Stop the trade

Every 24 hours 55 Elephants are killed. This amounts to over 20,000 a year. Why? For their tusks. 450g of ivory can sell for as much as £1150.

The international trade in illegal ivory is estimated to be worth £17billion each year, but the effect it is having on our wildlife is startling. To think that around 100 years ago, there were roughly 10 million Elephants in the world, and now there are just 400,000 (a drop of 110,000 over the last 10 years). Each day this number is dropping by 55. How long before we cause another species to go extinct for the sake of money?

The UK has enacted “one of the world’s toughest bans” on ivory sales with anyone found guilty of selling ivory of any age facing a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail. Exemptions are for “rare and important items” that are at least 100 years old, items made before 1947 that contain less than 10% ivory and musical instruments with less than 20% ivory made before 1975.

Things are potentially looking better internationally. For example, just a few days ago Tanzania sentenced Yang Fenglan (nicknamed “Ivory Queen”) to 15 years in jail for operating one of Africa’s biggest ivory-smuggling rings, responsible for smuggling around £1.9million worth of tusks from around 400 Elephants. However, we still see very often affluent businessmen and women from upper class communities poaching animals for sport and for “fun”.

More work must be done but in order for real change to occur, perceptions must be changed. Whether the motive is money or medicine, the ivory trade is not needed and must stop before it is too late. Many countries around the world still continue to allow some form of commercial ivory trade in their country or with surrounding countries, particularly in East Asia and Africa. What is required is a complete and total ban in ivory sales with strict prosecution penalties for those involved in the ivory trade in any way shape or form.

The new generations must be educated about the issue so they have the knowledge and ability to tackle it if they see it. We must put pressure on our government to force others to make any form of ivory trade illegal and seek harsh penalties. Perhaps countries need to provide more funding to conservation efforts such as 24/7 patrols in poaching hotspots.

If you’re wondering what you can do to tackle this issue and make a difference then you should look for organisations that campaign actively against the Ivory Trade. Organisations such as Born Free, WWF, Fauna and Flora International and Save the Elephants do some fantastic work in tackling the issue and you can donate at their websites. You can also educate others on the matter and raise awareness of how big of an issue it really is. Too many species of animals are becoming endangered or extinct due to the greed of humanity and many are completely oblivious to it. Knowledge is power when applied; fight against this horrid trade.

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Knife crime

Why do they do it? Why do they take a life? Why do they kill?

The Office for National Statistics state that there were 285 knife and sharp instrument homicides during March 2017 – March 2018. We all know that after March 2018 there were numerous more stabbings and the trend is continuing into this year.

The total quoted by the Office for National Statistics is the highest since they started collecting the data in 1946. Based on the statistics, 86 of those who died (just under a third of the annual total) were aged between 16 and 24, with an additional 54 individuals being aged between 25 and 34.

In the city I live in and was born in, Coventry, there was over 15 fatal or serious stabbings that year. There have been several more this year already.

Do police cuts contribute to this rise? Does gang culture contribute to this rise? Or perhaps it’s even young people acting up to the stereotypes that the older generation label them with? It is difficult to say, however one thing is for sure: it must stop.

Peer pressure is an ongoing reason for young people carrying knives. Many feel obliged to carry a weapon because their friends are, or they may do it to fit in with a certain group of people.

However, it’s also a possibility that some youth who carry knives have no interest in gang culture, but carry it for self-defence purposes. It’s easy to be targeted simply for walking in an area of the city that you don’t live in. It seems that carrying a knife is becoming normal and we cannot let this become our reality forever.

I believe young people are influenced by what they see around them. Things such as the music industry can affect the way young people perceive knives and violence. We have seen the rise of drill music in the UK, which is defined by its dark, violent, nihilistic lyrical content.

Young teens and young adults are impressionable no matter who they are. Everything they read, see or hear will shape their personality and views in one way or another. Even TV shows such as Power portray crime and killing as a cool thing to do and make it seem as though you can earn vast amounts of wealth, become influential and not have to deal with any repercussions of your actions. Again, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what motivates people to carry knives because there is no one reason and the problem will not be a quick fix.

However we cannot just blame the age group that knife crimes mainly affects. We must address the problem of the older generation in power; the government has underfunded the police, youth and mental health services, in addition to schools and much more that shapes young people’s minds and actions. Some young people get sucked into a life that our country is simply incapable of changing. We as a society need to evoke that change.

Too many lives are being lost for no reason. Young children, some as young as thirteen and fourteen, have lost their lives to this horrible trend. The perpetrators may feel like they’re strong and powerful due to what they’ve done but only the weak carry weapons. Please remember that carrying one for protection also means you are more likely to get yourself in a bad situation where you or someone else will get hurt.

It is not an easy subject to tackle but I feel like with additional funding for the police and schools to tackle the issue, as well as prominent musicians and influencers speaking against knife crime, combined witha shift in thinking in the minds of many young people, knife crime can be reduced and eventually become non-existent. We should all work to make our communities safer and stop bright futures vanishing due to this trend.

We have more to live for than violence and an ongoing sadness whenever this happens to the people we love.

Drop the knife. Save a life.

Hypocrisy

If you had the choice to stay in a war zone and risk being beaten, killed and raped or flee to safety and possibly live a better life until the war was over, what would you choose?

All too often I hear and see people hurling abuse online claiming refugees are “invading” the country and how we should “let them drown”, but these same people refuse to acknowledge the fact that these refugees have to be smuggled across Europe, and walk for days on end to potentially get a boat to a safer country. However, nothing is guaranteed. Very few who make these types of journeys arrive safely; many are caught, killed, or go missing due to the boat capsizing.

Of course some people in the UK find this hilarious, but anyone with an ounce of empathy within them will realise that these people have risked everything in the hope for a better life. It is human nature to want to live a nice and prosperous life that is free from danger; perhaps if the west stopped bombing the hell out of countries around the world people wouldn’t need to travel dangerous journeys to get here for safety.

If we put as much time, effort and money into bringing about peace as we do preparing for war and destroying societies and communities, maybe war wouldn’t exist? A lot of war is in relation to personal gain (money) and this is why many governments and lobbies around the world vote in favour of war and perhaps even a biased media have a part to play in this.

Going back to the original point, refugees or refugee status is often a product of war, sometimes natural disasters, but mainly war. Figures show that since 2008, Britain has sold weaponry worth £12 billion to countries included on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office human rights “priority countries” list, such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Syria. Out of the 30 countries on this list, the only country that the UK did not approve arms exports to was North Korea. I want you to think about that for a second… 1 country out of 30.

There are 25.4 million refugees worldwide, 6.3 million refugees coming from Syria (a country we actively bomb). The UK host 121,837 refugees and have 40,365 pending asylum cases; in comparison to Turkey hosting 3.5 million refugees and Pakistan hosting 1.4 million. Just to put this into perspective, the amount of refugees and pending asylum cases in the UK amount to 0.25% of the UK population before people start claiming we are being “invaded”.

Refugees don’t come to live here by choice. Many are doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers etc. who lived happy lives back in their home country, but are forced to flee due to the threat that war poses to them. Every refugee is initially an asylum seeker which is important for the next point. Asylum seekers are not allowed to claim benefits or work in the UK. If they are destitute and have no other means of supporting themselves, they can apply to receive asylum support. This is set at around £5.39 per day. So for those of you who believe Katie Hopkins or other prominent right wing figures who claim refugees are “stealing benefits” from us, think again.

There’s a lot of myth and false information going around on social media and through newspapers such as the Sun or the Daily Mail but we urge you all to educate yourselves before forming an opinion on a matter. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”. Once you learn that the system work for the elite, you begin to see the world and events in a whole new perspective.

The Pain Within.

“Don’t be ashamed of your story, it will inspire others”.

Domestic abuse is defined as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer.

As mentioned above there are several ways in which domestic abuse can occur. Manipulation is one method of abuse that is used to maintain control. Nothing will ever be the abusers fault, they will twist things to turn it on their partner and make them feel guilty for doing absolutely nothing wrong. They will make you feel like their violence and wrongdoings are because of your actions, even though it isn’t your fault. Too many men and women are scared of leaving toxic relationships as many do not see a way out, or a life after leaving. Domestic violence isn’t just physical it can be mental as well. People are very quick to say ‘how could you not leave someone if they treat you like that’ but it’s impossible to judge if you’re not in that persons shoes and you haven’t gone through what they have gone through, both emotionally and physically.  It is a cycle of violence which for many can seem inescapable. Whether this be with a partner or living in a family home, domestic violence can make individuals feel weak, helpless, scared and it can take away their hope.

Data published by Women’s Aid shows that an estimated 160,000 children in England witness domestic abuse in their households; with provisions of support dropping by 16% since 2010. This highlights that domestic abuse affects vast amounts of people all over the country; the reality is the number of men or women experiencing domestic abuse is much higher than the estimate and they’ll never be any way to truly know how many people are experiencing this issue every day. Many don’t speak out about their trauma in fear of further abuse or even death. Some may even feel embarrassed that they have allowed themselves to be in this situation but again it is not their fault.

This abuse is experienced in all ethnicities and ages; some cultures even condone this behaviour and it is seen as “normal”. Based on my perspective from the Asian culture, I often saw or heard that a husband tends to have control over the wife as he is the “Alpha” of the household. The patriarchal society feeds into this narrative massively and women are expected to be obedient and submissive. This is wrong, it will always be wrong and we need to challenge this issue in our own homes and in our communities.

However, we are also seeing an increase in men speaking out about being domestically abused. When men speak up they are often called weak and laughed at. The patriarchal society also makes us feel that men cannot be abused or hurt as they are seen as the “dominant” sex. We must work harder to ensure that both men and women in all cultures are recognised for their strength and are listened to when they try to reach out for help. Belittling their experiences or pain using old fashioned sexist stereotypes will not get us anywhere.  

It further worsens in other communities with the act of female genital mutilation to keep a young girl “pure” for her future husband, forced marriage and “honour crimes” which is the murder of a person accused of bringing shame upon his or her family. The list is endless and these forms of domestic abuse are extremely common in other cultures due to religion, tradition or society.

But there is hope. If you are reading this and are in an abusive relationship or know of someone who is, there is help around the corner. Organisations such as Women’s Aid specialise in helping victims of domestic abuse, even the police if needs be. If you are a victim of abuse, speak out. If you are in the UK and are worried about your own relationship or a loved one, you should contact the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, there is always someone there to listen, even if you think there never is. There is a better future ahead of you if you speak out and seek help; I cannot even begin to imagine what you go through on a daily basis but I need you to understand that you are stronger than you know and believe, and you do not need to rely on anyone in life – you are strong enough to stand on your own two feet and lead a successful life.

Together, we can tackle domestic abuse against men, women and children and hopefully create a world where people feel safe to speak out. You are not the weak one, they are.

A failed system…

Last week we saw two huge protests within the U.K. The first being the protest against Trump’s visit on Friday where it is estimated that over 250,000 people attended in central London to tell Trump that he is not welcome and never will be. This is the biggest protest in the U.K. since the Iraq war protest in the early 2000s. The second protest was against the FLA (Football Lads Alliance) who were marching in support of Trump, Tommy Robinson and freedom of speech.

As we all know, Trump is a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, sexist individual who was voted in as President of the United States by targeting minorities within the country such as Muslims, Mexicans or Black people and scapegoating them for various issues in order to gain votes and become President. Since then we have seen him and his administration attack the rights of the LGBTQ+ Community, Black people, Mexicans, Muslims and others. His rise to power has empowered other right wing organisations across Europe to stand up and “claim back” their country from immigrants and Muslims.

The election of Trump has sparked the debate once again surrounding freedom of speech, which is where Tommy Robinson and the FLA come in. There is however a difference between freedom of speech and hate speech which a lot of these supports do not seem to comprehend. Freedom of speech means we can hold and express opinions and ideas, and criticise people in power. This does not however make hate speech okay. The Public Order Act 1986 makes intentional expression of racial hatred a criminal offence.

The notion that Islamophobia for example is not racism as Islam is not a race is an argument that comes up very often when the far right wish to justify their behaviour towards Muslims. However, regardless of how they wish to word it, they tend to associate anyone brown to be Muslim and anyone Muslim to be a terrorist or a member of a grooming gang. Just last month, the FLA marched in Leeds and a few days after there were arson attacks on a Mosque and a Gurdwara. Coincidence? No, not really.

Whenever any right wing group such as the EDL or Britain First for example came to Coventry I would often question them about why they have the views that they have, but all I would get back is “f**k off back to your country you p**i” or “BOOM!” or even “you interested in my young daughter you f*****g rapist”. For me it is clear that no one is willing to actually engage in a conversation about their views and why they hold the views that they hold which is when this problem begins to worsen and create further tension.

As a third generation British Indian in this country it does genuinely astonish me that there are white British people in this country doing the Nazi salutes as if Germany and the rest of the world didn’t go to war? But also demonising and targeting people whose origins are from the countries that helped Britain during World War 1 and 2. Of course there is a problem with terrorism and grooming gangs but it’s not just a small group of people who label themselves as Muslims? There are white terrorists and white grooming gangs in the country as well. Instead of trying to target a small section of society and blame them for our problems, we should instead be looking at the wider problem and realise that regardless of religion or skin colour, evil people will always be evil people. Terrorism has no colour, evil has no colour, so why do a small minority within this country still choose to scapegoat and target an even smaller minority within the country for its problems.

If anyone is to blame it’s the failed system: the failed justice system, the failed education system, the failed economic system and the failed political system; not just in this country but all over the world. People’s needs are not met and the most vulnerable in society are often the ones who are affected the most. Everyone is entitled to their views but I also think people need to take a look at the bigger picture and realise that the scapegoats that the media and government use are only pawns in a much larger game…

 

My battle with Depression.

“From around the age of 10, I constantly felt down; never happy or content. Negative feelings such as hopelessness and sadness engulfed me. Being so young with such ill feelings, I was hardly aware of the fact that not everyone else felt this way, although I knew what I was feeling wasn’t normal I brave faced it and carried on with life hoping for the best not knowing what else to do.

Since I was born, my mum battled with cancer which eventually took her from us just one week after I turned 10. Combine this with having no friends in my primary school, getting bullied and having relationship difficulties with my family – things were not going well and my life was in a downwards spiral into a dark black hole that sucked all the happiness and courage I had.

A year passed and things got worse. The feeling of sadness intensified until they became feelings of depression and at my worst points, suicide. The small thoughts began to take over my brain; day and night the demons came out to play. No matter what I did, no matter where I went, the thoughts were always there. No escape, no peace, no hope. See that’s the thing with depression, it’s not always triggered by a specific event, sometimes it just happens for reasons unexplainable or for no visible reason at all. It’s like a whirlwind, it hits you out of nowhere, and doesn’t care what’s in its way – its goal is destruction and it sucks you into the darkness where you feel powerless.

I began to exclude myself from everything, from everyone. My hobbies no longer existed, I had no energy, no motivation, no lust for life, I just wanted to sleep forever; to me, life was meaningless and because of that, at depressions worst points, I did not care whether I lived or died. The life that I once loved and cherished, I was now wishing would end. For many the hardest part of that, especially when there’s no particular reason for it, is you just don’t understand why. You feel guilty, even though you know you no longer have rational control over your feelings.

It didn’t help that I had no one to speak to, no one that I believed cared enough. Due to the many mental health issues in current society not really being understood as much as they could be in my culture, I couldn’t confide in my family because of fear that their reaction may have been inconsiderate. I had no friends to speak to either as I was bullied throughout primary school. Because of my practically non-existent space to vent depression just weighed heavier on my shoulders. Waking up and constantly having to battle with the thoughts inside your head is by far one of the hardest things I think anyone can ever do, it is such a personal experience and often even if you do have someone to speak to you just can’t believe any positive words about your being. So many people fight this battle silently day and night.

All people suffering from such issues deserve to get the right treatment and the right care to be able to carry out and enjoy their day to day lie without such a heavy burden on their chest but there simply is not enough funding for these services. Personally, I had to wait over 2 months to get any counselling and that is a considerably short amount of time as I know of waiting lists for counselling treatment spanning over 6 months. It is shocking how underfunded the mental health services are in the UK considering it is one of the biggest issues we have to face as a society.

Depression is a silent killer and despite more societal focus on it, it is still on the rise which essentially means more could be done to tackle it. Many can’t put up the fight against it, it is incredibly tiresome and you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle this leads to thousands of people each year committing suicide. To me, the effects of this could essentially be considered a ripple effect, one suicide affects the lives and emotional well-being of many. With more and more people being diagnosed with depression each year, it is vital that more is done to fight it.

Even to this day I will have my good and bad days, I go through phases where I’m surviving and other phases where I want it all to end but I know deep down that things will get better. Things still are not great but they’ll get there eventually. You mustn’t lose hope otherwise it is even more of an uphill struggle.”

This is my story. Many others are going through a similar or more difficult battle. If you are going through a personal battle, it is okay to speak out about it. People are here for you and together we can end the stigma surrounding mental health.

“Perfect”.

To not feel pressure to fit into societal norms is a rarity in this day and age. Too many of us look towards models and celebrities to see what we should look like, what size our waist should be, how big our features should be. We live in a world where very few people feel confident with their bodies or the way they look, simply because others are judgemental and pick flaws in those around them.

Studies have shown that at least 80% of girls are uncomfortable with their bodies. The “perfect body” that the media portray to us, especially within the modelling industry is 20% below the ideal healthy weight. This leads to many people around the world attempting to reach this “perfect body” by damaging their health both short term and long term to feel comfortable in their own skin.

40% of women and 20% of men have considered having plastic surgery to alter their appearance. This is most likely increasing year upon year as more and more people become insecure about themselves. But what is perfection? Does perfection exist? No, it doesn’t. Regardless of what we do, we will always be seen as imperfect to someone around the world. That is the beauty of society, we all are different and have different likes and dislikes; the whole world does not has the same concept of “perfect”.

These differences must be acknowledged but appreciated. No one should live and feel uncomfortable looking the way they are because other people judge them. Body image should be a personal choice, it should be a choice where the person WANTS to change their body, not because of any external influences.

We are heading towards generations of people where no one is comfortable being the way they are; generations of millions with eating disorders; and generations of millions with no self-confidence. We need to show people that they are perfect the way they are and that they should not feel a lack of confidence due to the people they see on TV.

Do not quantify your worth by the amounts of likes you get on a photo, you are worth more than you know and do not let anyone tell you any different. The fight for body confidence will be a tough one but hopefully more and more people learn to embrace who they are rather than allowing the media to tell them what they should look like to be “perfect”.

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