Meet the only woman running a tent city in Haiti for survivors of earthquake. Can she stop the sexual violence?
PORT-AU-PRINCE - Magaline Richard is sporting an orange dress and a pair of cheap, colorful earrings. Her look is less proud than hardened. An icy stare borders on expressionless, forged by the hard luck that life has brought -- and from her current job.
Magaline Richard's work does not allow admitting weakness, and offers no space for mistakes or concessions. She is the head of a tent city, the on-the-ground authority governing the interaction between the 3,000 people (half of whom are children) forced by last January's earthquake to live together in this makeshift camp. With 650 families in tight quarters, her job is largely about preventing the situation from degenerating into violence and anarchy.
We arrive aboard a pick-up truck under a bright sun, with children playing in the dust and a morning mass underway inside a white tent with the UNICEF insignia. Next to Magaline stands a tall, stern-eyed man dressed in dark pants and blue t-shirt who is the official head of security, her right-hand man.
Since the Jan. 12 quake that killed 230,000 and left some one million homeless, thousands of these impromptu "cities' have spawned across Haiti, from Port-au-Prince down to the southern countryside. Each one has a boss, a sort of "mayor."
Magaline, a widow and mother of a boy, is the only woman in Haiti to run a major refugee camp. Why Marasà 14 K1, the name of this particular camp, chose her as its head no one seems able to explain. But it is a choice that rose up from the people who live there, certainly not imposed from above by a central public authority, which has basically become invisible.
At Marasà K1, on the whole, everything seems to run well enough, with an acceptable level of order and decorum and cleanliness – better than average among the tent cities that we visited.
Magaline denies the widespread reports of sexual abuse and violence, one of the scourges that afflict the tent cities and shantytowns in post-quake Haiti. Her insistence that there is no such violence in her camp raises more than a bit of suspicion, but her proud denials have the air of: Here, I protect the women.
Matter-of-factly, instead, she confirms that there were 25 cases of cholera, and gestures toward the same single stream nearby where everybody goes to wash. The risk of further spread of cholera is a top preoccupation.
One clear wish Magaline has is that all the camp's children attend the local school, called "Angels of Light," a refuge from the harsh realities of the camp, which she rattles off with her perpetually serious expression: lack of medicine, disease, food shortages.
When the volunteers arrive with trucks of rice and other supplies, Magaline manages the distribution. Outside her tent, at the entrance to Marasà 14 K1, Magaline convenes a meeting with the heads of each household and distributes the family rations coupons. This, above all, is how order is kept.
In the evening, the perimeter of the camp is patrolled by security guards meant to ensure that no one enters and threaten the women and girls, for after sunset gunmen are still known to prowl nearby. Looking at the numbers, it is impossible to deny the gravity of the problem of sexual abuse. It continues to get worse according to a report released recently by Amnesty International, which estimated that in the first 150 days after the earthquake there were over 250 cases of rape reported. A year later, the office of a local support group for women says that nearly every day someone comes in to report a rape.
"These women already have the pain of having lost their loved ones, their homes and belongings to the earthquake," said Amnesty International's Gerardo Ducos. "On top of that, they have the further trauma of living under the constant threat of sexual violence."
Read the original article in Italian
'Xi Jinping Thought' ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.
BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.
The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.
Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."
Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!
Communist curriculum replaces global subjects
This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.
Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.
But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?
The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.
Targeting pop culture
The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.
What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.
A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.
Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.
Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.
"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."
Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.
Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.
From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."
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