Feminism has become a big issue for Australians. Recently Prime Minister Julia Gillard gave a blistering speech on misogyny, which then went viral around the world. In the U.S Presidential election there were debates about abortion and rape.
Beyond Australia and the USA, did you know that something like one in three women in the developing world do not have access to a toilet? That is approximately 1.25 billion women and girls who lack access to safe sanitation leaving them exposed to the threat of violence.
I see many disturbing things related to extreme poverty in my job. One of these is that in Delhi, girls under the age of 10 have been raped while walking to a public toilet.
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A little over two months ago, on 9 July 2011, the world celebrated in unison at the birth of the world’s newest nation, the Republic of South Sudan.
As the Prime Minister’s Special Representative, I was privileged to represent Australia at the independence celebrations in Juba, South Sudan’s largest city and the capital of the newly independent country.
It was an historic moment, and the elation was palpable and infectious. With an Australian Akubra hat protecting me from the hot African sun, I shared in the joy and celebrations of thousands of South Sudanese.
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Although I am closely involved in the aid and development sector, I was pleased to read Monday’s News Limited critical pieces by Steve Lewis in the Daily Telegraph and the Adelaide Advertiser.
Negative publicity is never good for any sector. However, the recent pieces in Australia’s newspapers are a positive sign of the fact that Australians are engaging with the global movement to take action on extreme poverty.
In my role as a development educator, I have been witnessing this change in our societal perspective on a daily basis. Australians are no longer simply asking how many aid dollars are being allocated to help the billions of people living in extreme poverty: we are now questioning the effectiveness of this spending. We are finally applying the age-old adage of ‘quality over quantity’ where it matters most, in the lives of the world’s poorest.
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As a politician one of my roles is to attend official openings. Like all of my colleagues I’ve opened schools, sporting facilities, roads, bridges and buildings complete with photos in a hardhat and safety vest. It is a part of the job and one that I quite enjoy.
It is fair to say that in my twenty-two years in Parliament I have attended hundreds of these ceremonies. Out of all of them, there is one which sticks in my mind as both the strangest and also among the most important.
In 2008, in the tiny Pacific nation of Kiribati, I formally opened a girl’s toilet at a school.
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The propensity for us ascribe days to inanimate objects seems endless. Some of the more obscure that we’ve encountered recently include ‘Picnic Day’, ‘World TV Day’ (which coincidentally shares a day with ‘World Hello Day’, one promoting socialising and one well…not), ‘Lefthanders Day’ and everybody’s favourite, ‘International Talk Like a Pirate Day’.
So it would not be out of the question to, upon hearing the words ‘World Toilet Day’, shake your head, perhaps laugh, and turn the page, or click the link for Laser Hair Solutions in the right side panel (because this site appreciates the plight of the left hander when designing web content).
All jokes aside, World Toilet Day is an internationally recognised and significant promoting a critical issue for 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty. It is the lack of safe toilets. We know the solution and we have the technology to simply, effectively and practically make a difference, all we need is the will.
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In a choice between the life of a cute, fuzzy orang-utan and tighter food labelling regulations, who’d be surprised if the orang-utan won?
It’s what Melbourne Zoo is betting on in their campaign to have Food Standards Australia New Zealand regulate palm oil to be labelled as a separate ingredient on groceries.
Melbourne Zoo’s campaign is predicated on concerns that the developing country farmers aren’t doing enough to stop deforestation and the loss of habitat for orang-utans in their quest to keep themselves above the poverty line. And the solution is a misguided campaign to stop Aussies and Kiwis buying palm oil.
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