Remembering

I’ve realized that I have a new tendency of being cautious. I’m not sure why this is, but I noticed that over the past two months (the first two months of graduate school) I have been very cautious. I have been observing the ways that people interact, trying to determine what is or is not normal or common practice. It’s a strange thing to do I guess, but it comes from a history of being a ‘people-watcher’. I like to watch and observe my surroundings to best decide how I should interact with those surroundings. I’m not sure how I feel about this yet, because I miss being a bit more reckless – throwing myself into any given situation putting 100% of my heart and soul into it.

I don’t do that anymore.

I will do it again though. I’m no longer half-committed to the graduate school experience, I don’t feel like I have to prove that I belong anymore. I do belong, or else I wouldn’t be here. Yes, I am young. Yes, this is new to me. But what better way to learn? Trying to fit in too much was making me extremely anxious to speak in seminars (or even to people outside of seminars) for fear of not saying the right thing, or having interpreted a reading or talk differently. I’m also not content with being a part of my surroundings or a part of the status quo (despite having done this for a bit) and I am going to stand out, I’m going to question things, and I’m not going to implicitly form myself to fit whatever frame or box is in place. I’m remembering who I am and what I like most about myself and getting back to that.

We will see what happens.

In the swing of things

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but I wanted to get back in the swing of things.

Part of me views the past year almost as a break from the academic life because I was very much removed from it – living in Vietnam and working at SRD gave me the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate where I was and where I want to be and I found that I’m very happy with where I am and how things are going.  Vietnam has also taught me to learn how to go with the flow and take things as they come rather than try to control my surroundings which has proven quite useful.

Last week I made the big move to Toronto and started getting everything together for my Masters program and to work as a Teaching Assistant. So far I’ve found that the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo are quite different (at least in my experience), my undergraduate degree offered the benefit of really small classes and I found that I was part of an absolutely incredible group of classmates and friends. Arriving at UofT, I’ve found that a lot of the class sizes are larger, the interests of people within my program are quite varied as are everyone’s backgrounds, so its become interesting to get to know my classmates and to see where I fit in within the group.

I came into the MA program wanting to do a thesis project rather than a research paper, but following conversations with my advisor, it seems that the research paper option is more highly recommended as it provides more experience and exposure with different professors. So it looks like that is what I will be doing. I’m still in the middle of choosing courses as it’s really difficult to get into courses from other faculties so I still have some hoops to jump through.

I’ve also found that my knowledge in certain areas seems to be lacking, so I’m trying to put together a reading list of different books and articles related to my interests and to research methods in general that will help me better understand navigate through the assigned readings for class.

Anyway, in the next while you can expect me to continue to comment on current events and news that I find fascinating and relevant as well as for me to brainstorm on some of the information and readings that I come across as I continue my studies.

If you have any suggestions for readings please feel free to mention them in the comments section, I’d love to discuss them with you.

 

September

I’m the midst of applying for Teacher’s Assistant positions for next year, which I find really exciting. 

But how do you pick which ones you would be a good match for? I’ve had some great TAs throughout my undergraduate degree, and some not so great ones. I want to be a great TA – I want to connect with students and be approachable, I want to know enough about the subject to be able to give good advice. How do I pick a class and professor that will help me accomplish this? It’s pretty intimidating to write down this list of potential courses that I’d love to work with and hope to hear back from some of them. 

Any advice? On picking courses, choosing hours, and managing all of it?

Vietnam considering paying cash to families with daughters

It seems that the Vietnamese government is contemplating paying cash to families with daughters in an effort improve the ratio of births by gender. They believe that providing economic incentives to families will reduce the abortion rates of female fetuses.

I personally believe that while economic incentives can have a role in developing gender equality, this is not the way to do it. Instead provide equal opportunities to girls through scholarships, free primary school, provide job opportunities for girls, provide pension plans so that parents are not reliant on their children to provide for them, fund educational programs on gender equality, safe sex, and reproductive health.

Do not give money to families that have girls – that division and distinction plays into the belief that girls are worth less than boys, that the funding is a consolation prize for having a daughter. Work to develop a society that values the inputs of its daughters and women as more than wives and mothers; value women as equal contributing members of society because they are. Raise women to be more than just someone’s wife and value them for their work both inside and outside of the home; value them for their ideas, minds, and the potential that they have.

Work to create a society where each child is valued.

Wake-up call to Canada

I’m certain that a lot of my readers know this, but some probably don’t. I am Aboriginal, Metis to be specific and while I was not solely raised according to this heritage, it is a part of who I am, it is part of my identity, my culture, and my family. It pains me to see that discrimination based on heritage, culture, ethnicity still happens every day in Canada (and many parts of the world) and that it is happening by our governments, the groups of people who are elected to protect and guarantee basic rights.

People have been talking about the failures of the Canadian government with regards to the Aboriginal population for longer than I have been alive. We have the extensive crisis in Attawapiskat regarding education, housing, water, and so much more. There is also Kashechewan where there have been numerous evacuations, boil water advisories for years (this is one of 100 First Nations communities with extensive long-term water problems), a housing crisis, and in one month alone this community of 1700 people lost 21 to suicide. In Manitoba, rather than send the appropriate tools to deal with flu outbreaks (i.e. hand sanitizer) a community was sent body bags. Let me guess, you probably haven’t heard of most of this? It has been a fairly invisible crisis to the rest of Canada and the rest of the world, remarkably hidden and that received extremely limited news coverage. Why? Because these things happen so frequently within Aboriginal communities, human rights transgressions (at the fault of the government) are so commonplace that they have become normalized.

And that’s just the beginning.

So is it really any surprise that Canada received a failing grade for human rights by Amnesty International? As said in the report “By every measure, be it respect for treaty and land rights, levels of poverty, average life spans, violence against women and girls, dramatically disproportionate levels of arrest and incarceration or access to government services such as housing, health care, education, water and child protection, indigenous peoples across Canada continue to face a grave human rights crisis.”

What are we going to do about it? What commitment do you make as a Canadian to improve the status of human rights in Canada? If you are not Canadian, what will you do to protect and improve human rights in your nation (or abroad)? As Canadians who do we think we are? Why do we erroneously believe that we can push for, represent, and speak on behalf of human rights around the world when we haven’t the common sense or decency to guarantee those same rights within our own borders?

Those of us who have had free, equal, unlimited and fully realized human rights for years cannot become complacent in the misplaced belief that this does not affect us. Because it does. When we become complacent or apathetic about the human rights of others, we are complacent about our own rights and freedoms. My rights, my education, my freedoms mean nothing to me if I am exercising them at the sacrifice of other’s rights.

And just because I’m a decent human being.

2012 USA Election

I’ve noticed an increased number of blog hits in the past while from people searching such things as ‘romney parental leave’ (or other variations of that) and ‘romney’s views on women.’ All I can say is that if you are taking the time to do your research, I commend you. Congratulations, an informed voter is my favourite kind.

Now all that being said, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have political representation that fights for basic human rights, and in my opinion, Romney is the farthest from that. Now, I’m not American, I am Canadian and living in Vietnam of all places. But I have seen first hand how American politics have the ability to influence politics and development around the world. No politician will be perfect, no one person or political party will meet all of your needs, but look beyond yourself and look at what is better for humankind in general. Do we want political representation that will force the world to take gargantuan steps BACKWARDS for womenkind? Do we want to regress (even more) on maternal health and gender equality? Do we want to spend money on ‘national defence’ that could be better used on health care and education? Not at all.

So I urge you, make the decision that is best for humankind, for people around the world, for the majority. Protect the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. Protect existing human rights and women’s rights. Do not make the world move backward. We just can’t handle it anymore.