Give Us Something to Work For


So far in these blog posts I’ve talked about how sports and education can be used as tools to empower youth and help break down violent and nonviolent conflict from building up. The next topic I want to talk about is employment and youth involvement. For those who don’t have an education its hard to find high paying jobs, especially for those in developing countries who drop out at a young age to join the labor market and find that their prospects in moving up are immensely small. Instead just as talked about in my last post they are more much more likely to be recruited into gangs.

Researchers have begun to study the interaction between youth engagement and positive development. The engagement that we are referring to is defined as “meaningful participation and sustained involvement of a young person in and activity, with a focus outside of him of herself.” According to youth development theory, young people need to be surrounded by adult support. This means instead of being looked down upon for their age and inexperience, they instead need to be mentored and supported, valued for their worth because ultimately they will one day be the ones in charge. Those who are brought up in resilient communities are more likely to adapt and overcome adversities and challenge as well as formulate and develop better relationships.  This stems from the second theory which is the theory of attachment. Empowered youth who are allowed to participate in their communities are much more likely to become engaged in community activities and develop skills required to be effective leaders in life. They are more likely to show better problem-solving and decision-making skills when compared to youth who are not engaged. When youth are able to engage in their community it becomes a place where they feel safe. One of the most important things to take away is that youth who are being empowered and engaged in a community are less likely to to use drugs and alcohol, less likely to drop out of school, and less likely to be involved in criminal behavior. Nothing benefits a community more then incorporating young adults into it! (Texas State)

A report released by the Global Partnership for Children & Youth in Peacebuilding last Spring presented research that reveled just how important the role that children can play in peacebuilding. This report found that the involvement of youth in peacebuilding increases peaceful cohabitation, reduces discrimination and violence, and increases support to vulnerable groups. So what does it take to do this?  3 easy steps. First, engage children as peace builders from a young age. Empower them and show that they are worth something and can do anything they put their minds to. Secondly, encourage multi-pronged and multi-stakeholder efforts to support children as peace builders. Lastly, we need to engage children and youth as partners, we can’t look at them as just children to be encouraged and mentored, we have to actually get them working at the forefront of these problems. (GPCYP 2015)

An article published by Al Jazeera showcased two two university graduated who have been placing pigs painted yellow in the streets as a political statement to show the greed of their government, telling their brothers and sisters that it is up to them to solve their problems because their government is full of greed and will not save them. According to the article Uganda has one of the highest proportions of young people in the world. This followed some statistics that I have quoted below.

     “A  joint study done by the International Labor Organization and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics puts the youth unemployment rate at 5 percent, with the number rising to more than 13 percent when taking into account “youth who are without work and available to work but not actively seeking work.” But independent studies put the number much, much higher. ActionAid surveyed more than 1,000 people and pegged youth unemployment at more than 60 percent while the African Development Bank has a study finding that unemployment for people 15-24 in Uganda is 83 percent.” Another study posted in the article showcased how  Over the past decade, Uganda’s economy, bolstered by generous foreign direct investment, grew faster than the median growth rate in sub-Saharan Africa, but somehow less than 10 percent of its youth have found work in this new bustling economy. “

While some say the lack of youth employed stems from the youth turning their nose to the less desirable jobs, the young adults seeking employment blames it on the corruption, nepotism, lack of reforms that their government has left them with. (Choksi 2015) This instance highlights just how important is is to include and empower youth within a community, without this you only see a community dividing itself.

We talked about education in my last post, and above we are still talking about those with college degrees that are seeking better employment. I wanted to finish my post off by stressing an alternative for those without a means for college education, or even one at all. The New York Times posted an article about bringing back the concept of apprenticeships and how it can be used to reduce youth unemployment rates. With an aging population and trade and skilled jobs once being seen as a thing of the past, they now more then ever are in need. (Bray 2014) This career rout could potentially be a way out for those who lack an education to pursue certain careers while still benefiting a community and economy in the long run. So maybe instead of going on our mission trips or service trips and building houses and wells for those in need, we instead teach them skills that allow them to learn how to do these things for themselves so they are better able to pass these skills onto their community and are better able to sustain themselves.


Work Cited:

Bray, Chad. “Apprenticeships Could Help Reduce Youth Unemployment, Business Leaders Say.” DealBook. New York Times, 23 Jan. 2014. Web. 17 July 2016.

Choksi, Mansi. “Yellow Pigs Make a Political Point about Youth Unemployment in Uganda.” Yellow Pigs Highlight Youth Unemployment In Uganda. Al Jazeera, 8 Apr. 2015. Web. 17 July 2016.

State, Texas. “The Positive Effects of Youth Community Engagement.” Texas State. Texas School Safety Center, Fall 2013. Web.

McGill, Michael, and Claire O’Kane. “The Positive Contributions of Youth to Peacebuilding.” Global Partnership for Children & Youth in Peacebuilding. Global Partnership for Children & Youth in Peacebuilding, July 2015. Web.


What’s Ur Role in This

Development and conflict has a unique reciprocal relationship in the sense that poorly planned and misdirected development begets conflict and vice versa. In a short span of the previous 60 years, Iraq has endured continuous thrust of violence, oppression, and degradation of national autonomy. In the brief moments of respite, development under many roles is steadfast, but the efforts have been short lived as another conflict or crisis arises and sets movement in reverse.

Brief Timeline of Key Events

In the absence of obscure lines one can see that Iraq’s previous 60 years of undisputed discord ultimately impacted the Iraqi people rendering them unable to seek refuge today.

Prior to the nationalist revolution in 1958, Iraq was a developed state; with stable infrastructure, municipalities, and promising oil industry prospective.

In a 60 year span:

  • 8 political shifts which all involve conflict
  • 3 major external conflicts
  • 3 major sectarian entities rule over regions of Iraq (Kurdistan, Sunni-Ba’ath Sympathizers, The Capital which is the remaining Shia majority in Iraq)
  • IDP and refugees are over 3.4 million and counting
  • Food, Shelter, Safety, and Medical Supply scarcities are consecutively unending

Peering into the current situation one would have to be blind to miss the effect of short-lived cessations of development and immediate occurrence of conflict in Iraq. The cycle has now resulted in 3.3 million Iraqi people displaced, the unhinging of government and policy, and fueled sectarian tensions all whilst the decline of the crude oil, the major export in which national revenue is dependent on dwindles.


Development roles become obscure as external and internal pressures accumulate, especially in addition to the pre-existing fragility, a nation endures while in conflict or crisis. In 2016, development is still an undefinable and mutable concept with many, many facets. Not only does the philosophy of development change, it has a causative facet of change itself. In conflict, development is either in favor or in opposition to autonomy seekers. In the case of Iraq, the roles play both friend and foe as the nation struggles for reclamation and seems to be only a blink of time when Iraqis had autonomy together.

In this blog key roles of development make cameo appearances of Iraq’s recent 60 year history. In the latter part of the 20th century, Iraq’s conflict situation escalated immensely, as it gained prominent media attention after Iraq’s invasions and conflict with neighboring Iran and Iraq. The decade before and after these conflicts illuminate the political role of development. Immediately ensuing the conflicts, international pressures and sanctions were placed on Iraq. Said pressures vehemently decreased traditional developmental efforts, and the role of development began to shift from political to humanitarian as national interests superseded the responsibility of all the Iraqi people; as opposed to those only supporting the ruling government sect.

Infrastructure began to decline, water sources were rerouted, and people began to displace in the thousands. This shift of roles lasted well into the first part of the 21st Century as the world once again witnessed Iraq’s conflict on a global scale. After 9/11 and the Invasion of 2003, the world saw large-scale development mantled as humanitarian aid.

Previously mentioned, reconstruction was one role of development as the entire nation was recuperating from the De-Baathification Era (2003-2005). Soon to follow reconstruction was political and economic development as Iraq began holding elections and the new Constitution for the Republic of Iraq (ROI) was voted in. However, tensions between autonomy seekers caused another upheaval as the oil prices dropped and debt began to accrue rapidly. In 2004-2005 the tensions mentioned are simply the result of Shia sects in governmental power and lack of inclusion of Sunni population, which previously had the majority political influence. There is a plethora of information available as to what causes these tensions, some opinion and some fact, but that is useless at this point. The assumptions of who is causing the tensions became factual when the “insurgency” was claimed openly by ISIS and like sympathizers. The important thing to keep in mind is that regardless of the violent and obscenely criminal nature of the rebellion, the sect still falls under the umbrella of autonomy seekers. The changing role of development has impacts that can be seen clearly and is evidenced by the further division of a nation, which is already branched by sect.

Still, the imbalance and fall short of Iraq with efforts to stabilize its own nation (political development), resulted in vulnerabilities that have been piled up over the previous decades. This coupling created a prime target for the uprising of an insurgency and the retard of all progress towards stability, save the southern governates.

This stage of developmental transitioning (into humanitarian), much like the “Fight or Flight” mechanism in the human nervous system, marked another event in which development reverts to survival.

The interchangeable tottering of economic, political, and humanitarian roles of development is the major influencing factor that procured Iraq’s acquisition of the national turmoil we see today.

Please refer to Timeline at the end of this blog for further details and chronological list of development roles and related shifts.

Economic Development

It was a surprise to find that prior to the Ba’ath Party and numerous rebellious coups, Iraq was a developed nation state under the British Monarch. The oil industry was efficient and provided revenue to begin further infrastructural development; dams, hospital, and medical training facilities. Alas, there was an unwanted occupancy that procured developmental ‘successes as opposed to achieving that success via national autonomy. Autonomy also playes a large role in development…discusses later.

Shortly after the second round of military coups, and the genesis of the Ba’athist Regime, Iraq had obtained some sovereignty. In the 1970’s the economy had what seemed to be a steadying boom. According to researchers at San Jose State University, the following policies took effect:

  • Cancelation of payment for redistributed lands
  • Subsidized prices for basic consumer commodities
  • Welfare services
  • Establishment of agricultural cooperatives to provide subsidized seed and fertilizers

Iraq was the 3rd largest producer of oil in 1979 as oil fields became nationalized. IRRF was a major actor in revitalizing the oil sector in 2006 when the industry suffered impacts of inadequate maintenance and production. To date, several thousand projects for all sectors have commenced and The World Bank has kept in-depth records of such projects as well as outcomes.

Key Highlights of Economic – Political Overlap: When Development Reverses

  • Kurdish and Iraq Currency with different conversion rates (in favor of the Kurdish currency)
  • National prioritization of neighboring territorial conquests while infrastructure declined
  • Poorly planned irrigation and water extraction from marshlands
  • Inadequate Site Location of the Construction of the Mosul Dam

Political Development

General Qasim, painted in a neutral light, was a dictator of anti-sectarian values and had compassion for the poor. His coup to overthrow the Hashemite Monarch brought all sects together with a common nationalist goal. During the time frame of the Monarch rule there was Shia oppression and an overall discord as they were cast as peasants; which would ultimately play a role in 2005 when the new constitution and elections placed Shia members in control of Iraq. Assuming history repeats itself, there will be many coups in order for Sunni sympathizing insurgents in hopes to regain control of Iraq.

Fast forward to a hypothetical future…what do you see? Do you see the defeat or victory of the insurgents? Do you see the foreign influence again? Now rewind to the post Ba’ath Era and imagine if there was never any UN, U.S. or Coalition Forces. Would you see the same numbers and statistics of Iraqi Human Rights violations and crisis? Would the number be the same? Which sect would have the highest numbers? These are the questions that are realy discusses in public forums. When nations make the choice to shift politics, or cooperatively intervening in foreign politics, these potent topics seems to be overlooked and justified under other roles of development. When does political development become a risk to pass up on in order to prevent a potential humanitarian crisis on such a large scale?

Humanitarian Development

Another unique distinction of Iraq’s affairs in regards to development is that Humanitarian Aid is a role in which development has a scaffolding facet and has been the repeating result of economic and political development.

Initially, humanitarian assistance began in the 1970’s as the Ba’ath Regime inflicted many hardships for the Iraqi people. The timeline below highlights conflict correlated aid provisions, and does not include the enormous amounts of aid over the years to date. In the mid 1990’s an water borne diseases increased as potable water was scarce and lack of medical resources were limited. In 1999 the infant mortality rate doubled causing the inevitability of foreign involvement. From 1990-2002 the UN placed several heavy sanctions on Iraq as a result of the border conflicts with Kuwait. At this time in history the United Nations, U.S. and Coalition Forces are the major actors in the shift from the political development role to humanitarian aid, where the lines become invisible and human rights violations become the catalyst for yet another conflict.

Impact Echoes

Development is often shadowed with stigmas of exploitation. Return of investments, agreeable and profitable quarterly reports, and procuring future investments, play a role in development opportunities. In the Middle East the exploitation of oil and its related industry is under great scrutiny, as it should be, however in the case of Iraq, development leans heavily in the humanitarian corner as there is little to exploit save the last hope residing in the southern governates.

In the extreme cases of development, where conflict is a major contributor to the need of development or aid, there seems to be a trend of common factors. One common factor is the preliminary involvement by key international organizations like The United Nations, UNICEF, The World Bank, thousands of NGO’s, and WHO. The upside of the mentioned organizations’ involvement being there is not simply one nation or government involvement and in turn reducing the possibilities of colonization and exploitation. Of course, these organizations can succumb to external and internal political influences which damages the integrity of development and foreign aid, potentiating tensions that cause conflicts.

Autonomy: Borders within Borders

As mentioned in previous blogs, resilience plays a big role in development as well. As the north engages in heavy conflict and crisis, the southern governates use resilience and keep the momentum of development going all while remaining autonomous.

  • Kurdistan has been officially autonomies and given a form of plight as a sovereign entity however tensions grow as they become more and more independent of the ROI
  • In April 2016 Trevi contractors begin the process of repairing the Mosul dam. If they are successful they will be able to prevent the impending death of over a half of million people. The Italian engineers and contractors have implemented a plan of repair which also includes the training of Iraqis so they can efficiently maintain the dam once the project commences. This latest development project, like many before, has a vulnerability as the consistent problem of insurgency poses another threat by inhibiting resource attainment. It has been reported that the security risks pose a greater threat to the workers.
  • Thi-Qar/Nassiryia, NESPAK Irrigation, capitol approval for governing authorities (previous blog)
  • Basra made headway recently with oil exports

Ur Lessons Learned

The biggest take away is not the semantics of which development lines are blurred, erased, or crystal clear. It is important in the aspect of cause and effect of careless development practices and even more miniscule when compared to the efficacy of a nation and its people who suffer.

I happened upon a report from the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) which discusses lessons learned in regards to Iraq’s De-Ba’athification. I found the process steps to be potent in regards to a framework to incorporate in the phases of development with nations who are in a conflict or crisis state.

A Bitter Legacy: Lessons of de-Baathification in Iraq, International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).

 Abdulrazzaq Al-Saiedi, and Miranda Sissons

 Abdulrazzaq Al-Saiedi is a human rights researcher and former ICTJ consultant specialising in the Middle East and North Africa. Miranda Sissons was head of the Iraq program at the International Center for Transitional Justice from 2005-2008. A former Australian diplomat, she has authored numerous publications on human rights and the law of armed conflict in the Middle East.

 Lessons Learned

  1. Design a vetting program, not a purge. De-Baathification dismissed people based on rank, not behavior, and this created serious problems. Establish clear criteria to use when vetting, and be certain that your vetting procedure meets basic due process standards. If it does not, you risk creating an incoherent, ineffective, and unnecessarily controversial program.
  2. Know your target. Without accurate data, your program risks being impractical and ineffective. It could also create severe capacity problems. If you don’t have such data, pursue a more limited initiative while you gather the information you need.
  3. Set clear, realistic objectives. A vetting program is a tool that uses certain criteria to assess a person’s suitability to be a government employee. The program cannot by itself reform the public sector or deliver justice to victims. Be mindful of any capacity problems and where possible take steps to mitigate them.
  4. Don’t create a monster. The framework, powers, and oversight of any vetting program should be defined clearly, and it should be carried out for a limited period of time. Be sure the leadership broadly represents the makeup of your country’s population and is insulated from electoral politics.
  5. Consult and educate. Do not create a program without consulting the people who it is meant to serve. Their ideas and knowledge may differ from your preconceptions or may vary strongly among different groups.
  6. Look to the future. Design a program with criteria that can help protect against future abuse: think about promotion, recruitment, and other procedures, not just dismissals.

If practical, use your experience in the program to develop ideas for future reforms.

  1. Observe basic standards of fairness. This is strongly related to the first lesson. Fairness is not just a legal issue—it protects a vetting program from political manipulation and increases public confidence. Vetting programs are always controversial. By adhering to administrative due process standards (which are simpler than judicial standards), you can minimize needless controversy and focus on your program goals.

Iraq has quite the journey ahead. Since I left in 2006 I have thought continuously about the welfare of the Iraqi people as they are never far from my thoughts.In this course, I have had the opportunity to peer in closer and research as much as possible. I hope that I was able to deliver to you a view of Iraq in light of development on both a large and small scale. In review, development plays many roles and can often be defined in innumerable ways, however; there is a strong need for fine tuning of the roles that development plays as well as limits to authorities.

Iraq Timeline

Female Genital Mutilation

For all of my blog posts now I have been discussing different forms of Gender Based Violence (GBV). GBV can take place in many ways, one of which is female mutilation. This is an oppression of women’s sexuality that still affects us today. To begin my research I read a policy brief by UNICEF that discusses abandoning Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). I then found an article by the World Health Organization (WHO) that provided some key facts and information about FGM. I then read an article in the New York Times that gives a first account of this experience. Finally, I found an article from the Middle East Forum (MEF) that further discusses FGM in the Middle East.

Female Genital Mutilation refers to any “procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons” (WHO). This usually involves full, or partial, removal of the female genitalia. These procedures can cause severe bleeding, infections, and later, complications such as cysts and increased rates of newborn deaths. There are no medical health benefits to FGM. “FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women” (WHO).

This procedure is a social construct made to suppress women’s sexuality and pleasure. Many who survive the procedure suffer from significant trauma afterwards. This affects women all over the world, “FGM occurs in non-Muslim societies in Africa. And in Arab states such as Egypt, where perhaps 97 percent of girls suffer genital mutilation,[3] both Christian Copts and Muslims are complicit” (MEF). People often hold that there is a religious aspect to FGM. While others argue the “practice as rooted in poverty, lack of education, and superstition” (MEF).

These women don’t want to continue this practice. In a New York Times article, there is a personal account by Leyla Hussaian, a girl from Saudi Arabia, who was cut at age 7. She was not aware of the procedure until the day of. She recounts, “She was telling me part of my vagina was going to be taken away. While she’s explaining I could hear this screaming inside of the house, which was my sister being cut” (New York Times). She referred to the event as child abuse; regardless of religious or social contexts.

There are efforts being made to combat this horrible procedure, however, many cultural norms are holding us back. Often, having this procedure defines the marriageability of the daughters. UNICEF proposed a policy to combat this dilemma, specifically in Ethiopia. This approach looks at the social norms surrounding FGM. The pre-intervention phase looks at who is for, vs. against, FGM. The intervention phase conducts “community conversations” to increase awareness using the social convention theory. This theory looks at the social conventions and norms within a society and aims to help inform them of the harmful facts about FGM. (UNICEF).

We need to help.

Education and Literacy Rates in Pakistan

Education is a right, not a privilege, yet in many places some cannot afford to get an education. In Pakistan today there is a 58% illiteracy rate and it has been consistent for the past two years. One of the main issues concerning Pakistan’s high illiteracy rates is its small budged for education coupled with education not being as high of a priority. While the government schools tend to be better quality, public schools in Pakistan tend to be lacking in basic resources such as electricity, water, and sanitation.   In addition there are even several unofficial ghost schools have formed. Many who dislike the conditions of public schools in Pakistan have nowhere to turn because private schools have steeper prices, which many people in Pakistan cannot afford. There is a significant disparity in areas with private schooling and in areas with public. Private schools are pretty much only in urban areas where a lot of the more wealthy people are located, whole public schools are located in rural areas where there are more impoverished people. Madrasas are also prominent. These are schools that provide a more Islamic, religious-based education and they are free, so they are more easily accessible for people who cannot afford to send their children to private school.

Above is an image of a ghost school in the province of Sindh, Pakistan.
Above is an image of a ghost school in the province of Sindh, Pakistan.

One issue that is a common trend in many countries is the high gender disparity in literacy with a significantly smaller literacy rate for females. In fact, in Pakistan the female literacy rate has even declined by 2% from 2012-13 while the male literacy rate has stayed the same. In some more rural, tribal areas in Pakistan women are strictly prohibited from getting an education on religious grounds. With social and cultural restrictions and a patriarchal society, women cannot receive the educations that they deserve. In addition, in poorer areas of Pakistan, often women cannot afford to buy sanitary pads if they have their periods, and therefore end up missing school because of it and sacrificing their educations.

Often people are scared to educate women, because along with education comes power. It gives people the power to question social structures and power dynamics. Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani woman dedicated to promoting education in Pakistan and ending the gender disparity in education once said, “Let us picks up our books and pencils. They are our most powerful weapons.” Education is a type of power that Pakistani people need in order to enact change.


Works Cited

Ahsan, S. (n.d.). Related Articles. Retrieved April 14, 2016, from

Haq, R. (2015, June 05). Education woes: Pakistan misses UN target with 58% literacy rate – The Express Tribune. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from

Illiteracy in Pakistan. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2016, from

Mussadaq, M. (2011, July 20). Female illiteracy: 41% of Pakistani girls fail to complete primary school – The Express Tribune. Retrieved April 14, 2016, from

Saleem, M. (n.d.). The Development and State of the Art of Adult Learning. Retrieved April 14, 2016, from – Pacific/Pakistan.pdf


Small Voice, Big World

In my last blog, I will deviate, but not entirely, from the theme that I had been following in my previous blogs. By focusing on the rise of behemoth companies and food chains, I want to highlight the plight and uphill battles that small-scale, traditional and organic farmers face when juxtaposed next to McDonald, Walmart, and the likes, in this ever competitive global food economy.

When I visited my friend’s aunt during fall break, driving to farmers market with her reminded me not only of my home (Nepal), but also the sad fact of how healthy food options here in the US is a luxury and a privilege. With chains like McDonald offering deals like “McPick 2 for $5” on one hand and organic produce costing more than a dollar for just an apple on the other hand, it is no surprise that healthy options are out of the expenditure equation for most of the mass population. And thus, despite the push for awareness regarding healthy diets many people are obliged to resort to cheapened (as Professor Fabos had mentioned in class), mostly sugarcoated, GMO products from the never-ending aisles of Walmart and thus most organic or traditional farmers are dissuaded from implementing sustainable methods in their fields.


Therefore small-scale farmers are unable to compete with juggernaut corporations like Walmart and Target. Among several negative consequences that arise from this dynamic, the ones that stand out to me are:


  1. Loss of traditional and sustainable farming methods
  2. Health effects that arise from consumption of GMO products
  3. Exploitation of farmers who give their produce for almost nothing in return

And even though it has been proven time again that GMO products can cause infertility, promote gastrointestinal and immune disorder, increase the use of herbicide (its effects would require a whole new blog post), and the list can go on, governments are nonchalant about these consequences. In fact, “the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, doesn’t require a single safety study, does not mandate labeling of GMOs, and allows companies to put their GM foods onto the market without even notifying the agency” and most of the “health and environmental risks of GMOs are ignored by governments’ superficial regulations and safety assessments.


When the governments themselves are oblivious to the health of the people, it is no surprise that mega corporations parasitically suck farmers dry, from grabbing lands to paying abysmally low costs. Raj Patel in Stuffed and Starved paints an eerily gloomy picture of how Nestle makes profit off of Ugandan coffee farmers who are on the verge of slumping below the poverty level. I will never be able to look at a Nestle product the same now with the knowledge that they pay 14 cents per kilo (which is laughably low) of coffee beans to Ugandan farmers while they themselves make profits out of US$ 26.40 per kilo. And this is just a picture that captures one company, one set of farmers and one commodity. In a larger global scale, the exploitation and profits are magnified by insensible degrees.



So it was a breath of fresh air when Costco announced that it would be lending money to farmers for their organic produce after it witnessed high demands for those produce, even though it is only a pilot program. And Whole Foods is also embarking on a similar journey. But do these initiatives effectively mitigate all the problems mentioned above? Personally, I don’t think so and I don’t expect them to carry all the weight on their shoulder. We have to remember that corporations like Whole Foods, although great in their own way, are projected towards and can only be afforded by select bourgeoisie and thus do not effectively solve the larger problem at hand.

So the ability to tackle this multifaceted problem that plague not just the US but places all over the globe should be undertaken by the governments. Some of the points that I took away from one of my discussion classes was the need for the governments to provide subsidies to organic and traditional small-scale farmers so they can compete effectively. On personal levels, we should overcome our obsession with perfect and glossy products and support our local farmers. Corporations like McDonald’s should be responsible to notify customers about where the products they use are sourced from (my friend from France told me that McDonald’s there have started doing so).

An Indian farmers reacts to the camera as others work at a paddy field in Mauayma village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Allahabad, India, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010. India's economy grew 8.8 percent in the June quarter, its fastest pace in over two years, as good farm and manufacturing output lifted growth back to its pre-crisis trajectory. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Of course, my blog post does not hold the answer to everything. But it is a small step and I believe every single action, though it may seem inconsequential in a larger scene, is at least a step towards betterment.

Work Cited:

Jeffery Smith. “10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs.” Institute for Responsible Technology. 25 August 2011.

Ryan Grenoble. “Costco is Selling So Much Organic Produce, Farmers Can’t Keep Up.” The Huffington Post. 13 April 2016.

Angel Gonzalez. “Largest Organic Grocer Now Costco, Analysts Say.” Seattle Times. 1 June 2015.

Christine Wang. “McDonald’s McPick 2 for $5 Menu to Feature its Classic.” CNBC. 26 February 2016.

Sexual Exploitation in Worcester

In last week’s blog post, I discussed the abolitionist v. pro-regulation standpoints within the prostitution debate. I’ve been starting to work with WAASE (Worcester Alliance Against Sexual Assault) over the past semester, and I’ll be working with Professor Sarkis this summer to analyze data from police records of arrests for prostitution and conduct a referral network analysis to outline where the gaps in resources for prostituted women are. I thought it would be helpful for people who have been keeping up with my blog posts on the sex industry to have my last post connect Worcester as a case study of prostitution to the international debates and policies around the sale of sex. WAASE was formed in 2012, and definitely falls under the abolition ideology of approaching prostitution. Although I don’t see that framework as effective for an international baseline, in the context of Worcester I definitely agree that the commodification of sex is not sex work. Almost all of these women were coerced into prostitution; either by a family member at a young age, or through economic necessity or addiction.

The most interesting thing for me about Worcester’s ‘case’ of prostitution is the demography of prostituted women. I don’t have access to data on sexually exploited people of other genders, so this post will be concentrated on the position of women within the Worcester sex industry. Between 2003 and 2013, 77% of arrests were of white-identified people, not including mixed-racial or racially unidentified people (Sarkis). I find the skewed racial breakdown of arrests really intriguing because even though Worcester is in New England, which is a generally white part of the country, I think of the city of Worcester itself is pretty racially diverse.

From my conversations with Professor Sarkis and other activists within WAASE, I’ve gathered that the prostitution industry in Worcester is not gang run. Most of the women in the life have been introduced through familial connections, through a boyfriend or a friend. 95 per cent of women identified as having been prostituted throughout the WAASE outreach surveys and data collection self-report a history of drug abuse or addiction, and 55 per cent of them used drugs before being sexually exploited. 44 per cent are either homeless or without a stable living environment, which is a low estimation for the accurate number of exploited women because long-term housing is not guaranteed within the 44 per cent that report having an immediate living space (WAASE).

So where does this leave us? Main South is a neighborhood within Worcester known for prostitution, associated with crime and gang activity. While the statistics provided seem disheartening, the movement against the ‘prostitution situation’ has made major gains over the last few years. WAASE has made exceptional progress with the Worcester Police Department and the Vice squad in changing the targets of prostitution arrests. In 2013, there were 179 sexually exploited women and only 3 johns arrested (Brindisi). WAASE has worked with the police department to provide alternatives to arrest for sexually exploited women picked up on the street for prostitution, including rehabilitation treatment instead of arrest. At a community forum for prostitution a few weeks back, Lt. Scampini stated that in the last year, 68% of prostitution-related arrests were male. This is not to say that all people who buy sex are male, but the trends in the existing data for Worcester show that johns are overwhelmingly male. Between December of 2014 and October of 2015, there were a total of 473 arrests for selling sex, and a total of 94 women (WAASE). This data clearly shows that if every women who is arrested for prostitution is being arrested 5 times a year, there are a lot more people who buy sex than people who sell sex.

Shop owners and residents of Main South report a clear reduction in the amount of street-based prostitution since WAASE has put pressure on the police department to shift sting arrests to focusing on johns, and offering alternative treatment in place of arrest for prostituted women (Croteau). Throughout my work with WAASE and Abby’s House, it’s become clear to me that sexually exploited women do not fit into a typical women’s shelter or domestic violence shelter model. Prostituted women living in general homeless shelters report additional violence towards them because of their history of sexual exploitation, and ‘regular’ shelters prove to be incompatible with those still engaged in selling sex. Women also are not able to bring clients back to shelters, and are often required to be in the shelter by a certain time of night (Breakstone). The intersection of addiction, abuse, assault, and trauma from the life of prostitution require a survivor-led housing model specific to the recovery of exploitation survivors. WAASE is currently working towards this goal of a survivor housing project, but there needs to be much more support both from the community and the city.


Ways to Help

There is a huge need for help with data analysis and community outreach over the summer- get in contact with me if you’re interested!

The #1 thing that members of WAASE have told me is the best way for the community to get engaged on a daily basis is to treat women on the street with respect

Text tips of suspected johns, pimps, license plates etc. to 274637

Visit the WAASE website to learn about volunteer opportunities



Breakstone, Chelsea. “I DON’T REALLY SLEEP”1: STREET-BASED SEX WORK, PUBLIC HOUSING RIGHTS, AND HARM REDUCTION. Issue brief. 337th ed. Vol. 18. New York City: CUNY LAW REVIEW, 2015. Print.

City of Worcester, Massachusetts. Division of Public Health. Worcester Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. By Derek S. Brindisi. Worcester: City of Worcester, 2014. Print.

Croteau, Scott J. “Why Worcester Police Still Target Women in Prostitution Stings.” Mass Live. N.p., 26 Jan. 2016. Web.

Sarkis, Marianne, PhD. Worcester Prostitution-Related Arrests 2003-2013. 2014. Raw data. Worcester, MA.

WAASE, Bell, Nichole, Karen Riley-McNarry, Marianne Sarkis, Heidi-Sue LaBoeuf, Athena Haddon, and Joseph Scampini. “WAASE COMMUNITY FORUM ON PROSTITUTION.” The Woo Church, Worcester, MA. 6 Apr. 2016. Speech.


Indigenous Values Should Be a Key Component of Our Response to Climate Change

Thus far, I have written posts on what sustainable development is, sustainable development in Peru, the ways indigenous land entitlement can be seen as sustainable development, the differences between community sustaining development and government mandated development and the role of microfinance and digital payment in development in Peru. To conclude this set of blog posts, I would like to write more about agriculture and development with a focus on terminator seeds (seeds that are genetically modified so that the second generation of seeds are sterile). Many problems arise from terminator seeds including soil degradation and increased farmers’ dependency on large seed providers such as Monsanto and Syngenta because new seeds need to be bought each year.

An article in a Mexican news forum, Quadratin, points out that agricultural chemicals and nitrogen fertilizer were not actually invented for agriculture but were a product of war. They report that these strong chemicals, can have serious health consequences. For example, in Peru in 1999, 24 children died because they were poisoned by eating food contaminated by Parathion, an insecticide. Problems of contamination, however, are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of all the problems caused by terminator seeds and chemical farming.

The organization Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and Sustainable Development (ANDES) held a community meeting in 2005 to discuss the potential impacts of terminator seeds on Peruvian agriculture. About 70 indigenous leaders met together for this discussion and produced a report for the UN working group to submit at the next Convention on Biological Diversity. The main worries voiced included fear that the “pollen from terminator seeds could transfer sterility to and effectively kill off other crops and plant life (ANDES),” worry about increased dependence on monster seed distribution companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta, and concern that terminator seeds could put Peru’s 3,000 varieties of potatoes at risk as reported on History Commons. The concerns also include loss of biodiversity, “erosion of indigenous knowledge and innovation systems” which include knowledge of seed saving and exchange, loss of food sovereignty, cutting back of indigenous human rights and marginalization of women (quoted from the report itself). History Commons quoted Felipe Gonzalez, a member of the indigenous Pinchimoro community who said, “[t]erminator seeds do not have life…[l]ike a plague they will come infecting our crops and carrying sickness. We want to continue using our own seeds and our own customs of seed conservation and sharing.”

A letter signed by representatives of 34 indigenous communities provides another example of the struggle against ending the international de facto moratorium on terminator seeds. As IIED reports ‘the coalition says Syngenta’s claims that its patent for ‘terminator technology’ potatoes is neither relevant nor applicable in the region are “deeply offensive.”’ The coalition requests that Syngenta disown the patent of a genetic modification that can stop potatoes from sprouting. Despite the de facto moratorium, research continues and corporations want to see the ban revoked. One quote that really stuck out to me in this same article was said by Alejandro Argumendo who is part of ANDES. He said “We feel greatly disrespected by corporations that make a single genetic alteration to a plant and then claim private ownership when these plants are the result of thousands of years of careful breeding by indigenous people.” In the end, the moratorium on terminator seeds was not relaxed to the relief of the indigenous Quechua working so hard against it in Peru as well as to people all over the world yet an end to the moratorium in the future is still a very real possibility.

One prime example of a program ANDES operates that works with bio cultural conservation is the Potato Park where six Quechua communities live and cultivate about 1,500 varieties of potato. As the ANDES website explains “[t]he communities’ traditional knowledge, customary laws and spiritual beliefs that nurture these resources are in turn shaped and sustained by the Andean ancestral landscapes and their sacred mountain gods or Apus.”

Respect for indigenous values and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples “is a key component in the response to climate change.” Various organizations, including ANDES are coming together to bring attention to the power of having indigenous cultural and spiritual values as central in the fight to slow global warming.  The brief “Indigenous spiritual and cultural values to guide climate change adaptation” quotes Karenna Gore, the director of Center for Earth Ethics saying, “[i]ndigenous spirituality seeks powerful connection to larger purposes and meaning, celebrates biodiversity and promotes inclusion…[t]he world especially needs that kind of worldview at this time. This great body of knowledge has a wealth of adaptive capacity. It not only protects the wellbeing of indigenous peoples; it also promotes an awareness of our deep interconnected relationship with nature that can enhance our world as a whole.” This powerful quote resonates with me personally. I strongly believe that indigenous valuation of the earth must be central to a reformed society that is truly able to take care of the earth, which is why I chose to write my blog posts on the topic of sustainable development and the Quechua and Aymara peoples of Peru.




Alcalá, Salvador. “Los Orgánicos.” Quadratin. 04 Mar. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <>.

“Biocultural Conservation – Sallqa Ayllu.” ANDES. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <>.

“COP21 ANDES in Paris.” Asociación ANDES. 9 Dec. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <>.

“Indigenous Peoples of Cusco, Peru on the Potential Impacts of Terminator.” Letter to Hamdallah Zedan. 27 Sept. 2005. 27 Sept. 2005. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

“‘Insulted’ Andean Farmers Pick GM Potato Fight with Multinational Syngenta.” International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). 12 Jan. 2007. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <>

Profile: Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and Sustainable Development (ANDES).” History Commons. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <>.

GBV Reform

Throughout my last few blog posts I have been discussing different topics within the area of gender inequality and gender based violence (GBV). In this post, I will explore different types of GBV reform, again with a focus on Africa. I began my research with a news article called “Security reform key to protecting women” from an African magazine, AfricaRenewal. I then read a policy brief on gender justice written by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR). I also found a scholarly article in sage journals titled, “Violence against women in South Africa”. Finally, I read an article from News24 titled, “The fight for gender equality needs men”.

GBV is defined by the UN as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women… whether occurring in public or private life”. This can include physical harm, sexual exploitation, and much more. In 1996, the Human Rights Watch estimated over 50,000 cases of sexual assault in South Africa. By 2007, this number skyrocketed to more than 52,000 (SAGE). With such large numbers, it is obvious something must be done. Unfortunately, the police push a lot of GBV, especially sexual abuse, under the rug. In the same study mentioned above, only 7% of those assaults in 2006 were prosecuted.

Luckily, many things are being put into place to combat this problem. In Uganda, the United National Security Council Resolution 1325 was set in place to deal specifically with women’s rights and GBV. Uganda along with many other countries are setting up laws to criminalize GBV. For example, “Under Penal Code Cap. 120 in Ugandan statutory law, some acts of sexual violence against women are legally viewed as crimes against morality” (IJR). In South Africa, they have implemented two laws to combat GBV: Violence Act No 116 and Criminal Law (Sexual Offense and Related Matters). Both laws pride are very inclusive of many aspects within GBV. The first outlines the penalties of physical violence against women and the second outlines the penalties for sexual assault and related incidents.

However, even with legislation in place, we still often fall short; ““the security sector in Africa “finds itself falling short in its responsibility” to protect women, and “is itself often a direct threat to the security of women”” (UN). We need more awareness and active prevention. Not only do women’s groups need to step up, but men. “Promoting equitable gender norms and developing public policy aimed at engaging men and boys helps achieve equality at the household, community and societal levels” (News24). Women can only do so much in this Man’s world; we need their help to get more done.

If we all work together, men and women, developed and underdeveloped countries, then we can put an end to GBV.






Sex Work and Human Trafficking

I’ve touched on the issue of human trafficking and it’s association with prostitution briefly in my first few posts, but I think that before I finish my five posts with an analysis of Worcester sexual exploitation, it’s important to give some more international context. The implications of human trafficking debates and preventative policy is heavily intertwined with border security policy and has major impacts on the treatment of migrants to western states. The issue of human trafficking is an interesting one; I don’t know of any positions that are for trafficking, but there are definitely conflicting ideologies and approaches to tackling the problem. I’m going to structure this post by laying out the bases of the two main schools of thought; prostitution abolitionists and pro-regulation/legalization of sex work, and present how I see the pros and cons of each. I’m planning to analyze abolitionist arguments more heavily because they are the dominant international perception of the sex industry. I can honestly say that I have no complete allegiance to either side, and that I agree and disagree with stances from both. It’s also important to note that I don’t think that there is one working model for all cases. I think that differing political, economic and social contexts can dictate weather abolishing prostitution or regulating it would be appropriate.


Prostitution Abolition

An abolitionist stance on prostitution believes that prostitution is a violation of human rights by definition, and is a patriarchal tool of oppression. International discourse has historically been shaped by this stance, and a UN Report sources commercial sexual exploitation as a root source of gender inequality and preventing the “full advancement of women” (Commission on the Status of Women). While I don’t think that this quite fits for a conclusive international mandate, I definitely recognize the gendered dynamic that the sex industry often serves. I also believe that within the current gendered world we live in, simply legalizing prostitution will not ensure the safety or autonomy of people who sell sex and has resulted in increases of human trafficking in the past. Legalizing prostitution has led to 200-400% increases in street prostitution, twice as many johns on the street, increases in organized crime and no reduction in violence against prostituted people (WAASE Public Forum). Countries that have legalized prostitution have also often experienced spikes in human trafficking across their borders. For example, the Netherlands have been attempting to combat this issue by trying to introduce policy that would require sex workers to register in order to work legally (Netherland Info Service, 2013). I can’t say that I completely agree with that approach, and I could see issues arising from abuses of listing sex workers and increased stigma as a result. I think that a more effective model might be to create self-regulating boards of sex workers who have social connections and access to networks that law enforcement and other agencies do not. People actively engaged in sex work have the local knowledge and social capital to know when a new sex worker has been trafficked, and are more effective at resolving the issue without involving law enforcement (Bandyopadhyay). The ‘raid and rescue’ model that is often followed by law enforcement when attempting to ‘rescue’ people who have been trafficked and sexually exploited has often resulted in worse conditions for the victims of trafficking.

One of my main concerns with the abolitionist perspective is the treatment of migrant populations as a result of being ‘rescued’. Many people consciously left their home country and allowed themselves to be trafficked and were then sexually exploited against their will. The deportation of these people does not guarantee their safety from sexual exploitation, since there are not often trauma services provided to them after their ‘rescue’, and it puts them back in the same place that they left in the first place (Bandyopadhyay). This model also creates a lot of international stigma and racial/moral panics by leaning on the ‘white slavery’ narrative. Southern countries are then typically targeted as “source countries” for trafficking (Kempadoo). The role that demand for trafficking is easily ignored in favor of pointing to the supply of trafficking victims. The abolitionist stance can lend itself to the western tendency of middle-class feminist reformists ‘saving’ their ‘fallen sisters’ (Ho).



Pro-regulation standpoints operate under the ideology of validating sex work as a form of labor and guaranteeing protection and positive working environments for sex workers through decriminalization and regulation of the sex work industry. In my idealized feminist world, I would unequivocally see this as the appropriate model. However, I have to question what defines a choice. Economic conditions and societal norms, among other things, are undeniable influences and factors of choice, but I also don’t want to invalidate the decisions people make by picking apart and invalidating the reasons why someone made a choice.

A major issue that pro-regulation positions take with abolition is the danger of criminalization of people selling sex. Combined with the white slavery narrative, criminalization often results in the demonization of people of color, particularly in urban contexts (Bernstein). Pro-regulation positions work to end the stigma and violence around sex work by giving autonomy and agency to sex workers. They also problematize the collusion of human trafficking with forced prostitution that many anti-trafficking agendas adhere to. Pro-regulation positions believe that by regulating and legitimizing sex work, as a profession will eliminate the unknown and uncounted factors that create space for human trafficking.

My Position

Deciphering an effective model for reducing human trafficking in the context of prostitution is very difficult because there is little reliable empirical research done on the conclusive conditions of sex workers internationally. Conducting such research will be incredibly difficult, partly because each context, or ‘case’ of prostitution is so different and completely dictated by the specific circumstances. Selling sex, other than within brothels, is often conducted in isolation from other sex workers, which makes it very difficult to create space for the organization of all sex workers. There is also the issue of who is included as someone who sells sex; many people don’t identify their own commodification of sex as a label and have no desire to organize with people they don’t identify with.

In regards to my proposal to attacking human trafficking, I believe that the first step should be to reject the current relationship between the state and the migrant. Governments and economic policy creates the demand for cheapened labor, which therefore demands human trafficking. Government policy sees migrants as a threat to state border security, and creates the need for migrating people to rely on third party actors to gain entry and stability in a new country. This opens the door for trafficking and exploitation, and closes the door for trafficked victims to expect assistance from a government that doesn’t guarantee them that right. The sex industry does have an undeniable tie to human trafficking, and I believe the Nordic model is the best existing approach to protecting sex workers and attempting to reduce influxes of trafficked and prostituted victims. I haven’t done much research into the trafficking rates resulting from this model, but I think the decriminalization of selling sex combined with the criminalization of buying sex is a positive way to target the demand for sex work, and therefore trafficked prostitution.


Bandyopadhyay, Nandinee. Streetwalkers Show the Way: Reframing the Global Debate on Trafficking from Sex Workers’ Perspectives. Working paper no. 309. N.p.: Institute of Development Studies at the U of Sussex Brighton, 2008. Web.

Bernstein, Elizabeth. “Militarized Humanitarianism Meets Carceral Feminism: The Politics of Sex, Rights, and Freedom in Contemporary Antitrafficking Campaigns.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 36.1 (2010): 45-71. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web.

Davies, Nick. “Prostitution and Trafficking – the Anatomy of a Moral Panic.” The Guardian 19 Oct. 2009: n. pag. Print.

Ho, Josephine. “From Anti-trafficking to Social Discipline.” Trafficking and Prostitution Reconsidered: New Perspectives on Migration, Sex Work, and Human Rights. By Jyoti Sanghera, Bandana Pattanaik, and Kamala Kempadoo. Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2005. 84-104. Print.

Kempadoo, Kamala.2005.“From Moral Panic to Global Justice: Changing Perspectives on Trafficking.”In Trafficking and Prostitution Reconsidered: New Perspectives on Migration, Sex Work, and Human Rights.Kamala Kempadoo, ed.Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, pp. vii-xxxiv.

NIS News Bulletin. “Prostitution Bill Battered in Upper House.” NIS (Netherlands Info Service) News Bulletin [The Hague] 7 Oct. 2013: n. pag. Print.

United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Economic and Social Council. Rep. no. E/CN.6/2008/NGO/25. Vol. 55 Session. N.p.: United Nations, n.d. Print.

Being Transgender in Pakistan

Most transgender people in Pakistan live in poverty and can often be found begging on the streets. When they do find work, the transgender women often can be found performing at weddings or at baby showers because they are believed to be good luck. However, many transgender women do sex work.

In Pakistan, transgender women are often called Hijras. Hijira is an umbrella term, which includes intersex people, transgender, homosexuals, people who cross dress, and bisexuals (Is social exclusion pushing the Pakistani Hijras towards commercial sex work, 2012). Many Hijras, specifically transgender women, engage in sex work. This work is very dangerous, as they don’t use protection in almost all cases and HIV and many STDs are very popular amongst sex workers. Many of these transgender people have lost contact from their original families and then turn to sex work because they have no alternatives.

Three transgender women in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Even for transgender people who are from more privileged backgrounds, public restrooms still remain a concern. Transgender people will often face criticism for using the bathrooms of their identified genders. A transgender Pakistani man, Daanish recalls a similar experience that he had at an airport bathroom. He had said he had used the men’s room and when he got back out the janitor started shouting at him and arguing about his gender identity (Officially Recognized But Publicly Shamed. 2015).   Events like this are typical and often transgender people will avoid public restrooms because of this.

There has been some work done to help transgender people achieve further recognition, policy wise. In 2009 Pakistan’s Supreme Court recognized a “third gender” for their identification cards. Pakistan has one of the most secure identification systems in the world. In addition, 2013 was the first election in which transgender people were allowed to vote (Officially Recognized But Publicly Shamed: Transgender Life in Pakistan. 2015). However transgender people are not recognized as Pakistani citizens otherwise and out transgender people cannot have their own passport. While transgender women are gaining recognition, transgender men go unnoticed.

While a third gender has been created for both, no transgender men have registered under it. They are nearly invisible in Pakistan. While there has been some beneficial changes policy wise, there is still prejudice against transgender people in Pakistan.


Works Cited

Baral, S. D., Poteat, T., Strömdahl, S., Wirtz, A. L., Guadamuz, T. E., & Beyrer, C. (2013). Worldwide burden of HIV in transgender women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet infectious diseases13(3), 214-222.

Is social exclusion pushing the Pakistani Hijras (Transgenders) towards commercial sex work? a qualitative study. (n.d.). Retrieved April 07, 2016, from

Transgenders_towards_commercial_sex_work_a_qualitative_study Pakistan’s Transgenders In A Category Of Their Own. (n.d.). Retrieved April 08, 2016, from]

Transgender and proud – The Express Tribune. (2015). Retrieved April 08, 2016, from