On a summer trip with our American martial arts school, my daughter and I were able to visit a very special place in South Korea. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is a beautiful seaside Buddhist temple on the coast of the northeastern portion of the city of Busan.
Most Korean temples are located in the mountains, but this place was striking because of the way it was placed with its dragon and lion statues turned toward a seemingly infinite sea. Imagine meditating in the open air, facing into the sunrise with the vastness of the ocean before you, and the calming sound of waves surrounding you!
As we wound our way up and down stone steps, I was curious to see many small figurines of children crowding the ledges in the surrounding rocks. At first they looked like toys, but there were too many to be random. Our instructor explained that parents left them as tokens of prayer for their children to do well in school. There were even some stuck up on a statue of a dragon leaving me to think, “How in the world did a mom or dad climb way up there?” We also found more permanent statues labeled, “Statue of Buddha for Academic Achievement.”
It was touching to see obvious evidence of parental care in a place dating back to 1376 AD during the Goryeo dynasty. Seeing something so near to my heart as a desire for good education displayed prominently affirmed my belief that – no matter where we live – we want to give our children every chance to live the best lives they can.
As a RESULTS volunteer who advocates against global poverty, I’ve learned the statistics behind what every parent already knows: more school means more opportunity. For each year of school completed, an child’s future wages increase an average of 10 percent. The is even greater for girls. On average, for a girl in a poor country, each additional year of education beyond fourth grade will lead to 20 percent higher wages. On a country level, education is a prerequisite for short- and long-term economic growth. No country has achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without at least 40 percent of adults being able to read and write.
Sadly, 59 million children worldwide don’t have access to school today and even among those children who do make it into a classroom, a staggering global total of 250 million kids – nearly 40 percent of the world’s children of primary school age – can’t read a single sentence. Quality primary education isn’t the only challenge. Sixty-five million adolescents are currently out of secondary school, and over 80 percent of children in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to preschool.
I’m proud that the U.S. has long been a leader in supporting developing countries as they work to educate their children. But more must be done to increase the effectiveness and impact of this work. For my part, I am asking my U.S. senators to support the Education for All Act (S. 3256). A well-resourced strategy coupled with increased transparency and accountability is needed now to ensure the U.S. government effectively contributes to realizing quality education for children around the world.
I encourage every World Moms Blog reader who lives in the U.S. to also reach out to his or her own senators in support of the Education for All Act. For readers in other countries, find out what your government is doing to promote global education. After all, the United Nation’s Global Goal #4 is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
This is an original post written for World moms Blog by Cindy Levin.
There are an estimated 2.6 million eligible American voters living abroad, and every one of them has the right to register and vote via absentee ballot. I am proud to count myself among the millions of U.S. citizens voting from abroad. I cast my ballot last week, sending it with a Canadian friend who was traveling to the United States. He sent me an email after dropping my ballot in the mail, saying that he was proud to participate in the American electoral process, and asking to be welcome at our Thanksgiving table in return.
As citizens living abroad, we have not only the right, but also a civic duty to vote in our home elections. Some countries do not offer absentee voting to their citizens, while other countries do not allow expats who have lived abroad for an extended period to vote at all. I’m fortunate that absentee voting is allowed in my country, and I encourage all expats abroad to vote in their home elections.
As a mother, I have taught my children that voting is a way for a group of people to make a decision together. Parents can take the opportunity at election time to introduce our children to the political process in our home countries. My children won’t be able to vote for many years, but they already understand that there is a presidential election in our country this year. They know the two main candidates, which one I am supporting, and why. As future voters, I have tried to teach them the importance of making their voices heard.
A mere 12 percent of American expat voters cast their absentee ballots in the 2012 election, according to the Rothermere American Institute. This year, efforts are being made to get out the expat vote, recognizing the voting power of Americans abroad.
If you’re an American expat, you can use the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website to register to vote and request your absentee ballot for the November 8th election. If you have questions, just check out the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s FAQs. Voting abroad is easier than you think!
Voting in our home elections is our right, and our duty. Absentee voting is easy – it takes just a few minutes. Make your voice heard on November 8th. Be a proud overseas voter!
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara Wambugu.
Image credits: “I voted” via Kelley Minars / Flickr, American in Singapore via Erika Behl, American in Pakistan via Kelsey Hoppe, U.S. Ambassador Baur via Instagram, American in Germany via Instagram, American in Switzerland via Instagram, American in Spain via Instagram, Virginia ballot image is the author’s own, American in Zambia via Jessica Menon.
Save The Children
There are some causes that are tricky to rally people around: not everyone wants to ban fur coats, for instance; not everyone thinks that restaurants should post calorie counts on their menus. There are other causes, though, that seem pretty much no-brainers: access to clean water, for instance. Is anyone really going to say “yeah, dirty water, I’m a big fan!” Or saving children. Is anyone really going to say (publicly, anyway) that it’s not a good idea to save children?
Even if we all agree that children should be saved, however, we know that all over the world there are children who need saving, in places where governments and infrastructure don’t seem capable of doing what needs to be done. That’s where organizations like Save the Children step in: they help stitch together the services that can help families survive and give governments a much needed hand.
Save the Children came out with its annual “State of the World’s Mothers” list, which uses five metrics to determine where it’s good to be a mother (and a child). The metrics – maternal health, children’s well-being, educational status (of mothers), economic status, and political status— are combined to give an overall score, which determines where a country falls on the list. Of 179 countries, there are the usual suspects at the bottom of the list—countries where war, natural disasters, and poverty combine in a perfect storm of catastrophe: places like Haiti, or Sudan, or Pakistan.
But there are surprises, too, like the fact that the United States doesn’t even crack the top twenty. Nope, the good ol’ US of A pulls in at 33.
Thirty-third in the world, for a country whose overall wealth and education trumps pretty much everywhere else. The US was beaten by, among others, Slovenia, Belarus, Croatia, and the Czech Republic, as well as all those Scandinavian countries that consistently outperform everyone else when it comes to quality of life issues.
You know what most of these places have that the US does not? A significantly higher percentage of women in government. I suppose a statistician would say that fact is not causal but correlative, and I’m sure that some people would insist that just having women in government won’t automatically make things better for women and children (and thus society), but maybe we should try, and then see what happens?
I live at the moment in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, another wealthy country that doesn’t crack the top twenty on this list. I suppose that for many Westerners, it might seem impossible any Middle Eastern country would score well on a list having to do with women’s lives, but the statistics on this list might help defuse those stereotypes. According to this index, 17.5% of seats in UAE government organizations are held by women, compared to 19.5% in the US; in terms of lifetime risk of maternal death, it is better to be a woman in the UAE: 1 in 5800 versus 1 in 1800 in the US. Women in the US average about 16 years of schooling, women in the UAE about 13; and women in the US tend to be wealthier than women in the UAE (53K for the US, 38K for the UAE).
The Save the Children list doesn’t index maternity leave policy, but that offers another interesting point of comparison.
Women in the UAE only receive 45 days of maternity leave, which isn’t enough, obviously, as any woman who has given birth understands. Women in the US get twelve weeks of maternity leave (although I had to call it “disability” leave in order to ensure that I got the requisite number of days). Twelve weeks, that is, of unpaid leave. John Oliver brilliantly skewered this policy on Mother’s Day, pointing out that the United States aligns with Papua, New Guinea, as the only two countries in the world with no paid parental leave policy. In the UAE, if a woman has a medical certificate that attests to her need for more time at home, she can take up to 100 days of additional (unpaid) leave.
Organizations like Save the Children do invaluable, back-breaking work among desperate populations, but their work raises a question that those of us who live with more privilege should be asking–loudly–of ourselves and our communities: why aren’t we all tied for first place? What has to happen to force “resource-rich” countries take care of its most vulnerable citizens? Why aren’t we doing better?
Where does your country rank in this list? And how do you think your country can do better? Any thoughts?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn in the United Arab Emirates of “Mannahattamamma.”
Photo credit to ‘Save The Children’.
International Day of Yoga is June 21st
This week our Senior Editor of World Voice Column, Elizabeth Atalay, interviewed our Senior Editor of Africa and Middle East Region, Purnima Ramakrishnan, about Heartfulness Meditation in relation to the International Day of Yoga.
Elizabeth Atalay: What is Heartfulness Meditation?
Purnima Ramakrishnan: Heartfulness is to feel the already existing deep inner connection of the human being with the heart. It means to experience every single aspect of life in a natural way of the heart. It means to live life in the best way possible.
EA: Why Heartfulness?
PR: We are all connected with each other only though our hearts. In any relationship, personal or professional, in any decision making process, in any life altering situations, in any thing which ever matters or commences or ceases, it is the heart which matters. We feel in our hearts to do or to be or to exist.
We always listen to our hearts. We need this deep connection with our hearts. That is the core of our existence. That is what matters for us, as human beings, in our lives, to be happy and joyful and to be able to follow our hearts. So Heartfulness is a way to do this with a deeper and more connective consciousness with the heart.
EA: Is Heartfulness a type of meditation?
PR: I personally feel “meditation” is a very over-rated word in today’s world. When you close your eyes and think for some time to make a decision, are you contemplating, are you meditating on that aspect? When you sit down silently, by the mountains and close your eyes and feel the peace all around you, do you call it meditation?
When you hug your baby and feel that beautiful joy of a hug, which you would continue to prolong for as long as your baby lies still, is it meditation or is it just an experiencing of joy/love? That is Heartfulness indeed. That is meditation too, if you call it that way. We are meditating every single day, every minute on something or the other. Our hearts are always “working” on something, at times even on stillness.
EA: So do you practice this Heartfulness meditation? If yes, how?
PR: I sit down, close my eyes, and suggest connecting to my heart. I am aware of my heart. Sometimes a few mundane thoughts come along the way – everyday thoughts about everyday life situations. But I still continue with my connection, I continue to feel the brightness in my heart, the stillness in my heart. I feel the joy and peace there, I try to tap into it. And it feels good.
EA: As a #WorldMom of World Moms Blog, how do you think this is useful for mothers?
PR: As a #WorldMom, I say, we mothers are the care-takers of this world, care takers of our babies, children and of our families, which make the structure of the society. It helps mothers stay balanced, stay happy, spread the joy in the family. Personally, it helps me be more connected and intuitive to my child’s needs and well-balanced in my mind for my own personal happiness and development.
EA: Is this something which everyone can participate irrespective of their religious and social/national constructs?
PR: Can everyone (irrespective of their beliefs) go to the doctor when they are unwell? Of course! Taking care of one’s body is a primary duty.
But very often we ignore the cry of help from our own hearts and minds. And to meditate everyday, to feed the soul, to take care of the soul, to enrich the heart, is a duty.
Once I started doing it, I felt it gave me a lot of strength, joy and well-balanced, holistic, emotional and mental life.
EA: Would you be able to help the World Moms with an experience of this?
PR: Yes, definitely. We could have it over skype if our contributors and readers would like to join or I could also suggest local centers where they can go and experience it.
EA: Lastly, how is this Heartfulness Meditation related to the Intenational Day of Yoga?
PR: Ah! Here comes that aspect, where all this discussion started!
India has always been a hot destination for spiritual seekers. From the time of Paul Brunton, India has always been a mystic place with seekers coming here for spirituality. And recently too, the Prime Minister of India, Honorable Mr. Narendra Modi has been instrumental, in the UN’s declaration of 21st June as the International Day of Yoga. Indians have been yogis always, India has been the house of meditation.
All the yogic postures and breathing exercises are fundamental to train the body to be able to sit in meditation for hours together.
The yogis meditated for centuries together, in the jungles and in Himalayas.
Everything they did is for this final act of being able to meditate effectively. However today, we are easily offered this way of the heart, to be able to meditate effectively, to connect with our hearts, for short moments during the day whenever we feel a need, whenever we feel the want, and to experience the joy. So, yes, yoga evolves into meditation, eventually in an aspirant’s journey.
Everywhere in India on June 21st, (including Rajpath where the Presidential Residence is present) and all across the world, different schools of Yoga and meditation are organizing Yoga demonstrations and meditation sessions.
Here at World Moms Blog, we would like to invite the contributors, readers and fans of World Moms Blog for a meditation session on Heartfulness.
Venue: Here on World Moms Blog
Time: Check in any time on June 21st for a video here on World Moms Blog to guide you through heartfulness meditation with Purnima.
Edited on 21 June, 2015, International Day of Yoga:
There is a video below about Heartfulness Meditation. If you are interested, please try to do this in the following way.
1. Gently close your eyes. Relax your body. Empty your mind.
2. Suppose that the Source of Light in your heart is attracting you from within your heart.
3. Rather than trying to visualize it, simply tune in to your heart and be open to any experience that you may have.
4. Do this for as long as you can. It could be 30 minutes. It could be longer or shorter than that too.
5. If your mind wanders and ‘thinks’, gently bring your attention back to your heart.
If you like to do this often, then please do it everyday. It rejuvenates your heart and mind and you feel so ready to take on the world. Please leave your comments in this page and/or contact me through this page – here.
Would you like to try on the next advanced stage after a few days? Let me know and I shall help you with a few more resources and contacts. Or you can do it through this page here too.
Above Video and photo credit to www.Heartfulness.org
365DaysOn the Chibok Girls are never to be forgotten.
It is 365 days today that the Chibok Girls were abducted. Exactly one year ago on 14th April 2014 276 Chibok School Girls were abducted from their school. I just cannot believe the fact that we actually allowed it to get to one year without the rescue of our #chibokGirls. How could we allow innocent children be taken away by terrorist group and do nothing. The #ChibokGirls ought not to have been taken in the first place. They were supposed to be protected to enjoy their Childhood and their innocence. We failed to protect them and also failed in the next best thing which would have been their immediate rescue. How can we live with ourselves? How do we live with our consciences? How do we face ourselves in the mirror knowing fully well that we abandoned 219 #ChibokGirls and left them with the terrorists.
What is the crime of #ChibokGirls? Is it because she is Nigerian? Is it because she is poor? Or is it because she dared to be educated? #ChibokGirls against all odds dared to be educated and on April 14th 2014 they paid for daring. A group of armed terrorists entered their school and abducted 276 of them from their school in Chibok. 57 of them escaped on their own and there are still 219 of them still with the abductors for a year today, and not a single one has been rescued. The armed terrorists group known as Boko Haram, literarily meaning that western education is forbidden, have vowed to get schools closed down and seem to be succeeding. For some children in the North Eastern States of Nigeria education has become truly forbidden as schools in some parts have been closed for over a year.
The #ChibokGirls were writing their Final year examination after which those who passed would be able to secure admission into University. A beacon of hope for their families. Schools had been closed down in neighbouring towns and a lot of parents sent their children to be able to complete their secondary school education in Chibok.
There had been series of attacks within some neighbouring villages and yet the #ChibokGirls went to school. Even those who were not boarders went to stay in school because there was electricity there and they wanted to have a place to read for their exams. Sheer determination to get an education which they knew would be their key to breaking the shackles of poverty. For the #ChibokGirl education meant everything. It was the path that could lead to an end to the vicious cycle of poverty. Like one of the #ChibokMothers said to us when we invited them to one of the Sit Outs we had, said her daughter had promised to go to school to get an education and wipe away her tears. The mother asked us; “If my daughter is in the hands of terrorist how she will wipe away my tears?
For most of these parents their children are everything, including a future source of livelihood. What makes the #ChibokGirls issue so saddening is that a lot of children, especially the Girl-Child from the region of Nigeria they come from, hardly ever go to school. They are the most educationally disadvantaged and it takes a lot to get them to school, especially the girls.
One of the #ChibokFathers put it this way: ‘The government fines us if we do not send our children to school. Now that our children have been abducted while in school who will fine the government?’ A #ChibokFather wept at the Unity Fountain in Abuja where we have the daily Sit Out to demand for the rescue of our #ChibokGirls when he told us the story of how his daughter was driven home because she had not paid 300 Naira (Less than 2 Dollars) for testimonial. He struggled for days to get the 300 Naira and when he was able to, he took her back to the school only for her to be abducted the very next day. I ask again! What is the crime of the #ChibokGirl? Is it because she is Nigerian? Is it because she is poor or is it because she dared to be educated?
If these are crimes many of us would be guilty. I grew up poor in an environment where education was not seen as important.
I went to school in the morning without breakfast and came back home without expecting lunch.By the time I was aged 11, I had no friends to play with because they were all married off. I was taunted and ridiculed and what kept me going was the thought that if I am able to get an education I would one day be able to ride a car and escape the life of poverty I was born into. At the age of 24 when I got married my friends were grandparents, and by the time I turned 40 they had become great grand parents.
Anytime I think of the fact that if I was taken when I was writing my exams my parents would have been unable to speak out for me because poverty had rendered them voiceless, and if nobody else stood for me where would I be today? Probably dead! With that in mind I can never give up on the #ChibokGirls because to give up on them is to give up on the who I was 24 years ago.
The #ChibokGirls with all the disadvantage they were born with decided that they would dare to take themselves out of the station that they were born into, and for daring to dream have been with abductors for a year. The world seems to have turned its back on the #ChibokGirls. The world seems to move on after the initial flurry of activity with the world saying #BringBackOur Girls. It was glamorous for people to hold the banner and say #BringBackOurGirls in the early days. People have moved on with their lives but for the #ChibokGirls and their families there is no moving on, not for a second for 365 days. Today it is exactly one year. My daughter has volunteered to be a #ChibokGirl Ambassador who would stand for the voiceless #ChibokGirls here in Abuja, and make demands that the government rescues the #ChibokGirls. This is what she had to say:
I see my parents every day and I feel guilty because 219 school girls haven’t seen their parents for one whole year. They live in fear of not knowing what is going to happen next whether they would live to see the next second, the next minute, the next hour, the next day. They have lost all hope especially in their country.
I feel sad that I live in a country, where 219 girls would be abducted and kept in captivity for 365 days and yet nothing is done, yet no attempt is made to rescue them, and everyone just moves on as if nothing ever happened. Why? They are kept in the hands of monsters that go around killing people and think they are practicing Islam, but Islam is a religion of peace not violence.
What if it were I that was abducted will everyone just move on and forget about me.
Bring Back Our Girls Now And Alive.
As long as the #ChibokGirls are left with abductors we have failed the children of the world especially the Girl-Child whom we tell is important and that she should dare to dream. Action, they say, speaks louder than words. The Girl-Child knows that it is all a lie because she can see the #ChibokGirls who dared and what happened to them.
By failing to rescue the #ChibokGirls we have failed children all over the world. We have allowed terror be what they go to school expecting could happen to them, and this is not how it should be.
Due to what has happened to the #ChibokGirls and many others in that region a lot of parents are refusing to send their children to school where they are still open, and some are saying they would not send their children even when schools are opened. No parents should be made to choose between sending a child to school or their safety.
Work needs to be done to ensure that parents do send their children to school, lest the terrorist will have succeeded with their ideology of western education being forbidden. We must remember injustice to one is injustice to all. Terrorist attack to one is terrorist attack to all. Terror attack to anyone anywhere in the world is terrorist attack to everyone everywhere in the world.
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Aisha Yesufu in Nigeria. All images provided by Aisha Yesufu.
Early in the evening, we heard that he was not doing well. Then again, as is the way here, we had been hearing a great many things since the king had entered the hospital. Although Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi, has a population of four million, it still functions like a little neighborhood. Everyone has a ‘reliable source’ on the inside. As a rule, I do not believe anything until it is officially on the news–and even then, I take it with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, it was hardly a surprise when, at 2:00 AM, Saudi Arabian television announced the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud at the age of 90. Even though I expected the news, it broke my heart.
I watched the local Saudi channel for a while, then I switched, curious to see how the foreign press would frame the news. They appeared to be competing to see who could be the most negative about Saudi Arabia’s progress under King Abdullah’s reign. Although their own experts pointed to the king’s many accomplishments, the foreign networks seemed to delight in ignoring them and focusing on the dissidents. Reporter after reporter repeated that progress in Saudi was occurring at a ‘glacial rate.’
The western media used its standard to measure my country’s progress.
Maybe they assumed that their standard is the one all the world should aspire to? They ignored how different Saudi is in our priorities, life style, and even our wants and needs. They ignored how young a country we are, and they certainly did not measure how far we have come.
By the morning we had a new king. No bloodshed, no chaos, no ‘state of emergency’, no transitional government. We have come far under King Abdullah’s reign. Yes, Saudis do recognize our shortcomings, and, yes, we do want to–and will–improve. But we should, and will, recognize and celebrate our accomplishments along the way.
We must be doing something right, as we are the most stable country in the region. We are battling the Houthis in the south, ISIS in the north, and successfully fighting terrorism on our own soil, all while growing our universities and health care system. In the past decade, women have been elected to the Shura Council, which advises the king. Twenty-eight universities were built. Two hundred thousand students were given scholarships to universities overseas. Six medical cities were built, 11 specialist hospitals were built, and 32 general hospitals were built. Finally, as a woman in Saudi Arabia, I seen both an expansion of the opportunities I have in my own life, and in the paths that are being laid for my daughter’s future, which far exceed anything available to me when I was her age.
For days after King Abdullah’s death, I could not stop crying. I watched my country mourn on the streets around Saudi. It was as if we had lost our own father. He was so beloved that people who were not related to him, who had never even seen him in the flesh, were giving each other condolences on his loss. His life fulfilled the adage, “When you are born, you cry and the world rejoices. Live your life so that when you die, you rejoice and the word cries.”
Picture attributed to Edward Musiak and used under a Flickr Creative Commons License.