Last week I attended Newsweek and The Daily Beast’s Women in the World event. There were quite a few panels about India and Pakistan, and a lot of talk generally about women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)–all topics close to my heart. I was particularly touched by “Divya,” the Delhi rape victim whose trial awaits hearing in the High Court, and two of Malala’s peers who are fighting with equal courage for girls education in Pakistan (pictured above).
After working at the UN, this type of glitzy conference with tons of celebrities and journalists was quite a change, yet refreshing. I got to see Oprah! There was very little jargon and a broad overview of the situations women are facing around the world, which some might call unsubstantial or ineffective, but the way the media talks about important issues is more accessible and therefore more successful at raising awareness. The emotional impact of hearing individual women’s stories was palpable, and arguably deeper than that of a new resolution or policy paper. But alas, the two worlds of the UN and the media rarely meet. See my tweets from the event below.]]>
Other United Nations videos on the theme of gender and peacekeeping in previous years mostly took an interview format, so this was an opportunity to try something different. After discovering that a colleague had a previous career in filmmaking, we teamed up with our graphic designer and set out in a new direction.
Digital media tends to be looked at as less useful to peacekeeping missions that are charged with communicating their mandates to local populations with very limited Internet access. However, there is global political, public and media interest in peacekeeping and we need to be able to share our work in the field with those who follow it from overseas. We hope that with videos like this one, we could channel the power of this medium.
What do you think of the video?]]>
One of my first big projects while at UN Peacekeeping was the 2012 Year in Review digital campaign, which consisted mostly of creating and promoting the above timeline (click the image or here to see the real thing). Please scroll through and have a look at the many activities of 2012 where UN Peacekeeping contributed to stabilizing countries after conflict.]]>
It’s hard to believe I’ve been back in the US for a year and a half already! I’m starting to feel like a real New Yorker, for better or worse. I’ve recently started working as a digital media coordinator at UN Peacekeeping, and before that had a stint at UNICEF. I’m also still involved with communications projects in India, and one in Haiti. I’m always looking for new ones, so if you have one in mind, please let me know. In addition to my blog, I’ve begun a creative nonfiction writing project and I’m hoping for continued progress with it.
I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank those of you who were there to answer questions or provide support during this past year. It was greatly appreciated!]]>
My writer friend Katherine Jenkins tagged me to participate in the Next Big Thing online event. The Next Big Thing is a way for authors and bloggers to share the news about their most exciting upcoming projects. Katherine is the author of Lessons from the Monk I Married, about her 15-year journey with her husband, a former Korean Buddhist monk. The book is part memoir, part spiritual guide, part travelogue and was nominated for a Pacific Northwest Book Award. Katherine also blogs daily lessons and tidbits about life. Katherine and her husband conduct yoga/writing retreats and their next one will be in Kona, Hawaii, March 20-26.
Here are my answers to the questions about my Next Big Thing:
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The year after I came back from teaching in France, and was trying to adjust to life in New York, many issues began to surface that I wanted to write about. After I’d gone to India and had been there for over a year, the urge to write about my struggles and adventures resurfaced.
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Natalie Portman as moi, Imran Khan as my husband.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Hopefully an agency. Too early to tell.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
“Eat, Prey, Love” is the closest thing I can come up with. Whatever people may say about it, I found it entertaining! I also just read “How to be a Woman” and think I will touch on some of the same themes that Moran does.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
While in India, I experienced chronic health problems that forced me to look closely at my life, and want to share about it. I didn’t have the confidence or energy to attempt much at the time, but now that I have lived through more and the story has developed, I’ve become a more dedicated writer.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Besides the allure of living and traveling abroad, I’ll deal with deeper issues of identity, spirituality and a desire to remain rooted through community. I will touch on many aspects of modern life, from technology and social media, to timeless ones like sickness and health, love and relationships.
I’m passing on the torch on to Alicia Trotman, a member of my Queens writing workshop. Alicia is native to Trinidad and Tobago and resident of the United States. She an educator (doctorally certified) and a tea-ologist (art and science of tea). Her work revolves around researching and deconstructing difference and findings ways in which stories can be used as an advocacy tool to validate the abilities of students and teachers characterized with ‘disabilities’. Currently, her writing is based on her dissertation work, examining the function of the stories told by an elementary science teacher in a classroom that includes students with special and general educational needs. She blogs at http://edutrotea.edublogs.org/.
Since last Monday, I’ve watched in horror and disbelief at Superstorm Sandy’s devastation. At first it was unclear just how widespread the wreckage was, but it has been slowly unraveling with each day. I wanted to do something and tried to sign up to volunteer through the Red Cross, but there were several obstacles: they weren’t closeby; and they required you to be capable of working for 12 hr shifts and lifting 50 lbs. I skipped that, and started receiving emails from the NY tech for good community. I, like most people, was stranded without proper subway access but finally by Friday I found out about activities that were going on in Astoria through https://astoria.recovers.org.
I brought a donation and ended up staying at the house where they were being collected for several hours, putting my organizational skills to good use by helping with the huge task of sorting everything. I recalled something I’d read on the Red Cross site about them not accepting material donations because it was too difficult to sort and they preferred financial donations. People literally brought carloads of stuff that they’d just bought to give away, and others just walking by started asking how they could help. We had more things than could be transported fast enough, since there is a gas shortage and most people with cars were not able to make the drive out to the Rockaways. It was amazing to see the outpouring of community and compassion. On Saturday, a collection was organized at the library in part by a local chapter of Holistic Moms. Kids who were just hanging out there came down to help, as did the elderly. It was crowded and chaotic, but everyone was clearly happy to be there. Below are two videos and a slideshow from that day, where we raised over $3000 towards generators and sent over 20 carloads of donations to the Rockaways.
Yes, the city and big organizations like Red Cross are doing things but it simply doesn’t seem on a large enough scale, or fast enough. After I initially looked at the Red Cross website, I was deterred, and I was really happy I could still contribute in such a spontaneous yet meaningful way. I personally feel much better knowing that there’s something I can do to help, and it was clear that many others in the Astoria community felt the same.
These are photos of Astoria on Tuesday 10/30, just after Sandy.
Here are photos of the donation drop-off, Friday 11/2. Below, these two cars dropping off supplies suddenly agreed to take carloads to the Rockaways.
A video of Saturday’s collection at the library:
People were moving too fast for photos!
At the end, the organizer, Amy, gave a powerful speech:]]>
I’m personally fascinated to learn of new ways that large, often old organizations are adopting new and disruptive technologies for their projects. Many issues emerge, such as lack of digital literacy and coordination. For example, even if a new, technologically advanced project is launched, who will stick around long enough to make sure it keeps running smoothly?
The next Salon will be on October 17, sign up here. A summary of the first Salon in the series is here.
While my blog has taken on different forms since then, it was great to return once more to the ideas that once haunted me. A common word that Samhita kept mentioning yesterday was anger, and it was my very anger that drove me away from the feminist cause and to seek other answers. But I really liked how she said that she and the other writers at Feministing tend to be very goofy and that laughter can be a political strategy.
Despite the relative success of their blog, though, monetizing has been an issue for them since their model was always to push out as much content as possible, for free. Yet many other sites have more savvy business plans and there is a lot for them to learn still. They are also still working on their relationship to more traditional feminist organizations, and trying to see how to bridge the gaps between more local organizing and the online feminism that sites like theirs facilitate.
Check out the storify below to see what other participants thought!
When I first arrived, much about this place startled or confused me. The high prices and high-heeled shoes; the way people rushed everywhere, and took themselves so seriously; the overwhelming choice, from food to personal care products, and excessive packaging. Now I have become one of those people rushing. I constantly need to remind myself to slow down. Yet I often feel like I am not doing enough, not busy enough, not living enough, not organized enough, when there is simply so much to do. I am just learning how to plan my weekends in advance, because before, when I had so much free time, nothing needed to be planned. But I still don’t know what to do with all the packaging. How can it just be thrown away?
I left many things behind, but some stayed with me. I have shortened and adapted my yoga practice, but still do it as regularly as I can. I still never know what to make for dinner, although now I don’t have a maid to help me do it, and my cooking skills have barely improved. I’m still unsure of where I’m going, but I’m more sure that I’m in the right place.
I’ve been rediscovering many parts of myself that had grown withered from lack of use, including muscles. I’d become quite out of shape from not needing to walk anywhere, despite my daily yoga routine, and I am still figuring out how to build up my strength. I had nearly forgotten about my love of dance, the thrill of driving a car, and the pleasure of hitting a tennis ball. Even taking the subway has its own charm, because I can easily get myself where I need to go without having to haggle with anyone.
My words—I still struggle to find the right ones—have been slow to return to me. I have had to re-learn how to speak, especially in a professional setting. How to present my thoughts and feelings in a coherent, rational manner. Now that I have started working in an office, for the first time in several years, I am constantly surrounded by people and potential interruptions. It has challenged me to focus my mind and energies to such a large degree that I experience a level of mental exhaustion I probably haven’t felt since college. But it’s a sweet and satisfying feeling in the end, one which signals that I am pushing myself to my highest potential.
Recently I have been struggling with some stomach problems that I thought were only possible in India, but that have followed me here. It’s been a month now since they started and I sincerely hope that they will go suddenly in the same way that they came. Maybe my body is trying to remind me to be more grateful that I am here, and to take things less seriously, less like a New Yorker.]]>
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a huge social media campaign called #SahelNOW to raise awareness about the one million children at risk of dying from malnutrition in the Sahel region of Africa. The campaign was coordinated on short notice amongst and across several international UNICEF offices, and CNN’s social media journalist Phil Han covered it on the first two days, April 3rd and 4th–you can watch the short segments by clicking on the links. And if you would like to contribute, please visit supportunicef.org!
Below, he’s showing a tweet I’d written in reponse to one by another CNN journalist who’d just interviewed Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s Executive Director. It was an unbelievable experience to be a part of. While the initial launch is over, I have continued to curate content for weekly packages sent to our global offices.
See the Storify here:
I had heard from many sources that the most common way of getting a job was through your network, and I was going to all manner of events to make this happen. Working with Beth Kanter, she forwarded me an email from someone at UNICEF looking for a consultant. I didn’t get that particular project, but a few months later contacted the person again, had an informal interview, and was told they didn’t have anything at the time. A month later, I got a call and was asked if I could help out for a while.
Ever since coming back to the us, I have had the UN in my sights. I felt it was one of the few places that would value my international experience, but I had no idea how to get into the vast system. Now I have a slightly better idea!]]>