On Changing The World

A few months ago I picked a book at the library about how to be an everyday activist. I read most of it quite quickly, and then decided to observe and alter my habits in order to become one of those exceptional people who change the world.

So many things anger me. This world is full of unfairness and my mind is so full of opinions. I don’t understand how bad things keep happening and why the perpetrators keep getting away with it. Why hasn’t the world changed yet?

Well, what have I done yet?

Nothing. Why? Because my emotions burn like bush fire and don’t generate anything that can grow and live.

I can get outraged about the state of the world for two weeks and I get tired. My mind wanders to simpler things to bear or it shuts down under the weight of my helplessness. The world’s problems are too big for me to think about, let alone change.

The book I read tackles exactly that by stating that before you can change the world, you have to change your own life. It is not a sudden life overhaul it talks about, rather the small daily things that seem insignificant. It’s about turning the negative into positive action and frame of mind.

For example, I noticed how I never clean my shoes unless the dirt becomes noticeable enough to embarrass me. Swearing upsets me but my favourite songs are full of it and I sacrifice perfectly good days listening to them. My short term memory has a hole in it and it is kind of hell dealing with it.

This is the kind of human being I am. But now in my conscious effort to turn the negative into positive, I pay more attention to my shoes and clean them more often. I listen to clean versions of my favourite songs whenever possible and reduce my intake of the ones I already bought. Whenever I forget something (which is every single day) I forgive myself. Simple as that. Though, it took me a lot of soul searching and a trip to the doctor’s.

Challenging myself for the better is not easy. So how expect the world to be suddenly better because we are upset with it? I don’t think anger can change things; balance, positivity and passion do. Before you go after the problem in the world that bothers you, you have in good shape yourself.

It took me two years of repeated failure to understand that as much as I want a miracle solution for everything in the world and for myself, it takes time. Change happens one day at the time. It’s only by being better, positive people that we can have a go at changing bigger issues in the world one step at the time.

I am glad I even started this journey.

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Kili Climb Has Been Cancelled

It’s this time of the year again and I should have written this a long time ago.

Two Decembers ago I decided that I wanted to change the world, which led me to start project Kilimanjaro to campaign for girls’ rights. Unfortunately, after postponing the climb date twice, I will not be going up Mount Kilimanjaro.

It has been the most challenging project I had to take on recently. It stopped being about the girls and became more about my overwhelming shortcomings, which to be fair I didn’t realise I had. Maybe project Kilimanjaro was too big to chew, maybe I should have been easier on myself, maybe fundraising is a very difficult thing to do alone, maybe , maybe… there are a lot of maybes that can fill a lifetime and not get me anywhere. So I decided to tackle them one at the time and change the world without hating myself.

But it is not all doom and gloom.

I raised £560 through a market sale, pestering people with blog posts on social media, a cake sale, a pub quiz, a cookie sale, a car boot sale, French lessons, and a tin at the local post office.

I met people that I otherwise wouldn’t have met, which I am very grateful for. There are kind people out there, absolute strangers who are ready to shake heaven and hell just to help. I don’t know why they do it but it is great and I am glad the kindness of strangers is a real thing.

I think I inspired a few people. Before I started project Kili I couldn’t inspire myself out of bed. That bad. So hearing a people encouraging me and saying I inspired them to start something they always wanted to do is heartwarming.

I got to learn a lot more about harmful practices against girls. The project led me to get better educated on girls’ rights.

Next plans:

Not climbing the mountain doesn’t mean the end of the campaign. I plan to carry on campaigning for girls’ rights and raise money whenever I can because it is a cause worth fighting for and I believe in it.

I booked myself on a simpler challenge on the Isle of Wight in April. Small steps.

So the blog will still be here but the fundraising page will be closed.

Thanks a lot to those who donated, supported and encouraged me all this time. Special thanks to Plan UK for the support in times of doubt. 

On Dealing With Failure

This Kili project has been going on for so long I sometimes wonder if it’s worth continuing. I moved the date of the climb twice, cancelled many events and froze into inaction out of sheer panic. Months went by and I was hiding under my duvet. Is there such a thing as the wrong kind of fear? I tried to reason with myself, find ways to deal with the problem, bypass my mind. For every victory I would sit there and say “oh, it wasn’t so bad!”

Nothing is ever so bad. I just haven’t found the bridge between drawing out a plan and doing what I am supposed to do.

I first I thought there would be a magic formula that would solve all this and that I just needed more time. But I could buy myself more time and still run around in circle.

In June after returning from a training weekend in the Peak District the only thought in my mind was “just get on with it.” There’s no formula, there’s only every day to try my luck at getting on with it.

Last month after the car boot sale I was very disappointed with myself. I was telling my landlord about it and he said “you tried.” Just that.  It was enough to shift my perspective on the project and how I am managing it. Recently, a friend said the same and she added that I was being too harsh on myself.

Now instead of playing the self-punishing game, I constantly remind myself that this is everything I ever wanted. Written on pieces of paper in my bedroom and in my notebooks as a reminder is this sentence I hold on to dearly: I am doing this because I love it.IMG_5302[1]

I am raising money for Plan UK with the aim to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in December to champion girls’ rights.

Plan’s campaign Because I am a girl is the biggest girls’ rights campaign in the world. It was launched in 2007 and has since reached millions of girls in 50 countries.

The campaign aims to fight unfair and harmful practices towards girls like child marriage, genital mutilation, exclusion from school for various reasons, superstition surrounding bodily functions and many unbelievable theories out there.

Follow the links on the top right to know more about Plan UK and to donate!

 

Car Boot Sale!

Last Sunday in my effort to raise money for project Kili I went to a car boot sale for the first time ever. My dear landlord drove me. He even added more stuff to the carload. I was in charge of finding where to go. I found something which I thought would do. On the day ( landlord was up before me) we loaded the car and off we went!

On the motorway we drove past a field where a boot sale was already in full swing and it was only half past seven. We got to the place I found only to find out there wasn’t anything on for the rest of the year. Yep, my kind of planning. So my mum-landlord took charge and decided we should try the field we saw earlier, they might let us in. And they did. The minute we got off the car people swarmed over looking for a bargain. I was taken aback. I felt that we were being attacked. I eventually got used to the rhythm of people coming and going and at the end it wasn’t so bad.

We mainly had books that were kindly given by people who wanted to help, which we sold for each 50p and £1. We had children’s toys, some clothes, shoes and few random items.

IMG_5047

I was delightfully surprised to meet women who knew about Plan and the work they do for young girls. One argued that targeting girls only would not be enough. Men who marry young girls too should be re-educated. We can save young girls from marriage all we want be the root of the problem is that some men would still want to marry them. I mentioned the programs done with young men and boys to tackle the problem early.

I am raising money for Plan UK with the aim to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in December to champion girls’ rights.

Plan’s campaign Because I am a girl is the biggest girls’ rights campaign in the world. It was launched in 2007 and has since reached millions of girls in 50 countries.

The campaign aims to fight unfair and harmful practices towards girls like child marriage, genital mutilation, exclusion from school for various reasons, superstition surrounding bodily functions and many unbelievable theories out there.

Follow the links on the top right to know more about Plan UK and to donate!

*I wish the picture was clearer but that’s all I have 😦

Bake Sale

On Saturday I had a bake sale to raise money for Plan UK’s campaign Because I am a Girl. It was the first bake sale I have ever done. I had to do everything alone and it wasn’t so bad. I even impressed myself with my baking skills! Who knew I could do this?

I raised £76.

A Case of Child Marriage: “She was no longer my problem.”

I found this article on child marriage which highlights the reasons behind this harmful practice. It’s from the Washington Post, by Stephen Buckley on December 13, 1997. It’s crazy to think that the practice is still alive 19 years later and the horrors of it are true today as they were back then. How many stories have I heard of girls taken out of school to be married off to some distant relative to save family honour?

The story below is very shocking and I put in bold the part where I actually stopped reading to shout my anger. I heard about the case of Fanta Keita at the time it happened and seeing it here again is a reminder that there is still a lot to be done to protect young girls that no one hears in their darkest hours.

It’s a long article but please read it to the end. There’s a lot to learn from it. The horror is real.

 

Wedded to Tradition: Marriage at Puberty

KORHOGO, Ivory Coast—

The griots are wailing. They howl into a squealing microphone as fellow storytellers, in a storm of sunflower golds and indigos and teals and cornflower blues, dip, leap, shake, stomp, twirl and shudder in fierce ecstatic dancing.

It is just after noon, and inside, in a steamy square room no larger than a prison cell, Aisha Camara is covered in a pink-and-white striped blanket. She briefly lifts a veil that hides her angular features. The griots and her neighbors are celebrating her wedding day, but she is not smiling.

She is 14 years old, and in this town in northern Ivory Coast, and throughout sub-Saharan Africa, such ceremonies are common. It does not matter that in numerous countries on this continent, such early marriages have been illegal for years.

Aisha’s family will not publicly discuss this tradition, but people in her community eagerly defend it. People such as Boubacar Maiga, a neighbor who did not attend Aisha’s wedding, say forcing girls to marry at such ages protects them from immorality, strengthens clan relationships and honors Islam.

“If a girl doesn’t marry at an early age, she’ll sleep with many men. Nobody would want to marry her later,” said Maiga, 55. Such marriages, he said, keep girls from “adventures.”

He married his first wife when she was 11. He forced his oldest daughter to marry last year when she was 12. His next daughter, age 7, is scheduled to wed next year. Constance Yai, a prominent women’s rights activist in this West African country, sees only tyranny in the tradition. Her battle to eradicate childhood marriage is for her a struggle between an oppressive Africa tied blindly to traditions versus one urgently seeking to embrace the modern world.

“Pedophilia is a phrase that’s only recently become popular in the developed world,” she said in her office in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s capital. “But in Africa, it’s been around a long time.”

The practice of forcing girls into marriage took hold decades ago throughout sub-Saharan Africa and is especially widespread in countries there with large Muslim populations.

The marriages typically occur within clans, the girl compelled to wed a distant relative—often two or three times her age—who sometimes has chosen her long before puberty.

Experts on Islamic law say the Koran does teach that a girl can be married as soon as she can conceive, but they say the religion does not condone forcing girls into wedlock.

Sociologists and teachers of Islamic law say that West African Muslims have accepted the tradition because it ostensibly promotes social stability, cementing ties between clans and preventing promiscuity.

Activists and medical professionals say pre-adolescent marriage is partly responsible for Africa’s maternal mortality rates, among the highest in the world. Yai says it is not unusual for both mother and child to die during birth.

Yai said that “often the girls are pulled from school and forced to drop their education and become a wife overnight. These young women cannot turn to anyone to say no or to seek help.” The real reason the practice has prevailed, she said, is that families often receive hundreds, even thousands of dollars as dowry. “It is what keeps this practice alive,” she said.

But the practice has come under increasing assault since last year, when a then-12-year-old named Fanta Keita killed her 30-year-old husband.

A Bride’s Revenge 
Fanta has a heart-shaped face, a simple, sweet smile, bright almond-shaped eyes and a tiny voice. You cannot imagine her slitting someone’s throat.

But that is what she did in April 1996. She killed her husband of three weeks, was arrested the next day and, largely because of Yai’s Ivorian Association for the Defense of Women, almost immediately became a cause.

Fanta’s parents had forced her to marry a distant cousin she had never heard of or seen. They lived together in Abidjan.

Every night, she said, he asked her for sex. Every night she said no. He would then batter her about the face and head. Then, every night, he would rape her.

One Saturday night, he came into their house and asked her to draw water for a bath. She said no. He asked why. She said she just did not want to. He left.

He had told Fanta that if she refused to draw his water, she could not go to a neighbor’s house. She went anyway, watched television and ate dinner, and when she returned, he was waiting for her.

After he beat her and raped her again, he went to sleep. She slipped into the kitchen and—she put her head on the table, covering up with her arms as she said this—”I took the knife and I cut him.”

The police held her in the women’s section of the Abidjan prison for nearly a year before women’s rights groups prevailed on President Henri Konan Bedie to free her, at least until her trial.

Now activists from Yai’s group shelter her during the week, and on weekends she lives at Yai’s house. Fanta’s case has galvanized women’s rights activists to press the government to publicize a 30-year-old law that outlaws early and forced marriage.

“We have to let these young girls know they have the right to refuse this type of practice,” said Yai, who sat a few feet from Fanta during the interview. This month another campaign is designed to let police know that “when a young girl comes to the police, they must help her instead of saying, ‘That’s a family problem.'”

A Father’s ‘Duty’
Maiga had not heard of Fanta Keita until recently. He does not hold much sympathy for her. “In Islam, when the girl is married, her husband is just under God,” he said. “You should obey him no matter what.”

Maiga, a short, square-shouldered man with a trimmed white beard, defends early marriage without shame or self-consciousness. In an ideal world, a woman would not be married until 18, he says, but we do not live in an ideal world.

We live in a world in which girls chase boys, have sex, produce babies, earn reputations, shame families, he said. “Your neighbors won’t respect you,” he said in Fulani, his tribal language. “They will say I failed to fulfill my duties as a father.”

He said Azara, his daughter who married last year, frequently would leave the house and return hours later, and he would not know where she had been. Once he tied her up, burned her back with a piece of iron, then locked her in a room for three days without food. He laughed as he told this story; so did the men nearby.

He never sent Azara to school because if girls went to “modern” school, they might meet people who would drive them from their traditions. Educated girls “argue with their parents. They start asking questions. They want to have a say in everything in their life,” he said. And educated girls do not want to marry until they are “19 or 20.”

As soon as he married off Azara, “I got peace of mind,” Maiga said. “She was no longer my problem.”

She became Ibrahim Haidara’s “problem.” Haidara, 41, has known Maiga for years, and he first saw Azara at Maiga’s house. He says he picked her to be his bride when she was 6 years old.

Haidara, a fisherman and farmer, is an educated man who speaks fluent French and gives instruction in the Koran. Asked about the case of Fanta Keita, he said her husband “deserved what he got.”

Yet he defended the tradition that Fanta struck out against. He said marrying a 12-year-old is fine because “it’s the parents”—both the man’s and the girl’s—who make the decision.

He sat in the yard in front of the house in which he and Azara rent a room. Around him, piglets—intruders from a neighbor’s yard—nosed around, and chickens scuttled back and forth.

His legs were crossed, his voice even. He sat in a wooden chair; Azara, who had served him a lunch of fish and rice, sat on a straw mat near his feet.

He has had trouble with Azara. At one point last year, her father came to the village to warn Azara that she must mind Haidara. He had heard that she was neglecting her husband, running to neighbors’ houses to watch TV and stealing away to local tribal dances.

Haidara said Azara has a lot to learn. The problem is that she is very young and “still very childish.”

Azara does possess a typical 13-year-old’s tender goofiness. It flashes in the way she melts into giggles at the slightest thing, in the way she snaps her gum and blows bubbles, in the embarrassed frozen silences that follow questions about having children.

She said she does not recall much about her wedding in February 1996, just that “I wasn’t happy.” If she had had a choice, she would have gotten married “after having some fun,” she said in Fulani. “When I got tired of having fun, then I would get married.”

She spends her days bent over—sweeping the room they rent with a hand broom, preparing meals, washing clothes, scrubbing pots and plates. She said she has one friend, a young girl who also is married.

Azara saw Haidara at her father’s house a lot when she was very young. He never brought gifts for her, never joked with her, seemed to barely see her. No one told her that he had picked her to be his bride.

The teenager said that shortly after their wedding, she did rebel. She said Haidara then began beating her regularly. To which her father snapped: “It’s your fault. . . . There’s no food when your husband comes home from the field. You deserve to be punished.” (Azara later said Haidara has never struck her but has insulted her and threatened to kill her.)

She seems to spend a lot of time with her friend, Oumou, 12. Oumou, a quiet girl who constantly twists her chin-length braids, was wedded when she was 9. She has a 6-month-old daughter.

One afternoon, at Oumou’s house, Azara kissed and snuggled her friend’s baby. “She’s beautiful,” Azara said, “but I’m not ready to have one.”

 

You can check the original article on here: Washington Post