Wednesday, September 09, 2015

"A Path Appears": Episode 3 visits one of Africa's biggest slums ("Violence and Solutions")

Episode 3, “Violence and Solutions”, of “A Path Appears”, based on the book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WeDunn, visits two locations:  Atlanta, and Kibera, Kenya.

In Atlanta, Nicholas Kristof and Regina Hall visit the Women’s Resource Center, to meet with Ayonna Johnson, and learn how the legal system creates hurdles for women to escape from domestic violence. A psychologist and educator, Sulaiman Nurridin, representing Men Stopping Violence, works with the male abusers.  This is a problem that happens in every community, but Atlanta (the home of CNN) gets a lot of attention these days in the media for its big-city social problems, even while having many areas of very affluent African-American homeowners. The last time I was landing in a plane there (in 2014) myself, a woman in the next seat pointed to the north, to Marietta, where the Braves baseball team will build an unnecessary new stadium, away from the city and mass transit. You can see into the current system and games in progress while driving down I-75.

But the most interesting part of the film happens in Kibera, Kenya, a “suburb” near Nairobi, and one of the largest slums in Africa (even allowing for apartheid South Africa). There are no utilities, and residents make desperate attempts to divert clean water intended for wealthier areas. Trash and squalor abound everywhere, and the film has many “landscape” and intimate street scenes showing “what it is like”. The weather is cloudy and drizzly, and journalists wear raingear, in a warm climate (but the elevation is about 6000 feet).  Mia Farrow joins, along with her young adult son Ronan Farrow, now building a career as a journalist. The star of the episode is Kennedy Odede, who had won a scholarship for education in the US but returned after getting his degree.  He is married to Jessica Posner Odede, who helps run the “blue-box” Kibera School for Girls. The latter part of this section concerns the abuse of a 4-year-old girl, who turns out to be a 12-year-old boy.
About ten years ago, a young gay male couple, one of whom attends a local Presbyterian church, went to Kenya on a mission.  They had to keep their relationship secret while there but did not encounter problems.

However, we all know the violence in the country, with the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. On the other hand, Prince William of England had vacationed there with Kate well before their marriage, so the rich “play” there on safaris, with little interaction with the people. Next door, Uganda has a horrible record on gay rights (more publicly reported than Kenya’s).

It is difficult for “privileged” young adults to go to countries like this and work there (for mining or oil companies, or for charity groups).  This may become a as big a challenge – in the context of maybe a national service initiative in the future – as conventional military service and deployment (in a world where we no longer have a draft).

I personally don’t connect to “women’s issues” as something apart from everything else – poverty itself and general economic inequality is much bigger (as well as “inequality of opportunity” as in episode 2). I also don’t react immediately to problems caused by “other people’s crimes” – but when things come one’s way, at some point one has to “step up.”

Bill Clinton and Susan Sarandon comment at the end of the episode (as George Clooney does so at the beginning).
Wikipedia attribution link for photo of Kibera by Screibkraft (Germany), under Creative Commons Share-Alike 3.0 License   First picture – Atlanta gay pride parade in 2004, personal trip.


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