Looking for bargains this Cyber Monday?

Cyber Monday marks the unofficial start of the online holiday shopping season… something akin to Black Friday for the brick and mortar stores.

There are deals and steals and bargains galore. Free shipping, 20, 30, 40% off, buy one, get one free…. you name it, you can find it online.

But don’t forget the nonprofits! Giving online is just as easy, fast, and much more rewarding as shopping online. And, there are bargains to be found, too.

For example, Google is providing fee-free processing for online donations for Pearls of Africa, which serves children with disabilities and their families throughout Africa.That means 100% of your tax deductible donation goes straight to the charity!

Now, THAT’s a deal!

To make a donation, please visit POA’s Donation page!


Disability and poverty go hand in hand in most countries

Today is Blog Action Day, and I’m taking part! On this day bloggers around the world are focusing on poverty, and hopefully encouraging their readers to take action!


I’m sure there will be lots of wonderful blog posts around the causes and solutions to global poverty – debt reduction, food crisis, international aid, disease…. its an unfortunate characteristic that global poverty encompasses so many ills.

But in so many aid programs around the world, people with disabilities are left out. Sure there are organizations that specifically address disability. But large scale development programs tend to ignore the unique needs of 10-20% of the population!

And its more than just about “being inclusive” or any other buzzword we hear these days. Poverty and disability have a unique relationship.

In most developing countries, people with disabilities have little or no opportunity to lead productive lives. In some areas, stigma and fear of disability in result in extreme discrimination. In others, its just outright bias. But in all areas where people with disabilities are excluded from basic life activities, poverty becomes the inevitable outcome. People with disabilities in developing countries are more likely to live on less than $2 a day.

On the other side of the equation, poverty often results in disability. Malnutrition, lack of clean water, and inadequate medical attention can all have disabling results. Add to the mix conflict, and you have a cycle of disability that is not easily broken.

Seven years ago I co-founded an organization called Pearls of Africa to support children with disabilities and their families throughout Africa. We’ve set up a library, held special education teacher training workshops, and look forward to several great new programs this year!

Since October is Disability Awareness Month here in the US, we are bringing the issue of disability in Africa to the forefront. Everyday this month we are featuring a country in Africa and what’s going on there in terms of disability. Its time we integrate our development assistance! I encourage you to visit the POA website and find out more yourself. Then pass it on- the only way we can raise awareness, is to share what we know!

Thank you, and happy Blog Action Day!

Voice to Text as a Development Tool

This morning I read about a web application called Jott.com, which uses voice recognition to let users send email and text by speaking. The idea is that you call a phone number, select the destination of your message, then speak. The voice recognition program then turns your speech into text and will then send it to recipients via email or text messaging.

You can leave messages to yourself, to others, or to a group.

But here’s where I think it would get useful- Africa.

Internet connectivity is still hard to come by in most places, but cell phone service is much more widespread. Wouldn’t it be great to have a similar application with phone numbers that could be dialed from countries in Africa? Then users could send emails and text messages from places where they have no internet connection.

Currently Jott.com’s telephone numbers are only available in the US and Canada.

Intercultural Managment, and LiveBloggin

I am very happy to report that I’ll be attending the Intercultural Management Institute’s conference on March 13 and 14. I am looking forward to many interesting panels and workshops.I’m also excited to try live blogging for the first time. I’ll be using www.coveritlive.com ‘s application. I hope you join in!

To follow along, click here.

Human Rights and the Election, Part 4:Getting your issue in there

Of all the questions posed to presidential candidates, only 5% are about human rights.

That’s according to a report recently released by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. But of that 5%, Darfur was an issue that was repeatedly addressed. In fact 23% of the human rights questions posed to Democrats were about Darfur, ( only 0.7% of those posed to Republicans)

So why does Darfur get all the attention?

Because its coming from the electorate, according to Gayle Smith, co-founder of ENOUGH!. “I’ve worked in Africa for many years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Coby Rudolph, National Outreach Coordinator for the Save Darfur Coalition said they’ve approached the presidential campaign with several goals:

  1. Inject Darfur into the dialogue in the presidential campaign. Opportunities for this came from debate, forums and the media. For example in Iowa, Save Darfur hired a full time organizer to engage political reporters, mobilize activists to ask specific questions about Darfur, and on caucus night, people across the state of Iowa took platform planks into the caucuses to get Darfur into the party platforms.
  2. Influence the specific policy positions and priorities of the candidates. Save Darfur came at this with the reality that one of these people will be the next president of the United States. So they have already begun targeting the candidates on what their policies toward Darfur will be. One media example of this would be a billboard ad in the New Hampshire airport. When candidates got off their planes, they saw a billboard with a photograph of a young refugee girl. The text read, “You’re running for president. She is running for her life.” Save Darfur also took out full page ads in several newspapers (especially in Iowa and NH) with signatures of activists and those concerned about Darfur. Signatories included congressman Bruce Braley, religious leaders, and other grasstops.
  3. Inform voters on candidates’ positions. Save Darfur activists have tracked candidates’ statements on Darfur and posted them on their website. They also invited each candidate to post a short video with their statements on Darfur. Those who have not submitted a video have a link next to their name where site visitors can ask them for their views on Darfur.
  4. Mobilize local activists. The presidential campaign has proven to be a great way to engage activists and volunteers, because they can break things up into manageable goals. Rather than try to solve all the problems of Darfur, volunteers and activists can focus on tangible results, such as reaching specific candidates, influencing campaigns, getting certain questions asked in debates, etc.
  5. Demonstrate a constituency of conscience.
  6. Influence the current administration and congress. Save Darfur has not forgotten that things can be done now, before the next president is sworn in.

So how about you- what human rights issue do you care about?

Is it being addressed by the candidates?
Do you know how the candidates feel about that issue?

Have you talked about it with people you know?

Book Review: The Joys of Motherhood

The Joys of Motherhood, Buchi Emecheta

I picked up this book because it is listed in the reading material for the MIT Open Course Ware‘s class, Gender, Power and International Development. I am slowly working through this course and would love to hear from anyone else who has gone through it, either on campus or online.

From the inside flap:
“After a childless first marriage Nnu Ego, the daughter of a Nigerian chief, is sent from her village to Lagos to marry Nnaife Owulum who works as a laundry man for an English couple. Nnaife is a weak man and the adjustment to urban living is a painful one for Nnu Ego. Her life becomes an unceasing struggle to maintain her family. Through periods of extreme hardship and deprivation, amid more intense by Nnaife’s absence during WWII, Nnu Ego is sustained by the bright future she anticipates for her children when they will be able to support her. However, the traditions she has fought to uphold and the family ties she has always honored are but an anachronism for her children:Nnu Ego is forced to live out her days alone.

‘The Joys of Motherhood’ is more than just a story of Nnu Ego and her family, however. We see Nigeria as it tries to catch up with the twentieth century, a Nigeria rocked by colonialism, WWII, and the general encroachment of the modern western world on a traditional African one. [It] has a startling immediacy and an ominous significance for us all.”

My $.02:

I found this to be a very interesting and enlightening read. There are many books that will give you an idea of what colonialism looked like in Africa, but this gives a rare, on the ground, inside look from a woman’s perspective. Nnu Ego is fiercely fighting to preserve her culture- not because she has some psychic ability to see into the future and recognize the necessity of preservation. She does it because that is what she knows. Many books set in colonial times present characters with an unusually astute sense of what is happening to their countries and cultures. But this rare insight is really just a result of the author’s benefit of hindsight. Buchi Emecheta artfully avoids this anachronism – her characters react to what is happening to them and their society based on what they know, not on what WE know. The result is a very real look at how it was to live in this time and culture.

This novel also give one a very interesting look at gender issues- both for men and women. In Nnu Ego’s hometown of Ibuza, polygamy is the norm and a woman’s worth is directly related to her ability to bear children. These customs are obviously confining and Nnu Ego struggles with them throughout her life. But the men are also bound by their cultural expectations and changes that colonialism and independence bring further complicate these gender roles.

The Joys of Motherhood is an excellent introduction to Nigerian cultural and politics. Of course, the land of 250 languages can’t be summed up by one woman’s experience, but this is a good start. It has certainly peaked a curiosity in me to learn more about Nigerian history, cultures and politics, and I already have a stack of books to go through. Nigeria’s problems continue today and understanding the history will only help one understand the current issues. I look forward to learning more. I highly recommend this book, and I’d wager that if you read it, your interest in Nigeria will be peaked as well.