Good Morning from Kathmandu!

Early morning view from my window at the Kathmandu Guest House in Nepal.(March 2015)

This post is a response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Early Bird.  See more photos here.

Views from a Zanzibar Ferry

Sunrise in Dar es Salaam
Sunrise in over the harbor in Dar es Salaam
On the ferry, waiting for it to leave Zanzibar Gate
On the ferry, waiting for it to leave Zanzibar Gate
Commuters at the Kigamboni Ferry Terminal
Commuters at the Kigamboni Ferry Terminal
Rainbow over Dar es Salaam Bay
Rainbow over Dar es Salaam Bay
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House of Wonders and Stone Town waterfront, Zanzibar

 

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Afloat.”

News You May Have Missed (22-28 February, 2015)

Reggae band SOJA partnered with UNICEF’s Out-of-School Children initiative to produce the video “Shadow” to draw attention to the importance of education for all of the world’s children.  Globally, an estimated 58 million children of primary school age and 63 million young adolescents are not enrolled in school.  Like the girl in this video, many of them are girls. Yet data demonstrates that reaching the most marginalized children may initially cost more but also yields greater benefits.  This video was filmed in Jigjiga, in the Somali region of Ethiopia, where 3 million children remain out of school. For more on global trends regarding out-of-school children, visit the UNICEF website.   

In many parts of the world, marginalized girls must often drop out of school to get married before they are able to complete their education.  But there has been some good news recently about efforts to raise the age of marriage and eliminate child marriage:

Nabina, age 15. Her story is one of three child brides told in Camfed's film The Child Within.
Nabina, age 15. Her story is one of three Malawian child brides told in Camfed’s film       The Child Within.

 MALAWI’s National Assembly has unanimously passed a bill that raises the minimum age for consent to marriage from 16 (or 15 with parental consent) to 18 years of age.  While this will end legal child marriage in the country with one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, more work will need to be done to sure that the law is implemented.

And INDONESIA’s government is preparing a bill to raise the legal age of marriage for girls to 18 years of age.  While the legal age of marriage for females is currently 16, marriage at a younger age is legal with parental consent and judicial approval. According to data from the Health Ministry in 2010, 41.9 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 were married.  (P.S. The minimum age for boys to marry is 19.)

The UNITED ARAB EMIRATES has announced that it will set up a “gender balance” council to promote equality and opportunities for women in the workforce.  Despite the fact that more Emirati women than men graduate from universities in the UAE, their participation in the workforce is limited by social and legal boundaries.

In further signs that SOMALIA is finally emerging from conflict, President Obama has nominated the first U.S. Ambassador to Somalia in 24 years. 

The government of TANZANIA is launching the One Million Solar Homes initiative to bring reliable solar-powered electricity to its citizens by the end of 2017. The initiative will affect 10% of the population and create 15,000 jobs. 

Finally, in a bit of human rights history, BBC Mundo ran a story this week about the treatment of Latin Americans (particularly Peruvians) of Japanese descent during World War II.  Japanese people began migrating to Peru in considerable numbers at the end of the 1800s, seeking opportunities to work in the mines and on sugar plantations.  By the 1940s, an estimated 25,000 people of Japanese descent lived in Peru; many were successful professionals and business owners.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US government asked a dozen Latin American countries, among them Peru, to arrest its Japanese residents.  In addition to arrests, about 2,200 Japanese-Latin Americans were forcibly deported to the US.

Records from the time suggest the US authorities wanted to take them to the US and use them as bargaining chips for its nationals captured by Japanese forces in Asia.

Many Japanese-Latin Americans were taken to a camp in the Panama Canal Zone first.  Image: San Francisco History Center
Many Japanese-Latin Americans were taken to a camp in the Panama Canal Zone first. Image: San Francisco History Center

As many as 4,000 men, women and children were interned during World War Two in the Crystal City camp in Texas run by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service.  Most of the detainees were of Japanese descent, although some German and Italian immigrants were also held there.

Crystal City Internment Camp was located 180 km (110 miles) south of San Antonio in Texas. Image: US National Archives
Crystal City Internment Camp was located 110 miles south of San Antonio in Texas. Image: US National Archives

Of the 2,200 Latin Americans of Japanese descent to be interned in the US, 800 were later sent to Japan as part of prisoner exchanges.  After World War Two ended, another 1,000 were deported to Japan after their Latin American home countries refused to take them back.

In 1988, then-President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act and apologised on behalf of the US government for the internment of Japanese-Americans. Under the act, the government paid tens of thousands of survivors of the camps $20,000each in reparation.  But Japanese-Latin Americans did not qualify for the payments because they had not been US citizens or permanent residents of the US at the time of their internment.  They filed a class-action suit and 10 years later, the US government agreed to pay them $5,000 each.

RIP Boris Nemtsov  “I am not afraid.”

Photo: Yuri Kadobnov, AFP/Getty Images
Photo: Yuri Kadobnov, AFP/Getty Images

News You May Have Missed (15-21 February 2015)

Photo from Muslim Public Affairs Council's Facebook page
Photo from Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Facebook page

A weekly roundup of the human rights news items that I’m following that I think deserve a little more attention.

More than 1000 Muslims formed a human shield around a synagogue in Oslo, NORWAY on February 21  in response to an attack on a synagogue in Denmark last weekend.  Chanting “No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia,” an estimated 1200-1400 Norwegian Muslims formed a “ring of peace” around the synagogue, offering symbolic protection for the city’s Jewish community.  See video coverage on the NRK website here.  One of the speakers in the video is 17-year-old Hajrah Asrhad, one of the event’s organizers.

Children began returning to classrooms in LIBERIA this week after seven months of closure due to the Ebola epidemic.  Education is key to development and improving human rights, so the schools are being reopened but UNICEF and its partners are putting in place safety measures to minimize the potential risk of transmission of the virus.  Safety measures, including taking children’s temperatures when they arrive to school and making them wash their hands before entering the classroom, have been successfully used in GUINEA, where more than 1.3 million children have returned to school since January. Nearly all of Guinea’s more than 12,000 schools are now open, and school attendance is at 85 per cent of pre-Ebola attendance, according to data collected by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF.  Following Guinea’s experience, UNICEF has worked closely with the Liberian government and local communities to develop similar safety protocols. Teachers have been trained to implement and monitor the safety measures, soap and other hygiene materials have been distributed.  

Beginning last summer, UNICEF collaborated with Liberian musicians to conduct mass mobilization campaigns on Ebola prevention nationwide.  In case you missed it, here is one example from August 2014:

The International Labour Organization (ILO) spotlighted recent progress in the fight against child labour in KOSOVO, where children as young as 10 are forced to work on garbage dumps or in the fields harvesting grapes and onions, risking their health.   Since March 2013, members of the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce are obliged to observe the ILO’s four fundamental labour principles, including the elimination of child labour.  So far, 40 members of the Chamber of Commerce have adopted codes of conduct on combating child labour in their supply chains and communities. In addition, occupational safety and health issues will be mainstreamed into the compulsory education (grades 8-9) and upper secondary school curricula.

Turkish men aren’t known for wearing skirts. But they are turning out in large numbers in Istanbul later to protest about violence against women in TURKEY.

Men in mini skirts campaign
Men in mini skirts campaign

They’re joining others outraged by the murder of 20-year-old Ozgecan Aslan who was abducted on 11 February and killed for apparently trying to prevent a bus driver from raping her.

In the UNITED STATES, a federal jury has awarded $14 million in compensatory and punitive damages to five Indian guest workers who were defrauded and exploited in a labor trafficking scheme engineered by Gulf Coast marine services company Signal, an immigration lawyer and an Indian labor recruiter who lured hundreds of workers to a MISSISSIPPI shipyard with false promises of permanent U.S. residency. The trial was the first in a series of cases spearheaded by the Southern Poverty Law Center that together comprise one of the largest labor trafficking cases in U.S. history. 

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Signal used the U.S. government’s H-2B guest worker program to import nearly 500 men from India to work as welders, pipefitters and in other positions to repair damaged oil rigs and related facilities. Under the guest worker program, workers are not allowed to change jobs if they are abused but face the loss of their investment if they are fired or quit.

The plaintiffs in this case are Jacob Joseph Kadakkarappally, Hemant Khuttan, Padaveettiyl, Sulekha and Palanyandi Thangamani.  Each paid the labor recruiters and a lawyer between $10,000 and $20,000 or more in recruitment fees and other costs after recruiters promised good jobs, green cards and permanent U.S. residency for them and their families. Most sold property or plunged their families deeply into debt to pay the fees.

When the men arrived at Signal shipyards in Pascagoula, MISSISSIPPI, they discovered that they wouldn’t receive the green cards or permanent residency that had been promised. Signal also forced them each to pay $1,050 a month to live in isolated, guarded labor camps where as many as 24 men shared a space the size of a double-wide trailer. None of Signal’s non-Indian workers were required to live in the company housing.  An economist who reviewed Signal’s records estimated the company saved more than $8 million in labor costs by hiring the Indian workers at below-market wages.

Pro bono legal representation was provided in this case by Southern Poverty Law Center, Crowell & Moring, LLP, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Sahn Ward Coschignano & Baker, and the Louisiana Justice Institute.

An estimated 93 million children (1 in 20 up to age 14) worldwide live with a moderate or severe disability. #Draw Disability is a new global campaign launched by the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI), in partnership with the Global Observatory for Inclusion (GLOBI) and theUnited Nations Global Education First Initiative Youth Advocacy Group (GEFI-YAG).


The campaign has two main objectives: 1) To encourage dialogue and raise awareness on disability and related issues among teachers and learners within educational environments. 2) To create a global art project focused on disability. Schools from all over the planet are encouraged to get involved in the project. Teachers can use the #DrawDisability guidelines to promote critical reflections and awareness on disability within the classroom (guidelines are available in Spanish, French and English).  Children with and without disabilities are encouraged to #DrawDisability. Drawings can portray their understanding and feelings towards disability and related issues, such as accessibility, inclusion and discrimination.

All drawings received will be uploaded and displayed on a website and shared on social networks using the hashtag #DrawDisability. Early submissions by April 1, 2015 are highly encouraged as selected drawings will be showcased at the World Education Forum in May 2015 in Incheon, SOUTH KOREA, and the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (COSP-CRPD) in June 2015 New York, USA. The final deadline for all submissions will be July 15, 2015. Check out submission information here.  

Rule of Thirds

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The Weekly Photo Challenge theme this week is Rule of Thirds. I often choose to place the subject off-center when taking photographs and have plenty of photos from my travels. But this challenge made me think of my third child – my sweet daughter.  She is truly beautiful, both inside and out.  The “Rule of Thirds” with her is that she constantly surprises me with her thoughtfulness, intelligence, resourcefulness and creativity.

Here are two different photos of Eliza at my parents’ cabin.  The lake in the background is the same, but the photos were taken at different times of day and at different times of the year.

DSC_0405

News You May Have Missed (8-14 February 2015)

A weekly roundup of the human rights news items that I’m following that I think deserve some more attention.

Image: http://treechangedolls.tumblr.com/
Image: http://treechangedolls.tumblr.com/
SONIA SINGH, a mom in TASMANIA, has been buying Bratz dolls at secondhand shops and giving them “makeunders” with beautiful results.  She calls them “Tree Change Dolls because “These lil fashion dolls have opted for a “tree change”, swapping high-maintenance glitz ‘n’ glamour for down-to-earth style.” Sonia finds dolls at secondhand stores (“tip shops”, repaints their faces, restyles their hair, and gives them new feet. Her mum makes them new clothes.  You can see her creations on her website Tree Change Dolls.  Tree Change Dolls went viral this week and her new etsy shop was sold out immediately. Watch the video of Sonia describing her process here.

NEPAL could become the first Asian country to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples if the government accepts the recommendations of a committee that studied the issue. Nepal’s Supreme Court ruled in December 2007 that the country’s new government must provide legal protections to LGBT Nepalese citizens and amend laws that discriminated against them. In 2008, the same court ordered the creation committee to study the possibility of same-sex marriage in the Asian country.  It may be a while before Nepal’s government is able to take action (they have been trying to adopt a new constitution for more than six years) but most see this as a promising step and credit it to the advocacy efforts of the Blue Diamond Society organization.

Former military chiefs and politicians implicated in the deaths of thousands through Operation Condor will finally face justice in ITALY. After decades of impunity, those responsible for the wave of political violence that swept Latin America under the dictatorships of 1970s and 1980s will be tried in court this week in Rome, Italy. Thirty-three people have been formally charged for their links to the operation, which left 50,000 people dead, 30,000 disappeared, and 400,000 jailed. Among those killed were 23 Italian citizens, which is why Italy’s justice system is now ruling on the case, opened in 1999.

 

A gathering to promote the rights of girls and education for all in Barrod village of Rajasthan’s Alwar district. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh ChandokA gathering to promote the rights of girls and education for all in Barrod village of Rajasthan’s Alwar district. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh Chandok

A new UNITED Nations human rights report analyzing the problem of attacks against girls trying to access education found that schools in at least 70 different countries were attacked in between 2009 and 2014, with many attacks specifically targeting girls, parents and teachers advocating for gender equality in education. “The educational rights of girls and women are often targeted due to the fact that they represent a challenge to existing gender and age-based systems of oppression.”

 MENG LIM took the bench as superior court judge for the Tallapoosa judicial circuit, becoming the first Asian American elected as superior court judge in GEORGIA, UNITED STATES.  Lim escaped atrocities in his homeland of CAMBODIA as a child and overcame challenges of being refugee in rural Georgia to become a successful lawyer and judge.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) celebrated WORLD RADIO DAY  on February 13 to highlight the main role this media plays in the whole American hemisphere as a vehicle for freedom of expression and information, and as a source of information for the peoples and the communities.

In the UNITED STATES, February is Black History Month.  While I believe that Black History IS American History, this annual observance of the contributions of African-Americans to our nation always provides an opportunity for me to learn more about people and events in our past.  Here are some of the things I have learned so far this month:

On June 30, 1974, ALBERTA WILLIAMS KING was was shot and killed while she was playing the organ at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.  She was the mother of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., so the story of her assassination has been overshadowed by her son’s legacy.  Read more about Alberta Williams King here.

ELLA FITZGERALD, one of our nation’s greatest jazz icons, was confined as an orphaned teenager for more than a year in a reformatory called the New York State Training School for Girls.  She and the other girls were treated harshly; “she had been held in the basement of one of the cottages once and all but tortured”.  While there was an excellent music program and choir at the institution, Ella Fitzgerald was not allowed to sing in it – the choir was all white.  Read more about this chapter of Ella Fitzgerald’s life here and here.

 

Image from: http://mic.com/articles/109642/historic-poc-is-the-powerful-illustration-of-black-history-month-everyone-needs-to-see
Image from: http://mic.com/articles/109642/historic-poc-is-the-powerful-illustration-of-black-history-month-everyone-needs-to-see

MIKKI KENDALL started  a new crowdsourced project to prove that people of color are part of history.  She created the hashtag #HistoricPOC and turned to social media.  “I encouraged fellow users to post pictures of people of color (POC) throughout history. Whether they posted family photos or links to famous images, I wanted there to be an easily accessible visual historic record.”  People began posting family photos, photos of  heroes, photos of events – the resulting tapestry of personal narratives is both beautiful and inspirational.  #HistoricPOC shows the interconnected reality of our history that everyone needs to see.  I hope it endures well beyond this February!   Read more about #HistoricPOC here and here.