Thursday, 30 May 2013

We are the world, we are the future...

We are the world, we are the children, we are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving...”

When I was thinking of this week’s post, this song came to my mind immediately.  It’s hard to believe that it was released way back in 1985! We celebrated Children’s Day, this Monday just gone, but amongst all the fanfare and fun, I couldn’t help but feel some sadness about how much more there is left to do, for our children.  The two areas, where I think we are failing our children the most are interlinked and they are: education and the abuse of children.

I am going to my high school reunion this summer and I am really looking forward to it.  I haven’t seen some of these women, in more years than I care to admit publicly, but they were a part of some of the best years of my life.  I had a top notch education at one of the then best schools in Lagos.  That’s why it’s so hard to hear how far standards have fallen at my alma mater.  It’s even harder to hear that Nigeria has the dubious honour of having the highest number of ‘out of school’ children in the world (approximately 10.5 million).  When you look at it through the prism of gender, it’s even more depressing.  The dropout rate for girls is alarmingly high.  There’s been a constant drive to increase the enrolment of children in school, but not as much attention is paid to the retention/dropout rates, particularly amongst girls. 70.8% of young women aged 20-29 in the North West of the country are unable to read or write compared to 9.7% in the South East.  Maternal mortality is higher amongst women with little or no education. The growth and economic development of a country where a large proportion of half its citizens have little or no education is also significantly impacted.  Not to mention the impact on the life chances of the individuals involved.
The second area, where we definitely need to do better is tackling the abuse of children.  When I talk about abuse, I’m talking about physical, sexual or emotional mistreatment, child trafficking for domestic or sexual exploitation or neglect.  Excessive corporal punishment leads to many more girls than boys dropping out of school.  Sexual abuse and harassment of girls by teachers and their male peers are yet another reason why girls drop out of school or do more poorly than boys. Trafficking of children to work as domestic help means they are frequently unable to get an education and increases their chances of physical and sexual abuse. Sadly, the age group most likely to be trafficked is 6-15, vulnerable children, who should be under the care and protection of parents or guardians.  Child abuse is not the sole preserve of those from lower socio economic classes.  The long working hours culture and the need to rely on domestic help, means that children from more affluent backgrounds are also vulnerable to abuse, from those employed to watch over them.  They may also face abuse and neglect from parents themselves.

The child of today is the parent of tomorrow and so it is crucial that we get these two areas right.  As I end this week’s post, I ask myself, as well as you: where can we make a difference in either of these areas?  This isn’t work for some people, it’s work for all of us.  So that every child can receive the education they need and be free from abuse.

Affected by anything in this post? Want to speak to someone in confidence? Then contact us through the website, for a free 30 minute consultation.

Until next week, go well.


Thursday, 23 May 2013

...and they lived happily ever after

I was reading a magazine recently and I came across an article that left me asking: really?

It was about a woman who was about to leave a longstanding marriage.  In a nutshell, her husband had been financially irresponsible for most of their married life and to add insult to injury, he had also been serially unfaithful.  The children were grown, she wanted to leave, but he couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to stick around for another 30 odd years! I say again: really? Does he really not get this? Anyways, seeing as I wrote to my single sistahs a few weeks back, I thought I’d better even things out and write to my married sistahs this time.  Enjoy.

Ladies, there are a few things men can’t do.  For example, they can’t multitask; they can’t hear a screaming baby, who is right beside them and they cannot see the laundry basket/dirty dishes in the sink/whatever else is your pet peeve. Okay, I’m joking, but there’s one thing I know they definitely can’t do and that is read your mind. I know most of us think, “if he really loved me, he would just know what I need”.  Unfortunately sistahs, as I’m sure we’ve all come to know, it just ain’t so. I have it on good authority, that men appreciate, the direct approach, so we need to stop being shy and tell them what our currency is.  Or to put it another way: what’s your love language? There are 5 languages of love: quality time, physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation and gifts.  If you don’t already know what yours is, then take a little time to read the book[1] and figure it out. That way, you can be as direct as saying to your sweetie: want more sex? Speak my love language brother man. Because let’ face it, when someone doesn’t speak your language, all the shouting in the world, isn’t going to help the situation.

Secondly, I’d say, ‘don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater’.  Even if your marriage feels more like a prison sentence-without parole, rather than heaven on earth, you might still be able to salvage it.  Two caveats though: deal breakers and red flags.  If you’re dealing with a deal breaker situation, it’s going to require a huge compromise on someone’s part.  Like I said in my earlier post, you want to make sure that you can live, with whatever compromise you come up with.  If you’re dealing with a red flag like abuse of any kind, criminal activity, infidelity or serious financial misuse, then I’d say create some distance and see if it’s something you really want to salvage.  I’ve heard people say that a spouse’s affair saved their marriage.  I’ve never had that experience, so I can’t judge.  But I would venture to say that it didn’t happen overnight and there was some major fallout first. Also, both parties need to want to salvage the relationship.  Otherwise, it’s a bit like trying to push water up a hill- impossible as far as I know.

Lastly, as a very dear friend of mine says “if you don’t hear, you will feel”.  Fortunately or unfortunately, in life, there are always consequences for our actions and some of them can be pretty unpleasant. If you’ve tried the first two steps and they haven’t worked, it may be time to face the fact that your relationship is on the verge of collapsing.  Am I advocating divorce? No, just a reality check.  If our behaviour is hurting the people around us and we refuse to change, then there’s a good chance that they are going to run like hell out of our lives!  When we know better, we have the opportunity to do better, but it’s up to us to make that choice.
So there you have it, my take on how to get that happy ever after ending.  I don’t know what situation you might be facing today, but I hope that this post encourages you to make the right decision.

Dealing with abuse or just want help finding your way? Contact us through the website, for a free, 30 minute consultation.

Until next week, go well.


[1] 5 love languages by Dr Gary Chapman

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Walking your talk

I gave a talk a little while ago, about something that I had recently experienced myself.  I had come to a decision about how to handle the situation, but for a moment up there, I felt like a fraud.  Giving advice that I wasn’t actually taking at that moment.  It took me a while to remind myself that I had taken the best option available to me at the time and taking that course of action doesn’t make me less authentic in the advice that I give to other women, in a similar situation.  This week, I’m talking about the importance of being congruent in oneself.  I’m sure some of you are wondering: what does being congruent mean and why is it important? I will tell you what it means now and explain why it is important at the end.  Congruency means ‘being in agreement’ or ‘coinciding’.   In other words: walking the talk!   In this piece, I’d like to share 3 reasons for why I think being congruent is important.

Firstly, when we aren’t congruent in our beliefs and values and what we say and do, people are less likely to trust us.  As human beings, we all have a very strong sense of intuition (whether we choose to heed it or not, is a post for another day).  Our intuition is what enables us to sense when something is not quite right.  For example, when someone lies to us.  We may not be able to point to anything concrete, but we have a strong sense that we are being deceived. That’s our intuition kicking in and picking up on body language or just something else that doesn’t seem right.  If someone is asking us to trust them, but their body language is telling us something else, then how likely is it, that we will trust them?  The truth is we won’t follow someone we don’t trust and that’s a problem in the workplace and in our personal relationships.

Secondly, when we aren’t congruent, then we begin to mistrust ourselves.  The same intuitive sense that warns us when something is quite right with others, also acts as an early warning system for ourselves. If we are regularly being unauthentic, then we find it harder to tap into our intuition and to trust it, to help us make decisions.  Do you sometimes feel like a bit of a fraud in your relationships, because what you’re saying or doing, is not what you genuinely believe? I was doing some training recently and to an outside eye, it would have seemed like everything was going well.  I was nodding enthusiastically and I was prompting the delegates when necessary.  However, I noticed that I was very tense and my arms were very firmly crossed over my body (a classic ‘closed’ position).  I had to take a moment to figure out what was wrong and correct it, before I could be fully effective as a trainer in that situation.

Finally, because being congruent is about trust- our trust in others and our trust in ourselves, being congruent makes our message that much more authentic. When we are at our most authentic, we are at our most powerful.  When we are at our most powerful, we can do amazing things.  When we do amazing things, then we can change the world.   One of my favourite quotes at the moment is by Maya Angelou and she says “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be diminished by it”. We can only be that strong, when we know who we are inside and that is who we present to the world around us.  I know what I believe and what I stand for as a violence against women activist.  What do you stand for? What do you believe? What are your values? Do you speak your values or your beliefs no matter what or do you adjust them depending on where you are?  I’m most inspired by the strong powerful women around me, who aren’t afraid to speak their truth- no matter how unpopular it may be.  I have an aunt who embodies that and I often joke, that when I grow up, I want to be just like her.  Being with her can sometimes be a bit bruising, but you always know that she’s being genuine and I’d much rather have that than someone who told me what they thought I wanted to hear!

As I end this week’s piece, I invite you to give yourself a little check up.  Are there areas, where you’ve begun to be less authentic? Ask yourself why that is and make up your mind to do something about it.  Life isn’t a dress rehearsal, so let’s give it our best, everyday.
Touched by anything in this piece or just want to talk to someone in confidence? Contact us through the website.

Until next week, go well.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Am I there yet?


I was talking to a friend recently about some potential work and she called me a writer.  I was completely taken aback, because I’d never thought of myself as a writer. But the more I thought about it, the more I started to wonder whether she has a point. I write a weekly blog for my business, I’m a guest blogger for a couple of other sites and I write for a couple of magazines.  Here’s the thing though, when I think about the word ‘writer’, I think about my heroines like Maya Angelou, or Buchi Emecheta or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  But because I take my inspiration wherever I find it, it got me thinking “how do you know when you’ve arrived?” when did I morph from someone who writes, into a writer?

One of the definitions of a writer is someone who writes books, stories or articles as a job or regular occupation. So I guess on that basis, I am most definitely a writer.  I may not have written a book or achieved world- wide fame, but I can definitely call myself a writer, without fearing that I’m going to be denounced as a liar! My questioning around this issue reminded me how easy it is, to get hung up on titles and how we infuse some titles with a special kind of magic.  The problem with that approach is that it limits us and what we can achieve.  If I think that being a writer or anything else, is the exclusive preserve of other people, then I’m not likely to take a chance and step out and that’s the place where dreams die. What dreams have you had, that you’ve given up on, because of a ‘title’? What do you want to achieve, that you feel is out of your reach, because it’s not for people like you?  I sometimes feel that life would be so much easier if we had a gauge on our sides- a bit like a kettle and we could see at a glance, where we need topping up.  Running low on passion? Get a top up, from those people in your life who make you believe you can do anything.  Dream tank empty? Take a minute to expand your mind and think of all those people who’ve achieved amazing things.  I’m watching a series at the moment on the men who built America.  They are by no means paragons of virtue, but the one thing they have all taught me, is that the value is in the journey.  They didn’t always get it right, but they never gave up.  They kept on striving and reaching for what they wanted.  Our lives are like a jigsaw puzzle, not every part is beautiful, but every part is needed for a complete picture.

My second point is that the struggles and failures along the way are meant to strengthen you, not make you give up.  The human body is an amazing design.  In weight training, to strengthen a muscle you first have to break it down, using a sufficiently heavy weight and in healing itself, it gets bigger and stronger.  Failure is a great teacher- as long as you get back up.  I don’t believe that there is anyone who has achieved great things, who hasn’t failed at least once.  When we fail and get back up, we’re telling ourselves that we’re not done.  We’re telling ourselves that there’s more to us.  We’re telling ourselves that we’ve learnt a valuable lesson.  Most of all, we’re telling ourselves that we are so much stronger and have so much more to offer than we think.
Lastly, I would say that the view from the top is great, but don’t stop there.  As a life coach, one of the things that I help my clients to do is identify their goals and work with them to find a way to achieve them.  The issue then becomes “I’ve achieved my goal, what next?”  Whilst goals are important and help to keep us on track, they can’t be the only things in our lives.  For us to really live our best lives there has to be more to it than just achieving goals.  For a lot of us, we find a deeper meaning to life, in our spiritual beliefs.  For others, it’s about philanthropy in one form or another.  Whatever it is, as human beings, we know instinctively, that there’s more to life. Nelson Mandela said “...after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb...” At first glance, it might seem like it’s all about achieving goals.  But when I read it again, it filled me with a sense of adventure.  Those hills could be anything.  They could represent very different facets of our lives.  The point is life is an adventure that we get to take part in, everyday that we are alive. Don’t like the view from where you are? Try another hill. Climbed the corporate ladder, only to have it yanked away from you unexpectedly? How about trying the ‘self-employed’ hill instead?  Whatever you do, just keep climbing, enjoy the view and then set off on your next adventure.

I don’t know where you are in your life at the moment, but I’d like to encourage you to see the value in your journey so far and to keep climbing those hills.

Having trouble working out where to go next? Feeling a bit stuck? Coaching could help you find a way through.  Contact us through the website for a free, 30 minute consultation, that could help you begin  a really great adventure.

Until next week, go well.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

The devil's in the detail

Whenever I read an article or post online, I usually scroll down to see the comments that come afterwards.  I do it, because I like to see how other people are engaging with the issue.  I love to see the fresh perspectives that other readers bring to the table and frankly, you can learn a whole lot, just from reading some of the comments.

What I’ve noticed recently though is that more and more often, some of the comments are really offensive.  Misogyny, sexism, homophobia and racism, seem to be the order of the day- masquerading as the right to free speech.  Don’t get me wrong, free speech is a fundamental human right, but do we really need to resort to offensive stereotypes to exercise that right? 

There seems to be something about the relative anonymity of the internet that seems to make people forget basic good manners. If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online or in a text.  I haven’t been guilty of drunk dialling in a very long time, but I have sent a fair few ill advised emails in my time!

I’m sure some of you are wondering why this post.  As a violence against women activist, it's clear to me that the misogyny and sexism that is displayed in comments online is just a symptom of what is happening in the media as a whole.  Women are routinely sexualised and objectified in the media, to the extent that I think some young men have a hard time telling the difference between reality and fantasy. The case of Audrie Potts and the Steubenville rape case are just 2 examples of how the violation of young girls is no longer something that happens in private.  Perpetrators are now going increasingly for glorification of their offence, via the internet.  In both these cases, young women were raped and sexually assaulted, whilst unconscious, filmed and those pictures circulated online.  What was most chilling for me was the comments that were posted in response to those pictures.  The victims were routinely vilified as ‘whores’ and ‘sluts’ and blamed for the situation that they found themselves in. Social media, wrongly used, can take bullying and harassment to a whole new level.

Secondly, technology can add a whole new dimension to domestic abuse. Emails, facebook posts, twitter and texting are all things that can be used by the perpetrator to continue their abuse.  Can you imagine the terror felt by a victim of domestic violence, every time their phone goes off, or they get an email? Because they dread what might show up on their screen? Can you imagine how they feel being threatened with intimate material being posted on the internet?

We’re in the 21 century now and perpetrators have a whole new array of tactics to use, to continue their abuse. As mothers, we need to be vigilant about how our daughters use technology, to make sure that they don’t end up as victims of it. As activists, we need to make sure that we keep up with the advances in technology, in order to make sure that we can offer survivors the best service we can.  As people, we need to take a stand and speak out, when we see examples of technology being used to victimise women and girls.

Been affected by anything in this post? Would you like to speak to someone in confidence? Contact us, through the website, to arrange your free, 30 minute consultation.
Until next week, go well.