Archive for the ‘Children's Rights’ Category
On November 1, more than 47 million people, including 900,000 veterans and the families of 5000 active duty service members, will have their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP (better known as food stamps) benefits cut. Last year, $100 million in SNAP benefits were redeemed at military commissaries. Those eligible to shop at the on-base stores include active service members, 100% disabled veterans and retired personnel.
The cuts are the result of a temporary increase in benefits authorized in the 2009 American Recovery Act sunsetting. Nationwide, nearly 1 in 4 children live in a home that receives food stamps, and the cuts amount to 21 meals per month, per person. In fact, half of all children living in the U.S. receive food stamps at some point during their childhood.
To make matters worse, the Republican-led House version of the farm bill cuts an additional $40 billion from the nutritional assistance program over the next ten years. The Senate version cuts $4.5 billion, and lawmakers are currently debating how much the program will ultimately be reduced.
All of this comes at a time when Republicans are pushing for cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare in order to give more money to the Pentagon.
Most conservatives chalk up cuts to SNAP and other vital assistance programs as “fiscal responsibility.” Yet they are more than happy to throw away billions of dollars to wasteful weapons programs the Pentagon doesn’t even want.
Read more here.
by Melinda Tankard Reist, Contributing Writer for AnaiRhoads.org
It felt like I had arrived at a wedding. The girls were dressed like brides. Their hair was immaculate. Their necks were bedecked with jewellery. Happy chatter filled the air as they awaited the biggest event of their lives so far.
These were slum girls, Dalits, on the lowest rung of India’s class ladder. Their lives before then had been spent collecting rags out of stinking piles of garbage, to sell for their family’s survival.
But today they would graduate.
There were many who believed such girls were not worthy of an education. Going to school was just for the wealthy and privileged, not to be wasted on ”untouchables”.
I was travelling in India with two girlfriends and two of our daughters, visiting aid projects. I was given the great honour of giving out the graduation certifications.
After the ceremony, the girls joined together and sang We Shall Overcome in Hindi. We all cried.
The girls now had hope; not just for themselves, but for their whole families. They were the first in their families to learn how to read and write. No more wading through muck and slime to scavenge something to sell to be able to eat.
I realised anew that day the power of education, not just in the life of one individual girl, but to break entire cycles of poverty.
A new film, screening in Australia for the International Day of the Girl Child on Friday, drives this message home with compelling and intimate force.
Internationally acclaimed, Girl Rising shows the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change the world.
It tells the stories of nine girls born into cultures where girls come last.
”It’s a simple fact,” narrator Liam Neeson says, ”there is nobody more vulnerable than a girl.”
Girls are marginalised and discriminated against, denied opportunities due to harmful traditions and social norms. There are 66 million girls currently out of school. And yet, educating a girl can break the cycle of poverty in just one generation.
If India enrolled 1 per cent more girls in secondary school, its GDP would rise by $5.5 billion. A girl with an extra year of education can earn 20 per cent more as an adult. Girls with eight years of education are four times less likely to be married as children.
A child born to a literate mother is 50 per cent more likely to survive past the age of five. Educated mothers are more than twice as likely to send their children to school.
Girl Rising chronicles the struggles they face in this fight for an education: early marriage, extreme poverty, child slavery. In daydreams they picture rows of sharpened pencils at desks, the chant of the alphabet, of school uniforms and shelves full of books.
Suma works as a bonded labourer in Nepal. Sold at six, and called ”Unlucky Girl” by her owners, she sleeps in the goat shed, eats scraps from her master’s plate and is beaten daily. Eventually social workers enrol her in a Room to Read night class.
They demand she be set free, telling her owners that bonded slavery has been illegal in Nepal since 2000. Suma becomes the last bonded worker in her family.
”I am my own master now,” she says. ”After me, everyone will be free; I feel like I can do anything.” Suma wants to use her education to help all girls get to school.
Azmera is 13. Her widowed mother is under pressure to marry her to an older man. But her older brother says he will sell everything he has to keep her in school, thus avoiding a fate that will see 38,000 girls married today.
Amina, in Afghanistan, is married as a child to a cousin. ”My body is a resource to be spent for pleasure or profit,” she says. But she wants to change things for other girls.
”I will speak. I will not be silenced. I am the beginning of a different story.”
She lays out a challenge to all of us. ”Don’t tell me you are on my side; your silence has spoken for you.”
As the film tells us: ”These girls hold our future in their hands. If they get what they need incredible things will happen.”
Can we help them do that?
For screening information, see worldvision.com.au
Published in the Sun-Herald Oct 6 2013
End Child Marriage Petition
Please sign World Vision’s End child marriage petition
by Melinda Tankard Reist, Contributing Writer for AnaiRhoads.org
My past commentary on Olympia Nelson’s image, Art Monthly and Bill Henson
I appeared briefly on Australian story last night in a piece about Olympia Nelson, inspired by her significant piece on the rise of the selfie, ‘Dark undercurrents of teenage girls selfies’, published in The Sydney Morning Herald, July 11, 2003, and reprinted here.
Because a much longer interview was cut (as is often the case – I’m not complaining, it’s the nature of media and having ones opinions quoted anywhere is a privilege), some of my thinking on the issue of sexualisation, sexuality, selfies, and the debate around the depiction of children in art, was not included. I wanted to put on the record views expressed earlier, for a more complete picture. I’d like to say straight up that I find Polexini Papapetrou’s art quite beautiful and evocative. And it wasn’t Olympia’s naked image in and of itself that was the main problem for myself and my colleagues (we don’t have an issue with nudity per se). There is an important context that needs to be considered.
The publishing of the naked image of then six-year-old Olympia Nelson on the cover of Art Monthly in July 2008 was in protest against the response to Bill Henson’s naked artwork of children, particularly an image of a young topless girl with budding breasts featuring in a promotional invitation to his latest exhibition. I commented on Henson’s work here (photos redacted but can be viewed here).
Henson’s sexualised depictions of young girls: calling it art doesn’t make it OK
I haven’t seen the latest photographs by artist Bill Henson to go on show at Tolarno Galleries in Melbourne.
But I have seen these.
So I know what Henson is capable of and how he likes to depicts and shoot young girls.
The girl (image to the right) who featured naked on the invite to the Roslyn Oxley gallery was 13. While that photo was widely circulated, an even more graphic one of another girl (image to the left) was not. She is ‘Untitled 1985/86’, quietly auctioned by Menzies Art Brands, Lot 214, for $3800, only weeks after the original Henson controversy.
And when Tolarno Galleries refuses to reveal the age of the youngest naked girl in the new exhibition, you have to suspect there is a problem. Why the secrecy? Was she at an age where she could consent? As respected teen psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg put it when I asked his view, would she “have sufficient cognitive or emotional maturity to fully comprehend the potential ramifications of what she is doing?”
Where will her photo end up? Where did the photos of the other two girls above end up?
Why does calling it “art” make sexualised depictions of young girls OK?
It is right to question Henson’s sexual depictions of vulnerable naked young girls – and other overtly sexualised imagery of children – a point I made on Channel 7’s Morning Show last Thursday. Media academic and researcher Nina Funnell also reveals here that Henson’s images have been found in the collections of paedophilies. (video no longer available)
Dr Abigrail Bray also has a chapter on the Henson affair in Getting Real: Challenging the sexualisation of girls (Spinifex Press, 2009 titled ‘The Gaze that Dare Not Speak Its Name: Bill Henson and Child Sexual Abuse Moral Panics’).
This is my letter in the Sydney Morning Herald, July 10, 2008, on the placement of Olympia’s image in a magazine featuring images of extreme porn-themed torture, including schoolgirl torture. It was publishing her image in this context that added a new and very problematic layer, not commented on at all in the debate at the time, apart from the observations I made here. Dismissing these concerns as a ‘moral panic’ is just too easy and too convenient.
Art is about “giving people dignity”, the critic Robert Nelson told ABC radio this week. “We’ve got to have faith in art,” he said. Nelson is the father of Olympia, whose naked photos appear in Art Monthly Australia’s latest issue. The photos were taken in 2003 by her mother, when the girl was six.
While flicking through Art Monthly, I wondered whether Mr Nelson had looked at the magazine that featured his daughter before he gave us his thoughts on art and human dignity.
Call me particular, but I don’t find images of semi-naked, bound women with protruding sex organs all that dignified. I looked really hard, but I couldn’t see much dignity in the photograph of a Japanese schoolgirl trussed in rope and suspended with her skirt raised to reveal her underwear. Torture porn just doesn’t stir my soul.
Some of Bill Henson’s images are there, of course (this issue was a “protest” in defence of his work). They are followed by selections from the work of Nobuyoshi Araki, probably best known for his passion for taking photos of girls and women exposed and bound.
There’s his slumped, bound schoolgirl picture and an image of a woman with her clothing stripped back, the ropes squeezing her naked breasts and contorting her into a pose that displays her genitals. A third uplifting work depicts a woman on the ground, strained forward, her naked spreading backside to the camera.
Faith in art?
A little further into the magazine you come upon the work of David Laity. What offering of truth and beauty does Laity give us? An image of a woman being bound with the tentacles of an octopus as it performs oral sex on her. That’s some dignified octopus. Then there’s an image of a woman bending over so we can see her … Well, you get the picture.
The photographs of Olympia need to be viewed in the context of the images positioned around her. On their own, the images that show Olympia reclining naked, her pose and look more that of an adult, can be seen as sexualised. But surrounding her with these other images superimposes a further, more sinister, meaning on them.
The former Democrats senator Lyn Allison told Sunrise the controversy was just about little girls playing dress-ups. But don’t dress-ups usually involve putting clothes on, not taking them off? And does this game usually end with your photo published in a gallery of female genitals?
The magazine’s editor said he wanted to “restore dignity to the debate”. Does he really think he’s achieved that?
Artists who recognise there should be ethical constraints to art; artists who don’t think it advances humanity to tie up naked girls and capture their images. Now that would be dignified.
The SMH letter was expanded into a piece for Online Opinion published July 18, 2008. While Robert Nelson criticised myself and my colleagues on twitter this week claiming we read the image of his daughter inappropriately, see how he himself has described some of his child’s photographs.
…Of course it’s not about dress-ups. Even Robert Nelson doesn’t think that.
In fact, (as Andrew Bolt uncovered) in the year 2000 Robert Nelson had described one of the photographs as part of an exploration of his daughter’s “eroticism”. Even her sucking a dummy as a four-year-old, was, said Nelson “potentially the most diabolically sexual” image, a symbol of “the perversity of pleasure-sucking’’.
Critics of the Polixeni Papapetrou images have been criticised for reading too much into them. Yet Nelson himself renders the child in sexualised ways.
Nelson once described Henson’s work as displaying a “vulgar relish in depicting naked, pouting teenagers” in a “teasing sexual spectacle” to present them as a “passive target for the viewer’s lust”. He wrote, “Henson’s interest in juvenile erotica … is an aesthetic of spying, granting you an illicit glimpse, as in all pornographic genres … Henson’s grope in the gloaming has unpleasant moral overtones, as when the participants are too young for sex’’.
So why give photographs of your daughter to a magazine whose raison d’être was a defence of Henson? It is hard to understand.
The magazine’s editor Maurice O’Riordan said he had wanted to “restore dignity to the debate”. Does he really think he’s achieved that by throwing Olympia in with tied up school girls, women who have been rendered completely powerless…