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Women’s fight for divorce

Article published in Göteborgsposten
8/3 2018
By Purple Romero

The Philippines. The first time Jona’s husband hit her they had been married for eleven years. Soon the abuse became a routine, and when he started hitting the children too Jona chose to escape. But she is still married to him – the Philippines is one of only two countries in the world that does not allow divorces.

-I feel like a prisoner in this marriage, says Jona. I want to get a divorce but I can’t, as it’s not allowed. They say that matrimony is holy, but don’t they care about those of us who are suffering?

The resistance comes mainly from the catholic church, which has considerable power over public opinion.The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) have tirelessly opposed the attempts of legalising divorce, as they believe it would be “against family and against matrimony”. All attempts have either failed or fizzled out as the legislators don’t want to lose the support of the influential catholic bishops.

-The church doesn’t want a law that allows divorce, but it shouldn’t make any difference as the state and the church are separated in the Philippine constitution, says Melody alan, general secretary of the organisation Divorce Advocates of the Philippines (DAP).

DAP are fighting for a legislation that would allow divorce. 70% of the 10 000 members are women, many with similar experiences to Jona. Melody Alan believes that it is a topic that especially engages women, as many are often the victims of abuse and assault within the context of marriage.


Article published in Göteborgsposten, 8/3-2018. Full article (in Swedish) here:


Vibrant culture on the streets of Bolivia

Article published in Fönstret
November 2017
By Rocio Lloret 

Bolivia. The cultural life in Bolivia’s two biggest cities depicts a modern country full of ambition, yet deeply anchored in history, religion, and cultural identity.
It is 850 kilometers between the financial hub of Santa Cruz and the political capital La Paz, a journey that starts in a tropical climate and ends in the Andes, 3 900 metres above sea level.
Continue reading Vibrant culture on the streets of Bolivia

A flourishing container economy in Kenya

Article published in Göteborgsposten
By Kimani Chege

Nairobi. Lately, shipping containers have revolutionised business in Kenya. The containers are renovated and put to new uses, such as shops, offices and homes. They are appreciated for their safety, their relatively low cost and for being reasonably easy to move.

Josphat Mwangi who sells food and household items in a refurbished container appreciates the location right behind a police station, as well as the durability. Nobody can break in, because the shipping container is made from such sturdy materials, he says.

Continue reading A flourishing container economy in Kenya

Taliban attacks on Sufism

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet
4 September 2017
By Rina Saeed Khan

Islamabad. Over 200 people have died in suicide attacks on sufi shrines in Pakistan. The Taliban view Sufism, the mystical interpretation of Islam, as heresy and want to eradicate their way of living.

The Bari Imam temple outside of Islamabad is an important sanctuary for first and foremost sufists. 12 years ago, the temple was attacked by a suicide bomber and around 25 people were killed. The attack was the first in a string of attacks on sufi shrines. According to Center for Islamic Research Collaboration and Learning, at least 209 people have been killed and 560 injured in 29 terrorist attacks on shrines for sufi saints in Pakistan.
The last attack, in February this year, was the deadliest yet. Over 80 people lost their lives in a suicide attack in the 800 year old Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in south Pakistan, where Christians, Sikhs and Hindus also go on pilgrimage.

Obesity and malnourishment in the same country

Article published in Göteborgsposten
28 augusti 2017
By Rocio Lloret

Bolivia. In March this year, 12-year old Eva Vega Quino starved to death in the small room – previously a toilet – that she shared with her parents and five siblings. Her death shook the entire nation and made the extreme poverty many Bolivians live in visible.
-When she died we hadn’t had anything to eat for two weeks, says Eva’s half brother Alan Quino. Alan is 19 years old, but only weighs 45 kilos and does not look older than 14.
Alan started working as a bricklayer after his mum and stepfather fell ill from tuberculosis and anemia. He was the sole breadwinner and made the equivalent of £5/day, until March when he could no longer find employment.
-The money I made was enough for us to have bread for breakfast and bread and rice for lunch. We didn’t have dinner. When there was no more money I gave my siblings salted water and put them to bed, he says.

The family lives in El Alto, close to the capital of La Paz, in a house given to the family by the state after Eva’s death.

El Alto has thousands of migrants from the countryside, and three of its districts suffer extreme poverty. According to UNICEF, 46 percent of the children in the poorest part of the population are malnourished.

While the fight against malnourishment has been a state priority, overweight and obesity has not been viewed as a problem. But in 2008, the national demography and health survey pointed to an increase of cases of high blood pressure, diabetes, and renal failure, caused by poor diet.

Doctor Roxana Barbero, an endocrinology specialist, estimates that the increase of cases of obesity and overweight in Bolivia the last 20 years is comparable to the situation in countries like Mexico and USA, where the numbers of overweight are among the highest in the world.

-The last 10-20 years we have observed that 90 percent of the children that come to see us have problems related to overweight. Dietary changes and a decrease in physical activities are the reasons for this, she says and explains that fast food and soft drinks are the main culprits. Today, Bolivians eat more deep fried foods and the children are less physically active.

Article published in Göteborgsposten 28/8-17.

App saves lives in Nairobi’s informal settlements

Article published in Göteborgsposten
Aug 24 2017
By Kimani Chege

Kenya. Kenya is one of the countries in the world with high mortality rates for women and children. Although the situation has steadily improved since 2004, still 510 of 100 000 women die in childbirth, according to the UN.
Grace Gathigia luckily wasn’t among them. She became a mother six weeks ago.
-It’s not easy being pregnant in an informal settlement. I’m glad I survived and gave birth to a healthy child in a clinic, and then continuous care from local health care workers. Some of the women pregnant at the same time as me lost their children during pregnancy, or shortly thereafter, she says.

She sews your clothes

Article published in Fönstret
May 15, 2017
By Sushmita Preetha

Bangladesh. Renu Begum started working in a sweatshop in Dhaka as a twelve year old, and barely remembers what her life looked like before then. She is a widow and the sole provider for her children, so she works as much as she can but on her meagre salary it is difficult to make ends meet. She has to work overtime every day.

The working days are long. Renu knows she sews clothes for many different brands but cannot read the labels. However, she can read the price tags and is amazed by how the clothes can be so expensive when her salary is so low?

Article published in Fönstret, 15 May 2017. Full article  (in Swedish) here:

Egyptian women have had enough of sexual harassment

Article published in Göteborgsposten
January 29, 2017
By Nesma Nowar

Egypt. A study made by UN Women and Egypt’s National Council for Women in 2013 showed that 99,3 percent of women have experienced some sort of sexual harassment in public places.

Sarah Salah, a 19-year old student, says that she daily gets sexually harassed, either on public transport or on her walk from the bus station to the university.
-I can’t handle this daily stress anymore, she says. It’s common that men on the crowded bus use the lack of space as an excuse to shamelessly touch intimate parts of my body.

Sarah is scared to tell her parents about her experiences because she is worried they would stop her from going to University. Although sexual harassment happens to women across the Egyptian society, those on a lower income are more vulnerable because they rely on public transport.
-These women are often forced to stay at home because the family sees it as a way of protecting them, says Nevine Ebeid from the women’s rights organisation New Woman Foundation. The message from society is that women have no place in the public realm.

Rasha Sultan, pictured, says that sexual harassment means she often doesn’t leave the house during big public holidays when the streets are crowded. Every time she has participated in the yearly Eid celebrations it has ended with her filing a harassment report at a police station.

Full article (in Swedish) published by Göteborgsposten:

Armed men stormed the studio

Chronicle published in Journalisten
January 4, 2017
By  Arison Tamfu

Cameroon. Cameroon’s president Paul Biya, 83, has occupied his post for 34 years and is one of most Africa’s long-lived rulers. At the beginning of 2008 he announced that he wanted to modify the constitution, implicitly securing his power hold for life. Masses of Cameroonians took to the streets to protest.

I was working at the privately owned Equinoxe Television (ETV) – one of the most popular TV channels in the country – and on February 25 I was meant to interview the leader of the opposition, Fru Ndi, about the suggested changes to the constitution.

I had barely started the interview before armed police stormed the studio and ordered the interview to stop and the TV channel to be shut down. A few weeks later, the constitution was changed to the president’s advantage.

ETV was not able to start again until six months later, when the programs where closely monitored by the regime, who also increasingly censored them.

According to the regime, ETV had not paid their license fee and was operating with a so called “administrative tolerance”. It is an unofficial policy which means that the state “tolerates” that media operates without a license as long as they do not report on anything that displeases the regime. The application for a license is extremely expensive (the equivalent of £135k) and and difficult to obtain, especially for those not towing the line of the regime.

Now, eight years later, Paul Biya is still the president and the media is still as oppressed. The constitution of Cameroon, which guarantees freedom of speech and press, is in stark contrast of reality.

Full chronicle published in Journalisten: 


People think I should be more authoritative towards my wife

Article published in Omvärlden
November 23th, 2016
By Rahmina Gambo

Nigeria. 47-year old Samuel Oruruo likes to cook and does not boss his wife around, something that has made many people in his surroundings question his manliness. The patriarchal structures in Nigeria are strong, but things are starting to change, he says.

“I was raised differently from how most Nigerian men are raised. I have five brothers and four sisters, and my mother didn’t treat us differently when it came to household chores; on the contrary she pushed me and my brothers to cook and clean.
In those days I didn’t understand why my mother would do that. I hated household chores, I wanted to hang out with my friends. But with time, I’ve come to realise that she wanted us to grow up to become responsible and capable of doing everything, regardless of our gender.”

Samuel says that when he got married, his in-laws and other relatives thought that he was not masculine enough, as he was not opposed to household chores. It is often women who are his loudest critics, he adds.

Article published in Omvärlden, November 23th 2016. The full article (in Swedish) can be found here:

I encourage men to buy sanitary pads for their sisters

Article published in OmVärlden
November 22nd, 2016
By Bhrikuti Rai

Nepal. Sabin Singh tries to break old patriarchal patterns by talking to boys and men about menstruation. Women who menstruate are often seen as unclean, and in more traditional areas they can be forced to sleep in cow manure, he says.

“I was first introduced to ideas that question traditional gender roles in Nepal when I was a teenager. In an after school club in the neighbourhood, games were based on themes related to gender roles and the importance of gender equality. Since then, I’ve participated in several programs and projects that aim to encourage gender equality at home and at the workplace. Currently I’m working with the popular Nepalese radio show ‘Saathi Sanga Manka Kura’ (in English: ‘Chatting to my best friend’) which discusses topics about growing up and becoming an adult. Gender roles is a recurring theme.

-‘Period chats with men’ is the initiative that’s affected me the most. It was started by the youth led organisation Yuwalaya in Kathmandu. In most Nepalese families, women and young girls are kept from doing a variety of things when they are on their period because they’re seen as unclean. My family never acted like that. But I also never thought about that it could have anything to do with me as a man.  And I didn’t question the stereotype labelling men as stronger and women as weaker. But after learning about the physical and and emotional impact of menstruation, and about how the stigma surrounding it hinders girls and women, I realised how misleading the established gender stereotypes are.

-Now I’m trying to get other young men and boys to change their views about women. I encourage them to do the simple task of buying sanitary pads for their sisters, mothers and girlfriends as a way of reducing the stigma surrounding menstruation and also show that men view it as something natural”.

Article published in OmVärlden 22/11-16. Full article (in Swedish):

A macho man is like an alcoholic

Article published in OmVärlden
21 November 2016
By Álex Ayala Ugarte

Bolivia. Javier Badani Ruz, 41, grew up in a traditional family and was raised with macho ideas of what a man is supposed to be like. A new job and the birth of his daughters changed everything. But taking off the macho mask is like living like a sober alcoholic, he tells journalist Álex Ayala Ugarte.

“A macho man, to me, is like an alcoholic: He can recover but only if he is capable of becoming aware of his illness. For many years, I had macho traits, and it was like it was in my genes. My dad was a Don Juan his entire life. My mother comes from a very traditional family and took care of everything when I was little: She tidied my room, gave me breakfast in bed, ironed my clothes and really spoiled me.

When I met up with my friends for a drink, we’d always shout vulgar comments as soon as a woman walked past. When men socialise with other men, they often act like a pack of dogs stalking their prey: Everyone goes along with it. But the positive aspect was that I realised that my attitude was awful. And today, when I look at my daughters I feel a pressing need to fight against this. It’s my duty to fight chauvinistic behaviour in my society.

I think the real change came when I started working for Hivos, a dutch organisation that works with topics related to empower women, and also with things like sex work and reproductive rights. Thanks to Hivos I started reading, researching, discussing, and learning. I was introduced to admirable people who taught me the importance of fighting for women’s’ rights and their right to pleasure.

My shift in perspective has led to concrete changes in my day to day life. In social media I try to use a language of inclusion. I no longer tell sexist jokes, and I defend women if someone does something inappropriate. I’ve decided to not socialise with my former friends anymore. To them I’ve become that weirdo that doesn’t laugh at their tits & ass-jokes. My decision was connected to my new views and my change. Once again you can draw a parallel to alcoholism: If an alcoholic wants to be cured, the most important thing is to step away from those friends that drink too much. ”

Article published in OmVärlden, 21 November 2016. Full article (in Swedish) here:

Photo by Patricio Crooker

More boreholes dangerous for Nairobi

Article published in Göteborgsposten
21 November 2016
By Geoffrey Kamadi

Nairobi. Tap water in Nairobi is a very unreliable resource. In many areas water flows from the taps three days a week – but sometimes people will go without water for up to two weeks.

The lack of water means that people buy water from wandering salespeople instead – who in turn get their water from an increasing number of boreholes.  This has led to an exploitation of the city’s groundwater, which could become a big problem further down the line as there is a risk the city will start to sink and the infrastructure might become unstable.

“We see that not only is there a risk of the city sinking, but also that the exploitation of the groundwater affects the forces that keeps the earth’s crust together. This means that even small quakes kan cause significant damage, especially in a densely populated city like Nairobi”, says Robert Orima who is responsible for laws being followed at The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), an authority that coordinates activities that might have an environmental impact in the country.

Nairobi is especially vulnerable as the city rests on what used to be marshland. The ground has layers of clay and silt in the layer closest to the topsoil, which means the geological foundation particularly unstable.
The exploitation of the groundwater also carries other problems. Robert Orima says that when more groundwater is pumped up, the concentration of salt is higher in the small amount of water that remains.
“This water is mainly being used for  irrigation, which creates problems for agriculture”, he says.

Christopher Agwanda, groundwater expert at The Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA), is also concerned that the ecosystem will be disturbed by increased amount of boreholes.

-Holes near outlets and sewers can mean that contaminated water trickles down to the groundwater, and when the boreholes aren’t properly made other surface contaminations can also seep through.

-One of our greatest challenges is illegal boreholes. The migration from the countryside means that we’re overpopulated, and our water infrastructure is four decades old, so that’s why we’re seeing an increasing amount of boreholes, says Christopher Agwanda and adds that the majority of all boreholes are made without permission.

Article published in Göteborgsposten, 21 November 2016. Full article (in Swedish) here:



Zimbabwe’s youth has had enough

Article published in OmVärlden
11 October 2016
By Thelma Chikwanha

Zimbabwe. The older generation has let the younger one down. Now young people are protesting in the streets and on social media to express their frustration with Robert Mugabe’s government. Widespread corruption is one of the reasons – it was recently established that diamond revenue worth £1,5 billion has just disappeared.

For the last three months different movements of upset citizens are protesting in Zimbabwe. The protests started after the young pastor Evan Mawarire’s social media post was shared across the country. Using the hashtag #ThisFlag, he encouraged Zimbabweans to hold the government responsible for the collapsed economy.

Many people are saying that the the widespread corruption is one of the main reasons for the financial decline. A number of young leaders are now demanding that the 92-year old president steps down, seeing it as the only solution to the country’s problems. Robert Mugabe and his party, Zanu PF, has been in power since the independence in 1980.

The government’s answer to the protests has been to throw young leaders in low standard prisons and put them on trial for law violations, such as violence in a public space. The situation is so tense that new protests happen every day. In the capital city Harare, tear gas, water cannons, and riot police with batons are now a common sight.

Recently, Linda Masarira from Zimbabwe Activists Alliance was released after three months in prison. She was held in isolation in the male section of Chikurubi’s high security prison after having taken part in protests under the hashtag #Shutdownzim2016. She says she will not let herself be scared by the government’s attempts to quiet voices like hers.

-Us young people have joined the fight with strong beliefs, because the country’s problems largely affect us. There are no jobs and we don’t have access to basic social services like health care. That’s why we’re saying that it can’t go on like this. We don’t believe in a successor from Zanu PF. The only way to solve Zimbabwe’s problems is to remove those responsible for 36 years of failures.

According to Zimbabwe’s census bureau, unemployment figures in the formal sector rose from 84 percent in 2011 to 94,5 percent in 2015. This is what is causing the frustration fuelling the protests, particularly amongst the young people who make up 40 percent of the population. Every year, scores of young Zimbabweans finish their university studies without any possibility of finding work afterwards. Patzon Dzamara from Occupy Africa Unity Square says that people are no longer afraid, and that even torture cannot stop the protest movement.

-Zimbabweans are saying that we’ve had enough and the young people are the ones feeling the situation the most. We are educated but there are no jobs. We have to stand up for what we believe in, because nobody is going to fight for us. Even if we haven’t reached the point where Mugabe throws in the towel, the attitude from the authorities who are responsible for maintaining law and order tells us that they are feeling the pressure and that’s a start.

Full article (in Swedish) published in Omvärlden, 11 Oct 2016:

Hope of freedom has turned into anger and disappointment

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet
October 2, 2016
By Shahira Amin

Egypt. More than five years have passed since president Mubarak was unseated in Egypt. There was hope that the revolution would lead to much wanted reforms, but today the Egyptians are as far away from democracy as they were when they took to the streets in 2011.

Today, Tahrir square – once the symbol of the Egyptian revolution – has few similarities with the public space that was occupied by tens of thousands of democracy activists in the beginning of 2011.

The hope and optimism then felt has been replaced by anger and discontentment from unfulfilled expectations. Since the unseating of the president Mohamed Morsi 2013, supported by the military, society is deeply polarised. Tens of thousands of the leaders and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood are imprisoned.

-If you’re not part of the military you risk being accused of being a traitor and a spy. The government is using its war on terror to silence critics and turn Egyptians against each other, says taxi driver Ahmed Hamdan when we meet in Zamalek, a suburb located not far from  Tahrir square.

Secular human rights activists and debaters have been targets for the government’s tougher stance, several journalists are behind bars accused of “publication of fake news” or “belonging to a terrorist group”.

-Those who imprison journalists are afraid of the truth and do not want the other side of the story to be told, says the Al-Jazeera journalist Baher Mohamed. He was imprisoned for two years before he was released, and now he lives in Qatar.

Organisations fighting for human rights have condemned the situation in Egypt, especially the high number of abducted persons. According to a report by Amnesty International, in 2015 Egyptian security forces abducted and tortured at least several hundred people, some as young as 14, in an attempt to silence opponents.

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet, October 2 2016. Full article (in Swedish) here:–langt-till-frihet-och-demokrati/om/varlden

“Mugabe is the glue in the oppressive system”

Article published in Fria Tidningen
September 28, 2016
By Thelma Chikwanha

The last few months have seen big protests in Zimbabwe, demanding president Robert Mugabe’s resignation. We have met some of the driving forces behind the protests. “We are fighting for a fair society where financial justice, legal security, and democracy are maintained” , says Promise Mkwananzi.

For the last 2,5 months, Zimbabwe is experiencing a wave of protests demanding Robert Mugabe’s resignation. In September, this made the authorities announce a ban on protesting – despite it being a constitutional right. That in itself is not new. Zimbabwe’s constitution guarantees democracy and a number of freedoms, but the juridical system is not always free to exercise its powers to enforce the laws. The authoritarian rule of Robert Mugabe and his ruling party Zanu PF means that many key state nominations are partial, especially within the juridical system.

But this time the Supreme Court went against the state and declared the ban as invalid; a real landmark for the protesting masses.

-What happened last week gave us confidence in the higher authorities’ capacity to enforce the constitution, says Promise Mkwananzi, 28-year old spokesperson for #Tajamuka, the movement spearheading the protests in Zimbabwe.

When I meet Mkwananzi he has just been released from prison. He was arrested on the 25th of August this year, accused of public violence when he took part in a demonstration against police brutality, and was denied the possibility of being released on bail by the county court.

-It didn’t take the Supreme Court more than five minutes to grant my inquiry, says Mkwananzi who claims that his case is a sign that more needs to be done regarding the independence of the juridical instances.

For him personally, a few weeks in prison was a small price to pay for the overall fight.

-We are fighting for a fair society where financial justice, legal security, and democracy are maintained. The resignation of Robert Mugabe is the starting point of that.

Promise Mkwananzi’s beliefs are shared by many of those protesting in Zimbabwe. Everyone believes that Mugabe needs to leave his position for the economy to get back on its feet. The 92-year old president has been in power ever since the country became independent in 1980. The economy is on its knees, and community services have completely collapsed.

Article published in Fria Tidningen, 28 September 2016. Full article (in Swedish) here:

The importance of disciplining your children

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet
September 19, 2016
By Maina Wairuru

Kenya. Njau and Lydia Dancun  live with their four daughters in Uthiru, a suburb of Kenya’s capital Nairobi.  They work hard to make sure their children can go to school, and when it comes to raising them, discipline is the most important cornerstone.  Njau is worried about his 16-year old daughter, Wairimu, who was suspended from school for two weeks last year after skipping class.

“We really wanted to hammer it home to the girls that a lack of discipline can never be tolerated. Therefore we made sure that the principal punished them by letting them clean the school” says Njau. “Considering how hard I work to be able to pay the school fees it is not acceptable that they skive.”

The parents are raising their children based on Christian values and they do not want them to socialise with friends whose family does not go to church, as they might not share the same values. The daughters are only allowed to watch television when the parents are at home, and never after 10pm.
“Later then that the shows are often inappropriate. I’ve noticed that they pick up bad habits from what they watch” says Njau, and talks about a pair of inappropriate trousers that Wairimu bought. The trousers were confiscated and demonstratively used as a rag to clean the floor.

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet, 19/9-2016. Full article (in Swedish) here: