A sneak peek at some of the stories Thomson Reuters Foundation journalists are working on this week …
The United States has delayed a military response to last month’s chemical weapons attack near Damascus until after a congressional vote, but that hasn’t eased fears on the ground about more poison gas attacks. Syrians have taken to Facebook and Twitter to appeal for donations of atropine, a drug used to treat neurotoxic symptoms. That’s a hot commodity that aid agencies are scrambling to get into the country, as Karrie Kehoe has discovered.
Many people in Britain are no strangers to “gang culture”, if only thanks to movies and MTV. But new research has lifted the lid on a hidden world on the periphery of gang violence – one inhabited by sisters, mothers and girlfriends. It’s a world where a girlfriend is passed around as a sexual toy for gang members “just because that’s what she’s there for”, and where mothers are raped to punish the transgressions of gang member sons.
Katie Nguyen has interviewed Carlene Firmin, who has spent years looking into this underreported aspect of Britain’s gang culture. She has also been talking to the country’s children’s commissioner about blind spots in the way the authorities tackle the sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls affiliated with gangs. Girlfriends of gang members have human rights too.
In India, Nita Bhalla will be asking how old you have to be to commit rape. An Indian teenager sentenced to three years in juvenile detention over the weekend for the December gang rape and murder of a student has sparked debate over whether India is too soft on young offenders, but human rights activists say those under 18 are children and cannot be held responsible for their actions.
Meanwhile, demonstrations have hit Mumbai, India’s financial hub, after a photojournalist was raped in an abandoned mill. Once again, newspapers, TV shows and websites are abuzz with outrage and soul-searching – but did we really expect sexual violence to decline in the eight months since the Delhi crime? Maybe not, but as Nita will explain, many Indians did expect more than what has so far been delivered.
Nita will also be examining misgivings in India about a radical new U.N. approach to peacekeeping in Democratic Republic of Congo. This involves mixing fighting troops with more traditional “blue helmets” as part of operations to drive back M23 rebels from the eastern city of Goma. India cares about this because it is one of the largest contributors to U.N. peacekeeping. As such, it has more lives to lose than most. Only last week, a peacekeeper from Tanzania was killed in the Congo fighting.
Finally, Nita will be reporting on India’s controversial “cradle baby scheme” in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, which allows for crèches to be placed at health centres, hospitals, temples and orphanages so parents can leave their unwanted newborn girls anonymously. A second chance or a license to abandon girls?
Speaking of babies, Anastasia Moloney will be asking whether infant snatching is on the rise in Guatemala, where a recent spate of babies stolen from hospitals has put the spotlight on child trafficking. Authorities are investigating 22 cases this year. The fear is that stolen children are put up for illegal adoption, mainly to families in the United States.
Here’s a candidate for underreported emergency of the week: in Central African Republic (CAR), humanitarian aid is failing to reach thousands of children due to a strike in neighbouring Cameroon by truck drivers who refuse to transport goods across the border due to a deteriorating security situation. Misha Hussain has been looking into this logistical snarl-up in a region where 13,000 kids are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
Misha will also be writing about malaria in violence-plagued CAR, where prevalence of the deadly disease has increased by more than 30 percent in the past year. As people have fled their homes into the relative safety of the bush, they are more prone to mosquito bites.
And in Senegal, Misha will be mulling over statistics from UNICEF that suggest the government has failed to tackle malnutrition of children under five despite promises to address the fallout from the Sahel food crisis.
How can we boost growth of the “Good Economy”? That’s a question on the minds of about 1,800 social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, impact investors and other do-gooders as they meet in San Francisco this week for SOCAP13, the annual conference of Social Capital Markets.
SOCAP bills itself as being at the “intersection of money and meaning”. What it calls the “Good Economy” is all about building a new global market where capital flows toward social benefit. Astrid Zweynert will be hobnobbing with leading thinkers from this brave new world, some of whom still have a foot or two in the more traditional Bad Economy.
The United Nations General Assembly has dubbed 2013 the “International Year of Water Cooperation”. That’s more than just a sound bite. As the world’s population swells to 9 billion by mid-century, cooperation is pretty much the only survival option for a thirsty planet. Magda Mis is in Stockholm for World Water Week and will be reporting back on innovative approaches to solving what is arguably the big crisis of the 21st century.
A conference in London will be addressing concerns over rising levels of online stalking and harassment, with a focus on how such cyber abuse ties in with domestic violence. It seems the two go together in surprising ways. Maria Caspani will be looking into it.
Katie Nguyen will be scrutinising the European Union’s achievements in harmonising asylum policies. Spoiler alert: It still has a long way to go, with wild variations in the number of asylum seekers accepted in various EU states. She’ll have a full report plus a factbox. She’ll also have a vivid account of what it’s like to navigate Britain’s asylum system, as told by an Iraqi refugee.
And I’ll be heading to Oxford on Friday for a weekend of events to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Reuters journalism fellowship programme, which essentially marked the beginnings of Thomson Reuters Foundation. Mark Thompson, chief executive of the New York Times and former director-general of the BBC, will be speaking on the economics of newspaper journalism. Other sessions will explore topics diverse as women in journalism and the news business in transitional societies. Any interesting nuggets I’ll share with you here.