What does one do with themself after they have murdered every god in their country? They move onto the next divine club! This month’s upcoming deicidal action/adventure epic, God of War, which is coming exclusively to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro on April 20th, seems to be rebuilding the franchise from the ground up.
Sony’s meanest anti-hero’s obsession with pantheon-erasing cannot be curbed – only this time, he has ditched sunny Greece for the icy shores of Scandinavia, to lock horns with Norse mythology in this reimagined God of War.
The pale Kratos is older, more grizzled than ever, and if it’s even possible, meaner-looking.
Not surprising, seeing as the edgy, mostly silent marauder has been through some of the most titanic struggles ever seen in a video game franchise, and now faces a whole new legion of monsters and deities, who may prove to be his most brutal adversaries yet.
God of War fans can easily name their favorite over-the-top boss fights from previous installments, where Kratos swung about like a ghostly ape on some colossal mythical creature in an earth-shaking rodeo, steadily tearing off its fingernails and plucking its eyeballs out through a massively gory combination of acrobatic hack and slash and exhilarating quicktime sequences.
This time around, however, the more mature God of War has swapped his terrifying speed and elastic leaping capabilities for a far more lifelike and weighted approach. You can also say goodbye to his iconic double-chained blades, as he has swapped his swishing slashers for a hefty, enchanted battle axe aptly called the “Leviathan Axe”.
The game mostly appears to take a steadier over-the-shoulder viewpoint of the action now, as opposed to the previous fixed cinematic camera, and you now fight enemies in a style far more similar to something like Dark Souls than old school God of War titles.
Still, the raucous quick time events have remained, in which Kratos will monstrously lay into his opponents with his his infamous talent for bare-hand surgery. This may be a “reimagining” of the franchise, but some timeless qualities should never be replaced.
As to why Kratos would actually decide to fly the now relatively demolished Greece for Scandinavia is still a mystery. Sony Interactive Entertainment Santa Monica have amazingly kept the story under wraps, which is an amazing effort in secrecy in an industry where data-miners and leaks are so prevalent.
What we do obviously know is that the spiritual members of Northern Europe are certainly sweating over the uninvited presence of the world’s most talented god hitman. How Kratos’ relationship with the Nordic pantheon will progress is anyone’s guess, but if you know anything about God of War, it will most likely involve a culture losing all of its leaders.
A Son’s First Hero
It’s not all viscous folklore massacring, this time Kratos has a bit more to worry about than coming up with new novel ways of tearing gods to pieces. He now has a son to care for and mentor, which is completely surprising, as fatherhood is the last thing one would imagine such a perpetually aggravated berserker settling for.
This means that Kratos will have to learn to curb his brutish enthusiasm in favor of a more textbook fatherly role, albeit with a heavy seasoning of the mean baldy’s mercilessly practical approach to everything.
Just how this new relationship dynamic plays out will certainly be highly emotional and developmental, as we hopefully see a softer and more nurturing side to an individual completely focused on comprehensive vengeance.
We certainly have seen some unusual father-son bonding from gameplay footage snippets, and something very touching does indeed seem to be unfolding here, far beyond the usual themes seen in God of War games.
An interesting comparison, made by head writer of the game Cory Barlog, is that of comparing the old Kratos’ almost indiscriminate rage to The Hulk, and this new, more mindful protagonist to Bruce Banner.
That being said, a big question regards whether Kratos’ son will admire or fear his father (perhaps a bit of both), and whether he will follow in his father’s bloody footsteps, or strike a saner path of his own.
Conclusion – A Comprehensive Transition to Realism
So, what we seem to be witnessing here is a large-scale conversion of God of War – its protagonist, gameplay, setting, and themes – for something seemingly far more down-to-earth and perhaps even relatable, as Sony lead this saga in a seemingly more grounded and mature direction.
Of course, you can still expect a treasure trove of wickedly spectacular destruction, the likes of which only the Ghost of Sparta could pull off. Keep the weekend of Friday 20th clear, you’re going to be spending it with the God of War.
The Challenges Facing Internally Displaced People in Africa
Today, there are five times as many internally displaced persons as they are refugees. This makes them the largest groups of people affected by forced displacement.
IDPs are people who are forced to flee. Like refugees, they have to leave their homes because of fear of persecution or conflict. But there’s a single fundamental difference between the two: to find safety, IDPs move from one area or region to another but still stay within their country, while refugees leave the country that they live in and cross the border for safety.
Why don’t IDPs leave the country like refugees?
Some IDPs may want to stay close to their homes with hopes that things would get better soon, so they can return. Others lack the physical strength or the means to go through the uncertain and sometimes, dangerous journey to a safer country. Often, the internally displaced persons are stuck in conflict areas where threats like violence restrict them from reaching the border.
The troubles that IDPs go through
When refugees move to another country, they are protected by the international law. However, the IDPs depend on their government for protection from persecution and violence. In most cases, the government may not be able or may be unwilling to offer such protection. For this reason, internally displaced are among the most vulnerable displaced persons across the globe.
But like refugees, they also face challenges like loss of jobs, properties, and even livelihoods. Some get injured, some lose loved ones.
IDPs in Number
African countries have more IDPS than refugees – Precisely, there are nearly five times as many internally displaced persons. Towards the end of 2010, there were about 2 million refugees and 11 million IDPs in sub-Saharan Africa.
For the longest time, Africa has been leading region with the most IDPs in the world. From approximately 26.4 million IDPs globally in 2011, 9.7 million were from sub-Saharan Africa.
One would imagine that because the IDPs are in their country, they would receive a special type of care. Unfortunately, this is never the case. Most African countries still do not have a comprehensive and coherent policy or legal framework to address the internal displacement issues. And while they may have a range of laws that they can use to take care of the problem, it’s highly likely that none directly focuses on protection and provision of help to the internally displaced and affected communities.
Following the Post-election Violence incident in Kenya, for instance, the government initiated Operation Rudi Nyumbani (go back home) campaign and provided goodwill payments to the IDPs. While this intervention sufficed the immediate need, it did not take care of the long-term need as envisaged by the Kampala Convention or the UN Guiding Principles.
Problems facing the internally displaced persons in Africa
Some documented challenges that the internally displaced persons in the African countries encounter are:
- Finding employment
- Finding housing’
- Impact of disrupted education
- Financial difficulties
- Ongoing mental issues because of trauma
- Community attitudes
- Changes in status and roles of family members
- Separation from family members
Impact on children
Children face specific challenges because of their experiences and age. It is difficult for them to forget what happened, so they stay with the scars of violence and displacement. And while children are often resilient, some will:
- Experience psychological effects of trauma
- Have identity and belonging issues
- Go through changing family responsibilities
- Loose out in education
Impact on women
During wars or violence, women and children experience all kinds of abuses, including sexual and physical violence. They even end up losing their husbands or fathers, who often, are the providers. And when they flee, they have to figure out a way to fend for the children. It’s difficult because they have to start from the scratch.
Since the IDPs are moving to a new place, and are doing that suddenly (without preparation), they are forced to stay in temporary structures like tents. This means they will experience frigid nights, lack of clean water, bites from insects, and even attacks from people and animals.
There are three ways to handle the IDP situation: resettlement in a third location, voluntary repatriation, and local integration. Repatriation is perhaps the easiest solution to displacement because most displacement crises are temporary. However, it can be a poor option due to limited prospects of a safe return.
In cases when the displaced people can neither continue to live in the temporary shelter or dire camp nor go back to their homes, then they can be resettled in a new and safe area within the country.
The Plight of African Women Migrating to Europe
“From what I hear, there are plenty of job opportunities in Europe. I believe when I get there, my life will be better,” a Congo migrant.
Thousands of African women risk their lives as they go on a boat journey to Europe in search of what they imagine would be a better and easier living. Many begin the journey with much hope, but sadly end up in despair.
In an interview with one woman migrant who left the Congo with hopes of getting to Europe, one of our crewmembers asked about the trip. Here’s what she had to say:
“That trip was hard and easy at the same time. We started our journey from Congo, and we went through to Cameron, where we stayed for two days. Then we left for Nigeria and spent only a single night there. We proceeded to Niger and then to Libya. I had to work in Libya to get the money to go on with the trip.”
We asked, “How did you find your way to the boat and the smugglers?
“There was a black guy in Tripoli who asked people whether they had the money. When I asked him how much I needed to pay for the journey, he told me $1,000. I worked for a few days and managed to raise three-quarters of that amount, which he accepted. We were hidden somewhere in a bush without food– only some biscuits and a little water. We weren’t allowed to speak. In total, we stayed there for five days. On the fifth night, at around 9 PM, the guys came and told us we were leaving. The journey to the seaside took about two hours on foot.” She says.
We asked, “How did you feel when the boat took off?
“I have never been happier in my life,” she says smiling.
We asked, “Are all of you traveling for the same thing, and if so, what is it?”
“Yeah, most of us, if not all, are traveling to get a better life. We believe that the developed countries like America and Europe flow of honey and milk. Even when you lack shelter, once you are there, life is just good.”
We asked, “And do you believe that?”
“Of course I do believe that. Once I’m in Italy, my quality of life is going to improve,” she concludes.
The shocking reality
Migrant women are on the move for various reasons – to escape conflict, poverty, and devastation within their community or country, to join their loved ones, to further their education, and even to get better opportunities and livelihoods.
Unfortunately, most women migrants go through hell. In our interview with over 100 women, nearly 50% said they had been victims of abuse or rape during their journey. They say they were treated like chickens; they were beaten and denied food and water.
It is true that these women make a conscious decision to trust the smugglers with their lives – because they pay to be able to get across a country that they are not allowed to get across legally. However, they do not sign up for abuse and torture.
Women migrants rely on the smugglers to get overseas, often under a “pay first system” which leaves them vulnerable to trafficking, exploitation, and violence including rape and prostitution.
People traffickers demand hundreds to thousands of dollars from migrants to take them across the desert before packing them onto inappropriate boats for the journey across the Mediterranean Sea.
How can we stop women trafficking?
Trafficking is a complex issue that needs a multifaceted approach. What makes it so tricky is the aspect of willing buyer, willing seller. Even so, there is still much that can be done. For instance, both NGOs and government programs can identify the women who are at risk and offer them adequate tools that they require to find work overseas without exposing themselves at risk.
Government and NGO programs should also take short and long-term measures to address trafficking. Short-term approaches include raising awareness and education, while long-term actions include improving the socioeconomic position of vulnerable women and lobbying efforts for reforms on the national laws.
How Lack of Sanitary Pads Affects the African Girl-Child
In Sub-Saharan Africa, about 65% of girls and women lack access to sanitary towels. Most of them resort to shocking alternatives like using goatskin, chicken feathers, soil, leaves, cups, pieces of cloth, and even ashes to hold the periods.
The onset of menstrual periods should be a joyous moment for any girl because it is a transition into womanhood. However, for some African girls, the process is dreaded, because many of them cannot afford to buy sanitary pads. For them, the menstrual cycle comes with frustrations, embarrassments, fear of stigma, anxiety, and stress.
“In Africa, many families survive with a dollar or less every day. It is impossible for a family to spare $0.50 for a sanitary pad when they don’t even have enough for one meal,” says Wakasa, a Human Rights Activist in Nigeria.
Since these girls and women lack the money to buy sanitary pads, they resort to using other methods to prevent leaking, and staining their clothes; they use:
- Chicken feathers
- Tissue paper
- Exercise books
- Cotton wool
- Maize cobs
- Cow dung
- Old clothes
- Old mattresses
While these ad hoc alternatives come in handy, they present a range of health and psychological effects.
According to Dr. Lagat, a Gynecologist at the Nairobi Women Hospital, unhygienic practices are the leading cause of severe reproductive tract infections and even cervical cancer among these women.
She says, “When a woman uses goatskin or old clothes to stem the bleeding, she exposes her uterus or urinary tract to bacteria from outside, which makes them prone to infection. But when they use sanitary pads, the risk is reduced.”
In another context, the fear of leaks, cultural stigma, lack of menstrual materials, and lack of knowledge can put too much pressure on the girls. Some African communities believe that periods only come after a girl loses her virginity.
Lack of sanitary materials also paralyzes the day-to-day activities, because women are forced to stay at home.
“I use scraps of fabric and cotton because sanitary towels are too expensive,” says Nafula, a 19-year-old Kawangware resident. “They sting, they burn, and they irritate my skin. But what’s worse is they leak and soil my clothes. During my periods, I cannot walk around, or carry on with my daily duties because I fear that people will see the blood stain on my clothes, so I seat at home.”
Impacts on education
Studies show that many girls in Africa miss about three to five days of school every month during their menstruation periods due to lack of sanitary pads. Often, they feel unclean, uncomfortable, and even embarrassed to stay in school. The discomfort and the fear of leakage also cause some to lose concentration in class.
For others, the problem is as basic as lack of access to toilets. In most parts of Africa, there’s only one toilet for every 300+ students.
The monthly absenteeism makes it difficult for the girls to keep up with the syllabus, let alone compete with their male classmates, so they remain a step behind throughout their education. Some will even choose to drop out of school to avoid the pressures altogether.
“I got my first period while I was in class. Unfortunately, a boy who was sitting behind me shouted that I had blood on my dress. It was terrifying because no one had told me that at some point, I’m going to have periods,” narrates Maya, a 14-year-old girl. “Everyone started calling me ‘the immoral girl’, and after months of struggling with self-esteem issues, I chose to drop out of school.”
What needs to be done?
Having monthly periods shouldn’t be shameful or a cause for health problems. It also shouldn’t hinder the women from empowerment or education. It’s therefore vital for policymakers to ensure that all school-going girls have access to sanitary ware.
Furthermore, school curriculum should include information about the biological processes to demystify all issues around the sexual and reproductive health to benefit students.
If male and female contraceptives are accessible free of charge in all public hospitals, the same should be for sanitary pads. After all, contraceptive use is optional; sanitary ware isn’t.
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