Blog Posts

  • My Ride with the Rooster

    Santa Cruz del Quiche, Guatemala—The search for the bird began in the morning market, where live fowl huddled in baskets under colorful netting. The woman translating for me needed a companion for her hen, she said. We had been visiting villages across Guatemala’s Western Highlands — a largely indigenous area known for high rates of poverty, malnutrition, maternal mortality and migration — to talk to women about the impact of climate change on their lives. The market was in Santa Cruz del Quiche, the capital city of a department that bore the brunt of a 36-year civil war in which more than 200,000 people were killed, the majority of them Mayan. The hunt would end more than an hour’s drive away in Santa Maria, a tidy, hillside village of clay homes painted with limestone and dotted with whispering corn fields. ...

  • Staying Fit in Ulaanbaatar

    I have this weird thing about needing to move, especially after being trapped in planes, cars and buses for long periods of time. As soon as I am on the ground, my legs are literally itching for activity. Because I tend to stay in budget accommodations (a polite way of saying hostels), gyms aren’t really an option. Luckily, running is free. It is also a great way to get your bearings in a new location – or to get hopelessly lost. I have done both, many times. I have a different running story for almost every country I have been in. In rural Rwanda, I was a bit frightened when a man with a machete started running toward me. This is before I realized practically everyone in the countryside walks around with a machete. The man was heading to work and simply wanted...

  • The Meaning of Monuments: Lessons from Guyana

    This post was originally published on Kenya Downs' blog LiveFromKenya. Over the past few days I've been in the beautiful South American/Caribbean nation continuing my reporting through a fellowship with the International Reporting Project. While here, I'm learning more about the country's longstanding land dispute with its neighbor Venezuela -- and the dynamics of its multiethnic population -- for coverage related to women's rights. During an off day, I took a stroll through the capital city of Georgetown and passed awe-inspiring buildings reflective of Guyana's colonial past. As you can see, it's a mixture of gothic and Victorian imagery, like the historic St. George's Anglican Cathedral. Completed in 1899, it is the tallest wooden church in the world. The Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology exhibits artifacts from some of Guyana's ancient cultures to educate visitors about...

  • #BlackGirlMagic: Meet Ann-Marie Williams

    This post was originally published on Kenya Downs' blog LiveFromKenya. When it comes to journalism, Ann-Marie Williams has done it all: print reporter and editor, radio announcer, TV news anchor and media studies professor. But after a 20-year career, the Belize City native was ready to give it all up. "The only thing left for me was to take over the station. And I knew I had no intention of doing that," she laughs. "So I asked myself 'What do I really like to do?'" Instead, she opted to pursue a new career path, one that speaks to her true passion: advocating for women. Among her many professional achievements, Williams earned a highly selective scholarship to study gender and development at the University of Sussex and later won the prestigious Hubert Humphrey Fellowship (through the Fulbright program) to study human trafficking at American University'...

  • Getting to know the Garinagu or Garifuna

    This post was originally published on Kenya Downs' blog LiveFromKenya. Getting to know the Garinagu or Garifuna   Part of my reporting fellowship explores access to healthcare for marginalized communities within Belize, which took me on a trip south to Dangriga. Dangriga is home to the country's largest population of Garifuna people. You may be asking: Who are the Garifuna? The Garifuna (the plural form is Garinagu) are descendants of Carib/Arawak indigenous groups, and Africans who washed ashore on the island of St. Vincent following the wreck of two Spanish ships in 1635. They are often referred to as the "Black Carib." The Garinagu were the dominant ethnic group of St. Vincent for more than 150 years, creating a vibrant society based on farming and trade with surrounding islands. After decades of fending off attacks from the British, who sought to colonize St. Vincent...

  • Post-conference dispatch: NAMLE 2017

    In 2002, I wrote an op-ed for my college newspaper in which I cited a statistic I’d found in an article from The Onion. I won’t try to defend it, other than to note that in 2002 The Onion was still a fairly unknown entity, as was The Internet itself; Facebook was still years away. But more concerning than my outright ignorance was the fact that the phrase, “According to The Onion…” made it through two rounds of copyediting, got the final OK from the senior editors, was published, and resulted in zero blowback for me. No one noticed. It wasn’t until a few months later – when an off-hand comment by a colleague about the satirical news outlet led me on a guilt-laden fact-finding mission – that I realized I’d quoted a shoddy source. I...

  • Women leading the music, agriculture, and military industries in Mali

    I've just returned from three weeks in Mali, reporting on women who are leading their communities, bringing together Malians who would otherwise be divided.   There were few others journalists in Mali when I arrived; the country had long faded from the headlines. On the edge of Ramadan, the weather topped out at 105*F daily. Most residents in the dusty capital of Bamako hid in shops, salons, and in colorful alleyways 'til the midday sun had passed, lounging away to the tunes of Amadou and Mariam, Ali Farka Toure, and Omou Sangare.         It rained occasionally, but not as often or early as it should. Residents complained, and crops along the road outside the capital looked listless, save for the bright orange mangoes sold on every corner. Women rode motorcycles, seemingly outnumbering the men, an odd sight for a...

  • How to lose your laptop but hopefully not your mind in a remote town very far away from home

    When the thing that I had feared the most happened, it came without warning. I was in Mrauk U, the center of an ancient kingdom in western Myanmar that at its peak 500 years ago attracted travelers from as far as Portugal and Japan. I was in town for a total of two days and two nights to explore the history of the place and its potential to help calm ethnic tensions that have splintered Myanmar’s Rakhine state. For the most part, I had gotten the story. I spent the day on the back of a motorbike bouncing from temple to temple as my tour guide/translator explained the ancient history and the sputtering attempt at growing the tourist economy. I interviewed the head of the local museum and chatted with the owner of a small cafe. Things were working out. Back at the...

  • Notes from a thousands-strong anti-LGBT protest

    It was hard not to be intimidated seeing them approach. I knew from my research that Georgia had massive anti-LGBT or “family values” protests every year, but it was different seeing one in person. They streamed down Tbilisi's main avenue by the thousands. When they first approached it looked like an endless sea of Georgian flags. Many were in traditional dress. There were a lot of families, a lot of children. It was hard to watch them walking down the avenue, smiling in the sun, and knowing that each and every one of them was there because they believed that "gay propaganda" was real and a threat to their families.  The march went on for hours, slowly winding its way through the city and up a hill that led to one of Tbilisi's main churches. It...

  • Curiosity runs both ways for solo female traveler in India

    This post originally appeared on the Chicago Tribune website on April 11, 2017. The blue-tinted dwellings looked like they continued on for miles. From high above the ancient Indian city of Jodhpur, it was easy to see how it became known as the "Blue City." I caught a view of these sky-blue homes while visiting the 15th century Mehrangarh Fort, which includes a palace, temples and garden at the end of a winding road looking down on the city. Though this was my first visit to India, my perspective on a month-long trip there was not entirely that of an ordinary tourist. I was traveling from one side of the country to the other, researching issues facing women and girls. Jodhpur, in Rajasthan State, was on my itinerary because it is an area with high rates of female illiteracy and child marriage, and a preference for...

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