Sunday, 14 May 2017

5 Common Myths about Women and Intimate Partner Violence


 I remember before starting my work in the field of gender based violence and domestic abuse how much I was afraid of it and from what it meant. I had many ideas about the status of women in our community that were proven later to be completely false. I guess my ignorance was a good sign of not having experienced domestic violence or witnessed abuse directly growing up. But for those who experience the risk of gender based violence on a daily basis, the reality is much more complicated. Here are some myths that I discovered, often through conducting trainings and awareness raising sessions that were prevalent among many that I wanted to share with you.

1.       Everyone is familiar with abuse

You may be surprised to know that not everyone defines abuse in the same way. Depending on the backgrounds of who you may be speaking to, abuse can mean very different things. From my time conducting awareness sessions on gender based violence with refugee women, I found that many considered marital rape and physical violence, for example, to be one of the husband’s rights, with some even casually mentioning that “we all get hit every day” and that it is part of any normal relationship between a wife and her husband. Some women also engage frequently in blaming the wife for any abuse she may face stating that some women need a “beating” sometimes to confirm and submit to their traditional roles as homemakers. Also, in some cultures, instances of child marriage and denial of basic resources or neglect is encouraged and expected. It is important to note though, that women who hold these views often are not aware that their rights are being violated and do not see any issues with being subjected to abuse. What social workers try to do is help women recognize their fundamental rights and to make them aware of all the types of gender based violence that women around the world are subjected to, regardless of culture, religion and any other identifying labels. Women can then be made aware of access to further information or support from a counselor or other service providers to further encourage their empowerment and help-seeking.

2.       Admitting into a shelter and leaving the intimate partner violent relationship is considered the best option for survivors

Although it may seem like common sense to try and keep women and girls who are vulnerable to abuse and are at risk from attacks as far away from perpetrators as possible in a shelter or safe space. It may also make sense since we know too well that gender based violence occurs most commonly in intimate partner relationships especially when the perpetrator happens to be living with the survivor. However, the decision to move to a shelter is not always a viable option for women and can often complicate her situation further. Women sometimes have to make a difficult decision to move to a shelter and keep their children at home. This often sets them up for some emotional abuse and threats aimed at hurting the children from the perpetrator. Although we tend to think that once a woman is in a shelter, she is no longer in contact with her abuser. However, we have seen cases where some abusers try, and sometimes succeed, at sending the message they want to the survivor and some even access her location through gaining the sympathy of the survivor’s closest trusted friends and family. As a social worker working with a survivor of gender based violence, we also cannot assume that the abused has family support for her decision to leave an abusive relationship. In some cultures where abuse in normalized, the mere mention of any type of violence by the husband is normally justified and could be met with advice from mothers/mother-in-laws to “hang in there”, “we’ve all been there” and other guidance on how to avoid triggering the violence from the husband. This rhetoric puts a great deal of women in fear that if they make the decision to leave their husbands, that this may cause their families to abandon them and not support their decision. To help women who are survivors of domestic violence, we must help her navigate her risks and understand the positives and negatives of all her options in an informed way that respects her decision to leave or remain in the relationship. On another note, women who are not earning income from an independent job might have to face some economical struggles that may put them at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse while searching for a solid income to sustain themselves if they choose to leave the shelter or if the shelter option is no longer valid as it may be temporary in some countries.

3.       Disclosure is easiest part of seeking support

Identifying abuse is difficult and recognizing and accepting that the situation is not under control is not an easy process. In intimate partner relationships, the abuser usually after an outburst of violence will begin to apologize and make promises to end the violence and explain that he could not control his anger and that the survivor was the one who triggered him to do what he did. This causes survivors in many instances to fall into denial of abuse and self-blame and many will feel as if they are walking on glass everyday trying to avoid anything that may cause any new incidents. The combined feelings of denial, self-blame and fear make recognizing abuse very difficult.  To make things even more complicated, women who have undergone abuse on a long term basis begin to experience learned helplessness. This phenomenon can even trigger the change of brain structures to begin to lose some ability to process the parts responsible for logical reasoning and to cause an enlargement of the structure responsible for emotional sensitivity. This results in feelings of being trapped and feeling no hope for being able to escape, despite some women often possessing the full capability financially and resourcefully to leave an abusive relationship. Add to that, once she recognizes abuse and chooses to seek help, she must then face the difficult decision to trust someone to safely disclose the abuse to. If she finds that this person is not encouraging and/or begins to make decisions on her behalf, she may choose to withdraw from any support and never disclose to anyone again. To assist women in this difficult time, we must ensure confidentiality, explain that the violence is not her fault and that she has the right to access help and to give her lots of time to develop trust in order to feel comfortable disclosing and seeking the help she needs.

4.       Women who have escaped violent relationships are now safe

“She got a divorce. She is safe now”. Divorce and escape of violent situations even when backed with legal and police support does not necessarily mean that the violence has ended for the survivor. We know of many instances where women with children who share custody with the perpetrator must face emotional abuse and threats in an indirect way on a continuous basis. There are multiple avenues for a perpetrator with terrible intentions to find a way to continue imposing power in any means possible. Women in this situation must be empowered to understand that the perpetrator’s threats are mostly just empty talk and she must be supported to formulate a solid safety plan with numbers and people who can support her in any time of need if she needs it. Abused women are very aware of the dangerous situation they are in and need to be listened to and supported when coming up with ways to stay safe. They are the most aware of how to navigate their risks and keep themselves safe and we must ally with them to encourage them to stay as far away from the violence as possible.

5.       Poor women and Muslim women are the most vulnerable to gender violence

Gender based violence in all its forms has no identity. It is prevalent in all societies and cross cuts race, social status, race, religion, culture and background. It is a common myth to label all Muslim women as disempowered, for example, but this is only a racist assumption that should be discouraged and the statistics prove how common and prevalent gender based violence really is around the world. Sadly, it can happen to anyone anywhere.

Conclusion:


It is important to recognize that gender based violence is made up of many factors and that the survivors always knows best. As allies, supporters, feminists, or services providers, we must never impose our standards, ideals or solutions on them or exercise power over anyone facing abuse. Survivors of gender based violence are free to choose the option that work best for them and they should receive full confidentiality, information about services that are available and any psychological support that we can provide.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

How much control do I really have on my happiness?


     

      Woke up on a Thursday morning today feeling happy and relieved to embrace the weekend and immediately after washing up, I began to remember the tasks for today that I had promised myself yesterday. More often than not, these small tasks which I have a habit of writing down on a notebook or sticky paper, become a burden on my trail of thoughts and get carried on week after week. And sometimes, they get so annoying I actually have to review my tasks and ask myself "what's the worst that could happen if I don't do this one?" The thing I've realized when you're a "thinker
"-if I can call myself this- is that you can easily fall into the trap of thinking so much about something so little that it becomes some extra thing that you tag along in your head until it grows and decomposes on its own. You start telling yourself "why did I put this on my list in the first place?"

      I walk out of the house and stop myself as soon as the cool morning air hits my face. "Yes, this is going to be a good day". Why? Because it's nice out. Sounds crazy to believe that the weather has this huge power over how my day turns out when really most of my day ends up being spent in an office trapped under the air conditioning anyway. That's ridiculous when you actually think of it. Ha! Look at me, I'm at a point that I'm thinking about how I am thinking. Great.

      I get into my car. It needs a cleaning. When will I do that? -the first thing that comes to mind. I then pull up on the main road, see an old lady who looks exhausted from waiting for a taxi, and tell myself alhamdoulillah, I got a car and God gave me the skill to be able to drive it. Isn't that such a blessing?

     I started to think about what exactly it is in my morning that makes me start off right? And how much of it can I control and how much of it is just inevitable? Why does it feel like sometimes no matter what you do or say to yourself, you cannot shake off the feeling of being tired of everything? Then I thought, perhaps our bodies give us this feeling to send us a strong message about self-care. So, what I've started doing is asking myself 3 questions before I decide that I'm upset and need to look further into my psyche to find out:

1. Did I get enough sleep and/or did I get quality sleep?
2. Am I hungry?
3. Did I drink my coffee?

     It sounds humorous now that I've written it down but really most of my problems diminish after I've taken care of my body. Which goes to show how in this work work work driven world, we've become heads full of constant thoughts and endless tasks which are required from us on a tight timelime, that we've fooled ourselves into believing that we are indeed robots who are not in need of any self maintenance. Heck, even robots need a little oiling every now and then!


Have a great day friends!


Thursday, 17 December 2015

On being unattached

We all seem to be always chasing something. Whether or not we admit it to ourselves, the reason why we struggle to accept and embrace the present moment is because we are always thinking of some other time we wish we were in, with some other people; thinking maybe if we were richer, more beautiful, more accomplished, more successful. We seem to get caught up in the never-ending cycle of trying to feel good enough. We feel "life" owes us something because we are in it. In order to "live" I must be so and so and must do this and that.

But, what if what we are chasing never comes? What if what we choose to hang our dreams on and what we allow to steal our present moment is not written in our destiny? And if you had access to the knowledge of your not-so-fortunate destiny, would that make you accept your present or would you fall further into despair and unease?

I feel that this symptom of feeling entitled to a better life that we all suffer from is a result of our over attachment to this world and everything in it. We are attached to people. People who are flawed in nature and who tend to constantly disappoint. Yet, we attach ourselves anyway over and over again. We also attach ourselves to ideas in our heads. We attach ourselves to ideas of a successful career, for example. Yet, from one promotion to another and as our bank accounts upgrade, we still end up not having enough for the end of each month. We expect way too much from the world that we often, if not always, end up in disappointment.

Unlike many things in our life, the way God chooses to judge our success in this world is not contingent upon getting confirmation from worldly things. He does not judge us for how many people liked us, or how much money we made, or how many targets we hit. He judges us by how much effort, heart, soul, passion and intention we give. And He in return, promises that if we choose to detach ourselves from expecting praise from this world, that He will without a doubt give us the recognition we deserve. Yet, how many of us practice this in our daily lives? How many of us give without the expectation of receiving? How many of us can truly stand up and say that they would be willing to fight for what pleases God even if it means that they will fight alone?

We are all waiting for something. Waiting and hoping on things that are not guaranteed. So while God watches us struggle to search for some idea of "happiness" we so desperately crave, we forget that He alone is the only thing in our lives that will remain unchanged no matter the circumstances. And that knowledge of Him alone and believing in him is the only entitlement and privilege you can ever receive from the world. And that maybe we need to admit to ourselves that this is the truest cause of all ease and comfort that comes from living in this world.

 It is enough.

Knowing Him and believing in Him is enough.

All else is left to Him.

Monday, 12 October 2015

I can't tell you



"Tell me"
"I can't tell you"
"Why not?"
"I'm here for you,
do you not trust me?"
"I do".
"Well then, why don't you tell me?"

Because if I tell you,
 I will sound ridiculous
I will not be able to show you 
the hurt
or get you to reach far enough 
to feel it for yourself.

Or maybe because when I share this with you
you will have a piece of me that I cannot take back
and then I will feel a little too exposed.
a little too naked.

Or maybe if I tell you,
you'll label me,
and wonder why I'm being such a downer,
or worse,
and you'll tell me
 that there are other people in this world
who go through much more.
"What a spoiled little brat."
"Who does she think she is?"
"She's got men at her feet
gets compliments left and right, 
and yet she complains."

and then maybe you will
start contemplating about your own life
and make me feel stupid 
for ever telling you in the first place.

Because if I tell you,
maybe one day
without meaning to
it will slip from your mouth
and I will be the word on their tongues
and then I will be wondering why
suddenly they whisper when I turn around
and why people around me start to fade without warning.
"She's got baggage", they'll say.


Or maybe it's because I don't want 
to help myself.
Maybe in all the melancholy,
I find myself more than I ever did when I was happy.
Something in me is so undeniably me when I shed that tear
and when I laugh,
 I can hear that other side of me snicker,
"that's not you"
Maybe that demon has found a home
and I have made a friend out of it.

But mostly I can't tell you
because it hurts too much
because if I tell you,
it will be too real
and I don't know if I want to face it,
 yet.

Or maybe I'm just scared
I'm scared you'll find me too messy
too sensitive
too insecure
too anxious
and too complicated for your liking.

So when you ask me to "tell you what's wrong"
 I end up responding with silence 
with my head lowered slightly to one side
avoiding your gaze
and my eyes might just shed the tiniest tear,
the last hopeless cry for help
I hope that in my silence you may be able to understand
that although
I have a deep desire to share everything about myself with you,
 I can't.
and
I'm so sorry

I'm sorry I'm such a disappointment

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Signs of Humility



I will write as I feel and as the words pass and as they come and as they go. I no longer feel the need to write for an audience as I do not find gratification in their collective praise. I only want a listening ear to what befalls me and do not care if that means you might see me as less than what you knew before. Perhaps this is the essence of humility. Perhaps this is what it means to humble yourself and it is a sign to be unmoved and indifferent to the opinions of others about yourself. With time, as we begin shedding parts of our shells for others to see our insides we begin to question if those who loved us really loved the essence of who we are. Our core.

I no longer write with the certainty I wrote before. And some may think that this is a sign of lack of confidence in myself. Perhaps so. But more than anything this is my way of being human. I see my limits so clearly now. And yet there is a horizon of truth and knowledge still yet to be consumed. I have yet to see.

I bother very little if not at all with putting on some sort of spectacle to comfort those around me. I will not be overwhelmed anymore with accommodating for everyone for the sake of proving myself or showing that I am not at all what they might come to believe. I don't care what they hear. Neither do I care what they say. My truth is with my Lord and it is the only truth that matters to me.

Life has beaten us down and has shaken us up as it is. Why must we try to resist with phony versions of ourselves? It is tough enough to live as a human that is bombarded with casualty after casualty. Must that not be sufficient to remind us of our mortality? How much more must we endure until we say that is enough? And until we finally utter the words,  "I surrender". I surrender to the All Knowing. He who knows everything about every little thing. He who is vast and encompasses all that exists and possibly could exist.

While I let parts of me become small such as my power, dominance, social standing to name. The biggest thing I make small and perhaps diminish completely is my past. Although it is the place where I find room to reflect and understand myself with, with others I seem to completely forget any trace of it. I am a person being made by the moment; I laugh, cry and smile for the first time. The child that looks me and smiles is smiling upon another of his own, who is delighted and overwhelmed with joy to have been acknowledged by another.

I am humble when I cry. It is when I let tears fall down my cheeks and weep in the shadows where everything is concealed. It is when I remember that there exists only one entity that may possibly know of the pain I feel while I do so. And this is why I cry. He alone understands and the thought of this leaves me so overcome with emotion. This little creation of His cries and pleads and He listens. He who encompasses everything that ever was and ever will be, listens to me.

Alhamdoulillah. Alhamdoulillah. Alhamdoulillah.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

I Didn't Ask



No,
I don't want your number
neither am I impressed
by your attempts to "help" me
at every opportunity
I didn't ask for it.
So don't message me later
expecting I follow up on your generous favors
and say thank you, for being such a gentleman

If I look lost,
don't take it as an invite to jump in
and try to guide me
using your baby talk
and repetitive phrases
I'm not a child
I didn't ask for this

No
I don't have to be super excited when I see you
because you held a door for me once or twice
and if I just happen to be
don't think it means
you got this one in the "bag."
Did it not occur to you
that I might just
have other things in my life
 to be excited about
and not you?

No,
you are not entitled to invade my personal space
without checking with me first
that arm rest you did at the door
your pathetic try at looking like a man
respect my space, boy

And don't put me in the spotlight 
when I never asked for it, either

and don't' you dare
pay for me
we just met,
did you forget?

No,
I will not let you speak over me
interrupt me
I think you've forgotten
I've got a sharp tongue, son
I'll embarrass you
and I won't hold back


It's enough
that us women must always walk on the right 
must always keep our arms close to our bodies
and our purses closer
walk in public expecting stares from strangers
sitting on sidewalks with their legs spread out
it's enough we got used to you
asking us how old we are
and if we're single
enough with your entitlement
it's enough .

Just let us be
don't tame us.

join us
or
leave us wild






Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Spontaneous Reflections

Life. work. Obligation. Commitment. Relationships gone downhill. There hovers over me a thick smoggy cloud. Let it rain already. Or let it linger but for God's sake let it change its color. Grey cannot seem to decide between black and white. Grey is what happens when the unidentified merge together. What keeps us living? What is purpose? Lest it be a failed illusive attempt at masking our guilt for all that befalls humanity- or worse- our true desires to benefit our egos and make people love us. I want no one to love me sometimes. That means commitment and commitment means disappointment. It's a scary thought when you have become accustomed to people letting go and not staying true. So we put up walls. Strangely enough, if we talk you might be able to catch me every once in a while dig deep into myself and give something within away to what surrounds me. If you can catch me in those moments, we ought to be the best of friends. If you fail to see it, then I will slowly bring myself up to the shallow surface and part of me may never swim down again for you. I know that might offend some people. Now you know why I can't do commitment. I usually offend some people. Sometimes I sit and ponder the beauty of my past. The good fortune I had. In a desperate attempt to somehow relive it or consolidate myself that what is yet to come will be just as good maybe. But I stop myself. Far too early before I am deep into the memories and not yet enough for it to be a flashback. I feel there is no limit to how far I can imagine something. If I unleash that part of me, I may opt for a sedentary life replacing the real with the imaginary. I long for the days we watched cartoons of innocence. Young women picking flowers, talking to animals and singing. Their story is only about struggle with a harsh world that doesn't treat them delicately as they should be treated. Sometimes I feel that woman lives inside me. I really like her. And I like her company but she looks sad. When she is sad I am trying to please the world. The world is never pleased. I feel the need to write until the end of the page. But I know the page doesn't end. Why do I feel that way? Have I obligated myself to this? What other things do I obligate myself to and not know it. I long for the company of so many people of my past. Yet part of me feels that even if I was somehow able to have them summoned for me, that they won't fill the void in my heart. They say God only does and I believe them. God looks upon you with mercy and He engulfs your presence and protects you from harm. It is still a lonely life. I fear it will always be. I seem to know these days what I do not desire much more than what I do. This confuses me. I seem to be confused most of the time. They say it is temporary what you feel. But I have been feeling like a storm for ages now. Storms are supposed to settle. Settle and find a calm place. But maybe I am a storm meant to settle only in relative proportions. My storm today is calmer than yesterdays. Patience. Make peace with your storm regardless if the calm is on the way. Let it obliterate whatever is in its path as you are a wild and dangerous phenomenon not everyone knows how to understand or love. So love yourself before the storm multiplies and asserts its existence. Take it by its eye and tell it you love it.  I love my storms. Because it means something in me still lives and yearns for peace. It means I am alive.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Stained


Blood.
Red.
No one is left behind.
Your hands are not pure.
All is guilty.
None can flee.
This world
changing little each minute
but great each day.
Can't keep up.
Can't keep focus
on what matters.
I cannot
save you
or anyone
or myself.

There is no shelter. 
My eyes, 
My children's eyes
will be stained.
Why must it happen?

A call?
A sign?
Who lets it happen?

But,

God forsees
God allows

So God must know.

So I submit to Him
to keep me close
to His way,
steadfast,
until my time
and our time

our reunion.

Then we will know

all will know

and all will be just.



-Random Rants

Thursday, 8 January 2015

A Heartfelt Letter from a Sister Harassed at Work


A dear sister writes,

Dear Reader, 

     I apologize in advance. I am sorry such a topic as this is necessary. I am sorry this is a real life threatening issue. I am sorry this issue even exists.

    I find it hard to introduce a topic such as this. There really is no way to ever start a conversation about sexual harassment without a heavy heart. In an ideal world, such an introduction would never be necessary. But this is the real world, and unfortunately the world we live in is a harsh one. Growing up, I was never what you call “sheltered”. I have seen and experienced some horrific things in my life. I bring this up only to demonstrate to you that my shock from the worsening conditions of sexual harassment is not the result of my naivety or sheltered-ness. 

     My experience all began at my work. I am a server/waitress at a restaurant owned by people within my own community. From the first week, I began to notice things that made me feel uncomfortable. For one, one of the cooks would occasionally come by and say flirtatious things to me. I was shocked by his boldness, and told him to stop. Soon after, another cook followed. This time it was worse. He said dirty things to me whenever I bent down. He said things whenever he walked passed me. After seeking the advice of my mother, I gave him a cold, hard look the next time he said another word. If he did anything else, I promised myself I would inform the manager. This thankfully worked. I was feeling relieved until another younger woman confided her worries to me. She complained about him making her feel uncomfortable. She shared the comments he made towards her. I told her she should do something about it. She told me she couldn't. She told me that a few weeks ago another cook (no longer working there) had bothered her and when she had gone to complain she was told “oh him! He wouldn't hurt a fly”. She told me if she complained about this new cook, then they would probably do nothing about it.

     I was getting really annoyed at this point. But he was the last of my worries.
What followed was an even more invasive incident. I had thought I could seek protection from my manager. I never knew my manager would be the next man to make me feel uncomfortable. It began with me noticing how close he seemed to stand next to me.  I thought “you’re imaging things that aren't there”. Then came the odd comments. These were the warning signs I ignored because I thought I was going crazy. They weren’t enough to alarm me, they weren’t enough to make a convincing case, but in retrospect, I can see how he was ‘testing the waters’. Over the next following days, I noticed he was getting bolder in the ways he touched me. I put off my worries until he touched my waist. That was I started feeling anxious. Anxious because I started asking myself “did that really happen, or did I imagine it?”. I knew for sure that I didn't like it, I knew for sure that I felt my my comfort zone had been invaded. I worried about it happening again. Would he? Could he? Was this just a mistake? He didn't mean anything by it did he? He is a balding man in his 40’s with three kids for goodness sake! Surely, he doesn’t mean anything by it…

     My patience ran out when he made a few comments that insulted me a few days later. Up until that point I had been bottling in my anger and anxiety. I ranted to my closest friend about how angry he made me feel, and in as I ranted my heart out, I reached a point where I had to share. “Can I tell you something? It’s a secret” I told her, “I haven't told anyone”. I proceeded to tell her the ways in which he would touch me. Immediately, she sensed something was wrong and urged me to do something about it. “But he’s a married with children!” I said. She told me what he did was still not okay. 

    I felt utterly weak. I did not know if I had the strength to stand up for myself. I was so scared. I thought I would have to quit my job. I needed the money and I was very upset that this would make me very financially unstable. I also didn't want to quit this early on in the job—surly everyone would ask my reasons for quitting and what would I say then? He was my manager, and his family owned the restaurant. Surly I would either be fired or I would have to quit. And in all honesty, I felt that sharing such a thing with others would be humiliating. I didn't want anyone to know what he did, and how uncomfortable he made me feel. I started feeling sick.

      I had no idea what to do. At the time, my friend was giving me all the support she could to do something about it. She reminded me that if I did not quit or complain then my only option was to endure whatever else was coming. I knew she was right. I did not want to let her down. I did not want to let myself down. I knew for certain that I would not allow some random man touch me around the hips without my consent. 

    The next day, I decided to tell my mother. I had decided I would make my complaint to head office, and I was ready to be fired if it came to it. Immediately my mother was upset. She told me I was blowing things way out of proportion, that I was reading too much into it, that he probably saw me as a daughter, that sometimes at work you just have to deal with things that irritate you. I share this with you not for you to be angry with my mother. I am sharing this because I want you to know that sometimes, even the people who have always supported you, the people you trust most, those very same people can be wrong. Those very same people may not support you. I do not blame her, I only felt sorry. After all, she is a woman, and perhaps after all these years, society finally managed to convince her to not speak up about these things. 

     I was quiet for a moment. I told her, “would Dad say the same things you said? Would Dad be comfortable with what this man is doing?” She was silent. 
I went ahead and told my father. If I was going to complain to head office, I needed to know that at least one adult saw what I saw. Immediately, he understood. Immediately he told me what my manager was doing was not normal. That no man would do that unless he meant it. He coached me through what I had to say.

    And so I went to head office. I was scared. I made my Dua’as and asked God to give me strength. I approached them and calmly said “I would like to speak with you. I have a complaint.” I went on seriously, retelling everything that had happened. With my father’s advice, I spoke like I meant business. I spoke like I was ready to destroy the company if they didn’t take what I had to say seriously. At first they tried to defend him. They said it might have been a product of miscommunication. They said he probably see me as a daughter. I told them I didn't care. I told them I wont have any man touch me without my consent. I told them I would pursue further action if they did nothing. They had no choice but to comply.

     What followed next was the consequences. When others heard the message I was told I blew things out of proportion by going to head office. “You could have just gone to the owner. Why get head office involved’ three people said to me. I began to feel guilty. “You made the problem bigger than it should have been” I told myself.

    Then I started to feel like what I had complained about wasn’t a big deal at all. 

     Had I imagined everything? “No” I kept telling myself, no man gets to touch me around the waist if I don’t want him to. I had to keep reminding myself that my complaint was legitimate, that it was real, that it was worthy of being taken seriously, that I have the right to feel comfortable and safe when I am at work. It was hard. I didn't believe myself. Up till now, I remind myself that it was real, that I what I did was perfectly well reasoned, though these doubts are fading and I am getting more confident.

     I started to feel like I had brought this on myself. Was there anything in my behaviour that made me seem “inviting”? I am being serious when I tell you that I actually thought to myself, “I smiled too much. I was nice. I wore lipstick” I thought to myself “it was my fault, I should have been smarter”. I felt sick. “How could I have been so naive?” I asked myself. When I mentioned my lipstick to my father, he said “well it was really bright, you know”. This added to my anxiety.
But I no longer feel like I was “asking for it”. Smiling isn’t a “COME AND TOUCH” sigh. Being nice to my co-workers and my manager wasn’t any form of invitation. I was simply being nice. I could not believe I was doubting myself. Did I want some old balding man to touch me? Of course not. So how on earth could I have thought it as my fault. How could I have thought of it as me “asking for it”. That was when I fully saw the power of victim blaming at work. Society never rests until it can put as much of the blame on the woman. Here I was, blaming myself because some old man couldn't handle himself. To hell with the doubts, I wasn’t asking for it.

     To all the women reading this, I want you to learn what I learned. If anyone ever makes you feel uncomfortable, I ask you to please take this advice:

     Firstly, ignore all those who do not believe you and those who do not support you. These people may be people you trust. Ignore them anyway. 

     Secondly, find people who will support you and have your back no matter what. For me, those were my friend and my father. 

     Thirdly, rehearse what you will say, make sure your complaint is coherent, and clear. Make it clear exactly what made you uncomfortable and unsafe. Make it clear that you did not consent, make it clear that you have clear boundaries that no one is permitted cross. Say this seriously, say it like you mean business. Say it like you wont stop at nothing until you get what you deserve. My co-worker who had complained and was told that the cook “wouldn’t hurt a fly” had shared her discomfort weakly. They did not take her seriously because she did not yet know how to defend herself. No one will take your fight seriously if you don’t. No manager or head office member will inconvenience themselves for you unless you force them to. Scare them. Threaten to take further action if need be. Fourthly, guilt and victim blaming is to be expected. Do not listen to those harmful thoughts. They are not true. Believe me. There is never was a woman who “asked for it”. Women who “asked for it” don't exist. You deserve to feel safe and comfortable and whatever you have to say is completely legitimate. 

     As a woman, I have increasingly come to realize that the world is not easy for women. They say feminism is dead. They say women have all the rights and freedoms they could ever need. They say women have reached the same statues as men; that a woman can enjoy all the privileges a man has. I say that day has not yet come. For now, protect yourself and protect the women around you. Believe me, I would do anything in my power to help another sister out. 

Sincerely,



Your sister in Islam

Saturday, 20 December 2014

On Saying Goodbye


“There’s never a right time to say goodbye”

     When it comes to saying goodbye, some of us prepare for it and embrace it, others avoid and deny it completely, while some don't have the choice.

     Sometimes we ask ourselves, why did fate make us cross paths? Why did our existence happen to coincidentally bring together the most precise set of conditions so we could meet? Is there a purpose to it all? And if there is, why was it in our destiny to part?

    These questions can haunt us for our whole lives. And we may simply never find an answer.

     What I do know, as a human being living on this earth that believes in a One true and fair God, is that nothing happens without purpose and without His will or allowance. In other words, meaning every encounter with other human beings is significant. Regardless of whether I am able to recognize and distinguish this.

     That being said, what should we expect from our relationships with other human beings in this life? 

    If we are to expect that they fill a void within us and that we simply cannot live without their existence in our lives, then we will undoubtedly become attached. Likewise if we are to never trust ourselves to open up to others and try to embrace relationships, then we are missing out on the potential of a beautiful blessing given to us, which is the blessing of great companionship.

      I think the answer lies in loving others for God’s sake. When we love others for Allah’s sake we understand that this also means giving them up for His sake as well. It means letting our mutual interest of being closer to Him keep us together. While also letting our trust in His wisdom and control to help us relinquish the part of ourselves that gets attached to keep Him pleased.

      So at the end of the day, we are unable to guarantee the existence of good friends, family and loved ones around. Only Allah can do so. He brought you together and He can bring you apart. What we must remember is that we are brought together to keep Allah’s word alive, and to bring each other up to never forget the afterlife. We will no doubt mourn and that is okay. It is a beautiful thing. Yet we must never let our grief be unattached to our prayers and duas for the ones we love. Because ultimately we love to see them with us after passing the ultimate test on the Day of Judgement. And inshallah joining together in paradise.


     Remember that even though life isn’t fair, Allah is. And that is precisely the reason why Paradise exists. Look forward to it and love with all that Allah has given you. And always say alhamdoulillah for the blessing of such wonderful company.

Alhamdoulillah.


      If you’d like to know more about loving for Allah’s sake, read this article here.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Pause


My fingers linger on the keyboard.
My heart yearns for the freedom of exposing
my every feeling
at this very moment.
But they are bound
by fear.
Judgement.
Being imperfect and
not working out the right words.
How to describe such an immense amount of emotion...

Pause.

I feel my breaths becoming heavier.
I inhale pure air and exhale hurt.
A lot of it.
Maybe I could start with what I need right now.

A hug would be nice.

I want to share someone's good energy.
I want to feel in their arms an embrace of all the parts that I am.
I don't want anyone to tell me how to fix the hurt.
I don't need a checklist or an analysis.

So please don't do that.

Pause.

This is kind of nice.
Writing what I feel at the moment;
and maybe the thought that at least one person
might stumble across it
will make it all worthwhile.
And what will they think?
Would it even matter what they think?

Pause.

I want to walk in the woods alone right now
but I find no woods.
and what's bigger is the fear planted in me saying,
"Don't walk alone in the woods. Walk with someone it's safer."
But I don't feel a single bit safe
with the idea that I cannot have the freedom of being alone
without being questioned.
I want to find a place where no one can see me
and to sit
and curl myself into a ball
and let tears fall onto my thighs.

I want a voice in my head to tell me it's okay to not be okay.
It's okay to feel all the complicated that you feel right now
and it's not your fault.
And that somehow no matter how difficult it is to imagine,
you will think back to this moment
and see all the beautiful that is in it.
I'm so tired I'm losing strength.
I can't help others right now.
I want to tell them to leave me alone.
To just leave me be.
But I cant.

Pause.

Is it bad to say I'm tired of giving?
Is it selfish to want someone to give me something ?
But then again what would I want from them anyway...

Maybe a morning cup of coffee and a blanket
with sun peeking through the window and nothing 
else to make us hurry.

Maybe a silent walk in the woods. 
No words just mutual appreciation for the beauty around us.

Maybe a song beneath the stars in an empty desert

and maybe a listening ear when I finally begin to trust.

Pause.

I'm too afraid to type,

"what if...

that never happens?"

I don't want to think about being alone
and what's worse is that I don't want think about what I might do
 to replace that feeling.

What if what I'm feeling is something everyone is supposed to go through?
What if being alone is the essence of our existence,
and that no one can really be in an understanding company,
and that it doesn't even exist,

it's just an illusion?

Maybe that's the point.

Maybe the complexity of our lived experience is not meant to be 
understood or analyzed.
Maybe its just supposed to be,
and that the only being who can possibly understand all the complexity it brings
 is the one who lets it be, 

Then,

Oh, Lord!

Grant me the trust in You to know You are always there.
Let my heart feel better with just remembering You.
Let my heart seek no other than You.
And let it feel.
Feel without being afraid to feel,
and feel what it's supposed to feel.
Fearlessly.
Let me be fearless
of anything and everything except You.
Let it be fearless to love.
Be fearless to try time and time again
and most importantly,
let it be pure
and let it be satisfied.

Ameen.