Isolation Inspiration: Dedicate Time to Yourself

I know many of you are, like me, experiencing a lockdown or something similar. Here in South Africa, many of us were preparing to go back to life as usual until the announcement came that our lockdown was being extended for a further three weeks. A few months ago I’d probably have been begging for three weeks of time to myself, and now here it is, albeit under slightly stricter rules and unfortunate circumtances.

I’ve compiled a list of things to do, read, listen to and think about during this isolated time.

1. Have a routine. If you want to be productive during your lockdown period, you need to set out a routine for yourself. Set a to-do list in the evening for the following day and try to stick to it. I try and make sure all my admin, chores and exercise routines are done by lunch time, giving myself some downtime thereafter. That being said, it’s important to realise that this is also a time of uncertainty, grief and worry. You don’t have to be constantly productive, and if this isn’t a productive time for you, don’t beat yourself up about it. We all have different paths that we venture on at different paces. If having a routine helps you be productive, try your best to stick to it – it could do wonders for your mental space.

2. Read. You know all those times you’ve told people you’re too busy to read? Well here you have it: time. Dive into your must-read list and find some new books to enjoy. Steer away from your electronics and decide to live in an author’s world for a while instead. I find that indulging in another world takes some of the worries about our current circumstances away. Reading about inspirational, powerful and resilient women has also kept me motivated.

My Feminist Reading List:

3. Declutter your belongings, declutter your mind. This is the perfect time to organise and sort out everything you swore you would before the new year started but never quite got round to. Give your old clothes away to those in need, get your work / study space structured, dig through some old storage items, and why not attempt a DIY project? It’s natural to get ‘cabin fever’ during this time and the best way to combat that is to ensure your surrounding space stays exciting and creative.

4. Try something new. During this period of time you could try at least one new thing. Whether it is a physical exercise, cooking a new recipe or challenging yourself to some new creative outlets – be daring! Who cares if it’s a flop – that excitement of starting something new could be beneficial for your mind at the moment.

5. Join a yoga or meditation group and practice mindfulness. This is the ideal time to push your reset button and re-align your mind and body. Also, supporting your local yoga studio can be equally beneficial to both you and them. Small businesses need us now more than ever. I personally find it hard to quieten my mind and so have challenged myself to trying more mindfulness practices.

6. Stay active. Home workout tips and videos are all over the internet now – there has been no better time to try out new programs or trainers from the comfort of your own home and find what works for you. Stay active for your mental and physical health, NOT because of any pressure from others or yourself. There are far bigger issues at the moment than physical appearances.

7. Visit a virtual gallery. Since lots of us have had to cancel travel plans for the next few months, galleries around the world have ensured no one misses out on any exhibitions. Use this as creative inspiration and even create your own art pieces at home after your virtual tour.

8. Connect. For introverts like me, this time has been revitalising and energy-generating but even I am starting to feel the physical isolation. Apps such as FaceTime, Zoom and HouseParty have made it easy to keep in contact with those around you. On days that the isolated feeling hits, jump on to one of these platforms and chat it out to some of your friends or family. Being physically distanced can get to our heads sometimes and so it’s vital to stay connected to your loved ones. They’re going through the same emotions and feelings as you so check in with each other.

9. Appreciate, express gratitude and be thankful. It’s easy to fall into a cycle of self-pity during this time. It’s uncertain and scary but there are millions around the world feeling the same emotions. We are lucky if we are able to self-isolate in a healthy, safe and clean environment – it’s a luxury not everybody has. Be grateful for a safe home and for your health above all. If you are isolating with family, express gratitude towards them. If you are alone, be thankful for that precious time you get to spend with yourself. There is always something to be grateful for, sometimes we’ve just got to look a little deeper.

I leave you with a quote from the exquisite Michelle Obama :

“If you do not take control over your time and your life, other people will gobble it up. If you don’t prioritise yourself, you constantly start falling lower and lower on your list.”

Stay safe, stay strong, stay brave.

Pursuing a Career in Development? This Advice is for You

Whether you’re building your international development career already or you hope to enter the sector in the future, a little guidance from those who have done it all before can be really valuable. But for many of us, accessing the collective knowledge of successful women in the field can seem like a pretty daunting prospect.

To help, we asked two incredible development leaders, Dr Roopa Dhatt – Executive Director and co-founder of Women in Global Health, and Camilla Knox-Peebles – Chief Executive of Amref Health Africa UK, to share their advice to young women pursuing a career in development. Here’s what they told us.

Roopa’s top tips:

  1. Have a strong support system.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  3. Pick what matters most to you.

“To be able to do anything well, you need to be taking care of yourself.”

And Camilla’s advice to those early in their careers:

  1. Listen, be open to learning and seize opportunities.
  2. Practice self-awareness and self-reflection.
  3. Follow your intuition.

“I have so often found myself hesitating to ask a question, only to find out that so many other people had exactly the same question.”

Girls’ Globe attended the Women in Dev Conference in March 2020. You can watch highlights from the event or join the conversation online. And, if you’re a young woman in the international development sector (or hoping to be one day!), you can amplify your voice with Girls’ Globe.

Black Girl Magic: 4 Activists You Should Know

Here in the US, February is Black History Month. As a young Black woman, this time of year has always brought excitement. Growing up, I would learn amazing, interesting, and resilient stories about those who came before me. In more recent years, I have found myself looking up to several Black girls and young women who are making an impact in the world right now. As Black History Month comes to a close, I want to acknowledge and share the work of a few of these amazing activists.

Mari Copeny, 13, also known as Little Miss Flint, is a clean water activist from Flint, Michigan. She has been advocating on behalf of her community for the right to access clean water since 2014, when the residents of Flint began noticing their public water sources contained extreme amounts of lead poisoning. Mari has been a consistent and persistent advocate for clean water justice. She strives to “make sure people don’t forget about Flint.” I admire Mari for her courage and unwavering commitment to justice, even when adults don’t rise to the occasion in support of the same goal.

Kheris Rogers, also 13, is an advocate working on a future free from bullying. In the first grade, Kheris was bullied for the color of her skin. But she didn’t let it get her down. Taking matters into her own hands, she worked with her sister to launch the #FlexinInMyComplexion campaign across Twitter. After being met with a flood of positive messages, Kheris has built Flexin’ In My Complexion into a brand. They have sold over 10,000 shirts and garnered the attention of a number of celebrities.

In an article with Teen Vogue, Kheris shares her experience of being bullied for her skin color. I can’t help but resonate with some of her feelings and thoughts because of my own similar experiences at school.

I applaud Kheris for standing up for herself, sharing her story, and providing opportunities for other young black girls to acknowledge the beauty of their complexion.

Naomi Wadler, 13, is a gun violence activist. She highlights the effect that gun violence has – particularly on young African American girls. You may know Naomi from the engaging, honest speech she gave at March for Our Lives in 2018. Since then, she has continued to show up for her peers in spaces across the world. Naomi has spoken at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Teen Vogue Summit, and most recently at Davos 2020. I admire Naomi because she is firm in her fight against gun violence, and firm in making sure that girls and young women of color are always brought into the conversation. She is a true advocate for us in this space.

Vanessa Nakate, 15, is a climate justice activist from Uganda, and founder of Youth for Future Africa and the Rise-Up Movement. Uganda is very dependent on its agricultural sector, and so Vanessa has seen the effects of climate change firsthand. I first learned of Vanessa earlier this year when she attended Davos 2020. She was (unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly) cropped out of a photograph taken with other (white) youth climate activists. The incident has sparked conversation around the inclusion of African voices in the climate justice space. Since it happened, Vanessa has been working to make sure other African climate activists are included at the international climate justice table.

Who would you add to this list? Let’s celebrate and raise the voices of these inspirational young activists.

Take to the Streets & Demand your Rights

“When women work together, it’s a bond unlike any other.”
– Victoria Principal

At times when change is needed in society, the streets become more important than ever. When our minds are full of fear or worry, and when a problem is right there but no one will look directly at it – action needs to be taken. When it seems no one will raise their voice and insecurity becomes part of daily life, we start to understand the importance of the streets as more than just roads.

For people who agree that public problems are political matters, streets can be the best places to express ideas.

Great movements have been made from the streets. They give space to everyone; a person, two more, and a bunch of groups of people. People pay attention to those brave enough to speak, out loud and in public, for what they believe in.

If everyone stayed at home, sick and tired of discrimination, then nothing would ever get better. But when you find people who share your desire for freedom and equal rights, then nothing can stop you.

Our global history has been shaped by those who have taken to the streets to demand their needs and rights.

The world wouldn’t be the same if Martin Luther King Jr. hadn’t occupied public space. If women hadn’t gone out to march for their right to vote, society wouldn’t be the same today.

Women have long tried to empower themselves by exposing inequality, even when the system seems almost totally against them. Today, women, and some great men (with hopefully many more to come), are fighting the patriarchal systems that oppress women and restrict men.

Women continue to claim the streets as places to raise our voices and express ourselves.

It is on the streets that we can make the violence, persecution and oppression facing women visible. In public spaces we can demand what we deserve: rights and equal recognition of our role in society. Because women matter.

Peaceful protest is part of our right to free expression. It is a right that hasn’t always been enjoyed by all women around the world, and continues to be denied to many.

If you are able to raise your voice – my advice is to do it! Meet with your friends in public places, speak up about street harassment, open up space where women can feel safe to speak. Go ahead and give feminism what it needs – your voice.

We need to remember the importance of public space for activism.

Our streets hold great power and potential for social organization. Women can achieve monumental changes. And we should keep trying to do so, because the fight of some should be the fight of all.

7 Women Breaking Stereotypes in Pakistan

Pakistan remains one of the most male-dominated societies in the world, and women still tend to be portrayed or stigmatised as subordinates. In the patriarchal culture of Pakistan, women are often limited to doing domestic work and forced to hide the talents and skills they possess.

Recently, however, more and more women have been breaking stigma and stereotypes by doing and achieving things traditionally seen as being ‘only for men’.

Here are 7 Pakistani women breaking stereotypes like they should be broken! 

Namira Salim

Namira Salim is the first Pakistani woman to reach the North and South Poles and, as a Founder Astronaut for Virgin Galactic, she’s the first future Space Tourist from South Asia to travel into space. Salim started her own initiative, SpaceTrust, which promotes Space as the New Frontier for Peace via novel peace theme initiatives to inspire change, encourage dialogue and enrich education.

Samina Baig 

Samina Baig is the first Pakistani woman to climb Mount Everest and the Seven Summits. She was awarded the Pride of Performance by the government of Pakistan, and runs initiatives that encourage women to take part in outdoor activities. Last year, Baig was appointed as the National Goodwill Ambassador for Pakistan by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Ayesha Farooq

“Instead of looking up to role models, become one yourself”Ayesha Farooq. Farooq is the first female to become a fighter pilot in the Pakistani Air Force. She’s also made history as the first woman to be assigned to one of Pakistan’s front-line dogfighting squadrons. 

Sana Mir

Sana Mir is the former Captain of the Pakistan national women’s cricket team. She was first female Pakistani cricketer to rank number one in the International Cricket Council bowler rankings, and led Pakistan to two gold medals in Asian Games in 2010 and 2014. Mir has been vocal in recent years when speaking out against body-shaming in sports advertising.

Zenith Irfan

Zenith Irfan is the first female motorcyclist to ride across Pakistan and an all-round bad-ass. After her father’s early death, Irfan decided to fulfil his dream to tour the world on a motorbike. The journey was a huge step in a country where it can be taboo for women to venture out alone, nevermind on a motorbike, and CNN have called her “Pakistan’s boundary-breaking motorcycle girl”. 

Tahira Safdar

Justice Tahira Safdar is the first woman chief justice of any court in the history of Pakistan, currently serving as the Chief Justice of Balochistan High Court (Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province). In a patriarchal society like Pakistan, where the subject of law and the profession of judiciary are preserved for men, Tahira Safdar has set one of the finest and most inspiring examples for women in Pakistan.

Uzma Nawaz

Did you just say that car repairing can only be done by men? Well, Uzma Nawaz, the first female car mechanic in Pakistan, is here to prove you wrong.

These are just some of the women in Pakistan who have broken through in a society that’s still very much dominated by men. I find each of these women incredibly inspiring, and hope that they can be a source of inspiration for other women out there too. What are you waiting for?!

He lost his parents as a child. Now he’s fighting so no child endures the same.

This blog post was originally posted on as part of a project with Girls’ Globe, Upworthy and Johnson & Johnson.

When Jack Hisard was a young boy, he lost both his parents, one after the other, to diseases that could have been cured — if they had lived in other parts of the world.

First, Jack lost his father to malaria when he was only four years old.

“I remember that night clearly in my head because his last moments were spent sitting next to me in our small grass thatched hut in the village,” he writes in an email. “There was no hospital nearby where he could be treated.”

Jack’s Father. All photos by Mama Clinic/YouTube

Malaria’s considered a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD), which affect more than 1 billion people in over 149 tropical and subtropical countries. While these diseases are preventable, it’s estimated that 57 million years of life is lost due to premature disability and death from NTDs.

After Jack’s father’s death, life for his family became tough. His mother couldn’t provide for herself or her children for a number of reasons including the fact that she suffered from depression. Then, just two years after his father passed away, she had a stroke and died too.

The period after her death was difficult to say the least, but Jack was determined to find a way take care of his remaining family.

So, when he was just nine years old, he started fishing in Lake Victoria to pay for his school fees and feed his two younger siblings. He did this while still going to school, because he believed an education would ultimately make a difference in his life.

Jack (right) fishing with other kids from his village.

“Life was tough but my belief in education never faded,” he writes.

There were still some times when he couldn’t pay all of the fees associated with school so he had to miss some of it,  but he still remained the top student in his class for many years. Finally, thanks to all his hard work and dedication, he managed to graduate high school and secure scholarships that would take care of his college tuition.

But while he was in high school and college, he was thinking about how to solve the problem of the lack of health services in rural areas like his hometown.

Jack had witnessed firsthand how devastating preventable diseases can be to a community when they have limited access to health care. Aside from his parents, he saw close friends, relatives and neighbours succumb to malaria and other treatable diseases.

In their village, homeopathic medicine had been the main medicinal resource for as long as he could remember, because people could easily access the herbs they needed.

“I remember the many times I accompanied my grandmother, an herbalist, to go deep into the forest to dig for roots and tree barks which would be used as medicine for various ailments,” recalls Jack.

When it came to assisting births, traditional midwives would conduct deliveries on the floors of people’s grass thatched houses. These midwives and healers didn’t wear gloves or use any form of sterilization. They would use boiling salt water to clean wounds after deliveries and, if complications arose during a delivery, lives would be lost because they didn’t have the lifesaving tools one might find in hospitals.

So he decided he’d find a way to bring better health care to his community. That’s when Mama Clinic was born.

Mama Clinic provides primary healthcare services, outpatient and inpatient care and free maternal and child health care services to people in rural Kenya. Jack started the organization back in 2012, when he was only 19 years old. In just the last six years, it’s served over 40,000 patients.

The clinic has a lab, which allows for proper screening for diseases and reliable diagnosis. They currently have 42 beds available and 14 full-time employees to attend to patients. Jack has also built partnerships with national hospitals to ensure that patients who are severely ill can be referred or transferred for more specialized care. In keeping with their mission of providing access to quality and affordable healthcare to all in rural Kenya, Mama Clinic currently manages two satellite clinics in two other remote districts in the country.

Beyond what the facility provides, Mama Clinic also conducts Community Health Outreach programs where volunteers walk from village to village providing free health screenings and treatment to the villagers who cannot go to the facility.

“No other child should have a loved one die to a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD), and mothers need a safe place to deliver their babies near their homes” says Jack. “My experiences as a child shaped my dreams. I knew I wanted to be a doctor… a doctor who wants to make a difference in his community because I don’t want to see another child go through what I had to go through, to live without the care and love of a parents”he explains in his Youtube video for Mama Clinic.

A mother and child at Mama Clinic.

Unfortunately he’s up against a number of obstacles. The high rates of malnutrition and the broken health care system in Kenya make people vulnerable to contracting NTDs.

Right now Kenya lacks operating facilities, medication and professionals. A mere 4,300 doctors currently work in the public healthcare sector for the country’s 38.6 million people.

What’s more, in 2017, it was estimated that around 9 million people in the country are undernourished, according to a report released by the United Nations last year. Severe malnutrition stunts growth and makes children more susceptible to diseases because it weakens their immune systems. High rates of malnutrition are also affecting almost 40,000 pregnant and nursing mothers in Kenya and their babies.

Malnutrition in childhood and pregnancy can be very dangerous. Women who are malnourished while pregnant face higher risks of mortality during labor and premature births. These are exactly the types of problems Jack’s Mama Clinic is trying to address by bringing a functioning health care facility full of professionals to his underserved community. His initiative makes screenings and treatment more accessible, which in turn is helping combat these treatable health problems.

Jack knows that in order to offer the most comprehensive health care, he’s got to flesh out his education even more.

Jack with a young patient.

That’s why he’s currently attending Michigan State University where he’s studying public health and nutrition, and focusing on the epidemiology of diseases and their relation to nutrition. He wants to learn how poor nutrition can make it easier for people to contract NTDs, because that’s such a huge problem in rural Kenya.

His next step is to become a medical doctor so he can acquire the expertise and experience to better attend to his patients, expand Mama Clinic’s work and run it long term.

He knows that this knowledge is essential for him to run the best health clinic he can and ultimately save more lives in his community.

But perhaps what’s most rewarding for Jack is seeing how his  dedication to education is inspiring other kids in his village to follow in his footsteps.

As the first person in his village to go to college, he hopes his story will also lead to more of them attending university. “It became my dream to give that hope to other people,” he says.

Despite growing up in challenging conditions, living in a slum and losing his parents at a young age, he exceeded expectations at school, received a full ride fellowship to Watson University and has represented Kenya through the Young African Leaders Initiative. Needless to say, he’s a prime example of what hard work and dedication can lead to.

Sometimes the best motivation is overcoming the most difficult of experiences. If anyone is a testament to that, it’s Jack.

“If you have dreams and are willing to pursue them, there is a way out of poverty.”