Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Girl Effect

Any chance to write about work....especially a good uplifting story and I am on it!

Check out this org: Girl Effect.

Great video posted on there about the girl effect (ie: if you can get a girl in poverty (age 12) out of a vicious cycle you can build a more positive self generating effect.

Here is the video and my post below:

Today, it's about blogging it. Tara of wiseliving came up with the idea for bloggers to blog about it today to raise awareness. Do go check out the website so that you can read the other blogs that have posted about this. Last I checked (20 minutes ago, about 32 blogs were up...)

The girl effect.

I've seen it.

I just saw it in Pakistan...it was pretty amazing especially since I was despairing about life as a rural woman in Pakistan. In a totally flooded village, in Sindh, near Mohen Jo Daro. The only village I managed to visit where two of the women were educated. They were the only 'educated' people in the village. Village of about 1o0 households or so. They spoke Urdu, while most of the other women spoke Sindhi or Siraiki. They were two sisters who married into this village. The village, pre floods, had a school, where they taught (and yes, both girls and boys). The village also had healthy people since the two women had made sure that everyone was aware of simple hygiene practices. Deaths from pregnancy were not that common since the two women refused to have home births. Others followed that practice. Girls were not married off at 14...the practice of watta satta (literally, an exchange...read about it at the link...it's a terrible concept but I can understand part of it given the cultural norms...but I do not endorse it...however, just saying STOP IT is not the solution. Need to be a bit more creative around it) was rife in the neighbouring villages but not so much in this village.

Talking to the two women was amazing. Even more amazing, they made sure everyone else was heard. I didn't have to ask, they just did it. I can speak Urdu but not really Sindhi, so they were doing simultaneous translation so that I could be understood by everyone AND were making sure other voices were heard. They also illustrated a point I make anytime anyone works in a village: those who have more education are the ones that get their voices heard. In this case, exceptionally, it was two women...it doesn't tend to be where I have worked (except in Tamil villages in Sri Lanka...you do NOT want to mess with those women...they will show whose boss..and yes, they tend to be educated). Access to information is a whole other post and how we, as aid workers, think we are looking at social practices and structures but in reality, we listen most to those who know how to talk to us (and those we want to talk to in orer to meet donor demands). That changes the social dynamic...are we aware enough about our own role as an active stakeholder in the community participation we talk about?

When leaving and talking with the head of the village as I was leaving, he was like, it has been SUCH a blessing for us to have these two sisters in our village. Things have been better since they arrived.

Is that a girl effect story or WHAT?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Pakistan Post...(one of)...

Do you see ME there? I was asked that by a friend...he spends time shuttling between Karachi, Toronto, New York, Bombay and who knows where else. He wasn't asking if someone like him would be needed there...he knows they would....he asked instead, rhetorically: do you see me there? As in, I'm not, am I?

In ko apnay haal par chor dou.

Guess who else I don’t see here?

Baraish kitni khubsurat hai. Tree hugging hippy and it pops out of my mouth-it’s automatic aid worker guilt of living a lavish lifestyle. Unless you live in a tent on the side of the road.

I don’t and you don’t and we all scoffed at Sean Penn.

Guess who else I don’t see here?

Who do I see?

Bosnia, Rwanda, Myanmar, Timor, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Ache, Haiti-I see lots of Haiti but then again, I saw a lot of Sri Lanka in Haiti.

It’s not a global community and you don’t know best.


I see ghar aja pardesi, tujhe desh bulaye. My eyes do look for Shahrukh and Kajol. Wrong country…same fields. I wouldn't even know which Pakistani stars to imagine instead...Nadeem and Shabnam were before my time. Babra Sharif might be too dirty.

Allah kay naam pay, beti, dua karouN geeN. I give her ten rupees and say: dua karna, amma.

She cracked me a huge smile and leaned forward slightly and opened up her fist and gestures at my Western colleague two cars away from me..

Unhoun nay mujhe 50 rupay diye.

She did her routine first and unable to keep the news to herself she shares it with me.

You say I’m not local?

It started with her: Her face, the way she spoke, her clothes and the way they wore her. Her script: beti, allah kay naam par, bhalla, dua. I know that script.

I KNOW that script. I know her. She made me feel at home.

These are my people

I want to say it but am wary about how empty that will be- if I were to say my people out loud I would have to move here. I bite it back constantly.

So you see ME here? Guess who else I don’t see?

I thought there was a drought and then massive floods. I see really healthy buffaloes everywhere…and lots of them.

That is an elite Karachi girl speaking...how much more local do I need to be?

The world's a buzzin!

It just feels that way to me. Must be the happy pills....hmmm.

So, on my mind: Stuff I forgot to write about yesterday in the looooong post...twitter (yes, again), music I'm listening to, books I'm reading, shit i'm thinking...I guess that comes through anyhow.

I do have a life outside of the Fluevog obsession. It might not extend past that and Twitter though.

One of the things that I have been seeing, which after the initial surprise, I thought, enh..of course. I got two twitter streams going on...one that monitors Haiti and one that monitors Pakistan. Haiti twitter feed: all about cholera and the earthquake reconstruction. Pakistan twitter feed: floo...oh wait, no, it's not about floods that are STILL WREAKING HAVOC in parts of the country...it's about cricket. And bombs and a Christian woman being persecuted there. No good news since when does Pakistan ever have good news coming out of it, but the most flood related things I have seen: outrage at a flood tax (only the rich tweet from Pakistan), and donating goats for Eid. Unbelievable. Every once in a while, an aid agency tweet will find itself in the feed saying something about affected people.

That Pakistan post is coming...real soon. In fact, I wrote something (ok, scribbled) in my notebook while there...I should just transcribe and put it up here.

That was the most important thing on my mind this morning, as it turns out. I think it just makes me mad at Pakistanis so now I have lost the will to write anything else. Ewww.

Don't you worry...I'll be back. You know I will. Haven't yet met the thing that can stop my yappin...

Friday, November 12, 2010

The great Fluevog Escape plan

OK then....as I already mentioned, I have a Fluevog Obsession....Obsession with a capital O. Obsession to the degree I have with television and therefore I don't own one or turn it on if I am in one with a room by myself. It turns me into a one eyed zombie and I am incapable of conversation or picking up the remote control and turning it off. So, I don't have a television set and will not turn it on of my own volition. I do not have the Fluevog website open since all I will do is drool at the shoes on there.

I mentioned before that I would have to win the lottery in order to go and buy these shoes but I have an even better plan....

Russell Crowe (yes, that Russell Crowe), tweeted (yes, I know, I am admitting in public that I follow his tweets...and I can't recall how I even started doing it, I just know that he pops up every once in a while...and I like Gladiator...I thought it was a great film. I'm trying to recall if I saw Robin Hood...I did want to...I think I did...bleary eyed on a 14 hour long haul to South Korea...but it wasn't like Robin Hood as I know it...and Maid Marion wasn't a maid...she was like a widow (but Cate Blanchett who I adore)...and there was no big John...there was a Friar Tuck and there was a forest, I think and people did end up there living in tree houses at the end, dancing but there was a whole angle of like..revolution or something? And Robin Hood was actually a child of a revolutionary and had 'good' blood in him? The movie is starting to unfold in my head like a Dances with Wolves (skirting around Robin Hood, the cartoon and Kevin Costner versions) meets Gladiator and any other medieval type film with a hot white guy in it fighting for justice (Braveheart, that other movie with Liam Nieson, Sword in the Stone (cartoon version only) and Last of the Mohicans....Mohican which the Brits think means mohawk, the hairstyle....what do they call a fauxhawk then? Fauxheecan? Your man, David Beckham had one...I wonder what he called it)...

Anyhow, so he tweeted about his new movie...called The Next Three Days (it's directed by Paul Haggis. He made Crash. I really liked Crash...so I'm guessing I will like this one...even if I already know the whole entire story. I think it's going to be one of those movies where it's the journey not the end result...which actually, is still a mystery to me...I don't know how it ends). Anyhow...So...the movie. One of the publicity thingies is this grand prize you can win etc. You can choose from 8 different locations to go have a vacation. One of those places is NYC. And you can stay at the blah blah and do the blah blah tour and blah blah restaurant and you get 2 grand spending money. AHA!!

So, the plan, is really very very simple. Win the grand prize, choose the NYC destination, get the prize money bit of it and go BUY MY FLUEVOGS!

So simple. So genius. Easier, I would think, than winning the lottery. Less people probably entering to win this giveaway grand prize thingie than those buying lotto tickets so my odds are better, no?

I do currently own shoes that cost more than Fluevogs do. I have a job and make money too. But, THAT IS MISSING THE POINT: I want my impulsive, indulgent shopping to be funded by free cash money and not by the cash I am currently not earning since I am writing a blog instead of actually working as I should be. (Employer: It only took me 15 minutes to write this...stop being a slave driver).

I need to write out my plan, ala Mr Crowe in his new movie (he has three days to spring his wife from jail...go see the trailer, don't ask me), and figure out how to make this work. Lottery plans or Grand NYC prize. Two columns...many rows...what will she do?

Must get post its. Lots of them. Different colours and sizes. I love post it notes. I in fact, travel with them to every mission I go to...yep...that's the kind of dork I am. I am waiting for someone to create the inflatable whiteboard....that would SO make my life. Maybe when I win the lottery, I can dedicate my time to making one.


Lots of bits and pieces (aka: browser roundup)

My browser is being overstretched...why? I blame twitter and my sudden obsession to know what is happening in the rest of the world. I have one too many things open now, all demanding a blog post/my unsolicited opinion.

I'm terrified (in my hyperbolic American way) to lose any of the info so I'm just going to write mini blurbs around all it..

I should prolly categorize but given that I recognize this as me procrastinating before i actually hunker down and do some work, I need to just get this over with.

First up: Haiti and Cash For Work.

My biggest pet peeve. I fucking hate CFW at this moment in time. The actual definition, for anyone who cares, of CFW is: Payment for work on community or public works programmes to improve or rehabilitate the community.

What has ended up happening instead is PAID LABOUR. The objectives of CfW programmes have started reading like food security objectives: ie: people will have cash in order to meet their food requirements. I fine this abhorrent and offensive. In the start of an emergency, people have MUCH BETTER THINGS TO DO than be part of CfW schemes in order to have some money in order to buy what they need. Examples of things they need to be doing includes getting their documentation in order. People lose stuff (Haiti-earthquake, Pakistan-floods...think back to tsuanami...things are lost)...if they don't have their IDs, home documents etc, they can't register for aid (government or otherwise as well in many cases).

In the Haiti example, and I was there and I saw this: rubble removal was the pet project for CfW. There is SO much freakin rubble in Haiti that even big mac trucks (and the country has 300 and no proposed dumping ground...it's an ISLAND), if these trucks were to work ever single day...it would take ten years. I heard other figures as well but all pointing to how massive the problem is. Get some professionals in to sort it out...stop giving people gloves, vests and wheelbarrows and getting them to haul it off. For what purpose? You want them to have money...just GIVE IT TO THEM...don't force them to work for what should be a basic right (food and basic needs being met in an emergency situation). It's gross.

The article I link to is a good one. Read it. Pass it on. I am not done with my CfW rant but am happy to say that when I left Pakistan, at least the agency I was working for...I made sure we didn't have a separate CfW budget line. It was incorporated where it should be..within community projects and grants. I got yelled at for that, but I stuck to it. I am not about to further bad practice if I can help it. This whole current situation of CfW is a bad hangover from food for work, another disgusting form of programming.

Second up: Psychosocial work in Pakistan.
I need not say more...just click on the link. Diaries by Sara Klevmar...she writes wonderfully and simply and it's a way to see the work we do from the ground up. Well done, Sara.

Third: Sri Lanka. And Porn.

Yep, that's right...Sri Lankan porn. Why can't this country, which is so beautiful, and with beautiful people, get their shit in order? There is a hunt on for porn stars in Sri Lanka. No joke. Is there nothing else the police could be doing right now? They are publishing the photos (of what they guess to be teenagers) in the newspapers. Thankfully, there are sane people and advocates in the country that are pointing out that the people in the video might be there without their consent or through coercion and such a public exposure could harm them but the militant and weird brand of Buddhism in the country seems to support the moral outrage these porn videos (shot it seems, mostly with cell phones, by the way) are causing. No Sri Lanka story I read is complete without one classic line...Here's the one from this article: Police plan to publish images, taken from the films, of around 50 more in the coming days. The mug shots have been obtained by a special police squad viewing films "round the clock", officers said.

Fourth up: Haiti again. Media being offensive to me again.

Story written by a Ms. Georgianne Nienaber: Investigative journalist, author, Haiti relief worker.

My offense is simple....yes, I think what is happening in Haiti sucks and it should be reported on for transparency and accountability and with the aim of getting aid to people properly. She is talking about Camp Corrail...I have worked in that camp....Here is the offensive line:
This was our third visit to Haiti since the earthquake, and what this man says is completely accurate.

As ANYONE with ANY field experience knows...one TRIANGULATES information. I can already tell you that this mans outrage is completely justified however, what is he is saying is NOT completely accurate as Ms Nienaber says. Two examples: People were not forced to move from Petitionville Golf Course camp...they were given options and these were explained. They were also given more than one bag of rice on arrival to the camp. I know, because I was there...and the agency I was working with didn't move them and we didn't give out relief items so I am not being biased here. Now, this one mans story, could be completely accurate just for HIS situation...however, he is NOT representative of the first batch of people that moved to Corrail.

All I am asking for is what I exercise as a field person as well. Proper telling of stories. I think it's just irresponsible otherwise. A little bit more integrity please. It goes a long way...pass it on.

Fifth up: China and Pakistan and Nukes.

Pakistan, I don't know if I love you or not, but you never fail to disappoint. I look at Zardari's face and I feel sick. Ugh is all I can say to this article. Ugh, Ugh, Ugh.

Sixth up: A collection of just really cool stuff.

@blurb has put up this beautiful picture on his website. I heart it. Once I get paid, I'm gonna buy it and he's gonna sign it for me. WOOHOO!

I am obsessed with Fluevogs...they are shoes. Heels, in fact. Who knew I had that in me. But I am in love. It started with my sister buying a paid before I went off to Pakistan, or maybe even before that but I was like, yeah, ok, whatever. And all of a sudden yesterday, I was like, hey, let me see those shoes again...and I tried them on, and though she is like, three sizes larger than me, I put them on and was like, HOLY SHIT, this is amazing! I need to win the lottery in order to buy a pair. I am buying tickets starting tomorrow. You gotta be in it to win it.

Social change and media has my attention...I like it. Here is a piece on using mobile technology to gather data fast. It's important to be able to do that, and I like that I saw it being used in both Haiti and Pakistan. Real time info, as fast as we can get it and then use it to meet needs gets massive brownie points from me. The UN also has an initiative to harness this hype around technology called Global Pulse. There have been bits and pieces around mobile phone subscriptions in India and the continent of Africa and how the numbers are getting higher and higher and how people use the technology for all sorts of things (of course, they don't dis-aggregate African data but what? It's a continent, not just one BIG massive homogeneous country? Wha?)

For you apple mac lovers out there....some nice geek stuff on how to make full use of the automator.... I need to re read the piece in order to figure out how to actually do it and what added value, if any, it might bring to my life.

Seventh up: Gender Equality and Business.

I'm to tired to write anymore, but I have it up here so it's important enough for everyone to read it. I will post it in conjunction with a report from the Women's Refugee Commission...scroll down to the middle of the page and download the report: Peril or Protection: Link between Livelihoods and Gender Based Violence. . It's important. Read it and be educated.

WHEW! I'm done. For now. I need to stop reading and close my mind off to anything else for the time being and get some work done. If only things weren't so interesting and I didn't want to know something about everything.

Jane of all trades, Mistress of none.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cuddle Class

For someone who flies as much as I do this is welcome news...

Cuddle class in economy. Way to go New Zealand Air.

It's for long haul flights. Set to launch in April. I can't wait to see what this looks like. I HATE flying. Especially long long flights, which if you live in the States like me, you end up taking to go anywhere there is a disaster (cept Haiti and the rest of the continent below us).

I need to fly with someone...or learn to cuddle strangers.

I just googled cuddle class after hearing about it on one of my favorite shows...NPRs Wait wait, Don't Tell Me. It's great. You can podcast it.


Oh man....check out Jamie Oliver's new place called Barbecoa in London.


Read the story of the place and how they started it. I love good stories. And and and and and...they have a butchers shop downstairs! I am so jealous. So very very jealous. I want one too...cept of course, I'm not the greatest chef (I'm ok), and I don't have the patience to have a restaurant etc etc...but still...I WANT.

The menu is amazing...they have all sorts of bar b q ovens all over the place...

I am drooling.

I hate Jamie Oliver's tweets by the way...he misspells everything and they are like half thoughts etc. You have 140 characters, dude, it's not that hard. But anyhow, he has redeemed himself in my eyes by this new restaurant. I have no idea what other restaurants he has, actually, but still...this one looks FREAKIN COOL and I want it.

Calling London! We will be going there when I'm in town. Along with my three other faves: Sake No Hana (posh Japanese in posh part of town...I can't recall exactly where but close to that place where you get amazing...food/picnic/Christmas baskets. Something & Something or maybe it's just something something), Cafe Helen (awesome late night shwarma, Edgeware road), and Tayyabs (amazing Pakistani food...STAND IN LINE....I swear to you, it's worth it-East Aldgate). The other one to add to my list of London places actually is also Poule a Pot...I think that's what its called...at Orange Square...so near Sloan Square and Victoria stations. Great for winter to go into this cosy cosy place and eat lovely lovely French food. Mmmmmmm

I just ate daal and chawal. Nothing in the world beats that.

Still, I'm coming Jamie. Make way.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

World Kindness Week

What a lovely idea...

World Kindness Week.

There is a foundation: Random Acts of Kindness and it was started in 1995. Not sure where they get their funding from or anything, but what a great idea. Works for me.

I was told recently that I need to keep business as business and not be so friendly. I disagree. Part of me is wanting to be a good person and I see that as spilling over to anything I do. I will go out of my way to help people when I am working or not.

Anyhow, this is not about me and what a nice person I am...even though it should be. Hah.

It's about how we can all be kind and the benefits of doing that. Here is a great article on how 7 ways of sharing can make you happy....

Anyone got random acts of kindness stories to share? I'll guest blog you! I like stories of kindness. A lot.

Monday, November 08, 2010

We are all stalkers

I just looked at the live feed on who comes from where to view this blog. I can't see WHO you are dear readers, however, I can see where you are coming from.

So, the people who do a search for f zehra rizvi....you know me. There are tons of searches for just zehra and zehra rizvi and there are lots of zehras and zehra rizvis out there...

Some of you arrive direct. Interesting. Some of you are still arriving from facebook. I deactivated facebook, so I am indeed curious how you do that.

That was fun and I've been dying to update my facebook status to say, I DEACTIVATED! I am free of facebook! Except I can't do that anymore obviously. The withdrawal symptoms of leaving facebook have faded by now.

I'm back from home Pakistan by the way. It was a pretty amazing experience. I am still deconstructing it in my head and will write about it in all probability.

Anyhow, if you know me and come onto my blog...send me some love. It makes me want to write and that should make it easier for you to stalk me, no? Especially since there is no facebook to track my EVERY movement :)

Amazing but I can still function without a passive audience watching my every move. I miss talking people on facebook...to be fair, I had zero time in Pakistan to do that, but still. My sisters and I are close so they have had to adjust to not being able to stalk me as well.

We go old school now...ie: talk to each other.