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Barbie will soon be 60 — and is still going strong

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By AFP
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Barbie is turning 60 this year and still doesn’t have a single wrinkle.

Blonde or brunette, slender or curvy, black or white, princess or president, Barbie is a forever favourite for young girls, even if she has caused controversy over the years.

The iconic doll has evolved to keep up with the times — check out her Twitter feed.

And despite fierce competition in the toy industry, 58 million Barbies are sold each year in more than 150 countries.

“In an industry where success today is three to five years, 60 years is a huge deal!” said Nathan Baynard, director of global brand marketing for Barbie.

Around the world, Barbie is as universally known as Coca-Cola or McDonald’s, Baynard said during a recent visit to Mattel’s design studio in El Segundo, a suburb of Los Angeles.

In all, more than one billion Barbie dolls have been sold since she made her debut at the American Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959.

She was invented by Ruth Handler, the co-founder of Mattel, who was inspired by her own children to create the doll.

“Her daughter Barbara was limited in the choices of her toys — the only ones were baby dolls,” Baynard recounted.

“The only role she could imagine through that play was caregiver, mother,” whereas Handler’s son “could imagine being an astronaut, cowboy, pilot, surgeon.”

Barbie is, of course, a shortened version of Barbara.

The doll was supposed to teach girls “that they had choices, that they could be anything. In 1959, it was a radical idea!” Baynard said.

Barbie was an instant success. In the first year, 300,000 dolls were sold, he added.

From the start, Barbie’s pinup measurements didn’t immediately seem all that feminist, and would spark criticism for decades to come.

“In 1959, her body structure was exaggerated to match the aesthetics of the time and the fabric available,” said Barbie designer Carlyle Nuera.

Since the blonde beauty first hit stores, and after a torrent of complaints over what was seen as unrealistic proportions, Mattel has made many changes — introducing multiple body types and dozens of skin tones.

MG Lord, author of “Forever Barbie,” also argued that the original criticisms were unwarranted.

“She is what the child wants her to be. How a child sees the Barbie doll is often framed by how the mother of that child feels about the idea of femininity,” Lord told AFP.

“The problem here is not an 11.5-inch plastic object. The problem is the larger culture and the idea of femininity.”

In 1965, four years before Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon, Barbie became an astronaut. In 1968, the first black Barbie doll, a friend named Christie, hit store shelves.

Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and global general manager for the Barbie brand, said that today, 55 percent of the dolls sold around the world have neither blonde hair nor blue eyes.

Mattel has more than 100 people working in the El Segundo design studio, a massive hangar-like building wedged between Los Angeles International Airport and a freeway.

Designers begin with a simple sketch. From there on, every bit of a prototype is made by an army of experts — from sculpting the doll using state-of-the-art software and 3D printing to painting the face, styling the hair, choosing fabrics and crafting the clothing patterns.

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The entire design process for a new Barbie can last 12 to 18 months. Then, the prototype is sent from the California workshop to factories in China and Indonesia for mass production.

“Sometimes, you see her on a shelf and then it gets back to you: oh yes, I designed this one!” Nuera said with a smile.

Barbie is not only a toy store success — she has a massive social media presence, and is something of an “influencer,” with millions of followers.

She has an actual identity: Barbie Millicent Roberts, who hails from the made-up town of Willows in the Midwest.

And now, she speaks directly to girls about her life, and important current topics.

In 2018, the brand launched a sweeping campaign to help young girls close the so-called “Dream Gap” — using Barbie to teach them to believe in themselves, and not to buy into sexist gender stereotypes.

Barbie has a hair stylist, makeup artist and photographer who travel with her “for real” in the United States and abroad for Instagram photo sessions (check out @barbiestyle). The account has nearly two million followers.

So, does Barbie have it all as she hits 60, but remains forever young, still single and without kids (so far)?

“The narrative of the Barbie brand is that she’s a young woman and she’s independent and pursuing careers,” McKnight said.

Here are a few key dates in the history of Barbie, the iconic doll turning 60 in 2019:

March 9, 1959: Barbie makes her debut at the American Toy Fair in New York.

1961: Creation of Ken, Barbie’s on-off boyfriend. The two dolls are named for creator Ruth Handler’s children.

1965: Barbie becomes an astronaut, four years before Neil Armstrong walks on the Moon. To date, she has tried nearly 200 careers.

1965: Barbie gets bendable legs.

1967: The first celebrity Barbie is issued — in the form of British model Twiggy.

1968: Mattel markets the first black doll, a friend for Barbie named Christie. In 1980, the first Black Barbie is marketed.

1970: The first fully articulated Barbie is created.

1992: Barbie is a presidential candidate for the first time.

2004: Barbie dumps Ken for a surfer named Blaine, the brother of one of her friends. But the relationship only lasts a short time.

February 14, 2011: Ken officially returns to Barbie’s life.

2014: Mattel produces Ella, a bald friend of Barbie suffering from cancer. She is given free to children going through chemotherapy who have lost their hair.

2016: Barbie makes the front page of Time magazine when she is introduced in several new looks: tall, petite and curvy.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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