LONDON, Sept 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The toymaker behind Barbie launched a range of gender-neutral dolls on Wednesday which can be styled as either girls or boys, saying children were moving away from traditional stereotypes.
Mattel's "Creatable World" dolls come with removable wigs allowing them to switch between long and short hair, as well as outfits including both dresses and trousers, with the firm saying they offer "inclusive" play for all.
"We heard that kids don't want their toys dictated by gender norms," said Kim Culmone, senior vice president of fashion doll design at Mattel.
"Toys are a reflection of culture and as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, we felt it was time to create a doll line free of labels."
Some parents and feminist campaigners argue gendered marketing of children's toys and clothes limits girls' ambitions and reinforces gender stereotypes from a child's earliest years.
The growing number of children identifying as transgender and non-binary - who do not see themselves as male or female - has also boosted demand for toys which represent a wider range of gender identities.
Culmone said the new "gender-inclusive" dolls, which cost $30 each, would allow "all kids to express themselves freely".
The move was hailed as a step forward by Jess Day of Let Toys Be Toys, which campaigns for gender-neutral toys, who said that children learn about the world through play and stereotyped marketing could have far-reaching consequences.
"It's really nice to see a doll line that is as welcoming to boys as it is to girls," Day told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that she expected to see more manufacturers taking an inclusive approach.
"Toy companies have been quite slow to take on board that the world has changed. Most parents don't really want to see their children's interests limited."
Six in 10 parents agreed that product marketing "reinforces stereotypes about what girls and boys can do", a survey by British women's rights group, the Fawcett Society, found this year.
NEW YORK, Sept 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Every country must ban female genital mutilation to protect girls and help end poverty, Somali-born British campaigner Nimco Ali said as she launched a global project to end the practice by 2030.
About 3.9 million girls have their external genitalia partially or totally removed every year despite health risks, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and this could rise to 4.6 million by 2030 due to population growth.
Ali said FGM was at the heart of gender inequality and called on all countries to act to end the abuse in line with the United Nations' global goals agreed upon in 2015 and save 68 million girls at risk between now and 2030.
"Everyone knows that FGM is wrong," Ali, 36, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations' key annual meeting. "We need to lobby governments to act, but we also need to fund African women at the frontline as they are the orchestrators of their own destiny."
She said she hoped launching her campaign, entitled The Five Foundation, The Global Partnership to End FGM, on Wednesday would build a network of activists and find new sources of funding to end the abuse of women that she called a way "to put them in their place".
"You will never end poverty or have peace if you pin girls down aged 5, cut them, break them and sell them for some cows," said Ali who moved to Britain from Somaliland when she was 4 years old.
"There is a massive link between the way countries treat 50% of their population - women - and their prosperity and success."
Ali's campaigning stems from her own childhood when she was cut at age 7 while in Djibouti, in East Africa, on holiday with her family which led to health complications and reconstructive surgery.
FGM is linked with severe long-term complications including cysts, infections and complications in childbirth. In the most severe cases, the vaginal opening is sewn up.
"For me the act of FGM was not the most painful experience, but the fact that it just didn't mean anything," said Ali. "I only forgave my mother finally last year."
After studying law and joining the civil service, Ali began actively campaigning against the practice that is still widespread in about 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Many people believe the ritual is an important tradition and religious obligation, although it is not in the Koran, and up to 96% of women in countries like Somalia, Egypt and Sudan are cut.
ROME, Sept 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Swapping fish for meat to help combat climate change risks exacerbating hunger in Africa, from where fish is increasingly exported to wealthy nations instead of providing key vitamins to malnourished local people, experts warned on Wednesday.
Some consumers in rich countries are shunning meat in favour of other forms of protein, including lentils and fish, in order to reduce the amount of planet-warming greenhouse gases emitted by intensive livestock farming.
But popular fish such as sardines and mackerel are sourced from African countries that export most of their nutrient-rich catch instead of selling it to their own populations, said a paper published in the journal Nature.
A shift in diets would "serve to ... worsen the food and nutritional security of already vulnerable people in places such as West Africa, Asia and the Pacific", said Christina Hicks, the paper's lead author.
The global fishing industry is worth $166 billion, and much of the fish on supermarket shelves in Europe and China comes from developing countries such as Namibia and Kiribati, which can export more than 90% of their fish catch.
The study found that across much of the tropics, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, some of the most nutritious species of fish such as anchovies are found in countries where citizens suffer from a lack of essential vitamins and minerals.
Yet "foreign fishing, illegal fishing, subsidies, prices, and trade all act to divert much-needed nutrients away from those in need," said Hicks, a professor at Britain's Lancaster University.
Globally, more than 2 billion people suffer from a deficiency of micronutrients such as iron, zinc, and vitamin A essential for the functioning of human bodies, experts say.
In Namibia, almost the entire population is estimated not to have an adequate intake of vitamin A, while in Mauritania, the same applies to nearly half of its people.
Even a small portion of the catch from their waters could go a long way towards combating malnutrition-related diseases in millions of people within 100 km (60 miles) of the sea, Hicks said.
One way forward is to reform international fishing policies so local governments require companies to divert a small portion of their catch into programmes for malnourished children, Hicks said.
In Mauritania, for example, foreign fishing makes up over 70% of the fish caught, much of which are highly nutritious species but are processed in-country to be used in aquaculture abroad, she said.
Countries could replicate projects under way in Bangladesh and Uganda where fish heads, bones and tails that are usually binned by factories are turned into fish powder that can be added to meals to boost nutrition, Hicks said.
Globally, fish consumption is at an all-time high of 20.2 kg (44.5 lb) per person, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.