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SINGH: People of Islamic faith should not be deterred from wearing religious covering

(11/15/17 2:44am)

Just last Wednesday, Nov. 8, a teacher at the New Vision Academy in Tennessee was suspended when a video of her removing a student’s hijab circulated on social media. The Nashville educator is seen removing a female student’s head scarf before touching her hair and captioning it “pretty hair." She proceeded to upload this video on Snapchat where a concerned viewer took it up with district authorities. In the video, the student is seen hiding her face from the class as her scarf was removed. This also seemed like an invitation for her classmates to violate her space and body as several students came forward to touch her hair as she tried to fix it. Someone in the background is even heard saying “her hair was too pretty to be covered." The teacher had uploaded a second video captioned “lol all that hair covered up.” When confronted by school authorities, the teacher had originally denied uploading the video but insisted that “exposing the girl’s hair was not done out of disrespect," but the school principal, Tim Malone, took action and released a statement, saying, “New Vision Academy is a diverse school. As a school community, we pride ourselves on embracing and celebrating our racial, ethnic, religious and economic diversity. Our students learn, and grow, best when they learn from one another. To foster this environment, all students must feel respected and supported.” And the staff member has been suspended without pay as further investigation is being done. 

SINGH: Effort, aid for Somalia must be increased

(11/01/17 2:14am)

Somalia has been hit by a drought since October 2016, and the effects are still worsening with each passing day. Somalia is perhaps the most affected region in east Africa since the drought hit the country in the past 25 years, making recovery harder and harder with each passing hit. The case this time has become so severe that it has lead to famine threats, and the last time the region was touched by famine almost 6 years ago, it took more than 250,000 people with it. This time around, there are more than 20 million lives at risk, leaving more than a third of the population facing starvation. The increased number is the result of the ongoing war in the region that has only exacerbated the famine as resources are running out faster. The most alarming fact about this situation is the rate at which cholera has been spreading around the country due to the lack of clean water

SINGH: Fate of women in Syria may be dark, gloomy

(10/18/17 3:57am)

It has been more than six years since the start of the civil war in Syria. Since then, there have been many lost lives, numerous casualties, mass destruction of property, depletion of resources and the breaking of families and morales. The fate of the innocent lives in the area is heartbreaking, as many civilians get caught in the cross-fire between the rebels and the government, raising the total civilian death count to about half a million. Since the streets are full of rubble and militia on patrol, there is no space for solid careers or professions. But time stops for no one and life must go on. Men scourge the streets in shadows, sifting through the debris for metals and parts they could potentially sell. Women, in the meantime, clean and wash the clothing and dishes, while simultaneously raising the children. The filthy living conditions and the lack of trained medics allow for a greater chance of infection and provide an unsuitable environment for recovering from wounds and injuries. Many of the children in the area are now part of a lost generation whose dreams and ambitions have been annihilated by the war’s deprivations. The bright futures of the Syrian girls are especially bleak.

SINGH: Stigma around abortion can lead to lethal consequences

(10/04/17 2:05am)

A recent study published in the medical journal, The Lancet has brought some light to a matter not talked much about these days: Unsafe abortions. The study has revealed that about half the abortions performed worldwide are unsafe. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines unsafe abortion either as pregnancy that is terminated in an environment that does not meet medical standards or is performed by someone who lacks the necessary medical skills to do so. Either approach has a high chance of leaving the mother with many complications including uterine perforation, hemorrhage, an incomplete abortion (the failure to dispel all of the pregnancy tissue), and damage to the genitals and internal organs. Such complications make unsafe abortions the leading cause of maternal mortality and morbidity. Every year 4.7 percent to 13.2 percent of maternal deaths are due to the malpractice of abortion and each year there are more than 55 million abortions that take place worldwide, but close to 25.5 million are unsafe.  Among this half of unsafe abortions, at least 8 million were carried out in harmful environments and over half of them were carried out in Asia. Overall though, the rate of abortions was higher in developed countries, but the rate of unsafe abortions was greater in undeveloped countries, with the risk of dying from one was greatest in Africa. About 97 percent of unsafe abortions take place in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. In North America, 99 percent of the performed procedures are regarded as safe. A trend that is noticed here is that countries that offer a larger selection of safe abortion procedures tend to have less restrictive abortion laws.

SINGH: Stigma behind menstruation must be discussed, eliminated

(09/06/17 1:13am)

Half the world’s population menstruates an average of once a month from menarche to menopause.  Most women menstruate from the ages of 13 to 51, making menstruation, alone, a total of 6.25 years in a woman’s life. Yet this natural biological process is still met with much stigma, taboo and discriminatory cultural norms. In many underprivileged areas, there is a lack of sanitary resources. Hygienic sanitary napkins are hard to come by, and quite unaffordable when made available. Along with a lack of products catered for periods, there’s a deficiency of clean water and soap for minimal yet necessary cleansing. The lack of hygienic products available has many side effects, the major one being the inconvenience it brings in day-to-day operations. In Leeds in the United Kingdom, a school reported that many of its female students had poor attendance records. Leeds is one of the more impoverished cities in the United Kingdom and living in a low-income household makes such items like sanitary napkins seem more like a luxury than a legitimate need. As a result, many of the female students tend to skip classes and stay home until the end of their periods every month. Students can’t miss school for a whole week every month simply because they don’t have resources available at their disposal. A Bolton NHS Foundation Trust study found that menstrual problems are the fifth most common reason for students missing school. The U.K. (as well as most U.S. states) has a tampon tax that simply makes it arduous for women to satiate their menstrual needs. But the lack of resources is not the only hardship women face.

SINGH: United Arab Emirates’ example should be followed

(04/23/17 10:20pm)

South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia have been hit by a drought since October of 2016, and the effects are worsening with each passing day. Somalia is perhaps the most affected, as this is the third drought that has hit the East African country in the past 25 years, making recovery harder and harder with each passing hit. The case this time has become so severe that it has lead to famine threats and the last time the region was touched by famine, almost six years ago, it took more than 250,000 people with it. This time around, there are more than 20 million lives at risk. The increased number is the result of the ongoing war in the region that has only exacerbated the famine as resources are running out faster. The most alarming fact about this situation is the rate at which cholera has been spreading around the country due to the lack of clean water.

SINGH: To raise awareness, we need open discussion

(04/09/17 11:24pm)

April 7 marked the birthday of the World Health Organization and this year’s theme is depression, the No. 1 cause of ill health. More than 300 million people experience it worldwide, and about 20 million in the United States alone. It’s surprising that there isn’t enough awareness on how ubiquitous it is as 1 in 4 people will suffer from depression before the age of 24. Increased investment is needed in many countries since many societies don’t acknowledge the gravity of the disease. There is little to no social support — even in well-developed countries — as 50 percent of those diagnosed do not seek treatment. There is so little support toward mental illnesses that even governments, on average, only invest 3 percent of their health budgets in mental health. There is now a greater need than ever for investment. Statistics show that for every U.S. $1 financed toward depression and anxiety treatment leads to a profit of $4 in better health.

SINGH: Proactive conversations between men can combat misogyny

(03/06/17 1:06am)

One-third of the girls in underdeveloped countries are married before the age of 18, and one of every nine girls are married before 15. Not to diminish the discrimination women in the U.S. face, and partially because it's been socialized in me, but I can't even begin to comprehend the toil women in third-world countries have to face. The women in underdeveloped countries are generally treated like actual objects, as if their sole purpose in life is to quench and cater to man's every need. To pleasure him, to bear him sons (and sons only), to cook for him, clean for him, to entertain him. The mindset that men are far more superior than women is so deeply set in their society that people (mothers and fathers alike) feel no empathy for the little girls they give away to older men in exchange for a service or to settle a mere feud. Female life is given little to no regard and women are only perceived valuable or are only lauded when they produce a male heir, otherwise, they’re deemed as useless.

SINGH: Detrimental practice of female genital mutilation must end

(02/20/17 1:13am)

Fear, anxiety, infections, trauma and even death are faced by tens of millions of women around the world. The root of the distress is none other than female genital mutilation (FGM), also referred to as female circumcision. Worldwide, there are close to 200 million females who are current survivors of the practice, and an additional 3 million girls under the age of 15 are mutilated annually, with 6,000 girls worldwide mutilated every day. Half of these numbers come solely from Indonesia, Egypt and Ethiopia, and the highest prevalence rate of mutilation for girls aged 14 and younger is found in Indonesia, Gambia and Mauritania. The act has been practiced for the past 2000 years, but has slowly started dying out in the more urbanized regions, as it is an outdated practice. Female genital mutilation has no actual formal basis in religion, but is still practiced due to social and cultural pressures. FGM is still the norm in many third-world countries and several countries such as Egypt make it an unofficial requirement for women to go under the knife to “pass” into womanhood. Along similar contexts,  in many countries, FGM is a requirement for marriage — a proof of the girl’s purity. It is society’s way of ensuring that the girl will remain “chaste.” Girls are told to shy away from expressing their sexuality or showing promiscuity, while the community is accepting of males doing so. It’s ridiculous because it forces women to be submissive of this lifestyle. Surprisingly, a woman's socio-economic status plays no role in the circumcision. So a woman has no say and is excommunicated if she refuses submission for the mutilation and this has generated the marginalization and stigmatization of uncut females, forcing them to live their lives in shame. This idea of “purity” is so deeply embedded in their cultures, that it has become a way of life and expectancy for every girl the minute she comes out of the womb.

SINGH: Serbia needs help with refugee crisis

(02/06/17 1:27am)

Freezing temperatures for days, for weeks and even months, are what several thousands of immigrants and refugees have faced in Serbia. The country is perhaps facing one of the most brutal refugee and humanitarian crises at the moment. In March of 2016, the European Union (EU) and Turkey signed a £4.7 billion ($5.9B) deal to address the migrant crisis. The deal declared that all refugees and migrants traveling to Greece were to be sent back to Turkey if they did not apply for asylum or if their claims were rejected. But in return, the EU promised to welcome one Syrian refugee for resettlement in Europe for every person deported back to Turkey. As a result, multiple countries in the area, simultaneously, began closing their borders to such migrants. The fencing of these countries shut down the direct migrant path to central Europe, known as the Western Balkans route.Those that had failed to tread this path on time are now facing crippling apprehension. Those that are still brave and desperate enough to push through, end up in Serbia, a non-European country.

SINGH: Safety of albino people needs to be addressed

(01/23/17 2:37am)

What is albinism? It is a rare, non-transmissible, genetically inherited condition that affects people worldwide of all genders, ethnicities and nationalities. The most common effects of albinism are the lack of melanin production in hair, skin and eyes (known as oculocutaneous albinism).  The lack of pigmentation makes people affected by albinism vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer from sun exposure. It may even cause visual problems such as photophobia, a severe sensitivity to light. Albinism is widely misunderstood socially, as it is a rare condition with obvious signs in physical appearances — 1 in 20,000 people are said to have the condition.