SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Nearly half of children in the UK are in single-child families, and it’s the same in some parts of the US. With more and more countries on the road to becoming one-child nations, we look at the positives and negatives of being an only
Carmen*, 32, loved growing up sans siblings and would highly recommend it
If I were to ask you for three words to describe the average only child, what would spring to mind? Spoiled? Selfish? Weird? No, I’m not a mind reader, it’s just that over the years I’ve been subjected to a variety of unfounded assumptions about my character, purely because I’m an only child.
Being pigeonholed as some sort of socially awkward oddball has definitely been no picnic, but what really gets my goat is the pity that has been (and still is) levelled at me because I don’t come from a fit-the-box family with a built-in playmate. For example, one of my earliest memories is of a meddlesome aunt subjecting my mother to a barrage of inappropriate questions about when (not if) she and my father planned to have more children.
A withering look from my mother was followed by an oh-so-concerned sigh from my aunt, as it was explained we were a family of three and would stay that way. At the time, my aunt’s reaction confused me. Now it infuriates me – not least because I experience similar opinions on a regular basis from just about anybody who has had the ‘privilege’ of being born with a sibling. I doubt a week goes by when, for one reason or another, the question of family comes up and I reveal it’s just little old me.
I’m either met with (at best) a raise of eyebrows and a sympathetic nod or (at worst) a drolly veiled jibe, such as: ‘well, that explains it…’ Explains what exactly? That I’m some sort of Casper the Friendly Ghost type, destined to wander through life in a haze of isolation? Or that my lonely upbringing has ruined me so much that I am unable to interact with others without morphing into a knee-hugging weirdo rocking in the corner? Just because I’m an only child, it doesn’t mean I’m damaged goods.
Yes, it’s true that I didn’t have an elder brother to teach me how to ride a bike or a younger sister to practise hair braiding on, but I had an army of school pals who taught me the importance of sharing, compromising and the value of friendship. Likewise, I had two loving parents who, in their devotion, raised me to be confident, outgoing and self assured.
To take it one step further, I believe that I was lucky to be born as an only child. I was a high achiever at school and university, and have gone on to carve out a highly successful career. Of course you could argue that it’s in my DNA, that I’d have been a success story whatever my family structure, but I don’t think so. In my opinion, children without siblings are higher achievers because they’re exposed to increased parental scrutiny. When the spotlight is on you, and only you, you pull your socks up that bit higher.
Don’t believe me? Author Bill McKibben in his book Maybe One, reveals that only children also score higher when it comes to making friends, adjusting to new environments, self-control and interpersonal skills. I couldn’t agree more. When I was growing up, I didn’t have a scattering of brothers and sisters to fall back on when times got tough, so I had to learn to work harder when it came to developing lasting friendships. Likewise, because I never experienced sibling rivalry, I’ve never had a tendency to feel jealous of other people’s achievements.
Of course, sometimes I ponder about how I might have turned out if I’d come from a big family with multiple siblings. Would I have been different? There is no way of knowing. But what I am sure of is that being an only child was unequivocally a positive experience.
Amelia*, 46, is one of four siblings, mother of four children and married to an only child
Growing up in a big family, there were times I would quite happily have swapped all my siblings for the chance to have my own bedroom. Other times I would have given them away. But as adults, they are my go-to people – a phenomenon researchers at Ohio State University call the “hour glass effect of siblings”, meaning how we grow apart and then grow back together in later years.
My ‘sibs’ and I call each other for relationship advice, parenting support, for a morale boost, to kill time, for cooking tips, to rant about our parents and, most importantly, to say things we couldn’t say to other people. Yes, you can do this with certain special friends too, but would you give birth or do other unmentionable bodily things in front of your friends? I wouldn’t. But I would with my siblings. And it would be OK.
There’s no shame and no pretence with people you’ve shared a childhood/bath/womb with. They’ve seen you at your best and known you at your worst. They love your individuality and make fun of your quirks. And when you are being downright stupid, they’ll tell you straight.
I’m not saying only children are destined to be lonely – I know many, including my husband, who lead happy, healthy, fully socialised lives. But research shows having siblings boosts emotional intelligence. Claire Hughes from the University of Cambridge says, “One of the reasons for this is that a sibling is a natural ally. They are often on the same wavelength and are likely to engage in the sort of play that helps children develop an awareness of mental states.”
A lot of the only children I’ve met have been sensitive (read: spoilt), need their personal space (read: loners) and are old beyond their years (read: precocious). They haven’t had the experience of being ‘dethroned’ by the needs of another sibling so they are used to being king of their castle, according to a theory suggested by psychoanalyst Alfred Adler in the 1920s. They also haven’t experienced the shoving, the sharing, the scuffs and the ridicule that help build emotional resilience.
Granted, by adulthood they’ve usually made up for this, but by then, being an only poses a whole new set of issues such as undiluted pressure from parents. Social psychologist Susan Newman says, “It’s wise to have other interests so there is less time to focus on every inch of your singleton’s progress... be aware that putting all your energy into your child may not be the best thing for her.” In their later years, onlies can suffer from rootlessness when parents pass away, taking with them the only living memories of their childhood.
But my issue is not with the onlies themselves – they will grow up to become the adults they are destined to be. Love, safety, food and positive attention are far more important requirements for a happy childhood than siblings. My issue is with the parents. I don’t understand why, if you have a child, you wouldn’t bother to give him or her a playmate? Why deny your favourite person the chance to experience one of the closest emotional bonds we can have?
OK, limited finances and over population of the planet are good reasons not to breed without restraint, but having an only child is like giving someone a PlayStation without giving them a control pad. It’s kind of like, “OK, so here’s your childhood. Now run along and entertain yourself.” It’s OK. It’s still a kind gift. But it’s lacking something. Something pretty important. -www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) --THE Czech Republic already has one of the world’s most liberal approach to recreational drug possession. And it will get more liberal still: beginning next year the government will allow marijuana to be distributed by pharmacies (a Czech pharmacy is pictured above) for patients with a prescription.
Lawmakers in parliament’s lower house overwhelmingly passed a bill clearing the way for legal, but regulated medical marijuana on December 7th. The law must still be approved by the Senate and signed by the president, which are largely formalities in a legislative process dominated by the lower house. Some 126 of the 154 MPs present approved the bill.
One of the bill’s authors was Pavel Bém, the former mayor of Prague, a doctor by trade, who said the goal of the changes is to “"make medical marijuana accessible to the patients who need it and most of whom use it already now, unfortunately at variance with the Czech law." He insisted that this will not pave the way for increased recreational use of marijuana.
In practice, cannabis use is widespread in the Czech Republic. It is not uncommon to see pub-goers smoke pot openly on the sidewalk outside their local tavern. A significant number of watering holes even sell marijuana under the counter. Individual possession of 15 grams of marijuana is already decriminalised – a volume three times greater than what is possible to purchase in an Amsterdam coffee shop. Czechs can possess up to 1.5 grams of heroin without facing criminal charges under guidelines codified in 2009. While a recent government report found that marijuana use has declined among young people, around 20 % of Czechs between the ages 15-34 use the drug each year.
Medicinal marijuana is increasingly common in the United States – 20 states plus the District of Columbia allow it in some form and two of those states even allow recreational use – but it remains a rarity in Europe. The Netherlands is one of the few countries with a clear legal platform for the practice, although other places like Austria allow some cultivation of the plant for medicinal purposes under the auspices of the Ministry of Health.
Imported marijuana will make up the Czech pharmaceutical supply for the first year as regulators allocate maximum five-year licenses to domestic growers. A tender process overseen by the State Drug Control Institute will monitor the buying and selling of the cannabis. Medical insurance would not cover the cost of medicinal marijuana under the proposed legislation.
In a country where government contracts are choice territory for corruption it remains unclear whether these changes will make marijuana consumption a less hazy issue. Medical patients will not be able to grow their own marijuana under the legislation; they will need to obtain a doctor’s prescription and then get their treatment in a pharmacy. But the cultivation of up to five plants for personal use by even non-medicinal users is already decriminalised. So much for clearing the air.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) —Antiretroviral therapy, in the past considered a miracle only available to HIV patients in the West, is no longer scarce in many of the poorest parts of the world. Pills are cheaper and easier to access, and HIV is not the same killer that once left thousands of orphaned children in sub-Saharan Africa.
But Myanmar, otherwise known as Burma, remains a special case. Kept in the dark for so many decades by its reclusive ruling junta, this country of 60 million did not reap the same international aid as other needy nations. Heavy economic sanctions levied by countries such as the United States, along with virtually nonexistent government health funding, left an empty hole for medicine and services. Today, Myanmar ranks among the world's hardest places to get HIV care, and health experts warn it will take years to prop up a broken health system hobbled by decades of neglect.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the countries supplying arms to Syria are only increasing the misery in the country.
“This conflict has taken a particularly brutal turn. The continuing militarization of the conflict is deeply tragic and highly dangerous,” Ban told the 193-member UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.
"Those who provide arms to either side are only contributing to further misery -- and the risk of unintended consequences as the fighting intensifies and spreads," he said.
"The conflict is intensifying," Ban added. "The longer it goes on, the more difficult it will be to contain. The more difficult it will be to find a political solution. The more challenging it will be to rebuild the country and the economy.”
"How many children will attend the funerals of their parents; how many parents will weep at the funerals of their children, before all parties agree to end the violence and destruction?" the UN chief stated.
“The Syrian people have waited too long," Ban said. "And now the entire region is being engulfed by the complex dynamics of the conflict.”
The UN secretary general said there had to be a greater international effort to end the conflict in Syria and the humanitarian and refugee crisis in and around Syria.
"Regional leaders have a key role to play in creating the conditions conducive to a solution," Ban stated.
He also appealed for more money for a UN fund for Syria, saying, "The humanitarian situation is grave and deteriorating both in Syria and in neighboring countries affected by the crisis."
Ban stated that the UN has asked for $180 million but has only received half this amount so far.
"The most pressing needs are water and sanitation, shelter, essential items such as blankets and hygiene kits, as well as emergency medical assistance," Ban said.
The new UN-Arab League mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, also briefly addressed the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.
"The death toll is staggering, the destruction is reaching catastrophic proportions and the suffering is immense," Brahimi said.
He added, "I am looking forward to my visit to Damascus in a few days time, and… to all the countries that are in a position to help the Syrian-led political process become a reality."
On Tuesday, Syria's ambassador to the UN said that Damascus is “open-minded and fully committed to the mission of Mr. Brahimi in his endeavors to put an end to violence and find a Syrian-led political solution to the crisis."
“I'm calling on all member states, particularly those with direct influence… on the parties rejecting political dialogue and the cessation of violence, I'm calling on them to follow in the footsteps of the government of Syria and seriously extend a helping hand to Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi," Ambassador Bashar al-Ja'afari added.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011.
Damascus says outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists are the driving factor behind the unrest and deadly violence while the opposition accuses the security forces of being behind the killings.
The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country and accuses Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey of arming the opposition.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — A women-only industrial city dedicated to female workers is to be constructed in Saudi Arabia to provide a working environment that is in line with the kingdom's strict customs.
The city, to be built in the Eastern Province city of Hofuf, is set to be the first of several planned for the Gulf kingdom. The aim is to allow more women to work and achieve greater financial independence, but to maintain the gender segregation, according to reports.
Proposals have also been submitted for four similar industrial cities exclusively for women entrepreneurs, employers and employees in Riyadh.
Segregation of the sexes is applied in Saudi Arabia, where Wahabi sharia law and tribal customs combine to create an ultra-conservative society that still does not allow women to drive. Saudi women are said to make up about 15% of the workforce, with most in female-only work places. Although the number of mixed gender workplaces has increased these are still few.
The proposals follow government instructions to create more job openings for women to enable them to have a more important role in the country's development.
The Saudi Industrial Property Authority (Modon), which is developing the women-only industrial city at Hofuf, said it hoped the city would open next year. Prince Mansour bin Miteb bin Abdulaziz, minister of municipal and rural affairs, had approved the plan, a spokesperson said.
"I'm sure that women can demonstrate their efficiency in many aspects and clarify the industries that best suit their interests, nature and ability," said Modon's deputy director general, Saleh al-Rasheed.
The Hofuf development is expected to create about 5,000 jobs in textiles, pharmaceuticals and food-processing industries, with women-run firms and production lines. Modon said the Hofuf industrial site was a suitable location given its "proximity to residential neighbourhoods to facilitate the movement of women to and from the workplace".
In a statement it added that the site was equipped "for women workers in environment and working conditions consistent with the privacy of women according to Islamic guidelines and regulations".
The project has been proposed by a group of Saudi businesswomen, said Al Eqtisadiah, the business daily, quoting the business woman Hussa al-Aun. She told the paper: "The new industrial city should have a specialised training centre to help women develop their talents and train them to work at factories. This is essential to cut unemployment among our female graduates."
The oil rich kingdom has one of the world's largest disparities between male and female employment, with a gap of 23%, according to a recent Gallup poll, arabianbusiness.com reported.
An increasing number of firms were insisting that women had to be unmarried to qualify for employment; this violated the kingdom's workforce regulations, reports said. "Some private companies are stipulating conditions such as a woman shall be recruited only if she is single or not pregnant if married," Hatab al-Anazi, a ministry spokesman, is reported to have told the paper Arab News. "[That] is against the regulations approved by the ministry."
Saudi Arabia attracts constant criticism from human rights groups for its systemic discrimination against women.
Last September King Abdullah, who has taken some tentative steps towards loosening strict gender segregation, announced that women would be able to vote in the 2015 local elections and for the consultative assembly.
In January the government enforced a law allowing Saudi women to be employed in lingerie and cosmetic shops, following a campaign by the women's rights activist Reem Asaad. Previously women had to purchase underwear from male shop assistants. The plan is that by the end of this year women will replace men in stores selling abayas, the traditional black cloak worn by women.
Last month a poll of working women in Saudi Arabia by YouGov and Bayt.com found 65% wanted to achieve greater financial independence through their careers. Those under 25 also wanted to make use of their educational qualifications.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Saudi Arabia has decided to approach the problem of women and Sharia law in a novel way: plans are afoot to construct an all-female city, geared towards working women, reported RT.com.
The city is slated to be built in the eastern city of Hafuf, and is slated to create around 5,000 jobs in a variety of industries. Women will be in leadership roles.
According to RT, the Saudi Industrial Property Authority, otherwise known as Modon, is behind the (rather inefficient-sounding) scheme, which hopes to finally use the capabilities of women to improve Saudi Arabia.
Read more: Women of Saudi Arabia - National Geographic
"I'm sure that women can demonstrate their efficiency in many aspects and clarify the industries that best suit their interests, their nature and their ability," said Modon deputy-director-general, Saleh Al-Rasheed, to Saudi paper al-Eqtisadiah, as reprinted in RT.
According to Al Bawaba.com, plans are afoot to construct a second female-only industrial city in an yet-to-be-determined location. The website added that a recent poll found over 65 percent of working women in Saudi Arabia wanted to achieve greater financial independence.
Many also wanted to actually use their educational credentials - a serious concern for Saudi women, who graduate from university in ever-increasing numbers but find it difficult to find employment.
Read more from GlobalPost: Saudi Arabia's Sarah Attar makes Olympic track history
Al Arabiya news reported in June that over 78.3 percent of female university graduates were employed, a number that included 1,000 PHD holders.
Al Arabiya reported that although Saudi women's participation in the workforce has leapt to 14.4 percent, from a mere 5.4 percent in 1992, it's still the lowest number in the Gulf region. —www.shafaqna.com/english
Source: Global Post