UNICEF Burundi

As Project Manager of KiraMAMA for UNICEF Burundi, it was my job to implement and deploy a system to lower rates of infant and maternal mortality (MDGs 4 and 5). Using the RapidPRO platform, Kiramama would plug into maternal health resources – physical infrastructure such as clinics and ambulances, as well as maternal health personnel. In this way, if a mother or a child had an emergency, needed a regular check-up, or another kind of consultation, necessary equipment, materials and personnel would be on-hand for the procedure and monitoring and evaluation.

Burundi is considerably challenging context with very low mobile penetration rates, a poorly educated population, a huge lack of qualified personnel, infrastructure, funding, materials and equipment, and a potentially disruptive election. Both for feasibility concerns of the project and for personal reasons involving my debut novel, The Paths of Marriage, I elected to leave my position after three months. Even so, I learned a lot about field operations in a different part of the world, and furthered my belief that working with the private sector is key to any ICT4D project. To learn more about one lesson in the field – how to convert non-believers of technology – click here.

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African Risk Capacity – 2012/13

My work as a Programme Officer of the African Risk Capacity of the UN World Food Programme is based in New York; however, I have traveled abroad four times for this work:

  • Rome (February 2012)
  • Kampala, Uganda (May 2012)
  • Johannesburg, South Africa (September and December 2012)
  • Dakar, Senegal (December 2012)

Work abroad for ARC has mostly come in the form of presenting technical work to in-country stakeholders, including the ARC software package, Africa RiskView, and risk transfer work in both English and French. As a primary technical writer and editor on ARC, I have also been in charge of written work for donor and technical documentation purposes. In Rome, I presented on the marketing and branding strategy of ARC.

 Soweto  LakeVictoria  Kampala  Cape Town

Photos: Soweto, South Africa ♦ Lake Victoria, Uganda ♦ Kampala, Uganda ♦ Cape Town, South Africa

India – April 2010

The primary purpose of my visit to Bangalore was to explore the second part of my thesis, which asked what are the human development impacts of the IT boom? To assess this question, I conducted interviews with nine development actors working (or who have worked) with marginalized populations to evaluate the Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights impacts of the IT industry.

Hypothesis:

Challenges brought on by the IT industry in Karnataka, including cost of living and pollution, have made it more difficult for marginalized populations in Karnataka to
integrate with the general population, and lift themselves out of poverty.

Evaluated ESC Rights:

– Right to Health
– Right to Education
– Right to Adequate Standard of Living
– Right to Enjoy the Benefits of Scientific Progress and its Applications

Interviewed Organizations and Individuals: 

– Visthar: Visthar is a secular organization aimed at the education of marginalized communities in both practical education, as well as empowerment through human rights awareness.
-Aaashayein Foundation: The Aashayein Foundation is an entirely volunteer-run organization dedicated to providing monetary and non-monetary support to primary school children of lower socioeconomic classes.
-Priya Gupta (name changed) – Has worked as a human rights lawyer in and around the Bangalore area for the past ten years.
-Sudha Reddy – A sociologist by training, Mrs. Reddy worked as a grassroots organizer for 25 years on issues affecting Dalits, Muslims, and undocumented workers.
-Ahbay Kumar – Software engineer by trade who has worked full-time with Navjeevana Mahila Okkuta (NJMO) for the past six years in rural areas of Karnataka.
-Anselm Rosario – Serves as the executive director of his non-profit organization, Mythri Sarva Seva Samithi, which works with waste picking populations around Karnataka state.
-Leo Saldanh – Founder and director of the Environmental Support Group of India, a research organization that responds to social and environmental justice issues.

ESC Rights Effects: 

Right to Health

-Increase in pollution
-Little protection for construction workers and drivers
-Decrease in quality (and quantity) of public health services
-Still no access to sanitation and electrical facilities for poorest populations, sometimes due to moves to privatize these services

Right to Education

-Decrease in number of public schools
-Quality of public schools not adequate for modern job market

Right to Adequate Standard of Living

-Spike in cost of living
-Employment up overall
-Lower and lower-middle classes cannot afford rent, many homeless
-Large price increase for staple foods and water
-Large purchasing power increase for skilled, little to no change in unskilled and semi-skilled

Right to Benefits of Scientific Progress and its Applications

-IT has not bridge the gap from private consumption to aid day-to-day life of Karnataka citizens
-Developments in health, communications, education in private sectors not transferred to public sectors and poorer populations

Other effects

-Better government transparency
-Knowledge gap for the poor not bridged
-Crime increased
-Breakdown of family social constructs

Social Inclusion

-Archaic social dividers (ex – caste) lessening in urban areas, some change in rural
-Same historical marginalized populations still excluded because of economic capacity
-Income gap widened

Conclusions:

  • Poor classes more socially marginalized than before IT boom.
  • Human development has not improved for lower Karnataka classes.
 Visthar  Bangalore Medical School  Temple  Temple2

Pictures: Visthar cafeteria, Bangalore Medical College, Temple in Krishnagiri, Temple in Mysore

Senegal – Summer 2009

During the summer of 2009, I spent 10 weeks in Senegal as a participant on an International Field Program (IFP) with my graduate program at the New School University. In total, seven students participated, and two of us were assigned work in the northeast city of Matam, which is situated just across the border of Mauritania. Senegal is divided into regions, similar to a state in the American system of government division. Each region is split into départements; the Region of Matam has three. The city of Matam is the capital of both the département and region of Matam.

Six of the seven students with the New School (including myself) were paired with a West African from the Université Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) of Dakar. In collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), my counterpart, Ngoné and I were to carry out a study to find the determinants of utilization of reproductive health services by Transhumants of the region of Matam, Senegal.

Transhumants are a semi-nomadic people who travel according to the rainy and dry seasons. Though their villages d’attaches (“permanent” village) are in the region of Matam, at the time of our study, they were mostly in the south of Senegal. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were unable to move to the southern part of Senegal to conduct interviews with transhumants in migration. We thus agreed to focus on NGO leaders who largely work with transhumants, and talk to transhumants who were unable to migrate that season.

Our findings included interviews with the following people:

– 14 individual interviews with development actors in Matam
– 3 individual interviews with development actors in the département  of Ranérou.
– 2 individual interviews with hamlet chiefs in Matam
– 2 individual interviews with community leaders in Ranérou
– 1 individual interview with the coordinator of RH in Ranérou
– 1 individual interview with a midwife of a health center in Ranérou
– 3 individual interviews with leaders of Health Posts in Youndouféré, Loumbol Samba Adoul, and Oudalaye.

FINDINGS SUMMARY

Changes to infrastructure and augmentation of medical personnel will not take effect in the foreseeable future. Matam should therefore focus on adjusting existing services to be more flexible to transhumants lifestyles.

– Health infrastructure does exist in Matam and Ranérou, however, in Ranérou, a lack of medical personnel and steady electricity inhibit proper usage.

– As livestock provide a large portion of income to transhumants, in order for transhumants to use health services, centers must not pose problems for transhumants livestock. For instance, a transhumant person is not likely to use a health center that does not have available drinking water and pasture land nearby.

– Transhumants migrate for half of the year. Many carry portable radios. Thus information dissemination of free health care services and health care center locations via community radio is an effective way to draw those in need of care.

– As most transhumants use livestock as currency, payment for reproductive health services is often a challenge. An alternate system of payment should thus be introduced to allow transhumants to use services in cases of emergency or when cash equivalents for livestock cannot be immediately obtained.

 [UNSET](63)   DSC00764_2  DSC00789  DSC00826

Photos: Statue along the Corniche in Dakar, midwife of Ranérou, transhumants riding oxcart in Matam, girls on my pickup soccer team and the Minister of Sports of Matam

France – September 2007 to April 2008

Work

As part of the national program with the “Instituts Universitaires de Formations des Maîtres,” I was awarded a seven month contract to teach English near Villefrance-sur Saône, France, and live in Lyon, France.

While there:

•Taught English to 13 primary school classes of 20-30 kids each
•Designed most in-class materials, including games, exercises, and grading
•Subjects included the colors, animals, grammar, mathematics vocabulary, basic American history, and pronunciation
•Found own apartment in Lyon, handled all administrative necessities, including opening a bank account and applying for residency card
•Commuted 1.5 hours on metro, train, and bus to reach schools

Tutoring

As cost of living in Lyon was very high, I decided to tutor adults who wanted to primarily work on business related vocabulary to better their job opportunities. Though I charged a relatively low rate (and in some cases accepted food for those who could not afford to pay), I delivered high quality lessons to my clients. Each session lasted one to two hours.

•Tutored eight adults once or twice a week (about 6-10 sessions per week) in Lyon
•Primary focus for most clients were business oriented subjects, including:
– Channels and logistics
– Free-trade versus protectionism
– Marketing research
– Sales negotiation
– Needs and wants
– Stock market

•Secondary subjects included advanced grammar, emotions, travel, directions, clothing, and pronunciation
•Designed all materials, including role plays, grammar exercises, pronunciation drills, and interactive media exercises using news videos, songs, and maps
•Received outstanding recommendations from all clients, and found replacement tutor to continue after I left Lyon

 ilovelyon  lyonbrodge  vieuxlyon  placebellecour

Togo – Summer 2007

My senior year of college, I ran a student organization called “The International Relations Organization at Virginia Tech,” or IROVT. In October 2006, I decided to partner IROVT with a Ph.D. student from Lomé, Togo to send a small student group to learn about microfinance processes of his organization, HELP Africa. After tireless promotion and campaigning, we secured four other Virginia Tech student participants and fundraised a few thousand dollars. One of the student participants also secured 20 donated CPUs, which we packaged and brought over to Lomé.

Summary of my experiences:

  • Surveyed HELP Africa operations
  • Set up small computer lab/library with donated books, donated computers, and computer monitors purchased at Lomé port. This included creating an expandable coding system for the materials, which was continued by Togolese students after I left.
  • Shadowed Togolese notary for one week to learn about legal system. In this time, I interviewed a Togolese judge and witnessed part of court hearing.
  • Traveled around north Togo for one week, saw traditional “La Lutte” fights (national sport of Togo)
 DSCN0589  Togo 091  100_0773  DSCN0585

Onlookers at a La Lutte Traditionelle match waiting for President of Togo ♦ Library of HELP Africa ♦ Sign outside of Lomé ♦ Village in central Togo