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South Asia

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

Afghanistan: 'You have brought an army into the country but how do you propose to take it out again?'

Remnants of an Army by Elizabeth Butler portraying William Brydon arriving at the gates of Jalalabad as the only survivor of a 16,500 strong evacuation from Kabul in January 1842.Boxes of dusty books from a Kabul bookstall led author and historian William Dalrymple to realise NATO forces in Afghanistan are on a path first taken by the British Army in 1839.

Dalrymple’s latest book  “Return of a King” uses sources never before translated into English to draw startling parallels between the First Anglo-Afghan War and today’s conflict.

Speaking before an event at Dublin’s Royal Irish Academy, Dalrymple talks of watching American soldiers under attack in Kandahar while holding a diary written 170 years before by a British officer describing attacks at the same bridge.

“There was a sensation in 2006 that history was in a general sense repeating itself but what usually happens is the closer you get to the detail, the parallels dissolve in the face of detailed evidence. What was so weird this time is the details lead to greater parallels,” he says.

In a familiar echo, an Afghan ruler at the time slyly asked a British spy: “You have brought an army into the country but how do you propose to take it out again?”

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

Mentoring young men to prevent violence against women

Students on the Equal Community Foundation training programme in Pune, India. Photo: Madeleine Pryor.Sometimes when you want to fix a problem, you just need to go at it from a new direction. That’s the philosophy behind the Equal Community Foundation in Pune, India.

One woman who has benefited from their work, Gauri Shendge, says: “If men harass us on street our parents tell us to look down, ignore it or take a different route. I like your approach – you ask the men to stop harassing us.”  

Set up in 2009 and now working in 20 urban slums in the state, the organisation aims to change attitudes towards women from the ground through mentoring up says fund-raiser Jan Ali.

Ali, from Croom in Co Limerick but living in India for almost 20 years, says the mentoring provided to young men is what makes this approach different.

“The people we’re working with live in close proximity to each other, if women know there is a place to go with a problem then the word spreads. The mentoring helps other men to get involved,” she says.

  • Written by World and Media

Female genocide? The missing women and girls of India and China

Image from the 50 Million Missing campaign against 'female genocide' in India. Image:Pam Kelso (designer), Fernando G. Aguinaco (background) Hervé Blandin (foreground); Flickr/rita banerji. Over two million women and girls go missing in India and China every year. In both countries, excess deaths occur at all stages in the lives of women under 60. Pre-birth discrimination is the principal cause in China.

The figures come from a major report by the World Bank, the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development (press release).

The World Bank attempted to calculate what the gender ratios in low and middle-income countries would be if, having taken into account their overall health environment, they were otherwise like high-income countries.

It found that nearly 4 million girls and women go "missing" each year due to pre-birth discrimination or excess mortality after birth. Nearly all (85% or 3.3m) were in China, Sub-Saharan Africa and India.

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

India: Elderly may be better than the young at spreading health messages

Cultural respect for the elderly allows them to increase awareness more easily than younger people, according to Dr Alakananda Banerjee (second from left), head of the Dharma Foundation in New Delhi.Development work in India is about more than the extreme poverty portrayed in the west according to a leading campaigner in the care for the elderly sector.

Dr Alakananda Banerjee, head of the Dharma Foundation in New Delhi said there is much work to be done in the less obvious areas of healthcare.

“India is not what is displayed outside, what western people want to see. India is not just about elephants and cows on the road,” Dr Banerjee said at the First International Conference for Age-Friendly Cities in Dublin.

The doctor, head of the Department of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation with Max Hospitals, said healthcare training for the elderly can have huge benefits for the rest of the community.

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

Flooding had more impact in a few days than years of terrorist activity

More than 18 million people were left homeless by the 2010 floods. Photo: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN.One year on from the floods in Pakistan, thousands are still living in camps according to the United Nations with many others still needing more permanent housing.

Sitting in his office in Islamabad last summer, aid worker John Long listened to the news with a rising sense of disbelief.

“It was coming in on an hourly basis. 70,000 people displaced from here, 60,000 people displaced from there. Your mind just numbs, it’s overwhelming. What are you meant to do?”

What you’re meant to do when you’re deputy head of a United Nations relief office is simple; help everyone. And while millions have been helped, the scale of the disaster means relief work is on-going.

The Irishman says flooding had more impact in a few days than years of terrorist activity with more than 18 million people left homeless.

  • Written by IRIN ad/cb

Girls’ education in Afghanistan - a new beginning?

A girl does her homework by lamplight in Kandahar. Photo: Sayed Sarwar Amani/IRIN.[KABUL] Girls can attend separate schools provided students and teachers wear the hijab, and the curriculum and education environment are in keeping with religious and cultural values, Taliban commanders have told elders in southern Afghanistan.

“The Taliban have told us that they are not against schools for girls,” said Haji Nazar Mohmmad, a tribal elder in the southern province of Kandahar’s Spin Boldak District.

Local people in Marof, Daman and Panjwaye districts said they had received similar assurances from the insurgents.

The Taliban appear to be changing their attitude to female education, according to the Ministry of Education (MoE) which said there had been no opposition to the reopening of dozens of schools in the past year.

  • Written by World and Media

Pakistan Earthquake: Damage under the surface in Balochistan

Millions in Pakistan are still in need of emergency assistance following the summer 2010 floods. Photo: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN.Last night's earthquake in Pakistan refocuses attention on conditions in Balochistan. A powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.2 hit southwestern Pakistan last night, a region yet to recover from devastating floods in 2010.

The quake was more than 80 km (50 miles) underground, close to the town of Dalbandin in Balochistan province. Seismologists believe that if the earthquake had happened closer to the surface, the consequences would have been much more severe.

Rescue teams are trying to assess the impact in the large but sparsely populated region. Dalbandin is 55 km from the epicentre and is estimated to have a population of about 15,000.

Six months after the floods in Pakistan, millions of families are still in need of emergency assistance. Children are particularly vulnerable.

In addition, thousands of survivors are still struggling with the psychological trauma of the floods, a problem that is unlikely to have been helped by the earthquake.

  • Written by Senan Hogan

Women needed to build peace - Sima Samar, Tipperary peace prize winner

'I have observed failures of various good-intended efforts for peace, due to the absence and active involvement of women.' - Samar. Photo: NPR training Kabul journalists, USAID.Women need to take their place alongside men to help build peace across the world, human rights activist Dr Sima Samar has said.

Last week Dr Samar won the 2010 Tipperary International Peace Prize and the judging panel said she risked her life to fight for the rights of women and girls in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Dr Samar leads the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and has also served as an UN Special Rapporteur to monitor human rights.

The activist said the Tipperary Award will be an inspiration to Afghan women in enhancing their commitment towards peace building and in the elimination of injustice and discrimination.

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