Thursday, 23 March 2017

Please remember that Brown skin per se does not equal terrorism

Firstly, I feel a deep sadness over the death of all those who were victims of today's atrocities in London. There is a collective sense of grief and outpouring over what has happened. Soon we will learn of the names of the victims. The tragedy of today will take on a personal slant. Ordinary men and women who were going about another ordinary day which, tragically, turned out not to be any such thing. 

In fact, the name of the police officer who was stabbed to death has been released - Keith Palmer aged 48 who was a father and husband. 

RIP Keith Palmer
I often go into Parliament and Port Cullis house and I am always struck by how friendly and professional the police and security people who work there are. My daughter who is often with me and loves going into Port Cullis house was expressing her sadness too because she has a long memory of how the police officers would give her a big smile and indulge in chat with her when she was little. 

My singular hope in the aftermath is that latent prejudice, overt racism and the viewing of all ethnic minorities as potential terrorists does not become a side show that threatens to deviate from today's tragedy. I have experience, you see, to speak of. 

Good old Katie Hopkins can always be counted on to make a situation worse
In 2005 on the 7th of July when London was struck by a series of bombs which killed 52 people (I am not including the four suicide bombers) people like me became pariahs overnight. 

On the morning of 8 July I got on the train and people gave me hard stares. I got on the bus and the person sitting in the next seat got up and moved away. I traveled the 15 minute journey sitting in a two-seater on my own in a crowded bus. No, it wasn't my imagination. There were other incidents too. 

This is what happens, the sequence of events. Terrorist incident happens in Western country. It is perfect fodder for the angry who look for a scapegoat. Often these angry people belong to the right or the far right on the political spectrum. These angry folks brand those who fight against the ensuing racism as 'liberals, leftards and bleeding heart liberals'. As the days go on the rhetoric gets bolder. The tone and volume is ratched up. Those who didn't feel brave enough before now feel bold enough to label all ethnic people with Brown skin as potential terrorists. 

Taken from Twitter today
So when tomorrow dawns and the initial shock has faded and the full horror of the situation is unveiled please remember that Brown skinned people will feel the same as anyone else. Terrorists come in all colours too. 


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

'Mummy looking at mobile' syndrome

'Greet your child with a smile not a mobile' is a message that a school in Longlands, Middlesbrough, has placed on its' gates. The head of St Joseph's RC Primary School, Elizabeth King, has stated that the message is a "simple way" to develop speaking and listening between youngsters and their parents. 

I would say that it requires a lot more than a 'simple way' to get parents off their mobiles to pay attention to their children. While I hate being judgmental one cannot deny that there is a noticeable tendency for parents outside the school gates, in cafes and restaurants, on buses and tubes and even while strolling to be engaged on their phones for a length of time. 

Checking messages and replying is one thing but to be protracted about it is another. 

My daughter is now 17 and I didn't have a mobile till she was about 7 years old. As a result, I don't know whether I would have been a victim of the 'mummy looking at mobile' (i have made this phrase up) syndrome. I don't want to be 'holier than thou' in anyway but there is something galling about seeing children wanting their parents attention and not getting it especially if it's being done in a social setting like in a cafe or restaurant. 

Singling parental actions out as misdemeanors is always a tricky one because, understandably, we don't live in a nanny state and parents, especially mothers, do need some time to attend to their own needs in a tech fueled world.  

My point of reference is the fact that children grow up so quickly. 

Your little one soon becomes a teenager (and won't want to know you) and then the world of university or work beckons. Perhaps it is my angst over my daughter growing up that makes me angry about other parents wasting precious time over things that do not need immediate attention. I may also be judging parental actions based on a snapshot of their lives. 

Whatever the reason I do think that a starting position of realising that you will not have your child's attention forever is a point to always bear in mind. Make the most of your time together.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Good night's sleep - Restless Legs Syndrome=Bad Night's Sleep

The rare elusive concept that is otherwise known as a ‘good night’s sleep’ is so vital to our well being that it even has its’ own commemorative day. Today is ‘World Sleep Day’.  

But If I had a choice everyday would be a sleep day because having a good night’s sleep is a rare commodity when you have a condition or state of mind that results in restless nights. In my case I suffer from ‘Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)’. It’s a little known about affliction but, for sufferers, it is a huge recurring nightmare.

RLS, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a common condition of the nervous system. It causes an overwhelming, irresistible urge to move your legs.It can also cause an unpleasant crawling or creeping sensation in the feet, calves and thighs. The sensation is often worse in the evening or at night. Occasionally, the arms are affected too.

The result of having RLS is that the sufferer cannot lie down to go to sleep because of the impossibility of keeping their legs still. 

I have suffered from RLS for over 20 years now. The extent of each attack and frequency of these attacks has increased over the years to the extent that I wonder whether I will ever get a night's sleep at all in the coming years. 

I can never predict when it's going to happen to me. I worry all day long whether I will have an attack that night. The crunch time, for some reason, is about 9pm. The attacks start with a creeping sensation in my arms, it spreads down my legs and finally reaches my feet. I then have to keep walking around and kicking my legs to deal with the restlessness. 

Sometimes the attacks start during the day but this is rare. I have had a few attacks that have lasted all night till about 6am. Going to work after an hour's sleep is really hard because I wake up with a thumping headache and cannot think clearly. Most of the time my attacks last till about 2am. 

This leaves me feeling drained and I often start yawning from about 12pm. I cannot even sit at the computer or sit on a chair to read a book while the attack is ongoing because constant movement is needed to deal with the restlessness. 

Recently I was so tired after a string of bad nights that I was actually falling asleep while walking around my home. I felt like a zombie statuette. 

RLS interferes with my social life tremendously. When I go to the cinema I often have to get up from my seat and walk to the back of the cinema so I can keep moving around without disturbing other patrons. The same with going to the theatre too. I take the tube more often than the bus because it is easier to stand up and keep moving about in a tube. 

I have to factor RLS into my everyday life in a way that is prohibitive. I wish I could find a magic cure. I suppose I have to be grateful for the fact that there is a lot more information about RLS now than 18 years ago when I fell pregnant and suffered horrendous attacks. I now know that pregnancy often triggers the worst cases. 

There are various reasons as to the causes of RLS. For further information click here

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

When a mother is raped while out with her toddler we need International Women's Day

While we celebrate the victories of women on International Women's Day let us not forget that there are still reasons as to why we need a dedicated day to raise awareness of the constant dangers that women face. 

A mother who was out walking by the sea in Redcar with her toddler was raped. They were abducted and forced into a car by two men in broad daylight. It is a story that makes me want to weep for so many reasons. 

Firstly, the fact that she was with her child raised no pricking of conscience in the two men. What possesses such depraved human beings to ignore the basic decencies of society? 

Secondly, that the toddler, presumably, witnessed the rape and will probably suffer trauma for a long time. 

Thirdly, the mother's uphill struggle now in coping with her own rape while comforting her child and ensuring that no lasting damage is done to the poor little mite. I feel so very sorry for both them. 

For as long as mothers are harassed, raped, become victims of domestic violence and many more feminist mothering will be relevant as a weapon against male dominance. 

The Greek Files

When citizens of a country are called upon to sacrifice more and more of their liberty, quality of life and dignity the only words to describe the situation, to use a cliché, is ‘Greek Tragedy’, and a protracted tragedy it is too. 

For the last seven long years the Greek people have been living under reduced circumstances in a sort of puppetry existence where the rules of their lives have been dictated by an alliance called the Troika – the European Union, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank. 

More recently the IMF has started to change the tune to which Greek people and their politicians have been forced to dance to. It is calling for Greece to be granted debt relief but all this may be too late. Pensions have been cut 12 times since the financial crisis started. Creditors are demanding more cuts even though there are well documented hardship cases of pensioners scrounging through bins for food. 

In 2015 and 2016 there were shortages of vital medicines as pharmacies struggled to meet demand with a diminished supply. There is a brain drain as educated people flee in search of jobs and a standard of living that is unfettered from the top down political harshness Greece is experiencing. 

A particular defining moment in the Greek crisis occurred in June 2015 when the European Central Bank shut Greek banks.
DiEM25 launches #TheGreekFiles, a campaign to support a freedom of information request for legal documents on the ECB’s closure of Greece’s banks in 2015

The former well known finance minister for Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, has been requesting access to the information on why the European Central Bank acted as it did. Because this has not been forthcoming a Freedom of Information (FOI) request will be filed by Yanis and the Die Linke member of the European parliament, Fabio De Masi, on 8 March in Brussels. 

The questions that they are seeking answers to are as follows; 

Did the European Central Bank (ECB) act within its mandate when it shut down Greece’s banks in June 2015? 

Were the ECB’s actions that led to the imposition of capital controls in Greece legal? 

A livestreamed press conference will be held on Wednesday, March 8 at 10am CET at the European Parliament in Brussels. 

For more information please click here. 

For further information on the background to this FOI please click here

This move is being supported by DiEM25,  a pan-European, cross-border movement co-founded by Yanis who want the EU to be reformed. Please consider joining DiEM 25 and supporting this initiative if you believe in a united Europe that ought to be transparent and democratic. 


Monday, 6 March 2017

I am hosting a free movie screening on International Women's Day in London

On International Women's Day, 8 March, I am hosting a free screening of a 1926 Russian made movie called 'Mother'. The film is set during the time of the Russian Revolution and the plot is as follows:

The mother of Pavel Vlasov is drawn into the revolutionary conflict when her husband and son find themselves on opposite sides during a worker's strike. After her husband dies during the failed strike, she betrays her son's ideology in order to try to save his life. He is arrested, tried in what amounts to a judicial farce, and sentenced to heavy labor in a prison camp. During his incarceration, his mother aligns herself with him and his ideology and joins the revolutionaries. In the climax of the movie, the mother and hundreds of others march to the prison in order to free the prisoners, who are aware of the plan and have planned their escape.   

'Mother' will be screened in The Cut, Waterloo, London at from 7pm to 9pm. The evening will include a discussion by a Marxist scholar. Please email me, Jane Chelliah, at to reserve a place. 


Saturday, 4 March 2017

Celebrating International Women's Day starts at home

The global nature of International Women's Day does not require a global action to make it a day of celebrating women's achievements. Sometimes actions taken in your 'own backyard', figuratively speaking, can help launch a myriad of ways and means which contribute towards showcasing what we can do to raise the profile of women's issues.

I chose to hold a women's evening in my home and invited women who, mainly, did not know each other but whose lives, I thought, would be enriched through meeting each other.

I also invited a friend, Kirsten Bayes, a numero uno activist who is part of the network of speakers with the Campaign Against the Arms Trade to give us a talk. Women and children are disproportionately victims of war in which the deployment of arms is the whole means of causing death, destruction and serious injury. Any act of harm against women and children is a feminist issue.

Jane Chelliah, me, on the far left and Kirsten Bayes seated in the middle 

So often wars are fought in the name of women and children under the guise of 'keeping them safe'. However, a huge proportion of war casualties are women and children. Is this a paradox? Yes it is because if wars were fought for the protection of women and children then we would not be viewing on our TV sets news items on the thousands of women seeking refugee status everyday, all year round and year after year.

Rape and war prostitution are common place evil acts in war torn areas. Sometimes rape is used as an alternative weapon of war. The gendering of war is a harmful act that makes women victims.

The penis of the male war monger is a weapon of female destruction. 

Campaigning against the arms trade is, therefore, a feminist issue. The war in Yemen, as an example,  is still ongoing while children are dying of famine. A cost benefit analysis would surely conclude that hungry and dying children are too high a price to pay.

As feminists any action that we take is a building block towards the global betterment of women's lives.  

Women's International Day is being celebrated on 8 March. If you fancy holding an event to mark the day remember that you need only do small things to make a big impact - think about micro level  actions that will challenge and shine a light on global macro problems. Serve food and drink and make sure that the conversation is flowing and is focused on women's issues.