Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Bullying and Abuse At School Should End

By Muhkamat Anwar via UN Online Volunteering

Bullying exists in our society. Physical and psychological violence victims can feel alienated by society, and can cause a person to be unsocial.

Children and juveniles are mostly the center of bullying behavior. Unwittingly, the victim really feels hurt. This is my story, and of course, it must have been experienced by many children and juvenile worldwide.

I am now 21 years old working in my country in Asia. When I was in elementary school, I experienced bullying, although it was not severe in my opinion. By 6th grade, I only had two friends. My other classmates did not think of me as their friend. This case started because I did not want to give my homework to them. The ill treatment caused to me by my classmates started at the beginning of the first semester in grade 6 and went on until graduation.

My worst year was in ninth grade at junior high school. Without any cause, I got a harsh treatment such as beatings using a large piece of paper or other objects in the class. I was insulted and this really hurt me. At that time I was really upset and I tried to fight, but there were too many bullies. At that time I wished I never knew them. What they did to me was inhuman and against the freedom of human rights as God's intelligent creatures.

When I graduated from junior high school, I hoped never to see them again. My prayers were answered, and when I got into high-school I felt happy that the bullying will stop.  However, the bullying was still there although slightly. I told my classmates to refrain from bullying or violence and a positive impact would come from it.

Right now I have completed my college diploma and work in the public service in my country. I am very proud of the success that I have achieved, which would not have happened if I had given in to the bullies.

Bullying is not only at school. Teenagers, especially women face bullying concerning their weight. I usually asked my friend what they thought by calling someone fat. I feel that bullying someones weight is bad, and encourage women to speak out and please share your story and your feelings about it. This is about #SharingNotShaming.

My name is Muhkamat Anwar, nickname is anwar. I was born in Kediri, East Java Indonesia June 22nd 1994. Now, I have worked as a public service in Indonesia tax office (Ministry of Finance). I am strongly against violence, as God's creatures have a sense of equality should be upheld. With no bad treatment then it will become a world more peaceful and prosperous.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

My clothes do not define who I am

By Debayani Panja, via UN Online Volunteering

While growing up in a metropolitan city, I had learnt the nuances to always dress up in style. I never wore anything too revealing and my choice of clothes never pricked my family’s eyes. 

This helped me to develop a carefree attitude to what people gossiped, about how I dressed. I never cared what people said, how they talked about me or the way they looked at me. I always made fun of it saying, “How would you know that you are looking good unless you are stared at?” 

Not changing the way I carried myself, was my way of being rebellious, it was my way of mocking at those who talked behind my back.

But there was a small incident which almost broke me. Two years ago I had joined an Islamic university at the heart of my city. Although the environment of the university wasn’t conservative, the students studying there believed themselves to be decent, cultured, upholders of Islamic conservatism and sophisticated.  

Not seeing a reason to change, I showed myself up to the university, the way I had always dressed. My confidence was unwavering and I chose to keep the small comments and gestures of displeasure which came my way now and then, unheard and unseen.

But ignorance wasn’t enough for my “well wishers.” Soon fully fledged gossip started, detailing how I dressed and what I wore. 

People started getting “anxious” for me that I must start dressing properly, lest something bad should happen. They said that I should stop wearing jeans, dresses and mini- skirts and instead start donning salwar-kameez. They feared that I might defile the sanctity of the institution and the way women had always dressed there.

I realized people had started talking about me more than required. Some over-smart people even had the audacity to come and tell me on my face that I should dress properly. 

But what really affected me was when I learnt that those I had never expected, those whom I had once considered to be my friends also didn’t spare a bone to talk behind my back. That started breaking me from inside. It affected me psychologically and hampered my studies. Soon I realized people had started calling me names. I cried many times, but never wavered.

There were always friends who stood by me. When I became weak, they made me realize that what I am is because who I am. 

This helped me to gain back my strength if ever I faltered. I decided to face adversity without changing myself. I decided to be what I have always been. I decided what I wear is my choice, my decision and nobody can take that away from me; no matter what. I will always be who I am, not defined by my clothes alone.

This went on for a year. I kept reminding myself, “Those only are the brave, who hold their ground and keep it till the last,”  I mocked those who kept talking about me. But it was the summer of the next year which actually broke them. 

Women in the university had switched from salwar-kameez and had started donning western clothes and there was a riot everywhere. Nobody could say a word; no-one could be stopped. 

That day I laughed. 

That day I realized it is just a pinch of courage what takes to change the world. It takes only faith and confidence in oneself to stand against all odds. It takes only sharing and not shaming to change others.

Monday, 25 January 2016

End Gender Discrimination At Work

By Aisha via UN Online Volunteering

They say when we deny the story, it defines us; when we own the story, we can write a brave new ending. 

Cognition and knowledge is not about how many pleasant or unpleasant experiences you've been through; sometimes it is how you can view the same place or thing in different ways and from different perspectives. When I was younger, my understanding of events and people was simple; everything was either black or white. As I grew into a young adult, I came to realize that there were so many shades of gray that I would be forced to discern.

I have always seen myself as a relatively cool, calm and collected person; never harbouring resilient doubts of my abilities as an intellectual and as a woman; not realising that my belief about myself would be shaken to the core. 

At 23 years, I had just graduated from university and was among the top students in my class. Receiving a call on the same day as my graduation, the news that I had been offered a high paying job at a corporate company after three nerve wrecking interviews was like hitting triple jackpot. 

I would be able to help my mother pay rent, hospital bills and I would finally be financially independent, or so I thought. Saying I was extremely enthusiastic and fazed about the opportunity, would be an understatement, little did I know that my excitement would be just but a flash in the pan. I cannot begin to describe the perpetual stigma that African females encounter in their daily functioning; 

I am not just speaking from blasé conjecture but from first hand experience. One of the things that came up in my interview was "how I would handle working with the senior males in the department being a younger female". I did not give the question much thought; my perception now is that it was an extremely strong question that the whole selection process was based on the fact that I was a younger female working with older males and who was trying to cross over to a career traditionally assumed to be for males.

It is common knowledge that what you allow will continue; If you set the precedent for people to ride roughshod over your rights they will stamp all over you, but what happens if you show up as a confident, mature and rational adult yet you experience abuse and discrimination? Will you remain unchanged? I was the only female in my department among the very few females in the company. 

Everything was a smooth ride, especially when I wasn't meetings my targets, until I started to generate output and challenged everyone's expectations of me. All of a sudden I became the company's fall man; I would be faulted and blamed for everything that went wrong. But, that was just the beginning of the storm; those were trivial matters that could be swept under the rag. 

Soon, my ethnicity, age, gender and degree became an issue and were gaining a lot of negative attention from male colleagues even in other branches of the company. I became a target of smear campaigns and I remember I would walk into the glass built office, and the men would ogle at me and scream. I focused on the job, tried to be as calm as possible and prayed that it was just a phase, but it turned out to be wishful thinking on my part.

My work was sabotaged, and people would take credit for my efforts such that on the performance measurement report that was forwarded to the main office, I looked like I was doing practically nothing. The work that I did appeared under the name of my male colleagues. They told all the clients that cared to listen that I was just but a secretary! 

When I complained to the top manager, he assured me that he would look into it but later he passed by my desk with the rest of the male team, read a line of my complaint email, and they burst out laughing. Everything took a nosedive henceforth; my colleagues would send me phonographic videos and videos that suggested I was the problem and that I had no self esteem. 

My immediate manager told me that they didn't want a woman in their team and that they would frustrate me until I left. The top manager started making passes and ogling at me, claiming that he would "protect" me if I "scratched his back". One female colleague that I confided in, a single mother, was fired on the grounds that she was filling my head with lies about the company. Soon my salary and commission started to be deducted, yet the males were never affected. 

My subordinates were told not to assist me in any way, and I remember one time one started pointing at me, shouting to everyone that I was just a woman and my place was at home raising a family. In short, I was the "problem" and all the men were the victims. I was eventually told that I wouldn't be confirmed lest I removed my "knickers". 

I dreaded going to the office; every morning I felt like I was walking into a battlefield, constantly walking on pins and needles, my body always on "fight or flight" mode. One doesn't know the weight of the load she's carrying until she feels it's release; when I received the "Scarlet letter", which I was expecting, I was too exhausted to mourn my loss. 

Daring not to create a legal haze surrounding my departure, management told everyone that I had resigned. After the Iong 11 month probation, I lost most of  my money and I went from executive to beggar; I couldn't pay my student loan so my name was forwarded to the CRB. I had nothing to show at the end of all the hard work and dedication; I felt completely humiliated.

It was the classic cat and mouse game; the more I fought for my dignity, my respect and sanity, the worse it got. 

And for anyone going through what I went through, I know this sounds counterintuitive, but  never show strong emotion at the workplace,  no matter how badly you feel you have been wronged. That would only be used as ammunition by your "enemies"? 

By reacting, I was only feeding them,  exciting them because now they had my attention, and I looked like the unstable one. Apparently my actions were seen as an attempt to upset the status quo; the misguided notion that women had to assume a submissive subordinate role at the workplace. 

My plight was seemingly couched in the systems bureaucracy, gender bias and discourse of male dominance. Women are oftentimes only appointed for "window dressing" and their roles , are made ineffective by lack of senior management support.

 Bottomline: Do not let your own fears of societal rejection dictate who you need to be and allow it to result in surface compliance. "Do not Conform", let that be your guiding mantra. Stand up for yourself, know your truth and speak up, no matter what they say. 

There are many people who would do anything to break you; who would say you are the problem; who would gaslight you and say you have a skewed perception. 

People fear what they do not understand and what/who they cannot control. Set and respect your boundaries, never ever apologize for being who you are, never give away your dignity to get or keep a job. The labels they place upon you do not define you, they are just projections of qualities they do not like about themselves. Last but not least, do not supress the pain, embrace then release it; accept that what happened was "FOR YOU," not "TO YOU." 

Honour your emotions and journey to recovery, forgive those who wronged you and forgive yourself; trust me once you make that shift, you will never be the same person again; you will reach a level of consciousness and realize that those who wronged you need your empathy, not judgement. Their perception has been hazed by old prejudices, distortions and misleading cultural alibis. 

It's not what happens to us in our lives that makes us into writers; it's what we make out of what happens to us. It's our distinctive point of view. I fully recovered, after a case of agoraphobia and PTSD. 

That is what inspired me to start writing about the challenges that women and children, especially in Africa have to face, daring to inspire the redefinition of male and female roles until societal consensus is reached. 

When we dare to walk this world unapologetically, it's how we put our pictures up and validate ourselves; I was punished and vilified for having the nerve, and unmitigated gall to love and reaffirm myself as a woman, a young woman. 

It's not over yet; every setback bears with it the seeds of a comeback. My scars are markings of where the structure of my character was welded. I am not my wounds; I am the transcendence of them, still I rise...

#End Gender Discrimination at the Workplace.