Transferable Skills


No matter what you do, if you care enough to use your skills and talents and ideas to make the world a better place, you’ll succeed.

You don’t need to be Mohandas Gandhi or Mother Teresa to effect change in the world.

You just need to be you.

And do whatever it is you do.

One of The Most Widespread of All Human Rights Abuses…


In 2008 a ten year old girl in Yemen, Nujood Ali, succeeded in obtaining a divorce from the husband who beat and raped her.  She has been allowed to divorce but has to pay more than $200 in compensation to her husband.

In 2009 a twelve year old girl, Fawziya Ammodi – also in Yemen – died after three days of excruciatingly painful childbirth.

Her baby also died.

Obviously legal protection is needed to shield girls like these against being traded and married and abused.  But the real key to the end of this suffering is education.

We need to become creative about how we might deliver education to the child brides that survive their awful experiences and then, at least, there will be a hope that their daughters will be spared the same fate.

If you are interested in this horrendous abuse of little girls then you may also be interested in  a study called – The Worst Places to Be a Woman – Mapping the places where the war on women is still being fought.  This study is by Valerie M. Hudson who is professor and George H.W. Bush chair in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.  It makes interesting reading –
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http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/08/26/yemen.divorce/index.html

http://articles.cnn.com/2009-09-14/health/yemen.childbirth.death_1_minimum-marriage-age-child-marriages-child-brides?_s=PM:HEALTH

Art for Art’s Sake?


Are children the only people who can really partake in art for art’s sake?  Is it important to do this?  Is it a waste of time?

Many of you will have seen these videos already –  but I hadn’t so just in case I thought I’d post them.  I also thought it might be worth asking ourselves exactly what this boy is doing in the first video?  And why? And if there is a link between his work and the work of the artists in the second video?

Just wondering what you might think…

Continue reading

Baby Talk (or how I discovered my children weren’t me)


The final story in the trilogy of how I have accidentally learned some life lessons from my children involves my youngest son – Three-of-Three.  He was seven or eight at the time. In this story, the parent (me) and the kids were all snuggled up in bed having a ‘tell-me-stories-about-when-I-was-a-baby’ session.  I was obliging with funny stories about babies eating worms and being afraid of garden hoses and leaves and cacti and somehow it came up that when I was pregnant with Three-of-Three, due to a pregnancy complication (placenta praevia), I had to stay in bed for two full months.  The conversation that ensued went something like this –

Three-of-Three: “But did you stay in bed all the time?”

Me: “I did.”

Three-of-Three: “Every single day for two whole months?”

Me: “Every single minute of every single day.”

Three-of-Three: “But why did you do that?”

Me: “Because if I didn’t you wouldn’t have been able to grow in my tummy.”

Three-of-Three: “Would I have died?”

Me: “Probably.”

Three-of-Three sat up in bed, looked at me very seriously and didn’t say anything for a few seconds, he was obviously thinking about this new information.  Finally, once he’d digested it, with a very solemn expression on his small face he said – “Thanks, Mom.”

I was completely taken aback.  I had always seen that time when I was pregnant with him as being about me.  My experience.  My pregnancy.  My fear.  My worry.  My potential loss.  I saw my two months of being consigned to bed as something I did for myself.

He saw it differently.  He saw himself as a person in his own right, not an extension of me, or even a ‘product’ of me but a whole, distinct other person.

And for the first time, I really realised that that was true.  Not that I hadn’t given lip-service to that idea before – I had.  There was just something about his heart-felt expression of thanks that showed me not only that was he grateful but also that he really wasn’t me.

Which got me to thinking that our children, as well as being born of and influenced (for better or worse) by us are also complete human beings in their own right (also for better or worse).

Which means so are we.  We are products of certain people and certain times and certain environments but that’s not all we are – we are also uniquely ourselves.

Just like Three-of-Three.

Parenting the Soul – Butterfly Effects for Change


This is a most amazing story written by my friend, Ann O’Sullivan. Ann is a psychotherapist whose has begun an initiative called Parenting the Soul, which specializes in working with parents to help develop their children’s potential.

http://soulparenting.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/parenting-the-soul-an-introduction/

My next door neighbour, Eleanor, came to my door with a colourful bunch of garden flowers. Her seven-year old face beaming, she thrust them towards me.

‘These are for you,’ she said.

I received them delightedly, chatted for a while, cementing the bonds of genuine affection that were growing between us.

Eleanor had come to my neighbourhood a few years previously, her family having been relocated by the Council as part of an initiative to integrate problem families into more stable neighbourhoods. The initiative was having limited success. My old neighbours, resentful and unhappy, made no effort to integrate the new families. And the new families slept in their new homes, but returned to their old neighbourhoods for friendships and socializing. The best point of contact between me and my new neighbours was Eleanor, with whom I had become fast friends.

Two weeks later, she came to the door again, another bunch of flowers clutched in her chubby hand, telling me that she and her cousin Johnny had picked bunches of flowers and were selling them door to door at €2 each in order to make money for sweets.

I looked doubtfully over the hedge at the concrete apron that was her front garden, and smelled a rat. I had imagine that the previous bunch may have come from her Granny’s house, but several bunches? I didn’t think so.

Squatting down so that we were at eye level I said: ‘Darling, where did you and Johnny get the flowers?’ She gestured to an unoccupied house on the other side of mine.

‘In that back garden’ she replied.

I gently explained that the flowers weren’t hers to pick, they belonged to whoever owned the house.

‘But nobody owns that house!’ she told me triumphantly.

So I explained that somebody did own the house, they just didn’t live there. And so she shouldn’t pick the flowers because they weren’t hers. She was crestfallen, and a bit cross with me, and went away with a sullen little pout.

For a time there was a bit of bad feeling between us. Eleanor was angry with me for no matter how gentle and kindly I had tried to be, she had felt reprimanded. But I persevered in chatting with her whenever we met and eventually she got over it, and friendly relations were established between us again. She never mentioned the flowers again, and neither did I.

One year later, I was out and about in the garden, chatting to Sheila, a longtime friend and neighbour. Spotting Eleanor in the distance reminded her to tell me that a few weeks earlier when I had been away, Eleanor had knocked on her door. Gasping for breath from running, she pointed at the vacant house next door to mine and said: ‘My cousin Johnny is picking flowers in that garden and he shouldn’t be, because that’s not his house, it belongs to somebody else.’

Sheila spoke with Johnny while Eleanor looked smugly on, a small little girl who had learned, and internalized, a valuable lesson for the life of her soul.

Ever wondered what babies think about?


I didn’t see this when I was writing about creativity – it is brilliant – watch it if you can.

Desmond Tutu’s Message on Child Marriage


A message to men and boys about child marriage

A few months ago, in Northern Ethiopia, I met a group of young women who had been married around the age of 10 or 12. Many of them had their first children at 13 or 14. It was shocking for me to realise that there are millions of girls around the world who suffer the same fate every year.

I have to confess that I was simply not aware of the scale and impact of child marriage. 10 million girls a year, 25,000 girls a day, are married without any say in the matter, to men who are often much older than they are. These girls almost always drop out of school to attend to household chores, and when they become young mothers themselves face serious dangers of injury and even death in pregnancy and childbirth. Child marriage robs girls of their childhood, of their basic rights to education, security and health.

I thought I had a pretty good idea of the human rights landscape on this precious earth we share. What I have realised is that these girls are invisible and voiceless, making them some of the most vulnerable, disempowered people on our planet.

Child marriage occurs because we men allow it

It is not enough for me to simply say that their voices should be heard, that more money needs to go towards girls’ education or health services and be done with it. That alone will not change what happens to child brides.

Child marriage occurs because we men allow it. Fathers, village chiefs, religious leaders, decision-makers – most are male. In order for this harmful practice to end, we need to enlist the support of all the men who know this is wrong, and work together to persuade all those who don’t. I met religious leaders in Ethiopia, both Orthodox and Muslim, who speak out publicly against child marriage and teach their flocks that neither Christianity nor Islam endorses child marriage.

I want to find more faith leaders like them, men who will say that child marriage is wrong and should end. I want to find political leaders – also mostly men – and persuade them to empower girls, invest in them, and see the positive transformation that will occur throughout their societies as a result.

Harmful traditions must be challenged

I want to encourage boys to stand up for their sisters, and say that girls have the same rights to go to school, to develop and be everything they can be.

Child marriage is not a religious practice – it is a tradition. There are many good traditions that bind communities together. But traditions are also not static – they evolve. Traditions that are harmful, that have outlived their purpose, must be challenged.

Foot binding disappeared once social views about it were challenged and it was outlawed. Slavery was also defended as a ‘way of life’ – repugnant as that sounds. I remember those who defended apartheid on ‘cultural’ grounds. All these practices have, thankfully, largely disappeared.

Child marriage is also declining – but far too slowly.

Child marriage is not a ‘women’s issue’

At current rates 100 million more girls will be married in the coming decade.

We men cannot treat child marriage as a ‘women’s issue’ and avoid talking about the more sensitive issues associated with it; the sheer scale of this practice demands attention at the highest levels.

The world is blessed with the largest generation of young people in history. Imagine what would happen if the girls of this generation all go to school and had the chance to become teachers, doctors, businesswomen, politicians, religious leaders.

We men have to be bold, to speak the truth and stand up for the rights of girls and women to equality, dignity and the rights we all share.

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http://www.theelders.org/article/message-men-and-boys-about-child-marriage

The Still Face


Humans are social beings.  We’re not the only ones on the planet but we most definitely belong to that group.

Our interactions with other people do more than just shape our manners and our view of the world, these interactions actually shape our physical brains.  As the saying goes, neurons that fire together, wire together. 

As we lumber about in our lives, we often believe, erroneously, that only our big actions count.

If I don’t hit you or shout at you or curse or show my disdain I can tell myself I haven’t revealed anything of myself – or done any damage to you.

But what if that isn’t true?

What if our sensitivity to response is so ingrained in us and so long-standing that we don’t consciously recognise how subtly influenced – or influential – we can be?

Everybody knows that new-born babies respond to the world around them and we instinctively try to interact even with the youngest babies.  But do we realise how vital this seemingly trivial interaction really is?

Watch the video below – if you can handle it – it tells a very interesting story.

The Principle of Principle


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Image by Antonio Marano via Flickr

The best way to approach many issues, both in our private lives and our societies, is to spend some time examining the underlying principles that apply.

A principle is a fundamental truth or guideline that can assist us to make discrete decisions as we move from situation to situation. Unlike sets of rules, which can be rigid and need constant revision, principles are flexible and organic and they allow for both individual differences and change.

Take the principle of equality for example. Equality is not an easy concept for us.  We have no real framework for equality so it is hard for us to work it out.  We understand high and low, up and down, better and worse but equality – as in things being equal – is much harder for us to see.

Let’s imagine, for the purposes of this exercise, that we are running a country and that we all agree that everybody is equal and has an equal right to education.

Next we have to resource this educational system – so we divide up our education budget by the number of children to be educated. In other words we make sure that each child gets exactly the same slice of the pie. Seems equal so far?

Now, however, we discover that some of our children have learning disabilities and therefore more resources are needed for them if they are to benefit from our educational system.  This means there is no way we can treat everybody the same and hope for the same outcome.

So we have to return now to our principle of equality and see what we must do so that each child has whatever he/she needs to be educated. If we fix our gaze on the goal – namely that each of our children has a fair and equal opportunity for education – and then we can work out what we need to do in order for this to happen.

This is an over simplified example but it does demonstrate the importance of principles.  Without clear principles, we become bogged down in the ‘rules’ we have created and very often lose sight of our goals.

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Why You Need Education for Girls (even if you’re a boy)


If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation). (Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey)

Of the many millions of children who don’t go to school – the majority are girls. This has serious repercussions for everyone of us – not just little girls.

Not only are girls who go to school less likely to die in childbirth when they grow up, they have fewer – and healthier – babies. Their sons – as well as their daughters – are more likely to be educated and less likely to contract diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

Outside of the home, these girls can find work more easily when they grow up, which not only contributes to the well-being of their family but also helps develop their economies.

So, if you want to live in a safer, healthier world with access to the potential of 100% of the population – educate the girls (as well as the boys).

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*Photograph – Unicef Photography – Somalia, 2007: Children attend a UNICEF-assisted school in Mogadishu.  http://www.unicef.org/photography/photo_2008.php#UNI46407

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