Community

Urbanization: Are human rights at stake?

Societies are always looking to develop. After all, with change can come flourish. A popular theme for some parts of the world is now – urbanization. Societies are looking to have state-of-the art amenities, skyscrapers, marble-walled houses etc. Urbanization is a good thing. At least it is supposed to be a good thing. However, urbanization goes wrong when a society’s poor are further pushed to the margins, while the rich get richer.

A plan for urbanization must contain in it, a plan for the protection and even the advancement of the poor. For some societies, urbanizing means displacing the poor. This is quite common in Lagos State, Nigeria. About two weeks ago, the Lagos State government, using members of its police force, displaced thousands of residents of the Otodo Gbame fishing community, so that their homes could be demolished. A life was also taken. Those displaced included children. The displaced had to make a shelter out of canoes, and so, live directly on water. How dangerous but also, how unjust of the government of that State to do such, to some of its poorest citizens.

The government of Lagos State claims that the Otodo Gbame community brought risks to the Lagos State community. Even if that was the case, why displace a whole community because of whatever risks. To displace is far more different than finding solutions. This would not be the first time that the Lagos State government has displaced numerous people from certain areas and it is usually for ‘urbanization’, so I want to believe it is the same case with Otodo Gbame.

The more governments displace the poor and also, the people in the middle class who are trying to further themselves, the more governments widen the inequity gap and the more people are deprived of chances to overcome poverty or just further themselves. This of course affects the society’s economic development as a whole. Hence, unjust urbanization plans also cause further problems for that society. It is also important to remind the ‘powers that be’ e.g Lagos State government amongst others, that – injustice causes anger and with that anger can come crime.

Governments are symbols of protection for their citizens. When a government fails to serve the citizenry in a way that takes into account, their fundamental human rights, that government is a failing one. The poor should not pay with their wellbeing and/or with their lives, for the wellbeing of the rich. This might have become a norm in our world, but by exercising our morals, such evils can be put to an end. Not all people can be rich, but no one should be stripped of the opportunity to enhance him or herself. When a government displaces the poor and demolishes their homes, to ‘beautify’ and ‘improve’ a society, that government is trampling on the human rights of the masses and this is unacceptable.

Love & Peace,
Chiamaka

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Community

What really matters to failing leaders?

One of the most powerful thoughts which is also one of the simplest of sentences is: focus on the things that actually matter.
Whenever that thought comes to my mind or whenever someone uses that statement as a means to cheer me up from something, it has an almost-instant healing effect.

There are certain issues going on in different societies that make me wonder, if some politicians ever have that thought with regards to the way they govern the citizenry. Good governance is measured on how much governments focus and work on creating a society that is fair, prosperous and a society where the leaders are accountable to the members of the public.

Last week Wednesday, March 22, 2017 was World Water Day. Clean water is an inherent human right but the reality in many societies, whether developed or undeveloped is that access to clean water is often a luxury. In Nigeria, there are communities in the Niger Delta region of the nation, where freshwater have turned to thick oil-polluted bodies. Aboriginal people in developed countries still are militarized/policed in their demands for the acknowledgement of their rights to clean water. The list goes on and on.

Maybe if certain politicians focused on what actually matters, it would not have to be stressed that love is better than hate and that openness is better than stigmatizing and ‘banning’ people because they were born in a predominantly Muslim nation.

Ending child marriage is something that actually matters. Providing professional resources and safety for people who have survived rape is something that actually matters. Ensuring that the wealth of a nation is distributed fairly among the citizenry and not just in the hands of a few, is something that actually matters.

Earlier in this post, I stated that there is a healing effect about that statement or thought (whichever way it may come to you): focus on what actually matters. Based on things that I have read, based on my conversations with people and based on my own personal experience – I believe the healing effect of that thought is somewhat universal. So, what must be the reason why some leaders do not heed to that calling? I really wonder.

However, in the disappointing and shameful absence of certain leaders not heeding to that calling, it is the very right and privilege of members of the public to push for positive action – till things are done right.

Love & peace,
Chiamaka

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Community

Self-care and human rights activism

When it comes to giving advice on self-care, I think I do a great job but when it comes to me putting it into practice, I get a B+. Not bad but not impressive either considering how important self-care is for anybody. Haha!

As a human rights activist, I find that self-care is easy to overlook. This is because activists tend to be selfless people who are geared more towards helping others than themselves. Activists tend to be ardent readers and very engaged in community work.

During the first year of my blog’s creation, I blogged every week. As time went on, I then changed the pattern to every two weeks. Now that I work with the Red Cross as a Case Worker for the wildfires recovery operation in Fort McMurray, Canada, I blog every 3 weeks. Essentially, the intervals at which I blog, changed with time in order for me to incorporate adequate free time to my usually busy schedule. These days, if I read an article on war/poverty/hate that hurts and nearly provokes me to tears, I may share it on social media but I may not expatiate on it except with a family member who can comfort me in the process. Self-care is important, friends.

During the times when I blogged every week, I found myself to be more furious about issues that I wrote about. I found myself also putting a lot of pressure on me, to write on a certain issue at a particular time of the month, rather than postpone. I still get furious at issues of social injustice going on around the world, however, I have learnt that for me, sometimes rushing to write on those issues, makes me very tense and worked up in the writing process. I learnt that I can channel my immediate anger through tweets, Facebook posts or by sharing news articles on an issue. Nothing is too little indeed. Positive awareness-making is positive awareness-making.

For activists, self-care is so important. There is need to create a balance in such a way that you still are compassionate but are able to grieve without constantly diminishing your strength and increasing your stress levels. For example, people who work in disaster management/recovery like myself are very often given training on self-care. You will face trauma in the field of your work, so there should be an action plan to balance the trauma with self-care.

A self-care plan will look different for different people. You can have a family member or buddy who you can discuss social injustice issues with. You can have a sort of review club that meets at intervals and during these meetings, you can discuss your worries as an activist and be heard, comforted and supported by others. And, on social media, do not always engage with trolls who are bent on shaming you for caring and for doing what is right.

While I gave myself a B+ on self-care, I have come a long way in handling my emotions as a human rights activist and in balancing my engagements with community work – in such a way that I give myself opportunity to breathe from the trauma that often comes with being a social justice advocate. This in no way means that I have stopped to care. I will never stop caring.

Self-care is important, friends. Make your own self-care plan. If there are any human rights activists reading this, do you have a self-care plan that you implement, to balance the work that you do? If yes, please do share your plan in the Comments section, if you want to. ­čÖé

Love,
Chiamaka

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Community

Black History: A people, bounded by a common thread of excellence & resilience

February is Black History Month in Canada and in the US. Throughout the month of February, the history and accomplishments of people of Black African descent are celebrated by the government and other institutions – private and public alike.

As for me – a Black woman who was born and raised in Nigeria, Black History celebration is everyday. I celebrate this skin that I am in and I am inspired by Black pioneers (of which there are so many), pretty much daily.

I find Black History Month to be educative and engaging. I definitely think it is an important national event. It is important for a diverse array of people of different races to partake this month, in the events that relate to Black History celebration, but please, let the joy and wokeness also be extended beyond Black History Month. Black people must be valued beyond Black History Month.

This Black history Month, I would like to express my inner gratitude to all the Black people who came before people like myself – who immigrated to North America in modern times. I am grateful to those who where in North America when it was morally acceptable for hate towards Black People to be overt. They struggled till it was systemically unacceptable to be racist towards Black people. If they did not struggle, march, say no to certain commands in the face of danger, if they did not break down barriers to become successful professionals – the waters would not be calm for those of us Black people that now immigrate to North America to pursue a better life.

I honour the legacy of the Africans who were taken from their own land, to be enslaved in another. I honour the legacy of the Africans who were colonized in their own nations. I honour the legacy of African Nova Scotians and other Black Canadians alike – who can trace their time in Canada, to centuries back. Such legacies remind us that the African ancestors where a people of resilience, and that resilience and excellence make up the Black DNA. This Black History Month, I am extremely thankful for the ancestors. Black History is a rich history of diverse people, united by a common colour, and a common thread of – excellence and resilience.

Happy Black History Month! Stay Black and proud, my friends. May the strength, wisdom and excellence of the ancestors be our portion, always.

Love,
Chiamaka

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Community

The Government of Nigeria has a duty to relocate IDPs into safe residences

Last week Tuesday, a Nigerian Air Force jet erroneously bombed an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp in Rann, Borno state. It is being estimated that around 200 people lost their life, due to the bombing. That was painful news to receive. It still hurts, as I write this. IDP camps in Nigeria are where people displaced by the Boko Haram crisis have found shelter. This particular bombing by the Nigerian Air Force, brings back a thought that has once come to my mind: Why is the government of Nigeria not relocating internally displaced persons from camps, into safe residences?

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We continue to hear about government leaders donating to IDPs but that is not enough. Will they forever remain in camps? If the government of Nigeria really cares about the safety and wellbeing of the IDPs, the answer to that question will be “No”. The response to the erroneous bombing that happened last week, was that the region was thought to be a Boko Haram nest. How could an IDP be allowed to exist in an area that may be surrounded by terrorists? It is like a person that intentionally builds his or her house on weak foundation, just to rush the building process and have a home. So, certainly, somebody must be held to account as to why an IDP camp existed in a zone with danger possibility.

This occurrence should spark a light bulb in the minds of the leaders of Nigeria. If the government of Nigeria has a care for human life, then as swiftly as possible, an initiative should be started to enable the integration of IDPs to safe spaces. They are human beings too. They are just human beings who have been through much more than those who fail to look through their wealth and protection privilege, can understand. Their lives and their rights matter. When I deem something to be unjust, I have a problem with staying silent. The Nigerian government should ACT now.

A government with a ┬ávision on fostering human rights, as well as the safety and protection of its people, should have a solid plan to end the existence of IDP camps. I have had the honour of responding to a disaster before, and what I know for sure is that, when a disaster happens, you just don’t leave the ruins to be as the disaster left them. You try to re-create new life out of the damages of the disaster. So, IDP camps must be eradicated in Nigeria. It is only just to do this. Please.

Love & Peace,

Chiamaka

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Community

Life is the greatest gift.

2017!!! I feel like I can hear it calling, so I am calling back at it with excitement! Transitions like, a year change or an age change (birthday) are not always exciting for me. This is because such times force one to reflect on the year that he or she has had and sometimes in the past, in my reflecting, I have dealt on the bad stuff mainly but this year, I am choosing different.

Yes, honestly, 2016 was a great year for me. I sometimes feel shocked at how much of a good year it was for me – and for the blessings, I thank God. But, also, I think maturity ┬áhas also affected how I look at transitions. There were a few sad events which I experienced this year, which often pop up in my mind but the gift of life is the greatest gift and like the saying goes, “where there’s life, there’s hope”. So, sometimes, I still allow myself to feel the sadness – but to be honest, since the later part of this year, when the sadness comes, I start to remember the good things which in truth overcome the bad. Life is the greatest gift, my friends. Don’t let the sadness stay. Today is an opportunity to do something that makes you happy. Today is an opportunity to reach out to blessings that the new day has to offer.

Before I digress too much, I wish to remind anyone reading this and even I myself writing, that change can be a good thing. It is a new opportunity. Accept it. If 2016 was good for you, don’t be sad that the year is ending. If 2016 was bad for you, don’t be scared that 2017 may be worse. We release the burden in our chest, when we flow with time and not when we try to let it stop, because time never stops.

My friends, I hope you will make this last day of 2016 wonderful for you! Celebrate the passing of the year in your own happy and safe way, and be ready to embrace 2017. Make a wish for the kind of year you want 2017 to be. Don’t forget to pray for people who are lonely in this season and pray for nations that are experiencing war and injustice.

Happy New Year in advance!!!

Love & peace,

Chiamaka

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Community

Human Rights Day, 2016: Let’s recommit to act in love and fairness

December 10 is the international Human Rights Day. I believe that it should be a day for societies and individuals all around the world, to resolve to uphold justice, freedom and equality. Acknowledging human rights and acting in respect of human rights is not a task meant for governments, only. It is, very importantly, a task for members of the public, also.

Remember that as a human being, you are born of dignity and no individual and/or government should have the free will to do as they like with your inherent right to be treated with fairness.

It is becoming more common to see violence take priority over having dialogue. Governments enforcing institutional imperialism over protesters. Religious extremists using arms to kill innocent people in the name of God (blasphemy).

The girl child has just as much value as the male child. Give her good education not early marriage, and she will set the world ablaze with greatness, kindness and positive change. A woman’s voice matters. When she says “No”, do not take her voice for granted – her consent is needed. The woman’s body is her property – do not take her voice for granted.

A person’s sexuality is theirs to realize and keep. People should not fear for their life for being who they are – as is the case in many countries. All human beings are born with dignity, no matter our sexuality, and that dignity must be upheld.

Indigenous people’s lands in ┬áthe United States and Canada must be respected. When Indigenous groups protest against something that could potentially contaminate their lands and waters, they should not be ignored. They matter. Their voices should be heard, they should be consulted and there should be no man-made hinderance to access to clean water for Indigenous populations in the United States and Canada. All human beings have a right to clean water.

Black lives matter – this should be understood and acknowledged universally. A person should not be treated with disrespect, denied opportunity or killed because he or she is non-white. Black Lives Matter. No human being was created to be more superior than the other. All races are beautiful and if we come together in love, without prejudice and hate, this world will be a much much better place.

Happy Human Rights Day … in advance!!! Show love. Give respect. Don’t be quick to judge.

Love & peace,

Chiamaka

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Human rights and economic growth, go hand in hand

Before I started writing the body of this post, I started writing up a possible title for it, in the ‘Title’ column, then stopped. I had to halt because I started writing something that if completed, would probably have been – “Human Rights Vs Economic Growth”. But, those two terms do not contradict each other, so there cannot be a “Vs” (versus), between them.

Based on my observations and my immersion in the reality of different societies and the world, I know that actually, human rights and economic growth go hand in hand. When we ┬áhave to analyze both things, to see if we can at least choose one over the other – then, that means there is an issue at hand.

A nation that makes people feel comfortable regardless of race, religion or where a person is born, does not only achieve a significant level of peace but also yields financial growth. People in such a society will put in the best of their skills, creativity and their diversity of ideas – into that nation, thus yielding for themselves and that society – economic growth, whilst also exposing each other to the true reality that not everyone is the same but we all deserve to be treated equally and with dignity.

So, human rights and economic growth should not be carved out, as if they have no correlation. There is a correlation between both terms and that correlation is great.

Recently, the US elections were finalized. However, before the elections and now, in its aftermath – I have heard different ideas of people, with regards to the elections. One of the major ones that I have heard of, sums up to me like this: perceived promise of economic growth is greater than reasonable fear of the balance of human rights, in America.

I believe that the reasons why people vote are important. It is important to listen and understand why people voted for whoever they voted for, whether they voted for someone who you agree with, or not. However, behind our reasons for voting should not be – economic growth serves more purpose than respect for human rights (including diversity). Those two terms (economic growth and human rights) should go hand in hand – for the betterment of our societies.

Love & Peace,

Chiamaka

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Dear Society, stop focusing on telling women what to do

In Canada, October marks Women’s History Month and each year, in the month of October, the world marks the International Day of the Girl Child. I love what October has to offer in terms of celebrating girls and women. We deserve to be celebrated, our rights should be honoured – and not just in October.

There is still a long way to go in getting the message of women’s rights (as people), solidly rooted in the minds of many, in a world where woman are constantly belittled. Women have been pioneers of social progress in many societies. In this present time, women are still pioneering, still leading in different fields. I am 19 years old and I remember that a few years ago when I was in senior secondary school, it was women that led in terms of grades-ranking. However, women are still looked down on as a weaker gender, who are to be told what to do, especially by men or even by other women who are accustomed to the rules of patriarchy.

Society loves to dictate to the woman, how to speak, how to act and what kind of profession to choose – so that she can be ‘feminine enough’, so that she can be a good wife material or simply so that she can survive in a male-dominated world.

If we are observant, if we read the news often, we will notice that women are winning. It is not a competition but women are really shining out there. So, Dear Society, stop focusing on telling women what to do. Women are not lesser human beings than men. We are not made to be controlled or disciplined by a men, either. In many societies, the girl child is looked down on. There are communities where, a girl who is the first child of her parents cannot inherit her father’s wealth. In some homes, it is okay for ┬áa woman to be beat by her husband – as a form of disciplining her.

Societies must treat their women better. Surely there is a long way to go. In the meantime, women, keep shining, keep breaking through glass ceilings, never believe that you were made to be controlled. And to those men (including my dad) who believe in the equality and power of women, never let go of such wisdom.

Ladies, you rock!!

Love,

Chiamaka

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Community, Uncategorized

Why we need a communal approach to equality and justice

A thought just clicked in my mind today, about selfishness as it correlates with injustice. Corruption is selfishness, racism is selfishness, promoting ‘gender inequality’ is selfishness etc. Injustice is very much centred around the idea of ‘the self’ which includes a person’s likes and dislikes, as well as his or her beliefs.

To really tackle injustice from the crux, we must constantly remind ourselves and society that there is usually room for more. Ever gone late to a class or a meeting that was being held in a small room, around a long but limited-capacity table? Well, what happens is that people start to make space and a space for at least one chair comes up. If there is no space at the table, the person who came late, will take a seat behind those seating at the table but still gets to hear what is being spoken. To me, that person is still considered to be at the table – and is benefiting from the same information that everyone else in the room is hearing.

There is usually room for more.

Again, selfishness is a factor that correlates to injustice. It is often puzzling as to why someone will take the effort run to be a political leader in a nation and end up looting the treasury and/or oppressing the people through wars or dictatorship. Some organizations aim to have diversity in race and ethnicity but do not care to make a plan that will sustain the diversity and make all feel welcome.

The marginalized must also not behave like┬áthe oppressors, in their defense for the self …

As a Nigerian, I try to keep myself in the loop of things trending in Nigeria. I noticed that it is problematic to some Nigerians (not all), when they see other Nigerians rooting for the Black Lives Matter movement. To such people, their anger is essentially – How about the injustices in Nigeria? Why not focus on Nigeria instead?

I can understand where they are coming from, as there is a lot of inequality in Nigeria. There is injustice. Also, I know the anger of feeling left out because your tragedy doesn’t make world news. But, we must remember that there is room for more. Injustice against me should not blind me against oppression that others are facing. I think that as a citizen of the world, it is my duty as it is every other person’s, to care about people no matter what part of the world they are in, especially when they are facing oppression.

Remember, selfishness is a factor that correlates to injustice. Even when the oppressed person takes on that notion of the self against others, it is wrong. It is just like acting in the manner of the oppressor.

In our collective strive for a just world, we must remember that there is room for more. A communal mindset sets the pace for just societies and hence, a just world.

Love & peace,

Chiamaka

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