It’s been another year of reporting on deadly diseases and lifesaving cures, girls and boys, changes in the cultural and physical climate, goats and sodas. And once again we find ourselves reflecting on what a wild, wonderful world we live in.
Yes, we’ve seen the heartbreaking toll of disease and poverty. But we’ve also seen amazing resilience. We documented the decline of Ebola in West African countries, and through our #15Girls series we’ve profiled spirited young women across the globe.
Here’s a look back at our most popular stories from 2015.
Our No. 1 story on the blog was Michaeleen Doucleff’s piece exploring why back pain hardly exists in certain indigenous communities in India, Central America and West Africa.
Here in the U.S., a sedentary lifestyle and lots and lots of time hunched over computer screens has many of us bent out of shape and in pain. But one acupuncturist found that for members of certain tribes, the disks in their backs showed few signs of degeneration as they aged.
How come? Maybe because in those communities people tend to be more active — and therefore stronger and more muscular. Those buff bodies help them maintain good posture throughout their life.
Periods, Menses And Visits From Aunt Flo
Pretty much half the world has had to deal with this monthly occurrence — but menstrual hygiene is not something many people talk about openly. Which is why, it seems, many readers appreciated our frank discussions about periods.
Our second and third most popular stories this year were about how girls around the world manage their periods.
Reporter Nurith Aizenman spoke with public health advocates who are working to improve girls’ access to clean toilets, running water and sanitary pads so they don’t have to skip school when they’re having their period. The first step, according to women’s groups, is to combat the squeamishness that everyone from teen girls to seasoned global development types feel over discussing menstruation.
As part of our #15Girls series, Jane Greenhalgh and Doucleff spoke with Kamala, a 14-year-old in rural Nepal who, per local tradition, is banished to a shed while she’s menstruating. They also spoke with Prakriti, a 15-year-old who lives in the capital city, Kathmandu, and is fighting norms by insisting: “Menstruation is not a taboo but a power for women.”
Taylor Swift’s Very White Africa
Another popular piece touched on Taylor Swift and the colonial era in Africa. The music video for Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” features mid-20th century costumes and shows off vast expanses of striking African landscapes. Nearly everyone in the video is white.
Commentators Viviane Rutabingwa and James Kassaga Arinaitwe walked us through why they think this glamorous version of colonial days was a big problem: “Colonialism was neither romantic nor beautiful. It was exploitative and brutal.”
The Plight — And Pluckiness — Of 15-Year-Old Girls
As part of our #15Girls series, reporters Kelly McEvers and Jasmine Garsd told the stories of four girls in El Salvador whose lives have been deeply affected — or derailed — by gang violence.
Marcela was killed by gang members, just like her boyfriend before her. To escape gang violence, another teen girl made a dangerous 1,000-mile journey to the U.S. border — only to get turned around by Border Patrol. And one studious girl, Aby, stopped going outside for good reason — her best friend disappeared after refusing to give a pencil to a gang member’s sister.
We also hear from Mimi, who has found a way to get out of the house while avoiding gangs. She works as a paramedic, she says, because “it feels good to be somebody else’s shield.”
Which Goats and Soda stories from this year made an impression on you? What do you want to read about in 2016? Let us know in the comments or tweet @NPRGoatsandSoda.