University of South Carolina

Reporting from West Africa

What I Did This Summer: West Africa


Bowers believes that journalists’ coverage of the civil wars has exposed others to the plight of boy soldiers who were recruited to do much of the fighting. Filmmakers and rock stars, including Bono and Kenya West, have lent their voices to the effort to expose social injustices. Celebrities’ role in this and other humanitarian causes has led the Western world to demand change.

Bowers says he admires Kristof -- who he calls the Indiana Jones of Journalism -- and others who live their lives to uncover injustices with the hope that their stories will reach people who can help.  

Bowers’ stories

After the fighting, African countries rooted in patriarchal practices generally struggle with a dark heritage of rape.

“Rape is a legacy of war,” said Bowers, recalling his visit to a rape clinic in Liberia. During the civil wars, rape was used like a “gang initiation” to create a bond among the boy soldiers, Bowers said. 

These boys, who are now grown men, do not always understand the psychology and physical implications of rape because of their backgrounds.

Government officials and women’s rights organizations are pushing for tougher punishment for rapists and a shift in the social understanding of rape. But Bowers says this fight is an uphill battle.   

Bowers also wrote several stories about the medical issues facing the poorest residents of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Although the Western world believes that AIDS is Africa’s biggest health epidemic, Bowers said, the women and children of Africa are dying of curable illnesses.

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