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New Social Compact

Session with the Psychologist

Abigail George

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I plunge into the sudden glare of fury, hysteria and trepidation. There is a primal scream inside each of my hypomanic brain cells.

The afternoon of the mind drifts into view. The adult me, and I fly out into silence and my mother’s perfume. She is hip and elegant like the handsome tigers at the zoo. She is smart. Way too smart to love me with her golden attempts of cooking for three. She could have left long ago, instead, she stayed. I call that mother love. I say to my reflection. I am a collection of language, of translations, of ‘the incident’, the attempted suicide and a collection of relapses and recoveries in hospitals all over South Africa. Tara, Garden City Clinic, Hunterscraig, and Helen Joseph. Only the best for a rest.

Trauma. I have a different kind of trauma than anybody else in this world. I have a different kind of oxygen than anybody else in this world. I was a late bloomer. A latecomer separated from girls my own age but nobody knew what to call it then. Certainly not ‘mental illness’. I have a perverse lust for life. I am stuck alone in a cave and I am at a loss for words. What to do with myself? What does it feel like to be a wife, to have a spouse, to live in a large, spacious house, have that sedan parked in the garage? What does it feel like to curl up in a bedroom at night in the foetal position or with a book feeling safe with another warm, living, breathing body sleeping next to you?

Someone who will feed the dogs, take the rubbish out. Someone who will call you a ‘brilliant chef’, someone who will call you ‘mummy’, someone who will call you ‘lover’ a million times in a married lifetime.

There is someone, people, a son, an heir to the throne who loves the way my mother plates vegetables. Plates her broccoli. They do not find her spiritual meetings ridiculous. They might argue as if people argued about the earth being flat not round, stupid or not within her earshot. My mother has become brave enough to namedrop her spiritual guides. Cynthia is prominent. She comes through often. Helps my mum decide whether its soup or chicken for supper.

Once upon a time, a man took a wife. He wed her in a church. They had the wedding reception in the church hall. Between the church and the reception, the husband in question lost one of his white gloves. They took the wedding photographs in a park. You could feel the affection that they had for each other just from looking at their faces. At their beautiful, sickening and awesome youth. You felt you did not belong there. You felt you did not belong in that year. Besides, I had not even born yet.

The idea of me had been conceived perhaps in my mother’s brain. I looked and looked and looked to see something of myself in that wife in the picture, the newlywed with her freshly washed and rinsed, perfumed hair. Women need love like air but men are altogether another kettle of fish. Fish and kettles. What do one have to do with the other? Go figure these English idioms. Men become very enthusiastic about sophisticated women. Women who are elegant. Woman who will smoke, and drink with them.

Women who will laugh at their unfunny jokes, and then take walks with them in the dark park or sit with them in the backseat of a car. Men are stupid like that. They prefer vanity above sanity. They like it when women touch their hair (as if there is a hair out of place) or ask for a cigarette. The way she holds it as he lights it up for her. The way she breathes in the smoke as if it is slick particular. I know that my brother has gone out with girls like this. He does not go for girls like me.

Quiet, bookish, much too serious for my age, emotionally mature, chubby, nervous in crowds, anxious around dark-haired good-looking boys who wore blazers. He does not go for a girl who sweats and who does not curse. His kind of girl perspires. His kind of girl says the other words for crap and sex. I am the kind of girl older men refer to as ‘dear’ and women, aunties call ‘okay love’ or ‘are you okay’ or ‘luvvy’ at the end of their sentences. As if, I am meant to be talented but also a stranger in a strange world.

A self-imposed exile in an asylum. I could not see anything of me in my mum. She was a wife at twenty-five. She had it made or had made it. She had found love whereas I was looking at a lifetime of binge eating, of takeaways, of dreaming, of hope in the centre of winter, of a relapse in a mental hospital, of pain, of chocolate, of tuna fish sandwiches with lopsided flowers of wilted lettuce. She had found love, made love this heavenly creature, this fierce creature, this intelligent creature.

She had done the impossible. She had found love in the time of tuberculosis. My father was educated and that made him posh but he did not come from money. My mother came from money. Her father was a police officer and that meant that she came from money. Her family had paid for the entire wedding. My father was mentally ill. He was not as mentally ill as all that. As all that his siblings made him out to be.

He only suffered from spells of darkness visible. Spells of depression. His family were responsible for that. I blame them. His mother worked as a housekeeper and took in washing. His father drank. Worked at a country club. His brothers drank. Estranged from them all in the end they all had dysfunctional families. Childhood memories, like sunken treasure can survive. I do not know what crazy is. What is its purpose? I know I am infinitely crazier than my father ever was but that has more to do with the genes of a woman who has a hypomanic brain. I want joy. I really do but do I want it more than love because at the end of the day, when you cannot read by the afternoon light anymore joy and love remains out of reach, distant.

Asylum. That was what they called in the old days. They would just lock you up and you would bang/bash your head against the walls until (wait for it) nothing. Unreality I suppose. I am misunderstood but the thing is I have worked very hard to be misunderstood. The depression blotted out the broken crockery. The mania made me love men and see them through binoculars. The hypomania made me ‘see’ things that really were not there. I heard voices. I really did. I thought it was all my emotional baggage coming back to me. Winter makes a pure sound. Confessions never lead to answers. Funny, so does hellish depression. I have earned those white stripes.

Abigail George is a feminist, poet and short story writer. She is the recipient of two South African National Arts Council Writing Grants, one from the Centre for the Book and the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council. She was born and raised in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Cape of South Africa, educated there and in Swaziland and Johannesburg. She has written a novella, books of poetry, and collections of short stories. She is busy with her brother putting the final additions to a biography on her father’s life. Her work has recently been anthologised in the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology IV. Her work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She briefly studied film.

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New Social Compact

Women and girls with autism must be empowered to overcome discrimination they face

MD Staff

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On World Autism Awareness Day, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has joined the global call to empower women and girls with autism and involve them and their advocates in policy and decision-making to address the discrimination and other challenges they face.

“They face […] barriers to accessing education and employment on an equal footing with others, denial of their reproductive rights and the freedom to make their own choices, and a lack of involvement in policy making on matters that concern them,” said the Secretary-General in his message on the Day.

Emphasizing that “our work for gender equality and women’s empowerment must reach all the world’s women and girls,” he stressed that the international community’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must uphold the 2030 Agenda’s core promise to leave no one behind.

The Goals and the landmark framework from which they emerged were adopted by UN Member States three years ago. Together they aim to wipe out poverty and boost equality by putting the world on a more sustainable economic, social and environmental path by 2030.

“On World Autism Awareness Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to promote the full participation of all people with autism, and ensure they have the necessary support to be able to exercise their rights and fundamental freedoms,” concluded the Mr. Guterres.

Autism is a lifelong neurological condition that manifests during early childhood, irrespective of gender, race or socio-economic status. The term Autism Spectrum refers to a range of characteristics.

Autism is mainly characterized by its unique social interactions, non-standard ways of learning, keen interests in specific subjects, inclination to routines, challenges in typical communications and particular ways of processing sensory information.

The rate of autism in all regions of the world is high and the lack of understanding has a tremendous impact on the individuals, their families and communities.

The World Day is marked annually on 2 April, and this year’s official UN commemoration will be on Thursday, 5 April, with a half-day programme in New York entitled Empowering Women and Girls with Autism, that will feature a keynote address from Julia Bascom, Executive Director, Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

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New Social Compact

Law in societies: Encounters vs. Anarchy

David Ceasar Wani

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In this essay I will discuss the purpose of law in society but before I go further law refers to the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and may enforce by the imposition of penalties.

Some human beings can be aptly described as weak willed animals. They are easily influenced by the slightest sight or sniff of power and money. This originates from insatiable greed. Greed that can sometimes make even the iron willed loses their head. How many stories have we heard since our childhood where many “heroes” lost their way to the path of glory by being trapped by greed?

Our one aim in life has always been to find balance and serenity in our lives. A utopian society envisages a vision where people govern themselves. People trust each other blindly. They achieve happiness. People set their goals, lead disciplined lives and achieve anything they set their sights on They are able to live their lives to the fullest and all the time feeling secure about it.

However the vision, unfortunately, exists in an ideal world which frankly is almost the opposite of today’s real world. Our realistic society is heterogeneous mixture of all kinds of people, people who look to disturb the balance of the natural society. It is here that law plays a very important role in restoring that delicate balance back to the society and making the lives of the people living together cohesive. It is here that law helps to maintain the morality of the people as individuals as well as the society as a whole.

World without Let us imagine a world without any law to punish the wrong doer. Let us assume that the society has till now lived an honest life without any kind of betrayal. Suppose a person, in greed, steals a valuable item from his neighbor’s house. He isn’t punished but everyone knows what he has done. Some naive person, probably a youngster witnesses this and is tempted to steal because he knows there are no repercussions. This develops into a never-ending chain endangering the very foundations of the society.

Another example might be a survival situation. A group of people are stranded on an island with twenty days of food and water. They know that a rescue team will reach them on the twenty first day. They carefully divide the food such that they get the necessary nourishments by the time they are rescued. A person, out of greed for more, sneaks quietly and consumes two days of food meant for the whole group. When the group discovers what has happened they confront the person who cunningly reasons with the group that there was no rule or law which forbade eating more. As the group consisted of educated men and women, both young and old, they knew his reasoning was correct and they could not do anything to get the food back. As a result, they starved for two whole days during which a few old people fell ill and could not make it.

Law is essential and many do ask why and how but Law is essential in the society and it is there to guide the society towards happiness without bloodshed and in peace and harmony. Law helps us to restrain ourselves in times of great thirst for more money or power. It curbs our greed reminding us that there is someone or rather something out there ready to punish us if necessary. It helps to restore the balance in the society and bring justice to the victimized. The greatest thing about law is that all are equal before it. No man is rich or poor in the eyes of the law. No man is more powerful than the other in the eyes of the law. Law helps to regulate the behavior of the people. It prevents us from descending into anarchy.

Law is dynamic. It is constantly adapting to the changing times so as to close all the loopholes that may be left due to human error. Our Preamble states the ideals of justice liberty sovereignty fraternity and equality which constitute the basic foundation of Our Constitution. However, without law these ideals will be constantly shattered. There will be nothing to protect these ideals.

In a world where ‘survival of the fittest’ is prevalent, and looking at the size of human population we can say only one thing. Law is needed for survival. We cannot go against each other as it will definitely lead to destruction. Law plants an element of fear which may prevents in killing of fellow human being. It gives each one his or her own share, what they deserve.

Laws tell us what to expect as consequences as a result of our actions. It makes us look before we leap. It is there to protect and to destroy. It restricts people who get carried away due to the freedom given to them by the absence of law if this is the case. They know one abuse of the law will affect them economically, mentally and physically. Some exceptions may be found but this is applicable for the majority.

In addition the natural law which can be refers to Mother Nature herself which follows many rules and laws which help in the sustainability of this world and the life which flourishes on it in abundance. Every living organism, from the tiny unicellular amoeba to the biggest animal the blue whale follows a set of laws to survive.

Let us take the examples of honey bees. They follow the orders of the queen bee and visit hundreds and thousands of flowers to carry the process of pollination which helps in reproduction of these plants. They have to follow a set of rules or laws which will help in this important process. If one of them breaks the law, they are ordered to leave the bee hive. They cannot join another hive nor can they return. It is as good as giving them a life sentence. This life-threatening situation helps to keep the honey bees in check and brings order into the hive.

Same can be said for the birds which migrate every winter or summer depending upon their pattern. They have to follow a set of rules or laws which will help them navigate their way. One abuse of these laws can lead to cases extreme to death.

When in the modern society our modern society has become quite educated and the main question that arises from them is that who has the authority to form these laws which imposes a restriction on their lives. They question and debate upon the authority that makes these laws and rightly so. Once they are satisfied with the authority they know that their lives are secure and they are free to concentrate on their aims and dreams in life. Law is there to attempt to balance the needs of individuals against the needs of the majority. We accept responsibilities, we renounce some of our freedoms (not kill others, not harm others, not steal from other members of the society) to receive in return the benefits of society (not being kill by others, not being harm by others, not being robbed by other members of the society).

Law helps in removal of social stigmas such as dowry and untouchability. For example, in some Constitutions, it talks about untouchability and even though it still exists today, the number of cases has comparatively gone down a lot. This is just one example that law can have in a society which is not perfect, a society where human beings fight, and abuse and kill their own species. This is how law helps in protection of the underprivileged.

Furthermore Law plays a significant role in producing successful societal functions around the world. Law helps regulate social behaviors, ultimately leading to society running efficiently. Without laws, society would have no ethical boundaries or standards, no rules or measures, nor any means of settling even the simplest disputes. Law helps keep the peace in society through governance and standards set forth by all voting citizens. All functions of law in society include peacekeeping, promoting personal freedom, regulating government power, promoting economic growth, promoting social justice, and protecting all of society and the environment. It is important to remember without laws to govern the actions of people in society, it is highly likely all social structure and commerce would collapse. If one can imagine what life would be like if every prisoner in the world were to be released back into society that would be about how unsafe and dysfunctional society would be without laws (Melvin, 2011).

Law and Society The function of law in a society is more or less universal. It acts as a deterrent to control the evil and treacherous behavior of humans, to maintain discipline and imposes restrictions on some freedom. We live in a chaotic and uncertain world. Without an orderly environment based on and backed by law, the normal activities of life would be lacerated with chaos. Law is a social norm, the infraction of which is sanctioned in treat or in fact by the application of physical force or by a party possessing the socially recognized privilege or so acting. It provides a society with order and predictability, resolving disputes, protecting individuals and property, providing for the general welfare and protecting individual liberties. Law and the predictability it provides cannot guarantee us a totally safe world, but it can create a climate in which people believe it is worthwhile to produce, venture fort, and to live for the morrow. It prevents the state of nature, which would be total anarchy had there been no laws. Societies today are more complex and interacting. Maintaining good order and discipline have far reaching implications on a society’s prosperity. Laws are in acted daily throughout different societies for the protection and security of individuals, property, businesses and states. It permits an orderly, peaceful process for dispute resolution and provides us with the programs to establish and enable corporately, what would be impossible, or at least prohibitive, to do as individuals. Laws should be designed to protect the individual personal and civil rights against those forces, which would curtail or restrict them. Some examples of this are freedom of speech, religion, the press, the right to a fair trial and the freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. In the United States the respect for the law is paramount and disobedience to the law.

In conclusion it can be implied by common sense that law helps us to survive as a society and it is convenient. Convenient is comfortable and humans look for comfort above all things apart from happiness. Also law helps in getting rid of the social barriers that exist in our society. Through law we survive yet thrive. Hence law is necessary in a society.

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New Social Compact

The holistic gender and media agenda in focus

MD Staff

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Achieving gender equality in and through media requires a comprehensive approach covering a full gamut of longstanding as well as new challenges.

Assessing the issues – ranging from media ownership and staffing, news coverage, the safety of women journalists, through to policy effectiveness – is essential if society is to overcome the snail’s pace of progress to date.

This was the thread running through a panel session convened at the UN headquarters in New York on 23 March by UNESCO and the Global Alliance for Media and Gender (GAMAG).

Taking place as a side event during the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women  (CSW), the occasion previewed a number of analytical position papers which GAMAG had prepared with the support of The Netherlands and channeled through UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

The position papers, to be published in book format later this year, helped GAMAG to focus its advocacy around the CSW’s annual review theme on women’s’ participation in, and access to, the media and information and communications technologies.

The work also helped towards references to media and ICT being included in the CSW’s conclusions concerning its primary theme of “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”.

Aimée Vega Montiel from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the Interim Chair of GAMAG presented the wider context of the position papers. She pointed out that media has a key role in the achievement of gender equality across all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals through shaping the social and cultural norms underpinning discrimination and inequality.

Sarah Macharia of the World Association for Christian Communication and co-ordinator for the Global Media Monitoring Project  flagged how little progress has been made in the portrayal of women in media. Within a 10-year timeframe, women’s appearance as experts in media has only risen by 2 percent.

Combatting sexist stereotypes is a necessary part of the process but it is hindered by the low representation of women in decision-making roles on boards of media companies. As Carolyn Byerly, a professor at Howard University noted, media and social media power is still highly concentrated in the hands of men. She cited research showing that out of the 100 largest media companies, only 6% have a woman CEO.

Rampant sexual harassment within the media and society is an enduring problem, with women journalists being abused within newsrooms and also by sources, said Mindy Ran from the International Federation of Journalists.

She said that women in media faced a “triple jeopardy” – enduring the same risks as their male counterparts, social pressures because they are female, and additional abuse because of the combination of being a woman who is a journalist. “Protection mechanisms are often completely inadequate at workplaces”.

Claudia Padovani from Padova University in Italy signaled the importance of having effective policy to mainstream gender equality in and through media. She highlighted, however, that many governments lacked such an instrument, and that there are questions about the effectiveness even where policies exist.

Abeer Sa’ady, Vice President of International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) summarized the discussion, urging that “we need to close the gap between good intentions and practices”.

Gender equality should be everyone’s concern, she said. “It is not about women, but about everyone, about men and women”, adding that there was a need for action across governments, trade unions, universities, civil society and private and public sectors.

UNESCO’s Guy Berger, Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, called for relevant actors to introduce or revise gender policies for media in order to ensure greater implementation.

Many governmental, social media and newsroom policies serve only as “weak symbols” that may reflect the aspirational gender norms, but are not translated into practices, he noted.

The event was moderated by June Nicholson from Virginia Commonwealth University .

UNESCO

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