Going travelling? Take a scarf!

A towel, [the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’] says, is about the most massively useful thing that an interstellar hitchhiker can have.” I travel a lot, though admittedly so far only on Earth and I have my own version of the towel. Wherever I go, whether it is a long-haul flight to somewhere exotic or a local weekend away with friends, I pack a large lightweight scarf in my hand luggage. On recent trips, I have come to realise how massively useful it is. Here are a few of the things you can do with a scarf:
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Trump vs Women Round 1: The “A” bomb

One of President Trump’s first acts in the White House was to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, or “the global gag rule”.  The policy is reinstated and revoked every time the White House changes from Democrat to Republican and back.  That’s because the subject of the policy, abortion, is a highly politicised topic in America.

The policy means that NGOs that receive US foreign aid funding are not allowed to provide or promote abortions.  It was first instated by Reagan in 1984 and it essentially exports the US debate on abortion.  Sadly, that has dramatic negative effects on the health of women the world over.  NGOs that provide family planning services now have a choice to make.  Either they need to drop abortions from the suite of family planning options that they discuss, or they lose all US foreign aid funding.  It’s important to note two things:
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Development research: Access all areas?

Alexandra Elbakyan is in hiding, possibly in Russia. Elsevier, the publishing giant, have filed a legal case against her for sharing millions of academic journal papers on the internet. Her actions are a protest against the paywalls that so many scholarly articles are hidden behind.

If you work in a research environment, these paywalls are all too common in your daily work. When looking for journal articles about international development sanitation earlier this week, I was dismayed to discover that the vast majority were locked away behind pay walls. Having working in research for a number of years, I am familiar with the frustration of finding what looks from the abstract like it might be exactly the paper you have been searching for, only to discover that to access the full text you will need to fork out an extortionate sum because it is published in a journal that your institution does not have a subscription for.
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Mind the confidence gap

Last week I went to assessment centre for a role that involved leading teams and projects within an international development organisation. Speaking to others towards the end of the day about how they thought their one-to-one interviews went, I noticed something. The male candidates were extremely up-beat about their interviews whilst the women were significantly more reserved.

A few of these women ended up having a brief discussion about how well they thought they sell themselves and again the outcome was not positive. They found it difficult to give themselves credit for their contribution to work as part of a team, they perceived many of their achievements as less down to their own knowledge and skills than a good dose of luck and generally, they disliked the feeling of arrogance associated with telling people what they were good at. Certainly not an ideal situation in which to face an interview panel.
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Greed 1, Flint 0

Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals is Clean Water and Sanitation.  One of its targets is universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all.  With the number of celebrities and companies donating bottled water to Flint, Michigan over the last month and a half, I would suggest that America is currently failing.

Flint is a city of 102,000 people, and is less than 70 miles from the banks of Lake Huron, the third largest fresh water lake on earth.  Despite this, human greed and arrogance have conspired so that every resident of Flint has been affected by lead poisoning from their water supply over the last two years.
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#TraditionallySubmissive: An open letter to David Cameron

Dear Mr Cameron,

I was appalled to hear your comments about the “traditional submissiveness of Muslim women” that have been so widely shared and ridiculed on social media.  I have lived and worked in a number of countries, including those that are predominantly Muslim and, in my experience, your comments could not be further from the truth.  The Muslim women that I have met are invariably strong women who realise that, in many ways, the world appears to be stacked against them and yet I have found that this never prevents them from doing the best they can for their families, their communities and society at large.  Whilst I understand that anecdotes are not the same thing as data, let me share with you some of these women. Read more