All Articles Tagged "international news"

Curvy vs. Slim Debate Erupts In West Africa, Both Sides Argue That Their Beauty Is Underrated

April 2nd, 2013 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Source: Shuttstock

Source: Shutterstock

Historically, it has appeared that the residents of many countries in Africa preferred the more voluptuous, curvy woman over the slim and slender-figured woman. However, lately, preferences appear to be shifting, sparking many public debates among residents of the Ivory Coast, regarding which physique is more desirable, reports the New York Daily News.

“Being thin is synonymous with being sickly and malnourished in African society,” Micheline Gueu, a candidate in the Miss Ivory Coast beauty pageant, regretfully admitted.

Slim-figured Ivorian singer, Princess Amore, however, is encouraging slender, small-breasted women, whom she refers to as “lalas” to embrace their figures.

“I noticed that some girls were embarrassed to have small breasts and felt like they had to fake it by stuffing their bras,” she told AFP.

Her use of the term “lala” is actually in reference to the word “lolo,” which is commonly used to describe curvy women. In 2000, Ivorian musician Meiway released song, “Mrs. Lolo,” celebrating the curves of voluptuous women. At a concert last year, he yelled out to his audience:

“You White people, you like your women flat and thin. Here, we like them big, with curves.”

Despite the widespread celebration of the “lolos,” the Daily News reports that there are certainly more “lalas” being showcased in the Miss Ivory beauty pageants.

Victor Yapobi, President of the Miss Ivory organizing committee suggests that thinner women are more easily marketed than fuller figured women.

“Our beauties comply to international standards: minimum height 1.68 metres (five feet six inches), 90 centimetres (35 inches) around the hips,” said Yapobi.

It appears that statements like the one made by Yapobi are one of the reasons that curvier African women argue that their beauty is also underrated. In 2009, Abidjan organization, Roundly Beautiful surfaced. Spearheaded by Djeneba Dosso, the organization aims to “rid big women of their complexes.” Although the group celebrates curvy women, organizers also encourage Ivorian women to make healthier choices, as many of them “don’t exercise and eat badly,” says Dosso.

Artist Augustin Kassi, who frequently paints images of full-figured women, disapproves of the beauty pageant, which he refers to as  “voluntary denigration of African beauty.” As a promoter of diversity, it appears that Kassi finds the constant debating to be trivial.

“The world is made up of different things. It’s a rainbow,” he says.

What are your thoughts on the thick vs. slim debate?

500,000 Blacks Are Slaves in Africa's Mauritania: Are We Their Hope?

June 30th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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Slavery in MauritaniaBy Alexis Garrett Stodghill

Mauritania is a north African country in which 20% of the population, 500,000 people, are living in forced servitude. Deprived of even simple rights like having a last name, or retaining control over their children, the slave class is largely made up of black Africans who have been displaced due to a history of tragic events. Colonialism, drought, civil war, and economic power plays (notably China’s recent grasp for control of Mauritania’s fishing industry) have combined to make slavery persistent and nearly impossible to eradicate.

Mauritania’s unstable government fails to intervene in the lives owned by the ruling class in part because it is is dependent on the wealthy for survival. The result is that weak tactics are employed such as creating laws that protect “servants,” which dilute acknowledgement of the horrific truth with euphemisms. This allows everyone to turn a blind eye. The government also claims superficially that slavery has been outlawed, while doing nothing to enforce these laws. The Atlantic reports on how this hypocrisy came to be the norm:

Mauritania could have been designed to be a modern-day slave state, so perfect are the conditions for entrenching this cruel habit. An artificial creation of the end of colonialism, the European-drawn, largely arbitrary borders cut across ethnic groups that are black African, black Arab or Berber, and white Arab or Berber. French colonialism rapidly centralized much of what was once a heavily nomadic population, forcing ethnic groups that had once been separated by geography to coexist and to compete. In the 1970s, widespread droughts forced many of the country’s farmers and rural peoples into cities, creating new classes of destitute and jobless citizens who have been unable to adapt to this new reality. Because 50 percent of the economy is still based in agriculture, urban job opportunities are scarce. Lacking other options, faced with an economy unable to help them and an ethnic hierarchy that tells them they are worth less than their white-faced or Arab counterparts, they become slaves. Many of the displaced were children in need of a guardian. Many of those guardians became masters. The cycle repeated in the late 1980s, when an estimated 70,000 black Africans were expelled from the country, leaving behind masses of children, many of whom were enslaved.

Even though there are local groups fighting to end this injustice, they are blocked by a fragile government concerned that organized political groups could become the source of the next military coup. In a nation racked by sudden violent changes, the issues important to slaves — the least powerful — are of little importance to those grasping for power.

Hope lies only in a relationship with the West, as Mauritania seeks to build alliances with foreign investors. We weigh human rights issues highly when doing business, so awareness of the plight of blacks in their own land needs to spread. Citizens of Western democracies need to be armed with the knowledge that slavery persists there, so we can pressure the Mauritanian government to end it now if they want American capital.

Mauritania needs to break away from what many perceive as a highly exploitative relationship with China, so will likely be reaching out to us.  Americans must demand social reform in exchange for investment, and consider economic sanctions against this and all countries that accept human bondage.

Mother Teresa of Somalia Fights Famine With Her Own Means

June 28th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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Dr. Hawa Abdi and DaughtersBy Alexis Garrett Stodghill

Dr. Hawa Abdi began her humanitarian efforts in her native Somalia by opening a one-room hospital for women on her 1,300 acre farm. Twenty years later, her home is now a sprawling camp supporting 100,000 people seeking refuge from the country’s  war-torn, famine-ravaged surroundings. Children are tragically facing the highest risks there, as seven youngsters a day die under Dr. Abdi’s care from starvation. No humanitarian organization will come to her aid, because of the extreme danger of the region.

Despite these challenges, Mama Hawa — as her flock calls her — persists in trying to feed and provide medical care to the families under her protection. She and her two daughters, both medical doctors, administer to these needy by teaching farming and fishing, providing education and day care, and even giving free water and space those near her hospital. Such services are available only at a price in most of Somalia today, as anarchy and conflict have made the preservation of life a luxury most people choose to profit from.

While she has maintained the camp successfully until now, Dr. Hawa Abdi’s challenges might become insurmountable if financial aid is not forthcoming soon. A worsening drought in East Africa has killed all the animals on the farm, and it is feared that the people are next. The Daily Beast reports:

Right now, however, the camp, and the country, have reached a new level of crisis. Hawa needs help—a lot of it. She is receiving no food help—none—from any international organization. In the past, the International Red Cross and World Food Program have helped supply food when things get bad. Doctors Without Borders, and others, have run a clinic and supplied basic medicine.

Every international aid organization has now abandoned her, in part because of the political challenges of reaching the camp, which is located in an area under the control of the militant forces of the al-Qaeda inspired group, al-Shabaab. However, for the most part, since Hawa successfully defended the camp from their attack in May 2010,  the militants have left her largely alone.

Hawa’s work is not political. It’s entirely humanitarian, and even the militants seem to get that. Or perhaps they’re a bit scared of this 64-year-old lawyer, doctor, survivor of brain cancer: a force of nature who buried more than 10,000 people during the famine of the 1990s.

Back then, she says, they had international help. Now, she’s on her own.

According to Democracyinaction.org, a group called Vital Voices has joined with “Glamour magazine to help support Dr. Hawa Abdi’s cause through their Women of the Year Fund initiative.” Through their web site, you can make a contribution that will help Dr. Hawa Abdi prevent 49 children a week from dying of malnutrition, while granting countless life-affirming opportunities to others. She and her daughters have remained in their struggling land to assist those who cannot fend for themselves, risking their lives in the process. If the international aid community will not contribute to their cause, citizens of the world who care can and should.

Haiti Awaits New President

March 22nd, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Christian Science Monitor) — Polling stations opened late due to lack of supplies. Voters’ names didn’t appear on registration rolls. In other cases, citizens were even unsure of where to vote.  But for Haiti, Sunday’s election was deemed a success overall, as Haitians cast ballots in what could be their nation’s most important presidential elections.  On top of handling billions of dollars in foreign aid, the new president will be tasked with leading the country through the reconstruction from last year’s earthquake that has left the capital covered in debris: Some 800,000 people live in tent camps in the capital, still displaced from the January 2010 earthquake that damaged or destroyed 188,383 homes and killed some 230,000 people. A cholera epidemic that began last fall continues to spread.  Preliminary results are not expected until March 31 from the second-round election that pitted former First Lady Mirlande Manigat against flashy musician Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly. Final results are scheduled to be confirmed April 16.

To a lesser degree, Sunday’s run-off vote was marked by many of the same problems as those voters experienced in a first round that culminated with 12 of 19 candidates asking for the vote to be annulled due to widespread fraud, although this time violence was avoided.  “They want to choose for us, they don’t want us to vote, it’s a game,” says Jaybe Alias, who lives in Camp Corail, one of the only government-organized displacement camps. Thousands of people showed up to vote in the camp’s polling station, just north of Port-au-Prince, but election officials had just 40 names on voter rolls. None were his.  “There are thousand of people here,” Mr. Alias says. “How come only 40 people can vote?”  Stories similar to Alias’s were common.

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In Ivory Coast the Dead Pile Up

February 16th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(AP) –The entrance to the morgue is like a mouth through which comes an awful smell. It hits you as far back as the parking lot and makes your eyes water. From a dozen yards away, it’s strong enough to make you throw up.  What lies inside is proof of mass killings in this once-tranquil country of 21 million, where the sitting president is refusing to give way to his successor. Nearly every day since Laurent Gbagbo was declared the loser of the Nov. 28 election, the bodies of people who voted for his opponent have been showing up on the sides of highways.

Their distraught families have gone from police station to police station looking for them, but the bodies are hidden in plain sight in morgues turned into mass graves. Records obtained by The Associated Press from four of the city’s nine morgues show that at least 113 bullet-ridden bodies have been brought in since the election. The number is likely much higher because the AP was refused access to the five other morgues, including one where the United Nations believes as many as 80 bodies were taken. The bodies are being held hostage and not released to families. Morgue workers say government minders are stationed outside to monitor what goes in or out.

A list of the dead that the AP was allowed to see on the laptop of a company that manages three downtown morgues shows the bodies began arriving Dec. 1, the night the country’s electoral commission was due to announce that opposition leader Alassane Ouattara had won. The AP also saw legal documents from authorities instructing funeral homes to pick up bodies found on public roads, and the paperwork handed to families.  The names of the dead indicate they are largely Muslim and from the country’s north, the demographic that voted in largest numbers for Ouattara, himself a Muslim from the north.

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