Let’s take Action – A Perspective Series Update from Amanda Millar

Young people hold some of the greatest potential in our society. As Global Women Members and advocates for change, how can we ensure our that children’s education prepares them for New Zealand’s future? From building understanding of our nation’s history to raising resilient, agile men and women, what are our priorities for the next generation?

“Late last year I slowly became unwell. The stress of the lifestyle I was living, the demands I made of myself, the demands other people made of me and expected to meet became too great and as 2014 closed I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that had spread to my liver. No treatment, no cure, only palliative care. I’d waited too long to look after myself and my body broke.To say that it was and is a shock is a major understatement. and as I look at the amazing family and group of friends I’m surrounded with as I now travel a different journey warms my heart. At the same time, there are feelings of trepidation about what lies ahead.I’m now focused on the moments of magic that are appearing in front of me: The laughter of my grandchildren; a smile of a friend attempting to walk this journey with me and the pure beauty and strength of my adult children as they battle their anger, grief and sadness at what is happening to their beloved mother.It’s time to leave the work to others now…” – Celia Lashlie, 10 June 1953 -16 February 2016

In August 2019, Global Women Members joined Film Producer/Director Amanda Millar to reflect on the wisdom imparted by Celia Lashlie in the self-titled film about her life, lessons and legacy.  Amanda’s stirring documentary celebrates the journey of social justice advocate Celia Lashlie.  What followed was stimulating discussion around what we can do to perpetuate Celia’s wisdom and how we can create change in our own communities.

So how do we take Celia’s lead and “be bold in the face of injustice’? How do we tackle societal issues head-on, support other women to thrive and continue to drive Celia’s work forward?

Below are some initiatives, identified by Amanda and other Global Women Members as part of the post-event discussion that we can each use to drive change both as individuals and as a collective.

The Simple Acts:

Be more kind and less judgemental.When we see someone who doesn’t look like us or act like us… think about that ‘hand’ that Celia placed directly in front of her face to explain that that is the life that many of these vulnerable women face every day. They have no room to negotiate while we have an entire outstretched arm to distance ourselves from the tough stuff and manage the personal crises in our lives.

Even if you don’t know this person, you can:

  1. Get closer to these people. Don’t distance yourself. They’re part of our world and our community too. Sounds naff but a smile breakdown so many barriers and these women are used to condescending and judgemental looks coming their way.
  2. Stop & ask her if there’s anything you can do to help.
  3. Giver her a lift
  4. Offer to contribute to her groceries or drop off some fresh fruit & vegetables
  5. Take her kids to the swings to give her some respite
  6. Help her fill out aWINZ form etc
  7. Accompany her to an ‘agency’ meeting. Be an advocate.
  8. Talk with her
  9. Don’t shy away from tough conversations –remember, When you are in a tough conversation and you have the ability to leave–that’s privilege
  10. Most importantly, listen. As Celia said, we don’t take the time to listen. Let her talk.Don’t expect her or her kids to live their life like you or be like you.

 

The Bigger Acts:

Find out in your community what is happening to support women and children who are marginalised and vulnerable. Identify an organisation that you want to help. Some of these are:

  • Pillars…https://www.pillars.org.nz/This is the organisation that supports the 23,000 Kiwi children who have a parent in jail. Amazing hard working people who give joy to lonely and hurt children. You could be one of them.
  • Women’s Refugehttps://womensrefuge.org.nz/support-our-work/You can be a volunteer and work there, provide food, toys clothes, etc
  • GW’s Annah Stretton has the amazing RAW initiative where you can support retraining of women in prisonhttps://www.raw.org.nz/
  • The Auntieshttps://www.aunties.co.nz/how-you-can-help-us/
  • Help homeless women & childrenhttps://www.whwt.kiwi/(Wellington) .There will be a site or similar trust in Ak & Chch.
  • Support women coming out of jail.https://www.prisonfellowship.org/why-help-prisoners/
  • Dellwyn Stuart was instrumental in starting the Women’s Fund, through the Auckland Foundation, and she is Chair of the Women’s Fund advisory committeehttps://www.aucklandfoundation.org.nz/womens-fundandhttps://www.aucklandfoundation.org.nz/dellwyn-stuart.

There are endless options and opportunities. It really relies on each individual making just one change or doing one thing to start a whole new awareness and response.

It doesn’t even need to be supporting the vulnerable. It could be in your own family, such as being more conscious of how you talk to the men in your lifeIn the words of Celia”We not only tell them what to do , we tell them how to do it”

Experiment and see and feel the difference.

One of the biggest things I ever took from Celia personally, is to ‘zip it’ or to stop insisting I always had the last word (Celia put it much more graphically in the film!).

For me as a mother of son, it is also pulling myself back from the endless ’mothering’ -otherwise they’ll never learn the consequences.

It’s also about being brave enough to have the tough conversations. When someone says something about the ‘shit-head bludgers down the road’… perhaps there’s another perspective you can putto that person. After all, they’ll be very unlikely to know the circumstances that have led to that family being in that position.

Talk about it.

There are white middle-class children suffering too. It’s just that their parents are better at hiding it and more relevantly, the system’s not normally persecuting or pursuing them -even if there is violence or crime going on.

If you suspect something’s going on -talk about it or ask questions. Don’t walk away. To walk away is to condone.

This is a start. I’d like it if others could add to this list and see what comes out of it with our combined networks, energy and compassion.

Be brave. Change will happen when you open your eyes, open your mind and most importantly open your heart.

Enough said.

Amanda

“At the heart of my being is the plight of women. This society that we spend millions of dollars on benefits, millions of dollars trying to stop child abuse, millions of dollars trying to stop family violence…and no one has said: ‘turn to the mothers’. And so that’s my thing: it is only in working with the mothers that we will get to save the lives of these children”. – Celia Lashlie

Many thanks to Amanda Millar, Yvonne McLean, Jane Sweeney for your contributions to this article.

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