27 Myths about the Developing World

I found this article on Global Citizen and wanted to share it. There was a lot here that made me think, but many of these myths have been debunked by most academics and professionals in development. Aid effectiveness is still a hotly contested debate topic, certainly – but are we really still in the mindset that aid leads to overpopulation (myth 24)?

Have a look and tell me what you think. It surprised me to see there are still those who hold on to these views.

1.) There is an agreed upon way to decide what is a developing country

Flickr: Sudhamshu Hebbar

There is no agreed upon metric for deciding which countries are considered “developing”. The standard of living for a given country can be calculated a dozen different ways with different factors. There is even debate as to whether the term should still be used because it assumes a desire for Western style economic development.

2.) When people say “developing world” or “third world” they mean Africa.

Wikipedia Commons

Yes, there are many developing nations in Africa. And yes, most of the myths on this list apply to how people think of Africa. There are developing countries in North America, South America, Asia and Europe. And Africa isn’t a monolith of poverty. This myth feeds into a lot of misconceptions about Africa like…

3.) Africa is a country.

Flickr: US Army Africa

It’s not as though people don’t know that Africa is a continent not a country. The problem is that people make sweeping generalizations about Africa. Whereas most people in the Global North have a clear idea about the differences between Germany and Italy, African nations often get painted with the same brush. In fact there are 54 different African nations all with different cultures, ethnicities, and economic statuses.

4.) Poor countries are just short of natural resources.

Wikimedia: Alexandra Pugachevsky

This is one of the most damaging myths because it makes people believe that there isn’t much that can be done to help. But it’s simply not true. For example, about 400 billion dollars worth of resources leave the continent of Africa every year. There are a lot of reasons why developing nations can have a lot of poverty, but a lack of natural resources is rarely a big factor. This myth also leads people to conclude that…

5.) Developing nations don’t have their own cultures or histories (because they have always been poor).

Wikimedia: Cordanrad

This one will probably seem obvious but there is a misconception that developing nations have no culture or history because they’ve always been poor and cut off from the rest of the world. Aside from the racist assumptions about poverty in tribal civilizations, this myth ignores the rich and powerful cities, kingdoms and empires that have existed in areas that are now impoverished. Look into the Malian Empire or the Mughal Empire if you don’t believe me.

6.) The people in developing nations are all poor.

Flickr: Christophe

There are clearly poor people in developing nations. But there are also poor in developed countries. Worse, the belief that a developing nation is entirely populated by poor people erases the many success stories of the rising global middle class people. Only focusing on those in desperate poverty makes for ineffective policies and leads to false assumptions about how people live in other countries.

7.) All people living in extreme poverty live in rural areas.

Wikimedia Oxfam East Africa

Most of the world’s poor, about 75%, do live in rural areas and rely mostly on farming. However like most things on this list, facts become myths when people replace the word “most” with the word “all”. The 25% of the world’s poor that live in urban areas need different types of aid, and different kinds of policy change, than those in rural areas. They shouldn’t be ignored.

8.) Developed nations spend a lot of their budgets on international aid.

Wikimedia: Russavia

How much do you think the United States spends in international aid every year? It’s probably less than you think . When asked how much of the national budget was spent on foreign aid the average American responded with 25%. The actual amount is less than 1%. Even the most generous nation in the world, Norway, gives less than 3% a year. When asked how much the United States should spend on foreign aid, the average response was 10%.

9.) Relying on aid hurts developing nations.

Flickr: Bread for the World

The argument usually goes like this: “If developing nations rely on foreign aid, they will never develop their own economies.” However, it is important to remember that the aid that directly saves lives, such as medicine and food, is really an investment in the nation’s future. Without a strong and healthy population there is truly no hope for independence from aid.

10.) Volunteering in a developing nation is the best way to make a difference.

Wikimedia: Elitre

A common misconception, although a valiant one! However, volunteering in a developing country usually benefits the volunteer more than locals, unless you have specific, applicable skills like medicine or engineering. The volunteer will learn a lot but will likely have little impact on community development. The best aid is the kind that gives locals the ability to craft their own instituions that can continue on long after the trickle of aid money has come to an end. Traveling to teach English for a month is not near as impactful as funding the local schoolteachers who will live and work there for their entire careers.

11.) Pictures of starving people, or sad children, are a great way to motivate people to make a difference.

Wikimedia: Oxfam East Africa

There is a name for the type of imagery that is supposed to shock people in developed nations with the realities of extreme poverty: “poverty porn”. While there is a time and place to document suffering, it is important to make sure the person in the photograph is aware of what the picture will be used for, and that the image is presented with context. When photos of children with distended bellies are used as symbols instead of portraits of living people, they are erased as individuals. Everyone deserves to be treated respectfully and presented with dignity: as a person with their own dreams, character, and motivations. Although these images undoubtably work at provoking sympathy, advocacy efforts need to be motivated by accurate information and these images don’t tell the whole story.

12.) People living in extreme poverty are poor because they made bad choices.

Wikimedia: Ton Rulkens

This rumor has been around as long as poverty has. The world’s poorest are often stigmatized as stupid, lazy, dirty, and violent. Structural inequality can be subtle and difficult to understand, but these types of assumptions poisons the efforts made to change the systems that keep people poor. Just because a person is successful, it shouldn’t give them the right to shirk responsibility to address structural inequality.

13.) There just isn’t enough food to feed everyone.

Wikimedia: Elitre

This is usually the conclusion people make when they hear that so many people all over the world go hungry. In fact, there is enough food to feed the planet one and a half times over. People who can comfortably afford food usually waste a staggering amount. Hunger is not a supply issue, it’s a distribution issue.

14.) Developing nations are all corrupt, and aid just supports that corruption.

Wikipedia Commons

First of all, let’s not pretend that developing nations are the only ones with corruption at the government level. When a mayor in the developed world is found to be corrupt, no one suggests that we cut off services to the city in question. It is important to ask ourselves if we are willing to sacrifice the lives of people who rely on aid until we are sure that every incident of corruption is removed. Of course institutions and governments should be transparent and accountable, but the cost of corruption usually only accounts for a small percentage of total aid.

15.) We should focus on poverty in our own countries before trying to help anyone else.

Flickr: Franco Folini

There is poverty, food insecurity, and homelessness in developed nations. No one is suggesting that these problems should be ignored. However, the fact remains that less than 1% of most developed nation’s budget goes to foreign aid whereas large portions of their budget address domestic health and infrastructure. The type of poverty in the developing world is objectively different from the type of poverty exerienced in developing countries.

16.) Future technologies will solve all of the problems of global poverty.

Wikimedia: Reynold Brown

Though it’s refreshing to see some optimistic myths about global poverty, the fact remains that relying on future innovations is not a viable plan and it does nothing for those living in poverty today. Which leads to me to another myth…

17.) Developing nations are technologically backwards.

Flickr: Tanalyn Dollar

There are places where there’s a lack of access to digital technology but it isn’t like developing nations are cut off from the tech boom. In fact, many times technology has spread faster in developing nations than developed ones. Cell phones are widely used and they have contributed to many innovations and has led income increases. Ignoring the use of technology in developing nations ignores how important it can be as a part of strategies for ending global poverty. This myth also ignores the innovations in digital technology that originate in the developing world.

18.) Developing nations are violent and unsafe.

Flickr: Ian Hasley

Wars are certainly one of the biggest causes of poverty and displacement, but not all developing nations are unsafe. Parts of highly developed nations can be less safe than parts of developing nations. The assumption that all parts of developing countries are torn by violenceprobably comes from movies and the kinds of news stories that come out of some developing nations.

19.) The decline of poverty is all due to international aid (especially celebrities contributing to charity) 

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This myth ignores the strides made by the people within developing nations. The fact that the work Western nations are doing is the most visible doesn’t mean that Western people are doing the most. Aid is important to empower those living in poverty to lift themselves out of it. By giving them access to the basics: food, water, health, sanitation and education etc. Economies won’t boom just from aid, aid can give millions of people access to basic needs, allowing them to be entreprenurial and participate in the market.

20.) Any kind of aid is helpful to a developing nation.

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There are some kinds of aid that can end up taking more resources from poorer communities than they contribute, especially when you consider the cost of shipping, storing, and distributing certain donated goods. For example, after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami thousands of useless items like winter coats, high heeled shoes, and expired canned food were donated to effected nations. Though this was a generous act, donators didn’t research what was actually needed by the people effected.

21.)  If people in developing nations started acting like people in Western nations, they wouldn’t be so poor!

Wikimedia: Valter Campanato

There is a long tradition of people saying that poverty is a cultural problem. Though there can be facets of a culture that slow economic growth, such as human rights violations, women’s equality etc. But a culture that happens to have a greater incidence of wealth is not a better culture because it is political history that’s the biggest factor in determining who is poor. People believed that Irish culture was at fault for their poverty during the 19th century.

22.) Developing nations are dirty.

Wikimedia: Russavia

There is no nation that can be considered as a whole “dirty”, just as there is no nation in which all of the people are poor. In fact, developed nations produce far more trash and waste than developing nations. Calling developing nations dirty is disrespectful and trivializes the real issue of sanitation for those living in extreme poverty.

23.) People are poor because they are having too many kids they can’t afford.

DVID: Sgt. Ken Scar

This myth is a classic misunderstanding of cause and effect. Putting aside that “too many” usually means “more than I think these people should have”, studies show that people aren’t poor because they are having too many kids. Rather they can’t choose to have fewer kids because of poverty.  Without access to contraception or sex education to use it effectively, people in extreme poverty have limited choice in family planning.

24.) Aid just leads to people in developing nations having more kids, contributing to overpopulation

Flickr: Todd Huffman

This is simply untrue. There is a belief that since aid is increasingly effective at saving lives, i.e. children that would have otherwise died from preventable disease, aid will cause a population crisis. Some people believe that with the extra resources from aid those living in extreme poverty will decide to have more children. Studies have shown the exact opposite results. The combination of girls staying in school longer and families having access to family planning causes birthrates to go down. 40 years ago, women in Bangladesh had an average of 7 kids and expected a quarter to die; now women in Bangladesh have an average of 2 children and only 1 in 20 don’t make it to their 5th birthday.

25.) All developing nations are near the equator. 

Wikimedia: Taylor Weidman

Believing that most people living in poverty live in hot climates is probably related to the assumption that the developing world means Africa. However, poverty is also a real issue in incredibly cold climates like those found in Central Asia, where staying warm is a top concern. Bonus fun fact: there are climates in sub-Saharan Africa where it snows.

26.) If living in a developing nation can be so hard, people should just leave. 

Flickr: Vicki Francis/Department for International Development

Most people living in extreme poverty don’t have the money to move somewhere else. Often enough people do leave their nations to go where there are better opportunities. However those leaving are typically those with some education and/or wealth. This ends up being another important resource leaving developing nations.

27.) Nothing ever gets better and aid doesn’t make a difference.

Wikimedia: Joseph Jude

This myth is probably the one that is the most important to bust. Listing how many things have improved in the last 20 or so years would need a whole other list entirely. In fact, here’s one. The fact is plain: aid makes a huge difference, and has already saved millions and millions of lives, with your help, it can continue to do so.

Reblog: Eight Signs Life is Improving for Africa’s Children

It’s so rare these days to get a piece of good news about children’s economic development, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. I came across this article today, which has made my day.

Yes, there is still a lot of work left to do, but it’s good – and necessary! – every now and again to stop and remind ourselves of why the fight is worth it.

 

Children in many African countries have a better shot at a healthy life than ever before. We’re marking the International Day of the African Child on June 16 by taking stock of the encouraging if uneven progress Africa has made in the past two decades in improving the odds of survival for children.

There is still a long way to go. But the overall picture for Africa’s children includes bright spots, promising trends, and the prospect of a future when all children have an equal chance to live full and healthy lives.

1. Africa is making strides against the top killers of children.

Group of children standing next to a blue building.

A half-million fewer African children under age five died between 1990 and 2010 from diarrheal disease and lower respiratory infections such aspneumonia, two of the leading child killers. Premature death and disability from diarrheal diseases fell 34 percent in that period, and death and disability from lower respiratory infections dropped 22 percent, according to theInstitute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

2. A global effort to stamp out malaria is saving children’s lives.

Woman and toddler sitting on bed with bednet.

The scale-up of proven malaria interventions saved an estimated 3.3 million lives between 2000 and 2012—90 percent of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

3. Innovation is driving a sharp decline in child deaths.

Young woman holding an infant, with a child standing next to her, as a health worker fills a syringe with vaccine.

In sub-Saharan Africa, deaths of children under age five dropped 39 percent between 1990 and 2011, according to the United Nations. Even better news: Since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted in 2000, the rate of decline has accelerated in 90 percent of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, according to IHME. Globally, new vaccinesdrugsdiagnostics, and other health innovations led to 4.2 million fewer child deaths in 2013 compared to 1990, according to IHME.

4. More mothers are surviving pregnancy and childbirth.

Woman holding her baby and smiling broadly.

Maternal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa began a rapid decline following the adoption of the MDGs. Between 2005 and 2010, maternal mortality dropped by 11.4 percent, in part because of the scale-up of antiretroviral therapy for HIV and AIDS, according to IHME. The odds of survival for children rise sharply when their mothers can care and provide for them.

5. More children—especially girls—are going to school.

Two children standing next to a chalkboard, one pointing to the writing on the chalkboard with a stick.

The primary school enrollment rate for African girls jumped from 47 percent in 1990 to 75 percent in 2011, with the rate for boys rising from 58 percent to 79 percent in the same period, according to the UN. That’s an especially promising sign for Africa’s efforts to drive down child mortality because maternal education is a key driver of child survival.

6. More children are gaining access to clean water.

Young boy pumping water

Since 1990, more than 2.1 billion people gained access to improved sources of drinking water around the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, the UN estimates that the proportion of people using improved water sources rose from 49 percent in 1990 to 63 percent in 2011.

7. Better nutrition is improving the odds of child survival.

Man feeding a spoonful of orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes to a baby sitting on her mother's lap.

Risk factors like suboptimal breastfeeding, vitamin deficiencies, and childhood underweight are on the decline in Africa, according to IHME, leaving children less vulnerable to illness and disease.

8. More children are getting lifesaving vaccines.

Toddler sitting on a woman's lap receiving a vaccination in the left arm.

Vaccination coverage has steadily improved in many African countries over the past two decades, according to UNICEF and WHO. Vaccines save an estimated 2 to 3 million young lives per year worldwide.

Rihanna’s dress and the ensuing media frenzy

Yes, it’s happened again.

Another woman has worn something which has made people lose their minds.

Let’s try to think of the last time a man wore something and the press drove themselves insane psychoanalysing why.

I’ve attached the article below, but first let me get down to what annoys me about it and the whole debate that’s whirling around it:

1. This would NEVER have happened if a man had turned up to an award ceremony wearing an outfit which “left little to the imagination”. Besides taking pictures, perhaps commenting on how ‘toned’ they’re looking, I doubt people would very much care.

We’re not even entering the maelstrom of why it’s all right for a man to go topless but not a woman.

2. And most importantly, why does something have to be a “feminist statement” or a fashion choice? Why do we really care so much? Can’t it just be about a woman going to an awards ceremony wearing a glittery dress?

Or just a dress?

Many of you will remember how the media lost their minds when Jennifer Lopez wore this outfit:

(Sidenote: does this take you guys back or what?!)

Seriously, I’d be interested to see what you come up with.

Try and think about the last time we went this crazy when a man wore something in public. Nobody cares if it’s a man.

Why are we losing our minds just because there are breasts involved?

It isn’t progress to view occasions like this as a feminist victory or statement.

We will have moved on as a society when our media thinks the way most of us do: that it is not news if a woman wears a dress. It isn’t news if she doesn’t. It just is. She is a human being, wearing things. Let’s calm down and move on, and just let them be. It isn’t a feminist statement, it just is.

I also have to share this link because this is what I’m talking about. Women aren’t allowed to just walk around, go shopping, go for a run, go out with their kids, without it being scrutinised.

It’s absurdly patronising to talk about a woman without make-up as somehow bold. Does that mean wearing make-up makes you weak? Seriously?

Just because someone is going through a divorce, doesn’t mean she is brave for going to a market with her children (Amy Poehler and Will Arnett). Where are the photos of how “brave” Will Arnett is being, going out in public? Going shopping?

Just let it be what it is.

I happen to think Rihanna looks amazing, because the colour of her dress makes her glow, and the turban is really beautiful too. J.Lo’s dress was gorgeous and I love those colours. Most people would say the same thing.

Why is our media suddenly taking it to extremes?

More headlines like “Woman wears dress to awards show” and less “Young artist, misunderstood by everyone, bears all in brave display of feminist bravado”, please.

Which of course isn’t to say she isn’t a feminist, she is. It just doesn’t make everything she does a show of her feminist strength.

She’s wearing a dress because she likes it. By saying it’s something more than it is, we’re actually reversing any steps we’re attributing to Rihanna’s ‘feminism’.

If all of these ‘headlines’ we’re talking about are really doing as much for feminism as the media says they are, then why do we need to keep making every action taken by a woman as a feminist act? Why can’t it just be a thing that a human being does, because surely that’s when we see progress – when your gender doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with your life?

Here’s an article published in ‘The Independent’, a British newspaper, yesterday. I’d recommend you read all the linked stories too, just in case you’re not familiar with all of these stories, like me:

Rihanna’s practically naked dress: Why it could be one of the most powerful feminist statements the pop world has made to date

Why society still isn’t ready for too bold a display of female sexuality by Ella Alexander Wednesday 04 June 2014

“The naughty outfit left nothing to the imagination,” wrote one publication, adding that “one wonders what Anna Wintour [another show guest and the editor of US Vogue] thought” of the attire. “Rude girl Rihanna is trend-setter, but let’s not copy this one girls,” bemoaned another. But few British newspapers and their online counterparts went as far as to boycott the image and not publish it at all, despite seemingly taking the ‘moral high ground’. Whether they agree with the shimmering statement or not, Rihanna succeeded in shocking everyone – which is probably exactly what she wanted. Rihanna in her Adam Selman dress, covered in 216,000 Swarovski crystals What she didn’t want to do is what the fashion world expected, which was to dress in an understated, innocuous, unthreateningly sexy way so popular with Victoria’s Secret models and Playboy bunnies. Instead, the singer attended the CFDA Awards on Monday 2 June – during which she collected the coveted Style Icon award  –  wearing a part Josephine Baker, part sphinx sheer dress, her modesty covered by a nude coloured thong. She accessorised with a white fur stole, smoking eyes, glittering gloves and a turban that referenced the style of glamorous Twenties flapper girls.

Rihanna at the CFDAs last night The fearless and brave move is largely characteristic of the star, who is unapologetically and refreshingly herself. She smokes cannabis publicly, dances like a serpent and doesn’t believe in the concept of layering clothing – it seems that excess fabric so often gets in the way for her. Unlike many of her peers (she is just 26), she truly appears not to care what anyone thinks. As anyone who travelled on the infamous 777 tour in November 2012 can attest, she is a woman completely in control of her ship. And she couldn’t care less how long you’ve been waiting on that plane for her or indeed whether or not her bare nipples cause offence. She’s too busy having fun. Even Patti Smith – a rock ‘n’ roll poet who paved the way for women in music – is a fan, describing her recent track Stay as “the 2013 song of the year”. “I love that song,“ she told The Independent in March. “I didn’t know much about it, but I found it so touching, so beautiful and it didn’t bother me that in her music video she sung it naked in the bathtub. I thought it was beautiful.” However, perhaps society is not quite ready for such an overt display of a woman’s sexuality. The evidence is clear: aside from the disapproving reactions that her CFDAs dress attracted in the media yesterday, this morning her Rogue fragrance advert was deemed “inappropriate for children” after the Advertising Standards Association deemed it too “sexually suggestive”.

The Rihanna Rogue advert that’s been deemed inappropriate by children The picture depicted her sitting on the floor topless (although her bare chest was not on display) with her legs raised up against a large bottle of her perfume. The ASA admitted that her facial expression was one “of defiance rather than vulnerability”, but gave the advert “a placement restriction” for being “provocative”. The issue of public censorship surrounding women’s nude bodies has been raging for the past few weeks. Rihanna recently deleted her Instagram account, after the social network censored a topless picture shot for a French magazine. Grace Coddington was next to bear the brunt of the network’s conservative nudity restrictions. The 73-year-old US Vogue creative director was temporarily banned after sharing a line drawing of herself topless. The most recent and arguably most documented ban was of Scout Willis’ account and her ensuing topless protest. The 22-year-old daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis was prohibited from using the channel after posting a photograph of a jumper that featured an image of two topless women.

One of the images Scout Willis shared as part of topless protest She took action by strolling the streets bare-chested of New York to demonstrate how women are allowed to go nude in the city, but not on Instagram, also launching the hashtag #FreeTheNipple. Unsurprisingly, Rihanna tweeted her support. “I am not trying to argue for mandatory toplessness, or even bralessness,” Willis wrote in a blog post for XOJane. “What I am arguing for is a woman’s right to choose how she represents her body — and to make that choice based on personal desire and not a fear of how people will react to her or how society will judge her. No woman should be made to feel ashamed of her body.”

It seems that, in the eyes of the media, a woman can be too confident with her body. Too much of an audacious display of female sexuality is not yet a welcome occurrence; apparently, it makes many feel uncomfortable and intimidated. And it’s still too easily and patronisingly pinpointed as to “wanting to please the boys” – a condescending and simplistic approach to women who want to look “sexy” because it’s just one of the many things that can make them feel powerful and strong. So here’s to Rihanna and her audacious nearly-nude dress – a fearless, powerful and fantastically seductive feminist statement that the pop world should be proud of, not scared of.

Maya Angelou dies aged 86

Maya Angelou, one of the most talented poets of our time, has died today aged 86. I don’t normally like to make eulogies or memoirs public, but I’m just so shocked by this.

For many of us, her works were part of our school curricula. Her poetry inspired generations of writers and aspiring artists and her words couldn’t help but move you.

I was in 9th grade when I read ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’, on the recommendation of one of my favourite teachers. Angelou’s work changed the way I appreciated literature, the way I understood the struggle of other people and my views on feminism. We’ve all come across a Maya Angelou quote (or ten) in our lives and for many of us, she remains one of the literary greats.

She’s worked in almost every profession imaginable for a woman of her time and race. She’s travelled the world and championed the causes of those at the fringes of society. She’s been a journalist, an academic, a poet, an advocate – even a prostitute, if certain stories are to be believed!

Since high school, I’ve had one of her quotes up on my wall and referred to it often as motivation. It’s now in a journal of illustrations and quotes which I keep for inspiration.

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.

She changed the way I looked at my place in society as a woman and alongside the work of Wangari Maathai, inspired me to look at the world through a special kind of lens and do what I could to change the way we treat those less fortunate, without patronising or condescending.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.

She was fearless and unapologetic for her style, opinions and personality and I admired that so much.

She’s experienced unimaginable pain but also achieved great personal and professional successes. She lost her mother and her brother and almost lost her grandson. She’s won a Pulitzer and three Grammys. She always met criticism head-on and never backed down – you can’t imagine how inspiring that is for a teenager trying to build her identity!

Facebook has already started filling up with RIPs, photographs and thoughts. I thought I would blog about it because even though it’s not like the sort of posts you normally get from me, Maya Angelou inspired me. I drew from her work when I felt socially isolated in high school; when I needed a boost of courage to take on a challenge I wouldn’t otherwise accept; whenever I needed to feel inspired and in awe.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

DIY Natural Room Scents

I saw this on Pinterest some months back and have always wanted to try it – today was my chance! I had some oranges lying around and decided to juice them.

Instead of throwing away the peels, I put them in a big saucepan, covered with cold water and added about four sticks of cassia bark and a small handful of cloves. Bring this mix to a boil and then simmer it. The smell will permeate everything and make you feel wonderfully Christmassy!

Once it cools, you can put it in a jar and in the fridge. The next time you need your place to smell lovely, repeat! If your jar is heatproof, you may even be able to place that directly on the stove, as I plan to do!

We’re having a weird kind of spring in Budapest – patchy weather, sometimes overcast and cold. As I type, I’ve got a mug of tea on my desk and am wearing a sweater and fluffy sheep slippers! So since the weather’s decided to act like it’s autumn and approaching winter, I thought our flat may as well smell like it!

And I have to say, it smells fantastic.

Try this out with whatever combinations of herbs, spices and fruit you have  – I’ve seen a great idea of bay leaves and pine needles so may try that one next. Let me know how it works out for you!

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DIY – Nexus Cover using Sari Ribbon Fabric

Spring is finally here and I took this chance to start a project I’ve been meaning to get to for a while – making a case for my Google Nexus tablet, a Christmas present from my truly excellent other half, Andrew. I’m pretty impressed with how it turned out and thought I’d share it with you!

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I’ve had a lot of sari ribbon kicking around, which I bought from Julie’s Etsy shop. I wanted to use strips of this beautiful fabric in my cover since not only does it look amazing, but I just love the philosophy behind it.

Sari ribbon is made by tying together the scraps of silk used to make saris. Here’s what Julie has to say about where the fabric comes from:

My yarns are produced by women’s co-operatives in India. I buy this yarn and fibre, which includes sari silk ribbon, sari silk yarn and banana yarn, directly from these women and and have been doing so for years and years where I now have an excellent relationship directly with these cottage industries. I still marvel at the peerless quality and enchantment of these yarns years on. I am now organic nettle and organic hemp yarn from Nepal along with hand-spun cottons and linens and other Indian silk products including handwoven pure silk scarves and shawls for you to dye yourself.

 

I wanted it to be colourful and unique but also to be really personal and reflect my philosophy of creating as little waste as possible, trying to do right by our planet and seeking out ethical products. I love the fact that I can now read books about poverty reduction for my course from a case made out of such materials!

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The whole thing took me about a day to make, bearing in mind that certain parts needed to dry overnight and the fact that I don’t have a sewing machine. I’m sure with practice I can do this a lot faster and more efficiently!

So what do you think?

I’ve been mulling over starting an Etsy shop to sell things I make using materials like this, so let me know what you think and whether you would be interested in a cover like this for your tablet or Kindle.

I’ve also made a Nexus case for Andrew using spare parts of leather I’d love to make more of these and learn about different methods of using recycled or environmentally-friendly products so do let me know what you think – don’t spare my feelings!

Thanks :)

8 Women who made the World a better place in 2014 (Reblog)

Happy International Women’s Day! It’s a day we celebrate the women and girls in our lives and also look to others around the world. Today in Budapest, I was out with my boyfriend and was amazed by the sheer number of flower vendors and florists which had just popped up over-night!

As Andrew quipped, the difference between love and lust can really be seen in places like this. We stopped at a florist where I was treated to a beautiful bunch of tulips and he saw a man staggering under the weight of what must have been 30 or 40 long-stemmed red roses. Whereas I was told “not to go too mad and buy the whole shop”!

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But I digress – I want to talk about International Women’s Day, not just my Saturday!

Quite often, news outlets and NGOs are quick to share links about the tragedies faced by girls around the world. Malala Yousafzai’s face and story is all over the internet today, alongside stories about the ongoing global struggle against child marriage, rape, torture and abuse.

But this year, I wanted to look at some positive examples of female empowerment and some cheerier stories.

I found this on the Huffington Post and have shamelessly stolen it. I find this is a much more life-affirming way to celebrate women. Let’s look at what has been achieved and what we have to proud of as a global society, because if we keep looking at all the terrible atrocities faced by women every day, we’ll never want to try fighting the fight. These are the sort of stories which keep me motivated to keep writing about women’s rights so I hope you get something out of it too!

1. Afghanistan’s first female police chief showed the world what courage looks like.

Col. Jamila Bayaz was appointed to run security in the Kabul’s District 1 in January, becoming the first woman in such a senior frontline role. The mother-of-5 is responsible for policing an area of the Afghan capital that includes the presidential palace, government ministries and the central bank. “This is a chance not just for me, but for the women of Afghanistan,” she told NBC. “I will not waste it. I will prove that we can handle this burden.”

Women in Afghanistan have faced a steep battle to reenter the workforce and public life after the end of the Taliban’s restrictive rule. They still face considerable obstacles including discrimination from an ultraconservative society and the threat of militant attacks. Afghan policewomen have been targeted by insurgents and several women in public office were assassinated in 2013, according to the Associated Press. Bayaz is undaunted: “I am ready to serve, I am not scared nor am I afraid,” she told AP.

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Col. Jamila Bayaz talks on the phone at her office in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

2. Xiao Meili put a taboo subject back on the map.

Xiao Meili set off the remarkable journey in late 2013 to walk more than 1,200 miles between her home in China’s capital Beijing and the southern city Guangzhou to raise awareness of sexual abuse in the country. The 24-year-old woman told Time Magazine she hopes the unusual sight of a female backpacker on China’s roads will draw attention to how authorities handle abuse and will break the social stigma victims often face. At each town along the way, Meili and her supporters post letters to local officials urging them to investigate abuse allegations, screen teachers and improve sex education.

Meili’s journey has developed a popular following on social media and she asks women in each town to walk with her or offer her a couch for the night, according to Global Voices. “China’s traditional idea is that it is dangerous for females to travel alone outside. But conversely, so many sexual abuse cases take place in places we thought were safe like schools and buses,” she told China’s Global Times. “This is not an arduous walk. Each step represents a female protest at society.”

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Xiao Meili explains her “feminist walk” in a social media post. (Youku.com/screenshot)

3. Azizah Al-Yousef began a campaign to end Saudi Arabia’s oppressive male guardianship system.

Azizah al-Yousif has been a thorn in the side of Saudi Arabia’s conservative establishment since she launched the October 26 Women’s Driving Campaign last year. In a bid to end the Kingdom’s ban on female drivers, women posted YouTube clips of themselves driving online. “We are sick and tired of waiting to be given our rights,” al-Yousif told CNN at the time. “It’s about time to take our rights.”

Now al-Yousif is pressuring authorities to end the country’s male guardianship system, which forces women to ask the permission of male relatives to travel, work, complete education, get medical treatment or a passport. The Saudi Gazette reports that together with a group of activists, al-Yousif sent a petition to the Kingdom’s Shura council to demand reform. “This petition renews our demands as women. We want our issues to be put on the top of the Council’s priority list,” she said.

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Screenshot of a video posted by the Saudi women driving campaign shows Azizah al-Yousif at the wheel. (YouTube/screenshot)

4. The Central African Republic’s interim president Catherine Samba-Panza gave a violence-stricken nation new hope.

Catherine Samba-Panza, a women’s rights activist and reconciliation advocate who is known in the Central African Republic as “mother courage,” was selected to lead the country in January amid devastating ethnic clashes that forced more than 1 million people to flee their homes. As CAR’s first female president, she pledged to lead the country away from the circle of bloodshed. “At the very heart of the people, I felt this desire to elect a woman who could bring peace and reconciliation,” Samba-Panza said of her presidency, according to The Guardian. She has a formidable task ahead of her. This week the UN warned of “religious cleansing” and immanent danger to civilians trapped amid the fighting, Reuters reported.

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President Catherine Samba-Panza sits in the parliament building before taking the oath of office in Bangui, Central African Republic, Jan. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

5. Ukrainian pop icon Ruslana became a champion of the country’s protest movement.

Ruslana is one of Ukraine’s most famous pop singers and brought the country to victory at the EuroVision song contest in 2004. She is also a passionate social activist, so when protests against President Viktor Yanukovych erupted last November, Ruslana became a nightly fixture on stage at the protest camp in Kiev, according to Newsweek. “A public person, musician or artist should exercise their civic activism to be the voice of the people,” she told the magazine. The Washington Post reported that some of her performances at the EuroMaidan protest hub lasted up to 10 hours.

When the protest movement was met with brutal repression, eventually leading to Yanukovych’s downfall, Ruslana was devastated but defiant. “We no longer sing or dance, despite the severe cold. We understand that today the fate of the country [that has taken] several decades to come hangs in the balance. Instead of singing, we pray,” she wrote in an email to Newsweek in February. With Yankovych now in exile and tensions high as Russian troops flood Crimea, Ruslana called for the country to join together peacefully. “Ukrainians are strong enough to unite, we understand that propaganda is designed to divide us,” she told the BBC.

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Ruslana performs on an anti-government barricade in central Kiev on Feb. 10, 2014. (SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

6. Mehrezia Labidi helped enshrine gender equality in Tunisia’s post-Arab Spring constitution.

As vice-president of Tunisia’s constituent assembly, Mehrezia Labidi led the tumultuous debates over the country’s post-Arab Spring constitution. Labidi is the most senior female politician of the ruling Islamist part, Ennahda, and took a firm line for women’s rights throughout the debates, often to the disappointment of her own party. “It’s like giving birth: painful, but in the end everyone is happy when the child arrives,” she told Deutsche Welle.

The constitution that passed in January was celebrated as a breakthrough for women’s rights. Labidi helped push through key gender quality provisions by allying with secular politicians, the BBC explains. “I have always achieved everything I wanted myself. Sometimes I wonder whether men could compete with me,” she told the network.

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Mehrzia Laabidi speaks during a Tunisian National Constituent Assembly session in Tunis on Jan. 17, 2014. (FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)

7. Lena Klimova gave Russian gay teens a voice online.

Just days before the Sochi Winter Olympics opened in February, young journalist Lena Klimova was charged under Russia’s controversial ban on “gay propaganda.” Authorities targeted Klimova because of her incredibly popular “Youth-404″ website (404 designating “page not found”) where gay teens write about their struggles with homophobia in the country.

Faced with a stringent fine, Klimova was most concerned about Russian youth losing access to the forum, according to The Guardian. “If it will be closed, LGBT teenagers will lose the only place where they can openly speak about themselves and receive advice they need to live. It will be a catastrophe,” she wrote on Facebook. But with the world’s attention on Russia during the Olympics in Sochi the case was haltedand Klimova’s website was able to give a voice to outcast teenagers for at least a while longer.

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Lena Klimova pictured in a handout photo. (Elena Klimova)

8. Zainab Bangura pushed countries to recognize that sexual violence in conflict has to stop.

As the U.N. special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Bangura has seen first-hand the devastating effect of rape used as a weapon of war. Bangura, who lived through the 1991-2002 civil war in her native Sierra Leone, told Reuters: “For me, one rape is too many.”

Since she took up the role in 2012, Bangura says she has seen “a political momentum that is unprecedented” to combat sexual violence in conflict, including a U.N. declaration in which 140 member states have committed to ending rape in conflict, Buzzfeed reported. In February, Bangura’s office struck another victory when the U.N. and African Union signed an agreement to prevent and respond to conflict-related violence in Africa.

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Zainab Bangura gives a press conference at the United Nations office in Nairobi on April 4, 2013. (TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)