Thursday, May 22, 2014

Why We Need to Tell Our Stories

Recently I was asked why I remain interested in Laestadianism, with the implication that I should have "moved on" from my quirky upbringing, as it has so little relevance to my life now. I found this TED video relevant to that question. It is by forging meaning out of our struggles that we make sense of our lives, and by telling our stories that we give permission to others to live authentically. 

"Oppression breeds the power to oppose it, and I gradually understood that as the cornerstone of identity."

"It took identity to rescue me from sadness. The gay rights movement posits a world in which my aberrances are a victory. Identity politics always works on two fronts: to give pride to people who have a given condition or characteristic, and to cause the outside world to treat such people more gently and more kindly. Those are two totally separate enterprises, but progress in each sphere reverberates in the other. Identity politics can be narcissistic.People extol a difference only because it's theirs. People narrow the world and function in discrete groups without empathy for one another. But properly understood and wisely practiced, identity politics should expand our idea of what it is to be human. Identity itself should be not a smug label or a gold medal but a revolution."

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Right to Education

Growing up, Helena Lucia didn't realize a science technology career was an option for a woman.
But on Saturday Lucia, 38, will receive her Bachelor of Science degree in computer science from Washington State University Vancouver. She's one of 915 students who will participate at WSU Vancouver's commencement exercises.
Lucia is the recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Student Achievement in recognition of her love of learning, overcoming barriers in pursuit of academic goals, leadership potential and involvement in campus life.

What do you think of when I say "education rights for girls"? Malala Yousafzai, the teenage human rights activist who nearly paid with her life for going to school? The Nigerian schoolgirls, whose kidnappers' name Boko Haram means "Western education is a sin"? 

Please read this article about my friend Helena, a single mother of four who is graduating this Saturday with a degree in Computer Science and launching what promises to be a rewarding career. I am so proud of Helena, and hope every young woman in the newspaper's territory, which is home to so many OALC families, reads this article. While the journalist chose not to mention Helena's upbringing, the biggest obstacle she faced was a cultural inheritance and indoctrination in dependency and self-denial.  (In conservative OALC families like mine, those of us who desired higher education had to go it alone, without emotional or financial support, and often with active disapproval and shunning. The only sanctioned choice was marriage and childbearing. Pretty much like some conservative Muslims in the news!)

I met Helena through this website seven years ago, and it has been a privilege to become her friend and watch her nurture the genderless qualities of courage, curiosity, and imagination, not only for herself but her wonderful children.

May she continue to inspire and support girls seeking an education. And may the kidnapped girls be quickly rescued, reunited with their grieving families, and allowed the self-determination that makes us fully free and human.