UScellular Now Offering Synchronoss’s Content Transfer Solution to Expedite In-Store Device Activation

BRIDGEWATER, N.J., Nov. 18, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Anticipating a busy holiday season for new mobile phone sales, UScellular, the fourth–largest full–service wireless carrier in the United States, is now offering Synchronoss Content Transfer, a solution that gives UScellular store associates the ability to easily and quickly move content from a customer's old mobile device to a new one at no cost to the customer.

Content Transfer from Synchronoss Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: SNCR), a global leader and innovator of cloud, messaging and digital solutions, is designed to streamline the onboarding of new devices by providing a means for digital content "" including photos, videos, contacts, call logs, music, documents, messages and settings "" to be effortlessly transferred between mobile phones and tablets.

Chris Hill, Chief Commercial Officer for Synchronoss, said that always–on access to digital content is no longer a "nice to have" but a "must have" as consumers increasingly integrate mobile devices into their day–to–day lives.

"Consumers have two expectations when purchasing a new device: One is that they will not lose any of their important digital data when switching hardware. The second is that they will have access to their data as soon as the new mobile device is connected to the network. Our cross–platform application satisfies both of those needs by making new device activation practically seamless for subscribers," he said.

The Content Transfer solution is an easy–to–use application that spans devices and operating systems and replaces the need for in–store equipment. It can also significantly reduce the amount of time a customer spends in a store when activating a new device.

"As we continually seek new ways to enhance our customer experience, we see the Synchronoss solution as an important addition to our customer service toolbox," said Eric Jagher, Senior Vice President of Consumer Sales and Operations at UScellular. "Content Transfer provides a quick and easy way to ensure customers can keep their important photos, videos and other data when buying a new phone, leading to less time spent in–store and more time spent with their friends and families during this holiday season."

Hill added that analyst predictions for a jump in year–over–year holiday spending in combination with the lure of new smartphone models released this year is one reason UScellular turned to Synchronoss to help store associates ensure they can easily and quickly transfer customer content to new devices.

"The addition of our Content Transfer solution to UScellular's customer service resources will help it continue to deliver an excellent in–store experience," he said.

Content transfer is one of a group of Synchronoss onboardX solutions "" a set of tools that allow mobile operators to provide the customer experience that subscribers want and drive service adoption. Additional onboardX solutions include Backup & Restore, a cloud service that gives subscribers a safe place to backup, view and restore content across operating systems and devices; Out of Box Experience (OOBE), a solution that streamlines the activation of new subscribers, services and devices; and Digital Experience Platform (DXP), which simplifies the creation, orchestration and management of online experiences and journeys.

The Synchronoss website provides additional information about Content Transfer and other Synchronoss onboardX tools that allow mobile operators to drive service adoption and deliver the customer experience that subscribers want.

About Synchronoss

Synchronoss Technologies (NASDAQ: SNCR) builds software that empowers companies around the world to connect with their subscribers in trusted and meaningful ways. The company's collection of products helps streamline networks, simplify onboarding and engage subscribers to unleash new revenue streams, reduce costs and increase speed to market. Hundreds of millions of subscribers trust Synchronoss products to stay in sync with the people, services and content they love. That's why more than 1,500 talented Synchronoss employees worldwide strive each day to reimagine a world in sync. Learn more at


Anais Merlin, CCgroup (International)
Diane Rose, CCgroup (North America)
Todd Kehrli/Joo–Hun Kim, MKR Investor Relations, Inc.

Hunger, Desperation in Lebanon as Food Prices Rocket

Poverty and hunger are on the rise in Lebanon. The World Food Programme estimates food prices have increased by 628 percent in two years. Credit: Mona Alami /IPS

By Mona Alami
Beirut, Nov 18 2021 – On the streets of Beirut, Hadi Hassoun begs for a few pounds to feed his five children. He has little hope of a job, especially now that the economic crisis in Lebanon has destroyed wealth.

The country already significantly lagged with UN Sustainable Development Goals of poverty and inequality, but the situation has gone from bad to worse.

In the past year, poverty has tripled, and one in every four children in the country are skipping meals. The Lebanese pound (LP) has witnessed a devaluation exceeding 90%, dropping from 1,500 LP to the dollar to over 22,000 LP to the US dollar. At least half of the population is suffering in extreme ways because of this situation, experts say.

The streets of Beirut are an illustration of Lebanon’s dire situation. Hassoun sits begging on the streets of Hamra. “I have five kids, and my youngest daughter has a congenital heart problem,” he explains. “So, I do my best to raise some money every day to try catering to their basic needs.”

In Beirut, the UNICEF office reported that three out of 10 children go to bed hungry or skip meals.

A few meters away, Khalid, using a pseudonym, is a garbage collector for one of Beirut’s main waste management companies. The man, in his sixties, hails from Wadi Khaled, a border town over 150 km away from Beirut.

“I do not have the means to visit them anymore because of rising fuel prices, so I send them money every two weeks, which allows them to eat basic staples such as rice and lentils,” he says. Khalid makes 60,000 LP per day, which amounts to less than $2.5 a day.

The World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that food prices have gone up by 628 percent in just two years.

According to Nassib Ghobril, chief economist for Lebanese Byblos Bank, the CPI rose by 144% in September 2021 compared with the same month in 2020, while it registered its 15th consecutive triple-digit increase since July 2020.

“The cumulative surge in inflation is due, in part, to the inability of authorities to monitor and contain retail prices, as well as to the deterioration of the Lebanese pound’s exchange rate on the parallel market, which has encouraged opportunistic wholesalers and retailers to raise the prices of consumer goods disproportionately,” Ghobril says.

He adds that the smuggling of subsidised imported goods has resulted in shortages of these products locally, which also contributed to price increases.

“Further, the emergence of an active black market for gasoline during the summer has put upward pressure on prices and inflation.”

The prices of fresh or frozen cattle meat in Lebanon jumped by 118.6% in the period, constituting the highest increase in the price of this item in the region, reported Ghobril.

In parallel, the price of bread and other manufactured articles sold went up by 32.8%, representing the third-highest increase in bread prices among MENA countries.

The impact is devastating.

“My family can barely afford bread,” says Khalid.

Lebanon falls short on the UN SDGs at every level, particularly when it comes to poverty and inequality.

Economist Kamal Hamal Hamdan explains that while there are no credible governmental statistics, at least 55% of the Lebanese population live under the poverty line.

“However, estimates actually point to 75% of the Lebanese population falling under the poverty line. This number goes up to 85% in extremely poor areas such as North Lebanon or the Baalback Hermel area,” points out Adib Nehme, a Lebanese development and poverty consultant.

However, both Ghobril and Hamadan believe these statistics may not consider the various sources of income of Lebanese in the form of aid and remittances. Lebanon received last year $ 6.5 billion in remittances from Lebanese expatriates.

Before the crisis, the wealthiest 10 percent of the population owned almost 70 percent of total wealth. Nehme underlines that around 73% of the Lebanese population earned 2.4 million LP per month before the crisis.

“If these people managed to keep their jobs despite Lebanon’s meltdown, this means that around three-quarters of the population earns around $120,” says Nehme.

Additionally, Hamdan underlines that around 60% of wage earners in the pre-crisis era contributed to 25% of the Lebanese GDP, which has worsened.

The financial crisis plaguing Lebanon has created further inequality. The poor and the middle class have been the hit hardest. When they have the luxury have bank accounts, their funds are frozen, and when withdrawn, the funds earn a lower than the black-market rate.

The richest and politically connected have been able to transfer their funds despite the unofficial capital control imposed by Lebanese banks.

“One has to keep in mind that around 963 depositors own $23billion, that is not considering these people’s wealth in land and investments. There is growing polarisation because of concentration of wealth, with Lebanon’s economic collapse,” says Nehme.

Hamdan and Nehme believe this is leading to the disintegration of the country’s social and economic fabric.

“This could lead to growing social pressure and transient violence across the country,” says Hamdan.

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Why Seed Companies Fear México

Maize drying in San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By Ernesto Hernández-López 
ORANGE, California, US, Nov 18 2021 – Last month México’s Supreme Court provided hope for biodiversity, especially in the Global South, while flaming fear for seed companies. In a historic step, it ruled for corn advocates and against genetically modified (GMO) corn. The decision was a momentous act in country where maíz (corn) carries daily and sacred significance.  

This promises a way out of stale GMO debates that plague us. One side argues that genetic changes to seeds increase harvests. Seed companies and industrial agriculture make up this side. Another side says GMOs damage plant DNA.

Small-scale farmers and environmentalists stand on this side. Neither addresses the other. This standstill keeps GMO policies ineffective. The court’s decision offers a path out of this by cutting at seed company positions. We should follow slow grown Mexican resistance to GMOs.

By emphasizing biodiversity, the ruling fuels sustainable farming worldwide. In legal terms, the decision found that it is constitutional for courts to block commercial permits for GMO corn. Seed companies, like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, and PHI, need these to sell seeds in México. They lost.  

But much more is at stake than permits and court orders. These agrochemical companies pursue a global push for GMO agriculture, not just in México. Farmers worldwide worry that companies control GMO seed use (not growers) and that seeds cause permanent environmental harm. Frustrations persistently spread, evident at this year’s UN COP26 and UN global food summit.

The fear is that wind carries pollen from genetically modified plants to mix with non-GMO corn, called maíz nativo. Even if unintentional, this can’t be undone and threatens corn’s genetic variety. GMOs threaten biodiversity, required for plants to adapt to drought, climate change, and varied soil conditions

Luckily law and science are on the side of anti-GMO advocates. Because of this, México offers an example of effective legal resistance. The court stated that biodiversity is needed to allow corn plants to grow, mix genes, and adapt, as done for centuries. In other words, biodiversity is necessary for corn as a plant species to survive.

GMOs permanently hurt this. The fear is that wind carries pollen from genetically modified plants to mix with non-GMO corn, called maíz nativo. Even if unintentional, this can’t be undone and threatens corn’s genetic variety. GMOs threaten biodiversity, required for plants to adapt to drought, climate change, and varied soil conditions.

GMO proponents paint this reasoning as unscientific and emotional. They are wrong. They prejudge one country’s democratic and scientific process used to support sustainable farming.

This debate is not new. GMOs have lost in Mexican courts for years. In 2013, the Colectividad del Maíz, representing farmers, indigenous communities, environmentalists, and scientists, sued in court to halt government review of permit requests.

They argued that there were unauthorized releases of GMO genes surpassing levels permitted by México’s biosecurity law. Their central claims were that genetically modified plants mix with maíz nativo. This risks permanent damage to México’s over fifty maíz nativo varieties. Eight years ago, a trial court sided with the Colectividad. Last month, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed, after giving the Colectividad and seed companies since 2017 to make their case.

The court explained that the Precautionary Principle authorizes GMO controls to protect biodiversity. With this international law principle, governments prohibit technologies if their safety is scientifically uncertain. Think of it as way for governments to address risks in environmental, public health, or biosecurity predicaments.

Employing it, México blocks seed permits as a precaution to curtail GMO damage. This is explicitly permitted in México’s biosecurity law, passed with agrochemical industry backing in 2005. Precautionary measures are similarly supported by international laws on GMOs (2003), biodiversity (1993), and the environment (1992). In fact, Global South countries insisted that the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety explicitly include Precautionary Principle provisions.

GMO interests discount these laws to evade biosecurity measures. They deflect and tout innovation. Insisting GMOs are safe,seed companies refute environmental impacts. Deny, deny, deny, does not work.

GMO proponents flout science. Colectividad lawyers explain that seed companies preferred to not submit scientific evidence on GMO safety. This was an unforced litigation error, signaling larger problems. Observers label company justifications as fake science, because they show that GMO controls on farms fail.

For decadesmultilateral organizations and scientific studies show how GMOs threaten corn. Moreover, there is no scientific consensus on GMO safety. Put simply, GMOs damage plant genes. Scientists say that they hurt the environment and are harmful to eat.

The power of México’s ruling goes way beyond permits. It emboldens national plans to phase-out GMO corn and glyphosate, not just seeds, by 2024. So far, GMO voices stick to losing playbooks, saying this plan is not based on science. Controversies over toxic glyphosate raise more alarm. GMO farming needs this chemical herbicide. A UN agency and American courtsfound it to be carcinogenic. This has resulted court ordered payouts, creating a headache for Bayer that acquired glyphosate’s producer Monsanto.

All of this inspires sustainable farming globally. Hundreds of countries have agreed to treaties with Precautionary Principle provisions. The principle was central to crafting Mexican biosecurity measures. It can guide more governments to implement effective GMO, biodiversity, and environmental policies. Seed companies agonize thinking if more courts, regulators, or legislatures copy México.

In short, sustainable farmers, environmentalists, lawyers, and most importantly policymakers across the globe should follow México’s example. Evident in the Colectividad’s determination, resistance is the seed to sustainable success, when it combines legal, cultural, and political efforts.

Seed companies should learn that there are bigger losses than unrealized seed sales. In the long term, markets for popular legitimacy and trust from governments are far larger than demand for myopic tales on science and laws. Discussing corn, free trade ideologue David Ricardo explained the law of diminishing returns, when business choices become counterproductive. This should inspire seed makers to stop opposing precaution.

Ernesto Hernández-López is a Professor of Law at the Fowler School of Law, Chapman University (California, United States) who writes about international law and food law. 

HTEC Group Acquires Momentum Design Lab – Surpassing 1,000 Employees, HTEC fuses Silicon Valley’s Highest-rated Digital Product Design Studio to its Top Engineering Talent

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 18, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — HTEC Group, the global consulting, software engineering, and digital product development company founded in Serbia, today announces the acquisition of Momentum Design Lab, an award–winning Silicon Valley product design studio.

The acquisition, which will further strengthen HTEC's product design capabilities alongside its core engineering offering, means the company now employs over 1,000 people globally across offices in the US, UK, Netherlands, Sweden, and Slovenia. Since its inception in 2008, as a start–up in the Business Technology Incubator at the University of Belgrade, the company has grown from 250 employees in four development centers at the beginning of 2020, to now over 1,000 full–time employees spread across twelve locations in six countries across Southeast Europe.

Momentum will help HTEC build digital products that transform industries and businesses and improve the lives of people globally. Momentum's client roster ranges from 40 of the Fortune 500 companies to exciting start–ups. The company has propelled their technology clients to generate over 41 billion USD in exits or valuation.

Established in 2002, Momentum Design Lab is a pioneer of UX, CX, and product design. Rated as the top UX agency globally on B2B research platform Clutch five years in a row, the company operates from four offices across the world: Silicon Valley, New York, London, and Sydney. Momentum's industry expertise spans key areas such as financial services, healthcare, martech, media and entertainment, enterprise software and consumer products, complementing HTEC's existing engineering competencies in these fields.

"I am delighted to welcome Momentum into our fast–growing team. In Momentum we found values and a culture that matches our own "" the urge for continuous learning and professional growth, a stellar reputation among its existing customers, and a clear passion for delivering excellence when designing digital platforms and products that matter. By merging top tech talent from our engineering centers in Europe with this Silicon Valley product innovation and design–thinking mindset, we are well–positioned to offer complete digital product development and digitization services to the best companies in the world. We will continue to look for companies that share our values and culture, as part of our broader growth strategy and goal of becoming the first company from Serbia to IPO on the NYSE." comments, Aleksandar Cabrilo, the CEO of HTEC Group.

Momentum's founder, David Thomson, commented, "We've been meshing technology, empathy and imagination in our pursuit of product value and have been looking for the right partner to help scale our capabilities for several years. As a company who is inventing the possible for our customers, it was important to find a partner that matched our design expertise and customer base with world class technology talent. HTEC's deep technical knowledge exceeded our expectations and we're excited to join forces to build disruptive products, drive innovation and transform the way business is done from the inside out."

About HTEC Group

HTEC Group is a global consulting, software engineering and digital product development company that empowers the world's best high–tech companies, disruptive startups, corporations, and Fortune 500 enterprises with innovative product design thinking and sophisticated engineering services. With headquarters in San Francisco and local offices in the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Slovenia, as well as 12 tech development centers across Southeast Europe, HTEC is well–positioned to deliver sophisticated digital products and platforms across domains including Healthcare, Retail, Transportation and Mobility, Logistics, FinTech, Green Energy, Media and Deep Technology.

About Momentum

Momentum is a Silicon Valley design studio headquartered in San Mateo, with offices in New York, London and Sydney. The company offers design thinking–based and technology–driven services in digital product innovation, customer experience management, and digital transformation for which it was rated the #1 UX Agency globally on for 5 years in a row. Its customers range from startups to the Fortune 100 companies.

For media enquiries please contact Jovana Osterday, HTEC PR Manager,

1 in 2 Humans Cannot Celebrate World Toilet Day – This Is Why

A Dalit woman stands outside a dry toilet located in an upper caste villager’s home in Mainpuri, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Credit: Shai Venkatraman/IPS - World Day raises awareness of all these 3.6 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation, posing dangerous health problems

A Dalit woman stands outside a dry toilet located in an upper caste villager’s home in Mainpuri, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Credit: Shai Venkatraman/IPS

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Nov 18 2021 – Did you know that half of the world’s population do not have toilets? And that, globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces? And that every day, over 700 children under five years old die from diarrhoea linked to unsafe water, sanitation and poor hygiene?

This is the dramatic, hushed reality of 3.6 billion people who don’t have one that works properly.

“Who cares about toilets? The UN raises this question as the starting point of this 2021 Campaign for World Toilet Day, marked every year on 19 November.

The advantages of investing in an adequate sanitation system are immense, says the UN. For instance, every 1 US dollar invested in basic sanitation returns up to 5 US dollars in saved medical costs and increased productivity, and jobs are created along the entire service chain

The World Day raises awareness of all these 3.6 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation, posing dangerous health problems.

It is as simple as staggering: when some people in a community do not have safe toilets, everyone’s health is threatened, as poor sanitation contaminates drinking-water sources, rivers, beaches and food crops, spreading deadly diseases among the wider population.


Devastating consequences

This year’s theme is about valuing toilets. The campaign draws attention to the fact that toilets – and the sanitation systems that support them – are underfunded, poorly managed or neglected in many parts of the world, with devastating consequences for health, economics and the environment, particularly in the poorest and most marginalised communities.

On the other hand, the advantages of investing in an adequate sanitation system are immense, says the UN. For instance, every 1 US dollar invested in basic sanitation returns up to 5 US dollars in saved medical costs and increased productivity, and jobs are created along the entire service chain.

For women and girls, toilets at home, school and at work help them fulfill their potential and play their full role in society, especially during menstruation and pregnancy, the world body informs.

Even though sanitation is a human right recognised by the United Nations, a massive investment and innovation are urgently needed to quadruple progress all along the ‘sanitation chain’, from toilets to the transport, collection and treatment of human waste.

“As part of a human rights-based approach, governments must listen to the people who are being left behind without access to toilets and allocate specific funding to include them in planning and decision-making processes.”


Need to know more?

According to World Toilet Day, an estimated 673 million people have no toilets at all and practice open defecation as of 2017, while nearly 698 million school-age children lacked basic sanitation services at their school.

“At the current rate of progress, it will be the twenty-second century before sanitation for all is a reality.”

But there is another added problem: the plight of sanitation workers. In fact, countless sanitation workers in the developing world work in conditions that endanger their lives and health, and violate their dignity and rights.

To mark World Toilet Day, the International Labor Organization (ILO), World Bank, World Health Organization and WaterAid launched a joint report highlighting the unsafe and undignified working conditions of sanitation workers around the world.

Sanitation workers involved in cleaning toilets, emptying pits and septic tanks, cleaning sewers and manholes, and operating pumping stations and treatment plants, are typically at high risk from faecal pathogens in their daily work. They may also be exposed to chemical and physical risks, adds the report.

“Manual scavengers, for instance, are exposed to serious health hazards such as cholera, typhoid and hepatitis, as well as toxic gases such as ammonia and carbon monoxide.”

In South Asian countries, manual scavenging is widespread.

Tim Wainwright, CEO of WaterAid, on this issue said that it is shocking that sanitation workers are forced to work in conditions that endanger their health and lives and must cope with stigma and marginalisation, rather than have adequate equipment and recognition of the life-saving work they carry out.

“People are dying every day from both poor sanitation and dangerous working conditions – we cannot allow this to continue.”


Alarmingly off-track

The UN Children Fund (UNICEF) warns that the world is alarmingly off-track to deliver sanitation for all by 2030.

In its State of the World’s Sanitation Report, it also warns that despite progress in global sanitation coverage in recent years, “over half the world’s population, 4.2 billion people, use sanitation services that leave human waste untreated, threatening human and environmental health.”

Obviously, this drama is hitting the world’s poorest the most. While in rich societies people afford two or even three toilets –one of them as a guest restroom — and have auto-heating toilets which warm as they sit, half of the world’s population do not have any or at least any proper one. It is much, much more than about just a toilet.


Children Address Unequal Access to Education During Pandemic

By Rebeca Rios-Kohn
DUBAI, Nov 18 2021 – In the whirl of effort nations are making to combat COVID-19, the powerful role that children and young people can play in overcoming the harmful effects of school closures is too easily overlooked.

Children are making a difference on their own within their families, schools, and communities, while also joining forces with adults in countless compelling ways. Their efforts offer us all much hope and inspiration. But we need to do so much more to ensure they can all get back to school, and safely.

At EXPO 2020 DUBAI, now underway after a postponement, the spotlight is on the grassroots efforts and remarkable actions children themselves are taking to mitigate the global learning crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Wear My Shoes” Award, organized by Arigatou International and sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities, will be given on 19 November at the EXPO to five grassroots organizations who made outstanding contributions to mitigating the educational crisis during the pandemic in 2020-21; four of these projects were co-led by children.

The award is one part of a larger campaign organized for this year’s World Day of Prayer and Action for Children, celebrated globally on and around November 20.

Rebeca Rios-Kohn, J.D.

The award specifically recognizes exceptional efforts that focused on the most vulnerable and excluded children who were hit hardest by the pandemic and had no access to education, and which also explicitly addressed their mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Each winner will receive US$5,000 to support their continuing activities.

Increasingly, organizations working to improve the lives of children are involving them in shaping and implementing the decisions affecting their lives, fulfilling one of the key child rights set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

By recognizing the participation and engagement of children, the award also seeks to empower other children to claim their right to education, and to step forward to insist that their best interests be put at the heart of all policymaking, including COVID-19 responses.

If we listen, it is not difficult to discern the message. Children are saying it loud and clear: they want to be in school, learning, with their peers – and safely. We owe them no less.

Children are among those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, yet they are emerging around the world as key agents of change by taking concerted action to help improve the lives of their peers. Innovative activities co-led by children are taking place in many countries in response to the unprecedented crisis, with school closures leaving millions of children without access to learning.

With the support of their faith communities, in countries like Bhutan, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Myanmar, Pakistan and Serbia, for example, children are taking action to help their peers access education even when schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We should celebrate children are finding their own solutions, including to help their peers access online classes and educational materials during the education crisis, but we also need to recognize that public policy has a major impact. As inspiring as they are, children’s efforts alone will of course not be enough and the support of their local faith leaders and faith communities adds value to their efforts.

As of the end of October 2021, UNESCO warned that nearly 800 million students around the world were still affected by full or partial school closures. UNESCO further warns that school closures during the past two academic years have resulted in learning losses and increased drop-out rates, impacting millions of children, particularly the most vulnerable students.

Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on Violence against Children, has recently expressed concern stating that “school closures contributed to increased anxiety and isolation among children, along with sadness, frustration, stress, disruptive behavior, hyperactivity, and sleeping and eating disorders.”

Together with Arigatou International and UNICEF, some 18 international organizations (including faith-based organizations such as the World Council of Churches, World Vision, Religions for Peace and the International Network of Engaged Buddhists), joined forces this year on the Wear My Shoes Campaign to draw global attention to the urgency of getting children back to school.

The aim is to mobilize children and adults – including religious leaders, policymakers, parents/caregivers, and educators – to take immediate action for students’ safe return to school and to prioritize addressing the grave impact of school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

The Wear My Shoes Campaign is part of this year’s celebration of the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children 2021, an annual event initiated by Arigatou International to engage diverse faith communities to raise the status of children’s rights and help take action to end violence against children on November 20, the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Wear My Shoes Award event at EXPO 2020 DUBAI falls within the Week of Tolerance and Inclusivity at the EXPO, which seeks to foster greater common understanding to create more tolerant societies under the theme, “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,”

Indeed, our future depends on the children of today, and they depend on access to education to develop their minds and help them acquire the broad capacities for global citizenship they will need to build the better world we all dream of and which they deserve.

The message from Dubai today is that children themselves are taking urgent action to address the harms caused by the continuing education crisis. So should we.

Rebeca Rios-Kohn, J.D. is Director, Arigatou International – New York

The link to the online event on Nov. 19 at 8:30 AM EST (UTC – 05:00):

Arigatou International is “All for Children” and works with people from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds to build a better world for children. Believing that every girl and boy is a precious treasure of humanity, Arigatou International draws on universal principles of common good found in religious and spiritual traditions and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities was established to empower faith leaders to work for the safety and security of our communities, tackling issues such as child sexual abuse, extremism and radicalization and human trafficking. It aims to facilitate the building of bridges between faiths, NGOs and experts in various domains.


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Citizen Leads Drive to Repatriate Temple Gods Looted from India – Podcast

By Marty Logan
KATHMANDU, Nov 18 2021 – The illicit trade in idols and other historical treasures looted from temples, archaeological digs and various sites globally has been estimated at $100 billion a year.

A more telling figure might be the nearly 18,000 villagers in India’s Tamil Nadu state who turned out to welcome home a god figure stolen from one of their temples. More revealing still is the image of a single villager who, seeing a stolen god displayed in a Singapore Museum, falls to the ground and starts to pray.

Vijay Kumar accompanied that villager to the museum, and has witnessed idols lovingly replaced to their ages-old spots in Tamil Nadu temples.

For 16 years he has been working to repatriate gods and goddesses looted from India over the years, and the challenges remain huge, he tells us in today’s episode. For example, in 2020, police seized 19,000 stolen artefacts in an international art trafficking crackdown. 101 suspects were arrested with treasures from around the world, including Colombian and Roman antiquities. One activist estimates that in France alone there are 116,000 African objects that should be returned.

But Vijay is encouraged by the successes of citizen-led movements like his own, which began with a blog, Poetry in Stone, then the launch of the group India Pride Project.

Success can be measured in the growing number of artefacts returned to India: 19, from 1970-2000; 0, from 2000-2013; but 300+ after 2013. That includes roughly 250 items valued at about $15 million, which were repatriated in October, among the treasures looted by disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor, the subject of Vijay’s book, The Idol Thief.

Today’s conversation is packed with information, including Vijay’s opinion that countries like India and Nepal, where idols are part of the living heritage and still prayed to daily, should be treated differently than countries whose artefacts are looted from buried remains. He also has advice for would-be activists — in the murky world of art repatriation, be very, very wary about accepting money from anyone.



Mental Health: Getting to Healthy, Happy

In many countries reporting mental health issues is frowned upon – even though statistics show there is a massive need for therapy and support. This illustration is by Dilselekhika Prerna explores mental health and identity. Credit:

By Fairuz Ahmed
New York, Nov 18 2021 – “I was told to wait and cry it out. How could I explain to them that I have been crying for years? That was not the solution,” asks Azra Zeng, a divorced mother of four in an interview with IPS. “I wanted to speak to someone. I wanted to seek help where I could feel whole again. It felt that I was dying from inside, but no one could see.”

Zeng was trying to make a living and look after her children while fighting a one-woman battle with mental health issues.

She was the sole breadwinner, and her parents also depended on her. Depression and mental health issues plagued her, but due to social stigma associated with mental health issues, she could not seek help from counsellors.

“My parents were lecturers at universities, I was earning, but I could not seek help. My boss told me that it shows me as weak at work, and my record will be marked negatively if I mention that I feel depressed at times. After trying to cope for four years, I left my job and moved to another country with my children. The first thing I did was to seek therapy from a licensed professional, and now after two years, I feel alive and thriving.”

Mental health awareness and making therapy, counselling normalized and unstigmatized is a massive step for many countries, cultures and demographics.

According to an article published in Kaiser Family Foundation on February 10, 2021, one in ten adults surveyed before the pandemic reported anxiety and depressive disorder symptoms in the United States.

In 2018, over 48,000 Americans died by suicide. The numbers skyrocketed during the pandemic, and nearly eleven million adults reported having serious thoughts of suicide in 2019, and 47 million people reported having any mental illness.

A 2019 study by a British charity, Mental Health Research U.K., found that 42.5 percent of India’s corporate sector employees suffer from depression or an anxiety disorder.

The number of people reaching out for help or reporting mental health issues is not the same globally. The low-income countries and higher-income countries have massive gaps in treatment facilities, support systems, and acceptance. This is also highly influenced by cultural beliefs, norms and social acceptance.

Juniper Barua, a counsellor, working with underprivileged communities and minorities in New York for the last nine years, says, “it has been incredibly difficult to explain to parents of youth that it is acceptable to seek out counselling.”

In an exclusive interview with IPS, she said that spouses and parents often see mental health as taboo.

“They speak of how they feel and getting treatment. Counselling or even text support during a triggering phase is deemed negative. I have seen hundreds of patients who requested to keep the service secret and gave other excuses while coming to my office. Cultural and religious biases also play a major role in opening up.”

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed adults across the U.S. in late June of 2020. U.S. adults reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19. About 31% of respondents reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, 13% reported having started or increased substance use, 26% reported stress-related symptoms, and 11% reported having serious thoughts of suicide. It was also alarming that younger adults, racial and ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance usage, and elevated suicidal ideation.

Fuzia’s co-founder Shraddha says, “it is interesting to notice that most people focus on physical health when it comes to health. But when it comes to mental health, there is not much awareness. We at Fuzia understand that going through a rough time alone can make things difficult. Through our ‘Fuzia Wellness’ initiative, community support groups and paid counselling sessions, we want to stand by as a friend, sister, guide and companion”. has more than 5 million followers and an active user base on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Fuzia uses its extensive global presence to create a safe and creative space for users. For World Mental Health Day in October, Fuzia held many support sessions, drawing competitions, supporting podcasts and blogs. It used creative avenues where users could seek information about mental health, learn ways to cope, ask for help, and express themselves in a safe and judgment-free way.

Fuzia’s co-founder Riya Sinha says, “there may be off days and days when you feel like the world is crumbling down. You need to seek help from family and experts for well-round mental and physical health. As a social media platform supporting female health, we want to be there for you for your emotional and mental wellbeing. Academics, relationships, careers or other issues can be hard to deal with, and we are there for you to cope”.

In many countries, mental health is stigmatized, and because of this, people are hesitant to seek help. Innovative awareness building, ways to connect online and offline, involvement in workshops, educational institutes, workplaces and communities can promote mental health awareness.

A teenager currently in therapy, Laibah Ahmed, comments that she finds it extraordinarily comforting when celebrities speak of mental health issues.

“I have seen superstars like Park Jimin of BTS speak freely of his insecurities, saying that he felt shrunk to a room, felt hopeless, and everything was falling apart during the #BTSLoveMyself campaign by UNICEF. This gave me hope. Many of my friends and I got inspired to seek mental health support and open up about our needs. I am now seeking youth counselling through a New York-based NGO. It is great to be able to speak without judgment and have a safe space.”

The CDC states, it has been noticed that helping others is a coping strategy that can reduce the mental health impacts. Spreading messages of support by the Government and making mental health accessible can curb many issues later. Online portals like Fuzia, local NGOs, volunteers and influencers can create a significant impact in making mental health services accessible to the masses.

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