Category Archives: Middle East

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.

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10 Things Kids Should Know About Iran

Photo courtesy ISNA

Iran has been in the news a great deal over the past several months and the Middle Eastern nation will likely continue to be in the headlines for a long time to come. Here are 10 things kids should know about Iran beyond the headlines.

1. Until 1935, Iran was known as Persia. Persia has had a vast cultural influence on the world in areas such as art, architecture, music, the weaving of rugs, science, and much more.

2. Iran borders the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea. It shares land borders with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq.

3. Iran is the 18th-largest country on earth. It is slightly smaller than Alaska.

4. Persian is the official language but more than six other languages are also spoken.

5. 98% of the population practices Islam, with 89% following the Shia Islam and 9% following Sunni Islam.

6. One in four people in Iran are under the age of 14.

7. The vast majority of the population – 71% – live in urban areas.

8. Most children attend school for 13 years.

9. Most Iranians work in the services sector but industry and agriculture are also important.

10. Iranians use money called a rial.

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International (& Inspirational) Thanksgiving Quotes

If you’re struggling for conversation around the dinner table or just really want to make sure your children understand why we celebrate Thanksgiving – and why so many cultures around the world set aside a day for gratitude – here are some quotes from around the world about Thanksgiving Day and the importance of giving thanks (and a few food-related proverbs!).

Thanksgiving comes to us out of the prehistoric dimness, universal to all ages and all faiths. At whatever straws we must grasp, there is always a time for gratitude and new beginnings. J. Robert Moskin

Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds. Theodore Roosevelt

On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence. William Jennings Bryan

Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. Native American proverb

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues. Cicero

If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself. Native American proverb

Who does not thank for little will not thank for much. Estonian proverb

After lunch, rest; after dinner walk a mile. Arab proverb

A guest sees more in an hour than the host in a year. Polish proverb

Fear less, hope more,

Eat less, chew more,

talk less, say more,

Hate less, love more,

And all good things will be yours.

Swedish proverb

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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!

 

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Millions Travel to Mecca for Annual Hajj

On November 5, millions of Muslims began the five-day hajj, an annual trip to Mecca in Saudi Arabia that is one of the five pillars of Islam.

The hajj, which draws about 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims to sacred sites in and around Mecca, is the largest religious gathering in the world.

Muslims who are physically able and can afford to make the trip gather from around the world to pray and practice their faith together.

The ritual goes back to Abraham, the common ancestor of the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faiths. Abraham had a child with his servant, Hagar, a baby named Ishmael. Many of the rituals are based on a story in which Hagar, left alone in the desert with the baby, finds food and water to keep them both alive.

The hajj rituals are deeply important to Muslims. They are very well explained here and here. But the best way to learn about the hajj, and Islam, is by becoming friends with Muslims you may know and asking them questions about their faith.

In learning more about Islam, it’s interesting to note what an important role the number five plays in Islam. There are five pillars of Islam, which includes proclaiming that there is only one God, promising to donate generously to charitable works, fasting during Ramadan, daily prayer, and performing the hajj pilgrimage.

The hajj lasts five days and has a number of activities that must be performed or the hajj is invalid.

Finally, Muslims pray five times each day.

In other faiths, different numbers and rituals take on important meaning. Learning more about other religions helps us understand our beliefs even better.

Here are some great resources geared toward children to help them learn more about Islam.

Islam for Kids

BBC Schools, Islam: An Introduction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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Talking to Kids About Bin Laden

Child watching TVMany American parents woke up May 2 to the news that Osama bin Laden, the strategist behind the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, and the American embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, along with many other attacks on innocent people around the world, had been killed.

As we watched the news coverage we struggled with what to say to our children, most of whom had been born after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In order to explain today’s news and why people were celebrating, we had to weigh how much to tell our children about the events of Sept. 11, a day which was  for many of us the worst day of our lives.

There’s no one right way to deal with news events like this. Parents have to trust their instincts on how much to tell their children, depending on their age, sensitivity, and other factors.

But here are some things to keep in mind to help you – and your children – understand the situation.

Make sure children feel safe.

In talking about what happened at the compound in Abottabad, children are likely to feel afraid. Children interpret every event in relation to themselves. Could bad people hurt me and my family? Are we in danger? Help your child feel as secure as possible. Tell him or her that you are there to protect them and that nothing bad will happen. Children need reassurance in order to feel secure. Insecurity in children can lead to behavior problems, nightmares, and more.

Help children understand why people are celebrating.

As much as we would like to protect our children from some of history’s darkest moments, we need to explain and interpret that history for them. This is an opportunity for parents to frame these events in ways children can understand and in keeping with your religious, ethical, and moral beliefs. You cannot teach children how to process frightening events, which they are certain to experience in their lifetimes, if you don’t talk to them.

Listen to – and answer – the question they’re asking.

You don’t have to give a multi-part lecture on the rise of extremism or provide an in-depth geography lesson on south Asia. What your children really want to know is how this information affects them, their family, their school, and their community. You don’t have to be an expert on global terrorism to answer those questions.

Know when enough is enough.

Sometimes parents over-talk a topic. It’s important to give children information appropriate to their age and understanding and then talk about something else. Answer their questions, but don’t revisit the topic again and again without them asking about it. If you do, you’ll unintentionally diminish your credibility. Children will believe you’re hiding something or that you’re more concerned than you’re letting on, and that will lead to greater fear on their part.

Model the behavior you want them to copy.

Show your child how to react by modeling the behavior you want to see them imitate. If you rely on prayer in challenging times, let your children see you pray and permit them to pray with you. If you seek out a lot of news and information, let them see that, too.

Keep in mind that children have a hard time understanding that when news stories are repeated on television or the Internet that they are not happening over and over again.

There are many times when parents wish they had a guidebook for how to deal with some issue confronting their children or their family.

At such times, it’s important to remember that no one knows your child the way you do. Only you can determine how much and what information is appropriate for them at a given time.

Do not try to prevent your child from knowing about – and participating in – world events but instead give them the tools they need to process the information.

It’s a skill they’ll need throughout their lives.

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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.

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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.

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A Bicycle Trip Around the World

Fred BirchmoreNearly 75 years ago, a young man from Athens, Georgia (USA) bicycled more than 25,000 miles across Europe and Asia.

It took him two years, one bicycle, and the kindness of numerous strangers to complete this feat.

Now nearly 100 years old, Fred Birchmore is still talking about the experience today.

In a recent article in Smithsonian magazine, Mr. Birchmore talks about what made him abandon his studies in international law at Germany’s University of Cologne to bicycle across Europe and Asia.

Bad luck in the form of a robbery caused him to miss the beginning of his second semester at the university so he opted instead to bicycle across the Syrian desert. Not necessarily a choice everyone would make!

His bicycle, which is now in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, weighed 42 pounds, had one gear and was named Bucephalus after Alexander the Great’s horse.

When he finally returned home (after visiting Afghanistan, India, Vietnam, and Thailand, among many other countries), he still couldn’t shake the urge to travel.

He rode more than 12,000 miles across North America before getting married in 1939.

When he got married later that year, it was clear from the beginning that he had chosen the right spouse. For their honeymoon, he and his wife, Willa Deane, covered more than 4,500 miles on a tandem bike through Latin America.

It must have been an amazing adventure and it certainly gave Mr. Birchmore a new perspective on life as an American.

According to Mr. Birchmore, “Americans eat too much, sleep too little, work too hard, and travel too fast to live to a ripe old age.”

For more about the amazing Fred Birchmore, you can read his biography, Around the World on a Bicycle.

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