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The new blog hang out for Harry…the Man.

Category Archives: Girls’ rights

The Hardest Thing To Accept

The Serenity Prayer – Reinhold Niebuhr

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.

Have you ever witnessed someone you love or care deeply about continually do something that even they acknowledge as stupid?  They continue no matter how much you try to reason with them.

reinhold_niebuhr

Reinhold Niebuhr

Most of you know what I’m talking about before I even spell it out, I reckon.

My twenty five year old daughter (no longer my stepdaughter – Yasmin calls me Dad, nowadays) has a professional occupation, her own car, rents her own place, is very attractive, has a good figure…well, she’d have no problem finding a new man if she wanted to.

So why is Yasmin still keeping with her boyfriend who even she describes as very immature.  None of her friends have good words to say about him but there he still is in her life.

I won’t tell her how to live her life.  I don’t believe that controlling another person’s life is an act of love.  I have gently advised her that she is possibly wasting a big chunk of her life as she would not be confident that he would have sufficient empathy to help one of their children suffering an emotional crisis at, say, thirteen years old.  I won’t tell her what to do but let her consider whether she is just wasting her time.

Yes, it is so hard to give others the latitude to live their own lives.  However, this is what decent human beings do for the ones that they love and care about.

I was thinking of The Serenity Prayer penned by Reinhold Niebuhr this week.

With Yasmin, I can sleep easy knowing that she isn’t the victim of domestic violence or some other barbaric practice, but is only putting herself through unnecessary mental pain.

But what of those who cannot help themselves?  What of those school aged girls who are first raped and then forced to marry their rapists under pressure from their families?  What of the child soldiers forced to shoot their own parents?  What of the innocent civilians maimed by previously unexploded cluster bombs?  What of those victims of the modern slave trade?

There are millions of girls, boys, women and men who are living through everyday hell with no means to save themselves.  This has always been true of this World.  However, I find it more the stuff of nightmares nowadays as we are living in the twenty first century.

All I can do is to change the things that I can change and accept that I cannot rescue the World.  If my actions can relieve the suffering of just one person, then my life will have been worth a great deal.

If half of the population of the United Kingdom joined me in this then the lives of 30 million people around the World will have been improved forever.  And what if half the inhabitants of each relatively rich and free western country improved the life of one other person?  How much better the world would be.

On my own I cannot change the world  A multitude of willing if meagre efforts from the millions also living in the same society as me can save the oppressed in this World.

On the plus side for Yasmin, her boyfriend did spoil her with several gifts for her birthday.  If he can be a bit more considerate of other people’s feelings then he too will be improving the world around him.

There is hope for this.  He isn’t a vindictive or bad person.  Hopefully, he’ll wake up one morning and just curse himself for acting before thinking of other people’s feelings.  I do actually think he is capable of that.

More good news about the Write For Rights campaign

Due to being ill, it took me a few days to notice an email that I received.

It was an update on another of the cases that I wrote about during the Amnesty Write For Rights campaign.  I am quite sure that I mentioned that this was the first case for which I wrote a couple of letters in December last year.

The email is an update of good progress but more still needs to be done.

I hope that this can give us all hope that we can all do just a little bit to contribute to making the World just a little better than before.

It’s also nice for me to find out what happens after I sent those letters.

Here is an excerpt from the email:

Dear Harry,

Maria* was 13 years old when her father forced her to marry a 70-year-old man, a common practice in Burkina Faso.

Her father threatened her saying, “If you don’t go to join your husband, I will kill you.”

Amnesty is working to end child marriage once and for all…With your help, we are making strides.

In response to pressure from letters and actions from activists around the world, the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights and Civic Promotion in Burkina Faso has recently committed to raise the legal age of marriage for girls to 18 years and to ensure that forced marriage is clearly defined in Burkina Faso’s criminal code.

While these promises are a step in the right direction, we need your help to ensure these plans turn into real action.

Maria escaped after spending three days with her husband and his five other wives. She walked 105 miles over three days to get to a shelter.

When her father learned that she had fled, he threatened to attack the priest who helped her escape if she didn’t return home.

When she did return, she was beaten by her father and sent back to live with her husband. She again fled the house on foot and sought refuge at the nearest police station.

Amnesty is advocating for girls like Maria, who have suffered the injustice of early and forced marriage. We are telling their stories and we are holding governments accountable for their safety and well-being.

*Maria is not her real name

Thinking of Mothers’ Day…on #InternationalWomensDay

Hello all.  Later this week, I’ll address why I didn’t upload this post about Mothers’ Day at the weekend and instead waited until today.

Anyway, with it being International Women’s Day, it is probably right that this post is about the main women in my life.20160305_MothersDayMeal_195759

I was working at the weekend, and so I arranged a meal on Saturday evening as Sunday was a non-starter.  At the meal were my Mum, Yasmin and Yasmin’s Mum who is…er…Gloria!20160305_MothersDayMeal_195720

I arranged the times and booked the table earlier in the week as I wanted the evening to be as smooth as possible.  Thankfully, it proved that I can get this organisation thing right!

At three minutes past 6 in the evening, or 18:00 by the twenty four hour clock, I signed off from work and took Gloria to the car.  At 18:20, I picked up my Mum and gave her some flowers and a pot plant which she was overwhelmed by.  At 18:50, I collected Yasmin from her flat.  My Google Maps timeline shows that we arrived at the Harvester at 19:29.  We sat straight away as I had pre-booked the table.

As a thank you for booking the table online, I even got one drink free.  That made my large orange juice taste better!

Yasmin enjoyed her usual drink – Rose wine – while Gloria had a coffee and my mother a hot chocolate.  Yasmin was the only one to have more than one drink!  20160305_MothersDayMeal_220436

Yasmin had also been eating all day.  This might sound bad that she also wolfed down a starter and main meal but she has been off work with illness and had not been eating for several days.  Before the weekend, she had been living on a diet mainly of cups of tea and glasses of cordial.

We finished up by going back to Yasmin’s flat.  Gloria photo-bombed the photos that she took of Yasmin and I as she was reflected in the mirror above our heads.  I’ve cropped her out of the photo on this upload.20160305_MothersDayMeal_220413_cropped

Anyway, that was a great weekend which was rounded off with a couple of great women following me on Twitter.  You may know about Sarah Brown, the wife of the most recent socialist Prime Minister in the UK Gordon Brown.  I’ve highlighted Elena Hagopyan’s profile as you are possibly unfamiliar with her.Followers

Have a great #InternationalWomensDay everyone.

Remember, guys, even just changing the way that you and your friends speak about women behind their backs makes a great difference to equality.  Before you make a crude comment about a woman that you know, ask yourself if that’s how you would like people to speak about your mother/ neice/ daughter/ girlfriend/ wife.

I stayed home and done something

Yesterday was the end of the Amnesty International Write for Rights campaign, which I mentioned in one of my previous posts Stay Home and Do Nothing.  I thought that you might all like to know how I got on with this campaign.

I had planned to write one letter a day throughout the campaign until I reached my pledged target of ten letters with a few days to spare.  However, life did not transpire as I originally planned it.

I spent the first half of December in a state of grief.  No-one died, but I was feeling the loss of someone very dear to me from my life.  I was feeling especially depressed with it being near to Christmas which is a time that should be spent with those dearest to you.

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My letters are ready for posting

Anyway, that is a separate story.  The Write for Rights campaign was the trigger for me to get a little motivation back into my life.  I woke up on Wednesday knowing that I was going to hit my target and nothing would stop me.  I read through all of the campaign material and decided in what order I would approach each of the twelve different cases.

There are twelve cases that you can write letters on.  Amnesty International provide you with a basic letter on each case for you to plagiarise and then write out by hand.  These letters are addressed to the relevant official who has it in their power to help the subject of each case.  And so I found myself writing a number of letters where I was addressing a powerful stranger as ‘Excellency’, ‘President’ or ‘Majesty’.

You should then compose a letter of support to either the victim or their family to show support and solidarity.  There is no sample letter for this but just a few pointers as to what tone the letter should have.

The cases this year range from prisoners of conscience to child brides to victims of torture and rape by a country’s own security forces.

You all probably realise where my particular passions lie and so there will be little surprise that the case that I tackled first was one of illegal child marriages.  In Burkino Faso, child marriage is illegal but nevertheless tolerated by the authorities.  The example that Amnesty International quoted was of one school aged girl who had managed to run away and into their care after being threatened with death by her father if she did not marry a man who is not only aged in his 70s but who already has five wives.

My letter of solidarity was to all of the child bride victims in Burkino Faso.  Writing a short letter to the girls helped to get me into the swing of things, so to speak, for the rest of the campaign.  And so, although it originally seemed that I would not get time to write letters for no more than three cases because of the pressures of work and other obligations, I managed to hand-write letters to officials plus complete the accompanying solidarity letters for the ten cases that I originally pledged.

So, I went to the post office today armed with 19 letters – not 20 as one letter of solidarity was requested to be made via a specially created tumblr account rather than by mail.  There was one young lady serving at the Post Office counter with a sign saying she was in training.  She was very proficient, however, so this sign was a little deceptive.

A lady started queuing behind me and I noticed that she only wanted just one first class stamp.  I gave her one of mine from my wallet and I told her that I still had a dozen letters to get through so not to worry about paying me.

The total postage was less than I thought it would be and so I treated Gloria and myself to a burger at the top of Portsdown Hill.  We’ve now got a Christmas cake in the oven that we’re making for my Mum.

So, will I host a letter writing party next year rather than just do this on my own?  Hmm…I don’t know.  Looking on the map of letter writers, there were only two of us located in a forty mile stretch along the south coast of England.  If every household in Britain contributed just one letter, that would treble the number of letters written worldwide.  More letter writing parties could make this a reality.  Yes, that is a thought – maybe I should host a party next year.

We’ll see what happens.  I can’t promise anything if work is too hectic to assign a specific evening – but I definitely will write letters myself and tell other people about this whole campaign.

Stay home and do nothing

This post is a more serious than normal.  At the end of it I’m going to make a suggestion for anyone reading this that can make a massive difference to the world whilst costing you nothing more than a few moments of your time one evening.

I wish that I could think of something really funny to post this week.  Being able to do so would provide the perfect antidote to the conversations at work.

If people aren’t ranting to release their stress from the multiple projects at work, they’re instead discussing foreign affairs and especially the recent events in Paris, France.

I try to keep out of any discussions at work merely for the fact that political arguments in the workplace can be divisive.  There used to be someone who worked with us who would get quite angry when people did not agree with his views.

As far as I am concerned everyone can do exactly what they want so long as what they do  doesn’t affect anyone else’s freedoms.

Using this basis as my moral code, I know it’s not okay to spend the weekend in a football fan mob physically attacking passers by for no reason but for the love of a fight.  Yes, this obviously affects the freedoms of others.

But it goes further than this.  Everything that each of us decides to do has the potential to affect the freedoms of someone else.

Driving your car above the speed limit in urban areas removes the pedestrians’ right for safety.  Hmmm…a lot of people seem to have difficulty realising this.

And what about buying chocolate or coffee that isn’t fairtrade?  What about the freedom of the coffee or chocolate workers not to be slaves?

And what moral stance robs the helpless more of their freedoms?  Do we ignore the atrocities being committed in Syria, Iraq, Yemen etc?  Do we ignore what happens to girls, women – and men – in these far away countries?  Do their freedoms mean nothing to us?

If their freedoms mean something then we are morally obliged to think of how we give our fellow humans freedom.

By the way, this is not an argument either for or against war.  I do have my own belief as to what we should do but I don’t feel it’s important to try and convince anyone of it via this blog.

Doing nothing is often the greatest way to remove the freedoms of others.  Recent British history is littered with people doing nothing and letting a few famous people continually sexually abuse children.  An extreme example, maybe, but I hope that you get what I mean about doing nothing rather than something…anything.

I’m not going to make a case for or against war on this blog.  What I will say is that I respect those who are ready to go to war as well as those who don’t feel that war is right.  So long as they have sensible reasons for their stance it’s not a simple answer to say that either is wrong.

The most important thing is to be doing something to make the world a better place.

If all you do is talk about what’s right and what’s wrong and not do anything yourself to help anyone else, then what are the consequences of your actions?

To paraphrase a saying that I once heard, evil wins when the good stay home and do nothing.

Right, I started off by writing that I’m going to suggest something that you can do to improve the world without spending more than a few moments of your time.  Well, if you cannot work in a hostel, in a poor country helping the needy or by giving to charity maybe you can write a letter.  And I mean a letter that can literally save a fellow human from being tortured.  Here’s something I’ll be doing.  It’s called Write For Rights and is organised by Amnesty International.

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