2017 – A BETTER WAY!

Rabia Siddique is a criminal and human rights lawyer, a retired British Army officer, a former terrorism and war crimes prosecutor, a professional speaker, trainer, MC, facilitator and published author. And we are blessed to have Rabia as an Ambassador for 100 Women.


In her blog for us, she shares resolutions that she hopes you too will derive inspiration and empowerment from and take at least some of them into your thoughts, words and actions this year.


Whilst it may be March it’s still not too late to see 2017 as the year filled with opportunities to inform, educate and unite our communities. We need to reach out to everyone, especially the disenfranchised. We can do this if we are prepared to live a life beyond ourselves. Let’s engage without judgement to live in harmony with our humanitarian essence. This should be the new global movement that we all work towards.’


Recently the United Nations Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth published ’10 New Year’s Resolutions to Help Change The World’.


The 10 Resolutions have been inspired by real people who are working every day to change the world.


1. Start at home
The world’s problems seem so colossal, it can be hard to know where to start. But sometimes, the best place to begin is in one’s own community. Izdihar and her 15-year-old daughter, Saba, did just that.

Child marriage has dramatically increased among Syrian refugees in Jordan, as families struggle with poverty and insecurity. “If an entire family lives in one caravan – the mother, the father and several children – then it is easier to give one child to another family as a bride,” said Izdihar, who lives in the Zaatari refugee camp.

She and Saba started to intervene, convincing girls to reject child marriage and urging parents to send their daughters to school instead.

“When a girl gets an education and a diploma, she has a chance to get a good job instead of a husband who controls her,” Saba said.


2. Work together
Huge challenges can be overcome with teamwork. This was proved by the villagers of a remote community from the Amazon rainforest when they collaborated to create a water ambulance they called, ‘the Health Canoe.’

Pregnant women in this remote area had long struggled to access health care, so community members pooled their resources to buy an old boat and fit it out as a water ambulance to provide transport to the nearest clinic.

“If a woman misses a prenatal care appointment, it is easy to find her and give her the right support so she can get the medical care she needs,” said Dr. Palma Vélez, from the Puerto El Carmen Health Centre.


3. Believe in yourself
Believe in your ability to change the world. Even a small act can have a snowball (or ripple) effect, making a huge difference.

Take for example the action of 11 year-old Sibongile Majaura who was turned away from school for non-payment of fees. With the help of a girls’ club mentor, who gave her a package of corn snacks, Sibongile opened her own business.

Sibongile exchanged the snacks for maize, which she sold for $15. This money was used to buy two hens which had chicks that were sold for $5 each. Within a month, Sibongile earned enough to pay for school fees, buy a uniform and stationery.

Today, she makes enough to pay the school fees for herself and her brother as well as buy essential items for her family.

“What our daughter has done is a miracle to us,” her mother said.


4. Be a pioneer
Sometimes, the key is a little creative thinking.
At a hackathon in Namibia, a group of young techies spent 24 hours dreaming up – and building – technology-based ways to combat gender-based violence. Within just a day, they had invented eight high-tech projects to help women report violence, record evidence for authorities and coordinate the work of a real-life welfare agency.

“Technology can be a powerful force that opens exciting opportunities,” said Beaton Nyamapandi, one of the young hackathon participants.


5. Listen more
Solutions emerge when we take the time to listen.

Until recently, when indigenous women in the Peruvian town of Vilcashuamán went to the clinic to give birth they were forced to abandon their childbirth traditions. As a result, these women found the health system unwelcoming and felt their treatment was undignified. “When a woman went into labour, she was told to take off her clothes. But for an indigenous or rural woman, it is not easy to get undressed in front of strangers,” said Clelia Rivera, leader of an indigenous women’s association.

The indigenous women’s association worked with the United National Population Fund (UNFPA) to convince health officials to accommodate indigenous traditions at the clinic. Today, women can receive care in their native language, they can drink maté during labour and they can even give birth upright, which is “faster, safer, less painful and more humane,” said Dr. Marlene Saira, a local obstetrician.


6. Draw inspiration from your own life
That’s what Nagham Nawzat did. In 2014, as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS or Daesh) closed in on the Iraqi city of Sinjar, the 38-year-old gynaecologist was forced to flee her home. Her own experience was harrowing, but she quickly learned that many women and girls fared much worse.

Physical abuse, sexual violence and even slavery have been reported, particularly among members of the Yazidi minority.

Dr. Nawzat devoted herself to helping these women and girls, motivated “not only because it’s my duty as a doctor, but also because I witnessed what the survivors go through while I was displaced from my town.”

Today, she works at a centre in Dohuk, Iraq, that specializes in caring for survivors of all forms of gender-based violence.


7. Be a good friend
Friendship can be life-saving.

In a displacement camp in the war-ravaged Central African Republic, Mathilde was struggling to support herself with no partner or parents when she learned she was pregnant. “The father of the child is dead,” she told UNFPA. “I am an orphan, and I don’t have the means to support my pregnancy.”
But she found help from a unique programme called Ita Ouali, which means “My Best Friend.” A mentor from the programme befriended her, helped her receive maternal health care and to find a job. “Today, I am selling donuts, and it is enough to take care of my baby,” Mathilde said.


8. Find support in unexpected places
Everyone can be an ally.

In Far Western Nepal, astrologers, shamans, faith healers and Hindu priests have taken up arms against child marriage. “We not only help people get rid of evil spirits and sickness, but also fight against social evils like child marriage,” said Shyam Bahadur Bhandari, a shaman.

Astrologer and priest Dev Dutta Bhatta uses a girl’s cheena – her astrological chart – to discern her age and then urges her parents to wait until the girl reaches 20 before arranging a marriage. “The birth date mentioned in the cheena is always true, and alerts us to the possibility of child marriages taking place – and the need to stop this from happening,” he said.


9. Don’t give in to fear
Midwife Aber Evaline reported for duty at Juba Teaching Hospital, in South Sudan, hours before a battle engulfed the city. She and her colleagues found themselves on lockdown, with no staff to relieve them.

Although Ms. Aber feared for her life, she was undeterred. Together with two midwifery students, an anaesthetist and medical officer, she worked for five days and nights as bullets and mortars ripped through the streets outside.

Together, she and her team performed 60 vaginal deliveries and seven Caesarean section deliveries, saving many lives in the process.


10. Refuse to despair
Fatuma had every reason to give up: She had been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) as an infant and was married off at 13 years old. The FGM scars made childbirth so excruciating, she is still haunted by the pain. She also suffered dangerous complications after childbirth and then her husband deserted her.

But Fatuma would not allow those trials to break her. She went back to school and raised her daughter as a single mother. And she joined a “married girls’ club,” where she and other former child brides speak out against FGM and child marriage.

“I am a living witness to the unspeakable harms of FGM and child marriage,” she said, “and I will continue to teach my community to spare their daughters this ordeal.”

Be the change we wish to see – start your ripple effect!

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