Category: Work (page 2 of 11)

why’d you only call me when you’re high?

  1. This has been a strange summer so far: days where the wind rages and the sky threatens to thunderstorm and spit rain at us like seeds from a fruit’s mouth, and then days like today where the sun rages down and is a bit unkind with its glare and you feel as though it doesn’t matter how quickly the fan turns, your body will never cool down enough, will never stop burning, and you think you can almost see the way in which the heat rises off of you.
  2. I love that summertime means mangoes, but it also means watermelons and watermelon juice and the careful picking-spitting out of seeds.
    DSC_0021

    my breakfast.

    When we were little, I was far too lazy to spit out the watermelon seeds and I’d swallow them with the rest of the pulp. My brother told me that I’d grow a watermelon tree out of my stomach, the branches reaching out through my ears and little watermelons for earrings. I believed him, so I swallowed them all- even the ones I’d unconsciously picked out.

  3. Irritation has been easy to come by this month. It is usually in cahoots with anger and frustration. I am not always sure of how to handle it, especially when I feel compelled to respond to peoples’ ignorance and blind-spots. I’ve been good this week about biting my tongue and letting my eye-rolls be enough of a response. It isn’t my job to educate someone, it isn’t my job to make you realise you have on blinders the size of the bloody moon.
  4. On that note, I’m really; really irritated by the constant decontextualisation of violence, how it ignores any structural analysis when reporting on violence against women. This piece on the recent gang-rape and hanging of two girls in rural Uttar Pradesh (a state in India) is shocking in its lack of analysis and contextualisation. It doesn’t even allude to the fact that these girls were from Dalit families (no, having it in the bloody tags is not the same) and that casteism is still an issue in India, that it is linked into to issues of power and power over. It is linked in to issues of access, of infrastructure, of whether a police report is taken or not. To pretend otherwise, isn’t just short-sighted; it’s beyond shoddy reporting. It’s this kind of poor journalism on issues around gender based violence (exacerbated by/intersecting with other socio-economic factors) that leads to immensely pointless and deeply offensive shit (pun intended) like this piece of idiocy. It doesn’t even take into account that over half of the country’s population doesn’t havaccess to toilets and to proper sewage systems and are forced to defecate in public. This is an issue of caste and class and gender and to pretend that it’s as easy as telling someone not to poo in public- people don’t do this because they get some thrill out of it- without considering the larger structural inequities is galling, to say the least. Also note how the UNICEF video doesn’t even really focus on women’s access to toilets- gender blind does not mean it is affirming or that it isn’t a problem or that it’s somehow progressive (*eyeroll*). Just think about the number of girls who do not go to schools because of their periods. Or the two Dalit girls who were gang raped and hanged when they ventured out into the dark fields to relieve themselves.
  5. Also, since Newsweek’s piece on Somaly Mam has taken the criticism and questioning of Mam’s work to the mainstream, organisations that once endorsed and championed her have been quick to dissociate. Not many have offered an explanation or a response around this, and this is a problem for development work as a whole. It ignores the questions and the very valid criticisms that have been levelled against AFESIP and the ways of working, the problematic framing, and seeks to sweep so much of this ‘dirt’ under the rug. I understand implications of funding and larger discomfort around how it affects one’s work and the image of one’s work; but I believe it’s far more important for development spaces as a whole to admit failure, to admit to being wrong, to own up to it, and to learn from it. It’s essential to think about the issues around this and to address them so that this doesn’t happen again. I also can’t help but think these questions have been around for a long, long time- why is it only now that a mainstream publication has printed this (excellently researched) piece that actions are being taken?
  6. On a related note, Maya Angelou passed away and my timelines and feeds have been full of her amazing words and her wonderful histories. I especially love her in this piece -I find it so very inspirational:

    What I find disrespectful and frankly, wrong, about the tributes is the invisibilisation of Dr. Angelou’s many avatars and identities. Especially the one of her as a former sex-worker.

  7. Dr. Angelou exhorts us to ‘pick up the battle’- and I feel this is true not just for our activisms, but also for our selves. I’ve shied away from actively writing (beyond this blog and/or work-related things) and claiming that for myself, I’ve shied away from writing in forms that I’m not quite as comfortable in (fiction, poetry, long-form); but I recently did write a piece of ‘poetry’ that I’m not deeply unhappy with. I suppose that’s progress on one of my own internal battles. You can read it in the second edition of Paper & Ink, a zine put together by the wonderful Mr. Martin.  I urge/plead with you to please, please, please buy a copy. I promise you it’s filled with goodness and magic. You ought to submit something for the third edition.
  8. My May Music Project was to listen to entire Nirvana discography. I don’t know how this thing started out, but I was nostalgic for the time when I would listen to bands and know every song lyric and all this random stuff about them. I’m not looking to go back to that painfully irritating version of myself (also, bloody hell; what a waste of time. I don’t have the time or the brain space for this anymore) but I do miss listening to music and just.. that. I also miss listening to entire albums, not just a random track I like; but understanding it in the entirety of its creation.
  9. I’m also finally making headway on a project I’ve been wanting to do for a while. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time now, and I’ve been throwing this idea around with a few people- online and in other spaces- and when the news of Dr. Angelou’s passing broke and my TL was filled with her words; I was stuck on her last tweet. The phrase ‘the quietude’ stood out. It galvanised me into action, into actually working on the idea rather than just talking about it. I’m hoping to make more progress on it as things ease up on me a bit. I realise I’m being a bit vague, but hold tight: there’ll be lots more soon.
  10. We’re halfway through the year already. I say this ever so often, but where the hell did time go? I realise I’ve spent more of this year on a plane than I expected to, but I suppose; no matter how much your circumstances change, some things remain exactly the same.

tomorrow is a long time

un_name_rn_2014

I struggled with writer’s block (I don’t know if I can still call it that if I don’t actually write anymore), jet lag, exhaustion, and ridiculous hours of flying to try and come up with something halfway decent to say at the High Level Debate. It wasn’t the greatest thing I’ve ever written and it doesn’t fully capture my thoughts and opinions; but it’s a fairly decent first attempt. I’ve been thinking about all the things I left out and didn’t think to say and all that I believe in and I wish I could’ve had a bit longer to think it all through, but I suppose this is what it is and I’ve just got to deal.

The video of the full debate it available here, and I speak (really fast!) at roughly about an hour and fifty minutes in; after the Indonesian Parliamentarian. You can read my remarks (more or less) by downloading this PDF: Youth, SRHR, Dev_v.3.

I’m actually most proud of the fact that I draped my sari by myself (after last minute pointers from my mum before I jumped on my flight to NYC) and that I didn’t do too bad of a job with it.

IMG_20140415_191801

after the debate & after battling a particularly strong gust of wind…

I stayed on for the actual Commission and the related-civil society events that took place. I have a fair number of mixed feelings about everything: from being there to issues of ownership to issues of legitimacy to issues of ‘what the fuck’.

There is always the post-event letdown that makes you a bit melancholy, makes you a bit blurry around the edges. Throw in jet lag, utter exhaustion, and a deep sense of betrayal and I’m not sure I have any edges left; I’m not sure I’m solid as much as I am quickly disappearing into nothingness.

It has been an eventful few days and I am still trying to wrap my head around it all; still trying to make sense of what actually happened; how I feel about it all; and where I stand now- how much I have moved away, and how much I have walked away from it.

It is always difficult to walk away from something you have always loved, always believed in. It’s especially hard to walk away when it betrays you in the worst possible way. When it looks at you and tells you that everything you thought was true and good and beautiful and right about it was a lie. When you look around you and you realise that you were the only one naïve enough to think that this was any different from all the other things in the world.

Betrayal stings.

I’ve written before, quite opaquely, about some of the things that bother me about the SRHR ‘movement’. Since I first voiced my issues with it, I’ve gotten more cynical; more distressed by it and I realise that I am at a point where I have moved away from saying anything constructive, from contributing to shifting things to a positive space. I realise I only bring negativity with me now; only bring frustration and irritation and sharp questions that poke rather than gently prod.

I’m not sure about how to be constructive about my criticisms anymore. I’m not sure that I can be. I am increasingly convinced of the need to openly challenge some of the systems of bullshit that we operate within; for the desperate need to call each other out and hold each other accountable to the so-called principles we profess to hold true, to actively question and peel back our assumptions; our truths.

The question is not about the issues- it is not about whether sexual rights, abortion, women’s rights, gender equality, sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, young peoples’ rights, comprehensive sexuality education- the entire gamut of things that SRHR includes- is important; is true; is valid- of course they are. The question is about those of us who work on these issues, who champion it, who wear their ‘activist’ / ‘advocate’ tags with pride, who wave the flags, who have forgotten what it is to self-reflect; what it means to stand in ‘solidarity'; what it means to not be a hypocritical little cow. It’s time we hold ourselves accountable to it too; our movement is struggling; is stifled because we refuse to.

I’m not sure about how to go about addressing this. I’m not sure I have the right to even say these things. I’m not sure I ought to- there are so many delicate processes and tensions that abound right now: will I jeopardise something by saying something now? Will I jeopardise the bigger picture by remaining silent?

I am afraid of being shut down, of not being heard, of destroying something rather than re-creating. Of breaking something open before it was ready to be shattered.

For now, perhaps it is best that I take a step back; that I reflect on what frustrates me; that I identify the fissures and the cracks in our spaces. Perhaps it is best that I understand it before I try to transform it.

{shameless plug} of decisions & things to say

Over the years, I’ve written a little bit about my work and what I do but have generally stayed away from going into too much detail.  Not for any particular reason, but it can get difficult quite quickly and I kind of wanted this to be a safer, more relaxed space for me.

IMG_20140402_233401

It’s always been difficult to answer ‘What do you do?’ with a simple ‘international advocacy’and have it actually mean something. I’ve been working with UN agencies for pretty much my entire career (not like I’ve been doing this for decades or anything- I realise how pretentious it all sounds) and I’ve done UN advocacy for nearly four years now. Those of you who know me fairly well, know that I have strong and complicated feelings/opinions about the UN; making my interactions with UN agencies rather fraught with caution, hyper-aware political lenses, and a heartening measure of ‘understanding bureaucracy’. I do believe that UN policies and advocacy at the UN has its value and meaning and place, no matter how frustrated and angry and disheartened I get with the entire process.

In December 2012, I wrote a little bit about how I co-chaired the Global Youth Forum. The resulting Declaration is one of the things I’m most proud of in my working life so far. It isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a pretty good attempt at articulating a vision of a more just and a more equitable world. It was an honour to be a part of that process and I feel that it’s one of those things that I’ll always fight for until we can improve on it, until we can make it better.

IMG_20140402_232444

Just over a week and a bit ago, I was asked to speak at a UN High Level Event and I spent a couple of days agonising over the decision. It wasn’t just because of my mixed feelings about the UN (not at all, actually) but because I had questions around my own legitimacy (who am I to speak?), ownership (who do I speak for?), and some lingering discomfort with the fact that I don’t actually work for an organisation any more, so who would I be accountable to; who is my constituency; and other really important questions that I needed to ask myself.

My ambition was at war with my principles.

I spoke with old friends from the movement and with colleagues whose politics and principles I have far more faith in than I have in my own. I spoke to my mum about how she always said that my ambition was my worst quality. I stayed up all night worrying about betraying things I believed in and whether I ought to just do it because I wanted to rather than because of anything else. In the end, my reasons for why I accepted the invitation are almost irrelevant to everyone but me; but it was important that I think about it and consider it and make a decision on my own terms.

I’ve been freaking out thinking about what to say and how to say it, obsessing over sentence construction and word placement. I’m nowhere near ready and I don’t actually have a speech or anything and I can’t remember the last time I was so terrified of something I had to do. I have a really long plane ride to work out what to say and hopefully, it’ll be somewhat sensible and mostly useful. And hopefully, by the end of it, I’ll still know I made the right decision.

If you have nothing better to do on Friday the 4th; I’ll be banging on about sexualities, autonomies, human rights, and development at some point between 0900 and 1030 am (New York time) on this link: http://webtv.un.org/

I’ll be the little Indian girl in the sari.

Older posts Newer posts