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Government Education Human Rights Development

International Women’s Day Centenary, 1911-2011

Only one in a growing number of proud women. photo: DVIDSHUB/flickr

Today, 8 March 2011, the world celebrates International Women’s Day. This year, nearly 1,500 mass rallies, business conferences, government activities, networking events, craft markets, theater performances, fashion parades, parties, and more around the globe will celebrate 100 years of women’s achievements.

In these 100 years, both women and their International Women’s Day (IWD) have come a long way. The IWD was commemorated for the first time on 19 March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, following its establishment during the Socialist International meeting the prior year. More than one million women and men attended rallies on that first commemoration. In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating 8 March as International Women’s Day. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.

Today, the IWD is celebrated as a national holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. In other countries, the IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers. In most countries, however, the IWD is simply the day for women to celebrate themselves and their achievements. Today, a global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more.

Most major events taking place at this year’s International Women’s Day Centenary are listed either on the official IWD website, or on the Women for Women International website. These are thus also the best places to find the IWD events taking place closest to where you are. Furthermore, the IWD is commemorated by the United Nations which continues to run themes on political and human rights, and gender equality, to create social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide. Its official theme for today’s International Women’s Day is Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.

From their mouths to God’s ear.

For a wealth of background information and analysis on this issue, see our Digital Library holdings under the keywords “women” and “ women’s rights”.

Categories
Education Keyword in Focus

Keyword in Focus: Tunisia

Too few jobs or too many graduates? Image: courtesy of Stefano Benetti

“A socio-economic oasis in a political desert”: this is how Diogo Noivo describes Tunisia in a 2009 briefing paper for the Portuguese Institute of International Relations and Security (IPRIS). It got about by now that the notorious tourist destination is not a paradise for critical spirits and democratically-minded people. But now it seems that even the socio-economic oasis Tunisia was supposed to be is drying out.

A desperate, unemployed university graduate, who was denied the right to have a vegetable stall on the local market in a provincial town and slapped and insulted by the police, burnt himself in protest. Demonstrations organized by otherwise loyal trade unions were not crushed by the government’s security forces for a change and the autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali reacted to the protests by firing his youth minister and allocating more money for the country’s youth programs. However, the angry crowd didn’t let itself calm down by this and Ben Ali returned to his old methods: guns and batons.

In this excellent report, the German-language Swiss public radio reveals the socio-economic causes of this unrest: Tunisia’s good education system brings out tens of thousands of university graduates every  year, which the country’s low-tech industries such as textiles and cheap tourism can’t absorb.

Categories
Health Education

How Are the World’s Children Doing?

Children have the right to learn, photo: D Sharon Pruitt/flickr

A UNICEF report titled “The Children Left Behind”, to be released today, examines the level of inequality in the education, well-being and health of children in the world’s richest countries. The countries with the least inequality were the usual lot: Iceland, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway.

While Finland, for example, tops the list in terms of having the most equal education system, it fares less well on the health front. Despite free and healthy school meals, Finnish media decried, Finnish children are still not eating enough vegetables and fruit. Switzerland, somewhat unsurprisingly, tops the list as the country with the highest level of material well-being for kids. While Canadian authorities and media reacted with shock at how badly off Canadian children are in terms of material well-being and health, the US ranks even far below its northern neighbor (near the bottom of 24 OECD countries under scrutiny). This should ruffle some feathers in the US and show how vulnerable children in particular are to societal inequality. Sadly, given the intensely polarized political environment, this important report is likely to get buried under a myriad of apparently much more urgent policy concerns.

Yet, the US, like any other wealthy nation not only owes its children a good standard of living from a moral standpoint, but also has to provide it in order to compete in tomorrow’s increasingly crowded knowledge economy in which a pool of healthy, smart and motivated young people is a prerequisite for success. Inequality, ill-health and resentment will hamper growth and make countries less dynamic and less competitive, regardless of their relative ranking in the world today.

Categories
Health Education Human Rights

Damaging Education

Waiting for a decent education, photo: TheAdvocacyProject/flickr

According to a report by the Kenyan Teachers Service Commission (TSC), up to 12,600 girls were sexually abused by teachers over a five-year period from 2003 to 2007. Most of the victims were aged between 12 and 15; and in some cases, teachers abused as many as 20 girls before they were reported.

As a result, a total of 600 teachers were fired in 2009, and this year so far the number totals 550. In addition, the survey, done jointly with the non-profit Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW), found that 633 teachers were charged with sexual abuse in the five years covered by the study. The report went on to state that these numbers probably only represented the tip of the iceberg, as most cases went unreported.

Failure to report cases of sexual abuse to the police or the TSC was often attributed to either the fear of stigmatization, or the collusion between teaching staff and the officials investigating the abuse. In some cases, education officials even collaborated with the offenders. In addition, many parents did not want to involve the notoriously corrupt police out of fear of repercussions.

Categories
Education Development

Soap? No, Thanks.

High-tech tools versus basic needs
High-tech tools versus basic needs

Education in developing countries is often a subject of controversy. But it can also be an example of absurdity.

Let’s take the example of technological development in Namibia.

Namibia, with 2 million inhabitants and a $5,000 a year per capita GDP, is one of the richest countries in Africa. It has also been politically stable since it gained independence from South Africa in the 1990s. Natural resources, uranium and diamonds among them, as well as tourism guarantee the country a comfortable income.

But the country is also benefiting from international aid.

The Polytechnic of Namibia, the leading technical university of the country, benefits from aid it gains from international foundations. Recently they received 30 spectrophotometers, for example. This tool is used to study the electromagnetic spectra of an object. A foundation answered to a request by the Polytechnic that wanted these tools to compete technologically with the best universities in the world. With one spectrophotometer costing approximately $5,000,  the donation amounted to $150,000.

This is a lot for a university where some professors don’t earn as much as one spectrophotometer costs during one year. And the ‘funny’ part of the story is that these tools are not used more than a few times a year.

While every chemistry students of the Polytechnic now has his or her own spectrometer, the university still lacks some basic supplies. It doesn’t have soap, for example, which is crucial when analyzing bacteria or working with chemistry products. It should be used daily in a laboratory. Last month, one international professor that was working there, had to ask the kitchen if she could borrow the soap to show the students how to clean their hands before analyzing bacteria with a microscope.

But what does this example tell us?