About 3,000 Iranian children visited a weeklong children’s exhibition in its first two days, which is underway at Tehran’s Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (IIDCYA).
The exhibition has been mounted on the occasion of National Children Week, which began on Oct. 8 concurrent with the World Children’s Day.
Monir Safieddin, UNICEF’s representative in Iran, visited the exhibition on the second day and praised the organizers for its programs.
“I am happy to be attending such an amusing exhibition. And happy to see children can enjoy doing what they like in such a place,” he said.
He stressed the importance of parents’ role in raising educated children and said children learn things in families, school and society.
Safieddin pointed to the problems facing children worldwide and said some children are living in war-torn areas, facing violence and discrimination.
“Although both children and adults are affected by the impacts of wars, children are the main victims because they drop out of school,” he said.
Congratulating children and their parents on the World Children Day, Safieddin urged parents to make their children happy on this day.
Addressing Children’s Needs
Deputy Education Minister Bahram Mohammadian was also among the attendees at the exhibition.
Mohammadian told visitors about himself and why he wants to be a kid again. He then related the following story:
“Once upon a time, there was an Uncle Bahram who dreamed he has become a kid again and can play like a kid.
“However, whenever Uncle Bahram wanted to play, his parents prevented him from playing because they lived in an apartment. There was no space for playing and neighbors could become angry at loud noises.
“Little Uncle Bahram thought whether it’s his problem that he is a child or is it his parents’ fault that are busy and unable to take him to the park for playing?”
Mohammadian indirectly reminded parents that they should take their children to the park and let them live like kids. He also talked with them about the importance of childhood wishes.
The deputy minister said the children of Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine are the main victims of war.
“We denounce wars in the world,” he said, adding that Iranian children know that many children are living in war-stricken areas.
“Every day, a number of children in Afghanistan lose their organs to landmines, a number of children in Palestine are deprived of education, a number of Syrian children drop out of school due to civil war and a number of Iraqi children are threatened by bomb explosions,” he said.
“Viva Childhood and Viva Life,” he concluded.
A number of state organizations, whose activities are related to children, are among organizers of the exhibition.
State Welfare Organization, Education Ministry, Red Crescent Society, Shahid Beheshti Medical University, UNICEF, the Supervising Council of Children’s Toys, the Department of Environment and drama groups are among the organizers.
The exhibition, which will run until October 13, features programs to entertain children, such as street theater, storytelling workshops, creative play performances and puppet-making workshops.
Social Emergency Teams (SET) are also stationed at the exhibition to give parenting advice to visitors.
SET includes consultants working under the supervision of State Welfare Organization. These teams are available in major cities, giving consultation to citizens over emotional and personal problems.
A section of the exhibition has been allocated to the Department of Environment for familiarizing children with Nature, environmental concerns and wildlife.
Plastic Waste Threatens Lakes, Oceans
Pollution with plastic waste is not confined to the oceans but poses a growing threat to lakes as well.
That is the view of researchers who found significant concentrations of the substance in Italy’s Lake Garda, BBC reported.
The researchers say the levels are similar to those found in samples taken from marine beach sediments.
They are concerned that these tiny plastic particles are accumulating in freshwater species and are ‘likely’ to get into the food chain.
The research is published in the journal, Current Biology.
The problem of large amounts of plastic polluting the world’s oceans has been well documented in recent years.
As well as bigger pieces that can choke sea creatures when ingested, there is an equally serious issue with very small fragments called micro-plastics.
But research on the problems caused by plastic in lakes has been lacking.
This new study looked at Lake Garda, a large, sub-alpine body of water.
The researchers found significant concentrations of plastic in sediment samples. On the north shore, they found around 1,000 larger particles per square meter and 450 micro-plastic particles in the same area.
“We were surprised,” lead author Prof. Christian Laforsch from the University of Bayreuth told BBC News.
“We have similar amounts of plastic particles in the sediment of the lake’s ecosystem as we find in marine ecosystems.”
Chemicals found in plastics can be poisonous, can damage endocrine systems or in some cases cause cancers.
They can also transport dangerous organic pollutants into clean environments like lakes.
Previous research on fish and other marine creatures has shown that these species tend to accumulate tiny plastic fragments into their tissue. Prof. Laforsch worries that this is happening in Lake Garda and elsewhere.
“What we show is that filter feeders and sediment feeders and organisms that feed on the surface layer of the lake all swallow these plastic particles mistaking them for food,” he said.
Treaty Poised to Cut Mercury Pollution
A new international convention opening for signatures this week will for the first time offer an agreed-upon roadmap to significantly decrease the global use of mercury while offering stronger safeguards for both human health and the environment.
Environment and public health groups are hailing the treaty, a legally binding agreement known as the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the text of which was agreed to in January by 147 countries following four years of negotiations.
Proponents are now calling on governments to move quickly to ratify the accord after it opens for signatures, on Wednesday during a four-day summit in Japan.
The convention will come into effect following ratification by 50 countries, though several key parts of the agreement will only be enforced at the end of this decade or even later, IPS reported.
“Overall, this is a really positive step--while we would have liked to have seen a stronger section on health, just having health language in what was considered an environmental treaty is an achievement,” Jane Cohen, a researcher in the Health and Human Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group, told IPS.
“We see mercury exposure in this setting as a critical threat to children’s and women’s health, as well as a major issue around access to information. It’s a prime example of environmental degradation impacting directly on human lives.”
The Minamata Convention (named for the Japanese city that is the site of the worst modern mercury poisoning) will now lead ratifying countries to phase out--and, by 2020, to ban--the use of mercury in a range of consumer items, including certain batteries, light bulbs, medical devices, dental fillings and vaccines. It will also tackle mercury pollution at its two most common sources, small-scale gold mining and coal-fired power plants.
Indeed, it is due to these latter two sectors that the new convention’s effects will likely be particularly pronounced in developing countries. While most industrialized countries have reduced their use of mercury in recent decades, developing economies have seen a steep rise in the toxic metal’s use.
“This is the first time we’ve seen these kinds of protections in a convention, so in addition to requiring real, implementable steps, it also brings much-needed attention to this issue for governments,” Cohen said.
UN Message On Girl Child Day
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message on the International Day of the Girl Child, 11 October 2013, called for investment in education so that girls can advance in their personal development.
The full text of his message reads:
Empowering girls, ensuring their human rights and addressing the discrimination and violence they face are essential to progress for the whole human family. One of the best ways to achieve all of these goals is to provide girls with the education they deserve, IRNA reported.
Yet too many girls in too many countries are held back simply because of their gender. Those whose mother was also deprived of an education, who live in a poor community, or who have a disability face an even steeper climb.
Among girls who do make it to school, many face discrimination and violence.
I launched the Global Education First Initiative to accelerate progress in getting every child into school, especially girls. We are aiming to teach more than reading and counting; we are striving to raise global citizens who can rise to the complex challenges of the 21st century.
To achieve meaningful results, we need fresh solutions to girls’ education challenges and we must heed the voices of young people.
I have heard from girls around the world participating in the consultations for the new Girl Declaration. I resolve to ensure that Global Education First mobilizes all partners to respond to their powerful call for empowerment.
More broadly, our campaign to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and shape a vision beyond that date must address the concerns and potential of the world’s girls.
On this International Day of the Girl Child, let us work together to invest in education so that girls can advance in their personal development and contribute to our common future.
Bank by Women, For Women
Konoklota Women Urban Cooperative Bank in India’s Assam state helps women become financially secure and empowers them.
Indian politicians and civil society applauded when federal Finance Minister P Chidambaran announced a couple of months ago the decision to set up an all-women public sector bank for the purpose of empowering women, Aljazeera reported.
But amid the applause, what was perhaps surprisingly overlooked was that a similar bank doing precisely the same had been around in the state of Assam in India’s remote northeast.
The Konoklota Women Urban Cooperative Bank, which started under the leadership of 64-year-old Lakhimi Baruah, is one where women are treated as prized capital.
Women make up for the majority of its account holders--25,000 out of the total of 28,000. They are also the ones entitled to buy the bank’s shares and take loans.
“I had worked at a bank till 1990 myself and I was always aware about the difficulties faced by women, especially poor, deprived and illiterate women in banking. When I started the bank, my vision was to empower such women, and today when I look back I feel that I have been able to contribute towards women empowerment in some way,” she says.
Baruah, who is currently associated with the bank as the managing director, has been instrumental in the bank’s growth and today it has a working capital of over Rs. 7 crores, has three functional branches, with two more being planned.
Egged on by its past success, the bank is thinking big: it has written to the government for permission to set up at least one branch in all the 27 districts in the state.
The bank’s USP is its women-friendly approach and each of its branches register about 250 customers every day.
“This bank is unlike other banks where illiterate women like us are turned down and are not provided any assistance. Here the bank employees are very welcoming and they help us at each and every step, including filling up withdrawal forms, and we just put our thumb impression,” said Phulmoni Karmakar, an illiterate woman who works as a daily wage laborer in a tea garden getting a daily wage equivalent to less than a dollar a day.
“I have learnt banking and how to save money, and this will help me a lot to become financially secure soon,” said Karmakar.
Apart from playing the role of an institution educating illiterate and marginalized women about banking and encouraging them to open accounts and save, the bank has also managed to empower over 5,000 women financially by offering them support to start small entrepreneurship activities.
After her busy schedule in the bank, Baruah even finds time to organize meetings to spread awareness about banking and financial empowerment of women.
After listening to her, even girl students from the tea garden areas have now come forward to do banking--which is something rare in the tea garden areas in the state.
Mental Illness Ignored
Crime victims with mental illnesses are more likely to feel let down,
dismissed or treated without respect by the police, a new research in the UK suggests.