Happiness is finding that someone, with whom you can be yourself. Especially on your wedding day.
PS. I have not written in a long time. I plan to break that cycle. Hopefully soon.
It’s been a slow year for writing on anything personal. Things were way over my head with work, and personal life has been less traumatising to be writing on. I think those souls suffering have a knack to put things together in a manner that really reaches out to one’s soul. For me, I had lesser sufferings of the traumatised soul to pen personal rants on. Probably for good reason.
I have come to realise that it that time of year, where I have lost patience with those that make life difficult for me. This involves telling people the truth about what they are doing, and how their self centered behaviour cannot be a justification for wasting my time, lying to me, or simply complicating my life. It is not a lie if I say that this has reasonably made me re-evaluate my “friends” list. And I am starting to believe in all those articles about how growing up is about having fewer friends who are closer to you, and who respect you and your time.
Life moves one, with different people in our lives, with new faces, new circumstances and reasons for happiness. It’s all a matter of choice in life, we pick what makes us happy, what makes lives change for the good, what contributes best to the happiness of most. We grow up to appreciate the tough decisions, and then what one values. You open your eyes, and then move on. No point in getting stuck, and happiness is at one’s reach. It is a matter of making the correct choices, and being able to live with them.
And here’s to hoping that I would be able to discover writing again, hopefully soon.
Autism is not a term that is heard in Sri Lankan households but one that is soon becoming one that is affecting many households. With many children being diagnosed with symptoms within the autism spectrum disorder, awareness on how to address autism is a question that is raised by many, especially by parents who have children with autism. Ishanthi Perera is a consultant behaviour therapist and heads the skill building unit at ABC School of Early Learning. She spoke to SLYCAN Trust on her experiences working with autism and why autism awareness is important.
Autism & Daily Struggles
Ishanthi works on a daily basis with children with autism in her role as an educator. According to her experience in working with them, she says that struggles of children with autism can probably be only understood from their own perspectives. She explained that individuals who have written or spoken of their experiences, recount autism as a magnet that pulls them inwards, they speak of not being in control of their bodies, they speak of how insignificant sounds, colours or noises can trigger huge overwhelming feelings of anxiety in them.
“In my daily work, I see that my students struggle with behaviours such as sitting, attending to their work, stopping their stereotypy such as hand flapping or finger flicking, stopping their scripting long enough to respond to a question, meeting our expectations in class, they struggle with understanding and desensitizing to their environment which is full of sounds,” said Ms. Perera.
“Some of the children with autism struggle with sensory needs such as needing more, or less stimulation from their environment. Their struggles are tied in with their families while they are trying hard to understand this new experience of being parents of a child with autism, and doing their best to make things better for the child”, she added.
Dealing with Autism: Together
The struggles of autism are not limited to those who live with autism, but also to their caretakers. Parents are often in need of support to deal with situations of discovering their children do to be autistic, and on how to address it. Ishanthi works with many parents in her role as an educator and she commented on how it is important to understand the difficulties the parents face as well in coping with their child’s daily struggles.
“Many of the parents I have spoken to are at some stage of, what is referred to in psychological terms as, the cycle of grief. She explained that this starts with denial, then anger, followed by bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. The struggles they face are influenced by where they are in this cycle,” she explained and highlighted the need to work together with the parents in addressing the needs of children with autism.
Improving Support Systems
Speaking of supports systems available across the world, Ishanthi distinguished how the capacity of different countries to finance social systems play a role in how children would be able to learn to deal with autism.
“In developed countries like those of North America national circumstances are different, and provides more mature disability-related government systems. Components such as financial aids and community centers and schools with programs for children with special needs are available which provide more inclusive educational facilities, and developed health support for individuals with special needs. There are also school appointed speech therapists and education consultants who are available to support children in overcoming their difficulties,” she said.
She expressed that in Sri Lanka, there aren’t any government funded services and activities as of yet which are similar to those mentioned above. But she also highlighted the medical facilities available, and highlighted that government hospitals such as Lady Ridgeway Hospital in Colombo and the Ragama Hospital have well trained and knowledgeable doctors who carry out assessments and give advice to parents.
Autism & Education
One of the key challenges that children with autism face is integrating into the education system. With their specific preferences and needs, in an environment where autism awareness is not prevalent, these children would face many difficulties and are likely to be discriminated. It brings to question on how inclusive education needs to be organised, and how children with autism need to be integrated into education systems of countries.
“The usefulness of the current syllabus is questionable when it comes to children with autism. It needs to be providing life skills and vocational skills which would provide children with autism to be able to be independent in society. However this is not the case in the present syllabus used for education in Sri Lanka,” Ishanthi commented.
She further emphasized the need for positive inclusion, with support being given to families by the community they belong to and stressed on the fact that it starts with awareness and acceptance.
Dealing with autism and finding success is a collective effort. As Ishanthi explains success lies in proper liaison between public and private enterprises, and appropriate autism or special needs organisations. She also highlighted the need for vocational skills and dignified employment opportunities for individuals with autism.
“ A proper top-down approach should be taken, with the qualified individuals involved, to understand the scope of job opportunities that can be made available, and then the kind of training that needs to be given and how to incorporate this into a formal education system.
Applied Behavioural Analysis and early intervention cannot be stressed enough. If we start young and work together we can really do something special,” she added.
About Ishanthi Perera
Ishanthi Perera has an undergraduate degree in psychology, specializing in exceptionalities in human learning and a Master’s degree in Applied Disability Studies, specializing in Applied Behaviour Analysis from Canada. She has worked as a Consultant Behaviour Analyst in Canada and is currently at ABC school, in charge of the skill building process of students with various diagnoses and facilitates their inclusion into a neuro-typical classroom.
So it is a new year, and 2017 has come faster than expected. 2016 was interesting enough, I have not written much as I would have liked to, no time, boredom, insomnia, overwork, the list is long. But the year has taught me a few things.
A big thank you for those who have been there for me in 2016, in all the ups and downs, and also the deep bottomless pits. You guys have proved me that even if life is not perfect, that it sure could be worth every second of it.
“I can’t trust you anymore,” he says,
“You are so different,
I have no clue what has got into you.
we don’t speak again.
Why did you have to speak to her?
And you didn’t tell me!
for ten days!”
“What happened to you?
How can I ever trust you,
“Sure” she says.
It wasn’t she who had spent the night with another.
I walk the streets
with boiling pots of oil
bananas and mango fries,
dust and pebbles.
eyes on me
the strange being
walking the streets
and nights at times,
the only brown one
on these roads,
a phone at hand
and smiling faces,
in search of food
Are you a female? Have you had one of those colleagues who likes to get personal when you want to discuss something in factual sense? Have you been told “let’s not get emotional?” when you were trying to make a point (in all ignorance to what emotions he was referring). Well, I have.
If you have faced similar situations, then you have been exposed to what is called “tone-policing”. (A term that I have learnt of late, thanks to wonderful instances of work life.)
So the standard definition of tone policing goes as, “Tone policing is a silencing tactic. That means it is part of a set of tools used by people holding privilege to prevent marginalized individuals or groups from sharing their experiences of oppression.”
(In this case, I am focusing on how women are silenced by adding words such as “emotional,” “irrational,” or even “hysterical,” when they are trying to make their case, or simply trying to get an explanation as to why a situation is as it is.)
And the Urban Dictionary adds a bit more by defines the term by defining those who consider themselves to be worthy of tone policing.
“Tone police are people who focus on (and critique) how something is said, ignoring whether or not it is true.They will discard a true statement simply because they don’t like how it was presented.”
The bad thing is when you are a woman at work, and write a simple mail and then get words such as “emotional,” being used in a reply, the feminists roots in your system start to signal that something is not right. It also indicates that you have let one two many of these comments pass with people who likes to think they have a vested interest in patronising you, or just like think that they have unwritten but for some reason assumed right to be sending such messages.
Words such as emotional, hysterical, have the effect of suddenly making a woman look incompetent, even when she is making a point which is valid. Then the assumption is that she acting up on her hormones, and then they will take the liberty to crack a joke of her being on post menstrual stress, diminishing the value of any valid point a woman is trying to raise.
This is even worse when it happens in civil society organisations where people are calling for gender sensitive policies, and gender equality. It is one thing to speak of upholding women rights, and being gender sensitive, when funding proposals are being submitted. But in practice the fact that the issues are ignored in the worse way possible, and that most staff have no clue as to what constitute gender sensitive behaviour points to the fact that there needs to be education of these actors who call for gender sensitivity while being those who are of the same group of those ignoring issues of gender, and behaving in a manner that violates values they call to be upheld.
When I mentioned I plan to do a research on tone policing, and share stories of women who might have faced this situation at work, a journalist asked me whether I will be dealing with the police. I found this an interesting question. I left that to be answered by the experiences I might be able to find, through volunteers who would share their stories, or through a survey I plan to do in the coming months.
So in short, I hope to share stories of how you were tone policed at work (if you think you have been,) provided that you would like to share your story with me. It’s because I believe this will help people realise that we take lot of things for granted, as well as put up with lot of things at work, simply because we have patience. But, that does not make that people are doing the right thing. And nor does it mean that you need to endure it in silence.
Drop me a line, and I would be happy to see how your story could be shared in this collection of stories which I am hoping I will be able to put together, and share as blog posts and a research paper.
Thank you in advance!
I have not written in a while, not sure whether it was a conscious decision, but well, did not get around to typing anything on the blog section. The random, meaningless, rants that is, the longer, structured, supposedly technical writing I believe I have done a few in the last months. Life got busy, with work plans, fund raising plans, funds saving plans, taking Dylan to doctor plans, making sure Dylan is not dragged to doctor plans etc. The list seems to rhyme and go on forever, just like life, and then I turn philosophical, and question the meaning of life, why we live, why we spend, why we earn, why we stress.
I think people write when they need an outlet, and of late, I do not think I look for one (that is my way of saying, I am too lazy to write, so I have not, I think I will sleep instead, I need my sleep). Then again, I also have this weird habit of writing in my head (not literally of course, anyone gets that point, but in case someone missed it reiterating it,) like finishing up whole essays, blog posts, from start to the last line, with all sorts of elaborated nonsense, and all that as mentioned before in my head. Sad, yes. But the reality nevertheless. So since they are all final, completed, and edited (all in my head of course,) I do not bother typing them out as well. Maybe someone should print my head, and then make a publication out of it, and of course distribute it for free (not sure whether anyone would want to read anything I type after paying for it.)
I feel the “non-writing for a while” having an impact when I type now as I type this not so meaningful post, where I have to pause, delete words, rethink, and then delete a whole sentence, and then type another whole paragraph. But the it is also in a sense like my life of late. I think. I pause. I wonder whether this is what I want. And it is not such a terrible thing you know. I am loving the change for a change, from the days where frustration of not having a choice, and doing things informed at last moment reigned in my darker hours (where I felt like pulling my hair out).
Now, I have time to pause, to plan, and to maybe live, loved. (yea, yea, a little bit of mushiness never killed anyone!)
(Photo credits: Biodiversity International via Creative Commons)
The fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (AR5 IPCC) published on regional impacts from climate change has provided that in South Asia, the climate is changing and the impacts are already being felt. It further highlights that climate change impacts will pose challenges to growth and development of the region. It points out to the need for international cooperation to address these impacts and states that, “International cooperation is vital to avert dangerous climate change impacts and South Asian governments can promote ambitious global action,”.
Among key areas that the Report points as being priority for the South Asia region are adaptation and low carbon development. It provides that “Adaptation will bring immediate benefits and reduce the impacts of climate change in South Asia.” It also adds that adaptation is fundamental to risk management, and that South Asia has many adaptation options.
While adaptation actions are prioritized, the Report also indicates that low carbon development will also benefit the region, and the merging of adaptation and mitigation actions will lead to South Asia’s path to address climate change and its impacts. According to the Report, “South Asia stands to benefit from integrated climate adaptation, mitigation, and development approaches.”
Impacts of Climate Change on South Asia
Globally, sea levels have risen faster than at any time during the previous two millennia – and the effects are felt in South Asia. Changing patterns of rainfall or melting snow and ice are altering freshwater systems, affecting the quantity and quality of water available in many regions, including South Asia. Climate change will have widespread impacts on South Asian society and South Asians’ interaction with the natural environment.
The AR5 highlights that, “The impacts of climate change will influence flooding of settlements and infrastructure, heat-related deaths, and food and water shortages in South Asia.”  It further points to impacts such as temperature extremes (high confidence) which is reflected through the numbers of cold days and nights that have decreased and the numbers of warm days and nights that have increased across most of Asia since about 1950.
Further South Asia is victim to change in rainfall trends. These trends, including extremes, are characterised by strong variability, with both increasing and decreasing trends observed in different parts of Asia. Observations also show that there have been more extreme rainfall events and fewer weak rainfall events in the central Indian region.
In addition to this, the region also experiences sea level rise. Changes of sea level in the Indian Ocean have emerged since the 1960s, driven by changing wind patterns.
Effects of these impacts are already felt, threatening lives, food security, health and wellbeing across many parts of South Asia. Evidence show that there are clear signs that the impacts of climate change are already being felt.
Need for International Cooperation
Given the interdependence among countries in today’s world, the impacts of climate change on resources or commodities in one place will have far-reaching effects on prices, supply chains, trade, investment and political relations in other places. Climate change will progressively threaten economic growth and human security in complex ways, in this region and across the world.
Further transboundary impacts of climate change are felt across the globe, to which actions need to be taken. While impacts are felt, and actions are needed, further needs for cooperation is highlighted by the state of countries in their economic and technical capacity whereby support from those that have a higher level with regard to both will be needed. In South Asia, the capabilities and vulnerabilities are diverse, and cooperation on climate action is needed, with attention to these elements. The political processes at the regional and international level must reflect these needs, in order to implement concrete and effective climate actions.
The AR5 of the IPCC provides that, “South Asian leaders have an important part to play – with all other international leaders – in forging this solution. Cooperating, recognising that everyone must share the effort, and making financial resources available for investment in adaptation programmes and low-emissions infrastructure are important in reaching global agreement.”.
Paris Agreement & Regional Cooperation
The Paris Agreement which entered into force on 4th November 2016, was signed by Parties to the UNFCCC at the 21st Conference of Parties held in Paris, in December 2015. In an unprecedented outcome, the Agreement for the first time brings together all countries under a common cause of addressing impacts of climate change, with all parties taking up contribution towards it. It builds on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC,) and has as its objective to strengthen the global response to climate change impacts, and keeping the global temperature rise this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Decision 1/CP1 of the Paris Agreement highlights the need for regional cooperation in addressing climate change impacts when it states, “recognizing that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and thus requires the widest possible cooperation by all countries, and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, with a view to accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.”
It further adds, “agreeing to uphold and promote regional and international cooperation in order to mobilise stronger and more ambitious climate action by all Parties and non-Party stakeholders, including civil society, the private sector, financial institutions, cities and other subnational authorities, local communities, and indigenous peoples,” which focuses on the need for cooperation not only of State actors but also multiple-stakeholders for effective climate actions.
The Agreement highlights several areas where regional cooperation is key. However this paper will focus mainly on adaptation and the elements that revolve in facilitating the implementation of the adaptation actions, as based on the climate change impacts assessment of the AR5 IPCCC it is provided as the most important element to the South Asian region.
In the Paris Agreement, Article 7 is the key section which addresses adaptation, and it includes the understanding of adaptation actions needing to have a regional dimension given the climate change impacts faced at different levels. Under Article 7 (2) of the Paris Agreement, “Parties recognize that adaptation is a global challenge faced by all with local, subnational, national, regional and international dimensions, and that it is a key component of and makes a contribution to the long-term global response to climate change to protect people, livelihoods and ecosystems, taking into account the urgent and immediate needs of those developing country Parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.”
The challenges that arise in cooperation in actions at the international level are at times the issues that pertain to sovereignty and the decision-making power of countries through regional and international decision making. In order to address this challenge which might arise, whereby resistance to adaptation actions could develop, the Agreement further provides that it will not be impacting the country’s decision making processes.
Under Article 7 (5) the Parties “acknowledge that adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions, where appropriate,” which highlights that the countries will be making the decisions on adaptation processes.
Another mention on cooperation which is on adaptation is through the reference to the Cancun Adaptation Framework where it states that, “Parties should strengthen their cooperation on enhancing action on adaptation, taking into account the Cancun Adaptation Framework, including with regard to:
Such cooperation on knowledge sharing, and providing technical support is vital in understanding best ways for adaptation. Despite certain diversity, there are also common needs and vulnerabilities that the South Asian region faces. While some countries are different from others, they are also similar in impacts faced, vulnerabilities as well as capacities. Given this, collaboration within SAARC on adaptation actions is important to addressing climate change in an effective manner.
The Paris Agreement and its decisions request Parties to strengthen regional cooperation on adaptation where appropriate and, where necessary, establish regional centres and networks, in particular in developing countries, taking into account decision 1/CP.16, paragraph. This includes “facilitating the sharing of good practices, experiences and lessons learned; Identifying actions that could significantly enhance the implementation of adaptation actions, including actions that could enhance economic diversification and have mitigation co-benefits; Promoting cooperative action on adaptation;”
In addition to this SBT44 held in 2016, Partie agreed on a number of activities under the “Nairobi Work Programme under the UNFCCC focusing on adaptation to inform adaptation planning and actions at the regional, national and subnational levels, particularly in relation to, inter alia, ecosystems, human settlements, water resources and health.”
In addition to the specific sections that refer to adaptation, the sections on capacity building also refer to the need for “Fostering global, regional, national and subnational cooperation; Identifying opportunities to strengthen capacity at the national, regional and subnational level.”
Further Article 10 on technology transfer and support provides under sub section 6 that “Support, including financial support, shall be provided to developing country Parties for the implementation of this Article, including for strengthening cooperative action on technology development and transfer at different stages of the technology cycle, with a view to achieving a balance between support for mitigation and adaptation.”
The element of support is crucial for regional cooperation in the context of South Asia as mentioned above, given that while there are similarities, there are also differences that highlight the need for benefitting from one country’s capacities to help the other country adapt to climate change. In doing this, as previously it is important that the countries’ sovereignty is respected and that actions are taken in a manner that the capacity of countries are developed through technical and financial support, as well as resilience being built.
With climate change impacts being felt in the region of South Asia at a higher level each day, and the economic and social vulnerabilities of people of the region rendering them more vulnerable to these impacts, it is important that South Asia as a region takes initiatives to address climate change.
The Paris Agreement entering into force in November 2016, highlights regional cooperation on adaptation as an important element. And it is time for regional actors such as the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to take a pro-active role in making climate policy discussed in Nepal in 2014 at the SAARC gathering – where many aspects of climate change and regional cooperation were discussed – be invested into concrete actions. This will in turn contribute to building bridges to address common issues of the region, as well as create/facilitate the creation of links between countries for collaborative actions to address issues related to climate change, through regional cooperation which in turn will (hopefully) lead to a more unified and peaceful South Asia.
 The Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC: What’s in it for South Asia? Executive Summary, (2014)
 “The rate of sea level rise has been greater than the mean rate during the previous two millennia (high confidence).” IPCC (2013). Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Summary for Policymakers (p11)
 IPCC (2014). Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Summary for Policymakers (p4)
 IPCC (2014). Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Summary for Policymakers (Box SPM.2 Table 1, p21)
 IPCC (2014). Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Chapter 24 (p3)
 IPCC (2014). Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Chapter 24 (p6).
 IPCC (2014). Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Chapter 24 (p6)
 IPCC (2014). Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Chapter 18.
 IPCC (2014). Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Chapter 10 (p4)
 IPCC (2014). Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Chapter 12 (p2)
 Decision 1/CP16 UNFCCC
It has been years since I had entered the world of climate change where people talk of the Global South and the Global North, the two sides of development in the world geography: developing and the developed world. We professionals, we become part of it, based on our skin colour, and geographical location (consciously or unconsciously). Our mode of thinking, well it comes to play some importance time to time.
I have often been taken as too Southern-ist in some discussions, while some have accused me at times of not being enough Southern-ist. I have tried to keep the middle ground, the one that sees both sides of the story, till I have lost my patience recently, seeing that colour and the geographical location have at most times turned a token on a panel, or a representation for a grant application.
You see the ever so caring grant applications putting the face of a brown human on their report. Addressing the needs of the vulnerable they call it. Capacity building plays a role too, if it is an eternal process for applying for funding. The South needs their capacity built. Apparently all are incompetent most of the time, unless to serve the purpose of funding applications.
I have been frustrated many times of late. The way the brown skin, a woman of brown skin fills a slot on a panel to fit that gender balance, the geographical balance, and then not to be given the due value in a context where decisions are being made. We speak of participatory processes, set up superficially a list of meetings to say a programme is as inclusive as it possibly could be, and promote the multi-stakeholder engagement while internal decisions are driven with no voice for those who are supposed to be the focus of work implemented. Where are those values you seem to be harping on?
I have watched sexual harassment happening in the Southern NGOs, not paid attention to, ignored when reported, and in turn developing a cycle of belief that it is not being worth reported. I have watched old men of repute squeezing interns bums, the horrified girls reporting of the happening to the seniors they trust, and the old man squeezing bums seen at the recurring conference every year. No actions taken, no questions asked.
We talk of saving the world, saving the values, social justice, when we work in a world half the slogans are hypocrisy, and faces and people are mere tokens for promoting one’s cause. I have watched colleagues leave in silence, without saying what they feel to those who need to be told about the horrors of their behaviour. I have seen many talented and passionate humans walk away from their work, frustrated and having had enough of what has been happening.
Me? I have had it for a long while. The sexual harassment that is not recorded, the way the southern folk are habitually synonymised with not being able to promote their own cause and needing a mouth-piece from the North to promote their interests, or just being a decorative element on a panel to show inclusivity and gender balance.
I write this because I have seen enough, and watching in silence is not the solution. If one is walking out of a system, then they need to make them feel heard and not step down in silence.
We speak of climate justice and social justice. I think it’s time we set up a library of dictionaries so that we do get a grasp of what we refer to as “justice”!
“I am brown, a woman, and have my own voice.”