#WomenWednesday: Meet the women of Mongolia!

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The women from Mongolia have been such a great part of our institute. We are excited for you to meet them!

Otgonzul is studying renewable energy engineering. She would like people to know that Mongolia is a developing country with an up-and-coming younger generation. She would like to tell her younger self that even when problems arise, she should be persistent and face them with courage. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity!” She also loves to eat cheesy foods, especially pastas!

Bolor is studying international economic relations in Ulaanbaatar. If she could give her younger self advice, she would say, “You are stronger and smarter than you realize. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You just have to persevere through the hardships and stand tall.” She would like people to know that though Mongolia is associated with a nomadic lifestyle, it is not barbaric. She is from a metropolitan city and the people there are very peaceful. Her favorite food is brownies!

Uyanga (Melody) is studying financial management. She says that many people assume that she is serious and quiet, but when you get to know her she opens up. She loves to eat spicy food and pasta. She says that Mongolia is developing very rapidly. If she could give her younger self advice, she would say, “Try new things, explore yourself, don’t be afraid to fail, meet new people, try to see the world from a different angle. And read a lot of books!”

Javkhlan (Jane) is studying international business management and describes herself as imaginative, driven, and passionate. She says that her beliefs and values drive her life. She wishes she could say this to her younger self: “Learn as many things as possible. Be fearless. You can do anything if you put your energy toward it. You are that strong. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are less than this.” Her favorite food is cake (vegan of course)!

Stay tuned for more updates from these talented and passionate women!

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Women Wednesday: Introducing the women from India

We are so excited to introduce you to the women from India!

Mahamedha is a student of English, politics, and social work. If she could give her younger self advice, she would tell herself to make less mistakes. She would like people to know that India has more to explore than religions. They do not call it “Incredible India!” for no reason. Her favorite treat is cheese pizza!

Aradhana is a computer science and engineering student who loves red velvet cake! If she could go back in time, she would tell her younger self to think things through and prioritize before acting. She would like the world to know that 780 languages and dialects are currently spoken in India!

Ani is a student of English literature. She wants to the world to know that even though people consider India to be a country of superstitions, many of their beliefs are based in scientific fact. If she could go back in time, she would tell her younger self to be more serious in all aspects of life. Her favorite food is a rice pudding dish called payasam.

Bala is a psychology and sociology student who would like to one day become a counselor. Her advice to her younger self is something we can all learn from. “Whatever you feel like doing, just do it! Life is too short. Please smile while you still have teeth!”

We are so excited to have these passionate, talented, smart, and funny women with us this summer. Check in on social media tomorrow to hear from them more!

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Commemorating a Struggle

This guest blog was written by KWLI 2014 alumna Arpita Mitra

Every day I see people struggling – a struggle to sustain oneself, to cope up with the trying moments; much courageous, a struggle to move on. The omnipresence of a certain sense of competition, of an uncalled-for pitting oneself against the other, or the increasing desirability of a number one position, makes me wonder about what went wrong.

In an inter-connected globalized world, transcending borders have not only increased opportunities, but have differentially, yet paradoxically hindered the same for many communities. While I’m coming to terms with the increasing costs of education for international students at much aspired universities, there are many others who are employed as child labourers because education itself is made to appear as a distant privilege to them. From the last breath of a young girl who was left abandoned by her parents to be chewed by dogs, to young boys unethically labeled ‘terrorists’ or ‘national threats’, heinous enough for crimes they haven’t even committed or the fainting voice of a teenager who committed suicide in response to the fear of being bullied again – these narratives are linked together by a delicate thread – ‘What wrong did they do, to face the consequential experience?’

The situations in conflict-torn region of Darfar (Sudan) are extreme, to such an extent that children in camps of Fata Borno tell UNICEF Officers “we are here, please don’t forget us”. The act of forgetting is closely tied to the act of remembering. History writing is interesting, not only because it glorifies one set of events to the level of nationalist consciousness, but simultaneously deems irrelevant the narratives of thousands of ‘insignificant’ individuals through the political art of silencing. The history of memory, then, is equally a political act of depoliticizing certain specifically chosen voices to represent and validate the history, almost as a natural occurrence, thereby taking away the agency from specific communities to retell their story, their past. It is not that the subaltern subject cannot speak, the question rather becomes, as Prof. Gayatri Spivak accounts, is ‘can the subaltern be heard’.

So when this hitherto unperturbed mainstream consciousness is met with a reality check through a kaleidoscope-like vision, what we unfurl beneath the layers of our oblivion is a struggle. A struggle gets re-conceptualized in extraordinary movements – to reinstate that #BlackLivesMatter, or as Lila Abu-Lughod would refer, to an ‘unbelievable’ variant of Islamic feminism, evident in Muslim women’s reassertion of cultural heterogeneity, and embracing various forms of wearing the head-scarfs and Islamic veils as against the popular conceptualization of them being ‘victims’ in dire need of ‘saving’. My question still remains – why do only some persons, groups, communities have to struggle to make their voice heard? Why does the recognition of a non-mainstream narrative made possible only in its capacity as a movement threatening existing status-quo? Why does it take for the State Attorney (Baltimore, Maryland) to recognize the disproportionate impact of criminal justice system on people ‘of colour’? This struggle – however a spark in history, is nevertheless a painful journey. Amidst the tussle between special recognition and complete integration (into the mainstream), the struggling voices shall forever be viewed as an exception than a norm. The history of non-mainstream lives are tailored to structure the permanence of the mainstream, like the fine contours demarcating ‘us’ from ‘them’. The mechanisms of control pervade not only in normalizing the discourse, but equally in exploiting and refusing to hear the other – the very act of denial often guides our willingness to forget. We struggle, we fight, some of us even give up our lives, but only few are privileged to be regarded as martyrs. How is the life of a factory worker dying due to industrial toxic fumes each day, any less significant than the soldier who dies on-field protecting the honour of our respective nation-states? To me, there isn’t, but that’s easier said than done, since our privilege equally blinds us to the very ‘privilege of ignorance’ – the fact that we can often choose to ignore our caste identities or class positions is precisely because it hasn’t affected our life struggles. But where ascribed identities determine the extent of achievement, we are destined to struggle or lead a life with the fear that our stories will soon be forgotten. Who is to be held accountable?

In the constant Foucauldian struggle between ‘subjection’ (as individuals’ submission to domination) and ‘subjectification’ (an identity created for us not in terms of who we are, but what we come to represent as per the gaze of the dominant group), we are increasingly giving away a crucial component of who we truly are, in the effort to contest what they’ve made of us. It is time to recognize the sincerity of these struggles as the real foundations of our histories and her-stories.

Women Wednesday: Meet the women from Morocco

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The women from Morocco will be taking over our social media tomorrow, so we wanted to give you a chance to get to know them.

Sarah studies architecture and urban design and would like to pursue a career in management. If she could give her younger self advice, she would say that it is important to say, “Yes!” to trying new things. She would like for more people to see how caring she is and to appreciate everything she has to offer. To top it all off, she loves mango and lemon ice cream!

Rania is an aerospace engineering student. She would like to tell her younger self, “Don’t give up on yourself, believe in yourself! You’ll grow up to be awesome!” She loves chocolate! She also would like the world to know how diverse Morocco is and how welcoming the people are.

Khaoula is a self-described “very loud person” who loves pizza. She is currently studying English literature. Her advice to her younger self is something we can all listen to. She says, “It doesn’t get better unless you get up and do something about it. Remember to dream big and never stop believing.”

Youmn studies business and management who would like the world to know that Morocco is a country undergoing some dyanmic changes. Particularly, with increased striving for human rights there has been an increase in opportunity. By the way, she loves mini pizzas with tuna! Youmn would tell her younger self, “Have fun and don’t be too shy; you’re worth it!”

These enthusiastic, talented and driven women have already been so so fun to get to know. We hope you enjoy getting to hear from them tomorrow. Be sure to stay tuned for more updates from all of the 2015 cohort!