Category Archives: Africa

The Best Countries for Women & Girls

Photo courtesy of DoSomething.org

Happy 101st International Women’s Day!

In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re sharing some news about women from around the world.

The British newspaper, The Independent, reviewed data from around the world to evaluate how women are faring.

Studies show that by focusing on education for women in developing countries and providing them with the means to support themselves and their families, the rates of poverty and child mortality decrease dramatically.

Working together, we can create a world where every child has access to a quality education, health care, and enjoys their human rights and liberties.

Politics

In Rwanda, women hold 45 out of 80 parliamentary seats. This is the only country in the world where there are more women than men at this level of political prominence. Belize, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have no female members of parliament.

Photo courtesy: AlmostAllTheTruth.com

Business & Work Place

Thailand has the most women managers in the work place in the world. Forty-five percent of senior managers in Thailand are women. In the US, only 20 percent of women hold senior management positions. In Japan, only 8 percent of senior management jobs are held by women.

In Jamaica, almost 60 percent of the high-skilled jobs are held by women.

Life Expectancy

Japanese women have the longest life expectancy in the world – 87 years.

Sports

The United States is the best place in the world to be a female athlete. Five out of the ten best-paid female athletes in the world are from the US. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has never sent a woman to the Olympics.

Literacy

Lesotho has the best female literacy rate compared to the men’s rate in the world. Ninety-five percent of women in Lesotho can read and write. Only 83 percent of the men in Lesotho can read and write.

Best Overall

Taking political participation, education, health, and employment statistics into account, Iceland has been named the best country in the world for women.

In honor of International Women’s Day, let’s do our best to encourage and inspire the girls and young women in our lives so that we can make every country the best country on earth for them.

To read the entire report, click here.

For more facts about the status of women and girls around the world, check out DoSomething.org’s website and Almostallthetruth.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Caribbean, Europe, Holiday, Latin America, Learn, Middle East, North America

Advent Begins

The season of Advent begins today as Christian families prepare for Christmas by reflecting on the circumstances around the birth of Jesus Christ through prayer, repentance, and fasting.

Advent originally began in the 4th century to anticipate the Epiphany, the Christian holiday when the wise men came to see the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. This tradition was changed by Saint Gregory the Great in the 6th century to reflect anticipation over Christmas.

Many families mark the season of Advent by lighting candles on their own Advent wreath. Each week, beginning on November 27 this year, people light one of four candles on the Advent wreath and say special prayers at dinner after they have blessed their food.

This Christian tradition is very similar to the Jewish Hanukkah menorah and the African kinara that is lit during Kwanzaa.

The Advent wreath has four candles and a new candle is lit during each of the four weeks of Advent. The first candle to be lit is purple. This color is meant to symbolize prayer, repentance, and royalty since Christians are anticipating the coming of a king.

The second week, a different purple candle is lit along with the first purple candle.

During the third week, a pink candle, symbolizes joy or rejoicing, is lit along with the first two purple candles. This is Gaudette Sunday, the midpoint of Advent, and a time when Christians turn their thoughts to celebration and rejoicing over the coming of Christmas.

During the final week, a purple candle is again lit, along with the other three candles.

On Christmas Day, a fifth, white candle in the center of the wreath, can be lit. This white candle represents Jesus and the idea that through Jesus sins are forgiven.

In many Protestant churches, four red candles are used instead of the three purple and one pink candle.

The wreath itself is round, symbolizing the fact that God has no beginning or end. The wreath is made from evergreen trees, which stay green year-round and mean continuous life. The holly in the wreath symbolizes the suffering of Jesus on the cross when he was given a crown of thorns.

For more information about the history of the Advent wreath in the Catholic church, read this.

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Faith, Holiday, Learn

It’s Election Day – Learn About Elections Around the World

Today is Election Day in the United States. It’s an important day in which citizens exercise their right to vote for people to represent them at the city, county, state, and national levels.

Elections date back to ancient Greece and Rome. They have been used to elect the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope.

In India, elections were held at the village level.

Ancient Arabs used elections to select their leader, called the caliph.

To be a good citizen, Americans have to educate themselves about the issues, decide which are the most important to them, research the candidates for public office, and cast their ballot on Election Day.

Many Americans also volunteer for political campaigns. They might go door to door with information about the candidates and the issues to educate others. They might make phone calls to voters to provide resources and information. They may work to put together a mailing or help create a website.

Political involvement doesn’t begin when the polls open on Election Day and end when they close. To truly participate in the democratic process, Americans have to stay engaged throughout the year so they can hold their representatives accountable.

Once candidates take office, Americans need to communicate with them to ensure that they continue to support the positions that mean the most to the voters. If a candidate seems to be listening to a minority of powerful and influential people and ignoring the concerns of the citizens who elected them, people have to contact those representatives and hold them accountable for their choices.

Americans are very fortunate to have one of the most responsive systems of government in the world. But many other countries also vote. Here’s a list of nations and how their leaders are chosen.

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

About 112 countries hold direct elections for their head of state. A direct election means that voters directly cast their ballots for the person or political party they want to support. More than 220 countries (including dependent territories) hold direct elections at the local level.

The United States holds indirect elections for the head of state, also known as the president. Indirect elections mean that voters cast their ballots for a representative who will select a candidate for president.

To learn more about elections around the world, check out Elections 101 from PBS Kids and Democracy Around the World from PBS Teachers.

If you’re interested in participating in a vote just for children, check out The Global Vote on issues that affect children around the world.

Happy Election Day!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, Learn, Middle East

Superstitions Around the World

At Halloween, it’s fun to explore the things we don’t understand and examine the steps we take to control the things that just can’t be controlled. For example:

When you spill salt, do you throw a pinch over your left shoulder for good luck?

Do you believe black cats are unlucky?

Do you think that if you break a mirror, you’ll have bad luck for seven years?

Do you avoid the number 13?

These are all superstitions with which most Americans are familiar.

Even if we don’t believe in them, we pass this information on to our children because it’s part of our collective cultural heritage. We feel they should be aware of these beliefs.

But what other superstitions do people believe around the world? How are they different? Here’s a brief look at superstitions around the world to help you understand other cultures.

The Spooky Numbers 4 and 17

In Japan, it’s the number 4, not 13, that makes hearts race. In Italy, it’s the number 17. In these cultures, many hotels and hospitals avoid using these numbers to prevent their guests and patients from unnecessary pessimism. Of course, these buildings still have fourth and seventeenth floors, they just aren’t listed as such.

The Broken Dish

In the Netherlands, a broken dish is believed to bring bad luck in much the same way a broken mirror does.

More About Cats

In the Netherlands, private matters should not be discussed when a cat is in the room. People believe that cats are untrustworthy and spread gossip.

Tuesday

Tuesdays hold a special place in superstition. Tuesday the 13th is considered a particularly bad-luck day in many cultures in much the same way that Friday the 13th is bad luck to many Americans. In India, you cannot get a hair cut on Tuesdays because it’s believed to bring bad luck.

Bad Dreams

In Romania, if you dream about dark water or that you are carrying a newborn baby in your arms, you can expect bad luck. In China, dreaming about teeth or snow means that your parents have died.

More About Mirrors

If you thought breaking a mirror was bad, then you definitely do not want to place a mirror anywhere near the foot of your bed. If you do, Italians believe it permits the devil to watch you sleep. And if you wake up in the night and catch a glimpse of your reflection in that mirror, it means that evil owns you.

Watch Out For the Evil Eye

Many cultures believe in the evil eye which brings big-time bad luck. In Guatemala, parents can protect their children from the evil eye by dressing the kids in red; even a red bracelet will help.

Don’t Get Swept Away

In Venezuela, some people believe that if someone pushes a broom over your feet while they are sweeping, they also sweep away your chances of ever getting married. In many parts of Africa, you are never supposed to sweep your house at night. It is believed that you will sweep your good luck away.

Respect the Moon

In China, if you point to the moon with your finger the tips of your ears will fall off.

Whether or not you’re superstitious, it’s good to be aware – and respectful – of other people’s beliefs. When you visit people in their homes or travel to different countries, you need to respect these beliefs in order to be a considerate guest.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Asia, Europe, Faith, Holiday, Latin America, Learn

Thank you, Wangari Maathai

On Sunday, September 25, we lost a hero when Kenyan Wangari Maathai passed away from cancer in Nairobi.

In 2004, Maathai earned worldwide attention when she was named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for her work linking environmentalism with democracy and human rights.

Maathai decided that planting trees with women’s groups would improve the quality of their lives while helping the environment. She founded the Green Belt Movement which has planted more than 20 million trees on farms, schools, and church compounds. The movement has spread to other countries in Africa.

Maathai was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree. She studied at several universities in the United State and Europe before returning to Kenya to improve the lives of her fellow citizens.

In 2002, Maathai was elected to the Kenyan Parliament and was later appointed to be Assistant Minister of Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife.

Maathai was a great leader. Despite the challenges she faced as a woman and an African, she changed the world by teaching women to value themselves, to take control over their lives, and to connect human rights with environmentalism. We owe her a great deal, but the best way to honor her work is to continue it.

For more information about Maathai, read her biography on the Nobel Prize page. Learn more about the Green Belt Movement here.

1 Comment

Filed under Africa

New E-Book Blends Food & Culture

The Best International Flavors You're NOT Grilling With!I am so happy to announce that our e-book, The BEST International Flavors You’re NOT Grilling With! is now available from Amazon.com.

This is the first e-book my co-author, Chef Danielle Turner of www.CookingClarified.com, and I have put together. We share a love of other cultures (and food) and as mothers we want to encourage our children to be curious about people and places around the world.

In this grilling e-book, we’re expanding our outreach to parents, particularly fathers who are the stereotypical “grill masters” in their families. By encouraging dads to experiment with new foods and learn about new cultures, we hope that both mom and dad (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) will model the behavior we hope children will adopt.

For more information about the e-book, check out KidCulture’s Grilling page or visit Chef Danielle’s website, CookingClarified.

If you’re convinced that grilling with global influences is something your family would enjoy, we hope you’ll buy our book and support our efforts.

2 Comments

Filed under Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Eat, Europe, Latin America, Learn, Middle East, Read

10 Things Kids Should Know About South Sudan

Flag of South Sudan

Flag of South Sudan

On July 9, 2011, South Sudan became the newest nation in the world. Here are 10 things you – and your child – should know about the world’s newest nation.

  1. South Sudan was created by splitting the country of Sudan, which had been one of the largest African nations.
  2. The country’s official name is the Republic of South Sudan. Other names considered were the Nile Republic, Equatoria, Kush, the Nile State, and the Anyidi Democratic Republic.
  3. The new capital of South Sudan is Juba.
  4. South Sudan has adopted a new currency which will feature the face of John Garang, a revered leader for the south. Garang signed the 2005 peace deal that made it possible for South Sudan to become an independent country. He passed away shortly after signing the agreement.
  5. The White Nile River passes through South Sudan. The White Nile is one of two tributaries of the Nile River. The other tributary is known as the Blue Nile.
  6. South Sudan has a population of about 6-8 million people who mostly live in rural areas and are subsistence farmers.
  7. The Dinka is the largest of the 200 ethnic groups that call South Sudan home. Other tribes include the Shilluk, Nuer, Acholi, and Lotuhu.
  8. English is the official language but various forms of Arabic are also spoken.
  9. South Sudan has or will become the 196th country in the world, 193rd member of the United Nations, and the 55th country in Africa.
  10. The first baby born in South Sudan on July 9 – the day it became an independent nation – was a boy whose parents named him “Independent” in honor of the new nation.

Congratulations and best wishes to the people of South Sudan!

2 Comments

Filed under Africa, Learn

Pasta and Marco Polo

Marco PoloAs children, we learned the theory that Marco Polo, the famous Italian explorer who spent 17 years in China before returning to his native land, introduced pasta to Italy.

But the truth is Italians – and all lovers of Italian food – might actually have Arabs to thank for helping to make pasta an Italian culinary staple.

Although the Chinese have been cooking pasta for more than 4,000 years, Italians are more likely to have learned pasta-making techniques from Arabs who settled in the Mediterranean area in the 9th century, more than 300 years before Marco Polo left for his adventure.

Although they may not have invented pasta, no other culture has been as enthusiastic about it. Italians consumer between nearly 77 pounds of pasta per person on average in a single year!

1 Comment

Filed under Africa, Eat, Europe, Learn

Wedding Gowns Around the World

Princess Diana wedding dress

Catherine Middleton's wedding dress is likely to become as iconic as Princess Diana's.

Happy wedding day to Prince William and Kate (Catherine) Middleton!

Now that we’ve finally gotten a look at her much-anticipated dress, we can stop and think about what wedding gowns mean and why they differ so much around the world.

While white or ivory wedding gowns have been the de facto bridal colors since Prince William’s great-great-great-grandmother (if my genealogy is correct) Queen Victoria chose to wear an ivory gown, in other parts of the world red, yellow, and purple are the established colors for brides to wear on their wedding days.

In China and many other Asian countries, red is a symbol of good luck so red wedding gowns with golden embroidery are common.

In southern China, a phoenix and a dragon are often embroidered on the gown to represent the balance of power in a marriage between the husband and the wife.

In Indonesia, brides and grooms wear complementary outfits and many golden accessories.

Traditional Korean wedding dresses are enormous and difficult to move around in so bridesmaids become much more critical to the bride-to-be.

In Morocco, yellow wedding gowns are thought to ward off evil. Green is another popular color meant to represent new life.

In Japan, purple is thought to be the color of love although brides may wear anything from a white, Western gown to red.

In Ireland, traditional brides wear blue, considered to be a lucky color. Green, which is heavily identified with Ireland (also known as the Emerald Isle), is considered very unlucky at a wedding.

More wedding dress photos from around the world are available here.

6 Comments

Filed under Africa, Asia, Europe, Learn, Middle East

Stories Fit for a Prince or a Princess

Reading with kidsWith the British royal wedding only a few days away, royal fever seems to be gripping many people around the world.

And since I enjoy any excuse to read with my child, it seems like a good time to introduce some royalty-themed books into our nightly routine.

The Prince’s Bedtime by Joanne Oppenheim and illustrated by Miriam Latimer is a wonderful read even if your little guy – like mine – isn’t too interested in the royal wedding. The problem facing the king and queen is universal: how do I get my child to fall asleep? All parents will be able to relate to the prince in the story who is only too willing to let his parents jump through hoops to get him to sleep at a reasonable hour. But it’s one wise old woman who finds the way to send him off to dreamland, no hoops required.

The Princess and the White Bear King by Tanya Robyn Batt and illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli combines Greek myths and Norwegian folk tales to spin a story of a brave young princess who withstands many trials, and her own foolishness, to win a husband worth having.

The Real Princess: A Mathemagical Tale by Brenda Williams and illustrated by Sophie Fatus is a mathematical take on the classic story of the Princess and the Pea. In this story, math plays a much greater role in the discovery of a real princess fit to marry the prince and take over the kingdom. Any parent who’s ever struggled with the stereotype that girls don’t like math will want to scoop this book up and make it part of their nightly reading ritual.

The Seven Wise Princesses: A Medieval Persian Epic by Wafa’ Tarnowska and illustrated by Nilesh Mistry is a great book to introduce children to Persian literature, which has been a dominant force for centuries. This book is based on a poem by Nizami, a Sufi poet who was born in the 12th century in what is today Azerbaijan. With ten stories told by different princesses from China to India to Greece to Morocco, it is a wonderful way to introduce children to folk tales from other cultures.

For more great books to read, check out the Barefoot Books website and KidCulture’s Amazon.com reading list.

Comments Off on Stories Fit for a Prince or a Princess

Filed under Africa, Asia, Europe, Listen, Middle East, Read