Tuesday, 30 September 2014

How to be a Happy Woman: Mindfulness

This post was written by Stefani via UN Volunteering Service.

Image from: omgtens.com

What do you think about when you wake up? How do you feel when you look yourself in the mirror? Who is the person looking back at you?

I'm asking you these questions because I have realized that “WE” women including myself are never completely satisfied with what we have.  Some of us hate the way we look, some of us hate our job, some of us hate every man on the planet and so on. The list is so long that it would take an entire post to write about things that make us angry.

These are some of the thoughts that went through my head when I woke up, before I knew better:
1.       What I think about? Most of the time I worry about all the things I have to do during the day. Very often, there are a lot of tasks, many of which I just don’t like doing, I simply cover my head in the blanket and wish I could sleep the day away.  
2.       How do I feel? It depends. Sometimes, which is in fact most of the time I think of how big my nose is, how tiny my lips are, how huge my eye bags are, how fat my belly is, how much cellulite I have.... Since the thoughts are really fast, you can only imagine how many flaws I find on myself in one morning. It is a huge list!
3.      Who I think I am? I ask myself that question a lot. I wish I could look at myself from a different angle or perspective. I almost never see what everyone else sees in me. I try to think of myself as a strong, independent woman, but I often feel weak and dependent on everything, even a simple thing such as weather - how is that every time the weather is terrible I feel terrible too? What is wrong with me?

After a while I realized it’s not only me but nearly every single women has such thoughts. Even when everything is going perfect well, we tend to look for something, something that would make us feel sad or angry. How much time do we actually devote to ourselves? Why is everyone and everything else first and we always last?

At the end of the day we are the once who are bearing children, who are having periods, who have to work harder for the same job as men, and so on. Why, then do we add to our trouble by thinking of stuff like that about ourselves? We already have a huge weight on our backs, we certainly do not need more.

At last, I feel like I’m getting stronger than this. I think I might have found a solution for this long lasting problem of the way of thinking of women in community. How to feel happy is the main question? How to feel happy and not think about:

1.       How big is my nose?
2.       Are my lips are too small?
3.       I forgot to feed my dog.
4.       Maybe I forgot to turn the iron off.
5.       Why do I look so fat in this suit?
6.       Why is everyone looking at me?
7.        What does he think of me?
8.       Look at her and what the hell is she wearing?
9.       Why I’m eating this burger?
I think each one of you can come up with thousands more things our mind is occupied with. So I found a solution for myself which could be helpful to all of you. The solution is mindfulness.

The Wikipedia definition for mindfulness is following: “the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment. “

It may sound so complicated when you read it, but it is actually quite simple.

Concentrating your mind on the present and on the things you are doing at the specific moment is crucial. Why crucial? Because first of all, this reduces stress - one of the main issues affecting the modern women. Mindfulness will also help you feel better in your own skin, it will help you to feel really, really HAPPY with just what you have. We all have happy moments in our lives, but we never really feel it because we think of many other things during that special moment of happiness.

Even though mindfulness can also stand for mediation, I'm not into that. I think it is very helpful but I just never find time during the day for a moment of peace. Time is something that we just don’t have, at least not enough. What I did is very simple, from the 24 hours in a day which is 1440 minutes, I take only two minutes of each day - every morning when I wake up I do an exercise of mindfulness.

The exercise I practice is concentration on one specific thing each morning and appreciate it, being aware of its existence, of its presence, or its meaning. Sometimes I look at a leaf, a simple leaf that fell from a tree and simply look at it. You cannot imagine how many lines a single leaf has, how many details are in such a small and simple thing that is around us all the time, and we do not even acknowledge it.

I want to encourage you all to give mindfulness a try, give yourself a chance to really feel something, a moment, your breath, and your hands, anything around you and acknowledge it. It is worth trying and 2 minutes from 1440 in a day is really not that much.

Since I've been doing this for quite a long time, I realized that I started doing it even when I'm not thinking about it. I do it unconsciously and it feels good, it feels really good. I hope you all can find time for yourself and be a happy woman inside your own body. Give yourself time to be happy, After all this is the only life we have and we have to make the best of it.

Looking back to the questions I raised earlier in this post, my perspective when I wake up has begun to change by practicing mindfulness:
1.      What I think about? I’m very excited when I wake up and I cannot wait to do my morning run and continue with all the amazing things the day is offering me.
2.       How do I feel? actually feel quite pleased now. I realized how important each part of my body is and how unique I am. I finally got to the point where I appreciate myself and where I like myself as I am.
3.       Who do I Think I am? The person looking back at me is now really strong and independent. Okay, I admit the weather can still change my mood, but I always find something to admire and appreciate each single day, because every day is important and we should get the best of it.

You may also like to read:







Stefani Marjanovic, 24, lives in a small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She has studied International Law at the American University in Bosnia and this year is starting her Masters in Human Rights and Environmental Protection. 

Stefani Marjanovic
IN HER OWN WORDS: " I lived outside my country few years, I also went on several exchange programs so I could say I’m very intercultural. I have seen many things, sometimes good, sometimes disappointing but it was after all a big lesson to learn. Thanks to a free summer and good will, I decided to be part of this amazing blog and to help and teach young women how to fight, how to grow, how to enrich themselves and become what they always dreamed of. I always wanted to help and was always eager about justice so I think I am exactly where I am supposed to be."

Friday, 26 September 2014

Prevent Bullying

This post was written by Diana via UN Volunteers

When you turn on the TV, of all the news, nothing but watching that "an eight year old killed herself" could be more terrifying. Can you imagine how desperate, unhappy and desolated the girl must have felt to have become suicidal? What could have happened to this girl to make a decision like that? Bullying.

Unfortunately, everyday people from all over the world are being bullied. An estimated 200 million children and youth around the world are being bullied by their peer according to the 2007 Kandersteg Declaration Against Bullying in Children and Youth.

But Statistics get worse for girls. According to a recent study from Murdoch Children's Research Institute, girls were much more likely than boys to be victims of both cyber and traditional bullying. With most of the schools talking about bullying and the media regularly reporting on the latest research, it would seem like we're part of a new phenomenon but the thing is, bullying has always existed.

So, what can I do? You may ask. I strongly believe that the only way to stop this is PREVENT:

Explain bullying: Teachers, parents and anybody in charge of children and adolescents is responsible in educating the youngsters about what bullying is and explain regularly why bullying is disapproved and why. It is important to tell them you don't want to take part in mistreating of another student at any level no matter how small. Have them acknowledge that bullying is wrong and it is less likely to bully others when they know their parents disapprove.

Self Esteem: Love yourself. If you love yourself, it is easier for others to love you. Speaking assertively, expressing your own opinion, using a confident voice and having firm eye contact are signals of good self esteem. Always look at the positive side of others rather than expressing contempt and superiority. Remember that respect and confidence are the key; avoid people who don't treat you with respect.

Build Friendships: Childhood and adolescence are the best life stages to make friends. Build and maintain, care and protect are steps to help you gain genuine friendships. Parents should encourage social activities such as after school plays and sleepovers to help their little ones start this process.

So let's start preventing bullying! Let's bring an end to the horrible news on media and in schools. I'm sure this is possible. And please, please... just the last message: We have to face up to that one time we've witnessed bullying. Do not keep quiet about it, report all incidents of bullying that you are aware of. Report to teachers, to parents and when possible, show interest in getting to know the victim. The end of all forms of bullying begins with you and me.

For free Resources on Bullying Prevention click here. and learn more facts about bullying here, plus silicone bands to prevent bullying.

Also read What is Cyber bullying and How to Stop It.

This post was written by Diana Huaman, UN Volunteers


Diana, 21, from Peru is an International Business student and a teacher too. She would love to travel the world, study translation to learn different languages, start her own company one day and contribute to society through education.
Diana Huaman
IN HER OWN WORDS: " My name is Diana and I am 21 years old. I have a small family I love: mum and brother, and a boyfriend I adore.  I’m Peruvian and I have lived all my life in Peru and haven’t finished knowing it. My country is so big, so beautiful; I’m so in love of my country! – think you could notice that. I’m studying international business administration, although in fact I always wanted to study translation since I love learning languages, but I decided to do business because someday I want to start my own company so I can show everybody what beautiful things we have here and travel and travel around the entire world doing that, while at the same time I can help my compatriots by giving them work. I could define myself as a woman committed to every goal she sets, that loves meeting new people and very competitive!  In addition to my studies I am a teacher, which I discovered it’s kind of my real vocation. I teach children and adolescents and I believe it’s the best contribution I can make: education."

Saturday, 20 September 2014

How to Stand Up for Yourself

This post was written by Volunteer blogger Karin via UN Volunteers

How to stand up for yourself?
In life you’ll meet a lot of different people. With some you might not get along and there will be people that will challenge you daily. Times when a friend asked you a favor and you said yes, even though you did not really want to. How many times did you watch a movie you didn’t want to see because a friend pressured you? When was the last time you helped out a classmate with a project and procrastinated on your own? Think about the times you worked overtime for a co-worker and the only thing you wanted to do, was to enjoy your free day. Being too nice can hurt you.

The fear of standing up for yourself
A common misconception that women have about standing up for themselves is that they will come off as aggressive or bitchy. You might be scared of stepping on someone’s toes, to bruise someone’s ego, or to make someone feel uncomfortable. Unless you get rid of those misconceptions your self-esteem will always stay low and you won’t be able to stand up for yourself.

When is it enough?
Have you already reached the point at which you are tired of satisfying your friend’s wishes and to refuse your own? You are no longer living your life but you are trying to make everyone’s easier. Life is too short to take all your co-workers shifts or to watch movies you don’t really want to see. As soon as fulfilling other peoples wishes makes you unhappy and stressed you reached the point where you should learn to stand up for yourself.

Saying “no”
“No” is a powerful word. It is the first significant act towards taking control of your life. It doesn’t make you a stubborn or weak person; it makes you a strong person who knows what you want. Learning to say “no” is the best thing you can do for yourself. It not only helps to control your life, but this little word also gives you respect. The first reaction is often disappointment, but in the end there is a subconscious understanding and admiration.

The consequences
Saying no and expressing your personal opinion will show you who your real friends are. Just those who really accept you, will understand when you are completely honest with them. Saying no shouldn’t be the end of a friendship, but something normal. People who don’t understand that you need time for yourself or you need to focus on your tasks are not your real friends. Another positive consequence is that you will find peace. It is a self-assurance that can only come from learning to let go. Being ok with everything and saying yes is about pleasing everyone else but you. Saying no gives you freedom.

Stand up for yourself!
There is not the one miraculous technique to stand up for yourself. Saying “no” is just the beginning. Further, you need to understand that you are as important as anyone else! Standing up for yourself will increase your self-esteem and help you to cope with problems and people in a better way. So remember: When saying yes to other, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.

You may also like to read:

5 Ways to Be Happy

Living Up to Societies Standards

10 Steps to Living A Safe Life

What I Wish I Knew About Security Back Then


Karin Philippczyk
Karin, 23, is a world traveler currently on search of a new travel goal. She is bilingual, having been raised by a German dad and a French mom - also reason for exceptional and unnecessary strict table manners.  She is studying International Business Administration.

In her own words: "My friends would describe me as spontaneous, happy and highly organized. These traits are probably a consequence from being a full-time nanny in addition to my studies. I use a calendar meticulously; however, my calendar is my brain, which I carry around like a holy book.  Every event/birthday/random appointment will end up in there. I love nights out with friends and reading for hours on rainy days. Additionally, I am a Quarterback on a local American Football Club."

Sunday, 14 September 2014

A Secret Safe to Tell - a must read for every child

Meet a young girl, something terrible has been done to her and she is forced to keep it a secret. Will she ever be free again? You and your child can go through the journey with her in the book ‘A Secret Safe to Tell.’

The book explores the challenge a child faces when lured into doing something they shouldn’t by someone they trust. This book will encourage children to open up to a trusted adult and let them know that no matter how afraid they are or difficult their problem seems, help is available.

A Secret Safe to Tell is a picture book that appeals to a child because of its bright colors and also easily guides the adult with the accompanying short sentences. The illustrations in the book stand out, allowing sole focus on the characters and what they are experiencing in each scene.

The character guides us step by step through, from before the ordeal until after without putting focus to a sole issue even though it can clearly be deduced. This is a good step because it gives an opening to the reader, parent, educator or child to weave the childs personal story with it and still come to the same conclusion as in the story.

Every child’s story is different and A Secret Safe to tell brings to life the tale of a young girl in a way that every child struggling with an issue can relate. It also ends in the way every child who has faced abuse should have their story end – without abuse and with hope.

A Secret Safe to Tell is very resourceful and needs to be read, understood and used by every child. Most appealing is that at the end of the book are listed helpline numbers a child can contact whenever they face a problem. 

Even so, this book is not only for the child, educator or parent. It relates to all those who are having a hard time coming out when facing abuse. Pick your copy today

About Author

Naomi with her husband Jeremy and their daughter
Naomi Hunter, author of A Secret Safe to tell is a wife, mother and advocate. She is a passionate about children's picture books and writes to empower and nurture her audience through sensitive topics.

Show support on Facebook.

You may also like:

Thankful - Inspirational song by Naomi Hunter

Contact Naomi Hunter

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Women Inspiration Series: Trisha Prabhu

This article was written by Zenith via UN Volunteers

Chapter 2 – Trisha Prahbu (United States)

For the second inspiring story I decided to delve in upon, is the story of a 13 years old girl, Trisha Prabhu from the United States. She has invented a program that has been proven to be highly successful in encouraging cyber bullies to think twice before posting any offensive comments online. Her project has won her a spot as one of Google’s 15 Global Science Fair finalists.

Trisha Prabhu

Prahbu created a system called Rethink to test her hypothesis; if teens are forced to take a moment of reflection before posting a mean comment, they won't do it. Rethink included a content filtering system which screens for abusive words and phrases in messages, and posts a warning asking the user if they are sure they want to post a message including them before it is sent.

It turned out that in 94.43% of her 533 trials, the student decided not to post the comment.

After proving her hypothesis, Prabhu wants to create a real product that could work with social media sites and apps that would filter messages that were potentially mean or hurtful, and alert senders to take an extra second to think before posting. 

"I am looking forward to a future where we have conquered cyber-bullying!" she writes in her projects description.

Cyber-bullying is no foreign term in today’s world, especially with the proliferation of technology across the globe, and increasing availability and improvements of hardware devices that link people to the internet world 24/7. The data for cyber-bullying can sometimes be shrilling especially when one looks into the number of innocent lives lost to cyber-bullying incidents.

Based on statistics gathered online, The Cyberbullying Research Center had concluded from a series of surveys that:
·         Approximately 50% of young people have experienced some form of cyber bullying and 10-20% experience it regularly
·         Girls are at least as likely as boys to be cyber bullies or their victims
·         Cyber bullying victims are more likely to have low self esteem and to consider suicide

Ultimately, it is really to prevent the loss of young precious lives, such as Ryan Halligan, Amanda Todd, and many others who have or have not been reported by the media.

In this realm, there are various arguments regarding which gender is more likely to be the bully or the victim. But I believe that’s not really the case at hand. Through the story of Prabhu, we have seen yet another amazing lady who has taken ‘global issues’ and put in place a simply effective solution.

Being women, doesn’t mean we are “lesser”. The capability to make a difference to the world doesn’t depend on age, and definitely not gender. Prabhu is only 13 and a girl. But she has definitely proved the world that she is here to make a positive change. 

This article was written by Zenith Chua via UN Volunteering service.

Zenith is in her senior year at Singapore Management University, majoring in strategic management and organizational behavior & human resources. Beyond school, she learns from various MOOCs (massive open online courses), so as to satisfy her seemingly ever growing desire for knowledge. Setting academics apart, she is an active UN Volunteer with various NGOs around the world, as well as a dragonboat paddler. 

Firmly driven by her life motto, "To Live, Not Just Exist", Zenith is always on the move for new ideas and opportunities to fulfill her not-so-humble ambition of changing the world to be a better place for all.

You may also like to read:

The Women Inspiration Series: Wong Li Lin

Nada: The Woman who Persevered through Life

The Difficulties of Feminism

Friday, 5 September 2014

The Women Inspiration Series: Wong Li Lin

This article was written by Zenith via UN Volunteers

Chapter 1 – Wong Li Lin (Singapore)

If we were to talk about inspirational figures, many at times, the immediate names that appear in conversations would probably be people like Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or even Barack Obama. However, to find the simple inspirational female figures in our daily lives, will probably be much tougher.

So given this is my first blog post, I wish to start a series – to find the inspirational stories of women around the world, and share it with everyone. And where can be a better place to begin, than my own country; Singapore.

The lady I wish to introduce today is Wong Li Lin. She is a well-known actress and host of the local media industry and also a ballerina. Recently, she has also been appointed as Community Chest Ambassador, and Lifestyle Health Advisor, teaching people how to eat healthy as well as exercise properly, and providing consultancy services, beyond being a media personality. 

Wong Li Lin

However, it’s much more than her success that makes her an inspiration. It’s her resilience.

Since 2 years old, she was fostered to different families, and had also witnessed fights when she was at brothels and gambling dens. She only returned to live with her troubled family when she was 6 years old.

In an email interview, she mentioned that: “They were very unstable times. I lived mostly in and out of gambling dens, and I grew up with prostitutes, gamblers and thieves.”

At 8 years old, she first saw the inside of a brothel when her mum went to visit a friend.

At 10 years old, she witnessed her first fatal fight.

Despite such a traumatic childhood, when looking back, she described her childhood as colorful and dramatic, and that it was because she got to meet people from different walks of life that she had the opportunity to learn and study human behavior from a young age.

Upon returning from London after receiving a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School in London, she found out that her parents and split up and moved away – and no one told her. However, she was not bitter and remains grateful for all the benefactors in her life (her ballet teacher and the ballet community).

Now she is helping troubled youths and in her own words, “I had a tough childhood, so I understand what these youth are going through”.

Just last year (2013), she ended her marriage of 9 years and is now a single mum of 2 children. Nonetheless, she maintains still her jovial and optimistic way of living, and she has mentioned that, “I am in an exclusive relationship with myself, my children and my career. I want to focus on myself.”

Wong Li Lin is an amazing everyday-hero-and-role-model for many of us. I see her as a great inspiration; for someone without a proper childhood, she has achieved great heights with her own capability and a dose of benefactors along the way. She has also used her story to inspire youths and to help others. Despite her broken marriage, she still remains jovial and seeks her best to give back to community and to raise her 2 children well.

As a woman, she has had her share of tough times. But she has also live out the essence of the quote: “Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People Do”. Hope that everyone can find a lesson or two from her story and let her be an inspiration to you!

This article was written by Zenith Chua via UN Volunteering service.

Zenith is in her senior year at Singapore Management University, majoring in strategic management and organizational behavior & human resources. Beyond school, she learns from various MOOCs (massive open online courses), so as to satisfy her seemingly ever growing desire for knowledge. Setting academics apart, she is an active UN Volunteer with various NGOs around the world, as well as a dragonboat paddler. 

Firmly driven by her life motto, "To Live, Not Just Exist", Zenith is always on the move for new ideas and opportunities to fulfill her not-so-humble ambition of changing the world to be a better place for all.