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Monday, 17 May 2010

Saving me from my righteous anger...

TED as many of you know is an exceptional forum of speakers and thought leaders – a platform to disseminate valuable information to a wide global audience.  For learners, observers and ‘fringe-dwellers’ like myself it is a great opportunity to tap into the most incredible insights and broaden our own thinking.
One of my favourite speakers is Kavita Ramdas.  Referred to as a philanthropist in her biography I believe she is so much more after hearing her TED presentation.


While listening I was reminded of an afternoon at my cousin’s home around 1998-9.  We were sitting in her lounge along with my mother and sister. She and I were both at law school at the time both having returned to study after leaving other careers (she is 10 years my senior). My sister was graduating from her nursing studies and working in a burns unit.  My cousin’s husband is a well established barrister who at the time was often called to represent in domestic violence cases. He found that when cases involving non-Pakeha (Anglo Saxon) ethnic or migrant families arose he was often asked to provide additional guidance on access to social services which he would discuss with his wife who is well connected in community.  That afternoon we discussed the limitations of NGOs, government agencies and community groups and how they could support women of south east asian descent.  It was no secret to any of the women in the room that day domestic violence was prevalent in our community, it was evident in our own families.
The idea to form Mamta, an Asian Womens Support Group was conceived that day.  I know because on occasion when it was in full operation years later, I found the notes we took that afternoon in my cousin’s desk drawer.  Our thoughts had translated into action (we’re a family of thinkers and do-ers!)! Isn’t that what TED is about?
One of the underpinning tenets of Mamta was ‘reconciliation’.  This challenged the beliefs at this time of the existing social service providers because it was simply unheard of. Domestic violence and action against it had come a long way in New Zealand by this stage.  Police would incarcerate overnight anyone that was engaged in such behaviour and it was working. What could not be understood at this time was that the Asian victims in particular did not want to break up their families. In fact they were so afraid of this that it was a significant driver for the lack of reporting, therein not getting any assistance or support and as a family not finding the right ways to address the usual stressors that would trigger the violent behaviour.
Like Kavita describes in her speech to TED – Mamta saved me from my righteous anger – an anger fuelled by western notions of what the ideal family life should be and trying to seek meaning in the violence that I experienced firsthand.  The ideal set can in part create greater barriers to change rather than help. I only have to recall my own attitudes towards arranged marriages (topic for another post I’m sure!) and acknowledge that I was “informed” by my western education and not my culture. In order to reach a balanced view I needed to understand both.

If you have a spare 18 mins I think you will enjoy listening to Kavita speak, and if anything admire her eloquent presentation.

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Hey thanks!