13 Global Stories That Defined 2022

Global Press Journal reporters thoughtfully documented the challenges of this transitional year, detailing how communities around the world coped, celebrated, and against all odds, progressed.

While it would be nice to say we escaped COVID-19’s clutches this year, the reality of 2022 was murkier. Global Press Journal reporters thoughtfully documented the challenges of this transitional year, detailing how communities around the world coped, celebrated, and against all odds, progressed.

Our journalists took on critical human rights issues worldwide — from toxic gold mining in Zimbabwe to child jockeying in Mongolia — and captured how local communities made strides forward. In the midst of an economic crisis, resourceful Sri Lankans turned to home gardening. Lucha libre in Mexico put more women in the spotlight. And young women reclaimed their rights — and their bodies — in Mongolia.

In the end, it was not what we overcame, but our resilience and resourcefulness that defined us.

—Shanté Cosme, Chief Content Officer

A Family Found Opportunity. Then They Were Kidnapped.

This story follows Jean de Dieu Paluku and his son, from the territory of Lubero, who was kidnapped by the Allied Democratic Forces in the province of Ituri in eastern DRC in 2021.

They had come to this part of the country for the fertility of its soil and had been farmers there for several years. One Sunday, at around 9 p.m., the armed group drove them deep into the forest, where they met other civilians who were already caught in the nets of the ADF. They experienced suffering, pain, and forced labor before they were able to escape.

Jean de Dieu Paluku, who is calling on the government to restore peace, has bitter memories of his captivity. He witnessed the massacre and mistreatment of other civilians. His family had assumed he was dead and organized a family mourning.

I was surprised to find sources who had escaped the ADF; it is very rare. I hoped that telling Jean de Dieu Paluku’s sad story could help change things and call on the Congolese government and the world to take urgent steps to find a solution to the violence in eastern DRC.

The impact of this story was largely positive in my community. I felt it even when I was reporting; it has led to a sort of awareness. Those who have heard about it and those who read this story will finally understand what is really happening in DRC.

Merveille Kavira Luneghe, DRC

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Digital Divide Widens as Providers Refuse Service.

This story is about how the telecommunications companies can unilaterally decide which areas they will provide service to, leaving poorer city neighborhoods without connection to the internet.

Since the pandemic, access to the internet and mobile devices has become even more essential for both school and work. That had already become clear to me after a previous story on cutbacks to a program that had provided computers to students, which interfered with their ability to continue their studies while quarantining.

I had seen an article in the news about Atalaya Sur, a government-funded program that aimed to bring the internet to a barrio popular. I connected the dots with my previous story, in which one of my sources had set aside a significant portion of her earnings for mobile data for her children. It occurred to me that no one was talking about this connection gap and the lack of internet service in certain areas of the city and nationwide.

There had been stories about projects to improve access, but nobody was asking why one side of a street had internet and the other did not. So that is where I began my research, first looking in neighborhood Facebook groups, then speaking with social organizations, and finally speaking with people who did not have service and wanted to share their experiences.

The biggest challenge was understanding the legal circumstances that allow internet companies to choose where to provide service and discriminate against areas they consider less safe or not profitable enough. The companies did not respond to my questions about the situation and refused to give interviews. The national government was more transparent and admitted that with the current laws, they cannot force the companies to provide service.

I really enjoyed being able to explore Barrio 20 with the organization that is — by the sweat of their collective brow — installing reliable internet at low cost. I could see the neighborhood from up high, observe the nodes they had installed, and become acquainted with the families connected to the network. I am very grateful to all the families that opened their homes to me and shared their stories with me. Every time I have an experience like this, I feel profoundly privileged to be able to practice humane journalism and take the time to visit and get to know the protagonists of the story.

Lucila Pellettieri, Argentina

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The Toxic Toll of Gold

The story about the use of mercury in mining was important to tell because it revealed how miners in Zimbabwe continued to use a dangerous metal despite local and international laws against it. The story also educated miners about the dangers of mercury and how it affected them and their communities. Documented over five years, the story chronicles how little has changed over time.

My reporting began in 2017, when I covered a story that looked at how mercury was being used in artisanal mining, despite Zimbabwe signing the Minamata convention, an international treaty that calls for the abolishment of mercury use in mining.

I was motivated to learn more about the impact on artisanal miners (who were often unregulated) and the community at large. In 2022, l decided to follow up on the story since Zimbabwe had ratified the convention at the end of 2021. I discovered that despite international and local laws, mercury was still being used extensively within mining communities.

The story unfolded in rural Zimbabwe, and l had to navigate my way into the communities, crossing rivers by foot to access places inaccessible by car. Although it was a challenge, it gave me a sense of what miners go through on a daily basis to make ends meet. It also sparked sadness: I realized that the use of mercury in mining wasn’t just an issue of health consequences but also an issue of survival and putting food on the table.

Linda Mujuru, Zimbabwe

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Officials Barred ‘Virginity Tests’ in Schools. Students Say They’re Still Happening

Virginity testing has been an issue in Mongolia for a long time. Though some people knew about it, they had not dared to talk about it. Other countries have dealt with a similar issue, but they managed to end the practice. It continued in Mongolia.

When I was reporting on another story, I met sources who were concerned about this issue, and as it’s a serious violation of girls’ rights, I thought it was important to address. I did not want to write about it once and leave it there. After writing the first story, I heard from some of the sources that the government had started paying attention to the subject and taken action, but it was not effective. I decided to write another story exploring the ongoing violation against girls, given that the government action didn’t yield results.

When researching and writing this story, I faced many obstacles. Since it was a very complicated issue, writing about it required me to be very sensitive. During the research stage, the coronavirus transmission rate in Mongolia intensified, and a public lockdown made it hard to meet sources and take photos. Although it was challenging to find sources, I thought it was important to pursue the story.

The effort paid off. Once the second article was published, the government paid special attention to the issue, banned virginity tests at schools, and began actively working to monitor the issue. Official sources report that there have been no cases of virginity tests at schools without consent since.

Khorloo Khukhnokhoi, Mongolia

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Should an 8-Year-Old Be Allowed to Race a Horse?

We started discussing this story, which explores the human rights issue of child jockeys, one year before its publication, during the pandemic lockdown, we were just waiting for the right time to pursue it. In 2021, a 6-year-old male jockey fell off his horse and died during a pre-race test ride in Ulziit soum, Arkhangai province. The government had postponed the Naadam celebration and banned horse racing for a year because of the pandemic lockdowns.

Many Mongolians enjoy watching horse races. But after talking to a child jockey, I realized that it was time for this tradition to change.

The minimum age of employment is 16 in Mongolia, but this law does not apply to child jockeys. In other countries, adults ride racehorses, but in Mongolia, child jockeys range from 6 to 13 years old. We aimed to raise awareness about child endangerment in the sport and spoke to local citizens, racehorse trainers, child jockeys and their families to give a complete picture and fuller context.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of activists and stories like mine bringing attention to the human rights violations of child jockeys, the government recently raised the minimum age of child jockeys to 8, banned organized horse racing in winter and spring, and instated life insurance benefits for child jockeys. They also registered all child jockeys in an electronic system for monitoring and provided them with protective clothing and gear to protect them from injuries.

Odonchimeg Batsukh and Khorloo Khukhnokhoi, Mongolia

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For Women Wrestlers, the Fight Has Just Begun

It was important to me to shift the spotlight on lucha libre toward the luchadoras, the women wrestlers. With every event, luchadoras have demonstrated greater physical performance and elicited more emotion and more of a stir in the audience than the luchadores (male wrestlers) have. Even though luchadoras have always been present, it has taken longer for them to get the recognition they deserve. But in recent years, their success has taken off, and I wanted to share that evolution with the world.

A while back, a documentary photographer contacted me and said he came across my story while researching lucha libre. After reading it, he decided to focus his investigation on women wrestlers. He said it had not been easy to find information because there has been so little coverage of the luchadoras.

When I started reporting, I reached out to the most famous women wrestlers. It was difficult because their contracts do not allow them to agree to interviews without approval, so I looked at small gyms and local events where luchadoras were performing. It was at that point that I met my greatest challenge: narrowing down the list of women wrestlers to feature in my story.

I spoke with young luchadoras who were not yet 20 years old but who had spent over half their lives training; luchadoras who — after cleaning, cooking, washing up and helping their children with homework — went out to train at night; luchadoras who, years earlier, had toured the world as wrestlers and were now sharing their knowledge, skills, and secrets with little girls who dreamed of someday being like their role models.

Mar García, Mexico

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Political Crisis Could Undermine Fight Against Indian Trawlers

The intrusion of Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters has afflicted Sri Lankan fishermen for decades, but the problem worsened toward the end of last year. This spurred Sri Lankan fishermen into massive ongoing protests against the Indian fishermen who were engaged in illicit fishing in Sri Lankan waters and the exploitation of Sri Lanka’s marine resources, and Tamil Nadu fishermen joined their fight.

Experts said that due to the roller fishing system, Sri Lanka’s fish resources were being exhausted and the sea could become a desert, which would cause massive damage to the economy. This became major news not only in Sri Lankan media but also internationally. I felt it was a story that I had to write for Global Press.

Vavuniya, the district where I live, has neither a sea nor fishermen. To interview the fishermen, I had to travel to Yazh district, which was more than 200 kilometers (124 miles) away, so I pitched this story as a travel piece. Under the guidance of my editor, I stayed in Yazh for three days.

During pre-reporting, communication could only be by phone because of the distance. There was a sense of tension until I met each of the sources. In the end, everything went well.

I faced enormous challenges in reaching out to the governments of Sri Lanka and India and, after several weeks of waiting, the Tamil Nadu fisheries minister with the Indian government ultimately said that he did not want to comment on this issue. Despite that setback, per my editor’s guidance, I moved forward with my story.

Thayalini Indrakularasa, Sri Lanka

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To and From Work on Haiti’s ‘Road of Death’

Armed gangs have been an issue in Haiti for quite some time. But the situation escalated after the death of President Moïse, as armed groups took control of more parts of the capital. People used to be able to travel safely across the country before things changed for the worse over two years ago. Route Nationale 2 has become the “road of death” (“route de la mort”) for anyone who has to cross the Martissant area. Those living in Grand Sud have stopped using that road, finding other, more costly alternatives to go about their daily lives. Route Nationale 2 is controlled by armed groups and crosses four of the country’s regions (known as “départements”). To escape insecurity, many people have migrated to other parts of the country. A potential military intervention was discussed but never launched.

Overwhelmed by the situation, the prime minister requested assistance from the international community, but a solution to address the nation’s growing political insecurity has yet to be implemented. The situation has been extremely difficult for commuters who live in Grand Sud; citizens want the state authorities and the international community to understand what Haitians have to endure every day.

While the prime minister has asked the international community to act on both the humanitarian and security fronts, nothing has been done so far to curb gang violence in Haiti. Meanwhile, the country spirals deeper and deeper into chaos.

Anne Myriam Bolivar, Haiti

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Inside the Revival of Pulque, One of Mexico’s Oldest Drinks

The first time I tasted pulque, 27 years ago, I knew that drinking it would require some adventurousness. I was in the back of a parking lot at a diaper warehouse when I was served my first glass. The clientele consisted of around 15 people seated on two benches, holding languid conversations. As I tasted the pulque and tried to parse its texture and flavor, I asked myself why I had taken so long to taste this culturally iconic beverage, with its slimy consistency and effervescent taste, a liquid known as the “elixir of the gods.” I liked it.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed how the locales where pulque is sold have transformed from minuscule retail spaces, street-side corner stores and converted carports to pulquerías that look like bars, decked out with popular Mexican art and colorful furnishings. I have experimented with recipes rescued from family cookbooks: drunken sauce with pulque, pork belly marinated in pulque, pulque bread.

Ever since that first time, I have enjoyed hearing and sharing stories about pulque.

Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, I noticed that something was changing. Groups of consumers were starting to hold pulque up as a symbol of resistance. For them, pulque was a bastion of resistance against industrialized beverages, whether alcoholic or not. This was an ancestral beverage that nourished not just the consumer but also the communities that want to reclaim their history.

Pulque’s stigma as a harmful beverage lives on despite solid empirical evidence that refutes it. Getting to know the people who are promoting it as a countercultural element inspired me to write this article. But it wasn’t until I met Jessica “Jess” Vázquez Reyna that I realized I was missing the perspectives of those who made it and provided the raw materials.

My desire was to talk about the passion that pulque inspires as a cultural legacy. That is what makes this story relevant. In Tlaxcala, the city where Jess works, the pulqueras (women in the pulque business) have started to collaborate. And in the pulquerías, people have begun to talk about who made the pulque they are drinking and where it came from.

Patricia Zavala Gutiérrez, Mexico

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Child Care Shortage Soars to Crisis Levels

This story is about how lagging construction of public day care centers is leaving children under 5 years old out of the formal education system. It also delves into how the situation affects families, especially mothers, who must sacrifice hours from their work schedules or go into debt to make up for the government’s shortcomings.

Every year, as the new school year approaches, I read news reports on the number of students waiting for public education vacancies to open up. These statistics are in the news for a couple of days, then interest in them wanes until the next year comes along.

I thought it was an issue that warranted investigation. I began reporting, and upon speaking to the mothers of 1-year-olds — who are at the age when they can go to day care and who make up the segment of the population with the greatest vacancy deficit — I decided I wanted to tell that story. Their lives, finances and return to work had been disrupted by a lack of access to public schooling. I wanted to cover this vacancy shortage from the angle of the consequences it has for mothers and children.

This story had two significant challenges. The first was getting a 1-year-old girl to feel comfortable with a stranger who had suddenly appeared in her home before breakfast to take photos of her. The second, a more onerous task, was nailing down the number of children left without a spot in the city of Buenos Aires.

The information had to be public, but I could not find it anywhere. Other media outlets were giving estimates from unions or figures without sources. To get a reliable number, I had to go through information-access procedures and social organizations with lawsuits underway against the government and I had to have a lot of patience.

The government of the city of Buenos Aires provided the number of children on waiting lists as an image, a screenshot of an Excel spreadsheet without the numbers added up. To really know how many children were without spots, I had to gather the number of shortages city school by city school, cell by cell, insert them into an actual Excel spreadsheet and add them up.

The organization that filed the lawsuit against the city for not building schools told me that was par for the course, a “courtesy” of the government to make the task a little more cumbersome. Finally — and thanks to advice from Bennett Hanson, our researcher and a records expert, and to the fact-checking team that verified the data was correct after so much manual labor — we were able to publish the figure, a small victory against disinformation.

Lucila Pellettieri, Argentina

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As Famine Looms, Sri Lankans Turn to Home Gardens

As people prepared to survive the economic collapse in Sri Lanka, they created home gardens to produce their own food. The government, international charities and volunteer organizations provided donations and advice so that more people could do the same; soon, home gardening was the talk of the country. The process — and the focus on nontoxic food production — instilled a sense of innovation in the community.

I hoped that people’s efforts and their dedication to home gardening in Sri Lanka would inspire readers from different countries and local readers alike, and that’s what motivated me to pursue this story.

The story raised more awareness about home gardening in local communities. Activists shared the story on several social networking sites related to agricultural information. Some people who read the story felt it reflected their current situation. They also said that the data was illuminating and that the images of the sources’ gardens had given them hope.

Vetrichelvi Chandrakala, Sri Lanka

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In Violent Region, Music Shop Is an Instrument of Change

This is a story about music and insecurity in DRC. Since the beginning, artists have been singing about love and culture; today, many sing for peace. Their songs express the sadness, anxiety, suffering and despair of the Congolese population. In these melodies, they call on the government to reestablish peace and on the armed groups to lay down their arms. However, these songs, often critical of the government, are subject to prohibition. Some singers are arrested or see their freedom restricted after releasing their work.

I wanted to tell this story because it was a timely, compelling subject, and people in the community were talking about it. Some were surprised that musicians who “are only speaking the truth” were being bullied. I couldn’t not tell a story that was getting such a big reaction and that I believed could help bring peace back to DRC by giving a voice to the people who have suffered so much. I understand that people are tired of what is happening in the country. Some are willing to do anything, even risk their lives, to try to change things. For example, a musician was detained for almost a year because of the content of his songs, but in Uganda, where he has taken refuge, he continues to sing.

The impact in the community was positive and continues to be. The authorities are now being called upon again and being urged to restore peace. The more we insist, the quicker a solution will be found.

Merveille Kavira Luneghe, DRC

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Bitter Brew: Pandemic Spurs Uptick in Abortions

During the coronavirus pandemic, the provision of contraceptives to women in rural communities came to a halt as health workers adhered to government restrictions to curb the spread of the disease. In rural Zambia, most people travel long distances to access health services and usually depend on health workers that visit communities once a month. But because of the restrictions, community health workers could not travel, leading to a surge in illegal abortions.

I discovered this story when I visited a rural community on a personal errand. I heard a conversation about how women with unwanted pregnancies were having illegal abortions and drinking concoctions to terminate their pregnancies. They also faced health complications because contraceptives weren’t available.

The challenge was to find sources that would disclose that they had had an abortion. Luckily, the women in the community were willing to speak with me, although not on record because abortion attracts a lot of stigma in our community. A few weeks after interviews with health officials, I was informed that health workers had returned to the rural community. I believe my interviews compelled the officials to send the health workers back despite the travel restrictions.

Prudence Phir, Zambia

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