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Congo’s quiet collapse

Fri, 2017-12-01 09:00
Far from the international spotlight, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) crisis is silently suffocating its citizens. On a humid morning in Mbandaka — the crumbling provincial capital of the densely forested Équateur province in the DRC — 50-year-old Jerome Bokele sits on a broken wooden chair in the courtyard of his small breezeblock compound.  Bokele is the province’s first and only parliamentarian from the indigenous and routinely marginalised Batwa pygmy minority. As such, he’s something of a local celebrity. But, like other politicians in Équateur’s provincial assembly, which in the past two years has been crippled by factionalism and infighting, Bokele says he has not received


Wed, 2017-11-29 09:40
It was a muggy autumn afternoon when I finally managed to squeeze my way to the front of a service at Shalom. I normally preferred to hang toward the back—the only foreigner, curious and awed by the crush of bodies pressed in together, sometimes as many as twenty thousand, though church leaders boasted of crowds twice that size for special prayer events. But this was a quiet Saturday, only about eight thousand people in attendance, and I eased my way down, down, down one of several long staircases that fanned out in a semicircle to a spot near the front. A full band played on the side of a large white stage framed by giant screens and speakers,

A Trump-like politician in Brazil could snag the support of a powerful religious group: evangelicals

Tue, 2017-11-28 13:31
SÃO PAULO — Corruption scandals that have landed several of Brazil’s leading politicians in prison have motivated voters to consider dark-horse candidates for next year’s presidential race. One of those, Congressman Jair Bolsonaro, who likens himself to President Trump, could find support from a key group: evangelicals, who have become politically powerful in recent years. {image-1} Bolsonaro, who represents Rio de Janeiro in the country’s House of Representatives, has had his own controversies. He has said he’d rather have a dead son than a gay son, and he once told a congresswoman she wasn’t worth raping. A former army parachutist, Bolsonaro praised the man who oversaw torture in

Gay, Out And On The Airwaves In Kinshasa

Tue, 2017-11-21 08:27
Sitting at his desk in a stuffy office with a rainbow flag hanging behind him, 31-year-old Patou Izai says it takes a lot of courage to come out as gay in Kinshasa, the sprawling capital city of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Although this vast, volatile Central African nation does not have the harsh anti-gay laws adopted by neighbors such as Uganda, deeply ingrained conservative cultural norms routinely stigmatize, silence and lead to physical threats against LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) people. {image-1} "You're basically excluded from society," Izai says. "This means that very, very few LGBTI people are open about their sexual orientation. They have too much to lose by being themselves." In 2015, Izai, a self-employed

Meet Ami, Mali’s biggest female rapper

Tue, 2017-11-14 08:27
There aren’t many female rappers in Mali. The West African country is known for the bedouin ballads of Tinariwen, the enduring voice of Khaira Arby, and the new-rock beats of Songhoy Blues. But Mali is not so famous for its rap scene—and even less so for its female rappers. Ami is an exception. “There is only one of me. There are many girls who say ‘I am a singer, I want to be like Ami, but no one can be me,” she said. Ami Yerewolo has garnered a gathering around the country and indeed, the entire African continent. Unafraid to rap about against sexism, injustice, and backstabbers, Yerewolo creates beats with witty, smart,

The hero rats of Africa sniff out land mines — and TB infections

Tue, 2017-11-14 08:19
MOROGORO, Tanzania — The grass is still damp with dew as the sun begins to glint over the Uluguru Mountains. It’s only 7 a.m. in Morogoro, Tanzania, but Oprah and Malala and Taylor Swift and the others are already hard at work. They are heroes in the region, literal saviors to thousands of Tanzanians and those in the international community as well. It is on this large swath of land that giant African pouched rats, often named by their handlers after celebrities or loved ones, are meticulously trained for nine months to sniff out land mines. Down the dusty red dirt road, you’ll find others just like them — but there the rats are training in

The child brides of Nepal: why education alone is not enough to stop underage marriages

Sat, 2017-11-11 06:35
Inside the house of her husband’s parents, Apsara Devi Sah sits on a mat in a small, windowless storage room with a mud floor. Three days after her wedding she is still dressed in bridal finery – an ornately embroidered yellow veil and dress dipped in red, elaborate mehndi snaking down her arms and legs. Dozens of green, gold and red bangles trill when her hands dip to pull at the edge of her clothes. Against the grey walls, she glows. Apsara is strikingly beautiful. She is extremely eloquent. She is 16. “I didn’t want to get married but I was the only daughter and my father had to go abroad,” she says. “Society

Congo’s young pygmy reporters take to the airwaves to fight exclusion

Tue, 2017-11-07 14:21
MBANDAKA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nov 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Sixteen-year-old Elisée Nyanokonzo used to be afraid to walk alone around the streets of Mbandaka, the crumbling provincial of Équateur Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo. {image-1} As a Batwa pygmy, Nyanokonzo was constantly fearful of being taunted or attacked by someone from the majority Bantu population, known to routinely stigmatise the Batwa minority. "I never felt comfortable approaching a Bantu. I'd been made to believe I was less than them, that we pygmies weren't whole people," Nyanokonzo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. But that changed last year, when Nyanokonzo was recruited into a project at a community radio station called Radio Mwana -

‘We Are Not Yet Free’: Living in Slavery’s Shadow in Mauritania

Tue, 2017-11-07 07:23
NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania—Maatalla Mboirick’s home sits a few hundred meters off the main road of this desert city, past high mounds of orange sand. It is little more than a collection of tarps affixed to wooden beams and scrap metal. Thin mattresses and sturdy pillows line the interior of a tent at the back of the property, one of several spots where as many as a dozen people sleep on any given night. While the home may be modest, even by Mauritanian standards, its most important feature is that it belongs indisputably to Mboirick and his family. For a man who was born into slavery, that’s the only thing that really matters. A member of

This Is What It’s Like On The Front Lines Of Nicaragua’s Abortion Crisis

Tue, 2017-10-31 08:13
MANAGUA, Nicaragua — On a warm day in June, at the start of the rainy season, Ixelis waits outside of Managua’s German Nicaraguan Hospital. She is homeless, and several months pregnant. The 21-year-old has been waiting for several hours to see what the doctors will tell her. Ixelis is addicted to drugs. She has a gentle smile and her pregnant belly shows from underneath her short-sleeve shirt. She already has two children and is desperately hoping for an abortion so she won’t need to give birth to a third in the near future. {image-1} “I know it’s illegal,” she said of her desire to seek out an abortion, “but I have

How the prosperity gospel is sparking a major change in the world’s most Catholic country

Mon, 2017-10-30 08:12
SAO PAULO — Speaking from a stage encircled by 12 large wooden crosses, Gabriel Camargo held up wads of fake Brazilian money, showing his flock what could be theirs. “God will bless you if you give a lot more to the church,” said Camargo, a pastor with the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. Then he extended an arm and pointed a large black pouch toward his parishioners in the working-class neighborhood of Osasco. Pick up your wallets and purses, he said, instructing his flock to look for Brazilian reais. About a dozen people hurried forward, dumping bills and change into the bag. Those without cash didn’t have to worry: An usher held out a credit

Argentina bans abortion in most cases. So why is its abortion rate far higher than that of the U.S.?

Mon, 2017-10-30 07:51
The woman stumbled into a public hospital late one night, her stomach turning as she approached the lobby. She was bleeding. {image-1} Dr. Damian Levy ushered her into a room. Like many of his patients at Hospital Alvarez in Buenos Aires, she was young and poor. At first, she refused to tell him why she was there. Then she burst into a tearful confession. She had tried to perform her own abortion at home and used 40 tablets of the drug misoprostol — nearly three times the suggested dosage for inducing a miscarriage. She was worried that the hospital would report her to police. In Argentina, and across much of Latin America, where edicts of the Catholic Church are often enshrined

She spent half her life as a rebel soldier in Colombia before fleeing to save her baby

Mon, 2017-10-23 12:07
Years before Leidy Johana escaped on a motorcycle from the stifling jungles of Colombia in the dead of night, a forbidden baby in her belly, she was just a rebel without a cause. She grew up on a tomato farm and loved her doting parents and nine siblings but grew restless babysitting, going to school and tending to the crop. She’s a petite woman sporting a denim jacket, jeans, hoop earrings, hoodie and studded boots. In the rural countryside of Colombia, she saw fatigue-clad communist fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as her way out. She was familiar with the guerrillas: they would swing by her family farm demanding cooking pots and pans. Her father

Church and State in Nicaragua

Thu, 2017-10-19 08:29
Between 2013 and 2015, the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega spent roughly $3.2 million installing decorative metal trees in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital. The “trees of life,” as they are called, weigh more than seven metric tons each. At dusk, the biblically inspired sculptures come alive with the glow of thousands of lightbulbs. On NIC-4, Managua’s main north-south artery, the trees are flanked by campaign posters from the 2016 presidential election. Ortega appears next to the slogan of his party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which won the election by a wide margin: “Christian, socialist, solidarity.” At Ortega’s side is Rosario Murillo, his wife and vice president. The

Mauritania’s Veterans in the Fight Against Sexual Violence

Wed, 2017-10-18 10:14
NOUAKCHOTT, MAURITANIA – Behind a bright turquoise gate, the El Wafa Center opens into a sandy courtyard. A group of women sit in the shade of an aluminum awning, escaping the blazing midday sun, while children play in the sand. Zeinebou Mint Taleb Moussa moves around the grounds, as the women and young children run up to shake her hand. This community center is her creation, and everyone is eager to say hello. Launched in 2001 out of a small room serving as a makeshift office, El Wafa is now located in a large building in an impoverished neighborhood on the outskirts of Nouakchott, the capital of this little-known desert country on the coast of western Africa. And it’s


Mon, 2017-10-16 16:26
Mbera refugee camp, Mauritania – Nana Mint Cheybani has abandoned the thought of going back to Mali. Life in Mbera refugee camp, on the southeast corner of Mauritania, a desert country on the coast of West Africa, is tough. Tensions between refugees and locals regularly flare up over access to local resources and the camp suffers from chronic underfunding. {image-2} The vast camp is sparse: refugees live in under tarps affixed to wooden beams, or in rudimentary, one-room brick structures they have built themselves. Tree branches stick out from the mounds of sand, serving as fences between the families’ plots. Many of the refugees in the camp were nomadic herders in Mali. Without their livestock or other job opportunities,

Donald Trump’s War on African Women

Mon, 2017-10-16 11:35
It was a Tuesday in the district of Merhabete, in central Ethiopia, and the smell of burning spices infused the air. Hundreds of people — men and boys herding donkeys and goats, and women cloaked in white cloth with baskets atop their heads — lined the gravel roads leading to the government-run health clinic; some had walked for hours to trade and sell goods at the weekly market. {image-1} Yeshi estimates she is 37, based on the age of the eldest of her six children. She and her husband left home around 7 a.m. that morning. For a few months, Yeshi had been unable to perform basic tasks. She was too weak to visit the neighbors and bled profusely, like she

Meet Our Newest Fellows

Wed, 2017-10-11 10:29
The International Reporting Project is awarding fellowships to report on different topics around the world. The deadline to apply for the gender/LGBTI rights and religion reporting fellowships for late-fall and winter travel is rolling. The application for peacebuilding and conflict resolution in Africa as well as the Senegal group trip is closed and fellows have been selected. {image-4}                       Senegal Group Trip We congratulate the following journalists who were awarded fellowships to travel to Senegal from November 10-20 to report on gender, human rights and civil society. Neha Thirani Bagri is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai. Ryan Lenora Brown is the Johannesburg bureau chief for the Christian Science

Meet Our Newest Fellows

Wed, 2017-10-11 10:29
The International Reporting Project is awarding fellowships to report on different topics around the world. The deadline to apply for the gender/LGBTI rights and religion reporting fellowships for late-fall and winter travel is rolling. The application for peacebuilding and conflict resolution in Africa as well as the Senegal group trip is closed and fellows have been selected. {image-2}                       Religion Issues We congratulate the following journalists who were awarded fellowships in 2017 to cover religion issues: Jessica Aguirre is a journalist based in Germany who will report in Bolivia. Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a religion reporter for The Washington Post who will report from Brazil. Ian Bateson is a

Mauritanian women take economic independence into their own hands

Thu, 2017-10-05 09:31
A half-dozen men lug a silver-coloured vat towards the two-room building. It's a tight squeeze through the doorframe, and a few men are forced to let go to get the machine inside. Finally, the heavy vessel is set down in the corner of a room painted a bright turquoise and filled with local women who quickly crowd around the contraption. {image-1} They take turns lifting the machine's cover and peering inside: soon, they will be using it every day to produce saleable milk from their herds. And with this new pasteuriser, that milk will have a much longer shelf life than anyone in the village ever previously dreamed of. "What isn't sold can be conserved for a