Category Archives: think

the regular girl’s guide to activism

-Gandhi. Artwork by thinkpeace intern Remy

Have you ever felt all stirred up about something but not able to get the words out? Have you watched classmates stand up and speak out and think, “dang, I can’t do that”? Have you wanted to be an activist but in your own quiet way? Truth is, we aren’t all comfortable grabbing a megaphone, getting up on a soapbox, or simply speaking up at all. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t necessary to a cause and can’t invoke the change we hope to see! Let’s talk strategy for the regular girl…

SHOW UP.  “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”—Desmond Tutu

Recently a super shy thinkpeace girl who feels anxious in crowds was determined to step out of her comfort zone and take part in one of the Women’s Marches. She was passionate about the need for women to collectively raise their voices in mass numbers, sending a clear message that our voices, minds and bodies matter. She knew she needed to be there. But the anxiety was almost too much. The solution? She needed a plan. She needed a small group around her to keep her feeling safe. She needed an exit strategy, just in case it became too much. And she needed a poster that spoke for her.  SHOWING UP matters.

During the  UN climate negotiations in Paris, youth delegates were not able to carry signs advocating their beliefs. They came up with an alternative idea to symbolize their interest in the need for zero carbon emissions: they painted a black zero near their eye. No words were spoken and no signs were held, but the message was heard loud and clear.

GET CREATIVE.  Are you a songwriter or a poet? Are you a photographer or a dancer? You have a unique way of expressing yourself that can powerfully reflect upon a social justice issue! Using your creative expression of your values and beliefs can light a spark in someone else. Post your work. Put it out there for others to see.  This form of indirect activism has an impact.

WRITE IT OUT. A lot of thinkpeace girls are more comfortable writing about causes they believe in than speaking out loud. Recently one wrote a fiery op-ed piece on campus sexual assault and racial hate crimes. Others write for their school newspapers on issues ranging from why feminism matters to the importance of community service to the need for responsible gun control legislation.  If there is a local, statewide, national, or international issue that sets your heart on fire, write about it! Speaking out, in written form, can prompt important dialogues which lead to action and change.

WEAR YOUR CAUSE. thinkpeace girls recently held a community event for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Many conversations were started that day due to a variety of tshirts worn by facilitators and participants. One said “We are Selma” which started a conversation about Black Lives Matter. Another said “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” which prompted a discussion about human rights violations. Many thinkpeace girls wore pink pussy hats in January to Women’s Marches and some are busy making brain hats to wear for the Science March on Washington in April. This is an extremely meaningful and easy tool for igniting conversation about your cause. Posters, phone cases, shirts, buttons, and hats are small ways to show your position, often prompting good dialogue.

Rep. Jackie Speier and thinkpeace girl Diana

HOW ABOUT A LATTE?  Sometimes the most powerful thing we can do is simply talk it out with one other person.  You don’t have to talk to the entire community to be an effective activist. Every single person matters. Every vote, signature, and commitment matters. Often people need an opportunity to hear another point of view. All too often we get stuck in pockets of agreement, whether on social media or our friend base, where we are all of like mind. It really helps to talk respectfully with someone with other views and listen, really listen, to one another. Ask someone who might have a different perspective than you to grab a coffee or hot chocolate with you and dive into the deep end. What ever you do, don’t run away from the hard conversations. Turn toward them. Soften your heart. Hold your ground. Listen. Speak your truth. Listen some more. This is a great way to practice peaceful activism!

 READ ALL ABOUT IT. We encourage you to read as much as you can from reliable sources. Do your homework. Fact checking does matter. There’s this idea out there that media can’t be trusted but we believe that there are in depth reports, unbiased research, and scholarly writings that are not only worth your time but imperative to your activism. Fake news is dangerous and you need to be educated on how to discern fact from lies. We suggest this article to help guide you: http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/12/05/503581220/fake-or-real-how-to-self-check-the-news-and-get-the-facts. “If you see your friends sharing blatantly fake news, be a friend and kindly tell them it’s not real. Don’t shy away from these conversations even if they might be uncomfortable.” Know that what you think and what you say is based on fact.

You can choose to be an ally for others facing injustice. Your presence can offer a safe place, simply by  standing next to someone or walking down the hall with someone. Recently riders on a NYC subway took out hand sanitizer from their bags to erase swastikas on the subway walls.  Take initiative! Look around and see what you can do. Your quiet activism will inspire others like you to spark fires of their own, and this ripple effect will help transform the world. So regular girls– the ones with quiet voices and pounding hearts– let’s do this! Take what stirs you up and ACTIVATE! And, as always, know that your global girl community stands with you. You are not alone in this business of difference-making. We are here cheering you on!

step up, girl!

 

the hijab and its purpose, part 5 by mariyah rehmani

director’s note: this is the conclusion of 15 year old Mariyah Rehmani’s ebook. We hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts and have learned something along the way. As we’ve been posting these installments there has been a dramatic rise in America of Islamophobia. Until classes in ethnic studies are required, until we talk around our dinner tables and on the bus about the people of the Middle East with the goal of awareness and understanding, until more dialogue takes place between all races, faiths, and genders, there cannot be peace. Thinkpeace girls? It’s time for action. Recently there have been reports of threats and attacks in schools across the United States. A 7th grader in Ohio, threatened to shoot a Muslim boy on the bus ride home from school, calling him a “towel head,” a “terrorist,” and “the son of ISIS.” A sixth-grade girl wearing a hijab in the Bronx was reportedly punched by three boys who called her “ISIS.”  So now, after reading Mariyah’s ebook– do you understand HER choice? Has your awareness been raised? If you saw her walking down the street in your town, what would you say, do, think? Let’s talk.  

SPRING WEAR:  Spring is all about having fun with different colours and prints. Lots of flowery designs and fun pastel shades fill the wardrobe of this season. It’s a great time to try new styles and experiment with something out-of-the-box! Spring has weather that can be warm but also windy, which means it gets a little tricky to dress up without getting either too hot or too cold. The following styles that were put together by some talented stylists showcase how one can enjoy the spring weather in full style, without having to compromise on modest fashion and can have fun all the while.

SUMMER WEAR: It’s that time of year where it’s hot and sticky (and possibly humid). But it is also the time where schools are out and everyone wants to be outside and have lots of fun. Amidst the trend of bright colours, light fabrics and short clothes, it becomes a little daunting for a muslimah to dress modestly yet not die of heat. The following looks feature different ways in which you can dress with modesty and beat the heat! The following looks will also help you gain an understanding of what colours and styles you can wear to dress light but also fashionably. So, sit back, relax and flip through the summery styles waiting for you on the next few pages!

 EVENT WEAR/DRESSY LOOKS:  Whether it be for a night out with your friends, or a dinner with your family, here are ways the hijab can be worn for dressier, more formal occasions.

FALL WEAR:  The ethereal beauty of falling leaves and the perfect sweater weather make fall one of my favourite seasons. It’s not too hot, it’s not too cool, and sometimes this weather can be tricky to dress up for. Let’s see how hijabis pull it off!

 

WINTER WEAR:  As winter sets in and it becomes more and more chilly, most hijabis use their trusted fashion defence mechanism: layers! Winter means more prints, more styles, more material, and sometimes even a scarf or two more to spice it up!

FANCY SHMANCY:  For the diva in you.

the hijab and its purpose, part 2 by mariyah rehmani

director’s note: In the second installment of  Mariyah’s ebook, The Hijab and Its Purpose, the hijab is presented in many forms and through the eyes of various people. As we open our minds to various cultures and belief systems, it is important to remember that there are REASONS people believe what they do and it is only through really listening that we can come to understand our differences. It is our hope that these blog posts will spark meaningful dialogues and a better understanding of what makes up all the colors of the world. Imagine!

 

“Coarse talk does not come into anything without disgracing it and modesty does not come into anything without adorning it.” — Al-Tirmidhi, 4854

Different Types of Veils Worn

There is a variety of different types of veils worn all around the world. Muslim women wear these different types depending on multiple factors including the country they live in, the culture they are a part of, the occasion, or for some; even the weather. But most of all, the woman herself decides what she is most comfortable wearing, and makes her choices accordingly. One must remember that the Hijab or veils come in different sizes, types, materials and colours, and can even be worn differently under each broad category. As it is visually apparent, they provide varying amounts of coverage of the Woman’s body.

Why Some Women Choose Not To Wear It

Many people are not aware of this, but there exist a number of Muslim women who choose not to wear the hijab at all. Just like those who wear the veil, women who choose not to have their own personal reasons. Some claim that the Qur’an does not explicitly talk about covering one’s body through a veil such as the hijab. They feel as though wearing the hijab is more of a cultural interpretation of the words written in the Holy Book. Some claim that it is too hot where they live, and they would not be able to bear the heat. Some say they aren’t ready for the commitment or the responsibility of wearing the veil every day in public. Oftentimes, women who wear the hijab in the public world receive a lot of social stigma, and things like stares and uncomfortable glances become a daily phenomenon.

Why She Doesn’t Believe In the Veil- Mrs. Sajeda Jamal 

“Mrs. Jamal has more than 15 years of experience in the early childhood learning space and was raised in Dubai where she completed her B. Ed and Certificate in ECCE. She has worked as a kindergarten teacher, curriculum designer and app developer”.

What is your view on the Hijab? Do you think it is necessary for a Muslim Woman to wear it?

No it’s not necessary. I feel it is more to do with the culture than with religion. Of what I have read in the Qur’an, the word used is Khimar which means “cover” and in the broad sense it could mean anything, like a bed covering or a sheet. Although the Quran does ask the woman to cover her bosom. But nowhere does it say to cover the hair or face. It does talk about cover the beauty, the word being used “Zinat”. Personally speaking, I feel like a modest dressing is more important. It is important for a girl to dress not to lure men in any way. Revealing dressing to me is improper dressing. I don’t see harm in wearing the Indian Shalwar Kameez (Traditional dress worn mostly in India and Pakistan), and do not see the need to wear any extra scarf over the head. I do not see why you would say that the entire beauty lies in the hair. That is stupidity.

Mr. Jamal (Mrs. Sajeda’s Husband): Firstly, the Qur’an is the only indisputable book, the word of God. It does not say “cover your hair”, it only says “khimar”. God is not short of words, and could have specifically mentioned “hair” or head. In Indian culture and Arab culture etc. women are expected to cover their heads. It is merely cultural. Additionally, you face is your identity, it is part of who you are, why do you throw that away?

What Is the Purpose of the Hijab?

To better understand the purpose and meaning behind the Islamic veil, what better way to do this than to read verses directly from the Holy Islamic Book: The Qur’an. In Chapter 24 titled an-Nur (meaning: The Light), in verse 30, Allah commands Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) as follows:

Translated, it means: “Say to the believing men that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste). This is better for them.” (Al-Islam.org)

This message commands all Muslim men to glance downwards i.e. to not look at any other women lustfully (apart from their own wives) so as to avoid the possibility of temptation. This is often referred to as “Hijab of the eyes”.

In the succeeding verse, Allah commands the Prophet (s.a.w) to address the women of Islam:

Meaning: “Say to the believing women that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste) …” (“The Qur’an and Hijab.”)

This is a very similar commandment as that which was given to the men in the previous verse, dealing with “The hijab of the eyes”. It also states that women should “Guard their private parts”, doing so by being chaste. (Al-Islam.org)

The teaching of “hijab of the eyes” is very similar to the biblical teachings as well. In The Gospel of Matthew, chap. 5, verses 27-28, Jesus (as) says: “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, you shall not commit adultery. But I say unto you, that whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Keeping this in mind, if you ever see a Muslim talking with the opposite sex and looking downwards, it is not because of a lack of confidence, but rather it is him/her abiding by the Qur’anic as well as Biblical teachings. Subsequently came the verse that describes the Islamic dress code for Women:

“…and not display their beauty except what is apparent, and they should place their khumur over their bosoms…” (Al-Islam.org)

What does “Khumur” mean in this verse? the , ِخ َما ر is plural of khimar ُخ ُم ر Khumur veil covering the head. Check any Arabic dictionary like Lisanu ’l- ‘Arab, Majma ‘u ’l-Bahrayn or al-Munjid for further clarifications. Al-Munjid, which is the most popular dictionary in the Arab world, defines alkhimar as “something with which a woman conceals her head.”

Fakhru ’d-Din al-Turayhi in Majma ‘u ’lBahrayn (which is a dictionary for words specifically from the Qur’an and hadith) defines al-khimar as “scarf, and it is known as such because the head is covered with it.” (“The Qur’an and Hijab.”)

So the word khimar, by definition, means a piece of cloth that covers the head.

Click here to watch the wonderful Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan discuss the meaning of the Khimar: YouTube Preview Image

So what does the phrase “Place their Khumur over their bosoms” mean? Let us dive into a little Islamic History: According to various commentators of the Qur’an, the women of Medina in the pre-Islamic era used to put their khumur over the head with the two ends tucked behind and tied at the back of the neck, in the process exposing their ears and neck. By commanding women to “place the Khumur over their bosoms, Almighty Allah ordered the women to let the tied ends of their scarf loose, subsequently extending onto their bosoms so that they may cover their ears, neck and chest area. (“The Qur’an and Hijab.”) Our understanding of these verses was then confirmed by the reaction of the Muslim Women to this commandment of God. The Sunni source quotes Ummu ’l-mu’minin ‘A’isha, the Prophet’s wife, saying:

However, it is crucial to note and to understand that different women interpret the Qur’an’s words differently. Many women simply believe that wearing the Hijab is a cultural translation of the words from the Holy book and do not think that Khumur is something that covers the head, but rather just the bosom. (As it is not stated explicitly in the Qur’an but that most people agree that the definition of the Khimar is a cloth that covers the head.) Finally, the verse goes on to give the list of the mahram – male family members in whose presence the hijab is not required, such as the husband, the father, the father-in-law, the son(s), and others. This verse ends with a list of the mahram, i.e. the people in presence of which the veil is not required, for e.g. the Husband, the father, the grandfather, sons(s) and so on and so forth. There also exists another verse in the Qur’an that talks about wearing a loose garment Jalabib (sing. Jilbab) around themselves as to not attract attention towards their figure. In essence, the purpose of the hijab is to promote modesty, and in turn, safeguard women from the lustful stares of men (and vice versa) and to ensure that both women and men do not commit illicit acts. It is about empowering women, and giving them a medium through which they are no longer objectified by society, but liberated from it. They are much more likely to be judged by their personality and intellect rather than their body and their sexuality. It is important to keep in mind that the religion of Islam is a lot about prevention rather than cure. A lot of the commandments by God restrict any acts that may lead to unlawful behaviour.

A brilliant video that really opened my eyes about the effect of wearing a burqa/hijab in the streets (Must see): YouTube Preview Image

The Science Behind the Hijab

You may be surprised to know that the hijab is not merely a baseless practice, it too has a science behind it. All of what is in the Qur’an is scientifically accurate knowledge. Let’s look at the ways in which the brain works, and how the hijab may help a woman. The brain is one of the most fundamental organs of the human Body. It receives inputs from sensory modalities, i.e. feeling, smelling, seeing and testing etc. The stimuli that is received from various parts of the body is then stored and processed in the brain. It connects different ideas together, forms new ones, and makes decisions upon what actions should be taken in response to the given information. The brain builds the bridge from input to output.

Therefore, the conclusion that controlling sensory information coming from the eyes can largely impact the working of and further tasks such as memory, analysis of stored information, processing thoughts, learning, recognition, and several social and emotional facets relating to fed stimuli is most definitely a logical one. Neurons in the brain have the task of processing all this oncoming information, and distributing it to various parts of the brain for timely retrieval in the future. Lastly, the output of this processed information is relayed back to our brain or corresponding muscles in the form of words, actions and thoughts. Thus, it is safe to conclude that if wrong or incorrect sensory stimuli is fed to the brain, the neurons processing and storing that kind of information will in turn result in the imparting of bad ideas, thoughts and finally, bad actions and words. A simple diagram of the same information is given below:

It is then crucial to understand the fact that when a person is exposed to an environment with large amounts of provocative stimuli, especially coming from the eyes and the visual system, it leads to relevant and similar kind of aggressive and provocative words, actions and thoughts. Younger, more susceptible individuals with minds that are easily affected by such stimuli, lacking a resolute enough self control will quickly get affected by the kind of stimuli that is provided to them. They are highly likely to think, act and say things that directly correlate with what they hear, smell, taste, but especially see around them. This is why kids that play violent video games or games with similar themes are often drawn to behave in the same aggressive manner.  With the advent of ever-advancing science and technology, in a world where all kinds of resources and all kinds of stimuli are at the tips of your fingers, it is even easier to get exposed to obscene or inappropriate themes. Not only this, with social gatherings, events, parties, universities etc. there is a lot of interactions between males and females. I am not claiming that this is wrong, but rather stating that there is higher tendency of receiving provocative stimuli in these kinds of social situations.

Moreover, both males and females can dress modestly, wearing loose, unprovocative clothing that stops an indecent kind of sensory stimuli from entering people’s minds. Everyone must also maintain a certain level of modesty in the way they carry themselves, the way they talk and the words they use and in their actions and converse with other with people. This could essentially help minimise or even prevent “unwanted emotional or social consequences”. (Haydari)

Once again, it is essential to enforce the idea of prevention before cure. Both women and men must do their part in acting, talking and dressing in a decent manner so as to avoid the wrong kind of sensory stimuli from entering one’s minds. Another very important aspect of ‘purdah’ or veiling that is outlined in the Qur’an is the lowering of the gaze.

The Health Benefits of the Hijab

“In Chinese medical texts, in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic on Internal Medicine, it was stated that wind can cause sudden changes within the body and will upset the body’s equilibrium thus, creating bad health.” (“Science Behind the Hijab”)

It has been written that ailments such as the common cold and flu are related to wind elements that disturb the body’s equilibrium when they enter the body, and cause symptoms such as a running nose or sneezing. “In the traditional Islamic medical texts of Al-Jawziyya, there are numerous references to the “four elements” of fire, water, air and earth and how these affect the body in adverse ways. In particular, we are advised to stay away from drafts and protect our heads in wind, breezes, drafts and cold weather.” (“Science Behind the Hijab”) Also, covering the head is important for a variety of health reasons in the warm weather. V.G. Rocine, a prominent brain research specialist, discovered that phosphorus found in the brain begins to melt at 108 has found that brain Phosphorus melts at 108 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a temperature that can easily be achieved if one stays under the sun for a short period of time without a head covering. When this takes place, a temperature that can be easily reached if one stays under the hot sun for any length of time without a head covering. When this happens, irreparable damage to the brain is done, including memory loss and loss of a few brain functions. “Although this example is extreme, Brain damage can still be measured in small degrees from frequent exposure to and overheating of the head.” (“Science Behind the Hijab”)

Bernard Jensen, noted chiropractor and neuropath claims that this is due to the fact that the  brain “runs on the mineral phosphorus” (“Science Behind the Hijab”), which is easily affected by heat.

In the end, the Islamic dress code is meant for and in the interest of Women’s safety and well-being, rather than her subjugation or oppression, as media often portrays it as.

Next week: the hijab does not keep you from doing what you want

 

 

 

 

 

the hijab and its purpose by mariyah rehmani

 

director’s note:  Mariyah is a dynamic, fun-loving, artistic, bright and compassionate 15 year old from Pune, India. When she arrived at camp 2 summers ago in NYC she appeared confident and completely at ease wearing her hijab around the city.  Some of her thinkpeace sisters had questions and even judgments, and she addressed them all graciously and with determination to educate them.  As our society becomes more xenophobic and fearful of anything associated with Islam, we think Mariyah’s study on the purpose of the hijab is more important than ever. We encourage you to learn about differences– racial, gender, religious, sexual, economic– and see that differences don’t have to separate us. In fact they can be the beginning of meaningful dialogue that can open our hearts and minds, bringing us together and truly creating peace. It starts with listening and respecting… Please join us as we journey into discovering more about differences every week in our thoughtful thursdays posts… Today we begin with Mariyah’s choice to wear a hijab. We will be posting sections from her ebook over the next few weeks.

 

The Hijab and Its Purpose

This eBook is intended for the purpose of helping the reader understand what the hijab really is, and what it stands for.  It has come to my understanding that the people around me, and those not around me too, have a very hazy perception of the hijab.  Many people ask me about why I wear it, and even if my dad forced me to wear it.  This inspired me to write about the hijab, and why it is close to the hearts of millions of women worldwide.
Inside, you will find everything you need to know about the hijab; everything from its origin, to its purpose, its message, its types, and even the science behind it! This will give you a holistic idea of what it is all about.  Understanding the hijab, and even Islam is very important in this age.  Islam is one of the fastest growing religions worldwide (“The Fastest Growing Religion in the World Is … – CNN.com.”).  Unfortunately, it is often portrayed in a bad light by the media, and ongoing violence and terrorism is almost always attributed to our peaceful religion. The hijab too has been shunned by many as being “oppressive” and “restrictive”, even though thousands worldwide can testify to it being exactly the opposite. My aim is to help clear misconceptions and preconceptions about the Islamic veil and dress code in general.  Along with this, you will find out more about the concept of modesty and about successful women who wear the hijab with pride.  At the end you will discover a gallery of pictures showcasing how different cultures affect hijab styles and the variation in the hijabs themselves, country to country. Finally, there also awaits a LookBook that portrays just how modern trends are seamlessly integrated with the hijab creating a whole new category of ‘Hijabi Fashion’.  So please do not hesitate, and flip through to find out more about this beautiful concept of the hijab.

hi-jab, (hĭ-jäb′) n.

1. Any of several cloth head coverings worn by Muslim women.

2. The veiling of women in some Islamic societies, customarily practiced in order to maintain standards of modesty.
[Arabic ḥijāb, cover, curtain, veil, from ḥajaba, to cover] (“hijab”)
Many use the following verses from the Holy Qur’an to help describe the requirements for a Muslim women’s dress:

Although this is not commonly known, there are also dress codes for Muslim men to abide and they include covering of the body from at least the navel to the knees and not wearing excessively tight, sheer, or flashy clothing. (Islam101.com)  Most rules regarding the Islamic dress code and the verses from the Qur’an that they have been derived from have been interpreted differently by different people. This is why that there is a diverse world of
views and opinions on whether women should wear the hijab or not, or to what extent. This will be touched upon in further detail later in this book.

 Modesty can be defined as “regard for decency of behaviour, speech, dress, etc.” or even “the lack of vanity” (TheFreeDictionary.com) Contrary to popular belief, modesty is not about “how much skin is too much?” or “How much can I leave uncovered until I get into trouble?”  It is certainly much more than what you wear or how you look.  Modesty means acting towards others in a way that is humble and compassionate. Modesty means avoiding vanity and striving to be pure in your thoughts, in your words and in your actions. It means dressing yourself in a way that not only makes you comfortable, but protects you from unwanted catcalls and lustful stares.  Of course, it is not a women’s sole responsibility for what goes on inside a man’s head, but she can certainly make a big impact through the way she dresses, speaks, and carries herself.  Men are accountable for their own thoughts and actions, and they too are expected to practice modesty in all spheres of life.  Ask yourself: “What impact do I want my personality and my appearance to have? What message am I trying to convey to everyone around me?” It is through the very concept of modesty that the hijab tries to make a positive change in society.

Why wear it?

The first important thing to understand about why women wear the hijab is that there is not one universal reason behind choosing to veil oneself. There can be multiple reasons for different people based on what they choose to believe or interpret. Some say the verses in the Qur’an indicate that they are obligated to cover their heads and chests. Others believe that practicing wearing the hijab is the best way to exercise modesty. Some wear it in order to stand as a symbol of their religion, to stand out from a crowd. A lot of people wear the hijab because it makes them feel more confident. Many claim that while wearing the hijab, the feel they aren’t being judged for their looks and rather for their manners, personality or intellect. Most of all, women wear the hijab because they like it, and they want to wear it. The bottom line is; women use the hijab and wear it for a multitude of reasons, each helping a woman grow and succeed in a different way. An article from UK’s Telegraph Newspaper that reads “Feminism, fashion and religion: Why Muslim women choose to wear the veil” beautifully illustrates the point I am trying to make. In the article, numerous women share their reasons for practicing the hijab on Reddit, a popular social media platform: A user named ‘Captain Monkee’ writes:  ”I like to use it to promote feminism, however it is very hard to express it because of how people view it. There ARE a lot of women who are forced to wear it, and I think that’s really wrong, no matter how religious or what country. The hijab is forced in some places in the world, or by certain people – especially men in many cases. I will not deny this. This is not feminism. I want to take this hijab and make it my own. First choose if I even want to cover or not. Define WHY and HOW. I will choose what colours I will wear. What materials. Not just black and white.”

This highlights the freedom that a woman has when she is wearing the hijab. She decides what she wants to do with it. After all, it is HER body, HER head, and HER choice. No one should be forced to do something they do not want to. The user ‘Pharmersmarket’ writes: “I genuinely like wearing it. It makes me feel put together and confident in a weird way. Maybe because it does take a certain level of courage to visibly separate yourself from normal society. To start wearing a hijab I had to stop caring about what other people thought and now I can be proud of that. (6) 10 “It definitely doesn’t stop street harassment, but men do treat you with a bit more respect. I don’t think it’s right to treat a girl differently because of how she’s dressed but it does happen.

She focuses more on what she believes defines being Muslim, or rather helps send a message to others around her. She also emphasises that in the end of the day, it’s a choice; you do it if you want to, or don’t do it. Another user ‘Boggle_leged’, who states she is a lawyer, begins:

“I, as well as most Muslims I know in the West, am not fond of the burka or niqab here, because it could expose an individual to unnecessary harm and harassment. Since there are strong religious opinions that permit just the hijab without covering the face, I personally feel that it is a better choice. (7) 11 In the end, however, as long as that individual has made the decision independently and knows why she is doing something, I respect her decision.” An important thing to note is that the only reason that she is not in favour of other women wearing the burka or niqab is that she feels it causes unnecessary “harm and harassment” to women. I believe that this is something that should be changed. Everyone has a choice to wear what they feel like and express themselves in whatever way they choose, so long as they do not cause any form of harm or hurt to anyone around them. Yet another user, possessing the screen name ’474064′, says: “Personally, I love wearing the hijab. Nobody could pay me enough to take it off. It honestly liberates me because I get to choose how much of myself I reveal to the public. It’s awesome. I have drawers full of a variety of vibrant colours and prints. I match them with my outfits and wear a different style every day. It’s kind of like a beautiful, religious fashion statement.” These are some of the many reasons behind why different women from different parts of the world feel the need to wear the hijab. I hope they not only help in understanding the concept behind the veil better, but also serve to inspire and enlighten.

 next week: different types of veils

on playing and giving, winter spring summer and fall

service

 

These past couple of months I often heard people refer to “the season of giving.”  The holidays seem to bring this out in people more than at other times.  It made me wonder, why is there only one season for giving?  Why limit ourselves?  There are opportunities to give every single day, 365 days a year.  Sometimes I think people equate giving with money only.  Sure money helps a lot but money won’t keep an elementary school kid from being teased or a middle school kid from feeling lonely or a high school kid from feeling overwhelmed or a college student from feeling lost or a new mom from feeling exhausted or a father from feeling pressure or a teacher from feeling unvalued or a grandparent from feeling forgotten. Perhaps the most important thing we each can give is, simply, kindness.

Still, thinking kind thoughts, wonderful as they are, is not enough.  Your smile, your compliment, your acknowledgment of another is action, real action that you can take that will impact another.  Similarly, thinking about poverty, homelessness, gender violence, global warming, etc. isn’t enough.  It’s a place to start.  The issues sound so big and we’re left feeling that there is nothing we can do that will really make an impact.  There is this pervasive belief that we’re all too busy.  We’re already pulled in a thousand directions– who has time to take on world hunger?  Sometimes I hear from other parents that kids need to be kids and have more time to play and shouldn’t be burdened with the harsh realities of the world around them just yet.  So they play a lot of sports and a lot of electronic games.  I love play! Love, love, love sports! And I still think we have time to care about others and give.  Recently I was watching my son and his friend laugh together while sitting side by side on the couch playing games on their devices.  I so love hearing the laughter but after an hour of this they seemed caught in a zone. I asked them if they wanted to take on a challenge.  Knowing me and my ways, they were instantly suspicious!  They took a chance and said, sure– bring it on.  I placed 5 food items in front of them and asked them to create a winning appetizer. My son’s friend hasn’t cooked much and began to get agitated.  He had no idea what to make. He stared at the ingredients for a long time.  5 random things.  We started to talk about food choices and how many we have and how we take it for granted that meals come easily to us.  Most of us. I asked the boys if they had any idea how much money the 5 ingredients before them might cost.  They were shocked when we figured it out.  We started to talk about the poverty line and how people can possibly manage to live on $1.25 a day in this country. They asked how kids living below the poverty line get lunch at school.  Fact is, more than half of American kids who attend public school rely on a meal at school for the only one they’ll get.  As my son and his friend talked and had fun while creating their culinary masterpieces they were thinking about hunger and poverty.  Then we talked about action, what could they do, how could they give of themselves to someone who is cold, hungry, homeless in our own community.  And so it begins…

There ARE things we can do.  Kids can volunteer at local shelters for certain needs.  You know that laughter coming from the couch of two boys playing electronic games?  What if those boys went to the shelter with some hot chocolate and sat with someone there and  played with them for an hour?  It’s a simple act, requiring no real money.  What if that smile shared felt so good that they went back again another evening?  I can honestly tell you that giving from your heart is just as addictive as video games or the adrenaline rush from a perfect shot on the court.  We can play and learn.  We can play and think about others.  We can play with others who don’t have much of a chance for play.  We can play and give.

It’s the little bits of good that each of us can do that truly can overwhelm the world.  Every day, every season…

P.S. the boys made the most delicious crostini with toasted marshmallow, basalmic-infused sun dried tomatoes!

Imagine.

#orangeURhood

#orangeurhood

It’s TakeActionTuesday– and the beginning of #16days of Activism against Gender Violence. During this time we ask you to join with us, UNwomen.org and SayNoToViolence.org as we raise awareness and call for the elimination of violence against women and girls around the world.  Last year, the UNiTE campaign launched a global call for action to “Orange the World in 16 Days.”  The initiative aimed to create the symbolic image of a world free from violence against women and girls. The color orange is a uniting theme for all the events surrounding the UNiTE campaign, and is a bright and optimistic color, representative of a world free from violence against women and girls. At thinkpeace workshop for girls, orange represents many things, especially during this month of World Kindness, Tolerance and the campaign to stop gender-based violence.  Please put your orange on for the next #16days and make your statement!

#TheCall

Over the next 16 days we will be posting on facebook actions that you can take in your community. Today’s actions are:

Organize a walk with local government officials to mark the 16 Days of Activism. Wear orange t-shirts and carry orange banners, posters and balloons. Use the opportunity to engage members of your local community and raise awareness of violence against women and girls.
Share information about violence against women and girls with your local community and invite them to pledge to support the UNiTE campaign.
 ☮ Turn your profile picture orange for the duration of the 16 Days! Whether you’re on Twitter or on Facebook, it’s easy for you to turn your current profile picture orange.  Check out the overlay design on Twibbon. Go to http://twibbon.com/search and type in “#Orangeurhood in #16days”.
 ☮ Turn your emails orange! Write your emails in orange text, and put the following line on the bottom:  Wonder why this email is orange? Because it’s the International Day to End Violence against Women. Find out more at http://unwomen.org.
 As we orange our hood in New York, #orangeurhood by photoshopping landmarks from your neighborhood orange, and share them on social media via the hashtags #orangeurhood and #16days.

At thinkpeace workshop for girls we believe that violence against women and girls is a violation of human rights and a serious global issue that is preventable.  It is NOT okay that 35% of women and girls globally experience some form of physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime with up to seven in ten women facing this abuse in some countries.  The UN has stated that “Violence against women and girls impacts on, and impedes, progress in many areas, including poverty eradication, combatting HIV and AIDS, and peace and security.  Violence against women and girls has enormous social and economic costs for individuals, families, communities and societies and has a significant impact on development and the realization of sustainable development goals.”  Together we can Say No to Violence. Start today.

Imagine.

 

 

 

so you want to change the world?

you can change the world

The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems. –Mahatma Gandhi

I was at a party last year, telling friends that I was excited about a class I was taking. After lots of “good for you” and “wow, that’s great” comments, someone asked what the class was called. I proudly said, “How to Change the World.” There was laughter. Eye rolling. Even a little snickering. And then someone said–out loud– “You really think YOU can change the world?”

Yes, I do.

I can change the world because I believe in the ripple effect. What change I want must start with me. It takes real action to create change. It takes steps…

1. Change yourself.
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
Holding onto negative thoughts like anger and jealousy, keep us from fully engaging in the real work of creating change in the world. When we change ourselves, let forgiveness, compassion and positive thinking take hold, it opens us up to all kinds of possibilities. The world around us changes because we radiate positive energy! Honestly, so often it is our own ego that gets in the way of changing the world. So many of us think that we are “not enough” or that someone else is “better than” us. What if we decided that we are enough and that comparing ourselves to others only leads to more problems and conflicts– what if we could shake those feelings off?
2. You are in control.
“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
That whole comparison thing we do eats away at our potential for happiness and real difference making. You can choose to dwell on negative feelings or wishes that your life was different. You have control over these thoughts. What if you choose to think of yourself in a more positive way? What if your own thoughts, ideas and actions mattered the most to you? What if you could look in the mirror and say, “I matter.”
3. Forgive and let it go.                                                                                                                                              “An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”                                                          Have you ever wanted someone else to hurt as much as you have been hurt? Fighting evil with evil won’t help anyone. Hurt is hurt, no matter what. I remember when Malala Yousafzai was asked about seeking revenge on the men who shot her… “I’ve always been a daydreamer, and sometimes in lessons my mind would drift and I’d imagine that on the way home a terrorist might jump out and shoot me on those steps. I wondered what I would do. Maybe I’d take off my shoes and hit him, but then I’d think if I did that there would be no difference between me and a terrorist. It would be better to plead, ‘OK, shoot me, but first listen to me. What you are doing is wrong. I’m not against you personally, I just want every girl to go to school.” You can always choose how to react to something. Forgiveness can open us up to endless possibilities to move forward. Living with negative memories won’t help; you’ll probably just cause yourself more suffering which will keep you from taking action to heal the world.                                                                                                            4. Without action you aren’t going anywhere.                                                                                        “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”                                                                   I have this amazing friend who is a Priestess. The thing that makes her so amazing is that she not only preaches, literally, but she also PRACTICES. Every. Single. Day. And the thing that makes her beyond amazing is that she actually practices by the ounce! People are always saying “What can I do, I’m just one person, one vote, one insignificant voice.” I see people posting on Facebook daily about things that stir their souls, break their hearts, anger their sense of justice. I’ve done it myself. I read articles and books on social injustice and I post, post, post. When I realized that posts were being “liked” and no action was being taken, I thought more about what my goals were. My Priestess friend preaches about concrete actions that can be taken and takes them herself. Sometimes they are small actions. Sometimes they are huge! An ounce here, a pound there… it adds up to a whole lot of good work getting done.

I took that class, “How to Change the World” and read and studied issues facing the world. The best part of each week’s class came when the professor said, “Okay, so now you have read about the issue and studied it in depth. Now, what are you going to do about it?”
It’s so easy to say that we’re doing our bit to change the world by “raising awareness.” And yes, awareness needs to be raised! AND then what? I think that to really create change, to understand yourself and your world, you need to practice. Books, articles, workshops, classes can mostly just bring you knowledge. You have to take action and translate that knowledge into understanding and results. Ounce by ounce.
5. Everyone is human.
“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”
Remember that thing about not “being enough” or someone else being “better than”? This being human thing means that each of us has strengths and weaknesses. There’s such a tendency to elevate others to some mythical status of perfection. When we put others on pedestals it automatically makes us lower, or less, and creates a lack of connection between us. What if we could believe that each of us has value? What if we accepted that we all are human? What if we knew that being human means making mistakes and having successes? What if I could celebrate you AND celebrate me, recognizing that we are different in many ways and commonly human no matter what? Instead of beating yourself up over mistakes that you have made, look with a bit of clarity where you went wrong and what you can learn from your mistake, with no comparison to others. And then try again.
6. Persist.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Be persistent. Find what you really like to do, what you feel compelled to do, what you want really do. Then you’ll find the inner motivation to keep going, going and going. When we know ourselves and trust that we are absolutely enough– the next step is persistence. Real change in the world will come when we persist in our work. Many times, when the self-doubt and inner sabotaging sets in, I have been tempted to give up. These are the moments when it’s vital to dig deeper. There aren’t magic wands or quick fixes to the world’s greatest challenges… it takes work. It takes rolling up the sleeves, getting sweaty and dirty, opening up our hearts and minds and making the commitment to persist. After a while you will not be ignored. You will not be laughed at. You will not be fought. Because your persistence will have opened someone else’s heart and mind and they will join you, in their own way.
7. See the good in people and help them.
“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”
Growing up my mom would often tell me that there was always something good in everyone. I absolutely believe that in my heart. People have rolled their eyes over that conviction many times throughout my life and some have even gone so far as to try to prove it wrong. Human rights atrocities around the world can really mess with this belief I continue to hold. When I focus on the bad it seems too big to change. By shifting my focus to the good it becomes easier to motivate myself and others to be of service. By being of service to other people, by acknowledging their value, seeing the good in them, you make their lives better and your own. In time, the people you help may feel more inclined to help other people. Together we can create an upward spiral of positive change that grows and becomes stronger. What if we lived each day with kindness and respect? What if we focused on the good in people?
8. Be authentic; be your true self.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
So this is the big one. We live in this Facebook world now, where what we put out to the world is what we want the world to see. Some people are full of love and hope. Some people want others to see the bad stuff. Some people want to showcase themselves. Some people share things that lift them up, or bring them down, or twist them around. The point is, does your “Facebook world” reflect who you really are? Is your Facebook world authentic? If you can’t sleep at night because you’re worried about the unethical treatment of animals or the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls, are you finding ways to take action? Are you walking the walk, not just talking the talk? People really like authentic communication. And there is much inner enjoyment to be found when your thoughts, words and actions are aligned. You feel powerful and good about yourself. Then the most amazing thing happens! Your VOICE is heard. People will be motivated to do more than press the “like” button. They will listen to what you’re saying. You are communicating without mixed messages or perhaps a sort of phoniness. When your actions aren’t in alignment with what you’re communicating you start to hurt your own belief in what you can do and other people’s belief in you too. Let your voice be truly heard!
9. Continue to grow and evolve.
”Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.”
A good friend of mine in college was a serious Conservative– swimming alone in a sea of very vocal Liberals. Knowing him changed my life. He challenged me daily, and himself.  He was there to grow. He was there to listen and evolve.  By sharing our differences we discovered our similarities. Though we had opposing belief systems, we stayed open minded and curious and were able to learn more about ourselves and the world. We helped each other see that there is more than one way, one position. In a fast-changing world it’s important to keep taking in new information. It’s also vital that we understand that each of us is important to the work of changing the world. I want to share the job with you. We are capable of so much. I starts right here, right now, with me, with you.

So, you want to change the world? What steps will you take?

give me the facts sista’: water

Director’s note: Second in her series about the issues facing girls (and the world) today, GARMIN talks water. Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation  kill more people each year than all forms of violence combined, including war. thinkpeace workshop has just contributed 10,000 paper beads made for the Students Rebuild water challenge, in partnership with charity:water. That translates into a contribution from the Bezos Family Foundation of water for 500 people in Tanzania.  Water truly effects everything– education, health, poverty and opportunity. Imagine.

 

charity: water

When my doctor tells me I need to drink more water in order to get healthier faster, I groan. Hearing that I need to drink more water is last on my list of priorities, however for many girls, women, and children in developing countries water is the first on their list. Access to clean and drinkable water is one of top global health crises today, in fact so much that it effects 1 billion people. Yes, you read that right. 1 billion people. The facts are clear.

Check out this video by one of the organizations helping to bring clean drinking water to those without it, charity:water

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I’ve watched this video a number of times and what gets me every time is the fact that water affects every aspect of life. In most cases girls and women are the ones who are collecting the water for their families. Having to collect water puts their education on the back burner and often times forces them to drop out of school. Last week we talked about the importance of education and how it changes the quality of life for girls and women. That change can’t happen if girls are focused on obtaining water. When the strain of collecting water is diminished, two HUGE things happen for those communities: food supply increases and gender equality is now an option. Fresh water is needed to grow crops and for many families having enough water to grow their own small garden increases their food supply. Secondly, when girls are no longer burdened with collecting water they can either go to school or have the option of pursuing work. Either of those two options helps their own families and then their communities. Engaging women in work increases the GDP of a country and helps an area become more economically stable. While obtaining the funds to build systems to provide clean drinking water is not cheap there is a solution.

Later this summer at camp we will talk about ways to engage you in being part of the solution!

46 days until camp!!!

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 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.

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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