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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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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. 🙂

Love,
Chiamaka

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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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Love is love. Hate is wrong

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Photo from: http://thehungergames.wikia.com/wiki/File:Rainbow.jpg

In our world, justice co-exists with the popularity of the message that we should all love each other despite individual differences. Perhaps, this is the normal order of what the world should be like? I don’t know, I guess the answer to that question lies with the Almighty. However, that co-existence that was stated above, makes me feel that we need to keep on with the message of love but also constantly include the logic behind love – the logic behind loving each other, regardless of religious belief, race, sexual orientation, country of origin, tribe etc.

I believe that the logic behind love is that it benefits both the lover and the recipient – love brings about trust and it brings people closer. I guess the logic of love can mean different things to different people but it is indisputable that love benefits us all and our world needs more of it. A world in which 50 people are killed and 53 are injured, at a gay club, is definitely in need of more love. A world in which you can be sentenced to 14 years in prison in Nigeria because you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer, needs more love. A world where Donald Trump can be the front and leading man for the Republican Party, needs more love and less hate and fear.

When Donald Trump first came into the spotlight for his presidential ticket campaign, he seemed to me as a total joke. I felt strongly that there was no way this man can possibly come close to the presidency. However, I was so wrong. He has won the support of numerous people in America and he is now the official candidate of the Republican Party. It’s still perplexing to me that someone who boldly spews hate and puts people against each other, can have the support of several people in a country as (seemingly) developed as America.

Friends, hate still exists strongly in our world. The newly crowned Miss USA is African-American and I saw a snapshot of racist comments that some people had for her, on Facebook.

Now, let’s head over to Nigeria, shall we? It is my desire and I urge that the anti-gay law in Nigeria be trashed. It is against our collective human rights as a human race to put anyone in prison because the person is gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual or queer. I urge the masses of Nigeria to push against this law and I urge the current President to annul that law. It is embarrassing and unjust.

What happened in Orlando on June 12, 2016 must never repeat itself, in anywhere in the world.

Certainly, many of us need to understand or be constantly reminded of the logic of loving. It’s not about throwing out the word – I love you – or – I’m colour blind – or – I love all people. We must truly understand that there are great benefits to internalizing love and seeing it as something that should be rendered to yourself and also, externally to others.

Love and peace,

Chiamaka

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My Two Cents on Change and Human Rights for Nigeria

What does bringing change in the governance system of Nigeria mean if it does not include enforcing human rights? Simply nothing. Nigeria, as is the case of many developing countries, has been a hub of many human rights violations that often go under the bus. Jungle justice happens on the streets, speculations fly around of how much political leaders have squandered – just speculation, no sight or news of an official investigation) and 20 years after the unjust execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, an artwork to commemorate the anniversary of his death was seized by customs officials.

As someone who ran a campaign centred around “Change”, human rights recognition and respect must be at the top level of the agenda for President Buhari. For Nigeria, I do not see how development can really be attained when we have laws but they do not necessarily govern. For the poor in Nigeria, human rights violation is all too common for them. Their homes are the ones that get demolished when there is a so-called building/housing development agenda (see this). They are the ones that get mobbed and killed on the streets because of an allegation that a banana was stolen. Yet, there are many politicians who have not been able to give account to Nigerians on how they used the public purse but walk freely and are celebrated. Human rights is for everyone but in Nigeria, I especially see that the poor are vulnerable and seem invisible but yet are boldly exploited.

For Mr. President, I urge that he sees the urgency of the need for Nigeria to uphold human rights strictly and change with the times. For Nigeria, any promise to “Change” the system of governance must encompass upholding human rights for all, strictly. We are a country of laws, so therefore, the public should not feel like we live in a lawless society. Human rights also means that a people should not be duped of their resources. Recently, it was reported that the World Bank allegedly stated that the money Sani Abacha stole is too much for them to “handle”. For a country in dire financial need as Nigeria, I advise that President Buhari should not just focus on investigating the previous government of President Jonathan. Basically, retrieve as much of Nigeria’s stolen funds as you can for re-investment in our dwindling economy and this retrieval should be without restriction. It can go back to 50 years ago. So many people live in abject poverty in Nigeria, how then can restrictions be put on when and from who any stolen funds may be retrieved?

I was reading the ministerial list a few days ago and was impressed at the cultural diversity it encompasses. However, when I did see the group photo of the ministers with Mr. President, I spotted an issue. A gender imbalance which is disturbing for 2015. I would advise Mr. President to encourage and allow for more female participation in the political and public administration of Nigeria.

This is not an attack on the President but an advisory note to him. Like millions of others, I am eager to see a better Nigeria and a better Nigeria cannot be achieved without equality, fairness and justice.

Peace,

Chiamaka

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Defying Borders To Build A More Peaceful & Just World

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I have observed and experienced that the limiting objective of borders can be useless, if you are determined to achieve your social justice goals. Many people in different parts of the world continually show candor towards the conception that borders should not stop us from trying to make a difference in the world by promoting peace, fairness and equality (in a nutshell – social justice). For the purpose of this post, we will look at the word borders from two different perspectives –

Borders could be the limiting and negative thoughts that come up in our mind or dissuasive negative thoughts that we acquire from other people’s perceptions of things and their fears. Then, borders could be the physical boundaries that separate nations from each other. 

As my eldest brother was driving me home from the airport upon my arrival to Calgary, on Saturday, he mentioned that there have been several protests held in Calgary, for peace in Palestine. I was amazed and touched. Note that Calgary is in Canada and far away from Palestine. However, some Calgarians felt the hurt of Palestinians so much that they took to the roads to protest for freedom.

There are other cases of solidarity in the midst of possible inner limitations and/or several differences that have taken place in our world. Here are a few instances:

– In the wake of the kidnap of more than 200 school girls in Borno state, Nigeria, lots of campaigns started in Nigeria and around the world with the now popular phrase – Bring Back Our Girls. Peaceful protests took place in Ottawa and Toronto. Also, #BringBackOurGirls has become a trending hashtag on Twitter.

– Many people showed up for the rally organized in July after Eric Garner was killed. People have also taken to Twitter to express their desire of what they wish to occur in the aftermath of the very shocking and sad incident, as #JusticeForEricGarner is now a trending hashtag on Twitter.

Amidst the constancy of barbaric acts on human beings by fellow humans, hope still blooms because there are still SEVERAL people in the world who value the rights of our humanity. Such people do not silently observe the violation of others’ human rights, no matter where such an act is occurring at.

An important thing to note is that societies that value human rights tend to be peaceful, so imagine if all parts of the world valued same – we all will become citizens of a peaceful world. Are you willing to help make such a great progression by overcoming some mental and physical borders (without changing location), starting in your own society? I sure hope that the answer is “Yes”. 🙂

Love & Peace,

Chiamaka.

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