Personalities in the #IranDeal

The historic agreement with Iran announced Tuesday took 20 months of talks and involved many players. Sure, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif played a central role, but there were many others who really made the deal come together.

Iran agreed to reduce its nuclear capability for the next 10 years in exchange for lifting sanctions. The deal was struck between Iran and P5+1, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani both celebrated the deal in separate statements. Direct contact between the two in September 2013 was a crucial step in getting the talks moving, but the deal came together at much lower levels.

Here are some of the players who helped make the deal happen, including the Silver Fox.

Find out who she is and read on at PRI.org.

Are volunteer programs empowering — or exploitative?

Giving time to a cause you believe in can be extremely rewarding. As Demba Kandeh, a volunteer worker in the Gambia, explained, “Volunteering is a beautiful thing.”

But when do volunteer programs empower and when do they exploit? Does building this kind of workforce benefit communities? Would essential services simply not be provided if it weren’t for volunteers, as several people told Amy Costello in her investigation of volunteer health workers in Senegal. With help in part from the Global Voices community of bloggers, we found perspectives from around the globe.

Laura Morris, 28, an editor in Paris, spent five months as a volunteer for a small NGO in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and seven months as a volunteer for an organization that provides care for the elderly in London. Morris says she understood why the Cambodian organization did not pay her — she was the only foreigner there, and they could not have afforded the salary — but she thinks that the London nonprofit simply took advantage of a tough job market and gave her work that should have been performed by a paid employee.

“I volunteered for it, so it was my decision to work with them, but I was also asked to do work that I absolutely should have been paid for, that was much higher than entry-level,” Morris says.

Read and hear more of the discussion, including seven more perspectives, at PRI.org.

What to Consider When You Are Considering Donating

As part of PRI’s The World’s investigative project Tracking Charity, we recently held an online chat with experts in the realm of giving. Our question: How do you know a good charity when you see it?

It’s not an easy question to answer, particularly when you are focusing on organizations that work in developing countries while securing donations from people in the United States. Here are some takeaways from the chat and a few additional perspectives that might help donors think through where they put their dollars.

Read the Q&A at The World.

24 companies sign on to major safety agreement for Bangladesh clothing factories

Twnety-four major clothing retailers have now committed to a safety accord for garment factories in Bangladesh.

More than 1,100 garment workers were killed when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed outside of Dhaka last month and hundreds of factories were closed Monday across Bangladesh amid workers’ unrest over safety concerns.

H&M, Inditex, C&A, Primark, and Tesco agreed to the accord on Monday. Seven other companies, including Benetton and Mango, joined on Tuesday, while more followed suit by Wednesday. The agreement includes measures such as independent safety inspections and public reports, an increased role for workers and unions, and funding for repairs and renovations, according to the IndustriALL and UNI Global Unions that initiated the accord.

US company PVH (which owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein) and German retailer Tchibo agreed to sign the accord last year. Other US retailers such as Walmart and Gap, have not signed the agreement. Walmart is making a “solo effort” while Gap has maintained that it cannot be part of a legally-binding accord.

The deadline for companies to join the accord is the end of the day on May 15.

News of the agreement broke during a day-long chat about the garment industry hosted by The World on Facebook yesterday. The developments prompted questions during the chat about what moves large, international clothing companies to take action and how consumers can affect change in the industry.

Read more about the chat and the post I wrote yesterday.

My $10 T-Shirt: A Conversation about Ethical Fashion

The death toll of the April 24 collapse of a garment factory outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, has passed 1,000 people, making it the worst industrial accident since the 1984 gas leak at a Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal. The Rana Plaza complex collapsed just one day after an engineer declared it unsafe.

Britain’s Primark and Canadian company Loblaw, have admitted that their clothing was manufactured at Rana Plaza and offered to compensate victims of the disaster.

One question on my mind this week has been: Is it possible that the T-shirt I bought yesterday was made by one of the workers killed in that factory?

It is a disconcerting thought for a shopper’s conscience. But figuring out what we as consumers can do to help workers in the garment industry is not an easy task.

Join us Monday on Facebook for a day-long chat about how we might be able to shop more responsibly for our clothes. Click here to RSVP and post your comments and questions to the wall.

Read more at PRI’s The World.

#WorldGender Conversation: What is the Role of Men in the Fight for Women’s Safety?

Women’s outcries for safety became more audible in the aftermath of the gang rape and subsequent death of a young woman in Delhi last December. Increasingly, male voices are entering the discussion as well.

Take Ali Shahidy, for example. He initially wrote an essay about becoming a feminist in Afghanistan under a pseudonym. As “Salim Hussaini,” he wrote candidly for the Women Under Siege website:

Growing up in Afghanistan, I had already watched my father beat my mother—but that was seen as just another part of daily life. Then the cycle of violence continued when I myself became an abuser. I began to beat my sisters and harass girls in the street. I restricted my sisters’ movements, how they looked, and who they spoke to. Afghan customs taught me that the honor of my family was more important than the physical and psychological well being of my own siblings. I was following accepted cultural norms without shame.

Confronted with his sister’s abusive marriage, however, Shahidy changed his mind:

To help my sister, I had to fight with mullahs and our elders; I had to struggle with practices, beliefs, and values that filled my life since birth… After helping Soraya, I knew I had a responsibility to fight for women’s rights in a larger way.

PRI’s The World is hosting a discussion with Shahidy and a panel of people in the thick of the movement about the roles of men when it comes to movements for women’s safety.

Join this conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #worldgender. Then join producer Jeb Sharp, guests and me in a live-stream conversation on Thursday, April 11 at 10AM EST.

More at PRI’s The World.

#worldgender: Women’s Right to Safety

At Public Radio International and PRI’s The World, we’ve been covering women’s rights and protests since the rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi in December sparked large and prolonged protest. We don’t have the resources of a wire service or massive media organization, but we still wanted to give prominence to what people around the world are doing and saying about women’s roles and rights in societies. So I’ve been working with our team on a project to look at movements for women’s rights — could this be a Feminist Spring? as Viji Sundaram wrote — and keep a light shined on the subject over time. We’ve used RebelMouse as our platform, incorporating our own reporting, others’ stories, but most importantly the comments and stories of individuals. RebelMouse gives us the ability to be network-neutral; I’ve pulled in tweets and links, videos and images, but also text from emails and quotes that I can customize to tell the story as best I can. We’ve also been able to categorize the story into navigation that makes sense turning a huge list of information into manageable chunks. I would say, the only thing missing is the ability to search all the posts for keywords. Here’s a taste, but to see it completely with navigation etc., you’ll need to go to RebelMouse.

Reddit Users Debate the Pricing Game Of The Cancer Drug Industry

When the Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla announced last month that it would cut the cost of three drugs used to treat cancers – one used for lung cancer and two for breast cancer – people around the world responded. Some of the most lengthy conversations took place on the news commenting site Reddit, including a thread 420 comments long in response to a news report in The Economic Times (India).

The conversations and debates centered on why these specialized drugs are so expensive, as well as what pharmaceutical companies’ rights and responsibilities are to make sure life-saving drugs are available in the developing world.

Read on in Global Voices.

Global and Underground

Here’s how classes work: Holakou Rahmanian turns on his computer early in the morning or late at night. He goes to a website whose address is known only to students, faculty and administrators of his university. Sometimes he’s in his pajamas when he logs in. Sometimes, he guesses, his professors are also in their pajamas. In his four years of classes, he has only seen his online teachers’ faces once or twice. The bandwidth is saved for their voices and online whiteboards.

Rahmanian, 23, completed a degree in computer science last fall and is close to finishing his second major in mathematics. He is one of about 50,000 students who have studied in unconventional ways at the Bahá’í Institute of Higher Education since it was founded in 1987 to subvert official discrimination by the Iranian government.

Continue reading at Pacific Standard

Haute Hijabis

Trimmings in downtown Los Angeles' fashion districtMarwa Atik needs five pieces of trim, the kind embellished with pearls and black jewels. At a store in downtown L.A.’s Fashion District, boxes of trimmings line the walls from floor to ceiling, but Atik scans quickly and zeroes in on what she wants. At her direction, a clerk climbs a tall, wooden ladder and pulls down one of the cardboard boxes. He counts out five pieces and, after 30 seconds of bargaining, Atik makes her purchase.

For the next five days, the designer will create elaborate hijabs, which are head-scarves for Muslim women, to display at an upcoming Irvine fashion show. Atik’s company, Vela, specializes in unique designs of an item known more often for its conservative connotations than its stylistic value.

Read on in the LA Weekly.