Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Lilongwe Server Farm

Today brought me to the UNICEF/Lilongwe server farm/cage. I'll post a picture later.
Here I inspected the source of all that is good and holy in the Lilongwe RapidSMS project - the RapidSMS server.

This is the hardware system: One computer, 2 serial modems with serial to usb adaptors. There are 4 usb ports total so we can add 2 additional modems out of the box, without adding a usb hub.

There are some questions that we are asking about RapidSMS implementation. RapidSMS is going to support 2 different projects in Malawi, a Malnutrition project and a mother child HIV/AIDS project. I dont think these should run under the same rapidsms instance, but has anyone tried running 2 rapidsms projects at the same time,on the same port.... I've done this with Django - but media temple did all the heavy lifting.

I still need to do some more work planning the barcamp. My goal is to work on a RapidSMS based twitter app. Similar to the Naijapulse - Nigerian Twitter. I'm planning two barcamps here. My UNICEF collegue Sean suggested that I communicate with MobileActive and do some sort of NY-Mzuzu remote barcamp. I dont know if Malawi has the bandwidth for it.

Today I was also thinking of marriage. Is marriage a raw deal for women in developing countries?

I am a liberated western woman married to a liberated eastern man - and I think our marriage has advantages - FOR ME. My husband and I share work, pool income, share expenses, provide support - and my husband cooks delicious food for me and begrudgingly picks up my socks which I hide around the apartment. I'm trying to figure out what he gets out of the relationship, but I digress.

Professionally, as a working woman, I think some men find it easier to work with married women. Pehaps marriage seems to confirm a certain level of maturity or perhaps acceptability. I dont know, I have not conducted a scientific study, but I have experienced different treatment pre marriage vs post marriage.

Marriage is such a hot topic in the United States. People want the ability to get married (gay rights), there are tons of dating sites dedicated to finding the right match, and there is certain social pressure to be married if everyone in your social circle is married. When we go into the third world we assume these same circumstances exist.

DO NOT BE FOOLED, I think marriage is a raw deal for women in developing countries. Today I got a lift to the main UNICEF headquarters from a woman named Lindsay. I dont know her age, but she has 5 children, works a full time job, and her husband lives in a different city (Blantyre) 5 hours away. She is a no nonsense woman - we did share some laughs though. Lindsay has no time for nonsense, raising 5 children by herself. What has marriage given her - 5 kids, a full time job, and an absent husband.

Did she choose to get married? How old was she? Was it an arranged marriage? The woman that runs the front desk at my hotel signs her email with Mrs. Is this empowering or enslaving?

Marriage rights in the US, but lets also have Singles rights around the world.

The NYTimes - amazingly enough since I am really down on the nytimes - ran a great magazine issue on woman's rights in the third world. I recommend it.


  1. Read the same article in NYT magazine. I can see marriage having an advantage in the not so great old days when you needed someone to beat off the beasts or unwelcomed males. But it a lot of cultures, it has become pretty twisted.

    Epidemeologically, men definitely fare better when they are in a longterm relationship. A study in Scotland proved it: single guys dropped dead like flies, very short life span. Men in longterm relationships did much better, didn't matter if it was homo or heterosexual. Married man by far lived the longest.

    Anecdotally I see it too, guys don't come into clinic until they are half dead. The the usual reason they come in is because their spouse, parter or parent are tired of hearing the complaints. If nothing else, marriage is a good health barometer.

  2. Hi Yee - Fantatic comment! That is really interesting about men in relationships living longer. I wonder what the research says about women. (I know that Lian went to the Dr because I incessantly nagged him :)

    About marriage insuring monogamy for women: I think in the past marriage provided a 'safe haven' rather than protection from aggressive men. If you weren't married by a certain age, and your parents died - you probably became homeless. But these days as women, even women in 3rd world, have lives outside of the home, I dont think marriage deters men from sexual advances.

    Here, in Malawi, people tell me that any woman out after dark is considered a prostitute regardless of marital status (I think that is a bit extreme - i have been out after dark and have not been propositioned).

    Thanks for the comments! They are great and thought provoking.