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7 posts tagged with africa by languagehat.
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Mutilation losing favor in Africa

Female genital mutilation is a blight on women's lives in many parts of Africa. Today's NY Times has a story, "Genital Cutting Shows Signs of Losing Favor in Africa" by Mark Lacey, that gives grounds for optimism:
Slowly, genital cutting is losing favor. Parliaments are passing laws forbidding the practice, which causes widespread death and disfigurement. Girls are fleeing their homes to keep their vaginas intact. And the women who have been carrying out the cutting, and who have been revered by their communities for doing so, are beginning to lay down their knives.
(If you don't want to register with the NYT, here's the Mathaba.net copy.)
posted by languagehat on Jun 8, 2004 - 52 comments

Mali gets nothing for its grain

The failure of biotech. "In June 1996, the University of California, Davis, began an unprecedented effort to help the West African nation of Mali, using the promising and controversial new tool of agricultural biotechnology... Eight years later, no help whatsoever has arrived... In the hopes that inspired the effort - and the missteps that stifled it - lies a drama larger than the sum of its parts, one that shows both the promise and pitfalls of the largest technological leap in American agriculture since the tractor: biotechnology." The start of a five-part series in the Sacramento Bee: long, but well worth it. (Via MonkeyFilter.)
posted by languagehat on Jun 6, 2004 - 17 comments

Saved by Islam.

Rwandans turn toward Islam. A NY Times story (reg. req.) describes how Islam has become the fastest-growing religion in Rwanda, partly because people are disgusted with the priests and nuns who helped with the killing ten years ago, partly because Muslims saved many people at that time.
Muslim leaders credit the gains to their ability during the 1994 massacres to shield most Muslims, and many other Rwandans, from certain death. "The Muslims handled themselves well in '94, and I wanted to be like them," said Alex Rutiririza, explaining why he converted to Islam last year.
Food for thought for those who think of Islam as a "religion of violence."
posted by languagehat on Apr 7, 2004 - 29 comments

Portable and off the grid

Necessity Is the Mother of Invention. (NY Times, reg. req.) Amy Smith teaches MIT students about the politics of delivering technology to poor nations and the nitty-gritty of mechanical engineering and helped start the IDEAS competition; she herself designed (among other things) a screenless hammer mill suited to third-world conditions and using "materials available to a blacksmith in Senegal."
Smith's entire life is like one of her inventions, portable and off the grid. At 41, she has no kids, no car, no retirement plan and no desire for a Ph.D. Her official title: instructor. ''I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing. Why would I spend six years to get a Ph.D. to be in the position I'm in now, but with a title after my name? M.I.T. loves that I'm doing this work. The support is there. So I don't worry.''...
Likewise, the inventors who most inspire her will never strike it rich. ''There are geniuses in Africa, but they're not getting the press,'' she says. She gushes about Mohammed Bah Abba, a Nigerian teacher who came up with the pot-within-a-pot system. With nothing more than a big terra-cotta bowl, a little pot, some sand and water, Abba created a refrigerator -- the rig uses evaporation rather than electricity to keep vegetables cool. Innovations that target the poorest of the poor don't have to be complicated to make a big difference. The best solution is sometimes the most obvious.
A rare optimistic story for these downbeat times.
posted by languagehat on Dec 3, 2003 - 18 comments

Rail Bands and Super Motels

A history of Malian pop music. Confused by the interlocking names and associations of the stars of West African music? This lively account by Lisa Denenmark should help (and a follow-up is promised). Via the indispensible Afropop Worldwide.
posted by languagehat on Mar 20, 2003 - 20 comments

Eight hundred years ago,

Eight hundred years ago, the Empire of Mali was the West African equivalent of Byzantium (succeeding Ghana's Rome), and its legendary founder was Sundiata. [more]
posted by languagehat on Nov 11, 2002 - 9 comments

"Do loose numbers do more harm than good?"

"Do loose numbers do more harm than good?" That's the question asked by Norimitsu Onishi in a thought-provoking article in today's NY Times (reg req). Inflated numbers have often had an impact on policy and people's thinking, but when the truth comes out it can make a difference, for good or ill. (More inside.)
posted by languagehat on Aug 18, 2002 - 8 comments

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