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Sharing a new blog I have been working on for IIED.

(G)ender inequalities in land governance can be seen as the result of women not being involved in local decision-making processes around land. They are also connected to wider gender discrimination in local or cultural practices, and to attitudes in social hierarchies…. it clear how important it is to have a good understanding of the issues at a local level. For projects seeking to improve women’s access to land, exploring these local dynamics is key to addressing root inequalities.

Read the full piece here. 

Image Credit to Pablo Patruno

Image Credit to Pablo Patruno

A beautiful photo essay by Paolo Patruno following mothers through the journey of giving birth in Africa and highlighting the difficult reality of this journey.

In Malawi … the words for pregnancy in the local language—’pakati’ and ‘matenda’—translate into ‘between life and death’ and ‘sick’.

While documenting the lives of these mothers, I saw things that shocked me, such as a midwife yelling at a woman in labor to stop crying. I also met nurses and midwives who were heroes, saving the lives of mothers and children on a daily basis, despite strained resources and crowded facilities. I saw that the conditions in which women give birth can vary widely, even within the same community. Many women give birth in facilities without adequate equipment and services, or at home without skilled providers. Some women deliver their babies without access to power or running water.

In particular, women in poor and remote communities, far from the nearest health services, are most at risk. And of these, young women and girls are in the most danger: In many communities girls still marry when very young and contraceptive advice is poor or non-existent.

The death of a mother—an all too common outcome of these conditions—is a human tragedy. Her death endangers the lives of the surviving newborn and young children. Girl children are often pulled from school and required to fill their lost mother’s roles. A mother’s death makes it harder for the family to obtain life’s necessities and escape the crush of poverty. As I’ve traveled throughout Africa over the past ten years, I have seen how important women’s roles are, not just for families, but for entire communities.

Find full essay and images at Birth is A Dream.

 

 

PortThe next morning we travel to the town of Altagracia. The election has arrived to Ometepe. With it, unseen divisions in Nicaragua start to emerge. People group around the two forms of the main political parties: the ruling Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN) and the opposition Partito Liberal Constitucionalista (PLC). Deep lines, which normally subtly mark daily life, appear like fences constructed urgently overnight. Allegiances are strong,territory is marked and tension heightens. We walk around the main part of the town. On the other side of the central square, the election results have just been announced and the town is fighting over the four votes which won or lost the seat. The winners gloat, fly party flags and explode firecrackers.

“We won!“ says a man from the FSLN in the square, leaning too close and wiping the sweat from his face, as if even the risky thought of change came a little too close this time.

The losers demand a recount, claim that there was rigged voting, that it wasn’t fair, that not everyone got a chance. The crowds stir. Mothers mutter, the unemployed grumble, the opposition will seek redress. We wonder how many of them will be heard.

In the church in Altagracia they sweep the town’s dust into heavy piles which they beat out into the garden. We walk around the church, and make note of its calm white interior and the wooden pews lined up in careful harmony. In the garden a chicken pecks on the ground. A PA system lifts music from the central square where a small cluster of victors celebrate with Cumbia music, shaking black and red FSLN flags. They play their part in a political process which reaches beyond their shore to Managua where they rarely go; to a President’s hand that they will never shake. As we drive away from the church, the voices and music fade. For those in Managua, for those watching from abroad, those voices will be quieter still.

This is an extract from ‘Waves’ published in Kweli Journal. Do visit their site to read the whole essay.

I want to share this article by my friend Veronica about returning to her home town in Malaysia after seven years abroad. She discusses the changes in her own community and the positive effect that murals and graffiti have had on residents. Having worked in development in Africa, she suggests that development is perhaps both more subtle and more organic than development practitioners would have us believe.

I particularly love the follow comment on development as a human and heart centred process. I couldn’t agree more, V!

“Development isn’t necessarily a set of goals. Development needs to be human-centred. Development is what people want it to be, what they want for themselves is what they will achieve with what they put in. Others are merely vehicles and catalysts to enable such an environment to take place….

(S)omething as simple as a few wall-paintings has triggered such response and in turn provided the catalyst for local artists to express themselves more freely now is what I would truly call development.”

Graffiti Mohamed Mahmoud Street

Veronica discusses the impact of wall art in Malaysia. This picture is from Mohamed Mahmoud Street in Cairo, where graffiti art has also played a role in creating change in the city.

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