Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

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Showing posts for "South Asia"

Missing Pieces: Education and Health in Pakistan, Poverty in Haiti, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child during a nationwide drive against the disease in a hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan, August 8, 2007 (Faisal Mahmood/Courtesy Reuters). A health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child during a nationwide drive against the disease in a hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan, August 8, 2007 (Faisal Mahmood/Courtesy Reuters).
In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow reviews two scholarly works, as well as news on Haiti and a range of development innovations. Enjoy the reading and the holiday weekend.
  • Education and Health in Pakistan: While better educated parents are known to raise healthier children, the role of each parent and the exact reasons for the correlation remain unclear. A study in World Development seeks to clarify the issue. Using a survey of almost 1,200 households in two provinces of Pakistan, the authors find that a mother’s level of schooling significantly affects children’s height and weight. However, only a father’s education impacts immunization. The authors speculate that fathers may guide certain health behaviors, “particularly if they require travel to a health clinic,” while mothers govern “day-to-day decisions” that affect “longer-term measures of health such as height and weight.” But it is not parents’ “education per se” that drives better child health. Instead, the authors find that immunization responds to fathers’ health knowledge (rather than overall schooling). Mothers’ impact on height and weight, meanwhile, seems driven by their health knowledge and “empowerment within the home.” Based on these findings, the authors write that “policies aimed at achieving better health awareness and knowledge” might give Pakistan the biggest development boost. Read more »

Taliban Atrocities and Afghanistan’s Future

by Isobel Coleman
Afghan police and locals gather at the site of a bomb blast in Kandahar province on August 28, 2012 (Ahmad Nadeem/Courtesy Reuters). Afghan police and locals gather at the site of a bomb blast in Kandahar province on August 28, 2012 (Ahmad Nadeem/Courtesy Reuters).

This has been a particularly grisly week in Afghanistan. On Sunday night, Taliban insurgents in the conservative southern province of Helmand beheaded seventeen people—fifteen men and two women—who were attending a party that involved music and mixed-gender dancing. The killings were so gruesome that the central Taliban leadership is denying its involvement in the atrocity, claiming local leaders in the area knew nothing about the attack. Read more »

Missing Pieces: India’s Blackout, Kagame’s Fortunes, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Vegetable vendors wait for customers at their stall during a power-cut in Kolkata, India, July 31, 2012 (Rupak de Chowdhuri/Courtesy Reuters). Vegetable vendors wait for customers at their stall during a power-cut in Kolkata, India, July 31, 2012 (Rupak de Chowdhuri/Courtesy Reuters).
In this installment of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow covers stories from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Enjoy the post and the weekend.
  • India’s Blackout: India’s late-July blackout, which cut power to more than 600 million, has prompted a flood of analysis. A Businessweek piece notes that “blackouts are everyday occurrences,” partly because India lacks enough coal for its new power plants. A CNN post cites artificially low electricity rates, maintained by politicians in search of votes, as a root cause of the crisis. A Washington Post article says that even when an electricity connection exists, “the poor can’t afford to enjoy it.” Power flows are spotty, bureaucracy thick, and bribe demands legion. On ForeignAffairs.com, two authors argue that a history of state—not national—control over electricity grids has much to do with the crisis. Finally, the Economist concludes that “India’s great blackout is a consequence of rotten governance. Voters need to understand that, and deliver the country’s political class a different kind of electric shock.” Read more »

Missing Pieces: India’s Uncertainty, Aid and Growth, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (C) speaks with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee (L), as Chief of India's ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi watches, during a function held on the completion of the government's three years in office in New Delhi, May 22, 2012 (B. Mathur/Courtesy Reuters). Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (C) speaks with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee (L), as Chief of India's ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi watches, during a function held on the completion of the government's three years in office in New Delhi, May 22, 2012 (B. Mathur/Courtesy Reuters).
Charles Landow covers news from India and Pakistan, as well as work on state failure and the effects of aid, in this installment of Missing Pieces. Enjoy the selection as always.
  • India’s Uncertainty: Is India, the emerging giant whose GDP growth topped 10 percent in 2010, on the ropes? An article by Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the July/August Foreign Affairs says it is. Growth is down while the deficit and inflation are up. “Plans to build a more inclusive nation are in disarray,” with inequality on the rise. Part of the problem is simply overheated expectations, Mehta says. But he largely blames India’s politics. Opaque policymaking, coddling of big businesses at the expense of small ones, inefficiency, and corruption scandals have eroded leaders’ authority. The governing Congress party “is out of touch with grass-roots movements and demands.” And today’s officials must operate under unprecedented scrutiny. But Mehta’s conclusion is upbeat: “Indian politicians have shown a remarkable capacity for reinvention.” Read more »

Sakena Yacoobi’s Courage and the Future of Afghan Women

by Isobel Coleman
Afghan students study in a makeshift classroom in tents provided by UNICEF at the Afghan government-funded Babazangi school compound in Herat, Afghanistan on September 20, 2010 (Raheb Homavandi/Courtesy Reuters). Afghan students study in a makeshift classroom in tents provided by UNICEF at the Afghan government-funded Babazangi school compound in Herat, Afghanistan on September 20, 2010 (Raheb Homavandi/Courtesy Reuters).

It’s good to have heroes. One of mine is Sakena Yacoobi, the founder of a terrific organization called the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) that provides education and health services to women across Afghanistan. I first met Sakena nearly a decade ago, and have followed her work closely since then. I’ve visited several of AIL’s programs in Afghanistan and wrote about her and her work in my book Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women are Transforming the Middle East. Read more »

Media For Afghan Women’s Rights

by Isobel Coleman
An Afghan family sits on a hill overlooking part of Kabul on May 7, 2012 (Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters). An Afghan family sits on a hill overlooking part of Kabul on May 7, 2012 (Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters).

Earlier this week, as NATO leaders at the summit in Chicago pondered Afghanistan’s future, a group of worried Afghan and American women met on the sidelines to discuss strategies for protecting the fragile gains that Afghan women have achieved in the past decade. They are right to be concerned. As Western powers reduce their presence in Afghanistan over the next two years, the Taliban will undoubtedly attempt to reassert their harsh control in Kabul and the north and west of the country where women have made the most gains. Girls’ education will likely continue to be a troubling battlefield. Increased access to education for girls is one of the few bright spots since the overthrow of the Taliban. In 2001, less than 3 percent of girls attended school while today more than 40 percent do. However, Taliban attacks against girls’ schools and teachers occur with alarming frequency. Just in the past month, the Taliban poisoned hundreds of schoolgirls and several teachers in two attacks in a northern province. One attack used powder to contaminate the air in classrooms; another contaminated drinking water. Read more »

Missing Pieces: USAID’s Approach, Myanmar’s Path, and More

by Isobel Coleman
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, along with U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, is briefed at a stall during his visit to highlight the work of female micro entrepreneurs in Karachi, Pakistan, April 12, 2012 (Akhtar Soomro/Courtesy Reuters). USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, along with U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, is briefed at a stall during his visit to highlight the work of female micro entrepreneurs in Karachi, Pakistan, April 12, 2012 (Akhtar Soomro/Courtesy Reuters).

In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights stories from three developing regions, as well as Washington, DC. Enjoy!

Missing Pieces: Mexico’s Middle Class, Poverty in India, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A customer pays for merchandise at a Walmart store in Mexico City, November 17, 2011 (Henry Romero/Courtesy Reuters). A customer pays for merchandise at a Walmart store in Mexico City, November 17, 2011 (Henry Romero/Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow features a range of developments in this edition of Missing Pieces. I look forward to your thoughts.

  • Mexico’s Middle Class: A Washington Post piece chronicles the rise of a little-noticed Mexican phenomenon: the middle class, which is “fast becoming the majority” of Mexico’s 114 million people. The article credits NAFTA for booming investment, leading to a surge of jobs and increased consumption of homes, cars, and more. Fertility rates are down and educational attainment up. One potential implication for the United States: reduced immigration as more Mexicans find opportunities at home. CFR’s Shannon O’Neil discussed Mexico’s middle class in a video and blog post last year. Read more »

Missing Pieces: India’s Needs, Mozambique’s Resources, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A man stands on a stepladder to fix tangled overhead electric power cables at a residential area in Noida, India, June 1, 2011 (Parivartan Sharma/Courtesy Reuters). A man stands on a stepladder to fix tangled overhead electric power cables at a residential area in Noida, India, June 1, 2011 (Parivartan Sharma/Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow focuses on Asia and Africa in this edition of Missing Pieces. Enjoy and have a good weekend.

  • India’s Daunting Needs: New household data from India’s 2011 census starkly show how many Indians still lack basic needs. Only 47 percent of households have a toilet in the home; the same percentage have a water source. Sixty-seven percent have electricity and 63 percent have a phone (mostly mobiles). Computers are found in less than 10 percent of households and internet access in 3 percent. These findings represent progress since the 2001 census. For example, only 9 percent of households had a phone that year, according to an Economist blog post. The figures for electricity and toilet access in the home are also up 11 points each. A Wall Street Journal blog post and BBC story provide additional analysis. Read more »

Saving Face: Film and Society in Pakistan

by Isobel Coleman
Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy accept the Oscar for the Best Documentary Short Subject for their film "Saving Face" at the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters). Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy accept the Oscar for the Best Documentary Short Subject for their film "Saving Face" at the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

In a feel-good moment for Pakistan, a native daughter won an Academy Award on Sunday – a first for the country. Sharmin Obaid-Chinoy, 33, took home the Oscar, along with her co-director, Daniel Junge, for their documentary “Saving Face.” The film tracks the heroic work of a British plastic surgeon, Dr. Muhammad Jawad, who tries to rebuild the faces, and lives, of Pakistani women who have been terribly disfigured by an acid attack. Every year in Pakistan, about 100 cases of acid attacks are reported to the police, but many more go unreported. These are usually intimate crimes, perpetrated by family members, often vindictive husbands, but also disgruntled mother-in-laws. The victims tend to be young women who have displeased in some way – perhaps producing a daughter instead of a son; or not doing the mother-in-law’s bidding. Some die, but many are left with horrific deformities that often render them blind, unable to eat or to carry on a normal life. Read more »