Education as a Potent Weapon: Unleashing the Power of Girls

girl rising

Power comes in many shapes and forms so it’s refreshing to hear stories that are too often overlooked. Stories about what the grit and determination of young girls is capable of producing. Girls rejecting child marriage, servitude within patriarchal societies and refusing to let the circumstances they were born into …

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The United Nation’s Role in Africa

Tampa Bay Chapter was awarded a membership growth award for increasing its membership in 2012 by a whopping 280%.

Shortly after Kieran Dwyer, the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, gave a presentation about U.N. peacekeeping missions (watch video below), he said that the mission also receives “bad press” for some of its work in Africa. The phrase jumped out at me. Bad press is what happens when a …

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What should the U.S. do and not do in Mali? Ambassador Vicki Huddleston Answers the Questions


When the French first intervened in Mali, Ambassador Vicki Huddleston penned an Op-Ed in the New York Times outlining reasons why the U.S. should assist France in fighting the terror group Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Huddleston was the United States ambassador to Mali from 2002 to 2005 and urged …

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International Women’s Day – Christiane Amanpour : “Make sure that you never hear the word NO.”

In honor of International Women’s Day 2013, I would like to share words of wisdom from CNN’s chief international correspondent and anchor of a nightly foreign affairs program on CNN International Christiane Amanpour. Watch this video and quote of the day:

Christiane Amanpour is CNN’s chief international correspondent and anchor of Amanpour, a nightly foreign affairs program on CNN International.

“From all my experience working in the field for over 20 years now I see more and more women in the field as journalists… What I see is that this is making a big change in the way stories are covered. Women do not report only on women… They report on what now is almost exclusively the human factor when it comes to war, crisis, disaster or even opportunities, hope and challenges… Women still have to face very difficult threats, very difficult situations of abuse, very difficult situations of intimidation and out and out being banned from taking part in the field of journalism. It is still a difficult world… Those of you women around the world who are determined, and no matter what profession you choose, who are determined to make it and battle the odds and make sure that you never hear the word NO, that I think is the hope and the optimism and the opportunity that we can benefit from and that we can put back into society…”

Series: Guardian Africa network/Africa's top women for International Women's Day

Inspiration for today also comes from a group of African women listed by the Guardian through its Guardian Africa network series. Take a look at top 25 incredible African women nominated by the public to celebrate International Women’s Day here and get inspired!

Last but not least, I would like to share videos below. I was honored to sit among a group of highly-accomplished women journalists as part of a program hosted by Global Journalist in honor of International Women’s Day at the Missouri School of Journalism in 2011. Even though I am a relative novice compared to the women I was with, I was able to pitch in from my experience and perspective as a female journalist working in Eritrea. I am recommending the video below to showcase the amazing group of women in the industry. Happy International Women’s Day to all the women journalists out there who are working hard to uphold the true meaning of the profession and inspiring us all.

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New Secretary, Same Ole’ Game? What Will Kerry’s Foreign Policy Bring To Africa?

Kerry Sudan

It’s one thing when politicians talk blithely of the consequences of war and another to hear it from someone who has been in a combat position. If there is any politician who is aware of the cost of war, it is John Kerry. During the Vietnam War, he had shrapnel pierce his left arm and left leg and …

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In Eritrea, What’s Unsaid Is As Important As What’s Said.

In 2003, when the government of Eritrea sent out orders to ban Amharic music in public, there was no official announcement made but simply oral orders passed around in public places such as bars and music shops. The owners of such businesses were told to stop playing music. Of course, that didn’t mean that the government was able to systematically monitor every household and stop people from listening to music.

Al-Jazeera-LogoIn fact, people listened to Amharic music in public places including public transportation. I remember driving in a bus to travel outside of Asmara and listening to Amharic songs loud enough for all to hear. Today, the government has its own programs in Amharic and Oromigna (both languages spoken only in Ethiopia by the Amhara and the Oromo ethnic groups) on its state-owned television station Eri-TV where it broadcasts programs specifically containing political and entertainment programs mostly targeting the Ethiopian people.

Last week, there was similar news grabbing everyone’s attention on social media. I first learned about it on February 2nd when the Peninsula, a Qatar-based media outlet announced that Eritrea has blocked Al Jazeera news. The report said that orders came after the TV channel covered widespread protests in major cities abroad. Protests were also well-documented by different outlets and social media with videos from Europe and the U.S. in support of a day-long military mutiny on January 21st in Eritrea at the ministry of information. Diaspora groups not only demonstrated out in the streets but also stormed Eritrean embassies grabbing the attention of international media and incidents at embassies were covered by Al Jazeera’s The Stream.

The news, however, came back again with a fresh twist on Tuesday February 5, when Reporters Without Borders claimed that the government not only blocked access by citing Qatar-based newspaper Al-Sharq, but also issued a statement ordering public places to stop broadcasting the TV channel.

Reporters Without Borders: 2013 World Press Freedom MapReporters Without Borders which has labeled Eritrea’s state of freedom of press as one of the worst in the world by ranking it 179 out 179 said:

“The information ministry issued a decree on 1 February forbidding anyone in Eritrea to provide access to Al Jazeera. Public places such as restaurants, cafés and hotels were specifically targeted. To ensure compliance, Al Jazeera’s English-language channels were jammed.”

Reading this report was a stark reminder of the way orders to ban Amharic music passed around by word of mouth in 2003. Contrary to what government apologists repeat—philosophical reasons why there is no need for independent media—people in Eritrea are hungry for information. Rumors run rampant in Asmara and get around quickly. However for people who have lived in the country for years, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. It bears repeating that the government doesn’t have the capacity to control every household and television dish which stream international programs into private homes. And most importantly, it doesn’t have the capacity to block all international satellite in the country.

Media Bashing 101The claim that Al Jazeera was banned resurfaced again on Iran’s television network Press TV when journalist Afshin Rattansi mentioned it during an interview with the Eritrean Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Tesfamicael Gerahtu. Issues broached during the interview include: the January 21st mutiny that the government has refused to give details about despite reports of arrests of high-ranking government officials and military officers and questions of human rights abuses made official by the United Nations human rights chief, Navi Pillay. Rattansi asked if reports say that there are 5,000 to 10,000 political prisoners in Eritrea, why not give access to human rights groups to visit prisoners? The Ambassador didn’t have answers but instead blamed the usual suspect, the media. He, however, can only recite talking points with information available to everyone. This woefully inadequate response should remind all those watching: issues in Eritrea are not all that complicated. Explanation cannot be given until permission is granted from the top.

The root of the problem is a pattern that people fail to recognize. Even when one of the most loyal ministers, the Minister of Information, Ali Abdu, defected, some observers gave the minister too much credit. Even though he held the position for over a decade, what people fail to see is that he was not the puppet master as he may have appeared from the outside. The propaganda machine is not sophisticated. Any other person or minister who is posted to the same position of Information Minister could perform the task as long as orders come from top. After the minister’s defection was made public on the Expressen, a Swedish newspaper, Ali’s brother, who also runs a prominent opposition website based in the U.S. explained the truth loud and clear. It is this simple truth that explains the lack of accountability and transparency in the country and holds the answer to most questions about Eritrea. Here’s a translated verbatim excerpt from the interview .

“It is taboo to ask about things that are not related to one’s job to do. There is an old guerrilla culture in the country. It carries out orders without asking why.”

“It is routine to suspected dissidents arrested without court papers, without any documentation. Those who do the work, oral orders. Sometimes, there is over the phone and in coded language. They are afraid of being intercepted by Western intelligence services.”

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Africa Talks on Al Jazeera: Critical Overview of Current Developments in Eritrea

Eritrea - Asmara

I  was fortunate enough to talk to Al Jazeera today and I tried to give critical overview of current developments in Eritrea. Since it was short notice and I didn’t have enough time and preparation to fit all my notes during live interview, I have decided to post the video and a couple of …

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