Poverty Reduction in MoldovaMoldova has faced many challenges in the past few years. Finding itself as a landlocked country with a relatively smaller population of fewer than four million people, the agriculture and food-based economy had a GDP of less than $8 million as of 2014. Some ways the country can improve its position on a global scale would be by improving the quality of life of its people. These improvements include advancing health services in hospitals as well as advancing education among citizens. Several programs target poverty reduction in Moldova, aiming to improve the lives of the most vulnerable citizens.

The Recent History of Moldova

Moldova suffers greatly from corruption among government officials, ranking in the 20th percentile for Control of Corruption according to the Worldwide Governance Indicators of 2015. Even though there was an increase in workplace competitiveness during the banking crisis of 2014, there was also an increase in political instability.

Before the banking crisis of 2014, there was a large decrease in extreme poverty in Moldova, lowering from 7% in 2011 to 3.1% by 2013. The reduction in poverty creates a higher need for shared prosperity that helps a larger portion of the population rather than just a small number of citizens. By aligning its principles with EU regulations, Moldova raised the country’s competitiveness in the market, increasing economic activity and helping greatly with poverty reduction in Moldova.

In agriculture, more than 1,000 businesses started up with the help of around $30 million allocated to rural businesses, which created more than 5,000 jobs. The funds allocated to Moldova also helped to increase preparedness among farmers against droughts and other weather risks.

Addressing the Needs of Children

Poverty disproportionately affects Moldova’s children as they are often located in rural areas in some of the most impoverished regions. Roughly 80% of impoverished families with children live in rural areas, and with each added child, the rate of household poverty increases. For instance, families with more than two children struggle most financially. Children growing up in poverty have less access to healthcare and education, which impacts their lives as adults. Without proper aid or assistance, children will continue cycles of poverty, leading to a country that is unable to prosper.

Organizations Assisting Moldova

There are a number of organizations and programs working inside the country to help with poverty reduction in Moldova. These organizations work with children, those struggling with mental illness, homeless people and many others. One organization, Way to Success, implements a two-year program to empower young people between 16 and 21 with important life and professional skills. The skills help the youth become self-sustainable, contributing to poverty reduction in Moldova. The organization teaches these young adults how to identify the needs of local communities and how to provide those communities with proper care and aid.

Another program to highlight is the Metamorphosis Program. This program’s objective is to rehabilitate and help young adults and teenagers who have suffered the effects of poverty and abuse. The program largely focuses on breaking the cycles of poverty with plans that grow ideas of resilience. Programs targeting young adults and teenagers greatly increase poverty reduction in Moldova, allowing for more prosperity in the country.

Moldova has many programs available to assist with poverty reduction. With programs targeting children, competitiveness in the economy and political instability, poverty reduction in Moldova is on the increase.

– Jake Herbetko
Photo: Flickr

instability in the CongoThe Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Over the past decades, war, gender imbalances and lack of political development, as well as conservation issues, have contributed to the country’s vulnerability. Instability in the Congo has been a challenge, but citizens continue to strive for peace and security.

With a population of 84,068,091 in 2018, 50.1% of the Congo’s population are women, while 49.9% are men. The population has a nearly equal gender ratio, though women face significant challenges in gender equality. As in many developing countries, women are not respected equally and typically do not hold positions of power. In the Congo, beginning in 1996, sexual violence has been used as a war weapon to intimidate and control women during and after the war.

According to the U.N., women in the Congo suffer drastically from a lack of rights and increasing vulnerability during the rise of military operations in 2018. With cases and reports of sexual violence increasing by 34% in 2018, the need for change is apparent. The U.N. quickly addressed these issues, working with the Congolese government to negotiate for peace with the Patriotic Resistance Front of Ituri. This brought about a decrease in sexual abuse cases committed by such military groups. Though the issue remains, there was a reported 72% decrease in sexual abuse cases following the UN’s intervention.

Poverty and Poaching

A decrease in the Congo’s poverty line has also occurred over the past two decades, although according to the World Bank, 72% of the population remains under the poverty line, living on less than $1.90 a day. With more than half of the Congo’s citizens struggling to make ends meet, poaching is an increasingly significant issue. Conservation is particularly essential in developing countries in which biodiversity and wildlife create tourist attractions that provide crucial economic income. Much of the country’s wildlife, such as elephants and primates, are subject to dangerous conditions. Primates are particularly vulnerable to threats such as the bushmeat trade and the pet trade. These trades are directly linked to poverty and instability in the Congo. This is because the industry provides a source of income and food. Therefore, in order to end poaching, baseline levels of infrastructure, employment and socioeconomic stability must be attained. Until this happens, many conservation establishments, such as the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), Kahuzi National Park and Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center are working to eliminate poaching and protect endangered wildlife.

Protection and Rehabilitation of Wildlife

Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center was established in 2002 by the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and the Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles (CRSN). Following the establishment of Lwiro, Coopera NGO stepped up to support the center’s rehabilitation and educational practices. Lwiro gained the support of the Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance (ICWCA) and the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP). Two women now run Lwiro: Lorena Aguirre Cadarso works as the country director, and Itsaso Vélez del Burgo works as the technical director. These two women strive to ensure that Lwiro is actively addressing cultural and conservation issues in the Congo.

The fact that Lwiro is run by women is unusual, as women in the Congo have been subject to significant gender inequality for decades. They are breaking gender barriers while protecting at-risk wildlife and helping improve instability in the Congo.

Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center

Lwiro is home to 92 chimpanzees and 108 monkeys, adding up to a total of 13 different species. Rehabilitation and preservation of primates in the Congo mean saving the lives of the endangered animals, whether they have been injured due to poaching or other reasons. Typically young primates are brought to the center because their families have been taken from them and they will be unable to provide for themselves. Lwiro offers multiple dormitories for the chimpanzees and monkeys and includes a five-acre enclosure for the primates to play while the staff ensures that the dormitories are safe and clean. The rehabilitation of primates requires care and attention, just as the care of humans requires. Infant primates are treated with particular love and attention. Caretakers strive to teach social skills to primates that might have lost their families and would not otherwise be socialized. Lwiro’s mission is to ensure that resident animals acquire the necessary social skills for reintegration into wild chimpanzee communities after completing rehabilitation.

Sexual Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation

Along with primate rehabilitation, Lwiro also offers rehabilitation and treatment for local sexual abuse victims. Sexual abuse is a pervasive issue in the Congo. The center provides treatment for victims ages 2 to 18 years old. Treatment can be modified to meet the needs of particular victims. According to Cadarso, the center helps “victims of sexual violence, victims of gender violence and widows.” The staff uses methods such as Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE), meditation and prayer. Lwiro focuses specifically on survivors’ mental health. “You need to give psychological support that aims to provide the tools to resolve their trauma and skills to promote their resilience,” Cadarso stated. Lwiro has worked with nearly 350 victims and counting, most being women and children. The center also provides therapy for individuals for three months and three weeks. It reports an 85% patient improvement rate after treatment. Lwiro’s therapy offerings reveal that addressing instability in the Congo can start at the level of individual people.

A New Psychological Reference Center

Lwiro is expanding its center in 2020, starting a new project to build the first Psychological Reference Center (PCR). In the past, victims have not had a physical place to conduct their psychotherapy sessions. Therefore, this project will be massively impactful. Additionally, the Psychological Reference Center (PCR) will implement new practices such as training primary healthcare workers training to recognize mental disorders like PTSD, depression and anxiety. The second phase will provide similar training specialized for teachers, teaching “skills to recognize children with severe problems so they can be referred for more specialized treatment,” Cadarso states, and “providing listing resources available in their communities.” This initiative will enable individuals to recognize and assist those who are struggling physically and mentally. They will be able to determine proper care or treatment.

The project’s implementation and funding would not be possible without the support of many NGOs, such as the Jane Goodall Institute, the Ivan Carter Wildlife Foundation and more. To address instability in the Congo, multiple approaches are required, and Lwiro ensures that no person — or chimp — is left behind.

Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

Beginning in the late 1980s with resistance to the military government, armed conflict and social disorganization have marked the lives of nearly two generations of Somalis. Because of the ongoing conflict, thousands of Somalis left their homeland due to the fighting and settled in expatriate communities around the globe. In recent years, however, a fragile stability has returned that sees locals and returnees rebuilding Somalia together.

While this remains good news, the return of Somali nationals who were raised or spent upwards of two decades abroad has generated new conflicts. Local Somalis often have a perception that they are entitled to more rights in their native land than those who have spent their lives abroad. Returning nationals often feel that their education and experience position them better to contribute to future peace and stability for Somalia. These preconceptions fuel disagreements regarding prime positions in government and other employment conflicts.

There is a significant culture gap between returnees and local Somalis, but efforts have begun recently to bridge this gap in the name of improving their war-torn country. A symposium was held in June 2017 to bring these groups together and foster an ongoing dialogue about incorporating all Somalis in the nation’s future. These new efforts hope to see locals and returnees rebuilding Somalia together.

One local participant explained, “It was an important workshop in that it brought together diaspora returnees and the locals. The engagements were amicable as the diaspora returnees and their local counterparts held discussions so as to get to understand each other.”

Returnees are a big part of rebuilding Somalia. One United Nations program in recent years has arranged for dozens of short-term positions in Somalia for expatriates with expert qualifications. Some returnees are keenly conscious of the problems incurred by bringing in outsiders. One American returnee who hosted a legal summit with Somali experts and politicians in 2015 was proud to have completed the project with a minimum of international interference.

Vocational and education programs that support returnees are opening opportunities for Somalis no matter their personal history. The U.N. High Commission for Refugees reported in December 2017 on a program in Mogadishu that is providing training through the country’s Returnee Support Center. Their training programs are increasing the quality of life in the Somali capital for both returning nationals and those who stayed through the wars.

Regional organizations are supporting efforts to integrate the diverse Somali population as well. AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia, is participating in the talks to unite local and returning populations, and has endorsed their continuing work.

“One of the reasons AMISOM is supporting this great initiative is because cooperation and partnership between Somali Diaspora Returnees and Homeland community is critical for the stability and long-term development of Somalia,” said Dr. Walters Samah, AMISOM Political Officer to ReliefWeb.

Despite the fragility of the current situation, Somalia’s prospects have been improving for years. With luck and dedication, this trajectory will continue with locals and returnees rebuilding Somalia together for a better future.

– Paul Robertson

Photo: Flickr

smart cities
Last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his plans to revitalize Indian cities through the creation of 100 “Smart Cities” in India. More recently, Mr. Modi has announced that he will be giving annual federal grants of 15 million for the next five years to a list of 98 cities to help them become ‘smart.’

Modi, who has faced critique over the vague nature of his ‘smart city’ concept, has himself argued that “there is no universally accepted definition of a smart city.” Nevertheless, experts argue that the idea of a smart city generally refers to a city with criteria such as good roads, power, access to water, and livable homes–which many Indian cities currently fail to meet.

Mr. Modi’s Smart City project has also more specifically toyed with the idea of promoting mixed land use in area-based developments, creating walkable areas in cities, and creating a variety of clean and safe transport options.

According to Mr. Modi, the Indian Smart City initiative is only one among many urban development projects aimed at keeping up with the pace of economic and population growth within India. Indeed, India, which has a burgeoning population boom that will overtake China’s by 2028, also has the world’s third-largest growing economy, according to the World Bank.

India has also experienced an enormous influx in rural to urban migration in recent years, with more than 30% of India’s once mostly urban population now living in cities. This figure is also expected to rise, as many Indians move to urban areas in search of better job opportunities and diminished caste-based persecution.

In light of the demographic changes occurring in India, many experts have argued that Mr. Modi’s ‘Smart City’ initiative is an enlightened plan that will serve to bring relief to millions of Indians migrating to larger cities.

By focusing on issues in Indian cities–such as poor sanitation and access to water–the ‘Smart City’ initiative is thus not only a retroactive plan that serves to correct the poor state of many cities, but also a proactive plan, that takes into account the strain that a burgeoning urban population will pose to Indian cities in the future.

As Mr. Modi’s plan regarding his list of 98 Indian cities begins to be finalized, the Prime Minister also hopes that the somewhat paltry funds currently allocated to the project will be able to be bolstered by private donations.

Other government officials, such as Home Minister Rajnath Singh, have also proposed ways in which the ‘Smart City’ concept could be further improved. Mr. Singh, for instance, just recently proposed the idea that ‘Smart Cities’ could also be built as ‘Safe Cities’, which would require the installment of security equipment such as CCTV, aerial surveillance, and an increase in female cops.

Other officials have also begun to float ideas for how Indian cities can be better improved–making them overall smarter, safer, and more livable for the millions of Indians who currently live in sub-par urban conditions.

Ana Powell

Sources: BBC, Forbes, India Times, NY Times, Smart Cities Challenge
Photo: KadvaCorp

Mali_Peace_Deals
Taureg-led rebels finally signed a peace agreement in Mali after having their demands met by the government in Bamako. There have been four uprisings in Mali since they obtained independence from France in 1960.

As the country has endeavored to move towards the future, a disparity has arisen between the more prosperous south and the sparsely populated north.

This separation in progression between the north and south is partially due to the violence instigated by Islamists in the northern area of the region. According to the UN, 140,000 Malian refugees still live abroad and 49 people have lost their lives during the Mali peace deals.

However, just because a peace deal was agreed upon and signed, this does not mean the work is done. Due to the continued fighting in the north, everything from food to education is being threatened.

In Mali, an estimated 3.1 million people either do not have enough food or are lacking in nutritious foods. The climate has also been unfavorable in the region, causing an irregularity in rainfall and a disruption in normal planting cycles. In addition, over 54,000 Malians do not have access to clean, healthy drinking water as ponds and wells have dried up.

As for the children living in northern Mali, at least 715,000 are malnourished. To put this in perspective “the global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate was 12.4 percent and severe acute malnutrition (SAM) was 2.8 percent. In Timbuktu, where much of the fighting has taken place, these rates are 17.5 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively” (irinnews.org).

Education is also being severely threatened in the region as 450 schools have been forced to close affecting over 20,500 students. This disrupted the advancement of many students from one grade to another and eliminated any possibility of moving on to university.

For some, the lack of access to education has had another horrible side effect. Children are being lured into joining the army amid promises of education and/or wages to help their family. Worst yet, some join the army believing it is the only way to protect their family from other members of the forces.

When a peace deal is signed, many people not directly involved with the events and efforts of the country or region believe that all has been solved by the signatures on that piece of paper. But it is important to realize, that in violence and poverty stricken areas, a piece of paper is only the beginning of the solution.

Aid to northern Mali through organizations like UNICEF and the UN are essential in the continued promotion of peace, progress, and prosperity.

Drusilla Gibbs

Sources: UN, IRIN News, BBC
Photo: Voa News

On August 23, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated a region known for having a good time, especially on Mardi Gras. Ten years later, experts are looking beyond the beads and glitter, wishing to improve demographic and social discrepancies that were present before Katrina.

Before Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, concentrated poverty was mostly overlooked with 40 percent of individuals residing in New Orleans living at or below the poverty line.

Out of the people who evacuated in the wake of the category 5 hurricane, a majority of the poor without means of transportation were left to wait out the storm as 80 percent of the city was submerged.

As of 2013, the poverty rate in the city of New Orleans has decreased to 27 percent, but with a drop in the city’s overall population since before Katrina, this number remains unchanged.

Fortunately, data shows that the number of the city’s poor residents has dropped from 39 percent in 2000 to 30 percent between 2009-2013.

Since Katrina, $71 billion in federal funds has improved both levees and created an improved disaster management plan to help improve the city and learn from the mistakes for future natural disasters.

Now, the city’s focus is to continue improving and finding different solutions to make the city great once again. This starts with educating the children.

Before Katrina hit, New Orleans had one of the worst school systems in the country.

Due to a majority of public schools being converted into charter schools after Katrina, New Orleans outperforms the rest of the state in terms of high school graduation rate, rising from 54 percent in 2004 to 73 percent in 2014.

With students having a greater chance of graduating from high school, future students will have a greater chance of attending college and preventing their families from becoming impoverished.

In the words of Allison Plyer, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, “Greater New Orleans is in some ways rebuilding better than before.”

Alexandra Korman

Sources: Brookings, Forbes, The Washington Post, USA Today

Photo: Unsplash

gang violence

In March, El Salvador, a country that has been struggling to reinvent itself since its bitter 12-year civil war between Marxist rebels and the government ended in 1993, experienced the highest levels of gang-related deaths in over a decade.

According to the BBC, March was the deadliest month in El Salvadorian history since the end of the civil war — with over 11 percent of the population engaged in some form of gang-related activity. Much of this violence was, and continues to be, perpetrated by gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha and the 18th Street Gang, both of which have origins in Los Angeles, where they were founded by Central American immigrants. Following forced expulsion out of the United States and back to their home countries, these migrants then settled back into life in El Salvador — carving neighborhoods into various gang-controlled territories in the process.

In 2012, El Salvador’s main gangs signed a truce in an effort to end gang-sponsored violence, which initially saw a drop in gang-related death by 40 percent. Since then, however, gang activity has picked up again at an increasingly violent pace. Currently, El Salvador is on the path to becoming one of the deadliest peacetime countries in the world, with roughly 15 homicides occurring every day in the country of six million, according to PBS.

However, since March, there has been a slight decrease in the number of violent incidences. This is thanks to the efforts of private companies, which have begun to recruit former gang members as employees in an effort to help stall the surge of violence currently overtaking the country.

League Central America, for instance, is a private company that works stitching logos onto American University clothing, such as sweaters bound for Harvard and Brown. One out of ten employees at League Central America are former gang members, who mainly hail from the country’s most notorious gangs; the 18th Street Gang and Mara Salvatrucha.

According to one employee, who went by the name Jorge, “There are lots of former gang members who want to change their lives but [don’t] have a way out…because of the lack of work, the poverty.”

Company boss Rodrigo Bolanos, however, stated that companies can help improve the situation, saying, “In the process of suffocating the economy and the country the private companies need to take a position to look for a dignified way out.”

In light of this, private companies like League Central America are making important strides in starting to help the country battle against increasing rates of homicide, by helping former gang members find a way out of poverty by offering them entrance jobs with the chance of upwards mobility.

Jorge has stated that he is eternally grateful to the company for offering him a way out of the gangs and gang violence — and a new chance at life.

Jorge, who only recently started working at the company, is now the chief pattern cutter.

Ana Powell

Sources: BBC 1, BBC 2, PBS
Photo: Flickr

National Solidarity Program: Infrastructure in Afghanistan
The first step to helping those in need is having a supportive government enforcing small-scale changes. The National Solidarity Program (NSP) located in Afghanistan is the rehabilitation and development program for rural parts of the nation. It has supported the rights and needs of 18 million people and has helped to construct infrastructure, meet basic community needs, administer democracy and save lives.

The NSP is a program working for the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD). It has a set budget of $2.6 billion for the years between 2003 and 2016.

The Nangarhar Province has demonstrated resiliency thanks to NSP. Since NSP’s installation in 2003, it has crated 32,000 Community Development Councils (CDCs) within 36 districts of each province in Afghanistan. It has financed 65,000 projects.

In 2013, NSP was known as the largest development program in Afghanistan. Evaluations have proven that NSP advances access to education, basic utilities, health care and counseling, specifically for women. NSP has created a platform for governance, democratic processes and female participation in rural villages.

The program was based on the hopes that villages could improve themselves with two approaches. NSP aimed to create gender-balanced CDCs and to fund villages through family grants. These grants were meant to enhance village projects managed by CDCs along with public input.

More than 250,000 families were provided technical help thanks to 806 CDCs in just four provinces. Effort to improve development has affected 141,050 people.

Some projects underway in the Nangarhar Province include digging wells, creating sewing jobs for women, building sewer drains and constructing buildings for community meetings. One function of the CDC is to take village complaints and design resolutions. Since residents and neighbors to villages find it to be an effective and sustainable practice, they feel safe to make home in the more promising region.

In 2009, there were 275 families in Ghondi-e-Ahmadzai village. There are now 1,200 people living in the village.

The program has increased school attendance and the quality of education for girls. Health institutes have had a rise of child doctors, prenatal visits and curability of preventable disease with thanks to NSP. The program has also managed to increase access to clean water and sanitation.

Funding from World Bank, Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund and Japan Social Development Fund are supporting the program. Haji Zumarai leads the CDC in Ghondi-e-Ahmadzai village. He’s very grateful for the $50,000 grant funding village development efforts since 2009.

Partners of NSP have helped to improve water and sanitation. NSP’s 31 facilitating partners work within CDCs to contrive 86 thousand small-scale reconstruction and development projects. In addition, they maintain rural roads, irrigation, energy supply, health facilities and education.

BRAC is one facilitation partner of MRRD that helps construct infrastructure outside NSP. It builds systems, latrines, irrigation canals, micro-hydroelectric planets, protection walls, roads, bridges and schools.

It’s partnership with NSP is creating a self-sustainable rural Afghanistan. BRAC encourages democracy by helping to supervise and facilitate CDCs in places like Ghondi-e-Ahmadzai. It prioritizes infrastructure capabilities, aids with project overhaul and oversees transparency efforts.

NSP has bettered small-scale efforts for many by focusing on critical and essential needs in rural villages. In Sayed Ahmad Ghazi Village of the Kabul Province, NSP constructed clinics that are saving lives. MRRD granted $50,000 in funding. Local villages helped by producing $14,000.

Under Dr. Mastorah Ahmadi, two women and one man help oversee 50 patients a day. This has benefited 1,400 families. Children are receiving vaccinations and the workers are quickly treating preventable diseases.

Communities continue to prosper with these programs that minimize the hazardous implications of living in rural Afghanistan. Soon rural living will safe and readily sustainable. The Ghondi-e-Ahmadzai village stands as an example of success when community-focused programs like NSP work intricately with members and leaders.

Katie Groe

Sources: Bakhtar News, World Bank 1, Wadsam, World Bank 2, World Bank 3, BRAC
Photo: Worldbank

childhood
Struck by the catastrophic circumstances of their previous lives in Syria, children in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan spoke of bullets, bombs and death. Nawwar Bulbul wanted to change that. A prominent soap opera actor until being blacklisted by the Syrian government on account of joining in protests against the regime, Bulbul brought his love for theater with him as he fled.

The Zaatari Camp in northern Jordan has ballooned with the recent inundation of Syrian refugees fleeing over the border and, with a lofty 102,704 residents, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, currently stands as the world’s second-largest refugee camp. Basic needs such as food and water are met on a marginalized basis by various international organizations attempting to help quell the trauma of the current Syrian crisis, yet children require more than that in order to live with the hope of successful and fulfilling futures. With less than 40 percent of refugee children attending school, there is a huge deficit of arts and culture among traumatized population.

For over two months, Bulbul has worked to bring happiness to the lives of these children. Because of the impressive initiative taken by this actor-turned-director, 100 refugee children come together to rehearse Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” Translated to classical Arabic from its original Bard’s English, the play brings joy to its performers and a renewed sense of childhood innocence to those who have been stripped of such rights and privileges.

One young girl named Ammari, who came to Jordan along with five sisters and a brother, says she feels the transformation.

“I do not feel lonely any more in this place,” she told reporters. She has found something to finally entertain her and take her mind off of the victims of calamity around her.

Though some may claim that this particular Shakespeare tragedy is not suitable for children, Bulbul argues otherwise. He says he took only the roots of the story for the children’s adaptation, and focused primarily on the differences between lying and telling the truth. While Bulbul’s initiative received no support from international organizations and only minimal support from friends in the Syrian community, the past two months of play practice have shown outstanding success for the youth.

In discussions of Shakespeare’s plays, the participants showed behavioral and emotional development. The children involved learned quite a bit about controlling anger as well as the violent and destructive consequences of seeking revenge. For a group that has spent a good portion of life so far living amid death, destruction and humiliation, these are lessons some may have thought unfathomable in previous months.

Yet Shakespeare is not the only poetry in this situation. Bulbul translates from Arabic to mean bird, or oftentimes nightingale, a bird primarily known for singing in the dark. So as Nawwar Bulbul brings the song of hope and joy to the inner darkness of an overpopulated refugee camp, he does, so beautifully, live up to his name.

– Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: Ahram Online, Times of Israel, Global Arab Network
Photo: Times of Israel

rwanda_genocide_children_from_rape
The history of disparate rights between the Rwandan Hutu and Tutsi tribes exploded in April of 1994, followed by 100 days of genocide in which the Hutu extremists killed an estimated 500,000-1 million Tutsi people. Rape was encouraged to destabilize the community’s infrastructure and traumatize its people, resulting in the vicious, serial rape of 250,000 to 500,000 women.

Since the reinstatement of Rwanda’s government, all citizens have been allotted equal rights and the long road toward reconciliation has begun. Since the number of accused hugely outweighs the law officers, the Gacaca court system was set up allowing small communities to hold courts and trials where suspects may confess their crimes and promote reconciliation by disclosing the fates of lost community members.

The government’s newly instated laws of racial equality throughout the country extend to social stigmas as well, bolstering the marginalized. But one group was overlooked: children produced by the Rwandan genocide’s relentless rapes.

Chantal Mukeshimana, now 46, lost her husband and three of their children in the genocide during which she was repeatedly gang-raped. One of these attacks implanted her now-19 year old daughter, Angélique, who has always felt distanced by her mother and blames herself for the pain her existence recalls.

Angélique is one of 20,000 young adults who are products of the Rwandan genocide rapes. Kananga from the Unity and Reconciliation Commission has stated, “When we offered support to widows and children we thought we were supporting everyone.” These children of rape are suspended between their parents; they feel shunned by their Tutsi mothers for the horrific means of their conception, and have no means or wish to find their ‘genocidaire’ Hutu fathers.

Chantal is currently responsible for Angélique, two surviving children from her late husband, and her brother who was paralyzed in the genocide. With no government aid she relies on her community of women for support, most of whom have pasts similar to her own. None have had access to rehabilitation therapy, and they’ve banded together in an attempt to plug the holes of their shattered families.

Today, as they enter adulthood, children of the Rwandan genocide rapes are struggling to come to terms with their history. They are a constant reminder to their communities of the violence that killed their loved ones and stole their bodies. Without serious reconciliation many will remain emotionally crippled forever, extending the horror of the genocide beyond the lives of those who experienced it.

– Lydia Caswell

Sources: About, UN
Photo: Flickr