Mostly books, sometimes other bits.

The question of what to wear when boobs are banned...

Tomorrow I will be setting off, along with 29 other Lancaster University students, to take part in an exchange programme with the Goenka World School in Delhi. The trip is designed to forge links between Lancaster and Delhi, educate us with cultural outings, teach us about Indian politics, broaden our international understanding of business, increase Lancaster's standing in Asia, etc etc.  

I have been presented with a problem. What on earth am I supposed to wear?

This is not a superficial complaint. Much time has been spent stood in front of the veritable wardrobe jigsaw, trying to fit pieces together. How to contend with blistering heat, possible monsoon rain, potentially offensive knees? What to wear casually verses what to wear at night? All from a student's wardrobe that comprises of clothes designed primarily, as one of my fellow India-goers put it, for the appreciation of 'tits and leg'?

Whilst we are attempting to avoid stereotypical British traveller faux pas in India, another 30 students will be doing the same thing in Malaysia. A shopping trip revealed my Malaysia-bound friend staring at the changing room mirror in massive bright blue trousers and a pink top that could only be described as tent-like. 'You look,' our other companion commented, 'like a sad clown.'

But newsflash! I've scoured around the shops and found that appropriate dress for Asia can in fact be found!
The answer is scarves.

Honestly, scarves. I had never realised quite how much of a lifesaver they could be until, whilst mentally debating how to best get away with the bare shoulders provided by a maxi dress, I threw a scarf over my shoulders. Et voila, modesty!

I would recommend any traveller to an antique land stocks up on scarves. 

Are FGM campaigners losing the fight in Sierra Leone?

Journalists in Sierra Leone are reporting that campaigns to outlaw female genital mutilation (FMG) aren't working.
Despite the fact that the majority of people believe FGM to be inhuman and no longer relevant in civilised society, certain cultural groups in the west African country are still dominant in their control of the practice. 
One example of such a group is the Bondo. The secret society, made up entirely of women, exists to 'prepare' young girls for adulthood and married life -part of which insists upon FGM. The society wields so much power in Sierra Leone that even the government is reluctant to confront it.
Hence its refusal to declare its position on the outlawing of FGM.
Instead of the outright ban that 15 other African states have imposed, Sierra Leone's authorities are asking that girls under the age of 18 not be inducted into the Bondo society.
Bondo initiation thrives most in provincial areas, but FGM is rife throughout the country -even in the west, where campaigners have attempted to instil a ban in the past.
In southern Sierra Leone girls are brought up to believe that FGM is a rite of passage that is required lest they be shunned by their peers and ostracized by their families and the wider society.
The facts of FGM are stark -unsanitary and infected razor blades used to cut out the clitoris and labia minora (this is the form FGM usually takes in Sierra Leone; other methods are used elsewhere), resulting in difficulty giving birth and an increased risk of death; a practice carried out on an estimated 130 million women across the world, including 90% of Sierra Leone's female population.
Despite politicians across Africa pushing for both a continent-wide ban on the practice and a UN resolution to enforce it, human rights groups within Sierra Leone are now falling silent on the subject, fearful of offending long-held tradition.
The 2012 Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council has also called for a ban.
A large part of the problem is that whilst certain African states have a full ban in place, some do not have the means to enforce it.
In May MPs from across Africa met in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, to discuss what actions could be taken to enforce a continent-wide ban. Sierra Leone's representatives appeared less than interested in the discussions.
The government is said to be reluctant to voice concerns over FGM because of fear that it will lose the vote of women who still approve of the practice. It has even been suggested that some politicians in Sierra Leone are stating their support for Bondo initiation in order to win votes.
The opposition human rights advocates are facing in Sierra Leone is demonstrated by the case of Mama Fanny, a campaigner in the southern Moyamba district who has relentlessly encouraged mothers to refuse Bondo initiation for the daughters, stating health and general female wellbeing as her primary reasons. She has repeatedly been targeted by members of the Bondo society, who have threatened to harm her if she carries on her work.
Another case, also in the south of the country, but this time in the Bonthe district, shows the tensions that FGM can bring in its wake. A month ago, a 12 year old girl bled to death after having FGM inflicted on her by her aunt, without the knowledge of her parents. When the aunt's actions were uncovered a revenge mission was led by the child's family and local youths. By the time they reached the area where the body had been found, the Bondo members involved had fled.
Whatever the deep-set cultural reasons behind Sierra Leone's reluctance to abandon this most appalling of traditions, it appears that, with efforts to enforce a ban turning backward, it may be up to the rest of the world to take on the voice of these silent women and shame the country into change.

Nazi secretary breaks 66 year silence

After 66 years of silence, the former secretary of Joseph Goebbels has broken her quiet over the 'cold and distant' Nazi politician.
Brunhilde Posmsel is now 100 years old. In 1933, at the age of 22, she joined the Nazi party and became secretary to the Nazi Director of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment.
Her duties included typing up reports that Goebbels had written for Hitler, one of which described how Berlin was now 'judenrein' -free of Jews.
Despite her former position within the Nazi party Posmsel has no positive words to say about her infamous employer, calling him a 'monster.'
'You couldn’t get close to him,' she says. 'He never once asked me a personal question. Right up until the end I don’t think he knew my name. He got away lightly with suicide. He knew he would be condemned to death by the Allies. His suicide was cowardly, but he was also smart because he knew what was coming if he didn’t take that way out.'
She is open about joining the Nazi party as a young woman in Germany, saying 'I joined the party in 1933—why not? Everyone did.'
As a proficient Director of Propaganda, Goebbels did not let news of the Holocaust reach German newspapers. Posmsel says that, despite the fact that she was his secretary, she had no idea that it was happening.
It is unusual to find a former member of the Nazi officials' staff speaking so negatively about the men that they worked for. Whilst Goebbels through Posmsel's eyes was clearly a horrific man in a personal capacity as well as in a political one, Adolf Hitler himself has been described in a much more favourable terms by his former secretaries.
Traudl Junge, who took Hitler's last will and testament as he hid in the Reich Chancellery bunker, called her employer 'a pleasant boss and a fatherly friend.' She added that she enjoyed her time working for the Fuhrer, and that he even encouraged her to marry the man of her choice, a Waffen-SS Officer who died a year later.
Another of Hitler's secretaries, Christa Shroeder, was equally as kind to the tyrannical leader. She wrote a memoir entitled 'He was my Chief' and described how he would visit his staff in hospital and take an interest in their personal lives.
Brunhilde Posmsel spoke about Goebbels to German newspaper Bilde, after five months of negotiations with its editors.