Listen up on IDPD 2015!

AEHR Award Recipients 2015 cropped

Access, Equity, and Human Rights Award Recipients  Photo: City of Toronto

On December 2nd 2015, I was honoured to be presented with the City of Toronto’s 2015 Access Award for Disability Issues for my work creating and leading Building Roads Together. It was an extra special honour to receive it on the eve of The International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), and just days before International Human Rights Day, when the UN will launch the “Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always”campaign. My life’s work emerges from the nexus of rights, freedom, and mental health.

The theme for IDPD 2015, “Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities,” resonates strongly with the core principle and goal of Building Roads Together to increase inclusion of people living at the intersections of exclusion.

If you want to join us in increasing inclusion, listen to those of us who live at the intersections of exclusions. I mean really listen – without dismissing, diminishing, debating, defending. Hear our words and pause to consider them. Try to understand how our words express our unique contexts and experiences – our unique lives. Give our words space to live and breathe in a world where we are so often silenced, where our words are so often erased. Value the insight we have gained from our daily experiences. If you are committed to inclusion, start by including our words. That is the first step to including our lived experience, and including our lives.

These are the words I shared at the Access, Equity, and Human Rights Awards Ceremony:

“This award means so much to me, I’m speechless. Well, almost speechless. I do have a speech for you. The Access Award means so much to me for three key reasons.

First, Building Roads Together, the community-based peer walking and rolling group program I designed to promote inclusion and reduce mental health inequities, comes from my lived experience of trauma and recovery.

On July 31, 2009, my cherished friend and colleague Josh Fattal was taken hostage by the Iranian regime. My heart stopped. I needed movement to keep it beating, yet it felt impossible to move forward. We were captive with him, in a state of suspended animation, holding our breath, until he was freed. Movement was the only way out of our entrapment.

Josh told me, after he was freed, that one of the lessons he had learned from his hostage experience was, “Exercise is the key to life.” Yet I struggled even to walk during my recovery, because of my PTSD symptoms. This experience grew into Building Roads Together.

The second reason I so value this award is that building something valued by my peers, who share my lived experience of exclusion, loss of freedom, and mental health issues, means the world to me. I’ve now trained more than 40 people living in community housing in Regent Park, with City of Toronto Community Recreation grant funding. Thank you for that. Multiple groups and inspiring leaders have emerged from that training. These words of wisdom from a peer walking group leader express the essence of the program and inspired our name:

It’s not about showing people the path and then them following you. It’s walking along the path with them. Sometimes you will follow them, and other times they will follow you. It’s building roads together.”

I’m beyond moved that a growing number of people and organizations across the city and country want to be part of Building Roads. A team of professors in Japan even wants to collaborate to bring it to community housing there that is being revitalized.

Finally, recognition from the City of Toronto is more than I ever imagined possible. Of course I didn’t get here alone. I want to thank the following people and organizations for building this road with me:

 

CVRZIIKUsAIEOU6-1

Intergenerational inspiration. My mother, nephew, and I. Photo: Ausma Malik, TDSB Trustee

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Moving People to Action

Farahway Global moves people to action at the nexus of human rights and mental health in two key areas.

1. Moving People to Freedom

Moving people to free hostages and political prisoners.

Moving People to Freedom

2. Building Roads Together

Moving people to walk with peers for inclusion and mental health.

Moving People to Mental Health

Freedom Season: The Time Is Right to Free Tarek Loubani and John Greyson

DAVE CHIDLEY / THE CANADIAN PRESS

DAVE CHIDLEY / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Re-posted from The Huffington Post

The time is always right to do what is right.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

This time of year has become Freedom Season for me. On September 21, 2011, my precious friends Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, were freed after being held hostage by the Iranian regime for 2 years and 2 months. On September 14, 2010, my other friend Sarah Shourd, was freed after 410 days in solitary confinement in the same Iranian prison. I will never forget those days. Along with all their loved ones, I could not be free until they were free.

When Sarah was freed, the sky grew larger, and I imagined how immense it would grow, when Shane and Josh joined us in the free world. Now that Josh and Shane are free, I am able to feel the growth of the world around me, with news of every political prisoner freed. On September 14, 2012, Jason Puracal, the brother of my friend Janis, was freed from Nicaragua, on September 18, 2013, Nasrin Sotoudeh, human rights defender extraordinaire, was freed from Evin Prison, Iran, and on September 23, 2013, Hamid-Ghassemi Shall, husband of my friend Antonella, was freed after more than 5 years imprisoned in Iran. The joy of those hard-won battles for freedom, by people around the world, is resounding. The sky expands, creating more air for my lungs, more space to fly.

Hearing the first words from Tarek Loubani, and John Greyson, two Canadians wrongfully detained in Egypt for 1.5 months, telling the story of their arrest, torture, and abuse, clouds that sky.

…we were: arrested, searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a ‘Syrian terrorist,’ slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries…They screamed ‘Canadian’ as they kicked and hit us. John had a precisely etched bootprint bruise on his back for a week.

Imagine the horror and heartbreak of hearing that from your brother, son, friend? John’s sister Cecilia responded, in a statement, with “Given John and Tarek’s horrendous experiences from the day of their arrest until now, we have absolutely no faith that they will receive justice at the hands of the Egyptian legal system.”

Friends, colleagues, and supporters of theirs are flooding social media sites with their heartbroken and shocked responses, and the inboxes of Foreign Minister John Baird, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, with calls for them to step up the pressure for Egyptian authorities to free Tarek and John.

Our shock deepened when rather than answering to their disturbing first account of their experience, and the shock expressed by people around the world, an Egyptian prosecutor ordered them detained for another 45 days, and Egypt’s Foreign Ministry confirmed charges of “participating in an illegal demonstration,” and suggested impending charges of espionage. With not even one phone call to their families to date. What reason do Egyptian authorities have for denying them and their families that basic humanity? Their basic human rights?

Cecilia Greyson spoke to CTV News on behalf of family members, “To have the detainment extended for another 45 days is truly awful for all of us.” I am sure that is an understatement of what their families are experiencing. I imagine that, like we had to, they’re checking their emotions in order to focus their energy on doing everything in their power, every moment of every day, to end their surreal nightmare.

Tarek and John are humanitarians, who have devoted their lives to improving the lives of people around the world. Tarek was “trying to save lives” in response to calls for a doctor at the protest, during their unplanned stay in Cairo. They were only there because they were unable to cross the border into Gaza, where they planned to work on a partnership project between Western University in London, Ontario, and al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

Dr. Fahim Ali, a colleague of Tarek, feels compelled to share his experience with Tarek:

I travelled with Tarek and 15 other medical professionals to Gaza last year to help teach a course in cardiac resuscitation. Tarek has only been practicing medicine for about 6 years. In that time he has helped develop an emergency residency program in Gaza, helped overhaul their emergency system, and taken a variety of other specialists to and from Gaza to develop and help advance medical care for the 1.8 million residents of Gaza who are under siege there. Most of this work is funded by Tarek himself. Tarek is no ordinary person. The fact that he is in a prison on Egypt without reason is not only an injustice it is a travesty.”

Though Tarek knew he faced risks going to a region in conflict, his colleague Dr. Gary Joubert highlights, “It’s always been important for Palestinian-born Loubani to give back to his homeland.”

As someone who takes risks to give back to my homeland, Kenya, I can relate to that. As Tarek’s father, Dr. Mahmoud Loubani asserts, rather than punish them, “If the Egyptian authorities…know about their mission, they should reward them and be proud of them.”

Both Tarek and John are cherished by their families, friends, colleagues, and continue to inspire them while held captive in deplorable conditions, silenced, and denied due process. Every supportive action you take contributes to FREEDOM for Tarek and John, buoys their spirits, and keeps their loved ones going. Just as every action supporters took for Josh, Shane, and Sarah were beacons of hope for them, myself, and all their loved ones. So please go to tarekandjohn.com for a list of actions you can take to reach out, hug them, and pull them home.

Bullets to Butterflies – An Interactive Art Exhibit

*UPDATE: The show has been such a success, Artscape has extended it to June 10, 2013!*

We are excited to announce that Farahway Global will be hosting Bullets to Butterflies, a collaborative exhibition and interactive art installation by Canadian artists Unaiza Karim, Saba Syed and Huma Durrani, focused on 15 year old education activist Malala Yousafzai. Like so many around the world, we are greatly inspired by Malala’s remarkable resilience in surviving an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen, and her fearlessness in fighting for girls’ right to education. She has now become the youngest Nobel Peace Prize nominee in history.


We need events such as Bullets to Butterflies to mark such horrific tragedies around the world and in our backyards, and transform them into hope and action for change for our communities, and especially for our children, and youth.  At the very least, they deserve the opportunity to pursue their dreams. I hope you will join us in supporting, promoting, and participating in Bullets to Butterflies. RSVP and invite your friends on Facebook. Follow Bullets to Butterflies and Farahway Global on Twitter for updates and live tweeting. Tweet along with us using #B2Butterflies.


poster - daniel spectrum extended

FORUM: Canada’s Recent Immigration Policy Changes: Implications for Mental Health

Credit: Rights of Non-Status Women's Network

Credit: Rights of Non-Status Women’s Network

Our Founder, Farah N. Mawani, will be speaking on ‘Systemic Discrimination and Mental Health’ at this forum hosted by the Rights of Non-Status Women’s Network.

This open forum is a place for VAW workers, shelter workers, community health workers, students, activists, academics, and community members to discuss recent changes to Canada’s immigration system, including Bill C-31 and cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFH), and the implications of this for service providers working in the areas of immigration, gender, and non-status rights.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
12:30 p.m. Registration & Refreshments
1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Open Forum

**Location: Galbraith Building, University of Toronto, 35 St. George Street, Toronto**

Please RSVP by sending an email confirmation to Rights of Non-Status Women Network by Mon Jan 28.

Please also RSVP and invite your friends and colleagues on our Facebook event listing.

FEATURED SPEAKERS
Julie Lassonde ~ Implications of Bill C-31
Vanessa Wright ~ Implications of cuts to IFH program
Manavi Handa, RM ~ Impact of changes for pregnant refugee women
Farah N. Mawani ~ Systemic Discrimination and Mental Health
Raelene Prieto ~ Gender and Mental Health
Tanisha Sri Bhaggiyadatta ~ Community Needs Assessment & Next Steps

Registration Fee (for operational costs) to be paid in cash at the door. A receipt can be provided.
· All people: $5.00
· Students are free. Please bring your student I.D.

~
Space is fully wheelchair accessible.
Please let us know of any accessibility needs so that we can do our best to accommodate them.
Light lunch and snacks will be served.

Please bring materials from your agency to display on our resource table!
~
The Rights of Non-Status Women Network would like to thank our event sponsors for their generous donations:
The South Asian Community Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO)
Forced Marriage Project – Agincourt Community Services Association
The Sweet Potato Natural Foods Grocery Store
Agora Cafe

SPARKS TALKS WEBINAR: Inspire Action for Change: Social Media for Social Good

SPARKS TALKS WEBINAR

Please join our webinar hosted by the Girls Action Foundation, part of their Sparks Talks Webinar Series.

Register here and RSVP and invite your friends on Facebook.

Follow @_GirlsAction, @FarahwayGlobal, and @farah_way on Twitter for the latest webinar buzz.

During this webinar, Farah will share advice for inspiring action for social change based on her intensive experience with global human rights and mental health campaigns. Farah has applied her commitment to community engagement and social justice to a wide range of issues, from political prisoner campaigns, to mental health equity, to promoting and building capacity among peer support groups

Whether you are taking action in your local community or want to create change in the wider world, this webinar will inspire you to set your goals high and take practical steps to make them happen. Farah will share strategies for building the scope and level of engagement of supporters, within complex and sensitive sociopolitical contexts. She will highlight the importance of peaceful communication, and demonstrate the potential for amplifying impact by integrating social media with media, and community-based events.

ABOUT THE PRESENTER

Farah N. Mawani is a Visiting Scholar, Massey College. She has global teaching, research, and policy experience in social determinants of health, mental health, inequalities in health, and community-based research. She has national experience in roles including Senior Policy and Research Analyst, Mental Health Strategy, Mental Health Commission of Canada; Multicultural Mental Health Resource Centre Steering Committee member; Mental Health Reform and Policy research team, Centre for the Study of Gender, Social Inequities, and Mental Health; and National Coordinator for numerous national health research projects.

Farah recently founded Farahway Global, a non-profit organization, based at the Centre for Social Innovation, that engages the global public in action for human rights and mental health via social media integrated with community-based events. It builds on Farah’s experience co-founding and directing the social media and global public engagement components of Free the Hikers, which freed Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd, held hostage in Iran for 2 years and 2 months.

ABOUT THE GIRLS ACTION FOUNDATION SPARKS TALKS WEBINAR SERIES

The SPARK TALKS webinar series features inspirational stories, advice and tools from ground-breaking women. Presentations are always followed by an interactive Question & Answer session. Direct from your computer, participate in FREE webinars on topics such as safe cosmetics; women in the arts; social, environmental and political activism; building communities and organizations; the law; and arts as a medium for social change.

ABOUT THE GIRLS ACTION FOUNDATION

Girls Action Foundation is a national charitable organization. We lead and seed girls’ programs across Canada. We build girls’ and young women’s skills and confidence and inspire action to change the world.

Through our innovative programs, research, and support to a network of over 300 partnering organizations and projects, Girls Action reaches over 60,000 girls and young women. We reach remote, marginalized and urban communities, including those in the North.

Register here

RSVP on Facebook