Archive for October, 2017

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.


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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.


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

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On October 14th, Shaykh Haisam Farache spoke at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra on “Shariah Law: What is it and How is it implemented?” and “Spiritual Development in Modern Times”

These are notes from “Spiritual Development in Modern Times”

  • Without the body the soul cannot exist in this world. The Arabic for intelligence, ‘akal’ means to restrict, as in to restrict us from haram.
  • In the Quran, Allah swt talks to the intellect when He appeals to ‘people who ponder’ or ‘to those that have knowledge’
  • A human being is comprised of a body, an intellect, an ego or nafs and a soul. The body, nafs and akal all exist because of the placement of the soul in this world. So essentially we are souls, spiritual beings on a path to God
  • Given that we are in essence animals with intellect, how are we nourished? The body with dirt (food plant and animal based has origins in dirt). The % of minerals in dirt mirror the % in our bodies. The PH level of blood is same as ocean water. Things that sustain the body come from earth
  • The mind is nourished with knowledge (it is Sunnah to wear perfurme or itr because good smells increase the minds capacity to learn)
  • The Soul comes from God and we don’t know where it is from or how it was made. In that sense it is a mystery and a secret
  • When He decided to make man, God told the angel Gabriel to get dirt from earth and the earth shook and refused. Several angels were sent and returned empty handed till the angel of Death, Azrael came and got a collection of sand collected from the entire earth of different colours which is represented in our skin pigmentation
  • The dirt became wet as it ascended to the throne of Allah and became clay which Allah moulded with his ‘hands’ (not like our hands. This is important as Allah swt says kun faya kun “Be” and it is. But with Adam AS he fashioned him with his hands (metaphorically)
  • The moulded clay sat for 40 years and Shaytan would pass it and kick it. Shaytan was a jinn who had 80k years of ibadah under his belt (there is not a place on earth where Shaytan’s forehead hasn’t touched in ibadah to Allah swt) when he was told to prostrate to this clay. He became arrogant. This story simplifies our challenges and difficulties in our lives
  • When Allah swt made Adam AS, the angels asked if the creation of clay would wreak havoc on the earth. Given that they asked this, we can assume that there were creations before humans that did wreak havoc on earth which is supported by dreamtime stories and stone art
  • All this is a long winded way of saying, we know the origins of the body and thus we nourish it with the same. We don’t know the origins of the soul but we do know it is from God so we nourish it with God
  • Establish spiritual essence by doing what comes from God. The first of these is the Quran. The Quran purifies n teaches hiqmah and wisdom.
  • The soul has a yearning to be illuminated by the noor of Allah swt (the sun) and to illuminate (reflect this illumination like the moon)
  • The Quran is the symbolism of the light or noor of Allah swt and the Prophet is munir (reflected light) the personification noorun mubeen. This is why the Prophet is more often likened to the moon than the sun. tala al badru Alayna. The Prophet had no shadow because he, as the reflection of Allah’s Noor was brighter than the sun.
  • Our Imaan increases and decreases because of our nafs. We are in a constant jihad or battle between the material and spiritual. The angels came to the Prophet 3 times in his life and cut him open to remove his nafs. This is because Prophets are meant to be masoomin without fault, so that we can emulate their goodness. This means he didn’t have to struggle with this nafs. And without the stuggle with nafs, the imaan constantly increases
  • The Prophet constantly made istigfhar or prayers for repentence because each time he ascended the stations of faith imaan his increased understanding or vision (not seeing with eyes, seeing with faith) caused him to repent
  • So how do we fulfil the yearning of our soul?
  • The life of the Prophet is the lowest common denominator. He lived the simplest lifestyle so that anyone can emulate it.
  • When we try to fill our spiritual void with material things, it affects our intellect. When material means in life are limited that’s when the intellect flourishes.
  • “But for the fear that all mankind would follow the same way, We would have made for those who disbelieve in the Merciful God, houses with roofs of silver and gold” – Sura 43 Az-Zukhruf, Ayah 33-35
  • In our day and age, we cannot escape ‘technology’. But we can appreciate what we have by saying alhamdulillah and living a life of gratitude
  • We have forgotten or don’t know how to be grateful. Millennials are known to be ungrateful and have a sense of entitlement and it translates to entitlement with Allah. Far from being grateful we forget to even recognise what we have by saying Bismillah. My sense of entitlement is destroying my spirituality
  • Be mindful in receiving what Allah has given. By saying Alhamdulillah when you wear your clothes and Bismillah when you sit and eat. Eating and walking used to be seen as sign of instability because the two things did not go together.
  • By being hospitable. Arabian hospitality is famous and being a miser is the biggest insult you can make to an Arab. The root of Arab hospitality is necessity because without the hospitality of others, travellers in the Arabian deserts would perish.
  • Hatim Altai was an Arabian man legendary for his generosity whose story is in the Arabian nights as well as told throughout Arabia and Asia. He most famously slaughtered his famous and beautiful stallion to feed his guests. His generosity and detachment from the material was aligned to the values of Islam. When his granddaughter and grandson were captured in war, the Prophet was told who they were and freed them both as a lesson in the importance and value of detachment and generosity
  • Sheikh Hamza Yusuf said, Aren’t we all addicted to the ‘bad movie’ that is the Dunya?
  • The Path of the Believer is shukr gratitude.
  • What do we want? Why do we need more than we have? What are we upset about?
  • We Australian Muslims are not connected to this land. Where is our care and concern for this land and its people? What do you think of when you say aussie? White? The whites are just as imported as us! So why are we not thinking of ourselves when we say aussie? Why are we not thinking of the indigenous aussies? They are the real aussies. Why are we not helping and caring for them?
  • Allah swt said, ‘I have sent u a prophet from amongst yourselves’. If you are not amongst yourselves then it’s all nothing. Till our dawah is amongst ourselves, it all for nothing
  • We acknowledge that it is a generational thing, that our parents are invested in the culture and society they left behind. But we need to be mindful of, educated in and invested in Australian culture, law, policies etc.
  • We need to care for our fellow Aussies. You can’t specifically make dua for the forgiveness of a non-Muslim but you can make general dua. And how do you know who is and isn’t a Muslim and what is in their hearts? Who are you to judge?
  • Adopt the dua of Isa AS, Jesus, who said, ‘You were the Watcher over them, and You are a Witness to all things. If You punish them, they are Your servants, and if You forgive them, verily You, only You are the Almighty, the All-Wise.’ Sura 5 Al-Maidah, Ayah 117
  • When we are not fulfilling our spiritual potential, Allah sends us tests to cleanse our spiritual state. Our spiritual goal should be to see the Prophet in your dream and ultimately achieved a connection to Allah swt.
  • Taqwah is the essence of spirituality and is mentioned over 250 times in the Quran. Taqwah is to be cautious of Allah swt. Taqwah is not khauf or fear Allah. Fear of Allah is a very high state of spirituality that is not easy to attain.
  • Wilaya is when Allah swt elevates you to a position on Earth. Some people ask for it and some say not to ask for it because it is a big responsibility. It’s upto you if you want to ask for it.

Practical tips to attain spirituality:

  • Feed the akal to know what to feed the soul. In the Quran, Allah swt appeals to our akal when He tells us what is halal and haram. Once you know this, your soul needs you to implement it
  • The real jihad is learning what is halal and haram by acquiring knowledge and then implementing that knowledge to change your spiritual condition.
  • To free the heart from sin, we have to dispel our preoccupation with dunya, power, status and material things. To do this you need to change your external and internal conditions.
  • The external conditions are the 5 pillars (rulings of Allah) that tell you what is halal and haram. What to Do. The internal conditions are the fundamental things you believe in. There are 6 fundamental beliefs; to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His prophets, the Day of Judgment (life after death), and in destiny (qadar), that the good and the evil are from Allah.
  • Spirituality is embodied in the Prophet so we must all try and emulate him. Through excellence of character ihsan. We need to be disciplined in how we spend our time. What we do, see, touch and say. The success of spirituality is based in time management
  • Do wudu and brush your teeth before bed, recite the last two verses of Sura Baqarah, make intention for tahajjud and to see Rasul SAW in your dreams and sleep on your right side.
  • Set yourself minimum goals and as you achieve consistency in them, increase your minimum. To begin you can set yourself the minimum goals of:
    • Read one line of Quran a day
    • Read one bio of a pious person a week
    • Do 100 dhikr a day
    • Do 100 Istigfar a day
    • Pray Tahajjud
    • Make Dua
    • Perform Khidmah of any kind (familial, social)
  • It is recommended that you get yourself a shaiykh or mentor that can give you specific advice to your life and situation. If you don’t have one, recite 10k salawat on the Prophet every day and he will be your guide

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On October 14th, Shaykh Haisam Farache spoke at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra on “Shariah Law: What is it and How is it implemented?” and “Spiritual Development in Modern Times

Born and raised on Sydney’s North Shore, Shaykh Haisam attended Marist College North Sydney and commenced his undergraduate university studies at the University of Montana, USA. He attained a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Western Sydney, a Diploma in Shariah (Hons) Dar al Mustafa, Yemen and a Master of Applied Family Law from the College of Law, Sydney. Shaykh Haisam holds numerous Ijazas (Licenses) in Islamic Law from scholars in Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Previously he has held posts as an Imam at Imam Ali Mosque (Lakemba Mosque) and Artarmon Mosque. Currently, Haisam is the principal solicitor at Garrison Lawyers predominantly practicing in family law. He also teaches at Charles Sturt University, Arts Faculty in Islamic Studies, a Minister of Religion (Islam) and is an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. Shaykh Haisam has played semi-professional rugby league and college basketball in the USA. He is a keen surfer.

Below are my notes from “Shariah Law: What is it and How is it implemented?” Note: I missed a fair bit of this one.

Differences between Shariah and Common Law

  1. Shariah is Immutable – The Quran is the equivalent to the constitution but it cannot be changed
  2. Shariah is both moral code and law – Shariah is based on Quran and Sunnah which dictates not only the laws but also the morals and code of ethics we abide by
  3. Shariah is for this life and the next – Common law applies to this life and this environment only

Similarities between Shariah and Common Law

  1. Cannot be arbitrary – Both establish that there is one rule of law in black and white
  2. Adversarial system – Both have a defendant and plaintiff
  3. Burdens of proof – Both establish “Beyond reasonable doubt”. In Islam, “Once it’s in doubt we throw it out”
  4. Due process – Court proceedings
  5. Innocent till proven guilty. Canon derived from Arabic ‘qanoon’ which means law. The Church took this from Islamic jurists to their court and then in 13th century jurists adopted it into secular law
  6. Precedent and legal reasoning
  7. Contracts are a direct derivative of shariah
  8. Evidence law, Trusts, Torts, Powers of attorney, Guardianship laws and much more.
  • Islamic law and common law have commonalities due to shared history of Roman law.
  • Criminal law – Besides fornication all punishable crimes are the same. Where we differ is in morals and code of ethics. Social norms have changed and legality focuses on regulation of taboo practices
  • Therefore the main point of difference between shariah and common law is that common law allows the loosening of morality but shariah does not
  • The rule of law then focuses on regulation vs prohibition of actions
  • Islamic law also takes into account ‘darora’ or necessity of law and punishment based on circumstances.
  • Tariq Ramadan calls for a moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty in the Islamic World because society is not ready
  • When laws are not based on morals or ethics, people will do what they desire. Laws may change to regulate the changes in society and there may be a practical benefit to society but it has spiritual and philosophical implications
  • Regulation should abide by moral codes. E.g. prostitution occurs primarily women need money. In Islam it is the responsibility of all men (as primary caregivers) to provide for all women. If this is not possible or not occurring, then it is the responsibility of the Government to provide for them from government coffers, ‘baitul mal’ and if this is not occurring then it is permissible to marry another wife on the condition that the man has consent from his previous wife and is equipped to fulfil the roles and responsibilities (physical, mental, financial, social etc.) to both/all wives
  • The point of corporal punishment is to NOT punish. In Sharia, even if a person admits to a crime they are given four chances to renege on their admission. If they do, the matter is closed and no punishment is meted out
  • Detailed retribution is a denouncement of misconduct which exists in both law systems in order to scare people to following the rule of law and thereby applying a code of ethics and morals to their daily lives and action
  • Adoption is not permissible in Islam due to inheritance laws but we can and should foster. The only issue is mahram which there are guidelines for.
  • Australian law and Sharia law do not contradict each other. What we can do in Sharia law we can do under Australian law. The problem is not Australian law. The problem is we as Muslims do not know what we are entitled to as Australians. How blessed we are to live in this society and enjoy its freedoms. Our parents and their parents live here but are emotionally invested in the politics and social issues ‘back home’. We send money ‘back home’ but this is our home now and we need to look after people here. Charity begins at home and Australia is home.
  • Our laws are not just from today, they are a product of centuries of reform. English is the global language today, before that it was French and before that it was Arabic. Much of today’s law, medicine, science etc. comes from the Arab enlightenment which was appropriated by the West and has religion or religious basis (Islamic or otherwise) at its core. Religion is driving factor in life and acceptance in any shape or form essentially comes from religion
  • Laws exist to protect human beings. The most important thing about human beings is the soul. So in essence, laws exist to protect the soul

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11th October 2017 is the international day of the girl. 6 years ago, On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly voted to pass a resolution adopting October 11, 2012 as the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child.

The resolution states that the Day of the Girl recognizes: “empowerment of and investment in girls, which are critical for economic growth, the achievement of all Millennium Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and extreme poverty, as well as the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights, and recognizing also that empowering girls requires their active participation in decision-making processes and the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men and the wider community.”

The International Day of the Girl Child initiative grew out of Plan International’s Because I Am a Girl campaign, which raises awareness of the importance of nurturing girls globally and in developing countries in particular.

Each year’s Day of the Girl has a theme; the first was “ending child marriage”, then “innovating for girl’s education”, 2014 was “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.” 2015 was “The Power of Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030” 2016 was “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls.”. This year’s theme is “EmPOWER Girls: Emergency response and resilience planning.”

Whilst the theme is about empowerment, we still have a lot of work to do to bring girls around the world onto the same level so that empowerment is standardised across the world.

According to UN statistics, there are 100 million girls missing around the world. Where have they gone? Many of them are left on the sides of roads, drowned, maimed and thrown in trash bins. But even more of them have been aborted. The reason? They were girls, not boys.

Sex-selective abortion, also colloquially known as “gendercide,” is a huge problem. For every 200 girls born, one is refused the chance to see the light of day just because she is a female. Over the last 14 years, there were an average of 4,575 abortions every day. That comes to about one abortion motivated by gender every 18 seconds. Which means that if you make it into the world as a girl you’ve already achieved something.

But that doesn’t mean you are safe. Global child mortality is at around 4% and studies show that infant homicide is still predominantly female. So being born and then staying alive after birth is also an achievement.

As a girl, you have less chance of being educated than if you were a boy. Twice as many girls as boys will never start school in countries all around the world. Girls are almost two and a half more likely to be out of school if they live in conflict-affected countries, and young women are nearly 90% more likely to be out of secondary school than their counterparts in countries not affected by conflict. So being born, staying alive and getting to go to school is an achievement.

Then there is the struggle to stay in school as you get older and battle cultural and societal pressures.

  • Millions of girls are at risk of FGM
  • One in four girls globally are married before they reach 18.
  • Discrimination because of disability is real. The literacy rate for adults with disabilities is 3%. For women with disabilities the literacy rate is even lower, at 1%.
  • Each month, when you get your period you could be shunned from society. In some countries you’re seen as untouchable and forced to sleep outside.
  • As a girl, you’re at greater risk of HIV. Girls aged 10 to 14 are more likely than boys to die of Aids-related illnesses.
  • Worldwide, the biggest killer of girls aged 15 to 19 is suicide.
  • Teenagers are at more risk of having unsafe abortions than older women.
  • Maternal death is the second biggest cause of mortality for girls aged 15 to 19.

Making it through school is an achievement.
Growing up without being shunned for naturally occurring bodily functions is an achievement.
But guess what? If you make it through school, dodge early marriage and get into paid employment, the odds are you’ll earn less for doing the same job as your male colleagues. And then there’s life outside work. UN women estimated that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives.

So how exactly can we empower girls with regards to emergency planning and resilience response when we are yet to bring girls around the world on equal footing? When it’s an achievement just to stay alive, healthy and educated? When will we be able to say that girls are just as equipped as boys to achieve their potential? That the path to success and empowerment for girls is as obstacle free as for boys?

It’s a long slow road to success but it hasn’t been in vain. Studies by the UN show that when girls are given an opportunity to learn, they learn at a faster rate than boys. Governments and organisations are working together to eradicate infanticide and child marriage. To raise awareness and educate men, boys, families and socieities. To ensure the safety and well-being of girls within and outside the home. When more women work, economies grow. Studies show that an increase in female labour force participation results in faster economic growth. Evidence from a range of countries shows that increasing the share of household income controlled by women, changes spending in ways that benefit children.

World leaders have set targets and made promises regarding female health and education. Globally companies and organisations are working hard to bridge the pay gap and create gender friendly environments.

But until a father provides his daughter with the same opportunities as his son, until a mother supports her daughter’s dreams of education and professional experience, until a brother fights cultural prejudice and oppressive practices to ensure his sister is safe – there is no end to the suffering of the girl child. Change begins with me. With you. With the support you give to the girls and women around you.

Girls of the world are watching. We will speak out, we will support our fellow girls and women till all of us are able to achieve more than that which is a basic human right. Give us opportunity and watch us soar.


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Tjanara Goreng Goreng is a Wakka Wakka Wulli Wuilli Traditional Custodian from Central Queensland Australia, a PhD candidate and the Founder and National Convener of the Foundation for Indigenous Recovery and Development, Australia. An Adjunct Assistant Professor for UC, Tjanara has had extensive teaching and government experience.

Tjanara spoke about gender, politics and public policy to address gender and intersectional concerns in policy for the Australian Federal Parliament and provide recommendations for the participants to include in their report. Some insights from her included:

Women in the world

  • Gender is never about sex. It varies by dimensions of life. Basic condition of life, safety health education and work, access to markets and space and people’s own free expression identified by alignment to a gender or group.
  • Individual Bodies can be typed in many ways but social practices of gender appear unproblematic in some social contexts and therefore impossible to solve. In some contexts gender dictates power, professional structures, social norms, familial hierarchies and personal relationships among many others.
  • We live in a diverse world where power resides with the male western patriarchy for the most part. There are some countries and cultures where women hold social positions of power.
  • But fear of the capacity of women and what they can do has diminished women’s role in society. Women can bear and give birth and with the advent of technology may not even need men soon to procreate and continue society
  • Roman society instituted the stereotyped norms practiced today to disadvantage women. For example women used to live with catholic priests and more often than not inherited his property when he passed. To keep this wealth, the Roman Catholic Church forbade priests to marry. Property dictates much of the power struggles of the western world
  • Prior to Napoleon, many powerful women held salons where politics was shaped in discussions of philosophy, politics and public policy in the exciting context of the revolution. This happened to a lesser extent in Britain and the US.
  • There has been a significant increase in women entering public office in recent decades which has consequences for public office and the general public. Women differ not only in those two categories but within themselves. Who they are, their backgrounds, their ethnic ambitions and objectives
  • Women like Margaret Thatcher control their power much like men so what’s the point of them breaking the glass ceiling?
  • Women in local councils are more active in gender discussions and take policy positions in a wider range of issues than men. They are more likely to take leadership issues to translate feminist policy attitudes into change and make programs or initiatives around them
  • Men exhibit a more instrumental and women a more contextual attitude to policy orientation. Women’s approaches are broader and interconnected to facilitate interactions rather than control and direct debates.
  • Women public officials do have an impact on gendered public policy or bring gender into policy discussions. Women are making a difference and as they achieve more positions of seniority and influence they influence private sector as well as the public space
  • New institutions may not fulfil the objectives of their creation because they are trapped by gendered norms which they try to dispel
  • Women need to address:
    • How are formal and non-formal rules gendered?
    • How can we institutionalise change to stop gendered inequality?

The indigenous story

  • Women are equal to men because of their responsibilities of the sacred business (Chukapah), the rearing of children and the physiological wellbeing of the whole clan. This is still practiced by the Kata Tujia people of Uluru
  • Believe that all beings are sacred and born with the same innate qualities. You are spirit before you are human and you become human to interact with others.
  • First and foremost you need to accept your spiritual self and purpose of being which imbues a sense of respect for self and respect for others and their spiritual being
  • Purpose of life is to interact with people on the basis of their spiritual being rather than physical being (features) and respect and honour Nunjanatia (the land)
  • The aboriginal law of Kanini is the harmony and unconditional love of all things
  • Aboriginal culture has an express way of managing the biological differences of men and women including laws regulating violence, crimes and misconduct.
  • Women rear all children to teach them how to be friends and co-exist. As they grow older, the men teach the boys how to have sexual relationships with girls and women teach girls how to evolve into their roles and responsibilities
  • When you go to indigenous communities now, don’t go to the men. Go to the female elders who run the community and can tell you about the spiritual chukapah and structure of leadership (sacred leaders) in order to manage conflict, think of the whole and bring about relations between people.
  • Women keep certain information (childbirth) in the realm of mystery enabling men to respect women.
  • Systems of power, race, gender and class cannot be understood independent of each other. They mutual construct each other and reinforce our attitudes to them.
  • Considerable power in class structures is residual from British colonialism and will not change if we do not address them
  • It is the responsibility of future generations to use the wealth of knowledge available and advancements in technology to create change by addressing gender and racial inequality

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