Monday, October 5, 2009

Talking of passion...

... my past weeks have been full of it. No, not the sexual sort I'm usually writing about - though there are links, as you'll see if you read on.

I'm talking about the passion that people have for a cause - the sort of passion that makes them go the extra mile, give the extra pound, or be willing to spread the word so that others get involved and the passion pool gets bigger and stronger.

The first passion pool I've been involved with of late concerns just that last-mentioned skill: spreading the word - in short, advocacy. The World Association of Sexual Health, having set their millennium aims, are keen to help those in the field to brush up on their advocacy skills to achieve those aims: health for all, an end to sexual abuse, sex education worldwide. I attended a workshop on the subject (brilliantly led by Esther Corona of WAS) earlier this year, and then with Esther's support, led a shorter workshop at the recent International Sex and Relationships Education Conference in Birmingham.

How inspirational was that! Sex educators, sexual health specialists, relationships education teachers, from a variety of countries... all passionate about spreading the word in their own societies. When we came to the exercise where I asked delegates to report on a time they had advocated successfully, we were all moved to tears by the stories that emerged - particularly from two amazing women from Eygpt, Mahaweb and Samira, who had campaigned for decades against female genital mutilation and finally, finally, got it made illegal. The group broke into a spontaneous round of applause and, as the workshop came to an end, we all went forth even more motivated to make a difference.

Three days later, different city (London) and different group (cervical cancer survivors), but just as inspirational a group. I ran two workshops for the charity Jo's Trust which supports women who have had a positive smear or worse. Two groups of women, again with their own stories, this time of unimaginable bravey, both physical and emotional - but once again, despite what they themselves had gone through, with a passion to do their utmost for the cause. Tears flowed even more than they did at Birmingham - but alongside those tears came energy and commitment, that women should be helped in every possible way to cope with the cervical cancer challenge.

In these days of credit crunch and tightened belts, financial wobble and knock-on emotional insecurity, we can lose sight of causes. We can lose sight of the fact that people are still suffering and still need our support.

These two workshops reminded me not only of that fact, but also of the fact that there are still those who feel passionately enough to remember the sufferers, and to give that support. Which - on this cold October morning - gives me, and I hope you, reasons to be cheerful.

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