Everything is NOT Awesome

Till this day, my 20 year old little brother still loves to wander into LEGO stores to unleash his inner kid. Since 1949, the internationally acclaimed construction toy company have grown immensely. Their global popularity has developed from supporting movie, games, competitions, theme-parks and corporations. One partnership in particular has recently sparked controversy. Please watch the video below. LEGO’s partnership with the Royal Dutch Shell pIc, also commonly known as Shell the multinational oil and Gas Company, started in 1966. Shell’s logo is featured in several LEGO promotional sets such as in the blockbuster hit, The Lego Movie. Environmental activist group, Greenpeace and London based agency, Don’t Panic, teamed up together to create “Everything is Not awesome”. The viral video is designed to be a double edge sword, intended to pressure the big toy makers of LEGO to drop their partnership with Shell and to highlight their new campaign targeting Shell’s motivations to drill in the Arctic for Oil. LEGO believes that their partnership with Shell will help them achieve their mission to expand their network reach, increasing children’s access to their toys, which will further help explore their creativity and innovations. However, partnering with the gas company goes against LEGO’s progressive environmental views and policies. Every company has the responsibility to choose their partners and suppliers ethically. It is hypocritical to align yourself with companies that fail to represent your core values. Brands and logos are all around us and influence our purchasing power. Children are extremely impressible and LEGO’s association with Shell will heavily influence children to associate Shell in a positive light believing that the company is a safe, acceptable and ethical option. The partnership will also improve Shell’s public image by diverting attention from their plans to raid the Arctic for oil. LEGO says it wants to leave a better world for children and has progressive environmental views and policies but partnering with Shell, one of the biggest climate polluters on the planet and threatening the Arctic, clearly goes against their core values. We need to be reminded that “Everything is Not Awesome” is not against LEGO or about the oil industry in general. It is about preventing companies, in this case Shell, from drilling for oil in the Arctic. Shell’s desire to drill in the Arctic can have devastating impacts on the natural surrounding environment which will heighten the effects of climate change especially if there were to be an oil spill in Arctic.  An oil spill in the arctic will affect the wildlife in four major ways

  • Drilling oil in the Arctic will melt glaciers at an faster rate causing glaciers to break away
  • Oil on fur will reduce the thermal properties of animals which will affect their inability to keep warm
  • There will be a spread of toxic contamination found in oil if ingested, inhaled or absorb by animals and surrounding environment
  • A reduction in food if prey or other resources becomes unavailable or inaccessible

It is important that we take action and urge LEGO to do the same. I urge you to sign Greenpeace’s petition, pressure LEGO into re-thinking their relationship with Shell. LEGO needs to stand up for the Arctic, for our environment, and for our children and future generations. I urge you to stay informed of the partnerships and endorsements that household brands commit to. And with that I ask you your thoughts and opinions on this matter.

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Harper’s Muzzle on Scientist

I miss the days when news segments had real solid news worthy stories about local, national and international issues and that lasted longer than 10 minutes. I miss the days when journalism was about getting to the hard truth, finding evidence and bring those stories to the viewers at home. But lately I’ve found that news stations and journalism has become about stories that are trending on social media and will get the most buzz worth attention. The warrant for Justin Biebers arrest gained more air time than real current events that were affecting the lives of many Canadians and global citizens. The lack of coverage on prevailing issues affecting climate change and the Canadian environment is largely at fault by Prime Minister Harper’s communication directive that prevents scientist from speaking to the media without permission.

The Harper government has redownload (3)stricted the ability of Canadian scientist to speak to the public, media, and other scientist regarding climate change and other environmental issues. Scientist have been asked to exclude or alter technical information in government documents for non-specific reasons and have been prevented from responding to the media or the public.  As a result, media coverage on these issues have significantly drop by 80% since 2007.Scientists are required to get permission from their political superiors before answering any media request. This hindrance has further reduced the number of request for climate change coverage and detail of accurate information within governmental reports. It is clear that the Canadian government is doing all that they can to monitor and restrict the flow of information especially concerning research into climate change, fisheries, and anything to do the Alberta Tar Sand.

Which leads us to question if Harper’s regime has begun to follow a Big Brother system, regulating and controlling the information that is readily available for the public. Without this information present it will guarantee an increase in public ignorance regarding these issues. It is obvious that the Harper government is more concerned with keep professionals from talking about these issues rather than fixing them.image

Mr. Harper couldn’t care less about the environment and this form of censorship compromises the health and safety of Canadians.  Scientists lose their ability to develop effective and sufficient policy laws and programs that are based on scientific evidence and facts that will ensure a better/safer environment for further generation.

Society has lobbied against many different international regulatory bodies for their form of censorship but it is time that Canadians stand up to the Harper government and gain back our freedom and the freedom of our scientist to do the duty to share and inform the public about their research and findings. The Canadian government must be held accountable for their actions, especially at the stake of the future generations.  Canadians must raise up and force our federal government to be more transparent about their action.

Feel free to voice your comments, concerns, questions and opinions. And with that I leave with Rick Mercers views on muzzle on scientist.

Perspectives

When I was little, my grandparents, mom, uncles and aunts used to tell me stories of their childhood and life in Sri Lanka. My mom told me stories of her days climbing trees, eating fresh fruits off tree and running track for her school. One of her brothers told me about his days woeing girls with his charm and looks. My Patta (grandfather), told me about his days as police chief; going through the jungle looking for rebels but found a monkey and kept him as a pet. And I remember another uncle telling me how he watched man get burned alive right in front of him for being a Tamil. I remember my amamma (grandma), telling me that she had to get my mom to the neighbours house and they both watched as the army burned their house down.

The civil war in Sri Lanka forced a lot of Tamils such as my mom and her family to immigrate to several different western countries; Canada England, Australia. Yet, no matter how far you go, the terrors of war will always follow you. My family was fortunate enough that they were out of the country before the conflicts go worst. But most people around the world aren’t fortunate enough.

Over a billion people all around the world are impacted by civil conflicts, terror, discrimination, and war. Death, illness, poverty hunger, and fear surrounds their lives.  Pictures of war, dying and hungry children, blood, and death have been plastered on media outlets including movies, videos games and music videos. However, I think people have become desensitized from these images, articles, and reports. We care too much of our own daily struggles that we forget that people around the world are dying from these traumatic conflicts.

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Just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. What if the roles were switched? Wouldn’t you want someone to care, to fight for your freedom, to make it all go away so you could live peacefully? No one deserve to live in fear. No one should live in fear.

I urge you to watch the following video from Save the Children entitled “Most Shocking Second a day video”.  I urge you to open your eyes and ears and understand that, that little girl could be your sister, mom, daughter, friend, wife, lover or even you. No one will ever understand the extent of what these children face in Syria and all over the world. But the video will make you reflect.

Reflect on your choices, and be grateful for the freedoms, rights and security that you have been granted. Be grateful that you are allowed to have a voice and are not living in fear. I urge you to take a stand and pursue your governmental officials to intervene, to save the children and the vulnerable.

“Like A girl”?

“Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, ‘She doesn’t have what it takes’. They will say, ‘women don’t have what it takes.” – Clare Boothe Luce


 

For as long as I could remember, being a girl came with double standards. I was urged to reach for the stars, push for greatness and be the best that I could be. Yet, being ‘like a girl’ was one of the biggest insults that you could say to any kid on the playground.

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The fact that little girls believe that “like a girl” is an insult is disheartening.  The phrase has lowered the confidence of many girls and continues to humiliate them.

Always and director Lauren Greenfield have teamed up to create an inspiring campaign that show how a simple phase can have a significant and long-lasting impact on girls and women. They have created a movement that will redefine the phase “like a girl” into a positive affirmation.

As Always says, “We’re kicking off an epic battle to make sure that girls everywhere keep their confidence throughout puberty and beyond, and making a start by showing them that doing it #LikeAGirl is an awesome thing.”

Every single girl has the ability to push the standards and boundaries that society has placed around them. Education needs to start now to remove the double standards and the negative cogitation around the phrase ‘Like a girl”.

I urge you all to take a stand and show young girls everywhere that #LikeAGirl should never be used as an insult. I urge you to let young girls know that they are special, strong, talented and amazing. And that they should never be ashamed of being themselves.

I am a student, a blogger, a development practitioner, an activists, an explorer. And I do all of this #LikeAGirl #Always

 

Oh the places where I will go: Part 1

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away! – Dr. Seuss


Going off to university is a scary thing. We have all these ideas and dreams on how our university career will shape us. Upon applying to the University of Waterloo’s International Development program, I was ecstatic that we were given the opportunity to intern aboard with an NGO and make a change. Whether it be small or big, I was excitingly, impatiently, and hopefully waiting to finally reach that stage where I would be able to apply and be granted a placement. And finally, just a mere few weeks ago, after hearing countless stories from alumni and the graduating class, I finally received the letter. As cliché as it sounds, I remember everything about that day, what happened before and after. Getting that letter, was one of the happiest moments in my life (I literally cried in happiness, my dad thought I was crazy).

After months of waiting, it has been decided that I will be moving to Hue, Vietnam and working as an intern for the Consultative and Research Centre on Natural Resource Management (CORENARM). It’s going to be a mouthful saying that organization to all my friends and family now.

CORENARM is a local NGO of the ancient city of Hue that specializes in Resource conservation and management, sustainable livelihood for local communities, and climate change adaptation for local communities.

Through talking to the graduating class who just came back from their placements, I have learnt that placement is not about tangible roles and tasks that you complete within your NGO. It is about the experiences and opportunities that you make of it. It is about taking risks and trying new things. It is about the impact that a new culture and community can have on you.  It is about the people that you meet who change your perspectives on what is important. There will be many frustrating challenges that I will have to overcome, but I am hopeful, optimist and excited to embark on this journey.

Strutting To Make A Statement

There is something powerful about being a part of something that is bigger than yourself. Being part of a moment in time where a group of strangers can come together for one unified cause. To be part of a social movement that is more than just a political protest but rather provide a hope that positive change is upon us.

Thanks to a couple of amazing women at the Women Center, the University of Waterloo held the first ever SlutWalk in the KW region just a few mere hours ago. I remember in the beginning of the winter term, one of my friends Erin (an executive of the Women Center) came into my room and told me all about her exciting new conquest at the Women Center to bring forth the SlutWalk to the University of Waterloo. I was amazed that it hadn’t had been brought forth sooner but I couldn’t have been prouder of the work that Erin among her fellow comrades did to accomplish this.

Up until a few hours ago,I had never participated in a SlutWalk let alone any rally or protest before. I remember hearing about the SlutWalk a few years back when I was in high school. I didn’t really know much about it other than it was a walk in protest to a comment made by some police officer where women could wear literally anything (or nothing) they wanted. As an ignorant teenager, I associated the Slutwalk as something that was very scandalous that only crazy people took part of. The whole concept of women walking around with literally nothing on didn’t make any sense to me, and I was just confused and baffled by the idea. However, fast forward to present day and through meeting some amazing people such as Erin and some of my fellow Indevours, I have learned the true meaning and now understand the main ideas behind the SlutWalk.

The SlutWalk is a monumental transnational movement of a march that is held to protest against explaining or excusing rape by referring to any aspect of a woman’s appearance and a call to end rape culture. The first ever SlutWalk was held on  April 3rd 2011 in Toronto, Ontario and since then these marches have symbolized a unified statement about sexual assault and victims’ rights and to demand respect for all. This all started after Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto Police Force officer, made a public statement on January 24th, 2011 reiterating the Force’s views on sexual assault as “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”.Since the initial walk in Toronto, the SlutWalk has become more than a political protest but also about freedom of expression.

So without really knowing much about the SlutWalk, I did some research and then it dawned on me, what does one wear to a Slut-walk? One of my friends suggested that I wear a scandalous outfit that was sexy and revealed it all. Another agreed and suggested I go naked.  I knew that some participants were going to be shirtless or wearing tight short clothing. And I didn’t want to stand out like a sore thumb if I didn’t conform to that. But then it hit me, I was no different than many other ignorant men and women who believed that the true underlying reason behind many sexual assault cases was because of how promiscuous a woman dressed. What I wore to a simple march let alone what I wear every day or when I go out with friends should not define me or label me as a “Slut”.

 

Many can argue that the SlutWalk is just a march that lacks the substance and drive to be a monumental movement. But I see it differently. I see it as something that is about to achieve its tipping point effect to break stereotypes and change the way modern society views violence against women. I mean looking back to when the walk first took place in 2011 and seeing it grow into something bigger is powerful. To see the effects that it has by raising awareness and generating discussion on the issues surrounding rape culture, victim blaming and slut shaming. It shows the power that a group of individuals can have to create change.The walk breaks the norms and perceptions that society has on how a “Slut” should look, act and dress. Hearing and seeing stories of rape victims who participated in the walk wear the clothes that they were raped in shows that rape and sexual assault can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter what you wear, what your gender is or orientation. Rape and sexual assault can happen to anyone and perpetrators could be people close and dear to your heart. The SlutWalk brings light on the issue that how you dress and present yourself is not the cause for being assaulted it is just an excuse that the system and society think. Women are blamed and taught to apologize for provoking, taunting and teasing men. They are just asking for it by wearing seductive clothing and walking home alone at night. Victim blaming and slut shaming is a very real thing that is overlooked by society.

We focus on saving our world and protecting our planet but what about saving and protecting the lives of hundreds and thousands sexually assault victims. We need to start teaching men and women of all ages, race, and orientation that no one is ever asking to be raped or sexually assaulted. No means no. Everyone deserve to live a life without fear.

What is Development?

  • To my distant relatives: Development is saving Africa
  • To my mother: Development is soliciting without pay
  • To my friends: Development is travelling and saving the world

But to me, development is complicated. There isn’t a clear definition that explains what development is other than is the process of change. However,  that definition varies between individuals, groups, towns, and nations. Everyone has their own viewpoint of what is important to them and their regions.

So with that I ask you:

  How do you decide what is important in development? To invest your time, effort, money and resources? To advocate and fight for? What serves more attention over the other?

To be honest, if someone came up to me and asked me those questions I wouldn’t be able to give them a simple answer. My perspectives of the key to development has shifted far to many times to count. When I came into the International Development program, I thought restructuring political systems were key, yet by the end of first year I became passionate towards the importance of water security. By the end of my second year I believed that development must incorporate economic structures and urban planning. But now with the help of a few of my friends, I have become more engaged with issues among women and minority groups.

I find myself in a limbo of what issues stands to be more precedent. Development is complicated. Everything is connected but there are many faults that lie within the political, economic and social systems. Within political, economic and social system, I think that longevity would be key to development. Therefore, I believe that the direction of development lies within sustainability.

The concept of sustainable development entered the minds of global citizens in the early 1970s as a concept that looked achieving an equilibrium between the economy and environment.  However, sustainable development is more notably defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

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Sustainable development does not only apply to the environmental and economic issues but it looks at the social implications as well.  Worldly problems and issues are interconnected. For example,  water scarcity and inequalities  can impact community health with water contaminations, dehydration, access and further illnesses. As a result, this can impact the surrounding natural environment, habitats and animals and the local economy. Resources are becoming finite and populations are growing at a exponential rate. Problems link together and political regulatory bodies need to address these concerns through understanding the future implications.  Through achieving sustainable development we will be able to achieve a global society that will become more inclusive, environmental conscience and economically feasible.

What is development to you? Feel free to comment and add your opinion on what the key is development.