The energy and enthusiasm was palpable as we walked into a room full of eager women entrepreneurs role-playing the everyday dynamic between business owners and their customers. While the room was loaded with fun and laughter during this exercise, its importance was not lost on any of the women who had come to the campus of Coca-Cola Bottlers Nepal Limited’s (BNL) 5by20 training, an initiative to empower 10,000 women business owners across Nepal by 2020. Even though these women are already a part of Kathmandu’s bustling community of urban shop owners, they had come because they realized there are more business skills to learn, hone, and improve. And, as women in micro-enterprise the more skills they learn, the more they can earn for their households in a country where men overwhelmingly dominate the private sector.
For years researchers who study maternal morbidity and mortality have been stumped as to why rates continue to rise and why women of color are adversely affected despite education, health care, and socio-economic factors.
A new report and the first of its kind released in May, New York City 2008 – 2012: Severe Maternal Morbidity, shows the myriad reasons why women of color, especially low-income, Black non-Latina, women fare the worse with severe maternal morbidity (SMM). While most studies in the past across the country focus on maternal mortality, this report focused on maternal morbidity, the causes of maternal mortality.
One of the beautiful aspects of Africa is its beautiful, wide expanses. All over the continent you will be awed by how far-reaching your eyes can see especially when traveling through its spectacular countryside. But as much as it is beautiful, the size of Africa also poses a significant problem because without modern infrastructure, including the Internet, and transport to major cities, those who live in the deepest, far-reaching rural areas are not privy to the best medical care they can receive.
In Botswana, this is about to change.
In partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, Microsoft, the University of Botswana, and other global partners, the Botswana-University Hub (BUP) has launched a new project, “Project Kgolagano,” to bring telemedicine to rural areas in the country to help diagnose maternal health cases as well as HIV, cervical cancer, and TB cases.
Using TV white spaces (unused broadcasting frequencies in the wireless spectrum) Internet broadband is able to reach even the most remote villages in developing countries. In fact, it has been reported that Microsoft and Google are both chasing white spaces in Africa where only 16 percent of the continent’s population is online. This is where solar power can be game-changing to keep Africa online despite its energy shortcomings. Just look at Kenya where Microsoft helped provide broadband Internet in rural areas even when electricity was nonexistent or very scarce.
Last week I saw someone in my Twitter feed mention the new movie, The Long Night, that was recently featured on the New York Times. The Long Night is an online film by Tim Matsui and Media Storm and funded by the Alexia Foundation about girls who are sex trafficked in and around Seattle. I immediately watched the entire movie and sat there in stunned silence! I just couldn’t believe what I was watching. I came to quickly realize how easy it is for young girls (mostly who come from abusive families) to fall tragically into lives where they become prostitutes, are owned and branded by their pimps, and use drugs to simply forget the lives they live. I also learned that prostitution is a cycle nearly impossible to leave because most of these girls do not have educations and many have criminal backgrounds. It then becomes even harder for them to become employed and to leave the life of sexual exploitation and trafficking.
Primarily following the lives of two young women, Natalie (a runaway from a good home) and Lisa (who was turned out by her pimp at 13), Matsui delves into the catalysts that drove them both to enter a life of being sex trafficked and their struggle to live a “normal” life. It was all too easy for them, even though at the time neither one of them really understood the risks of living the lifestyle. They were too young and fell into the trap of being coerced into becoming prostitutes by their pimps.
Lisa, who stood out most to me, is currently in jail and throughout most of the film she is noticeably high on heroin and even gets high before going into rehab where she stayed for one hour. Lisa also used to be a “cutter” and so along with her track marks are countless healed wounds from where the slashed her arms and legs.
The one silver lining of the film is that there is King County police officers who help girls like Nicole and Lisa get immediately shelter, support, longterm housing, and rehabilitation services.
This year alone 2740 sex trafficking cases have been reported. I’m sure that number is probably just the tip of the iceberg since so much of sex trafficking is underground. California, Texas, Florida, New York and New Jersey are the top sex trafficking states based on data from the National Sex Trafficking Resource Center.
When you watch The Long Night you can easily become overwhelmed and feel a little helpless about what you can do to help these girls who are in such vulnerable positions.
The good news is there are ways you can help!
• First, think about your sphere of influence
• Then, watch the film at thelongnightmovie.com
• Like the Facebook page facebook.com/moviethelongnight
• Like the Facebook page facebook.com/leavingthelife
• Invite your friends to do the same
• Comment on the film. On your page or on the film’s. Tweet about it.
• Share a story. Share your own Call to Action.
• Host a living room screening of the film
• Bring the film to your PTA or PEPS group
• Integrate it into your schools
• Call your city officials and ask they watch the film.
• Get the film to your local police chief
• Get your mayor on board
• Find local victim service providers and ask what they need; socks, meals, donations for their annual fundraiser, they’ll know. And then let your community know what you did, inspire them!
• Have Leaving the Life come to your municipality to facilitate the co-creation of solutions in day-long convenings. This will take some work, even if you’re the mayor or the county executive.
• Because it’s all connected, consider donating to your favorite non profit working on a social justice issue. This includes Leaving the Life www.leaving-the-life.com/take-action