves. If we really care about the impact we have on this world, we have to think of everything.

Here's something to think about: In her lifetime, the average pad or tampon user will spend around $5,000 on menstrual products and throw away around 300 lbs of menstrual product waste. (EEPA, 2008)

If we export this to Africa, is it truly development?

Links to other articles:

Protecting Futures Official Website

New York Times Article on Program

Menstrual Hygiene: A Neglected Condition for the Achievement of Severall Millennium Development Goals.

Red Tent Sisters