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Category Archives: Personal Empowerment
Infosys’ Sikka’s resignation letter: ‘I now need to… return to an environment of respect, trust and empowerment’ – Khaleej Times
Posted: August 20, 2017 at 6:09 pm
Vishal Sikka quit as Infosys CEO on Friday, following a public battle with the tech giant's founders that spanned for months.
In his blog, Timelessness, Sikka posted his resignation letter in full, under the title 'Moving On..." and which we are republishing below.
After a lot of reflection, I have resigned from my position as your MD & CEO effective today.A succession process has been initiated, with Pravin serving as interim MD & CEO, and I will work closely with the Board and management team over the next few months to ensure a smooth transition. In addition, I have agreed to serve as Executive Vice Chairman on the Board to further ensure continuity until the new management is in place.
For days, indeed weeks, this decision has weighed on me. I have wrestled the pros and cons, the issues and the counterbalancing arguments. But now, after much thought, and considering the environment of the last few quarters, I am clear in my decision. It is clear to me that despite our successes over the last three years, and the powerful seeds of innovation that we have sown, I cannot carry out my job as CEO and continue to create value, while also constantly defending against unrelenting, baseless/malicious and increasingly personal attacks.
In 2014, we started with a very challenging set of conditions, and in the last three years, we have decisively turned things around.
Three years ago, I started this journey with a calling, to help reshape the company around innovation and entrepreneurship, to deliver breakthrough value for clients, and to help elevate our work, our standing, our selves, on the basis of a dual strategy, bringing together dualities of renew and new, automation and innovation, people and software, to show a new path forward in a time of unprecedented disruption within the industry and beyond. That time, around and before June 2014, was a difficult time. Our growth rates were low and attrition was high. There was a sense of apprehension all around and I came here to help enable a great transformation as our core business faced intense pricing pressure, and clients looked increasingly to innovative partners to help shape their digital futures. Now, a bit more than three years later, I am happy to see the company doing better in every dimension I can think of.
We have grown our revenues, from $2.13B in Q1FY15 to $2.65B this past Q1. We did so while keeping a strong focus on margins, closing this past quarter at 24.1% operating margin, beating some competitors for the first time in many years, and improving against most in our industry.Perhaps more importantly, our revenue per employee has grown for six quarters in a row. Our attrition has fallen, from 23.4% in Q1FY15 to 16.9% this past Q1, and high performer attrition is hovering at or below the single-digit threshold for a while now.We grew our $100M+ clients from 12 when I started, to 19, and increased our large deal wins from ~$1.9B in FY15 to ~$3.5B this past year. We've done all this while improving our overall utilization, to a 10-yr high this past quarter, and an all time high including trainees, while improving our cash reserves, rewarding employees with a new equity plan, and returning cash to our stakeholders. And we have done all this while improving our standing with clients to the highest ever in the 12 years since we've done our client satisfaction survey, and a jump of 22 points in CxO satisfaction.
A few days ago, Nitesh, Radha, and I met a client in our office in Palo Alto. It is one of the largest companies in the world - and the CIO was excited and proud about seeing automation come to life in their landscape.Her reaction to seeing many of our innovation projects, as well as our workspace itself, was thoroughly rewarding, and a testament to all we have achieved. She requested us to bring our innovative work and processes to everything we do with her team in a similar space, and even that we help them establish a similar presence for their company in the valley!This is a sentiment I've often heard from clients who've visited our 12,000 sqft space here, that has seen 2200 visits over its ~27 months; clients where we saw much faster than average revenue growth following their visits. So, as I look back on the three years as CEO, what brings me the most joy is the new roads that all of you have traveled, the new frontiers that all of you have enabled.From embracing the new ideas in education, teaching ourselves Design Thinking like no one else ever has, learning AI, new development processes, and more, to applying these learnings via Zero Distance, a one-of-a-kind program of massive grassroots innovation, powered by education, by the amazing Zero Bench, and by your creative confidence.With 16500+ ideas generated, 2200+ of which have already been implemented, ZD is proof that innovation need not be the domain of a chosen few in some elite department, but is the prerogative of us all; proof that the extraordinary within each one of us can indeed be unleashed. To complement this grassroots innovation, we've launched 25+ new services that contributed 8.3% of our revenue last quarter, up from zero in April 2015.And our own new software business is now at 1.6% of revenue.Our AI platform, Nia, now with 160+ scenarios deployed at more than 70 clients, is helping drive both automation within the company, and breakthrough new business scenarios outside.Beyond new services and new software, we've ventured into new horizons, from our startup fund's investments in promising new businesses, to the work we've done in the last 3 years in local hiring around the world, especially in the US, to the exemplary and inspiring work our US foundation has done in bringing computer science education and a culture of making, to the masses.
And I am proud of how we have upheld our values, our culture, our integrity, whilst we have gone about this massive transformation.I am proud of how our Board has worked, tirelessly, selflessly, these past quarters, despite intense, unfair, and often malicious and personal, criticism, in not only upholding our standards of governance and integrity, but also indeed raising these.None of our successes would be worthwhile for a moment, if this was not the case.
I was, and remain, passionate about the massive transformation opportunity for this company and industry, but we all need to allow the company to move beyond the noise and distractions.
Back in May 2014, when I first met many board colleagues, I thought of the road ahead as a road for the next 33 years of this iconic company. For Infosys is more than a company: it is an idea, a dream, a pioneering possibility.Back then I thought, just as I do today, that the time ahead called for a company that could show the way to a digital future, a future where our humanity, amplified by automation and software, would unleash our creativity, our imagination, to construct great worlds of our futures, and would do so powered by education, by our timeless value of learnability.Such an Infosys, whilst staying true to its core, to her values and timeless principles, would shine the light in an altogether different context, a different reality. Such an Infosys would be one where an individual's entrepreneurship, ability to imagine and create, ability to learn, and to amplify themselves with software, with AI, would create a greater whole. Rather than an overarching system enabling the people, the people's agility and imagination would create a greater system. Three years later, we can clearly see that the seeds of this idea have taken root and are growing, into beautiful new flowers and plants, and I see no reason why these cannot continue, and help shape our company's future.
For sure this journey has been a difficult one.No one, especially me, thought it would be easy.Transformations are hard to begin with.A massive transformation, of such an iconic institution, with such groundbreaking achievements behind her, would be even tougher, and the exponential rates of change all around us, further amplified by geopolitical matters, would add that much more headwind.But all this was known, and clear, and in many ways added to the calling that I felt.For as the legendary architect Daniel Burnham said, "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir man's blood."
But after much contemplation I have decided to leave because the distractions, the very public noise around us, have created an untenable atmosphere. I deeply believe in creating value in an atmosphere of freedom, trust and empowerment. Life is too short to engage in battles of opinions in the public, these add no value, take critical time and focus away from the business, and indeed add more to the noise, to the eardrum buzz, as I wrote to you a few months ago. The founding principle of the strategy I laid out for our renewal was personal empowerment, working in an entrepreneurial environment.I need this for my own work as well.Steve Jobs, in his famous commencement speech at my alma mater, said:
"Your time is limited, don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other opinions drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become."
I now need to move forward, and return to an environment of respect, trust and empowerment, where I can take on new lofty challenges, as can each of you.
As Steve Jobs said, I must follow my heart and my intuition, build my buildings, give my givings, and do something else. Over the next weeks and months, I look forward to working with the Board and management to create a smooth transition, and simultaneously staring into the great unknown, and to doing something great, something purposeful, for the times ahead. And also to spend some time with my loved ones.I've been away from home far too often and far too long.
As I completed my three years recently, many people asked me if I have any regrets. This question is more apt today and the answer is a clear NO. Not for a second.However difficult the noise of the last several months has been, I wouldn't trade our time together for anything. I would not give up the experience of seeing the gleam in your eyes as you described a new idea, invention, or contribution. You worked on these confidently, without reward, without arrogance, showing exactly the kind of creative confidence that David Kelley talked about in Design Thinking - a wonderful thing to witness.
I am deeply grateful for the immense support and love I've received from all of you, from our worthy clients for whom we do our life's work, and by our shareholders across the globe.I am grateful for your trust, confidence and friendship, and am thankful to our team of amazing leaders, who will help lead our company to greatness.To my first Infoscion colleague and trusted friend Ranga, who enabled us to achieve the things we achieved, to the amazing Ravi, a pocket of passion and energy and execution excellence, to the calm and steadfast Mohit, who introduced me to the band of brothers and lived it, day after day, to the larger than life Rajesh, with his great heart and big laugh, to Binod, a veritable bulldozer brother with his broad shoulders and broader smile, to the one of a kind Ramadas, the architect and protector of our magnificent campuses with his indomitable spirit and world-class excellence, to the always smiling Deepak who helped live the strategy, to Krish and the best HR team in the world, especially the extraordinary Richard, Nanju, Shruthi and their amazing team for helping to carry out some of the craziest and most amazing people initiatives, to Inderpreet, a new voice to the team, a voice of calm, strength, integrity and a stability that far belies the little time she's been with us, to Jayesh and our entire finance team for their dedication, their impeccable meticulous integrity and world-class excellence, and especially to my partner, friend, and pillar of strength, Pravin, who carried all the load in the world, with a smile, impeccable integrity and the most amazing grace, and will now lead you to the next phase of our company's growth.To Zaiba, Bala sir, Nagaraju, Hari and many others for making it possible for me to be me and to do my work, to my Palo Alto family: Sanjay, Abdul, Navin, Ritika, Barbara, Tao, Vinod, Shabana, April, Sudhir and others who have stood by me and have given up so much to be a part of this journey and contributed so much to it, and indeed to thousands of Infoscions who've made it all matter.I am thankful to Sesh and our entire board for their unfailing support and confidence in me throughout this journey.
Together we have achieved a lot.Even in the midst of all of the distractions, even as the tendency was to return to the familiar, we still managed to persevere and make wonderful progress. We have laid the foundation for the next 30 years of Infosys, and I feel deeply proud to have worked alongside all of you in sowing the seeds that will return this company to the bellwether it once was.As you've all often reminded us, Infosys is no bigger and no smaller than any of us, the people, the Infoscions.You are the ones that will take Infosys to the next 30 years and beyond.As I think about the time ahead, for all of us, I can only see us powered by a freedom from the known, of renewing ourselves to thrive in the time ahead. Each one of you has vindicated my deeply held belief that people are capable of doing more, achieving more, being more, than they ever imagined possible. So, keep pushing yourself to do better at whatever you are good at, but also learning to do things you have never done before, indeed, nobody has ever done before. I know I will be doing the same.
The Board, Pravin, and I will communicate additional details as we move forward in this transition, and meanwhile, we continue our work as is. I wish all of you the very best in your journeys ahead.
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Posted: at 6:09 pm
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Tears of woman should not be seen as a sign of her weakness but as a representation of her power, rights and strength, ADGP R Sreelekha has said. She was delivering the keynote address at a seminar on women empowerment titled Tears of Fire. According to Sreelekha, when a woman cries, it is the flames of her anger that emerges out. Citing personal instances, Sreelekha stressed on the importance of women empowering themselves.
She said women would be attacked if they consider themselves weak. It is the responsibility of parents to make their daughters strong. Parents should not avoid or intimidate their daughters and thereby make them weak, she said.
Journalist Jacob George, who spoke at the seminar cited instances from Malappuram to show how women embraced freedom through education. Chalachitra Academy Vice- Chairperson Bina Paul said the mindset of society to place women a step lower than men was also a form of harassment. Dubbing artist Bhagyalakshmi and psychologist Dr Gireesh addressed the gathering.
Rotary Governor Suresh Mathew presided over the function and Rotary Chairperson Parvathy Reghunath delivered the introductory speech.
Posted: at 6:09 pm
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Posted: August 15, 2017 at 12:07 pm
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Graa Machel said the forum will help to establish networks among women with a common interest in developing their countries using pan-African ideas. (Gallo)
The Women Advancing Africa (WAA) Forum launched this weekend in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam with a call on women to take centre stage in Africas economic liberation. The forum is an initiative of the Graa Machel Trust and celebrates the critical role women play in development. It will also provide a platform to showcase womens leadership and how that can be used for social change and economic transformation. Suzgo Chitete was at the launch.
The platforms launch attracted nearly 300 professional women from across Africa, representing business, politics, law, civil society, and media. Speakers at the forum said that the political liberation achieved decades ago is not good enough for Africa to move forward, and therefore there was a push for what they are calling the second liberation with a focus on making the continent economically independent.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Graa Machel said the forum will help to establish networks among women in the region with a common interest in developing their countries using pan-African ideas.
Our networks are rooted in each country where we are represented. We believe that any social, cultural and economic transformation has to be driven by women in the context of the country they belong to, but a country alone is not enough. Hence, we encourage sub-regional cooperation, explained Machel.
She said the choice of Tanzania as the host of the event was deliberate, as the country was a sanctuary of early African liberation struggles. Machel said the delegates came to Tanzania to pay respect to the East African countrys role in achieving African liberation, and to embark on a second liberation which will set the continent on a path to economic independence, with women as central drivers of change.
In her opening address at the conference, Tanzanian vice-president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, commended the initiative saying ideas shared there could help inform policies and bring about gender parity. She agreed with other speakers that it would be a mistake to ignore women in pushing forward Africas transformation agenda. The Tanzanian deputy leader, who is also a member of the UN High Level Panel on Womens Economic Empowerment, made a personal commitment to support women in her country in any way to ensure their effective participation in the WAA forum.
Tanzanian vice-president Samia Suluhu Hassan
Governments should provide an enabling infrastructure which seeks to promote gender parity. May I also call upon all of us here to ask our governments to take into account the implementation of [the United Nations] sustainable development goals for faster realisation of economic empowerment, especially for women, Hassan said.
The four-day event hosted several specialised discussions covering topics like agribusiness, energy and extractive industries, cross-border trade, financial inclusion, technology, and media in the context of changing the narrative on womens representation.
The discussions highlighted varied opinions, with some participants blaming men for monopolising power during the independence movement, thereby marginalising women. Other participants felt lessons could be drawn from the first stage of political liberation to succeed in the second struggle for economic independence.
Appearing on a conference panel, Hadeel Ibrahim, the executive director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, stressed that the second liberation struggle needs to have an inclusive feminist agenda.
The first liberation was about gaining power while the second one is about empowerment. This liberation should aim at inclusiveness for marginalised groups while adhering to good governance, where everyone is treated with dignity regardless of gender, said Ebrahim.
The former president of the Pan-African Parliament, Gertrude Mongella, thinks that independence was achieved due to unity of purpose among nations, and that same spirit of unity should help to make the second liberation a success.
Male speakers at the forum also supported women taking a driving seat in the economic transformation of Africa. Studies have shown that investing in women has economic benefits because the global GDP can expand by $12 trillion. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, the GDP can expand by $300 billion, which is three times the amount of foreign aid to the continent, explained Sangu Delle, a Ghanaian entrepreneur and chief executive officer of the Golden Palm Investments Corporation.
Reporting by Suzgo Chitete, images by Gare Amadou
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Posted: at 12:07 pm
By Natario McKenzie
Tribune Business Reporter
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said that youth entrepreneurial empowerment will be a major focus of his administration, while urging the private sector to be "bold and imaginative".
Dr Minnis, who was speaking at the recent launch of the Bahamas Striping Group's Investment Group funding arm, said: "Youth entrepreneurial empowerment will be a major focus of my administration as we see this as a means of tackling some of our long-entrenched problems in our urban areas such as unemployment, crime and social anomie."
Dr Minnis applauded the efforts of the striping group, while noting there are countless examples of young individuals who have ideas to start a business enterprise but who have nowhere to turn to find the necessary funding to advance their proposals. "They are unable to obtain funding through the established commercial banks and quite naturally they would not have the connections or the knowledge to obtain private financing. And so what happens, the dream is deferred, and the dream dies. Needless to say, this leads to personal frustration and social explosion."
Dr Minnis also stressed that the private sector must expand. "One of today's realities is that the private sector must expand. It must be that sector of our economy that must be bold and imaginative. We know that the public sector is already overburdened when it comes to creating new employment and so any opportunity that the private sector has to expand and create new employment should be welcomed," said Dr Minnis.
He added: "Our economy needs small and medium enterprises to grow and become successful. More often than not, these are the companies that employ those who are marginalised and who may not fit into the conventional mainstream of employable skills. But the market place must find room for such young men and women, and often the best way to do this is allowing such persons to do their own thing."
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Posted: August 13, 2017 at 2:08 am
DIRECTOR General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, has assured that all is being done to make the 2017 African Arts and Crafts Expo (AFAC), a success.
The fair with the theme, Our Culture: The Untapped Treasure will hold in Abuja from August 27 to September 17 with Nigerians and foreigners participating.
Giving an update on preparations for the fair, Runsewe explained that the theme was chosen to complement the Federal Governments efforts to diversify the economy and make culture a significant contributor to the countrys GDP.
He said: On assumption of office about three months ago, I made a firm commitment to reposition the arts and culture sector as a key player in the nations economy with the capacity to generate wealth and employment as well as contribute significantly to the nations Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Accordingly, the new vision of the Council under my leadership is encapsulated in the statement culture: the new revenue base for Nigeria.
This vision statement is far from being a mere slogan. It is borne out of our firm conviction that there are abounding opportunities in the arts and culture sector that could be harnessed and channelled towards reinventing our economy. The theme Our Culture: The Untapped Treasure was chosen to highlight the vast opportunities in the sector, mobilize Nigerians to take advantage of the opportunities therein for personal empowerment and the economic development of our country.
He disclosed that as part of efforts to make AFAC 2017 opening formally on September 5 a great outing, the venue, Arts & Craft Village, is being renovated. The expo had previously been held on a bare, dusty and uneven ground but we have now graded and tarred the main bowl of the exhibition arena, measuring about 1.5 hectares. We plan to also do landscaping and beautification.
Runsewe, who added that other innovations at AFAC 2017 include skill acquisition programmes, language classes, a pre-event dinner for Cultural Attaches to foster cultural diplomacy and build more international friendships, and an investment roundtable, also assured of adequate security.
We now have a police post within the premises of the village to provide 24-hour security and for the first time, we have illuminated the entire village with flood lights. We are also constructing and renovating environment-friendly public utilities to make the arena conducive for exhibitors and delegates, he said.
FG to blame for Ozubulu massacre Revd Adekunle
Nigeria: Before we become a beggar nation (II)
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Posted: August 11, 2017 at 6:08 pm
The upcoming Kinks, Locks & Twists: Environmental and Reproductive Justice Conference may sound like a natural hair symposium but is actually an annual national womens conference that uses Black hair politics as the entry point for discussion on empowerment and activism.
Co-founded in Pittsburgh by West Philadelphia native LaTasha D. Mayes, the conference is organized annually by New Voices, a human rights organization focused on reproductive justice, LGBTQ rights, health care access, ending gender-based violence, incarceration, environmental justice and integrated voter engagement.
Mayes explained that the goal of the three-day conference is to engage Black women and girls in community organizing for lasting social change while celebrating intersectionality.
That is why intersectionality is so important to our work, said Mayes, the New Voices founder and executive director. You cant look at a Black woman or a Black person and only talk about one thing. No! These things are impacting me as a Black person and a woman and are impacting me at the same time and in different ways and different times. The intersectionality, to me, gets us to greater, more impactful solutions for the long-term. Its not just a change in policy, but about uprooting systematic race and gender oppression. Thats the difference in our work: we are confronting systems of oppression in our work and creating spaces for those who are vulnerable and marginalized.
The Kinks, Locks & Twists Conference is presented by New Voices for Reproductive Justice, a grass-roots human rights organization founded in 2004 by Mayes, Bekezela Mguni, Lois Toni McClendon and Maria Nicole (Smith) Dautruche. Initially produced in 2010 as a HERStory Month signature event, the Conference began with an analysis of the politics of Black hair, and soon broadened its focus to environmental and reproductive justice.
We are a reproductive justice organization, said Mayes. Our definition of reproductive justice is the right to control your body. When we get into it more deeply, it is about the human right to control your body, sexuality, gender, work, reproduction and ability to form a family.
According to a timeline provided by the organization, it grew steadily and now focuses on several priority issues. The Pittsburgh-based organization has also enlarged its geographic footprint to include offices and programming in both Cleveland and Philadelphia.
Throughout the years the conference has covered regional concerns, such as fracking, as well as topics of concern to all women of color like environmental racism and the reproductive cancers that can be caused by toxic hair, makeup and personal products, said Mayes. This year, we have adopted the theme #LoveSowGrow as a call to embrace our roots as women of color, recognize our potential and invest in ourselves as leaders to shape a self-determined future, she continued.
The conference kicks off with the free, full-day Black Hair Institute at the Philadelphia Center for Architecture (1218 Arch St.) on Aug. 17. Conference activities continue on Aug. 18 and 19 with two full days of events at the Friends Center (1501 Cherry St.), including sessions with social justice advocate Dorothy Roberts; spoken word artist Sonya Renee Taylor; and feminist/activist Denise Oliver-Velez.
Registration for the annual Kinks, Locks & Twists: Environmental and Reproductive Justice Conference is available at eventbrite.com. Conference organizers are committed to accessibility for all attendees, with a sliding scale of registration fees is offered this year. Childcare will be available to conference attendees free of charge. For more information, visit kinkslockstwists.org.
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Posted: at 6:08 pm
San Diegos homeless crisis is growing worse by the day. Yet as more are living on the streets and fewer in shelters than ever before, some, including Michael McConnell who recently took to the Union-Tribunes opinion pages (Why the Housing First approach is a practical solution for homelessness, Aug. 4) argue that the best approach to solving homelessness is to outlaw any program that doesnt fit his particular recipe for success.
As someone who has served the homeless for more than 25 years, solving homelessness for thousands using a very different approach, it is hard for me to not take his criticism personally. Its even harder not to call it out for it narrow-mindedness.
Homelessness is a complex problem with causes spanning the criminal justice system, mental health, substance abuse, family support, human connection, and other social and economic forces. Other innovative and replicable program models that work shouldnt be kept out of the picture.
In his commentary, McConnell makes many mischaracterizations, claiming that progress in solving homelessness is jeopardized by ill-informed politicians and agencies. But what he gets wrong most of all is that no one is calling for an end to Housing First. Instead, what some are asking for is a simple request to include other high-performing results-driven approaches in our homelessness policy.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, deserves praise for courageously taking the lead to request Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson look at how Housing First impacts vulnerable populations families and children and how other approaches can work in tandem to overcome poverty and homelessness. He should be commended for taking action to prevent homeless programs across the state from being forced to shutter their doors, thanks to the new misguided guidelines.
At Solutions for Change, our programs our based on a 25-year personal empowerment and accountability model that puts the hard-to-serve homeless to work and is funded almost entirely by the private sector and social enterprise. Our approach adopts a completely unique model focused on a permanent solution to homelessness, not just a band aid of temporary housing.
Over 18 years, weve successfully led more than 850 families and 2,200 children out of homelessness and back on their feet. Yet, thanks to the misguided requirement that any homelessness program follow Housing First to be eligible for federal funding, weve been forced to walk away from as much as $600,000 in grants and our 40-bed family center now sits empty because Housing First rules require that we abandon our drug free housing and scrap our workforce training in favor of no-strings-attached optional programs.
When McConnell and other Housing First allies assert that their model works, theyre not talking about solving homelessness and its root causes. His goal is to getting people into permanent taxpayer-supported housing. They then offer Family Option Study as proof that families benefit from Housing First, but fail to mention how the very study also demonstrates that families in these programs experienced only temporary success because issues like employment, mental health and substance abuse were poorly addressed for the long haul.
Our approach uses work, education and employment to transform those experiencing homelessness. The families we help like this approach they want to be supported, empowered and treated as valuable and capable. Central to this effort is a healthy and drug-free living community focused on keeping kids safe. Good programs like ours with a track record of success shouldnt be shut out of the system.
This issue is about more than housing: Its about saving the lives of kids and ending poverty and dependency. We know that the large majority experiencing homelessness can develop job skills, obtain work and pay for their own housing. We must do better than coldly pushing families and children into homelessness and insisting on only utilizing one way of solving homelessness.
The number of chronic homeless in the top four cities (New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Diego) has spiked with no signs of abating. McConnell and the Housing First advocates say that providing housing, supporting sobriety, training for employment and engaging the root causes of homelessness is outdated, ineffective and wasteful. Whats ineffective is choosing to punish homelessness programs based on their approach, rather than on their results.
Homelessness reaches far beyond any single cause and our homeless policy should be big enough to support more than any single solution.
Megison is president and CEO of Solutions for Change.
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Claire Saenz is a SMART Recovery Facilitator for SMART Recovery. It is an addiction recovery service without a necessary reference to a higher power or incorporation of a faith, or some faith-based system into it by necessity. Those can be used it, but they are not necessities. The system is about options. In this series, we look at her story, views, and expertise regarding addiction, having been an addict herself. This is session 1.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen:When it comes to the experience of addiction, what were your addiction and particular substance of choice?
Claire Saenz: My substance of choice was alcohol, which was coupled with an eating disorder and an anxiety disorder.
Jacobsen: What were the thoughts that ran through your mind as you were working to combat the addiction, to stop using the substance(s)?
Saenz: I was highly motivated when I decided to stop drinking, so my primary thought, initially, was that I was going to quit or die trying. I felt determined, but also extremely vulnerable because giving up alcohol meant that in many essential ways, I was giving up my sole coping mechanism.
Jacobsen: How did SMART Recovery compare to other services?
Saenz: Other services I used in my recovery were AA, individual therapy, and pharmaceutical treatment of my anxiety. I found SMART similar to AA in that it is also a peer support group. I found the social support aspect of both programs helpful. SMART was drastically different from AA in almost all other respects, however, and much more like the individual therapy I received.
SMARTs philosophy is one of personal empowerment rather than reliance on a higher power. The use of stigmatizing labels such as alcoholic or addict is discouraged. Direct discussion (cross-talk) among group participants is encouraged. Sponsorship is not part of the program. Group facilitators are not professionals, but they are trained in the SMART tools and meeting facilitation skills, and they are expected to adhere to a code of ethics.
Finally, SMART recognizes that recovery, while a process, is not necessarily a permanent one. While participants are encouraged to attend meetings for a significant time period and to become facilitators to pay it forward, we do not view recovery as being a permanent state. Instead, we achieve a new normal.
Jacobsen: What were some of the more drastic stories that you have heard of in your time as an addict, as a recovering addict, and now as a SMART Recovery facilitator?
Saenz: For the reasons mentioned above, I dont refer to myself as an addict or alcoholic, recovering or otherwise. If a label must be applied to my state, call me a person who has recovered from an addiction to alcohol.
As far as drastic stories, they fall into two categories: the carnage of addiction itself, and the carnage of one-size-fits-all addiction treatment where the one size is the twelve- step approach.
The carnage of addiction is simply limitless. I have lost dozens of friends and acquaintances to addiction-related causes, from organ failure to overdose, to suicide.
At one of my first AA meetings, I spent a few minutes talking to a nice young man who went home that night and hung himself. I know multiple people who have lost spouses and children to addiction. It is a dreadful condition that takes the lives of fine people, and the solutions we currently offer, as a society, are breathtakingly inadequate.
In terms of the consequences of one-size-fits-all treatment, it should come as no surprise that in a world of individuals, there will never be an approach to any physical or mental condition that will work the same way, or as well, for everyone. And yet for years, we have prescribed the exact same treatment to everyone with an addictive disorder.
Worse, what passes for treatment is often nothing more than expensive indoctrination into a free support group (12 step programs, themselves, are free)and if the patient fails to improve, the prescription ismore 12 step. Of course, this isnt working. The shocking thing is that we would ever expect it to work.
Jacobsen: How has religion infiltrated the recovery and addiction services world? Is this good or bad? How so?
Saenz: Twelve-step programs, which form the basis of most traditional treatment, are religious in nature. Adherents sometimes claim otherwise, but courts in the U.S. have nearly universally disagreed on that point.
As one jurist put it, The emphasis placed on God, spirituality, and faith in a higher power by twelve-step programs such as A.A. or N.A. clearly supports a determination that the underlying basis of these programs is religious and that participation in such programs constitutes a religious exercise. It is an inescapable conclusion that coerced attendance at such programs, therefore, violates the Establishment Clause.Warburton v. Underwood, 2 F.Supp.2d 306, 318 (W.D.N.Y.1998).
Because they are religious in nature, such programs may not be the best choice for, and certainly should not the only option given to, atheists or individuals with an internal locus of control.
Beyond that, the religious atmosphere of the programs can, and sometimes does breed an environment where seasoned members of the program become almost like gurus, given an almost clergy-like status and an inordinate amount of power over newer and more vulnerable members. Sometimes this power is used to exploit. The classic exploitation is sexual13th stepping is a common euphemism used to describe the practice of veteran members manipulating newcomers into engaging in sexual relationshipsbut emotional and financial exploitation can happen as well.
But the most tragic consequence of the infiltration of religion into addiction treatment is not, in my view, the religious aspect per se but the fact that the focus on that approach excludes all others. The real tragedy is that people are dying because they are never even told of other approaches that might help them.
In my own experience, 19 years ago when I sought treatment for my addiction to alcohol, I was told that the only option for survival was to become an active AA member. Being the rule follower I am, I did exactly that. I spent the next nine years of my life going to AA meetings and attempting to fit my fundamentally humanist worldview within the confines of that program.
I eventually found this impossible and left the program. In the aftermath of that, I had to re-examine every thought and belief I had developed in the time I had been abstinent to determine whether those thoughts and beliefs were my own or had been implanted during my AA years. I found this an extraordinarily painful process, in many ways as painful as quitting in the first place.
When I found SMART Recovery and realized that it had been possible, all along, for me to have received social support in a manner that honored who I was a person, I cried. I thought not only of myself and all the pain Id gone through because I wasnt told of other options besides AA but of all the others who had experienced the same thing.
This would be equally true regardless of the specifics of the treatment being offered because there is no one approach that is right for everyone. The real tragedy is the pain that has been caused, and the lives that have been lost, because one approach has become too dominant.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. He works as an Associate Editor and Contributor for Conatus News, Editor and Contributor to The Good Men Project, a Board Member, Executive International Committee (International Research and Project Management) Member, and as the Chair of Social Media for the Almas Jiwani Foundation, Executive Administrator and Writer for Trusted Clothes, and Councillor in the Athabasca University Students Union. He contributes to the Basic Income Earth Network, The Beam, Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Check Your Head, Conatus News, Humanist Voices, The Voice Magazine, and Trusted Clothes. If you want to contact Scott: [emailprotected]; website: http://www.in-sightjournal.com; Twitter: https://twitter.com/InSight_Journal.
Originally posted here:
Posted: at 6:08 pm
Inner beauty and self-esteem can be your award winning virtues if you are five feet two inches tall, have passed Class 12 and belong to one of the three tribes of Lisu, Nah and Puroik.
It is not a beauteous sentence but the only way to sum up the quota system proposed for the three underprivileged tribes by the Miss Arunachal Beauty Pageant. Ahead of auditions for the 10th edition next month, the organisers of the contest have announced a direct entry by reserved quota for contestants from Lisu, Nah and Puroik minority tribes. The ethnic character of these tribes, their migration and roots in places as far as China or their history of political de-recognition followed by a deprived if restored citizenship in India makes them a very curious anthropological case study. But to offer them affirmative action via a beauty contest is a classic case of cross-wired and complicated social activism.
Arunachal Pradesh has been making a virtue out of positive discrimination. Last year, 59-year-old Hage Tado Nanya from Ziro village was crowned Mrs Arunachal. Married at 13, she participated to raise awareness against domestic violence, gender discrimination and polygamy. Many contestants in that pageant were victims of polygamy and violence.
Beauty contests have always had discrimination and commercial gain wired into their plumbing. The Miss Universe contest launched in 1952 a year after Miss World was a marketing stunt by Pacific Knitting Mills, a California clothing company after the winner of another rival pageant Miss America refused to wear one of its swimsuits. The point was to sell a swimsuit, not crown a woman for beings gods blue-eyed kid.
Such contests have long been debated as hotbeds of female objectification and commercial opportunism. They confuse the psychological self esteem of a person with her body attributes. But despite loud protests and sloganeering across the world, they have never really faded away from popular culture.
Even in these last two years when persuasive new arguments of colour, race, plus size and body positivism got added to fundamental feminist concerns, no society or country has weaned away entirely from beauty pageants.
Whats happened instead, including in India, is an improvisation of the beauty contest model. Beauty has not only become accepting of diversity but it is now outraged and activist like. The old contest model of dressing up, lining up, walking out before a jury to be judged for a set of agreed upon virtues, should have been scrapped to wipe out its inherent flaws. Instead it has been made bigger with room for the violated, the ostracised, the downtrodden, the gay, the married (thats a separate category of contests), the physically challenged and now the tribal. There are beauty contests for incarcerated women across the world. Bom Paston Womens Prison in Brazil holds a contest ironically titled Miss Jail whereas Lithuanias Penal Labour Colony calls it Miss Captivity.
In India too what we now have is an alternative culture of contests that still in some form worship the body positivism or whatever. Indias first transgender pageant Indian Super Queen was launched in 2010 by Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, the Mumbai-based transgender activist to reiterate the beauty and esteem of an otherwise ridiculed community. Mr Gay India, Nepals Ms Dalit Queen (launched in 2013) and a contest organised for visually challenged girls by Mumbais National Association for the Blind last year add to the list. What exactly are such contestants contesting for though is hard to define if it is not dressed up beauty?
Back to Miss Arunachal Pradesh.
The three tribes chosen via quota entry to the pageant come with a defensive explanation, which says it is to celebrate inner beauty and raise self confidence and self esteem. Whether self esteem is directly proportional to winning or participating in a beauty pageant has still not been proved by any scientifically designed anthropological study done with beauty queens across the world. But what is worse is creating reservation for an ideological and existential talent as vague as like inner beauty for which there are no barometers of measurement on a scale of 1 to 10.
The question we may need to address as a society is why in the first place do we need beauty contests to address societal issues like LGBT rights, or rehabilitate downtrodden tribes like the Lisu, Nah and Puroik?
Perhaps it is easier to find sponsors for events that glamourise anything victimhood, violence, natural and cosmetic beauty or physical handicaps but hard to raise a hue and cry on personal empowerment programmes that dont parade the dressed up body posturing to seek notice.
Shefalee Vasudev is a fashion journalist and author
The views expressed are personal
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