Feminism as an act of love

Feminism as an act of love


In these times of trouble, I thought that the words of Bell Hooks were so powerful that they needed to be shared! So here are the summaries of two key books, The will to change and Feminism is for everybody.


What is patriarchy?

Patriarchy is a political-social system that insists that male are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially female, and endowed the right to dominate and rule over the weak, and to maintain dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence.

Patriarchy rules most of the worlds’ religious, school and family systems. We learnt it from our family of origin, our mothers, reinforced in schools and religious institutions.

Patriarchy is the single most life-threatening social disease assaulting the male body and spirit in our world. But yet most men never think about its impact on their lives.

It is at the core of the interlocking political systems of imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy. It expects blind obedience, it represses all emotions except fear, it destroys the individual willpower.

Since masses of unemployed and working-class men do not feel powerful on their jobs within white supremacist patriarchy, they are encouraged to feel that the one place where they will have absolute power and authority is the home.

There is a collective denial about patriarchy thanks to silence. Keeping males and females from telling the truth about what happens in their families is a way of maintaining patriarchal rule.

What is patriarchal masculinity?

Patriarchal masculinity teaches males to be pathologically narcissistic, infantile and psychologically dependent on privileges. There is a constant need to reaffirm your manhood.

It teaches emotional stoicism; men are more manly if they do not feel.

Men don’t feel pain.

Disconnection is masculinity. Male dominance is connected with the shutting down of the emotions. There is an emotional exuberance from childhood, a connection and then a rupture happens, a disconnect. Culture influences parents to devalue the emotional development of boys. Sexism decrees emotional care and love is the task of women and men come home too tired to deliver emotional goods.

The workplace is also used to flee from self and emotional awareness into emotional numbness.

Patriarchal assault on the emotional life of boys begins at the moment of their birth. Every day, boys who express feelings are psychologically terrorized or beaten. Homophobia underlies the fear that allowing boys to feel will turn them gay. It can be considered as the normal traumatization of boys through shame. The way we turn boys into men is actually with injury. We cannot teach boys that real men do not feel and express feelings and then expect them to be comfortable being in touch with their feelings.

Patriarchal fathers cannot love their sons because the rules dictate that they stand in competition with them. If the sons don’t behave, they use the A-bomb of familial warfare: rejection.

Beyond physical violence, the spread of emotional abuse where an individual systematically diminishes and destroys the inner self of another and belittles him injures boys and girls deeply

Unable to cope with the loss of emotional connection, boys internalize the pain and mask it with indifference and rage. They decide not to put their faith in love but in being powerful and dominant. They idealize aloneness and disconnection.

As a consequence, men are supposed to hang out together but avoiding any meaningful conversations. They jeer, joke but do not share feelings. In most work settings, emotional engagement between workers is even deemed bad for business.

Mass media is used as a propaganda tool of self-hating, pornography of violence, creating images where killing sounds alluring and sexual exploitation of women a seductive reward.

We can observe sexist myth making in shows directed to children.

As the incredible Hulk who turns in an angry green monster when he feels intense emotions, he shows that the exertion of force is a viable response to all situation of crisis, he is a man on the run, unable to develop lasting bonds.

As television, children literature perpetuates patriarchal ideals. Even Harry Potter glorifies the use of violence. There are no books proposing an alternative masculine vision.

The movies for boys glorify war to recruit their hearts and imagination. The male domination of women is seen as a new form of entertainment (cf OJ Spimpson trial). Even gangsta rap celebrates male violence.

Patriarchal sexuality

There is a belief that if men are not sexually active, they will go crazy. A man deprived of sexual access will ultimately have sex with anybody. “He’s gotta have it.”

That is why rape is tolerated. And sexual abusers are still TV stars.

Homosexual predatory sex is the ultimate embodiment of the patriarchal ideal, the reenactment of dominator culture. Gay men share with straight men the same notions about acceptable masculinity.

Everybody talks about sex. We learn that there is always a passive and a dominant.

The right of the strong. Many college men see nothing wrong with forcing a woman sexually. The psychology of rape culture encourages us to see a penis as a weapon.

Female are portrayed as the enemy. Men are furious at women for doing what society has told them to: say no. Sex looks like revenge: for the power that women have to arouse men and give or withhold sex. And people become afraid of sex.

Patriarchal culture expects men to covertly cultivate lust but openly repress sexually. Sexual repression fuels the lust of boys and men. There is a link between the feeling of scarcity and the compulsive need for sex. Patriarchal men can do pornography anywhere all day long to solve the conflict between the lust men are supposed to feel all the time and the rage it cannot be satisfied. Patriarchy is not fulfilling its promise of endless sexual fulfilment. Pornography avoids awakening and rebellion.

One of the primary rewards for obedience to patriarchal thought is the right to dominate women sexually. Without these perks, masses of men would have rebelled against patriarchy. So patriarchal ideology brainwashes men to believe that their domination of women is beneficial to them.

Feminist rebellion exposed the fact that many women were not having satisfactory sexual relationships with men in patriarchal relationships. The absence of sexual foreplay, the male sexual coercion and the lack of concern for female pleasure were pervasive.

Yet, even sexual liberation can follow patriarchal principles. Cf. Sex in the city portraying women being as nonchalant about sex as patriarchal men. So sexually liberated woman have been seen as the ones who would be sexual with the least amount of fuss, i.e. asserting no demands, especially emotional ones. But to be truly liberated is to have sexual value and agency irrespective of whether or not we are objects of male desire.

The role of women

Women in patriarchal culture are trained to cover up and hide male abuse. Patriarchal violence inside the home is based on the belief that it is acceptable for a more powerful individual to control others through various forms of coercive force. Lots of women believe that a person in authority has the right to use force to maintain authority.

We all collide with patriarchal culture: we make men feel they can have it all, embrace patriarchal manhood and still hold our loved ones dear. Women and men support equally the system even if men receive more rewards from the system.

Women can be as wedded to patriarchal thinking and action as men. The perpetuation of sexism is not to be blamed on men only for many women long to be dominators too.

Women feel powerless towards grown men and exert power over boys. In patriarchal culture, women are as violent as men toward the group they have power over (children or weaker female). Many boys feel anger and rage that their mothers did not protect them which ends up into rage against this autocratic power and hate of the female. Some mothers ensure at all cost that their children behave perfectly to not arouse father’s justified rage. Patriarchy asks mothers to sacrifice their sons. The fear of intimacy from men is the fear of subjugation from the souvenir of vulnerability to mother’s will. Mothers learn to silence the wild spirit in their sons.

Male’s misery in patriarchal world

Patriarchy demands of men that they become and remain emotional cripples.

In patriarchal culture, men cannot speak their pain. They shall constantly wear a mask, live a lie, pretend. And they feel rage to act out a lie.

Men are hurting but nobody wants to know about it. We don’t want to shatter the image of the strong man. They live their deep inner misery on their own.

More kids are emotionally abandoned than directly attacked: neglect leads to emotional numbing. Shutting down emotionally becomes the best defence.

Violence is your ticket in the patriarchal manhood contest but it supposes losing substantive quality of life.

When culture is based on dominator model, not only will it be violent but it will frame all relationships as power struggles.

90% of violent crimes are committed by men. Violent domination and abuse of women is NOT privilege. Patriarchal violence is a pathology, a mental illness.

Patriarchal culture assumes men shall be willing to sacrifice the emotional bond to get the job done. Depression about the nature of work leads men to act violently in their domestic lives, to wield absolute power on the wife at home.

Patriarchal culture does not care if men are happy or not. The only emotion patriarchy values in men is anger. Real men get mad. Which is perfect to conceal pain or anguish of spirit.

No male successfully measures up to patriarchal standards without engaging in an outgoing practice of self-betrayal.

Patriarchy promotes insanity. It is at the roots of the psychological ills of men. It damages men. If it was so rewarding, why would there be so much violence and addiction? Why this overwhelming dissatisfaction?

We think it’s a mystery that boys are so violent. It is emotionally damaging to young males to be isolated without emotional care.

All over the world, terrorist organizations use isolation to break people’s spirits.

Anger is the hidden place for fear and pain. It is an attempt to push away what is most longed for: companionship and understanding.

Anger is the agony of believing that you are not capable of being understood, that you are not worthy of being understood.

Violent boys from affluent homes are often as emotionally alienated as their ghetto counterparts.

Where to turn to seek change?

There is no place to grief. No place to talk about the empty longing. So men learn to cover up with anger and indifference.

Patriarchy creates the rage and contains it for later use, to further imperialism, hatred and oppression of men and women globally or fight wars without even demanding that other ways of solving be found.

In the reality, most men find it difficult to be patriarchs. But they fear letting go of the benefits.

So they passively support the status quo.

Cultures of domination attack self-esteem.

It makes you think your sense of being is linked to your dominion over another.

Ours is a culture that does not love children, treat them as parents’ property.

Adult violence against children is a norm, would it be verbal, emotional or sexual.

And men deeply fear being unlovable. So they crave for sex to fill the void.

“The more intense the pain of fear, unworthiness and feeling unlovable becomes, the more obsessed becomes the need to have a sexual interaction.”

Male despair is actually a far greater threat to patriarchal order than feminist movement.

Love and fear cannot coexist

Women and children all over the world live in fear. Fear of punishment, of power over.

Lots of women fear men. And fear can actually lay the foundation for contempt and hatred. The fear of patriarchal maleness binds everyone.

Women and children do not feel loved when they are abused. Maleness is feared and men think it is better to be feared than to be loved.

This fear estranges women from their lives and they feel the loss.

Romantic love as seen in patriarchal society makes one powerless and out of control.

One could do anything in the name of love, even kill. It is about possession, domination and submission.

It is a lie to believe that love and domination can coexist.

Women and children suffer from the lack of satisfying relationships

We live in a culture where emotionally starved, deprived females are desperately seeking male love.

But we do not dare speak it for fear of shame or mockery.

Each night millions of kids go to sleep starving from attention from their dads.

No wonder that these girls and boys grow up angry that they have been denied the love they need to feel whole, accepted, worthy. The deep longing for father love not spoken about.

That quest is rarely satisfied.

Rage, grief, disappointment lead women and men to close off.

They learn to settle for whatever positive attention men are able to give.

All over the world, women live with men in states of lovelessness.

Women seek love from men who cannot give what they did not have.

Everyone who tries to create love with an emotionally unaware partner suffers.

A society that actively, financially, politically, socially, privileges traits it deems ‘masculine’ — nonemotionality, strength, independence — and actively disparages traits it deems ‘feminine’ — interdependence, nurturance — has few ways for these patterns to be openly loved, addressed, and changed.

Patriarchal culture normalizes an avoidant attachment style and stigmatizes an anxious attachment style, wherever it appears.

Women seeking intimacy with men see the expression of their longing are often belittled.

Many men respond to women wanting emotional connection with emotional withdrawal and, in worse case scenarios, abuse.

But if only one part in the relationships is working to create love, the dominator model remains in place and the relationship is a continuous power struggle.

Most men and women are not even having satisfying and fulfilling sex.

Sexist logic convinces men that they can have a connection without commitment.

Sometimes women are experiencing a crisis of faith, about the capacity of men to make constructive change, to achieve emotional maturity, to grow up.

Many women say they have not yet found the love they are looking for.

Women have believed they could save men by giving them love, as a cure for all the wounds inflicted by toxic assaults on their emotional systems but we cannot do for men what they must do for themselves. Our love helps but ultimately boys and men save themselves when they learn the art of loving.

Men are longing for love.

Any time a single man dares to transgress patriarchal boundaries in order to love, the lives of women, men and children are fundamentally changed for the better.

We are bombarded by news about male violence, but we hear no news about men and love.

In a non patriarchal culture, males do not have to prove their value and worth. Just being gives them the value, the right to be cherished and loved.

Feminism as the solution

We need feminist blueprints of the future vision.

Dream of replacing the culture of domination by a world of social democracy, without discrimination, where recognition of interdependency is the dominant ethos, a global ecological vision of how the planet can survive and how anyone can have access to peace and well being. Imagine living in a world where there is no domination. Where we can all be who we are a vision of peace and possibility.

Ending patriarchy is actually a way to liberate men.

Feminist politics aims to end domination to free us to be who we are. To live lives of justice and peace. From power over to power with.

No man who does not actively choose to work to change and challenge patriarchy escapes its impact. Men need feminist thinking for their spiritual evolution.

It is urgent that men take up the banner of feminism and challenge patriarchy.

The safety and continuation of life on the planet requires the feminist conversion of men.

Ending violence means ending the culture of domination. We need to replace the dominator model by a partnership model that sees interbeing and interdependency as the organic relationship of all living beings.

Men need to hear that their souls matter and that the care of their souls is the primary task of their being.

Men can heal their spirit by developing relational skills (cf.Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Han).

Any man who chooses the way of compassion heals the spirit and moves away from the domination.

We cannot journey far if men are left behind. We need them beside us because we love them.

What is feminist masculinity?

We need a vision of masculinity where self-esteem and self-love are at the base of identity.

The image of loving fatherhood embodies feminist masculinity in its most divine form.

Integrity, self-love, emotional awareness, assertiveness, relational skill, including the capacity to be empathetic, autonomous and connected.

Olga Silverstein: “What the world needs now is a different kind of man.”

A liberated man, empathetic and strong, responsible to self, to family, friends, society and capable of understanding.

In the partnership model, male identity is centred on essential goodness

A new culture supposing that males are inherently born to connect and not to aggress.

No power over.

Sustaining good relationship with others requires a good relationship to ourselves. Healthy self esteem, an inner sense of worth, neither “better than” grandiosity nor “less than” shame.

There’s a work to reunite the severed parts before being able to give more emotionally.

So what can we do about it?


Mass based feminist education for critical consciousness is needed. We need a body of visionary feminist books written in accessible language. or shared through oral communication.

We need feminist politics on billboards, ads in magazines, bus, metro, TV commercials,

We need books, songs, radio and a feminist television network to spread feminist thinking globally.


We need more self development for men. Men need consciousness raising, support groups, therapy, education. Teach men to reconnect with their feelings, reclaim the lost boy within nurture the soul, his spiritual growth.

Sexist thinking makes us judge each other without compassion and punish one another harshly. Feminist thinking help us unlearn self-hatred.

Imagine a non patriarchal culture where counselling were available to all men.

The answer to all of these difficulties is to openly discuss nurturance: how it looks, how it feels, how men can learn to practice it from the men who already know how in addition to communicating through women or fumbling around for years learning by trial and error.

Why is there no high-profile institute for men teaching nurturance skills to men?

Men need to do this work with other men — not alone, not instead of doing it with women, but in addition, in accountable relationship with and to women. In other words, keep learning in the ways learning is happening now — but then share that learning with one another.

The process of recovery includes finding a new sexuality. Because sex will not fill the enormous need for love.


Many men retired from work find that aging allows them to break free from patriarchy.

We need to listen to their voices. They have time to develop their emotional selves.

Men need new models of self-assertion that do not require the hate of another, the feminine or any other. Many models of men with integrity, men who are whole.

We need to divorce masculinity from the domination model, to define maleness as a state of being rather than a performance. Our work of love is to reclaim masculinity.


We need to learn to parent in non violent way. Feminist father is a guide who protects, shelters and nurtures the son. Caring fathers with bold strength and integrity shall protect son’s hearts from patriarchy’ assaults.

Equal parenting role transforms men, especially when parenting daughters and facing for the first time the sexism of the society. If men participated more in child rearing, they would learn to care for the needs of others.

Tolove again: the heart of feminism

Feminism makes it possible for men and women to know love.

A genuine feminist politics brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving.

Mutual partnership is the foundation of love. We need to teach men how to love themselves and others.

Boys need healthy self-esteem. They need love. And a wise loving feminist politics is the foundation for it.

If we want to know love, we have to yearn for feminism.

Love acts to transform domination. In a vision of relationship where everyone’s needs are respected, where everyone has rights and does not fear abuse or coercion.

Liberation from any form of domination or oppression is a spiritual quest. We are one.

To choose feminist politics is a choice to love.

Do it like a Woman

Do it like a Woman


“Feminism is like a tapestry; every woman brings her own thread.”

In her book “Do it like a Woman”, Caroline talks about the palpable impact of role models which can “influence academic choices, alter knowledge of political candidates and likelihood of voting, transform public speaking ability, … “

She explains how women have better results when they read biographies of female leaders or give speeches in rooms with women’s portraits.

Through different chapters (Speaking like a Woman, Advocating like A Woman, etc…), Caroline shares the stories of multiple female role models: from Lady Anne Blunt, Victorian equestrienne and breeder of Arabian horses to South pole explorer Felicity Aston, from Women in graffiti like Femme Fierce collective to beatbox artists like Dana Mc Keon, from Sahira Sharif, founder of Mirman Baheer poetry society in Afghanistan to Mae Azango, journalist from Liberia.

“I always think of patriarchy as the film Matrix. You are living in it everyday but you don’t see it.

It’s because you live in it that you don’t see it. It’s everywhere, in everything.”


As a proverb from Renaissance England says: “An eloquent woman is never chaste.”, making an implicit connection between lips on the face and lips between the legs.

In Homer’s Odyssey, Telemachus tells him mum Penelope: “Speech will be the business of men, all men, and of me most of all; for mine is the power of this household.”

Since then, public speaking and oratory have been exclusive practices defining masculinity as a gender. Public speech was the defining attribute of maleness.

Undermining women’s voices as shrill or nagging implies that women don’t have a legitimate political opinion.

As Mary Beard suggests, de-authorising and silencing women’s voices is embedded in our culture.”

Just check the data of online abuse and the dropping participation stats of women in online forums…

Andrea Dworkin adds: “Men often react to women’s words as if they were acts of violence. And react with violence. So we lower our voices, we whisper, apologize, shut up, shrink, trivialize what we know, pull back.”

Even in times of war, women are shut out of negotiations when they could actually bring another perspective to the debate.

Sara Khan thinks like Soljenitzyn that words will break cement.

She founded Inspire, a counter-extremism organization based on the voices of British Muslim women.

Yet, the silencing can have dramatic consequences.

The culture of disbelief towards women is so engrained that only 10% of the rapes are reported and when they are, the conviction rate does not surpass 4% in the UK… 1% in the UK military…

We don’t believe women when they speak.

CBS report says that the arrest rate for rape is 25% when it is 79% for murder…

No victim of rape in the US military who denounced still retains her military career. Rape is seen as an occupational hazard of military service…

From there the campaign Protect our Defenders:

As Catherine Mc Kinnon feminist lawyer puts it:

“Most rapists are men, most judges are men and the law rape was created when women were not allowed to vote.”

Laura Bates, founder of Everyday sexism launched the #FBrape campaign: “More than 60,000 tweets and 5,000 emails later, the spirited campaign that revolved around the #FBrape hashtag resulted in Facebook admitting that it has failed to remove content that promotes gender-based violence. The company has now agreed to drastically revamp what it considered gender-based hate speech.”

Caroline’s talking about this worldwide epidemic:

When Boko Haram in Nigeria considers sexual exploitation better than girls being educated.

When disparity in university entrance requirements between men and women is a growing trend in China.

When Chinese men are not so keen to marry the new breed of successful, highly educated women and shame them as sheng nu, China’s leftover.

When in South Africa, a girl has higher chances to be raped than to learn to read…

We are immersed in collective denial

In her essay Men explain things to me, Rebecca Solnit talks about what she calls “The Longest War”.

The fact that 1 in 5 women will be raped in the US in her lifetime.

That more women have been killed each year by men in UK than British troops in 3 years in Afghanistan.

That Gender Based Violence has been denominated as an epidemic by the WHO.

Inspite of that, the Geneva convention still does not consider gender as a reason to be threatened.

Men as the norm and Women as the exception: seeing reality through one prism

Aristotle put it simply: “The female is female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities. We should regard the female nature as afflicted with a natural defectiveness.”

Simone de Beauvoir wrote: “Humanity is male.”

Men are considered humans and women deviant men.

The blogger Sophia Gubb talks about “Male as Default”. An example: up until April 2014, the vast majority of animals used by medical researchers to develop new drugs and treatments were male. As a consequence, more women experience side effects or less effective treatment.

The symptoms of heart attack we all know only apply to male not female.

The world is different when it has been designed around you and your needs.

A lot of sexism is not so much deliberate and malicious as it is a problem of perspective and a lack of consideration of female needs.

Caroline thus gives the example of environmental activists movements like Greenpeace who design show off activities with consideration of female physical needs.

Or the US army which only had uniforms designed for female bodies in 2014.

Or the field of robotics where scientists shall first determine which problem is the most pressing to be solved by the robot and then which parameter to maximize. In both cases, perspective is key and we need female scientists like Angelica Lim to ensure future robots will also take into account women’s needs.

Similarly, women lead in a different way. Not so much because they are innately different, but because they experience the world differently.

Women as Allies

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote in 1792: “Considering the length of time that women have been dependent, it is surprising that women have been dependent, is it surprising that some of them hug their chains?”

Women are brought up in the same women-hating society as men, there is no logical reason why they should be free of misogynistic thinking. They internalize their own oppression and often repackage it as chosen freedom.

There is safety in joining in and attacking other women, far more so than standing against it, because you become a focus for attack.

As the Egyptian activist Mona Eltahawy says: “It’s up to you to decide where upon a spectrum of activism you stand. I am being extreme on purpose so that I am opening a bigger space for others, to be more mainstream, more average.”

Media actually paints the world more male-dominated than it is.

If we women don’t talk about what affects women, men journalists won’t.

Political news stories in the UK talks about 1 female vs 10 male when in reality there are 2 female MP for every 10 male.

So the media is not representing the world as it is.

Male dominated media tend to think that the most important stories are the ones dominated by men.

Ex: the NSA surveillance scandal is more important than the global epidemic of men killing women.

51% of the population is getting 24% of the news space.

Which offers a narrower and less diverse perspective on the world.

Because again male perspective is seen as the universal.

80% of pictures are even deemed irrelevant to the stories they accompanied: men are more likely to be featured in words and women in images. (cf. page 3 of UK papers)

Nature vs Culture

According to a study from BBC Radio 4 Today program, men and women are equally competent at looking after their baby immediately after its birth. The idea that women are predisposed to wiping bottoms is practice being interpreted as innate function. But is is the experience that obviously makes you an expert at it.

Women have for centuries been aligned with irrationality. (cf books like Men are from Mars and women from Venus)

Male anger, at the opposite, has never earned men the label of irrational.

In her book Delusions of gender, Cordelia Fine shatters any claims of neurosexism. Babies are much more programmed by their parents conditioning than by their innate brain. Parents act in a different way if they know or not the sex of their babies.

An entire multi-million dollar industry has been built around the power of the subconscious to store up messages and alter our behaviours.

In her essay The Equality Illusion, Kat Banyard explains that there are no difference in frequency of assertive behaviours in babies.

But the difference lies in the way adults respond to these behaviours.

If a male baby is assertive, the caregiver would respond 41% of the times (against 10% for female babies).

When a baby is seeking attention, he gets a response 55% of the time if he is male and 15% if she is female.

So babies learn and adapt.

Pressure on physical aspect

And finally, Caroline insists on the tremendous pressure women receive about their physical appearance. Is it a hazard that

90% of all cosmetic surgery patients in the UK are women?

Can we still consider it a real choice? What about high heels?

“The average woman could learn a language or climb a mountain or get another degree with the time she’s spending worrying about how she looks.”

In Iran, Masih Alinejad set up the website My stealthy freedom to show pictures of women letting their hair run free.

She considers the prohibition of women’s hair as a form of control.


Once you control women, you control half of the society. You control the way children are raised and the future generations.

Yet, the world is rarely transformed by seismic shifts: it’s all the little individual changes we barely notice that make the difference.

Role models matter. They give young girls a place to aspire to.

Like the ones Caroline portrays in her book.

This text is a summary of extracts and quotes from “Do it like a Woman” book from Caroline Criado-Perez.

Who is shifting the balance in Pakistan?

Who is shifting the balance in Pakistan?


There are places in the world with bad reputation. And Pakistan is one of them.

A country where more than 1,000 women’s and girls’ lives are taken each year from honour killings.

Where social media star and controversial female celebrity Qandeel Balochwas strangled to death by her own brother only a few months ago.

A country where director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy recently won the oscar with her documentary A girl in the river about the impunity for the relatives committing those murders.

A country ranked the second worst in the world for gender equality for the second consecutive year. 143 out of 144, just before Yemen…

And in spite of this situation (or perhaps because of it), initiatives are blossoming in different parts of the country to shift the gender balance.
So here are a few of them…

Reclaiming the public space

In Lahore, the Fearless Collective gathering artists, activists, filmmakers and researchers has set up its first public art intervention in Anarkali bazaar to challenge society’s fear of judgement by families and friends. This fear of tarnishing your reputation acting as an unspoken mutual oppression.
I watch you. You watch me. So that none of us is free.

The mural, with deep earthy colours and sprawling calligraphy asks:

‘log kya kahenge
log hum hi to hain
hum kia kahein ge?’

‘What would people say?
we are the people
what will we say?’

Deeply entrenched stereotypes were the topic of the Moving Towards a Gender-Neutral Society panel we were invited to in the massive School of Tomorrow event this past month of November.

One exceptional example fighting stigma and transphobia is Kami Sid, the first trans model from Pakistan.

In Karachi, the collective Girls at Dhabas is also reclaiming public space for women in Pakistan. So many dhabas, tea shops or street cafes are exclusively occupied by male and female don’t dare entering them without facing stares or feeling deeply uncomfortable. That’s why the collective organizes nights out where groups of women and girls go out for a tea and publish photos online “occupying the space”.

They have been inspired by the Why Loiter initiative and book from Bombay which believes that “only by celebrating loitering as a radical act for most Indian women can a truly equal, global city be created.”

Because transportation is still a key issue

How do women join the workplace, how do families support their professional activity when they constantly face the challenge of being groped and harassed by male rickshaw drivers or public transport users.

The recent introduction of CAREEM and UBER has recently revolutionized the field, but only for those who can afford it.

In Lahore, the Pink rickshaws also aims at offering safe rides to other women and children. Providing instalments and lease plans developed specifically for women, the initiative also allows women to become owner/operators of their own Pink Rickshaw and generate income for their families.

Women on Wheels is also a project from the government of Punjab to encourage women to motorcycle. The training plan was designed to enable the women to acquire the riding skill in a few weeks and culminated in a public rally to encourage female bike riding.

She means Business

In Karachi, we met the entrepreneurs from the WomenX programme which provides business education and support services to women entrepreneurs running small and medium sized enterprises in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar.

CIRCLE also develops the capacity of professional women and entrepreneurs to exercise leadership in new and courageous ways.

Led by Sadaffe Abid, CIRCLE Pakistan’s mission is to advance women’s economic participation and empowerment through innovative entrepreneurship and leadership labs, advocacy campaigns and research.

They also founded the ELEVATE campaign to ensure a better representation of female speakers in conferences and public debates.

In Lahore, the Herself initiative recently partnered with the program She means business from Facebook to support women entrepreneurs in their business growth.

In Islamabad, the We Create Center serves as an entrepreneurial community center for women interested in starting or expanding an existing business. The Center provides mentoring, business connections, specialized training, connections to the community, media attention, access to markets and capital along with the technical tools and resources necessary for taking any business to the next level.

That is where we had the opportunity to run a workshop with women entrepreneurs and executives who shared the many stereotypes they face with a mix of shrugged acceptation and resilience.

The joy of the family to welcome a boy, the curfew they face, the questions during the job interviews about their upcoming marriage, the harassment in the workplace or in the public transport, the family expecting the next pregnancy more than any promotion. The invisible pressure of others deciding on your behalf, “for your own good”.

We found out that men and women were craving for a safe space of self expression and that is what the blogger Hiba Masood from Drama Mamas is offering in her Happy Place in Karachi.

Media as a tool to portray new female role models

In Lahore, Daniyal Noorani launched Qaid Say Baatein, a three-minute cartoon series to develop a civic sense in kids, but in an entertaining way. In each episode, the heroine Zainab encounters a different problem, which she then solves by remembering the words and actions of Quaid-e-Azam, the founder of Pakistan.

Noorani’s ambition? To make Zainab a local hero for kids just like Dora — the explorer.

And in Islamabad was born Burka Avenger, the first animated TV series produced in Pakistan which offers a positive role model to counter Taliban opposition to girls’ education

Leveraging the power of technology

Four in every five married women in Pakistan have experienced domestic abuse. However, information on Pakistani divorce law, formulating an escape plan, and advice on how to protect yourself is nearly impossible to find.

After assisting a friend in removing herself from an abusive marriage, Hera wanted to create a one-stop platform for women experiencing domestic violence in Pakistan — somewhere they can go to seek advice and information about their rights. Seventy global volunteers worked together to crowdsource (with love!) all of the information for the platform, and in May 2013 Chayn Pakistan was launched.

CHAYN is an open-source project offering relevant information and documented toolkits for specific cases: violence, divorce,…

The founder, Hera Hussain explains in her TEDx talk how Chayn leverages technology to address the problems women face today in Pakistan and elsewhere.

AMMI about to being launched soon plans to use voice messages to share maternal health information to rural women allover the country.

Finally, DoctHERS is an initiative which is merging online technology with healthcare, to create a marketplace where female doctors can access patients remotely, especially since 50pc of female doctors never work after graduation.

And yet the country is not lacking inspiring female role models.

Would it be Aneela Darbar, the first US trained female neurosurgeon of the country or Hajra Khan, the captain of the feminine football team or many more featured in the recent #unbeatable campaign from UN Women Pakistan.

What about the men?

But one of the most striking reality is the need expressed by the men themselves to challenge the status quo, questioning the inheritance law in their families or finding innovative ways to recruit and keep female employees in their start-ups.

Feel free to consult and share our work on that subject:



Meanwhile, we are preparing our next visit to the country to engage in many more fruitful conversations!

So stay tuned for more updates on our Shiftbalance website and Facebook page!

Je rêvais d’un autre monde

Je rêvais d’un autre monde


Last week, I attended the 4th edition of the Ouishare Fest.thumb_IMG_7717_1024

The place where traditional corporations and market economy are challenged by the new sharing economy.

The place where central authority is challenged by decentralized tools like blockchains or bitcoins.

The place where “sedentarism” is challenged by digital nomads.

So here is a quick summary of what I learnt!

Blockchain 1.0.1. 

Let it be clear. Nobody really understands blockchain…

So when I saw that most of day 1 was dedicated to it, I joined the Blockchain for dummies session organized by Blockchain Hub from Berlin. Here is what I understood…

Personal computers used to be isolated. Then TCP IP protocol connected them. But data is still stored locally and centrally (even with the cloud), which is extremely risky and supposes large investments in cyber security.

Blockchain actually decentralizes the transaction verification, which is why it has been called by The Economist the Trust machine. This allows to switch from information monarchy to information democracy and eliminates the middle man in a true P2P society. It also allows Smart contracts or auto-enforceable contracts when both parties meet thepre-established rules.


And this can translate in:

  • Money without Banks: Bitcoin
  • Companies without managers: DAO
  • Countries without politicians: Bitnation

So in blockchains, transactions are not verified by a central authority but by the community, then encrypted and join the top of the chain. Each transaction being a block, the longer the chain becomes, the harder it gets to decode it.

Bitcoin was actually the first block chain and in that environment, transactions cost only a few cents (against 5-10% of the amount with traditional banks) and take a few seconds. Santander estimated this shift will save banks USD 20 billions in the coming years…

This translates in many potential concrete applications as:

  • The smart lock of Slock it: where Airbnb apartments become fully automated, wifi routers can be rented on demand and unused office spaces get a new lease on life.
  • The digital property and authentication of Ascribe for artists and creators to securely share and trace where the digital work spreads.augur
  • Provenance which allows the customers to check the supply chain of the products they buy.
  • Or Augur which decentralizes the prediction market, based on the wisdom of the crowd principle: If you ask a mass of people a prediction, the average will be more accurate than a selected group of experts.

Now the question is: in a true global democracy where one. person represents one vote, the hegemony of the West will be severely questioned. Are we ready for that?

Go and hack yourself

Jean Noubel ran this workshop urging us to hack our bodies in order to hack our brains. According to him, the plasticity of our body helps to get more plasticity in our minds and our emotions.

So that is why it is important to learn to break social codes (the stiff clothes which prevent movement, not touching each other, …). The same social codes we have learnt from a very young age in order to adapt to the pyramidal structure of our society which supposes a chain of command of predictable people.Contact1

How do you reunite body and essence when they have been separated for years?

So during 3 hours, we walked around the room, tickled each other, crawled on the floor to break this mould. We experienced Sistema Russian martial art, learning to avoid blows by increasing body’s fluidity and flexibility.

And then we learnt about the 4 types of collective intelligence:

  1. The oldest one being swarms (termites, fishes) where individuals look the same, don’t have much freedom and follow the same path as in street protests or traffic jams.
  2. The original collective intelligence of groups of animals: small groups, highly individualized, like a jazzband which requires specialization and synchronization. This supposes “holoptism”, to have the vision of the whole, like a football team but only works for small numbers of individuals in the same physical space.Holomidal
  3. The pyramidal structure is based on centralized power, casts, labour division and scarce currency. It requires predictable people obeying to doing and not being. But the top can’t process the complexity of the whole and is disconnected from the bottom so it can’t really respond to greater levels of systemic complexity.
  4. Finally the holomidal organization which emerged since Internet requires augmented holopticism, a collective vision of the whole.

“Holopticism will become one of the most important issues in future societies who want to harmonize individual and collective freedom.”

KingAnd to get there, we need to hack ourselves and eliminate the old patterns.

A good example of it is the language we use and its multi layers of consciousness. Since semantic structures are very deep, we need to rewire:

  • Using e-prime for example, a derivative English
  • Avoiding the verb TO BE (Paris is a rainy city) which imposes a reality, a belief, a judgment.
  • Break social codes like the urge to interrupt in a conversation and learn to breathe before speaking.

Basically, we need to hack our language and evolve in individual consciousness to be able to progress in collective consciousness.

We share loss

Ariane Conrad, from Bookdoula, ran this session about death rituals.


We tend to experience loss and grieving in an individual way, we feel ashamed if it takes longer than expected and we realize that we do not know how to deal with trauma together as Sebastian Junger suggests in his talk about war veterans and PTSD.

After a traumatic experience, individuals deal better with loss and fear in a context of tribal closeness than in a lonely and individualist society.

But as wealth goes up in a society, suicide rate goes up as well.

So it’s time to reclaim death rituals like Dia De los Muertos in Mexico and how to better deal with trauma together…

Digital nomads

Of course, many digital nomads were present at the Ouishare Fest, sharing their experience on the subject and presenting some future retreats like Betahaus Camp in Lemnos during the coming month of June.Beta

Middle East Panel

Different initiatives were mentioned on sharing economy in the Arab world and collaborative inclusion for migrants such as:

  • The Jamiya Project which brings together five networks to suppothumb_IMG_7698_1024rt higher education for Syrian students.
  • Or THOT, the new French school for refugees and asylum seekers.
  • ArabShare an organization whose mission is to empower the Collaborative Economy in the Arab World and work to promote this movement in the area.
  • Or Indigo, the Social Network of Mutual Help with a platform which enables its members to access every items and services for free thanks to a new virtual currency : The Digo.

Women and tech

The Womanity Foundation granted her awards to the best project leveraging technology to end violence against women. Their choice was set on Take back the tech in its new collaboration with Luchadoras, a weekly TV show that hosts feminist activists in Mexico. Both decided to join forces to tackle violence against women through ICTs.

Check their video here!Take back 1

Feminists of the arab world

Asmaa Guedira and I decided to run a session on feminist icons of the Middle East, the historic ones and the polemic ones, sharing some grassroots projects shifting the balance!

Here is the slideshare of the workshop!

We also had a long conversation about islam and feminism so we invite you to check this website.


Hypergender panel

And finally, we had the opportunity to be on the main stage for our final panel on hypergender, the first time gender was formerly included in the fest agenda.

As much as OUIShare wishes to switch from a top-down, vertical, market-oriented economy to a horizontal sharing economy, gender activism is all about challenging the central authority and the top-down oppressive patriarchal system, ending hierarchies and traditional power structures.

But in many militant movements, gender is put aside. It’s not the issue. The issue is the new world.  With the risk to build a new world based on the old patterns.

In this article of Les Inrockuptibles on the Nuit Debout phenomenon, women’s public participation to the debate on the République square was analysed and it turned out that even in revolutionary movements, gender norms are still present and women occupy less space than men.

Because we are all instinctively driven by our stereotypes.

So how can we be mindful at a personal level?

Because the personal is still political.

If we really want to build a new world, we also need to deconstruct our inner boundaries and explore.

Explore new ways of being a woman, new ways of being a man.

At work, at home, in bed, on a public stage.

And it’s deeply challenging because there is no right or wrong answer.

How can we go beyond gender labels?

So we talked about gender fluidity and the greater acceptance of exploration within changemakers communities.

TameraWe mentioned the festival culture of events such as Burning Man and Borderland or communities like Tamera in Portugal.

We talked about salsa and contact dance, two complete different body expressions of gender roles.

And we challenged the audience: How did they experience gender in this conference? What do they do on a day to day basis to shift gender norms?

So, as conferences are now the future of work, we definitely enjoyed the experience this year at Ouishare and learnt a lot! Looking forward to the 2017 edition!

je revais

Meet the changemakers from the Gulf

Meet the changemakers from the Gulf


This month of March was dedicated to the discovery of a new part of the world, the GCC countries or Gulf Cooperation Council including Koweit, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman.

Many stereotypes linger about the Gulf region, and above all about Saudi Arabia, where I was invited to run storytelling workshops for creative entrepreneurs.

A unique opportunity to experience from within a country raising so many fears, especially given the difficulties for a single European woman to obtain a visa of entry.

Aurelie Salvaire_EN

I first headed to Ryadh, the capital of the country and the most conservative of its towns at the heart of the Nedj plateau.

From the airport, the segregation between men and women started and the jackhammers sound surround us in the chaotic traffic around the metro works.

My host Shibin, co-founder of iArt garage creative agency, welcomed me in town and Tawfiq, who I later discovered to be a local star in freestyle football, offered me a tailored abaya specially designed by one of the local entrepreneurs.

From now on, I will wear this large black cloak in public and sometimes the veil even if it is not compulsory as a foreign woman.

Uber or Careem taxi apps are a blessing in a country where women are not allowed to drive.

The workshop takes place in between the mandatory prayer breaks and the calls of the religious police to the organizer since men and women are mixed in our audience…

Then I joined Jeddah, the more open city on the coast of the Red Sea, where the abayas are more colourful given the harbour heritage and its openness to foreign influence.

Within the Kayan coworking space developed by Tashkeil, I met again Sofana Dahlan, the mind behind this whole program.


We met a few years ago in the Deceler8 program in Bali and I later invited her to speak at the second edition of TEDxBarcelonaWomen about seeing Saudi women beyond the labels.

Sofana is highly dedicated to develop the creative scene of her country and she worked hard to design this ambitious Saudi National Creative Initiative in spite of all the administrative and logistical setbacks.

Getting something as simple as an authorization to run a public workshop can quickly become a nightmare but agains all odds, she decided to trust her faith about her own people and their deep potential.

She thinks that the main catalyst for any social change lies among the creative entrepreneurs, the artists, designers, bloggers, film makers who challenge the status quo.

That is why she wanted to empower them through the exposure to more than 40 international trainers over the course of 12 weeks in between 3 different cities. Crazy challenge…


Her wish was also to show these experts another side of her country, the bourgeoning creative scene ready to blossom and thus challenge our own stereotypes.

And it is true that during this week, I was amazed by the artists I met, by the sheer creativity of so many poets, painters, designers who found alternative ways to express themselves in a context of extremely limited freedom of speech.

I thus met Bashayer who tries to instill positive thoughts to her followers in social media or Solkem who runs a museum in Jeddah and wishes to set up a creative space in Ndjamena, the capital of her home country Chad to foster a greater harmony between cultures and religions, or Haifa who set up Kalimat, a literary community for females in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia.

All of them shared their story, digged deep into their why and challenged the vision I had of the country.

I was surprised by the diversity of their heritage from Indonesia to Africa, from Yemen to Lebanon. I was surprised by the deep creativity emerging in different forms below the uniformed white thobes and black abayas.

I was surprised by their resilience and their capacity to keep moving, imagining, dreaming in spite of the political restrictions.

These workshops were also the opportunity to share names of women of the Middle East rocking the tech scene. Check our presentation on that topic!

Arabs unseen

Among them, in Dubai, Hebah Fisher who challenges the common narrative on the Middle East through her podcast Kerning Cultures.

Or Nina Galbraith who set up the accelerator Flat6Labs in AbuDhabi and is now exploring workshops to foster female self confidence in the region.

After my workshops in Saudi, I decided to head directly to Bahrain, across a 17kms bridge from Saudi Arabia. Bahrain is seen as a more liberal place, home to the ancient Dilmun civilization and to the pearl trade. As an former trade hub, it was also more open to external influences and we can even feel the breeze of spirituality from the ancient fort overlooking the city.

There I had the opportunity to be hosted by Tariq Al Olaimy, an energetic young social entrepreneur co-founder of 3BL Associates. Deeply active in terms of climate change and interfaith dialogue, he is a founding National Coordinator of the Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM), member of Global shapers and TEDx curator.

And thanks to him, I ran another workshop with the Bahrain Development Bank within their Women Entrepreneurs Incubator Riyadat.

Afterwards, I joinedwe are doha Qatar and its capital Doha, which invested massively into education through its Qatar Foundation and the construction of its Education city hosting the campus of Georgetown or other major US or European universities. I even visited the alumni chapter of my own business school HEC Paris who runs an executive program from here and I paid a quick visit to the local team of the WISE summit, an anual event gathering worldwide innovations in the education field.

Doha is the home to the Al Jazeera TV channel, a unique voice from the Arab world, where I had the opportunity to meet Youssef Gaboune, Head of Business Development at Al Jazeera Media Training and Development Center and collaborator of the Al Sharq Forum, which aims at a greater understanding between cultures.

In Doha, I also met amazing creative people like Lara Black, creator of the Loser Sphinx character or the poet and writer Ali Al Saeed as well as the collective We are Doha, wishing through its videos to spread the image of a diverse country.

But the climax of my trip was definitely my last step: Oman, on the eastern part of the península, way into the Arabian sea, open to the world.

From the very moment of the arrival, the atmosphere shifts. No more skyscrapers. No more gigantic airports. No more rush. The peaceful vibe infuses every single moment in this kingdom where the beloved ruler has managed to transform drastically his country in only 40 years, rising from sheer poverty to a prosperous state.

Diner Oman

According to the UN, Oman has been the most improved nation in those last 40 years, as shows the report published by Ernst and Young at this occasion.

In thBe exceptional the loungeis beautiful country who even celebrates Omani Women’s Day on October 17th, I actually met amazing women:

  • Fatma Bahwan, co-founder of The Lounge Oman, the first coworking space for young creative entrepreneurs in Muscat
  • Rym Aoudia, young powerhouse running Knowledge Oman platform developing local social entrepreneurs
  • Lamya Al-Haj, Asst Professor Sultan Qaboos University, holding a PhD in Structural and Molecular Biology , and a huge role model for women in STEM
  • And Nasra Al Adawi, empowering civil society through with Tawasul.

Interview Tariq 2 good

I was even offered the book Arabs unseen  written by a former Omani airforce pilot and discovered the trajectory of many social entrepreneurs from the Arab world, such as Tariq Al Barwani who even interviewed me for the Oman radio…

You can listen to that fun moment there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuIphhtFXQE

So it is extremely energized that I finish this GCC tour, knowing that I will be back soon, to explore more in details the creative ecosystem of the region and contribute even more to change the narrative!

How unconscious biases are driving us

How unconscious biases are driving us


A man and his son are in a car accident. The man passes away. The son is brough to the hospital. When he gets into the surgical ward, the surgeon shouts: This is my son!

Who is the surgeon?

Close your eyes for 5 seconds and try to find the answer.

The surgeon is the boy’s mother.

Had you found out?  I hadn’t.

And for me, that was when I realized how deeply engrained our stereotypes are. No matter how feminist I could be, my first thought was not to think that the surgeon could actually be a woman.

In this brilliant talk, Yassmin Abdel-Magied shows how we are all much more biased than we think. Assessing unconsciously our interlocutors according to our suppositions.


What is your first thought about a woman wearing hijab? Would you imagine her as running a team of men on an oil platform at sea?

Yassmin thus challenges us to work on our stereotypes and to mentor a person from a different background in order to break that vicious cycle.

The topic of unconscious bias is now more than ever a hot one.

Because it partly explains why our companies, governements, media are still overwhelmingly run by white middle-aged men.

When Google had to release their diversity data, they were ashamed to acknowldege that their staff was at 69% male and 60% white. Same for Apple. And Twitter.

Here is the data from Apple in 2015 for example:



Yet many studies proved that diversity is good for the bottom line. A recent study from Mac Kinsey, Diversity matters, showed that more diverse companies are more efficient, come up with more innovative ideas and connect better with the end consumers.

But a lot of work still needs to be done. Google thus engaged in an intensive row of diversity and inclusion workshops in order to make their staff more aware of the existing biases.

In this talk about Unconscious bias at work, the Head of diversity at Google Ventures, mentions that given that we receive 11 million bits of information bits every moment, and that we can only process consciously 40 bits, the rest (99,999999%) is up to our instinctive decisions. And they are not objective.
“Unconsciously, we tend to like people who look like us, think like us and come from backgrounds similar to ours.”

Just have a look at the Yale study where 2 sets of identical curriculum were sent to research heads, ones named John and the others named Jennifer. Both men and women rated better the John’s CVs than the Jennifer’ ones.

The good news is: we can reprogram our brains.

First, by making a conscious effort to be aware of our biases.

By assessing and measuring the current situation as the Open Diversity Data project is.

By learning about the best practices in the field.

By holding yourself accountable, questioning your first impressions, justifying your decisions, asking for feedback.

And finally by holding others accountable, creating a culture calling out biases, making others justify their decisions, making decisions collectively.


If you want to have get more information on diversity best practices, here is our slideshare presentation.

The power of positivity

The power of positivity


In many of my workshops, I like to ask the participants about their superpowers. What do they think they are good at? What do they get complimented for?

Skills, abilities. Being a great cook, an awesome writer or a social media guru. 13924624137_63120ef357_z

I just ask them to name three of them.

And I am always impressed to see how difficult it sounds to so many of them. How arrogant or self-indulgent it seems to be. How they don’t feel good enough or even perfect enough at anything to claim it as a superpower. How the inner judge is powerfully mining them down.

That is why I was really happy when I received as one of my early Christmas gifts the last book from French positive psychology new guru Florence Servan-Schreiber, centered on how to detect and embrace your own superpowers!

Because we’ve been brought up not to brag.

We have even been wired for negativity, cynicism and self-criticism.

Out of the four basic human emotions (joy, sadness, fear, anger), only one is actually positive.

Our species actually survived thanks to the ability to spot dangers and risks in our environment. And now we hardly find a middle way between self-esteem and self-deprecating.

Try for example to spend one full day without voicing or thinking anything negative about others or about yourself. Hard, right? It is crazy how this tendency lies deep within us. The good news is that you “only” need 21 (or 66, it depends) days to make it an habit, so why not give it a try?

This is the reason why, more than ever, we need to develop our “strengthspotting”, as Robert Biswas-Diener calls it. A few helpful questions for that:

  • What have you achieved you are particularly proud of?
  • What do you find exciting in your life right now?
  • What are you looking forward to in the coming days?

Because positive psychology is actually “the science of happiness”.

One of its founders Martin Seligman explains in this talk how psychology has often been centered on treating the problems or the diseases but not so much focusing on keeping people sane and happy. So positive psychology is much more about prevention than treatment.


As defined by the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, “Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.”

So what did the investigators find out?

First, Seligman, Myers and Peterson, founders of positive psychology identified 24 character strengths in all the cultures. Anywhere in the world, from any culture or background, human beings share these common strengths in different levels.


So if you want to identify your top 5 ones, feel free to take the test!

My first one is love of learning!

Secondly and even more importantly, investigators found that the quality time that we spend with the people we love is one of the most accurate indicators of our well-being.

That is the result for example of this 75-year-old study on adult development, happiness comes essentially from good relationships.

Intimacy. Meaningful conversations. Deep and active listening.

And that is what I also tend to develop in my workshops.

I really love to foster one-on-one conversations between participants, drawing and exchanging about their life or career map, making them write their epitaph or what people would tell about them at their 80th birthday, or just looking at each other in the eyes for two minutes while describing what they see.

While holding the space and creating an atmosphere of trust, intimate stories and deep motivations can be shared.

Fully listening to each other. Dedicating total attention. Being completely present. Looking at each other for real. Smiling.

These seem like simple and obvious ingredients and yet I am always impressed by their power. How people feel happy and satisfied after a real conversation with their colleague, sometimes for the first time in years…

In some cases, I even use some mindfulness exercises from the Plum Village to restore communication between conflictive teams. Like these four steps of beginning anew:

  • First sharing your appreciation for the other person.
  • Then voicing regrets or apologies for the hurt we might have caused in the other.
  • Expressing what has hurt us in the other person’s actions, speech or thoughts.
  • And finally, asking for support regarding a difficulty we are currently experiencing.

The key of the exercise being to let the person talk freely without reacting and interrupting, as in a feedback session.

I also enjoy asking participants to draw their relationship map. Writing their own name in the center of a sheet of paper. Writing down the names of the important people in their life, family, partners, friends, colleagues,… around theirs. And drawing arrows from their name towards the others’ and backwards, adapting thickness or color of the line according to the depth of the relationship and the support provided. The result is usually pretty revealing…


Another interesting exercise is the RBSE (Reflect Best Self Exercise) where you actually ask 10 or 20 people around you to tell you moments or circumstances in which they saw you thriving.

The psychologist Arthur Aron actually developed 36 questions which allow you to develop intimacy with a person you meet for the first time and it works!

An initiative exploring the possibility to develop emotional intelligence in all of us is actually The School of Life. In different cities allaround the world, clases are offered on how to mindmap your thoughts or to learn more about the imposteur síndrome. They also offer free videos on their Youtube channel about a vast array of topics, from suicide to confidence.

So, if the quality of our relationships actually conditions our satisfaction level about our life, we’d better start working on it right now!

And this is important not only in our personal life but in our professional one too. In this talk about the happiness advantage, Shawn Achor explains how happiness leads to success and not the other way round. Business outcomes actually improve when employees are positive in the present. Apparently they even have twice as many ideas!

And that is why positive psychology is making its way into companies now…

Because happier companies are actually better performing!

Last year in Le Havre, the Positive Economy Forum actually explored positive answers to the challenges faced by companies today and tomorrow.


And the third and last magical ingredient is actually gratitude.

In her very nice talk at TEDxParis, Florence Servan-Schreiber developed the idea of the tremendous power of the gratitude which makes us feel happier, live longer and improves the quality of life around us!

And to make it very concrete, she recommends simple everyday exercises:

Like buying a nice notepad and writing down every night or sharing with your family your 3 “kifs” of the day, the coffee with a friend, the warm bath or the great meal you had that made you happy today. This simple everyday act helps you to see your life differently and rewire your brain towards positivity.

3 kifs par jour

You can even organize a gratitude meal where you share your best 2015 moments with your friends!

Many love and kindness meditation practices are actually based on that idea: sending love to yourself first, then to a person you appreciate, a person you feel neutral about, a person you may not like that much and finally the universe as a whole is a powerful practice.14108193221_45c3baaac8_z

Finally, following the relationships map, feel free to pick a few people or colleagues around you and write them a gratitude letter or email, a few words about how you value their friendship and support. And if you feel like it, you can even read it to them. You would be surprised by the result!

So in our current world where our natural tendency might lead us to the fear of the other, let’s dedicate some time to get to know each other better and to spread some joy and positivity in the air!

Here is a pocket reflection worksheet from Holstee about your past year.

Wishing you a happy 2016!

When technology challenges the narrative of the European refugee crisis

When technology challenges the narrative of the European refugee crisis


Last December 2nd in CodeNode space in London, I joined the second Techfugees event launched by Mike Butcher. This open tech community has grown from the European refugee crisis, organizing non-profit events and hackathons in order to leverage the knowledge of the tech community to contribute to solve one of the most complex current humanitarian crisis.

Many large NGOs or UN agencies gathered in this modern coworking space to share their experiences with entrepreneurs and developers and see “where the technology world can bring its considerable firepower.”

The first speaker, Oisin Walton, from the Vodafone Foundation presented two of their programs:

  • the award winning Instant Network Program providing free communications and technical support to aid agencies and victims, in areas affected by natural or humanitarian disaster.
  • the Instant Network Schools introducing tablet-based learning in some of the world’s most poorly resourced refugee camps. The initiative provides internet connectivity, hardware, software & teacher training that enables students and teacher to access free digital educational content. They currently equipped 13 of the 40 schools in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya with laptop, tablets and batteries to create self-sufficient digital classrooms.

Some members of the UNHCR innovation team then shared their insights. Rebeca Moreno, Katy Drew and John Warnes told us about their main challenges on the ground: the fact that refugees were moving all the time for example and spending a maximum of five hours in transit as in an airport terminal, the rapid changes in context which require constant updated information and the use of at least five different languages. So in that case, technology is key, would it be tablets with translated audio for the staff or digital signage.

2. unhcr_innovation_logo_detail

 Especially when the first questions asked from refugees are: “Where can I charge my phone? Is there wifi here?”

Their experience was corroborated by the testimonial from Hassan, 27, Syrian refugee who made it to UK the past month of July.

Like the tragic story told by Melissa Fleming, the spokesperson of UNHCR at TEDxThessaloniki, Hassan told us how after fleeing Syria and spending time in Lebanon, Egypt or UAE where he never felt welcome, he decided to try his chance to reach the UK. During his first attempt, he was rescued by the Turkish safeguard and brought back to Turkey. During his second attempt, his boat was attacked by some armed men who drowned their boat, as this article shows happens frequently.

He lost his passport and his mere belongings and managed to swim up to the Greek coast, where he landed in Lesbos. Through information gathered on Facebook groups and whatsapp with other refugees who had made the journey before him, he then joined Athens and walked to the Macedonian border.

At this time of the year, beginning of July, no NGOs were there yet to assist them apart from the Red Cross. He then crossed to Serbia, Hungary, Austria and finally made it to Calais, to the infamous jungle camp, the “largest slum in Europe” where 8.000 people live in shacks waiting to cross to the UK. During two months, he tried every night to cross the fences and jump on the Eurostar and was caught every time, then changed tactics and went every night to the Belgian border to climb into a lorry to pass the tunnel. Again, every night was a failure until one night, he miraculously made it.

“I wish there were a better way…”


More information on Calais situation:

And then, one he got to the UK, what? “Once you arrived in the UK, you can stay in a hostel for one month and then you have 20 days to evacuate. The real challenge starts then: you have to find out how to stay and to integrate. Legalize your situation, get a place to stay, find a job.”

A former Afghan refugee currently working for Save the Children agreed with Hassan’s perception: When arriving, refugees are left in a limbo for months or even years until they are allowed to work. Meanwhile, the idleness, the boredom and the feeling of not being welcomed or treated as criminals break down people’s confidence as skilled individuals end up working in take-aways.

According to Breaking Barriers, “in 2013, the UK was home to 120,000 refugees and there are 20,000 new applications every year for refugee status. Although these refugees have higher levels of education, skills and qualifications than the UK average, an eagerness to work and are mostly of working age, unemployment levels in refugee communities remain above 50%, compared to 6% for the national average.”

The immigration lawyer Colin Yeo, editor of the Free movement website, told us more about the current status of immigration regulations in the UK, clarifying the real definition of the refugee status and the current effort to change the existing Dublin system. His blog is actually a resource for any other lawyer who wants to keep up to date “in the incredibly fast moving world of immigration law and policy.”

Nando Sigona, researcher at the University of Birmingham, shared some interesting data with us: according to him, even if we experienced a huge influx of refugees in 2015 (1 million people in 2015 compared to 200.000 in 2014), the mortality in the Mediterranean has been stable around 3.500 deaths. The routes have progressively been switching from the Mediterranean to the Turkey-Greece route towards European countries that show very different policies (75% of the refugees requests have been declined in France vs 25% in Sweden for example).

All along the event, the tech community was challenged by the different needs expressed from the ground: How can technology help you stay in touch with your loved ones? How can you overcome the language barrier? How do you get updated local information in real-time?

So below are a few interesting initiatives answering these challenges:


Refunite allows refugees to reconnect with their loved ones. In East Africa or in the Middle East, through family tracing, with an user friendly, online global database of over 405,000 profiles, users can now search for their missing loved ones with the click of a button.

refunite logo

Meshpoint is a world-proof rugeed wifi. The croatian firm has designed a highly-portable rugged, all-weather wi-fi and 4G mobile device that can connect up to 150 people to the internet at the same time.

Empowerhack brings together technology, design, and NGOs to address challenges that affect women & girls around the world.


NaTakallam, (we speak in Arabic), pairs students learning Arabic with displaced Syrians in Lebanon, and increasingly beyond, for conversation-focused sessions over the internet. This social business allows a unique cultural experience while providing Syrians with an enriching part-time work opportunity in a country where finding a worthwhile job is difficult.

With GetAcross, refugees can talk in their own language with aid workers, medics, officials and volunteers, with the help of volunteer interpreters. Making language barriers a thing of the past.

Get Across


The Refugee Aid App provides a single point for refugees to find information, connection and support and a single point for NGOs and charities to share their resources with refugees – location based. The Refugees Map is also sharing up to date information about the different routes.


The Clinic Finder developed with Medecins du Monde is a website for refugees and people on the move designed to provide information about free healthcare and medical services.


Migreat was founded in 2012 by two immigrants to the United Kingdom with the goal of assisting other individuals through the burdensome immigration and integration process. It offers a unique & free solution to help you find the best way to enter & remain in a new country.


Different hosting initiatives appeared where citizens rent to refugees their extra-rooms to make them feel at home, like CALM (Comme à la Maison) in France or Refugees Welcome in Germany.

Refugees Welcome


Kiron University is a pioneer social business in open higher education, which provides refugees with world-class education and the opportunity to graduate at a university free of charge.

Funzi, whose new content package delivers current, trustworthy and high-quality information for newly arrived asylum-seekers in Finland. “About Finland” operates on Funzi’s easy-to-use mobile service, forming a tool for integration. Funzi also develops entrepreneurial training in Somali or Arabic.


Start-up boat provides start-up solutions to tackle migration. Among them, the Migration HUB enables refugees in Europe to start their own businesses with the support of young Europeans.

400contacts is a mentoring program with one goal in mind.
To help refugees with a background in engineering get their first skilled job in Sweden.

Breaking Barriers offers a holistic service designed to make sure that refugees can find meaningful employment that is commensurate with their skills, experience and qualifications.

Mazí Mas is a social enterprise dedicated to supporting women from migrant and refugee communities. We provide opportunities for women who aspire to careers in the food industry to gain paid work experience, develop their skills, tell their stories, and connect with the wider public.


Marhacar is the first carpooling community by volunteers for volunteers in crisis regions.

In Greece, Taxibeat, a smartphone taxi app, collaborated with METAction, Action for Migration and Development who helps Greece’s asylum authorities with a range of services, including interpretation services during legal procedures. Taxibeat will send a car to the doorstep of anyone who wants to help refugees by sending them essential supplies, like clean clothes, shoes, personal hygiene items, baby food and clothes, towels, sheets and blankets, packaged foods, toys, children’s painting sets, color markers, balls and big trash bags.


One of the main impacts of the event was to challenge the traditional myths we might have about refugees.

In his last talk at TEDxVienna, Alexander Betts thus explains how the perception of helpless people being a burden to a state could be challenged by the talents and skills of the refugees he met, “doctors, lawyers, nurses, even an Olympic athlete who introduced him to table tennis.”

Refugees are not economically isolated, they actually create jobs.

They are not homogeneous, they have a wide variety of skill sets

They are not technologically illiterate. Mobile phones are ubiquitous.

And they are not all dependent on assistance.

So given the current political situation, it is important that we question the existing narrative about the refugee crisis and that we tap into our innovation to solve one of the most pressing challenges of our time!

Bad feminists reaching momentum @TEDWomen2015

Bad feminists reaching momentum @TEDWomen2015


This year, for the first time, I attended TEDWomen. I needed to see the Women version of the TED Conference after enjoying Active and Global. I needed to see the place where the famous talks from Sheryl Sandberg or Tony Porter had come from…

And I needed to see what was transpiring on the other side of the Atlantic where feminism seems to be hype and cool now, especially with Hillary Clinton running for president…

So after retrieving proudly my badge, picking up my gift gap with the latest candies or make up presents (feeling like a spoiled kid now), grabbing a hipster juice from the fridge or a freshly brewed vanilla latte almond milk cappuccino, I finally joined the comfy red armchairs for a treat…

Flipping compulsively through the different profiles in the TED Connect app, multitasking between the program, taking a picture, tweeting about a great quote and still listening mindfully to it all. #TEDcrazyness

A little disappointment though on the audience, even if the profiles were amazing, still very little men present and an over representation of white middle aged american women… Its time to shift the balance 🙂

But I did meet Yawa Hansen-Quao, impressive woman from Accra who develops Leading Ladies Network to inspire young ghanaen ladies and women to lead. Her take on the gender gap: our pervasive imposteur syndrome and what she calls “sexually transmitted leadership”, meaning that many women still need to sleep with their superiors to climb the corporate ladder…

So ready for the pre event on Wednesday, where Courtney Martin from Feministing and Fresh Speakers bureau gave us a few tips for speakers: The story is queen, always talk in three, be sensual (talk about what you feel, what you hear…).

Livestream hall

Livestream hall

Investing in ideas session hosted by Jacki Zehner from Women Moving Millions explained the power of investing in women entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs or cultural entrepreneurs.

Cultural entrepreneurship seems to be the new leverage to change behaviours.

The documentary The Hunting Ground for example shades light on the impunity of rape culture on many American campuses.

According to Geralyn Dreyfous and Regina Scully, the media will have an ever-increasing power for social change.

Many of the sponsors of the event were openly engaged in supporting a greater gender diversity. Thomson Reuters is developing a diversity and inclusion index. Citi Ventures funds a start up called Unitive helping recruiters eliminating the gender bias.

Even if the investors confess they still struggle to find female-led fin tech ventures…

But the real show started on Thursday!

Amazing speakers from emerging countries showed us how brave it can be to ask for a greater balance:

  • Sakina Yacoobi, Ashoka Fellow from Afghanistan, explained how she challenges talibans on a everyday basis to pursue her goal to educate women.
  • Memory Banda (@memorybanda75), a young 18 years old powerhouse from Malawi, smily face and round cheeks, had no shame to stand up on the TED stage and tell us how she is fighting child marriage in her home country. “I will marry when I want”, she says.
  • Alaa Murabit (@almmura), a kind young woman from Lybia, explained how the Muraabit international school of her family upbringing taught her to be at the table as a woman. She advocates for religious institutions not only driven by men and the end of the confusion between religious faith and strong independent women. She runs the Voice of Lybian Women.
Memory Banda

Memory Banda

Many former heads of state or institutional representatives were also here to acknowlege the importance of bringing this debate to the political field:

  • Jimmy Carter, the former US president, complained about men who according to him “don’t give a damn and accept their position of power without caring for the whole society well being” Check org.
  • Former Ireland president Mary Robinson gave a strong case to support climate change actions.
  • Elisabeth Nyamayaro (@e_nyamayaro), from UN Women, explained that through their He For She campaign, they work with companies and governments to reach gretter results. The French Accor group for example committed to eliminate pay gap for its 180 000 employees in the coming years. “It is not our gender who defines us but our shared humanity.” Apparently FC Valencia signed their petition. When will the Barça?
  • Billie Jean King (@billiejeanking), former women tennis player, an icon in bringing more women into the sports field was also on stage.
  • And of course Jane Fonda (@janefonda) (stunningly beautiful) and Lily Tomlin made us laugh and touched our heart talking about female friendship. “Not having close female friends is detrimental to your health. Women friends risk vulnerability. Men are born as relational as women but the patriarchal culture transforms them. We are not better than men. We just don’t have our masculinity to prove.” Go #sisterhood!
Negin Farzad

Negin Farzad

Apart from these big names, we had many other impressive moments from:

  • Entrepreneurs like Mitimeth building handicraft in Nigeria from invasive aquatic needs, Robin Murphy designing robots to help in case of natural disasters, Rana el Kaliouby (@kaliouby) from Egypt who invented Affectiva, a computer program able to analyze your feelings and facial expressions. Cristina Mercando (@jetpea) is surfing on the explosion of wearables and Internet of things, developing connected and beautifully designed jewels like Ringly.
  • Nonny de la Peña (@immersivejourno) is recreating events in virtual reality through her company Emblematic group to help people imagine what it means to live in a village at war or a domestic violent household. Jamia (@jamiaw), the former TED Prize from WAM! (Women action and the media), is writing a book on Beyonce and feminism.
  • Sociologists like Margaret Hefferman (@m_heffernan) studied the culture of wholefulness, explaining how social capital actually makes a company profitable and how collaborative and sensitive teams outperform individual intelligence.
  • Exhale is an NGO from Aspen Baker giving voice to those who had an abortion in their lifetime (as 1 in 3 women in the US at the moment). Far from the politicized pro-choice or pro-life polarized debate, she offers a talk line and an emotional support to men and women who have been through it. Sharing stories and listening as a great healing process.
  • Diversity in race was also adressed by Rich Benjamin (@richbenjaminusa) from Demos who spent 1 year exploring what he calls Whitopia, traveling as a black american to white conservative towns of the US, playing golf and poker in placrd with more gun dealers than gas stations. His take: we need to confront unconscious biases.
  • Jenny Chang and Liza Dazols (@outandaround) visited 15 countries around the world to meet 50 “super-gays” for their “not so straight” documentary Out and around. To see if gender was only an American notion and bring to the attention to the fact that 75 countries still criminalize homosexuality. Check also It gets better project as well!
  • Beautiful artists like the South african spoken word poet Lerato Mokobe (@blackboishine)  were also present or  Gayle  Lemmon  who reported on women military in combat zones proving that “Women can be heroes too.”
  • And the Iranian TED Fellow and stand up comedian Negin Farzad (@neginfarzad) from Muslims are coming! closed the show with great humour, as always!

But at the end, here are my 5 ultimate favourite TEDWomen 2015 moments:

  • My first pick is obviously the novelist and essayist Roxane Gay (@rgay) who delivered a funny yet compleling talk on bad feminists, as we all are. The ones who want a gender equial society but yet dance on Robin Thicke’s songs and wait for the prince charming to arrive… Watching romantic comedies (even if Shonda Rhimes is making a clear effort to diversify her cast and portray strong women in her shows Greys Anatomy and Scandal). But as she says, “rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”
Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay

  • Michael Kimmel was my second favourite as a stong advocate of getting men involved in gender equity. The author of Angry white men and Manhood in America, explained how men have a lot to gain from gender equity. As he says, “Privilege is invisible to those who have it”. We tend to think the objectve, neutral opinion comes from middle aged white men. But making gender visible to men is the first step to engage men, especially with humour! We need to work on men’s sense of entitlement. Society and companies must realize how much gender inequality IS COSTING them. The more egalitarian the relationships, the happier the people, the healthier the children, the more profitable the companies or the countries. “Feminism will make it possible for men to be free.” He is, according to the guardian, the worlds pre eminent male feminists. We might need to attend the New Men conference in November in London to know more…
Michael Kimmel

Michael Kimmel

  • Nancy Lublin (@nancylublin) impressed me through her new initiative Crisis Text Line. An anonymous SMS based counselling hotine for teenagers. Born from their former venture, org to engage young American people in useful activities in their communities thruogh 200 annual campaigns, she realized that 30% of the messages they actually received were linked to suicide, depression. With 6.5 million messages, they are now skilled to handle more accurately emergencies and can draw the first real time map of adolescent well being. This data is free and public on the website crisistrends.org. She advocates for technology as a tool to make the world a better place.

“I am not inspired by helping you find Chinese food at 2am in Dallas, or swipe right to get laid. I want to use tech and data to make the world a better place.”

  • Relationships were also a key part of the event. Maria Bello (@maria_bello), renowned actress, social impact investor and cofounder of We Advance empowering girls in Haiti is a full-on activist! In her new book Love is love, she wishes to deconstruct the labels we give ourselves. How do we define a partner? What is the sexuality identity box? Facebook had implemented more than 50 identity labels and then realized it was not inclusive enough and decided to let the user fill inthe blank. So we need to redefine labels of partnership and sexuality . The only labels you have are the ones you give yourself.
  • And the talk who brought us all to tears was from the strong intense and yet super kindhearted mama, Linda Cliatt Wayman, principal at a high risk highschool in Philadelphia. Her three tips to transform a dangerous decating school into hope:
  • If you are going to lead, lead! Assume the leadership. Set up non negotiables. Would it make you liked or not.
  • So what? Now what? No bullshit. No excuses. What do you propose? We know how bad the situation is. Now what do we do?
  • If nobody told u they loved you today, remember I do. Seeing children as what they are. Scared kids who ultimately want to be loved. As we all do.

So, as always, an amazing brain spa.

A slight bemol though, with so many powerful persons around, how to engage them directly? How to curate action-oriented conversations? How to get the community to make a change in their organizations or families in a concrete way?

That is what we will try in TEDxBarcelonaWomen next week. See you there!!!

It’s time to shift the balance


The last speech from Patricia Arquette in the Oscars ceremony showed how, more than ever, the conversation on gender equality is reaching a momentum on an international level.


Source CNN

After a strong push from the feminist movement in the seventies, a common misconception today is that the situation is globally OK and that the fight is over.

But discrepancies and stereotypes are still very much present, all the more so that we consider the situation as resolved.

You can’t be what you can’t see

lavanguardiaDuring our last diversity workshop, we spent the day with a diverse group of men and women from different ages and geographical origins, deconstructing the gender roles that we have been socialized in.

Men were sharing how they felt expected to initiate seduction or cover the expenses and how they could be excluded from caregiving.

Women explained how they would be catcalled in the street on a regular basis, how their parents expected them to « behave properly » and take their part in household chores from early age.

A fun media exercise consisted in creating a massive collage of male and female representations in men’s and women’s magazines. The final image speaks for itself (men on the left, women on the right):

men women

We even headcounted the illustrations of Spanish newspapers: in El Pais or La Vanguardia, men’s pictures outnumbered women’s by 5 to 1.

Diversity helps the bottom line


Source: Always

International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde has spoken about the need for countries to increase the female labour supply.

“In a world in search of growth, women will help find it.”

According to the IMF, having as many women in the labor force as men could boost economic growth by 5% in the United States, 9% in Japan and 34% in Egypt.

Different campaigns like Lean in, Ban Bossy or HeforShe are bringing this conversation to the forefront, at least in the US.

On the corporate side, we watched different new ads from Pantene, Always or Dove who understood that challenging gender stereotypes could be very profitable for their brand, when women represent 85% of consumers purchases.

And we shared solutions to everyday sexism, like Harassmap geolocalizing in real time sexual harassment, or Goldie Blox building toys for future women engineers.

It’s sexy to be a feminist


Obama is a feminist too!

We especially deconstructed the taboo around the word “feminist”.

When asked, many people (men and women) defend themselves from ever being called a feminist, given the negative connotation of the word.

Yet, when we come to the real definition (Someone who believes in the social, political and economic equality of sexes), many of the participants finally recognize themselves to be one…

It’s time to master the narrative, it’s time to acknowledge the fact that inequalities are still there and that we all have a role to play about them, would it be in the language we use, in the way we educate our children or how we choose the speakers for our next conference.


Source: YouGov

And that’s where all the participants took concrete commitments for their everyday lives.

Because, as Emma Watson reminded us in her famous UN speech« If not me, who ? If not now, when ? »