‘…fasting is about gaining a deeper awareness and mindfulness of one’s self and, in turn, the world in which one is situated. From the outside it might seem like it’s about deprivation of food and drink. But by shifting focus away from a simple satiation of my stomach and looking more towards the satisfaction of my soul, I realize that are many different ways that I can nourish myself and many different parts of me that need to be nourished that I often times neglect, my heart being a primary amongst those….’ – Imam Khalid Latif
Originally posted here
It’s been 6 months since this journey of all sorts of life experiences began. This expedition of my life here in the U.S.A (New York City) has mostly – if not all the time – been about discovering who I really am. And the numerous lessons learned in the process will last a lifetime.
I have lived like any other ordinary American (except that I am Ugandan), waking up to daily commutes to my work station. This has exposed me to all sorts of human characters especially on the subway: from the weirdo’s to the fascinating, and disgusting, and all those in between. My most recent encounter took me to a personal journey of reflection of my life here, so far.
It was with an elderly man of about 60 years of age with a disability. We happened board the same car of the train, and as he limped his way into the spacious part of the car, he squeezed tight his crutches, with thin lines forming around his forehead every time he took a step. It was obvious he was in so much pain. A nauseating body odor came off his every step, and this caught my attention from then onwards. I wished I had a magical gadget that I would use to control my sense of smell, especially in public places like this. Someone should invent something like this, right?
“I should pity this guy!” I thought to myself. Deep down, these thoughts made me guilty and ashamed.
He got out a plastic bag and started his begging spree from which I donated a dollar, but anxiously waited for the next stop to switch cars. I couldn’t stand the body odor! I stared at him long enough to get lost in thought, wondering what his life story might have been.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am kind and patient. But I felt like I was being very impolite to switch a train car over one’s bad body odor. You might think this is minor, anyone can feel that way – yes, but this is not me. Of late, I am “unnecessary” conscious and fussy about where I sit or what street I use depending my “impression” of it. I was supposed to be accommodating to that man regardless of his situation because my cultural background teaches me to be kind, polite, and accommodating. We grow up in a communal culture where we depend on each and so my neighbor’s business becomes mine, and I sometimes miss that about home. So, why didn’t I give a damn about his situation?
Have I changed? I HOPE NOT! May be I have adapted the “true” American way of living…
Back home, beggars “do their thing” on the streets and not in any form of public transportation. Finding them in a train is a constant reminder that I am now living in developed countries, and so I should just adapt to different ways of life! In the public transport means, I have seen people move from seats or corners they are not uncomfortable about, and that I have adapted to that too (qualities of a good student :D). This life of very many choices and varieties is very relaxing sometimes but aren’t I getting too comfortable with it?
And would this justify my not-so-pleasant reaction to the limping guy on the train? Definitely not! Have I now seen many of these beggars that I am now used and indifferent about all of them? Or perhaps I have chosen to “mind my business” as everyone here does.
I suddenly seem to have a pair of new eyes to life here. Everything I used to know is different. The other day, my mother said she couldn’t understand why I kept rescheduling our leisure calls to weekend times. She says I keep using the line:
“I don’t have much time left, let’s talk about this over the weekend,” And it puzzles her because she sometimes calls me at my lunch breaks – times I am supposed to have a break to chat. I suddenly seem to take my work to be first priority, even to dear people I take a long time without taking to.
I suddenly pay attention to the kind of relationships people create with me here because many are more superficial than others. Someone asking me how I am might not mean that they want to hear about my sick mother or my daily struggles unlike back home where greetings are part of ways of reconnecting with persons and community. And I seem to have forgotten telling long stories when someone asks how I am.
The different aspects of culture I keep learning on a daily basis have made life here worth living. However, I hope this process teaches me appreciation of personal differentiation. Even if I don’t know the neighbor next door, it doesn’t mean that I am not interested in knowing who they are. I should practice this way of life but be able to remember who I really am. I hope I do not loose myself in the process.
“To deny women is to deprive a country of labor and talent, but even worse to undermine the drive to achievement of boys and men” – A quote from Nicholas Kristof & Wife in their book: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
Originally posted on The Truth Mast:
Last week, after publishing my blog on why we should talk to our teens about sex, I got a couple of impressive comments.
Many agreed that we needed to talk to our children about sex but a few raised concerns over the future of our kids if they are ‘armed’ with sex information. One reader was particular in saying the world will run amok if kids have even the tiniest access to sex information.
“They will now know how to navigate the safe side of sex and simply do it every time and everyday” she said.
It really shows the two rhetorical extremes in the sex debate – the moralists and the realists.
The moralists raise the argument that sex is a preserve for adults. Infact, married people. They argue that introducing children to sex education at any age is a downside in the preservation of morals. They also argue…
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She was the closest friend I ever had while growing up. With a fairer skin, almond eyes and a warm smile, Jane (not real name) was a beauty to behold. We did everything together. But all this came to an end when my parents sent me to boarding school. Jane wasn’t fortunate enough to go to the above-average schools I went to but she received a basic education.
On day, I came home to a shocking story that my best friend had conceived but didn’t go through with the pregnancy. She had carried out an unsafe abortion that almost cost her life. I remember feeling sorry about her experience but never disappointed in her.
This incident and a pregnancy that followed a year later greatly affected our friendship to the extent that Jane hid from me every time I came home for the holidays. She had her first baby at sixteen, and this was the end of her education journey, and she is now a mother to four children. For a long time after losing my friend to early motherhood, I started getting curious about sexual and reproductive related issues.
It created in me a deep desire to find out why girls like my friend “chose” to get pregnant, especially at an early age. I thought it was just a choice- It is actually supposed to be, but is rarely the case among young girls. I was very curious about sexual and reproductive health related issues but was very shy to ask anyone about it. Even among my friends, it was taboo to talk about such a topic; it’s just the way we are brought up- to believe that sex is something to be talked about my adults. We had the basic female teacher talks in primary school but these sessions were not elaborate enough.
When I finally “achieved independence” to join Makerere University in Uganda, the first thing I did was to enroll for a course about community mobilization and sensitization about sexual and reproductive health at Reproductive Health Uganda. To date, I consider it one of the best choices I have ever made in life. Peer education activities exposed me to some of the harsh realities young girls face in our society, and it presents about a pressing need to educate young people about sexuality and their bodies. I also learnt some of the causes of teen pregnancies, unsafe abortions and school drop outs. During one of the open sessions in peer education, a lady shared;
“I conceived the first time I attempted to have sex with my boyfriend. I wasn’t ready for this baby,” She was disappointed in herself for not seeking knowledge about sex education earlier. However, I couldn’t blame her. I blamed her mother.
“Mother always threatened to banish me from home if I indulged in sexual relations or even get pregnant while still in school.” She added.
Her mother had thrown her out of the house and she couldn’t stop blaming herself for ruining the only chance she had at getting an education.The two stories above represent thousands of such many cases of young girls who have lost bright futures to early pregnancies, and in even worse cases, contracting HIV/AIDS and death.
My country Uganda, the African continent and the world in general needs to change their perceptions about education of the young generation about sex education, their bodies and reproductive health related issues, , especially girls. The world we are growing up in today is very different from that of our parents’ and our grandparents, who set these taboos society is bent to. Compared to 20 years ago, young people are entering adolescence earlier and healthier, and they are likely to spend more time in school and enter the workforce later. As a result, marriage and childbearing now generally occur later than they did in the past, especially for women. And, inevitably, postponing marriage has meant that sex before marriage has become more common.
According to a Guttmacher Institute report entitled: Protecting the Next Generation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Learning from Adolescents to Prevent HIV and Unintended Pregnancy; adolescent females in Sub-Saharan Africa tend to have sex at an earlier age than their male counterparts, and thus are at particular risk fosr HIV, unwanted pregnancy and other adverse outcomes. In a survey conducted in Burkina Faso, Malawi, Ghana, and Uganda, almost 60% of females have had sex by age 18, compared with about 40–45% of males.
A recent discovery in Uganda reveals that unsafe abortions as the second leading cause of maternal deaths in the country. The reality is that society needs to focus on empowering the young generation, especially girls with education, trainings and all comprehensive knowledge about sexual, reproductive health and family planning for young mothers.
To add my voices to and for the young girls and youth out there that cannot make the right choices for their bodies, I have joined the global advocacy movement. I believe that my voice, with voices of us all combined can make case for the young girls who have fallen victims of early motherhood, unsafe abortions and even forced sexual relations.
I started out as a fun student, and later a peer educator. There is no fun and inspiring thing I have ever done better than telling fellow young people about their bodies and how they should protect themselves from unsafe sex, unplanned pregnancies and general reproductive health. There was something about someone walking to me and asking for more condoms (we used to distribute female and male condoms during peer education sessions) or even just calling to clarify about a certain contraceptive they weren’t sure about. It’s fulfilling.
It’s not too late for you to join the movement. Take a stand this International Women’s Day. Look back at what denial of access to basic sexual and reproductive health education has caused to human development. If you join us now, to commit and ensure that every girl wherever they are gets appropriate, accurate and comprehensive information on sexuality on time, we can still make sure that the young generation maximizes their potential to achieve their dreams without limits. It’s not too late for you to join.
You can sign a pledge of a campaign like this one, join movements making case for the rights of girls from obstacles like early child marriages and school drop outs like this one or join coalitions working together on a common agenda for adolescents and young people to acquire comprehensive sex education and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services that will strengthen our national, regional and international responses to early and unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and school drops for the brighter future of young women.
Happy International Women’s Day!
This post originally was originally posted here