Stop, smell the coffee and count the beans. You may crack the binary code in the process!
Hopefully, this video will inspire all those who rush to "modernize", "develop", "solve" or "help". Old and different doesn't mean insignificant. It may be the foundation upon which the present is built. Feeling very philosophical.
Water day - "we're all in the same boat!" Are we now?
Today is Water Day. I haven't blogged on the subject since 2006 and today I had a comment from Waterman under my 06 post "Happy Water Day 2009!!!" I get the message, Waterman, and I'm feeling the pressure to post something now.
In '06, the theme was Water and Cutlture. Since then we had Water Scarcity (2007) and Sanitary (2008) as the main focus. This year's theme for Water Day is "waters that cross borders and link us together". The fancy slogan on the official website, Whether we live upstream or downstream, we are all in the same boat."
Are we really?
My stance (since my last water day blog in '06) still remains and my questions are still not answered. Here is what I said back then and you be the judge if anything (except the themes) has changed.
March 22nd is World Water Day. This year’s theme for the 13th international Water Day observance is Water and Culture. UNESCO sounds upbeat about this because
The theme 'Water and Culture' of WWD 2006 draws attention to the fact that there are as many ways of viewing, using, and celebrating water as there are cultural traditions across the world. Sacred, water is at the heart of many religions and is used in different rites and ceremonies. Fascinating and ephemeral, water has been represented in art for centuries - in music, painting, writing, cinema - and it is an essential factor in many scientific endeavours as well.
This is all too well to make water sacred for a day and all that, but it is unfortunate that the most important world wide water culture is totally overlooked - the culture of fetching water. This is an unfortunate waste of opportunities to acknowledge the laborious and time consuming task that millions of women and girls are burdened with. From South Africa to Indonesia, it is a woman’s or a girl’s job to fetch water. Fetching water is one of the main reasons why girls cannot attend schools regularly. It is one of the reasons why a woman’s daily working hour somewhere in Africa is as long as 17 hours because she has to walk up to three hours a day to fetch water. http:James Workman tells us that
…fetching water is not something men do unless they are alone.” At which point the man has daily incentives to pay a lobola to purchase his daughter as his lover, wife, mother of his children and, of course, as his cook and water fetcher which is included in that bride price of up to ten cows (which chug 50 liters a day and compete with the women for water access).
Regrettably, such World Days come and go without really addressing some fundamental issues of the forgotten children of society. Global conferences also come and go with some position paper which really does not mean much. Big shots fly around the globe to participate in such events while the problems in the field remain unchallenged.
In 2002, for example, there was a conference on water and sustainable development in Africa – regional stakeholder’s conference on priority setting. Although there were ‘gender ambassadors’ representing two African countries in this conference in Accra, Ghana, the meeting did not consider water and gender issues important enough for sustainable development to give it a time slot in the main program. So what is a sustainable water program without gender issues?
Gender and Water Alliance was talking about “…a unified African voice and position on water based on a consensus of water ‘stakeholders’” in that meeting. I will bet anything that the millions of women who are too busy fetching water to organize and have their ‘consensus’ on water be heard are not included in the ‘stakeholders’ list. Then, who are the stakeholders? According to Gender and Water Alliance, they are “…under the guidance of the African Development Bank, representatives from more than 20 regional and international organizations dealing with water in Africa…. What a waste! The Water Day was an initiative that grew out of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. It would be great if a new initiative grows out of the 2006 Water Day – World Toilet Day. If observing water day is not going to help women and girls in poor nations, at least start a new initiative that would. World Toilet Day.
The other reason for poor school attendance by girls is lack of toilets in schools. Especially for girls in their puberty, it is particularly challenging to go to a toilet-less school while they are menstruating. It is definitely not sexy for donor organizations to brag about building toilets instead of installing water pumps for example, but according to BBC’s calculation, “investments in sanitation can bring a 14-fold return.” This is not only for girls, but in general because “443 million schooldays are lost each year from diarrhoeal disease.”
It is sad that every time there is a global event such as the World Water Day, it is mostly men in suits who run the show and make the decisions. It would be wonderful to invite a woman from each poor continent to tell her real story, and ask the participants of the meeting ‘What the hell do you know about water problems and efficient use?”
Ethiopian filmmaker kicks off Black History month in Canada
Toronto is starting the Black History month of February with Haile Gerima's Teza- "a winner of the Best Screenplay and Special Jury Prize at the 65th Venice Film Festival last year...." Teza tells a story of an Ethiopian intellectual returning to his country after having lived in Germany, what awaits him back at home and the dilemma of staying or leaving.
Throughout his career, Haile Gerima has masterfully used the medium of film to tell stories of the African experience from a genuine perspective. His 1993 film Sankofa, which takes a powerful look at slavery from an African/African-American perspective, drew large audiences across the African Diaspora. (Photo credit: AfroToronto.com)
Palin's foreign affairs experience expanding by the day
A Canadian comedian, pausing as the French president - Nicolas Sarkozy had an interesting chat with Sarah Palin. They talked about hunting ("killing two birds in one stone"), living next to foreigners, beauty and jealousy... You don't have to take my words - listen for yourself. You can read about it, too.
Discussing politics 101: Stick to issues & exercise freedom of speech
With age comes a lot of baggage. The more baggage we lag along, the more likely we are to obscure issues. The video clip below is a brilliant reminder, to me, of how much of the political bickering sticks out in my head rather than the issues.
It's also a reminder that it's OK to have opposing political views and still be civil to each other. It surely is OK to talk about those opposing views. I'm in a way answering to people who told me "we don't talk politics in this country." A Democrat woman told me her Republican brother warned her not express her views at his dinner party "because all of his friends are Republicans."
CNN had a report on two college roommates - a McCain supporter African American and Obama supporter European American - and the title of the report was "Sleeping with the Enemy". Why? Why are they considered enemies?
So, here are two kids telling us "we can think and talk different, and still we can get along" - indirectly, that is.
US election: awash with information, still don't get the basics?
Here is just a fascinating BBC report on race and the US election. I'm beyond the race issue in this election. Knowing what I know now, how still segregated US towns and schools are, I'm not that much surprised that race is still an issue in the election however sad and embarrassing it is. The only thing that puzzles me is how the "black" race is dominant when a person is bi-racial. Like in the case of Obama, why do we call him just black whereas he's really 50% white and 50% black? What happens to the white part in the race definition/calculation when it's mixed with black? Whatever the reason, I'm sure it's so petty it's not even worth pondering over.
My pressing issue in this case, and what I find absolutely incomprehensible is, how people manage to misinform themselves with all the bombardment of information about the election and the people who are running to be elected. Would you have thought that there would be people in the US, today, at this very moment, with all the information resources and technology, who can't pronounce "Obama" and say that he's not American? Alas, there are - in a town ironically called Uniontown, PA.
At a local restaurant a friendly waitress started chatting to us. The conversation turned to politics.She shrugged, she was not even sure when the election was to be held, she could not pronounce Mr Obama's name. "I like McCain because I can say his name, so I'll probably vote for McCain."
Fair enough. May be the Uniontown waitress expressed a really complex issue (of race, segregation, ignorance, intolerance, fear of the unknown i.e. "that one") in a simplistic and dumb way. I will surely be suspicious of a John Smith running for president in Ethiopia. But there is no way that I will leave the issue at that and say...
"He's from Africa or something. I don't even know where he's from. I know he grew up here, but he's not from here. I think American presidents should be from America."
BBC's Dumeetha Luthra commented on this with a simple "She was not well informed, but her views were clear." With all due respect, I disagree. With information left, right and center on the election and the nominees, all Dumeetha can say is "she was not well informed..."? Here is what I think. Ms. Waitress from Uniontown has the responsibility to educate herself with the tools available for her. I'll bet money that there are at least four TV sets in the restaurant where she works. Let's assume that she's very busy and she can't pay attention to TV while at work or all sets are on the sports channel. A simple google search with the words "where is Obama from" will do the trick. She doesn't even have to finish typing the whole thing before google makes an intelligent guess and give her options. Wikipedia has organized Obama's biography in a dumb/lazy-friendly way available in 89 languages (yes, I sat and counted them to make a point - it's Friday evening anyway).
What is sad and scary is that such irresponsible people, who are too careless and/or lazy to make an informed decision as a civilized member of this society, can have the power to decide on my future - shudder!!! The only thing Ms. Waitress is not "well informed" about is about her responsibilities as a citizen, which reminds me...
Before a person becomes a citizen of a new country, she has to take an exam on how well she knows the history, values and rules of that country. But citizenship acquired by birth is left unchecked. I think this should change. There has to be a basic test to make sure that people know something about the nominees - you flunk, you don't vote. One doesn't move up to the next grade if she flunks the final exams. This is simply because she lacks the basics which are the foundation to the next level, and ultimately, a position in society. So, why should people be given the power to hold one of the sacred positions in society, the right to vote, without sufficient knowledge of the basics? How about that for a Friday evening deep-thinking?
Here is a Time article on Ethiopian Supermodel Liya Kebede. She's really a superwoman - a mother of two, supermodel, WHO's goodwill ambassador, and now the founder of Lemlem (a high-end children clothing line hand-made in Ethiopia.)
Liya employs Ethiopian weavers who had been struggling due to slow demand for their products. Check out the clothes here and tell me if they are adorable or adorable. The knowledge that they also help villages of weavers back in Ethiopia - priceless!
Order some cute baby clothes from the comfort of your home/office. You'll be helping poor weavers all the way in Ethiopia.