The boundaries of birth
For a baby at birth, immediate life ahead is a pre-determined journey. They are too young to know yet how the confines of gender, race, geography, religion, culture and the colour of their skin, will play a part in defining the rest of their future.
As a baby, you have no choice - you can't pick who your parents are, the country you were born in or the sex you prefer. It is by pure luck/fate/chance (or karma, if you believe in Buddhism) that a baby will grow up in a loving, healthy environment; with a supportive community, access to education, enough food and water to thrive and free from discrimination.
Assuming that the child grew up in the loving environment outlined above (I did), as an adult, one quickly realises that this is not the case for all. We all know that social, cultural and political barriers exist, but who do they exist for and why?
As I write often on gender equality, you may be familiar with the barriers that exist for women and girls around the world. However today I wanted to share two brief stories that highlight some other barriers that exist for the people I know and love.
The first story that triggered my writing this reflection is of a dear friend of mine. He told me earlier this morning that he was stressed about his family's immigration status. The family's accountant had made a small mistake submitting their tax documents which prompted a full blown investigation into the family's legal status. The family were able to produce all requested documentation however still his parents will need to leave the country to re-apply for new visas. It was a simple mistake that was made - why could it not just be corrected and apologies made? Because the family held Pakistani passports.
The second story is of my mentee who I have written of previously. A few months ago, she was elated to be selected to attend a prestigious Harvard university conference and, after months of planning, fundraising and writing numerous letters, she decided she would go. The final hurdle was to apply for a visa to visit the USA to attend the conference. She compiled all her supporting documents, sat an interview at the embassy and waited to hear the result. When it came 3 weeks later, she was devastated. Her visa application had been denied. The email that announced this was vague and generic in it's reasoning. It seemed to suggest there was not enough evidence for her to return back to her country of birth once she had completed the conference. The name of the country on my mentee's passport? Bangladesh.
Through no fault of their own, these two friends have felt the sting of being born into a country that hampers their freedom of movement. Had myself as an Australian had a small tax mixup, I doubt my visa would have been questioned. Had I been invited to attend a conference in the USA, I am able to obtain an electronic visa simply by answering questions online and paying a small fee. To me, this doesn't seem fair.
I understand there are complex social, cultural and political issues that go on behind both of these stories. But it pains me to see friends discriminated against and having to jump through extra hoops simply because of geographic borders.
As adults, we still can't change who our parents are or the country we were born in. We can't change the way we were brought up, the colour of our skin, or the type of education you recieved as a child.
What we can change is how we move forward despite the boundaries of our birth.