Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘change’

Watch CARE At Work

Watching their videos won’t change the world. But you should subsrcibe to CARE’s You-tube channel anyway.

Here’s why: You Tube Care

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Horrifying Violence Against Women

Dear Gabriel,

Violence against women is a horrifying, serious problem nationwide. In some countries, 7 in 10 women will be beaten, raped, abused, or mutilated in their lifetimes. These aren’t just numbers — these are mothers, sisters, daughters, lovers, and friends who face real danger every day.

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In the United States, we’re lucky in some respects. Our Congress just passed the Violence Against Women Act, although it took months of using the lives of women and girls as political leverage to do it. But millions of American women are still suffering from rape, domestic abuse, and sexual violence — and signing a bill won’t be enough unless our leaders take necessary action.

We also must act in solidarity with women around the world who face direct violence at the hands of their own country’s police and government forces. If we don’t demand that our leaders stand up for their protection, who will?

On International Women’s Day this past Friday, it was great to remember how far we’ve come. But we must not forget how far we have to go.

Ask President Obama and leaders around the world to take steps to end violence against women.

Thank you for taking action,

Kathleen
Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team

Grief’s Wake Up Call

Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.
by Gabriel Constans

Events that can and often do, devastate us emotionally, can also be used for personal transformation and growth. Some individuals find hope and opportunity in the midst of adversity. They reach out to help others find comfort and healing. Some succeed to change laws, institutions, policies and assumptions.

Meet Leah Rabin, Le Ly Hayslip, Maggie and Reg Green, Jeanne White, Hazel Johnson, Lee Mun Wah, Nane Alejandrez, Candace Lightner and others, to discover how they have found strength, courage and sheer tenacity to overcome the worst that can happen and use it as a catalyst to rediscover them selves and help others in the process.

What People have been saying about Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something!:

“In Don’t Just Sit There, we have the privilege of listening to these inspiring people as they tell us what they have endured and how. These are lessons on living that come direct from experience, lessons we all need. I hope this book reaches many, touching hearts and infusing us all with its wisdom.”
Ellen Bass, co-author of The Courage to Heal

“A deeply moving work … highly recommended for hospice workers, grief counselors, and ministers and as a powerful affirmation for life.”
NAPRA ReView

“Gabriel Constans searches out the key to living after a loss by interviewing survivors who use a variety of activities to cope with a death … this book is an inspiration to both the bereaved and those who support them.”
Lynne Ann DeSpelder, author of The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying

Please consider a copy for yourself, family member or friend at Fast Pencil Publishing.

Palestinian Women FM

From Nation of Change
by Jillian Kestler-D’amours
23 February 2012

FM Radio Spells Change, Success for Mid-East Women

Nisreen Awwad moves closer to the microphone as she signs off to her listeners, the words “Nisaa FM: music, change, success” displayed prominently over her left shoulder.

“The thing I love (most) in my program is when I interview simple women from the villages, because they are successful and (are doing) something different in their society,” the 31-year-old radio producer, a native of the Qalandiya refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, tells IPS.

Host of the daily morning show on Nisaa (Women in Arabic) FM, Awwad explains that positively influencing the roles women play in Palestinian society, and changing the way Palestinian women view themselves, is what she strives for.

“I got involved here because I believe in the message of the radio station, and I wanted to make (a difference for) women in our society. Nisaa FM, I think, it’s something different,” Awwad said. “I like how my work in Nisaa FM makes me involved more in women’s issues.”

Launched in June 2010, Nisaa FM is an almost entirely female-run Palestinian radio station based in Ramallah, West Bank and the only radio station in the Middle East devoted solely to women’s issues. Its director Maysoun Odeh Gangat says that the station aims to inform, inspire and empower local women.

“Through the positive role that the women are playing in the society that we portray, we believe that we can empower women economically and then socially and politically. It could be any woman from the rural areas or the refugee camp, or a woman parliamentarian or minister,” Gangat told IPS.

In addition to suffering from a myriad of human rights abuses stemming from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza, Palestinian women face challenges from within their own society.

According to a 2009 report released by the Palestinian Women’s Information and Media Centre (PWIC) in Gaza, 77 percent of the women in Gaza had experienced some form of violence; 53 percent had been exposed to physical violence and 15 percent to sexual abuse.

In 2008, the Ramallah-based Arab World for Research and Development (AWRD) research centre found that 74 percent of survey respondents did not know of any organization working on women’s rights. Some 77 percent of respondents also said that they supported enacting laws to protect women from domestic violence.

“This is a patriarchal society. This is a male-dominated society, so the change should come by addressing males, as well,” Gangat said, explaining that engaging Palestinian men on women’s issues is important to the station.

She added that talking about difficult issues – such as polygamy, divorce, abuse, early marriage, and poverty – and the ways in which women can assert their rights in these areas, is necessary for change to occur.

“Women were inspired by the fact that we bring some people or experts on issues that are contentious and negative. We’ve had some women calling and asking us, ‘Which organization did you interview?’” Gangat said.

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

Nonviolent Resistance

From Inter Press Service and Nation of Change
by Karina Bockmann
26 January 2012

The Logic and Limits of Nonviolent Conflict

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the uprisings in Egypt that unseated an authoritarian regime and rekindled the spark of nonviolent resistance around the world.

The mass demonstrations that began on Jan. 25 in Cairo appeared spontaneous, ignited by the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution some weeks before. But according to Srdja Popovic, a seasoned organizer and founder of the ‘Centre for Applied NonViolent Action & Strategies’ (CANVAS) in Belgrade, that assumption is far from the truth.

A consultancy group for nonviolent resistance movements around the world, CANVAS prides itself on having trained pro-democracy activists from almost 40 countries in nonviolent techniques and strategies.

Members of Egypt’s April 6 Youth Movement, a decisive force in bringing down former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, were disciples of the organization, which has been dubbed the ‘Revolution Academy’.

In CANVAS workshops, members of April 6 became familiar with forms of peaceful protest, creative provocation measures and practical advice on how to behave in critical situations. They took classes in fundraising and recruitment and gained valuable advice on how to attract new supporters to the movement.

Coupled with the revolutionary fervor that swept across Egypt throughout 2011 and is still visible on the streets today, CANVAS’ training of key young members of the resistance bore fruits of a legendary nature.

“2011 was the worst year for the bad guys ever,” said Popovic at a discussion in Berlin entitled, ‘Democracy Promotion – Democracy Export – Regime Change?’, referring to the many pro-democracy uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East that have come to be known as the Arab Spring.

Popovic easily counts himself as one of the ‘good guys’, given that he was a driving force behind the Serbian student movement Otpor! (meaning resistance) that peacefully toppled the ‘butcher of Belgrade’ Slobodan Milosevic from power in the year 2000.

Solid Strategies

Popovic is the executive director of CANVAS and, by extension, the chief trainer at the ‘Revolution Academy’.

A veteran organizer, he inspires professionalism, assertiveness and confidence when he speaks about the techniques of “how to get rid of a dictator” and of the importance of unity, planning and nonviolent discipline as “the universal principles of success.”

Assuming that a successful pro-democracy movement needs the support of just three to eight percent of the population, the chances of overthrowing dictators anywhere in the world are quite high, Popovic said, corroborating his assertion with the results of a report explaining ‘Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict’.

Authored by Erica Chenoweth, assistant professor of government at Wesleyan University, and Maria J. Stephan, a strategic planner with the U.S. Department of State, the report analyzed 323 violent and nonviolent resistance movements from 1900 to 2006 and concluded that “major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns.”

Chenoweth and Stephan examine campaigns like Gandhi’s struggle for Indian Independence from British rule in 1947, the Solidarity movement in Poland in the 1980s, the civilian-based movements in Serbia (2000), Madagascar (2002), Georgia (2003) and Ukraine (2004) as well as the ousting of foreign troops in Lebanon (2005) and the restoration of civil rule in Nepal (2006) and the Maldives (2008).

The study bolsters the ‘democracy export’ policy introduced by former U.S. president Ronald Reagan back in 1983, which is as dynamic today as it was more than two decades ago – in fact, Washington invests roughly two billion dollars a year in nonviolent global interventions, or what critics of the model call ‘hidden U.S. imperialism’.

Both authors argue that nonviolent resistance has a strategic advantage over violent resistance. Repressing peaceful protests could backfire, resulting in a breakdown of obedience among regime supporters, mobilization of the population against the regime and international condemnation or sanctions, which often serve to weaken those in power.

The authors go a step further to predict that key members of the regime – including civil servants, security forces and members of the judiciary – “are more likely to shift loyalty toward nonviolent opposition groups than toward violent opposition groups.”

When repression by state forces is directed towards nonviolent campaigns, the report estimates the rate of defection by security forces to be as high as 46 percent.

Popovic also stressed that nonviolent strategies against authoritarian rule, as well as the use of social media tools rather than weapons, are, in general, far less risky endeavors for individuals involved in the movement.

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

AI Turns 50

Amnesty International Turns 50
by Larry Cox (AIUSA Executive Director)

May 28 is a day that changed the human rights movement forever. Fifty years ago one person – Peter Benenson – outraged by injustices he read about in the paper, asked others to unite with him in common action.

He knew we could use our activism to achieve extraordinary things. He created Amnesty International.

Change did not happen overnight.

It took many conversations, many letters. Friends spoke to family members, the message spread, and one by one we secured the release of tens of thousands of people. People imprisoned for their beliefs or their way of life.

As activists lobbied governments, and researchers interviewed survivors, we demanded accountability for previously untouchable leaders. One by one each person who took action changed laws and changed lives.

50 years on, our work is not done – but we are more determined than ever to protect human rights. 50 years has shown that one by one we can. We have.

So today, we thank you for your work to defend human rights. Will you celebrate our birthday today?

In honor of 50 years of hard work and meaningful change, wish Amnesty a happy birthday today on Facebook, Twitter, and to your friends and family at home.

Traveling With Pomegranates

Traveling With Pomegranates
by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor.
(Penguin Books, 2009)
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

A mother and daughter travel to Greece, Turkey, France and home to South Carolina and provide their respective perspectives on the experience. Sue Monk Kidd (the well-known author of The Secret Life of Bees) is reflecting about her life and turning 50, while her daughter Ann navigates periods of depression, self-doubt and uncertainty about her future, her career and sense of self-worth. The consistent and similar traits that hold the story together, as well as both authors (one to the other), are the love; respect and admiration each have for the other. Sue writes, “The laughter has cracked the heaviness that formed around us like tight, brittle skin, and even now delivers me peeled and fresh to this moment, to Ann, to myself.”

Traveling With Pomegranates is a combination of memoir, journal writing and travelogue, which takes readers to places that will be familiar (externally and internally) and others that seem to fit for the author’s reflections alone. There are times when the prose is engaging, such as when Sue is speaking about turning 50 and says, “The spiritual composition of the Old Woman, not through words, but through the wisdom of a journey” is an apt summation of how she is seeing herself at that time. Many may find it hard to think of 50 as “old”, but it is used in this context as a starting point to look at change, old age, death and birth. At other times, it seems as if the writing should have been left in a private journal or in letters shared between mother and daughter. Not because of any private content or big secrets, but because it had no weight or meaning for a larger audience.

Sue has long had a kinship with the Black Virgin and used it as metaphor and object throughout her novel The Mermaid Chair. She speaks of it in length once again, on their visit to see the statue of the Black Virgin of Rocamadour in France. “As I look at her, my throat tightens and I dig through my bag for the travel-size Kleenex. Just in case. I’m not sure what moves me about her, only that she’s beautiful to me. Someone vacates a chair, and I sit down, staring at the flinty old Virgin until the tears really do start to leak. I rub them away and focus on the back of Ann’s brown hair. Ann’s fingers, I notice, are curled around the stubby piece of chain, and I wonder what she has decided about it. What I will decide about mine… I know suddenly what moves me about the Black Virgin of Rocamadour: She’s the Old Woman. It comes with some surprise, as if the bird on the altar has just pecked me on the forehead.”

While her mother is having the previous insights and feelings, Ann is writing about hers. “I glance over at my mother. Her eyes are closed, her fingers interlocked. I wonder what her prayers are about. Her novel? Her blood pressure? Peace on earth? The two of us praying like this to the Black Madonna suddenly washes over me, and I’m filled with love for my mother. The best gift she has given me is the constancy of her belief. Whatever I become, she loves me. To her, I am enough. I look up at Mary and concede what I am coming to know. I will become a writer.”

It is obvious that traveling together and writing about it were important for the author’s lives. Whether their reflections and insights are also of relevance for those outside their family will have to be left up to others to decide. This reader has mixed feelings about Traveling with Pomegranates, and doesn’t expect those feelings to be any less cloudy in the foreseeable future.

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Stop Talking About Clean Energy

It only takes me a few minutes to say out loud, “Here they go again.” Every time I hear a politician, commentator or policy wonk tout the need for our country to become energy independent and develop “future” technology that doesn’t pollute, reduces green house gasses and makes us less dependent on foreign oil (and all the conflict that creates), I want to choke on their oratory fumes. They talk about it like a religious mantra, but never put it into practice.

The “future” technology and know how is already here and has been for some time. What’s lacking is the awareness of its existence, the fear of changing the economy and the will to transform our present infrastructure and dream big. We’ve done it before at home, with The New Deal and the space program. We’ve done it abroad with The Marshall Plan. We’ve done it repeatedly for unnecessary wars and wasted billions in defense contracts, instead of creating new energy and life-giving technology.

Ten years ago, when our family put solar panels on our home, I thought we’d found the answer, but it turns out that that was small potatoes. Even though solar energy is dropping in price and there are rebates and incentives galore, not everyone can afford the initial costs, nor is it easy to convince people to do so. People in the northern half of the U.S. can’t always use solar because it’s difficult to store and save the energy produced for a cloudy day. By all means, I hope individuals and companies continue to put ever more efficient panels on their roofs, buildings and parking garages and have dispersed energy sources, but not that alone.

Photovoltaic solar energy (panels on your roof), combined with wind, hydro-electric and hydrothermal sources, are all a big step in the right direction, but could take half a century to spread and be adopted nationwide. If we stop and look in the mirror, there’s been another alternative all along and it’s about to light up the world.

While searching the web for photovoltaic solar companies, I happened upon some sites that spoke about thermal solar energy. Like most politicos and environmental junkies, I didn’t have a clue to their existence, let alone know what thermal solar was.

Solar thermal works by using special mirrors that reflect the sun on to long pipes filled with water. The heat from the sun boils the water, which produces steam to turn turbines. The energy from the turbines is then transmitted to the electric company. The companies that have developed this technology have also figured out a way to store the energy produced for future needs (a rainy day). It turns out that there are several companies already building these systems and is placing them in the Nevada desert and have contracted with Pacific, Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and other large power companies in the U.S.

By using a 90 mile by 90 mile square area, these systems could provide enough energy for most of the country. Solar thermal facilities in the North African desert could produce adequate amounts of energy for most of Europe. There are similar desert areas in Asia, Australia and South America. Since China, India, the U.S. and Europe are the leading emitters of green house gasses, it makes sense to first convert their energy sources (oil, nuclear and coal) to thermal solar so the rest of the planet can breathe and adapt the same technology for their countries social and material needs.

The beautiful thing is that there is no pollution, nor emission of green house gasses in the process. It works with our existing infrastructure and could be improved in the near future by building new transcontinental power lines. The parts for these power plants are being built now. They will be soon be up and running. Combined with the use of all-electric vehicles, which can (by this time next year) get up to 250 miles per charge and charge in minutes (due to recent battery advances), our nation could be oil free within a few decades.

These essential changes in how we produce and utilize energy can accelerate if (and the “if” is the part that is so maddening and beyond my control) politicians, media moguls and large businesses are willing to get fired up, transform the job market and put their financial and political will behind a new Marshall Plan for U.S. energy. It will take much less time to change the source of energy for a few power plants than it will to change the habits and availability of new energy sources for millions of Americans.

Having realized that photovoltaic energy is a drop in the bucket, compared to thermal solar, has given me hope and perspective. When I arise in the morning and look in the mirror, I am reminded that the simple combination of sun upon glass can literally save our planet. If we can only get the politicians and those running for office, to stop talking about “future” energy independence and start talking to those who already have the technology out on the table, we can make these dreams a present reality.

10 Exercises for Living With Loss

Mourning the loss of someone you love, adore, respect, hate, despise or have any combination of feelings towards takes time and attention, but you don’t have to just sit there and take it.

Sometimes grief can cause such lethargy and exhaustion that it may seem impossible to “do” anything other than get through the day. The irony is that once you get moving, emoting or acting it usually increases your motivation, energy and health.

Once you have taken the time to acknowledge your loss (whatever it may be), feel it’s full impact and the changes it is causing in your life, you can then find ways to relieve, release, expel, create, explore and/or honor those feelings, sensations, thoughts and beliefs.

Though there are thousands of ways to release the pressure cooker of emotion and suffering that death can cause, here are a few possibilities. You can duplicate these actions in your own life or use them as a catalyst for your own unique creations and manifestations of grief. The only precaution is that you do them in a safe environment and/or with people you trust (where you don’t have to censure yourself) and that they not cause others or yourself harm.

1. Scream, wail, moan, sob, laugh hysterically, play music, sing, howl or cry out loud, in the shower, on the floor, into a pillow, at the beach, in the woods or with a trusted friend. After the death of his wife, a friend of mine said he would face the ocean and cry and scream for a few minutes every day where nobody could hear him.

2. Walk, run, swim, workout, hike or bike at least two to three times a week by yourself or with others. A man whose sister died in an automobile accident said running every day is what saved his life and made his loss bearable.

3. Play, listen to and/or dance with music to release and let go of emotional pain and get outside of your ego and transcend your mind. Music and/or dance, in whatever form, can bring you into the moment and decrease thoughts of the past or worries of the future.

4. Breathing exercises, visualizations, relaxation, stretching and yoga have all been shown to relieve stress, anxiety and positive endorphins to help the body heal. After my uncle committed suicide I found that deep breathing and yoga helped give me more energy when I felt sad or depressed.

5. Meditate, chant and/or pray using whatever practice, tradition or belief system you have or hold. Many women and men I know have found that looking at their inner life closely and honestly and surrendering what they see to something (a higher power, god or consciousness) outside themselves, reduces stress, anxiety and sadness and provides deeper acceptance and meaning.

6. Relax in a hot tub, hot bath, shower, sauna or sweat lodge and let the emotions seep from your pores and evaporate with the steam. A colleague whose mother had died suddenly said he attended numerous sweat ceremonies and found that he was transformed with new release and understandings each time.

7. Put together a collage, altar, memory book, picture frame, treasure box, video or audio tape/CD about the person who died. One family made a video of their father/husband before he died, which brought them great comfort in later years. A child I know routinely goes to the memory book she made after her father’s death.

8. Write, talk and/or have a verbal conversation with, too or about the person who has passed away. Many people find that talking to the deceased helps soften the effects of their physical absence and supports them in maintaining an ongoing (though different) relationship and connection with the person who has died.

9. Create a memorial, plant a tree, make a donation, volunteer or dedicate an event, an action or your life to the loved one who has died. Some folks I know have created organizations or make a point of helping a neighbor or relative in honor of the person who died. To do so helps them keep the person’s memory alive by embodying the attributes they admire and wish to hold onto in their own lives.

10. Time does not heal all wounds, but time and attention can help transform the pain of loss. Take a close look at all the facets of your life that have and are being effected by separation and loss and remember that who you are is not defined by your suffering or past experiences. You are not your stuff.

Don’t let this list stop you from finding your own way to act, walk, crawl, run, jump or dance on your unique, individual journey of living with the reality of loss. You don’t have to ignore or try to “get over” grief and mourning by avoiding or suppressing it. Use it as a catalyst, as fertilizer, as and open door for change, growth and transformation. Don’t just sit there, DO something!

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