Category Archives: Country

With the land free from mines, she started growing coffee beans

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet
17 December 2018
By Constanza Bruno Solera

It wasn’t until after her divorce that Emilse Naranjo was recognised for her coffee. Today she makes a relatively good living selling her beans to Europe.
-Making good coffee requires, patience, care, and love. It’s like making a nice soup, she says.

Full article (in Swedish) here:–da-borjade-hon-odla-kaffe

Sharmin makes your jeans – “We have to work even when mortally ill”

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet
16 December
By Sushmita Preetha

Your jeans might be made by Sharmin Akhter.  Her wages support her entire family – including her husband. From entering the factory as a curious 12-year old, she’s now a tired 35-year old who sews clothes for famous fashion brands, and desperately longs for some rest.

Full article (in Swedish) here:–vi-maste-jobba-dodssjuka

Colombia – magical and multicultural

Article published in Fönstret
By Constanza Bruno

The country of magical realism is also the country of pluralism. There are a mix of ethnicities here: native people, black people, white people, mestizo, and romani people. But Colombians identify more with the region they’re from, like costeños (those from the coast), paisas (those from the mountains) or rolos (those from the capital Bógota and the inner parts of the country). Each group speak their own accent and have their own customs.

Full article (in Swedish) here:–magiskt-och-multikulturellt/

Postcard from Nepal

When we woke  on 27 November, Kathmandu had changed overnight: every street light pole and advertising space featured the face of Prime Minister K P Oli. “A new era begins” proclaimed the posters promoting a new social security scheme. 

Social media was soon flooded with ironic memes about the new era. Critics attacked the publicity campaign’s huge expense and the showy display that took the focus away from the scheme itself.

Many journalists and political scientists are also concerned about this and other signs of megalomania. The communist government has recently passed laws that criminalise aspects of investigative journalism, photography and satire, and strengthen actions against slander and libel. The message is clear: the government will take no criticism.

The PM’s speech at the inauguration of the scheme was explicit about the intention to control. “For those who say they do not see the government’s presence, do you still not see it? If you don’t, you won’t have to wear spectacles to do so. In future you will be forced to see it, whether or not you want to!”

/Sewa Bhattarai.

The postcards by journalists in our network are published on the Blank Spot Project website.

Postcard from Ivory Coast

Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast, is recognised for its grand buildings and its business district. But  Adjamé market, the biggest in the country,looks rather chaotic, with vendors occupying the pavements because they claim renting a shop in the market is too expensive and that  pavement pitches attract more customers.

The authorities want to banish the vendors, arguing that the streets should be kept clear for traffic and emergency vehicles and that street stalls detract from the modern urban image the administration wants to cultivate.  They try to impose order, even resorting to the use of bulldozers.  Pavement stallholders can only stand and watch as their displays are crushed, but those who have placed their wares on a blanket can quickly scoop tjhem all up when the crawler trundles towards them.

A few days later, the blankets and stalls are back in the same spot, and the next round begins in the battle of Adjamé .

/Nesmon De Laure, Abidjan.

The postcards written by journalists in our network are published on the Blankspot Project website.

Postcard from Bangladesh

A curious form bobs its snout among cargo ships on the river Rupsha in Khulna in southwestern Bangladesh. It’s a boat shaped as a River Dolphin,  fashioned out of palms from the world’s largest mangrove forest, the nearby Sundarbans. The craft  was made to dramatise the importance of dolphin conservation to people in the wetlands.

The globally endangered River Dolphin – shushuk in Bangla – is under threat from overfishing, entanglement in nets, and increasing pollution caused by uncontrolled development. The latter has also made it difficult for fisherfolk to earn their living. Livelihoods and dolphins are both at risk, and conservationists believe local people can play a crucial role in saving the dolphin. 

The boat acts as a gallery for exhibiting photographs of dolphins, as a makeshift stage for puppeteers, and as an arts and crafts classroom. The chance to paint and make attracts villagers otherwise weary of NGO workers coming from the cities to “teach” them how to lead their lives.

/Sushmita Preetha,  Khulna.

The postcards from journalists in our network are published on the Blankspot  website.

Postcard from Haiti

With its shanty towns and unplanned growth, Port-au-Prince gives a chaotic impression. The lack of urban planning is one of the city’s major flaws.

That’s why the theme for the Haitian and foreign artists taking part in the third graffiti festival Festi-Graffiti was “The resurrection of the public space”.

In Haiti, graffiti mainly expresses political views. During the dictatorship in 1957-1986, the lack of freedom of speech made graffiti a way of shocking those in power and criticising society – a tradition that is still alive, especially during elections.

Some artists in the graffiti festival highlighted the recent and increasingly loud demand for transparency in government spending. But above all, the artists were given the opportunity of conveying their aesthetic visions for the city.

“We want to turn graffiti into an art form just like any other, and show that it’s about more than just criticising or flattering politicians”, said Widler Resonance, chairman of the collective for urban and modern art.

/Ralph Thomassaint Joseph.

The postcards from journalists in our network are made in collaboration with Blankspot Project.

Women openly harassed in Pakistan

Article published in Göteborgsposten
27 August 2018
By Rina Saeed Khan

Pakistan. In Lahore, many women are scared of using public transport because of sexual harassment. The organisation Environment Protection Foundation is trying to counteract this by an initiative in which women are trained to drive rickshaws.

Ghulam Fatima, a widow, says the decision to drive a rickshaw is the best she has ever made.

“I’m so happy to no longer have to rely on my inlaws to support my children. I used to not even be able to ride a bike, and now I’m driving my own vehicle around Lahore!”

Article published in Göteborgsposten, 27/8-2018. Full article (in Swedish) here:

Pakistan – the world’s best kept secret

Article published in Fönstret
#3, 2018
By Rina Saeed Khan

Pakistan.  Less consideration is being shown in Pakistan to the Islamists who have been trying to stop everything from book fairs to kite-flying. Rina Saeed Khan writes about her often criticised country.

Article published in Fönstret, #3 2018. Full article (in Swedish) here


Postcard from South Sudan

Here’s a postcard from Daniel Majack, a freelance journalist from South Sudan.

On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, I attended ‘Take Tea Together’ (TTT), an initiative organised by Salaam Junub (‘Peace South Sudan’) to counteract hate speech and negative tribalism.

Struggling against these tendencies is really needed in South Sudan, where warring parties in the civil war have deliberately played on and exacerbated tribal differences. Members of the Nuer group in President Salva Kiir’s administration have been labelled ‘Nuer wew’ – betrayers and sycophants. In Juba, the country’s majority tribe, the Dinka, is referred to as ‘MTN’ – a play on the slogan of the giant South African company Mobile Telephone Network: “Everywhere you go”. The Dinkas are traditionally nomads but today  are also scattered around the country partly because of the persistent  conflict.

Such epithets may sound harmless, but in South Sudan’s tense political atmosphere they fan the flames of conflict by inciting difference, dislike, animosity and hatred. Tribal affiliation has become key to getting a job: Dinka, Nuer or Equaotoria people can’t work in a state outside their state of origin.

The recently signed peace agreement  gives some hope. Political reconciliation is the goal. The question is whether ethnic harmony will follow.

Daniel Majack, a  freelance journalist in Juba

This is the first in a series of postcards from journalists in our network, published on the Blankspot Project website.

Cameroon at the brink of civil war

Article published in Göteborgsposten
7 October 2018
By Arison Tamfu

Cameroon. Paul Biya, Cameroon’s president, almost holds the world record for time in office. Today, Sunday, he’s likely to be given another seven years. But the country is increasingly divided. Separatists have declared independency in the English speaking parts of the country, and the violence is escalating.

Full article (in Swedish) here:

Eating together is about more than just food

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet, from the series Äta tillsammans (“Eating together”)
July 8th 2018
By Armsfree Ajanaku

Nigeria. Adebayo Abejide, a radio station engineer, lives with his family in a suburb of the capital Abuja. As he often gets stuck in traffic on his work commute he is usually home too late to have dinner with his family.

“All of us are away from home many hours a day. From morning until evening, me, my wife, and my children are apart and mainly speak on the phone. Only occasionally do we manage to eat together at the weekends, but that too can be difficult since my wife is studying for a master and doesn’t always have her weekends off”, says Adebayo.

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet, July 8th 2018. Full article (in Swedish) here:

I was surprised that grandma accepted cooking with eggs

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet, from the series Äta tillsammans (Eating Together)
16 July 2018
By Bhrikuti Rai

Nepal. Thirty year old marketing manager Yukti Pant lives in Kathmandu with her parents and grandmother. Traditionally the family are strict vegetarians, but Yukti got a taste for meat when she was visiting relatives, and often eats out with friends so that she can choose a meat dish.

-Grandma is so strict with her traditional customs. That she accepted egg to be cooked in her kitchen was really surprising, says Yukti.

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet, 16/7 2018. Full article (in Swedish) here:

Every chance I get to eat with my daughters is holy

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet, from the series Äta tillsammans (Eating Together)
13 July 2018
By Jorge Riveros-Cayo

Lima. The single mother Vanadis Phumpiú is one of Peru’s leading cacao experts, and her job means that she spends a lot of time travelling in various south american countries.

-Work means I have to be away from home at least two weeks per month, she explains. Every chance I get to eat with my daughters is holy. I cook their favourite dishes, and fun food like homemade pizza and tacos. As they eat lunch in school during the weeks, dinner becomes a way for me to show love, says Vanadis who is divorced from her children’s Canadian father.

Full article (in Swedish) here:

90 rape threats per minute at news agency Rappler

Article published in Feministiskt Perspektiv
1/5 2018
By Purple Romero.

The Philippines. The news agency Rappler fights against explicit threats from the country’s president Rodrigo Duerte, and increasingly far-reaching attempts to silence them and make it impossible to work. The news agency is mainly run by women, and sexist attacks and threats are an everyday occurrence for the journalists.

Threats of rape, gang rape and murder is common for Pia Ranada, one of the agency’s journalists.

-Many of the threats and insults are personal, and the sexual threats are often visual. Some people find old photographs and use them to make “memes” of me or to post insulting comments.

This harsh approach is used by those who support president Duerte. The president is brutish and populist, but also charismatic and won the elections in 2016 with a record number of votes. Duerte’s “war against drugs” has led to 3 906 suspected drug abusers and pushers have been murdered. However, human rights organisations say the real number of people killed could be as high as 12 000.

Pia Ranada’s main focus is to watch the executive powers. Those who support Duerte mock Pia Ranada and tell her things like “pray that you’re not on the list of those due to get killed today” or that they “hope you get raped”.

Article published in Feministiskt Perspektiv, 1/5 2018. Full article (in Swedish) here:


Groundbreaking lesbians in Bangladesh

Article published in Ottar
29 September 2018
By Sushmita Preetha

Three years ago, the activists of Boys of Bangladesh launched Dhee – the country’s first graphic novel that explores sexuality and love beyond the norm. For security reasons the movement went underground after the murders of two gay activists and journalists in April 2016, but the group are now continuing their work.

Full article (in Swedish) here:

Tensions rise in enormous refugee camp

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet
24 August 2018
By Sushmita Preetha

Bangladesh. When the military systematically murdered, raped, and plundered the minority group rohingya in Rakine in Myanmar, around 700 000 people fled to the neighbouring country of Bangladesh.

There they were at first received with open arms, but now, a year later, many locals have grown tired of the refugees – and the fight for the already limited resources has toughened.

Full article (in Swedish) here:

The queue for the bank is several days long

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet
11 April 2018
By Farai Mutsaka

Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has not one, but ten different currencies – and currency chaos rules the country. The days of hyperinflation might be over, but the new president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mugabe this autumn, has a difficult challenge in sorting out the economy.

Outside the bank Cabs in Harare, the queue is over a kilometre. Many have brought blankets to keep warm, having spent the night. To prevent fights, security guards have given queue tickets to the first 50 people.

-The rest of you will have to see if there is cash left when you arrive, he shouts dismissively.

The cash point nearby only serves to show account balance nowadays.


Since the hyperinflation of 2009, there are officially ten foreign currencies used for payments in Zimbabwe. But still, the lack of cash is one of the main everyday challenges. Forcing the world’s oldest president, Robert Mugabe, to leave office in November 2017 has hitherto not made a difference.

-The new president promised to change the situation, but as you can see we still have to spend the night in the queue to get cash out, says Ashley Chikwenezve who is number 20 in the queue.

But even spending the night isn’t a guarantee. Sometimes in the morning, the bank announces it will not dispense cash that day. But today seems to be a lucky day.

-The first people who entered came out carrying cash, so I have a good chance, Ashley says.

 Another customer, Tatendeka Sithole, comes carrying a plastic bag full of 25, 10, and 5 cent coins.

-Soon I’ll have to be a weightlifter in order to bring my money, she says laughing.

After spending the night in the queue she was among the first to get served and could withdraw the maximum daily allowance of 50 dollars. Tatendeka Sithole wraps the bag in a yellow raincoat.

-I brought it in case it would rain during the night, she says.

Her children’s school attendance depends on Tatendeka’s nights in the bank queue. Public transport doesn’t accept card or mobile phone payments.

-My children can only get to school if we have cash.

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet, 11 April 2018. Full article (in Swedish) here:–i-flera-dygn

Here, Ikea is so desirable that shops sell their own imports

Article published in Market
15 August 2018
By Rina Saeed Khan

Islamabad. Ikea is hugely popular in South Asia. In  Hyderabad, India, 40 000 people flooded in when the furniture giant first opened its doors there last week. In neighbouring Pakistan, shops deal with their own imports – and Ikea signs.

-I love Ikea products, especially things like storage boxes and kids’ furniture. But this shop that sells their things is way too expensive, says Uzma Khan, mother of three in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad.

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.

The forgotten disaster

Article published in Göteborgsposten
21 April 2018
By Daniel Majack

South Sudan. The conflict in South Sudan – the youngest country in the world – is in its fifth year, and the humanitarian crisis has both intensified and expanded to unbelievable proportions.
In one of the world’s worst – and simultaneously least known – humanitarian disasters, two million people have fled abroad. They have fled mainly to the neighbouring countries Uganda (one million), Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya. The same amount of people have been forced to leave their homes but are refugees within the country’s borders.

The refugees are predominantly women and children, according to the UN. The men have been swallowed up by the conflict between government forces and the armed opposition. Some have been killed; others are actively at war. Women and children have been left to flee the violence.

Lemon Gaba is one of the temporary refugee camps outside of Juba.  It is home to 7 000 internal refugees, many of whom fled the conflict in the border city of Yei when new when new battles broke out last year. Amour Pach Jok is one of them. She looks exhausted, hungry, and malnourished, rushing to get a kettle to make tea after having spent four hours gathering firewood in the bush.

-I got up at 6am to go and search for firewood. I then sell the firewood to get some money for lunch, she says in the local language dinka, and explains that she fled her home with her five children, but without a single possession. Since then, life is a question of survival.

She is not alone. The women we meet tell us about decreasing food rations, an insufficient supply of water, and contagious diseases.

Article published in Göteborgsposten, 1/5 2018. Full article (in Swedish) here:

Women’s fight for divorce

Article published in Göteborgsposten
8 March 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).

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


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:{9e78cf8d5a9ae6e82d29a8df4b273023a3380ebfd48f1a18a2e2cfa634ecec51}C3{9e78cf8d5a9ae6e82d29a8df4b273023a3380ebfd48f1a18a2e2cfa634ecec51}A4rlden/egyptiska-kvinnor-har-tr{9e78cf8d5a9ae6e82d29a8df4b273023a3380ebfd48f1a18a2e2cfa634ecec51}C3{9e78cf8d5a9ae6e82d29a8df4b273023a3380ebfd48f1a18a2e2cfa634ecec51}B6ttnat-p{9e78cf8d5a9ae6e82d29a8df4b273023a3380ebfd48f1a18a2e2cfa634ecec51}C3{9e78cf8d5a9ae6e82d29a8df4b273023a3380ebfd48f1a18a2e2cfa634ecec51}A5-sexofredande-1.4134600

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: 


Resistance against Mugabe grows in Zimbabwe

Harare. The last two months Zimbabwe’s ruling party Zanu PF have seen the loudest protests of their 36 years of rule. The reason for the protests is a frustration over the difficult financial situation and president Robert Mugabe’s politics.

– We need these protests in Zimbabwe. We’ve been quiet for too long and we’ve had enough. Hopefully this people’s movement will bring positive changes, like jobs for unemployed academics, says 24-year old Brian Dube. He has a degree in electro engineering but makes ends meet by selling mobile phones.

But at the same time Brian is worried about how he might be affected financially. At the Copacabana market, sellers have been forced to watch their piles of second hand clothes being burnt, and last week traffic came to a standstill in the central parts of Harare after the protesting masses used stones and bins to block the roads.

-The protests can be likened to  those of the Arab Spring, as this rising is also being led by the people and was ignited through social media, says Vince Musewe, political analyst at the think tank Zimbabwe First.

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet, 6/9-2016. Full article (in Swedish) here:

Women take to the road

Article published in Göteborgsposten
August 21, 2016
By Ahmad Quraishi

Afghanistan. The number of female drivers is increasing in Afghanistan, 15 years after the fall of the Taliban. This is not to everybody’s liking, but is a societal right and not against islamic law. 23-year old Sadaf Fetrat says that she feels safer in her own car than in a taxi, as sexual harassment against women is common. The number of female drivers is rising steadily, but there is a fear that the taliban and other oppositional groups might use women’s driving as a term in peace negotiations with the government.

Article published in Göteborgsposten 21/8 2016. 



Prepared for a new disaster

Article published in Göteborgsposten
August 16 2015
By Maria Elena Hurtado

Chile. In the evening on the 1st of April the lights suddenly went out in 52-year old teacher Cecilia Araya’s house in northern Chile. The floor boards started shaking and windows shattered – she knew exactly what was happening.

-Three minutes later, the local authorities sent out an earthquake and tsunami warning via phones, TV and the local radio stations. The sirens along the coast urged people to go inland, Cecilia remembers.

Article published in Göteborgsposten 16/8-15. 


The silent war of the Amazon

Article published in Göteborgsposten
May 2, 2015
By Ana Aranha

Brazil. The Brazilian government is planning to build a hydroelectric facility on the land of the indigenous munduruku people, something that has made the mundurukus declare war.

-Let the government come, we will fight till our death, says Maria Leusa Cosme Kaba Munduruku. She is a 28-year old mother of four and respected by her people as a leader and warrior.

The hydro power project in the Amazon was started when the sitting president Dilma Rouseff was the mine and energy minister. She claimed that hydroelectric powers would play a strategic part in the promised acceleration and growth of Brazil.

Article published in Göteborgsposten 2/5 2015. Full article (in Swedish) here:{9e78cf8d5a9ae6e82d29a8df4b273023a3380ebfd48f1a18a2e2cfa634ecec51}C3{9e78cf8d5a9ae6e82d29a8df4b273023a3380ebfd48f1a18a2e2cfa634ecec51}A4rlden/det-tysta-kriget-i-amazonas-1.121189

Back home and safe from the violence

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet
May 9th 2015

By Sergio Cruz

When Katerin Malespí was 14 she left her home to go and live with a man twice her age. When the relationship ended four years later, she returned to her childhood home with a baby in her arms.

-I felt totally ruined and didn’t want the neighbours to see me. But there was nowhere else I could go. I’m deeply grateful that my mother welcomed me with open arms, says Katerin.

Katerin’s relationship ended due to violence. In Nicaragua, men’s violence against women is common. In order to escape, women often have to move back home or find a new husband. The responsibility for the children usually falls on the women. Katerin’s 41-year old mother Carmen Torres has four children with three different men. Her relationships  were characterised by the men’s violence and their excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs.

-I’m really pleased my daughter has moved back home. Her and Kimberly are safer now than when she lived with her husband. Living together means that we can help to protect each other and we can look after the little girl together too, says Carmen who is the head of family.

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet 9/5 2015. Full article (in Swedish) here:

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:{9e78cf8d5a9ae6e82d29a8df4b273023a3380ebfd48f1a18a2e2cfa634ecec51}C3{9e78cf8d5a9ae6e82d29a8df4b273023a3380ebfd48f1a18a2e2cfa634ecec51}A4rlden/fler-borrh{9e78cf8d5a9ae6e82d29a8df4b273023a3380ebfd48f1a18a2e2cfa634ecec51}C3{9e78cf8d5a9ae6e82d29a8df4b273023a3380ebfd48f1a18a2e2cfa634ecec51}A5l-farligt-f{9e78cf8d5a9ae6e82d29a8df4b273023a3380ebfd48f1a18a2e2cfa634ecec51}C3{9e78cf8d5a9ae6e82d29a8df4b273023a3380ebfd48f1a18a2e2cfa634ecec51}B6r-nairobi-1.3976838



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

Pressure to succeed

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet
12 September 2016
By Sushmita Preetha

Dhaka, Bangladesh. Painting is 14-year old Umayer Itmam’s passion, and if he was free to choose he would study art or architecture, but he’s obeying his mother’s wish for him to become a doctor like her. She makes sure he doesn’t “waste” his time but follows a strict study schedule.

-I have to follow a strict routine. I have a one hour break for lunch and a shower. Then I have a two hour break in the afternoon and one hour for dinner. Apart from that I have to study the whole time, says Ummayer.

But despite the dominating role his mother plays in his daily life Ummayer does not seem to resent her.

-She wants what’s best for me and I love her for it, he says. My dad is more relaxed.

16-year old Rabeya Akther lives in a different part of Dhaka. Hers and Ummayer’s lives are not that far apart geographically speaking, but it is when it comes to economical conditions. Rabeya has always helped her mother with the daily chores. Her mother works as a housekeeper for other families and is often late home from work.

-I have to contribute with what I can at home. My parents work so hard in order to give me and my brother the best possible options and for us to go to school. When my mother comes home after having done the house work for four families I don’t like seeing her doing even more work, says Rabeya who is in the 10th grade at school.

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet 12/9, 2016. Full article (in Swedish) here:

“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 has been 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 rights, 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:

Her childhood is slipping through my fingers

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet
13 September 2016
By Rocio Lloret

Bolivia. If there is one thing Alicia Muñoz could ask the genie in Aladdin’s lamp, it would be for more hours to spend with her daughter Adriana Chavez, 8 years.

-As it is now, I only see her for short amounts of time and it’s spent nagging her to do her homework or not watch too much TV. I know her childhood is slipping through my fingers, but I have no other choice and I can only hope that she’ll one day understand.

Alicia Muñoz, 31, is a nurse working at a small clinic in a rural district of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia’s biggest city. Every afternoon she goes to work for six to twelwe hours, and two Sundays a month she works 24 hours in a row. For these past six years, she’s only once had a holiday.
Her monthly salary is the equivalent of around £200. With her salary she pays for food, clothes, and the small room where she lives with her daughter ever since her ex-husband left them to start a family with another woman six years ago. In the room there’s only enough space for two beds, a TV stand, and a wardrobe. On the walls there are photos of Adriana holding school diplomas.

-She’s very intelligent but also obstinate, because if she doesn’t feel like it she completely ignores to learn, says Alicia.

For the most part Alicia and her daughter only see each other at lunch. After school, Adriana comes with her mother to the clinic for a few hours as Alicia wants to make sure she’s doing her homework. But being responsible for over 20 patients means that there is not a lot of time left to help her daughter. A little bit later someone – the dad, a cousin, or a friend – comes to pick Adriana up whilst Alicia keeps working. Sometimes they see each other again in the evening, but usually it takes until the next day.

-Adriana had to learn early on to sleep over at different people’s houses. People often believe that her older cousin Cintia is her mother. I don’t have a problem with that because Cintia is a good person and very mature for her age of 26. But Adriana only wants to go to Cintia’s evangelical church and my wish is that she becomes a catholic.

Alicia would like to teach her daughter many things. She wants Adriana to know that you can succeed in life with a good job, and thinks that a mother should be the one to talk about sex and drugs. But in reality Cintia is the one who has the most contact with Adriana. She’s the one talking about values, teaches Adriana to eat new things, and tells her off.

-With Cintia she never argues but with me it’s the other way around, because I spend what little time we have together rebuking her.

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet, 13/9 2016. Full article (in Swedish) here: