• Counting down to World Humanitarian Day

    As I write this, I’m watching a countdown on the worldhumanitarianday.org website ready to reveal 24 stories of extraordinary women on Monday, 19th August.

    World Humanitarian Day 2019 is set to celebrate Women Humanitarians and their undying contribution in making the world a better place. Women Humanitarians hold a sense of unparalleled uniqueness, one that adds to the global momentum of female strength, power and perseverance. It is time to honor the women who have acted as first responders to the darkest hours of crisis.*

    The first thing I ask myself about this planned day is why are we honouring women specifically?  Surely there are men who need as much accolade? Of course there are. However, women face different challenges in life, especially when it comes to disaster and conflict. It is in the face of these obstacles and experiences that women humanitarians need to be recognised.  According to the U.N., violence against women and girls increases during disasters and conflict and 1 in 5 displaced women are the victims of sexual violence. These statistics could leave one viewing that sector of society as victims, cast aside with no resources for survival. What marks World Humanitarian Day 2019 is that women, globally, are not choosing to accept the title of victim and in spite of abhorrent circumstances, often emerge displaying leadership skills proving essential to the rehabilitation and resilience of their families, friends and communities.

    Famous female humanitarians we know of, such as Angelina Jolie and Graca Machel need no additional praise. Even though I will continue to celebrate how they have used their public influence to bring about awareness and change to different lives, we all need to recognise those women who continue to live and support others in dire times, often risking their own physical and mental health and wellbeing in the process.  The women who don’t have money, fame, resources and who are still first on the scene to help and alleviate the results of war and disasters need your time to honour and recognise them and their efforts. These role models display strength and determination to build better communities and ultimately, society.

    I live with the privilege of a safe country which is working towards gender equality. Whilst we agree gender equality is essential, there are many countries where women humanitarians are working hard for women and girls to be valued and viewed as equals to men and boys respectively. I complain when I see inequitable pay scales in employment. I have no idea what it means to be cast aside and seen as being of less worth than my brother or my husband. It takes fearless valour to put oneself forward in situations where one is dismissed and often violently targeted, to help others.

    As long as women are affected by crisis and disaster, women need to be among the first responders to heal and change and on 19th August, 24 stories will afford a tiny glimpse of courage and resilience of 24 women humanitarians. I hope you will take the time to engage worldhumanitarianday.org and, over 24 hours, honour leadership that has thrown away the shackles of conflict and disaster and continues to forge the emotional steel for rescue, survival and progress.

    Humanitarians are not only first responders. They can be organisers and decision makers for community projects funded, very often, through foreign aid.  Areas concerning “human development for a productive and healthy society”** include efforts to address problems such as maternal mortality, child stunting, poor literacy and numeracy, combatting diseases, all of which drastically affect and limit the opportunities within the workforce and ultimately the productivity of the society.  Women are finally taking their place and very often leading these areas of improvement.

    Humanitarians are also involved with policy influencing in countries.  For example, in Indonesia there is a Australian foreign aid budgeted for specific woman’s program which are supporting the development of 950 women’s groups. These help 17,409 female members to participate in policy-influencing activities with regard to issues like women’s access to employment and encourage women’s leadership to reduce violence against women and girls.

    I grew up in Africa. Part of the time was spent in South Africa during apartheid. My mother was sacked from being the Principal of Drake Secretarial College, when during a buyout bid, the owners discovered she wanted to make it multiracial. Undeterred, she set up her own Secretarial College and in the face of student harassment and 90 day detentions of students simply for enrolling, she continued to offer international qualifications to those women (and some men)  who wanted and needed a chance for education and employment. She is my hero and first taught me about humanitarian ideals.  In her retirement, she supported herself, and taught Karen and Hmong children English for free, to help them secure a better future for themselves, their families and communities.  While we can’t all do this kind of work, we can have the attitude for aid.

    My challenge to you, whatever your gender, is to consider being a force for change which directly influences the wellbeing of your fellow humans.  I am assuming the majority of readers are from countries where these types of projects already exist. What are you doing to support them? If you cannot support them physically, are you supporting them financially through donation?  Finally, if you are able, how about sponsoring a foreign group in order to support the aid of another society in their progress, development and safety? Should our own societies, one day, be torn in war or disaster, are you the kind of person who can demonstrate leadership in response? We don’t have to wait for war or conflict. Natural disasters happen in many countries. What do you do to support aid and relief? Be the change you want to see. Be the leader within your own friendship groups and family and offer a foot-rock of stability, progress, safety and equality for all.

    *from OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.)
    **from Australia Embassy Indonesia

      • Sue Mitchell

      • August 17, 2019 at 9:12 pm
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      A powerful article. Women show incredible strength and ingenuity under horrific circumstances, they truly are the glue holding together families and by extension communities. I hope I live to see the day when we no longer need to tell these stories. In the meantime, keep spreading the word, raising awareness and supporting those who so desperately need our help.

      • Thank you Sue, they certainly do. Fingers crossed for a more enlightened world.

        • AJ

        • August 18, 2019 at 4:09 pm
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        Nicely put!

        • AJ

        • August 18, 2019 at 4:14 pm
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      • Neil

      • August 17, 2019 at 9:31 pm
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      Thank you for writing this article

      • Thank you Neil – it’s good to raise awareness.

        • Carli

        • August 18, 2019 at 5:14 pm
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        Very powerful article and not something I think about in my ignorance to said issues. Thank you for raising my awareness.

      • Jerry Ross

      • August 17, 2019 at 10:03 pm
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      Wonderful and powerful article. How is it that I am so fortunate as to know such fantastic, inspiring, and engaged people? You are a true treasure of a human, my friend.

      • Michele

      • August 17, 2019 at 10:48 pm
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      This story unfolds cleverly. From general thoughts about the strength of women, through specific examples…then wham…a personal, emotional account of the author’s mother.

      • Kerryn

      • August 17, 2019 at 11:04 pm
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      Great article. Look forward to watching the stories of all those amazing women.

      • Craig

      • August 17, 2019 at 11:41 pm
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      Great article, despite all the gains, we still have a long way to go

      • It’s true, globally we do, but please share this article and continue to raise awareness .

      • Marilyn

      • August 17, 2019 at 11:52 pm
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      Very well written & certainly a very thought provoking article.

      • Jill Longton

      • August 18, 2019 at 12:36 am
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      Very powerful article

      • Guevara

      • August 18, 2019 at 1:05 am
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      Excellent article. I’m originally from a country where the humanitarian projects you refer to do not exist. In fact, though i’m male I moved to the UK to avoid human rights abuses. Women where i’m from suffer endlessly from rape and domestic abuse. My country was once listed as number 3 in the world for rape. I look forward to the day when all of these problems facing humans all over the world can be effectively dealt with.

      • Thanks for your comment. It serves us well to remember that there are many countries out there without humanitarian aid.

      • Guevara

      • August 18, 2019 at 2:58 am
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      Excellent article. I’m personally aware of human rights abuses which take place in some counties of the world. I’m also aware that in my country of origin women face unending abuses such as rape and domestic abuse with practically no assistance or recourse to law. I look forward to the day when we do not have to think about these things anymore.

      • P. K. Harmon

      • August 18, 2019 at 4:23 am
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      A thoughtful and inspirational article—thanks for that. As is made implicit in your writing, we all need to heed the call to action, especially if we are fortunate enough to be shielded from the world’s more heartbreaking failings.

      • Thank you P.K. It’s good that we all get a chance to do something in life, no matter how small.

      • Chris Philpott

      • August 18, 2019 at 12:51 pm
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      A very timely and thought provoking article, and so lovely that you recognise & acknowledge your Mum’s humanitarian contribution . I shall certainly listen to the stories .

      • Alex Miller

      • August 18, 2019 at 3:22 pm
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      Extremely well written at a time when the world certainly needs a bit of compassion. Well said old friend.

      • Debbi

      • August 18, 2019 at 4:02 pm
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      Wonderful article & so on point at this time in human history. It’s good to remind people that we can all do our bit to raise awareness & help all women, world wide, receive the treatment & respect they are due. Well done Jane

      • Sue Pillows

      • August 18, 2019 at 4:17 pm
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      Wow. Powerful words. Awesome point of view. Three thumbs up

      • VC Ormsby

      • August 18, 2019 at 4:25 pm
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      Wow! Thanks JL Nash for writing such a thought provoking article. The world seems to be suffering from violence and ennui. I look forward to reading about these inspirational women.

      • Rebecca Morris

      • August 18, 2019 at 4:29 pm
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      Great article Jane, I will spread the word!

      • Jo

      • August 18, 2019 at 5:26 pm
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      Inspiration for us all. Thank you for stepping up and being the voice.

      • Rard Changizi

      • August 18, 2019 at 6:34 pm
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      Great article that many could do with taking heed of. We all need to do more for our fellow humans in what ever way we can. If everyone understood this article and took action, the World would be a much better place to live for all.

      • Maya Stiles Parsons Spier

      • August 18, 2019 at 10:32 pm
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      When we see each other’s human faces, our empathy engages as it must as we are to survive. And yes, women will drive the world’s healing if we can. Gorgeous column!!! <3

      • Emily

      • August 19, 2019 at 12:28 am
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      Important stuff that we all too often don’t consider or brush aside for ‘someone else’ to worry about. Thank you for raising my awareness and making me think about what I could do.

      • Maria

      • August 19, 2019 at 1:33 am
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      Excellent article. Indeed every day should be dedicated to acknowledge women in world humanitarian day(s). The disparity in gender equality still displays a big gap between men and women. Not to count the horrendous sexual abuses that women are subject to daily – everywhere in this planet. Recently watched a movie from Macedonia showcased at MIFF 2019; the movie named God exists her name is Petrunya. And it recounts the patriarchal traditions going on for centuries, A young, educated female was subjected to abuse after she unconsciously jumps into the river where the blessing of the cross was being held. And she was the sole person able to retrieve this cross… Only men were able to enter this ritual!
      Indeed we need to work everyday to champion women and bring consciousness. Particularly in undeveloped countries where marginalised societies can perpetuate this sort of behaviours and it is very difficult to change.

      • Interesting example in your comment Maria – thank you for sharing and thank you for your comment. Much appreciated.

      • Petrocelli

      • August 19, 2019 at 1:48 am
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      Thought provoking piece and it did make me think. Your style and ease of writing let me think quickly.
      It is a really well written and highlights such an important issue but I’m struggling with this topic, as I have such strong views on this mode view that all women are, as (with respect) Sue puts it, ‘the glue’. Not all are! I have sadly represented some horrendous female individuals who have really hurt people, when I was practicing as a lawyer in this ‘civilised country’ – the UK. I have also represented some wonderful men who were too hounded and hunted because of what lay beneath their skin, specifically their choices in life and for being born a man. I feel the need to give some context, as we so often celebrate women and not so much us good men, that some women are as messed up as men and damage people as some men do, and whilst I join in celebration of a specific gender and their deeds, I find it a little hard digest when my gender is celebrated for little at times and with no accolades as we are the paedophile gender, the rape gender, the domestic abuse gender, and all I have in my favour is that people know me as Pete…the ‘good man’, the ‘excellent dad’ the ‘kind husband’, the ‘loving son and brother’, that these traits are linked to me as an individual and not to me as a man…who is strong and kind as many men are. It is awful that I am not allowed to attend one of my daughter’s trips abroad as it is a mum and daughter only event. I however need to accept this because I am aware that some men (and obviously the minority as paedophilia is not the normal character trait of a man) look at young girls differently than I do. It’s awful to feel embarrassed about your skin and what lies beneath because some around you, and many in other countries with different values but in the same uniform, dishonours it. All I can do is fight for why I wear my uniform with pride and integrity and that I wholly respect good and amazing people especially women who need to fight not only for their lives but also for their uniform to be seen and respected. I don’t want my comments detracting from the writing, if that’s ok, as it is beautifully written which allows one’s mind to flow. You have condensed such an important issue into a bite sized easy read, Jane, not easy to do and that’s coming from a lawyer who finds it hard to tell a story in 1 page!! I would love for you write a piece on those wonderful men who fill roles that are historically seen as a female’s domain, the male primary school teacher who is that amazing male role model for kids who don’t have a good one, the male nurses who are phenomenal, professional and compassionate of which my brother is one and amazing one too and my favourite of all, the male nursery/crèche nurse who looks after your under five’s as you go to work. Let’s celebrate them too because they face challenges every day, the justification that they aren’t a predator. On the flip side I can’t escape the abhorrent abuse and inequality that women face in less western based civilised societies, so I will celebrate the women around the world who do good and amazing things for others, and will celebrate the women in my life who brought me up, guided me as my sibling and loved, cherished and respected me as my wife – for you all see me as a man, a good man. So I will celebrate each separate International day’s of March 8th and November 19th with the same vigour and to rejoice in the fact that we are different, men and women, and it’s healthy to be different as long as we respect these nuances and strengths and to fight together against these fight flaws in characters, so to end the stereotypical versions of how we are times we all sadly painted.
      Keep the articles coming Jane, as I look out for them. This is what good writing should do, stir emotions and create debate so to bring us all together as one collective job lot…humans.x

      • Thank you for your very considered reply and open debate on the subject. Many points, agree with you and thank you for celebrating the women who make changes – I accept your challenge too. Watch out for future articles!

          • Petrocelli

          • August 19, 2019 at 6:12 am

          I should have maybe, and more wisely, added that we should maybe disregard the International gender specific days and just go for International Human Day. Where we celebrate just revered and excellent people which is linked to their ethics, kindness and morality….peace and love always. Thank you for writing what and how you do.

        • I too would like to celebrate a human day where we are all equal under the sun and the moon. Perhaps one day we will see this in our lifetime. Perhaps.

    • Beautifully and powerfully written and certainly good for thought. Thank you for sharing; I will share further… kx

      “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi

      • Divinity lies within each of us it’s the hunters call that raises us from momentary apathy into action.

      • Richard Dell

      • August 20, 2019 at 3:06 am
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      Important article, and well said. I am more and more aware of how humanity, through so much of its history, sidelined 50% of its talent by sidelining women. As a school principal (now retired) so much of my work was with mothers. The talent was forever staring us in the face. I remember a photo, from years back, of a young girl sitting beside an old man whom she had been required to marry. She had wanted to complete her schooling. Her face, her eyes, still haunt me.

      • Jean Taylor

      • August 20, 2019 at 6:05 am
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      A must read Janet! Eloquently and clearly put. Brava.

      • Kate Quentin-hicks

      • August 20, 2019 at 7:22 am
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      I really enjoyed reading this article. It is both enlightening and thought provoking. Thank you.

      • WHy not subscribe to Ipinion Syndicate (it’s free) to get other thought provoking articles in your inbox?

      • Ben Yetton

      • August 20, 2019 at 1:17 pm
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      Very good and powerful article.

      • piptik

      • August 23, 2019 at 4:26 am
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      I love that! As a Dad to numerous daughters, I thought it a very well considered and presented article.

      • Allison

      • August 28, 2019 at 3:23 am
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      Thanks JL Nash for always presenting an angle that causes a friction in one’s comfort zone. It is with this friction and irritation that we get up off our bums and notice what is happening around us and take part in positive change.

      • Suzanne R Whyte

      • September 4, 2019 at 6:46 am
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      Thank you JL Nash for your ability to speak for all women around the world who in many cases do choose to survive through creating positive change for our community, nation and world. Most of all thank you for your directive in offering ways that everyone can contribute. Most people just don’t know what to do or how to go about doing it.

      In my own community, and it’s not a 3rd world community, there is a large need for an uplift of mind and action. I felt your words and inspiration in my heart and I am grateful for your gift of love for all women by honoring each of us. You are a true inspiration! Thank you!

      • Don

      • September 6, 2019 at 6:04 am
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      As usual, inciteful and challenging.

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