The Path to Empowerment

The main method which Shaishav uses to tackle the issues of child rights, child labour and exploitation is empowerment. Its aim is to provide children with the training and resources to identify their most pressing concerns and campaign on these problems to originate change. In this respect, Shaishav is merely a facilitator; a great deal of the work that we do is instigated by children.

Balsena (meaning children’s collective in Gujarati) is the driving force behind much of our work. With over 2000 members divided into smaller groups around the city, Balsena members regularly come together to discuss the problems they are facing and how best to tackle them. Shaishav strongly encourages solidarity between children of different caste, creed, gender and religion as we believe that children can only make themselves heard through unity and collective strength.

Balsena’s biggest project is a city wide audit of the position of children. With Shaishav’s help, children have come to together to plan, research and write one of the first studies of its kind. It was the children who decided what to investigate, how to research it and how to present the data collected. They conducted house-to-house surveys, held discussion groups in different communities, profiled government services and mapped out all of the issues raised street by street, and have now compiled hundreds of pages of data which they hope to present to the Gujarati government as soon as it is published.

Shaishav strongly believes that it is through empowerment, education, encouraging sensitivity and awareness that we can truly begin to care for children as they deserve and finally make the changes in society that are necessary to provide them with the love and care they deserve.

Peter Norris

Photo and story by Peter Norris.

Zine Fair

Every March my little hometown of Adelaide wakes from its sleepy summer slumber and throws some rather nice arts and music festivals. There's the Fringe Festival, the Adelaide Festival and Womadelaide, all of which equate to lots of fun.

But nestled amongst these behemoths of the festival world is one little artist run festival that I make sure I never miss. Its called the Format Festival and is run completely by unpaid volunteers.

Format is all about inclusion, freedom to create and flying by the seat of your pants. The program of events over the two week festival covers street art, performance art, folk/punk/electronic/acoustic live music, photography, visual arts exhibitions and finishes with a rather lovely zine fair.

Zines (pronounced 'zeen') are the lesser known little sibling of magazines. They're often handmade and roughly stapled, photocopied on tired old copy machines and occasionally even sewn together.

But the content of the zines is where the fun really starts. These little creations cover a huge range of topics from people politics, grotesque art, social theory according to tin tin, bedroom punk, short but sexy fiction, lomo photography, cartoons about growing pumpkins and the love of cycling. They're raw and from the heart, and more often than not teach you something new about the beautiful awkward world that we live in.

If you'd like to dive right in and buy yourself a zine, pop down to your local vegan coffee shop, beat up record store or slightly odd book shop and ask where to find zines in your city. Chances are the beautiful stranger working behind the desk makes one! You should too.

Where to look in Australia:

Bird in the Hand Zine Shop
100a King Street, Newcastle, NSW.

Sticky Institute
Shop 10, Campbell Arcade, Melbourne VIC.

Format Zine Shop
15 Peel Street, Adelaide, SA.

Where to look in Toronto:

Canada's Largest Zine Fair and Festival of Alternative Culture
Sunday, October 24, 2010
The Great Hall
1087 Queen Street West

(if you know of any in your local city, leave a comment and I'll add them to the list)

Oh and if you'd like some hints about how to fold your freshly created zine, there's a nice wiki about zine folding here.


It’s Friday – and your chance to win the Green Guide!

The only way to make Friday better? Winning something from the NI Shop. It’s time for New Internationalist’s Friday contest!

We’re offering a FREE copy of David Suzuki’s Green Guide to the fifth person who answers today’s challenge correctly and posts on the wall.

EcoEquitable, a non-profit enterprise, helps integrate one specific group of people into the workforce. Name that group of people. (Hint: EcoEquitable manufactures one item in the NI US & Canadian Shop – take a look around)

Post your answer on the group’s Wall, then contact us directly ([email protected]) with your info. If you’re the fifth person to answer correctly, we’ll send you the book!

Good luck!

NI team.

ps_ if you're entering this competition from outside of North America, you will need to use the direct link to the US or Canadian NI shops to search for the group. 

pss_ if you enjoy these little contests, you might also like to follow us on twitter (@newint) for our Twitter Tuesday contests.

Khan Nyu paper umbrellas

The production of handmade paper umbrellas, also known as “Khan Nyu”, is a craft that has been passed on from generation to generation in Xieng Khaung Province in the far north of Laos.

There are 34 families with 124 people involved in umbrella making in Mixay Village, Phookood district, where Doungsy Xayasan grew up. His family started making umbrellas in 2000. It is very much a family business where everyone helps out, from making handmade paper, to bamboo structuring, to painting handles. All materials used to make the umbrella come from natural ingredients found locally in the village. The family is able to make approximately 170 umbrellas per month, and usually sells them in the local market. After harvesting rice, umbrella production is the main source of income, enabling the family to pay medical and school expenses.

Making the umbrella frame
This involves measuring, cutting and piecing together pieces of bamboo. The spokes and struts are made from “mai hok” bamboo and the handle from “mai lang”. Wood for the handle is soaked in water for at least two weeks to ensure it is free of insects. Of particular importance are the centre and top pieces from which the spokes and struts radiate. These are made from “mai sombao” or “mai mahk kaen”. A red hot poker is used to make holes through the hubs to allow the handle to pass. The whole frame is put together using thread.

Making the paper
The paper for covering the umbrellas is made from the mulberry tree. The outer pulp of the tree is pounded fine and mixed with water. The mixture is then poured into a frame and the fibres separated until they are evenly distributed. The frame is then set out to dry in the sun.

Covering the frame with the paper and painting thumbrella
Once the umbrella frame has been made and the paper is dry, the paper is cut and glued to the spokes. The glue is made from the fruit of the wild persimmon tree or "mahk kouay ling". The outside of the spokes is painted with charcoal mixed with water and glue. The paper between the spokes is dyed with natural dye depending upon the colour desired: sesame oil or “mahk nyao” fruit for white, “kok suk sak” root or cumin for yellow, rose apple for pink and the fruit of the "mahk bao" plant for red colour.

 Photo by Khan Nyu.

Sometimes the best journeys...

Sometimes the best journeys are the ones you take on your own.

After working with street children in Kisumu, Kenya, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel through east Africa while making my way home. I had joined a tour group travelling from Nairobi to Johannesburg, which to my disgust, seemed more interested in drinking and complaining about the quality of accommodation than having any experience of the sights and sounds of Africa.

The group had gone on a riverboat cruise of Lake Kariba and I decided to hang back on the shore. I was given the chance to take a canoe across the lake to a village across the way which I jumped at, though terrified of the hippo’s and crocodiles that lay in my path. Once across shore, my guide and I walked for hours. He taught me local songs and language and allowed me to visit his family and two wives. We exchanged food and customs, teaching each other words with pointing and lots of laughing.

On the way back to the canoe we stopped at a school just as the children were racing out on their home. My guide and new friend stopped them, telling them the song he had taught me earlier. The children exploded into laughter, and then .. song. Grabbing my hands, we all sang together, voices soaring with spirit and joy. As the children walked away I remembered I had my camera with me and turned and quickly clicked away, capturing one of the most unique and enjoyable experiences I have ever had.

Photo and words by Jessica Stevens

Train blast

Victim of the Mumbai train blasts cries in the intensive care unit of a hospital.

Photo by Adeel Halim, Mumbai, India.

Kite-flying day

Makar Sankranti is a festival that heralds a change of season marking the movement of the sun into the northern hemisphere - a celebration to mark the end of winter. In many parts of India, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as the kite-flying day. The festival is a time of thanksgiving for the religious, since it marks the awakening of the gods from their long slumber. The gods who are believed to have slumbered for six long months are now awake and the portals of heaven are thrown open. It is also a signal for merry-making. The kite flying has a fascinating history; man had the desire to fly since time immemorial. It was the spirit of man and his imagination that ultimately saw the invention of kites.

Words, photos and video by Adeel Halim, Mumbai, India.


Even after their defeat in 2001, the strict Islamic conventions regarding the wearing of Burqa's the Taliban enforced are still around in Afghanistan today.

The sad reality is, that the vibrant red-head in this image will probably be forced into a burqa at the age of 8. Her natural vibrancy will soon be forced into conformity by relatives- fearful for her safety.

We can only hope that this tradition will fade away and that women in Afghanistan will be granted the basic human rights they deserve.

Photo by lakerae.
Words by Alex Smale.

Alex Smale is an NI work experience student in the Adelaide office in Australia. She has a bright future ahead of her.

Personalizing Energy Consumption

Climate change is one of those big global issues that grows exponentially as you research more into the causes and solutions. Its easy to let it overwhelm and write it off as one of those 'too big for me' situations. But it need not be.

A solution that works for me and helps me own the problem and feel good about the little steps I'm taking towards change is personalising it, working out where my life fits in the big picture, and taking it from there.

So my strategy is this: calculate, compare & simplify.


Being a bit of a nerd, and loving visualising things, has been a great place to start to calculate my energy consumption. Its the most comprehensive tool I've found so far, and takes into account your electricity, gas, heating, travel, things you own and even the food you consume.

After entering your details, it'll give you a life summary, mine came to 5,171W. This is where it starts getting interesting for me, because even though I'm only making two flights this year, one for a training day competition I won and one heading overseas for a holiday (that I've planted trees for), it still takes up more energy than to house me or feed me.


5,171W is great, but it doesn't mean anything to me unless I have some context to put it in. Here's where wattzon is neat. You can pull up your result in a nice little chart compared to others using wattzon, compared to historic energy figures worldwide. You can even chart your life energy use and how big a wind generator / solar panel you'd need to power yourself!

sighmon's life = 5,171W

sighmon's energy consumption vs the average wattzon user.

sighmon's energy consumption vs the world 


sighmon's energy consumption and the size of a wind generator needed to power him

sighmon's energy consumption and the sized solar panel needed to power his life


So after having a look through the graph, I have 3 areas to work on: housing, flying & food. I've done quite a bit of work simplifying my life lately and its definitely paid off. My transport costs have been minimised by skateboarding to and from work, and my housing energy costs have also been reduced by partitioning off rooms in my house and sharing showers with my partner. I already have green energy at home, so to further reduce my housing energy I think I'll have to have someone else move in to live with me and maybe install some more insulation in the roof to help reduce heat and cooling costs. If you're not using green energy yet, google your local energy comparison website to see how much extra it will cost you to switch. The Australian website is

Flying energy use is also a relatively easy fix. Don't fly! Next year I'll try and have a fly-free year by driving, bussing or training my way to other states around Australia if I absolutely need to travel. It'll take a bit more time, but slowing down is a pretty therapeutic thing to do anyway.

Food energy is one area that I think I'll find it harder to reduce. I'm a vegetarian, I share meals with my partner, and always cook extra food for the freezer for 'fast food' when I'm tired. So I think the best way forward for me will be to join a local community garden, so that I can source my food locally which means it'll use less energy and taste much more fresh. A quick google search found an Australian listing for me, there's even one within skateboarding distance. Yay.


I figure I'm on the right track. The little changes I've implemented lately seem to have put me in a place I'm happy with. My energy consumption is about 2/3 of the Australian average, and I've worked out areas that I can work on more.

One more interesting conclusion is that the government of my country still determines a lot of my personal energy consumption, so another step I'm going to keep on doing is making phone calls, sending emails and signing petitions  to make sure the national decisions they're making on climate change are also helping to reduce my personal and our countries energy use. GetUp Australia are a great local group to support for me.

Share your results!

I hope you've enjoyed looking at my energy results, I'd love to see yours and hear your ideas for solutions you've found.

Post your results in the comments section below, or in a reply to me on twitter. :)

NI twitter account: @newint

My personal twitter account: @sighmon 

Thanks to Ross Hill for sharing the link to with me.


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