Monday, 20 June 2011

Global Debates for a Global Future

Students from Yew Chung International of Beijing have been getting their political minds in gear through involvement in a year-long initiative held by the United Nations Foundation. The UNF Global Debates have challenged the Year 10 and 11 students on current world issues that many young people may be presently unaware of. The scheme has been giving high school students and their teachers an opportunity to participate and initiate public discussion specifically around critical international matters. Students have finally had the chance to put their arguments to the test, focussing on the plight of migrants and whether "Nations of the world should increase protection for migrant’s economic and social rights."

With only a few hours before the debate, the students were given the angle which they needed to argue against. At the forefront of the heated debate are Year 10 students Annabelle McCombe and Jun Ting Yeung debating against Year 11’s Anthony Guo and Gemma Golding-Duffy who are in support of migrant rights.

The students are using a specific ‘migrant’ case study to focus on their debate - the migrant situation in Yemen. YCIS Beijing students have extensively researched into Sudanese refugees fleeing to this country and the fact that many refugees who lost their rights are displaced internally or have to migrate to another country...

Read on: Global Debates for a Global Future- Littlestar Mag

The School of Rock

Whilst glorious carols are still on the agenda for this Christmas, students from across Beijing international schools have been swapping Père Noël for Pink Floyd. Carefully positioning their orchestral instruments back in the music rooms, a number of students have gathered together to revive the era of rock, punk and funk for a new generation.

If it wasn’t John, Paul, Ringo and George sitting in a classroom some fifty years ago strumming on guitars, forming what we now recognise as The Beatles, it would have been hundreds of other legendary artists playing hand-me-down instruments trying to make it happen. At this moment, teenagers in school auditoriums have been striking a chord with their musical predecessors by reforming the ‘student band.’

Dan Albar has been exercising his bass guitar skills for the last six months in one of these student bands. “You get to accomplish more if you play your own music, because it allows you to be creative and you can be proud of the result.” Guillaume’s Band, (as the three-piece are currently known,) is Harrow International School Beijing’s resident funk and classic rock group, and they aren’t afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to music. Inspired by the improvised sixties stylings of BB King and Buddy Rich, the group differs immensely from some of the other bands also taking to the stage...

Read on: The School of Rock- Littlestar Mag

Classes for Parents

"I always wanted to try to make a mosaic, and the class is nice because it’s informal," says Jo Kaine, a parent of Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS), who has been participating in YCIS parent art studies class for around one year to awaken her own handicraft abilities. 

"We talk about all sorts of things; it’s like therapy, but art therapy,” said Kaine, adding that having small children at home makes it difficult for many parents to undertake such creative activities. Jo Kaine is very happy that she is able to continue the course this year. Nowadays, approximately 30 parents are attending YCIS Beijing’s art classes each month.
The art class has been in action since June 2010 with the help of Judy Chick, the other YCIS parent who serves as the teacher to offer tips to parents in the class. "We are doing a different project each course from decorating a coffee table, platters and also photo frames. Class parents will first think of a pattern or design they would like to do for that project. They can then get inspiration from the mosaic books we provide or they can choose some ready- made pattern that they like which will be prepared for them,” said Chick.

The classes have even garnered interest amongst the school children in Year 3 that have been studying the Romans. The teacher asked if they can show [the parent's] mosaics as an example of commonly used art. "One student even came in [to the parent class] and helped her mother stick on tiles,” added Kaine...

Read on: Classes for Parents- Littlestar Mag

Lads' mags: the great cover-up

Some shops are refusing to move lads' mags to the top shelf, despite their sexist content. Which is why one feminist group is taking direct action

Outside a branch of Tesco in central London on a cool Friday evening, 30 people in pyjamas, nightgowns and fluffy slippers have gathered to campaign against lads' mags. All are members of the activist group Object and they are here to take part in the monthly Porn Versus Pyjamas campaign. They dart down the dairy aisle, through the frozen foods section, before coming to the display of lads' magazines, which they mark with their own slogans. FHM is put in a paper bag emblazoned with: "For Horrible Misogynists", while Maxim is hidden behind the phrase "MAXIMum Sexism".

The women start a conga-line through the supermarket, chanting "Hey, ho, sexist mags have got to go", alerting security guards to their presence. Eventually they're ushered out, but not before depositing pamphlets, entitled Porn v Pyjamas: Why Lads' Mags Are Harmful, in customers' baskets.

Their campaign began earlier this year, after Tesco ruled that customers wouldn't be allowed to shop in pyjamas because this could make other people feel uncomfortable. Object bit back by accusing some Tesco stores of ignoring the voluntary codes of conduct that suggest lads' mags should be covered up and repositioned on the top shelf, alongside pornographic content.

Object was set up in 2003 to challenge the sexual objectification of women. It has enjoyed some notable successes. Its campaign Stripping the Illusion brought an end to strip clubs being licensed in the same way as cafes and karaoke bars, a policy that had allowed the lap dancing industry to grow by 50% in 10 years. And in 2008 it launched Demand Change, along with the group Eaves Housing for Women, to raise awareness of the realities of prostitution.

The Tesco demonstration is part of its Feminist Fridays campaign – monthly events where activists protest against lads' mags and other forms of sexism. After being ejected from Tesco, the demonstrators spend three hours outside the store, distributing 1,500 leaflets.

"Lads' mags are an example of the mainstreaming of pornography," says Anna van Heeswijk of Object. "The whole tone is of complete contempt [for women]. They are made up of photographs that come straight from pornography and would have been thought of as hardcore 50 years ago. But now the boundaries have been pushed to such an extent that they are considered an appropriate part of lads' mags and soft porn." ...

Read on The Guardian: Lads' Mags: The Great Cover-Up

India's City of Widows

Discrimination against widows has left thousands of women in West Bengal resorting to prostitution and begging to survive

In the dark, damp back-streets of Vrindavan, more commonly known as the "city of widows", India's forgotten widows chant for their supper. For a few hours, their prayers earn them enough meagre rupees to survive. These women were once revered as mothers, sisters and daughters; some will die in Vrindavan without seeing any relatives again.

"She becomes a zero and all her powers are lost," says Mohini Giri, the former chair for the commission of women in India and a widow herself. She explains that many conservative Indian families see widows as a liability. Cast out of the family home, they live the rest of their lives in poverty and isolation. "When [a woman] loses her husband and becomes a widow, she loses her identity. A woman deprived, abandoned, malnourished will naturally have a high mortality rate."

For the more than 40 million widows in India – 10% of the country's female population – life is what some have described as "living sati", a reference to the now the prohibited practice of widow burning. Some are as young as 10 years old and are forced to spend the rest of their days in seclusion or earning a living through prostitution...

Read on the Guardian: India's City of Widows

Giving porn its own domain

Stuart Lawley, Internet entrepreneur, has won the right to start selling registrations to a new domain devoted to pornographic content, .xxx. Currently, there are 7 million adult domains and as Lawley continues to sell another half a million, revenues of $30m a year are expected.

About pornography, Lawley himself claims to be "neutral" and he refuses to comment on the suggestion that exploitation of vulnerable women in the industry is endemic. However, mounting fears about the creation of an Internet ‘red-light district’ may further exploit vulnerable women in the industry. Campaigner and academic, Gail Dines think .xxx is a disaster because "the only thing that can happen is that pornography will increase."

Critics of the idea argue that because there is no requirement for providers of explicit content to use the ‘top level domain’, sexually explicit material will still be commonplace in other domains, making it ineffectual at restricting access.

There is also concern that the existence of .xxx will lead to legislation making its use mandatory for sexually explicit material, leading to legal conflicts over the definition of "sexually explicit", free speech rights, and jurisdiction.

According to figures released earlier this year by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, FHM saw its circulation fall by 15.2% year-on-year to a monthly average of 231,235. Sales of lads' mags Zoo, Loaded and Nuts all dropped by margins of between 20 and 30% from early 2009 to later in the year. But at the same time, magazines such as Maxim are becoming solely internet publications...

Read on the F-Word: Giving porn its own domain

First anti-feminism meeting takes place in Switzerland

I have heard of everything now. In a secret Swiss location, 150 male activists gathered to hold the first ever “international antifeminism meeting”. reports that, labelling themselves as “peacekeepers”, the Swiss based group IGAF (Interessengemeinschaft Antifeminismus) denounce feminist social workers as “pure evil”, and that it was essential for them that “things should go back to normal”.

Now, I am not quite sure how far back IGAF are proposing to go. Perhaps 50 years ago when women were still considered ideal for housework and rearing children or better still, before women obtained the vote, and were voiceless ‘second-class’ citizens.

Women’s organisations such as the Fawcett Society are campaigning on issues such as equal pay. In the UK, women get paid, on average, 16.4% less than men. And the placards held at this year’s Million Women Rise stated “End Male Violence against Women”. According to an IGAF member, the feminist message clearly implied here is “male slaughter, female supremacy”...

Read on the F-Word: First anti-feminism meeting takes place in Switzerland