Pulitzer Center Update

This Week: From Malawi to Scotland

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Image by Lusha Chen. Burma, 2013.

“She went back to her village and decided to live as if nothing had happened. Four years later, she was married. She said her husband didn't know anything about her past and she will always keep that a secret.” Lusha Chen, Boston University’s student fellow, was speaking of a Burmese woman who had escaped after she was sold to a Chinese bachelor. Last Friday Lusha showed a clip from her film on human trafficking in Burma to a group of BU students, many of them prospective applicants for the Pulitzer Center fellowship. She was joined by Kerstin Egenhoffer from BU’s School of Public Health, who had traveled to Malawi to report on a form of poverty alleviation using cash transfers—grants with no strings attached. Cutting out the middleman works—but selecting the recipients isn’t always an easy process.

Lusha and Kerstin were two of the 21 student fellows from our partner universities who received international reporting fellowships. What follows is a glimpse at some of their work:

Women’s Rights and Water Rights

Varsha Ramakrishnan, from Johns Hopkins, traveled to India to report on “dowry violence,” perpetrated by husbands on their wives in an attempt to extort higher payments. George Washington University’s Eleanor Klibanoff reports on the effects of strict abortion laws in El Salvador and Nicaragua. Melisa Goss from South Dakota State University looks at human trafficking, the sex trade and tourism in Cambodia—Lauren Wilks, our Amnesty International student fellow, deals with the same issue in a story on brothel raids in Rio.

Linda Qiu from the University of Chicago chose to write on water issues: “In Botswana, diamonds aren't forever. And neither is the supply of groundwater.” Nick Swyter from the University of Miami investigates the effects of a proposed dam on the Ngabe indigenous people in Panama. Steve Matzker and Jennifer Gonzalez, from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, show how visions of hydropower can threaten a way of life in Nepal.

Health and Sanitation

Jon Cox, the student fellow from Davidson College, reported from India on affordable healthcare. In investigating both public and private hospitals he asked, “Why is aid failing to reach those who need it most?” University of Pennsylvania student fellow Luke Messac examined the inter-connectedness of currency devaluation, user fees, and the quality of healthcare in Malawi. He also touched on the difficulties faced by doctors there: As one clinician puts it, “The books do not describe how long the ambulance will take.” Diksha Bali, also from the University of Pennsylvania, looked at stolen trash bins, open defecation, political power plays, and waste management in Ghana.

Struggling Farmers and Student Protesters

Kassondra Cloos and Rachel Southmayd from Elon University studied the success of a cooperative organic farm in Cuba. Davidson College’s Adrian Fadil has started a project on sustainable farming in Palestine and the budding fair trade olive oil industry.

Two student fellows traveled to South America to follow the student protests for “education as a citizen’s right”— Loyola University Chicago’s Shirley Coenen in Chile and Wake Forest’s Jawad Wahabzada in Brazil. “There is the education that the wealthy receive and then there is the education that poor people receive – they are two completely different educations,” a Chilean university dean explained.

From the U.K.

High Point University's Henry Molski looked into separation anxiety as he interviewed Scots on their views on independence—a year before the upcoming referendum. Cate Schurz, from Guilford College, questioned whether justice was served or jeopardized in the case of the Stephen Lawrence murder in Britain—a story pitting together racial tension and technological advances. Reporting on peace walls in Belfast that separate Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods, Devon Marie Smith from Westchester Community College interviews those who want to keep them up and others ready to tear them down.

Thanks to all the student fellows for the great reporting. We’ll spotlight more of their stories in the weeks to come.