Monday, 31 December 2012

A difficult Christmas and New Years for Syrian Refugees

Many of us have celebrated Christmas this year in the comfort of our homes, with the warmth of our close family members and for others in snowing regions, under a roof in a house oozing with the warmth of a burning fire. We have spent, drank, eaten good food, received and given gifts, laughed and have enjoyed the warmth that comes with spending Christmas and New Years with family and friends. Sad to say this isnt the case for everyone. I came across a story of a difficult Christmas for Syrian Refugees.

Spent under cold snowy weather, in thin muddy tents, with hardly access to a hot bowl of soup, that is not the worst part of being a Syrian refugee. Being away from close family and friends is part of it and not knowing whether they are safe, alive or dead only makes it all worse.

One story that captured my attention is from Global Voices Online, of Ayesha, a 29-year-old woman living in the Atma refugee camp in Idlib Province, in northwest Syria. She is one of an estimated 50 pregnant women in the camp of internally displaced Syrians; where there’s an acute need for baby milk.

Her children have only the thin clothes on their backs and the daily food ration provided by the camp’s communal kitchen. She’s terrified of the toll the mounting cold and wet winter will take on her fragile newborn baby. Imagine being heavily pregnant and also giving birth in a refugee camp?

Christmas celebrations in Syria were marred by violence and suppression across the country while a number of displaced Christians were forced to celebrate the Christmas in refugee camps set up in the neighboring country, Lebanon. The 21-month-old conflict has put future of religious minority at risk as extremists and al-Qaeda linked militants are gaining access in the violence-wracked country rapidly. World powers including the United States, France and Britain have failed to evolve a consensus on how to ease President Bashar al-Assad. outlines that out of security concerns, Mass was performed in the afternoon instead of the normal time of midnight. Hundreds of Christians prayed for security and peace in Syria; so that they could return to their homeland. Pope Benedict XVI also prayed for peace and harmony in Syria in his annual Christmas message. The Pope also urged for dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict. The United Nations peace envoy Brahimi is also on an official visit to Syria where he has held detailed meetings with President Assad and other relevant staff in a bid to find ways to restore peace and stability in the volatile country. Let’s see what Brahimi’s visit brings up for ordinary citizens of Syria.

The Syrian situation doesn't only remind me to be grateful about what I have, even the little that I have, but it reminds us once again all that still needs to be done to make this world a better place.

There are many ways that you can help refugees, whether they are right in your own community or half a world away.  If there are refugee services in your area, contact them and see if there’s something you can do to help, even if it’s just extending a smile and a welcoming hand.

Also I am sure you have heard of the saying, sharing is caring. The more we share about the injustices in this world, the more we will be heard, the more awareness we will build around the issue and hopefully something will be done about the issues plaguing our fellow human beings.

Wishing all of you a Happy New 2013!

Friday, 28 December 2012

My views on Christmas and on being an African woman

So Christmas season is almost over, for others its in actual fact over. For others, we are still enjoying the nostalgia that comes with the season, after all it is termed the season to be jolly. For others it was all about traveling, for some it was visiting family. Well, if you are an African woman, and Zimbabwean at that, you probably spent your Christmas at kumusha, the rural areas, visiting family and cooking over a hot blazing fire for 2 or 3 days non stop. The competition is particularly stiff among what we call the varooras, sisters in law, to out-cook each other, out-wash the dishes, out-work our hands to the bone. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think this stigma still exists to some extent. Whether its just African cultures or just the overall "norm", its something that has taken place for decades to come. Because of this, Christmas has just become another huge hassle for women to out-perform each other. Can I honestly say, to me its just another unnecessary platform to showcase our insecurities, without sounding too brutal?

Happily enough, I wasn't in Zimbabwe this Christmas, so I managed to dodge the whole cooking and cleaning extravaganza, but I still feel for  my African sisters out there who must still slave away at the stove in order to prove their worth. It demeans a woman's worth to nothing more than just a substitute for the gadgets that now exist for domestic purposes. Okay, so maybe that was a bit brutal, but my overall understanding is that Christmas is supposed to be a time to spend with family, because you genuinely want to see and visit family, because you genuinely want to find out how the aunt or uncle you have not spoken to in a while is keeping. In other words, if we could afford take-out, would it be so bad to just buy take-out and enjoy still the company of our relatives or would we feel incomplete as women, as if we haven't had a proper Christmas without all the hard work that is expected of us over the seasons. Would take-out take away the meaning and essence of the season? Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying lets not cook at Christmas! What I am saying is, the objective is not to cook and clean and do who knows what to prove that we are the perfect hard working excellent chefs and wives and women that I believe we are. The objective is to enjoy the company of your relatives, to be of merry cheer. Now if cooking is one way someone shows their giving then go on ahead, but this cannot be the norm for all of us women for some of us prefer to give in other ways.

The role of the African woman has been defined for so long, I now begin to wonder if we even know who we are anymore. My point is, let Christmas be Christmas. Let it be a time to be merry, to be happy, to be jolly. It can even be a time to rest. Why not? Lets celebrate what its really meant to be about. If you want to give to the poor go ahead, if you want to have pizza go ahead, if you just want to be at home relaxing and watching some television, go ahead. Its a time to be merry and joyful and I personally believe, restful. Spend time together, sing, gift-give if you want, just have fun! No segregation, no expectations! Is this too radical? Lets be more grateful for having one another, than what we can do for one another, and what we can give one another. Lets change our mentality. Hoping you all had a Merry Christmas this year!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Girl mutilation needs to end!

I read in the Tanzania's Citizen newspaper recently, that a 4 month year old baby bled to death after her parents had allowed a sangoma or witchdoctor to mutilate her genitals as a way of curing diarrhea. Her parents believed that mutilating her genital would cure the disease she was suffering from traditionally known, as ‘Lawalawa.’I was surprised and shocked at the lack of knowledge our society still has on such issues as these and how a lot of effort still needs to be made to educate people on the risks that come with using "traditional" forms of medicine and curing. Something has to be done to save the lives of girl children being mutilated because of traditional and cultural beliefs and also as a way of curing diseases. Female Genital Mutilation is a centuries-old practice used to control women's sexuality in some religions, although both Muslim and Christian leaders have spoken out against it. The procedure involves the removal of the clitoris and sometimes also other genital parts, usually in childhood or early adolescence. It can lead to infection, painful sexual intercourse, complications in childbirth, and eliminates any pleasure for women during sex. According to Amnesty International, FGM is commonplace in 28 countries in Africa as well as in Yemen, Iraq, Malaysia, Indonesia and among certain ethnic groups in South America,

Coincidentally enough, I also read in this same week that the UN Committee has called for a global ban of girl mutilation. What does this exactly mean? It calls on the UN's 193 member states to condemn the practice and launch educational campaigns for girls and boys, women and men, to eliminate it. It also urges all countries to enact and enforce legislation to prohibit FGM, to protect women and girls "from this form of violence" and to end impunity for violators.

Ultimately, this information has to get to those who dont get any access to the internet, here I am speaking of people in the rural areas. Lets hope all efforts will end the dogma around FGM.