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New Social Compact

Blood Knot: Sleeping Woman as a Prophet, Part 1

Abigail George



I will not smile because that is not what attracts you to me. Instead it is fire. Instead it is sitting in the school benches once upon a time, Anne Tyler’s breathing lessons, Anne Tyler’s celestial navigation, driftwood, and a forest of winter trees, the force of the night swimmers, the beach and making each one in its exclusivity sound poetic.

Sound the most exquisitely poetic. Sound like the most high, most pure and chaste vision that you can visualise and see all-knowingly and make you want to believe that it is to be standing right in front of you. What is the first memory, the first desire, the primitive attraction and separation anxiety of the magnificence of creativity in the origins of the organisation of feminine intelligence in contemporary poetry? Is the proper voice not the voice of the lover, the voice of the child full of jubilant innocence?

The voices of mother and father in unison giving their child their first standing ovation, grandparents in attendance looking on priggishly mere caretakers of the illumined situation? How quickly pasts are mended, futures are healed and mended? Here is the beginning stages of the organisation of the origins of feminine intelligence. She is schooled in thoughts of culture, a masculine wisdom, vision, and educated by an otherness in luminous stream of consciousness thinking, writing. We need to be drenched in both perspective and identity. Our winning power (that which will never cease) lies in trying not to destroy everything that is above us, and that we believe in. Even our failures must inspire us. For the woman who can’t have children her infertility must inspire her to greater heights.

Whatever was taken was the brightness from the air that made up the shine of artistic genius and it was given to me like the besotted Milky Way, the smitten tangled fabric of the stars from the universe at night, the moon and stars inseparable intuits from the beginning of time. Both pulling down the shine of artistic genius a veil as thick as a tapestry. Is the sanity of a female poet as graceful as a shipwreck left to the gracious mercy of being the bride and bridegroom of nature as we think it is? Aren’t we all, aren’t you, yes, you aren’t we all just a little bit at the mercy of the creativity’s elusive artistry. Its ravishing blues, the breakdown to end all breakdowns, the be all and end all of the nervous breakdowns? Is it just chemical?

Is the sexual impulse, and that drive just the glamourous rub of love, as glamourous as lipstick? Does the female poet promise that it, her words can never be more than that?  Sometimes I catch myself saying those words without really meaning to say it, to say them. I try and detach myself from the glowing artful truth of them. Composing stillness, a courageous stillness, the stillness of intelligence, which is a feminine intelligence is poorer for having known the poverty of the world, and spiritual poverty. With all of the perversions that we discover in this world. With the intimacies, braveries, warriors we learn to let go, surrender if you will. We must or how can we live? We are all waiting for gifts. As a reward for futility or to take upon as just another responsibility.

There was a journal full of darkness in this most primitive of landscapes. Where winter promises snow, the harvesting of into the black, of one bleak and desolate landscape after the other the female poet projects herself into the canvas of her work. Her life becomes the poetry. Art mirrors life. Life mirrors art. The reflection of the female poet is a studious, effortless and conscientious project. The female poet wants to repent so go on then let her. The female poet only has to be wild and knowledgeable. She only has to be a thief of words and a healer. She only has to understand that the ocean-sea carries its burden as she carries hers, that of thief and cognisant healer. She is an animal with a gull’s wings and fortitude. She instructs, she corrects, she astonishes, she admonishes and she knows that to live in this world she has to be the swan. She has to swim.

But she must also have the insight of the ugly duckling, the Cinderella phenomenon, the Plath effect. A female poet knows when to sing, when to be mischievous, when to be the swimmer, the bride, give in to the environment, nature and when to love until she can feel it humming in her bones, giving into it through the fabric of her skin. The female poet in love knows when to surrender. The female poet when casting spells knows when to surrender. The words are there for us to go back to like a complicated film of us in a breath-taking way. A female poet does not need the eye of the public to watch her every move to know that she has made a difference in the world. She only needs a child’s all-knowing eyes.

From memory and desire the female poet in war knows when to surrender and that in the letting go comes a slight reprieve and the assembly of a tender scattered multiplicity of things that grow in the wild nature if you will. When it comes to rain it always dances like the gestures of imagination, and like the chilled earth in your hand that roses grow from, that fields of grass wrestle with themselves in, trees are not the interlopers but merely angels in another dimension with their branches acting like wings. You can tell yourself that here’s the breakthrough I’ve been looking for. Here’s the book of secrets my heart’s been longing for. And then you will realise that these are all gifts within the hours of your quiet desperation.

And that the vision of the female poet is in full bloom when she stands at the mouth of a river or not. When she’s hungry, whatever the origins of her beauty is, and most especially when she’s gone underground like some animal seeking shelter from the elements. There she stands. Blooming beautifully with her gift. Her poetry is fresh. It is her pound of flesh. It is her Renaissance. Isn’t the ancient dust under her bare feet delectable, hard won although it is a romance that is as good as dead, and she wants evidence of the cities, of life there because she doesn’t think she’ll make it if she’s plain? If she’s ordinary, if her madness is staggeringly ordinary and most of all if her poetry is not useful, pure enough.

Abigail George is a feminist, poet and short story writer. She is the recipient of two South African National Arts Council Writing Grants, one from the Centre for the Book and the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council. She was born and raised in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Cape of South Africa, educated there and in Swaziland and Johannesburg. She has written a novella, books of poetry, and collections of short stories. She is busy with her brother putting the final additions to a biography on her father’s life. Her work has recently been anthologised in the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology IV. Her work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She briefly studied film.

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New Social Compact

Seven Out of 10 Top School Systems Are in East Asia Pacific

MD Staff



The East Asia and Pacific region has seven of the top ten performing education systems in the world, with schools in China and Vietnam showing significant progress, according to a new World Bank report released today. This is a major accomplishment that offers important lessons to countries around the world. In the rest of the region, however, up to 60 percent of students are in under-performing schools that fail to equip them with the skills necessary for success.

Growing Smarter: Learning and Equitable Development in East Asia and the Pacific argues that improving education is necessary to sustain economic growth and highlights the ways that countries in the region have been able to improve learning outcomes. Drawing on lessons from successful education systems in the region, it lays out a series of practical recommendations for key policies that promote learning so that students acquire foundational skills in reading and math, as well as more complex skills that are needed to meet future labor market demands.

Providing a high-quality education to all children, regardless of where they are born, isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s also the foundation of a strong economy and the best way to stop and reverse rising inequalities,” said Victoria Kwakwa, World Bank Vice President for East Asia and Pacific.

A quarter of the world’s school-age children – some 331 million – live in East Asia and the Pacific. Up to 40 percent of them attend school in education systems whose students are ahead of the average students in OECD countries. These schools are not only in wealthy countries such as Singapore, Korea and Japan, but also in middle-income countries such as China and Vietnam. And, as the report highlights, student performance isn’t necessarily tied to a country’s income level. By age 10, for example, the average Vietnamese student outperforms all but the top students in India, Peru and Ethiopia.

But many countries in the region are not getting the results they want. In Indonesia, for example, test scores showed students were more than three years behind their top-performing peers in the region. In countries such as Cambodia and Timor-Leste, one-third or more of second graders were unable to read a single word on reading tests.

Another key finding of the report is that across the region, household incomes do not necessarily determine children’s educational success. In Vietnam and China (Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces), for example, students from poorer households do as well, if not better, in both math and science, as compared to average students in the OECD.

Effective policies for the selection, motivation, and support of teachers as well as sound practices in the classroom are what determine how much students learn. For policymakers looking to improve their school systems, allocating existing budgets efficiently, coupled with strong political commitment, can make a real difference in the lives of children across the region,” said Jaime Saavedra, the World Bank’s Senior Director for Education.

The report lays out concrete steps for improving learning for lagging systems in the region and beyond, starting with ensuring that institutions are aligned so that objectives and responsibilities across the education system are consistent with each other. The report also urges a focus on four key areas: effective and equity-minded public spending; preparation of students for learning; selection and support of teachers; and systematic use of assessments to inform instruction.

The report found that top-performing systems spend efficiently on school infrastructure and teachers, have recruitment processes to ensure the best candidates are attracted into teaching, and provide a salary structure that rewards teachers with proven classroom performance. It also found that schools throughout the region increased preschool access, including for the poor, and have adopted student learning assessment into their educational policies.

The report complements and builds on the World Bank’s World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realize Education’s Promise, which was released in September 2017 and found that without learning, education will fail to deliver on its promise to eliminate extreme poverty and create shared opportunity and prosperity for all.

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New Social Compact

UN women’s commission opens annual session at ‘pivotal moment’ for gender equality movement

MD Staff



Secretary-General António Guterres (left) and Geraldine Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN and Chair of the sixty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), at the opening of the session. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Taking place at “a pivotal moment for the rights of women and girls,” the United Nations body dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment opened its annual session on Monday hearing calls to help women, especially those in rural communities, secure an end to the male-dominated power dynamic that has long marginalized their participation and muted their voices.

“Across the world, women are telling their stories and provoking important and necessary conversations – in villages and cities; in boardrooms and bedrooms; in the streets and in the corridors of power,” said Secretary-General António Guterres, opening the 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62).

“From ‘MeToo’ to ‘Time’s Up’ and ‘The Time is Now’ […] women and girls are calling out abusive behaviour and discriminatory attitudes,” he added.

Under the Commission’s theme ‘Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls,’ the UN chief observed that although a marginalized group, they were often the backbone of their families and communities, managing land and resources.

Mr. Guterres said that supporting these women is essential to fulfilling our global pledge to eradicate poverty and to create a safer, more sustainable world on a healthy planet – 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Mr. Guterres painted a picture of a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture in which centuries of patriarchy and discrimination have left a damaging legacy.

Calling it “the greatest human rights challenge of our time,” he said “progress for women and girls means changing the unequal power dynamics that underpin discrimination and violence.”

“Discrimination against women damages communities, organizations, companies, economies and societies,” he continued. “That is why all men should support women’s rights and gender equality. And that is why I consider myself a proud feminist.”

The President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Marie Chatardova pointed to the Commission, as a critical instrument to strengthen the global normative framework for women’s empowerment and the promotion of gender equality.

The body is also as a key driver of ECOSOC’s work, with the Commission’s outcomes as bolstering the 2030 Agenda’s implementation and that of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which seek to end poverty and ensure prosperity for all on a healthy planet.

Noting that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is a theme that cuts across all the Goals, Ms. Chatardova said the Commission’s focus on rural women and girls was both timely and well-aligned with the 2030 Agenda.

According to the ECOSOC President, inclusion is a key element in all efforts.

Noting that the Commission has long provided a roadmap for the UN’s work in women’s empowerment and gender equality, she announced a special Council session in May to build sustainable, inclusive and resilient societies.

Gender perspective is critical

For his part, the President of the UN General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák, noted that past challenges were approached without a gender perspective, which “has had a particularly damaging effect on rural women.”

Mr. Lajčák underscored that this needs to stop, and that women must be taken into account in all actions, from access to water to closing pay gaps.

Drawing attention to rural women as a major source of innovation, he explained that their empowerment would benefit everyone.

“These kinds of women do not need our help, in finding solutions,” he stated. “What they need is our support, in turning their ideas into reality.”

Calling gender equality “an urgent priority,” Mr. Lajčák he encouraged the Commission to carry on with its important work “until every woman, sitting in this room today has the same rights, and the same opportunities, as the man sitting beside her.’

“Thank you for continuing your calls. Let’s make them stronger than ever,” he concluded.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka highlighted the importance of this year’s focus on rurual women.

“It speaks to our commitment to fight some of the biggest challenges of our time: poverty, inequality, intersectionality and an end to violence and discrimination against women and girls, no matter where they live, or how they live, so that we ‘leave no one behind,’” she stated.

Calling it “a tipping point moment,” the UN Women chief urged the forum to seize the opportunity to secure and accelerate progress, build consensus and share best practices to serve “the poorest of the poor.”

“It has never been so urgent to hold leaders accountable for their promises for accelerating progress” on the SDGs, she said.  An unprecedented hunger for change in women’s lives was being seen around the world, as well as a growing recognition that when women banded together, “they can make demands that bite.”

“Women are fighting to take steps that change their lives, and they are refusing to accept the practices that have normalized gender inequality, sexual misconduct, exclusion and discrimination across all walks of life,” she argued.

She urged everyone to unite around the common cause, as set out in the principles of equality in the UN Charter, “to make this a moment of real acceleration, change and accountability.”

The chair, Geraldine Byrne Nason, said the current session is a key moment on the path to ending discrimination against women and girls once and for all.  Indeed, “time is up” on women taking second place around the world, she said, challenging the Commission to do more and do better.

CSW functions under ECOSOC, acting as the UN organ promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women.  CSW62 runs until 23 March.

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New Social Compact

UNESCO Rewards Outstanding Teacher Initiatives in Chile, Indonesia and the UK

MD Staff



Three programmes designed to empower teachers have been named as winners of the 2017-2018 UNESCO-Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Prize: The Center for Mathematic Modeling of the University of Chile, the Diklat Berjenjang project of Indonesia and the Fast-track Transformational Teacher Training Programme of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Prize for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers will be awarded on 5 October as part of World Teachers’ Day celebrations at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris when the each winner will receive $100,000.

The Center for Mathematic Modeling of the University of Chile (Chile) is rewarded for its Suma y Sigue: Matemática en línea (Adding it up: Mathematics online) programme which was developed to address the performance gaps in mathematics between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds and improve the quality of maths teaching in general. It is a ‘learning by doing’ programme organized by grade levels and curricula, enabling teachers to focus on their specialized area of mathematics teaching. It blends face-to-face sessions with intensive virtual instruction. The programme is scaleable, easily accessed by teachers in remote areas, and it promotes inclusion.

The Diklat Berjenjang project from Indonesia is rewarded for bringing quality professional development to early childhood teachers, notably in the poorest and most remote areas. It helps meet Indonesia’s need for teachers skilled in creating stimulating learning environments for young learners. It helps identify potential teacher trainers and provides step-by-step written guides, follow-up assignments and exchanges.

The Fast-track Transformational Teacher Training Programme from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was selected for its highly innovative and impactful approach to training teachers in various professional environments in Ghana. It promotes child-centred and play-based pedagogy in early education to replace traditional talk chalk disciplinarian methods. Practicing teachers receive a two-year training, combining workshops with smaller peer group meetings in which they are paired on the basis of their complementary strengths to engage in classroom observations and in class coaching.

The three winners were selected from 150 nominations submitted by the Governments of UNESCO’s Member States and UNESCO partner organizations on the recommendation of an International Jury of education professionals.

Established in 2009 with funding from Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum of Dubai, the Prize is awarded every two years to projects that have made outstanding contributions to improving the quality of teaching and learning, especially in developing countries or within marginalized or disadvantaged communities.

More information on the prize:

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