Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Check out my new blog, Unpacking Development.

Thanks for reading 525,600 Minutes in Ethiopia!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Humanitarian Crisis and Citizen Journalism

Today, as I got distracted from my Africa into the 21st Century paper, I found a really interesting article on staff of aid agencies acting as citizen journalists when they are on the front lines of a humanitarian crisis. No time to write more about it, but check it out because it's pretty cool.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

This Week in Development, Toronto

Just a quick note to mention some development events around TO this week and next:

Thursday, January 10, 12-1:30pm
Twenty Years, Twenty Stories by the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation.

Opening Saturday, January 12
Persepolis, the movie. Based on the graphic novel about a girl's experience of the Iranian Revolution.

Art Exhibit
Opening Monday, January 14
Shapeshifters, Timetravellers and Storytellers, an Aboriginal art show at the ROM, which comments on colonial representation.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Ravaging of Africa

Sorry for my holiday absence! I should have warned you of it ahead of time. The semester starts tomorrow, and it promises to be a full one- the last one, in fact, if all goes according to plan. My focus this semester is on finishing my thesis (on the impact of economic empowerment projects on HIV incidence), and also an independent study course on recent Ethiopian history/politics and Orthodox Christianity. It's likely that I'll be posting about both those subjects here!

First up, in my quest to experience development in 2008, I'm planning to attend Canada in the World. It's put on by the UofT International Relations Society, and focuses on three areas: arctic sovereignty, climate change and human security. I'm pretty excited, as I should get a better idea of my country's role in the issues in which I'm interested! Designed for undergraduate students, I'm not sure if it's open to the public, but I will try to report back on what I've learned.

For the time being, check out the radio documentary here, called The Ravaging of Africa. It's about the 'destructive impact of US imperialism on Africa.' I haven't listened yet myself (and don't know if I agree or not), but it's on my to do list!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Merry World AIDS Day!

I wore my AIDS ribbon to work on Saturday. It's red, and beaded, with the colours of the Kenyan flag (green, black, white and red) at the bottom, and was given to me by a new friend active on Campus and in East Africa.

As I pinned it to my top in the morning, I wondered how many people would acknowledge it and get into some discussion surrounding World AIDS Day. As a waitress, I wondered how bringing peoples' attention to something unpleasant- like incurable disease- would affect my tips.

I was unprepared, however, for the response I did get: people kept mistaking my pin for a Christmas decoration! More than once, I received exclamations of, "Wow, you look so festive!"

Sorry. I'm not so much 'festive' as trying to be globally conscious.

I visited some of the activities at U of T as part of the Day, and I must admit I was disappointed. I felt that there could be more NGOs represented, more links between student groups and groups from the wider community, more coordination of events on campus. I was frustrated that I didn't feel it was enough (granted I didn't make it to the main event at Hart House because I was busy serving pancakes on Queen Street).

My amazement that people would mistake my ribbon for a nod to Xmas, and my feeling that the university community should do so much more made me realize how just because I see this issue as a 'big deal' doesn't mean that everyone does. Sometimes you can get lost in a bubble of activists and activism and totally forget that you are virtually invisible to the outside world.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

All You Need to Know About AIDS in Africa

Stephen Lewis, the former UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, called Stephanie Nolen's 28 Stories of AIDS in Africa, "the best book ever written about AIDS". I must admit that I was skeptical- how could a relatively short book of stories encapsulate this massive epidemic? By the time I'd finished the third of 28 stories, I'd changed my mind.

Nolen successfully uses 28 human experiences of HIV/AIDS, gathered over years of reporting on the issue, to tackle each aspect of the pandemic: orphans, access to treatment, medical research, AIDS in conflict zones and within the military, at-risk groups such as truck drivers and sex workers, African political and international humanitarian approaches to HIV, experiences of children, women, elites, couples, families, activists, and the poorest of the poor. Her approach left me more knowledgable, and intermittently heartbroken and ready for action. The book critically examines the role of each actor in the pandemic, from international to local in the present and since the first recorded infection. It emphasizes the complexity of the crisis, most importantly its intrinsic links to poverty, as well as including a vital section on how you can help.

Effectively, Nolen has written a book that provides an overview of the political, historical, cultural, and economic realities of HIV/AIDS in Africa while constantly drawing the reader back to one fundemental point: HIV/AIDS is first and foremost a human issue. She quotes Nelson Mandela (he is the main character in the 27th story), "Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity; it is an act of justice" (353).

Buy itfor everyone on your Christmas list.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Internationalism's last chance?

Doug Saunders of the Globe and Mail has just written an interesting piece about Bernard Kouchner (the father of humanitairan action) in the role of France's foreign minister. Check it out here.