28 July 2013 - HASEENA PATEL - Activist, Speaker and Author


HASEENA PATEL



 - ACTIVIST, SPEAKER and AUTHOR -

G'day guys,

Welcome to my first guest from South Africa. Haseena Patel is a girls’ empowerment coach, activist, speaker and author. Her own life journey led to her writing her first book, I Choose Victory: find light in the darkness of a life-changing crisis.  Girls’ empowerment, along with gender equality, has always been something that Haseena felt strongly about, and in 2010, together with her sister, Shameema Patel, she founded Leave No Girl Behind International.  This is an organization that inspires girls to live up to their own potential and raises awareness about the necessity of empowering girls, through international projects and programs.  

Haseena’s latest book, which she co-authored with Shameema, is titled Leave No Girl Behind:  How to help girls become the change in our worldHaseena is an ardent Harry Potter fan, is passionate about becoming a naturopathic physician, and also dreams of creating her own unique clothing line some day!!

Welcome, Haseena ...

 TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.

I always felt comfortable in the world of English, and reading and writing.  I started to write poems when I was eight years old, and I never stopped.  At that point I knew I wanted to be a poet – of course that idea evolved into the dream of being an author.  Making a difference somehow through writing has always felt like my true calling.



WHAT IS THE AIM OF YOUR BLOG?

I have two blogs.  My sister, Shameema, and I founded an organisation to empower girls – Leave No Girl Behind International (www.leavenogirlbehind.org), and my blog on this site is to empower girls and raise awareness about its necessity right now, and also to encourage a global dialogue about girls’ empowerment and its far reaching purpose.

My other blog, www.ink4haseena.wordpress.com is my indulgence, so to speak.  It is just about me – my personal thoughts and emotions, and the joy of the process of writing them down.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE A BLOG?

I started ink4haseena after taking a course about being an author of change.  For some reason, it was during that course that I rediscovered the joy of writing without thinking about my purpose or even keeping in mind what my readers would think.  I describe that feeling as running free in the land of words without any thought to who was around!  Pure, carefree joy and freedom!

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?

Just the title of “writer” is really liberating – it almost gives you permission to be eccentric; to step out of the crowd and make your own unique mark on the world.  After what seems like a lifetime of conforming to other people’s rules, this is true freedom to live my life on my own terms!  And there is nothing that compares to the power of words!

WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?

Probably the marketing.  Without marketing, your writing won’t have readers, and the words won’t come alive or make an impact.  (What do our words really mean if there is no one to read them?).   So marketing and writing are two sides of the same coin.  I LOVE the writing process, but the marketing is not as easy.

WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOUR BLOG?

I’m sure I was a healer of some kind.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT PROMOTING OTHERS?

I love seeing others taking a step up, live their passion, and make an impact.  It’s wonderful to have even a small part in that.

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?

Shameema and I have just published our book, Leave No Girl Behind: How to help girls become the change in our world  – the hard copy and the Kindle version.  That’s really exciting!!  It’s been a two year project, and I’m really looking forward to this book touching lives and bringing about change in its own unique way.

We’ve also launched our Girls’ Power Circles, our newest program which is a support system for groups of girls, and teaches them leadership skills, provides a safe environment to discuss their challenges, and inspires them to start community outreach projects.  http://www.leavenogirlbehind.org/programs/.

And we’ve just started our new venture, www.mizwords.com – a site to help non-fiction writers build their brand, and we also offer individual services such as writing, transcription, editing, logo design, website design and more.




WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

The dream of creating something (writing something) that will make an enormous difference on our planet!

ARE YOU A WRITER?

Answered this with the other questions above.

WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?

Non-fiction self help books…but I know there is a fiction book in me waiting for a courageous moment to emerge!

DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?

Write, write and write!!  Engage in social media sites, start a blog and post it EVERYWHERE you can.  Give yourself some silent time during the day (whatever time of day is your most creative time) where the writing can just flow…Even fifteen minutes a day can make a difference.  And when those people who are successful writers give you advice, take it all in – absorb it like a sponge!  Always believe in your writing!

DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?

Never!

DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?

I wish I did!  I’d love to take hours at a time and just write with no disturbances whatsoever.  I take whatever bits of time I can get, but I usually write late at night when everything is quiet and I can be alone in my writing zone.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?

My bedroom – that’s where I do all my writing.

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?

The actual writing process – just being in that bubble in a time and space of my own where only words live, and the rest of the world has disappeared.  There’s nothing quite like it!



WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?

Probably Jo Rowling!  I remember the absolute joy and sense of adventure I’d feel when I read fiction as a child.  I’d feel excited and exhilarated!  As an adult, no fiction book seemed to do that for me, until Harry Potter!  I’m deeply grateful to Jo Rowling for bringing that feeling back to me (it was there even when I read the Harry Potter series for the second and third time!).

WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER OF YOUR BLOG/BOOK?

A few years ago, I received an email from a lady who had just read I Choose Victory: Find light in the darkness of a life-changing crisis – she said that reading it gave her the first glimmer of hope she’d had in two years! 

Last year, Betty Makoni (2009 CNN Hero and well known girls’ rights activist) told Shameema and I that our book, Leave No Girl Behind: How to help girls become the change in our world, is a “powerful empowerment manual that every girl needs to read”.

WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?

Thankfully I haven’t had one of those yet…

WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?

Most definitely!  I write my emotions and life experiences into my books and blogs.  One can extract purpose and lessons from every single life experience – that is the starting point for all my writing.



OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?

Empowering girls!  Listening to good music, and making music (wish I was better at that!).  And I’ve just discovered my passion of writing letters – real, handwritten letters sent by snail mail, that very few people bother to write anymore.

IF YOU HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK TO THE ENTIRE WORLD, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?

Look around you.  What you want is what the person next to you wants.  What you see in the eyes of the people around you is what is reflected in your own eyes.  The dreams that you have for your family are the same dreams that others have for their own families.  We are connected in every sense of the word.  Whatever words you speak to others; whatever actions you take to love or to hurt others – those words and actions cannot do anything else but return to you with the same intentions; with the same force and the same emotions.

DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.

I don’t look for perfect anymore.  Life is imperfect, so I search for the perfection in the imperfections – the greater Divine purpose in everything.  And just by doing that, one discovers such miracles in life.  A wonderful example of this occurred a few  Wednesdays ago.  Shameema and I have a radio show to empower girls, called The Girl Factor.  At that stage we were with a live radio station. Our guest for the week couldn’t be on our show due to circumstances beyond her control, and she wasn’t able to let us know that she wouldn’t be on the show.  I had to go on air and be totally spontaneous.  Shameema immediately started thinking of discussion topics and questions while I discussed everything about girls’ empowerment I could think of!  Fifteen minutes into my discussion (or rather, my monologue!), my “other mother” and “adopted dad” from Montana, U.S.A., the awesome people they are, called in to the show and rescued me! 

We ended up having a wonderful, spontaneous discussion that never would have happened without this “imperfection”.  And the best part is that the day before the show, I had been thinking of my adopted dad and how I hadn’t spoken to him in a while and I missed him – I was able to spend half an hour talking to him on the show, and later, off air, we spoke again.  That was perfection!  I can’t think of any greater feeling than spending time with the people we love…even if, in my case, it was by phone from a continent away!

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST ASSETS AS A WRITER?

My vulnerability and my honesty when I write.



IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO BE? WHY?

Probably Barack Obama.  I read The Audacity of Hope, and would like to spend time talking to him.  I also recognise that he is definitely one of the greats, and the personification of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s dream coming true.  There’s that, and the fact that if I were stuck on a desert island with President Obama, then I’d be sure of being rescued since the Secret Service would be looking for him, lol!


WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?

Need I say that I want to write many more books?!  I also want to take massive action in empowering girls globally through Leave No Girl Behind International.  My biggest dream is to move to the U.S.A. (myself and my family) and continue making a difference in girls’ lives from there since there are so many more opportunities to do this in the U.S.A.  I dream about this every day and am in the process of creating it!

WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?

· Hmmm…Firstly, the Harry Potter series (Can I make all seven count as one book since it’s the same series?  If not then I choose Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.).
· Flying Tigress by Norah O’ Neill (to remind me how women before me fought to give women like me equal rights).
· The Last Lecture by Randy Pausche
· The last two books would be Leave No Girl Behind: How to help girls become the change in our world by Shameema and I, and also I Choose Victory:  Find light in the darkness of a life-changing crisis – which I wrote.  The reason for these two books is that they would remind me of the lessons I learned on earth, what I was passionate about in this lifetime, and also what I managed to accomplish during difficult times.

ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?

           I feel honoured to be featured on your blog, Clancy.  Thank you.

Amazon: 'I Choose Victory'



Clancy's comment: In Haseena's amazing work, she has created a host of programs that teach young girls to respect themselves and who they are in order to remove the possibilities of abuse that may target them.  She works in the dirty fields of trafficking prevention by teaching young girls that their voice matters, that their bodies matter, that their minds matter BEFORE monsters approach and try to bring them into THE LIFE. 

Thank you, Haseena. Keep going. 

Love ya work! 




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