The Human Impact

Little justice for Colombia’s acid victims

Acid attacks are on the rise in Colombia.

In the first four months of this year, 19 women have been attacked with acid in Colombia – more than during the same period in 2011.

Gloria Piamba, 26, is one of those victims.

As I wait on a street corner for Piamba to turn up on a recent drizzly day in a gritty residential neighourhood in central Bogota, she is an easy figure to spot.

Piamba emerges from a government-run women’s refuge with her head wrapped in a shawl and a young son in tow.

She wears a mask over her half-burned mouth, a tube up her nose to prevent it from concaving, and a patch over her disfigured left eye, which was left with partial vision.

We sit in a nearby café for several hours where she tells me with candour and clarity about her abusive relationship with her ex-boyfriend with whom she had a son.

Foreign bribery fines and settlements: Who should get the money?


By Luke Balleny

‘Share and share alike,’ some parents love to tell their offspring. But when it comes to fines or settlements from foreign bribery cases, the issue of sharing is a contentious one.

The U.S. government receives all proceeds from fines or settlements that companies pay it in connection with violations, or alleged violations, of U.S. anti-bribery laws.

But would the country ever share the proceeds of such fines or settlements with governmental and non-governmental groups working in the countries where the bribery allegedly occurred?

Men a key weapon in women’s battle for top jobs

By Maria Caspani

I recently went to the launch of the Women’s Empowerment Principles, hosted by the UK chapter of the United Nations women’s agency (UN Women) in London.

The principles – signed by over 400 CEOs worldwide – provide companies with a framework to improve women’s empowerment and promote gender equality in the workplace.

It was thrilling to be in the same room eating canapés and sipping white wine with 85 top executives of UK and global companies—particularly because they were practically all women.

Hungry for help in Nairobi’s slums

“Will you pass by and see her?” Anne asked me, nodding to her two-year-old daughter who was playing barefoot in the nearby dirt with another young girl.

It’s amazing how children can laugh amidst utter squalor that makes adults want to weep.

As a journalist, you often spend your time trying to get people to open up to you, to tell you their most intimate thoughts.

Solutions for a hungry world

By 2050, experts say, the planet will need at least 70 percent more food than it does today as its population soars, cities sprawl and climate change takes its toll. Will it be possible?

That’s a question AlertNet put to hunger fighters worldwide for a special multimedia report out today probing the future of food. Their answer: The planet can feed itself – but only if two “revolutions” happen, and happen soon.

The first would involve sweeping changes to entrenched policies and practices that are, in the end, unsustainable. Policies such as spending trillions on agriculture and fuel subsidies. And practices such as eating so much meat and dairy.

Domestic violence: Colombian women’s worst enemy


What’s the biggest threat in Colombia?

Outsiders would probably say the armed conflict that has dragged   on for nearly five decades.

But for the country’s women, it’s the violence that takes place in homes, behind closed doors, Cristina Plazas, Colombia’s chief advisor on gender equality tells me.

“I understand that there are other enemies like paramilitary and guerrilla groups, drug trafficking and gangs,” Plazas said during a recent interview. “But really there’s no enemy greater than domestic violence.”

Escape from Camp 14: life inside North Korea’s brutal labour camps



The thought of spending just one day with a full stomach compelled Shin Dong-hyuk to take the biggest risk of his life.

In 2005, he escaped North Korea’s Camp 14, a prison holding political enemies of the state. He was 23, and all he had ever known of life was the labour camp – its conditions likened to a Soviet gulag or Nazi concentration camp.

The subject of “Escape from Camp 14“, a book by former Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden, Shin is thought to be the only person born in one of these camps to have escaped.

Does marriage stop prostitution? Indian village thinks so

Is marriage a guarantee that a woman won’t be prostituted?

It’s a question that played heavily on my mind recently when I went to the remote village of Wadia in India’s western region of Gujarat to cover a mass wedding and engagement ceremony of 21 girls, which was aimed at breaking a centuries-old tradition of prostitution.

I arrived in the small, neglected hamlet on the eve of the big ceremony. Preparations were well underway.

Soon-to-be-brides sat inside the mud-walled compounds of their homes surrounded by singing female relatives, with “haldi” or turmeric paste smeared on the faces and arms – a South Asian pre-wedding ritual believed to make the skin “glow”.

Undernourished and anaemic – the plight of India’s teen girls

The U.N.’s latest report on the state of the world’s 1.2 billion adolescents gives food for thought, especially on the plight of India’s girls aged between 10 and 19.

The report explores a range of issues affecting teenagers around the globe, from nutrition and health to sexual behaviour, knowledge on HIV/AIDS, attitudes towards gender violence and access to education.

Data from surveys of adolescent girls in India, and South Asia in general, are once again a reality check – which we shouldn’t need but unfortunately still do.

Anthropologist criticises raids “rescuing” sex workers

In an Istanbul conference room of sex workers and women’s rights experts, a black and white silent film sparks waves of laughter.

Instead of the likes of Charlie Chaplin, the film’s star running across the screen to upbeat music is a woman escaping police as they raid a bar for sex workers. After chasing her in circles, the police arrest her, only for her to return to the bar again anyway.

But laughter is absent in the room during the next short clip – a short film purportedly showing a real raid on sex workers.