Sex Workers Armed as Paralegals

In South Africa, sex work is criminalized. Sex workers are seen as acceptable targets of abuse. Police sexually abuse sex workers, profile sex workers, and arbitrarily arrest sex workers on non sex-work-related charges. Health care professionals deny services and preventative care to sex workers. Clients and pimps abuse sex workers with impunity. The law then reinforces this systemic behavior, threatening the health and safety of this marginalized community. 

This week, the Open Society Foundation published the fifth video in the Bringing Justice to Health project. As part of a series of videos highlighting the legal empowerment work of different grantee programs across the globe, These Rights are For Us features The Women's Legal Centre--a South African organization dedicated to equality for women--and the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Task Force--a sex worker-led support and advocacy group. This video features Ncumisa's journey from sex worker to paralegal; empowering her peers in Cape Town, South Africa.  

Camera and sound by the talented Sven Torfinn. Additional photography by James Oatway. Produced by Lauren Frohne. Edited by Andrew Hida.

Two Views on Immigration

Since the introduction of the Secure Border Act of 2006, hundreds of miles of fence have been built by the federal government in sections along the nearly 2000-mile long border between the United States and Mexico. Costing tax payers nearly $3 billion, sections of fence in California cost up to $21 million a mile to erect. The construction of the fence pushes migrants to seek increasingly perilous routes through the arid and inhospitable desert regions of the Southwest border. The fence is largely ineffective and tremendously costly in both money and lives. 

Over the few couple months, the news has been inundated by a wave of illegal immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border from Central America. This immigration situation is unique due to the sheer magnitude of migrants, but also because these are unaccompanied minors. The country is struggling to find a solution to deal with this pressing humanitarian and political crisis, spawned by the aftermath of a 2002 law enacted by President George W. Bush to help protect minor sex trafficking victims. 

Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to work on two important projects that although don’t directly address the recent immigration crisis, do offer important and unique perspectives on the immigration debate facing our country. 

In May, I produced the introductory video to the New York Times’ project, The Way North. Over the course of 39 days, writer Damien Cave and photographer Todd Heisler traveled north from Laredo, Texas to Duluth, Minnesota along Interstate 35. A Southern Crossroads is a vignette about Hilario Martinez, the Director of Security at El Conejo bus terminal where hundreds of passengers enter the United States everyday en route to northern destinations. His work is deeply personal and valuable to the clients who look to El Conejo as a lifeline between the United States and Mexico. 

In July, in partnership with MSNBC, I produced and edited, The Fence,  a 3-part series that explores the political, economic, environmental, and humanitarian impact of the US-Mexico border fence. Photographer Charles Ommanney drove the nearly 2000 miles along the border from Brownsville, TX to San Diego, CA where he photographed and filmed the serpent-like fence, and gathered testimony from various US citizens about their experiences and opinions about the border fence. The footage is simultaneously spectacular and disturbing, and the stories are both haunting and infuriating. The Fence is a fresh look at the immigration debate, that forces you to question the efficacy of the militarization of our southern border. 

The 18th Annual Webby Awards Honors "God's Ivory"

I am honored to announce that God's Ivory has been nominated for a Webby in this year's awards competition in the Documentary: Individual Category. Presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS) the Webbys have been dubbed, "the Internet's most respected symbol of success." Receiving over 12,000 entries from across the globe, I am humbled that the film has been selected to be amongst the best. 

The winners of each category will be announced by the Academy at the end of this month. In the meantime, each nominee is also a contender for The People's Voice Award. Voting began today, and will conclude on the 24th. Please help support us by casting your vote online for God's Ivory. It only takes a second, and we could definitely use your support since we're up against some power houses. 

Congratulations to Brent Stirton and Bryan Christy for their tremendous reporting on the illegal ivory trade. 

The November Review

The title of this post sounds like I've had a "November review" before, but really it's just a snappy title. November is always a great month when the trees lose their leaves, the winter begins to bite, and we eat too much on Thanksgiving. This year it was filled with events like the launch of "Blue Chalk" and the screening of The Long Night by my good friend and mentor, Tim Matsui, and MediaStorm. On this end, I am excited to announce the publication of two long-term projects I've been working on for Reportage by Getty Images and the Open Society Foundations

Girl Soldier, a short film by Reportage photographer Jonathan Torgovnik, is an intense testimony about the atrocities committed during the Sierra Leone civil war, and the role that female child soldiers played in the 10-year conflict. Released in mid-November by The Telegraph Saturday Magazine, the film is the result of a close collaboration between Jonathan (who was initially commissioned by the Telegraph to shoot a portrait series) and myself. It was truly an honor to work with Jonathan, who is one of the most thoughtful photographers I have had the opportunity to work with, and truly dedicated to his craft and his vision. 

Bringing Justice to Health is a series of four videos produced for the Law and Health Initiative by the Open Society Foundations (OSF). The series examines four legal empowerment models in Kenya, Macedonia, Russia, and Uganda, and how they facilitate access to public health care to marginalized communities. The videos will be featured on the OSF website, released over the next couple of months. As of mid-November, only the Macedonia video had been published. Please stay tuned, as the remaining three become publicly available, keeping your eyes out for, "Until That Time Comes," the story about palliative care in Kenya.