The Human Impact

Notes from weather-battered eastern Mindanao

A loud bang woke me. I realised after a few seconds it was the sound of the long bamboo pole that held down the tarpaulins sheltering me banging against the balcony outside my room with ferocious force.

Then came the piercing sound of the wind. It was here in eastern Mindanao – in a small two-storey house recently repaired after Typhoon Bopha blew away its roof – that I truly understood what a “howling” wind was.

As my phone buzzed with text messages warning of a Signal 1 storm (defined by the Philippine agency that forecasts and monitors storms as a tropical cyclone with winds of 30 to 60 km per hour) I watched people in flimsier shelters struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Some tarpaulins that had been weighed down by stones and bamboo or nailed onto roofs were coming off and flapping in the wind.

It was Saturday, Jan. 19, and it had been raining heavily for 24 hours when the wind picked up. Little did we know the grim weather would continue for another 12 hours.

By midmorning the next day, the area’s Cateel River had swollen so much that it had started to flood communities along its banks. Water was lapping at the sides of the road, and families who had recently returned to patch up homes that were damaged and destroyed by Bopha fled yet again.

Feminism alive and kicking in Germany as #aufschrei campaign makes waves

A boss who offers a female employee to work sitting on his lap because there is no desk available for her;  a guest who tells the waitress he wants to eat “pussy” when she asks him what he’d like to order; a man who wonders why a woman works in computing even though “she is pretty”.

Germany has been abuzz with tweets, newspaper headlines, radio programmes and TV debates about everyday sexism since last week when a reporter at Stern magazine published an article alleging that a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition made sexist comments about her breasts.

Headlined “Gentleman’s Humour”, Laura Himmelreich described in her article how Rainer Bruederle, the 67-year-old leader of the Free Democrats, junior partners in the government, allegedly told her during drinks at a party event that she could “really fill a dirndl”, the low cut Bavarian traditional dress,  with her breasts.

IF campaign to end hunger seems a bit iffy

By Maria Caspani

Techno music and revolving images of hungry babies were among the most disheartening, not to say disturbing aspects of the event that kicked off the ‘Enough Food for Everyone IF’ campaign at London’s Somerset House this week.

The catchphrase – ‘There is enough food in the world to feed everyone, yet 2 million children die from malnutrition every year’ – was repeated so many times during the hour-long event on Wednesday evening that, by the end of it, I felt like the words had lost their meaning.

This might just be me cynically bantering about what I perceived to be the patronising attitude of people in the so-called Western world when they try hard to do good and put an end to the suffering of poor people in the so-called developing world.

PHOTOBLOG: Women in India’s capital resort to self-defence after gang rape

Women in India’s capital Delhi are gearing up for self-defence little over a month after a 23-year-old student was raped on a private bus in the city and left dying on a highway.

The episode sparked public outrage in India, where many women say they cannot rely on the country’s often gender-insensitive and under-resourced police force to ensure their security.

Now, women are mostly scared of taking buses or rickshaws alone at night and have started booking cabs with female drivers, taking self-defence classes and stocking up on pepper sprays.

Over to you: experts take water development goals debate to Web

An inspired Facebook update or a 140-character tweet could play a key role in shaping global development plans.

Over the next few weeks, policymakers are seeking input from the public via social media channels as they craft a sustainable development goal to address global water-management concerns and ensure water is available in the future for food and industrial production, for drinking and for sanitation.

Experts hope the internet-based public water consultation will help them forge streamlined goals for the post-2015 development agenda by building consensus around three main aspects of water management: water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); water resources; wastewater management and water quality.

Looking ahead to 2013: what stories will make the headlines

Journalists working for Thomson Reuters Foundation’s AlertNet and TrustLaw news services cover humanitarian issues, climate change, women’s rights and corruption around the world. We asked the team to highlight some of the stories on their radar in 2013.

Editor-in-Chief Tim Large kicked off with his top stories:

1/ Countries in transition: My eye is on South Sudan as violence threatens to erupt along its disputed northern border; Myanmar as foreign money flows in; Arab Spring nations as they finish new constitutions; Afghanistan as it braces for NATO troop withdrawals; Pakistan as aid diminishes and cracks widen between military and judiciary… And of course Syria, where it’s hard to imagine the humanitarian situation getting any worse. Sadly it can.

2/ The temperature in Pyongyang: Is North Korea coming in from the cold – or at least thawing slightly? Signs are mixed. Yes, new leader Kim Jong-un has called for an end to confrontation with the South. Heck, the boss of Google even visited Pyongyang. But that didn’t stop North Korea lobbing a long-range rocket into space in December. Meanwhile, what’s the latest on the country’s chronic hunger crisis?

PHOTO BLOG: Senegalese women battle sexism on football pitch

Streets, squares, parliament buildings and judicial courts have served as the stage for old and new struggles for women’s rights and gender equality.

But in Senegal, some smaller – yet equally important (and loud) – battles are being fought on sandy pitches across the West African nation where female teams gather to play football.

Here, as in much of the world, football is considered a sport mainly for men. Women players face discrimination and harassment as they try to follow their passion.

Public fury over gang-rape in India: Let’s keep up the pressure

So perhaps at last India has woken up to the daily abuse that its girls and women face.

Sunday night’s horrific rape where a 23-year-old woman was beaten and gang-raped on a bus as it drove through the streets of New Delhi has rightly outraged the entire nation.

In a country where news reports of sexual violence against girls and women are commonplace, yet provoke little public reaction, the events over the last four days have been unusual but welcome.

Drugged, raped, imprisoned by ‘husband’, suing maternity hospital – who’s accountable for Kenyan woman’s plight?

 

When I told a friend about a landmark case where two poor Kenyan women were suing the government for illegally detaining them in a maternity hospital for failing to pay their bills, he said, half in jest: ‘But they had nine months to save for it didn’t they?”

 

A fair point some might think.

 

But it also reveals the gaping chasm between the rich and the poor – not just economic, but in our ability to comprehend one another’s life experiences.

 

Take Margaret, one of the petitioners, who was first detained when she was 15-years-old and unable to pay for her Caesarean section.

Malala: An icon for millions of girls who want to learn

When it happened two months ago, it shocked the world. Masked Taliban gunmen stopped a school bus filled with children in northwestern Pakistan, boarded it and shot 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head and neck as she sat in the bus with her friends.

Her crime? She was a campaigner for the right of girls to go to school — an act strictly forbidden by Taliban militants who are still active in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

This was her punishment for defying their edicts, the Taliban had said.

Fortunately, Malala survived and her story — as well as her determination to continue to fight for girls to go to school despite the threat of death — has captivated the world and made her into an international icon for girls’ education.

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