gendered poverty https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/11495/all cached version 14/12/2018 17:39:01 en These women are demanding their rights from inside Rome’s occupied buildings https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/claudia-torrisi/women-demand-rights-rome-occupied-buildings <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Precarious labour and housing conditions have pushed many to squat Rome’s empty buildings, living in fear of eviction and homelessness.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/CT1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Viale delle Province. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/CT1.png" alt="Viale delle Province. " title="Viale delle Province. " width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Viale delle Province. Photo: Claudia Torrisi.</span></span></span>“Look at this one. This is me when I was young. Wasn’t I beautiful?” Naima, a 60-year-old woman from Tunisia, points at a portrait hung on the wall of her two-room apartment – a small space with cooker, table and sofa, and a bedroom – inside one of the biggest housing occupations in Rome, on the street Viale delle Province.</p><p dir="ltr">Since arriving in Rome 35 years ago, Naima has lived in this neighborhood. “I stayed in an apartment right there,” she says, pointing to the other side of the street from the window of the occupied building, where she has lived for the last five years.</p><p dir="ltr">This building was once used as offices for the National Institute of Social Security, but was abandoned for years. On 6 December 2012, it was occupied by a group called Blocchi Precari Metropolitani (BPM) who fight for the right to housing. That same day – labelled “Tsunami Tour” by activists – eight<a href="http://ricerca.repubblica.it/repubblica/archivio/repubblica/2012/12/07/studenti-movimenti-occupano-otto-edifici.html?ref=search"> buildings were occupied </a>around the city.</p><p dir="ltr">In just a few months, the buildings became home to people from all over the world: Italians, eastern Europeans, Africans, Latin Americans. Now, around 130 families live in the Viale delle Province occupation, including 60 children – and women are leading the fight for their right to housing. </p><p dir="ltr">“My husband and I had a small restaurant near the train station. We had a house and we paid rent. I did not have to worry about where I would sleep at night,” Naima tells me. But things changed: her husband died, she had to close the restaurant and started to work as a carer and domestic worker.</p><p dir="ltr">“I passed from one old woman to another,” she recalls. The physically demanding work caused a painful shoulder injury. “So when one old lady for whom I worked died, I didn’t find another job. And I didn’t find a place to live either.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/CT2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Inside Viale delle Province."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/CT2.png" alt="" title="Inside Viale delle Province." width="460" height="301" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Inside Viale delle Province. Photo: Claudia Torrisi.</span></span></span>Naima first noticed the Viale delle Province occupation on a walk around the neighbourhood. “The people inside answered that it was possible to live here. I entered the building and they gave me a room,” Naima tells me.</p><p dir="ltr">“Living together with all our differences is not always easy, but we try. We use Italian as a common language,” she explains.</p><p dir="ltr">In the first weeks of the occupation, each family shared a room, with one or two bathrooms for each floor. After six months of collective work, each family was assigned an apartment, and the abandoned building began to look more like a house.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“This is a community that arises from a primary need: the need of a home.”&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">“This is a community that arises from a primary need: the need of a home,” Umberto, an Italian activist from BPM who lives inside the Viale delle Province building, tells me. “We fight to regain possession of something that has been taken from us. There are thousands and thousands families who are not able to afford a home.”</p><p dir="ltr">Housing problems are not new in Italy, but the situation was worsened by the 2008 global economic and financial crisis, says Umberto. </p><p dir="ltr">“New subjects started to live in the occupation: Italian families who once were able to pay rents and a whole class of immigrants who had lived and worked in Italy for 20-30 years, who could afford a house, but from 2008 saw their situation worsen considerably.”</p><p dir="ltr">According to <a href="http://www.nomisma.it/images/NEWS/Presentazione_per_il_sito_NOMISMA_Federcasa.pdf">research</a> by the Italian Federation for Social Housing, 1.7 million Italian families have difficulties paying rent. The Ministry of Internal Affairs <a href="http://ucs.interno.gov.it/ucs/download.php?f=Spages&amp;s=download.php&amp;id_sito=1263&amp;file=L0ZJTEVTL2RvY3MvMTI2My9TZnJhdHRpIEFubm8gMjAxNy54bHM=&amp;&amp;coming=Z2VuZXJhbGkvRG9jdW1lbnRpX3NjYX">recently released</a> data on evictions, which totalled almost 60,000 in 2017.</p><p dir="ltr">In Rome, there are now 7,000 evictions a year, involving 3,500 families. This means that 15 families are evicted from their homes every day, <a href="https://ilmanifesto.it/in-viaggio-nelle-occupazioni-la-lotta-per-la-casa-rigenera-roma/">explains</a> Massimo Pasquini, national secretary of the Tenants’ Union.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr"> “In Rome, 15 families are evicted from their homes every day.”</p><p dir="ltr">Four years ago, Alessandra was evicted from her house. She migrated from Ukraine 20 years ago and tells me: “I worked in a bakery workshop, but then they stopped paying me. All of a sudden I had no money to pay my rent.” </p><p>A friend told her about social movements for housing. “I decided to join the fight. And now I live here in the Viale delle Province occupation. And so do my sons and my grandsons. I share my apartment with my cat,” she adds, cuddling the animal. She shows me her apartment: “This place was a hole with rubble and dust. I worked a lot to make it decent.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/CT3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Alessandra with her cat inside Viale delle Province. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/CT3.png" alt="" title="Alessandra with her cat inside Viale delle Province. " width="460" height="285" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alessandra with her cat inside Viale delle Province. Photo: Claudia Torrisi. </span></span></span>Mercedes was here the day the building was occupied. “I remember that we immediately organised patrol shifts, every four hours,” she says, taking turns to watch for police. She had moved to Italy from Ecuador with her family 16 years ago. </p><p dir="ltr">“We lived in a small house outside the city. But then my husband lost his job and he couldn’t find another one, so I was the only one working in the family. We had two daughters and €500 of rent [to pay],” she recalls. </p><p>Mercedes also heard about housing movements and talked to her husband about occupying a building: “He didn’t want to do it. But I was sure this was our only chance to survive. On 6 December 2012, I simply told him: we have to take a king size mattress at this address if we want to sleep all together. And so we did it.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr"> “Women’s role is crucial in the fight for the right to housing. They are always on the front line.”</p><p dir="ltr">Umberto from BPM defines himself as “a long-time militant,” who “enjoyed many fights and movements” in his life, but he admits that “women’s role is crucial in the fight for the right to housing. They are always on the front line.”</p><p dir="ltr">Living in an occupied building means living with the constant fear of eviction.</p><p dir="ltr">Maria, a refugee from Eritrea, lives alone in a tidy room full of heart-shaped pillows. She’s afraid the police will throw her out. Alessandra reassures her, but admits: “This day will come. These are bad days for us.”</p><p dir="ltr">New Italian government policies are bad news for these women. In an <a href="http://www.interno.gov.it/sites/default/files/circolare_2018_0059445.pdf">official document</a> released on 1 September 2018, the interior ministry said occupied buildings across the country must be cleared as soon as possible, without offering alternative housing solutions.</p><p dir="ltr">Three days later, the police <a href="https://milano.repubblica.it/cronaca/2018/09/04/news/sesto_san_giovanni_sgombero_aldo_dice-205574550/">evicted</a> a building in Sesto San Giovanni (near Milan), the former headquarters of Alitalia (Italian national airline), occupied by 200 people.</p><p dir="ltr">A few days later, the same scene was repeated in the suburbs of Rome. “They came in at eight in the morning, crashing the doors and not giving us even the time to take our things,” <a href="https://roma.repubblica.it/cronaca/2018/09/07/news/roma_al_via_lo_sgombero_del_palazzo_di_via_costi-205802218/">said </a>one of the people evicted from an occupation where he had lived for five years.</p><p dir="ltr">He said that authorities had “offered accommodation only to women and children, but we don’t want to be separated. We’d prefer to live in the streets, but together. They treat us like dogs, but we are people.”</p><p dir="ltr">Umberto confirms that this is the modus operandi of evictions: “They say they’ll find accommodation for fragile people, like pregnant women, old people, children or those who are ill. But this is usually a temporary solution. After a few months they are in the same situation.”</p><p dir="ltr">“The thought of a possible eviction is always with us,” Mercedes admits. “We don’t sleep well, we [also] have patrolling shifts at four or five AM. We need to be careful.”</p><p dir="ltr">Naima is afraid every time she hears the sound of a helicopter above her head. “Of course I think about the eviction, and I hope it will not happen”, she tells me. “But you know what? I am ready. I will chain myself to public buildings to have a roof over my head. I have nothing to lose: I am 60-years-old and I am ready to fight.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/brittney-ferreira/10-years-of-womens-resistance-to-austerity-across-europe-in-pictures">10 years of women&#039;s resistance to austerity across Europe – in pictures</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Italy </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Italy Economics Equality International politics Women's rights and economic justice gendered poverty gender young feminists Claudia Torrisi Mon, 24 Sep 2018 07:01:00 +0000 Claudia Torrisi 119722 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “This story rarely gets told”: 10 years of women’s resistance to austerity across Europe https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nandini-archer/10-years-womens-resistance-to-austerity-europe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From the UK to Greece, women have been hit hardest by austerity policies since the 2008 financial crisis. This month, 50.50 will spotlight our stories of resistance.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-35426631.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women protest for equal pay and dignity at work in Barcelona, March 2018. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-35426631.jpg" alt="Women protest for equal pay and dignity at work in Barcelona, March 2018. " title="Women protest for equal pay and dignity at work in Barcelona, March 2018. " width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women protest for equal pay and dignity at work in Barcelona, March 2018. (Photo: Ramon Costa/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved).</span></span></span>I was 17 and dating a particularly sexist boyfriend when the Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, sparking the global financial crisis and reshaping the world we live in. A decade on, I’ve lived the entirety of my ‘millennial’ adult life under austerity in the UK – and have found strength and friendship from families of resistance that women have created in response to years of harmful policies.</p><p dir="ltr">“This story rarely gets told,” political sociologist at the University of Warwick, Akwugo Emejulu, told me, of the resistance strategies of women of colour in particular. “Many activist women of colour are rendered invisible by their insistence on doing local community work,” she said, contrasting high-profile occupations such as Occupy London and Los Indignados with our “under the radar” organising. </p><p dir="ltr">Over the last decade, women across Europe have responded to austerity policies imposed on us since the 2008 crisis. We’ve fought to expose and challenge the specific impacts of austerity on women, creating new communities in the process, from <a href="http://www.sistersuncut.org">Sisters Uncut</a> in the UK to <a href="https://mwasicollectif.com">Mwasi Collective</a> (Paris) and <a href="https://soulsistersberlin.com">Soul Sisters</a> (Berlin). </p><p dir="ltr">These collectives, led by women of colour, are among Europe’s “most exciting and innovative,” says Emejulu. “They combine hard-nosed grassroots activism with cultural production to organise… and also create new cultural and artistic spaces by and for women of colour,” she explains, emphasising that resistance also consists of “self-help groups and sister circles where community and friendship can be built”. </p><p dir="ltr">Crucially, women, migrants, working-class communities, people living with disabilities, non-binary and trans people, aren’t passive victims to harmful economic policies: they resist. It’s this resistance that 50.50 will spotlight this month, in an alternative series to mark the tenth anniversary of the financial crisis, including special reports from Spain and Italy and a photo essay. </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">A decade on, I’ve lived the entirety of my ‘millennial’ adult life under austerity in the UK. </p><p dir="ltr">I remember well the years following the financial crash – the horror of the coalition government coming to power in 2010 and student marches against rising tuition fees. But I was never massively taken by student politics, which I found male-dominated. </p><p dir="ltr">It wasn’t until 2014 when a friend dragged me to a protest that I felt politically at home. It was organised by Sisters Uncut – a feminist group that uses creative direct actions to highlight austerity as state violence. </p><p dir="ltr">On Valentine’s Day, we brought London’s busy Oxford Circus roundabout to a standstill. Dressed in funeral attire and holding placards saying ‘They Cut, We Bleed’, we read out the names of some of <a href="https://kareningalasmith.com/counting-dead-women/">the hundreds of women</a> in the UK who have lost their lives to domestic violence since 2010. </p><p dir="ltr">I remember being struck by the range of their ages, ethnicities and locations. Every week, <a href="https://www.refuge.org.uk/our-work/forms-of-violence-and-abuse/domestic-violence/domestic-violence-the-facts/">two women</a> are murdered by a partner or ex-partner in this country. Meanwhile, government cuts to domestic violence services and refuges have made it harder for many, and potentially impossible for some, to leave violent relationships. </p><p dir="ltr">While initial reports described the crisis as a ‘<a href="http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/id/10526.pdf">man-cession</a>’, focusing on men’s jobs at risk, the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/09/women-bearing-86-of-austerity-burden-labour-research-reveals">burden of austerity</a> has fallen largely on women. As <a href="https://www.womenlobby.org/IMG/pdf/the_price_of_austerity_-_web_edition.pdf">elsewhere in Europe</a>, women in <a href="https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Development/IEDebt/WomenAusterity/WBG.pdf">the UK</a> use more public services; they are the majority of welfare benefit recipients – and the majority of public-sector workers; they’re also more likely to make up for lost public services with unpaid care work. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 16.00.59.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Sisters Uncut protest in June 2016 outside parliament."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 16.00.59.png" alt="Sisters Uncut protest in June 2016 outside parliament." title="Sisters Uncut protest in June 2016 outside parliament." width="460" height="321" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sisters Uncut protest in June 2016 outside parliament. Photo: Niku Gupta.</span></span></span>Sisters Uncut’s ‘<a href="http://www.sistersuncut.org/feministo/">feministo</a>’ list of demands begins: “To those in power, our message is this: your cuts are violent, your cuts are dangerous, and you think that you can get away with them because you have targeted people who you perceive as powerless. We are those people. We are Sisters Uncut. We will not be silenced.” </p><p dir="ltr">Since 2014, we’ve blossomed into a national movement. Our actions have taken many forms – and have left us feeling exhilarated, united in our resistance, powerful and dangerous. <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-38045460">We blocked Westminster bridge</a> in 2016, for instance, in a symbolic protest against cuts to domestic violence services. We also reclaimed an empty council flat in east London and <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/sisters-uncut-occupy-council-house-in-hackney-to-fight-gentrification_uk_57838055e4b0935d4b4b2a76">turned it into a community centre</a>. </p><p>Last year, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/01/domestic-violence-services-occupying-holloway-prison-sisters-uncut-cuts-women">we occupied Holloway women’s prison</a> in north London to demand that it become a domestic violence service, rather than luxury flats. This February, <a href="https://inews.co.uk/opinion/comment/theresa-may-acknowledges-demands-will-continue-use-direct-disruptive-action/">we stormed the BAFTAs</a> red carpet to call ‘Times Up’ on UK prime minister Theresa May for years of devastating austerity policies. &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">While initial reports described the crisis as a ‘man-cession’, focusing on men’s jobs at risk, the burden of austerity has fallen largely on women.</p><p dir="ltr">Across Europe, women have challenged waves of austerity policies and cuts to public services. They’ve led protests, occupied buildings, organised for employment rights and formed new communities of resistance, support and solidarity. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/2.32496613.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women protest an eviction in Rome, August 2017."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/2.32496613.jpg" alt="Women protest an eviction in Rome, August 2017." title="Women protest an eviction in Rome, August 2017." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women protest an eviction in Rome, August 2017. (Photo: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images)</span></span></span>In Montenegro, <a href="http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/montenegrin-mothers-threaten-radical-action-over-benefit-cut-03-13-2017">thousands of mothers demonstrated</a> in February 2017 against cuts <a href="https://apnews.com/b223cde0c9824bb0ab9e6cd33fa25e7e">of 25%</a> to financial assistance for women with three or more children. Dozens camped outside government offices overnight. The new policy, they said, would impact more than <a href="https://monitor.civicus.org/newsfeed/2017/02/24/cuts-welfare-provisions-prompt-protest-in-montenegro/">21,000 women</a>. They held placards <a href="https://apnews.com/b223cde0c9824bb0ab9e6cd33fa25e7e">reading</a> “Gentlemen from the government, beware of the women — mothers” and “Our children are hungry.”</p><p dir="ltr">Women also camped outside government offices in Greece after <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-eu-29229555">hundreds of cleaners</a> were dismissed from (newly outsourced) jobs in 2014, amid <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/0115f5ea-2af2-11e5-8613-e7aedbb7bdb7">European Union austerity demands</a>. The cleaners drew attention to their specific experiences as middle-aged women and adopted the symbol of a rubber glove with two fingers forming a V for ‘victory.’ They also travelled to Strasbourg to lobby members of the European Parliament. In 2015, the new Greek government <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/greece/11375490/Greek-cleaning-ladies-claim-victory-in-jobs-protest.html">reinstated their jobs</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">Workers’ rights have also been won at <a href="https://soasunion.org/campaigns/justiceforcleaners/">SOAS</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/12/college-cleaners-outsourcing-soas">LSE</a> universities in the UK through the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/25/lse-striking-cleaners-outsourced-university-injustice">‘justice for cleaners’</a> campaigns, as the workforce (made-up of mostly migrant women), has demanded better wages, sick leave and to be employed in-house. </p><p dir="ltr">As part of 50.50’s series, journalist Claudia Torrisi will report from Rome where many families live in occupied buildings amid a ‘housing emergency’. In the Viale del Policlinico occupation, 140 people of different nationalities (including children, women and old people) live in constant fear of eviction. </p><p dir="ltr">From Spain, journalist Rocío Ros will profile the ‘Las Kellys’ movement of hotel cleaners who have mobilised for better working conditions and against the outsourcing of their jobs. Their <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/02/spanish-chambermaids-seek-tripadvisor-help-to-fight-exploitation">recent campaign</a> promotes hotels with fair employment practices (and shames those without them), calling on the popular travel website TripAdvisor to adopt the Las Kellys ‘seal of approval.’</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-09-01 at 18.36.34.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Members of Las Kellys at an event in August 2017. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-09-01 at 18.36.34.png" alt="Members of Las Kellys at an event in August 2017. " title="Members of Las Kellys at an event in August 2017. " width="460" height="340" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Members of Las Kellys at an event in August 2017. (Photo: Diario de Madrid/Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 4.0).</span></span></span>I asked Emejulu, at the University of Warwick, specifically about the experiences of women of colour living under, and mobilising against, austerity. </p><p dir="ltr">She said they “have been all but erased from the narrative about who has been hit hardest by the crisis and austerity, who is organising to reverse these counter-productive cuts and who should be the target of policy action to address the misery that has been created because of the rollback of the social welfare state.”</p><p dir="ltr">Why? “Firstly and most importantly, there is a relentless focus on local conditions in neighbourhoods”, she said, giving as examples the community organising of women of colour against “the closure of community centres, the increasingly dirty streets and parks, the struggle for affordable housing and the cuts to benefits.” </p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, Emejulu stresses, where women of colour “are routinely dismissed as alien Others,” their local organising and “creation of spaces of collective affirmation and solidarity is radical politics.”</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">Where women of colour “are routinely dismissed as alien Others,” their organising and “creation of spaces of collective affirmation and solidarity is radical politics.”</span></p><p dir="ltr">In London, the <a href="http://www.lawrs.org.uk">Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS)</a> is one example of a community group that creates space for migrant women who feel increasingly isolated due to the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policies coupled with austerity. </p><p dir="ltr">LAWRS provides advice, information, counselling and advocacy services for Latin American women, and safe spaces to talk about their experiences and interests. “By organising around issues that matter to the women they regain the power that they feel they have lost to an abusive system,” coordinator Ornella Ospino told me. </p><p dir="ltr">Through LAWRS, Ospino says, women migrant workers in precarious jobs have followed Latin American ancestral practices of collective support, offering advice on unions, resisting immigration raids and assisting with job searches. Survivors of domestic violence have organised to advise each other on how to navigate services. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/18471136634_203b7e2c26_z_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Anti-austerity protest in London, June 2015 amid the evictions of most residents from a Barnet housing estate. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/18471136634_203b7e2c26_z_0.jpg" alt="Anti-austerity protest in London, June 2015 amid the evictions of most residents from a Barnet housing estate. " title="Anti-austerity protest in London, June 2015 amid the evictions of most residents from a Barnet housing estate. " width="460" height="382" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Anti-austerity protest in London, June 2015 amid the evictions of most residents from a Barnet housing estate. Photo: Alan Stanton/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0). </span></span></span>Also in London is <a href="https://focuse15.org/about/">Focus E15</a>, formed in 2013 by 29 single mothers. After being served eviction notices and deemed ‘intentionally homeless’ for refusing to take accommodation offered in other cities, far from their communities, they occupied empty council flats. Developers eventually withdrew from planned sales. </p><p dir="ltr">The group continues to fight for better housing conditions for single mothers in east London. They organise an open-mic every week outside a local shopping centre where people can take the microphone and share their stories. </p><p dir="ltr">It’s important to support people “to have the confidence to directly challenge their circumstances,” said Saskia, one of the women involved in Focus E15. </p><p dir="ltr">“Their voice is very important, and they have a right to express anger about their situation and lead their struggle,” she said, adding: “We have become a solid family who share organising, thrash out differences, yet continue!”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“We have become a solid family who share organising, thrash out differences, yet continue!”</p><p dir="ltr">The community spaces we’ve created at Sisters Uncut are among the most radical actions we’ve taken. They expose (and respond to) the absence of community contact we all feel in this neoliberal austerity-stricken society. </p><p dir="ltr">As part of this collective, I feel I am part of a resistance to the government’s austerity agenda. It’s here that I’ve now formed some of my closest friends and networks – even both of my (biological) sisters organise with Sisters Uncut. </p><p dir="ltr">The pernicious austerity policies of the last decade were not passed unopposed. Overlooking the resistance of women has enabled a “tired narrative of equating economic crisis with right-wing populism” that Emejulu argues “doesn’t hold water.” </p><p dir="ltr">“If it did,” she asks, “what explains this flourishing of European Black feminist activism among those women who are in long-term economic crisis?” </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/brittney-ferreira/10-years-of-womens-resistance-to-austerity-across-europe-in-pictures">10 years of women&#039;s resistance to austerity across Europe – in pictures</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Can Europe make it? Civil society Equality International politics Women's rights and economic justice women's movements gendered poverty gender justice gender young feminists Nandini Archer Thu, 13 Sep 2018 07:38:38 +0000 Nandini Archer 119492 at https://www.opendemocracy.net La explotación del arte de las mujeres mayas es una historia de racismo, sexismo y capitalismo global https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/aisling-walsh/la-explotacion-del-arte-maya-es-una-historia-de-racismo-sexismo-machismo <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Los cuerpos, el trabajo y el conocimiento de las mujeres mayas han sido explotados durante siglos. Es una vieja historia, ahora con un giro neoliberal. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/aisling-walsh/exploitation-mayan-women-art-racism-sexism-global-capitalism" target="_self">English</a></em></strong>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/mayan 4_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/mayan 4_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Textiles mayas dispuestos para una ceremonia. Foto: Aisling Walsh.</span></span></span>La vendedora de fruta, la cocinera de tortillas, la trabajadora doméstica, la niñera. Ellas son las Marías de Guatemala. Mujeres indígenas que continúan usando el traje maya tradicional. Las que la sociedad considera que no merecen una identidad o incluso un nombre propio; las que son valoradas solo en la medida en que proveen servicios a los demás.</p><p dir="ltr">No importa si son maestras, abogadas, académicas o doctoras, si usan su huipil y su corte maya, se las considera parte de la "clase servil". A los extraños no les da vergüenza pedirles que limpien sus casas. Sin embargo, la ropa que las marca como 'Marías' es admirada cuando se usa en el 'cuerpo correcto'.</p><p dir="ltr">"Nuestra ropa, cuando la usamos, es considerada un trapo", me contó Jovita Tzul Tzul, una abogada maya que apoya al Movimiento Nacional de Tejedoras. "Cuando los usan cuerpos blancos se convierten en algo hermoso", dijo. “El 'valor' de estos textiles depende de quién los vende o los usa”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“El 'valor' de estos textiles depende de quién los vende o los usa”.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Los textiles indígenas mayas son reconocidos internacionalmente por la complejidad y la vitalidad de sus diseños y la calidad de sus tejidos. Cada vez más, sus diseños se comercializan y empaquetan para turistas blancos o clientes en Europa y los EE. UU que buscan un toque del "exotismo maya".</p><p dir="ltr">El telar de cintura es un arte que ha pasado de generación en generación. Cada comunidad maya tiene su propio estilo y muchas veces los diseños reflejan la historia de esa comunidad o incluyen símbolos sagrados. Hay textiles para el uso diario y otros para el uso ceremonial.</p><p dir="ltr">Estas prendas son elaboradas y usadas por mujeres y hombres. Pero debido a la persistencia de estereotipos de género machistas y la discriminación racial, hay pocas comunidades donde los hombres sigan tejiendo o usando sus trajes. Por ende, son principalmente las mujeres mayas las que preservan este arte a través de su tejido y el uso diario de su ropa.</p><p dir="ltr">Sus tejidos y su medio de vida se enfrentan a amenazas significativas, como la producción masiva de textiles a bajo costo que está dejando a las tejedoras tradicionales sin trabajo, mientras que mujeres ladinas (un término local para personas que no se identifican como indígenas), diseñadores y compañías de ropa se están beneficiando del interés internacional por los diseños mayas.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“La explotación de las tejedoras mayas y la apropiación de su arte es posible gracias al racismo generalizado y la discriminación de género en Guatemala”.</p><p dir="ltr">La explotación de las tejedoras mayas y la apropiación de su arte es posible debido al racismo generalizado y la discriminación de género en Guatemala, un país que en gran medida todavía se organiza en torno a la estratificación racial que se estableció durante la época colonial.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Las mujeres mayas han ocupado un lugar entre los grupos más marginados durante siglos. Sus cuerpos, trabajo y conocimiento han sido considerados materia de explotación como trabajadoras agrícolas, nodrizas, esclavas sexuales, sirvientas domésticas y tejedoras.</p><p dir="ltr">La historia de Guatemala desde la invasión española hace más de 500 años ha estado marcada por un proceso constante de saqueo y despojo de tierras, territorios y culturas indígenas. Pocos aspectos de la vida se mantuvieron intactos, aunque podría decirse que, hasta cierto punto, los tejidos mayas resistieron este proceso.</p><p dir="ltr">Aunque esto ha cambiado a causa del impulso capitalista contemporáneo para privatizar, mercantilizar y sacar provecho de los conocimientos y recursos indígenas. Según Tzul Tzul, la comunidad ladina "tiene un profundo desprecio hacia las mujeres indígenas, pero un profundo interés por lucrarse con nuestra imagen y nuestras telas".</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Tienen un profundo desprecio hacia las mujeres indígenas, pero un profundo interés por lucrarse con nuestra imagen y nuestras telas”.</p><p dir="ltr">Sin embargo, las Marías están resistiendo. Las mujeres mayas están denunciando el racismo de <a href="http://avancso.codigosur.net/article/apunte-etnografico-en-la-vida-cultural-reciente-de/">las presentaciones folclóricas</a> en las que salen actores blancos disfrazados de "indios"; o modelos blancas vestidas con ropa indígena <a href="http://lahora.gt/racismo-de-revista/">en portadas de revistas</a> y compañías de ropa que usan <a href="https://www.prensalibre.com/guatemala/comunitario/maria-chula-ofrece-disculpa-publica-y-redes-reaccionan">el nombre María</a> en sus títulos para comercializar los textiles indígenas.</p><p dir="ltr">A través del Movimiento Nacional de Tejedoras, las mujeres mayas están luchando para que la propiedad intelectual colectiva sobre los diseños tradicionales sea reconocida y protegida por la ley. Están trabajando notablemente para recuperar y dignificar la indumentaria maya como una parte clave de su identidad y tradiciones.</p><p dir="ltr">Su lucha desafía el racismo sistémico que ha permitido a los blancos explotar y sacar provecho del arte de las mujeres mayas con impunidad.</p><p dir="ltr">“Elaborar nuestra propia ropa nos da autonomía” me dijo&nbsp;<span>Milvian</span>&nbsp;Aspuac, una de las fundadoras del Movimiento Nacional de Tejedoras. "Son un producto de nuestro conocimiento colectivo. Al hacerlos y usarlos rompemos que muchos esquemas patriarcales y lógicas individualistas". </p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Women's rights and economic justice women's human rights women and power patriarchy gendered poverty women's work young feminists Aisling Walsh Thu, 09 Aug 2018 09:50:21 +0000 Aisling Walsh 119142 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The exploitation of Mayan women’s art is a story of racism, sexism – and global capitalism https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/aisling-walsh/exploitation-mayan-women-art-racism-sexism-global-capitalism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Mayan women’s bodies, labour and knowledge have been exploited for centuries. This is an old story, with a neoliberal twist. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/aisling-walsh/la-explotacion-del-arte-maya-es-una-historia-de-racismo-sexismo-machismo" target="_self">Español</a></em></strong>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/image1_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Mayan weavings in a ceremonial display. Photo: Aisling Walsh."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/image1_2.jpg" alt="Mayan weavings in a ceremonial display. Photo: Aisling Walsh." title="Mayan weavings in a ceremonial display. Photo: Aisling Walsh." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mayan weavings in a ceremonial display. Photo: Aisling Walsh.</span></span></span>The fruit seller, the tortilla maker, the domestic worker, the nanny. These are the Marías of Guatemala. Indigenous women, who continue to wear traditional Mayan dress. They are seemingly considered undeserving, of an identity or even a name of their own; valued only to the extent to which they serve others.</p><p dir="ltr">It doesn't matter if they are teachers, lawyers, academics or doctors, if they are wearing their Mayan huipil and corte they are considered part of the 'servile class.' Strangers have no shame in asking them to clean their houses. Yet, the clothing that marks them as a 'María' is admired when worn on the 'right body'. </p><p dir="ltr">“Our clothes, when we wear them, are little better than<em> trapos</em> [rags],” Jovita Tzul Tzul, a Mayan lawyer supporting the national weavers’ movement, told me. “When they are worn by white bodies they become something beautiful,” she said. The ‘value’ of these textiles depends on who sells or wears them. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">“The ‘value’ of these textiles depends on who sells or wears them.”</p><p dir="ltr">Indigenous Mayan textiles are recognised internationally for the intricacy and vibrancy of their designs and quality of their weavings. Increasingly, their designs are being commodified and packaged for white tourists or clients in Europe and the US looking for a taste of ‘Mayan exoticism’.</p><p dir="ltr">Backstrap weaving or Telar de Cintura is an art that has been passed down through generations. Each Mayan community has its own style and designs often reflect the history of that community or include sacred symbols. There are textiles for everyday use and others for ceremonial purposes. </p><p dir="ltr">These clothes are made and used by women and men. But amid ‘macho’ gender stereotypes and racial discrimination there are few communities where men continue to weave or wear them. As such, it is principally Mayan women who preserve this art through their weaving and everyday use. </p><p dir="ltr">Their weavings and livelihoods face significant threats – including from mass produced and low cost textiles that are running some out of business – while ladina (a local term for non-indigenous) women, designers and clothing companies are profiting off international interest in Mayan designs. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">“The exploitation of Mayan weavers, and the appropriation of their art, is enabled by widespread racism and gender discrimination in Guatemala.”</p><p dir="ltr">The exploitation of Mayan weavers, and the appropriation of their art, is enabled by widespread racism and gender discrimination in Guatemala, a country that is still largely organised around racial stratification dating from colonial times. </p><p dir="ltr">Mayan women have been amongst the most marginalised groups for centuries. Their bodies, labour and knowledge have been regarded as an exploitable as farm workers, wet nurses, sexual slaves, domestic servants and as weavers. </p><p dir="ltr">Guatemala's history from the Spanish invasion more than 500 years ago has been marked by a constant process of pillaging and dispossession of indigenous land, territory and culture. Few aspects of life went untouched, though arguably Mayan weavings resisted this process to some extent. </p><p dir="ltr">Though this has changed amid a contemporary, capitalist drive to privatise, commodify and profit from indigenous knowledge and resources. According to Tzul Tzul, the ladino community “show us nothing but contempt and yet they have a deep interest in profiting from our image and our textiles.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Show us nothing but contempt and yet they have a deep interest in profiting from our image and our textiles.”</p><p dir="ltr">The María's are fighting back. They are calling out the racism of folkloric presentations using white <a href="http://avancso.codigosur.net/article/apunte-etnografico-en-la-vida-cultural-reciente-de/">actors dressed as 'indians'</a>; white models dressed in indigenous clothing on <a href="http://lahora.gt/racismo-de-revista/">magazine covers</a>; and clothing companies using the name <a href="https://www.prensalibre.com/guatemala/comunitario/maria-chula-ofrece-disculpa-publica-y-redes-reaccionan">María</a> in their titles to market indigenous textiles.</p><p dir="ltr">Through the national weaver’s movement, Mayan women are fighting for their collective intellectual property over traditional designs to be recognised and protected in law. Significantly, they are working to recover and re-dignify Mayan dress as a key part of their identity and cultural traditions. </p><p dir="ltr">In doing so, they are challenging the systemic racism that has allowed white people to exploit and profit from Mayan women's art with impunity. </p><p dir="ltr">“Making our own clothes gives us autonomy,” Milvian&nbsp;Aspuac, a founding member of the weaver's movement, told me. “They are a product of our collective knowledge. By making them and wearing them we are breaking many individualist ways of thinking and patriarchal norms.”</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Women's rights and economic justice women's human rights women and power patriarchy gendered poverty women's work young feminists Aisling Walsh Thu, 09 Aug 2018 09:40:06 +0000 Aisling Walsh 118947 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Feminist journalists must document structural violence against women – with investigations from below https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/feminist-anti-racist-investigations-from-below <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Any feminist anti-racist reporting project must work to dismantle received ideas of how and whose stories should be told, and who gets to tell them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image2_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>London women’s protest against austerity cuts. Photo: Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi.</span></span></span>In the long history of women’s battle for civil and human rights – and I include trans woman in this struggle – personal testimony, women talking and being listened to, has been crucial to forcing the public awakening that precipitates activism, protest, legal and policy change.</p><p dir="ltr">There are elements of this tradition of listening, documenting injustices, and keeping a record of the casual damage of structural violence, that chime with investigative journalism. This is what the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/obituaries/overlooked-ida-b-wells.html">pioneering reporter Ida B. Wells</a> did in nineteenth century America, when she carefully documented the lynching of black men, her truth challenging established narratives.</p><p dir="ltr">But the world of investigative journalism today is essentially masculine. Certain stories are seen as worthier of investigation, certain storytellers deemed more credible and authoritative. The voices of women are rarely prioritised. Any feminist anti-racist reporting project must work to dismantle received ideas of how and whose stories should be told, and who gets to tell them.</p><p dir="ltr">In my own reporting I deliberately listen to people in a particular way, putting in the extra work to find and hear the voices of those who are often invisible to wider society – in policy, in politics, and in feminism. There are too many under-investigated stories; the violence done is pervasive, hidden in plain sight.</p><p dir="ltr">How austerity – state-sanctioned structural violence against women, under the guise of ‘saving money’ – has played out in Britain is just one example.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image1_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>London women’s protest against austerity cuts. Photo: Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi.</span></span></span>Reducing the role of the state, cutting budgets for local authorities, legal aid, and public services including social security (we call them welfare benefits in the UK), freezing public sector salaries – these policies hurt women the most. That’s well-documented.</p><p dir="ltr">Women are more likely to use public services, more likely to be employed in low-paid jobs in the public sector, and more likely to do the unpaid care work when the government no longer provides a particular social service. It follows, if you cut the public sector, you hurt women. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">“In the UK, these policies choices were deliberate. Austerity was enacted despite knowledge that it would impoverish women.”</p><p dir="ltr">In the UK, these policies choices were deliberate. Austerity was enacted despite knowledge that it would <a href="https://lacuna.org.uk/justice/fighting-on-all-fronts-poorest-women-hit-by-legal-aid-cuts-in-family-courts/">impoverish women.</a> <a href="https://wbg.org.uk/analysis/assessments/">Impact assessments</a> were produced <a href="https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/the-impact-of-austerity-on-women">showing this</a>. One <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/oct/22/yvette-cooper-fawcett-society-cuts">feminist NGO even took the government to court</a> to challenge the first austerity budget. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/dec/06/fawcett-society-loses-court-challenge-budget">They lost.</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Some of these policies seemed to be a deliberate attempt to revert to an old-fashioned idea of a nuclear family – forcing women into financially-dependent relationships in order to survive. Even though working class and some middle class women have always had to take paid work (on top of unpaid care work carried out in the home).</p><p dir="ltr">Public services that were built up over decades enabled women to live more financially independent lives – they weren’t perfect, but we could build on them. These were rolled back under austerity policies.</p><p dir="ltr">I’ve focused on the impact of austerity on the lives of migrant women, working class women, and black and brown women. Referred to in the stats as BAME, we have <a href="https://wbg.org.uk/news/new-research-shows-poverty-ethnicity-gender-magnify-impact-austerity-bme-women/">data</a> showing that they lose more than even the poorest white women under austerity, which only adds to existing structural disadvantages.</p><p dir="ltr">When I’ve documented these stories, it’s been from the bottom up. As an independent journalist, mostly working for small organisations, I have had the flexibility to choose how I frame and investigate stories.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565074/image3.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yarl's Wood Protest 2015, Bedford, United Kingdom, Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/idarrenj/20249549299/">Flickr/iDJ Photography.</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.</a> Some Rights Reserved.</span></span></span>This means that my sources tend to be based in communities and living through injustices, rather than people with access to money and power who might blow the whistle on something. Following the money is important, but so too is following the policy. Who is hurt and why?</p><p dir="ltr">I’m not the only one who works in this way. Back in 2016, <a href="https://theferret.scot/asylum-domestic-violence/">I worked in collaboration</a> with journalists at the Scottish investigative journalism platform <a href="https://theferret.scot/">the Ferret</a>, to tell the story of refugee women and women with uncertain migration status trying to leave violent relationships.</p><p>While working on that story, I was reminded of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBtb1oamB4k">a comment</a> made by the woman who set up the UK's first formal domestic violence refuge, in an abandoned terrace house in west London. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBtb1oamB4k">She said:</a> “Nobody seemed to be doing anything constructive to help. They just seemed to be sending these women back to the men who beat them, and some back to be killed.”</p><p>She described “a terrible relentless uncaring…” and that was – is – exactly what’s happening to refugee and migrant women across the UK today. People who are supposed to help are turning them away.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">“Nobody seemed to be doing anything constructive to help. They just seemed to be sending these women back to the men who beat them, and some back to be killed.”</p><p dir="ltr">I <a href="https://lacuna.org.uk/migration/terrible-relentless-uncaring/">wrote </a>about a bright young woman named Nabeelah who had come to the UK from Pakistan and married a British man. He was physically abusive; his family bullied her. One day she said: enough.</p><p dir="ltr">She went to the British police and they interrogated her. When she went to a domestic violence refugee, they asked: what’s your immigration status? They couldn’t help because her migration status meant they wouldn’t receive government money to fund her place in their shelter.</p><p dir="ltr">This is another effect of austerity and a government that is very hostile to migrants. There’s a gap in British law, which means that some migrant and refugee women in the UK on spousal visas can’t access some public services.</p><p dir="ltr">I’ve <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/end-of-domestic-violence-support-for-black-and-brow">written about this issue before</a>, and <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/joint-committees/human-rights/BILLS-10-12-142-Submission-from-Southall-Black-Sisters-on-reform-of-legal-aid.pdf">black feminists have fought this for decades.</a> It predates austerity, which has made it worse. Legal aid for most immigration cases and for challenges to benefit decisions is now much more limited, and fewer services are available.</p><p dir="ltr">Nabeela managed to leave her abusive husband, but she had nowhere to go. Eventually she was put in touch with a brilliant lawyer, a woman of colour working all hours to keep her practice going because the government cut legal aid for most immigration cases as part of its austerity programme.</p><p dir="ltr">Much of the work this lawyer does for these women is unpaid. With her help, Nabeelah secured a place at a special refuge for women of South Asian origin.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2016/mar/16/budget-cuts-domestic-violence-services-bme">Funding for these refuges has been cut dramatically</a> by government under austerity policies. They are reducing contracts for specialist domestic violence <a href="https://lacuna.org.uk/protest/sisters-uncut-protest/">grassroots organisations</a> that support <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/we-need-lgbt-specific-domestic-violence-charities-more-than-ever-but-the-only-one-in-the-uk-is-set-a6860691.html">LGBTQ services</a>, services for <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/c3n2gjs4g2g37s2/IMKAAN%20-%20STATE%20OF%20THE%20SECTOR%20%5BFINAL%5D.pdf?dl=0">black women, services for muslim women, services for LatinX women</a> and instead they offer generic contracts to large organisations who do many different things.</p><p dir="ltr">As part of my research – as well interviewing several women – I tried to get data from government on the number of domestic violence victims refused help because they were in the country on spousal visas.</p><p dir="ltr">I sent freedom of information requests to the Home Office. Their response? They don’t keep this data. I sent requests to 34 local authorities across England and Wales, all of whom were part of a network of councils monitoring precarious migrants in their districts. Not a single one kept data on these women. </p><p class="mag-quote-center">That’s another challenge in investigating issues affecting mostly black and poor women: there are huge data gaps.</p><p dir="ltr">Most of the councils I contacted said that they follow existing protocols for dealing with survivors of domestic violence. But, as with the Home Office’s latest Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy, these provide no specific guidance in cases of women without children who are unable to access public funds because of their migration status.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s another challenge in investigating issues affecting mostly black and poor women: there are huge data gaps.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://lacuna.org.uk/equality/layers-of-inequality-2/">I also worked with a university researcher </a>who was <a href="http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/72176/">investigating the effect of cuts to south Asian women and other women of colour</a> where she lived. She found statistics on gender, statistics on race, but rarely, when it came to public services, on both together. This frustrated her, and made her feel invisible.</p><p dir="ltr">This gap is part of a wider problem where official, accepted narratives ignore and render invisible the lived experiences of non-white people, especially those who identify as women.</p><p dir="ltr">It is such gaps and invisibility that Ida B Wells challenged when she investigated and reported on lynchings in America, more than a hundred years ago. This is what feminist, anti-racist media must do today.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>* This article is adapted from a talk given by Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi at the 2018 International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, where 50.50 organised a panel on <a href="https://www.journalismfestival.com/programme/2018/why-we-need-feminist-investigative-journalism">why we need feminist investigative journalism</a>.</em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Women's rights and the media women and power violence against women gendered poverty gendered migration gender feminism Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi Thu, 31 May 2018 07:00:55 +0000 Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi 118134 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 'The Tories cut, we bleed': the story of Women’s Lives Matter in Doncaster https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mich-le-beck/tories-cut-we-bleed-womens-lives-matter-doncaster <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Joyce Sheppard talks about the campaign to save South Yorkshire’s Women’s Aid – one of many domestic violence services impacted by government cuts.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_2882.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women&#039;s Lives Matter protest."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_2882.JPG" alt="Women's Lives Matter protest." title="Women&#039;s Lives Matter protest." width="460" height="310" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women's Lives Matter protest. Photo: John Fuller. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>“The Tories cut, we bleed,” said Joyce Sheppard, 68, an active member of the Women’s Lives Matter campaign in Doncaster, a former coal mining town in South Yorkshire, in the north of England. </p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="https://www.facebook.com/WLMYorkshire">Women’s Lives Matter campaign</a> is a movement across South Yorkshire which originated in Doncaster in 2016, after the closure of the town’s Women’s Aid domestic violence service, one of many organisations that have been impacted by government funding cuts. </p><p dir="ltr">Sheppard is no stranger to grassroots activism; during the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_miners%27_strike_(1984%E2%80%9385)">Miners’ Strike of 1984-85</a>, she joined the Women Against Pit Closures campaign. I spoke to her in February 2018, a year after Prime Minister Theresa May released her draft <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/17/theresa-may-domestic-violence-abuse-act-laws-consultation">domestic abuse bill</a>, which is still yet to be passed – the consultation period runs until <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43319733">31 May 2018</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">In the UK, domestic violence accounts for <a href="http://www.refuge.org.uk/our-work/forms-of-violence-and-abuse/domestic-violence/domestic-violence-the-facts/">two deaths a week</a>, on average. But the closure of domestic violence refuges has not received significant coverage in the national let alone international press. Sheppard accuses those in power of failing to listen to the concerns and voices of local women in places like Doncaster. </p><p dir="ltr">“Talk is cheap, isn’t it?” she said. “You can wear your suffragette rosette and have your picture taken but what are you actually doing for the women’s rights movement?”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“You can wear your suffragette rosette and have your picture taken but what are you actually doing for the women’s rights movement?”</p><p dir="ltr">As home secretary, May helped to pass the ‘<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39011224">coercive control, domestic violence protection orders and disclosure scheme’</a> which permits individuals to ask the police if their partner has a history of abuse. In February 2017, she described tackling domestic violence as “<a href="https://www.police.uk/news/prime-minister-announces-plans-transform-way-we-tackle-domestic-violence-and-abuse/">something I have always attached a personal importance to</a>.” </p><p dir="ltr">May’s draft bill last year came with a pledge to protect and support survivors and recognise the lifelong impacts that such violence can have on women and children. The government has also promised <a href="https://homeofficemedia.blog.gov.uk/2018/01/25/ministers-response-to-new-crime-survey-for-england-and-wales/">£100 million of dedicated funding</a> until 2020 to tackle violence against women and girls.</p><p dir="ltr">But Sheppard accused the government making such promises as “political fabrications to win votes.” She said: “It’s a year on and we still have seen no evidence [of increased funding] – in fact we have seen the opposite with [service] closures.” </p><p dir="ltr">“It’s an outrage,” Sheppard told me, adding: “We know that men and middle class women are victims of domestic violence too but it is proven that it is harder for poorer people to escape domestic violence and now where are they going to go?” </p><p dir="ltr">“The Tories are making it more and more difficult to get housing benefits; teachers aren’t equipped to deal with children who are witnessing or being victims themselves of domestic violence; the NHS isn’t equipped to deal with the financial consequences of treating the victims, not to mention the cost of mental health support.” </p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“It is harder for poorer people to escape domestic violence and now where are they going to go?”</p><p dir="ltr">Women’s Aid was founded in 1974 ‘<a href="https://www.womensaid.org.uk/about-us/">to end domestic abuse against women and children.’</a> Among other things, the national charity runs a 24-hour domestic violence helpline and provides services in refuges. A <a href="https://1q7dqy2unor827bqjls0c4rn-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Survival-and-Beyond-Report-Summary.pdf">report</a> from the charity says there were 11,113 cases of domestic violence against women in the UK in 2016-2017.</p><p dir="ltr">Doncaster Women’s Aid was set up in 1976, funded by Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council (DMBC). <a href="http://www.itv.com/news/calendar/2016-04-14/doncaster-womens-aid-launch-fundraising-campaign-in-battle-against-closure/">In 2013, this funding ended</a> amid <a href="https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/campaigners-rally-to-save-doncaster-women-s-aid-centre">cuts to local authority spending</a> from the central government. <a href="https://socialistworker.co.uk/art/42293/Doncaster+Womens+Aid+++fight+to+save+key+service+that+saves+womens+lives">Three years of relying completely on lottery funding followed</a>, but more organisations became reliant on this route and the money soon ran out. </p><p dir="ltr">In April 2016, women took to the streets of Doncaster in protest and the Women’s Lives Matter campaign began. At first, it seemed successful: in January 2017, DMBC granted £30,000 in funding to South Yorkshire Women’s Aid (SYWA). But when this money dried up, local Labour Councillor Chris McGuinness said no more funding was available – despite revelations in the press that DMBC had <a href="https://freedomnews.org.uk/fighting-to-save-south-yorkshire-womens-aid/">£97.3 million</a> in usable cash reserves. </p><p dir="ltr">After two years of relentless campaigning, activists say that the voices and concerns of the Women’s Lives Matter campaign are still being sidelined. From the closure of Doncaster Women’s Aid in March 2016 to the opening of SYWA in January 2017, there were more than <a href="http://uniteresist.org/2017/10/appeal-from-save-south-yorkshire-womens-aid-sign-the-open-letter/">6,600 reported</a> incidents of domestic violence in Doncaster alone. </p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://freedomnews.org.uk/fighting-to-save-south-yorkshire-womens-aid/">According to Councillor McGuinness</a><strong></strong>, central government decisions – not those of the local authority – were to blame for the closure of Doncaster Women's Aid, and the subsequent lack of funding for SYWA. Sheppard isn’t satisfied with this response; she says that McGuinness cannot simply “wash his hands... and say ‘Oh well, sorry no available money to spend on this – case closed.’”</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">“Women and children are going to die... it isn't good enough to say 'no funding available.'”</p><p dir="ltr">“Women and children are going to die,” Sheppard told me, adding: “In 2017 the people of Doncaster <a href="http://www.doncaster.gov.uk/services/the-council-democracy/local-elections-2017">voted Labour in</a> – the seemingly more ‘caring’ political party so they can campaign on our behalf.&nbsp;Our previous campaign was a success because we were visible and noisy. It isn’t good enough to say 'no funding available.'”</p><p dir="ltr">Women who have protested in Doncaster have also been “quashed or discredited using intimidation tactics,” Sheppard claimed, referring to the case of domestic violence worker and campaigner Louise Harrison, who activists say was <a href="https://freedomnews.org.uk/womens-aid-worker-victimised-for-speaking-out-against-cuts/">retaliated against and threatened with losing her job</a> amid her participation in protests against cuts.</p><p dir="ltr">Sheppard attributed this response to women’s activism to Doncaster’s “heavy industrial background and the breadwinner/homemaker model [that] is still prevalent in the minds of archaic men and the social structures of our town.”</p><p dir="ltr">The Women’s Lives Matter campaign, Sheppard continued, has shown “the very real danger our victims are in without Women’s Aid. 100 years since women won the vote and look: we are still campaigning for equality. This silencing of women has to be stopped.”&nbsp; </p><p dir="ltr">Despite the obstacles, she and her allies are not giving up; their crusade to save the lives of women in Doncaster, and across the UK, continues. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> England </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 uk England Civil society Women and the Economy women's movements women's health violence against women gendered poverty 50.50 newsletter young feminists Michéle Beck Fri, 06 Apr 2018 07:32:21 +0000 Michéle Beck 116719 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Video: feminist activists speak out against corporate impunity https://www.opendemocracy.net/valerie-bah/video-feminist-activists-corporate-impunity-binding-treaty <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Human rights abuses. Plundered resources. #Feminists4BindingTreaty explain why corporations must be held accountable for their impacts around the world.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 19.31.41.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="&quot;Corporate abuse disproportionately impacts women&quot; still from video."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 19.31.41.png" alt=""Corporate abuse disproportionately impacts women" still from video." title="&quot;Corporate abuse disproportionately impacts women&quot; still from video." width="460" height="250" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Corporate abuse disproportionately impacts women" still from video.</span></span></span>“There’s more money now in the world than ever before in history. We have that wealth, it’s about redistributing it,” says Sanam Amin from the <a href="http://apwld.org">Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">Amin is one of several feminist activists who are speaking up about the impacts of corporate power abuses on women, and <a href="https://www.awid.org/news-and-analysis/gender-perspective-un-binding-treaty-transnational-corporations">mobilising behind a proposed binding treaty</a> to hold multinational corporations accountable for their activities’ impacts around the world.</p><p> <iframe width="460" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4X-ab46CpyQ" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media"></iframe>In this video we also hear from Taina Hedman from the <a href="https://www.iitc.org">International Indian Treaty Council</a> organisation of indigenous peoples; Eugenia Lopez Uribe from the Latin American regional NGO <a href="https://www.projectpoder.org/es/">Project on Organising, Development, Education, and Research (PODER)</a>; and Hakima Abbas and Felogene Anumo from the <a href="https://www.awid.org">Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">A <a href="https://www.awid.org/news-and-analysis/gender-perspective-un-binding-treaty-transnational-corporations">Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations</a> has been the subject of discussions at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva since 2014. Negotiations on a draft treaty text are expected later this year.</p> <p dir="ltr">For too long we’ve been left with few options other than to rely on the ‘good will’ of giant companies, and have seen lands and waters destroyed, and resources plundered from local communities offered very little in return. Follow <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Feminists4BindingTreaty&amp;src=typd">#Feminists4BindingTreaty</a> for updates on the campaign.</p><p dir="ltr"><a style="text-decoration-line: underline; font-size: 18px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 30px; font-family: &quot;Helvetica Neue&quot;, Arial, &quot;Liberation Sans&quot;, FreeSans, sans-serif;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/claire-provost/apply-for-5050-womens-rights-corporate-power-reporting-fellowship">Apply for a 50.50 women’s rights and corporate power reporting fellowship</a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/claire-provost-aicha-hanna-agrane/migrant-farmworkers-protest-sexual-violence">Migrant farmworkers protest in New York City against sexual violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/claire-provost/apply-for-5050-womens-rights-corporate-power-reporting-fellowship">Apply for a 50.50 women’s rights and corporate power reporting fellowship</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Economics International politics Video Women and the Economy women's movements women's human rights women and power gendered poverty gender feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Valerie Bah Fri, 16 Mar 2018 08:20:20 +0000 Valerie Bah 116674 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Gender equality cannot be achieved without tax reform for multinational companies https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/magdalena-sep-lveda/gender-equality-tax-reform-multinational-companies <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We can't achieve gender equality, or ensure women’s rights, without progressive tax policies.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/8117210184_e3ca8b5303_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Photo: Hernán Piñera/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Some rights reserved. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/8117210184_e3ca8b5303_k.jpg" alt="Photo: Hernán Piñera/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Some rights reserved. " title="Photo: Hernán Piñera/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Some rights reserved. " width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Domestic and care work responsibilities fall disproportionately on women. Photo: Hernán Piñera/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>Women’s organisations in developing countries can be proud of themselves. Thanks to their struggles, <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2015/poww-2015-factsheet-global-en.pdf?la=en&amp;vs=1345">more states have adopted laws</a> to promote gender equality at work. Overall,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/economic-empowerment/facts-and-figures#notes">women have greater access to their own incomes, more of us are working,</a> and the <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2015/poww-2015-factsheet-global-en.pdf?la=en&amp;vs=1345">gender gap in the quality of employment</a> is narrowing slightly. </p><p dir="ltr">Nevertheless, <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2015/poww-2015-factsheet-global-en.pdf?la=en&amp;vs=1345">pay gaps still exist </a>between women and men doing the same work. <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2015/poww-2015-factsheet-global-en.pdf?la=en&amp;vs=1345">Women are disproportionately represented</a> in informal jobs and jobs without decent working conditions including living wages, maternity leave, or pensions. In Africa and Asia, UN Women found that <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/csw61/women-in-informal-economy#notes">75% of women’s work is currently in the informal sector</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Women continue to carry disproportionate housework and unpaid care responsibilities. Looking after dependent family members, cleaning and cooking are still ‘women’s affairs’ in many places, limiting opportunities for education, training and paid work, making true economic empowerment impossible.</p><p dir="ltr">Today, there is renewed commitment to <a href="http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/gender-equality/">gender equality</a> and human rights at the international level, including through the UN’s 2013 sustainable development agenda. But this clashes with local political realities in many places, with governments implementing harsh austerity policies with devastating consequences for unprotected populations.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'Governments are implementing harsh austerity policies with devastating consequences for unprotected populations.'</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, the general public is increasingly aware that many multinational companies only pay a portion of the taxes they owe (as revealed yet again by the <a href="https://www.icij.org/investigations/paradise-papers/">Paradise Papers</a> scandal), leaving governments with fewer public resources. </p><p dir="ltr">What seems to have most surprised citizens is that many corporate tax abuses are legal. Companies can legally declare profits not where they are made, but in other countries with lower – even zero – tax rates. This perpetuates tax competition, pressuring countries into levying increasingly lower taxes.</p><p dir="ltr">Less well-known is how this system limits progress on women’s rights and gender equality – which cannot be achieved without tax reform for multinational companies.</p><p dir="ltr">Tax policies impact women and men differently, due to their different and unequal positions as workers, carers, consumers, and owners of assets. These policies may thus promote, or impede, gender equality progress.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">'Tax policies may promote, or impede, gender equality progress.'</p><p dir="ltr">When&nbsp;multinationals do not pay the taxes that they owe, states have fewer resources to invest in public services such as education, healthcare, childcare, justice systems and public drinking water and sanitation systems. </p><p dir="ltr">This can exacerbate gender equality due to women’s disproportionate participation in precarious or low-paid jobs. When social services are cut, <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2015/poww-2015-factsheet-global-en.pdf?la=en&amp;vs=1345">women tend to take on more unpaid care work</a>. Closing a school may force a woman to quit her job to care for her children.</p><p dir="ltr">Furthermore, when governments see their abilities to raise revenues diminished – due to multinationals not paying their full, far share of tax – <a href="https://opendocs.ids.ac.uk/opendocs/bitstream/handle/123456789/7996/PB109_AGID320_UnpaidCare_Online.pdf;jsessionid=BB940E6206489C70A42EB262F5EB2A15?sequence=1">they tend to compensate for this loss by increasing the tax burden on small and medium-sized business or on citizens and families</a> (generally by increasing sales taxes, for example value-added tax – VAT). </p><p dir="ltr">Such measures also have a gender dimension, as <a href="http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/---publ/documents/publication/wcms_457317.pdf">women are overrepresented in small and medium-sized business</a>&nbsp;and at the lowest wage levels. The more regressive the tax system, the more the burden of sustaining public policies will fall on the shoulders of women.</p><p dir="ltr">Whenever governments make or reiterate commitments to gender equality and women’s rights, we must remind them that we cannot achieve these goals without progressive tax policies.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/claire-provost/apply-for-5050-womens-rights-corporate-power-reporting-fellowship">Apply for a 50.50 women’s rights and corporate power reporting fellowship</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Economics Equality Ideas Women's rights and economic justice gendered poverty gender justice gender 50.50 newsletter women's work Magdalena Sepúlveda Wed, 14 Mar 2018 04:01:51 +0000 Magdalena Sepúlveda 116566 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Apply for a 50.50 women’s rights and corporate power reporting fellowship https://www.opendemocracy.net/claire-provost/apply-for-5050-womens-rights-corporate-power-reporting-fellowship <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We need your help to investigate women’s rights and corporate power around the world. Apply for a 50.50 reporting fellowship.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/26169214222_7376e5cb6f_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Berta Zúñiga Cáceres."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563363/26169214222_7376e5cb6f_k.jpg" alt="Berta Zúñiga Cáceres." title="Berta Zúñiga Cáceres." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Berta Zúñiga Cáceres (centre), daughter of murdered activist Berta Cáceres. Credit: Daniel Cima/CIDH/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0) Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>We need your help to investigate women’s rights and corporate power around the world. Apply for a 50.50 reporting fellowship.</p><p dir="ltr">50.50 is the section of the independent media platform openDemocracy.net covering gender and sexuality. We are looking for one part-time reporting fellow to work with our editors on stories related to extractive industries, corporate power, tax justice, and the rights of women, trans and gender non-conforming people. This fellowship aims to demystify how the global economy works and is in partnership with the <a href="https://www.awid.org/">Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)</a>, as part of its project to share knowledge around economic justice. </p><p dir="ltr">The fellowship will run for five months, starting 30 April 2018. The fellow will be expected to work on 1-2 articles each month, and to prepare for and attend weekly (virtual) editorial meetings. The fellow will be paid per piece produced, from £150 ($210) for a short article up to £300 ($410) for a more in-depth report. They will also receive ongoing mentorship and practical training. Workshops will be arranged, where possible, on topics such as Freedom of Information requests, interview skills, and feature writing, depending on the fellow’s projects and needs.</p><p dir="ltr">Fellows may be based anywhere in the world. Previous experience in journalism, research, and multimedia storytelling is welcome. Most importantly, you are a creative, critical thinker and collaborative team player. We're looking for young women, gender non-conforming and trans writers with ideas and enthusiasm for original, feminist journalism. Applicants between the ages of 20 and 30 years old, living in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, with a passion for racial and economic justice are particularly encouraged to apply. </p><p dir="ltr">This is not a full-time position, and can run alongside other responsibilities. You should be able to dedicate approximately 7-8 hours to this fellowship each week. You must be comfortable researching and writing in English (with other language skills of course welcome). You must have reliable internet access and be able to join virtual meetings (for example via Skype).</p><h2 dir="ltr"><a href="https://opendemocracy60862.recruiterbox.com/jobs/fk0f4yb">Complete your application online</a> by 23 March 2018 at 11:59pm GMT.</h2><p>Email <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/lara.whyte@opendemocracy.net">claire.provost@opendemocracy.net </a>with any questions, including “women’s rights and corporate power reporting fellowship” in the subject line. Note: If you applied for 50.50’s 'tracking the backlash' feminist investigative journalism fellowships, and would like to be considered for this position as well, you must re-apply through this form.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Women's rights and the media Women's rights and economic justice Women and the Economy women's human rights gendered poverty gender feminism 50.50 newsletter women's work young feminists Claire Provost Fri, 02 Mar 2018 08:55:04 +0000 Claire Provost 116221 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women’s voices must not be ignored in business and human rights talks https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/chiara-capraro-ayesha-carmouche/womens-voices-business-human-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The corporate rush for land and resources in the Global South has gender-specific impacts on women, who are routinely excluded from decision-making.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Uganda.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women have to walk for miles to collect water after being displaced from their land in Uganda."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Uganda.jpg" alt="Women have to walk for miles to collect water after being displaced from their land in Uganda." title="Women have to walk for miles to collect water after being displaced from their land in Uganda." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women have to walk for miles to collect water after being displaced from their land in Uganda. Photo: Sarah Waiswa/Womankind Worldwide.</span></span></span>The link between corporations’ rush for natural resources and violations of women’s rights is increasingly evident. The 2016 murder of environmental activist <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/03/honduras-berta-caceres-murder-enivronment-activist-human-rights">Berta Cáceres</a> – who was leading the struggle of her indigenous community to oppose the construction of a dam on their sacred river in Honduras – showed how deadly the risks can be. Her story exemplifies the struggle of many women in the Global South who are standing up for their rights to dignified lives free from violence.</p><p dir="ltr">In recent decades, we’ve seen a proliferation of land-intensive, transnational mining and agri-business projects – from gold and coal mining to biofuel and palm oil production – in resource-rich developing countries. Yet, instead of promised prosperity, many local populations continue to struggle with poverty and food insecurity, along with growing conflicts over who controls and profits from high-value commodities and land.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Consequences of the corporate rush for natural resources in the Global South, including lost livelihoods, forced evictions, violence and environmental degradation, impact women in specific ways. When women rise up to defend their land they may also face threats and ostracisation from their own communities, as they <a href="https://www.awid.org/publications/women-human-rights-defenders-confronting-extractive-industries">defy</a> state and corporate power as well as patriarchal notions of women’s roles. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Women are the majority of the world’s small-scale farmers and are <a href="https://www1.essex.ac.uk/hrc/careers/clinic/documents/Engendering%20Human%20Rights%20Due%20Diligence.pdf">primarily responsible</a> for providing care, food and water for their families. But their work is often undervalued and unrecognised. When businesses violate human rights, gender-specific impacts remain largely invisible. Many of these violations are caused and exacerbated by entrenched and ‘normalised,’ everyday gender discrimination.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Many violations are caused and exacerbated by entrenched and ‘normalised,’ everyday gender discrimination.</p><p dir="ltr">Women’s financial and physical security is seriously jeopardised by transnational land-based corporate investment, according to <a href="http://corporate-responsibility.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Core_WomensRights_Final1.pdf">a new briefing</a> from UK civil society network on corporate accountability, <a href="http://corporate-responsibility.org/">CORE</a>, and the NGO <a href="https://www.womankind.org.uk/">Womankind</a>. Drawing on research from the Essex University Human Rights Clinic, it shows how women are also routinely denied opportunities to influence decisions regarding land use by overseas and domestic investors.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In <a href="http://www.nape.or.ug/publications/gender/51-women-led-action-oriented-booklet/file">Uganda</a>, the National Association of Professional Environmentalists, a local NGO, has shown how women are excluded from key decision-making processes due to a lack of land ownership rights. Household and community power dynamics often exclude women from land use consultations and the distribution of compensation. Companies make little effort to listen to women’s voices and incorporate them in investment plans.</p><p dir="ltr">This week, civil society, government and business representatives are meeting in Geneva for the <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum/Pages/2017ForumBHR.aspx">UN Forum for Business and Human Rights</a> to discuss corporate compliance with human rights and access to remedies when things go wrong. These talks will fail if they ignore women’s voices and do not challenge gender injustices.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Companies must explicitly acknowledge gender-specific impacts of their activities and introduce policies and mechanisms to engage and listen to women’s experiences. They must document and be able to clearly show how this informs their activities, so that they can be monitored and held to account for commitments.</p><p dir="ltr">But we cannot rely on businesses alone to deliver good practice. States should introduce mandatory human rights due diligence, compelling companies to conduct risk assessments of their operations, including oversight of subsidiaries and supplier practices and prominent gender analysis and attention to women’s rights.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Prolific corporate human rights abuse is beginning to galvanise international efforts to end it.</p><p dir="ltr">Today, prolific corporate human rights abuse is beginning to galvanise international efforts to end it. Ecuador is leading a process at the UN human rights council to create a <a href="http://corporate-responsibility.org/proposed-treaty-business-human-rights/">legally-binding treaty</a> that would force companies to uphold human rights and environmental standards across their operations.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Last week CEDAW, the <a href="http://www.ciel.org/news/un-committee-calls-norway-revise-energy-policy-noting-climate-impacts-arctic-oil-extraction/">UN committee</a> responsible for reviewing states’ women’s rights commitments called on Norway to reconsider its oil and gas extraction policies to mitigate the disproportionate impact on women of climate change. </p><p dir="ltr">A 2015 <a href="http://corporatejustice.org/news/353-corporate-duty-of-vigilance-another-step-forward-towards-the-french-law-s-adoption">French law</a> requires its largest companies to prepare ‘vigilance plans’ setting out measures taken to prevent human rights abuses throughout their operations. Several other European countries are now considering the introduction of mandatory human rights due diligence laws. The EU should build on this momentum, introduce a common standard and require all member states to introduce such legislation.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">These measures could enable women whose rights have been violated to take multinational companies to court in the countries where they are headquartered. Cases like these are not easy to mount, but currently most communities are restricted to remedy through local judicial systems where legal infrastructure may be limited and corruption may be widespread.</p><p dir="ltr">States and corporations must show that they take women’s rights seriously. They can no longer pay lip service to these rights, or relegate responsibility for them to profit-hungry corporations and patriarchal decision-makers. Women’s voices and women’s participation must be at the centre of talks and policies on business and human rights.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Women's rights and economic justice Women and the Economy women's human rights women and power patriarchy gendered poverty 50.50 newsletter Ayesha Carmouche Chiara Capraro Tue, 28 Nov 2017 07:00:46 +0000 Chiara Capraro and Ayesha Carmouche 114918 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Young feminists: the future belongs to us, not transnational corporations https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/felogene-anumo/young-feminists-corporate-impunity-treaty <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="ltr">Corporate impunity impacts young women and girls disproportionately. Young feminists must join the growing mobilisation for a UN treaty on transnational corporations and human rights.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/RS1260_YFA Day - participants.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Participants at the Young Feminist Activist Conference, 2011."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/RS1260_YFA Day - participants.jpg" alt="Participants at the Young Feminist Activist Conference, 2011." title="Participants at the Young Feminist Activist Conference, 2011." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Participants at the Young Feminist Activist Conference, 2011. Photo: Nelly Bassily/AWID.</span></span></span>This week in Geneva, members of a United Nations intergovernmental working group are discussing a long-awaited, legally binding treaty to regulate the human rights impacts of transnational corporations.&nbsp; </p><p dir="ltr">It’s about time. Today, power inequalities between states and corporations are vast. Out of the <a href="http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/news/2016/sep/12/10-biggest-corporations-make-more-money-most-countries-world-combined">top 100 global economic entities, 69 are corporations, 31 are countries</a>. The combined revenues of the ten biggest corporations surpass those of more than 180 countries. Corporations are claiming responsibility for delivering public goods and global development goals, gaining access to new resources and powers through public-private partnerships (PPPs).</p><p dir="ltr">These are key issues for all young feminists. Consolidated corporate power and <a href="https://www.escr-net.org/corporateaccountability/corporatecapture">corporate capture</a> have disproportionate impacts on young women and girls. The privatisation of public services, particularly in education and health care, has increased inequalities and compromised quality, adding to the obstacles that young women, trans youth and girls face in accessing their rights.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Consolidated corporate power and&nbsp;corporate capture&nbsp;have disproportionate impacts on young women and girls.</p><p dir="ltr">In countries including&nbsp;<a href="http://depts.washington.edu/sphnet/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Coovadia.pdf">South Africa</a>, when family planning services were privatised amid wider neoliberal reforms we saw the systematic introduction of user fees including on essential maternity care, assisted reproduction, abortion, and other gynaecological services. Many lost access to such services as a result, leading to<a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/press-releases/2017/01/south-africa-women-and-girls-risk-unsafe-abortions-after-being-denied-legal-services/"> unacceptably high rates of unsafe abortion</a> and harmful self-treatment regimens.</p><p dir="ltr">Growing corporate influence on governments has also meant that national and international legislation privileges corporate interests, for example, in labour laws. Young people are disproportionately impacted by the results –&nbsp;including deplorable working conditions, lack of access to quality public services, and failures to recognise unpaid and low-paid care work.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_20171023_163846_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Inna Michaeli."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/IMG_20171023_163846_0.jpg" alt="Inna Michaeli." title="Inna Michaeli." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Inna Michaeli from AWID reading a statement on behalf of the #Feminists4BindingTreaty in Geneva, October 2017. Photo: Alex del Rey.</span></span></span>The plight of young migrant workers in the garment sector is a well-known example of the disposability and commodification of women’s labour; <a href="http://www.feminist.org/other/sweatshops/sweatfaq.html">85% of sweatshop workers</a> are women between 15-25 years old. There is industry-wide eagerness in the media, fashion and the arts, and increasingly across sectors, to rely on the ‘precarious’ and poorly-compensated labour of young women.</p><p dir="ltr">According to International Trade Union Confederation <a href="http://www.ituc-csi.org/new-ituc-report-exposes-hidden?lang=en">research</a>, only 6% of workers in the global supply chains of 50 large multinational companies are direct employees. Others are part of a “hidden workforce.” Significantly, precarious work prevents young workers from joining unions that could help them access needed labour protections.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">85% of sweatshop workers&nbsp;are women between 15-25 years old</p><p dir="ltr">Illicit financial flows (IFFs) also have a <a href="https://www.awid.org/publications/illicit-financial-flows-why-we-should-claim-these-resources-gender-economic-and-social">disproportionate gender impact</a>, draining critical resources that could otherwise be allocated for the advancement of women’s human rights – a point emphasised at the first ever African Feminist Macroeconomic Academy, held in Johannesburg last week.</p><p dir="ltr">IFFs from Africa result in estimated losses of over $50 billion per year – with 65% of these due to <a href="http://femnet.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Factsheet-on-Gender-and-IFFs-by-FEMNET-2017.pdf">commercial tax evasion and tax avoidance</a>, including the transfer of income to tax havens. Current legal and political frameworks allow multinational corporations to benefit from tax abuse to the detriment of people and the planet.</p><p dir="ltr">We are living in times when it is deadly to take a stand against corporations encroaching on land and destroying the environment. According to a 2016 report by<a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/en-gb/campaigns/environmental-activists/defenders-earth/"> Defenders of the Earth</a>, at least four environmental and land defenders are murdered each week.</p><p dir="ltr">In Honduras, environmental defender and indigenous leader Berta Cáceres was murdered last year. This year, Bertha Zúniga Cáceres, her 26-year-old daughter, survived an attempted attack by a assailants wielding machetes.</p><p dir="ltr">Young women human rights defenders continue to face violent attacks as they defend the environment and the rights to land of indigenous peoples and rural communities. Many more face daily threats.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">We have the most to gain from ending corporate impunity.</p><p dir="ltr">A path to ending corporate abuses is now visible, including this week’s discussions in Geneva. But states must also address gender-specific impacts of business activities.</p><p dir="ltr">Feminist demands include: addressing corporate tax evasion as a violation of human rights, including women’s rights; holding corporations accountable for environmental destruction and lowered labour standards and working conditions; and respecting and protecting the work of women human rights defenders.</p><p dir="ltr">Young feminists must join the growing mobilisation for a binding UN treaty on transnational corporations and human rights. We have the most to gain from ending corporate impunity.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/felogene-anumo-and-valerie-bah/four-lessons-african-feminist-organising">&quot;The revolution will not be NGO-ised&quot;: four lessons from African feminist organising</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 women's movements women's human rights women and power gendered poverty feminism 50.50 newsletter women's work young feminists Felogene Anumo Tue, 24 Oct 2017 11:46:53 +0000 Felogene Anumo 114203 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Older women living with HIV in the UK: discrimination and broken confidentiality https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jacqui-stevenson/older-women-living-with-hiv-facing-discrimination-and-broken-confidentiality-i <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Women accessing HIV care services in the UK report being told to use separate cutlery, being refused help to shower, and having visitors being told by care workers not to associate with them. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/WomenlivingwithHIVUKNov2016(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/WomenlivingwithHIVUKNov2016(1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="282" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women living with HIV in the UK. Image: The Salamander Trust </span></span></span></p><p><em>“We're worried about care homes for people with our disability. In other words they will mistreat you.” </em>Workshop participant</p> <p>As life expectancy grows, more of us can anticipate needing some kind of care in our older age. Worry over such potential future care is not uncommon. This can be fears generated by <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27266963">terrible stories in the media</a> about poor treatment in residential care homes. Or worry over burdening family and friends. Concern over the costs of care and how they might be met loom large. Some though face additional cause for concern, particularly those living with stigmatised conditions such as HIV. In recent years, increasing evidence has emerged both of discriminatory treatment of people living with HIV in residential or domiciliary care, and of the fears that many people living with HIV have over facing this in their future. </p> <p>As huge advances have been made in HIV treatment and care, people living with HIV can now expect a <a href="http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/3106.aspx?CategoryID=118&amp;SubCategoryID=126">normal life expectancy</a>. Due to this, the population of older people living with HIV is growing, with <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/574667/HIV_in_the_UK_2016.pdf">one in three people</a> accessing HIV care services in 2015 aged over 50, <a href="http://www.tht.org.uk/~/media/Files/Publications/Policy/uncharted_territory_final_low-res.pdf">29.960 people</a> in total. This is also driven by increasing rates of diagnosis of HIV amongst older people: in 2015, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/574667/HIV_in_the_UK_2016.pdf">17% of new diagnoses</a> were amongst people aged over 50.</p> <p><a href="http://www.tht.org.uk/~/media/Files/Publications/Policy/Uncharted_territory_summary_Final_low-res.pdf">Recent research by the HIV charity THT</a>, with people living with HIV over the age of 50, found that 82% of respondents were concerned about being able to access adequate social care as they grew older, and 88% had not made financial plans to meet their care needs. This lack of financial preparation was rooted in high rates of poverty experienced by older people with HIV, with 58% of the THT survey respondents living on or below the poverty line. In addition, people taking part in the survey reported poor experiences with social care where they were already accessing it, including having their HIV status revealed to friends and family without their consent.</p> <p>The National AIDS Trust published <a href="http://www.nat.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/NAT_Res_Dom_Care_Report_July_2015.pdf">guidance on HIV for care providers</a> in 2015, to address knowledge gaps and potential stigma and discrimination amongst care workers and in care settings. The guidance includes experiences shared by people living with HIV and specialist social workers, describing discrimination and broken confidentiality, including people being refused help to shower, being made to use separate cutlery, or having visitors or other residents informed of their HIV status and advised not to visit or associate with them. These experiences reflect those reported in the THT research, and in other studies.</p> <p>Many people living with HIV will be familiar with such experiences, and know or know of people who have faced stigma and discrimination in care settings. In <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_5XkUwJTVGwQUh2WDdJdkxzWTA/view">my own research</a>, exploring the experiences of ageing with HIV for women in London, with a focus on health and social care needs, such concerns have been shared repeatedly by older women living with HIV.</p> <p>Women make up <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/574667/HIV_in_the_UK_2016.pdf">almost a third</a> of people living with HIV in the UK, yet are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/jacquistevenson/minority-within-a-minorit_b_15184762.html">often missing from research and under-represented in policy</a>. In terms of ageing, women face specific gendered experiences and challenges, including biological issues like menopause and loss of bone density and social experiences such as providing care for others. Women also have significant concerns around care and care homes, which are sometimes underrepresented in discussions about care challenges for older people with HIV. In my study, women have reported a range of worries, in addition to concerns about discrimination, including the fear of navigating a care system without children or other family members to act as advocates, and about losing the ability to maintain confidentiality and control disclosure of their HIV status to those close to them. The following are quotes from older women living with HIV taking part in either workshops or a participatory literature review as part of my research, and illustrate the range of concerns that women have.</p> <p>For older women living with HIV who do not have children, or have children that live elsewhere, the prospect of entering care without family to advocate for their needs and ensure they receive good treatment is a source of real worry. In many cases, this is compounded for women who have experiences in navigating the care system on behalf of others, with women I spoke to who have parents in care describing how they felt they played a significant role in ensuring their parent(s) was safe and well-cared for, and feared having no-one to play that role for them:</p> <p><em>“…if that plays out as dementia I feel very fearful of how that scenario is going to be without a family to sort of advocate on my behalf.”</em></p> <p><em>&nbsp;“I would be concerned because I've been directly you know looking after my parents and facilitating their care in both a nursing home last year and now a residential care home and I can just see the vulnerabilities once you're in the care system, in an institution, it's really difficult to negotiate anything for yourself and you really are at the mercy, you know, if you've got nobody keeping an eye on things, you just have to hope that it goes alright”</em></p> <p>For others, their fears were shaped or increased by the experiences of friends or others in their networks, who had experienced discrimination, from poor care to disclosure of HIV status:</p> <p><em>“… also a concern because some of the carers would gossip about other patients so yeah there was a possibility that they were gossiping about her to other patients.”</em></p> <p><em>“Again I'm going to give an example because I do peer support. There is someone who lives with HIV and she's partially blind and she has been allocated carers. They come to her for her daily needs, personal care. This still happens, they disclosed her status.”</em></p> <p>Some women described fears over losing the ability to manage their own medication and clinic appointments, and becoming dependent on others, which would necessitate others knowing their HIV status, and potentially lead to discriminatory treatment:</p> <p><em>“…I always think of the time when I'll start losing my senses, not being able to do things for myself, that alone kills me. I personally, I would say, if I had to go, I don't want to get to that age where someone will have to give me my medication… I mean because of the stigma.”</em></p> <p>Overall, when women described their future care needs and how they might be met, they described fear and worry, over the treatment and standard of care they could expect to receive:</p> <p><em>&nbsp;“… you know my, my most fear is getting old and being put up in a home where people are so ignorant and they're going to treat me, and they can show my files to each other, and gossiping about me. I have nightmares, I have nightmares about this....”</em></p> <p>To alleviate this anxiety, it is essential that training in HIV is implemented as a requirement for all care providers, and that care homes and other facilities are supported to ensure they provide a safe and non-discriminatory setting for people living with HIV. A number of women in my study also suggested the need for care system navigators and advocates for people living with HIV, who could speak up on their behalf and had the training and knowledge to support people living with HIV to access high quality care and to solve challenges where they emerge. Beyond this, HIV stigma is a social issue that needs to be addressed across society. HIV specific support services must also be protected and supported, yet just this past week, it was revealed by a Freedom of Information request by the <a href="http://www.nat.org.uk/press-release/exposed-huge-national-cuts-hiv-support-services">National AIDS Trust</a> that such services have received a 28% funding cut between 2015/16 and 2016/17. This must be reversed to ensure that to ensure that people living and ageing with HIV have access to the specialist support and care that they need. The population of older people living with HIV will continue to grow, and urgent action, resources and attention is needed to ensure they are able to access quality, non-discriminatory and comprehensive care and support.</p> <p><strong><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy 50.50's platform:</em> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-aids-gender-and-human-rights">AIDS Gender and Human Rights </a></strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn-luisa-orza/welcome-to-our-house-women-living-with-hiv">Welcome to our house: women living with HIV</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/silvia-petretti/hiv-both-cause-and-consequence-of-violence-against-women">HIV: both the cause and the consequence of violence against women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/hivaids-and-holistic-healthcare-can-spirituality-and-science-meet">HIV, AIDS and holistic healthcare: can spirituality and science meet?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/silvia-petretti/i-am-one-of-those-foreigners-living-with-hiv-in-uk">&quot;I am one of those foreigners&quot;: living with HIV in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marama-pala/nobody-left-behind-lives-of-indigenous-women-with-hiv">Nobody Left Behind? The lives of indigenous women with HIV</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/susana-t-fried/ending-hiv">Ending HIV: UN slogans vs the voices of civil society </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/glory-mlaki/tanzanian-pastoralist-women-hiv-and-health-rights">Tanzanian pastoralist women: HIV and health rights </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/hiv-witnessing-realisation-of-raw-human-rights">HIV: witnessing the realisation of raw human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/bev-wilson/women-living-with-hiv-matter-of-safety-and-respect">Women living with HIV: a matter of safety and respect </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ida-susser/microbicide-success-feminism-is-essential-to-good-science">A microbicide success: feminism is essential to good science</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/alice-welbourn/hiv-and-aids-language-and-blame-game">HIV and AIDS: language and the blame game</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/susana-t-fried-alice-welbourn/confinement-of-eve-resolving-ebola-zika-and-hiv-with-women-s-bodi">The confinement of Eve: resolving Ebola, Zika and HIV with women’s bodies?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cecilia-chung/hiv-call-for-solidarity-with-transgender-community">HIV: a call for solidarity with the transgender community </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/andrea-von-lieven/hiv-nothing-about-us-without-us">HIV: nothing about us, without us</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/maria-de-bruyn/hiv-what-kind-of-evidence-counts">HIV: what kind of evidence counts ?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/hiv-of-bombs-and-banks-and-transformation">HIV: of bombs and banks and transformation...</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/hiv-violations-or-investments-in-women%E2%80%99s-rights"> HIV: Violations or investments in women’s rights? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/blog/jessica_reed/hiv_and_women_fighting_hypocrisy">HIV and women: fighting hypocrisy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/martha-tholanah/hiv-disclosure-changing-ourselves-changing-others">HIV disclosure: changing ourselves, changing others </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/susana-t-fried/crosstalk-linking-across-areas-of-criminalization">Crosstalk: HIV and linking across areas of criminalisation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 AIDS, Gender and Human Rights gendered poverty gender justice bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Jacqui Stevenson Wed, 05 Apr 2017 08:03:27 +0000 Jacqui Stevenson 109817 at https://www.opendemocracy.net No Women’s Day without refugee women https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/no-women-s-day-without-refugee-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Hand-in-hand with Trump, Theresa May is not merely playing to an anti-migrant populist crowd but helped to create it. This system is working as intended, but it must be disrupted.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/WWR5_0.gif" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/WWR5_0.gif" alt="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women" title="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women" width="240" height="360" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women</span></span></span>On International Women’s Day, 8th March 2017, the UK’s current Chancellor of the Exchequer will deliver his first Spring Budget. Philip Hammond, who has been in post since July 2016, will carry a scarlet briefcase and hold it aloft outside 11 Downing Street for photographers. This ‘Budget Box’ will accompany the Chancellor to the House of Commons; it contains the speech he will give to announce the government’s taxation, forecast and spending plans for the coming year.</p> <p>On international Women’s Day, Women for Refugee Women will also be making a presentation to government. Representatives will meet and travel to the Home Office, carrying a large card addressed to the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd MP. It is signed by the attendees of the National Refugee Women’s Conference 2017, held a week before, and calls on Rudd to ‘stand up for women who are crossing borders for safety.’ It closes with an ask: of a meeting ‘to discuss how to build a more humane asylum process that gives every woman seeking sanctuary a fair hearing and the chance to rebuild her life.’</p> <p>Everything about the Budget announcement, lofty red box and all, is a performance – a display of state apparatus. The machinations of government budgets move cogs which, in turn, affect people’s lives. For the past seven years, the government has delivered austerity budgets which have systematically punished <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/31/austerity-women-ethnic-minorities-disabled-tax-welfare">women and minorities</a>. </p> <p>In this time, the machinations of state have also become increasingly hostile towards migrants and perceived migrants, compounded by the EU Referendum vote last June. It may have been less <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/12/vote-leave-campaign-nigel-farage">divisive</a> figures who won it for Leave, but it is in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/16/nigel-farage-defends-ukip-breaking-point-poster-queue-of-migrants">Nigel Farage’s image</a> that May is fashioning Brexit. Border control is her <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2017/03/donald-trump-revises-his-muslim-ban-has-anything-actually-changed-2">red line</a>, dashing even the expectations of many of her own party’s <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/eu-referendum-tory-campaigner-admits-brexit-immigration-some-control-a7102626.html">ardent Brexiteers</a>.</p> <p>Prime Minister May’s obsession with migration is in keeping with her long record at the Home Office. The racism which now <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/brexit-hate-crimes-racism-eu-referendum-vote-attacks-increase-police-figures-official-a7358866.html">flares</a> in the aftermath of the EU Referendum – and which blazes alarmingly in light of our own government’s <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/29/theresa-may-donald-trump-bond-love-thatcher-reagan">cosiness</a> with arch-racist Trump – was encouraged, too, by Home Secretary May. Jennifer Allsopp has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/theresa-may-and-love-police">traced</a> her record for openDemocracy 50.50: from the expansion of detention and destitution of asylum seekers to racist <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-grayson/welcome-to-britain-go-home-or-face-arrest">‘Go Home’ vans</a>. <a href="https://www.jcwi.org.uk/blog/2016/05/23/what%E2%80%99s-next-hostile-environment-immigration-act-2016-and-queen%E2%80%99s-speech">Landlords</a> and <a href="http://www.docsnotcops.co.uk/?page_id=10">NHS workers</a>, like border guards, are now required to profile their clients – invariably, this means racial profiling.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/WWR409.gif" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/WWR409.gif" alt="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women" title="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Letter to Home Secretary. Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women</span></span></span></p><h3><strong>“We are refugees – we are nothing!”</strong></h3> <p>The personal stories carried by refugee women, like the card for Amber Rudd, speak to the trauma of this Britain. At the National Refugee Women’s Conference, held on 1st March 2017, amidst panel discussions, keynotes and performances, one woman stood up from the audience and, through tears, shared her own experience. She told first of travelling from Eritrea to the UK and then, once here, facing more abuse and destitution: trying to make it in a new community, opening a café to support other women, but threatened, raped, disbelieved and left without any support.</p> <p>“My friends were drowned in the Turkish sea and raped on the Greek border…and now I’m here [in the UK] being told I’m not a refugee.” She cried, “we are refugees – we are nothing!” Women around her blinked back their own tears and knowingly shook their heads as she asked, “we came here to be safe, why is this happening to us here?”&nbsp;</p> <p>This plea is echoed throughout Women for Refugee Women’s latest <a href="http://www.refugeewomen.co.uk/2016/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/The-Way-Ahead-report-WEB.pdf?utm_content=buffer58bbf">report</a>, <em>The Way Ahead: an asylum system without detention</em>. Helen* tells of how she and other women were repeatedly raped by traffickers as they crossed the Sahara, imprisoned and tortured before the families of her fellow prisoners were able to bribe the guards to let her onto a boat to Italy. From there, Calais, where Helen discovered she was pregnant. She lost her baby on the journey to the UK, hidden under the floor of a lorry. “Now,” says Helen, “I live in a house with other women. I am not complaining because I have been in situations that were much worse, but life is hard…The waiting is so difficult.”</p> <p>Helen explains that she was not offered any guidance or support to understand the asylum system: “The person interviewing me was not sympathetic, but I told my story as carefully as I could. I didn’t know what evidence they needed. I feel l am trying to figure out the system in the dark, I don’t know how they make decisions and who determines what will happen to me.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/WWR144.gif" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/WWR144.gif" alt="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women" title="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women</span></span></span></p> <h3><strong>Hostile environments</strong>&nbsp;</h3> <p>Globally we are in the midst of a refugee crisis, with over 70 million people displaced worldwide; but, in May’s Britain, who cares about the lives ruined and the money wasted, if mythical ‘pull factors’ are somehow (also mythically) diminished? In fact, “hostile environment” was the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/10/immigration-bill-theresa-may-hostile-environment">descriptor</a> used by Theresa May in 2013 when she presented the way she wanted Britain to feel for “illegal migrants.” ‘Migrant’ then was a catch-all term for people (like me) who had moved to the UK from elsewhere in the world; now, as exemplified by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/02/irene-clennell-deported-uk-terrorist">Irene Clennell</a>, who was deported from the UK at the end of February, it is ‘a term of abuse.’</p> <p>Cases like Irene Clennell’s – living in the UK since 1988, married and with British children, then suddenly detained and deported ‘like a terrorist’ to Singapore with £12 in her pocket – beggar belief. Almost everything you hear about the immigration system does: pregnant women being detained, guidelines not followed, families separated.</p> <p>Grace* was initially denied asylum in the UK despite being a victim of torture and rape, and at risk of persecution in Uganda because of her sexual orientation. “The police brought a psychiatrist and he recognised I was a victim of rape and torture, but even so I was locked up in Yarl’s Wood detention centre for five months.” On suicide watch, she was taken to the doctor but “they handcuffed me and the officers would stay in the room even during the consultation.”</p> <p>Some immigration cases have made national news: the case of a Jamaican man told to parent his British children ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/shinealight/mia-light/do-your-parenting-by-skype-uk-gov-tells-fathers-being-deported-to-jamaica">by Skype</a>’ and the new Home Office <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/feb/25/afghanistan-gay-asylum-seekers-home-office-illegal-homosexuality">guidelines</a> which advise LGBT asylum seekers from Afghanistan to ‘pretend to be straight.’ Few have, but most are alarming, like Helen’s and Grace’s and the Eritrean woman at the conference who couldn’t keep it in any longer. These are not exceptions or anomalies: they show the asylum system is working as per its design. The intentions behind the system are not to be supportive, or even fair; the aim is to reduce immigration.</p> <p>Because 80% of asylum-seeking women who are detained are subsequently released back into the community, it is often said that detention serves no purpose. But if the aim of the asylum system is to create a ‘hostile environment,’ then the purpose of detention is to contribute to this climate. It is inhumane and ineffective – a waste of life and also of resource – but the government, seemingly, would rather have it this way. </p> <p>At the National Refugee Women’s Conference Noma Dumezweni, currently playing Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, opened with her own experiences as a child of a refugee woman. She arrived at Heathrow on 17 May 1977 and, she said, were that today, “fast forward and I wouldn’t be here.” Dumezweni spoke about the importance of storytelling: “it might sound romantic, but our bodies are shaped this funny way to hold people…and they hold stories, too.” Sharing personal histories is an act of truth-telling and an act of community, “to make people know you are not alone.”</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/WWR67.gif" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/WWR67.gif" alt="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women" title="Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Briony Campbell/Women for Refugee Women</span></span></span>We must push the stories of refugee women front and centre this International Women’s Day. They are human stories, our communities’ stories, and deserve to be told and to be heard. These thousands of women in the UK – tens of millions worldwide – each provide a fragment of the narrative of the UK asylum system, but also reflect it in full. This system is working as intended, but it must be disrupted. As the system is cold and mechanical, the antidote must surely be human stories and the empathy they inspire.</p> <p>Theresa May’s legacy of scapegoating migrants is deliberate. From ‘<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15160326">catgate</a>’ to <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/health/2017/02/its-not-health-tourism-thats-thrown-nhs-crisis-its-cuts">health tourism</a>, she was a purveyor of ‘alternative facts’ some time before Kellyann Conway <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_facts">coined</a> the term. Hand in hand with Trump, May is not merely playing to an anti-migrant populist crowd but helped to create it. If we are to stand up to her, then we must stand with refugee women – and listen.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>*Names have been changed</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/theresa-may-and-love-police">Theresa May and the love police </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/beatrice-botomani/refugee-women-in-uk-pushing-stone-into-sea-0">Refugee women in the UK: Pushing a stone into the sea</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/refugee-women-in-uk-fighting-back-from-behind-bars">Refugee women in the UK: fighting back from behind bars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maria-al-abdeh/lessons-from-syria-on-womens-empowerment-during-conflict">Lessons from Syria on women&#039;s empowerment during conflict</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/halliki-voolma/escaping-domestic-violence-according-to-law-you-are-not-here">Escaping domestic violence: ‘according to the law, you are not here’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yasemin-mert/dangerous-journeys-women-migrants-in-turkey">Dangerous journeys: violence against women migrants in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariangela-palladino-agnes-woolley/borderlands-words-against-walls">Borderlands: words against walls</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sophie-giscard-destaing/where-is-gender-sensitive-humanitarian-response-to-protecting-women-refugees"> UN CSW: ending impunity for gender-based crimes against women refugees </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/why-are-european-feminists-failing-to-strike-back-against-anti-immigrant-right">Why aren&#039;t European feminists arguing against the anti-immigrant right?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/after-london-womens-march-what-now">After the Women&#039;s March on London: what now? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 uk UK Equality 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter feminism gender gender justice gendered migration gendered poverty Sexual violence violence against women women and militarism women and power women's human rights women's movements Ché Ramsden Wed, 08 Mar 2017 10:26:57 +0000 Ché Ramsden 109313 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Escaping domestic violence: ‘according to the law, you are not here’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/halliki-voolma/escaping-domestic-violence-according-to-law-you-are-not-here <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Many women survivors of violence in Europe cannot access support services because of their migration status. The right to live free from violence should be based on presence in a territory not legal status. &nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/PIOIOI.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Protest in London by activist group Sisters Uncut. Photo: Sisters Uncut. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/PIOIOI.jpg" alt="Protest in London by activist group Sisters Uncut. Photo: Sisters Uncut. " title="Protest in London by activist group Sisters Uncut. Photo: Sisters Uncut. " width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protest in London by activist group Sisters Uncut. Photo: Sisters Uncut. </span></span></span><span>On December 15</span>th<span> of last year the Women Against Violence Europe (</span><a href="https://www.wave-network.org/">WAVE</a><span>) network and the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (</span><a href="http://picum.org/en">PICUM</a><span>) launched a </span><a href="http://www.wave-stepup.org/focus-areas/migrant-women">joint campaign</a><span> calling for access to services for all women who are survivors of violence in Europe, regardless of migration status. This initiative featured a </span><a href="http://wave-stepup.org/belgium/picum-pledge-form-english?">pledge</a><span> supporting the core principles that women’s rights are human rights and that we must stand in solidarity against discrimination. It is part of WAVE’s Europe-wide </span><a href="http://wave-stepup.org/about-campaign">Step Up! campaign</a><span> (2016-2017) to increase action to tackle violence against women.</span></p> <p>This joint initiative is necessary because across Europe, there are survivors of violence who do not have <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/etudes/join/2013/493027/IPOL-FEMM_ET(2013)493027_EN.pdf">access to support</a> services because of their migration status. Women who are undocumented or have irregular status may risk detention or deportation when approaching services or reporting violence to the police. <a href="http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/blog/2015/06/european-rights-groups-agree-we-need-firewall-between-welfare-services-and-immigration-">PICUM advocates</a> for the implementation of a <a href="http://picum.org/en/news/blog/47851/">‘firewall’</a> between the provision of basic services and immigration control – survivors of violence should be able to report this crime and have access to protection without fear of detention or deportation. Women exposed to violence who are undocumented or have insecure immigration status (i.e no permanent residency or citizenship) are often <a href="https://theferret.scot/asylum-domestic-violence/">turned away</a> even from specialist support services such as shelters, for example due to exclusionary funding systems. If shelters are state-funded and women are not eligible for state funding due to their migration status, the shelter may have no way of funding their stay. </p> <p><span>There are international conventions and European Union directives that require states to develop measures to protect and support all women survivors of violence on their territory, regardless of migration status: the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (</span><a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/text/econvention.htm">CEDAW</a><span>), the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the ‘</span><a href="https://www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/full-list/-/conventions/rms/090000168008482e">Istanbul Convention’</a><span>) and the EU Directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime (the </span><a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2012:315:0057:0073:EN:PDF">‘Victims’ Directive’</a><span>). The WAVE Step Up! campaign calls on states to fulfil their obligations under these legal frameworks.</span></p> <p class="Default">In my PhD research about women with insecure status in the UK and Sweden who have experienced domestic violence I found that despite the universal promise of human rights, in reality there are very different rights for people of different migration/citizenship status. In the UK, the <a href="http://www.nrpfnetwork.org.uk/information/Pages/who-has-NRPF.aspx">no recourse to public funding requirement</a> (<a href="http://www.nrpfnetwork.org.uk/information/Pages/who-has-NRPF.aspx">NRPF</a>) attached to people who do not have permanent residency means that women in this category who have experienced violence are <a href="http://thewomensresourcecentre.org.uk/our-work/no-recourse-to-public-funds/">not eligible</a> for safe accommodation in shelters or other support services to enable them to leave abusive homes. In Sweden, most women have access to services because the right to social protection is based on residence in a municipality, but undocumented women are excluded as they are not considered legal residents. </p> <p class="Default">Nisan*, a Turkish woman, had been living in Sweden for 15 years when I met her. When she was a teenager and still living in Turkey she was kidnapped and raped by her then boyfriend and his friends. Her father’s abuse, which had started in early childhood, also escalated. Her brother was living in Sweden at that time and he arranged a visit visa for Nisan. As her family did not renew her visa after the three-month validity period ended and she was afraid of returning home to Turkey, she continued living in Sweden undocumented. When she had been in Sweden for a few years, Nisan’s uncle advised her to tell her story to the police and apply for residency. Nisan did so, but did not get an answer about her status until she was 20, at which point she was refused. Her only options were either to go back to Turkey or wait for four years and apply again. </p> <p class="Default">She waited for four years, without papers. When she applied for residency again she had new evidence to present from the police and hospital back in Turkey about the violence she had suffered. However, the migration board again refused to grant her a residence permit because they did not believe it could be true that she had been in Sweden for ten years without documents. They told Nisan, “‘you are lying, you haven’t been here for ten years, there’s nothing proving that… according to the law, you are not here’”.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Default">Nisan’s family then encouraged her to marry a man she had been seeing who was a Swedish citizen and she eventually got permanent residency on the basis of this marriage. However, the relationship became abusive. Nisan explained, ‘He was sick in the head he would threaten me and do all this sick stuff and we weren’t even married anymore’. </p> <p class="Default">Nisan’s ex-husband raped her and she went to hospital where she was encouraged to go to a women’s shelter and there she finally escaped the cycles of violence she had experienced since childhood. Nisan was able to access a shelter because she now had permanent residency and thus was considered legally resident. At the time of the interview she was waiting for a decision on her citizenship application. </p> <p class="Default">From the perspective of having moved through a number of migrant categories, from undocumented to asylum-seeker, back to undocumented, to spousal visa holder to permanent residence, and now waiting for citizenship, Nisan talked about ‘degrees’ of rights for different categories of people: ‘It’s like degrees, if you are paperless you don’t have any right to get anything. If you are asylum seeker you would get a little help but not that much either because they are not sure which city you’ll stay in. If you have permanent residency, you can get more help, but it takes a lot of time.</p> <p class="Default">Nisan’s experiences highlight the fluidity of migration categories. The labels of ‘temporary visitor’, ‘undocumented migrant’, ‘asylum-seeker’, ‘failed asylum-seeker’, ‘spousal visa holder’ and ‘permanent resident’ could all be used to describe Nisan’s status at different points during her life in Sweden. These categories do not adequately reflect the experiential aspect of Nisan’s precarious journey to permanent residence. Fixed labels conceal the complexity of lived experience and the reasons for entering and moving out of different migration statuses. In public and political discourse migrants are often described as belonging to one migrant group or label - the empirical fluidity of migration categories, and the potential that the same person could move through several, even six, labels as Nisan did, is not part of policy discussions. </p> <p class="Default">Basing rights on immigration status is thus problematic partly because this approach assumes that this status is ‘static’, and also that it is ‘deserved’. For instance, curtailing the rights of undocumented migrants may be based on an assumption that these individuals have deliberately defied the legal system and thus made a conscious choice to step outside of the status of a rights-bearing subject. In reality, a survivor of domestic violence may, as part of the abuse, not be in control of her travel documents and may become an ‘overstayer’, and thus, ‘irregular’ if the perpetrator <a href="http://picum.org/picum.org/uploads/publication/Double%20Violence%20Against%20Undocumented%20Women%20-%20Protecting%20Rights%20and%20Ensuring%20Justice.pdf">refuses</a> to renew her visa. Seven of the 31 survivors I interviewed told me they were undocumented or ‘overstayers’ at some point during their stay in England or Sweden.</p> <p class="Default">In the context of the refugee/migration ‘crisis’ in the EU since 2015, the <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-34061097">terminology</a> of migration has been given increased attention. The correct usage of terms such as ‘asylum-seeker’ versus ‘economic migrant’, and using <a href="http://picum.org/en/our-work/terminology-words-matter-campaign/">‘undocumented/irregular’ instead of ‘illegal’</a> is becoming more commonplace in public discourse. What is not often discussed is the validity and adequacy of the categories these labels signify. If women move through different migration categories and at times this movement is forced upon them by perpetrators of violence, these categories cannot be used as the basis for assessing eligibility for basic rights. The basis for determining rights should not be citizenship, legal residency, or even a temporary visa. The basis for the right to live free from violence should be <a href="http://www7.tau.ac.il/ojs/index.php/til/article/view/640">presence</a>.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Default"><em>* Names have been changed to protect anonymity.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/uk-migration-hierarchy-of-injustices">UK migration: a hierarchy of injustices</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/hannana-siddiqui/ending-stark-choice-domestic-violence-or-destitution-in-uk">Ending the stark choice: domestic violence or destitution in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/sundari-anitha/immigration-status-and-domestic-violence">Immigration status and domestic violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yasemin-mert/dangerous-journeys-women-migrants-in-turkey">Dangerous journeys: violence against women migrants in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-and-domestic-violence-mapping-damage">Austerity and domestic violence: mapping the damage</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/samir-jeraj/domestic-violence-on-frontline-of-intersectionality">Domestic violence: on the frontline of intersectionality</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/trapped-women-fleeing-violence-in-uk">Trapped: women fleeing violence in the UK </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/migrant-women-in-uk-settling-for-rather-than-settling-in">Migrant women in the UK: settling for rather than settling in</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/what-will-it-take-to-end-violence-against-women-in-uk">What will it take to end violence against women in the UK? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/katarina-von-sydow/believing-womens-narratives-in-sweden-and-norway">Believing women&#039;s narratives in Sweden and Norway</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dominic-hinde/feminist-parties-redefining-scandinavian-politics">The feminist parties redefining Scandinavian politics </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/halliki-voolma/uk-will-proposed-legislation-mean-deporting-trafficking-victims">UK: Will proposed legislation mean deporting trafficking victims ? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change women's human rights women's health violence against women Sexual violence gendered poverty gendered migration gender justice 50.50 newsletter Halliki Voolma Mon, 30 Jan 2017 10:32:07 +0000 Halliki Voolma 108052 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Grunwick 40 years on: lessons from the Asian women strikers https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sujata-aurora/grunwick-40-years-on-lessons-from-asian-women-strikers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The women who led the Grunwick dispute challenged not just the stereotypes of Asian women within British society, but also within an overwhelmingly white, male trade union movement.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/picket_sw012.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/picket_sw012.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="293" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Asian women picketing outside Grunwick. Jayaben Desai (right). Photo: Phil McCowan </span></span></span></p> <p>Forty years ago in 1976 a group of workers, predominantly South Asian women, led some of the biggest mobilisations the labour movement has ever seen in Britain. A small factory, the Grunwick photo processing plant situated in a residential backstreet in Willesden, north west-London, became the focus for trade union activity which put South Asian women centre-stage for the first time. </p> <p>Although rather patronisingly dubbed <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-37244466">“Strikers in Saris”</a> by the press who liked to emphasise the exotic novelty of Asian women on picket lines, the images of the strike remain undeniably powerful and have served as an inspiration to generations of Asian women who came after them. </p> <p>The majority of the women at the Grunwick factory were “citizens of empire” – Asians from East Africa – which meant they were “twice migrants” when they arrived in in the UK. Many had led relatively comfortable lifestyles back in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and on coming to England suddenly found themselves in a world where they were at the bottom of the pile both socially and economically. Grunwick’s management were explicit about how they saw these women as ripe for exploitation; factory owner George Ward is alleged to have told one worker “I can buy a <a href="http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/license/3273291">Patel for £15</a>”, and as Jayaben Desai, who became the de facto strike leader, <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Finding-Voice-Asian-Women-Britain/dp/0860680126">explained</a>: “Imagine how humiliating it was for us, particularly older women, to be working and to hear the employer saying to a young English girl ‘You don’t want to come and work here, love, we won’t be able to pay the sort of wages which will keep you here'.” </p> <p>That judgment by the factory owners, laden with the assumption of Asian women’s inherent passivity and submissiveness, couldn’t have been more wrong. When the workers were described as “chattering monkeys” by a factory manager (presumably a reference to their speaking in Gujarati) Jayaben responded: “What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo. But in a zoo there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips, others are lions who can bite your head off. We are the lions, Mr. Manager.” </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/mrsdesai_pm HR.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/mrsdesai_pm HR.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="310" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jayaben Desai. Photo: Phil McCowan.</span></span></span></p> <p>Pushed to breaking point by compulsory overtime and a host of other petty humiliations, Jayaben and five others walked out demanding the right to join a trade union and were subsequently sacked. They kickstarted a two-year dispute that challenged not just the stereotypes of Asian women within wider British society but also within an overwhelmingly white, male trade union movement. </p> <p>The Grunwick management were keenly aware of how to exploit this situation. Owner George Ward, an Anglo-Indian himself, <a href="https://data.journalarchives.jisc.ac.uk/britishlibrary/sparerib/view?volumeIssue=33313337323334343737%2333383234353738313239$%233534&amp;journal=33313337323334343737%2333383234353738313239">said</a> (falsely) about one striker “She’s only gone on strike because her boyfriend’s on the picket line”, knowing full well that spreading a rumour about her having a boyfriend could lead to community disgrace. </p> <p>But of course, this wasn’t the first time that South Asian women had been part of the struggle against workplace exploitation –&nbsp;they had been at the forefront of earlier industrial disputes of Asian workers, most of which were at best largely ignored and at worst actively obstructed by trade unions. Most notably at <a href="https://hatfulofhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/before-the-unity-of-grunwick-40-years-since-the-imperial-typewriters-strike/">Imperial Typewriters</a> in Leicester in 1974, just two years before Grunwick, when Asians went on strike at being paid lower wages than white workers. Their trade union didn’t just fail to back the strikers but actively opposed them so becoming complicit in maintaining a racist wage differential. The ideas of the National Front, who had been organising within workplaces and agitating on the issue of immigrants and wages, ran deep. </p> <p>Perhaps it was because the dispute at Grunwick was <a href="http://libcom.org/library/the-grunwick-strike-a-sivanandan">primarily about trade union recognition</a>, rather than one that was explicitly raising concerns of racism or sexism, that the Grunwick strikers were able to bring the ranks of the British trade union movement to Willesden. A series of mass pickets intended as a show of strength and with the aim of stopping strike-breakers from entering the factory attracted 20,000 from across the country, steel-workers and miners among them. Local postal workers, key to Grunwick’s operation as a mail-order business, refused to handle Grunwick’s post. Even dockers who just a few years earlier had marched in support of Enoch Powell were now giving support to a group of Asian women. Grunwick was the first time foreign-born workers were, however fleetingly, seen as part of the British working-class. </p> <p>The strike still failed. The postal workers’ union (the UPW) capitulated at the threat of a legal challenge to the postal boycott, effectively halting any form of secondary action and the strikers union (Apex), disconcerted at the militancy of the pickets and keen not to embarrass the Labour government, also eventually withdrew support. And so, at the hands of the trade union leaderships, one the biggest mobilisations of the labour movement which built feminist and anti-racist solidarity became one of the biggest betrayals in working class history. </p> <p>Since Grunwick Asian women have continued to sustain and lead workplace disputes. A year later in 1979 workers won their battle for union recognition at the Chix bubblegum factory in Slough. Other disputes –&nbsp;at <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/punjabi-poor-and-mad-as-hell-a-group-of-asian-women-took-on-their-bosses-they-lost-their-strike-but-1466532.html">Burnsall’s</a> metal finishing factory in 1992, <a href="https://newint.org/features/1997/10/05/interview/">Hillingdon Hospital</a> in 1995 and <a href="http://www.striking-women.org/page/gate-gourmet-timeline">Gate Gourmet</a> in 2005 –&nbsp;were less successful and, like Grunwick, all ended with strikers feeling betrayed and let down by their respective unions. It has been these migrant communities, whom <a href="http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/anti_racism_working_class_formation_and_the_significance_of_the_racialized">Satnam Virdee</a> has termed “racialized outsiders”, who have been central in key challenges to workplace exploitation in Britain – a fact which continues to be sidelined by the mainstream trade union movement. </p> <p>Now the story of Grunwick and the lessons we can draw from it are examined in <a href="https://grunwick40.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/we-are-the-lions-launches/">a new exhibition on display at the Brent Museum</a>. Using exclusive archive material originally collated by Brent Trades Council, photographs, and news reports “We are the lions” celebrates the inspirational women of Grunwick while also tracing the threads which connect it, and some of its preceding struggles, to those happening in today’s workplaces. </p> <p>Now non-unionised casual labour and zero-hours contracts are seen as normal. Low-paid jobs, such as those at Grunwick are off-shored to India or the Philippines, while those that cannot be off-shored – cleaning, care work and catering – are where women and migrants are concentrated. Parallel to this the emergent ‘gig economy’ driven by new technologies represents an even more disposable workforce where not only can you order a taxi, food delivery or a cleaner via an app, you can also be effectively hired and fired via it too. </p> <p>What gives us hope for the future are the vocal campaigns being run by those at the sharp end of this exploitation. The <a href="https://www.facebook.com/SOASJ4C/?fref=ts">cleaners at SOAS</a> and <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/gender/2016/11/14/justice-for-the-lse-cleaners/">LSE</a> and the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/06/teaching-assistants-durham-pay-slashed-women-lions-of-durham-grunwick?0p19G=c">teaching assistants at Durham</a> are leading some of the most inspirational campaigns in Britain today – against outsourcing, low pay and for dignity at work. Some, as migrants, have had experiences of organising for their rights in their countries of origin and, although much has changed in the forty years since Grunwick, as they challenge exploitative employment practices here in the UK, it is clear that issues of race and gender are still at the forefront.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p><a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/from-grunwick-to-deliveroo-getting-organised-getting-unionised-tickets-27955302061"><strong>“From Grunwick to Deliveroo: getting organised, getting unionised”</strong></a>, <em>a one-day conference on migrant workers, trade unions and the new economy takes place on Saturday 26 November at Willesden Library (free but registration advised).&nbsp; </em></p><p><a href="https://grunwick40.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/we-are-the-lions-the-story-of-the-grunwick-strike-1976-1978/"><strong>“We are the lions”</strong></a> <em>the exhibition commemorating the Grunwick strike is open until Sunday 26 March 2017 at</em> <a href="https://goo.gl/maps/anfYkkDCWsS2">Brent Museum &amp; Archives, The Library at Willesden Green, 95 High Road, London NW10 2SF</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/maid-in-london/exposing-daily-violence-of-womens-hotel-work">Exposing the daily violence of women&#039;s hotel work</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/angela-mcrobbie/womens-working-lives-in-new-university">Women&#039;s working lives in the ‘new’ university</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/women%27s-paid-and-unpaid-work-and-colonial-hangover">Women&#039;s paid and unpaid work, and the colonial hangover</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/beatrix-campbell/neoliberal-neopatriarchy-case-for-gender-revolution">Neoliberal neopatriarchy: the case for gender revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/precariat-and-mad-men-secretaries-temping-under-tory-government">The precariat and Mad Men secretaries: temping under the Tory government</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/who-cooked-adam-smith%E2%80%99s-dinner-women-and-work-postcrash">Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? Women and work post-crash</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/can-i-help-emotional-labour-and-precarity">&quot;Can I help?&quot; Emotional labour and precarity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fran-bennett/gender-and-poverty-in-uk-inside-household-and-across-life-course">Gender and poverty in the UK: Inside the household and across the life course</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/barbara-gunnell/how-women-are-paying-for-recession-in-uk">How women are paying for the recession in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-defining-economic-citizenship">Women defining economic citizenship </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angela-neustatter/welcome-to-my-home-welcome-to-my-hell">Welcome to my home, welcome to my hell</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK Civil society Women and the Economy 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Voices for Change women's movements gendered poverty gendered migration 50.50 newsletter women's work Sujata Aurora Tue, 22 Nov 2016 09:33:27 +0000 Sujata Aurora 106980 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Taxing lives, trading women https://www.opendemocracy.net/rahila-gupta/taxing-lives-trading-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Tax havens and international trade deals are feminist issues. At this year’s AWID conference in Brazil, activists from across the globe are discussing strategies for engaging with these systems.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><strong>This article is part of 50.50's</strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016"><strong>&nbsp;in-depth coverage</strong></a><strong>&nbsp;of&nbsp;the&nbsp;2016 AWID Forum&nbsp;being held on&nbsp;8th -11th September in Bahia, Brazil.</strong></em></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/AWID opening plenary .jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/AWID opening plenary .jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Opening plenary of the 2016 AWID Forum, Bahia, Brazil. </span></span></span></p><p><span>We are in a transitionary moment, trapped inside a crumbling neo-liberal system, deep inequalities and uneven austerity without a route map out of this chaos.&nbsp; That feminists need to engage with these systemic issues is a recurrent theme at this year’s AWID conference.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>Not all the speakers at the AWID Forum this year share the analysis that neoliberalism is unravelling. They point to the obscene levels of wealth concentration in the hands of a small minority (one statistic quoted is that 62 people own the same amount of wealth as half the world’s population) and that the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis has led to the enrichment of the 1% at the expense of the 99%. At one session, ‘Trading Away Feminist Futures’, Celita Eccher of </span><a href="http://www.dawnnet.org/feminist-resources/">DAWN</a><span> argued that this moment of concentration of capital is the worst in history, and that the chameleon-like nature of the system has made it more difficult to defeat than we had realised. She despairs that our political message does not reach those in thrall to consumerism. &nbsp;The view was echoed by Kate Lappin of </span><a href="http://apwld.org/">Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development</a><span> (APFWLD), who sees this as a</span><strong> </strong><span>particular moment where the strength of capital is defining the role of nation states and the global political order, leading to inequality, climate change and loss of democracy.</span></p> <p>On the other hand, Anita Nayar of <a href="http://www.daghammarskjold.se/regions-refocus/">Regions Refocus</a> pointed out that, since the crisis, the neoliberal economic model is being challenged like never before. She believes that feminists and other political activists should take credit for at least pushing governments into accepting the reality of the financial and climate crisis. However, feminists in general have been slow to grasp the nettle and engage with economics. The very complexity and lack of transparency of financial markets and banking systems makes it very difficult to engage. </p> <h3><strong>Havens of inequality</strong></h3> <p>DAWN has tried to demystify some of these connections. A report on<em> </em><a href="https://www.dawnnet.org/feminist-resources/sites/default/files/articles/20160818_iff_grondona-bidegain-rodriguez.pdf"><em>Curbing Illicit Financial Flows and dismantling secrecy jurisdictions to advance women’s human rights</em></a> explains how tax policies have a different impact on women and men because of their unequal positions in the workforce, as consumers, producers, as asset owners, and as carers within and outside households. The report looks at the less explored international dimensions of gender and taxation, in particular, the way in which trafficking profits are laundered: “Among the international crimes generating IFFs (Illicit Financial Flows) is that of human trafficking, which impacts heavily on women. The proceeds of such exploitation appear to be laundered using the same structures, mechanisms, jurisdictions and enablers as those of tax evasion and avoidance.”<em></em></p> <p>Kate Lappin of APWLD estimates that offshore banking and tax havens are hoarding $33trillion. This scale of evasion leaves governments short of money and therefore unable to fulfil their obligations to gender equality: “When the State does not mobilize sufficient resources, and has budget shortfalls therefore providing insufficient and low quality services (i.e. education, health, sanitation, public transport, social infrastructure, care services), gender inequalities are perpetuated or even <a href="https://www.dawnnet.org/feminist-resources/sites/default/files/articles/20160818_iff_grondona-bidegain-rodriguez.pdf">exacerbated</a>.” &nbsp;<br />&nbsp;<br />There is a view that the appropriate response to market-imposed inequalities is to spread the culture of entrepreneurship to women, particularly in Africa, which can be summarised as ‘everything will be okay if we all become entrepreneurs’. <a href="http://agi.ac.za/person/awino-okech">Awino Okech</a> warns us not to be co-opted into this argument. This is simply an attempt to head off challenge; women are the next imagined market. This capital-driven economic argument is not really addressing structural injustice and inequality, which is shaping lack of women’s access to public, economic, legal, and political spaces whilst financial resources for feminist organisations are shrinking. Global capital makes us “run around like in a hamster wheel”.</p> <h3>Gender and trade ‘agreements’</h3> <p>Trade agreements also feature at the conference.&nbsp; The session ‘Trading Lives, Trading Women’ focussed on the downside of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). We in Europe have been alerted to the downsides of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) through effective campaigning, which has highlighted the way in which transnational companies can hold governments to account in court if they stand in the way of privatisation, especially in the NHS. If TTIP goes through as it stands, corporations would be able to sue governments if their policies inhibited the <a href="http://www.bristolwomensvoice.org.uk/let-talk-about-ttip/">corporation’s growth</a>. The argument about the impact on women of such trade deals has not been widely made by feminists here. However women from the Pacific Rim countries such as the Philippines see the TPPA, also carried out in secret, as very much a feminist issue. It has been dubbed The Profit over People Agreement by GABRIELA, the Philippines women’s organisation.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/AWIDtradesessionnonames.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/AWIDtradesessionnonames.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="214" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Trading Feminist Futures'. Moderator: Noelene Nabulivou. Speakers: Lice Cokanasiga, Kate Lappin, Celita Eccher, Anita Nayar. </span></span></span></p><p>The Trans-Pacific partnership between USA and a dozen countries is a ‘free’ trade agreement&nbsp;that will affect 40 percent of the global economy and comes at a price: such agreements tend to export jobs and depress wages. The <a href="http://now.org/resource/issue-advisory-free-trade-and-feminism-how-the-tpp-will-hurt-women/">NAFTA agreement</a> led to a loss of nearly a quarter of a million jobs, the impact falling mostly on low-income workers, two thirds of whom, in the USA, are women. For US women this means no health insurance and other benefits; it also has a disproportionate impact on ‘women of colour’. &nbsp;</p> <p>Kate Lappin argues that to describe these arrangements as trade agreements is misleading when they are a disguised attempt to force government to legislate in favour of corporations and in the interests of capital. Under NAFTA, 25 countries have been sued for tax policies alone. Many more countries have been sued in total for their environmental regulations, access to water regulations and a host of other issues. The secrecy ensures that there are no reliable figures but campaigners estimate that at least 62 countries have been sued.&nbsp;They have even been sued for charging heads of corporations who have already been convicted of corruption by a supra-body – an arbitration system that is separate from the country’s courts. Time and again, speakers gave examples of how investor rights are trumping human rights, which is why feminist movements should be part of opposing corporatocracy. </p> <p>Free Trade agreements have been mis-sold as development. Obama’s keenness to have the TPPA in his bag was to make sure that China didn’t encroach on his patch because the TPPA “allows America – and not countries like China – to write the rules of the road in the 21st century”. </p> <p>At the opening plenary here in Brazil, Miriam Miranda of <a href="http://www.ofraneh.org/">OFRANEH</a> from Honduras asks passionately, “Why do we keep insisting on a development model which destroys nature, destroys our social fabric, destroys entire communities and denies our identities, and appropriates the common goods of nature which belong to each of us. It’s an unsustainable model, it’s collective suicide.” There is a growing need to further extend the feminist analytical tool of intersectionality beyond the more familiar race, class, gender paradigm to the intersections between women’s lives and unfair trade, finance, corporate power, aid and development practices. The AWID Forum recognises this, but there is still much work to be done.&nbsp;</p><p><em>All images by Rahila Gupta.</em></p><p class="p1"><em>Rahila Gupta will be reporting daily for 50.50 from the AWID Forum.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/pick-n-mix-unprecedented-diversity-of-women-activists-meet">&#039;Feminist Futures&#039;: activists from across the globe gather in Brazil</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/chiara-capraro-francesca-rhodes/why-panama-papers-are-feminist-issue">Why the Panama Papers are a feminist issue</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/liz-nelson/gender-and-tax-justice">Gender and tax justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maggie-murphy/g20-and-corruption-why-gender-matters">G20 and corruption: why gender matters </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Women and the Economy 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 feminism 50.50 newsletter gender justice gendered poverty Rahila Gupta Fri, 09 Sep 2016 15:34:30 +0000 Rahila Gupta 105237 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women’s equality will not come after the environmental revolution https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/majandra-rodriguez-acha/women-s-equality-will-not-come-after-environmental-revolution <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Climate and environmental impacts are ravaging our planet, and women and marginalized groups are among those most affected.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><em><strong>“We must resist in the different ways that we can and we must do it together, (as) our struggle is vast and intertwined.”</strong></em></span></p><p><span><em><strong></strong></em></span><em>- Jill Mangaliman, Got Green</em></p> <p class="Normal1">We live in a world where global climate change is occurring at a <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-faster-than-predicted/">much faster rate than previously predicted</a>. No longer a threat in the distant future, its impacts are <a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-point-of-no-return-climate-change-nightmares-are-already-here-20150805">already causing devastation to people and ecosystems around the world</a>, leading to <a href="http://daraint.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/CVM2ndEd-FrontMatter.pdf">400,000 annual deaths</a>, and an unpredictably changed future for us all. </p> <p class="Normal1">We also live in a world where <a href="http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/violence/9789241564625/en/">one in three women will experience physical and/or sexual violence</a>, mostly by an intimate partner; where <a href="https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/glotip/GLOTIP_2014_full_report.pdf">70% of trafficking victims are women or girls</a>; where <a href="http://www.uis.unesco.org/literacy/Pages/data-release-map-2013.aspx">two-thirds of people who are illiterate are women</a>; and where despite being 50% of the global population, around <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/leadership-and-political-participation/facts-and-figures">one in five parliamentarians are women</a>.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Normal1">In such a world, what do we deem more important: the dangerously high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, or overcoming systemic social inequality? The rights of future generations to a safe planet, or the rights of women to live free of violence and oppression? Both - or perhaps neither? </p> <p class="Normal1"><strong>As Audre Lorde stated, we do not live single-issue lives. </strong></p> <p class="Normal1">These questions are what some -many- of us call a <em>false dichotomy</em>. Pitting environmental concerns against social demands creates a binary where one can be tackled, whilst the other ignored - where we believe <a href="http://nacla.org/blog/2015/09/03/what%27s-behind-bolivian-government%27s-attack-ngos">we must choose between one and the other</a>. </p> <p class="Normal1">But why are we reaching our planetary limits in the first place? Where does environmental degradation often take place, and whom does it impact the most? who is responsible for these negative effects? And what are the most effective and lasting “solutions” to these crises?</p> <p class="Normal1">I have found the clearest answers to these questions in the stories and lived experiences of those who already <em>live</em> the climate and environmental crisis – those who know well, and have to survive in the midst of, the fossil fuel and extractive industries that generate the vast majority of carbon emissions and environmental degradation today. </p> <p class="Normal1">In the context of global inequalities emerging from the current neoliberal macroeconomic policies, it is not a coincidence that many of those standing up to these industries and denouncing corporate power, defending their livelihoods, the rights of&nbsp; communities and families, caring for themselves and others in the face of nutrition, health and social impacts, and experiencing disproportionate vulnerability and violence in these contexts, are <em>women</em>. </p> <p class="Normal1"><strong>This is what climate change and environmental degradation looks like.</strong></p> <p class="Normal1">Melina Laboucan-Massimo lives in Little Buffalo in the Peace River region in northern Canada. She is Lubicon Cree, and her homelands are in the midst of the Alberta tar sands. As she recently shared at the <a href="https://fsm2016.org/en/">World Social Forum</a>, Alberta is a place where the fossil fuel industry converts pristine delta water into lakes of toxic waste <a href="http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2011/08/17/ten-years-after-911-%e2%80%93-canadas-true-cost-of-oil/">so vast that they can be seen from outer space</a>; tears down the Boreal forest –a crucial carbon sink- at rates that surpass deforestation in the Amazon; spills <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/melina-loubicanmassimo/awaiting-justice-%E2%80%93-indigenous-resistance-to-tar-sand-development-in-cana">thousands of barrels of oil that it doesn’t adequately remediate</a>; and generates cancer clusters, forcing people to breathe in hydrogen sulphide among other toxins. As she narrates, the situation in her homelands is an expression of the “sacrifice zone” mentality. And it is in this same context of rapacious extractivism that there are over <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/03/488491160/canada-releases-details-on-inquiry-into-murdered-missing-indigenous-women">1200 missing and murdered indigenous women, and over 4,000 cases still not properly documented</a>. </p> <p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/tarsands.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/tarsands.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="292" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fort McMurray in the Alberta tar sands, Canada. Credit: Kris Krug</span></span></span></p><p class="Normal1"><span>In a sacrifice zone, a particular people and place are expendable “for the sake” of life and profit elsewhere. That is, the lives of some are worth more than the lives of others. In this context, is it a coincidence that indigenous women are disappearing as indigenous lands are being decimated?</span></p> <p class="Normal1">Can racial, ethnic and gender-based inequality be separated from what drives environmental devastation in the Alberta tar sands? Or to put it differently – could one exist without the other? </p> <p class="Normal1"><strong>Can we understand the environmental crisis without talking about violence? </strong></p> <p class="Normal1">In Peru, we have the <a href="http://radiorsd.pe/noticias/niunamenos-peru-es-el-tercer-pais-sudamericano-con-la-tasa-mas-alta-de-feminicidio">third highest rate of femicide in South America, the second highest rate of rape reported</a>, and a shocking <a href="https://dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/FR299/FR299.pdf">seven in ten women</a> have been victims of sexual, physical, verbal or psychological violence. We are currently living a powerful historic moment of social change, as <a href="http://theconversation.com/anger-at-violence-against-women-in-peru-spills-over-into-protest-63087">after two high-profile cases of women who were almost killed by their male partners, and whose aggressors were given light, suspended sentences</a>, close to half a million people took to the streets on the 13th&nbsp;of August in the capital city of Lima, and thousands more around the country, to say “Ni Una Menos!” (Not One Less). </p> <p class="Normal1">Within this uphill battle against deep-rooted violence and sexism, another form of violence also characterizes our context: we are the <a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/perus-deadly-environment/">fourth most dangerous country in which to be an environmental defender</a>. </p> <p class="Normal1">Those who take on the struggle of defending our forests, waterways and territories face repression, threats and ultimately death at the hands of those hired by extractivist industries. And women environmental defenders, at the intersection of these forms of violence, face particular forms of repression. </p> <p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Cacres.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Cacres.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women demand justice for Berta Cáceres, indigenous leader assassinated in her own home for leading opposition to a dam project in Honduras. Credit: Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos.</span></span></span></p><p class="Normal1"><span>In Peru and in the broader Latin American context, this includes violence from their own communities and families, in retaliation for stepping outside of their ascribed roles. As Patricia Ardon of JASS Meso America shared in an </span><a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/climate-and-environmental-justice">online exchange facilitated by AWID and WEDO earlier this year</a><span>, it can also take the shape of discrediting and spreading rumors about women environmental defenders, who according to mainstream media outlets “should be in their homes”.</span></p> <p class="Normal1">Can we address environment concerns without also addressing the violence against those who call for its protection - including violence against women? </p> <p class="Normal1">Can we de-link women’s struggles for safety and freedom from struggles for our water, lands and forests?</p> <p class="Normal1"><strong>Change starts from the home.</strong></p> <p class="Normal1"><a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/sites/default/files/CEJ%20Discussion%202016%20%28Final%29.pdf">Other stories shared during the online exchange</a> spoke of the gendered division of labor, due to which women are traditionally in charge of care and domestic work. Climate variability and pollution are critical obstacles to the safe realization of this work. Particularly in rural areas, following a natural disaster, resources such as water and fodder become scarce or unreliable, and the family’s health is affected - both of which increase women’s workload. </p> <p class="Normal1">Is it possible to effectively adapt to climate change without considering the work that women are already doing to care for their communities, and the knowledge that they have?</p> <p class="Normal1">Longer journeys to collect water and fodder can also mean <a href="http://news.trust.org/item/20160601144036-1v6l6/">increased safety risks</a> for women, in addition to the risks entailed by the natural disasters themselves. As Adi Vasulevu of FemLINKPACIFIC in Fiji shared, the recent Tropical Cyclone Winston led to 44 deaths, of which the majority were women - and <a href="https://www.sheltercluster.org/sites/default/files/docs/ll-care_tcwinston_rapidgenderanalysis.pdf">cases of rape have been reported at evacuation centers, and trauma and illness is high</a>. </p> <p class="Normal1">Is it possible to paint a complete picture of climate impacts, without mentioning the increased sexual abuse and risks women are facing? </p> <p class="Normal1">In urban areas, women also face particular impacts. As Araceli from Domésticas Unidas shared at the World Social Forum, women hired to clean houses are exposed to toxic, petrol-based cleaning products. She has seen most of her fellow domestic workers fall sick, and a disproportionate number of them die from cancer. In the face of this, she took it upon herself to find out about and make her own safe and sustainable cleaning liquids, and shares the recipes freely with the women around her. </p> <p class="Normal1">Can climate and environmental “solutions” be adequate to everyone’s needs without taking into account women’s particular experiences and knowledge? </p> <p class="Normal1"><strong>Telling the complete story: climate and inequality are two sides of the same coin. </strong></p> <p class="Normal1">These are just a few among countless stories that speak to what climate change and environmental degradation means on the ground. They show us what climate and environmental impacts look like, beyond parts per million and carbon budgets. They are testament to how the fossil fuel industry operates and to the rapacious nature of the current industrial system. </p> <p class="Normal1">They bring economic, social, cultural and political elements to the climate narrative, making connections to social inequality, gender roles, and policies of economic globalization and prevalence of corporate power&nbsp; over environmental regulation. </p> <p class="Normal1">Perhaps most importantly, they also show us how people are challenging and&nbsp; responding to the crisis, offering new narratives of human rights and adopting valuable propositions seeking to achieve broader political, social, economic and cultural transformations for us all. Upholding the false binary between climate and social inequality means upholding the social conditions that marginalize these voices and perspectives, denying us their deep insights, answers and powerful ability to inspire and transform. </p> <p class="Normal1">As Naomi Klein states, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9Bd1gA3UK0">“saying climate is “more important” is how we lose.”</a> Asking people to choose between poverty and pollution weakens and divides our movements. </p> <p class="Normal1">But not only that – it ignores the lived realities of millions around the world for whom environment <em>cannot</em> be separated from inequality, lest their story be told incomplete.</p><p class="Normal1"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/anotherworld_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/anotherworld_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="242" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“Another world is possible, and women are building it”. International Women’s Day in Barcelona. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.</span></span></span></span></p><p class="Normal1"><span>Women, feminists, social justice and environmental justice advocates around the world are making these connections, and engaging in work that centers the intersections between environmental and social struggles. From </span><a href="http://www.lubiconsolar.ca/">indigenous celebration of renewable energy</a><span> in Alberta, to feminists in Bolivia connecting </span><a href="http://www.mujerescreando.org/">fights for our body’s freedom to the liberation of our territories from extractivism</a><span>, to </span><a href="http://www.ituc-csi.org/what-s-just-transition?lang=en">labor unions advocating for a just transition from the climate crisis</a><span>, there are countless examples of cross-movement dialogue, solidarity and action to draw from.</span></p> <p><strong><em>Majandra Rodriguez Acha will be speaking at&nbsp; the International AWID Forum which opens this week 8-11 in Bahia, Brazil <a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/"><strong>Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice</strong></a>, <em>openDemocracy 50.50 will be </em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016"><strong><em>reporting daily </em></strong></a><em>from the Forum.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></em></strong><strong><em><span>Information about all of FRIDA's sessions at the AWID Forum are <a href="http://youngfeministfund.org/2016/08/building-feminist-futures-frida-the-13th-awid-forum-brazil/">here</a>.</span></em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rebecca-souza/between-tradition-and-feminism-modern-amazonas">Between tradition and feminism: modern Amazonas </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-souza/women-of-rivers-and-forests-have-feminist-debate">The women of the rivers and forests have feminist debate? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba-kate-kroeger-tatiana-cordero/berta-s-struggle-is-our-global-struggle">Berta’s struggle is our global struggle…</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ana-abelenda/behind-murder-of-berta-c-ceres-corporate-response">Behind the murder of Berta Cáceres: corporate complicity </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/melina-loubicanmassimo/awaiting-justice-%E2%80%93-indigenous-resistance-to-tar-sand-development-in-cana">Awaiting justice: Indigenous resistance in the tar sands of Canada</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/cop21-overarching-narratives-real-lives">COP21: overarching narratives, real lives</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter gendered poverty women and power women's human rights women's movements Majandra Rodriguez Acha Wed, 07 Sep 2016 17:03:06 +0000 Majandra Rodriguez Acha 105116 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The women of the rivers and forests have feminist debate? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rebecca-souza/women-of-rivers-and-forests-have-feminist-debate <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Beyond the reach of the internet and television in northern Brazil, feminist activism in the forests, on the boats and in the camps is sowing the seeds of a revolutionary and decolonial movement. Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/rebecca-souza/between-tradition-and-feminism-modern-amazonas">Part 1</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Normal1">&nbsp;</p><p class="Normal1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/14010010_1761054410837827_1523424914_n_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/14010010_1761054410837827_1523424914_n_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rebecca Souza. Photo: Osonmilu Argdão.</span></span></span>When we talk about difficulties of the feminist movement in the northern region of Brazil, there is absolutely no doubt that the main one is isolation from the rest of the country.&nbsp; There is little dialogue between the feminist movement in the southern and south-eastern regions of Brazil and us, which reproduces a model of xenophobia towards our opinions. This lack of knowledge of one of the largest geographical regions means that the difficulty in relation to the recognition of our feminism persists.</p> <p class="Normal1">When we talk about feminism of women from traditional peoples, the situation is even more bleak.</p> <p class="Normal1">How can women with no access to what the academic world is producing call themselves feminists?</p><p class="Normal1">In the far north, there are debates on women's issues?</p> <p class="Normal1">The north exists? Feminism in the north exists? The women of the rivers and the forests have feminist debates?</p> <p class="Normal1">This historical suppression leads to relations in which we are merely colonised people who can only be discovered when studied by colonisers.</p> <p class="Normal1"><strong>The girl-woman, spouse, the children at home</strong></p> <p class="Normal1">All feminists of traditional peoples have encountered the following situation. When a girl has her first period, historically, in our communities, they have two options: either she marries a man or goes to work as a domestic worker in the city.</p> <p class="Normal1">When we talk about our movement's difficulties, going against what is said to be "cultural" is the greatest obstacle we have. We invariably live in the areas of our peoples, and going against their common sense is a herculean task. I would say that this is truly a crossroad for our activism. While our desire to be with our people is very dear to us, we deal with what we believe to be the rights of these young women and girls.</p> <p class="Normal1">To personalise the debate, I remember that when I left my Romani camp, I believed it was my right to study and to have the opportunity to do so, but I also felt that I had to give something back to the girls that remained there. Being part of a community and going against their customs is not easy for human rights activists, but we continue to believe that these girls will succeed us and accomplish much more than we expect them to.</p> <p class="Normal1"><strong>Who defends women's rights defenders?</strong></p> <p class="Normal1">According to data from organisations linked to the Catholic Church, since the <a href="http://infoamazonia.blogosfera.uol.com.br/2015/02/13/assassinato-de-freira-defensora-da-amazonia-dorothy-stang-completa-10-anos/">assassination of Sister Dorothy Stang</a>, an American missionary who died in the municipality of Anapu, Pará, more than 400 people have been killed. Of these, <a href="https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2016/04/15/mortes-no-campo-aumentaram-39-em-2015-segundo-cpt/">45% are women who fought for land, housing, education and respect for their traditions</a>. Even though these women were not "academic feminists" or perhaps did not call themselves feminists, they were women's rights activists.</p> <p class="Normal1">Terrible "death syndicates" exist in northern Brazil. When several people are displeased with someone or something, they get together to pay a hired assassin. When the case involves a woman, the situation is even more alarming. The isolation of female activists is a very significant factor. When they are married and have children, the threats extend to their family.</p> <p class="Normal1">Let me take a moment to tell my story.</p> <p class="Normal1">I am an activist under threat. Since I turned twenty, I cannot leave my home at night and I have already escaped from hired assassins twice.&nbsp; My crime, like that of other women from the north, is having raised my voice against those who have money in the state.</p> <p class="Normal1">Justice is absent when individuals from traditional peoples are the ones to fall. In the assassination of a couple from an extractivist community, the judge freed the ones who ordered the crime under the allegation in his ruling that "when someone from the north gets involved in a social cause in Pará, he already knows that he is subject to die. Being an activist in the north means you know you are signing your death sentence."</p> <p class="Normal1">How can we, as women, possibly fight without being afraid?</p> <p class="Normal1">How can we have the courage every day to leave the house, knowing that we run the risk of that day being our last and that death can come on a motorbike or from the barrel of a gun?</p> <p class="Normal1">Debating the safety of women activists from the north is of utmost importance and fundamental for our physical and mental health.</p> <p class="Normal1"><strong>Every day is an opportunity</strong></p> <p class="Normal1">Being a woman from the north prepares us to live in adversity, whether it come from a river that floods and destroys our crops, a leopard that comes at night and eats our chickens, or difficulties in accessing information. However, this does not stop us from reorganising ourselves after every small defeat and we continue to advance in order to guarantee that we will win.</p> <p class="Normal1">An important moment for this recent regrouping was the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam on the land of indigenous and traditional peoples. It was not uncommon to find women in the prior consultations, the numerous occupations of construction sites and even in the scene that travelled around the world where a Tuíra indigenous woman from the Munduruku tribe threatened an engineer with a machete after he mocked the indigenous peoples in his speech.</p> <p class="Normal1">We have been through extreme difficulties. The dam was built and we live with the <a href="http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/fsp/brasil/fc2205200818.htm">threat</a> of another 18 being built. These are the moments when we, women, sit and think "How can we fight this? How can we make our voices heard?".</p> <p class="Normal1">We must overcome these challenges, including those related to modern colonisation that advances daily in our territories and to the lack of recognition of the political voices of women. The challenge of coexisting with and directly confronting tradition, is what gives us our identity. It is what makes us constantly strive to develop more tools to overcome them.</p> <p class="Normal1">With the advent of social media and social inclusion, we can make what happens to us reverberate around the world. Even though our movement has still not fully incorporated online activism into our practices, it is a powerful way of saying, "Here is our struggle. Come support us!" It is also strategic to occupy spaces. I am currently a civil society advisor for UN Women in Brazil. Yes, I am an advisor, even with my low level of education.</p><p class="Normal1">One way of supporting us and saying that we are a just as empowered branch of feminism as the other ones, is by recognising that the knowledge of women from traditional peoples goes beyond that of the academic world and we deserve to hold certain positions and participate in different spaces. </p> <p class="Normal1">I believe that the best way to support our activism is by giving us the conditions we need to do so.</p> <p class="Normal1">In many cases, in addition to a lack of education, women activists do not have the economic resources they need to get involved and this makes it impossible for us to be present during important moments. Our meetings are always important, as they are where we re-evaluate what must be done to advance. I cannot say we are prepared for all of the challenges. We are advancing and that is what matters. These are our strategies for change - changes that guarantee that we are always moving forward.</p> <p class="Normal1"><strong>My fate upstream</strong></p> <p class="Normal1">I end this article with the hope that it goes far beyond my settlement and the rivers and forests of the north.</p> <p class="Normal1">I end it with the hope that every individual who reads it will remember our victories, and that we were the ones who fought to occupy positions in order to obtain recognition for our traditional knowledge. May each one also remember that, at this very moment, it is possible that a girl from a traditional peoples' community is being torn from her family.</p> <p class="Normal1">I want people to know that my life and the lives of other activists are being threatened for having committed the offence of fighting for women's rights. We often hear of <a href="http://g1.globo.com/pa/para/noticia/2012/05/morte-de-casal-extrativista-em-nova-ipixuna-pa-completa-um-ano.html">barbaric acts</a> and think that they do not happen in our country. But they do, here in the north.</p> <p class="Normal1">I would like to leave you with some questions for reflection.</p> <p class="Normal1">If you, the one who is reading this right now, identify yourself as a feminist, have you ever stopped to talk with a woman from the north of Brazil, even if only online? Have you ever taken the time to converse and understand that there are women who - despite not being part of the academic world - are engaged in feminist struggles and have a lot to teach others? </p> <p class="Normal1">If you are not a feminist, I ask you: how many times have you set aside your view as a coloniser and opened up to us?</p> <p class="Normal1">If we are "the other" or the minority, from what point of view are we seen as the minority?</p> <p class="Normal1">I believe that our movement is revolutionary and decolonial. It is revolutionary because it happens in the forest, on the boat, in the camp, in the small village - everywhere that is beyond the reach of the internet and television. It is decolonial in the sense that it is done by us, for us - all of the granddaughters of the women who did not allow themselves to be colonised.</p> <p>And it is for them and with them that we will continue on in our boat of resistance on the river of our feminist movement.</p><p><em>This is the second part of a two-part artice. Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/rebecca-souza/between-tradition-and-feminism-modern-amazonas"><strong>Part 1</strong></a>.&nbsp; </em></p><p><em><strong>Rebecca Souza will be speaking at the forthcoming International AWID Forum <a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/">Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice</a>, 8-11 September, Bahia, Brazil.</strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rebecca-souza/between-tradition-and-feminism-modern-amazonas">Between tradition and feminism: modern Amazonas </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jody-williams/defending-defenders-daunting-challenge">Defending the Defenders: a daunting challenge </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ana-abelenda/behind-murder-of-berta-c-ceres-corporate-response">Behind the murder of Berta Cáceres: corporate complicity </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melina-loubicanmassimo/awaiting-justice-%E2%80%93-indigenous-resistance-to-tar-sand-development-in-cana">Awaiting justice: Indigenous resistance in the tar sands of Canada</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/melina-laboucan-massimo/energy-democracy-building-solar-dream-in-tar-sands-nightmare">Energy democracy: building a solar dream in a tar sands nightmare</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/osprey-orielle-lake/mapping-womens-resistance-to-social-and-ecological-degradation">Mapping women&#039;s resistance to social and ecological degradation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marilyn-waring/making-visible-invisible-commodification-is-not-answer">Making visible the invisible: commodification is not the answer</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/international-rights-of-nature-tribunal-in-defence-of-pachamama-against-macho-papas">International Rights of Nature Tribunal: Pachamama vs ‘macho papas’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/beyond-individual-stories-women-have-moved-mountains">Beyond individual stories: women have moved mountains </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-defining-economic-citizenship">Women defining economic citizenship </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nathalie-marji/women-on-frontlines-of-climate-justice-defending-land-and-community">Defending land and community: women on the frontlines of climate justice </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba-kate-kroeger-tatiana-cordero/berta-s-struggle-is-our-global-struggle">Berta’s struggle is our global struggle…</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">Women human rights defenders: activism&#039;s front-line</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sarah-marland/women-human-rights-defenders-protecting-each-other">Women human rights defenders: protecting each other </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-reigniting-embers">Women human rights defenders: reigniting the embers</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Brazil </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Brazil Civil society Continuum of Violence AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick feminism gender gender justice gendered poverty violence against women women and power women's movements women's work young feminists Rebecca Souza Thu, 01 Sep 2016 10:25:16 +0000 Rebecca Souza 104987 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why the backlash against dowry laws in India? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/prita-jha/why-backlash-against-dowry-laws-in-india <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The backlash against gender-just law which seeks to protect women against dowry violence reveals the full extent of the patriarchal mindset that underpins the criminal justice system in India.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/image(2).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/image(2).png" alt="" title="" width="456" height="576" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Poster. Image: National Commission of Women, India.</span></span></span></p> <p>According to the popular discourse in India, laws which were introduced to protect women against violence have allowed women to file false and vexatious cases against their husbands and their in-laws. &nbsp;Section 498A of the <a href="http://www.lawzonline.com/bareacts/indian-penal-code/section498A-indian-penal-code.htm">Indian Penal Code</a>, which came into being largely due to the failure of the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, criminalises the husband or his relatives who harass, injure the life, limb or health of a woman, or drive her to suicide for the failure to provide a dowry. &nbsp;This has been seen in conservative circles, as giving a carte blanche to women to bring false cases of harassment against their husbands, a perception that has been undeniably strengthened by a controversial Supreme Court judgment in the case of dowry related cruelty in <a href="http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/imgs1.aspx?filename=41736)">Arnesh Kumar vs State Of Bihar</a> in which the judge condemns the use of these progressive laws as ‘weapons rather than shields by disgruntled wives’. </p> <p>Arnesh Kumar’s wife, Sweta Kiran, had initiated criminal proceedings for offences of cruelty under section 498A. It is an offence for which the police can arrest the accused without a warrant and carries a maximum sentence of three years. S Kiran complained that her father and mother-in-law demanded a Maruti car, television, air conditioner and a sum of Rs 800,000 (£8000 approximately). When the wife sought her husband’s support, his response was to echo his parents’ demands and to threaten to marry another woman if the dowry demand was not met. The issue before the Supreme Court was not to do with the truth or otherwise of the allegations levelled by the wife, because at that time the trial had not yet taken place. The sole issue to be decided was whether or not to grant bail to the husband and his relatives in anticipation of their impending arrest as the lower courts had rejected his application for bail. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Judge, sympathetic to Arnesh Kumar, granted bail stating by way of explanation that “There is phenomenal increase in matrimonial disputes in recent years. The institution of marriage is greatly revered in this country<em><strong>. </strong></em>Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code was introduced with the avowed object of combatting the menace of harassment of a woman at the hands of her husband and his relatives. The fact that Section 498-A is a cognizable and non-bailable offence has lent it a dubious place of pride amongst the provisions that are used as weapons rather than shields by disgruntled wives. The simplest way to harass is to get the husband and his relatives arrested under this provision.” It spoke to much deeper concerns and fears – fears about changes to the revered institution of marriage. The case was widely reported in the media and has since been uploaded on various men’s groups’ websites as proof of the ongoing misuse of Section 498A. </p> <p>To my horror, this perception/misperception is not limited to those who may have been direct victims of its misuse and spent a night or two in jail and are therefore understandably angry about the injustice they suffered, or the <a href="http://menrightsindia.net/2014/07/automatic-arrest-498a-says-supreme-court.html">men’s rights groups</a> which have sprung up in the last decade - but ordinary law students, lawyers and judges who subscribe to the view that false cases are endemic. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/image(3).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/image(3).png" alt="" title="" width="311" height="400" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Think Twice' poster, India.</span></span></span></p> <p>Moved by this unified chorus of voices from different corners of the country, I was compelled to ask a very simple question: Exactly what constitutes a false case?&nbsp; False case, as perceived by whom? The accused, complainant, police, lawyers or judges? I think some qualitative research to explore this issue would be extremely useful.&nbsp; Based on my knowledge and experience of working with impoverished and marginalized sections of Muslim, Dalit and very poor working class women, women take court action only as a last resort, and then only with the support of their family. Women and their families usually try to address issues of violence informally either through mediators or NGOs before going to the police. </p> <p>The only research evidence I could unearth of false cases actually being filed comes from a <a href="https://ipc498a.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/csr-study-on-498a.pdf">small scale research </a>study which showed that around 6.5 per cent of cases investigated by police were found to be false. However, how the police decide that a case is false is not clear. False, because they could not get sufficient witnesses ? Or because the witnesses were giving a version of events that contradicted that of the complainant ? Or that they had unearthed facts which showed that the complainant was lying? </p> <p>The quality and impartiality of police investigation is perhaps the biggest question mark facing the Indian criminal justice system. It has been repeatedly raised by various eminent national level commissions such as the National Police Commission reports, and the <a href="http://infochangeindia.org/human-rights/news/malimath-report-suggests-sweeping-changes-to-criminal-justice-system.html">Malimath committee report</a> in 2003. However, for the sake of argument, let’s accept this figure is accurate. Are false cases per se really exceptional in the Indian context? Justice Prasad, who ruled in the Arnesh Kumar case, himself produced the history of well-documented evidence of misuse of police powers, framing of the accused, and the control of the police by the financially, politically and criminally powerful. To my knowledge, there has been no research to investigate the level of false cases for other serious crimes to date, and therefore certainly there is no evidence to suggest that the 6.5 per cent of false 498A cases is any higher than other serious offences. </p> <p>In my view, there are two ways in which we can claim that a case is false: the case does not have all the required legal ingredients to constitute a section 498A case; or that the woman falsely claims dowry harassment. In the first instance, the fault lies with the lawyer, police and/or prosecutor who fail to notice and properly advise their client. The second scenario would be exposed during contested trial proceedings and would require a longitudinal study to assess the extent of this problem.</p> <p>Contrary to exaggerated fears about the institution of marriage being in danger, section 498A is actually used by women and their families to preserve the marriage, or as a last ditch attempt to ensure a fair divorce settlement. The vast majority of cases are filed as a desperate attempt to ensure that the husband’s family desists from further violence and harassment, or feels compelled to negotiate a fair divorce settlement<strong>.</strong> In my experience of dealing with women who are totally economically dependent on the husband and/or his family, a divorce is only possible if her own family is willing to support her financially. The latest available <a href="http://ncrb.gov.in/">data</a> for 2014 shows that there were over 120,000 section 498A offences registered, constituting 36.4% of all criminal offences committed against women, which include around 8,500 dowry related deaths. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/image(1).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/image(1).png" alt="" title="" width="300" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>50 Million Missing Campaign website. Photo: Lakshmi Prabhala</span></span></span></p> <p>Let’s consider another justification given in the Arnesh Kumar case: concern for female relatives of the husband and the injustice they suffer by being arrested. The <a href="http://ncrb.nic.in/StatPublications/CII/CII2012/Statistics2012.pdf">National Criminal Records Bureau for 2012</a> shows that number of arrests of women family members was about 25% of the total, amounting to almost 47,951 cases. This is not surprising given the cultural context of the extended family system in India; problems and difficulties arise as a result of the misuse of power within the family structure by mothers, and sisters-in-law against daughters-in-law. These cases do not generally arise in the context of a couple living independently.</p> <p>The second possible justification offered in this judgment is the low conviction rate of 15%. Can we equate low conviction rates with false cases? Everyone knows that there are multiple systemic failures of criminal justice that account for the low conviction rates, but in 498A cases, there are a higher number of illegal compromises – a unique feature of the Indian criminal justice system which routinely allows compromise agreements with alleged rapists and violent wife beaters, simply by the witness turning hostile and in the process changes or fails to present the evidence on which the prosecution is founded. As part of a compromise agreement reached by the parties involved, pressure is brought upon the witness to deny her earlier statement in court, a process that appears to be sanctioned by lawyers and approved largely by judges. In fact, even after rape convictions, the compromise culture persists. Justice Devdass of Madras High Court <a href="http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/hc-advises-rape-convict-%20to-go-%20for-mediation/article7348312.ece">granted interim bail</a> to a man sentenced to seven years for rape so that he could participate in mediation talks to marry the minor he had raped. The High Court quickly responded to the outrage and revoked the bail order, and the Supreme Court rightly denounced the idea of compromise and mediation, but neither Court lays down guidelines of what action should be taken to prevent this illegal but accepted cultural and institutional practice of seeking compromise in serious criminal cases.</p> <p>It is this complex and entrenched institutionally supported culture of illegal compromises in serious criminal cases of rape, looting and even murders, that is severely eroding the very basis of the criminal justice system and needs urgent attention- rather than the allegations of the falsity of 498A cases. It reflects the prevalence of the patriarchal mindset at all levels of the justice system. The state has failed miserably to effectively implement existing legislation to prevent dowry related violence against Indian women.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/transnational-marriage-abandonment-new-form-of-violence-against-women">Transnational marriage abandonment: A new form of violence against women? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/priyanka-borpujari/when-scarred-female-bodies-demarcate-indian-subcontinent%27s-polity">When scarred female bodies demarcate the Indian subcontinent&#039;s polity </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nicola-desouza/pondicherrys-marraige-market">From Pondi to Paris: Pondicherry&#039;s marriage market </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amrit-wilson/india-gender-violence-is-at-heart-of-hindu-rights-agenda">Narendra Modi, gender violence, and the Hindu Right&#039;s agenda</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">Women human rights defenders: activism&#039;s front-line</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/content/dark-side-of-micro-credit">The dark side of micro-credit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/beyond-individual-stories-women-have-moved-mountains">Beyond individual stories: women have moved mountains </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruchira-gupta/india-examining-motivation-for-rape">India: examining the motivation for rape </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amrit-wilson/indias-anti-rape-movement-redefining-solidarity-outside-colonial-frame">India&#039;s anti-rape movement: redefining solidarity outside the colonial frame</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/bina-agarwal/india-whose-law-is-it-anyway">India: Whose law is it anyway ? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/courts-of-women-resisting-violence-and-war">World Courts of Women: against war, for peace </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/breaking-free-womens-movement-India-universities">Breaking Free: a women&#039;s movement in Indian universities </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/sexual-violence-in-indian-cities">Sexual violence in Indian cities</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amrit-wilson/gender-violence-narendra-modi-and-indian-elections">Gender violence, Narendra Modi and the Indian elections </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openIndia India Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick violence against women Sexual violence gendered poverty gender justice gender feminism 50.50 newsletter Prita Jha Mon, 25 Jul 2016 08:33:27 +0000 Prita Jha 104223 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Tanzanian pastoralist women: HIV and health rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/glory-mlaki/tanzanian-pastoralist-women-hiv-and-health-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Vertical health service provision alone will not solve the gender-based violence and HIV challenges facing pastoralist women in Tanzania. More holistic, rights-based policies are required.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/MaasaiTraditionalBirthAttendants.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/MaasaiTraditionalBirthAttendants.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Meeting with Maasai traditional birth attendants. Photo: Bernard Paul Muyanda. ACORD</span></span></span></p> <p>Pastoralist women in many parts of Africa, including <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2989/16085906.2016.1148060">Northeast</a> Africa and <a href="http://journals.lww.com/jaids/Fulltext/2009/06012/251_Migration,_Pastoralists,_HIV_Infection_and.156.aspx">Nigeria</a>, face many cultural practices which increase their vulnerability to HIV. At the current International AIDS Conference in <a href="http://www.aids2016.org/">Durban</a>, despite it taking place on the same continent, there are no sessions or abstracts listed in relation to pastoralists at all. I would love to be there to raise awareness of pastoralist women’s rights myself, but with no funds available to travel, register or stay there, I am glad to be able to write about some of the issues they face here.</p><p>In Tanzania, the Maasai, Sonjo, Hadzabe and Mang’ati people number about <a href="http://catalog.ihsn.org/index.php/catalog/4618">170,000</a>, 51% of whom are female, living across 14,000 km. Whilst seeking to preserve their culture despite modern world pressures, they still embrace a system that denies most women and girls basic human rights. Lack of inheritance rights leave widows and their children very vulnerable when a man dies. In addition, pastoralist women lack access to political power or representation and frequently have development policies imposed upon them. </p> <p>Tanzania has a 4.7% adult HIV prevalence rate, with 60% of the 1.3 million adults being women. Traditional practices which can increase HIV transmission include polygamy; female genital mutilation with un-sterile instruments; home-based childbirth with traditional birth attendants (TBAs) who are unskilled in modern sterile practices; early and forced marriages by older men where a young girl has no chance to say no to unprotected sex.&nbsp;Traditionally, girls do not attend school because they marry soon after their 12th&nbsp;birthday, despite primary education in Tanzania being compulsory and both primary and secondary education being free.&nbsp; </p> <p>These cultural <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3830632/">practices</a>, gender inequalities and inadequate knowledge for most women – and men - about sexual and reproductive health (SRH) issues and HIV transmission limit their decision-making abilities regarding when to have sex, whether or not to use a condom or other contraceptive methods, whether or not to get pregnant, and whether or not to get tested for HIV or other STIs. </p> <p>Deprived of rights to access basic needs such as healthcare, or a balanced diet, women are also particularly vulnerable to domestic violence, as their fragile socio-economic systems worsen. Furthermore, men and women face different challenges in living with HIV and AIDS, in access to health and support services, and with regard to stigma attached to the epidemic. Women have much less time and much less opportunity than men to access services. </p> <p>Whilst laws do <a href="http://www.lexadin.nl/wlg/legis/nofr/oeur/lxwetan.htm">exist</a> to prevent violation of women’s and children’s rights, their enforcement especially in Ngorongoro District is problematic. For example, whilst female genital mutilation and early FGM and ECM are illegal, pastoral communities still practise them in ceremonies involving long periods of preparations, huge numbers of girls, and traditional leaders and local community members. So HIV transmission through these routes continues. </p> <p>To be effective, HIV and SRH services have to be accessible for all. Although public health facilities are free, such services are often underutilized and not available in all facilities. Other factors also affect SRH services, including demographic, economic, social and cultural dynamics, power relations and gender inequity, discrimination, sexual and domestic violence among others. For example, most public SRH programmes have focused uniquely on maternal and child health, but have left out other important populations including men, adolescents, and women who are not pregnant or mothers. These services have also focused more on the health facility level and have largely ignored other critical socio-cultural and economic barriers to accessing SRH information and services, such as women’s ability to buy condoms or negotiate their use. </p> <p>Health providers, particularly those providing SRH and HIV services, have not been trained to interact with the community groups in a way that takes into account the traditional cultural taboos facing women and adolescent girls, people with disabilities and women heads of households - or the newer taboos of stigma and discrimination facing people living with HIV. Thus the education they provide is not tailored to meet their needs, realities and concerns. </p> <p>For example, although the government of Tanzania is encouraging all women to have their babies at health facilities, in Ngorongoro almost 60% of births still occur at home with support from traditional birth attendants owing to long distances and other cultural, reasons and much work is needed to strengthen their skills and knowledge about how to protect everyone from HIV, while assisting women in home delivery. For instance, some birth attendants who are in high demand may have been diagnosed with HIV themselves, but are still having to conduct home deliveries without access to appropriate protective skills or equipment. </p> <p>Meanwhile, most women, adolescent girls and young mothers have insufficient information on peri-natal transmission of HIV and safe motherhood. Only 38% of women with HIV who are on anti-retroviral treatment (ART) reported that their clinic discussed family planning with <a href="http://www.acordinternational.org/acord/en/our-work/where/tanzania/reaching-the-poorly-served/">them</a>. &nbsp;Available contraceptive prevalence data indicated a rate far below the national average. Women usually seek contraceptive advice from their husbands - who often know nothing and instead may mislead and prohibit its use. There is thus a great need to empower women to make informed choices about their SRH, giving them more autonomy and greater confidence to engage with structures and institutions that are critical to ensuring equitable access to services. </p> <p>Much has been done to prevent and respond to SGBV issues within the district through key duty bearers, including police, judiciary, frontline health workers, police, members of human rights organizations, religious leaders, traditional leaders, media representatives, women councilors and local leaders. They have jointly developed a working group, work plan and terms of reference for their network. Yet much is still needed, to involve male community leaders to gain trust and motivate community members, including men who are the key perpetrators, strengthening the capacity of the SGBV district network members and increasing community awareness. </p> <p>Reducing vulnerability to SGBV and HIV and mitigating their effect raises many challenges that require linkages with interventions on gender and livelihoods, while promoting integration of SRH services and HIV, to ensure universality of information and services. </p> <p>This requires investment in the socio-economic development of women, men, children, household and communities at large. Decisions to invest in them should thus be taken by policy makers who are responsible for socio-economic development and not only by those responsible for health.&nbsp; The mainstreaming of SRH and HIV into development programming, centered specifically on the nomadic lifestyle and culture of these pastoralist communities, is critical in enhancing their access to human rights. </p> <p>Due to stigma attached to adolescent sexuality, there have also been pockets of opposition to youth access to SRH information and services, for fear of promoting promiscuity. Yet I believe young people are the potential agents of change; they need better information for their SRH, and skills to embrace their own local culture and to change what hurts them (domestic violence, FGM, early and forced marriages). Much has been done which is stimulating great debate about cultural practices among youth groups. There is great need for supporting and engaging the young generation as agents for change, in particular by supporting school-based and out-of-school programmes on SRH, human rights, SGBV and HIV/AIDS. </p> <p>In addressing cultural and gender barriers to accessing to SRH, it is of paramount importance to support training programmes such as <em><a href="http://steppingstonesfeedback.org/index.php/page/Resources/gb?resourceid=85">Stepping Stones</a></em> which uses a holistic rights-based approach. The training will work specifically with traditional structures and traditional leaders (both male and female), as well as with service providers. These include birth attendants, ngarimuratanyi who practise female genital mutilation, women and male elders, community volunteers, as well as health workers, youth workers and teachers, and ‘SGBV value chain actors’. This process will enable us to identify. Once sensitive social and cultural practices are identified, we can then develop a dialogue for action on which practices should be modified or changed in order to reduce vulnerability to HIV and other SRH issues; on how to change attitudes towards women’s rights; and ultimately on how to tackle the cultural barriers to accessing better tailored HIV services. </p> <p><em>Read more articles articles on our platform:</em><strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-aids-gender-and-human-rights">AIDS, Gender and Human Rights</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/hivaids-and-holistic-healthcare-can-spirituality-and-science-meet">HIV, AIDS and holistic healthcare: can spirituality and science meet?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ida-susser-zena-stein/bioinsecurity-and-hivaids">Bio-insecurity and HIV/AIDS </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/hajjarah-nagadya/aids-targets-fear-factor">AIDS targets: the fear factor </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ending-HIV-ideology-vs-evidence-at-UN">Ending HIV: ideology vs evidence at the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marama-pala/nobody-left-behind-lives-of-indigenous-women-with-hiv">Nobody Left Behind? The lives of indigenous women with HIV</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/hajjarah-nagadya/uganda-social-impact-of-hiv-criminal-law-0">Uganda: the social impact of HIV criminal law</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sindi-putri/indonesia-facing-life-with-hiv">Indonesia: facing life with HIV </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn/accepted-mishaps-faith-healing-hiv-and-aids-responses">Accepted mishaps? Faith healing, HIV and AIDS responses</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anonymous/hiv-homophobia-and-historical-regression-where-next-for-uganda">HIV, homophobia and historical regression: where next for Uganda?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/susana-t-fried-alice-welbourn/confinement-of-eve-resolving-ebola-zika-and-hiv-with-women-s-bodi">The confinement of Eve: resolving Ebola, Zika and HIV with women’s bodies?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/hiv-witnessing-realisation-of-raw-human-rights">HIV: witnessing the realisation of raw human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nell-osborne/against-coerced-sterilisation-resounding-victory-in-namibia">Against coerced sterilisation: a resounding victory in Namibia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/susan-paxton/positive-and-pregnant-in-asia-how-dare-you">Positive and pregnant in Asia - How dare you</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tanzania </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Tanzania 50.50 AIDS, Gender and Human Rights 50.50 Our Africa women's health gendered poverty 50.50 newsletter Glory Mlaki Tue, 19 Jul 2016 08:27:33 +0000 Glory Mlaki 103967 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Nepali widows: changing colours, changing mindsets https://www.opendemocracy.net/lily-thapa/nepal-s-widows-changing-colours-changing-mindsets <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The growing widows’ movement in Nepal is winning rights for single and widowed women, and challenging the deprivation and discriminatory practices that stem from age-old social norms and customs. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/WHR_003.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/WHR_003.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Widows and single women gather in Dharmasthali at the monthly saving credit programme. Photo: Uma Thapa,WHR</span></span></span></p><p>Nepal has a strong patriarchal culture in which women are traditionally marginalized and discriminated against at all levels. Women’s social status and position in society are normally determined by patriarchal traditions which uphold the general belief that women are subordinate to men and that women’s roles are confined to the domestic sphere. A woman's situation becomes even worse if she doesn't have a husband and is considered by society to be ill-omen. </p><p>In Nepal, a woman who is a widow is discriminated against, abused, harassed and deprived of social and economic rights,&nbsp; including property rights. There are many cases of young widows being vulnerable and victimized -&nbsp; both sexually and emotionally - within the family and in their communities. Religious beliefs, cultural values and social norms further prohibit the young women from taking part in any family or public activities, particularly if they are auspicious ones. According to a national census in 2010, over 86% widows are illiterate and dependent on others. &nbsp;Because of natural disaster, conflict, disease and poverty, the number of young widows is increasing day by day in Nepal. </p> <p>When I lost my husband at the age of 29 I was left with three small children to raise. I went through the trauma not just of losing my husband, but discovering the appalling way in my life as a widow had completely changed and the discriminatory direction in which it turned despite the fact that I was highly educated and from the middle class. I was not allowed to participate in any auspicious functions, and I was not allowed to wear red or bright colors since red and other bright colours are a symbol of marriagehood. This experience made me think of others who don't have anything - no education, skills, or assets.</p> <p>Faced with having to live with these challenges in my life, I decided that I could no longer bear this discrimination since I too had dreams of being a part of the society on equal grounds -&nbsp; as I had been when my husband was alive. I got together with a few other women friends who had also lost their husbands, and we started creating a platform for sharing the experiences and our emotions informally. In 1994 we formally established an organization for the rights of the widows in the name of <a href="http://whr.org.np/">Women for Human Rights</a> (WHR). </p> <p>There were many challenges to face as we worked to change the age-old social norms, culture, customs and values, but we have been able to achieve significant success for the rights of widows through advocacy from the grassroots up to the policy level. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/WHR_001.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/WHR_001.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Widows and single women gather post-earthquake for hygiene and health education. Photo: Women for Human Rights</span></span></span></p> <p>We have been able to organize many thousands of widows in the groups across the country who are now mobilizing as change- makers in the communities. Starting with manifold struggles and challenges particularly because they were women, widows have been fighting against long established traditions and shaking the foundations of the social structure, and today they have established a great system of acting as pillars of support to many women - and not just widows. </p> <p>The Red Colour movement ( <em>Rato Rang Abhiyan</em>) was a campaign called 'Color is our Birth Right' and we demanded to have the right to wear a colour of our own choice, instead of white - &nbsp;which had been imposed for widows, and we were successful in breaking the negative norms and practices. While initially it was a great challenge for us to revolt against the religious and cultural practices, we worked closely with faith leaders and community people who were still resistant to the change. We offered counseling and advocacy, and awareness gradually sank in and communities started one by one to accept it. It was the biggest milestone in the movement. </p> <p>The decade long armed conflict in Nepal has increased the thousands of young widows and wives of the disappeared who come from very diverse backgrounds. But despite having come from such diverse and opposing backgrounds, they are now united as a network called Nispakchya (meaning Fair) and in working together for a just, equitable and peaceful society.</p> <p>Due to the groups mobilization in the community, families have started accepting their widowed daughters and daughter-in-laws, widows wearing colourful clothes, and participating in social activities and engaging as a social capital in the society. For the first time the government has mainstreamed widowhood agenda by including it in the National Action Plan, and it has also established Emergency Funds for widows.</p> <p>The large number of women in our membership has been a major strength to us, and collectively we have been able to work in society, and with families as well. Strong advocacy and lobbying from the widows’ groups in the districts has resulted in some changes in the discriminatory laws, mostly through the Eleventh Amendment to the country code of Nepal establishing widows’ rights to property. Our organization has been able to actively promote widows as change-makers, and to demonstrate the way in which women are vital social capital and a key resource in the mainstream development process of Nepal. </p> <p>To ensure the increased representation of widowed women at all decision-making levels - national, regional and international, widows' groups have undertaken the task of building the capacity of members at the local level, with the mission of providing leadership training, and education about political participation. The grassroots groups include women from all walks of life - Maoist widows, widows of Security Forces - while many are victims of both. Thus this platform provides a chance and choice for the widows to collaborate in joint efforts, in fighting for survival and improving their lives, while finding an end to the conflict that they are adversely affected by. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/WHR_002.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/WHR_002.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Widows and single women's group: Photo: Women for Human Rights</span></span></span></p> <p>We now have a network built up within the local level agencies from Ward level, Village Development Committee level, to Districts Development Committee level, extending to Regional and National level and further to South Asian Network for Widows Empowerment in Development (SANWED). </p> <p>The various Ministries and National Women’s Commission of Nepal have begun to incorporate widows' issues in their strategy and agenda for women’s empowerment. </p> <p>The district level widows' groups, together with the Central Office have lobbied national and regional stakeholders, in endorsing the principles of the Widows Charter, which calls for the protection and fulfillment of the special needs of widows. As a result of our campaigning, the new constitution of Nepal now includes widows in fundamental rights. We continue to be involved in lobbying to change &nbsp;discriminatory laws and policies against widows so that gender justice prevails. </p> <p>The widows' movement has gained a good momentum with a very positive outlook and with strong support for the cause, yet there is still long way to go to change the stereotypes and mindsets of the people against widowhood. Changing minds is the hardest part of the challenge we continue to address. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/margaret-owen/conflict-widows-agents-of-change-and-peacebuilding"> Conflict widows: agents of change and peacebuilding</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/margaret-owen/hidden-lives-of-child-widows">The hidden lives of child widows </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/margaret-owen/widowhood-invisible-for-how-much-longer">Widowhood: invisible for how much longer?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/people/article_1303.jsp">Afghanistan: land of widows</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leymah-gbowee/child-soldiers-child-wives-wounded-for-life">Child soldiers, child wives: wounded for life</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women&#039;s rights have no country</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Nepal </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Nepal Civil society 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights gendered poverty gender justice gender feminism 50.50 newsletter Lily Thapa Wed, 13 Jul 2016 08:27:33 +0000 Lily Thapa 103438 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Transnational marriage abandonment: A new form of violence against women? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/pragna-patel/transnational-marriage-abandonment-new-form-of-violence-against-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Transnational marriage abandonment lies at the intersect of immigration and patriarchal control, allowing abusers and states to enjoy impunity for violations committed against women in transnational spaces.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Southall-Black-Sisters-5b(1).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Southall-Black-Sisters-5b(1).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="488" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em>‘M’ at the Houses of&nbsp;Parliament: launch of report on transnational marriage&nbsp;abandonment.</em></p><p>'M', an abused young mother of Pakistani origin, finally found her voice on 4 February 2016, in front of a large audience at the Houses of Parliament in London. Although struggling to hold back her tears and faltering at times, she nevertheless gave a moving and powerful account of her experiences of violence and abandonment that crossed the national borders of the UK and Pakistan. Her appalling experience has left deep emotional scars that have remained with her despite the passing of time. </p> <p>M came to the UK in April 2000 to join her British national husband, following her marriage and the birth of her eldest son. From the outset, she was subjected to constant emotional and physical abuse by her husband and in-laws. She was not allowed &nbsp;to go out or talk to people outside the home. She could not speak English, did not know the ways or laws of the UK, and was completely isolated and severely depressed. By then she had given birth to twin girls, one of whom had a heart condition. </p> <p>In 2005, M and her children were taken to Pakistan by her husband and in-laws on the pretext of attending a family wedding. In Pakistan, M’s in-laws took away their passports and subjected M to further abuse and domestic servitude. Her husband then returned to the UK without her and her children, and two and half months later, they were thrown onto the streets by her in-laws who also returned to the UK. Homeless and destitute, M had no choice but to return to her parents who were reluctant to support her because, in her community, female abandonment following marriage is deemed to be a matter of great shame and dishonour.<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Southall-Black-Sisters-1b_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Southall-Black-Sisters-1b_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="338" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em>Southall Black Sisters (SBS) join demonstration against immigration controls.</em></p><p>Desperate to claim her rights to maintenance and property, M fought a seven year battle for the right to return to the UK with her children. She eventually obtained a visitor’s visa and in 2012 returned to the UK with her children. She now lives in north England but is still fighting for the right to remain in the UK. </p> <p>M’s story, like that of many abused women who attend <a href="http://www.southallblacksisters.org.uk/">Southall Black Sisters</a> (SBS), follows the all too familiar contours of gender-based violence and domestic servitude faced by South Asian women. What sets them apart from the more routine experiences of abuse is the fact of their abandonment. This little known phenomenon, referred to as <em>Transnational Marriage Abandonment</em> or <em>Stranded Spouses,</em> is a form of violence against women that occurs in transnational spaces due to the overlapping processes of migration and marriage. It involves the deliberate abandonment of foreign national wives in their country of origin by their husbands who are nationals or residents of another country. </p> <p>Transnational marriage abandonment takes many forms but is essentially a gendered phenomenon that forms part of a continuum of violence and coercion experienced by women at the hands of abusive and exploitative husbands and their families. The impact of abandonment also creates contexts for further forms of violence against women due to the stigma associated with divorce, women’s vulnerability within natal families, and issues related to inheritance and residence arrangements within the natal home after divorce. The transnational nature of this problem therefore raises specific challenges for women seeking justice, mainly because it involves a number of jurisdictions.</p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Southall-Black-Sisters-3b.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Southall-Black-Sisters-3b.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="282" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><em>Southall Black Sisters protesting in Southall, London </em></p><p>SBS’ front-line experience reveals three main forms of transnational marriage abandonment in the UK (a) a woman who migrates to the UK after marriage and is abused and abandoned or is forced to flee within this country; (b) a woman who is brought to the UK and then deceived into returning to her home country on some pretext and abandoned there, while her husband returns to the UK, revokes her visa and initiates divorce proceedings; (c) a woman who is married or left behind in her home country following her marriage, usually with her in-laws, and is never sponsored to come to the UK. All such cases can also involve abandonment with children or the separation of women from their children.</p><p>These forms of transnational abandonment are now the subject of a significant <a href="http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/20091/">report</a> based on a study conducted in India by Dr Sundari Anitha and Prof Anupama Roy (funded by the British Academy). It was this report that M helped to launch in the Houses of Parliament in February 2016. </p> <p>The study involved interviews with 57 women in India who were taken back to their home country and abandoned there or were never sponsored to join their husband. 28 had been married to men resident in the UK, with smaller numbers from countries including Italy, Australia and the USA. About two-fifth of the women had migrated after marriage while the rest remained in India with their in-laws. </p> <p>Most of the marriages had been hastily arranged, often within two weeks of the proposal, which left little opportunity for the bride’s family to ascertain the credentials of the groom. A majority of the women experienced physical violence perpetrated by their husband, in-laws or both. A third of the research participants disclosed sexual abuse perpetrated by their husband, while just under a quarter disclosed sexual abuse by male in-laws. A fifth of the women had been coerced into undergoing abortion(s). </p> <p>Where women were left with their in-laws, they faced increasing dowry demands and violence when they could not meet these demands. Many were also forced into domestic servitude, and denied adequate food and lodgings: </p> <p><span class="blockquote-new"><em>“My husband used to hit me with a belt, hanger or whatever was at hand, so would my mother-in-law. After a month, my husband left for London. Before leaving he whispered to me, "Live according to mum's instructions - don't expect anything from me." Back in his house, I was under strict watch. It was as if I was in a jail. </em><em>I was like this full- time maid who never had any days off, never had to be paid.” (Manju, 31)</em></span> </p> <p>Following a period of abuse, most women were abandoned by their husband or in-laws, often after being taken to India on false pretences, as this woman reported: </p> <p><em>“He often used to hit me. He would tell me that he had much better girls to choose from. After three years like this, we came to India for a holiday. … After two to three days, he left me at my mother's place. He phoned me and said he was returning to the UK that very night and I should come back later. Later on, he suggested that I stay on to attend English classes, so I extended my return ticket. It was only later that I realised that he was waiting for my visa to expire. As soon as the deadline passed, he called to say he was divorcing me.” (Hira, 32)</em> </p> <p>By strategically abandoning their wives in their home countries, South Asian migrant men made it nearly impossible for their wives to participate in legal proceedings in the UK, thereby depriving them of their matrimonial rights such as an equitable financial settlement upon divorce, child custody and recovery of dowry or personal property (<em>stridhan</em>). For example, following abandonment, ex-parte divorce proceedings were frequently initiated by the husband, without the knowledge of most women. In some cases where women wanted to challenge their divorce or engage in legal proceedings, they could not obtain a visa to visit the UK or indeed any other country in which their husband resided, and in most cases did not have the money to mount a costly legal battle overseas. Some of the women did initiate legal action in India against their husbands and in-laws, however most complaints ended in a compromise agreement or were not pursued by the police. Very few of the women received financial settlements upon divorce, and none received any maintenance for their children or a return of their dowry or stridhan. </p> <p>The study sheds light on practices such as dowry, son preference, and social norms which devalue women and play an important role in the violence and abandonment to which women are subjected in such marriages. Often families face huge debts and financial ruin due to the high costs of hosting a wedding and meeting ongoing dowry demands, not to mention coping with the social consequences of stigma that also arise when married women are abandoned. But the study also points to the crucial role played by the UK and other states in perpetuating and exacerbating such violence through strict immigration controls and the lack of effective legal mechanisms that can address violence committed across national borders. It is this ensuing gap in protection that has enabled men to abuse and exploit women with impunity. As one woman commented: </p> <p><span class="blockquote-new"><em>“I found out later that he has done this to three women.&nbsp; If nothing happens to them, this is what they'll continue doing! </em><em>He would taunt me, “Can you come all the way here (to the UK)? Can you reach me? Show me if you can.” Sometimes I think he was right about that. &nbsp;The law does not work for women like me, nothing can harm these men who are abroad, no one can get to them.” (Jatinder, 30)</em></span> </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The true extent of the problem of transnational abandonment is not known but the staggeringly high figures of abandonment from India (said to affect tens of thousands of women in the states of Punjab and Gujarat alone) suggest that the problem is growing. We suspect that what we know is only the tip of a massive iceberg that is also mirrored in countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh. Yet little or no attempts have been made by the states in these countries to address the problem, and the few measures that are taken are often ineffective and riddled with corrupt practices and a lack of transparency. In January 2010, the Government of India Ministry of Women and Child Development introduced some measures to cope with the rising demand for assistance by abandoned wives, but these responses are woefully inadequate because of a lack of robust mechanisms for implementation and enforcement. </p> <p>What this study tells us is that states must do more to respond to changes to the patterns and dynamics of violence against women that result from increased flows of migration overlapping with socio-cultural norms relating to marriage and gender. The &nbsp;disconcerting ways in which the imperatives of patriarchal and immigration control intersect, result in abandoned women being trapped in abusive and limping marriages, and in circumstances that involve the deliberate infraction of their legal rights to protection, support and rehabilitation; this is at the heart of women’s experiences in the UK. It is a dynamic in which immigration structures and patriarchal power relations reinforce each other’s mutual systems of domination and control. It is arguable that, in these contexts, the very act of abandonment itself constitutes domestic violence: a fact that is little recognised in the UK’s policies and strategies on violence against women and girls. </p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Southall-Black-Sisters-2b(1).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Southall-Black-Sisters-2b(1).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><em>SBS demanding the abolition of the "No Recourse to Public Funds Rule" in British immigration law</em> </p><p><span>For over 20 years, SBS has led </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/hannana-siddiqui/ending-stark-choice-domestic-violence-or-destitution-in-uk">campaigns</a><span> demanding that the British state should extend the principles of protection and non-discrimination to migrant women who are caught by the intersecting nets of patriarchy and immigration controls. Following some success, women who have been abandoned in the UK now have access to support in the form of housing and welfare benefits, and the opportunity to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain via the </span><a href="http://www.southallblacksisters.org.uk/campaigns/abolish-no-recourse-to-public-funds/">Domestic Violence (DV) Rule and the Destitution and Domestic Violence (DDV) Concession</a><span>. These are significant victories which do not apply to women abandoned abroad. Our experience tell us that all too often abandonment is tactic used by abusive men to precisely and deliberately prevent women from accessing their rights under the DV Rule and the DDV Concession. &nbsp;</span></p> <p>In the last few years, the family courts here have begun to recognise and deal with this form of abuse, although limited to cases involving children. In <em>Re S</em> <em>(Wardship) Guidance in Cases of Stranded Spouses</em> [2011] 1 FLR 319, Hogg J set out useful guidance for such cases, but this does not assist the increasing numbers of single women rendered vulnerable by abandonment. Nor does the guidance have any teeth in the face of an increasingly hard line immigration system which constantly frustrates requests made by the judiciary for women to be returned to the UK so that they can engage in a meaningful way in children and other legal proceedings. This means that even if the welfare of children is deemed to be paramount, immigration controls continue to trump all other rights in all respects including the right to family life and the right to a fair trial under the European Convention of Human Rights. This predicament is well encapsulated in the following statement made by a judge in a 2013 case: <strong><em><a href="http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2013/3840.html" target="_blank">Akhtar v Ayoub<strong>&nbsp;</strong></a></em></strong><em>[2013] EWHC 3840 (Fam),</em> involving an abandoned mother separated from her five British children: </p> <p class="ind"><em>"I have very considerable sympathy with the position of the mother, who is now separated from all her children. It cannot be a desirable situation for the children to be thus separated from their mother, whether or not on a daily basis they should be living with her or with their father. But I have to say that it seems to me that this wardship has now become futile and, indeed, potentially abusive of the proper boundaries between this court and the Secretary of State in immigration matters."</em></p> <p>These developments demand urgent reform in key areas of family and immigration law and practice in the UK. We would like to see transnational marriage abandonment explicitly recognised by the British state as a form of domestic violence in and of itself. We are also asking for better judicial understanding of the practices of dowry and stridhan - as pre-marital assets - in divorce, maintenance and other financial settlements, so that women are not left destitute and dependent on their own families. Better reciprocal arrangements between countries that allow for the enforcement of legal decisions concerning divorce, support, maintenance, residency and contact with children is also desperately needed. </p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Southall-Black-Sisters-4b.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Southall-Black-Sisters-4b.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="418" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><em>SBS leading protest against immigration raids in Southall, London</em>&nbsp; </p> <p>Ultimately, however, we are only too aware that in a context in which the central features of contemporary politics in the UK are austerity measures, growing nationalism and a heightened anti-immigration culture, it is a tall order to get the state to address the problem of transnational marriage abandonment. We are witness to an unprecedented drift towards political and social authoritarianism that is amongst other things, enshrining new techniques of immigration policing and surveillance at all levels of society. This is often referred to as the ‘in-sourcing’ of border controls, a process that effectively hands over immigration management and control to state and civil society institutions that that can penetrate into the every day lives of migrants and minority communities. This in turn produces a culture that is subverting even those institutions that are meant to safeguard and protect the most vulnerable in our society, creating a climate that is conducive to the exercise of patriarchal power and to new configurations of violence against women. Despite the difficulties, or precisely because of them, we need to continue to expose the troubling ways in which immigration law and policy allows the state to violate the protection principle that is enshrined in domestic and international laws and human rights standards on violence and discrimination against women. </p> <p>This is why M’s story is so significant. It illuminates the complex ways in which in an increasingly globalised world, the social control imperatives of immigration and patriarchy overlap creating extraterritorial gaps in legal protection and redress. Ultimately it is this lacuna that allows both abusers and states to evade responsibility and accountability for human rights violations committed in transnational spaces. M’s personal struggle challenges us to transform our political understanding of and responses to the growing phenomenon of transnational violence against women. </p> <p>&nbsp;<em>All images courtesy of Southall Black Sisters</em> </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/hannana-siddiqui/ending-stark-choice-domestic-violence-or-destitution-in-uk">Ending the stark choice: domestic violence or destitution in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anna-musgrave/when-nowhere-is-safe">When nowhere is safe</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/%27shariafication-by-stealth%27-in-uk">&#039;Shariafication by stealth&#039; in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/politics-of-hope-pragna-patel">Pragna Patel: a politics of hope and not hate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/use-and-abuse-of-honour-based-violence-in-uk">The use and abuse of honour based violence in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/hannana-siddiqui/calling-from-margins-ending-child-and-early-forced-marriage-in-uk">Calling from the margins: ending child and early forced marriage in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kate-nustedt/what-happened-to-me-herethats-what-broke-my-spirit">&quot;What happened to me here....that&#039;s what broke my spirit&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/reni-eddo-lodge/creating-safe-haven-in-intersection-of-state-racism-and-structural-patriarchy">Creating a safe haven in the intersection of state racism and structural patriarchy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Pakistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Pakistan UK Equality Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change 50.50 newsletter feminism gender justice gendered migration gendered poverty violence against women women's movements Sundari Anitha Pragna Patel Mon, 06 Jun 2016 08:31:51 +0000 Pragna Patel and Sundari Anitha 102653 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women beedi rollers and necrocapitalism in Sri Lanka https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/prashanthi-jayasekara/women-beedi-rollers-and-necrocapitalism-in-sri-lanka <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Women in one village in the Jaffna district of northern Sri Lanka have been rolling beedi with their bare hands for over fifty years in a gendered survival economy. This is no accident.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/rsz_imag1951_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/rsz_imag1951_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="424" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women beedi workers in Jaffna, Sri Lanka</span></span></span>"Economic empowerment” and “restoring livelihoods” are tropes that are too often fetishised within Sri Lanka’s post-war development discourse, especially in relation to women living in former war-affected regions. Be it providing small grants, microfinance, or cattle and poultry to “rebuild livelihoods”, the state and development actors alike have been spearheading various development projects targeting women. While the extent to which these programmes empower women remains questionable, some women continue to be left out of post war development altogether. This is the case with the women of Vettikadu, a poor low caste village in former war affected Jaffna in Northern Sri Lanka. &nbsp;</p> <p>For over fifty years women in Vettikadu have been rolling beedi<em> </em>within the confines of their homes. Despite the fact that the bare hands of these workers undertake the core production functions associated with the beedi trade, they are only compensated one fifth of the final market value of each beedi<em> </em>stick that they roll. The remaining market value goes to the bigger players within the trade. </p> <p>This alienation of workers from the final product is maintained through informality that is imposed upon the workers. In other words, the company’s only connection with the workers is through middle men who manage the extraction of labour. In this way the company escapes its obligation to pay fair compensation, provide other welfare benefits such as insurance and pensions, while seriously undermining the workers’ health and wellbeing. Given the paltry wages that are paid, women are compelled to manage by borrowing - buying food on credit, mortgaging lands or pawning jewellery - or simply by cutting down on essentials like the number of meals or medical treatment. Meanwhile, the island-wide beedi industry has been growing exponentially, almost at 200%, since 2007, and is currently an industry worth 4 billion rupees a year.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/rsz_imag1862_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/rsz_imag1862_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="424" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rolled beedi</span></span></span></p> <p>The entrapment of these workers in a violent trade is mediated through poverty. Anandhi Amma, an eighty year old woman from Vettikadu, has been rolling beedi<em> </em>since her childhood owing to dire poverty. In 1996 her son, a fisherman, who was the primary breadwinner of the family disappeared after being taken away by the military on suspicion of ferrying LTTE cadres. With her son gone, the sole burden of supporting her family fell on Anandhi Amma’s aged shoulders. Other women such as Sarojini and Geethanjali also started making beedi at a tender age following the death of family members.</p> <p>Sarojini was barely ten, when hunger within the family pushed her to start rolling beedi. Twenty seven years later, it is this everyday experience of poverty that keeps her entrapped in a trade that exploits her labour. Her “choice” of the way in which she expends her labour is therefore determined by poverty, and the obligation to provide for her husband who is injured and unable to work, and their five school going children. This is an added burden to her household obligation to cook, clean, and care. Often, she is subject to beatings by her husband for failing to ‘fulfill’ these ‘duties’. </p> <p>For years these workers have been rolling beedi<em> </em>with no breaks during the day, at inconceivable speed under precarious, exploitative and injurious conditions, and inhaling the thick air filled with tobacco dust and fumes through their lungs and their skin. The physical and emotional toll on women’s bodies is immense. Many work until their death. And this exploitation continues all the way to India where tendu leaves - which are used to roll beedi - are plucked by poor Adivasi women, whose labour is exploited within a transnational trade.</p> <p>The violent nature of alternative forms of work available to these women who have missed school due to war and poverty, exacerbates their dependency on the beedi<em> </em>trade, which requires limited skills and no capital outlay. </p> <p>The village’s predominant form of livelihood is fishing, and is a masculine domain, controlled by powerful upper class boat owning men. It is an economic space which is difficult for women to access and navigate without being subject to sexual harassment and unfair competition. There are not that many alternative jobs outside the village for these women. The limited jobs that are available in textile shops for example are also mired in violence.&nbsp; Some women workers our reseacrh team met in Jaffna town cited the exploitation and harassments within these workplaces. The terms and conditions of employment are severe: no proper breaks or facilities, including toilets, absence of contracts, leave and statutory welfare benefits, and low wages that are often not paid in full or on time. The women workers also said that they are generally paid much lower than their male counterparts. We were told that caste is an unwritten element of hiring practices; some textile shops hire poorer women from lower castes because&nbsp; it provides the employers with greater room for exploitation, and sexual harassments that they are subjected to within the workspace, as well as while travelling outside for work. </p> <p>It is within this context of “outside” and “inside” the village being unsafe that a large cardre of women is engaged in rolling beedi within their houses. While rolling beedi<em> </em>is a form of survival for the women, it is part of an accumulation economy for the big players within the trade. It is on the backs of these poor rural women living in a gendered survival economy that the beedi trade is accumulating capital. It is a trade within which women’s bare labouring bodies are exploited in a necroeconomic space, where the labouring body is exposed to violence until death. It is precisely through the entrapment of workers by their continuous alienation from the end product value that the workers must continue to work in such necroeconomic spaces to pay for daily necessities. </p> <p>Women’s entrapment within necroeconomic spaces is by no means an accident. It is under the auspices of the necropolitics of the state that the spaces of violent accumulation such as the beedi trade have thrived for over fifty years. A necropolitical state order that fails to provide secure work and social protection to alleviate poverty and rebuild lives after a war, reduces these women - to borrow from Agamben - to a ‘bare life’, lives that are unprotected, and&nbsp; exposed to all forms of violence. </p><p>Even though the war has ended, in Vettikadu, the continuation and expansion of necroeconomic spaces such as the<em> </em>beedi<em> </em>trade is indicative of how conditions of war and conflict exist even within a ‘post-war’ political economy. The necropolitics of the centre that produce, regulate and exploit these women within necroeconomic spaces can collectively be identified as a necrocapitalist project - the legalised process through which women’s labouring bodies are exposed to violence until their death. </p><p>This is not a failure of development in post-war Sri Lanka; this is the face of development. </p> <p><em>The names of individuals and the village in this article have been changed to protect identities.</em></p><p><em>All images by&nbsp;</em><span><em>Nadhiya Najab.</em></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yasmin-gunaratnam/sick-and-tired-sri-lankan-domestic-workers-fight-back-against-violence">Sick and tired: Sri Lankan domestic workers fight back against violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/vijay-k-nagaraj/putting-distributive-justice-on-sri-lanka-s-transitional-agenda">Beyond reconciliation and accountability: distributive justice and Sri Lanka&#039;s transitional agenda</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chulani-kodikara/sri-lanka-where-are-women-in-local-government">Sri Lanka: where are the women in local government?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Sri Lanka </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Sri Lanka Women and the Economy Continuum of Violence gendered poverty 50.50 newsletter women's work Prashanthi Jayasekara Wed, 01 Jun 2016 08:25:21 +0000 Prashanthi Jayasekara 102585 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Georgian migrant mothers: never to return home? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/christina-lomidze/georgian-migrant-mothers-never-to-return-home <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Older women migrants are locked into perpetual domestic work in New York, endlessly deferring retirement and returning home because their adult children in Georgia depend on their remittances.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Pic 1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Pic 1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Georgian women hoping to migrate to the USA to work</span></span></span></p><p>Georgians are very proud of the fact that mothers are highly valued and respected in the Georgian culture. The Georgian mother or “deda” is viewed as a self-sacrificing individual who is always willing and ready to sacrifice herself for the needs of her children. In recent years, however, some Georgian mothers have taken these traditional roles to a whole new level: More and more are migrating to distant lands in order to financially support their adult children through remittances. </p> <p>The high demand for domestic caregivers in the developed world has further incentivized many Georgian women to migrate.&nbsp; Naila Kabeer refers to this idea of gendered nature of globalization in her article, <a href="https://www.ids.ac.uk/files/dmfile/Wp290.pdf">“Marriage, Motherhood and Masculinity in the Global Economy: Reconfigurations of Personal and Economic Life.”</a> Many are, thus, converting their traditional nurturing roles in the heavily patriarchal Georgian society into marketable skills caring for the elderly and for young children in the US or Western Europe. </p> <p>But does this work convert into financial empowerment for migrant mothers and their children? Or does it trap mothers into perpetual domestic labor, fuel a constant dependency by adult children, and in effect disguise the depth of the Georgian economy’s malaise, where even skilled professionals cannot make ends meet? </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/photo(3).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/photo(3).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="516" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>One of many currency exchange kiosks in Tbilisi</span></span></span></p> <p>I conducted 20 in-depth interviews with 10 Georgian female migrants in New York and 10 of their adult dependent children in Georgia, and surveyed 70 other Georgian women migrants in New York to find out.&nbsp; Adult dependents often desperately needed the remittances sent by their migrant mothers as their full or supplemental income. The remittances are spent on immediate consumption needs – food and school fees - rather than on investments, and this was true of both employed as well as unemployed adult children. Even those who are highly educated and in managerial or other professional work are not able to live off their salaries alone and require a supplemental income. One adult remittance recipient, a father of three who works as mid-level public sector employee, and whose wife is a doctor, said:</p> <p><em>"Our combined salaries are not enough to live comfortably. Our salaries are enough for bills; it is not enough for food. Our incomes go to paying bills, expenses related to the children’s education, and their extracurricular activities. They are in public school but there are some expenses associated with the schools</em>."</p> <p>Remittances, therefore allow some adult children to make ends meet; something that their salaries alone would not enable them to do. One respondent explained the following:</p> <p>&nbsp;"<em>I am married and my wife works in a daycare center. My wife’s and my own salary is not enough to survive. It will be enough for just survival and nothing else. 2000 GEL is the very least required for a family to live as decent human beings; such an income would allow you to go on a week-long vacation during the summer, for example, or to buy a reliable car."</em></p> <p>To maintain this kind of a relatively modest lifestyle, however, requires the financial support of aging migrant mothers.&nbsp; The cost to these women is a postponement of a long wished for return to Georgia and also, a lack of investment in their own retirement finances. According to one of the migrant mother in New York: </p> <p><em>"I want my children to be able to stand on their feet. I cannot do anything for myself because I need to provide for my children. Every time I think about doing something for myself, I feel guilty because I will be spending money that I could send as remittances. I feel like I would be taking something away from my children if I spend the money on myself."</em></p> <p>Another migrant mother states the following: </p> <p>“<em>I have not saved any money for my retirement. When I go back to Georgia I might move to the village and practice subsistence farming.”</em></p> <p>The majority of the adult children of the migrants, however, have not even had a conversation with their mothers regarding their retirement and eventual return home. The respondents did not know how their mothers plan to support themselves once they retire and many do not know how they will manage to scrape together a livelihood once the remittances stop. According to one adult remittance recipient migrant:</p> <p><em>"I believe that I can survive without remittances, but I will have to cut back on a lot. I do not have any plans on what I will do when the remittances stop; I might have to come up with a plan for a small business." </em></p> <p>Another adult relying on her mother’s remittance stated: </p> <p><em>“If the remittances stop, I will be impoverished; I will not have money for food or clothes.”</em></p> <p>For the migrant mothers, beyond the financial burden, there are painful emotional and psychological consequences: According to one migrant: </p> <p><em>"Migration has affected us (migrants) psychologically. I personally have suffered from depression. My doctor diagnosed me with depression a while ago and I was taking anti-depressants. It was only after I began taking the medication that I sang for the first time since I have been in this country." </em></p> <p>Another migrant mother explains the following: </p> <p><em>"No amount of money is worth the separation of mother and children. I think my children would have been better off if I had stayed there, they would be happier and they might have married better people. I was able to financially support my children and help them financially, but I deprived them of what they needed the most: a mother. I have realized that motherhood is not just about sending money; my children need emotional and moral support. If I could go back in time, I would not stay here as long as I did. I would go back as soon as I saved enough money to buy an apartment."</em></p> <p>The migration of mothers, among this sample, has offered the dependent adult children a temporary relief from poverty which will end as soon as their mothers return from migration. The migrant mothers have also not been able to attain any significant financial empowerment through migration since they are not able to freely choose how to spend their hard-earned money, amass personal savings and freely decide when to retire and return home to their families. In spite of the sacrifices the migrant mothers make, they all told me that they will work as long as they are physically able in order to support their adult children. According to one migrant: </p> <p><em>“The mentality among Georgian women is such that they feel morally obligated to provide for their children regardless of the age of the children. They will continue to support them both financially and physically as long as they are able to.”</em>&nbsp; </p> <p>The weak Georgian economy is further perpetuating the problem of eternal dependence of adults on aging migrant mothers by not rewarding workers with adequate salaries with which to sustain themselves and their families. The collapse of the Soviet Union left the Georgian economy in shambles. High unemployment coupled with a decrease in production and hyperinflation left many people in poverty. Even though the <a href="http://www.economy.ge/uploads/meniu_publikaciebi/ouer/OUTLOOK_ENG_2015.09.22.pdf">Georgian economy</a> has improved since the chaotic transition period following Georgia’s independence from the Soviet Union, many people still find it difficult to find employment. &nbsp;Also, the salaries of those who are employed are often not enough for daily consumption and many are forced to rely on other sources of income such as remittances.</p> <p>In addition, a large portion of the Soviet-educated workforce lacks the necessary skills for the modern competitive labor market such as computer skills and the knowledge of the English language. The <a href="http://www.pension-watch.net/country-fact-file/georgia/">pension benefits</a> in Georgia are also very low and no one can survive on them.&nbsp; Many people simply have to migrate in order to support themselves and their families back home: According to the <a href="http://migration.commission.ge/files/migration_profile_of_georgia_2015.pdf">2015 Migration Profile of Georgia</a> report, in 2014 there were a total of 40,221 male emigrants and a total of 29,634 female emigrants from Georgia. For Georgian mothers, who believe that it is their responsibility to support their children no matter how old, migration allows them to send remittances to their adult children and thus help them avoid poverty. </p> <p>The majority of the migrant mothers expressed the desire to eventually return home to retire (the average age of the migrants from the qualitative sample is 61 and 51 is the average of the respondents from quantitative survey sample. Some of the migrants, although, are over 70 years old). However, it is uncertain what will happen to their adult children, who as dependents have become accustomed to living a certain lifestyle. Perhaps they too will eventually consider migrating in order to financially support their own adult children, thus continuing the vicious cycle of migrating, sending remittances and spending many years of their lives far away from their families.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Georgia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 oD Russia Georgia 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick gendered poverty gendered migration gender 50.50 newsletter Christina Lomidze Tue, 24 May 2016 09:33:27 +0000 Christina Lomidze 102321 at https://www.opendemocracy.net From colonials to corporates: maternal mortality in Assam’s tea gardens https://www.opendemocracy.net/sukti-dhital-francesca-feruglio/from-colonials-to-corporates-maternal-mortality-in-assam-s-tea-garde <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For the women employed in the tea gardens of Assam, pregnancy is a life-threatening ordeal. An interactive exhibition records the struggle of Adivasi mothers across the decades for better conditions. &nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Tea garden worker required to pick 24 kgs of tea a day. Photo- Sukti Dhital .jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Tea garden worker required to pick 24 kgs of tea a day. Photo- Sukti Dhital .jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tea garden worker required to pick 24 kgs of tea a day. Credit: Sukti Dhital</span></span></span><span></span></p><p><span>In 1894, </span><a href="https://publicarchives.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/dowding-rev-charles-tea-garden-coolies-assam.pdf">Rev. Charles Dowding</a><span>, a missionary based in Assam, India wrote </span><em>“[l]ow wage-rate and high death-rate are convertible terms,” </em><span>a devastating statement that remains true to this day. Producing more than 52% of India’s tea, the north eastern state of Assam is home to the largest tea-growing region in the world. While most of it is sold in the domestic market, Assam tea is consumed worldwide, and constitutes a core part of the ‘English breakfast’ blend. Less known, however, is the 175-year history of colonial to corporate exploitation.</span></p> <p>Forcibly brought by the British in the 1840s from the central regions of the country - &nbsp;Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh - thousands of the &nbsp;<em>Adivasi </em>indigenous people began a journey marked by involuntary servitude. &nbsp;Left with no option but to live and work on the tea plantations, the workers became isolated from Assam’s mainstream in a structure designed to maintain control and produce profit. </p> <p>Today, more than <a href="http://www.censusindia.gov.in/2011census/population_enumeration.html">six million</a> workers and their families remain socially and economically segregated, dependent on the tea management for their livelihood, health, food, housing, education and cultural life. &nbsp;Assam’s tea industry employs nearly 800,000 workers who are one of the lowest paid groups in India’s organized sector. The meagre daily wage of Rs 126 (£1.30) is far below the state legal minimum of Rs 240 per day.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/green sari (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/green sari (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A pregnant woman tea worker in Assam. Credit: Rajan Zaveri </span></span></span></p><p>It is not by coincidence that Assam leads the country with the <a href="http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=103446">highest maternal mortality ratio</a> in India.&nbsp;<strong> </strong>Assam produces more than fifty percent of India’s tea, and is the largest tea growing area in the world. It also has the largest number of maternal deaths in India – no fewer than seventy seven percent occur in the tea gardens.&nbsp;</p> <p>Comprising more than fifty percent of the labour force, women are largely employed for plucking tea leaves. Plantation managers set a target of 24 kg (50lbs) of tea leaves to be plucked per worker per day, which if unmet results in significant wage deductions. Poverty-level wages are exacerbated by appalling working conditions, with labourers denied access to <a href="https://www.thecho.in/files/gadapani-sarma.pdf">basic services</a> such as clean drinking water, latrines and crèches. These conditions are particularly dangerous for pregnant women who are forced to endure strenuous work throughout the duration of their pregnancy without access to adequate and timely healthcare. Health facilities in tea gardens are often ill-equipped, lacking adequate electricity, water, medical supplies, ambulances and skilled medical personnel. As a result, the majority of patients have no option but to secure their own transportation to reach better facilities, often located 1-2 hours away. As recently reported in <a href="http://time.com/3984024/maternal-mortality-photos/">TIME Magazine,</a> once women arrive at a district-level hospital they encounter an overcrowded, highly unhygienic facility, where they are forced to sleep on floors and corridors due to lack of beds and adequate staff. Illegal and unaffordable fees for life-saving services such as blood, medicine and emergency obstetrics care are often demanded from those “lucky” enough to receive assistance.</p> <p>These barriers to care not only place the lives of women workers at serious risk, but are also in blatant violation of the rights to life and to safe motherhood firmly rooted in domestic and international law. Indeed, the Supreme Court of India has repeatedly held that the right to health is a fundamental right protected by the Indian constitution. Likewise, High Courts across the country have upheld women’s right to safe motherhood. </p> <p>When working at the Human Rights Law Network in Delhi, we assisted with the preparation of the <a href="http://www.who.int/pmnch/media/news/2010/20100604_mm_india/en/">Laxmi Mandal case<em> </em></a>in which Delhi High Court held that the right to survive pregnancy and childbirth is a fundamental right protected under the Indian Constitution, and became the first national court decision in the world to recognize maternal mortality as a human rights violation. In addition to constitutional protections, domestic laws such as the <em>Plantation Labour Act 1951, Minimum Wages Act, 1948 </em>and health policies under the National Health Mission mandate free access to essential healthcare, nutrition, maternity leave, decent wages and adequate living conditions such as provision for crèches, water and sanitation.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>While Indian laws protect the rights of women, in practice, workers and right-holders have very little means to seek the implementation of laws and judgments. In a context of poverty and marginalisation, people’s degree of access to services greatly depends on their ability to ensure that the law translates into actual entitlements. This requires knowing the law and using available channels to demand its implementation. </p> <p>In Assam, Nazdeek, a legal empowerment organisation, working with a local organisation <a href="http://www.pajhra.org/about-us/">Pajhra</a>, has been employing community paralegals to demand protection of labour and health rights. &nbsp;The law can be a tool for breaking the cycle of exploitation and marginalization. &nbsp;For instance, in 2014 we launched the <a href="https://www.endmmnow.org">End MM Now Project</a> in Assam – a platform that allows women to identify and report violations of their right to healthcare through text messages. A collective of twenty five indigenous women – many of whom are tea garden workers, farmers and housewives – use their mobile phones and a basic knowledge of the law to demand a more accountable healthcare system for tea garden workers. To date, more than 130 cases of health and nutrition violations have been reported through the platform, providing crucial data to identify gaps in healthcare delivery. The data has been analysed and a <a href="https://issuu.com/endmmnow/docs/endmmnow_advocacy_final_press">report</a> submitted to local authorities with evidence-based recommendations to improve health service delivery.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/A pregnant woman tea worker in Assam. Photo- Credit Rajan Zaveri .jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/A pregnant woman tea worker in Assam. Photo- Credit Rajan Zaveri .jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An under equipped hospital in Assam tea growing region. Credit: Carlo Ghidin.</span></span></span></p><p>The outcomes of our collective efforts have been significant. Paralegals observed improvements in healthcare services ranging from better ambulance coverage, a reduction in informal fees paid at health facilities, the appointment of medical personnel, and more than 27,000 pregnant and lactating women and children receiving supplementary nutrition rations. In addition, authorities agreed on the establishment of citizen grievance forums where women can discuss issues with the health infrastructure. </p> <p>Local actions have been combined with state-level efforts to obtain more just working conditions. A local youth organization sought to mobilize thousands of workers across Assam and launch a campaign calling for tea companies to pay a living wage. Nazdeek supported the campaign by making sense of the law, and disentangling the legal technicalities around the wage structure. Six months after the campaign was launched, tea companies and the trade union agreed an unprecedented increase in wages &nbsp;- from Rs 94 to Rs 126, with previous increases not having exceeded Rs. 5. &nbsp;</p> <p>While positive inroads in the lives of people have been made, the fight for dignity within tea gardens is far from over. A colonial hangover endures, with the passage of economic, social and political power from British rulers to today’s corporations. </p> <p>Challenging such a powerful system of exploitation requires a multi-faceted approach, including raising awareness outside the borders of the tea gardens. As part of this effort an interactive installation called <em><a href="http://nazdeek.org/exhibition/">From Colonial to Corporates, An Adivasi Mother’s Visual journey Through the Assam Tea Fields of Yesterday and Today</a></em> is now on line. Using photography, video and interactive technology, including 360 virtual tours, the installation honours the struggle of Adivasi mothers across the decades. In the need for dignified conditions for workers, the exhibition endeavours to create space for understanding, reflection and action.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openIndia India Women and the Economy 50.50 Women's Movement Building women's human rights women's health gendered poverty 50.50 newsletter Francesca Feruglio Sukti Dhital Wed, 18 May 2016 21:57:45 +0000 Sukti Dhital and Francesca Feruglio 102170 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Does the caste system really not exist in Bengal? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sarbani-bandyopadhyay/does-caste-system-really-not-exist-in-bengal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Bengali middle class society is seen as casteless because caste violence lacks visibility. One woman’s story of working as a teacher shows how caste intersects with gender to reproduce discriminatory practices.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Bengal was the first region of British India to be colonised and modernised. The opportunities colonial rule opened up were taken advantage of by the bhadralok (gentlefolk) who were mostly upper caste. One of the leaders of the Indian Independence movement <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gopal_Krishna_Gokhale">Gokhale</a> said “what Bengal thinks today India thinks tomorrow” which captured this avant garde position of Bengal. In such a vision a ‘backward’ institution like caste was claimed to have no significant presence. Consequently, in most academic and popular domains the castelessness of Bengali (especially) middle class society became an established fact particularly in comparison with other Indian states where caste violence and caste-based political parties have a high visibility. However, the absence of visible forms of violence and of caste-based parties does not necessarily indicate the casteless nature of Bengali society. The recent ‘suicide’ of <a href="http://www.hindustantimes.com/static/rohith-vemula-an-unfinished-portrait/">Rohith Vemula</a>, a Dalit student of Hyderabad Central University, brought to focus the naked face of caste discrimination in higher education in many regions of India. However, the pervasiveness of caste is no less significant in Bengal. The politics of repression has allowed caste to be insidiously reproduced in both public and private domains with little resistance.</p> <p>The story of Lata Biswas, a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scheduled_Castes_and_Scheduled_Tribes">Scheduled Caste</a> (SC) person, demonstrates the insidious ways in which caste prejudice operates in Bengal. Despite evidence to the contrary, Lata claimed that she did not experience caste in her village where her caste, the Namasudras, formed the majority of the population. &nbsp;Based on her narrative I would argue that caste is encountered in Bengal in mostly middle class spaces such as educational institutions, urban and non-urban. Lata passed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Bengali literature with excellent grades, completed her degree for school teaching and joined a school in 1992. The school is located in an interior village of Burdwan district. She was the only Dalit teacher there and kept overhearing terms like ‘schedule’ in staffroom conversations between her women colleagues: </p> <p class="blockquote-new">Each time I entered the staff room I would hear this word. At first I did not understand. Then such remarks became routine and kept increasing. Some were like ‘she is schedule you know, like the maid we have’, someone would reply ‘even my mother’s maid is schedule and now we have a schedule here again’. When I did not pay any attention to all these remarks they started saying new things. ‘Now the last one fled, but this one seems to be staying, more schedules will come, santhals [an advisasi group] will come, all those who eat rats, snakes, frogs will start coming and we’ll have these items for food as well. We should not drink water from the same jug but now we will have to, oh what has this world come to’. It was very humiliating because I never had to face these things when I was a student. </p> <p>Lata faced other forms of discrimination which clearly told her that she did not belong. She was given a chair and a separate table to sit at apparently because there was no space for her on the long bench on which teachers normally sat in the common room. The next day the cloth on the table went missing, the newspaper that Lata used in place of the cloth had a similar fate. Within a couple of days her chair too disappeared. Finally getting angry Lata squeezed herself on to the common bench. That forced an open reaction from her high caste colleagues. One of them instructed her to sit on the floor.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Burdwan.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Burdwan.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="228" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Village market in Burdwan. Credit: Soumyadeep Paul / Flickr</span></span></span></p><p>What led to such animosity toward Lata? Middle class/bhadralok society has certain imagery about non-bhadralok beings, in particular the ‘lowly’ people, popularly known as chhotolok. They are seen as uneducated, lacking in culture, consciousness and agency, as docile and in perpetual need of bhadralok assistance. The bhadralok self is constructed and asserted through its other, in this case the marginalised castes. Lata disrupted this imagery. She “did not look or behave like an SC” was another of the remarks that gained ground within a few days of Lata joining the school. She was assertive and argumentative. In disputes with the school administration, she often became the spokesperson for the teachers. She hardly lost her temper. Above all she was a good teacher and students were fond of her. Lata thus posed a danger: she was the figure on the threshold that threatened to disrupt boundaries between the bhadralok and the chhotolok and the assertion of middle classness by the local bhadralok teachers in the school. In an interior village school the need for policing and reproducing the boundaries of middle classness was felt more by these teachers who formed a small segment of the local population. Unlike the earlier incumbent she asserted her ‘rights’, as a woman and as a Scheduled Caste person, Lata never felt the need to allow (high caste) men to speak on her behalf or along with her unlike her high caste women colleagues. Lata was therefore an anomaly: she did not exhibit ‘feminine’ qualities, or those of her ‘caste’. She seemed to have done violence to every understanding of bhadralok/middle class self in terms of her caste as well as gender.</p> <p>Lata was tall, not “too dark-skinned” and was on average “good-looking”. In short, she did not have the typical attributes of a scheduled caste person. These remarks made Lata wonder how the previous incumbent looked. Through remarks and conversations she gained an understanding that her predecessor was “quite ugly” and “docile”. She, unlike Lata, had fitted into both the caste and gender stereotypes that bhadralok society produced in terms of appearance and disposition.</p> <p>Since the Durban Conference on Racism in 2000 there has been much academic debate on seeing caste as a racial category. Regardless of such debates, in the everyday perceptions of people caste is seen to have a racial basis. Everyday life is a fuzzy domain that does not &nbsp;fit into the neat analytical categories developed by academics. When Lata claimed that she “did not fit into the Scheduled Caste category” because her physical features set her apart from the average figure of the Scheduled Caste person she was basing her statement on the commonly held perception that people’s castes could to an extent be marked out in terms of their physical features.</p> <p>Besides these, Lata, as mentioned earlier would rarely get angry. She could argue using what is known as the language of reason and rationality. In a masculine space marked by caste (i.e. casted) like the school, upper caste men are supposed to be logical/reasonable and marginalised castes and women to be emotional. Bengali society had been remarkably successful in not having much meaningful engagement with caste, gender, or even class. Bhadralok/middle class Left politics has considerably aided this disengagement. Lata’s narrative shows the process of becoming middle class and ‘casted’. Moreover upper caste men went off the handle in tackling Lata and in preserving the boundaries of spaces from where Dalits were historically excluded. Upper casteness and masculinity that together went into the making of middle classness suddenly faced a major challenge from Lata, a Dalit woman, who seemed to trespass into forbidden territory.</p> <p>Being a ‘meritorious’ student Lata never needed her caste certificate for admission under the quota system. At university her “intelligence and grades” shielded her from forms of prejudice and discrimination. But in this workspace despite her grades Lata was taken in not as a General Category candidate but in the reserved post for Scheduled Castes. What we see in the workspace is that caste while it cannot be articulated is nonetheless incessantly articulated in conjunction with that of gender and local hierarchies. Here the high castes categorised as the General Category have to pretend that they are ‘uncasted’ whereas the Scheduled Castes who come in through a different category of caste do not have access to such privileged forms of denial/pretension. They are seen as permanently ‘casted’. Therefore, Lata was not a person, she was only a caste, marked and categorised as inferior and inadequate to the rest. Everyday aggression is the central aspect of this articulation of gendered caste. Considered as trivial such aggression normalises institutionalised violence. These apparently inconsequential forms of violence considerably affect the sense of self among Dalits aspiring to be a part of the middle class. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights-blog/rachel-kurian/one-step-forward-two-back-dalit-women%E2%80%99s-rights-under-economic-gl">One step forward, two back? Dalit women’s rights under economic globalisation </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openindia/saurabh-dube/unsettling-art-caste-gender-and-dalit-expression">Unsettling art: caste, gender, and dalit expression</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyondslavery/jayaseelan-raj/hidden-injuries-of-caste-south-indian-tea-workers-and-economic-crisis">The hidden injuries of caste: south Indian tea workers and economic crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openindia/dag-erik-berg/hindu-nationalism-and-caste-exclusion-in-indian-universities"> Hindu nationalism and caste exclusion in Indian universities</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openIndia India 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights violence against women gendered poverty gender justice 50.50 newsletter young feminists Sarbani Bandyopadhyay Thu, 21 Apr 2016 07:56:32 +0000 Sarbani Bandyopadhyay 101421 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Legumes vs. labour rights: how Indian women pay for the cost of dal https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/prajna-desai/legumes-vs-labour-rights-how-indian-women-pay-for-cost-of-dal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A cooking project in Asia’s biggest informal settlement brings into focus the millions of workers denied a share in the world’s seventh-largest economy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="BodyA">In November 2015, the Indian national press was agog over the criminal price of dal (lentils). The government’s 5.5 per cent inflation rate somehow didn’t square with the 105 per cent spike in the store price of three staple dals, on top of an already prohibitive price tag slapped on in previous years. December came. Nothing changed. Paying a king’s ransom for dal became the status quo for families habituated to shelling out 60-70 per cent of their monthly incomes on basic food. </p><p class="BodyA"><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/4_Dharavi_90 Feet Road shot.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p><em>Dharavi. Photo: Neville Sukhia; Image courtesy of The Indecisive Chicken.&nbsp;</em></p><p class="BodyA">In the media, the events unraveled in the language of a detective story. Certain news agencies claimed to have uncovered a shocking network of fraudulent Indian importers, kickbacks implicating officials at shipping companies, and unlawful hoarding, which collectively came to be known as ‘the dal scam’. Corollaries in the cost of restaurant food regularly surfaced in news reports and in everyday conversation. Yet no one seemed to wonder what the rising cost of food was doing to one underclass of worker - ordinary Indian housewives. </p><p class="BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/3_Rizwana_teaching_the_group.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/3_Rizwana_teaching_the_group.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="BodyA"><em>Rizwana Qureishi demonstrating how to make chicken biryani. Photo: Neville Sukhia; Image courtesy: The Indecisive Chicken.</em></p><p class="BodyA">Recounting the dal scam, I am reminded of laments by housewife Rizwana Qureishi during a project I conducted in Mumbai in 2014. The Dharavi Food Project, developed in what is known as Asia’s largest informal settlement, set out to study home-cooking as an integration of food, art and women’s labour. The collaboration involved dozens of housewives from low-income backgrounds, of which eight finally participated in staged cooking sessions over thirteen weeks. Discussion, debate and archiving recipes were integral to each meeting and the operation evolved into a mixed-genre book about food, aesthetics and women’s labour. Rizwana, one of its protagonists, often remarked on how the high price of basic foods meant continual cost-cutting in the kitchen. Making every last thing from scratch enabled her to continue cooking reasonably good meals, despite a shrinking budget, and on average, kitchen work consumed two thirds of her day. Were it up to her, Rizwana would spend that time cooking for pay in other people’s houses. At home, she was drudge - loved, but overworked. Outside, her talents were bound to accrue a more useful kind of love: pay. </p> <p class="BodyA">In August 2015, <em>The Hindu</em> reported on six women in the village of Peepli Khera (60km from New Delhi) who defied the village council to work in nearby factories. Concurrently, <em>The New York Times</em> carried a statistically-oriented think piece co-written by a Harvard public policy professor and a Harvard bureaucrat. Titled, “Why aren’t India’s women working?” it listed reasons that an ensuing <em>NYT</em> report chronicled through the colourful lives of those seven notorious women in Peepli Khera. Building on <em>The Hindu’s</em> story, the <em>NYT</em> gave a blow-by-blow account of female determination and the hunger for work pitted against male domination. The women’s physical hardships and struggle to adhere to caste strictures around contact inevitably read as a metaphor for the Indian social landscape. </p> <p class="BodyA">Across swathes of the country, patriarchal sanction denies women public contact with men, and within conservative Hindu communities, with castes other than their own. A paying job invariably entails one or both. Consider the bane of being female in India. Gender-defined imperatives meanwhile oblige women to cook, clean, and look after children, and the old—what social sciences term unpaid ‘care work’. Women are required to collect food and fuel, and fetch water (due to poor infrastructure), work in family businesses, and should they live in rural settings, cattle-graze, winnow, and work in the fields—that is, to perform unpaid work. Being stuck in such dead-end jobs, deemed low-skill and low value, with no prospect of upward mobility or promotion, seems to confirm women’s presumed non-productivity. Working in factories and earning a salary obviously upends the algorithm in every way, and not just by showing that women have a right to paid work. </p> <p class="BodyA">Since the late 1990s, left-leaning economists Jayati Ghosh and Indira Hirway and social scientist Nandita Ghosh have contended that the consummation of women’s right to work, a constitutionally-protected right, is intertwined with rethinking unpaid work. Ideally, women should not have to fight to take up jobs. Yet nor should women working without pay be written out of economic narratives. For women’s care work to count as real work, it must first become economically visible. Measuring it as GDP would integrate it into the System of National Accounts (currently blind to care work) and bind it with productive economy. The latest reports by McKinsey indicate that Indian women perform ten times as much unpaid work as men, accounting for up to 39 per cent of India’s GDP. Tacking that onto the 20 per cent women currently contribute to the GDP would instantly reveal how little men in India actually work: 41 per cent of the GDP. </p> <p class="BodyA">Cut to Bombay (now Mumbai) 1972, where a prolonged women’s protest against food inflation pre-emptively vindicated the feminist labour theory of value set forth by Ghosh, Hirway, and Gandhi. Jointly organised by leaders of communist and socialist parties, the ‘Anti Price Rise Movement’ (APRM) for three years prior to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s authoritarian rule galvanised almost 20,000 women in street protests against the cost of food essentials, including grains, cooking oil, sugar, and kerosene. The movement’s historic call to action has in itself been cast by some commentators as a human rights manifesto. Where domestic work is already disproportionately performed by women, food and fuel inflation force them to opt for relatively cheap home-produced goods and services and further tax their time, leaving little for rest or to acquire human capital - education or skills - that would prepare them for jobs in the paying labor market. In short, food inflation compromises their right to work. </p> <p class="BodyA">It is over forty years since the APRM ended. Many of the same patterns created by food inflation persist today, yet little like the APRM seems possible. As Gandhi warned in 1994, viewing the right to work in isolation ends up skewing gender equity as something that applies purely to women. It obscures that men’s shunning of domestic responsibility has created a sexual division of labour that “haunts women in the labour market”. Today, the thin trickle-down of India’s selectively-booming economy has spawned a flimsy but functional delusion, whereby people with access to utilitarian or good-quality education, well-paying jobs, and liberal forms of sociality seem to believe that Indian women have opportunities by the dozen.</p> <p class="BodyA">My work in the Dharavi Food Project showed otherwise. Right from our first meeting, participant Kavita Kawalkar expressed the desire to become a teacher. Yet a year later, she confessed that study time for a teaching diploma was eating into her care work at home. Couldn’t her husband help out? She looked at me, dumfounded. No, he would not. So instead, she had opted for a part-time clerical job requiring no extra training. Then there was Sarita Rai, a mother of three from a small village in north India who had moved to Dharavi to be with her husband, a peon in a courier’s office. The needs of Sarita’s children and extended family take up most of her time, but in the afternoon, she spends an hour or two on piece-rate work, attaching sequins to tunics. How many does she complete in a day? Rs. 50 (50 pence) worth. Would she like to make more? Of course, she would. Except care work comes first. By the time the workshops ended, Sarita had gone from handsome and healthy to thin and wan. The physical strain of caring for a large family had so debilitated her hands she could no longer sew. The lost allowance was her bitterest regret. </p><p class="BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/3_Trying_to_archive_recipes.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/3_Trying_to_archive_recipes.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="BodyA"><em>Tring to archive recipes. Photo: Neville Sukhia; Image courtesy: The Indecisive Chicken.&nbsp;</em></p><p class="BodyA">But the most prescient remarks came from Kavita Vishwakarma. In September 2014, on the workshop’s last day, she offered a common Hindi proverb to describe why the Dharavi Food Project struck a chord with her: “You know what they say, ‘homemade chicken gravy is just like ordinary dal.’” The proverb’s literal meaning is that homemade dal is a basic food while homemade chicken is not. Since chicken costs more (or did before the dal scam), dal is naturally valued less than chicken. And here begins the proverb’s implication: Women are like chicken: special. But at home they’re as good as ordinary dal. They mean nothing. They are nothing. Kavita was making a point about how the workshops had framed her cooking - her unpaid work - as art and productivity. Her recipes had been archived. Her story was recorded. She was going to appear in a book that would be sold. The pieces were beginning to fall into place. Cooking was real, gainful work, and she was a worker as productive as they come.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p class="BodyA">Two decades after the struggle to re-evaluate the gainful participation of women in India’s economy began in 1977, a path-breaking survey was conducted by India’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) to study how men and women spent their time. Its staggering discoveries did not graduate into policies integrating unpaid women’s labour into national accounting. But last year, the CSO announced its intention to roll out a comprehensive all-India time-use survey to address gender imbalance. It will be two more years before the survey launches. Until then, millions of Indian women continue to be obscured as non-workers. But not the women of Peepli Khera, whose fight, much more than securing their right to work, must be understood as a boycott of invisibility.&nbsp; <em><br /></em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/what-does-transforming-economic-power-mean">What does transforming economic power mean?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/theresa-de-langis/what%27s-woman-worth-wages-and-democracy-in-cambodia">What&#039;s a woman worth?: wages and democracy in Cambodia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/melanie-cura-daball/city-aflame-india-s-coal-rush">A city aflame: India’s coal rush</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/beyond-individual-stories-women-have-moved-mountains">Beyond individual stories: women have moved mountains </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/breaking-free-womens-movement-India-universities">Breaking Free: a women&#039;s movement in Indian universities </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/women%27s-paid-and-unpaid-work-and-colonial-hangover">Women&#039;s paid and unpaid work, and the colonial hangover</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/transformative-strategy-true-value-of-investing-in-women%E2%80%99s-rights">A transformative strategy: the true value of investing in women’s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/naila-kabeer/grief-and-rage-in-india-making-violence-against-women-history">Grief and rage in India: making violence against women history? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kate-donald/unpaid-care-missing-women%E2%80%99s-rights-issue">Unpaid care: the missing women’s rights issue </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nicoal-desouza/nepal-struggle-for-equal-citizenship-rights-for-women">Nepal: the struggle for equal citizenship rights for women</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 openIndia India Women and the Economy 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights gendered poverty gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter women's work Prajna Desai Mon, 18 Apr 2016 06:54:08 +0000 Prajna Desai 101419 at https://www.opendemocracy.net UN CSW: the way to empower women is to use CEDAW Article 5, not the CSW https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/un-csw-cedaw-article-5-must-be-applied-now <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The most effective international mechanism to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment is not the cumbersome UN CSW, it’s CEDAW, and it’s time to use it to make governments accountable.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>At the 60th Session of the annual <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw60-2016">UN Commission on the Status of Women</a> (CSW60) this month, 8,000 women’s NGOS, representing feminist and women’s movements around the world, had the golden opportunity to rally around this year’s priority theme: “Women’s Empowerment and its link to Sustainable Development”. </p><p>But will this year’s assembly bear fruit? Will governments do what they promised to do last Friday, the 25th March?</p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/IMG_4630.JPG" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><em>"Non-Violence" (also known as "The Knotted Gun"), sculpture by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd. Photo: Sophie Giscard d'Estaing</em></p> <p>Whilst government delegates in the UN building burnt the midnight oil arguing through 80 hours of negotiations to agree the “<a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw60-2016">final conclusions</a>”, in an atmosphere often tense with battles over language on such controversial topics such as <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/rosalie-fransen/un-csw-women-s-reproductive-rights-or-culture-of-death">reproductive and sexual health</a>, the definition of the family, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/joanna-lockspeiser/un-csw-still-failing-to-count-all-women">LGBT rights</a>, domestic and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/sophie-giscard-destaing/where-is-gender-sensitive-humanitarian-response-to-protecting-women-refugees">sexual violence</a>, and issues of culture and sovereignty, we, in our various shabbier locations across 1st avenue, networked and talked to each other, bringing the voices of the poorest, most invisible and vulnerable women and girls to our “parallel NGO events”. But who heard us?</p> <p>Our meetings, which so vividly described the realities of the often desperate needs and crucial roles of the world’s very poorest women and girls, were barely visited by the policy makers across the road in the UN building who are charged with the responsibility of implementing the Agreed Conclusions they have fought over with such intensity.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/">Sustainable Development Goals</a> (SDGs) is one of the most ambitious UN projects since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and Goal No. 5 on gender equality opens the door for women and girls to raise such issues as violence against women, and their sexual and reproductive rights. But the real challenge is to ensure that women and girls have an equal decision-making role in the 16 other goals, for clearly we women have important contributions to make towards ending poverty and hunger, ensuring health, education and decent work for all, and most of all for ending inequalities, addressing climate change and building a sustainable peace.</p> <p>The promise in the SDGs is to “<a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/women-and-the-sdgs">Leave No One Behind</a>”.&nbsp; This is a beautiful phrase, but words are not enough, and rarely have we NGOs seen the commitments made by Member States in <em>decades</em> of Agreed Conclusions implemented on the ground. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/IMG_4626.JPG" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><em>Sphere Within Sphere by Italian sculptor Arnaldo&nbsp;Comodoro</em>.</p><p>“Implementation!&nbsp; Implementation! Implementation!”&nbsp; Cried the indefatigable deputy CEO of UN Women, at the NGO consultation prior to the official CSW opening. Likewise, Ambassador Antonio Patriota, the Brazilian CSW Chair, stressed the vital roles of the women’s organisations in every country as the key monitors of progress in fulfilling these agreed obligations, and as the agents for filling the yawning gaps in data and identifying those categories of women and girls – such as the widows – who are so often forgotten and fall through all safety nets.</p> <p>Indeed, the scope and ambition of this <a href="http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/">2030 Agenda</a> (<a href="http://www.un.org/press/en/2015/gaab4182.doc.htm">A/RES/70/11</a>) poses huge data challenges. Existing sources of data are insufficient, and without filling this gap there can be no effective monitoring of its gender dimensions. </p> <p>&nbsp;For example, although we have much anecdotal evidence of the huge increase in the numbers of widows and wives of the missing due to armed conflict, revolutions, sectarian strife, HIV and AIDS and harmful traditional practices such as child marriage to far older men, there are no reliable statistics, or even adequate qualitative information to describe their life-styles, coping strategies, support systems, or experience of violence within the family – which is a vital precondition for evaluating any progress in improving their status.&nbsp; </p> <p>The role of men and boys in promoting gender equality is well referenced in the Agreed Conclusions, and there is a wealth of “best practice” around, the question of how to <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/karin-attia/how-do-we-engage-men-and-boys-as-allies-in-ending-violence-against-women">actually harness their potential</a> for this important task that could be so transformational in changing conventional patriarchal attitudes is not spelt out.&nbsp; Patriarchal attitudes block, so often, women’s access to justice, even where new modern laws have been enacted to comply with obligations under international agreements such as the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/">Beijing Platform for Action</a> and the CEDAW.</p> <p><a href="http://www.myrepublica.com/society/story/37037/women-rights-advocate-rana-awarded-with-women-distinction-award.html">Bandana Rana</a>, the Nepali feminist who won the Women of Distinction Award, who also spoke at the NGO consultation, prioritised the task of “changing the mind set of men and boys in the home”, and she looked forward to the day when “every home rejoices at the birth of a girl”. How to get this transformation on the road?</p> <p>As a UK barrister and lifelong human rights activist (now in my eighties), who has attended no less than nineteen annual CSW meetings, here is what I would like to see happen, and as soon as possible.</p> <p>&nbsp;I want to see as many Member States, who have ratified the <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/">CEDAW</a> (Committee of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) to band together to collectively ask the CEDAW to consider a General Recommendation (GR) on their Article 5: <em>Stereotyping and Cultural Prejudices</em>.</p> <p>Article 5 requires States Parties to “<em>take all appropriate measures to modify social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women”</em>.</p> <p>For me, the most effective international mechanism to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, and make Governments accountable for their omissions to protect their women citizens from discrimination and abuse is not the cumbersome bureaucratic anti-NGO CSW, but the CEDAW. </p> <p>&nbsp;CEDAW now needs – pushed and persuaded by the best of its Member States – to enhance the importance of Article 5, and use its wording to interrogate States Parties at their 4 yearly reporting sessions, asking them what means they are using to change the attitudes of men and boys at all levels of society, from the top echelons to the village, in the informal as well as formal education structures, in the work place, in the army, in trade unions, political parties, and among religious and traditional leaders. </p> <p>CEDAW could engage the NGO community in providing them with examples of best practice that have succeeded in altering mind sets, starting in the family, so that little boys are taught to respect their mothers and their sisters, and see girls and women and equal partners in the development of their communities and society generally.</p> <p>In our struggle for the dignity, respect and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/widowhood-invisible-for-how-much-longer">human rights of widows</a>, of whom there are now so many facing unacceptable discrimination, abuse, poverty and violence, often barred, whatever the constitution and law says about equality, to inherit and own land, access education, training, credit, or employment. Furthermore, these women and girls are often victims of life threatening and degrading mourning and burial rites, it is the traditional attitudes that must be changed, and it can be done if there is the political will. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/margaret-owen/hidden-lives-of-child-widows">All widows</a> must be able to live in dignity, their roles as sole heads of households supported, freed of the stigma and “inauspiciousness” so common to their status.</p> <p>CEDAW can “name and shame” those countries that are found to have done nothing to implement Article 5.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Those that can provide the details and evaluation of their projects to alter those attitudes that block women’s empowerment will see their reputation enhanced and their successful programmes highlighted, publicised and adapted, providing that support for the CSW60 Agreed Conclusions they so badly need if the 2015-30 Agenda for the SDGs is to be achieved.</p> <p>Such a CEDAW initiative would be a powerful driver of implementation of the <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw60-2016">CSW60 Agreed Conclusions</a>, and also help empower those women’s NGOs that will be the effective evaluators of progress in the coming years. </p><p><strong><em>This article is part of oD 50.50’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women">series</a> covering key debates at this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women.</em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rosalie-fransen/un-csw-women-s-reproductive-rights-or-culture-of-death"> UN CSW: debating women’s reproductive rights or a “culture of death” ? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karin-attia/how-do-we-engage-men-and-boys-as-allies-in-ending-violence-against-women">UN CSW: engaging men and boys in ending violence against women as allies not protectors</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/margaret-owen/conflict-widows-agents-of-change-and-peacebuilding"> Conflict widows: agents of change and peacebuilding</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/margaret-owen/hidden-lives-of-child-widows">The hidden lives of child widows </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/joanna-lockspeiser/un-csw-still-failing-to-count-all-women">UN CSW: still failing to count all women </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sophie-giscard-destaing/where-is-gender-sensitive-humanitarian-response-to-protecting-women-refugees"> UN CSW: ending impunity for gender-based crimes against women refugees </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women&#039;s rights have no country</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/debating-5th-world-conference-on-women-defiance-or-defeatism">Debating a 5th World Conference on Women: defiance or defeatism ?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leila-alikarami/cedaw-and-quest-of-iranian-women-for-gender-equality">CEDAW and the quest of Iranian women for gender equality </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jane-esuantsiwa-goldsmith/cedaw-designed-to-be-used">CEDAW: designed to be used</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leymah-gbowee/child-soldiers-child-wives-wounded-for-life">Child soldiers, child wives: wounded for life</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Gender and the UN 50.50 Women's Movement Building UN Commission on the Status of Women 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy women and power gendered poverty gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter Margaret Owen Thu, 31 Mar 2016 10:21:03 +0000 Margaret Owen 101027 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Seeking liberation, seeking comfort: women migrants in the UK https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/seeking-liberation-seeking-comfort-women-migrants-in-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The UK Home Office continues to indefinitely detain people who have committed no crime, including pregnant women. Asylum seekers and refugees lead solidarity groups in the movement to end detention.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>This International Women’s Day, I spent my lunch break outside the Home Office with about 100 other women. We were chanting, singing, and listening. We were there in solidarity with asylum seekers detained in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, demanding an end to the arbitrary but systematic detention of people who have committed no crime. </p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ooooooooo.jpg" alt="" height="147" width="460" /></p> <p><em>Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. Photo: Indymedia</em></p><p>One of the former Yarl’s Wood detainees who spoke outside the Home Office summed up the impact of the UK’s anti-asylum policies: “we ran from our own countries to seek refuge, but when we got here we had to keep running.” Yarl’s Wood is a disturbing and desperate place; despite <a href="http://www.channel4.com/news/yarls-wood-immigration-removal-detention-centre-investigation">evidence</a> that already vulnerable women face violence and abuse at the hands of Serco guards, and that indefinite detention is <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/eiri-ohtani/immigration-detention-expensive-ineffective-and-unjust">unjust</a> and unviable, asylum seekers continue to be locked up. </p> <p>The UK’s policies for those seeking asylum turns survival into a crime. It is baffling that humans should be criminalised for <em>being</em>; ‘no human is illegal’ is one of the repeated cries of those who protest the nonsensical existence of institutions like Yarl’s Wood. </p> <p>At the same time as it criminalises asylum seekers, the UK government aims to turn its citizens into quasi-border control. The Immigration Act 2014 <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/10/immigration-bill-theresa-may-hostile-environment">requires</a> landlords, bank tellers, administrators, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers to monitor, report and enforce immigration activity. Standing in solidarity with migrants rejects the divisive narrative of the Immigration Act which assumes that those of us with papers will turn on those without. </p> <p><strong>#SetHerFree</strong> </p> <p>‘Set Her Free’ is the banner under which we gathered at the Home Office, organised by <a href="http://www.refugeewomen.com/">Women for Refugee Women</a>. The <a href="http://www.refugeewomen.co.uk/campaign/">#SetHerFree</a> campaign was <a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/mirror-columnist-ros-wynne-jones-visits-3086456">launched</a> in January 2014 to end the detention of women asylum seekers. Women for Refugee Women has undertaken research, released reports, lobbied for Parliamentary debates and raised awareness about the arbitrary and traumatic imprisonment of Yarl’s Wood detainees. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/W4RW_banner.jpg" alt="" height="267" width="400" /></p> <p><em>Women for Refugee Women, #SetHerFree Campaign</em></p><p>On International Women’s Day, the campaign was <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/mar/02/solidarity-with-my-sisters-campaign-to-change-lives-women-refugees?CMP=share_btn_tw">highlighting</a> in particular the plight of pregnant women who are detained: 99 in 2014 and <a href="https://twitter.com/4refugeewomen/status/707486020686782464">69</a> in 2015. In March 2015, the Parliamentary Detention Inquiry <a href="https://detentioninquiry.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/immigration-detention-inquiry-report.pdf">said</a> that ‘pregnant women should never be detained for immigration purposes,’ yet the detention of pregnant women has not ceased. </p> <p>Since its launch, #SetHerFree has drawn attention to Yarl’s Wood and supported movements inside and outside the centre to campaign for its closure. The <a href="http://www.gal-dem.com/woc-for-refugee-women-shutdownyarlswood-1213/">latest</a> action outside Yarl’s Wood, the third of its kind in under a year, saw 2,000 people demonstrate. Organised by <a href="https://m.facebook.com/movementforjustice">Movement for Justice</a>, with leaders who have experienced detention, the demonstration was, like the previous two, co-ordinated with women currently detained in Yarl’s Wood. </p> <p>The number of protesters has increased five-fold over the course of three demonstrations, with the first protest in June 2015 drawing a crowd of <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/video/2015/jun/07/shut-down-yarls-wood-protesters-bedford-detention-centre-video">400</a>. My experience of the first two protests was of a lively, hopeful atmosphere intent on making our solidarity felt by the women inside, who interacted with us with their own chants and banners. The saddest part was leaving the women behind Yarl’s Wood’s tinted windows at the end of the afternoon. They told us what was going on behind the walls, we told them they had our support, and yet we had to leave alone. </p> <p>At the same time as the latest protest at Yarl’s Wood began, I was in the audience of a panel at Southbank Centre’s Women of the World Festival (WOW) titled ‘Women Crossing Borders’. Two of the panellists had experienced detention at Yarl’s Wood. Mariam Yusuf of the <a href="http://www.wast.org.uk/">Women Asylum Seekers Together</a> (WAST) choir reiterated the experience “when you run from your home country with nothing, to seek refuge” and find yourself locked up in detention, then struggling to survive when you are denied both the opportunity to work and benefits that would keep you off the streets. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/FullSizeRender (2).jpg" alt="" width="460 " /></p> <p><em>WOW March 2016. Photo: Ché Ramsden</em></p><p><strong>Talented women, contributing to society</strong> </p> <p>Mariam Yusuf campaigns with WAST to stop asylum seekers from falling into the destitution she faced as a result of the immigration system. She gives talks in schools to educate children about asylum seekers and to bust some of the widespread myths that pervade and divide society. While fighting her ongoing asylum claim (she has been seeking asylum since 2008), Yusuf supports other women who are in the same position. </p> <p>At this year’s Women on the Move Awards Ceremony, held as part of WOW on 11th March, Yusuf was <a href="http://www.wast.org.uk/mariam-yusuff-woman-of-the-year-award/">presented</a> with a Woman of the Year award to recognise her contribution to Britain. The WAST choir sang ‘We want Mariam to stay (not just today, not just tomorrow, but forever)’. The following day at the ‘Women Crossing Borders’ panel, Yusuf explained WAST choir’s musical activity: “We sing songs of liberation and songs of comfort.” </p> <p>Liberation and comfort are essential for women who have been systematically denied freedom first in their ‘home’ countries and now in the UK, where their immigration status can leave them permanently insecure and sometimes detained indefinitely. Yusuf described how she encourages women in this position: “you may be broken, but you have a heart and mind.” The songs reinforce this message of strength and hope. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/iiiiiii choir.png" alt="" height="262" width="460" /></p><p><em>WAST choir</em></p> <p><a href="http://wow.southbankcentre.co.uk/speakers-artists/aderonke-apata-1876">Aderonke Apata</a> similarly spends her time supporting fellow asylum seekers in Manchester, having founded Manchester Migrant Solidarity and African Rainbow Family. She also campaigns for LGBTI rights in the UK and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXeUdKM5oDY">Nigeria</a>. Apata has been seeking asylum in the UK since arriving her 12 years ago, but last year two judges <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/nigerian-gay-rights-activist-has-her-high-court-asylum-bid-rejected-because-judge-doesnt-believe-she-10155083.html">refused</a> to believe that she is a lesbian, in a case that proved how out of touch the judiciary is with both asylum claims and with what it means to be LGBT+, despite clear national and international legislation for both. </p> <p>Based on her own experiences and others’ whom she has supported, Apata has campaigned to change the intrusive questioning faced by LGBTI asylum seekers. She told the ‘Women Crossing Borders’ audience that she expects there will be new, more sensitive guidance on assessing LGBTI asylum claims. She was also hopeful that the situation in Nigeria might change for LGBT+ people so that she can return; aside from wanting to be in her home country, it is incredibly difficult for asylum seekers to work legally in the UK. As well as missing out on her skills, she pointed out, the UK is missing out on the income tax she would willingly pay. </p> <p>Like Apata, Dr Sarah Ogbay hopes to return to her country of origin one day. She worked for 26 years as a university professor in Eritrea before political persecution forced her to flee the country on foot with her children. A founding member of the Network of Eritrean Women, she also works as an interpreter for social services and the NHS. </p> <p>It is impossible to say that these women are not contributing to society. They support desperate individuals, stand up for communities, and positively impact our education, health and social care systems. However, they all displayed a degree of frustration; <em>we still have more to give</em> was the message. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/FullSizeRender (1).jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p><em>Women of the World (WOW) March 2016</em>. Photo: <em>Ché Ramsden</em></p><p><strong>Left out of the equation</strong> </p> <p>A Syrian refugee pointed out the disparity between women’s roles at a local level and women’s representation at a national level. “Women are the peacemakers” in community disputes and civil wars, yet women are not invited to participate in international <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lisa-davis/who-s-missing-from-syria-s-peace-talks">peace talks</a>. “We are capable, but […] we are left out of the equation.” Women in general, and women migrants in particular, have more to give than they are allowed to offer; and, in this instance, by ignoring our most skilled peacemakers, the world continues to suffer. </p> <p>At the end of the WOW ‘Women Crossing Borders’ panel, the four panellists were asked what their message to the Prime Minister would be. Their messages focussed both on what they face here, and why they are here: <em>Let us use our skills; let us contribute. Stop sponsoring dictators. Know we exist. Stop detaining people.</em> </p> <p>On International Women’s Day, it was not the Prime Minister but the Home Secretary, Theresa May, at whom the messages were directed. It was an <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/feminism/2016/03/home-secretary-you-are-woman-too-protesters-call-theresa-may-free-yarl-s">appeal</a> by women to a woman as much as it was to the Home Secretary whose office has responsibility for immigration. One woman started and ended her bilingual speech (“je vais parler en anglais pour que Theresa May comprenne!”) by leading us in song: <em>We shall overcome, we shall overcome, / We shall overcome some day; / Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, / We shall overcome some day.</em></p><p><em><strong>Read more articles on openDemocracy 50.50's platforms</strong> <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-people-on-move">People on the Move: Migrant Lives Beyond Borders, </a></strong></em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-people-on-move"><br /></a><em><strong>and</strong> <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-unlocking-detention">Unlocking Detention.</a></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/anonymous-interviewee-and-jennifer-allsopp/death-at-yarl-s-wood-women-in-mourning-women-">Death at Yarl’s Wood: Women in mourning, women in fear</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/setherfree-spectrum-of-solidarity-for-refugee-women">#SetHerFree: a spectrum of solidarity for refugee women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/refugee-women-in-uk-fighting-back-from-behind-bars">Refugee women in the UK: fighting back from behind bars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/jerome-phelps/crisis-of-harm-in-immigration-detention">A crisis of harm in immigration detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lisa-davis/who-s-missing-from-syria-s-peace-talks">Who&#039;s missing from Syria&#039;s peace talks?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/eiri-ohtani-heather-jones/extraordinary-things-visiting-women-at-yarl-s-wood-detention-c">Extraordinary things: visiting the women at Yarl’s Wood detention centre </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani/immigration-detention-expensive-ineffective-and-unjust">Immigration detention: &quot;expensive, ineffective and unjust&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/beatrice-botomani/refugee-women-in-uk-pushing-stone-into-sea-0">Refugee women in the UK: Pushing a stone into the sea</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lisa-davis/syrian-women-refugees-out-of-shadows">Syrian women refugees: out of the shadows</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/hidden-women-human-rights-defenders-in-uk">Hidden women human rights defenders in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gemma-lousley/what-will-it-take-to-close-down-yarls-wood-detention-centre">What will it take to shut down Yarl&#039;s Wood? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ramya-ramaswami/why-migrant-mothers-die-in-childbirth-in-uk">Why migrant mothers die in childbirth in the UK </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani/uk-detention-inquiry-step-in-right-direction">UK Detention Inquiry: a step in the right direction </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/natasha-tsangarides/pregnant-detained-and-subjected-to-force-in-uk">Pregnant, detained, and subjected to force in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/natasha-walter/unheard-and-unseen-in-britain">Unheard and unseen in Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani/detention-knows-no-borders">Detention knows no borders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sophie-radice/women-seeking-asylum-in-uk-have-we-lost-our-sense-of-humanity">Women seeking asylum in the UK : have we lost our sense of humanity? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/migrant-women-in-uk-settling-for-rather-than-settling-in">Migrant women in the UK: settling for rather than settling in</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/silvia-petretti/i-am-one-of-those-foreigners-living-with-hiv-in-uk">&quot;I am one of those foreigners&quot;: living with HIV in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nikandre-kopcke/maz%C3%AD-mas-%E2%80%9Cwith-us%E2%80%9D">Mazí Mas, “with us”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/happy-kinyili/to-meet-nothing-that-wants-you-violence-against-migrants">&quot;To meet nothing that wants you&quot;: violence against migrants </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lea-sitkin-bethan-rogers/immigration-detention-most-unbritish-phenomenon">Immigration detention: a most un-British phenomenon</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/melanie-griffiths/immigration-detention-in-media-anarchy-and-ambivalence">Immigration detention in the media: anarchy and ambivalence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/kate-alexander/like-chicken-surrounded-by-dogs">Like a chicken surrounded by dogs</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani-jennifer-allsopp/migrant-lives-in-uk-deprivation-of-liberty">Migrant lives in the UK: the deprivation of liberty</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ben-du-preez/no-end-to-horrors-of-detention">No end to the horrors of detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anna-musgrave/when-nowhere-is-safe">When nowhere is safe</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lisa-davis/john-kerry-where-are-women-s-voices-in-syria-peace-talks">John Kerry, where are women’s voices in the Syria peace talks? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/reem-assayyah/we-feel-that-we-found-our-self-after-we-lost-it-in-war">We feel that we found our self after we lost it in the war </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie-charlotte-eagar-georgina-paget/trojan-women-in-twenty-first-century-women-in-wa">Trojan Women in the twenty first century: women in war from Euripides to Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/i-shall-leave-as-my-city-turns-to-dust-queens-of-syria-and-women-in-war">I shall leave as my city turns to dust: Queens of Syria and women in war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/saskia-garner/life-after-detention">Life after detention</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/syrian-women-demand-to-take-part-in-peace-talks-in-geneva">Syrian women demand to take part in the peace talks in Geneva</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change 50.50 newsletter feminism gender justice gendered migration gendered poverty women's human rights Ché Ramsden Thu, 24 Mar 2016 10:27:33 +0000 Ché Ramsden 100833 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The confinement of Eve: resolving Ebola, Zika and HIV with women’s bodies? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/susana-t-fried-alice-welbourn/confinement-of-eve-resolving-ebola-zika-and-hiv-with-women-s-bodi <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There are parallels between three major newsworthy viruses, Ebola, HIV and Zika, in relation to the global public health response and persistent and often toxic gender stereotypes. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/susana-t-fried-alice-welbourn/el-confinamiento-de-eva-solucionar-el-bola-el-zika-y" target="_blank"><strong><em>Español</em></strong></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The pattern is clear: as a new global health crisis erupts, women are placed at the centre of impact. In some cases, women are held responsible for preventing transmission.&nbsp; In other cases, women are expected to manage the crisis in the face of failed health systems. And if the crisis has anything to do with children, pregnancy or sex, women are held responsible for managing it. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/Zikaimage.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p><em>Zika image. World Health Organisation </em></p><p>There are &nbsp;parallels between three major newsworthy viruses – Ebola, HIV and Zika -- in relation to the global public health response and persistent and often toxic gender stereotypes. In each case, women have been, at worst, objectified as “vessels and vectors” of disease, whose agency and will must be contained. At best, women are seen as responsible for containing and preventing disease transmission, and for caring for the ill members of their families and communities. Yet as over 30 years of experience in relation to HIV have shown us, such responses repeatedly fail to hit the target and repeatedly miss the <a href="http://developmentbookshop.com/aidngosandtherealitiesofwomenslives#.UdFfKJV5SEM">point</a><span>. <br /></span></p> <p>We have purposefully chosen the word ‘confinement’ in the title to reflect its traditional biblical reference to women’s labour and childbirth. In the dictionary, ‘to confine’ means to keep within boundaries, to restrict, to curb, to limit. Readers of the 50+ articles in this <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/aids-2010-rights-here-right-now">openDemocracy</a> series over the past seven years will understand already how women’s rights have repeatedly been ignored, curbed or violated by global HIV policy guidelines, poverty, gender-based violence in many forms, including forced or coerced sterilization and lack of informed choice or privacy. So here we build on this wealth of analysis about the gender dimensions of HIV as a springboard for understanding the gender dynamics of Ebola and Zika. </p> <p>Both the Ebola and Zika viruses were identified many decades ago, and both have their origins in East Africa (the <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ebola-emerged-jungle-photos/story?id=24740453">DRC</a> in the case of Ebola and HIV, and <a href="http://www.who.int/emergencies/zika-virus/timeline/en/">Uganda</a> in the case of Zika). All three diseases (though we focus here primarily on Ebola and Zika) flourish in contexts of inequality.&nbsp; And in contexts of inequality, women and girls are often the most unequal.&nbsp; </p> <p>Ebola has severely affected Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Most people who contracted Ebola in Liberia were living either in rural communities or urban poverty, according to Tooni <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/tooni-akanni/confronting-ebola-in-liberia-gendered-realities-0">Akanni</a>, and 75% of those who acquired it were women. The UN Development Programme (UNDP), drawing on <a href="http://apps.who.int/gho/data/view.ebola-sitrep.ebola-summary-age-sex-20150107?lang=en">World Health Organisation data</a>, reports that &nbsp;the situation in Sierre Leone and Guinea showed even greater gender disparity, “The number of EVD [Ebola virus disease] deaths is higher among women than men in the three epicentre countries. Of the total cases of EVD in West Africa, 50.8 percent have been women, as of 7 January 2015. The gender disparity is more pronounced in Guinea and Sierra Leone; it is relatively lower in Liberia.” </p> <p>The predominance of Ebola in women stems from women’s role as carers:&nbsp; women tend the sick as family members and healthcare workers, women prepare bodies for burial, and women in this part of West Africa are also travelling <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/tooni-akanni/confronting-ebola-in-liberia-gendered-realities-0">traders</a>. This is exacerbated when health systems are in disarray. Women can also be exposed to Ebola (and Zika and HIV) sexually, and the likelihood of contracting the virus multiplies (as we have seen in the case of <a href="http://hivpreventiontoolkit.unaids.org/support_pages/concurrent_partnerships.aspx">HIV</a>) when they or their partner has multiple concurrent relationships. The recent outbreak of Ebola reflects a pattern that is similar to earlier outbreaks in other African countries. </p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/copyrightS.Gborie_WHO_12-recovered-ebola-patients.jpg" alt="" width="460 " /></p> <p><em>Recovered &nbsp;Ebola patients. Photo: S.Gborie, WHO </em></p><p>Toxic use of gender norms puts women additionally at risk. Tooni Akanni explains how in many communities across the globe, women are expected to “sacrifice for their families, even to the extent of putting their own lives at risk to prioritise care for ailing family members. Norms around women’s care work are not just commonly held but also strategically reinforced. There is anecdotal evidence in the <a href="http://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/SexGenderInfectDis.pdf">WHO</a> study that men in Congo deliberately used the social expectation that women care for the sick to their favor, explaining that they avoided contacting Ebola, during the 2003 outbreak of the disease, by ‘making sure’ that women took care of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/tooni-akanni/confronting-ebola-in-liberia-gendered-realities-0">sick</a>.” - Akanni concludes that Ebola produces inequitable morbidity, mortality and economic damage for women and that any effective response needs to take a gendered approach to understanding and responding to the respective roles of women – and of men – in societies where it strikes. Moreover, policy makers, governments and funders should invest in listening to, and acting upon, women’s experiences and perspectives: and their key role as “agents of change and social mobilisers” should be wholeheartedly embraced and supported, in order to produce an effective response to this extreme crisis. </p> <p>Meanwhile Amber <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/amber-huff/ebola-exposing-failure-of-international-development">Huff</a> emphasizes how development processes have undermined social and healthcare systems: “recent growth has been largely inequitable, benefitting international investors but not resulting in equal improvements in public services and economic opportunities for everyday people.” She describes how these challenges are exacerbated by widespread international exploitation of the region’s natural resources and related conflict, which have, in turn, had a knock-on effect on wild animal populations, thereby opening up opportunities for spread of new diseases, including Ebola through bats. &nbsp;As Alicia Ely <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights-blog/alicia-ely-yamin/ebola-human-rights-and-poverty-%E2%80%93-making-links">Yamin</a> argues, the ravages of war produced a devastated healthcare system in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where women and children especially experienced marginalization and poverty. </p> <p>And as Yanoh Kay <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/yanoh-kay-jalloh/losing-girls-post-ebola-in-sierra-leone">Jalloh</a> explains, while the immediate crisis is over, the effects of Ebola on girls continue, with any pregnant girls being banned from school in Sierra Leone. Whilst this ban was already in place, vulnerability of girls to unplanned pregnancy through rape or transactional sex to make ends meet increased because of Ebola. 33% of teenage girls already had unplanned pregnancies before Ebola and this figure has risen since. </p> <p>What of Zika? </p> <p><a href="http://globalhealth.thelancet.com/2016/02/16/what-solution-isnt-parallel-zika-and-hiv-viruses-women">Pregnancy</a>, especially pregnancy among girls and young women, is the lynchpin for Zika.&nbsp; While Zika has been identified in many countries around the world – from Uganda and Nigeria in Africa, to several countries in the South Pacific, to the current outbreak in Latin America and the Caribbean. It appears that Zika can be <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/zika/transmission/">sexually transmitted</a> (like Ebola and HIV), though most cases are directly transmitted by mosquito. </p> <p>&nbsp;The disease trajectories are different across the three viruses (HIV, Ebola and Zika).&nbsp; However, the <a href="http://sxpolitics.org/zika-and-abortion-rights-brazil-in-the-eye-of-the-storm/14029">toxic gender norms</a> that fuel the diseases and magnify their impact are common threads. And, like Ebola and HIV, Zika thrives in conditions of inequality and ruptured health systems, bringing additional burdens of care to women. </p> <p>There is a distinct gender specificity in the case of Zika:&nbsp; the link between Zika and microcephaly.&nbsp; In Brazil, a growing number of pregnant women who have contracted Zika in Brazil are giving birth to babies with microcephaly, a condition that disrupts full brain formation. At the same time, an Argentine doctors’ group has raised the possibility that that the cause of microcephaly may not be the Zika virus but the l<a href="http://www.sciencealert.com/argentinian-report-says-monsanto-linked-pesticide-is-to-blame-for-microcephaly-outbreak-not-zika">arvicide</a> used in Brazil to kill mosquitos. </p> <p>Whatever the cause of Zika, be it through mosquitoes themselves or the larvicide in the water, the specific and disproportionate impact on women runs through HIV, Ebola and Zika.&nbsp; In such a context, it is imperative that we focus on the bigger picture of disease prevention, treatment, care and support – a lesson learned over and over from HIV.&nbsp; Telling women not to get <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/health-zika-brazil-pregnant-women-idUSKCN0VA1D1">pregnant</a> is not a viable answer. A comprehensive response to mosquito control is not straightforward, should involve and build on the expertise of all sections of a community, and necessitates a combination of locally appropriate and sustainable social and technical approaches.&nbsp; &nbsp;It should <em>not</em> just single out and target those who are already most vulnerable. This is all the more important in countries where contraception and abortion are both rigorously controlled by the State. </p> <p>Throughout these narratives we hear again and again, the refrain of poverty, inequity, marginalization, gender imbalances and top-down, kneejerk reactions designed to contain and control women and girls. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/copyrightSalamanderTrustGirlsinIndiainaSteppingStonesworkshop.jpg" alt="" width="460 " /></p> <p><em>HIV: girls in India during a Stepping Stones training workshop. Photo: Salamander Trust</em></p><p>As environmental scientists such as the late Rachel <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/tom-butlerbowdon/five-politics-classics-every-activist-should-know-about">Carson</a>, and Wangari <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/wangari-maathai">Maathai</a>, advocates such as Arundathi <a href="http://www.weroy.org/arundhati.shtml">Roy</a> and Erin&nbsp; <a href="http://www.brockovich.com/">Brockovich</a>, investigative journalists such as ‘This changes everything’ author Naomi <a href="http://www.naomiklein.org/main">Klein</a> and economists such as Lourdes <a href="https://aap.cornell.edu/people/lourdes-beneria">Beneria</a>, Marilyn <a href="http://www.marilynwaring.com/">Waring</a> and Thomas <a href="http://www.parisschoolofeconomics.eu/en/piketty-thomas/">Picketty</a> have told us repeatedly over the past&nbsp; 50 years, growth-driven economies, combined with simple, top-down bio-tech, business-driven solutions to complex multi-issue challenges do not lead to social, economic or <a href="http://www.madre.org/uploads/misc/1417557518_Climate%20Justice%20Calls%20for%20Gender%20Justice%20-%20MADRE%20Concept%20Note.pdf">gender justice.</a> </p> <p>All these huge global public health issues have their connections with the bigger <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/neil-singh/seven-day-nhs-at-this-rate-we-re-headed-for-zero-day-nhs">picture</a>: with climate change, environmental degradation, and a glaringly simplistic – and misogynist – response. As Graham <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.7448/IAS.18.1.20499">Brown</a> et al recently eloquently articulated in the context of HIV, a recognition of the need to shape an effective response to HIV in the framework of its place as part of a complex adaptive system is crucial. </p> <p>This response is now 3 decades overdue in the HIV response. </p> <p>Those seeking to mitigate the effects of Ebola and Zika would be wise to take note from our experiences. </p> <p>Eve, like nature, cannot – and will not – be contained.</p><p><strong>24 April, Update: <br /></strong></p><p>In this article, published on 29th February, we wrote about the Zika, Ebola and HIV viruses.&nbsp; We focused our analysis on the inadequacy of the response from the perspective of women’s human rights and, in particular, women’s sexual rights.&nbsp; We noted that the focus of the response to date, from currently affected countries as well as from the global health community, seemed to focus on <em>containing women’s sexuality</em> rather than providing greater access to sexual rights, such as mass distribution of modern contraception and easing access to abortion.&nbsp; This, despite the fact that such greater sexual rights would seem to be the appropriate public health response.&nbsp; Evidence shows that when women have access to modern forms of contraception, they use it, and, in doing so, avert unwanted <a href="http://who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs351/en/">pregnancies</a>.</p> <p>Yet, to date, no such massive distribution of contraception is yet taking place.&nbsp; Meanwhile, while women’s movements in Zika affected <a href="https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/brazil-can-fight-zika-virus-better-public-policy?utm_source=health&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_content=IKsmIuUFTygbwrY5wIhPMp-XuARgcyg5ZIF2elW6zzI&amp;utm_campaign=health_041616">&nbsp;countries</a> have been advocating strongly for revising or repealing harsh laws criminalizing abortion, no such changes have yet taken place.&nbsp; Nor has a vaccine or medical treatment been developed, not for pregnant women nor children born with microcephaly.</p> <p>There has been at least one major advance: scientific evidence now seems to point definitively to Zika as the <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/s0413-zika-microcephaly.html">cause </a>&nbsp;of microcephaly. At the time we wrote the article, there were many theories swirling about the potential cause of microcephaly, including the possibility of chemical contamination.&nbsp; This now seems to have been effectively debunked.&nbsp; Meanwhile, the potential effects of Zika appear to have grown from microcephaly to other <a href="http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(16)00562-6.pdf">neurological</a> impacts on those who have contracted Zika. </p> <p>We applaud the greater understanding of the health impact of Zika.&nbsp; However, we continue to challenge Zika affected countries to review their laws on sexual and reproductive health and rights and, as a core part of their Zika response, focus on ensuring women’s rights to fully exercise and enjoy their right to health, including through accessible, affordable, acceptable and quality modern contraception and pregnancy termination.</p><p><strong><em>Read more articles in our long running dialogue</em> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-aids-gender-and-human-rights">AIDS, Gender and Human Rights </a></strong></p><hr size="1" /><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn-luisa-orza/welcome-to-our-house-women-living-with-hiv">Welcome to our house: women living with HIV</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/tooni-akanni/confronting-ebola-in-liberia-gendered-realities-0">Confronting Ebola in Liberia: the gendered realities</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amber-huff/ebola-exposing-failure-of-international-development">Ebola: exposing the failure of international development</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/end-to-aids-not-through-medication-alone">An end to AIDS?: Not through medication alone</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/hiv-violations-or-investments-in-women%E2%80%99s-rights"> HIV: Violations or investments in women’s rights? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/baby-rivona-oldri-mukuan/global-mechanism-regional-solution-ending-forced-sterilisation">Global mechanism, regional solution: ending forced sterilisation </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/women-and-post-2015-agenda-are-you-on-board-ark">Women and the post-2015 agenda: are you on board the ark?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/aids-2014-conference-stepping-up-pace-and-still-on-wrong-path">AIDS 2014 Conference: stepping up the pace and still on the wrong path </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Science </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Equality Science 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 AIDS, Gender and Human Rights 50.50 Structures of Sexism women's human rights women's health violence against women gendered poverty gender justice gender bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Alice Welbourn Susana T. Fried Mon, 29 Feb 2016 09:19:54 +0000 Susana T. Fried and Alice Welbourn 100141 at https://www.opendemocracy.net COP21: overarching narratives, real lives https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/cop21-overarching-narratives-real-lives <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><strong>&nbsp;</strong>“There are overarching narratives, and then there are people just trying to live their lives within them.” Does COP21 speak to the most vulnerable people trying to survive climate change now?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Four years ago, during the closing ceremony of the COP17 <a href="http://www.tippingpoint.org.uk/projects/climate-train/">Climate Train</a> in Durban, Mbali Vilakazi performed her <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s63xVBDBi6k&amp;feature=youtu.be">poem</a>, ‘Is there a Xhosa word for climate change?’ In it, she issues a reminder that “there are overarching narratives, and then there are people just trying to live their lives within them.” With the questioning refrain “what will we say…?” she calls on COP negotiators to remember people, just trying to live. She asks them to “listen, see, think, speak, do, be differently” in order to create an inclusive framework with “words that each and every single one of us can reuse.” </p> <p>The rhythm and relevance of her words still resound at the close of COP21, creating a steady beat which remains true beneath the cheers that laud the <a href="http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf">Paris Agreement</a> “historic” (<a href="https://www.algore.com/news/statement-by-former-vice-president-al-gore-on-the-paris-agreement-reached-at-the-united-nations-framework-convention-on-climate-change-s-21st-conference-of-the-parties-cop21">Al Gore</a>), a “monumental triumph” (<a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52802#.Vm7wTfmLSUk">Ban Ki-moon</a>) and, in the words of one British <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/13/paris-climate-deal-cop-diplomacy-developing-united-nations">paper</a>, ‘the world’s greatest diplomatic success.’</p><p><strong>What does COP21 say to small islands? <br /></strong></p> <p>The BBC, in its <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-35086474">short video</a> rather distastefully titled ‘COP21: Climate change deal’s winners and losers’, describes the Paris Agreement as a “win” for small island states. This is because limiting the temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is mentioned as an aspiration in the Agreement text. However, 2.0C is the actual goal of the Paris Agreement, and in reality individual countries’ emission targets (the Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs)) – which are not even legally binding – would result in a 2.7C rise. </p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Climat Social - Fighting against capitalism is fighting for the planet - poster on Paris street.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p> <p><em>"Fighting against capitalism is fighting for the planet," poster on Paris street druing COP21</em>. </p><p>The strains of Vilakazi’s refrain on my mind, I wonder at the close of COP21: what will we say about the Paris Agreement to a pacific islander? </p> <p><a href="http://www.tulele-peisa.org/about/ursula-rakova/">Ursula Rakova</a> is a leader, campaigner and human rights advocate from the matrilineal community from the Carteret Atoll. Due to rising sea levels the livelihood of islanders has had to change over the past 40 years, as certain crops can no longer grow or survive. Rakova has been organising the migration of the island’s 2,700 people since 2009, because it is expected that the sinking island will be completely uninhabitable by 2020 - the year the Paris Agreement will be implemented;&nbsp; states have until then to ‘peak’ their emissions before starting to reduce them. </p> <p>On 10 December, two days before the Paris Agreement was secured, Rakova explained to a COP21 Human Rights Day side event, “we don’t want to be known as victims of climate change.” Yet this is the ‘overarching narrative’ which they have been bequeathed by those who extract fossil fuels, emit carbon, and negotiate to limit the after-effects of their extractavism and excess from a future date. COP21 President and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called the Paris Agreement “balanced,” but I do not see how he could justify this adjective to an islander-turned-climate refugee who cannot even hope to return to their homeland. </p> <p><strong>What does COP21 say to women? <br /></strong></p> <p>On 7th December, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (<a href="http://wecaninternational.org/">WECAN</a>) held a gathering of worldwide women leaders to make the case that in order to attain climate justice, women must be at the forefront of envisioning and implementing solutions to climate change.</p> <p>With Vilakazi’s poem ticking through our minds, again, we might ask: what will we say to women about the Paris Agreement? </p> <p>COP7 was held in Marrakech in 2001, and it was <a href="http://genderandenvironment.org/2015/01/integrating-gender-un-climate-change-negotiations/">recognised</a> during that negotiation that women’s participation would need to be improved. Women are half of the world’s population and are most affected by climate change: Research by WECAN indicates that that <a href="http://wecaninternational.org/why-women-are-key">80%</a> of ‘climate refugees’ are women, and the intersection between gender and poverty makes women doubly affected. </p> <p>But 14 years after COP7, women’s <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/23/opinions/cop21-women-need-participate/">representation</a> on UNFCC bodies and boards is only between 36%-41% – and merely 26%-33% of national delegations are headed by women. Titilope Akosa and her colleagues from the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) Women and Gender Constituency pressured COP21 delegates both inside and outside of the negotiations to include human rights in the Paris Agreement. Akosa emphasised at WECAN’s event that the inclusion of human rights would ensure “that women’s voices are reflected” both in the agreement itself and future planning for the effects of climate change. Human rights are not part of the core text of the Paris Agreement, however. </p> <p><strong>What does COP21 say of our humanity? <br /></strong></p> <p>The Paris Agreement is hailed as a diplomatic triumph partly because close to 200 countries were able to agree the text. Barry Gardiner has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/barry-gardiner/paris-climate-historic-opportunity">written</a> for openDemocracy UK about how this feels like a success after the disastrous COP15 in Copenhagen. This time, in order to come to an agreement, states had to ensure that their key priorities were (partially) addressed to the exclusion of others – so inclusion of the term ‘loss and damage’ <a href="https://www.foe.co.uk/blog/paris-climate-talks-analysis-final-agreement">means</a> there will be a mechanism to respond to the impacts of climate change which are now unavoidable, but the concepts of liability and compensation are excluded. Hence Fabius’s description of the Paris Agreement as “balanced.” </p> <p>I previously <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/international-rights-of-nature-tribunal-in-defence-of-pachamama-against-macho-papas">wrote</a> about the balance and dependency between human beings, other species and nature, when reporting on the International Rights of Nature Tribunal. In this context it is also difficult not to see Fabius’s comment as a subversion of the term. In fact he refers to trading off interests and compromising worldwide security. It is also a reminder that the borders which separate the nation states represented at COP21 are not recognised by the natural world; so to talk about ‘winners and losers,’ as though there is an equilibrium in compromise, is nonsensical because loss affects us all. </p> <p>Neema Namadamu, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, spoke about the Congo rainforest, which is the second-largest in the world (after the Amazon) and also faces significant <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deforestation_in_the_Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo">deforestation</a>. She described Africa as “le berceau de l’humanité” (the cradle of humanity) and insisted, “et quelque part où en Afrique il y a à sauver, mes chers amis, il faut sauver” (where there is something to be saved in Africa, we must save it). If we lose parts of Africa, we lose the roots of our history, making our present existence suddenly unstable and precarious; it signals the beginning of the end of our story as a species. Namadamu, with the rest of us, does not have time for protracted negotiations: “planting trees…[means] you can have oxygen – we can breathe. And after that, you can negotiate everything you want to negotiate.” </p> <p>A similar exasperation with COP processes was felt by Patricia Gualinga from Sarayaku, Ecuador. She reiterated Namadamu’s point at WECAN’s 8th December <a href="http://unfccc6.meta-fusion.com/cop21/events/2015-12-08-18-30-women-s-earth-and-climate-caucus-wecc">press briefing</a>, saying that governments must “stop negotiating on behalf of a life that will not exist if they are so stubborn” – instead of going “letter by letter” through an agreement, they need to step back and look at what is important: life. Women who are on the frontlines of climate change can offer positive solutions and “contribute this for all of humanity and for Mother Earth.” </p> <p>“We are people, we are human beings,” implored Kandi Mossett, whose small town on a reservation in North Dakota has been devastated by fracking. Thousands of men moved into the community to work on oil plants, skewing the ratio of men to women 10:1, and causing a 168% increase in violence against women. Mosset described the systematic sexual abuse and exploitation of indigenous women and girls and the fact that there are no services to help them; she spoke of the increase in heroin use and its intersection with murders which the authorities ignore while vilifying the local indigenous community. Mosset explained how solutions which centre vulnerable communities will have global effects: “It is not just about us at home, it’s about all of us. Because at the end of the day…they can’t eat their money and they can’t drink their oil.” </p> <p><strong>The real united nations <br /></strong></p> <p><a href="http://wecandeclaration.org/casey-camp-horinek/">Casey Camp-Horinek</a>, from the Ponca Nation in Oklahoma, challenged the WECAN gathering, “What is power? Is it COP?” She contended that we need a shift in our collective mindset to reimagine and reconstruct power dynamics. She explained the ‘seven-generation philosophy’: that “with every step you take” you remember the seven generations who have come before you, and the seven generations to come. </p> <p>The following day Camp-Horinek insisted, “<em>We </em>are the United Nations, sitting in front of you – we have earned that right, because we have cared for those coming behind us and we will continue to.” Away from the trade-offs and ‘balanced’ bureaucracy of COP21, the women leaders offer an alternative model of diplomacy. Their model is not about compromise, but connection. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth - poster 2.jpg" alt="" height="400" width="356" /></p> <p><em>Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth poster at COP21.</em></p><p>Pennie Opal Plant presented the Indigenous Women of the Americas – <a href="http://www.ienearth.org/indigenous-women-of-the-americas-defenders-of-mother-earth-treaty-compact-2015/">Defenders of Mother Earth Treaty</a> to the WECAN gathering on 7th December. The treaty is being extended to Indigenous women across the world, and in 2016 non-Indigenous supporters will also be encouraged to sign it. “There is nothing more intolerable than the destruction of thousands of species, including our own,” said Plant, and she encouraged us to channel our outrage into forming alliances, educating ourselves and other women about the planet, the harm being done to it, and those causing the harm (“those people in COP!”). </p> <p>Yes, women on the frontlines of climate change need to be where decision-makers are. But if decision-makers will not listen to them, or share power, it will not stop these women leading to provide real, liveable solutions to man-made problems. On the weekend that the Paris Agreement was announced and COP21 came to a close, Indigenous women led an action in Paris outlining their own ‘red lines’ for climate change: keeping fossil fuels in the ground, a clean energy economy, a 1.5C maximum limit, and an end to climate crimes to which they and their families (including Mother Earth) fall first victim. </p> <p>These women will continue connecting with others, educating, surviving, and taking direct action to claim the human rights which inherently belong to all people but which the core text of the Paris Agreement does not mention. Those of us who feel disappointed with the grand narrative COP21 paints for humanity can look to them for alternative, real-life leadership. The Paris Agreement might not have the words to speak to us, but these women do. </p><p><em>This is the third article in a short series by the author reporting from COP21 for <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050">openDemocracy 50.50</a>. Read the</em><strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/cop21-climate-marches-future-now"> first </a></em></strong><em>and </em><strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/international-rights-of-nature-tribunal-in-defence-of-pachamama-against-macho-papas">second </a></em></strong><em>article</em><strong><em>.</em></strong> </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/cop21-climate-marches-future-now">COP21: forget &#039;the future&#039;, we need a more radical present</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/international-rights-of-nature-tribunal-in-defence-of-pachamama-against-macho-papas">International Rights of Nature Tribunal: Pachamama vs ‘macho papas’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nathalie-marji/women-on-frontlines-of-climate-justice-defending-land-and-community">Defending land and community: women on the frontlines of climate justice </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melina-loubicanmassimo/awaiting-justice-%E2%80%93-indigenous-resistance-to-tar-sand-development-in-cana">Awaiting justice: Indigenous resistance in the tar sands of Canada</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/melina-laboucan-massimo/energy-democracy-building-solar-dream-in-tar-sands-nightmare">Energy democracy: building a solar dream in a tar sands nightmare</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/climate-change-and-false-gods-moloch-and-biblepunchers-in-us">Climate change and false gods: Moloch and the bible-punchers in the US </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lisa-veneklasen/climate-and-indigenous-peoples-real-dispute-at-un">Climate and Indigenous Peoples: the real dispute at the UN </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/food-sovereignty-as-transformative-model-of-economic-power">&quot;Food sovereignty&quot; as a transformative model of economic power</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/osprey-orielle-lake/mapping-womens-resistance-to-social-and-ecological-degradation">Mapping women&#039;s resistance to social and ecological degradation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Women and the Economy 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women and power gendered poverty gendered migration gender justice feminism Ché Ramsden Wed, 16 Dec 2015 10:07:33 +0000 Ché Ramsden 98574 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Defending land and community: women on the frontlines of climate justice https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nathalie-marji/women-on-frontlines-of-climate-justice-defending-land-and-community <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Throughout Southeast Asia, hundreds of women environmental activists have been jailed, attacked and defamed as threats to "national security". They remain without adequate resources, protection and funding for their work. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>When world leaders attend international conferences like <a href="http://www.cop21paris.org/">Conference of Parties (COP21)</a> on climate change, they face political pressure and opposition. When women stand up for environmental rights in their communities, they face harassment, violence, and death threats. </p> <p>Climate change is not just about international agreements between governments – it matters to people’s lives and to our very survival.&nbsp; </p> <p>Women comprise the majority of the world’s poor and experience systemic marginalization, discrimination, and violence. This makes them <a href="http://www.wedo.org/wp-content/uploads/CCWOMENFactsheet-final.pdf">particularly vulnerable</a> to the effects of climate change and environmental degradation. When they mobilize for environmental rights, they face myriad obstacles, both because of their activism and because they are women. </p> <p>Women are taking leadership at the grassroots level to defend the lives and rights of their communities and implement creative strategies to mitigate and adapt to the consequences of climate change. One of the key ways they are responding to the challenge of climate change is by mobilizing for the land rights of their communities, which not only helps achieve sustainable development but has also been found to <a href="http://www.wri.org/securingrights">reduce CO2 emissions</a>. </p> <p>The following stories highlight some of the struggles and solutions proposed by grassroots women environmental activists. They are excerpted from case studies based on individual interviews and group discussions during a convening held by <a href="http://urgentactionfund.org/">Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights (UAF)</a> and the <a href="http://www.samdhana.org/">Samdhana Institute</a> in Indonesia in September 2015. </p> <p><strong>Fighting oppression and impunity</strong></p><p><strong><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/Bai.Ali_.Indayla.1.jpg" alt="" width="400" /><br /></strong></p> <p><em>Bai Ali Indayla. Photo: Krissanto Triputro</em></p><p>Bai Ali Indayla is a Moro activist from Mindanao in the Philippines, While still a university student, Bai Ali was the first female student to be elected student body president. After graduation, she became active on issues of militarization, peacebuilding and documentation of violations against the <a href="http://asiafoundation.org/in-asia/2014/08/06/minorities-within-the-minority-indigenous-communities-in-the-bangsamoro/">Bangsamaro</a> communities in the context of the ongoing conflict between the national government and insurgents seeking regional autonomy. Today, she is the Secretary General of <a href="https://kawagib.wordpress.com/">KAWAGIB</a> - Alliance for the Advancement of Moro Human Rights. This position brings increased risk since groups critical of the government's policies in the region are often branded as threats even though their work is peaceful. </p> <p>Powerful multinational companies are exploiting resource-rich Mindanao and violating the rights of local people with impunity and the support of paramilitary forces provided by the government of the Philippines. Such extractive activities aggravate climate change. </p> <p>In Mindanao, <a href="http://newint.org/blog/2015/09/18/mindanao-mining-murder/">criminalization</a> of environmental and indigenous human rights defenders has reached unprecedented levels. Tactics such as <a href="http://www.humanrightsphilippines.net/2015/09/mindanao-human-rights-activists-fight-back-against-rising-martial-law-in-mindanao/">false charges and imprisonment, harassment, and violence</a> are used to deter their work. Such threats occur in the context of an ongoing conflict and are sometimes carried out under the pretext of the government’s campaign against local insurgent groups. In addition, human rights defenders, their families and their communities face displacement by the conflict and are targets of extrajudicial killings staged to appear as though they took place because of the military conflict. Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) are at particular risk of sexual violence; rape is used as a shaming tactic and to discourage their activism. </p> <p>In spite of harassment and threats against her and her family, Bai Ali continues her work tirelessly. Her approach is to protect herself by reporting her experiences publicly. “The more we speak out, the more people are alerted, the more the perpetrator will keep a distance,” she explains, “and as long as there is still discrimination against women and oppression of the people, I will continue advocating for the rights of women, children, and my community.” </p> <p><strong>Leading and taking risks</strong></p> <p>In Indonesia, the situation for women that fight for land rights and environmental justice is equally challenging. Much of the land grabbing and environmental degradation take place in remote areas, making it difficult to document violations. Women also struggle against social norms that have traditionally seen only men as leaders. </p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Eva.Bande_.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p> <p><em>Eva Bande. Photo: Krissanto Triputro.</em></p><p>Eva Bande is a defender of women’s human rights, land rights, and the environment and a mother of three from Central Sulawesi in Indonesia. She founded the People’s Front for Central Sulawesi Palm Oil Advocacy to organize communities to stop illegal land grabs and monitor environmental degradation. Because of her activism, Eva was arrested and sentenced to 4½ years in <a href="https://protectioninternational.org/2015/02/16/women-defend-human-rights-eva-bande/">prison</a>. Local farmers and community members supported her as she continued to organize behind bars. Finally, the President granted her <a href="http://urgentactionfund.org/2014/12/indonesian-land-rights-activist-eva-bande-released-from-prison/">clemency</a> last December.<em> <br /></em></p> <p>Today, she stills faces threats and challenges, but she vows to continue her activism. “To lead is to take risks,” she shared, “the violence I experienced in jail definitely left a mark on me, and it shook the community as well. But we have to continue to strengthen the community because the fight is far from over.” </p> <p>While she acknowledged the importance of law and policy, including at negotiations like COP21, she stressed that “land justice cannot be discussed only, it has to be put in practice.” </p> <p><strong>Reclaiming community land and power</strong> </p> <p>Jull Takaliuang is another indigenous woman advocating for the environment and human rights in Indonesia. Because of her activism to stop destructive gold mining, reclaim beaches from exploitation, and halt illegal logging carried out by members of the police on Bangka Island, Jull has experienced many threats. She was physically attacked by people hired by a mining company, received numerous death threats, was unlawfully detained and placed under house arrest, and was strangled with her megaphone cord while attending a court hearing. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/Jull.Takaliuang.2.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p> <p><em>Jull Takaliuang. Photo:Krissanto Triputro.</em></p><p><em></em> “When the land is taken, we do not have power,” she explained, “we are fighting for a bigger cause: fighting for women who are losing their land, women who cannot fish anymore because the water is poisonous, women who are becoming poorer because the environment is contaminated.” Solidarity from her community and from international allies keep her going in difficult times. Recently, the <a href="..\Downloads\undp.org">United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)</a> recognized her achievements by awarding her <a href="http://n-peace.net/n-peace-awards">the N-Peace Prize</a>, which honors local leaders throughout Asia. </p> <p><strong>Listening to women human rights defenders’ stories</strong> </p> <p>The stories of Bai Ali, Eva, and Jull are not unusual. Throughout Southeast Asia, hundreds of <a href="http://www.justassociates.org/en/article/16-days-activism-southeast-asia-our-rights-our-resources-our-life">women environmental activists</a> have been jailed, have been defamed as threats to “national security,” or have suffered discrimination and violence. Yet, the experiences of these women too often remain untold, and despite their leadership, they still lack the resources and protection mechanisms they need to continue their invaluable work.<strong><em> <br /></em></strong></p> <p>At <a href="..\Downloads\urgentactionfund.org">Urgent Action Fund</a>, we believe and trust in the power of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) like Bai Ali, Eva, and Jull to change their communities and the world. We make rapid response grants – responding to requests in any language in under 72 hours –&nbsp;to support their critical work when they face unanticipated security threats or advocacy opportunities. Annually, we award over 800,000 USD to defenders around the world. For instance, when Eva was sentenced to prison for her non-violent protest of palm oil plantations, Urgent Action Fund provided funding for legal support and evidence collection to free&nbsp;her, which led to her presidential pardon and release. </p> <p>In addition, Urgent Action Fund convenes spaces for WHRDs to learn from each other and we advocate alongside them for better protection mechanisms. Our particular perspective within women’s rights movements allows us to understand firsthand the importance of quick and flexible funding as well as the challenges faced by WHRDs in their mobilization for environmental justice. </p> <p><strong>From discussing to practicing justice<em> <br /></em></strong></p> <p>Raising the profile of women environmental activists is an important step, but we cannot stop there. Their stories must inform the policies we push our leaders to adopt, so that, in Eva’s words, we can shift from merely discussing to truly practicing land justice. </p> <p class="yiv9784666154">Women engaged in activism for climate justice advocate at local, national, and international levels, including at the United Nations. They are <a href="..\Downloads\womenclimatejustice.org">collectively calling for climate justice</a> and are at COP21 to push for a legally binding agreement that recognizes the disproportionate impact of climate change on women and indigenous peoples and strengthens their participation in decision-making processes. </p> <p>Despite frustration with insufficient policy implementation as well as frequent backlash they experience when their advocacy is successful, the WHRDs with whom we spoke or who we listened to assured us they would not give up on advocacy. “It is not only part of our work,” they told us, “it is part of our body, part of our bones, part of our blood, and part of our lives.” </p> <p>The least that funders can do is join them in their advocacy to foster an <a href="http://www.awid.org/publications/our-right-safety-women-human-rights-defenders-holistic-approach-protection">enabling environment</a> for them to carry out their work safely. This means creating spaces and providing funding and other resources for them to advocate for themselves and their communities, recognizing and valuing their experiences, supporting their leadership development and participation, strengthening their networks and resilience to sustain their movements. </p> <p>As Eva Bande put it, “Networking at the international level can affect public policy in Indonesia. There is a critical need for funding and international support to achieve these strategic objectives.” </p> <p><em>The case studies in this article will be featured in a <a href="http://urgentactionfund.org/">forthcoming publication</a> by UAF and the Samdhana Institute authored by Arimbi Heroepoetri, Meerim Ilyas, Judy Pasimio, Nina Jusuf, and Nathalie Margi</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/cop21-climate-marches-future-now">COP21: forget &#039;the future&#039;, we need a more radical present</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/osprey-orielle-lake/mapping-womens-resistance-to-social-and-ecological-degradation">Mapping women&#039;s resistance to social and ecological degradation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/climate-change-and-false-gods-moloch-and-biblepunchers-in-us">Climate change and false gods: Moloch and the bible-punchers in the US </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melina-loubicanmassimo/awaiting-justice-%E2%80%93-indigenous-resistance-to-tar-sand-development-in-cana">Awaiting justice: Indigenous resistance in the tar sands of Canada</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lisa-veneklasen/climate-and-indigenous-peoples-real-dispute-at-un">Climate and Indigenous Peoples: the real dispute at the UN </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/food-sovereignty-as-transformative-model-of-economic-power">&quot;Food sovereignty&quot; as a transformative model of economic power</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marilyn-waring/making-visible-invisible-commodification-is-not-answer">Making visible the invisible: commodification is not the answer</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melina-laboucan-massimo/energy-democracy-building-solar-dream-in-tar-sands-nightmare">Energy democracy: building a solar dream in a tar sands nightmare</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/politics-of-myth-making-beasts-of-southern-wild">The politics of myth making: &#039;Beasts of the Southern Wild&#039;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women and power gendered poverty gender justice feminism Nathalie Margi Sun, 06 Dec 2015 09:03:27 +0000 Nathalie Margi 98179 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 16 Days: cutting Black and minority ethnic women's organisations https://www.opendemocracy.net/rahila-gupta/assault-on-bme-womens-organisations-in-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/justice/criminal/victims/rights/index_en.htm">EU Victims Directive</a> comes into force this month. Will it prevent the further decimation of Black and minority ethnic organisations offering specialised services to women facing violence in the UK?&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This is part two of an article addressing the cuts to the women's sector in the UK. Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/asset-stripping-in-women-s-sector-in-uk">part one</a>.</em>&nbsp; </p><p>The <a href="http://www.coe.int/en/web/istanbul-convention">Istanbul Convention</a> on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, which the UK has so far failed to ratify, obliges member states to adequately fund both general and specialist services. The delay in ratification quite likely arises from the fact that the spending cuts applied so heavily to this sector means that the UK will not be compliant with the Convention. It is important to be clear about what specialist services entail as the gradual de-recognition of the sector represents a tectonic defeat for feminist politics.&nbsp; ‘Specialist’ is defined as women-only services and within that it includes targeting of specific groups like BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) women and/or specific types of violence like FGM. The importance of women only spaces for women who have faced male violence has been central to feminist activism. </p><p>For Dr Liz Kelly, head of CWASU, (Child and Women Abuse Studies, Metropolitan University) the specialist women’s sector simply includes organisations with roots in the particular communities that they serve as that experience shapes the perspectives within which they deliver services. This definition has the advantage of excluding the large, generic, empire-building organisations which attempt to bolster their specialist credentials by employing a BME worker or two. But as Marai Larasi, Director of <a href="http://imkaan.org.uk/">Imkaan</a>, says there is world of difference between a BME organisation and a BME service. The identification of specific threats to BME women, be it forced marriage or immigration rules which trap them in violent marriages, campaigning around those issues, demanding more resources from government, changing policy and legislation have been initiated by BME led organisations such as Southall Black Sisters, at least where the above two issues are concerned.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Apna Haq demo1.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p><p><em>Apna Haq protest against the cuts. Photo: Apna Haq </em></p><p>However, local authorities under financial pressure just don’t get this. BME organisations have been falling like dominoes – either closing, facing deep cuts and/or much reduced services. Roshni in Nottingham - closed; <a href="http://www.ashianasheffield.org/">Ashiana</a> in Sheffield - lost its domestic violence contract; <a href="http://saheli.org.uk/">Saheli</a> in Manchester dealing with 40% cuts to its core funding; <a href="http://www.safehouse.org.uk/">Panahghar</a> in Leicester and Coventry also struggling with cuts. The latest BME organisation to be facing imminent closure <a href="http://www.apna-haq.co.uk/">Apna Haq</a> (Our Right) is based in Rotherham. On 21st November, they organised a march from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street to hand in a petition to protect these services and a report on the <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/c3n2gjs4g2g37s2/IMKAAN%20-%20STATE%20OF%20THE%20SECTOR%20%5BFINAL%5D.pdf?dl=0">State of the Sector</a> produced by Imkaan. According to the report, in the last financial year in London, 733 BME women sought refuge spaces and only 154 were successful. There are over 34 dedicated BME VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) services in the UK, of which half are refuge providers.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/BiCkxhRIEAAlHae.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>&nbsp;<em>'Keep Apna Haq open' support group, Rotherham. Photo: Apna Haq</em></p><p>Apna Haq’s contract to deliver domestic violence services was won by a white led organisation affiliated to Women’s Aid, <a href="http://www.rotherhamrise.org.uk/">Rotherham Rise</a>, which provides services to both men and women.&nbsp; Zlakha Ahmed, Director of Apna Haq, says that the Council’s tender awarded no additional marks for track record. There was no recognition for the huge amount of work they had done on forced marriage and raising awareness of the issue in the community. This pattern was repeated across the country. The Imkaan report found that the weighting in many council tenders was skewed 70% towards value for money and 30% towards quality. Larger organisations benefit from this weighting as they are likely to have lower unit costs and not much of a track record. Apna Haq were also marked down on their answer to the question: how would you support men facing violence? They said they would signpost them to other services. Apparently, they would have scored better if they had said that they would provide a low-level service to men. The Council has, however, given them a five month reprieve until March. Additionally, they are hoping to use their reserves to allow them to remain in existence for another three months (eight months in total) while they seek other sources of funding. Zlakha says that of the 44 women service users, all including the Roma women, bar one, have decided to stay with Apna Haq, and that five of their workers who attended the induction day at Rotherham Rise returned to Apna Haq despite job uncertainties because they were not confident that the all-white management team would understand BME issues.</p> <p>It seems particularly ironic that the only secular and progressive BME women’s organisation should be facing the axe in a city which has been rocked by the revelation of largescale grooming of young white girls by gangs of Asian men. Racist media coverage and the backlash orchestrated by the likes of UKIP and <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/sep/13/edl-english-defence-league-protesters-attack-police-rotherham-demonstration">EDL</a> has had an adverse impact on the women coming to Apna Haq. Women report self-imposed curfews in order to <a href="http://imkaan.org.uk/">stay safe</a>. One woman said ‘They’ve taken our rights away - make us feel that we can’t live here - we have no place here - look at my colour and punish me.’ An under-reported aspect of these child abuse cases is that Asian girls are also groomed and sexually abused but as the Jay report into the Rotherham scandal <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-fund-to-help-women-speak-up-on-child-sexual-exploitation">acknowledged</a>, ‘women and girls in the Pakistani community in Rotherham should have been encouraged and empowered by the authorities to speak out about perpetrators and their own experiences as victims of sexual exploitation.’ The absence of strong Asian women’s voices was acknowledged in the Ofsted inspection of Apna Haq and Louise Casey’s <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/401119/46966_Rotherham_Report_PRINT.pdf">inquiry</a> into Rotherham. Despite this, Apna Haq is facing the chop. </p> <p>The move towards generic services is driven by the need to make cuts but the cuts are dressed up as legal obligations. The Equality Act 2010 is interpreted by local authorities as requiring them to treat men and women equally despite the fact that central government policy is <a href="http://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/data/files/resources/72/Survivors-Rights-EVAW-Coalition-September-2015.pdf">underpinned by the UN</a> definition that recognises that women are disproportionately the victims of violence perpetrated by men and identifies inequality between women and men as both a cause and consequence of such violence. The North East Women’s Network, when <a href="http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201415/jtselect/jtrights/106/10607.htm">giving evidence</a> to the Parliamentary Human Rights Joint Committee, stated ‘This common issue around the misinterpretation of the Equality Act resulting in women-only services being excluded from tendering on the basis of gender neutrality and supposed equality needs highlighting.’</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Apna Haq demo2.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p> <p><em>Apna Haq protest against the cuts to domestic violence services. Photo: Apna Haq</em></p><p> Zlakha highlighted the gaps that result from the decimation of the BME sector: in Sheffield, shockingly, five BME women have been killed in the last two years since Ashiana lost their domestic violence contract to a generic service. In all the investigations that followed these deaths, the question that was being asked was why these women had not been identified and supported. The answer was obvious: BME women overwhelmingly preferred BME organisations as the Imkaan survey confirmed. One of the BME directors quoted anonymously in the Imkaan report felt that ‘competition from [mainstream] women's organisations is the biggest threat. This has been raised and I have been told it does not happen because it is not ethical, however it is happening.’ According to Liz Kelly, market forces have led to a shift in the ethics of practice as normally organisations would not bid against a sister service unless a failing service needed to be rescued.</p> <p>Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid (WAFE), says that their National Service Standards stipulate that members must work co-operatively with other specialist organisations, especially BME ones. As members are autonomous organisations, WAFE cannot enforce discipline but they do have sanctions at their disposal: for example, they do not grant a quality mark to those organisations which do not adhere to these standards, and a quality mark is often a precondition for getting a grant or tendering for council contracts. Polly sees the issue of power and inequality between small and large organisations as one that plagues the whole voluntary sector and is hoping to involve the <a href="https://www.ncvo.org.uk/">NCVO</a> (The National Council for Voluntary Organisations) in a sector wide initiative to resolve it. Women’s Aid also provide support to smaller organisations struggling in consortia arrangements. </p> <p>The pressure to merge has morphed into the setting up of consortia where each constituent organisation is notionally independent. However, Hannana Siddiqi of <a href="http://www.southallblacksisters.org.uk/">Southall Black Sisters</a> (SBS) describes her experience of consortia as endless meetings on top of an already heavy workload. The lead organisation retains most of the power, but many smaller organisations may not have the capacity or desire to lead and end up feeling marginalised within the consortium. If members do not share values and a common understanding of the issues this can lead to further tensions. A particularly dangerous development highlighted by Hannana is the move to fund short-term, three month interventions in high risk/emergency cases. Long term intervention and support of standard risk cases are not given enough weighting in the commissioning process. The state is worried about homicide and about being held accountable for its failure to protect women at risk of death. It seems a short-sighted strategy when neglect of so-called low risk cases can easily turn them into emergencies.</p> <p>All of this bleakness may be about to dissipate. New legal duties in the <a href="http://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/data/files/resources/72/Survivors-Rights-EVAW-Coalition-September-2015.pdf">EU Victims Directive</a> are due to come into force in November 2015 which will have to be actioned by the UK government. The directive requires the provision of specialised services to women facing violence. Even better, it requires these services to be provided regardless of the victim’s citizenship status. This may prove to be a very important tool in the hands of BME organisations seeking to hold the police accountable who have been known to use a call out in a domestic violence incident as a fishing expedition to check the immigration status of the individuals involved. Marai Larasi is anxious that the government may not engage with it in a climate of strong anti-EU sentiment. Another important change introduced by this directive is the way in which VAWG services will be commissioned in the future. They need not go out to competitive tendering for a ‘social service’ contract that is worth less than 750,000 Euros. As BME organisations tend to be smaller and most contracts are worth less than that, this has the potential to restore solidarity and sisterhood to the sector. Furthermore, the 2015 Spending Review has announced that the much derided <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/nov/25/tampon-tax-15m-womens-charities-george-osborne-spending-review">tampon tax</a> will yield £15m which will be made available to women’s charities, although not all of it will go to the 'Violence Against Women' sector.</p><p>Are these imminent changes cause for cautious optimism that the sector may have turned the corner?</p><p><strong>Read more articles in openDemocracy 50.50's series on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days Activism Against Gender Violence</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/asset-stripping-in-women-s-sector-in-uk">16 Days: asset stripping the women’s sector in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/tehmina-kazi/facing-up-to-bitter-truths-rotherham-child-sex-exploitation-cases">Facing up to bitter truths: Rotherham child sex exploitation cases</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/reni-eddolodge/responding-to-sexual-abuse-in-uk-class-race-and-culture">Responding to sexual abuse in the UK: class, race and culture</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amrit-wilson/racism-surveillance-and-managing-gender-violence-in-uk">Racism, surveillance, and managing gender violence in the UK </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/use-and-abuse-of-honour-based-violence-in-uk">The use and abuse of honour based violence in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amrit-wilson/criminalising-forced-marriage-in-uk-why-it-will-not-help-women">Criminalising forced marriage in the UK: why it will not help women </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn-ann-oakley/sexual-exploitation-in-street-gangs-protecting-girls-or-changing-bo">Sexual exploitation in street gangs: protecting girls or changing boys?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/hannana-siddiqui/ending-stark-choice-domestic-violence-or-destitution-in-uk">Ending the stark choice: domestic violence or destitution in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-and-domestic-violence-mapping-damage">Austerity and domestic violence: mapping the damage</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/reni-eddo-lodge/%E2%80%98equality%E2%80%99-that-serves-social-injustice">The &#039;equality&#039; that serves social injustice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/holly-dustin/preventing-abuse-in-uk-matter-of-education">Preventing abuse in the UK: a matter of education </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/disposable-girls">Disposable Girls</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/beatrix-campbell/analysing-aaronovitch-has-scourge-of-%E2%80%98conspiracists%E2%80%99-become-one-himself">Analysing Aaronovitch: has the scourge of ‘conspiracists’ become one himself?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/trapped-women-fleeing-violence-in-uk">Trapped: women fleeing violence in the UK </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/women-in-prison-cycle-of-violence">Women in prison: the cycle of violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sarah-green/british-democracy-and-women%27s-right-to-live-free-from-violence">British democracy and women&#039;s right to live free from violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/handmaids-tale-of-coalition-britain">The Handmaid&#039;s Tale of Coalition Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nasheima-sheikh/ending-female-genital-mutilation-in-uk">Ending female genital mutilation in the UK</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK Women and the Economy Continuum of Violence 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change women's human rights women's health violence against women Sexual violence gendered poverty gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter Rahila Gupta Tue, 01 Dec 2015 09:45:27 +0000 Rahila Gupta 98055 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 16 Days: asset stripping the women’s sector in the UK https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/asset-stripping-in-women-s-sector-in-uk <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The quality of service in the independent women's sector is no guarantee against the future as the British government continues its assault on specialist women’s services protecting women from violence.&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>It is tragic that we must mark the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Day period of activism and awareness of violence against women</a> in 2015 with the recognition that the very sector that provides services to these women is looking emaciated, deprived of nourishment by a government which drones on about its commitment to ending violence.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/sun image.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p> <p><em>Sun canvas painted by women exiting prostitution, Eaves project. Photo: Eaves&nbsp; <br /></em></p><p><a href="http://www.eavesforwomen.org.uk/">Eaves</a>, one of these specialist providers and a highly respected organisation, closed its doors in October after nearly 40 years in operation.&nbsp; Coming soon after the death of its charismatic champion and chief executive, Denise Marshall, led some to believe that the two events were connected.&nbsp; However, the writing had been on the wall for some time; but it had been on the wall in the way that it is for many voluntary sector organisations where funding is always precarious, closure or massive retrenchment is always imminent and then by some miracle, the worst is deferred. I use the word ‘miracle’ because there are no lessons to be learnt to consolidate the future of the organisation because the solution to funding problems in one year cannot necessarily be replicated the following year. </p> <p>Quality of service is no guarantee against the future. </p> <p>I know this situation intimately from my involvement with the sector, having been on the management committee of <a href="http://www.southallblacksisters.org.uk/">Southall Black Sisters</a> for over 25 years. It is also a miracle that services of such high standards continue to be provided despite the impact of insecurity on the morale of staff and service users.&nbsp; The fact that the most vulnerable in our society are catered for in such an insecure and underfunded environment should be a shocking state of affairs in a wealthy, developed nation but it has become so ingrained in the DNA of this sector that people hardly remark on it. </p> <p>Voluntary sector organisations, especially smaller, specialist ones, have been shutting down or being forced to merge with larger organisations.&nbsp; This trend can be partly explained by the paradox at the heart of neo-liberalism: while claiming to enhance competition, its net effect is to shatter the competition into fragments which cannot exist independently and are forced to coalesce into monopolies. </p> <p>Heather Harvey, Research and Development manager for Eaves, believes the decline began in 2010 with the cuts under the Coalition government.&nbsp; They were seriously knocked back in 2011 when their <a href="http://www.eavesforwomen.org.uk/about-eaves/our-projects/the-poppy-project">POPPY project</a> supporting women who had been trafficked into prostitution or labour lost a £3.7m Home Office contract to the <a href="http://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/">Salvation Army</a>.&nbsp; By 2012, their annual turnover had dropped from £6m to £1.5m but their overhead costs, including high rents, remained the same. There had been no services available for trafficked women in the UK before Denise Marshall identified this group of women as falling through the net and persuaded her board to set up services for them. In December 2001, they provided accommodation for their very first woman who had featured on a Channel 4 television documentary on trafficking and who was in such dire need of support and accommodation that Channel 4 more or less dumped her on Eaves. When I interviewed Denise for my book, <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Enslaved-British-Slavery-Rahila-Gupta/dp/1846270669/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1448382935&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=enslaved%2C+rahila+gupta"><em>Enslaved</em></a>, in 2007, she said that although it cost £30,000 to support a trafficked woman for a whole year she persuaded the board to use their reserves arguing, ‘if we call ourselves a charity, we call ourselves a woman’s organisation, we have to do this.’ She was unable to raise funding for this work in the early years because funders wanted data on the scale of the problem but she couldn’t assess the scale as the problem had only just been identified.</p> <p>This story of how Eaves won and lost funding and the recognition of a whole new area of work that it had developed epitomises everything that is wrong with the way the women’s sector is being financed. Eaves was prepared to use some of its reserves because its commitment to desperate women took priority over an accounting requirement that an organisation should have enough money to meet their running costs for a period of three months should they face sudden closure. Whilst this may be good practice, it is a sign of chronic underfunding when organisations are forced to ditch it in favour of their clients’ urgent needs.&nbsp; Those of us who approach this issue within a feminist framework have more sympathy with this approach than generic organisations where managerialism comes before the needs of desperate women. </p> <p>Insufficient <a href="http://www.managers.org.uk/insights/news/2015/november/kids-company-how-charismatic-leadership-does-not-guarantee-success">reserves</a> was the battering ram used against Kids Company, which dealt with some of the most difficult young people, to shut it down suddenly. For Camilla Batmanghelidjh, the CEO, the children <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jan/03/camila-batmanghelidjh-kids-my-family-values">came first</a>. Whatever the truth in the accusations and justifications flying about, there is no doubt that Camilla’s spirited <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34668760">critique</a> of government failings in its policy on children played a part in its demise, just as Denise Marshall was a thorn in the side of government. Heather Harvey says, ‘I know that they thought we were&nbsp;trouble’. When they lost the POPPY contract, they were delisted from the Home Office and Ministry of Justice working group on trafficking despite their ten years of experience and nuanced knowledge of trafficking and of traffickers gained from pursuing the most difficult cases. The possibility that the decision was politically motivated is strengthened by Heather’s observation that ‘Practice based evidence would seem to suggest that there is a written or unwritten understanding that Salvation Army will not challenge legal decisions’.</p> <p>Having been pioneers in the field and having built up expertise, what was particularly galling was not just handing the service over to an organisation which had no expertise but that its religious ethos could not be further from the feminist one which guided POPPY’s work.&nbsp; I have <a href="https://newhumanist.org.uk/1954/unsafe-havens">written</a> about the difficulties faced by non-religious or non-Christian trafficked women who were locked up in safe houses and offered ‘divine attention’ by faith based organisations in Britain. Although this was apparently for their own safety, one of the reasons why women weren’t given the key was that these same places doubled up as detention centres for trafficked women being deported. They had no political qualms acting as both poacher and gamekeeper while POPPY fought every single wrongful deportation and won compensation, using asylum law and everything else in its armoury.&nbsp; No POPPY worker agreed to move to the Salvation Army under <a href="http://www.dba.org.uk/pdfs/115-6%20TUPE.pdf">TUPE</a>, Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, which was meant to guarantee jobs on the same terms and conditions for workers who stood to lose their jobs when there was a change of contractors, although they were within their rights to do so.</p> <p>Whilst TUPE is important for workers, it can be problematic for organisations. When the Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre in Cornwall (<a href="http://www.wrsac.org.uk/">WRSAC</a>) lost their award-winning IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Advisor)&nbsp;service which they had built up over eleven years to an organisation in another county, their staff moved under TUPE. &nbsp;The IDVA is a trained specialist whose goal is the safety of domestic abuse victims, focusing on victims at high risk of harm. Maggie Parks, Chief Executive, rues the loss of ‘all our excellent well trained staff and their wealth of experience through the TUPE process’ which, she believes, amounts to a theft of intellectual property. When Cornwall Council moved from grant-aid to commissioning the £400,000 service because EU rules state that contracts over a certain amount must go to tender, the Council stipulated that the service would have to become a generic one i.e. serving both men and women. Parks describes the soul searching that went on inside the organisation about how the commissioning process was forcing them to change their fundamental ethos. In the end although they decided to bid for the generic service&nbsp;they still lost out to Twelve's Company, a Devon based organisation, and are running a reduced service.</p> <p>When the indigestible truth sank in that Eaves might have to close, in an attempt to ensure that their services survived in some form or another, they carried out an exercise to see which organisations had enough reserves to be able to absorb them. Going through the Charity Commission accounts for 27 organisations working in related fields, they found that most of the organisations large enough to absorb Eaves were generic services, like <a href="http://www.hestia.org/">Hestia</a>, a housing provider. Although it is good news that some parts of their service have been saved, government funding policy has forced Eaves into a process that feels akin to asset stripping: their London Exiting Project for women wanting to leave prostitution, their Research and Development manager’s post and the No Recourse to Public funds worker have been fully or almost fully funded by <a href="http://www.niaendingviolence.org.uk/">NIA</a>, a feminist organisation, which has done the best it can within its resources. The Beth Centre for women affected by the criminal justice system which was run in partnership with <a href="http://www.womeninprison.org.uk/">Women in Prison</a> (WIP) has been taken back by WIP. However, the Alice project which helped nearly 300 women avoid homelessness in 2014, has fallen. The POPPY project with its 15 workers has relocated temporarily in their project manager's home while they await news of funding, of which they are hopeful. Heather Harvey misses the solidarity, the cross-fertilisation, the learning that evolved from a holistic, wraparound service where different parts of the same organisation could meet all the needs of the women.</p> <p><em>Read part two of this article</em> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/rahila-gupta/assault-on-bme-womens-organisations-in-uk">16 Days: cutting Black and minority ethnic women's organisations</a>&nbsp;<em></em></p> <p><strong>Read more articles in openDemocracy 50.50's series on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days Activism Against Gender Violence</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/there%E2%80%99s-nothing-left-women%E2%80%99s-future-under-conservatives-in-uk">&quot;There’s nothing left&quot; - women’s future under the Conservatives in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/trapped-women-fleeing-violence-in-uk">Trapped: women fleeing violence in the UK </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/handmaids-tale-of-coalition-britain">The Handmaid&#039;s Tale of Coalition Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/angela-neustatter/welcome-to-my-home-welcome-to-my-hell">Welcome to my home, welcome to my hell</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/northern-ireland-when-austerity-makes-poorest-even-poorer">When austerity in the UK makes the poorest even poorer</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/when-austerity-sounds-like-backlash-gender-and-economic-crisis">When austerity sounds like backlash: gender and the economic crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/women-in-prison-cycle-of-violence">Women in prison: the cycle of violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-and-domestic-violence-mapping-damage">Austerity and domestic violence: mapping the damage</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/fran-bennett/our-lives-poverty-then-and-now-in-uk">Our Lives: Poverty then and now in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fran-bennett/gender-and-poverty-in-uk-inside-household-and-across-life-course">Gender and poverty in the UK: Inside the household and across the life course</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/cuts-hit-home-austerity-in-oxford">The cuts hit home: austerity in Oxford</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/barbara-gunnell/staying-alive-in-britain-can-poor-afford-it">Staying alive in Britain : can the poor afford it? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/beatrix-campbell/neoliberal-neopatriarchy-case-for-gender-revolution">Neoliberal neopatriarchy: the case for gender revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/women-in-uk-back-to-future">Women in the UK: back to the future</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 UK Women and the Economy Continuum of Violence 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change women's human rights violence against women gendered poverty gender justice gender feminism 50.50 newsletter Rahila Gupta Mon, 30 Nov 2015 09:27:33 +0000 Rahila Gupta 98006 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The aid crisis for Syrian refugees https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/dawn-chatty/aid-crisis-for-syrian-refugees <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the war is prolonged, families are exhausting their savings. Without a massive re-thinking of how aid is delivered and distributed, refugees in the region are going to look for ways to leave.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/5092635 (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A tent at a refugee camp in the north of Iraqi Kurdistan (Demotix/Enno Heidtmann)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/5092635 (1).jpg" alt="A tent at a refugee camp in the north of Iraqi Kurdistan (Demotix/Enno Heidtmann)" title="A tent at a refugee camp in the north of Iraqi Kurdistan (Demotix/Enno Heidtmann)" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A tent at a refugee camp in the north of Iraqi Kurdistan (Demotix/Enno Heidtmann)</span></span></span></p><p>As I write, Russian air bombardment in Syria is pushing <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/560952c76.html">even greater numbers </a>&nbsp;of middle class and skilled Syrians to try to escape the country. This new displacement is marching directly to Europe via smugglers because legal mechanisms to request asylum in the region are extremely limited, considered dangerous by some, or have become extraordinarily long, bureaucratic processes which take years to be completed, something that few can tolerate.&nbsp; </p> <p>The unspoken British humanitarian aid policy of ‘containment’ of the refugee crisis in the Syrian region is the sister of the policy espoused so clearly by Theresa May of keeping refugees out of the UK and Europe. However, the effort to keep refugees from Syria contained in the immediate neighbouring states is proving simply unsustainable. </p> <p>Although much has been reported of the UK’s <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/548723e09.html">large donations</a> to the United Nations (UN) for Syrian refugees, pledges to the UN are generally not being fully honoured and the UN system is seeing a dramatic shortfall in actual funds earmarked for humanitarian assistance. UNHCR figures show that over 4 million refugees from Syria have registered with the host state or the UNHCR (2.1 million in Egypt, Northern Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon as well as 1.9 million in Turkey). The total appeal by the United Nations is for $4,533,248,258 to provide assistance (survival with dignity) for those Syrians who have registered. To date only $1,839,058,956 has been received by the UN leaving a GAP of $2,694,189, 302. Pledges have not matched actual donations and the UN is experiencing a <a href="http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2015/04/01/un-syria-appeal-falls-short-by-46-billion">59%</a> shortfall.&nbsp; </p> <p>This immediately translates into deep cuts on assistance, either in kind or by cash transfer. Those&nbsp; Syrians who have been receiving assistance in the region now face seeing what little they were receiving cut back even more. In Jordan this now translate into $13.50 a month for a family of six. </p> <p>The World Food Programme has been forced to cuts its cash assistance several times in the past year due to lack of funds.&nbsp; The other UN Agencies preference for in-kind assistance (food aid as well as blankets, hygiene kits, and so on) comes at great expense. It is <a href="https://themuslimissue.wordpress.com/2015/11/03/un-squanders-foreign-humanitarian-aid-to-syria-on-paperclips-and-lavish-staff-salaries/">estimated</a> that nearly 55-60% of every aid dollar goes to overheads at the level of the UN Agencies (40%) and at the national NGO level (20%).&nbsp; </p> <p>Assistance in kind is generally the ‘wrong’ kind’ and many refugees sell these items in order to purchase what they know their families need. This buying and selling economy is poorly understood by humanitarian aid practitioners who see this market as a sign that the refugees do not appreciate what they are given. In fact, the refugees know better than the aid practitioners what their families need. A wholesale move to cash transfer as the preferred form of assistance in this humanitarian crisis of a population from a middle-income country would see a massive improvement in lost funds due to excessive overhead charges, and local corruption. Furthermore it would recognize the agency of refugees to determine what their family needs really are in order to be fed, clothed and looked after.&nbsp; </p> <p>With no possibilities to work legally and totally inadequate support to refugee families, more will make the decision to leave the neighbouring host counties and search for anchors with their dispersed family or social network. Germany and Sweden will remain the two most popular target end points in this onward forced migration. Furthermore, Russian air bombardment in Syria is now pushing &nbsp;even greater numbers of middle class and professional Syrians - able to pay smugglers - out of the country and directly on to European soil in an effort to save the lives of their family members&nbsp; from government barrel bombs and Russian aerial attacks.&nbsp; </p> <p>No one knows exactly how many refugees from Syria have refused to register in the neighbouring host countries. In Lebanon, it is estimated that as much as 50% of those Syrians in the country have refused to register and access assistance for fear that their personal information might somehow find its way back to the Syrian intelligence services. Many fear being unable to return to Syria one day if the Asad government remains in power. This is especially true for Palestinian refugees from Syria who have found a temporary ‘ safe haven’ in Lebanon. These unregistered refugees are among the first to move onwards towards northern Europe when conditions locally become intolerable, that is, no longer capable of supporting family life.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Without a massive re-thinking of how aid is delivered and distributed, refugees in the region are going to look for ways to leave. The very least that they require is survival in dignity, a basic concept promoted by the United Nations Agency for Refugees (UNHCR). This encompasses basic health care and access to education for children, youth and vulnerable family members. As neither Lebanon or Jordan have signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, neither country is obliged to ‘protect’ refugees, that includes providing basic health and education services as well as not returning them to the country where they faced persecution.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>In Lebanon, government health care is limited and many Lebanese do not have access to public health. The increased Syrian refugee population (5% of the total population of that country) cannot access government services. They are forced to rely on international NGO assistance which currently is not adequately funded to provide assistance to 1.1 million registered refugees.&nbsp; </p> <p>In Jordan, a much improved health system is able to more adequately cater to the health needs of refugees from Syria. With approximately 600,000 registered Syrian refugees, they represent only about 10% of the total population of the country. However, even in Jordan the burden of providing health care has become unmanageable as international assistance has dwindled or failed to be transferred to the Ministry of Health. Currently Syrian refugees are expected to cover 60% of their health care bill. Without access to legal employment, this is a burden that displaced Syrians cannot meet. </p> <p>In Turkey, the duty of provision of healthcare and education to displaced Syrians has been formally recognized by the state and a temporary protection regime has been put into place for refugees from Syria including Palestinian refugees. All Syrians who registered by the state can access health care. The Syrian refugee population of nearly 2 million is heavily concentrated mainly in the south east of the country, where Turkey operates 25 refugee camps (5* camps according to International Crisis Group reports) for approximately 250,000 Syrians where health care and education services&nbsp; operate&nbsp; effectively. These camps have waiting lists of Syrians for places inside. Syrians not in camps do not receive assistance other than access to health care and some educational opportunities.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Increasing number of refugees from Syria are being squeezed into moving on or, failing to find other avenues for survival, they are returning to Syria despite the heightened danger to life. In both Lebanon and Jordan, the state is imposing draconian measures on refugees from Syria to effectively ‘refoul’ [return] displaced Syrian. Two weeks ago, Andrew Harper, the head of UNHCR in Jordan admitted that they were seeing <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/14/refugees-jordan-feel-compelled-return-syria">200 Syrians</a> return to Syria each day from Jordan. Others are making their way from Jordan via Syria to Turkey and then searching for routes to northern Europe where they hope to be able to find ways of surviving in dignity. &nbsp;</p> <p>Can we really blame these displaced and dispossessed people from moving on in the search for survival? Can we really consider ourselves a civilized nation when we allow such persecution to continue contravening our intent when we as a nation agreed to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees? </p> <p>Syrians displaced by the crisis are struggling to feed their families. As the crisis is prolonged – and Russia’s active entry into the armed conflict suggests that the civil war will now drag on for another 4-5 years – families are exhausting their savings. Being unable to access the basic requirements of life, many refugees are being failed by the international humanitarian aid system.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lisa-davis/why-are-so-many-syrian-children-being-left-stateless">Why are so many Syrian children being left stateless? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/jeff-crisp/syria%E2%80%99s-refugees-global-responsibility">Syria&#039;s refugees: a global responsibility</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/emmanuel-blanchard/eu-forcing-politics-of-inhospitality-on-its-neighbours"> The EU and its neighbours: enforcing the politics of inhospitality </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/academics-stand-against-poverty/refugee-crisis-open-letter-from-academics-stand-against-poverty">The refugee crisis: an open letter from Academics Stand Against Poverty</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/faultlines-refugees-and-law">Faultlines, refugees, and the law </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nina-perkowski/more-frontex-is-not-answer-to-refugee-crisis">More Frontex is not the answer to the refugee crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/victoria-lupton/lebanon%27s-refugees-resisting-hegemony-through-culture">Lebanon&#039;s refugees: resisting hegemony through culture</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/refugee-crisis-demilitarising-masculinities">The refugee crisis: demilitarising masculinities </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/i-shall-leave-as-my-city-turns-to-dust-queens-of-syria-and-women-in-war">I shall leave as my city turns to dust: Queens of Syria and women in war</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 North-Africa West-Asia Syria Conflict International politics voices from exile middle east 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick gendered poverty gendered migration 50.50 newsletter Dawn Chatty Wed, 25 Nov 2015 18:53:33 +0000 Dawn Chatty 97926 at https://www.opendemocracy.net