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Colombian Gen Z Wins Battle For The Right To Have Blue Hair At Graduation

A determined student's victory for freedom of hair in conservative Colombia.

Colombian Gen Z Wins Battle For The Right To Have Blue Hair At Graduation

Expressing herself

Alidad Vassigh

BUCARAMANGA — It may not be remembered alongside same-sex marriage or racial justice, but count it as another small (and shiny) victory in the battle for civil rights: an 18-year-old Colombian student whose hair is dyed a neon shade of blue has secured the right to participate in her high school graduation, despite the school's attempt to ban her from the ceremony because of the color of her hair.

Leidy Cacua, an aspiring model in the northeastern town of Bucaramanga, launched a public battle for her right to graduate with her classmates after the school said her hair violated its social and communal norms, the Bogota-based daily El Espectador reported.

Cacua took the matter to social media last week, as well as filing complaints with the ombudsman's office and regional Education Ministry. The school, she wrote online, had initially given her the choice: graduate in absentia, or "paint my hair or put on a wig."

Learning about the law

In her legal complaint, Cacua argued that the school was violating her constitutional right to freedom of expression and was blocking the development of her own personality. In the face of both the legal and media pressure, she said the school's headmaster called to tell her — in an angry tone — that she could indeed graduate with her fellow students.

Speaking last week with Colombian broadcaster Blu Radio, Cacua said this wasn't the first time the school targeted her hair: "Two years ago, they made me cut my hair. I had it with Californian wicks, in a chocolate tone, nothing weird." She says if she hadn't cut it, the school was threatening her with expulsion.

The 18-year-old said her battle was not an act of rebellion, but simply a desire to defend her rights. Cacua says she hopes other young people will follow suit. "Two years ago I knew nothing about laws," she said. "I didn't know I had rights."

Feeling blue


Rigid school norms

Cacua told another Colombian daily El Tiempo "Hair color doesn't represent an institution. I feel (they) are violating my right to freedom of personality. I fulfill all the requirements to graduate."

As the case went viral on social media, others noted that Colombia stands out for having rigid school norms in which students aren't allowed to polish their nails, use accessories or defy gendered uniforms that force girls to use skirts and boys trousers.

Even though the school gave in after the Education Ministry intervened, Cacua says she is continuing a legal action against it to force a change in its norms manual.

Known in fashion as Etérea, the teenager did actually wind up changing her hair color in time for graduation — adding a patch of green in the front to go with the blue.

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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