Author Archives: Smile Shihab

About Smile Shihab

Community building . Enhancing human synergy . Promoting happiness

Nothing about us without us

The “National Conference on Revitalizing Public Health: Working together for a Healthier Nation” – an event which will happen over the next three days in Paradise Island Resort. Perhaps, a sound public health system should lead to paradise style life.

1. I am not sure who the participants of this conference are. It was not mentioned in the news articles I had read.

2. Public health should definitely lead to healthy individuals who live in a happy place, without the need for sophisticated medical facilities.

3. I wondered if the recipients of the public health system were a part of the conference. I am referring to the elderly, victims of abuse, children and other recipients of abuse.

4. Mental health is a public health issue that is crippling this nation right now. And the principle “nothing about us without us” was introduced and mandated for 2030 SDGs by the CRPD.

5. I am not sure if those who funded and organized the conference are ignorant of the principle, or just didn’t care about it. They must have attended numerous conferences where the principle was in practice.

6. It is one thing to talk about principles of inclusivity and so on. Yet another to have it in the bottom of your heart and mind.

I believe that Shifaza from B. Goidhoo and other victims of the public health crisis should have been in the conference, and it should have revolved around them.

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Posted by on November 4, 2019 in Civil Society, Health and wellness, My Argument, My Concerns, Opinion


Toxic work environments

We need to teach our children and young people how to survive toxic environments. It is one of the many skills that are needed for the money-based society that we have swiveled ourselves into in the Maldives.
Respect to human dignity, tolerance of those who are less fortunate, and values that promote inclusivity and kindness toward others seems to be alien to us in our ongoing rush toward the highs street.
A friend talking about toxic work environments said in a Viber group, “I once worked in a very toxic environment whereby it questioned me my worth and dignity. I was treated with such disrespect and was outcasted. I ended up with losing myself and my value in my eyes.”
Another stated, “I myself have worked in a couple of toxic work places. It’s more common to end up in a toxic work place in Maldives rather than a healthy one.
In civil service, people are trying to get ahead by stepping on others. People are just afraid of other people getting ahead if noticed. Even in private sector the toxicity is so habitual. Favoritism, lack of mentorship along with harsh criticism usually puts down a lot of people.
Toxic work environments do affect people physically and emotionally. But in Male’ most of us don’t have the privilege to quit and take some time off when we have reached our limits of tolerating such behaviors.”
“We don’t have a choice, for most of the people working in the toxic environments have no choice but to stay in the place. If they leave the job, it will be difficult to get another better than last. The problems have been increasing. And less support.”
These are young people talking. I sincerely hope that our leaders, policy makers, and influential people give this a serious thought. The consequences of toxic environments will get to them and cost them too.
No one will be spared.


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Posted by on October 17, 2019 in Health and wellness, My Concerns


From my lived experience

It has been one of those days: reflecting and giving a thought to those suffering in silence, invisible to the world around us. It is a heart breaking experience. Especially for those who have taken the journey of anxiety and depression.

Nothing can teach a person about mental disability than lived experiences. Yet, they are hard to talk about. For good reasons.

Celebrating the mental health day is a difficult event to me, for personal reasons. Yet, it was made worse today, because I came to know of a close person who has suicidal thoughts. They have no way to find help. I know you will give me a list of service providers.

Imagine a hungry person who is almost starving, who does not have the strength or the will power to walk into one of those shining five star restaurants that dot the high street, cos you are worth nothing, don’t have a dime, don’t know how you will be treated or rather shunned out. Would you blame the person for starving?

My friend has a family who cannot comprehend what they are going through. The available help are bureaucracies with rules and regulations and high offices. They don’t reach out to you, they expect you to reach out to them, but you have no strength, because you are worthless.

I was lucky three years ago on this day, when I finally realized that I was not functioning, and sought professional help. I was lucky to have a loving family, friends and colleagues, who became an invisible cushion that I could fall down to. As I took the journey to recovery, I had an employer who was patient for over two years to bear with me.

I also had a family who loved me and cared for me unconditionally for what I am – Villijoali, a family and a home that I went back to every Friday. That was a great part of my healing process. That is why I believe that it is community that helps you to regain your well being.

My friend has none of the above, and they don’t know no better than to just shut themselves out. They are suffering quietly without help to reach out to. They need a helpline to anonymously find their way to peace and well being.

People with mental disability need help to let them find a way out of the pain. A witness cannot comprehend an ounce of the pain.

I am so upset that my friend is feeling so helpless on this mental health day. Because they are not in a house on fire. If they were we will all rush to help. And have resources and trained people to attend.

I pray that we find a way to build a community in which my friend can seek treatment without shutting themselves out.

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Posted by on October 11, 2019 in Health and wellness, My Argument, My Concerns


What to do on mental health day

Mental health day should be about visiting a family member, relative, friend or colleague who is going through a tough time,

to sit down with them and to give them dedicated quality time to listen and let them know you have heard, and respect their feelings without prejudice and judgement.

It should not be a day to talk to or about people with mental disability. It should be a day to listen to them. Give those suffering a safe space to walk into, where they will be welcome and heard by caregivers who know how.

And if you can’t visit, make a call and have a conversation and just listen. You can do wonders. Yes, you can.

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Posted by on October 11, 2019 in Uncategorized


Mental Health Day thoughts

The country is celebrating Mental Health Day today. Walking, talking, running, posting, boasting, and what not. The person who is suicidal is there in the crowd and watching.

Given up on life, without any hope or meaningful purpose. The only hope for them is the deafeningly loud noise telling them that you are no good, useless, worthless, and constantly reminding of their failures and the ill fate awaiting the next moment, the next day, the next week, the next year, and so on.

The challenge is to act, better than the most renowned artist, to show the rest of humanity what a happy person you are, have been and will be. That life is beautiful inside and out. Knowing well what a lie it is.

It is funny that people around are so eager to help, but they want you to expose yourself first. Then they want to play the pity card.

Life goes on – it is just another day of wearing tshirts, walking, talking, posting, boasting and what not. All that needs to be done is a drop in center and a helpline in population centers.

But they will not do it. It will not be a photo op as grand as the above. Happy Mental Health Day to all suffering.


Violent extremism in the schools of Maldives

Today I came across this amazing piece of writing, which – according to a friend, was circulating in Viber groups. The author is Mr. Ismail Shafeeu, who is said to have worked at all levels of the education sector over the past years and is currently pursuing his education further. (Kindly note below is a crude translation.)

“There are 2160 expatriate teachers who are teaching in the schools of Maldives this year – 2019. In the past years, we have had even more. Moreover, over 85% of doctors and nurses working in the Maldives are foreigners. And 90% of them are not Muslims.

The said expatriates live a peaceful life, with dignity and respect. If the schools in the country had a curriculum promoting religious extremism, would they have been able to live in peace?

As a person who have worked at all levels of the school system, I can confidently say that there is no part in the education provided in the schools that promotes hatred or violence against non-Muslims. The result is that (including myself) the most beloved of teachers of any Maldivian is either a Sri Lankan or and Indian. If schools promoted religious hatred this would not have been the case.

Therefore those who say that the schools in Maldives teach religious extremism are saying so without any basis. Such research is based on heresy, fabricated information, and lies produced by them. These will not be considered in distinguished academic discourse.

The great majority of those who have lost civility and good character are mostly those who have not completed the school system. They had not completed formal schooling up to grade 10 or 12 in a school. It is highly unlikely that a person who have completed and gone through a good education in their school days will have such extremist leniencies. This is sufficient to realize that the school curriculum in Maldives does not promote religious extremism.

Indeed. Allah has set limits in Islam to protect the fundamentals of the humanity, civilization, wealth and religious matters. Those who criticize religion do not want to be bound by those limits. It is evident from what they write. There agenda can only be achieved through the elimination of the Islamic curriculum in schools. Therefore they voice out against the basis of the curriculum which is the Quran the Ways of Prophet Muhammadh Rasool S.A.W. There can be no other reason.”

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Posted by on October 9, 2019 in Nation Building, Neevey Adu Kon Adu, Religion, Society, Uncategorized


Building a culture of tolerance and respect

What can schools, colleges, universities, councils, NGOs and scholars do to instill a culture of tolerance and respect in the next generation of our youth?

I asked on Twitter. And there were some very thoughtful responses, including: (i) teachers need to show tolerance and respect through action and role modeling instead of giving advice on it (ii) empathy and respect needs to be taught – above all (iii) teach the akhlaaq of Prophet Muhammadh Rasool S.A.W. (iv) teach to read, learn and understand (v) build national unity on a common vision (vi) introducing nature play weeks (vii) community gardens and libraries (viii) reading to children, and engaging with them and having a dialogue (ix) teach chidlren the value of walking instead of riding on motorbikes.

These are all fantastic thoughts. I am sure there will be many more creative ideas and thoughts. The implementation needs to be decentralized I believe.

Building communities that are tolerant and peace loving and promote respect, should be decentralized and owned by the communities themselves. It should happen and be led at the island level in atolls and ward level in cities.

The central agency for building tolerance and respect should be the respective council or ward boards. Local players should fall within the jurisdiction of the community leadership, and the national mechanisms should provide resources and technical expertise. Not impose, but facilitate on request.

Tolerance and respect can only be sustained when it is the responsibility of communities rather than to serve the interest of officials elsewhere and detached from the communities.

If we don’t act now, we may be faced with a bleak future sooner than later.

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Posted by on October 8, 2019 in Civil Society, My Argument, Nation Building, Society


Missed Mandhatha

The Ruby Arena, TRIVANDRUM: This afternoon I was having lunch with my father and step mother Hawatha. As we were in a conversation while waiting for the food to arrive, I was suddenly reminded of my first step mother Mandhatha.

The thought brought tears to my eyes. She was a wonderful person. She treated me like she treated any other of her children. She was always giving. She had so much to give. But. She never asked nor wanted anything from me.

The last time I saw her was when she was in hospital. Very ill. I put something under her pillow which I wanted her to have. I specifically remember that because she would not have allowed my if she knew. I came to Male’ after the visit hoping to return to see her. But she was gone before I could visit.

The most cherished of the memories I have of her is the goodies that she would send to us all the way from Addu. Sometimes she would send it through people. Sometimes she would bring it by herself.

Not only that. Whenever I would visit Addu she would make a feast “like a jinni” (in a flash). She would find the chicken and make a feast as for a prince. She would amass goodies to be taken. I would have to convince her I like to travel light, and finally negotiate to send it through someone going to Male’.

I missed her so badly, because I realized I never gave anything to the woman who gave so much to me.

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Posted by on March 20, 2016 in Uncategorized


Withering Life

I thought she was looking for a reason to have a fight. It was definitely what I was looking for – a reason to fight. That was what it turned out to be. Full of stress. Trying not to be negative. In the end, it was a lie. It was a horrible day. Yet, we agreed and pretended that it was a beautiful one.

We had fought. We did fight. But now it is too much. We would rather not. So it is now a waste of time to even give it a try. The beauty of putting a fight is not there anymore. Because the love has withered and the kindness has waned.

There is now no reason to believe. That the moments of high tension will be cherished. As they were. So the moment of truth is now. As we try to pretend that nothing has changed. When everything has.

Life goes on. Without the passion and joy that used to make it so beautiful.

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Posted by on March 14, 2016 in Random Thoughts


Time to pack up and go

When the time comes to leave
there comes a hesitation
Unfulfilled dreams and hopes
That have kept you going

For we have not
prepared ourselves
for this eventuality
in body mind and soul

That is the reason why
we must always be ready
to pack up with a Smile
when it comes to that eventuality

It is your ability to move on
that has given the momentum
to advancement and prosperity
that puts you in a better place

Some do not realize
when their time is up
that there is a better place
waiting to happen when you pack

Go go go my friend
just go and never turn back
for there is nothing like moving
to a dream bigger better and unknown


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Posted by on March 1, 2016 in Poems, Random Thoughts

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