Dwindling Fish Stocks


Fish stocks

By Mary Ferreira and Elizabeth Waruru
The fishing industry helps millions of people escape poverty around the world especially those in small island States like Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean.

Some one thousand fishermen living on the south western coast of the island depend on the sea for their livelihoods and to feed their families. But lately, they’re reporting smaller catches. They told UNTV Producer, Mary Ferreira, during an interview that pollution, trawling, and restricted fishing grounds are contributing to the current state of fish stocks in the region.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, fish is an ideal source of animal protein for more than two billion people worldwide who consume some 100 million tonnes each year. The Government of Trinidad & Tobago is working with private investors to introduce aquaculture to combat the problem of dwindling fish stocks in the country. It’s a solution that has been shared with local fishermen who hesitate to trade their small fishing boats for more lucrative “fish farming” businesses.

A recent report from UNEP also suggests that an investment of US$8 billion annually to rebuild the world’s fisheries would increase catches worldwide to 112 million tonnes per year. Watch this short clip of a fisherman’s story in Trinidad & Tobago.

Filed under Economy.

Senegal: Beyond Tradition


By Mary Ferreira

Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, or genital cutting is an age-old custom that’s still practiced in many countries. It’s a custom that affects some 140 million women and girls worldwide.

In partnership with the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, a film crew from UNTV traveled to Senegal in West Africa to produce a film documenting efforts made by the Government to ban this practice.

But in a country where dozens of ethnic groups live according to their own traditional values and beliefs we found that even though the ban on FGM is in place, it’s still practiced, especially in the ethnic stronghold of the Pulaar people. A woman, believed to be a “cutter” living in the Pulaar region of Matam, received a jail sentence when caught performing excisions on young girls.

Upon learning of her release, we requested an interview through Tostan, a local non-governmental organization. We attempted to interview her after receiving permission but when we arrived at the home she was nowhere in sight.

Despite this setback, we managed to complete our mission with adequate elements to produce a compelling piece focusing on cultural perspectives, religious points of view and individual regrets. Watch this brief clip.

Filed under Women.

Youth Unemployment


By Mary Ferreira

NEW YORK  – My colleagues, Leslie Wade and Paul Simon, from the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) requested a short video for an upcoming event on 27 February “Breaking New Ground: Partnerships for More and Better Jobs for Young People” a topic that I’m very passionate about because my own family members are unemployed and some are struggling with jobs below their skill level.

Photo by Victoria Schultz

But that’s no surprise. The current global economic and financial crisis has affected many people in developed and developing countries and even staffers here at the United Nations.  We’ve had some lay offs in our editing and engineering staff making it difficult to honour DESA‘s request.  I didn’t want to say no, so I decided to charge my flipcam and one morning on my way to work, I filmed some footage that would prove useful for the final video.  With this fresh footage, I used some images from past filming missions and more from my colleagues for the edit.  I thought that it would work appropriately since the piece was intended for web use.

Strapped for footage from the Occupy Wall Street movement, I called a former colleague, Victoria Schultz, for permission to use some of her stills which were included in the video. Victoria has been covering OWS for her own photography project for several months now.

After screening the rough cut, there was one adjustment to the script. One of my colleagues in the TV Section, Dina Barazi, recorded the narration and I managed to finalize the piece by deadline. This is a good example of “DOING MORE WITH LESS” as requested by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.


Filed under Economy.

Reducing Maternal Mortality in Bangladesh


by Mary Ferreira

After filming the story on sexual harassment, the team captured material for an additional piece on United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 – reducing maternal mortality.

Bangladesh has had significant success in lowering the rate of deaths during childbirth, particularly in urban slums. BRAC, or the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was one of the key players contributing to this achievement.

Ruby with Newborn Baby

Covering mainly urban slums and serving more than 350,000 women, Bangladesh is geared to achieve MDG 5 by 2015. That means a reduction of 5.4 percent in maternal deaths each year on average. Earlier this year, BRAC indicated that over the last nine years, maternal deaths dropped some 40% from 322 to 194 per 100,000 live births putting Bangladesh on track to meet MDG Five.

The film crew followed health care workers in one of Dhaka’s slums to document their work in teaching women how to stay healthy during pregnancy and care for their newborns. BRAC told UNTV Producer, Mary Ferreira, that it intends to partner with the United Nations Population Fund to recruit more midwives to enhance its team of skilled birth attendants.

Link to full story: http://goo.gl/zImD1

New video clip.

Filed under Women.

Bangladesh Women Seek Justice


By Mary Ferreira

After filming in India, we hopped on Jet Airways to Dhaka, Bangladesh. Our assignment — to cover a story on sexual harassment, a common phenomenon in this South East Asian country.

I took a big risk on this mission because I didn’t have an entry visa for Bangladesh and was advised to pick it up in New Delhi because approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had not been granted prior to departure from New York to India. Unsure of how this would unfold, I boarded the plane for New Delhi.

Fortunately, the day before we left for Bangladesh, visa approval was granted for cameraman, Joaquim, and me.

As if that wasn’t enough to cause anxiety – the young women who granted us permission to follow their story pulled out at the last moment. A few days earlier, I had a premonition that this might happen and asked the attorney representing the women to find alternative characters. Emran, our local fixer, together with the attorney, found a second character — a young university lecturer — who had an amazing story to tell.

But it didn’t end there. We arrived in Bangladesh on Sunday, checked into a hotel, and immediately met with UN officials for a briefing. They told us that we couldn’t film on Monday due to anticipated political protests. This would cut one day from our 8-day schedule. Needless to say, we accomplished our mission. See clip.

Audio MP3
Link to full story: http://goo.gl/S6ZSG

Filed under Looking back.

Mexico Streets Not Paved with Gold



When I asked fifteen year old Lupita what she would like most if she had all the money in the world, she told me “a toothbrush”.  Lupita is one of the thousands of kids who live in the dangerous environment of the Mexico City streets.

Lupita (15) and Adrian (14) - she is pregnant with their first child

Official estimates cite just over 3000 young people in their teens and twenties; many believe the figure to be ten times higher.  I was in Mexico City recently with cameraman, Patrick Fries, to shoot features for “21st Century” and for the launch of the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) global initiative to mark the world’s population reaching 7 billion in October 2011.  As the world becomes ever more crowded, the trend is a movement of people from rural areas to cities creating vast urban sprawls like Mexico City. With a population of over 20 million, it is now rated as the eighth largest mega-city in the world.

Marisol with her baby, Diego

Me sharing a peaceful moment with Diego

And for the young people who are also attracted to life in the city, the pavements are rarely paved with gold. Many end up living in the tough environment of the streets where violence is a daily occurrence; conditions are squalid; addiction to a drug called “mona” (a toxic, industrial solvent which they sniff) kills hunger but eventually rots their bodies and their brains; life expectancy is around 30 years old; and the girls face even greater dangers in the form of sexual violence and the need to trade their bodies for favours and survival.
See our upcoming feature on “21st Century” which follows the lives of Lupita, now pregnant with her first child, and twenty-four year old Marisol who is fighting both drug-addiction and for the right to keep her young baby, born into life on the streets.

Filed under Uncategorized.

Not Safe in Her Own Home in Azerbaijan


By Francis Mead


A brave woman uses a small camera to capture what is happening to her: she discovers she isn’t safe in her own home. (excerpt)

After a year of rumours Nuriya Khalikova was forced from her home – to make way for a new park in the centre of Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku. Because of her film, activists picked up on her case – and now her plight, along with that of hundreds of others, has come to the attention of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights. The city authorities in Baku say they offered adequate compensation to evicted residents, but Nuriya disputes this.

I travelled to Baku with cameraman Richard Gibb and we filmed there before the story made international headlines. We found Nuriya to be a strong and articulate woman, a survivor who’s determined to move on with her life.

Nuriya surveys the rubble that used to be her home

Baku itself is booming on the back of Azerbaijan’s plentiful supplies of oil and gas – and the country has seen a huge reduction in poverty over the past decade, as well as a massive increase in construction. We were agog at the chic, very expensive shops in the city centre, and at Baku’s elegant architecture.

Watch out for the full story which we’ll shortly be releasing for 21st Century.

Filed under Uncategorized.

Saving Elephants


by Mary Ferreira

For a long time — more than five years — I’ve had a burning desire to produce a story about the plight of elephants around the world. According to CITES, elephants appear on Appendix II of the endangered species list. While in India filming stories about women and population growth, I was able to capture some elephant footage and record a few interviews.

But it wasn’t an easy task since we had to wait, almost in hiding, to spot the elephants. These gentle giants are so intelligent and alert that they sense when humans are on their heels and they simply keep moving. Fortunately, we found them eating tea leaves in one of the tea gardens in Assam — an area close to the border with Bangladesh.

Our friends at WWF helped us track the elephants, shared photographs with us, and accompanied us throughout our elephant chase. But one day, we had to cross the river because villagers told us that the elephants had just passed through damaging rice fields and other crops in the neighborhood. In a very tiny wooden canoe, more than 10 people with camera gear, boarded in an attempt to find the elephants. It was frightening but no one thought of the danger since we were all excited to finally get some footage of the elephants hanging out in the nearby forest. On the way back the cameraman, Carlos, suggested that we cross the river in two groups. We took his advice and returned safely.

On a previous shoot in South Africa, the team was also able to film elephants for one day. Experts believe there’s an over-population of elephants in that country. The real argument is whether there are too many elephants or if, in fact, a rapidly growing human population is encroaching on land once known as elephant territory.

Can elephants and humans co-exist in a sustainable way? Our friends at WWF believe that it’s possible. Final video coming soon…

Filed under Wildlife.

India: Growing Population


by Mary Ferreira

Crowded Marketplace

Our team traveled to New Delhi, Mumbai and Bihar to film a story about India’s growing population.

Experts believe that India will overtake China and become the most populous nation on the planet in two decades. Coping with so many people will be challenging for policy makers as more and more people leave rural villages for big cities, like New Delhi, to find work and improve their lives. The most recent census puts the current population at 1.2 billion.

For this story, we found our main character, Ranjeet, working at a construction site in New Delhi and convinced him to visit his relatives back in Bihar and to reunite with his son who remained with his grandparents in the village. Eventually, Ranjeet decided to bring the little boy back with him to New Delhi.  We decided to join Ranjeet on the train to film the journey.  It was a long ride – about 12 hours – before we arrived at our destination but we were able to capture hundreds of striking images and get a sense of what life is really like for the poor.

While following Ranjeet, it was so crowded on the platform that it was difficult to keep up with our camera crew.  Fortunately, after most of the passengers left the terminal, we were able to find each other and regroup to complete the story.

Link to full story: http://goo.gl/kOtY7

Filed under Population.

India: Forgotten Women


Filming in Vrindavan in a crowded marketplace.

by Mary Ferreira

We visited India to film a few stories for UN Television at the end of 2010.  One of the pieces dealt with the plight of widows in the Holy City of Vrindavan where most widows settle, waiting to die. It was indeed heart wrenching to see how some widows struggle to survive in the streets.

We followed one widow who now lives in an Ashram founded by Dr. Mohini Giri, an activist, who fights to end poverty and hunger in India. Dr. Giri also works closely with widows offering them a better life.

During this shoot, we visited several places — New Delhi, Agra, Vrindavan, Bundelkhand and Varanasi.  The distances between each location were hundreds of miles apart requiring travel by car, train and plane but it was a rewarding experience because of the wealth of footage we captured while there.  It was quite a hectic mission.

We also found out that in northern and central India, the Act of Sati (self-immolation) still occurs occasionally even though the British banned the practice in 1829.  Later in 1987 the Indian Government ratified the Sati Prevention Act.

However, Dr. Giri continues her fight to improve the lives of widows but it’s often a challenge convincing them to leave the streets for a more comfortable life. Some of these women believe that it is their destiny to suffer in widowhood until death calls.

Our nimble team comprised of cameraman, Joaquim Vieira; fixer Sachi Maniar; driver Mr. Singh; and producer Mary Ferreira.
Link to full story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfA5LBOMdKk
Link to radio story: http://goo.gl/BYBsr

Filed under Women.