Nov. 5th, 2011

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Cornered in Free Libya

TRIPOLI, Nov 5, 2011 (IPS) - "We’ve walked all the way here to tell everybody that we are being treated like dogs," said 23-year old Hamuda Bubakar, among a couple of hundred black refugees protesting at Martyrs Square in Tripoli. "I’d rather be killed here. I wouldn’t be the first, or the last."

The refugees came to protest early this week from the barracks of Tarik Matar, a makeshift camp on the outskirts of Tripoli. "We’ve already spent more than two months in those horrible barracks," said Aisha who preferred not to give her full name.

A few days back, she said, "guerrilla fighters from Misrata (90 kilometres east of Tripoli) entered our place and took seven young guys with them. We still know nothing about them." Several women at the camp have been abducted and raped in recent weeks, she said.

"Raise your head, you're a free Libyan", the group chanted before a stage set up for the recent celebrations. That’s the very slogan that became almost an anthem for the rebels who rose against Gaddafi.

Tempers flared amid the group of armed soldiers guarding the central square. "I should kill you all for what you did to us in Misrata," shouted a young man in camouflage fatigues. The protesters are from Tawargha, 60 km south of Misrata, that was known as a Gaddafist base.

The armed men at the square, and angry honking soon split up the group.

"Not only do they call us Gaddafists, they hate us for the colour of our skin," said Abdulkarim Rahman. "All blacks in Libya are going through very hard times lately." MORE
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Brazil's Health System Inspires Abroad, Frustrates at Home

RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 4, 2011 (IPS) - News that the government of South Africa was inspired by Brazil's health system in setting up its own universal coverage scheme might meet with scepticism in this South American country.

Sociologist Walkiria Dutra de Oliveira was one of the many Brazilians who had a negative opinion of the country's public healthcare system. But she was in for a surprise when she visited a public health clinic in a middle-class neighbourhood in São Paulo.

Oliveira, who had been diagnosed with diabetes eight years earlier and was facing financial problems, decided to seek free insulin from the public health system.

The "prompt, efficient" attention she was given completely changed the image she had of the Sistema Único de Saúde or Single Health System (SUS), which was shaped during the 1980s when the system was restructured to make healthcare a universal right.

Besides insulin, Oliveira was given free medication for her hypothyroidism, she told IPS.

Reports of patients dying because of a lack of hospital beds, months-long waits for surgery, serious medical errors, malpractice cases and corruption scandals gave the system a terrible reputation.

But Dr. Nivaldo Gomes, who has worked in public hospitals and clinics since the 1970s, told IPS that "although there have been some problems in implementation, the idea is excellent and legitimate."

The government is fighting a battle in parliament to create new sources of financing for the SUS, but in Gomes' view, "the problems are due to political and administrative issues, not a shortage of money."

There is a lack of political will to fully implement the principles underlying the SUS, said Gomes and his colleague, Dr. Dilene do Nascimento, a researcher at the
Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ), Brazil's leading biomedical research institute.
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Women Losing Ground in Economic, Political Equality

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 2, 2011 (IPS) - While gender equality ratios have improved in 85 percent of countries over the past six years, economic participation and political empowerment for women has failed to match the steady progress of health and education, says a new report by the World Economic Forum.

The report, Global Gender Gap", PDF compiled by Ricardo Hausmann from Harvard University, Laura Tyson from University of California, Berkeley and Saadia Zahidi from the World Economic Forum, illustrates the gender-disparity gap between men and women across 135 countries.

Using an international index and data from several organisations such as the International Labour Organisation, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organisation, the report measures the percentage of the gap between men and women across economic, political, educational and health-based criteria.

On average, health and education had the strongest rate of progress, with 96 percent of the health gap closed and 93 percent of the education gap closed. But economic participation only closed 59 percent of the gap and political empowerment closed a mere 18 percent of the gap.

"While it is heartening to note that education and health gaps between the sexes seem to be getting overcome, the same is not true for gaps in economic and political participation and it is important to note that equal access to education does not in itself solve the problems of gender inequality," Yasmeen Hassan, global director at Equality Now in New York, told the IPS.

"In fact, education systems may perpetuate and further entrench gender stereotypes and practices that promote gender inequality," she said. "I'm not surprised that many countries have regressed on gender equality. The global economic recession and rising fundamentalisms has resulted in a feeling of insecurity that manifests itself in a resurgence of patriarchal values and systems and a cutback of women's rights and freedoms." MORE


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