Red Cross International Youth Meeting 2019

From June 17th-23rd, I had the privilege of representing the Australian Red Cross’ REDxYouth network alongside Zahra, at the Red Cross’s 4th International Youth Meeting, an event that happens every 10 years to help shape the future of the movement. It was such a wonderful experience!

Zahra and I representing REDxYouth

Set in the birthplace of the Red Cross movement, Solferino Italy, we networked with hundreds of young Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders from around the world, to share our ideas and experiences s changemakers in our respective countries.

Some of the young people we worked with!

We participated in a series of workshops focusing on major humanitarian challenges such as climate change, as well as some of the world’s most pressing and protracted crises. We contribute to the development of IFRC’s new Strategy 2030 that will guide the organisation’s work for the coming decade.

The Pacific Youth Network with the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross

The week culminated on 22 June with the annual “Fiaccolata” – a candle-lit march involving thousands of volunteers between Solferino and Castiglione delle Stiviere. Solferino is the town where in 1859, Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, witnessed a bloody battle between French and Sardinian armies. Dunant organised local people to treat the soldiers’ wounds and to feed and comfort them. These actions led to the creation of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

The Fiaccolata

A week of activism: International Womens Day 2019

Last year I made a vlog outlining all of the awesome things I did as a human rights, global development, and animal liberation activist for International Womens Day in 2018. Although I didn’t make a vlog for International Womens Day this year, I thought I’d still share the awesome things I got up to as an activist!


The first thing I did, was attend the UN Women Australia International Women’s Day breakfast in Brisbane. It was very motivating as an activist to hear about all of the amazing work by civil society and the public and private sectors, towards gender equity. It was especially inspiring to hear about projects and initiatives happening with our neighbours in the Pacific- eliminating domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence, educating women on entrepreneurship and financial literacy so they can have financial independence, women leading their communities to be more resilient to climate change and natural disasters… and so much more. Hearing these stories of success is a reminder that change is possible, but only if we work together to address formal and informal change at the individual/collective and systemic levels.

The next day, on the eve of International Womens Day, I was a guest speaker at an event… it was my first time being a guest speaker, and a great learning experience… as I learnt that I could definitely work on my public speaking skills! A week after launching the Humanitarian Changemakers Network, I spoke about my story, the sociology of social change and the role of individual action in changing the world… particularly for the planet!

On International Womens Day, I flew to Sydney for national leadership training, as a QLD state coordinator for ActionAid Australia. It was great to spend International Womens Day with so many inspiring women (and men!) developing campaign strategy and working to empower other women around the world.

Launching the Humanitarian Changemakers Network

“OVER THE YEARS I HAVE LEARNT A LOT ABOUT HOW TO MAKE HUMANITARIAN CHANGE HAPPEN, AND I’VE MET SO MANY AMAZING PEOPLE ALL PASSIONATE ABOUT CHANGING THE WORLD… BUT I THOUGHT, WOULDN’T IT BE GREAT IF HUMANITARIAN CHANGEMAKERS HAD A PLATFORM TO CONTINUE TO CONNECT WITH AND LEARN AND FROM EACH OTHER?”

And so, I’m excited to announce that I have created such a platform that I’ll be launching next month: The Humanitarian Changemakers Network.

The Humanitarian Changemakers Network provides an answer to something I’m frequently asked about across social media; “I want to make a difference in the world, but don’t know how.”

The humanitarian changemakers network is a network of changemakers, for changemakers, with a mission to increase the impact that humanitarian changemakers can make, by providing them with resources and a supportive community to help live consciously, engage in advocacy, get active and campaign for change, and be on the frontline of humanitarian initiatives and projects.

It is a platform of resources and tools covering things like: the sociology of social change, identifying different levels and types of social change within society, and how to achieve them.

This diagram outlines the four main types of social change, which forms the basis for the Humanitarian Changemakers Network:

The resources and tools on the platform that seek to help young people change the world are categorised according to the type of social change they seek to achieve:

These are, conscious living and inspiring collective action, engaging in advocacy, getting active and campaigning for change, and humanitarian community and international development projects and initiatives.

These are things I believe any changemaker should develop an understanding of, no matter what their specific interests are or what their level of experience is.

The platform will officially launch of the 1st March, and I can’t wait to continue to release more tools and resources to help people like you change the world. If you’re passionate about changing the world, give the Humanitarian Changemakers Network a follow on Instagram, and check out the website! When you sign up and join the humanitarian changemakers network (for FREE) you’ll receive a copy of our ebook, the Humanitarian’s handbook.

Instagram

Website

How I started Humanitarian Freelancing

Towards the end of 2018, before completing my undergraduate study, I took the leap and started my own business freelancing across the humanitarian sector…

I’ve received several questions about how I got started freelancing, and how others can begin a career working for themselves in their dream field. I recently answered these questions in a YouTube video, which I thought I’d also share here…

(Skip ahead in the video to 3:25)

Changing the World with WORDS

It sounds incredibly cliche, but words really do have the power to change the world. As activists, we sign so many petitions and send so many emails to MPs, but we seldom stop and think about the impact they have, or moreover, the power of a handwritten letter.

This month marked the beginning of Write For Rights, an annual Amnesty International campaign that is currently in its 16th year. Amnesty activists around the world have achieved a lot in the last 15 years through Write for Rights, some of which you can read about here. The idea behind Write for Rights is pretty simple… Amnesty International identifies brave people around the world who are being punished for defending human rights, and people write letters for them; one letter that goes to the authorities that are violating their rights, and another is a solidarity letter that lets the people know that the Amnesty activists around the world are fighting for them.

How Write For Rights Works

 

As many of you my also know, I have been involved with Oxfam’s What She Makes campaign, which calls on big Australian brands to take the crucial next step in creating a fairer fashion industry- committing to paying the women who make our clothes a living wage. In exciting news, retail leader Kmart is predicted to be the first of all the brands the campaign targets, to publicly commit to paying a living wage. I was asked by Oxfam campaigners to lead a group of QLDers to write letters to Kmart’s CEO, pushing him to show leadership and take action for living wages.

Working with both Oxfam and amnesty volunteers, we have been writing heaps of letters to defend human rights and tackle poverty together. The best thing about letter writing is that its a very personal, non-confrontational form of activism, making it great for anyone who is keen to get involved in activism but not really sure how. It doesn’t take much organising to gather a group of friends, get some pens, paper, envelopes, and stamps, and write letters to people who have the power to make big decisions. If you’re keen to get active and take action to defend human rights or tackle poverty, why not start with letter writing!

Tiyana letter writing for Amnesty and Oxfam

What can you do to work towards #ZeroHunger

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), after a period of decline, world hunger is on the rise again. Zero hunger means working together to ensure everyone, everywhere, has access to the safe, healthy and nutritious food they need. To achieve it, we must adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, work with others, share our knowledge and be willing to help change the world – for the better.

Whether you’re a business, farmer, government representative or simply someone that’s willing to make a change, you can take action for #ZeroHunger!

To celebrate World Food Day and my commitment as an individual to the Sustainable Development Goals and ending world hunger by 2030, I made a vlog on my YouTube channel talking about simple actions we can take as individuals to help you make #ZeroHunger way of life, to help re-connect to food and what it stands for.

Now you’re probably thinking that your actions might not have the power to end world hunger… but think about how the food you eat also contributes to other sustainable development goals. Food security, like most other issues is a multifaceted issue that has human and environmental dimensions. It’s not just about making sure everyone in the world gets fed, but making sure the food we eat is produced and used sustainably, and the farmers who grow our food aren’t exploited.

As many of you who have been following me on social media would know, back in June/July I made the choice to transition to a minimal-zero waste lifestyle to reduce my negative impact on the planet. As a wannabe zero-waster, part of this lifestyle change meant making a very conscious effort to reduce my food waste. This is one of the most powerful things we can do in the developing world, to progress SDG 2.

Be informed about #ZeroHunger

One of the things the FAO recommends individuals do is take time to read about #ZeroHunger, the challenges we face in getting there and what governments, companies, farmers and others need to do. I also believe that education leads to action, so I compiled a list of my favourite resources for people to learn more about food security.

Book recommendations:

“Stuffed and Starved” by Raj Patel

“The ethics of what we eat” by Peter Singer

“Full Planet Empty Plates” by Lester R. Brown

Documentary recommendations:

Food Inc. (2008), a documentary which examines how mammoth corporations have taken over all aspects of the food chain in the United States, from the farms where our food is grown to the chain restaurants and supermarkets where it’s sold.

Global Waste: The Scandal of Food Waste (2011). Food waste is a global problem of increasing magnitude. This documentary outlines the severity of the issue, and shows various solutions implemented by people around the world

Food Chains (2014), is a film about agricultural labour in the US after a hunger strike is launched at the headquarters of Publix supermarkets to protest poor wages and working conditions.

Food Choices (2016), explores the impact that food choice has on people’s health, the health of our planet and on the lives of other species sharing our world.

Earth 2 Us, my favourite podcast by youtuber Hannah McNeely and her friend Evan Oliver is not only entertaining, but they have a tonne of episodes about zero-waste and veganism. I’d totally recommend their podcast to anyone!

And speaking of veganism… there is no doubt that animal agriculture is one of the most water, energy, and land intensive industries in the world. With documentaries like Cowspiracy bringing this to the mainstream, UN agencies including the FAO are recommending limiting animal products and opting for a more plant-based diet…

I’ve been vegan for 5 years, for ethical, environmental, and health reasons…. And I would recommend it to anyone who is in a position to choose what you eat or where your next meal comes from.

Wasting less, eating better and adopting a sustainable lifestyle are key to building a world free of hunger. According to the FAO, the choices we make today, as individuals, are vital for a secure future of food…

My Body My Rights

In a matter of weeks, QLD MPs will vote on new laws that will determine the access women have to healthcare services like abortion. In the last few months, I have been very involved in campaigning efforts to decriminalise abortion here in QLD… and in the last 2 weeks, I have undertaken 2 projects related to decriminalising abortion that I thought I’d share with you guys.

The first of these was my first freelance job for an Australian organisation- Fair Agenda. Fair Agenda are campaigning to decriminalise abortion in QLD, and I managed to score a freelancing gig editing campaign materials for their abortion campaign- and I was super excited because this was my first paid video editing job! This is the video I made:

The second of these was an episode of the Amnesty Activist Connect podcast that I started, which was all about Amnesty’s My Body My Rights campaign, and about the abortion laws in QLD/Australia. It included interviews with Ellie and Hope from the Women’s Abortion Rights Campaign Brisbane. Here’s a little excerpt of what I talk about in the episode:

I’m a 22 year old woman, and from my own experience, particularly as an adult entertainer, I think that the policing of female sexuality and our bodies is something I’ve become increasingly aware of over the years, and I study sociology and philosophy at university, so I have a huge interest in how expressing our sexuality and making decisions about our bodies policed, and how this is maintained through ideologies and social norms…. a majority these social norms are controlled by our governments, our communities, even our families. As women, when we challenge those norms, we are made to feel guilty or embarrassed. Some of us are stigmatised for challenging these norms, and in some parts of the world, women are jailed. And it’s because of this, that we keep silent.

You can listen to the full episode on the Activist Connect Soundcloud or on youtube:

Hopefully that in a few weeks, women across QLD will be able to enjoy their right to healthcare services like abortion!

I’m starting a HUMAN RIGHTS PODCAST

As many of you know, I’ve been involved with Amnesty International QLD/NNSW since the beginning of 2018, as an intern/office volunteer and the media & communications team leader…

As the media and communications team leader, I was trying to develop a media strategy for the second half of the year, and I decided I wanted my team to branch out into the wider community, conduct more interviews, and create more original content… but then I saw a gap, that I though needed filling. While we could share this content on our regional social media platforms, I wanted to be able to reach a broader audience (because they people we interview are super inspiring and can teach activists a lot of tips/tricks,) and so I came up with the idea of a podcast for Amnesty International Australia activists.

With the help of one of my team members, Izzy, we sat down and started planning the podcast. We called it “Activist Connect” and the aim of the podcast is to engage, educate, entertain, and connect Amnesty Activists across the country.

For our first episode, we sat down with Shankar, Amnesty’s lead refugee campaigner to hear about his own experience as a refugee coming to Australia, and all about Amnesty’s #MyNewNeighbour campaign, calling for a fairer community sponsorship program for those seeking protection in Australia. We also talk about tips and tricks for community campaigning, and heard from @amnestymaroochydoreabout how they are bringing the My New Neighbour campaign to their community.

The podcast is currently available on soundcloud.com/amnesty-activist-connect and YouTube.

Fighting Poverty in the Fashion Industry with Oxfam

The Oxfam Change Initiative brings together youth leaders and supports them over a 6 month training program in campaign strategy and community organising. As a 2018 Change Initiative Youth Leader, I worked on Oxfam’s What She Makes campaign, calling on big brands to pay the women who make our clothes a living wage, so they can break the cycle of poverty.

I started the Oxfam Change Initiative back in April with a group of amazing girls passionate about changing the world. We first met at our induction and instantly got along well, and after our induction we met at the Brisbane Oxfam office fortnightly for our workshops. The workshops covered: Campaign Strategy, Tactics and Community Organising, Campaign Project Management, Events and Actions, Values, Framing and Messaging, Leadership and Team-Building, Conversations for Change, and Digital Campaigning. We also had an overnight retreat where we learnt more important skills, heard from the What She Makes campaign lead, contributed to the next stage of the campaign, and worked on the action plans for the event or activity we were each organising for the campaign.

The event I organised as part of the campaign was a workshop that aimed to 1. teach people about the issue, 2. encourage some discussion, 3. encourage them to reflect and express their views, 4. provide practical help in learning more/taking action. The workshop was held at a cafe boardroom, with brunch included. We called the event Breakfast of Changemakers

You can see how the event went in my vlog:

After the event, I put together a booklet that summarised everything we discussed, (including what we learnt from the wonderful guest speaker,) provided some practical tips and tricks on how to have meaningful conversations with family and friends to help raise awareness about the issue, and how to remain engaged in the campaign. You can check out the booklet here.

We all buy clothes, so we should all use our power as customers to tell companies we care about what she makes, and ask companies to pay the women who make our clothes a living wage. You can learn more about Oxfam’s What She Makes campaign at whatshemakes.oxfam.org.au/

Are you morally obligated to help the world’s poor?

One of the most influential books I have read about poverty, possibly because I read it at a relatively young age, was The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty by one of my favourite philosophers, Peter Singer. Singer wrote The Life You Can Save (first published in 2009) to address our current response to the issue of world poverty, demonstrating that we are not doing enough as individuals, which is ethically indefensible. I have always been interested in issues relating to poverty, and from a young age have wondered what my obligations towards those living in poverty are as a privileged individual living in Australia.

SINGER’S ARGUMENT

Singer, a renowned utilitarian, presents his argument in the first chapters of the book for why we are in fact morally obligated to help the worlds poor. He uses the example of a child drowning in a pond, and asserts that if you saw a child drowning in a lake and you were in a position to save them, you should do so. According to Singer, if you are in a position to save a life without sacrificing something equally as important, you are morally obligated to do so, and a child halfway across the world is no different (to a child dying in front of you), just because you can’t see them. Here is a breakdown of Singer’s argument:

Premise 1: It is bad that people should suffer from a lack of clean drinkable water, basic healthcare, food security, and shelter.

Premise 2: If you are in a position to prevent something bad from happening without having to sacrifice something equally as important, it is wrong not to do so.

Premise 3: By giving money to humanitarian aid agencies you can prevent the suffering and death of someone from lack of clean drinkable water, basic healthcare, food security, and shelter, without having to sacrifice something equally important.

Conclusion: Therefore if you do not give anything to humanitarian aid agencies you are doing something ethically bad.

This video by PBS Crash Course does a great job of explaining Singer’s argument, and a popular objection to it by Garrett Hardin:

COMMON OBJECTIONS TO OUR OBLIGATION TO THE WORLD’S POOR

You aren’t well-off enough to give your money to the world’s poor: This is a very common objection to the notion that we are morally obligated to give to the world’s poor: you aren’t rich enough to have heaps of money to donate to the world’s poor. But as Singer so eloquently puts it in his book: if you have the money to buy yourself a bottle of water, a juice or a soda, when you have access to free, clean drinkable water from the tap, then you do have at least some money that you could be giving to the world’s poor.

We should help the struggling people in our own communities before helping others: Yes, it is true that pretty much every developed society still has people in their own communities who are struggling in some way. Something that I really don’t like to do is compare the struggles of people who are in completely different situations, but I feel as though when it comes to this argument we can still constructively compare the two situations and establish which situation should be addressed first without devaluing the struggles of the other. While Singer states in his book that there are 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty (what the UN defines as living on less than $1.25US a day) and these are the people who should be helped first, I prefer to refer to Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. Maslow’s hierarchy is a 5 tier pyramid that describes the 5 levels of psychological need for humans, and each level can’t be achieved until the level below has been first. The first tier describes physiological needs such as shelter, food, and water, and the second tier is the need for security and safety, whether it be financial, from natural disasters, the military, etc. By comparing the needs of the world’s poor with those in our own societies and seeing where they fit in Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, we can then establish who ought to be be helped first. Regardless of where people come from, whether it be our own community or a community half way across the world, the people who don’t even have their physiological needs fulfilled are the ones we ought to help first.

Objections to the benefit of humanitarian aid: It is fair to believe that humanitarian aid is not the best way to go about alleviating world poverty, when disadvantaged communities and developing countries should instead focus on building a stable economy through things like trade, and developing more stable governments and social systems. While this is a very important point, this doesn’t devalue the importance of humanitarian aid in the fight to alleviate poverty, since humanitarian aid saves lives. While it is important to build stable economies, governments, and societies, it is equally as important to save lives while this is happening.

It’s Not Fair: Why should you give some of your hard earned money to the world’s poor when there are people far better off than you are who won’t do the same, that isn’t fair? While it may not be fair, morality isn’t about fairness. You are responsible for your own actions, and just because other people aren’t willing to save a life, that doesn’t mean it’s okay for you not to save a life either.

Why should I have to sacrifice things that bring me joy: It can seem unfair that you might have to sacrifice small luxuries that bring you joy and add value to your life, especially when you’ve worked hard to earn them. It might be easy for you to say “I’d rather buy new shoes than give my money to the poor,” but we shouldn’t think of aid as just giving our money away, we should think of humanitarian aid as saving a life. Could you still justify saying “I’d rather buy new shoes than save someone’s life.”

THE LIFE YOU CAN SAVE

The book itself goes further into giving to the worlds poor than just our moral obligations. Singer also addresses other philosophical considerations, he describes the practical obstacles to giving, and discusses problems associated with giving to certain charities. Singer also offers a plan for readers to figure out how much and how best to give to different charities. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about what we can do as individuals to act now to end world poverty.

In a recent youtube video, I shared my thoughts on the book, how it (amongst other things) influenced my passion for sustainable development, and give a little insight into the things I do as an activist for Campaign for Australian Aid; campaigning for cross-party commitment for Australia to increase its foreign aid budget.