You Think You Own What Ever Land You Land On

This post deviates from the focus of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) due to my desire to further discuss land grabbing.

Land grabbing simply is International land holding where government, corporations, or speculators, own the rights to lands in other countries. Yes, the control of land in another country! This phenomenon goes back to colonial days which SIDS are all too familiar with. Presently, land grabbing doesn’t appear to be a problem within SIDS (probably do to finite land availability), most of it is occurring in Africa and Latin America.

‘Land grabbing’ re-emerged in the context of a spike in global food prices in 2007-2008. Local communities and farmers have been evicted from land they long regarded as their own. In the documentary, Good Fortune, addressing land grabbing in Kenya, Locals discuss their struggles with fighting to protect their lively hoods, community, and even health. They speak on how they are made to feel poor when in fact they do not see it that way. However, further disruption from development is making them poor. In the film it showed the new rice farm is effecting their water causing it to flood good agricultural land and effecting the ecosystem. As land is grabbed and reserved for development, this often has implications for the water nearby. They spray pesticides and other chemicals which contaminate water sources that locals have to drink, making them sick. Locals aren’t sitting back and passively accepting this. Recently, residents of Kirimon in Samburu Central Sub-County have protested over what they say is illegal grabbing of 10,000 acres of public land meant to benefit their community. This is common among targeted communities. They are making their demands, but they fall on deaf ears.

Despite these serious implications, various arguments are made that try to reinforce land grabbing as ‘acceptable’ that are very short sighted in my opinion. A popular stance that reinforces land grabbing is that there is an availability of excess land where investment can be turned into income and jobs for developing countries. Worldwide the areas being targeted for this kind of large-scale investment are being portrayed as ‘empty’, ‘marginal’, ‘idle’ or ‘degraded’ land, largely unpopulated, unused, unproductive, and unlikely to compete with local food production. The World Bank has been key to sustaining this view. Leading people to believe that agriculture needs investment, particularly foreign investment.

Another stance is that large-scale land deals are necessary to deal with food and oil scarcity. Even though this contributes to the environmental exploitation in regard to climate change. Advocates stressed the need to develop alternative non-fossil fuel-derived, renewable energy sources to achieve higher levels of energy security, while at the same time, combat climate change through ‘greener’ fuels. However, both of these arguments oversimplify complex realities. Conveniently, the problem is reduced to mere supply.

Food scarcity is a big motivator, however, they fail to acknowledge that there is already more than enough food in the system to feed the world’s population. In reality, food security is challenged by costs, harvests loss, waste, and the diversion of land use for production of non-food industrial products. We debate oil scarcity but do not acknowledge serious inefficiencies in the management of our finite fossil fuel supply, such as, a huge and increasing global commercial transport sector that moves industrial food and non-food products long distances across the world. They also ignore the fact that industrial agriculture and industrial livestock production are major emitters of key greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane).

In all honesty I don’t get it. I don’t get how we can pretend that this phenomenon is acceptable and ok. Especially in the form it takes on with disrupting lives. Land purchases which ignore the interests of local communities and the local landscapes are both morally wrong and commercially short-sighted. We need action both nationally and globally to stop them. It looks like racism, I can see the colonial roots embedded in this and it’s wrong. Is it just me or does anyone see? It’s environmental injustice. How can you go to a country whose society isn’t built on privatization/that type of ownership and exalt your control and power there?

*As I was researching and writing this I kept thinking about Pocahontas and the famous song, Colors of The Wind.

“You think I’m an ignorant savage

And you’ve been so many places

I guess it must be so

But still I cannot see

If the savage one is me

How can there be so much that you don’t know

You don’t know


You think you own whatever land you land on

The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim

But I know every rock and tree and creature

Has a life, has a spirit, has a name…”



Bowman, Mark. “Land Rights, Not Land Grabs, Can Help Africa Feed Itself.” CNN. Cable News Network, 18 June 2013. Web. <>.

Franco, Jennifer C. “Are African Land Grabs Really Water Grabs?” CNN. Cable News Network, 22 Mar. 2013. Web. <>.

Good Fortune. Prod. Landon Van Soest. Dir. Landon Van Soest. Filmakers Library, 2010. DVD.

Keti, Johnston. “SAMBURU: Residents Protest Land Grabbing.” Daily Nation. N.p., 28 Mar. 2016. Web. <>.

Woertz, Eckart. “The Global Land Grab Phenomenon.” Oil for Food The Global Food Crisis and the Middle East (2013): 143-60. Oct. 2012. Web. <>.

Dominion Farms in Kenya

Dominion Logo
Dominion Logo

Hello friends, this week I am going to talk about something a little bit different; Kenya. In class we are currently viewing the movie Good Fortune, so the time is right to go further into the issues Kenyans faced. Calvin Burgess, owner or Dominion Farms, went into Kenya’s Yala Swamp Basin in 2004 with the promise to bring US style progress to Africa (Grain 2014). This is a good example of foreigners entering a country in hopes of creating progress but fail and diminish culture.

In 2003, Calvin Burgess secures a 25-year lease with the Kenyan government obtaining approximately 17,000 acres of swampland (PBS). He advertised himself as a ‘man of God’, he promised modern rice plantations, increase in employments within locals, and the construction of hospitals and schools. PBS states:

Dominion has renovated one health center, but residents say they must pass through Dominion’s farm to reach the facility and are sometimes denied access. No schools have been renovated, although Dominion has donated building materials for school projects. The land that was to be set aside for farming has not been used for that purpose.

It is safe to assume that the health center created can be access by those who can afford it. One of the promises made by Burgess was the renovation of local’s homes, and as we saw in the movie locals disagreed. They knew that if they temporarily left there was no coming back. PBS reports that up to 300 families have moved temporarily but only 50 of them came back to new homes.

Grain is a small international non-profit organization that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community controlled food systems.  They state that locals were not happy with the production of Dominion, a local farmer; Erastus Odindo says, “When Burgess came, we did not object to him taking the lands that had already been allocated to the Government years before for the development of an experimental farm. . . But Dominion Farms has put a fence around much more land than that. The company has taken over all of our community lands without our consent and blocked our access to water”

Domestic Cattle, Jersey cow, grazing beside family near huts, Western Kenya
Domestic Cattle, Jersey cow, grazing beside family near huts, Western Kenya

It’s as if, Burgess was stripping locals of their necessities and eventually with no necessities they will move away. The production Dominion originally was doing was rice; PBS states that they’ve moved on from that. The extra land they have taken up they have been using for cattle grazing, which was the main method of farming for locals. They’ve also gone to vegetables, bananas and fish. That is not what the locals agreed to, they feel like Dominion took their land and now is taking their market (PBS).

Apart from the agricultural difficulties locals have had with the arrival of Dominion, they have also obtained health difficulties. PBS states that an analysis of water supply found dieldrin, which is a chemical linked to breast cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Dieldrin has been banned in the US as of 1987 as stated by the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. In result from this, many locals have gathered and created petitions fighting for human rights abuse. The authors of Business Daily: Africa discusses the report sent to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta by the collaboration of Big business and powerful individuals in government. The report states different instances where big business (Dominion included) “acted, often with the backing of government, to rob people of their inheritance, violate their labour and health rights besides polluting the environment with serious ramifications on local livelihoods.”

Throughout the next couple of blogs, I will go further in depth on this topic, the biggest question I have right and will leave you to ponder on is; with the controversy surrounding Dominion Farms and Calvin Burgess who is checking up on them?


Works Cited

“Commission Puts Big Business on the Spot for Rights Abuse.” Truth Team Puts Big Business on the Spot for Rights Abuses. N.p., 22 May 2013. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

“Good Fortune.” PBS. PBS, 2010. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

“Grain.” Combined. N.p., 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

“Public Health Statement for Aldrin/Dieldrin.” ATSDR. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, Sept. 2002. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.


Who Gives a Dam?

In order to develop internationally there must be support systems in place such as infrastructure, leadership, strong policy, and security. Iraq had little time of respite between conflicts dating back to the 1990’s. Circa 2009 the Iraqi government, still vulnerable and mercurial, was preparing to place sovereignty in action as coalition forces and a strong U.S. presence was being eliminated.

Previous blogs dissected the water crisis as one compartment of infrastructure development via reconstruction efforts, and now a step back must be taken to marry two emerging ideologies of approach to development: humanitarianism and development aid. The two ideologies emerged conjointly as the crisis in Iraq remained immutable. Infrastructural stability regressed, displacement increased, and political vitality decompensated with the rise of the Islamic State (IS) previously known prior to self-declaration of a caliphate, as ISIL/ISIS. With this rise, development shifted to humanitarian aid.

Typically in development and in humanitarian aid NGO’s add an element of strong support. There was a boom of NGO’s in 2003 after the invasion however the violence against humanitarian workers and NGO’s from 2004 to present day worsens the crisis. Ultimately, development efforts reduce as fear integrates. Many NGO’s shifted their approach by relocated outside the country in order to continue work (Hostage Releases). Currently there are organizations offering humanitarian aid to refugees both in and out of the country and these efforts are the fabric of our human decency. Unfortunately humanitarian aid just is not enough and only temporarily bandages wounds that will never heal.

The Step Back

Lessons learned are a valuable tool for establishing risk in development. Risk analysis is often shadowed to any decisions or appropriations of funds. I often wonder to what extent risk was analyzed when nations and states invest in development overseas, or at home for that matter.

Iraq development began long before the U.S. invasion on 2003. The Mosul Dam development started in the 1950’s, began in 1981 and finished in 1986 which included work from many countries. The Mosul Dam is by far the greatest achievements in Iraqi efforts in regards to infrastructure; and in turn the ideal target of violent sectarian apostasy.

mosul dam

Sectarian conflicts in the more recent years have halted development altogether. Critics will boast that military presences have hidden agendas, and they may be right, but without securing development there is no development.

The Reconstruction Security Support Services (RSSS) contract was awarded (2004) to Aegis, a British security firm. Aegis employees, ranging from former Special Forces to local Iraqi nationals, were dispersed to oversee all operations. Aegis personnel provided security support for transportation logistics. Like a double edge sword there were issues regarding personnel who were hired and not screened properly. The line between security and violence was often blurred.

I digress…For decades the Mosul dam has been deteriorating and maintenance was neglected.

With development steadfast with curvy momentum, a very big shift in happened in 2011. U.S. troops leave a majority of rural areas and along with them left the last layer of hope.

In 2012 sectarian war was at full throttle. In 2013 attacks increase with an approximated 7,000 death toll (UN).

I remember one of my sandpit workers. He was the elder of the group and often was tipsy. We never caught him but we knew and we didn’t care. He was hilarious. When we dropped them off base at the end of the day I would turn up the radio because he would sing and then we would all sing. One day he didn’t show up to work and we asked about him. No one knew. But the conversation between the foreman and I was dear to my heart. He told me that there is no hope for Iraq when we leave. The old guy said that when we had the music on it was one of the best times he had in many years and would be the last, especially if we left.

Year of Carnage

In August 2014 the battle at the Mosul Dam between IS and Kurdish/Iraqi forces created a new playing field for the sectarian conflict. Repairs of epic proportions are needed to meet the needs of a nation beyond development. At this level, it is simply life and death depending on who has control of the dam. In the hands of IS the destruction could lead to as unprecedented death toll.

flood risk

Fix the Dam Thing Already

In March 2016, a signed contract with Italian Trevi group to repair the dam for 237 million euros.

Salut…and may they finish fast.





Human Trafficking (& Africa)

trafficking pic

During my last two blog posts I have been exploring different ideas surrounding gender based violence (GBV). I started with the general idea of GBV then narrowed it down to GBV in Africa. For this blog, I am delving even deeper into these ideas by focusing specifically on human trafficking in Africa. I began my research by reading a scholarly chapter written by the World Bank association that talks about many aspects of human trafficking. I then found an issue brief on human trafficking and migration in South Africa. This led me to find a news article about South African trafficking by the IRIN, a news agency based in Geneva. But I wanted more than just facts I wanted a face, something to make this issue seem more personal. I eventually found an article in BBC news that shares one Nigerian women’s story of having been sold into, and getting out of, human trafficking.

The internationally recognized definition of human trafficking, as defined by the UN, is, “ The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation” (World Bank). In simpler terms human trafficking is moving people against their will in order to exploit their labor, one way or another. This can be done in many forms such as domestic servitude, slavery, and even child soldier enrollment. However, the most common form of human trafficking is for sexual exploitation, or forced prostitution.

My first question was how, besides forced drug use, would you get a girl to do such a thing against her will? IRIN news explained, “In many cases, women and children are lured to South Africa with promises of jobs, education or marriage, only to be sold and sexually exploited” (IRIN). Traffickers create situations in which the victim does not have any choice but to obey. Other than false promises traffickers use debt-bondage, starvation, abuse, imprisonment, threats, and forced drug use to enlist victims. Sometimes women are even sold off by their families, husbands/ boyfriends, or kidnapped.

“The image of human beings being sold into virtual or actual slavery creates a moral imperative to act that seems inhuman to refuse,” (IRIN). Although it is hard to get a real statistic of how many people are exploited by this industry the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated that between 1995-2004 2.45 million people around the world were sold into human trafficking. An overwhelming 80% of which were women. The worst part is, between 1999-2005, only around 7,700 of those victims were helped (World Bank). This is not okay!

So what is being done? The World Bank has made many steps towards prevention of human trafficking. There is a movement to strengthen regional work with migration and labor, monitoring and improving the analyses of rates or incidence, and increasing awareness (World Bank). South Africa is enlisting the help of the media to spread awareness about human trafficking and how to help survivors (IRIN). In 2008, Mozambique became the first country within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to formally criminalize human trafficking. Although they were the first to pass a specific law, 12 other countries in the SADC recognize the Palermo Protocol. This calls for combatting human trafficking and aiding the surviving victims (IRIN). In 2010 South Africa created the Prevention & Combatting of Human Trafficking bill, although it has not yet been put into action (FMSP).

Although we are starting to do a lot to stop this horrible industry, we still have a long way to go. The human trafficking industry makes between 7 billion and 12 billion US dollars a year, making it the third most lucrative criminal activity (IRIN).

Kemi, a woman from Benin City Nigeria, shared her story with BBC news. She was promised a better job in Italy so that she could support her family. Once there, however, she found herself faced with a job in prostitution. At first she refused but after being starved she finally complied. She ended up working for 3 years before she was able to escape. Even after Kemi had escaped she didn’t truly feel free. She was too ashamed from her experience to return home to her family with no money. She said, “They are wicked…the woman that sent me has two girls. She is sending them to the best schools with the money that I earned with my body” (BBC). This quote shocked me. The trafficker who sold Kemi into three years of forced prostitution has 2 daughters! Does she think consider this morally acceptable; what if it had been her daughters?

The human trafficking epidemic is not just statistics from “over there”. This affects women and children everywhere. Each woman sold into this kind of exploitation has a face, a family, and a life.


Bonded Labor in Pakistan

My idea for this blog post was sparked by a series of Facebook posts by a photography page called Humans of New York.  Their posts typically consist of photos of people in New York with a quote from them that usually involves their life story or a funny comment that they made.  In this photo series, Brendan Stanton, the photographer went to Pakistan and documented several women and their stories involving bonded labor.

post pic
This is a Humans of New York photograph depicting Syeda Ghulam Fatima, an activist who has dedicated her life to eradicating bonded labor. She is standing by several brick kilns, a popular site for bonded labor.

According to Article 11 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, slavery is non-existent and forbidden, and the laboring and trafficking of human beings is prohibited as well.  According to the law, if one is caught with extorting people with bonded labor they will be imprisoned for 2 to 5 years, or a fine of at least 50,000 Pakistani Rupees.  While bonded labor is illegal in Pakistan, there are still countless cases of it today.  In 2014, the Walk Free Foundation (an organization dedicated to ending modern day slavery and human trafficking) ranked Pakistan as 6th in their Global Slavery Index for accounts of slavery.  They also reported that there were over 2.1 million people enslaved in Pakistan today.  The most common form of slavery is bonded labor.  This is a type of labor in which a person will undertake labor or services as a form security for the repayment for a loan.  In Pakistan, bonded labor often occurs in rural provinces of Punjab and Sindh.  Common locations where bonded labor usually occurs are small-scale low wage industries, or larger primitive industries that are owned by groups of families from a higher income bracket.  It is commonly found in the agricultural, brick making, and the carpet weaving industries (Walk Free Foundation, Global Slavery Index).

Bonded labor is a practice that enables the rich to exploit the needs poor for their own benefit.  With Pakistan’s prominent wealth disparity, bonded labor practices are common. Those who are affected by bonded labor are deprived all of their fundamental rights to freedom.  They are unable to leave their place of work, they lose their right to create their own business, lose their identity documents to their employer, and are forced to work unreasonable hours.  Often times bonded labor in Pakistan occurs when illiterate people who are desperate for work are tricked into taking small loans in exchange for their labor for a small period of time.  These documents that they sign have terms that cause this debt grow larger as time passes, therefore making it so that these workers have to work until their deaths, and afterward their debt is passed onto their children.

There has, however been some work to abolish bonded labor practices in Pakistan.  The government has created a Bonded Labor System Fund in order to finance projects to train released bonded laborers.  In addition it provides legal and financial assistance for released bonded laborers and their families so that they can get back on their feet.  In addition, the Pakistani government has established Legal Aid Service Units to legally assist bonded laborers who have been released.

Works Cited

Abbasi, S., U. (n.d.). Policy Review & Analysis of Brick Kiln Workers and Bonded Labourers in Pakista. Retrieved April 01, 2016, from

Ali, S. (n.d.). Bonded labour in Pakistan: A humanitarian crisis. Retrieved April 01, 2016, from

Bonded labor and serfdom: A paradox of voluntary choice. (n.d.). Retrieved April 01, 2016, from

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

Pakistan – Walk Free Foundation – Global Slavery Index 2014. (n.d.). Retrieved March 31, 2016, from

Pornography And Violence Against Women

To continue the topic of violence on women as a development issue, I will be talking about the abuse of women in pornography. Women are seen as sex object that want and need to be taken advantage of because they “like” being treated in these harsh ways. Pornography has grow to cause men to feel that sexually degrading women is a powerful and masculine thing to do and women who “enjoy” being taken advantage of in these ways are whores, sluts, etc. The body of a woman is not made for the pleasure of man, it is a temple that makes her one with the earth and men make her into an inferior by dehumanizing her.
In the article, A Humanist Argument Against Pornography “The role violence plays in pornography trivializes rape, sexual aggression, and other forms of abuse. When we encourage males to include dehumanizing acts in sex and teach women to accept various forms of violence against them as a “natural” part of sexual activity, we are condoning violence against women.” Porn teaches women that it is ok to be taken advantage of by saying that it is natural because it is portrayed in this way in the porn industry. Well it’s not natural, as a matter of fact, it is disgusting and seeing men slap women around, throwing her body across the bed, pulling her by the neck like a wild animal is a disturbing sight. Women are not sex objects, women do not want to be treated with disrespect, but the media has made them feel that they do. We can not develop as a nation if the people who give birth to new life are made to feel less important than they really are.
 Anti-pornography campaigner Gail Dines
Anti-pornography campaigner Gail Dines Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian
In a report called The Truth About The Porn Industry, Gail Dines, the author of an explosive new book about the sex industry, on why pornography has never been a greater threat to our relationships, states: “The more porn images filter into mainstream culture, the more girls and women are stripped of full human status and reduced to sex objects. This has a terrible effect on girls’ sexual identity because it robs them of their own sexual desire.” Porn detatches women from their own bodies leaving them with a sense of emptiness. Women are emotional creatures, therefore going through situations that involve their bodies being used, changing, etc., with cause them to have emotional reaction. Women are fully developed creature compared to that of men. Women bleed without dying. Women are one with nature, but in the same sense that man treats women with disrespect, man treats mother nature with the same disrespect, so it is a universal and social problem.
In a major newsfeed called Is Porn Desensitizing Men To Violence Against Women? , “According to Dines, even though gonzo porn stopped telling stories, porn itself still tells a story: some women are whores by nature, always ready for sex and eager to do whatever men want, no matter how painful or degrading. They prefer to be treated with contempt, and they have no sexual imagination of their own.” Speaking in a moral sense, treated women in violence ways is completely and utterly immoral. Having a vagina does not mean dehumanize me, it means worship me because I am a queen and should be treated as such. The media has shattered the thought of women being royalty because of the sense of masculinity that surrounds us all.
In a local newsfeed called What We Learned From Ted Bundy, “Out of a test group of 18 rapists studied who used ‘consenting pornography’ to instigate a sexual offence, seven of them said that it provided a cue to elicit fantasies of forced sex.” Some men watch pornography and are fueled by a fantasy that takes over their being and in order to feel pleasure, they must keep that fantasy going. That fantasy is what tells them that it is ok for them to do whatever they want to women. It is sad to say that this is the reality we live in and development in this aspect will not occur without the understanding that women are people too and deserve to be treated as such.
Mother nature and women gave life to the rest of the world and this strength is shattered by man, who comes from women. That in itself is utterly disrespectful and shows that women are a threat to man and man must show masculinity in order to feel superior to women at all times. It is mind blowing that our society functions in this way, but this is where we are. I would like to say that the only direction we can go from here is up, but things have been slowly descending. So now I ask you, the reader, which direction would you like to go? The direction where women are seen as queens and are treated with equity or the direction where man is worth more than the vagina they come out of?

Sweden’s Superior Education

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 9.42.05 PM

( This graph shows where Sweden is ranked in teacher pay.)

My current career goal is to become an elementary school teacher. I have been through quite a few education courses in the past few years. During these classes we discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the US school system. We also spent time looking at countries whose educations systems excel. During these discussions Sweden was often brought up. In result to this I decided to really delve into the differences between Sweden and the other countries we have looked at. The first vantage point I want to look at is basic demographics of the teachers. The second point will be from an economic standpoint, and the third will be from a social standpoint.

I was surprised to find that Sweden actually landed pretty close to the US when comparing teacher demographics. The Guardian (a newspaper in Britain) posted an amazing blog, which compared many aspects of schooling in different countries. The graphs showed that 66.5% of teachers are female, the average age of teachers is 46, students per classroom average at 2, and the average teacher has 16 years of teaching experience (Marsh, 2014). In result to these statistics being so similar to the US I was curious as to what was making the difference in Sweden’s school systems success.

In result to Sweden being an economically stable country and a country whose citizens ( the majority at least) do not need to worry about simply making ends meet, this allows them to realistically enforce school attendance laws and provide free education for everyone. In my preliminary research I found the Swedish school system website. Currently the very top of the page has the following quote.  ” From the age of six, every child has equal access to free education in Sweden. The Swedish school system is regulated through the Education Act, which ensures a safe and friendly environment for students. The act mandates nine years of school attendance for all children from the year they turn seven.”  This act and attendance policy does not explain the difference in schooling in quality can not be the explanation however because these are similar findings to America’s. Next, I decided to check out how the Swedish government uses it’s funds in relation to education.

          I thought maybe the difference would be found in the amount of funding the government is providing elementary education with in particular. I found that during 2011 Sweden’s annual expenditure for primary schools only $10295 (equivalent to USD) which is higher than the average expenditure for other countries ( Education at a Glance, 2014) . This could not be the solution because the same study found that the US spends even more at $10958 dollars per year (Education at a Glance, 2014). Finally, from the economic stand point I thought maybe it was the pay in which teachers received. I figured that maybe if teachers got paid more they would be more willing to put in the extra time to make excellent lesson plans. Sadly, for the Swedish teachers and my hypothesis, this was not the case. The median salary for teachers in Sweden is a whopping $31.60, this is dismal compared to what the poorly paid teachers in the US make which is $41.46 (Marsh, 2014). In result the hunt continued.

        Next, I decided to look at the social factors which affect the education systems and how students view their education. From the reading I did I found that Sweden’s education system gives the students a great deal of leeway deciding what direction they want their education to go in. This is realistic because of a few cultural factors, first the culture impress the need for education on it’s youth and the parents are very engaged/ child centered. I found that this culture of intrinsic values is implemented at a young age. A policy profile for education in Sweden discusses that “An important task of the preschool is to impart and establish respect for human rights and the fundamental democratic values on which Swedish society is based. Each and every person working in the preschool should promote respect for the intrinsic value of each person as well as respect for the environment.” (Taguma, 2013).

        This is not all good though, found one reading which said that many Scandinavia students are being raised not understand that the world isn’t all about them. In some cultures this trait may even be desired, however “The Swedish minister of education is calling for more discipline in schools.“ (Hansegard, 2014) Because the“Swedish-school results have been falling in international comparisons and Swedes look enviously at countries like Finland, which has more discipline in schools and where teachers retain an old-school authority they have lost in Sweden.” (Hansegard, 2014).  Finally, I came to the realization that the Swedish school system isn’t actually superior. They are by no means one of the worst systems, however they are not the superpower I originally thought. Looks like my hunt for a superior education system continues.

Have you heard of techniques that worked really well in other countries? What were they? What about your education system did you find worked really well?



Hansegard, J. (2014, February 10). Is Sweden Raising a Generation of Brats? Retrieved April 02, 2016, from

Education at a Glance 2014. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, from States-EAG2014-Country-Note.pdf  

Education in Sweden. (2015). Retrieved April 02, 2016, from

Marsh, S. (2014, September 05). How the job of a teacher compares around the world. Retrieved April 02, 2016, from  

Taguma, M., Litjens, I., & Makowiecki, K. (2013, May 02). Quality Matters in Early Childhood Education and Care. Retrieved April 01, 2016, from policy profile – published 05-02-2013.pdf



Sex Work in Latin America

This week, I’ll be moving away from a focus on global views of sex work and sexual exploitation and looking at the mainstreaming and status of sex workers in Latin America. Learning about movements of sex workers to legitimize their profession in the eyes of the law and make movements to unionize is one of the things that got me so interested in the sex industry. I want to begin by clarifying that in the case of this blog post, I’m going to be focusing on autonomous sex workers, not sexually exploited people. I’ll also be comparing arguments about the legalization and mainstreaming of sex work in international contexts.

I’m going to be looking at the influence of mainstreaming, or lack thereof, on sex work in El Salvador, Costa Rica. I also want to bring back the influence of capitalism and neoliberalism and it’s relationship to the sex industry that I focused on last week. The mainstreaming of selling sex is innately tied to the capitalist ability of larger institutional profit from sex work. This post is going to be looking at some of the positive outcomes of regulating the commodification of sex, but I want readers to keep in mind the possibilities for the deepening of socio-economic divides and further marginalization of people who sell sex that have little socio-economic capital.

A good place to start is with the idea that selling sex can be a lucratively attractive industry for low-income folks. Prostitution in the non-westernized contexts is often characterized as purely a mode of survival, and not as an opportunity for advancement. It’s also looked at as a direct result of colonial power structures and domination, and in the context of a tourist-local relationship. This common international view of selling sex negates the autonomy and economic empowerment possible in some contexts. Selling sex requires no physical capital to begin, and although it’s highly stigmatized in most areas of the world, it generates a higher money to labor ratio than many other forms of work available to socio-economically disadvantaged communities (Rivers-Moore). I want to reiterate that empowerment is not the outcome for a large percentage of prostituted people; the article that I’m drawing a lot of this information from looks at the idealized model of exclusively female sex work in Costa Rica, and doesn’t address the hierarchal power dynamics that often come into play between sex workers and pimps/other third party influences once someone is engaged in selling sex.

An article by The Guardian questions Amnesty International’s definition of ‘sex work’ as a consensual choice, and their claim that conditions of past abuse, exploitation and coercion by economic forces don’t necessarily “render individuals from exercising personal agency” (Amnesty International). While I think that The Guardian’s working definition of ‘sex work’ is a conflation of all forms of selling sex, including trafficked and exploited prostitution, their points about compiling factors that call into question what can be defined as ‘choice’ is important when discussing the legalization and marginalization of sex work. This impact of past trauma and societal factors that are often heavily influential on the decision to sell sex is also an important influence on defining sex work v. sexual exploitation. Another key piece to keep in mind when thinking about mainstreaming is the relationship between the demand for commodified sex driving the demand for sex trafficking (The Guardian).

Although it’s not the only factor, mainstreamed sex work in Latin America is closely tied to the demand from tourism. A common model of approaching sex work in Latin America is to neither criminalize nor regulate it, which again provides space for both agency and marginalization/abuse. In the case of El Salvador, the national government doesn’t prohibit or punish sex work, but the local municipalities do. Much of the legislation around prostitution is focused on criminalizing the exploitation of minors, and leaves the regulation of adult sex workers up to the municipalities (Código Penal- Parte 8). A non-governmental organization of almost 3,000 El Salvadorian sex workers called the Women’s Movement Orchids of the Sea (Movimiento de Mujeres Orquídeas del Mar) makes these laws one of their targets to ensure the rights and protections of sex workers (Latin-American Press).

“It is curious that the ordinances [secondary laws] recognize us, but they recognize us only to discriminate against us and to take money from us,”        – Haydeé Laínez, a member of the coalition comments about the prevalence of police forces to blackmail and force sex workers to perform sexual acts rather than fines or arrests.

The recognition of sex work as a legitimate industry is impeded even within spheres that I would have typically thought would be in support of the self-empowerment that it could bring. Feminists who believe that selling sex is the ultimate form of compliance to patriarchy, or progressives who claim that ‘real men’ don’t buy sex (Latin-American Press) are opposing mainstreaming for the wrong reasons, in my mind. I think any opposition should be focused on the potential of bureaucratizing and policing the body, failing to address the important role of trafficking within the sex industry, or furthering divides between sex workers. The informal organization of sex workers in El Salvador is what I see to be the most potentially inclusive and powerful movement to mainstreaming sex work within the context of vilification by a government and unsupportive feminist and progressive groups.




Amnesty International. Circular No. 18. 2015 ICM Circular: Draft Policy on Sex Work. N.p., 7 July 2015. Web.

Andréu, Tomás. “Sex Workers Seek to Dignify Their Profession.” Latinamerican Press. Latinamerican Press, 21 Aug. 2015. Web.

Neuwirth, Jessica. “Amnesty International Says Prostitution Is a Human Right – but It’s Wrong.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 28 July 2015. Web

Rivers-Moore, Megan. “But the Kids Are Okay: Motherhood, Consumption and Sex Work in Neo-liberal Latin Americab.” The British Journal of Sociology 61.4 (2010): n. pag. Print.

Código Penal- Parte 8, § CAPITULO IV. DEL PROXENETISMO (2009). Print.

Iraq: How Important is Ur Water. Reconstructive Efforts Fall Short as Developers Face Resistance.

Hadi Mizban / AP. Akeed Abdullah stands next to his boat in a dried marsh in Hor al-Hammar, Iraq, on March 27. A severe drought is causing hardship for Marsh Arabs, who pursue a life of fishing and foraging that has not changed substantially for thousands of years.

I remember a day in May of 2006, shortly after arriving in Iraq, when I was en route back to base I saw something in the distance that looked like an animal skeleton. The closer I got I could see it was a boat. This boat was the same color of the sand it laid upon and as dry as the dust surrounding. It looked as if it were ash that kept the shape after burning and the faintest of gust would make it disappear forever. I soon learned that the area was once a marsh. This image, and it’s symbolism of the crisis of Iraq, has been a penumbra of both despair and hope to me since I first saw it. I thought for the first time, is this what it would look like if people disappeared? Where is the water?

Well Where Did the Water Go?

In this blog, the main highlights encompass the irrigation crisis of both post and pre Iraq War. It is intended to focus on the development efforts of a conflict nation in order to sustain agricultural needs in respect to clean, potable, and usable water sources. In the first blog, it was mentioned the Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF). One of the priorities is that ‘sustainment of infrastructure be built through the IRRF’. One of paramount type of infrastructure being water, this blog will identify the constraints and outcomes of development as reconstruction.

Prior to diving into reconstruction it is necessary to understand ‘what’ is being rebuilt.

In Iraq, specifically the in the rural governates, the significant lack of infrastructure impeded any efforts to support its residents in the brief time of non-conflict status; and in conflict years the impact was atrocious. In the 1990’s there were massive drainages of the marshes causing displacements of Marsh Arabs (UNHCR). Drainage and dam negligence was in existence prior to the government retaliation for UN sanctions for the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The following 12 years sanctions were not lifted and the damage to the Iraqi people was irrevocable as infrastructure decompensated aggressively.

In 2002 a research agronomist A.A. Jaradat reported to The U.S. Department of state as a member of the Middle East Working Group on Agriculture. According to the report, the need of feeding 22.8 million people with a 3.6% growth rate proved difficult logistically. The Dhi(Thi)-Qar Governate houses approximately 1.836 million of the total population. Roughly 12.5% of people suffer from two decades of environmental constraints and human influence of insufficient management.
© 2010 Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI). All Rights Reserved.

Wellspring into Action

In 2004-2005 the IRRF was well into the quasi audit phase of the reconstruction project as $110 million dollars is estimated for Water Resources and Sanitation sectors (SIGIR-05-022). Over the next two years contractors (IRRF) from Washington International Inc. and Black & Veatch Joint Venture worked toward water resource reconstruction with a $600 million contract, FluorAMEC JV with a Public Works/South contract of $500 million, and alongside them was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) estimating somewhere between zero dollars and eighteen billion. Some subcontractors began work immediately. Approximately 1,000 Iraqi nationals were hired as subcontractors which meets the initiative of transition from funded contractors when the turnover begins in 2008.

I recall many conversations with Turkish construction subcontractors regarding the water crisis and was informed subjectively that efforts were not as effective as hoped. In 2006 there was a swarm of incoming contractors from all over the world trying to rebuild Iraq. I recall conversations with the local Iraqi contractors that this was a problem on two folds. One issue being that Iraqi’s were not rebuilding and the second was that Iraqi’s did not have the skills to rebuild. Either way the problems, albeit suggestive and inevitable, posed a strain on the overall reconstruction effort. If the rebuilding generates more problems, scaffolding over intermittent periods, is it worth the effort in the first place? The more rebuilding antagonized the opposition and increases the insurgent attacks. How in the heck do they get any work done?

Soon came the chaos as concerns about funding and results became a hot topic according to the IRRF SIGIR-06-040 report. Justifiably anticipated, the questions regarding the efforts were being asked as expected. Why are we unable to meet project outcomes? Was funding used appropriately? What is slowing us down?

One Step Forward…Two Steps….Cover!

Reconstruction outcomes included 19 working potable water treatment facilities, eight centralized sewage treatment facilities, irrigation system rehabilitation for 321,000 acres, and a primary water supply for southern Iraq. In 2008 the Nasiriya Drainage Pump Station was opened and turned over to the Iraqis. One of the most significant impacts in developing infrastructure in the southern governates. These outcomes barely scratch the surface of the desirable outcomes outlined in the IRRF documents; and are substantially out of proportion when considering how much funding was appropriated.

Why you ask? Your answer is insurgency. UNHCR and the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has dozens of reports indicating the lack of progress due to attacks by insurgents opposing foreign support.

At the materials plant, we were conducting rounds for security. After the rounds we usually had a little time to hang out with the Iraqi workers and one foreman in particular. Over chai, cheese, and olives (courtesy of the foreman) we would sit around a table and talk. Topics ranged from music to football (soccer), and the current events of the day. One day, the foreman had told us that the insurgents were sabotaging the water systems. Some would loot and steal the electrical equipment, or render the equipment and facilities unserviceable. He told us that some leaders and or members of the Former Regime Loyalist (FRL) were threatening Iraqis that were working at the water treatment facilities if they showed up to work. The opposition found a way to attack, and the target was the water. (2005, Tallil AB)

With the rate of insurgent attacks increasing the efforts for water sustainment slowed. In 2006 the current state of the water in the Dhi (Thi)-Qar region had such a high salinity it was unusable. There have been little to no returns of IDP’s as the vulnerable infrastructure at the time would not support repatriation (Jaradat). Without water, there is no life. With water that is contaminated there is poor quality of life. Drinkable water alone, was deprived of the marshland Arabs and several health concerns arose in 2006. Gastroenteritis, dysentery, and water-borne diseases effected children (UNHCR, Thi-Qar). Fewer local Iraqi employees showed up to work as fear imposed onto them by insurgents became unavoidable.

In late July we would go off base to transport workers like every other day before and soon no one showed up. I knew that they would not show up because of imminent attacks. We started noticing the trends of attacks on days when workers didn’t show. Either they were being warned or they knew that there was going to be an attack. Either way we got hip to the trend. I contemplated this over and over again. The mind spins trying to understand how impossible it is to rebuild something from rubble while forces wish to keep a nation of people in despair. I for the first time understood things in respect to narratives and it was overwhelming.

How Do We Keep Out Heads Above Water?

Development itself shifts. Actors Change. People, in our most delicate states, change and survival becomes priority number one. As I was preparing to leave Iraq I could not bear to think of what is to come of the people I was leaving behind. Five years after the invasion of Iraq development shifted from rebuilding to contestation as the Iraqi Ministries face a bigger challenge as the total vulnerability gives rise to the biggest insurgency in the 21st century.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog. In the meantime, here is a little lighter side of Iraq’s history of water.




Jaradat, A.A. U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Services. Agriculture in Iraq: Resources, Potentials, Constraints, and Research Needs and Priorities. 2002.


Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Managing Sustainment for Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund Programs (Report No. SIGIR-05-022). October 24, 2005.

Rebuilding Iraq: The U.S. Achievements Through the Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund.

United nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Thi-Qar Governate Assessment Report, October 2006.

Deconstructing Reconstruction: Problems, Challenges, and The Way Forward In Iraq And Afghanistan. First Session, 110th Congress. March 22, 2007.

Weiner, Betsy. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Water Treatment Plant Brings Fresh Water, Job Opportunities. 2006.

*Image_Boat. Hadi Mizban / AP. Akeed Abdullah stands next to his boat in a dried marsh in Hor al-Hammar, Iraq, on March 27. A severe drought is causing hardship for Marsh Arabs, who pursue a life of fishing and foraging that has not changed substantially for thousands of years.


Community Sustaining Development v. Government Mandated Development


Continuing with my theme of alternatives to economic development, I am going to use this post to profile three development initiatives and organizations in Peru and will contrast these programs with the government program to eradicate illegal coca farming. Despite opening up these blogs as a means to interrogate alternatives to economically focused development, I have had a lot of trouble finding information on specifically indigenous and Quechua development efforts which is why I have chosen to look at the difference between community engaged and government mandated development in this post.

As reported in the Health and Human Rights Journal, Amazonian Peoples’ Resources Initiative (APRI) was founded in 1995 and works with rural communities in the Peruvian Amazon. They have four primary programs which are 1) training local women to provide reproductive information to their own communities, 2) disseminating reproductive health information through radio, 3) working to better educational opportunities by providing financial scholarships and support to “indigenous teacher training and graduate university programs (220),” and 4) through providing “income-generating opportunities that enable rural families to meet their subsistence needs and to invest in the development of their communities (220).”

Water for People Peru is another successful organization working for development within the country. They work to develop water resource management and to increase sanitation. To do this, they focus on sanitation as a business which “includes helping families gain access to credit for toilet construction through loans from banks and cooperatives, and encouraging existing sanitation goods and service companies (such as hardware stores) to include affordable products for low-income customers in their portfolios.”

Solaris Perú is a Peruvian Organization that works with poor and excluded families. Some of their projects include improving health and education. One specific initiative is the their “Programa de Atención Médica Especializada” (Program for Specialized Medical Attention). This program sprang out of the fact that many areas outside of Lima, the capital, do not have specialized health services and children with chronic illnesses often need to make the trek to Lima for care which is not always economically feasible. Their program has attended to more than 1100 children and teenagers with genetic health problems and chronic, degenerative diseases. This program is currently operating in Arequipa, Apurímac, Cusco, La Libertad, Lambayeque and Puno.

These three programs/organizations/initiatives have overall been very successful and I see their degree of connection and engagement with the communities that they are trying to help as vital to their success. I was especially struck by the APRI and how sensitive the organization is to prevailing cultural attitudes on family planning.

Contrastingly, the efforts to eradicate the illegal coca growing industry have been very top down and have impacted various communities negatively. As the BBC reports, 12,000 hectares of coca are permitted to be grown in Peru, however, there is a huge illegal business in coca growing. The core problem of the efforts to reduce coca farming is that alternative crops such as coffee and fruit do not sell for enough to offer a living to the farmers. Therefore, farming coca is an economic necessity. In 2003, the BBC quoted Hugo Cabiesas (an advisor of the coca farmers, also called cocaleros) who said, “[t]he coca farmers have become more politicized in the last two years…they’re demanding an end to the eradication of coca by force, and they also want more say in the programmes to develop alternative crops.” The Peruvian Times makes note of the violence between farmers and the government due to anger about the lack of infrastructure providing farmers with alternate sources of income or alternate crops.

As reported by the BBC, the US insists on running the project although “[t]here are moments when there are differences and tensions,” according to Mils Ericsson the head of the Peruvian Drug Control Policy Unit, who goes on to state that, “[w]e would actually prefer for a Peruvian agricultural agency to run the projects, but the US insists on having their own team of people in charge.” As the Guardian explains, the problem of coca eradication is not one of the past. During 2015, the Peruvian government hoped to destroy 35,000 hectares of coca which is an area about the size of Philadelphia. Some families do get transitional assistance but many of the 95,000 families were not offered any or rejected the offer. As one coca farmer explained her choice to refuse government assistance, “[t]hey give you a machete and a few cacao seeds and then they forget about you.”

As we can see from these contrasting examples of “development” in Peru, top down, government backed programs that are forced onto the population without consulting the communities first does not appear as development at all. On the other hand, initiatives that focus on the community first and look at what they need in order to craft programs appear to work much more effectively and with less strife.




Dean, Bartholomew et al.. “The Amazonian Peoples’ Resources Initiative: Promoting Reproductive Rights and Community Development in the Peruvian Amazon”. Health and Human Rights 4.2 (2000): 219–226. Web. Accessed 1 April 2016. <>.

“Misión Y Visión.” Solaris Perú. Web. 1 Apr. 2016. <>.

“Peru Coca Growers Decry Insufficient Compensation for Anti-drug Eradication.” The Guardian. 17 Aug. 2015. Web. 1 Apr. 2016. <>.

“Peruvian Anger Over Coca Plans.” BBC News. 22 Oct. 2003. Web. 1 Apr. 2016. <>.

“Peru.” Water for People. Web. 01 Apr. 2016. <>.

“Police, Coca Farmers Clash Results in Two Deaths.” Andean Air Mail and Peruvian Times. 29 Aug. 2012. Web. 1 Apr. 2016. <>.