Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Sex-Ploitation can Happen to Both Genders

By Duncan Aliero Muhani via UN Online Volunteers

I grew up as a responsible young man, with good moral and sound Christian values. My mother always dedicated her time in educating me about every aspect of development including sex education and personal responsibility. 

She believed that sex education would always help me make safe and right decision during my involvement in sexual activities and relationships, hence protecting me from any sexual abuse, exploitation, sexually transmitted diseases, and unplanned pregnancies.

I joined one of the local universities to undertake a degree. At the university the values my mum had taught me guided me through out in my day to day endeavors. I observed high level of discipline and moral responsibility. 

During my second year of study, I proceeded to do my internship which was part of the university requirement. I was posted in a cargo handling port in The Information and Communication Department at the IT support desk, with responsibilities that included but not limited to supporting the organization employees on challenges they faced during use of computers and related items.

One early morning, a lady made a call to the IT support desk; she urgently needed help due to a problem on her computer. Because I was still a learner, we left the office with one of the employees in order to provide support to the lady. We solved her problem and went back to the office. At around 3pm the same day, the lady made a call again. 

She brought up the same issue. This time around, I was asked to go and solve the problem. The lady was warmer and welcoming than she was in the morning, we talked for a while; she was very interested in knowing me; where I schooled and where I came from. 

I also got the opportunity to know more about her. We quickly created a rapport; she said the response at the help desk is sometimes slow. And this she said slowed down delivery of her work. She thus requested my number so that she could directly call me just in case a problem, that requires urgent attention, arose again. I gave her my number and left.

She would call me whenever she had an issue and I was always happy to offer my services. One day she called me just before 4.30 pm and asked if she could drop me in town, I quickly accepted. I knew it was an appreciation for the good service I had been rendering to her. The fare to town was also high and considering I was still a student, I could not reject the offer. I felt lucky for meeting a true friend. She would drop me in town every day and occasionally give me money.

One day she asked me out for coffee over the weekend in a resort restaurant, I accepted as we were now close friends. We had some good time together in a desolate place. In the middle of our conversation she confessed to be in love with me. I was shocked as she appeared much older than me; probably in her fifties.  I knew outright that this was sexual harassment. 

I remembered the sexual morals my mother had taught me. The challenges my mother anticipated I would one day face, had finally arrived; I had to make the right decision. I politely told her she was much older than me and that it would not work. We talked for a while as she tried to convince me. I later left having disappointed her. I just never thought that would happen.

A week later, I still ended up in her car again. I did mention amidst small talk that I had never watched 50 Shades of Grey the movie, she insisted I come over to her place over the weekend so that we could watch the movie together. I already had plans to check the movie out with some friends in a local movie theater, but the cost was high so I thought it was a better deal.

I came to her residence over the weekend for the movie date; she warmly welcomed me and took me around the house. She stayed in the leafy suburbs of the town in a four bedrooms storied house with a balcony overlooking the lawns, a garden, and flower beds. A spacious kitchen with fully fitted units, with full size microwave oven, electric cooker and refrigerator, a lounge with knole style, sheesham hardwood sofa set padded with cream cushion, color television with free view. Bathroom fitted with thermostatic electric shower over the bath, wash hand basin, and toilet, and electric heated towel rail. The bedroom had twin beds with matching chest of drawers. She was truly affluent and living large.

But she was all alone in this large bungalow; I asked her why she stayed alone. She said she had separated from her husband few years ago and that she had one child who was in a boarding school.

She served me with an alcoholic cocktail, as we watched the movie. It was the first time I was taking alcohol in my life. At first I felt a little guilty but thought it was okay. It was a gorgeous film with a little humor, lots of luscious scenery, drama and sexy scenes. I got drunk in the process and we ended up having sex.

This continued for a while. We would meet over the weekend and sometime during the weekday just to drink alcohol and we would end up having sex. The issue began taking toll on me. 

I felt I had really let myself down for not taking up what my mother had taught me. I thought this lady was taking advantage of me. This issue really depressed me and I become withdrawn even to my family back home. My parents noticed my weird behavior and wanted to know if there was any issue.  I told them I was okay.

I recognized the pattern of deceit and denial I was living in. I endured the shock of revelation to my own conscience about my mistake and decided to stop it completely. I realized that the lady was sexually exploiting me. And that’s when I noted that sexual exploitation can happen to either of the sexes. So I changed for a better me.

As we struggle to empower the girl child, girls must also be educated about the values of love and respect for the opposite sex. This understanding of equality of women and men will prepare both to work together as equal partners in all field, thus ensuring greater appreciation of each other. Therefore, ensuring success in the struggle and push for girl child’s rights.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Every Complexion is Normal

By William Dekker via UN Online Volunteers

In a family of five siblings; two older and two younger, I emerge in between resembling no one - dark and black. This is my story:
In those childhood days, majority of us were naïve or rather too innocent to think of what set us apart. We mingled with little or no regard to colour, shape or size, not until maturity set in.
On my first Saturday in college, I auditioned for a play that was premiering a month from then. At the end of the day, seven contestants auditioning for the same role had been eliminated. Two of us were left in what seemed like a tie. We had gone through it up to late in the evening and the judges had to make a decision. In a very outrageous tone, one judge whispered; “since the play will be performed during the nights, we are better off with a lighter guy than the dark one”. Immediately the role was awarded to my competitor (who was way more light-skinned than I was).
 That evening I returned to my hostel room, rejected and dejected. For the first time, my skin colour had worked against me. My complexion had denied me the chance to showcase my talent and whatever skills I got. The chance was taken away from me, not because I was incapable, but simply because I was darker than a fellow contestant. It haunted me for days and months.
At that very time, I had joined college to pursue a degree in Information Science. With Information Science, I would easily major on information studies and specialize on Media science so as to get to broadcast journalism (which was my passion and aspiration from long ago). The incident at the theatre audition played in the back my mind severally and haunted me for long. I imagined that the same would be the case when I get to the corporate realm. I imagined that I would be denied broadcast jobs just because I was too dark for the camera, maybe. It is at that point that I made one of my biggest decisions ever. I immediately quit the course and sought an admission into a different degree line; this time round IT.
But that was not the end of the pain. Through the four years in campus, I continued suffering in silence. I became overly cautious of my complexion. I turn out to be photophobic – as already I knew I wasn’t good for the camera. I resisted group photos like the plague. In case of unavoidable situations, I would stand behind people in a bid to shelve myself from visibility. Few friends invited me for photos too. While some would pretentiously ask me to join them, they would later delete the photos as “I always made them look bad.” Others would instead keep the photos and mock me whenever it gave them joy to do so. At some point, a colleague wrote a 450 word article to mock my dark complexion. But by then, I had slowly grown resilient.
As much as I had quit the Information Sciences course, I still remained a good communicator. I just changed the tact. I couldn’t be seen though. Instead I was heard and read. I broadcasted in the University radio while at the same time published articles in the campus student press. I rose to become the Chairperson of the press club. I engaged in other clubs and societies, majority of which I chaired, became the President or an executive committee member. Due to the consistent exhibition of diligence, I was later appointed into the student council and made in-charge of University communications on Student Affairs. It became one of my last responsibility before leaving campus.
Just before exiting campus, through a recommendation, I got the privilege to sit among the country’s great entrepreneurs, captains of the industry and corporate bigwigs as an honorable judge for the regional “Hult Prize Competition”. Hult Prize is a global student challenge, in which the winner takes home $1,000,000 for presenting the best business idea in line with the year’s theme. But you see at that time I was still black J
After the event, which I considered my greatest achievement then, I posted a photo of myself on Facebook with the event’s caption. The first comment to the Facebook photo post was meant to be an ironical mockery but instead, it has remained my biggest motivation to date: “YOU ARE DARK BUT YOUR FUTURE IS BRIGHT.”
Of course I was dark in the photo. And still I maybe dark today but my future is bright. Since then I have gained sufficient confidence. Today, my colour is my pride. I no longer scorn myself for the melanin I have. In my repertoires, my blackness will never stop me from achieving whatever in life that I desire. Neither will it prevent me from mingling.
And now, so you think you’re too dark to mingle? Who told you dark is the obnoxious? Why not the reverse? Remember Malcom X’s questions? “Who taught you to hate yourself? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the colour of your skin?”
Conventionally, it is of greater advantage to be contented with your appearance. The happier you are with yourself, the happier other people feel around you. This is my experience; when you learn to love and accept yourself, you’ll feel more peaceful, more confident and people will find it a pleasure to be around you. You become calmer because you feel more connected within. It even becomes easier to connect with others too. That is biggest secret to keep you attractive. 
Today I have more friends who, at no point show any dissent for my complexion. In fact, it the question of colour doesn’t even ring on their minds.
You see, in the end neither dark nor light skinned is abnormal. In fact every complexion is normal. Every physical appearance is normal. There’s a wide range of normal and that is where you fall. That is where we all fall. You maybe dark, I maybe dark but guess what…the future is bright!!!

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Let's Embrace Our Imperfections

By Courtney Lucey via UN Online Volunteers

As a woman in society today, it is almost impossible to accept our bodies and be confident in our own skin while everywhere we look we are surrounded by images and expectations of how our bodies ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ be.  
We are force-fed ideas about our superficial appearances; such as what weight we should be, what size clothes we should wear and what our hair and make up should look like in order for us to be perceived as ‘pretty’ or ‘beautiful’. 
But ultimately as women and girls, our worth is not determined by how we look on the outside and we must stand together to stop body shaming and teach girls that their beauty truly comes from within. 
For a girl growing up in our globalised society today I think the pressures to look a certain way are shockingly excessive and unnecessary. 
Since the age of around 12 I can remember constantly comparing myself to other girls’ bodies and how they looked; from the other girls at school, girls in my dancing classes, friends and even to models on TV and in magazines. 
I don’t remember a specific situation or moment that triggered me to become obsessed with comparing my body, and feeling inadequate, but I recall gradually becoming aware of how my body was slightly different to some of my friends and the girls I saw in the media. 
I was curvier, with bigger hips and thighs and over time this led to a huge lack of confidence in myself, as I felt that I could never be beautiful unless I had long and thin legs and bigger boobs. Now I can see that this was such a damaging and distorted way for me to be valuing myself in terms of my body when these things were a part of what made me, me; being curvy I could still be beautiful. 
Despite this, I couldn’t help feeling that I wasn’t beautiful and I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t have thin legs or big boobs like other girls. I knew that what I was feeling was wrong and I should love myself for who I was, but so many things such as seeing models and celebrities on television portrayed with their ‘perfect’ bodies was giving me an entirely unrealistic and distorted perception of how I was ‘supposed’ to look and what was important. 
I valued myself in terms of my body and things that are only skin-deep and I failed to see that I was beautiful inside; as someone who was kind, intelligent and a good friend.
These images of models that girls today are forced to compare themselves to through the internet and social media have been edited and photo-shopped excessively to make the models appear ‘better’ by making them thinner, smoothing their cellulite and removing spots and imperfections. But this is so WRONG. 
There is nothing to be ashamed of with our bodies the way they truly and naturally are; we must embrace this and accept our imperfections and part of what makes us, us. A scar is a reminder of pain that has made us stronger, a birthmark is something that makes us unique and we deserve to be proud of these things that make us special and set us apart from one another as individuals. 
My own experiences of being shamed for my body and my appearance occurred around between the ages of 12 - 16 at secondary school. 
The strongest memory for me is how a group of boys in my math class would often talk and laugh, loud enough for me to hear, so I knew they were making comments about me. 
One day I was walking out of class with some friends across the playground and a group of these boys called out to me; they said that I was “chunky”, I had “thunder thighs” and “tree-trunk legs”. 
I felt a sudden pain of panic in my chest, tears stinging my eyes and I felt sick. I could not believe that they were calling me these names in front of my friends when I had done nothing to deserve it. 
I was already conscious that I was curvier than some of the other girls. Deep down I knew that my thighs were strong and muscly because I went for swimming and dancing lessons every night after school and I should be proud of being strong and fit. But I couldn’t help feeling so embarrassed that I just wanted to run away and hide, I could feel my cheeks turning red and it felt like every single person was staring at me and I couldn’t get any words out, so I just walked away. 
I let their comments affect me and hold me back for a long time before I learned to love my body and feel confident in myself but now I do, there is no going back. Now these boys will see me in the street and cannot look me in the eye because they know that what they did and said was unacceptable. 
Being told we are too much of one thing and not enough of the other is so damaging to confidence and self esteem. Four years after my experiences of body shaming I have only just learned to accept my body because it is so difficult to forget the words that people say when they have hurt you so much. 
These past 4 years have taught me a lot about what is truly important; and that is being happy and confident in my own skin. Inside we all possess our own unique beauty that makes us who we are, and what is on the outside is not something to be judged by anyone other than ourselves. 
If you want to exercise more often or if you don’t want to exercise at all then that is OK, if you are slim that is OK and if you are curvy that is OK too; because ultimately how we look does not, and will never define who we really are as individuals because if you are happy, you are powerful and that must come from within. Nobody is perfect and there can be no such thing if we are all to embrace ourselves as individuals. 
My experience of being shamed for my body is by no means uncommon. I believe that almost every woman in the world has felt some shame about their body at some point in their lives and this cannot continue. 
Society must evolve and stop judging women by their appearance and actively take steps to support girls and women to achieve their potential by giving them confidence and acceptance. 
No girl deserves to feel shame about her body or how she looks. Ever. Our bodies are ours to celebrate, be proud of and enjoy, but they do not define our worth. 
So I believe we must teach girls to love themselves and embrace their bodies, knowing that how they look will never define them – Every girl is beautiful, courageous, powerful and strong.