Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Water, Jobs and Human Rights

“Providing sustainable access to improved drinking water sources is one of the most important things we can do to reduce disease”- World Health Organization Director General-Dr. Margaret Chan.
Water is life and forms the core of sustainable development.  World Water Day is commemorated each year on March 22. The day is set aside to raise global awareness of the various issues associated with having clean water for human consumption and other related functions. The significance of World Water Day which is a United Nations initiative aims to make a difference for the members of the global population who suffer from water related issues such as diseases.  It’s a day for reflection regarding how best to prepare for how we manage water in the future.  
The theme this year is “Better Water, Better Jobs”. Interestingly, half of all workers around the globe (1.5 billion) work in water related industries.  Disturbingly, despite the correlations between jobs and water, a significant number of these workers are not protected by basic labour rights according to the United Nations and this wrong must be corrected.  
According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) women and children carry more than 70 per cent of the burden in drinking water collection. This is especially troubling for girls who are denied their right to an education since they spend a significant portion of the day searching for and collecting water.
Having a reliable, sufficient and clean supply of water is the engine for economic growth and national security in any society. The issue of sanitation is closely associated with having a consistent source of water.  Alarmingly, despite all the advances in technology approximately, seven hundred and forty eight million people (748) worldwide do not have access to an improved source of drinking water. Shockingly, 2.5 billion people do not use an improved sanitation facility. The practice of open defecation is still widespread in some parts of Africa due to poor sanitation and lack of access to water and urgently needs to address.
In recent times it has become quite fashionable for most of us in the society to purchase bottled water. The source and content of some of these bottled water products have been brought under scrutiny by the Bureau of Standards Jamaica and it is quite clear that not only bottle water meet the same standards. We need to develop a standardized method to ensure that all bottled water companies meet the same hygienic and safety standards. Having portable water is more than just a thirst quencher. Having water is critical for providing jobs as well for scaffolding human development in any society. Water resources, and the range of services they provide, underpin poverty reduction, economic growth and environmental sustainability. Climate change is real and poses a present danger to all of Earth’s inhabitants. Climate change related droughts put millions of children at risk of death and disease. The current situation is a recipe for poverty and diminished opportunities for many people and urgently requires the collaborative effort of governments, NGO’s and the private sector to change this narrative.
We need to pay more attention to the issue of water in Jamaica especially in light of the recent water restrictions that continue to plague and inconvenience the population. Too often the operations of our educational and health institutions are disrupted due to a lack of water. In many instances productivity levels fall in many areas of industries due to a lack of sufficient and consistent water supply. The issue of a reliable water supply should be clearly on the agenda of the Ministry of Water and the Environment, which now fall under the Office of the Prime Minister.
We cannot continue to give lip service to the environment. We require a bold and innovative approach to ensure that all communities in Jamaica have access to water. Human settlements develop in harmony with the natural water cycle and the ecosystems that support it. We need to implement measures that will reduce our vulnerability and improve resilience to water-related disasters. We need to integrated new approaches to water resources development and management. As a society we need to explore recycling water more, as well as rainwater harvesting. Rainwater can be collected from various hard surfaces such as rooftops and/or other manmade aboveground hard surfaces.  This would be especially useful for our farmers as well as rural areas which are more affected due to the elevated terrain.  
Rain harvesting and water recycling are two areas which have the potential not only as a means of job creation, but also to build stronger and healthier families and communities. Having access to a sufficient, clean and reliable water supply is human rights and ought to be given the necessary attention. In fact on July 28, 2010 the United Nations General Assembly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights.
In the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki -moon: Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women's empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.
#water #humanrights #empowerment #disease #climatechange #energy

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.



Thursday, 17 March 2016

Sex, Gender and Quotas

I am in total support of having more females in representational politics. Historically, gender division has been rooted in patriarchy and has served to reinforce traditional roles and personality traits of females often associated with weakness and dependence. Studies now reveal that women bring both a tangible and intangible service to any situation to which they are included. However, we need to consider very careful the social and economic implications among others for going the route of legislation to ensure gender quotas to increase female representation for the nation’s parliament as well as State boards. We live in a very interesting time when gender identity as a social construct is very fluid and changes rapidly. As a result, we should not try to box in gender identity into our traditional views of masculinity and femininity.  
Gender identity refers to which sex you feel as if you are on the inside, (male, female, both, neither, flexible) By adhering to a strict code of gender identity we are excluding those persons who call themselves transgender or trans because they were born biologically one sex but emotionally and spiritually another.   Interestingly, the construction of gender identity over the years has undergone many manifestations and continues to evolve. In passing laws to include more women in representational politics and to serve in the public sphere we will be automatically shouting the window on those who see themselves as belonging to the third, fourth and even fifth genders? What will happen if and when Jamaica reaches the point of accepting genders outside of the historical two? The discourse on gender and development is often misunderstood and clearly needs to be expanded to include a wider cross section of views.  We often use the terms sex and gender interchangeably. The average person tends to confuse both terms. Sex refers to one’s biology while gender is a social construct which is expected of the sexes and to which each society and or culture defines for itself.
Yes, there is an urgent need for more female representation in the society. Yes, to gender mainstreaming.  Yes, to gender equality. We need to work towards fostering a gender- expansive environment which will allow for the views of others to be heard and discussed in a meaningful manner before our legislators rush to pass gender quotas. In the words of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan: Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance. 

Wayne Campbell

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Dyslexia and Jamaica's Education System

All children can learn, all children must learn. This is usually true if all the factors are in place to encourage teaching and learning. However, upon closer examination there are many learning challenges that hinder children from learning. Jamaica’s education system is faced with many challenges but perhaps the most prevalent barrier to education is dyslexia. Dyslexia in many instances is genetic and runs in family. Dyslexia affects up to 17 per cent of a given population. Children with dyslexia have difficulty learning to "decode," or read words by associating sounds and letters or letter combinations. Students usually have difficulty recognizing common "sight words," or frequently occurring words that most readers recognize instantly. Examples of sight words are "the" and "and." Children with dyslexia also have difficulty learning how to spell, sometimes referred to as "encoding." Recent research suggests that there are two main features of dyslexia. First of all, people with dyslexia have weak phonemic awareness. This means that they have difficulty hearing the fine distinctions among individual sounds, or phonemes, of the language. Disturbingly, phonics is no longer taught in many of our educational institutions which clearly compound the issue at hand. Dyslexic students also have difficulty rhyming and breaking words down into individual sounds. Phonemic awareness relates directly to learning to decode and to spell words. In addition, it takes longer for children with dyslexia to "process" phonemic information, or to make connections between sounds and letters or letter combinations.
Other symptoms of dyslexia include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading which can impede vocabulary development.
Interestingly, both sexes are affected by dyslexia at equal rates; however, boys are more likely to “act out” as a result of having a reading difficulty and are therefore more likely to be diagnosed early. Girls, on the other hand, are more likely to try to "hide" their difficulty, becoming quiet and reserved. Many of our students from as early as the primary level display severe behavioural disorders stemming from their frustration levels and their inability to cope at the required educational pace due to poor reading and comprehension skills.  In many instances our schools are not resourced to adequately deal with such students. As a result teachers become frustrated and the use of corporal punishment is sometimes applied in order to correct what is oftentimes confused with behavioural disorder. It is not uncommon for these students to be labeled as ‘bad’, since dyslexia is oftentimes confused with behavioural disorders.  The Ministry of Education should consider granting scholarships to teachers to pursue studies in Special Education so that more students who are affected by dyslexia can be diagnosed. Poverty plays a significant role in the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia. Students from the upper class who are dyslexic will most likely be diagnosed at an early stage and treated thus their learning will be slowed significantly. Conversely, students from the lower socio-economic background will take a lower time to be diagnosed thus jeopardizing their learning process.  With early intervention and a structured programme in place dyslexic students can live rewarding lives. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Special Education Unit, is a useful resource and partner regarding children who are dyslexic. All children can learn, however, some children require more support and scaffolding than others. 
 #education #dyslexia #learning #school #phonics
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
Twitter @WayneCamo