Go boldly girls

August 29, 2013

Victoria University student Katherine McIndoe, won the senior prize in the Royal Commonwealth Society’s 2013 essay competition.

Her essay was a letter to the lost girls.

Commonwealth Essay Competition 2013

“To boldly go”: a letter to the lost girls

To the lost girls,

My name is Katherine. I’m a girl, just like you. I have grown up in New Zealand, and I go to university. Ever since I was little, I have had this feeling that I can do whatever I want to do, that my future is not my fate but something that I can choose. I see no obstacles, only opportunities. No one can force me to do anything that I don’t want to do, no one can tell me how to live my life. I am my own person, and I am happy.

Your lives have not been so lucky. For you, there were no opportunities, only obstacles. No excitement at the idea of an unknown future, only hopelessness. You have suffered more than I can possibly imagine, and the difference between us? None. There is only a similarity: we were all born girls. For me, it’s just part of who I am. For you, it was a death sentence.

This is a letter to the lost girls of the world. I’m writing to the girls whose lives are taken as babies because their families don’t want a “useless” female child. I’m writing to the girls whose childhoods are taken from them in the form of trafficking, forced prostitution, and forced marriage. I’m writing to the young mothers who die all too frequently in childbirth, whose deaths are preventable and pointless. I’m writing to the girls who are denied sustenance in times of hunger, while their brothers are given the scarce food. I’m writing to the girls who are beaten in their own homes, and whose governments don’t recognise their right to safety. I’m writing to the women and girls who die from HIV Aids, contracted after they are sold, coerced, and tortured into the sex trade. I’m writing to the girls who have acid flung in their faces for perceived insubordination and faithlessness, and to those who douse themselves in gasoline and set themselves on fire to escape institutionalised domestic abuse. I’m writing to the silent girls, the voiceless girls, the lonely girls, and the lost girls – and there are more every day.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen told us in 1990 that over 100 million women are “missing” from the world, and today, 2 million more vanish every year. Throughout Asia, the ratio of men to women is disproportionately high (in Pakistan, for example, there are 111 men to every 100 women). This sort of disparity belies biology and reason, given that in many places women are proven to live longer and healthier lives. There is a huge gap where, logically, millions of women should be. But they are not there. Where do these women go?

The simple answer is that these “lost” girls go missing because of gender discrimination.

Every year in China, 39,000 baby girls die before the age of 1 because they are denied the same medical attention as baby boys. Sex-selective abortion, too, is a common practice that contributes to skewed sex ratios. Globally, maternal mortality is responsible for the preventable death of one woman per minute, and widespread trafficking of women and girls also robs communities of their women. And for those who make it through early childhood, normalised rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence await many girls as they grow up – for example, 21% of South African women are raped by the age of 15, while a woman or under-age girl is raped every 20 minutes in India.

This is “gendercide”, an undeniable, calculated attack on the women of the world, and it needs to be addressed. Undoubtedly, the only way that humanity can address it is if we “boldly go”. This requires us to display something abstract and intangible – courage.

Courage, to me, is at the crux of any true societal change, because problems like gender inequality are not easy to solve – they require us to be bold enough to ask difficult questions and to acknowledge awful truths.

The fact that so many girls are being lost to gender discrimination is utterly wrong. Every once in a while, when the world’s leaders come together, the “gender issue” is raised, and these statistics are read and sighed at. Undoubtedly, nearly every person who reads about the preventable death of babies or the sexual assault of young girls is disgusted and saddened, and rightly so. And yet strangely, gendercide – one of the most shocking, widespread, and fatal examples of discrimination in history – is not front page news every day. It takes a particular incident, like the horrific rape and murder of a woman on a bus in New Delhi in December 2012, to raise international interest. So the problem is twofold: firstly, women are treated as inferior all over the world, and secondly, this violent form of discrimination is so commonplace and ingrained that it is enormously difficult to make society see it as the emergency that it is.

In the face of such inertia, what we need is courage, passion, and a willingness to confront unflinchingly things that we would rather ignore. We can’t be measured and reasonable, and we can’t drag our feet, claiming that a problem of this magnitude demands distant solutions decades down the track. We have to be unreasonable,we have to be angry, we have to be uncompromising, and we have to be bold. The time has passed for incremental, unhurried development: there is a need now for courageous action. We need to go boldly in the face of those who accuse us of naivety, shout down all those who laugh at our idealism. Yes the “gender issue” is ingrained, multi-faceted, hugely problematic – but that is precisely why it must be addressed urgently. Frankly, I don’t think that it is naive or ignorant to suggest that we hurry up and start fixing it.

There are some bold people endeavouring to do just that. Maria Bashir, a prosecutor in Afghanistan, goes boldly in the face of death threats to herself and her family in order to fight corruption and the degradation of women in the country she loves. She fearlessly prosecutes those guilty of crimes against women, day after day, because she knows that courage and a single-minded refusal to back down are the strongest possible tools in the fight against institutionalised discrimination and violence. Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban on her way to school in 2012, exercised her right to education and continues to do so with bravery and pride, showing the world that she is not afraid and her voice will not be silenced. EdnaAdan, a lifelong advocate for women’s health, campaigns for the abolition of female circumcision and pours her own resources into the maternity hospital that she built in an area of her native Somaliland devastated by civil war. She fights for safety and adequate healthcare for girls and mothers because she refuses to accept any violation of women’s bodies and the preventable death of so many women.

She is unflinching and uncompromising, and her courage saves lives. These women truly epitomise what it is to be bold.

One hundred million women are missing, if not more.Millions of women who did not have the chance to be bold, who can no longer raise their voices in bravery and defiance.

However, it is not these women – those who are the victims of violence or assault or trafficking – who are not being brave enough. It is the rest of us, those who have the opportunity, education, and freedom to use our voices without fear of persecution and violence, who need to be bold on their behalf. We need to be bold so that they, and we, can live in a world where girls don’t need to be so brave, where there is no gender discrimination for us to fear.

I’m sorry that the only thing that separates you and me is luck, an accident of birth. I’m sorry that you were not cherished as the extraordinary girls that you are. I’m sorry that there are hundreds of millions of you, and I’m sorry that your numbers continue to grow.

The poet Carol Ann Duffy wrote about a poker game between some tough women, figures drawn from history and literature. She describes how, even as these women played their game and made their moves, standing behind each was“a line of ghosts unable to win”. You and your predecessors are these ghosts, these women standing behind us as we hold the cards. But it’s time that you won. It’s time that your silent screams were heard and acted on with the courage they merit. It’s time that we go boldly, so that you are the last girls to be lost to your families, communities, and the world.

Jim Mora interviewed Katherine on Afternoons today.

Aussie election all over – betting agency

August 29, 2013

The campaign is still going and polling day is more than a week away, but an Australian betting agency has declared the race over.

Online bookmaker sportsbet.com.au on Thursday declared the election a one-horse race.

“As far as Sportsbet’s betting markets are concerned, the Abbotts can start packing up their belongings ahead of their imminent move to Kirribilli House,” agency spokesman Haydn Lane said.

“The coalition are now into Black Caviar-like odds to win the election.”

The agency priced the coalition at $1.03 with Labor at $11.50. . .

Liberal leader Tony Abbot isn’t taking anything for granted though:

Mr Abbott was media adviser to John Hewson when the Liberal leader lost the 1993 election.

“I once worked for an opposition that was careering towards the inevitable victory – and it didn’t happen,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.

“1993 is proof that there is no such thing as an unlosable election and I think this election is very, very tight.”

But Sportsbet is paying out already and says:

 • The Coaltion are favourites in 90 electorates

• Labor are favourites in 56 electorates

• Katter’s Australian Party is favourite in 1 electorate (Kennedy – QLD)

• Independents are favourite in 1 electorate (Denison – TAS)

• 2 electorates are currently too close to call (Lyons – TAS, and Lingiari – NT)

The Coalition are favoured to win 34 more seats than Labor. . . .

A week can be a very long time in politics, but while the better agency might not have every seat right, it’s a reasonably sure bet that Abbott will be Prime Minister of September 7th.

Word of the day

August 29, 2013

Aetiology – the investigation or attribution of the cause or reason for something, often expressed in terms of historical or mythical explanation; the philosophy or study of causation; the cause or study of the cause of disease.

Rural round-up

August 29, 2013

In quite pursuit of the perfect lamb – Peter Watson:

Drive past Brent and Bernadette Hodgkinson’s farm in the Tadmor Valley and you would barely give it a second glance.

There is no flash house and garden and the property is far from immaculate.

But behind the modest appearance is a very smart, profitable business.

Not only were the Hodgkinsons finalists in the recent national sheep supplier of the year awards, they grow the meatiest lambs supplied to our largest co-operative, Alliance, by any farmer in the country. And they have been producing high-quality, high-yielding lambs year after year from a property where soil fertility is naturally poor and the climate can range from bitterly cold in winter to drought in summer. . .

Unsung hero recognised – Sally Rae:

Kevin Smith loves farming and he enjoys passing on his knowledge and skills to the younger generation.

Mr Smith, from Middlemarch, was recently named the AgITO Sheep Industry Trainer of the Year at the Beef and Lamb New Zealand sheep industry awards, beating fellow finalists Telford (a division of Lincoln University) and Waipaoa Station Farm Cadet Training Trust.

No-one was more delighted than the woman who nominated him, AgITO’s Rebecca Williamson-Kavanaugh, who was ”extremely excited” and very proud. . .

Employing migrant workers in the primary sector

With the rapid expansion of the primary sector, particularly in dairy farming, an international farm advisor specialising in labour management from the University of California, Professor Gregorio Billikopf, is visiting New Zealand to discuss labour changes and the increasing levels of migrant workers being employed.

In New Zealand for two weeks, Professor Gregorio Billikopf will have a number of speaking engagements, including addressing delegates at the Australasia Pacific Extension Network International Conference being held at Lincoln University from 26 to 28 August 2013, and a speaking engagement in Ashburton on Thursday 29 August. 

“Professor Gregorio Billikopf is an internationally recognised expert when it comes to migrant workers in the primary sector,” says Lincoln University’s Associate Professor in Employment Relations, Dr Rupert Tipples. . .

No more old tyres for silage stacks:

A THROW away remark – “there has to be a better way” – by Toni Johnson while helping her father place tyres on a silage stack cover, led to one of the best innovations at National Fieldays.

Aqua Anchors are either 14m or 16m long and 75mm or 65mm sections of lie-flat hoses hermetically sealed at both ends and filled with water. 

They lie over and around the edges of silage stacks to hold the cover in place and keep the crop from the elements. They replace traditional tyres. A patent is pending. . .

Nothing humble about the bumble:

Avocado growers are keen to hear the latest research findings on the use of bumblebees as pollinators, says AVOCO technical manager Colin Partridge, so they can plan to put the findings into practice and improve the consistency of harvests.

The topic will be addressed at the Australia-New Zealand avocado conference in Tauranga next month, and AVOCO, as principal sponsor of the conference and the largest grower group, appreciates the significance of the research.

“If avocado growers could soon be able to call in special reinforcements to pollinate their trees – the not-so-humble bumblebee – it will do a lot to stabilise the industry and could even help overcome the persistent boom/bust nature of the harvests,” says Mr Partridge. . .

Wairarapa Water Use Project Appoints Project Director:

The Wairarapa Water Use Project has appointed Michael Bassett-Foss to lead future investigations into what could be one of the largest economic and social development projects in the greater Wellington region.

Still in its early stage, the project aims to develop a multi-purpose water scheme to collect and store water then distribute it in the dry season for a variety of economic and community uses in an environmentally sustainable way.

Previously Mr Bassett-Foss has had regional development, investment and strategic roles in the private and public sectors in New Zealand, South America, Eastern Europe and South East Asia. . .

Thursday’s quiz

August 29, 2013

1. Who said, Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.?

2. Which book by which author won the 2013 New Zealand Post Book Awards which was announced last night?

3. It’s bibliothèque in French, biblioteca in Italian and Spanish,  and whare pukapuka in Maori, what is it in English?

4. Benjamin Franklin, Mao Zedong, Lewis Carroll, Philip Larkin and Golda Meyer Meir shared a common job, what was it?

5. Which is the last book you read and which is the last New Zealand book you read?

Conservation grazing

August 29, 2013

Those of a dark green persuasion don’t like animals out of their natural habitat, but they can be used for conservation grazing:

In England, the group Action for the River Kennet are using sheep and cows instead of lawnmowers.

There are three Wiltshire Horn sheep in the meadow, close to Waitrose car park, which were put to a Hampshire ram and produced five lambs.

Charlotte Hitchmough, director of ARK, said: “Previously the town council would mow the grass and leave the cuttings to rot down so stronger plants like stinging nettles, which we would consider to be weeds, would thrive.

“The sheep are being used for conservation grazing, which changes the vegetation and makes the land look prettier with more flowers.”

In 2009, Belted Galloway cattle were introduced to graze in the meadow.

Ms Hitchmough said: “The way sheep graze is different to cows, they are neater over the surface.

“Cows tend to rip the grass up in clumps so they did a good job of getting up the core vegetation.

“The cows, Harriet and her calf Campanula, are now in the meadow at Stonebridge. We would like to have about four cows at Stonebridge because there’s a lot of grass for only two to eat.”

The sheep will stay in the meadow until the autumn and will spend winter at a farm in Minal.

Ms Hitchmough said: “We’ll make a decision whether to bring the sheep back or whether to use cows again. It’s taken us four years to see results and we’re happy. . .

Of course those of a dark green persuasion will be worried about the methane the animals produce.

Will that be greater or less than the emissions from lawnmowers which presumably were powered by fossil fuels?

Westland forecast milk price up $1

August 29, 2013

Westland Milk has increased its forecast milk price by $1.

A strong start to the season and continued high international milk prices has resulted in Westland Milk Products lifting its 2013/14 forecast to $7.60 – $8 per kilo of milk solids (kgMS) before retentions. This is a dollar more per kgMS than the company’s first forecast in May. The advance rate has also increased to $5 per kgMS, payable 20 September 2013.

Westland is New Zealand’s second biggest dairy cooperative with more than 300 shareholders on the West Coast, and 34 in Canterbury, with a turnover of some $600 million.

Chief Executive Rod Quin says the 2013/14 season has started strongly with milk flows up five per cent on budget. “The mild winter means we have come into spring with cows in good condition and plenty of grass which means our farmers are well set up for a productive season. While it’s early days yet there is real promise that this will continue.”

Quin says the forecasted pay out was also boosted by the fact that international prices have continued to increase, with the market largely unaffected by recent industry product issues.

“Current market conditions, plus Westland’s strategic move to the higher value nutritionals market is driving this confident pay-out forecast,” Quin says. “We’ve had a very successful launch of our new Westpro Nutrition products in China recently, and fully expect the new nutritional products plant in Hokitika to be working to capacity this season. All this is very good news for our shareholders and the local economies.”

Forecast payouts are that, forecasts.

But our two biggest dairy co-operatives, Fonterra and Westland,  wouldn’t be increasing their forecast payouts if they weren’t confident that demand for and the price of their products was going to hold up.


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