Monday, 27 June 2016

Never Let Others Put You Down

By Mishaal Shahzad via UN Online Volunteering

I was born in a traditional family, where my mother stayed orientated among her in- laws for quite sometime after me and my twin sister were born. She was harassed by her mother-in-law for not having much education. In Pakistan, a girl gets married after her A-levels, as though that is the maximum level of education she can obtain. My mother was among those women. She wanted to pursue her career but the societial norms and the culture prevented her from proceeding after her A-levels.
My mother did everything possible to please her in-laws. She did many chores,  cooked, house cleaned, and more.  But my grandmother always talked down to her, especially in front of relatives.They would either disown my mother in front of relatives or would take her daughters out  and leave her behind. They would also cut the wires of the telephone, so she couldn’t call her mother. On other occasions, if anyone praised my mother, her in-laws would not acknowledge it, AND would make up a story against her. My father had a business crisis and my grandmother blamed my mother for that too. But my mother remained peaceful, felt ashamed, and prayed to God.
We moved to another city, but the tauntings never stopped. They would often call to humiliate and underestimate us. My grandmother challenged my mother, saying that my mother’s children can’t succeed academically, and that only her daughter’s kids (we are my grandmother’s son’s children) will bring the family honor. We accepted the challenge and began to work harder; we knew that my mother faced a lot, and it was time to raise her head up.
Today we have completed our O/A levels with good grades. My mother sold her gold ornaments so that we could complete our studies and attend summer school abroad. I have started University and have been scoring well. I am currently blogging for UN projects. I did an internship for USAID project(s). I intern at different magazines and student councils. And, I have taken numerous courses online, for different universities.
My sister is a scholarship holder, a blogger for UN, and an Internee at Women’s Aid. We both have earned laptops from the Prime Minister Laptop Scheme for the highest achievers at our University. And, my brother is doing LLB and working with  NGO.

I pray we all keep succeeding and one day proudly represent our mother, who was always shamed by those relatives. And the one thing we learned, from those who don’t wish to see our success, is that we must continue to reach for the stars.

Monday, 20 June 2016

You Can Overcome Domestic Violence and Bullying

By Daniela Atamoros Garcia via UN Volunteers

Fear? Only the silence. Since I can remember my house had always been a violent place. I grew up listening to the insults and shouts of my father. I saw my mother being beaten and crying almost all the time. 
My childhood is full of memories of a dysfunctional family. There was nothing else in this world I hated most than seeing my mother sad. I always did everything to please her, for mom had the lowest self-esteem and believed she did not deserve a life without violence.
So during all these years, despite my young age, I decided to show her my strength.  I wanted her to understand that women are more than the typical stereotype of getting married, having children and, "meeting a man." 
I focused completely on my studies, but never neglected my soul nor my heart. Despite the bad moral example that my father gave me, I decided not to be like him. And that decision was the most important because rather than repeating a pattern, I learned precisely what I did not want to be and what I did not want in my life. I was an extremely shy loner who suffered bullying.  
I was insulted and beaten in the school bathroom just because I was not out to parties, or did not have any addiction and for having the best grades in high school. My sin was not to do what most kids at my age do. My life at home and at school was a real hell.
One day when I returned from school I found out my father had hit my mom so hard on the head that she was in the hospital. My despair drove me to get away from home and denounce my father for domestic violence but that only worsened things more. Government authorities in Mexico are very inefficient so it is a country with high rates of femicides and domestic violence. 
They did not want to believe me because of the simple fact of being a woman and being lying. They argue I should be home taking care of my father and accept his behaviour. They said he acted that way because my mom and I probably deserved it. I never received support from the authorities.
I was very depressed and did not know what to do. My depression was so severe that I almost committed suicide; I tried to suffocate myself. When I almost did it, I stopped.  I remembered my mother and how she would suffer if something happened to me. I felt the most cowardly and selfish girl. I had 2 options: giving my idiot father and all those who bothered me at school the power over my life, or being smart, loving me enough to value my own life.  I chose the second.
I showed my mom what she always wanted to see in me:  a woman who can move forward regardless any situation.  I focused on healing myself before attempting to heal my mother. I learned about emotional intelligence and breathing techniques.  I started reading a lot, I got involved in deeper issues such as education, economy, politics, etc. 
I learnt how to set short mid and long term goals.  I also realised that there were things I had to focus on, other in which I had to put more effort and there were some other things that I had to stop doing since they were obstacles for my plans. I Changed school and I made new friends. I kept trying hard in school. I changed the way I saw things so my inner being became more important than banal things from the outside.
I began to worry about the world in which animals lived, global warming, war, discrimination, lack of education, inequality, etc. I understood that if I change, the world changes. Although it was difficult because in my home and my school was still the same hell, I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me. With this internal change that I did have it was easier to control my emotions and thus to help my mom when she was in crisis.  
I started to talk a lot with her about various subjects, we exercised together and I told her every day how beautiful and valuable she was. I was super affectionate to her so she felt the most beloved woman in the universe. She began to be different, she became stronger and I had never seen her like that. She got the courage to separate from my dad even though the law never paid us any attention for a legal separation. 
It is impressive the corruption that exists in my country when talking about human rights. These situations forged my decision to get more involved in the laws of my country and its politics. Since I could not imagine that there are more children with the same or worse problem than mine and they are ignored and discriminated like me. For this and more I decided to study law.
Although things were much quieter without my father, my mother still had the sequels of years of violence so I continued working with her, getting well informed about how we can fight for our rights under the law.  There is no doubt that knowledge is power. My parent’s divorce was a very difficult process but together we are facing the demons of our past and overcoming our problems.
I was still having trouble inside me, I felt a lot of anger for all the injustices we had suffered. So I decided to redirect that anger into something positive for me. Again, it was time to be reborn like a phoenix. 
I started playing the violin and painting, all my troubles went away thanks to music and my brush. I remained being an excellent student I finished school with honors and entered the best university in the state to study what I love. I got involved in debates and conferences to discuss the reality of domestic violence.
And now I love getting involved in volunteer and other causes that enrich me as a person. I therefore invite all women who have suffered some kind of violence, injustice, discrimination: do not give up and fight for what you love! Believe in yourselves as capable of accomplishing anything you want. 
Regardless of your condition, problem, age, nationality, cultivate yourself, study, read, discover your talents, practice a sport, speak up, have goals, looking for campaigns that seek to promote women’s empowerment, and never feel alone. You, the person reading these, and many others:  we are strong, women like us do not need feet because we have wings to fly.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Don't Let Bullying Lower Your Self Esteem

Story submitted by Mwila Mwaba via SAFIGI Volunteering

Nachizya Edith Namukanga is a third year student at the University of Zambia pursuing a degree in development studies. She is the founder of Girls Unite, a non-governmental organisation which targets girls from grade ten to grade twelve encouraging them to be the change they want to see.

Her compassion to help stems from the fact that she was bullied in secondary school, negatively impacting her self-esteem. Through guidance, counselling and the support from her loved ones, she overcame her doubts, her fears and her insecurities.

Nachizya is a brave, driven and self-motivated young lady committed to the plight of girls throughout the world and making a difference one school at a time.  She is a keen believer in addressing issues girls face head on and helping girls one school at a time.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Taking Anti-Depressants Doesn't Make Me Weak

By Hannah Ribbens via UN Online Volunteers

I have always wanted to be in the military. It has interested me for years, and I came so close to joining multiple times, but it was never the quite the right time. Now that I am finishing my masters degree in public health, I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to serve my country and go on an adventure.

In addition to finishing up my masters and moving across the country, I also discovered that I needed to be on anti-depressants. I had been struggling with depression for a solid ten years, but I didn’t understand until recently that other people didn’t feel that way; after ten years of dealing with it, how was I to know that the way I felt wasn’t normal?

Getting on proper medication was a game changer for my life. I used to wake up every day and push myself so hard just to get anything accomplished. I no longer struggle to do all of the things that I do and projects I want to accomplish. Before I would desperately want to meet up with friends and go for a run or play volleyball, but it so overwhelming. 

I feel like I am the person I was meant to be. I never had a difficult time accepting the fact that I needed anti-depressants because the problem is simply biological. To me it was the same as the fact that I need to take iron supplements to donate blood.

So, here I am feeling on top of the world and excited about the future and possible adventures, and I contact the local military recruiter to discuss my joining the army. We meet at a coffee shop, and the recruiter seems very friendly and knowledgeable. I bring out my list of questions before I remember that I should probably ask about their policy on medications. The conversation was over almost before it began. There is a rule that you have to be off any medications like the one I was taking for a year before the army considers letting you join.

I was crushed. I had never before felt embarrassed that I was on anti-depressants, but now I felt like I was damaged; incomplete. I lived with depression for ten years before getting help; I know that I am trustworthy, and yet I was told that I couldn’t get a security clearance in my condition. “My condition”? I felt broken. I felt as if the recruiter was looking at me differently, and that he thought of me as fragile.

Sometimes it is still tempting to wallow and feel sorry for myself, but I know better. I know that I lived with depression for ten years while moving multiple times, getting myself through college and graduate school, and having my parents divorce. I know that I am strong and capable. My medication just makes it easier to be so. 

I know that Marilyn Monroe said that imperfection is beauty. I know that what on the surface appears to be a weakness is often a strength. I have come to realize that although there is often a social stigma against depression, it simply means that I am unique, strong, and have specific talents that I can use to help others.

I refuse to let my need for medication define me. I am a strong, wonderful person, and I will use my unique talents to share, and not shame, other wonderful, unique people.