Category: Work (page 2 of 10)

{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.


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.


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:

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

doctor doctor

I’ve been talking about going back to university to get my PhD for a few years now.

At first, it was just something I said out loud because it was expected of me, because that’s what you say in the first months of unemployment after your MA, because my brother was getting one and I am just as clever as he is, because it sounds like something I’d do, and frankly, because it made me sound smarter than I am; made me sound as though I had big academic dreams. And possibly because this was, at first, someone else’s dream that I received with open hands.

In the five and a half years since my last MA class, I’ve learnt more than I could have possibly imagined. I had to re-learn and un-learn and reject things I had been told and never questioned …and in short, I grew up, I became more critical of the world we live in, more aware of my position and privilege, more understanding of the structures and inequities of our spaces.

My ‘why?’ wasn’t just an enquiry, it was an eroteme drenched in the contexts of who was asking, who wasn’t, what the question was, where it came from, what it wasn’t asking, which words it used… And my ‘why?’ was as much a question as it was a cannonball into everything I had ever held true, ever held as fact, ever held as ‘known’.

I have learnt to embrace this. Swallow my discomfort and walk forward even as the ground beneath my feet is shaking.

I have spent the last year and a half seriously thinking about going back to university, getting my PhD.

I have thought about all the things I know, the thousands of things I have unlearnt, and the huge; gaping black hole of all the not-known. I have grappled with wanting to know everything about everything and one particular thing about something.

I have drafted and redrafted summaries of my proposal in my mind, thought over facets of research and angles that haven’t been covered. I have, tentatively, discussed it with people I trust who have offered points to ponder; criticism to incorporate and encouragement to persevere on. I have surrounded myself with gentleness.

And I’ve come to realise that applying for a PhD is more than what you know, it’s revelling in all that you don’t know, it’s shining a light on the gaps in your knowledge, and it’s about baring your soul.

My research proposal is on community interventions and abortion stigma: things that are close to my heart. Things that prick my soul and make me lie in bed, eyes wide open at well past midnight, pondering a film I saw years ago where the abortion scene was equal parts infuriating and equal parts heartbreaking. I am convinced that it is essential, important, under-funded research.

The difficult part is convincing someone else. There will be no gentleness here.

I’ve been keeping most of this to myself.

PhDs, I’ve been told, are an intensely personal act. You drown yourself in this, your priorities shift and your PhD is always number one.

I’m not sure of the accuracy of this, but I have been floating along with this river for a while now, and land seems far away.

I am ready to dive in.

I submitted an application (in the nick of time) this morning. My first.

I’ve been nervous about it (understandably). Partly because it’s my first application and partly because I’m applying somewhere well beyond my intellectual weight class. I’m afraid people will laugh (at best) or jeer (at worst)- and perhaps they’d be right to. I’m applying there for a number of reasons, not least of which is to know that I tried (and the tiny flicker of hope that I might prove some vague point of ‘good enough’ to myself).

I’ve also been defensive about my choice of research. I suppose I’m sensitive to it- I have spent many cups of tea and twice my body weight in stress-eating on it. But, I have also spent most of my career on this- it isn’t some vague, arbitrary research interest. It has been the entirety of my professional career choice. And it wounds me when it is dismissed, when it is submerged into something else, when it is undervalued. And I have yet to learn to cope with this, to respond in a way that isn’t: a) defensive, and b) a summary of my research proposal to prove just how important it is. I need to realise that I have to hone my argument, my reasoning, my passion- so I can convince the people on the other side of my graduate admissions table. Everyone else’s opinion isn’t quite as important.

I have also been battling a fair bit of annoyance. When I talk about working on my proposal or my applications, people I haven’t had any correspondence with in years feel they have the right to ask me ‘where are you applying?’.

‘None of your goddamn business’, is my default reaction.

I suppose it has something to do with my ‘intellectual weight class’ discomfort, but it also chafes that since we’ve last talked; I’ve lived in three different countries and you have no idea or interest in any of that… but the wheres and wherefores of my university applications are of great interest?

I have been getting better and better at ignoring things I don’t want to respond to. I’ve realised I don’t have to bare my soul for everyone and every thing: just the things I want to drown in.




it has been over a month since my last post. every day, i’ve thought of something to write about; urged myself to blog because i have things to say and too often i go without saying them, i bite my tongue instead or roll my eyes or as i was told quite recently- even if i don’t say it, my face reveals all.

but it only reveals what you perceive and it strips me the ability to think about what i want to say and say it exactly that way: thought over for maximum impact and point and not waffling and circling, ums and er, and rhetoric aside: just exactly what i want to say without you as an intermediary to interpret my every expression.

sometimes i think about x and roll my eyes or sigh or smirk or not look at someone, even in the middle of a conversation or a presentation or when i drown out the sound of your voice with the dimples in x’s cheeks.

it’s been over a month since i have said something. so, instead of using my own words; here is something else:

the sun sets in Kota Kinabalu. 17/11/13, taken on Nexus 4, no filter.

the sun sets in Kota Kinabalu. 17/11/13, taken on Nexus 4, no filter.

And this song:
Valerie June – Twined & Twisted

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