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November 19, is World Toilet Day!


Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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“Sanitation is more important than independence.”
– Mahatma Gandhi (in 1925).

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World Toilet Day

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If you find the images used in this article nauseating, then I have made my point. For us, Indians and other Asians, this is life. We have to live with it.

In 2001, World Toilet Organization (WTO) declared November 19 as World Toilet Day (WTD). Today, over 19 countries observe WTD with events hosted by various
water and sanitation advocates.

In developing countries in Asia and Africa, poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually.

India has more mobiles than toilets

Though a majority of the world’s population has access to mobile phones, one third of humanity do not have access to proper sanitation, including toilets or latrines, affecting the environment, human health, dignity and security, and social and economic development.

We all like food. We spend most of our income on food. We look forward eagerly to what we would eat today for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, do we ever give thought to what happens as a result of all that food we consume?

In our society and community, it is a taboo and not polite to talk about toilets. We do not want others to see the cleaning and sanitation products we use. So, we hide them. We even hide the sewer system beneath the ground.

Why?

Because one third of humanity (2.5 billion people), or one in three people living in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, do not have access to clean, safe, and functioning hygienic toilets. Therefore, they do not bother to discuss the problem of sanitation. As such, sanitation remains a neglected issue with meager financial investments in water, sanitation and hygiene sectors.

In the developing countries, the cost of inaction on sanitation is high. Due to lack of toilets, men, women, the young, the sick and the elderly have to defecate in the open, in fields, in vacant lots, and even by the roadside during the day and at night. Almost 1 billion people continue to defecate in the open.

Excreting in India

Lack of access to clean bathrooms in schools deters many girls from pursuing their education after they reach puberty. In some regions, due to lack of toilets, girls do not go to school when they are menstruating. Improved sanitation facilities can have a particularly positive impact on the education opportunities of young girls, affected by the lack of privacy and cleanliness during their menstrual period. Also, lack of toilets in schools affect all learners from concentrating in the classrooms, as they have to wait for longer periods before being able to relieve themselves in privacy in a dignified manner.

Without toilets and proper sanitation the environment around homes, workplaces, markets, and hospitals, become sources of infection and diarrhoeal diseases due to millions of tonnes of human excretion.

Due to lack of improved sanitation almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases, the second leading cause of child deaths in the world. Diarrhoeal diseases caused by inadequate sanitation, and unhygienic conditions put children at multiple risks leading to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, high morbidity, malnutrition, stunted growth and death. Every year 0.85 million children die from diarrhoea. Poor sanitation and unimproved water cause 88% of these deaths. Studies reveal that improved sanitation can help reduce diarrhoeal diseases by about 33%.

Despite the scale of the crisis, sanitation remains a low priority for many governments.

How can we mitigate this situation?

Now, many organisations have started to discuss toilets. Investment in sanitation is becoming a priority in many international communities. Yet, because the topic of sanitation has until now been neglected to a vast extent, they wait for good solutions to the problem. New solutions and approaches to sanitation that should have been tried and tested a long time back, are starting to find support only now.

Progress depends on adequate investment and collaborative action by civil societies, multilateral agencies, academia and the private sector in developing countries by supporting national efforts to improve sanitation for all strata of their society.

To address these issues, in July 2013, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the “Sanitation for All” Resolution (A/RES/67/291) designating November 19 as World Toilet Day, aims to change both behaviour and policy on issues ranging from ending open-air defection (which 1.1 billion people practice worldwide) to enhancing water management.

 Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.

On July 24, 2013, Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, issued a statement on adoption of the General Assembly resolution ‘Sanitation for All.’

I am delighted and grateful that Member States have adopted a resolution officially designating November 19th as World Toilet Day. I thank the Government of Singapore for its leadership on a crucially important global issue. This new annual observance will go a long way toward raising awareness about the need for all human beings to have access to sanitation.

Despite progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, one in three people do not have a basic toilet. Almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases. Poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually in developing countries.

Proper sanitation is also a question of basic dignity. It is unacceptable that women have to risk being the victims of rape and abuse, just to do something that most of us take for granted. It is also unacceptable that many girls are pushed out of school for lack of basic sanitation facilities.

This new resolution builds on the General Assembly’s “Sustainable sanitation: the drive to 2015”, agreed in 2010, and adds momentum to the Call to Action on Sanitation that I, on behalf of the Secretary-General, launched in March this year.

I urge every country to accelerate progress towards a world in which everyone enjoys this most basic of rights. I look forward to working with all partners to make Sanitation for All a reality.

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The lack of access to decent toilet is no joke for a third of the world’s people, but a matter of life and death. No other invention has saved more lives than a toilet. Without access to toilets, many women and girls are too embarrassed to go in the open to defecate during daytime and so deny themselves relief until darkness sets in. But, trips to fields or roadside at night, however, puts them at risk of physical attack and sexual violence. So, having a toilet in or near the home lowers the risk of women and girls getting subjected to violence and rape.

Toilets mean safety.

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India Celebrates Children’s Day 2013


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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I wish all children in India “A Happy Children’s Day!”

In 1925, The World Conference for the Well-being of Children in Geneva, Switzerland, proclaimed June 1 as International Children’s Day and then established universally in 1954. Now, many countries around the world, celebrate Children’s Day, but on different days each year.

Universal Children’s Day

A major global variant of Children’s Day is the Universal Children’s Day celebrated on November 20 every year.

The United Nations General Assembly recommended this day in 1954 to urge all its member countries to institute a day, with the aim to promote mutual exchange and understanding among children, and to initiate action to help and promote the welfare of children globally as outlined in the Charter.

On November 20, 1959 the United Nations adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and on November 20, 1989 the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

India celebrates Children’s Day on November 14

Children’s Day (ISource: ndianEagle.com)
Children’s Day (Source: IndianEagle.com)

Today, November 14, India celebrates Children’s Day. On this day, India remembers and honours the country’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The children of India fondly called him “Chacha Nehru” (Hindi: चाचा नेहरू)) or Uncle Nehru.

Nehru consistently emphasized the importance of showering love and affection on children. He saw in them the future of India.

On Children’s Day, the Kids in India engage themselves in the fun and frolic. Various educational, cultural, social, institutions organize functions and conduct competitions for children all over the country. The State and the Central governments organize film festivals in many parts of the country to showcase Children’s films.

In many schools, the children themselves arrange the cultural activities on this day. Teachers also get involved; in many schools, they sing and dance for their students.

First Day Covers for commemorating Children's Day 2012 in India
First Day Cover for commemorating Children’s Day 2012 in India

Every year, India Post issues special stamps of paintings  by children and First Day Covers for commemorating Children’s Day in India. Here are the commemorative stamps issued from year 2006 to 2012. Please note that these images of the postage stamps are not to scale.

Children's Day November 14, 2012- Rs 5
Children’s Day 2012

Children's Day November 14, 2011 - Rs 5
Children’s Day 2011

Children's Day November 14, 2011 - Rs 20
Children’s Day 2011

Children's Day November 14, 2010 - Rs 5
Children’s Day 2010

Children's Day November 14, 2010 - Rs 5
Children’s Day 2010

Children's Day November 14, 2010 - Rs 5
Children’s Day 2010

Children's Day Nov 14, 2010
Children’s Day 2010

Children's Day 2009
Children’s Day 2009

Children's Day 2009
Children’s Day 2009

Children's Day 2008
Children’s Day 2008

Children's Day 2008
Children’s Day 2008

Children's Day 2008
Children’s Day 2008

Children's Day 2007
Children’s Day 2007

Children's Day 2007
Children’s Day 2007

Children's Day 2006
Children’s Day 2006

Children's Day 2007
Children’s Day 2007.

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Impact of Armed Conflict on Children


Children at both ends of the gun

Child soldiers are “more obedient, do not question orders and are easier to manipulate than adult soldiers.”

War games in the divided city of Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Photo: War games in the divided city of Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina). The psychosocial effects of armed conflict on children can be devastating and may haunt them through life, says the Machel report, particularly when children are attacked by those they have considered neighbours and friends, as happened in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia. ©

The exploitation of children in the ranks of the world’s armies must end, says a new United Nations report. “One of the most alarming trends in armed conflict is the participation of children as soldiers,” declares the report, by Graça Machel, the Secretary-General’s Expert on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.

The report says the use of child soldiers is a problem created by adults, to be eradicated by adults. It calls for a global campaign to demobilize all child soldiers and to “eradicate the use of children under the age of 18 years in the armed forces.” The report further calls upon governments to renounce the practice of forced recruitment, which has put increasing numbers of children under arms against their will.

“Children are dropping out of childhood,” commented Devaki Jain of India, one of Ms. Machel’s Eminent Persons’ Group of advisers. “We must envision a society free of conflict where children can grow up as children, not weapons of war.”

The use of child soldiers is hardly new. “Children serve armies in supporting roles as cooks, porters, messengers and spies,” the report notes. “Increasingly, however, adults are conscripting children as soldiers deliberately.” Children under 15 years of age are known to be serving in government or opposition forces in at least 25 conflict zones and it is estimated that some 200,000 child soldiers under 16 years of age saw armed combat in 1988. Generally, however, child soldiers are statistically invisible as governments and armed opposition groups deny or downplay their role.

The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child defines childhood as below the age of 18 years, although it currently recognizes 15 as the minimum age for voluntary or compulsory recruitment into the armed forces. However, momentum is building for an Optional Protocol to the Convention that would raise the minimum age to 18.

With new weapons that are lightweight and easy to fire, children are more easily armed, with less training than ever before. Moreover, as was stated in one background paper prepared for the Machel report, child soldiers are “more obedient, do not question orders and are easier to manipulate than adult soldiers.” And they usually don’t demand pay.

A series of 24 case-studies on child soldiers, covering conflicts over the past 30 years, makes it clear that tens of thousands of children — many under the age of 10 — have been recruited into armies around the world. In Liberia, children as young as seven have been found in combat, while in Cambodia, a survey of wounded soldiers found that 20 per cent of them were between the ages of 10 and 14 when recruited. In Sri Lanka, of 180 Tamil Tiger guerrillas killed in one government attack, more than half were still in their teens, and 128 were girls. Solid statistics are hard to come by, however, as most armies and militia do not want to admit to their use of child soldiers.

According to the report, children are often press-ganged from their own neighbourhoods where local militia or village leaders may be obliged to meet recruitment quotas. In the Sudan, children as young as 12 have been rounded up from buses and cars. In Guatemala, youngsters have been grabbed from streets, homes, parties, and even violently removed from churches. In the 1980s, the Ethiopian military practised a ‘vacuum cleaner’ approach, recruiting boys, sometimes at gunpoint, from football fields, markets, religious festivals or on the way to school.

The report deplores the fact that children are often deliberately brutalized in order to harden them into more ruthless soldiers. In some conflicts, children have been forced to commit atrocities against their own families. In Sierra Leone, for example, the Revolutionary United Front forced captured children to take part in the torture and execution of their own relatives, after which they were led to neighbouring villages to repeat the slaughter. Elsewhere, before battle young soldiers have been given amphetamines, tranquillizers and other drugs to “increase their courage” and to dull their sensitivity to pain.

Some children become soldiers simply to survive. In war-ravaged lands where schools have been closed, fields destroyed, and relatives arrested or killed, a gun is a meal ticket and a more attractive alternative to sitting home alone and afraid. Sometimes a minor soldier’s pay is given directly to the family.

For girls, recruitment may lead to sex slavery. The report notes that in Uganda, for instance, young girls abducted by rebel forces were commonly divided up and allocated to soldiers to serve as their ‘wives’. A case-study from Honduras, prepared for the Machel report, illustrates one child’s experience of joining armed groups:

“At the age of 13, I joined the student movement. I had a dream to contribute to make things change, so that children would not be hungry … later I joined the armed struggle. I had all the inexperience and fears of a little girl. I found out that girls were obliged to have sexual relations ‘to alleviate the sadness of the combatants. And who alleviated our sadness after going with someone we hardly knew? At my young age I experienced abortion … In spite of my commitment, they abused me, they trampled my human dignity. And above all, they did not understand that I was a child and that I had rights.”

It is difficult to reintegrate demobilized children after a peace settlement is reached. Many have been physically or sexually abused by the very forces for which they have been fighting, and have seen their parents killed, sometimes in the most brutal manner, in front of their eyes. Most have also been led into participating in murder, rape and other atrocities. These children have no skills for life in peacetime and they are accustomed to getting their way through violence.

The report urges that all future peace agreements include specific measures pertaining to the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers, ranging from job creation and the rebuilding of schools, to the training of teachers who are sensitive to the special needs of child victims of war.

The report calls on governments to regularize recruitment procedures for their armed forces and to prosecute violators to ensure that under-age recruitment does not occur. The Machel report also illustrates how the recruitment of children can at least be minimized when parents and communities are better informed about existing national and international law.

While much remains to be done, there have been some successes. In Peru, for example, forced recruitment drives reportedly declined in areas where they were denounced by parish churches. And in Myanmar, protests from aid agencies led to the release of boys forcibly recruited from a refugee camp. In the Sudan, humanitarian organizations have negotiated agreements with opposition groups to prevent the recruitment of children.

Source: UNICEF

UNICEF campaign for the disarmament of (female) child soldiers in Sri Lanka
A billboard campaign in Sri Lanka highlighting the plight of girl child soldiers. (Photo: Rebecca Murray/IRIN)

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Pakistan: Rumors of American Plot to sterilize Muslims. Nine Anti-Polio Workers Murdered.


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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A Pakistani health worker gives anti-polio vaccine to a child
A Pakistani health worker gives anti-polio vaccine to a child on the last day of a three-day anti-polio campaign in Lahore, Pakistan, March 14, 2012. (Xinhua/Jamil Ahmed)

Is a lawyer competent enough to declare that polio vaccines sterilize male children? Yes. In Pakistan, in the city of Peshawar, a 42-year-old lawyer named Sartaj Khan said: “These vaccines are meant to destroy our nation. The [polio] drops make men less manly, and make women more excited and less bashful. Our enemies want to wipe us out.”

Pakistan is one of the world’s three remaining polio-stricken countries the other two are Afganistan and Nigeria.

Dr. Shakeel Afridi
Dr. Shakeel Afridi

The Pakistani investigation of the deadly raid by a Navy SEAL team on May 1, 2011, on Osama bin Laden’s residence revealed that Dr. Shakeel Afridi, a Pakistani physician helped the CIA to run a fake vaccination program to establish the presence of bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad.

After the disclosure of Dr. Shakeel’s involvement in locating bin Laden, the Pakistani Taliban and other militant organizations banned polio campaigns in their respective areas. The extremist groups in the Pashtun belt of northwestern Pakistan spread the rumor that the army of health workers employed to vaccinate the country’s children is on the United States’ payroll, and the Americans were using the anti-polio campaign to sterilize or spy on Muslims.

The rumor spread by the extremists has resulted in the murder of nine anti-polio workers by gunmen riding motorcycles this week. Some of those killed were teenage girls.

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari - Ambassador for Polio Eradication in Pakistan
Aseefa Bhutto Zardari – Ambassador for Polio Eradication in Pakistan

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, ambassador for Polio Eradication, strongly condemned the violence that killed the four female anti-polio workers. “Everyone involved in the polio campaign are selfless volunteers. They do this to save lives, they do this to save Pakistan.”

When a 14-year-old anti-polio worker Farzana Rehman was assassinated in her hometown of Peshawar by unknown gunmen, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari said: “We must not be deterred, better security precautions will be taken. Through our passion and dedication, we shall eradicate this crippling disease from our homeland, we shall continue to fight in the names of those who have lost their lives for the cause. We shall continue to fight for young girls like Farzana. Terrorists do this to scare us, they do this to try and stop us, we shall not be silenced and we will not stop the need, come what may,”

Following the violence, the United Nations pulled back all staff involved in the vaccination campaign and Pakistani officials suspended further vaccination in some parts of the country.

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I’m Only a Child, …


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Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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This incredible 20 years old video that I have included in this post made a deep impression on me.  I cried and sobbed listening to the 12-year-old girl.

Severn Cullis-SuzukiSevern Cullis-Suzuk was born on November 30, 1979 and raised in Vancouver, Canada. Her mother is writer Tara Elizabeth Cullis. Her father, geneticist and environmental activist David Suzuki, is a third-generation Japanese Canadian.

While attending Lord Tennyson Elementary School in French Immersion, at age 9, she founded the Environmental Children’s Organization (ECO), a group of children dedicated to learning and teaching other youngsters about environmental issues.

In 1992, at age 12, Severn raised money with members of ECO to attend the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Rio Summit, Rio Conference, Earth Summit – a major United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 3 June to 14 June 1992, five thousand miles from their home.

Along with group members Michelle Quigg, Vanessa Suttil, and Morgan Geisler, Severn Cullis-Suzuki presented environmental issues from a youth perspective at the summit.

Severn spoke about the hole in the ozone layer, pollution, the devastation of the forests and extinction of many species of wild life and vegetation. She charged that we adults have no idea of how to fix these things, in fact can’t fix them, and that we must change our ways. “If you don’t know how to fix it, stop breaking it,” she pleaded.

Severn’s amazing speech left her audience completely stupefied and speechless. After she ended her speech she received a standing ovation.

She received a lot of praise for her speech in the press – even Al Gore Jr., 45th Vice President of the United States (1993–2001), under President Bill Clinton called it “the best speech at Rio.”

The video of her speech has since become a viral hit, popularly known as “The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes”.  This video has 2,018,732 hits to date.

In 1993, she was honoured in the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global 500 Roll of Honour. In 1993, Doubleday published her book Tell the World, a 32-page book of environmental steps for families.

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Here’s the transcript of her speech:

“Hello, I am Severn Suzuki speaking for E.C.O – the Environmental Children’s Organization.

We are a group of 12 and 13 year-olds trying to make a difference, Vanessa Suttie, Morgan Geisler, Michelle Quigg and me.

We’ve raised all the money to come here ourselves, to come 5,000 miles to tell you adults you must change your ways.

Coming up here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future.

Losing my future is not like losing an election, or a few points on the stock market.

I am here to speak for all generations to come.

I am here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world whose cries go unheard.

I am here to speak for the countless animals dying across this planet, because they have nowhere left to go.

I am afraid to go out in the sun now, because of the holes in our ozone.

I am afraid to breathe the air, because I don’t know what chemicals are in it.

I used to go fishing in Vancouver, my home, with my Dad until, just a few years ago, we found a fish full of cancers.

And now we hear of animals and plants going extinct every day, vanishing forever.

In my life, I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterflies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see.

Did you have to worry of these things when you were my age?

All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions.

I’m only a child and I don’t have all the solutions, but I want you to realize, neither do you.

You don’t know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer.

You don’t know how to bring the salmon back up a dead stream.

You don’t know how to bring back an animal now extinct.

And you can’t bring back the forest that once grew where there is now a desert.

If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it.

Here you may be delegates of your governments, business people, organizers, reporters or politicians. But, really, you’re mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles and all of you are someone’s child.

I’m only a child, yet I know we are all part of a family, 5 billion strong, in fact 30 million species strong. And borders and governments will never change that.

I’m only a child, yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.

In my anger, I am not blind and in my fear I am not afraid of telling the world how I feel.

In my country we make so much waste, we buy and throw away, buy and throw away, buy and throw away and yet Northern countries will not share with the needy.

Even when we have more than enough we are afraid to share, we are afraid to let go of some of our wealth.

In Canada, we live a privileged life. We’ve plenty of food, water and shelter. We have watches, bicycles, computers and television sets. The list could go on for 2 days.

Two days ago here in Brazil, we were shocked when we spent time with some children living on the streets.

This is what one child told us, ‘I wish I was rich and if I were, I would give all the street children food, clothes, medicines, shelter and love and affection’.

If a child on the street who has nothing is willing to share, why are we who have everything still so greedy?

I can’t stop thinking that these are children my own age, that it makes a tremendous difference where you are born. And that I could be one of those children living in the favelas of Rio.

I could be a child starving in Somalia, or a victim of war in the Middle East or a beggar in India.

I am only a child, yet I know if all the money spent on war was spent on finding environmental answers ending poverty and in finding treaties, what a wonderful place this earth would be.

At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us how to behave in the world.

You teach us to not to fight with others, to work things out, to respect others and to clean up our mess, not to hurt other creatures, to share, not be greedy.

Then, why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?

Do not forget why you are attending these conferences, who you are doing this for.

We are your own children.

You are deciding what kind of a world we are growing up in.

Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying ‘Everything is going to be all right, it’s not the end of the world, and we are doing the best we can’.

But I don’t think you can say that to us anymore.

Are we even on your list of priorities?

My dad always says, ‘You are what you do, not what you say.’

Well, what you do makes me cry at night.

You grown-ups say you love us.

But I challenge you, please, make your actions reflect your words.

Thank you.

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