Category Archives: Education

Education and Thought

Believe it or not, Chris Hedges wrote this in 2011, when our current political climate was nowhere on the horizon.

When you think about education and what it should do, contemplate this afresh:

The truly educated become conscious. They become self-aware. They do not lie to themselves. They do not pretend that fraud is moral or that corporate greed is good. They do not claim that the demands of the marketplace can morally justify the hunger of children or denial of medical care to the sick. They do not throw 6 million families from their homes as the cost of doing business. Thought is a dialogue with one’s inner self. Those who think ask questions, questions those in authority do not want asked. They remember who we are, where we come from and where we should go. They remain eternally skeptical and distrustful of power. And they know that this moral independence is the only protection from the radical evil that results from collective unconsciousness. The capacity to think is the only bulwark against any centralized authority that seeks to impose mindless obedience. There is a huge difference, as Socrates understood, between teaching people what to think and teaching them how to think. Those who are endowed with a moral conscience refuse to commit crimes, even those sanctioned by the corporate state, because they do not in the end want to live with criminals—themselves….

“The greatest evil perpetrated,” Hannah Arendt wrote, “is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.”

As Arendt pointed out, we must trust only those who have this self-awareness. This self-awareness comes only through consciousness. It comes with the ability to look at a crime being committed and say “I can’t.” We must fear, Arendt warned, those whose moral system is built around the flimsy structure of blind obedience. We must fear those who cannot think. Unconscious civilizations become totalitarian wastelands.

From “Why the United States is Destroying its Education System”

October 26: Human Rights

Gulf Coast UN Women/USNC Co-Sponsors:

“Gender Rights as Human Rights: Where are We in 2016?”

Gender Rights as Human Rights – both locally and globally – was the topic of a panel discussion October 26 at the University of South Florida Sarasota- Manatee. Five panelists shared their experiences and expertise regarding women’s issues in our own local communities and in villages as far away as India and Africa. The Gulf Coast Chapter co-sponsored this event.

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Scott Osborne, Esq., President of the UN Women/USNC, Gulf Coast Chapter, discussed women in India and how cultural influences can be at odds with the country’s democratic governmental and legal structure.

Osborne joined panel members Jody L. McBrien, Associate Professor at USFSM; Leen al-Fatafta, a student at New College; Phillip Wagner, Professor USFSM; and Noelle Polk Clark, Advocacy Director, UN Association, Tampa Bay Chapter.

Prof. McBrien told stories of how women with whom she works in rural Africa are making real gains by focusing on health, education and economic opportunities in their communities.

Leen al-Fatafta shared her story of being an Arab Feminist, an internal compass she was raised with and has carried with her in her travels and studies. She talked about the place of feminism throughout the history of Islam.

Prof. Wagner said the current political climate opens the door to discussion and awareness about gender equity issues. Even though many men may not be complicit in gender discrimination, he invited them to move beyond awareness and become active in being part of the solutions.

 

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Noelle Polk Clark shared local statistics about discrimination and violence against women. She also shared how CEDAW could be an integral piece in the move toward gender equity. She encouraged attendees to press their local representatives to adopt local CEDAW ordinances. (CEDAW is the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women)

 

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Human Rights

MAVA Mumbai

 

11230118_10152651160503078_3437831022993451090_oWho?

Based in Mumbai, Men Against Violence and Abuse – MAVA – is a group I discovered while doing research for my play SPOILED. One day I cold-called Harish Sadani, MAVA’s founder and ‘chief functionary’, from Delhi, seeking information about how boys and young men in India develop attitudes toward women and what some typical experiences were.

harish2Harish was gracious and helpful, sending me links and information. When I traveled to Mumbai last year, we had a long lunch together. He fielded all the questions I could think of and supplied both hard data and an authentic, local perspective. You could say he answered some of the questions I didn’t even know to ask.

In the process, I learned about MAVA’s work and their small, meaningful, unglamorous but incredibly important behaviour-changing interventions. The organization is not huge, it is not fancy, it is not well-funded, it is not luxuriously appointed or thickly-staffed. But little by little, the activities of groups like MAVA have a chance at changing longstanding, deeply held attitudes.

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MAVA Needs Help

If you want to cut right to the chase, watch this short video. MAVA needs funding for its “ASPIRATION” project for young men and boys. Take a look at what you can do through Global Giving. I gave. I promise you it will be money well spent – the whole appeal is $5,000, so even very small amounts will help. If you want more information, keep reading. You can always come back to the video. Or just watch the video for fun.

In India, men are the perpetrators of the vast majority of acts of violence against women: beatings, sex-selective abortions, rape, routine harassment (‘eve-teasing’). Their sense of self requires dominance over women in ways large and small, filling both home and workplace with distorted relationships.

stories-of-change2Men are also victims of a sort, however, trapped in a socially created role that deprives them of opportunities for shared emotion, manifestations of vulnerability, and the satisfactions of child-rearing.

MAVA believes that changing the attitudes of men, especially young men and boys, is key to changing this harmful pattern.

So what does MAVA actually do?

MAVA initiatives focus on redefining masculinity, empowering women, and helping humanize men. They work with very accessible youth-friendly techniques and have trained hundreds of community facilitators and mentors. They make men aware of stereotypical gender norms and help them see more balanced, less confrontational alternatives.

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MAVA:

  • provides one-on-one counseling with men and women suffering distress because of gender violence, marital discord, or harassment.
  • runs a telephone hotline for youth with questions or problems on relationships, sexuality, or violence.
  • conducts Gender Sensitization Programmes for community groups, workplaces, colleges, NGOs and residential colonies. These programs use a wide range of techniques to encourage participation and an honest exploration of gender roles.
  • organizes Yuva Matri, a sensitizing and educational program for young men which has now spread to six districts in Maharashtra and won numerous awards.*
  • provides pre-marital guidance workshops.
  • publishes Purush Spandan in Marathi, an annual magazine with factual information, short stories, and essays on topics of dowry, beauty, vices, and sexuality, all designed to introduce new ways of seeing men and women.

The Stories of Rahul, Shafique, and Aijaz

Rahul, Shafique, and Aijaz are among 45 boys from 3 communities who are being shaped and mentored by a dedicated team from MAVA. Boys 13-17 are being enabled to talk to peers in their communities on matters of gender discrimination and abuse of women. As MAVA says:

Rahul16, is studying in final year at a government-run high school. Staying in a dilapidated slum in South Mumbai with his parents, one brother and a sister, Rahul has many times witnessed violence on his mother inflicted by his alcoholic father. After joining a gender-sensitization camp, Rahul reflected on the various discriminations faced by his mother and even sister. He has started voicing his angst on this and has decided to intervene in any further instance of violence against his mother.

Shafique, 17, son of a commercial sex worker has seen how his biological father has neglected his mother and stopped supporting his educational needs. At weekly interactive sessions by a social organization, he has shared his pain while growing up as a boy. Determined to change the situation by taking a job after his studies and upholding his mother’s dignity, Shafique now aspires of a society where women are not subjected to any kind of violence or where women do not live in fear of violence.

Aijaz, 14, stays in a community where many disadvantaged Muslim boys like him are deprived of basic developmental needs like healthcare and education. After attending workshop sessions conducted by youth leaders, he has realized how girls from the neighborhood are more disadvantaged than the boys. He has expressed that for changing the conservative outlook of his brethren in the community, he should begin the change first with himself. He has stopped speaking swear words and through songs and skit guided by a youth mentor, he has started ventilating his thoughts to peers in his neighborhood, spreading messages on women’s safety.

These are the kinds of individualized but powerful interventions which will, one family at a time, bring about psychological and behavioral change.

And there’s always their FB page which, if you’re into that sort of thing, you can like. Share. FB stuff.

And for those awards that I mentioned:

*Yuva Maitri was selected as the Grand Prize Winner for providing the most innovative solution to Preventing Violence Against Women at the 2010 global Ashoka Changemakers (US) competition. See more details here.

*Yuva Maitri was also selected as a ‘Best Practice in Public Service Delivery’ by the Government of India. Read about it here.