Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"Top Ten" Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2007

Every year, with the publication of its "Top Ten" Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) spotlights 10 humanitarian crisis that have received little or no attention from the media. Take a look at this amazing slideshow.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Langar Hall

Take a look at the brand new blog called The Langar Hall. You can participate on this blog via the discussion section.

This is a space dedicated to the experiences, reflections, and interests of a diverse group of young individuals – tied together by our common and varied identities as Sikhs in the diaspora.

Like the many conversations that take place in langar halls around the globe, our blog posts will sweep across a gamut of topics from Gurbani and Seva to Bhangra and Politics. We challenge ourselves to address the myriad of issues we face as individuals and as a community through a progressive lens, and reserve the right to rant, muse, and humor.

Do you have questions or the feeling that some things just have not really been explained? Then join our conversations as we untangle complexities, explore grays, or just share things we find interesting and funny.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Taking A Stand

Taking A Stand, on BBC Radio 4, did a piece on the (dis)honor killing of Surjit Athwal who was killed by her husband and mother-in-law. It's a heart-breaking story...
Fergal Keane talks to people who have taken risks and made sacrifices to stand up for what they believe in. When Surjit Athwal failed to return from a holiday in the Punjab, her brother Jagdeesh Singh was convinced that something terrible had happened. Eventually he discovered that his sister had been murdered in a so-called honour killing after her in-laws discovered that she planned to divorce her husband. Jagdeesh recounts his nine-year struggle to bring Surjit's killers to justice.
Listen here.

You can read more about this case here and here.

To read more about honor killings, see this link.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Health Literacy

The National Health Service in the UK offers health information in many languages, including Punjabi. Their resource site, NHS Direct, has lots of info from Alcohol Abuse, to B12 deficiency, to Exercise tips. One of the most important ways to improve health care is to provide information to patients that they can actually understand. It's about empowering patients and encouraging them to be involved with their care. I just want to post the link:

Health Information in Punjabi

I will say, however, that it's important to provide health information to a patient (whether the patient is English-speaking or not) that is understandable. For example, I was reading through the Punjabi information on the NHS site about high blood pressure. The document used words such as Hypertension, Systolic, and Diastolic. These words are often misinterpreted by patients who speak English, never mind those who speak a different language. The Institute of Medicine says,
Nearly half of all American adults--90 million people--have difficulty understanding and using health information, and there is a higher rate of hospitalization and use of emergency services among patients with limited health literacy.
So health literacy is a huge issue that impacts quality of care and it's really beginning to get more attention. I just think it's important to remember that when developing health information, to use terms that will be understandable by the average patient. Whatever language they may speak.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Meri Kahani

Here's information about a play being shown in Mississauga about the experience of violence among South Asian Women. Through short stories, the play aims to highlight the plight of the South Asian Woman's experience through a spectrum of voices. It is part of a public education initiative by the Multicultural Healing Project. I look forward to hearing more about it since I won't be able to attend.
Meri Kahani: My Story, is an innovative play addressing the challenges faced by South Asian survivors of abuse in the North American context. Focusing on abuse, the play has served to educate and inspire audiences in resisting ongoing violence and overcoming the barriers that women face in seeking support services. Using theatre as a tool for change, each kahani, or story, is told through the varied perspectives of South Asian survivors of abuse—domestic violence, incest and sexual assault—to capture the diversity of experiences among South Asian women.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Britain's Missing Babies

Worrying new research reveals that between 1990 and 2005, about 1,500 fewer girls were born to Indian mothers living in England and Wales than would have been statistically probable for this group. Indeed, the Oxford University population expert who collated the information insists the discrepancy in birth ratios between boys and girls is too "sudden and pronounced to have a likely biological or environmental cause... the most probable explanation is sex-selective abortion". The revelation follows a three month investigation by a team from the highly-respected BBC Asian Network.

It is almost certainly a very conservative estimate, based solely on records for Indian-born women who moved to Britain, not Indian women born in Britain - for which data is not easily available. Behind the figures are heartbreaking stories of mothers in this country under pressure to have a son, being bullied by their husband and in-laws into aborting their daughters. Indian women in Britain it appears, are also travelling to the subcontinent to use the services of doctors such as Mangala Telang, who does not carry out terminations herself, but for 4,000 rupees (about £49), Dr Telang will tell you the sex of your unborn child and is happy to recommend someone who can terminate the pregnancy. It is illegal in India to use ultrasound scans for such a purpose - even in the UK it is the policy of most hospitals not to divulge this information until after the 24-week abortion limit.
Read more here.

Asian Network Report: Britain's Missing Girls, will be broadcast on BBC Asian Network digital radio.Britain's Missing Girls

Outreach for Punjabi Farm Workers

As a result of an investigative report by India-West on alleged safety and labor code violations at several IndianAmerican-owned orchards in the Sacramento River valley, the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board plans to launch an outreach and education effort in the Indian American agricultural labor force.
According to micro-data samples from the 2000 census, there are about 2,000 Punjabi farm laborers living in Sutter and neighboring Yuba County, and most of them spend at least a few months each year working in Punjabi-owned orchards.
South Asian growers account for less than one percent of the farmers in the California, but records show that they have been the targets of five percent of civil actions
Kulwant Johl, the president of the Yuba-Sutter County Farm Bureau, a trade association of farm owners, and the owner of over 900 acres of orchards, said Punjabi Americans make up approximately 15 percent of the local farm labor force. They cling to agricultural work, he said, because they lack the English language skills required for driving trucks or working in local stores.

ALRB, founded under the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, aims to help farmworkers set up secret ballot elections to decide whether or not they wanted to be represented by labor unions; and also to combat unfair labor practices that pose a threat to collective bargaining. Blanco said that Punjabi farmworkers are likely to raise concerns about wage payment, overtime and access to healthcare, which do not fall under his agency's purview. "If we hear of any violations or complaints of discrimination that don't pertain to us, we'll forward that on to the appropriate agency."

CRLA and ALRB will together launch an outreach effort in the Punjabi American community during next year's pruning season in April and May. Although the sites of the outreach efforts have not as yet been finalized, they are sure to include Mahal Plaza. "I've also suggested bringing another person that people would want to talk to, like an immigration specialist who can talk about the citizenship process, or a person who does job skills training in computers or English," Pliscou told India-West.

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