The Human Consciousness Now...Our World in the Midst of Becoming...to What? Observe, contemplate Now.
The right to a legal identity is fundamental to meeting all other rights and protect a child from other forms of abuse and exploitation. Pictured here children in Kafue, Zambia. Credit: Brian Moonga/IPS
- There is much to celebrate this week as the African Union marks 50 years as an independent pan-African entity.Â
In the last half century, Africa has witnessed an era of self-determination and independence. As the continent looks to the next 50 years, the focus must be on how to build an inclusive future based on the aspirations and rights of the continentâs more than one billion citizens.
This will rely on every country in the AU being equipped to lay the best foundation for their youngest citizens, their children.
Yet, as the talk of Africaâs new economic potential increases and more countries move into the middle income ranks, the reality is that this young continent, with half of its population under the age of 18, still has much to do if this youth dividend is to lead to a stable, democratic and fairer place where its young people can reach adulthood.
Under the AU, many progressive plans for human rights and development have been agreed.Â Many of them are built on the best of international law, policy and practice. Many of them are built on the basis that the continentâs people, and especially its children, are its greatest asset.
Despite these noble commitments, there is a silent scandal that needs to be urgently addressed: the scandal of invisibility. Across the continent, millions are born and millions die with their lives unrecorded.Â For example, only 44 percent of children under five years of age have their births registered.Â The majority of these live in rural or remote areas and many are poor and on the periphery of Africaâs new wealth and prosperity.
One only needs to look at other successful developed regions to realise that effective, efficient and modern systems of civil registration and vital statistics form the basis of good governance, economic integration and offer the security of identity that all people require.
How can a country plan when it does not know how many people are born and where? How can a government build a health system if it does not know how many die, where and of what cause?
Conducting a census every few years is a key. But strong vital statistics based on real-time information provide leaders and decision-makers with the knowledge required to plan and deliver basic services.
Sudeshna Chowdhury interviews SYLVIANE A. DIOUF, historian on the African diaspora
- Say “Africa” and myriad images flood our minds. Like its landscape and peoples, the continent’s history is rich and diverse. While numerous books have been written and films made on the African slave trade in the West, a lesser-known aspect of the continentâs history lies in India.
Courtesy of Sylviane Diouf.
On the occasion of Africa Day and the Asian-Pacific American heritage month of May, IPS correspondent Sudeshna Chowdhury interviewed Sylviane A. Diouf, a renowned historian who studies the African diaspora, about the presence of Africans in India and the rest of Asia.
Diouf is also one of the curators of an exhibition called âAfricans In India: From Slaves to Generals and Rulersâ which is on display at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City.
Excerpts from the interview follow.
Q: How different is the story of Asian Africans from the African diaspora in the rest of the world, such as in America or Europe?
A: Not all Africans arrived in Asia as slaves. Some were traders, artisans, and religious leaders. India had an abundance of local slaves to perform hard labour, so the Africans and foreign slaves were mostly employed in specialised jobs as domestics in wealthy households, in the royal courts, and in the armed forces.
Africans were regarded as exceptional warriors and they fought in armies all over India, alongside Arabs, Turks, Indians and Afghans. They could rise through the ranks and become âelite slaves”, amassing wealth and power and even becoming rulers in their own right.
Elite slavery was often a frontier phenomenon, often found in areas that underwent instability due to struggles between factions and where hereditary authority was weak. Rulers considered Africans reliable because they were outsiders with no family, clan or caste connections to the indigenous populations, so they promoted them as court officials, administrators, and army commanders.
Lucy Westcott interviews Indigenous Youth representative ANDREA LANDRY
Courtesy of Andrea Landry
- Aboriginal youth are making their mark at the two-week United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. And this year, the gathering’s twelfth, 24-year-old Angela Landry, whose Anishinaabe name is Eagle Heart Woman, is representing them.
The world is getting younger. With global population surpassing seven billion last year, more 50 percent of the people around the world are under age 30 – 3.5 billion people, according to a 2012 report by Euromonitor International. The majority of them are in developing countries.
Throughout Landry’s life, she has existed in multiple spaces at once. The youth rep is half French-Canadian and has lived in both cities and in her native community, Pays Plat First Nation, two and a half hours east of Thunder Bay, where she currently resides. Pursuing a masterâs degree in communications and social justice at the University of Windsor, she defends her thesis in August.
Over 120,000 Afghan women and 60,000 children admit to being addicted to drugs. Credit: Anand Gopal/IPS
- Located on a narrow street in a quiet neighbourhood in Kabul, the Sanga Amaj Womenâs Treatment Centre is the only one of its kind in Afghanistan: named after the 22-year-old journalist who was assassinated in 2007, the facility caters exclusively to Kabulâs massive population of female drug addicts.
Out of respect for its residentsâ privacy, the centre does not disclose its location and strictly monitors all visits. Here, a kind and professional staff dressed in white aprons attend to 25 women and an equal number of children between the ages of five and 11who spend most of their time in a cosy playroom filled with toys.
The entire facility is split between two floors, housing dormitory-style rooms with 12 beds each and an array of common rooms.
The clean, pleasant settings belie the desperate circumstances of the buildingâs occupants.
- The death of a young Senegalese man from tuberculosis in Spain, following alleged lack of medical care, triggered a new outcry by civil society organisations against the law passed last year that excludes undocumented immigrants from the public health system except in emergencies.
“There are cases of undocumented pregnant women and children running into difficulties getting health care at hospitals and health centres. There are quite a number of instances,” Sylvia Koniecki, the head of AndalucÃa Acoge (Andalusia Welcomes), an NGO that works on behalf of immigrants, told IPS.
Immigrants in Spain have little access to public healthcare. Credit: Bigstock/IPS
- Public discussions about sexuality and gender diversity are difficult to start in many places. But a new multimedia project that is garnering buzz in Palestine aims to reverse this trend and open up dialogue within Palestinian society around these historically taboo issues.
“We want to start an honest conversation that can also raise…limitations and tough questions,” explained Haneen Maikey, director of the Jerusalem-based Al Qaws Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian society. “It’s not to be accepted, but rather to bring the society to a safe place that we can discuss these issues.”
Al Qaws is behind a new project called Singing Sexuality, or “ghanni a’an taa’rif” in Arabic, launching May 25 in Haifa after nearly two years of preparation and the work of about 80 volunteers.
Combining photographs, videos, music and written testimonials and information, the project aims to educate young Palestinians about gender diversity, sexuality, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights. The goal is to initiate conversations between friends, family members and society in general throughout all of historic Palestine.
-- Alaa, an Al Qaws volunteer from Haifa
Activists launched an interactive website with information about these issues earlier this week, while three short videos and an entire music album, featuring the work of local Palestinian musicians and writers, were also posted online.
“This project was able to push [the artists] even farther, to touch more taboo questions and to play on sexuality, sexual minorities and gender in a new way,” Maikey explained, about the creative process.
Women of the Murle ethnic group in South Sudan. The practice of child marriage is still supported in many South Sudanese communities, where girls are seen as a source of wealth because of the bride price families are paid. Credit: Jared Ferrie/IPS
- âOur daughters are our only source of wealth. Where else do you expect me to get cows from?â asks 60-year-old Jacob Deng from South Sudanâs Jonglei state.
Dengâs attitude is a widespread one here as the practice of child marriage is still supported in many South Sudanese communities, where girls are seen as a source of wealth because of the bride price families are paid.