Earth Overshoot Day and Our Right to a Healthy Environment

Earth Overshoot Day and Our Right to a Healthy Environment

Earth Overshoot Day and Our Right to a Healthy Environment  
Firemen put out house fire
Criomhthann Morrison
6th of Aug 2022
For anyone interested in sustainability, climate justice, and related topics, Thursday 28th July 2022 marked two notable events – Earth Overshoot Day, and the UN General Assembly passing a resolution recognising the human right to a healthy environment. Simply put, Earth Overshoot Day tells a story of how much we’re overusing our planet. Global Footprint Network looks at what the planet can naturally generate in a year, and then compares that with what human societies are taking from it – and for 2022, July 28th is the day we hit the limit. After this day, we are taking from our reserves for next year, the year after that, and so on. Unfortunately, we have already done this for about five decades – since the 70s at least, and have progressively taken more and more.
Bar chart spanning 1971 to 2022 showing increasing overconsumption of our planet, suggesting we need 1.75 Earths to meet our demands today.
Bar chart spanning 1971 to 2022 showing increasing overconsumption of our planet, suggesting we need 1.75 Earths to meet our demands today. See Past Earth Overshoot Days for the image and more information.

The Earth Overshoot Day website highlights some solutions to help #MoveTheDate, ranging from the individual-level actions to the national- and global-level. These are relatively easy reading for people new to the topic. That said, Overshoot Day has also received criticism on several points. You can find a nice deep dive into the notion of the carbon footprint by Tammy Gan here, which is a large part of the ‘ecological footprint’ used in GFN’s calculations. Prof. Robert C. Richardson wrote a critique on the nitty gritty of the data and methods used by GFN, and GFN later wrote a direct response and a larger Limitations and Criticisms Guidebook.

 

“… readers most likely live in societies designed to overconsume, and have to make choices within these unsustainable systems just to get by.”

For the casual reader, here are two main takeaways: first, while it is important to consider one’s individual impact on the spaces around us, we should also be wary of individualising the problem; readers most likely live in societies designed to overconsume, and have to make choices within these unsustainable systems just to get by. Second, the ‘ecological footprint’ isn’t a perfect measure and doesn’t capture the full scale of indirect and system-level impacts of ecologically-damaging activities. It explicitly doesn’t seek to, rather aiming to give minimum benchmarks for countries and our global humanity to recognise where we are in the story, and what we need to aim for. That said, we can still use these concepts as tools in the larger conversation to help identify the roots of our problems and how we can take meaningful, informed action to address them.

It is also worth noting that Ireland’s Overshoot Day was 21st April. This means Ireland’s worse than the global average, dragging the rest of the planet in the wrong direction – rating ‘very low’ on 4 out of 5 indicators of the 2022 Climate Change Performance Index, and ranking 46 out of 64 countries overall. And in the midst of Ireland’s July heatwave, Ireland’s Climate Change Advisory Council warned that we’re not prepared for the climate now nor what’s coming at us next, soon followed by scathing critiques from multiple sides of the revealed sectoral targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, including not meeting the minimum targets previously set by the current government for 2030.

Alongside Earth Overshoot Day, after recent progress and similar moves across the EU and UN, the UN General Assembly, the main policymaking organ of the UN, passed a resolution recognising the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Like the metrics used to track ecological footprints, this resolution isn’t perfect: it is not legally-binding nor does it set clear standards, among other issues, which make it difficult to keep governments and corporations accountable to it. Nonetheless, it is another major step for meaningful institutional support for grassroots and policy-level work to achieve a just, sustainable and equitable world. We should celebrate it.

 

Image of the votes of all countries of the UN General Assembly to pass a resolution on the human right to a healthy environment. There were 161 votes in favour, 8 abstentions, and 0 votes against the resolution
Image from UN News Tweet. This shows 161 votes in favour, 8 abstentions, and 0 votes against the resolution.

This is just one of loads of other genuinely great achievements happening around the world, and there are lots of ways to hear about the progress being made. Some Instagram pages I use to keep updated on climate issues and opportunities in Ireland to learn more and meet people are @climatealarmclock, @actnow_collective, @climateambassador, @friendsoftheearthireland and @climateloveireland (who STAND had a chat with back in April). You’ll find dedicated ‘good news’ posts and podcasts among these pages and also at @earthlyeducation,@ecoresolution, @futureearth and @intersectionalenvironmentalist. While I’ve linked to every group’s Instagram page, you should check them out on other platforms you use too!

 

Feeling overwhelmed about the climate crisis? Check out our recent article ‘We’re Making Progress: Hope in the Face of Climate Catastrophe’ to learn about how we have already fought for the future.   Featured Photo by Ester Tuttle on Unsplash This article was supported by: STAND Engagement Coordinator Aislin Lavin.

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We’re Making Progress: Hope in the Face of Climate Catastrophe

We’re Making Progress: Hope in the Face of Climate Catastrophe

We’re Making Progress: Hope in the Face of Climate Catastrophe

Person holding globe at sunset
Emily Murphy

25th of July 2022

Climate catastrophes, extreme and expanding poverty, and war are regular features in both national and international news in recent years. One could be forgiven for the belief that the planet and its inhabitants are doomed. While we are by no means out of danger, there are enormous victories which should be acknowledged and celebrated.

For most of my life, and for the entirety of others, global warming has been a semi-regular topic in conversations at home, at school, and in general. Despite expert warnings from as early as the 1970s, few were aware of the drastic impact we are having on our world, and the implications both for the climate and for us. Since the mid 00s, there has been a growing movement working towards reducing and reversing climate damage. We have made extraordinary advances in solar and wind technology, and have improved building regulations to be less energy demanding. However, these are not nearly where they need to be yet; Germanys ‘Energiewende’ is a prime example. Germany had impressive plans to entirely phase out fossil fuels; and then they backtracked. Essentially, renewable technology was not advanced enough to replace fossil fuels. The government later announced plans to uplift a forest to access its coal reserves, out of sheer necessity. Energiewende costs €32 billion annually, and unfortunately it did not progress as the German government had hoped. However as an increased number of nuclear reactors across the country are being retired, it seems the nation is getting back on track once again. The potential for sole renewable power is impressive, although we should ensure its reliability before whole transitions, and allow Energiewende to inspire and educate.

The measures we have implemented to reduce our climate impact have not been in vain … we have the potential to heal the damage we have caused.

Ireland is falling short of our climate targets in most categories, and it is very disheartening for those who strive for change. It is important to note that while we should endeavour to meet all agreed-upon measures, governments often make promises to achieve these incredibly impressive targets knowing they will not. The reason for this is rather simple: the higher your target, the harder you push. If we only set our ambitions at what we knew we would achieve, and fell short the outcome would be much worse. By overestimating ourselves we still fall short, but do so having achieved more than we otherwise would. This is nonetheless frustrating for citizens. However, humanity has made enormous strides and should not allow our annoyance to distract from these.

Remember acid rain? It is an umbrella term for precipitation that contains an acidic component, typically sulfuric or nitric. In the 1989s, 1990s and early 2000s it was a commonly discussed issue, and regularly featured in academic text books for all ages. We never hear about acid rain anymore, why? In a nutshell, we fixed it. Before interventions, it was estimated that 4000 lakes in Sweden were acidified (and therefore unable to support life), water systems globally were likewise affected, and the problems were blamed for weakening buildings and support structures. So how did we solve it? We stopped burning coal (for the most part) and installed ’scrubbers’ to clean factory emissions. Additionally, we installed catalyst converters in cars to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. While there are some more recent instances of this occurring, it is under control in Europe and America, and very much a problem of the past. 

Remember that big hole in the ozone layer that was ‘giving everyone cancer’? It’s fixing itself. The ozone layer is a layer of earth’s stratosphere consisting of gases that absorb most of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Ozone holes are formed when heat and sunlight cause a reaction between hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. In 1974 a paper showed that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in spray bottles were depleting the ozone layer. The paper earned Paul Crutzen, Mario Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland a Nobel Prize and led to questions about fixing the invisible hole in the sky. So how did we fix it? As previously mentioned, we reduced nitrogen oxide emissions and drastically reduced our output of CFCs. The ozone hole discovered over Antarctica has almost completely fixed itself. This does not mean that the ozone layer is out of danger, on the contrary there are still ‘mini-holes’ being discovered. It does however mean that the measures we have implemented to reduce our climate impact have not been in vain, and that we have the potential to heal the damage we have caused. It’s clear we can do it.

While we are by no means out of danger, there are enormous victories which should be acknowledged and celebrated.

I am by no means suggesting that we put down our tools and let the planet do the rest from here. The changes mentioned above and a multitude of others required a lot of time and effort, and have received quite a bit of push back from the opposition. But they were achieved. We have a long way to go if we are to see the changes we wish to in the near future, but the next time you get disheartened or wonder “what’s the point?”, think of the good that people like you have done so far, and remember we have not yet done anything to the planet that we cannot help undo.

Featured photo by Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND News & Comms Intern Criomhthann Morrison.

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Global Citizenship in a Changing World – Reflections from the 2022 IDEA Conference

Global Citizenship in a Changing World – Reflections from the 2022 IDEA Conference

Global Citizenship in a Changing World – Reflections from the 2022 IDEA Conference
Protesters Attend March for Refugee Rights
Criomhthann Morrison
8th of July 2022

970 Years and 1 Month

Graduating mid-2020 and working amidst spikes and lockdowns, I have been fortunate to find opportunities to connect with people from across Ireland and the world through various online programmes and groups. While Ireland-based activities have gradually introduced in-person components, it’s no surprise that the annual IDEA Conference in June 2022 was the first in-person conference since the pandemic outbreak for many, including myself. Titled “The Future of Global Citizenship – educating for a changing world,” those attending were invited to look ahead to what global citizenship could look like across every facet of life for all.

The conference opened with the usual ‘long time, no see’ natter, and the facilitator Charo Lanao brought everyone together with groups physically crafting ‘‘living sculptures” of their visions for the present and future, as well as reflections on people’s experiences and backgrounds. A tally counted 970 years and 1 month of collective ‘global citizenship education’ (GCE) knowledge in the room on that one day. So I expected to pick up a thing or two.

Panel Exploring Polarisation and Systems Change

 

 

Biographies for each speaker can be found here on the IDEA website.

 

The opening panel dealt with the structural and systemic problems in our societies, workplaces and governments and how individual actions and lived experiences fit within solutions to address these. Dr Peter T. Coleman, Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University, highlighted how GCE practitioners can consider the polarisations around them and their participants, and the pursuit of ‘positive’ peace and ‘negative’ peace (“the promotion of peacefulness through positive interactions like civility, cooperation and care” peace” versus “the absence of violence, destructive conflict, and war,” bold added).

I found this distinction a helpful example of how even the most seemingly straightforward ideas can contain quite diverse and even incompatible assumptions and expectations, depending on the people ‘in the room’. This awareness of what we bring to the conversations and groups we find ourselves in is always worthwhile, helping us identity and talk through sometimes subtle yet substantial differences in how we understand the problems and worlds around us.

Dr Ebun Joseph, Director of the Institute of Antiracism and Black Studies (IABS), amongst many other qualifications and roles, also emphasised the importance of ‘healthy conversations’ for addressing the sticky behaviours and systems of oppression we haven’t fully shaked off yet (a purposeful choice of words, as opposed to ‘difficult’ conversations, which can prime people to resist, defend, or fight). Using an instance of racist descrimination between colleagues in a workplace as an example, Dr Joseph advises that the whole workplace should be involved in the resolution, not just the people directly involved. When discrimination happens within any context, whether at work, in education, or in public, we need to explore how and why it was enabled in the first place, and then actively change the structures and behaviours which allowed discrimination to happen. 

Most of us can name a dozen angles from which we do not face barriers and discriminatoin in everyday life like other people do, and we all have a responsibility to be part of the movements to rid of prejudice and abuse. Demanding healthy and meaningful conversations from ourselves and the spaces we’re in is one vital step in being part of an equitable, just and sustainable present and future for all.

 

Director of IDEA Frank Geary and Irish Sign Language Interpreter during the Opening Remarks.

 

Panel Exploring Challenges in the GCE Sector

 

 

The second panel gave space for 4 speakers to share their insights on key issues in the GCE sphere and the directions the space is moving in, followed by some questions from attendees. To briefly summarise some really rich sharing:

Ikal Ang’elei, an environmental activist, spoke about the importance for practitioners and activists to always work with and alongside affected communities, citing her experience as Co-Founder and Director of Friends of Lake Turkana, which works for social, economic and environmental justice for the lands and people in the area. It is an easy though grave error for genuinely enthusiastic and well-meaning individuals and groups to get caught up in their visions for their solutions instead of constructing these in partnership with the people impacted. The phrase “Nothing about us without us” springs to mind.

Mamobo Ogoro, an award winning scholar, social entrepreneur, activist and artist, followed by emphasising inclusion and belonging as key elements to reaching these visions GCE practitioners often strive for, naming dialogue as fundamental to her work with her digital media start-up GORM Media and her PhD research with minorities in Ireland. This calls for practitioners to challenge box-ticking exercises of simply getting certain people are ‘in the room’, asking if everyone in the room is fully able participate in conversations and decision-making, and what we need to do on the individual- and system-level to promote this ‘belonging’ for all. 

Dr Audrey Bryan, Associate Professor of Sociology in DCU, then raised critical questions about the individualisation and prescription of GCE in Ireland. She also cautioned the increasing focus on measurable technical skills to the detriment of considering holistically the relationships between individuals, their communities, and the challenges faced across society. Dr Bryan spoke to these ideas and more at the recorded webinar Future Trends in Development Education hosted by IDEA in Dec 2021.

Bobby McCormack, Co-Founder and Director of Development Perspectives, talked about developing the ‘innovation ecosystems’ within the sector and emphasised the opportunities for partnership especially with less obvious colleagues, sharing the example of Development Perspectives working with EirGrid to host community forums to include their voice in several energy projects. This suggests interesting opportunities outside the normal bounds of what organisations consider GCE and their roles in a changing world, offering bridges between areas of life not typically linked, from the energy system to community health to agriculture to far more.

During the Q&A, I found one moment worth noting: one attendee asked for suggestions for teaching useful and abstract tools like systems thinking to children, and another attendee quickly took the microphone to share resources produced by their own organisation for exactly this purpose. While a small interaction, it was hardly minor, and just one reminder from the day of the value of sharing these open spaces with our peers. Someone sitting behind you often has something that will help you, even before you realise you need help.

 

Conference Facilitator Charo Lanao speaking to the 70+ in-person attendees.

 

Panel Exploring Challenges in the GCE Sector

 

 

The second day of the conference ran online with two sets of workshops running parallel, which posed me the challenge of which to sign up for! The first I chose was Ecosystem Restoration and Development Education: Regenerating people and wider nature with Gareth Conlon and Karen Jeffares. I managed to catch the latter half which explored the lands, organisms and food around us, and how as GCE practitioners, mindsets should focus on bringing about positive transformation within communities, not particular solutions per se. Group discussions included reflections on how workshops with schools often implicitly task children with convincing the adults in their lives to make changes and the challenges this entails regarding justice and responsibility. Topics also arising included ‘pedagogy of hope’ and potential routes for collaboration across sectors, for example GCE and farmers.

This session posed important questions about our responsibilities as practitioners to the people and groups we work with, who we engage with in the first place, and why. Our answers can inform how we approach our work and help us to see the groups we work with (and don’t work with) as multifaceted and feeling pressures from various directions. What does this mean for fostering space to communicate, build skills, and perhaps sow seeds for peace – and which kind?

The second workshop I attended was Global Business and Human Rights with Mark Cumming. Business is an area many in GCE spaces are averse to, so the workshop sought to highlight the importance of working for human rights in the business realm, and to equip attendees to do so. We explored power of and accountability within business spaces, the state of affairs in Ireland, and what practitioners and the sector can do now and moving forward to better engage with the private sector. One key point made is the importance of building communities and movements for change, including encouraging people to join communities for their passions, and even trade unions, which the large majority of attendees reported not being part of. 

Early in the final workshop, Cumming referenced the Audre Lorde quote “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” This is a challenge for all GCE practitioners in their work: to what degree does the work we do uphold existing structures and systems despite best intentions, and to what degree does our work truly enable communities to achieve their visions within – dare I say – a changing world? Don’t worry, I don’t have a clean answer either.

 

 Lizzy Noone from WorldWise Global Schools speaking during a Q&A.

 

The Value in Sharing Space

 

 

I didn’t get the chance to attend the other two workshops, Transformative Education in Times of Crises with Tereza Čajková and Aurèle Destrée or War, Peace and the Future of Development Education with Zelalem Sibhat, Dr Gerard McCann, and Dr Gertrude Cotter, though from the titles alone, it’s clear GCE practitioners are working hard to locate their work across the different aspects of global and local challenges communities are facing around the world. That said, judging from my conversations with several speakers and attendees, perhaps people were most excited to simply share space with each other and feel more connected with and part of a larger whole.

What I am most excited about are the coming weeks and months, when the conversations and ideas shared will percolate in my mind and influence my work in obvious and subtle ways, some examples of which already spring to mind. And so what are the next steps for global citizenship and educating in a changing world? Healthy conversations, critical reflection, and collaboration across sectors may not be novel suggestions to some or most, but are nonetheless vital to achieving a present we can stand over.

Feature photo caption: From the left: unnamed, Susie Spratt from An Gáisce, Tahla from Amnesty, unnamed. Contact criomhthann@stand.ie if you feature in this photo and would like to be named.

Featured photos by Méabh Hennelly with permission from IDEA.

Connect with Criomhthann over LinkedIn or Twitter.

This article was supported by: Engagement Coordinator Aislin and STAND News & Comms Intern Penelope Norman.

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IGHN Student Outreach Podcast With Shubhangi Karmakar

IGHN Student Outreach Podcast With Shubhangi Karmakar

IGHN Student Outreach Podcast with Shubhangi Karmakar

8th of March 2022

Soundcloud image link

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This podcast episode is brought to you by a syndication partnership between STAND News and the Irish Global Health Network.

 

In this episode, we speak to Shubhangi Karmakar! Shubhangi (she/they) holds a medical degree and a MSc in Molecular Medicine from Trinity College Dublin. She has particular interests in psychiatry, science communication, and advocacy for underrepresented groups, such as disabled persons and those in the LGBTQ+ community. She is currently working as an academic intern at St. James’ Hospital.

 

 

Imagine Equality Campaign Link

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Global Health Talks With Ambassador Nicola Brennan

Global Health Talks With Ambassador Nicola Brennan

Global Health Talks with Ambassador Nicola Brennan

7th of March 2022

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This podcast episode is brought to you by a syndication partnership between STAND News and the Irish Global Health Network.

 

In this episode, we speak to Nicola Brennan, Ireland’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, South Sudan and Djibouti, currently based in Ethiopia. She shares candidly her journey from her first development position in Indonesia to her current role as Ireland’s Ambassador. She talks about the policy priorities of the Irish government, how gender equality is firmly embedded in her team at the Embassy, what it is like to be a woman leader and her hopes for the future.

 

 

Imagine Equality Campaign Link

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Gender Based Violence: When Borders are Blurred

Gender Based Violence: When Borders are Blurred

Gender Based Violence:
When Borders are Blurred

Lit candle protected by hand
Ellen Coburn

15th of February 2022

 

When I think of the concept of freedom, a number of thoughts come to mind. Birds in flight, chains being broken, open fields, having the right to speak our minds, make our own decisions, wear what we want, look how we want, do what makes us feel happy and healthy, having the freedom to think what we choose and go wherever we want to go, all while knowing that our safety is not in jeopardy.

Feeling free and feeling safe are concepts that are inherently interdependent. I believe they need each other in order to harmoniously coexist. But what happens when our freedom, our fundamental human right, is violated? What happens when we no longer feel like we can go to work, be alone, go out with friends, exercise or simply leave our homes because we feel as though these freedoms may come at the cost of our safety or even our lives? These questions are unfortunately not hypothetical. They are the morbid reality that floods the minds of women across the world. Gender Based Violence has become a deep and intractable iceberg that has lodged itself in our society and shows no signs of melting without intervention. This brutality against women is a pandemic. Our safety and our freedom is undeniably under threat.

On the 12th of January 2022, Ashling Murphy went for a run along the Grand Canal in Tullamore in broad daylight and never returned home. But it does not matter what she was doing or at what time of day she was doing it. What matters is that Ashling Murphy should be alive. On that day, Ashling became a victim of the silenced pandemic. A pandemic that has already destroyed the lives and freedoms of hundreds of Irish women.  

Each year, the Sakharov Prize is awarded by the European Parliament to honour exceptional individuals who defend human rights and fundamental freedoms. In 2014 this prize was awarded to Denis Mukwege. As a gynaecologist in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Denis Mukwege has dedicated his life to treating women who are victims of sexual and physical violence perpetrated by men in times of war. He has become the world’s leading specialist in the treatment of violence against women and is a global campaigner against the use of this violence as a weapon of warfare. Despite numerous attempts on his life, Mukwege continues to fight against Gender Based Violence and in doing so, promotes societal and cultural change in a country in which brutality against women has been used as a pawn in a deadly game of war for over two decades. (Source: NobelPrize.org)

 

Denis Mukwege, Sakharov Prize Laureate 2014 at the European Parliament on March 26, 2015

 

Denis Mukwege, Sakharov Prize Laureate 2014 at the European Parliament on March 26, 2015

 

But what is the relevance of discussing Denis Mukwege? As someone who grew up in Ireland, I believe that many of us are highly accustomed to ignoring our problems. Ignorance hides in the shadows of our culture. We hear about international atrocities and civil unrest or even about socio-cultural issues that wreak havoc in neighbouring countries and yet, we take comfort in thinking that Ireland is somehow different.

We may agree that these problems are unjust, but in Ireland, these injustices are ‘their’ problems and not ‘ours’. We are safe because an entire ocean separates ‘us’ from ‘them’. But we are not safe. Gender Based Violence does not respect borders, nor does it differentiate peace time from war time. In fact, if there were no dominant traces of sexism, shame, harmful stereotypes or misogynistic attitudes in times of peace, then violence against women would not function so effectively in times of war. 

Even though the Democratic Republic of Congo is geographically detached from Ireland and Mukwege’s patients come from different cultures and circumstances to our own, what divides us becomes irrelevant when experiences become universal. The Congolese women I am speaking of have experienced the most heinous form of Gender Based Violence, just like Sarah Everard, Nadine Lott, Jennie Poole, Jastine Valdez and Natalia Karaczyn to name just a few. Just like Ashling Murphy. 

A sobering mirror has been held up to our society over the past number of weeks. The mirror has exposed the dominance and aggression that not all men, but too many men assert over women. The aggression does not have to be physical, it can and does occur in any form, at any time, by any person. Misogynistic comments and assumptions about women occur in everyday life. Harmful pornographic content, sexual harassment, behaviour that goes unchecked and words passed off as ‘harmless jokes’ all nourish the relentless beast that is misogyny. It begs the question: How has this behaviour become so entrenched in our everyday lives? Why is it normalised? Can we blame our legal systems? Institutions? Policymaking? Media? While I believe that there are a myriad of factors to blame, at its core, sexism is perpetuated by cultural values.

 

People lighting candles at a vigil for Ashling Murphy in Tullamore, Ireland.

Contemporary culture has become a breeding ground for allowing boys and young men to dehumanise and disrespect women. The consumption of film and television that glamorizes misogyny and encourages men to feel entitled to women has the potential to later manifest itself in consuming pornography that trades in the degradation of women. Being exposed to popular content of this nature from a young age establishes dangerous behavioural norms amongst men and creates unrealistic expectations surrounding female relationships and affection. On a wider cultural scale, society is guilty of trivialising Gender Based Violence through media framing, victim-blaming, and shaky legal frameworks. Therefore, if men are exposed to blatant sexism from a young age and subsequently grow up in a society that enables these misogynistic attitudes and behaviours then our society and our cultural values are brewing the perfect storm against the freedom and safety of women.

When violence is perpetrated against women, often the first questions that are asked are: What was she wearing? Was she drunk? What was she doing alone? Hence, it seems that the world we live in is still not tired of finding ways to blame women who are victims of Gender Based Violence as opposed to fixing the societal misogyny that costs them their lives. The death of Ashling Murphy is not an isolated incident. It is a deadly pattern that we have witnessed time and time again and until we decide to treat it as such, women will continue to be harassed, stalked, assaulted and murdered. Laws should be implemented and policies can change but until we acknowledge the foundation of Gender Based Violence – the sexist culture our society has enabled – the iceberg will not melt. Women will not feel safe. Women will not feel free. Denis Mukwege once said “We cannot operate against violence. We can only abolish it”. His words aptly encapsulate the pandemic of Gender Based Violence. If we cannot destroy the roots, the weeds will only grow back thicker.

It is so important to stay connected on issues such as Gender Based Violence that not only affect our society, but societies around the world. STAND will be launching a new campaign in Spring that seeks to take a look at issues that arise from Gender Based Violence from a global perspective. The campaign will explore how we can stay engaged, take action and raise awareness on Gender Based Violence so that we can understand and fight to abolish it on a global level. 

 

To find out more information on Gender Based Violence, listed below are organisations in Ireland and abroad that work to fight against it: 

 

Women’s Aid

Irish Aid 

Irish Consortium on Gender Based Violence 

TUSLA

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Concern 

Imagine Equality Campaign Link

Featured Photo by BBC Creative on Unsplash .

This article was supported by: STAND News Editor Caoimhe O’Regan and Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

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Ideas Collective Participant Implements Public Health Awareness Programme

Ideas Collective Participant Implements Public Health Awareness Programme

Ideas Collective Participant Implements Public Health Awareness Programme

sibeal devilly

15th of February 2022

‘’In an unequal world, our response to COVID-19 cannot be one size-fits-all’’ –Médecins Sans Frontieres 

For public health interventions to be effective, they must be locally curated, and responsive to the realities of inequality. Even on a national scale, the Covid-19 pandemic has not been experienced by any one population homogeneously. How could we therefore think the solution to be any different?  

There is no easy answer to a public health crisis, especially in global terms. It would be a mistake to assume that the challenges faced by any given geographical region are faced by all. Rather, the public health determinants and barriers withholding the responses to the pandemic have demonstrated great geographical, cultural and political variance.  

Community Wellness Africa is an NGO based in Nairobi, Kenya and is currently running community initiatives in the Southwest County of Kisii. Robert Ogugu, the founder of the organisation participated in STAND’s Ideas Collective where he progressed to secure funding for his organisation in order to implement a Covid awareness raising project in Kisii County.  The Ideas Collective is an annual social incubator programme for students and graduates such as Robert. Thanks to his success in the Ideas Collective, and with the help of his team, Evelyn, Dave, Denzil, Trizah and Makepeace Njeri, Community Wellness Africa was able to initiate their latest project tackling community awareness and health education addressing Covid prevention. 

 

Denzil Okari of Community Wellness Africa, Mr. Thomas Omwenge, Director at St. Thomas Academy, and Mr. David Nchaga, Head teacher at St. Thomas Academy. Location is St. Thomas Academy in Kisii County, Kenya.

The organisation strives to promote the wellbeing of vulnerable communities in Southwest Kenya by adopting a public health approach in the implementation of their various grassroot projects. The focus of their Covid-19 awareness project is centred around preventive rather than curative responses to the pandemic. The project takes on a multi-level approach focused on community awareness campaigns as well as vaccination roll out. Robert and his team work in correspondence to what they believe are the pillars to sustainable public health development; healthcare, education and economic empowerment.  

By working in line with these interdependent pillars, Community Wellness Africa aims to provide an efficient and effective impact on the lives of the communities they work for and thus limit the danger of Covid-19 within the villages.  By focusing on health education and community sensitization, Robert and his team are not only working to limit the impact of the virus, but also to lessen the dependency on unguaranteed overseas aid as the only way of surviving the pandemic.  

In some rural parts of Kenya, access to the internet and communication services are minimal, and at that, extremely expensive. Community Wellness Africa focuses on overcoming barriers to accessing information and public health provision by adopting a specific cultural response. As many African countries face an array of financial, political and logistical barriers in accessing curative solutions to the pandemic, sufficiency in the supply of vaccines as well as the infrastructure needed to roll them out is a great challenge.   

Even with the help of donations from Europe and North America, the number of vaccines being sent to Kenya is simply not enough. “There are doubts whether these are genuine donations because sometimes the vaccines sent to Africa have a short expiry date, some expire while on transit to their intended destinations,” Robert explained.  

Nevertheless, the main challenge is the quality chain in place once these expiring vaccines arrive. “If help comes, I think it should come as a package, it should be complete with logistical considerations in place and vaccines should have long shelf-life dates. And at that, there should be adequate public awareness raising initiatives for faster vaccine uptake.” 

 

Denzil Okari of Community Wellness Africa giving a health talk during the implementation of the program. Location is Tracer Academy in Kisii County, Kenya

Prevention in terms of public health education is at the essence of the project in Kisii county. One of the most unique elements of the organisation however, is the curated approach they have taken in order for information to be accessed by the maximum number of people in the most equitable manner possible.  

Regarding using the radio as a primary means of disseminating information, Robert explained how radio and other social media channels have played both positive and negative roles in spreading information about the pandemic, especially in the Global South. Like most media, communicating through outlets such as the FM channels in Kenya is bound within a web of complicated power structures, political ties, and misinformation. “Radio and television sets are not accessible to all the people living in rural areas” said Robert. He further explained how in traditional communities such as those working with Community Wellness Africa “The father of the house is the owner of the radio and would prefer tuning it to channels that discuss local politics or play bongo music.”  

By targeting schools as the entry points to these rural communities, Robert Ogugu’s team is able to incorporate pupils, students, teachers, and other staff working in the education and health sector by encouraging them to take active roles as agents of health promotion. Linking in with the Covid-19 Facemask program, public health information and resources from the organisation’s workshops reach households more effectively, and therefore the wider population. “We definitely cannot supply the entire community with facemasks, but the few which we give out pass a certain message in that locality, that everyone should wear a facemask, and this is creating an overall positive impact. For example, those who participate in the programme and those who receive a facemask become agents of information and can share what they learned with their friends and family, thus leading to behavioural change in the community. This can be evidenced by by people adopting the wearing of facemasks when in public places, embracing handwashing hygiene, practicing social distancing, and getting vaccinated’’ explained Robert. 

Public health education and community awareness projects such as that being run by Community Wellness Africa are breaking the boundaries of inequity and inefficiency which continue to disable the success of other approaches to the Covid-19 pandemic. Good health and well-being are more than the absence of a disease. As expectations of services needed to provide curative solutions to viral diseases, such as Covid-19, continue to increase, locally curated and community focused responses are needed.  

 

Community Wellness Africa is currently fundraising to provide the communities in Kisii County with the services they need to respond to the pandemic. The team plans to install handwashing facilities in three of the schools under this program at a Cost of Euro 5,000 per school. 

If you would like to donate or partner in this project, please visit— www.communitywellnessafrica.org  or write to info@communitywellnessafrica.org    

 

Featured image is of Denzil Okari of Community Wellness Africa and Madam Marion, a teacher at Tracer Academy. Location is Tracer Academy in Kisii Country, Kenya.

All photos by Robert Ogugu.

This article was supported by: STAND News and Communications Intern Elaine and Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

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Costa Rica, Pura Vida in Practice

Costa Rica, Pura Vida in Practice

Costa Rica, Pura Vida in Practice

Volcano in Coasta Rica
Aisling Stevenson initials

2nd of February 2022

Costa Rica is known for a lot, but what many don’t know is its approach to sustainable living. We hear that word thrown around a lot these days, but what does it actually mean?

Sustainability is meeting the needs of the present, without affecting future generations in meeting their needs. To be sustainable is more important than ever, especially now with the current climate crisis we’re living in. The things we do now will affect the planet for years to come, that is why everyone should look into becoming sustainable.

An example of a sustainable country that we could all learn a thing or two from, is Costa Rica in Central America. A place I recently visited and noticed the different things they do to combat climate change, a beautiful, sustainable country, that is highly recommended.

Costa Rica is known as a green travel destination. It is an environmentally friendly country, the lush green country sides, extraordinary biodiversity, and the diverse tropical ecosystems help with being green too. Tourism and ecotourism are a major industry in Costa Rica, it is one of the main driving forces that sustains a large proportion of the population. The upkeep of the country, and the sustainability of it is paramount if they want to keep tourism afloat.

Costa Rica is small, around the size of Ireland, with a similar population too. Our differences are that it’s warm in Costa Rica, their sea is warm, and Costa Rica has 5% of the world’s biodiversity living there. From the unusual racoon like creatures, Coatis, to the amazing jungle flora that may only be present in certain areas of the country. When traveling from the Caribbean side to the Pacific side, you see a completely change in landscape. The Caribbean side is more humid with a flatter landscape, compared to the Pacific side, which has a lot more mountains. When I was there, I looked out to a valley near Monteverde, it was like I could have been in Switzerland. The lush rolling green hills, the blue sky. What makes you realise you’re not in Switzerland are the birds flying past you. You do not get Macaws and Toucans in the wild in Switzerland.

There are over 250 species of mammals in Costa Rica, from monkeys and sloths to manatees and jaguars. It also has around 900 different species of birds, and of course a range of reptiles such as crocodiles and iguanas.

Due to the diverse wildlife and plants, Costa Rica has 5.25% of its territory protected. The environment and conservation are extremely important there. Conversation being a national priority, with around 20 national parks, 8 biological reserves, various animal refuges, with over a quarter of the land being protected. From my experience of being there recently, one thing that stood out to me was the fact that you were not allowed to flush toilet paper. It had to be deposited in a bin next to it. Everywhere you went were signs in bathrooms reminding not to flush paper, do not leave taps running, do not flush too much, turn off lights when not in use. These are some of the measures in place to help with its sustainability. Some places that did this as the septic systems were not fully equipped to handle too much in them, without clogging. This is to help with sustainability, less waste going into the water and clogging pipes.

There are a total of 112 volcanoes in Costa Rica as it lays on the Ring of Fire. Additionally, Costa Rica has 12 microclimates from beaches, mountains, waterfalls, to volcanoes, earthquakes, tropical jungles, etc…

Nearly 93% of the electricity used there is from renewable resources, showing how truly sustainable the country is. Seeing the abundance of rainfall, and vast rivers, hydroelectric power is most commonly used with 78% of the population using it. 18% of the people use geothermal resources from volcanoes. Wind and solar energy are found to be used too.

In 2017 Costa Rica hit a milestone: for more than 300 days only renewable energy was used without any fossil fuels. This is an amazing feat. They planned to be completely carbon neutral in 2021. But that is still a work in progress, a goal of which I believe will be undertaken soon, especially with all sustainable resources already in place.

I truly believe we as a people could learn a lot from the way Costa Rica has challenged climate change, doing everything in its power to be sustainable and help the planet out. They have done a good job at it so far: we can see lush protected national parks, free-roaming animals, most of the country is protected, and recycling bins and signs up reminding people everywhere to live as suitably as possible.

 

Photo by Cosmic Timetraveler on Unsplash

 

 

This article was brought to you by Carlow's Student Weekly

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Fairtrade Fortnight 2020: The Way to Sustainable Chocoholism

Fairtrade Fortnight 2020: The Way to Sustainable Chocoholism

Have you ever wondered what our life would be like without chocolate? It is hard to imagine such a scenario when you consider how many of today’s products either consist of or contain the beloved food. For Ireland, this would mean an especially great deal. After all, according to Fairtrade figures, Irish people are the third-largest chocolate consumers in the World. Only surpassed by Austria and Switzerland, the average person in Ireland ate about 17 pounds of chocolate in 2017.

 

While chocolate is generally associated with feeling good, there is a side to it that speaks a different truth. The difficulties that many cocoa farmers have to face to produce our chocolate have been repeatedly called out over the last few decades. Hazardous working conditions, exploitation and oppression, a lack of health care and even child labour define the daily lives of thousands of workers and their families. Even though many people are aware of the problem, it often seems difficult to actually do something about it as an individual.

 

Fairtrade Fortnight, a campaign organised by the Fairtrade Foundation, aims to raise awareness of the conditions in which many people in developing countries work to produce our food. For two weeks each year, hundreds of individuals, companies, and groups across Ireland come together to tell others about farmers’ and workers’ stories. In doing so, they want to demonstrate the positive impact of Fairtrade and hope to encourage people to buy more goods made to Fairtrade standards. This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight’s focus is on – as you might have guessed – chocolate. Particular attention will be paid to the women farmers who supply companies with cocoa, seeing that women often make only little profit from the food they grow compared to men. 

 

The campaign takes place from February 24th to March 8th and features a large number of guest speakers, such as Arjen Boekhold and Nicola Matthews from the Netherlands. Their chocolate company Tony’s Chocolonely pursues the mission to make chocolate completely slave-free and create fair conditions for all cocoa farmers. At the event’s opening night in Dublin, Boekhold spoke amongst other things about inequality in the chocolate industry, pointing out the power of the few multinational companies. “How can we talk about a fair economy or a free economy where you can negotiate prices? We have, one the one hand, two and a half million farmers and they have to negotiate with only two companies” Boekhold explained. The chocolate bar also has a unique design. Divided into parts of different sizes rather than even squares, the composition is meant to reflect the inequality between those who produce the chocolate and those who eventually profit from it. Boekhold stated his belief in Fairtrade saying, “I think Fairtrade is one of the few initiatives which really try to strengthen the position of farmers and make cooperatives work […] At this moment, around 6 to 7% of all cocoa worldwide is sold under Fairtrade terms. So that is a minority. But you see an impact, you see change.”

 

Allison Roberts, founder of the chocolate company Exploding Tree and one of the three bean-to-bar chocolate producers in Ireland, is a speaker at Fairtrade Fortnight as well. Located in Cork, her company handcrafts chocolate bars with 100% Fairtrade cocoa and coconut sugar bought directly from farming cooperatives like Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana. Running only a small company, Roberts says she feels freer to experiment with her chocolate and likes to create new flavours that don’t necessarily speak to the mainstream: Salt & Seaweed, Goats’ Milk, Dark Orange or 100% Cocoa are just some of them. And did you know that her company produces the only artisan milk chocolate bar made with Irish milk?  

 

It’s encouraging to see that progress has already been made. According to Fairtrade International, cocoa was the fastest-growing Fairtrade product category in 2017 with revenue rising by 57% in volume, and growth still continuing in 2018. But what is it that makes Fairtrade products so special? Why are they different from others and how does the label work?  

 

Fairtrade can be described as a trading partnership with the objective to promote greater justice in international trade. It serves as a certification scheme that ensures socially and economically fair production standards for goods from developing countries, such as chocolate, coffee, tea, cotton, fruits, sugar and also gold. Since these products are high in demand and consumed all around the world, a key mission is to make their production as sustainable as possible. International fair trade networks like Fairtrade International or World Fair Trade Organization have defined standards regarding workers’ rights, fair labour practices and environmental responsibility that organisations are required to follow in order to be labelled ‘Fairtrade’. 

 

First of all, farmers and workers must be paid a minimum price for their products, which guarantees them a stable income. FLOCERT, the audit and certification body for Fairtrade standards, regularly checks that this is implemented. In such a way, workers are given a safety net as they are protected from exploitation and can use income to save money for the future. Fairtrade farmers and workers also receive the Fairtrade Premium, an additional sum of money that goes to a communal fund of their choice. This fund helps workers improve their social, economic or environmental conditions through investment in things like better infrastructure, their children’s education or drinking water supplies. Another important aspect of Fairtrade is sustainable production, which involves farms and plantations avoiding pesticides and fungicides since these often cause great damage to people, wildlife and natural resources. If it’s impossible to circumvent toxicants, their usage has to be reduced to a minimum and resources like soil and water need to be kept clean. Additionally, all employees who might get in contact with the substances are required to wear protective clothing. But that’s not everything that Fairtrade is invested in. Other important issues that are being dealt with include child labour, climate change and gender inequality.

 

All in all, buying Fairtrade chocolate may not be the solution to every problem in the trading industry but it’s a good place to start and it proves that it’s not hard to make a positive impact, even if it’s small. As one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, Ireland has the chance to go ahead and make sure that Fairtrade products will be even more widespread and consumed in the future.

 

 

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

 

 

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Maasai Women and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Suas intern Maximiliana Eligi Mtenga shares insights from her research on the tension between ensuring protected rights for the Maasai Women and environmental protection of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Covert Conflict of Interdependence

STAND News’ Brianna Walsh shares a thoughtful and informed reflection on the role of implicit bias and historical context on perceptions of refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland and the EU.

Ethiopia’s forgotten war

More than two million people have fled the region, and there have been at least 10,000 reported deaths with tens of thousands of people are currently seeking refuge in the neighbouring country of Sudan. However, as communications have been almost entirely cut in the region, it is impossible to calculate exact numbers.

Is a diamond anyone’s best friend?

The lack of laws leads not just to well-below-the-poverty-line wages, but also to fatal working conditions, child labour, and the flourishing of public health issues as the sex trade thrives in many diamond mining towns, leading to the spread of HIV and other STI’s.

The rise of antisemitism in Europe

The recent rise in antisemitic acts has at times been linked to Covid-19 restrictions. During periods of turmoil, it seems that anti-Jewish sentiment rises. We need only look to poverty-stricken Germany in the 1920s or to the Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century.

Is the EU migrant return policy ethical?

The EU migrant return policy aims to increase return rates of asylum seekers to their country of origin by making border procedures as efficient as possible. Since the increased amount of people fleeing wars in 2015 and seeking refuge in Europe, EU asylum policy has been polarising, with Europe often being dubbed “Fortress Europe” – an impassable fort with watchtowers and border guards prepared to stop at nothing to keep those seeking refuge out.

The Legacy of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona

The Legacy of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona

After beating off stiff competition to become the host city for the Summer Olympic Games in 1992, Barcelona, the capital of the Catalonia region of Spain and the country’s second-largest city, took on the challenge to represent Spain on an international stage. A major redevelopment of Barcelona’s infrastructure and landscape began, the results of which have significantly contributed to what Barcelona is today: a famously vibrant epicentre of culture in Europe as well as a world-renowned tourist destination.

 

As a consequence of building and design efforts targeted at the Olympic games, several purpose-built architecturally striking venues popped up across Barcelona city in the early 1990s, transforming the city’s skyline. Examples of such structures include the Palau Municipal d’Esports; Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys; Velòdrom Municipal d’Horta and Palau Sant Jordi. Introducing the initiative as a citywide developmental plan, the Spanish government aimed to pacify fears that the transformation would impinge upon Barcelona’s natural landscape features, such as its distinctively shaped mountains set against a vast shoreline. The creation of two miles of beachfront across Barcelona’s coastline using hundreds of tonnes of imported sand was a unique feature of the development, which proved a resounding success in attracting tourism to the city to this day. 

 

The surge in tourist numbers to Barcelona after the 1992 Olympic Games made excellent use of the planned upgrade in transport systems. Efforts to improve transport systems in Barcelona during this time have enabled the city to become a more accessible location in Europe. The El Prat de Llobregat airport benefitted from expansion as part of the major development, with the addition of new terminals, a jetway and a control tower. The upgrading of the road network in the region was achieved at this time with significant government planning and investment in rail and roads networks, producing stronger transport links in Barcelona with the addition of the ring roads, for example, the Rondas and the opening of its first high-speed rail network, the Alta Velocidad Española. As a relatively new member of the European Union, having joined in 1986, Spain seized the opportunity to showcase Barcelona’s potential, which led to the improvement of the Spanish economy by sustaining increased investment across all sectors.

 

A further but perhaps less obvious aspect of the major redevelopment of Barcelona for the Olympic Games was the incorporation of an accessibility initiative in Barcelona’s physical environment. Prior to the Olympic Games, Barcelona was not easily accessible for people with disabilities, who may require that little bit of extra thought in the design of transport and infrastructure. Merche Barreneche, Director of Barcelona’s Municipal Institute of People with Disability in 1992, said that “it costs the same to build something new that is accessible as something that is not. We must debunk the myth that it is more expensive.” The design of transport that incorporated universal accessibility in Barcelona was highly commended in establishing an early example of how accessibility can be achieved in urban planning. These features of design can be found all over Barcelona today, in wheelchair access for people with physical disabilities and assistive technology for people with audio or visual disabilities accessing all modes of transport, including in the airport and on buses, trains and trams to name a few.

 

The legacy of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona transformed the city’s transport network providing to this day an exemplary demonstration of how a region can invest in its infrastructure and attract worldwide tourism and investment. Barcelona was an inspiring example that contributed to the Olympic Games Knowledge Management programme that was set up in 2000. This programme is an important collaboration for the Olympic Games future success, whereby information gathered from past events support the improvement of planning for future chosen host cities of the Olympics. The future sustainability of the present infrastructure in the city will be put to the test again as Barcelona looks forward to hosting the 2026 Winter Olympic Games.

 

 

 

Photo by Alfons Taekema on Unsplash

 

 

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The UN: Compromise or Compromised?

Louie Lyons reflects on the UN security council veto, examining it’s restrictive impact on the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria and the potential for change.

From Wheatpaste to Home Fries: Looking Back on Climate Camp Ireland

Penelope Norman reflects on xyr experience at Climate Camp Ireland and the potential it demonstrated for building a better tomorrow.

Travellers and Access to Education

Louie Lyons discusses issues Irish Travellers face while trying to access all levels of education and ways we can fix our institutions to be more inclusive going forward.

The Pressures of a Female Comic

Deepthi Suresh discusses the experience of women comedians from television shows like the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to the perspectives of working comedians from Ireland to India and beyond.

Global Citizenship in a Changing World – Reflections from the 2022 IDEA Conference

STAND News & Comms Intern Criomhthann Morrison shares some thoughts following the IDEA Conference in June 2022, exploring how healthy conversations, critical reflection, and collaboration across sectors fits within global citizenship and the changing world we live in.

Meet Treasa Cadogan, United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland

Niamh Kelly chats with Treasa Cadogan, United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland for 2021-22. Treasa shares what led her to her current role, her experience as a young changemaker, and how other young people can get more active on what they care about.

Deliver us from blasphemy

Deliver us from blasphemy

“Jesus Christ,” “Christ almighty,” “Christ on a bike and Mary on the handle bars.”

These holy swears seem like the most benign to use amongst the variety of profanity at our disposal. However, if you were to say or publish such “blasphemes’’ in Ireland today, you could end up in court.

What is Blasphemy?
Blasphemy is the act of showing a lack of reverence to a deity. Article 40.6.1 of the Irish Constitution currently states: “The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.” The vagueness around what defines a blasphemous offence leaves people open to persecution and many see the legislation as an attack on free speech.

“It fundamentally offends the principle of freedom of speech, promotes disrespect for our laws and damages our international reputation,” said Róisín Shortall, Social Democrats TD.

Why are we talking about it now?
The Irish government called for a referendum to take place this year on whether or not to remove the blasphemy laws from the constitution. Laws against blasphemy have existed in Ireland since the 1800s, though these applied to Christianity only. Ex-Taoiseach Enda Kenny decided to be more inclusive on the matter and introduced legislation under the 2009 Defamation Act that prohibits blasphemy against all religions.

Occasions where people faced prosecution and charges for blasphemy offences in Ireland are rare, yet they happen. Conway vs. Independent Newspapers was a particular case, when John Conway tried to prosecute three national publications because of content they printed during the 1995 Divorce Referendum which he believed was blasphemous against Catholicism. The case was dismissed.

Is Ireland the only country with these laws?
Ireland brought in its renewed blasphemy laws the same year Asia Bibi was accused of committing a blasphemous offence in Pakistan. Bibi is now serving her 9th year in incarceration on a suspended death sentence. Pakistan is a member of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, which cites Ireland’s blasphemy legislation as the most desirable.

Sixty-nine countries have some form of Blasphemy laws, though Ireland is the only ‘western’ country to introduce laws in the 21st century:

 

Country:

Countries with blasphemy laws, from most to least severe.
Iran 1.
Pakistan 2.
Yemen3.
Somalis4.
Qatar 5.
Egypt6.
Italy7.
Algeria8.
Comoros 9.
Libya10.
Saudi Arabia11.
Bahrain12.
Afghanistan 13.
Liechtenstein 14.
UAE15.
Greece16.
Jordan17.
Thailand18.
Andorra 19.
Oman20.
Indonesia 21.
Suriname22.
Papa New Guinea23.
Morocco24.
Sudan25.
Antigua26.
Kazakhstan 27.
Sri Lanka 28.
Zimbabwe29.
Russia30.
Kuwait 31.
Iraq32.
Austria33.
San Marino34.
Ethiopia35.
Lebanon36.
Montenegro 37.
Finland38.
Germany39.
India 40.
Rwanda41.
Cyprus 42.
Malaysia 43.
St. Vincent44.
Singapore 45.
Zambia46.
Brunei47.
Bangladesh 48.
Tanzania 49.
Mauritius50.
Israel51.
Turkey52.
New Zealand 53.
Syria54.
South Sudan55.
Eritrea56.
Nigeria57.
Poland58.
Switzerland59.
Tunisia60.
Canada61.
Brazil62.
Vanuatu63.
Grenada64.
St. Lucia65.
Guyana66.
Philippines67.
Spain68.
Ireland

69.

*According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

Decolonising education

Decolonising education

Universities have long been seen as places of open discourse, championing the pursuit of knowledge above all else. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that college campuses have been the incubators for one of the most fascinating – and successful – academic movements of recent years: the campaign for the decolonisation of knowledge.

Aims
Simply put, the decolonisation movement aims to address the overwhelming lack of discussion around the impacts of colonialism in universities around the world. While their aims are varied and nuanced, two of the main goals championed by students and academics alike include the removal of monuments or institutional totems celebrating links to imperialism and racism, as well as re-evaluating the Euro-centric bias of many university departments.

The need for decolonisation
While to some, the arguments for decolonisation may seem nebulous and abstract, outdated curricula and colonial erasure can have real consequences. Research conducted in 2014 found that white British students were 16 per cent more likely than students of colour to graduate with a first or 2:1 degree. In analysing such attainment gaps through interviews with BME students, Britain’s Higher Education Academy found overwhelming evidence that universities were not doing enough to help students integrate during their higher education experience. Further research has found that a third of students feel that their educational environment leaves no room for their personal perspective, with some respondents explicitly citing the Euro-centric content of their reading lists.

Of course, there are many factors which contribute to attainment gaps and educational disadvantage, but the evidence suggests that decolonisation of campuses could at least go some way towards reducing these disparities.

Origins of the movement
Many associate the decolonisation movement specifically with African universities, after all, the University of Cape Town saw the inception of the original Rhodes Must Fall movement. This campaign, which sparked myriad protests throughout South Africa, saw students work towards the removal of a statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes. Even now, African universities seem to lead the way in diverse education, with the recently opened African Leadership College in Mauritius building its social sciences curriculum entirely around a platform of decolonisation.

Expansion
But the movement is by no means limited to Africa. In the UK, students have challenged their lecturers to engage with the colonial past their institutions were built upon. Oxford famously had its own Rhodes Must Fall protests, and in Cambridge, efforts are being made to include postcolonial analysis in the teaching of sciences,and classics.

Outside of Oxbridge, The National Union of Students’ Liberate My Curriculum movement has garnered the support of universities throughout the UK, from Reading and Brighton Universities to LSE. Edinburgh University, meanwhile, has committed itself to encouraging an attitude of colonial interrogation throughout its teaching.

Wake-up call
Further movements, such as the Reclaim Harvard Law Campaign or the Malaysian Multiversity Group, which organises regular conferences to discuss decolonisation and the commodification of knowledge, show that the decolonisation campaign is quickly becoming an international movement.

As campuses become increasingly commercialised, and issues such as access to education continue, the decolonisation movement acts as a welcome wake-up call, reminding us of the history of interrogation, analysis and intellectual exploration upon which universities pride themselves.

 

Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash