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 –

Miss Guided

Recently I’ve been thinking – and talking – a lot about how women are portrayed in the media.  I’ve also been thinking about how women are seen in society – and in, particular, how they see themselves.

Yesterday I watched the aptly titled, MissRepresentation, a documentary that explores the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America in particular, and the role the media plays in this. If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth watching.

There is no denying that women used to be seen as possessions for the convenience and entertainment of men.

There is no denying that that is possibly even more the case than ever.

Women are increasingly packaged as sex objects and everything is now sold to everybody, using women’s bodies.

I am not suggesting that women are to blame for this phenomenon.  I don’t think it’s caused by hormones or cattiness or any of the other rubbish accusations designed to disempower women.

But I am suggesting that women stop supporting it.

Stop believing the illusion that tells you that being thinner, younger-looking, compliant and presented like a sex-object will make you happier.  It won’t.  It can’t.  And when you aren’t happier even though you are complying it isn’t your fault – you’ve been sold a big, fat lie.  Even if you have to wrestle with yourself until you retrain your psyche – do it – that might actually make you happy.

Don’t buy the handbags or the magazines or perfume or clothes that are advertised by women portrayed as objects of sexual fantasies or with distorted, unnatural body-images.

Don’t watch the films or TV shows that reinforce the stereotypes.

Do watch the films and TV shows that don’t.  One of the interviewees in the movie (a man) makes the point that in the cinema of the 1940s and ’50s, women could get to play real people in movies – bitches, saints, moms, murderers, adventurers – not so nowadays, shockingly.

Stop believing that you have to be like a man – or be liked by a man – in order to make a success of your life.  Let’s face it, men are not any happier than women and have, largely, made a very unfriendly, unhelpful, unsafe and unsatisfying world for themselves as well as women.

Don’t get me wrong – men need to get on board with this boycott as well.

But women – come on – let’s stop waiting for the men to come along – maybe they’re not the early adopters they think they are?

How about we just stop supporting the system and stop accepting the stereotypes and stop conforming to the ‘way things are’ and try to create a new way for things to be – a way that is good for everyone, not just women (let’s not make the same mistakes as men).

Worst case scenario, if it all blows up in our pretty little botoxed faces we can always go back to what we have now…

Justice v. Vengeance – A Work in Progress?

What is the difference between justice and vengeance?

Does it really matter?

Won’t vengeance redress the karmic balance anyway?

Surely an eye for an eye or tit-for-tat = reciprocity?

Won’t that suffice?

What does vengeance bring us?

(It must bring something or we wouldn’t still practice it so extensively)

What problems does it cause?

Do justice and vengeance ‘feel’ the same?

Does justice offer us something different to that which vengeance offers, or is it much the same?

How often do we dress up vengeance in a ‘justice’ costume?

Does it matter?

What kind of a lens do we need to use so that we can tell the difference between justice and vengeance?


The Brilliance of Hearts

This talk is officially called Tan Le – My Immigration Story – and it is that, an immigration story, but it is also much, much more.

It is a story of tradition and war and fear and upheaval, a story of displacement and escape, a story of love and hope and perseverance and family and hardship and the forging of a human spirit.

A truly inspiring story.

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. – Helen Keller

So? What Exactly Do You Admire?

The word ‘admire’ comes from the Latin word admirari – meaning to wonder or marvel at something.  It means to look at, or consider someone – or something – with pleasure and wonderment and approval.

So.  Having established that – what do you admire in other people?

At first glance you might think you admire someone who is beautiful.  But do you, really?  Are the feelings you have for physical beauty something that inspire you with absolute wonderment?  Gazing on someone (or something) beautiful can give pleasure but for most of us it is fleeting and short-lived – like beauty itself.

Perhaps wealth seems admirable?  But is your admiration for the wealth itself or is it for the hard-work or ingenuity or self-discipline that was involved in acquiring that wealth?

There are lots of human traits that we all admire – honesty, perseverance, kindness, physical bravery, moral courage, fairness – all admirable.  But what are the traits you wish you had?

Do you know which human traits take your breath away when you see them?

Which ones fill you with that sense of electric wonder that makes you say – “I so admire how brave/kind/fair/open/selfless…that person is.”

If you want to become someone you can admire, you first have to work out what that might be.

So.  What do you admire?

Become Someone You Can Admire

We wonder how to be in the world.  What to do.  Where to go.  We spend our lives trying to ‘be’ someone.

Why?  We are all already someone.

Stop worrying about what others think.

Here’s the only real question – what do you think?

You’ll never be able to get away from yourself so

For that reason – if no other

Try to become someone you can admire.

Path revealed.

Problem solved.

To love is to admire with the heart; to admire is to love with the mind– Theophile Gautier

Who Am I? (And Who Are You?)

Antonio Damasio is a neuroscientist who has spent his life researching the functioning of the brain.  His research has led him to offer a number of theories on how neurobiology influences our thoughts, decisions, feelings and actions.

His latest work is centred on our sense of self – that inexplicable feeling we all experience of having a distinct self.  Sometimes this self is clouded, sometimes confused but there is always, within every human being, a strong consciousness of self.

Here he speaks about some of his theories surrounding this fascinating subject –

Going Your Own Way

You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know.

And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go. (1)


Dr. SeussOh The Places You’ll Go!

  • Dr. Seuss (

Making a New Reality

We sometimes mistake the way things are for the way they have to be.  Even when our institutions and structures fail to meet our needs we often continue with outmoded structures and practices.  But occasionally people with vision are able to see clearly enough to change reality.

In the 1970s, a group of academics and professionals in Columbia looked outside their ivory tower and saw that the people around them needed help.  Gustavo Correa, a former mathematics professor, describes it thus –

“The economic indicators were saying that things were getting better, but you could see that the conditions of the poor people were not improving.” (1)

Although urban areas were prospering, the rural people were being pressurized into selling their land to the huge sugar and coffee companies.  Selling the land did give them an initial injection of cash but destroyed their futures as they were transformed from self-sufficient farmers to vulnerable contract labourers.

In an effort to deal with this situation they set up FUNDAEC – an acronym for Fundación par la Applicacion y Ensenanza de las Ciencias, (the Foundation for the Application and Teaching of the Sciences).

The founders of FUNDAEC wanted a new type of development.  Rather than trying to superimpose a model of development they let the needs of the people dictate the provision of services.  The primary need identified was knowledge.

“…they need access to scientific knowledge so as to be able to produce new knowledge that is applicable to their own situation, knowledge that works within cultural and technological restrictions that exist at the starting point of development.”(2)

So they started a rural university.  This university would not only work on generating and applying the knowledge the rural Columbians needed, it would also involve them in the gathering and production of this knowledge.

“The idea of a rural university is not so much a physical place as a space of learning, a social place, where people can get together and produce and then distribute the kinds of knowledge needed for rural life.” (3)

One of the outcomes of the establishment of this rural university was the development of the “Sistema de Aprendizaje Tutorial” (SAT).  This programme is a formal but flexible system of secondary education. SAT – now recognised and certified by the governments of Columbia, Honduras and Guatemala – which makes it possible for any individual – even those who live in the most remote rural areas – to have access to a full secondary education.

“If people don’t have access to knowledge, and in today’s world that means scientific knowledge in particular, then you can have all of the ‘participatory’ meetings you want but you won’t really have participation. Because the people won’t really understand.” (4)

This is a great example of a group of people who made the institutions fit the needs of the people rather than insisting that the people fit the needs of the institutions.


(1) Gustave Correa – Fundaec: Not a typical development foundation –


I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better. (1)

Let each morn be better than its eve and each morrow richer than its yesterday.(2)


(1) Maya Angelou

(2) Bahá’u’lláh