The Human Impact

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”.

Sporting long, curled moustaches, large turbans and gold studs in their ears, old men idled on charpoys outside, smoking beedis under the shade of trees.

They told me they were from the Saraniya community – a once nomadic group who inhabited the arid landscape of Gujarat and the neighbouring Rajasthan.

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.

Art brings solace to sexually abused Filipino women

Worldwide, women battle patriarchal systems daily to own what is rightfully theirs, be it their right to land or household finances – as highlighted by delegates at the world’s largest global women’s rights conference in Istanbul this week.

Yet when it comes to women and girls who have suffered sexual violence, the property they often strive to reclaim is their own body.

So how can women regain a sense of ownership over bodies that have been physically and emotionally shattered?

Expert urges unity in dialogue over water security

Disconnected approaches to water security are hindering efforts to launch more effective talks on providing universal access to fresh water and sanitation, an expert said at an international conference this week.

The division between discussions on boosting access to water for the poor and those on the challenges of managing water as a resource was plain to see at the water security conference at Oxford University, according to Tom Slaymaker, a senior policy analyst at WaterAid.

“The dominant narrative on water security reflects rich-country concerns and we mustn’t forget that in developing countries huge amounts of people still lack basic facilities,” Slaymaker said.

Do climate change funds neglect women?

People funding initiatives to tackle climate change effects would channel money towards the worst-affected people, right? And towards those who play key roles in mitigating the effects of climate change?

It certainly sounds logical. But in reality, many donors aiming to help communities to weather climate change often overlook the needs of women. So says Mariama Williams, a senior fellow at the Geneva-based South Centre, an intergovernmental think tank of developing countries.

Distributing funds in the area of climate change “has to have a gender dimension,” Williams told delegates at a women’s rights conference in Istanbul on Thursday.

Safer water, sanitation could save 2.5 mln lives – WaterAid

The lives of 2.5 million people could be saved every year if governments committed to universal access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation, charity WaterAid has said.

Citing the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO), WaterAid said in a report that boosting access to clean water and sanitation could save people by reducing deaths from diarrhoea, malnutrition and related diseases.

Although the global Millennium Development Goal (MDG 7) water target to reduce by half the proportion of people living without safe water by 2015 has now been met, many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and Oceania are lagging behind, WaterAid said.

Cash aid transfers should be standardised – report

Aid agencies and donors should develop a “tool box” for the use and distribution of cash transfers to improve effective aid delivery, according to a new report from the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP).

Cash and voucher programmes are increasingly being used in regions where security problems interfere with the delivery of such traditional forms of aid as food.

An estimated 4 million people in the Horn of Africa are now receiving famine assistance via cash and voucher programmes from non-governmental charities and United Nations (U.N.) agencies, according to CaLP.

Fernanda’s story: The dark side of the Guatemalan baby trade

“Finding Fernanda: Two Mothers, One Child and a Cross-Border Search for Truth (Cathexis Press 2011).” It is journalist Erin Siegal’s chronicle of the terrible personal cost to two families ensnared in the corruption and human trafficking that fueled the Guatemala’s booming adoption industry until 2008.

Insecurity hinders aid distribution in northern Mali

As Mali tries to restore order after the recent coup, a key challenge for the interim civilian government will be getting aid to people as the country verges on a humanitarian disaster.

Dioncounda Traore took over as Mali’s interim president on Thursday after leaders of a March 22 coup agreed to return power to civilians. Nearly 80 percent of Malian territory comprising the northern regions of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal is under the control of a mix of Tuareg-led rebels, who have declared an independent state in the north, and armed Islamic groups.

Aid agencies say about 100,000 internally displaced people urgently need assistance including shelter. Residents of some northern towns say they are trapped without food, water, electricity, money and medical care.

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