Today a part of the Muslim world celebrates Milad un Nabi (or Mawlid), the birthday of the Muslim prophet Muhammed.

This celebration, 4th of February, is slightly controversial because some Muslims don’t believe that celebrating birthdays is necessary, or even permissible. Despite the divided opinions, however, the majority of Muslims agree that the birth of Muhammed was the most significant event in Islamic history. Thus, those who celebrate it do so with great enthusiasm.

Saudi-Arabia is the only Muslim country where Milad un Nabi is not an official public holiday. In others, Milad un Nabi is sometimes celebrated in a carnival manner.  Streets and mosques are decorated, parents tell their children stories about different aspects of the prophet’s life, and many people donate money, clothes, and food to charity. Milad un Nabi is also celebrated in countries such as India, Indonesia, Russia,Canada, as well as here in the UK.

Today is Universal Children’s Day, a day to remind people across the globe of the rights and welfare of children.

Children's Day highlights the importance of welfare.

The day was first established in 1954 by the General Assembly of the UN as a response to child labour. The day highlights the inhumane aspects of child labour: the long hours, dangerous work conditions, and denial of education.

In most countries, the situation of child labourers has improved drastically since 1954, but there are still over 215 million child labourers around the world today. The UN is worried about the current trends because it seems that the number of child labourers is on the rise in poorer countries.  The UN has therefore declared to eliminate child labour by 2020. This declaration fits into the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which all have a target date in 2015. Although the MDGs are for all human kind, they are primarily about children.

“We were all children once,” is the message from the secretary general on Universal Children’s Day.  “We all share the desire for the well-being of our children, which has always been and will continue to be the most universally cherished aspiration of humankind.”

Happy Universal Children’s Day everyone!

Read more:

World Day Against Child Labour – June 12th

“Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights be respected is our solemn duty.” Joseph Wresinski, the founder of ADT Fourth World

Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Nearly half of the world’s population (that’s three billion people) live on less than $2.5 a day. 1.1 billion people have inadequate access to water and 2.6 billion people live without basic sanitation. Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished, almost two-thirds of them residing in Asia and the Pacific. 18 million deaths a year, one third of the world’s deaths, are caused by poverty.

All the more shockingly, an average cow in the European Union receives more than £1.40 a day in subsidies, which is more than the amount that half the world’s population survives on.

This year’s theme for International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is “Ending the Violence of Extreme Poverty: Promoting Empowerment and Building Peace.” Just like the quote above by Joseph Wresinski, this theme recognizes poverty as a human rights violation, rather than simply as a low income level.

Navaratri, one of the greatest Hindu festivals, begins today.Navaratri is a festival of dance. Navaratri means ‘nine nights’ in Sanskri. The celebration symbolises the triumph of good over evil and the festivities last for nine days. Navratri takes place at the beginning of October around harvest time.

Most Hindus fast during Navaratri and only have a single meal during the day. Despite the fast, food is very important in Navaratri and there are many special Navaratri dishes such as banana chips and aloo raita. Fruits and dairy dishes are very popular, whereas non-vegetarian food is totally avoided during the celebrations. The internet offers several Navartri food and cooking guides. For this year’s Navaratri, India Today suggests a range of “mouth-watering twists” to tradition recipes, that will turn the “fast into a feast.”

It is estimated that 60% of chronically hungry people are women and girls. Today is International Day of Rural Women, a day that recognizes the vital role of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.

rural women

60% of chronically hungry people are women.

The day is purposefully held a day before World Food Day in order to highlight the role rural women play in food production.

The International Day of Rural Women was first observed at a significant time in October 2008. 2006, 2007, and 2008 were the years of the global food crisis when prices of staple foods rose dramatically around the world. Although prices declined slightly right afterwards they spiked again in 2010 and have been high since. UN Women Watch writes that food prices are “likely to remain high and volatile over the next decade.”

Poor rural households feel the global crises the hardest. The poorer the household the more its members have to change the way they live to cope with the crises.

In 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population was living in cities.

World Habitat Day

Today more than 50% of the world's inhabitants live in cities.

Today is World Habitat Day, and this year’s theme is Changing Cities, Building Opportunities.

World Habitat Day was first observed in 1986. The purpose of this day is to highlight the role of shelter as a basic human right, and reflect on the state of our cities and towns around the world. This year’s urban theme was chosen because cities are engines of growth, and across the globe more and more people are moving into cities in the hope of a better future. According to research done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology cities make up only 2% of the world’s surface, but they house more than 50% of the world’s population, consume 70% of the world’s energy, and are responsible for the 80% of the world’s carbon footprint. Research from Yale predicts that by 2030 10% of the world’s surface could be urban, most of this expansion happening in Asia…

Global Competitiveness Report is an annual report published by the World Economic Forum that assesses the competitiveness landscape of 144 major and emerging world economies.

Global Competitiveness Report

Switzerland tops the overall ranking fourth year in a row.

The report was first published in 1979. Today it is the most comprehensive method of assessing national competitiveness worldwide.

Xavier Sala-i-Martin, Professor of Economics, Columbia University, says that the Global Competitiveness Report provides a window for long-term trends, and allows countries to see the key areas where they must act if they want to better the productivity that will “determine their economic future.”

The report measures a set of institutions, policies, and factors that set the current and medium-term levels of economic prosperity in each country. The World Economic Forum brings these measures together and analyses each country’s ability to provide levels of prosperity to its citizens. Levels of prosperity also depend on how effectively a country uses its available resources.

To honour the spirit of the Olympics 2012,  204 poems from around the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, have been collected from each of the 204 participating countries by the Scottish Poetry Library.

Asia1

Here is the second set of ten from Asia. Enjoy!

  1. Iraq: My Apologies
  2. Israel: Returning to Tel Aviv
  3. Jordan: Dog’s Tail
  4. Japan: Two Tokyos
  5. Kazakhstan: Summer
  6. Kuwait: from My Dreams Often Humble Themselves
  7. Kyrgyzstan: from Nomad in the sunset
  8. Lebanon: ‘Our cries, she used to say…’
  9. Malaysia: Modern Secrets
  10. Maldives: Realities of Island Life

Follow the link to read the first set of ten Asian poems

The poems selected are often not by the most notable poet a country has produced. Some of them are funny or light-hearted. Often they are snapshots of lives rather than grand narratives. And some of the choices may be controversial. However, they all give a glimpse of lives in countries spanning the globe. Together these poems depict a world united not only by sport, but by emotions that are universal and need no translator other than the heart.

To honour the spirit of the Olympics 204 poems from aroundAsia Poems
the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, have been collected from each of the 204 participating countries by the Scottish Poetry Library.

Here are the first ten from Asia. Enjoy

  1. AfghanistanThe story of my country
  2. AzerbaijanThe poet’s voice
  3. BahrainAll of them
  4. BangladeshMon-doria
  5. BhutanA lesson in light
  6. Brunei DarussalamBrothers, your cries…
  7. GeorgiaCircle and rectangle
  8. Hong KongFloral Apron
  9. IndiaHomecoming
  10. Iran: An Iranian Professor I know asked me…

The poems selected are often not by the most notable poet a country has produced. Some of them are funny or light-hearted. Often they are snapshots of lives rather than grand narratives. And some of the choices may be controversial. However, they all give a glimpse of lives in countries spanning the globe. Together these poems depict a world united not only by sport, but by emotions that are universal and need no translator other than the heart.

I’m sitting in a hot, rickety van on a foldable seat. We are six, big Western people in the van, with our big, Western luggage stored at the back and among our feet. The air is humid, the road long and bumpy.

Cambodia

In addition to vans, tuk-tuks are a common ride in Cambodia.

The six of us make a group of volunteers teaching English in the small village of Bakod in Southern Cambodia. We are on our way to the capital, Phnom Penh, to indulge, for a weekend, with luxuries such as air-conditioning, cold drinks, and Internet connection. In Bakod, there is no electricity, only a few electric light bulbs to light up the quiet hours from 6.00 pm to 6.00 am. It goes without saying that we are all looking forward to be in the buzz of a city.

The van picked us up from the village this morning, a very unusual practice. To catch a ride, people in Cambodia usually gather along a high way to find someone going to the same general direction as them. But we are the foreigners, the barang, thought to get lost in such endeavors. So, the van man agreed to pick us up.

In Bakod the van man had a short conversation in Khmer with our local school instructor. “A few locals may hop in on the way,” our instructor translated to us, laughing.  A few locals. No problem. It was van, after all.

But now, sitting on the wobbly seats in the moving van, bouncing up and down with our luggage, hoping not to bang our heads to the ceiling, we look around in the van and find that space is scarce.

“We can probably fit a couple more people at the back,” someone says. Yes, couple of people seems reasonable, three or four more will be a stretch.

Once we get to the high way the driver stops the van and begins to advertise our destination with a piece of cardboard, which supposedly says ‘Phnom Penh’. After 10 minutes, two young men climb in and take the seats at the back. Shortly after them, a couple with a small baby enters the van, miraculously finding more seating at the back.

Everyone is sweating. When the car is still, without the breeze of driving, the road is suffocatingly hot. Even inside the car, in the shade, my hair becomes glued to my forehead.

“Do you think we’re ready to go now?” someone rhetorically asks.

Hoping for the best, we all forgot to prepare for the worst. We were nowhere near ready to go…