Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Muchas historias y una casa en común

Esta nota es sobre una réplica de la casa de Ana Frank en Buenos Aires. Es una producción de mi colega Catalina Lobo-Guerrero y mía, que completamos para Clarin.com.

La historia de Ana Frank y las historias de quienes fueron perseguidos por los militares durante la dictadura en Argentina han encontrado un punto de encuentro en la Casa Hilda. Esta casa, ubicada en la calle Superí de Buenos Aires es la nueva sede del centro Ana Frank en Argentina desde el 12 de junio, cuando abrió sus puertas al público.

Si bien es cierto que desde 1996 la muestra de Ana Frank se presenta en Argentina en diversos escenarios, no existía una sede permanente donde se pudiera aprender sobre lo que vivieron Ana y su familia, escondiéndose durante varios años en el altillo de una fábrica de Amsterdam, para evitar ser llevados a campos de concentración durante la ocupación nazi en Holanda.

Pero el año pasado, la familia que fue dueña de la casa en Superí 2647 durante 45 años, leyó el libro Testimonios para nunca más, coeditado por Eudeba y la Casa Ana Frank, que recoge el testimonio de Ana y de varios jóvenes argentinos que reflexionan sobre la dictadura en Argentina y los derechos humanos. Decidió entonces donar la casa para que se pudiera albergar allí un museo interactivo y un centro educativo que permita reflexionar sobre la historia, educar en contra de todo tipo de discriminación y brindar herramientas para promover la libertad, la igualdad y la democracia.

La casa siempre fue un referente de protección para los vecinos del barrio, que la conocían como la casa Hilda, por el nombre de su propietaria. Allí se refugiaron personas perseguidas por la Triple A y luego por las FFAA dictatoriales, hasta que lograron salir exiliados del país. “Fue una casa símbolo de sensibilidad social,” dice Héctor Shalom, director del Centro Ana Frank.

Shalom dice que es importante que exista esta colección en el país por una serie de confluencias históricas que vinculan a la Alemania dominada por el nazismo y la Argentina. El país acogió a muchos de los inmigrantes que salieron escapando de la guerra en Europa. Entre 8 y 10 millones de sobrevivientes del holocausto y también algunos de los jerarcas nazis más importantes de Alemania y Croacia se convirtieron en residentes argentinos. Por otro lado, este país ha vivido regímenes dictatoriales con una fuerte represión política y restricción de las libertades individuales.

Ahora en el nuevo museo en la Casa Hilda se puede hacer un recorrido guiado de la muestra fotográfica de Ana Frank, recorrer las habitaciones que recrean el espacio donde la familia Frank vivió escondida, y visitar otras instalaciones de arte testimonial sobre la dictadura y la democracia en Argentina. También se puede ver allí una serie de películas cortas llamadas Free2choose, que abordan distintos temas en donde la libertad humana se pone a prueba por diferentes circunstancias.

Existen otros museos de Ana Frank en Berlín, Londres, y Nueva York, además del museo original en Amsterdam, Holanda pero el de Argentina es el único museo de Ana Frank en toda América Latina, explica Shalom. “La idea es que desde aquí se pueda irradiar la experiencia de Ana Frank por todo América Latina.”

El museo de Ana Frank de Buenos Aires está abierto al público de martes a sábado entre las 14 y 20 horas.


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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cromañon: La sentencia

Así vivieron el fallo los familiares de las víctimas y los fans de Callejeros en tribunales.

Producción de Alicia Tejada y Catalina Lobo-Guerrero para Clarin
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Festival y Mundial de Tango 2009

This is the largest tango festival in Buenos Aires and it's held annually. I covered the inauguration for Clarin.

Hoy se celebra el inicio del Festival y Mundial de Baile. Grandes figuras como Juan Carlos Copes, Iñaki Urlezaga, y Mora Godoy estaban presentes esta tarde en El Viejo Almacén de San Telmo, que es uno de los lugares más emblemáticos del tango en la ciudad.

“Es un festival que tiene una gran complejidad, un festival con casi 100 conciertos, con más de 50 clases de bailes, participantes, iniciados, con conferencias, presentaciones de libros, procesiones de películas, y exige una gran logística y estoy orgulloso con el equipo que estamos trabajando”, dijo Gustavo Mozzi, director artístico del Festival y Mundial de Baile.

El Ministro de Cultura de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Hernán Lombardi, espera que las actividades de las próximas semanas atraigan extranjeros. “No es casualidad que estamos aquí en El Viejo Almacén haciendo esta presentación. La verdad es que el turismo en Buenos Aires no handa muy bien y la pandemia nos afecto,” afirmó Lombardi.

Las celebraciones de música y danza comienzan este viernes en el Teatro Avenida con el debut de la Orquesta Típica El Porvenir, que es integrada por sesenta chicos pertenecientes a las Orquestas Infantiles y Juveniles de la Ciudad del programa de Zona de Acción Prioritaria.

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

San Cayetano en Buenos Aires

This was a piece done for Clarin.com by my colleague Catalina Lobo-Guerrero and myself. It was titled Menos movimiento, pero el miso fervor en San Cayetano.

Cada agosto, desde hace 22 años, Santo Maidana pide permiso para faltar a su trabajo y cumplirle la promesa a San Cayetano haciendo cola desde antes del 7 de agosto. Dice que a él le debe su trabajo como chofer de la línea 174 y la unión de su familia. Por eso no falta a la cita y tampoco llega con las manos vacías.

Maidana es uno entre tantos fieles que va a rezar pero también a dar ofrendas para los más carenciados. La parroquia de San Cayetano recibió en junio pasado 2073 paquetes de fideos, 700 bolsas de ropa, 1536 kilogramos de harina, entre otros, que se repartieron luego entre varias parroquias. En los días previos al 7 de agosto es cuando se reciben más ofrendas.

"Venir a San Cayetano significa agradecer, pedir y traer algo para otros," dice el párroco Gerardo Castellano, pero añade que la gente está trayendo menos porque tiene menos este año. El alza en los precios de los alimentos, de los servicios públicos, ha afectado el número de ofrendas que en otros años han llegado a sumar más de 45 toneladas de alimentos. Esta costumbre se ha venido practicando desde 1970, cuando el párroco de ese entonces invitó a los fieles a traer comida y ropa en vez de velas y flores para las víctimas de un terremoto que azotó al Perú.

Además de los problemas económicos, es posible que el miedo al contagio de la gripe AH1N1 ha hecho mella en la asistencia de peregrinos en las colas. El padre Castellano asegura que en la iglesia han tomado precauciones y desde las 0 horas del viernes tendrán disponibles dispensadores de alcohol en gel para que la gente lo utilice después de tocar el vidrio que protege a una de las figuras del santo.

"Este año hay menos gente en la cola", dice Jorge López, quien atiende una de los almacenes de santería frente a la iglesia, pero dice que hay que esperar a que llegue el 7 para ver qué va a pasar.

De todas maneras, se espera que partir de hoy comience a llegar más gente a la fila, que empezó hace 10 días con 3 o 4 carpas frente al estadio de Vélez y unas pocas que se han ubicado sobre el andén de la calle Amadeo Jacques, en el barrio porteño de Liniers.

Treinta agentes de la policía metropolitana han empezado a hacer turnos a partir de hoy. También han cerrado algunas de las calles aledañas al templo para asegurarse que todo esté tranquilo, dijo el oficial Fernández, quien está a cargo del patrullaje en la zona.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Desconocimiento del virus papiloma humano

Una nota que hice para Clarin sobre la causa principal del cáncer cervical

El virus "papiloma humano" es muy común entre las mujeres que recién iniciaron su vida sexual y la causa principal del cáncer cervical. Sin embargo, tres de cada cuatro adolescentes no saben de qué se trata ni el riesgo que implica. La Organización Mundial de la Salud dice que hay más de 100 genotipos de la enfermedad, aunque los más comunes son los tipos 16 y 18 que producen aproximadamente el 70 por ciento de los casos. Los tipos 31 y 45 también son frecuentes y combinados con los primero dos, generan el 80 por ciento de los casos del cáncer cervical.

"En la Argentina hay un gran desconocimiento acerca del virus del papiloma humano", dijo el Diego Häbich, médico de la Clínica de Ginecología Oncológica en el Hospital Alemán. "Este problema ocurre en los países en vías de desarrollo", aclara.

Se han comercializado dos vacunas anti-VPH en todo el mundo: el Gardasil y Cervarix. El problema es que ambas son muy costosas -Cervarix sale 1.333 pesos y Gardasil casi el triple - debido a cuestiones del mercado ya que son medicamentos nuevos. Los seguros médicos sólo cubren hasta un 40 por ciento de las vacunas. Y además, según advirtió la coordinadora del Programa Nacional de Prevención del Cáncer Cervicouterino, Silvina Arrosi, "sólo protegen contra los tipos 16 y 18 pero no contra otros tipos que producen entre el 30 y el 40% de los tumores".

El doctor Häbich considera que "lo más efectivo es que una mujer que ya ha iniciado relaciones sexuales se haga exámenes de papanicolau con frecuencia, se haya vacunado o no".
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Look mommy....look what I have


Confused? Don't be...let me explain...

If you're from the U.S you've probably never seen something like this because well...unless you have a full time job with full time benefits you probably can't afford it or unless you're under the age of 21 and are covered by your parents who have full time jobs with full time benefits you won't have it either. It's called health insurance. Yes ladies and gentlemen....I paid $300 pesos (= $85.71 dollars) for full health insurance coverage for 2 months! Dos Meses!

Yes it covers prescriptions...yes it covers an ambulance....yes it covers any specialists I may need, including a psychiatrist! (unfortunately it won't cover tarot card readers or fortune tellers...bummer!)

Sooooo....what's up with that universal health care or I'd even settle for some affordable health care....I'm tired of calling my cousin who lives deep in Jersey to do some house calls and I'm sure my med school friend is tired of getting my house call text messages.

Gripe A: Presente, Presente!




Soooo...as if it wasn't enough back in NYC, it turns out that Argentina has an H1N1 outbreak or Gripe A as the natives call it. And yes, the rumors were true, upon exiting the plane on my arrival, all passangers were evaluated by physicians and provided with masks. At least 44 deaths have been confirmed, including 2 babies just today.

These are some examples of the paranoia. The first pic shows a woman in the Subte aka the train. Now let me just remind you that it felt like it was 90 degrees inside the train. The next is a hip restaurant in Alto Palermo...empty...then again it could be that the Argentinians eat late and I was there rather early (around 8ish)....

So yes, the H1N1 Virus is definitely something to be precautious about....but is this an over-hype? Check out this article in Clarin for more examples of "precautions".


Friday, June 26, 2009

Riverside Food Pantry

This piece was produced a week before the Reverend Brad Braxton scandal unfolded. It turns out that in the middle of a recession, one of New York’s most famous churches is paying its new pastor more than $600,000 a year....meanwhile their food pantry is running low on supply and the demand is increasing. I worked with Faith Abubey on this Morningside feature. You can log on to Columbia News Tonight to see the story on Reverend Braxton.


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Bernie Madoff Guilty Plea

This piece aired on Columbia News Tonight the day following Madoff's guilty plea. I worked with Faith Abubey.


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Shoplift Increase in Morningside Heights

This is a Morningside feature I produced for Columbia News Tonight. The reporter is Kelly Asmuth.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lupe's Place

In honor of LGBT pride week I'm posting the very first piece I produced at the J-School. It explores the struggles transgender people face when it comes to basic civil rights at the work place. The piece was produced during Spring 2007.

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NYC Helps Senior Citizens

This story is about a homesharing program sponsored by the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens. The reporter is Prune Perromat from Columbia News Tonight.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Wait and the Student Academy Awards

The following is an article done at the J-School News about our nomination for the Student Academy Awards.

Kelly Asmuth, Cassandra Lizaire and Alicia Tejada: finalists, Student Academy Awards

April 17, 2009

Part-time students Cassandra Lizaire, Alicia Tejada, Kelly Asmuth, all graduating in May, co-produced a film which has been selected for the Region Three Semifinals for the Student Academy Awards. The film is their video master's project, "The Wait." "We are honored that "The Wait" has received this recognition and are very thankful to the families who opened their homes and shared their touching stories with us," said Lizaire.

The film, which was completed during the summer of 2008, follows young people who are in need of a life-saving organ transplant. Four teenagers from different backgrounds describe what it is like to live in a state of uncertainty, waiting for an organ that may or may not come, while still trying to lead productive lives.

"Thanks to all the bright personalities and families that allowed us into their lives," said Tejada. "I hope that organ donation becomes a household topic and people will be more open-minded about it."

"We're keeping our fingers crossed," said Asmuth. "It's a huge honor, and we hope our documentary will enlighten those who may have misconceptions about donating."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Take Me Out To The Ballgame...And Buy Me Lunch!

This is a piece on the new Yankee Stadium that I produced for Columbia News Tonight. The reporter is my very talented classmate, Mark Kottler.
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Monday, March 30, 2009

We work hard for the money....

Some New Yorkers are taking this time of lay offs as a way to start up a small business. But for those who don’t have the talent of designing jewelry or handbags (shout outs to Endless Noise) some options may include selling your hair, sperm, or eggs.

The Sperm Bank of NY has confirmed an increase of up to 25% in men selling their sperm.

People on HairTrader.com are making up to $2000 bucks for selling their hair.

Also for those of us who enjoy reading the free AM NY or the Metro during our expensive commutes in the city, you’ll notice those Fertility Center ads getting bigger and bigger. The things we’d do for $8000 - $10,000…..

Woosah....woosah


I read an article in the AM NY last Friday about angry New Yorkers. During these hard and controversial times it’s no shock that the vocal residents of NYC would protest about the AIG bonuses, cuts on schools and hospitals, and of course my favorite topic the MTA far hikes. Which by the way I’ve thought about a bike but being that my apartment is too small to store it and it’s still freezing outside so I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the ride anyway I think I’ll stay away from that idea. I’m feeling angry already so let me just get to the point….

New Yorkers are angrier than ever and it’s not healthy! The AM article quoted a psychotherapist who confirmed that our anger can easily turn to an increase in blood pressure and lead to cardiovascular disease.

So here’s the deal, lets remember to take some time and say “wooosah” during our day. I’ve combined a list of personal tips and some from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

1. Exercise/Yoga: you don’t have to pay for it, there’s a ton of stuff online and even programs on cable television that can instruct you on things to do
2. Hang out with friends J I’ve been blessed to have some awesome friends and I’d be willing to lend them
3. If you’ve been laid off, take some naps in between job hunting and filling out your Unemployment Benefits application
4. Work on meditation and breathing patterns, you can get more info on this online
5. Eat healthy and drink lots of water
6. Go to the library and get some books…they even have DVDs nowadays so get a movie while you’re at it

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Latino Church Taking Over the Heights?



July 2007
By ALICIA TEJADA

“Salvo siempre salvo,” [saved always saved] shouts Moises Martinez, 34, as he stands on the corner of 207th and Broadway holding up a poster with a white poster with a logo in the center similar to that of a government seal.

In a community such as Inwood it’s quite common to encounter members of Catholic churches handing out prayers as people walk by. Martinez however, hands out pamphlets with a picture of a man wearing a suit. As he extends his arm to hand out the information he bears the number 666, considered by many the mark of the devil, on his right arm. The man on the cover of the pamphlet is Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda; he is Martinez’s leader and is praised for being both Christ and the anti-Christ.

“We’re not pastors or a religion, we collaborate directly with Jesus, we’re a way of life,” said Martinez. “Religion confuses people and churches tell lies; that’s why Catholics and all the other religions are heading in the wrong path.”

In communities mostly populated by Dominican Catholics, such as Washington Heights and Inwood, members of Growing In Grace face a lot of rejection. For example, Miranda was recently banned from speaking in Dominican Republic and still these members, who are mostly former Catholics, proclaim that they are thriving as people continue to convert. They remain positive about their membership increasing and seem nonchalant about negative responses from Catholics.

Catholics disagree with Growing In Grace’s idea of expansion and conquering. Some referred to the organization as a cult and say that it poses no threat to the Catholic faith.

It was in Florida that the movement began in 1991. Miranda proclaimed that he represents the second coming of Jesus. That year Martinez visited Miami, where he decided that after 18 years of being a Baptist it was time for a change. Today, Growing In Grace has spread to other countries and cities, including the establishment of an education center in Inwood where they practice what they say is a science. It was founded in 2004 by Martinez who is a Coca-Cola truck driver. “We started with only six members and now have 40 just from Manhattan; we also have a lot of members from Queens and we often meet in Corona,” said Martinez.

Each Wednesday members watch a live broadcast from Miami. They have the option of gathering at their local education center where a projector displays the live web cast service, including a weekly message from Miranda, or they can watch it form their homes.

Martinez says that people, especially Catholics, have reformed because they’ve had an awakening and decided to make the right change in their lives. “We believe that there is no sin; sin was eliminated at Jesus’ crucifixion and we were reminded of this in 1973 when the Apostle [Miranda] received a revelation from God instructing him to tell the world that there is no sin and that people have been deceived.”

And some members seem to have a sense of relief after their conversion to Growing in Grace. Alonzo Castillo of Corona, 55 said, “Catholics pass on their beliefs from generation to generation and it’s turned into something hereditary, not real.” His point of view of the Catholic Church began to change after listening to Miranda. He began to research several pieces of literature that questioned Catholicism. He then concluded there was no point in following the sacraments embedded in Catholicism because there is no sin; therefore there is no need for Baptism or Communion.

Miranda’s followers say that they are blessed and saved, unlike those who refuse to listen and reject their beliefs. They refer to those people as “Satan’s children.” Members say they expect adversity especially amongst Latin communities. And even as some members have lost their jobs after employers became terrified when seeing “666” tattoos, their loyalty is placed first.

“Our spirit tells us that this is what we should follow, when I first heard him [Miranda] I new instantly that he is the Lord; the Lord needed a body and flesh to carry his word,” said Gladys Alvarez of Corona, 53. Most of Alvarez’s family has decided to convert, although several still remain part of the Catholic faith. “They don’t agree now, but soon they will, for those who haven’t it’s just too bad for them, they’ll never be saved.”

Catholic residents of Washington Heights on the other hand say that Growing In Grace poses no threat to their community. “It’s a venue, an easy way out of the Catholic Church’s persecutions. This notion of no sin is ideal to them because they don’t have to repent for anything,” said Maria Minaya, 45, director of religion education at Incarnation School in Washington Heights. Minaya says that those who converted were never truly educated in Catholic doctrines. “Some people send their kids to perform sacraments but don’t understand why, they simply want to be part of a culture and that is not what being Catholic is about.”

Minaya said that members of Growing In Grace contradict themselves when claiming that Catholicism is incorrect and deceptive because they don’t question their own leader’s actions. “He [Miranda] came out of left field and is shown on the news traveling on a private jet, how much credibility can he honestly have?”

Former professor of theology and philosophy Menejildo Candelario of Washington Heights, 58, said he believes that it’s easy for members of Growing In Grace to accept the teachings because they can actually see a being rather than believing in an image. Candelario, who taught at Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre Y Maestra (PUCMM), in Santiago, DR, also said that rejection makes them feel competitive. “Competition is something humans need and sometimes we like feeling adversity because it represents a challenge and makes us feel alive; those who have converted were unnoticed at work, home or within society as a whole, now they feel they’re getting attention.”

Some Catholics feel that the representation of both Christ and an anti-Christ in a single being is irrational.

“It’s silly because for someone to say they represent both Christ and the anti-Christ is insane; there’s just no logic in that and the bible makes no indication of such a being,” said Reverend Daniel Kearny of the Church of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, in Washington Heights. In his 95 percent Latino parish, mostly consisting of Dominicans there has been no interest in Growing In Grace, nor have questions been posed regarding them.

Candelario said he believes there will never be a significant increase in their numbers because Miranda continues to confuse people. “Presenting himself as both Christ and the anti-Christ is unstable, plus most people in the community are naturally scared of the devil’s images so they’ll never feel fully comfortable,” he said.

Fox News says going to the dentist not as scary and more significant


Today I saw a Fox News Extra report on the preservation of stem cells inside wisdom teeth for research. It was a good and informative piece that featured a dentist dedicated to this research because of his son’s illness. Check it out on Fox or log on to Stem Save for more info on how this works. I guess people like Senator Ralph Hudgens can sleep better knowing this option is in the works since he compared stem cell research to human experimentation in Nazi Germany. Unless of course the new argument will be that we should preserve our wisdom teeth for the Tooth Fairy to grant us a bail out.

Obama Blogs

President Obama announced yesterday that he will be taking questions from people (when I say people I mean non-journalists) via the White House website. Read more on the new White House initiative Open For Questions and sign up if you’re interested. He’ll be answering them on Thursday.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Santo Domingo The New Miami?



During my recent trip to DR I noticed all the new buildings being constructed in my parents’ neighborhood. Just a year ago empty lots surrounded my parents high rise apartment. Now everywhere you turn a new building is almost complete. And the crazy part? All the apartments and penthouses are sold!

So what’s going on with real estate in Santo Domingo? People have been investing here, especially in the Bella Vista neighborhood. It’s become a popular residential and vacation spot. It’s mostly foreigners investing but we all know the economic crisis is well spread around the globe. After reading the local papers, watching the local networks, and speaking with residents a popular theory is drugs and money laundering.

Now here’s the funny part. President Leonel Fernandez has said that Santo Domingo should be “the new Miami.” There’s even a huge plaza being built, with an American name nonetheless, modeled after shops on South Beach. I found the whole “new Miami” concept ironic since Miami became a world renowned hotspot after the drug trade of the 70s and 80s. (Watch Cocaine Cowboys for more info on this). Today DR has the largest drug trade it’s seen in years. Big names like Quirino Paulino have made that possible.

Now this is just a theory….it’s either that or foreigners investing in DR need to teach Americans how to manage their money and not depend on the fine print in bail out contracts to get bonuses.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Day In Ojo De Agua

I was recently visiting the parental units in Dominican Republic and we took a drive to Salcedo. I asked Dad to stop at the Museo de las Hermanas Mirabal and we ran into his old pal, Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal, nephew of the revolutionist and heroic Mirabal sisters who were murdered during the Trujillo regime. Jaime David is former VP of the island and is the current Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources.

It was an unexpected and nice reunion. Jaime David has recently achieved the beautification of small towns like Salcedo by painting murals representing the country’s history.

Cyclone Sidr Aftermath: Can Bangladesh Handle Another Disaster?

March 2008
By ALICIA TEJADA

Four months after one of the most devastating natural disasters struck the southern edges of Bangladesh, the country is still under reconstruction. And preparation for the next one is crucial.

Cyclone Sidr, the furious storm that swept through the Bay of Bengal packing winds of over 100 miles an hour, affected more than 8.7 million people, destroyed some 564,000 homes, and exterminated over 2.2 million acres of crops according to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Emergency relief in food, shelter, water, sanitation, and agriculture was immediately expedited. With the World Food Programme (WFP) working with the Bangladesh Air Force and facilitating helicopter airdrops of food, Direct Relief International (DRI) providing $1.2 million worth of medical supplies, and the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) $14.7 million, life-saving relief assistance was readily available.

“In addition to assistance from NGOs and other agencies, Bangladesh has received $100 million in bi-lateral donations for Cyclone Sidr,” said Stephanie Bunker of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

But aside from rapid relief efforts, prevention and preparedness must be a topic at the top of any agenda, especially with extreme weather anticipated as a result of human-induced climate changes. According to the latest human development report by the U.N. Development Programme, sea level rises of only 40 cm in the Bay of Bengal can increase the frequency of cyclones, in turn, breaking down agricultural systems and triggering a mass displacement of some10 million, already poverty stricken people. And until the political and financial state reaches a certain level of stability, preparation systems will remain inadequate.

“When there is a disaster all NGOs are essential at the moment but we have to do better than that, we have to work in prevention methods so when there is a disaster the impact is less,” said Brigitte Leoni, Media Relations Officer of the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction in Geneva. Leoni went on to explain that those living below poverty lines – which counts for more than 50 percent of the Bangladeshi population – encounter grueling experiences in maintaining their livelihood after a natural disaster. “Villagers have suffered because of loss of employment and the demise in crops.”

Humanitarian agencies have always assisted in immediate relief, helping with vaccinations, food, shelter, but in the case of Bangladesh, what needs to be done is integration of risk reduction methods. Leoni proposes that homes be built in higher grounds, making villages more resilient. “Even the poor are able to put up shelters and take measurements like building homes higher; if they know there is going to be a flood, they also have the option of going to warehouse type shelters where they can take crops and animals, this way if disaster occurs they can salvage some means to re-develop their livelihood,” said Leoni.

But along with the political situation in the Bangladesh, the economy remains unstable and the government sometimes fails to issue instructions on distribution of funds and supplies. Such developments as the one Leoni referred to can be costly and agencies are unable to provide all resources to construct sufficient locations.

“Government officials are still working for recovery. There are still some 500 people displaced from their homes; the government is trying their best to help the affected people but they do not have enough money to do so perfectly,” said Lovlu Ansar, Executive Editor of Thikana.

Government officials have made an effort towards the reduction of vulnerability. According to the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme in Bangladesh, officials have attended post graduate disaster management training courses offered and funded by the Australian Agency for International Development in Melbourne, Australia since 2006. Remote communities in the south-western coast must now be exposed to this education.

The everlasting gender inequality in the villages, however, can pose a problem. Women are mostly affected by disasters because they do not participate in disaster discussions and decision making. Leoni said that swimming lessons for instance, are a good start at opening doors for women in villages to engage in disaster education. “The main issue is awareness,” said Leoni.

She added that government officials should work towards providing means and knowledge for villagers to make homes safer by rebuilding away from flood planes, saving crops, and for agencies to create a well-done draining system so that water flows rather than flood occurring. “If you can prevent, then you reduce vulnerability; this is what needs to be done in Bangladesh right now.”

Violence In Bangladesh Continues To Erupt, And Women Are Still Ignored

February 2008
By ALICIA TEJADA

With Bangladesh’s interim government cracking down on crime and its military abusing their emergency powers, reporting on human rights has become prevalent. Tensions between police and opposing political activists have erupted in the past few months, leading the country into a state of emergency, postponing elections, and instructing military officials to “clean house” and eliminate corruption.

Bangladesh’s military-backed caretaker government has been targeting labor rights activists, according to a recent Human Rights Watch report. Police have used the country’s state of emergency to invoke strict “rules and regulations” resulting in the arrest of many union members in the garment industry – Bangladesh’s main export, and the leading cause of women working.

Amnesty International
member, Govind Archarya, said the organization is mostly concerned about journalists’ protections since the capturing of Tasneem Khalil, a CNN news representative. Khalil was detained in Bangladesh and tortured by the military, according to a Human Rights Watch report. “It’s very shocking because he’s well known, even amongst foreigners; usually lesser known journalists are targeted, basically those who are not well connected with the outside world.

Amidst all the political chaos, it seems that there is little room for the spotlight to shine on issues concerning violence against women. And in a country where acid attacks on women – sulfuric acid as the use of a weapon to disfigure women – has been an epidemic in the past decade, cases should still be monitored and awareness spread across the entire state.

“Acid attacks are more of a domestic crime now; low income families in villages where women are not educated, it’s not happening in the city,” explained Amana Begum, who has lived in Jackson Heights for 15 years and just returned from Dhaka after a six month trip. “People don’t see it because it’s more hidden.”

A reporter of the Bangla Patrika, in Long Island, added that remote areas lack communication with the urban areas, preventing women from getting help, thus not being recognized. The accounts are not usually publicized because either people don’t go to the villages, leaving attention to be focused on Dhaka, or women are too afraid to report incidents. Ansar Lovlu said that the government would intervene in those cases but there is not sufficient communication with law and order arsenals. “Urban area authorities take action as soon as they get a complaint, the government works, administrations works, but again, that’s in the urban areas,” said Lovlu.

He said that education plays a big role in these tragedies. “Most people are illiterate and have no education in the village areas so this is the main problem; this leads to violence, when people don’t get educated this is what happens, ultimately this can be eliminated through education,” said Lovlu.

With the lack of education in the rural areas, citizens are not aware about resources available for victims of acid attacks. Women are forced to live in shame, with grotesque burns on their bodies, and sometimes are left blind and deaf. Marielly Minaya, a former intern of the Public Affairs Department at the U.S Embassy in Dhaka, said that the government isn’t fully aware of what goes on with women because they’re so involved in the “cleansing” of the streets, in preparation for the much anticipated elections. “The government’s focused on implementing curfews and fighting corruption through scare tactics and torture, this leads to the rise of organizations like RAB – Rapid Action Battalion – and leaves the issue of acid attacks behind closed doors, which is exactly how they’re happening nowadays, in homes, places of peace where women should be at ease but unfortunately are not,” said Minaya.

Although the amount of acid attacks has decreased significantly since 2003, according to an annual report by the Acid Survivor’s Foundation, the situation still haunts the country. Medical facilities in the village areas are sparse and poorly equipped, and many women are not even aware or lack the resources to receive aid or counseling. The Acid Survivor’s Foundation reported that last year approximately 180 women were attacked with acid, with motives ranging from disputes about property or money to rejection of sex or marriage. Aside from education and resources, another key issue is that people are not willing to speak on the topic.

Bangladeshis in the Jackson Heights area of Queens were reluctant to speak about human rights issues, especially in relation to violence against women and the acid attacks. Monie Fattah, an employee of JMD Clothing has lived in the U.S for 16 years. We spoke about the increase of women working and that men do not fully approve of that; when I brought up the topic of the acid attacks however, Fattah became hostile and quickly changed the topic.

Another woman at a garment shop inside the Bangladesh Plaza agreed to speak with me, even when I mentioned the violence against women; but when I referred to the acid attacks she became quite uncomfortable and requested that I exit the shop.

“It’s also a Hindu versus Muslim controversy because a lot of Hindu women are the victims so people just don’t want to get into that type of conversation. Plus, with the government pushing their clean house agenda, a lot of things go unsaid this may also be why it appears that numbers have gone down. It’s just a time where people are mostly concerned with political issues,” said Sunita Iqbal of Queens, during a phone interview.

With the elections postponed, the caretaker government continues on the road to root out corruption. Even if their tactics may have been taken out of hand, some Bangladeshis believe it’s necessary.

“We need this kind of change; acid attacks used to happen everywhere before, now it just happens in some places, mostly villages, at least it’s not happening in the city the way it used to,” said Akm Nuruzzama, who has lived in the U.S for 16 years and is the owner of Akota Grocery in Jackson Heights.

Bangladeshis in Jackson Heights who were interviewed all agreed that the abuse of power on behalf of the interim government is necessary. When asked if governmental organizations have made efforts towards preventing acid attacks in the villages most did not know or chose not to answer.

Still, the problem remains; there is an elephant in the room when mention of violence against women in Bangladesh comes up.