Fairness for Women

The term “unpaid care work” is now trending in most documentationFranklin-Autor_MiniPic-engl of development partners and institutions that promote gender equality and women empowerment. However it is not trending for a good reason but as one of the biggest challenges to women’s rights, economic empowerment and realization of poverty reduction.

But what is Unpaid Care work? It refers, simply, to the work of caring for others, including care for family members and friends, as well as care for children which is not paid at all. By deploying the term “care work,” scholars and advocates emphasize the importance of recognizing that care is not simply a natural and uncomplicated response to those in need, but actually hard physical, mental, and emotional work, which is often unequally distributed through society (Meyer 2000).

Mutter

In all societies women take care about their children. Often they don’t gain recognition for it.

Although one may not easily understand how unpaid care work is a burden for women, various studies have noted that it is one of the major barriers to women’s rights, economic empowerment and poverty reduction. The CSW meeting in New York this year discussed the issue of unpaid work and how MDGs gave a narrow focus to the gender equality goal and achieving parity in education, ignoring the myriad other economic, social and political barriers to women’s real equality. However some scholars have also noted that it is not unpaid care per se that threatens human rights  – being a foundational, unavoidable and very human activity that underpins all societies and cultures – but rather the way it is distributed, and the lack of recognition and support it receives. Continue reading

Being a good father

A few months ago, in April, I attended a conference in Kampala, Uganda, Franklin-Autor_MiniPic-englunder the theme “Positive Discipline in childhood and adolescence (behaviour modelling & positive parenting of children living with disabilities, & those in special contexts in Africa).” Despite the title of the theme being on positive parenting, the conference was generally on parenting practices and challenges, and the good practices “experts” in childcare can take on.

father and son

Spending quality time with the children is very important.

Coming from SOS Children’s Rwanda, I thought that I was well used to the concept of parenting and that it was an issue that others had but not me. However in the presentations (they were quite many from 13 countries in Africa), I started to realise that the concept of parenting was not having enough resources to cater for children’s needs only (clothing and food) but was much more than that. As presentations went on and on I started noting holes in my self-portrayed image as an expert on family and parenting. Having held a position with the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, I realised that many of the issues being discussed were challenging me to self-evaluate myself as a parent and a husband and how the experiences were helping me to do things differently.

Among the many things I learned, I realised that the issue of spending some quality time with my kids was more important than I had always thought. I also realised that the degree of interaction with my kids and my family needed to be upped. I had an arrangement with myself of making up for time not spent with my kids by getting them fun stuff like toys and candies. However one of the presenters indicated that we risk being substituted by the gadgets and gifts we give kids to make up for the time we don’t spend with them. The gifts may end up being more meaningful to the kids than the parents who give them to the kids.

Mutter Ruanda

An SOS family in Kigali, Rwanda

I also had a presentation to make about a positive practice from my community but this reflection caused me to also think about how far I have practiced it. I came to the conclusion that there may be many people like me who work with many policies, strategies, best practices on family and parenting on a regular basis and who merely think there are experts in parenting and dealing with families and yet may not like what they see if they reflect on how it contributes to their roles as parents.

As employees of SOS Children’s Villages, an organisation that deals with issues of children and families, we must not be carried away by the work we do but also reflect on how it influences/impacts our families and relationship with our families and communities. We spend time encouraging families we work with to support the process of de-institutionalisation and take children into their families, but I guess we also need to reflect on these issues at our different personal levels and within the community. Having stirred the questions in our minds, let us reflect on how we relate to our children given the exposure and experience we have on various parenting concepts.  As once said by someone, Life offers us thousands of opportunities for learning. Let us learn to make meaningful outcomes for children given the experience we get from our work!

 

Beauty

Everyone loves beauty but which beauty do you love more: physical Tsering-Indiabeauty, or beauty of the soul?

hermann

Hermann Gmeiner – a man with a beautiful soul

Some time back I was with a few lady friends and within our discussion a topic on ‘beauty products available in the market’ came up.  Being ladies – and most of the ladies in the group were late 20s and early 30s – the topic became even more interesting, and discussion on the topic went on for a while, especially on brand and price.  The good /branded products are very expensive and at the same time still carry a risk of side effects in some cases. But still most of us take the risk and end up spending lots of money and energy on them.

I was thinking about a few people whom I know so well and how beautiful they are. Continue reading

Doing more than enough

Hardlife

Guest author Hardlife Chitima, 18, grew up in an SOS Children’s Village in Zimbabwe. He just wrote his exams at the Hermann Gmeiner International College in Ghana.

“Every big thing in the world only comes true when somebody does more than he has to do.”

This is a quotation by Hermann Gmeiner, the founder and the foundation of the SOS-Kinderdorf organization. He is the one who said it and, ultimately, did it. He did more than he had to, far more than he had to, for the right reasons and largely for people he did not even know. Hermann Gmeiner is a hero to the millions of kids around the world, known and unknown, and he is the benefactor to this large organization that seeks to build bridges in the lives of children who have no one to do it for them.

The SOS organization is a manifestation. It has so many branches around the world which are functioning independently while maintaining the connection with the parent body and the use of its values. It has worked so hard to create and provide a home for the orphaned, under-privileged and the abandoned child. When you look at its achievements like this, only then can you appreciate the reality and the extent of the work going on in the organisation. Continue reading

Cows, the lovely animals that Rwandans cherish!

A cow is just a cow until you come to Rwanda. Rwandans love cows!Franklin-Autor_MiniPic-engl You may think they love them for the milk or meat but no! Cows mean a lot to Rwandans. The Rwandan cows are characterized by long horns and a dignified appearance but their historical and cultural importance is even more impressive. Cows used to mean a symbol of wealth and a family that owned many herds would be respected in society. Because of the position the cows had in society, whoever owned them had to make sure they were bred in the best way possible. Owners of the best breeds would have their cows paraded before the king and they would be rewarded for their work – in most cases they would be rewarded by giving them more cows! Herds of cows would be traded in exchange for a bride and a cow was the most respected gift given to a friend. It was the symbol of friendship between families.

traditionelle Kühe

The traditional Rwandan cows

Currently a cow is still very important in the lives of Rwandans. Many people still give others gifts as cows to express their friendship. Cows are exchanged for brides but this is now done as a symbol rather than as a true worth of the bride, as was the norm back then. Today few cows are exchanged because there is no longer enough land to graze them on.

To understand the importance of cows in the lives of Rwandans you need to know that some families were saved during the Genocide because they had given cows to some friends and they hid them and protected them. Therefore it is a friendship that you start with a person when you give him/her a cow and this friendship over time develops into a relationship that members of the families enjoy for a very long time. Continue reading

What Pilgrimage means to me

To be religious is goodTsering-India

To be spiritual is better

To be a good human being is the best

Long ago I read these lines somewhere and liked them so much that one day I put them up on our office notice board, where they remained for about two weeks. I was happy to hear from a young donor, who noticed the quote on the board and liked it too. Most of the time, in any of my discussions about religion, I try to bring this in – as I strongly believe in it.

Buddha

The bigest solid gold statue of Buddha in Bangkok

Religion as I understand is one’s sacred belief, and involves respect and a bond between them and their god.  Spirituality involves the psychological growth of a person, who believes in meaningful action with or without a religious background.  And a good human being in my understanding is one who is empathetic, kind, caring and compassionate.

I am a Buddhist: From very early childhood we are taught to be kind and compassionate, which means to become a good human being. Continue reading

A sparkle of Christmas in Damascus

abeer

Guest author from Syria:  Abeer Pamuk

Christmas just knocked on the doors of Damascus city, in a land far away in the east, the like of which we cannot find with the same characters in the world today. Its markets have been known far and wide, full of the bounties of vine and vale. Peaceful and prosperous, the city was a gateway to what used to be one of the greatest kingdoms ever lived on earth. It was built beside the heart of the mountain Qasyun, where the sun used to set with a golden crown and the leaves of jasmine trees sang lullabies for vacant swings. And it has walls and doors as a live witness of what used to be one of the greatest empires ever lived. The beauty of this fortress city is legend.

The skill of the Damascenes is unequaled. They are renowned for fashioning objects of great beauty out of gold, silver and copper which every visitor admires and seeks to take back with them to the lands from where they came, to remind them forever how beautiful their visit to Damascus was.

But the years of peace and plenty were not to last. Slowly the days turned sour, and the watchful nights closed in. The fire was red and its flames spread, turning huge parts of the city into ash. Walking in the streets of a city ravaged by four years of brutal conflict there is almost no place for a happy day like Christmas. Streets that used to race to be titled as the most shiny, crowded and beautifully-decorated have now grieved the loss of a father, a son , a neighbor or a friend – making one wonder if Christmas would really enter these streets nowadays.

xmas

Passing people took photos with Santa at a patisserie shop.

Christmas talk is still there shining in every heart, of what this day used to mean before the war possessed the normal talk of everybody’s life, hoping that remembering what the beauty of such days used to be would break the spell of the doomed darkness of war to carry what’s left of people back to the life they once enjoyed living. Continue reading

Happiness in the time of war

Abeer Pamuk, guest author from Syria
Abeer Pamuk, guest author from Syria

The Syrian capital Damascus is nicknamed the “City of Jasmine”. One of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, it has an estimated population of 1,7 million. The people of Damascus have suffered from three years of brutal conflict, yet still find motivation to live, and cope with life using what little hope remains.
Parents, mainly mothers, roam the streets, trying to meet their children’s basic needs. When the day is over, they wait for the sun to rise, to do the same thing again.

I wake up in an Arabic house in the ‘Old City’ district of Damascus, to the aroma of coffee made by an old lady who lives next door. Every day I watch her, through the kitchen window, sitting on her rocking chair beside some flowers contemplating the sky. She never skips a day. Curious, I once asked where her family had gone. Her neighbours say she has six sons who, one by one, sought refuge in different countries, leaving her alone at home; her husband died a long time ago. Continue reading

Health through herbs

A healthy body and healthy mind through NaturopathyTsering-India

Am I a healthy person?

If you ask me if I’m a healthy person, I can say ‘Yes’, because am not suffering from any disease and my body can do everything that I wish to do and achieve things on my own.  My work and a healthy environment around me uphold a positivity and peace in me. And I can say I am leading a life with a healthy body and a healthy mind. This is the need and desire of everyone.

When your body is sick, your mind gets sick too

My own experience: Most of my childhood, I spend in hospitals. I remember how many pills were given when I got a fever or a cold – antibiotics to kill the bacteria, other pills to reduce the pain, a few more pills to subdue the side-effects of the antibiotics.  My mom says I got sick often because I didn’t eat well. To cure a simple seasonal cold we end up seeing a doctor in a hospital. The time spent visiting a doctor, paying hefty fees, and consuming so many medicines makes you mentally sick too. Continue reading

Back to school

Just a few minutes after I had written the text below, I got the following news: Rasha-SyriaTwo car bombs had exploded in the city of Homs – 45 children killed. Their right to go to school? Their right to life? Disintegrated. Sometimes I ask myself what effect we as SOS co-workers can have in the face of such madness. And yet we persevere. We can’t allow terror to prevail. Every child counts!

It is time to go back to school in Syria. Children are always excited to meet with their friends again, to see their teachers and to check if the ‘love notes’ they once engraved on the old wooden desks are still there.

Far too many Syrian children are not returning to their old schools this year, nor are they meeting up with their old friends. They have had to leave their homes, seeking safety and shelter in other places. They have had to change schools, and for most no replacement schools are available. Continue reading