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Le Cinque Terre – the Five Villages

We spent 2 days in the Cinque Terre, we arrived late around midday so we decided to visit first two villages – Manarola and Vernazza. For the second day, we visited Riomaggiore, Corniglia and Monterosso al Mare. We traveled by train from village to village.

The Cinque Terre meaning, Five Lands, is a portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia, and comprises five villages: Manarola, Vernazza, Riomaggiore, Corniglia and Monterosso al Mare. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Listed in 1997).

1. Manarola

Manarola is the oldest town of the five villages – It is the second smallest of the famous Cinque Terre towns frequented by tourists. The Tourist attractions in the region include a famous walking trail between Manarola and Riomaggiore (called Via dell’Amore, “Love’s Trail”). Unfortunately, it’s been closed due to the extremely damage.

When you walk through the town – you will see the large wheel (It might be the symbol of the village)

The old watermill in Manarola

2. Vernazza

Vernazza is little bit bigger than Manarola – you will find more restaurants there. They have a castle with the entrance ticket fee 1.5 Euro. From the top of the castle, you will be able to see more beautiful views.

3. Riomaggiore

It is the most southern village of the Cinque Terre. It was first mentioned in the 13th century. The founders of the village moved from the hills to the sea. The village was built in the valley of the Rivus Maior (river).

4. Corniglia

It is the smallest and quietest of the Cinque Terre villages. It is located 100 meters above sea level, on top of a small promontory. Houses are a bit different here, smaller and wider, similar to the houses of the villages inland. You might want to go by stairs. You can go also by bus.

5. Monterosso al Mare

The village is named Monterosso because the ruling family used to have red hair. “Monte dei rossi” means “red mountains”. It’s nice for summer with a nice long beach.

The Statue of the Giant – The Giant is Neptune, the god of the sea and he is holding the terrace of an old villa on his shoulders. The 14-meter tall statue was made in 1910 by sculptor Arrigo Minerbi and an architect named Levacher.

Foods you should try when you’re there.


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The Floating Piers on Lake Iseo, Italy

It was the first time walking on the floating piers for me, I felt so amazed by what I have seen. It’s only opened for 16 days from 08th June to 3rd July, 2016. A 3-kilometer-long walkway was created as The Floating Piers extend across the water of Lake Iseo, the piers are 16 meters wide and approximately 35 centimeters high with sloping sides. The fabric continues along 2.5 kilometers of pedestrian streets in Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio. The floating piers is from Sulzano to Monte Isola (Monte Island) and to the San Paolo island. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to walk until the San Paolo island due to the strong wind and heavy rain so we were asked to walk back. The entrance is Free of Charge, Open 24 hours.Thanks to the Artist Christo and Jeanne-Claude for making it happened 🙂

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WHERE the mind is without fear | World Pulse

WHERE the mind is without fear | World Pulse.

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The Soul of World Pulse

Let us be a loudspeaker
for women of the world.

Let us call forth voice
where before there was silence.

Let us stand back while they speak up,
for their words are so beautiful they
need no adornment.

Let us be their platform, their forum,
their safe haven, their sanctuary,
an amplifier no one can ignore.

Let us create a world where women are
not only free, but empowered so greatly
as to be unstoppable.

A world where women can
transform her life as well as the lives of those
around her by simply raising her voice.

One voice at a time, millions of voices strong.

Until the sound is so deafening, the whole
world will hear their music.

It’s not just a dream—it’s a revolution
that has already begun.

This is the pulse that transforms the world.

You are a part of the Pulse.

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SIPP Brings Cambodian Women Smiles and Hope

This week’s SoroptiVoice Blog comes from Sarvina Kang, 24, from Cambodia. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Development Management at Norton University, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She joined the SIPP since June 2010 before the chartered day on July 4th 2010. Here she describes SI Phnom Pehn’s breast cancer awareness programme.

I am a Cambodian correspondent for World Pulse Organization and Safe World for Women. I am so honored and privileged to be selected as a candidate to represent the youth of my country in the conference One Young World taking place in September, 2011 in Zurich, Switzerland. Also, I have been selected as an award-winner for the US Media and Speaking Tour among the many countries who applied for 2010 Voices of Our Future Program – It is a New Media, Citizen Journalism and Empowerment Program.

Soroptimist International Phnom Penh is taking a project of breast cancer awareness. We are working to address awareness issues and help to raise hope in women and girls in Cambodia. It is my desire to see peace in Cambodia and also a world where each person has access to clean water, food, health care and education. Illiteracy is at its peak in Cambodia because it is a developing country. Since I also was born in a poor family, when we had an illness we often had no hope to be treated when I was a child – I always tried to study hard and told myself to be strong and to struggle for a better life. Having struggled in life for being female and poor, I am driven by a passion for women and girls. That is the reason why I joined Soroptimist International Phnom Penh, transforming the lives of women and girls around the world to improve their living conditions.

Breast cancer awareness is very impotant to me as a Soroptimist. Many health facilities around the country were completely destroyed, often deliberately, during Cambodia’s years of conflict. Even today, many parts of Cambodia still have no health facilities, and in other places facilities are too dilapidated to be of any use. Yet despite these handicaps, the government has taken concrete steps to reconstruct and revitalise the public health system.

High costs of health services, low house-hold incomes, limited education, and inadequate access to health facilities and to health personnel are all important factors in explaining the low use of health services by poor Cambodians. The cost of health care – measured by health spending per capita relative to household spending per capita on nonfood items- is much greater for the poor than for the non-poor. One outpatient visit to a community clinic or district health center would use up half of all nonfood spending for someone in the poorest quintile.

Moreover, there is no formal and transparent mechanism for exempting the poor from user fees. For them, health care is simply unaffordable. The poor also have less immediate physical access to health facilities than the non-poor. Moreover, the poor have to travel much longer distances to all types of health facilities than the better-off when no health provider is available in their home village.

Breast cancer is ranked the number 2 health problem in Cambodia according to

Dr. Preap Ley, a Doctor from Sihanouk Hospital, Center of Hope. This is because the women who have breast cancer receive a diagnosis too late to be cured in 80% of cases. Most of them are from part of poor rural areas in Cambodia.

The World Bank states that 35% of Cambodia’s population of around 15 million exists on less than $0.50 USD per day. Moreover, an alarming number of Cambodian women die every year due to a lack of public awareness, limited cancer screening opportunities and the high cost of treatment. Offering the rural poor population of Cambodia free services is critical because the exorbitant cost of cancer care often prevents cancer patients from seeking treatment. To advance this, SIPP have conducted workshops, seminars and trainings to many students at Norton University and villages to women, girls, and also men to raise awareness of breast cancer.

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CAMEROON: Mama Hates My Sprouting Breasts | World Pulse

CAMEROON: Mama Hates My Sprouting Breasts

Breast ironing, a violent attempt to prevent the sexual development of adolescent girls, has scarred the bodies and psyches of millions of girls in Cameroon. Chi Yvonne Leina reports.

“Think of a woman whose vagina is mutilated at the age of 9, whose breasts were ironed at the age of 10…”

In the privacy of homes, behind closed kitchen and bedroom doors, pubescent girls in Cameroon are being tortured by their own mothers. Using objects like grinding stones, mortar pestles, coconut shells, or hammers heated over hot coal, mothers massage their daughters’ developing breasts to destroy any indication of emerging womanhood. War has been waged against womankind. Genitals are mutilated; breasts flattened; bodies battered; hair cut off for rituals; minds deprived of education.

The breast, a feminine symbol and the pride of womanhood, has become a target. The urge to protect their daughters from rape and premarital pregnancy has pushed mothers in Cameroon to deform the breasts of their daughters.

When I met Lindsay, I noticed a deformity and suspected she must have “been there.” But like many victims of breast ironing, she didn’t want to talk about it. Most victims never report it, and many claim never to have heard about the practice.

I continued visiting her in her tailoring workshop, and I told her about my own fight with my grandma, which freed me from being a victim of breast ironing, and about my cousin who dropped out of school as a result of this practice. When I asked her about it again, she nodded with her eyes fixed on her toes, and she opened up to me about her experience at the age of 11.

When Lindsay got her first period, she was so frightened she took to her heels to tell her mama to take her to the health center. “I was so sure I had been wounded by a nail hanging out of the bench on which I sat in class that day,” she told me. “Mama pulled me to the bathroom and asked me to show her the wound. When I did, she asked me if any boy had ‘touched me’ and I said no. Holding her ear with her left hand and her waist with the right, she gave me a fierce warning, telling me if any man or boy touched me, from that day onwards, I would be pregnant, and that will be the end of my education and the family would disown me. She gave me water to bathe and later brought a huge chunk of toilet tissue for me to put in my pants.”

Lindsay continued: “The next day she called me into the kitchen and examined my chest while shaking her head. She asked me to lie down on the floor while she used a hot stone to press my breasts which had just begun sprouting. She instructed me never to tell anyone about what she was doing. The practice continued for over a year. Unfortunately for mama when I turned 12 my breasts defied her attempts to suppress their growth and developed, though the right one is visibly much smaller than the left and there are black marks all over the area from burns I incurred during the process.”

According to statistics from the United Nations Population Fund, one out of every four girls in Cameroon is a victim of breast ironing. That’s 3.8 million girls. The practice is most prevalent in the Christian and animist south of the country, where in some regions, half of the female population is subject to breast ironing. The damaging effects of this form of body mutilation by far outweigh any reasoning behind the practice. Fertilized by the culture of silence, breast ironing has made it right up to this age of scientific advancement. Many women have seen the benefits of educating their girl children. They are ready to do anything to prevent their daughters from teenage pregnancy and early marriage that would bring an end to their daughters’ education. This mutilation has proven to be futile when it comes to deterring teenage sexual activity and many of the girls still end up disfigured with teenage pregnancies.

Breast ironing can be a source of excruciating pain and violates a young girl’s physical integrity. A 25-year-old victim says she feels embarrassed each time she is naked amongst her peers because her breast tissues are worn out like those of an old woman. “The thing is very much alive everywhere, yet no one talks about it because it is done behind closed doors and kept as a secret between mothers and daughters. Not even the fathers are usually aware of these acts,” she says.

Another victim of breast ironing, now an English teacher, says she grew up with a feeling of guilt about the sprouting of her breasts which happened at the early age of 10. “Despite the ironing, pressing, and massaging with hot kitchen utensils, my breasts refused to flatten, making me an object of scorn amongst my mates whose chests were still flat” she says.

Medical experts say the developing tissues in the breasts are expanded and destroyed by heat during the ironing. Research by the United Nations Population Fund reveals that breast ironing exposes girls to numerous health problems such as abscesses, cysts, itching, and discharge of milk. There can be permanent damage to milk ducts, infection, and dissymmetry of the breasts, cancer, breast infections, severe fever, tissue damage, and even the complete disappearance of one or both breasts. Victims end up with marks, wrinkles, and black spots on their breasts.

One victim says she developed breast cancer as a result of the mutilation and ended up losing one of her breasts in a surgery. Her mother initially saw the cancer as a spell and resorted to more intense ironing sessions using a knife heated on a fire to press them.

Like female genital mutilation, breast ironing violates the fundamental rights of women and young girls—the right to health, physical integrity, and freedom from torture. Many mothers have preferred to destroy their daughters’ breasts than to face the embarrassment of talking about sex with the girls. As a result, the rate of premarital pregnancy is on the rise in Cameroon (making up 30% of pregnancies according to local health care workers) due to lack of sexual education.

Worried and otherwise well–intentioned mothers have intensified the war against teenage sex by ironing, massaging, and pounding their breast to flatten them. “So long as it will not kill the girl, I will prefer the breast to be deformed and have her go through her education without an unwanted pregnancy or the deadly HIV virus,” states one of the mothers. Most of the mothers say their intent is not to inflict pain on their daughters but to protect them from the taboo of teenage pregnancy. Where the mothers cannot stand the sight of their daughters in pain, there are often local women who serve as professional breast flatteners who exchange their services for palm oil and wood.

A recent nationwide campaign by the Network of Aunties Association, (RENATA), a nongovernmental organization led by breast ironing victims, involved radio and TV spots which discouraged women from inflicting breast ironing on their daughters. Much still needs to be done to kill the culture of silence; for so long as there is silence, no one can ever tell the full extent of harm done to little girls in the secrecy of homes. According to gender consultant Dr. Awa Magdalene these practices rob girls of the self confidence they need to assert themselves in society later on in life. A dual enemy to women’s emancipation, breast ironing not only inflicts pain, but prevents women from accepting their bodies as normal human beings.

These pubescent girls are children and ought to benefit from children’s rights. Cameroon signed the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which was put in place in September 1990. According to Article 19 of the convention,”States parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social, and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse while in the care of parents(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.”

As stated by the terms of this convention, which Cameroon ratified in 1993, the government has a legal responsibility to protect these girls from the injury and abuse of breast ironing.

The perpetrators of this act are not in hiding. They can be found at any time, but nothing is ever done to them. Technically, victims of breast ironing are protected under national laws as well if it is medically proven that the breast has been damaged and if the case is reported within a few months of the damage. Unfortunately, no girl has ever been bold enough to report her mother to a court of law.

Blessing Nabila, a final year law student of the University of Yaoundé, says she finds no use of reporting such a matter to the court because matters concerning women’s rights are often handled with nonchalance in Cameroonian courts, except for a few cases handled by some female lawyers who are devoted to the cause.

The Preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon states, “human beings, without distinction of race, religion, belief, possess inalienable and sacred rights,” and Article 1(2) calls for equality of all citizens before the law. However, women and girls have unequal status in all spheres of life, and discriminatory administrative policies, practices, laws, cultural beliefs, and attitudes continue to curb women’s enjoyment of human rights.

The more educated and exposed a woman is, the less likely she is to be convinced that such a brutal act as breast ironing can actually be a solution to the problem of teenage sex. Educated women understand the need for sex education and will rather counsel their girl children about their sexuality rather than mutilate their bodies.

Unfortunately, girls’ education is yet to hit acceptable standards in the country. Ironically, breast ironing, which many mothers believe will help ensure their daughters’ education, has accounted for a good number of school dropouts amongst teenage girls. The psychological trauma that accompanies the act usually makes it difficult for the girls to concentrate in school.

“I felt like an outcast amongst other girls,” confesses Aline, a victim of breast ironing. “I knew many of my friends whose mothers did not press their breasts; it made me feel sad, I spent my whole days in class thinking about what grandma will do to me after school and so could not study. I ended up failing my exams and was dismissed for extremely poor academic performance.”

At the 2000 United Nations Millennium summit, countries worldwide agreed to focus development plans on eight goals. One of the goals is to eradicate gender disparities at all levels of education by 2015 .This is a big challenge for sub-Saharan African countries like Cameroon. Though there has been remarkable progress at the primary level of education, the secondary level still presents a veritable challenge.

According to a 2003 UN report, the female-to-male ratio in school enrollment stands at about 0.80 at the secondary level and 0.45 at the tertiary level. This challenge is fueled by breast ironing, in regions where the practice is prevalent, and by early marriages in other regions. Some families in Cameroon prefer to spend their resources on educating male children while keeping the girls at home for domestic chores. Educating the girl child will help eradicate barbaric acts like breast ironing in Cameroon. If young girls are encouraged to break the silence and expose the secret, it will be difficult for this culture to thrive.

Think of a woman whose vagina is mutilated at the age of 9, whose breasts were ironed at the age of 10, and who dropped out of school at the age of 12 due to psychological trauma from these practices, who was then forced into marriage at the age of 15, became a mother of six by age 23, was widowed at 30, and was forced to undergo dehumanizing widowhood rituals. This woman will go through life regretting that she was born a woman, and will never rejoice at the birth of a female in her family again.

Any community which refuses to release its women from the bonds of noxious cultural practices bars the way to development. The writing on the wall is clear; nations which have taken the forefront in women’s emancipation are today enjoying the bliss of feminine initiatives. It is time for Cameroon to join these nations.

About This Story

This article originally appeared on PulseWire as part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, a World Pulse training program providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training to 30 emerging women leaders. Edits have been made to the original text for clarity.

Source: CAMEROON: Mama Hates My Sprouting Breasts | World Pulse.

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Life Of Hope

Interviewed and Written by Sarvina Kang

I am a volunteer for Soroptimist International of Phnom Penh (SIPP). After SIPP’s training for Breast Cancer Awareness finished, I had a chance to talk to Sokunthea, aged 20. “Thea” is in grade 12 at Wath Koh High School in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Thea’s education is sponsored by SIPP which supports the full cost of her school tuition and also gives her some extra money to help her achieve her dream of qualifying to go to university. Thea is the oldest child in her family. She has a younger sister and a younger brother who attend school in their hometown, which is located in Svay Rieng, one of the rural provinces of Cambodia.

Thea told me that she came to Phnom Penh city last year in order to find a job to support her parents and siblings. In addition to studying, she is also working as a housemaid where she can earn 80,000 Riel, which is around $20 USD (United States dollars) per month. Thea said that sometimes she is really discouraged, but her mother keeps telling her not to give up. Getting an education is the only way for Thea to make sure that she has a brighter future – and is not reduced to becoming a prostitute or a robber.

Sokunthea is a hard-working girl. She gets up at 4:00 am to finish her housemaid tasks before she runs off to school at 6:50 am. After leaving school at 11:00 am, she rushes to the market to buy food to cook for the house owner. She prepares another meal for her employer, and then rushes back to school to study English from 6:30 – 7:30 pm. Thea told me that she is getting more accustomed to her very hectic life; she is now able to do many tasks without tiring.

She kept telling me she that she wants to be a good role model for the younger generation. Although she was born in a poor family, it is important to Thea to set a positive example by overcoming obstacles and creating a brighter future for herself. Sokunthea’s teachers report that she is an excellent student, but Thea said that she often gets upset when she feels that her teachers and her friends ignore her and are not sensitive to her struggles.

Every month Thea sends a little money to help her parents. Her mother has a small business selling vegetables at the market in her hometown in Svay Reang province, but her father cannot work because he has had tuberculosis for many years. It makes Thea really sad to see her father suffering so much, and she wants to earn enough money to be able to cure him. With a face that is both sad and hopeful, Sokuntha said that every moment of her life is a struggle. She knows that she has a long way to go before achieving her highest goal – to become fluent in English and to be able to enroll at the university.


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21st Century, Internet is a FRIEND | World Pulse

21st Century, Internet is a FRIEND | World Pulse.

the Power of InternetInternet affects my life by means of aiding me in my daily tasks and it also helps me preserve mass bodies of knowledge and most of the times, it shares these stored knowledge. In a technologically gratifying era of the 21st century, Internet is something more than a bare necessity. It has spread their wings far and wide to make the world seem a smaller place.

Internet is very useful now these days because the educational sector, multi communication have recognized a sea change in its functions and procedures with the involvement of Internet. Students prefer to gather data about a particular subject by downloading stuffs from Internet, which is often written by scholars or researchers. Moreover, it can help me in my research, therefore it can make my daily tasks easy which were I can save time.

The Internet offers many things such as Online Shopping, Group Discussions, Information, Entertainment and many more.. The Internet can be considered as my best friend because it provides me Entertainment if I am lonely, it can provide me information when I lack some, it can serve as a telephone to call the grocery store if I am tardy. The Internet has many uses which I can rely on like Facebook, Twitter, and also Skype that I can use it for calling or joining a conference call to discuss things.

Also, without internet – I might not have known World Pulse neither communicate nor make friends a cross the globe to bring impact to our own selves. With accessing to the internet, I am able to advocate and volunteer for a few organizations to heal the lives of women, girls and poor people through my country. I can communicate to my Mentor and Midwife, my fellow correspondents and others through World Pulse, Facebook , Gmail and Skype. Especially, with internet – we can get education by Online Course so we can study even we are in our country and far miles a part.

In Cambodia, the internet is not so wide as its speed is not so fast for the normal connection such as mobile phone connection and Modem USB, thus it is good for me even it is so slow for calling or skyping because it gives me many benefits how to have multi-communication with people around the world. Also, I have bought a Modem USB once I got the fund supporting from World Pulse for securing the cost of internet during the training and it also helps me able in doing research with my work and study through the Modem USB connection. I am really grateful to World Pulse for supporting me for $300 for securing the cost of internet during the training. Anyways, it is still be big barrier for me to get education through the internet as I need the higher speed to complete what I want so every time I have conference calls or skyping to friends, I still need to go to the internet café where its speed is faster than the Modem USB device.

With the internet, I can blog my own writing – stories to the world through World Pulse and I know many friends from a round the world because of the internet. It is a very special tool to bring people look forward into their future. As technology improves, the internet revolution has a quicker and deeper impact on more and more lives.

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The Red Tent in Nepal

The Red Tent in Nepal – go to Nilima’s post about her experience with Red Tent below.

Going to school was tough at that time due to the cold temperatures. Snowy in the winter season, there were hardly very hot temperatures even in the summer. This mountain area called Dolakha is where I was born. I developed my first crush on one of the mountains called Mt. Gaurishankar on a beautiful morning when the sunshine kissed the mountain and it glowed like heaven as I had heard in legendary stories about it. Named after the Gauri-goddess and Shankar-god from the Hindu religion, climbing this mountain is prohibited because of religious beliefs and respect. But every time I went close to the mountain or saw its heavenly view, I imagined hugging it.

Imaginations and dreams were part of my life when I was growing up. However, as I got older, I noticed changes occurring in my body and this was a very weird experience for me. It was shameful for me to ask my parents about these physical changes and even my mom never told me exactly what would happen in my body as I matured. Back then, our culture didn’t allow us to talk freely about physical bodily changes, or reproductive or sexual health; even now, the custom remains in my country.

Due to cold my cheeks were redder than usual on this particular day; I was 12 at the time. Feeling some strange pain in my belly, I also felt like my underwear smelled. I still remember this day! I was wearing yellow underwear and later at home, I observed a red color on them. At first, I thought it was a stain I may have gotten while playing. Then I started thinking bad thoughts—maybe I had stomach cancer or an intestinal wound and maybe it would cause death. I was trembling with fear seeing strange things in my life. I couldn’t be sure that it was menstruation because our woman elders used to say, “Nachhhunu bhayapachhi nidharma tika lagchha.” This means we get a mark on our forehead when we have our first menstruation. I didn’t see any mark on my forehead. To this day, I am not sure why they say it like that. I was too afraid to tell my mom so I wore three trousers and went to school. The whole day I was nervous thinking of the heavy bleeding. I didn’t know anything about menstruation, except that my mom would not touch anything for five days each month.

The Nepali word for menstruation is nachhunu which means untouchable. It means while we are menstruating, we are considered untouchable or impure for five days and everything we touch becomes impure. When we have our first menstruation, we are not allowed to touch any males (including our father and brothers) and are not allowed to enter the kitchen or prayer rooms for 22 days. We also have to use separate utensils. Further, looking in the mirror during menstruation is considered bad luck. Our culture has the superstitious belief that menstruation is the punishment of sins from our previous lives.

So when our house maid noticed the blood on my dress after I came home from school, she immediately told my mom. They packed some of my dresses and told my dad to go out of house so that I couldn’t see him. I went with our house maid to her home which was approximately 1 ½ hours away. While there, I was given a dark room with no sunlight and given one plate and glass to use for eating. People said to me, “timi aba thuli bhayau” which means now I am grown up. Ohh! Now, grown up means I had to be careful from then on not to play with male friends, not to stay out too long, not to go out often or at all. I used to cry when I was alone for being grown up—all coming from this one simple, natural physical change in my body. I hated that blood which made this sudden change.

At the time, I had to use rags because I didn’t even know there were things like sanitary pads. Using rags was unhygienic and I was also unaware of how to wash them carefully. Days were so hard; all of the restrictions were the worst part. On “those days,” I was kept away from school and feared what questions my friends and teachers would ask. I saw many of my friends miss school during their menstrual periods; I also saw some friends get married after they started menstruating because they were now considered “grown up” in my culture.

I was supposed to stay away from my home for 12 days but luckily my mom allowed me to come back on the seventh day. That day, I was given new cloths and new things. I entered our home after they sprinkled gold water (they put gold in water, as it is believed to be pure). I was told that I shouldn’t touch my dad for 22 days. This was extremely challenging because I was always “Daddy’s Little Girl” and couldn’t imagine not talking to or hugging my dad. I cried a lot and hated being grown up. Many people stared at me and scolded me, telling me it was a sin. This depressed me for a long time after that.

DISTRICT REPORT; According to the Monthly Monitoring and Annual Performance Review Worksheet for 2008 through 2009/10 in Dolakha, the estimated target population for health service use was 224,982; the actual users were 235,674, including immigrated people. Female health service takers are increasing by 2-4% per day which can be considered as the awareness of more health problems. Out of which, in the year 2009-10, there was an average 96 cases of menstruation disorder (in married and unmarried women) per month in the district primary health center of Dolakha.
There is minimal promotional health service through advertisement in TV, Radio, and Newspapers. It includes some information on major diseases but it doesn’t include any awareness on menstruation hygiene. Hygienic practices during menstruation are of considerable importance as it has health impacts in terms of increased exposure to various infections. Due to lack of awareness, hygiene is neglected by girls, especially in the rural areas. The renowned INGO Water Aid is one of the major organizations working on awareness of sanitation including menstruation hygiene.

SURVEY; According to a 2009 survey by Water Aid, the key reasons girls were absent while menstruating was a lack of privacy, unavailability of sanitary disposal facilities and water shortages. They are also seen to avoid going to toilets during menstruation as most schools do not have separate latrines for girls and most of them have missed school during menstruation. According to Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES), only 41% of schools in Nepal have latrine facilities with only 26% of schools having separate latrine for girls. To avoid humiliation, especially teasing by school boys, the girls would rather stay at home. This is one of the reasons why they lose interest in going to school and have poor performance results in school. One of the studies has indicated that girls are also likely to get depressed during their first menstruation.
The primary health education is included from class 1 to class 10 in the new study course. There is a subject called “Science, Environment and Health” in class 1-5 and after that there is subject called “Population, Health and Environment.” (This course is not enough for the complete knowledge on basic reproductive health. Though there are some chapters about the reproductive health, due to the new course and untrained teachers it has been ineffective. Also, the girls are too shy to ask about this and teachers themselves do not teach about it clearly due to our cultural barriers. And gender biases still exist in some of the schools in rural areas.

According to Govinda Raj Sedhai, secretary of District Education Office in Dolakha, the education ministry is bringing a new literacy program to adults. These adult/elders literacy classes will include three days of health education which may help woman to know about their menstruation and reproductive health, too.

NATIONAL HEALTH POLICY—the NHP was adopted in 1991 to bring about improvements in health conditions of the people of Nepal through extending access and availability of the primary health care system. The primary objective of NHP is to extend the primary health care system to the rural population so that they benefit from modern facilities and the services provided by trained health care providers. Under the government, there are three kinds of health services: 1) preventive 2) promotional and 3) curative health services. Menstruation hygiene falls under the category of preventive and promotional health.
GLOBAL VIEW; in total, women spend around six to seven years of their lives menstruating. A key priority for women and girls is to have the necessary knowledge, facilities and cultural environment to manage menstruation hygienically and with dignity. Yet, the importance of menstrual hygiene management is mostly neglected by development practitioners within the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, and other related sectors such as reproductive health.In many countries like Nepal, women are considered to be “impure” during their menstrual cycle. They are prohibited to take part in social life and are treated as “untouchable” during their menstrual cycle. But the truth is menstruation is a natural phenomenon that should be celebrated and an important part of the feminine journey. We talk about girls’ education and their rights to education. And when we talk about girls’ education, we cannot focus only on scholarships or building toilets. We need an integrative approach that involves gender sensitivity among teachers and programs educating mothers on the impact menstruation has on young girls.

There are many cultures in Nepal. Some of them treat menstruation in a good way and some of them treat it as if it is a big curse(more in the eastern part). The majority of girls learn about menstruation from their mothers, sisters and girl friends but what happens when they don’t know about menstruation hygiene? And what happens when they have knowledge, but they lack proper facilities for their hygiene? As a result, some of them suffer from depression and some get various infections. Many girls prefer to stay home during this time, which leads to their poor school performance.

My parents were unaware of this and I am sure they didn’t do it intentionally. But I had to aware them about it so my younger sisters didn’t pass through the same condition. And I am spreading awareness on the same through rotaract. I am proud to be in Rotaract(sponsored by rotary club of Charumati) and one of our recent projects was a Girls Toilet Project for which I am a coordinator, funded by the Matilda Bay-Australia Rotary Club. We have completed the project and I am currently working voluntarily in that school to raise awareness on menstruation hygiene, as well as other basic teenage problems. This is the first step of a big mission of mine! I am still learning and seeking new ways and ideas to include both genders. And I am happy that young girls don’t have to suffer in the same way I did in my early days of menstruation.

It depends upon how different cultures practice menstrual hygiene. But it is a very important part of health education like other major health issues without which woman empowerment is incomplete. It’s only possible to increase menstruation hygiene when not only health officers but teachers and parents play a vital role in transmitting a message of proper menstrual hygiene. This wouldn’t only save girls from many health hazards but would break the barrier to their regular school attendance. And we can play a most significant role through communicating with each other to create safe menstrual hygiene in our families and in our communities. This is where the woman empowerment begins…

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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Paedophilia in Cambodia – interview with Sarvina Kang

Paedophilia in Cambodia – interview with Sarvina Kang.

Focus on Cambodia – Interview with Sarvina Kang

Interview by Clara Boxall of Safe World
Sarvina, would you start by telling us a little about yourself?

Sarvina-KangI am studying for my Masters in Development Management at Norton Universit, and I live in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I volunteer with Soroptimist International as a fund-raising officer, a correspondent for World Pulse Voices of Our Future Correspondents, and an advocate for 10×10 Girls Advocate.

Recently I have also been selected by the 10×10 Girls Education Project to work in their Documentary and Film department.

I really love my work as it enables me to understand the lives and struggles of women and girls around the world, especially in Cambodia.

All of these areas of work are providing me with the opportunities to communicate and raise awareness about issues surrounding women and girls in my country. My particular interests are in sex trafficking, education, youth, and social issues and using media as a tool for advocacy and education.

More importantly, working with Soroptimist and Worldpulse has given me a voice to talk about global concerns faced by women and girls in my society and country.

I am inspired by the work being done by grassroots women’s groups which in turn is empowering me to reach my full potential.

Tell us about Soroptimist International and your role with them.

Soroptimist International is a worldwide organisation that works towards the advancement of human rights and improving the status of women and girls.

Currently, we are introducing a new long term project on education and leadership which corresponds with our Advocacy and Awareness Raising Campaign. It is in our interest to initiate and participate in activities that advocate the importance of education and leadership for women and girls.

In the past year alone, 284,112 women and girls have benefited from nearly 2,300 on-the-ground projects which worked to improve access to education and provided leadership skills to the participants.

Cambodia is a developing nation where the prevalence of poverty, illiteracy and discrimination is still progressing at an alarming rate for women and girls.

Two of my projects with Soroptimist International are Breast Cancer Awareness and Education for Girls. Our goal is to provide women with free breast cancer treatment and to provide education for girls living in poverty.

Education plays a vital role in helping women and girls avoid the criminal activity surrounding sex trafficking.

Can you describe the problem of sex trafficking in Cambodia, particularly in the form of sexual exploitation?

In Cambodia, many women and girls, especially those living in rural areas, are driven into prostitution due to poverty, high unemployment rates, the lack of status of women and girls, illiteracy, inadequate law enforcement and the unavailability of trauma support.

Poverty is the main concern for the people of Cambodia. The increasing social divide and inequality between the small elite and the poor majority has created many social upheavals.

Almost half of the population in Cambodia is under the age of 20 years and the lack of education and employment has had a devastating effect on an already traumatized nation.

Many young women have fled the country in search of greener pastures, hoping for a better future in countries like Taiwan, Malaysia and Korea.  Their objective is to search for employment in order to support their families financially.

However the majority of these young women are farm workers or farmers, living in extreme poverty or facing domestic violence.

They are uneducated, with no professional experience and lacking life-skills, thus making them extremely vulnerable to danger, sex trafficking, sexual exploitation and slavery.

Modern slavery, whereby a person is under the control of another and is treated like a chattel with no pay or only the barest minimal subsistence, includes not only sex trafficking, but also forced labour among children and men.

These problems are prevalent and rampant here in Cambodia. Many poor and disadvantaged women are kept as objects, often made to work in the harshest conditions with little or no prospect of ever getting out of this situation.

Women often face more challenges than men in overcoming poverty.

What according to you are the key cause factors to the trafficking of children? Are these children sold into the sex industry?
“Western paedophiles are the low-hanging fruit. Now should come the climb up the tree to catch local sexual abusers of children.”Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Asia. 

Poverty is almost always the main reason for the trafficking of children.

Education can help alleviate poverty but only if children are able to attend school.

Most parents cannot afford to pay for their children’s education.  Those who do attend are often pulled out of school and sent to work in order to help provide for the family financially.

There are cases of children forced to become street beggars in the city.

When children are sent into the city to procure work, there is a high percentage that will end up in the sex industry due to their inability to foresee and prevent danger.

Some of them are also influenced or pressured by adults to make more money by selling their virginity.

In Cambodia children are trafficked not only into the sex industry but also into forced labour like begging and street vending.  The majority are sold into prostitution.

And do parents sell their children?

Based on my experience, most parents are conned by relatives or brokers from the criminal syndicates or traffickers, into believing that their children will receive an education in the city and be looked after by a respectable family.

Many have ended up as domestic servants, beggars for a syndicate, or as prostitutes.

But there are also some parents who sell their children into prostitution due to financial desperation caused by poverty.

I know of women who sold her daughters to local men. The girls were taken away for a month and in return, these men paid the mother $500. The girls eventually came home but continued to work as prostitutes.

Are the people in the community aware of this? Do they tolerate it?

Most people are aware that children are being sold into prostitution and will also tolerate it.

The community at large puts up with it because they see the struggle of these parents and their inability to provide for their children. Parents are also known to send their children to the borders in hope that the children will find better opportunities.

In my experience I have met Asian men who have a sexual interest in children, in particular virgins and fair-skinned girls, is this true in Cambodia?

Yes, this is a most peculiar interest of Cambodian men.

They believe that sleeping with virgins will enhance their sexual virility, the younger the child, the better.

Virginity is very much prized. Local men believe that virgins are free from sexual disease and have the ability to protect them from contracting AIDS.

It is usually the rich and the powerful that have the financial ability to buy virgins for sex. Likewise, fair-skinned girls are considered attractive and prized.

Studies conducted by ECPAT and local NGOs show that the majority of customers buying sex from children in Cambodia are local men.  Do you agree?

Yes I do. There are more than 200 NGOs, INGO, donors and government agencies working together on the issue of trafficking and sexual exploitation here in Cambodia.

According to ECPAT Cambodia’s survey, local demand for commercial sex in Cambodia is estimated between 49% and 70%, with a high demand for virgins.

Cambodian men are fuelling the flow of underage girls joining the sex trade.

This is a concern for us that the local men are buying sex from children under the age of 18 years.

Based on reports I have read through the media and the local NGOs, namely End Child Prostitution, Abuse, Trafficking in Cambodia, Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Cambodia’s Women Crisis Centre, the local and regional demand for child prostitutes is greater than that of Western tourists coming into Cambodia.

Here in the west, we have read reports on foreign men arrested for procuring sex from children, yet nothing about local men. Do they generally go unpunished?

Only a small percentage of local men involved in prostitution with children are arrested or charged, and based on what I have seen, the law enforcement, especially in the area of trafficking, generally targets foreigners.

The local men seek out sex workers who are under the age of 18 years in various establishments.

The government must do more to tighten the law to punish those who buy sex from children in bars, brothels, massage parlours, restaurants, beer gardens and Karaoke clubs.

Is there a legislation to prevent children from being trafficked and sold into prostitution? What are the challenges in addressing this issue locally?

Yes, there is legislation and the government is also trying to strengthen law enforcement to combat the problem. The problems and challenges for the authorities arise due to corruption and weaknesses in law enforcement, and a lack of awareness about the law on commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Culturally, Cambodians view sex as a taboo subject and it is hardly discussed publicly or privately. Sex education is largely absent from the school’s curriculum.

The government is also trying to tackle the issue of unsafe cross border migration.

Efforts have been made to strengthen the law to punish those buying children under 18 years of age but unfortunately, corruption is widespread along the borders thus making the job of policing very difficult.

A more vigorous and effective law enforcement is needed, combined with education and a greater vigilance to fight trafficking.

The community at large needs to be more concerned with this issue and the plight of the children.

Are there information, awareness-raising and educational programmes to help people, including parent, understand the danger of sex trafficking?

Yes, there is information provided by local NGOs to raise awareness and educate people.

Soroptimist is currently making plans to create programmes to reach out to the Cambodian community, and to help people understand the danger of sex trafficking and how it can be prevented. The work being done by Soroptimist is challenging, but it has benefited many women and girls in Cambodia.

The work you do is emotional and very real, how does it affect you as a woman?

My work has given me the opportunity to witness the problems faced by women and girls daily but, more importantly, it empowers me to reach out to them and be a part of the process of helping to prevent sex trafficking.

I truly believe that education plays an important role in the prevention of human trafficking.

I am grateful for the opportunities that my parents have given me so it is my desire to see the children in my country have the same rights to education, especially families living in poorer communities.

I am happy to help others and hopefully be able to make a difference with the work I do.


Soroptomist International

10X10: The Girls Education Project

World Pulse Voices of our Future Correspondents

ECPAT Cambodia

Cambodia’s Women Crisis Centre


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