Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Meet a Mum Who Contracted Mesothelioma (Asbestos Exposure)

Heather Von St James is a mother living in America who survived exposure to asbestos to tell the tale. She is now busily raising awareness of the deadly illness and wants people to look out for the danger signs of the symptoms. Mesothelioma is the name of the cancer that develops as a result of inhaling asbestos. Most commonly, sufferers of mesothelioma would have been employees working in industrial situations where asbestos was used. However, there is a secondary fall out too. Women who washed the clothes of their husbands who had been working in environments where there was asbestos have contracted Mesothelioma too. 

Heather's story is below: 
'I’m reaching out to you today in hopes that you will help me with a cause that is very near and dear to my heart. At age 36, I was diagnosed with mesothelioma just 3 ½ months after my first and only child, Lily, was born. I was given just 15 months to live unless I underwent a drastic surgery to remove my left lung. Miraculously, I beat the odds and I’m still here eight years later. I was exposed to asbestos through my father's work jacket when I was just a little girl; my diagnosis came about 30 years later. Once diagnosed, most patients die within 2 years. I am one of few survivors who openly share their story and work to spread awareness regarding the dangers of asbestos.'

Asbestos was banned in the UK on August 24 1999. However, the United States is one of the very few major industrialized nations that has not banned asbestos entirely in all of its forms. It continues to be used in gaskets, friction products, roofing materials, fireproofing materials - in fact, into hundreds of consumer products that are used every day. This is why Heather is desperately trying to do something about it. She needs our support so please visit her website.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Behind the Pink Tint of Mother's Day

I had a good Mother's Day. So did many of you, I suspect. However, I was given two insights into how Mother's Day can be an unpleasant experience for some mothers. The pink tint of Mother's Day with bouquets of flowers, pink iced cakes (or any other colour for that matter) and glossy TV adverts does not stretch into all households. Much like Christmas which brings all sorts of existential stress, I think Mother's Day is the one day when mothers feel strongly that their identity or existence as mothers is either justified or not. While it is easy to construct Mother's Day as being a commercially invented one there is no getting away from the fact that it is a day that still counts.

A friend arrived on my doorstep just before lunch on Mother's Day. Her teenage son had not wished her and was out with his friends. She was feeling lost. I invited her to join us for lunch. Having her around made both of us happy, in fact, though it did not make up for the fact that her teenager was not with her.

At 7.40pm my phone rang. A friend's name flashed up. I answered in a cheery tone expecting a conversation about how her day had gone etc. It was a 'pocket dial' call. It took me a few seconds to realise that that was what it was because of the shouting in the background. She was screaming at her daughter and husband for forgetting about her and giving her a card quite late in the day. 'This is what you think of me', she said, 'after all that I do'. Her daughter screamed at her to shut up. My friend carried on with her anguished monologue. I hung up because I felt like I was intruding on a personal family situation. She has not rung me since (intentionally or unintentionally) and I know that she would be too embarrassed to talk about it.

Not A Happy Mother's Day FOR ALL. 

Friday, 28 March 2014

Being a Mother to a Teenager is Hard Work

People warned me that my daughter would turn into someone I would not recognise when she became a teenager. I was a non-believer. No one turns into a monster from the Exorcist at the drop of a hat was my thought.. My daughter loved spending time with me and wrote me endless 'love you mummy' notes that I cherished. You see I never thought that I would have a child then just as I was pushing my biological clock along she came.

Mothering her was great fun, watching her try new things and listening to her saying all those silly things that only children could say. Then she turned 14 and most of the time I don't recognise the child living in my house. I don't mean this literally, of course. It is meant to convey a sense of change of which I had not played a part in. For the first 13 years I steered her, nourished her both mentally and physically and watched over her. Now, she does not need me it seems though people tell me that a teenager needs her/his mum more than ever to provide boundaries.

Well, she has headphones on almost all the time so she cannot hear me setting boundaries. I would have to physically draw boundary lines much like American policemen do in TV murder mysteries to mark the spot where a dead person has been cut down to get her attention. When she does listen to me I am given airtime of about 30 seconds before being cut out with her retorts of, 'listen to me', 'what do you mean?', 'you stress me' or 'you don't understand?' She goes out a heck of a lot. The house feels empty when she is not here and the house feels empty when she is here, come to think of it, because she shuts herself in her bedroom. Even the cat has taken to sitting outside her bedroom door and meeowing incessantly because it misses her.

Life has changed beyond recognition and I do feel rather nostalgic for the days gone by which will never return. People calling this 'growing up'. My mothering is at odds with this 'growing up' because my instinct is to keep her close. Only consolation- I am not the only one.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Is Being Gay Part of Being a 'Special Interest Group'? A Mother's Anguish

I have always viewed 'Special Interest Groups' as a collective group of people, akin or same as lobby groups, that advocate and harangue for the interests of their members. 'Special Interest' to me denotes a concern with an issue that is not associated with basic human rights or rights taken for granted as being the status quo i.e fracking groups. However, the debate about lives of gay people has taken a twist, as is being reported in the British Daily Mail newspaper. A young man, aged 17, has had his profile pulled from his school's yearbook because it carried statements from him about being gay.

The decision has attracted some criticism from Human Rights Group (quite rightly so, I say) but the twist in the tale comes from the school making a statement to the effect that it would not listen to 'special interest groups'. Since when did gay people and human rights become 'special interests'? While I do not live in America I know how important their Yearbook is to them and it must be a distressing experience to have your identity rejected for publication because of your sexuality. I also know, through friends and family living in America, how important one's graduation from high school is to family. The young man's mother has been bereft at the school's heartless decision and is campaigning for a reversal of their decision. She has been pictured sobbing at a rally held in his honour.

While we in the UK sign off our child leaving secondary school with a sigh of nostalgia in America it represents a rite of passage through life. I don't even know whether my daughter's school does a leaving yearbook but if it did and if my child were gay and if she were excluded I would be screaming from the rooftops too. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Global 'Post Code' Lottery for Newborn Mortality

It is entirely a scourge on global society that there are lives being extinguished without being given a chance of survival beyond a month. Why should it matter where in the world a woman has her baby but that is the reality of our world because there is a huge discrepancy between countries in the way maternity care is crafted and dispensed. A pregnant woman in less developed countries, in general, has a reduced chance of celebrating the birth of her baby in the way that a woman in the Global North can, in the main, be assured of.

According to the report, 'Surviving the First Day: State of the World's Mothers 2013' , by Save the Children nearly 3 million babies die within the first month of life. The 3 million deaths represent 43% of the world's under-5's deaths. Staggeringly, the future generations of many countries are being literally wiped out through deaths caused by preventable causes. In some cases, all it takes is simple measures such as using a basic antiseptic for cleansing the umbilical cord to prevent a deadly infection or using antenatal steroids to help premature babies breathe.

The indicators which are assessed for collating data that makes up the annual 'Mother's Index' is a valuable source in itself to signpost policy makers, governments and healthcare agencies as to where investment needs to be made: women's health, children's health, educational attainment, economic well-being and female political participation. What stands out is the fact that an investment in mothers produces a consequent return through their children. This investment needs to take the form of money, equipment, awareness, skilled staff and compassion (the human cost of suffering and grieving is never factored into investment decisions).

Being Asian myself I am saddened that an estimated 423,000 babies die each year in South Asia on the day they are born. South Asia accounts for 24% of the world's population and 40% of the world's first-day deaths. In India, specifically, 309,000 babies die each year on the day they are born. India also has more maternal deaths, 56,000, than any other country in the world. The Asian countries exhibit some of the largest economic inequalities intra-country. The report states that babies born to mothers living in the greatest poverty face the greatest challenges to survival. As an example, if all newborns in India experienced the same survival rates as newborns from the richest Indian families, nearly 360,000 more babies would survive each year.

While pregnant women in developed countries have expectations underpinned by advanced medical care systems of safe births, pregnant mothers in less developed and struggling countries live in fear of what lies at the end of their pregnancy. There is a huge chasm between the two situations that, frankly, should make people sit up and think.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Women Denied Basic Decency at HaSharon Prison

During my lunch break recently I walked past a group of people who were staging a protest in Central London against the detention and care of a Palestinian woman called Lena Jarboni who is being held at the HaSharon Prison. I picked up a leaflet out of interest and have since done some research into the prison and Lena's cause. My conclusion - why has the world not heard of her before?

Lena Jarboni is now 40 years old (only) and has been in prison for the past 11 years. Her crime - according to the Israelis - was 'collaborating with the enemy'. After being arrested she was tortured for 30 days. She has suffered from severe health problems as a result of her incarceration. Lena can no longer walk, suffers from extreme pain in her stomach and has constant migraines. She needed an essential stomach operation but the prison refused to transfer her to hospital. After the other women prisoners went on strike to support Lena's case she was taken to hospital but her condition is going downhill.

The conditions in HaSharon prison are, from the reports I have read, despicable. The cells are overcrowded,  dark, airless, dirty and overrun with rats and cockroaches. Women are denied adequate and clean food, sanitary pads and suffer from sexual harrassment and sexual violence. If the women so much as spill water they are beaten and left tied to their bed for a day and half.

How can this be happening in this day and age?

The Spectator magazine on 1 February 2014 published an article titled 'Israel's A-bomb' which states that Britain and America are of the opinion that Israel will 'face international isolation as a pariah state that denies rights to up to 2.5 million Arabs' if it does not agree to an independent Palestinian State. This 'A-bomb' is the word apartheid. The US would like to see an independent Palestine state and the deadline for talks to come up with a legitimate outcome is April 2014. The world will be watching.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

The Cruel Reality of the Detention of Female Refugees

I thought I knew everything there was to know about the injustices suffered by females. As a left-leaning enthusiastic Feminist woman I abhor rape, domestic violence, discrimination in the workplace etc but I must confess to being ignorant of the injustices suffered by females who are detained in the UK. The word 'detention' has become so much a part of this country's anti-immigration rhetoric that no one stops to think about the daily grinding process of 'detention' and what it actually means. I am now the wiser for having read 'Detained:Women Asylum Seekers Locked up in the UK'.  

The lived experiences of female asylum seekers, as set out in the report, makes for harrowing reading and is a wake up call to feminists to factor the treatment of these female detainees in our activism. Feminism favours an integrated approach and through history feminism has expanded its' concepts to include modern day battles such as protests against the austerity cuts against a broader struggle for justice and fair treatment. Thus, the report contributes to a wider understanding of the diverse relationship between feminism and the lived experiences of the myriad of women who undergo unfair treatment on our shores everyday.

Professor Philippe Sands, QC, write in the report that: "In the United Kingdom today, the right to liberty is recognised for all British Citizens...The one group that can routinely be detained indefinitely without charge or trial are migrants". There seems something inherently wrong that a group of people can be locked up indefinitely without having done anything illegal. Why is the Rule of Law absent in the detention of asylum seekers?

The women who seek asylum in the UK have often undergone brutal treatment in their home country. Many were raped and tortured. Having escaped to the UK it seems that they exchange tyranny for further persecution in a country where they believed some sort of fair system would prevail. The statistics are staggering: In 2012, 6,071 women sought asylum in the UK and 1,902 were detained. They speak of being harassed, developing suicidal thoughts, being verbally abused and experiencing severed depression while living the living of a detainee. In one woman's words, "living is not worthwhile anymore. Being dead would be much better".
Is it not time to take up these women's cause on their behalf?