Fall 2016 Volume 23 Number 3 Indigenous Women Fight to Protect Rights of Woven Guatemala Textile Design...By Alison Meares Cohen The Kaqchikel wom

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Fall 2016

Volume 23

Number 3

Indigenous Women Fight to Protect Rights of Woven Guatemala Textile Design...By Alison Meares Cohen

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Alison Meares Cohen

The Kaqchikel women—one of 23 Mayan cultures in Guatemala—are fighting to protect their collective intellectual property rights to their traditional Mayan textile designs. Led by the Women's Association for the Development of Saquatepéquez (AFEDES), an organization with a membership of more than 1,000 indigenous women and supported by an association of Mayan lawyers, hundreds of Kaqchikel women artisans of all ages took their case to the Constitutional Court in Guatemala City this past June. They are asking the court to push the Guatemalan Congress to enact new laws that would protect their intellectual property rights over the intricate woven designs that have become ubiquitous in the tourist markets and are a direct reproduction of their heritage and cultural identity.

Reproduction of the Mayan textiles has become increasingly controlled by just a handful of companies that hire Mayan women and pay them very little (around 10 quetzales or just more than one U.S. dollar) for a design that might take days, even weeks, to weave. The products are sold at a much higher cost to tourists and textile buyers around the world. But this isn't just an economic issue to the indigenous women who flooded the courts this spring. Dressed in their traditional hand-woven blouses known as huipils—each design emblematic of the life in their particular community and worn every day by these women and their children as they work, play and go to school—they argued that the real value of these iconic textiles is the preservation of a way of life and the protection of a living culture.

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Out of Crisis, Seeds of a Transformed Food System in Venezuela…By Christian Schiavoni

Christina Schiavoni

Christian Schiavoni

For the past three and a half months, I’ve been in Venezuela doing field work for my PhD research on food sovereignty efforts here, or on attempts to transition the country from heavy reliance on food imports through petroleum dollars to greater food self-sufficiency and greater citizen participation in the food system. Having followed these efforts for over a decade now, it’s fascinating to see how central food politics are to the broader politics of the moment. It’s also fascinating—in a maddening sort of way—to follow the media spin on a situation that I am witnessing directly.

Reading the latest stories in outlets like the New York Times—of scarcity, starvation, people eating stray dogs and pigeons—leads me to wonder if I’m actually in some parallel universe. They’re just so far removed from what I’ve witnessed in the working class community of El Valle, Caracas where I’m living, or in any of the many different communities in six different states I’ve visited over these past months. Of course, within these dire reports are grains of truth. Indeed, food shortages are a major issue at present. But—and here the reality is being distorted—rather than a situation of overall food scarcity, food remains abundant in Venezuela. The shortages are of particular essential items—such as corn flour (used to make arepas, a Venezuelan staple), coffee, and toilet paper—while other items—such as corn porridge, hot chocolate, and paper towels—remain available. Furthermore, the shortages are occurring in supermarkets and shops, while these very same products remain available in restaurants, cafés, and the like. The particularity of the items missing from supermarket shelves, and the fact that they remain available elsewhere, speaks to some deeper politics at play, as I have recently written about elsewhere. But regardless of what is driving them, the shortages and the long lines associated with them are taking a toll on the average Venezuelan. Making matters worse, a combination of inflation and speculation has driven up food prices overall, so that even available items are increasingly expensive.

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Post from the Frontlines...By Jen Chapin

4 pdf

Jen Chapin

As an artist, I am compelled to try to express things in unconventional ways – to write lyrics and compose song arrangements that put a twist on the typical and perhaps offer untried pathways to the truth.

But I am also a Social Studies teacher in a small Bronx middle school. In this work, creative expression is often (if not always) valued, but more essential is a clear and direct confrontation with facts: 98% of my students are deemed to be economically disadvantaged, close to 30% of them require special education services, and 10% of them are English Language Learners. In a nation where student achievement correlates with parent income more closely than with any other factor, my fellow educators and I are reminded that we are on the front lines of the fight against poverty, and that our job is to pry open opportunities and options to students that the rest of society can keep stubbornly closed.

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Fundraising Letter...By Laurence & Jane Levine

Dear Friend,

There is an ancient Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.”

By any measure you may apply, 2016 was a highly interesting year for KIDS.

When we founded KIDS twenty-two years ago, we never imagined that the program would still be in existence today and continue to be alive and a vibrant part of the education world. So, it was a rude shock that the program was almost brought to its knees when our website was “hacked” by a group based in China. The “hack” was multi-layered and while the site itself was restored in three days it took two months for life to come back to normal. The hack turned out to be like time released medicine. First the site, then our proprietary email program and finally the GOOGLE Search engine.

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Inspiring Teachers & Students as Changemakers Through Global Competence...By Jennifer Lofing Boyle

6 pdf

In the ongoing battle against hunger, poverty, inequality, and other critical social and community issues, teachers and students are on the front lines of effecting change. We see this in our work every day as we partner with teachers to educate the next generation of globally informed and engaged citizens.

As communities become more diverse, and our world becomes more globally connected, rethinking the purpose of education is critical. Global competence, which we define as the disposition and capacity to understand and act on issues of global significance, is a critical element of a quality education for every student. Understanding global context and being able to work with people who come from very different backgrounds will be key to learning, working, and thriving in the 21st century. In a year that has been plagued with so much divisiveness and discrimination in our national discourse, ensuring students have these qualities is even more important.

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