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Suspected Poisonous Gas Attack in Afghan Girls School, What After 2014?

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Image from World Bank Photo Collection
In what is coming as a suspected poisonous gas attack in two schools, nearly 100 girls in northern Afghanistan have reportedly been hospitalized as symptoms of possible gas poisoning started to appear.
On Sunday, Afghan Pajhwok news agency has reported that a total of 77 girls have been hospitalized from the same school located in the city of Maimana, the capital of Faryab province.
A similar incident followed this on the same day in the town of Behsud, where again in a local secondary girls school nearly 20 girls were hospitalized, the reason of falling ill is unknown.
Police findings in the school do not point towards any possible gas attack. There have been many instances of poisoning in Afghanistan which were later found to be false. However, there have been numerous corroborated cases of mass poisonings of schoolgirls by extremists or so called elements of  “ultra-conservative” society who are not in favour of girls education.
One of the girls who fell sick told RT that there was “bad smell” in the classroom when they arrived in the morning and just an hour later several girls fainted. 
This is not the first time when such an incident happened in a girls school.  In April as many as 74 girls fell ill after smelling alleged poisonous gas in Taluqan, the capital of the Takhar Province. And in May again in the capital, Kabul nearly 150 girls were hospitalized. Last year between May and June nearly four such incident took place alone in Takhar Province. The Takhar governor’s spokesman, Sulaiman Moradi then had blamed “enemies of the government and the country” for such an horrifying undemocratic act and claimed that the aim was to stop girls from going to school.
Since 2009, there has been increased militancy and criminal activity in Takhar making it a hotbed for the extremist groups such as the Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
Taliban in their forced rule in Afghanistan between 1996 to 2001 had introduced tough laws of banning female education. Since 2001 after ousting of Taliban, ambitious girls returned to schools which irked some of the hardcore believer of Taliban policies. 
However, Taliban has declined their involvement in any of the recent incidents. “Strongly condemning” this act, Taliban spokesman has called for punishing those behind this act. 
Now that the international force is making its way to leave this war torn country by 2014, there is a fear that extremist elements may once again gain their foothold and take the country back in time. At this, it is really important to have international development and social missions protected by security forces to continue development and peaceful society building activities in Afghanistan.

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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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Women

So You Want to be a Female Solopreneur: 4 Things You Need to Do First

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Women Entrepreneur

Becoming a solopreneur is one way that many women create careers that earn them income outside of a traditional employment situation. Solo entrepreneurship is popular and growing. According to The Balance, 41 million people in the United States count themselves as solopreneurs and many of them are making serious money — more than $1.2 trillion for the American economy in just the last year to be exact. This kind of success can happen for you too.

While getting to be self-employed often starts with a dream and a concept, your solopreneur career can also revolve around a unique skill set, but you also need to do a few other things.

Create a Bridge

First, you need to create a bridge. Most women will not be able to quit their jobs and then make enough in self-employment to pay the rent next month. Bridges solve the issue. For some women, they will have enough severance pay or savings to make ends meet until they start to earn enough income to pay the bills. Others will need to take a bridge job — one that involves working fewer hours than you are currently so you have time leftover each day to work on your business.

Build your Brand

Next, you need to build your brand. Writing blog posts, maintaining a social media presence and networking are critical. After all, when you are a solo entrepreneur, you are your business. In general, plan on creating a website and generating some content that is optimized for search engines. You will also need to create a profile on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. On these platforms, you have one job — to demonstrate your knowledge about your industry. This content needs to be sharable, relatable, and authentic, and a little visual magic doesn’t hurt.

Buy Better Technology

You will also need to take a look at your technology. You will need a domain name and hosting for your website to start with, but that is just scratching the surface. You are going to need a good computer as well as a variety of different softwares and apps to help you organize your work. Additionally, you are going to need a phone. Solo entrepreneurs are often on the go. You need a mobile phone that can keep up. Look at powerful smartphones like the Apple iPhone 6s. The screen is large enough that you can actually do some work directly from the device, the camera is powerful enough to take photos you can use professionally and Touch ID keeps your phones secure while making it easy to open apps.

Invest in Services

Finally, invest in services. Your iPhone 6s needs to be on a network with a high-quality carrier; dropped calls simply are not professional. You also need to have enough data to actually take care of your business needs, so look for a carrier that doesn’t charge extra fees as your business takes off and your usage increases. Cloud computing services are also important. The right software will capture and categorize your expenses, manage your projects, organize your files and make running your business that much easier.

If you are thinking about becoming a solopreneur, now is the time. Just make sure that you take the right steps to make it happen. Anyone can say that she is in business for herself, but you have to act like you are running a business to be successful. Take the time to plan, prepare and invest in your vision. Your future as a solo entrepreneur depends on it.

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RSS on Women’s Right: Then and Now – Reforming Indian Conservatives

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sadhu india rss conservative

flickr/vineetradhakrishnan

Not long ago, when RSS mooted the idea of replacing its knickers with trousers, I put forth a conjecture — “If you start dressing like an adult, you start thinking like one.”

Today as I watched an RSS ideologue on prime-time news* waxing eloquent on women’s rights during a discussion on triple talaq, my belief in the validity of the conjecture grew that much more.

Now why do I say that RSS has started acting like an adult (and that it earlier wasn’t)? Time for some history.

Sometime around early 1950s the liberal architects of modern India figured that it is a moral imperative that woman be not treated as second class citizens of India. The constitution of India, of course gave them the equal rights but there were still religious personal laws hiding behind which the various conservatives still propagated patriarchy. To correct this, they brought in the Hindu code bill**. It had the “provisions to allow women to choose their marriage partners, to divorce brutal husbands, and to inherit ancestral property.” (Yes, these basic rights, as they may seem today, were not guaranteed to Hindu women (or any Indian women) from time immemorial.) [Read More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_code_bills]

Now RSS, one of the foremost Hindu conservative group, was at the forefront in opposing this bill tooth and nails. Their arguments and opinions at the time, as quoted from Organiser (the official mouthpiece of RSS) were eerily similar to those of All India Muslim Personal Law Board in today’s TV debate.

So, let’s revisit them (and I directly quote Organiser via Ram Guha):

1. “[The Hindu code bill] has nothing Bharatiya about it. The questions like those of marriage and divorce cannot be settled on the American or British model in this country. Marriage, according to Hindu culture and law is a sanskar which cannot be changed even after death and not a ‘contract’ which can be broken any time.” Pretty much the line of reasoning that those opposing triple talaq reforms take today.

2. “[The Hindu Code Bill is] a direct invasion on the faith of the Hindus [and…] its provisions empowering women to divorce is revolting to the Hindu ideology” ~ Organiser, November 2, 1949

3. “We oppose the Hindu Code Bill. We oppose it because it is a derogatory measure based on alien and immoral principles. It is not a Hindu Code Bill. It is anything but Hindu. We condemn it because it is a cruel and ignorant libel on Hindu laws, Hindu culture and Hindu dharma” ~ Organiser, December 7, 1949

4. “Rishi Ambedkar and Maharishi Nehru would atomise society and infect every family with scandal, suspicion and vice” ~ Organiser, December 7, 1949

Yes, that’s right — they thought that a woman getting an equal right in inheritance or right to choose her husband or right to divorce would “infect every family with scandal, suspicion and vice”. I think, now 60 years after the adoption of those bills, we can agree that lot of those assertions were mere exaggerations by the conservative patriarchs to protect patriarchy.

So just keep this history in mind as you see and hear various Maulanas hide behind religious customs to protect patriarchy. And remember — adjusting for the standard of women’s right in India, the only reason why Hindu women are a bit ahead of their Muslim counterparts is because the that early architects of modern India happened to be some liberal with a spine.

So, as I watch the khaki pants argue for women’s right, I cannot but feel glad for their change of stance.

But as Guha says — “Organisations, like individuals, have a right to change their minds. But any such change of view must be accompanied by a frank and open reckoning with why and how it happened.”

So, till the time I am clear how this new-found concern for Indian women came about, my support to this government and its ideological mentors will obviously of case specific.

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Women

Women Lead the Way in STEM Fields in the UAE

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Businesswoman with Handheld Device --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Businesswoman with Handheld Device — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

It is an interesting time to be a woman in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Although many would argue that, by global standards, gender equality in the UAE still has some way to go, in one field of expertise significant inroads are being made. This sector, perhaps surprisingly, is science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In fact, a recent study by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) suggests that in education, including in STEM subjects, women are now outperforming men in the UAE. What are some of the causes of this phenomenon, and what will this mean for long-term employment and the economy?

The 2014 EIU report found that out of 395 female students studying in the UAE, 70% were enrolled in STEM-related courses. The report’s editor, Aviva Freudmann, attributes a strong Government commitment, as a major factor in the increase in women taking up STEM careers. It appears legislation certainly has a clear role to play. In a paper submitted to the United Nations commission on the status of women in 2014, Ms. Lamya N. Fawwaz of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology attributed the success, in part, to the investment made by governments at the very start of the educational chain. She states that all school pupils encounter STEM subjects at school as standard. In addition, the UAE government has also established a number of female-only colleges, to ensure interests are developed in further education. Universities are also seeing an increasing number of women take up courses in STEM related disciplines, for example accountancy qualifications, engineering courses, and the highly regarded Master of Science in Mathematics (MSMTH).

The result is a positive one, it seems, for everyone concerned. Not only could it do much to improve the confidence of women, and their position within Emirati society, but academics are arguing that the shift could have a major impact on the economy. Consultancy firm Booz Allen have argued that, if a similar set of circumstances in Greece, Ireland and Spain is anything to go by, the GDP could rise by up to 12%. This is based on a growth in STEM careers of 15-20% over thirty years.

Although science and engineering occupations have typically been viewed as male orientated occupations, this shift does seem to suggest an attitudinal change. However, there are still challenges that need to be addressed. The EIU report highlights certain obstacles such as gender discrimination within the workplace, work-life balance, and cultural barriers, which must be overcome for women to truly succeed in all areas of employment. The report poses a number of ways in which the UAE can help sustain and develop the growth, including ensuring there are more high profile female role models and mentors.

STEM careers remain at the forefront of what is a growing and lucrative industry within the UAE. With the gender scales tipping, it will be interesting to see what happens over the coming decades. As far as gender equality is concerned, the UAE is one to watch. 

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