I blog for Change…

As I attempt to orient the windy and often treacherous roads that encapsulate life, here are some of my thoughts on the successes, failures and ultimately the hope and positivity in which I strive for a better world. I also hope that I can use this blog as a platform to elevate the social justice issues that are somewhat forgotten in the modern discourse of staying silent on issues that challenge.


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Roots, Branches & Leaves.

I was prompted to think about friendships over the weekend in the most unexpected but refreshing way possible. During a post work beverage(s) session on Friday evening a complete stranger posed an epiphany like analogy that I haven’t been able to stop pondering over. In a moment of sheer clarity this person explained his ‘3 types of friendship’ concept that upon further thinking and application to my own life seems like the truest revelation of my life. The metaphor explained further refers to that of a tree and its 3 appendages being roots, branches and leaves.

So it goes a little something like this: friends who fall in the roots category are those who exemplify stability, they are your truest of pals who despite what befalls us in life will just always be around. Those who fall in the branches group are more than acquaintances and somewhat steady, however our relationship with them is a little more on fluid ground and therefore can snap and break at any occasion. The leaves of our lives on the other hand are only there on a temporary basis and while the few months that they are around may be vibrant and colourful, they will eventually discolour and fall away.

What an amazing analogy right? The more I thought about it the more I realised the importance of the nuances in each category. I myself am far too guilty of holding on to the ‘leaves’ in my life instead of understanding that they are by nature only temporary. On the other hand I tend to take the ‘roots’ for granted. I forget that the depth of these friendships constitute to unconditional love. An aspect in which as a friend very rightly identified, we may not always like each other at certain times during the ebbs and flows of life however the nature of our connection defines our enduring presence together. As for the branches, they represent the floaters in which mean something to me but again, for whom I cannot expect unyielding presence and loyalty. Instead their company should be enjoyed and their influence on my life respected.

To that charming, British gentleman who blessed us with such a gem at the most unexpected of moments, so much gratitude and love! You provided us with a much needed metaphorical mirror to look at the way our deepest of connections are represented within our own reflections. To those #rootsforlife friends your ride or die connections are innate and therefore utterly cemented within the complexities that make this existence so complicatedly beautiful.

Sx


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Shout out to all my Maverick, Recusant & Dissenting Women.

This one is to all my strong, non conforming women out there who continue to strive ahead in a world in which questions your ability and reasons to do so.

Thank you for your strength, for your vigour and for your power, which in spite of what others may say, does actually exist.

Endless amounts of gratitude for calling out those who consistently belittle your worth as a human being by judging this against standards associated with your ‘beauty’.

Thank you for being the funniest person in the room and for not cowering when men around you feel uncomfortable and somehow emasculated because of this capacity.

Praise and appreciation for expressing your sexuality and practising your sexual rights in the face of being slut shamed, labelled a whore and chastised for a lack of purity.

Thank you for choosing to wear what makes you feel happy, strong and like the badass you are even when others may suggest that this is at odds with your perceived ‘femineity’.

Endless love for being labelled one of those ‘femi-nazis’ day in and day out and continuing to conduct yourself with humility and grace whilst still keeping up the fight.

Thank you for being influential, significant and effective leaders even while being rebuked in your decision making capacity as over emotional and hysterical.

Love and gratitude for continuing to speak up in the face of being branded an angry man-hater instead of some pretty darling to be seen, complimented but not heard.

You deserve so much more appreciation than you will ever receive but please know that I, and many others like me, am thankful and will forever be.

Sx


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We are all just doing the best we can…

As I approach my 30’s I often wonder about how much I’ve changed and if the naivety and recklessness of my youth has now passed and transitioned into that which is associated with adulthood. As children we look to the adults in our lives and feel utterly in awe of the responsible people they are. This is twofold when it comes to our parents who we envision as faultless in their rationale and dependability.

For me personally I’ve held myself to ‘proper adulting’ standards but fallen short oh so many times. I’ve always then chastised myself for not ‘adulting’ properly by which every decision I make and action I take is firmly rooted in logic and forward planning. In this instance I have to refer to the penultimate episode of the last season of Girls in which two women who have hurt each so deeply and at times, so intentionally, turn to one another and proclaim that ‘we’re all just doing the best we can’. In most instances it is nowhere near enough but perhaps the freedom and beauty here is in admitting that and still being a part of each other’s lives.

No matter how much we age or stumble forward in life, by nature we are inherently flawed beings. In our chase of attempting to be that being of utter maturity, responsibility and grace we tend to forget the things that make us human. Mistakes, self-interest and missteps are a part of the human condition. They are an inevitable component of our interactions with each other. Perfection is not something that comes with the ageing process. Instead, more accurately we learn to accept these faux pas as a part of living. We view maturity as understanding that the human race is indeed imperfect and the future will probably be filled with some things that we are not proud of. But at the end of the day this life that we lead is an experiment. There is no equation for how to be a proper adult or a set standard for when this should happen.

So maybe instead of tearing one another a part for the lack of progress to an unobtainable mould of what maturity should look like, we should instead be kinder to ourselves. Perhaps the act of simply getting up every day, recognising our past faults and trying that little bit harder to be a better person than we were yesterday is the ultimate definition of being an adult.

Sx


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Please don’t define my success by my Gender.

I’ve been reflecting on the idea of happy endings and the dimensions of what ‘life success’ looks like of late. In analysing this ideal further I turned to the space of film and what is portrayed by the media only to realise that the nature of what this condition of ‘life completeness’ shows varies immensely based on gendered lines. In most films you’ll find, even if a script is led by a strong female, it almost always ends with her finding her ‘meaning, purpose and happiness’ with her dream man. As if the idea that she has the ability to find all of these things of and within herself is demonstrably absurd.

The amount of times I’ve heard the line ‘all your dreams come true today’ to a bride on her wedding day is as infuriating as it is denigrating. For a woman it somehow seems completely fine to define her existence on the presumption that finding a man is indeed her entire life’s purpose. But imagine if this sentence was uttered to a groom on his wedding day. I assure you, this would be met with thoroughly confused looks.

So why the double standards? The question in this instance is matched with those of so many other circumstances; why is a woman’s primary role tied with the household? Why is it that a woman pursuing her career and delaying the onset of marriage and children is so taboo? Why is that the idea that a woman may not want the package deal of the above even more unthinkable?

It’s scary for me to think that down the line I could have achieved the highest amount of success in my career, changed the world for the better and yet because I don’t have someone standing next to me validating these achievements I won’t be respected or deemed successful. For some they will attempt to change the discourse on my tenacity and drive and substitute in terms like feisty, frigid and bossy. However, of course this would be unthinkable if I were a man where my existence in itself would be enough alone to solidify my accomplishments.

I wonder why in the future most people will be more interested in my marital status and not on my life pursuits for which I worked so hard to achieve. The perplexed nature of their questions around my ‘aloneness’ will have me questioning my own journey and speculating whether I am actually failing at life for not ‘achieving’ marriage and procreation, as if it were not actually a choice.

The even sadder thing is that if I do find someone to equally share my life with people with breathe a sigh of relief that now, I really had achieved ‘it all’. As if one’s primary relationship is the missing piece of the puzzle to a life properly lived for a woman.

I know how difficult it is to automatically change the discourse on centuries and eons of entrenched, rigid stereotypes on gender norms. But we are a species that is capable of evolving and I have to believe that by changing the way we think individually we can influence the space on a macro level. Let’s work towards a world where we stop defining women by the men who stand next to them and appreciate them in isolation of this.

Sx


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Life of a Development Worker – Promoting Voice through Inclusive Children’s Parliaments

tamil nadu CPs

As I travel through the projects which I am responsible for in India I continue to see those which are built on solid foundations of empowerment and inclusion. Within these, all members of society are assisted to practice their agency and contribute to the decision making processes of their communities. While the projects see success of these ventures with adults it has been identified that opportunities for children and children with disabilities to similarly raise their voices has been lacking. As an attempt to fill this gap some of the projects began to form and support the development of what they term ‘Inclusive Children’s Parliaments’.

These Parliaments are created as a platform for all children, including children with disabilities, to share their grievances and discuss issues pertinent to their own lives and that of their families. This innovate concept therefore promotes the social inclusion of children with disabilities alongside their peers whereby action plans are jointly developed at the end of each session and taken to local government authorities.

As in the regular Government Parliamentary system, 4 ministers, for Social Affairs, Education, Health and Protection along with a Speaker and a Reporter are elected for a period of 2 years. Parliamentarians discuss different issues such as disability, school dropouts, health and hygiene, supporting underprivileged children and issues concerning girls specifically. They pass resolutions, amendments, develop proposals, appeals, and submit petitions based on local issues to the relevant authorities.

During my recent travels to Shillong located in the North Eastern state of Meghalaya, I was highly impressed by one of these groups. Here, members raised the issue of a lack of communication infrastructure on school grounds. One of the elected ministers identified that it was difficult for him to know which classroom to go to without appropriate braille signage and he therefore depended other students without visual impairments to assist him to classes. He expressed that this undermined his freedom and ability to attend classes like other students. After this session, the group took this to their Principal and negotiated for the provision of appropriate signage for all classrooms.

Some other past instances of success have seen Children’s Parliament representatives voicing concerns around inaccessible community infrastructure leading to Government officials then allocating funds to modify schools and community buildings in their area. Another example was the successful request to grant street lighting to the community of a Child Parliament after group members identified that a lack of lighting was compromising the security of school children travelling home late at night after tuition.

It’s needless to say that these groups are equipping the next generation with skills of leadership and influencing practices of inclusion and anti-discrimination. These parliaments are also enabling children with disabilities to raise their voice and campaign for change and betterment of their own lives. As these children grow it is hoped that the lessons learnt and skills acquired through this process equip them to be active participants of the decision making mechanisms of their communities for the entirety of their lives.

Sx

*Images courtesy of CBM International