For King’s and Country

 

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I am so excited to be starting my new degree in September! Since my personal statement revolved around India, and I continue to believe that all roads lead to India, I wanted to post some excerpts here:

“Once a week, I use an international calling plan to dial India. A girl’s voice answers, and the next minutes are spent catching up on her latest news. I am always relieved that Kirthi remains healthy and in school. These are significant accomplishments in a country with an infamous discrimination against girls. In fact, Kirthi represents a minority. Human Rights Watch estimates that millions of India’s children under the age of 14 remain in the workforce. Kirthi copes with daily challenges overwhelming for a schoolgirl, but others face worse. I am determined to work on behalf of children like Kirthi, whose childhoods are insecure and who deserve a brighter future.

My Hyderabad journey put faces to my perception of human rights issues. The faces etched most clearly in my mind were those of the children I met at a rural school adjacent to the radio station. Amazingly, these students laughed and played as much as I ever did as a child, yet they lacked so many of the basic essentials for a secure childhood. Since I couldn’t stop thinking about these students, I applied for a teaching fellowship with a nonprofit called The Modern Story. After being awarded the fellowship, I returned to India and spent six months teaching digital storytelling in government schools, attempting to supplement a rigidly conservative system with a creative development curriculum.

My students and I learned from each other. I saw how the reality of hunger, poverty and violence threatened to blight progress in the classroom. I spent extra time with the students whenever possible, and over many hours of cricket and badminton, became fascinated with the role of play for children in the developing world. My interest in human rights crystallized into a burning commitment to child rights.  After The Modern Story, I again returned to India to work with four organizations. Each focused on securing the right to education for students. My exposure to a variety of management approaches and the range of projects I undertook provided an opportunity to cultivate essential skills for nonprofit work.

My India experiences raised a set of questions: Can education contribute to safeguarding other elements of a successful childhood? How can global and local laws and policies succeed? Why and where is the concept of play valued?”

I will be exploring all kinds of answers over the next year in the hopes of returning to India with a new arsenal of knowledge and a fresh perspective.

Thank You

I want to give thanks to the India Literacy Project Hyderabad chapter, which opened the door for me to jump back into government schools during my time here.  I will miss reading books with some of the brightest and sweetest 4th graders you could ever meet!! I’m in the wonderful/horrible whirlwind of leave-taking, which tends to shut down my capacity to form coherent thoughts…so I will wait to write an in-depth post about what ILP and this school came to mean to me. For now, a few pictures.

class2I think they are excited for class to start!

IMG_4554So much personality crammed into one room!

portraitAttempting something, I’m not sure what!

cutie

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Goodbye for now…

 

 

Something Different

This Rihanna photo shoot incident is too interesting to pass up. When I saw the headline “Rihanna asked to leave mosque,” I thought, great, another situation where everyone can misunderstand/criticize/polarize Islam because someone was too ignorant and insensitive to be respectful.  Instead, I found myself cautiously impressed with Rihanna.

She visited a famous mosque in Abu Dhabi and posed for an “Instagram” photo shoot. Her poses are very restrained, and I suspect it was the fact that she did not ask permission for the photo shoot, rather than any risque or suggestive posing, that made authorities ask her to leave.  The pictures are beautiful and actually seem to showcase the stunning features of the mosque more than focusing on Rihanna. It’s a shame that she was asked to leave.

One of the main criticisms made against the photos is the idea of turning a head cover into a “fashion statement.”  Well, why not? Choosing to cover your head is a form of self-expression–it is not by definition a form of repression or a symbol of oppression! There is an entire world of style and fashion revolving around the hijab and the burqa. From subtle details to daring fabrics, most of the women I work with are like any other, with their decisions on how to dress factoring in style and appearance at least to some extent. A woman fully covered can be just as beautiful and empowered as a woman in a T-shirt and shorts. Fashion is fashion, and women are women, regardless of how we choose to define ourselves as individuals.

Rihanna (for once in her life) has actually done something that helps to break down misimpression and stereotypes. I especially liked the following picture that Rihanna captioned “Bitch stole my look:”

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The Internet world took offense, but I feel that the caption acts as an equalizer. Rihanna undermines any “mystery” or fear surrounding Islamic dress and instead treats these women as she would any other. Way to go Rihanna?