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UN reports Norway as the happiest country in the world

Once again, the United Nations revealed which are the happiest countries on Earth through the 2017 World Happiness Report.

This year, Norway got the first place after three years pursuing Denmark’s leadership on this ranking. Therefore, Norway is now officially considered the country with the happiest inhabitants in the world, but what does that mean?

This UN’s report compares 155 countries in total and some of them are usually in the top 10, like Switzerland or Iceland, and no, it is not just a matter of money. According to the report, other factors are equally important such as “caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance”.

To complete the top 10 there are also Finland, Holland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.

Is the UN’s World Happiness Report useful for all countries, as it can increase a healthy competition between them? Or can we see it as a strategy to attract tourism?

Here’s Richard Sharpley’s, Professor of Tourism & Development (from the University of Central Lancashire), opinion on the issue:

“To be honest, although these reports on ‘happiest countries’ and ‘happiest cities’ are interesting, I’ve often wondered what the point of them is….. and to answer the second question first, no, I don’t think either the production of the reports, or trying to become a ‘happy’ country, is a strategy to attract tourism. People may be intrigued to visit a county that is reported to be ‘happy’ but, ironically perhaps, a country that is deemed to be happy in terms of wealth, health, culture, etc. would not necessarily try to promote tourism, given that tourism is generally utilized as means of achieving economic growth and development… (and happiness?).

Then what is happiness after all and why do we measure it?

“More generally, ‘happiness’ or perhaps ‘contentment’ (the former can be more immediate and transitory than the latter) is both subjective and an individual state of being – I’m sure there are plenty of happy people in Norway (and everywhere else) but equally, undoubtedly there are less- / unhappy people in Norway too. I think the main benefit of these reports is that they indicate the kind of contextual factors that may underpin a person’s sense of well-being and happiness: freedom (of choice), a sense of community / belonging, income (or rather, equality of income) and so on – some of these are cultural and hence ‘within’ a country, but many are dependent on good governance, which is where much can be learned from these reports.”, he concluded.

 

 

UN reports Norway as the happiest country in the world

Once again, the United Nations revealed which are the happiest countries on Earth through the 2017 World Happiness Report.

This year, Norway got the first place after three years pursuing Denmark’s leadership on this ranking. Therefore, Norway is now officially considered the country with the happiest inhabitants in the world, but what does that mean?

This UN’s report compares 155 countries in total and some of them are usually in the top 10, like Switzerland or Iceland, and no, it is not just a matter of money. According to the report, other factors are equally important such as “caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance”.

To complete the top 10 there are also Finland, Holland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.

Is the UN’s World Happiness Report useful for all countries, as it can increase a healthy competition between them? Or can we see it as a strategy to attract tourism?

Here’s Richard Sharpley’s, Professor of Tourism & Development (from the University of Central Lancashire), opinion on the issue:

“To be honest, although these reports on ‘happiest countries’ and ‘happiest cities’ are interesting, I’ve often wondered what the point of them is….. and to answer the second question first, no, I don’t think either the production of the reports, or trying to become a ‘happy’ country, is a strategy to attract tourism. People may be intrigued to visit a county that is reported to be ‘happy’ but, ironically perhaps, a country that is deemed to be happy in terms of wealth, health, culture, etc. would not necessarily try to promote tourism, given that tourism is generally utilized as means of achieving economic growth and development… (and happiness?).

Then what is happiness after all and why do we measure it?

“More generally, ‘happiness’ or perhaps ‘contentment’ (the former can be more immediate and transitory than the latter) is both subjective and an individual state of being – I’m sure there are plenty of happy people in Norway (and everywhere else) but equally, undoubtedly there are less- / unhappy people in Norway too. I think the main benefit of these reports is that they indicate the kind of contextual factors that may underpin a person’s sense of well-being and happiness: freedom (of choice), a sense of community / belonging, income (or rather, equality of income) and so on – some of these are cultural and hence ‘within’ a country, but many are dependent on good governance, which is where much can be learned from these reports.”, he concluded.

 

 

Headscarves at workplaces: to use or not to use?

This week, all newspapers came out with an article about European Union’s intention of banning headscarves. In some countries like Germany, Austria, France, Belgium or the Netherlands this already part of the law. However, why is the EU so interested in expanding the idea?

Apparently, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) defends that this ban should be applied to internal company rules in order to avoid any kind of political, philosophical or religious signs at workplaces.

Nonetheless, if the EU is looking for ways of creating equality at workplaces, does that mean they have the right to tell people (specially women) what should they wear? And if so, where are the basic rights of Humankind?

This is how some women, who use headscarves on a daily basis, responded to this possible law:

Safeia El Jack, an 18-year-old journalism student, also told us what she thinks about this issue…And she might leave you thinking about it:

“I think it slightly goes in conflict with basic freedom rights. Although the ban does not discriminate against the religion itself and rather on religious clothing, it still denies someone the ability choose to express it outwardly. If employers do not allow Islamic headscarves to be worn in workplaces, then I can only expect all religious clothing to be included in this ban. As someone who has worn the scarf for only a couple of years now, I would feel violated if my workplace came in and imposed this ban and I feel bad for women who are in this predicament who have worn it for a longer period time than me. What are they supposed to do? Pick their job/career or their faith?”

 

Do British people want Scotland to leave the UK?

Photo by Joana Coimbra

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scotish Prime-Minister, announced this week that Scotland will go through a second referendum on whether or not they should leave the United Kingdom. After the BREXIT referendum, the UK is now facing another possible “break-up” between countries and since every day thousands of people cross borders within the UK countries, we decided to go to Preston train station (the last big stop before Scotland) to find out what is the people’s opinion about Scotland leaving the UK:

Women’s rights: the struggle to end domestic violence

This year, Vladimir Putin approved a law that decriminalises domestic violence in Russia, a country where more than 600 women are killed inside their houses every month, according to the Russian Police statements.

Now, even more people are afraid that the situation will get worse. According to this new law if the victim is not “injured enough” to go to the hospital, and by this we mean no broken bones for example, the person responsible for the injuries will be punished by 15 days in prison or a fine, if it just happened once in a year.

Olga Batalina, one of the authors of this amendment, justified her arguments to the BBC, by saying that “for us, it is extremely important to protect the family as an institution”. On the other hand, Irina Matvienko, spokesperson from a women’s help centre in Russia (called Anna), guaranteed to the BBC that “domestic violence is not a regular fight within families” and that “we are talking about a systematic behaviour” which can be very “dangerous if the law allows it”.

After international women’s day, we talk about domestic violence towards women and how their rights are still far from being respected…

“I believe that women are starting to empower each other and that, hopefully in a few years, all these problems and non sense laws will be over”, says Rosário Campos, a master’s student in Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom. However, Rosário agrees that a “lot of work is still needed” specially when it comes to “education”:

“If politicians keep implementing these kind of amendments, that means that boys and girls at school will grow up learning that it is ok to injure people you love…And if we go that way we are going backwards.”

Valéria Romanciuc, a 23-year-old Russian living in London, says she feels “embarrassed” and “sad” after hearing the news from her country:

“I’ve always been very proud of my country, even with all its flaws, but this year is definitely a sad year for women around Russia…I just hope this is all a huge mistake and like they approved the law they can also disapprove it.”

Are women fully reaching their rights in a near future? Will they stand up against this kind of policies, even if it’s not happening in their country?

For Valéria that is something “we are far from reaching, even though a lot has been done”, as for Rosário “education is the key” but “not just the one at schools, at home as well by watching moms and dads respecting each other”.

Zachari Duncalf, lecturer in Sociology at the University of Central Lancashire, goes further by saying that reaching gender equality “is similar” to “solving poverty”:

“We have, no doubt, moved in strides towards equality in some areas but as society develops and changes new inequalities arise in new areas. Secondly, what does equality look like? You can have two women exactly the same age, background, class, in the same job, lifestyle etc and one will feel equal to their male counterparts and the other will feel completely unequal. Both are just as valid positions and experiences.”

We hope, however, that gender equality is not that similar to poverty…But the truth is that both issues urge for a transformation in order to establish peace amongst every human being.

Irish scandal: the lost motherhood of so many women

Throughout the last century, in Ireland, many mommy and baby homes, supervised by nuns, were the homes of what media called “the children of sin”. Daughters and sons of single women were separated from their biological mothers and given to adoption, like the story that inspired the film “Filomena” with Judi Dench.

During the late 1990s allegations of wide scale abuse within Irish Catholic child care institutions began to surface. Subsequent media reports compelled the Irish Government to commission an investigate report that took 9 years to assemble. The Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (The Ryan Report) was published on May 2009 and drew on overwhelming witness testimony to establish that Catholic priests and nuns had abused children for decades, and that said abuse was endemic within Church run institutions and orphanages.

Now, it is estimated that more than 800 children were buried near those houses because of the high rates of back then.

“This is very sad and disturbing news”, said Katherine Zappone, Irish Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, to the Irish Sun.

“It was not unexpected as there were claims about human remains on the site over the last number of years. Up to now we had rumours. Now we have confirmation that the remains are there, and that they date back to the time of the Mother and Baby Home, which operated in Tuam from 1925 to 1961. Now it is about remembering and respecting the dignity of the children who lived their short lives in this home. We will honour their memory and make sure that we take the right actions now to treat their remains appropriately”, she continued.

On international women’s day we talk about motherhood and how lives are changed forever for bad political, social and religious choices and practices.

How important is an investigation on this scandal? Are we finishing a story or starting a new chapter? Will many people come out of their shadow to tell their stories? And if so…What’s the reason behind after so many years?

We tried to talk with the Mother and Baby Homes Comission of Investigation, but we were told by Ita Mangan, the director, that the investigation is being conducted in private in order to guarantee confidentiality to people who are now seeking help.

However, Deirdre Carroll, outreach advice worker at the Irish Women Survivors Support Network (IWSSN) North West, spoke to us about her work in helping women survivors:

“We believe that Survivors deserve committed support to enable their recovery and make progression in their lives. Through practical support and advocacy, we can make a transformative effect in regards to severe poverty and inequality; poor mental and physical health; isolation & feelings of disempowerment.”

The IWSSN supports, advises and campaigns for Survivors of the Irish institutional care system who live across the UK and attended institutions between the 1930s to 1990s.

“Many survivors have poor mental and physical health, and are experiencing long term trauma”, she continues: “Many have tried to supress their experiences, yet the ongoing developments in Ireland (notably the recent findings in Tuam County Galway) can trigger an onslaught of painful memories”.

Therefore, according to Deirdre, the IWSSN first priority “is to provide support to all survivors that make contact with the service, to provide compassion and empathy, to ensure they understand that they do have a service in which they can place their trust, who will listen with a considerate ear, and respond with practical advice and support”.

Even though we still don’t know how this story is going to end, because more interesting and devastating facts can be uncovered, one thing we know for sure: being a mom is a big part of being a woman, and losing that right left certainly a lot of scars for the rest of these Irish women’s lives.

 

Gender issues: how are younger generations being influenced

It is not new that in the 21st century people are getting better and more opportunities to express themselves freely, but this week an orange bus (from a Catholic group called Hazte Oir) was spreading the following message in the streets of Madrid, Spain:

“Boys have penises, girls have vulvas. Do not be fooled.” and “If you are born a man, you are a man. If you are a woman, you will continue to be one.”

2000px-whitehead-link-alternative-sexuality-symbol

The anti-transgender message was supposed to walk around the country, if some activists along with Madrid City Council wouldn’t have stopped this bus. Apparently, the idea came as a response to a Spanish transgender group of activists whose latest slogan was: “There are girls with penises and boys with vulvas. It’s as simple as that.”

If on one hand Madrid City Council’s spokesperson said that Madrid is “a city free of discrimination, violence and attacks on minors” and, on the other hand, the president of Hazte Oir argued that the group has freedom of speech and, therefore, can protest agaisnt “laws of sexual indoctrination”…Who is going to win this battle? Are we reaching any conclusions? Are children, nowadays, even more confused about gender?

When questioned about the rivalry between the Church and the LGBT rights, Ann-Marie Cobb, a Church Worker living in Preston, Lancashire, reported that the “world is moving ever closer to gender and transgender equality” and showed her hope “that the religious community should be able to express its beliefs regarding gender issues but not expect those of no or other religions to live according to their beliefs, nor to expect a secular government to pass laws to this effect.”

And when it comes to the collision between freedom of speech and the chance to spread messages of hate and how this might have some impact on younger generations, Ann-Marie made her point clear on how children should not grow up in “confusing” environments: “I think that for children and young people, teaching about several genders can be confusing, and so I think gender education especially, in primary schools and early secondary schools, is confusing and that such decisions should be reserved until a later age.”

Nonetheless, for not-so-young generations, like students at universities, some policies are already being put into practice, like transgender toilets, but what else can we do? Which measures should be taken?

 

captura-de-pantalla-2017-03-03-a-las-13-57-48
Credits: Joana Coimbra – University of Central Lancashire, UK.

 

For Ann-Marie, this is still an unclear point: “I am unsure, I think the universities should implement policies where those who seek to discriminate and employ hate towards those of an LGBT orientation or those who are transgender, are reprimanded for their behavior. But other than that I can’t think!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being in the film industry: the Oscars influence on younger generations

Last Sunday, was the 89th Academy Award ceremony, also known as the Oscars, in Los Angeles and, although, this is a moment of glamour and elegance we can guarantee you this is much more than that. Every year billions of people all over the world stop their lives to watch the greatest film ceremony and to wonder who is the best actress or the best film director of the year.

However, being passionate about the film industry is not the only thing that keeps people, and specially the younger ones, close to the TV. The Oscars ceremony is also an opportunity for actors, actresses and film directors to go up on stage and share their message to the world.

This year, for instance, Viola Davis won the award for “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” and “Moonlight” was named “Best Picture”. These are two examples of the Afro-American “victory” in the film industry, which can only mean one thing: a powerful speech.

“Very clearly, very clearly, even in my dreams this cannot be true. But I’m done with dreams because this is true.” Barry Jenkins (“Moolinght” director)

Moonlight

 

 

 

“I hope that this is inspiring little black girls and brown boys who are watching us at home and who are still marginalized and take some inspiration from this beautiful group of artists.”

Adele Romanski (“Moonlight” producer)

Last year, Leonardo DiCaprio talked about the climate change, and in 2015 Patricia Arquette expressed her thoughts about women’s rights…So where do these powerful speeches lead us? How important are they to younger generations in the film industry?

We interviewed Danny Scott, a Film Production student from the University of Central Lancashire, who believes that the young ones “have to be able to believe they can achieve success within the film industry”:

“I believe if you do not have a goal to win or at least make a meaningful impact on society then the film industry will forever purely be a hobby. You have to invest time, resources and energy in becoming the best version of yourself you can be. However that is not too say that I believe that other people’s opinions should completely determine how you see yourself as a filmmaker. I do believe that recognition for a filmmaking is the goal for many up and coming individuals. Speeches that are showcased at the Oscars can definitely have a very powerful impact on an individual. If you understand and have appreciation for where the person receiving the award has come from. This results in you being able to relate to that material.”

On the other hand, for Danny the speeches are also “political at times” which may “become tiresome” and “deters people away from listening to the messages that the celebrities are putting forth to the public.”

This might be just Danny’s opinion but, one thing we know for sure: the Oscars ceremony will always influence attitudes through its speeches and everything it represents…Whether it is the willing to succeed in the film industry, or simply by influencing people from all over the world to achieve their dreams (whatever they are).

Music icon: Forever 27-year-old Kurt Cobain would be turning 50 this month

It is hard to imagine that if Kurt Cobain was still alive, he would be turning 50 years old this month. From creating an iconic and unforgettable music band to developing a new music genre, Cobain’s legacy is as important in the music industry as it is in society.  The music legend achieved so much in just 8 years of his very own band Nirvana, which makes us think how powerful he would be nowadays if he could still spread his messages of hope and equality in the world.

kurt

“I’m disgusted by my own and my generation’s apathy. I’m disgusted at what we allow to go on, by how spineless, lethargic and guilty we are of not standing up against racism, sexism and all those other ‘isms’ that the counterculture has been whining about for years while they sit and enforce those same attitudes every night on their televisions and in the magazines.” (Kurt Cobain)

Just like many other young artists, like Amy Winehouse or Jim Morrison, Kurt went away too soon by taking his own life at the age of 27. However, his short period on Earth was lived to its fullest and that is why we can, must and still remember him:

  • His forever-young figure is still modern and iconic
captura-de-pantalla-2017-02-21-a-las-0-47-58
Photo: Jesse Frohman/jessefrohman.com

Being the face of grunge music allowed him to become an icon, but not just in the music industry. Kurt was, and still is, the fashion role model for any young person who wants the Nirvana-way-of-life: not caring about perfection. His blonde careless hair, along with his pale skin and large jeans still reflect the teen spirit, the one we should never lose if we are a Kurt Cobain’s fan.

Photographed by David Sims, Vogue, September 2013
Photographed by David Sims, Vogue, September 2013

 

“He was an avowed feminist and confronted gender politics in his lyrics. At a time when a body-conscious silhouette was the defining look, he made it cooler to look slouchy and loose, no matter if you were a boy or a girl. And I think he still represents a romantic ideal for a lot of women.”

(Alex Frank, editor at The Fader magazine, on Kurt Cobain’s fashion influence)

 

 

  • His honest and not-so-poetic lyrics still make sense

For someone who once said, in 1991, that he does not “understand anything technical about music at all”, Cobain was not that bad after all. Many artists still quote him today in their lyrics and it seems that Kurt’s trick to writing good stuff was actually very simple: just be you and write about anything you want, disregarding any musical rule.

“With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us” (Smells Like Teen Spirit)

“What else should I be
All apologies
What else could I say
Everyone is gay
What else could I write
I don’t have the right.” (All Apologies)

  • The way he spoke to his fans is still appreciated nowadays

If Kurt Cobain was still alive he would definitely have a lot to say about today’s society, especially if the main issues are body movement, genre roles or regarding the LGBT community. Kurt was active in expressing himself carelessly as well as he was in motivating others to do the same.

“If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of a different colour or women please do this one favour for us – don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records.” (Kurt Cobain)

How would 50-year-old Kurt Cobain react to present times? Unfortunately, we will never know the answer to that but one thing is certain: Kurt Cobain “smells” and always will “like teen spirit”. Nonetheless, and even though he would be unlikely to be active on social media accounts, we are pretty sure he would still be very popular without making any effort.

Is Instagram revolutionising politics?

It is a 21st-century technology, firstly designed to share pictures from our daily lives beautifully filtered and coloured and mainly used by young people. But, as years gone by, Instagram became one of the world’s favourite social media app’s…And even politicians understood how this tool could be incredibly useful if you want your “followers” to become your “voters”.

Happy Anniversary. 💕

A post shared by Barack Obama (@barackobama) on

Forget all about old-fashioned politics with serious, conservative and grey people.

Who will ever forget USA’s very own and already very missed…President Barack Obama?

The good news is that he is not alone in this digital revolution.

Meet the President of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, and do not be foolish by thinking that a 53-year-old politician, and serious person indeed, cannot be successful on Instagram.

He might have more followers than you will ever have.

With 22,7k followers on his social media account, Mr. Pahor not only puts Slovenia in the digital world map, as he also proves that being a celebrity President is not something exclusive from the United States of America.

Leading his country since 2012 and facing elections again this year, Borut Pahor shares pictures of all kinds. From state meetings to casual family trips, Slovenia’s President is keen to show to his people how happy he is in his daily life.

But what do people think about active social media politicians? Do they truly believe that Instagram is a powerful source to influence people?

“Our president is very present on all social media platforms and other media, which gives him a lot of recognition all around the country. He is really trying to be people’s president, down to earth and in touch with all the residents no matter the socio-economic background. But at the same time the president might have to look a bit more professional than he is. I like it that he is not some intouchable persona without connection with his voters, but I would rather see more outcomes from his presidency. I realize nowadays it is not possible to avoid (social) media since it covers their every move and it is a great way to attrack voters, but if you use this communication channels as a president you need to be careful not to give the wrong impression.”, says Nina Buh, 24, from Slovenia.

On the other hand, and from a more optimistic point of view, 21-year-old Patricia Naguiat, from Canada, gave her opinion on her Prime-Minister:

“I follow Justin Trudeau on Instagram and, originally, I followed him because I adored him as a person, but doing so has benefitted me by keeping me connected with the current policies and changes back home in Canada. I think, yes, definitely he benefits from his account, especially when it comes to communicating with the younger generations. I think my generation specifically, feels more connected with Justin Trudeau because of his constant use of social media.”

Canada’s Prime-Minister, Justin Trudeau, has also become highly popular on Instagram. Still looking young and handsome, Mr. Trudeau also puts modern politics in perspective,  every time he posts a not-so-traditional picture for a politician’s account.

Whether we are talking about pictures of a healthy lifestyle, family gatherings, or important political debates and issues, the truth is that these, still very serious men, are making politics great again. With or without influence on his supporters or potential ones, “social media politicians” are literally sharing with the world that they are humans too and, therefore, one of us. Nevertheless, by becoming active on Instagram politicians are giving space to everyone to comment on what they are doing, which can be seen as a brave step for someone who is caring a country on his/her shoulders.

captura-de-pantalla-2017-02-20-a-las-19-22-28

Modern, active, open-minded and definitely not grey, but filtered and coloured instead, they are part of their country’s people and culture and they seem to look forward to continuing being an everyday presence in their people’s lives.