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MWC – Sufia Kamal

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I was lucky to be chosen for a mobility engagement from EY that sent me to Bangladesh to work with an international NGO focusing on “Women’s Economic Empowerment through Strengthening Market Systems” WEESMS.

Enjoy the travel diaries on Youtube as below!

 

 

 

What Islam REALLY says about women UNMASKED! This sheikh says:
“You should ask the question, when men are married how can they teach and learn?
Because in Islam, men have the responsibility, not the women… In Islamic law, men have to provide accommodation and expenses. Women just sit around and do nothing. Women are free anyway! In Islamic law, women are free. It is men who should be worried and concerned about responsibilities post marriage. In Islamic law the duty of the house is for the men. That includes food. The women have only one duty in Islam and that is to teach. Ask any madhahb. And after marriage that becomes easier. Husband takes care of the house and women teach and learn – but we don’t recognise this!
When women do some of those work for us, when they cook your food – they are doing you a favour! And we never thank them! It is not her duty – it is your duty!”
*insert sacrcasm* No wonder it is incompatible with the western world!!!
Why aren’t lectures like this – that happen in almost every mosque or muslim gathering in the world – shown on TV?
All you need to do is broaden google searches and newsfeed settings to see the consistently amazing, knowledeable and overall badass women that have guided Islam and Muslims through millenia!

We have started a charity called Sitara’s Story in Canberra, Australia.
Our first campaign partners with “Identity Inlcusion” in Bangladesh to raise funds for mental health awareness training directed at young girls and women in Bangladesh. The aim is to prevent stories like this.

Join us to help build strong women who can achieve their potential.

Media misrepresentation.

On 16 October 2017, Rachel Bexendale of The Australian wrote an article about Plan international’s misleadingly pairing Education Minister Simon Birmingham as part of their #girlstakeover Program.

The article describes me as a “32-year-old Muslim activist”. An activist is “a person who campaigns to bring about political or social change.” An advocate is “a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy”. I support women’s empowerment but am not part of any political party or campaign. Therefore I am an advocate of women’s empowerment but not an activist and certainly not a political one. I do not have, or claim to have, any political affiliations.

Plan admitted to making a mistake in communicating to Senator Birmingham that he would be paired with an “adolescent girl advocate” but at no point was I informed that this was the communication with him. If I had known I would not have proceeded. I attended a two day training with Plan where I vocalised my age but was not asked to withdraw. Instead I was paired with the Senator. I understand this was a genuine mistake and I hold no ill will towards either Plan International or the Senator.

While I agree with the crux of the Senator’s letter, I am disappointed that despite writing “Without wishing to reflect on the woman in question” he proceeded to do just that by stating incorrectly my age and that I am a political activist, but more importantly by assuming that I am “driven by alternative activist motivations” which is wholly untrue. I entered this competition because I believe in the right of all girls regardless of age, appearance, ability, creed and race to be empowered. I looked forward to discussing with the Senator how our Education system could facilitate this.

I am also disappointed that Plan deputy chief executive Susanne Legena’s comment, “Plan is fiercely non-party-political. It’s a mistake we made,” was written in a way that did not clarify that I am non-party-political.

The article indicates I did not respond to a request for comment. The request for comment came via email at 1:36pm on Sunday and stated a 4pm deadline on the same day. I didn’t see the email till 8pm and felt no need to respond if the deadline had passed. I also waited till after the event to post this reply as I did not wish to detract from the importance of the event and the coverage it deserves.

The author chose to misrepresent my online presence by stating that my blog contains posts about implementation of shariah law when in fact the blog post clearly states that the post is lecture notes from an open workshop held at Australian National University (ANU) about what shariah law is. If the author had cared to read the blog post – she would have realised the post states that there is no need for shariah law to be implemented in Australia as Muslim enjoy the full range of rights they require under Australian Law. She goes onto state that I have ‘videos of hairstyle tips to hijabis’. I have A video of hairCARE tips to hijabis. The rush to pen and print a sensationalist story sacrificed the facts. Besides the notes from that workshop, my blog also contains posts on my work with women and girls education, empowerment and health. Posts on Cricket, Korean dramas, charity work, poems and short stories. A decades’ worth of non-Islam related posts were overlooked and only Islam related topics were mentioned to sensationalise the story and further polarise the narrative.

Interestingly, the Huffington Post wote an article, federal education minister Simon Birmingham pulled out, the next day, which covers the same thing in a more straightforward manner (some lessons to be learnt here methinks!). The Huffington post article repeated the use of activist (although kudos to them they removed ‘political’ probably because a quick google search proved otherwise) and in doing so proved that repetition creates reinforcement of an idea, whether it is a fact or not. The Senator’s letter used the words and they were repeated by journalists. The lesson we can take from this, Senator, Journalist or member of the public, is to check our facts before making statements. And being mindful of the impact of what we say or write about a woman or women in general, especially if we exhort to supporting women in the same breath, letter or article.

The crux of the matter is that without confirming who I am and what I represent, I have been misrepresented as a political activist driven by alternative activist motivations to polarise an incident and detract from the real issues and the very important and much needed exposure and platform Plan International is providing young women to nurture their leadership ambitions.

The real issue is that girls do not see themselves represented in leadership roles and thus have decreasing leadership ambitions. Read the report by Plan here. And if my experience is anything to go by – the moment a girl steps into the public space she is judged with an armload of assumptions – so why would girls dare to nurture their leadership ambitions?

The real issue is that a female journalist misused her platform to misrepresent another female. I am not afraid to be known as a Muslim – I am proud of it. I am not upset that she stated I am a Muslim that writes about Islam in the article – I am proud of it. My concern is her lack of journalistic integrity allowed her to capitalise on my faith, and passion for my faith, by sensationalising her article with a focus on that, rather than the incident at hand. Fear of misrepresentation is one of the main reasons girls’ leadership ambitions are not nurtured – especially girls from minority and ethnic backgrounds.

The real issue is that activism has been tainted as a dirty word and something to be afraid of when activism is what has earned women and people of colour the rights they have today. I am not an activist because I do not campaign for, or affiliate with a political party. But if I was to become one – there is no shame in that. Enduring positive impact has to come from within the system and girls and women with leadership ambitions need to advocate for more political activists (regardless of colour, creed, ability and gender) within the existing system who will represent them and provide them with opportunity.

The real issue is that people fear what they do not understand. I am an open book. I come up in Google search results. If you want to know who I am and what I am about – come and talk to me. Don’t sit and make assumptions about who I am and use that as an excuse not to interact with me. This is what creates barriers between classes, genders and religions and the perception of the Other that I have written about previously. Don’t hate – Communicate.

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On October 10th 2017, David Bornstein wrote a piece for the New York Times FIXES section which looks at solutions to social problems and why they work. David Bornstein is the author of “How to Change the World,” which has been published in 20 languages, and “The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank,” and is a co-author of “Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know.” He is a co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, which supports rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.

His piece for the NYT, Giving Capitalism a Social Conscience, is an interview with the amazing Professor Muhammad Yunus. the Bangladeshi founder of the Grameen Bank and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. They discussed, amongst other things, his new book, “A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions”. Below are some statements from Professor Yunus that I found particularly interesting.

  • The most powerful way to eradicate poverty is to unleash the untapped entrepreneurial capacity of people everywhere.
  • Poverty is not created by poor people. It’s created by the system we built. Poor people are like a bonsai tree. You take the best seed from the tallest tree in the forest, but if you put it in a flower pot to grow, it grows only a meter high. There’s nothing wrong with the seed. The problem is the size of the pot. Society doesn’t give poor people the space to grow as tall as everybody else. This is the crux of the matter.
  • Capitalism is in crisis and remains moored in a flawed conception of human motivation. A far more robust role in the economy for social businesses, “non-dividend” companies “dedicated to solving human problems.”
  • We need to abandon our unquestioning faith in the power of personal-profit-centered markets to solve all problems and confess that the problems of inequality are not going to be solved by the natural working of the economy as it is currently structured
  • In capitalist theory, it is assumed that man is entirely driven by self-interest. That’s definitely not the description of a real human being. Human beings are selfish, and at the same time they are equally selfless, if not more. They want to help others.
  • Capitalism is all about options. But in the economic system, there is only one kind of business: business to make money — and it’s made more extreme by saying it produces best results when one maximizes profit.
  • When we introduce the selflessness of people in the business world we get another option. Alongside conventional business, we add another type of business that will allow us to express our selflessness through business. The exclusive goal of this business, which I call social business, is to solve people’s problems.
  • Canadian company McCain Foods wanted to create a social business jointly with us. They have 60 percent of the French fry market in the world. Jointly we are doing a social business in Colombia. Many Colombian farmers struggle to make a living, like in many other countries. Campo Vivo, our social business, helps farmers grow potatoes and vegetables with high yields. Once McCain put on social business glasses, they started seeing new possibilities. They created Bon et Biento buy up these potatoes and produce potato soup. They hire youth who have been unemployed. They could make money from this, but they decided not to — to make the soup and vegetables good and cheap.
  • If you remove the personal profit motive and think only about solving problems, you will suddenly see lots of possibilities that you didn’t see before.
  • If selflessness becomes the driving force behind development of technology instead of personal profit, suddenly technology transforms into an enormously powerful force to change the world very rapidly. Then artificial intelligence will be developed to solve health care problems of people instead of taking away jobs. If you focus on the selfless part of human beings, the whole economy changes.
  • By the end of next year, Grameen America will have lent almost $1 billion to 100,000 borrowers, with repayment remaining nearly 100 percent. Over the next 10 years, Grameen America would like to double from 20 to 40 branches. Even with that modest growth, it can reach 500,000 borrowers by 2028. If more generous funding were available, it could reach a million borrowers. If it had a limited banking license, it could take deposits like we do in the Grameen Bank and its expansion will not be limited by availability of funds.
  • Schools can bring into the curriculum the idea that business doesn’t have to be profit maximizing. You can design it to solve people’s problems while you recover your costs and recycle your money. They can have assignments to design businesses to solve problems: how to bring clean water to a village; how to bring education, literacy, housing or health care to a remote community; how to make a crowded slum a decent place where there is health care, education, good roads. There are many universities setting up social business centers and teaching this. Every business school should be offering both conventional M.B.A.s and social M.B.A.s.

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Muhammad Yunus Credit Andreas Solaro/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images