The Human Impact

Swift action needed in fight against child marriage – UNFPA report

Despite gains in some countries, more than 14 million girls under age 18 will be married each year over the next 10 years, a figure expected to increase to more than 15 million girls a year between 2021 and 2030, according to a new report from the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) released on Thursday.

As the number of girls who are married as children grows, the number of children bearing children will increase, and deaths among girls will rise, said the report, timed to mark the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child.

International conventions declare that child marriage is a violation of fundamental human rights because it denies girls the right to choose when and with whom to marry.

The negative implications are far-reaching for girls, often leading to their early departure from school, economic dependency and difficulty finding a vocation or work outside the home. The practice can also perpetuate cyclical poverty and increase susceptibility to such sexually transmitted diseases as HIV/AIDS.

“In those communities where the practice of child marriage remains common, families can feel it’s not worth investing at all in the education of their daughters,” said Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s executive director who last month launched a global campaign urging countries to invest in the education of women and young people.

Conway book urges united global action plan to end hunger

Global food security can be achieved for almost 1 billion chronically undernourished people by promoting strong political leadership, technological innovation, investment in smallholder farmers and efficient markets, according to a new book.

In “One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?”, author Gordon Conway, a professor of international development and director of advocacy group Agriculture for Impact at Imperial College London, emphasises the importance of reducing hunger and poverty by increasing food production within an environmentally sustainable framework, which  recognises climate change as a serious hindrance to future food security.

“Food price spikes, malnutrition and population growth, high costs of fertilizers and oil, degradation of land and water, and most importantly climate change must all be addressed,” Conway said at the launch of the book in London on Tuesday, where he said that policymakers need to tackle more than 20 issues to help solve the hunger problem.

Mission head says MSF doctors need better access to Syria conflict

The growing number of refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war into Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey as the humanitarian situation worsens, is putting increasing pressure on aid agencies trying to provide assistance.

More than 300,000 refugees have already fled during the 18-month conflict, and that number could grow to 710,000 by the end of this year, UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, says.

The number of registered Syrian refugees and those awaiting registration in Lebanon is now more than 80,800 and is expected to grow to 120,000 by the end of 2012, UNHCR reports.

VIDEO INTERVIEW: ‘Desperate’ Syrian civilians taking up arms

PERPIGNAN, France (AlertNet) – When the uprising in Syria spiralled into bloody conflict last year, French photojournalist Mani felt the urge to document what was happening, even though wars weren’t his usual subject.

Mani became a professional freelance photographer three years ago, having ditched a career as a primary school teacher. He spent time covering Sufism and transgender communities in South Asia, but always had a soft spot for Syria where he studied Arabic during his university years.

Through friends and contacts in Syria, he was able to get into the violence-torn city of Homs last October.

In India, rapists walk free as victims “shamed” into suicide

Of course, it’s hard to imagine being raped (and who would want to). But just for a minute try and think about it.

Imagine you are returning home from work, walking down a busy road in early hours of the evening, perhaps from the train station or the bus stop to your home as you usually do.

Suddenly a car pulls up slightly ahead of you and as you walk by, the rear doors open and two men get out. Without any hesitation, they grab you and bundle you into the back seat.

Female genital cutting ‘destroys women’ – Malian singer

By Maria Caspani

LONDON (TrustLaw) – “In Mali, when a girl has not been cut, it means she is dirty, she is loose,” says Bamako-born singer Bafing Kul.

This concept baffled Kul, who struggled to understand why, in order to be pure, women in his country needed to be subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) – a traditional practice involving the total or partial removal of the external genitalia.

The cutting, which is often done with razor blades or scissors and no pain relief, can lead to permanent physical and psychological damage.

The Maasai woman saving vaginas, one girl at a time

 

Watching Kenyan activist Agnes Pareyio demonstrate the three different types of female genital mutilation (FGM) on a life-size plastic vagina was an eye opener to the sheer brutality of the practice.

 

It laid bare its function – to control women’s sexuality – and their powerlessness in the communities where it is practised.

 

When Pareyio, who runs a refuge for girls who have run away from FGM, told me that a Maasai woman is “just like the property of the husband” she was not exaggerating.

Syrian women face growing abuses, says opposition activist

Suhair Atassi was beaten and detained for her involvement in protests at the start of Syria’s uprising, before going into hiding and being smuggled out of the country late last year.

Now an exile living in Paris, the prominent opposition activist is trying to drum up support for humanitarian aid in Syria where the conflict has escalated. News from Syria seems to get bloodier by the day with civilians killed, wounded and uprooted by clashes between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups.

For Atassi, who was born into a political family from Homs, it is important to remember that the 18-month Syrian “revolution” began with peaceful demonstrations against al-Assad’s rule.

Tunisian constitution must enshrine equal status of women, says activist

 

Tunisian human rights activist Amira Yahyaoui recalls how, at the age of 17, she narrowly missed being shoved under a subway train. This is just one example of the threats and pressures her family faced for their opposition to the country’s then president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted last year in a popular uprising.

During Ben Ali’s 23-year rule, Yahyaoui’s father, one of the North African country’s most distinguished judges, lost his job after sending an open letter to the president decrying corruption and the state of the justice system. Her cousin was arrested for publishing satirical articles about the former leader, and died from the torture he underwent.

Yahyaoui’s experiences left her with no alternative but to fight for democracy and freedom of expression in her country, she explains passionately.

Who eats your rubbish?

After trekking down the mountainside of reeking garbage in gum boots, our bodyguards took us to the nearest kiosk to buy milk.

It helps to kill the acrid stench that sticks in the back of your throat.

But the experience of visiting Nairobi’s largest dumpsite – sited right in the midst of a sea of corrugated iron-roofed slum houses — stuck in my mind for days afterwards.

Every time I threw away small amounts of food, I wrapped them carefully in a plastic bag.

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