Category Archives: Human Rights

Poem – Daily prompt for #NaPoWriMo: Write a lune

Yesterday’s challenge from  was to write a lune – a take on the Japenese haiku.

The Scream by Edvard Munch-art
Judged for facing their realities: The Scream by Edvard Munch


His smile pleases
Hers arouses suspicion and anger
Ignorance is dangerous.

They enforce fear
She must live a lie
Ignorance is intolerance.

She cuts her
It is never spoken about
ignorance is destined.

He bloodies him
He calls him a deviant
Ignorance drives hate.

They are labelled
Judged for facing their realities
Ignorance is prejudice.

She speaks up
Nobody knows how to help
Ignorance kills lives.


Poetry: Immigrant #NaPoWriMo

The bottom line - to cap it all
The bottom line – to cap it all

Forgive me –I broke the law,
But if you had walked in my shoes and saw what I saw,
You’d know my motives,
So my children can live,
a better life, and too, their kids.

A Mexican working hard in the US to support families,
left behind,
south of the border, with no peace of mind – whether she’s been shot, by an Arizona ranger – whether he’s been jailed, by Operation Gatekeeper.

Lost across the Imperial Desert or over the mountains north of Tecate.
Mexicans  drown in canals and rivers. While the army militarize the border…

A 30 hour coach journey, in the faith of living better.
Only to die of dehydration, hypothermia or xenophobia.

Busloads of Polish people, skilled in many trades,
make the journey from Warsaw to the land of opportunity, the UK.

Better healthcare, better pay, this is the European Union
Only to find themselves taken advantage of and spit upon for taking the jobs natives can’t or refuse to work in.

Was this the freedom envisaged?
Working 7 days a week, paid cheap for their keep.

Laws let goods and money freely cross borders, yet impose a form of class warfare against when it comes to workers.

Not free to move with changing economic conditions in the same manner that businesses can move their capital.

And that’s the bottom line, to cap it all.

Lapiro De Mbanga: Cameroon’s Voice of the Voiceless leaves a legacy of revolution that lives on

Lapiro De Mbanga, one of West Africa’s biggest names in music who fought against political corruption in Cameroon, died of cancer this month after living in exile in America the past two

In a country with one of the lowest working wages for its people; where homosexuality is illegal and a government which censors musicians and journalists for questioning its dictatorship rule, where does Cameroon’s future lie?

Lapiro De Mbanga: Rebel with a cause
Lapiro De Mbanga: Rebel with a cause

Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour, who calls for peace in his latest song One Africa, said: “A song can get the message out there quicker than a political speech.” But it is the People’s Democratic Movement Party and Cameroon’s President since 1982, Paul Biya, who has censored musicians, jailed them and according to De Mbanga “tried to kill me twice” for messages in songs.

De Mbanga, who sang and rapped in pidgin – a mixture of English, French and local languages, has over 30 years of hits, which were regularly censored for their political themes. He gained millions of fans from a population frustrated and disenfranchised in their country.

It was 2008’s track Constitution Constipée (Constipated Constitution) that upset the powerful political party most. It criticised President Biya’s proposed constitutional amendment which would remove Cameroon’s two-term presidential limit, to allow Biya to stand for re-election.

Despite being banned by TV and radio, the song became an inspirational anthem among the student demographic who held protests pushing for reform. De Mbanga was blamed for his music influencing riots in which 40 people were killed and after an unfair trial he was jailed for three years.

Ndinga Man (Guitar man) / Voice of the Voiceless / Bard of Cameroon’s working class

The Danish-based NGO Freemuse (Freedom of Musical Expression) led an international campaign for De Mbanga’s release. In partnership with human rights activist Deeyah Khan and Grappa records, Freemuse released the album Listen to the Banned (2010) full of censored artists which featured Constitution Constipée. In an interview De Mbanga said: “If Freemuse hadn’t publicised my case worldwide, I’d have been dead long ago”.

Following his release from jail in 2011 De Mbanga produced more anti-Biya songs and in 2012 he received political asylum in the US.

A book De Mbanga began working on last year, The Planned Death of a Freedom Fighter, is set for release this year. Also due in 2014 is a film about the country’s censorship laws from exiled Cameroonian radio journalist Issa Nyaphaga. De Mbanga’s fight to expose corruption and speak up for the rights of the Cameroonian people lives on.


The Gulabi Gang: A mass movement of women taking matters into their own hands (India)

gulabi gang
“We are not a gang in the usual sense of the term, we are a gang for justice.” ~ Sampat Pal Devi

Nobody comes to our help in these parts. The officials and the police are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law in our hands. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers. ~ Sampat Pal Devi

Ordinary people are  making a change: Sampat Pal Devi, a mother from Uttar Pradesh, has kicked off a movement for women in India.

In 2006 Devi tried to intervene and stop a man from beating his wife in public. There was no reprimand for him and so she returned to the scene the next day, with five more women – brandishing bamboo sticks. They had come to find the man and teach him a lesson.

Word spread around the village of Devi’s lead and women came to her, eager to join in future quests. The Gulabi Gang was born. The troop  is now over 40,000 members strong; wear a uniform, carry sticks and have since sparked similar movements around the country.

It’s a bold  battle in a deeply patriarchal culture which is rife with caste divisions, (female) illiteracy, domestic violence, child labour, child marriages, dowry demands and high rape statistics. The group have even visited police stations to battle with officers who refuse to register complaints of abuse against women.

The formidable Gulabi Gang led by Sampat Pal Devi
The formidable Gulabi Gang led by Sampat Pal Devi

Devi’s work has unearthed corruption and given a voice to both men and women who are all against abuse. In a system where women aren’t educated, Devi taught herself basic literacy skills as a child and now teaches her group members.

The Gulabi Gang have many missions and one of those is to ensure that people born under the lowest caste have an education, avoid child marriages and earn a decent wage. 

If reasoning with abusers and corrupt officials doesn’t work, it is Sampat Pal Devi’s style to then shame them publicly and beat them.

Sampat – Keep on fighting – we are all with you!

To donate funds to the Gulabi Gang, send an email to with the following details
Full Name, Contact Address, Phone Number and Email Address.

Last year a documentary celebrated their journey: IMDB Gulabi Gang (2012) but you can listen to Devi’s words and see the amazing woman in action in many news reports on Youtube. This is one of my favourites:

The wonderful work of @thetopeproject : Sharing Christmas day with care leavers @ruthstivey

A change in UK law announced this week will allow foster children to stay with their carers until they’re 21.

Over forty charities successfully pushed the government for the amendment to the current system, which forces foster children into independence around 16 or 17 years of age. Once left to cope on their own, care leavers can become isolated.

Some local councils have the funds for children to stay in foster care until they are 18. Now the Department for Education is imposing a legal duty on all councils to provide financial support for foster families who wish to stay together longer.

The government has pledged £40m over the next three years to fund the plan and the act will be introduced into the House of Lords at the third reading of the Children and Families Bill next year.

The news comes in time for Christmas, a special day on which most care-leavers spend alone.

The Tope Project: giving care leavers a ChristmasThe Topé Project , set up last year to give care leavers a happy Christmas, was named in memory of Topé, a 23-year-old care leaver who sadly took his own life. Last year, the charity gave over 70 young people an amazing Christmas time – meeting each other, playing games, eating, getting presents, sharing pain and promoting positivity.

There is a massive need for this event, just check out the response to their work on their Just Giving page where you can of course donate for this year’s Christmas day for care leavers.

Tope’s friend, Jerome Harvey Agyei, told Ruth Stivey in an  article for the Guardian last year:

As well as our pioneering and fun Christmas Day event – which aims to bring together care leavers, create positive memories and inspire them – we want Topé’s legacy to be promoting more emotional support for children in care and care leavers.

It was reported last year by the Young Minds charity that 60% of care leavers have mental health problems and suicide rates for care-leavers are almost five times higher than for their peers.

The concerns for those in care

The news of the proposed £40m budget over the next three years has fuelled a lot of questions.
Will councils have to make cuts from other vital services to fulfill their new legal duty and will the new law apply to foster children in England or the entire United Kingdom?

Surely, all children should be treated equally, which is why these questions must be addressed.
Plus there are concerns about supporting children in residential homes as well as foster care under this amendment.

Children’s charities have always asserted it is a moral obligation that the children of the state, who are taken away out of bad environments, should flourish in their substitute situation.

These children need more than a place of shelter. They need emotional security, even when they leave their foster home. It can be deemed unethical for carers to keep in touch with the children they fostered.

This is why the change in the law is important. Most parents don’t throw their children out when they turn 16, they nurture them until they are secure enough for independence.

Nor do they cut ties once their children leave home. If foster parents can keep in touch with children they cared for, it would mean care leavers have the emotional building blocks of a family to return to and a place to call home.

Follow The Topé’ Project:

Just Giving Donation Page

Related Articles:

True Honour: @Deeyah_fuuse wins the 2013 Emmy for Best International Documentary Film for Banaz: A Love Story

True honour: Deeyah awarded an Emmy for her documentary Banaz - A Love Story
True honour: Deeyah awarded an Emmy for her documentary Banaz – A Love Story

Huge congratulations to Deeyah Khan. Banaz: A Love Story (Fuuse Films) is an exposure of the inhumane practice of “honour killing” – a form of control in some cultures – and how law officials are slowly becoming equipped to deal with such cases.

Deeyah posted on her Facebook Page: “An unforgettable and very special evening– as well as feelings of joy there is an overwhelming sadness about Banaz and what she went through in her very short life. I could not help but cry both on and off stage. I am grateful for my best friend and inspiring brother Adil being there with me and always standing by me through thick and thin.”

This film is the story of Banaz Mahmod – a young British Kurdish girl – whose family tried to erase her memory. Banaz’s attempts to inform the police about her fate is caught on film and now her memory will  raise awareness and help others just like her.

It took Deeyah three years to complete the documentary with a tight-knit production team and support from the Fritt Ord foundation whose aim is to support freedom of expression and a free press.

It is an outstanding piece of work, painful, honest, gruesome, hard to believe. It’s harrowing to think that after Banaz’s murder – it is not her family – but an outsider – Detective Chief Inspector Caroline Goode who became almost a substitute mother and literally scoured the earth to attain justice for Banaz.

Deeyah has toured with DCI Goode and a team of experts to discuss the impact and ramifications of the Banaz Mahmod case.

With a network of useful contacts and sheer determination, Deeyah  has begun on a mission to equip the necessary authorities with information that can help prevent such crimes in future with the International Honour Based Violence Awareness Network.  It is an international digital resource centre working to advance awareness through research, documentation, information and training for professionals who may encounter women, girls and men at risk, building partnerships with experts, activists, and NGOs from around the world.

The film about Banaz can be seen in full here.

Banaz: A Love Story premiered at London’s Raindance film festival in 2012 and subsequently aired around the world including UK television.


  • 2013 American Peabody Award for International TV Documentary.
  • 2013 Emmy for Best International Documentary Film.
  • Nomination: for the British Royal Television Society Awards 2013 – Best Documentary, Current Affairs.

Banaz: A Love Story.

Opinion: Black or White?

The “blackface” issue has come up again. Within days of each other I saw supermodel Iman and Ebony Magazine post examples on Instagram:

The photos, from May’s Dutch Vogue are in a tribute spread to Marc Jacobs called “Heritage Heroes”;  models are dressed up in the style of Grace Jones and Josephine Baker.

It’s caused a huge debate, like Dolce & Gabbana’s use of blackamoor motifs (references to Africans and decapitation) in their Spring/Summer 2013 collection.

The fashion industry should be trying to improve its standards, not go backwards – in any aspect.

Maybe it was done simply for publicity, but whatever the intentions of Dutch Vogue – it’s unnecessary – because “blackface” is a visual reference to times when minstrel shows ridiculed black people with nasty racial stereotyping.

I appreciate when models are made up in all sorts of colours in spreads which are beautiful, creative works of art – but in this instance – black models could have been hired for a respectful tribute without controversy.