THE PATH TO WIDOWHOOD
In India and many other parts of the world, widowhood is not merely a tragic personal sorrow, it is a devastating state of diminishment that can trigger economic ruin and cruel social consequences that are often felt for generations. Pulitzer Center grantees Jessica Benko and Amy Toensing tell the story of 8-year-old Gunjan, whose chances in life are already narrowing.
Gunjan’s mother, who was widowed at an early age, is illiterate and can only get occasional work as a day laborer. Her older sister, age 13, is considered too old to safely leave the house for work; her two other siblings, ages 3 and 5, are too young. So it is Gunjan who has assumed responsibility for supporting the family of five. She sells marigolds to pilgrims along the banks of the Yamuna, the second most sacred river in Hinduism. She earns about two dollars a day and she hasn’t been to school in a year or two.
Writing in National Geographic’s “Proof” blog, Jessica says that Gunjan and her sisters are headed down the same path as their unfortunate mother. “[B]ecause of their poverty, they are likely to be married to much older men, who may leave them as unskilled, illiterate widows with young children, as their mother is now.”
SHOWTIME IN SOCHI
The Winter Olympics are now underway in Sochi, with a massive cordon of security surrounding the Black Sea resort city to protect against possible terror attacks from Chechnya and the troubled Caucasus region. But as Pulitzer Center senior adviser Marvin Kalb notes on his Brookings Institution blog, the unrest bubbling up in Ukraine may pose a more serious threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s big show.
“Clearly Putin does not want to strike against Ukraine as the Winter Olympics open in nearby Sochi,” writes Marvin. “He has invested massively in the success of the Olympics—more than $50 billion. A Russian move against Ukraine, similar to the Russian move against Georgia six years ago, would shift the world’s attention from what Putin wants the world to see as the splendor of Russia; a golden opportunity for investment, proof on the winter slopes of the Olympics that Russia remains a great power and worthy of global respect and admiration.”
But neither can Putin afford to “lose” Ukraine, writes Marvin. “As a student of Russian history, Putin must know that Peter the Great once said of a Swedish threat to conquer the Ukrainian part of the Russian empire that if Russia loses Ukraine, it is no longer Russia.”
AN ABOMINABLE CRIME
The Sochi games have also focused international attention on Putin’s open contempt for gay rights. As Pulitzer Center grantee Micah Fink has documented in his film, “The Abominable Crime,” Jamaica is another place that has become dangerous for homosexuals, owing in part to an anti-sodomy law that gives official sanction to vicious hate crimes.Micah and Maurice Tomlinson, a lawyer and activist featured in the film, attended a screening with nearly 600 public high school students in northeast Philadelphia recently. The viewing capped a day-long exploration of social justice at the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush, with discussions and student performances that brought the school together in one of the more gratifying engagements with Pulitzer Center journalism that we’ve seen in a school setting.
Micah and Maurice will continue their outreach around the film in Europe next month, with appearances at film festivals in Amsterdam and London, and talks at our partner schools and universities on the continent.
Until next week,
13 February is World Radio Day — a day to celebrate radio as a medium that reaches the widest audience worldwide.
Yet, there is a gender gap in radio content and management: women reporters & hosts get less airtime than men; and fewer women are in executive positions.
Through World Radio Day celebrations around the world, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is committed to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Dr. Walker was the first female surgeon in the U.S. Army, serving during the Civil War.
She was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1865 by President Johnson, and remains the only woman to have ever won it, to this date. Interestingly, this high honor was awarded to her (and even had a bill passed in order to make her eligible) in order to recognize her service to the country…while making sure that she didn’t receive an army commission in retirement.
Indeed, she made less as a pensioner than the widows of most officers did, but she saw the greater honor of her Medal, wearing it every day until her death in 1917.
Walker also campaigned as an abolitionist (prior to the war), prohibitionist, and an advocate for dress reform, citing women’s clothing as “immodest and unwieldy”. She was arrested several times in the late 1800s for “impersonating a man”, because of her trousers and top hat.
I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl! – either the most sexist book of all time, or the cleverest cultural satire. More equally appalling parallels at the link, including “Boys are Presidents. Girls are First Ladies.” and “Boys invent things. Girls use what boys invent.”
Malcolm Venville. The Women of Casa X.
The British photographer Malcolm Venville has made a searing photographic record of a deranged reality. Complementing Venville’s photographs is a series of astonishingly candid interviews with the women of Casa X by the well-known Mexican writer Amanda de la Rosa. These are the portraits and testimonies of thirty-five survivors of the monster of the City, with much to say about life in a slum in Latin America: about the Mexico that horrifies, about sex, poverty, love, and the darkest side of human nature.
One night in Mexico City, Carmen Muñoz, sex worker, was roaming the streets looking for customers. Unexpectedly, she found two colleagues, both over sixty years old, sleeping on the street, covered by newspapers. After almost forty years of giving service to butchers, porters, refuse collectors and criminals, they were now long forgotten by their families and society. Carmen was confronted with what would be her own fate, like most women of her profession. Striving for dignity for all of them, she organised her colleagues and led a group that resolved to find a home where they could spend their last days in safety and warmth.
In 2006, after twelve years of work, and with the support of Mexican intellectuals and artists, the government gave them a seventeenth-century mansion, where Carmen founded Casa Xochiquetzal - Casa X. Around sixty women, all over fifty years old, receive shelter, food, and medical and psychological care. This is not just a retirement home - most of the women who live there still walk the streets. But Casa X is the only refuge for prostitutes in Latin America.
Casa X is located in the heart of the notorious district of Tepito. Although only eight blocks from the historic centre of Mexico City, Tepito is a micro-universe, where life is lived in a unique fashion. For nearly 500 years it has been a place of impunity, crime, smuggling, violence and prostitution. The neighbourhood did not submit to the Aztec Empire, or to the Spanish conquistadors, or to the current authorities. Tepito has an identity that goes beyond its boundaries. It has its own social organisation, myths, heroes, slang, and even its own local deity, La Santa Muerte (Holy Death). The women of Casa X are stuck at the bottom of the ladder of this world, and keeping the memories of it in their bodies.
Illusions of the Body was made to tackle the supposed norms of what we think our bodies are supposed to look like. Most of us realize that the media displays the only the prettiest photos of people, yet we compare ourselves to those images. We never get to see those photos juxtaposed against a picture of that same person looking unflattering. That contrast would help a lot of body image issues we as a culture have.
Within the series I tried get a range of body types, ethnicities & genders to show how everyone is a different shape & size; there is no “normal”. Each photo was taken with the same lighting & the same angle.
Celebrate your shapes, sizes & the odd contortions your body can get itself into. The human body is a weird & beautiful thing.
Photographer: Gracie Hagen
23-year old Nataly Palacios Córdoba was murdered by her boyfriend in August. Her death caused such a shock that her classmates decided to launch the ‘Love doesn’t kill’ campaign.
When Mortimer Herbert Morris-Goodall gave his young daughter a stuffed lifelike toy chimp named Jubilee, his wife’s friends were horrified by the plaything and admonished that it would frighten little Jane out of her wits. Instead, it became the spark of fascination to light the inner fire that would make Jane Goodall (b. April 3, 1934) one of history’s greatest primatologists and the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees.
At nineteen, after her mother told her that secretaries could get jobs anywhere in the world, Goodall decided to pursue secretarial training in London. But she remained enchanted by animals — she continued to read countless books about them between her poetry and philosophy coursework, and roamed the Natural History Museum on lunchbreaks. Her cross-disciplinary curiosity also drove her to take a course in journalism, and she found enormous delight in the poetry of Dylan Thomas and T.S. Eliot. But while her life in London was infinitely stimulating, it was the furthest thing from lavish or even comfortable — she was so desperately short on money, in fact, that in her memoir Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey she describes her usual dinners as consisting of “a quarter of a boiled cabbage (the cheapest vegetable) and an apple, or a Penguin biscuit.”
After graduating, she followed her passion for animals and Africa — the place she wanted to go the most — to a friend’s farm in the Kenyan highlands in 1957. She was mesmerized and determined to stay. Her uncle arranged for a secretarial job with the manager at the Kenyan branch of a British company, but Goodall longed to work with animals. A friend suggested she should try to meet the legendary Kenya-based archeologist and paleontologist Louis Leakey at the Coryndon Museum of Natural History, so she reached out to him. They met at his “large, untidy office, strewn with piles of paper, fossil bones and teeth, stone tools, and all sorts of other things,” and he took her around the museum, asking her all kinds of questions about the various exhibits. Goodall, who had read voraciously about Africa, was able to answer most, and Leaky was impressed that someone without a scientific degree would know so much. So he offered her a job as his personal secretary. Leakey soon sent Goodall to Cambridge to obtain formal scientific education, and she became only the eight person ever to be allowed to pursue a Ph.D. without a previous Bachelor’s degree.
And so began the professional journey of a remarkable pioneer. Goodall spent nearly half a century studying the social and family interactions of chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park. The insights from her longitudinal observations have served as fundamental pillars of understanding not only primate behavior, but also animal consciousness at large. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977, dedicated to her relentless advocacy of international wildlife and environmental conservation, and has authored numerous books on primate behavior, animal welfare, and what it means to inhabit our inextricable connectedness to our closest fellow beings.
To support Goodall’s work and its far-reaching legacy, consider contributing a donation to the Jane Goodall Institute.