Monday, October 26, 2009

AIDS in Africa

I am taking the class Current Social problems this semester and I am reading a chapter in our textbook on physical and mental health, and it had this little article/ thought-promoting section call Social Problems in Global Perspective. It is great, so I am just going to share it with you all. Of course, due credit will be given to the author- John J. Macionis, Social Problems 3rd Edition (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc., 2008), 271.

"Brigitt Syamaleuwe is a forty-year-old woman living in the African nation of Zambia. Several years ago, her life changed when she learned that she was HIV-positive. Like anyone else, her first question was, how could this have happened? Brigitte had never had sex with anyone other than her husband, so she quickly came to the conclusion that it was he who had infected her.

Angrily, she confronted him. He was visibly shaken, but he reacted by accusing her of infidelity. Only after several weeks was he willing to admit that he had been unfaithful, had become infected with HIV, and then infected his wife. They knew, at this point, that there was no cure. But they decided to devote the remainder of their lives to educating others about the dangers of HIV.

As explained in Chapter 4 ("Gender Inequality") low-income countries are typically strongly patriarchal. Women in these nations have little say in what their husbands or boyfriends do. Many men have traditionally seen little wrong with having extramarital sex, often with prostitutes, even though they now know that this behavior places them, their wives, and perhaps other women at high risk for infection with HIV.

Another factor that contributes to the AIDS epidemic in Africa and elsewhere is that many men- sometimes even men who know they are infected with HIV- do not use condoms when they have sex. Some women may not insist that that men use condoms, either because they don't know that their partners are being unfaithful or because the men threaten violence if they don't get their way.

To make matters worse, traditional laws make it easy for men to divorce their wives for being unfaithful, but women have a hard time doing the same thing. Even women who can get a divorce usually think twice about it because a court often ends up giving men control over family property. In short, divorce often means women fall into poverty.

In poor countries, becoming infected with HIV usually means that death comes within several years. Well-off people with HIV in the United States now rely on new and expensive drugs to prolong their lives for a decade or more. These drugs are becoming less expensive and therefore more widespread in poor countries. But they are still out of reach for most of the world's poor, who get little or no medial attention.

What strategies can be used to help the world's poor women protect themselves? One possible answer is the female condom... which offers protection from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Although the female condom is gaining popularity in Africa, many men object to it and the cost is often too high.

The larger answer to the problem of AIDS lies in research to discover a cure for this deadly disease. In addition, the death toll would come down if societies could reduce patriarchy. Greater political and economic power would give women the ability to say no to sex, to insist on condom use, and even to demand that their men be faithful."
sources: Based on Schoofs (1999), Singer (2001), and Altman (2005).

Several points:
-First off, isn't it interesting that the decision to have "safe" or "protected" sex is usually in the hands of the male as female condoms are more rare and more expensive? So, in a patriarchal society, besides not being able to say "no" many times, women cannot even protect themselves. On that same note, how is it that men object to women protecting themselves?! Especially when so often it is the MAN who infects his wife?
-Second, Unfaithfulness needs to go way out of style. It is currently seen as the "in" thing here in the United States and it now seems that those who are faithful (both men and women, because women can be just as unfaithful as men) are the exception and not the expectation.

Overall, there are just so many little things that all affect each other with this kind of problem. But I really like this little blurb because if focuses on one possible solution that I believe could really help decrease the spread of AIDS in Africa- the empowerment and education of Women.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Votes For Women II- Guinea

Women of Guinea

Guinea Shaken by Wave of Rapes During Crackdown: LISTEN!

Votes for Women!

Women in The Congo

"The more we know about conflicts, the more we realize that women, who do not start conflicts, are often the victims, but women have tremendous potential to being peacemakers and peacekeepers."
-Hillary Clinton

Some good NPR articles on the Problems in the Congo of late: Just click on the title

In War Zones, Rape Is A Powerful Weapon by Michele Kelemen:

Can U.S. Help End Rape As a Weapon in Congo's War? by Corey Flintoff:

"The systematic use of sexual violence as a weapon in eastern Congo is "one o f mankind's greatest atrocities," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said"

"The United Nations has recorded at least 200,000 cases of sexual violence against girls and women in the region since 1996."

Group Fights Rape in Democratic Republic of Congo, LISTEN!:

"Rape — as much as guns or knives — has become a savage weapon in the civil wars of Congo. Hundreds of thousands of women reportedly have been systematically sexually attacked during the conflict."
"...rape is a very cheap form of warfare..."

Congolese Rape Survivor Shares Nation's Struggles, LISTEN!:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In Memory of my Uncle

My Uncle Wheeler passed away this past Monday. He was a WONDERFUL, FUN, GREAT man and he will be missed, but I know that he is now with his son who passed away several years ago and that while no longer with us here, he is doing a great work on the other side! Here follows his obituary:


E. Wheeler Oliphant 1931 ~ 2009 Everett Wheeler Oliphant, 78, passed away Monday, October 12, 2009, of natural causes.Wheeler was born October 5, 1931 to John Arden and Lucile Peck Gold Oliphant in Salt Lake City, UT. He married his high school sweetheart, Carole Jeanne Lake, July 23, 1951. The couple just celebrated 58 years together, "on the way to eternity." Wheeler sold thread, buttons and zippers to manufacturers. He was also an entrepreneur who started, grew and sold several other businesses; an author, also known for his letters to the editor; and Korean War Army veteran. He loved to cook, especially for his family and friends at the annual deer hunt. Wheeler served as an ordinance worker at the Salt Lake Temple for 12 years, and together he and Carole served a mission to the Salt Lake Central City mission. In addition to his wife and seven children, his love was his property at Hanna, UT. He felt his children and grandchildren's testimonies would increase by spending time together in the beauty of that place. Wheeler was known for his generosity and many, many have known his kindnesses. He is survived by his wife; children: Karen (Brig) LeSueur, Idaho Falls, ID; Neil, Stan (Lori), Salt Lake City; Arden, St. George; Brent (Lisa), Doug (SueAnne), Salt Lake City; 28 grandchildren (three currently serving LDS missions); and 16 great-grand-children. He is preceded in death by his son, Blair. Funeral services will be held Saturday, October 17, 2009, 1:30 p.m. at the LDS Church, on the corner of 3900 South 2000 East. Friends and family are invited to a viewing Friday, October 16, 2009, 6-7:30 p.m. at McDougal Funeral Home, 4330 S. Redwood Rd. and Saturday at the church, 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. prior to the service. Interment, Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Social Disease

I am in a Sociology Class: Current Social Problems, and it is interesting. Pretty basic stuff, but it makes you think. There are so many problems and they are all so interrelated and complex. I wish it was easy, but oh, well.

So, since taking this class I have come to realize that EVERYTHING is a social problem :) So, to lighten the mood a little, I thought that we should take a view of life like the boys on West Side Story: "Hey! I got a social disease!" Enjoy:

What the World Needs Now...

I just attended a lecture given by His Excellency Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian Ambassador to the U.S. and he themed much of his talk around the issue of Justice, and how justice should be sought after in the regions of the world riddled with problems and unrest. As he was saying this, I began to think about the relationship between justice and mercy as it pertains to world issues. Yes, absolutely, justice is a necessity, but if the justice we are talking about is going back to the past and rehashing out old rivalries and power struggles, then that is NOT necessary. The justice we need is the kind of justice that will lead to a peaceful future- the expulsion of dictators, the imprisonment of murderers, etc. I agree that justice is important, and that evil men and women need to be punished, but I think that the world has thrown away the notion of mercy, the notion of forgiveness. We live in such a power-driven world which can all too often lead us away from progress and peace. Different cultures, religions, and histories make this more difficult, of course, but not impossible.

Mr. Shoukry, in talking about the Palestinian- Israeli issue, mentioned that under international law "armed struggle is justified" in certain situations. It has to make you think. In a modern world, how are we still using armed struggle? How did that ever become a sensible answer to a dispute? Why in the world did Cain think to KILL Able and not just yell or talk to him? I am not an idealist, in fact I wish I was MORE of an idealist, I tend to be too pragmatic to the point of pessimism, and I realize that there are times when war is the only solution that will bring about results (because there are too many eccentric, out-of-control men with too much power! i.e. Kim Jong-il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Moussa Dadis Camara (Guinea), Omar al-Bashir (Sudan), etc.), but isn't it absolutely NUTS? I mean, people take guns and explosives and point them or throw them at each other in an effort to hurt, maim, and KILL- END THEIR LIFE! I just could never do it. I don't know. I don't have any answer, but I feel that the time for war should be coming to an end. People- sane people- need to take back their governments and work to find peaceful solutions. His excellency said that the window on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict ending with a peaceful solution will not remain open for very long, as the Palestinian people are getting fed up with the difficulty of their situation (they are more or less under foreign occupation). This is scary. Can't Israel make a few concessions? Why not a two-state solution? Concessions MUST be made to save lives. It seems like a pretty clear choice to me. But then again, I'm a pragmatist.

Friday, October 09, 2009

I AM a craftsperson.

After going to the Waterford Fair, I decided to become an amazing craftswoman- doing cutouts. Here are some of my first attempts using an Xacto knife! I did it all just from looking- no tracing or outline... pretty good huh?

The Wicked Witch:

The Leafless Tree:

The Skull:

The Scary Spider

The Crow (which clearly I did not trace because I didn't leave enough room for the tail on the paper and it looks like a black baby chick- oh well)

YAY for Halloween!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Somalia and The Sixth Clan

"I was divided in two. My birth clan rejected me because my husband was from a clan they were fighting. My husband's clan considered me a spy and a stranger. Where do I belong? I realized the only identity no one could take away from me was being a woman. My only clan is womanhood." -Asha Hagi Elmi

Yesterday I attended a lecture in the Kennedy Center by Asha Hagi Elmi, an amazing Somali woman who helped form "The Sixth Clan." In Somalia there are 5 traditional clans and in none of them were women properly represented, so Asha and other women from all the clans joined together, crossing traditional clan lines, to form The Sixth Clan. Asha is the head of the Save Somali Women and Children Foundation which helps educate and protect women and children. As I listened to her speak, I was reminded of Pray the Devil back to Hell and how those women were able to reach across religious lines for the greater good of their country and the people living around them. I have been very impressed with these women who have such a desire for peace and a love of their families and children that they are able to set aside any differences or even prejudices and work together. What AMAZING women are bringing such GREAT changes to Africa! These women are not only helping other women, but their whole country, even the continent. She talked about how it takes courage and tenacity as women to stand up and demand change. Courage and tenacity! But she also stressed how many times it is a very gradual change, but I say that gradual change is the way to go because it is more likely to stick.
Asha said that during the Somali civil problems "women joined together to find solutions, while men were out in the bush fighting."

She also said something that really struck me, something in which I think The United States, even as a women's rights-friendly nation, has come up short: she said the women and children are the first and last victims of war. How often do we forget the war widow or orphan? We might mention them in passing, but I think that we don't recognize how difficult that would be. Or, even women who have husbands, sons, brothers, or fathers who are gone fighting for a year or more at a time. Those women have to support their families alone. That can be extremely difficult. I know that congress and veteran's groups do a lot, but I think that we should recognize these women and children more- those who have loved ones in the current war on terror, but also those who supported and/or lost family in previous wars. I think that we should have a memorial to these women, not a giant stone sculpture on the mall, but a facility where people could go in and do a service project- tie a quilt, put together an aide kit, write a letter to a soldier, etc- which is truly the legacy of women- selfless service. I think that that would be a great way to honor the forgotten women and children- the first and last victims of war. The SHeDAISY song "Come Home Soon" helps me feel a little bit of the heartache that family members of our servicemen must feel.

The most important thing that Asha said was that the inhuman treatment and degradation of women is UNACCEPTABLE- ABSOLUTELY AND COMPLETELY and it MUST be ended. AMEN!! I am so in awe of these women- Asha, Leymah Gbowee (Founder and Executive Director, Women in Peace and Security Network - Africa ), Padma Venkataraman (vice president of the Women's India Association), etc. who do so much and who have worked so hard to change mindsets- not just about women, but about people in general! Changing mindsets seems to be one of the most difficult things to do, but it CAN BE DONE!! and it is so worth it. We can do it!

Pictures: Picture of Asha Hagi Elmi- Wikipedia; Map- CIA World Factbook; war widow- from war widows of Alabama; Somali men- NBC; Somali Children-; Picture of Padma Venkataraman- Rising Star Outreach homepage

Tuesday, October 06, 2009



"Virginians! Virginians! For your lands. For your homes. For your sweethearts. For your wives. FOR VIRGINIA! Forward! March!" -General Lewis A. Armistead Battle of Gettysburg July 3, 1863

So, I went to Virginia last week- Wednesday to Sunday- and it was DIVINE! How I love the beautiful green everywhere, the cool breeze, the history! and of course, my family- dog included! I had a great time that included a visit to Gettysburg, the famous Waterford Fair, a bike
ride to Georgetown and a boat ride on the C & O Canal, a trip to the Hovell-turned-Cabin, dinner with Marc, Sarah, Missy, Rachel, Mom, Dad, and, of course, Joseph, and... a dinner and then a stroll around the monuments and National Mall which included a GREAT face-to-face talk with my best friend Amy! It was perfect. The only bad part was when it ended- and the fact that I slept very little and that John and Gwen were unable to come down from Princeton! But overall, it was GREAT! I love everyone! and I LOVE Virginia!

Here are some pictures: From the top: VIRGINIA! Next: Dad's Cabin- cute huh? Then Joseph on the bike ride, Joseph in Gettysburg, and Joseph and me in Gettysburg!

Trouble In Guinea

Yesterday in The New York Times there was a front page article entitled :"In a Guinea Seized by Violence, Women as Prey" which described atrocities being committed against men and women in the African country of Guinea during a peaceful protest. The article reported that at a political demonstration opposing the current leader, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, the Guinean army "shot and killed dozens of unarmed demonstrators at the main stadium here where perhaps 50,000 had assembled." It is possible that upwards of 157 people were killed! But the horror did not stop there, these soldiers raped and beat many defenseless women in broad daylight! The article reported that "The exact number of women who were abused is not known. Because of the shame associated with sexual violence in this West African country, victims are reluctant to speak, and local doctors refuse to do so." So, we don't know what will be done to those who did this, or how the victims will be helped. Today's Times reported that the United States is doing it's part in demanding justice- Hillary Clinton, who of late has been fighting against mass rape and the plight of women in the developing world- which I APPLAUD!!!- came out with a statement, and diplomats have been sent to try and get Camara to leave office. This is all good. The international community MUST act and help protect the human rights of the people of Guinea, even if their own government will not.

But, When will this stop?! When will women stop being the victims of horrible violence and degradation? How can this happen? Men who love their mothers, how can they do this? I don't understand it! How can a man dehumanize and objectify a women like that? Sadly, I think a part of it is because ALL of society does it. In my sociology class yesterday we talked about gender and the socialization of gender and we watched a video about the media and advertising's portrayal of women. Women are advertised as sexual objects. In men's magazines women are on the cover- sexy, beautiful women who appear to offer nothing more than their looks; on woman's magazines women are also on the cover- sexy, beautiful women who appear to offer nothing more than their looks- someone for us to look up to and emulate! Ha! Until we as a whole world look at women differently, things like rape, human trafficking, domestic violence, and other forms of abuse against women will continue. That is not in ANY way to excuse those men for their individual choices- they WILL pay the consequences, but it is to say that there is something that we as the average person can do: Speak out! Don't buy the filth, don't watch the filth, don't participate in the filth that degrades and humiliates women. There are many many good men and they are working hard to fix these problems, but I think that we as women have an even greater capacity to help our sisters throughout the world. The first step is being aware and the second, I believe, is to fight against society's incredible power to decide how we feel about ourselves. If we as women decide that WE are in charge and that we have value above that which society values, then I think that we will be an even greater force for good in a world in ever more need for good.