Community

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  have 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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Community

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  a 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 the 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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Community

Fort Mac: Hope in the aftermath of the most costly disaster in the history of Canada

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As the plane was descending into Fort McMurray on September 8, 2016, I was struck by the beauty of the city’s landscape and the vegetation, of which there are lots over here. Before travelling to Fort McMurray, I was not sure of what to expect in terms of the outward appearance. I mean, this is a city that had experienced a major wildfire outbreak for a while, in the month of May 2016. Over 80,000 people had to evacuate the city. However, on arrival, I saw that a good chunk of the vegetation here is blooming, though scanty in quantity in some areas. I am in awe.

My nickname for this city is “Hope”.

I am amazed at how much was spared of the city and at how much has bloomed so far, since the devastating fire incident. I am equally bewildered and saddened at how much was lost. People lost houses, cars and jobs because of the fire. Amidst the kindness that I have experienced here, just three days since I arrived, I have seen that there is also devastation, sadness and feelings of uncertainty. This is also why I feel like there is no better place that I would be right now, than in Fort McMurray working with the Canadian Red Cross and most especially, for the people of Fort McMurray.

Working with the Canadian Red Cross has been such an inspiring experience, so far. It is great to be working with an organization whose impact, you can directly see. Humanity is a force in every human being that propels you to do good for yourself and for others. The Canadian Red Cross is helping at a time when many in the city of Fort McMurray are in dire need of empathy, assistance and a patient ear. Empathy always inspires me and I feel grateful to the Creator for the opportunity to work with an organization like the Red Cross, which reminds me that one must continually work in love, for yourself and for others.

Members of the public are also helping and this is one of the major reasons why I see clients go into our Red Cross branch looking sad and then, they come out looking excited and a bit relieved. Donations go a long way. Volunteering also goes a long way. Any form of assistance goes a long way. A smile goes a long way. Words of kindness go a long way. Genuine empathy goes a long way.

Friends, right here in Fort McMurray, I feel hope, I see the push of that thing in us all called “humanity” working in full force, I feel empathy and I genuinely feel that there are much better days coming for this city. I feel a conviction that Fort McMurray is the right place for me at this time. Here in Fort McMurray, I am reminded that we are created for one another – and a society thrives better when there is togetherness.

Do you know someone or people currently in distress? Please reach out to him or her or them. Be available.

Love,

Chiamaka

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Community

Breaking away from tradition, for social justice

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One of the main effects of social justice is that it creates a revolution. When an act of revolution is a success, systems and people change in response to that revolution. Today, I want to write about how the cause of social justice can intersect with culture and give culture a reform.

Often, the idea is that culture is culture and that no one’s culture nor your own culture should be criticized. It is important to be respectful to everyone’s culture but when aspects of culture or the interpretation of culture are explicitly used to indignify people, there should be a moral responsibility to respond.

As an Igbo woman, I am well aware of the fact that for generations, patriarchy has been entrenched in the culture (this was further complicated by the introduction of Victorian-style Christianity). I desire, however, to rise above that idea that the woman has to be the man’s human subordinate or be the loyal bearer of an irresponsible husband’s misbehaviours. I am vocal about the patriarchy. Culture should not be above criticism but the criticism should be done in a manner that can enhance peaceful dialogue. By the way, I LOVE being Igbo – it is a beautiful culture with different great dialects and traditions.

It is indeed a challenge to break through certain aspects of tradition, for the sake of social justice. Please note”break through” or even break away, as social justice does often mean breaking away from some elements of tradition, although it does not require complete abandonment of a culture in general. Change is hard. Societies are becoming well aware of the need to give women as much opportunities as they give men. Countries in North America are realizing that racial tensions are not good for any society and are finding ways to give more representation to ethnic and racial minorities. These are all adjustments. What you notice with such adjustments is that the institutions making the adjustments, fail, get criticized and try again. It is hard to break away from tradition. Even when a change happens, there is a learning process to go through.

But, social justice is about revolutions. People can catch up. Institutions can catch up. Positive change can be permanent. These can all start with just one or more bold steps addressing the parts of any culture that do more harm than good to humanity. Culture can be modified over and over again and every person should be open to this.

Love,

Chiamaka

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Community

The new generation and compulsory tasks

The expectation is usually that with age, there should be progress; with education, there should be progress; with experience, there should be progress. It is easy to understand why such expectations abide in different societies. This is because each of those things – age, education, experience symbolize growth in and of a person.

A new generation symbolizes growth and people in different societies put a lot of their faith in this particular kind of growth. I too put a lot of my faith in this new/young generation which I am a part of (I am looking at from age 35 and downward). For Nigeria, I have faith that at some point, more young people will be able to get involved in politics, so that they can change some of the usual norms of governance that have been operating in different government systems in Nigeria. Corruption in Nigeria dates back to decades before I was born but it is still in effect in this 21st century. So, in Nigeria, corruption is like a norm of ancient times (mainly since after Independence). Since that is so, I am hoping on a new, younger generation that will at some point come in and lead with compassion, accountability, fairness and a commitment to the public.

In North America, the common ideology is that racism mostly abides with people of older generations – people who lived through a time when racism was at the crux of their specific society’s social and political sphere. However, I wonder if it is possible that it is mainly members of the older generation that have been sending racially-motivated insults at Leslie Jones, via Twitter (a popular ‘new generation’ social media network). I used the word “wonder”, because I am not stating that I know for a fact, the generational groups of most of the bullies who targeted Leslie Jones. However, note that, with growth, there should be progress. The problem arises when the new generation does not unlearn the prejudices and hurtful ideologies that could be found in a past generation.

There are encouraging occurrences, however, which make me have unwavering faith in the young generation. Continually, I come across stories of young people who are challenging and shattering barriers to their group or society’s progress. Barriers that were once a norm. Black Lives Matter groups, associations in different countries that mark Pride (LGBTQ+ pride) through outdoor events, girls saying no to child marriage in Zimbabwe etc.

So yes, I see many of the younger generation taking up the mantle of change but I want to use this post to remind all young people that you and I have a task and hold the power to lead a prosperous, freer and a more just tomorrow.

Love,

Chiamaka

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Community

Why do I have to write a think piece on why Black lives matter?

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Photo obtained from Kirk Franklin’s Facebook page

Here I am again, about to go into details on why the Black Lives Matter movement is very important. Frankly, I am tired of trying to plead with the world that my life matters. I feel exhausted writing all these think pieces on why Black lives matter because it should be common sense right? But it’s not. In just this week, at least 3 Black men have been murdered.

This is not just an American problem, it is a problem of Western societies, in general. A Nigerian man, Emmanuel Chidi Namdi who fled Nigeria because of Boko Haram was very recently, beaten to death in Italy, for defending his wife over a man who called her a monkey. In America, this week also, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were unfairly and senselessly murdered by people of the uniform who are supposed to protect the public against injustice. For over a decade, the Toronto Police has used a carding system that has been problematic in that African-Canadian persons have been very commonly racially profiled under this system.

What is it with Western societies and Black skin? If a nation cannot manage its diverse society, why then is it called a developed nation? Is economic development supposed to be more important than respect for human rights? The world should be tired of the high rates of murder of Black people in Western societies and these societies should be tired of treating Black people unfairly. No one human was created to have more value than the other. If you are reading this and believe that Black people are not supposed to be equal in value to people of other races, you may not be a shooter or even own a gun but you are our silent killer.

To the individuals that feel that “Black Lives Matter” is a divisive phrase, please understand that it is not. I believe that all human lives matter. Everyone should believe that, however if you look at the world we live in today and truly examine it without bias, you will understand that Black lives don’t matter to many. This reality needs to change not  just because it is 2016, but because racism even in the 1850s or 1950s should never have happened. The reality needs to change because it is injustice to be automatically deemed a criminal upon sighting and killed because of the colour of your skin.

So, I am using this think piece as a reminder to those who are reluctant to speak up about the senseless violence, the constant unjust killings and the reasons for why these modern day Black Lives Matter movements are needed, welcomed and appreciated. I want to see more Caucasians, more Aboriginals, more Asians, more Indian people and so on, advocate because if it was any other group of people being killed so frequently, the world ought to be provoked too.

I want to also extend my heartfelt condolence to the families of the officers who lost their lives and those who were injured in the unfair and heartbreaking shootings that took place in Dallas, this week.

Love & peace,

Chiamaka

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