Month: July 2012

The Importance of Language

I’ve always had a real desire to learn other languages, and I think I have a pretty good knack for it when I actually get into intensive study. Over the course of my schooling, I’ve studied French (the most), Spanish, and Portuguese (while abroad). The only language I’ve really managed to retain is Portuguese given that it’s the only language that I had to learn in the context of actually living and not just with conjugation tables in a classroom. I can still read French and Spanish pretty well, and if spoken slowly I can somewhat understand, but any attempt to speak it will come out as Portuñol or Françagese (or whatever you wanna call it) Anyway, this summer, which hasn’t even ended yet, has really emphasized to me the importance of language. How powerful language is. While in Taiwan I couldn’t even pretend to read, speak, or understand ANY mandarin, but still managed to get by on nonverbal communication or very broken English. That exercise by itself was such a lesson—how to break down your …

Happy 94th Birthday, Madiba!

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918. His father was Hendry Mphakanyiswa of the Tembu Tribe. Mandela himself was educated at University College of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand where he studied law. He joined the African National Congress in 1944 and was engaged in resistance against the ruling National Party’s apartheid policies after 1948. He went on trial for treason in 1956-1961 and was acquitted in 1961. After the banning of the ANC in 1960, Nelson Mandela argued for the setting up of a military wing within the ANC. In June 1961, the ANC executive considered his proposal on the use of violent tactics and agreed that those members who wished to involve themselves in Mandela’s campaign would not be stopped from doing so by the ANC. This led to the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe. Mandela was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment with hard labour. In 1963, when many fellow leaders of the ANC and the Umkhonto we Sizwe were arrested, Mandela …

Amandla! Ngawethu!

This has been a resounding cry for the last 3 weeks as I’ve participated in the International People’s Health University (IPHU), the South African National Health Assembly (NHA), and the Third People’s Health Assembly (PHA3), all here in Cape Town. The phrase means: Power to us! And it is shouted as if it were a mandate from God himself, with incredible fervor and passion. All three of these consecutive events have been incredible. I don’t think I quite understood the significance of everything I was attending until I was nearing the end of them all. Especially, the IPHU. It almost (almost) makes me wish I’d put more effort into it, although in reality I was overwhelmed with the cold, the travel out to Belville everyday, and sitting all day long while trying to prepare for the NHA and do my own coursework (which is still being neglected, HA!) But all three conferences were simply beautiful. They really reframed the way that I think about health: the fundamental human right to health, what health means, what …

Global v. Domestic

This has become an ongoing debate just within my own department within the school of public health. The conversation always goes as such, “What do you want to do when you graduate?” “Well, I’m not sure yet?” “Well do you want to work global or domestic?” o_o *blinks* My answer is always both, but its never a satisfactory answer for an advisor, who really doesn’t have time to actually do the job of advising you about what you should do with your class schedule, let alone your career. But it’s a real hot debate? How can you go work for people thousands of miles away when there are people with real issues, who are being neglected, aren’t receiving aid, and don’t fall into groups that are “sexy” (i.e. orphaned children living with HIV in Subsaharan Africa, or starving babies in indigenous communities in the mountains of Peru) that live right down the street. Why don’t you help them??? Or conversely, It’s your duty to extend the resources you were privileged to receive by spending time …

Mobilizing for Health for All

You can’t have accountability if you don’t have a standard, therefore campaign to entrench concrete obligations and enforcement mechanisms for the right health in international law through a framework agreement for the right to health

Mark Heywood (Section 27, SA) during a plenary session on “Beyond the Current Crisis: Mobilizing for Health for All”