Friday, 16 December 2011

Women's Rights - a long way to go.

During the reign of the Taliban, women were not classed as second class citizens. They were actually non-citizens. They had no rights at all. They were not allowed to work, even if that meant they would starve, not allowed an education, not even allowed out unless escorted by a man.

Since the fall of that most intolerant of regimes ten years ago, the new authorities in Afghanistan have made great effort to make theirs a more equal society. Girls now go to school, and even University, women have careers and are seen in the media, there are even women representatives in the Government.

But that doesn’t mean the struggle for equality is anywhere near won.

This fact was highlighted when the world’s media highlighted the case of Gulnaz, an Afghan woman who was jailed for twelve years for “Adultery by force”, that is, for being raped.

Rape is a heinous crime. It is a crime of violence committed by inadequate men who don’t have the ability to control themselves and behave like human beings.

It is NEVER the victim’s fault, and any society that attaches responsibility for the attack to the injured party has no reason to feel proud of itself.

Following international attention, Gulnaz was freed and given a presidential pardon. In itself, this was an insult, implying as it does that she had done anything for which she needed to be pardoned. She is now also under pressure to marry her attacker, making his actions legal and acceptable. This will, she is told, restore her honour, and help make peace between his family and hers.

How many of us would find this suggestion tolerable?

Gulnaz is not the only woman to be in this predicament in Afghanistan. Her imprisonment was ended because of the international publicity she received. Many other women languish behind bars, unseen and unremarked, their only crime to have caught the eye of an aggressor. They all deserve their reputations restored and their blamelessness acknowledged.
Until all these women are free, surely all of us are imprisoned.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Spreading Christmas

Times have been hard for all of us in the past few months. Money is tighter than most of us remember it ever having been before, and this has made us all a bit more careful.

Gone are the days when we would splash the cash on presents our friends and families didn't really want.

When finances are precarious, we don't want to buy something people will put away in a drawer and forget, or something they'll pretend to like to spare our feelings.

And we definitely don't want to buy meaningless tat.

We want our money to stretch as far as it can do, and we want the gifts we buy to have value and meaning that will last way beyond the big day.

Which is where World In Need's Alternative Christmas Gift List can help. Through it you can buy a present for your friend that will make a real difference to the lives of people in the developing world.

For example, a goat given to a family in Uganda will give a supply of milk and cheese, a chicken in Kenya will provide eggs for food and for sale, while a blanket will keep children warm through the bitterly cold Afghan winters and a bicycle allows people to find work as couriers, delivery drivers, even taxis.

We will send you a hand crafted card to give to your friend, so they’ll know exactly what was given in their name.

You can find out more about the Alternative Christmas Gifts by calling our office on 01892 669834 or emailing

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A future for Afghanistan?

This week, there is an international summit on Afghanistan which is being held in the German city of Bonn. The conference aims to secure Afghanistan’s future now that foreign military forces are planning to withdraw from the country.

Ten years after the overthrow of the Taliban regime, the people of Afghanistan still live with uncertainty. Even though they are no longer in power, the Taliban are still a force to be reckoned with and could undermine the country’s stability unless the international community continues to support the new regime. As President Karzai said this week, Afghanistan’s “young democracy remains fragile”.

Afghanistan is a land riven with problems. Fighting and violence are everyday occurrences. A trip to the local market takes people into a dangerous world of roadside bombs and suicide attackers. Going to school, or taking on a career makes targets of girls and women whose only crime is to be female and intelligent.

As is always the case in areas of conflict, poverty is rife. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in Afghanistan is just £329 per year, which compares to the UK’s figure of £25,342.

For many families, such poverty affects all aspects of life. Unable to afford adequate housing, whole families live in one room, and many are malnourished. Medical care is denied those who cannot pay for it and simple curable diseases cause suffering, permanent disability and death. Even such things as warm blankets are denied the very poorest, which leaves them exposed to the harsh winter temperatures.

Children cannot attend school, and the lack of education condemns them to repeat the lifestyle that blights their parents.

World In Need works in Kabul, helping to build a future for the people of Afghanistan. Through our child and family sponsorships programmes we enable children to go to school, giving them hope of a brighter future. Our Children’s Day Care Centre provides a warm, safe haven where children can play, or take extra lessons to catch up on school work missed because of the problems the people face. Some children have learned to paint, and the work they produce is good enough that we can sell it, providing a little income to help their families. One girl who attended the Centre has now gone on to study fine art at University.

For the politicians in Bonn, an agreement at the conference guaranteeing peace and stability would mean approbation and kudos.

For those people helped by World In Need, such an agreement would mean very, very much more.

It will mean a future.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Thirty years of AIDS

In 1981, the world was shocked and horrified to learn a new virus had been diagnosed. There was no cure. The virus worked on the human body by destroying its ability to fight off infection. Slowly, sufferers got weaker, their bodies wracked with pain, wasting away until they died.

The virus is called the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, and the illness it causes is Acquired Immuno Deficency Syndrome – AIDS.

Thirty years on, there is still no cure, although treatments have alleviated some of the sufferings and helped prolong both life and its quality for many sufferers, especially in the prosperous countries of the world. However, those who live in the developing world, whose finances won’t allow them to pay for the necessary drugs, continue to suffer.

Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the hardest hit areas of the world, with more than 24 million people living with HIV. That is 6.1% of the population, which compares to just an infection rate in North America, Western and Central Europe of just 0.5%.

With no cure, prevention is the main weapon in the fight against the virus, yet across the world, less than one in five people at risk of infection has access to basic prevention services. Only one in eight people who need to be tested for the virus have the opportunity for those tests.

The spread of the virus has been exacerbated by myth and rumour, as well as by ignorance. In certain countries, people believed that having sex with virgins would cure them, which led to the abuse of young girls, who were then infected themselves.

Infected men passed it on to their wives, who passed it on to babies in pregnancy or through breast feeding, and another generation was blighted.

Because it became known as a sexually transmitted disease, it was shrouded in shame and secrecy. Sufferers could lose jobs, livelihoods and status because of the virus, so many tell no-one they are infected, which inevitably leads to further infections.

In future, we hope, research will lead to successful treatments and cures. In the meantime, we do what we can to halt the spread of the virus. World In Need works to educate people, so that the myths can be dispelled and ignorance countered.

Our sponsorship programme spreads education, which empowers vulnerable people to protect themselves, reducing their susceptibility to the false beliefs and superstitions surrounding HIV.

Sponsored children are less vulnerable too, to lifestyles which endanger them. They don’t have to resort to begging and prostitution in order to survive, and are less likely to fall prey to those who would use and abuse them. They grow into adults who can make informed decisions which protect them, in areas such as family planning.

HIV and AIDS are curses in our modern world. Together, we can work to halt their spread and build a future of freedom for those who are now at risk from them.

If you’d like to know more about helping us in the fight for the future of the children of the world, why not contact us at