Category Archives: Activism

Journaling and the value of inner independence on International Women’s Day 2013

The creaking mechanism of my groping intellect has finally spewed out the following thoughts on independence – did you hear the clunk?

First a little bit of context: for International Women’s Day tomorrow I’m joining the women of Swindon Wiltshire in celebration at Central Library, and delivering a very short journaling taster workshop at 2pm. By way of reflecting on the links that Swindon women have with Nepal, Aghanistan and Pakistan, and with many other nations around the world, I wrote the following intro to my workshop. There are exercises to go with this and I’ll publish these tomorrow. Or, if you can get along to the library in Swindon come and join in for yourself!

“We have many privileges as western women – full and equal access to democratic processes, education, employment, and the right to live outwardly independent lives.

When we reflect on the lives of women in places like Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan we are shocked by the cultural norms in those countries that disempower women and prevent them from living as freely and independently as we do.

And yet I suspect that in the face of adversity, and barred from the outward experiences that many of us enjoy, those women have a great clarity and independence of thought. Ironically, although traditionally they have fewer opportunities in life than westerners, it is possible that they have greater mental independence than many of us in our ‘information-overload’ society.

Here in the west so much of what we think these days is subject to what other people want us to think.

When we were growing up we only had to contend with our parents, our schools, our peers, newspapers, magazines, the radio and the TV. These days it’s all that PLUS the internet, social media, websites, forums, 24 hour TV, round the clock shopping – the opportunities to be bombarded by information are endless.

Imagine living in a place where information is forbidden. Is prohibition likely to stop us being hungry for information?

If anything, preventing people from being informed only gives them a greater clarity on what it is they wish to be informed about. This comes across over and over on our news channels which conduct interviews with courageous and driven women living under the Taliban regime, at risk of rape and violence in Pakistan, or being held back from employment in Nepal and other countries.

Personally I greatly admire and am moved by the stories I read and listen to about young women who are standing up for their rights and demanding their voice be heard. For them this is the women’s emancipation movement happening a full half century after it happened for us.

We have a duty to bear witness.

And although there is little we can individually do to help (although coming along to events like this makes a huge difference to our awareness) one thing we can do, in fact we must do, is ensure that we don’t squander our own independence of thought on the altar of emancipation.

So we need to be much more careful to take the time to figure out for ourselves what we think.

One way to do this is to develop a practice of reflective journal writing. Putting our thoughts on paper is a great way to dissect them, to understand ourselves and to gain insights into our unique perspective.

It also helps us recognise our own resilient spirit, as well as enabling us to empathise with others, such as our friends in less emancipated countries.

So while it’s IWD and we’re here to experience reflective journal writing, let’s have a go at a few exercises to help us think about womanhood, and create a reflective meditation on solidarity with our counterparts far away.”

Please check out www.the100womenbookproject.com and www.pashtunwomenvp.com

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Filed under Activism, Current Affairs, Reflective Writing Practice

Journal Power!

I am so thrilled to have been invited to lead a mini journaling workshop at Swindon’s International Women’s Day event on 8 March.

IWD poster

The event organiser, a wonderful lady named Rosa Matheson, who’s a historian, author and keen charity campaigner on behalf of a Nepalese orphanage and for the empowerment of Nepalese women, has triumphed again with her fabulous ideas about tapping into the talents of local creative women for the benefit of those on the other side of the world.

The 100 Women Book Project first saw the light of day about two years ago. It was the result of an a-ha moment for Rosa – an idea about getting women here to help women there, by writing about a day in their life and compiling the stories into a book to sell.

One of the entries in that book was written by yours truly. I was honoured to be asked to contribute, and to feel part of a creative endeavour that is so much greater than a book. The more I think about the concept of women creating something together for the sake of other women the more excited I get.

So in early March we will begin to wake up more Swindon women to their own inner resourcefulness and creativity. There will be the opportunity to try both artistic and reflective journaling on the day, and it remains to be seen what new project ideas might spark as a result.

Journaling enables us to express our “real me”. It gives us the tools to begin to make our dreams a reality, and to get really clear on what actions we can take that give us most joy and fulfilment. And here in the west we can readily find the means to achieve our heart’s desire, receive an education and find sustaining employment. Whereas in the east, and particularly in Nepal, women are expected to be at home, bringing up families or looking after aging parents, often in the direst poverty, resulting in more and more children having to be “abandoned” to orphanages or to fend for themselves on the streets.

So to be part of an “empowering women” event is a great privilege, and to explore what that means through reflective journaling is even better.

Our journals help us uncover powers we never knew we had. Who knows what Swindon women might yet unleash on the world?

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Journaling to find our unique talent

I’ve been getting involved with my village’s campaign to save its surrounding countryside from development.

As a local journalist I have key questions to ask to make sure that the readership is properly informed about the plans. As a resident I’m heartbroken that the rural home of wildflowers, butterflies, deer, foxes, red kites and horses at pasture is under threat. But I’m also determined that developers and our cash-strapped council don’t get away with pulling the wool over the eyes of local people.

It’s interesting to meet people in the village I never knew before. Common causes unite people and enable us to make friends we might otherwise not have made. And it’s fascinating how people have different strengths and gifts that come to the fore when the pressure’s on.

One of my fellow campaigners is an absolute whizz at contacting people and engaging them. She knows everybody in the village (I guess growing up here does help) and is extremely proactive in picking up the phone to talk to national agencies and the local press. As a result she’s coordinated radio interviews with two different local radio stations and made contact with the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, as well as generating a swathe of Facebook followers that are well over 100 strong.

So I wasn’t surprised that her Twitter profile describes her first and foremost as a connector. She’s a wife and mum too and runs a party hosting business, but before all this she recognises her greatest strength is to connect with people, and them to each other. She’s an absolute gift for our community group.

What is delightfully surprising though is that she is sufficiently aware of this innate talent of hers to name it. How many of us can really sum up in one word what it is that others can most count on us for? Something that reflects our special gifts and strengths?

Maybe this is something we can get closer to understanding for ourselves through journal writing and reflective practice. What is it that you can do so quickly and straightforwardly, with your eyes shut and without even thinking, that others might struggle with? What’s your particular talent that you can put to use to help others?

As I reflect on this for myself the words that keep coming up for me are messenger and truth-teller. I’ve often got into trouble for telling things like they are. It’s not that I enjoy rocking the boat, I just can’t help doing it sometimes, because I couldn’t live with the situation where the true story hasn’t been expressed, or where someone has tried to deceive.

Councillors and developers beware.

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Filed under Activism, Journal Writing