Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Say NO to violence against women

Today is White Ribbon Day or the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
  • In the last year, one in 20 women (5.8%), or over 440,000 women, were the
    victims of violence, according to the 2006 ABS survey.

  • 4.7% (363,000 women) experienced physical violence
    (including physical
    assault, attempted assault, or the threat of assault).

  • 1.6% (126,100 women) experienced sexual violence (including sexual assault,
    attempted assault, or the threat of assault).
  • (White Ribbon Day Facts and Stats.)

    At work today we had a morning tea that was put on by four students who are youth ambassadors for the White Ribbon Day. It's great to see some young men who are willing to stand up for something in hope that they can raise awareness and change the culture amongst their peers.

    Starting from today is the White Ribbon Day campaign that will run for the next 16 days. Wear a white ribbon to show your support for the elimination of violence against women.

    • Wearing a White Ribbon is not a badge of purity or a badge of perfection. It does not mean that the wearer has perfect relationships.
  • It means that this man believes that violence towards women is unacceptable.
  • It is a visible sign that the wearer does not support or condone the use of violence against women.
  • Everyone can show their commitment to ending violence against women by wearing a white ribbon.
  • Proceeds from purchasing a White Ribbon go towards changing community attitudes through high impact awareness campaigns.
  • (White Ribbon Day: Wearing a Ribbon)

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Take Action #6 - Approaching Christmas-Part 2

    Photo credit: Christmas /Noël by Bebulaki

    Yesterday I wrote about evaluating our priorities over the Christmas break and making an effort to avoid being caught up in the commercial idea of what Christmas is all about. Today I'm going to add to this by offering up 10 suggestions for things that you can integrate into your Christmas celebrations to help those who are struggling at this time.

    1. Purchase something of value for those in the developing world as a gift for your loved ones, or if people are asking for gift ideas for you ask for a goat or something just as useful. The World Vision Smiles catalogue has plenty of options as does TEAR Australia's The Worlds Most Useful Gift Catalogue and Oxfam Unwrapped.

    2. If your friends and family can't resist the excitement that comes with having something to unwrap consider gifts that will give twice. Buy Fair trade products or products where a percentage of the profit goes to charity. We have a Christmas Card Shop that opens for a couple of months in the lead up to Christmas that only stocks cards from a range of charities. If you do not have a shop like this in your area check out Charity Greeting Cards. Don't know of anywhere that stocks Fair trade gifts check out the Oxfam Shop.

    3. While you are doing your present shopping buy an extra gift for someone in need. Your big chain stores such as Kmart and Target work with a range of charity organisations such as the Salvation Army and Uniting Care to distribute gifts.

    4. Invite someone to share in one of your Christmas meals. Christmas is not a happy time for everyone. There are many people who do not live near family, have no family or for whatever reason are isolated, they might enjoy some company.

    5. Enjoy singing a good carol? Get a few people together and visit an aged care facility for a good sing a long. The residents will not care about your singing ability, they love visitors and a change in routine.

    6. Do you really need all of that food? Cut back on the amount of food you purchase for Christmas dinner etc (a lot of it ends up wasted plus you won't feel as disgusting after stuffing yourself). Spend the money you save on buying non perishable items to donate. Church groups and charity organisations collect these things to provide hampers and meals for the needy.

    7. Volunteer your time. Lots of organisations need extra help over this period collecting goods, packing hampers, making meals etc.

    8. Don't have the time to volunteer yourself? Provide some encouragement for those people who support and care for those in need over this busy time. There many people, paid and volunteers who will work over the holiday period to care for the needy (hospitals, charity orgs, welfare workers etc). Write a letter or card of encouragement, letting them know how important their work is and that it is appreciated.

    9. Do some Christmas baking and deliver it a neighbour or someone that you know might be doing it a little tough. Get together with your friends to do this and the rewards will be greater still.

    10. Take some time out to reflect on all of the things that you posses and can be thankful for. It could be family, friends, a steady job, a roof over your head, food to eat, good health etc. Consider how you might be able to use the things that you have to improve the lives of others in the coming year.

    Sunday, November 23, 2008

    Approaching Christmas – Part 1

    The last week has flown by. I've been having blogging withdrawals as the real world has been interfering with my blogging routine. We have hit that frantic time where some things are winding up, other things are getting started and it's all has to happen at once. Apologies in advance for I fear next week will be even worse.

    With Christmas just around the corner many people are gearing up for the frenzied period of preparation, although by the amount of traffic that I saw yesterday down town I think it's well and truly started. It is perhaps an appropriate time to reflect on our actions during the holiday period, refocus on what is important and perhaps commit to taking a different approach this year.

    We need to assess where the real value in this Christmas period is. It might be a combination of things. For me it is about celebrating the birth of Jesus but it is also about being able to spend some quality time with family. For others spending time with family might be the main focus as it may be the only time of year when everyone gets together. It could be that it is a period of rest and relaxation, a time to recharge the batteries set goals for the year ahead.

    With the real value back in focus, take some time to evaluate the way you celebrate. Are you doing things that enhance the experience or are you doing things that actually take away from the experience? Does the way you approach the holiday period create a place where you can enjoy the company of your family or does it create tension and angst. Are you carving out a space that will allow you and your loved ones a place to relax or are you racing around, adding to your stress levels by trying find that perfect gift and spending money that you can't really afford to spend?

    With these things in mind consider the action that you might be able to take in order recapture the real meaning of Christmas for you. Last year I decided to avoid as much of the commercialism and materialism as I could. Instead of fighting with the crowds at the shopping centres I spent time with my friends making gingerbread houses. Instead of stressing about being able to afford truckloads of presents that may or may not be appreciated, I stopped looking at catalogues; we set a budget and went for meaningful gifts. Last year I enjoyed the Christmas period much more than I had for a long time, the scrooge in me from previous Christmases had disappeared.

    This year I plan to do some similar things, only rather than simply avoiding things that take away from the Christmas experience I want to do things that will actually add to it. I'm also aware the Christmas is not always a time of celebration. The problems of the world do not go away just because our calendar declares that we have some days off work. In our hometowns Christmas only emphasises the difficulties and grief for some people and in other parts of the world suffering continues.

    Tomorrow I will post some simple suggestions for how you can add to the value of your own Christmas celebrations while spreading some Christmas cheer to those who need it most. In the meantime take some time to consider what you would like your holiday period to look like and what you can do to avoid the traditional traps and take action to enhance the experience for you and those around you.

    Saturday, November 15, 2008

    Chris Abani - Song for Night

    If you have some time download or listen to the opening address from the Brisbane Writers' Festival by Chris Abani.

    "Chris Abani was jailed several times by Nigerian authorities, first for a book he wrote when he was 16, which they saw as a blueprint for an attempted coup, and later for a play the government found subversive. For this he was sent to a maximum security prison. Now living in the United States and teaching at the University of California, Chris Abani's writing has earned many awards and much acclaim. He was invited to give the opening address at this year's Brisbane Writers' Festival."
    (ABC Radio National)

    His words are powerful and challenging and it is definitely worth a listen.

    Thanks to my Dad for pointing this one out.

    Friday, November 14, 2008

    Triple Bottom Line (TBL)

    I have some inner conflict that I have been wrestling with for a long time around trying to reconcile my values and passion for issues of justice with my lifestyle. I came back from Cambodia with my eyes opened to the true difference between needs and wants and ever since have struggled with wanting to change and world and wanting the...(insert material object here - e.g. giant LCD television).

    It is very easy to misinterpret the wants for needs. It's easy to forget about the things that earlier you felt so passionate about. It's much more difficult to be true to your desire to see the world change when our minds are constantly flooded with justifications and reasons to pursue an inward looking lifestyle. The message is everywhere, it is how the people around us live- our colleagues, our friends, the media, businesses, our churches. It's so easy to lose sight of what is really important and to justify different priorities.

    In wrestling with these things I was thinking about the way there needs to be an entire shift in attitude and culture. There are already pockets of people who are standing up and saying, hang on, we need to do something different here. For the world to have sustainable future we need to change the way we measure success. In some businesses the idea of a Triple Bottom Line (TBL) is gaining momentum as a criteria for measuring organisational success. Organisations measure the economic, social and environmental success in determining the overall value of the company.

    In order for the world to be changed, to make real progress in the fight against poverty, climate change and other serious issues the way we measure wealth and success must change. This is for all levels of society, from government and big business down to the individual.

    I am trying to move away from measuring success the way much of the western world does. I want my campaign for a better for world to be ingrained in my lifestyle. As I've already mentioned it is hard work, but consider the potential (and the necessity) if as a community of individuals we measured our success by things other then wealth. What a difference we could make.

    What does your triple bottom line look like?

    Photo Credit: Hamed Parham 2008

    Monday, November 10, 2008

    What about this crisis?

    While the newspapers have given plenty of coverage to the economic 'crisis' tucked away on page 31 of the Herald Sun at the end of last month was a very brief piece, 'Billion to go Hungry'.

    "Rising food prices will push the number of hungry people in the world above one billion next year...

    ...[In September] at least 925 million people were hungry in the world, compared with 848 million between 2003 and 2005...and since then the estimate is that at least 44 million more have become hungry... [and] the billion mark could be hit next year.

    ...Rising prices and increasing hunger were driving the world "far away" from achieving the UN goal of reducing extreme poverty by half by 2015."

    Herald Sun, 29-10-2008, P 31.
    The idea that the level of hunger is increasing is alarming. In a world where there is greater awareness and communication because of the media, where we live in a global community with less isolation from issues impacting other parts of the world because of technology I find it hard to imagine that we can go backwards in the fight against poverty.

    We need to seize the opportunity that we have to make a difference. We need to make the most of the the tools that we have in terms of technology and science to our advantage and we need to continue to propagate the message that the world does not have to be this way, we actually have the power to create enormous change. (Yes I am feeling hopeful and optimistic in the wake of Obama's success, is it really that easy to tell?... You're lucky I didn't say "Yes we can" hehehe).

    Photo credit: Melanie Kotsopoulos 2007

    Tuesday, November 4, 2008

    And so the rest of the world waits...

    for the "race that stops the nation". Whoops mixing my big events up. Today is Melbourne Cup day, supposedly it's the race that stops the nation however I've still spent a day at work and don't even know the names of three horses in the race.

    No I'm much more interested in the other big race, the US Presidential election. I've heard more than once that it should be an election that the rest of the world can vote in as well because of the global impact it will have, and I am inclined to agree.

    I've watch and read a lot regarding the election and I'd have to say if I could vote it would be for Obama. I have not been able to warm to McCain (someone who criticises their opponent for wanting to share wealth just does not appeal to me) and I do not even want to think about Palin.

    As a history teacher I've spent a fair bit of time studying the American Civil Rights movement and I do appreciate the significance of potentially having the first African American president. I would love this to happen in my lifetime.

    I'll continue to watch the outcome and continue to hope that whoever gets elected can show real leadership and that they will have the courage to confront the BIG issues (injustice, poverty, food crisis, the environment etc).

    I can dream can't I?

    Monday, November 3, 2008

    The Story of Stuff

    I stumbled across The Story of Stuff today and it raises some very challenging ideas. Here is a little taste.

    To see the whole movie check out

    Sunday, November 2, 2008


    Over the last fortnight I have had the opportunity to spend some time with some young Sudanese refugees that are now at school at one of our local high schools. They shared their stories with me and spoke about what it is like to try and start a new life in a new country.

    I was blown away by their resilience. They have been through some of the most horrific experiences and continue to face enormous challenges in starting a new life however they demonstrate an enormous capacity to cope with the trauma and stress experienced and to 'bounce back'. No doubt there are difficult times but their optimism and enthusiasm for life was contagious. There is a lot we can learn from the experiences of others.

    Photo credit: A displaced woman with her children on the Chad/Sudanese border.
    Photographer: © Marlene McIntyre/OxfamAUS