Irina Bokova on Girls' Education Eradicating Poverty
Irina Bokova, born on 12 July 1952 in Sofia (Bulgaria) has been the Director-General of UNESCO since 15 November 2009, and reelected for a second term in 2013. She is the first woman to lead the Organization.
Having graduated from Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and studied at the University of Maryland (Washington) and the John F. Kennedy School of Government (Harvard University), Irina Bokova joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria in 1977, where she was responsible for human rights issues. Appointed in charge of political and legal affairs at the Permanent Mission of Bulgaria to the United Nations in New York, she was also a member of the Bulgarian Delegation at the United Nations conferences on the equality of women in Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995). As Member of Parliament (1990-1991 and 2001-2005), she participated in the drafting of Bulgaria’s new Constitution, which contributed significantly to the country’s accession to the European Union. She launched the first seminar of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the European Convention on Human Rights.
Irina Bokova was Minister for Foreign Affairs and Coordinator of Bulgaria-European Union relations (1995-1997) and Ambassador of Bulgaria (2005-2009) to France, Monaco and UNESCO and Personal Representative of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria to the "Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie" (OIF). As Secretary of State for European integration and as Foreign Minister, Irina Bokova has always advocated for European integration. Active member of many international experts active in civil society and especially President and founding member of the European Policy Forum, she has worked to overcome European divisions and to foster the values of dialogue, diversity, human dignity and human rights.
As Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova is actively engaged in international efforts to advance quality education for all, gender equality, cultural dialogue and scientific cooperation for sustainable development and is leading UNESCO as a global advocate for safety of journalists and freedom of expression.
Irina Bokova is Executive Secretary of the Steering Committee of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) and co-Vice-Chair of the Broadband Commission.
Irina Bokova has received state distinctions from countries across the world and is Doctor honoris causa of leading universities.
In addition to her mother tongue, she speaks English, French, Spanish and Russian.
Irina Bokova: We do believe at UNESCO and I personally am very much committed to girls’ education and women’s empowerment. I do believe in the first place that education is one of the best investments in order to achieve sustainability in any development but particularly girls. Because in many parts of the world girls are a synonym with poverty in the rural areas. Girls are the marginalized communities in the communities. There are still a lot of stereotypes and because poverty has sometimes a women’s face. Investing in girls’ education and we have a lot of data, a lot of research in this particular area – improves communities standard of living, eradicates poverty, has a particularly important and positive impact on health. We know that educated women that have passed through primary education are caring better for their children, for their families. And also for the environment. Investing in girls’ education is also one of the main, I would say, objectives of education for all which is the second millennium development goal.
And without achieving gender parity in primary education and also moving to the secondary education, we cannot achieve also what nowadays is considered one of the objectives of the international community to eradicate extreme poverty by the year 2030. And why we speak now about girls’ education? Because still inequalities are there. Only 58 percent of the countries have achieved gender parity in primary education and only 38 percent gender parity in secondary education. When girls are in school and our appeal is let’s keep girls in school. They marry late, they get pregnant late. When they’re in school they’re much more protected, you know, if not to get contaminated with some diseases. And they’re less also protected – I would say protected against violence. Keeping girls in school after primary education is the best investment in our development.
Well I believe that in terms of education it’s a value in any society. Education is, I would say also a cultural event in many societies. Although we know that stereotypes sometimes put girls in marginalized also populations in disadvantage. We believe that if we unite around education, religious leaders traditionally there is in many communities. Of course having a very focused public policies and government commitments and make an education a true value for families. We will then achieve also sustainability in all our development efforts. We don’t believe that there is juxtaposition between cultural values and educational values. We do believe that if we put it right, if we unite around this idea of education being one of the best investment for having healthy families, for having healthy communities, for having also I would say a better living. Education is a better living also for these communities and these families then we can convince also everybody and unite around achieving this important goal of access to quality education and lifelong learning for all.
I think the strategy to get children into school on one side – and we have already done it. It is to put education on the global political agenda. In the United Nations and we have now the education first initiative of the secretary general, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, who is the first one to put education with such a commitment and such a responsibility on the agenda of the United Nations. We have to have in the post 2015 agenda on sustainable development, we have to have a one very strong goal, sustainable goal, which is achieving free access to quality education and lifelong learning for all. And then, of course, we have to have a very strong commitment of governments, of the civil society, of the private sector also to reach the marginalized. We cannot continue business as usual because if we want to eradicate extreme poverty, if we have to move with the agenda of sustainability, if we want to tackle the problems of climate change, if we want also to in some cases also achieve the paradigm of development to it I would say a developmental aspect to all the issues about economic development, to have the three legs of sustainable development, the economic, the social and the environmental. We cannot do that separately from education. So I believe if we integrate education in these strategies of sustainable development then we will be successful.
I think the teaching and learning is shifting. Nowadays we speak not just about education. We’re speaking about learning. And this shift in our thinking about learning is very much linked also to the new technologies. It’s very much linked to a new, a very different environment that we’re living through where there is a broad access to information through the new communication technologies which gives a lot of opportunity also for high quality of teaching and of learning. So on one side we have to breach the digital divide. This is the question about access to online information. It is about broadband. We’re working there through the Broadband Commission in order to promote broadband and connectivity in those parts of the world where still we see this digital divide which is preventing many communities and people and young people and others from this access. On the other side we have to admit that the new technology, the technologies overall it’s not the name in itself. It is a means to achieving this learning. And it is about also the content.
It is about what kind of global citizens we want to create nowadays through the process of schooling and learning. And this is about values. This is about understanding about the others. This is about I would say what kind of young people come out of schools. We don’t want to have out of schools some kind of robots. We want to have young people who have skills but also who are culturally literate. Young people who understand about the others. Young people who know what is at stake nowadays who are – with values about human rights, about human dignity, about communities and about the others. So we call it within the global education first initiative we have put the third main objective of this initiative, global citizenship, education for global citizenship. And I think this is a time to speak about it. It is about education for sustainable development. We are having a major global forum later this year in November in Nagoya in Japan which is a forum about education for sustainable development. So the stakes are very high nowadays with all the challenges that we have. And we want that the oldest, I would say, global learning and education is about global citizenship and that young people know what is at stake.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on investing in girls' education to combat poverty.
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The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
Shannon Lee shares lessons from her father in her new book, "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."
- Bruce Lee would have turned 80 years old on November 27, 2020. The legendary actor and martial artist's daughter, Shannon Lee, shares some of his wisdom and his philosophy on self help in a new book titled "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."
- In this video, Shannon shares a story of the fight that led to her father beginning a deeper philosophical journey, and how that informed his unique expression of martial arts called Jeet Kune Do.
- One lesson passed down from Bruce Lee was his use and placement of physical symbols as a way to help "cement for yourself this new way of being, or this new lesson you've learned." By working on ourselves (with the right tools), we can develop the skills necessary to rise and conquer new challenges.
How to deal with "epistemic exhaustion."
Philosopher Nick Bostrom's "singleton hypothesis" predicts the future of human societies.
- Nick Bostrom's "singleton hypothesis" says that intelligent life on Earth will eventually form a "singleton".
- The "singleton" could be a single government or an artificial intelligence that runs everything.
- Whether the singleton will be positive or negative depends on numerous factors and is not certain.
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A strange object found in Utah desert has prompted worldwide speculation about its origins.
- A monolithic object found in a remote part of Utah caused worldwide speculation about its origins.
- The object is very similar to the famous monolith from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: Space Odyssey".
- The object could be work of an artist or even have extraterrestrial origins.
1. ART OBJECT<p>Chances are, this is an art object. The shiny "monolith" appears to be bolted to the ground and made of metal. It also seems to be fastened with rivets, rather being a uniform block of more unexplainable production origin. Deserts are great places for unusual art installations as has been evidenced by art projects you can discover wondering through the desert ghost towns and faraway canyons of Nevada, California, Utah and New Mexico. Certainly, an artist with a sense of humor and an appreciation of Kubrick's genius could have installed such "sculpture" in hopes of exactly what is happening right now – viral fame.</p><p>On the other hand, there is evidence, courtesy of eagle-eyed <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/news/comments/jzkpad/helicopter_pilot_finds_strange_monolith_in_remote/gdg9qfi?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3" target="_blank">Google Earth sleuths</a>, that the object appeared in that location (somewhere near <a href="https://www.nps.gov/cany/index.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Canyonlands National Park</a>) in 2015-2016. So it's possibly been there for a few years. Would an artist have placed it there so long ago with the aim of having this type of success eventually?</p><p>A gallery owner <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/world/utah-monolith-desert-mystery-solved-john-mccracken-sculptor-artist-2001-a-space-odyssey/0bae1a27-5bd2-451e-90a6-393928d9ed02" target="_blank">claimed</a> the work may be a tribute to the art of the late artist John McCracken, who created similar-looking objects before he died in 2011. McCracken was part of the Light and Space movement with such artists as James Turrell, and was known to make his sculptures from plywood forms that were coated with fiberglass and polyester resin.</p><p>While the theory that the monolith was the work of a McCracken aficionado (or the artist himself) may hold some water due to the object's similarity, the fact that the artist died so long ago and the lack of clear incentive for anyone to have planted this years ago only to reveal it now work against this theory.</p>
John McCracken sculptures.