Many years ago, when I was still living in South Africa, I was on the organizing committee for a national conference at which Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the keynote speaker. There were about ten of us on the committee, and we were all unspeakably excited at the prospect of an in-person meeting with this great man.
All of us had witnessed in real time the dismantling of Apartheid. Desmond Tutu played a major role in this process, and he helped shape the landscape of post-Apartheid South Africa. He was, without a doubt, one of South Africa’s greatest heroes.
At the time we were putting the conference together, South Africa was still a fledgling democracy. The first democratic election in which everyone had a vote was still a fresh memory, and the nation was in the early stages of its healing. Desmond Tutu was a bright light that all of South Africa’s people looked to for guidance.
On the day of the conference, the committee members were assembled in the room that had been allocated as our centre of operations. This was where the logistics happened, it was where we took our coffee breaks, and it was where we greeted the speakers and presenters.
When word reached us that Archbishop Tutu had arrived in the conference centre parking lot, we arranged ourselves in a line down one side of the room. We knew that Archbishop Tutu would only be there for a few minutes before he was whisked to the auditorium to deliver his speech. Each of us would have the opportunity to shake his hand and have a brief exchange with him.
I was standing beside my friend Dave, who seemed unaccountably nervous. There were little beads of perspiration on his face, and he was jiggling his leg so much that I kept nudging him to stop. As momentous as this occasion was for me and the other committee members, it was doubly so for Dave. He was the only Black person in the room, the only one whose life had quite literally been saved by the demise of Apartheid.
When the door opened and the Archbishop was ushered in, he instantly won all of us over with his grace and charm. He moved down the line of people, engaging everyone in a brief conversation, presenting himself not as a global celebrity but as an equal. When it was my turn, he grasped my hand with both of his. I told him what an inspiration for change he was, and he told me that I had the power to change the world in my own way.
He moved on to Dave, who was standing dead still, looking absolutely terrified. Dave managed to extend his hand for the Archbishop to shake, but he was unable to utter a single word. Archbishop Tutu told Dave he was a trailblazer for the generations to come, and Dave just – stood there. When the silence was on the verge of transitioning from mildly awkward to downright uncomfortable, the Archbishop started moving to the next person.
All of a sudden, Dave blurted out, “You’re a lot shorter than I thought you were going to be!”
There was a beat of stunned silence, followed by a guffaw of laughter from the Archbishop. He shook Dave’s hand again and moved on to the next person.
When all was said and done, I said to Dave, “You had the chance to say one thing, and that was it?”
“I didn’t know what else to say,” Dave said. “Anyway, it’s true.”
It was true. Well, kind of true. Archbishop Tutu was small in physical stature, but he carried himself as if he was ten feet tall. He was one of those people whose presence could fill an entire stadium. We saw on multiple occasions how he could sway the sentiment of an entire nation with just a few words. In a country that for decades was torn apart by racism and government policies designed to pit groups of people against one another, Archbishop Tutu’s message was one of peace and unity.
Desmond Tutu believed in the interconnectedness of all humans. He promoted the message that everyone has value, that the path to peace lies in talking to people whose views differ from our own, and that there is strength in diversity.
As South Africa – and the world – reels from the loss of this great man, we can take comfort in the fact that his legacy will be with us forever. He leaves behind lessons that all of us can teach our children as they strive to make their own marks upon the world.
Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny).
Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels.
When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum.
Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world.
Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!
Each year on December 10, people all around the world celebrate Human Rights Day. The date was chosen to honor the United NationsGeneral Assembly‘s adoption on 10 December 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global statement of international human rights principles. The UDHR was the first international document that spelled out the “basic civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all human beings should enjoy.” The UDHR has been translated into more than 500 languages and dialects, making it one of the most translated documents in the world.
The theme for 2021 is EQUALITY – Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights. The official slogan is “All Human, All Equal”.
“This year’s Human Rights Day theme relates to ‘Equality’ and Article 1 of the UDHR – “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
The principles of equality and non-discrimination are at the heart of human rights. Equality is aligned with the 2030 Agenda and with the UN approach set out in the document Shared Framework on Leaving No One Behind: Equality and Non-Discrimination at the Heart of Sustainable Development. This includes addressing and finding solutions for deep-rooted forms of discrimination that have affected the most vulnerable people in societies, including women and girls, indigenous peoples, people of African descent, LGBTI people, migrants and people with disabilities, among others.”
Below are some ideas for simple yet meaningful ways that families can celebrate Human Rights Day by learning about the rights and responsibilities that we all share as human beings. For more ideas, check out our previous posts:
“We’ve combed through the episodes to make sure they’re free of profanity, graphic references and other adult content. (Although talking about race and racism is always complicated, so parents, use your judgment here.) Our episodes never have all the answers, and we’re hoping these will open up space for some good old-fashioned dinner-table discussions.”
“Developed in collaboration with United Nations agencies, civil society and other organizations, YUNGA Challenge Badges aim to raise your awareness, educate and motivate you to change your behaviour and become an active agent of change in your local community.”
9. Make your own human rights meme!
Use this year’s Human Rights Day theme and brainstorm with your kids to come up with a meme. Use any free online meme generator to create your own meme. For inspiration, check out these take action memes.
10. Talk to your kids about how important they are to making the future better for all of us!
Jennifer Prestholdt is a lawyer and the Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights, a volunteer-based human rights organization that works locally, nationally and internationally. Her work in human rights takes her around the world, but she spends most of her time in Minneapolis, MN, where she lives with her children (two sons and one daughter), her husband, an elderly cat and a dwarf hamster.
As Jennifer’s kids are now all in school (1st, 4th and 6th grades), she is finally finding more time to do the things that she used to love to do, especially running, writing and knitting. Jennifer loves to travel and has had the dubious distinction of having been accidentally locked in a bathroom on five continents so far. Australia and Antarctica await!
In January 2011, Jennifer made a New Year’s Resolution to start writing about her experiences in order to share with her children the lessons learned from 15 years of work in human rights. The result is her personal blog, The Human Rights Warrior. The name comes from her son Simon, who was extremely disappointed to learn that his mother is a lawyer, not a warrior.
When I was a little girl, I loved coloring books and could spend hours with my crayons, meticulously coloring between the lines. It didn´t require much thinking. The assignment was clear and I got the job done. If I simply stayed within those lines, all turned out well. Lately however, life is not as simple as coloring within the lines.
At this point, I can firmly say that I am done with COVID. But that shouldn’t be news to you, right?
EVERYONE. IS. DONE. WITH. COVID.
I think I can safely assume that we all agree on this one.
Currently in the Netherlands, 86.2% of the population is vaccinated.
A large group declines from taking the vaccine. It is a diverse group of people that have different reasons for not taking the vaccine. Tensions between the vaccinated and unvaccinated are growing. Now that flu season has kicked off numbers are spiking again and the government has issued a series of new measures to try and control the virus. The most important measures: keeping 1,5 meters distance (6 ft ); face masks in public buildings, schools and stores; the government strongly advises us to work from home and non-essential stores, gyms, theaters etc. close at 17.00 (5 pm). There has been growing unrest as some take their grievances to the streets and clash with the police in violent encounters.
Enough is enough!
Oddly, it is not the virus that makes me weary.
It is the people that I’m fed up with.
I don’t think I have ever experienced this much negativity and madness in my life. I have never seen more distrust. And I certainly know that I am privileged to be able to say so. I’m done with seeing how we treat one another. I don’t think I have ever seen my country this divided.
So here is what I am going to do to get through this crisis.
I’m going to respect other opinions. Even if I don’t agree with them. Even if their choices make me angry and I inwardly need to restrain myself from slapping that person in the face. I‘m going to respect them and assume the best. I will presume that we all are trying our very best to survive in the best way we think we can.
I’m going to assume that we are the same. That we’re trying to live by our beliefs and make the best possible choices for ourselves and our families. I’m going to believe that we still have much in common. I am not going to lose friends over this. I will keep my eye on the bigger picture. When this is all behind us, I want to be able to talk about what we went through with my neighbors and friends. We should be able to grieve and celebrate in unity.
I wasn’t going to write about this.
I was going to write about coloring books.
About how I used to love picking up a good box of crayons and coloring between the lines and how everything was clear and structured that way. Lately it feels like I am back in kindergarten, sitting nicely at a table with my coloring book and box of crayons and all the other kids are going NUTS. The teacher left the room and some of them started scratching across the coloring pages, others are scribbling on the table or doodling on the walls and some are just running around in circles stabbing each other with their pencils.
I just want to yell at them to CALM THE HECK DOWN.
But I realize that we are all different and we all deal with crisis in our own way. And that people need to do whatever it is that they need to do before the teacher shows up again.
In whatever way, they are coping.
When this is all over, I just want to be able to sit with my friends, at the same table, with our boxes of crayons.
Tell me, how are you (still) coping with COVID?How do you deal with vastly different opinions?
Mirjam was born in warm, sunny Surinam, but raised in the cold, rainy Netherlands.
She´s the mom of three rambunctious beauties and has been married for over two decades to the love of her life.
Every day she´s challenged by combining the best and worst of two cultures at home.
She used to be an elementary school teacher but is now a stay at home Mom. In her free time she loves to pick up her photo camera.
Mirjam has had a life long battle with depression and is not afraid to talk about it.
She enjoys being a blogger, an amateur photographer, and loves being creative in many ways.
But most of all she loves live and laughter, even though sometimes she is the joke herself.
You can find Mirjam (sporadically) at her blog Apples and Roses where she blogs about her battle with depression and finding beauty in the simplest of things. You can also find Mirjam on Twitter and Instagram.
In addition to WMN Founder, Jennifer Burden, many of our Senior Editors have been with World Moms since almost its inception. Our Managing Editor, Kyla P’an was among our first World Moms. She joined in 2011. Here’s her story and what makes her a World Mom:
Where do you live?
I live in the lovely coastal town of Parede, Portugal almost halfway between Lisbon and Cascais. We’ve been living here since August 2019 and we were lucky enough to be “stuck” here during COVID too. Living in Portugal was supposed to be just a 2-year, expat assignment but we all love it here so much we plan to stay.
Where are you from?
I was born in the Philadelphia suburbs but spent much more of my life in New England. Before moving to Portugal in 2019, I lived outside of Boston, Massachusetts for the past two decades and before that, Japan for a few years.
What languages do you speak?
I speak English and pretty basic Japanese and Portuguese at this point. I used to speak Japanese pretty fluently but when I moved back to the US from Japan in 1998, met and married a Chinese-American and forced two kids to attend Sunday Chinese School for 10 years, my Japanese got pretty rusty.
How many children do you have and what are their ages?
I have two ‘Muses,” Ella, 15, and Parker, 12. They were my inspiration for getting into the blogosphere in 2010 with Growing Muses and also for my involvement with the amazing, global-minded and multi-cultural company, Barefoot Books.
In 2020, during the Summer of COVID, I taught my teenage daughter how to build a basic blog and we documented our road trip from Portugal to Paris from a mother/daughter perspective, resulting in our joint blog: Muses Where We Go. Aside from parenting, blogging with my child was one of the most full-circle activities I have done.
How did you connect with World Moms Network?
In 2011, Jennifer Burden did a search on global blogs and parenting and came across my blog post about Barefoot Books. I quickly got involved with World Moms Blog and before I knew it, Jennifer took a three-month maternity leave and asked me to step in as Managing Editor. She handed me this “baby” so she could be more present for her own.
How many years have you been a part of World Moms Network?
I joined in 2011 and worked as Managing Editor until I stepped down in 2016 to homeschool my daughter. I didn’t get back in the saddle again until the Pandemic, when Jennifer Burden reached out to World Moms around the globe and got us reunited and re-engaged; so six, non-consecutive years. I’m honored and thrilled to be back in my original role as Managing Editor. I love the team of editors and contributors I have the pleasure of working with and knowing.
How has your life changed since you joined World Moms Network?
Oh boy, how has my life changed? Well, for one, I live in Europe now and am raising my kids in a foreign culture. I also no longer do as much freelance writing as I used to but I think that’s about to change. In the parenting world, a lot changes in a decade. My kids have gone from being young kids to teenagers. I have a lot more gray hair but also a lot more amazing memories.
What is your occupation?
I’m a journalist and copy editor. I did a lot of projects with the Smithsonian Institution and other museums and academic institutions before moving to Portugal. Now that we have decided to settle here permanently, I plan to dust off my keyboard and do more of what I love most…traveling and writing about it.
What did you want to be as a kid?
Truthfully? The President of the United States. But now that I’m older and wiser, and see how complicated and inauthentic the job is, I’m glad I didn’t pursue that dream. When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a diplomat. Now I am a mom and raising my own Global Citizens. Living abroad, I get to connect and coordinate with other international moms on a daily basis. So, I guess, to some degree, I am living out my diplomacy dream.
What are your top 5 places on your travel wish list?
Camino de Santiago (by bike)
Machu Picchu (by foot)
Book, Movie or Show you recommend?
Book: The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of the Donner Party by Daniel James Brown (also author of The Boys in the Boat). Not only is this a true and remarkable tale of the mysterious outcome of a group of Pioneers traveling west in late-1800 America, it also reminds me to be deeply humbled and thankful for the comforts and ease of modern day travel. It puts into perspective how minor all of the COVID swabs and complications I had to put up with in order to travel during the pandemic were in comparison with the trials and hardships the Donner Party endured.
What brings you joy?
Open-air food markets wherever I go. I love seeing what the locals eat, how they shop and interact with one another and the vibrance of smells and colors. If I can’t find an open-air market, I will happily default to a grocery store. Even in my home country I can get lost in a good grocery store. I find the aisles full fo choices and ingredients so hopeful and inspiring. When I see new and unfamiliar products, sometimes I’ll wait to see someone buy it and then try to ask them, or the shop owner, how they cook with it.
Here in Portugal, they do an amazing amount of things with three main ingredients: laurel, garlic and olive oil. And most Portuguese deserts also consist of three main ingredients: egg yolks, sugar and cream. It reminds me how important having good building blocks are and the value of 3.
This is an original writer’s interview for World Moms Networkwith our Managing Editor and Editor of the European Region, Kyla P’an in Portugal. The photographs used in this post are credited to her.
World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good.
Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms
Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.