Abortion and our flaws

TRIGGER WARNING //

Everyone deserves the right of choice and safety. Period.

And whilst every country has its flaws when it comes to crime, human rights, and justice (with Mexico by far being no exception!), it feels so mixed to see so much street art from my recent trip like these below. On hospitals, on churches, on the sides of houses. So shameful and sad but with a hint of power, to walk around and see so obviously the change that people want, but also the care that they’re not receiving here in Mexico.

Whether you like it or not, the need for abortions will ALWAYS exist. And what’s already a difficult and traumatic experience has the extra added fear of danger and death. Because every year, there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions worldwide, but 45% of these will be unsafe. That’s 25 million unsafe abortions every year. 68,493 every day.

Here in Mexico, every state is different but there are only two states where it’s completely legal to have an abortion with one of the main legal grounds for an abortion nationwide being rape. But in a country where it’s estimated that a rape occurs every 4 minutes, and where most rapes go unreported, these are pretty ridiculous grounds.

And again, Mexico is no exception, because there’s an estimated 450 million women who live in countries with similar laws and situations, and some even worse. With deep ties to religion, culture and tradition making change much more difficult, those who are most vulnerable remain the most affected.

Preventing safe and legal abortions leads to many more health, funding, and inequality issues. It costs countries like the USA more than $7.5 billion a year just to treat complications from unsafe abortions. The financial burdens can also weigh heavy on women, their families, and their entire communities.

Money aside, and more importantly, women die every day from something that should be preventable, but they have no choice over. More than 7 million women are admitted to hospitals every year in developing countries, because of unsafe abortions. And these are just the ones that make it to a hospital. Object trauma, haemorrhaging and infections are just some of the risks they face. The methods are so inhumane that my tummy turned whilst trying to research these more. From metal hangers and knitting needles, to pumping toxic liquids and consuming unsafe drugs, the methods are brutal, heart-breaking and all with high risks of death.

On top of all of this, the pandemic has heightened the difficulty of accessing safe abortions. With the closure of hospitals and health-care spaces, shortages of supplies with contraceptives, girls and women being at home for longer whilst violence increases and schools, security and educational spaces staying closed, the most vulnerable remain the most affected. Again.

This is not only my opinion, these are statistics. Awful and preventable statistics. The flaws in our world. These statistics might not affect you reading, and for someone like me to be born in a country where contraceptives and abortions are common, safe, and legal, we should count our blessings every day, that should we need it, we have a choice.

We might never fully understand what some of these women go through. And it’s not about being pro-life or pro-choice and picking sides, it’s about support, having open conversations and creating safer spaces. Which is why it should be in the interest of everyone, whether it affects you or not, to prevent unsafe abortions worldwide. To use our privileges, our knowledge, and our voices to inspire change and fight for these basic rights, for all of us. Through law reforms, education, prevention via contraception and the option of safe and legal abortion, change is completely possible and should always be an option.

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To support and to find support;

https://donate.unwomen.org/en

https://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/

https://iwhc.org/women-and-girls-covid-19/

https://www.msichoices.org/

https://www.advocatesforyouth.org/abortion-out-loud/

https://exhaleprovoice.org

To educate, read and watch (and where I got my stats from);

https://www.ted.com/talks/aspen_baker_a_better_way_to_talk_about_abortion#t-38591

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZD0RvJqmiE&feature=emb_title

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOJsel8t6wE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am7alPZW5fw&t=390s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-18abPVXH-8

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(10)60721-0/fulltext

https://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/news/the-law-trials-and-imprisonment-for-abortion-in-mexico/#_ftn46

https://gire.org.mx/plataforma/conciliacion-entre-el-trabajo-y-la-vida-personal-en-mexico/

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(10)60721-0/fulltext

https://www.jstor.org/stable/3174889?seq=1

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0968808000901836

https://www.who.int/health-topics/abortion#tab=tab_1

https://survivingmexico.com/tag/rape-statistics-in-mexico/

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/preventing-unsafe-abortion

https://reproductiverights.org/worldabortionlaws?category[294]=294&category[325]=325&category[295]=295

https://www.worldometers.info/abortions/

https://metrosourcenews.com/2020/09/27/how-the-pandemic-has-affected-abortion-rules-around-the-world/

https://exhaleprovoice.org/post/exhale-ted/

https://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/news/a41195/aspen-baker-abortion-ted-talk/

Boys will be boys! And other issues…

“If we are to fight discrimination and injustice against women we must start from the home for if a woman cannot be safe in her own house then she cannot be expected to feel safe anywhere.” ― Aysha Taryam

 

This April is sexual assault awareness month. Pretty long title but it’s a form of sexual violence which basically covers many types of crimes and global issues such as rape, groping and domestic violence. Now, I’ve definitely held back from getting too involved over social media and decided to stick to one day because life is already pretty heavy with everything going on at the moment! Buuuut, it’s also a super important time as domestic violence is obviously on the insane rise and this month has a special focus on supporting victims.

 

#MeToo

I know the importance of feeling supported and heard, but it’s all so complex and daunting for all of us. The crime and abuse of many experiences are bad enough, but the aftermath of trauma, support and seeking justice sometimes feel so much worse. I know this because I’m a survivor (read more here) and I know how hard it is to be vulnerable, ask for help and to also provide the right help to others. Please do reach out to me for any advice or support. I hope this blog  helps at least one person.

 

COVID-19 and the rise of domestic abuse

Fighting injustice remains my main fight because even for a wealthy and developed nation, we have a long way to go. Home is not always a safe place and outside is scary too. Violence against women are some of the only crimes that remain on the rise. And now in a lock-down, we’ve seen these statistics almost double with some helplines and support website traffic in the UK increased by 156%. But, have we seen a dramatic rise in police reporting? No, only about 3%. This is an issue.

Being in a lock-down situation means that these incidents are also becoming more violent and more common, however with refuges closed and being unable to leave our homes, many are left with few options and less safety. If you’re reading this and are not sure how to get help, connect with someone here or read at the bottom for other options.

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Guys are not the problem

I know that men can be victims too, but women are the main victims in almost every crime (around 84%) with men the main offenders (around 92.4%) so, violence against women remains the key issue and crisis. But this doesn’t mean that men are the problem. It’s our cultures, our societies and our behaviours that need fixing. We’re talking about gendered crimes which are deeply rooted in almost every society around the world from the President of the United States to that guy in my hometown. It’s a pandemic in itself which has lasted decades but it’s still so invisible. So, how can we recognise, help and support those who need it the most including ourselves?

The signs

If your friend starts choking, what do you do? You try the Heimlich maneuver, call for help, call the emergency services. We do these steps because we know what to do in an emergency. But when someone you know may be a victim of violence, there are no clear steps on how to help them or how to even recognise the signs unless they’re 100% obvious, which by then, it’s very serious.

 

Ten signs of an unhealthy relationship

  1. Making threats or instilling fear.
  2. Insulting, putting you down or making you feel bad.
  3. Forcing you to do things unwillingly.
  4. Guilt tripping.
  5. Physically mistreating you (pushing, slapping…).
  6. Checking your social media, phone and web history constantly.
  7. Wanting to control where you are, who you spend time with etc.
  8. Cheating on you or accusing you of cheating.
  9. Forceful sex/rape.
  10. Manipulation with your finances or belongings.

 

Note, it’s important to notice these signs and to know where to get help from because the effects of abuse, assault and violence can last generations and has more impact than you’ll ever realise. Even if you think this doesn’t affect you, it does, through our healthcare, our justice system, our taxes, our community, our loved ones and we’ll never break these cycles unless we address the root and heal as early on as we can. If you recognise these signs in your own relationship, please click here.

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What is rape culture and am I involved?

Rape culture is all around us, it’s a very real thing. And it’s not that people are being told to rape or to be violent but it’s kinda excused or shrugged off in mainstream media and society. It creates a normalisation within our environments and through ‘locker room’ talk, derogatory language, objectification of women and porn/glamorisation of sex and violence, it enables a society that ignores others safety and rights.

Spot these examples

  1. “She asked for it!’’ or victim blaming.
  2. “Boys will be boys!” or telling everyone that assault is inevitable, and boys can’t be held accountable.
  3. “But guys get falsely accused all the time!” which is not true and deflects those who are truly affected. Men are more likely to be raped themselves than to be falsely accused.
  4. “But what were you wearing? Were you drinking?” this teaches that it’s more important to not get raped instead of teaching men to just not rape. It also deflects from the issue and causes more damage to the survivor.
  5. “Rough, beaten, underage and crying for help” these videos and titles in porn are damaging to those who confuse what they watch with real life and real situations to their online screen.
  6. “Men are dominant and aggressive grrrr and women are submissive and passive” not always true, not healthy and definitely should not be defined so much. Men can cry and women can be strong AF and so on and so on. Let’s embrace this.

See the issues?

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For you, the survivor;

 

For you seeking support for others and creating a better world

  • Stay connected and don’t be afraid to create conversation.
  • CONSENT! Always ask for consent, communicate and never assume.
  • Think about the media, our friends and our own language and messages.
  • Listen without judgement and believe what they are saying. We don’t even have to offer advice or question their choices. Just listen, believe and support.
  • Speak out and stand up for what is right, even if it feels hard.
  • Educate yourselves on these issues. There’s so much available on Netflix, TV and YouTube and the more we know and learn, the bigger chance we all have in creating safety and equality. I’ve tagged a load below!
  • https://www.rainn.org/articles/help-someone-you-care-about
  • https://www.rainn.org/articles/tips-talking-survivors-sexual-assault

 

It’s always tricky to write a blog like this. It’s hard to find a balance between knowledge, awareness and support but I hope it’s helped or made you think about something differently.

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

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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/

https://www.womensaid.org.uk

 

For learning, listening and watching;

Unbelievable: A true story

Writing can be so hard. You have a million things that you want to say, things that you want to tell the world, but nothing comes for months and months. No inspiration and little motivation. In fact, this year, I’ve only written five blogs which sucks for me. But then, something happens… you have a moment of spark, something that kicks you straight outta bed and makes you run to your desk to write. My modern-day writers block was just cured, thanks to Netflix.

 

I could easily spend hours on end binge-watching all sorts on that platform, but it’s rare to watch something that is well made and important for the world. Netflix’s latest drama; Unbelievable is one of the best shows on there today (along with Delhi Crime which has a similar narrative, watch that too). It’s a real-life story based on the award winning journalism piece from Pro Publica and The Marshall Project which is super relevant and incredibly important to today’s current climate. A story that is far too common, a story that I share myself (read that here) and a story that made me cry silly ridiculously in my room after watching it all.

For anyone that wants to watch it, sorry for the spoilers. But also, if you’re not planning on watching it and you’re reading this now, I’m telling you to just watch it regardless.

 

The Story

The story starts with a young girl, Marie Adler, who is awoken in the night, raped repeatedly in her home and abused for hours. The guy leaves with little evidence and Marie is subjected to an awful few days in questioning, statement giving and suspicion from those around her following from her attack. The police involved were ill-trained, her support system was lacking, and she was made to believe that her story was not worthy of pursuing. Everyone doubted her which eventually flipped her life upside down due to charges of false reporting, joblessness, media reporting and social rejection. She took a plea deal and tried to forget about it all.

But a year later, and the rapist had committed five more attacks in the same way. He was caught and currently serves a 200+ year sentence thanks to a team led by two incredible women who worked relentlessly to seek justice for these survivors.

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What are the facts?

Violence against women is one of the only criminal statistics that gets higher every year. Violence against women has no race, no border, no age and no preferences. Worldwide, 1 in 3 women have experience physical/sexual violence at some point in their lives. Less than 40% seek help, and of those, less than 10% seek help from the police.

So, why don’t women report? This story highlights all the reasons why violence against women remains one of the most common and easiest crimes to get away with. Not only does every single system worldwide fail to support survivors but our social systems tend to preference male perpetrators, worrying about ruining their reputations and having a hard time believing that they’re capable of such things. Because of this, only 9% of all rapists will get prosecuted. Only 5% of cases lead to conviction, with 3% of rapists spending a full day in prison whilst the other 97% will walk free.

 

 

What can we take from this?

I’ve scrambled down five points that I believe every single person on this planet can reflect on from this story;

  1. Believe

At the centre of the violence is the shame and fear of not being believed. Societies around the world regard violence against women so low that when someone does speak out, they’re put on trial with their stories judged and dissected. That’s what it feels like anyway. Marie’s whole life was evaluated before the police even considered searching for her rapist. And it’s so rare that anyone would make this stuff up. In fact, men are more likely to be victims of a sexual assault themselves than to be falsely accused of committing one. We’re living in a global movement where people are feeling braver and stronger than ever with their stories, let’s believe survivors and stop treating them like the accused.

 2. Support 

Each time you must tell your story or think about the crime, the trauma is relived, and on days it feels endless. A moment, a smell, a touch in the wrong place, a feeling, and it sends you straight back to that moment, no matter how many years pass. There was one scene at the end where a survivor confronts her attacker in despair, she wants to know why he picked her because her life has never been the same which shows that violence is never an event that happens once. Going through an ordeal like this one, speaking out about it and living with the trauma that follows affects your whole life. It’s not easy. A good support system is crucial when healing and living through the processes of prosecution. Support those around you.

3. Share

As we’ve learned, most victims will never tell their stories fully, but for those that do, we must share and honour their stories. Their stories are examples of a society gone wrong and hold important lessons for our futures. Sharing and listening to survivors’ stories means that as a society, we’re taking their stories into account, we’re not dismissing them and we’re allowing others to feel safe to come forward with their own stories. In this case, the rapist was caught thanks to the sharing of other stories and multiple people coming forward.

 4. Fight

Most justice systems worldwide lack the services, training and support for those dealing with cases with women and violence. Creating more jobs for women in the justice system, training programs, and care support services for victims will enable the criminal process to be more effective, supportive and less distressing. Signing petitions, fighting for a more equal world and standing up for women will encourage and support everyone on the planet in multiple ways. 

5. Help

From catcalling in the street to rape and death; our stories, our perpetrators are almost always men. Yet, there are places around the world where a woman could be killed for declaring “I’ve been raped” whilst the rapist continues with his free life. Men need to be the main leaders of this fight because it’s men that are being failed at some point, in a society that leads them to believe they have privilege and control over someone else’s body on a scary scale that has been happening today and for years and years and years.

Call out the men around you who show any signs of mistreatment or abuse to the women in this world. Make the treatment of women an everyday healthy conversation with your sons, boyfriends and people. And if you can’t keep us safe, be brave enough to seek help. Here’s a brilliant TedTalk to listen to about this;

Jackson Katz: Violence against women — it’s a men’s issue

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“One in four women will be raped. Only 10% will report it. The other 90% will take refuge in silence. 50% of these be cause the perpetrator is a family member or someone they know. The other half think they won’t be believed. And they won’t be believed.” – Ines Hercovich

 

This story is just one in a million. The drama adaptation highlights everything that is important to understanding and creating a safer space for more than half of the world’s population. It’s hard to watch but I’m so glad it’s there for you all to see. I hope you take some time to watch and learn more about one of the longest running injustices to people on this planet.

Have a peaceful day and please get in touch if you ever need someone to listen;

Vanisha

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For anyone affected and to learn more, here’s some links below;

Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger: Our story of rape and reconciliation

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/

http://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/299-fast-facts-statistics-on-violence-against-women-and-girls-.html

https://www.survivorsuk.org/

https://www.propublica.org/article/false-rape-accusations-an-unbelievable-story

Travelling Thailand

My first trip to Thailand was three years ago, when my best friend and I backpacked around Asia. Assuming the country was just one big tourist trap, steaming with hen parties and lads on the sesh, my expectations weren’t very high and I was just happy to flitter through and use it as a starting point. Never assume though eh? After a short weekend back this month, I was reminded of all the reasons why I love Asia. Thailand is back in my good books and I realize how much more the country has to offer. So, what’s good and where is best to go?

 

Explore the islands down South

Hike Ko Phi Phi. The island itself isn’t too big, but it’s got plenty of trails and walkways for you to hike around and enjoy the viewpoints from up high. It’s so pretty to see the two colours of the sea where the bay separates them.

Visit the beaches because Thailand is pretty well known for its beautiful bays and movie landscapes. It’s a great place to island hop and see which one suits you best! Koh Tao for diving, Koh Phangan for partying and around 8,000 others for everything else!

Surround yourself in the culture, amazing food and people

Visit the markets which are all around the country and the best places to buy all your clothes, food and gifts from. The food in Thailand is soooo good! I’ll recommend some places down below. Remember to haggle down in the markets too!

Never have I ever had a massage or watched a famous ‘show’…

Bangkok is full of weird and wonderful things, including their famous shows, markets and massages. Personally, I’m not a fan of massages wherever I am, but everyone I know who has been to Thailand has had a massage so, if I was you, I’d do some research and stick it on my list of things to try. Along with the rest of it…

Meet the tribes.

It wasn’t until after my visit that I read some mixed reviews about this experience. People said how visiting the tribe felt like a ‘zoo’ where the women had been put on display just for tourists to come and take photos. The tribe are a group of Burmese refugees who came to Thailand and weren’t originally able to work, be educated or live outside certain areas due to their status. Like many refugees around the world.

However, now they’re given choice. To go to school, to work outside or to carry on the tradition and earn a living through tourism. Like many in Thailand. And I think the most crucial part to the debate of them being in a ‘zoo’ is connection. There’s a difference between literally turning up, without conversation, without interest, without asking questions about the tourism and their welfare, taking photos without permission and not helping their tourism to doing the opposite to that. To making a connection, building understanding and appreciating their lifestyle, choice and culture. To treat and talk to them like humans.

This gally is 4 years old and liked being tickled. She is THE cutest. She laughed when my hair got tied to my hairband. Another lady laughed at me because she’s 23 and I’m 26 and she’s already married with children and I don’t even have a boyfriend…..

Little connections. That’s how we all benefit. 

Ride around the North and hit the temples

Learn about The Golden Triangle, the history and the global drug trade. And do it in a day trip! Thailand is home to thousands of beautiful temples. After a while of exploring them, you might feel like it’s the last thing you want to see, but make Wat Rung Khun an exception and visit the amazing white temple! Go earlier or late evening to avoid the crowds and be sure to wear respectable clothing or cover ups.

Meet the elephants! Do your research and visit the amazing Asian elephants at the numerous parks and sanctuaries around Thailand.

Things to consider; Thailand is a tourist hotspot for full moon parties, animal visits, cheap sex and cheap booze. The country is trying to recover from the tourist damage but it’s still so apparent in the ruined corals, the littered beaches and the high amount of trafficking that occurs. I’m also pretty wary about riding my own motorcycle, literally everyone I know has had an accident and I just don’t see the point when transport is so cheap. However, do whatever you need to do! Before visiting places, do your research, be respectful and do your bit to make life easier for the locals who live there.

Here is a list of the hostels, hotels and places to eat I’ve stayed at:

Lanna Oriental Hotel, Chiang Mai

Freedom Hostels @ Phi Phi, Ko Phi Phi

Good Souls Kitchen, Chiang Mai

Fern Forest Cafe, Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

Use the link below to receive £10 off when booking any of my hotels and more!

https://www.booking.com/s/vanish15

Thanks for reading guys!

Keep up with my adventures on Instagram @vanishamay and have a good day wherever you are!

Vanisha

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A lonely girls guide to being alone

“I like drinking coffee alone and reading alone. I like riding the bus alone and walking home alone. It gives me time to think and set my mind free. I like eating alone and listening to music alone. But when I see a mother with her child, a girl with her lover, or a friend laughing with their best friend, I realize that even though I like being alone, I don’t fancy being lonely.

You see, there’s a BIG difference between being alone and being lonely.

Being alone is power. A power that not everyone is capable of. It’s a state of being. Being alone is something you can enjoy, it’s something you own, it’s something you choose. You can be by yourself and find ways to make yourself smile. You connect with yourself hard. Being alone can bring you so much happiness.

Being lonely is the opposite. It’s an emotion. It’s not positive, it’s silence that hurts and the thought of all the things that you’re missing out from hovers like a black cloud. It’s not enjoyable at all. You can be in a room full of people but feel completely alone. You feel disconnected, and it’s not something you always choose. Being lonely brings you anything but happiness.

I know people that are terrified of being alone, they jump from relationship to relationship and would never imagine going to the movies, or travelling, or eating dinner alone. And I know people that have spent most of their lives in different states of loneliness, being with the wrong partner, spending years of their life alone or even people who travel, moving from city to city with no real roots.

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Sometimes, I am both. I’ve travelled the world, I’ve lived away from home, I’ve been single for a long time and I’m fiercely independent. Most days, I look back at the life I’ve had so far and I’m so proud of everything that I’ve achieved, mostly by myself. I’ll come home from work, back to my little flat in China and close the door behind me. I’ll come home to silence and I look around my room, everything I own is mine and everything I do is for me. Most days I cherish this and am SO grateful for it all. But some days it feels empty and I wonder when I’ll close the door behind me and someone will be so happy to have me home, someone who’ll stick around to share it all with me (read about why travel is ruining my dating life here).

But my point is, I’m not alone, am I? Surveys are finding that more and more people are feeling lonely. And in a time where we’re more ‘connected’ than ever, loneliness is not something we talk about enough, especially if you’re male, a mother, a boss, or anything that might ‘weaken’ your image. But it’s okay to feel like this, I think most of us will at some point of our lives, and I hope you’ll find someone to talk to or a way to get out of it before it drags you down deeper. It’s a dangerous road but there are paths to overcome it all.

“I enjoy controlled loneliness. I like wandering around the city alone. I’m not afraid of coming back to an empty flat and lying down in an empty bed. I’m afraid of having no one to miss, of having no one to love.”

6 ways to conquer being alone and the feelings of loneliness:

  1. Firstly, it’s a basic tool but I’ve recently fell in love with this chatroom. Of course, I meet people from all around the world and I have a great support system back at home, but this thing is fab! It’s a safe space with controlled and positive communications. Use it regardless of how you’re feeling, send it to your loved ones and share the hell out of it… https://chat.itskoko.com/
  2. Make plans and find new connections/relationships. Be brave and embrace the good people around you. Human connection is meant to be the key to a happy and long life! Be kinder, love harder and smile bigger. Make plans so you stick to something and so you have something to look forward to. It really is the little things that can make a big difference.
  3. Find positives out of your situation. Like, yeah, I might be single AF (and therefore sometimes lonely) but I get to travel the world, do what I want every day AND starfish every night with no one judging my Netflix choices… just an example. And also, remove anything that triggers your feelings of loneliness like songs from your ex, old photos, you get me, just until you’re stronger.
  4. Find things you enjoy doing, whether it be alone or to meet new people. You have all this freedom, so use it! Discover new hobbies, do things you love and make your life about you. Join classes, the gym, venture out of the house and go for walks alone! It’ll all make you feel better, especially a bit of exercise (this is me convincing myself too)….
  5. Self-love. I’m not sure how many times I’ve used that word in my blogs, but I don’t give myself enough of it and I’m sure if you’re still reading this then you need a reminder too! You are not unwanted, unloved or unworthy. You deserve everything good in this life and this feeling won’t last forever. Remember this. You are your longest relationship, and you have to spend the rest of your life with you! Forgive yourself, love yourself and promise to do better for yourself.
  6. I also recommend reading Dr. Seuss’ ‘Oh, the places you’ll go!’. It’s my favourite book in the world. If you’re still reading, you’ll need it. Read it, share it and remember it. He’s a genius.

So, embrace being alone and seek for something different if you’re feeling lonely. And one more thing, be kind, to each other and to yourself. You never know what battle people are fighting, what they must go home to every day or how hard their life has been. Call your mum more often, take your Nanna out for lunch and tell your best friend you love them. You’ll never regret being kinder.

Sending lots of love,

V

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For more reads check out my My 8 steps for healing.Mental health and me: bringing back my power.Mental health and me., and Thoughts of a single gal

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

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Follow my twitter and instagram @vanishamay

 

Things to follow:

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How to prevent rape

One in four women will be raped. Only 10% will report it. The other 90% will take refuge in silence. 50% of these be cause the perpetrator is a family member or someone they know. The other half think they won’t be believed. And they won’t be believed.” – Ines Hercovich

Why didn’t she call for help?

Why does she stay?

How could she go home with him?

Why would she wear them clothes?

She shouldn’t have drunk so much.

She should have said no again.

She should have struggled more.

She shouldn’t have left her friends.

What do you expect?

All the above is called victim blaming which happens so often and in so many contexts that when someone is raped they themselves question whether they were raped or just simply ‘asking for it’.

The world teaches us that we’ve done something wrong. We’re shamed and blamed in to thinking it’s our own fault. We should not be carrying the burden of their actions by ourselves. 90% of us should be given more of a chance.

A situation that is so common, yet almost completely silenced.

A situation where I think I drank too much.

I made a mistake.

I should have tried harder.

A situation caused by greed, power and privilege.

A situation involving not me, just my body.

A situation caused by someone else.

A situation where the only thing that could have stopped me from being raped that night is the person that raped me.

how to prevent rape

However, not all rapists are monsters. And not all victims are damaged.

In fact, what is damaging are these labels. These labels do not explain what makes an everyday man lose his humanity for minutes of self-centred pleasure and control. Rapists, abusers and violators are not devils crawling in and out of black holes reaching out to our bodies with one aim in life.

They walk the streets with us, sit in our classrooms, they’re our bosses, our boyfriends, they’re everywhere.

Which is why, to stop violence against women, girls, and everyone else in fact, we need to shift the focus from women and girls and bring men into the conversation. Men need to be part of this movement, and men need to be the main leaders of this fight because it’s men that are being failed at some point, in a society that leads them to believe they have privilege and control over someone else’s body on a scary scale that has been happening today and for years and years and years.

A situation that goes beyond borders, race, religion and status.

It is our job to speak up for the women and girls who are unable. Women and girls who can’t find the strength or are not ready to share their story. Women and girls who live in place where their lives will be in even more danger for saying the words ‘he raped me’.

But men and boys also need to be encouraged to speak up and say ‘I raped her’ in order to change societies blame game, and in order to understand better, in a humane and safer perspective, why men are the solutions and fully responsible for this inhumane global pandemic.

Our voices matter. Our words can create change. But we need all voices, not just the survivors, and not just women.

Each story involves two people. We need to create questions for him, and conversation for her. And we need to give both a space in which we can address this global issue, so that his son does not make the same mistake to her daughter, so we can create a safe world for everyone and our futures.

quotes

So, let’s change the questions;

Why does he hit her?

Why is domestic violence a global issue?

Why are men the main perpetrators to all children, women and other men?

“Why do so many men abuse physically, emotionally, sexually, verbally the women and kids that they claim to love?

What’s going on with men?

Why is this a common problem in society?

Why do we hear over and over again about new scandals erupting in major institutions like the Catholic Church or the Penn State football program or the Boy Scouts of America, on and on and on?

What’s going on with men?” – Jackson Katz: Violence against women — it’s a men’s issue

Rape quotes

This is not a battle or about girls vs boys. We’re all producing this culture and behaviour and we all suffer as a result. How are we all going to stop it?

Let’s talk. Let’s challenge. Let’s end it for all of us.

Hoping for the best,

V

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p.s this is just 745 words, this is not my whole scope or thoughts or words on the issues surrounding gender, men, women, society, sexual abuse and violence. I want this to be something positive and to create something positive from something that is so disturbingly negative, personal and common. I don’t claim to have all the answers and everyone deals with things differently, but this is just 745 words and for some that’s brave, and a start, and it might just help someone’s life, so let’s hope for change, take care of each other and just be nice.

Below is a list of things I’ve read, watched and resources for anyone who is interested in learning and understanding more about one of our world’s biggest and ongoing problems;

And you can find these on Netflix:

  • The Hunting Ground
  • Audrie & Daisy

And these are some of my other related blogs:

If anyone has any good resources, website links, blog posts or books then please share!

Finding home.

 

This year, I’ve found it challenging to define the word ‘home’. After travelling year upon year, with endless amounts of moves, I couldn’t be further from finding ‘my place in the world’.

The last five months, I’ve been living back in my hometown. And most people in the small town that I grew up in have lived in the same four walls for all their lives. I’ve had a total of 6 addresses just in that town alone. On top of that, I’ve spent a year of my life from my backpack travelling Asia, South America and unpacking my bag for a few months in China and Mexico. And more recently, I made my move to London where I stayed for 3 years under 3 more different addresses. And now I’m back ‘home’ but I’ve never felt so unsettled. *update I’m now back in China where I’ve semi-settled, found a new place, have a daily route to work and now have another home address. Deep breath*

So, in my head (and to you), I’ve been trying to work out what and where ‘home’ is. What does home really mean? Have I come home? Do I have to build a home in just one place? Is home even a building? Is it a place? Is it a feeling? Or a person? (I know, cliché). Where is my place in the world and why am I struggling so hard to find it?

And you’re probably thinking why it’s so important. What on earth is she talking about now?! But seriously (when I was writing this over the Christmas period when families are supposedly all gathering in their ‘homes’ to spread joy and festive love) I couldn’t help but wonder that this word that people find so much comfort in, this word that’s meant to mean everything, the word we go to when we’re lost or run to for safety. What if someone doesn’t have this word? What do they have? Where do we go? I’m doing all the running, in fact I constantly have one foot out the door, why can I not just bloody settle? *and these thoughts caused me so much anxiety at the time I started this blog but it’s always in the back of my mind as I travel and try to find new places to be. The idea of being ‘lost’ and the pressures to ‘find your place’ can be overwhelming ok. Hence my brain going into overdrive*

Perhaps it’s because in my hometown I feel surrounded by ghosts of people that I left in my past, and memories that I don’t want to revisit, and versions of me that I don’t want to remember. My hometown will never feel like a home for me. And I think that’s the same for lots of people. You never know what people have to go home to. Home isn’t always a happy place. It’s not always safety or comforting. Home can be something we run from.

Or perhaps it’s because I’ve travelled and moved too much. Maybe settling will never be an option for me and that might be okay. I can’t think of one place that I’d want to spend even 5 years yet alone my life. Maybe I just haven’t found the right ‘home’ yet.

Or maybe it’s because home is a feeling. A few months after I started writing this and I’m in a strange place of between. But I’ve come to more of a conclusion now and feel a lot less anxiety lol. Home is a feeling. A feeling of familiarity, comfort and safety. A few months ago, I thought my childhood and choices in life meant I’d always have the feeling of instability and lack of safety, but, it might not be so bad. Maybe I’m still hunting for my ‘home’, someone to share this beautiful life with and he’ll remind me it’s not the about destination “it’s about the journey Vin”, he’ll say as he commits to a lifetime of journey-ing around the world with me…

Right now, for me, I feel at home in many countries, with many people. I walk around my new city in China and feel familiarity and warmth in people, like the last time I was here was four days ago and not four years. Every day I look forward to the day I’ll fly back to Mexico, the home of Mision Mexico and the people whose lives are still joined with mine. It’s the feeling after a Skype session with my loved ones then seeing them and hugging them after months of being apart. I’ve been on the run around the world leaving parts of myself everywhere. And now, my place in the world is all over the world and that is such a blessing. My home is in me and in my people.

Some food for thought and it’s a good watch!

Ever felt lost or need a chat? Give me a shout!

Have a fab day and follow my IG adventures @vanishamay

V

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p.s miss you kiss you huns and fam ♥️

Life beyond Misión México

Preparing young adults for life beyond Misión Mexico…

Our #1 goal at Misión Mexico is to provide the option of shelter and on-going education for all of the children that walk through our doors. We aim to help break the cycle of poverty that exists for 21.2 million children and adolescents in Mexico, by providing opportunity, chances and choices for our young people, which includes our final program, YTP. Our Youth Transition Program (YTP) focuses on supporting our young people at Misión Mexico through the transition into adulthood, independent living and higher education.

The focus is to empower these young people in a bid to break the cycle of poverty and abuse, and further create confident, competent young adults and positive role models who can successfully live independently.” – Luke, YTP Coordinator

A History of YTP

  1. Rewind back to 2014 when YTP was first piloted with our first female transition house! Four of our young ladies, aged 19-22 years old, moved into the house with our full-time YTP coordinator and mentor. With the support of the coordinator, our young adults develop skills such as independent and practical living, health and nutrition, positive role modelling, financial planning and budgeting, and practical support sourcing employment. Personal development is also a critical element of the program which aims to improve confidence, interpersonal and negotiation skills, and self-motivation.
  2. The next exciting branch of YTP was our youth cooking program and girls’ youth groups, which were implemented for our children aged 13 years and over. At this age, we begin the preparation phase which helps identify the strategies and actions necessary to develop their independent and life skills, whilst residing at our main refuge.
  3. 18 months later, the program extended to include our first male transition house and boys’ youth groups!
  4. After four years, 9 of our young adults have moved through our two transition houses and into independent living with 7 more currently living in our YTP today!

Why is YTP so important?

YTP brings opportunity and support for those first tricky years of adulthood as they leave our main family home at 18 years old. Some of you may be thinking that it’s kind of unnecessary and comparing it to your own lives, however life in Tapachula is extremely different and difficult, and our young adults would not have as many opportunities or choices if it wasn’t for Misión Mexico and programs such as YTP. YTP enables our young adults to have the opportunity to grow and reach their full potential, transitioning them to independent living whilst allowing them to continue with their higher education and offering multiple avenues and choices for their futures.

  • In developing, low-income countries, like Mexico, every additional year of education can increase a person’s future income by an average of 10%.
  • 6 million Mexican children and adolescents dropped out of school in 2012, to join the second largest child labour force in Latin America. These young people probably had very limed choices. This labour force includes children who have traded classrooms and pencils for their families, farming and crime. This labour force included some of our own children at Misión Mexico.
  • In 2012, 21.2 million children and adolescents in Mexico were living in poverty, with more than six million children aged 3-17 out of school. The lack of formal education in childhood often limits the available opportunities and choices in adulthood, which in turn continues the cycle of poverty and crime.

Where are they now?

We have seen some great successes with our young adults who have transitioned through YTP and into independent living! We’re excited to say that we’ve had our first ever female university graduate who quickly secured full-time employment and recently received her first promotion (amazing)! Whilst four are living independently whilst continuing with their higher education and university degrees. We’ve celebrated marriages, first homes, full-time employment, and a number of our YTP young adults are even putting their life skills to use whilst exploring the big wide world outside of Tapachula! YTP has truly been life-changing.

The Future of YTP

There are currently 20 young people living in the main Misión Mexico house in addition to the 6 young adults living in our two gendered transition houses. Over 70% of Misión Mexico youth are involved in some aspect of the YTP as our program starts from 13 years old. At this age, we begin the preparation phase which helps identify the strategies and actions necessary to develop their independent skills through cooking and small group classes. Currently 23% of the current household are over 18 years old and within the next three years, 58% of them will be over 18 years old which means that YTP is essential and growing rapidly!

Our goal at Misión México is to provide support, love, options and choice to all the children that come into our home. Not all our young adults choose the root of university, higher education or even YTP living, and instead choose to follow other paths beyond their lives at Mision Mexico. But, that’s what this is ultimately all about; choice.

YTP is one of our most vital and ever-expanding programs, and we wouldn’t be anywhere without your help. We are so grateful for the years of support, love and hope that you’ve shown to us and can’t wait to continue the journey for our next bunch of YTP-ers over the coming years!

Make some small choices today!

  • For as little as $10 per month you can become one of our Youth Transition Program Sponsors and help our young adults become the best they can be! You can email events@lovelifehope.com if you’re interested in becoming a YTP sponsors
  • Volunteer! We’re currently recruiting for April 2018 and onwards. So, if you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to contact us via social media or apply at volunteer@lovelifehope.com!
  • Share this blog and our #YTPWednesdays campaigns via below…
  • You can follow and support our social media by clicking these links…
  • https://www.instagram.com/misionmexico/
  • https://twitter.com/mision_mexico
  • https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren

We can’t wait to meet you all!

Vanisha

With big help from Luke Owen, Melissa Biggerstaff and Founder, Pamela Skuse

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Reads and resources:

https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/kids-at-work-there-are-3-6-million-in-mexico/

http://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/americas/2016/01/mexico-child-labour-perils-lost-education-160127055528295.html

https://probdes.iiec.unam.mx/en/revistas/v45n178/body/v45n178a5_1.php

The dangers of fashion

Documentary watch: The True Cost and Minimalism (find them on Netflix now)

Got a new date? Buy a new dress. Feeling down? Hit the shops. Hole in your socks? Bin em. Don’t like that tee? Charity bag. Hate spending? Get bored quickly? Want cheap clothes and a tonne of option? It all sounds pretty harmless but the true cost of our shopping is literally damaging our planet and failing to protect the lives of millions around the world. Where are we going so wrong and how can we do better?

It’s funny how as you walk into a store like Topshop, you feel fully ready to splash the cash and treat yo’self (for the third time that week), whilst in a land not-so-far away, people are suffering because we just can’t help ourselves. We live in a world where we want, spend, buy, and chuck at the most alarming rates, whilst separating ourselves from the production and side-effects. The average American is currently consuming 4x more than what our planet can sustainably supply, and we brits are next in line. Altogether, we are consuming 400% more than we were twenty-years ago with the consumption of 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year. Doesn’t sound so fun now right?

true-cost-memes1

Consumerism is a fairly new definition which is why there’s no surprise that people are A) unaware of the word in general and B) think it’s a joke similar to global warming. Well actually, it’s very real and very damaging and the way we are consuming is in fact the biggest joke.

Now this is not a lecture or a blog to tell you to stop waking into H&M, but a conversation with information about how we can create a better lifestyles for ourselves and others by changing our behaviours and thoughts before it’s really too late…

 The People

  • “Without my wardrobe, people would have no work” – It’s true that 97% of our clothing is made abroad, however our consumption is not only causing inhumane working conditions for the workers (that are mostly women), but is also putting people out of work too. For instance, giving all your leftovers and unwanted stuff to charity is not always the best idea. In fact only 10% of clothing gets sold in charity stores and the rest ends up in dumpsites and stores in developing countries which is then cutting out their local industries and filling their landfills with pollution and more issues thanks to the us in the west.
  • 1 in 6 people in the world work in the fashion industry. Most of these are women who are earning less than $3 a day and working in extreme conditions. From Beyonce’s big Ivy Park scandal to the deaths of over a thousand workers at Rana Plaza, people are suffering directly as a result of our mindlessness materialism.

true-cost-memes3

The Environment

  • So the 90% of clothes that don’t get sold in charity shops is boxed up and packaged to countries like Haiti and Mexico where they sit in empty shops, landfills and pollute the land and water because it’s not bio-degradable and the people in these countries don’t have the right tools and knowledge to deal with all our mess.
  • Cotton is in such high-demand that it’s now genetically modified and grown. But at a huge cost. Studies suggest that there’s almost a 20-50% chance for cotton farmers to develop cancer and other related diseases as a result of exposure. The True Cost documentary also highlights how over 250,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves due to debt related pressure from cotton farming.

the-true-cost-confronteert-je-met-de-duistere-kanten-van-de-mode-industrie-657-body-image-1434455149

How you can make a difference:

  • Watch the documentaries ‘The True Cost’ and ‘Minimalism’ which can both be found on Netflix and will both make you question what on earth we’re doing! I’ve watched both a bunch of times and they’ve really inspired me.
  • Send your old coats to http://care4calais.org/winter-coats-needed/ and https://wrapuplondon.org.uk/
  • 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. Winner winner.
  • Give directly to the people that might need them and cut out the middle man of charity shops.
  • Re-vamp them, give the old stuff some love and get creative with your clothes.
  • Be a conscience shopper. Know the difference between want and need. Find things that you really love and invest rather than buying endless amounts of throwaway clothes. Slow down, think and re-wear. If you don’t love it that much, then don’t buy it. Isn’t it funny that our parents have clothes from 30 years ago in their wardrobes and I struggle to find anything older than 5 years?

Fashion can be fun, but fashion should never be the cause of someone’s death and livelihood. That’s not fun. Time to turn it around! We have a responsibility to our planet and the people in them. Let’s change the future

Thanks for reading you beautiful bunch!

Vanisha

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Follow my twitter and instagram @vanishamay

Resources

http://clothesaid.co.uk/where-do-your-clothes-go/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30227025

https://truecostmovie.com/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/beyonces-ivy-park-sportswear-line-denies-claims-its-clothes-were-produced-by-sweatshop-workers-a7035926.html

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17569-consumerism-is-eating-the-future/

https://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/5-crazy-facts-new-fashion-documentary-true-cost/