IoS letters, emails & online postings (25 April 2010)

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David Cameron and Jeffrey Sachs are right when they say "we need targeted action to support women the world over" and strengthening the voice and role of women so that they are involved in the decision-making process is crucial ("Educated women hold the key to ending poverty", 18 April).

We need to look at the wider reasons why girls are not making it into the classroom in the first place. In Ethiopia, less than half the population has access to clean safe water and only around 10 per cent have adequate sanitation. Many girls are out of school for want of something as simple as a toilet – in fact the UN estimates that half of girls who stop attending primary school in Africa do so because of the lack of safe and private toilets. Across Africa and Asia, the burden of water carrying usually falls to women and girls. Precious hours are taken out of their days, time that could have been spent earning money or receiving an education.

So while we applaud the recognition of the importance of girls' education, we urge governments and donor agencies to ensure that the provision of safe water and sanitation is integrated into broader health and education plans. Only then will achieving the Millennium Development Goals start to feel possible.

Margaret Batty

Director of Policy and Campaigns, WaterAid

London SE11

The environmental consequences of the war in Afghanistan so far, according the UN Environmental Network, include water scarcity, soil erosion, desertification of wetlands, air pollution, depleted wildlife, the loss of half of the country's forest and woodland and the creation of thousands of environmental refugees ("Afghanistan: A conspiracy of silence", 18 April). The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan also estimated that as few as 23 per cent of Afghans have access to clean drinking water. Not only are the three main political parties in the UK ignoring Afghanistan at the expense of humanitarian concerns, but their failure to do so makes a mockery of each party's claim to care for environmental issues.

Eccy de Jonge

London WC1

Afghanistan may only be mentioned in the Green Party manifesto four times, but it is content, not quantity that matters. The Green Party has made a clear commitment to taking British troops out of Afghanistan.

Andrew Collingwood


A number of smaller parties, such as the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Respect, oppose the war and want to bring troops home.

Keith Flett

London N17

Plaid Cymru MPs voted against the war in Afghanistan and support a phased exit strategy by the end of 2011. Which is why I'll be voting for them, not one of the big three.

Alex Barr

Letterston, Pembrokeshire

Now that Cleggmania has taken over the country, is there a chance that we will hear no more talk of a vote for the Liberal Democrats being a wasted vote. The only wasted vote is one not used by its owner. But more votes would be meaningful if the voting system changed, which could explain the growing popularity of the party that has long advocated this change.

Chris Gailey

Rathmullan, Co Donegal

Last weekend, the Tory frontbencher Theresa May was allowed to comment on two TV channels on fictitious Lib Dem policies. The real scrutiny over the next 10 days should be of the impartiality of political programmes, and their reluctance to give Lib Dem speakers their fair share of debating time.

John Kirby

Ilkeston, Derbyshire

David Randall, stuck in Paris, details his experience of finding a cab to Calais ("From Rome to home on luck and instinct", 18 April). The driver's name was Jeremy, he writes, and "he was black". Why was it felt appropriate to put this in? The man's skin colour has no relevance to the article.

Martin Denning


Robert Epstein calls Elaine Paige "less than pulchritudinous but proficient" ("Britain's got plenty of exhibitionists, but has it got talent?" 18 April). Can we see a picture of him now, and judge how he rates on his beauty/talent graph?

Anna Distin

via email

Corrections and clarifications

In last Sunday's article "Gore takes cash for water campaign from chemical firm", we stated that Al Gore's environmental organisation had taken money from a chemical company for the Life Earth Water events taking place last week. Neither Al Gore nor his philanthropic organisation, the Alliance for Climate protection, are associated with, or sponsored, the Live Earths Water events that were the subject of our article. We apologise to Al Gore and his organisation for our error.

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