International Womens Day Blog Series (1 of 4)

  • 16/02/2017
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In the build-up to International Women’s day on the 8th of March, I’ll be writing a short blog series regarding some of the famous and not-so-famous women of the world; women who have triumphed in the face of adversity and overcome challenges both worldly and personal. In this first instalment, there is one name that immediately came to mind…



in 1997 Malala Yousafzai was born in Swat, which is in a northern province of Pakistan. The young woman has gone on to achieve many things in her 19 years that most of us would only dream of. Fluent in Pashto, Urdu and English, Malala’s activism was ingrained through her father, and would come to the fore at a time where the Taliban were imposing a ban on women attending school in the area. Her first act of protest came in 2008 where she spoke at a local Peshawar press club. Following this, she was selected to do an anonymous blog series for BBC Urdu, revolving around life as a young schoolgirl at the time. The request for the blog was put to Malala’s entire class, but only her and her family were courageous enough to accept. Malala would document her days in the conflicted area of Swat under a pseudonym, noting how as the violence grew fewer girls would attend classes, until finally the school was shut down in 2009. The schools would eventually reopen, initially only for boys and eventually primary school level girls. It was during this time that Malala first saw excerpts of her writing in the local newspaper.

Malala was eventually displaced from home whilst a second battle for Swat took place. Once the fighting was over, upon her travels Malala became set on becoming a politician. Whilst she had been away a reporter from the New York Times had made a documentary about her, which had boosted her public image, it was also around this time that she was revealed as the writer of the BBC blogs. She would go on to give several interviews on national TV, promoting female education in Pakistan. This, along with more community based activism, would lead to Malala being the first recipient of Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize. Given to her by the Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, a school was renamed in her honour and an IT campus was built in the Swat Degree College. The honour would eventually be renamed after her.

The publicity following these awards had made Malala famous, and the values she stood up for were an affront to the Taliban. When other means of intimidation, such as death threats under her door, online and in newspapers had all failed, Taliban leaders unanimously agreed to kill her. An assassination attempt was made on the 9th of October 2012, which involved a Taliban gunman getting on a bus calling out for Malala and shooting her in the head, with the bullet eventually ending up in her shoulder. Amazingly, after a year of being hospitalized, Malala made a full recovery. An ‘unfortunate’ side effect of the assassination attempt is that it made Malala’s plight an international one, and once she had recovered she would go on to make a speech at a UN summit, meet the Queen and meet President Barack Obama, where she even confronted him on his use of drone strikes in Pakistan; all the while continuing her activism. All this would eventually culminate in her being the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. At the tender age of 17, Malala Yousafzai is the youngest Nobel Laureate ever, and surely one of the most inspirational women in living memory.


Vandu Language Services will be supporting Eastbourne Borough Council and Creative Force to hold an event to celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th of March in Eastbourne. Please check our twitter page for more information @VanduLanguage or email

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The festive season around the world

  • 28/12/2016
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Here in the U.K we’re all very accustomed to the dates and traditions of our festive season, but what about the rest of the world, with all its different cultures and religions? Here we’ll search around the globe for the more ‘exotic’ festivities.


Hanukkah 2016 – 24th December to 1st January

Hanukkah used to be a relatively minor Jewish holiday, and still is in many parts of the world, but in North America and Europe it has come to rival Passover as one of the biggest holidays in the Jewish calendar.  Starting at any time between late November and late December, the celebration commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. The holiday is observed by lighting a unique nine-branched candelabrum called a Menorah, eating olive-oil fried foods, and giving gifts such as money and other presents; this is to rival the similarly timed Christmas, which is the reason why the celebration has become so important to western-world Jews.


Omisoka & Shogatsu - 31 December to 1st January

The 31st and New Year’s Day are the most important in the Japanese calendar, signalling the end of something old and the beginning of something new. Time is spent with the family, and at a 11pm there is a late dinner of plain noodles, which is followed by a trip to the shrine after midnight for the first prayers of the year – this is called hatsumode, and while the act of worship is generally brief, the huge influx of people means the process can take a long time. This is then followed by the New Year’s Day celebrations (Shogatsu), which involve eating rice cakes along with food specific to the region, bells are rung 108 times to get rid of the number of sins referred to in Buddhist beliefs, postcards are sent (much like here at Christmas) to friends and family, and interestingly, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is played all around the country, a remnant of Imperial Japan to promote allegiance to the island nation.



Kwanzaa – 26 December to 1st January

Kwanzaa is the last celebration in this blog, and the newest in the group. Founded in 1966 by Dr Maulana Karenga, an activist in the Black Power movement, the aim of this festival is to celebrate African heritage in African-American culture, and it has seven main principles which are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith, all of which are used to promote community within African-Americans and are often represented by seven candles. Other ways that the celebration is observed is by wearing traditional African clothes, performing African music, libations (the ritual pouring of liquid), and other African traditions. Kwanzaa is a growing celebration, and it has already crossed the border to North America’s neighbour Canada. Numbers vary dependant on the given source (Dr Karenga claimed that there were as many as 30 million celebrators), but its estimated by other sources to be between 2 and 12 million people that celebrate this festival annually. 

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Lead yourself at the Next Level!

  • 13/12/2016
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How do you feel about being a leader? Are you relishing the leadership opportunities that come your way or are you afraid that you don’t have what it takes? Do you feel burdened by too much responsibility or welcome it as part of your ongoing learning journey? If any of this sounds familiar, then you are hearing The Leader’s Call, which is what I called the inner urge that is moving you to the next level of your leadership experience. So, what can you do about it? Here are four insights to empower you to make the most of the new opportunities that are on the horizon.


Insight 1 - Commitment: moving to the next level

Committing to the next level of your leadership experience is the first move you will need to make. If you are proactive and do your research, use your values as a guide, trust your intuition and connect with people around you, you will move forward into this new opportunity.

Insight 2 - Authenticity: becoming who you are

Be willing to discover yourself, so you can lead from your place of uniqueness. Explore all the aspects of your inner and outer self, and be true to who you really are, rather than an imitation of other leaders. You will become a leader who is honest, real and transparent.

Insight 3 - Learning: developing mastery

Being a committed and authentic leader means taking personal responsibility to keep on learning. Make time to reflect on your experiences and consider what they have to teach you; broaden your knowledge and expand your skills rather than stick to your usual repertoire. You will grow into a mature leader with presence, influence and the ability to develop others.

Insight 4 - Legacy: sustaining your contribution

Legacy is not just for political leaders or celebrities. Being a leader means that you have the power to make a lasting difference. Learn to take care of yourself so you have the energy to devote to the task. Ensure you have a support network who believe in what you are doing. Be open-minded and communicate with others to see the big picture as well as the detail. Become a leader who leads from a place of generosity and openness, and you will create a legacy that is truly meaningful to you.


Consider these insights

You will hear The Leader’s Call several times during your leadership experience so you can revisit these insights again and again. What are the benefits? They will vary from person to person. For me The Leader’s Call has meant that I am making a contribution to the world that is ‘shaped’ like me. I feel that my values, feelings, thoughts and actions are in alignment. Arriving at this place has not been easy but it has been worth it!





About the author

Grace Owen is a leadership development consultant. For over twenty years she has developed thousands of leaders from around the world, at non-executive, board, senior, middle, junior and graduate levels, to make a greater impact wherever they are.

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Inside Vandu HQ - Linda

  • 07/11/2016
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How are you finding the office and what is your role?

Within the office I’m currently training as a bookings co-ordinator in the apprentice scheme. I’m enjoying working in the office as it’s giving me a whole new experience and I’m learning new things all the time.

After work, what do you normally get up to?

After work I usually try to cram in as much as possible. It’s usually a catch up with my friends and family, as well as trying to plan something for the weekend. I’m always getting caught up doing different things and forgetting what time it is.

What’s your favourite past time?

My favourite thing to do to is to go out and take photographs to build up my photography portfolio. I love being behind the camera and snapping things from different angles. It’s a different way to express myself.  My favourite thing to photograph are typically landscapes and close-up nature photos; They have always inspired me.

The best thing about working at Vandu?

The best thing about working at Vandu is all the different things that I’m learning, whether it be about a new language or different methods and processes in the office. There’s always something new to learn!

What’s your favourite meal?

My favourite meal has got to be one of mum’s Turkish meals. Stuffed vine leaves. It always makes me feel good and takes me back to being a kid, visiting Cyprus in the summer.

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Gender Equality and Women in the Workplace

  • 02/11/2016
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As the US presidential election run-in continues to throw up controversy, headlines and debate, it’s given us at Vandu a lot to talk about, particularly the subject of women in the work place and gender equality. Why is there a gender disparity? When did the concept of feminism start? Is there progress being made?

To understand feminism and the movement towards gender equality, you would have to look back towards the early 1900’s. The social norm of men going to work, earning money and doing more-or-less as they pleased, while women stayed at home, cooked, cleaned and looked after the children meant for a totally patriarchal society. Places of power, be it in the work place, government or otherwise were reserved solely for men. It was only after The Representation of the People Act 1928 (and the work of the suffragettes), where all women above the age of 21 could vote that society began to progress.

And so what progress has we made? It’s undeniably gotten better; The western world is a leading example, Angela Merkel is the head of one of the power houses of Europe, closer to home we have Theresa May as our current Prime Minister and even here at Vandu our Director Mebrak came from a small village in Eritrea to become the owner of a successful small business company, with our Olivia being her right-hand (wo)man. But it seems we are in the minority, as disparities remain; whilst the gender pay-gap is getting smaller, a survey conducted in the US in 2015 concluded that in general women get paid around 20% less than men for the same job level, the percentage is worse still for women of colour…The survey goes on to predict that at the current rate it won’t be till 2152 that the US will see salary equality. Statistics aside, how is it that a man running for President can repeatedly say derogatory remarks about women and not have been made to resign? Why is there still a large gender pay-gap in the modern world?

In the lesser developed world, the situation is even worse with women often earning 50% less than their male counter-parts in areas of Asia, and in large parts of Africa there are problems with gender inequality in education as women are less likely to go onto higher education courses; In both these continents there are alarming rates of gender-based violence.

So, what are the solutions? We won’t pretend to have all the answers, but in first-world countries the change needs to be a cultural and societal one, and examples like a first female president can send a message and fuel the movement. In places like Africa and parts of Asia, the focus needs to be on the education of women - there is a definite correlation between higher education and higher wages (though the pay gap remains the same) and young men, in the way that they view women. As with racism, homophobia and xenophobia, the symptoms of sexism may not be as obvious as they once were; but the underlying problems, either through ignorance or deliberate prejudice, still remain.

 these websites were used for the statistics in this blog.

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