Realisation of the bridge between personal and political

Way back when I was studying for my doctorate whilst living in Nepal I was doing research that involved working with women to explore what in their lives was contributing to their health and wellbeing and get them to take on projects that would improve their lives. I loved the work and enjoyed the co-design and creativity that arose from our joint work. My doctorate ended up being called, “Meetings with meaning: health dynamics in rural Nepal”. I was passionate about my work as it gave me the opportunity to understand a different view of the world and to see the overlaps between two distinctly different cultures. In rural Nepal women do much of the work but are rarely listened to. They have low levels of literacy and many never have the opportunity to go to school. I loved to see them learning to read for themselves, taking their power and getting things done. One village went from having no latrines to over half of the homes having them with a corresponding decrease in childhood diarrohea. They took on a personal and political dynamic and began to have their own voice. Some of the women established their own non-governmental organisation and continue to create ripples in their world.

Can we rely on it that a “turning round” will be accomplished by enough people quickly enough to save the modern world? The question is often asked, but whatever the answer given to it will mislead, The answer “yes” would lead to complacency; the answer “no”, to despair. It is desirable to leave these perplexities behind us and get down to work”  E.F. Schumacher

We need to treat things in a different way now; gone are the times when we see things as fixed and stable with the possibility of a job for life. Instead it is time where everything that we once saw as being stable may break down completely. The women I knew in Nepal were creating turning points by pushing the boundaries of what was convention. A breakdown can be the start of a breakthrough, it can be a way of fast forwarding to a place for a future of radical transformation. Something personal is happening for many, where we are putting an end to thoughts and ideas that have ruled over our world, ones that have previously helped people make sense of their world but they now fail to make sense of where we are now and no longer provide meaning or an explanation. To many, our minds are overwhelmed by too much information, much of it is false news, or it no longer applies to us. We learn to zone out or switch off: it becomes understandable then that most of us would just ask to be excused and leave the party early. Or you can persevere as Maya Angelou expresses so eloquently in her poem, “Still I rise”.

Still I rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
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