‘Bustling’ Hanoi

Just about everything I read about Hanoi before moving here described it as a ‘bustling’ city. How lively, I thought,  how exciting!

However, upon arrival I felt mildly deceived. It would seem that the word ‘bustling’ was used as the universal euphemism for complete chaos!

This chaos is the result of Hanoi’s traffic, which can be quite overwhelming. There is an endless stream of motorcycles, frequently honking at each other, and regularly disregarding traffic rules. During my morning commute to work, I feel quite certain the growing number of cars on the road exist purely to impede the flow of traffic and (selfishly) slow everybody else down. Continue reading

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Quick Trip to Kenya

Wow, it has been a busy, exciting, and fun week here in Nairobi, Kenya. It’s definitely a big change in scenery in comparison to the quiet country-life of Lira.

 

This week, I traveled 6 hours overnight to Kampala, Uganda, then 12 hours overnight to Nairobi, Kenya, by bus – quite the journey! Luckily, I was able to upgrade to “luxury” for both bus trips, which meant much more comfortable seats that recline and have a bit of foot room, making sleeping a bit easier despite the insanely bumpy highways. The trip was largely uneventful (a good thing when traveling in Africa), and, two days later I arrived in the bustling bus park in downtown Nairobi.

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Listen to the Lyrics

One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain- Trenchtown Rock, Bob Marley, 1971

(Now if only that were true…)

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Jamaica is known for its vast land of beauty, beaches and music. People love to dance regardless where they are- at the grocery stores, in the car, or walking down the street – specifically the genre of “dancehall”.  It is a cross between reggae and hip hop, with a dance music vibe. You learn dancehall at “street parties” that rotate around the communities. Signs go up on the poles all around the community announcing the location and time of the Jamaican street party. Massive sound systems are brought in with guest DJs, food is prepared (often soup and a barbeque). Then- everyone dances until the wee hours of the morning (until 5-7 am literally). Popular artists include Vybz Kartel, Beenie Man, Sizzla, etc. Although there is a craze, some of Jamaican dancehall has been bubbed “Murder Music” because it promotes violence towards the LGBT community. It differs from reggae because the social message it delivers is through anger and negativity.

Dancehall singers have taken a new level when singing about male homosexuality, as they use the street terms such as “MAUMA MAN, FASSY HOLE, PUSSYHOLE, BUGGER MAN, and the most commonly used, BATTY MAN and CHI CHI MAN (slang for vermin). For PRANCEhall_definition_DXwomen, they use SODOMITE, CH CHI GAL, LESBIAN. Singers defend themselves by saying it is a “spiritual fire” but Jamaican’s homophobia is partially explained as it is a society in which majority of the population live in extreme poverty, and in which religion and machismo are very prevalent.

Some of the homophobic popular songs that you may have listened to include:

  • Bun A Chi Chi Man (2001) – Hot Shot Crew
  • Bun A Fag (2000) – Demo Delgado
  • Bun a Sodomite (2004)-Spragga Benz
  • Batty Man Fi Dead (2004)- Beenie Man
  • Batty Bwoy Fi Dead (2005) – Vybz Kartel fest. Beenie Man

Human beings have always been afraid of the things they don’t understand- we are born different, with different attractions and different tastes. Unfortunately, common practices and beliefs in communities around the world refuse to accept homosexuality. In order to encourage a greater acceptance, we need to talk about the issue versus singing about promoting violence against these populations.

Jamaica has been dubbed as the most homophobic country in the world in 2012 by the Human Rights Watch. More and more in my position at the CVC am I learning about these stories. CVC works to address these issues in vulnerable populations for not only in Jamaica but the Caribbean Region. I asked my colleagues- what country do you think needs the most work? What country has the most to overcome? Jamaica was the answer. The ideology behind homosexuality is not something that the locals fathom. The Government refusal to abolish laws which condone discrimination against homosexuality does not help the situation. Although there are strong organizations and campaigns such as the J-FLAG/CVC “We are Jamaicans” in 2013/2014 with testimonials to counter homophobia with community building, story-telling and safe visibility (http://www.soulrebels.org/dancehall/v_article_066.pdf) , it has not done enough on a whole to change the mindset of individuals and prepare them for a discussion.

Homophobia is entrenched in the island’s culture due to its past colonialism history from the old British law from the 19th century- “Whoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery, committed with either mankind or an animal, shall be liable to be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for a term not exceeding 10 years”. If I traffic drugs, I get three years. If I have anal sex, I get ten years of hard labor. All it takes is a phone call from a neighbour. These lyrics that incite attacks on the LGBT community raise the tangled relationship between homophobia and the legacy of colonialism.

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I don’t condemn dancehall music as there are some great songs and great singers that I personally listen to. I love the art, I love the rhythm it brings -but LISTEN TO THE LYRICS before you claim it to be your favourite song. Be aware of what they mean. Dancehall is listened to children and teenagers who are influenced by the lyrics. The DJs in the Caribbean and elsewhere must understand their responsibility of sharing their art. The promotion of violence should not be accepted in any song, any method. Several concerts across North America and Europe were cancelled due to LGBT organizations lobbying for change which has pushed notable artists such as Beenie Man, Sizzla, Capleton, and Buju Banton to sign the “Reggae Compassionate Act” which states they will no longer perform or write songs that discriminate gays and lesbians. This push for Jamaican artists to uplift the situation is a step that needs to be taken in the music sector. Big Youth, a reggae artist states

Music is very powerful and I use it to get my message across by singing about togetherness love, not boy-girl love. In the record business, Rasta couldn’t get a foot in, with a sound system, Rasta could run their own. A lot of these deejays nowadays, they need to research and see where the music is coming from. What some of them are singing, they are not teaching the people to come together to live and love, some people disrespecting women, and promoting guns, hating gays and that’s not reggae music. They need to clean up their acts, realize music has no barriers, it has no language divide. It should bring people together, have all different sounds, suit all different mood, be for all people.

Murder inna Dancehall. Retrieved from http://www.soulrebels.org.

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First Blog Post! Better Late Than Never, Right?

Hello from Jamaica! Since this is my first blog post (I know we are now half-way through the internship, but I’ve been busy!), let me take a minute to introduce myself. My name is Christine Kinoshita. I am 22 years old and from Toronto. I have a Bachelor of Arts in International Development from McGill University. Lastly and most importantly, I have now been living in Kingston, Jamaica for the past three months. What a crazy three months it has been! Where to begin…

I work for an organization called J-FLAG, which stands for Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays. Although it presents and is perceived as an organization centred on human rights advocacy and the fight for equality, it is so much more than those grandiose abstract concepts. Its projects are extensive and span the fields of education, HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, gender-based violence, women’s rights, transgender rights, human rights policy, youth empowerment, sexual and reproductive health… the list goes on and on. J-FLAG has a passionate, extremely hard-working and dedicated staff who have devoted their lives to the fight for positive change and development in all of these areas in Jamaica.

Since my arrival, I have been able to assist on many projects. As we are nearing the end of the year, the past month has been especially busy and exciting. Two weeks in particular stand out to me, as it is very likely that they will be two of the most memorable weeks of my whole internship. It seems as though I have already told many family members and friends about them, so I figured I would share them here.

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Halfway! And the exciting part is starting to begin!

As I near the halfway point of my internship I find myself very excited to begin the second half. I am not sure if I am more excited to have some time off for the Christmas break, or begin to roll out a large study I have been helping to prepare. The main purpose of the study is to estimate the size of populations with a high risk of contracting HIV (defined in this study as gay, trans or men who have sex with men and sex workers). We will also be gathering information on the behaviours of the populations and performing integrated mapping to identify hotspots in the countries being studied.

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Project Development: Setting up a Shelter for Sex Workers in Lira

I am just about half way through my contract here in Lira, Uganda with lots of exciting projects on the go! It’s been busy busy busy to say the least, which is great because it is making the time fly by, but also not so great because it is making the time fly by. It is hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner, especially with the 35° weather and flowers in bloom.

In this blog, I wanted to talk briefly about one project in particular that I, along with my co-intern, Aleksandra, and local programs coordinator, Lawrence, have been working on over the past few months. The project title is a bit lengthy, but sums it up: “Decreasing Vulnerability of Young Girls and Women in Lira District, Northern Uganda through Home of Hope Transitional Shelter and Training Centre”. Basically, we want to use the CAP AIDS – Uganda Building (aka Home of Hope), which is currently about seventy percent complete, as a safe space for sex workers to come and try to change their lives from one on the streets to an independent, healthy, safe, and economically-independent one. The project will also include an educational aspect for sex workers in Lira, where monthly health education sessions will be held for the vulnerable girls and women working on the streets.

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What are my rights as a student?

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I attended an informative and educational Youth Forum on the Rights of Students in the Education System in Jamaica where discussions about uniformity, decorum, religion, comprehensive sexuality education, age of consent and much more were held. This event was organized by the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network and JAYECAN with support from UNDEF.

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Why Do We Treat HIV Differently?

HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus; a virus that invades the human body’s T-cells, weakening the immune system.

This tiny virus is about 60 times smaller than a red blood cell, yet globally, billions of dollars are spent each year to try and fight it.

While we often know the name, and know that countries are actively fighting against HIV, we often forget about the reality of persons living with HIV (PLHIV). Why do we treat HIV, and the people affected by it, differently than any other disease or illness?

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Choosing a Micro-Project

Hello from Lira Uganda!

Everything has been going really well here and things are definitely picking up speed. It is getting busier and busier as work projects pick up and life in Lira becomes more settled.

One of these work projects that I am really excited about is the “micro-project”. This aspect of the CAP Network internship was one of the main reasons I wanted to come and work in Lira in the first place. It is a really neat opportunity, where each intern is given a budget of $1000 to work with a local Community Based Organization (CBO) to develop and implement a project from start to finish. The main reason that this opportunity is so appealing is because it is a chance to be centrally involved in all aspects of a project, from the needs assessment at the start, to actually implementing the project on the ground, and finally, to monitoring and evaluating the results/impact of the project. Basically, a really great learning experience!

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All for one and one for all!

Community /kəˈmjuːnɪti/ – The people of a district or country considered collectively, especially in the context of social values and responsibilities. A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

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