What’s Up World? #34

Published on MTV’s international pro-social website MTV Voices on 19.06.13

What’s Up World?
Between the cracks of the world’s news headlines


WhatsApp with that?

It looks as though some of the world’s newest and most popular communication platforms are set to be banned in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

60 percent of the Saudi population is under the age of 30, and as usage of the internet and smartphones sky rocket, authorities are taking measures to block WhatsApp, unless the Silicon Valleystart up cooperates with the Kingdom’s requirements. Viber has already been banned and Skype is also on their hit list.

Telecom officials say the apps break local laws, but don’t specify how. But according to critics, WhatsApp is obviously under fire for being the starting point for political protests, which are banned in the region.

The hidden issue of child domestic workers

Last Tuesday was World Day Against Child Labour and the UN’s International Labour Organization published a new report highlighting the enormous number of child labourers currently working in homes around the world.

Some 10.5 million children are domestic workers. Most are aged between 5 and 14 years old and around 3/4 are girls.

And we’re not just talking about taking out the garbage or tidying bedrooms – they work in other people’s homes, often isolated from their families, and are made to clean, cook, iron, collect water and look after children for little or no pay, often in dangerous or slavery-like conditions.

Because of the hidden nature of the problem, says the ILO, child domestic workers are difficult to protect.

Stuck in the middle with Julian

He may live around the corner from Harrods, but Julian Assange is far from living the dream. The political refugee celebrated (?) one year of living at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London last week, having arrived there to claim asylum last June.

Assange is still wanted in Sweden on sexual assault charges, however he says the allogations are a honey trap, and if he heads to Sweden – or even steps foot on UK soil – he’ll be handed over to the US government and prosecuted for leaking their classified documents to the world via his now famous online orgaisation WikiLeaks.

For now the Nobel Peace Prize nominee is living in a deadlock – he can’t get to the airport, can’t go to the park, he can’t even go to Harrods, or one of the 24-hour guards waiting outside will pounce. Until diplomats find a solution it’s all sun lamps, treadmills and no shoes for Mr. Assange.

Everyone’s a winner

Ever wanted to be world champ but didn’t know what you could do? Well, you could do just about anything, it seems, and the weirder the better…

Enjoy ironing in dangerous or daring locations? You could well be the world’s next extreme ironing champion. Got particularly agile toes? Why not try your foot at toe wrestling? If worms find you particularly charming, here’s your chance to shine. Or fancy yourself as an air sex champion? There’s a competition for that too…

Something brewing in your part of the world? We want to know about it. Tweet @its_alicia or @mtvvoices using the hashtag #WhatsUpWorld


What’s Up World? #29

Published on MTV’s international pro-social website MTV Voices on 15.05.13

What’s Up World?
Between the cracks of the world’s news headlines


Do the passinho

Where organized crime, drugs, gangs and guns used to rule, a new dance is reclaiming the streets of favelas across Rio de Janeiro.

The passinho, or ‘little step’,  is a mash up of traditional Brazilian dance styles like samba, pagode and frevo, with elements of pop, funk and breakdancing.

Using social media and video platforms like YouTube, the young people of Rio are being influenced by dance styles in Africa, London and Paris; they’re making up their own steps and birthing a whole new dance scene. And it’s pretty damn cool!

Forced labour and the FIFA World Cup

As the football/soccer fans amongst us will know, Qatar is gearing up to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. But as their $150 billion construction program gets under way, trade unions and human rights groups around the world are calling foul.

The region’s labour laws follow the kafala system, which is used in Qatar and other wealthy, fast-developing gulf states to recruit laborers from India and other countries in South and Southeast Asia. Under the sponsorship system, it’s commonplace for employers to confiscate workers’ passports, effectively preventing them from leaving the country, changing jobs or complaining against employer abuse.

Human Rights Watch are calling for the kafala system to be abolished, holding Qatar to the promises they made during their World Cup bid to improve conditions for their 1.2 million migrant workers.

Qatar’s ruler, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, plans to make the country into a major Arab power, using the world’s most widely viewed sporting event to raise Qatar’s global profile. But the International Trade Union Confederation has started putting pressure on FIFA to take a re-vote to find another host nation.

Print your face off

It seems that leaving less of your DNA around town might be a good plan. That’s less chewing gum, less used tissues, less hair follicles, less cigarette butts, less spit…

Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg has developed a method, using items such as these and the now famous 3D printer, to recreate human faces with freakish accuracy. The results are creepy, fascinating and pretty scary all at the same time.

The 3D portraits are part of a new exhibition drawing attention to the issue of genetic surveillance – that is, the collection and cataloging of DNA by governments and authorities.

And finally, just to make you smile

In case this hasn’t shown up in any of your social media feeds as yet, the most genius use of Vine thus far: Ryan Gosling Wont East His Cereal. Enjoy.

Something brewing in your part of the world? We want to know about it. Tweet @its_alicia or @mtvvoices using the hashtag #WhatsUpWorld.

What’s Up World? #28

Published on MTV’s international pro-social website MTV Voices on 08.05.13

What’s Up World?
Between the cracks of the world’s news headlines


What do One Direction, Kanye West and Kings of Leon have in common?

Not that much. Except that they’re all on board with the newly launched Global Citizen Tickets Initiative, where activism = gig tickets.

By completing various social actions and shining a light on global issues, like access to education, food and water, malaria, polio and women’s empowerment, music fans earn points they can use to win tickets to some of the biggest gigs in the world.

The list of artists includes pretty much everyone… from Rihanna, Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Usher to Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, Bierut and Fleet Foxes, plus a bunch of the world’s best festivals.

Register at http://www.globalcitizen.org/tickets to be part of the action!

Starving for freedom

We’re all familiar with Guantanamo Bay, the infamous naval base in Guantánamo Province, Cuba where 166 men are currently being held for suspected terrorist activity against the USA. But what we may not know is just how common hunger strikes have become at the prison camp.

At present, 100 of the 166 inmates are staging the longest and most widespread hunger strike to date, as they protest against their indefinite detention. Most of them are being held without charge.

Some of the prisoners have been starving themselves since February, (yep – February, March, April, May) and 21 inmates are now being force fed. Last week 40 extra nurses had to be flown into Guantanamo to help deal with the situation.

In a declaration that went public last week, one of the inmates, Obaydullah, wrote that prisoners have kept on refusing food, “because conditions have gotten worse, not better, and there is no hope that we will ever leave here”.

Hello, my name is Mafia No Fear

The good people of New Zealand have been given some helpful guidelines on what are and are not appropriate names for children.

The NZ Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages last week issued an updated list of 77 prohibited baby names. Amongst the rejected list were names such as Mafia No Fear, 4Real and Anal, while some more tech-savvy parents had been stopped from putting back slashes between their children’s names or opting for simple punctuation, like . (yep, just a full stop) or *.

But it’s not just the Kiwis who are getting a helping hand – rejected submissions from Sweden over the years have include Superman, Metallica, and Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116. Yes, 4real.

Something brewing in your part of the world? We want to know about it. Tweet @its_alicia or @mtvvoices using the hashtag #WhatsUpWorld.

What’s Up World? #27

Published on MTV’s international pro-social website MTV Voices on 01.05.13

What’s Up World?
Between the cracks of the world’s news headlines.


Two sisters, one body

Ever had to share a bedroom with a sibling? Did you have to put up with their snoring, rubbish taste in music, tantrums or bad hygiene? Well imagine sharing a body…

23-year-old conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel do exactly that. Born in Minnesota, USA, the sisters work together every day to do the things we take for granted, like finding something to wear, deciding what to eat, driving a car and choosing whether to go out or stay in.

They live remarkably normal lives, with Abby controlling the right hand side of their body and Brittany the left. Exemplifying cooperation at its very best, together the sisters have graduated from university, travelled the world and landed a job as teachers.

Now the pair have their own reality show, which has been made into a documentary and is currently airing around the world. Makes sharing a bathroom look like small fry…

Fake drugs

Malariaremains one of the biggest killer diseases on the planet today, with an estimated 219 million cases occurring around the world each year. And shockingly, it’s not going away because many of the drugs being used to treat it are fake.

In two of the countries worst-plagued by the disease, Uganda and Tanzania, it’s estimated that one third of all medication being dispensed is fake or substandard. Counterfeit pills are everywhere, filling the shelves of local pharmacies, and even health professionals are often unable to tell the difference.

Last Thursday was World Malaria Day, and the Pulitzer Centre hosted a Google Hangout, where expert doctors and journalists discussed theimpact of fake malaria drugs. They kindly recorded it so you can play it back here.

Have a read of our correspondent Kristine’s dice with death after contracting Malaria here.

Tamil war fallout

The civil war between the Sri Lankan government and guerrilla group, Tamil Tigers,  raged across northern and eastern Sri Lanka for almost four decades from the early 1970s, seeing some of the most brutal attacks on political groups and civilians imaginable. The battle officially concluded in 2009, when government forces captured the rebels’ final stronghold. But unfortunately it’s not over.

The atrocities against innocent civilians continue, as Sri Lankan security forces seek out and detain people suspected of being members or supporters of the Tamil Tigers. Human Rights Watch is reporting that the politically motivated rape, sexual assault and torture of suspects in custody has continued since the conflict, up to the present day.

A special report, ‘We Will Teach You a Lesson: Sexual Violence against Tamils by Sri Lankan Security Forces’, gives first hand accounts of men and women assaulted at the hands of the army, police, and pro-government paramilitary groups. To learn more click here.

Africa through new eyes

A new generation is using photography to change the narrative about the continent of Africa.

Al Jazeera’s new documentary series, Artscape: The New African Photography, follows six young African creatives, as they seek to celebrate, question and represent a continent on the rise.

The programme showcases photographers Emeka Okereke, Barbara Minishi, George Osodi, Neo Ntsoma, Baudouin Mouanda and Mario Macilau as they use their craft to define Africa for themselves. Definitely worth a watch!

Something brewing in your part of the world? We want to know about it. Tweet @its_alicia or @mtvvoices using the hashtag #WhatsUpWorld.

What’s Up World? #26

Published on MTV’s international pro-social website MTV Voices on 24.04.13

What’s Up World?
Between the cracks of the world’s news headlines


Blood Strawberries

Could it be time for Mr DiCaprio to make a sequel?

Last week in Nea Manolada, Greece around 30 strawberry farm workers were injured after being shot at for requesting their unpaidwages.

The farm’s supervisor opened fire on a group of around 200 workers, most of whom were migrants from Bangladesh, when they went on strike, claiming that they hadn’t been paid in six months.

It’s not the first time Nea Manolada has drawn international attention for this sort of thing. Activists say migrant workers in the region are being routinely exploited, going unpaid and being forced to work in dire conditions as modern day slaves.

Online campaigns are now calling for an international boycott of Manolada strawberries.

Nice one Farmer Zhao

We may have found the world’s best dad.

Desperate to raise funds to cover medical costs for his son, who is suffering from a bone marrow disease, Chinese farmer Zhao Changyong has started moonlighting as a nude model. Earning the equivalent of £10 per hour is more than Zhao could make working on the land – plus he’s already sold the family farm to pay for his son Wu’s treatment.

The good news is his naked ambition has paid off, with doctors confirming that Wu is expected to make a full recovery.

Yes We Tran

Sanam Faqeer, a transgender former dancer, turned business owner, turned charity founder is running as an independent candidate in Pakistan’s upcoming elections.

Sanam is hoping to represent Pakistan’s third gender group of eunuchs, a marginalised community of castrated men, hermaphrodites, transsexuals, transvestites and homosexuals, who face enormous human rights abuses and chronic violence in the conservative Muslim state.

Sanam’s campaign, along with the six other transgender candidates who have entered in the race, sets an important new benchmark for the community’s rights.

Wine vs Wildlife

As the affects of climate change move on in, we may be approaching a showdown between space for vineyards and the natural habitats of endangered species around the world.

Thanks to global warming, grapes are becoming harder to grow across traditional wine regions. According to a new study up to 70 percent of the world’s vineyards could be out of action by 2050, with new areas becoming optimal for cultivation.

Proposed new wine regions in China, northwest USA, South Africa and Australia have high wine-wildlife conflict areas, pointing either to the destruction of wildlife habitats or an increase in pandas, grizzly bears, antelope and kangaroos hanging out in vineyards.

Something brewing in your part of the world? We want to know about it. Tweet @its_alicia or @mtvvoices using the hashtag #WhatsUpWorld

What’s Up World? #22

Published on MTV’s international pro-social website MTV Voices on 27.03.13

What’s Up World?
Between the cracks of the world’s news headlines


Image credit – from MTV Exit’s Butterfly.

Bride trafficking is a thing

By the end of this decade, the number of marriage-ready men in China is set to outweigh women by 24 million. That’s a lot of grooms and not enough brides.

So bride trafficking is on the rise. Reported cases of women being trafficked into China are now reaching beyond the regions that share a border with China, like Burma, Laos and Vietnam, and into Cambodia. According to the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking, some Burmese parents accept as little as US $1,000 for their daughters.

With marriage painted as a symbol of social status and acceptance, desperation is fuelling the illicit trafficking of women, many of whom believe they’ve found work thanks to China’s booming industry, only to find they’ve been sold into prearranged marriages on their arrival.

If you want to help why not join the fight against trafficking with MTV Exit.

Toxic war fallout

I know everyone says everything is important, but this is really important:

Toxic waste left over from the two massive wars in Iraq are being linked to a dramatic increase in birth deformities, cases of cancer and the emergence of new illnesses not previously seen in Iraq, like kidney, lungs, and liver diseases, as well as total immune system collapse.

It gets worse: depleted uranium contamination is also being blamed for escalating leukaemia, renal and anaemia cases amongst children and connected to a sharp rise in miscarriages, premature births and infertility amongst Iraqi women, particularly in areas where heavy military operations occurred, like Falluja.

It gets even worse – read on here for a more in depth look at the challenges facing the children of Iraq.

Researcher and author Dr Abdulhaq Al-Ani wants the rest of the world to know about the crisis in Iraq, saying, “I ask them to ask their government not to hurt people outside of their country, especially the people of Iraq.

#HB Twitter

The originator of the hashtag, the RT, Follow Friday and the art of condensing life into 140 characters Twitter turned seven years old last week.

Here’s a look at seven lives that Twitter has completely changed over that time, some in a good way (hey @sh*tmydadsays, @kellyoxford) some in a less good way (greetings also to @papaxristoutj and @repweiner).

Something brewing in your part of the world? We want to know about it. Tweet @its_alicia or @mtvvoices using the hashtag #WhatsUpWorld

What’s Up World? #21

Published on MTV’s international pro-social website MTV Voices on 21.03.13

What’s Up World?
Between the cracks of the world’s news headlines


Sexist tablet?

Hey ladies, having trouble working a Kindle or an iPad? Fear not – the ePad Femme is here.

Created specifically for women by the Middle East-based Eurostar Group, the ePad Femme is pre-loaded with a pink background and apps focused on shopping, cooking, perfume and clothing sizes.

Eurostar say, “It makes a perfect gadget for a woman who might find difficulties in terms of downloading these applications and it is a quick reference.” But women around the world say it’s pretty much the worst thing ever. According to Saudi-based blogger Eman Al Nafjan, the women of the Middle East “are extremely tech-savvy… Whoever made this tablet doesn’t understand us very well.”

What do you think? Useful for women who aren’t familiar with emerging technologies or moderately insulting, considering a four year old can use an iPad?

Because clothes don’t matter, intentions do…

Online protesters, sick of seeing and hearing stories of horrific violence against women in their native India,have started a revolution with a Tumblr page.

Got Stared At invites victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault to post photos of what they were wearing when they were harassed on the blog, in order to dispel the notion that women and their clothing choices are to blame for street harassment.

After receiving thousands of submissions from all over the world in its first few months, Got Stared At now has over 15,000 Facebook followers and was awarded the UN Millennium Development Goals’ World Summit Youth Award last year. Props to the blog’s creator, Dhruv Arora!

The tragic side of a culture clash

A wave of teen suicide attempts has hit Afghanistan and it’s difficult to say why.

The recent deaths of sisters Nabila and Fareba Gul in Mazar-i-Sharif have drawn major attention to the issue, particularly because they were seen to be well off, educated and from a progressive family, living on the outer edges of traditional Afghan conservatism.

While the government doesn’t keep track of specific numbers, staff at Mazar-i-Sharif’s main hospital say they typically see cases of attempted suicide three or four times per day, compared to one or two per month 10 years ago.

The cause of the growing crisis isn’t easy to identify. But the general consensus, according to opinions gathered by the New York Times, points to the clash in cultures experienced by young women living in a cross-cultural hub like Mazar-i-Sharif, where they are exposed to the social norms of the West through television and the internet but are physically living in Afghanistan’s strictly conservative, male-dominated society.

Hunger isn’t a game

Ever stare blankly in the fridge and whine, “There’s nothing to eat”? Well, for a scary number of people around the world that’s actually true…

Fact of the day: Nearly one in seven people around the world don’t have enough food to eat. That’s more people than the populations of the USA, Canada and the entire European Union combined. Outrageous huh? Hungertakes more lives AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined, making it the biggest global health risk in the world today.

In order to raise awareness of the situation, the lovely team over at Good are putting out the challenge to host a dinner party and cook a meal using fewer ingredients than the number of people on the guest list. Beans on toast anybody?

Something brewing in your part of the world? We want to know about it. Tweet @its_alicia or @mtvvoices using the hashtag #WhatsUpWorld