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. Sx

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Speak Up, Speak Out.

I’ve been in the international development sphere for the past 10 years now having worked with people living in poverty in developing countries to empower themselves to rise out of poverty. I’ve always known that this endeavour is far beyond a day to day vocation for me, it’s a calling and one which I take very seriously. I’ve spoken in the past about my lifestyle choice being to live this existence attempting to empower and after 10+ years of this work I’ve grown anything but tired of it. As time has gone on, I’ve increased my commitment past that of simply applying my time to the cause of eradicating poverty. Working in the disability sector, with a heightened focus on marginalised women I’ve come to understand that the power of raising my voice is much more potent than I ever could have imagined.

The HerStory campaign is the complete embodiment of this ideal. In a world in which silence or tacit complicity are the usual response to injustice, I more than ever understand the importance of doing the exact opposite. Working in this field I see so many hideous things and lately I’ve been more open and honest about the trauma in which I’ve absorbed subconsciously through my field visits. Seeing the evidence of so much discrimination and indignity in which so many women around the world are subjected to has not been lost on me. I’ve heard so many tales of loss, pain and hardship that comes with deeply entrenched poverty that sometimes it’s easy to forget how much of an impact it has had on my psyche. What I have learnt however is that far from letting this push me into a state of helplessness or endemic sadness, I use it as the inspiration in which I set about changing this world.

In truth 2017 has not been a good year for women, women’s rights or the struggle for gender equality as a whole. The never ending metaphorical beat down of the pursuit for justice is one which is easy to give into, lay down and stay silent on due to sheer helplessness and frustration. But my voice is a powerful one, just as others are and particularly of those of you who are reading this article. I don’t promote the saying that we need to speak for those who are voiceless. This is a pointless and utterly denigrating statement which identifies those who are vulnerable and marginalised as defenceless victims who have nothing to offer. People living in power and especially those who are women are not voiceless, instead they simply lack the platform to raise their voices and be heard on a large scale. This is where you and I, and others like us have the ability to speak with them (again not for them) and leverage the platform we have as educated young people in developed countries trying to make a difference in this world.

So every time you feel demoralised by the events of this tumultuous and increasingly discriminative world remember to speak up, speak out and continue to commit to the fight of seeking justice and promoting equality. The battle cry of the HerStory campaign lives within this exact ideal and in which we continue to draw light on the particular injustice of denial of sexual and reproductive rights which is costing women their lives. It centres around the paradigm that if we continue to speak about the abhorrent nature of this repeal of women’s rights that the conversation keeps going and the women who are facing the bulk of this discrimination know that they are not alone in this fight. These women understand that we will not ignore their plight and simply go on with our lives in spite of their peril. We stand beside them and demand the commitment to basic human rights in which women the world over are allowed to make choices about what happens to their own bodies, which has scarily become far from a foregone conclusion.



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Life of a Development Worker – Towards Inclusive Education.


On a chilly, windy day in February I entered the premises of Ferrando Speech and Hearing Centre in Barapani which is approximately 45 mins away from Shillong, a hill station in India’s remote North East. The centre was initially set up as a school for children with hearing and speech impairments but in recent times has worked towards enrolling children without disabilities to promote holistic inclusion and equal education for all. Through the CBM Australia funded Regional Action for Inclusive Education in the North East (RAISE) project, Ferrando is one of 16 partners working towards enrolment, retention and mainstreaming of children with disabilities into educational facilities and local government schools and improving the quality of education for all children across 5 states in the North East.

The core tenet of this project is to skill up 28 key teachers with the techniques required to provide inclusive education to children of differing learning abilities. A main activity revolves around developing relevant Teacher Learning Materials (TLMs) allowing for adapted learning approaches and models where children with disabilities are enabled to learn alongside their peers.

During the visit I met with Jacinta and Joyshree who are the 2 key teachers appointed by Ferrando to take part in the RAISE Project. I was instantly taken aback by the enthusiasm of both these young women as they recounted their motivation and willingness to take part in the project. Both women explained that through the key teachers training they were learning about a multi disciplinary approach towards disability inclusion in the education context. They will then be responsible for sharing this knowledge with other teachers within their institution, developing adapted teaching & learning modules and approaching SSA (local government) teachers to promote the usage of these.

My appreciation of these key teachers was compounded as Joyshree herself is speech and hearing impaired and explained that she was once a student at Ferrando. After growing up in Imphal, the capital of Manipur within the North East region, Joyshree attended the institute who at the time was one of the only schools offering educational opportunities for children with speech and hearing impairments. She cited her experience within the institute during her education and the lack of services available for children with disabilities within the sector as being her source of inspiration for becoming a teacher. According to Joyshree, she feels ‘an obligation’ to educate others who may have missed out on educational opportunities solely due to their impairments.

When I asked Joyshree of what her end goal was for participation within the project she replied that she hopes not only for all children with disabilities to access to quality education, but also that all mainstream teachers are equipped with the skills to teach these children in an inclusive setting.


**Content © CBM Australia

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I’ve recently started watching the tv series adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale and found myself wondering whether the events within the show are in fact a dystopian element of fiction or an eerily similar commentary on the modern day far-right populism that is infecting our world today. Coming into the series I was warned of the graphic nature of depictions toward rape and body mutilation which is inherently at play during viewing. However what is perhaps more shocking is the portrayal of a slow onset repeal of human rights, more specifically women’s rights that snowballs into women being stripped of basic civil and universal liberties around determining what happens to their own bodies and the direction of their lives.

As ‘Offred’ the main protagonist explains the changes occurred slowly while they were all metaphorically asleep in a far right response to growing terrorism. The first effects of which began with people on the streets openly spurting hate filled rhetoric and abuse at her character while she was wearing work out gear (including shock horror, shorts) and jogging in public without the presence of a male chaperone. She was slut-shamed and refused service as a café but laughed it off as a once off. This scene is then juxtapositioned against a spiralling effect where the bank accounts of all women are frozen and they are ‘let go’ from their workplaces.

To be honest if this series had come out a few years ago I would have identified the parallels with the ongoing struggle of the feminist movement and entrenched patriarchy of our world but been able to end an episode and go on with my daily life. However, in the age that we are living in today my response, the further I get into this series, is one of utter fear. The parallels to our modern day, Trump era existence are frightening real. As in the Handmaid’s Tale, women and minorities are slowly losing their rights with every blinking of an eyelid. We are being sold the idea that this is necessary in a fear mongering campaign that works to capture the worst of our apprehensions about safety and security.

Day by day we are seeing decisions, actions and executive orders taken by those in the high echelons of power that should surprise us and shock us into action. But we’ve been so highly desensitised to the never ending absurdities that we seem to have accepted that this stupidity might just be our inherent fate. Now let’s be clear I am not saying that the next stage of the human condition will be plucking fertile young women out of their lives, placing them in homes of those who are wealthy but reproductively challenged and renaming them ‘of-whatever their masters name is’. However, I am attempting to highlight that what seemed completely unacceptable yesterday has crept into existence today in the most shocking of ways. The reimposition of the global gag rule, the repeal of planned parenthood services and the gutting of UN funding to marginalised women worldwide is an outright assault on our pursuit of justice and equality as members of the human race.

So I urge you today to not accept the next hideous thing that comes our way without a fight. I beg you to not ‘fall asleep at the wheel’ as June (I refuse to continue calling her Offred) and her friends did. Do not be desensitised by the continuance of these abhorrent violations of our basic human rights and please continue to resist.