Category Archives: Minerva 1

2014: A Time for reflection

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It is that time of year again when we hear people lament: “Where has the year gone? I haven’t achieved anything I wanted to achieve this year.” It is that time of the year when shops try and seduce us to spend our money, and in many cases money we don’t have, on the must have Christmas gifts. It is that time of year when we madly rush to clear out our in-tray of outstanding tasks so that we can start the New Year with a clean slate. And it is that time of year when we make ambitious New Year’s resolutions that for the majority of us will fall to the wayside by the end of January. Yet, in our mad rush to finish projects, tick tasks off our To Do list, and plan for the year ahead, we forget to take a moment out of our lives to look back on the year that was and celebrate all that we have achieved, and acknowledge those not so great moments that we might prefer to erase from our memories. Both our successes and our failures have in one way or another brought us to the point we are at today and have shaped who we are.

Political leaders could certainly benefit from looking at their past actions and the past actions of former leaders. In the year marking the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, it is a poignant time to reflect on all those who fought, suffered and died during this war but to also to reflect on why WWI failed to mark the “war to end all wars”, with conflicts such as those in Syria, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Gaza, just to name a few, continuing to be waged throughout the world and political leaders failing to reach agreement on how to end these conflicts and bring peace and stability to every corner of the world. Although a ceasefire was signed in 2002, officially marking the end of the war in the DRC, millions of Congolese citizens have continued to die due to the on-going violence in Eastern Congo. The inability of the state to provide protection and basic amenities for its citizens demonstrates not just a failure on the part of the state to protect its citizens but also the failure of international efforts, such as the United Nations, to step in and provide such security for those citizens caught in the crossfire between militia groups and government forces. We live in a world where on-going conflicts such as those in the DRC, the Central African Republic, Mali or South Sudan are pushed off the 24-hour news cycles for more current conflicts such as Iraq, where increased international attention and energy is being directed. Yes, there is no denying that the international community has a responsibility to defend Iraqi citizens against the barbaric acts of ISIS, but has the international community, and in particular the US and its allies, learnt from their previous campaign in Iraq or are the same mistakes being repeated? Political leaders need to learn from the past to better respond to current conflicts and they should not place in the too hard basket those long-standing conflicts that may not have immediate strategic significance for what they perceive to be more pressing security threats. Every life lost in conflict is a tragedy and one the world is poorer for having lost.

In a society where we constantly press delete or refresh on our electronic devices to start anew, there is a tendency to look at life in a very similar fashion and to not learn from past experiences. But as we have realised time and again, every action leaves an imprint that has a ripple effect on our lives, the lives of those around us and even those we don’t know. As such, while many would like to press delete or refresh and draw a line in the sand on 2014 and start 2015 afresh, we can’t, nor should we try to erase a full year from our memories. We need to acknowledge the journey we have taken to arrive at the point we are today. By looking back at the past year we can learn from both our successes and failures and hopefully start 2015 armed with a few more life lessons to help us tackle future opportunities and challenges with more wisdom and knowledge about who we are as individuals.

Personally, 2014 has been a mix of achievements, failures, adventures and routine. It has been a year of reflection, of frustration, and enlightenment. It has been a year in which I have made a more concerted effort to find ways to be more engaged with my community – whether that be my family, local community or global community. It has been a year in which I have spent much time looking back at my journey thus far and finding a more rewarding and enriched path to take for myself, and those around me. 2015 is not about setting unrealistic resolutions but to continue growing as an individual to being open to the unexpected and potentially exciting opportunities that may come one’s way. It is about being armed with our own life lessons so that we can choose our path.

So, before you decide to forsake 2014 to the vault take some time to reflect on all that has happened in your life this year. You might be surprised at what you have achieved and how your life has been all that much richer as a result of what you have experienced in 2014.

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I am a girl – Marking International Women’s Day, 3 of 3 personal reflections

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This week I watched, for the first time, Rebecca Barry’s 2013 feature documentary, I Am A Girl, which tells the stories of six young women from around the world. Through their personal stories, the film shows what it means to grow up as a girl in Afghanistan, Cameroon, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, the US and Australia. For the filmmaker, the film is an attempt to put “a human face” to the disadvantage and discrimination still faced by women around the world. In telling this story, Barry has chosen to focus on certain issues facing young women today, including access to education, early marriage, childbirth and maternal health, sex work, the role of social media, and mental health.

This film is certainly quite challenging and heart-breaking at times. Take the story of Kimsey, a young 14-year old Cambodian girl, who must work as a sex worker in order to provide for her family and young child. Hers is unfortunately a very common story for poor women in Cambodia – desperation, poverty, domestic violence, hopelessness. Through her face, you can see that Kimsey sees little hope for the future.

Yet the film is also inspiring and deeply moving. In Afghanistan, the filmmakers explore the story of 17-year old Aziza, who is deeply passionate about her own education as well as education for women in Afghanistan. Closer to home, the story of 17-year old Australian girl, Katie, gives a frank, intimate and honest account of her battles with depression and self-harm, as well as the positive and tentative steps she is making in managing her condition.

Through all six stories, the film depicts the vastly different experiences and challenges facing young women across the globe. Yet, by doing so, the film also explores universal themes such as hope, despair, family, sex, future aspirations etc. Most tellingly, the stories of I Am A Girl make another and more powerful statement – gender inequality occurs no matter what the circumstance or cultural context.

This International Women’s Day, I will be thinking about the many challenges still facing girls and young women in today’s world, as well as their inestimable courage, honesty and hope.  If you can, I Am A Girl is well worth watching.

Clips of the film can be seen here:

Rebecca Barry’s Homepage