Pulitzer Center Update

This Week in Review: Untouchable

Image by Carl Gierstorfer. India, 2013.


Today is International Women’s Day and the plight of women and children in crisis is a recurring theme in much of the reporting that the Pulitzer Center supports. Visit our Gateway on the topic and you will find a number of recent contributions that broaden the scope of an already diverse collection of journalism. This week, for example, grantees Allyn Gaestel and Allison Shelley report from rural Nepal on a deeply ingrained but frequently dangerous practice called chaupadi—banishing or isolating women during their menstrual periods. “For generations here, menstruating women have slept outside of their homes, in small sheds or in the family stable,” writes Allyn. “They are considered impure and treated as untouchable, so they cannot enter the house or touch communal water or food.” Allyn’s story and Allison’s photos in The Christian Science Monitor document the efforts of activists to overcome taboos and superstitions and bring the women out of the sheds.

The Gateway also contains a number of new Untold Stories from grantee Carl Gierstorfer, a Berlin documentary maker who is working on a project about India’s strong cultural preference for male babies and the implications of the country’s growing gender imbalance. Carl talks about the difficulties of filming a story on bride trafficking in a rural region where a cow costs more than a wife. Meanwhile, Beenish Ahmed, reporting from Pakistan for GlobalPost, focuses on the lack of justice for rape victims.


Mother Tekla is regarded by many as the most powerful woman in the Catholic Church. “As the Abbess General of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour of Saint Bridget for the last 32 years, she has cultivated global relationships with everyone from Fidel Castro to casino owners to further the goals of her order,” writes grantee Jason Berry in GlobalPost and the National Catholic Reporter. “She oversees a small empire of hotels, restaurants and high-end guest houses from Israel to India and from Darien, Connecticut to Assisi, Italy that bring in big revenue for her order.”

In his continuing series about the Vatican’s efforts to exert more control over women’s religious orders—and some nuns’ attempts to push back—Jason offers a provocative profile of one nun who knows how to play the insiders' game at the Vatican. “She is a unique and complex player in the global Catholic Church,” he says.


Coverage of Darfur seems to fluctuate between journalists ignoring the conflict for long periods or zooming in for short bursts. The one constant: the continued suffering of the local inhabitants. Please join us on Mar. 20 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace for a panel discussion on media coverage of the Darfur crisis. The event will be moderated by Pulitzer Center Executive Director Jon Sawyer and the panelists will include U.S. Ambassador Dane Smith and journalists Rebecca Hamilton, Emily Wax, James Copnall and Isma’il Kushkush. Seating is limited so RSVP by March 18.