Sunday, 13 April 2014

Child labour - what can we do about it?

Worldwide, about 200 million children work , often full-time and are deprived of adequate education, good health and respect for fundamental human rights. Over 60 million children do not have any kind of education. This is a well-known problem and we keep seeing pictures of children working on social media. What can we do as consumers to ensure that the children on this earth have the childhood they deserve? Shouldn’t all children be playing instead of working? This is a complex issue.

Photo: GiveAwaySmile
The article 12 in the  UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children and young people have the right to be the actors of their own lives and to participate in decisions that affect them: Here we can read:

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

"The child should be provided the opportunity to be heard..."

Watching our children play fills our hearts with joy and love. We would give anything we could to our children and we would do anything for them, wouldn't we? But not all parents can do so. In many countries this is a dream that doesn't even exist...

Most of us give our kids all the love we can and many of us also often buy them toys and a lot of fashionable clothes. In the free time we spend time playing with them, trying to make sure they will have good memories of their childhood. We take them to the cinema and to the zoo, we invite their friends and arrange parties for them. We do anything we can to make them happy. When they grow up and ask for a pair of Converse shoes we buy them, often without thinking of who have produced them. We don't know and perhaps we don't want to know either. 

There are a lot of multinational companies that have been accused for using children as workers. Even at Apple a lot of cases of child labour have been disovered among Chinese suppliers. In 2005 the International Labor Rights Fund and Global Exchange  sued Nestlé and its suppliers for the use of enslaved labour and also Coca-Cola is probably one of the most boycotted multinational companies in the world. Due to the globalization multinational corporations , but not only, a lot of companies have moved their production to the poorest countries and for us consumers is more difficult to follow the policy .

According to UNICEF, there are more than 150 million children in the world who carry out jobs that endanger their physical and mental health, and condemn them to a life without entertainment or education. According to the organization The Child Labor Coalition 25-30 children a day die from work. The phenomenon of child labour is mainly concentrated in the poorest areas of the planet. According to the ILO (International Labour Organization) , 74 million children in the world are employed in various forms of hazardous work , such as working in mines, in contact with chemicals and agricultural pesticides or dangerous machineries. In addition, one million children each year are victims of sexual exploitation for commercial purposes. But there is also good news. According to UNICEF since 2002 ther has been a decrese of the number of children doing hazardous work, especially in Latin America and in the Caribbean.

What can we do as individuals combat child labor ? According to Melanie Gow, Manager at World Vision Australia, boycotting is not always the best solution. You have to find some good strategies that last over time. She writes that the company Levis Strauss offers education to children under 14 years instead of work and then take them to work after they have finished their studies. She explains that we can make our voices heard by writing to our favorite stores and ask about their policies on child labour. Melanie writes:

"We can all help by taking small initiatives such as contacting our local retailers and importers and asking them about their policies on child labour. This could mean asking about the products they buy from overseas or about the use of outworkers in Australia. Do they have any checks in place which help ensure that child labour is not employed to make their products?
If you are thinking about buying a carpet, ask traders about the availability of Rugmark and Woolmark carpets. As consumers we should be supporting those manufacturers and brands that don’t use exploitative child labour.

We can contact consumer bodies and pressure them to bring their trading practices into line with our consumer expectations."

There are also petitions on the internet that we can sign. Also campaigns such as Fair trade can do a lot .

In the meantime , let's try to get informed before buying an item. Let's think about what is best for the children and do our very best to use the power we have as costumers. Do you agree?


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The Italian cuisine

When talking about Italian food pasta, pizza and risotto are the first things that come to our minds. We are used to eat Spaghetti alla Bolognese or pizza with a lot of stuff on it. But what is Italian food? Is it healthy or not? We often hear that t he Italians eat far too many carbohydrates. Is it true? 
Pasta with broccoli - photo: Jessica Giandomenico -

Spring is coming and a lot of people talk about carbohydrates. We can read about diets in magazines and online and many of them are almost without carbohydrates. We know that Italians rarely have a dish without bread and they are known for pasta and pizza meals, but is it true that the Italian cuisine is unhealthy?

Actually it's not easy to talk about Italian food, because Italy has only been a unified country for 150 years , and each region has its own specialties. Sometimes the same recipe can change from village to village , but there are some peculiarities that all regions have in common and one of these is that each meal traditionally includes several dishes. But why?

I recently had some Swedish friends at my flat me in Rome, and when we went out to eat, I realized how little Swedes know about the Italian cuisine. While Swedes eats pasta with proteins , such as meat and fish dishes , it is a first course in Italy. If we take a look at the history of Italy we can easily understand why .

Tuna with arugola. Photo: Jessica Giandomenico -

Try to imagine a traditional Italian family with 5-6 children where the mother is a housewife and only the father works . This is what a  "normal" family looked like not too long ago in a land that traditionally lived on agriculture. Even today, the first course is important to many families. When you have eaten some pasta, you aren't as hungry as when you started eating and the meat or fish will cost less. It is also important to keep in mind, that traditionally an Italian meal is the climax of the day for the whole family. Therefore, it should last a while.

I have had the pleasure to spend time with families like above. Mothers waiting home the others and everybody having lunch together communicating. I actually also know a family where it is the contrary, the father is the one waiting for the wife and two children for lunch. I spent last Sunday lunch at their home and we sat at the table for......4 hours!

All these things need to be considered when putting the budget for the shopping at the supermarket: How many people have to eat with the money we have? How long are we going to spend at the table? How much time can we use for cooking? Vegetables are very cheap ad an important component of the Italian cuisine. The traditional meal always ends with fruit.

During my years in Italy I have spoken to some nutritionists and they agree that the carbohydrates are needed in our lives since they give us energy. Carbohydrates are the fuel for the brain to work as the central nervous system and muscles , says my friend and nutritionist Francesca Quattrone. The Mediterranean diet is a balanced diet , she explains , it gives us everything we need. She advises to follow the Mediterranean diet by eating carbohydrates like pasta for lunch, because the energy is consumed during the day, and the to eat a light meal in the evening consisting based on vegetables and meat, fish or eggs.
Vegetables at the market: Photo Jessica Giandomenico

What Francesca describes is just the way the Italian families used to eat a long time ago, before women started working outside the homes. They ate pasta, rice or soup as first course " primo " and meat , fish, eggs or cheese and vegetables for the main course, " secondo " and it finished with fresh fruit. For dinner they ate proteins such as meat, fish or eggs and vegetables and a piece of bread or potatoes.

What might be considered the most unhealthy meal in Italy is the breakfast, which traditionally consists of cookies and milk at home or coffee and pastries, " cornetto " in the bar. For a long time I asked myself why mothers mixed " kids biscuits " in the children's baby bottles until I realized that these biscuits are studied to contain the correct nutrition for the children. Right or wrong? I don't know...
Fresh asparagus - Photo: Jessica Giandomenico -

According to the UN, many countries have had problems with overweight due to junk food  this is true. In many industrialized countries we don't have time enough to sit and enjoy a home cooked meal but we have to et fast calories and we often don't have time to do enough exercise.  Italy is no exception , but the rate of overweight people are 8-9 percent for about 10 years, compared to e.g. the US where almost 70 percent are overweight. Maybe we should go back to old habits?


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Can we be addicted to the internet? - Yes, we can.

A lot of people are talking about internet addiction today and some are wondering where the limit is. When can we start talking about addiction? Some of us are even wondering if it is possible to become addicted to the internet. Is it?

Photo: Malahini Solutions

According to the Italian newspaper la Repubblica  ( ) Italy would be  opening a processing section for IAD in Parma, in the Italian region of Emilia Romagna. IAD stands for Internet Addiction Disorder and in 2009 the first Italian division to cure this desease opened in one of Rome's largest hospitals, Policlinico Gemelli . Since 2009, hundreds of patients have received treatment there. The city of Torino has also followed this example where you now can get support at the hospital Le Molinette .

In the online magazine I read and listened to an interesting interview with Professor Federico Tonioni, who is responsible for the Department of IAD at the Policlinico Gemelli hospital in Rome. He says that since 2009 more than  300 people have been treated for IAD and 80 % of these are young people. All of them had social problems and also issues to follow their studies.

Some people spend up to eighteen hours online on social network and online games. Some kids are just 10-12 years . Professor Tonioni says you can talk about Internet addiction when the person also has social problems and shuts himself to the world. In many cases, the computer screen is a defense against the outside world , as many consider it to be easier to have relationships with other people in social networks than in real life.

It is important to understand how people live to understand if we can speak of addiction. If a person works but spends all his free time on the internet then there is a problem , but it does not mean you are addicted.
In the interview with Professor Tonioni speaks about a boy who was on treatment at the hospital. He had begun a relationship with a girl through Facebook. After several months of treatment, he found the courage to ask her out to meet each other for real. The first time he went out to meet her without the protection from the data screen he got drunk before to find the courage. This was the beginning of their relationship but eventually he managed to meet her and to establish a relationship.

Professor Tonioni has written a book called " Quando Internet diventa una droga " ( When the Internet becomes a drug )  where he advises the parents to avoid to rudely take the computer from the kids. As in other forms of addiction anxiety can lead to aggressive reactions. The best way to face this problem is to sit with the kid by the data screen and take part of the young person's feelings. Professor Tonioni concludes the interview by saying that we parents should try to change themselves before asking the children to change. 

Some years ago we often heard that parents should watch TV with their children, now you should also be with them as they surf the internet and play games. It is a way to participate in their children's lives. It is also very important to be aware of any changes in the kid's social life and relationships.

How do you know if you are addicted or not? Well here are some things to think about:

Do you get anxious if you are in a place without the internet?
Do you have fantasies or dreams about the internet?
Do you withdraw from social life because you prefer the computer?

Personally, I love the internet for what it gives me when it comes to communication wordwide, but I have never played a computer game, I wouldn't have time. According to Tonioni, there are people spending up to 18 hours a day playing computer games on the internet and this is frightening...

Saturday, 5 April 2014

About turning 50 - feelings of gratitude

I have lived in this world for 50 years now and feel so grateful . I have so much to thank for . First of all for my wonderful daughters , and for the strong mother who welcomed me when I unplanned ended up in her arms. I am grateful also for all others who are close to me now, and for those that were so before. I am very thankful that I met a special person, who taught me what love should be like and how wonderful it is. Life is amazing, and every year my life has improved. I want to continue like this! I want to continue to wake up every morning with a feeling of gratitude for being here, for being healthy and  surrounded by love and friendship. Thank you !

Photo: Leonardo Imperatori

When my sister suggested that I should have 50th birthday party , I fought hard against her persuasion . " I don't care about birthdays ," I tried . "Why should I celebrate that I get older ?" etc. BUT - now I can say that I am glad  she actually made ​​me change my mind . "Of course you should celebrate that you were born!", she said, "It's wonderful to have lived half your life and to have achieved so much!" and so on. And well -  I have always appreciated the humble people who are brave enough to change their minds, so I decided to become one of them.

Photo: Leonardo Imperatori

An idea started to take place in my mind. What if I could get all my lovely friends to get to know one another? What if I could simply arrange a party with dance and snacks, where old and new friends could meet and make friends? Said and done ! I involved my oldest daughter, who has lots of friends who are musicians and who are very dear to me.  "There must  be a theme for a birthday party", somebody said . I did not think long before I got it "Peace & Love" I said.

Photo: Camilla Bisogno
Peace and love was the theme. With peace and love my friends came to my birthday party . Old friends I had not seen in 10 years due to lack of time and for long distances . New friends , who I got to know very recently but who have already showed true friendship . Friends, students, and relatives from Sweden and my wonderful daughters. About 70 people managed to come and we danced all night. My nephew who opened the dance by inviting me up to dance to "Dancing Queen " , my oldest sister who gave a speech in Swedish while a friend translated it into Italian. Happiness, love and gratitude were the feelings I had and that fill me even now when thinking back on the wonderful evening.

Photo: Leonardo Imperatori

I had been lucky enough to celebrate my birthday in Sweden with the rest of my family already, with those who could not be in Rome for the party. On the other hand I know so many more people in Rome than in Sweden by now so it felt important to celebrate here.
Photo: Stefania Fedeli

I couldn't stop some tears of happiness to fall,  but that was a great feeling. It is fantastic to feel so happy that you cry. ..So my message is this: Never miss a chance to celebrate! And do not be afraid to cry tears of joy . It is wonderful to be happy - let happiness come in when knocking on the door. 
Best of wishes 


Friday, 4 April 2014

How much does a priest at the Vatican earn?

 I read a very interesting article in the newspaper Il Messaggero the other day, which explained how much the Vatican pays  the Catholic priests. I can not imagine somebody becoming a priest for any other reason than being "called". Once upon a time, a long time ago , there were many families that wished that at least one of the children would become a priest, since this would keep them away from poverty and famine. I do not think that anybody has this idea today, and the information gathered below confirms that it is not for the money that somebody becomes a priest.

Photo: loungerie

An Italian priest earns on average 1,000 euros net per month , according to "Il Messaggero" . That's about as much as a factory worker. Priests with more experience can get up to 1200 and a little more if he also teaches religion in schools.

The Cardinals are the ones who receive the most money from the Vatican State. 5,000 euros is what they get in their payrolls. A bishop earns "only" half as much, about 2,500 euros.

How much does the Pope earn? Pope Ratzinger had an income of 2,500 euros a month. Pope Benedict XVI also gets money from the books he has written, of course. What about Pope Francesco then? Jorge Mario Bergoglio certainly did not become a Pope for the money. Actually, he has no income at all! Of course, there is a fund in which Francesco can retrieve the money he needs, but it is known that he is against luxury. He has made many economic changes in the pay slip the Vatican staff receive . He has , among other things. abolished the bonus that the staff and the Cardinals could get and thus saved a lot of money.

We are aware of the fact that the Catholic Church helps a lot of poor people. The organization Caritas provides food and moral support to many Italians because the Italian state is very often completely invisible . And here is some good news! In Bergamo Bishop Francesco Beschi has come up with a nice initiative that Pope Francesco will surely like.

800 priests in the Bergamo area will donate their salaries to people in the region who have lost their jobs. Many companies have been forced to close as a consequence of the severe crisis in Italy and a large number of workers are now unemployed. 800 priests are now going to donate their salaries to help the unemployed. Every priest will donate the entire salary , i.e 1,000 euros. The bishop is going to donate all his income , about 2,600 euros. There will be a total amount of over 800,000 euros which will be placed in a fund to help the Province of Bergamo Province back on the feet again.

The Pope will certainly be happy!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Stories of hope - The boy who harnessed the wind

There are stories that make me moved to tears and fill me with hope for the future and humanity. An example of this is the story of an African hero, a genius - William Kamkwamba - the boy who harnessed the wind.

Photo: William Kamkwamba private

Two of my students brought this wonderful story the other day. Their teacher had given them as a task to read about his life in English and tell the story in the classroom . I am very thankful that I also got to know about this story in this way.Together we read and watched videos online.

Who is then William Kambkwamb ? William is a young inventor from Malawi in Africa. When he was 14, he had to stop attending school. It cost about 80 dollars a year to study and his family could not afford the fee. He returned to his family's farm in the poor village Masitala . William loved to read and wanted  to learn. He missed school and the education so much that he often went to the library where he read as much as he could, especially about Science.

In 2002 there was a terrible drought , and thousands of people died around William. Also William and his family suffered from famine. He became thinner and thinner together with his parents and six sisters. His parents could only afford to give the children a small portion of maize porridge a day . William had read books about windmills that could produce electricity so he decided to build one. He went to a scrapyard and started collecting broken items.During the day, William worked on the farm with his family. Every evening, he worked on his windmill.  It took him two months to build a windmill of broken bikes , tractors and other materials he found. The habitants of the vllage laughed at him, and even his mother thought he had gone mad .

But when he put a light bulb in the windmill it lit up everyone present started clapping hands and laughing. His family has had electric power at home since that day. People started queuing outside the family's home to use the electricity. Then he built more windmills that also pumped water. The 14 -year-old William probably saved many in his village from dying of starvation.

Journalists and bloggers started coming and William was invited to Tanzania to tell his story. The audience was very moved and he was invited to continue his studies in the United States. William got a scholarship to continue studying and has since then created more windmills around his home village but also other green energy sources.

Together with Bryan Mealor William wrote the book "The boy who harnessed the wind" , which eventually also became a children's book . The books soon became bestsellers .

William continues to help his homeland and his ambition is that everyone in Malawi will have water and electricity. He travels around and tells his story . I like showing videos of him to my young pupils. " Believe in yourselves ! Never give up , no matter what happens ! " are important messages that he gives to his audience. 

Time magazine nominated William as one of 30 people under 30 who have changed the world .

William, I am your fan . Go, go, go ! I believe in you! Thank you for being a fantastic inspiration to all of us , but especially to the youngsters of today .


Wednesday, 2 April 2014

On 2 April is the World Autism Awareness Day, established by the UN. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that manifests itself during the first three years of life. The rate of autism in all regions of the world is high and has a tremendous impact on children, their families, communities and societies. 75% of adults suffering from Autism are unemployed. But things are improving and the awareness day will hopefully teach us more about autism. 

Photo: mikeyono2005
There is good news! Companies have started to employ adults who suffer from this disorder. The Danish IT company Specialisterne employ people with autism to work with databases, software testing and programming. The company focuses on the strengths of people with autism : Attention to detail, low tolerance for mistakes, perseverance and loyalty. Specialisterne is currently active in ten countries around the world and collaborates with multinational companies like Nokia , Cisco, Microsoft and Oracle.

In Italy, the cosmetics company L'Oréal launched a long-term project to employ people with autism. The goal is that in the regular workforce engage young adults with autism into work with databases , filing , packaging, quality control and safety.

I had already heard that the global IT company hires people with autism because they are so thorough . With autism mean the full autism spectrum that includes autism , Asperger's syndrome and other pervasive developmental disorders .

What is Autism?

We hear more and more about autism today , but I have a feeling that not many people really know what the diagnosis means. I want to know more and dig into the homepage: :

Autism is a congenital or early acquired profound disabilities. The symptoms appear before the age of three. Autism often occurs together with other disabilities like mental retardation , epilepsy , visual and hearing impairments . More boys than girls are diagnosed .Autism comes from the Greek word autos , meaning self . Autism is one of the diagnoses within the autism spectrum that also includes Asperger syndrome, a typical autism and childhood disintegrative disorder .

For a child to be diagnosed with autism entails a substantial and qualitative limitations in three main areas ( they usually call this classification for Wings triad , by researcher Lorna Wings studies on autism in the 70s) ;

* The ability for social interaction ,* The ability for mutual communication ,* Imagination which affects the imagination , play, behaviors and interests.

Restrictions should be so severe that they affect the child's everyday life and the symptoms of autism should have been found before the age of three. Some very common difficulties that can be added are:  difficulties are mental retardation , epilepsy, visual and hearing impairments and speech impairments. Other common symptoms are abnormal sensory reactions , abnormal activity level, abnormal eating behavior , self-injurious behavior , tics and sleep abnormalities estimated 80 percent of the individuals diagnosed with autism have an IQ under 70.

Limited capacity for social interaction of people with autism have difficulties with social interaction, which is evident already at a young age . Lack of reciprocity and reduced ability to empathize with other people's perspective is the main problem.

Autism is a lifelong disability that can not be cured. However, children with autism should be helped at an early age by well-planned and individually tailored educational efforts .Research shows that it is extremely important to inform and train parents and other people in the child's environment at an early stage.y This, along with appropriate support helps the child develop. Efforts must be based on knowledge of autism and how it affects learning ability. One of the main goals is to help the child develop effective communication.

Adolescents and adults often need continuing educational efforts to maintain and further develop their skills. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an example of  of teaching strategies and approaches in everyday life for people with autism.

Now - let's hope that companies will continue to employ people with autism. Below find a video of success stories from companies that have chosen to do so.