Famine for Political EndsColm Tóibín and Diarmaid Ferriter are Irish writers and historians. The first part of their 2004 book The Irish Famine written by Tóibín, is an essay outlining the historiography of the Great Famine, which plagued Ireland for seven years between 1845 and 1852. According to Tóibín, the famine is a historical event that has been manipulated by Irish and American historians for political ends from the late 19th century to the present. Tóibín speaks for both himself and Ferriter when he states: “Our own prejudices, mine and Diarmaid Ferriter’s, should be very clear: we both recognize that no narrative now seems capable of combining the sheer scale of the tragedy in all its emotion and catastrophe, the complex society which surrounded it and the high politics which governed it.”

Tóibín begins his history of historical writing on the famine by stating “two things happened in its (the famine’s) aftermath. One, people blamed the English and the Ascendancy. Two, there began a great silence about the class division in Catholic Ireland.” What Tóibín describes is a hurting Ireland that could not afford to face the reality of the massive pain she had suffered. In the wake of famine, Ireland required a “nationalist fervor” to rise from the ashes. In 1854, the historian John Mitchel called the famine a “genocide”, insinuating that the British deliberately exterminated those who died in the tragedy. This extreme sentiment became milder in the 20th century but still survived in a veiled form. In the 1990s, Governor George Pataki of New York expressed the view that Great Britain purposely refrained from assisting the Irish during the famine. Views such as this serve politicians well because they incite feelings of nationalism in prospective voters.

The authors’ understanding of famine and its capacity as a political tool is outstanding. Over the last half-century or so, one can see a similar phenomenon taking place in Ethiopia, where political oppositions capitalize on government inefficiency in the face of famine. In 1973, the communist junta under rebel leader Mengistu Haile Mariam accused the reigning monarch of failing to deal with the problem, resulting in the overthrow of the government. After a war with Eritrea in the later 1990s, Ethiopia is once again reeling from economic impoverishment augmented by famine.

When there is famine, a political platform is raised that is conducive to a dangerous breed of nationalism. As the Irish famine illustrates, extreme situations of hunger cause people to question their government. This can be seen in the historiography of the Irish famine, which indicates a hatred toward the British monarchy that was so potent it survived into the late 20th century. These are only a few examples of how the tragedy of famine can be used as a political tool.

– Josh Forgét

Sources: The Irish Famine, BBC
Photo: Flickr

Most Powerful Women
Each year Forbes compiles a list of the top 100 most powerful women who are contributing the most through donations, media momentum, and impact on society. These women work in a variety of areas–the list includes celebrities, businesswomen, women in politics, and social activists–and they are from all areas of the world. These women are demonstrating that power comes in a variety of forms and can be used in a variety of ways. Here is a short list of the top 10 most powerful women.

10. Indra Nooyi – CEO of Pepsico, United States

9. Sonia Gandhi – President of Indian National Congress

8. Janet Napolitano – Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, United States

7. Christine Lagarde – Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, France

6. Sheryl Sandberg – COO of Facebook, United States

5. Hillary Clinton – Politician and Philanthropist, United States

4. Michelle Obama – First Lady of the United States

3. Melinda Gates – Co-chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, United States

2. Dilma Rousseff- President of Brazil

1. Angela Merkel – Chancellor of Germany

Katie Brockman

Source: Forbes

How to Find Your Members of Congress
Democracy is a wonderful thing. Any U.S. citizen, no matter their level of education, age, race, or social standing can call up their members of Congress and request that they vote in favor of or against specific legislation or simply a topic they feel is important.

So why don’t more people contact their representatives? Excellent question. Skepticism? The intangibility of the benefits perhaps? Whatever the reason, it remains clear that not enough people are taking advantage of this excellent tool of democracy. We at The Borgen Project think that needs to change. And that change starts with you. So, to help you get started, here’s a breakdown of how the U.S Congress works.

So What Exactly Is Congress?

Congress is composed of two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives. 100 senators make up the Senate, 2 from each state. The House of Representatives currently has 435 members and the population determines the number of representatives per state. For example, Alaska has only 1 representative while the state of Texas has over 30.

This means that 3 people represent you in congress, 2 state senators and 1 representative.

And, There’s an App for That

Contacting your representatives seriously can’t get any easier if you have a smartphone. A free app is available for the iPhone called “Contact Congress”. Once you’ve downloaded the app, open it up and hit the “use my location button”. Your 3 representatives will pop up on your screen. You can call each one from the app without ever looking anything up or dialing the numbers. You can also share your activity on Facebook and Twitter so everyone will know how gosh darn cool you are for calling your reps. You know you want to.

If you don’t have an iPhone, never fear. Check out The Borgen Project website to find your representatives via your area code.

Once you’ve figured out who your reps are, Congratulations! You’ve taken the first step towards making sure those who represent you are in fact, representing how you feel about certain issues and bills.

Great, so now what?

Call them! Yes, pick up that thing that plays music and updates your twitter and….(gasp) dial some digits. (or tap on the faces if you have the app) It will feel strange to talk to a real human but don’t be dismayed. All you have to say is, “I’m a Borgen Project supporter. Please increase funding for USAID.” Or, “Please vote to increase funding for global poverty-related legislation”. That’s it. You can call anytime you want, just be sure to leave a message if it’s after business hours.

The person taking the call will make note of your call. This is the important part! The aide will tally the number of calls on certain issues and often times the representative will decide how they vote based on the calls they get from people like you and me. If constituents don’t call requesting global poverty be on their radar, it probably won’t be, particularly in our current political environment. For example, some of the issues currently listed on my representatives’ web pages include the following- jobs, fiscal responsibility, immigration reform and healthcare. Not ONE mention of global poverty from any of my 3 reps. Where my BP supporters at?

Still not convinced? It’s simple. One 30-second phone call a week is the easiest way to make a difference in fighting global poverty. It takes almost no time and costs next to nothing (much less than donating to a cause or volunteering your time).

For more detailed information regarding your leaders in Congress, this website is a pretty handy tool. You can look up your members of Congress and their voting records as well as bills that are on the docket for the coming week. Stalk your congressional leaders with ease! And don’t forget to call them.

– Erin Ponsonby

Sources: The Borgen Project, U.S. Senate,
Photo:America Bikes

The end of a ten-year war seems like a time of hope, of rebuilding and starting over. Yet, for Iraqi women, hope does not seem like it’s in the cards. The last ten years have not been a time of progress for them. Rather, it has been a time of regression, in which many of their rights have been taken away, either by law or by the increasing amount of violence occurring in Iraq.

On paper, it looks like the women of Iraq are increasingly engaged with civil society. With elections happening in April, pictures of Iraqi women of different political parties are appearing throughout the city of Baghdad, giving a glimpse of equality amongst men and women. However, in reality, women are not making much of a political appearance, though not through the fault of their own. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has not elected a female to a single Senior Cabinet position and only one Department is headed by women: The Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

Violence in the streets of Iraq is also resulting in a loss of freedom for Iraqi women. It is no longer safe for them to walk in the streets alone, leaving many stuck inside their homes. According to many women’s groups, the increase in violence and poor security for women is the result of “the social and economic pressure that families face, the lack of public and political will to stop it, and the increased religious conservatism that often justifies the violence”. The lack of political will to stop it can be seen in the replacement of the Family Statutes Law, with one giving cultural and religious groups control of regulating family affairs, meaning that tribal leaders and religious groups can decide on issues involving divorce, marriage, custody, and inheritance using religious laws or cultural ways of living. Often times, these laws and ways of living do not favor women. This is a large setback for women because it means that women are not guaranteed equal treatment under the law.

The Iraq of today is worse for women than the Iraq of 1980. Yet, this has not discouraged Iraqi women from still standing up for women’s rights and hoping for change. Political participation is one way for women to gain freedom, yet, much more must be done to ensure equality is in their future.

– Angela Hooks

Source: CNN
Photo: CNN

Ending World Hunger Demanded By BritonsBritish politicians, including MP Andrew Stunell, are pushing the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister David Cameron to focus more on ending world hunger. Stunell and others have begun making their voices heard by supporting causes like the Enough Food for Everyone initiative.

The U.K., like the United States, committed to giving 0.7% of its national income as international aid. Politicians and citizens in the U.K. continue to stress the importance of keeping that promise. As Britain prepares to host the Hunger Summit this June, at the same time as the G8 Summit, the nation has been paying increased attention to the issue of world hunger and the U.K.’s roll in fighting hunger as well as the many causes of hunger and malnutrition. The most obvious result of hunger and malnutrition is death, yet severe hunger has many other results such as malnutrition that may lead to developmental and growth problems and is also linked to infertility, as outlined in a Yale study on hunger and childbirth.

With enough food being produced each year to feed the world population and yet people are still going hungry, there is reason enough to be upset. As politicians and citizens alike in the U.K. push their representatives to work more towards ending world hunger, we should remember to do the same here at home and ask our elected representatives to do more in the fight against global hunger. Contact your representatives in Congress today.

– Kevin Sullivan

Sources: Mancunian Matters, Yale Scientific
Photo: The Telegraph