Science & Health

How Handwriting Helps Kids with Learning Disabilities Read Better

As recently as a half-century ago, young American students would spend many lessons writing curved loops and diagonal lines, as they learned how to write in cursive. Over the years, though, computer keyboards and voice to text programs have replaced pens and pencils, and made handwriting — especially cursive — less relevant. But, as Faiza Elmasry discovered, handwriting — especially cursive — can help dyslexic kids improve their reading. Faith Lapidus narrates her report.

Arts & Entertainment

Tiger Woods Wins Masters, His 15th Major Golf Championship

Tiger Woods, one of the world’s best golfers, captured his fifth Masters championship Sunday, his 15th major professional victory after an 11-year drought from winning the sport’s biggest tournaments.

Woods shot a 2 under par 70 on a drizzly day at the Augusta National Golf Club in the southern U.S. state of Georgia to finish 13 under par for the tournament, a shot better than three other American golfers, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele.

Woods, with a big smile on his face, thrust both arms into the air as holed his final putt on the 18th green for a bogey. He hugged his mother, Kultida Woods, his two children, daughter Sam and son Charlie, and other well-wishers as he headed to the clubhouse to sign his scorecard.

At 43, Woods is the oldest Masters champion since Jack Nicklaus, who won the 1986 Masters at 46. The 79-year-old Nicklaus holds the record for most major golf championships with 18, with Woods now trailing the mark by three.

With Woods’ dearth of recent major championships, the Nicklaus mark appeared increasingly distant for the aging Woods. The last 11 years have marked a period of personal turmoil for Woods as he underwent several surgeries to repair back injuries that inhibited his performance or stopped him from playing at all. He also was divorced from his wife, Elin Nordegren, after a string of his highly publicized extramarital affairs.

Nicklaus tweeted his congratulations to Woods, saying, “A big ‘well done’ from me to @TigerWoods! I am so happy for him and for the game of golf. This is just fantastic!!!”

U.S. President Donald Trump, himself an avid golfer who has occasionally played with Woods, said on Twitter, “Congratulations to @TigerWoods., a truly Great Champion!”

Economy & business

Ivanka Trump In Africa For Women’s Economic Summit

Ivanka Trump arrived in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, Sunday for a summit on African women’s economic inclusion and empowerment.

In addition to attending the summit, the daughter of the U.S. president, who is also an advisor to her father, will meet with female workers in the coffee industry, and tour a female-run textile facility.

President Donald Trump signed a National Security Presidential Memorandum in February, establishing the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative. W-GDP says it hopes to “reach 50 million women by 2025, through the work of the the United States Government and its partners.”

It was not immediately clear if the controversy that surrounds the U.S. president will follow his daughter to Africa. The president has not been kind in his remarks about Africa and its migrants.

“I don’t think people will have a good feeling” said Ethiopian journalist Sisay Woubshet, about the president’s daughter visit to the Continent.

Marakle Tesfaye, an activist, said, however, “I think she’s coming genuinely to empower women and it’s good that she’s coming because she will push forward our agenda.”

Trump is also scheduled to an make an appearance at a World Bank policy summit.

Arts & Entertainment

Red Dresses Raise Awareness for Missing, Murdered Native American Women

Forty red dresses hang outside of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, a short distance from the U.S. Capitol.

They’re strategically placed near trees and waterfalls alongside the Riverwalk located in the museum’s Native landscape.

They’re present 24 hours a day, in all weather, to draw attention to the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women who experience violence at a much higher rate than non-indigenous women.

On this day, they snap furiously in a wicked wind, commanding attention.

The powerful installation is the creative brainchild of visual artist Jaime Black, whose goal is to raise awareness about the high rate of violence against native women.

“What I do is I put up empty red dresses in public spaces so that people can connect to the absence of these women, but also to the power and presence of the women through the red dress,” she says.

The color red

Her choice of the color red was deliberate.

“It’s our sacred life blood, it’s where vitality comes from, and our energy, and our power as human beings, but it’s also an allusion to the violence and the loss of that sacred life blood through violence,” she says.

Paying homage

On this freezing day outside the museum, Black honors the women the dresses represent — with a special performance.

As a Native American elder beats on a drum, the artist, barefoot and all in black except for a red silk scarf around her neck, kneels and rubs clay on the ground near the entrance to the museum. It’s been raining hard all morning. But it stops as Black starts her performance.

Spectators gather round as she clutches her pot of clay and walks slowly toward the dresses. She winds her way around the ledge of a curved pool and wades into the cool water, smearing some of the dresses with the mudlike substance.

“I really wanted to use my talents and my gifts to further the voices of a lot of people who are silenced,” she says, “and indigenous women are really facing this epidemic of silence.”

While Black’s work has focused mostly on Canadian women so far, she’s brought her project to the U.S. for the first time, to address an issue that spans the entire Western hemisphere.

REDress project

She calls her installation “The REDress Project,” or “The re-dress project.”

“Redress is a word that means to put right a wrong, and indigenous women have been facing injustice in North America for hundreds of years,” she says. “Ever since settlers came to North America, there’s been a violent relationship between settlers and indigenous people and I feel like that violent relationship carries on still today.”

She calls that systemic discrimination, The Colonial Project.

“The Colonial Project is basically interested in erasing certain voices in favor of a certain system,” she explains. “So the legal frameworks, the political frameworks, these things were built by non-indigenous people to silence indigenous people, and so all of these systems have created a space where indigenous women are erased.”

But more and more Native women are refusing to be silenced and are becoming proactive, leading movements, participating in protests and petitioning their governments for more recognition.

“I think in these ways and these movements, like Standing Rock and Idle No More movement, we see the strength of indigenous women to really maintain culture in the face of such colonial violence,” Black says.

Hope for change

Black — and other supporters, including Machel Monenerkit, deputy director of the museum — are also encouraged by the presence of two Native American women in Congress now; Debra Anne Haaland, serving as the U.S. Representative for New Mexico’s 1st congressional district, and Sharice Lynnette Davids, serving as the U.S. Representative for Kansas’s 3rd congressional district.

“I think the 2019 Congress for women was exceptional in the numbers that we now have in Congress, but for Native people having two indigenous women represent Kansas and New Mexico is obviously something we’ve not seen before, and hopefully we’ll be able to bring attention to Native issues,” Monenerkit says.

In the meantime, Black hopes the red dresses, all of which are donated, will have an impact on all who get to see them.

“What I think that the artwork and creativity can really do is really hit people in the heart, “she says. “People who walk by those dresses … they can’t unsee that. That’s going to sit in their memory for a very long time, and I think it has a really emotional impact on people even before they know what the dresses are even there for.”

Arts & Entertainment

The REDress Project Highlights Missing, Murdered Native American Women

Forty red dresses hang outside of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington. They’re present 24 hours a day, in all weather, to draw attention to the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women who experience violence at a much higher rate than non-indigenous women. The dresses are part of an exhibit being presented in the U.S. for the first time. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more.

Silicon Valley & Technology

Tech Program Turns Low Income S. Africa Girls Into High Achievers

Women are woefully underrepresented in technology, science, engineering and mathematics jobs in South Africa. But for the last decade, a homegrown, UNICEF-supported program has worked to bring 11,000 lower-income high school girls into these industries.

Among those students was Raquel Sorota.

Sorota has come a long way from her humble upbringing in Johannesburg’s Tembisa township. She now works as a risk engineer at a top South African insurance company.

She was those one of those South African high school girls who went through the UNICEF-supported TechnoGirls program, which started in 2005. She was selected for the program in 2009.

Now 24, she says it changed her life.

“My life has literally never been the same again,” she said. “So, before the program, I wanted to be a doctor and today I’m an engineer, through that program. So I think a lot of what I think I took from that program was how it exposed me to the world of engineering. I think for the longest time I never knew how broad that world was and that I could have a place in that world, most importantly.”

Bright, disadvantaged girls

The program selects bright high school girls from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, gives them exposure to professions in science, technology, engineering and math, pairs them with mentors, and follows them through their university studies.

The program’s founder, Staff Sithole, says this is about much more than creating a new crop of workers. This, she says, is about changing the world — and who runs it.

“It is more an instrument, or a program, which is contributing towards gender equality. So rather than just running advocacy programs, let’s come with something that can change the circumstances, can be a purposeful targeted intervention of contributing towards gender equality,” she said.

Challenging obstacles

For high school students Gugulethu Zungu and Queen Makaile, the obstacles are more than just lack of opportunity. Both are physically challenged; they were both born with different, rare genetic defects that have affected their appearance and their health. Both were chosen to participate in the program this year for their high grades in math and science.

Zungu says the program led her to identify her dream career — forensics — but also to expand her horizons.

“I like investigating and solving mysteries. And it actually makes me believe that, indeed, nothing is impossible. You just have to think out of the box,” she said.

Makaile, who has struggled with hearing and vision problems as a result of her rare defect that has also given her asymmetrical facial features, says she now wants to be come a journalist, to show the world that her thoughts matter more than her looks.

For these girls, nothing, they say, will stand in their way.

Silicon Valley & Technology

Who Runs the World? TechnoGirls

Women are woefully underrepresented in technology, science, engineering and mathematics jobs in South Africa. But for the last decade, a homegrown, UNICEF-supported program has worked to bring 11,000 lower-income high school girls into these industries. VOA’s Anita Powell catches up with a few such “TechnoGirls” in Johannesburg and brings us their stories.

Science & Health

Using Trees to Stop a Lake from Turning into Desert

Just 50 years ago, the Aral Sea, which straddles the nations of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, was the fourth largest lake in the world. But today it is mostly desert, and environmental groups are trying to save what is left. VOA’S Kevin Enochs reports.