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A Note on Purpose

My mission in the Republic of Mozambique

semi-overcast 18 °C

Many people have emailed me saying, "Hey that was great! Wait, why are you in Africa?" In short, I'm glad you asked.

Over 39 million individuals are infected with HIV around the world. This virus has been extremely successful in its survival, adaptation and replication, and represents the most pressing public health and human development issue of the 21st century. Although the whole world is affected, certain populations are at an elevated risk for infection. The epidemic is concentrated in the black and gay communities in the United States, however the prevalence remains low due to heightened awareness. In places like Thailand, the epidemic has been linked heavily to the commercial sex trade. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS has evolved into a female-centered epidemic. I present below a few key statistics regarding the agent and data for human development of my home country with that of my current host country:

A Tale of Two Countries

USA (1,2)
Average per capita income (in US $) = $37,500
HIV prevalence (Men 15 to 49 years) = 0.24%
HIV prevalence (Women 15 to 49 years) = 0.08%
Life Expectancy (Men) = 74.8
Life Expectancy (Women) = 80.1
Human Development Index Rank = 13/177

Mozambique (3,4)
Average per capita income (in US $) = $1,246
HIV prevalence (Men 15 to 49 years) = 9.2%
HIV prevalence (Women 15 to 49 years) = 13.1%
Life Expectancy (Men) = 44.8
Life Expectancy (Women) = 48.6
Human Development Index Rank = 172/177

3“CMI Report: Gender Policies and Feminization of Poverty in Mozambique” (Tvedten, et al.)
4”INSIDA National Report”

I want to highlight two particularly striking statistics revealed by the above numbers. Mozambique has a much greater proportion of its population affected by HIV. Secondly, women represent almost 60% of new and chronic HIV infections within the country.

The strong patriarchical structure in Mozambique has been a major contributor to these disproportionate numbers. Women are not afforded the same educational opportunities and are often relegated to a lower social standing. Domestic violence is a frequent way to resolve disputes, and bride price has played a significant role in early childhood marriages. These practices not only hinder the advancement of women's rights, but deter the progress of the economy since women account for such a large portion of it. Therefore, the inequality of women acts as a social and economic deterrent for a nation. My mission is to reduce, and hopefully one day end, these disparities.

Before you start lauding the progressiveness of the United States, I would caution you to reconsider. A 2009 survey showed that women currently hold approximately 20% of the seats of the 535 seats within the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. In Mozambique, women hold 35% of the parliamentary positions. Therefore, the picture is much more complicated than it initially seems. Suffice it to say that gender issues persist in both cultures, albeit the way the disparities manifest are different.

The purpose of this passage is to provoke you to critically think about your social perceptions and how these biases propagate this inegalitarian way of thinking in our culture. Furthermore, how can you be an advocate for our mothers, sisters, and daughters in your community? We can all do things to ensure that equality is a part of our every day lives and that, before we look down on other cultures, we turn the critical lens on ourselves. This excerpt is meant to stand alone from the blog, but hey, I had to get your attention with that first entry, right? Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Posted by mbeymer 06:46

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