We’re all human

One of my favourite places in London is the National Portrait Gallery which houses a study of portraits of some of the most influential people in Britain. Last week, walking through the gallery I was immediately drawn to this piece of artwork by Jerome Lagarrigue. FullSizeRender - CopyThe portrait is of the artist’s friend, the actor and first male albino model, Shaun Ross. Lagarrigue saw Ross standing in front of a cool-toned background in a shaft of light and felt compelled to paint him. He says, ‘It is impossible to overstate the historic misunderstandings of people born with albinism including prejudice, superstitions and hypocrisies’. People with albinism have a reduced amount of melanin or no melanin at all because cells that produce melanin do not work properly as a result of inherited genetic mutations. Depending on the amount of melanin the person has, they may have very pale hair, skin and eyes, although some people with albinism can have brown or ginger hair and skin that can tan. People with albinism also usually have a number of eye conditions such as problems with eyesight, photophobia and involuntary eye movements.

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It is estimated that about one in every 17,000 people has some form of albinism and the lifelong condition generally affects both sexes equally.  Although rare in the western world, albinism is quite common in sub-Saharan Africa with one Tanzanian in 1,400 being affected. Albinism has long been associated with stigma and superstitions, such as the belief that albinos are curses or ‘ghosts’. Recently, a notion has emerged that albino body parts are good-luck charms or possess magical powers. Witch doctors claim that albino body parts are capable of bringing riches, power and success- and for that, people are willing to pay as much as $3,000 for a limb $75,000 (roughly £50,000) for a whole body. As a result, there have been over 100 albino murders in Tanzania, Burundi, and other parts of Africa in the past decade. People with albinism are regularly attacked by people who chop their limbs off- a grotesque act which either leaves them severely mutilated, or dead. Even the dead are not safe as 16 graves of albinos have been robbed in Africa. Mwigulu Matonange was just 10 when he was attacked by two men as he walked home from school. They chopped off his left arm leaving him in a helpless state of desperation. Mwigulu told IPP Media after the horrific attack, ‘I was held down like a goat about to be slaughtered’. Six-year-old Baraka, whose right arm was hacked off and sold, is one of five children who arrived at Shriner’s Hospital in Philadelphia. 29C2BAE100000578-0-image-m-8_1434676054537 - CopyThe most shocking aspect of this issue is that the ‘enemy’ becomes indistinguishable. Josephat Torner, a campaigner for albino rights who works with the charity Standing Voice, says family members have been involved in planning attacks against people wit albinism. In a country like Tanzania, which is the 25th poorest in the world the lure of making a couple of hundred dollars which is as much as three times the minimum wage earned in Tanzania encourages people to commit these acts of depravity which leads to those with albinism living in fear of others, even from their own families. Children are particularly vulnerable as their innocence is highly valued as they are less likely to defend themselves.

The main suspects are the wealthy politicians and businessmen as they are most likely to have the funds available to pay. With the general election coming up in October, now is one of the most dangerous times to be an albino. The United Nations warned that political campaigners were turning to witch doctors to help them win election back in August. After widespread criticism of its lack of response to the abduction and killings of albinos, the Tanzanian government has moved to outlaw the witch doctors behind the murders. But as to whether it will make a difference for those living in fear for their lives remains to be seen. With the help of AID from developed countries, governments in Tanzania and other countries affected can use the funds to invest in their education sector. An emphasis on education will enable the workforce to attain more highly-paid jobs and there will be less incentive to commit these crimes to earn a small amount of money. However, this is a long-run strategy as benefits to the albino community would only be seen in the future.

Despite this, campaigners such as Jospehat who I mentioned earlier are fighting back now. He risks his life to go into remote villages to explain to people they are not ghosts, but human beings whose bodies will not bring luck. He hopes to continue to campaign and try to raise awareness. This is a form of racism as these innocent people are being targeted, judged and threatened because of their skin colour. Learning about the struggle of people with albinism including Mwigulu and Baraka was both shocking and distressing. Most importantly, the innocence of the children with albinism makes them unaware of the evilness and cruelty of these hunters. It is our responsibility to try to help these people and protect them by raising awareness about these heinous crimes and the immense fears and struggle of the albino people so that the governments involved are forced to take immediate action.

Albinos-Teaser_0 If you would like to donate to help bring safety and treatment to people with albinism in Tanzania please follow the links to ‘Tanzania Albino Charity’ and ‘Southern Africa’s Children UK Charity’ at the end of this post. ShaunRoss3Shaun Ross, the inspiring first male albino model, believes that beauty is confidence and thought of himself as a ‘confident outcast’. He stated in an interview, ‘It’s really weird to say, but I never thought about my skin being weird. I just know that’s what it was. I never asked myself why I didn’t look like my parents. My mother showed me you have no fear. You let people judge you, but who gives a fuck?’

http://albinocharity.org/ http://www.southern-africas-children.org.uk/

-Rhea

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Beyond

Perspective. Perception. Prejudice. In a world of about 7 billion inhabitants there are bound to be contrasting, varying opinions. We have evolved, advanced and changed. This sense of movement provides us with the opportunity to push boundaries, innovate and develop as a species. Although we all might on the surface seem similar, we are each individually unique with our own distinctive genome involving DNA with a different base sequence. Our genetics defines our individuality as it gives us those small differences like having that birthmark on your arm or that beauty spot on your leg. However, sometimes we forget how we have the ability to be ‘unique’.

We influence each other through our behaviour which can lead to expectations being constructed. Stereotypes become engraved into our world and these conventions threaten the concept of uniqueness. The pressure to conform to societal norms can conflict with an individual’s desire to be their true self. Rather than demean and critique others for their differences, we should encourage them to embrace them. This is easy to say, but these stereotypes such as girls should be ‘girly’ and like ‘make-up’ and ‘can’t play football’ and boys ‘have to play sport’ and ‘can’t wear dresses’ are almost imprinted into society. Gay teens are 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide and 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression compared with peers who aren’t gay. These statistics prove how stereotypes can be dangerous and destructive.

How do we change this? The media can highlight people who are brave enough to embrace their differences. Recently, Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn Jenner.  Both the Vanity Fair photoshoot and the ensuing #CallMeCaitlyn hashtag adopted by many fans on Twitter generated huge publicity. The attention which Caitlyn stimulated has had a great impact as it encourages young kids to accept themselves. She puts forward the message that ‘it’s okay to be different’. 556c7a224ae56e586e457d3e_vf-cover-bruce-jenner-july-2015Yes, we have different minds with different views which can make us disapprove with others. But in order for us to continue to evolve as a species we must learn to become more accepting. Each one of us was born with the right to possess free will. However, the fact that the free will and independence of many is threatened in various parts of the world further exemplifies the need to create an accepting community where people have the confidence to be their true selves. As a result of stereotypes people are being denied of their fundamental right to life.

One of the meanings of ‘trans’ is ‘beyond’. It is time that we push boundaries and think beyond these stereotypes presented before us. In  the end, it’s not about popularity. It’s about understanding that no matter what label is thrown your way, only you can define yourself.

-Rhea

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Lucy or lie

Have you heard about the 10% of brain myth?

It’s a widely perpetuated urban legend that all humans make use of only 10% of their brains. There is a notion that if a person were to harness this unused potential their intelligence would increase greatly and they’d be able to unlock secrets which are unknown to the universe.

A survey last year conducted by The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research discovered that approximately 65% of Americans believe that this myth is true. Unfortunately I don’t agree with these believers.

The world is a phenomenon: constantly moving, changing and evolving. There are over seven billion people living within it. The brain inside each and every one of us is in motion. Brain scans have shown that it is a complex, multi-tasking network of tissue that is always active no matter whether your sunbathing, swimming or sleeping. Some areas of the brain are more active than others, but aside from brain damage there is no part of it that is absolutely not functioning. It carries out both conscious activities, such as singing and driving a car, and unconscious activities, such as a heart rate and breathing. This makes me wonder what on earth the 90% of our brain which is supposedly inactive is actually doing. It’s hard to imagine that a little part of our brain has images and thoughts continually entering it whilst the rest of it is just simply unemployed. Does it merely consist of desolate and useless space?

I watched the new thriller, Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson which depicts a character who gains increasingly godlike abilities once she surpasses 10% of the brain’s cerebral capacity. I thought the film was intriguing and unique and I appreciate how it empowered women by giving Lucy’s character so much sheer strength. Despite this, I feel that it’s central contention that humankind only ‘use’ a small proportion of their brain to be very misguided. It seems unlikely that a brain with such a great quantity of redundant matter would have evolved in the first place.

I think that Lucy definitely pushes the boundaries as it explores the potential future powerfulness of mankind. However, I believe that humans are currently pushing boundaries. The human brain is already extremely powerful and there have been many people who have used their intelligence and innovativeness to develop unbelievable concepts which have shaped and crafted the world we live in today.

It’s certainly up to you whether you believe the ‘myth’ to be true or false. However, I don’t feel that this is the main problem. I think this myth is an assumption as we only understand in depth about how approximately 10% of it truly functions. Neurologists and scientists know that the brain is entirely active but they’re still not exactly sure of how it completely functions with the body. After all it’s an organ which possesses immense force- the brain has the ability to evoke feelings and behaviour and it’s a repository of memory and thoughts. It represents 1400 grams of the body’s weight and uses 20% of the body’s energy. So it’s no surprise that the brain still remains a slight mystery. There are elements of life which are so complex and unfathomable that we will never truly understand. We use numbers and letters as a way of making sense of daily life, but this isn’t a true scale. It’s the movement of time which I believe to be our real scale of life. Time gives humans true existence. In the future, new experiences, memories and ideas will enter and manifest within our mind and we will use these to learn more about ourselves, our world and the rest of our brains.

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-Rhea

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Born Sinners

Yesterday I finished reading the novel ‘Atonement’ by Ian McEwan. The novel centres on the guilt felt by the protagonist, Briony Tallis, for the consequences of committing a crime as a young  girl. The crime was erroneously accusing an innocent man named Robbie of rape. The novel is a meditation on the act of testimony  as she desperately searches for forgiveness for her actions.

This compelling exploration of  the struggle for forgiveness highlights to the reader that although Briony is consumed by guilt she never finds atonement. She attempts to, but in the end she fails. Robbie asks the question, ‘But what was guilt these days? It was cheap. Everyone was guilty, and no one was’. Briony discovers an outlet for her guilt through writing. She finds an opportunity to rewrite the past, which allows her to escape the feeling of being trapped within it.

I watched Trevor McDonald’s documentary titled ‘Inside Death Row’ and it showed that despite there being a natural momentum to human life, the men he met on Death Row exist in a state of stasis. In ‘Atonement’, McEwan describes Robbie as ‘Waiting. Simply one person doing nothing, over time, while another approached. Waiting was a heavy word. He felt it pressing down, heavy as a greatcoat.’ Like Robbie, the men in Death Row are prisoners of the past, with no true future, trapped in the present, waiting.

It seems undeniable that out there, around us, independent and apart from us, stands a physical world, utterly solid, real and tangible. But is everything we see real? Vedantic philosophers of ancient India spoke of the illusion of confusing the image in our mind with the thing-in-itself as ‘maya’. Briony in ‘Atonement’ suffers this delusion as she believes that the manifestations in her mind are the external world. The reader has to weave threads of doubt about what the characters feel, see and hear together which makes the novel blossom into a maze of irreconcilable uncertainties. It represents a rumination on the hazards of fantasy and the chasm between reality and art. Briony is an example of the way art shapes her life as much as she shapes that life into her art. From the start, her powerful imagination works to confuse the real with the fictive. She understands that ‘the imagination itself was a source of secrets’ and it’s these secrets which obscure the truth.

So then who is Briony Tallis? Is she a child criminal? A repenting nurse? A writer? A good or bad person? A sinner? It’s possible that all of these factors manifested into the character of Briony Tallis. But aren’t we all sinners? Rapper J Cole confronts this very question in his album titled ‘Born Sinners’. On the album cover, he holds a skull which is an occult symbol, along with wearing a ‘Jesus piece’ – worn to convey himself as being both ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
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He says that “when you listen to the album you’ll notice how it flows from hell to heaven, darkness to light”. Scripture states that  ‘all have sinned’ and that everyone by nature is sinful as we fall short of the idealistic state of being. J Cole’s lyric epitomises this, ‘Born sinner, was never born to be perfect’. However, I think that it’s these imperfections which make us human because if none of the billions of people living on this planet sinned, we would be living in a world where the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ was obscurely blurred. It’s the action of sinning which has allowed us to be good, allowed us to strive for goodness and allowed us to seek light.

-Rhea

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Natural treasures

Stepping into the unknown. That’s one of the main reasons I love to go on holiday. It’s the excitement of being able to immerse yourself in an environment and culture which is completely new, weird and wonderful.

Living in the UK, the weather isn’t constantly beautiful as the sun only likes to emerge through the fluffy white clouds on the odd occasion. So when it’s rainy and I’m not sun-bathing on a sandy beach surrounded by towering palm trees I look to social media to find a glimpse of what we all consider ‘beautiful’ weather. Instagram is that source for me. Today, someone posted a stunning shot of the Maldives.

If you’ve never heard of the Maldives before, it’s an archipelago nation lying off the Indian sub-continent made up of a chain of nearly 1,200 natural treasures… which are commonly referred to as ‘islands’. The Instagram photo sparked my memory. It fuelled me to reminisce to the summer of 2012 when I was blessed with the opportunity to embark on a journey to one of these remote ‘natural treasures’.

As soon as I looked out the airplane window and looked over the crystal clear waves of the Indian Ocean I realized that the trip was going to be one that I remember. After arriving in Malé International Airport on Hulhule Island we were taken via speedboat to our resort which spanned over an entire coral island called ‘Velassaru’. The word ‘vela’ translates to ‘turtle’ in Dhivehi-which is the spoken language in the Maldives. And hence, ‘vela’ forms part of the resort’s name as it’s surrounded by a turquoise lagoon which is occupied by loads of sea turtles!

We stayed in a water bungalow which was virtually on the ocean mainly because my family love to go snorkelling, especially my dad. So every day we would just jump out of our bungalow and into the mystical water to explore the underwater marine world below. Swimming over the coral reef we rubbed flippers with loads of tropical fish and manta rays. In my previous blog post I mentioned that I’m sort of scared of sharks. I wouldn’t say I overcame my fear on this trip but believe it or not, I swam with sharks. Before you get excited- no, they weren’t great white sharks. They were harmless 3 to 4 feet long sharks called ‘spiny dogfish sharks’. Despite having a slightly poisonous spine you didn’t need any special protection to swim with them and they literally just glided around you as you swam in the shallow depths of the ocean. It was a cool experience to say the least.

One day we travelled to the city of Malé and as soon as I entered into it I was immediately overcome by the buzzing and hectic atmosphere. Being one of the most crowded metropolitan areas in the world, there were people everywhere and noise could be heard constantly. However, I quite liked it. The bustling atmosphere was invigorating after spending most days languishing in the essence of our picturesque resort. Many Maldivians live in poverty within the city centre. However, the country has developed its infrastructure and industries, especially the fisheries sector, and although I didn’t eat the fish as I’m vegetarian I loved smelling the aromas of the ubiquitous local cuisine from the markets which wafted throughout the streets of the city. The food was spicy as most of it is cooked with Maldivian chillies and I would totally recommend tasting it if you ever find yourself in this crazy, chaotic city.

There is a decorative lush vegetation of coconut palms encompassing nearly every island and coconut palm locally called ‘Dhivehi ruh’ is a natural resource to the Maldivians. Coconut trees are declared as the national tree of the Republic of Maldives…and I find all this ‘coconut appreciation’ great because I like coconut ice cream and my favourite drink is a Piña Colada. However, I have to tell you a really weird story about a certain coconut in The Maldives. Many Maldivians hold on to a strong belief in the supernatural, and many use coconuts as a frequent ingredient in black magic spells and rituals. In September 2013, a coconut was detained by police after being discovered acting suspicious during the presidential elections. This young, questionable coconut was found outside a polling station and was accused of being placed to rig the election. Fortunately, no arrests were made, and we can only assume that the coconut was released into the custody of its family. And I guess you probably think I’m joking- I wish I was, but you can even search it on Google.

The Maldives is Asia’s smallest country and none of the coral islands measure more than six feet above sea level, making the country vulnerable to a rise in sea levels associated with global warming. In December 2004, The Maldives was hit by an Asian tsunami which devastated homes and resorts which has evoked a fear that as sea levels rise, island countries such as the Maldives may simply disappear in the future. The threat’s so real, in fact, that the government is considering purchasing land in neighbouring countries for the worst-case scenario of relocating its approximate 300,000 residents.

Okay, I think it’s time for another strange story about the Maldives…In order to draw attention to their concerns, President Mohamed Nasheed moved the October 2009 cabinet meeting to the bottom of the ocean. The President and 13 other government officials strapped on scuba gear and sat at desks that had been sunk to the bottom of the sea in an attempt to raise awareness about the dangers facing the island chains.

I really hope that the world’s wave of environmental consciousness will continue to innovate new ideas to help preserve and protect this weird and wonderful place because my experience of venturing out to one of the Maldives isolated and idyllic natural treasures proved to be unparalleled and I hope others can get the opportunity to experience it too.

Although social media has a wide array of flaws with relation to its safety and other factors; I think it’s most valuable strength is that it enables a person to learn so much about the world from a range of different perspectives which may be conveyed through a 140-character tweet or through the lens of a camera. I mean if it weren’t for Instagram I probably wouldn’t have been reminded of the unrivalled beauty of The Maldives.

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So to all my friends of the internet-whether you’re going on holiday or not… try stepping into the unknown.

You won’t regret it.

-Rhea

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Mysterious mechanisms of the mind

What’s all the fuss with ‘scary’ movies? I’m more of a comedy and chick-flick film-watcher, with my favourite films being Clueless and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. However, one day this holiday I thought I’d watch a ‘scary’ movie. I’m also one of those people who when it comes to the holidays, I lose track of what day it is. So one night last week on a date I can’t remember I thought I’d watch ‘Insidious’ . Unfortunately, I didn’t find it scary, I found it more funny.

I love those films which after watching make you sit still for a moment in state of slight shock; films which make you more inquistive and curious about our world, our life, our mind. A film which allowed me to experience this ‘state of slight shock’ was one titled ‘Trance’. On a flight to Dubai, I watched ‘Trance’; a pscychological thriller and interactive puzzle presented by Danny Boyle about unlocking the secrets of hypnotism and the power of memory. Honestly, it was sort of epic. I remember sitting still in my window seat replaying the motion of the movie and laughing to myself at how Danny Boyle managed to so supremely mess with my mind.  Here’s the trailer if you’re interested:

The film made me realise how our mind is so open to manipulation as it delved into the darkest recesses of the human pschye. I started to think about how our mind enables us to dream at night and experience ‘nightmares’. Most of the time the mind is external and this is called the ‘waking state of consciousness’. When you’re sleeping, the mind is partially withdrawn to the external universe, but is still fiercely active within. This is what is known as the ‘dream state’. Here the mind creates a world similar to what you perceive and experience during your ‘waking state of consciousness’. Within this state you can also experience a nightmare which stems from your anxieties, worries and fears. Based on this, I would have a nightmare about sharks and ice cream vans. Sharks… I think most people have a fear of them which is referred to in posh language as ‘galeophobia’. And you may be thinking why I am fearful of ice cream vans. Well when I was younger I bought my first ice cream from this van with so many high expectations only to find myself puking straight after eating it. Not only this, but the tune they play is enough to put chills down my spine.

When the mind travels beyond this dream consciousness, it sinks still deeper, and becomes fully absorbed and withdrawn. This state is experienced daily (unless you’re an insomniac) and is known as ‘sound sleep’. Not much is known about this state but it’s the most significant state there is as it holds the real identity of your true self manifested at the core of your being. In this state of total withdrawal of the mind- a state of dreamless, deep sleep- you come closest to your essential inner nature. There are three characteristics of the mind. The first is ‘externalization’ which implies that the flow of the mind is outward and not centred inward. This relates to the law of life which states that everything spreads outward from its centre, but there is a force which is trying to draw everything back towards their source. When this externalizing force is overcome, humans find their ‘Centre’ where they can dive deeper into their mind, and in this way discover more about their identity.

The second charactersitic of the mind is ‘activity’. Never for a single moment is the mind still. It’s always actively moving, thinking and exploring. The third characteristic is ‘direction’. Not only in one direction is the mind active, but in various directions; flitting from one thing to another. It’s difficult to control; now it’s here, now it’s there, and suddenly it’s everywhere. It can’t be seen, neither looked at under a microscope nor placed into a test-tube and analyzed. It’s so sheerly abstract that it’s difficult to grasp.

Our human experiences which may consist of just watching a good movie show how the mechanisms in our complex mind are so mysteriously crafted as they enable us to feel different emotions and ask different questions. It is for this reason that I believe that the faculty of the mind is the greatest gift bestowed upon the individual soul. However, the mind can also be the greatest single curse as well and it’s this paradox which is one of the greatest mysteries of life. Our mind is one complete marvel.

-Rhea

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PS. Here’s a little music playlist for those of you who find it difficult to sleep..

1975- Money/ Falling for you/ The City

Snow Patrol- Just say yes

Imagine Dragons- The River

Jhene Aiko- WAYS

Paramore- Daydreaming

Drake- Over my dead body

The Killers- Shot at the night

G-Eazy- Lets get lost

Mac Miller- Missed Calls/ Best Day Ever

Kid Cudi- Falling Star

Soulless- Clouds

Sam Smith- Nirvana

It’s not about religion, it’s about humanity.

With the sun blazing on a hot July afternoon, there was something even more overwhelming than the temperature. This was the anger and frustration fused together of those participating in the pro-Palestine protest taking place in Trafalgar Square. I heard protesters chant ‘Free Palestine’ as they called for an end to the conflict in the West Bank.

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I was unaware of how, why and when this conflict first erupted and thought others may be as well, so here’s some info about how it began… Starting in 2006, the Gaza–Israel conflict, taking place in the region of the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, is a part of the long-term Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

An escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began in 2014 following a series of events. Those events included the collapse of American-sponsored peace talks, attempts by rival Palestinian factions to form a coalition government, the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, the subsequent kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teenager, and increased rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas militants.

Since 8 July 2014, more than 1,100 Gazans, most of them civilians, have been killed in the conflict. On the Israeli side, 53 soldiers have been killed as well as three civilians. The UN says estimates around 74% of the Palestinian dead are civilians, including 243 children.

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Israel’s main declared aim is to stop rocket fire from Gaza once and for all. It has also said it aims to destroy Hamas network of tunnels running between Gaza and Israel and wants the territory to ultimately be demilitarised. Hamas’ political leaders say they will only stop fighting when there is an end to the blockade of Gaza. Hamas’s charter is committed to Israel’s destruction but in recent years it has said it will consider a long-term truce with Israel.

When we consider the suffering, pain and fear that the civilians caught in the conflict must be experiencing, I feel that human life itself is more important and holds more value than religious beliefs. I hope those reading this will take a moment to pray with me for the prospect of peace to end the seige and pray for the innocent who have been effected by the tragedies which have already taken place. 

-Rhea

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#GirlSummit

YouTube adverts. Most of the time I click ‘skip’ after watching 5 seconds. However, this one caught my attention.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLKucrAZ7iw

Created from Instagram footage, the 2.20 minute advert unveils the organisation called ‘Girl Summit’ raising awareness about child, early and forced marriage and FGM (female genital mutilation). Their aim is to accelerate efforts to end both practices. Though it may seem an unrealistic aim, it is hopeful… and hope is what the girls who are subjected to endure these unimaginable practices are most likely to feel.

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Seven girls still have their genitals cut or mutilated per minute and with the world population currently slightly over 7 billion, the rate at which the practice is declining is not enough to counter population growth. Reading these statistics honestly made me feel helpless. However, they just provide more reasons to help create an awareness about these barbarous practices.

Child marriage, is also a custom common in Africa and India. The prospective future of a child bride is most likely to be socially isolated, poor and overcome with deprivation. They are less likely to remain in school and more likely to experience domestic violence. UNICEF reported that more than 700 million women alive today were married before they turned 18. FGM and child marriage permanently and profoundly harm young girls, denying them their right to make their own decisions and determine their destiny.

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Governments will have an extra incentive to not just pass laws but enforce them if foreign aid was made conditional on results. The focus on tougher laws and increased funding for prevention programmes are important steps to combat these practices. Both FGM and child marriages are derived from deeply rooted societal norms which can only be changed through education. Educating parents about the harm and pain they can inflict upon their children by encouraging their children to undergo these practices is essential as well education for future generations.

Some people have questioned Girl Summit’s aim to eradicate FGM as it is thought of as a tradition in many African countries. How anyone can support these practices is beyond my reasoning. These somewhat ignorant people must realise that some traditions must be broken when they can lead to excruciating pain, infection, infertility and death. When we consider the morality of these practices, I believe that neither culture nor religious value hold any significance.

Similarly, male genital mutilation does exist in the forms of male circumcision and castration. Although they are less prevalent these practices are impermissible and it is time to confront the double standard in order for these boys and girls to receive the justice they deserve.

The UK government has pledged to match pound-for-pound money raised by chairities tackling FGM and child marriage. The Girl Summit has received over 4,500 pledges and 34,000 social messages and hope to rally even more support.

FGM and child marriage are not just happening in far-away destinations. Currently, there are girls without these same rights in London and across the UK. Both practices act as a way to control a girls sexuality and mind, her right to choice and her right to freedom.

This raises the question; what does freedom mean to you?

Use this freedom to help these girls discover their own… Sign the pledge.

http://www.girlsummitpledge.com/

-Rhea

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H2O

Recently I found myself in Flatford. You may be wondering where Flatford is exactly. Well to be honest, I have no idea. I found myself in this unknown place as a result of a compulsory school Biology fieldtrip. Yes, I was forcefully dragged on this fieldtrip kicking and screaming to look at quadrats and draw lines of best fit. Okay, it wasn’t that bad. Actually it was surprisingly fun.

On a hazy Sunday afternoon we arrived at this cute, idyllic little cottage in Flatford Research Centre where we’d be chilling for the next three days. On the second day we ventured out in search of the beach. And no, not for the purpose of sunbathing. After we did our research on the beach we plodded through the sludgy sand in our wellies in the direction of the shore.
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Standing within the outskirts of the ocean I looked out onto this vast aqua-blue ribbon which was shot through with golden sunrays. With the waves of water cascading over each other I couldn’t help but think about a quote by Jhené Aiko: ‘There is no difference between the water and the wave. There’s no such thing as birth and death because the wave cannot die; it’s all water.’ This quote never seemed so true as I stood there.

Jhené Aiko is a songwriter and singer. There is a quality of palpable realness which exists within her angelic, ethereal voice which makes her melodic art more centred around visceral impact. In this way, I see her as a poet- stringing words together in a lyrically beautiful way.

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Here is a poem she wrote:

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I also think of Frank Ocean as a poet as well as a musician. If you don’t know of this guy, then I probably won’t like you. His uniqueness and ability to artfully craft words and imagery together is somewhat magical and if you’re intrigued by his ominous aura then you should visit his weird, yet wonderful blog.

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So back to the story…Feeling the cold sensation of water drift around my wellies as I thought of the quote I mentioned earlier, I considered the extent of my dependency on water. This biology trip not only emphasised to me that water is an abiotic factor, it also helped me to establish my belief that water represents poetry. This could be reading Wallace Stevens’ poems or listening to musical poems written by Jhené Aiko who cadently sings her lyrics which hydrate the soul like water. Just like an ocean, poems have no beginning or end. They are a drifting and flowing continuation of words. They possess an ability to let your mind wander through the wilderness of your own imagination.

-Rhea
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PS-
Here are a few songs by Miss Aiko and Mr Ocean which you might want to check out:
Jhené Aiko- Burning Man/ My Afternoon Dream/ Bed Peace
Frank Ocean- Lost/ Swim Good/ Thinking about you/ Super Rich Kids

A moment in time

Walking against the crowds of people on oxford street, we came across this…

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A person sitting at the traffic lights. Some people observed this person for a few minutes wondering what he was doing, others chose to blissfully ignore it. For a moment, I watched too. But the thoughts which ran through my head weren’t ones of worry, concern, fear or those fuelled by judgement. I thought about how sheerly obscure the portrait of this individual displayed before me was. Here, we had an unknown person, stopping the moving traffic and bustle of crowds. I thought it was powerful. This person seemed to be taking a moment to stop; to halt from the forever turning world around them. Therefore, I thought I’d let any readers out there know that it’s okay to stop too sometimes, even if it is for a moment because sometimes it’s within these moments which you really feel the true essence of life.

Have a good Summer y’all.

-Rhea
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