Shake the Dust

Shake the Dust – a poem by one of my favorite spoken word poets, Anis Mojgani. I hope you find brilliance and courage in his words, as I did. 


Do not let one moment go by that doesn’t remind you
That your heart, it beats 900 times every single day
Do not settle for letting these waves that settle
And for the dust to collect in your veins

Shake the dust, and take me with you when you do
For none of this has ever been for me
All that pushes and pulls, and pushes and pulls…
It pushes for you

So, grab this world by its clothespins,
And shake it out again and again.
And jump on top and take it for a spin
And when you hop off shake it again.

When the world knocks at your front door
Clutch the knob tightly and open on up
And run forward and far into its widespread, greeting arms
With your hands outstretched before you

Fingertips trembling, though they may be.


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You can find more artistic inspiration (poetic, visual and musical) here.

Inspirational Person: Toju Adelaja, Equal rights advocate

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Toju Adelaja is only 14, but is already a strong voice for gender equality. She believes this topic is of utmost importance, not only to women, but to the world at large. She currently lives in England, but grew up in Nigeria.

Toju, at such a young age, you seem to have really explored the issues facing the world today, and have been courageous enough to tackle some of them, such as gender equality. Where was your passion for gender equality born?

 

My passion for gender equality was born at home. Although I love my family, I was told that I should move and compromise my life – all for one ultimate purpose, to get married. That was the spark. I simply couldn’t (and still can’t) understand why that standard wasn’t held for my brother.  I will devote as much as I can to help with women’s rights, because it is the right thing to do.

 

What is one success story that has inspired you recently about gender equality, and why did it inspire you?

 

The story of Margaret Keane, which was recently featured in the film Big Eyes. She was an artist in the 1950’s whose husband took the credit for her work. After many years, Margaret decided to expose this deception, going through both a divorce and lawsuit in the process. It made me realize that, in a time where women standing up for themselves was unheard of, Margaret had the courage to push forward for what she believed in. I’m growing up in a generation which is much more progressive (although certainly not perfect). Who am I not to stand up? I have nothing holding me back.

 

What are some initiatives that could help to encourage gender equality

 

Schools could educate about human rights and gender based discrimination. I go to an all girl’s school, an environment where you would think that women’s rights would be at the forefront, but this isn’t the case. I remember an instance where we were taught some rapists go without charge because their victims were wearing short skirts (in an attempt to influence students clothing choice). To encourage gender equality, girls should be educated about their rights and working towards solutions to real world issues that will affect them. Equally important is boys education in gender equality, sexual respect, and expression of emotions. Inappropriate sexually aggressive jokes are still socially acceptable, education is essential to help them understand the implication of their actions.

 

Who are your role models, who are making a big difference for gender equality, and what do you appreciate most about them?

 

I have quite a few role models actually:
  • Emma Watson recently was the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, launching the HeForShe campaign. Prior to this, she inspired me as despite her great success as a actress and model, she decided to go to renowned Brown University, unlike many of her peers.
  • Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate (17). She managed to turn a tragic situation around. Instead of being a victim, she used her situation to inspire so many including young women like myself. She is just an ordinary girl, who wanted to make a difference, so went ahead and did.
  • Chiamanda Ngozi Adichie: is from Nigeria, like me, novelist and short story writer, as well as well known for her TED Talk on why everyone should be feminists. I lover her approach, as well as her collaboration with Beyonce which helped to make feminism a global topic.

 
Finally, if you could imagine a world where gender equality was achieved – what would it look like? How will we know we’ve gotten there?
 

It would be more peaceful and balanced, I think. Women would be encouraged in politics, more respected in society, better represented in media, achieve equal pay, and have the same educational opportunities. When we get there, there will be no need for campaigns, as each gender will respect and support one another.

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{Interested in other Q&A’s with Inspirational People? Check them out here}

Noisy Earth: encouraging youth-generated solutions to save the planet

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Noisy Earth is on a mission to inspire students to take action and tackle the most pressing worldwide challenges. It helps facilitate this through providing cutting-edge resources to teachers for student engagement in stewarding change.

Founder Paul Neenos created the concept of a Responsive Curriculum while working within NYC school systems:

I have continually observed many challenges such as environmental degradation, income inequality, healthcare access, and immigration. Issues that are not well represented in curriculum or classrooms. So, I began developing an idea to bring the big challenges into our schools for students to engage with, problem solve, and connect with one another to create awareness and solutions.

His vision was to move towards a more hands-on, experiential, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) approach coupled with a cross-curricular framework to help students connect to a topic across multiple subject-areas. Noisy Earth provides a framework which accomplishes this through ‘Stories’ (such as air pollution), encouraging students to put to use the knowledge they have learned in class to innovate creative solutions.

I am grateful for people like Paul, who continue to strive towards meaningful solutions and inspire others to do the same.

Do you know a teacher who may be interested in incorporating a Noisy Earth topic in their classroom? Do you have an idea of a ‘Story’ students could explore? How else can we get young people involved in thinking of creative solutions to big problems? Share your ideas below!


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Choosing Beautiful.

I have been reflecting on what beautiful  means to me. It has been an evolution – a distant glimmer at times and an engulfing warmth in others.

Through focusing on gratitude as part of my Happiness Project, I have become increasingly aware and thankful for the beauty in my life.

Real beauty to me is compassion, authenticity, curiosity, gratitude, courage. It is the love filled daily effort to find and focus on the positive in all things – our world, our lives, our friends, our family, and in ourselves.

Beauty is not who you are on the outside, it is the wisdom and time you gave away to save another struggling soul, like you.  ~Shannon Alder

Let us reclaim this word. Let us restate our worth.
Let us #ChooseBeautiful.


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Inspirational Person: Jane Porter, Sustainable Building Consultant

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Jane Porter is a sustainability consultant at Stratos and Co-Founder of HUB Ottawa. She has a Masters of Corporate Environmental Management from the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland), and a Bachelor in International Business from Carleton University. Her passion is innovating for sustainability and her specialty is making it happen through thinking big, collaborating across networks, and facilitating dialogue. 


Jane, from your experience at Stratos (a leading Sustainability Consultant), what are the largest motivating factors for organizations to integrate sustainability?

Three key motivating factors which  I often see in my work, include:

    • Risk management  – Environmental, social and governance issues often represent major risks (and opportunities) that need to be managed by the company if they want to continue to do business.
    • Executive influence – Executive leaders who have a strong vision for sustainability and Board members who ask challenging environmental/social questions influence the organizations’ values and help ensure initiatives are supported and properly resourced.
    • Investment decisions – Investors are increasingly looking to make ‘ethical investments’ and many long term investors don’t want to invest in companies whose entire industry may be moot in 50 years (e.g., fossil fuels).

Can you share with us what you would consider to be the essential success factors to implementing a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan?

There are factors to implement a successful CSR plan, but here are a few:

  • Executive buy-in – For change to happen, you need to ensure that the plan is supported by top decision-makers. If they don’t see its value, resources required to implement may be re-directed if times are tight.
  • Influence across the organization  – Sustainability cuts across all silos and levels of an organization. Those in charge of the plan need to know how to integrate it into the organization, through collaborating with key players.
  • A clear path forward – A well vetted implementation plan is essential. Companies need to translate high level principles (and wishy-washy sustainability lingo) into tangible actions that make business sense.

As co-founder of HUB Ottawa (a collaborative work space and member community for social entrepreneurs/impact professionals), what do you see the role of entrepreneurship being in terms of current environmental issues? 

Entrepreneurship allows you to challenge and change the status quo. If there are aspects about the way we live that are not working, we need innovators to show us a better way.

When did you become inspired to channel your passion and expertise towards the integration of business and the environment? 

Grassroot organizations play a valuable role in creating meaningful change. However, I was inspired to see the potential for broad reaching solutions in Corporate board rooms, where key decision-makers could be influenced.   

Finally, and in simplest terms, to what degree do you think business has the ability to solve the current social and environmental crises? 

To be honest, I think it’ll take a shock to the system for a major change to happen. We need transformative – not incremental – change.


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Spring 2015: Musical Inspiration

Every season, I share artistic expressions that have inspired me. This month I’d like to share some music that has resonated. In particular, in line with my Happiness Project – I wanted to share some of the tracks that made it to my Happy Playlist.

I would love to hear what music has inspired you over the past season, or what tracks made it onto your happy playlist, in the comments below!


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You can find more artistic expressions which have inspired me: here
You can find out more about my Happiness Project: here