I was a delegate at the United Nations Youth Assembly!

At the end of my semester abroad in Canada, I was given one final amazing opportunity before returning back to Australia, (as if attending a UN Student Seminar, a documentary screening, and creating my first community campaign weren’t enough…) I was offered a chance to attend the Youth Assembly at the United Nations as a delegate at the winter 2018 conference.

I had already finished my semester abroad and returned home by the time I got to head back to the northern hemisphere for the Youth Assembly at the UN. It was my second time at the United Nations, but this time was a lot more exciting. I got to listen to speeches in the General Assembly, and attend various workshops, discussion panels, and seminars that were tailored to my interests and areas that I am involved in as an activist. This included topics like effective advocacy, grants and funding for NGOs, human/sex trafficking, food security and food waste, social inclusion in cities, public space renovation, engaging the private sector in the Sustainable Development Goals, and innovations for ending extreme poverty.

I also had an exciting opportunity around the same time- creating my first every sponsored YouTube video, which was a chance for me to record and share my experiences at the United Nations Youth Assembly in a different style to how I’d typically vlog and share my experiences. Check it out…

I hope this won’t be my last time at the United Nations!

Kingian Style Non-Violent Activism

Dr Martin Luther King Jr was at the forefront of the civil rights movement 60 years ago. As activists today, in the fight against injustice (whether that be towards humans, animals, or the planet) we can learn a lot from the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr, and the philosophy he left behind.

Kingian Nonviolence is a philosophy of nonviolent conflict reconciliation, based on the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and the organizing strategies he used during the Civil Rights Movement. It is a holistic view of conflict that includes the study and analysis of conflict (how to understand conflict), the Principles of Nonviolence (the values of a community), and the Steps of Nonviolence Conflict Reconciliation (how to address conflict and restore relationships).

I participated in a workshop on Kingian style non-violence whilst studying in Canada in 2017, lead by one of the co-founders of the organisation Direct Action Everywhere. As someone who was studying peace and conflict studies at university, I found the course particularly interesting, and as an animal rights and human rights activist, I found it particularly relevant to my activism.

In the vlog below, I outlined the six principles of Kingian style non-violence for anyone interested in applying these principles to their activism.

(Skip ahead to 8 minutes)

 

SIX PRINCIPLES OF NONVIOLENCE (from the King Centre)

Fundamental tenets of Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence described in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom. The six principles include:

  1. PRINCIPLE ONE: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.It is active nonviolent resistance to evil.

    It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

  2. PRINCIPLE TWO: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.

    The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.

  3. PRINCIPLE THREE: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people.Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people.

    The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.

  4. PRINCIPLE FOUR: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation.

    Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.

  5. PRINCIPLE FIVE: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body.

    Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.

  6. PRINCIPLE SIX: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.

    Nonviolence believes that God is a God of justice.

Creating My First Community Campaign

Campaigning is something that goes hand-in-hand with activism- it’s all about creating a change through organised tactics and actions. Aside from experience as an activist, my first campaigning experience was when I developed a community fundraising campaign for a Kenyan-based NGO in late 2017.

Whilst studying abroad in Canada in 2017, I was given a great opportunity as part of the University of the Fraser Valley’s (UFV) Global Development Studies program- to develop a community campaign, for a Kenyan-based community based organisation, the Dandora Transformation League. The Dandora Transformation League (DTL) is an umbrella body bringing together over 120 youth groups from the low-income Dandora suburb, to the east of Nairobi in Kenya, through public space renovation.

UFV global development students were invited to work in groups to develop their campaign idea, pitch it to members of the organisation, and then one campaign was chosen to have the campaign implemented and carried out by the organisation. I lead a group of 5 other girls to develop a fundraising campaign for the Dandora Transformation League, which we pitched, and it was selected over all the other campaigns to be implemented in 2018.The criteria we were given was; to create a campaign targeted at UFV and broader Canadian communities, to both raise awareness and raise funds for the Dandora Transformation League.

I had the idea to create a campaign toolkit that would include all of the necessary resources and information required to carry out a calendar fundraising campaign… and thus, the DTL Calendar Fundraising Toolkit was born. I developed and created the toolkit, one of the girls in our group designed all of the artwork, and the other 4 created a video that was used for our campaign pitch.

When the day came to pitch the campaign, so many other groups had great ideas. We showed our pitch video, which explained what our campaign idea was, and then I spoke about how the actual toolkit that I had created works. You can see the pitch here in this vlog:

I was so grateful to have the opportunity to create the campaign, and to work with DTL. The Dandora Transformation League is part of the Public Space Network, who contacted me to get involved and help develop their fundraising campaigning for their Changing Faces Competition in 2018.

Attending my first United Nations Seminar

To say that I was excited to be attending a student seminar at the United Nations during my semester abroad would be the understatement of the century… just watch me in the beginning of my vlog!

I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend the seminar, the topic for which was migration in the context of Central America. So, let me share the back story, the experience, and the knowledge with you.

The backstory: how I was chosen

In the second half of 2017 I was studying abroad at the University of the Fraser Valley in Canada, where my subjects spanned across global development, human geography, and peace and conflict studies. One afternoon in my peace and conflict studies class, the teacher announced that at the very last minute, a student who had been selected to attend a UN seminar could no longer go, and the opportunity was re-opened for UFV students to apply. He explained what the seminar was about and instantly I was eager, not only to learn about migration in Latin America, but to go to New York and meet like-minded students at the UN.

The seminar was held at the Church Centre for the United Nations, and the Mennonite Central Committee of British Columbia was sponsoring a student to represent them at the conference. I honestly thought my chances of getting selected where slim- I was an exchange student, who had only been in Canada for a few weeks, but I applied anyway. To my surprise, I was selected out of everyone else, and only a fortnight later I was on a plane headed to New York City, for an expenses-paid trip, on the condition that upon my return I write a report about everything I learned for the Mennonite Central Committee of British Columbia.

The experience: what was it like

I was a little disappointed when I arrived in New York City a day later than I was supposed to, thanks to a delayed flight, but I was too excited to care. This was my first time in the USA, and while I had never desired to go to the USA, I was falling in love with a concrete jungle.

Waking up in the morning, putting on my business-casual attire (which I had gone and bought from a thrift store the weekend before,) catching the subway and walking through the streets of Manhattan in my high heels, was like being in a dream. I spent 3 days at the Church Centre for the United Nations and the UN headquarters, listening to some amazing guest speakers and networking with like-minded students, and exploring NYC in the evenings. I definitely returned to BC feeling so inspired to continue learning, networking, and working to create change.

The knowledge: what did I learn

So, what did I actually learn at the seminar? We had an array of guest speakers talk about their experiences as migrant, the root causes of migration and migration in central America, America’s current broken immigration system, the role of the United Nations, and solutions like adopting a global compact on migration and refugees.

I wrote a report for the MCC of BC who sent me to the conference, and the MCC UN office also held a competition for attendees to write a post for their MCCLACA blog- which I won. You can read my article here which gives a good overview of everything I learnt at the seminar, and of course you can watch my vlog to see what NYC and the whole experience was like for me.

In summary, I am so grateful to have attended the seminar, which really sparked my interest in forced migration and the role of both civil society and the public sector in addressing the issue. I have always been interested migration, as a sociology, philosophy, and global studies student, and particularly the issues surrounding forced migration as it intersects with all three pillars of the United Nations: human rights, peace & security, and development.

Kakuma: The Invisible City

During my semester abroad in Canada in late 2017, I was invited to a film screening of the documentary film Kakuma: The Invisible City. The film screening of Kakuma took place at the Vancity Theatre and after the film screening there was a discussion panel that featured the filmmaker, UN delegates and academics, and a former Kakuma refugee. After attending the documentary screening I had to write a review of the film for my university’s Global Development department – here’s a little insight to what I learnt and thought of the film.

Context

Kakuma is the name given to the site of the UNHCR refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement located in the North-Western region of Kenya. The Kakuma refugee camp was established in 1992 during the arrival of the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” and the influx of Ethiopian and Somali refugees that followed during that year (UNHCR Kenya, 2017). Large groups of Ethiopians have been forced to migrate following the fall of the Ethiopian Government, and Somalia has experienced high insecurity and civil strife, which causes people from these regions to flee. After renewed conflict broke out in South Sudan in 2013, Kakuma surpassed its capacity by over 58,000. UNHCR requested an allocation of additional land to expand the Kakuma Refugee Camp, and the Turkana County Government, at the request of the Central Government, allocated a site near the Kalobeyei Township, situated about 40km northwest of Kakuma, and measuring 15 square kilometres (UNHCR Kenya, 2017). Kakuma camp and the Kalobeyei settlement had a population of 185,298 registered refugees and asylum seekers as of 15/10/2017 (UNHCR Kenya, 2017).

The Film

Kakuma The Invisible City is a documentary film by Lieven Corthouts, who decided to live in Kakuma for more than 4 years and film his friends to unveil the true dynamics of a refugee camp. The film addresses how many of the new arrivals of refugees are children, many of whom are sent out of conflict zones by their parents in the hope that Kakuma will provide them with opportunities to rebuild their life. The film focuses on three youth in particular, eight year old Nyakong from South Sudan who begins school in Kakuma whilst waiting for her mother to return from South Sudan, and teenagers Claude and Khadijo who are forced to compete for international scholarships, find jobs, and build their own homes, or alternatively plan a dangerous journey across Africa into Europe. In a world filled with increasing xenophobia and inhumane political decision making, the film poses an important question; can camps and settlements like Kakuma really offer anyone a future?

I think the film itself was very successful in giving insight into what life is like for those living in refugee camps and settlements. I think that film, and other forms of visual art are very effective drivers to promote social and global change. While film and other forms of visual art itself may not enforce practical social change, it can be a valuable and often overlooked catalyst to generate change, since art changes people, and people change the world. I think that Kakuma The Invisible City is effective because it does 3 things. Firstly it raises awareness on the issues surrounding forced migration and refugee settlements in the East African region, and raises awareness on any social issue is the first step to get the public or policy makers to think about it and enact change. Another important aspect of driving social change is getting people to think about their own ideals, emotions, or opinions towards a particular issue, which I think most people who viewed the film would agree it did successfully. Thirdly, I think the film provided a way for people living in Kakuma to participate and share their story in a way where their story isn’t just used for entertainment purposes, but as a way to bring awareness to the public and educate them on the topic by providing them with an authentic insight into life in Kakuma.

One criticism that I have towards the film is that while it poses the all important question on whether camps and settlements like Kakuma can really offer anyone a future, I found myself feeling rather lost at the end of the film. With all of this information and insight that I had gained from the film, I was left asking more questions, particularly about what the possible solutions are to address the issues surrounding forced migration and refugee settlements in East Africa. Fortunately, members on the discussion panel answered many of the questions that I had.

Discussion Panel

The biggest question I was left asking after the screening was: in terms of providing people in settlements like Kakuma (particularly youth) prospects for a better future, should the focus be to increase their mobility and provide them with more opportunities to resettle overseas, should the focus be to develop settlements like Kakuma into more permanent cities with improved infrastructure, more opportunities for long term employment and education within the city, or should the focus be to address the root causes of conflict and drivers of forced migration within the Eastern African region?

After listening to the members of the discussion panel answer questions, I’ve come to understand the interconnected nature of the issues surrounding migration. There is no single solution for addressing the issues surrounding forced migration, because it is not a single sided issue. Forced migration lies at the intersection of all three pillars of the United Nations; human rights, peace and security, and development. The root causes of forced migration can be human rights violations, conflict and war, and poverty. The policies that many countries currently have in place to address forced migration often result in a violation of human rights, and successful migration can actually be a solution for global development and alternative to living in poverty.

A reoccurring theme that was also discussed amongst the discussion panel at the event was that it is just as important that individuals and groups acting at the grassroots level also see a shift in the way we perceive migrants within our society, and the need for us to act as global citizens. Global citizenship is an umbrella term that describes the “social, political, environmental, and economic actions of globally minded individuals and communities on a worldwide scale” (UN Academic Impact, 2017). This concept of global citizenship is also part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and particularly SDG 4, insuring inclusive and quality education for all which includes global citizenship in one of its targets. As global citizens, there is a strong need for us to come together and through advocacy and activism at the grassroots level, commit to working towards solutions that will treat migrants in vulnerable situations and provide opportunity for migrants to successfully integrate into our society, and let governments and policy makers know that as citizens we expect them to let migration, like other areas of international relations, be guided be a set of common principles we expect to see them adopt.


UN Academic Impact, (2017) Global Citizenship, United Nations https://academicimpact.un.org/content/global-citizenship

UNHCR KENYA, (2017) Kalobeyei Settlement, UNHCR http://www.unhcr.org/ke/kalobeyei-settlement

UN REFUGEES & MIGRANTS (2017) New York Declaration http://refugeesmigrants.un.org/declaration

The invisible city [kakuma], (2017) Kakuma The Invisibale City http://theinvisiblecitykakuma.com/

Attending the AMBER ROSE SLUTWALK 2017

SlutWalk is a transnational movement of protest marches calling for an end to rape culture, including victim blaming and slut shaming of sexual assault victims.

In October of 2017, whilst studying abroad in Canada, I realised that I would be in the Northern Hemisphere during the time that the LA Slutwalk was on. And as a female, (and particularly a stripper) what the slutwalk movement represents is something that I’m super passionate about, so I jumped at the chance to attend. I prepared my sign, flew from Vancouver to LA for a night, woke up and got dressed (well, dressed-down), and heading to downtown LA for the event.

The Amber Rose Slutwalk’s mission is to “deliver a flawlessly executed event geared toward raising awareness about sexual injustice, domestic violence and gender inequality. The Amber Rose SlutWalk aims to impact and uplift, while shifting the paradigm of rape culture. The event provides a safe, all-inclusive space to entertain, educate, and empower.”

My sign read “FEMINISM SHOULD BE INTERSECTION, SEX/BODY POSITIVE,” which essentially sums up the direction I believe the women’s rights movement needs to go in contemporary 21st century developed societies. Being pro-intersectional is all about acknowledging and addressing the further oppression that intersectionally oppressed women/people face- those who are disabled, of lower socioeconomic status, who identify as LGBTQI+, or people of colour. Sex positivity is the social and philosophical movement that promotes and embraces sexuality and sexual expression, with an emphasis on safe and consensual sex- which is essential in order to end rape culture. Finally, body positivity is the acceptance and appreciation of all human body types, by both individuals and society, and this includes combating the discrimination that people with certain body types face, and “thin privilege.”

The event began with a rally, as people began to arrive, with entertainment and a huge sign making station, where I got to mingle and meet so many like-minded people. The “walk” part of the SlutWalk was a10-minute march along the main road, complete with a marching band and dancers. The march ended in Pershing Square, where there were stalls, an art exhibition, and loads of entertainment- the highlight for me being Cupcakke’s performance (if you don’t know who she is, Youtube her- my personal favourite song is ‘deepthroat’).

At the end of the event, I honestly felt so empowered. I spent my day being inspired by people who share the same vision for the future of feminism, and by the end of it, I wanted to do more in my own life to work towards this future. So, I decided it was time to use my social media as a platform to create discourse about these issues, to share my experiences (particularly as a stripper), inspire and educate others… starting with my LA Slutwalk vlog!