Happy International Women’s Day 2017



Today marks more than 100 years since the inaugural International Women’s Day. We are once again reminded that despite the phenomenal strides women from all walks of life have made, we are still stuck behind cultural, social, and political challenges for gender equality.

I do not want this post to be a feminist rant (frankly speaking, I have issues with the term ‘feminism’ that I may pick up in a later blog) but for now I want to give a brief insight in to today’s event that I organised for International Women’s Day at work, with the theme Women in Science.

I met some admirable Professors, Postdocs, Students, overall females from different stages of their career and heard their experiences and obstacles they faced in a male dominated field.

Sat there in the audience, with one eye on the clock panicking that we are overrunning and one eye on the projector waiting to run over for an IT issue that I would be hopeless at, I still managed to listen in and some key parts of the talk either surprised me or resonated with me.

The female speakers all seemed to constantly refer to this dubious term ‘luck’, being at the right place at the right time, luckily being pushed into positions, luckily being offered promotions. But what does this term ‘luck’ realistically mean. Are we as women using ‘luck’ as a scapegoat for the real reasons we are given opportunities – because we work so damn hard! We deserve them!

As women we wear so many hats on a daily basis, as a mother, daughter, wife, colleague, cleaner, cook, carer, diary, mediator, that when something comes through for us we either feel guilt at the opportunity, guilt giving more time to work than home, or guilt of giving more time to the children than at work or we feel that we have been extremely ‘lucky’ in our achievement. Echoing the words of today’s host, we should be able to stand up proud and accept the opportunity for what it is,  not ours out of luck or something that we should feel guilty about but feel PRIDE in.

We at times are our biggest barriers; our self-belief is so little that we believe we are not the right person for the job in particular in male dominated fields. In turn we make excuses rather than possibilities.

It’s fitting that the theme of International Women’s Day 2017 is #BeBoldforChange. In an ever-growing interconnected world, we all have a responsibility to stand up for gender equality, and that is not just females standing up for females, but ALL of humanity as this will support people everywhere, this is an international crisis, Happy International Women’s Day.

Written by Sameera Rafiq



From Marrakech to Berber, The Charm of Morocco!



Marrakech is an enchanting must see, known for its narrow winding streets that call for adventure, a labyrinth of souks, mysterious snake charmers, locals singing and dancing – not understanding a word that leaves their mouth. You are left mesmerised in the heart of the city Djemma El Fna, the charm echoes through the Medina with the peaceful call to prayer.

The endless variety of craftsmanship from leather goods to coloured silks, baskets, spices and oils make the Marrakech souks the largest in Morocco and are world famous for the most exotic place to shop.

The vibrant culture captivates the city that doesn’t sleep, surprisingly you find yourself sipping mint tea in the early hours of the morning with multilingual locals that keep you fascinated with their historic Berber tales.

Image result for marrakech

But who are these Moroccan Berbers that the City speaks of?

The roots of the Berber culture reach deep down into Morocco’s proto-history. Berbers are proud raiders, they fought against the Romans, Arab, and French invaders. Despite the Romans and others who have attempted to colonize the Berber people, they have managed to preserve their own language and culture.

I wanted to know more, see more and feel more of this culture, so we set out to the historic Berber village, it felt as if we stepped back into time as we climbed up the narrow (non-existent) pathway lined with clay houses, set to the backdrop of the majestic Atlas mountains which we tirelessly hiked, every step of the way was marked with prevailing silence from the awe of our surroundings. The awe continued as we rode the camels into the sunset of the captivating Sahara Desert where we were hosted by Berbers, entertained by Berbers, dressed like Berbers, ate food made by the Berbers and lived a night without all our comforts as Berbers.

When I set off on this travel I kept asking why it was that these people, who had also visited the vibrant city of Marrakech chose to live in their villages with no electricity, running water, paved roads or schools. Children have to walk for five hours to get to Tilmi, the nearest village with a school. All food is home grown and clothes home stitched.

Image result for berber village

The more I spoke and stayed with the villagers I understood that they illustrated a phenomenally strong link with their land that leaving it would be betrayal to their identity. They were proud, happy people with a sense of community, hospitality, sharing food (no matter how little they had) and a specific relationship with spirituality.

As we rode the camel’s back into the sunrise, it marked a new day, a new thought  – ‘WHAT IS A BETTER LIFE?’

As a true Brit I entered the foreign land assuming that these people were less fortunate, required aid, and had been left so far behind. Yet they embraced the fortune that we disconcertingly map out and treat as a destination rather than a way of life.

Their imperishable happiness and the way in which their wise eyes looked at me left me with one question –

Who really is better off? Is an easy life necessarily a better life?

Written by Sameera Rafiq

Broken Foot Series



You know when they say that in your final moments on this earth your life flashes before your eyes and in those lingering moments you realise all the should’ve, could’ve, would’ves. You’ve somehow communicated this through to your nurse who then writes a Bestseller on Life Tips from those on Deaths Door…well this blog is not about that.

But what it is about is how not to loose the plot in your pot.
Over the past three weeks I have been recuperating from a broken foot. I have been an observer rather than a doer and you’d be surprised at all the things you pick up about people, places and even about yourself.

Since we are about mining the gold in any situation, here is what I’ve learnt:

1. Accept Help
I struggle to ask for help and I’m even worse at accepting it.
Yes I have to wait for someone to bathe me, iron my clothes, chauffeur me around and help me down the stairs… to some of you this may sound like a dream but to someone who likes things a particular way, at a particular time and wants to do everything themselves (yes I’m that annoying person) depending on someone is a living nightmare.
But what I’ve learnt is that asking for help doesn’t make you weak.
People actually want to help. It makes them feel better about themselves.
So the way I’ve understood it is that I’m actually doing them a favour, its their good deed of the day and if I didn’t ask them for anything then I was being selfish. And I’m not a selfish person. So three favours a day per person (when you live in a big family) seems to work itself out…I call it delegation!

2.It’s not all black and white
Not everyday in the healing process is going to be the same. I wake up each morning hoping today is going to be a better day than yesterday. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.
Somedays the pains not too bad, I am able to move around and see new faces whilst breathing fresh air – yup it does get cray cray! Once I even left the house and went to see a friend, sat in the garden and ate ice cream. But the same evening my foot started to throb, I had hot sweats and the swelling doubled. It was so frustrating to think I had taken a step backwards.
But it’s part of the healing process – you have to build back strength into your body. Life’s similar too… everything is not black and white, it’s not one clear path without obstructions that works for everyone in the same way – sometimes we have to go backwards and each time something else in us grows stronger.

3. Piggy backs
Crutches are the tools of the devil – they leave you with blisters, sprained wrists and a whole load of unnecessary effort.
Yes everyone else without an injury will think crutches are a cool accessory and will try having a go on them and after 5 seconds claiming “oh it’s so easy” and you envision yourself beating the life out of them with the same crutches.
Therefore save yourself the hassle and piggy back through your cast journey. Piggy back rides are deemed as appropriate transportation I make full use of them from my brother to get to the toilets, upstairs and into the house so I can avoid awkward steps.

4. The worlds cruel
You will soon realise how ignorant planners were when designing buildings especially restaurants with inappropriate steps, several floors and no lifts, hidden toilets a mile out and the disabled toilets are always out of order.
When in a wheelchair you will either be spoken to like a five year old child because people want to display how bad they feel for you or you’ll be totally ignored and classed as a waste of time. Oh and not to forget the extra injuries you will receive from being bashed round the corners and into doors from the wheelchair driver who of course won’t be the one who gets sworn at when they manoeuvre onto by-passers toes.

5. Social media
Read a book instead. Looking at images and status’s of what great exciting and fun things people are up to in the summer will not make you feel excited or get you jumping for joy (minus the practicalities). Believe it or not watching people live the life that you can’t will funnily enough make you feel crappier than you already feel so just don’t go there…block it out.

6. Don’t be in denial

You’re going to get fat. You sit on you bum for 6 weeks eating all the “Get Well Soon” (we’re giving you diabetes instead) gifts without any exercise or much movement.
I can give you some advice for some exercises to carry out but the truth is I haven’t and probably won’t for the remainder of the journey simply because…I’m exhausted. Doing pretty much nothing is a hell of a lot more tiring than doing a whole of something. So my thinking is that I’m already injured and harming myself by withdrawing cake is only going to make matters worse. Instead review the positives…do not underestimate the healing powers of coco beans.

7. Get addicted
Keep your mind occupied. Looking at the same view, the same faces, breathing the same air can take you doo-lally… Get yourself an old folk hobby – knit, draw or if you’re anything like me online shop. But only in the first 2 weeks before the novelty wares off and he bans you from the plastic.

8. Cover story
Q) “Oh what have you done?”
So my broken foot story is pretty boring…I was checking Snapchat whilst walking down the stairs and kaboom I landed on my face…no heels involved.
So jazz it up a little….its like when you go to college after high school you get an opportunity to remake yourself. Same sort of thing –
A) I got VIP tickets to Queen B’s birthday bash and whilst jamming with Jay we reenacted the Crazy In Love video which involved me jumping off his Ferrari…heels were involved.

So in the sprit of the broken foot Snapchat all your friends and family a link to this blog…Come on it had to be worth a few new subscribers!

BURKINI BAN REMOVED… World order restored


Oh thank the Lord after years of struggle with ISIS, Jihad, suicide bombers and terrorist attacks we finally have a saviour and it’s called the BURKINI BAN.

This mighty law will strike ISA where it hurts… their beachwear!
Muslim women will now have to wax, wear sunscreen and pay for triangles attached with string because of course everyone should conform to the western way of life..loh crap I meant the democracy we live in.

Or maybe this will isolate those women, it will dictate what they can and cannot wear, if they do not conform it will be clear where they can and cannot go and further pull at the string of difference… oh sorry, I got that wrong, that was her bearded Muslim husbands job , right?

We are in a grave mess that none of us are even close to understanding from meaningless wars, man made poverty, economic turmoil, natural disasters escalating and Trump…lets just throw him in there too.

Yet, we want to sit here and discuss what women can and cannot wear. In particular, one religious group of women who have been targeted because they themselves have decided that covering up their junk in the trunk by wearing nothing more different to a wet suit is an issue. But hey France you are going to free all Muslim women by telling/fining/intimidating them on what to wear…you son of a liberator.

But worry not world, everything has been put back into place because since then protests and petitions have taken place and France has decided that the Burkini Ban being enforced on the countries beaches is now illegal and a violation of fundamental liberties. Phew…

Now let’s ignore the mayors in the country that are refusing to action this, of course Burkini banning boards will be removed ASAP, fines will be refunded ASAP with compensation, those women and families who have been humiliated will wake up tomorrow as if nothing happened and everyone can enjoy their summer holidays at the beach again because of course nothings awkward now and everyone feels comfortable about who they are and what they can do.

The Burkini Ban incident has shown the world at what a pathetic stage of solving the terrorism problem we really are at and now the sexism problem might as well be dealt with since we are here.

But I’m just a vulnerable Muslim girl who doesn’t have a voice and needs to be told what to do and think…right?
Or is that how society has created the majority of us out there who browse endlessly on celebrity red carpet images, best dressed and worst dressed lists so we can comment and scrutinise who wore what, whose body has changed, what’s the new trend so we can all obsess over what we need to conform to and ignore the bigger problems in life or just life itself…there’s nothing bizarre about that right?

From the receptionist sent home earlier this year because she wasn’t wearing high heels, to Venus Williams wearing a skirt that is ‘too short’ for her powerful thighs, to the Burqa ban in France since when did women give anyone else permission to tell them what was right or wrong of them to wear.

Or did we even have this power to begin with.

Is the Burkini vs. Bikini debate a religious one? A sexist one? Or is it a symptom of scared, lost, powerless people in powerful positions?

All I know is that this is not the end.

By Sameera Rafiq


First Year Marriage Survival Kit – Happy Anniversary Boo!


One year ago today I said the infamous words “I DO” – well the six kalmay!

Today I’m sat here with a broken foot (I do fully believe he was behind part of the planning to my fall), rash on my face because he got my moisturisers mixed up and ever so slight constipation because he keeps feeding me Cocodamol to shut me up!

Welcome to married life!

You thought it was going to be all romantic wining and dining, dancing in the rain with him grinding on a rose between his teeth (yes only between his teeth) – well I’ve got a newsflash for you and it’s called the MIL… hey I’m only joking guys even I’m not that crazy enough to go there (yet!)

The most popular phrase newlyweds will hear is: “the first year of marriage is always the hardest” – of course after 12 months the mighty bells will ring and the fairies will sprinkle their magic dust and fix that broken man… I didn’t have time for that shiz plus last time I faked a broken tooth so I could get some £kerching£ off the tooth fairy and it didn’t work out too well, so seeing that they all belong to the same family I thought word may have got round and I’d be doomed so I took matters into my own hands…

Here are just a couple of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the past year:

1. You know the old rule your mum used to say – “don’t go to sleep angry”, listen to you mum. Let him go to sleep and just watch his vulnerable defenseless face give you that moment of peace, that’s when you attack his ego sack and start tearing at those season tickets… his brain will soon tell him whose right and whose wrong.

2. “Pairs are made in heaven” – so when he throws that line into the argument because he thinks there’s no possible way you can argue with that, you just tell him that you also believe in pairs and most importantly keeping pairs together – so that designer bag comes with a designer pair of shoes, that diamond necklace also has some diamond earrings that just can’t be parted.

3. Okay there are times in your relationship where you may need reminding of why you married each other. In such instances, boys do not underestimate the power of fried chicken wings at 1am just to say “you are the most amazing and beautiful woman in the world and I love you dearly.”

I think I’ve got you kind of covered for the first 12 months or so. Of course there will be those irritating Dr wannabe Aunts who constantly want to examine, feel and probe the womb area because nothing’s popped out yet so some serious family meetings need to take place and apparently a bowl of ghee, sugar, flour and almonds will give you the strength to bring that baby into the world. Oh and don’t forget the work to married lifestyle digs yet to hear because fish finger buttys may not cut it as an evening meal for two (goodbye childhood).

But at the end of it all you live happily ever after…

You know why… because all those crazy moments in married life is part of this new adventure of two best friends which you wouldn’t change for the world.
Yes he snores, yes he has morning breath, yes he farts and doesn’t always flush but ladies lets not pretend that only pixie dust leaves our butt cheeks.

The biggest thing I’ve learnt in my year of marriage is that you marry the whole person…not only his cheeky grin that gave you butterflies when you met or his charm that gave those goosebumps but he is also the same man who farts, snores has temper issues and a whole lot of other drama to deal with. But he’s your man and you can’t ignore half and love the other half you need to bring the best out of each other, you’re one unit and you represent each other.

From snorkeling, to swimming with dolphins, gondola rides and wearing Christmas socks in mid summer we’ve done a whole load of crazy stuff together that I wouldn’t have done otherwise .

Thank you for always being the Cray in my Crazy.

Here’s to a lifetime and hereafter together…

P.s. Whilst writing this blog I thought it’d be a good idea to get some marriage advice from other married couples and here are the tools they recommended for the marriage survival kit:

• Don’t over-complicate issues
• Communication
• Patience
• Compromise
• Tent making skills for those lonely nights
• Make him believe he is the decision maker (advice from the lady who got married last week – she’s a smart one!)


You choose…Sun or Rain?


The most beautiful of souls are those who have been timelessly burdened before scars can even heal, yet still guard the flame of light with their forlorn hands.

candle-in-hands-400x400But forget not my friend that even guarding the light for too long can only burn those hands that once reassured into nothing more than skin and bone.

Remember that darkness, that once leaked through like a raindrop on a summer’s day, then there was thunder, maybe some lightning and why not add a dash of hail stoning. Until we were left with nothing but believing our summers were full of rain and thunder that even when a scarce beam of sunlight flickered through that summer’s morning we just waited for the inevitable rain and thunder. Even if on that day the beam was strong enough to carry through til the night we still awaited the next morning or the next week or for the next year for rain and thunder – oh and hail stone.

But then again even if it was just for a short moment why did we not dance in that light

Why did we not forget the rain and just for a moment humour ourselves on what it feels like when the sunlight touches our unwitting skin.

How did we start believing in the rain and thunder and forget that ever longing summer where we were reminded of tranquillity, peace, joyous times in the parks and BBQ’s on the weekend.

Was it because if the rain wasn’t enough to make us believe in our lost summer, then the thunder was, and if the thunder wasn’t enough then the hail stoning was and if the hail stoning was still questioned by those wise few then there was something else waiting until it was Us Vs Summer…is that all it takes for such a grave crime against humanity to take place?

Push those barriers, break through those locks that exist only in our minds – take an umbrella to the park or a raincoat to the BBQ but never let something else convince you that, that beam of sunlight will never return.

And to those that decided to go against the weather forecast, never lower yourself to such a state where you have to justify why today you decided to wear a summers dress.

If the light doesn’t shine today, don’t trap your soul in memories of those long days or bare the burden of guarding the light alone for too long because too much of anything is destructive.

Instead sunbathe on that cloudy grim porch and keep sunbathing even if the biggest storm hits you, it can’t hurt more than believing that there is nothing you can do… You ALWAYS have a choice

P.S Black Friday has some amazing deals on sunscreen and swim suits!


Afterall, who said only sunshine brings happiness…

ISIS: The Verdict



ISIS – the criminals responsible for the brutal killings of American journalists Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff, the beheading of British aid workers David Haines and most recently Alan Henning – let’s not forget the thousands of unnamed Syrians and Iraqis slaughtered at the hands of this evil.

No words can describe the brutality of this barbaric group…and Muslim is definitely not one of them.
Just as saying ABRACADABRA does not make someone a magician, exclaiming ALLAH HU’AKHBAR before a beheading does not make ISIS Muslims. #notinmyname

If by adopting one word you represent Muslims worldwide. Then I’m sure the Ku Klux Klan who killed thousands of African Americans represent white Christians worldwide.
Doesn’t quite add up does it?

ISIS are the definition of evil but there is more to them than meets the eye.
What I find quite interesting is that ISIS control a generous amount of oil fields in Syria that would comfortably supply them with a few million a day. So why the need of government ransom money?

And the people they’ve murdered… Let’s take Alan Henning for example… taxi driver, married, two kids, lives in a red brick house, charity volunteer, middle aged…seems to be someone everyone could relate to. Someone who you’d naturally feel for and defend.
A bloke you’d meet at the pub or see at a football match.
The kind of guy that every person from Britain would feel as if they lost or be reminded of a friend, father, son or neighbour. “He was one of us”…”ordinary man”
Are specific people being targeted? Do the killers have their own type of “prey” that would be strong enough to divide a nation and condemn a religion?

Commander in Chief Obama stated the United States military would take on ISIS in Iraq/Syria by attacking them from the air.
Yes ISIS is evil
Yes ISIS needs to be stopped
Yes there is no excuse for their barbarism

But… does military action resolve anything?
Will dropping bombs on innocent civilians destroy a hate filled ideology or will it fuel revenge attacks? Will it give reason to draw the innocent closer to ISIS – upset, angry people who have lost their families due to no fault of their own are the most vulnerable people to recruit..it’s an ISIS wonderland… what will be stopping ISIS from recruiting angry fighters from inside Iraq’s Sunni communities?

How will cruise missiles help build a national civic identity…to unite Iraq…one where there is no divisions between different sects or tribes?

And of course dispatching drones has always been the answer to producing inclusive governments… the cure to heal long standing rifts and ultimately give people confidence to reject ISIS.

But let’s not worry Obama and his entourage (including David Cameron) have got it all under control…let’s not forget Americas got years of experience where military action resolved it all… Vietnam? Afghanistan? Yemen? Libya? I’m sure the peaceful, serene, utopian Middle East says it all.
For over a decade military action has been used to destroy the Taliban. Yet they still seem to exist in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Al Qadea have found a new home in India.

When will we learn that air power does not make us superior. It is not the solution. It will not eradicate the problem, rather make it worse.
When a husband and wife have a dispute. If a man raises his hand to his wife, has this resolved the situation? Or has the wife turned bitter towards her husband? Called her brothers over, involved her parents in the situation, they’ve gone round in circles over the same issue and then hit a dead end.

Relationships between countries are just as delicate. Issues should be confronted and tackled head on. Why don’t we go back to basics and actually speak with our mouths about what needs to be done without dropping the B**B word.

Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, United Emirates, Baghdad…let’s all put our pride and ego to one side and work towards the same goal… peace.
Confront ISIS ideology
Tackle the oil fields that are funding this reign of terror
Give justice to the families who have lost loved ones at the hands of this evil
Ensure Sunni participation in the new Iraq government.

Or will the bombs do all the talking for you?
The same bombs that have failed to show any results in the last decade?

I will leave you with the words of Napoleon Hill:

“The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those which fail.”

Written by Sameera Rafiq