NIGERIA: Taking Responsibility

IMG_0758Taking responsibility for our actions is not always easy to do. It is funny how you see someone go on about the enemies in her life, who have denied her the success she so deserves.

People spend more of their time and prayers focused on their enemies than on themselves. They cast and bind those enemies. They go to all lengths to unravel their enemies when all they need do is stand in front of the mirror and recognize the enemy before them. When we blame others, we become our own enemies.

We should learn always to take responsibility for our actions. When we take responsibility for our actions, it means the solution lies within us, but when we blame somebody else, it means that only the other person can find a solution to the issues.

If you fail at anything, accept it; learn from it. If you do not get a promotion, or even lose a job, find out what you did wrong.  Learn from it to help you get the next promotion or to keep the next job. Do not blame your boss, your stepmother, half-brother or sister, the old woman in your village, your neighbor, your in-laws or the most-blamed devil. Just accept responsibility.

If we are not taught to take responsibility as children, we grow into adults who won’t take responsibility.  Most of us struggled to get  where we are today, and we want to protect our kids from the struggles of life–forgetting it was those struggles that helped make us who we are.

As parents, we have to allow our kids to be responsible for their actions. We have to allow them learn from their mistakes. There is no ideal world. They have to learn from the UNIVERSITY OF HARD KNOCKS i.e., LIFE. We cannot protect them from life; we have to allow them to live life.

A friend, whose 2-year-old son had broken his favourite cup, went to great lengths to find him a replacement, even to the extent of meeting the person who had given him the cup as a party favour.

I pointed out to her the need for allowing her child to be responsible for his actions. He breaks his cup, he loses it, and he learns that to keep a cup, he has to be careful with it.

I pointed out that unless there is a place where one can total one’s car and walk in and get a replacement free of charge, then she should let him learn by not providing a replacement.

Failure, they say, is not falling down.  It is staying down.

People who take responsibility for their actions learn from their failures, and you rarely see them complaining. They are the ones who look as if everything goes smoothly for them. They never seem to have any problems.

So, the next time you feel the urge of blaming anyone else or making excuses why something is not going the way you want, just remember when you blame another you take away the power of solution from your hands.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our new writer in Nigeria, Aisha Yesufu.

GUEST POST: NIGERIA – #BringBackOurGirls

GUEST POST: NIGERIA – #BringBackOurGirls

BringBackOurGilrsMy daughter said she was going to go to school so that she can wipe away my tears. How is she wiping my tears away in the den of the terrorists?”

-mother of one of the #ChibokGirls, abducted on April 14th, 2014, speaking on Day 188 of their abduction -October 19th, 2014

As I looked at her I realized that all this woman’s hopes and aspirations rest on her daughter. For most of the poor people in this part of the world, children are like a source of pension; they are the ones that will help you in the future. They are the ones that will take care of you in your old age, when you are unable to look after yourself. They represent life. As I looked at her I also realized that her daughter means more to her than I can ever imagine. Her daughter is her everything. A source of hope.

These parents are ready to give their lives for their children to have an education. That was what the #ChibokParents did. Amidst the insecurity in Nigeria, they still wanted their children to be educated to better their positions in life. They knew the only way to break the shackles of poverty was through education. For daring to send their children to school to have a better life, instead they have been punished.

These children grow up to not only take care of their parents but siblings as well so that a generation of people who have survived the shackles of poverty would emerge.

For some, poverty is going to school in the morning without breakfast and returning home not expecting lunch but still striving everyday to be in school so that one day you will look back and say I SURVIVED (I AM A SURVIVOR).

I remember  one of the fathers at one of our Sit Ins for the #BringbackOurGirls campaign—which started on April 30th with a protest demanding for the rescue of #ChibokGirls—saying he does not have a Television. All he has is a Radio from which he gets to hear of our activities. I wept! In this day of iPads, Tablets, iPhones and what have you, someone does not have a simple television that most of us take for granted.

So now you can begin to understand that to the #ChibokParents these girls are much more than daughters, they are future benefactors

A lot of parents, especially mothers, are forced to live a life of servitude and poverty in order for their children to be educated. The education that is taken for granted in most developed countries is not so in Nigeria and many other African countries.

I remember growing up and how my parents had to struggle to make sure we were educated. We often had to go without food when the situation grew dire but never were my school fees unpaid. I remember my father trekking long distance to buy a textbook I needed badly because the money was not enough for him to pay for a bus. All the suffering was for the children to be able to break the vicious cycle of poverty and one day to be able to take care of ourselves and also take care of our parents and siblings.

A lot of parents invest all they have in their children. For those who are poor, they do not have cars, houses or any investments. All they have are their children. Can you imagine these children being abducted, as is the case with the #ChibokGirls, abducted from school, where they wanted to get an education and make life better for themselves and their families? When these children of the poor are abducted and taken away, the future of a whole generation also is  taken away.

As I looked at the woman with tears streaming down her face, all I could see was my own mum, who had to be the head-of-household, who worked all day and night to ensure I had an education. I look back to the days when there was no food to be eaten and yet we found our way to school. I thought of what a burden it must have been for my parents to get us educated, to sacrifice all that they had.

While some of my parent’s contemporaries were busy enjoying life in the way they could with what they had, my parents tightened their belt to make sure that we, their children, had an education and of course today we are their pension. If any of us had been abducted while seeking an education, where would we be today?

As I stood watching the Chibok mother, all I could think about was my mother struggling to give her children the life she did not have and how hard she worked to provide that for us. I thought of my mother, now living in the lap of luxury because she worked so hard four sake. As I stood looking at the Chibok Mother, I realized she too must be allowed to break the shackles of poverty. She too must live in comfort, as her daughter promised her. Her tears must be wiped away. As I stood looking at her I realized that I cannot stop demanding for the rescue of the #ChibokGirls, for that Chibok mother who has given her all, hoping that one day her tears would be wiped away.

I realized that I must demand the rescue of the Chibok girls.We all must.

Demanding the safe return of the Chibok girls to me is like making a demand for the ME that was 23 years ago. As I stood I realized that no matter how hard it gets, no matter how much we are intimidated and harassed, no matter the threat of arrest from our government, I cannot afford to give up on the #ChibokGirls.

To give up on the #ChibokGirls is to give up on myself (the WHO that I have become) and to give up on the mother with tears streaming down her face, waiting for her daughter, who promised to wipe away her tears.

This is an original, Guest Post for World Moms Blog from our sister in Nigeria and mother of two, Aisha Yesufu.

Aisha Yesufu was born in Kano, Nigeria. When she turned 40, in December 2013, she decided it was time to devote her life fully to the services of others. As she describes it,

‘The first 40 years of my life I devoted to myself, so I could be financially independent and help others.  But they say: you can’t help the poor by being poor yourself, so the next 40 years, God willing, I am going to devote to others; for me, a full life will be based on what positive differences I have made in the life of another.”

And in came the unfortunate tragedy of the abduction of the #ChibokGirls. Following their abduction, on April 14th  2014, Aisha joined a group of like minded people to demand the rescue of  the 219 school girls, who still today remain in the hands of the terrorists. These girls, between the ages of 16 to 18, were abducted from their school, in their quest for knowledge. The group known as the #Bring Back Our Girls campaign has been able to push the issue of their rescue in public discussion both locally and internationally.

Aisha is the coordinator of the daily Sit In for the #BringBackOurGirls campaign group.  The group has, without fail, come out daily since the 30th of April, 2014, despite all forms of intimidations and harassment by sponsored persons.

To get involved in the conversation and learn more about the plight of the 219 Nigerian School Girls, visit: #BringBackOurGilrs

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Feminism Matters Because…There Are Too Many Reasons To List

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Feminism Matters Because…There Are Too Many Reasons To List

skater girl

In March, I wrote a post in honor of Gloria Steinem’s birthday, in which I mentioned that when Steinem spoke at my college graduation way back in the 1980s, my friends and I had wished for a speaker who was more “relevant.”  In our innocence, we believed that Steinem had won her fight; we were graduating from a women’s college and thought that fight for gender equality had been more or less won.

More than two decades later, I wish I could say that Steinem was irrelevant and that gender inequality is something we only read about in the history books.

When I wrote that post about Steinem, I was thinking about the Common Core curriculum, which relegates women’s contributions to history to the sidelines.  Now, of course, we are all confronted with the horror that’s unfolding in Nigeria, and while the plight of those schoolgirls devastates me, it has become, in my mind, another instance in a long list of the ways in which groups (comprised mostly of men) attempt to score political points by seizing control of women’s lives.  As an example, think about the Tea Party conservatives in the US, who prove their conservative bona fides in the United States by voting against support for Planned Parenthood, or Head Start, or universal kindergarten, or…

What is so scary about educating a girl? In the middle ages, accusations of witchcraft were often leveled against women who had amassed too much wealth or land, or who in some way differed from those around them.  We teach our children that things like the Salem witch trials happened because “people didn’t know better” or because of “mass hysteria” but sometimes I wonder how far we have progressed since those days.  What happens to women who challenge the status quo–or who have the potential to challenge the status quo?  Don’t they still run the risk of being punished, whether literally or figuratively?

It’s funny to me now, but when I first moved to Abu Dhabi the two most obvious indications that we’d left Manhattan behind—besides the searing heat—were the adhan and the abaya-clad women: religion and covered bodies. I found the abayas more unsettling than the call to prayer, even as I sometimes envied the women their public invisibility.  The longer we live here, however, my perceptions have changed so that I no longer see hijab as an automatic symbol of oppression or subjugation or second-class citizenry.

 I would imagine, however, that as women here, we’ve all had moments where we’ve felt marginalized, silenced, lesser: the day I trotted down the sidewalk to get in a waiting cab and the cab driver chastised me by saying “women should not run, madam, I will wait, and you should walk.” Or when a guard at the border crossing into Oman looked over at the passenger seat where I was sitting (in long trousers) with one foot propped on the dashboard and told me “to put my foot down, sit like a lady, more properly, sit properly.” When that happened my first impulse was to laugh: surely he couldn’t be serious? But, of course, he was serious. I put both feet on the floor and looked at the map so that I didn’t toss out a few well-chosen swear words.  (A general rule regardless of where you are: don’t swear at anyone, male or female, who is wearing a uniform at a border crossing.)

So yes, in that instance, I was silenced as I suppose I was by the cab driver too, who took it upon himself to offer some unsolicited advice. And yes, there is now a slight internal pause before I leave the house as I run through a kind of inner checklist about what I’m wearing: if short sleeves, a long skirt or pants, or vice versa (long sleeves, shorter skirt or shorts); do I have a shawl (equally for frigid air conditioning and bare shoulders); if I’m going to the beach, I make sure that my beach cover-up is more than a ratty t-shirt. There are days where I know I’ve failed the checklist and am too busy or late to care, but overall, I dress more modestly now than I used to and probably that’s not a bad idea: no one needs to see a fifty-year-old woman slopping down the street in cut-off shorts and a tank top.

Am I being repressed, or respectful?  Does my feminism mean that I yell at the cabbie, keep my foot defiantly on the dashboard, saunter down the street in a halter top and tight jeans? Or, alternatively, does feminist politics remind us that silencing and the policing of women’s bodies happens—sadly—in almost every culture in the world, including the US?  Without making light of the specifics of being female in this region, I’ve come to think of the issues facing women in this part of the world as being differences in degree, not kind, from the problems facing women in other parts of the world.

What do we, as women, do to help other women and girls find their voices–find our own?  How do we create strength to silence those who would silence us?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn in the United Arab Emirates of “Mannahattamamma.”

Mannahattamamma (UAE)

After twenty-plus years in Manhattan, Deborah Quinn and her family moved to Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates), where she spends a great deal of time driving her sons back and forth to soccer practice. She writes about travel, politics, feminism, education, and the absurdities of living in a place where temperatures regularly go above 110F.
Deborah can also be found on her blog, Mannahattamamma.

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What Can Americans Do for Abducted Nigerian Schoolgirls?

What Can Americans Do for Abducted Nigerian Schoolgirls?

Abducted. Scared. Abused.

Sold.

That’s the likely fate 276 girls are facing, taken from their schools in the remote reaches of north-eastern Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram. It’s been over three weeks since this started. We don’t what’s happening to them and we all fear the worst.

We’re sickened. We’re outraged. We also have no idea what to do. So, we’re doing what Americans tend to do. We’re taking selfies of ourselves with the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag. We’re tweeting. We’re posting facebook rants. In the lack of anything else to do, we’re signing online petitions by the thousands to make the world pay attention.

Picture 10

I’m not saying this these are bad actions to take. No! I signed the petition myself. I tweeted #BringBackOurGirls. I liked and shared Amy Poehler’s Smart Girl posts on facebook to help focus the national conversation on them. I was thrilled to hear that the U.S. is sending support and I believe social media was a part of that. But after I did those things, I was still sickened. Still outraged. I still didn’t know what to do.

And then I thought of this girl.

Picture 14

Malala Yousafzai. A Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban at the age of 15 who still fights daily for girls’ education knows a little something about this issue, don’t you think? She has said, “The extremists are afraid of books and pens, the power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women.”

Then, let those men be afraid of me. I am even more dangerous than a schoolgirl with a pen. I’m an educated mother with a laptop. And I’m not just coming after them. I’m coming after their whole oppressive way of life.

The welfare of the kidnapped girls rests in someone else’s hands in the short term, but I advocate against poverty and injustice with an eye for the long term. While we wait and we pray for these girls, shouldn’t we be using this anger and anguish to secure a future for all girls coming after them?

If all children were in school as a normal matter of course, then schools with girls would cease to be obvious targets. That fundamental paradigm shift would be more effective than sending a SEAL Team in to get the girls (even though that is what I dearly want to happen right now) because educated and empowered girls become mothers who raise enlightened sons.

Here’s another Malala quote:

“Our men think earning money and ordering around others is where power lies. They don’t think power is in the hands of the woman who takes care of everyone all day long, and gives birth to their children.” But the men are wrong. Indeed, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

 So, what concrete actions can we – as Americans – take right now to hasten this reality? We can start by demanding that our U.S. Representatives pass the Education for All Act (H.R. 2780), which specifically calls out victims of human trafficking as some of the most vulnerable children to help. We can also call on them to sign U.S. Representative Jan Schakowksy’s letter to the Obama administration to fund $250 million over 2 years to the Global Partnership for Education, which aims to raise $3.5 billion from donor governments at a pledging conference this June. With $3.5 billion invested by donors, the Global Partnership can secure an additional $16 billion from developing country governments. By 2018, that investment can support quality education for 29 million children, largely in fragile and conflict-affected states.

As badly as we need the #BringBackOurGirls social media awareness today for the 276 girls we keep vigil for, these two steps are even more needed in the long run to help millions of other girls at risk now and in the future.

So, after you’ve tweeted and posted your selfie on facebook, do not stop there. Click on these links to contact your U.S. Representative about the Education for All Act and the Global Parntership for Education. Tell them that girls are showing incredible courage just to go to school, and the U.S. should support them. Educating all girls and boys will create a world where kidnapping and selling students is not acceptable in any culture on the planet.

bbog-Cindy3

This is an original Post for World Moms Blog by Post by Cindy Changyit Levin who writes the Anti-Poverty Mom blog and is volunteer advocate for RESULTS, Shot@Life and the ONE Campaign.  She can also be found on twitter @ccylevin.

Are you ready to take action?

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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TEXAS, USA:  The Lesson

TEXAS, USA: The Lesson

ChildrenInNigeriaWhen we moved to Nigeria, my children were three and 15 months. My eyes were quickly opened to a world I had only read about in books. I grew up in a regular middle class family, and I don’t remember lacking for anything I ever needed.

The utter desperation and poverty I saw every day in Lagos through the windows in my air conditioned car was many times overwhelming. There were several times I had to wipe tears away. I realized how sheltered I had been from a life so many people on this planet face every day.

During those three years we were there, we took many trips to the beach and gave food and toys we didn’t need any more to the children in the village there.  My son decided to donate one of his soccer balls to a group of children who played soccer in the street barefoot near the church we attended each week. (more…)

Meredith (USA)

Meredith finds it difficult to tell anyone where she is from exactly! She grew up in several states, but mainly Illinois. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana which is also where she met her husband. She taught kindergarten for seven years before she adopted her son from Guatemala and then gave birth to her daughter two years leter. She moved to Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and two children in July 2009 for her husband's work. She and her family moved back to the U.S.this summer(August 2012) and are adjusting to life back in the U.S. You can read more about her life in Lagos and her adjustment to being back on her blog: We Found Happiness.

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