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First I know people will say “he is a Muslim” and you know what? Yes I am, and apart from being a Muslim I am also an Advocate.
It all started after9/11, where it was noticed that Muslim’s who live in the western world are losing their jobs and their children are being dropped out of school, they cannot secure a profitable job, unless they come back to either Africa or the middle east. This has been going on and yet they said nothing, their rights are being violated; they are almost being hindered from practicing their religion. While in the human right constitution there is where it is been stated that “everyone has the right to practice his/her religion”.
But let me tell you something they have been trying to blend with all these rules of which they are at the same time breaking their own rules. By the way, we all know in this world the two people who you should obey, listing to, and respect the most should be your parent, I know most of us grew up either from a broken home, in the street or even with abused parent, sorry but this is the truth. But what I am trying to say here is imaging you being under two laws in the same community where at a certain point these laws conflict, and both laws are important to you, let’s say for example:
Imaging yourself being in an institution which is far from home and your parent had some financial crisis and you were ask to drop out, mind you that you can also work and pay for the rest of your college years, but yet they insist of you coming back and stay where you see your peers graduate and get successful, will you come back? I believe your answer is NO.
I know at this point you will start saying where he heading?
Over 1/3rd of Muslim women who are working do not use HIJAB, ask them are they breaking the Islamic rule? Yes they are! You want to know why? Ok.
Before I give you the answer let me tell you one significant thing the religion, THE QURA’AN, whenever a Muslim person says something is from the Qur’an, it is believed that he is telling the truth, saying it from its source. In all Muslim’s one thing is always common in them, is also what they all fall back on for prayers when things fall apart with them, the QUR’AN. Now to you why woman without HIJAB is breaking of Islamic rule. A woman’s body is said to sexually arouse a man sexuality at certain point especially when she is almost naked, theoretically her body is only to be seen her fellow gender, her close relation, and her Husband not by some guy who might at the end of the day will either rape her, abuse her or even threaten her into having sex with him.
The main aim for all that was just for them to be safe from molestation, even though we all know we are not perfect, when we try, we might someday be perfect at least for once. But issues Muslims face this days is getting out of hand e.g. in Italy they are facing criticism, in in Europe they are being forced to remove their HIJAB, in Nigeria they face almost war, just that for the Nigerians they are divided into groups which made some part of the Muslim are saying education is forbidden( Bokko haram) which is also affecting the rest of the Muslims in the country, and yet if going by the human right again they have the right to say their children will not attend school. We all have the right to protect and respect our religion.
So fellas, don’t hate what you do not know, understand it and try being at least even in your mind to be in the same situation with them.

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If you, like hundreds of thousands of Nigerian elementary school children, were spoon-fed idioms as part of the daily ritual of knowledge impartment, you should be familiar with the phrase “Every cloud has a silver lining.” This is the case with “Kiss & Tell”, an HIV prevention campaign launched by GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis) which was derived from the homophobic “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy which is blessedly no longer legal.

The campaign encourages all black and Latino young men who have sex with men, to have open and understanding discussions with their partners about their sexual history and HIV status. According to the GMHC’s press release, “The campaign was developed in partnership with young men, ages 13 to 19, who participate in GMHC’s new youth leadership-development program, CLUB1319. The program provides HIV prevention education, social networking, skills training, and opportunities to participate in developing social marketing campaigns such as "Kiss & Tell"…The youth wanted a campaign that spoke the opposite of this policy-while featuring intimacy and what is possible for young gay couples as they express trust, respect and commitment for one another.”

It’s great to see that there is as great an emphasis on communication in same-sex relationships as on heterosexual relationships. The campaign speaks to the ever-present need to reduce the spread of HIV among gay men; the logic is quite simple. Understandably, there is an imbalance in the availability of resources for hetero versus same-sex couples in the form of books, counseling and whatnot; and so it’s a very good thing that GMHC is addressing this very important need.

For more information on the GMHC and the “Kiss & Tell” campaign, check out the organization’s website and the campaign’s Facebook Page.

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A wise idea would be to provide family planning services rather providing contraception. Contraception is just to control the birth. Family planning is holistic approach where concepts of how to make a family happy are discussed.
World population day was observed on July 11, 2011. It has a special resonance as on this day, world observed a population level of seven million. The population structure is changing as the a huge number of children are reaching child bearing age, so the projection is also going in the same form. If the population projection goes in the same trend then population will reach 10 million by 2050. The consequences like biodiversity loss, loss of non renewable resources and climate are being observed.
The technology and life style of people are also changing, so the paradigm is changing, the trend of demand is also changing its paradigm. Though there are changes still there are high birth rates, along with triple burden of diseases. Still there is high maternal mortality rate and child mortality rate. The parents lack access and utilization of the family planning services.
As one of the key strategies is the achievement of MDGs, it is one of the highlighted and of course a challenge to all the nations of the world. If we need to address development then MDGS achievement is one of the crucial portals.

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If you ask about the World Population day over here in Nepal very few would say about it..that tooo in the city areas..lets not talk about the rural areas…

The celebration of world population day was started from 1987 and today even after 23 years only a few group of people here are concerned about the very day.

The world this year is expected to surpass 7 billion..and almost 3 billion of them are of young age..

Now its high time to think how should we respond to the increasing popualtion? The high population in a way indicates that the health facilities are improveing and mortality rates are decreasing..but will the available resources be able to meet the demands of the increasing population?… The population is less likely to decrease with almost half of the total population of youths or lets say reproductive population..With this trend the population will increase in higher rates in coming years.

Again we need to think and rethink about the consequences of the increasing population and its management..and also about the services for the reproductive populations..like the family planning services, contraceptives, etc..

Lets not end the world population day by organizing few programs and then ending it with gossips..and when the program finishes you forget about the population day and its concerns..

Its not necessary to know when exactly is the population day..the important thing is one should know what are the consequences of rising population and the global problems caused by increasing population..and yes this concern will in some  way help in sloving the global population problems…

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This post is part of the World Population Week blogathon.

When the I saw the words "World Population Week," a number of topics came to mind.  Access to reproductive health services, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, world hunger, and access to clean water are just a few.  But when I started thinking more about international family planning, I kept coming back to the question of consent.

Consent is broader than the context it often comes up in when we talk about rape: did a person consent to sexual activities?  Was this situation sex or rape?

Consent can be an entire framework for looking at the world–at sexuality, but also at family planning and life choices in general.  Many of the world’s ills come back to lack of consent. 

In the context of international family planning, consent is crucial on a number of levels.  First, we do have to ask that simple question.  Many babies are born into this world as a result of rape.  Activists need to tackle the many facets of this problem–marital rape, "date" rape, rape in wartime, rape by authorities, and corrective rape are some of the subsets of rape that require different responses.  The question of access to abortion is, of course, inextricably linked to the problem of rape.

Second, we need to look at consent to family creation in a broader way.  It is absolutely crucial to address this issue in cultural context, which means that external actors are often not the appropriate agents of change.  There is, however, work to be done by local activists all over the world, especially in the area of public education.  Do both parties fully consent to a marriage?  To having and raising children?  To having children at a particular time?  Is it acceptable to be single in a society, or child-free?  Are same-sex relationships accepted? 

Third, it’s important to address issues of structural inequality.  Sexism and patriarchy are obviously a problem here, but also inequality between poor and rich nations.  International aid funding often comes with restrictive conditions that harm more than they help and perpetuate inequality.  Poverty also makes it difficult for a small family, with fewer wage earners, to survive.  It’s important that rich nations not only avoid dictating solutions to poorer nations, but also look critically at the ways we support the status quo.

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This post is part of the World Population Week blogathon.

Every child we see around are the production from sex. In fact, all of are a product of sex, unless, of course, we are test-tube babies. But how many of those babies are around, seriously?

If sex is so obvious in our life, why is it regarded a taboo?

As I pondered over this question, I realized something. In our society, SEX is not a taboo; SEX Done For Gratification is a taboo.

Most often we hear a grandmother asking her son to give her a grandchild before she dies. So, here, basically she is asking her son to have sex with her wife. If sex were a taboo, she wouldn’t be so indecent to ask her son to do so. But if her son were unmarried and she found out he has been having sex with his girlfriend, she would be freaking out. So this means, when people have sex for reproducing, it is not a taboo. But sex between unmarried couples is a taboo because it is done for gratification, and most certainly not for reproduction.

People normally defined sex as a means to procreate, as a means to sustain the lives and existence; but very rarely can we find a person who openly defines sex as a means to gratify yourself, as a means to relieve yourself and attain supreme satisfaction. Even when parents try to educate their children about sex, they present it as a magical tool which creates other humans likes ourselves.  In fact, the definition of sex as a means to attain pleasure is considered a taboo itself. But it is obvious that couples, married or unmarried, have sex for gratifying themselves. So isn’t it high time that we readjust our perspectives?

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This post is part of the World Population Week blogathon.

The population of the world is hitting 7 billion, and it is more important today than ever to take effective measures to control the wanton growth of population. As we closely examine the root causes of the population increase, gender inequity comes as one of the deeply ingrained causes.

Most of the time, women do not have a say in the sexual and reproductive matters. Even within marriages, women are forced to have sexual intercource, during which they might unwantingly concieve. And, even if they want to they are not allowed to have an abortion by their husbands or their families, and they might eventually give birth to an unwanted child. 

In many countries, people regard male as a superior gender, thus urging a women to bear children until she gives birth to a boy. Even if a family already has 3 daughters, and the mother is happy with it, family pressure will eventually coerce her to bear a fourth child. And if the fourth one is again a girl, then a fifth one, maybe.

In South-Asian countries like Nepal, India, Srilanka, girls are forced into early marriage. When a girl hits puberty, it high time that her family members find a husband for her. Such an early marriage prolongates the fertility period of the girls, and this again means more children. In these regions, polygamy is not uncommon. And polygamy also contributes to a greater number of children born in the family, because when there are more than one wives for one man, the number of children born from all the wives will be higher. 

It is well known that a woman plays a much greater role in raising a child than does her husband. Thus more children means greater chores for a women. So if a women is allowed to decide on the family size, she will most probably choose a smaller one. Thos proves that, on giving equal rights to the fair-sex, the population of the world might get a better chance to get balanced.

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This post is part of the World Population Week blogathon.

As the world population approaches 7 billion, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, launched a global initiative on this World Population Day to highlight the challenges, opportunities and actions that will shape our common future.

World Population Day, 11 July, was set as the start of a worldwide advocacy effort that will continue through 31 October, when the United Nations projects world population will surpass seven (7) billion, and beyond.

According to information from UNFPA, the 7 Billion Actions campaign will promote dialogue on what it means to live in a world with so many people and encourage action on issues that affect us all. UNFPA offices and their partners throughout the world will organize a variety of related activities.

UNFPA revealed that nearly all of this population growth — 97 of every 100 people — is occurring in less developed countries, some of which already struggle to meet their citizens’ needs. Gaps between the rich and poor are growing. Urbanization and migration continue. Climate change is of increasing concern and more people than ever are vulnerable to food insecurity, water shortages and weather-related disasters. Meanwhile, many rich and middle-income countries are concerned about low fertility and aging.

UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin expressed that whether we can live together on a healthy planet will depend on the decisions we make now. The date we reach the next billion and the ones after that depends on policy and funding decisions made now about maternal and child health care, access to voluntary family planning, girls’ education, and expanded opportunities for women and young people.

UNFPA is calling on nations to nationalist the 7 Billion Actions campaign, making it a collaborative effort involving National Geographic, IBM and SAP, as well as many other private sector and UN partners and civil society organizations, and also for people to get involved. The campaign, the organisation revealed, uses new partnerships, technologies and social marketing to spur commitment and action.

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Coinciding with the World Population Day on Monday, Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal launched Nepal’s 20-year Population Perspective Plan. 

The plan aims to ensure access to health care for poor and vulnerable groups, right-based comprehensive reproductive health care, universal access to  quality primary education, gender equality and empowerment of women, decentralised governance and community participation and facilitate spatio-economic development processes conducive to poverty alleviation.
                                                                   Source: The Kathmandu Post, 12 July 2011
 

Indeed this is a positive indication towards sustainable development. But the proces is not yet complete with the introduction of the plan only.. with the launching of such a long term plan there comes many questions..questions like…How good is it to introduce such a long term plan? Will the same strategies be effective after 20 years as it is today? How are we implementing the plan?..and many more…

The brighter side of the plan is the inclusion of right-based comprehensive reproductive health care and gender equality and empowerment of women..and I am positive towards everything included in the plan..But is that sufficient enough to be in a perspective plan or not??There comes this question as well…..

Okay the plan has just been lauched..we are yet to see how and where would the plan take us to..Still many things to do..but we all have to join hand in hand for the implementation of the plan..Lets make this plan a successful one…

Will be writing more about this in upcoming blogs..Keep Reading!!!

Happy World Population Week!!

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This post is part of the World Population Week blogathon.

India’s dichotomous nature is visible in all aspects of its economic, social and political growth. India is rapidly developing into an economic super-power, yet its development is not well rounded. This is reflected in the status of women in the Indian society. A 21st century Indian girl is smart, educated and equal, yet this picture represents a very small percentage of the Indian female population. Women leaders may be ruling the roost, directly or indirectly, the women’s reservation bill may see the light of the day soon, prestigious national and state level exams may be cracked by female candidates; yet these developments have failed to transform India into a country which is perceived as a safe birth place for a girl child or a haven for a woman.

A global survey released by TrustLaw, a Thomson Reuters Foundation service in June, states that India is the world’s fourth most dangerous country for someone to be born as a woman (http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/news/special-coverage-the-worlds-most-dangerous-countries-for-women/). 100 million Indian women and girls are estimated to be involved in trafficking, while 50 million girls are called ‘missing’ over the past century due to female infanticide and foeticide. These findings were preceded by reports of a growing number of affluent, educated and fertile Indians going to foreign destinations where doctors use a method which involves producing embryos through IVF and implanting only those of the desired gender (male) into the womb (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis-PGD).

An even more shocking scenario which was highlighted by a report published by Hindustan Times in the last week of June, describing how genitoplasty (surgery to make female genitals appear male) was being performed on hundreds of girls, including some who were as young as one, every day on the instructions of wealthy parents from Delhi and Mumbai – despite the warning that the “converted boy” would be infertile. Indian laws prohibit sex determination tests during pregnancy so as to help stamp out the practice of women aborting female foetuses, but procedures like these side step such legal issues. These procedures sacrifice the rights of a child who is barely old enough to speak to choose her own gender, underscoring that girls/women face very pronounced dangers and discrimination that starts before birth.

Abortion of female foetuses, violence and neglect exerted against girls because of dowries and discrimination against women are internationally recognised as a human rights violation which can cause severe physical and psychological damage and even death.

There is a lack of political will, money and human resources for gender policies and laws. Hopefully these new reports will act as alarm bells for waking the government, people and the civil society, such that they double their efforts in standing up for women’s rights and supporting policies which empower women rather than disenfranchising them.

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This post is part of the World Population Week Blogathon.

The world population was 5 billion in 1887; it will reach a thrilling 7 billiion this October. This means the world had its population increased by almost 40% in a time span of 24 years. If this trend continues, within next 100 years or so, we shall have an earth with loads of people far beyond its carrying capacity.

But population increase basically is not a negative thing. A big population means a large human resource which is a key to any economic or social development. But this solely depends on how big the population size already is. While it is true that most underdeveloped countries with low population density may benefit from an increase in its population size, it is more important to correctly mobilize the already existing population than to simply add to it. This is the reason why countries like China, which majorly depends on its population for its economic growth, has adopted a one-child policy, because it already has a population size beyond its capacity to efficienty mobilize them.

Seen from the other light, the increased population size implies an increased exploitation of resources. If our population growth trend is not checked on time, the natural balance of the ecosystem will be threatened, because more population means more more destruction of environment, more population, more ejection of greenhouse gases, more global warming and more of the healt hazards that people are facing today. We have already been receiving dreadful signals of what might occur in the future-the glaciers are melting, landslides and floods are destroying millions of lives, sea level is rising, risk of skin cancer has doubled due to the depletion of the ozone layer, and the list goes on.

So it is time we take things in our hand and start thinking about the world and others. So let’s work together to prevent the unreasonable and illogical population growth.

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This post is part of the World Population Week blogathon.

Last time in my college a documentary named “Mother of 25” was featured. The documentary showcased a story of a mother at Dhading district, a rural part of Nepal, who has 25 children — 13 daughters and 12 sons. The family was a marginalized one and it was really difficult for them to at least arrange food for the family. Every day they had to battle the situation of famine, the only source of money for them was the father of the family who stitched clothes — i.e. he was a tailor. Through this sole occupation the father had to arrange all the basic necessities of the entire family and we can imagine how difficult it must have been for him to attain all the needs of 25 people. Not only that but also the mother of the family frequently fell ill having poor health.

However her health needs could not be met by the father as the family had a very low income to meet the requirement of all 25 people. The mother explains that it was due to her poor health she could not feed her just born children and that led them to die. Thus, at present she only has half of her total children. The mother explains her situation of pain and grief.

In the documentary while talking to the father he said that if they had fewer children the current situation of grief would not come to them. And he also regards the more number of children as the sole reason to the situation of deterioration of his wife’s health and the death of his 15 children. At present also it has become really crucial and intricate for him to manage the basic needs of his children and the family. This shows how thorny it is to handle with the huge amount of population meeting the needs of such a big family.

There are many such families in Nepal and also from around the world who have become target of huge population in the family resulting to harm the present and future of the entire family. Through this we can know that the situation of huge population ruins the life of the family and becomes the reason to unmeet the necessities and ensure an unstable future. Consequently I believe, the less the better…

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The world is much developed now. We’re reached moon and back; made some fabulous buildings; Designed complex computers and many more. And it’s something to be proud of. However, are we not over-using the resources? Population grown is taking pace at the same time.
Day by day, we’re increasing. The world population has been increasing so voraciously that in soon future we’ll face loads of problems. And the problems are not just the lack of recourses but we’ll destroy our planet. Is population growth unstoppable? Definitely, a bit NO.
People are trying. They’re trying to reduce the growth rate. Many INGOs and NGOs are working to reduce the rate. But, I still believe that the people themselves must be aware. They themselves must be aware of the consequences.
Without the involvement and encouragement from the people, it’s no use to work just by different Organizations. Let’s work together people! Let’s work our betterment, at least for the betterment of this planet! Give your hand- Control population growth.

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World Population Week Blogathon: July 10-16, 2011
Blog and Take Action on International Family Planning!

This week through July 16, Amplify will be hosting our second annual World Population Week Blogathon.

Today, nearly half the world’s population—more than 3 billion people—are under the age of 25. Collectively, we as young people have a critical role to play in discussing population issues from a rights-based approach, particularly regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights. The ability to access sexual and reproductive health information and services is a human right that empowers young people to make healthy choices for themselves and for their families. Educating girls and boys, empowering women, meeting the demand for voluntary family planning, and ensuring access to comprehensive, youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services not only play an important role in supporting human rights—but also in ensuring a healthier environment for us all to live in.

Globally:

  • More than 215 million women have an unmet need for contraception. In some regions, women ages 15 to 19 are twice as likely to have an unmet need for contraception as women over twenty.
  • For young women ages 15 to 19 in low-and middle-income countries, complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death.
  • Unmet need for family planning will significantly increase as the world’s largest generation of young people enters into their reproductive years.

Much more needs to be done. This July 10-16, make your voices heard by blogging on the importance of access to sexual and reproductive health information and services for young people around the world. Click here to write and publish your blog post!

This is your time to make your voice heard.

Celebrate World Population Day by posting a blog on Amplify! Here are some questions to help you write. How accessible are sexual and reproductive health services for young people in your community? What about family planning and different methods of contraception? How are young people participating in the planning, design, and implementation of such programs and services? How are young leaders in your community making progress towards your vision for human rights? In light of this year’s theme, how is data disaggregated in your country, particularly for young people?

But don’t stop there. You can also use this opportunity to tell Congress to support 1 billion dollars for international family planning. Investing in international family planning is smart, cost-effective, and will help millions of young people around the world by providing greater access to reproductive health services and contraception.

Click here to sign our petition!

And check out the following publications that talk about these important issues:

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WORLD POPULATION SITUATION 1950-2050
World population as of 2003 was expected to be 6.302 billion. The population distribution worldwide is heterogeneous. High population density in Asian countries like India and china has masked the less population of European countries.
With the recent advancement in medical technology, The people needlessly dying of disease is decreasing and in opposite the population is increasing especially of elderly and early adolescent population. As these are the dependent population has to be supported by economically independent population. As a result the economic and social strain on productive age is group is rising.
Nepal, country with higher population growth rate of 2.24 where population doubles at every 32 years has been experiencing tremendous population growth in recent decades. As a result of which the stress in ecosystem, economy is becoming visible in several forms. Recently highlighted; climate change is the effect of carbon emission which is result of increasing energy demand and subsequent carbon emission to the atmosphere.
Population Projection has shown that total population for 2050 will reach 9.078 billion. In spite of higher population for the future; the growth rate of the population is expected to fall due to the decline in fertility rate and the toll taken by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in some countries. Also due to the ethnic cleaning and current treats of SARS. In Conclusion there will be an increased population but decreased average annual growth rate.e.g.1.16% in 2003 but 0.43% in 2050.
When we analyze the population by regional level in the period of 1950-2050 it is found that World population growth will be concentrated in developing countries for the foreseeable future. Population for Asia, Africa, Sub Saharan Africa, Middle East, North America and South America will increase substantially. And Population for European countries and Former Soviet Union tend to fall for the foreseeable future. There will be not much difference in population for Oceania and Baltic region. The data shows that top 10 ranked most populated countries as of 2003 shows that china is the most populous country followed by India, USA and Japan at the 10th position.
But the projection for 2050 shows an interesting and peculiar result. India will win the race and be the most populous country by 2050 if present level of population growth rate continues. The reason behind such change is china’s strict policy in family planning and India’s increasing population growth momentum.
Nepal; an underdeveloped country of Asia has been experiencing fastest growth in population in recent years. As of 2001 census of Nepal; Nepal’s population will likely to double in next 32 years from 2001.The balance between the population growth and development either in heath sector or in other sectors is the point where all the developing countries are lacking. Increasing population results in unplanned urbanization, migration which has the impact not only in Health but in each and every part of life. One example; Nepal has been experiencing problems in reaching to urban areas during the immunization of children where most of the people are residing in rented houses; there could be more than 10 families in the same building.
Now it is the high time for acting against the population growth. There should be self awareness from the grassroots levels to policy makers that they are they are increasing the population size of world and it should be halted by family planning choices to limit no of child they give birth .Family planning programme has to be strengthened .The need for family planning should be meet. Actions have to be channeled to stop unplanned urbanization. Agriculture has to be boost up.
Then and only then we can hope that only future generation live in stabilized earth.

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12th July, 2011 is another year when we are all together opting towards celebrating the World Population Day. The word population signifies people living in a particular community, society, city or a country. This means we are at the point of enjoying the day of our existence, all the human beings existence. But at this very point when we are leading to this time of celebrating our existence have we ever looked upon it from the third eye’s perspective. Have we?
By this time when we have come so far is it not necessary for us to realize that we are growing in number to huge and huge amount and this growth is becoming the reason for the deterioration of various other species and most importantly the environment in which we live. Rather than calling ourselves one of the most civilized species it is appropriate to christen us as the destroyers who ruin the entire world for self satisfaction. It is the result of our deeds that the world is at the verse of losing its most valuable species and making itself doomed only with the human beings? Very soon our next generation would be reading in their school books or even story books about the species like lion, tiger, butterflies, deer etc. Those all will just be existing in the form of mere toys which will be a best medium to enjoy playing with. When these species will not exist the ecological balance or the biological chain will be disturbed. Then we will be at the verse of having no Natural beauty.
All these are the result of growing population, every alternate second a child is given birth. Rapidly increasing population of the world is the medium to ruin the environment, destroying the natural habitats, exploiting the natural resources with the activities like hunting, encroaching, exploiting etc. More mouths less food, more hands less resources, more people less nature……all these lead to the question of mine that is it the time to celebrate or time to think upon our deeds?

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 The 11th of july is marked as world environment day. Usually in Nepal majorly Kathmandu valley witnesses many programs on this day. Quite a lot of rallies and tree plantation programs are organized by both governmental and non- governmental organizations. Well this is done with great zeal. It seems as if they are going to make a huge contribution towards minimizing global warming. Yes indeed!! It feels as if Nepalese are going to somersault the whole scenario. But in fact this is carried out just for a day. The very next day every one is too busy. Busy to go and water the plants that they planted the very other day. This is an irony in itself. Well it maybe because Nepal contributes the least towards global warming. And so why should it be the one to give al its effort to minimize the same. When all of the chaos and the catastrophe is a result of almost most of the developed countries…even if Nepal does take steps for it. Even if Nepal applies its full effort for it! Actually no one is going to care. Its no news cause almost every time Nepalese are blamed but never given credit for something good. Something real good that they have done. Done to change the whole world. All it is seen is with ruthless eyes.

Well but still we cannot constraint our thoughts to these petty things and stop doing the good things. After all we live in this globe. This is our universal home; and all nations are like families. We take charges for various things and we try to accomplish them all by joint effort. So goes with the environmental protection. So, why not Nepal we do it. Why just in our speeches and writing why not in practice. Why just for a day??why not for a year or two and so on. The earth never stops so why do we???

So lets join hands and try our best this environment day; to make it work not just for a day but for future. Lets plant saplings and nurture them till it grows into a tree so big; like parents nurture their kids. Lets do it!!!!
happy world environment days!!!!
cheers!!!

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The Jamaican society can be described a plural society. A society that embraces persons and beliefs from all over the world, but which is steep in certain Christian principles. One such principle is that monogamous relationship should involve a man and a woman. It is this belief that is in the main responsible for homosexual relationships being seriously opposed by many in the society. The thinking/belief by many in the society that this type of behviour, especially where it involves two men is at the heart of the spread of HIV/AIDS among persons in the country further exacerbates the issue.

Over the years, many persons/groups in Jamaica have remained resolute that the society must be “cleansed” of homosexual behaviour. This position has remained in the psyche of the people through the music and church groups. HIV/AIDS has through these sources has largely been framed as a homosexual disease. The problem with this belief is that the virus has managed to percolate into other sectors of the society, including among persons in perfectly “normal” relationships, educated individuals and commercial sex workers. .. Even in the face of this information, many, including persons who are well educated still cling to the perspective that HIV/AIDS is a homosexual disease. What is the problem with this thinking? Is it that society as placed too much emphasis on homosexuals and HIV/AIDS? Alternatively, it is that people need to re-organize their thinking and start to view things from a much broader perspectives, rather than the narrow views that prevail on issues such as HIV/AIDS?

There are those in the society who hold extremist views on the subject. They will stop at nothing to fuel their aims/objectives by seeking out vulnerable groups such as homosexuals using them as scape-goats. In an article entitled: “Lesbianism, a concern for educators” http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20110525/lead/lead93.html, president of the Jamaica Association of Guidance Counsellors, Dr. Grace Kelly stated that “there is a challenge in the schools and the guidance association is aware of it." She urged young person’s to stop the activity as it is an unhealthy practice."I am appealing to the young people that their bodies are temples of God, and it wasn’t designed for homosexuality," she argued.
Dr. Kelly failed to present any qualitative or quantitative evidence to back up her standpoint. The head of (JAGE) said the matter is significant and calls for attention." But what action is she calling for and on what basis? Does it have to do with one’s body being a “temple of God? This is interesting our bodies are “temples of god and was not designed for Homosexuality” in all my years of existence I have never heard such sanctimonious “crap.”

Consequently, what were our bodies designed for? When god created us did he have a map with a list of things that the human body was designed to do. Sadly not to my knowledge, and theorist throughout centuries have yet to come to a general consensus on this issues. They are more divided on the issue as we progress because if you choose to adhere to the psycho-social theorist who believed in personal development through the various stages of development that a person goes through in order to determine that individual’s capacity to function effectively in society base on his/ her age etc. you will end up with a different conclusion on what our bodies was really designed for whether it is Freud or Erikson Psychosocial theory. The sad truth is that people who have managed to find themselves in a “certain” position in society will try to manipulate the system for their own personal gain rather than addressing the problem that is rearing its ugly head at the masses. It is beyond belief the infelicitous remarks uttered by the president of (JAGE). One would expect that instead of the nonsensical stance taken by the president that she would try to incorporate youth advocates such as the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) who will undeniably make themselves available to shed some light and some well deserved information on the penumbra areas surrounding HIV/AIDS and Homosexuality rather than uttering pious statement.

On a final note young advocates must work extremely hard with all of our partners and peers to rid this world of stigmatism, myths and sheer stupidity surrounding HIV/AIDS. The fight against HIV/AIDS requires indisputable effort, zest and energy which will ultimately result in a change in the future. So that media houses as well as educator can stop seeking out vulnerable groups such as Homosexuals to us as scape-goats and can start addressing the real problem.

R.McNeish
June 29, 2011
Jamaica, W.I.
JYAN/ JSTAR

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Worldwide, in the majority of countries, sex workers, men who have sex with men, young people and people who use drugs are the most vulnerable and at risk to HIV transmission. Recently, at the High Level Meeting on AIDS, Michael Kirby, an Australian retired judge, jurist, and academic who is a former Justice of the High Court of Australia, serving from 1996 to 2009, drew attention to the naming and dignifying of these populations.

In a publication entitled, Overlooked and At-Risk, which I co-authored with my colleague Mimi Melles, we highlighted that “socio-cultural and religious taboos in many countries deny the existence of LGBT individuals and discourage any tolerance for their diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, regarding them as a threat to deep-rooted social norms of heterosexism and heteronormativity.” As a result, these communities remain, largely, nameless, faceless and placeless, thereby making it extremely difficult to reach them effectively.

At the High Level Meeting, during the panel entitled, Prevention – what can be done to get to zero new infections, Kirby, who heads the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, drew attention to the interventions made by countries on June 9, in the Plenary session. Based on his observation, only three country delegations referred to vulnerable populations and named them. Ghana made reference to MSM, Belgium to sex workers (SWs) and Mauritius named SWs, MSM and drug users.

The Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: Intensifying Our Efforts to Eliminate HIV/AIDS, which was adopted by the General Assembly, contains similar omissions. There is strong language on young people and very cautious mentions of people who use drugs. Sex workers and men who have sex with men (MSM) were mentioned once (in para29). However, paragraph 4 advises, “the [AIDS] responses from both the international community and the countries themselves must be uniquely tailored to each particular situation taking into account the epidemiological and social context of each country concerned.”

One can make several assumptions as to the reasons for this given the long and difficult negotiations for the declaration, often times issues relating to the law, morality and religiosity. For example, in more than 70 countries there are laws, which criminalize same-sex intimacy, with punishments of up to life imprisonment and even death in some countries. In Jamaica, a national survey conducted by Prof. Ian Boxill (2011) has found that the strongest objections to homosexuality in Jamaica are based on religious perspectives and the need to ‘protect Jamaican society from changing its cultural practices for the worse’. The survey revealed that 81.8% of respondents attend church and 82% deemed male homosexuality to be morally wrong as opposed to 3.6% who did not see it as a moral issue.

Understandably, as my colleague Johnny Guyalupo from Housing Works informed me, this is the first ever recognition of MSM in a UN Political Declaration on AIDS; especially in light of the very difficult negotiations that went on, this represents a very important step forward. Furthermore, other important sections include language on tailoring prevention efforts to target key populations (para 61); the creation of enabling social and legal environments for accessing HIV services, and reviewing laws and policies that may hinder access (77,78); support for improved surveillance and data collection systems (97); and revising core UNGASS indicators to reflect the commitments in the declaration (103). Nonetheless, as Michael Kirby said “we [have] to stop talking at people who are at high risk […] the way me [must] do this is through human respect and love.”

Getting to zero new HIV infections is possible, perhaps not by 2015, but through country ownership, using evidence and rights-based approaches and targeting scarce resources where the epidemic is most concentrated. However, it is also important that we make reference to key/most-at-risk populations explicitly within documents such as these. There is much value in naming sex workers and men who have sex with men as it symbolizes an appreciation that these populations are people with rights like anyone else.

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Today, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted the first-ever UN resolution on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. Imagine that…LGBT individuals are finally considered worthy of human rights protections! Let’s ignore the fact that a longstanding principle of international human rights law is that human rights are universal and therefore apply to ALL individuals as an inalienable right of being human. Yes, that’s right, LGBT individuals were just not considered human beings, I guess.

Until today, that is. The UN resolution, offered by South Africa and approved on a vote of 23-19, does three things: 1) it expresses grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination perpetrated against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), 2) it calls for a study on violence and discrimination on the grounds of SOGI, and 3) it commits to convening a panel to discuss this study and the issue of discriminatory laws and practices as well as violence against LGBT individuals. For the first time EVER, LGBT individuals have an international mechanism to report discrimination and abuse, somewhere to turn to for assistance when their own governments refuse to acknowledge their existence or their inalienable human rights. This is a big deal, a really big deal, folks!

Reports to the Human Rights Commission that have come in just in the past year have documented executions of LGBT individuals via stonings, stabbings, and incinerations, as well as torture, gang rapes, so-called “corrective rapes,” and death threats. While the cases are numerous, one in particular just goes to show the extent of the torture and discrimination. It’s the case of Paula, a transgender woman in El Salvador, who was brutally attacked and shot by a group of men when she was leaving a nightclub. At the hospital, she was treated with disdain by health care providers because she was transgender and HIV-positive. Later, she was imprisoned in a male prison where she was put in a cell with gang members who raped her over 100 times, all the while prison officials turned a blind eye.

Of course, we know that many repressive governments have long denied the rights of LGBT citizens, including 76 countries that criminalize homosexuality and 5 countries that impose the death penalty on LGBT individuals. And many of those same countries not surprisingly voted against the UN resolution…see below for a full record of votes (only countries sitting on the Human Rights Council were eligible to vote, though any UN Member State can cosponsor a resolution). Changing these laws will not happen overnight, but this UN resolution will raise the stakes on LGBT rights and send an unequivocal message to repressive regimes that their discrimination will not be tolerated by the international community.

Voted FOR the UN Resolution: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Hungary, Korea, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.

Voted AGAINST the UN Resolution: Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Jordan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Moldova, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and Uganda.

Abstained: Burkina Faso, China, Zambia

Absent: Kyrgyzstan, Libya (suspended from membership on the Council)

Cosponsored the Resolution (including non-HRC Members): Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa (original sponsor), Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, UK, USA, and Uruguay.

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Sooooo… On an interview amongst the residents of my country (Jamaica), they asked residents whether or not provocative dressing made women any more likely to be attacked than their fully dressed counterparts. Some residents claimed it played a big role being that the less dressed a woman is the higher her chances while others stated that a woman should have the right to dress however she so chooses without having to worry about such issues. At the end of the interview a fact was shared that studies show that dressing has nothing to do with the probability of being raped, it stated that what attackers focus on is vulnerability. The more vulnerable a woman seems to be, the more likely they are to be attacked.

I decided to find out some more info on this matter, as in to very see the studies for myself, and ended up on a rather interesting website that I heard a friend of mine mention before. The site address is http://www.thisisnotaninvitationtorapeme.co.uk/ . Needless to say I clicked and browsed away. On the site there are four tabs to the left with four statements they claim to be myths. They are as follows:

Dress – a woman raped whilst wearing revealing clothing is to blame for leading a man on.

Intimacy – a woman raped after consenting to any level of sexual activity is to blame for ‘giving mixed signals’.

Drinking – a woman raped after consuming alcohol is to blame for not considering her own security.

Relationships – a woman raped by a man she is in a relationship with has automatically given consent for sex.

In an idealistic society, these would all be true and could be something to live by. But in our current society, no still. Cant work like that. The ugly fact is that attackers will not honor these rights and as such, women do have a certain responsibility to ensure there own protection. I would not walk down a dangerous road with my gold chain hanging out, my expensive silver watch shining and decked out in a $1000 dollar suit. Why? Because I dont want to be mugged. In the same way, women HAVE to watch how much they drink, who they drink with, who they allow to touch them and where they venture alone.

We are not in a chivalrous society where an under dressed drunk women will be taken home by a kind stranger, while this does happen, and there are many decent men who would do this, there are also many who wont. I do understand the point they are trying to make on the site but I would not encourage women to act and dress in any manner as they please. While it gives no man the right to abuse them, the simple truth is that they still do and will, thus as women, you NEED to act responsibly. Don’t leave yourselves vulnerable…

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Aspen Environment Forum might have had a depressing opening plenary but we, the youth made the evening of the chilly 30th May, 2011 fascinating, invigorating, inspiring and energizing.
The young fascinating panel of the fireside chat in the Hefner Lounge, Sustainability 2050, was composed of: Courtney Hight, the Co-Director of the energy coalition and Power Shift, Juan Martinez, Natural Leaders Network Director of the Children and Nature Network, Orain Edwards, Coordinator of the Jamaica Safely Tackling Adolescent Reproductive Health (JSTAR)Social and me the International Year of the Youth Journalist working with the Advocates for Youth.
Our moderator, Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka who was a former Deputy President of South Africa, kick-started the conversation with the question: How did the panel think the millennium generation would deal with the ecological changes that are being faced by the world today?
Thenceforth, began a conversation which aimed at everything except “burning the house”. Amongst a roomful of people from a variety of backgrounds ranging from media to environmental activists, we tried to bring to light the issues faced by the largest, diverse and the most connected generation: the youth, a variety of linkages that we see because our approach to problems is holistic and how we are having conversations which inherently begin from the point of how do we work together (young, old, different races) to “sustain sustainability”.
We emphasised on the power of the youth, their need for inclusion and linkages. In the short period of time given, we were not able to build up on all the topics touched upon even though the moderator did try to pick up a lot of topics through descriptive questions but highlights of the panel (for me) would be:

Courtney sharing her experience of organizing 10,000 young people to take action within the various parts of the US, getting Obama to be answerable to the young environmentalists hence treading the path where angels fear to tread i.e. the big organizations had failed as well as how organizing at a local level is important but it is also as important to then connect it with the larger picture.

The statement: When we speak of young people’s rights, we don’t mean that dispose people who might have turned 40 or above but that everyone, young and old, should tap into our youthfulness.

Orain’s answer to Marissa’s question of how SRHR and climate change are related by using real life examples from Haiti.

We even tried to define that Sexual Reproductive and Health Rights were all about the holistic development of a human being in all the senses: mentally, sexually and all the “ally”-ies that one can think of as well as about being aware of one’s rights and identity and that it is connected to climate change. >you dont believe us? check: www.amplifyyourvoice.org/thetimeisnow <
It was an hour long discussion, which reverberated throughout the Forum because we later learnt that we were quoted at various sessions which took place in Aspen and that we had caused a stir such that people were made to reevaluate the power of the youth. If you would like to be virtually present with us and hear all the details then feel free to see the video recording of our panel which underlined:
ITS NOT JUST ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE, IT IS ABOUT OUR FUTURE. SO WE ALL SHOULD BE THINKING OF IT AS A MOVEMENT and NOT A CAMPAIGN.

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This seems funny but i learnt a lot from it. On a very beautiful Tuesday evening, two girls and i were t took us a while to make up our minds on whether or not we needed to go. Sooner or later, we found ourselves taking the school shuttle to the mini campus. On getting there pastor gave us a shocker that he changed his mind (means no more meeting).it was getting late but we all had to go back to main campus so as not to miss our early morning classes. A thought came to my mind that we all may have to stop a car going our direction rather than pay. The highest that would have happened was for one of us to be emotionally attracted to any guy that was going to stop for us all in the name of him being single even though he is married with 3 kids, he is still single.

The other girls (ire and ife) were happy with the plan and we decided to give it a shot-but not make it our priority. Sooner than we expected, a lovely white car stopped to give us a ride. We were so lucky-so we thought, seating in a nice brand new car was something for us to be happy about. Few kilometres from where we boarded this lovely car, the tyre went flat and we needed to fix another one. This was about 9:00pm (Nigerian time). As good girls that we were and we also needed to make a difference we told him we were going to stay with him and in the little way we could, we were going to help. In our bid to help, we found a gas station still open so we decided to go up to anybody on duty at that time to see how far they could help us. At first they were reluctant given us the impression that they could not come because robbers attack that place at night.( while we told them we were on a trip from Lagos and we had to leave our brother ;just in case he found a solution to the flat tyre).it took us a lot of begging and at the end we had to keep one of us hostage, just in case we were robbers .
We were already worried for this guy because i mean the car was still new to be undergoing repairs. On getting to the scene of the flat tyre, a couple of guys whom he claimed they were his friends were trying to render their own kind of assistance. All assistance including the ones the guys from the gas station render was not helpful. kaycee as his friends call him was feeling bad not because of just his new car but because some girls decided to take his burden on themselves. They finally released the girl they held hostage. Trust me he was appalled: i guess he never expected us to do what we did. It wasn’t about the fact that he gave us a ride we just felt we needed to pay good with good. Hours passed and the car was still not fixed. After a long wait in the cold, we were able to fix the spare. It was already some minutes past 11pm.kaycee to him was ready to let us go even if he had to pay our fare back to school. These strong willed girls refused till we saw the car in perfect shape. We were happy the car was fixed but we couldn’t continue the trip n order not to complicate issues we had to take a u-turn to mini campus.(some girls are very funny o.situation had made us to become friends but one wanted to tell him about themselves. But he told us of his.lemme share some graduate of unibuja c lass of 04, lost his mom and sister at a very young age, in a serious relationship with a business fine girl, a general manger with an automobile company; and guess what the car in question was a Cadillac with a V8 engine (no wonder the car was very heavy and it took about two hours to fix the tyre on the driver’s side.

Now he has four responsibilities: his car, and these three beauties. He could at least handle us for the night, engaging in long discussions and laughing in the cold. It was fun though. Like a girls night out. We had problems with him first was he smokes (haa …nauseating), secondly he takes a large quantity of alchol.church girls don’t like guys that do this. Personally, I liked the fact that he was really truthful with us not all church boy will ever do that. All this talk went into midnight but we did not seem to be bothered. Those that had boy friends called theirs to book a sleep over space even though kaycee decided to lodge us three in a hotel till morrow but we did not oblige. He promised to buy dinner Isi-ewu (goat head pepper soup) and they still refused (I was not intending to refuse but I also did not want o be the bad girl, so I agreed) since we did not lodge or stay we had to share our selves .I had to sleep over at ife’s boy friend place though I did not find that idea as comfortable but in that situation, I had no choice.ire stayed in another guy’s house just for the night.

Well no more story to it but i sure learnt a lot of lessons and had fun from the Cadillac girls adventure. One of which is there is no limit to which you can help anybody cos u never know if u just help your own helper. Ciao.

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 ***Trigger Warning for discussions of violence and rape***

I’m going to write something very controversial, something that many folks will not agree with and I’m aware of this and I’d like readers to be aware also. Here goes: I do not completely believe that non-violent societies/communities are the most safe all the time. I write this knowing that violence manifests in complicated and multiple ways. If your idea of violence is just physical pain and issues of safety, please think of violence as larger than that. When people talk about state violence they are often discussing systems of oppression that are institutionalized (not just the death penalty as some may think). Violence comes in many forms and I admit that there are some forms and types of violence that I completely understand and could perhaps see myself becoming a part of or performing if put in certain situations.

For some time I’ve been wondering why people are so shocked and disappointed when women (anybody who identifies as a woman in this world) claim some level of violence (whether it be carrying pepper spray, a weapon (and as Ani DiFranco says “’cause every tool is a weapon if you hold it right”),  or learning self-defense and/or martial arts (to name a few). Yes there are folks who think it’s problematic that women and other folks who must protect themselves must do so in our society/world and they talk about what that means and how it can possibly change. I’m not arguing against change, I’m urging us to think about how what some may call “violence” others may call “survival” and even “love,” a form of love so deep and revolutionary that it stems from a desire to survive and be liberated.

This is a topic I’ve discussed often regarding specific topics  and people.  The conversations around Rihanna’s “Man Down” video and song have inspired part of this post/thought process/desire for larger conversation. If you haven’t seen the video it is below and lyrics to the song can be found here

The chorus of this song and the interpretations of the lyrics are what have sparked much conversation and debate. Some lyrics include:

Oh mama mama mama
I just shot a man down
In central station
In front of a big ol crowd
Oh Why Oh Why
Oh mama mama mama
I just shot a man down
In central station

Viewers and listenters are encouraged to connect these lyrics and Rihanna’s actions to revenge for a rape that occurred that we see in the video. Part of me wants to remind folks that Rihanna is not singing anything new, even for her. Can we think back to her first album Music of the Sun and her song “There’s A Thug In My Life” where she sings:

There’s a thug in my life, how’ma gonna tell my mama
She gonna say it ain’t right, but he’s so good to me
There’s a thug in my life, and its gonna cause crazy drama
I’m gonna see him tonight, I’m gonna give him everything

Here she’s invoking talking/telling her mother, just like in the “Man Down” song. She focuses on disappointing her mother, talking about how she is making decisions based on what she feels and knows is best for her. This is something that we often don’t provide or allow youth to do, we, adults, think we know “better” what is good for a young person than that young person knows for themselves. This goes totally against my positive youth development philosophy as well as my support of harm reductionist approaches. I digress.

Lots of talk about the Rihanna video from some great places, that if you want to read more I would suggest the Crunk Feminist Collective post Man Down: On Rihanna, Rape, and Violence  (read the comments too!), Code Red has a great discussion on Caribbean representations and Rihanna’s video between Bajan and Jamaican communities. 

Yet, I want us to have large conversations about violence. I’ve discussed in the past women of Color claiming a certain level of violence, something a student of mine from years ago mentioned and has stayed with me all this time. I spoke about this specifically with the Ivy Queen song “La Abusadora”  which you can listen to here  (it’s in Spanish only).

What about non-consensual violence such as beating and hitting an attacker, self-defense, in some forms of discipline, for protection, to cope, and to end colonial legacies? I want to be clear here, there are violent interactions that are consensual and I’ll talk about those in a moment. These examples above I’m thinking about in larger ways, not just issues of safety in our communities, also in public health, spiritual growth, liberatory goals, nationalists agendas, and freedom in general.

You see I struggle with this often. I appreciate the exchange within my community and online about this topic. There are parts of me that know when someone is murdered or harmed in particular ways that has an impact on a community in very specific ways. At the same time I understand why being violent in certain ways (I’m thinking a rape victim/survivor hurting/killing their rapist) can also create a safe( r) space. Then I struggle again with how we can build communities with that person/rapist who has violated other people in such a way. I am not comfortable with this being so dichotomous: either you are anti-violence or pro-violence. I think it is more complicated.

You see, I don’t think all forms of violence are forms of abuse. My homegirl Marie shared with me on twitter when I asked about violence always being a form of abuse her experience in her Krav  class (a form of hand-to-hand combat/martial arts). That “I’m learning how to defend myself in class. Violence in a controlled environment is necessary in order to learn.” Controlling violence is something that is new for me as well to think about in this particular way. For example, when we discussed violence in my class last semester and then I asked students to write about it on their final exam, many of the men in the class wrote about boxing and a way to end boxing to have less violence communities. I was surprised that they thought this way, and realized we didn’t talk about “controlled violence” which is what boxing as a sport is in our society.

So, why don’t we believe youth and women and other folks who claim a certain level of violence to control that violence? To only use that violence when it is really needed (whenever that may be) but when they feel unsafe, need to protect themselves, or liberating their land, family, home, country? I think a lot of this idea lies in the “what if” fear. What if someone else was hurt? What if a melee occurs? What if people misuse that form of violence?

I think those questions are valid. I think they are also connected to ideas of power and who can claim power and when. I really appreciate Sofia Quintero’s (aka Black Artemis) list of “revenge films” to watch and discuss, which was also inspired by the Rihanna “Man Down” video. If you have not seen her last suggestion, the Descent, I’d like to hear about your impressions and thoughts about Rosario Dawson’s characters decision and actions. More importantly I’d like to hear folks talk more about pushing this conversation forward versus debunking it quickly.

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The Aspen Environment Forum kicked off on Monday May 30, 2011 with its plenary session entitled “Coping with Calamity: The Art of Looking Ahead” how the talk of the forum was the fireside Chat entitled: sustainability 2050; Youth Leaders Speak”. This session saw a dynamic, diverse and passionate group of four young advocates within the fields of Climate Change and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights as the evening speakers. Moderated by Former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka the session was probably the most ethnically diverse group of speakers at the entire Forum: from a Jamaican, American, and Mexican to Indian.

The session was aimed at re-visioning a sustainable world, what are the pathways to achieve it, and how can the youth lead this cause. Orain Edwards and Roli Mahajan both from Advocates for Youth highlighted the correlation between Climate Change and the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights of Women especially those living in the developing world. Both Orain and Roli passionately advocated for the inclusion of SRHR providing information form the recent advocates for Youth Climate Change E-consultation, testimonials from women living in Africa and the recent earthquake that hit Haiti.
Orain delved into the various adverse effects of climate change has on the social, economic and even cultural aspects of the average human being whether male or female, then later went on to highlight the specific effects of climate change on the health of women especially those within the developing world. Orain’s argument was supported by Roli who was able to share the experiences of women living in India and women from the eastern side of the world.

Both Orain and Roli passionately advocated for the inclusion of SRHR within the various Climate Change debates and the inclusion of active Youth participation in driving this campaign forward. Orain implored those present to tap into their available youth resources and ensure that at every level there is at least one young person present. Orain mention that the youth are fearless, less likely to have any political allegiance, and less like to lose anything from lobbying or advocating for a cause than their adult counterparts. Orain also highlighted that when one is in his/her youth he /she is more passionate about the issues affecting the youth population and better way to create a better future than by using the youth who are the future.

The session was an inspiring one it became the most talked about session for the entire forum. The success of the session was not only dependent on the fact that the four panellist opened up a new topic which would be discussed at both formal and informal table discussions, but that these four individuals were able to achieve so much in a time when youth leadership and passion is decreasing and that as young people they have been able to effectively utilized the new media and galvanize support and awareness about issues that are important to the development of the world.
 

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The passage of the National Health Bill has become a battle even though it has been passed at the Senate; all that is left is for the President to sign the Bill so it can become law. All of a sudden, a group of health workers are kicking against the signing of the Bill by Mr President due to some personal interest. They even held a press conference to state their position.

Am sure you are wondering what their argument is. In the Section 8 of the bill, it says that only a medical doctor can become the Executive Chairman of a tertiary institution but the health workers are arguing that, it should be left open to anybody that isn’t necessary a medical doctor. So for instance, if I studied 4 years of optometry or management science in the University, I should have equal opportunity to being an Executive Chairman of a tertiary institution.

Now whether the argument is valid or not, one is for sure at this point “mothers and children are dying daily.” It is worrisome because the bill is not about the health worker rather a National document that protects the health rights of every Nigerian. Just in case you do not know, the National health Bill is actually a framework for developing the health standard. So many other policy documents such as the National Health Development Policy, maternal newborn and Child Health Strategy and so on cannot reach their full potential based on the support and guidance that will come through the National Health Bill. Like the statutory provision of 2% from the consolidated revenue of the country.

Are you thinking what I am thinking? “PASS THE BILL AND RAISE CONCERNS FOR AMENDMENT LATER” BINGO! My point exactly. It is 2nd of June today, the new house of reps will be sworn in by Monday an once they are sworn in, the bill will have to be reviewed again by the new parliament. Need I say that the present bill passed has been in the parliament for the last 10years.

Imagine the total number of women and children that have died during this period and how many more will die the more we wait. Therefore, Mr. President, please sign the BILL into law on or before Monday. It will make a whole lot of difference and it is one of the essence of your transformation agenda.

In conclusion, it is a battle and we need the international community to support in whichever way they can. As the president attends the HLM in Geneva, one of the key questions you need to ask him is if he has accented to the bill. It is a collective RESPONSIBILITY.

5key benefits the BILL guarantees are as follow
1. EQUITY: The Bill guarantees fairness in the allocation of resources or the treatment outcomes among different individuals or groups.
2. EFFICIENCY: The Bill will allow Nigerians to obtain the best possible value for the resources used.
3. ACCESS: The Bill allows Nigerians to have access to the health services they need by removing or reducing financial and physical barriers.
4. Quality: Properly implemented, the law will improve quality health services in Nigeria.
5. Sustainability: There is robust provision for coordination, financing, expenditure tracking and community participation, which will ensure sustainability.

All of these key points will also increase Nigeria’s chance of reaching the MDGs. By the way, we are less than 45months to the MDGs.

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

May 22- May 28

Stats for this week: 66 posts by 28 writers

Cruelty Beyond Measure: The North Carolina Anti-Abortion Bill’s 21 Tactics for Terrorizing Women- by AFY_Nikki

Inside this post;

The bill…stipulates no fewer than 21 government-imposed obstacles that women, their families, and their doctors must confront before said women are considered "informed" enough to receive abortion care.

Religious Ideology, Poverty, and Sex Slavery- by dandaman6007

Dan talks about involuntary sex trafficking out of Nigeria, and explains the connection between poverty and religion that keeps this practice thriving.

The Precedent of Silence- by Bkemp93

Inside this post:

Learn how Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill contributes to LGBTQ youth being ostracized and how the “tyranny of silence” reaches beyond schools.

Response to “Who Runs the World (Girls)” song and video- by ashthom

Inside this post:

Ashley shares a video that explains why Beyonce’s new song is an absolute lie.

New Campaign: “The Time Is Now: Climate Change and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights- by Liz

Inside this post:

Liz introduces us to the new campaign from Advocates for Youth called “The Time is Now,” and explains the connection between climate change and youth SRHR issues. If you’ve wondered about the intersection of these issues before, this will help answer some of your questions.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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My posts for this week:
Kansas state rep compares getting raped to getting a flat tire
Lt. Dan Choi beaten and arrested at Moscow Pride


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 The Aspen Institute alongside the National Geography have convened the fourth annual Aspen environmental Forum at the Aspen Meadows in Aspen Colorado from May 30 to June 3 2011. the main focus of the Forum is to foster a meeting of the minds between thought leaders and concerned average citizens from the various walks of life that allows for disagreements without the invective.  this years Forum is being led by the Institute’s Energy and Environment Programmes.

The Forum boast a wide cross section of speakers and participants from all over the US and Internationals community. the list range from Joel Achenbach from the Washington Post, Ambassador Jan Eliasson-Former President Unnited Nations General Asembly and Former Minister for Foreign Affairs Sweden,Phumzile Mlambo NGcuka Former Deputy President of South Africa along with Orain Edwards of JSTAR and Roli Mahajan of Advocates for Youth Int’l Year of the Youth Journalist.

The sessions will range from Steward vs Dominion, 9 Billion at Mid-Century: then What?, Megaslums to Middle Class, coping with the calamity: The Art of Looking Ahead and finally Sustainability 2050: Youth Leaders Speak.

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In April 2011 following the voting exercise which took place in the country, the young promising Nigerian youths in the northern parts decided to show off a portion of their youthful strength. The pockets of violence that trailed the announcement of results of the presidential election escalated as irate youths unleashed mayhem in the northern part of the country. These they said was as a result of what they described to be a slim victory margin of the PDP (people’s Democratic Party) over the CPC (Congress for Progressive Change). Why can’t the candidate who lost fight for himself? We all know these youths are employed to cause violence, the fact that they are out of school already shows the real reason why they take up violence as a career. Of course a graduate cannot be caught in these acts. The question is: Are there no schools for these youths to attend? Or Are there no skill acquisition centres where these youths can get developed? I know the universal basic education program (UBE) operates in the grassroots to enable youths attend schools without payment and also skill acquisition centres where they can learn various handwork of their choice, but they still indulge in violence. If we begin to look at this issue from another dimension we will notice these actions in some cases are been fostered by the leaders whom these youths support. Tell me why a poor youth who doesn’t have much hope for the future wouldn’t accept to do a violent job if it yields income? The idea actually comes from the job providers. If we can tackle those with the ideas behind these violent jobs then there would be reduced opportunities to show violence. Next, some of these poor youths indulge in drug use. Poverty alongside drug use has a high tendency to result in violent acts all with the aim of getting money.
Tomorrow 29th of May marks the inauguration of a new president in the country. Everyone hopes for the best and are optimistic these irate youths do not have something up their sleeves.

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Over the period of November 18-21, the 2011 Caribbean HIV Conference, under the theme "Strengthening Evidence to Achieve Sustainable Action", will be held in Nassau, Bahamas. It aims to sharpen the focus on HIV in the Caribbean, which has the second highest HIV prevalence rate amongst adults. The conference is expected to present findings on new scientific research studies along with different methods of carrying out various techniques and should also aid in skill-building while creating many networking opportunities for meeting new passionate individuals who share the same zeal and ideals towards HIV related events.
The abstract shown below shows one of the abstracts chosen from Jamaica that will be presented at the Conference.

TITLE: HIV PREVENTION THROUGH PERFORMING ARTS IN RURUAL JAMAICA

Introduction
Youth Advocacy Movement (YAM) Jamaica is a group of young people who work in the field of HIV prevention through peer sensitization and community intervention. YAM utilizes drama, song and dance as major methods of disseminating information on healthy social and sexual living. The need for education and sensitization is great as results of the 2008 KABP showed that 61.5% of males and 16.8% of females between the ages of 15-49 reported having multiple sex partners within the last 12 months, but only 64.5% of males and 52.1% claimed they used a condom in their last sexual encounter. This paper will inform attendees on various audiences present in Jamaican communities (such as the domino players, shop keepers, hairdressers, and conservative vs outgoing females), and ideal methods of targeting them. It will also teach attendees how to utilize performing arts as an effective means of relationship building, community sensitization, and social behavioural change in communities.

Experience
While working with YAM, members were trained in advocacy through drama to spread messages about safe sex, HIV testing, having a single sex partner, gender based violence, and drug abuse through song, dance, and drama. They were also taught about the various social sub-groups in various communities, and the best ways and places to target them.

Good Practices

This medium enabled YAM members to discuss the causes of the various risky sexual behaviours and sexuality issues with individuals who refused to come to community centres and clinics. Barriers to sexual health, including condom accessibility and use, and condom negotiation skills were included in performances for follow-up visits to the community. Feedback showed that individuals were now more aware of the responsibility they have for their sexual health, and were now better able to protect themselves, especially following the condom-negotiation drama pieces.

Recommendations

Performing arts was a widely accepted and effective tool of disseminating information in the communities. Individuals who were initially reluctant to speak about sexual health issues were more willing to watch the drama pieces, and listen to the songs, and were more open in asking questions after the performances. Using performing arts is an effective strategy in prevention interventions and social behavioural change initiatives, and is adaptable for use in other communities.

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Nigerian sex traffickers lure young girls (ages 12-18) into sex slavery in Europe. There are over 100,000 Nigerians in the sex trade in Europe, mainly in Italy and England. Around 80% come from Edo, a southern state that is home to only three percent of Nigeria’s population. It is the trafficking capital of Africa, and home of the traditional West African religion known as Juju. (Modern Ghanha)

While sex workers face struggles for power and rights when their work is voluntary, the struggles are even more heartbreaking when women are forced into the work. It is normal for trafficked women and girls to have sex with 10 or 12 men a day. They must work even when they feel ill, are on their period, or have been beaten and severely injured by their clients. Women involved in the sex trade have a very high risk of contracting HIV, and face stigmatization for their positive status upon returning home.

Why do girls end up in these tragic situations? Some suggest for purely economic reasons: they are promised a lot of money, and sometimes a girl’s family or even boyfriend or husband will encourage her to work in the sex trade in Europe for several years. They will expect her to return home with a large sum of money.

However, some reasons transcend the purely economic.

Nigerian traffickers often approach girls from families with little education and economic means, and promise her transportation to and work opportunities in Europe. And to make sure that she doesn’t bail on their plan once she realizes what she will be forced to do, they make her take an oath based on traditional “Juju” practices:

“The girl is taken to a shrine or a cemetery in the middle of the night, her finger nails are cut off, her pubic hair is shaved, a menstrual pad containing her blood is taken away, and then a piece of her clothing is removed," said Orakwue Arinze, a spokesman for the Nigerian National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP)
"These are deposited in a shrine with wicked incantations that this girl should die and her family be wiped out in the event that she runs away or [exposes] these criminal practices," he added.” (BBC)

So how large scale is this horrific abuse of human rights? An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 women are trafficked into sex slavery from Nigeria each year. Worldwide, the U.S. Congressional Research Service estimates that every year two million people are trafficked against their will to work in some form of servitude. Annually, about 50,000 women and girls are trafficked into the United States alone. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that trafficking in human beings is a $5 to $7 billion industry worldwide (American University).

As the global community tries to find a solution, we must recognize that poverty and sex trafficking for hand in hand. In order to combat sex slavery, we need to combat global poverty aggressively.

"Trafficking is inextricably linked to poverty. Wherever privation and economic hardship prevail, there will be those destitute and desperate enough to enter into the fraudulent employment schemes that are the most common intake systems in the world of trafficking.” -USAID Office of Women in Development

Globalization and income disparity between the wealthy and the poor have huge costs, especially to these vulnerable women. Working to reduce poverty in developing nations is crucial to combatting sex slavery. Helping and fully funding developing countries’ educational programs should be a high priority for the international community. This type of funding helps young girls can stay in school longer and escape being preyed upon. But, like any business, sex work and forced sex trafficking will only continue if there are clients willing to pay for it. It is as much the westerner’s fault for paying for sex with these abused women, as it is the Nigerian traffickers who bring them to Europe.
It is important to look past the data and understand that these trafficking victims are real people:

Rachel was living in Benin City with her sister when she was approached by a man who asked if she would like to go abroad and earn money. After a long and roundabout route she arrived in Rome, where she met her pimp, named "Madam Agnes." She was shocked to learn that she was expected to earn $50,000 dollars from prostitution, or be denounced to the police as an illegal immigrant. At the going rate that would have meant sex with several partners a day for three years.

Rachel tried to escape, but to no avail. After three weeks on the streets, a client drove her to the patch of empty ground. After having sex with Rachel in his car, he told her to hand over all of her earnings from the day. She kept her earnings in a sock and gave him an empty purse. He started to curse and hit her, whereupon she managed to open the door and start running. He started the car and drove it right at her, knocking her down. Luckily he then drove off, because as she knows only too well, she could have been killed. Covered in blood and crying, Rachel then walked back to the corner where she worked. In retrospect, it seems amazing that she returned. It shows how totally cowed she had been by her experience and by the fearsome Madam Agnes.

Rachel was rescued by a group of modern Samaritans from the Catholic group Caritas, who patrol the streets of Rome every Wednesday in an attempt to check up on the prostitutes. They quickly realized that Rachel was sick and asked her to go to a hospital with them. At first Rachel refused: "I thought I would not be able to afford treatment." They insisted gently and told her that the treatment would be free. Even ensconced in a hospital bed, Rachel was reluctant to sleep, afraid of how Madam would react. The staff carried out medical tests, which presumably included a test for sexually transmitted diseases and even HIV-AIDS.

Rachel’s five days in the hospital finally broke the grip of Madam Agnes. The Caritas group asked if Rachel wanted to return to Nigeria and offered to help. She was taken to a convent in Rome, where she stayed for several days with two other girls. She then went to the Nigerian embassy in Rome and to the office of the International Organization of Migration, to collect the necessary documents and ticket. In one final act of pure malice, Madam Agnes had phoned Rachel’s family after she had escaped and told them that she had been killed. When Rachel returned home, alive and well, they were overjoyed. They were also bitterly angry-so angry, in fact, that they went in person to confront the brother of Agnes. He was living in Benin City and had arranged for the departure of their child two months earlier.

Rachel’s story rings true for most Nigerians, and it is only one of thousands of stories just like it that radiate from all over the world. (via http://www1.american.edu/ted/italian-trafficking.htm)

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While reading the daily paper on Monday of last week I came across a letter to the editor entitled “Stop HIV Pre-Employment testing” which immediately drew my attention. Dr. Rattray a well-known physician wrote the letter complaining of an ordeal a patient of his had to face for job-required physical, Dr Rattray wrote that the female patient had to submit herself to blood tests that included mandatory HIV-antibody screening and sign a document agreeing that the results should go to her new potential employer (a well-known international company), this was later confirmed by the human resource manager of the company through a telephone call with Dr. Rattray. The Human resource Manager reported that it was company policy for the HIV-antibody test to be included in the ‘routine’ physical and explained that the patient was on probationary employment.

Now I found this occurrence as not only disturbing but also as a setback for treatment, care and support for those infected within the Jamaican society. After many attempts by International and national legislation it is shocking to learn that companies still require mandatory testing for employment. Are you serious, let’s be reminded that HIV/AIDS cannot be transferred through sharing simple office supplies such as pens, papers, desk chairs.
I had the privilege of taking a Labour and Employment Law course at the UWI and was fortunate to write a paper on the nature and scope of the HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy by the Ministry of Labour that was passed in Parliament in February 2010. The policy visibly stipulates that there should be no workplace HIV-antibody testing (whether for pre-employment screening, pre-contractual screening, for promotions or renewal of work contracts). The Ministry of Health is currently in the process of finalising its HIV policy from the perspective of the workplace.

In addition there is the ILO Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work states, "HIV/AIDS screening should not be required of job applicants or persons in employment." The Caribbean Tripartite Council/Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS – Model Caribbean Workplace Policy on HIV/AIDS stipulates under HIV screening, recruitment and employment that: "The organisation will not compel an employee or a job applicant to disclose his or her HIV or AIDS status, or that of any other person."

With both national and international legislations prohibiting such actions I still cannot comprehend how and why a company would continue to implement such a policy. This further puts the fight against discrimination and stigmatization a step back which is all too sad. It will no doubt affect PLWHA and their family. I honestly wish one of our many parliamentarians or a good lawyer saw and read this letter and have contacted the victim with the intention of addressing the problem.

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In Jamaica, there has been cause for concern as the island has been facing an increase in suicide rates stretching from the start of the year. Over the past couple months, the word suicide became a popular topic appearing repeatedly in all forms of media. Here are just a few taken from the Jamaica Observer.

March 5, 2011, Madgeline Grey http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Suspected-suicide-at-Guys-Hill
March 19, 2011, Neil Buchanan http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cop-suspected-of-committing-suicide
April 01, 2011, Tia Murray http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/sport/Suicide-death-plunges-G-Stewart-camp-into-mourning_8613172
April 08, 2011, Corporal Wayne Llewellyn http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cop-kills-wife-s-family–commits-suicide_8642342
April 20, 2011, Jermaine Lennon http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Two-suicides-in-Manchester
April 20, 2011, Leslie Bogle http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Two-suicides-in-Manchester
May 05, 2011, Kemar Whittaker http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Two-more-suicides
May 05, 2011, John Doe http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Two-more-suicides
May 07, 2011, Marlon Wanliss http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Suspected-suicide-in-Smoothland
May 09, 2011, Peter France http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Suicide-again—58-y-o-cabinetmaker-found-hanging_8775783
May 11, 2011, Joseph Howe http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Another-Suicide

This trend was noticed after the unrelated suicides of three teenage girls, followed by back to back murder-suicides done by police officers seemingly under extreme pressure(one of which was Neil Buchanan mentioned above). What does the say about the mental status of our residents? How much emphasis is placed on ensuring mental health in our daily lives?

In response to the increased teen suicides, the ministry implemented a special hotline 1-888-429-5273, aimed at providing counselling to students experiencing stressful situations and such. This however encountered an unexpected turn where instead of teens, adult callers started flooding the hotline. – http://go-jamaica.com/news/read_article.php?id=28258 -

Depression and suicidal thoughts/actions is a problem that affects all people regardless of age. While it is good to implement services to aid our stressed and pressured youths, let us not forget the elder members of society. Even if nothing is done at a government level, let us reach out at this, the personal level. If you now someone suffering from depression or having suicidal thoughts, reach out to him/her, encourage them to seek prayer/counselling if neccessary. It only takes one voice to change a life. Just one heart to make a difference.

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Every day at least fifty persons become infected with HIV in the Caribbean region. HIV prevalence in Jamaica is 1.7% and concentrated among key populations, namely, MSM, SW, Prisoners and Crack Cocaine Users. AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STI) together have had a tremendous impact on the young and productive age groups (15-49 years) and are the second leading cause of death for both male and female 15 to 24 years old.

The age of sexual debut is 13 years for boys and 15 years for girls. Girls 15-19 years are three times at higher risk of infection than males in the same age group. The drivers of the epidemic are multiple sex partners, low and inconsistent condom usage, inter alia. About 69% HIV cases are transmitted through sexual intercourse. In 2008, 83.5% of young males reported using condom at last sex with non-regular partner compared to 66.3% females. Conversely, females test more than males (46.8% compared to 18.9%). In the 2008 KAPB study, transactional sex was common among 37% of sexually active respondents or more than 27.3% of the total population 15-49 years.

Since the start of the epidemic in the 1980s about 2,500 young persons ages of 10 – 29 reported living with AIDS. By early 2007, an estimated 5,125 children under the age of 15 years were orphaned by HIV/AIDS. During 2006, there were 73 new AIDS cases reported for children under 10 years, compared to 78 in 2005. In the same year, the number of female youth between 15 and 24 years newly reported with AIDS, was three times higher than their male counterparts. Such findings may be linked to the high rate of forced sex, sexual intercourse with HIV-infected older men and transactional sex.

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The Government of Jamaica has increased the funding for HIV/AIDS programmes in the 2011-2012 budget. Specially, they must be lauded for increasing funding for HIV prevention programmes in the 2011-2012 budget, which was tabled in Parliament recently. An additional $98 million has been earmarked for spending on HIV/AIDS which is an increase to the $284 million spent in 2010-2011.

This is very encouraging and as an advocate I can be a little less worried about the lack of funding for HIV prevention. If this allocation is spent responsibly, there can be significant benefits to Jamaica’s progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal of halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015.

Therefore, the government must use this $346.7 million to implement evidence and human rights-based responses to reduce sexual risk taking among adolescents and youth (in and out of school). In addition, they must ensure that HIV prevention commodities, such as condoms and lubricants are readily available and accessible to all adolescents and youth who are of reproductive age and/or sexually active for various reasons.

According to an article in the Gleaner, the increase is expected to reach an additional 50,000 young Jamaicans and adolescents through prevention activities this year. The Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) encourages the government to prioritize the following groups of young people:
• young people living with HIV (YPLHIV);
• young people in detention and state care;
• indigenous and young people living in rural Jamaica;
• young persons with disabilities;
• and all other vulnerable and marginalized youth including young men who have sex with men (MSM), young sex workers (SW) and young people who use drugs.

Such an approach serves to improve our potential to achieve Universal access to prevention and achieve the MDGs. It would be good though; if they could set aside some of that money for youth-led organisations in Jamaica to design and implement programmes themselves. After all, UNAIDS say young people are leading the HIV prevention revolution; so let’s get one started in the Caribbean.

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For generations, the manifestation of common thought in Jamaica is that the Church, Sex and the State are three mutually exclusive entities or phenomena and for a lot of people a mixture of all or any two of those things could sometimes lead to vitriolic clashes in many circles, so much so that the Church and the State are entrenched separate entities. I wish to place this theory in the context of Jamaica’s fight against HIV/AIDS and general risky youth sexual practices and the role that the church plays or could potentially play (depending on the prism through which this interface is viewed).

An article entitled “Sexual Risk Behaviors Among Jamaican Adolescents” http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3700611.html presents the findings of a recent study which reveals that “Nearly half of sexually active Jamaican adolescents report using condoms inconsistently or not at all in the last year,” of course, a very frightening state of affairs. The study further noted that those who were able overcome the lure of sexual gratification attributed their measured risk of behavior-sexual activities to “regular attendance at religious services.” The finding of this study highlights the potential role of the Church and other religious organisations in our society to assist the efforts of the State and non-State actors in taming the highly contagious “Risky Sex” beast that rampantly traverses many parts of this country. The findings also indicate that these three things are not mutually exclusive but that the one clearly is dependent on the other in this particular context.

Conversely, while attendance at church may tend to have that general effect in ideal circumstances (and the study does not reveal the extent to which this is the case), the failure of our religious sector to unlearn defunct approaches to ‘evangelising’ have also had the counter-effect of influencing risky sexual practices. I refer specifically to their general stance to sexually active teenagers, their staunch homophobic messages and their general reluctance to discuss sex and sexual practices with its members. More often than not, this topic is seen as taboo and an activity that should be exclusive to married people; a notion that clearly ignores the vividly contrasted reality. The church should therefore be more actively involved in the sex educations of the citizens of our nation to support the functions of the State and of course there is nothing wrong with teaching when sex is permissible or desirable within their religious context. Overall, however, important sexual and reproductive aspects should not be sacrificed on the alter of clearly old-fashioned religious practices. This study then, even if it scratched the surface, should not be ignored.

The State is primarily responsible and charged with matters concerning sexual and reproductive health but the church does indeed have a moral duty to support these matters in the way that they reasonably can. Of course, certain fundamental changes will not happen overnight as certain cultural values may take decades to be unlearned. Championing SRHR requires synergy; synergy of the hearts and mind of its champions and importantly synergy of the different entities within our societies.

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For the past few decades, the world has seen a dramatic increase in international relations both due to escalating advances in technologies and the globalisation of thoughts, ideas and objectives of the world’s most progressive nations. Not the least bit recognisable is the emergence of countless international conventions setting out fundamental human rights and freedoms. These conventions include the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR), the Conevention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of a Child and the United Declaration of Human Rights. The substance of the rights contained in these provisions, disappointingly, still continue to elude some of the world’s most vulnerable populations such as women, children, minorities and the gay/lesbian community. This is due to the fact that it appears that these instruments are entered into as mere formalities and cannot be litigated in most national courts or it is too expensive to access international mechanisms for the enforcement of these rights (wherever such mechanisms exists).

Reference is made particularly to two recent incidents. That is, the recent passage of the Charter of Fundamental Rights & Freedoms in Jamaica which still failed to widen the non-discriminatory clause and the centuries-old practice of circumcising young girls in parts of Africa, such as Kenya, which has lit up international media: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/video/2011/apr/18/female-genital-mutilation-video

It therefore begs the questions of whether international conventions such as the ones highlighted above are nothing but ‘sitting ducks’ and whether the enforcement of international human rights obligations are being sacrificed on the alter of religion, culture or ignorance as the case may be. It also leads one to further question whether these largely non-justiciable human rights provisions (at least from the point of view of domestic law) do much to advance the state of the most vulnerable in our societies. This is not to discount the work of international human rights activists who have been working hard to vindicate the rights of people across the globe and who have been successful in many recognisable respects. However, there remains much to be done. And since Rome wasn’t built in a day, it will clearly take a while to get this right! 

Avatar of Naketa West
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I read a passage from the ‘Word of Today’ (Caribbean edition) on April 13th 2011; it was entitled ‘Everyone who loves God is Born of God’. The title however didn’t do much justice to the rest of the passage which went on to say that “it’s easier to label people than to love them. We label things because we think we know what’s inside, and we label people for the same reason. We’d rather debate homosexuality than befriend someone who is gay, condemn divorce than help its victims, argue about abortion than support an orphanage, or gripe about social services than help the poor”. This passage resonated with me as I was recently a part of a consultation on Universal Access to HIV Prevention, Treatment, Care & Support where we discussed the goal of getting to zero: zero infections, zero discrimination and zero HIV/AIDS related deaths. I thought to myself what an important message being circulated in this book and it is indeed the way forward.

From the consulation, most if not all persons (mainly youth) who participated saw the need for: from a legislative level- the need for amendment to discriminatory laws that prove as a barrier for persons living with HIV from minority groups to access the treatment and care they need to maintain healthy lives; and from a societal and community level, within schools, offices and even hospitals where many persons still face discrimination- education campaigns and retraining for health workers. Many are scorned or their children are scorned, they are frowned upon and gossiped about, they are denied access to services and or they receive these services with a taste of disgust by those they interact with. More than 20 years later after the discovery of HIV/AIDs in Jamaica we are still crawling and operating at a luke warm temperature. This ‘under the carpet’ way of dealing with issues will not make the change we need. How can we combat the fight against HIV/AIDS when, for example, our health care professionals are at the root of some of these discriminatory instances?

In today’s modern society, supposedly marked by rational thinking and practical approaches I would have hoped that archaic and misinformed ways was not driving our daily decision making or policy making procedures. The world consists of different people from different races, ethnicity, health status, migration status and sexual orientation and as people continue to explore it we’ll all one day interact with someone who is different from us. When this happens what judgement will you use (poor or good)? Should we discriminate against that person (by showing our disgust or commenting negatively etc)? Or should we greet them, treat them and respect them? what say you?

I say, lets works towards and promote a world free from discrimination. How? By removing the hate we entrench in our labels:

I am fat NOT a person that should be mistreated or disrespected!
I am a deportee/refugee NOT a person that should be mistreated or disrespected!
I am divorced NOT a person that should be mistreated or disrespected!
I am HIV positive NOT a person that should be mistreated or disrespected!
I am gay NOT a person that should be mistreated or disrespected!

I am a person who should be respected!!!! Let’s respect the life of all after all it’s our fundamental human right.

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Advocates for Youth staff and three members of the Advocates International Youth Leadership Council attended the 44th session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) last week at the United Nations in New York.

Interestingly, the vicious fight for sexual and reproductive health and rights has not just been happening on the Hill in Washington, DC — it’s also occurring at the United Nations.

For those not so familiar with United Nations meetings, the Commission on Population and Development works to follow-up on the implementation of the Program of Action (PoA) of the International Conference of Population and Development (ICPD). The PoA is a landmark 20-year action plan, ending in 2015, that places the sexual and reproductive health and rights and well-being of women, men and young people around the world at the heart of development policies and strategies.

This year’s Commission on Population and Development (CPD) meeting is especially important because it is focused on "Fertility, reproductive health and development." Therefore, you would think that sexual and reproductive health, rights, and access to family planning information, commodities, and services would be areas of major focus at the meeting. However, with opposition forces increasingly descending upon the United Nations, this focus does not guarantee recognition of young people’s needs nor a rights-based framework to sexual and reproductive health.

And so Advocates’ and other youth leaders from colleague organizations and from around the world have been working very hard to put youth issues on the table and elevate the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights. On Monday, April 11th, Advocates helped coordinate a youth caucus on sexual and reproductive health and rights, along with the Youth Coalition, CHOICE for youth and sexuality, Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA), and YouAct.

The caucus was attended by over 40 young people, representing various organizations and countries, including Azerbaijan, Barbados, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Haiti, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Turkey, and the United States. During the caucus, participants discussed advocacy strategies for influencing negotiations during this CPD and prepared three youth statements. The statements focused on: 1)young women’s health, 2)comprehensive sexuality education, and 3)meaningful youth participation. The final youth statements were delivered by young people on April 12th and 13th to the Chair of the Commission on Population and Development and the country delegations in plenary.

  • Meredith, a member of Advocates International Youth Leadership Council read the statement on Young Women’s Health and members of the other organizing groups. Read her statement.
  • Rachel from the Global Youth Coalition on AIDS delivered the statement on Comprehensive Sexuality Education. Read her statement.
  • Nadia from the Youth Coalition delivered the statement on Meaningful Youth Participation. Read her statement.

The local, national, and global fight for sexual and reproductive health and rights is more apparent than ever. Stay tuned for more news from youth activists at this year’s Commission on Population and Development meeting.

More info:

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 Hi friends!

I’m here in Bamako, Mali, accompanied with many of my colleagues, including Nana Nyarko Boateng and Jaevion Nelson, International Year of Youth (IYY) journalists reporting on this meeting via Amplify blogs, Facebook and Twitter.  Day 1 was an exciting day where we had Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS Executive Director and the President of Mali, Amoudu Toumani Toure speak at the opening ceremony.  Following the ceremony were youth-to-youth sessions focused on themes like youth leadership and key populatios.  Then, we participated in a "speed dating" session to (quickly!) discuss more technical issues like the civil society hearing, African Union and Global Fund Board.  Throughout these sessions, we pulled out recommendations that will be streamlined into the Call to Action that will be finalized by the end of this meeting.

Overall, Day 1 was interesting (and tiring!) to say the least, and I’m sure you’ll get what I mean once you hear from my colleague, Jaevion Nelson from Jamaica.

Here’s Jaevio’s video with his perspective of the meeting before the Opening Ceremony:

And here’s Jaevion’s video with his perspective by the end of Day 1:

Although we don’t have wifi at the Conference Center (crazy, I know), our team will do our best to keep you updated throughout the meeting! Thanks and stay tuned!

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As a child growing up in Nigeria, the folklores I heard, the stories told, the songs that were taught to me by my mother and grandmother, and the dance styles that showed the true essence of a Nigerian woman made me eager to become a woman. But as the years went by, the stories changed, the songs became faint, the dances disappeared and the food became stale. The faces that once brought smiles now bring tears and reasons to be disillusioned. What went wrong in Nigeria and Africa? In the past, girls in Africa were seen as a waste of time and a burden to their societies. Our rights have been infringed upon one too many times and our cultures are partly to blame for such situations. Then I discovered that behind the smile, behind the dances, behind the story, is a girl that cries all day looking for whom to speak for her. We tend to forget that girl children are tomorrow’s women who will in turn produce the future leaders of Nigeria. Whatever they have received is what they will in turn give back. Although there have been some improvements regarding the ways girls and women are viewed in African societies, the changes that have occurred have been very minimal. There are many governmental issues that serve as setbacks to the strides made to girls’ and women’s situations. In order for a girl child to be the light and an agent of change in her society, certain infrastructures have to be in place.

Lack of girl child education

It is said that if you educate the girl child, you educate a generation and if you do not the reverse will be the case thereby leading to mass illiteracy. In the northern part of Nigeria, the need for the girl child to be married by age 12 prevents the girl from continuing her education. Girls are exposed to many sexually transmitted diseases, VVF and/or death. When her children begin to reach puberty, she is unaware of the changes that occur in their bodies and lacks the necessary information about their sexual health. Furthermore, she does not know how to talk to her girl children about their sexual and reproductive health needs. As a result of this, young girls seek advice from inexperienced friends and opportunistic males, increasing her risk of exposure to HIV and other sexually related illnesses. Also, in some rural communities female genital mutilation seems to be the order of the day as many teenage girls stream into their local herbalist’s clinic with their mothers and community women by their side. Baseless superstitions designed to prevent girls from engaging in premarital sexual practices serve as the primary reasons behind young women’s insistence on genital mutilation. All these problems happen while our government fold their hands and do NOTHING.
In light of the aforementioned issues, the importance of female empowerment and girl child education cannot be overemphasized. Most times women do not even have the right to determine the decisions regarding their reproductive health. In some communities, women and girls are denied access to contraceptives and/or information about family planning. Some of these communities view family planning as evil and ungodly. Finally, women and girls in these communities also contend with poor access to obstetric care.

Poverty

The effects of poverty are seen everywhere in most parts of our communities. It was recently reported that a village community in Bayelsa, Nigeria has been encouraging girls at the age of puberty and below to go into commercial sex work as a means to care for their family members. Every time such actions are encouraged, a girl child is sacrificed on the altar of poverty. These family members do not care about what happens to these girls while they are on the streets; their primary concern is that their selfish desires are being met. When some of the girls become pregnant, they attempt to abort the pregnancy using techniques that are detrimental to their health. In addition, poverty has also landed many girls into child labour. My spirit cries when I see girls of my age and under, who should be in school hawking on the streets. I often ponder what becomes of these young women- what if they are killed, raped, kidnapped or even used for rituals? Is anyone listening to the voices that cry out from the various parts of our country? A time has come for us to speak up and say NO MORE! It is time for the government to listen to us.

Our beloved government of Nigeria, girls do not want to listen to sweet words from the mouths of our leaders about how beautiful we are. All we want is good governance so that our dreams may be realized. We want to be heard! We need 100% commitment from the government on health related issues, information and services, not just for us but for our children and those yet unborn. We need your commitment on the promotion of women’s rights. What legacy would you want to leave knowing you have a daughter, niece, sister and friend? I do not think that this is too much to ask from the GIANT OF AFRICA – the land where leaders emerge from the wombs of women…

This year marks 100 years of the commemoration of International Women’s Day. To mark this event, the citizens of Nigeria would like to witness the change that we know is possible for this great nation.

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Is zero new HIV infections and zero AIDS-related deaths by 2015 really attainable?

More than twenty young people from across Jamaica will meet on April 9, 2011 to critically assess that possibility based on the lived reality that they confront on a daily basis. They are expected to do so against the background of rape, incest, lack of condoms, sexual diversity, discrimination, etc. The already brewing militant mood of these youths is expected to be central to their recommendations to the Government in preparation for Jamaica’s participation in the United Nations High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in New York in June 2011.

There is steady progress towards achieving Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6 – to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015 globally. UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sibide, echoed that sentiment by insisting that the energy of young people must be harnessed for an HIV prevention revolution. “We are well on our way towards an HIV-free generation”, he said. But it is no secret that such a revolution must however be quick in coming so as to reverse the fact that in the Caribbean fifty persons become infected with HIV everyday. Additionally, new HIV infections are outpacing treatment in the Caribbean. In 2009, for every 50 persons starting antiretroviral treatment (ART) in the Caribbean, there were 70 new HIV infections.

According to Dr. Pierre Somse, UNAIDS Representative for Jamaica, “this is of great concern because far too many young people in Jamaica do not know how to correctly prevent HIV transmission while they are having sex from as early as 13 years. That is why UNAIDS is happy to be involved in this consultation”.

The consultation, entitled “Getting To Zero & The Road to Universal Access”, is being convened by the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) with technical assistance from UNAIDS. JYAN is an independent voluntary youth-led non-governmental organisation (NGO), which represents the interests and aspirations of youth across Jamaica. Participants at the consultation comprise of persons from JYAN, the Jamaica Youth Ambassadors Programme (JYAP), Eve for Life, National AIDS Committee (NAC), Ashe Performing Arts Company, UNFPA Youth Advisory Board, Clarendon College and UWISTAT, National Secondary Students’ Council, among others.

According to Jaevion Nelson, Executive Director at JYAN, the consultation is important because the progress in Jamaica towards achieving the MDGs has not reached every young person between ages 10 and 24, particularly those who are most vulnerable, marginalized and at risk. “We are still in dire need of comprehensive sex and sexuality education. We need access to and availability of condoms and other safe sex commodities. And we need a more holistic mechanism to treat, care and support those of us who are living with HIV/AIDS.” There are still approximately 13,000 people waiting for HIV treatment in Jamaica.

The consultation seeks to identify gaps in the national response to HIV and AIDS and suggest appropriate strategies to create a more enabling environment to reduce young people’s vulnerability to HIV transmission and AIDS related deaths. It will also air the human rights issues around stigma and discrimination preventing access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for the nation’s youth.

At the end of the consultation a Call to Action will be developed urging stakeholders to renew their commitment and improve national strategies for moving forward towards reaching universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support and the Millennium Development Goals with respect to young people.

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There is a dearth of study on ‘the influence of television [...] on [adolescent and youth] sexual attitudes, feelings and sexual behaviours’ (Forbes, 2010). In Jamaica, very little is known about how advertisements and music videos for example, with such high sexually explicit content, promotes sexual risk-taking or myths about sex and sexuality, relationships and HIV/AIDS.

Youth ages 10 to 24 comprise nearly one-third of Jamaica’s population of over 2.7 million people. The HIV prevalence among the general population in Jamaica is 1.7% and adolescents and youth continue to be at high risks of HIV transmission.

Researchers have provided a number of reasons, including the lack of access to effective prevention programmes, safe sex contraceptives and age appropriate information, as drivers that increase sexual risk-taking behaviours among adolescents and youth. In addition, the National HIV/STI Programme has found that multiple sex partners, low condom usage and low perceptions of risks also contribute to the incidences of HIV transmission among adolescents and youth in Jamaica.

Of particular importance is the lack of comprehensive information about sex and sexuality and STIs including HIV. As young people we face a dilemma. On one hand, we are exposed to sex and on the other social institutions such as the media offer very little opportunity for us to learn all we need to safeguard and protect our sexual and reproductive health. In fact, although there are public broadcasting policies in Jamaica, which limit the frequency, and/or content at particular times of the days, there is still a high volume of such content aired throughout the day. Conversely, on a youth-related talk show, hosted by Empress – a popular media personality in Jamaica, the topic of sexual abuse was being discussed but couldn’t be aired at its regular early evening time.

I am still clueless about why such an important topic had to be delayed until late in the night when so many of our young people know very little about sexual abuse. This is concerning since there is an alarming degree of misinformation and ignorance about HIV/AIDS among young people, especially young women. Studies have also shown that these same young people are teaching their peers about sex. The age of sexual debut is 13 years for girls and 15 for boys; yet there is a significant investment towards abstinence-only initiatives such as the RE TV “Abstinence” School Tour and the National Family Planning Board.

Of critical importance to this discussion, is the role of dancehall music, especially music videos for the said genre, in the lives of adolescents and youth and how it helps to shape their self, social and sexual identities. Media, Music & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica, by Dr. Marcia Forbes (2010) study, found that adolescents believe there is a direct correlation between quantities of dancehall videos watched and whether a boy as well as a girl had ever had sex. There is also a direct correlation between quantities of dancehall videos watched & number of sexual partners a boy as well as a girl had.

In addition, 33.8% of adolescents surveyed in Forbes’ study believe that dancehall music is most likely to bring on sexual desires. Additionally, 74.4% believe that of all the music genres listened and viewed dancehall music has the most sex talk/sexual behaviours in content.

Dancehall as music, culture and behaviour is closely connected with potentially problematic sexual behaviours, including sexual risk-taking and multiple sex partners among adolescents and youth. As such there is an urgent need for more integration of media and dancehall music, both as an art form and cultural behaviour, in the national response to HIV and AIDS. The use of media, music and popular dancehall artistes is seemingly minimal compared to the impact they have on adolescent and youth sexual behaviours. For instance, the use of dancehall artistes is more predominant within the RE TV School Tour. This is largely irrelevant given that over 70% of adolescents surveyed in the Ministry of Health’s Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice and Behaviours Survey (2008) were sexually active.

Despite our easy access to various media, there is very little use of new and social media, including social networking websites and mobile phones, to respond to the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents and youth in Jamaica. Program implementers must use new and social media more in their programmes and more must be done to survey the impact of the use of media on adolescents and youth sexual behaviours.

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Traditional methods employed in the communication related to sexual reproductive health and right education have been rather unsatisfactory leaving gaps that have defeated the purpose of comprehensive sex education especially in the rural areas.  New communication and information technologies however can be integrated in facilitating SRH communication especially the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter etc. for more constructive dialogue rather than the day to day personal updates in these channels and also the use of visualization bill boards to communicate SRH in rural areas of Africa.

lukman Jaji, a software consultant with the AU Department of Human Resource, Science and Technology, Division of Education from Nigeria shares his experience in this interview:


 
By Abongwa Victor, International Youth Journalist from Cameroon

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It is kind of funny how most people think of their rights knowing them by heart  and can quote them whenever the need arises, but when it comes to taking responsibility that come with such rights –the majority of people tend to stay quiet?

The situation is even worse when it comes to young people.  They take their voices to the streets whenever they feel any right of theirs is being violated, yet fail to live up to expectations when it comes to responsibilities. This was the centre of discussion in one of the sessions of the AU pre summit today. I caught up with two young people Adeola Austin Oyinlade of the” Know Your Constitution Initiative” from Nigeria and Iliyasu Bah, Founder and President of the “Messeh Partnership Trust,” from Sierra Leone and the videos give what they understand as the rights of young people and also their responsibilities  drawing from the what is spelled out in the African Youth Charter, a document which clearly states the duties of  African Union Member States in meeting the needs and aspirations of  youth in their respective countries.

By Abongwa Victor, International Year of Youth Journalist, Cameroon

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At the end of February, I had the amazing experience of attending the 55th Meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters in New York with Advocates for Youth. The sessions I attended covered many different issues, from comprehensive sex education to violence against women to education of young women. However, from three days that I spent at CSW, one memory stands clear: people do not understand emergency contraception.

It happened more than once – representatives from different NGOs, in the United States and abroad, called emergency contraception (EC) “the abortion pill”. One particular participant launched into a description of what happened after her friend took the pill, including the torrents of blood that spilled out of her and the death of the fetus. However, we know that emergency contraception does nothing to a pregnancy that has already begun. If the egg has implanted in the uterus, taking those two pills will do absolutely nothing. There will be no flood of blood, because there is nothing in there to expunge. The biggest side effect that a girl may have is short-term vomiting – something that almost any medication can cause.

It is well-known that there have been countless struggles over EC, both domestically and internationally. The makers of Plan B, a common brand of EC, as well as several advocacy organizations (including Planned Parenthood) lobbied for several years to get emergency contraception available over-the-counter in U.S. pharmacies (the FDA finally approved this type of sale for women over 17 in 2006). Thanks to the work of organizations around the world, EC is now available in 140 countries worldwide. However, work still needs to be done. The Chilean government used to provide EC to girls over 14 free of charge, until a court declared in 2008 that it was unconstitutional. This video shows more.

 Even though it is now widely available in the developed and developing world, youth – who need EC the most – face the most barriers to obtaining it. 15-30% of sexually active girls in developing countries report that their first sexual encounter was coerced or forced. Half of all sexual assaults globally are against girls younger than 15. In Brazil, 58% of currently pregnant women say their pregnancies are mistimed or unwanted. 4.4 million females between the ages of 15 to 19 have abortions every year.

Adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 are two times more likely to die during childbirth than older mothers. Mothers under the age of 14 are five times more likely to die. Young mothers are often more likely to suffer from obstructed labor because their bodies are not prepared for childbirth. Obstructed labor, if not properly treated – and it is often not treated in developing countries – often leads to the death of the infant and the mother. The babies of teenage mothers are more likely to have a low birth weight, be born prematurely, or die. Young mothers are also less likely to complete their schooling, and are often ostracized by their communities.

Emergency contraception can help to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, not to mention reduce maternal mortality and infant mortality. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that, in the United States, more than 50,000 abortions were prevented by EC use in 2000; this accounts for 43% of the total decline in the number of abortions nationally. Access to EC in developing countries will help to reduce the number of unsafe abortions.

Girls who use EC are also more likely to begin using other forms of contraception. A study of 205 students in Jamaica revealed that 55% of those who used ECP adopted another method of contraception, such as the birth control pill, afterwards. A similar study in Mexico found that the use of EC is associated with increased probability of condom use.

So, why don’t adolescents use EC more often to prevent unwanted pregnancies after their other forms of birth control fail? In the 140 countries were EC exists, many adolescents simply do not know it is available, or have the same misconceptions as the young woman did at CSW. They oftentimes do not feel comfortable going to a clinic or pharmacy to ask for EC, due to fear of stigmatization, rude and judgmental staff, or fear that their family will find out. If a clinic or pharmacy is not open 24-hours a day or is nearby, the girl may miss the 72-hour window in which EC has the best chance of working. In many cases, she cannot afford EC.

Much work needs to be done to ensure that adolescents have safe, easily available, and affordable access to EC. Access to EC is guaranteed by the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, which states, “Information and services should be made available to adolescents to help them understand their sexuality and protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and subsequent risk of infertility.” Policymakers need to make sure that girls and health workers are educated about EC, including about its availability; make the product more available by ensuring that it is available in pharmacies and over-the-counter; reduce the stigma around using EC by training health workers; and eliminating any other barriers that may exist. Countries that do not make EC available must be pressured by NGOs and international agreements to legalize EC as a way to improve health and reduce the number of abortions.

It goes without saying that EC shouldn’t be needed. Every girl, boy, woman and man has the right to family planning and to be safe from rape and sexual assault. But the world isn’t always safe, mistakes happen, and condoms break. Therefore, emergency contraception needs to be available to everyone everywhere.

References: http://ec.princeton.edu/references/ecps-adolescents.pdf; http://sarilocker.com/blog/2009/03/27/plan-b-for-teens-on-cnn-headline-newshttp://www.cecinfo.org/issues/youth.htm

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An aide to Chris Ngige, a former governor of Anambra State, was yesterday arrested by the police in the state over the illegal possession of election materials belonging to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Kingsley Ezenwenyi was arrested in his hotel room in Awka shortly after he visited the commission’s office to copy the deployment list of electoral officers released last Monday. His activities drew the attention of State Security Services officers attached to the commission. He was trailed to his hotel in the outskirts of Awka where he was discovered to be in possession of materials including election result sheets and was promptly arrested. A police source said only three people were in the hotel – two males and one female – and all were said to be members of the Action Congress of Nigeria. The materials said to be in his possession, according to the publicity secretary of INEC, Frank Egbo include: Form EC8 A with serial number 01008997 (original and duplicate copies), sixty copies of original Form EC8(R) which are for publication of results of poll, 56 copies of Form EC8 (B) which are summaries of results from polling stations and collation of Registration Area Level.“Illegal possession” the source said when the suspect was asked to explain how he came to possess the materials; he claimed he was working for INEC as a consultant to train members of the ACN for the election. But Mr Egbo said Mr Ezenwenyi was not working for the commission."He already has result sheets for pasting results and it means his own results would have been ready for publication before the conclusion of voting on Election Day and if he does that, you know the kind of confusion that would cause," Mr Egbo said.The spokesperson for the police, Emeka Chukwuemeka confirmed Mr. Ezenwenyi’s arrest-"He was illegally in possession of election materials," Mr Chukwuemeka said, adding that an investigation has been launched into the matter.The spokesperson for the ACN, Okelo Madukife, claimed ignorance of the development, saying he would investigate the matter before talking further on it.

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The interactive session which took place yesterday in Gwagwalada area council, Abuja Nigeria brought young people together to discuss their problems regarding the electoral processes currently going on in the country. Enough is Enough in collaboration with Education as a vaccine which sponsored the session provided various electoral aspirants to give a five minutes talk on various challenges as aspirants and the reasons why young people should vote. A question and answer session was also provided as the youths present were able to ask whatever questions they had. The theme RSVP which represents REGISTER, SELECT, VOTE and PROTECT was explained in details to the participants so as to ensure every vote counts during the election. The participants linked developmental issues as well as reproductive health issues to the need for voting the right candidates. young people present gave various criterias on which they would vote their candidates some of which are the confidence of the aspirant, what he/she says he would do, the level of education attained, his/her experience and what he/she has done in the past. The need to stay away from electoral violence was emphasized as the need to protect their vote using their phones via calls, social networks for smart fones and the use of pictures was encouraged. The participants promised to be of good conduct during the whole process and pledged their support to register, select, vote and protect their votes.   

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Shake it! A little more and a little fast….yay…yay

No, these are not slogans that you would shout out to a bartender while he might be concocting some exotic drinks for you but what you might hear in some suburb in India while a girl/woman might be going somewhere.

I had been having a discussion with a group of girls about groping/eve teasing during our lunch break. Case is, someone had made me read an article about how females (young and old) being harassed by men while they are moving about on roads. I related it to a discussion I had when a friend from Nigeria (almost on the verge of tears) had been chatting with me about the same. I had told her, pinching in the buses or whenever guys get a chance is common in India, girls here either carry pins or else they just get harassed but there was no point feeling anything afterwards, because the deed was done. I think, I sometimes take an easy way out and act like a pacifist.

But that afternoon hearing some of my colleagues tell their stories I realized people could be so strong and did take action against such harassment which others might try to avoid/just forget. There is this girl who is small in size but she packs a punch.

She spoke of a time when she was in college. She and a friend had been walking back home when these two guys came on a bike with extended hands and almost snatched whatever they could of the girl, so much so that they almost tore the front of her clothes. This girl had been there but she said that she felt impotent because she couldn’t do anything. She felt almost as violated as her friend so much so that she emphatically stated that, when things like these happen she would not hesitate to get a gun and shoot such hooligans at such times.

Another time when something similar had happened, she said that the guy had tried to grope her sister’s breast she had almost latched onto the guy at the back of the bicycle and scratched him though she got hurt too. I was just thinking while she was narrating all this that: Would i even have the presence of mind? Would I ever really have the guts to do something like that? What did these guys get from such activities? What would touching someone/pinching them/ catcalling/shouting out lewd comments or tearing clothes get these guys?

But the next event that the girl narrated made me want to write about it. She was going to give some written exam. Everyone is in a state on the morning before the exam and especially if you have been giving exams for five days at a stretch. The lady went forth to even say that she was all sweaty and unkempt yet some fellow, who passed her by, pinched her butt and went ahead. She saw the guy and asked him, what was he doing? The guy acted innocent and then the bell to enter to the hall for writing the paper rang, so everyone rushed on.

But the guy was unlucky.

This girl was in the class next to his and so she went to his class and made an announcement:

Dear All,
We have this guy amongst us who is here to pinch butts and not give an exam. He doesn’t care about how many marks he gets but definitely would like to increase his count of the number of pinches he indulges in. So, beware don’t lets increase his counts by letting him pinch girl butts but by asking the guys here to present their butts to him.

Hats off the Lady! I am not sure how many people would have thought of something like that but I wish that we could do things like these more often.

However, a word of caution which even this lady admitted to have followed: you do have to consider the situation before you decide to retaliate because at times the girl could end up paying heavily for speaking back!

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Nigeria’s HIV prevalence has dropped from 4.6 per cent to 4.1 per cent with the number of infected people estimated at 3.1 million, disclosed yesterday in Abuja by the Minister of Health. Launching the 2010 HIV sero-prevalence sentinel survey among pregnant women, Chukwu said the reduction was made possible due to the effectiveness of various intervention strategies.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the minister recalled that the national survey conducted in 1991 put the prevalence at 1.8 per cent, adding that although over the years the prevalence rose to 4.5 per cent in 1995/1996 and 5.8 per cent in 2001, it had been declining since then. According to him, the government instituted three types of HIV and AIDS surveys nationwide including programme planning, monitoring and evaluation, for effectiveness.

These are “sero-prevalence sentinel survey conducted among the ante-natal clinic attendees, HIV and AIDS and reproductive health survey plus, as well as the integrated biological and behavioural surveillance survey. Chukwu stated that the prevalence of new infection among youths aged 15 to 24 had also declined from 6.0 per cent in 2001 to 4.1 per cent in 2010. He explained that the 2010 sentinel survey had confirmed that HIV remained a public health problem of enormous magnitude that should be given priority. “With the national prevalence of 4.1 per cent, the number of people infected is estimated at about 3.1 million. “This means that Nigeria still has the second largest number of people living with HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and the highest in West African sub-region. So what has changed!

“The overall national HIV prevalence for 2010 ante-natal clinic sentinel survey is 4.1 per cent with prevalence ranging from 1.0 per cent in Kebbi to 12.7 per cent in Benue. “Currently, about 1.5 million people, including 212,720 children, are still in need of treatment”, the minister remarked. He said that about 400,000 People Living with HIV and AIDS had access to free antiretroviral drugs, adding that the Federal Government was committed to improving HIV and AIDS services and other areas of health. With a larger percentage been young people has these really helped us? And with Benue that had a prevalence 10.9% moving to 12.7% are we really seeing a decrease at that level?

Earlier, the Director-General of National Agency for the Control of HIV and AIDS, Prof John Idoko, had said there was the need to identify groups that were still fuelling infection so as to channel better preventive strategies. He urged state governments to strive to further reduce the epidemic in their communities. Also speaking, the Country Representative of WHO, Dr David Okello, advised states with low prevalence reporting to work harder for lower figures.

So where should we be going from here? beyond the published figures to the work we are doing, how do we get this treatment to those that need it as well? How can our roles in this as young people be enhanced and used positively to our country’s advantange on the issues? We still have so much to do…

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Jamaica claims to stand in solidarity with other nations in its commitment to respect and preserve human rights of all its citizens. However, I am perturbed by the fact that the fundamental human rights and freedoms of law-abiding citizens are continuously hindered and violated, while the constitutional human rights of criminals and corrupt politicians are protected.

In light of the current Dudus-Manatt commission of enquiry, Dorothy Lightbourne and the Government of Jamaica are strongly of the view that the terms of the US extradition request in September 2009 of Christopher Coke, an alleged drug and gun trafficker, breached his constitutional rights, particularly freedom of expression, privacy and freedom of conscience.

Interestingly, this is the first time in the history of Jamaica that the Government has openly defended the constitutional rights of an alleged crime lord.

On the other hand, the constant breaching of the constitutional rights of people within vulnerable communities in Jamaica is never of such great concern or priority to the Government and Jamaican society, at large. What about the rights of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS discrimination? What about the said rights of gays and lesbians living in Jamaica? What about the rights of people living with disabilities?

misplaced priority

It is clear that the constitutional rights and freedom of accused gang lords and criminals are of top priority to the Government of Jamaica, and also to ensure that they are protected by all means. Shame! Shame!

Therefore, Jamaica’s faith in fundamental rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and in the equal rights of men and women is nonsensical and erroneous when a group of people or an individual is subjected to brutality and discrimination.
It is time for the Government of Jamaica to protect and preserve the human rights of ALL Jamaicans in the same way it protects the constitutional rights of reputed crime lords and criminal elements. Human rights are rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled. 

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Our students are dying! The alarming surge of violence among students in Jamaica since the start of the year needs urgent attention. One too many students are being stabbed and beaten daily in and out of schools. I am deeply saddened and perturbed by the malicious and murderous trend of criminal activities affecting our children in Jamaica.

On January 26, 2011 16-year-old Alton Clarke, a student, was stabbed to death at the entrance to the Vere Technical High School in Clarendon. In addition, a group of schoolboys got into a fight which ended in two being stabbed. Prior to these incidents, another student was badly chopped with a machete by another student in Portmore, St Catherine, a few days after the resumption of classes. Criminal behaviour by students is intolerable.

Schools losing sight of core function

It is presumed that the majority of schools across Jamaica epitomise juvenile centres and have lost sight of their core function – educating our children. At the same time, are teachers and parents guilty of recycling criminal elements within our society by silently addressing the issue of crime and violence in schools and homes? If so, this is a clear indication of failure on the behalf of guardians, teachers and other leaders in our country.

For too long, inner-city youth have been faced with the pressure of fighting gang wars and, at the same time, attending school. Our boys and girls are harmed with guns, knives and other deadly weapons. Teachers and parents alone cannot stop violence among students in schools. Therefore, every Jamaican needs to play a role in stemming this monstrous behaviour.

Furthermore, if our students are dying, Jamaica’s future generation will be non-existent. Is this the Jamaica we all want to live in, where our children are attacking and killing each other? Let us rise up and protect Jamaica’s future.
 

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 I strongly support Education Minister Andrew Holness’ call for the banning of corporal punishment in schools across Jamaica. This legal and inexcusable act of cruelty to correct the undesirable behaviour of students has no place in the education of children and it violates their human rights.

According to Benson (1937), "In 1935, there were 350 whippings in Jamaica by order of the courts, all but one of which were for juveniles." This cultural practice gradually became customary and socially accepted within families and in educational institutions. Corporal punishment in schools is lawful in Jamaica. The Education Act states that "teachers may administer reasonable corporal punishment", hence, the recent deadly assault on a fifth-grade student, who lost most of the sight in his left eye when a teacher allegedly hit him in southeast St Andrew on January 17, 2011. Clearly, this is an act of barbarism.

Infliction of pain

Corporal punishment is believed to involve the infliction of pain as retribution for an offence, or for the purpose of disciplining as a method of changing behaviour, such as, hitting, punching, kicking, pinching, or use of various objects (paddles, belts, sticks, or others). The method is considered to be violent and unnecessary.

The current provision within the Education Act that permits the administering of corporal punishment by teachers violates the human rights of a child under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1991), which ensures children are safeguarded against all forms of abuse and exploitation, as well as the Child Care and Protection Act (2004), which speaks to the rights of children to be free from corporal punishment in places of safety.

The practice should be immediately banned and sanctions imposed on those who commit such violation. In fact, the Government of Jamaica should be held accountable for permitting such brutality.

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All Jamaicans are entitled to equal rights, justice and support from all human-rights organisation initiatives. As such, I am immensely concerned about the motive and core mission of a popular human- rights group here in Jamaica. The perceived image of the lobby seems skewed, biased and prejudiced against members of the state and/or law enforcers in Jamaica.

Based on a news report aired on Nationwide 90 FM on January 13, 2011, the lobby stated: "One in every five – approximately 309 – civilians was killed by the hands of the State in the year 2010."

The group and families of the deceased are appalled and insisted on immediate action from all levels of the justice system in Jamaica. Human-rights violations by the State have become a habitual practice over the past years, which have driven fear and hatred into individuals who are affected by actions of the police. This is an offence meted out to the people of Jamaica and should not be tolerated.

Balance Missing

On the other hand, according to Police Commissioner Owen Ellington, in a press statement issued on November 7, 2010, "The murder of Constable Dwayne Brown in November brings to 15 the number of police personnel killed in Jamaica so far this year."

These unlawful killings call for immediate and equal attention by both the human-rights lobby and the Government, just as extrajudicial killings of civilians by the State.

Often, civilians’ families and friends seek accountability and justice for extrajudicial killings of loved ones.

But, what about good police constables who have been slain while serving their country? What about their families? Aside from the Government, who is there to stand up for their rights?

Therefore, Jamaica needs a more transparent, impartial and equal human-Rights advocates. Further-more, the current lobby appears only to cater to civilians, and should live up to its vision, as well as the hope, of all law-abiding Jamaicans to see "a Jamaica where the rights of all are ensured; where there is equal opportunity for citizens to realise their full potential and enjoy a sense of well-being; and where our culture is enhanced and respect shared". 

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Orette Bruce Golding (Jamaica’s Prime Minister)

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

This is an urgent call for you to support the inclusion of health status under the non-discrimination clause in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom bill currently under review. The need to make provisions for the prevention of HIV and AIDS-based discrimination and to protect the human rights and dignity of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS and other related matters in Jamaica should be a national priority.

Discriminatory practices in workplaces and schools include mandatory testing as part of admission, enrolment and recruitment requirements; barring, or blacklisting HIV-positive applicants, or relieving employees of their duties when their HIV status discovered. The reality is that many cases go unreported and unchallenged daily. Such unfair treatment of persons on the basis of their HIV status continues not only in Jamaica workplaces but also in the health sector. This is discriminatory.

Abolish mandatory testing

If the Government is serious about protecting the basic human rights of all Jamaicans and is keen to create an enabling an environment free of stigma and discrimination, then it must support the termination of workplace and school health policies which discriminate against persons living with HIV/AIDS.

It should abolish mandatory HIV testing for employment; remove punitive laws, policies and programmes that foster stigma and discrimination and block effective responses to HIV.
 

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I am appalled by the recent reports of barbaric and inhumane acts of bullying at a prominent teachers’ college in Kingston and the cowardice of the institution’s administrators in failing to reprimand the perpetrators of such acts.

On December 7, 2010 it was alleged that a student at the teachers’ college was blackmailed, chased, and attacked by fellow schoolmates after a taped phone conversation between a male student pretending to be gay and the victim, who was presumed to be gay, was broadcast and amplified via loudspeakers, emails, and cellphones to other students and staff members on campus.

Bullying is an act of injustice and cruelty on those who have been victims of such acts. In fact, often in schools and other institutions, one in every three students has been verbally and physically harassed and abused by a bully (whether male or female). The victims often subsequently suffer from several mental-health disorders, such as stress and depression, which often lead to suicidal attempts.

The Ministry of Education needs to address this issue. For teachers in training, vigilante acts and assaults are unacceptable, and should not be tolerated in the education system. Some parents and guardians are jittery about the safety of their children in the ‘care’ of teachers who are not sensitised to gender and social differences students may portray. If teachers in training are acting as bullies, how can we then trust them with the lives of our children?

unreported and unchallenged

Due to a blind eye given to the incident by members of staff and the institution, the perpetrators go unpunished, while the victim remains in hiding and out of school. Many cases like this go unreported and unchallenged. Something has to be done, and urgently. One too many is the cry of victimised students across Jamaica who are facing bullies in every shape and form.
 

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 Dancehall has always been associated with a culture of violence, which is contributing to the occurrence of criminal activities and spiralling crime rate in Jamaica. As such, I am deeply concerned about the growing and noticeable bickering between popular dancehall artistes Vybz Kartel and Beenie Man, and the potential re-enactment of something similar to the Gully versus Gaza crisis in 2009. The implications of such bickering are far-reaching and may become damaging to the people of Jamaica.

According to a Star reporter (Henry, 2010), "The deejay, Beenie Man, expressed feelings of being ‘dissed’ and disrespected in Kartel’sDancehall Hero song, in an interview aired December 14 on Nationwide 90 FM’s ‘Ragashanti Live’. Further-more, Beenie Man feels that the lyrics in the song are directed at him." This may seem futile; however, it has the potential to create mayhem in the country, and, therefore, requires immediate attention.

conflicts

Dancehall is seen as a patriarchal space where the hunger for dominance among popular deejays has become infectious and virulent. If not monitored carefully, conflicts between dancehall artistes will result in a flare-up of violence in the Jamaican society, which often requires the input of the Government and security forces. Conflicts in dancehall predominantly result from one being ‘dissed’ lyrically or physically by another artiste.

In 2009, the Gully versus Gaza conflict rained turmoil in Jamaica. Several dancehall supporters who aligned themselves with respective alliances were killed and homes were destroyed in defence of one’s alliance. In my opinion, it was a bloody year in dancehall. We do not want a repeat of this. We do not want any more war! Nowadays, Jamaican youth are like machines as they are easily led and directly influenced by dancehall culture and artistes.

Therefore, it is time for Beenie Man and Vybz Kartel to stop their petty bickering before it escalates into something beyond their control. Youth on the streets cannot be tamed. They call themselves ‘Bad Man’ and they will kill for their ‘Daddy’. So, listen! It is time to stop the foolishness, and let’s end 2010 and begin 2011 with peace, love, and happiness in the music industry.

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We know that in 2009, there were about 18,000 new HIV infections, a total of 50 per day, in the Caribbean. We also know that there was a 14% reduction in the incidence of HIV between 2001 and 2009. In fact, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Suriname and Belize recorded reductions by at least 25% during the same period. However, do we know the total spending for HIV and AIDS programmes across the region and in our respective countries? Do we know where our governments and civil society organisations are getting this money? And do we know what it is being spent on?

At the recently held Caribbean HIV Prevention Summit on most-at-risk populations (MARPs) and other vulnerable populations in Nassau, Bahamas, Bilali Camara, UNAIDS Caribbean Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Adviser, highlighted that between 2008 and 2009, US$497 million was spent on HIV and AIDS in the region. Of this total more than half (58% to be exact) of funding for HIV/AIDS Programmes came from outside the region. Only 31% of that spending was from domestic coffers.

This raises a number of questions, as to the level of investment by the region to halt and reverse the spread of HIV by 2015 – a goal our Caribbean leaders committed to achieving in 2000 at the Millennium Summit. Furthermore, with funding mechanisms such as the Global Fund looking to close their operations in the region in the short-term, one can’t help but wonder about the future of AIDS programmes.

A further breakdown of spending by areas was shared and revealed that the Caribbean region is spending very little on research. Immediately, one begins to think that the vast majority of our prevention programmes, which amounts to 32% of the region’s HIV/AIDS budget, are not necessarily evidence-based. While 37% was spent on treatment in the same period, the UNAIDS representative was particularly concerned that 20% was being used to pay salaries.

Let us now look at HIV/AIDS spending in Jamaica.

Unlike most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, a large portion of Jamaica’s total health expenditure comes from the local budget and not international donors. In 2006, health expenditure was 5.1% of gross domestic product (GDP) and only 1.3% was received from international development partners. However, the expenditure for HIV and AIDS is different.

Funding for Jamaica’s National HIV Strategic Plan comes from donors such as the World Bank and the Global Fund to against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM). However, it is impossible to complete all activities in this plan due to a 67.3% shortfall in the amount of money available. Between 2007 and 2009, most of Jamaica’s HIV budget was spent on treatment and care and prevention. According to the Planning Institute of Jamaica the plan costs US$201.2 million but only US$65.7 is available. In fact, Jamaica’s Ministry of Health budget is about J$31 billion, but HIV only J$1.2 billion.

Numbers turns many of us off, but it is important that we begin to pay attention to what is being spent on HIV and AIDS programmes. Understandably, we cannot expect our governments to put all the money for health towards HIV/AIDS but the necessary investments are being made to ensure there is zero new infections, zero AIDS related death, and that all persons have access to treatment and care.

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

March 6- March 12

Stats for this week: 71 posts by 42 writers
(Our second highest posting week ever!!)

Girls need 100% equal access to education from Governance!- by kiki

Inside this post:

Kiki talks about the challenges faced by young women in Nigeria that make access to equal education difficult.

Student Activism Victory at Dickinson College- by altafmysistahs

Inside this post:

Altaf writes about students at Dickinson College who successfully protested on campus in order to get the administration to “[agree] to notify students about sexual assaults via a campus ‘Red Alert’ system, and to expel students found to have committed rape…”

What Motivates You To Remain A SHRH Activist?- by papavic

Inside this post:

Abongwa shares what motivates him to be a sexual health advocate, and passes on some motivation to us:

There are times when people don’t see the importance of what you do but it is that inner gratification that you have that will keep you going when that bill is not passed in Congress, when that Minister will not allow for a “Condomize” campaign or when those funders will not cease abstinence only sex education funding. That gratification is what will get you going as it has for me all these years!


International Women’s Day: Equal Access to Meaningful Education
- by judithavory

Inside this post:

In this amazing post, Judith lays out several flaws in the broad institution that is education that makes it difficult for access to learning that is not only equal, but more importantly meaningful.

Human Rights Watch: Mississippi’s Awful HIV Policies- by AFY_EmilyB

Inside this post:

A recent report from Human Rights Watch about conditions in Mississippi that perpetuate the HIV epidemic is one of the saddest and most infuriating things I have ever read.


Why do House Republicans think these millions of lives are expendable?
-
by AFY_Nikki

Inside this post:

Nikki explains the consequences of the House voting for HR1 last month for federal funding.

To explain: HR 1 slashes global health funding, which in total accounts for a relatively miniscule one quarter of 1% of the U.S. budget, but which literally saves millions of lives each year.


Why I Skipped Class to Ask My Elected Officials to Support Comprehensive Sex Education
- by kenzie

Inside this post:

Mackenzie reports back from her experience lobbying with nearly 100 of her peers in Texas.

Tales from a Testifying Newbie: Abortion Access in Ohio Edition- by ashthom

Inside this post:

You’ve heard about that fetus that “testified” in Ohio, right? Well Ashley was at the hearing, and gave her own testimony! Check out this great post to learn more about what happened that day.

Reflections on International Women’s Day and the 2011 International Women of Courage Awards- by Nicole

Inside this post:

Last week, Nicole attend the International Women of Courage Awards at the U.S. State Department.

It’s encouraging to see the United States elevating these women’s work and standing with them in solidarity to advance women’s rights globally. At the same time, it is tragic that only a few metro stops away, efforts on Capitol Hill are moving to significantly undermine and compromise women’s rights domestically and globally.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

————————–
My posts this week:
International Women’s Day: This One’s For the Girls
Speaker Boehner Announces that House Will Defend DOMA
Women Leaders in the Global Community

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Today, March 14, 2011, over eighty persons will arrive in Nassau, Bahamas for the Caribbean Regional HIV Prevention Summit.

The summit will be held from March 15-17, 2011 to among other things (1) increase awareness and agreement on the important of providing effective, focused, and targeted prevention interventions for MARPs and OVPs; (2) increase knowledge of evidence-based HIV prevention strategies; and (3) create linkages between HIV prevention experts on MARPs and OVPs with program practitioners in the Caribbean.

Generally, MARPs include sex workers (SW), men who have sex with men (MSM), intravenous drug users (IDU) and clients of sex workers (UNAIDS). OVPs tend to be high-risk youth, mobile populations (eg migrants), prisoners, and members of the military and uniformed services.

Participants at the summit representing several government agencies, National AIDS Programmes, technical and policy experts, civil society organisations, program implementers for most-at-risk populations (MARPs) and other vulnerable populations (OVPs), multi-lateral and bi-lateral and regional organisations, and representatives from local organisations and networks supporting MARPs and persons living with HIV. These individuals have been selected from the 12 Caribbean Regional Program Partnership Framework countries and the bilateral PEPFAR programmes in Haiti, Dominican Republic and Guyana.

Within the context of Jamaica, this is an important summit to ensure that there is greater synergy between the National Health Programme and civil society to capitalize on the opportunities to halt and reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS by 2015. This is crucial as funding for HIV and AIDS programmes such as the Global Fund come to an end in the next 3-5 years.

I will be blogging daily about the summit so stay tuned!

Quick Facts (Jamaica) – HIV Prevalence

MSM – 32% (According to amfAR (2008) this is the second highest worldwide)
Prison Inmates – 3.5%
STI Clinic attendees – 3.4%
Crack cocaine users – 5%
Sex Workers – 5%

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Coming from Nigeria, I was exhausted. I whipped out a week of training each and every day during my trip in Abuja.  When I imagined another of THAT (although fun and exciting) in Nepal, my head started spinning.  Imagine training all week plus moving forward ANOTHER six hours in time to train some more: wowzers!

Coincidentally, though, my trip to Nepal started off easier than I thought. Ajay—my other half in Nepal managing our project—was actually on the same flight as me coming from Doha to Kathmandu. You may ask, “umm, then why wasn’t he supposed to be in Kathmandu?” Well, hypothetically my response would be that Ajay is a rock star and was recently nominated to serve as youth representative on the Civil Society Task Force for the upcoming United Nations High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS to be held in New York this June…so he ended up flying back from New York City to meet me to Doha just in time for both of us to facilitate our training!

After I spent my first day in Kathmandu catching up on all the sleep I didn’t get in Abuja, Ajay and I met at 6AM the next morning to meet the council of youth activists we’ll be training and supporting throughout the year.   Thanks to Ajay, our plan was to take a fun road-trip to our residential training at this amazing lodge with delicious food and an incredible view on top of a mountain in Dilhukel, a town 25 KM outside of Kathmandu.  AND it only cost 25 USD per night–that’s cheaper than my rent in DC!

Prior to my trip, I knew very little about the youth activists we were going to meet.  I worked with YUWA (meaning "youth" in Nepali), our partner organization on this project, in drafting the criteria to select the youth and drafting the application….but from then on forward, this was all in YUWA’s hands.  

All I knew was that we had a week set out for us that would include a three-day training on top of a mountain in the Himalayas and a couple days planned with meeting local organizations and government representatives to discuss our future advocacy efforts.  Well, first I’ll spoil the anticipation and say that the youth activists were AMAZING…the training was PHENOMENAL….and the meetings were well…FANTASTIC. I guess you can put all those pieces together and see that it was a trip to remember for sure!

Going back to our first morning:  after Ajay and I met, we went straight from my hotel, the Anna Purna to YUWA’s office.  Ajay gave me a tour of the office and we hung out and relaxed until the members of the council arrived.   

Soon enough, Ajay called me to say we were ready to roll.

When I first jumped in the big, colorful van, I said a simple, sweet and nervous “Hi, I’m Mimi” to the smiley youth activists sitting cozily inside. They responded with a joint “hello” and soon enough, we were off on the road!  Seconds later, I heard thunders of giggles and excitement for the trip ahead.

On that hour ride to Dilhukel, I kept quiet for most of the ride up to take it all in and digest the beautiful sights on our bumpy, mountainous trek.

Once we arrived at our cute lodge and training site, we quickly dropped off our stuff in our rooms, took a quick gasp at the view on the top of this grand mountain, ate breakfast and jumped right into our training at 9AM.

In short, I’ll say that a lot was covered: we talked about everything from defining sexual and reproductive health and rights to understanding priorities around US foreign policy on HIV/AIDS and family planning/reproductive health to practicing public speaking/messaging tactics to mapping out our national policy priorities and advocacy plans for the year.  It was an intensive three days, but throughout that entire time—we managed to have a lot of FUN!

Not only was the training full of interactive, participatory exercises… but we squeezed in some legitimate fun time too! We did everything from hiking up a mountain at 5AM to visit a Buddhist temple and watch the sunrise to dancing and singing to Nepalese music in the evening to celebrating the beautiful holiday of Maha Shivaratri around the campfire later in the evening.

on a morning hike to a buddhist monastery

So now, all 10 youth activists—Ashu, Goma, Presca, Rohan, Rojy, Sanskriti, Srijana, Subrata, Shiva and Yashoda—are now my friends and I’m so pumped to work with them this year.

Our advocacy efforts will focus on: 1) Ensuring meaningful youth participation on all programs and policies relevant to sexual and reproductive health and rights in Nepal; and, 2) Improving the Environment, Population and Health curricula to start at grade 5 and provide age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education in all schools in Nepal.

Also, note our potential third objective: We plan to advocate for increased federal funding for family planning/reproductive health programs, but are working towards analyzing the budgetary processes before we launch a campaign on a specific % increase.

I’m actually helping organize a follow-up training right now to get local experts to assist with this work. 

OK, so now that you’re vaguely caught up on my work in Nepal…scope out these bubbles of inspiration that are going to make it all happen:

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I recently went on my annual site visit to Abuja, Nigeria (my favorite time of year!) to meet with the entire council of youth activists supported by our partner, Education as a Vaccine.  I’m always reenergized for the rest of the year, after an exciting week of devoted time to train, discuss and restrategize our advocacy efforts to improve policies and increase funding towards sexual and reproductive health and rights in Nigeria.  Every year, I’m more impressed by them than the previous year–mainly because I can see how they’ve grown so much as individual advocates but also as a passionate team working together to make change in their communities.

Aside from school and work, they come into the office every single day and work with Tope, my other half who is managing the project in Nigeria.  Our three-day training even stretched out to five days, once we realized the load of work we had set out to do for the year.  We achieved a range of activities from speaking with the Family Health officer in the Ministry of Health about budgetary processes to drafting our first e-action alert that would urge the Chairperson of the Senate health committee to pass an anti-stigmatization bill that would protect young people living with HIV/AIDS in schools AND prohibit mandatory HIV testing as a prerequisite for admission into the universities.  Believe it or not– this disappointedly happens quite often in Nigeria! 

We also drafted a plan for our next videography project which will focus on young people’s access to reproductive health/family planning in Nigeria. We’ll be rolling out with this project in the next month and I’m so looking forward to viewing the end product!

All in all, it’s always a pleasure to return to Nigeria…even when it’s over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and there’s no A/C!

We’ve mapped out our priority short-term and long-term advocacy objectives for, which will be:
-Passage of the anti-stigmatization bill including recommendations made by the council to include protection of young people living with HIV/AIDS such as prohibition of HIV testing as a prerequisite for admission to tertiary institutions BY May 2011 and May 2012;
-Increase of funding to youth sexual and reproductive health programs in the next fiscal cycle (through the various budget line items) BY May 2011; and,
-Securing a specific budgetary line item for youth-specific sexual and reproductive health programming BY May 2011 and May 2012.

If you’re interested in these advocacy efforts, feel free to email me at mimi@advocatesforyouth.org.

Now, enjoy a couple photos of my lovely friends/youth activists in Nigeria:

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It happened on the 2nd day of the Advocacy training for the Youth Advocate Group (YAG) held in Abuja Nigeria. I personally wasn’t interested in the activity we were about to carry out which served as the icebreaker for the day, only because it was compulsory I had to partake in it.
The white papers were pinned to the wall, words written bold in black ink drew my attention to them but they were ten in number making it difficult to read them all at once. All the members of the council were eager but had to wait for instructions on what to do with them. Finally she said it…` the topic for today’s icebreaker is LEDERSHIP’. I swore under my breath and immediately lost interest. She went on… ` go round the ten papers, read each one as you approach it and stand in front of the one which inspires you the most. This is not an activity for me I thought but I had no choice but to join the rest of the YAG. I started reading the one in front of me… `People are more easily led than driven. David Harold’. I moved ahead and read `and when we think we lead we are most led. Lord Bryon’. Amazingly it became interesting! I continued reading until I got to the one which hit me. It read `The only real training for leadership is leadership. Anthony Jay’. I immediately fell in love with it at first sight, I stopped. Curiosity made me read the others I hadn’t read while I jealously guided my new love.

Amazing how leadership can be described in a sentence. I began to reason with Anthony Jay. Everyone is a leader, Leadership trainings are important but I believe experience is the best teacher. Having to be a good leader entails being a leader i.e. you cannot be a good leader when you do not lead.

As a member of my council volunteering to carry out a task meant for the entire council makes me a leader, keeping track of activities in my designation makes me a leader. I mustn’t be appointed a leader before I become one. Exercising these little traits cooks me up to be a good and effective leader. With my new love for leadership I have decided to include my name in my list of Young People with a Passion for Leadership (YPPFL) an acronym I figured.
So many definitions and explanations of leadership given by the other council members designed a new face of leadership in my mind. Lastly am glad I joined the YPPFL. Smiles.

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Political, economic and social instabilities, religious persecution and ethnic conflicts in a country pushes its citizens to either migrate(legally or illegally) or to seek asylum as refugees in other countries where conditions are more favorable and where they believe they can pick up the bits of their lives and have a chance at recovery. This optimism however is usually short-lived as most of these people wind up in conditions worse than those prevailing from their countries of origin and what was intended to be a refuge becomes a death trap. They are alienated from resources so much yearn for.
Refugees just like any other citizens have health needs which usually are not taken into consideration by service providers talk less of SRH needs. Not only are these refugees more vulnerable due to their activities usually (commercial sex workers) coupled to that, they cannot access health care when need arises or even appropriate SRH services. It was for this reason that YOP decided to carry out its Refugee SRH sensitization project. This was a project aimed at reducing HIV transmission through promoting positive behavior change amongst vulnerable refugee communities in Douala, Cameroon.

YOP established a partnership with the Cameroon Red Cross (CRC) and United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Refugee Project in Douala. Officials of the CRC/UNHCR Project and community leaders in Douala confirmed the urgent need to mobilize and sensitize young refugees through a life-skills focused project, due to their vulnerability to contracting or spreading HIV through various practices.
The identification of this problem motivated YOP to support the CRC/ UNHCR Refugee Project in organizing a Christmas event as a unique occasion to gather the youths and inform them of the project. From this event 30 youths were identified as having leadership skills and invited to attend the first training sessions. Experience from past projects implemented by YOP has demonstrated the importance of involving young people in the design and execution of activities to ensure not only sustainability but also that these activities are relevant and acceptable to the target group

A structured questionnaire was developed to assess the knowledge, attitude and practices of refugees on HIV and AIDS, sex and sexuality, and practices in their communities. 24 young refugees took part in the exercise. One-to-one interviews were also conducted with various young refugees during the coordination and planning process to adequately identify the problems and difficulties they face.
After analyzing the questionnaires, a training guide was designed to meet the needs and build the capacities of the youths. A training module on entrepreneurship was included in the training guide as all the youths identified a lack of skills to start a small income generating activity. It was seen that being gainfully employed was a necessary element in avoiding some of the practices that can lead to contracting HIV such as prostitution and drugs.

A two-day training was organized for youth leaders, empowering them to mobilize youths and to serve as peer educators within their various ethnic communities. The topics covered in the training included: HIV and AIDS; sex and sexuality; life-skills and behavior change; self employment and entrepreneurship; the entrepreneur; choosing a business idea, and decision making.

At the end of the training exercise, a postcard developed by the young people carrying SRH messages and especially that emphasizing the need for Voluntary Counseling Testing were developed and printed for their own use and to be distributed to their peers.

This project revealed that most refugee youths feel stigmatized, finding it difficult to integrate into their communities. This stigma, and a lack of financial resources, prevents them from seeking reproductive health support from regular health services with most confirming that they turn to “quack doctors” with some being exposed to contracting HIV through the sharing of syringes. Other young refugees during one-to one informal discussions revealed that they seek sexual and reproductive health information from their peers. It was also confirmed that there are still practices within the
Various refugee communities identified that promote the spread of HIV, such as female genital mutilation, sacrifices.

This initiative by YOP was an eye opener and it paved the way for other NGO’S to see the need to include refugees in their SRHR projects.
  Abongwa Victor
International Youth Journalist
  Cameroon

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Today, I write this post with mixed feelings about the state of things in my community. I am an international student from Nigeria, and I attend Morgan State University, an HBCU located in Baltimore, MD. Lately, I have looked out at a community that seems to be stagnant in many ways. It seems to me, like the right decisions are not being made, especially when it comes to student welfare. But I could be wrong. After all, I spend as little time as I possibly can amongst other students. It is safe to say that I have developed some kind of allergy to the MSU community. The only interaction that I have with the other students is mainly advocacy-related. I keep social relationships to a minimum not because I think that I am better than anyone, but mainly because I am exhausted from my many attempts to try to create meaningful friendships and acquaintanceships.

My focus for today and this year in general, is bringing basic resources to those who need it. Thanks to the existence of the GACC, YWOCLC, and Advocates for Youth, I have been able to distribute over 360 condoms so far this semester. My original plan was to launch a campus-wide campaign to get students to advocate for condom access in bathrooms, but the process of putting it all together was taking too long. Hence my mini project. Together with Vanessa from MySistahs, I am working to collect at least 1000 student signatures which will eventually be submitted to the university president. There have been snickers and snide remarks when I have tried to get people to sign petitions, but I am not giving up. I have to see this through to the end. One person asked, "So there are going to be condoms EVERYWHERE? Is that what you’re doing?" and I calmly replied "Yeah. What’s wrong with that?". There have been arguments about how putting condoms in bathrooms will offend people’s religious sensibilities, but I think that it is more important that my peers have access to condoms when they need them.

Using International Women’s Day/Week as the initial theme for this campaign is a great idea, especially since I am a member of YWOCLC. I am hoping to work with the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the YWCA on campus, and the peer educators to get things done. I am especially excited to work with the AKAs and the YWCA because of their focus on women. I am hopeful that access to condoms will prompt more women to begin carrying them, and to begin to have conversations with their partners about using them. One young man said to me as I was giving out condoms the other day, "Men should be the ones who carry around the condoms. It doesn’t speak well of a woman when she carries those around." People like him are the reason why there’s so much stigma surrounding sex and contraception. There really shouldn’t be so many girls and women dropping out of school to have babies and work full-time jobs to support them. There really shouldn’t be so many college women who are unable to concentrate on obtaining their degrees because they are too busy struggling to be good mothers.

In addition to this condom access campaign, I have also been collecting signatures to support no-cost birth control. It has been somewhat difficult as people are quick to dismiss it, citing excuses like, "I’m a dude. I don’t use birth control." or "I don’t have sex so I don’t need birth control." What’s with all the selfishness and the nonchalance about women’s issues? Whatever happened to showing support for others? If you think that women should not have to pay out-of-pocket costs for birth control, then you support it right? So sign it duh! It only takes like two minutes. Even after putting both petitions online for the convienience of those who make excuses about having no time to stop and scribble, I am very disappinted by the lack of participation. It’s like, I see you updating your status on Facebook and commenting on your friends’ photos, so why is it so hard for you to click on a link and spend 5 minutes on a petition?

Student Government elections are in progress right now, and there are all these candidates making a lot of noise about what they’re going to do if they are elected. Two words: broken record. I’ve seen this all before in the past few years that i’ve attended MSU. Important decisions are still not being made. People are still shying away from controversial issues like these. If it’s going to take a bunch of student nobodies to get the student population to start making better decisions about sexual health, I’m happy to donate my time and energy. This year, I’m starting small and hoping that next year, International Women’s Day at Morgan State University will be a very important occasion.

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In Nigeria, youth involvement in policymaking processes is very rare. I can almost say it does not exist because young people are not considered as major contributors to policy issues, even when these policies affect our lives. The government believes that we do not have anything to offer in terms of policy making, so they see no point involving us. The only time they think of young people’s participation is during elections; they only use us to get into power and after which they dispose us.

In recent times though, things are beginning to change; not because the government believes we are of any worth, rather it is because young people are beginning to realize they have a voice and a right and the capacity to proffer the necessary solutions that will bring about a lasting change.

I had the privilege to have attended the Technical Working Group meeting put together by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH). The TWG is a body that advices the FMOH on Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health and Development (ASRHD) issues in terms of policy and implementation. However, the purpose of this particular meeting was to create a costed and effective ACTION PLAN for ASRHD, which can be used at the Federal and State levels.

Being in that kind of meeting was a wonderful learning experience because I was able to see what the Federal ministry considers when creating policies that affects the WHOLE Nigerian youth, what standards they have in mind and how they perceive the needs of young people.

I was very active and I did not hold back any ideas. I gave out my best and I believe everything I recommended will become a reality. I also had the opportunity to screen a video documentary, which the Youth Advocates Group produced. The content was on the importance of youth friendly centres in Nigeria.

In all, one thing I learnt was that young people can, we can set the pace, and we can create a better Nigeria if given the opportunity to be heard. More opportunities like this should be given to the youths by policy-makers. Please, just listen to what we have to say and you will be amazed that we do not just know where the shoe hurts but we know how to make it stop.

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Editor’s Note: This post is part of the 2011 Amplify International Women’s Day Blogathon. Click here to learn more about how you can join this week of action.

This year marks 100 years of commemorating International Women’s Day. In times like these, I wonder what goes on in the minds of Nigerian leaders.

It has been 100 years now, but when I look around, I feel so sad. The issues faced by young girls are more than 100 if we begin to count, yet it has been 100 years and there is almost nothing to show.

In Nigeria today, culture has been a major barrier limiting young girls from getting equal access to education. With the level of civilization in Nigeria, some people still believe the place of the girl child is in the home. Early marriage is still very much practiced in the north, even with the Child Rights Act Bill that states that no child should be given for marriage before 18. Although, the bill has been passed in some states, but these states have still not passed the Bill (Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto, Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Zamfara, Enugu, Kano, Adamawa and Gombe). Why? It is not fair. When a whole Senator from Zamfara state married a 13-year-old girl, tell me, what example is he to other citizens.

Almost half of women in Nigeria are married by age 18; 1 in 5 get married by age 15. Moreover, 23% of women age 15–19 are already mothers or are pregnant with their first child. Teenage childbearing is highest in the North West zone (45%) and lowest in the South East zone (8%). Women with no education are much more likely to have begun childbearing before age 20 than women with secondary or higher education (55% compared with 3 % (NDHS2008).

How do we build a nation without empowering the girl child with quality education? Today, we all envy the USA and we compare ourselves to them a lot but the reality is that, if we don’t invest in educating the girl child, rather than having them in bed when they should be in school, we won’t really be that great nation that we envy (USA),

Education is key, Education is basic, and no child should be denied education based on their gender.

As we commemorate this International Women’s day, let the leaders hear, Let Nigerians know, EDUCATION is PRIORITY for the girl child. It is also important that all states adhere to age specification given by the CHILD RIGHTS ACT at the national level. This will protect the rights of the girl child. If all stakeholder can commit to giving every young girl the opportunity for a quality basic education, perhaps they will contribute to the income generation for their family and largely for the nation.

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Editor’s Note: This post is part of the 2011 Amplify International Women’s Day Blogathon. Click here to learn more about how you can join this week of action.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. While we’ve come a long way over the last century, the fact remains that in many parts of the world, life is still a significant challenge for women, particularly young women. Whether she lives in a refugee camp, a rural village, or the capital of her country, a young woman often wages a daily battle against poverty, gender-based violence, child marriage, and inadequate access to family planning and reproductive health information and services, just to name a few.

Maybe it’s this stark reality that helps explain why International Women’s Day is more widely known in some regions of the world than others. I have to admit, I knew very little about the importance of March 8th before I moved overseas. I don’t recall ever learning about it in school or ever seeing anyone celebrate it or even mention its significance when I was growing up. Yet millions of women across the globe have celebrated this day for 100 years and counting. It never occurred to me that I would have to travel thousands of miles to learn a lesson that should have been ingrained in me from an early age.

So, this March 8th, I want to take a moment to reflect on the strength and courage I have gained from 45 very special young women I had the privilege of calling my sisters. You see, for two years, I had the great fortune of helping to run an afterschool center for young women, aged 12-24, in Mauritania, West Africa. We utilized an array of activities from tutoring and internet workshops to life skills and health lessons, all in an effort to build self-esteem and encourage girls to stay in school and delay marriage and childbirth when possible. The most exciting event every year at the Center was our celebration of International Women’s Day. Run by and for the young women themselves, this event always featured skits, essays, and songs written and performed by them, along with presentations from local women who had succeeded in becoming community leaders and role models. It was the one day of the year that my 45 sisters could really focus on themselves and their future aspirations. It was the one day of the year they didn’t have to hear someone tell them they weren’t worthy of dreaming of something better. And it was the one day of the year they didn’t have to worry about being forced to leave school because of an arranged marriage with a much older man. Just imagine what the world would be like if every day was International Women’s Day.

Fortunately, there are many things we can do to promote and celebrate women on this International Women’s Day. Check out this great video posted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who makes the following case for prioritizing women in foreign policy:

“It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing. Women and girls drive our economies. They build peace and prosperity. Investing in them means investing in global economic progress, political stability, and greater prosperity for everyone—the world over.”

And just in case you thought only women could speak out on March 8th, take a look at this awesome video with Daniel Craig, otherwise known as 007, and the voice of Dame Judi Dench who painstakingly points out the inequalities between men and women as Craig, himself, transforms into a woman.

Now, be sure to check out Amplify’s International Women’s Day page to learn more about how you can do your part in honoring women today and every day of the year.

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I am writing this letter on behalf of the residents of Tsamiyar Boka Bus Stop, in Hotoro, Kano – Nigeria, who are using this opportunity to appeal to you to intervene and save us from a disaster that is waiting to happen.

All efforts to get the authorities conerned to take action has fallen on deaf ears.

I am pleading with you to please, add your voice to our petition at:
http://www.change.org/petitions/save-our-community-from-an-impending-disaster

Everey signature is important please,
At Tsamiyar Boka Bus Stop, Hotoro-Kano, Nigeria, there are some shops owned by one Alhaji Abdullahi Sammani. Of all the shops in the location, the ones belonging to the said Alhaji Abdullahi are very weak because they were constructed with substandard materials. In fact, the roof decking of all the shops drip water whenever it rained.

Late last year, he went ahead and started construction of a new storey on the weak structure that was already showing signs of disintegration.
It is baffling how he got an official approval to build the top storey on a structure that had no solid concrete base and inadequate support pillars.

When we complained about the quality of the structure, he boasted that an Architect/Engineer registered with COREN (The council responsible for registering Engineers in Nigeria) and NOIB (Nigerian institute of Builders) designed and facilitated the approval, all efforts to get to know the quack engineer has failed to date.

All attempts to get the authorities concerned to intervene fell on deaf ears and he has now gone ahead and built the top storey.

The structure is showing already signs cracks. The local Urban planning authority and the Institute of builders have come and investigated our claims and confirmed them to be true, but nothing has been done.

We are using this opportunity to plead for your intervention for the agencies concerned with the sector to take action thus:

· Investigate the approval given for the initial structure.

· Investigate the actual construction work done on the shopsif it was as approved.

· Investigate if the structure is strong enough to hold the new building without one day collapsing and possibly killing and maiming innocent people.
– Investigate who the architects and engineers are so as to prevent future occurences of such dangerous manipulations.

– Enforce the removal of the structure to prevent possible loss of lives and properties

The rains will soon be here, and we are daily living with a high likelihood that the building may collapse at anytime.

In the days of incidents of collapsed buildings all around the world, we feel it is our duty to raise this alarm for the relevant authorities to investigate and stop this flagrant disregard for building regulations and human lives.
All efforts to get the Kano State regulatory Agency to intervene has been futile.
the last time they came, they just looked and promised to do something, but the matter seems to have been swept under the carpet.

And now the Institue of Builders have also investigated but nothing has been done.
Please, kindly help us by intervening in the issue.

Your action might save lives.

Please, save us from this disaster that is waiting for a day to happen.

Please, add your voice to our petition at:
http://www.change.org/petitions/save-our-community-from-an-impending-disaster

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In the West, female genital mutilation is an anomaly. Unfortunately, it continues to be a common occurrence in many countries in Africa and the Middle East. Although FGM has long been recognized as a public health hazard to girls and women, it continues to persist. Long paraded as a part of tribal “culture” and religious “practice”, the mutilation of our sisters occurs through out many cultures. This is unacceptable.

“An estimated 100 million to 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM and more than 3 million girls are at risk for cutting each year on the African continent. Nigeria is one of the 28 countries in the African region where FGM is practiced and has a prevalence rate of 40 per cent for adult women with variations as low as 0.6 per cent in Yobe State (North East) and as high as 98.7 per cent in Osun State (South West) of Nigeria.”

The solution is not to only “codify” policies into law as many governments say in defense when confronted with heinous statistics. The solution lies in having a true interaction with the people who perform these rituals. In these interactions, women who have been harmed by FGM should speak about what happened to them and why they do not wish to pass this tradition to the next generation. In this manner, the cultures that perform FGM can understand what it is doing to their own people. There should be consensus that this kind of sexual violation does not serve any other purpose than to create a double standard in which a woman is held responsible for the sexuality of both men and women in her society.

FGM is a foreshadowing event that tells a young girl that she is not supposed to enjoy sex. It also tells girls that society does not trust them to control their own sexual desires so society has to “take away” the joy of sex so they can maintain so called “purity”. All of a society’s insecurities and judgments about sexuality are forced onto a young girl in the name of God and so called “culture”. Tradition is not a valid excuse because culture is not stagnant and it is able to change when it is found to be an affront to human rights. This is not a sign of “abandoning” culture; it is a sign of progress and justice.

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by Bianca Laureano

The first annual Rutgers University Sex, Love, and Dating Conference was this past weekend. There were over 250 registered student participants and a great group of workshop presenters, and I was one of them! I did two workshops, one on negotiating sexual identities and the other on intercultural relationships (I’m writing more on my specific experience at this workshop at my RH Reality Check blog  so stay tuned for that).

As I prepared for my presentations I found myself more focused on the intercultural dating and relationships workshop. I felt as though there was more preparation for me to do around this topic and I also assumed that a majority of the students present were going to be racially White. However, that was not the case and I was surprised and impressed that a majority of my workshop were students of Color (more than 95%). With so much discussion about the relationships of celebrities who are in intercultural relationships (the break up of Halle Berry comes to mind immediately), I was not surprised their group was so big, rather that it was so diverse!

Part of my preparing for the conference was providing students with a list of resources so that the information and conversations we were having in that space could continue. One of the longer portions of that list was media images and representations. I included podcasts, websites, organizations, books, and film. I think this is a good space to discuss some of the more stellar representations because the list of films were not all of films that are fantastic, some of them are questionable, and I also wanted to hear what films many of you think would be good inclusions for future reference. I recognize that the films I’ve mentioned below only represent a certain relationship, one that is based on monogamy, but also those that are heterosexual; and that needs to change. So, I’m asking for your help in helping me build a list beyond heterosexist representations to ones that are more inclusive. I’ll begin with one of my favorites.

Mississippi Masala
This was one of the first films I saw that discussed intercultural dating, not just interracial but intercultural as well. Denzel Washington plays Demetrius and stars as the love interest of Sarita Choudhury who plays Meena, an Indian woman by way of Uganda whose family relocates to Mississippi after Idi Amin takes power (Amin’s story was the center for the film “Last King of Scotland” starring Forest Whitaker and also represented an intercultural relationship). One of the things I appreciate about this film is the multiple layers of each character, they are not just one-dimensional representations of two young people in love, but the intergenerational and international storylines that play into the relationship of all the characters is rarely seen in such narratives. Check out the trailer below, the film is 20 years old but amazing and fantastic! Then again, all Mira Nair  films are.

Romeo Must Die
When this movie first came out I was not too excited to watch it; I thought (and kind of still do) that any film that has DMX in it couldn’t be a quality film. I actually waited until it was on television for free to see the film. Needless to say that was over a year and half, almost two years after it was in theaters. Once I saw the film, I had to admit that I was impressed. Starring Jet Li as Han and R&B singer Aaliyah as Trish, their relationship provides a modern day perspective to the classic Romeo and Juliet story. Han and Trish come from families that are fighting; their love for one another, and their attempts to maintain their relationship is challenged throughout the film. The challenges are not specific to just family tensions, but also to racial and cultural expectations and differences their families have for them. When I discuss intercultural dating, especially when an Asian male character is seen as “getting the girl” in a film, this film is the first one my students discuss. So I have to add this film as a thank you to my past students who have continued to remind me about it and brought to my attention.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding
A film from the last decade, I put this film on the list because it complicates Whiteness in some ways. Often when thinking of intercultural or interracial relationships folks lump people who classify as racially White into one category, not often recognizing the differences within groups. In this film Toula who is from a “traditional” Greek family falls in love with Ian, a young man from a different ethnic background. We watch as Toula preps him to meet her family, how his family interacts with hers, and what rites of passage each brings to their new partnership. I appreciate this film because it discusses age in a way we often don’t see represented. Toula is an older woman (over 25) living at home with her parents and pursuing higher education. We do not often see older women who live at home in such roles, and often when we do they are seen as “old maids” or as failures. In this case Toula is neither.


(more…)

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It seems like the world gets more and more complicated each and every day. There are so many issues, both psychological and physical that cannot be viewed simply as black and white. It’s a crazy, shaken AND stirred cocktail of a world out  there and not everyone knows how to deal. Just like I discussed how sexual abuse is difficult for some women to point out, there is also a thin line between abuse and trash talk. Depending on the culture one was raised in, it is easier or not to tell what’s what. I know that I keep referencing Nigeria a lot, but as an International student, it’s always interesting to analyze the cultural barrier.

A few years ago, for my humanities class, I had written a poem about the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War. Sometime during my research, I came across a fact that stated Nigerians were the happiest people in the world. To Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike, this might seem extremely absurd, especially with the elevated crime rate and the economic state if the nation. The fact is true to an extent – because of the religiously saturated culture, Nigerians are forever comparing themselves to their neighbors and placing their lives in God’s hands. We have learned to live without constant electricity, a public transportation system where one has to fight to get on a bus amongst other things, so why should we not be happy that we have our lives?

One of the things that I admire and at the same time detest about American society is the constant psycho-analysis. I speak for myself, but I know that it is largely true that we Nigerian girls and women have been raised to think that if we are sexually abused, it must be our fault somehow. We must have been in the wrong place at the wrong time; been alone in a room with a man; dressed provocatively; just plain deserved it. American society on the other hand teaches that no should always mean no.

A friend of mine, an international student also, was in a very strange situation about a year ago. Let’s call her Jenny. She was dating an older man. I knew this man and had spoken to him on several occasions. Long story short, he was a professor at our university. He had asked me out to lunch or dinner a few times but I’d declined because it was just too weird. When I later found out that they’d been dating for about 4 years, I was a bit shocked. He didn’t act like a man in a relationship.

From there, things got weirder. I’d invite her out and she’d decline always. These were always followed by shrugs and eye-rolling from some of our mutual friends. I got the feeling that something was wrong. Now Jenny had beautiful, long black hair and one day she came to work with her head shaved like Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta. WTF? All day people kept asking why she had cut if off. By the time myself and a couple others had heard her give different excuses, we knew something was up. We cornered her and made her talk to us. This had gone too far. She said her boyfriend had made her shave her head. Are you as shocked as I am?

We also found out that day, that her excuses about not having a phone that semester was untrue. He had made her get a new number and then forbidden her to give it out to anyone. He would pick her up from her apartment every morning and take her home in the evenings. If anyone else gave her a ride home, he’d throw a fit. He monitored her bank account to see where she spent her money; she spent weekends at his house. The more stuff we found out, the weirder the situation became. Couldn’t she see what was happening? How much power he had over her?

Sometimes we like or love someone so much that we constantly make excuses for their bad behavior. It’s happened to me before and when I finally got a chance to step back and view the entire situation from an external perspective, I was extremely upset with myself for letting it all happen. Jenny eventually escaped the clutches of her toxic relationship when she returned to her home country, but there are still some like her, who are blind to what is being done to them.

To young women everywhere, I say never compromise. If you catch yourself making excuses, alienated from your friends and family, living a life that you don’t want, something’s gotta change. Live your life for you and you alone. Never give someone else the opportunity to make you think less of yourself.

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Each year, while we celebrate Valentine’s Day with candy, hearts, and roses, young women across U.S. college campuses perform Eve Ensler’s award-winning play The Vagina Monologues. And it’s more than just a performance: theater and political activism combine in what’s now known as V-Day, established to raise funds for, and awareness of, stopping violence against women and girls (a worthy cause!).

Like many of these young women, I also brought The Vagina Monologues to my campus last year. While I appreciated the exercise of producing and performing in the show, I couldn’t help but notice the play’s limitations too. It was painstakingly clear that the performance was both race and class-bound. Like the one piece that begins, “What would your vagina wear?” and the answers include Louis Vuitton boots and cashmere. Then there are the pieces about those women from the “third world,” who are subordinated, repressed, and obviously needing to be “rescued.” They are, always, the victims, never fully sexual beings like their Western women counterparts. At the end of the day, The Vagina Monologues didn’t include my vagina’s monologue…. and the play ultimately suffered from the same limitations as the mainstream Western feminist movement: aiming to speak for a broad spectrum of women while actually doing so through the lens of white, upper-middle class, Western women.

Now, I know, this is nothing new… but in yet another month of V-day events, I thought I’d share a few examples of women of color (and men of color!) who have created alternate spaces for speaking openly about sexuality, violence, and race… reclaiming feminism, The Vagina Monologues and speaking for themselves, instead of letting a white woman speak for them.

1) Pocketbook Monologues, created by Sharon McGhee, and described as a black woman’s Vagina Monologues. These monologues have a focus on HIV/AIDS and include important experiences like one monologue about a woman who’s in love with a man in prison. Check it out, as featured in The Real Housewives of Atlanta:

2) Yoni Ki Baat (loosely translates to “Talks about the Vagina”), representing the voices of those from the South Asian Diaspora. This was originally created by South Asian Sisters, a “diverse collective of progressive South Asian women dedicated to empowering our community to resist all forms of oppression through art, dialogue, conscious alliances, and grassroots political action.” Here’s a wonderful excerpt from one monologue that demonstrates what a wide (and grave) array of issues affect women in communities of color:

So where does this leave
my Hindu yoni? She
sings herself beautiful
now. She grows
three lethal fangs to puncture
the necks of three demons:
fascism
fundamentalism
genocide.

3) The Hijabi Monologues, created by Sahar Ullah, Zeenat Rahman and Dan Morrison, to dispel stereotypes about Muslim women. The monologues include (among others) a fun piece on the types of men who hit on hijabis (Muslim women who choose to cover), one story of a mother who loses her son in a car accident, and another story of a teenager who gets pregnant. Check out this one monologue, titled "I’m Tired," about how tiring it can be to constantly “represent” (skip to the 1 minute mark): 

4) Tarzan Monologues, a Nigerian theatrical response that includes both men and women (what? you mean these subjects are not just “women’s subjects”?), talking about everything from erectile dysfunction, money, sexual abuse, religion, sterility, infidelity and, of course, women.  

5) Deez Nuts, the black “all male spin to the Vagina Monologues” based out of Washington D.C. As per one of the writers, “It’s a perspective on everything from love to war to having children, being fathers. But unlike the Vagina Monologues, where the women talk a lot about their parts—you know, about hair on the vagina and having periods—Deez Nuts doesn’t focus on the male parts so much. It definitely talks about sex and relationships, but it’s more about all the things that affect these nuts, instead of the actual nuts.”

Got anymore? Send them to me! I’m keeping a growing list. For now, here’s to a V-day that includes the vaginas (and nuts!) and voices of all women (and men!).

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Last week Friday, the Jamaican parliament voted and made revisions to some aspects of the Leprosy Act of 1949. This is evidence of how we continue (as a country) to focus on things of very little importance, while ignoring matters of great concern to the safety and security of Jamaicans.

The prevalence of [leprosy] is very low in Jamaica at less than one case per 10,000 for the population, yet the Parliament thought it important to vote for various increases to fines for persons who breached the Leprosy Act. "For example, the 1949 act made provisions for persons who committed offences to be charged $100 if a penalty for the breach is not expressly prescribed. The House has voted for the fine for such offence to be increased to $500,000." (Gleaner).

Jamaica is regarded as having achieved elimination status and leprosy is no longer a public health concern. What then is the purpose of increasing the fines when the offender has no one to offend? Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate if the Act was repealed since leprosy isn’t a problem?

Let us look at the buggery law, which prohibits any form of anal intercourse — whether between man and woman or man and man.We know the impact the anti-buggery laws have on men who have sex with men (MSM) and even their allies. Within the context of HIV, it drives MSM underground and away from the few existing HIV prevention, treatment and support services/facilities that are available. Currently, over 30% of MSM tested for HIV are positive. HIV prevention information is largely heterosexual-based. Outreach workers are limited in what they can do in prisons, they aren’t even allowed to give inmates condoms.

The buggery law has the following implications:

·       Limited access to screening and treatment for HIV and STIs has major consequences for the individual and his partner

·       Health workers refuse to treat MSM, field abusive comments to them and disclose their sexual orientation

·       Police impede outreach work targeting MSM

·       HIV/AIDS Interventions largely heterosexual-based

·       MSM live in an environment that expresses violent social disapproval and rejection of homosexuality  

Let us all consider the importance of creating an enabling environment so people, regardless of their sexual practices, can access information and services to safeguard their health.

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Spare me a few minutes to ventilate about the Ministry of Health’s (Jamaica) observation of Safer Sex Week from February 7-14, 2011 under the theme "Protect yuh Love… Use a Glove"*.

First, I must say that I am delighted that the Ministry of Health continues to observe Safer Sex Week. However, I have issues with how low key the activities appear to be this year. There has been very little promotion of the activity/activities. With all consideration for budgetary constraints, I believe one main activity for the week is insufficient. Even worse is the fact that, based on conversation with a colleague who works in the National HIV Program, the focus for Safer Sex Week is testing.

I am sure we can all agree on the importance of knowing one’s status, whether negative or positive; but I don’t see the conenction between the focus and the theme.

Secondly, I have a big problem with the use of "glove" instead of condom. As Jamaicans, we continue to promote the use of words that are not universal. How many people in Jamaica really call condoms "gloves"? Perhaps, very few.

Finally, a main component of the Ministry’s activity should have been around advocacy to increase people’s access to condoms and lubricants, especially for young people. Yes, condoms may be more accessible than it was say 5 or 10 years ago, but the fact stil remains that some groups of people face much stigma and discrimination when they attempt to purchase condoms — and I’ll add lubricants to that. Both condoms and lubes are very important for safe sex.

Here is a reminder of why access is so important.

*Translation: Protect Your Love… Use a Condom

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So this week, Feb 7-14 is considered Safer Sex Week in Jamaica, and as usual, i tried to rally support for more jamaican bloggers on amplify..

The theme this year is "Protect your love… Use a glove".
On publicizing the theme, i received varied responses; however many  individuals had one similar question: "what about those who are abstaining? why isn’t there anything for them too? Not EVERYONE’S doing it! "

Food for thought:
Why is it that there isn’t really anything geared towards abstaining teens? Or why isn’t there a "Comprehensive Sex Ed week"?

Yes, HIV Awareness and safe sex are habits that we want to instill, but abstinence and conscious sexually healthy lives are also habits we want to promote. Why are the scales tipped to one side?

*Just a thought*

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The Jamaican Minister of Health Rudyard Spencer stated in his 2011 safer sex week address that “Our young people must be targeted aggressively as they are becoming sexually active at a younger age and are having multiple partners. Since 1982, AIDS cases reported among girls in the 10-19 age groups have increased. Parents and guardians must play a more active role in supervising their children and instilling good morals and values that will encourage them to abstain from sex. The use of commu (nication technologies must also be pursued to distribute messages about abstinence and the methods of safe sex”. The Jamaican UNGASS country report of 2010 supports the minister’s claim that the Jamaican youth are becoming more sexually active at an earlier age as it states that Men: 56.6% Women: 15.9% of young women and men aged 15–24 who have had sexual intercourse before the age of 15.

For years gone by I have always been a strong advocate for the inclusion of parental discussions with youth on issues of sexually reproductive health and rights, I mean what better way to start than the home. I however disagree with the minister’s proposed strategy which is to promote the abstention from sex to already sexually active youth. How you can advocate for a more AGGRESIVE approach while one of your solutions is to have talk about abstinence with sexually active youth who are strongly influenced by their peers and the media.

The present youth populace is always busy on their Blackberries, iPhones and ipads they don’t need their parents telling them to wait and or to stop. While such would and should be the perfect method we are not living in a utopian society, the reality is youth are having sex and are having sex at a younger age than their older siblings, parents and grandparents. the privacy and magnetism of these devices creates an environment where the child is constantly exposed to sexual contents.

So what to do to address the issue? Should we turn a blind eye to the depressing disturbing reality and continue to preach abstinence or should we explore innovative youth friendly measures to curb the problem? My recommendation to the minister and his staff who seems to be focusing on a more active role among parents is to provide nation-wide seminars educating parents on how to properly communicate the topic of safer sex to their already sexual active child; These new strategies should include the use to new techonlogies that are popular among youth. To promote the creation and fostering of parent/child relationships so as to allow parents the opportunity to know what’s going on in their child’s life and have more leverage in influencing specific behaviours not only as a parent but also as friend.

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February 7 -14, 2011 is Safer Sex Week in Jamaica. With the fluctuating but fairly steady increase in teenage pregnancies across the island and the worryingly persistent increase in HIV infections between 1999-2009 (21% or 1436 cases), there is no doubt that Jamaica could certainly benefit from this campaign. Disappointly, however, this is not the first time that such a campaign is being undertaken. Unfortunately, the story always unfolds the same way and it ends frustratingly with the characteristically anti-climatic curtain call.

Like many initiatives in Jamaica, the objective behind Safer Sex Week is most noble and commendable. However, the institutional disjoint with which this country is faced, which is evidenced by the lack of the right collaborations in the appropriate Ministries, coupled with the lack of results-oriented precision with which these tasks are executed lead one to wonder whether the Ministry of Health has got it right this time. “Protect Your Love, Use a Glove” is the brand for this week’s Safer Sex campaign but with the incongruent increases in HIV infections it begs the obvious questions: Are we preaching to the right audience? Why do these attempts, if only in the grand scheme of things, seem somewhat futile?

There is certainly no dearth of public statistics on the nuances of HIV/AIDS in Jamaica. Strikingly, however, the research data that is available to the public at least seem not to be sufficient enough to gauge the targeted intervention that is required to combat the spread of this disease. Certainly, if the contrary were true, there would be no guessing that for Jamaica to have commendable reductions in new HIV infections such as countries like Uganda, it must concentrate its prevention mechanisms at the grass-root levels by going into communities most desiring of these services and by using the right people to champion this cause.

It is clear that there has to be something fundamentally wrong with our campaign strategies if we still have imbeciles who believe that having sex with a virgin will cure HIV and AIDS. I am certainly not advocating that we undertake the impossible task of trying to set up a foolproof system. I am suggesting on the contrary that we reassess whether we are reaching our targeted audience in general and during Safer Sex Week in particular and if in fact we are, whether we need to reconsider our methodologies and approaches.

Finally, the HIV/AIDS epidemic needs to be considered in its proper context. Most of our national objectives will probably not be met if discrimination and stigma continue to abound in its present undesirable form being in parts largely nourished by certain aspects of our culture. We must nonetheless continue to educate our people on a much wider scale with a more encapsulating and precise penetration of HIV and STI prevention programmes which will produce measurable outcomes. Safer Sex Week should not be just one of the noble things to do in the national fight against HIV/AIDS. It should set objectives which can be reasonably achieved and quantified or can in some other means attest to its utility.

Jermaine Case,
International Youth Speak Out Project
JSTAR Council, JAMAICA

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Today the Jamaican Ministry of Health has launched its annual February week of activities budded “safer sex week”. The week commemorates the ministry’s efforts to promote safe sexual practices among the Jamaican population especially the youth. An awesome move by the ministry of health of health but over the past 17 years since its inception in 1994 one has to ask, how effective has this week of education, testing and intervention been?

This year the theme for safer sex week is “Protect Your Love… Use a Glove”, the ministry has also announced that the emphasis for this year’s week of activities will be testing of individuals. Now I know the week has just started and I shouldn’t be so negative but there are a few concerns I need to address urgently. The first is the marriage of the theme and the focus for the week, now when one looks at the theme the first thing that comes to mind is to increase condom usage and practices whether it be male or female not the promotion HIV/AIDS testing. In my view I believe this is a great mistake made on part of the ministry and it will in no way provide the results they seek.

The second concern I have is the lack of a youth focus within the week of activities and the promotion of the event. It would have been awesome to see the ministry acknowledging the year of the youth which ends august 2011 and sought to strategically place emphasis or create a merger of the two. With HIV/AIDS being the second leading cause of death among the youth population and there exist a one percent prevalence rate among Jamaica youth the idea of youth centered/oriented safer sex week 2011 would have been awesome.

Finally I want to speak briefly on the not so recent referral system which was brought to the table in 2006 however was dismissed by our very own Education Minister Andrew Holness. The referral system provided a mechanism that equips guidance counselors, teachers and peer educators with skills necessary for referring students for follow-up sexual and reproductive health services not offered within the context of the school environment. Now minister Holness and other like minded individuals decided that such a system does not uphold with the morals and principles of the society however we see the everyday reality that more and more young girls are becoming high school drop outs and teens moms( I think me need a Jamaican version of mtv’s teen mom here in Jamaica). There exists the new trend where girls are having anal and oral sex in order to deceive their parents and gynecologist whenever they are taken for a checkup. According to reports the mean age at first sexual encounter is continuing to decrease year by year.

Again I confess my desire for a more youth oriented safer sex for 2011. With that all said I must however commend the ministry and hope that my wishes will be granted before the week is through.

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The youth advocate group Nigeria needed more members to help facilitate their work. Hand bills where handed out and applicants where to write on either of two topics: Youth sexual and reproductive health or The face of a leader. Applications started pouring in.

On the first day of the interviews, we had three people turn in, two males and a female. The males Matthew and Ifeanyi wrote on youth sexual and reproductive health, while Jasmine the female wrote on the face of a leader. The interview started with Jasmine who was a confident young lady, passionate about what we were doing and had nothing against volunteering.Then came in Matthew who was a little off, considering the fact that he had no idea what we were doing (so what on earth was he doing here?). How would you go for an interview without having a single idea on what we were doing, not even the job responsibilities written on the hand bill gave him a clue.

Ifeanyi was the last of the crew to be interviewed, i cant be too accurate in describing Ifeanyi’s behaviour but i think what got to him was the fact that he taught being a medical student gave him an edge over us (his interviewers). Infeanyi turned out to be an all too proud young person who wasn’t sure how available he would be for work.

Let me not bore you with details, in the end Jasmine turned out to be the only face of a leader who had passion swelling in it to join the band wagon.

So you, you, you and you who is a young person going for an interview…Take a cue.

Categories: International
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In Nigeria today, according to the 2006 national census, 33.6 %( about 47million) of the total population of Nigerians are young people between the ages of 10- 24years. Research carried out recently shows that those who are eligible to register and vote are between the ages 0f 18 and above but the question running through my mind is how many young people are ready to vote, from the field work carried out at Makurdi – Tuylen, young people no longer show interest in casting their vote any longer rather prefer going about for their daily activities rather than wasting their time for the whole day trying to register and during the election unable to vote in their candidates instead the election been rigged by our so called leaders but for how long are we going to continue in this act?

Now is the time as a young person for us to act by encouraging our fellow peers to go out and get registered to vote to see a better Nigeria and to also create a change in our sexual reproductive health as it relates to young people who are affected and infected in one way or the other. Let’s go out and register to be eligible to vote. Our vote is our right.

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Yesterday, leading LGBTQ activist David Kato was brutally attacked and murdered in his home outside Kampala, Uganda. For those of you who have been following the situation in Uganda, you know that David’s photo and address had been published in the Ugandan tabloid newspaper, Rolling Stone, along with a headline advocating for death by hanging for all homosexuals. David and two other activists filed suit against the newspaper seeking an injunction against further publication. And just recently, the High Court of Uganda ruled in their favor, citing a constitutional right to privacy and human dignity that was violated by the newspaper’s incitement to violence. Unfortunately, this legal victory was quickly overshadowed by David’s violent murder.

When is enough enough? It’s one thing to support free speech; it’s another thing to promote the spread of hate speech. It’s one thing to respect the sovereignty of individual nation-states around the world; it’s another thing to stand idly by and say nothing when those nation-states fail to protect the fundamental human rights of all individuals.

Fortunately, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, just released a statement condemning David Kato’s brutal murder. In it she states that we must,

“reaffirm that human rights apply to everyone, no exceptions, and that the human rights of LGBT individuals cannot be separated from the human rights of all persons.”

She goes on to say that,

“Our ambassadors and diplomats around the world will continue to advance a comprehensive human rights policy, and to stand with those who, with their courage, make the world a more just place where every person can live up to his or her God-given potential. We honor David’s legacy by continuing the important work to which he devoted his life.”

Undoubtedly, the US is a powerful voice whose influence carries much weight.  With this voice, we have demanded that the Ugandan authorities immediately conduct a full investigation into this heinous crime and bring the perpetrators to justice.  At the same time, we should not forget that we all have a role to play in standing up to intolerance and hatred.  Whether we witness it in our own communities or see it take root thousands of miles across the globe, we must all speak out against homophobia and bigotry of all kinds.

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It is no secret that some prisoners, whether male or female, worldwide engage in all forms of sexual intercourse. In fact, whether or not we agree with the engagement and how sex is solicited and negotiated in prisons, there are some very important issues that we must consider.
 
On Monday, January 24, 2011, I had the opportunity to dialogue with a woman who works in the prisons in Kingston & St. Andrew, Jamaica. I was shocked to learn that homosexual male inmates are placed separately from the others. Almost as if there were “special” and designated cells for homosexuals. Perhaps this is a good way of ridding the prison of gay men and preventing them from turning other men into homosexuals too. Or maybe it is one way of protecting them from the homophobes within the prison population. I have no problem with this and will refrain from making any further assumptions as to the logic behind this.

My concern is the fact that male sex in prisons is a reality and condoms are not distributed or accessible to prisoners in Jamaica. Certainly, this is a very delicate issue that must be approached strategically in hope of preventing a repeat of the 1997 killing of 17 men (both inmates and wardens) who were perceived and/or actual homosexuals. The death of these men was prodded by a debate on the possible distribution of condoms in our prison.
 
I acknowledge that Sections 76, 77 and 79 of the constitution prohibit anal sex and intimacy between two or more males. These are referred to as buggery and gross indecency. Nonetheless, if inmates are negotiating sex and unprotected sex (risky sexual behaviours as we call it) increases the likelihood of becoming infected with HIV, then the Government on advice from policymakers should deal with this issue.
 
In this context, even with global attention on halting and reversing the spread of HIV by 2015 sex is treated with very little importance. It is important to note, that each person, whether gay, straight, bisexual, lesbian or otherwise identified, has a right to a happy and healthy sex life. At least that is what our very liberal public health promotion in some circles.
 
Referring to the anti-buggery laws and banning the distribution or access to condoms in our prisons is not enough when HIV prevalence is about 3.3% among male inmates. I think this is a clear violation of the inmates’ human rights.
 
Jamaica has made good progress in controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic but is doing poorly in most-at-risk-populations (MARPs), such as men who have sex with men (MSM) and sex workers (SW).
 
We must, as concerned citizens of Jamaica, enquire of our elected representatives 1) what are the provisions in prison to control the spread of HIV, 2) are there relevant interventions to inform inmates about how to protect themselves, negotiate condom use in sex, how to use condoms properly and 3) what are the steps being taken to address the issue of distribution/access to condoms in prisons and 4) most importantly what support system is in place for HIV positive inmates and how are they prepared for re-engagement in the society after they have served their time, particularly for those who became infected through forced sex as an inmate.  
 

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My visit to Ikom in cross river state, Nigeria showed the way young people in Ikom lack a platform to show their inner content. So many talents are lying idle. Imagine a community where what young girls do is look good for the boys..no wonder a lot of them have babies during their teenage days. I call this self violence. It’s Funny this happens even when a greater part of the young ones in the villages in that state are school goers. Fancy a young girl of about 12-15 getting pregnant, there is a high possibility of VVF at child birth. Not only that, STIs can also be transmitted. The idea of abortion is not left out as an option in this case as this is detrimental to their lives. Interviews with some of these youths showed a number of them suggested a free senior secondary education, because some of these girls do not have enough money to continue their senior secondary education. I hope that solves the case. Hmmmmn..

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‘The state of the Nigerian politics is termed immature’ this was said by a young Nigerian youth during a focus group discussion held by the Youth Advocate Group, Nigeria. The discussion checked how much young Nigerians know about the electoral process. A number of them were of the opinion that the idea of registration/voting doesn’t make sense. Only a few recognized it’s their civic right to register and vote if eligible. I wonder how many rights we can recognize as ours as young people. Although the electoral process in Nigeria has not been 100% free and fair, a change can be made.  Young people who form the largest constituent of the Nigerian Nation can make this change happen. During the discussion, young Nigerians showed the fear of violence as one of their major fears of going out to vote as a good number of them have experienced cases of violence during the past electoral processes. Violence as the case may be has a lot of effects on the lives of the young ones especially; think about how many would be raped, injured and killed amongst a number of damages. Other barriers discussed were the cost of transportation to the centres. The assurance given out by the current president of a free and fair election on the basis of one man one vote which implies every vote will count has given a fair number of young people a change of mind about refraining from the electoral process. Although some youths are demanding incentives, the idea of the ineffectiveness of the equipments has become a greater barrier as the speed of the registration process is poor. I really hope this does not lead to the disenfranchisement of young people.

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(Originally published on RH Reality Check)

By Andrew Jenkins

This article is first in a series published in conjunction with Choice USA in an effort to highlight the importance of inter-generational dialogue within the reproductive justice movement and to uncover ways to work together across generations in order to sustain and thrive. It is also part of a larger series of articles published to commemorate the 38th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, which is on Saturday, January 22nd, 2011.

When I arrived at college about three and a half years ago, I had no clue that abortion was a controversial or divisive issue. Then, my best friend faced an unintended and unwanted pregnancy. I began to truly understand the meaning of choice. When she came to me for support, I had to make my own choice. I could continue on as if I had no moral or ethical obligation to help my friend, or I could support her with love and compassion. I made the choice to stand with my friend that day, and I have been an advocate for reproductive justice ever since.

My story is like that of so many other young people. These experiences move us to be at the forefront of the struggle for reproductive justice. They make us able to shape the movement with visionary creativity and groundbreaking innovative strategies.

Yet, at times, our experience and efforts seem to be undervalued. An unfortunate theme creeps into the mainstream reproductive rights movement: Young people are apathetic about reproductive rights. As a campus organizer, I have found that young people are anything but apathetic. We are concerned about the issues that directly implicate our lives. We’re ready to transgress the current political landscape on abortion. We are working to engage the reproductive justice movement in unique and cutting-edge ways, from online activism to good old campus organizing. For our visionary creativity to shine, we need to be educated. We need to be activated. We need to have a voice at the decision-making table. Our ideas need to be taken seriously.

Our dedication to the reproductive justice movement is personal. The anti-choice movement has taken particular interest in denying young people the resources we need to make healthy and informed decisions about our bodies. Abstinence-only education. Parental notification and consent initiatives. Limited public funding for contraception for those under 20. Through these initiatives, we are denied self-determination. However, the denial of self-determination doesn’t stop with our reproductive rights.

Young people understand the ways in which reproductive and sexual health and rights are connected to other social justice issues. This interconnectedness became all too apparent to me when I interned at Planned Parenthood. During my internship, I was given the task of reading through hundreds of stories from women, men and teens about their experiences with Planned Parenthood. Hearing the diversity of experiences among these stories changed my perspective and my sense of urgency for social, political and economic justice.

Now, I refuse to play by the rules of a single-narrative, single-issue movement, and I’ve noticed that most of my peers are doing the same. We know that in order to truly achieve reproductive justice, we must struggle to eliminate all forms of oppression. Without fighting for immigrant rights, LGBTQ equality, racial and economic justice, environmental sustainability and a variety of other issues directly impacting the lives of young people, we can never really win.

That’s the interesting thing about Roe. It’s revolutionary impact on the history of abortion politics in the United States just isn’t enough. If low-income women aren’t able to afford an abortion; if young people aren’t able to make autonomous choices about our health without the consent of a guardian; and if certain people aren’t afforded the right to have children; the rights achieved through Roe become meaningless for a large number of people.

We may not be Generation Roe, but we know the importance of Roe and we are celebrating it in a new way. We are taking the strategies of our pro-choice predecessors, and reinventing them to meet our needs. We understand that Roe is a call for transformation and a symbol of our continued commitment to reproductive justice. We also understand that Roe provides the anti-choice movement with an opportunity to capitalize on young people. We know that our participation in the reproductive justice movement is critical. We are ready to fight. We are ready to win.

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Chris Van Loan is a senior at the University of Texas in Austin. A lifelong Austin native, Chris is now a member of the Texas Youth Leadership Council — a project of Advocates for Youth and the Texas Freedom Network.

    I stumbled across an essay today on the internet that really spoke to me, I don’t even remember how I got there!
    Lisa Hymas writes for Grist.org, the most recognizable voice in environmental journalism.  As someone who cares immensely about world population, articles such as: "Say it loud: I’m childfree and I’m Proud" and "8 Things You Can Do  About World Population" (hint: the first one is "push to improve sex ed in your local schools") really grabbed my attention.

Here is a link to the living childfree article:
http://www.grist.org/article/2010-03-30-gink-manifesto-say-it-loud-im-childfree-and-im-proud

    As a twenty-two year old who has decided that he will never have kids I often feel like I’m in a very silent minority so I’m always attracted to people who have the bravery to speak up on the issue.  Hymas brings up an important concept regarding population called "exponential population growth."  This is an idea that I’ve had rolling around my head but I could never articulate it so clearly.  Simply put, kids will continue to have more offspring forever and ever and the environmental impact is huge.
    In 1960 there were about 3 Billion people on Earth.  Hymas brings up an example of a 93 year old woman who died with 2,000 living descendants.  The woman had 15 children, 200 grandchildren and the numbers of great- and great-great- grandchildren were, well you guessed it, exponentially higher.

Ultimately, I would just like to spread the message that living childfree is a valid option despite all the pressure from the outside.
GINKers, what would happen if we answered the kid question honestly?
Say, " "No, I’m happy with my life as is," or "A child doesn’t fit into our life plans," or "Kids aren’t really my thing," or "I think there are plenty of people on the planet already." "

I don’t know, what do you think?  Leave comments below.

Chris Van Loan
www.vanloanfilm.com

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For all the nutjobs proposing that abortion be made illegal, I have questions. First off, if you succeed in your dastardly plan, what next? What hapens to the women who have had abortions? Women who have abortions after the law is passed? What’s the sentence? 10 years in jail? 20? 2? Or do they get community service? How do you measure their ‘crime’?

Is it better to outlaw a procedure that has been proven safe and have women trying anything and everything in desperation? Have we not learned from the stories of women who died from complications resulting from illegal abortions performed by ‘doctors’ who didn’t know what they were doing? How about those who had to go through the degradation of being proven mentally incapable of caring for a child before they were granted abortions?

In Nigeria we have a popular saying "One man’s meat is another man’s poison." I don’t understand why the world is still struggling to put to rest an issue that should be a normal part of women’s healthcare. One lame argument is that it will be used by irrespobsible women as a form of contraception. This is exactly what some people said about the morning after pill before it became available. I remember clearly, one old man who expressed his disaproval in the form of a comment that the pill encouraged promiscuity since women could now take the pill "just like a cough drop". He was then informed that the pill wasn’t remotely as cheap as a cough drop. He shut up.

I feel the same about abortion as I do about gay rights. Why can’t we just live and let live? How does it affect everyone else if women are allowed to have abortions? If people don’t like what they  see or hear, then they should shut their  ears and eyes. No one’s forcing anyone to watch an abortion being performed or making them pay for it. You’re concerned about the state of the nation? Why don’t you question the way your tax dollars are being spent on ridiculous abstinence-only sex education programs. Drink the spit? Chewed-up candy? A used toothbrush? C’mon now. Since we’re all being so clever with analogies i’d like to make up one of my own – My body is like my home. You can’t come to my house and tell me what color to paint it or how to decorate the interior so STFU and stop trying to dictate what health choices I should be making. 

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One in six women will be raped in their lifetime.
17.7 million American women have been victims of sexual assault.
While 80% of all victims are white, minorities are more likely to be attacked.

For most women, the line dividing consensual sex from rape is almost invisible. Because we have been raised in a society that constantly feeds us the message that we are weaker and somehow inferior, it is easy to blame oneself in instances of sexual assault. Some of you might have grown up having your mothers constantly tell you "Don’t wear tight clothes!" "Don’t invite boys over when you’re all alone!" "Never walk in an alley!". I personally knew a girl whose mother for years, gave her daughter a birth control pill every morning before she went to school. This began as soon as she got her first period. Her mom would say "Come here. Open your mouth." and pop in the pill. She never thought to question the pill for many years. And when she finally did and discovered it was birth control, she was shocked.

With the statistics being what they were, and with the stories propagated by mothers, my friends and I grew up extra-cautious and constantly aware of every situation. This state of alertness is mostly the same for every Nigerian child. It’s hard to kick back and relax when you might be raped, burglarised, mutilated or shot at any moment. Most of the sexual assault cases I heard about occured during burglaries. It wasn’t enough that they had taken all the valuables and beaten the owners up in the process, they also felt it necessary, as a final touch, to rape all the women on the household. Women everywhere were so frightened of being raped that all it took were cries of "Olé! olé!" ("Thief! Thief!") or "Ndé onyeoshi a biala!" ("The thieves have come!") to send them scurrying for the nearest hiding place. And they had every right to. It wasn’t as though these criminals carried around an STD test to show to all their would-be victims. One particular young lady who had just emerged from her evening bath, cut herself severly in her attempt to jump over the wall into her neighbor’s compund. (The walls surrounding most houses are spiked with broken pieces of glass and barbed wire stuck into the cement to discourage thieves from jumping over).

At a HIV conference I attended in July last year, one of the speakers talked about how she had been sexually molested as a child. She spoke about how she hadn’t thought anything was wrong with the way her father’s chauffeur touched her until she was much older. She likened the experience to a seduction, he had paid her special attention, plying her with sweets and toys until she completely trusted him. I fully understand. I was in that situation twice at the ages of 4 and 7. It took me years before I could fully comprehend what had happened to me. It never occured to me after it had happened in both instances, to tell my mother what had taken place. She still doesn’t know and I don’t think that I will ever tell her. I remember her calling me into her bedroom when I was about 13 and asking me whether anyone had tried to hurt me. She had found a blouse of mine with rips and tears like I had struggled with someone. She looked so worried. I explained to her that the dog had ripped it when I hung it out to dry. The look of relief on her face was enough to make me resolve never to tell her. She already worried so much about me and I didn’t want to add to her list of problems.

It’s very easy to assign blame to oneself, constantly thinking "If only". "If only I hadn’t worn that mini skirt." "If only I had stayed home instead of going to that party." "If only I hadn’t led him on by smiling and making conversation." "If only I hadn’t had that drink" etc. There is no situation in which nonconsensual sex is acceptable. I keep telling girls and women, it doesn’t matter If you both were naked in a bed. If you say "No I don’t want to do this." and he forces you to have sex, it’s rape." We have been programmed to think that our words and actions hold us responsible for how these situations turn out but that is not the truth. No one walks around with a sign on their chest that reads "I want to be raped." 

It doesn’t help either when the attackers are familiar faces. I have always had more male friends than female friends, and have always been considered ‘one of the guys’ among my male friends. Imagine my shock when I was attacked by not one, but two people whom I had considered friends, for two consecutive years. By this time, I had begun to ask myself if I was to blame. It has taken a lot for me to be able to speak about it. But I figure that I can’t let these experiences dictate the way the rest of my life turns out. And also, if speaking about my experiences will help give others clarity, then i’m willing.

Aside from the psychological effects of sexual abuse, there are also health risks to worry about. STDs, HIV, unplanned pregnancies etc. Like we women don’t have enough to worry about already. For any of you who have been attacked or molested, I offer myself up as a lifeline. I’m not a guidance counsellor and I can’t tell you how exactly to live you life. But maybe I can help you define what you’re feeling and work with you to get past it. You can email me at ywoclc@advocatesforyouth. Simply include my name in the subject line and the email will be forwarded to me.

"Letting go has never been easy, but holding on can be as difficult. Yet strength is measured not by holding on, but by letting go."
~ Len Santos

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Check out this video of Maxsalia Salmon from the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) who lobbied policymakers on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on U.S. foreign policy with regards to sexual and reproductive health. 

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Despite the progress we have been making as activists, there are still few parents, particularly in developing countries such as Jamaica, who are open to talk about sex. In addition, it will be difficult to find mothers or fathers who make condoms accessible to their child(ren).

Here is one parent from a low income community in Kingston, Jamaica who shared her views with me recently.

**There are no translation so it may be difficult to follow without subtitles.

 

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Perhaps one of the most difficult things for adults is to accept that children, adolescents and young people need to know about sex and sexuality issues. Of course, they are (in most instances) well apprised on the available data with regards to age of sexual debut, incidences of HIV, inter alia. 

As a result, young people, as shown in a number of reports worldwide, are denied their rights to comprehensive sex and sexuality education and access to contraceptives. 

Here is a video (Stop Being Naive About Sex) of some students (girls) at Clarendon College in Chapelton, Clarendon (Jamaica) sharing their views.

Share your thoughts!

Avatar of Aliyu Abdulrahman bello
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The rumours heard of recently; the donor/humanitarian was someone I deeply respect; the process of humanitarian work to Africa-something I feel needs to be better operated.

However this time around I wasn’t thinking "How miserable to see Nigerians displayed as direly needy and oblivious" it hit me the first time that it’s not because we are oblivious and we are represented as helpless on TV during AIDs campaigns..I thought we simply have not had many opportunities to be the ones delivering aid to our own, opportunities to be trained how to administer aid, relief, education, health services. And the marginalized people that are left to the donor world for basic needs will continue to be marginalized, if we fail to create opportunities for our people. Nigerian children are in need of education opportunities, Nigerian youth are in need of employment opportunities, Nigerian cities are also desperate of growth and technological advancement opportunities. The question we have to deal with is how we can inspire like mindedness about this. Among Nigerian leaders, Nigerian mindsets and Nigeria youth…It certainly is time to create opportunities for our own.

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C-change, a Washington, DC-based group, visit members of the CSW and MSM community and peer educators last month to identify and discuss issues facing both communities. The consulation lasted for two weeks giving each group three days to meet and discuss issues specific to each. Based on the discussions is evident that little work is being done to protect each group from further discrimination and vulnerability of being HIV/AIDS infected, however there is room for great improve. Based on the consulations the organizing group identified safe and danger zones for both groupn interestingly the home was identified as one of the major danger zone for a lot of young CSW and MSM. All three groups were engaged in message design and strategic was to promote sex safe within the communities whether on coasters as parties,party tickets or through new media The consulation was a smart move by the group as I offered a chance to directly hear the diverse views of the community.

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Cancun reminds one of sand, sea and clean air as well as sunny beaches, lazy days and sex!!

 

So here we were in the land of sunny beaches in the middle of our winter and their warm days to participate in the Youth pre-conference of COP 16. On 27th November, 2010 we did a session on the connections of climate change and sexual, reproductive and health rights. We were scared. In the midst of all climate activists we were small in number and were not sure of how welcome our talk would be, afterall population is a taboo topic at such meetings: it is either not important enough to be discussed or it is a bad thing and we should somehow just bring down the number of people in this world (how, what and the attached paraphernalia is left for thin air to discuss).

Well, to our surprise and happiness, a small group of interested and informed people did attend our session. In this video I have tried to piece together a few snapshots of that 50 minute long session. I am missing since no one could record me when I spoke and if they did record, they didn’t give me any video >sad smiley<.

But, my dear reader, worry not!  I will list down some bare basics which I had jotted down to use for my talk with my audience:

Can Condoms Curb Climate Change?

Family planning, an important but often overlooked idea in the expanding arsenal of policy needed to address global warming, is the subject of a new report released by the Worldwatch Institute this week. It’s not a new concept — the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change considers population growth to be one of the most consistent factors contributing to climate change — but technology based (and market driven) solutions continue to get more political will and attention.

(quoted from Time magazine blog)

This made me want to read and explore something basic but also something we tend to ignore. A very obvious connection between SRHR and environment or climate change. I have deliberately not used the word population because I believe one can be despotic and force everyone to adopt contraceptive measures but these are not acceptable in this age when we believe in democracies and democracies stand for freedom to choose.  Forced population control can seem like a good solution as population control would lead to conservation of natural resources, lesser deforestation, poverty control and the solution to all the maladies. But this solution is a SHORT TERM one. Something which India learnt after one of its political leaders tried to force population control methods in the 1970’s.

A quick search on wiki will read: also publicly initiated a widespread family planning program to limit population growth. But this resulted in government officials and police officers forcibly performing vasectomies in order to meet quotas and in some cases, sterilizing women as well. Officially, men with two children or more had to submit to sterilization, but many unmarried young men, political opponents and ignorant, poor men were also believed to have been sterilized. This program is still remembered and criticized in India, and is blamed for creating a public aversion to family planning, which hampered Government programmes for decades.

So a long term solution would be a rights based approach also as it would mean sustainable environment friendly activities because until and unless humanity strikes a balance with nature, there are bound to be adverse affects.

Hope this gives you a feel of what we tried to bring to the table that day in Cancun. One more highlight from Cancun was our field visit to a local organization on World AIDS Day. My last video before this year ends would be a snapshot of that visit with a glamour element to it too. So until next time: … clitoreeeee >Mexican replacement for “cheese” when you are about to click a picture<

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The issue of violence meted out against persons who are known or perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual and to a lesser extent transgender is not uncommon to Jamaicans. Scores of headlines in daily news and other print tabloids often sensationalise the death or beating of homosexuals, especially men.

Since 1997, more than thirty persons have been murdered because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Reports suggest that between 2007 and 2009, sixty-seven males and twelve females reported homophobic discrimination and violent incidents to the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals & Gays (J-FLAG). Many may recall the father who in 2004 found naked pictures of men in his son’s bag, brought him to school and sanctioned his son’s classmates to beat him. In that same year, Brian Williamson, a gay rights activist, was murdered at his home in St Andrew. The Hated to Death report (by Human Rights Watch) reports that his murder was not thoroughly investigated by the police. His death was seen as another crime of passion by other members of the gay community in Jamaica. In 2009, John Terry, former British Consular was violently killed at his home in Montego Bay, St James.

Despite these killings and the countless others that have been stigmatised and discriminated against, on November 16, 2010 Jamaica voted to remove the reference to sexual orientation in a crucial United Nations resolution which condemns extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings. For the past 10 years, this resolution has urged states “to investigate promptly and thoroughly all killings, including […] all killings committed for any discriminatory reason, including sexual orientation.” It is the first UN resolution to include an explicit reference to sexual orientation.

All this has happened despite Jamaica being party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which guarantees that all human beings are to be accorded with dignity and respect. In addition, the Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, has in a letter to J-FLAG on June 2, 2008 said that violence against gays and lesbians should be “be condemned, discouraged, investigated, prosecuted and punished with vigour and determination.” Further, since 2008 the Jamaican government has supported the unanimous adoption of three Resolutions of the Organization of American States entitled Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity which condemn violence against persons based on their sexual orientation.

There is perhaps no logical explanation that the Government of Jamaica could give to explain its negative vote in removing the reference to sexual orientation. Stigma, discrimination, violence and other forms of harassment have negative implications. Nel & Judge (2007), argue that violence against gays has negative implications on both the individual and the entire gay community. Senior (2009), from a public health perspective, shares that it drives the gay community underground and away from health services for HIV prevention, treatment and care for example. In Jamaica, the HIV prevalence rate among men who have sex with men (MSM), whether gay and bisexual identified or otherwise, is above 30%. This is about 17 times the national average of about 1.6%. In male prison populations HIV prevalence is increasingly. I hear the prevalence is somewhere between 3 and 6 percent.

One can only hope that Jamaica will redeem itself as a leading Caribbean nation on Monday, December 20, 2010 when the UN General Assembly will vote on whether to continue including protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in this crucial resolution condemning extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings.

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Congress is wrapping up its work for the year and we need you to make sure they don’t leave town without taking action to eliminate the harmful practice of child marriage. I recently wrote about Senate passage of the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act. This groundbreaking legislation would require the president to develop a strategy to combat child marriage, integrate the issue of child marriage into relevant U.S. development programs, and require the State Department to report on the practice in its annual Human Rights Report.

In order for the Act to become law, we need the House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead and pass this legislation before Congress adjourns for the year. This is where you come in! Your voice is an important and powerful one—please make sure you use it to let your Representative know where you stand on child marriage.

Need a reason to take action? How about 60 million reasons? That’s the number of young women between the ages of 20 and 24 who were married before the age of 18. Let that sink in for a minute…and now do something about it!

Please take action TODAY!

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A young mother, who is HIV positive, has experienced several adversities— she was almost raped, is unemployed and has two children who are both HIV-negative. As a family they have faced several challenges including displacement and discrimination. I’m disheartened by this family’s experience and was motivated to write about it. Their story of blatant discrimination unfolds below.
“The children were also hospitalized and had to do a gastric wash for a week. She noted that during the treatment, some of the nurses where very unkind to them. Though they were not diagnosed with the infection, the nurses would shout at them to keep on their masks. She said she tried to explain to the nurse that there was no need to shout as they were just children”. (Excerpt from the article The journey continues – Diary of a HIV-positive pregnant girlin The Jamaica Gleaner byKeisha Shakespeare-Blackmore on December 6th 2010).
The excerpt above illustrates how discrimination against persons who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, is a terrible reality and definitely not a thing of the past. This particular situation was disturbing, given the fact that the children were not infected with the virus, and regardless of their negative status they were still treated as such because of their mothers HIV positive status. Nevertheless, even if they were HIV positive this type attitude and response is unacceptable, offensive and demonstrates ignorance of HIV transmission.  The last time I checked HIV/AIDS is not an airborne disease. I’m certain that the Universal Precautions (that are used to guide the care of HIV/AIDS infected patients) do not stipulate that patients should wear masks to prevent the transmission of HIV instead masks should be worn if blood is visible in the saliva, feces or vomitus of HIV positive patients. Nevertheless, the children were HIV negative! Sometimes we let societal myths and misperceptions direct our behaviours too often. The truth is such attitudes in healthcare towards persons living with HIV/AIDS and their children impact the quality of care given.
Now, I know healthcare professionals must care for themselves as they seek to provide health services. However it is also their ethical responsibility, according to the International Code of Ethics for Nurses, to ‘promote an environment in which the human rights, values, customs and spiritual beliefs of the individual family and community are respected’. Essentially, Nurses are to provide health services in an unprejudiced manner regardless of the nature of a patient’s health problem.Therefore,the Nurses not only breached the code of ethics but their gross treatment towards those two children infringed on their basic human rights. Perhaps I expect more from our healthcare professionals, as they are supposed to possess the information and equipped with the empathic skills to take care of patients.
With all that said, I think one step to tackling discrimination in healthcare is to: (i) provide health care workers with accurate information about the risk of HIV infection in their healthcare setting (because the misperception can lead to discriminatory actions); (ii) train them on how to protect themselves as well as  how to tactfully behave and respond in similar instances as above; (iii) inform them of the negative effects that discrimination can have on the quality of care patients (perhaps involve HIV positive persons to share their experience).
 
 

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Flying into the tourist destination of Cancún for the International Climate Change Conference (COP 16) last Friday, the intense humidity, flashy sexualized billboards and too-close proximity to the white sandy beaches reminded me of how this city represents a microcosm of the intersections between global health challenges like population growth, gender inequity, globalization and climate change. For the past four years as a Sierra Club Global Population and Environment Program National Youth Organizer, I’ve partnered with the GoJoven Program in Youth Leadership in Sexual and Reproductive Health, run by International Health Programs of the Public Health Institute funded by the Summit Foundation. Since 2004, GoJoven has trained youth leaders in Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and Quintana Roo Mexico—the four countries that border the Mesoamerican Reef System—to complete Leadership Action Plans that address high rates of unintended teen pregnancy and STIs in their communities. Here in Quintana Roo where tourism highly impacts local livelihoods, culture and natural resources, they also have one of the highest annual growth rates of 5.5% (mainly due to migration), and Mexico’s highest fertility rate of 2.3 children per woman. That’s why GoJoven youth leaders are selected from environmental, reproductive health, journalist, NGO and political fields to advance sexual and reproductive health and protect the environment in a synergistic, integrated way.

Over the summer, I interned with GoJoven in Playa del Carmen, Mexico for two months to strategize their involvement in COP 16 from November 29-December 10 in Cancún, Mexico. GoJoven leaders and I discussed the connections among sexual and reproductive health, gender and climate change here in Cancún, for example by advancing women’s status and rights and ensuring that all people have complete freedom to choose the number of their children, couples tend to choose smaller and healthier families. Together with promoting eco-friendly tourism and protecting the globally significant Mesoamerican reef and Sian Kaan biosphere reserve, this has a smaller impact on the environment. Considering Quintana Roo’s high vulnerability to climate change impacts such as lack of mangroves to protect their coasts from more intense and frequent hurricanes and sea level rise, coral reef bleaching which degrades their marine biodiversity and threatens their dependence on tourism for their livelihoods, and health problems like malaria and dengue fever which will be exacerbated by climate change, integrated development solutions are crucial for ensuring the region’s long-term sustainability.

At COP 16 we accredited six GoJoven youth leaders (some of whom are pictured here) to officially attend the conference and more than ten to attend and speak at unofficial side-events like the Conference of Youth and Kilmaforum, to advocate for integrated sexual and reproductive health and rights and climate change solutions using our Policy Statement. Even though I’m now back in the U.S., I’m proud to be a lifelong friend of GoJoven and part of this movement that is working toward a more just and sustainable future!

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Sixty million girls aged 15-19 are married worldwide. If present trends continue, in the next decade, 100 million girls will be married before they turn 18. Earlier this year, we heard the courageous story of Nujood Ali, a 12-year-old girl in Yemen who successfully sought a divorce at the age of 10. In April, another 12-year-old Yemeni bride, Elham Madhi, died of internal bleeding following intercourse just three days after her marriage to a man twice her age. Sadly, these are just two instances among thousands around the world. 
During my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mauritania, West Africa, I met several young girls as young as 12 or 13 who had become brides to men in their 40s and 50s. Before they had even developed their bodies and minds fully, they were having babies of their own due to rigid laws regulating access to contraception, inadequate information and education, and insufficient resources. Time and time again, I saw them come to the hospital too late, after they were already in obstructed labor and dangerously close to death. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I might not have believed that complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for young women ages 15 to 19 in low- and middle-income countries. Few people outside the developing world realize that these girls are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth as those over age 20 and girls under age 15 are five times more likely to die. And it’s not just the mothers whose lives are in jeopardy—babies born to mothers under the age of 20 have mortality rates 73 percent higher than those born to older mothers. Two of the contributing factors to this disproportionate newborn and infant mortality rate are the higher risk of premature delivery among adolescent girls and the higher likelihood of obstructed labor due to adolescent mothers’ bodies not being fully developed and ready for childbirth.
In addition to my work volunteering at the hospital and the regional health director’s office, I also spent several days a week mentoring young girls at an afterschool center. Whether conducting computer trainings, discussing human rights, or providing sexual and reproductive health lessons, my main goal at the center was to encourage these young girls to stay in school, delay marriage and childbirth, and fulfill their dreams and aspirations. They understood that early marriage often meant dropping out of school, having babies before they were ready, and putting their very lives at risk with increased susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, as well as death or injury during pregnancy and childbirth. Furthermore, early marriage limits a young girl’s economic resources, social support, and autonomy, making her more vulnerable to gender-based violence, abuse, and abandonment than women who marry later in life. 
Not only does child marriage harm the young women and girls it touches, it also undermines U.S. foreign assistance. In 2007, for example, the U.S. spent over $450 million to support education, health and infant survival in the developing world. Yet, in many of the countries where this aid is directed, as many as 50% of girls are unable to take advantage of these programs because of child marriage.   Communities and entire nations cannot progress economically or socially when the common practice of early marriage threatens the well-being of young women and girls, denies them their basic human rights, and prevents them from realizing their full potential. 
Fortunately, this week, the U.S. Senate took a step forward in protecting young women and girls from early marriage by passing the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act. The legislation 1) identifies child/early marriage as a human rights violation to be addressed in  U.S. State Department country reports, 2) requires the U.S. Administration to create an action plan to combat child marriage, and 3) integrates child marriage prevention into existing U.S. development efforts.  Advocates for Youth applauds Senate passage of the bill and urges the House to do the same before the end of this Congressional session. This is not about politics; it’s about recognizing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls around the world.