Thursday, 3 October 2013

How one life changed mine - Sierra Leone

A quick break from veganism... by day job. This July I went to Sierra Leone to visit our nutrition projects. Below is a blog I wrote for UNICEF. I wanted to it on my blog as well. I hope you enjoy. 
We woke up in Makeni, I was really looking forward to the day ahead. I have been working on child nutrition at UNICEF UK for about eight months, during which I have written countless times about the tragic cases of malnutrition and what UNICEF does to help thousands of children every year. But I had never seen it first hand. The day before had been so positive and uplifting I assumed we would see more stories of hope.
The first project we visited was a large, relatively remote village called Robat. We arrived at the outpatient clinic, a small building with three rooms, covered in public health posters. A bright and smiling nurse came out to greet us. Inside her surgery were about six mothers and their children. All the children were malnourished. But what gave me hope was that they were all getting treatment; the children were weighed and measured to check their progress, and then given a treatment plan.
Since 2010 the Sierra Leonean Government has championed free health care for pregnant women and children under five. UNICEF has been there every step of the way helping to support this substantial policy, including procuring all of the medicines on behalf of the Government.
This little boy was called Alie - like me.
He was 10 months old and very malnourished
This small clinic was a classic example of how UNICEF and the Government have worked together to provide basic services in the country.
In the afternoon we visited a children’s hospital in Freetown. I wasn’t expecting it to be easy; seeing children unwell in any country or context is difficult. But walking into the severe acute malnutrition clinic I felt like I had been winded and I didn’t know which direction to look in. At first I wanted to avoid the stares of the mothers who held their children, I couldn’t quite bring myself to look at the children either, it was the biggest injustice I have ever seen. The children there had the worse form of malnutrition. They barely resembled what I think a child should look like; they were exhausted from their illness.
What can you say when a mother looks you square in the eye with her sick child in her arms? To me there were no words to explain how I felt. Nothing seemed to be the right thing to say. I sat with a little boy whose father was busy tending to his other son. His skin felt like cling film, I was worried that by stroking his hand I might hurt him. As I stared into his eyes I longed for him to get better. I sat with him until he fell asleep. I can’t have spent more than 10 minutes with him but I know I won’t ever forget his face.
Sometimes the numbers and statistics are overwhelming. But it can take one child to change your perspective or make you question how the world should be. He did that to me; questions circled in my head as to why he was so ill. What could we do to stop this happening? And did anyone else care? But he was just one of the 52 million children with severe acute malnutrition. He is part of a bigger problem with complicated causes.
The tragic fact is that UNICEF tries to reach every child; but it just can’t save them all. I won’t know what will happen to that little boy, the doctors explained that they could treat him, but they thought he might have TB which would make his case a lot more complicated.
I’ll admit openly that I struggled when returning to the UK. I felt guilty every time I saw a big pile of food. I didn’t want to spend too much money. It felt like it would last for a long time, but luckily my saving grace was work. I came back knowing I work for the right organisation that achieves change for children. I knew that every day 9 -5pm I work to reduce the number of children with malnutrition; that is a good place to be in. I am proud that in the last couple of months the UK Government has tripled its funding to nutrition. Now UNICEF will work hard to make sure that money can make a difference.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Everyday Sexism Project - let your voice be heard.

The Everyday Sexism project is a great grassroots organisation that tracks sexism towards women.

What's the point (I hopefully don't hear you ask)

1. Many people believe sexism doesn't exist - this proves it is very much alive.
2. This is an online community where you can share you're frustration
3. We are stronger in numbers
4. Sooner or later people will have to notice the blatant sexism that still exists.
5. Because like me you may be fed up with being told its a compliment.

So I urge you - if you have ever suffered any sexism go to their website and tell them about experience. You don't have to use your name and no one will contact you.

Women shouldn't be shouted at on the street, touched up on the bus, degraded at work, humiliated, the list goes on, just because they are a woman.

Watch their amazing video here - and do not put up with sexism.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

UNICEF launch new report on child nutrition

This week UNICEF HQ launched a global report on child nutrition. The report gives a snapshot of our world's current nutrition levels and outlines what needs to be done to tackle child malnutrition. 
Malnutrition rates amongst children are often difficult to measure. Most countries do not list malnutrition on death certificates, which frequently means it is difficult to track the figures of children affected. 
Yet, understanding the number of children affected around the world is critical to ensuring the effectiveness of UNICEF's work. We need to know where these children are and what they need in order to help them. 
This report starkly outlines what is at stake: a staggering 1 in 4 children do not mentally or physically develop because they lack vital nutritious food in the first 1,000 days of life. The report also gives an indication as to where malnutrition is worse, with 90% of stunting in Asia and Africa. 
While the report illustrates there has been progress, sadly it highlights that it has been too slow and shows more could have been done. UNICEF UK believes that there is an unprecedented opportunity in 2013 to shape the international development agenda to help malnourished children. 
The UK Government has illustrated their commitment to the world's poorest byreaching 0.7% GNI on international aid. Ring-fencing our aid budget could help millions of children around the world, and significantly reduce levels of malnutrition. In fact we already know exactly how we can dramatically reduce malnutrition. 
We are asking the UK Government to show strong leadership and invest more in child nutrition programmes through the Department for International Development (DFID). 

This June, a week before the G8 meeting, the UK Government will host a Nutrition and Growth Summit. The purpose of this Summit is to pledge additional funding for child malnutrition, and as such offers the Government an ideal opportunity to significantly increase their nutrition programmes. 
The UNICEF report states that 165 million children are stunted around the world. We desperately need to relieve the next generation of children from the long-term affects of stunting. If we invest in nutrition this summer we could prevent the deaths of 2 million children, and significantly reduce the numbers of stunted children. 
You have helped us raise the profile of hunger through the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign; lets hope the Government makes the investment children around the world need. This summer the UK Government has a golden opportunity with the Nutrition and Growth Summit, and we hope it will be a success for the world's children. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Why the US election is so crucial for women

Go and visit Planned Parenthood website!
There is silent war going on in America at the moment (que dramatic pause)

Its a war on women by weird, grey, fanatic republican men.

The Republican Party have confused, angered and baffled me for years.

Pro gun but anti abortion has got to be one of the greatest hypocrisies there is. If you can shot anyone, burglar or not, I am sure you can find it in your heart to let women have autonomy over their bodies.

The Republican Party have not disappointed with their lunacy this year and have been full of insane one liners this election

From 'legitimate rape' to 'the body getting rid of pregnancy when it is rape' to calling the young woman who wanted contraception a whore.

How do these people get voted for? But they do, so really its beside the point.

These men frame their argument in an ultra right wing religious modo jobo crap.

I have been increasingly worried about how Christians use sexuality against women. As if sexuality is our world's biggest concern. Not the lack of food that kills millions of people, or the wars, or the corruption and greed. That's right folks its young women having sex. Now that is ruining the world, and probably the economy.

I am fed up of it, but the election next week won't hurt me in the green and pleasant lands of England but it could hurt American women.

If the Republican party win the election so many aspects of women's lives will begin to unravel,

No Mitt. Go away.
Mitt Romney wants to reverse Roe vs Wade. Now I am not pro life or pro choice. I cant imagine the decision making process women have to go through, but I believe that the woman knows what is right with her, whether that decision is made alone, with her family, her community or church. But I do not believe that some jumped up man can decide for millions of women when and whether they should have children. It is not his decision. It should never be his decision.

Next he wants to cut all federal funding to Planned Parenthood, this organisation provides a host of services to women and families. So he wants to stop abortion, but he also wants to stop the one thing that can stop unwanted pregnancies... contraception. He takes aways the option for women to control their pregnancies.

The first thing that Bush did when he became President was cut funding to Planned Parenthood and Mitt Romney has said he wants to do the same. Do you know wonder why on earth this is the FIRST thing the President of the US, and perhaps the world would want to do. Why have women's bodies become a battle ground in US election? Why do politicians believe they can have so much determination over women?

Below are two great videos from women in the US.

In the UK we are nearly powerless to change the outcome of the vote. But we can use social media to raise awareness of what the Republicans are planning to do.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Be the Woman

I want to write today about what women can do to help ourselves.

There has been a lot of change in my life recently which has been great, and its been a massive learning curve.

As you all know by now I am a feminist, no shock there.

Lets get a few things straight, I don't hate men, I wear make up, I like boys not girls, (nothing wrong with either!) and I would call myself relatively girly. That is the great thing about feminism, the image is changing and its beginning to represent the people behind the cause. Normal women, mothers, professionals, wives, politicians. etc.

My feminist battle is quite simple. I want to see less sexual harassment in the work place, less rape and more convictions, I want more female MPs to represent our society, more women on the Boards of Directors, again to represent society. I want women to be respected in the media as intelligent funny people. Not a great rack.

Recently I have come quite focused on my career. You see its always been about studies, Ive been a student for so long that I hadn't thought about the politics of the work place too much.

When I see my future I didn't see too many barriers. I am young, I've been relatively successful so far and I am ambitious.

But recently I realised there was a barrier. It was me!

I was applying for a job at UNICEF. But I was doing so FULL of doubt and FULL of concern. I told everyone I wasn't good enough, I poured over my flaws. I worked hard for the application, but I was not hopeful.

Then I got an interview. WOWZA. I was so pleased. Maybe I can do this?

I prepared for the interview for hours upon hours. I worked so hard and I loved it. The position was everything I ever wanted for a career.

The hour before the interview I sat having coffee. 'You'll never get it' I kept on saying in my head. 'They'll laugh you out of the room' 'Who do you think you are applying for this amazing role'

Luckily, I went into the room confident that I had worked bloody hard on the presentation and strategy, the more I spoke the more I relaxed. I could do it....

And guess what..... I got the job. (I have been on cloud nine for over two weeks now)

But I was struck by my behaviour. Its quite often that women in particular put themselves down. This will undoubtedly have an impact on future promotions or new jobs.

In a recent documentary by Hilary Devey on why women weren't more successful in business, a head hunter said 'If you have a female candidate who can do 19 out of the 20 job criteria, she'll start by talking about the 1 she cant do. If you have a man who can do 15 out of the 20, he start by telling you he is the perfect fit and why, he won't even get to the stuff he cant do'

When she said that I realised THAT WAS ME. I had seen jobs in the past and thought, 'oh wait I can't do that one thing, so I won't apply.'

Yet I would have said I was confident, I would have said I was ambitious and a go getter. But really behind all my education and ability I still lacked the confidence. I am so glad that I applied for the role and was rewarded.
There are many barriers hindering women in business or in their careers; we cannot contribute to this as well.

On the day I was told I got the job I watched this video by Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders. Whilst she doesn't really go into the barriers that face women like sexual harassment, childcare etc she does discuss what we can do to make ourselves heard and more successful.

We cannot deny that women are not fully represented in politics, science, education, business etc. They have difficult decisions to make regarding families and face battles in sometimes male dominated industries.

There is still much to do in the feminist cause, but lets start by making sure we're the women we should be. Confident, considerate, intelligent and not constantly degrading ourselves and other women around us down. I don't deny that there is much more to do than this, but it is a good starting place.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Travel safety is a development issue.

Why would you ever want to avoid something so beautiful
When I logged on to BBC this morning, as usual I got a chill down my spine when I saw the plane crash just outside of Kathmandu.

I spent two months in Nepal nearly two years ago. It was an amazingly beautiful country, the people were friendly and despite the hussle and bussle it felt very relaxed. But I have often told family that I would not return to Nepal. I have travelled quite extensively, but Nepal was the one place I felt the most unsafe.

When I was finally back home, part of me felt lucky, and all because of their travel safety.

In most developing countries travelling around can be risky. There are a number of factors, lack of regulation, poor car services, bad roads. Quite often roads are rural and miles away from adequate health care.  And although I really hate to say it, there is a different attitude to driving. In many places it is much more aggressive than British driving.

As someone who works in development, I rarely think of the roads as part of development. We think of health, education, women's rights. But the fact is, road deaths kill thousands of people each year and relatively simple steps could help reduce the needless deaths.

The Guardian have been highlight these issues for a while. As Kevin Watkins explains in his article, 1.3 million people die a year from road accidents. 90% in developing countries. Put in perspective, the same number die from TB a year, and this is in the top three global killers. We will probably never be able to decrease the number to zero, but the current figure is too high.

When I was in Nepal I had to get a series of buses across the country. You cannot avoid the mountains when you travel around the Nepal. Quickly after leaving the cities you begin to ascend until suddenly you feel like your in the clouds. The road hugged the mountains. They were neither wide or smooth. In fact we bumped around on narrow roads, swerving around corners. The roads should have fit one lane of traffic, but instead there were two lanes. There were no barriers at all to stop you falling down these mountains into the rivers. Travelling alone, 19 years old, at times I just wanted to cry.

Do tourist know about these dangers? I am not sure. The FCO website warns about dangerous road and driving. But too often we're scared of the big factors like tribal tensions, but think we'll be OK on the roads. I certainly did not know the extent of road related deaths or plane accidents. Since the planes first landed in Nepal in 1949, there have been 70 accidents.

Road safety must be taken serious for numerous reasons. It endangers tourist, like we have seen with this recent plane crash, where sadly seven British people were killed.

It should also be considered a major factor in improving child mortality rates. More 5 - 14 children in Africa die on the roads than from Malaria and Aids. A figure we don't often hear. If we are really to reach the MDG better roads would improve the economy and life expectancy around the world. Kevin Watkins has called for road safety to be named as a crisis within the development field. I agree.

Monday, 24 September 2012

1 Billion Rising

I am so excited about this new campaign. To be apart of a global campaign against violence towards women.

It has always shocked me that people either know so little about what happens to women, and that we allow it to happen.

1 Billion Rising covers it all - sexual violence, genital mutilation, rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment. The things that build up every day but we seem to have no power to control them.

But now we have an opportunity to really shout about it.

Here is a bit about them....

V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls that raises funds and awareness through benefit productions of Playwright/Founder Eve Ensler's award winning play The Vagina Monologues and other artistic works. In 2012, over 5,800 V-Day benefit events organized by volunteer activists in the U.S. took place around the world educating millions of people about the reality of violence against women and girls. To date, the V-Day movement has raised over $90 million; educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it; crafted international educational, media and PSA campaigns; reopened shelters; and funded over 13,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq. Over 300 million people have seen a V-Day benefit event in their community. V-Day has received numerous acknowledgements including Worth Magazine's 100 Best Charities, Marie Claire Magazine's Top Ten Charities, one of the Top-Rated organizations on Philanthropedia/Guidestar and Great Nonprofits

I will be joining them, please make sure you do to.


1 in 3 women will be raped or beaten in their life time. Will you accept that? Or will you act?

Remeber the date 14th Feburary.