Category Archives: dreams

power to the average by remy arthur

Director’s note: In this summer series, an original thinkpeace girl, Remy, writes about the ups and downs, ins and outs of being an “average” girl.  This is her strength, her bond with others, her realness. Currently a rising junior at Sarah Lawrence College studying International Politics, Human Rights, and Ethnic Studies, she is interning this summer for an NYC councilwoman. While living the college-girl life in Manhattan, she’s discovering more about herself, gluten-free cooking, the Upper East Side, Brooklyn, food truck dining, and how to survive sweltering humidity and overcrowded subways. Read about her “average girl” life on Mondays. It’s girl-to-girl talk. It’s a thinkpeace girl finding her way from suburbia to the big city within the global girl community. It’s about self-discovery and acknowledging that who we are right here, right now, matters. And who we become could be something pretty magnificent. After all, the ‘journey is the destination’! Imagine.

 

the average girl

Hello, internet. It’s me, an average girl!

What can I say, I am totally, completely, average.

I grew up in suburban America. I have an average family: mom, dad, two siblings. I graduated high school; I go to college… Pretty average, right?

I never really thought about this until I was applying for summer internships (which I personally feel is expected of college students nowadays) and realized just how average I was.

I was perfecting my resume and writing so many cover letters, all bragging about how I am special and “different” from any other millennial applying for the same internship when I realized how crazy that was! Why am I special? Because I actually do things that I am passionate about? Because I was a teen advisor for a UN campaign when I was 14 years old? Because I like attending and working for my mom’s nonprofit because it’s my mom and that’s where all of my friends are??

To be completely honest, I am not that special. There are literally thousands of people just like me. And that’s ok. I think that with social media and just this day and age, there is so much pressure to ‘be something.’ I know that if I were to talk to someone and say. “yeah, I’m average” they would respond with something to try to make me sound and feel special. Something like, “but you are interning in New York City!” Hello… there are thousands of interns in this city right now. “You go to a school with no majors?!” Yes, I do. What does that have to do with me, though?? I don’t have a “quirky” or “artsy” or “I’m not a hipster, hipster” aesthetic like everyone I go to school with… I am not the world’s best guitar player. I’m a little behind in “meme culture” and don’t know my best selfie angle. I am just me.  At the end of the day, I have my own private little things that make me special, like the fact that I can always make myself laugh or the fact that I may or may not have tried fitting a square inside a circle.

I am never going to be a “superstar” or one of those girls that everybody looks to in awe. And to be honest, I am actually glad that I am just an average girl. I don’t always want to be surrounded by geniuses or rock stars. Give me the quiet girls! Give me the messy girls! Give me the girls who are really good at being lazy! Give me the girls who don’t follow trends! Give me the girls who do! Give me girls who like to code! Give me girls who like to paint! Give me girls that like to binge watch Netflix!

You see, I think there is immense power in being average or normal or whatever word you want to use. I am just me, and at the end of the day, that is all I can be. I know my strengths; I know my weaknesses. I set my own expectations for myself. And no, that does not make me special! It has taken me almost 20 years to get to this point (so. old.), and it’s not like I don’t feel subpar when I see the Instagram models’ most recent pics, but I have to be ok with myself, because if I am always looking for what makes me special, I will probably never be happy. And life is too short for that. There are more than 7 billion people in this world. There are going to be people who are smarter, prettier, and more talented than I, and that’s ok! The biggest lesson I have learned this past year is to stop comparing myself to others. I compare myself to me, and that is the best way for me to grow. I am not going to actually be more special if I spend all of my time trying to outdo somebody else. The best way that I can learn and grow is to keep checking in with myself. How can I be healthier than I was a couple of months ago? How can I write a better paper than the last one? How can I make my selfie game stronger than the last one I took? All any of us can do is just be ourselves and live comfortably with that. I think life should be about growing and changing, taking things one step at a time, and trying to live as authentically as possible.

My goal with this blog series is to show other people that it is a-ok to be average. I also want to write it so when I am going through a spell of self-doubt, I can read something that reminds me that everything is going to be ok! This summer has been crazy for me so far. I have learned a lot, and it isn’t even halfway over yet! I hope to share some of what I have learned with anybody who is willing to listen because I wish I had known how to handle New York City morning rush hour before I did it for the first time! Fingers crossed I actually keep this up. Talk to you soon!

give me the facts sista’: education

At thinkpeace workshop we believe it is our duty as global citizens to be informed and educated on the challenges facing girls around the world. The next couple of weeks here on the blog will focus on some hard core facts of some of these challenging global problems with the intention of encouraging you to develop a critical lens aimed toward finding a solution. Naturally, these posts will not be fully comprehensive because many of these issues are large, complicated, and without simple straight forward solutions. Understanding the basic core of each challenge is the first step in finding a solution. 

This week we will take up the intersection of gender and education.

In this past Sunday’s New York Times, journalist Nick Kristof takes up this issue, “Why are fanatics so terrified of girls’ education? Because there’s no force more powerful to transform a society. The greatest threat to extremism isn’t drones firing missiles, but girls reading books.” I think he’s spot on with this.  It’s why Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Afghan Taliban, it’s why Boko Haram took nearly 300 girls from school, and it’s one of the core contributors towards girl-specific violence. Quite simply the equation is this: girls + education = change

If you haven’t yet seen the video The Girl Effect, it’s time.

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So why would extremist groups and people in general be threatened by educated girls? Some facts followed by an explanation:

  • When a girl in the developing world receives seven years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.

Fewer children means less people in the workforce which means less hands to be able to work the fields and help around the home. It means that girls gain control of their reproduction which gives them more power to create change. 

  • An extra year of primary school education boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10-20%.  An extra year of secondary school adds 15-25%.

More money for women means that the global poverty rate will go down. A woman will work to address problems in her community, and her children will be given a greater chance of survival. 

  • Women in 32 countries who remained in school after primary school were five times more likely to know basic facts about HIV than illiterate women.

Education decreases a girl’s or woman’s risk for contracting HIV or transmitting HIV to her baby. Knowing how to prevent contraction or transmission means that the global HIV/AIDS rate will go down. 

While we know educated girls are the key to global change, the rate in which girls are attending school has not caught up. Day of the Girl and Girl Rising, both organizations devoted to raising awareness on girls issues gives us the facts:

66 million girls are out of school globally.

 Only 30% of all girls worldwide are enrolled in secondary school. 

The average sub-Saharan African girl from a low income, rural household gets less than two years of school and never learns to read and write, to add and subtract, as opposed to the average sub- Saharan African boy who fully completes primary education.  

There are 33 million fewer girls than boys in primary school. 

If India enrolled 1 % more girls in secondary school, their GDP would rise by $5.5 billion. 

So if all of these facts are true, why don’t we just cut to the chase and enroll girls in school? You see, it’s not that easy. School in other countries is not always free, it isn’t always available, and families don’t always want educated girls for a variety of reasons. Educated girls will create change, plain and simple. Change is not always easy.

Knowing the facts is the first step in creating change. Girls + education = change. How are you going to change the course of this global challenge?

Send me your thoughts, questions, concerns. garmin@thinkpeaceworkshop.org

what you resist persists

Director’s note:  At thinkpeace workshop we encourage girls to embrace their truths: those qualities about themselves that are fundamental to feeling good about themselves. Sometimes it’s easy to let other voices get inside and create self-doubt. Holding onto our truths is important to standing in our own strength in the face of pushbacks from others. Lately, intern GARMIN has realized the power of knowing and owning her truths. It’s an ongoing process for each of us. 

“What you resist persists” by GARMIN

During my last yoga teacher training weekend we had a grueling 2-hour hip-opening practice. Our teacher kept saying, “What you resist persists” meaning that whatever we kept holding back from would continue to be there.

In her acceptance speech for the John Steinbeck Award, MSNBC host, activist, PowerGirl, (and my big girl crush) Rachel Maddow, said this about being out as queer,

As a general rule, if you can be out, you really ought to be out because, A) you will be happier, being closeted is a sad thing to be. It also makes you vulnerable. When you are closeted people can always have something to use against you and so you are never actually operating from a position of strength even if you feel like coming out is something that would make you vulnerable in the world, being closeted is a much more vulnerable thing to be. You can never speak from a position of strength unless you are speaking from a position of honesty.

While this is the speech that pushed me over that metaphorical edge to come out to my parents, Maddow’s last line, “You can never speak from position of strength unless you are speaking from a position of honesty” is the line that popped up again for me last week.  These past two weeks have been hard for me. I installed my thesis and then it has been one event after the next: openings, meet the artist, showcases, and more events– literally non-stop. While there have been happy, exciting, and liberating moments, there have been just as many frustrating and annoying times. Our class of 11 is disconnected, and consumed with what we call in yoga teacher training, “a concern for looking good,” which basically means they will do whatever they can to make themselves look good and everyone else look bad by playing the “ame” game- shame, blame, and complain.  I decided that it wasn’t worth my energy to continue to be around people that brought me down. You see, I value myself, my power, and my strength and when I was putting myself in a position of powerlessness by being around people who didn’t value me I was taking myself out of my life. I wasn’t speaking from my position of strength because I wasn’t in my full honesty and truth of myself.

In typical GARMIN fashion, I walked right up to my thesis teacher and said, “I’m not coming to the group meeting of the class anymore because it’s bad for my mojo. I value myself, my strength, and my power.” She said, “OK. Have a great day!”

And just like that I was standing back in my full power.

However, just like the hip-opening practice “what you resist persists”– I had been resisting initiating this conversation with my thesis teacher. I had been frustrated for some time and it had to get to a point of me realizing its persistence to do something about it. When I surrendered to what was put on offer (the hip opening practice), initiating the conversation, it wasn’t so hard. Holding back was actually harder.

I think we as young women hold ourselves back ALL the time. From my experience, we hold back for a variety of reasons: we play small so others can play big, we don’t think we are worthy, we are operating out of fear, etc. In this past week’s U.S. version of TIME magazine, the cover highlighted Beyoncé, pop mogul, mom and PowerGirl. In the closing paragraph, writer and Facebook VP Sheryl Sandberg wrote,

In the past year, Beyoncé has sold out the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour while being a full-time mother. Her secret: hard work, honesty and authenticity. And her answer to the question, What would you do if you weren’t afraid? appears to be “Watch me. I’m about to do it.” Then she adds, “You can, too.”

Step into your greatness PowerGirl!

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

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.

work it, girl

 

it’s in you already

Work it because you’re worth it ::: Manifesting your goals. 

Manifesto, n. : a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer

There is a scene in the beginning of the movie version of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in which all of the girls sit around in a circle in an old church, light candles, and create a manifesto.  A manifesto of what they want their experience to be with the traveling pants; stating to each other the rules, wishes, and desires. While their manifesto isn’t written, it is spoken aloud with great dignity and energy. When they all reunite at the end of the summer they recount their adventures, triumphs, and less than desirable experiences with both the pants and the manifesto of the pants.

The past two weeks we have talked about reflecting on our past year and then setting new goals for this year. This week we will conclude this series with putting our goals into action. How do we make things happen in our lives? How do we live wholly and globally? How do we best show up as ourselves more often than not?

Lucky for you, manifestos aren’t just a thing that happens in movies or books. You too can manifest whatever you want in your life.

GARMIN’S TOP 3 TIPS TO MAKING THINGS HAPPEN IN YOUR LIFE.

(For the sake of examples I’m going to use a goal I had in the past of running 800 miles in one year.)

1.  SAY IT OUT LOUD. 

No, really say it out loud. Tell your people. Your friends, family, Facebook, on the morning announcements at school, your teachers, co-workers, yoga teacher, track coach, hair dresser. Tell all the people. No, really- ALL OF THEM. When we tell our people we get an instant accountability system. There will people (without your prompting) asking you how your goals are coming.  I can’t tell you how many people would ask me if I ran yet today or what my total was for the year so far. The neighbor would see me in the grocery store and would say “Hey, I haven’t seen you running this week. How’s your mileage goal coming?” And instantly I would remember how many people are rooting for me to succeed which would push me forward.

2.  BREAK IT DOWN. 

Baby steps. Big goals are going to seem overwhelming. They are going to be intangible, impractical, wild, and so far out there. Until they’re not. 800 miles divided by 52 weeks- about 15 miles a week. And then further- (3) 5 mile runs or (5) 3 miles. And then you look at your week. Where do I have an extra hour 3 times a week? And you plug it into your calendar. Schedule it in. Just write “GT” (goal time).

3.  MAKE A VISUAL.

A vision board, a sculpture, a piece of paper with a drawing that reminds you of your goals, the goals physically written on the mirror, a collage, a pile of rocks, anything. Seriously. My visuals have changed from year to year. I always write them on two separate index cards; one which I keep on my body 95% of the time and another copy above my bed that I see every night and every morning. I have done just about every form of visual– the one that I have found to be most successful for me is to make a cup or a bowl and then eat/drink out of it every day. It brings to mind all the things I want to grow into.

Finally, PowerGirl, be gentle with yourself. You weren’t created overnight and your goals won’t manifest themselves while you sleep either. Time, persistence, and an unwavering knowing of what you want will get you to your goals.

“Everything you need is already inside you. Just do it.”