I landed in Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, this afternoon after a 5 hour red-eye to JFK and a 14 hour trip to Johannesburg, South Africa followed by a last one hour mini-flight over the border. Flying into Africa often reminds me of flying into India or many countries in Latin America–they are similarly densely populated, sharply polarized (it’s much easier to compare/contrast the slums from the nice neighborhoods when you are a mile high), and still magnificent. Every landing feels mysterious and exciting, and it’s part of why I love traveling so much.
I’m here for 7 weeks to work with UCLA’s program in global health which has a partnership with the Universidade de Eduardo Mondlane Medical School and the Maputo Central Hospital. One of my advisors, Dr. Daniel Deugarte, is a pediatric surgeon at Ronald Reagan and has been leading the effort to help train local Mozambican surgeons, of which there are only a handful in the entire country. It is in part due to the inspiring capacity building and partnership of UCLA and the Central Hospital that I decided to work particularly in Mozambique, despite my almost non-existent (but rapidly growing) knowledge of Portuguese. Continue reading →
My time researching intergenerational prostitution (IGP) near New Delhi, India is coming to what I might think of as both an ending and beginning. Recently, my students (they are not involved in IGP*) and I culminated our regular dance classes with a performance for their community. Present were some of the women engaged in IGP as well as staff members of various local NGOs and visitors from America and elsewhere. I had been teaching the girls bhangra, a traditional Indian folk dance which is historically performed only by males (females typically dance giddah). However, partly to reinforce an ideology which I believe in and partly because I’m utterly incapable of dancing giddah, my students learned bhangra with the conviction that men and women are both capable of equal accomplishment and participation in all aspects of life.
In my recent fieldwork with girls involved in intergenerational prostitution (prostituted by their husbands and in-laws), I have found it very difficult to find the answers I am looking for. Are these girls being forced to prostitute? Is this something they actually want to do, as they have indicated to me in our discussions? As I walk through the slum where this community resides, I often get the feeling that many of the younger girls don’t want to do this but have several communal, familial, and marital pressures that suffocate their choices. During interviews, I have noticed that the older women speak on behalf of the younger girls who are relatively quiet. Several NGOs have worked on and off with the community, most providing condoms and HIV testing services and some teaching English and the arts to the children. Still, this outreach feels symptomatic and most of these girls no longer utilize these services after marriage, which happens in the early to mid teens and which is when they begin the sex work. Understanding the way the girls actually think on a very internal level may allow NGOs to truly help empower them to have the courage to resist the pressures I’ve mentioned. However, I have yet to hear about or see any groups even begin to ask about mental health. Continue reading →
*Note: Guardian consent was acquired prior to posting this video.
In my past international experiences, I’ve encountered numerous cultural practices that have been curious and fascinating, from using chickens to ward off evil energy in India to eating fried grasshoppers as delicacies in Uganda to entertaining the wisdom of magical sobadores in Nicaragua. However, for the first time, I have come across a “cultural” practice which I am particularly at odds with.
Around India, there are castes which traditionally engage in familial, intergenerational prostitution. Starting from around age 13, girls are married and subsequently prostituted by their husbands and parents. Earnings can be as high as $100 USD per hour, more than what many professionals in America will make in the same amount of time. For an uneducated villager whose only other job option is cheap manual labor, the potential earnings through prostitution are without a realistic monetary alternative. Unfortunately, the money goes directly in the hands of the husbands who don’t work at all, instead playing cards and drinking throughout the day. Continue reading →
Yet I am certain that this Delhi rain that’s falling
Can dampen even statements bold
And that an eye from the West or East can see
That the “happy” poor are not happy cold
Most houses and apartments in Delhi lack any central heating. Thus, to aid my failure of an oil heater, I have been shivering for the last two weeks while minimizing movement so as to keep in my own body heat. While “surviving” through my minor misfortune, I remember the thousands of people on the street here in Delhi that I see everyday. By night, they are under thin blankets, freezing until the sun rises. Hundreds don’t even survive the winter. This kind of poverty is more than unfortunate- it’s just unacceptable.