what do we mean: ‘never again’?

It has been 20 years since the 1994 Rwanda genocide that killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a 100-day rampage.   Following our work with One Million Bones, Students Rebuild, and CARE over the past two years, on raising awareness about ongoing genocides, the thinkpeace community is deep in thought and conversation about what happened in Rwanda, is still happening in Sudan, Somalia, Burma, Syria and the DRC, and what lessons have really been learned that can help prevent future atrocities. Since World War II, the international community has said “never again,” a yet our failure to act has continued to cost lives.

YouTube Preview Image
Memorials across Rwanda are constant reminders of the brutality that destroyed the nation. In the United States there seems to be little coverage regarding this anniversary– and even less discussion. Last night, on Facebook, I saw that a friend had changed his profile picture to the Rwandan flag, in honor of the victims and  survivors of the genocide. He has spent time there for his work, and loves the people and the land. No one knew what his picture was for– what it meant to him, personally, to celebrate a rebuilding Rwanda. And yet, to the children born during or after this time in Rwandan history, awareness about genocide is vital. “Never again” must stand for something. We must know what happened and why… and see that it’s not over and we must not stand by again.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has urged the international community to learn from its failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda, and to take stronger action to confront current crises, like the conflicts in Syria and the Central African Republic. “The international community,” he said, “cannot claim to care about atrocity crimes and then shrink from the commitment of resources and will required to actually prevent them.” The UN was not effective in preventing the Rwanda genocide, much less in stopping it.  The international community’s silence was wrong. Much more could and should have been done–  instead, peacekeeping troops were withdrawn when they were most needed.  “The world has yet to fully overcome its divisions, its indifference, its moral blind spots,” he said, citing the atrocities that occurred in Srebrenica in 1995, and the current conflicts in Syria and the Central African Republic. ”There is a truth to the human condition that is as alarming today as it was 20 years ago; the fragility of our civility. The bonds that hold us together can swiftly disappear.”

So here’s the question: when we say “never again” what do we really mean? What can we do to end genocide? How can we strengthen the “bonds that hold us together” in a world that seems full of anger, righteousness and extremism? What role can you play? When you see or hear about any human being (actually, any living creature) in need or distress, SPEAK UP!  Celebrate diversity in your every day life. Failure to act is not acceptable. When we say “never again” it means that each and every one of us takes a stand. As we laid bones on the National Mall last summer as a visual petition against genocide, we felt it– the connection to others who had been brutally killed because they were different. We asked ourselves: underneath it all, aren’t we the same? Looking out at the Mall covered in one million symbolic bones, we cried for the blood spilled, the lives lost, and the damage done to future generations. There is another way. And together we must find it. Never again, means that we must be accountable to each other and to promoting peace, love and understanding.

“We really do belong to each other.” -Naomi Natale

 

shake, rattle and roll into Spring by GARMIN

I am constantly surprised how a small thing, comment, or act can change something or someone for the better.

On Wednesdays, there is a ceramics class in the studio during the time that I have my thesis class. In the class is a boy who is, from what I understand, high-functioning autistic. He reminds me a lot of my brother- he paces, flaps his hands, talks to himself, yet unlike my brother, he is an incredibly fine artist. He rarely speaks in general, and when he does it is absolutely mind blowing. In the throes of my thesis he came up to me while I was throwing my cups and stood next to me and waited until I took out my noise-canceling headphones. He simply said two words, “wheel sculpture” and walked away. My mind was absolutely blown– you see, as an artist who has struggled to find the middle ground between my sculptural work and my wheel thrown functional work, it hadn’t occurred to me that wheel throwing could in fact be sculpture. The boy, as I later came to find out, didn’t see things in terms of functionality, he saw them in terms of their physical shape; as they were.

Dasani, 12

Likewise, this past December a HUGE New York Times multi-part article came out exposing (and that’s putting it lightly) the decrepit New York City homeless shelter system for families. It featured a little girl, Dasani- a girl just trying to put one foot in front of another and trying her hardest to keep her family together and functioning. I can count on one hand the number of times the quality and content of news reporting has brought me to tears and this is certainly one of them. Andrea Elliot, the NYT writer, was troubled by the lack of regular reporting emerging about this topic and the fact that thousands of New Yorkers live in squalor and with such regular anguish of cockroaches, the threat of sexual assault, and overall insecurity. (If you haven’t read the article it is seriously worth the read. http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/invisible-child/#/?chapt=1)

In a few short months, thinkpeace will take to New York City for our annual summer camp. While we are busy getting ready for our girls to become change-makers-in-residence, the city is making its own change! I love NYC politics and culture, and I could talk about them all day. As we prepare to take to the streets of the Big Apple I think it’s important to continue to stay informed about the issues that are affecting the area in which we will be doing our work. For twelve years, former Mayor Bloomberg’s office policies about homelessness and shelters flip-flopped, going from at one point giving families priority in receiving long-term housing, to being replaced with short-term subsidy-based housing meaning that the homeless rate bounced back up to 52,000– the highest in city history. While Bloomberg excelled in many other areas in running the city, this proved not to be one of them. On January 1st, 2014 when new Mayor Bill DeBlasio stepped up to the podium to take his oath of office, next to him stood little Dasani from the NYT article. DeBlasio, much of whose election was won on Bloomberg’s short-comings, advocated for reversing the previous administration’s policy and vowed to lower the city’s homeless rate. In a follow up article on Truth-out.org (http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/22758-how-a-twelve-year-old-homeless-girl-helped-more-than-400-children-find-safer-shelter), it was announced that the homeless shelter that Dasani lived in would soon no longer function as a homeless shelter for families due to its unsafe physical structure. Come June, all families will be moved into safer, healthier, and overall better facilities and it’s all because of one little girl. A girl who believed in better.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. Desmond Tutu

While credit should be given to Dasani for the change in the shelter situation, we cannot fail to recognize Elliot who equally believed that Dasani’s story should be told. She realized that in knowing the truth of the situation, the story must be told– for if she didn’t she would continue to be a part of the problem; knowing it and not advocating for change and therefore continuing the circle of oppression. When we choose to not take action when we see injustice we may as well sign up to be the oppressor- the one creating the wrong. It is people like both Elliot and Dasani who create change, they are at their core change-makers.

Whether you know it or not yet, PowerGirl, you are a changemaker as well. Changemakers live well in their places, expose the truth of situations, and then take action. They are action-takers, evolution-starters, protest-initiators, flash-dance-mob-organizers, conversation-starters, and active listeners. And so I urge you to start this new spring season with a sense of urgency, a sense of taking notes and observing the places you will change. Where will you step into your Dasani-ness and shake and rattle things up?

meet a wannabe thinkpeace girl

I have a dream… that someday any girl who longs to connect with the global girl community and learn what she can do to help heal the world will be able to come to thinkpeace workshop summer camp.  This year, in particular, I have been touched by the stories of two girls who have reached out to share a little of  why they want to be thinkpeace girls. One is a brave and bright girl from Afghanistan whose family left behind the difficulties in their home country to start a new life in Michigan and the other, who is a compassionate and concerned 15 year old from Indonesia. In forty-five days we will see if the efforts of our US thinkpeace girls to raise funds will cover the trip for one of these girls… It’s not easy to be a grassroots organization full of teen girls with hearts of gold  but limited resources. Still, we will try. Because Grisella and Hadia need to be heard.  They have voices that can tell stories of things other girls can’t imagine.  Voices that can open minds and hearts to new perspectives and possibilities. We’ll be talking about our fundraising campaign on facebook, twitter, instagram and here… hoping that not only my dream can come true, but perhaps theirs as well.  Imagine!
Today I’d like you to meet Grisella. Grisella contacted thinkpeace via twitter after seeing a tweet about our summer camp in NYC.
Dear Kelly,
Sorry to bother you
My name is Grisella and i am from Indonesia
I want to ask some things about the summer camp
Is the Summer camp held yearly ? i wish it is because i can not join the camp this year because of the flight fare is too expensive and i have not saved my money for it and oh how much is the camp fees ?
That is all. Thank you very much for your attention. I look forward to hearing from you.
Best Wishes,
Grisella

I wrote her back and told her all about camp and asked her about what she cared about, thought about, and told her a little about my kids.  She got right back to me:

Yeaaah! I’m so incredibly excited for the summer camp next year oh my God! Hahaha. I’m going to be 15 this year and i’m in my last year on junior high. Well, i can say i care for a lot of things -not to brag or anything. Since, i live in Indonesia i started to think there’re a lot of things to be fixed. People here are barely well educated. They can’t afford for school fees. That’s why Indonesia stays the same.  They don’t make any better change and even worse they seem like they don’t care. And there’s health problems. This one really hurting. Bunch of people from small area come to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, looking for job and because of a lot of them didn’t get good education it’s difficult for them to have a well-paid job. Then, because the bills are more expensive than the wage, they can’t afford to buy a house but they still need a place to stay right? To solve it they build houses in the river banks, they use the river’s not-so-clean water for their daily needs such as bath, laundry, and even to cook and drink. I am also concerned about global warming. Why don’t we start to plant trees ? Like one or two trees are already helping the environment right ? Well, that’s about the conditions around me. Globally, i am really concern about bullying. Bullying is almost happening in every school all around the world. The bullies usually are not aware that they are hurting someone else. They are not aware of their words, their actions. They might think that by bullying someone it is proof that they’re strong or they are really envious because other person can enjoy life while they can’t. They might had a bad/dark past. That’s why i think every bullies should not be judged or punished. We must talk to them softly and tell them that what they’re doing is totally wrong and what they do can make the person they bullied commit a suicide. I also support noh8 campaign. Well i guess everybody should support this one because love is all we need. Why need to hate while you can love someone ? I’m 100% sure this world will be a so much better place if we do that. And there’s child labour. I think this is the worst problem ever! Children are supposed to be at school, learning things and socialising with their friends and not to work like adults. They usually do hard jobs which is really really bad for children. I don’t really know how i can solve this because this usually happen in Africa right ? And yeah I’m still under my parents guidance and it seems impossible to solve this by myself though. One last thing i want to stop is racism. Everyone is precious in every skin complexion just don’t judge everyone only by their looks.

But still i really want to stop bullying and child labour.
Well thank you so much for the information. Sorry if my english are terrible. You know, it’s not my language so yeah..
While we may not be able to get Grisella here in time for this year’s camp, we are determined to find a way– for next year. So stay tuned for more information on how to help a girl like Grisella or Hadia realize her goal, to be a thinkpeace girl! They see and feel the issues facing girls globally (and boys too, actually). Together, girls are such a big part of the solution. Global girl voices, and hearts, and hands, working together might just be able to CHANGE THE WORLD. Imagine!

take a deep breath

  •                                                                                                                                                                                         This is part one of my to-do list for the next 12 days. Things you won’t see on this to-do list include: eat sushi for breakfast, care for dying cat, sleep, read bedtime stories, drive in the country listening to TSwift, discuss politics, and be 90% technology free and yet, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing since Friday. I think the universe has a way of telling us to (excuse my language) slow the f*** down. 

I don’t know about you— my life is slightly out of control at the present moment. And by slightly, I mean really. Really out of control. There are only so many hours in the day.  And our go-go-go culture expects us to get everything done, on time, and with 100% accuracy all. the. time. Sometimes, it just doesn’t happen.  I decided months ago to take this weekend off, to go see some friends, see my favorite slam poet and PowerGirl Andrea Gibson perform, and to then go home for the night, sleep in my own bed, get a detox push, and hop on the next flight back to DC. Alas, come Sunday my train to go home was delayed and then we got stuck somewhere between Rochester and Albany and what was supposed to be a 4 hour train ride turned into a 6.5 hour soul-searching-mojo-finding-session on the train. Continue on to Monday, I was supposed to be on a flight back to DC-  oh, don’t you know, DC got 9 inches of snow and my flight was canceled. I then tried to get on a different flight for Tuesday and last night at 10pm I got a call saying that flight was canceled. I’m tentatively scheduled to be on a flight for Wednesday morning.

Now, prior to maybe a month ago this whole fiasco would have been just that, a fiasco. I would have been so mad, I would have been screaming out to the world “HELLO UNIVERSE. CAN’T YOU SEE I HAVE A THESIS DUE IN 12 DAYS? I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS. WOULD YOU JUST SUCK THE SNOW BACK UP AND UNCANCEL MY FLIGHT AND PUT ME BACK IN THE STUDIO? THANKS!”  And yet, this time I literally can’t do a single thing. I don’t have my computer, I don’t have any books, I’m not in the studio, and no planes are moving and so, I’m here. Grounded. Quite literally. Feet on the floor, being still and slowing down, and looking my overachieving-perfectionism in the eye.

Often talked about here on the blog PowerGirl Brene Brown says this about perfectionism: “When perfectionism is driving, shame is always riding shotgun — and fear is the annoying back seat driver. We struggle with perfectionism in areas where we feel most vulnerable to shame. So we’re all comfortable saying, ‘I’m a little perfectionistic,’ which is code for ‘I do things really well’ — but I’m not comfortable saying I have shame. It’s a way of thinking that says this: ‘If I look perfect, live perfect, work perfect, I can avoid or minimize criticism, blame and ridicule.’ All perfectionism is, is the 20-ton shield that we carry around hoping that it will keep us from being hurt.”

Woof. Let that sink in for a moment. I’ll wait.

 

 

Really. Let it sink in.

 

She hits it right on the head. I’ve been living in the perfectionism mindset about my thesis. My thinking goes something like this, “If I do a perfect thesis then a perfect collector will buy my work and then I’ll have money in my bank account and then I’ll be able to go to Mexico on a perfect vacation and then I’ll be able to come back perfectly all blissed out and then my life will be perfect.” Do you see how many times I say the word perfect in my thinking? WAY. TOO. MANY.  My high school advisor at one point said, “Why are you trying to fit in, when you were born to stand out?!” HELLO. TRUTH BOMB. In the past few days my thinking has changed to “Ok. Deep breaths. Your thesis will turn out exactly how it’s supposed to turn out. There are plenty of people who will have a ‘perfect thesis’ there is no need to add yourself to that category. Now, go take a nap and drink some green juice and it will all be ok.” WOAH. Big difference there.

Finally, for one more reinforcement— Germany based PowerGirl-run graphic design/social practice art project ‘Work is Not a Job’ believes that what you create is more important than what you do. When you wake up excited, full, and fresh you create more exciting things and in turn, when you create more exciting things the world changes. I don’t know about you but I don’t create exciting things when I don’t sleep because I’m too busy ‘perfecting’ the hell out of everything. And when we don’t sleep we become what my friend Ellen calls “a walking safety hazard.” I don’t want to be “a walking safety hazard” perfecting everything, I want to be out there knee-deep changing and shaking things up.

Now, I don’t know what the ‘thing’ that you try to perfect the hell out of is: it could be your thesis, or it could be your relationships or your AP Exam, or your college apps, or your sleep schedule— I have no clue and yet, my guess is that ‘perfecting’ it has only left you exhausted and frustrated. And so, just as a possibility for this week, what would happen if you let go of perfecting your life? What would you gain? What could come of it?

As always, send your thoughts, comments, and questions. garmin@thinkpeaceworkshop.org

what’s gay got to do with it?

Director’s note:  It’s been almost 17 years since Ellen DeGeneres made headline news with her coming out story. Below, thinkpeace workshop Intern, GARMIN, asks us to look at why the media continues to focus on celebrity sexuality. We appreciate the bravery that it takes to come out in today’s world and still, we wonder when we will live in a world where we simply value love, in all forms.  Imagine!
I’m mad. I’m angry. I’m frustrated. Now, it’s not often that I am these things, so you know when I am it’s for a good reason. In the past week two celebrities came out as gay. Now, I’m NOT mad about them being gay, in fact quite the opposite– I’m stoked for them; props for being you. I’m mad and angry and frustrated because why the hell are we still talking about it? Why is coming out still such a big deal? Should every person come out regardless of their sexual or gender identity? Should my friends come out and say, “Hi I’m a straight cis-gender woman?!” I don’t know. I do know that I am so over talking about this.

A couple nights ago my best friend Anne (sometime you’ll meet her if she ever agrees to let me interview her) and I were debriefing the week as we often do. I was explaining my frustration to her about all these celebrities coming out and it being such a big deal and on the cover of every mediocre newspaper and magazine in the US. She looked at me, smiled, and shared this quote by comedian Liz Feldman, “It’s very dear to me, the issue of gay marriage. Or, as I like to call it: ‘marriage.’ You know, because I had lunch this afternoon, not gay lunch. I parked my car; I didn’t gay park it.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I get it. I get coming out. I came out as queer to Anne in August 2011, and then it was a whopping 7 more months before most of the people in my life knew. Coming out is hard, those 7 months were the hardest months of my life– hiding isn’t fun, fear of rejection isn’t fun, the jokes are mostly not funny, and it is oh so liberating. Liberating to be yourself and step into your full authenticity.

Last May, when DOMA and Edie Windsor were in the Supreme Court fighting for rights, I wandered up to Capitol Hill to see what the general vibe was, simply out of curiosity. I saw something fascinating: two clear sides, a “YES! We support equality” side and a “NO! You are a bad person” side. Quite simply, while this wasn’t all that surprising it was interesting because it did support my theory about the data that had just been released, “The coveted 18-34 age group is “85% positive toward gay rights and gay marriage and gay inclusion.” And so what does this mean?! It means a majority of my peers, ages 18-34 could care less what you are, its people of older generations who don’t agree with it. And it’s also not surprising that the heads of the top 10 most circulated newspapers in the US (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/01/newspaper-circulation-top-10_n_3188612.html) are over 34. So to get to the gist of it real quick, it is them, the heads of the newspapers who are influencing whether or not a story on the latest celebrity coming out gets the front page or a little tiny sentence on “page 6.” This is HUGE. We are being spoon fed society and culture based on the interests of a handful of older, mostly white men and so it makes perfect sense that they will give us what THEY believe matters most. For a bit of contrast, let me offer this: Huffington Post, run by notable media mogul and PowerGirl Arianna Huffington, reported on Ellen Page coming out not as a “Hey Look, another celebrity comes out!” instead, posting all of the positive tweets and comments Page had received with a short blurb on her coming out. I’m not saying that all men-run newspapers and magazines are bad and women-run newspapers and magazine are good– I love the New York Times Style Section as much as the next person! I’m saying that we need to get clear, PowerGirls, on where our media is coming from!

To come back to my original frustration, I don’t have any clear answers or theories on why we are still obsessively talking about celebrities coming out. I understand that if your favorite celebrity comes out and you are struggling to come out, then it might provide some hope for your own situation. And I don’t think that is enough substance to justify talking about it mercilessly. And so, PowerGirl, this week I challenge you to check out where your media is coming from, who they are, what do they want you to get, and then go make your own decision. Figure out what you believe. From the words of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, I give you this, “It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference! Live on and be yourself.”

 

As always send me your thoughts, comments, and questions: garmin@thinkpeaceworkshop.org

possibilities

(Intern’s note: This is the fourth interview in our ‘possibilities’ series here on the thinkpeace blog.  We believe it is just as important to share our own stories as it is to hear about other powerful women who are living into their own greatness. They show us that no matter our age, financial situation, location, abilities, or stage of life, you can create possibility for your life. This is my friend Ella. She goes to my school and she’s super cool. I don’t think I have to introduce her, she’s that cool.)

 Meet PowerGirl Ella Quimby

 

The Interview:

Age?  23

Nickname in Middle School or High School?

Technically Ella is a nickname, since my full first name is Ellamarie- but I’ve also gotten Elle, Ella-bella, Umbrella, Quimbles, EQ, Eyya, among others.

 What did you want to be when you were growing up?

An actress. A firefighter (still want this). A pilot (still want this too). A diplomat. A mermaid (definitely still want this).

What do you want to be now/what are you doing?

For the last five years I’ve been pursuing my combined loves of Photography and Education. If all goes according to plan, I’ll finish up my Master’s in Teaching in May. I still want to be too many things. People keep assuming that I’m going to settle in to a classroom next fall- I won’t. I’ve never been one to stay still for a long time. A good friend of mine is working on finishing up his PhD in Vancouver, BC, and he’s got plans to found a wilderness therapy program for struggling adolescents in Haines, AK. We talked once about me coming out there to work with him, maybe that’s where I’m headed right now.

(If you want to find out more about that and/or donate to his program, you can visit the Alaska Wilderness School Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alaska-Wilderness-School/202250059807055?sk=info )

Flavor of Ice Cream that most describes you (not your favorite… the one that describes you)?

Is there a coconut vanilla swirl flavor? Maybe that’s too obvious… (I’m half Pacific Islander). I don’t like chocolate at all but maybe a chocolatey-coconut sort of flavor with cherry bits. Not the maraschino kind, real cherries.

How would you describe yourself in one word?

At the moment? Exhausted. In general… transient? In a positive way, though. I like to keep moving, keep pushing.

If you could flashback to your high school self would you tell her anything? If so, what?

Oh man, what would I NOT tell her? That in eight years you will look back on this time in your life and realize you should have treated yourself better. You should’ve been easier on yourself, let yourself have more fun. You’re fourteen, for goodness sake. Let yourself have more fun. Get up to stupid stuff, you won’t let yourself have time for those things later. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to work harder. Stop letting yourself believe the awful stuff people say. Take more chances.

 What do you love most about yourself?

I love that I have learned to love myself more often than I don’t.

Which one person has changed the course of your life? And why?

That question is literally impossible to answer. I am nothing if not the best parts of the people I surround myself with, and I give daily thanks for my ridiculously amazing circle of family and friends.

How do you motivate yourself?

Lately it’s been a lot of countdowns. Two more weeks until you’re done with this, four more months until you’re done with that, three more days and then you can let yourself watch six episodes of Battlestar Galactica and not leave your bed for the whole weekend. In general though, I’m motivated by new experiences. I worked my booty off this past Fall in school and at my jobs so that I could take four weeks to drive around the Lower 48- I had mountains of things to catch up on when I made it back to DC, but I didn’t regret it for a second.

On the blog and in staff meetings we have been talking about being a “YES!” to our lives… what does this mean to you?

Saying YES to my life means saying YES to opportunities- it means saying yes to loving myself and how far I’ve come in life, saying yes to coffee and Korean food with old new friends, saying yes to solitary punk rock dance parties in my car. Saying YES to myself also means sometimes saying NO to things I know I don’t want- toxic relationships, letting myself be taken advantage of, people in my life who think they know what’s best for me.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing girls in the world? How can we change the course of this?

There is no one answer. All of our -isms are intersectional- sexism, racism, classism, the list goes on. As an Educator, I spend a lot of my days thinking about the ways in which traditional education systems are structured to make sure oppressed minorities remain that way- in the next ten years, I’d love to see sweeping changes made to the very foundations of these structures, although I wouldn’t even know where to start or what that might look like.

What’s your next bold move?

By next September, Alaska- or Northern Ireland. On a smaller and more immediate (though no less bold) scale, completing my Graduate degree. There are a handful of people in my life who are betting on me to fail- they’ll be waiting a long time to collect.

running with the questions

navigating life’s curves

Kara Goucher (KG), my running idol, was interviewed this week about racing, training, and life. The interviewer asked her to talk about the New York City Marathon (home to this summer’s thinkpeace camp!!!), “You never really can get into your pace. You are always making a hard turn or going over a bridge. I like that about it. I think it really takes away from the people that are there that can just run fast. It becomes more about an overall athlete and an overall technical runner.” Like yoga and art, I think that running and life are interchangeable; what shows up on your run, shows up in your life.

I’ve mentioned briefly before that I am working on my thesis… well, actually two of them. This week in my thesis meeting my teacher said, “So, I’m expecting you will have between 200 and 500 cups done by ummm… March 24th.” I gasped. “Excuse me, WHAT?!” “Yeah, well… you have approximately 3,000- 8,000 people coming to the opening and well the show is up for 1 month and so…Yes. 200-500.” Right when I thought I was getting my pace for the semester, there it went- just like KG said.

Now, maybe you aren’t faced with the challenge of making 200-500 cups in the next 5 weeks and yet, I’m guessing you probably have your own challenge; AP Exams coming up, making decisions about college, transitions at work, home, and school, unemployment, a flood. I don’t know what your challenge is and I’m almost positive you have one. And so here is where I am going to encourage you to live into some more questions. What would it be like if you just embraced the certainty of uncertainty? What would it be like if you just sat with the feelings of challenge instead of numbing, shutting down, and checking out? What is it possible to grow into as a result of this current challenge? What would it be like if you believed in all that you are capable of? What if you leaned into the discomfort and challenge and embraced it?

“All daring comes from greatness to begin.” Step in PowerGirl!

Think it. Create it. Share it. garmin@thinkpeaceworkshop.org

live in the questions

This week we are starting a new series ::: live in the questions. 

In his book, Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke writes, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

We here at thinkpeace workshop don’t have all the answers. We do have a lot of questions. Lots of them. We have ideas and thoughts, and dreams and wishes. We agree with Rilke that having questions and living into them is as equally, if not more important than the answers themselves. Living into the questions is one of the ways that we expand outward from our inner circle to our communities; we live outward. And so in this series we will introduce a thought and a variety of questions. Think about the questions, talk about them with friends, write and make art about them, and then share your thoughts with us.

“Change is choice. Choose wisely.” This was the quote given by the Head of School in her opening convocation speech on my first day of high school.

I love talking about change– change in ourselves, in our world, in others, and change as a concept. I could talk about it from day up to day down. It’s absolutely fascinating to me. And yet, in my research for my thesis I’ve been finding that women, and particularly teenage girls, are less content than ever. One of the most shocking facts I’ve found is that “7 in 10 girls believe that they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family members.”  I will be super upfront with you- I don’t have the answers. I don’t have the magic solution. I don’t know how to get girls to believe in themselves more. If I did, our world would be completely different- so much stronger, more beautiful, and lighter. However, what if, just as a possibility, we chose to love ourselves exactly as we are in this moment? What would that be like? What possibly could come out of imagining that possibility? What would it be like to be completely enthralled with yourself (not in an egotistical way, just a genuinely loving way)?” How would we see the world differently?

Live into the questions PowerGirl!  Email me your thoughts: garmin@thinkpeaceworkshop.org

on the road to gender equality

 

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, French Minister of Women’s Rights

Director’s note: In the United States, January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month. Throughout the month, thinkpeace girls have been focussing on raising awareness about modern slavery and the commercial sexual exploitation of young women and girls. President Obama called sex trafficking one of the greatest human rights causes of our time. Taking on this serious issue in France is the new Minister of Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. In this position she will also be addressing gender equality in the workplace, in government, and in society. Conscious of the example she sets as a working mother to three-year-old twins and married to a civil servant who has just been appointed to another ministry, her days are long and hard to balance. “I’m aware that beyond my own need to find a personal balance, I should be sending a signal to society as women’s minister about the importance of work-life balance.” But how? “It’s difficult,” she says, jumping up for the next meeting, but resolved to carve out time. Vallaud-Belkacem is inspiring a new generation of French girls and young women looking for possibilities… Today’s blog is written by 16-year-old Eléna from France. Eléna is a thinkpeace girl eager to see her country, and the world, on the road to gender equality and ready to do her part.

Hi everyone !

First I wish to you all a very, very happy new year ! All the best for this year 2014 !

What about women’s rights in 2014 ? How is gender equality going around the world ? In France, this year 2014 began with new projects and really much hope concerning women’s rights. I’d like to share with you what is happening for our rights in France, because it can be difficult to find out such informations… Economic crisis is sometimes taking all the place in our newspapers  around the world at the expense of  some (and maybe more) important things.

Before I began to write about this, I just had a look to some international newspapers to have an idea of what you were hearing about French events. Would it be about unemployment ? War in Central African Republic ? Not at all… This week on BBC News, on USA Today, on The Times Of India, or on Der Spiegel, I was just reading : « French First Lady hospitalized after affair rumor ». Wow. That was it. Nothing else. It sounded crazy, and a bit disappointing, to know that this scandal was the only thing people around the world (and even in France) will remember about those first days of January 2014 in France. Because, I mean, some very important things were happening this month, some things like really more important than the love affair of the President– in particular some good news for the women’s rights, so I thought it would be interesting to share it with you ;) !

On the 6th January 2014 a ministerial Commission took place in Paris, and not just any : the Commission for the Women’s Rights, directed by the French Prime Minister Ayrault and the French Minister for Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. This name may ring a bell to some of you, because I already wrote a little post on my facebook wall last year about her. Born in Morocco in 1977, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem was appointed Minister of Women’s Rights and Government Spokesperson by the current French President Hollande in 2012. (Little note :  we have a socialist government for two years, and it was preceded by two centre-right governments from 2002 to 2012). It was  the first time that such a Ministry was really created in the French political story and the first time that a gender-balanced cabinet was created in France.

Actually, the fight for gender equality in France already began long ago, and in particular with the French Revolution. At school, we all learn that the social system knew a big progress with the « Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen » in 1789. But women weren’t included in it. We had to wait for the publication of the « Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen », written in 1791 by the French young activist, Olympes de Gouges, who explained the failure of the French Revolution, which had been devoted in gender equality. So for the XVIIIth  century, lots of laws and regulations gradually changed and improved the situation of women: In 1880, women were admitted in the French universities for the first time, they were allowed to vote in 1944, and the right for abortion was legalised in 1975. In 1980 rape was qualified as crime by the law, and in 1992, conjugal violence and sexual harassment in the workplace were penalized by the law. The XXth    century marked a really big progress for women’s rights in France, in comparison to other countries around the world, but there is still a long way to go. Even though France may be considered a free and respectful country of human rights, the question of equality between men and women in the society is still hot: Women are still discriminated against in France, and they are victims of many injustices in the every day life : sexism, violence, unequal pay at work…

But this way to go is becoming every day shorter and shorter. Since the presidential elections in 2012, many things were made to defend women’s rights, to fight against sex violences and to promote the gender equality in our country. The Government made this fight a top priority and hasn’t neglected it: for 2 years, reforms and new laws have improved the condition of women. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem is very present on the political stage and is doing an enormous work: meetings, new projects… Her work is really inspiring for a lot of french people. I remember having listened to her during her speech in the Senate in September: she explained why she wanted to continue the fight for equality, how it would be possible. The bill she prepared was full of hope and her determination was impressive. She said that a new era had begun for the women’s rights, that the time had come to end the disparities between women and men. Education, employment, work, health… and prostitution, which have been an important part of the social debate in France these last months. Many projects were adopted last year to concretize gender equality  and the improvement of the women situation. Abortion became completely free for every woman, programs of support and professional reintegration for prostitutes or battered women were created, laws about parity at work were adopted. And this month of January began with that Commission I already mentioned. But do all of those projects, laws, ideas have a real impact in the society ? I hope so. We all hope so and believe in this action, even if it takes a long time. We already observed a big progress, and it won’t end there. Many people, and in particular the youth, believe in that evolution. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem came to my High School in October for a meeting. Many students skipped school for the afternoon to see Najat and listen to what she had to say. I was part of them and was totally inspired by her determination and her courage.

I would like to end with a message of hope for every woman in the world. The fight for gender equality just began in a lot of countries and is getting bigger and bigger. Everyone can be a part of it, everyone has a role to play in it. So, stand up for your rights!

P.S : What about women’s rights in your country? Share it with us!

 ♥

 

on growing outwards

Over the past few weeks I’ve heard it said that 2014 will be the year that girls across the globe get full rights– that THIS year will be our year. There have been countless “Women to Watch in 2014” “Women Heroes of 2013” and many other lists and commentary about women coming to the forefront of our workplaces, communities, and governments. While this is all well and good, (I love these lists as much, if not more, than the next person AND) why are we still talking about these things? Why is making lists of women heroes in a totally different category?

Now if you caught me at just the right moment, my witty response to these questions would be “This is why we can’t have nice things,” a thought process that Pop Art artist, Andy Warhol often drew from.  Humor and wit is one way to play this off and yet all of the issues presented in these lists aren’t that easy to solve. Equality, freedom, access to education, and respect are not issues that are going to solve themselves overnight. This year at thinkpeace we have been thinking, talking, reflecting, and processing what it means to start with ourselves and grow outwards into our local, national, and global communities.  And so, rather than giving a long (probably boring) talk about why those lists are oh so problematic, let’s talk about ourselves.

YouTube Preview Image 

A friend of mine sent me a TED talk last week about a woman who saw a need and then was compelled to find a solution. Now, I will be the first to admit that this example is not the best as it is full of white saviorism and “rescuing.” However, I think the thought process is one we can draw from: Cynthia Koenig got clear in herself what her desires, wishes, and dreams were for the world. She then saw a need– water access, and she went about finding a way to change the current reality into something that was cost effective, thoughtful, and life changing. She realized that we can only change from the inside out; a concentric bullseye of sorts with us in the middle, our families and friends in the next circle, our local communities in the third circle, our national community in the fourth, and our global community in the outer ring.  Koenig grew outwards.

And yet growth is often times scary, hard, challenging and more. Today in yoga, my teacher said, “life doesn’t give you a comfortable cushion upon which to grow from, you grow from where you are.”  For another example of this, I’m going to highlight another one of my favorite women doing “inside out” work. My girl, New York State Junior Senator Kristen Gillibrand.

at work, double time

Now, I will admit I’m slightly biased as Gillibrand is a graduate of my high school alma mater, still… The opening lines of a recent New Yorker Magazine article highlight her “inside out” mentality, “…needs to pick up her five-year-old son, Henry, from his after-school program by 6 p.m. For every minute she is late, the school charges ten dollars. At 5 p.m. on November 12th, a Tuesday, Gillibrand still had two votes to cast and a meeting with Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader. Her husband, Jonathan, a financial consultant, works in New York City during the week, and, on short notice, she couldn’t find a sitter who was available before six-thirty. She ducked out of the Capitol and returned shortly afterward with Henry. She sat down with him in Reid’s office, where he busied himself with chicken fingers, chocolate milk, and a game of tic-tac-toe.” One might say that she was multi-tasking, however from my perspective she is looking inward, realizing she needs to change the state of the things closest to her and then continue to work on continuing to push her Senate agenda. You see, the needs of her family came first; she was clear with herself that she couldn’t get work done if she didn’t figure out the things closest to her first.  Finally, just to be clear, I’m not saying that always choosing family over work or work over family is right or wrong. The point is that you get the opportunity to make choices you can live with every single day. You get to choose.

And so, PowerGirl, where are you going to grow from? What does it mean to get clear with who you are in order to change things outside yourself? What choices will you make?

As always, send me your thoughts garmin@thinkpeaceworkshop.org.