Monday, 9 April 2012

News Report: Mr Gay World Comes To Africa

Ethiopia's Robel Hailu: Mr. Gay World Contestant: Photo Credit: AP
Credit: Associated Press

Gay World contest, his father cut off all communications. Mr. Gay Zimbabwe withdrew, fearing the publicity was making life difficult for his mother.

But Mr. Gay Namibia's family accompanied him to the airport for a warm send-off when he left for the competition, which culminated for him and 21 other men late Sunday in the finals at a Johannesburg casino.
"Bring the trophy home," Namibia's Wendelinus Hamutenya said his mother told him.

In the end, New Zealand's Andreas Derleth, a 32-year-old manager for a chain of stationery stores, was named Mr. Gay World. A disappointed Hamutenya said he would nonetheless return to Namibia to fight "for gay rights and human rights."

Hamutenya said his experience shows that Africans and Africa can change. On the continent, gay rights activists have been vilified, threatened and killed. Laws in dozens of African countries ban homosexual acts. Prominent African politicians ridicule gays and minor politicians grab headlines by proposing even tougher anti-gay laws.

"I hope and I believe that Namibia will be the second country in Africa to recognize the rights" of gays, Hamutenya said in an interview. The first country is South Africa, also the first African country to host Mr. Gay World, which debuted in 2009 in Canada. The bill of rights adopted after apartheid ended in South Africa in 1994 explicitly bans discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Same-sex couples can marry and adopt children in South Africa.

Teboha Maitse, acting chairman of South Africa's Commission for Gender Equality, said she fought white racist rule alongside openly gay comrades, and that experience made her and others aware of the need to enact legal protections for gays. But she said when she travels farther north, "people say, 'You South Africans, you don't behave like Africans.'"

Maitse, whose government-appointed commission regularly speaks out in support of gay and lesbian rights, acknowledged in an interview that even in South Africa gays, lesbians and others who don't fit a traditional definition of the sexual norm do face discrimination and worse.

Of particular concern in recent years have been attacks on lesbians sometimes called "corrective rapes." Maitse said gay men often suffer in silence, sometimes committing suicide to escape taunts. She said poor, black gays and lesbians are particularly vulnerable because the communities in which they live are conservative.

South Africa's Mr. Gay World contestant, Lance Weyer, is white. Weyer, a psychologist who recently won office on a city council in southeastern South Africa, said gays like him have the education and money to fight back when their rights are violated. That makes it all the more important, he said, for successful gays and lesbians to speak out, both to be role models for others and to shake up conservative attitudes. Weyer was named first runner up Sunday. Neither of the black African contestants made it to the final 10.

"We look for the best man, whether he's white or black or any other color," said Tore Aasheim, one of the Mr. Gay World organizers, adding he hoped more contestants from Africa would participate in future contests.

It isn't just African gays who face difficulties. The Chinese contestant was unable to come to Johannesburg because of anti-gay pressure there, organizers said. Representation was thin from Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East — all regions where gay rights are under threat.

In the United States, projects like It Gets Better reach out to young homosexual to help them cope with harassment, a reminder that even in the West, gays are vulnerable. The American Mr. Gay World contestant, Kevin Scott Power, is an elementary school teacher who said even young children experience anti-gay bullying. Power, who finished fourth on Sunday, said he was not nervous at coming to Africa, despite its homophobic reputation.

"We're all representing the people that don't have the power to stand up," Power told reporters in Johannesburg.

Coenie Kukkuk, Africa's director for Mr. Gay World, said the contest produces a spokesman and role model for gays, particularly in Africa. Previous winners of the contest have gone to schools and universities to speak out about human rights. Prizes include $25,000 in travel vouchers to enable the winner to spread his message around the world.

Kukkuk said he has struggled to get more black South African and other African contestants. Mr. Namibia's story helps illustrate why that has been difficult, but also gives reason for hope.

Hamutenya, who herded cows as a young boy in remote northern Namibian, realized when he was in his teens that he was attracted to men. He confided to his father when he was 16. His father called the police and had them take his son to a mental hospital.

Hamutenya escaped from the institution and lived with friends. Eventually, he and his father reconciled. Hamutenya went on to study nursing in South Africa, and returned to work as a midwife in his home region.

Hamutenya said villagers respect him because of his work, and because his family is prominent and known for its piety. Hamutenya himself once considered becoming a priest.

Since becoming Mr. Gay Namibia, Hamutenya has lobbied for a repeal of his country's anti-sodomy law. And he says politicians have been receptive to his arguments.

Hamutenya was badly beaten in Windhoek, Namibia's capital, after winning the Mr. Gay Namibia contest last year. He believes the attack was a mugging, not a hate crime.

Organizer Kukkuk insisted that Mr. Gay World is not a beauty pageant.

Mr. Gay World includes an essay test on the history of the gay rights movement. But the swim suit competition counts for more, according to the judges' handbook. The seven judges are from around the world and include journalists and an actor.

Cary Alan Johnson, executive director of the New York-based International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, worries such glitzy contests feed stereotypes that could cement the view, often heard in Africa, that homosexuality is un-African.

"Most of us are of color, poor, don't look like we go to the gym regularly," Johnson said in a telephone interview. "Class does matter. It is poor men who experience the most oppression."

He gave Mr. Gay World credit for drawing attention to discrimination against gays, particularly in Africa. But Johnson said that during a recent visit to Johannesburg, he was dismayed to find the advertising featured two white men — the South Africans who won Mr. Gay World in 2011 and 2010.

"The one thing they ought to do is change that poster," Johnson said. "Have one black guy up there with no shirt on. Cater to a diverse audience."

News Report: The World Federation of Trade Unions Pledges Support For Nigerian Workers

The World Federation Of Trade Unions(WFTU) has pledged to support Nigerian workers to fight anti-Labour policies of the Nigerian government and the private sector employers.

Alexandra Libeli, head of communication of the World Trade Unions body made this pledge while addressing Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) leaders and leaders of  the informal sector workers in Lagos.

“The WFTU established in 1945 is out to reaffirmed its position on campaigning against imperialism, racism, poverty, environmental degradation and exploitation of workers under capitalism and in defense of full employment, social security, health protection, and trade union rights by governments all over the world. We declared our support to the workers in Nigeria on ways to fight against Federal Government anti-labour policies that would add more to the suffering of workers in Nigeria and this was demonstrated during the fuel strike in January 2012", The WFTU communication chief stated.

 “During the fuel strike crisis in Nigeria, WFTU, on behalf of its 82 million members from 120 countries, denounced the decision of the Nigerian government to end the fuel subsidy for the people which will bring about further increase in the price of petrol in addition to the existing living conditions of the Nigerian people, the poverty and the high prices for the daily essentials that are already a huge burden for the popular family”, 
She reiterated.

Libeli expressed regret that Nigeria, the biggest Oil and Gas producer in sub-saharan Africa is being exploited by Oil and Gas majors while the populace live in abject poverty.

”As part of our efforts to advance our international agenda, the WFTU develops working partnerships with national and industrial trade unions worldwide as well as with a number of international and regional trade union organizations. We express our support to our brothers, the working people of Nigeria and we express our internationalist solidarity to the strikes and their struggles by demanding that the government of Nigeria immediately address its anti-labour policies,” she promised.

Article: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Is The Right Choice For The World Bank By Maha Atal (Forbes Contributor)

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Culled From:

Last spring, when the International Monetary Fund began its search for a new Managing Director, I argued that the Fund should pass over Christine Lagarde – then French finance minister – for a candidate from the developing world. As it happened, developing countries failed to rally around a strong candidate in time, and Lagarde handily won the gig. And, as I reported in August, she set about shifting the Fund in a rightward direction, echoing the clarion call for ‘fiscal consolidation,’ otherwise known as austerity, coming from wealthy European states. A shame, but hardly a surprise.

Almost a year later, the World Bank faces its own leadership crossroads. Historically, the Bank’s top job has gone to whichever Yank the U.S. government puts forward, usually in an uncontested race. But this time is different, not simply because Washington‘s nominee, Jim Yong Kim, faces two serious opponents, but because those opponents have more experience in international economics and finance than he does. As the Economist put it, “Had Mr Obama not nominated him, [Kim] would be on no one’s shortlist to lead the World Bank.”

That’s not to say that Kim’s record lacks bright spots: he’s the co-founder of Partners in Health, a great medical charity, and a public health expert who ran the HIV/AIDS program at the World Health Organization. These are important causes, but the World Bank is not a health charity. Indeed, last year, the Bank spent just 15% of its funds on health and other social services.

Most of the Bank’s work (over 50% in 2011) involves institutional reforms: helping countries gain access to global markets, attract foreign investment, regain control in the face of runaway inflation or ballooning debt and rebuild infrastructure after natural disasters or conflict. Running the Bank requires experience with international finance, macroeconomic policy and global political minefields. The only candidate of the three with those qualifications is Nigeria’s finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

By far the most important reason to appoint Okonjo-Iweala is that she has experience on both sides of the table in the international lending negotiations that are the bread and butter of the Bank’s work. As an economist who rose to be the Bank’s Managing Director, she oversaw its lending from 2007 to 2011, helping shepherd it through the global financial crisis. As Nigeria’s finance minister between 2003 and 2006, she represented her government in debt relief negotiations with Paris Club donors, succeeding in reducing the country’s debt burden from $30 billion t0 $12 billion. That remains the only time the Paris Club has allowed a debtor nation to buy back its debt below par.

What’s critical about the experience is that Okonjo-Iweala understood what it meant to face a debt burden that was so beyond repayment as to be punitive, and she worked to have it reduced. But she also understood that the single case of Nigeria didn’t negate the merits of international development lending and she went back to the Bank to provide critical funding to other nations.

She therefore embodies the argument that the Bank desperately needs to make if it is to regain its legitimacy in the developing world: that aid and development lending are powerful forces for good, so long as they are delivered justly. Appointing her turns control of the Bank over to those it serves while re-affiriming the Bank’s underlying mission.

I don’t believe her record to be perfect: for all the plaudits for her corruption crackdown as finance minister under President Olusegun Obesanjo, plenty of reports – including my own from 2009 – have shown that cronyism remained alive and well in Obesanjo’s Nigeria.

I also don’t buy the argument made by Jagdish Bhagwati at Project Syndicate that a victory for Okonjo-Iweala over Kim is a victory for an orthodox, free-market approach to growth at the expense of community-based micro-development. I have always found this debate in the development community – about the merits of trade vs. aid vs. social enterprise – to be a false one. The poor need all three, in different proportions depending where they are and what challenges they face. But the World Bank is not a community organization; it’s a development bank, and it needs a leader who knows development banking. That leader is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.