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Girls on Wheels: Bicycle Programs in developing Countries like India and Kenya help Children to get to School

In developing countries, attending school can be a daily struggle for some children.

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Indian girls go to a school on a bicycle at Roja Mayong village about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Gauhati, India. VOA
In developing countries, attending school can be a daily struggle for some children. They may walk several kilometers to school because their families do not have money to send them on buses or other forms of transportation.

With schools far away, and little money to pay for transport costs, parents worry about the safety of their children walking to school.

So, a number of parents keep their children at home. Or the child drops out of school: they leave without completing their studies.

These and other barriers to school attendance are the reality for many girls in poor countries.

But now, programs in two developing countries are helping to change that. The programs are giving girls “pedal power” — transportation in the form of bicycles.

Power of the pedal

Rural areas of poor countries often have few secondary schools. So, it is common for students there to travel great distances to attend classes.

Bihar is the poorest state in India. Ninety percent of the state’s population lives in rural areas.

Until 2007, too many teenage girls in Bihar were dropping out of school. For Nahid Farzana, her home was 6 kilometers from school. And, her father did not have money for bus fare, she told the Associated Press.

But, that same year, the state government began offering bicycles to girls to help them get to school. The program has been so effective that three nearby states are now doing the same.

And the results are measurable. A 2014 study found that giving bicycles to teenage girls in India increased their secondary school enrollment by 30 percent. It also helped many of them stay in school long enough to take their final exams.

Western Kenya is experiencing success with a similar program. Until recently, there was a high risk of local girls dropping out of school and then becoming pregnant.

Loise Luseno is a 16-year-old girl from Kakamega, Kenya. In the past, she had to walk about 10 kilometers to reach school. Last year, she dropped out temporarily because of the distance.

Loise Luseno in class, VOA
Loise Luseno in class, VOA

Members of her family work as subsistence farmers. They earn just about $30 a month — not nearly enough for food, school costs and transport.

But, a few months ago, Luseno went back to school – this time on a bicycle. Her new form of transportation was provided by World Bicycle Relief, an American-based group.

Hurdles for girls

Christina Kwauk is an expert on girls’ education at the Brookings Institution, a research organization in Washington, D.C.

Kwauk recently told VOA that, in many countries, girls face a long list of barriers to school attendance.

Sometimes, the issue is that a society has firm ideas about what girls “can and shouldn’t do as they become young women,” including whether they should receive an education.

Luseno experienced this. When girls in her community walked to school, motorbike riders would stop them on the road. They would offer the girls rides to school. Then, they would try to persuade the girls to drop out.

Kwauk says another reason girls may not attend school is their family. Parents might believe that losing children’s help at home can cause the family to lose money.

For example, a poor farming family grows less food without the help of children. Girls are often expected to do this work. In many cases, those household duties include taking care of younger brothers and sisters.

There are also direct financial barriers, says Kwauk, such as school fees, books, and meals. So, in places where families value boys more than girls, and parents have little money, the boys are sent to school.

Indian schoolgirls ride bicycles, received under a Bihar government program of giving bicycles to teenage girls to keep them in school. VOA
Indian schoolgirls ride bicycles, received under a Bihar government program of giving bicycles to teenage girls to keep them in school. VOA

The ups and downs

Even with the success of the bicycles programs, there are still problems.

Ainea Ambulwa teaches at the Bukhaywa secondary school in Kakamega, Kenya. He belongs to a bicycle supervisory committee at the school. He makes sure that the riders are keeping their vehicles in good condition.

Ambulwa says defeating poverty remains a difficult issue.

He says that some families will put heavy things on the bicycles and then they break down. Because the family lacks the money to have the bicycle repaired, the girl can no longer get to school.

World Bicycle Relief is based in Chicago, Illinois. It provides bicycles through another group: World Vision.

In 2015, the two groups launched a bicycle production factory in Kisumu, Kenya. The cost of the bicycle is around $180. That is too much money for most families in rural Kenya.

Bicycle factory in Kisumu, Kenya, VOA
Bicycle factory in Kisumu, Kenya, VOA

But with the help of donors, the program has given away about 7,000 bicycles throughout the country. Most of the people receiving the bikes are girls.

Bicycles decrease the safety risks for girls because the girls get to school quicker, Kwauk explains. It also helps parents not to lose work time taking their girls to school.

Peter Wechuli, the head of the program in Kenya, says the bikes have improved children’s lives. But, he says, the factory was built around 100 kilometres from Kakamega. So, getting the bicycles to needy families can be a problem.

Yet Kwauk calls the bicycle programs “very promising” and a low-cost solution. She says many organizations in wealthier countries would be happy to provide this kind of resource.

I’m Alice Bryant. And I’m Jill Robbins. (VOA)

 

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Gay Men Dating in Cartoons Banned in Kenya: Is India Standing on the same Pedestal?

Kenya Takes Up Step to Stop Exposure of Homosexuality in Children

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The Loud House Cartoon
The Loud House Cartoon is banned in Kenya.
  • Kenya bans some cartoon shows airing on Nickelodeon as they were flagged to be disturbing content glorifying homosexual behavior
  • The Loud House (only one episode of two gay men dating each other), The Legend of Korra and Hey Arnold were some of the banned shows
  • Exekiel Mutua said, “Adults can choose to become homosexuals and exercise their rights on sexual orientation and relationships, but not so with children”

June 22, 2017:

After millenniums of being into existence, we still have our reservations from homosexuality. Even though its explanation in the ancient times, we still refrain from conversations with gay men dating others. A person’s sexuality is a matter of his own choice and the sole owner of this field is the person itself but the world can’t digest the fact of exposing people towards other people. What we need to remember is denying their existence means crippling your thoughts!

The exposure of homosexuality to children in our society through cartoons plays a very big role because it shapes the thinking of the child but on the other hand, the world is just ignoring the fact and hiding it so that it doesn’t create a single impact on the child. This brings out the need to have more discussions on exposing homosexuality to children and how it should shape the modern world.

One case that recently came into light was in Kenya where gay anime shows which aired on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network were banned from the country because it was flagged as disturbing content and ‘glorifying homosexual behavior’ among children.

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Some of the names of those programs were-

  • The Loud House –The show is about the life of a child living with 11 other family members and his house is a mess.
  • The Legend of Korra –It is a sci-fi show where all the cartoons are known to bend matter.
  • Hey Arnold – The show centers on a child name Arnold who falls in adventurous troubles with his friends.

The Chief executive officer of the regulatory board, Exekiel Mutua said that “Adults can choose to become homosexuals and exercise their rights on sexual orientation and relationships, but not so with children”.

In India, there is hardly any chance that the cartoons can be related to homosexuality as there is a possibility it may be considered not normal or even a crime. The most relatable example in the Indian concept is if we talk about the movie ‘Bombay Talkies’. The movie has four short movies and two of them is “Ajeeb Dastan Hain Ye”  and “Sheila ki Jawani” and in that movie.

ALSO READ: Amnesty Condemns Caning of Gay Men in Indonesia by Sharia or Islamic law in Indonesia

In “Sheila ki Jawani”, the protagonist aspires to become a dancer and dances to the tunes of the Bollywood song Sheila ki Jawani but his father wishes him to have a more manly aim such as to be a footballer. This small example can exactly tell you about the scenario in India. How profession is linked to the gender and not to one’s individual choices. In this country, people are more concerned about a boy child not to have ‘Girly’ Dreams then how can one expect the cartoons to be glorifying homosexuality.

The idea of not including homosexual content in cartoons is because it is believed that it might induce homosexual behavior in children. Though ironically, if cartoons start having these hints of homosexuality for children to view at a young age, they might react normally when they witness an actual homosexual relation. There is a possibility that we will not push or reject anyone to a corner for the choices they will make. Acceptance might rule. THINK!

– by Sumit Balodi of NewsGram. Twitter: @sumit_balodi

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Raja Chari: Indian American Astronaut chosen by NASA

Raja Chari, an American of Indian descent, has been chosen by NASA as one of the 12 astronauts for a new space mission.

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Raja Chari. Twitter.
  • Raja Chari is an American of Indian descent chosen by NASA for the new batch of astronauts
  • Currently, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force
  • Chari will have to go through two years of astronaut training which begins in August

June 06, 2017: NASA has chosen 12 astronauts out of a record-breaking 18,300 applications for upcoming space missions. An American of Indian descent, Raja Chari, has successfully earned his spot in the top 12.

The astronauts were selected on the basis of expertise, education, and physical tests. This batch of 12 astronauts is the largest group selected by NASA since two decades. The group consisting of 7 men and 5 women surpassed the minimum requirements of NASA.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Chari graduated from Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He went on to complete his master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The astronaut is also a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School.

Currently, Raja Chari is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. He is the commander of 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After Late Kalpana Chawla, Lt. Col. Raja Chari is the second Indian American astronaut chosen by NASA.

The 12 astronauts will have to go through two years of training. Upon completion, they will be assigned their missions ranging from research at the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft by private companies, to flying on deep space missions on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft.

The US Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to announce and congratulate the new batch. Pence also said that President Trump is “fully committed” to NASA’s missions in space.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393

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Over 5,000 Plant Varieties in Last 3 Years sent in by Tribal Farmers to protect the species : Minister

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Tribal Farmers
tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years (representational Image). Wikimedia

New Delhi, June 8, 2017: Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Wednesday said tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years through Krishi Vigyan Kendras for registration at the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Authority.

It will play an important role in the development of climate resilient and sustainable varieties in future, he said at the National Workshop on Empowerment of Farmers of Tribal Areas here.

“New technological innovations in agriculture must reach to the fields of tribal areas but before taking such steps we must keep in mind the unique conditions of these areas, which are the gift of nature and therefore, we should promote natural farming in those areas,” he said, as per an official release. (IANS)

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