वंदना शिवा  Vandana Shiva, Indian environmental activist and author

"When it comes to owning the seed for collecting royalties, the GMO companies say, ‘It’s mine.’ But, when it comes to contamination, cross-pollination and health problems, the response is ‘we’re not liable.’” 

SOURCE: Pinterest

When Arunachalam Muruganantham hit a wall in his research on creating a sanitary napkin for poor women, he decided to do what most men typically wouldn’t dream of. He wore one himself—for a whole week. Fashioning his own menstruating uterus by filling a bladder with goat’s blood, Muruganantham went about his life while wearing women’s underwear, occasionally squeezing the contraption to test out his latest iteration. It resulted in endless derision and almost destroyed his family. But no one is laughing at him anymore, as the sanitary napkin-making machine he went on to create is transforming the lives of rural women across India.

Right now, 88% of women in India resort to using dirty rags, newspapers, dried leaves, and even ashes during their periods, because they just can’t afford sanitary napkins,according to “Sanitation protection: Every Women’s Health Right,” a study by AC Nielsen. Typically, girls who attain puberty in rural areas either miss school for a couple of days a month or simply drop out altogether. Muruganantham’s investigation into the matter began when he questioned his wife about why she was trying to furtively slip away with a rag. She responded by saying that buying sanitary napkins meant no milk for the family…

Though he’s won numerous awards (and won his wife back) he doesn’t sell his product commercially. “It’s a service,” he says. His company, Jayaashree Industries, helps rural women buy one of the $2,500 machines through NGOs, government loans, and rural self-help groups. “My vision is to make India a 100% napkin-using country,” said Muruganantham at the INK conference in Jaipur. “We can create 1 million employment opportunities for rural women and expand the model to other developing nations.” Today, there are about 600 machines deployed in 23 states across India and in a few countries abroad.

The machine and business model help create a win-win situation. A rural woman can be taught to make napkins on it in three hours. Running one of the machines employs four women in total, which creates income for rural women. Customers now have access to cheap sanitary napkins and can order customized napkins of varying thicknesses for their individual needs.

People from D.C. are starting to move here [to the Eastern Panhandle] and it’s like come on, really? And they’re like oh, it’s so quaint, people do old things here, and you can buy from the farmers’ market. But do they know what else they’re doing? They’re skyrocketing the price of everything by moving here, and now the people who are from here can’t afford to live here. Think about that before you buy that house over there. But also here’s a pot, thanks for coming to the neighborhood.

And it’s a little anthropological too—I’m moving into so-and-so community. I want to be somewhere where there is community. But when you move to a community you have to become part of the community. Otherwise you’re an outsider studying us. And we tell stories about you and you become part of our mythology.
—  Adam Booth, native Appalachian, professional storyteller, and professor at Shepherd University. Booth was interviewed by Diana Clarke in The Billfold about Appalachian heritage, poverty tourism, and the cultural significance of the coal economy.


DOG BONE SOUP is the long-awaited “rest of the story”of Shawn Daniels from the original short story, “Pure Trash.” It’s particularly long-awaited for me because as soon as I read the short story, I wanted to read this book. The only problem was, Bette hadn’t yet written it.

But she did it. Dog Bone Soup is available for your reading pleasure. And what a pleasure it is.

Bette has the purest,…

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Life in Ecuador is stratified. Shopping malls, shiny cars and tall apartment complexes abound in north Quito, while just a few minutes outside the city, cinder block buildings with no windows, makeshift farm fields and unfinished roads vie for space. Riding through the countryside, one can see the run-down homes of the indigenous population marked by colorful flags hanging from roofs. But it’s to nearby Otavalo, with its cafes and markets, that tourists flock.

This socioeconomic segregation is reflected in Ecuador’s schools—in the amount of resources for private versus public schools as well as the quality of education and funding. However, the completion of new highways is making small rural villages more accessible. This nationwide development as well as a new education accreditation system should lead to school improvements — changes that will help close the gap between those on top and those who are not.

Read more from Pulitzer Center student fellows Adrianne Haney and Kate Riley about life and education in Ecuador. 

Photo: My grandpa, Cecil, whose life was a succession of hard times punctuated with the births of 11 children, glorious rabbit hunts, the love of a round woman, coon dogs and beagles, faith in God, and a daily dose of strong coffee, hot biscuits, and nicotine.

Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard Times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;
Oh hard times come again no more.

(Chorus “Hard Times Come Again No More” by Stephen Foster)

The Atlantic: 

"Rural America’s Silent Housing Crisis

Accounting for only 20 percent of the population, residents of more isolated areas struggle to find a safe, affordable place to live—and to make anyone else care.


Conversations about affordable housing are often dominated with the question of how to get lower-income residents in expensive cities—like New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco (and their surrounding areas)—safe, affordable places to live. That makes sense: Often urban hubs are a good bet for jobs and economic vitality, but they’re also prohibitively expensive for many—creating well-known housing problems. But cities aren’t the only places that are lacking when it comes to adequate housing at affordable prices. In rural America, it’s both prices and the terrible condition of existing homes that are problematic.”