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#3 HEADLINE: WORLD BANK GROUP Supporting Mozambique's
growing needs for higher education

#4 HEADLINE: Lesotho; China Contributes to Free Education

#5 HEADLINE: PanAfrica; UNFPA Executive Director Asks World Leaders to
Invest in Greater Role for Women in Development

#6 HEADLINE: PanAfrica; Gender Equality a Prerequisite for Sustainable

#7 HEADLINE: Sexes to be separated in math and science classes

#8 HEADLINE: France steps in to curb forced marriages. Girls of immigrant
families still being forced to submit to men they do not know.

#9 HEADLINE: U.S. project begins to rebuild school targeted by American
bombs in northern Afghanistan

#10 HEADLINE: Barbie more harmful than a U.S. missile?

#1 HEADLINE: Monterrey, Mexico (PANA) - World leaders concluded a five-day UN Conference on financing for development in Monterrey, Mexico Friday, with the adoption of an outcome document that should provide the template for a new global solidarity in the fight against poverty, disease and ignorance.

The meeting which was originally conceived as a ministerial level gathering, was attended by delegates from more than 170 countries, including 56 heads of State and Government.

Business leaders and representatives of non-governmental organisations, multilateral trade and financial organisations and UN agencies as well as the mass media also attended.

At the core of the outcome document, dubbed the "Monterrey Consensus" is the acceptance of mutual responsibility by both developed and developing countries to mobilise resources to meet the global goals of development, including the eradication of poverty, reduction in infant and maternal mortality, achieving universal primary education, promotion of gender equality and empowerment, and the fight against HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. The document underscores the necessity for developing countries to create conditions for growth, such as peace, sound economic policies, good governance, freedom and respect for human rights and the rule of law.

"We will pursue appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks at our respective national levels and in a manner consistent with national laws to encourage public and private initiatives, including at the local level, and foster a dynamic and well-functioning business sector, while improving income growth and distribution, empowering women and protecting labour rights and the environment," the leaders said in the declaration.

This is also the commitment to fight corruption, ensure accountability and transparency, pursue sustained high rates of economic growth and strengthen the domestic financial sector.

"Investments in basic economic and social infrastructure, social services and social protection, including education, health, nutrition, shelter and social security programmes, which take special care of children and older persons and are gender sensitive and fully inclusive of the rural sector and all disadvantaged communities, are vital for enabling people, especially people living in poverty to better adapt to and benefit from changing economic conditions and opportunities," the declaration stated.

On the other side of the equation, the Consensus stresses the need for the mobilisation of international resources to support reforms and programmes in developing countries. These resources should come in the form of foreign private investment, trade, debt forgiveness, and financial and technical co-operation in development, including official development assistance.

At the Conference, discussions about Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), took centre stage with developed countries promising increases in aid.

Prior to the meeting, the European Union announced its commitment to the development goals and promised that its member States will increase ODA from the current average level of 0.32 percent of gross domestic income to 0.39 percent by 2006.

This is estimated to add seven billion dollars to the EU's development assistance resources.
The US also announced an increase of five billion dollars in foreign aid to its commitment of nearly 10 billion dollars per year. Arguing that aid to poorly-run countries does not bring any positive result, the US has decided that only countries adjudged to be making progress in political, economic and social reforms will receive its aid.

The outcome document also noted the importance of sound policies and good governance in ensuring the effectiveness of ODA. It urges donor nations to increase their ODA towards meeting the target of 0.7 percent of GNP set by the UN in the 1970s.

The Conference also urged donors to take necessary measures to ensure aid effectiveness, such as ending the practice of tying aid to pre-designed projects or sectors, and involving recipient nations in the design of aid projects.

Complementary to aid is the forgiveness of external debts of developing countries. "Sustainable debt financing is an important element for mobilising resources for public and private investment," delegates agreed in the outcome document.

Debtor nations are encouraged to put in place strategies to monitor and manage their debts, while debt relief is promoted as a way of freeing resources for social investment for countries with unsustainable debt burdens.

"Noting the importance of re-establishing financial viability for those developing countries facing unsustainable debt burdens, we welcome initiatives that have been undertaken to reduce outstanding indebtedness and invite further national and international measures in that regard, including, as appropriate, debt cancellation and other arrangement," the document declared.

This compromise falls short of some countries' demand for an express commitment to debt cancellation. Another source of international resources explored is foreign direct investment, which the consensus document said contributes to financing sustained economic growth, helps in the transfer of knowledge and technology and creates jobs.

The problem with private capital has been its dearth in some regions, particularly Africa.
To attract private capital, developing countries are encouraged to work for a transparent, stable and predictable investment climate such as having a contract enforcement mechanism and respecting property rights.

International trade is also recognised as an important source of needed resources for development.

The Monterrey Conference urges developing countries to establish appropriate trade institutions and policies and liberalise their trade regimes. But more importantly, it calls for the opening up of the markets of developed countries, through the removal of trade barriers, subsidies and the much-abused anti-dumping measures so that developing countries can export their products.
Further action on these issues is expected at the next round of negotiations at the World Trade Organisation. (Panafrican News Agency (PANA) Daily Newswire March 22, 2002)


Scant government commitment to gender equality, persistent domestic violence, the "feminization" of poverty, and falling standards of living in rural areas have all impeded progress on women's rights, the focus of International Women's Day celebrated tomorrow.

But the region has scored important achievements in the last decades, such as the massive entry of women into the workforce, and higher levels of education, reported representatives from various United Nations agencies in Santiago, today, on the eve of Mar. 8, which has been celebrated as International Women's Day since 1975.

These advances must be consolidated and strengthened and conditions must be created so that women throughout the region gain greater autonomy, and violence and inequality are brought to an end, said Nieves Rico, representing the Women and Development Unit of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), a U.N. regional agency.

The Gender and Development official from the regional office of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Marcela Ballara, pointed to the precarious conditions in which most rural women in the region live. Latin American women face two main challenges: overcoming poverty and creating a more inclusive and participatory globalization process, said the U.N. Development Program's resident representative in Chile, Thierry Lemaresquier.

Of particular concern is that the feminization of poverty stands in the way of achieving the goals of gender equity that were established at the U.N. Millennium Summit, held in 2000 in New York, he said. Gender inequality is present in all areas, said the UNDP representative, and requires priority treatment at the upcoming forums convened by the U,N,, such as the Conference on Financing for Development, to take place later this month in Monterrey, Mexico.

The rights and opportunities of women must also be discussed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+10, slated for Aug. 26-Sep. 4, in South Africa, where delegates will assess achievements made with respect to the objectives that were drawn up at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

In spite of the serious problems that persist in Latin America, the situation of women is positive in comparison to that of the women of Afghanistan, said ECLAC representative Rico. The U.N. has adopted the theme "Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities," for this year's commemorations of International Women's Day.

Rico pointed to the deterioration of the standard of living of Afghan women resulting from 25 years of war in their country, and the sharp restrictions on their freedoms following the installing in 1996 of the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban regime, overthrown in late 2001 by military intervention from the United States.

Afghanistan serves as a lesson that the improvement of the condition of women, with respect to their rights and equal participation with men, is not an isolated matter, but a requirement for the democratization and development of a society as a whole, said the ECLAC expert.

The number of women in governmental posts, in parliament or serving as local officials, remains relatively low in Latin America, despite state-led efforts and the enactment in some countries of laws that establish minimum quotas for female representation in office, or at least on ballots.

Latin American countries have passed numerous laws in recent years aimed at curbing domestic violence and improving women's safety, but physical and psychological abuse of women continues to be a widespread phenomenon, according to the evaluation made by the U.N. agencies.

Despite the massive incorporation of women into the labor force, their average income represents just 50 percent of the average wages of their male counterparts, and unemployment tends to be higher among women than among men.

The progress women have made in education has not yet overcome the inequalities they face with respect to men, said Mar a Luisa J uregui, a gender issues specialist for UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). "Undoubtedly, women belonging to the less privileged social sectors -- rural, poor, or indigenous -- face a situation of greater vulnerability in the educational sphere than do men from those same groups," said J uregui.

Gender inequality has serious implications in the rural environment. As the population in the countryside diminishes, women increasingly work in agriculture, and more than half of Latin American rural women live in poverty, according to the FAO study presented by Ballarta.
More and more young people are leaving the countryside to live in the city, resulting in the ageing of the rural population, which aggravates conditions of poverty, affecting women more than men. (Inter Press Service March 7, 2002)

#3 HEADLINE: WORLD BANK GROUP: Supporting Mozambique's growing needs for higher education

The Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank today approved a $60 million IDA credit in support of the Mozambique Higher Education Project. The project builds on prior support in this field and will fund substantial reform, modernization and quality and efficiency improvements of Higher Education in the country, consistent with the 10-year National Higher Education Strategic Plan.

Bank support for the implementation of the National Education plan will address the shortage of qualified graduates in the country. The credit will fund the development of the country's three main public higher education institutions, a fund for innovative projects throughout the higher education system, a scholarship scheme targeted at eligible students from underserved groups, and a nation-wide Distance learning system, complementing the government's strong focus on Information and Communication Technologies.

The project aims to increase the efficiency of higher education, raise quality, adapt curricula to the changing labor market, introduce shorter degree programs, support research, and fight regional and gender disparities in access to higher education. Growth, jobs...not enough trained cadres

Mozambique emerged from almost two decades of civil conflict in 1992 and despite exceptional GDP growth since the first elections in 1994 - at times reaching double digits - it remains one of the world's poorest countries with a per capita income of $210 in 2000. While floods caused a dip in growth in 2000, expected growth rates for the coming years are still enviably 7% to 8%. This economic progress has paralleled exceptional inflows of foreign investment - now ten times what they were ten years ago, and coming from a wide variety of sources.

To sustain the economic growth, investments, public service delivery and leadership necessary for continued development and poverty reduction, Mozambique needs nationals with high-level professional skills. The country's impressive economic growth has exacerbated the lack of skilled professionals and educated cadres. To give a few examples : there is just one medical doctor for 50,000 people, few nurses, agriculture specialists, managers, accountants (there are no Mozambican certified accountants in the country), 7 pharmacists for the entire population (16 million). Despite the growth of the labor force which accompanied economic expansion, local industries employ virtually no Mozambicans in middle and high management positions and many of those that are employed were trained before the war and are nearing retirement. According to the Project's appraisal document "Even in the unlikely event that the Mozambican economy does not grow further, the number of job positions to be filled each year in the public sector alone would be 1200".

Addressing the problem: Mozambique and partners plan ahead

There are currently ten Higher Education Institutions (HEI) in Mozambique, five public and five private, from which just 800 university students graduate each year. The government put together a 10-year National Strategy Plan for Higher Education involving extensive national consultations throughout the country. The $200 million Plan was endorsed by the Council of Ministers and its implementation was set out in a five-year Operationalization Plan in a joint effort with the Bank and other donors.

Basic education in the country has been fully funded by the government and donors, including the Bank, and has achieved impressive results. But this has placed even greater pressure on the secondary and tertiary education levels and strains appear today in satisfying popular demand for teachers. This project will address precisely that need, by training more teachers and facilitating access to quality schooling.

Laying the foundation for the present project, the World Bank initially provided support to Mozambique's Higher Education system with a capacity building operation which contributed to restore the Eduardo Mondlane University as the country's premier Higher Education Institution.

This Project's objectives

The main elements of this operation are :

1) Support for Eduardo Mondlane University, Pedagogical University and Higher Institute for International Relations.

This direct support for these three major Higher Education establishments in Mozambique will improve efficiency, academic and pedagogical quality and scope of service delivery.

Items to be funded include: curriculum and academic reform, academic and administrative staff development, financial management and efficiency improvements, new facilities, better use of Information Technology

2) Quality enhancement & Innovation Facility - this is a fund which constitute a rare source of highly concessional credit for innovative projects presented by individuals or groups within the higher education system institutions (public and private). The projects presented for funding by this facility, managed by the Education ministry, will be reviewed by a Higher Education council. No alternative form of credit is available for these types of operations in Mozambique today.

3) Scholarship Scheme - the scholarship scheme funded with the support of this IDA credit will target high school students qualified for higher education, enabling poorer students to take part and ensuring more equal access throughout the country and society. The scholarships

- part of a pilot scheme to be expanded nation-wide - help eligible students with grants for tuition, travel, subsistence and lodging tenable at either public or private higher institutions

4) Introduction of Bachelor-type and undergraduate degrees.

The current classic degree in the Mozambican system - the licenciatura

- involves 5-6 years of study, which is long: many students quit and start working before taking the degree. Shortening the course will mean more degree-holders start work, with degrees better targeted to the job market. The IDA credit will also support setting up better further education, enabling professionals to learn during their career.

5) Development of a Mozambique Distance Learning Network (MDLN). Academic staff of HEIs will develop distance education programs in collaboration with a central MDLN unit, which will be delivered through a network of distance learning centers located throughout the country. These distance-learning centers will be operated by existing private and public institutions and managed by a consortium of Higher Education Institutions. The first programs will be in-service and pre-service teacher training to address the shortage of qualified teachers for secondary schools. Later programs will include business, economics and law to cater for private and public sector in-service training and eventually develop into a full-fledged learning and knowledge sharing network. The use of Information and Communication Technologies is fully embraced by the government and its partners to defeat the obstacles of geographic isolation and shortage of human resources.

This credit draws on important trends in research described in the World Bank Working Paper on Higher Education entitled Constructing Knowledge Societies: New Challenges for Tertiary Education. (M2 PRESSWIRE March 11, 2002)

((M2 Communications Ltd disclaims all liability for information provided within M2 PressWIRE. Data supplied by named party/parties. Further information on M2 PressWIRE can be obtained at on the world wide web. Inquiries to [email protected])).

#4 HEADLINE: Lesotho; China Contributes to Free Education

With a view to answering the call of the campaign to develop the free primary education by the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho and as a fruit of the successful historic visit to China by the Prime Minister by the end of last year, the Chinese Embassy in the Kingdom of Lesotho and the China State Construction QL Corporation have jointly financed the building and equipping of Bochabela Primary and the school will be renamed 'Lesotho-China Bochabela Friendship Primary School'.

The handing-over and Naming Ceremony of the new school was on Friday on the campus of Bochabela Primary School, with the education Minister, the Minister of Environment, Gender & Youth Affairs, and Zhang Xianyi, Ambassador of China present. The new school includes five classrooms and a staff room with part of newly purchased desks and chairs for the teachers and students. "These new facilities will help provide a comfortable surrounding for both teachers and students," said the Chinese Embassy in Maseru, adding that the Embassy will follow up the progress of this school.

A statement from the Embassy further said giving priority to education is the secret for the development of any country, further hoping that the new school could help cultivate useful talents for Lesotho.

The statement ended by saying the Chinese Government attaches great importance to the educational cooperation between China and Lesotho. "This project is another one after the donation of the computer lab to NUL last year and more cooperation will carry on. We deeply believe that the educational cooperation will not only push forward the existing Sino-Lesotho friendship but also enhance the understanding between the two peoples," concluded the statement. (Africa News March 27, 2002)

#5 HEADLINE: PanAfrica; UNFPA Executive Director Asks World Leaders to Invest in Greater Role for Women in Development

Thoraya A. Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), today called on world leaders gathered here to give women a greater role in any development strategy they adopt.

Speaking at the International Conference on Financing for Development, Ms. Obaid also called for greater resources for the UNFPA, particularly from developed nations, so that the organization can continue to help developing countries implement to improve the quality of life of women and their families, through reductions in maternal mortality and teenage pregnancy, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS, and expansion of girls education.

"Everything we have learned shows that when women are empowered-through laws that ensure their rights, health care that ensures their well-being and education that ensures their active participation-the benefits go far beyond the individual; they help the family, the community and the nation," said Ms. Obaid. "While we work to close the poverty gap we must also close the gender gap. When women engage in development, families, societies and nations gain substantially-economically, socially and culturally.

Women are key to development and, therefore, we must invest in their participation in development." She also pointed out that "population has been a success story, where women and men have taken their decisions to plan their families and to contribute to slowing population growth." But she warned that "investment in women and ensuring their access to reproductive health services must be sustained; otherwise earlier gains can be reversed."

She also pointed out that though the trend towards a slower population growth is occurring in poor countries, they still face the challenges of "too many unwanted pregnancies, rising spread of HIV/AIDS, increased abortions and unchecked population growth." She emphasized the critical link between slowing population growth and the ability of individuals to makes choices in their lives and to determine the number and spacing of their children. Only through choices can both human rights and population goals be achieved.

Lack of resources-to a great extent because developed nations have not kept the financial commitments they made at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo-have hampered women's universal access to crucial health services. "Now is time for developed countries to act on their commitments and raise development assistance in line with the Cairo agreement," said Ms.

Obaid. "Commitments to fight poverty and inequality must be matched with resources. Failure to meet agreed financial targets could derail the achievement of international development goals, especially in the poorest countries."

"Here in Monterrey, let us pledge once more to support women around the world, ensure their greater participation in development and free them from poor health and illiteracy," said Ms. Obaid. "Let us keep the commitments we made in Cairo and reiterated at the Millennium Summit. Let us make the very good investment in women: the returns are very high."

The UNFPA is the world's largest international source of population assistance. Since it became operational in 1969, the Fund has provided about $5.6 billion in assistance to virtually all developing countries. (Africa News March 18, 2002)

#6 HEADLINE: PanAfrica; Gender Equality a Prerequisite for Sustainable Development

MORE than a year has passed since the historic United Nations Millennium Summit, held in September 2000 when nearly 150 world leaders endorsed a clear set of development goals.

They agreed to halve extreme poverty, reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters and achieve equal access for girls to all levels of education, all by 2015. They also committed the world to halt, and begin to reverse, the spread of HIV/Aids by 2015.

Gender equality is paramount to the fulfilment of each of these goals. In order to halve extreme poverty and reduce maternal mortality, we must first specifically address the issue of feminised poverty and resources must be allocated to ensure women's survival, options and opportunities.

To achieve parity in school enrolment between girls and boys, we must stop girls from being pulled out of school to care for their family members who are sick and dying from HIV and Aids. In order for violence to cease being a daily reality for women across the globe, we must work towards more equal power relations between women and men.

To curb HIV infection rates, we must take measures to address the fact that women are biologically, economically and culturally more vulnerable to contracting the virus and we must work to give women the right and power to refuse unwanted and unprotected sex and be heeded.

Two upcoming global events are critical to advancing the Millennium

Development Goals and ensuring that gender equality is seen as a prerequisite for sustainable development and poverty eradication. The 46th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to take place this month in New York has identified the eradication of poverty and the empowerment of women throughout their life cycle as the main focus of this year's discussion.

The second critical event is the International Conference on Financing for Development (FFD) to take place in Monterrey, Mexico this month This is a unique opportunity to ensure that resources follow rhetoric.

For the first time in history, the UN, World Bank, IMF, and WTO will come together to find new ways to use financial resources to meet basic human needs, such as health, education and social services.

UNIFEM has been working closely with women's groups to ensure that their voices are heard at this important international forum. The FFD conference must address the issue of feminised poverty and promote equitable, effective and appropriate resource allocation to improve women's lives if we are serious about achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The best way to measure commitment to gender equality is to follow the money. UNIFEM has been working with partners on gender responsive budget analysis, which helps governments decide where resources need to be re-allocated to achieve human development and gender equality.

Gender budget analysis can also be applied to the distribution of official development assistance and we should start with the reconstruction process for Afghanistan. Over the past months, we have witnessed an international outcry over the suffering and exclusion of Afghan women. Now is the time to ensure that international aid is used to help Afghan women regain their rights.

Rebuilding the country will be a difficult and lengthy process. The majority of Afghan women have no access to clean water, energy or sanitation. Only 3 percent of Afghan women are literate and 1 600 out of 100 000 Afghan women die during childbirth.

Women in Afghanistan are key players in recreating their communities and their country, but their contributions need to be recognised, valued and supported. Based on extensive consultations with Afghan women living inside and outside the country, we have outlined four key areas of concern that require immediate action.

The first is women's security. The truth is that women don't feel safe and silence surrounds violence against women in the home. The promotion of gender justice is a second priority. In practice, this will mean that violations of women's rights will be monitored, reported and remedied.

Governance is the third priority. While a strong Women's Ministry is vital to making sure that commitments to women are honoured, women's perspectives and leadership must also be included within other ministries and outside of government. The fourth priority is women's economic security. Women need to be employed and paid decent wages.

On this International Women's Day, we want to express our solidarity with the women of Afghanistan and reiterate the need for women to be central to all levels of the reconstruction process. We want to call for increased commitment and financial resources to fulfil the Millennium Development Goals and for official development assistance to meet the needs of women, especially those who are most vulnerable and from marginalised groups.

These challenges are not the responsibility of any single institution or government. It is an undertaking that requires the pooling of all human strengths and sources of creativity and it is the responsibility that men and women must share equally. (Africa News March 11, 2002)

#7 HEADLINE: Sexes to be separated in math and science classes

There are experimental plans to separate boys and girls in math and science classes next year, Education Minister Limor Livnat said yesterday. The program is part of a long list of initiatives to improve gender equality and support female leadership Livnat unveiled in time for International Women's Day today.

"Female leadership can not be a unique phenomenon in a democratic society," Livnat told a Tel Aviv forum on female leadership. "Israeli society, like any other society, can't afford to waste this precious resource," Livnat said. Livnat said she tripled the budget for gender equity to NIS 3 million, and 65 percent of the high-level positions that opened up in the Education Ministry this academic year were filled with women.

The education girls receive in the classroom is important to their future development as female leaders, Livnat said. She announced yesterday the creation of a new post in the ministry to oversee gender equity. It will be filled by Miriam Schechter.

Schechter told The Jerusalem Post all schools are mandated to discuss and make plans to improve gender equality. One option available to them is separating boys and girls in math and science classes, Schechter said, but they are not required to do so.

Speaking on Israel Radio, Livnat said studies have shown girls do better in math and science when boys are not in the classroom. Other countries have similar programs, she said. Already this year a committee Livnat created checked gender stereotypes in 130 textbooks. A full report of its activities is due out soon, she said.

Committee member Ella Gera said 65% of the textbooks had gender stereotypes. The committee is recommending that they not be renewed, said Gera who heads the Israel Women's Network.
Livnat said the committee found textbook language is generally male. Referring to everyone as "he" shows girls that the world belongs to men, she said. In pictures and in words, men and women are shown in stereotypical roles, Livnat said. Men are lawyers, doctors, or engineers and women stay at home.One of the committee's recommendations is to put a logo on books that do not use stereotypes, Livnat said. Other programs include training 3,000 kindergarten teachers to recognize gender stereotypes and self defense classes for girls. (The Jerusalem Post
March 8, 2002)

#8 HEADLINE: France steps in to curb forced marriages. Girls of immigrant families still being forced to submit to men they do not know.

Alarmed by the growing number of school-age girls from immigrant families living in France who are being forced into marriages with men they have never met, the French education department has decided to act. It estimates that several thousand girls living in France, daughters of immigrant North African, sub-Saharan and Turkish families, are potentially affected by this age-old practice.

The subject of forced marriages of girls of immigrant families hit the news in 1966 in the Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis. The first alarm signals were sounded by social workers operating in schools, recalls Dr Emmanuelle Piet, who coordinates a campaign for the prevention of forced marriages. "We would receive calls from panic-stricken health workers confronted by underage girls begging for help because they had been shut in their parents' bedroom for two days with a man who had been imposed on them." This was followed by reports of the first disappearances of girls from immigrant families. In June 2000 Fatoumata, in her final year at the Lycee Colbert in Paris, was taken back to Senegal by her father to be forcibly married to a man she did not know. Alerted by her schoolmates, the education ministry used all its influence to get the family to bring the girl back to France.

Scarred by this experience, the education ministry organised a conference on forced marriages, held on March 7. "Our aim", said Alain Seksig, who is technical adviser to the education minister Jack Lang, "is to make schools feel concerned about these marriages, because they go against the values of fostering freedom and self-development they teach. We want to show that we have the resources for helping these young girls."

The school sick-room nurse or school social worker is often the person to whom girls dare to talk about the ordeals they are subjected to. Returning home from school in the evening, a girl might be told that she had been married to a man from their parents' village. That is when their lives take a dramatic turn. Often these girls come from Turkish, Malian, Senegalese or North African families. Often they have been born in France, have done all their schooling there, and have made their plans for their future. Whatever the nationality of the parents, the pattern is more or less repeated. The father marries off his daughter to a first cousin, the son of his brother or sister, or an uncle who has stayed back in the old country. These marriages have been promised from the time the girl was born. Sometimes the future husband is already in France.

"Marriages are arranged to save a family line from extinction," says Khady Koita, a trainer working with the Gams (Women's Group for the Abolition of Sexual Mutilation). "To ensure that the name is preserved, the young woman is forced to comply with the tradition."

The fear of their daughters being "corrupted" by a Western way of life is also a constant worry of immigrant parents. "When a girl attends school, she runs the risk of drifting away from the ideal of the young Muslim girl that their parents dream of -- obedient, demure and docile," says Sarah Oussekine, president of the Voix d'Elles Rebelles (Voice of Rebel Women) Association. "It is often when the parents discover their daughter with a cigarette, or suspect she has a boyfriend, that they decide to marry her off." Pressure from that part of the family left in the home country to send a cousin to help get it out of economic difficulty is also often a determining factor.

It is not easy to establish the extent of such practices. Nor there is any accurate evaluation of the problem given that cases rarely get reported outside the family circle. But their numbers are growing, to judge by the incidents reported to the Gams -- two or three every week. Voix d'Elles Rebelles handles some 100 cases a year. As for Elele, a Turkish women's association, it says that it receives up to two or three calls a day. "It has become a sort of norm in the community," says Pinar Hukum, a psychologist. "Parents who never thought of arranged marriages are forced to follow the custom so as not to be ostracised by their community."

In Dr Piet's view, almost all Turkish, Senegalese and a large number of North African young girls are at risk. "We thought that with immigration and the modernisation of societies over the past 30 years young women would gradually be able to choose their own way of life. We were wrong," admits Mustapha Saad, president of the Association of Berber Lawyers in France. "What we're witnessing today is a return to the past by immigrant families. We must explain to them that what they are doing is against French law." (Manchester Guardian Weekly
March 20, 2002)

#9 HEADLINE: U.S. project begins to rebuild school targeted by American bombs in northern Afghanistan

Afghan workers on Monday began demolishing the remains of a girls' school that was used by the Taliban and destroyed by U.S. bombs in the final battle for control of this northern city. The Sultan Rasia school is among 25 undergoing repairs or reconstruction. It was the most important in Mazar-e-Sharif, having once served 6,500 female students.

"Mazar-e-Sharif doesn't have any other school like this," said local Deputy Education Minister Zubaidallah, who uses only one name. The school is known not only for the high number of female students enrolled there before the hard-line Taliban banned them from attending school. It was also the site of the last stand of the Taliban and al-Qaida in Mazar-e-Sharif.

"The school in Mazar-e-Sharif where the al-Qaeda forces fought such a fierce battle for so long has been reopened in tents in the schoolyard," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday. "The school itself is being repaired and rebuilt with USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) taxpayers' money."

Hundreds of foreigner fighters and Taliban forces holed up in the school and died fighting in November after U.S.-backed northern alliance forces marched into Mazar-e-Sharif. It was the first crucial victory in a string of triumphs that led to the ouster of the Taliban regime.

More than 350 bodies have been removed from the rubble and identified by the International Committee of the Red Cross, but local news reports put the number of dead as high as 700.
U.S. Army Capt. Herb Joliat of the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion of Fort Bragg, N.C., said a hip bone had been found in the building in the past few days, and he expected more human remains to be discovered under the rubble.

Children use the site as a playground, and Joliat briefly joined them in a game of volleyball in a bombed-out classroom. In another room, a chalkboard - the only recognizable hint of a school - carried the name of a Taliban soldier and noted he had fought in Afghanistan for seven years.

Nearby, freshly written graffiti in black read "Long Live (Taliban leader) Mullah Omar" - although vandals seemed to take both sides, with another wall scribbled with "Death to Osama bin Laden" and "Death to Pakistan."

A charred piece of paper amid the stones and dirt in the room, apparently a propaganda leaflet dropped by U.S. planes, had an illustration of a U.S. fighter jet dropping bombs and proclaiming: "The Americans are like stone, no one can break them." Education for girls was banned under the hard-line Taliban regime, who turned the school into barracks for soldiers. Locals say up to 1,000 foreign soldiers - Pakistanis, Arabs and others - had just arrived in Mazar-e-Sharif. They were supposed to be sent south to help fight against advancing northern alliance forces but instead found themselves in the midst of their last battle.

Ghulam Hussain, who runs a car parts shop across from the school, said some local residents captured Pakistani fighters trying to flee over the back walls and turned them in to police.
"I asked an old man, 'Why did you come to fight against us?' He said he came to fight against the American people," Hussain said.

Circumstances around the battle at Sultan Rasia remain clouded in confusion, with some reports suggesting the men had tried to give up but were attacked. However, Hussain said he saw the Taliban fighters put down their guns only to pick them up when northern alliance soldiers entered the school compound, killing 18 U.S. allies.

As they have done at sites marking significant battles against the Taliban around the country, U.S. Special Forces soldiers buried a piece of metal from the destroyed World Trade Center in December at the school yard, a symbol of the completion of their mission before leaving the region.

Demolition work on Sultan Rasia school was expected to take more than a month. Rebuilding was slated to take six months beyond that, Joliat said. In the meantime, local contractors chosen by U.S. Army engineers monitoring the work are dividing a warehouse in the backyard into 15 classrooms and rebuilding 10 more classrooms in a neighboring school.

Wandering among the wreckage Monday, local resident Hiftekhar Hussein held his 6-year-old daughter Mariam in his arms and said he would be sending her to school for the first time.
"I want to bring her to this school," he said. "All the boys and all the girls were so happy when they heard the United States would repair the school once again." (March 25, 2002, Monday, BC cycle)

#10 HEADLINE: Barbie more harmful than a U.S. missile?

Poor Barbie. She gets blamed for everything. Your daughter has low self-esteem? Take away that Barbie! She failed math? Take away that Barbie! And now the Barbie bashing has become the West's latest export to Iran. And it's not part of the war on terror.

Iran's Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, a government agency affiliated with the Ministry of Education, has developed "Dara and Sara," two dolls meant to counter the popularity of Barbie, who along with Ken, Skipper and the gang, is currently flooding the Islamic nation. Dara, a boy doll, and Sara, a girl doll, promote traditional values with their modest clothing, including headscarfs and long skirts for Sara, and non-blond, non-glamorous appeal. Both dolls are dark-haired and sloe-eyed, and neither has a Dream House, convertible or 40DD bra size and five-inch heels.

And no, Dara is not allowed to marry four Saras. Mohsen Chiniforoushan, the Institute's director, said the dolls are a strategic product to promote Iran's national identity. One hundred thousand of the Sara and Dara dolls, which are made in China, were introduced into Iran's market last week amid an impressive publicity rush. In a country where the average monthly salary is $100, the $15 dolls are not cheap and certainly more expensive than an Iranian Barbie knock-off would be ($3). Genuine Barbies cost $40, but do sell well in Iran. A toy vendor in Tehran, interviewed about Sara and Dara, said that she considers Barbie "more harmful than an American missile." Barbie is, the toy seller said, "wanton" and young Iranian girls who play with Barbies could grow up to reject Iranian values.

As in the West, the focus is on girls, on Barbie, on Sara. No one over there seems concerned that Ken might make Iranian boys reject traditional values and become wanton. No one here seems concerned that Ken might be making boys grow up to be vapid, sculpted and uncommunicative. Of course, Ken has no penis, and therefore might be sending an even scarier message, but again, no one seems concerned.

The arrival of Sara on the doll scene was announced about a week after Mattel came out with "Kayla" a "multi-ethnic" Barbie, wearing something resembling a sari/kimono/bathrobe. Barbie already has African-American, Latina and Asian-American friends, and Mattel were not clear about exactly where Kayla's parents are from, or how they met. She looks vaguely Polynesian, though she has exactly the same figure as all the other Barbies. Even "Becky," the cheerful Barbie-in-a-wheelchair Mattel introduced five years ago has that kick-ass figure, in spite of her paralyzed state.

Which is all fine. For not enough credit is given to young girls in terms of their intelligence -- ironically, usually feminists are the ones doing the underestimating. Of course Barbie is wanton. And she has an impossibly wonderful body (though probably not much good for childbearing purposes) and a silly look on her face. But she is a doll, nothing more.

I loved my Barbie dolls and had all the accoutrements. But I never thought I had to look like Barbie any more than I thought I had to look like Raggedy Ann or Mrs. Beasley. I liked making clothes for Barbie, and playing house with her and Ken, except when my brothers would come along and put Ken in a compromising position with G.I. Joe. But even that did not traumatize me, because I knew they were just dolls.

In the early 1990s, a company called "High Self-Esteem Toys" (that's not a joke) came out with the "Happy to be Me Doll." She had a normal figure, even a little on the tubby side, and she wasn't very pretty. She didn't have great clothes, either. Sales were not good. She was left in Barbie's dust, to the surprise of many do-gooders. But there was nothing surprising about it. Little girls want an ideal. It's the same reason little boys like superhero action figures instead of dolls called "Bob, the miserable, overweight, middle-aged, commitmentphobic loser."

We do not give enough credit to girls for their intelligence or understand who they look up to. My niece, now in junior high, listens to her teachers, though I'm not certain she always should. When she became a vegetarian (like her auntie) her classmates panicked, telling her they thought she was anorexic. She isn't, she just doesn't want to eat dead animals any more. But the girls had been taught in health class that anyone who gives up eating a whole food group has an eating disorder, that eating disorders are widespread, and that Barbie is to blame. Who else? (National Post (f/k/a The Financial Post) March 19, 2002)





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