Reminders. So far I have been in Senegal for about a week and every nook and cranny seems to echo strong reminders – reminders of who I am, where I come from, what the real-life, on the ground, living conditions are, and most importantly, why I am undertaking the educational journey that I am.
It is very easy to get lost in the midst of things happening around us, to try to remain cognizant of occurrences, but miss the essentialities altogether. And, as much as I have tried to maintain the connection to my roots, while abroad, what was once a strong concentrate is quickening towards a dilute.
We often criticize our governments of not keeping the promises they make during election campaigns, but now I can understand why that can be and is possible. As much as I continue to advocate on issues that plague Ghana and other African countries, I am in a sense removed from those conditions – in this case physically, emotionally and psychologically – and as such, like the politician who undergoes ‘air-conditioned therapy’ (from sitting in an air-conditioned office straight to getting into an air-conditioned car and then sleeping in an air-conditioned house) and hardly experiences the strong vitamin-D filled Ghanaian sun, my understanding of situations may not be as holistic as it would be if I actually living in the day-to-day conditions.
One of the things that kept coming up in my “Women and Writing” senior seminar at MHC was the fact that most of the books written on African women’s issues were written by non-African women and sometimes even men. Another thing that came up was the fact that ‘educated’ Africans who write on these very issues have a different understanding of them since they have been socialized in a specific manner – the manner being western. In both instances and in my opinion all instances, our past experiences serve as a buffer point or a filter of our present experiences.
Being at YOWLI has in a sense awakened my appreciation for things I had began to take for granted – clean streets, good roads, continuously flowing clean water, electricity, etc. Coming here, I was filled with excitement and a strong desire to help contribute to helping advance women and children’s rights, and that still remains the same. It is very inspiring to see a multitude of young Africans working in different areas, but ultimately aiming for a similar goal. And then comes the realization that there’s ALWAYS HOPE regardless of how dark the prospects may be.
But even with all the positive energy that drives each and every one here, reality still hits home and there are instances when everyone is not on the same page, when strikingly contrasting perceptions collide and when strong personalities conflict. But at the end of it all, all I can say is “Who am I to judge?”
Over the past couple of days we have had young women and a couple of men working together and discussing very important issues – issues that our leaders discuss (or rather, are supposed to discuss). I have come to the realization that many of us DO know the issues on hand. The dissemination of this information is important, but like one of the YOWLI participants from South Africa said “It is not our duty as activists, to tell women or people what choices to make. All we can do is give them the information and the options available and let them make their own decisions.”
My concern rises whenever we get to the “What should be done?” question because even though most African and Diaspora countries have similar problems we just can’t seem to break through the wall that separates theory from practice. And WHY should this be the case?
In Neale Donald Walsch’s book ‘Conversations with God’ there is a statement that each and every one of us contributes on some level to the global consciousness and it is this global consciousness that determines to a large extent what happens in our world. In the same vein, one of the YOWLI facilitators stressed the importance of realizing that what we describe as our value system inevitably forms the framework that we choose to call human rights. I believe that the current state of global events is the result of the global consciousness of a good thirty or so years. What we think about now, how we approach our current realities and what actions we decide to take today will be determinants of how our children will live tomorrow (and in case you think we’re too young to start thinking about what our children’s lives will be like, do a crosscheck on how many of our peers are either married, or are well on their way to getting married…10 years ago, you probably denounced that possibility as a fairytale or a concoction of the tooth fairy to steal your tooth without paying you.) That is not to give the idea that we can do nothing, but rather that our global destinies ARE in our hands NOW. We might not see the overall transformation in our lifetime, but that doesn’t mean a change is not in the works.
Life is but a cycle of events. Everything IS connected. Whether you are a 13-year old young Senegalese woman who is forced into marriage because a 60-year old man figures you’re beautiful (to look at), or an educated woman who keeps silent when acts of human rights abuse occur right under your nose you ARE connected. Whether you live in a fancy neighborhood somewhere in Europe and have a double fridge overflowing with goodies, or are the Haitian mother of five who has to go out and search for rocks to make biscuits that constitute the single meal for the day and the determining factor of whether your babies survive, you ARE connected. Some of us would rather ignore or close our eyes to the injustices that happen to others, but it is important to remember that the very instances that happen to others can be at our own doorsteps in a matter of seconds.
I do not intend to be pessimistic but rather to be merely realistic. These are our current state of events and choosing not to acknowledge them does not mean they disappear -that’s when rude awakenings occur. Neither am I advocating that we each spend every waking second pondering the injustices that occur across the world, all I am saying is stay informed, and most importantly, stay appreciative, because whatever your experience or circumstance, someone somewhere probably has it worse or has had it worse.
Finally, ‘Judge not the karmic path walked by another. Envy not success, nor pity failure, for you know not what is success or failure in the soul’s reckoning.’ (Conversations with God, Neale Donald Walsch). Be the change you want to see in the world, quit apportioning blame to everyone BUT YOURSELF, because our current situations are the result of things each of us have done or failed to do at one point or another. At the end of it all, strive to be the best you can be in any given moment, so that if things don’t turn out EXACTLY as you imagined, you can at least be satisfied that you were true to yourself and did your best.
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.