Why you should appreciate women and their work?

A woman working at an industrial plant.

Many years ago, a man called Lemuel wrote a glowing description of a capable wife.

This is recorded in the Bible in Proverbs chapter 31.

The woman whose merits he extolled was certainly busy.

She looked after her family, traded in the marketplace, bought and sold land, made clothes for her household, and worked in the fields.

This woman was not taken for granted.

Since Lemuel’s time, women’s work has become, if anything, more complicated.

Their 20th-century role often requires them to be wives, mothers, nurses, teachers, breadwinners, and farmers—all at the same time.

Countless women make heroic sacrifices just to ensure that their children have enough to eat.

Yet, despite their hard work in so many areas, many women rarely get credit for what they do.

Do not all these women too deserve appreciation and praise?


Women as Breadwinners

Women working at a rice factory.

Today more women than ever have to work outside the home to help support their family or are the sole support of their family.

The book Women and the World Economic Crisis notes a report that stated:

Domestic work is not the only work women do. There are relatively few women anywhere in the world who can claim to be ‘just a housewife.’”

And women’s work is rarely glamorous.

Although magazines or television soap operas may depict women as executives in plush offices, the reality is usually very different.

The vast majority of the world’s women toil long hours for scant material reward.

Hundreds of millions of women work on the land, cultivating crops, tending small family plots, or caring for livestock.

This labor—usually underpaid or unpaid—feeds half the world.

The book Women and the Environment reports:

In Africa, 70 per cent of the food is grown by women, in Asia the figure is 50-60 per cent and in Latin America 30 per cent,” 

When women do have paid employment, they usually earn less than male workers, simply because they are women.

This discrimination is a particularly bitter pill to swallow for a mother who is the family’s only breadwinner, a role that is becoming more and more common.

A United Nations report estimates that between 30 and 50 percent of all households in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America depend on a woman as their main provider.

And even in the more developed lands, an increasing number of women have had to become the main provider.

Rural poverty throughout much of the developing world is accelerating this trend.

A husband who finds it a constant struggle to feed his family may decide to move to a nearby city or even another country to obtain work.

He leaves his wife behind to care for the family. If he is fortunate enough to find a job, he sends paychecks home.

But despite his good intentions, this often does not continue.

The family he has left behind may sink deeper into poverty, and their well-being now depends upon the mother.

This vicious circle, aptly described as the “feminization of poverty,” throws an enormous burden on millions of women.

The book Women and Health explains:

Households headed by women, estimated to be one-third of the total worldwide, are many times more likely to be poor than those headed by men, and the number of such households is increasing,”
But difficult as it is, putting food on the table is not the only challenge women face.

Women as mothers and teachers

A happy mother and child.

A mother also has to care for the emotional welfare of her children.

She plays a vital role in helping a child learn about love and affection—lessons that may be just as important as satisfying his physical needs.

In order to develop into a well-balanced adult, a child needs a warm, secure environment while growing up.

Once again, a mother’s role is crucial.

In the book The Developing Child, Helen Bee writes:

A warm parent cares about the child, expresses affection, frequently or regularly puts the child’s needs first, shows enthusiasm for the child’s activities, and responds sensitively and empathically to the child’s feelings.”
Children who have received such warmth from a caring mother should certainly show her their appreciation.

Through breast-feeding, many mothers provide a warm environment for their child right from birth.

Especially in poor households a mother’s own milk is an invaluable gift she can give to her newborn.

Besides feeding and cherishing her children, the mother is often their principal teacher.

It is mainly the mother or grandmother who patiently teaches the child to speak, to walk, and to do household chores and countless other things.

Women's compassion sorely needed

A mother grooming her son.

One of the greatest gifts that women can give their families is compassion.

When a family member falls sick, the mother takes on the role of nurse, while still caring for all her other responsibilities.

“Women do in fact provide most of the health care in the world,” explains the book Women and Health.

A mother’s compassion may even motivate her to eat less herself so that her children do not go without food.

Researchers have found that some women view their food intake as sufficient even though they are malnourished.

They are so accustomed to giving the larger share to their husbands and children that as long as they can still work, they consider themselves adequately fed.

Sometimes a woman’s compassion expresses itself in her concern for the local environment.

That environment matters to her, since she also suffers when drought, desertification, and deforestation impoverish the land.

In one town in India, women were outraged when they learned that a lumber company was going to cut down about 2,500 trees in a nearby forest.

The women needed those trees for food, fuel, and fodder.

When the loggers arrived, the women were already in place, hands joined, protectively encircling the trees.

‘You will have to cut off our heads if you want to cut down the trees,’ the women told the loggers.

The forest was saved.

Whether in the role of breadwinner, mother, teacher, or wellspring of compassion, a woman is worthy of respect and recognition, as is her work.

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How to prevent dry rot on your wooden house?

Dry rot on a wooden house.

During late summer or autumn, it may quite unexpectedly invade your wooden house or storehouse.

It prefers to live in wooden houses, especially older ones without cellars.

What is the culprit? 

A fungus, Merulius lacrymans, which normally causes dry rot.

Lacking chlorophyll, this fungus must get its nourishment from other matter—for example, from wood, hardboard, cork matting, linoleum and the like.

The body of this fungus consists of very fine, ramified threads of cells that are collectively called “mycelium.” 

Left undisturbed, the body forms films and strings. 

With these strings, the fungus can force its way through mortar and cracks in cement. 

It can quickly form a head or “fruiting body” in some suitable open space—under the floor, on an

inside wall or on a ceiling.

This “fruiting body” may measure as much as .3 meter (12 inches) in diameter.

In the pores of its surface, brown or reddish spores form.

Each square millimeter of the pore-covered surface can produce up to seventy-five spores per minute.

Each spore has the capacity to grow into another fungus plant and can, in turn, destroy unlimited amounts of wood. 

The spores are sticky and can fasten themselves anywhere. 

If there is sufficient humidity and warmth, they grow very quickly. 

But the spores cannot attack fresh, dry wood.

This fungus cannot live in open air, it being too dry there. 

The high humidity that is required for this fungus to thrive is found only in an insufficiently ventilated damp place. 

The fungus stops growing when it becomes too dry, but it can start up again as soon as it becomes damp. 

Once it has grown sufficiently, it itself can give off the dampness required for continued growth. 

The growth rate of this fungus is affected by the temperature. 

To grow, it must have a temperature of at least 38 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) but it does best at 65 degrees to 73 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees to 23 degrees Celsius). 

When the temperature rises above 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius), growth is sluggish. 

At 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), the growth rate is three times as fast as at 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).

How can you determine whether this fungus has made itself at home in your house? 

You may spot a spore-producing “flower” somewhere—on the cellar ceiling, under the washbasin, on a floor. You may see mycelium roses on the floor or on an inner wall. 

Or, there may be a musty, mushroomlike smell. 

When that is the case, you may need professional help. 

It may be necessary to break up a floor or a wall and to remove everything on which the fungus has settled or which gives off its odor. 

Thereafter, everything may need to be sprayed with a poisonous fluid, to kill the spores and whatever else is left of the fungus.

To make sure that this fungus does not get a foothold, good ventilation is needed under the house all year round. 

Moving dry air is deadly to the fungus. 

Often it will die at a temperature of 22 degrees Fahrenheit (−6 degrees Celsius). Another thing to watch is leaks in the roof. 

Water should not be allowed to run down the wall to the floor near the foundation. 

If water has flooded any room, the floor and the insulation should be permitted to dry out thoroughly before putting back a thick mat that prevents drying. 

Pipes under the washbasin, toilet and bathtub should fit well so that water does not leak down through the floor.

If you suspect that the load-carrying beams of floorboards within the foundation are rotten, or if there is a musty smell in a room, you could spray under the floor with a rot-protection fluid. 

Some homeowners use garden sprayers and extension tubes for this purpose; others use plastic sprayers that can be pressurized after being filled with the fluid. 

They insert the tube through a ventilation opening and spray the floor of a room from below. 

In this way, they get a fresh smell in the whole house and protect their flooring from rot. 

Also, for protection against fungus, the walls and ceiling in the cellar could be coated with lime.

So while Merulius lacrymans is indeed an undesirable invader, there are ways to keep this fungus from gaining a foothold in your house.

Read more…

Understanding the anorexia eating disorder problem

A woman with anorexia disorder problem.
As a mother, I would do anything for my daughter. Her father would have bought her anything she fancied to eat. But she asked for nothing. We could see her getting thinner and thinner. It was awful. I was the only member of the family who didn’t cry. I tried, but my heart was like a lump of lead.”
What had caused such a problem in an otherwise happy family?

A strange illness called anorexia nervosa.

What, then, is anorexia nervosa?

How do people get it, and why is it so extremely difficult to treat and cure?

What is anorexia nervosa?

Please do not feed.

Loss of appetite is not unusual.

We all have days when we are off our food.

This is termed “anorexia,” a word drawn from the Greek, meaning no appetite.

This common-enough break in the normal routine of living is soon resolved as the body takes its rest and our appetite is restored.

The opposite is true, however, of those who suffer from anorexia nervosa.

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary records that this “loss of appetite due to severe emotional disturbance results in emaciation.”

Little wonder it can so easily lead to death!

Medically, anorexia nervosa is viewed as a psychosomatic disorder, that is, a disorder affecting the mind as well as the body.

But to many, that is an oversimplification of a complex and even now not fully understood illness.

It can bring with it great physical suffering as well as much heartache to all who come in contact with it.

The difficulty experienced in not being able to determine the exact cause of the onset of anorexia nervosa is not unusual, but there are common factors that emerge from a study of cases, and it is worth while to consider them.

What happens to you when you have anorexia?

Although anorexia nervosa can affect young men, the sufferers are usually adolescent girls.

The main factor in many cases is dieting that gets out of control.

Skipping the odd meal is not a dangerous thing to do, but strict dieting and irregular eating are a different matter.

Teenager Mary confided:

I wanted to lose a few pounds and so decided to go on a diet. To lose a little more, I cut out meals as well. Although my friends would tell me, ‘Oh, you’re thin—you’re losing weight!’ whenever I looked in the mirror I just saw myself as I always had been. Strangely, I could see no difference and still felt that I was greatly overweight. But it wasn’t long before I was quite ill.”
Feelings of being fat despite being thin.
What does her mother say?

If my other daughter should come to me about a diet, I wouldn’t take it so lightly again. I would go more into it and say, ‘We will work it out together,’ so that when she is dieting she is still getting sound nutrition. The trouble is that when Mary had anorexia nervosa it was impossible to reason with her.”
What, then, is it that goes wrong?

For reasons that are still not clearly understood, once the body reaches a certain point of undernourishment, strange things can happen.

In the case of a young girl, menstruation will cease.

A little later on, extra hair on the arms and legs may appear, while the individual feels repelled by food and is overtaken by an overwhelming desire to remain thin.

Initially, an artificial vitality takes control.

Additionally, as Mary’s mother discovered too late, no amount of talking can convince the patient (which is what she has now become) that she is acting in any way abnormally or that her health—and maybe even her life—is in danger.

How can you know if a person has anorexia nervosa?

A marked loss of weight is an obvious sign to watch for, but, surprisingly, that is not always easy to spot.

Why?

Because anorexics often go to great lengths to conceal their true condition from both themselves and those who try to help them.

By putting on many layers of clothing, or by carrying weights in their pockets, they deceive themselves in a way that is difficult for their friends to comprehend.

Some will go to the extreme of self-induced vomiting or drastic purging to eliminate food from their bodies, but, again, usually without the knowledge of those around them.

Many view the illness as one peculiar to the Western world, but this is not the case.

Africans have become the best imitators of other cultures.

If slimming is such a rage in the West, then African women are vulnerable to compulsive slimming, too

Anorexia is cultivated deliberately and the girl’s refusal to eat is to achieve a certain goal.

This illness can be more than a simple dieting problem.

Emotions and stress play their part too in triggering it off.

Why mostly young people get anorexia?

A teen anxious about her appearance.

Adolescence can be a particularly trying time, especially today when teenagers face many unusual problems and frustrations.

What has this to do with anorexia nervosa?

It seems that the most likely explanation is that the girl has a basic fear of growing up.

Thus by losing weight she tries to prevent or reverse the puberty changes in bodily configuration and sexual characteristics that she associates with adulthood whose responsibilities she is afraid to accept.

In assessing the illness, the relationship of the patient to life itself, as well as to the immediate family environment, is of prime importance.

Hormone changes are absolutely secondary and not the cause of anorexia nervosa.

The cause lies within the family itself.

Those young people who develop anorexia nervosa when they lose weight have been experiencing difficulties in coping with their lives, their feelings or more particularly with their transition through adolescence.

These difficulties may be of a wide variety of kinds.

What are some of these?

Consider what one sufferer has to say:

When I left school at sixteen, the happiest, most successful, best-dressed girls seemed to be the slim ones. To me, so shy and retiring, there was something to aim for, so I started to slim. But soon I was going far beyond my original diet, missing meals and cutting out food to lose more weight. The hunger pangs I suffered were excruciating, and yet the fact that I was somehow able to ignore those feelings and eventually conquer them brought me a great deal of satisfaction. Gradually, I grew weaker until I climbed stairs with the utmost difficulty. Even lifting a pillow became a great burden to me. Anorexia nervosa had become a reality. The cure took five long, difficult years. Yes, there were problems at home too during adolescence, but I know now that so much hinged on my reaction to the remarks passed about my baby fat. So, may I say, never, never make personal comments about a teenager’s weight, shape or size! You may do more harm than you can possibly imagine.”

A broken romance, an inferiority complex, pressure to pass examinations and ‘get on’ in the world, trying to live up to certain standards set by parents or by others in authority, all these things and many more can lead an insecure person along the road to anorexia nervosa.

Although all therapies may have their value in treating the symptoms (and it is advisable to get medical aid as soon as possible), recovery really rests with the individual.

How?

Apply the following suggestions:

Some Don’ts and Do’s

DON’T isolate yourself. It is so easy to become introspective. The avenue of approach to mature adult thinking is so easily lost. Make friends! Value a wise confidant!

DON’T feel that you have to conform to fads and fashions. If you find yourself on your own on a matter of principle, see it as a position of real strength.

DO find something constructive to do, preferably something that is helpful to others. Serving others will take your mind off yourself.

DO realize that people have been cured of anorexia nervosa, as you can be. But much depends on your own positive thinking.

Read more…

How Africans have overcome the problem of carrying loads?

African woman carrying fire wood on the head.

What do people carry on their heads?

If you asked some schoolchildren that question, in many parts of the world they might answer: “Their hats.”

And that would likely be the end of the list.

However, if you put that question to some African youngsters, they would reply:

People tote buckets of water, bananas, books, salt bags, firewood, television sets, fish, bags of cement, sacks of rice, refrigerators, baskets of vegetables, stones, crates of soft drinks . . . ”

Their list would go on and on.

Throughout the continent of Africa, toting loads on the head is commonplace.

It has been for a very long time.

Egyptian bakers carried bread on their heads.

And that was over 3,700 years ago!

Can you head tote?

Have you ever watched people who were skilled at head-toting?

For them it is no more difficult than carrying something by hand.

But you try it.

For example, put a book on your head and attempt to walk.

(We might suggest a book that you do not mind getting knocked about a bit.)

If you’re a beginner, you will probably move slowly, stiffly, very carefully, so as not to upset the precarious balance.

One step . . . two . . . Quick!

Catch the book before it falls to the ground!

“But,” you may protest, “my head’s not flat.

How can you expect me to balance a flat book on a round head?”

One answer is: Practice!

Another answer is: Use a kata.

A kata is a cloth or palm leaf that is folded and twisted to form a ring.

It is placed between the load and the head to serve as a cushion and to help balance hard loads, such as wood.

For softer things, such as a bag of flour, a kata is seldom necessary because the bag will settle on the head.

Whether you use a kata or not, it is important to carry things centrally on your head.

Edward, a Sierra Leonean, recalls his early days:

When I first started to tote, I carried wood with my head cocked to one side. As the loads got heavier, my neck would ache with the strain. But the real trouble came when I began to tote buckets of water. Since you can’t balance water properly unless your head is straight, the water would spill out, and my clothes would get soaked. I hated that. It was the soakings, more than anything else, that made me straighten up.”

Yet, there’s more to the art than comfortably and centrally situating the item to be carried.

An experienced head-toter will keep things in place on his head by numerous, slight corrective movements of his neck.

It’s like trying to balance an upright stick on your finger.

You don’t just put it there and hope it doesn’t fall.

Rather, you must constantly adjust the position of your finger to suit the movement of the stick.

And just as a heavier stick is easier to balance than a light one, so a weighty load is often easier to balance on the head.

Most Africans learn the skill early in life by imitating older children and grown-ups.

Emmanual is one-and-a-half years old and still a little unsteady on his feet.

When he was given a small can of water to tote, he held it on his head with both hands.

It slid about, and some of the water sloshed out, but it was clear that he had grasped the idea.

By the time he is five, the water will not spill.

At seven he will be an expert.

A practical and beneficial skill of head-toting

A vector image of a man carrying a load on the head.

Far from being merely a novel way to carry things, head-toting is a practical skill for African life.

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Africa states:

Human porterage . . . is undoubtedly still one of Africa’s principal means of moving goods at the local level.”

And for those who are used to it, loads are carried most easily on the head.

Apart from carrying things more comfortably, putting things on the head leaves your hands free.

You can even be shaded from the sun or sheltered from the rain.

Add to this the physical benefits: grace, balance, and strength.

The book Tropical Surgery states:

The country people [in the tropics], who are often accustomed to walking with head loads, have well-developed back muscles and good posture. They seldom suffer from back strain.”
Clearly, head-toting is not a skill to belittle.

But unless you’re an expert, don’t try it!

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