Kakenya Ntaiya and the Kakenya Center for Excellence

Kenya ranks #130 in the 2012 Gender Inequality Index and ranks #145 in the Human Development Index. (Also, click here for a PDF of Kenya’s composite indices for the 2011 Human Development Report.)

Despite serious problems represented by these figures/values, Kakenya Ntaiya and the Kakenya Center for Excellence arguably provide many of the kinds of action, growth, hope, and promise that we need most in this world.

Woman challenges tradition, brings change to her Kenyan village (CNN Heroes story from March 14, 2013)

(Please check this out. Well worth our time. Every single minute – only 15 minutes, 42 seconds. Really gets going, truly inspiring, in the second half.)
– David Slutsky

Gore Vidal (1925-2012): who was out when bias was explicit

Is it better when bias goes underground?

Gore’s account of one prolonged bad consequence:

Despite the world-weary tone of a brutal review in the New York Times, which suggested that it [Gore’S third novel] added nothing new to the “groaning shelf” of homosexual literature, a story with an unashamedly gay protagonist unleashed a storm of protest in a country where sodomy was still illegal. Inspired by Vidal’s great love, a school friend called Jimmy Trimble who died at the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, it became an instant bestseller, catapulting the author to national celebrity, and almost finishing him as a writer. According to Vidal, the New York Times waged a campaign throughout the 1950s to obliterate him as a novelist by refusing to review his work. “If you didn’t get a daily review in the New York Times you didn’t exist as a novelist,” he said. “It meant that everybody else, Time, Newsweek and all the other papers, would follow suit. You were out.”

Unfortunately, this post can lead us to worry that, at least in some parts of academia, things aren’t much better.

Feminist critique greeted with thousands of abusive comments. This is our surprised face.

UPDATED July 10, 2012 (profbigk): Although she’s now received an amount of viciousness that surprises even those of us who thought we were cynical, Sarkeesian has raised about $160,000, an amount well over her goal.

What’s that computer game called where a woman makes a feminist argument and then the other players respond with violent, misogynistic, abusive remarks? Oh, yeah. The internet.

The most recent (well, we can’t guarantee something worse didn’t happen 30 seconds ago, but we live in hope) instance of this phenomenon surrounds Anita Sarkeesian, whom you will surely know for her wonderful YouTube videos in which she applies the Bechdel Test to recent films. Earlier this week, Sarkeesian made a pitch for Kickstarter funds to research misogyny in video games.

The response was immediate, overwhelming, and sadly predictable — thousands of abusive comments inpugning her in the most racist, violent, misogynistic terms. (One term, beginning with “c” was especially popular.) The great news is that Sarkeesian has, so far, garnered ten times the financial support she was seeking. Here’s the full story from New Statesman.


Sarkeesian decided to leave the comments on her video, as proof that such sexism exists. I think it’s important that she did, because too often the response to stories like this, “Come on, it can’t be that bad”. There are two reasons for this: first, that if you don’t experience this kind of abuse, it’s difficult to believe it exists (particularly if you’re a man and this just isn’t part of your daily experience). Secondly, because news reports don’t print the bad words. We’ve got into a weird situation where you have to get a TV channel controller to sign off a comedian using the word “cunt” after 9pm, but on the internet, people spray it round like confetti. We read almost-daily reports of “trolls” being cautioned or even jailed, but often have no idea what they’ve said.

As the (male) gamer who pointed me to this story observed, ” I’ve gotten into my fair share of heated discussions on the internet, but I think the worst I’ve been called is an idiot. No one seems to dig out Billy Bob’s Big Book of Rape Threats for dudes, but remember, that’s not privilege…”

Thanks, JT.

Addendum: By popular request, here is the link to Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women in Video Games project page.


Inspiring work by grassroots organizations and the wonderful people (local and otherwise) who do the work, who make it happen, who “advance the health, safety, and well being of women… WE ADVANCE models an inclusive grassroots approach with a movement that collaborates with both other organizations and women from every socio-economic class. WE ADVANCE is a rights- and community-based participatory program. We empower women’s minds, bodies and spirits and enable them to discover their own needs and priorities, benefiting the entire community. WE ADVANCE brings in volunteer experts to train local community leaders in the aspects of health, safety and education. WE ADVANCE’s goal is to, in the near future, leave our programs in the hands of Haitian women, the women who know best what they need and how to make it a reality.”


The news piece at the link below by actress and activist Maria Bello (from about one year ago) arguably highlights some of the important differences between certain kinds of institutionalized, elite human rights work/advocacy and organizations, on the one hand, and local, grassroots (oriented) individuals and organizations, on the other hand.

How to ADVANCE Our Money in Haiti

And some additional important and relevant words by Bello (from about one year later):

Two Years Later — Reimagining Haiti

see also Femmes en Democratie

Shining Hope for Communities

Shining Hope for Communities


“We combat intergenerational cycles of poverty and gender inequality by linking tuition-free schools for girls to essential social services in Kenya’s Kibera slum through a holistic, community-driven approach. By concretely linking essential health and economic services to a school for girls, we demonstrate that benefiting women benefits the whole community, cultivating a community ethos that makes women respected members of society.”


“Shining Hope for Communities believes in integrated and community-driven initiatives to combat extreme poverty. Our two-part approach places women at the center of community development. Our core program is the Kibera School for Girls, the first and only free school for girls in Kibera. Adjacent to the Kibera School for Girls is the Shining Hope Community Center, which houses initiatives that serve the entire community. Together, our projects address the most severe local deficits in education, health, sanitation, food security, literacy, and economic development.”

Remembering 9/11

Nicholas Kristof recommends that we work to take the focus off destructive hatred and try instead to follow the lead of two 9/11 widows who turned to help women in Afghanistan. 

This weekend, a Jewish woman [Susan Retik] who lost her husband in the 9/11 attacks is planning to speak at a mosque in Boston. She will be trying to recruit members of the mosque to join her battle against poverty and illiteracy in Afghanistan.

In the shattering aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, Ms. Retik bonded with another woman, Patti Quigley … Devastated themselves, they realized that there were more than half a million widows in Afghanistan — and then, with war, there would be even more. Ms. Retik and Ms. Quigley also saw that Afghan widows could be a stabilizing force in that country.

So at a time when the American government reacted to the horror of 9/11 mostly with missiles and bombs, detentions and waterboardings, Ms. Retik and Ms. Quigley turned to education and poverty-alleviation projects — in the very country that had incubated a plot that had pulverized their lives.

His column has links to organizations worth having a look at, even if one can only give a bit of money.    There is a list of suggestions in a toolkit at “Beyond 9/11,” which Retik and Quidgley founded.  Also at “Beyond 9/11” you can contribute to income generating programs for femal-headed households in Afghanistan. And here is an organization helping women in constructive ways, which also sells great looking tribal rugs.  And there’s more.

Helping out with Gulf Coast rescue and remediation

If you watch the videos in the previous post on Gullah and their property, you can get a sense of how wonderful it  is to live near the sea.   Completely wonderful wetlands, along with their wildlife and the humans who fish and farm, are being greatly harmed by the BP oil spill. 

Here are  pictures of  some of what is being destroyed:

The music is from the cajun Bafra Brothers.

And here are some ideas about helping  that come from DailyKos:

>For those of you who have the romantic vision of scrubbing turtles and rinsing off pelicans with Kevin Costner or Sean Penn, I’m afraid to tell you  that it isn’t going to happen. The workers BP has hired as well as the volunteers with non-profits working on the response have all had hazmat or wildlife rescue training. If you have those skills, they definitely want you (call Tri-State Rescue: 866-557-1404)… otherwise there is a list of ways you can help below (which I will add to as more info becomes available)… it may be long, but come on man, I’ve done most of the research for ya… lol.
>First the simplest thing you can do is text WILDLIFE to 20222 to donate $10 to the National Wildlife Federation. 97% of funds raised through this text drive will go directly to efforts rehabbing animals in the Gulf. (More info: http://www.nwf.org/… )
>Second easiest thing to do is eat Louisiana seafood. There are still areas that are safe to fish in the Gulf and our fishing communities need the support. Whatever they’re catching, go buy ya some!
>I did speak with someone at the main response center today and volunteers are needed now. Tasks that untrained people can do include administrative work, taking inventory, pre-beach cleaning (no idea what that means), and translating. Sign up here: http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse…. and call to follow up if you get antsy: 1-866-448-5816.
>You can also sign up with one of the various groups working in the area. Efforts seem to be largely coordinated through the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. Visit http://www.crcl.org/ and fill out a volunteer form or call 1-800-LACOAST (1-800-522-6278) or 225-767-4181. Alternately you can see the other groups they are working with and sign up through their websites here: http://lagulfresponse.org/… or here: http://action.sierraclub.org/…
>Birdwatchers have a special job being asked of them through eBird: http://ebird.org/… They are looking for people to visit beaches and report findings on the state of the birds there… this does not include touching or disturbing the wildlife… watching and monitoring only. You can also have a nice meal at a restaurant in the beach community while you’re visiting and help support the locals.
>Organize a food drive. I know I’ve been banging this drum for a year now, but because of state budgetary cuts made last year, our food banks have been depleted for quite some time and need more food than ever now. The Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana is leading this charge: http://no-hunger.org/ There is information on their website about how to conduct a drive or you can give them a call and they’ll be happy to set you up. If you live in Marrero, the West Jefferson Medical Center is collecting cans. Bins for food donations will be located in the hospital’s atrium, the Fitness Center, Cafe Jefferson and the Physician’s Center through May 31.
>Here are some additional specific volunteer hotlines to call:
>To report oiled shoreline : 866.448.5816
>To report oiled wildlife: 866.557.1401
>To submit alternative response technology, services or products: 281.366.5511
>To submit your vessel as a vessel of opportunity skimming system: 281.366.5511
>Additionally, if you are in an effected area or have a boat and are going out in the Gulf, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade has created an “Oil Spill Crisis Map” that will allow Gulf Coast residents to report fishers out of work, endangered wildlife, oil on shore, oil sheens and other effects of the oil spill. The map can be viewed at http://oilspill.labucketbrigade.org/… Reports can be made at that site, or by texting 504.272.7645, e-mailing bpspillmap@gmail.com or tweeting with the hashtag #BPspillmap. Eyewitness reports for the map require a description, and location information such as an address or GPS coordinates.
>And while there is debate as to whether or not these will ever be used (why the heck not, I ask???) The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans is working with Matter of Trust: http://www.matteroftrust.org/… an environmental nonprofit group, to collect donations of nylons, hair and fur, which can be used in making booms for containing oil. Drop off donations at the Ritz-Carlton, 921 Canal St. Call 504.670.2817 for more information.
>Monitor other opportunities to volunteer by checking out this group on FB: http://www.facebook.com/…
>These are all fabulous groups working on the oil disaster at various levels. Please support them if you can.
>Gulf Restoration Network: http://www.healthygulf.org/
>Tri-state Bird Rescue: http://www.tristatebird.org/
>Voice of the Wetlands: http://www.voiceofthewetlands.org/
>Gulf Aid: http://www.gulfaid.org/
>Second Harvest: http://no-hunger.org/
>Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans: http://www.arch-no.org/
>The Greater New Orleans Foundation: http://www.gnof.org/
>One effort that will be extremely valuable for fishers and others litigating against BP is the Louisiana Bucket Brigade’s Spill Crisis Map Program and their Grassroots Mapping Project. Both efforts need manpower and money. The Bucket Brigade can be reached at 504.324.0332, email:  info@labucketbrigade.org

Haiti and UPS: updated

I heard this on Pacifica Radio: Any package that would cost under $50 to send to Haiti can go for free with UPS.

It’s time for some early spring cleaning…

It turns out this is a  hoax, and even if it weren’t, it would probably not be a good idea.

Thanks to The  Lady and j.

The early spring cleaning is up to you!