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08.04.2020 – India – Pressenza India

Day of National Fasting On Friday, April  10, 2020
Image by naeim a from Pixabay

Samaj Sevaks, constructive organizations and Gandhians from across the country have strongly felt the need to atone, at the time of this Corona Crisis, for the sins that we have committed against migrant workers. We are all jointly responsible for the utter neglect of the village poor during the last few decades, which made them migrate desperately to cities and live under sub-human conditions. On behalf of all the citizens and in continuation of our campaign #KaronaKuch, Gram Seva Sangh has decided to give this call for a national fast. The Fast shall begin on Friday, 10 April 2020, at 6 am and end at 6 pm. On that day, we shall fast from wherever we are. During the fast, we shall introspect and decide as to how to undertake the difficult task of strengthening the village economy and village society in the days to come.

Kindly note! There shall be no public demonstration or public meetings or violations of the social distancing discipline during the entire period. Nobody shall be going out of their house, nor will they leave their post of responsibility during the campaign. Kindly also note, that this fast is not against the government. We appreciate the efforts being done by the Government as also various other public institutions in this regard.

This fast is an atonement. We shall be grateful if people do not politicize it. | Email ID: | Mobile: 9980043911

Note:  For more about the campaign #KaronaKuch and a *The Day National Fasting*  call, check posters, articles, write ups at below links:


Social Media Ac’s

Facebook : @gramsevasanghindia | Twitter : @gramsevasangha  | Insta: @gramsevasanghindia

Concept Notes & Articles:

*A Call for The National fasting call in support of migrant workers*

*About campaign #KaronaKuch*

*Some recent articles*

*I Feel Like talking to You*

*Let’s Cross Over…!*

*Brother’s, Let’s have unity of purpose*

Gram Seva Sangh
Flat #102, Shesha Nivas, 1st Block, 1st Main,
Thyagarajanagar, Bengaluru-560028

Email ID: | @gramasevasangha

Mobile: 9980043911 |


A headline from the Greensboro NC News & Record: With its campus closed, Guilford College furloughs more than 130 employees Furloughs were ordered in all campus areas except among professors, who are teaching classes remotely through May. John Newsom. News & Record April 3, 2020 GREENSBORO — Its campus empty through the rest…

via Quaker Colleges & another Corona Crisis — A Friendly Letter

07.04.2020 – Deutsche Welle

Hungary: Law to fight coronavirus creates ‘uncertainty’ for journalists

A law that holds a prison sentence of up to five years for spreading “false information” is part of new measures against COVID-19. As Fanny Facsar reports, journalists fear it could make it even harder to report news.

These are turbulent times in Hungary, with a single political decision receiving massive international attention. It’s not the first time Hungary has been in the headlines for government decrees that have raised eyebrows nationally and internationally. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has freely described his understanding of democracy as “illiberal,” and refers to his decisions as “unorthodox.”

‘Who defines what ‘distortion’ means?’

The government’s latest move was to prolong the emergency decree for an indefinite time, a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of those emergency powers is paragraph 337, which contains a prison sentence of up to five years for spreading “false information.”

Some journalists in Hungary now fear this may make it even harder to report the news. Most of the Hungarian media is either managed or owned by people loyal to the government. But there are still some critical outlets — online and smaller newspapers — which have raised the alarm about the law.

“This law creates a lot of uncertainty because you do not know how decisions will be made,” said Zoltan Batka, who writes for Nepszava, a small daily newspaper. He usually focuses on topics revolving around corruption. “Even if you spread true information in a distorted way which could curb the protection of Hungary, you face jail time. But who defines what ‘distortion’ means?”

Read more


05.04.2020 – US, United States – David Andersson

This post is also available in: SpanishFrench

How Did We End Up Here?

Every day, all day long, we are bombarded with updates and analyses about COVID-19, a virus that has stopped our one and only planet from “turning.” The whole world is on lockdown and almost everything has been shut down: businesses, cultural centers, religious institutions, etc.

In early 80’s, I was walking down a Paris street when I was stopped by a New Humanist who told me about this new current of ideas based on nonviolence and personal development, framed in a very simple phrase: “There is no social development without personal development, and no personal development without social development.” This philosophy was developed mainly by Silo, the author of many books, including one with a proposal to “Humanize the Earth.” A brilliant mind, people often asked Silo for guidance with personal situations, their work, a family dilemma, relationship issues — you name it — and mainly Silo’s response to these requests was: “The question is not how to get out of this situation but rather how did I get into it in at the first place.”

How did we end up with a pandemic of this scale? What did we do, or not do, to have our planet on lockdown? Why didn’t we see the bulldozer coming? These are the questions we should be asking.

Almost overnight, the US unemployment rate went from 3% to 30%. The Department of Labor’s figures for the week ending March 28 showed an increase to 6.6 million unemployed people – quite literally off the charts. There has been an unprecedented demand on food pantries across the country. In January 2019, however, when the National Intelligence published its long list of national security threats (“These Are the Top 26 National Security Threats Facing America” 12/03/19) and there was nothing on it about pandemic viruses.

Asking myself how I got into a bad situation seems a little counterproductive at first. Why spend time thinking about the past when I need to concentrate on finding a solution for the future? But here is the fatal error. What is most important is understanding what it was I was thinking that lead me into this situation. What were my beliefs? How did I justify my decisions? If I can answers these questions, I will find a way out of the problem and also increase the chance of not repeating the same error.

The coronavirus goes directly against our system of beliefs. The virus is so effective because it goes against who we think we are as human beings. We want to be individualistic, resolving everything with money and violence, and yet here we are with military personnel building hospitals in the middle of Central Park and the so-called “developed countries” of the West becoming Ground Zero for the epidemic. The virus attacked us at the social and health levels, showing us that if health and the social fabric are not cared for and protected, nothing else will work — no economic system, no stock market, no corporations, no housing market. Nothing.

Rabbi Heschel had a famous quote: “Few are guilty, but all are responsible.” Yes, we are all responsible for this pandemic, we were not looking in the right direction, not having the right priorities, not pushing our politicians to do the right thing, not giving enough power to our democracies, to our international institutions, to our common good.

Now, in many cases, we may have to start from scratch, to rethink everything, to reorganize our lives, but the must important part of our work right now is understanding how we got into this situation. What system of belief put us here? This not a question of judging right or wrong; it’s a question of whether it works or not. Even our beliefs about what is human are not correct, for the most part.

If we had believed that the human being is the most important value, that everything we are doing is for the development of the human being and our shared social environment, we would be in a very different situation today.

What can we gain from this virus? What will be our best shot to immune ourselves from future viruses? The short answer is: we need to change our system of beliefs.

05.04.2020 – US, United States – Common Dreams

‘Drop the Medicare Eligibility Age to 0 Right Now’: Study Warns 35 Million Could Lose Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance

“The national health insurance system is crumbling more with every day that passes.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer Common Dreams

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic collapse could cause a staggering 35 million people in the U.S. to lose their employer-sponsored health insurance over the next several months, with lower-income Americans bearing the brunt of the damage.

That’s according to a report (pdf) released Friday by the research and consulting firm Health Management Associates (HMA). The new analysis warns that, depending on the severity of U.S. job losses, “the number of people receiving coverage from an employer could decline by 12 to 35 million, including both workers and family members.”

“For all the abstracted talk over the last year about health insurance churn, we are likely about to see it on an unprecedented scale in terms of velocity and devastation.”
—Jeff Stein, Washington Post

The worst-case scenario presented in the report projects a U.S. unemployment rate of 25%—equal to the jobless rate at the peak of the Great Depression. Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis predicted last month that the unemployment rate could reach 32% by the end of June.

“For all the abstracted talk over the last year about health insurance churn, we are likely about to see it on an unprecedented scale in terms of velocity and devastation,” Washington Post reporter Jeff Stein tweeted, referring to the policy debate that emerged in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary over whether the employer-sponsored healthcare system gives people more “choice” than a universal alternative like Medicare for All.

While many people who lose their coverage will be eligible to enroll in Medicaid, the HMA report notes that “one-third of all jobs” are located in states that have opted not to expand the program.

As a result, the report warns, the total number of uninsured Americans could rise from around 28 million today to 40 million, with the impact disproportionately falling on the millions of people living in states that have not expanded Medicaid.

“We need to drop the Medicare eligibility age to 0 right now,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a vocal supporter of Medicare for All, tweeted in response to the new study.

“Good-quality health care should not be tied to your job,” tweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a Democratic presidential candidate, in response to the new report. “At a minimum, the government must ensure health care for all, without cost, for the duration of this crisis.”

As Common Dreams reported, the Economic Policy Institute estimated Thursday that 3.5 million people have likely already lost their employer-provided insurance over just the last two weeks as the coronavirus pandemic continues to drive mass layoffs across the U.S. The Department of Labor announced Thursday that 6.6 million people filed jobless claims last week alone.

Ryan Cooper, national correspondent for The Week, wrote in a column Friday that “thanks to America’s uniquely boneheaded insistence on tying health insurance to employment,” the U.S. healthcare system “is in very real danger of collapsing altogether” without immediate and sweeping action from Congress.

“Whatever it is, it needs to be big, and it needs to happen yesterday,” wrote Cooper. “The national health insurance system is crumbling more with every day that passes.”

04.04.2020 – UN News Centre

Measures against COVID-19 need to include refugees and migrants
Syrian refugees strike in front of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 3 September 2015. (Image by WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/MSTYSLAV CHERNOV (CC BY-SA 4.0))

WHO Regional Office for Europe

A new publication highlights the importance of addressing the needs of refugees and migrants when preparing for or responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Refugees and migrants, particularly those who are displaced and/or living in camps and camp-like settings, are faced with specific challenges and vulnerabilities that must be taken into consideration when planning for readiness and response operations.

“If during this pandemic we leave behind the most vulnerable, we fail not only them, but all of us. COVID-19 is challenging us as a community, and we must answer as one,” commented Dr Santino Severoni, Special Adviser on Health and Migration and Director ad interim of the Division of Health Systems and Public Health at WHO/Europe.

“We strongly emphasize the need for inclusive national public health measures to ensure migrants and refugees have the same access to services as the resident population, in a culturally sensitive way.”

The new report, entitled “Interim guidance: scaling-up COVID-19 outbreak readiness and response operations in humanitarian situations, including camps and camp-like settings”, was jointly developed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and WHO, and published by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC).

In line with European and global guidance, it spells out the following.

*Public health responses must consider health risks associated with movement, displacement, overcrowding, poor nutritional and health status, and physical and mental stress and deprivation due to lack of housing, food and clean water among refugees and migrants.

  • States must prevent stigmatization and discrimination of refugees and migrants due to measures implemented during COVID-19 response operations.
  • States must provide refugees and migrants, irrespective of their legal status, access to health care, other services, and culturally and linguistically sensitive information on how to prevent being infected and infecting others, and must consider social determinants such as discrimination and criminalization in their response operations.
  • Refugees and migrants must be involved in the design of readiness and response plans, policies and strategies, and be given the necessary assurances to be able to fully participate in public health measures.
  • “Effective communication to counter misperceptions about the role of refugees and migrants is vital in the COVID-19 pandemic,” continues Dr Severoni.

“Messages should make clear that migrants or refugees do not present increased COVID-19 risks to countries in comparison to other international travellers, but they are a more vulnerable group that needs special support – particularly access to preventive and care services,” he concludes.

 The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

02.04.2020 – US, United States – Common Dreams

‘Never Seen Anything Like It’: Economists Warn 6.6 Million New Jobless Claims Portend Unparalleled Crisis

“A portrait of disaster. Unemployment insurance claims for the last two weeks are mind-blowing.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer –  Common Dreams

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Thursday that 6.6 million Americans filed jobless claims last week, a staggering and record-breaking surge in unemployment that comes as the coronavirus outbreak has completely shuttered large swaths of the economy and sparked mass layoffs nationwide.

“I have spent the last twenty years studying the labor market and have never seen anything like it.”
—Heidi Shierholtz, Economic Policy Institute

The new figures bring the total number of unemployment claims for the month of March to 10.4 million, surpassing the number of jobs lost during the entirety of the Great Recession of 2007-2009. The 6.6 million new unemployment claims are more than double the previous record of 3.28 million claims set just last week.

“The labor market is contracting at the rate of one Great Recession per 10 days,” tweeted The Atlantic‘s Derek Thompson.

Heidi Shierholtz of the Economic Policy Institute said that in her two decades of studying the labor market, she has “never seen anything like” the spike in unemployment in that the U.S. has experienced over the last two weeks.

“This chart is a portrait of disaster,” Shierholz tweeted, pointing to a Labor Department graphic depicting the steep rise in jobless claims. “Unemployment insurance claims for the last two weeks are mind-blowing.”

This chart is a portrait of disaster. I have spent the last twenty years studying the labor market and have never seen anything like it. Unemployment insurance claims for the last two weeks are mind-blowing. 1/

— Heidi Shierholz (@hshierholz) April 2, 2020

Shierholz said the unparalleled rise in jobless claims cries out for an immediate and sweeping response from Congress, which is officially on recess until April 20.

“Given the extraordinary deterioration of the labor market in a matter of weeks,” said Shierholz, “federal policymakers will absolutely need to come back and provide more desperately needed relief, and more support for the recovery once the lockdown is over.”

“We need an unprecedented economic stimulus. We need a Green New Deal.”
—Sunrise Movement

The multi-trillion-dollar stimulus package signed into law by President Donald Trump last Friday includes a one-time $1,200 direct cash payment to millions of Americans and a $600 increase in unemployment benefits for a period of four months, but those benefits have not yet reached the bank accounts of those who are eligible.

Around 70 million eligible Americans may not see stimulus payments for months because they don’t have direct deposit information on file with the Internal Revenue Service, according to the Brookings Institution.

“That’s now 10 million people who have no income and no [health] insurance at the beginning of a pandemic,” progressive radio host Benjamin Dixon tweeted after Thursday’s numbers came in. “Any politician NOT calling for a minimum of $2000/month [universal basic income] and nationalized healthcare will be complicit with the total collapse of our system.”

The youth-led Sunrise Movement said the rapid economic meltdown makes the case for a Green New Deal.

“We need an unprecedented economic stimulus,” the group tweeted. “We need a Green New Deal.”

Sunrise Movement 🌅


10 million.

More jobs have been lost in the last two weeks than were lost in the entire Great Recession.

We need an unprecedented economic stimulus. We need a . 

Americans Have Lost 10 Million Jobs Because Of Coronavirus

6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits for the week ending on March 28.

353 people are talking about this

Economists have warned in recent days that unemployment is likely to continue soaring in the coming weeks before the crisis begins to subside.

Miguel Faria-e-Castro, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, wrote in an analysis last week that 47 million workers could lose their jobs by the end of June, which would bring the unemployment rate to 32.1%. The unemployment rate at the peak of the Great Depression was 25%.

“These are very large numbers by historical standards,” wrote Faria-e-Castro, “but this is a rather unique shock that is unlike any other experienced by the U.S. economy in the last 100 years.”

Economist Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, tweeted Thursday that “there’s a debate in Congress…about whether to quickly add more economic stimulus or wait and see what happens with what we’ve done so far.”

“I’m congenitally a careful, wait-and-see type, BUT NOT NOW!” Bernstein said.

“What should go in a phase 4 stimulus?” Bernstein continued. “Nutritional support (very helpful in last recession), state fiscal support (states facing huge demands amidst tanking revenues), more help to households through round 2 checks, [and increased unemployment insurance] beyond end of July.”

Quoting a famous scene from the movie “Jaws,” Bernstein added: “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

 The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

The Quaker Widow, By Bayard Taylor THEE finds me in the garden, Hannah,—come in! ’T is kind of thee To wait until the Friends were gone, who came to comfort me. The still and quiet company a peace may give, indeed, But blessed is the single heart that comes to us at need. Come,…

via “The Quaker Widow”: A diverting poem for our moment? — A Friendly Letter

02.04.2020 – Global Voices Online

Belarusian women turn to self-defence in battle against domestic violence
Participants in a WenDo class in Minsk, 2020 (Image by Hanna Liubakova. Used with permission)

Wen-Do, the women’s self-defence technique, has a growing following in Minsk

On an early Saturday morning some 15 women gather in one of the ubiquitous, grey, three-story buildings in the outskirts of Minsk, capital of Belarus.

There are coffee and snacks to grab, and chairs are already evenly placed in a circle. The spacious room where we meet is a gym in its everyday life, but we aren’t here to get into shape. The next two days will be part martial arts lessons, part support group.

This is the essence of Wen-Do: a method of self-defence and assertiveness developed to allow women to fend off harassment, empower and speak up for themselves.

Courses such as these are relatively new and not yet widespread. There are many reasons why the idea of women’s self-defence is not more popular in Belarus: a wide variety of gender-based stereotypes, a tendency to blame the victims of violence, and a persistent belief in requiring “a strong man’s shoulder” to lean on. And yet according to UN data from 2018, every second woman in Belarus suffers different forms of violence, with nearly every third being abused physically.

Wen-Do covers a wide variety of physical and verbal techniques. Women learn how to fight back and respond to wrist and arm holds and how to escape bear hugs and choke holds. Far from being just a method of self-defence, Wen-Do also focuses on consent, awareness, and avoidance of threatening situations. These are the skills we will gain over the next two days.

There are all kinds of people in this group. Tall and short. Blonde and dark-haired. Students and professionals. Some of us are in our 50s, others have just turned 16. We met just a moment ago, but already feel friendly toward each other.

But when Olga Laniewska, our trainer, suddenly asks us to shout, we stare at each other in confusion. This may be a women-only course, but however safe and comfortable the atmosphere is, it is not easy to start screaming when you’re surrounded by near-strangers.

Olga urges us on:

“Attackers know perfectly well that women often feel too ashamed to react when they are sexually assaulted. But your voice is your weapon. Use it.”

This time, we don’t hesitate to shout.

Breaking blocks, breaking stereotypes 

Natalia (who requested that her name be changed), a PhD student, needed to resolve an issue with her doctoral adviser. He would abuse his position by constantly asking her personal questions about her family and her husband. She felt dependent on her advisor but wanted to stop this unwanted attention.

At Wen-Do sessions, women share real-life experiences of physical or verbal aggression, whether from strangers or known attackers. Harassment on the street. A violent husband. An assault at school. A co-worker who crosses too many boundaries.

Women then discuss and role-play situations to build self-confidence and react in a way that works best for them.

In Natalia’s case, she practiced her posture, body language, voice, and use of specific words until she was happy with the outcome. As she told me a few months later, when her adviser approached her again, she was able to stop his questions politely but firmly.

“He never behaved in the same abusive way again,” Natalia says. “He probably understood that I wouldn’t allow this anymore.”

Curiously, she says, their relationship has actually improved since then.

“What was your husband’s reaction when you signed up for the course?” I ask.

“He is very supportive and open-minded,” she says. “But sometimes he doesn’t understand why Wen-Do and the subject of domestic violence, since our relationship is not abusive.” When she was 19, someone tried to rape her. Although she was able to escape, the fear stayed with her.

Another student, Alina, 24, experienced domestic violence at home. Wen-Do taught her how to set boundaries and not allow others to violate them. Now, a few months later, she tells me it is still difficult for her to say “no” without guilt. But she is learning.

At the end of each day’s session, the participants break a piece of wood with a blow of the hand. Just as in martial arts, this is a vital part of the training, when a person shows their strength and courage. For those in my group, this was a moment of empowerment and resolution.

“It boosts your self-confidence levels. Without it, it’s impossible to defend yourself,” group member Hanna Parkhomenka says. 

Natalia, Hanna, and Alina are among 900 women who have taken a Wen-Do course in Belarus since the first one was held almost four years ago.

“Does this mean they all know where to hit an aggressor?” I ask Laniewska, the only Wen-Do trainer in Belarus and one of very few Russian-speaking trainers internationally.

“It’s not just about kicks and blocks, though I teach those too,” she says.

“Ideally, after a woman learns Wen-Do, she doesn’t allow herself to be abused or attacked in the first place, because she is aware of her boundaries and what behaviour she finds unacceptable,” Laniewska says. The main focus of Wen-Do is to avoid threat and assault if possible. During the sessions, we talk about how this is even more important in Belarus, where the legal concept of self-defence is not fully elaborated.

In 2016, Laniewska received her Wen-Do training certification in Poland, where she had lived for 15 years, through the Autonomy Foundation, an NGO. It took 18 months and many interviews and conversations with psychologists until she was certified. She then moved back to Belarus, partnered up with Radislava, an organisation that helps domestic violence victims, and began offering self-defence classes for free – when Radislava can raise the funds. When there’s no money from sponsors, Olga gives paid workshops. If a group can’t afford it, she nonetheless works for free.

Wen-Do can be adapted for all ages and abilities. Courses typically last 12 hours, spread over two days. Laniewska teaches mostly in Minsk, although she has also given classes in Hrodna, Navapolack, Brest, and other cities across Belarus.

Positive Outcomes

Empowerment through self-defence is not new. Yet its positive effects are clear, advocates say.

In Canada, where Wen-Do originated in the 1970s, the method was incorporated into a sexual assault resistance programme designed for first-year female students at three Canadian universities. The results, published in 2015, were impressive. According to the authors, the training was correlated with a 46 percent reduction in completed rape and a 63 percent reduction in attempted sexual assault in the following year, compared to a control group of students.

A similar study of college students who took a self-defence class, conducted by Jocelyn Hollander of the University of Oregon, came to similar conclusions. The report said women who took the class experienced “significantly fewer sexual assaults during the subsequent year than women enrolled in other classes at the same university.”

Women’s self-defence training appears to have positive benefits in other societies as well. In 2014, Stanford researchers found that adolescent girls in the slums of Nairobi reported a more than one-third drop in rapes in the year after taking a 12-hour self-defence programme.

In Europe, although the Council of Europe advocated free self-defence training for girls and young women more than 20 years ago, little has been accomplished on the national level, a European Parliament report stated in 2016.

In Poland, municipal governments or employers have sometimes financed Wen-Do courses.

Wen-Do supplies the tools to build self-confidence and assertiveness. But it is no cure-all, explains Agnieszka Biela, a psychologist and a certified Wen-Do instructor based in Sosnowiec in southern Poland. “A woman can’t be in a situation of active domestic violence, because it requires more targeted help and can have the opposite effect, making her feel disempowered.”

Wen-Do practitioners need to know when to call on outside help, Biela says, recalling a woman in one of her classes who was living with an abusive partner. “Luckily, she told us about the violence at home, and we could refer her to an intervention centre.”

Biela explains that from a psychological point of view, Wen-Do focuses on the ability of women to fulfil their human potential and encourages self-exploration. “We as Wen-Do trainers show a woman that she is an expert on her own life,” Biela says.

In a survey prepared by the Autonomy Foundation after one Wen-Do workshop, nearly all the 54 women polled said they could have avoided many threatening situations in adult life if given the opportunity to take a workshop during their teenage years. Half the women used the skills they learned within a few months after the training.

Focus on Prevention

Ilya Murashko is not happy that mostly men attend his self-defence classes in Minsk.

“Let’s face it: women need to learn how to protect themselves more than men. Together with the elderly and people with disabilities, they are more often assaulted than men,” he says.

In addition to classic Krav Maga, a fighting and self-defence method, Murashko teaches setting and communicating personal boundaries, and recognising dangerous situations at an early stage. Sound familiar?

“Yes, it is similar to Wen-Do. Both are crucial for assault prevention,” he says.

The drawback, Murashko says, is that Wen-Do courses may be too short for women to master skills and make them a habit. That’s exactly what Olga Kutas, one of the women from my Wen-Do group, told me: “The effects of a single course could quickly get lost in women’s everyday tasks.”

But as Lena Bielska explains, while some physical defence tricks might be soon forgotten, as time goes on, the implanted seed of self-respect will grow. Bielska is a certified Wen-Do instructor and a co-founder of the Lublin branch of HerStory, a nonprofit that works in the areas of gender equality and discrimination. She says that’s why it is crucial that a trainer focuses on women’s empowerment and confidence, not just martial arts. Besides, it happens that women participate in Wen-Do workshops several times and some go on to take an advanced course.

An ongoing struggle

Assertiveness training is not easy to instil in a society that expects a woman to be sweet, mild-mannered, and meek. Women are expected to handle problems without making a scene. They are brought up to be “nice.”

“Things are changing,” Olga Yanchuk says about the stereotypes and the social risks that lie in wait for a woman who stands up for herself.

Yanchuk, a sociologist, is the general secretary of the YWCA branch in Belarus, a non-governmental organisation that advocates for women and offers leadership training. Yanchuk recently launched a project called Womens Safety. Similarly to Wen-Do, the main focus is on boosting women’s self-esteem. The project offers paid online video lessons and personal consultations with a psychologist on personal boundaries and various forms of domestic violence.

As long as there is no law against domestic violence in Belarus – President Alyaksandr Lukashenka dismissed the idea as “nonsense” last autumn – Yanchuk believes it’s especially crucial for women to learn how to defend themselves and set their boundaries. “A woman learns how to listen to herself and her body. She can then more easily recognise the first signs of potential violence, tension, or discomfort.”

Yanchuk and her eight year-old daughter have also participated in a Wen-Do course. “The fact that my daughter understands that she has the right and need to protect herself is the greatest outcome of the training,” Yanchuk says.

That, and the wooden block that she broke with her bare hand, which she brought home as her trophy, she laughs.

This article was originally published by Transitions, a Prague-based publishing and media training organisation. It is republished here with permission, and has been edited for length and style.


 The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

31.03.2020 – London, United Kingdom – Tony Robinson

Coronavirus: a doorway to the rebirth of human civilisation
a computer generated representation of COVID-19 virions (SARS-CoV-2) under electron microscope. (Image by Felipe Esquivel Reed on wikimedia commons)

As covid-19 sweeps the planet having seemingly been reduced to manageable numbers in China, governments and world leaders are struggling to come to terms with the new reality.  It has become clear that everything we thought we knew about how economics works is false.  We can actually survive without markets!  We can reduce consumption!  We don’t have to be all the time at work! We can reduce human activity to the essentials of food supply and healthcare!  It’s not the most fun way to live, but we can do it!

A new day has dawned.

And yet, will the human race be capable of coming together in its global hour of need and wrest power away from the financial elite and the military powers who have subjugated humanity to lives full of suffering and indignity for the vast, vast majority?

It is clear that priorities will have to be redrawn and a new society will have to emerge based on the following principles, among others:

A real democracy in which elected representatives truly represent the people who vote for them and not the financial interests that paid for their campaigns, a democratic model that proportionally allocates representation in line with votes cast.

The full implementation of existing human rights as outlined in the UN Declaration and their further development into new areas.

A decentralised system in which decisions are devolved as closely as possible to the grassroots of society, allowing communities to take responsibility for their own development and well-being, but allowing regions to work together to deal with situations that are too big and complicated to deal with alone.

An economic system that compensates actual productive work done and services provided, as opposed to a system driven by speculation, usury and outright gambling; a system in which the people decide on the creation of money, and not private banks; a system in which the people decide on the cost of goods, raw materials and services and not “markets” which have been installed in the public consciousness as forces of nature out of the control of human beings.

An economic system that also provides a basic income for everyone which enables every human being to have their basic needs covered so that they need never fear for their health, their housing and utility bills, from cradle to grave.

Common ownership of the means of production for everything that is essential for providing human well-being.

A global system in which all nations have equal say in a refounded United Nations, removing veto power from certain countries who believe they have the write to blackmail the whole world.

The elimination of borders so that people can travel where they like, understanding that in an equitable world without inequality, the pressure on communities to migrate vast distances in search of a better future will be taken away, and, while people young and old will always have the desire to travel, most people like to settle down in communities where they share the social and cultural landscape which they have affection for, close to where their family and loved ones live.

A disarmed planet in which there will still be a need for armed forces for humanitarian functions and conflict resolution missions – because there will always be natural disasters and conflict – but these forces will answer to the global community, and nations will not be able to subject their populations to unhuman living situations by force.

Recycling everything in order to stop the continuous extraction of raw materials from the planet, realising that our planet is finite, and that it is our responsibility to develop a way of life that is sustainable not only for the next few generations, but for a million more generations to come.  We are truly the guardians of the planet and we need to take that responsibility with the seriousness it deserves.

Likewise we have to protect our environment now and return to nature all the space that we possibly can.  Converting all energy to renewable sources, because eliminating the combustion of hydrocarbons and nuclear energy is an essential part of our future world also.

A culture of nonviolence, because the violence we experience every day in our societies: physical, economic, psychological, sexual and racial, among many others, is not conducive to a society which favours the development of human life and the extraordinary capacity for consciousness that we’ve been endowed with.

None of the above is new.  There are legions of people all over the world working in these areas and many more.

But now we have a window of opportunity, because with the crashing down of the global system as a result of covid-19 we are able to do what Guillermo Sullings wrote about in his excellent book “At the Crossroads of Humanities Future” from which many of the points above have been taken.  As he points out there’s a need to change everything at the same time:

“We must understand that it won’t be possible to change one part without changing everything, because every part responds to the logic of the greater system that it is contained within. It’s no use thinking about every part separately in order to generate a monster like Frankenstein’s that was only able to come alive in fiction. This is why the project of the Universal Human Nation, although it seems paradoxical, is more realistic than projects that change only one part and insert it into the present system.”

But as he also says:

“Nevertheless, none of this will happen until a sleeping spirit awakens from within to connect human beings with their evolutionary meaning: this contact with their interior from where the need will emerge to be coherent and to treat others as they want to be treated. But when this happens, everything will start to change. And this moment is getting closer because the saturation that this advancing emptiness is producing within human beings will be the detonator of their rebirth.”

Coronavirus is creating this advancing emptiness within human beings as we are cut off physically from both each other and the economic system which demands us to be the slaves of an all-powerful elite.  Are we about to see a rebirth of human civilisation based on the need to treat others as we want to be treated?  Let us fervently hope so.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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