Today is a milestone for this geography intern: it marks the end of my National Geographic internship and the beginning of my next chapter. A day that I have approach with fear and also viewed with pride, has finally arrived and I could not be more pleased to be part of the National Geographic family. In that regard, I have decided that for my final … Continue reading Five for Friday: NG Internship Highlights!
My perspective on cultural geography has been humbled by the stories of brave girls stripped of their innocence by depths of “tradition” all over the world. It started as a regular Monday night–I volunteered at a presentation given by the researcher and writer of Child Brides: Too Young to Wed, an article in the June 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine– it culminated in an experience that I will not soon forget. Sometimes as young as two and three years old, more commonly twelve to fifteen, girls around the world (see photos here) share one startling thing in common: marriage.
Marriage, a term that at the age of twenty-two still gives me a feeling of slight discomfort, like slowly having my air supply cut off. My education has told me that child marriage is not only morally wrong, but also socially distasteful, shameful and, not to mention, utterly illegal. Yet, Monday night I sat stunned. My education is not universal; my practices do not represent the majority. I am a product of my cultural education, situated in society in exactly the same way these girls are placed into “underage” marriage (a relative term). While I would like to think myself and my cultural education more correct under the Western system of freedom in marriage, I cannot fairly write-off the practices, history, and lifestyles of those raised under a different set of rules. They are there. I am here. Their culture says “yes.”* My culture says “no.” Our world is filled with shades of gray, and that concept is one of the single most important lessons in cultural geography. We can not force assimilation, nationalism, or our own social standards onto other cultures.
The presenters, Cynthia Gorney and Stephanie Sinclair, stressed the importance of acknowledging a sense of duality on the issue, stating that they themselves felt the spectrum of emotions when faced with such a complicated matter. To be fair, respectful and unbiased researchers and journalists, they had to see the other side. From a local vantage point, many community members see the early marriage of these young girls as a system of protection, “understood by whole communities as an appropriate way for a young woman to grow up when the alternatives, especially if they carry a risk of her losing her virginity to someone besides her husband, are unacceptable.” (Child Brides, NGM) In places where education is limited for girls, where public transportation is unsafe, and where life in a rural village is the only option, the bond of marriage acts to bind families, to shield young girls from rape and abandonment and is, at times, an acceptable religious practice in the community. According to a Yemeni member of parliament named Mohammed Al-Hamzi, “Islam does not permit marital relations before a girl is physically ready, he said, but the Holy Koran contains no specific age restrictions and so these matters are properly the province of family and religious guidance, not national law. Besides, there is the matter of the Prophet Muhammad’s beloved Ayesha–nine years old, according to the conventional account, when the marriage was consummated.” (Child Brides, NGM) It is this contradiction of cultural tradition with social norms that makes the concept of child brides so frustrating to consider and even more difficult to work with.
Harvard University’s Center for Geographic Analysis is the process of developing WorldMap, an open source web mapping system available to anyone. The project is a fantastic new opportunity in modern education. Teachers can now assign mapping project for students and have access to view and aid in their progress through map sharing. This will allow teachers more direct contact with student questions, struggles and successes. The best part is, it’s easy to use! The tools for mapping are streamlined down from traditional forms of GIS and made simple for any skill set to enjoy. The project is still under construction, so many amazing additions are scheduled for the coming year. Highly anticipated new additions include: geo-referencing of photos, videos, and text directly onto the map. Another user-friendly feature is the unlimited access to external data that anyone can export and add to a map. WorldMap requires a quick registration that asks for a user name, password, and e-mail in order to login. The capability is truly amazing; to show you what I mean, I made this week’s Five-for-Friday a collection of five unique, beautiful and useful maps I made using WorldMap. Make one yourself and share the link to your map in our comments box below! Clicking on the maps I have created will show them in their full size and detail.
1. Map of Cuba that combines satellite imagining with Wikipedia reference points. Using the “identify” tool I was able to find the city of Santiago, as shown in the red box and provided with a direct link to Santiago’s Wikipedia page. 2. Map of the Southern United States from the 1860’s population distribution of slaves. Just one example of the historical maps that are provided in WorldMap.3. Map of Eastern Africa that layers place names and boundaries with soil types of the region. The red outlined shape in Kenya represents the soil class Zo9-3a.
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Hello! Hej! Dumella Rah! Vaturak! Mingalarba! Olá!* to all the great readers of My Wonderful World!
My name is Julia Guard and I am one of the newest additions to the National Geographic Society. I hail from Lawrence, Kansas where I studied geography and business at the University of Kansas. I have recently moved to Washington D.C. to commence my fall internship with the National Geographic Society, Education working in Public Engagement. My journey to National Geographic begins with my ever-present interest in travel, and the itching sensation I feel to personally contextualize anything I am ignorant of in this (wonderful) world. My favorite form of self-education is getting up and moving around! Thus, I have spent much of my free time racking up destinations such as: Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, Northern Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Whether it is a new country, a new face, or even a new idea, I maintain to be adaptive and open-minded in the name of continuing my education and strengthening my connection to mankind.