Archive for the ‘Education’ category

Peace Corps Volunteers Address Rural Home Preventative Health Issues in Guatemala

April 8, 2009

Guatemala is the victim of many things: poverty, disease and 36 years of guerrilla warfare which, according to the CIA World Factbook, left more than 100,000 people dead until the signing of the 1996 peace accord which officially ended the violence.

Despite the benefits Guatemala’s agricultural sector has reaped due to the signing of the CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), as well as the assistance citizens receive as the “top remittance recipient in Central America” due to its large expat community in the U.S., the nation continues to struggle. The CIA projects that 2009 will be especially difficult for Guatemala as the global economic slowdown will discourage foreign investment and export demands from abroad.

But all this is just the broader picture.

A closer look at society reveals that one of the biggest concerns for Guatemalans relates to rural home preventative health measures. The degree of illness is high in the country, especially for food and waterborne disease like bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever, as well as vectorborne disease like dengue fever and malaria and water contact disease like leptospirosis.

No doubt these health concerns contribute to the country’s high infant mortality rate which the CIA has broken down accordingly:

total: 27.84 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 30.2 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 25.35 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Compare that to the United States:

total: 6.26 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 6.94 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.55 deaths/1,000 live births (more…)

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Peace Corps Philippines Volunteers Tout Women’s Rights

March 25, 2009

Ever since I lived in Jinhae, Korea and would stay up late at night listening to my neighbor beat the crap out of his girlfriend (and be told by Korean friends and co-workers not to call the cops or interfere because it could make the woman’s life even worse – a kind of sick reasoning that was fully backed up with common scenarios as to just how worse her life would be if I budded in), women’s rights has been a personal crusade of mine. (And a big part of the current thesis I am writing for my M.A. in East Asian Studies).

Even though March (Women’s History Month) is almost over and despite the fact that International Women’s Day (March 8th) has come and gone, that doesn’t mean that the issue should be put to rest. If anything, such a time should only serve as a reminder to us that the topic needs constant addressing.

For a very inspiring post about what is being done to deal with the issue in the Philippines, read this post from the blog Amanda in the Philippines. Amanda is a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines and just recently conducted a women’s rights workshop with fellow Peace Corps volunteers in the country.

The whole experience was really eye opening. On Sunday we met with the women’s group that we were working with to facilitate the workshop. They are called Buklod ng babae (Women bonding together) and are based in the downtown area of the city that we were in. For two days we were to meet with around 25 women and girls (I say girls because some of these girls were “18” and I refuse to call them women) who work in GRO bars or on the street. I have mentioned GRO bars before, but to clarify, GRO stands for Guest Relations Officer here, it is the term that they use, for lack of a better word, for prostitutes. There are GRO’s that work on the street, but mostly there are bars where there are varying levels of entertainment involving the girls there for sale.

The workshop did not criticize the women’s line of work as clearly it was seen as the only available means of supporting themselves and their families. Instead, the seminar dealt with issues of rape, self-respect, HIV/AIDS and served as a source of information about women’s rights.

To get a better idea of what kind of environment the women they were interacting with worked in, Amanda and her colleagues visited some of the bars the women and girls entertained in.

We started in the city where there are ordinances which affect GRO Bars. The first bar we went to, Mangos, had (as expected) a bunch of old nasty white men scamming on the young-looking girls that were working. There were about 10 or 11 girls, many of which were in short shorts and bikini tops. There was a small stage at the front where at least one was dancing at all times. It was not like the dancing that you see in the movies, the girls were swaying slowly and looked uncomfortable, they stared only at their reflections in the mirrors and did not look around at the onlookers as though they were pretending to be somewhere else. We stayed for a little while and spoke with a girl who is a member of Buklod and also a GRO at the bar. She looked like she was about 4 or 5 months pregnant, but we did not bring that up. The next bar was the bar that was owned by the woman that came to the workshop. Here there were a few more old nasty white guys, but there was no stage or dancing, the girls had on little black dresses and tags. They were tags like they wear at my LGU with the girl’s picture, age, etc on it. The owner says that they wear them to show that they have been certified by the government as ok for GRO work.

We have added Amanda’s blog to our sidebar for those wishing to continue following her Peace Corps experience and her updates, and have also put her blog in our “Editor’s Pick” category.

Pennies for Peace

February 18, 2009

There was a time when the region of Central Asia was virtually unknown to the rest of the world. Then 9/11 happened and suddenly all attention was focused on Afghanistan and the region as a whole.

But before the events related to 9/11 even took place, Greg Mortenson was working in the region and had founded the Central Asia Institute which continues its work of building schools for girls in a part of the world where education for girls has not always been possible.

Yesterday I received a packet from the Central Asia Institute (of Three Cups of Tea fame), which included a beautifully written and photographed report on the institute’s work in Central Asia. But while paging through the material the CAI sent me, another project also caught my eye — Pennies for Peace:

Pennies for Peace educates children about the world beyond their experience and shows them that they can make a positive impact on a global scale, one penny at a time.

Our best hope for a peaceful and prosperous world lies in the education of all the world’s children. Through cross-cultural understanding and a solution-oriented approach, Pennies for Peace encourages children, ultimately our future leaders, to be active participants in the creation of global peace.

The Pennies for Peace Web site offers some fantastic resources for teachers interested in participating in the program, including some facts about the areas where the CAI operates. It also lists suggested books for school kids in relation to the program’s mission and a themed curriculum for teachers, among the other materials found in the program’s “toolkit.”

Teachers interested in having their classes participate in the program are encouraged to register on the Pennies for Peace Web site.

Below is a video summarizing the CAI’s work as well as the Pennies for Peace project. [Note: Some of the people interviewed in this clip have inserted their own political philosophies into the video, but what is important is the larger message about the importance of education.]