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JULY 25, 2017

Japanese Beer Company Raises a Glass for Gay Marriage

How about a “kanpai” for Kirin?

Phineas Rueckert

Three cheers for equality! 

Following in the footsteps of tech giants Panasonic and Sony, which have both recently released new policies that are inclusive of LGBTQ-identifying employees, Japanese beer company Kirin announced yesterday a change in its company guidelines to prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity and recognize same-sex marriage, Sora News 24 reports.

The three companies are all one step ahead of Japan’s government, which does not recognize same-sex marriage or enshrine any protections against employment discrimination in its law.

That Kirin, the second-biggest beer producer in the seventh-largest beer consuming country in the world, would make this announcement sends a powerful message to the country’s leadership.

Read More: Taiwan Becomes First Place in Asia to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

According to Sora, “company rules regarding things like condolence leave, company housing, and assorted benefits will be rewritten so that common-law or same-sex couples receive them in the same way as their married colleagues currently do.” 

Mashable reports that the change in guidelines is backdated to July 1, and that along with providing housing benefits, the company will support hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgery. 

Kirin has been supportive of LGBTQ communities in the past. 

In February of last year, Kirin partnered with another company, Glico, to create packaging that displayed same-sex couples kissing. 

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

新発売午後の紅茶 恋のティーグルトとポッキーミディ 恋のレモン、お好みのホモと百合がつくれる( ^ω^)楽しいお( ^ω^)


Last year, Kirin’s subsidiary Spring Valley Brewery had a booth at a Tokyo Rainbow Pride event that featured the slogan, “people and beers are all different, and are all good.” 

Read More: These 6 Countries Execute People for Being Gay

Although Japan does not officially recognize same-sex marriage or partnerships, some cities, including Sapporo, Shibuya, and Setagaya, and some wards in Tokyo, have done so. 

In May, Taiwan, where over 70% of people supported gay marriage, became the first Asian country to recognize same-sex marriage. 

Japan, with a population more than five times the size of Taiwan, is more split on the issue. According to a 2015 study, 51% of Japanese supported same-sex marriage, with over 70% of young people in their 20s and 30s doing so. 

It might take another round of beer companies joining their voices with Kirin’s to get a “draught” of same-sex marriage legislation to the table in Japan’s legislature, but the country’s path to same-sex marriage is looking like less and less of a long-shot. 



Phineas Rueckert is a writer at Global Citizen. He graduated from Macalester College with a degree in Political Science and International Studies, and spent the past year teaching English in Toulouse, France. He is originally from Brooklyn, New York.


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How WeFarm is helping farmers in Kenya & Uganda share vital information over SMS

How WeFarm is helping farmers in Kenya & Uganda share vital information over SMS

July 20 2016 | By: SAMANTHA URBAN


Join the fight against extreme poverty


When you plant a summer garden, you likely source tips from your local garden center, friends with green thumbs, and of course, Google. But what if farming was your livelihood—making it imperative to have the information needed to succeed—and you didn’t have internet access?

That’s the situation a huge swath of the world’s smallholder farmers find themselves in—and it’s why WeFarm has stepped in to help. WeFarm is a peer-to-peer service that helps these farmers share information with each other via SMS. So they don’t need the internet—they don’t even need to leave their farm! The service is completely free and it allows farmers to ask questions and receive crowd-sourced answers from other farmers around the world!

We interviewed WeFarm CEO and co-founder Kenny Ewan on the origins of WeFarm and where it’s headed next:

Photo credit: WeFarm

Photo credit: WeFarm

So how did the idea for WeFarm come about?

The seeds for me were the many years I spent working in international development abroad. I spent seven years in Latin America based out of Peru, where I worked for an international NGO. While I was there I directed projects across Latin America and designed projects with indigenous communities. A lot of the communities were forming agricultural-based communities and I saw people creating innovative grassroots solutions for common challenges—but you go a couple of miles down the road and people have the same challenges but hadn’t heard of the same ideas or solutions. I started to think of ways of harnessing that.

Then, six years ago, I moved back to the UK and took a job with a new NGO based in London but working across 13 African and Latin America countries. I put my ideas together with a co-founder of the NGO, Claire, and together we designed the first version of WeFarm. I guess originally we saw it as an online platform but then very quickly we built in the idea of having people use it without any access to the internet. That was a key component of granting access to the populations that we wanted to.

WeFarm Mobile Devices

Photo credit: WeFarm

You’ve described WeFarm before as the internet for people with no internet. As the idea of universal internet access gains traction will the ideas of WeFarm change as more people gain access to the internet?

Obviously—we’re firstly looking at this in a very crowd-sourced, peer-to-peer, bottom-up way.  I think the idea of access to information as a key driver in lifting people out of poverty has been around for a long time, but unfortunately, everyone comes at that from a top-down perspective—this kind of “people just need to be told what to do” idea.  There are existing SMS platforms out there, so there are other services that have that starting point.  What we wanted to do was tap into people’s existing knowledge: These populations have generations worth of experience to share and we can do something that isn’t as paternalistic as some development and international projects.  

I think those core concepts translate whether it is on the internet or not. WeFarm is completely online, although 96 percent of our users only use it through SMS and offline. We’re already ready for people transitioning to the internet – our long-term plan is when people get their first smartphone and can access internet, we graduate them to a place they already trust. WeFarm will be a place with content that’s already been developed from their point of view.

Uganda Lady

Photo credit: WeFarm

You mentioned the crowd-sourced data and generations of knowledge. Could you expand more on that? Was that an idea in WeFarm’s foundation from the very start?

That was certainly one of the core fundamentals that really cut right from the start with WeFarm. The idea was to take the knowledge and ideas and innovations that people were generating on the farm or in life and give them a platform to share with people next door in their village.

To give you a quick example, I remember in rural Kenya I asked a group of farmers who were selling at a bank center to share things they thought of on a farm that might be innovative or different. This guy brought over a chicken feeder that he designed that he had made out of old buckets—containers he had on the farm. Basically, he said he had a problem at feeding time, where the bigger chicks were trampling the smaller chicks and there was a high mortality rate. So he designed this whole feeder to separate out the feed and he reduced his mortality rate by around 50 percent, which is awesome! I thought thousands of people could be having that problem, but his idea might not travel beyond potentially a couple of neighbors. The whole concept of WeFarm was to take knowledge like this from the ground and be able to share it worldwide.

Photo credit: WeFarm

Photo credit: WeFarm

Earlier this year, ONE campaigned on the idea that investments in nutrition programs can strengthen economies. What is WeFarm’s role in that?

We see our role in that area as strengthening supply chains from the bottom up in two key ways: One is providing information and knowledge to farmers to improve their farms; to battle disease and plant new crops; and be more effective on the farm. Ultimately, that benefits the entire supply chain right up to the multinationals buying these products.

The second thing WeFarm does is to analyze and aggregate the millions of interactions that are happening in the system to be able to provide potentially game-changing information on this whole piece. Obviously, there is a huge part of the world’s population that isn’t using the internet and we don’t have any of that live analytics or data. WeFarm is looking at all the interactions to track disease as it spreads across countries, to be able to isolate drought, or track any kind of trends. That can ultimately help the businesses of these farmers—and the NGO’s and governments that are working with them—to have a much better understanding of what is actually happening, what people’s challenges are, and ultimately to help the world’s supply chain be more robust.

Photo credit: WeFarm

Photo credit: WeFarm

What countries are you in now and where will WeFarm go next?

Currently, we are live in Kenya, which was our first country. More recently, we launched in Uganda and Peru. I think India is our next big target market for fairly obvious reasons: There are 110 million small farmers in India and many with very low internet access. We are also looking at Tanzania and a couple of other countries, but we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin too quickly.

What’s in the future for WeFarm?

We are hoping to be able to close our seed investment round very soon. That investment piece is key for us. We’ve had a very successful first year with more than 70,000 farmers using it now and our retention and usage metrics are through the roof, but we want to take this all to the next level. We want to have a million farmers using it in the next 12 months. We want to potentially launch in a couple of new countries, and really make it a successful venture on a kind of global scale. It’s really helping to improve farmers lives.

Learn more about WeFarm, then sign our petition to urge leaders to invest in nutrition!



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Genome editing with CRISPR-Cas9 prevents angiogenesis of the retina

Powerful new technology may lead to novel therapies to prevent vision loss, blindness in those with diseases of the retina


Boston, Mass. -- A research team from the Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear has successfully prevented mice from developing angiogenesis of the retina--the sensory tissue at the back of the eye--using gene-editing techniques with CRISPR-Cas9. Angiogenesis causes vision loss and blindness and is a feature of several degenerative eye conditions, including proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). In a report published online todayin Nature Communications, the researchers present a novel gene-editing technique to prevent retinal angiogenesis, which could lead to the development of new therapies for eye conditions marked by pathological intraocular angiogenesis.

Despite the success of vascular endothelial cell growth factor (VEGF) inhibiting agents (e.g. Lucentis®, Eylea®) in reducing neovascular growth and lessening vascular leakage in retinal diseases such as PDR and AMD, several therapeutic challenges remain--namely a need for sustained treatment and a modality to treat the significant number of patients who do not respond to anti-VEGF therapies.

"We know that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor 2 (VEGFR2) plays an essential role in angiogenesis," said corresponding author Hetian Lei, Ph.D., Assistant Scientist at Schepens Eye Research Institute of Mass. Eye and Ear and Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. "The CRISPR-Cas9 system to can be utilized to edit the VEGFR2 gene, preventing intraocular pathological angiogenesis."

A feature of various eye diseases, pathological intraocular angiogenesis presents clinically when blood vessels in the retina (the structure in the back of the eye that senses and perceives light) begin to grow new, abnormal blood vessels on the surface of the retina. As the damage progresses, these vessels can leak, rupture, or cause retinal detachment leading to impaired vision.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a powerful new technology that can target and edit certain aspects of the genome, or the complete set of genetic material of an organism. In the Nature Communications report, study authors used an adeno-associated virus (AAV) to deliver genomic edits to target VEGFR2, a critical protein responsible for angiogenesis. A single injection of this therapy was able to prevent retinal angiogenesis in preclinical models.

"As this genomic editing gains traction in virtually all medical fields, we are cautiously optimistic that this powerful tool may present a novel therapy to prevent vision loss in eye disease marked by intraocular pathological angiogenesis," said Dr. Lei. "While further study is needed to determine safety and efficacy of this approach, our work shows that the CRISPR-Cas9 system is a precise and efficient tool with the potential to treat angiogenesis-associated diseases."


In addition to Dr. Lei, authors on the Nature Communications paper include Xionggao Huang, Ph.D., Guohong Zhou, Ph.D., Wenyi Wu, Yajian Duan, Gaoen Ma, Jingyuan Song, Ph.D., Ru Xiao, Ph.D., Luk Vandenberghe, Ph.D., and Patricia D'Amore, Ph.D., of the Schepens Eye Research Institute of Mass. Eye and Ear, as well as Feng Zhang, Ph.D., of the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

This research study was supported by National Institutes of Health/National Eye Institute grants R01EY012509 and P30EY003790.

About Massachusetts Eye and Ear

Mass. Eye and Ear clinicians and scientists are driven by a mission to find cures for blindness, deafness and diseases of the head and neck. Now united with Schepens Eye Research Institute, Mass. Eye and Ear is the world's largest vision and hearing research center, developing new treatments and cures through discovery and innovation. Mass. Eye and Ear is a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital and trains future medical leaders in ophthalmology and otolaryngology, through residency as well as clinical and research fellowships. Internationally acclaimed since its founding in 1824, Mass. Eye and Ear employs full-time, board-certified physicians who offer high-quality and affordable specialty care that ranges from the routine to the very complex. In the 2016-2017 "Best Hospitals Survey," U.S. News & World Report ranked Mass. Eye and Ear #1 in the nation for ear, nose and throat care and #1 in New England for eye care. For more information about life-changing care and research, or to learn how you can help, please visit MassEyeAndEar.org.

About the Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology

The Harvard Medical School (HMS) Department of Ophthalmology is one of the leading and largest academic departments of ophthalmology in the nation. More than 350 full-time faculty and trainees work at nine HMS affiliate institutions, including Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Joslin Diabetes Center/Beetham Eye Institute, Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, VA Maine Healthcare System, and Cambridge Health Alliance. Formally established in 1871, the department has been built upon a strong and rich foundation in medical education, research, and clinical care. Through the years, faculty and alumni have profoundly influenced ophthalmic science, medicine, and literature--helping to transform the field of ophthalmology from a branch of surgery into an independent medical specialty at the forefront of science.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.


Via The Angiogenesis Foundation

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Rare case of 9-year-old in HIV remission for years -- without drugs

By Meera Senthilingam, CNN


Updated 0919 GMT (1719 HKT) July 24, 2017

Child's HIV remission focus of AIDS conference






Story highlights

  • The 9-year-old has been in HIV remission for most of his life
  • Understanding his biology may one day help other children come off HIV treatment

Paris (CNN)A 9-year-old South African child diagnosed with HIV when he was 1 month old has been in HIV remission for 8½ years -- without regular treatment.

This is the first reported case of a child controlling their HIV infection without drugs in Africa and the third known case globally.
Soon after diagnosis, the child was placed on antiretroviral treatment, or ART, for 40 weeks, at which point treatment was stopped and the child's health was monitored.
Blood tests in late 2015 revealed the child is in HIV remission, meaning levels of the virus in the blood are undetectable using standard tests. Subsequent testing of samples dating back to the child's infancy confirm remission was achieved soon after treatment was stopped.
The turbulent history of HIV/AIDS





The turbulent history of HIV/AIDS 01:52
Treatment was paused as part of a larger research trial investigating the potential for early ART to decrease infant mortality and reduce the need for lifelong treatment among newborns infected with HIV.
"This is really very rare," said Dr. Avy Violari, head of pediatric clinical trials at the Perinatal HIV Research Unit at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. Violari is the child's doctor and presented the findings at the 9th International AIDS conference on HIV Science in Paris on Monday.
"By studying these cases, we hope we will understand how one can stop (treatment)," Violari told CNN.
There is no cure or vaccine against HIV, and lifelong treatment for children comes with the risk of potential toxicity, side effects and the need for daily adherence, which becomes harder during the teen years.

The benefits of early treatment

The child, who was not identified, was part of a study known as the Children with HIV Early Antiretroviral Therapy, or CHER, trial, which ran from 2005 to 2011. More than 370 infants infected with HIV were randomly assigned to immediately receive ART for either 40 weeks or 96 weeks. A third group were not placed on immediate treatment, but instead received treatment according to standard guidelines at the time.
When the trial began, standard treatment was based on the level of immune cells damaged by the virus, known as CD4 cells, within the body. Current guidelines recommend immediate treatment, irrespective of CD4 cell count.
In infants infected with HIV close to birth, progression of the disease occurs very rapidly within the first few months of life and can often lead to death, according to the World Health Organization. An estimated 110,000 children died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2015, according to UNAIDS.
Pediatricians also worry about the side-effects and health impacts of lifelong treatment with antiretroviral drugs for those who survive.
More than 1.8 million children were living with HIV in 2015, according to UNAIDS, and 150,000 children became newly infected, the majority of which were in Africa.
The CHER trial set out to investigate whether mortality rates could be reduced, but also whether earlier treatment could keep children healthy enough to enable them to come off treatment for certain periods.
"We were hoping to make it a slower-progressing disease," said Violari.
Patients zero: Disease victims who were blamed for outbreaks
Photos: Patients zero: Disease victims who were blamed for outbreaks
Mary Mallon, who became known as "Typhoid Mary," was identified circa 1907 as the controversial "patient zero" in a typhoid fever outbreak in the United States in the early 1900s.<strong> </strong>Although she never had symptoms,<strong> </strong>she was forced into quarantine on two occasions, for a total of 26 years.
Mary Mallon, who became known as "Typhoid Mary," was identified circa 1907 as the controversial "patient zero" in a typhoid fever outbreak in the United States in the early 1900s.<strong> </strong>Although she never had symptoms,<strong> </strong>she was forced into quarantine on two occasions, for a total of 26 years.
Mary Mallon Typhoid RESTRICTED
hiv patient zero gaetan dugas
Captain Boonmanuch RESTRICTED
Edgar Hernandez swine flu FILE
Emile Ouamouno FILE
The study found mortality decreased by 76% and HIV disease progression reduced by 75% among the infants who received treatment immediately, for 40 or 96 weeks. The group receiving standard treatment saw an increase in mortality based on interim results, so that arm of the trial was stopped early.
Children receiving early treatment in the trial needed to go back onto it, on average, after two years, Violari said, with cases ranging from needing it immediately to needing it after four years. An estimated 10 children have not had to go back on treatment, she said, as their viral loads are fairly low -- between 1,000 to 3,000 per milliliter of blood -- meaning they are healthy, in clinical terms.
But virus levels in the 9-year-old case are undetectable. "The child is the only child showing remission," said Violari.
"We cannot see virus in the blood using standard techniques ... we can see fragments of the virus in the cells," she said, adding that these fragments appear not to be able to replicate, for now, giving hope the child may stay this way. "This child is unique."

Only three cases

The South African child is the third reported case of long-term HIV remission in a child after early, limited treatment with antiretroviral drugs.
The first case was a Mississippi baby, a girl born in 2010, who received ART just 30 hours after birth until she was 18 months old, at which point HIV remission was achieved. The baby sustained remission for 27 months, until 2015, when she rebounded and the virus was found in her blood, crushing hopes that this approach could be the route to a "functional cure" for HIV.
Next came the 2015 case of a French teenager, now 20, whose mother was HIV positive. The French child was given antiretroviral treatment soon after birth, stopped treatment at age 6 and has maintained undetectable levels of the virus in her blood since.
Asier Saez Cirion from the Institut Pasteur in France, who presented the findings on the teenager in 2015, confirmed to CNN this week that the teen is still in remission and maintaining good health, meaning she has been controlling her virus for more than 13 years.
Now comes the case of the 9-year-old in South Africa, in remission for more than eight years, but after just 40 weeks of treatment. Violari stressed, however, these cases are extremely rare and that people infected with HIV should by no means come off their treatment.
"Not everyone can achieve remission," she said.
Three adults have also been reported to achieve remission to date, known as the Boston patients and Berlin patient, but all received bone marrow transplants for this result, not early treatment with antiretroviral drugs. The two Boston patients rebounded, leaving Timothy Ray Brown, the Berlin patient, as the only person to be clinically cured of HIV.
"This (case in South Africa) tells you this is possible in some babies, to see long-term remission," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the CHER trial and ongoing followup on these infants.
"The real question will be what percentage of babies treated early will achieve this result? We don't know," he said.
Fauci believes this kind of outcome only becomes important if you have a considerable proportion of babies protected, making it applicable as a potential therapy approach.
"You always get an outlier," he said. In this case, the outlier being the 9-year old. "Further study is needed to learn how to induce long-term HIV remission in infected babies," Fauci said.

How is it possible?

Violari agrees that this new remission case is not applicable to all infants with HIV, but instead that something unique about his biology and immune system helped him protect himself from the virus, aided by starting treatment early.
He developed an effective immune response to the virus early on, she said, and treatment then protected the child. "I think the early treatment aided it," she said.
Her team now hopes to investigate the child, and others from the original CHER trial along with HIV-negative children to try to elucidate just what is unique about the biology enabling a child who has been treated to then suppress the virus indefinitely -- and independently -- known as a post-treatment controller.
"We need to see where the differences lie," she said, adding that this insight could be used to inform vaccine design or new treatment approaches, such as the use of neutralizing antibodies to help people suppress the virus.
We could develop a product given to people in combination with ART so people can eventually stop ART, said Violari. This would not be because they are cured, but because virus levels are low enough, or undetectable, to help them stay healthy without the need for drugs.
"It's a long shot," Violari said. "But we can look at what's different."
Fauci agreed that extensive evaluation of immune regions of these cases could help scientists find something special to guide inducing this in others. "That's being intensively studied now," said Fauci. "We have the outcome, we just need to get there."

Hope for future HIV control

"We are delighted and excited by what happened with this child ... we need to extrapolate (from this) to the benefit of other children on antiretroviral drugs," said Dr. Mark Cotton, professor of pediatrics at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, who co-led the study. "Africa is still the epicenter of the epidemic and more babies are acquiring HIV than anywhere else."
Cotton hopes his team presenting these results will boost morale, both among cure researchers and those managing treatment programs for children across the continent.
Dr. Deborah Persaud, professor pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the United States, agreed this discovery will become useful in terms of treating HIV-infected infants.
"This offers hope for the field," she said. "Every case like this keeps optimism around perinatal infection."
Persaud is part of team that reported the case of the Mississippi baby in 2013 and continues to care for the child and track progress.
She agreed with Violari's team that there is something unique about the South African child's biology, because their viral levels began coming down even before the child received treatment. "This suggests there was an immune mechanism at play here," she said. "Somehow, there was early control of the virus."
The three cases to date all form part of this era in which rare examples of remission are coming to light and providing valuable insight for HIV cure researchers. They serve as proof of concept that this can occur, she said, stressing that this is far from the norm.
"Many kids around the world have been treated early and are not off treatment," she said.
A current trial, known as IMPAACT P1115 and funded by the US NIH, is providing treatment to HIV-infected infants within 48 hours of birth, further exploring options to eventually enable children to come off ART, even if just for a few months at a time, and investigate the potential for remission.
Join the conversation

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Almost 400 infants have been enrolled across nine countries. The first cases might be eligible to stop ART later this year, according to the NIH.
While Persaud said remission cases are likely to be the exception to the rule, she added that the long-term hope is to go from the need for daily ART, which involves potential toxicity and the need for adherence, to children being able to come off treatment for extended periods.
Even not taking drugs for three months of life, some adults say is a big step for them, she said. "This can make living with HIV less burdensome ... and just make life a lot more livable."
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JULY 19, 2017

Apple's New Hijab Emoji Sparks Both Controversy and Hope

“I just wanted an emoji of me.”

Avery Friedman

Last year, Rayouf Alhumedhi was sitting in her bedroom in Berlin creating a group chat with her friends when she had a realization:

"The fact that there wasn't an emoji to represent me and the millions of other hijabi women across the world was baffling to me," she told CNN.

Take Action: Call on influential companies to incorporate women-owned businesses into global supply chains

The Saudi-born teen decided to take action. She created a draft of a hijabi woman emoji and sent it to the Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit responsible for reviewing and developing new emojis.

“I just wanted an emoji of me,” she recalled.

On Monday night, her wish was granted. Alhumedhi found out “just like everyone else” that her emoji had been accepted; her friend messaged her a link to a Buzzfeed articlewhich detailed the plans to release the new emojis in Apple products in the coming months.

Emojis have grown more inclusive over the past years, expanding their catalogue to feature a wide range of skin tones. Beyond the hijab, emoji is set to release gender neutral and breastfeeding women emojis later this year.

Read More: Saudi Woman Seen Wearing Miniskirt in Snapchat Video Arrested

Apple’s inclusion of the headscarf-wearing emoji did not come without contention. Some people took to social media to express disapproval of the company’s decision. One user said that, by adding the hijab emoji, the company is expressing “support for the oppression of women.”

????? Happy #WorldEmojiDay! ? We’ve got some ?new ones to show you, coming later this year! ??https://nr.apple.com/dE0W5C8v9b  pic.twitter.com/fhDrr4J5KG

the hijab is a symbol of oppression. by including it as an emoji you are showing your support for the oppression of women.


Alhumedhi is of the opposite mindset. Her family moved to the German capital from Saudi Arabia – a nation notorious for its oppression of women – when Rayouf was a child. She views the emoji she proposed as a means of increasing representation of Muslim women, and possibly even a vehicle to “indirectly promote tolerance.”

There has been a spike in hate crimes against Muslims since the 2016 United States presidential election. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reports that 15% of the time, headscarves act as the trigger for attackers.

Read More: Why Google is Challenging Gender Stereotypes in Emojis

Alhumedhi hopes that the new emoji can help reduce the stigma against hijabs, and illustrate that the millions of women who choose to wear a headscarf are “normal people carrying out daily routines just like you.”

Avery is an Editorial Intern at Global Citizen. She attends the University of Michigan and writes for the music beat of the Michigan Daily. She lives to connect with people from all walks of life and believes in the power of narrative to change minds and expand perspective. Avery aims to live her life with empathy and intention.


Via Global Citizen

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For lots of families, the arrival of the school holidays means a bit of a break and an opportunity to spend some time together.

But the arrival of the summer months isn’t a positive experience for everyone; school holidays can cause a lot of anxiety for parents whose child has a learning disability.

If you’re a parent of a child with a learning disability who is approaching the school holidays, how are you feeling?

If you're worried or excited, got questions to ask or stories to share, join the conversation on FamilyHub: https://community.mencap.org.uk/t/school-summer-holida…/1470


La imagen puede contener: 1 persona, sonriendo, de pie, niños y primer plano


Via Mencap

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Kenyan girls to fly to Google HQ after inventing app to end FGM

by Daniel Wesangula | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 24 July 2017 12:01 GMT
"Whether we win or not, our perspective of the world and the possibilities it has will change for the better"

By Daniel Wesangula

NAIROBI, July 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Animated chatter spills out from a corner of tech giant Google's Nairobi offices as five Kenyan schoolgirls discuss their upcoming trip to California where they hope to win $15,000 for I-cut, an app to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

The five teenagers, aged 15 to 17, are the only Africans selected to take part in this year's international Technovation competition, where girls develop mobile apps to end problems in their communities.

"FGM is a big problem affecting girls worldwide and it is a problem we want to solve," Stacy Owino told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, while snacking on chocolate on a break from boarding school before flying to the United States on Aug. 6.

"This whole experience will change our lives. Whether we win or not, our perspective of the world and the possibilities it has will change for the better."

The five girls from Kenya's western city of Kisumu call themselves the 'Restorers' because they want to "restore hope to hopeless girls", said Synthia Otieno, one of the team.

One in four Kenyan women and girls have undergone FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia, even though it is illegal in the East African nation.

Although the girls' Luo community does not practice FGM, they have friends who have been cut.

"We were very close but after she was cut she never came back to school," said Purity Achieng, describing a classmate who underwent FGM. "She was among the smartest girls I knew."

I-cut connects girls at risk of FGM with rescue centres and gives legal and medical help to those who have been cut.

Its simple interface has five buttons - help, rescue, report, information on FGM, donate and feedback – offering users different services.

Kenya is one of the most technologically advanced countries in Africa, known for its pioneering mobile money transfer apps.

Technovation, which is sponsored by Google, Verizon and the United Nations, aims to teach girls the skills they need to become tech entrepreneurs and leaders.

"We just have to use this opportunity as a stepping stone to the next level," said schoolgirl Ivy Akinyi who plans to become computer programmer.

(Reporting by Daniel Wesangula; Editing by Katy Migiro and Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.)

FEATURE-Cameroon's forest people pay price for country's hydropower ambitions

by Elias Ntungwe Ngalame | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 26 July 2017 00:55 GMT
As Cameroon expands its ability to produce clean power, people living near the new dams are losing the forest they depend on

By Elias Ntungwe Ngalame

PANGAR, Cameroon, July 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Sitting in front of his mud house in Pangar, a forest village in Cameroon's East region, Mokuine Anatole sharpens his machete in the early morning sunlight, ready for a day's hunting.

But the planned expedition won't take place on the land around his village, as it used to. Just 2km away, the formerly fresh air smells of gasoline, and the silence of the surrounding forest is broken by the honking and rumbling of cars and bulldozers.

The forest along the confluence of the Lom and Pangar rivers is being cleared to prepare the second phase of construction of the Lom Pangar dam, a government hydropower project that will produce 30 megawatts (MW) of electricity upon completion.

As a result, Anatole now must venture about 25km (15 miles) away from home to hunt.

He and other members of similar forest communities complain that their needs are being disregarded as Cameroon's government pushes to bring electricity to more of the country. Environmentalists are sounding alarms too.

"This hydro-dam project has made life perilous for us," Anatole told Thomson Reuters Foundation. "The first phase of the project has brought human encroachment, destroyed our forest land and is scaring away all the animals. We are obliged to go farming and hunting far away, where we can find something to eat."


Cameroon's government is touting the construction of three new dams along the Sanaga River and its tributaries as a way to increase hydro-electric generation as part of the country's ambitious plans to become an emerging economy by 2035.

The river is the country's primary water source and already has two dams downstream from the new sites.

"These (new) dams will be the biggest (electricity) generation asset of Cameroon by 2024, providing a very positive impact on Cameroon's energy system," said Louis Paul Motaze, the country's minister for the economy, planning and regional development.

He spoke in Yaounde earlier this month at the signing of a financing agreement with the African Development Bank for the Nachtigal hydro dam.

With the country's economy forecast to grow by at least 5 percent annually between 2015 and 2018, Cameroon's government says the hydro projects will ramp up power production to 3,000 MW by 2030, from a current level of 1,200 MW.

But environmental experts say the plans threaten the biodiversity of the river basin and its surrounding rich forest, as well as the survival of indigenous communities that rely on natural resources.

"If all these projects take place, you would have a good chunk of the forest and wildlife in the Congo Basin disappearing," said Manfred Epanda, the African Wildlife Foundation's Cameroon coordinator.

A view of the first phase of the Lom Pangar hydropower dam in Pangar, Cameroon, July 16, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Elias Ntungwe Ngalame


In Dengdeng, another village in the East region, farmer Gregore Nvogo vented his anger at the news of the construction of more dams along the Sanaga River.

"We will continue to lose our forest, our land, and our fishing opportunities," he said. "The Lom Pangar dam has virtually submerged our forest and land for agriculture, pushing us to cultivate far away."

Nvogo said that villagers can no longer find animals to hunt nearby, nor fish close to the village.

"Where do we go now?" he asked.

The farmers' worries highlight the growing anger among forest communities at large-scale development projects that displace villagers and cause hardship.

Protests by forest communities opposed to the development of infrastructure in forest areas are likely to become more common as demand for land grows, experts say.

"We have observed a surge in investment activities in forest areas with the increased presence of Chinese and other foreign business operators in Cameroon, and this is disturbing because the rights of these forest communities are constantly violated, leading to clashes," says Bernard Njonga, coordinator of Support Service for Local Development Initiatives (SAILD), a Cameroon-based non-governmental organisation.

Activists worry that the embezzlement of funds that occurred in the first phase of the Lom Pangar project, detailed in a report published by the National Anti-Corruption Commission in 2012, will persist as more dams are built, potentially depriving communities affected by dam construction of the compensation they may be due.

Local community leaders say that it is difficult for them to monitor the projects' impact on the forest and the indigenous population because they are not included in discussions about those issues.

"Forest that used to serve as an important safety net for the poor rural community is no longer under our control," said Paul Gbalene, the traditional chief of Djoameodjoh, one of the forest communities in the East affected by the dam projects.

However, government and development partners say that all the rights of the affected communities in the hydro dam projects will be respected.

"We are conscious of the socio-economic and environment responsibilities, and the government is doing everything to address these," economy minister Motaze said at a ceremony earlier this month to mark the beginning of construction of the second phase of the Lom Pangar dam.

Speaking at the same event, Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, said Cameroon was rich in energy potential which could not only help those living near the dams but also accelerate regional economic integration.

The Lom Pangar plant, being built by a Chinese company, will provide electricity to about 150,000 people living near the dam, according to Theodore Nsangou, general manager of the Electricity Development Corporation, a state-run utility.

The government says the Nachtigal dam, to be constructed on the Sanaga River 65km (40 miles) from the capital, Yaounde, will produce 420 MW of electricity, enough to satisfy a third of Cameroon's energy needs.


However, environmentalists say it is unwise to concentrate a series of dams along the river. The 263 MW Edea and 396 MW Song Loulou dams, downstream from the newly announced projects, currently generate 95 percent of Cameroon's electricity.

Augustine Njamnshi, of the Cameroon chapter of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, said that increasing Cameroon's dependence on hydroelectric power will put the country at risk of economic breakdown if drought hits the river basin in the future.

"This will be tantamount to an economic suicide leap," Njamnshi said.

He recalled the social unrest in February 2008 triggered by persistent blackouts that provoked a wave of strikes across the country. The government said that the resulting riots led to more 17 deaths.

Njamnshi said the government would be better advised to pursue a wider range of renewable energy sources.

"With an abundance of sunlight, Cameroon just needs the political will to turn its energy deficiency into energy surplus, accessible not only to the remote parts of the country but also to neighbouring countries," he said.

(Reporting by Elias Ntungwe Ngalame; editing by James Baer and Laurie Goering :; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)

About Thomson Reuters Foundation Newsnews.trust.org

Our global editorial team of almost 40 journalists and 100 freelancers covers the world’s under-reported stories at the heart of aid, development, women’s rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change.


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NairoBits: Empowering young women to succeed in Africa’s Silicon Savannah

19 April 2017 10:59AM UTC | By: GUEST BLOGGER


Story and photos by Katie G. Nelson

For the tech-savvy team at NairoBits, empowering young women in Kenya’s poorest slums isn’t just about teaching new skills. It’s about using technology to help women and girls achieve success in Africa’s Silicon Savannah.

The East African country of Kenya contains some of the most densely populated and poorest informal settlements—or slums—in the world. For the last 17 years, the Kenya-based nonprofit NairoBits has equipped young people living in informal settlements with cutting-edge computer skills and individualized mentorships, successfully connecting hundreds of graduates to careers in information technology and small business development.


A classroom at NairoBits.

At the forefront of their mission to improve the social and economic capital of young Kenyans is a new, gender-specific mission focused on women and girls.

“A lot of people think such problems are only found in rural areas, but there are these people who have been forgotten—people who really struggle to make ends meet,” says Rukia Sebit, Program Manager at NairoBits. “When you look at poverty, you see that women are the most affected—that they bear the biggest burden.”

And she would know. Both Sebit and NairoBits Project Coordinator Miriam Wambui grew up in informal settlements, experiences they say help guide NairoBits’ information and communications technology (ICT) programs.


Participants pose in front of an informal settlement for a #PledgeForParity photo.

“I think we are in a better place to implement the program because we understand what it’s like to live today and not know what you will wake up to tomorrow,” says Sebit.

“We really understand these challenges,” Wambui adds. “It molded us into who we are today.”

Now in their second year, NairoBits girls’ centers provide three levels of coding, web design, and development classes to girls ages 14 to 24—many of whom have been left out of traditional educational or employment opportunities, according to Sebit.

By learning high-level marketable computer technology skills, students will be able to join higher paying job markets and thus bring them out of poverty.


“ICT is an enabler—a stepping stone to get employed,” Sebit says. “We’re using it as a tool for change and growth in the community.”

Sebit and Wambui say NairoBits launched gender-specific tech hubs in Kibera and Korogocho after noticing that girls were dropping out of classes earlier—and more often—than their male counterparts.

“When training both boys and girls in a tech environment, you find that women will drop first,” Sebit says. “There’s this concept that boys are better and that girls are supposed to be submissive and boys, dominant. (Girls) feel belittled and they tend to give up because they think ICT is a boy thing.”

Wambui says the added burden of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases also puts girls more at risk.

“One of the challenges is getting pregnant at an early age. We have girls that come to the centers and they’re young mothers and not always 100 percent committed,” says Wambui. “So we have girls who drop out of the training.”

Instead of overlooking the needs of vulnerable girls, NairoBits chose to address them head-on by adding reproductive health education to their computer-centered curriculum.

“It was a decision (to teach reproductive health education) because if you want to train someone for the job you have to look at them wholly—not just the job skills, but how they retain their jobs,” says Sebit.

“We want to make sure that a girl is getting support from different places, not just the system,” adds Wambui.

NairoBits also links female patients to reputable—and affordable—health facilities in the area, and provides complimentary female hygiene products to girls who are unable to afford them.

But while teaching tangible work skills and entrepreneurship is important, Sebit and Miriam Wambui say true success is achieved by helping students develop mindsets to dream bigger and broader in the face of adversity.


Rukia Sebit and Miriam Wambui of NairoBits.

“At the end of the day, the training is more of a mindset. (A mindset) of not feeling sorry for themselves or where they come from, but to make themselves better,” says Wambui.

“Changing the lives of the persons we’re working with and seeing their faces … it’s priceless,” she adds.

All girls count.





19 April 2017 10:59AM UTC

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