Together Apart | The life of a labour migrant in Cyprus

A couple of days ago, I watched a screening of the documentary Together Apart by Maren Wickwire. I left the place frustrated thinking how could this possibly happen?

The global demand for domestic workers has motivated labour migration from the Philippines and many other countries to more than 160 countries around the world. Women are working abroad for years or even decades, before returning home.

Together Apart is an intimate family portrait of two Phillipino women, a mother and a daughter, who left the Philippines to seek work abroad, for a “better future”.

The film contemplates notions of self-hood, belonging and care, shifting between serial migrants’ transitory present and projections onto the future.

When Guil Ann arrives on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus to join her mother a domestic worker, the women reunite for the first time in over a decade. Joining the global workforce of Filipinas abroad, Carren (Guil Ann’s mother) spent most of her adult life apart from her children.

Only months later, unexpected events lead to Carren’s deportation and challenge both women to confront their precarious dreams for togetherness and a better future.

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A scene from the documentary Together Apart, the moment Guill Ann’s children look at pictures their mother sent them.

The whole documentary is about the life of Guil Ann in Cyprus, it also takes you to the Philippines after her mother was deported, showing the life of her children and family. But, don’t expect to see interviews of policemen, Cypriot citizens, or the exact deportation process.

In my opinion, this is what makes the movies’ narrative so strong, since these women are mostly unrepresented especially in Cyprus.

OFW (Overseas Philippines Workes) usually work 6 days per week and have only Sunday off. Imagine doing that for years … maybe decades. In addition to that, if they work at a house where they also happen to live in, it means that its 24/7 for 6 days a week.

There needs to be a line drawn between work and privacy. How does that leave them the space to have a private life? A relationship, education, family? These are literally basic human rights…

There was one lady in the audience, a contributor to the film, living in Cyprus for almost 20 years, she raises her own children here. Some of the girls feel more connected with Cyprus rather than the Philippines. She raised many issues the community deals with!

The fact that they are paid 309 euros per month says it all… It could be argued that they work more than anyone in Cyprus and are ridiculously paid!

If this exploitation isn’t modern slavery then what is?

As I said before money isn’t the only problem. There is legislation that needs to be changed! Cyprus is one of the few left remaining countries in the EU that refuse to change the ridiculous minimum wage for OFW workers.

They have no right to unemployment compensation, and if they fail to find a new employer within 30 days of being laid off, they become illegal.

In addition, if they wish to change an employer for whatever reason they need to stand in front of court and demand to have the right to change their employee. If they fail to do so in 30 days or if the court refuses their request, they are deported.

OFW workers by being nannies and by providing domestic aid have helped change Cyprus economy in many ways.

One good example is that numerous Cypriot mothers now have the opportunity to have full-time jobs, whereas this wasn’t the case many years ago where women were mostly housewives.

It is a pity though that this “luxury” has ended up being a form of exploitation against some people that come here for a “better future” and in some cases end up losing their “dignity”…

 

 

Banksy did what?!

One of Banksy’s most known artworks, Girl With Balloon, started self-destructing.

The piece was the final item in an auction at Sotheby’s in London on Friday night and started shredding in its frame after a winning bid of more than £1m is accepted at the auction.

The Bristol-born anonymous artist is known for his pranks but this one has left the audience with shock. The street artist later that night celebrated by posting a picture on Instagram quoting “Going, going, gone”.


View this post on Instagram

Going, going, gone…

A post shared by Banksy (@banksy) on

 

The image seems to been taken from the audience. Perhaps was Banksy there to witness his prank? There are many speculations around Banksy as he has been successful and managed to hide his identity for all these years. But now, what’s his message?

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Banksy wrote “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge”, quoting Picasso.

So many questions until now…the good thing is, at least we know that he planned it! The detailed video he posted on Instagram said: “A few years ago, I secretly built a shredder into a painting … in case it was ever put up for auction.”

The video then shows an unidentified person in a hoodie installing the sharp blades in the frame of the picture. However, Banksy has not revealed yet how the device was activated.

Many users have questioned his actions by asking him; Why would he destroy it? If he was planning to destroy all of it or did the shredder malfunction? Or was this whole thing slightly cynical to keep the artwork intact for an increase of value culturally and money wise?

Who knows!

As far as we know Banksy discloses information that only he wants us to know, and I believe that it’s one of the things he does that makes him so mysterious and so good at what he does, cause he doesn’t give everything to us and keeps us thinking.

I think he has managed to grab the media attention at least! I never saw so much discussion about artwork especially street art on TV. I guess his rebellious creative urge to destroy has taken them by surprise!

Ethical Fashion

Shop ethically. Shop responsibly. Shop slow fashion. All these are things I’ve been seeing around for some time. But what exactly do they mean?

Sustainable fashion AKA eco fashion, is a part of the growing philosophy and trend of sustainability, the goal of which is to create a system which can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and social responsibility.

This is an umbrella term used to describe fashion design, production, retail, and purchasing. It covers a range of issues such as working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare.

It can be seen as the antithesis of fast-fashion and that habit of buying a new, cheap top for every night out, which might never be worn again or may well fall apart after a couple of washes anyway.

Conclusion? What you wear matters!

The more times you think about it, the more clear it becomes that shopping responsibly is not black and white and it deffo isn’t something that can be changed over night. It is a whole lot of gray. And with all of that gray, it makes it really hard to achieve ethical shopping.

So what’s a girl to do?

  • Go Eco-Friendly. Buy items made of natural fabrics that don’t harm the environment. Opt for textiles that will naturally decompose instead of sitting in landfills for ages. Such as: silk/ cashmere, organic cotton, linen etc.
  • Buy Fair Trade. Support companies who respect human rights and believe in a  living wage for their workers. Over the years many scandals have came up – last year unpaid workers were slipping pleas for help into Zara clothes. However, not all overseas manufacturing is bad. Do a little research and see which ones are enforcing fair trade regulations, especially in developing countries.
  • Look for Vegan or Cruelty Free. Buy cruelty free items and support the rights of animals. You can find out how you make a difference for animals by choosing cruelty-free clothing and accessories on the PETA website.
  • Pick Chemical Free/Organic Items. The chemicals and dyes in the majority of our clothing is harmful not just to the environment, but to the workers creating the garments as well as the consumer who is wearing the clothing. You can avoid harmful side effects by shopping products only made of organic material and natural dyes.
  • Shop Local. By supporting the small businesses in your community, you are keeping your money in the local economy.
  • Thrift Shopping/ Recycling. If shopping on a budget and avoiding massive amounts of clothing ending up in landfills are your priorities, shopping resale is the one of the best ways to go.
  • Upcycle and Sew. This is probably the most fun and creative thing to do! You can use fabric to re-sew and re-create old garments into something completely new and unique.
  • Wear What You Buy. A Lot. Supports quality items over disposable fast fashion. Before purchasing, ask yourself if you will get a sufficient number of wears out of the item. Can you mix and match it with current wardrobe items? Is it functional? Will it last?

A lot of these overlap each other and many others contradict each other.

Shopping local shops may support your community and its makers, and some may come from fair trade manufactures but not always.

Supporting cruelty free products and buying vegan sometimes means buying products hard on the environment, made out of synthetic materials that end up in landfills and don’t decompose.

Lots and lots of gray!

Fortunately, there are more and more choices and ethical clothes could be fashion forward, on trend and compete with the scene. It’s up to you to decide what values are most important to you and make your choices based on them.

Body image perception on social media

Social media are an integral part of today’s society and while they might be great in many things, that’s not always the case!

As they continue to play a major role in our lives – more than 2.1 billion people have social media accounts, and there are 70 million photos and videos posted daily on Instagram. Research shows that they have a huge influence on body image especially affecting adolescent girls and young women.

There have been many positive outcomes, especially when social media are used in ways that promote positive and productive ideas in society, but they also tend to create a wrongful perception of beauty.

Living in the era of Instagram, the fact that fitness models and fashion bloggers are all over news feeds, it makes things much more difficult for peoples self-esteem and the perception of beauty.

The ubiquity of the thin ideal is not a good thing. Not that there is anything with being thin but – we should be celebrating women bodies of all shapes and sizes. 

In a society that promotes unrealistic body ideals, it is challenging to not get caught up in comparing yourself to these perfectionist standards. It is unfortunate that the emphasis on appearance is spreading, and it is important to include a much greater range of appearances of what we as a society think of as ideal.

But also as important is; to make appearance and body ideal less important and less defining to women and girls.

Body image an increasing problem, is associated with a number of mental health outcomes including depression and anxiety but also may contribute to serious eating problems such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

Approximately 1.25 million people in the UK are affected by eating disorders. While young women are most likely to develop an eating disorder, in particular those aged 12 to 20, anyone can develop an eating disorder.

So if you ever find yourself concerned about your body image ask yourself: “Is my perception of beauty distorted from the media exposure that glorifies the thin ideal that is unrealistic for most people to obtain living a healthy lifestyle?”

Never compare yourself with others and try to always feel comfortable in your own skin!

Stella McCartney starts Trashion Bag campaign for World Oceans Day

British designer Stella McCartney is calling on consumers to get involved in their local communities to clean up nearby beaches and rivers as part of the labels’ on going commitment to sustainability.

The fashion designer aknowledged on Instagram that the industry is the second most harmful environmentally, and there is a level of responsibility that has to be taken.

According to research, half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres are released per year from washed clothes – 16 times more than plastic microbeads from cosmetics – contributing to ocean pollution.

She further commented: “In my mind, if I’m working within it – and especially as I’m in a privileged position where I have a voice that can implement change…”

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Photo courtesy: Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney has always been passionate about making a change to the environment
and doesn’t fail to prove that high-end fashion and sustainability can co-exist.

In order to honour World Oceans Day the brand is calling on as many people as possible to get involved in local charity beach and river clean-ups. In support of this initiative, they are giving away recycled and recyclable Stella Trashion bags at selected stores across the world.

More than seven-tenths of Earth’s surface is blue. This should be enough to remind us how important oceans are for us, and that – small or big, effort is effort.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, by 2050 there may be more plastic than fish in our oceans by weight.

This proves that drastic changes must be made now, and I believe it is very important to see the industries that harm the environment with their existence, to make things right and join their forces with their consumers to avoid letting our oceans overflow with litter.

The brand hopes to begin a positive chain effect that will result in change for the better, by raising awareness about the increasingly urgent issue of plastic pollution in oceans and rivers. And hope to inspire as many people as possible to get involved in this kind of environmental movements.

Organising charity beach and river clean-ups in many countries across the globe, not only gives the opportunity for communities to come together but also collectively act on a shared love of the environment.

To find out where you can find which Stella McCartney stores are giving away the Trashion Bags, and if you want to get involved with cleaning up and promote circularity through recycling visit www.stellamccartney.com

#MeToo: The untold stories

“He stood in front of the door and blocked me and tried to kiss me on the lips. I stopped him and managed to get out of the room… I was so hesitant about speaking out. I didn’t want to hurt his family. I felt guilty as if I did something wrong. I was also terrified that this sort of thing had happened to so many women I know but no one had said anything because of fear.”

These are the words of Cara Delevingne in a post on her Instagram page giving a detailed description of the sexual harassment she experienced when she first started acting as an actor by film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Along with Cara Delevingne, many other stories of his victims and of many others have surfaced. And while all over the media are the faces of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and a numerous other sexual harassment and assault allegations against a number of powerful men, Hollywood is not the only place on earth that women are being harassed. There are around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. [unwomen.org]

Women around the world wouldn’t give up until the ones responsible get punished for it. Over the last month, many women chose to tell about their stories through social media. Actress Alyssa Milano urged women to reply to her tweet with #MeToo. two simple words, yet so powerful, is the hashtag that has gone viral, with thousands of women responding one after the other, celebrities and artists such as Lady Gaga, but not only women spoke up even men have chosen to share their stories.

Me too. I don’t know if it means anything coming from a gay man but it’s happened. Multiple times.” Were the words of Javier Muñoz, an American actor.

According to the TUC Sexual harassment in the workplace in 2016 research, 52% of women are sexually harassed at work in the UK. These statistics prove that unfortunately, at a place where someone should feel safe and comfortable, at a place where someone spends the majority of their day; is also a place where abuse happens too often.

What’s wrong with our planet?!

Another year, another climate record broken. But the question is: What’s really happening to our planet?

The problem seems to be much more serious since people who have power over environmental policies and more -such as Donald Trump- have shown how clueless they are about the issues surrounding the environment and our planet.

I’m sitting here thinking where to start since, there are hundreds of things surrounding the issue… but lets talk plastic!

Billions of tons of plastic have been produced over the past decades, and many of them have become trash and litter proving we are not even close to being sustainable. National Geographic recent study revealed that as much as 91% of plastic isn’t being recycled.

Estimates predict that by 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight.

Plastic is not degradable yet it’s produced in millions of tons in a year; lots of products unfortunately end up in the sea and are broken into smaller pieces which are often mistakenly consumed by marine life at the bottom as food and enter our food chain. The impact of plastic on the environment and human health is very likely to be a much worse problem than it is currently estimated and understood.

Even though, until recently, we have managed not to dominate the oceans with our lifestyle, Adam Nicolson in his new book ‘The Seabird’s Cry’, describes the incredible resilience of seabirds and how they adapt over time to survive and navigate the oceans. Recent studies show that the species who ‘’smell their way across the globe’’ numbers have plummeted dramatically over the past 60 years, and mankind is called out for their conservation.

After the video of the turtle with a straw in its nose went viral on social media, plastic became a topic of discussion on most news agencies and among many social media platforms. Many environmental tests have further been conducted to find out how much marine life is affected by the increasing threat: human addiction to plastic.

Unfortunately, almost all kinds of marine species from small fish to seagulls have ingested litter. Even in small quantities, waste especially plastic can be deadly for them. Scientists who further investigated the growing crisis proved that it can also be seen inside species and their terrestrial habitats.

But how do you control the ongoing mass production of plastic which began just six decades ago and has accelerated so rapidly that it has created a massive pile of 8.3 million metric tons?

With most of it in disposable items which are used for minutes and end up as trash, National Geographic estimates that as much as 91% of plastic isn’t being recycled, but littering the earth.

The consequences from the millions of tonnes of debris floating in our oceans, are a serious threat to wildlife and humans since the water pollution levels are rising and will deteriorate if the mass production and consumption continues.

While marine life has faced rates of extinction within only one human generation, we must look responsibly for more sustainable means and products to reassure a good quality of life on earth for us and the upcoming generations.

Around the world, scientists are eager to make the public listen and take the matter in to their hands by changing simple life habits that can make a huge impact on the environment. All types of plastic are recyclable, but most families throw away about 40kg of plastic per year, which could otherwise be recycled. Shockingly, scientists believe that 46,000 pieces are found in every square mile of ocean.

With all this happening, I think this is a crucial moment for us, to realise what the source of the problem really is. I know many times we say to ourselves, “Will it really help if I don’t use so much plastic anymore and start using reusable products?”, but what if it actually does a difference?

I strongly believe that even the smallest effort you make will make a difference. More people should start realising, that we humans have harmed Earth with our lifestyle -and I repeat, in just a few generations- and must make everything to make sure we find more sustainable means for us and the future generations.

Time’s up now!

It’s 2018, it’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and it can be really discouraging to see how far we still have to go, before we can create a world where; we are not judged for how we look, but how we are.

“We are witnessing a revolution for women, just like getting the vote and entering the workforce. There’s no going back.” Gretchen Carlson said. That’s why it’s so important to acknowledge the momentousness of the movement.

The news anchor and advocate for workplace equality and the empowerment of women wrote a book “Be Fierce! Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back.” Contributing to the ‘fight’ alongside many other women, who are raising their voices every day.

“He stood in front of the door and blocked me and tried to kiss me on the lips. I stopped him and managed to get out of the room… I was so hesitant about speaking out. I didn’t want to hurt his family. I felt guilty as if I did something wrong. I was also terrified that this sort of thing had happened to so many women I know, but no one had said anything because of fear.” Cara Delevingne

The British model and actor shared an Instagram post in which she detailed the alleged sexual assault by the movie producer Harvey Weinstein, while meeting about Tulip Fever, a film produced by the Weinstein Company in 2014.

And while all over the media are the faces of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, a numerous other sexual harassment and assault allegations against a number of powerful men, Hollywood is not the only place on earth that women are being harassed.

There are around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives.

And believe me I don’t care if you are a man or a woman (because it really shouldn’t matter), these numbers show that’s something is seriously wrong with our society and that something needs to be done ASAP!

Tracee Ellis Ross said something very noteworthy: “Men, may you be accountable and self-reflective, compassionate and open; may you ask how you can support a woman and be of service to change, and may you get help if you need it.”

Photographer and blogger, Oscar Minyo, also addressed the issue on instagram yesterday: “I will never know what it feels to be harassed, molested, grabbed, intimidated, or touched against my will…”

“…I will never have to justify what I was wearing or how much I drank. I will never have to feel fear walking home alone. I will never have to justify why I didn’t resist. For that and more I’m being privileged of being a man.”

#Time’s Up! It’s important that those who have the privilege – of being a man, because our shitty society has been shaping this idea for hundreds of years – to try and use it for good.

Talk about the subject, as uncomfortable as it can be. Get educated and educate. And don’t ever look the other way, because no means no. And silence means no too. Know where the line is.

The Millennials

I just turned 21, I just got out of University, I haven’t got a job yet, I have no idea what I’m doing next, and I can’t stop thinking: “What now?” And no single answer feels satisfactory enough.

We are the generation who grew up, where almost every home had an internet connection and a computer, and basically after that everything changed. The way we work, we think and even how we feel about ourselves.

We live in a world where problems are not physical anymore but existential. The way technology helped us discover medicines that saved billion lives, and machines that reduced workers’ workload, it has also turned the existing problems into other problems.

Comforted by that, it seems like people have the desire to make themselves feel good. And merely, feel good about themselves.

 “Everything is fucked and I’m pretty sure it’s the internets fault” Mark Manson

Yep! I agree!
Don’t you?

The near-utopian level of optimism during the time of its rise, has turned it’s ability, to later dominate our lives. People then, saw greater empathy and understanding across nations, ethnicities, and lifestyles.

But why is it that in a world so connected we feel the loneliest? Because everyone on the internet has an opinion now. And opinion terrifies people. And you know what else terrifies people? Seeing everyone else happy when they feel they are not ‘happy enough’.

When our parents were younger, they didn’t have access to all this information. We do, and there’s a saying that: too much information is deadening. Our problems are that we are just overwhelmed from it, so in some sense we just basically don’t even know where to turn.

The internet was designed to give people information they need, but now we use it to find the information we want. Reports show that three billion people, around 40% of the world’s population, use online social media. That breaks down to around half a million tweets and Snapchat photos shared every minute.

Is it possible that what we brought in our lives has turned against us? Reports indicate that social media cause people stress, anxiety, mood changes, addiction, lower self-esteem, cause problems in relationships and cause the feeling of loneliness.

I’m not going to draw any strong conclusions, even though research points one way, like all things, social media affects people differently, depending on pre-existing conditions and personality traits.

I’m not saying that social media are universally a bad thing but the way society has changed, make sure you don’t let it go to your head.

“Because when we give too many fucks, when we choose to give a fuck about everything, then we feel as though we are perpetually entitled to feel comfortable and happy at all times, that’s when life fucks us.” Mark Manson