Friday, 4 April 2014

Interview with Debra Ayis

Today we interview Debra Ayis. She is an incredible poet that contributed to Stanzas and Clauses for the Causes with her poem “Ruined Goods”. It was a fascinating read that had given us chills as we went through it. It was quite descriptive and wonderfully written.

About Debra Ayis
She has been a published poet since the year 2002 when her Poem ‘My Routine’ was published in an anthology by Anchor books a Forward press imprint based in the United Kingdom.

Since first being published, she has been published in over 80 anthologies in the U.K, U.S and Nigeria, has published two books in the U.S and Nigeria, (‘Through the looking glass: a collection of poetry’ and ‘Thoughts and Memories’ respectively) and won over 8 awards two of which she is proud of. Being the ‘Talent for Writing’ a Young Writer’s Creativity Award 2006 and 2007’ and the winner of the 2009 writing competition (Poetry category) on Nigerian Women: Yesterday, today and tomorrow; presented by Centre for Human Development CHD Nigeria, supported by Ford Foundation.

She has work experience with three magazines for the period of 5 years where she transcribed, was a co-editor and editor respectively.

She has also been interviewed twice by 1Africa radio station which covers the continent of Africa and has also been invited by organizations, groups and schools to give talks on poetry and creative writing.

Where have you previously been published?
I have two published books on amazon: ‘Through the Looking Glass: a collection of poetry’ and ‘Thoughts and Memories’.

I have been published in several anthologies by Forwardpoetry, International Society of Poets, Poetry Rivals etcetera. And also magazines and websites such as, indulge magazine, Swanezine,, standtoendrape etcetera.

What country do you primarily publish or reside in?
At present I reside in the United States. I am predominantly published in the United Kingdom, United States, Nigeria and South Africa.

Has writing always been your dream job?
Writing has and always will be my dream job. I would love nothing less than a cottage in the prairie furnished with a pen and paper.

What are your primary inspirations for your writing?
My inspiration is God, Jesus Christ, life and nature.

Can you describe what your poetry in Stanzas and Clauses for the Causes is about?
It’s about the raw, hateful and wicked nature of rape. The story of the helpless, the other half of society that no one wants to think too deeply about.

Do you have any advice for any other poets that wish to enter the industry?
Grow a thick skin, work hard, read everything, stay original and never ever give up.

Outside of your own work, who would be your favourite writer and/or poet? Why is that?
Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice) and the Bible (Book of Psalms): they are books I can relate to, books that give me comfort and hope.

Do human rights or social activism issues influence your writing?
Very much so, “ruined goods” is a direct example of the influence of human rights and social activism in my writing.

Do you have a career outside of your writing?
Yes I do, though I would like nothing more than to focus solely on writing.

Do you have any other hobbies or interests that help to influence your stories or poetry?
I love to travel, meet new people, read, try new things and just let my mind go free with imagination.

What is your most memorable moment as a writer or poet?
The day I first got published in an anthology (2005) and the day I found out I was the winner of the 2009 writing competition (poetry category) on ‘Nigerian Women: yesterday, today and tomorrow’ presented by Centre for Human Development Nigeria, supported by the Ford Foundation.

Do you have any future projects that you wish to talk about?
I plan to publish an anthology and a short story collection later this year. It will be collaboration with other poets and writers out there. Send me an e-mail of interest!

Thank you for sitting with us for this interview, Debra! We greatly enjoyed your poetry, and have great hopes for your future as a writer.

Amazon Author Page:

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Mind the digital gender gap: Empowering women online

By Madeline Earp/WomenUnderSiege

Did you know that 200 million more men than women have access to the Internet worldwide? In developing countries, the gender divide is particularly broad. In parts of West Africa and South Asia, women make up 25 percent or less of the online population, according to statistics compiled by World Pulse, a global media network.

Women face a variety of barriers to full and equal access, including cost, lack of digital literacy, lack of awareness of the Internet’s potential, and entrenched cultural and gender norms that limit them from forming independent connections outside their home or community. These obstacles are worth overcoming. In one international survey, 85 percent of women with Internet access said it provides “more freedom.” Equal access is also in the broader public interest: Bringing 600 million more women online could boost annual GDPs across 144 developing countries by an estimated $13 to $18 billion, the survey concluded.

Yet access alone doesn’t equal digital empowerment; it is, rather, one of many conditions required to reduce gender inequalities online. For Freedom on the Net, the Internet freedom index to which I contribute, analysts in more than 60 countries assess Net freedom according to a three-pillar methodology that, as well as access, covers content and user rights. In these areas, too, women and girls face challenges that limit their participation in the online space… Read more

Monday, 31 March 2014

Interview with Paul Toth

Last time we had an interview with a talented poet in the United Kingdom, Amy Piner. This time we are interviewing the skillful Paul Toth from the other side of the pond within the United States. He had written a clever short story called Ukrainamerica which was published in the first volume of Brine Rights called “Stanzas and Clauses for the Causes“. We admit that due to our own strong connection with Ukraine we couldn’t resist this gem…

Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Paul A. Toth’s most recent work, Airplane Novel, is widely considered the best 9/11 novel and was selected by Shelf Unbound Magazine as the Fourth Best Independent Novel of 2001. Toth’s first three published novels form a nonlinear trilogy consisting of Fizz, Fishnet and Finale. A short story collection entitled The War Is Over, Let’s Go Shopping is forthcoming.

Do you have any publications that you have previously released?

Finale (Paperback) (Kindle)
The story of a man who learns that resolving the question of his identity erases him altogether.

Airplane Novel (Paperback) (Kindle)
September 11, 2001 as narrated by the South Tower. Rendered in prose as close to cubist art as possible, this is the only novel that presents new visions of 9/11, rather than revisions of cliches.

Can you tell us about your background as a writer?
I became aware of novelists in the dusk of the 60′s, a brief and strange period, when hosts like Dick Cavett presented them as figures who influenced and shaped not only culture but society. In fact, I’m certain I watched William Gaddis, Jr. interviewed by Mike Douglas, of all people, and I even remember Gaddis explaining why he never identified dialogue with quotation marks. That’s an odd thing to remember. Then again, I was obsessed with the Watergate hearings in fifth grade.

I always thought anyone who created anything was worth my interest and anyone else wasn’t. I still have no interest in idle chatter. There’s so much to talk about and yet conversation so often has involves food and nothing talk.

I read somewhere that Jimmy Carter’s family reads books at the dinner table. I’ve liked him for that alone ever since. But mostly, it was the years in which Mailer, for example, was always punching somebody or running for mayor with the slogan “No More Bullshit.” They became my heroes. So many of them had emotional problems, as did I, and I shared my secrets with them. At best, we’re secret sharers.

Is being a writer your dream job?
In many ways, it’s been my nightmare job in the sense that, prior to publishing my first novel, I had no idea of the extent to which writers must promote their own work. The worst of it for me is book tours. I’m The anxiety that reverberates throughout my fiction is so autobiographical, so intrinsic to my experience, that I couldn’t possibly separate it from my work.

Online promotion is less disconcerting. But I have to question the value and even sanity of all this self-promotion, not only for writers but everyone. Everywhere I look online these days, I find lists – lists, endless lists, popular I suppose because they promise and deliver material so fast, if not the promise – of how to rise above the white noise. Ebooks have only worsened that problem, though I support the possibilities ebooks offer.

At any rate, the act of writing remains my dream job. Everything that surrounds it is a nightmare. Technology has far surpassed my capacity to adapt. I don’t even own a cell phone simply because there’s no necessity for 24 hour access to me. I’m not an emergency physician.

What human rights or social activism issue(s) are you most passionate about and why?
Civil rights, privacy rights and, as a very recent addition, data ownership. The human body stores an incredible amount of data. My medical records have already been digitized, yet I can’t access them. I can’t check my own book out from the library.

Why do you write? What is your inspiration?
I write to get out of my skin. If I could stay there, I would.

Which poem or short story that you have written is it that you are most passionate about? Can you explain why?
In my case, it’s a novel – Airplane Novel – which I still promote. It deserves an audience. It’s really not even my book. I was possessed when I wrote it. Architectural spirits wrote it.

Do human rights or social activism issues influence your writing? If so, how so?
Writers should be of their times or ahead of them. The only way we affect the world is by revealing its secrets. But honesty is dangerous. Lying is much safer in ever regard. Safer and more likely to create success in terms of money and popularity, even literary prestige.

Are there any particular challenges that you face in your writing? How do you overcome them?
I’m in transition. I’m an unreliable narrator. Perhaps I’ve always been one and only became aware of it in the last year or so. In that case, it was easier before and now I will have to become a reliable narrator. I will have to share deeper secrets. I suppose I haven’t found them yet.

We were happy to sit down with Paul Toth during this interview. Thank you, and we hope to see our readers for the next interview!

If you wish to follow up with Paul Toth’s other interesting work you can find him at the links below:

Homepage: Toth World Design
Blog: Is Big Data Dangerous?
Amazon Author Page:

Saturday, 29 March 2014

“The Wolf who cried Fascist!” – Pathology of Russian Propaganda against Ukraine, pt. 2

Adrian Bryttan / EuromaidanPR

How Russia ‘fought against fascism’ – from 1920 until 1941

Soviet and Nazi officers

For more than twenty years, Moscow’s closest ties in Europe were with Germany – starting in 1920 when Berlin supplied intelligence about the Polish Army to the Soviets. (And twenty years later, Stalin returned the favor when he had his radio stations in Minsk broadcast signals to the Luftwaffe to guide them to their Polish targets.) Everyone now knows about the secret 1939 Nazi-USSR Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty, but even as late as October, 1940, Stalin was still negotiating terms to join the Tripartite Pact with Italy, Japan, and Germany.

Karl Radek, fervent Stalinist and one of the authors of the new Soviet Constitution, wrote

“… only fools could imagine we should ever break with Germany… No one can give us what Germany can.”

Berlin needed oil, manganese, wheat – while Moscow needed machine tools, military materials, and equipment for their chemical industry. Soviet-Nazi collaboration extended past economic and into military cooperation, involving such firms as Krupp, Rheinmetall, Junkers aircraft , Walther firearms, and I.G. Farben for toxin chemical research.

Illegal Nazi-Soviet joint military operations were secretly conducted on Soviet territory during inter-war years…. View original

“The Wolf who cried Fascist!” – Pathology of Russian Propaganda against Ukraine, pt. 1

Adrian Bryttan / EuromaidanPR


The F-word is almost entirely meaningless today. “Fascism” has mostly become a perjorative word, used as an insult – and a scare tactic by Russia meant to paralyze opponents. In 1944, George Orwell wrote

“almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘fascist’”.

It is now probably the most misused and overused term of our time.

“Anti-fascists” = fascists

But even more, it is becoming clear how “the fascists of the future will be called anti-fascists” ( a quote attributed to Winston Churchill). A quick look at the ‘antifascist’ crusaders in Moscow will suffice: police state in Russia, murdered opposition journalists, information monopoly on its own citizens, brutal suppression of its own minorities, military invasions of neighbouring countries in “its sphere of influence” etc….

Meanwhile, in Ukraine:

Fascist Books Kharkiv

Ukrainian books burned by pro-Russian ‘antifascists’ in Kharkiv 3/2014

On March 1, 2014 Russian citizen Mika Ronkainen climbed to the top of the State Administration building in Kharkiv and photographed himself hoisting a Russian flag… View original


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Interview with Amy Piner

Amy Piner of the United Kingdom is a poet that had contributed to our most recent publication, Stanzas and Clauses for the Causes (Brine Rights, #1), called “Voice of a Sex Trader”. Her poetry was quite fascinating and we feel privileged to include it within this book.

Today we sit down with her to talk with her in an interview, so as to allow our readers to get to know this talented poet a little better.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a co-founder of SWAgainstHT, a non profit group based in Cornwall using creative media to promote awareness of Human Trafficking. I have worked on a variety of projects relating to social issues including domestic violence. I am also currently working on a short film titled ‘Last Day’ about Sex Trafficking in the UK.

Is being a poet your dream job?
I find poetry to be something that I could not be without. I use it as a way of putting into words the jumbled up thoughts inside my head. To say I could perceive it as a job would be wrong, for it is just something I need to do sometimes, like breathing.

What human rights or social activism issue(s) are you most passionate about and why?
I work in a group dedicated to promoting awareness of Human Trafficking in the UK. I read a book last summer called Not for Sale. It completely opened my eyes. My niece and I decided that we wanted to do something about it. When I began researching the issue I came up to a lot of blanks. There is such a lack of awareness in the UK, people here don’t realize that modern slavery exists. If they do believe it, they think it is happening overseas. Of course, this isn’t true.

Why do you write? What is your inspiration?
My writing varies on what am doing, what I am experiencing. The main things I find myself writing about are things that piss me off. I talk a lot about equality, or lack thereof. Of stereotypes, rudeness, ignorance, pain. I write about other people’s pain… I try to imagine their experiences as my own, relate them to myself or other around me. Human nature inspires me.

Can you describe what your poetry is about?
My poem is told from the other side of the trafficking story. It is told from the vile point of view of the actual trafficker. We never really see Human Trafficking for what it really is. Slavery. I wanted to write a piece that would insult the reader. Although the transportation and selling of human beings is a black market industry it is the second most profitable crime in the world. I want to remind people of that.

Do human rights or social activism issues influence your writing? If so, how so?
Nearly everything a write, photograph, or film has some influence from social issues. I believe that if you have a skill, a talent, an experience that could help a cause, or highlight an issue then you should.

Do you have a career outside of your writing?
I am a photographer and printer based in Falmouth, Cornwall.

Do you have any future projects that you wish to share with us?
I am currently directing a short film that will depict the issue of Sex Trafficking in the UK. We are also holding an event on Saturday 26th April at the Dracaena Centre, Falmouth to raise money for Bristol based charity Unseen. We will be offering beauty treatments (from £3!), a raffle, tea/coffee and cakes!

Thank you for your insightful responses in this interview, Amy! We are grateful for you taking your time out of your day for sharing your thoughts to the readers.

To connect with Amy Piner and her organization, you can do so through:

We soon be providing thoughts of more poet’s and author’s from this book to our eager readers.

“The Wolf who cried Fascist!” – Pathology of Russian Propaganda against Ukraine, pt. 2 | Euromaidan PR

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“The Wolf who cried Fascist!” – Pathology of Russian Propaganda against Ukraine, pt. 1 | Euromaidan PR

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Monday, 17 March 2014

Thoughts from Kyiv on imminent invasion – 17 March 2014

1975123_518074044976930_2071719784_nBy Mychailo Wynnyckyj PhD

Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

Today, Crimeans “voted”. Given the barrage of media coverage of this event, I hardly feel it’s worthwhile to comment on it further: the “referendum” was illegal and will not be recognized by any country other than Russia; the result is a foregone conclusion. A more interesting question is “what’s next?”

After Prime Minister Yatseniuk’s return from the US on Friday, and his public statement warning that NATO would not be intervening militarily into the current dispute with Russia, Ukraine’s government seems to have finally begun real preparations for war. A law allowing for the formation of a National Guard (to consist primarily of former Maidan Self-Defense forces) was passed, troop movements and training has intensified, mass mobilization of reserves is set to begin this week. The Ukrainian Defense Minister, First Deputy Prime Minister (himself a former general), and other highly placed officials (including former intelligence officers) have all made multiple public statements assuring Ukrainians that the country’s military is fully capable of repelling a land attack from Russia. The war rhetoric on television news broadcasts has definitely become more active this weekend than ever before.

Since the initial invasion of Crimea by Russia on Feb 27, many of my friends in Kyiv have been frustrated with the government’s policy of restraint. Although everyone understands that any shooting by Ukrainian troops at their Russian counterparts would have been counterproductive, the fact that the territorial integrity of Ukraine was violated at all was (and continues to be) considered an outrage. Indeed little else is talked about in Kyiv these days … Read more

This post originally appeared on EuroMaidan PR

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Holding Up Half the Sky: How Zambia"s Women went from Housewives to Breadwinners

Women’s status has been greatly enhanced by their growing share of employment, but gender relations are still far from equal.

By Alice Evans / ThinkAfricaPress


A female Zambian farmer tries out a groundnut sheller. Photograph Swathi Sridharan.









When the United Kingdom was ruling over its southern African colony of Northern Rhodesia, it instilled in the urban population many of the domestic traditions and values it kept at home. The male of the household was expected to be the breadwinner while the female a housewife. But in the same way this 1950s ideal has largely disintegrated in the UK, so too has it in what is now Zambia.

My research in a low-income township in the Copperbelt Province began after the 2007/8 global financial crisis, just as the price of copper was starting to rebound. The international financial slowdown had halted mining activities and induced mass layoffs. At this time, my neighbours expressed a profound sense of economic insecurity and often sharply contrasted the situation with their nostalgic recollections of a bygone era of supposedly full (male) employment and cradle-to-grave social security. This was also a time of strictly gendered roles.

Under British colonial rule, urban women were trained in domestic skills in order to cheaply support and maintain a healthy male labour force. As well as being imposed from above, the European ideology of ‘good housewives’ was also keenly adopted by many middle-class African families looking to distinguish themselves.

In the aftermath of independence in 1964, women maintained this domestic role while Zambia’s rich copper deposits continued to be mined, managed and administered by men – as wage labourers, breadwinners, civil servants and politicians. Husbands tended to refuse their wives employment − not least because it would reveal their inability to fulfil their culturally expected roles as the sole breadwinners − and were able to do so thanks to high copper prices, limited mechanisation and protected local industries, all of which helped to secure employment and enable men to provide for their families single-handedly.

Helen, an elected to representative of a low-income area and whose two-roomed house I shared during my time in Zambia, recalled how during her adolescence in the 1970s, women had little economic role to play outside their own homes.

“A long time ago, the majority of women didn’t know about selling,” she said. “What they were doing is depend on their husbands because their husbands had jobs − they were working in industries. Industries were all over.”

“Historically women were oppressed,” she continued. “Even if she was educated, men would not want that person to go and work. They just wanted her to be a housewife…Women were very oppressed because men didn’t want a woman to do things, to work or have her own money.”

Indeed, in this era, urban women primarily focused on unpaid care work, which was devalued in a market-based economy. They were economically dependent upon men and widely perceived as ‘passive’. With multiple children and a heavy burden of domestic work, their lives centred on the home, making them socially isolated. And lacking opportunities to share ideas with fellow women and collectively contemplate a more egalitarian alternative, many urban housewives felt alone in their suffering, acquiescing to its inevitability.

“My husband used to beat me,” disclosed Gloria, a 66-year-old divorced market trader, selling dried caterpillars in her informal settlement. “I didn’t have any friends. I just stayed at home…They didn’t count us women historically. We were suffering. You perceive it to be normal, but it’s not good.”

Women were expected to stay at home while men dominated the socially-valued domains, leading many to presume women were less worthy of status, respect and influence. “I was thinking that a woman is supposed to be lower than the man,” Matthew, a middle-aged man, recalled thinking when he was younger.

Many women adopted these gendered stereotypes themselves and deferred to men when it came to leadership roles. As 42-year-old onion trader and political activist Mike, recalled, “Women used to say ‘Only a man can do it’.” And although some women were privately critical of such beliefs, they still tended to conform so as to maintain social respect. After all, the very few female politicians there were tended to be denigrated as prostitutes by those who refused to believe that they could have succeeded by their own merit. Given the limited demand and supply of women leaders, men accounted for over 90% of parliamentarians during the 1960s and 1980s. Read more

This article originally appeared on ThinkAfricaPress