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Sri Lankan beauty queen and Mrs. World pageant titleholder Caroline Jurie, has pledged her support to the country’s less privileged children. She plans to use her new-found fame to inspire and empower children in the island nation.

Caroline Jurie, a mother of a two-year-old girl, hailing from a middle-class family from Kandana, a suburb of capital Colombo, has always aspired to be a model, though she had never walked on a ramp, till she competed for the Mrs. Sri Lanka pageant. 

Jurie has also launched a social project called “Be You”, to help children suffering from mental illnesses. In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency in Colombo, Jurie said that it is important to “always be you and not change yourself despite criticism”.

“Always be who you are and don’t be afraid,” she said. She hopes that her life story can contribute to the social movement to encourage youth and children to pursue their passion and goals, without being victimized by social norms and constraints.

Jurie represented her country at the Mrs. World 2020, a beauty competition for married women, held on Dec. 2019 at the grand finale in Las Vegas, U.S.

Soon after returning to Colombo with the crown, she hosted a Christmas Party, inviting underprivileged children and those orphaned in the Easter bombings last year in April. The event brought together over 250 children, who enjoyed snacks, games, and gifts.

“My main intention of this campaign is to motivate youth especially, girls to expand the traditional and cultural boundaries which restrict creativity and free-thinking,” she said.

She wants to continue with the “Be You” project, even after giving up the crown. She aims to target children all over Sri Lanka, especially orphans and those with mental illness.

“My ultimate aim is to uplift and empower all children in my country, especially the less fortunate,” Jurie told Anadolu Agency.

A Sri Lankan Health Ministry report in 2017 had disclosed that around 7% of youth in the island nation attempt to commit suicide, indicating that behavioral problems were appearing a serious challenge.

Title did not come on a Platter

Jurie said she has discovered an alternate way to heal mentally ill children.

“When children suffer from such illnesses, they are asked to take medicine. But I have found another way to cure and that is to talk to them. Let them share their problems, and also use techniques of meditation and yoga. Ultimately, it is not only about medicine, but about using love and care, “she said.

Sharing her experience, Sri Lanka’s most glamorous woman said many children, mostly orphans are reticent. “Since they do not have parents, they do not express themselves. But it is only a matter of time. When you sit, start talking and loving them, they do become confident and communicative,” she said.

After completing her education, Jurie had moved to Dubai to pursue a career as a sales executive, where she met her soul-mate Nishantha Deepal. She gave up her career to pursue her dream of becoming a beauty queen.

The title did not come on a platter. While she sailed through the national pageant easily, it was a daunting task to compete at the international level. First, it was a lack of sponsors and then visa issues with the U.S. mission became obstacles. The U.S. Embassy rejected her visa twice. But ultimately her steadfastness succeeded. She returned to Colombo with a title.

Although her “Be You” project focuses only on children living in Sri Lanka, Jurie said that she is willing to expand it to cover other countries.

“All I want is to bring a smile to the faces of disadvantaged children.”

Jurie plans to spend time with children orphaned in the Easter attacks. “Those children need love, and I want to spend time with them and make them feel loved,” she added.

Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, Kimia Alizadeh, has announced that she is permanently leaving her country for Europe.

The 21-year-old wrote in an Instagram post explaining why she was defecting, “Let me start with a greeting, a farewell or condolences,” “I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran who they have been playing with for years.”

Alizadeh became the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal after claiming bronze in the 57kg category of Taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Affectionately known in Iran as “The Tsunami,” Alizadeh announced she was leaving her birth country amid searing criticism of the regime in Tehran.

“They took me wherever they wanted. I wore whatever they said. Every sentence they ordered me to say, I repeated. Whenever they saw fit, they exploited me,” she wrote, adding that credit for her success always went to those in charge.

“I wasn’t important to them. None of us mattered to them, we were tools,” Alizadeh added, explaining that while the regime celebrated her medals, it criticized the sport she had chosen: “The virtue of a woman is not to stretch her legs!”

Reports of her defection first surfaced Thursday, with some Iranians suggesting she had left for the Netherlands. It was unclear from her post what country Alizadeh had gone to.

On Friday the head of Iran’s Taekwondo Federation, Seyed Mohammad Pouladgar, claimed Alizadeh had assured both her father and her coach that she was traveling as part of her vacation, a trip he claimed was paid for by the Iranian government. He dismissed the reports of Alizadeh’s defection as politically motivated rumors amplified by the foreign media.

Alizadeh confirmed the rumors Saturday, saying she “didn’t want to sit at the table of hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery” and that she did not want to be complicit with the regime’s “corruption and lies.”

“My troubled spirit does not fit with your dirty economic ties and tight political lobbies. I wish for nothing else than for Taekwondo, safety and for a happy and healthy life, she said adding that she was not invited to go to Europe.

She said the decision was harder than winning Olympic gold. “I remain a daughter of Iran wherever I am,” she said.

Her defection came amid anti-government protests in cities across Iran Saturday and international pressure after Iran admitted it had accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger airliner, killing all 176 people aboard.

Canada, Sweden and other countries whose citizens died on the plane have increased demands on Tehran to deliver a complete and transparent investigation against the backdrop of fresh US sanctions on Iran and a dangerous escalation with Washington.

“Iran will continue to lose more strong women unless it learns to empower and support them,” said US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus about Alizadeh’s defection.

Source: CNN

Brigid Kosgei, Women’s marathon world record holder will return to defend her championship at the 2020 London Marathon, organizers said on Monday.

Kosgei of Kenya set the women’s world record last October in two hours, 14 minutes and four seconds marathon, shattering Paula Radcliffe’s world marathon record, which no woman had come close to in the past 16 years. 

Six months before the Chicago record-breaking run the 25-year-old won the London Marathon for the first time and she is not hesitant about coming back to defend her championship with other elite lineup of Kenyan runners.

“I am very much looking forward to returning to the London Marathon,” Kosgei said in a statement.

“Last year was an incredible year for me and it started by winning in London. Coming back will be very special and I hope it can be the start of another memorable year.”

Fellow Kenyan and world record holder Eliud Kipchoge, who broke the two-hour mark in an unofficial event last October, has already confirmed that he will be defending his London title.

Other elite Kenyan runners to grace the field this season includes 2018 London Marathon winner Vivian Cheruiyot, three-time Berlin marathon champion, Gladys Cherono and current world champion, Ruth Chepngetich.

Joyciline Jepkosgei, the 2019 New York City Marathon champion, will also feature on the start line in London.

Jepkosgei and Kosgei are currently joint top of the Abbott World Marathon Majors Series XIII with 25 points apiece.

To this end, everyone looks forward to the 2020 London Marathon which has been slated for coming April  26.

Bolivian opposition senator Jeanine Áñez has declared herself interim president of the South American country following Evo Morales’ resignation.

Ms Áñez said she was next in line under the constitution and vowed to hold elections soon.

Her appointment was endorsed by Bolivia’s Constitutional Court.

Lawmakers from Mr Morales’ party boycotted the session, and the former president branded Ms Áñez “a coup-mongering right-wing senator”.

Mr Morales has fled to Mexico, saying he asked for asylum there because his life was in danger.

He resigned on Sunday after weeks of protests over a disputed presidential election result. He has said he had been forced to stand down but had done so willingly “so there would be no more bloodshed”.

How did the senator become interim president?

Ms Áñez, 52, is a qualified lawyer and a fierce critic of Mr Morales. She was previously director of the Totalvision TV station, and has been a senator since 2010, representing the region of Beni in the National Assembly.

As the deputy Senate leader, Ms Áñez took temporary control of the body on Tuesday after Bolivia’s vice-president and the leaders of the senate and lower house resigned.

That put her next in line for the presidency under the constitution.

The parliamentary session to appoint Ms Áñez was boycotted by lawmakers from Mr Morales’ leftist Movement for Socialism party, who said it was illegitimate.

“Before the definitive absence of the president and vice president… as the president of the Chamber of Senators, I immediately assume the presidency as foreseen in the constitutional order,” Ms Áñez said to applause from opposition lawmakers.

Bolivia’s highest constitutional court backed her assumption of power.

Writing on Twitter from Mexico, Mr Morales condemned the “sneakiest, most nefarious coup in history”.

How did we get here?

Mr Morales, a former coca farmer, was first elected in 2006, the country’s first leader from the indigenous community.

He won plaudits for fighting poverty and improving Bolivia’s economy but drew controversy by defying constitutional limits to run for a fourth term in October’s election.

Pressure had been growing on him since contested election results suggested he had won outright in the first round. The result was called into question by the Organization of American States, a regional body, which had found “clear manipulation” and called for the result to be annulled.

In response, Mr Morales agreed to hold fresh elections. But his main rival, Carlos Mesa – who came second in the vote – said Mr Morales should not stand in any new vote.

The chief of the armed forces, Gen Williams Kaliman, then urged Mr Morales to step down in the interests of peace and stability.

Announcing his resignation, Mr Morales said he had taken the decision in order to stop fellow socialist leaders from being “harassed, persecuted and threatened”.

He fled to Mexico as unrest erupted on the streets of the Bolivian administrative capital, La Paz, with angry supporters of the socialist leader clashing with security forces.

After arriving in Mexico City on Tuesday, he thanked Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, whom he credited with saving his life.

“While I have life I’ll stay in politics, the fight continues. All the people of the world have the right to free themselves from discrimination and humiliation,” he said.

Source: BBC

Saudi Arabia’s state security agency says a social media post on one of its accounts that categorised feminism as extremism was a mistake.

The promotional video categorised feminism, homosexuality and atheism as dangerous ideas and warned Saudis to be vigilant against them.

The security agency says it is investigating the video.

Saudi Arabia is trying to shake off its image as one of the most repressive countries in the world for women.

The animated clip was posted to the Twitter account of the State Security Presidency over the weekend. The agency reports directly to King Salman.

The agency said in a statement that the video contained multiple mistakes and the makers of the video did not do their job properly.

The Saudi Human Rights Commission also released a statement saying that feminism was not a crime. However, it did not make reference to homosexuality or atheism.

Saudi Arabia has no written laws concerning sexual orientation or gender identity, but judges use principles of Islamic law to sanction people suspected of extra-marital sexual relations, homosexual sex or other “immoral” acts, according to US-based Human Rights Watch.

The video has been criticised by human rights groups including Amnesty International.

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director, said: “This announcement is extremely dangerous and has serious implications for the rights to freedom of expression and life, liberty and security in the country.”

The video comes as Saudi Arabia continues a programme of reforms, many of which focus on women’s rights.

The government lifted a long-standing ban on women driving in 2018 and made changes to the male guardianship system this August, allowing women to apply for passports and travel independently without permission from a man.

They were also given the right to register births, marriage or divorce.

However, women continue to face numerous restrictions on their lives, and several women’s rights activists who campaigned for the changes have been detained and put on trial. Some of them alleged to have been tortured in prison.

Men who had supported the activists’ cause or defended them in court were also arrested.

Source: BBC

Star Media Group’s Esther Ng was honoured at the Asian Women Entrepreneurs Awards in the Media and Communications category.

The company’s chief content officer was bestowed the award by the Malaysia Chinese Women Entrepreneurs Association (MCWEA) for her experience and work in the Star Media Group’s transformation to a digital-first media outlet.

Ng said it was good that the achievements of women in the media industry were acknowledged and honoured.

“I stand somewhat alone in this, in that there are so few female editors-in-chief among the main media in the country.

“It’s time, not just to sit up but stand up for ourselves. We need to mark and celebrate each milestone we achieve. In the tough and challenging world that is the media industry, editors of mainstream media need to stand together in combating fake news.

“Real news has become a necessity,” she said when met at the presentation ceremony at the Sunway Hotel Resort and Spa on Tuesday.

This year marks the second edition of the Asian Women Entrepreneurs Awards, which was founded last year with the aim of promoting women leadership in business in the region.

MCWEA president Datin Sri Jessie Wong said the awards honour outstanding women leaders who play a significant role in shaping Asia’s business landscape in the next few decades.

“These winners represent the diversity within Asia’s business landscape and the awards recognise these businesswomen as role models for their excellent achievements and contributions towards the industry and nation-building.

“MCWEA seeks to encourage, enhance and empower businesswomen in contributing towards the development of community, industries and the building of national economy,” she said in her speech.

Other winners include Sunway Group exco member Susan Cheah who bagged the Lifetime Achievement Award and Miss Fashion World president Isabelle Liow who took home the MCWEA most outstanding contribution award.

Source: The Jakarta Post

Small-scale fishers of the Western Cape have for the first time been granted access to fishing during the 2019/20 west coast rock lobster season as part of the transition to the new small-scale fishing sector.

This was announced by the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy, following a series of stakeholder workshops with fishing communities in the Western Cape.

“There was a general call for interim relief fishers to continue fishing for the next season and for fishers on the declared small-scale fishers list to be granted access to fish,” said the Minister adding that, in considering the requests from communities, the Department had been instructed to fast-track the roll-out of the small-scale fisheries sector in the province.

The Department was also directed to provide a transition from the current interim relief arrangement to a permanent and more structured small-scale fisheries sector in the Western Cape.

Minister Creecy says that it is imperative for small-scale fishers to be granted access to fishing while they are waiting on their 15-year fishing rights to be allocated. These 2 749 fishers were declared for the first time in 2018 as small-scale fishers as part of the roll-out of small-scale fishing sector in Western Cape. Minister Creecy also noted that the current interim relief dispensation will continue taking into account that some interim relief fishers have already signed contracts for the West Coast rock lobster 2019/20 fishing season. As a form of transition, the department has amended the interim relief lists to include fishers who have been declared small-scale fishers to be part of this last interim relief dispensation. Interim relief fishers and small-scale fishers will equally share the west coast rock lobster allocation allocated to them for the West Coast rock lobster 2019/20 fishing season.

During the Minister’s engagements, concerns were also raised about caretakers in the interim relief dispensation exploiting fishers.

“It is for this reason that in preparation for the West Coast rock lobster 2019/20 fishing season there will be no caretakers,” said the Minister.

All fishers will be required to sign a letter of authorisation drafted by the Department on the amended interim relief list for 2019/2020 fishing season. Interim relief fishers are to nominate an individual who will execute specific and spelled-out tasks on behalf of Interim Relief (IR) fishers. On signing, each fisher is given an opportunity to indicate which marketer they have signed with. This will also allow fishers who have not signed a contract to choose who they want to market their products without being influenced on the choice of marketer.

The person authorised by the majority of fishers in a community to assist interim relief fishers will be able to assist in the completion of permit and license application forms, collating all the

necessary supporting documents required by the Department, and ensuring that fishers do not sign more than one contract at a time. Among other responsibilities, the authorized person will also have to ensure that each fisher is able to exercise their right to enter into a contract with a marketer of their choice, submit completed permit and vessel application forms to the Department; sign landing slips and, if necessary, nominate additional fishers to assist with signing of landing slips against IR community’s permit; and assist any fisher with any information relating to the permit such as total of fish landed, information about export permits, and the like.

One of the many challenges raised by fishers was that the Western Cape small-scale fishers list did not include all small-scale fishers in the province and in that the process was not fair. As a result of the unhappiness among fishers about the final list of the declared small-scale fisher in the Western Cape Province, Minister Creecy appointed BDO auditors and advisory firm to conduct an investigation of the small-scale fisheries registration and verification process, as well as the final list of small-scale fishers for Western Cape Province.

Following the receipt of the preliminary findings of the probe, the Minister is considering the appointment of an independent panel to review the appeals of all unsuccessful applicants, and for it to provide a revised list of fishers who can be declared as additional small-scale fishers to the Minister for a decision.

Source: All Africa