MTV Staying Alive was a media partner at this year’s annual Thomson Reuters Foundation‘s Trust Conference,held in London on 15th and 16th November 2017. Over 600 delegates including government and business leaders, top legal and financial firms, philanthropists, NGOs and activists attended the event to exchange ideas, experience and expertise on the fight against human trafficking and modern day slavery, empowering women, and advancing human rights worldwide. Here are some of our highlights:
Sudanese-American slam poet Emi Mahmoud, opened this year’s Trust Conference in a way we will never forget! 24 year old Mahmoud mesmerised the audience with barbarous tales of war, death, emotional trauma and family misfortune that was not be expected at first glance of her gleaming smile and demure countenance. We were left at the edges of our seats wanting more – and that’s what we got!
“The first thing her mother taught her was to wipe the tears before the blood dries,
shredded knees heal, but shame never fades away.”
Mahmoud’s entertaining, yet thought provoking poetry stitched the conference together over the two day period, giving us time for self-reflection. But don’t just take our word for it, listen to Mahmoud’s slam poetry here.
Former British chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal, shook us up to the reality that women and girls around the world face “50 shades of violence” from rape and sexual harassment to acid attacks and forced marriages, and men need to do more to stop this. Afzal, who has prosecuted some of the highest-profile cases of sexual abuse in the UK told us “we have got to shed a light on this kind of behaviour.” Whilst his message was very serious, his charm and humour brought light to the situation at hand and really made us believe that with people like Afzal fighting for gender equality, a change is really possible.
Jigme Wangchuk Lhamo
When you think about Kung Fu, a Buddhist nun probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind; but 19 year old Buddhist nun Jigme Wangchuk Lhamo swapped her maroon robe for her black belt, showcasing how she uses Kung Fu to empower women in the conservative Himalayas. Lhamo was a panellist in the Breaking Taboos session on the second day and she really is a prime example of challenging the status quo and breaking taboos for women’s empowerment. Her order of nuns are not only raising eyebrows due to their martial arts expertise, but are also teaching women in India self defence amid rising reports of sex crimes. “Some people make comments. They say we should just sit and pray and meditate, but a nun’s duty is more than that. We have to better society and do good for others.”
Prominent LGBT activist, Bisi Alimi, brought the emotional edge to the Breaking Taboos session recounting how he fled Nigeria after being shunned by family members, arrested and tortured after coming out as gay in 2004. Whilst LGBT rights have improved over the years, in many countries including Nigeria where Alimi is from it is still punishable by lengthy sentences in prison and in some cases death. Whilst Alimi is now happily married and safe in the UK, he has not turned his back on Nigeria, in 2015 he set up the Bisi Alimi Foundation to advocate for the rights and dignity of LGBT people in Nigeria. Alimi also addressed the notion of toxic masculinity: “we talk about this pressure on girls but there is also a pressure on boys to conform and be boys.”
About the Thomson Reuters Foundation:
The Thomson Reuters Foundation acts to promote the highest standards in journalism and spread the practice of legal pro bono worldwide. The organisation runs initiatives that inform, connect and empower people around the world: access to free legal assistance, editorial coverage of the world’s under-reported news, media development and training, and the Trust Conference.