#RefugeesWelcome

My biggest regret this week was that I couldn’t go to the demonstration yesterday. It sounded amazing- hell, Jeremy Corbyn was speaking- but I had to content my self with being there in spirit. I did do this, though:IMG_0667

Basically, you take a photo of yourself- don’t forget the big piece of paper with something like “Refugees Welcome’ on it- and tweet it to the PM. It’s @David_Cameron. Don’t forget that bit, and add #refugeeswelcome. Otherwise, your message can be whatever you like.

Good luck!

Here’s a link to an article about the march: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/sep/12/london-rally-solidarity-with-refugees

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How To Get Your Ideas Heard

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As I am probably going to be in next year’s Gang Show*, I thought it would be fun to go along to the planning meeting. First we split into two groups and put forward ideas, then we all sat on a big table and discussed those ideas. And it should have been great. It was really interesting to hear what people were coming up with, and I wanted to help make the show really good by adding ideas for songs I adored.

The problem was getting those ideas across.

Have you ever had an idea in your head, and wanted to say it, but been worried about looking stupid? Or said your idea, but thought you saw something in the other person’s eyes suggesting that actually, they were kind of taken aback by it and already thought it might not work out? Or kept wanting to say something, but someone else is talking so you wait for a break in the conversation so you can say the something, the break comes and you start speaking but you’re just a fraction of a second behind somebody else and you, feeling ignored, abruptly stop? Or later, you’ve got an idea but god, they’re not too close to me, do I really have to raise my voice? and you’re just a bit put off by all the people and the general size of the table?

You’re not alone. Because all of those scenarios occurred in the course of those two hours in the Church Hall.

However, I don’t want to just whinge. Because I’ve been reading a bit about ‘constructive’ and ‘solution-based’ journalism, below are some tips, when you’re in a ‘planning meeting’ for, say, a school project, to have the courage to say your ideas and make sure they’re heard. If you find yourself at the head of the group, saying “Has anyone got any ideas?” there’ll be something for you as well.

.Say it anyway!

Trust me, the more positive action, however unsure you are, is to just come out there and say your idea, rather than keeping quiet and feeling guilty later. True, they might dislike it- but they might love it too! You just don’t know for sure- you’re not a mind reader. We all see things in different lights- your doubts are probably just your bitchy inner critic talking, and the good things about your idea could be just the the things that are needed. It’s ok to be nervous, but you can do it anyway.**

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Idea-takers, here’s one for you: make it clear that you’re not going to judge the ideas yet. The point now is to gather as many as possible. If we see other ideas being rejected, we’ll be less likely to come up with our own, and will just sit there feeling awkward. But if one person gets to say their idea, however mediocre, maybe it will cause someone else to think of something similar, but even better, someone else will think of an add-on, and on and on until the idea is fully developed and utterly spectacular.  So get everyone’s ideas, write them all down, then you can get on to accepting or rejecting them. Make it clear that this is a friendly space.

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. Also for the idea-takers: Make sure everyone has their say. There’s nothing more frustrating, in this scenario, than endlessly trying to leap into that second when someone pauses for breath, and getting there before someone else. As I said, it makes us guys feel a bit unwanted. Instead, go round each person to ask if they’ve got anything, at least once.

. Raise your hand!

I know it seems kind of childish and formal, but teachers came up with it for a reason! And it won’t look small and pathetic if you do it with confidence. It gives you a better chance of being the next one who gets to speak, without having to interrupt anyone. Even if someone else starts talking, probably someone will have noticed you and will say ‘Hang on, Emma wants to say something’. Or, still with your hand up, a moderately loud throat-clearing or ‘Excuse me’ should help.

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. If you know what’s coming, come prepared! If your group needs song ideas, bring your iPod. (Sadly, today mine needed charging.) Dramatic techniques? Go online, look some up and find out why they’re so effective, which will help to convince your group that they will enhance your piece.

. Explain yourself! Properly! But be passionate!

It may be obvious to you why Cassandra Clare is such an amazing author, but it won’t be obvious to you mates who’ve never read her books. So say what you like about them. The characters? The whole idea of runic tattoos that give you special powers and a hidden parallel world with demons and demon-slayers, vampires and warlocks? The inspiring kick-arse female characters? Tell all. Except, in the case of books, films and theatre, the plot.

But do your explaining in a way that shows why you are in love with the idea, rather than why you’re right and everyone else is wrong. Be genuine, and show that you’re not saying this idea because you’re courting attention, but because you think it would really help the show, business, project etc.

.Keep the door open!

Remember how I said that, with others chipping in, an idea can develop into an even better idea? Well, be open to developments. Most of us don’t like to hear that, actually, our idea could be improved upon. But just remember, it’s not personal, it doesn’t mean all your ideas are rubbish. What you see as criticism, a more optimistic type will see as an opportunity for improvement. If Craig Revel Horwood only ladled out praise, how would the celebrity dancers correct the things they were doing wrong?

Aww, you love me really...

Aww, you love me really…

As Stephen King once said:

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. Listen!

Yup, listen to other people’s ideas. How would you feel if you could read minds, and no-one was really listening to your idea, but was trying to figure out when they could but in and talk about theirs? Listen to others. Their idea might be really good, and could even help you improve yours. And show them you’re listening. Watch them when they’re speaking, for starters. Hopefully, they’ll do the right thing and return the favour.Listen_Doctor_Who

These suggestions are a mixture of tips from websites, my Dad’s advice and my head. Some of them may flop- but they may be totally awesome! Let me know what did or didn’t work for you in the comments.

*The Gang Show is a thing Scouts and Guides do in Britain. Basically, all the Guides, Scouts, Rangers, Explorer Scouts and upwards get together, and put on a show. A proper one, with a director, stage lighting, live band etc. It’s great to watch as well as be in.

**You know those really confident people who can just do everything with no qualms? It’s not that they don’t get scared. Everybody gets scared. But they don’t let nerves stop them from doing cool stuff. That’s the only difference.quote-courage-is-not-the-absence-of-fear-but-rather-the-judgment-that-something-is-more-important-than-meg-cabot-339696

‘Two Sisters To Be Raped As Punishment’- Not Just Classism, But Misogyny At Its Worst

Yes, that’s genuinely happening. Because their brother eloped with a forcibly married woman from the dominant jat caste, a khap panchayat- an unelected, all-male, all-jat village council- has ordered that Meenakshi Kumari, 23, and her 15-year-old sister are raped and paraded naked with their faces blackened.

Thankfully, I only heard about this via the website of Amnesty International UK, which has set up an online petition to ensure that the sisters and their brother’s partner are protected and their family able to return home, and that an investigation and prosecutions are carried out on the men who ordered what Amnesty describe as ‘this disgusting ruling’. (1)

The Kumari family are from the lowest caste in Indian society, the Dalit, also known as the Untouchables. It is hardly the first time that inter-caste marriage has wrought serious repurcussions- there are over 1,000 honour killings every year against people crossing caste or religious divides, (2) and the Jat woman is said to be at risk of violence. Honour killings are often ordered by khaps and their other punishments are also carried out even though these councils are illegal. The Jat caste are ‘a powerful vote bank in India and few political leaders are prepared to challenge them’ (2).

But this is about more than social status.

The rape, not the first ‘vile sexual [punishment] against women’ ordered by a chap panchayat, is described as an ‘eye for an eye’ ruling (3). This strongly suggests that the women and girl in this case are viewed by the council as property- the brother ‘stole’ one of ‘their’ women from her family and husband, and the idea of this sentence is to ‘dishonour’ the family by defiling (many still expect women in India to still be virgins when they marry (4)) their property. Women’s rights still have a long way to go in India, as in most countries- 64% of girls leave school before 8th grade, and rape has been shown to be horribly widespread- an Indian woman is raped every 20 minutes. (5)

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The Amnesty petition, thankfully, is tantalisingly close to hitting its target of 250,000 signatures (there is a link below) and the story has now been covered in several newspapers here. I am also including a link to an article about six organisations fighting for women’s rights in the country- once you have read about them, please look up their websites and donate if you can.

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There has been no word yet on the sisters’ case, but we can all do something, however small, to make change happen.

  1. The Amnesty petition- https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/two-sisters-sentenced-rape-demand-justice-india-womens-rights
  2. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/10778189/Indias-elders-lift-ban-on-inter-caste-marriages.html
  3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/11832399/Indian-sisters-to-be-raped-as-punishment-for-brother-eloping.html
  4. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/relationships/man-woman/Virginity-a-must-for-a-happy-marriage/articleshow/7099060.cms
  5. Find out more about these Indian women’s rights groups:http://www.bustle.com/articles/89136-6-indian-womens-rights-organizations-that-are-bravely-fighting-for-change

Sweet Sixteen To-Do List

Yep, I’m 16 now! My birthday was on Friday, meaning that I am now spoilt for choice of crazy things to do. So, here’s my verdict on the list:

.Open a 16-19 bank account- Yes, I know I could have had one before, but my parents were basically useless about it. But I think it’s more than about time I kept my money somewhere other than a bag in my bedroom. I’m quite attracted to Barclays- for starters, they have an account specifically for 16-19s, and the bank has a good pro-diversity record. My parents are with Lloyds TSB though, and their under-19s account looked reasonably good. I’ll look around a bit, I think, before coming to a decision.

. Get married- Ha. I’ve never even had a proper boyfriend. (When you’re nine and you never see each other outside school, it doesn’t count.) But I definitely want to get married, one day. Probably in a registry office.

. Drive a moped/invalid carriage- Nah, not really fussed. and what’s an invalid carriage, anyway? Sounds a bit ominous.

. Have sex- I wish! See ‘Get married’. And it should be someone you’re genuinely in love with.

. Drink wine/beer with a meal if accompanied by an adult: I doubt I’ll ever make use of this. I’ve never had a single sip of wine that I didn’t regard as disgusting. I liked the buck’s fizz at my cousin’s wedding, but that’s about it.

.Get an NI number- Done that. Or rather, I was sent one, over a month ago. Still haven’t memorised it.

. Join a trade union- No point, I don’t have a proper job.

. Work full-time if you have left school- I haven’t. And you have to be in education until you’re 18 now, so I think that’s no longer accurate.

. Get the national min. wage for 16-17s- see ‘trade union’.

. Join the army- Not going to happen. If I ever got involved in a war, I’d be helping the affected civilians. Besides, I don’t fancy the discipline.

.Change name by deed poll- Unilkely.

. Leave home- Not just yet- I have no reason to.

. “in certain circumstances you must pay for prescriptions, dental treatment and eye tests”- Whoopee.

. Choose a GP- But how do you know you’re choosing a good one?

. Consent to medical treatment- Great. So if I die, I can’t blame my parents?

. Buy premium bonds: Um, what are those?

. Register as a blood donor: Definitely. I’ve already got my organ donor card. (If you’re thinking about registering, please do! Donors are much needed, especially ethnic minority ones.)

. Pilot a glider- Sounds fun, but I’ve had no training. My friend might want to, though- she’s in the Air Cadets and wants to be an RAF pilot.

. Buy a lottery ticket- No thanks. Interesting statistic: https://www.youtube.com/watchv=8US3Snx5L3c Go to about 11:40. A depressing comment on humanity indeed.

. Apply for a passport- No particular need to do that right now.

So, wordpressers, who else has turned 16? Which of your rights are you planning on exercising? Let me know in the comments. Consolations on my lonely state much appreciated. Ciao!

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JK Rowling Being Awesome (again)

British writer JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series of books, poses during the launch of new online website Pottermore in London June 23, 2011. The seven Harry Potter novels will be available in ebook form in October, author J.K. Rowling said on Thursday at the launch of a new interactive online website Pottermore (www.pottermore.com) that will allow readers to navigate through the boy wizard stories. Rowling gave her clearest indication yet that she would not write an eighth Harry Potter story to follow the final instalment published in 2007 by Bloomsbury in Britain and Scholastic in the United States. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett  (BRITAIN - Tags: MEDIA SOCIETY ENTERTAINMENT)

Just a quick detour to share two fabulous deeds JK Rowling has done on Twitter. First, after Serena Williams took this year’s Wimbledon title, this happened:

https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/619886370081869824/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Serena Williams of the U.S. celebrates after defeating Russia's Vera Zvonareva in their women's singles tennis match at the All England Lawn Tennis Club during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 1, 2012.    REUTERS/Sergio Moraes (BRITAIN  - Tags: OLYMPICS SPORT TENNIS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

More recently, on August 19th, Rowling had some inspiring words of advice for a fangirl, who said that because of her gender, people weren’t taking her literary ambitions seriously:

http://www.today.com/popculture/j-k-rowling-tweets-inspiring-advice-young-female-writer-egypt-t39731

I’d be really grateful, if anyone could tell me how to copy the conversations as they appeared on Twitter, with pictures and everything, the way they did it on today.com. WordPress seems to have an allergy to the good old copy-and-paste approach.

Happy blogging!

Waiting For GCSE Results

No-one really told me it was going to be this horrible.

In three days time, I have to go down to my school, and get my GCSE results. What I do next will be decided by small capital letters on a sheet of paper.

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Is that a bit melodramatic? Everyone in my family seems to think so, and I try to tell myself the same things they do: it will be fine, a bad day for me is an A or B, so a really good day for a lot of other teens, remember how bad I felt after the chemistry exam last year? (I came home in absolute floods of tears, convinced that I’d failed. I got an A*. And I don’t even particularly like science.) I’m also predicted As and A*s, and I got a B in Spanish in one year, doing the coursework in weekly after-school sessions. I shouldn’t have that much to worry about- should I?

But the stronger part of me is convinced that something went wrong. That I made a stupid mistake- like writing in blue pen instead of black- in one of the exams that seemed to go well at the time. And then there was English Language. I got an A on the first mock with no prior knowledge, then an A* on the second, and full/ nearly full marks on every practise question in class. We’d done so much preparation in class, I didn’t revise outside it, using the time for my other subjects. And then- was it lack of sleep the night before? Eating too much for breakfast? Not enough revision?- I went into the gym, and in my eyes at least, it all fell apart. I won’t go into details. I answered every question… maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed…

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The worst part is not knowing. I tell myself that it will be alright, that I did well, but I don’t know that for sure! Prove it, my inner critic seems to be saying. Prove that you didn’t fail. And I can’t.

But why should it be this way? I get that a lot of jobs require using your knowledge under pressure. But is it really necessary for someone’s level of success to be defined, based on whether they wrote inside the box? More ridiculous still, whether or not they wrote in black ink or black ballpoint pen?

However, complaining about the system can’t change the fact that I have to meet its requirements. If I don’t get a B in my A-level subjects, a C in English and Maths… I imagine the shame I would feel in having to re-sit English, how totally unbearable the humiliation would be.

I’m sorry to be so depressing. But if there’s anyone out there going through this same agonising wait, now you have proof- as I found when I read this article- that you are not alone.

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Hard as it is, I’m going to try and remember the words from this visualisation: you are strong, intelligent and kind, and no single event defines you, especially not an exam. Whatever some exam board says, those words are true. And, inner critic? You keep asking me to prove that I did well.

Prove- and I want concrete proof, not however I felt during the exams- that I didn’t. So there.

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