Anonymous India Calls for Non-violent Protests Against Censorship


Added 29th May 2012

John Ribeiro

The Indian arm of Anonymous is planning what it describes as non-violent protests against Internet censorship in various Indian cities, after some Internet service providers blocked file-sharing sites in the country.

The protests, planned for June 9, follow a court order in March directed at ISPs, meant to prevent a newly released local movie from being offered in a pirated version online. Some ISPs went ahead and blocked some file-sharing sites altogether, rather than the offending URLs.

One such ISP, Reliance Communications, found its service was tinkered with last week, redirecting its users from sites like Facebook and Twitter to a protest page, according to reports from users. The hackers also claimed to have attacked the website and servers of Reliance, and claimed to have got access to a large list of URLs blocked by the company.

Reliance Communications said on Monday it had thoroughly investigated the matter and all its servers and websites are intact. “We have required preventive measures and strongest possible IT security layers in place to tackle any unwarranted intrusions,” the company said in a statement. “Despite repeated attempts by hackers, our servers could not be hacked.”

The hackers also claimed to have attacked websites of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition party in the country, after having previously launched DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks on various websites including that of the Indian central bank, Reserve Bank of India.

Anonymous was active in India last year, when it attacked the website of the Indian army. It quickly reversed its decision to attack the site and kept a low profile after drawing protests from some of its own members.

Anonymous is asking supporters to download and print cut-outs of the Guy Fawkes mask, used by the hacker group as a logo, to be worn during the anti-censorship street protests.

The group’s protests are also directed at India’s Information Technology Act, which among other things allows the government to block websites under certain conditions, and also allows the removal of online content by notice to ISPs. The government is in the process of framing rules that will put curbs on freedom on social media, Anonymous said in a recent video, presumably a reference to demands by the government that Internet companies should have a mechanism in place to filter objectionable content, including content that mocks religious figures.

India’s Computer Emergency Response Team observed last week that hacker groups are launching DDoS attacks on government and private websites. These attacks may be targeted at different websites of reputed organizations, the agency said in an advisory. The attacks are being launched using popular DDoS tools and can consume bandwidth requiring appropriate proactive action in coordination with service providers, it added.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. John’s e-mail address isjohn_ribeiro@idg.com

Anonymous hacks BJP websites, wants people to protest against ‘web censorship’


, TNN | May 27, 2012,

Anonymous hacks BJP websites, wants people to protest against 'web censorship'
A day after messing with servers maintained by Reliance Communications, Anonymous, an international hacker collective, defaced two websites belonging to BJP on Sunday.
NEW DELHI: A day after messing with servers maintained by Reliance Communications, Anonymous, an international hacker collective, defaced two websites belonging to BJP on Sunday. Through its Twitter account (@opindia_back) it announced thatwww.mumbaibjp.org andwww.bjpmp.org.in were hacked by the group. After the hacking, the group posted a message to web users, asking them to organize protests against “web censorship” in Indiaon June 9.While the message was displayed on the homepage of www.mumbaibjp.org, onwww.bjpmp.org.in it was inserted as a page atbjpmp.org.in/ads/anon.html. On Mumbai BJP website the message was accompanied by a catchy tune embedded through a YouTube link.

“Today they took away your right to use a few websites… day after tomorrow they will take away your freedom of speech and no one will be there to speak for you. Speak Now or Never,” the message read. The hackers said that people should print out or buy Guy Fawkes Masks and wear them while protesting against web censorship in Bangalore, Mangalore, Kochi, Chennai, Vizag, Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad on June 9.

TOI reached out to Anonymous though Twitter, asking why it defaced BJP websites. “”Just needed a website to display our message,” said the person managing @opindia_back.

The Ion, who is likely a part of Anonymous and who uses @ProHaxor alias on Twitter, added, “BJP are the opposition they should have stopped this or should have organised a protest they did not do any.”

Incidentally, CERT-IN, the nodal agency in India for monitoring security and hacking incidents within the country’s cyberspace, said in a report on Sunday that hackers are targeting Indian websites. “It is observed that some hacker groups are launching Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on websites of government and private organizations in India,” the report said and asked network administrators to keep vigil.

Anonymous started attacking websites belonging to government agencies and companies likeReliance Communications last week after internet service providers blocked several websites in the country on the basis of an order by Madras high court. Anonymous says the blocking of websites is illegal and suppression of freedom of speech. On Friday it held a virtual ‘press conference’ and released a list of websites that were allegedly blocked on the internet service provided by Reliance Communications even though there was no legal requirement for the ISPto do so. The hackers said they stole the list from Reliance’ servers. At the same ‘press briefing’ the group called on Indian people to organize protests against web censorship on June 9.

In the last few months, Anonymous has organized or played a dominant role in real world protests against what it perceives censorship and abuse of power. The most popular of these protests has been Occupy Wall Street in the US. Though there were a number of groups and individuals involved in these protests Anonymous had played a key role in spreading the word.

Aamir Khan, The Ambanis And Medical Ethics


Vidyadhar Date 

28 May, 2012
Countercurrents.org

Dr Ravi Bapat is the man Amir Khan should have featured in his television programme on health issues Satyameva Jayate telecast on May 27. Dr Bapat is also much nearer home , in Mumbai. Dr Bapat is committed, has a long record of serving the poor in a public hospital and he has written about the importance of public hospitals and corruption in the private sector in two books.

Social commitment and medicine run in the family. Dr Bapat’s father Dr Dinkar Bapat removed 400 doctors from the employees’s state insurance scheme on charges of corruption when he was its director in the sixties. He conducted raids and found that some doctors ran bogus clinics and gave bogus certificates.

He got so fed up with the corruption that he sought a transfer and wrote an article on the decline in the morality of doctors in Mumbai.

So what Amir Khan highlighted was important but by no means new. For example Dr Bapat points out on page 165 in his more recent book Post Mortem that if a doctor takes a seriously ill patient hurriedly for an operation, it is likely that the patient is already dead but all operation charges will be recovered from the family.
Hysterectomy is the bread and butter of gynaecologists and appendix of general surgeons. Many of these surgeries are unnecessary, he says.

Dr Bapat’s book Ward No 5, KEM, published six years ago, is published in Marathi as well as English and the more recent is Postmortem which is in Marathi and deserves to be urgently translated into other languages.

God forbid if a major calamity strikes Mumbai because we are weakening our public hospital infrastructure, warned Dr Bapat in Ward NO 5, KEM. .

It is only in the last few years that the craze for private, expensive hospitals and private medical colleges has begun. Formerly, prominent political leaders regularly took treatment in public hospitals. Members of the Bal Thackeray family including wife Meenatai used to get treatment in the municipal KEM hospital. Dr Ravi Bapat recalls this in his book .

The book reads like a novel because it deals with such a wide variety of characters. Nowhere else can a doctor get such experience as a public hospital. Ravi Bapat has treated all sorts of people from senior politicians to gangsters, artistes, sportspersons and social activists.

In 1983 when Bal Thackeray’s ailment could not be diagnosed, Bapat examined him, stopped his homeopathic treatment, gave him new medicines and restored his health. One needs to make it clear that Bapat is not at all close to the Thackerays. Far from it. He was very close to many activists and leaders of left wing trade unions during the more militant days of the sixties and seventies.

Bapat’s father and wife too studied in G.S. medical college of KEM and as a student he got guidance from such stalwarts of those days as Dr A.V. Baliga, G.M. Phadke, Arthur D’sa , B.N. Purandare and P.K. Sen.

Bapat is troubled by the growing privatisation, commercialisation of medicine. He has seen it all from close quarters as a practising senior surgeon and later as vice chancellor of Maharashtra university for medical sciences. Doctors are so busy chasing money these days that they are putting their own health at risk, Bapat says.

Many doctors have a long record of dedicated social service and many are brilliant writers. The foremost among them is A.J. Cronin, who did pioneering work in the field of occupational health among mine workers in the U.K. and his writing was responsible for the much lauded British health service. More recently, Dr Atul Gawande, a U.S. born son of a doctor couple, has done pioneering work in the profession and on writing on it. However, the profession also has been lampooned for its downside. I remember a Sanskrit proverb Yamaraj Sahodar which says a doctor is like the elder brother of Yama, the god of death, Yama only takes your life, the doc takes both your life and money.

Way back in 1978, the book Chloroform, written by Dr Arun Limaye while losing his battle against cancer, questioned various aspects of the medical profession. The book was published by Granthali. It was a landmark book and Limaye’s premature passing away left a void.

The irregularities and crimes of multinational pharmaceutical companies are regularly exposed in the Western media and literature but so little notice is taken of these in India. John La Carre’s novel The Constant Gardner shows the crimes of the MNCs which included the murder of a British diplomat’s wife in Africa because she is a committed campaigner.

Amir Khan’s programme is good and many decent people are connected with it. But it is completely marred by the exhortation by Mrs Nita Ambani of the Ambani Foundation and there arises a very big question of credibility.

She talks of taking India from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge, from dependence to self reliance and so on. While she speaks softly, the import is extremely arrogant as it seeks to project the foundation as the solution of all of India’s problems. Even an election campaign speech has more credibility.

The Ambanis are simply using a good programme to brighten their extremely controversial image. Of course, there is no shortage of collaborators in the media trumpeting for the Ambanis.

And an Ambani-sponsored programme on health issues seems extremely odd considering the record of the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital at Andheri though it belongs to the rival Anil Ambani group. Just read the damning report of the auditor and comptroller general presented to the Maharashtra legislature recently.

That apart the programme and much of the discussion elsewhere on health issues is too focussed on big hospitals, doctors and treatment. The more crucial issue of prevention is generally neglected. It is much more important to provide clean drinking water, air and nutritious food and basic health services to the masses than to build expensive, high tech hospitals. But hospitals bring more publicity and strengthen the vested interests in the medical corporate complex.

(Mr Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of the book Traffic in the era of climate change. Walking, cycling, public transport need priority. datebandra@yahoo.com)

Trapped after being forced to say ‘I do’


ARUNA KASHYAP

Child brides are not criminals. They cannot be compared to children accused of committing crimes. Anyone who hears a story of a girl forced into marriage before she turned 18 will tell you that she had little choice in the matter. In fact, under Indian law, children convicted as juveniles cannot be disqualified from having access to any benefits or legal entitlements on the basis of their conviction. So why punish children who were forced to marry by closing the door on them?

 

The case of Ratnashri Pandey

Take the example of Ratnashri Pandey from Madhya Pradesh. Her family pressured her to marry soon after she passed her class nine examinations. Pandey told Human Rights Watch, “I didn’t want to be married, but a girl’s wishes are not respected. Everyone said I should get married…I got married.” Pandey never set eyes on the groom; not even his photograph. “I told my nana (mother’s father) I wanted to study after marriage.”

She described her struggle to continue her education — juggling household work, fighting with her husband and in-laws to delay pregnancy, and enduring insults and beatings because of her decisions. She separated from her husband because he started beating their young daughter, and eventually divorced him.

She completed her master’s degree and worked as a teacher. But because the income was not enough to support both her and her children, Pandey dreamed of becoming a civil servant. Leaving her children in her parents’ care, she went to another city, moved into a women’s hostel, and started preparing for the State civil services examinations. Her parents spent nearly Rs.300,000 to help. She passed the preliminary examination in 2006. But State policy stopped her in her tracks a month before she was to sit the main examination.

The Madhya Pradesh authorities informed Pandey that she was ineligible to take the exam because she was married as a child, she said. She filed a case in the Madhya Pradesh High Court, which granted her permission to write the examination pending a decision on the merits of the case. She did not pass the first time. After another round of litigation, she sat the exam again in 2009. “I spent more time in courts than with my books,” she said. The Madhya Pradesh High Court upheld the government rule disqualifying applicants who had married as children. She appealed to the Supreme Court, and awaits the verdict.

Violates 2006 Act

India prohibits marriage for girls under 18 and boys under 21, and should do everything possible to prevent child marriages. But when children (usually girls) marry and prevention strategies fail, punitive measures aimed at “discouraging” child marriages victimise girls yet again. This approach contravenes a key principle of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006: no penalty for girls forced into marriages.

There is almost no information on how many such small rules are embedded in regulations or other programmes throughout the country. But there is enough information to show that such an approach is not an aberration.

Central programmes

During the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) — which is the review of each country’s human rights progress every four years before the U.N. Human Rights Council — India earned high praise for its commitment to education. Other countries urged India to tackle the issue of child marriages and to advance opportunities for education and work for women. Reiterating its commitment to protecting the rights of women and children, India stated that its authorities exercised “greater consciousness” to integrate human rights concerns in every ministry’s policies and programmes. The need for “greater consciousness” in responding to child marriages in the country is dire.

It’s clear that what goes on even at the national level, excluding the victims of child marriages, goes well beyond Pandey’s case. Indian health rights experts have documented at least two other well-known examples. The Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) programme — sponsored by the Central government — provides conditional cash transfers to women giving birth in health facilities and is linked to prenatal, in-hospital, and post-natal services.

In many States with better health indicators, though, the benefits exclude girls below 19 who are not from Scheduled Castes or Tribes and where the Central government limits the benefits to two live births. The impact of this discriminatory treatment is likely to be mitigated by the Janani-Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (Mother and Child Protection Programme), another new scheme that promises free in-hospital and referral services to all pregnant women. But it is too early to tell.

UNICEF report

The Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahayog Yojana, which is the Central government’s cash assistance programme to supplement pregnant and lactating women’s nutrition and double up as maternity benefit, has identical restrictions. And weigh all this against stark data in a recent UNICEF report which says that 47 per cent of India’s adolescent girls are underweight and 56 per cent of girls from ages 15 to 19 are anaemic. UNICEF calls this a “severe public health problem.”

In April, UNICEF released its world report card on adolescents. It showed that India has 243 million adolescents (ages 10 to 19) — the highest number in the world. Another UNICEF report this year found that 47 per cent of women surveyed in India were married or in unions by age 18.

When the law against child marriages protects the mother and her child, it is appalling that key health and nutrition schemes for pregnant women leave out adolescent pregnant girls, affecting them and their newborns.

To be fair, the Central and State governments have dozens of schemes that “promote” girls, many of which are aimed at delaying marriage. But this is not enough.

Indian officials should develop a holistic response to tackle child marriages — a rights-based approach to Central and State government action. Punitive measures against girls and women forced into child marriages should find no place in government policies, programmes, and practices. Central and State governments should adopt a clear policy of non-discrimination that includes married adolescents in all welfare, higher education, and employment efforts. Without such a coherent response, India will fail its child brides. It’s time India’s approach to child marriages moved beyond this punitive phase and matured.

(Aruna Kashyap is Asia researcher in the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch.)

Let’s stop pretending there’s ” NO RACISM ” in India


YENGKHOM JILANGAMBA, The Hindu

INSENSITIVE MAINLAND: Students from the north-east protesting instances of discrimination. Photo: V.V. Krishnan
INSENSITIVE MAINLAND: Students from the north-east protesting instances of discrimination. Photo: V.V. Krishnan

Most Indians think racism exists only in the West and see themselves as victims. It’s time they examined their own attitudes towards people from the country’s North-East

The mysterious death of Loitam Richard in Bangalore, the murder of Ramchanphy Hongray in New Delhi, the suicide by Dana Sangma and other such incidents serve as reminders of the insecure conditions under which people, particularly the young, from the north-east of India have to live with in the metros of this country. What these deaths have in common is that the three individuals were all from a certain part of the country, had a “particular” physical appearance, and were seen as outsiders in the places they died. These incidents have been read as a symptom of the pervasive racial discrimination that people from the region face in metropolitan India.

An institutionalised form

Quite expectedly, such an assertion about the existence of racism in India will not be taken seriously; the response will be to either remain silent and refuse to acknowledge this form of racism or, fiercely, to reject it. Ironically, most Indians see racism as a phenomenon that exists in other countries, particularly in the West, and without fail, see themselves as victims. They do not see themselves harbouring (potentially) racist attitudes and behaviour towards others whom they see as inferior.

But time and again, various groups of people, particularly from the north-east have experienced forms of racial discrimination and highlighted the practice of racism in India. In fact, institutionalised racism has been as much on the rise as cases of everyday racism in society.

In a case of racial profiling, the University of Hyderabad chose to launch its 2011 “initiative” to curb drinking and drug use on campus by working with students from the north-east. In 2007, the Delhi Police decided to solve the problems of security faced by the north-easterners in Delhi, particularly women, by coming up with a booklet entitled Security Tips for North East Students asking north-eastern women not to wear “revealing dresses” and gave kitchen tips on preparing bamboo shoot, akhuni, and “other smelly dishes” without “creating ruckus in neighbourhood.”

BRICS summit

Very recently, in the run-up to the BRICS summit in New Delhi, the Delhi Police’s motto of “citizens first” was on full display, when they arrested or put under preventive detention the non-citizens — the Tibetan refugees. But the real problem for the security personnel cropped up when they had to identity Tibetans on the streets of Delhi. This problem for the state forces was compounded by the fact that Delhi now has a substantial migrant population from the north-east whose physical features could be quite similar to those of Tibetans. So, the forces went about raiding random places in Delhi, questioning and detaining people from the region. North-eastern individuals travelling in vehicles, public transport, others at their workplaces, and so on all became suspects.

Many were asked to produce their passports or other documents to prove that, indeed, they were Indian citizens and not refugee Tibetans. In some cases, “authentic” Indians had to intervene in order to endorse and become guarantors of the authenticity of the nationality of these north-easterners. The situation became farcical and caught the attention of the judiciary reportedly after two lawyers from the region were interrogated and harassed. The Delhi High Court directed the Delhi police not to harass people from the north-east and Ladakh. How much easier it would have been for the Delhi Police, if only citizenship and physiognomy matched perfectly.

But should one expect otherwise from these state and public institutions, given the fact that racism is rampant at the level of societal everyday experiences? For north-easterners who look in a particular manner, everyday living in Indian cities can be a gruelling experience. Be it the mundane overcharging of fares by autoricksaw-wallahs, shopkeepers and landlords, the verbal abuse on the streets and the snide remarks of colleagues, friends, teachers, or the more extreme experiences of physical and sexual assaults. It is often a never-ending nightmare, a chronicle of repetitive experience.

One also wonders if racial attitudes, if not outright racism, influence many more aspects of life than one imagines. For instance, whether there is any racial profiling of employment opportunities, given the concentration of jobs for north-easterners mostly in the hospitality sector, young women in beauty salons, restaurants and as shop assistants.

Visible and unseen

Of course, racism is difficult to prove — whether in the death of Richard or in the case of harassment of a woman from the north-east. And it should not surprise us if racism cannot be clearly established in either of these cases because that’s how racism works — both the visible, explicit manifestations as well as the insidious, unseen machinations. Quite often, one can’t even recount exactly what was wrong about the way in which a co-passenger behaved, difficult to articulate a sneer, a tone of voice that threatened or taunted, the cultural connotations that can infuriate.

How does one prove that when an autorickshaw driver asks a north-easterner on the streets of Delhi if he or she is going to Majnu ka Tila, a Tibetan refugee colony, that the former is reproducing a common practice of racial profiling? This remark could be doubly interpreted if made to a woman from the region — both racial and gendered. How do I prove racism when a young co-passenger on the Delhi Metro plays “Chinese” sounding music on his mobile, telling his friend that he is providing, “background music,” sneering and laughing in my direction? And what one cannot retell in the language of evidence, becomes difficult to prove. Racism is most often felt, perceived, like an invisible wound, difficult to articulate or recall in the language of the law or evidence. In that sense, everyday forms of racism are more experiential rather than an objectively identifiable situation.

Of course, every once in a while, there will be an incident of extreme, outrageous violence that is transparently racial in nature and we will rally around and voice our anger but it is these insidious, everyday forms of racial discrimination that bruise the body and the mind, build up anger and frustration. Fighting these everyday humiliations exhausts our attempts at expression.

If one is serious about fighting racial discrimination, this is where rules must change — by proving to us that in Richard’s death there was no element of racism. Given the pervasiveness of racism in everyday life, why should we listen when we are told that those who fought with him over a TV remote were immune to it?

To recognise that racism exists in this country and that many unintended actions might emanate from racism can be a good place to start fighting the problem. To be oblivious of these issues or to deny its existence is to be complicit in the discriminatory regime. Also, the reason for fighting against racism is not because it is practised against “our” own citizens but because it is wrong regardless of whether the victims of racism are citizens of the country or not. One way to be critical of racism is to recognise and make visible the presence of racism rather than merely resorting to legalistic means to curb this discrimination.

(Yengkhom Jilangamba is a Visiting Associate Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.)

Immediate Release-Medha Patkar and Seven Others Arrested While Opposing Evictions


English: Medha Patkar in Sasthamkotta

English: Medha Patkar in Sasthamkotta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Women and Children Beaten and Harassed by Mumbai Police Force

Demolitions Continue in Sion Koliwada and Ambujwadi and so does Resistance

Mumbai, May 29 : In a brazen violation of the traditional rights of
the fisherfolks in Sion Koliwada Mumbai police and BMC has started
demolishing homes of the people since morning today. Amid heavy police
presence they started demolishing the homes occupied by the Koli
community. There has been court cases going against the redevelopment
plan which is fraught with corruption and irregularities. False
consent has been shown by the community, signatures have been forged
of the people, who are not even alive and other such irregularities
abound in the project. Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan have been
opposing the plans for evictions and demolitions. The development
project is being implement by builder Sudhakar Reddy, who is a
prominent devotee of Baba Ramdev and are accused of colluding in the
illegality along with BMC.

In morning when the demolition squads arrived accompanied by a large
police force then residents came out in huge numbers led by Medha
Patkar and stood in front of the JCBs and Bulldozers. Police beat up
and harassed those resisting demolitions. Male police was involved in
beating and molesting women protesters too. As we write this the
demolitions continue and so does the resistance from people.
Meanwhile, Medha Patkar and seven others have been arrested by the
Mumbai police on charges of obstructing public officials.

At this time demolitions are also being fiercely resisted by people in
Ambujwadi, Malad where many homes of were demolished earlier as well.

Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan – NAPM have been leading the struggle
for a long time now in Mumbai and more specifically in these areas. We
are hopeful that the people’s struggle will resist fiercely the land
grab by the builders in connivance with the state machinery. We will
expose the irregularities as we have done in the case of Adarsh
Housing Society, Hiranandani Gardens, Golibar SRA by Shivalik Builders
and others.

We condemn the arrests of the activists of the GBGB-NAPM and assault
on the people by the police force who have been resisting peacefully
the demolitions and striving to save their habitat and home.

Background :

Koliwada, indigenous fisherfolk Community have been living in the area
from a long time on this patch of the land. In 1939 Britishers
constructed NSP sheds for their own security purposes and they were
asked to move to this. These NSP Sheds then were taken over by the
Municipal Corporation after Independence. Even though these fisher
people have lived on the land for more than a century they have been
denied their “right to land”, due to the policies of the Britishers as
well as BMC. BMC now in the name of development is evicting them and
giving away the prime property to the Builders.

For details and update call : Madhuri Shivkar             09892143242       / Madhuri
Variyath             09820619174

Kenyan Girls Use ‘Talking Box’ to Write What’s Wrong


By Rose Odengo

WeNews correspondent

Monday, May 28, 2012

Some schoolgirls in Kibera, Kenya‘s largest slum, are writing down their problems and submitting them to a message box. Schools are using the information to alleviate everything from molestation to family financial pressures.

NAIROBI, Kenya (WOMENSENEWS)–It is 2:30 p.m. in Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum.

Under a vengefully hot sun, a girl wearing a green-and-white checkered dress, matching socks and a red sweater walks along smiling, cradling a wooden box in her sturdy arms like a newborn.

Rebecca Apiyo, 14, is in her final year of primary school at Adventure Pride Centre, a school run by a nongovernmental group. She is the head prefect and also the student in charge of the Talking Box, a place for students to lodge written messages about bothersome things they can’t talk about out loud.

Concerns range from their families’ inability to pay school fees to revelations of abuse and neglect.

“My family is poor and I need books and pencils for school,” reads one anonymous note. Please help me.”

“My father does inappropriate things to me,” reads another. “When I do something wrong my father tells me to take all my clothes off and he beats me naked, and I am a 13 year old girl.”

The Talking Box is a program started by Polycomdev, a local community-based organization in Kibera.

The children write down their concerns on pieces of paper and slip them into the sealed, dark mahogany box. Every two weeks, the Polycomdev team of volunteers collects the papers that have been neatly folded and submitted to the boxes.

From the boxes’ contents, the volunteers prepare quarterly reports for each school and discuss students’ problems with their teachers. In some serious cases, the volunteers seek out the students to address them directly.

Serious Cases Forwarded

The school has forwarded some molestation cases to the Department of Children’s Services under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development.

The team is currently consolidating all the reports to submit to that same ministry and the Ministry of Education.

The Talking Box program strives to give young students, especially girls, a chance to voice their concerns in a less daunting platform. Rebecca says that the Talking Box helps girls who don’t know how to approach parents about their needs.

“Some girls only live with their fathers, and he is male, and some find it hard to ask for things like sanitary towels,” she says. “They think it is bad.”

She encourages her peers to trust their parents and speak to them about their concerns, especially with the help of the Talking Box.

Rebecca’s mother, Francissa Apiyo, 46, says that all parents should know about the Talking Box project. She says that parents should change their approach to raising their children and make the home a more comfortable place for kids to voice their concerns.

Educators say the program is reducing school dropouts and improving academic performance for girls.

According to the Kenya Independent Schools Association, 40 percent of the 1.5 million residents of the Kibera slum are children. Children from poor, urban neighborhoods are less likely to attend school, according to UNICEF‘s State of the World’s Children 2012 Report. Even in countries that offer free primary education, such as Kenya, ancillary costs such as school uniforms, classroom stationery or even exam fees make education an unaffordable cost for families in poor areas.

Extra Obstacles

Girls especially face extra obstacles to education, from a lack of sanitation facilities and sanitary napkins to teenage pregnancy, according to a 2008 report by the Centre for the Study of Adolescence in Kenya.

Kennedy Oduol, principal of Adventure Pride Centre, says that the Talking Box program provides female students especially an opportunity to speak up about various challenges they face.

“Most of the girls were being molested at home,” he says, providing one example. “And at school, the teachers were harsh on them trying to complete the [education] syllabus.”

Polycomdev introduced the Talking Box program in January 2011 and now runs it in 10 schools, nearly all of which are in Kibera.

Jane Anyango, founder of Polycomdev and the Talking Box program, says that the experiences of her teenage niece compelled her to begin addressing issues facing girls. Her 13-year-old niece wasn’t able to talk to her freely about her dislike for the neglect she faced both before and after she began an intimate relationship with and married a middle-aged man.

From this experience, Anyango began to periodically invite girls in her neighborhood to discuss the things that challenged them.

“These young girls need someone to talk to,” Anyango says. “They go through so much and some parents are not understanding.”

She soon saw that there was a stronger need to reach more girls.

“I felt like schools were the best place to reach girls,” she says. “Because they can talk more freely away from home.”

Malnourished kids battle to stay alive in Maharshtra- Shining India ?


18-year-old Sarjubai Tota (lying behind the baby) weighs a mere 28 kg and was paralysed in the third month of her pregnancy. On May 20, she gave birth to a girl, who weighs 1 kg, without any medical assistance

, TNN | May 29, 2012,

SANGRAMPUR (BULDHANA): On May 20, 18-year-old Sarjubai Tota gave birth to a girl without any medical assistance in her thatched, one-room marital home. While Sarjubai weighs a mere 28 kg, her daughter weighs 1 kg (the normal weight for a newborn is around 2.5 kg).
Eight days on, Sarjubai hasn’t even held her daughter once. In fact, she is oblivious to her daughter’s presence. Paralysed in the third month of her pregnancy, Sarjubai now drifts in and out of consciousness and spends most of her time moaning in pain.

As shocking as Sarjubai’s situation is, this is the way of life for people in Shemba village where the Totas reside. The Sangrampur block, which includes Shemba village, of Buldhana district has emerged as the new Melghat with over 2,000 malnourished children and this year’s drought has only made things worse.

“I have to trek four km down a hill and then walk another six km to reach a shop from where I can buy milk. Water is a luxury and we get it if we are lucky. I don’t know how my wife and child will survive in these conditions,” said Sarjubai’s husband Santosh (20).

So scarce is water that the 400-odd people residing in Shemba village have to trudge down a rocky terrain for a kilometer to access the two nearest hand pumps. “Children suffer the most during a drought. While getting basic nourishment for them is a problem, they also have to run around for basic resources,” said an anganwadi teacher.

With inadequate healthcare facilities and anganwadis remaining shut for most of the summer months, villagers in the Sangrampur taluka watch helplessly as children wilt away due to malnutrition. Shemba alone has 40 malnourished children. Of the two anganwadis in the village, the one run by the zilla parishad is closed most of the time, said residents. The second, run by the Gajanan Maharaj Trust, is doing its bit by distributing food.

The Sangrampur taluka comprises 105 villages and has 3.25 lakh residents. Of these, 15,000 live below the poverty line. While the entire region is plagued by malnutrition, 18 tribal villages are worst hit.

In 2011, 23 child deaths were recorded in the taluka and activists claim this is a deflated figure. According to the data available with the child development care department, 18% or 2,567 children of the total 14,905 in the region suffer from moderate or severe malnutrition, which means they don’t weigh as much as they should in keeping with their age. Technically, 308 children suffer from moderate acute malnutrition and 28 from severe acute malnutrition (their weight does not correspond to height). This despite the fact that there are 173 anganwadis in the region to “cater to the needs” of the children.

Villagers and activists said they don’t remember a single primary healthcare worker visiting the region or balanced died being served to children in the recent past. “Although drought has been declared here, no efforts are being made to ease the situation. Critical patients have to be taken either to the government hospital in Akola which is 85 km away or Shegaon which is 60 km away,” said activist Kailash Khadse.

An integrated child development services official said, “We provide a balanced diet to children. Often, it is because people in these areas are uneducated that problems arise.”

Death sentence for Singing and Dancing in Pakistan #WTFnews


Residents of a remote tribal village sentence two men, four women to death for allegedly violating segregation at wedding.

By Nazar Ul Islam / AFP

Four women and two men have been sentenced to death in northern Pakistan for allegedly singing and dancing together at a wedding, police said Monday.

The decree was issued after a mobile phone video emerged of the six at a recent reception in the remote Gada village in the mountainous district of Kohistan, 176 kilometers north of the capital Islamabad. The video appears to show the six celebrating the wedding in defiance of strict tribal customs that separate men and women at weddings.
“The local clerics issued a decree to kill all four women and two men shown in the video,” said district police officer Abdul Majeed Afridi. “It was decided that the men will be killed first, but they ran away so the women are safe for the moment. I have sent a team to rescue them and am waiting to hear some news,” he said, adding that the women had been confined to their homes.
Afridi said the events stemmed from a dispute between two tribes and that there was no evidence the men and women had been intermingling. “All of them were shown separately in the video. I’ve seen the video taken on a cell phone myself, it shows four women singing and a man dancing in separate scenes and then another man sitting in a separate shot,” he said.
“This is tribal enmity. The video has been engineered to defame the tribe,” he added.
Hazara Division Commissioner Khalid Khan Omerzai refuted Afridi’s version of events, claiming it was an internal family matter, and no clerics were involved. “The family saw their children dancing with each other and became embarrassed. So, they decided to kill them,” he told Newsweek Pakistan.
“We have contacted the families and told them to leave the women alone or face the consequences,” he added, confirming that the men had already fled the region. He said security forces had taken eight people into custody already.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said at least 943 women and girls were murdered last year for allegedly defaming their family’s honor.

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