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Notes from TED Women 2018

By Kajoli Tankha posted 12-06-2018 03:57 PM


Back from TED Women last week. I have talked to each of you about equality issues in some shape or form and thought you may find this interesting.

There were talks from those who are being the light in terrible darkness. (bits of them listed below)

There were other bits, difficult to summarize into a neat life lessons, like Nora McInerny's talk about losing her husband. Her idea about us – all of us - being grief-adjacent if not grief-stricken struck a chord. Lindy Lou described the impact of giving out a death penalty, showing that we are not just a sum of our experiences, but transformed by them. Yvonne Van Amerongen created a town for people with dementia to live in, with the idea that red curtains cost the same as grey ones. Monique W. Morris said that education is freedom work and that schools needed to be a place of healing for girls. (More counselors, less police in school!)

Then there are those looking at things in a new way. Nivruti Rai developing an automobile crash system using data from India's chaotic traffic data. Amanda Williams who felt compelled to paint houses in bright colors that were about to be demolished. Lucy Cooke who championed the maligned species of sloths whose conservation can inspire us to perhaps live as long as them (40 million years compared to our mere 300,000).

Finally, there was the remarkable Stacey Abrams – a personal hero whose grit in the Georgia Governor’s race is a story I have keenly followed in these last midterms. I ran into her outside the venue- and told her my alma mater’s zip code had all voted for her (30605, University of Georgia). I asked her to never give up – she said she won’t!

She ended the conference with this “I am moving forward knowing what is in my past. I know the obstacles they have for me. I’m fairly certain they’re energizing and creating new obstacles now. They’ve got four years to figure it out. Maybe two.

The conference started with Tarana Burke speaking of numbness and ended with Stacy Abrams saying she was ready for battle. It was a mix of stories about women doing amazing things and winning and also of women struggling and losing. It was about the terrible things that are being done to women and the emergence of allies.

On the final night as the triumphant “Who Runs the World? Girls” played in the background – I thought about how to sum up message of the conference.

I think they are three messages. First, much is still awful. Second, but people are doing amazing things and life is one the whole getting better. Third, we need to be someone that makes things better.

Tarana Burke, Founder of the Me-Too movement

Spoke about being numb at the Me-Too backlash. She reflected that little has changed in some ways. (She talked about Supreme Court justice nomination process and the process being repeated a second time around.) Recalling Dr. King’s famous quoting of Theodore Parker — “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” — Burke told us that someone has to bend it.

Most powerful was her call to activism "Trauma halts possibility, movement activates it.

Dolores Huerta, Civil rights activist

Community organizer who talked about the worst human evil: apathy. She talked about the importance of the vote.

Ashweetha Shetty, Rural social worker

Talked about grit in breaking out of the 3 elements of her intersectionality Poor! Village! Girl!. She found her value when she found her use.

Katharine Wilkinson, Writer, Environmentalist

This founder of Project Drawdown made a persuasive argument about how equality of women can combat the effects of climate change, by increasing small farmers' (mostly women) crop yields and impacting family size (using birth control may mean 1 billion fewer people on earth in 2050).

Kotchakorn Voraakhom, Architect

Comes from Bangkok herself and was displaced, along with millions of others, by the devastating flood that hit Thailand in 2011. “Our city’s modern infrastructure — especially our notion to fight floods with concrete — has made us extremely vulnerable to climate uncertainty,” she says. Through ingenious design her Chulalongkorn Centenary Park created in an incline, holding and collecting up to a million gallons of water during severe floods. “This park is not about getting rid of flood water,” she says. “It’s about creating a way to live with it.” In a sinking city where every rainfall is a wake-up call, this “amphibious design” provides new hope of making room for water.

Kate E. Brandt, Sustainability officer at google

Talked about designing out waste at Google.

Eldra Jackson, Facilitator at Inside Circle

Talked about toxic masculinity that put him on a path that led him to jail. At jail, he was saved by Inner Circle an organization that uses circle time and talking to “cut through the bullshit” and challenging structural ways of thinking. Today, as a free man, Jackson teaches his own sons what he has learned, and in doing so, he seeks to “eradicate the cycle of emotional illiteracy and groupthink that allows our males to continue to victimize others”.

Emily Quinn, Intersex Activist

Talked about respecting that sexual identity is a spectrum. She also talked about the trauma the medical profession inflicts upon trans children - inflicting unnecessary surgeries and emotional trauma. "

“If there are infinite ways for our bodies to look, our minds to think, personalities to act — wouldn’t it make sense that there’s that much variety in biological sex, too?”

Maeve Higgins, Irish comedian and Immigration Activist

Activist talked about the “good immigrant trap”; some get O1 visas, while others are shut out. “People should not be considered valuable just because they do something of value to us,” Higgins says. “When we dehumanize another, we dehumanize ourselves. People are valuable because they are people. The moment we forget that, or deny it, terrible things happen.”

Ariana Curtis, Afro-Latina researcher and curator

Museums are not neutral; they are curated narratives that have excluded the ordinary stories of women. The focus on the extraordinary is by definition, excluding

Majd AlMashharawi, Engineer

Entrepreneur is rebuilding Gaza from rubble and creating communal solar energy. Even though, “For more than ten years, I and two million people back home have been living in darkness, locked between two borders that are nearly impossible to leave”.

Soraya Chemaly, Author of "Rage becomes her"

She talked about anger still being the moral property of men, while angry women are seen as unhinged, shrill, with women of color facing the most severe consequences. She also talked about how women often cry when they are angry (which struck a chord)

Katharine Hayhoe, Climate scientist

How do we speak about the environment to those whose very sense of identity is wrapped up in denying it? You cannot convince them by debating rationally, you need to speak from the heart. And there are bright spots that show that things are changing. Even Texas where she is from, has 20% of its energy from renewable resources.

Cecile Richards, Activist

"When women are not at the table, they are on the menu." She spoke of the infamous photo showing all male White house health bill meeting restricting health rights for women.

Kakenya Ntaiya, Educator, activist

A Masai women who transformed the entire community dramatically reducing the rates of FGM. She also talked about what we refer to as Allies - saying that nothing would change if fathers and brothers were not involved. She spoke of a girl who stole an egg. She sold the egg to buy a pencil. With that pencil she walked 5 miles to Kakenya's school to ask for an education. Over time her father became her staunchest fan and now she studies at the University of Australia. “Education work is freedom work”

Farida Nabourema, Democracy activist

This activist ("I wasn't inspired, I was triggered") in exile from Togo, spoke about her struggle against dictator; Faure Gnassingbé. She also talked about the problem with storytelling - arrested activists often speak of torture hoping for sympathy, which instead acts as advertising for the dictator “No country is actually destined to be oppressed, but at the same time, no country or no people are immune to oppression or dictatorship.” she warned us!

Shad Begum, Democracy politician, Pakistan

“I have seen a world where women are denied, and I have also seen what can happen when you invest in the potential of half of your population,” Begum says. Now it’s time to keep making that investment.

Jan Rader, Huntington, West Virginia, fire chief

Talked about the role of stigma in perpetuating the opioid crisis and the role of empathy (from first responders) in reducing it. Adding self-care initiatives for her team results in deaths being down 50%



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