Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The land of dying kids



Farzand Ahmed
Lucknow, November 10, 2008

Dhannipur at the outskirts of Shivnagari in Varanasi is a name that has become synonymous with painful death of children due to malnutrition.

It's also a name that presents a pathetic picture of a stone-hearted administration. This became more than clear when frail and dangerously underweight Ishrat breathed his last on Saturday.

Ishrat was the twelfth child to die of acute malnutrition in recent months.

The two-year-old Ishrat suffering from grade-4 protein-energy malnutrition had weighed hardly 3.2 kg when he died.

'By administration's own admission there were 106 children suffering from severe malnutrition in Dhannipur alone. This is happening because auxiliary health staff assigned to look after the children do not visit the area. 30 quintals of grains meant for distribution among the poor weavers of the village was lying undistributed till Ishrat breathed his last', said Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi of People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR).

Just before that two-year-old Shaheena Parveen weighing just three kg had gasped to death. A few days before Shaheena collapsed, her neighbour, two-year-old Sahabuddin, weighing hardly two kg died.

And there were others in the same age and weight-group, who were waiting for painful death. Yet the administration was 'doing it best' to save the children from the cruel jaws of death.

Local people say that there was reason for such neglect: they are children of weavers whose looms once used to churn out sparkling silk saris.

Today their parents are hardly able to arrange food or medicine because they were unable to be engaged in other manual works.

While visiting the village PVCHR, Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi felt 'shocked and ashamed'. He and his team was told that the local administration instead of helping the villagers handed them cards meant for 'above poverty line' people that denies them ration from public distribution system (PDS)

Recently the most damning comment came from Bijo Francis of Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission. He had said Sahabuddin died as he was suffering from grade lll malnutrition (categorized as 'Severe'), a condition that the world hears of in places like Somalia.

Yet, he said, Uttar Pradesh is not Somalia (where there is non-functioning govt). 'It has a democratically elected government. It has ministers and secretaries who travel around the state in the name of governance in expensive air-conditioned vehicles.

It has a woman chief minister at its helm, who has vowed to eradicate discrimination and poverty in the state.

Barely six months before Ishrat died, the Uttar Pradesh government had brought out a first-ever report entitled "State of Children in Uttar Pradesh" and it made a sensational reading.

The report a joint effort of state's Planning Department and UNICEF disclosed while Uttar Pradesh is home of 52 per cent of the severely malnourished children the all-India figure was 43.

It also revealed that while the percentage of malnutrition among children was just 35 per cent in the least developing world, the figure for Sub-Saharan Africa was meagre 28 per cent. South Asia as whole has 42 per cent compared to 26 per cent in the developing countries.

According to the report the government realised that malnutrition significantly impacts living condition of children. Ironically, malnutrition is associated with half of all child deaths and Uttar Pradesh accounts for over 10 million of India's 72 million malnourished children.

Majority of the districts, across central, eastern, western and Bundelkhand regions report high prevalence of malnutrition. Besides, the state also has high infant and maternal mortality rate -73 per 1000.

Of the 2.5 million children who die in the country every year, close to 4 lakhs die in Uttar Pradesh and every third infant born in the state is under weight - below 1200 grams.

But what the 'The State of Children in UP' talks about was shocking to the world as it revealed that majority of state's children lived in the wild world.

According to this report Uttar Pradesh accounted for 23 per cent of kidnapping of children at the national level. Incidents of other heinous crimes like murder, rape and infanticide were also found to be equally high in the state, particularly in Western Uttar Pradesh.

Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number of murders of children accounting for 39.2 per cent of the total cases reported in the country. A total of 3,542 cases of child rape were reported in the country during 2004 and the state has ranked third amongst other states in this crime.

A recent report published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed that between 2003-2004 there was an alarming 24 per cent rise in the crime against children in the country. While the number of such cases was 11,633 in 2003, it rose to 14,423 in 2004.

Among the states Madhya Pradesh ranked first with 3,653 cases while UP ranked third with 1,921 cases.

However it showed a decline by 10.2 per cent as compared to 2,248 cases during 2004. Uttar Pradesh, according to this report, stood first with 735 reported cases of kidnapping.

But the most heinous was the rape of children and Uttar Pradesh reported 394 cases in 2003 accounting 11.12 per cent of the total child rape reported in the country.

Uttar Pradesh ranked third among states for child rape cases in 2004-just behind Madhya Pradesh (710 cases) and Maharashtra (634 cases).

Like other crimes, incidence of rape was also high in Western Uttar Pradesh. Of the 11 districts that showed high incidence 7 were located in Western Uttar Pradesh.


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Friday, November 07, 2008

Personal Reflection on 2008 Asian Youth Culture Camp

by Mr. Thet Din
International Intern-Culture and Solidarity Team
The May 18 Memorial Foundation
Date: 2008.11.041- Asian Youth Culture Camp

Background

The Office for Hub City of Asian Culture, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Republic of Korea held the AYCC for the mutual understanding of Asian youth since 2006 together with the Asia Culture Forum as a part of the promotion project of the Hub City of Asia Culture. In the 2006 AYCC, about 80 Asian youth participated in the Camp and discussed such diverse themes as arts and culture, creative industries, immigrants, Asians’ value, etc. In the following 2007 AYCC, under the theme ‘Devices for the Network Framing for the Quest and Exchange of Asian Culture,’ with the participant of over a hundred Asian students including Islamic students, the participants shared various ideas and opinions about the mutual understanding of Asian and Islamic cultures. The two camps proved that Asian youth were open to acknowledging and understanding other cultures and moreover that they wanted a place where such encounters could occur. Therefore, in responding to their needs, the 2008 AYCC is to function as a bridge among Asian youth.

Introduction on 2008 Asian Youth Culture Camp (2008 AYCC)

AYCC this year started from 30 October to 02 November, 2008. Prepared by The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; sponsored by United Nations Environment Program National Committee for the Republic of Korea (UNEP); organized by Gwangju International Center (GIC); and hosted in Chonnam National University, Gwangju City, South Korea.

The 2008 AYCC, under the theme “Asia, Culture and Environment,” Provided a period of time for the Asia participants to share and exchange ideas. During the Camp period, the participants were divided into 7 smaller groups to discuss two subordinate themes. “World heritage in Asia Damaged by Climate Change” and “The Culture and Environment of Gwangju, Hub City for Asian Culture.” The participants were to have time for sharing their experiences and knowledge, and for discussing concrete alternatives for better Asian culture and environment. Furthermore, the participants visited the Asian Culture Forum and Hub City of Asian Culture Information Center to have first-hand experience and participate in the Asian Youth Culture Night events. Unlike the previous two camps which focused on lectures and discussions, the 2008 AYCC provided Asian youth participants with a chance for mutual understanding and for the recognition of the importance of culture and environment through such diversified approaches as workshops, cultural events, tour, etc.

Participants

The program was joined by 62 participants from Cambodia, China, Denmark, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Tanzania. They are students and graduate students interested on international cooperation.
2- 2008 AYCC Programs Activities

Day 01- 30 October, 2008

2008 Asia Youth Culture Camp opening ceremony started at 13:10, introduction by Ms. Kim Seol Hyun to all participants and guests about program. Also, four guest speakers gave address coming from Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism, Gwangju international Center, United Nationals Environment Programme National Committee for the Republic of Korea and Chonnam National University. After participants were given 30 minutes to prepare group presentation to all audience, each group got 5 minutes for presentation performance.Group Discussion I

This discussion was an intra-group activity. Each group consists of 6 to 11 participants and two AYCC observers as group moderators. Each group allocated a class room with essential multimedia presentation equipments.

Participants have presented about their proposed write-ups to other members with in the groups. Each participant got about 5mins for presentation and 3 minute for Q&A from their team and moderators.

In the case of Group 6, we introduced our self to each other after that we presented on our proposal. Group 6 have six members so 6 proposals were presented. Here are information and questions on each proposals on theme “The Culture and Environment of Gwangju, Hub City of Asian Culture”;

First proposal by Mr. Hong Min Ho on “Culture Blossoms in Gwangju”, he indicated that Gwangju City is a place of rich culture and have a lot of core-competitions to get the project from government. In his presentation he answered the question “Why Gwangju City should be The Hub City of Asian Culture”. Even though he didn’t make a case study or specific point for groups’ discussion but he proposed a lot of tourist attraction places and gave many more suggestions to improve the project.
Second proposal by Ms. Seulgi Kim on “Taste in Gwangju”, focus on food, Gwangju City is the best in Korea, according to general survey. Moreover she explained Gwangju must be the center of the taste in Asia due to many foreigner restaurants and abundant grain, fish, fresh seafood and wild edible greens, especially, a lot of famous chefs.

Third proposal by Ms. Kang Hyung Gon on the same topic, so most of her presentation in general was Gwangju as Hub City in Asia such as purpose of building the ACC, vision and Strategies for the ACC, functional roles of the ACC.
Fourth proposal by Mr. Park Hyeong Kuk on “Gwangju Festival”, he like to show that Gwangju have so many festivals which is one of best thing Gwangju having nowadays to get attention from other areas. But all of those festivals are still not improved as international standard like those festivals in EU.

Fifth proposal by me on “Negative Impact of Asian Culture Complex”, I showed in my proposal the huge benefit of Gwangju Citizens will get after ACC is completed. But it is making a lot of unacceptable reasons from people who were touched by their heart especially if ACC will replace former Provincial Hall which was the main spirit, historic symbol of the May 18 Democratic Uprising.

Sixth proposal by Ms. Park Eun Ji on “A method for Route Improvement Plan of Cultural Tourism Through Eco-friendly Train of Narrow Gauge Railway”. She criticized many bad points of transportation in Gwangju City. Also she wants to improve eco-friendly through her transportation project.

Group Discussion II

This session was also an intra-group activity. However in this session topic(s) have given by AYCC moderators. This session was a free style discussion session. The participants were expected to actively discuss in-depth, about the topic by stating facts, opinion and suggest. Participants are free to use any means to communicate their thoughts to other team members.
For my group we discussed on our suggested proposals. Mostly we talked more deeply on project explanation due to the first session’s moderators who asked lot of questions so group members didn’t have much time to exchange ideas on each issue.

Group Discussion III

This session is for consolidation and summarizing the ideas that were proposed during the previous discussion session. Each group made PowerPoint for presentation and group discussion report to AYCC.
My group for that day was not able to submit report on time since we needed more time to make sure all our members understand what our team is going to present.
Day 02- 31 October, 2008

Before dinner, all participants had chance to join 2008 Asian Culture Forum which was organized by Korea’s Global TV Arirang and hosted by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism at Hotel Ramada Plaza Gwangju, Grand Ballroom(4F). The forum theme is looking to the future of the Asian Culture Complex through the European Cultural Cities and Cultural Contents of Asia. Here are the topics in the forum;
• Expectation of activities and plans of the Asian Culture Complex
• APA approach to promoting cultural diversity in Asia.
• Strategies and network establishment plans between culture contents and artists: Focus on the cases of Biennale and Urban regeneration.
• Programme-led ways to build artistic infrastructure: Liverpool Biennial, a case study in urban regeneration.
• Culture as a means of identity and development
• A collaborative project proposal to facilitate cultural exchanges among Asian countries: science films crossing national boundaries to unite humanity.
• Towards enhancing cooperation in the culture sector in Asia.
• Policy Proposal for the Asian Culture Complex and Asian Culture Network Establishment Plans.

Group Presentation

AYCC divided all participants into seven groups. Group 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 presented on World Heritage Demand by Climate Change. Group 5, 6 and 7 on Gwangju as Hub City of Asian Culture Complex. It was a free-style presentation, each group got 8 minutes for presentation and 5 minutes for question and answer on their result group discussion in session I, II and III.
Day 03- 01 November

Mission Impossible

It was outdoor tour day at Gwangju City on theme “Mission Impossible” after breakfast. All participants were formed into new groups to discuss building friendship among AYCC participants. Each group has 4 Missions to fulfill including the same first mission at Gwangju Biennale then all groups separated due to different mission and have to prove evidence for accomplishing their mission.

Major Mission Tour Areas

- Mudeung Mountain Uije Museum of Art, Jeungsimsa Temple
- Yanglimdong Modern Christian Cultural Site
- Gwangju River Bike Tour, Riverside Sightseeing and Ecology
- Downtown Area Daein Traditional Market, Art Street
- Mangwol Cemetery Understanding of 5.18 Democratic Movement and 5.18 National Cemetery
- Hwangnyong River Josun Period Confucianist Go Bong Ki Dae-seung’s Course and Wolbong Seowon
- Sangmu area 5.18 Liberty Park, experience life in jail, Kim Dae-jung Convention Center
- Korean Poetry Park Soswewon Garden

Closing Ceremony and Asian Youth Culture Night

Each group has 3 minute to make presentation on their Mission Impossible to all participants. After that it was a big time for awarding the winners of 2008 AYCC and music performances.

I am equally happy since my group won The Best Team Award in 2008 AYCC.

3-My Observation on 2008 AYCC

Strengths

It was such a great chance for me to join this camp. The camp is not only informative of Korean issues but also other countries in Asia.

I feel all participants in this forum are so smart and intelligent.

All of the youth were very active because they are students and graduate students from different universities, so the processing of discussions and the running the program was smooth.

Moreover Asian Culture Forum invited many fantastic speakers from good organizations like Director of Liverpool Biennale (United Kingdom) and Director of National Art Center, Tokyo (Japan).

Weaknesses

Just only three nights and four days but have a lot of unforgotten experiences. In the forum I am really satisfied with the group discussion session but some negative points in this camp still have occurred, I feel AYCC focused on selected and the best youth among participants due to observers asked a lot of questions to each member in the group. in my opinion I found out members in our team feel uncomfortable and scared to answer the questions. More over they didn’t feel free to express their ideas on group discussion because the observers look likes they were judges.

Suggestion and Recommendation

I think next year, AYCC should improve facilitation skill to Observers to know how to process the class environment more fun and feel free to talk. Especially give more chance for participants to exchange their ideas on issues.

Conclusion

This Camp is really stupendous. It is not too long or short for me. Also they have a Gwangju tour for participants that enjoy the environment on the theme “Culture and Environment”. We have a lot of time to work with each together and improve our relationship. Addressing as Asians on what we could do to change our environment in the future, also exchange on how we could learn and face culture shock. So I hope next year AYCC will continue this project.