Equality Must Start Early

Equality Must Start Early

Girls' Globe

Blog post written by Lisa Öhman, intern at the Girl Child Platform

Many of us would agree that gender equality must begin in early ages, but why is this so important?

The Swedish School Inspection has now presented a report of their review of preschools’ work with equality. The purpose of this review was to see if girls and boys are given the same opportunities to try and develop abilities and interests without being limited by stereotypical gender roles. Research and investigations have previously shown that if there is a lack of a conscious equality work then stereotypical gender roles can be strengthened instead of being made visible and questioned. The conclusion of the review was that the Preschool policy on gender equality is not clear or defined, and can thus not be used effectively.

It is imperative that equality is worked with consciously in preschools through a girl perspective…

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The Women’s March on Washington: 5 Lessons in Feminism for My Son

The Women’s March on Washington: 5 Lessons in Feminism for My Son

Girls' Globe

For most of 14 hours on Saturday, my son and I were on our feet in Washington D.C., unwilling to be comfortable and refusing to be silent. As I saw it, the educational possibilities justified skipping a day of school, even when the learning opportunities at the march included Henry reading a sign and asking loudly, “What’s an orgasm?”At that moment, I faced one of few occasions when I’ve replied: “Ask your father.”

Though I bypassed that teachable moment to keep us on task, the Women’s March on Washington served my mothering well. Together with my son, who is privileged enough to live a life in which his privilege is so fundamental as to render it mostly invisible, we marched to experience some basic lessons in responsible, active citizenship. Here are the lessons I hope he and other kids at marches around the globe might have experienced:

1. Humanity and decency are not political.

img_2621We might vehemently disagree with…

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Absent Bodies

We are all beings in this world of objects, surrounded by a reality which questions the ongoing relationship between the body and the mind. We live in our heads but our bodies connect us to objects in the real world, invoking memories through daily experiences. Memories are all we have, memories are the root of our creation as a constant being. Chiharu Shiota expresses the connection between reality and imagination using just one material- thread, blood red in colour.

Shiota was born in Japan, but has been away for almost twenty years. The artist currently works in Germany. Her journey to becoming an internationally acclaimed artist was achieved through her love for art and the relationship between the mind and the body. Absent bodies is an artwork made beautifully through an intense, thought provoking web of dark red thread. The making of the masterpiece took three days and was formed by seven people. At the end of the thread sit two lonely chairs facing you.

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Absent Bodies by Chiharu Shiota

The chairs are quiet, but their body language invites you to utilize them. They’re so close yet too challenging to reach. The web of red thread to me represents noise- all the everyday noise every adult and child keeps in their head. This noise serves as a barrier between our thoughts and the real world. We know what’s right in front of us, what reality has to offer and it’s so close, but we are too busy mentally to connect with the world physically. If we remove all the noise- the red thread in our heads- then reality won’t seem so far away.

“I get inspiration from human life, that is the reason why I use everyday objects in my installations,” says Ms Shiota. “Human relationships and their connection to one another also inspire me, which is the reason why I use thread -aiming to represent those tangled, cut or stretched relationships.” The talented artist suggests that objects bring a sense of belonging to humans, and that traces are always left by the subjects who have lived in a house, worn a dress or a pair of shoes, or sat on a chair. People move and change their location but they can be seen through the things that they have touched. “I can see people through these objects and relate to their own personal stories and voyages. Human feelings such as fear, love, loss, happiness and gratefulness are conveyed through the objects and connected by the threads.”

Descartes once said “I think, therefore I am”. Meaning that all we really know is that we are existing things. Everything from the physical world including our body parts can be doubted of existence. Everything can be doubted except for the fact that we have to exist in order to doubt; this is the only thing we can be certain of. Hence, “I think, therefore I am”. Shiota brings the physical world to life through the use of objects in her art, and represents a relationship between the body and the mind that all of us can connect with. She conveys that even after an object is long gone, the traces that are left behind connect us through a simple memory. Even if you believe we are only thinking things and there is no physical world, Shiota demonstrates the existence and the beautiful relationship between both mental and physical things in a way which cannot be doubted.

Admirer of the art Shehmir Shaikh interprets the red thread as “arteries and veins” which are components of the soul. “To me this is thought behind an exterior. The chairs symbolize pondering, they are the core of your thought. They’re covered by this biological red exterior which is your body…it just kind of illustrates the coexistence of different aspects of your soul,” says Mr Shaikh. “The red arteries and veins come together to make up your mind.” The chairs are highlighted as the red thread does not cover them, leaving them in the spotlight almost representing a “lightbulb moment”.

Ms Shiota thinks of weaving the thread as classical music, and views this as an inspiration for her artwork. So the real question is, what is the artist’s understanding of the relationship between the mind and the body? “For me, the true connection between the mind and the body is the strong relationship existing between a mother and its child, especially in the mother’s womb,” says Ms Shiota. This is represented through different drawings that the artist has created.

At first they are haunting and dark to look at, made up of mostly black pencil. The drawings are not complex ones and would not have been very time-consuming. Although they do not focus on the little artistic details, they present a touching relationship between a mother and a child which provoke thought and emotion. The beauty of Ms Shiota’s art is that it attracts diversity. She leaves the meaning to the viewer’s imagination. Her work is open to interpretation and the viewer is invited to create the story that they want and relate to with the given prompts, rather than the story being set in stone.

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Drawings by Chiharu Shiota- Anna Schwartz Gallery

Curatorial director of the Anna Schwartz gallery Anais lellouche has worked with Ms Shiota, and describes the artist as “highly prolific”. “Think about it like a constellation. In your mind you have all of these elements that are part of your thinking. The motherhood and childhood are elements and ideas that she splashes out in her work,” says Miss Lellouche. “She travels the world a lot, and she thinks about identity through displacement. She’s very introspective and her work is contemplative of quietness, she’s a bit like that- quiet and in her mind. But the outburst is what you see in her art.”

Miss Lellouche suggests that Absent bodies represents the absence of lives and the traces that people leave when their lives pass. “It’s quite a theatrical insertion and suggests that you’re viewing a scene that will unfold in the future, or has unfolded,” says Miss Lellouche. “It’s a window into a moment in time and to people’s existence.” The chairs reflect on an idea of domesticity. “She’ll use elements such as chairs, a piano, beds and they represent the traces that evoke the notion of home in a very imaginative and disembodied way.” The artwork is about people’s lives and the memories of the objects that they inhabit. Objects such as suitcases in her artwork signify “transience”. “The belongings that we have that migrate and leave traces of us in our homes.” Despite the solemnity that the art may suggest of the Japanese artist, she has a lighter side. “She’s really wonderful, funny and witty,” says Miss Lellouche.

Ms Shiota is most proud of the artwork “The key in the Hand” from the Venice Biennale in 2015. “It was extremely difficult to build up and the space was also complicated to deal with because of its features and big dimensions,” says Ms Shiota. “The feedback from experts and the visitors was very positive so the effort was worthwhile and I was very satisfied with the result myself.” The artist hopes to leave her trace in the world through her magnificent art, even if it is just a memory in our minds that will stay with us forever.

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Married to one and more; two, three, why not four

Marriage is a beautiful, sacred ritual which binds two lovers together for the rest of their lives, building a future and raising a family together. But is it still sacred if it is between more than two people?

Polygamy is a phenomena whereby a man has married more than one woman, having two or more wives simultaneously. In the Islamic culture, polygamy is legal, and a man is allowed to marry up to four women, however a woman may only marry one. The reason being that if a man can afford to have more than one family, then he should do so to further carry out his name and take care of as many children and women as he can.

Furthermore, Islam recognizes that men have a stronger sexual desire than women, and so by allowing polygamy, the man can have multiple wives without feeling the guilt of cheating on their only partner. In Australia, it is believed that around fifty or more Muslim families are polygamist, and this is a growing minority as stated by Islamic Friendship Association of Australia president, Keysar Trad. Majority of women who are married to a man with multiple wives feel it is unfair, and feel as though they by themselves are not good enough for the man.

Polygamy is illegal in Australia, however continues to be a growing issue. The question remains then, how are they getting away with it? It seems that some Muslim men marry multiple women in their country of birth, or at a Mosque so that they are not breaching the Australian law. It is worthy to mention though, that this issue does not only occur in Muslim cultures.

Housewife and mother of three Shenny Gale has been devastated since April 2007, when she came to find out that her husband had married another woman whilst remaining married to her. “He had actually been married since 2005…I found out through a family friend two years later what had happened”. Shenny and her husband were happily married for eighteen years prior to the second marriage of her husband. “I was so shocked and confused, I would cry every night to sleep”.

Shenny had been a close family friend to the second woman, the mother of three daughters, and believed her husband was only going over to see the woman to help her out with her marriage problems. “She divorced her first husband after a year and married mine. They married the Islamic way, but ‘til this day I still don’t understand how they have done this”. When Shenny tried to get a divorce, the lawyers insisted on Australian proof of her husband being married to a second woman, which she did not have. “No one is happy in my home. Not me, not my kids. But we can’t do anything about it”.

Feeling helpless and frustrated, Shenny says that she tries to pretend everything is okay for the sake of her children. “It’s ten years later and I still wonder how someone can do this. I don’t have any answers…all I can do now is pray to God and hope things will get better”. According to Shenny, she believes that in Islam a man is allowed to marry another woman simultaneously only if the other woman is desperately in need, unable to have a family, or is disabled. But in this situation, this was not the case.

According to the Islamic religion, in order to avoid feelings of hatred and betrayal if ever finding out that a wife has been cheated on, polygamy is implemented so that the husband does not secretly have an affair. By allowing a man to marry up to four women, the relationships are made public and there are no secrets in the marriage. Islam recognizes that this may be troubling for a woman whose husband has just married another woman, especially if the man is unable to treat both wives equally. And for this reason, even though divorce is frowned upon, it is permitted in such cases.

Dr. Shenaz Zia, wife and mother of two daughters shares her perspective on polygamy in Australia. “I don’t think that this level of relationship can be shared, and the one aspect of the Quran which does allow you to have a second, third or fourth wife says that as long as you share the relationship equally, then it is acceptable. Which means sharing love and wealth equally, and I feel that the emotional aspect cannot be shared equally”. Dr. Shenaz feels that marriage should strictly be between one man and one woman, unless it is absolutely necessary to marry another, and if so, it should be done right. “It is supposed to be the husband’s right after taking permission from his current wife”.

Some men seem to have taken advantage of the allowance of marrying more than one woman, hence no longer being moral even according to the Islamic religion. “The same sentence in the Quran which allows a man to have four wives elaborates on equality and justice… equality at every measure”. Dr. Shenaz explains that whilst there may be exceptions for polygamy, it is emotionally unacceptable. “Equality can be granted financially yes, but I do not feel that equality can be granted at an emotional level… Personally, I do not believe that my husband can love me, and another woman at the same time equally”.

Polygamy within the Islamic religion in particular, is still an under-recognized issue in Australia making women in these situations feel helpless and of less worth. Majority of these women live without a voice, forcing themselves to deal with the situation as it is permitted in their religion. But what the men must realize is that they are not to take advantage of this aspect, and if they are going to marry more than one woman, they must follow the guidelines which mention justice, and emotional equality, for the sake of all their women.

A Binge on Friendship

It’s a cold Monday morning, the perfect day to skip school and hang out at the beach. Two fifteen year old girls decide to ditch class and walk to the beach, preferring the freezing cold wind over the interrogation about why they hadn’t done their homework. This was the day I discovered my best friend was a future singing sensation, amongst another deep secret that I was the first to find out about her life.

We sit in front of our computer screens, seeing each other after what seems like years. We talk about how we’ve been as she eats a tub of ice-cream with a spoon. Reluctantly, I ask her what made her start. “All the relatives were calling me fat…they’re very straightforward, and I wasn’t used to that because I was from Australia”. Living in the Philippines as a young girl had given Rochelle a tough insight about the stereotypical expectations for girls to be skinny.  “There’s still times where I feel guilty for eating too much…the best part of my day is in the morning when I haven’t eaten anything yet. I literally feel like I’ve achieved something up until the point where I eat something”.

Rochelle has been struggling with Bulimia nervosa since she was only eleven years young. She feels immense guilt after eating, yet no guilt after forcing herself to get rid of the food. “I feel guilty when I don’t do it, but I never feel guilty when I do.”

Bulimia is caused through a range of different factors including genetic predisposition and a combination of environmental, social and cultural factors. Tragically, Rochelle had watched her two older sisters suffer through the same disorder, and was aware of her mother having experienced it in the past. “My mum walked in on me doing it once. She was just staring at me, and I was just staring at her. It was all over, it was everywhere. She didn’t say anything, she just looked at me, closed the door, and she never mentioned it afterwards.”

When asked if she had ever informed anyone about her issue besides myself, Rochelle looks down with a sad expression on her face, responding “No. Because I would remember how serious it was based on the reactions my sister would get when she would do it, so I would just keep it to myself.”

When it was all getting out of hand, she made the decision to open up to her father about it, in exchange for some help and comfort. Instead, the response she received claimed that she was only doing it for attention. She decided the only comfort she was going to get was through her disorder. The first time Rochelle had ever attempted to force herself to throw up, she was only eleven years of age. Home alone, and engaged in a book where the main character was in fact, bulimic. “When I did it, afterwards I felt like I achieved something.”

Dealing with this disorder has been a living nightmare for Rochelle. “If I would eat something and wouldn’t do it afterwards it would be the only thing in my head, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything else.” Not only did this affect her psychologically, but her social life was majorly disrupted. “There would even be days where I wouldn’t want to go out and see friends because they would want to eat. And if I agreed to go out with them, I would have to pretend I didn’t have money to eat.”

Unwillingly, I ask her when the last time she had attempted it was. There’s an anxious silence, hesitation, followed by “I don’t want to say”. Indeed, it is later revealed to me that she had suffered through it only two short days ago. “It’s hard not to, because as you know I see results from it”.

We continue our conversation, and I try to comfort and engage her. Because at the end of the day, her eating disorder does not change who she is, and it certainly does not define who she is. We are still the same two girls from the beach, who love food and sharing laughs; even when we’re cities apart.

Where are the children?

The deafening silence fills the air as the lonely playground sits still and quiet on a beautiful, sunny day. The swings are only pushed by the chilling wind, the slides only accompanied by the chirping birds. The friendless bench staring at the beautiful, clean garden- a bit too clean. Where are the children?

Having access to technology, the media, fake I.D’s, alcohol and drugs at our fingertips has influenced today’s youth vastly and stolen from them their childhood and innocence. From playing tag and hide-and-seek to playing online Facebook games and ‘snap-chatting’. From drinking cordial to drinking alcohol. From being taught not to talk to strangers to adding hundreds of strangers in a virtual world. From dressing up Barbie dolls to dressing up like a Barbie doll. From being raised to raising another child. It seems today’s children will look back when they are older, and only see another adult- having no playful, childlike memories.

Child health experts have said that in today’s age, childhood ends at the age of eleven. Children become sexually active and experiment with drugs at a very early age, leaving no room for a fulfilled childhood. Research shows that children in Australia start drinking from as young as twelve, seventy-eight per cent of fifteen year old’s engage in sexual activity, and approximately sixty-thousand children aged between fifteen and seventeen smoke regularly.

Studies show that as compared with the seventy-two per cent of kids from a generation ago, only thirty-five per cent of them today play outside. The dramatic decline seems to be due to a number of reasons including the media, technology, teaching and parenting. Children seem to prefer communicating through video games and online chatting, as opposed to going to the park to play face-to-face.

Canadian teacher Neelam Asif who works with young children explains her perspective on why children are rebelling against the rules in today’s age. “The children are not to blame, it is due to the parents neglecting their children”. Mrs Asif says that the child only follows the parent, and a dysfunctional family will cause the child to lose their innocence.

“The children express their neglect through this type of behaviour… if the child sees that their mother drinks when she is sad, the child will do the same. Education starts at home”. In today’s society, it has almost become a ‘norm’ for children to act like adults, and this has contributed to the decrease in religion and morals. “Because in today’s age, it is more acceptable to lose your virginity at 13, than to save it ‘til marriage.”

Mrs Asif agrees that children nowadays have access to technology, alcohol and drugs, but proclaims that the parents need to teach their children how to navigate the internet safely or at least supervise them, and they also need to teach their children why alcohol and drugs are not to be taken at such a young age.

“Children in Canada are being taught about sex from grade three. And by doing so, they are putting the idea in their heads that it is okay to engage in sexual activity from as young as eight years old”. Whilst these children are being educated on safe practises, Mrs Asif argues that this is too early and instead of being taught how to prevent these activities, they are being taught that they are normal. Parents from Ontario, Canada are protesting against this curriculum, threatening to keep their children at home for a week, hoping that the schools will keep their education age-appropriate. Children are also having their say, holding up signs that read “We say no to sex-ed curriculum!”, and “let us be kids!”.

Parents today have undoubtedly lived a very different childhood from the children today, with technology and the enormous change of societal norms becoming the new playground. If the past is any indication, future advancements will continue to challenge our society. All we can do is embrace the precious memories of our youth, and sit back and await the change that the future generations will bring to this ever-changing world that we live in.

 

Point Cook Fiesta

It was a beautiful Thursday evening, the sun setting and the weather just right. The light drizzle from the sky was just one aspect of the excitement that this day would bring. The bright, colourful environment represented the mood of many eager and enthusiastic children. This was the last weekend for a delightful carnival brought to Point Cook by the one and only; ‘A & A Reardon Amusements’.

Owner of the attraction Mr Adam Reardon, describes how the enchanting business has evolved over time. “We run the family carnival. We normally do agricultural shows and all that, but because the shows have moved to New South Wales and that, we’ve moved on to carnivals.”

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Mr Reardon and his wife have been operating this exhilarating business for children for decades. “I’m in the fourth generation, my kids are in the fifth. We’ve been doing this a long time and we love it.”

The lively atmosphere of the carnival was created by the loud and exciting screams of children on rides such as the Kraken, the Sizzler and Dodgem cars. Along with the sweet taste of fairy floss and the energetic pop music. Not only did this event include young children, but it also brought out the child in every adult present.

Soon to be twenty-one, student Jacinta Evans was one of the many to enjoy and participate in the carnival rides. “This is the perfect place for a date, I think this is the best date ever. Our favourite ride so far has been the Kraken, it’s so bloody fast.” Said Miss Evans whilst jumping with joy and excitement. “We are definitely going into the jumping castle next. I think my boyfriend is embarrassed but I’m having too much fun to leave.”

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The carnival is open from four PM to nine PM on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Unfortunately, this was the last weekend for Point Cook. Ten year old Sally David, a beautiful bubbly child shares her experience with the dodgem cars. “It was scary but I won, I bumped into every car. I think I will be a good driver when I’m older.”

Although the drizzle started turning into rain, this did not stop the many enthusiastic ride lovers from continuing the fun. Twenty one year old Nikita Singh says she is upset that this is the last weekend for the A & A Reardon Amusement carnival in Point Cook. “I’m really sad, I discovered this carnival last weekend and just had to bring my friends here. It’s wonderful because my little brother loved this place, and now my grown-up adult friends love it just as much. If not, more.” Said Miss Singh whilst laughing and deciding which ride to go on next. “We will definitely be coming back if it happens again.”

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