Saturday, 27 February 2016

Marriage can wait, Dreams don't

By Shucheesmita Simonti, SAFIGI Volunteer

I am from Dhaka, Bangladesh. In 2011, I got ICCR scholarship to pursue higher studies in Pune University, India. 

Many people discouraged me from going abroad on my own because I am a girl. According to many, it is not a good idea for a young girl to go far away home while she is still unmarried. 

Such discriminatory remarks I have had to hear only because I am a girl. But I decided not to pay heed to them and went ahead to fulfill my dream and I must say, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself. Leaving the comfort zone of one’s home and family teaches a person a lot. 

I learnt to fend for myself without calling my mom every now and then. Three years in Pune were transformative years of my life, as from a shy, introvert person I have gone on to volunteering in several youth festivals and conferences and even presented papers, anchored and took part in cultural programs. 

After graduating in commerce with first class, I moved to New Delhi to pursue my M.A. in International Relations as during the three years of college I discovered the purpose of my life; to become an international civil servant and serve the world at large. I discovered that I could be friends with people who are from a very different cultural background and that I loved to travel . 

I have traveled to different cities in India and recently have been to Sri Lanka as well for a youth conference. None of these would have happened had I backed out from shifting to India just because I am a ‘girl’.

Now, as I am about to turn 25 very soon, many of my friends and well-wishers are urging me to find a match and get hitched soon. 

For them, it is like a medical emergency- either I get married soon or it seems I will never be able to get married! What a pity! It is as if my worth is limited to my marital status and giving birth to children and everything else I have done and trying to do holds little or no merit!

This is not just ‘My Story’; this is the story of countless young ambitious women across our part of the world who are struggling because of society’s pressure upon us to get married even if we are not ready for it. 

It is not as if we do not ever want to get married; it’s just that we are not ready yet because we are not yet independent and mentally prepared for a life-changing decision as such. 

I , for sure, do not want to rush into a marriage against my own will and do not want to give up my passion for travelling and exploring just because the society thinks a girl cannot do all these things. 

I am also very much inspired by Wasfia Nazreen, a Bangladeshi mountaineer, writer and activist who have climbed all the Seven Summits and would want to embark on an adventure someday. 

I do not care how horrified some people would be at my apparent ‘audacity’, but I will go for my dreams and get married, if at all, only when I am ready and willing.

For those who are facing similar problems like me and are on the verge of giving up, all I can say is: “Marriage can wait, dreams don’t.”

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

What didn't kill me, makes me stronger

By Marie Therese via UN Online Volunteering

I was, 15 almost 16 years old when for the first time of my life I was going to study in a boarding school in an environment and a country that was not my own. I was from Burkina Faso and would be studying at a boarding school in Paris, France.

I saw it as a new experience and an opportunity to make new friends. That was my belief until the day things started to take a different twist. At the time, which was 7 years ago; I was sharing a room with 3 other girls.  

We didn’t really get along because I believe that we did not even at that time view things the same way.  I have always been an authentic type of person. I always say what I believe in and what I think. Frankness I believe is a necessary quality most particularly in the world we live in today.

One day, that I was asleep I felt like I had been soaked with water. I woke up in pain and saw that my clothes were sodden. There was nail polish all over my hands and clothes. This seemed like a nightmare, and from the second I had discovered what had happened to me I knew who the perpetrators of such an act were. 

I made sure to get out of the room and inform the house assistant about what these girls had done to me. But all she said was: get back to bed, it’s late... We will try to solve this issue tomorrow morning. Being someone with a great faith, I just got back to bed after having changed my bed sheets and having put on dry clothes.

For the rest of that night, I was not able to close my eyes for a second. I was traumatized. I felt alone.

The next day, the assistant informed the house chief about the event that had occurred and they convoked the girls who tried to deny the act but they couldn’t because all the proofs were just too blatant. 

After a meeting with the school director, the parents of the girls were called for and they were informed of what their daughters had done. They were, suspended from the school for three days and at their return they were punished with manual tasks.

For the rest of that year, they did what was best for them, which was staying out of my way. From that day, every individual who came on my way to shame me was shamed on their turn because this event allowed me to gain more confidence in myself and defend myself whenever I believed something was not right.

Racism does exist and it’s a very dangerous issue for our societies. 

I’m sharing my story because I know that all around the world there are thousands not to say millions of people who are bullied because of their origins. 

I was one of them, but I survived and I want to say that; the fact that certain types of people do not like you should not keep you from loving yourself.

About Marie

Marie is a graduate in Public Relations, and Student in Political Science, and Journalism.

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.