The Complex Case of Shamima Begum

The case of Shamima Begum, a 19-year old girl who flew the UK four years ago to join ISIS is extremely complex. Her story made the headlines when her and two other friends left London to join one of the world’s most notorious organisations. Now, four years later, her two friends have died, she’s lost two children, she’s just given birth in a refugee camp, and Begum wants to return back home to the UK and her family.

**** update: Shamima’s baby son has lost his life to pneumonia after freezing to death in the refugee camp that Begum has been living in since the UK government stripped her illegally from her citizenship.

The UK’s reaction

For lots of people in the UK, this has caused outrage. Her citizenship has since been revoked meaning that she is now stateless. Most people won’t know what that means, but it’s a pretty dire and dangerous situation to be in. Being stateless strips her of all her rights and to do this is actually illegal under international law. Marie Lecont says “I find the issue of young people who’ve joined ISIS as teenagers and now want to come back very complex to be honest. I’m not sure where I stand on it. I’m amazed so many of you have confidently picked a side once and for all.” For me, it shows the extremity and online bravery of so many uneducated people who seem to be detached from the international world.

From reading online, I’ve seen the jokes made of professors, educators and academics. Where the awful woman that is Katie Hopkins (who makes the most unrelated points) is actually being given more of a platform than people who understand and are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to cases of terrorism, psychology, human rights and international relations, which is ultimately what this case is about. It’s much deeper and complex than most would even care to understand. And what an easy bandwagon it is to jump on when you hear the words ‘terrorism’, ‘Muslim girl’ and ‘ISIS’.

It’s funny as most people are quick to think that Shamima is fully responsible for being groomed and abused by ISIS, but are still furiously angry at the Rotherham and Oldham cases where girls of the same age were also groomed and abused. Perhaps it’s because the ethnicities have been switched? We need to also remember that no man has ever been treated like this. Her issue is made more of an issue because of the complexities regarding her gender, race and religion.

People have also been quick to compare her responsibility to that of the boys in the James Bulger case. A case where the boys had committed a gruesome murder at the ages of 10 years old and were convicted as the UK’s youngest criminals. A case where people only take into consideration that first part, and not the part where they served only 8 years in prison, and were assessed and monitored throughout, to then be given second chances with normal lives and under new alias.

10221852-6740383-image-a-37_1551041578768

An eye for an eye

Shamima is not the first and won’t be the last to have fallen for the tricks of ISIS and now wishes to return home. An estimated 400 people have left and returned back to the UK from Syria and ISIS. The girls are groomed online for a long period of time, sold a dream of a life overseas by people that they think they can trust, only to discover a life of the opposite. When they arrive, they’re usually sold as wives to unknown men, raped, abused over and over, and taken to areas where they lack food, water and electricity. It’s not like she could just book a flight home. She didn’t have the access, knowledge or capability. The friends that she went with have since died, so it’s a miracle that Shamima has even escaped, not forgetting that she has literally just given birth.

Her interviews

In her recent interviews where she discovers that her identity has been revoked and she is stating that she wants to come home, it seems she lacks remorse or even a great understanding on the seriousness of her case. I watched it and was a little shocked myself. However, I looked a bit further into this too. Shamima’s answers are short, she seems unbothered and says she has little regrets about her last 4 years. But let’s take into consideration that….

  • She had just given birth in a refugee camp before one of the interviews. Of course, she is tired, probably suffering from PTSD and is facing a backlash regardless of what she says or does.
  • She’s also spent the last four years in vulnerable states surrounded by men. The only people that have interviewed her so far are men.
  • There’s such thing called Stockholm Syndrome where you grow to love your abuser or kidnapper. Though the people who surround her and her life might be the most terrifying people in the world to us, to her, they’ve been her family for years and probably shine in a very different light. This actually makes her even more vulnerable.

190215-Shamima-Begum

She is not innocent, but she’s still a victim

It’s complex because she is not innocent. She’s witnessed and been involved with one of the world’s most notorious organisations. Therefore, she should be, rightly, tried before the courts and completely and thoroughly assessed and monitored with her baby taken into care. If you want to understand why and how people can be radicalised, if you don’t understand why she got on that plane in the first place, then the most logical thing would be to fly her back, question her and try to understand it all from her point of view. We could really learn a lot from this and learn to prevent situations like this.

We must take into consideration the complexity, back story and situation where she has made such an awful decision that will affect her for life. A decision that has left her suffering, bereaved, confused and lost. A decision that would obviously affect her words when it comes to news reports. A decision made where she had little or no control and was completely vulnerable. A decision that we can learn from to ensure that this never happens again.

We must also take into consideration that “At 19; she’s lived in a war zone, aware she’s betrayed her family and caused them pain, she’s lost two children, lost a husband and is living in a refugee camp” – @BLKMimiLD says on twitter. We must remember that for three of her four years, Shamima was pregnant, which means that she was not out running around, beheading our men and fighting on behalf of ISIS, as most of you seem to think. We must also consider her current mental state, her PTSD and the battles that are now seeded in her mind.

As a humanitarian, I believe she needs intensive mental care, restorative justice and rehabilitation. She is not innocent, and she will never be able to live a free life again, but she is a human who has lived her last four years in unimaginable circumstances, whose life may have been different if we as a society hadn’t failed her to begin with. What kind of life did we provide her in the UK where the option to join ISIS seemed far better?

I say, by unpopular opinion, that we should allow her to come back, we should learn from her and her last years in captivity and we should also ensure that we are not creating or allowing more souls to be damaged and affected in this world. If you hate ISIS and everything they’re doing to our world so much, then you should be fighting for the root cause of cases like this, not at the victims who are the end result of their doings.

Peace and love to you all,

Vanisha

X

To support organisations who are working in refugee camps, with online abusers and terrorism, click the links below;

refugee-camp-syria

If you want to educate yourself more on the topics of terrorism before feeding into the likes of Katie Hopkins and The Sun, then below I’ve created a list of helpful readings, books and materials;

Books

  • Human rights in the ‘War on Terror’ by R.Wilson
  • Enemies Everywhere: Terrorism, Moral Panic, and US Civil Society by Rothe, D. and Muzzatti, S.
  • Terror vs. terror by Mallow, B.
  • Terrorism by Howard, L.
  • Women, Gender and Terrorism by Laura Sjoberg

Watch and listen

  • Three Girls, BBC
  • Woman’s Hour, The Shamima Begum Case Podcast
  • The High Low, The Complicated Case of Shamima Begum Podcast

Online Readings

#metoo

“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.” – C.S. Lewis

 

There are some people out there who will never understand what it’s like to be a female, to be treated as an object, disposable, and used. No exaggerations. They’ll never understand our daily struggles from the most mundane things like being extra wary on our walk home, to the extreme cases like rape and sexual violence.

And I hope they’ll never experience what it’s like,

but I hope more people will understand.

 

2017’s boom of the #metoo movement bought to light how prolific sexual violence is, how many people are affected, how many people suffer in silence and how little is done to help the healing, to fix our rape culture and to stand by those who suffer the most in our societies. The massive movement highlighted the abuse that takes place within the most influential and powerful circles which hit home just how vulnerable we all are to men, their power and violence.

1_rjA9OHEIcBQQgSz6I3aDIg.jpeg

It proved once again how sexual violence, abuse and rape knows no boundaries, classes, cliques, race or ages.

 

Then came 2018’s hearing of Brett Kavanaugh and Dr Christine Blasley Ford which took another toll on the hurt we all feel as women in a society that fails to keep us safe, that fails to hear us and that fails to even stand by us.

The social media trends that followed were both incredibly inspiring and incredibly heart breaking. I could barely sleep that first night of the Kavanaugh hearings. I watched as millions of men and women took to their social media platforms, using their voices to tell their stories and showing support for the horrible ordeal that Ford was put through.

#ibelieveher #whyididntreport and #metoo all became top trends.

ford.jpeg

Fast forward to today; 19th January 2019. The King of R&B is under criminal investigation after a docuseries brought together the survivors of R Kelly’s 30 year-long abusive horror stories. People were once again taking to social media to make a stand and highlighting one of the worst issues we have in modern day society.

 

Millions of men and women coming forward and telling their stories of rape, abuse and sexual violence.

Millions of men and women coming forward with millions of reasons why their stories went unreported.

And then millions of men and women who are still silently healing and hurting, who can’t find the right words and are still figuring out or moving on from their stories. Millions just like me.

 

These movements and trends are one of the positive and best things that have come out of 21st century technology. And unlike the feelings of isolation and shame that sexual violence brings, the trends and sense of community from social media instead brings us together. It gives comfort, support and the bravery needed to tell your story and bring you one step closer to dealing with it. To healing from it. Which is why, although it’s taken me more than 6 months of writing, re-editing and brave moments, I’m feeling braver and able to talk about my own experiences.

f_tov_metoo_march_171112.jpg

Today, I feel ready to say that I’m with her, I believe her, and me too. I’m one of the statistics that didn’t report it, and it’s something that has stayed with me heavily ever since.

And like millions of others, there were and still are so many reasons why I felt like I couldn’t report it.

 

I’m a girl who stands up for others in acts like this. I preach and research and even wrote my whole dissertation about injustices against girls.

But when it happened to me, I did nothing.

I lost my voice then so much more.

It felt like something from a movie.

Like something you’d seen a hundred times before.

You’re watching clips of someone doing something to your body,

in your safe space, and you have no control because you’re barely conscious.

He leaves you and the scene.

You wake up the next morning sore and in autopilot.

Your body just walks straight to the shower and you clean.

You scrub your skin and you brush every bit of your mouth.

You feel dirty.

And you hurt for days.

And you cry.

Then you get on with your life.

Because it’s not like real-life, and it couldn’t have happened to you.

But, as dramatic as it sounds, it happened just like that.

 

And it’s so easy, to try and brush it to the side. Something so common.

Because what’s the point in fighting?

There’s not enough help. There’s victim blaming. There’s court. And police. And proof. And no support. It’s scary, and costly, and lengthy, and in many cases, just one word against the other.

Then there’s feelings of shame, embarrassment and loneliness, and the feelings from the aftermath which are so much worse than the feelings of the actual incident. Feeling dirty, used and completely unworthy.

Because of society, and a boy, and the behaviours we allow and brush to the side. And all of this makes me feel angrier at society and myself than at him.

More than one year later, and after yet another horrific incident, I’m not sure how much stronger I feel. But I’m still angry and I want change. And that makes me want to fight harder.

bl7hcorieaayom2

63% of sexual assaults will never be reported to the police. And out of 1000 rapes, 994 abusers will walk free.

How is abuse against women so rampant in every society around the world? How is it one of the only things that are showing no signs of improvement?! How are we failing so many girls and women around the world every single day? Mocking our basic human rights of safety and love.

 

I don’t want it to define me, ever. I don’t want people to see me and think of these incidents. I don’t want to be a victim because I’m so much more than what happened them nights. That’s not what this is about.

 

And for so many of us, it’s not simply about justice or seeking revenge. It’s not about getting even. It’s about building a future and creating the change needed to ensure that society can keep our women and girls safe from abuse, rape and violence.

 

We need better ways and more options for reporting and supporting. Even now, I don’t believe the people from my incidents should be locked away. I think they, like many others, need rehabilitation and restoration because simply locking these people away will not solve this social and global epidemic or stop the cycles of abuse.

 

We shouldn’t be afraid about making conversation around these topics and instead teaching our young men and women what is right and what is wrong. We need to teach and learn to recognise the stages of abuse, what our options are when it comes to abuse and to create a safe space where we can have real conversations about it all with our abusers, with a support system, with our communities and even with ourselves. We need to call it out before it happens, when it happens and keep that conversation going if there is an after.

dfkbqrbw4aemt62

In times surrounding these events and movements, know that these women will be rethinking and reliving some of their darkest times, many in silence and many still healing. Look at the women in your lives and love them hard, support them and tell them “I believe you”.

 

I’m so proud and grateful for every single person who has come forward, for every #metoo, #ibelieveher and #whyididintreport for their bravery, power, support, and inspiration. For anyone struggling, know you’re not alone, you’re worthy, you are loved and you’ll have better days. The actions of someone else is not your fault.

For anyone affected or for anyone who wants to talk, you can message me privately on here, on my Instagram @Vanishamay or email vanishamay@googlemail.com.

 

I hope you all find some happiness, strength and courage today,

V

X

 

For more support;

https://www.rainn.org/

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/help-after-rape-and-sexual-assault/

https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/crime-info/types-crime/rape-sexual-assault-and-sexual-harassment

https://rapecrisis.org.uk/

http://thesurvivorstrust.org/

https://www.survivorsuk.org/

Who made your clothes?

So, I’m starting this blog with an exercise. I want you to look down your body. Run your hands over every item of clothing that you’re wearing, every layer and feel right down to your shoes. Feel that material and look close at the stitches. Now, think about all the other hands that have touched your clothes too. Do you know how many? Now, check the labels. Made in where? Vietnam? China? Bangladesh? And made by who?

Did you know that, if you’re reading this, you have 4x the amount of clothes in your wardrobe than your parents did? Did you know that 1 in 4 people around the world work in the fashion industry as we know it, with 98% of those people living below the poverty line, and 80% of those people being women? And is any of this making any of us happier? Hell to the no. Far from it.

I want you to meet Nazma, who at 13 years old, started work in a Bangladeshi garment factory; earning a wage equivalent to £2 a month. Nazma’s life has been extremely difficult, because not only has she worked in conditions, that some consider as modern-day slavery since she was 13 years old, but she’s also seen the hardships and inequalities of hundreds just like her.

I saw Nazma last year. She was angry with the world and asking for change.

“Women are earning £50 a month. They make your t-shirts, your dresses, your leggings. The multi-national and retailers come to where the labour markets are cheap. And when clothes are cheap, women are cheap. Nothing comes for free in this world, nothing is discount, women pay with their blood and their sweat… Women are not respected. Women should be safe in all workplaces, everywhere.” – Nazma Akter, London, 2017

And above is Laboni and her husband, who moved to Bangladesh to find work and a new life. Laboni, alongside 1,137 others died when her factory collapsed five years ago.  The Rana Plaza story still hits me hard because it’s a story so common and a story that is never taken seriously enough. A story where workers rights and concerns were ignored, and the clothes that now fill our wardrobes were made at a human cost, just like so many others.

Most of my wardrobe, and yours, would have started in the hands of girls like Laboni and Nazma. They then end up in shops worth billions of pounds. Worth enough money to pay these women and men fair living wages. Worth enough money for their CEO’s and management to actually make time and visit the hands that are making their goods. Worth enough money to ensure that no human is working in these unsafe and inhumane conditions, yet alone a 13-year-old child. Worth enough money to make a change.

You cannot exploit women in one country to empower them in another. It shouldn’t work like that. That’s not empowerment. That’s not freedom, or love, or anything positive in fact.

But we’re greedy, right? And at least they’ve got jobs, right?

Yeah in deathly conditions. You know in the UK when it hits over 25 degrees, and everyone starts banging on about ‘safe working conditions’ and workers’ rights in that godforsaken heat? Well imagine that, plus another 10 degrees, plus 10-hour working days, plus seeing your family twice a year, plus dirty living conditions, plus gruelling work environments that are unsafe and the air is filled with chemicals, plus very little choice so you’re trapped and taken advantage of. Workers in Cambodia faint daily from the heat, starvation and pure exhaustion. Who do they work for? Suppliers to Nike and Puma. For how much? £120 a month.

And that’s just a snippet of the effect it has on the people of our planet, but the fashion industry is harming our planet in extraordinary ways too.

As the consumers, we are the cause of this. We are the cause of a 500% increase in consumption. Because of us, the consumers, the factory industry is now the world’s biggest plastic polluter, the second biggest energy consumer and the biggest producer of the non-bio gradable material that is polyester. Click here for my last blog to read more about the effects that fashion has on our planet. 

 

What are the solutions?

The solutions are in our hands, and there are so many of them! As a consumer (and human being!), I love to shop, I like my clothes, and I love getting dressed up. And I’m not saying we should stop, that we should boycott and throw tomatoes at the doors of Zara, but we can shop with a conscience, with more care and with more heart. This is easier said than done, when every time you flick on to Instagram you see girls earning big bucks for promoting these labels hard. I get the pressures of society. But think, is it worth it? What’s going to really matter 10 years from now?

  • Repair, re-wear and reuse your clothes

Don’t buy anything with the thought of chucking it away. Buy things that you love and wear them with love, repeatedly. Repair them, learn to sew things up and customise!

  • Engage with and challenge current suppliers

Shop ethically and challenge the fashion industry. If a company doesn’t have transparency regarding their suppliers and production makers, then the likelihood that they either have no idea who is making their clothes or that they’re in unsuitable, unethical conditions is highly likely. Do your research, ask questions and don’t be afraid to stand up for what’s right.

  • Stop sending all your old sh*t to charity shops

Use Depop, eBay, car boot sales and sell them on! You’ll make some money and your clothes will go to a new home, instead of a landfill like the ones damaging Haiti. Who’s winning now?!

  • Realise change starts with you

Nazma is now a human rights activist who spends her days fighting for justice, safe working conditions and fair pay for factory workers. We can do the same. Follow ethical brands on Instagram, shop from ethical brands and support these people hard! Move away from the stereotype that ethical fashion is expensive and exclusive. Imagine if every brand was ethical? It would all be affordable and sustainable.

 

In fact, only 1-3% of the final cost goes to the hands that actually made them, so realistically speaking, we just need to shift the money from the hands of the super rich CEO’s and into the hands of these women. This way, costs wouldn’t even go up for us…

The makers of our clothing, those who are so often invisible and marginalised, are worth celebrating and given safety and quality of life too. No-one’s life, and the future of our planet is worth losing over the latest material trends. Let’s call on the UK fashion brands to protect the women who make our clothes and the planet that we live on.

And next time you change your outfit or purchase a new item of clothing, I dare you to look at the label and ask; Who made my clothes? Is she getting paid? Is she safe? Who is she?

Thanks for reading you lovely lot!

Vanisha

X

Follow my twitter and instagram @vanishamay

 

Things to follow:

Things to watch:

 

Everything you need to know about volunteering abroad

Yesterday marked what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, a day to celebrate a man that dedicated his life to global peace-making and a day to inspire others to continue the fight for what is right. He once said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we lived. It is the difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead” and I couldn’t agree more! The big legend.

And, I get asked a lot about my volunteer and charity work. How do I do it? Where do you even start? There’s different prices, locations, different work involved, different lengths of time required, etc etc etc. There’s a lot to think about and consider when it comes to changing the world! Drum roll please….

  1. Start with the basics

Find your passions and think about what you’d like to do (or what you’d NOT like to do). There’s literally something for everyone from the usual teaching English and childcare to the unusual like turtle conservation and building with the Maasai Mara. Focus on organisations that resonate with your morals and passions. Research them, make sure they’re legit, follow them on insta and drop them an email, even if it’s just to say, ‘hey great work you’re doing!’, you’ll get to see the response, ask more questions and review their requirements and application details. You can do it!

  1. My first solo trip

When I was 19, all I knew was that something bigger was waiting for me, but like you guys, I had no bloody idea where to start! So, I took to the internet, searched for well-known organisations and booked my flight to Morocco. Volunteering with a well-knoen, global organisation like Original Volunteers, VSO or GVI are great for first timers and pretty straight-forward, but usually come at a high cost. You’ll usually pay for your meals, airport pick-up, in-land help and accommodation, which means that all you have to do is turn up! I went to Marrakesh where there were daily placements for us to choose from such as visiting nurseries, village schools and an orphanage. There was a huge group of us and the organisation ran fun sightseeing trips too. If you’re looking for cheaper options then this isn’t the best way to start, but it’s easy and fun, especially if you’re a beginner, and organisations like OV are worldwide!

Where? Morocco.

What? Mostly working with children.

Who? Original Volunteers

Visit them here: https://www.originalvolunteers.co.uk/

  1. Exchanges

Help X is an incredible website filled with individuals and smaller organisations that are seeking volunteers and help. Again, the work ranges from anything you can imagine and you can find work in the biggest cities of the world to the highest mountains (probably)! And the great thing about Help X is that there’s no middle man asking for big bucks for your help. Some places ask for donations which you’ll feel like you’ll want to by the end of your trip, but basically, they’ll offer accommodation and meals in exchange for your work. It’s pretty simple and a real great way to travel whilst volunteering. You really get a feel of people’s lives and get involved on a deeper level that you wouldn’t always experience with a bigger organisation.

Where? It’s worldwide but I’ve used Help X in Indonesia and my best gal has used it in Chile and Italy!

What? You can do all sorts! I stayed with a family and helped promote a fathers English School in South Sulawesi. One of the most interesting experiences of my life!

Who? Literally anyone and everyone.

Go have a goosey-gander: https://www.helpx.net/

  1. The internet

I swear by google. It’s thanks to me simply typing in ‘volunteer in Kuala Lumpur’ and ‘volunteer in Mexico’ that I found two incredible causes and had the opportunity to visit both. Just type in ‘volunteering in (insert country)’ then email away! Read the websites, follow them and check their values, then just go ahead and message them! I’ll also make a list at the bottom of great people and organisations to follow and check out. Social media is great for this, you can see what organisations are about from your computer screen! Instagram is great too, people will tag and post things of their own experiences. It’s a great tool, use it.

The refugee school that I found in Malaysia is always seeking volunteers. They’re a marginalised group of wonderful teachers and children who are all just hoping for better lives. They don’t get much funding or help in general so travel friends, go drop by and say hey!

Where? Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

What? Teaching

Who? School for refugees

They don’t have official pages so feel free to ask me for contact details and addresses!

  1. Mexico

Thanks to google. I also found this inspiring group of people! Mision Mexico has been a blessing for me and if you follow my social media, you’ll definitely know these guys! I volunteered with them last year and have continued my work with them ever since! They’re a small refuge for children in the border town of Tapachula, and they depend wholly on donations, volunteers and sponsors. The kids learn to swim, surf and all sorts, so the work needed is pretty varied and they’re always in need of extra hands! It’s a great cause and they’re a fab bunch of people. Read more about life as a Misión México volunteer here.

Where? Tapachula, Mexico

What? Working with children

Who? About 40 incredible kids and teens!

Visit and follow us here: https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren/

https://www.instagram.com/misionmexico/

f129e153-6b66-4f71-a07e-18815d7e301d

And there you have it! Volunteering isn’t easy. The process can be long, expensive and the work itself can be tough, demanding and sometimes emotionally hard to deal with. You work with people who have been through the unimaginable and still manage to smile more times a day than you. And you work alongside people who commit their lives just like Mandela, to making the world a better place for all. It makes you question the world and life and what really matters. And that’s why it’s all worth it! You’ll be forever changed, and the world will be too 😊

I hope you feel inspired and I hope you go do some good today!

Feel free to message me if you have any questions about anything still!

Have a lovely day folks

V

X

I’ve tagged a load of people to follow on my latest post on IG too! https://www.instagram.com/vanishamay

Below is a list of sites and people to follow;

16429_10151301719433201_380832897_n

Water is a women’s issue.

Believe it or not, water IS a women’s issue. The physical act of fetching water is part of gender inequality. Sanitation, which is a blessing thanks to water, is also a major challenge for those who have no idea what safe sanitation is. That is why I am walking 70,000 steps over the next 7 days for the organisation Care International UK. It’s my first proper fundraiser and my first week of teaching again in China (eeeek!) so it’s a super busy week for me! Plus, I’m new to the city of Shenzhen so all these steps will involve exciting new places and probably me getting lost a lot. But why am I going on about girls and gender inequality again? Who does it actually affect? And what’s the point?

But what about boys that make that same journey?

Someone asked me the other day, “but what about boys that make that same journey? Why is the focus on girls and women?” and I thought this was a brilliant starting point to explain why. Honestly, not many people have donated to the fundraiser yet, hence why I’m writing this blog. And aside from the fact that Care International are a women and children’s focused charity (due to the *crazy* idea that girls can eradicate poverty), perhaps not everyone understands the connection or importance of women and water. So please, you don’t have to donate or even speak to me again, but for your knowledge and for the future of our daughters, please just read this blog.

On a global scale, having better and safer water options helps women and girls in phenomenal ways, which in turn could see the eradication of global poverty.

Here are 10 facts on why water is a women’s issue…

  1. Safe water options reduce violence against girls and women. Walking at the age of 10 years old, along empty paths and across isolated lands means that girls like Ambie are at risk every day from sexual violence and harm. Issues that boys rarely face, and issues that girls face way too often. And in Ambie’s case, she’s just getting water so that her and her family can see another day…
  2. In addition to this, inadequate sanitation facilities like having actual toilets means that girls (especially those in cultures where shame and insecurity play major factors) will wait until it’s dark to defecate and urinate, which in itself causes three big problems – girls can’t go to school, health issues occur where they’re holding in too much for too long, and nightfall increases their risk (again) to sexual violence and harm.
  3. The lack of sanitation in schools for girls also means that when they reach puberty, they’re physically unable to attend school thanks to the facilities being catered for guys.
  4. School performance and school enrolment increases for girls in areas that have safer and better water access.
  5. Reduction in violence, education and work opportunities for girls mean that they grow to be women who will lift not only their families out of poverty, but their communities too. There is a huge correlation between focusing aid and opportunities on women rather than men to reduce poverty levels.
  6. In countries where water remains a problem, women also bear the majority of the housework. This means that it’s a woman’s duty to still walk 3 hours a day in some of the hottest places of the earth, carrying litres of water, and holding her youngest child whilst being 8 months pregnant. That’s not even an exaggeration. It really does happen. And that’s a woman’s problem.
  7. Contamination and exposure to hygiene related diseases such as sepsis and hepatitis means that periods and pregnancy in general can be extremely dangerous for these millions of women and their babies.
  8. This water that’s collected is not even always safe or clean. These women just have no other option but to give contaminated water to their families. As a result, 500,000 children die every year from dirty water, diarrhoea and many more to cholera.
  9. In Africa, 90% of this burden will be carried by women. Girls under 12 years old will be twice as likely to carry this responsibility than boys under the age of 15 years old.
  10. Unless gender is integrated and implemented in targets like safe water for all, then global goals like poverty eradication by 2030 will never be achieved.

And aside from all of that, shouldn’t water be a basic human right for anyone? How lucky are we to turn on a tap and sit on a toilet, thanks to luck and location. Why do millions not have that same basic human right and we have no limits?

 

And on a personal scale…

  1. I’ve attended two women’s marches in the last year, both organized by Care International. Both were filled with inspirational women from all around the world, with inspiring, life-changing and heart-breaking stories. As an organization, I’ve really grown to love their work and believe in the good that they do for the world.
  2. Nearly 1/2 of the world live in poverty, in situations that we can’t even begin to imagine. I’ve travelled and seen extreme poverty, worked with children who come from difficult backgrounds and met incredible people who might never receive the same opportunities as you and I, just because of the location, circumstance and luck they were born in to. If there’s anything I can do to change this, then I’m gonna try my absolute best, no matter how small. And you can help too!

How can you help?

There are so many things that you can do to help me and them! You can join me! Or straight up donate to my fundraiser! This is the lovely link….

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/vanisha-sparks

Or if you really can’t spare even £5 (which will turn into £10 when you donate before the 22nd!!) then you can share this story and link around to your friends and family in hope that it’ll reach more people and I can actually hit my very small target for women and girls all over this world who need it so bad, and who could literally change this planets future given the right opportunities and chances.

So, from Monday 16th April – Sunday 22nd April join me in my 70,000 steps in China. The UK government are also DOUBLING all donations made during this time which is incredible so be sure to click gift aid on all of your donations!

Thanks for reading if you got this far! It’s so important for me and for girls like Precious up there! Keep up with my stuff on Instagram and snapchat this week! You da best.

V

x

Research and useful links

https://www.careinternational.org.uk/stories/when-women-no-longer-have-walk-water

https://www.careinternational.org.uk/stories/world-water-day-how-women-farmers-can-overcome-drought

https://www.careinternational.org.uk/search/content/water

https://www.careinternational.org.uk/stories/walk-her-shoes-journey-no-other

http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/gender.shtml

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bEtqZoD4V4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_o_oqEHluw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–uWCAOehOo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfjEcOp-SeQ

International Women’s Day 2018

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day 2018 and this year we also celebrate The Year of the Woman. And we carry the movements of #TimesUp, #MeToo, #HeForShe and many others around our world as we see women capturing headlines and rising up, demanding for change. But why is this so important still? Why are we still fighting for change? And how are half the humans born on this planet still facing lives of inequality and injustice? These are questions we hear on a daily basis, so I hope, whoever and wherever you are, that this piece will bring you the knowledge, inspiration and the power to act now. Because the #TimeIsNow. Let’s #pressforprogress.

International Women’s Day is a day for everybody. Yes, everybody. It’s a day to look at our progress, our future and our current successes. And I don’t want to write a long-winded serious essay today so I’m just gonna give you guys a few facts, a list of women that are inspiring me today, and a lil empowerment for you all to take in.

I hear more often than ever the confused question of “but women are equal now?”. And, we have come a long way, it’s true. Thanks to the Pankhursts and tonnes of brave women who have been fighting for the last 100 years and since, well, forever, us women in the West are reasonably lucky. From the hills of Hollywood to the women in the workplace, women are finding their power and using their voice. But we are still not equal. And the women in the developing countries that exist around us are living in situations that we can’t even begin to imagine. Situations far from safety, far from luck, and even further from equality.

So, we fight on. And it’s not just women. For all you guys who are still reading but questioning your place in this global movement, this is for you too. For all the gender stereotypes, for equality for ALL genders, this is to smash that glass ceiling and bin the ideas around blue is for boys and crying is for girls. For everyone who identifies between the binary, this day is for you too. Because we all deserve a fair and equal chance in life filled with love, safety and opportunity.

A big problem surrounding gender inequality is poverty. Did you know that we can eradicate global poverty if we achieved these two words? Gender equality. Because poverty is sexist. 70% of the world poorest people are women. If we educated more girls, less girls would die at childbirth, less women would experience domestic abuse and violence, and more women would be able to push their family out of poverty, therefore breaking both cycles that threaten millions of people worldwide. The goal is 2030. Are you with me?

So, what are the facts? Why are we still fighting?

  • Because out of the millions of human trafficking victims, you’ll find 8 out of 10 of them are females.
  • Because women are more likely to be victims of rape and domestic violence than from cancer, war, car accidents and malaria. This blows my mind.
  • Because 250 million girls alive today were married before their 15th This is worse for girls as they are more likely to die from childbirth, more likely to be victims of abuse and violence and less likely to receive education than they’re male counterparts or if they were married 5 years later as adults.
  • Because in the US, women earn on average 78 cents for every man’s dollar.
  • Because we all know Ed Westwick, Donald Trump, Ben Affleck, Harvey Weinstein, Dustin Hoffman. These men of power, status and money have all had allegations of harassment, sexual assault and sexual’ misconduct made against them. And they’re just a few names! Imagine how many more there are, how many names we’ll never hear still.
  • Because half the world is female. Because it affects the most privileged white woman from the US, to the poorest Asian woman from the Philippines. That should be reason enough.

And here are my people of the year…

  • Gloria Allred. I actually had no idea who this woman was until a few weeks ago when I watched her documentary on Netflix (called Seeing Allred) and became in awe. She’s a modern-day heroine whose name is behind some of the biggest headlines of our year, yet her name is not celebrated or even well-known. Allred is a woman’s attorney in America, fighting especially on high profile cases that victimise and twist the rights of women. Cases against Weinstein, O.J Simpson and Donald Trump. She takes a lot of stick, but due to her own experiences and passion for justice, Allred fights on and is truly a force to be reckoned with.
  • Angelina Jolie. We all know her, we’ve all seen her movies but not everyone knows what she’s up to today. She’s my inspo in so many ways. Of course, she’s great in films, and we’ve all seen her grow and mature through them all, but her best work is the work she does for humanity. Jolie has used her fame and platform to do good, speak up and invest in those that need it the most. What a woman. She works for the UN, LSE, helps refugees, women and children, and has also directed the incredible movie First They Killed My Father, which you can also find on Netflix!
  • Nazra Akter is an advocate for women and worker’s rights in Bangladesh. She’s worked in sweatshops from the age of 13 and has experienced hardship, abuse and inequality in the workplace. So, she started a women’s union party and continues to fight every day for the safety and lives of women. Women like her make our t-shirts, socks and trousers. It’s time women and their work were given more recognition, respect and money than our clothes. Our fashion industry is full of sexism, inequality and absolute horrors. I’m currently researching and writing about it but you can start by signing this petition; https://act.careinternational.org.uk/letter_garment_factories
  • Me and you. We have the power and platform to be just as incredible as these three women (we could give it a good go anyway!). The world needs more activists and feminists. These shouldn’t be scary, demonised words. They are brave, bold and life-changing. Encourage it, encourage yourself and encourage everyone around you. Can we achieve gender equality by 2030? Not without me and you. Are you with me?

IWD 2018 is all about being brave, standing up for what’s right, becoming everyday activists and taking action into our own hands!

Whether you’re young, old, male, female, black, white and everything in between know that

you are valued

you are loved

you are worthy

you deserve respect

you deserve to be heard

you can change the future,

you can change lives and

you can start today.

Are YOU with me?

Have a great day. Go kick some ass. Let’s change the world.

Vanisha

X

So, how can you join me? –

Sign a petition:

https://www.one.org/us/take-action/poverty-is-sexist/

https://act.careinternational.org.uk/letter_garment_factories

Listen:

Listen to women. Trust us. Believe us.

Speak out:

Whenever you see an injustice, a threat or any form of inequality, call it out and use your voice. And use your voice anyway! Show ya support. I wanna hear you not just today, but every day.

Support:

There are so many people and organisations that you can follow and support today. I’ll give ya these to start with…

– Mision Mexico

– Care International

– UN women

– Humanity Unified

Live out your activism:

Let the fight for equality go beyond just statuses and today. Make an effort to make it a real part of you. You’re a life-changer.

And support me!

I’ll be doing a fundraising event in April for March4women, follow me on social media to see how you can support that and keep up to date with me and my ramblings @vanishamay

** art by @thisisaliceskinner, check her out too!

The Aziz Ansari Case: Sex, consent and common misbehaviour.

CONSENT.

What does that mean to you?

The Aziz Ansari case is why I’m up late writing today. Moving away from the poorly written exposé (click for the original here) and whether the account was true or not, I want to focus on why this story really matters. I want to focus on the root of the problem and how our society is failing women and men, all of which is evident in the reactions of this story. I am so sick of people missing the root of the problem. The whole bloody point is CONSENT (or lack of!) along with the normality and ignorance of common misbehaviour.

And it’s funny because so many people are reading her side of the story and wondering what all the fuss about. People cannot believe that he might be losing shows over something so bloody trivial like a ‘date gone wrong’. So, what if he seemed a bit eager, a bit too aggressive? They’d had a few drinks at his house, she stuck around, she coulda called a cab earlier? A scenario so common that it’s almost too easy to brush it aside because behaviour that is so common, a scenario that so many of us can relate to, is the whole reason that this story highlights how big of an issue consent, sexual assault and the misuse of power is. Something so serious should not be so common.

Life is not a porno. There is no situation where you can sneak into someone’s room, insert yourself in their body while they sleep, and not be violating their human rights. There is no situation where it would be okay if a girl starts by saying ‘no’, but you brush that aside, cos she might not be serious right? and tempt her into sex anyway. There is no situation where if you slide your hand up a girl’s skirt on the dancefloor and assume she’s gonna love it. Why are we still going so wrong in society? Where our behaviour is mirroring what we see on the TV and there are people who think it’s acceptable to be treated like that in 2018 without a full, clear, enthusiastic, big fat given consent?

The New York Times have just released an article headlined “Aziz Ansari is guilty. Of not being a mind reader”. Because when you’re in a situation where someone is forcing themselves on you, celebrity status or not, it’s kinda hard to scream out NO. Because we live in culture where men use sex as their power while women are still not fully heard in life, yet alone in the bedroom. Because the obvious, foundation and bottom line of consensual and therefore enjoyable sex, like asking “you sure you cool with this?” and hearing an enthusiastic “YES give it to me”, is non-existent in this scenario and many others.

I’m actually appalled at Bari Weiss and The New York Times for releasing the shameful article (which you can read here). Let me share one of Weiss’s thoughts that she had whilst reading the story, so you can understand why we still have a disgustingly huge problem in 2018…

“If he pressures you to do something you don’t want to do, use a four-letter word, stand up on your two legs and walk out his door” – Bari Weiss, letting down humanity at The New York Times

Thanks for that tip hun. I’ll take that into consideration for next time…

  1. “If he pressures you to do something you don’t want to do?!” WHY is he pressuring me into doing something that I don’t want to do?! What is going wrong in his and her way of thinking that we’re even starting the sentence off with that scenario?
  2. That if played back on CCTV, we could see more clearly where the lines may be crossed but, men are so apparently unaware of their actions that they’re unable to read basic body language and use their own ears?? Should men be excused from reading social cues or do we need to work on their ability to be able to read another human beings body?
  3. Bari Weiss, have you ever been in a situation where you are not in control? When your whole body shuts down because you can’t believe this could be happening, so you physically can’t walk out his front door? Where your ideas of this person being someone that you liked, someone that is respected, someone who you thought liked and respected you too, were completely wrong and now he’s violating that trust with your own body? Where you are not strong and confident enough to shut a man down? When it’s 4am and dark outside, and you feel obligated and under more pressure to stay. Not because you want to, but because you’re there now, and it’s 4 am and it’s dark outside and society tells you not to be “one of them girls” and you’ll be leading him on, giving him mixed messages, when actually, an invitation to his house does not mean an invitation to my body.

Another one that made my whole soul ache was ‘The humiliation of Aziz Ansari” by Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic. She writes…

“Eventually, overcome by her emotions at the way the night was going, she told him, “You guys are all the fucking same,” and left crying. I thought it was the most significant line in the story: This has happened to her many times before. What led her to believe that this time would be different?

  1. Haha well Flanagan obviously has no hope in mankind, the one thing we have in common. Because we should just expect men to treat us like that? Because it’s happened to her before, so she should behave better? Because we should give up all hope now and assume that every story will lead to an ending where we are not in control of our own bodies and rights? Because he’s not to blame and she should have known? And that makes it all okay?

Flanagan ends her article with…

“I thought it would take a little longer for the hit squad of privileged young white women to open fire on brown-skinned men.”

  1. I’m not a privileged young white woman hun.
  2. And you’re a fool to turn this important conversation around to race. This is not about race. The colour of your skin does not define whether you can mistreat, abuse or assault another human being. It’s not his skin colour that is problematic in this situation and he is not being called up on it because he is brown-skinned. He’s being called upon his actions because he supposedly forced her hand on his dick 5-7 times, whilst she expressed her discomfort and cried all the way home as a result of her whole experience.

Women should not carry the burden of getting ourselves out of dangerous situations. There should not be any dangerous situations in the first place. Men need to start taking full responsibility for their actions. And questioning whether their partner said ‘YES’, and whether she is in a fit and able situation where she feels comfortable or bloody conscious enough to say ‘YES’. There should be no ‘if he pressures you’ or ‘if you’re in a situation like this’ because otherwise we are failing to address the safety of women and the bottom line of his actions and CONSENT. And I’m fully aware that I’m talking as a female and that men do suffer sometimes too, but the reality is that women suffer so much more. Whether you want to hear it or not, women are usually the victims and men are usually the perpetrators. And this needs to change.

Even if Ansari’s alleged actions are not criminally wrong, the story suggest that our society is a mess when it comes to sex. Thanks to porn, clubbing culture, music videos, college culture and machismo culture, boys are taught to treat girls with disrespect, like toys to play with, like objects where a ‘no’ is taken as a challenge. Whilst girls are still unsure whether they can speak up, we sit and take it, wondering if it’s the right time to say no, scared of feeling frigid, and concerned about whether he’ll call you back otherwise. This is not normal or okay behaviour on both parts. We must break these damaging and heartbreaking social norms.

When will it end? Do we need paper consent forms before we have sex? Do we need to challenge our every thoughts and actions? This story, the #metoo movement and all our other smaller stories are so important and a great start, but it is 2018 and it is still not enough. We need conversation, we need justice, we need support and we need change more than ever.

What are your thoughts? As someone who has experienced loving, consensual sex, one-night stands and an experience worse than Grace’s alleged story, it’s the reactions and words of others that have come as a result of hearing her side that have hit hardest with me. It’s a tough subject with many grey areas but there’s something seriously wrong with the fact that so many women can raise their hands and say #metoo

You can check out my related blogs about sex and the hook-up culture here:-

Physically turned on, emotionally switched off. A little look at hook-ups…

Man Up? Man Down

Vanisha

X

Instagram and twitter: @vanishamay