Nobel Women&#039;s Initiative https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8432/all cached version 04/07/2018 14:26:07 en Poem: For the mamas on the frontlines https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/helen-knott/poem-for-mamas-on-frontlines <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"I said, if mamas don’t fight for the children, then who will?" Helen Knott performed her poem at the 2017 <a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women's Initiative</a> conference. Catch up on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative/nobel-womens-initiative-2017">50.50's coverage.</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F189856684379812%2Fvideos%2F1506779759354158%2F&show_text=0&width=560" width="448" height="252" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe> <p dir="ltr">I wrote this poem, <strong><em>For the mamas on the frontlines</em></strong>, when I was in a challenging space of darkness. It is a space I believe so many of us find ourselves in when engaged in activism and so my words came from a place of necessity but also from a strong belief in the power of action taken by individuals.</p> <address dir="ltr"><address dir="ltr">We have stood on front lines</address><address dir="ltr">with our fists raised&nbsp;up on&nbsp;high</address>we’ve flooded city streets</address><address dir="ltr">in a collective stream</address><address dir="ltr">heart to heart and side by side</address><address dir="ltr">we have made ourselves allies</address><address dir="ltr">offering up personal sacrifice</address><address dir="ltr">we have filled up petition lines</address><address dir="ltr">time after time... after time</address> <address dir="ltr"><br /></address><address dir="ltr">We’ve seen movements <span class="mag-quote-right">because if mamas don’t fight for the children, then who will?</span></address><address dir="ltr">swell, wax, wane, recede, and grow</address><address dir="ltr">we have had our children in tow</address><address dir="ltr">or sometimes have left them home</address><address dir="ltr">explaining on bended knee,</address><address dir="ltr">Just why mama’s gotta leave</address><address style="text-align: left;" dir="ltr">because if mamas don’t fight for the children, then who will?</address><address style="text-align: left;" dir="ltr">I said, if mamas don’t fight for the children, then who will?</address> <address dir="ltr"><br /></address> <address dir="ltr">We’ve learned to navigate the political currents</address><address dir="ltr">placing pressure on PMs, MPs and MLAs</address><address dir="ltr">cabinet ministers, and deputies of whatever department keeps messing up</address><address dir="ltr">some of us have broken man made laws and have gone and got ourselves arrested</address><address dir="ltr">we have sat in vigil of our own</address><address dir="ltr">sometimes our flickering candles we hold... are the only light we see</address><address dir="ltr">Yet we hold the belief that one day the darkness will have no choice but to recede</address><address dir="ltr">we have stood in defense of lands, of waters,</address><address dir="ltr">for our sons,</address><address dir="ltr">for our daughters</address><address dir="ltr">for something bigger than ourselves</address> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F189856684379812%2Fvideos%2F1506830786015722%2F&show_text=0&width=560" width="448" height="252" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe> <br /> <br /> <address dir="ltr">No matter the historical struggle from which we rise</address><address dir="ltr">many of us have realized</address><address dir="ltr">we are in this together, and when we collectively defy</address><address dir="ltr">we actively redefine... love</address><address dir="ltr">Sometimes that love gives us the ability to move mountains</address><address dir="ltr">and other times it gives us enough drive to persist for one more day</address><address dir="ltr">In the face of any revolution</address><address dir="ltr">there are many pauses, stalls, and starts</address><address dir="ltr">there are many tears, unspoken of fears, and the breaking of hearts</address><address dir="ltr">Sometimes if you listen hard enough you can actually hear it...</address><address dir="ltr">the sound of your heart trying not to give up on itself</address><address dir="ltr">Because let’s be honest darling,</address><address dir="ltr">sometimes fighting for change is a lot like putting yourself through hell</address><address dir="ltr"><br /></address><address dir="ltr">So what is it that makes us persist?</address><address dir="ltr">When its apparent that ignorance walks hand in hand with bliss</address><address dir="ltr">Is it because</address><address dir="ltr">sometimes doing nothing just don’t sit right with the soul?</address><address dir="ltr">or that we believe power is not absolute</address><address dir="ltr">and there is no submitting to those who appear to be in control?</address><address dir="ltr">Do we stand for treaties and promises made and broken long ago?</address><address dir="ltr">For the voiceless? For the choiceless?</address><address dir="ltr">Or are we grounded by science or facts?</address><address dir="ltr">Perhaps our faith demands that we move to react?</address><address dir="ltr">Whichever it is, there is strength in our choice to stand together</address><address dir="ltr"><br /></address><address dir="ltr">One thing I do know for sure to be true <span class="mag-quote-right">and the giants that they speak of, well my dear they will be us</span></address><address dir="ltr">is that I would not be standing and talking freely as I do</address><address dir="ltr">if not for those who came before me</address><address dir="ltr">because they did not admit defeat</address><address dir="ltr">they stood grounded in what they believed</address><address dir="ltr">they fought, they bled, they sacrificed</address><address dir="ltr">and it is because of this that I can sleep at night</address><address dir="ltr">knowing all of these actions are not done in vain</address><address dir="ltr">because I stand on the shoulders of these giants</address><address dir="ltr">and the next generation will one day say the same</address><address dir="ltr">and the giants that they speak of, well my dear they will be us</address><address dir="ltr">so never underestimate</address><address dir="ltr">the power of your voice</address><address dir="ltr">or the strength in a collective moving kind of love</address> <b><i>The <a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women's Initiative</a> conference took place in Germany 13-16 May. See <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative/nobel-womens-initiative-2017">50.50's coverage</a> of the event.</i></b> <p></p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </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 Culture Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 Nobel Women's Initiative women's movements women's human rights gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Helen Knott Fri, 19 May 2017 15:20:03 +0000 Helen Knott 110924 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Video: Voices from the 2017 Nobel Women's Initiative conference https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/video-voices-2017-nobel-womens-initiative <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Participants at the 2017 <a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women's Initiative</a> conference talk about memory, activism after trauma, what women's movements can learn from each other – and much more. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"> </p><p><b>Yanar Mohammed</b> is president of the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, which has recently established women's shelters in Mosul to aid survivors of ISIS enslavement and women affected by conflict in the area. Read her <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/iraqs-female-citizens-prisoners-of-war">2015 interview</a> with Jennifer Allsopp.</p> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F189856684379812%2Fvideos%2F1503709912994476%2F&show_text=0&width=560" width="448" height="252" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe> <p><b>Mairead Maguire</b> was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1976, with Betty Williams, for her work to end the political conflict in her native Northern Ireland. She is co-founder of Peace People, a movement to build a just and peaceful society through nonviolent social action.</p> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F189856684379812%2Fvideos%2F1504770086221792%2F&show_text=0&width=560" width="448" height="252" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe> <p><b>Joanna Maycock</b> is Secretary General of the European Women’s Lobby. A lifelong feminist, she previously led ActionAid International’s work in Europe, served as president of CONCORD, and worked for the International Organisation for Migration in Brussels.</p> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F189856684379812%2Fvideos%2F1503741459657988%2F&show_text=0&width=560" width="448" height="252" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe> <p><b>Leila Alikarami</b> is an Iranian lawyer and human rights advocate who has represented dozens of prisoners of conscience in Iran's Revolutionary Courts. She was also an active member of Iran's One Million Signatures campaign challenging discriminatory laws against women.</p> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F189856684379812%2Fvideos%2F1504783372887130%2F&show_text=0&width=560" width="448" height="252" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe> <p><b>Mariama Sonko</b> is a member and general treasurer of the Young Farmers’ Association of Casamance, in the south of Senegal. She promotes the knowledge and practices of local farmers and advocates for better governance of genetic property rights. </p> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F189856684379812%2Fvideos%2F1505148742850593%2F&show_text=0&width=560" width="448" height="252" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe> <p><b>Sarah Clements</b> is a student activist at Georgetown University. Following the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook School, which her mother survived, Sarah became active in struggles against gun violence. Read her article on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/sarah-clements/gun-violence-trump-america">how to fight gun violence in Trump's America</a>.</p> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F189856684379812%2Fvideos%2F1503833146315486%2F&show_text=0&width=560" width="448" height="252" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe> <p><b>Sarah Jewell</b> is the inaugural director of Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa-USA. Sarah works on women’s rights, youth affairs, and social justice. She is from Australia and previously worked in the Australian civil service.</p> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F189856684379812%2Fvideos%2F1504692712896196%2F&show_text=0&width=560" width="448" height="252" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe> <p><b><i>The <a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women's Initiative</a> conference took place in Germany 13-16 May. See <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative/nobel-womens-initiative-2017">50.50's coverage</a> of the event.</i></b></p> <p></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 Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 Nobel Women's Initiative women's movements women and power gender justice gender fundamentalisms feminism everyday feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Jennifer Allsopp Thu, 18 May 2017 09:04:56 +0000 Jennifer Allsopp 110977 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fight fundamentalism in all its guises: a call to action from Yemen to Germany https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/from-yemen-to-germany-call-to-action <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“Be close to people’s dreams, their aspirations and their suffering...fight for a society of equal&nbsp;citizenship” - Nobel Peace laureate&nbsp;Tawakkol Karman. Jennifer Allsopp reports for&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative/nobel-womens-initiative-2017">50.50</a>&nbsp;from the third day of the&nbsp;<a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women's Initiative</a>&nbsp;conference.</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/IMG_1266.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women human rights defenders meet at the 2017 Nobel Women&#039;s Initiative Conference. Credit: author."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/IMG_1266.JPG" alt="Women human rights defenders meet at the 2017 Nobel Women's Initiative Conference. Credit: author." title="Women human rights defenders meet at the 2017 Nobel Women&#039;s Initiative Conference. Credit: author." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women human rights defenders meet at the 2017 Nobel Women's Initiative Conference. Credit: author.</span></span></span>“It’s just inspiring to have this in our city,” says Jana. She’s 16 years old and has come from Dusseldorf with her mother to the public talk by five female Nobel Peace Prize laureates hosted at the historic Kaiser-Friedrich-Halle in Mönchengladbach, Germany.</p> <p>Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman have come to address the 900 attendees about their work fighting totalitarianism and fundamentalism in its many global guises in order to build a more peaceful, just and equal world.</p> <p>The public event took place on the final evening of the sixth international conference of the <a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative</a>. Over the last three days, more than 50 women human rights defenders have been in Mönchengladbach to discuss the future of the feminist movement in collaboration with <a href="http://www.ik-mg.de/index.php">Initiativikreis Mönchengladbach.</a></p> <p>Jana studies at <a href="https://vhs-mg.de/">Volkshochschule</a>. I asked her what made her come to hear the Nobel laureates speak: “I’m interested in helping people,” she declares enthusiastically, “I want peace all over the world, and so having women here who have won the Nobel Peace prize is fantastic.” </p> <p>There are many high school students among the crowd and I chat to a few of them in the lobby. Victoria is 17 and studies at the <a href="https://www.isdedu.de/">International School of Dusseldorf</a>. She became interested in human rights issues after studying the issues at school, but also through her experience helping at a local refugee shelter.</p> <p>The global response to refugees has been a key theme of the conference over the past three days and is a concern of all the laureates. One of the reasons the delegates decided to hold the conference in Germany was to come and congratulate Germany for its policies, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/what-would-world-without-barriers-to-feminist-solidarity-look-like">explained</a> Tawakko Karman, Yemeni human rights activist and 2011 Nobel Peace laureate.</p> <p>Since the beginning of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe, Germany has welcomed more than one million refugees, more than any other country in Europe. For 2016 and 2017 alone, the government has set aside <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-28/german-population-hits-record-high-of-82-million-due-to-migrants/8219512">28.7 billion</a> euros of funding for their accommodation and integration.</p> <p>Victoria is proud to welcome the migrants. Her school has paired her with a young boy from Syria who she helps with homework and German conversation skills. “We meet and chat,” she explains, “it’s going well.”</p> <p>I ask Victoria and her friends about how their peers have responded to the arrival of refugees to their region. Do they agree with Angela Merkel’s public statements that Germany should welcome people fleeing the conflict in Syria? Lea, 16, tells me that she is proud of the policy, but at first some people were scared.</p> <p>“Even me to be honest, when I heard they were coming close to my house I didn’t know, like, I just didn’t know about it. But now I feel safe, really safe. There are always kids around and it’s nice.” Another student Lea is a keen footballer, she chips in. “The refugees come to the facilities at our school and we play football together, it’s great.”</p> <p>Many of the young people here have been politicised to defend human rights more broadly because of personal experiences of getting to know refugees in Germany. It heartens me because I know this experience will stay with them for life. I saw the same transformation time and time again myself as a national coordinator with <a href="http://www.star-network.org.uk/">Student Action for Refugees</a>. The UK NGO&nbsp;supports students to set up volunteering and campaigning projects in their local communities.</p> <p>But unlike Germany, the UK – and other countries who are now <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/very-british-tug-of-war-over-europe-s-child-refugees">turning their backs</a> on refugees – is training the next generation to look inwards rather than out. They’re turning away from fostering international consciousness among citizens. This, Jody Williams has repeated over the last three days, is “the real fake news.” Jody won the 1997 Nobel Peace prize for her work to ban antipersonnel landmines.</p> <p>Germany’s decision to welcome refugees has nevertheless not come without challenges, especially in terms of the far right explains Brigitte Schuster, a German teacher who has come along to hear the Nobel laureates speak. She teaches as part of a network of state funded programmes run by <a href="http://www.bamf.de/EN/Fluechtlingsschutz/fluechtlingsschutz-node.html">BAMF</a> (the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees). Despite some “teething problems” in the provision of services, Bridgette insists that people are now moving forward with their lives. They are contributing a lot to the community, she explains, including through sharing their stories and fostering consciousness of totalitarianism in other parts of the world.</p> <p>“Over time they learn to tell their stories in German,” Bridgette tells me. “Sometimes we have breakfast before class and share food, flowers, stories. Sometimes I see students a year later and they have lots to tell about their progress. They have babies, jobs. They’ve reached a higher level.”</p> <p>Victoria tells me that she doesn’t discuss politics or “his story” with the Syrian student she is partnered with through her volunteering – “he has been through a lot so he just wants to move forward with his life”. But, she explains, “coming to events like this and hearing from the Nobel women helps people to understand the kind of situations of persecution they might have fled.”</p> <p>After the event, in the foyer, it appears that the laureates' message has got through. Attendees have been issued a call to action. The laureates have thanked the German people for welcoming refugees but also asked them to keep up the pressure on the totalitarian regimes that they have fled. They're also summoned to fix the gaps in European democracies. Tawakkol Karman, Yemeni human rights activist, has called on those present not to victimise people but to “be close to people’s dreams, their aspirations and their suffering.” And she’s issued an order: “you will fight for a society of equal citizenship for men and women."</p> <p>Five boys, all aged 15, jump over one another to tell me what they found most inspiring when I ask them in the foyer, after the event. They’ve been brought along by their English teacher, Meike Barth, from the <a href="http://webseite.gymga.de/wordpress/">Gymnasium an der Gartenstraße</a>. They are curious to learn about human rights struggles in other parts of the world and how they can support them because of what they have learnt in their studies, they explain.</p> <p>Ahmet says he was especially touched when Shirin Ebadi, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts to promote human rights in Iran, mentioned the Berlin Wall. “She said that the wall Trump wants to build is like the Berlin Wall and we can bring it down,” he recounts. But Ahmet is also struck by her message about breaking down the walls between people ideologically. “It’s not just physical walls but walls in our hearts. People can always find ways to talk across physical walls, but what’s more hard is what she said about solidarity and people, the politicians trying to stop that connection. Actually,” he reflects, “I was thinking of this different metaphor of a different kind of wall we all build together with that hope, like bricks but you also need cement….It’s a metaphor in progress!”</p> <p>Ahmet is also inspired by Jody Williams' work to erase landmines. “There are still landmines in Vietman”, he tells me, “actually I read about that just last week and I was sat there thinking we need to do something about that.” I ask him what he’s going to do: he’s going to organise a local event and write to politicians.</p> <p>Sebastian meanwhile tells me what stuck with him was the message, advanced by Northern Irish peace activist and 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laurate Mairead Maguire, to use academic learning to advance the cause of peace, whatever the discipline. He enjoys chemistry, biology and maths and wants to help tackle climate change. He explains, "people think human rights is just a subject but it’s actually about everything, the whole environment. It’s not just politicians saying this and that.” He’s been inspired by the public meeting tonight to organise his own event. Benjamin, another student, wants to get active on social media and says he is going to help him.</p><p>I ask the boys if they are feminists and they enthusiastically agree. Is that tough, being a young male feminist in Germany? I ask them.</p> <p>“Sometimes when I say I’m a feminist people are looking at me like, eh,” jokes Florian, “but I think people have misconceptions about feminism, that’s the problem. It’s common sense. Donald Trump is a big sexist and it’s, well, we don’t want any walls also between men and women. We can’t tolerate it.”</p> <p>I leave the boys taking pictures with the Nobel laureates, leaning towards them enthusiastically to tell them about their plans to take their messages forward in their city and beyond.&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/IMG_1302_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Young feminists at the Gymnasium an der Gartenstraße with Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire. Credit: author."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/IMG_1302_0.JPG" alt="" title="Young feminists at the Gymnasium an der Gartenstraße with Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire. Credit: author." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Young feminists from the Gymnasium an der Gartenstraße with Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire. Credit: author.</span></span></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/jody-williams/nobel-women-survive-thrive">Women fight back: from survive to thrive</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/lessons-from-farmers-and-indigenous-women-cultivate-democracy"> Lessons from farmers and indigenous women: cultivate democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/visible-players-power-and-risks-for-young-feminists">Visible players: the power and the risks for young feminists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nazik-awad/without-global-solidarity-women-s-movement-will-collapse">Without global solidarity the women’s movement will collapse</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/framework-of-democracy-is-human-rights-law">The framework of democracy is human rights law</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/meaning-of-peace-in-21st-century">The meaning of peace in the 21st century</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/what-would-world-without-barriers-to-feminist-solidarity-look-like">What would a world without barriers to feminist solidarity look like? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 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/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/jennifer-allsopp/refugee-crisis-demilitarising-masculinities">The refugee crisis: demilitarising masculinities </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/dilar-dirik/erdogan-s-war-on-women">Erdogan&#039;s war on women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kavita-n-ramdas/building-bridge-to-future-towards-feminist-un">Building a bridge to the future: towards a feminist UN</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 Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 women's movements women's human rights women and power women and militarism gendered migration fundamentalisms feminism young feminists Jennifer Allsopp Tue, 16 May 2017 10:52:25 +0000 Jennifer Allsopp 110927 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Lessons from farmers and indigenous women: cultivate democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/lessons-from-farmers-and-indigenous-women-cultivate-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Learning to live in harmony with the land is co-constituent to human rights activism. Jennifer Allsopp reports for&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative/nobel-womens-initiative-2017">50.50</a>&nbsp;from the second day of the 2017&nbsp;<a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women's Initiative</a>&nbsp;conference.&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/541754/USOFORAL-women-march-at-forum_social_senegalais.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women from Casamance on a march for peace in Senegal. Credit: USOFORAL. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/USOFORAL-women-march-at-forum_social_senegalais.jpg" alt="Women from Casamance on a march for peace in Senegal. Credit: USOFORAL. " title="Women from Casamance on a march for peace in Senegal. Credit: USOFORAL. " width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women from Casamance on a march for peace in Senegal. Credit: USOFORAL. </span></span></span><span><em>&nbsp;</em></span></p><p><span><em>we have stood in defense of lands, of waters,</em></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>for our sons,</em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>for our daughters</em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>for something bigger than ourselves</em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>&nbsp;</span><span>–</span><span>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </span><span>Beginning of the poem ‘For the Mamas on the Frontlines’</span></p><p> Helen Knott is a human rights activist from Prophet River First Nations in Canada. With the words above she welcomed international feminist activists to the second day of the <a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative</a> gathering in Dusseldorf, Germany. Throughout the day, indigenous women at the conference reminded the participants from around the world that learning to live in harmony with the land is not just something that accompanies human rights activism, but is co-constituent. How, delegates asked themselves, can we learn from indigenous communities and environmental activists to cultivate democracy in our different spheres?</p> <p>Khadijeh Moghaddam, a woman’s rights and environmental activist from Iran joined Helen in paying homage to intergenerational activism in her presentation to delegates. It was her mother, she explained in a powerful speech, who inspired her to become involved in the environmental movement. Her mother is now 100 years of age, and still fighting for climate justice. This is <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/leila-alikarami/challenges-faced-by-women-human-rights-defenders-in-iran">not an easy space</a> to occupy in Iran, Khadijeh explains, “it’s like walking on a tightrope. You have to be vigilant for you could be pushed off at any time.” In this context, working collectively is not just an ethical choice, it is the only way to stay safe.</p> <p>Participants at the conference bring a wealth of knowledge when it comes to environmental activism and collective struggle. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/iraqs-female-citizens-prisoners-of-war">Yanar Mohammed</a>, an Iraqi activist, began her speech yesterday by lamenting that it is natural resources (the oil) that has been the source of all the country’s problems. “75% of oil from Iraq goes to the multinational companies and 25% goes to our corrupt government.” The Iraqi oil, she insists, was never “ours”. "There’s always a colonial power that comes and sucks up our resources and leaves us poor.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/julienne-lusenge-jennifer-allsopp/we-want-peace-we’re-tired-of-war">Julienne Lusenge</a> from the Democratic Republic of the Congo nods as Yanar speaks. It’s the same story. Congo began its independence under the reign of Leopold II when citizens were forced to extract resources for exportation to Belgium or face violence. “He cut the arms off our ancestors because of the resources there”, she explains, “now our women experience brutal <a href="http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/blog/entry/the-actual-state-of-sexualized-violence-in-the-democratic-republic-of-congo">rapes, violence, executions</a>.” Like the oil of Iraq, she laments, “the resources don’t belong to Congo. They nourish the kids of everywhere else except the Congo.”</p> <p>She asks us to picture kids with mobile phones and technologies harbouring the precious minerals, unaware of their bloody origins. “Sometimes,” Julienne reflects, “we wonder if we are suffering because of these riches that we have.” An estimated <a href="http://www.caritas.org/2010/02/six-million-dead-in-congos-war/">6 million</a> people have been killed since 1998 in this well-documented economic war over resources. “Can we not develop trade and business cooperatively?” she asks.</p> <p>In the green Senegalese region of Casamance it is not just war but also agribusiness that is threatening the land and natural resources, agricultural activist Mariama Songo explains to me later during a break in the proceedings. International companies are seizing land, family plots, and breaking the local cooperatives.</p> <p>“They take our seeds and sell them back to us as 'intellectual property’,” she explains. “We try to tell them you didn’t create that, that it is inherited, it belongs to us, in the plural. For us seeds don’t belong to anyone. They’re common property.”</p><p>She describes how the seeds that farmers are sold by big business, and the chemicals required to grow them, are poorly adapted to the local environment. They can contaminate the whole ecosystem. </p><p>Mariama tells me she identifies with the threat to food sovereignty facing indigenous women in Canada. In her intervention, Helen Knott outlined a similar dynamic of contamination among her community where the unfettered advance of new industries – yes, even under Trudeau, she stressed – is stealing land from communities and causing new forms of pollution. “There's a contamination of food" she lamented, "you worry you’re contaminating your kids giving them moose meat or fish from the river.” The river near where Helen lives currently has two big dams, and a third is under construction. But the spaces to resist such developments are shrinking. She is currently facing legal charges for her role in a land defense camp.</p><p>In Senegal, Mariama works with youth and women to inspire them to see sustainability as a nobel pursuit; she teaches them to grow food and make a living from agriculture. For her, farming is inherently linked to collectivism. As girls in Casamance they would form seasonal collectives, she reminisces, and go around the different households helping with various tasks: the harvest, composting, fertilising. Mariama had the idea that the girls could pool the pocket money they received for the tasks and do something together. “We held parties,” she jokes, “amazing parties". They also pooled their resources to buy school materials.</p><p>Mariama explains her passion for farming as a way to both survive and thrive. “In the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ndeye-marie-thiam/women-of-senegal-agents-of-peace">war-ravaged</a>&nbsp;landscape of Casamance, growing your own food gives you a crucial sense of autonomy.” </p><p>She tells me with pride how she recently worked with an older woman to find a natural treatment for a microscopic worm in the earth that was destroying plants and aborting the growth of new seeds. “We didn’t need outside help,” she explains, “it’s about expertise and experience,&nbsp;<em>pratique et</em>&nbsp;<em>savoir</em>.” Mariama, whose husband was murdered in the Casamance war, calls farming a “practice in democracy."</p> <p>The idea of working with nature as a practice of autonomy and democracy is an idea that echoes throughout the day. Veronica Kelly, an Irish peace activist remarks that in Ireland the concept of <em><a href="https://giy.ie/archive/meitheals-what-is-a-meitheal.html">meitheal</a></em> is making a resurgence. The word describes the way at harvest time people gather together to help one another. It’s the literal ‘hay day’. “The weather is so changeable that when a fine day come everyone has to rush and help from place to place,” she explains.</p> <p>It’s a tempting metaphor for the network created by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, formed ten years ago to promote peace with justice and equality.</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/bridget-burns/feminist-revolution-climate-justice">A feminist revolution demands climate justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fatou-gu%C3%A8ye/senegal-land-belongs-to-those-who-work-it">Senegal: the land belongs to those who work it </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jody-williams/nobel-women-survive-thrive">Women fight back: from survive to thrive</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ndeye-marie-thiam/women-of-senegal-agents-of-peace">Women of Senegal: agents of peace </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn/clearing-ground-planting-seeds-of-our-africa">Clearing ground: planting the seeds of Our Africa</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/mariam%C3%A9-tour%C3%A9-ouattara/burkina-faso-let-us-remain-standing">Burkina Faso: &quot;Let us remain standing&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/clare-church/indigenous-women-brave-storm-to-begin-talks-for-uncsw">Indigenous women brave the storm to begin talks at UN CSW</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/militarism-and-non-state-actors-%E2%80%98-other-invasion%E2%80%99">Militarism and non-state actors: ‘the other invasion’ </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/laura-carlsen/honduras-battle-to-protect-women-human-rights-defenders">Honduras: the battle to protect women human rights defenders</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"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> 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 Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Equality Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 50.50 Editor's Pick violence against women women and militarism women and power women's health women's human rights women's movements Jennifer Allsopp Mon, 15 May 2017 07:38:45 +0000 Jennifer Allsopp 110873 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What would a world without barriers to feminist solidarity look like? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/what-would-world-without-barriers-to-feminist-solidarity-look-like <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Citizenship is a duty that transcends borders. Jennifer Allsopp reports for <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative/nobel-womens-initiative-2017">50.50</a> from the first day of the 2017&nbsp;<a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women's Initiative</a>&nbsp;conference.&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/541754/nobel-women-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Six Nobel peace laureates meet in Belfast in 2013. Credit: John Murphy Aurora PA."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/nobel-women-2.jpg" alt="Six Nobel peace laureates meet in Belfast in 2013. Credit: John Murphy Aurora PA." title="Six Nobel peace laureates meet in Belfast in 2013. Credit: John Murphy Aurora PA." width="460" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Six Nobel peace laureates meet in Belfast in 2013. Credit: John Murphy Aurora PA.</span></span></span>“We want all the barriers down,” declared Nobel peace prize winner Mairead Maguire yesterday, opening the 10th anniversary of the Nobel Women’s Initiative gathering in Dusseldorf, Germany. She was, incidentally, joking, referring to the fact that – due to variations in height and levels of jet leg –&nbsp; some of the five Nobel peace prize winners at the summit would be<em> standing</em> to deliver their opening address, while others would be <em>sitting.</em> But as the laureates spoke, the room moved from laugher to respectful silence as each laid out her vision for what a world without barriers to feminist solidarity might look like. </p> <p>The laureates have gathered from across the globe – Guatemala, Ireland, USA, Iran and Yemen – and they have assembled an international team of activists here to plan the future of the global feminist resistance.</p> <p>Tawakkol Karman, who won the peace prize in 2011 for her work fighting for democracy in Yemen, explains why they have chosen Germany as the site for this year’s meeting: “Germany is ruled by a strong woman. She has a lot of commitment and promise for refugees. We wanted to go to Germany to give support for her policies on supporting and hosting refugees.” Yet disappointingly, as Tawakkol goes on to explain, in a Europe of closing borders, the culture of welcome the Nobel laureates sought to celebrate has not been extended to its own delegation.</p><p>All four other participants to the conference from Yemen have been denied visas, as were three other participants from Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. ”Why?” Tawakkol asked. “There is no good reason.”</p> <p>All of those denied visas are high profile human rights activists in their home countries. Among them are Aswan Mohammed from <a href="https://womenpress.org/en/">Women Journalists Without Chains</a> and Misk Al-Junai, a TV producer who works with Karman’s own <a href="http://www.tkif.org">foundation</a>. “Perhaps”, Karman opined, “Europe is imposing its own unwritten travel ban? Perhaps Trump just announced it, and other countries didn’t?”</p> <p>Iranian Nobel peace prize laureate and human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi was similarly indignant: “there are countries that are in crisis and at war, and the people are suffering in these countries, their lives are at risk and they are hungry. Some Western countries, instead of helping these people are making limitations for them. It’s time for Europe, and for us who are gathered here, to help these people in war-torn areas; not to build walls and to not even permit them to participate in a simple peace seminar. This is not good behaviour with countries that are at war. And we protest this.”</p> <p>The true cost of erecting such barriers at borders – and the fundamental need to protest them – is also stressed by American Nobel peace prize laureate Jody Williams. She speaks of the work of Northern Americans assisting Muslim families to reunite following the fallout from Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ earlier this year. “In such resistance,” she stresses, “we’re rediscovering what citizenship is.” </p><p>For the fifty plus activist women in the room here in Germany, it’s clear that citizenship is a duty – and it’s one that transcends barriers and borders.</p> <h3>Citizenship without borders</h3> <p>It is her citizen duty, Shirin explains to me, that leads her to approach Majed Sharbajy, a Syrian activist in exile who is currently working in Lebanon near the Syrian border. Breaching the rules of the ‘ice breaker exercise’ carefully crafted by the conference organisers, Shirin makes Majed’s acquaintance by looking her directly in the eyes with a piercing sincerity, and saying the words “I’m sorry.”</p> <p>Majed has just recounted to a small group of us how she was detained by the Assad regime for seven months. Her husband was also detained, and murdered. She has been temporarily separated from her children – aged 4, 11 and 3 –&nbsp; who have sought sanctuary in Sweden with their grandmother. Her work is simply too dangerous and puts them at risk. But her work is also too important to leave.</p> <p>In prison, Majed educated other women detainees. Now in exile in Lebanon, the activists have four training centres for Syrian women to give them skills to enter the labour market and participate in society. In her experience, 60% of women Syrian refugees have lost their male partners and must support themselves.</p> <p>“The Syrian regime is the biggest dictatorship of all the regimes,” Majed explains to a small group of us who are leaning in intently, to listen. “They don’t just torture people, really, they take pleasure in it.”</p> <p>It’s at this point that Shirin apologises.</p> <p>“As an Iranian, I’m sorry,” she says. “My government has trained Syrians how to torture people.”</p> <p>A respectful silence momentarily reigns while each of us takes in these words and crafts our own apologies, weighing the responsibility. Letting it sink in. Then the discussion continues. Time is short and information must be gathered and shared.</p> <p>Syria is strategically important to Iran: “they need it to get arms to Hezbollah” explains Ebadi – arms, it has been pointed out several times already, that travel more easily across borders than people.</p> <p>Women from Guatemala, Germany, UK and Lebanon hastily scribble on notepads, desperate to listen, and to record every word so that they might take it back to their communities, like smuggled goods. Because the international community has been clear – we are not meant to be here, meeting like this.</p> <p>Majed has given us a huge duty, to ‘be our voice’. For, she explains, “the media is mediating everything. Everyone is focusing on ISIS, eyes are off the regime.” Children are drowning, they are choking to death on the fumes of illegal weapons. No one is stopping this. Treaties must be redrafted and implemented.</p><p> “We cannot fall into negative history where history repeats itself,” Tawakkol reminded us in her opening speech. “Behind every great revolution there are bold women, courageous women. We need to be leaders of change. We need development, rule of law, democracy. We need to fight extremism, corruption, hatred, racism and war."</p><p>Taking down barriers means taking back power from the states that claim to represent us. “Turkey, Iran and Russia are meeting for peace negotiations on Syria and there isn’t a single person from Syria,” Majed warns us, “the media keep saying that it’s a civil war, but it’s a war between other countries in Syria.” Shirin gives a knowing nod: “a proxy war.”</p> <h3>The beginning of justice?</h3> <p>The act of apologising in itself will not start a revolution but it is, to me, the core of the feminist resistance that this conference seeks to strengthen. It is the beginning of justice. It says: I am a human, and I see you as a human. I see your injustice and your pain and I accept responsibility as a global citizen and I will use my power to try and help you. It is the antithesis to impunity. It is opposite to the Guatemalan courts that, until women seized justice and won, as Nobel peace laureate Rigoberta Menchù Tum explained in her speech, “never gave victims the chance to tell the true story.”</p><p>It’s up to us to reclaim citizenship, with barriers down, Shirin reminds us. Because “governments don’t like peace. The arms manufacturers of the UK, Europe and the US have to sell their arms. It’s us, the people, who have to resist our governments. This is my duty as an Iranian, to tell the government of Iran not to help Bashir Al Assad and to stay away from Syria. It’s your duty as European citizens to tell the EU, to protest at the fact they refrain from issuing visas. It’s the duty of people of the UK to tell them to stop selling arms so that they can throw them on innocent people.”</p> <p>I look around at the women I am with. It’s the first night and the sixth edition of the Nobel Women’s Initiative biennial gatherings and 50.50 has been here from the start. Many of the women have become close friends, ‘sisters’ across borders. As they steal off to bed, tired from their travels (and for some, long interrogations at the border) I notice that some are wearing jewelry, brought in luggage across continents as gifts to one another. Like arms and capital, gifts and words fly across the same continents as the women meet, plot and share information in the global feminist resistance.&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/bridget-burns/feminist-revolution-climate-justice">A feminist revolution demands climate justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jody-williams/nobel-women-survive-thrive">Women fight back: from survive to thrive</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/maria-al-abdeh/syria-instumentalising-women-s-rights">Conflict in Syria: stop instrumentalising women’s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/iraqs-female-citizens-prisoners-of-war">Iraq&#039;s female citizens: prisoners of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/julienne-lusenge-jennifer-allsopp/we-want-peace-we%E2%80%99re-tired-of-war">&quot;We want peace. We’re tired of war&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofutawamba/at-margins-of-visibility-recognising-women-human-rights-defenders">At the margins of visibility: recognising women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sarah-clements/gun-violence-trump-america">How to fight gun violence in Trump’s America</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/time-for-fifth-world-conference-on-women">Time for a Fifth World Conference on Women?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp-jessica-nhkum/daring-to-speak-militarism-and-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-in-burma">Daring to speak: militarism and women’s human rights in Burma</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/from-war-on-terror-to-austerity-lost-decade-for-women-and-human-rights">From the war on terror to austerity: a lost decade for women and human rights</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"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </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 Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Equality International politics Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 50.50 Women, Peace & Security feminism fundamentalisms gender gender justice gendered migration women and militarism women and power women's human rights women's movements Jennifer Allsopp Sun, 14 May 2017 09:24:36 +0000 Jennifer Allsopp 110863 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to fight gun violence in Trump’s America https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sarah-clements/gun-violence-trump-america <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We must double down on grassroots, community activism. Even with Trump in office, women can and must organize to end gun violence. This article is part of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative/nobel-womens-initiative-2017">50.50's coverage</a> of the 2017 <a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women's Initiative</a> conference. </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-28174626.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Mothers at a rally against gun violence, Philadelphia 2016."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-28174626.jpg" alt="Mothers at a rally against gun violence." title="Mothers at a rally against gun violence, Philadelphia 2016." width="460" height="342" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mothers at a rally against gun violence, Philadelphia 2016. PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Somewhere at the intersection of gender and violence in the United States falls gun violence. Five women are killed with guns every day in the US, according to a <a href="https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/GunsDomesticViolencereport.pdf">2014 Center for American Progress</a> report. Between 2001 and 2012 more than 6,400 women were killed by intimate partners using guns <span style="font-size: 9pt; font-family: arial; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: 400; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">—</span> more than the total number of US troops killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. Furthermore, women in the US are 11 times more likely to die this way than women in other high-income countries.</p><p>These staggering statistics might take your breath away, but each has its own story <span class="gmail-st">—</span> of domestic violence, a mass shooting, homicide on the street corner, or suicide. The whole world hears about the biggest mass shootings <span class="gmail-st">—</span> Aurora, Charleston, Newtown, and Orlando. But the majority of gun violence happens on this daily basis, barely even making the local nightly news.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The 2017 Nobel Women’s Initiative conference is themed “<strong><em>The Global Feminist Resistance: Evolution and Revolution <span style="font-size: 9pt; font-family: arial; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: 400; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">—</span> Adapting to Survive Thrive</em></strong>.” In the US, we are indeed seeing a growing feminist resistance, fueled in part by grief, confusion, and anger at the reign of Donald Trump. For those who work on gun violence prevention, reproductive justice, immigration, or climate change, there is a simultaneous feeling of urgency and fear. These issues are more pressing than ever. But we fear that Trump will not only undo what President Obama’s administration accomplished, but that he will move us even further backwards. </p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">...there is a simultaneous feeling of urgency and fear.</span></p><p dir="ltr">What does this mean for gun violence prevention advocates? We must double down on community-based, grassroots solutions to keeping our communities safe. In Trump’s America, and with this Congress, there is likely no way we will get progressive gun reform legislation passed at the national level. We must put the energy, resources, and investment into activists working on the ground in communities most deeply-impacted by this violence. </p> <p dir="ltr">The feminist resistance in the US is bolstered by strong protest crowds, women running for office, and phenomenal groups working outside of established institutions to build grassroots power. Groups such as the Women’s March and Indivisible are changing the activism landscape, and their messages include the need to organize for gun reform and measures that will reduce violence in our communities. </p> <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F189856684379812%2Fvideos%2F1503833146315486%2F&show_text=0&width=560" width="448" height="252" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe> <p dir="ltr">Activists who have been jolted to action by shooting after shooting are helping to mobilize people in all 50 states who attend town hall meetings, work on campaigns, and lobby for common sense gun legislation. In the years since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook, while Congress has mostly remained at a standstill on the issue, a number of states have passed comprehensive gun bills.</p><p dir="ltr">This trend of state-based successes -- often led by women advocates -- should give us hope and a blueprint for how we ought to act in the era of Trump.</p><p>Mothers and daughters who have lost loved ones to gun violence, or who survived such violence themselves, have been at the forefront of movements to end it. Groups like Moms Demand Action and Million Moms March, as well as local organizations like Boston’s LIPSTICK, are leading grassroots forces organising for change. On top of the uphill battle these women face as organizers, and on top of trauma from personal experiences with gun violence, they too often also face harassment and threats online, on Twitter, and even at public events. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Ending gun violence is a feminist issue and women can and must continue to lead this struggle.</p><p>In the worst cases, toxic masculinity, obsession with guns, and our culture of violence coalesce. Mass shootings sometimes have roots in domestic abuse. In my hometown of Newtown, Connecticut, the shooter who killed 20 first grade students and six women educators at my former elementary school, and my mother’s place of work, Sandy Hook School, began his unspeakable rampage at home, where he abused and killed his own mother. The shootings in Lafayette, Isla Vista, Houston, and more, were also preceded by domestic violence.</p><p>Ending gun violence is a feminist issue and women can and must continue to lead this struggle. By investing in women of color, women living in poverty and in communities most deeply impacted by gun violence, and by highlighting in our work the ways in which gun violence intersects with other “issues,” from domestic violence to poverty to immigration, we can lay the groundwork for a more comprehensive, sustainable, and effective fight against gun violence, even in Trump’s America.</p><p dir="ltr"><em><strong>The </strong></em><em><strong><a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women's Initiative</a> conference takes place in Germany 13-16 May. Follow </strong><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative/nobel-womens-initiative-2017">50.50's coverage</a> of the event.</strong></em></p><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"> Conflict </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 Conflict Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Nobel Women's Initiative women's movements violence against women gender 50.50 newsletter young feminists Sarah Clements Fri, 12 May 2017 13:53:28 +0000 Sarah Clements 110799 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A feminist revolution demands climate justice https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/bridget-burns/feminist-revolution-climate-justice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To change everything, it takes everyone, and to fight oppression, we must fight it in all forms, at all times. This article is part of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative/nobel-womens-initiative-2017">50.50's coverage</a> of the 2017 <a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women's Initiative</a> conference.&nbsp;</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/Photo1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Women for Climate Justice contingent at the People’s Climate March."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Photo1.jpg" alt="Women for Climate Justice contingent at the People’s Climate March." title="Women for Climate Justice contingent at the People’s Climate March." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women for Climate Justice contingent at the People’s Climate March. Credit: Emily Arasim/WECAN.</span></span></span>“There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives,” said Audre Lorde. She was right, of course, and this quote still resonates today. Globally movements of movements are intersecting and coalescing and working together. And this is crucial. Because it takes everyone to change everything, and we must fight oppression in all its forms, at all times. </p><p dir="ltr">On 29 April, I joined 300,000 people in Washington DC for the <a href="https://peoplesclimate.org/">People’s Climate March</a>. A march for climate, justice and jobs. It was a sweltering hot day, record-breaking for this time of year. (Though, such records are now broken <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-noaa-data-show-2016-warmest-year-on-record-globally/">each year</a>, with temperatures continuing to rise).</p><p dir="ltr">I was in DC to join the march’s ‘<a href="https://women4climatejustice.peoplesclimate.org/">Women for Climate Justice</a>’ contingent, challenging, as per our <a href="https://women4climatejustice.peoplesclimate.org/">statement</a>, “a new US administration that promotes climate skepticism, the advancement of fossil fuels, an extractive economy, environmental racism, bigotry and inequitable treatment of women and girls” – and rising up for a healthy, just and thriving world. </p><p dir="ltr">In 2014, the first large-scale People’s Climate March was held in New York City. Then, as now, we were mobilising women’s rights and feminist groups to participate. Making climate change a feminist issue and centering environment in the women’s rights movement has been core to the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) since its founding in 1992. </p><p>While not immutable, binary nor universal, gender shapes expectations, attributes, roles, capacities and rights of women and men around the world. We see that environmental degradation and increasing climate chaos work to further entrench already existing inequalities. <a href="http://wedo.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/GGCA-RP-FINAL.pdf">Women often have more limited access to resources and more restricted rights, including to land, mobility, and voice in shaping decisions and influencing policy</a>.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">...environmental degradation and increasing climate chaos work to further entrench inequalities.</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, gender roles generally ascribed to women such as informal, reproductive work often relate to caregiving for households and communities, <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2017/2/feature-in-el-salvador-rural-women-plant-seeds-of-independence">caretaking of seeds and soils</a>, maintaining <a href="http://www.groundswellinternational.org/agroecology/a-closer-look-agroecology-and-food-women-and-climate-change/">traditional agricultural knowledge</a>, and responsibility for natural resource management such as firewood and water. </p><p dir="ltr">These roles create opportunity for developing more effective climate change interventions and policies at all levels, when women are equally engaged in decision-making and project implementation. As highlighted in a <a href="http://wedo.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/GGCA-RP-FINAL.pdf">2016 report</a>, “There is a growing body of research highlighting the unique role of women in maintaining crop diversity in countries such as Nepal, and Bangladesh, often through saving and exchanging seeds and maintaining home gardens, serving as a source of household food security.”</p><p dir="ltr">This is the context in which women are challenging our environmental crises – fighting always against multiple forms of injustice. It is also why it’s critical for feminist analysis to include a strong focus on environmental and climate justice. </p><p dir="ltr">Of course, for women in communities around the world, indigenous women, land defenders and water protectors, the linkages in these multiple forms of oppression are not new. </p><p dir="ltr">For years, from the <a href="http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-40-years-since-women-embraced-trees-in-chipko-andolan-1972292">Chipko movement in India</a>, to the fights of the peoples of <a href="https://medium.com/@Hemisferico/remembering-berth-caceres-ad50202e9304">COPINH in Honduras</a> and the <a href="http://www.ecowatch.com/indigenous-women-dakota-access-pipeline-2069613663.html">Sioux Tribe of Standing Rock</a> – grassroots movements have been articulating and documenting the intersectional nature of resistance. But in governance, financing and mainstream development arenas, a siloed system has often challenged the development of a more intersectional global feminist resistance. </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/Photo 3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Indigenous Women’s Day at COP21."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Photo 3.jpg" alt="Indigenous Women’s Day at COP21." title="Indigenous Women’s Day at COP21." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Indigenous Women’s Day at COP21, sharing stories on resistance and solutions to environmental struggles. Credit: Christine Irvine/ Survival Media Agency.</span></span></span>Last year, for example, I attended the <a href="http://www.iucnworldconservationcongress.org/">2016 World Conservation Congress</a>, entitled ‘Planet at a Crossroads’, held in Hawaii, USA and attended by over 8,000 conservation practitioners and scientists. The conference outcomes were to provide a blueprint for the next 30 years of conservation. Yet, despite having a very strong mandate for gender equality and women’s rights to be included in that agenda, and despite strong advocacy by groups like the <a href="http://manoa.hawaii.edu/hshk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/IWBN-profiles-IUCN2016.pdf">Indigenous Women’s Biodiversity Network</a>, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bridget-burns/dear-iucn-congress-lead-o_b_11862932.html">not one Congress motion</a> made mention of women or gender issues. </p><p dir="ltr">From that meeting, I traveled directly to the AWID Feminist Forum in Brazil, discussing our ‘Feminist Futures’. In this progressive feminist space, real progress has been made in terms of drawing links with environmental issues, and ‘<a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/climate-and-environmental-justice">climate and environmental justice</a>’ was one of the main umbrella themes. (This was notable as the previous edition, three years prior, had very little space for environmental issues, despite being held in parallel to Earth Day and right before the <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/rio20">Rio+20 Earth Summit</a>). </p><p dir="ltr">There is no doubt in my mind that while this is a moment of great uncertainty, it is also a moment for great global movement-building and feminist revolution. On 13 May, I will join a group of feminist activists at the 2017 <a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative</a> conference to discuss strategies and tactics for feminist resistance amidst the growing global backlash against women’s rights, human rights and peace. We must draw upon feminist analysis and vision to resist authoritarianism and violence – and shape our calls and work for a just, peaceful and healthy planet for all.</p><p dir="ltr">Movements are becoming increasingly intersectional and this must continue. The People’s Climate March (PCM) felt transformative not because of the numbers in the street, but because of the diversity of voices. Adopting a frontlines-first approach, it <a href="https://peoplesclimate.org/lineup/">was led </a>by indigenous peoples, immigrants, grassroots organisers, people of colour, refugees, unions, and workers. Chants called for ending fossil fuels as loudly as they called for justice for black lives, indigenous rights and women’s rights. At one point, a group of anti-abortion protesters were deafened as marchers joined in unison to declare, “My body, my choice” echoed with “Her body, her choice”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Intersectional feminist leadership is essential to address structures, systems and values that undermine gender equality and women's rights.</p><p dir="ltr">Intersectional feminist leadership is essential to address the global structures, systems and values that undermine gender equality and women’s human rights and stand in the way of transformative development justice. In a world ravaged by countless, connected crises, injustices, and inequalities, we need champions of women’s human rights and all human rights. In the past year, we have witnessed the shrinking of space for civil society, the infringement of corporate greed on the rights of people and the killings of human rights defenders. </p><p dir="ltr">Feminists leading on climate and environmental justice must also be heard in spaces like the World Conservation Congress, at UN climate negotiations, summits on energy and economy, and financing mechanisms like the Green Climate Fund. Women’s full and equal participation is a basic tenant of women’s human rights, and initiatives to increase women’s leadership in politics via training and campaign skills, or in diverse sectors such as science, technology, engineering, and math should be applauded. WEDO’s own <a href="http://wedo.org/what-we-do/our-programs/women-delegates-fund/">Women Delegates Fund</a> works to improve the representation of women leaders in climate negotiations. </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/Photo 4.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Activists demanding women’s voices be heard at COP22."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/Photo 4.jpg" alt="Activists demanding women’s voices be heard at COP22" title="Activists demanding women’s voices be heard at COP22." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Activists demanding women’s voices be heard at COP22. Credit: Annabelle Avril.</span></span></span>We must further resist the corporatisation of feminism and gender equality. After all, the crux of our climate challenge can be summed up by profit over planet and people. Whether it’s the over-consumption of the developed world in general, or inequality within countries, for a global feminist resistance to truly work and demand climate justice it must challenge a capitalist economic system and private sector initiatives which claim to be supporting women’s rights. </p><p dir="ltr">For example, when UN Women chooses to <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/2/coca-cola-partnership">partner with a corporation</a> like Coca-Cola with the aim of women’s economic empowerment, it must equally challenge the corporation’s role in <a href="http://www.waronwant.org/media/coca-cola-drinking-world-dry">driving environmental instability</a>, as well as <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andy-bellatti/coke-cap-the-tap_b_4269607.html">impacts on health</a>. Public-private partnerships which bolster the image of corporations while undermining political critique, and overshadowing negative environmental impacts, will not fuel the feminist revolution we need.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Demanding climate justice means calling for systemic change.</p><p dir="ltr">Demanding climate justice means we are calling for systemic change. It is not a call for individual actions to protect the environment. Protecting funding for Planned Parenthood is just as critical as ensuring the country fulfills and strengthens its commitments to the Paris Agreement, ensuring funding for developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change as both a legal and moral obligation. Feminist movements in developed countries must also tackle issues of overconsumption as part of organising for women’s rights. </p><p dir="ltr">Feminist leaders, particularly indigenous women and grassroots organisers, have to be at the frontlines of climate change decision-making. Examples highlighted in the 2016 report <a href="http://womengenderclimate.org/gender-just-climate-solutions-publication-2016/">Gender-Just Climate Solutions</a> – including women-led clean-cookstove and solar installation projects in Tanzania, women-owned and operated energy cooperatives in Germany, and female entrepreneurial “energy shop” initiatives in Mozambique – <a href="http://climatetracker.org/get-know-women-leading-climate-movement/">women</a> are already developing solutions to climate change which ensure rights and promote equality. </p><p dir="ltr">These projects provide solutions to transitioning to low-carbon economies in a just way. Crucially, they can also contribute to rethinking the current sexual division of labour, promoting decent work, the revaluing and redistribution of care work and the promotion of locally-driven sustainable economic structures. As WEDO co-founder “battling Bella” Abzug often said: “All issues are women’s issues.”</p><p dir="ltr"><em><strong>The </strong></em><em><strong><a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women's Initiative</a> conference takes place in Germany 13-16 May. Follow </strong><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative/nobel-womens-initiative-2017">50.50's coverage</a> of the event.</strong></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 Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 Women and the Economy Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 newsletter feminism gender gender justice women's human rights women's movements Bridget Burns Fri, 12 May 2017 07:03:37 +0000 Bridget Burns 110714 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women fight back: from survive to thrive https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jody-williams/nobel-women-survive-thrive <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="western"> In the Trumpian world writ large,&nbsp;the feminist struggle is more acute than ever. 13-16 May, the&nbsp;<a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative&nbsp;</a>brings activists to&nbsp;Germany to strategise about advancing women’s rights while opening democratic space.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-29815015.jpg" alt="Women's March in Washington, DC." title="Women&#039;s March in Washington, DC, 21 January." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women's March in Washington, DC. PA Images/Albin Lohr-Jones. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The rising backlash against women’s rights, as well as that against activists of all stripes, was infused with new and terrifyingly overt vigor with the campaigning tactics of Donald Trump leading up to the dumbfounding results of the US presidential elections last November. But perhaps for many, equally as surprising has been the massive, and mostly nonviolent opposition in the US to Mr. Trump’s dystopian agenda that favors the rich and Wall Street at the expense of the poor and middle classes, its sexist assault on women’s rights, and the fact that it doesn’t give one whit about the environment and climate change.</p> <p class="western">In total dismay the night after the election, Teresa Shook, a retired attorney and grandmother living in Hawaii, turned to Facebook and wrote the first thing that came to her mind, “I think we should march.” That little post was the impetus to what became the amazing Women’s March on Washington on January 21, the day after Trump’s inauguration. </p> <p class="western">More than half a million women, children and men came together to express a broad range of opposition to Mr. Trump and his plans. Eight of those people were at my house in Virginia and we planned to hook up with the <em>Nobel Women's Initiative</em> delegation at a point near where the march would start and walk together in support of women’s rights and opposition to all things Trump. While we did manage to make it to the march, which was an adventure itself, we never were able to find anyone we had intended to march with. </p><p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-29820097.jpg" alt="Women's March in Washington, DC." title="Women&#039;s March in Washington, DC, 21 January." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women's March in Washington, DC. PA Images/Albin Lohr-Jones. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The gloriously chaotic and completely peaceful crowd in Washington was so massive that finding our friends proved impossible so we focused on staying together and reveling in the magnitude of the march. That day some three million people marched in cities across the US and around the world to denounce the global rise of the authoritarian right, fueling xenophobia and intolerance of the “other,” whether because of gender, race, religion, place of origin – or any other hateful sentiment given power and space by the man who became president. </p> <p class="western">At a rally that day in Boston, US Senator Elizabeth Warren captured the essence of what propelled people, many of whom had never publicly protested before, to take to the streets. “We can whimper, we can whine or we can fight back,” she said. “Me, I’m here to fight back.” </p><p class="western">The struggle continues as other longstanding issues such as climate change, gun violence in the US, and racism find new vibrancy, new voices rise up and are heard, and people continue taking to the streets in the hundreds of thousands as was the case on April 29 with the People’s Climate March in Washington and across the US.</p><p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-30343186.jpg" alt="Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., right." title="Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., right." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., right. PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>But as we know, and echoing the words of May Bove, executive director of 350.org, writing to supporters after the march, “… [M]arching isn’t enough. We need to find ways to keep organizing and building our power.” She went on to say, “The best defense is a good offense,” and described the pillars around which the environmental/climate movement is building its work: organizing, inspiring, opposing and resisting. In the Trumpian world writ large, these are fundamental elements of all activism, including that of feminists.</p><p class="western">Struggling for equality since “Eve was fashioned of Adam’s rib,” and as evidenced by the unexpectedly massive response to the call for women to march, we are using this political juncture as impetus for rethinking strategies and tactics to promote and protect women’s rights and those who defend them rather than simply working to “get through” this extremely negative political moment. </p> <p class="western">It has been both the current political tumult in the US and around the world coupled with the massive activist response that influenced the theme of the <em>Nobel Women's Initiative</em> upcoming biennual conference, to be held this year in Germany, from May 13-16. Women from more than a dozen countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Syria, Turkey and Ukraine to mention a few, are coming together to share strategies and tactics from different cultures and experience under the conference banner, <em><strong>A Global Feminist Resistance: The Evolution and Revolution, Adapting to </strong></em><span><em><strong>Survive</strong></em></span><em><strong> Thrive!</strong></em></p><p class="western"> Activists living in exile, such as Nobel Peace Laureates Shirin Ebadi of Iran and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen, as well as Yanar Mohammed of Iraq and Majd Chourbaji of Syria, bring to the discussions their experiences of working for women’s rights in countries where they no longer live. Indigenous/First Nations women defending human rights and their lands in Guatemala – Andrea Ixchíu Hernández, coordinator of <a href="http://realizadorestzikin.org/">Red Tz’ikin</a><em>, </em> and in Canada - Helen Knott from Prophet Rivers First Nations - will discuss and share their experiences with women like <a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/activist-spotlight-julienne-lusenge/">Julienne Lusenge</a>, a feminist from the Democratic Republic of Congo who, against all odds, continues to fight back against rape and gender violence in her country. </p><p class="western">One young activist coming to the conference is Sarah Clements, from Newtown, Connecticut, where twenty grade-school children and six adults were massacred by a lone gunman in December 2012; Sarah’s mother survived the attack at the school. I met Sarah and several other young people from Newtown several years ago at a peace weekend sponsored by <a href="http://www.peacejam.org/">PeaceJam</a>. It was the first such event for the Newtown young people and their interaction with the hundreds of other young people that weekend will always be with me.</p> <p class="western">That weekend, it was clear that Sarah is a natural leader. Not does she have the ability to inspire but also to bring people together to strategize and act. She and her family are members of <a href="http://alliance.newtownaction.org/">Newtown Action Alliance</a> which works for strong gun laws in the US. We all are fortunate that Sarah and other activists like Felogene Anumo of Kenya, and Heba Obeidat of Jordan, will be at the conference to offer insights into successes and set-backs they are encountering in their work as young women activists with those of us who have been at it for decades.</p><p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-16642084.jpg" alt="NWI 2013 conference." title="NWI 2013" width="460" height="348" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Nobel Laureates (left to right) Leymah Gbowee, Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi, Jody Williams, Tawakkol Karman, Rigoberta Menchu Tum at the 2013 conference in Belfast.</span></span></span>As an activist myself for almost five decades, since the Vietnam war, I am looking forward to bringing my experiences in helping create a global campaign to ban landmines out of nothing, or from my work before that in various organizations trying to stop US military intervention in Central America in the 1980s. The <a href="http://www.icbl.org/en-gb/home.aspx">International Campaign to Ban Landmines</a> has been wildly successful while our anti-interventionist work was anything but.</p> <p class="western">Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum survived the genocide of Guatemala’s decades-long civil war that ended in 1996, but family members did not. Hers has been a life-long struggle to end impunity and bring to justice the perpetrators of those crimes against humanity. Her story and those of other Mayan women’s struggles will be at the table in Germany to inspire us to remember that while at times seeking justice may seem a futile exercise, when women triumph, we can turn our upside down world right. One such story is that of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/yifat-susskind/what-sexual-slavery-trial-in-guatemala-means-for-women-s-rights-worldwide">women of Sepur Zarco</a>, Guatemala.</p><p class="western">In the early 1980s during the war, Mayan women were held as domestic and sexual slaves at an army fort in the tiny village of Sepur Zarco. For years after, afraid to talk about what had been done to them, they ate their pain. But slowly they began to talk to each other. Ultimately over many years that talk led fifteen of the women to fight for justice in a court case against two of the men involved in their slavery. Several Guatemalan women’s organizations came together to support the effort and the case finally went to trial over the month of February 2016. Rigoberta and I spent the last week of the trial in the courtroom in support of the women. What I wrote at the time best captures the moment we saw them in court.</p><p class="western">“After having met and talked with the women the night before, it was a shock to enter the courtroom the next morning and see them totally covered… Fourteen of the fifteen women who brought charges in the case sat behind their bank of lawyers, only one of whom was a man. Over the six years it took to bring the case to court one of the women died. Her testimony stands, however, because the women had been allowed to testify by video so they would not suffer revictimization in open court… “</p> <p class="western">“The women were always still and silent, always with their faces covered…They may cover their faces in public, but these are the women who found something within themselves that compelled them to seek justice – not only for themselves but also for women who come after them.” <a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/sepurzarco-reflections-by-nobel-laureate-jody-williams/">And justice they found</a>.&nbsp; </p><p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-29819473.jpg" alt="Sign at the Women's March. " title="Sign at the Women&#039;s March. " width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sign at the Women's March. PA Images/Monica Jorge. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Against so many odds and in a precedent-setting case of monumental proportions, that February, the court found for the women. For the first time anywhere in the world, men had been tried for sexual slavery perpetrated during an armed conflict in the country where the crimes took place. The two men on trial were sentenced to a total of 260 years in prison and restitution was ordered for the women. </p> <p class="western">Fifteen Mayan women who speak no Spanish, have no education, live in intense poverty, and whose people are looked upon as less than human by Guatemalan elites, dared to take on the powerful military and seek justice. Despite immense tragedy and loss, they refused to remain silent victims. They are survivors who have demonstrated to women everywhere that together we can prevail.</p><p class="western">It is with that spirit that we come together in Germany. We refuse to bow to the backlash against women’s equality and attempts to curtail our human rights. As May Bove said, “The best defense is a good offense.” To develop a good offense it is fundamental to come together to not only continue to increase feminist networking but also to learn from each other's strategies and tactics that have worked and those that have not and how we need to adapt and adjust our efforts to respond to today’s Trumpian world.</p> <p class="western">Elizabeth Warren got it right when she said, “We can whimper, we can whine or we can fight back.” In a few short days, women from around the world will meet in Germany to hone our efforts to create a world of sustainable peace with justice and equality. We will not just survive, we will thrive. </p><p dir="ltr"><em><strong>The </strong></em><em><strong><a href="https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women's Initiative</a> conference takes place in Germany 13-16 May. Follow </strong><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative/nobel-womens-initiative-2017">50.50's coverage</a> of the event.</strong></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 Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 Nobel Women's Initiative women's movements women and power patriarchy gender justice gender feminism 50.50 newsletter Jody Williams Wed, 10 May 2017 08:28:28 +0000 Jody Williams 110710 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Time for a Fifth World Conference on Women? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/time-for-fifth-world-conference-on-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Not holding a fifth UN world conference in 2015 has left a vacuum, a dangerous thing when patriarchal ethno-nationalists are colonizing public space. It is time to insist that international human rights institutions deliver for women.</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/IWD march.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/IWD march.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'>Participants in the International Women's Day March in Los Angeles, California on March 5, 2017. Credit: Ronen Tivony/PA Images</span></span></span></p><p>The call to topple patriarchy might once have been seen as a fringe feminist fantasy but it has increasingly gained mainstream cachet. &nbsp;At the UN, the <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2015/3/change-is-coming-change-has-to-come-executive-director">Executive Director of UN Women is calling for it</a>. Emmy-award winning producer of <em>Trans/Parent</em>, <a href="http://ew.com/article/2016/09/18/jill-soloway-topple-patriarchy-emmys/">Jill Soloway is calling for it</a>. Bollywood superstar <a href="http://www.india.com/showbiz/dangal-quick-movie-review-aamir-khan-delivers-a-knockout-punch-kicks-patriarchy-in-its-gut-1717671/">Aamir Khan has called out patriarchy</a> more than once and is credited with “kicking patriarchy in the gut” in his film Dangal. The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUtRnkm1GlY">called for all men to be feminists</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>How do we square the amplification of these calls with the resurgence of strongmen (and a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/02/world/europe/political-strategy-for-europes-far-right-female-leaders-wooing-female-voters.html?rref=collection%2Fbyline%2Fsomini-sengupta&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=undefined&amp;region=stream&amp;module=stream_unit&amp;">growing number of strongwomen</a>), with elections giving us ethnic nationalists and patriarchs like Trump, Erdogan, Duterte, and many others? &nbsp;Insecure, bullying autocrats are nothing new, but what is new is their growing appeal in democracies.&nbsp; Also new is their conversion of traditional social conservatism into a much coarser unfiltered misogyny. Is this patriarchy’s last gasp? Or is it now dealing out an increasingly vicious and vindictive comeuppance? </p> <p>It is stating the obvious, we know, to point out that feminist anti-patriarchal strategies need a massive global re-think. The strategies of the 70s, 80s and 90s have helped us make great strides, but the terrain has changed. Which is why we are re-visiting – and re-echoing – <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women&#039;s-rights-have-no-country">our call in January 2015</a> for a United Nations Fifth World Conference on Women. If women’s rights had no country – a dwindling number of champions and defenders in international negotiations – when we wrote two years ago, things have deteriorated with recent political developments, including the catastrophic outcome of the US presidential election. &nbsp;Stalwart national defenders of women’s rights are toppling, and conservative populist nationalists now unashamedly and explicitly make restrictions of women’s social, economic and sexual freedoms foundational to their political projects.&nbsp; Plans for a fifth world conference on women were shelved a few years ago for fear that these forces would unravel established women’s rights agreements.</p> <p>Retreat is not an option. Protections for human rights and human security are eroding fast. The institutions that are supposed to uphold them – the courts, the media, our political leaders and parties, trade unions, education, religious, and health care institutions, the United Nations itself – are being corporatized, de-funded, compromised and undermined. &nbsp;But if it seemed such a major risk to hold a fifth Women’s World Conference in 2015, surely even to bring up the topic now is nothing short of reckless. </p> <p>Or is it?&nbsp; Arguably it is much more dangerous not to.&nbsp; Not holding a global summit on accelerating the drive towards gender equality is a signal that we have lost faith that the institutions built to advance human rights will deliver for women</p> <h3><strong>Feminist retreats from institutions exacerbates default patriarchy</strong></h3> <p>The real victory of nakedly patriarchal, racist, authoritarian leaders is that they systematically undermine faith in the institutions that are supposed to advance and protect our interests, and in so doing, erode interest in participating in institutions that have the potential to check authoritarian power. </p> <p>As more and more opportunistic ethno-nationalists come to power – and as they usher in reforms that close political space for opposition and reasoned, well-informed public debate – the decisions we make about our interactions and negotiations with mainstream institutions become more and more fraught. &nbsp;For most of the world, public institutions and ideological frameworks have been oriented to debates on the proper roles of states versus markets.&nbsp; Choices about how to engage have often featured ‘right’ versus ‘left’ perspectives.&nbsp; These perspectives have been grounded in understandings of public life dating from the industrial revolution and are less and less meaningful in contemporary politics.&nbsp; Feminist economists like <a href="http://www.cepal.org/mujer/curso/elson3.pdf">Diane Elson</a>, <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/19452829.2014.884057">Gita Sen</a>, <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/C/bo5969753.html">Lourdes Beneria</a>, <a href="https://oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/why-its-time-to-put-gender-into-the-inequality-discussion/">Naila Kabeer</a>, have long pointed out that these perspectives are ignorant of the deep – but invisible and disparaged – economy of care in which women are the unrewarded workhorses.&nbsp; Feminist environmentalists like <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/wangari-maathai">Wangari Maathai</a> and <a href="https://www.dukeupress.edu/staying-with-the-trouble">Donna Haraway</a> have shown how our economies are parasitical on the natural world – whose value is similarly unrecognized.&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/535193/Erdogansmug.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Erdogansmug.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="421" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Supporters of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan celebrates his victory in the presidential election vote, August 2014. Credit: Depo Photos / PA Images</span></span></span></p><p>The capacities of both the care and natural worlds endlessly to provide without compensation or renewal are finally snapping, and these convulsions have in part triggered the current neo-nationalist backlash.&nbsp; Women’s flight from marriage and motherhood in some contexts (like Japan, Italy) are rational responses to a labor market that does not reward care.&nbsp; Elsewhere the fact that women have been more willing than men to tolerate the degraded working conditions of globalized capital has altered power relations in families, triggering men’s deep insecurities, expressed in the form of elevated violence against women, or votes for despots who promise a return to male privilege. &nbsp;Old political distinctions between left and right have become almost meaningless.&nbsp; What matters now is <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/03/opinion/tony-blair-against-populism-the-center-must-hold.html?_r=0">open versus closed</a>, inclusive versus isolationist, and institutions for tolerant societies versus approaches to social organization that rely on atavistic appeals to ethnic and male supremacy.</p><p>As institutions have struggled to keep up with these changes, they have become less meaningful, and less attractive spaces for social change projects, triggering in some cases an exodus by liberals.&nbsp;&nbsp;As feminists who have been part of that exodus – and acknowledging the privileges that enabled us to enter and exit formal institutions, a privilege that many women and marginalized communities do not have – we must weigh our principles against the costs of losing power in institutions. It is not as if there is plenty of institutional space for feminists – far from it. Governments, political parties, international organizations, churches, corporate boards remain hostile to leadership by women and especially feminists. Many feminists find the default patriarchy of these institutions corrupting, which is why so many feminists seek alternative spaces.&nbsp; </p><p>We are not making a <a href="https://leanin.org/book/">‘lean in’</a> argument. But are we ceding political space when we disdain running for political office or refrain from supporting potential candidates because politics can corrupt and is increasingly dangerous? Are we enabling rapacious capitalism when we refuse to sit at tables with potential allies in the private sector or military because they are clubbed as irredeemable members of the military-industrial complex?&nbsp; Do we create self-inflicted crevasses in our movements when we condemn feminists who have chosen to work inside of institutions as sell-outs, contributing to their isolation?&nbsp; Some of us give up on joining trade unions to reform them from the inside, or turn off the mainstream media because it only represents corporate interests. But far from dying away because of our disengagement, these institutions revert to patriarchal management.&nbsp;&nbsp; We are doing exactly what toxic masculinity wants: handing over large swathes of public space to a resurgent, revived patriarchal command.</p> <p>And, so it goes with the United Nations. &nbsp;Not holding a fifth world conference has left a vacuum, a dangerous thing when empowered social conservatives are colonizing public space.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Flirting with a Counter-factual: &nbsp;What if…</h3> <p>We can read the decision not to hold a fifth Women’s World Conference in 2015 as an example of ceding institutional space, giving ground.&nbsp; It was a significant thing NOT to do.&nbsp; Other major global projects continue to hold massive summits – notably the meetings addressing <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/news-event/un-climate-change-conference">climate change</a>, <a href="http://www.un.org/en/ga/69/meetings/indigenous/#&amp;panel1-1">indigenous people’s rights</a>, <a href="http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/campaigns/AIDS2016">HIV/AIDs</a>, the <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/summit">Sustainable Development Goals</a>, the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/03/world/arms-trade-treaty-approved-at-un.html">Arms Trade Treaty</a>. Addressing global problems requires global negotiation and coordination. &nbsp;&nbsp;None of these agendas has retreated from global negotiation processes.&nbsp; Just the women’s rights agenda.</p> <p>The decision not to hold a fifth Women’s World Conference was actually taken several years before 2015 when there were worrying signs. &nbsp;Already the annual meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women registered increasing difficulty in reaching consensus because of conservative opposition.&nbsp; In 2012 a coalition of member states of the United Nations began to negotiate together to attack existing women’s rights agreements and prohibit any further advances – for instance on <a href="http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/how-the-religious-right-made-life-more-difficult-dangerous-for-worlds-lgbt-people-in-2016/">issues of sexual orientation, or adolescent sex education, or recognition of the wide variety of families</a> that do not conform to the heterosexual nuclear model. </p> <p>It is hard not to ask: what if.&nbsp; What if, in 2012, plans had been set for a Women’s World Conference?&nbsp; What if it had taken place in 2015, and what if it had been held in Turkey, one of the first countries to offer to host it?&nbsp; </p> <p>Counterfactuals are hollow, they are ‘I told you so’ taunts without the satisfaction of seeing events confirm warnings. &nbsp;But let’s indulge in this for just a moment, and ask how a conference in 2015 might have changed history.&nbsp; A women’s conference would certainly have mobilized global opposition to women’s rights – the people that feel that secularism has gone too far, that women’s rights are the markers of decadence, that ‘gender’ threatens the divinely-ordained binary of man/woman, that social disintegration is upon us.&nbsp; Conservative opposition has been present at all the four women’s conferences so far and would certainly have been stronger and better organized than ever before. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>But so too would the world’s feminist voices.&nbsp; Indeed, by 2015, feminist movements the world over were energized and emboldened by international successes, such as the recognition of <a href="http://www.stoprapenow.org/">rape as a punishable, systematic tactic of war</a> or sustained infusion of gender equality across the globally-approved&nbsp; 2015 <a href="http://www.bridge.ids.ac.uk/updates/bridge-gender-update-sustainable-development-goals-gender-and-indicators">Sustainable Development Goals framework</a>.&nbsp; On top of this, a women’s conference could have provided a feminist destination for a new generation of young people. Their voices could have risen to a global roar for intersectional equality and their activism – as part of a preparatory process of national, regional and global consultations – could have laid the ground for new solutions to global threats, and might have amplified their voices in their own countries, to diminish the appeal of national reactionary forces.</p> <p>Those who are most marginalized and threatened – refugees and minorities fleeing untenable conditions of war or ethnic/racial/religious persecution, civil society groups whose actions are increasingly under scrutiny, women’s human rights defenders who live under the constant threat of violence, girls vulnerable to harmful traditional practices or school-related gender-based violence – would have had a global platform to make their experiences heard by far larger numbers of people and power holders than in any past women’s conference. Alliances between women’s rights networks across countries in conflict and in disintegrating democracies would have been strengthened. &nbsp;Had the conference been held in Istanbul, it might have provided a platform for women of Arab and Muslim societies to offer counter-narratives to authoritarian governments, the political projects of religious extremists, and Islamophobes. The asymmetries and divisions between women – whether on the basis of race, class, sexual preference, geographic location and other unacknowledged privileges – could have received much greater scrutiny.&nbsp; We might have come up with new ways to address these, while recognizing that the political and environmental emergencies we face require united action. &nbsp;</p> <p>We cannot say that a Fifth World Conference on Women would have prevented the election of leaders like Trump or Duterte. &nbsp;We do, however, posit that the collective strength and engagement that is catalyzed by these global processes have many unexpected consequences. Mobilization and transformation are connected.</p> <h3>Don’t sit around waiting for the time and the politics to be just right</h3> <p>The tens of millions of people around the world, of all genders, ages and nationalities, <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/21/politics/trump-women-march-on-washington/">who marched on January 21</a>st, showed two things. &nbsp;First: ordinary people the world over are horrified about atavistic ethno-nationalists and their calls for a closing of minds and a destruction of the institutions that promote tolerance and justice.&nbsp; Second: feminist movements are at the forefront of this resistance, and gender equality is a foundational principle of building open societies. The women taxi cab drivers in India, the all-women peace negotiating team from Sweden, the <a href="http://www.glamour.com/story/women-of-the-year-black-lives-matter-founders">women at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter</a> movement, the men who stand up to end violence against women in more and more countries and the transwomen who speak about the toxicity of male privilege are proof that feminists have the numbers, the conviction, and are inflicting body blows to patriarchy. </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/BLMIWD.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/BLMIWD.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'>Black Lives Matter protest on July 10, 2016 in New York. Credit: PA Images / Monica Jorge</span></span></span></p><p>It is not clear that another women’s world conference – for instance in 2020 – is necessarily the best way to channel this energy. But it is worth debating whether it would help to build intersectional feminist strategies to rebuild inclusive democracies.&nbsp; </p> <p>To be effective, another world conference cannot take the form of any of its predecessors.&nbsp; It cannot be about governments negotiating women’s rights, or using them as proxies and bargaining chips for other battles.&nbsp; We need a process unlike any other that the UN has hosted to date. We could build on the Paris/Accra ‘<a href="http://www.oecd.org/dac/effectiveness/parisdeclarationandaccraagendaforaction.htm">aid effectiveness</a>’ process whose purpose is to mobilize resources to deliver results. </p> <p>As the UN Commission on the Status of Women convenes from March 13 to 24 in New York – and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lisa-davis-yifat-susskind/standing-our-ground-at-un-commission-on-status-of-women-csw">thousands of women’s rights movements and organizations gather</a> – we propose that there be serious debate about the merits and possible approaches to holding a world conference in 2020. Maybe it is a process that does not result in a ‘global’ gathering, but rather has simultaneous regional and/or national gatherings. Maybe it is a process that does not have a final governmental declaration of future goals, but rather commits to institutional reforms and a new accountability agenda. It must be a process that includes leadership by people under 35 and avoids the endless negotiations and bartering that waters down other UN processes. </p> <p>We would hope for, at least, a commitment by the CSW, the UN Secretary-General, and UN Women to launch a consultative process and figure out what kind of world conference could make a significant difference.&nbsp; It should be a process that amplifies the voices and aspirations of young people all over the planet, that creates space and opportunities for the voices of those who are most marginalized to create new approaches to social and economic organization. &nbsp;It cannot be a process constrained by anxious readings of the tea leaves of political risk.&nbsp; Times are tough, they could get worse, and that is precisely why women’s rights can’t wait in the hope that the political environment will improve.&nbsp; From <a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/seneca-falls-convention-begins">Seneca Falls</a> in 1848, to The <a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/international-congress-of-women-opens-at-the-hague">Hague International Congress of Women in 1915</a>, to the <a href="https://tavaana.org/en/content/how-women-liberia-fought-peace-and-won">2003 Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace</a>, women don’t wait for the time to be right.&nbsp; We make it right.</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/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/yakin-erturk/missing-link-in-women%27s-human-rights">The missing link in women&#039;s human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/best-time-to-be-born-female-worst-to-be-feminist-advocate">The &quot;best time to be born female&quot;: the worst to be a feminist advocate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/gender-wars-women-redefining-customs-as-crimes">Gender wars: women redefining customs as crimes </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba/awake-to-challenge-african-women%27s-leadership-at-beijing20">Awake to the challenge: African women&#039;s leadership at Beijing+20</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/world%27s-girls-no-voice-no-rights">The world&#039;s girls: no voice, no rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/madam-secretary-general">Madam Secretary-General?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/soraya-chemaly/under-trump-we-are-all-women">Under Trump, we are all women </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/sound-trumpet">Sound the Trumpet </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/still-no-woman-at-helm-UN">Still no woman at the helm of the UN</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> </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 Equality World Forum for Democracy 2017 Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 newsletter feminism gender justice women and power women's human rights Joanne Sandler Anne Marie Goetz Wed, 08 Mar 2017 09:00:11 +0000 Anne Marie Goetz and Joanne Sandler 109310 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sound the Trumpet https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/meredith-tax/sound-trumpet <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Trump offered white voters the illusion they could prosper. We have to offer all our people a way to move forward together and save the planet. </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/PA-29164806(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/PA-29164806(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'>Protests in Missouri against President-elect Donald Trump. Jeff Roberson / PA/Press Association Images.</span></span></span></p> <p>In the weeks leading up to Nov. 8, as the election loomed like a cloud about to burst, I was unmoored by a feeling of dread so strong I could barely sleep. The debates had been so awful, Trump’s threats to immigrants and Muslims so terrifying, his dismissal of climate change so incredible, his contempt for women so appalling, his glare so demented, his late night tweets so childish and unhinged. It simply was not possible that people would see this satyr as a “strong man” with some unique ability to fix the country’s problems. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>But by the early hours of 11/9, Trump had won enough electoral college votes to be declared president, and Hillary had conceded. It has now become increasingly clear that she <a href="http://www.snopes.com/2016/11/13/who-won-the-popular-vote/">won the popular vote</a> by a fairly large volume—absentee ballots are still being counted—but because of an archaic constitution set up to protect slave states, lost in the Electoral College.</p> <p>In the eight months leading up to this dreadful denouement, indigenous people from all over the world had flocked to an encampment at Standing Rock, North Dakota, in an action <a href="http://karamariaananda.com/blog/women-of-standing-rock">initiated and largely led by women</a>. Their purpose was to block a fracking pipeline scheduled to be built on their land—on a protected burial ground, in fact—without their consent. They have been met by the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/04/dakota-access-pipeline-protest-standing-rock-women-police-abuse">entire militarized might of the state of North Dakota</a>, along with oil company mercenaries and police forces brought in from other states. Some young Native American organizers camped out in front of Hillary Clinton’s New York headquarters to get her to take a position against the Dakota Access Pipeline. <a href="http://thefreethoughtproject.com/hillary-turns-back-standing-rock-sioux-path-forward-must-serve-broadest-public-interest/#VXuksTpVXCoYBzI4.99">Her only response</a> was that “all of the parties involved—including the federal government, the pipeline company and contractors, the state of North Dakota, and the tribes—need to find a path forward that serves the broadest public interest.”</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/James MacPherson.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/James MacPherson.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="248" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Standing Rock encampment. James MacPherson/ AP/Press Association Images.</span></span></span></p> <p>At least Hillary knows global warming is real, though she barely mentioned it in the debates, which had not a single question on the subject. Trump believes climate change is a Chinese hoax. He has vowed to abrogate the Paris climate agreement and <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/11/11/meet-the-man-trump-is-relying-on-to-unravel-obamas-environmental-legacy/">appointed a coal industry shill</a> as his energy czar. For this reason alone, not to mention all the others, this election is a tragedy for the earth and all the species we share it with.</p> <p>This spring was such a hopeful time—what a joy to hear Bernie Sanders actually call the problems we face by their right names and use the words capitalism and socialism without fear! His campaign seemed to get stronger every day, though it was clear from the beginning that the Democratic Party was not open to new energies from the left; they wanted to do business as usual and had convinced themselves it would work, even though the country was clearly calling for change.</p> <p>The feminists I know were divided between Hillary and Bernie. Though I too would like a woman president, I supported Bernie, and not only because I worried about her ethical tone deafness, Wall Street allegiances, and bellicosity—“we came, we saw, he died.” I don’t think electing women politicians can make up for the absence of a feminist movement that takes questions of class, race, war, and power thoroughly on board. We don’t have that movement yet and Hillary’s campaign did nothing to build it. Her speeches were all policy points, nothing to inspire the listener, just the usual American exceptionalist framing of the US as a unique power sent by God to save the world—a view she shares with Obama, Biden, and most politicians of both parties.</p> <p>When Hillary got the nomination, I voted for her and urged everyone else to do so because the alternative was to put a jittery thug at the top of the most powerful military in the world, a man who is not only a clear sociopath but has been happy to act as front man for a nascent fascist front made up of the Klan, the Nazi Party, and the various mad armed groups who call themselves patriots. But inconceivably, he is now the President-elect.</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/PA-29125724_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/PA-29125724_0.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'>President-elect Donald Trump on election night. Evan Vucci PA/Press Association Images</span></span></span></p> <p>Why did Trump get so many votes? <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/13/opinion/sunday/2016-election-thank-you-notes.html?_r=0">Reams of analysis</a> are already being written. There was his open mobilization of sexism, racism, and anti-immigrant nativism, his playing to people’s economic insecurity and blaming immigrants for the economic woes of the majority. There was the Democratic National Committee’s undermining of Bernie, whom some think could have beaten Trump. Hillary herself blames <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/13/us/politics/hillary-clinton-james-comey.html">Comey's partisan FBI interventions</a>. The role of the media was appalling throughout; they normalized a fascist campaign and focused on Hillary’s emails as if they were the equivalent of Trump’s rape and multiple financial crimes.</p><p>It was also a new media environment, where people could get all their news and opinions from the internet and never look at a paper or TV. As <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/trump-and-the-truth-the-viral-candidate">Andrew Marantz</a> explained in the <em>New Yorker, </em>the alt right had a system for making lies favorable to Trump go viral. Some of these fake news stories were traceable to <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/how-macedonia-became-a-global-hub-for-pro-trump-misinfo?utm_term=.ar98gv4QZ#.lg7wEZ0Ky">Macedonian teenagers</a> who set up popular pro-Trump sites so they could make money from Facebook. </p><p>The vote was also the product of years of systematic Republican gerrymandering and <a href="http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/election/article113977353.html">voter suppression</a>, which may have cost Hillary key states. And the fact that people were so turned off by the candidates and the election process that <a href="http://imgur.com/TOGIbcP">a million fewer people voted in this election</a> than in 2008. And many voters—in New York State, 6500 in <a href="http://www.newsnet5.com/news/local-news/oh-cuyahoga/record-number-of-cuyahoga-co-voters-leave-the-presidential-portion-of-their-ballots-blank">Cuyahoga County</a> alone— hated both candidates so much they left the top line of their ballot blank and just voted for the candidates down ticket.</p><p>But the most obvious explanation for Trump’s win is his skill as a con man. All evidence to the contrary, many people in the Rust Belt see him as a brilliant businessman who will fix the economy so they can once more get decent jobs. To improve their own prospects, they were willing to overlook his racism and sexism. As my daughter-in-law, a black feminist, puts it, “Most people are selfish. They may live in a big house while somebody a few streets over has no home, but they won’t give up a room.”</p><p>The election exposed all the contradictions within the US feminist movement. Not only was Hillary was the first woman presidential candidate nominated by a major party, her program was strong on things a lot of women need: equal pay, subsidized childcare, universal pre-K, parental leave, reproductive rights. Meanwhile Trump is an accused rapist whose campaign, as <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/hillary-clinton-has-one-more-badly-behaved-man-left-to-vanquish/">Katha Pollitt</a> says, took place in a testosterone cloud, with advisors like Roger Ailes, a defendant in multiple sexual harassment cases; Newt Gingrich, a hypocrite and serial adulterer; and Rudy Giuliani, who used a TV interview to tell his wife he wanted a divorce. Trump supporters sported tshirts with slogans like “Trump that bitch” and “She’s a cunt, vote for Trump.”</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/Concedingdefeat Matt Rourke.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Concedingdefeat Matt Rourke.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'>Hillary Clinton conceding defeat. Matt Rourke/AP/ Press Association Images. </span></span></span></p><p>The thought that <a href="http://www.cnn.com/election/results/exit-polls">53% of white women voters</a> could support this man is enough to make a feminist despair. No wonder many feel totally betrayed, particularly women of color—only 4% of black women voted for the guy. My desktop is full of articles with titles like <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/09/opinions/trumps-win-women-filipovic/index.html">"Trump Win Boils Down to White Women",</a> <a href="http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/2936-elite-white-feminism-gave-us-trump-it-needs-to-die">"Elite White Feminism Gave Us Trump: It Needs to Die"</a>, and <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/11/09/white_women_sold_out_the_sisterhood_and_the_world_by_voting_for_trump.html">"White Women Sold Out the Sisterhood and the World by Voting for Trump"</a>. </p> <p>But it never made sense to assume that women would see themselves in Hillary Clinton and thus vote for her. The idea that women will naturally want to vote for other women is an illusion, though one central to liberal feminism. The suffrage movement argued that giving women the vote would bring about an era of social justice and world peace because women were innately more caring than men. After the war, suffragists were dismayed to see that women usually voted with their families and communities.</p><p>Here lies one of the divides between liberal and left wing feminism. Liberal feminists focus on individual rights. To win these rights, they work through electoral and institutional politics. They assume women will be motivated to fight on their own behalf and will see no conflict between their interests as women and the interests of their class, community, or family.&nbsp; </p><p>Left wing feminists try to reconcile individual with collective rights, such as the rights of labor, racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities, and dissidents—the current buzzword for this approach is <a href="https://www.academia.edu/29220905/_Intersectionality_Socialist_Feminism_And_Contemporary_Activism_i">intersectionality.</a> But meshing feminist politics with progressive organizing can be difficult because leftwing movements tend to be led by men who discount women’s independent thought and want to use their labor for purposes they consider more urgent than women’s liberation.</p><p>And there are ideological weaknesses on all sides. What with the reductionist Marxism of the hard left, the post-structuralism of the academic left, the flakiness of the anarchist left, and the attitude-policing of the cultural left, it can be hard to find anyone in the US who thinks strategically. To the extent a practical left wing feminist movement now exists, it is led by embattled and mobilized working class and minority women and queers like those in the National Nurses Union, Black Lives Matter, and the encampment at Standing Rock. And while liberal feminists saw Hillary’s candidacy as the fulfillment of their dream of equality, the nurses supported Bernie and the women of BLM and the native American movement did not take a position supporting anyone.</p><p>So far, election post mortems have focused on demographics: who voted and why they voted differently this time than last. The focus has been on assigning blame: Trump’s victory is the fault of white women, of the white portion of the working class, of third party voters in Pennsylvania. This approach is not productive. Rather than more blame, we need clearer political ideas and programs that will get to people where they live—metaphorically and in actual neighborhoods.</p> <p>We have a long period of resistance ahead. Liberals have demonstrated that they are not strong enough to fight fascism. Only a stronger left can do that. And the only way to build a stronger left is to present an alternative vision of the society we want, one that opposes both the right and the status quo, and is based on practical organizing to make people’s lives better. The ideas being worked out in <a href="https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/the-revolution-in-rojava">Rojava,</a> with their combination of ecology, feminism, self-defense and direct democracy, are a source we could draw on.&nbsp; </p> <p>But we don’t have a lot of time—Trump’s administration will inevitably disappoint many who voted for him, who are likely to move farther right unless we can offer them something that goes beyond protest and reaches towards daily life. Until we actually begin to build “a new society within the shell of the old” there is no point in talking about Elizabeth Warren in 2020 or a third party or anything else that involves voting. We already know the limitations of electoral democracy. Only half the US population even bothers to vote and that half is evenly divided between right and left. Trump offered—for white people only—the illusion that they could prosper under his leadership. We have to be able to offer all our people a chance to work together, a believable path forward, and a vision that centers on saving the planet. &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/pablo-castillo-diaz/us-this-land-is-hisland">Hisland</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/zoe-samudzi/donald-trump-is-not-uniquely-bigoted">Donald Trump is not uniquely bigoted. He&#039;s &#039;as American as apple pie&#039;</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="/pablo-piccato-fabian-bosoer-federico-finchelstein/why-president-trump-will-target-independent-media">In Trump&#039;s America, the independent press would become the enemy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/lawrence-rosenthal/donald-and-duce">The Donald and the Duce </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/keith-j-bybee/how-should-we-understand-trump-s-uncivil-behaviour">How should we understand Trump’s ‘uncivil’ behaviour?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/todd-gitlin/interrupting-trump-s-strut-is-only-start">Interrupting Trump’s strut is only a start</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/revolution-is-not-dinner-party">A revolution is not a dinner party</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 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> </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"> United States </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 class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </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 United States Civil society Democracy and government Understanding the rise of Trump Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women and power gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Meredith Tax Tue, 15 Nov 2016 00:27:33 +0000 Meredith Tax 106773 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Internet politics: a feminist guide to navigating online power https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zara-rahman/internet-politics-feminist-guide-navigating-online-power <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="color: #222222; font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8px;">Recognising the political importance of our technical decisions is within reach, leading ultimately to reclaiming power and control of our activism in the digital sphere as well as in the offline world. </span><strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/zara-rahman/politique-de-l-internet-un-guide-f-ministe-de-navigation-sur-les-flots-du-pouvoir-e">Français</a> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/zara-rahman/las-pol-ticas-de-la-internet-una-gu-feminista-para-entender-el-poder-en-l-nea">Español</a></em></strong></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/internet.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/internet.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: feministinternet.net</span></span></span></p><p>In feminist activism, it goes without saying that the personal is political. Our technical decisions, however, are subject to far less scrutiny but their effects have equally far-reaching consequences upon our activism.</p> <p>Few would deny that control and power are feminist issues. But what about digital control or online power? </p> <p>At the <a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/">AWID Forum</a> in September, one activist told me that their organisation had closed its own website, and is instead communicating with its communities entirely through its Facebook page. This decision makes sense for several reasons. Facebook's existing infrastructure is easy to use, and the community this organisation seeks to reach is already using Facebook. In addition, it’s cheaper, easier and requires less maintenance. </p> <p>Politically, though, this means this organisation has relinquished control and power over its online presence to a <a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/117878/information-fiduciary-solution-facebook-digital-gerrymandering">largely opaque, profit-driven, US-based mega-corporation, with zero accountability</a>. Recently, they’ve noticed that the new membership rate of its page is not increasing at the same rate as previously, perhaps indicating that its visibility on the newsfeeds of people who would potentially be interested in their work has somehow decreased. It could be any number of factors, though – that the page isn't being “recommended” to potential members as often as it was before, or that it doesn't come up as highly when people search for related keywords, among others. Frustratingly, they have no way of finding out what the actual reason is. </p> <p>As a result, part of the organisation's already limited budget that should have been spent on its own communications is now being spent on <a href="https://nonprofits.fb.com/topic/ads/">Facebook Ads</a>, to make sure that their group reaches people who might be interested - but again, there’s no way of knowing how effective this is. </p> <p>To reiterate: this means that money is being transferred from a small, resource-constrained activist organisation to Facebook, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/28/technology/facebook-earnings-zuckerberg.html?_r=0">a company which reported a profit of $3.69 billion in profit last year</a>. This direct consequence of relying on proprietary and corporate-owned technologies for our activism is a loss of control and autonomy. </p> <p><strong>Increasing access at what cost?</strong> </p> <p>In Bangladesh, <a href="http://arrow.org.my/publication/arrow-change-sexuality-srhr-internet/">Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) advocates have had to take tough decisions around whether or not to engage with Free Basics</a>, a platform offered by Facebook, which has the noble-sounding goal of “connecting the unconnected”. </p> <p><a href="https://info.internet.org/en/story/free-basics-from-internet-org/">Free Basics</a> aims to do this by partnering with mobile phone operators in certain countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America to provide access to certain websites and services without extra cost to the user. This kind of practice is known as <a href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/02/zero-rating-what-it-is-why-you-should-care">“zero-rating,”</a> and means that someone using the Free Basics application would be able to access certain websites without having a data subscription, or paying any more than they usually would. This results in Free Basics being the very first contact that millions of people, especially in rural areas, may well have with the internet. </p><p> However, while zero-rated applications like Free Basics provide concrete access to some websites and internet services, it violates a principle known as <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_neutrality">net neutrality</a><strong><span>,</span></strong> the principle that internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without prioritising or blocking particular sites or applications. </p> <p>Under zero-rated applications like Free Basics, just a tiny section of the internet is provided for free. Content shown on the app is moderated by those in charge of Free Basics who have a great deal of control over what people see and what they don’t and how the personal data of users is being managed (or further used) on the platform.</p> <p>Because of this violation of net neutrality, digital rights activists in many countries, notably India, have been campaigning against Free Basics. Though it has been launched in Bangladesh without any regulatory hitches, just next door in India,<a href="http://www.savetheinternet.in/"> campaigners mobilised a huge movement of people to speak up against Free Basics plans</a>, which led to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/may/12/facebook-free-basics-india-zuckerberg.">zero-rated applications being banned by their regulatory agency</a>.</p> <p>For SRHR advocates in Bangladesh, a potential partnership with Free Basics and Facebook provides a number of visible and concrete benefits. Without any extra cost to the activist groups, they have the opportunity to have their information appear on the Free Basics app in Bangladesh – the content within it is provided free of cost to the users. This would increase the reach of their information, thus potentially educating more women than before about important sexual rights and reproductive health topics. For Free Basics, it looks good that they are including topics like this in their initial offering of the application. Indeed, just looking at this part of the puzzle could give the impression that a partnership fits the aims and resources of both parties, almost perfectly.</p> <p>But partnering with a platform like Free Basics means handing over control of who sees the content, how the content is edited, and how long it stays available, to the people behind Free Basics, i.e. Facebook. Beyond control over content, it also means providing data to Free Basics on who accesses the services which essentially amounts to the personal data of their beneficiaries.</p> <p>Many of the issues addressed in sexual rights advocacy have traditionally been sensitive within the Bangladeshi context - and at the moment, this kind of information is being mediated by a proprietary gatekeeper with zero accountability measures. There is no way to hold it to account - <a href="http://datasociety.net/pubs/ap/CaseStudies_PublicSphere_2016.pdf">it’s not a public service, it’s a private one</a>. As such, it could shut down, change content, or change its terms and conditions at any time.</p> <p>What initially seemed to be an ideal partnership, then, has many hidden disadvantages in the longer term, and on a political level. S<a href="http://www.thedailystar.net/bytes/tech-happening/rob1-internetorg-launches-free-internet-robi-subscribers-81516">ome SRHR groups have decided to partner with Free Basics for now</a>, but the fact remains that there are important political implications of this decision. </p> <p><strong>Recognising realities </strong></p> <p>Pragmatically speaking, it is important to recognise that many activist groups have very limited resources, especially those working on politically controversial topics, or in poor countries. They simply have no other option right now but to engage with and use the easiest options out there - which are overwhelmingly proprietary tools.</p> <p>Human rights defenders I’ve spoken to are forced to make <a href="https://library.theengineroom.org/humanrights-tech">pragmatic decisions around their uses of technology</a>, favouring Google Drive for collaborating with others, despite this potentially allowing the US Government to access their data. Using open source software would, theoretically, allow individuals to have more control over what they do, and if the software has security audits, provide assurance that their privacy is being protected. But for now at least, the <a href="https://library.theengineroom.org/humanrights-tech/">reliability and usability of open source alternatives</a> for activists working in high-risk environments is limited.</p> <p>How can we change this, given the constraints and difficult realities of feminist activism?</p> <p><strong>Building alternatives </strong></p> <p>Happily, some groups and organisations focus on finding and building alternative options which reflect feminist politics online, as well as, off. <a href="https://www.apc.org/">The Association for Progressive Communications</a> has developed a series of <a href="http://feministinternet.net/sites/default/files/FeministPrinciplesoftheInternetv2.0_0.pdf">Feminist Principles of the Internet</a>, and has gathered a community of people who are working to turn those principles into reality - starting by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/12/feminist-internet-empowering-online-harassment">imagining what a feminist internet would look like</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.engagemedia.org/">Engage Media</a>, a social and environmental justice organisation from Asia Pacific, has built <a href="https://www.engagemedia.org/Projects/Plumi">Plumi</a>, an open source video-sharing web application. Their aim is to create “truly democratic media, where independent video initiatives gain control over their own distribution infrastructure.” It’s a feminist alternative to YouTube, empowering the creator of a video to hold power over the infrastructure rather than the corporation holding power over the content creator.</p> <p>For now, these examples remain as the outliers rather than the norm. For the norm to change and for activists to make technical decisions that accurately reflect their political ideologies, a number of things need to happen.</p> <p>Understanding the potential consequences of our technology choices and making <a href="https://responsibledata.io/">responsible data</a> decisions require a higher level of technical capacity among the decision-makers in an organisation which often simply isn’t present. In my work at <a href="http://www.datasociety.net/">Data &amp; Society</a>, I’m looking at the role of <a href="http://datasociety.net/initiatives/additional-projects/tech-translation/">“tech translators”</a> - people who help social change communities with lower tech literacy understand and communicate with more tech-savvy people. There seems to be a clear need for people to play this translation role, helping convey context, needs and technical realities to pave the way for well-informed decision making.</p> <p>As well as this, on the technical side, there needs to be usable, open-source alternatives to the array of proprietary tools that are currently being used to meet their needs. It is unrealistic to expect people to eschew proprietary tools that are meeting all of their needs in lieu of unreliable alternatives.</p> <p>On the user side, activists need to recognise the political importance of their technical decisions, and then be able to translate their contexts and ideologies into the digital sphere. Short-term, this translation might happen through key individuals with high levels of tech literacy or through direct support from organisations like <a href="https://theengineroom.org/">The Engine Room</a>. Long-term, though, there needs to be an investment of time and effort to boost technical literacy across the board.</p> <p>Though the long term goal might be daunting, the first step of recognising the political importance of our technical decisions is within reach, leading ultimately to reclaiming power and control of our activism in the digital sphere as well as in the offline world.</p> <p><strong>Read the full <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016">series of articles</a> published by openDemocracy in the run up to, during, and post-Forum</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/chloe-safier/young-feminist-movements-power-of-technology">Young feminist movements: the power of technology</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/self-care-in-digital-space">Self-care in a digital space</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-radloff/african-cyberfeminism-in-21st-century">African cyberfeminism in the 21st century </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fatimah-kelleher/future-is-%E2%80%98smart%E2%80%99-but-is-it-equal-african-women%E2%80%99s-digital-agency">The future is &#039;smart&#039; but is it equal? African women’s digital agency</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/security-is-not-just-cctv-valuing-ourselves-is-security">Security is not just CCTV: valuing ourselves is security</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"> Bangladesh </div> <div class="field-item even"> India </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </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 class="field-item even"> Internet </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 digitaLiberties United States India Bangladesh Civil society Internet Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 50.50 Highlights 2015 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick everyday feminism feminism women and power women's work young feminists Zara Rahman Fri, 11 Nov 2016 12:33:27 +0000 Zara Rahman 106672 at https://www.opendemocracy.net To build feminist futures, suspend judgment! https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/to-build-feminist-futures-suspend-judgment <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As feminist thinkers and activists, we must tackle not only the systemic discrimination embedded in the world outside, but the often unconscious or invisible biases that we ourselves have internalized. Part 1. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/srilatha-batliwala-geetanjali-misra-nafisa-ferdous/suspend-judgment-feminisms-and-feminists-com">Part 2</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>&nbsp;<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/IMG_7486.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/IMG_7486.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'>The booth from which CREA's Suspend Judgment was launched at the 13th Annual AWID Forum in Bahia, Brazil. September 8 - 11, 2016</span></span></span></strong></p><p>The recently concluded <a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/">13th AWID International Forum</a>, on the theme “Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice”, was framed around the sweeping idea that realizing “feminist futures” is only possible if we build our collective power to advance rights and justice.&nbsp; The great challenge for building such power, however, is that we ourselves, as feminist thinkers and activists, must tackle not only the systemic discrimination embedded in the world outside, but the often unconscious or invisible biases that we ourselves have internalized.</p><p>The twin concepts of rights and justice have embedded within them a rarely recognized and deeply normalized <em>practice</em> – viz., the practice of <em>judgment</em>.&nbsp; We are constantly <em>judging</em> each other as people, as social groups, as identities – whether on the basis of gender, race, class, caste, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, location, nationality, religion, the work we do (“unclean” and “immoral” occupations such as those that stigmatize Dalits or sex workers). We are taught from our earliest years, and usually with good intentions, to make judgments – about what is normal, abnormal, right, wrong, good, bad, clean and unclean.&nbsp; But these judgments are often reflections of social norms and values that feminists and social justice advocates have not only rejected, but transgressed in our own lives.</p><p>Why then do we not recognize the ways in which we still continue to judge others, and justify those judgments?&nbsp; How can we find common ground and build our collective power for rights and justice if we continue to be divided by our own internalized biases?&nbsp; As Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in a recent powerful <a href="http://qz.com/766267/nobody-is-ever-just-a-refugee-chimamanda-ngozi-adichies-powerful-speech-on-the-global-migrant-crisis/">speech</a>, “Nobody is ever just a single thing. And yet, in the public discourse today, we often speak of people as a single a thing.”&nbsp; She goes on to say, “So I would like to suggest … that this is a time for a new narrative, a narrative in which we truly see those about whom we speak.” Or whom we judge.</p><p>This is why CREA chose to launch our <a href="http://www.creaworld.org/events/suspend-judgment-creas-campaign-launch-awid-2016">SUSPEND JUDGMENT<strong> </strong>campaign</a> at the AWID Forum, where thousands of feminist social justice activists from every corner of the world were gathered.</p><p>The Idea for the campaign arose from a practice encouraged at CREA’s Sexuality, Gender and Rights Institutes (SGRIs), an internationally lauded programme whose participants are exposed to entirely new concepts, perspectives and discourses that radically shift their perceptions and practice, often in deeply disturbing ways.&nbsp; When participants arrive, CREA faculty ask them to be <em>in a heightened state of suspending judgment</em>, in order to gain the most out of the course.&nbsp; The more participants allow themselves to question their long-held ideas, beliefs and biases, the more they are able to learn.&nbsp; They are not only able to better understand the human rights of others, but can more effectively <em>influence</em> others - especially those in social movements that are often antithetical to these ideas (such as accepting the fluidity of gender identities and sexual behavior).&nbsp; By leaving their preconceived notions and assumptions at the door, participants are able to recognize that many of the biases and beliefs they have internalized – whether around gender identities, sex work, our bodies, or even pornography - arise from social norms and practices that are in turn embedded in patriarchal, racial, classist or hetero-normative ideologies that uphold deeply unjust power structures.</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/CreaSuspendJudgement06.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CreaSuspendJudgement06.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="711" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Suspend Judgment leaflets on display at the AWID Forum. Designed by Sherna Dastur. CREA. </span></span></span></p> <p>The most formal space where the practice of judgment is integral is of course the law – which tends to reflect dominant social norms and values, especially with regard to gender.&nbsp; But the legal domain is also where we have pushed boundaries, and gained rights for people who were not only marginalized and excluded in their societies, but considered unworthy of rights. The constitution of India, for example, gave equal rights to women and Dalits in 1950, a time when even Western countries like Switzerland denied women the vote, and untouchability continued to be practiced in countries like Japan (Burakumin) and Rwanda (Hutu, Twa).&nbsp; Nepal’s new constitution awarded equal rights to third gender peoples when countries like the United States continue to criminalize them in many states, and the Delhi High Court struck down the legality of British-made laws criminalizing homosexuality. </p><p>Women’s and LGBTQI movements around the world, but especially in the South, have been quite successful in using the law to gain rights and justice for women by challenging the biases or gaps within existing legal frameworks.&nbsp; But despite these advances, the judgments in cases involving sexuality and gender tend to flout these progressive changes due to the internalized biases of power holders in the judicial system.&nbsp; In judicial contexts of Iran, Brunei, Nigeria and other countries, homosexuality can legally be punishable by death (though follow-through of these judgments often vary).</p><p>CREA’s mission is to change the way people think so that we can change the way they act.&nbsp; This takes time - it is an iterative process.&nbsp; It is unfortunate that few NGOs, donors, or governments are investing in these kinds of processes – everyone seems to be focused on superficial change that leaves exclusionary constructs largely intact. We accept that judgment is sometimes necessary – those who violate the rights of others, who commit violence, who oppress others simply because of who they are, how they live, what they believe - must certainly be held to account.&nbsp; But we believe that these violations themselves could be more effectively contained by helping people move from judgment to understanding.</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/grouppic.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/grouppic.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="612" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>CREA at the AWID Forum, Bahia, Brazil. September 2016</span></span></span></p><p>Our campaign - Suspend Judgment - is one step in this direction. &nbsp;We launched the campaign from our installation at the AWID Forum, where we exhibited posters and distributed leaflets that disturbed and interrogated people’s unquestioned beliefs and biases, and pushed them to understand the systems of meaning embedded in their attitudes.&nbsp; The leaflets were simple – some had mainly images and little text.&nbsp; They were designed to get people to rethink their positions on different issues and identities. For example, our leaflet on abortion had five images of women, each giving her reason for having an abortion, but the sixth and final woman simply asks “Why do I have to give a reason?”</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/CreaSuspendJudgement03.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CreaSuspendJudgement03.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="711" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Suspend Judgment leaflets on display at the AWID Forum. Designed by Sherna Dastur. CREA. </span></span></span></p><p>Shifting discourse does not happen overnight, but it must begin with those who believe in feminist social transformation. As movement activists, we have to challenge ourselves to constantly suspend judgment and remain critical even within feminist organizing. How can we dismantle and decolonize our own beliefs and attitudes in order to stop perpetuating conflicts, assumptions and norms rooted in patriarchy, narrow nationalism or the essentialization of bodies? How can we deepen our solidarities and our collective work as feminists so that unexamined or yet-to-be-examined opportunities to work together can arise?</p><p>We believe that suspending judgment is feminist practice.&nbsp; We launched the “Suspend Judgment” campaign at the AWID Forum to challenge global feminists to think and act differently. &nbsp;In par two of this article, we will share the exciting and thought-provoking reactions, comments and insights that emerged at the Forum in response to the campaign’s messages.&nbsp; We hope that in the months to come, more women’s rights and social justice activists and advocates, and anyone committed to a more just world, will support CREA’s <a href="http://www.creaworld.org/events/suspend-judgment-creas-campaign-launch-awid-2016">Suspend Judgment campaign</a>. </p> <p><em>The authors would like to acknowledge the immense contribution of many members of the CREA team and our Institute participants to the conceptualization of the Suspend Judgment Campaign and to the ideas in this two-part article</em></p><p>Part two of this article will be published on openDemocracy the week of October 10th.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Read more articles from the AWID Forum written by speakers, participants and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050">openDemocracy 50.50</a> writers <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/ch%C3%A9-ramsden">Ché Ramsden</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/rahila-gupta">Rahila Gupta</a> - <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016">HERE</a></strong><em><strong> </strong><br /></em></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/ch-ramsden/classifying-bodies-denying-freedoms">Classifying bodies, denying freedoms</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/imagine-feminist-village">Imagine a feminist village of the future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <a href="/5050/awono-okech/stay-woke-sustaining-feminist-organising-in-uncertain-world">Stay Woke: sustaining feminist organising in an uncertain world</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angelika-arutyunova-rochell-jones/feminist-futures-building-collective-power-for-rights-and-jus">Feminist Futures: building collective power for rights and justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/chloe-safier/young-feminist-movements-power-of-technology">Young feminist movements: the power of technology</a> </div> <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/trans-women-and-feminism-struggle-is-real">Trans women and feminism: the struggle is real</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/semanur-karaman-ana-cernov/our-movements-and-collective-struggles-thrive-despite-backlash">Our movements and collective struggles thrive despite backlash</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/self-care-in-digital-space">Self-care in a digital space</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rahila-gupta/taxing-lives-trading-women">Taxing lives, trading women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/glass-ceilings-and-cinderella-slippers-why-centre-cannot-hold">Glass ceilings and Cinderella slippers: why the centre cannot hold</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ch-ramsden/artivism-art-as-activism-activism-as-art">Artivism: art as activism, activism as art</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/feminist-inclusivity-and-moving-onto-agenda">Feminist inclusivity and moving onto the agenda</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/from-local-to-global-and-back-again">On freeing Kenya&#039;s pastoralist communities from discrimination</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> </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 Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter feminism gender gender justice women and power women's movements women's work Nafisa Ferdous Geetanjali Misra Srilatha Batliwala Mon, 03 Oct 2016 08:27:43 +0000 Srilatha Batliwala, Geetanjali Misra and Nafisa Ferdous 105697 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A life of hope lived in defiance of violence: Rebecca Masika Katsuva https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/fiona-lloyd-davies/rebecca-masika-katsuva-life-of-hope-lived-in-defiance-of-violence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“They think when they’re raped that their lives are shattered. But we’d like them to know that it’s not the end of the world" - Rebecca Masika Katsuva. (1966 - 2016)</p><p><em><em>&nbsp;</em></em></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/Rebecca Masika 1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Rebecca Masika 1.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'>Rebecca Masika Katsuva. Photo: Fiona Lloyd-Davies</span></span></span></p><p>Masika was a tiny woman, barely five feet tall, but she was a giant of a person. She was often in a hurry, and at the moment I am recollecting, she was irritated. I was holding her up. “Fiona,” she says, “I don’t have time to sit and talk to you. If I don’t go out to the fields and get cassava, we’ll all starve.”&nbsp; “No problem,” I say, “I’ll come too.”</p> <p>It was 2011, and I’d come to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to film her. I’d been slowly gathering footage over the past four years to make a feature-length documentary called<em> Seeds of Hope</em>. On each visit I filmed different aspects of Masika’s life and work, hoping to capture her remarkable story. It’s a tale of survival and hope lived in defiance of the nearly unbearable physical and psychological violence Masika experienced in her lifetime. </p> <p>We are in South Kivu, a region of eastern Congo with the unrealised promise due to the abundance of natural riches and still trying to lose the long shadow cast by Joseph Conrad’s novella, <em>Heart of Darkness</em>. Along with North Kivu, its infamous reputation only spread through years of war and violence, especially violent acts committed against women. A former UN special representative&nbsp; on sexual violence in conflict, Margot Wallström, gave eastern Congo its toxic title as “rape capital of the world.”</p> <p>Here a civil war has waged, targeting women and their bodies, for more than 20 years. At the height of the war, it was estimated that 48 women were being raped every hour in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Such violence was deliberate: rape is surely one of the most effective weapons of war. The act fractures communities and tears families apart. Rape targets the very heart of society - the mother, the wife, the sister, the daughter. One woman knew this better than most. Masika was raped five separate times, all but once, by gangs of armed men. </p><p>Even in the driest season, eastern Congo is lush. Fields of golden maize, swaying in the breeze, grow shoulder high in weeks, their tassels seeming almost to touch the sky. Ferocious electric storms light up velvet nights, flashing pink and blue and quenching the thirsty land with plump raindrops. Nature is abundant but so, too, is violence. A true figure may never be established, but nearly six million people have died since the civil war began in 1996, according to estimates, while hundreds of thousands of people - women, children, men and even babies - have been raped. </p> <p>Masika takes me off the main road and down a narrow, ochre-coloured earth path, under the sun’s glare. The path is barely wide enough for one person, but an elderly couple still squeeze past us. The man holds a multicoloured umbrella over his wife to shield her from the heat. Masika has no such protector. Her own husband, Bosco, the love of her life, was butchered in front of her in 1998, at the height of the conflict. Uniformed men broke into their home, killed Bosco, and raped Masika and her two teenaged daughters. That event has shaped the rest of her life. Ostracized by her in-laws and thrown out of the family home, she left carrying just what she could fit into one plastic bag. Along with her two impregnated daughters, Masika was forced to find a new path. </p> <p>Masika told me much later that it was the kindness of women that helped nurse her back to physical health and saved her sanity in the months immediately following the tragedy that ended her old life. Kindness also compelled her to follow their example. Her life since has been engaged with rescuing survivors of sexual violence, including children either orphaned or rejected because of rape. It hasn’t been an easy job: the violence seemed relentless, never-ending and was often acutely dangerous. Soldiers raped Masika four more times to punish her for speaking out against them and their violent treatment of women. </p> <p>She stops by a field of crops and picks some small chili peppers. Eating them raw, she tells me, “I never know when I may get my next meal.” She’s smiling as she says this, because hunger is not the worst hardship to bear. There are crops on all sides. It is harvest time and the bright colours worn by women workers stand out in patches against the green and yellow of cassava and corn. Some women are weeding. Others, with babies on their backs, are breaking off the maize and putting it in baskets. They chat to each other, sharing gossip and wisdom. Occasionally, you hear laughing. Pointing right, Masika shows me a section of uncultivated land recently given to her by an American donor. “In a few weeks,” she says, “we’ll prepare it for planting.”&nbsp; </p> <p>“This is my personal field,” says Masika, pointing to another patch of ground. “This one with cassava trees growing up the side of a hill. It’s the one I use to feed everyone at the centre.” The warm greetings she gets from women working her field are telling. She is well-known here. Her work is valued by people who have needed her help in the past or may call on it in the future. </p> <p>Masika was not an easy subject to film. All too often, I simply couldn’t find her. These disappearances usually meant she’d received word of an attack on a village. There were probably women there who’d been raped, babies orphaned or even raped too. On many occasions, she’d walk days to a mountain village, find a woman survivor and carry her, on her back, to the centre or directly to hospital. </p> <p>Her stories of rescue were astonishing. For example, she’d heard of a new attack in Ufamandu, a remote village in the upper plains that had been attacked before by the Interahamwe, the same militia from Rwanda who were responsible for the 1994 genocide. She and some companions entered the village to find dwellings still smouldering and dead bodies lying where they’d been felled. She thought she heard crying and started to hunt through the wreckage. Her companions said she was hearing the ghosts of the recently dead, crying out in confusion. But Masika was adamant: “I can hear a baby crying,” she said. She kept looking and eventually found a tiny boy, still trying to suckle the breast of his dead mother.</p> <p>She’s showing me a pile of cassava roots, stacked and ready for her to take home, when her mobile rings. Everyone here is dependent on mobile phones, virtually the only modern invention that still works and keeps the country functioning - but only just. Masika is ashen-faced: it’s bad news. A baby who recently arrived at the compound is now very ill. We must return at once.&nbsp; </p> <p>We find eight-month-old Espoire limp, almost lifeless. Masika bathes him in cold water to reduce his temperature. One of the girls has a bag ready-packed. This happens all the time, I am told. “I found Espoire in a village after an attack,” Masika says as we make our way to the hospital. “The village headman said that militiamen told mothers to throw their babies down and beat them to death. When Espoire’s mother refused, they shot her dead.” Masika found the baby with a broken arm and brought him here three months ago. “There are times,” she says, “when I feel truly devastated. But then, when I find a baby without a mother in the middle of a pile of corpses, I can save that child. Who knows what the future will bring? I am devoted to these babies.” She sighs. “I must help them survive,” she adds. “They stabilise me.” </p> <p>Filming Masika in the hospital, as she washed, dressed, fed or nursed young children, was profoundly touching. Many people called her “Mama Masika” because she has provided so many with the love, patience and nurturing that they’d either never experienced or thought they’d lost forever. She was able to give them something more valuable than medical therapy: constant, present love in an environment where fear, violence and insecurity prevail. She seems almost to collect the very young. At one point, in 2015, she had 84 children living at her centre. She dismissed the pleas of one non-governmental organization working with her to stop taking them in. When asked how she was going to provide for them all on so little funding, she retorted, “I can’t leave them on the side of the road to die!” </p> <p>It’s rare in this life to meet a real hero, someone who risks all for the sake of others, but Masika was one of those people. A survivor of multiple assaults, she dedicated herself to helping thousands of others to survive their horrors. </p> <p>When I first met Masika in 2009, I knew immediately that she was a remarkable person, someone who would leave an indelible mark on the world. She left her mark on me, too. I think of her every day, and remember her warmth, her smile and her immense capacity to love. Being close to her a few weeks at a time over a period of five years, I felt I was in the presence of immeasurable courage and resilience. She was, and continues to be, inspirational, and when my own life throws up challenges that seem insurmountable, I think of her. Masika reminds me that whatever happens, one tiny person can make a huge difference and bring new hope into another’s ruined life.</p> <p>Masika was a sister to me, and I was so honoured that she called me “sister” too. Having suffered so much in her life, death came for my sister quickly and suddenly. Masika went to hospital early one morning and died of a heart attack at 4:00 that afternoon. The heart that had given so much to so many finally gave out. Rebecca Masika Katsuva will not be forgotten, but she leaves a void that’s impossible to fill.<em> </em></p> <p><a class="lightbox-processed" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" href="https://cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/When%20We%20Are%20Bold%20%281%29.png"></a> </p><p><strong><em>This essay is one of 28 stories by notable women about remarkable women peacemakers brought together in a collection to celebrate the 10th&nbsp;anniversary of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. <a href="http://whenwearebold.com/">When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right!</a><a href="http://whenwearebold.com/"> </a>Editor, Rachel Vincent, September 27, Mapalé. <a href="http://www.editorialmapale.com/" target="_blank">http://www.editorialmapale.com/</a>&nbsp;</em></strong></p><p><strong><em>Read more articles in the openDemocracy 50.50 <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative-10th-anniversary">series </a>celebrating the 10th anniversary of the </em><a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/"><em>Nobel Women's Initiative</em></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/rachel-m-vincent/nobel-women-s-initiative-at-10-when-we-are-bold">Nobel Women’s Initiative at 10: When We Are Bold</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/valerie-m-hudson/toward-feminist-foreign-policy">Gloria Steinem: toward a feminist foreign policy </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marilyn-waring/helen-caldicott-and-first-nuke-free-country">Whose work was the inspiration for the first nuke-free country?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn/our-africa-mapping-african-womens-critical-resistance">Our Africa: mapping African women&#039;s critical resistance </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leymah-gbowee/leymah-gbowee-five-words-for-men-of-libya">Leymah Gbowee: five words for the men of Libya</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/julienne-lusenge-jennifer-allsopp/we-want-peace-we%E2%80%99re-tired-of-war">&quot;We want peace. We’re tired of war&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amina-mama/where-we-must-stand-african-women-in-age-of-war">Where we must stand: African women in an age of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn/lessons-of-hummingbird">Lessons of the hummingbird</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/isabel-hilton/we-are-visible">We are visible</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fatou-gu%C3%A8ye/senegal-land-belongs-to-those-who-work-it">Senegal: the land belongs to those who work it </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"> Democratic Republic of the Congo </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 Democratic Republic of the Congo Nobel Women's Initiative 10th anniversary Continuum of Violence 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick violence against women Sexual violence gender justice bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter women's work Fiona Lloyd-Davies Fri, 30 Sep 2016 09:45:33 +0000 Fiona Lloyd-Davies 105644 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Nobel Women’s Initiative at 10: When We Are Bold https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rachel-m-vincent/nobel-women-s-initiative-at-10-when-we-are-bold <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“It is time to stand up, sisters, and do some of the most unthinkable things. We have the power to turn our upsidedown world right.” – Leymah Gbowee</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/Liz-Rachel-Julienne-Leymah DRC 2014.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Liz-Rachel-Julienne-Leymah DRC 2014.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rachel Vincent, Liz Bernstein, Leymah Gbowee and Julienne Lusenge meet with sexual violence survivors in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 2014. Photo: Peter Müller </span></span></span>When I was 10, I was an avid reader and particularly loved reading biographies. I vividly recall reading short, child-versions of biographies about Florence Nightingale — the nurse who pioneered the use of hygiene in field care and saved countless lives on the front lines during the Crimean War — and biographies of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, two African Americans who had bravely made their way from the South to the North to escape slavery. Harriet Tubman traveled mostly at night, and used moss — which grows on the side of the tree that gets the least amount of light, the north side — to guide her to freedom. To this day, while walking in the woods, I find myself checking on which side of the tree the moss is growing. </p> <p>It is perhaps not surprising then that as I grew older, I sought out books written by and about women. In my turbulent teens and 20s, it was the lives and experiences of women I had never met — writers like Harper Lee, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, Nawal El-Saadawi, Gloria Naylor, Julia Alvarez and Arundhati Roy — who helped me to feel less alone in this world. Their collective wisdom pointed me towards a new kind of North, an interior freedom; they showed me that there are many ways in this world to be a woman, and that fear was normal, but so was boldly refusing to accept things as they are.&nbsp; </p> <p>In 1983, when I was 18, my mother gave me a copy of Carol Gilligan’s book, <em>In A Different Voice</em>. This book posited the theory, ground breaking at the time, that women and men have different approaches to morality. Gilligan’s work has since been knocked off its pedestal, but the core idea that women and men have different “voices” and ways of being in this world has always stuck with me, and in ways big and small, has shaped my life. </p> <p>Fast-forward more than 30 years. I now find myself working with six extraordinary women Nobel Peace laureates at the <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative</a>. The initiative’s leader, Liz Bernstein, shares not only a passion for feminism and peace work with me, but also a deep love for the writing of women and women’s stories. During human rights delegations to countries like South Sudan, Honduras, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liz and I fill time on planes or buses discussing books we love, especially ones that celebrate the stories of women who have rejected militarism, violence and hatred (in its many forms) and have bravely forged ahead unapologetically as peacemakers. </p> <p>After many years of amplifying the voices of women’s rights activists around the globe for the Nobel Women’s Initiative, I decided to curate a book celebrating 100 years of remarkable peacemakers.&nbsp; The book is called &nbsp;<a href="http://whenwearebold.com/">When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right !</a> Published by Mapalé,<strong> </strong>27 September 2016.</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/When We Are Bold.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/When We Are Bold.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="457" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right ! Editor, Rachel Vincent. Published by Mapalé. </span></span></span></p> <p>We all stand on some pretty broad shoulders in the peace movement, and I wanted to honour those who led the way—and who have influenced and shaped other women. The result is a unique collection of 28 short profiles of women who work boldly for change, by the women writers, thinkers and doers they inspire.&nbsp; Some of the women in the book you may recognize, including seven women Nobel peace laureates.&nbsp; Other women in the book are not famous, but should be.&nbsp; The women come from all over the globe, including France, Liberia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Israel, Jordan, Russia, Mexico, Honduras, Canada and the United States. </p> <p>We are reprinting three essays from the book here on <em>openDemocracy 50.50</em>.&nbsp; In her <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/valerie-m-hudson/toward-feminist-foreign-policy">essay</a>, scholar and writer Valerie M. Hudson explores how feminist icon Gloria Steinem, now in her 80’s, is still working for a shift in foreign policy based on the feminist goal of peace. In her <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/marilyn-waring/helen-caldicott-and-first-nuke-free-country">essay</a>, feminist economist and former New Zealand politician Marilyn Waring takes us back to the early 1980s, when Dr. Helen Caldicott paid a well-timed visit to New Zealand and helped move public opinion closer to the decision to make New Zealand the first nuke-free country.&nbsp; In her <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/fiona-lloyd-davies/rebecca-masika-katsuva-life-of-hope-lived-in-defiance-of-violence">essay</a>, filmmaker Fiona Lloyd-Davies honours Congolese activist Rebecca Masika Katsuva.&nbsp; Masika, herself a survivor of sexual violence, helped dozens of other survivors in her short life, and also become “Mama Masika” to so many of their children.&nbsp; </p> <p>The women profiled in these essays, are “extraordinary”. &nbsp;But at the root of that word is “ordinary”. Both the women writing and the women who inspire them are just like women you know. They are your mother, your sisters, your aunts; women in every community across this planet doing the hard, sometimes dangerous, and often lonely, work of challenging the status quo and responding to violence and injustice in its many forms. </p> <p>I hope you see glimpses of yourself in some of the women you read about in these essays. Perhaps some of them will even inspire you to follow the metaphoric moss on the north side of the trees towards boldness.&nbsp; </p> <p><a href="http://whenwearebold.com/">When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right !</a> Published by Mapalé,<strong> </strong>27 September 2016</p><p><strong><em>Read more articles in the 50.50 <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative-10th-anniversary">series </a>celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Nobel Women's Initiative</em></strong></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/marilyn-waring/helen-caldicott-and-first-nuke-free-country">Whose work was the inspiration for the first nuke-free country?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/valerie-m-hudson/toward-feminist-foreign-policy">Gloria Steinem: toward a feminist foreign policy </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/fiona-lloyd-davies/rebecca-masika-katsuva-life-of-hope-lived-in-defiance-of-violence"> A life of hope lived in defiance of violence: Rebecca Masika Katsuva</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/isabel-hilton/peacework-lessons-we-have-failed-to-learn">Peacework: lessons we have failed to learn</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/liz-khan-sue-finch/peacework-women-in-action-across-europe">Peacework: women in action across Europe </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/content/meaning-of-peace-in-21st-century">The meaning of peace in the 21st century</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/there-are-more-of-us-who-want-peace-than-want-killing-to-continue">There are more of us who want peace than want the killing to continue</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mairead-maguire/common-vision-abolition-of-militarism">A common vision: The abolition of militarism </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leymah-gbowee/leymah-gbowee-five-words-for-men-of-libya">Leymah Gbowee: five words for the men of Libya</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jody-williams/jody-williams-true-path-to-nuclear-non-proliferation">Jody Williams: The true path to nuclear non-proliferation </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 Nobel Women's Initiative 10th anniversary Women's Power to Stop War 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Women's Movement Building women's movements women and power women and militarism 50.50 newsletter Rachel Vincent Tue, 27 Sep 2016 10:27:34 +0000 Rachel Vincent 105602 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Gloria Steinem: toward a feminist foreign policy https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/valerie-m-hudson/toward-feminist-foreign-policy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Feminism, when you look at it as Gloria Steinem does, as the recognition of the full humanity and full equality of both men and women, <em>is </em>peace work</p> </div> </div> </div> <table cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" align="left"> <tr> <td valign="top" align="left"> </td> </tr> </table> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Gloria Steinem.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Gloria Steinem.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gloria Steinem leads Women Cross DMZ, an international group of women peace activists crossing the border between North and South Korea in 2015. Photo: Niana Liu</span></span></span></p><p>Gloria Steinem’s name has become synonymous with feminism, but it’s also true to say her life has been devoted to the cause of peace. In her 81st year, Steinem joined a group of 30 women peacemakers who marched (or attempted to march) across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, to highlight the political-military stalemate there. Two Nobel laureates, Mairead Maguire and Leymah Gbowee, also marched. This was no orchestrated photo op. Steinem explained that they’d arrived not knowing if they’d actually be allowed to cross or not, and that it was “remarkable” that they were given permission to do so by the two opposed governments. “North and South Korean women can’t walk across the DMZ legally,” she said. “We from other countries can. So I feel we are walking on their behalf.”</p> <p>To dare to envision peace is a profoundly subversive act, and always has been. While Steinem has contributed toward the building of a more peaceful world in many ways, such as the DMZ walk, one of her foremost contributions has been to envision, articulate, and help realize a world where the global war against women has an end.</p> <p>Ending the war against women is not some add-on or tangent to the cause of peace between races, peoples, and nations—it is the precondition for such peace. There cannot be peace between nations until there is peace between the two halves of humanity, the mothers and fathers of all living and all yet to live. This understanding is the great gift Steinem has given to three generations of humankind now—a gift we will pass on to our own daughters and sons.</p> <p>Steinem sees a connection between what we have chosen to normalize in male-female relations, and what we see at the level of state and society. “The family is the basic cell of the government,” she explains, “it is where we are trained to believe that we are human beings or that we are chattel, it is where we are trained to see the sex and race divisions and become callous to injustice even if it is done to ourselves, to accept as biological a full system of authoritarian government.”</p> <p>Truly, then, we should not be surprised that societies rooted in male dominance over females are not peaceful or democratic; as Steinem notes, “We’re never going to have democratic countries or peaceful countries until we have democratic or peaceful families.” Why? Because you must teach men to dominate in order to maintain a male-dominated system. And that is a very ugly education, indeed, where the first to be dominated are those within men’s own families who are different from them: women. Domestic violence is the seedbed of all other violence based on difference. “This is the first form of violence, domination, power we see as children,” explains Steinem. “It normalizes every other form.”</p> <p>This education in domination not only harms women—it harms men as well. Steinem says that when she talks to groups of men they often bring up how masculine roles have limited them, and how they missed having real, present loving fathers, as their dads were always trying to fit an ideal of masculinity, which did not include that. Because men have been taught that they have to “prove” their masculinity in a way women do not, and because masculinity has been constructed upon notions of domination and control, men’s lives can easily become inhumane. It’s a life that brings no lasting happiness. In a way, then, feminism is humanism, for it seeks to liberate both men and women from destructively contorted sex roles.</p> <p>Steinem maintains that women will tend to be much better peacemakers until the masculine role is humanized. Women are integral to peacebuilding, for they have not been sidelined by the need to prove their sex role through conflict and aggression. Steinem points out that people thought achieving peace in Ireland and in Liberia would be impossible, but in both countries women from both sides started working together and did the impossible—achieved peace. </p> <p>If peace cannot be built without women then one of the most important steps that could be taken to ensure a more peaceful world would be empowering women globally:</p> <p><em>The worldwide reduction of violence against females should be a core goal of our foreign policy. It should be, given its outcome, its demonstrable outcome in every major country in the world ... Instead, what happens is the “it would be nice” principle—“It would be nice if women were more equal in Afghanistan, but it’s not important.” And many of our officials have said specifically that women’s rights have nothing to do with nationalism, peace conferences, peace processes, all kinds of things. We could, for instance, actually put some teeth into UNSCR 1325 ... We have the principle, but it is on paper only, it is not enacted. </em></p> <p>In an interview I did with Steinem in 2013, she opened my eyes to just how vastly different our foreign policy would be if we took the cause of women seriously. She recounted an incident that happened just after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. She attended a briefing of women’s organizations in a State Department auditorium toward the end of President Jimmy Carter’s tenure. Although the subject was an upcoming&nbsp; U.N. women’s conference and Afghanistan wasn’t mentioned, the Soviets had rolled into Kabul that very day. Newspapers were full of articles about the mujahideen—the Islamist guerrilla fighters in Afghanistan—and their declaration of war against their own Soviet-supported government. Their leaders gave three reasons for why they wanted to drive the Soviets out: girls were permitted to go to school; girls and women could no longer be married off without their consent; and women were being invited to political meetings.</p> <p>During the discussion that followed the meeting, Steinem stood up and posed an obvious question to her State Department hosts: Given what the mujahideen themselves had said that day, wasn’t the United States supporting the wrong side? Steinem remembers the question falling into that particular hush reserved for the ridiculous. She doesn’t remember the exact answer, but the State Department made it clear the United States opposed anything the Soviets supported—the government spokesman made no mention that the United States was arming violent, antidemocratic, misogynist religious extremists.</p> <p>It was clear that matters of war and peace were about realpolitik and oil pipelines—and not about honoring the human rights of the more peaceful female half of the human race. And so it happened that the mujahideen waged their brutal war with weapons supplied by the United States and, of course, Saudi Arabia—the birthplace of the doctrinaire interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism. Together, they gave birth to the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other affiliated terror networks that now reach far beyond the borders of Afghanistan. Steinem says she has never stopped regretting that she didn’t chain herself to the seats of that State Department auditorium in public protest.</p> <p>Feminism, then, when you look at it as Steinem does, as the recognition of the full humanity and full equality of both men and women, <em>is </em>peace work. When U.S. President Barack Obama presented Steinem with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 for her work advancing women’s rights and civil rights, she made the connection between the two explicit by saying the medal meant so much because it was, in a way, for waging peace. She explained that the gender division, in which there is a subject and an object, a masculine and feminine, a dominant and passive, is what normalizes other violence that has to do with race and class and ethnicity and sexuality. Men’s idea that they must defeat each other in order to be masculine, she explained, “is the root of the false idea that we are ranked as human beings rather than linked.” </p> <p>Steinem argues there is a better vision—an embrace of difference without hierarchy. When we encounter that first difference between male and female, a profound choice is placed before us: we can rank those who are different, or we can link them. Steinem urges us to choose the latter: “Difference is the source of learning ... Difference is a gift, so that we understand and don’t fear ... We live in a world of ‘either/or.’ We’re trying to make a world of ‘and.’ So it is about shared humanity in perfect balance with difference.”</p> <p>Steinem once described herself as a “hope-aholic,” which seems like a very good way to describe peacemakers. It is a life filled with incorrigible aspiration for a better world, and the tenacity to work for its realization. Part of this hope is that one day the vision you see will seem obvious to everyone: “I think that being a feminist means that you see the world whole instead of half. It shouldn’t need a name, and one day it won’t.” </p> <p>And as for Steinem herself? “I hope to live to 100. There is so much to do.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/When We Are Bold (1).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/When We Are Bold (1).png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="239" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em><span>This essay is one of 28 stories by notable women about remarkable women peacemakers brought together in a collection to celebrate the 10th&nbsp;anniversary of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. </span><a href="http://whenwearebold.com/">When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right!</a><a href="http://whenwearebold.com/"> </a><span>Editor, Rachel Vincent, September 27, Mapalé.</span></em></p><p><span><em><a href="http://www.editorialmapale.com/" target="_blank">http://www.editorialmapale.com/</a>&nbsp;</em></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em>Read more articles in the 50.50 <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative-10th-anniversary">series </a>celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Nobel Women's Initiative</em><br /></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/madeleine-rees/this-is-what-feminist-foreign-policy-looks-like">This is what a feminist foreign policy looks like</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jacqui-true/why-we-need-feminist-foreign-policy-to-stop-war">Why we need a feminist foreign policy to stop war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/christina-asquith/hillary-doctrine-untangling-sex-and-american-foreign-policy">The Hillary Doctrine: untangling sex and American foreign policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/valerie-hudson/foundation-of-human-security-in-every-society">The foundation of human security in every society</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/distance-travelled-beijing-hillary-and-women%27s-rights">The distance travelled: Beijing, Hillary, and women&#039;s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/still-our-man-in-havana-foreign-policy-reportings-elitism-problem">Still &#039;Our Man in Havana&#039;: foreign policy reporting&#039;s elitism problem</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mairead-maguire/building-culture-of-love-replacing-culture-of-violence-and-death">Building a culture of love: replacing a culture of violence and death</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leymah-gbowee/leymah-gbowee-five-words-for-men-of-libya">Leymah Gbowee: five words for the men of Libya</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/military-intervention-in-yemen-international-system-in-crisis">Military intervention in Yemen: the international system in crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ray-acheson-rebecca-johnson/un-are-development-and-peace-empty-words">The UN: are development and peace empty words? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ray-acheson-rebecca-johnson/un-are-development-and-peace-empty-words">The UN: are development and peace empty words? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/what-sex-means-for-world-peace">What sex means for world peace</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"> Conflict </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 Conflict Nobel Women's Initiative 10th anniversary 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women and power women and militarism feminism 50.50 newsletter Valerie Hudson Tue, 27 Sep 2016 10:27:33 +0000 Valerie Hudson 105597 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Whose work was the inspiration for the first nuke-free country? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/marilyn-waring/helen-caldicott-and-first-nuke-free-country <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>New Zealand was the first country in the world to pass national nuclear-free legislation. Marilyn Waring reflects on how Dr. Helen Caldicott’s influence culminated in the passage of the cornerstone of New Zealand’s foreign policy.</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/Helen Caldicott.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Helen Caldicott.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="359" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Helen Caldicott. Credit: Helen Caldicott</span></span></span></p><p>If you were growing up in New Zealand and Australia post World War II, there’s a chance you knew about the United States using the Marshall Islands as a nuclear testing site from 1947 until 1962. In an agreement signed with the United Nations, the U.S. government held the Marshall Islands as a “trust territory” and detonated nuclear devices in this pristine area of the Pacific Ocean—leading, in some instances, to huge levels of radiation fall-out, health effects, and the permanent displacement of many island people. In all, the U.S. government conducted 105 underwater and atmospheric tests. You would have also known that the British conducted seven atmospheric tests between 1956 and 1963 on traditional Aboriginal land, in Maralinga, Australia. </p> <p>It may be that you read Neville Shute’s 1957 novel <em>On the Beach, </em>in which people in Melbourne, Australia wait for deadly radiation to spread from a Northern Hemisphere nuclear war. This book made a memorable impact on Helen when she read it as a teenager. When I was a teenager, some years later, I read Bertrand Russell’s 1959 classic, <em>Common Sense and Nuclear Warfare. </em></p> <p>Both Helen and I saw Peter Watkin’s <em>The War Game</em>, a BBC documentary drama about nuclear war and the consequences in an English city. In New Zealand the film was restricted for children unless accompanied by an adult, so I had to get my father to take me. <em>The War Game</em> won the Oscar for the best documentary in 1965.</p> <p>France began its series of over 175 nuclear tests at Mururoa, in the South Pacific, in 1966. At least 140 of these tests were above ground. In 1973, the New Zealand and Australian governments took France to the World Court for continued atmospheric testing, and forced the last tests underground. The testing finally came to an end in 1976.</p> <p>In New Zealand the U.S. Navy made regular visits between 1976 and 1983 with nuclear-powered and, most likely, nuclear-armed, ships. These visits produced spectacular protest fleets in the Auckland and Wellington harbours, when hundreds of New Zealanders—in yachts of all sizes, in motor boats and canoes, even on surf boards—surrounded the vessels and tried to bring them to a complete stop. By 1978, a campaign began in New Zealand to declare borough and city council areas nuclear-free and, by the early 1980s, this symbolic movement had quickly gained momentum, covering more than two-thirds of the New Zealand population.</p> <p>Helen Caldicott and I had not met up to this point, but these were shared parts of our history and consciousness when Helen visited New Zealand in 1983.</p><p>Helen Caldicott graduated with a medical degree from University of Adelaide Medical School in 1961. She moved to the United States, becoming an Instructor in paediatrics at Harvard Medical School and was on the staff of the Children’s Hospital Medical Centre in Boston, Massachusetts. In the late 1970s, Helen became the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility. This group was founded when Helen was finishing medical school, quickly making its mark by documenting the presence of Strontium-90, a highly radioactive waste product of atmospheric nuclear testing, in children’s teeth. The landmark finding eventually led to the Limited Nuclear Test Ban treaty, which ended atmospheric nuclear testing. </p> <p>But it was the Three Mile Island accident that changed Helen’s life. An equipment failure resulted in a loss of cooling water to the core of a reactor at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania, causing a partial meltdown. Operator failure meant that 700,000 gallons of radioactive cooling water ended up in the basement of the reactor building. It was the most serious nuclear accident to that date in the U.S. Helen published <em>Nuclear Madness</em> the same year. In it she wrote: “As a physician, I contend that nuclear technology threatens life on our planet with extinction. If present trends continue, the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink will soon be contaminated with enough radioactive pollutants to pose a potential health hazard far greater than any plague humanity has ever experienced.” In 1980, Helen resigned from her paid work positions to work full time on the prevention of nuclear war. </p> <p>In 1982, Canadian director Terre Nash filmed a lecture given by Helen Caldicott to a New York state student audience. Nash’s consequent National Film Board of Canada documentary<em> If You Love this Planet </em>was released during the term of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, at the height of Cold War nuclear tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The U.S. Department of Justice moved quickly to designate the film “foreign propaganda,” bringing a great deal of attention to the film. It went on to win the 1982 Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject. That same year, Helen addressed about 750,000 people in Central Park, New York in the biggest anti-nuke rally in the United States to that date.</p> <p>In 1983, I was serving as a member of the New Zealand parliament, having been elected eight years earlier at the age of 23. Our parliament established a Disarmament and Arms Control Select Committee to conduct hearings on the possibility of making New Zealand a nuclear-free zone. During this critically important time, Helen was invited to New Zealand on a lecture tour. The documentary <em>If You Love This Planet </em>was shown at her speaking engagements.</p> <p>I did not get to meet her, nor hear any of her lectures in person, as I was working in parliament every night. But I did follow the media coverage. </p> <p>Helen told the magazine the<em> Listener</em> about having observed five-star generals in U.S. congressional and senate committees complaining that the Russian missiles were bigger than the American ones. “The Russian missiles are very big (and) inaccurate and clumsy. America has very small, very accurate missiles, which are better at killing people and destroying targets,” she explained. A frequent message in her talks to New Zealand audiences was the redundant overkill capacity of both superpowers. Caldicott noted to her audiences that “[T]he U.S. has 30,000 bombs and Russia 20,000.” </p> <p>I had sat in a New Zealand parliamentary committee hearing some months earlier, when a government colleague, brandishing a centrefold of a Russian submarine, excitedly called for us to “Look at how big it is.” I had thought that no one would believe me if I had repeated such an inane banality—when an adult male was more impressed by the size of the submarine than its capacity to destroy life on this planet. </p> <p>Helen’s public addresses were grounded in the potential impact of nuclear weapons. “Imagine a 20-megaton bomb targeted on Auckland,” she told audiences in New Zealand. “The explosion, five times the collective energy of all the bombs dropped in the Second World War, digs a hole three-quarters of a mile wide by 800 feet deep and turns people, buildings and dirt into radioactive dust. Everyone up to six miles will be vaporised, and up to 20 miles they will be dead or lethally injured. People will be instantly blinded looking at the blast within 40 miles. Many will be asphyxiated in the fire storm.” </p> <p>Helen did not hold back, explaining that nuclear war means “blindness, burning, starvation, disease, lacerations, haemorrhaging, millions of corpses and an epidemic of disease.” Helen’s dramatic and blunt style reduced many in her audiences to tears. She always ended her talks with a call to action—especially to parents—as she strongly believes that nuclear disarmament is “the ultimate medical and parenting issue of our time.”</p> <p>To those who would claim New Zealand was not a target she had a short reply: “Trident submarines in ports are targeted. They are a first strike target. It is much easier to destroy subs when they are in dock than it is when they are submerged in the ocean.” </p> <p>In 2015, I asked Helen how she managed to deliver such bad news and yet keep her audiences with her. “Being a doctor helps because you have to learn to negotiate with a patient and with language they can understand,” she explained. “You have to convert the medical diagnosis and treatment to lay language. I also have to keep them awake sometimes by letting them laugh because it relieves their tension and because the stuff I say is pretty awful.” Helen told me that she practices “global preventative medicine.” </p> <p>Helen’s tour through New Zealand in 1983 had a huge, and lasting, impact. At one stop, Helen addressed over 2,000 people at a public event in Auckland. The librarian with whom I corresponded looking for old newspaper reports of Helen’s visit, wrote to me: “Her chillingly detailed description of the effects of a nuclear device detonated over the hall in which we were sitting remains rooted in my psyche to this day! …The other message I most recall is the dichotomy she evoked between the destructive drive of ‘old men’ rulers, the instigators of war, versus the procreative energy of mothers most impelled to oppose them—which, however reductive, retains the compelling logic of a truism!” </p> <p>Helen’s approach was transformative in New Zealand. Helen’s speaking events packed auditoriums, and overflows of audiences had to be accommodated using loud speaker systems. People responded strongly to this woman, whose life work involved caring for children, speaking about medical effects of fallout, and speaking without the use of the clichéd military and defence ideological rhetoric that treated people as if they were simpletons who couldn’t understand. Her speeches inspired people to act. After Helen spoke, the volume of mail delivered to my parliamentary office increased—particularly from women. </p> <p>On May 24, 1983, 20,000 women wearing white flowers and armbands and holding banners with peace signs marched quietly up a main street in Auckland to hold a huge rally and call for New Zealand to be nuke-free. It was one of the largest women’s demonstrations in New Zealand’s history. In her book, <em>Peace, Power and Politics – How New Zealand Became Nuclear Free</em>, Maire Leadbetter writes: “I am one of many activists who think of Helen Caldicott’s visit as the point when the peace movement began to grow exponentially… Helen had a magical ability to motivate previously passive citizens to become activists.” </p> <p>Shortly after Helen’s visit to New Zealand, in 1984, I advised that I intended to vote for the opposition-sponsored nuclear-free New Zealand legislation. This prompted conservative Prime Minister Rob Muldoon to call a snap election. Muldoon told media that my “feminist anti-nuclear stance” threatened his ability to govern. </p> <p>The new Labour Government of 1984 passed the <a href="New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act ">New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act</a> in 1987, the world’s first national nuclear-free legislation. Dr. Helen Caldicott’s influence had culminated in the passage of the cornerstone of New Zealand’s foreign policy.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/When We Are Bold (1).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/When We Are Bold (1).png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="239" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em><span>This essay is one of 28 stories by notable women about remarkable women peacemakers brought together in a collection to celebrate the 10th&nbsp;anniversary of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. </span><a href="http://whenwearebold.com/">When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right!</a><a href="http://whenwearebold.com/"> </a><span>Editor, Rachel Vincent, September 27, Mapalé.</span></em></p><p><span><em><a href="http://www.editorialmapale.com/" target="_blank">http://www.editorialmapale.com/</a>&nbsp;</em></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em>Read more articles in the 50.50 <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-womens-initiative-10th-anniversary">series </a>celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Nobel Women's Initiative</em><br /></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/rebecca-johnson/alternative-history-of-peacemaking-century-of-disarmament-efforts">An alternative history of peacemaking: a century of disarmament efforts </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mairead-maguire/common-vision-abolition-of-militarism">A common vision: The abolition of militarism </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/violence-is-not-inevitable-it-is-choice">Violence is not inevitable: It is a choice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/nuclear-survivors%27-testimony-from-hell-to-hope">Nuclear survivors&#039; testimony: from hell to hope </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/will-nagasaki-be-last-use-of-nuclear-weapons">Will Nagasaki be the last use of nuclear weapons?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/new-generation-taking-over-reins-of-nuclear-abolition">A new generation: taking over the reins of nuclear abolition</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson-jaine-rose/guerilla-woolfare-against-madness-of-mutually-assured-destruction">Guerilla woolfare: against the madness of mutually assured destruction</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/from-hiroshima-to-trident-listening-to-hibakusha">From Hiroshima to Trident: listening to the Hibakusha </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/no-more-little-boy-and-fat-man">No more &#039;Little Boy&#039; and &#039;Fat Man&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/isabel-hilton/peacework-lessons-we-have-failed-to-learn">Peacework: lessons we have failed to learn</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"> New Zealand </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 class="field-item even"> Conflict </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 New Zealand Civil society Conflict Nobel Women's Initiative 10th anniversary 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Towards Nuclear Non-proliferation 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women and power women and militarism 50.50 newsletter women's work Marilyn Waring Tue, 27 Sep 2016 10:27:30 +0000 Marilyn Waring 105595 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Classifying bodies, denying freedoms https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/classifying-bodies-denying-freedoms <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From sex to race, classification is a tool of oppression. Abuse directed at Caster Semenya lies at the centre of the AWID Forum’s theme ‘Bodily Integrity and Freedoms’. <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/ch-ramsden/classificar-corpos-negar-liberdades" target="_self">Português</a></em></strong>&nbsp;<strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/ch-ramsden/clasificar-cuerpos-negar-libertades" target="_self">Español</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>I was in my early teens when I accompanied my grandmother on a Christmas errand to deliver boxes of biscuits to each of her surviving maternal cousins. Although our extended family was big we were also close, so I was surprised when the last box was for an aunty I’d never met. “Who is <em>Dawn</em>?” </p> <p>“Aunty Evelyn’s daughter.” Aunty Evelyn was my great-grandmother’s sister; there was an old family picture in our dining room which included a baby Evelyn. </p> <p>“I didn’t know Aunty Evelyn had children.” </p> <p>“She married white, so they never knew the rest of the family.” </p> <p>Over the next twenty minutes I heard a typically South African story about a family that had been divided by apartheid classifications. Aunty Evelyn ‘passed’ for her entire adult life; she lived in a white area and hid her heritage from her white neighbours and children. Meanwhile her other relatives were classified ‘Coloured’. As she witnessed her Black sister’s treatment under apartheid, including a traumatic <a href="http://www.sahistory.org.za/article/forced-removals-south-africa">forced removal</a>, I imagine one of Evelyn’s emotions was fear of being found out.</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/Jasonwhat.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Jasonwhat.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'>The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. Credit: Flickr / Jasonwhat. Some Rights Reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Apparently my light-skinned great-grandmother was also encouraged to ‘marry white’, but she fell in love with a dark husband instead. Their two older daughters had complexions like their mother, but my darker grandmother and her father mostly didn’t visit their white relatives to avoid ‘embarrassing’ Aunty Evelyn and her husband in front of their white neighbours. It turned out that Dawn didn’t even know about the existence of some of the other beneficiaries of our biscuit boxes until she was in her fifties. </p> <p>I was gobsmacked, and when we arrived I handed over the biscuits to my new old white aunty in uncharacteristic silence. On the way home, I grappled with Evelyn’s family’s alternate reality. “But didn’t the children ask questions? If they knew they had an aunt and some cousins, didn’t they wonder about your father and you, and the rest of the family? Didn’t they know where you lived?” </p> <p>“Ag, they probably just thought their mother didn’t belong to a very close family.” But she did: <em>our </em>family. Granny summed the situation up, “It was crazy, apartheid.” </p> <p><strong>Classification</strong> </p> <p>I am relaying this story because it illustrates how classification is at once meaningless and meaningful. When the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pencil_test_(South_Africa)">pencil test</a> is a legitimate government tool, you know there is something bizarre and unreal about classification. For many South Africans, our histories and experiences show how arbitrary racial boundaries are, but also how sharply they cut and how deeply they are felt. </p> <p>In early September, I will be travelling to Brazil to cover the <a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/">13th AWID International Forum</a> for 50.50. ‘Bodily Integrity and Freedoms’ is one of the forum’s umbrella issues, and I am looking forward to robust discussion throughout from nearly 2000 of the world’s feminist activists and scholars about our identities and lived realities as experienced through our bodies. The body remains a key site of conflict in feminist battles, with many intersecting classifications of the human body impacting our freedom and very existence. </p> <p>Classification is a tool of oppression; and oppression, of course, is rooted in power not fact. Apartheid classification systems, underpinned by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_racism">dodgy biology</a> and <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/despatches/africa/33032.stm">dodgy morality</a>, remind us that race is constructed – a social lie. The system we use to classify sex is no different: sex is a <a href="http://www.xysuz.com/what-is-intersex/">spectrum</a>, yet we insist on binary classification. Where intersex or a similar third category is begrudgingly recognised as an alternative to male-female classifications, intersex people are still denied the <a href="http://ilga-europe.org/what-we-do/our-advocacy-work/trans-and-intersex/intersex/events/3rd-international-intersex-forum">right</a> to bodily autonomy and determination. </p> <p>Indeed, the addition of ‘intersex’ as a third classification option – rather than recognising a vast and complicated spectrum which undermines any notion of sex categories – reinforces the system which seeks to control and oppress. I couldn’t help but feel this was the case when I watched bigotry and abuse unfold around Caster Semenya as she won an Olympic gold medal in the women’s 800m race.</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/PA-28431942 (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/PA-28431942 (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="278" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Caster Semenya celebrates victory in the women's 800m final at the Rio Olympics Games. Credit: Mike Egerton / PA Images</span></span></span></p><p>Since she won gold in the 2009 World Championships, Semenya’s talent has been the subject of international speculation, focused on whether she is too masculine to be allowed to compete against other women. Jennifer Doyle <a href="https://thesportspectacle.com/2016/08/16/capturing-semenya/">describes</a> how pundits have enjoyed ‘the cheap thrill of unveiling a queer interloper’ beneath ‘her broad shoulders, her hairstyle, her manner of dress, her sexuality – the queer, black female masculinity which she presents.’ </p> <p>Without her knowledge (and therefore consent), Semenya <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/21/sports/21runner.html?scp=1&amp;sq=sex%20test%20runner&amp;st=cse">underwent</a> medical tests in 2009 to verify her ‘eligibility’ to compete as a woman; again without consent, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) publicly confirmed these tests were taking place. It was subsequently reported that Semenya had ‘hyperandrogenism’ with testosterone levels higher than the ‘average’ female range. </p> <p>In response, the IAAF <a href="http://www.runnersworld.com/olympics/why-the-womens-800-will-be-the-most-controversial-race-at-the-olympics">adopted</a> Hyperandrogenism Regulations to prevent women with naturally-high levels of testosterone from competing, which were then <a href="http://www.tas-cas.org/en/general-information/news-detail/article/27072015-cas-suspends-the-iaaf-hyperandrogenism-regulations.html">suspended</a> by the Court of Arbitration in 2015 following a challenge by sprinter Dutee Chand. Semenya was therefore able to compete in the Rio Olympics without altering her natural hormones; her competitors, the IAAF and the International Olympic Committee <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/23/caster-semenya-olympic-spirit-iaaf-athletes-women">renewed</a> their questions about whether she should be allowed to do so. </p> <p>Questions about Caster Semenya’s gender – specifically, which seek to reclassify her gender or cast doubt on her womanhood – however innocently they seem to be posed, reinforce structures of oppression. When questions of ‘fairness’ or ‘legitimacy’ are raised, Semenya’s womanhood is also almost always bound with her blackness. </p> <p><strong>Misogynoir</strong> </p> <p>When Semenya’s detractors allude to a ‘problem’ with Semenya competing in women’s races, they always invite us to look at her – invariably tapping into racist bias. Lynsey Sharp, who came sixth in the women’s 800m Olympic event in Rio, said in her tearful post-race <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/21/lynsey-sharp-criticises-obvious-hypoadrogenous-women-having-bein/">interview</a> that “the public <em>can see</em> how difficult it is” (my italics) to compete with Semenya and other medallists Francine&nbsp; Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui. Fifth-placed Joanna Jozwik <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/olympics/rio-2016-joanna-jozwik-caster-semenya-800m-hyperandrogenism-a7203731.html?cmpid=facebook-post">insisted</a> that the medallists “have a very high testosterone level, similar to a male’s, which is why <em>they look how they look</em> and run like they run” (italics mine). </p> <p>Jozwik was even more explicit about what she meant: “I’m glad I’m the first European, the second white [to cross the finish line].” In other words, the medallists look Black and run fast (though, it should be noted, not record-breakingly fast) – therein lies Jozwik’s and Sharp’s <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/21/lynsey-sharp-criticises-obvious-hypoadrogenous-women-having-bein/">“obvious”</a> problem. It should also be noted that Jarmilla Kratochvílová, the white woman who holds the women’s 800m world record, has <a href="https://twitter.com/JJ_Bola/status/767343793251254276">not</a> faced similar speculation about her womanhood. </p> <p>In querying the medallists’ eligibility to inhabit a women’s space, Sharp and Jozwik showcased a racist myth at least as old as colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade: that black women belong in a different physical category to white women; that their bodies are more suited to hard physical labour than white men’s.</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/threeathletes.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/threeathletes.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>From left, Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba, silver, South Africa's Caster Semenya, gold, and Kenya's Margaret Wambui, bronze. Credit: Jae C. Hong / PA Images</span></span></span></p><p>In his <a href="https://mediadiversified.org/2016/08/19/its-not-about-the-genes-stupid/">article</a> ‘It’s Not About The Genes Stupid’, Ahmed Olayinka Sule examines a recent fascination with the genes of Jamaican sprinters and the accompanying racist pseudo-science. He calls it ‘a modern day extension of the black brute stereotype.’ 80 years after Jesse Owens’s success left Hitler red-faced at the Berlin Olympics, scientific racism – combined with scientific sexism in Semenya’s case – is still being used to mask and justify bigotry at the Olympic Games. </p> <p>By contrast, Olga Khazan <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/08/caster-semenya-and-the-abnormal-olympic-body/496724/">points out</a> that Michael Phelps’s ‘ultra-flexible feet…turn into “virtual flippers”’ when he swims, yet his ‘fish-like’ body causes little alarm and certainly no accusations that he should not be allowed to compete against other men. Likewise Jennifer Doyle <a href="https://thesportspectacle.com/2016/08/16/capturing-semenya/">reminds</a> us that swimmer Katie Ledecky’s ‘1500m freestyle is already in the zone of men’s times’ and ‘[her] dominance in her sport is much more spectacular than Semenya’s,’ yet her womanhood is not aggressively questioned. </p> <p><strong>#HandsOffCaster</strong> </p> <p>Accusations of incorrect sex classification have only applied to women athletes, significantly intersecting with women from the Global South. It is surprising that more feminists do not take a vocal stand against this unfair policing of women’s bodies, though this is probably because these women’s bodies are already queered by racism. </p> <p>John Branch <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/28/sports/international/dutee-chand-female-sprinter-with-high-male-hormone-level-wins-right-to-compete.html?_r=0">reports</a> that ‘at the London Olympics [in 2012], four female athletes, all 18 to 21 years old and from rural areas of developing countries, were flagged for high levels of natural testosterone.’ All four women subsequently underwent ‘feminizing’ surgery. Semenya’s ‘high’ levels of testosterone are a focal point, but men with higher-than-average testosterone levels are not under examination. </p> <p>#HandsOffCaster started trending on South African social media as the Olympics approached, in response to renewed interest in Semenya. Given the physically invasive treatments women athletes have undergone, the physicality of the call – ‘hands off!’ – is appropriate. Semenya’s privacy and physical autonomy had already been invaded in the past, so #HandsOffCaster also acts as a firm warning: ‘enough!’ Medical tests are invasive; doubly so when performed without consent; triply so when the results are leaked to the media and then reported to the public. </p> <p>During the 2016 Olympic Games closing ceremony, each country sent a flag-bearing representative into the middle of the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janiero: these were the ‘Heroes of the Games’. Caster Semenya was chosen to carry the South African flag as her country’s hero, and I could not have felt prouder. </p> <p>Team South Africa could have opted for fellow gold medallist Wayde van Niekerk, who broke a men’s 400m world record, but Semenya’s presence in this segment of the ceremony displayed the team’s unity and strength. Her very existence in the Olympic arena at that moment defied a variety of bigots who would rather she did not exist, whether because they wrongly believe homosexuality is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/oct/02/homosexuality-unafrican-claim-historical-embarrassment">un-African</a>, or, like the IAAF, because their misinformed understanding of sex and gender is disturbed by her perfectly natural hormonal combination. Semenya’s wide-reaching <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/olympics/caster-semenya-controversial-abroad-a-hero-at-home-in-south-africa/article31480265/">popularity</a> in South Africa was the icing on a beautiful cake. </p> <p>Symbolism may not offer a true or even meaningful representation of life, but it was important to have this moment. It served as a reminder that South Africa not only stands behind Semenya, but elevates her as our hero. Our expectation is that Semenya can live the life she was born into and continues to choose, love openly, and compete freely on the world stage alongside other athletes. </p> <p>Caster Semenya’s success and South Africa’s stand at the Olympics have me standing with her, too, ready for <a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/">AWID</a> and ready to contribute to shared ‘feminist futures’. In our journey to reclaim the body in all its expressions, refusing to comply with oppressive and narrow classification systems is an integral step on the path to liberation. The AWID programme promises to be inclusive and intersectional, ‘building collective power for rights and justice’ – watch <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016">this space</a>.</p><p>Ché Ramsden will be writing daily for 50.50 from this week's <em>AWID Forum</em> <strong><a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/">Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice</a></strong>, <em>8-11 September, Bahia, Brazil</em>. <em>openDemocracy 50.50 will be <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016">reporting daily </a>from the Forum</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/trans-women-and-feminism-struggle-is-real">Trans women and feminism: the struggle is real</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/oscar-pistorius-shooting-to-kill">Oscar Pistorius: shooting to kill</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 Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy temp 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights sexual identities gender justice gender feminism bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter young feminists Ché Ramsden Mon, 05 Sep 2016 09:02:21 +0000 Ché Ramsden 104993 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Young feminist movements: the power of technology https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/chloe-safier/young-feminist-movements-power-of-technology <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Young feminists are coming of age in a tech-focused and tech-literate world and using technology to organize locally and globally. What does this mean for the future of gender equality?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Holaa.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Digital art: “Rapists rape people not outfits” #RememberKhwezi. Photo: Holaa! Africa"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Holaa.jpg" alt="Digital art: “Rapists rape people not outfits” #RememberKhwezi. Photo: Holaa! Africa" title="Digital art: “Rapists rape people not outfits” #RememberKhwezi. Photo: Holaa! Africa" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Digital art: “Rapists rape people not outfits” #RememberKhwezi. Photo: Holaa! Africa</span></span></span></p> <p>In 2015, a Netherlands based group called <a href="http://www.womenonwaves.org/en/page/5636/abortion-drone--first-flight-to-poland">Women on Waves</a> coordinated with women’s organizations in Germany and Poland to make mifepristone, known as the ‘abortion pill,’ available to women in Poland, where abortion is illegal. Using drones, they dropped the pills over the Polish border, where women were waiting to receive the shipment. Rebecca Gromperts, a medical doctor who founded Women on Waves, <a href="https://news.vice.com/article/a-drone-is-flying-abortion-pills-from-germany-to-poland-this-weekend">told VICE news</a> “We're always looking for new ways to get through the loopholes of laws that restrict access to abortion." In this case, the loophole was that there are no criminal sanctions to taking the drug; it’s just not available inside the boundaries of the Polish state. By using drones rather than more traditional methods of transporting the drug, the organization was able to bypass restrictive border controls and generate international media attention to their campaign for reproductive rights. &nbsp; </p> <p>This example is indicative of two global trends that are shaping gender equality and women’s rights issues right now. The first is that as the world becomes more globalized and more technologically advanced, there are powerful new tools for individuals mobilizing a collective voice for change, the costs of coordination have decreased, and the strategies and means of protest have multiplied. Young people (speaking here of youth aged 15-24, as defined by the UN) are particularly relevant to this trend, as they are a growing demographic that’s come of age in a tech-focused and tech-literate world. </p> <p>The second trend is that as legal frameworks become more progressive and supportive of women’s rights in some parts of world, there is a gap between the laws and their implementation. In Bangladesh, for example, the minimum legal age for marriage is 18 for women but UNICEF reports that 29% of girls are married by age 15, and 65% are married before they turn 18. The 2006 Gender Equality Act in Nepal expanded women’s rights in politics, land ownership and increased protections against violence, yet <a href="http://asiafoundation.org/resources/pdfs/OPMCMGECUGBVResearchFinal.pdf">a 2012 survey</a> found that 61.3% of women in Nepal were not aware of laws that address gender based violence and 48% of women reported experiencing violence at some point in their lives. </p> <p>The <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2011/7/progress-of-the-world-s-women-in-pursuit-of-justice">2011-2012 UN Women Progress of the World’s Women</a> found enormous strides towards progressive legal frameworks at national, regional and international levels in many parts of the world, but pervasive marginalization, discrimination and violence towards women persists. Social and cultural norms, access to resources, economic marginalization, access to justice, and information deficits have meant that progressive laws are not advancing just societies. </p> <p>As a result, despite legislative progress, young women are facing sustained challenges to their reproductive rights, economic, political and social rights, as did the generations of women before them. In many countries, youth are visibly organizing and mobilizing to demand their state provides services or protections, or providing services where the state doesn’t; that's nothing new. What <em>is</em> new, is the tools available to young feminist organizers to demand and provide their services and rights, and the potential- and risk that this creates. </p> <p>FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund, where I currently work, is a youth-led fund that strengthens the participation and leadership of young feminist activists globally through their participatory grant-making model. FRIDA’s 70+ grantee partners in over 60 countries in the global south are using technology in new ways to connect, advocate, influence and shift social norms. As an organization, we are supporting their important work, while also working to understand the implicit risks involved with a more public profile. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Female.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Fe-Male placard reading &quot;I&#039;m not a prize for men athletes, I&#039;m an athlete myself&quot; Photo: facebook #NotAnObject"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Female.jpg" alt="Fe-Male placard reading "I'm not a prize for men athletes, I'm an athlete myself" Photo: facebook #NotAnObject" title="Fe-Male placard reading &quot;I&#039;m not a prize for men athletes, I&#039;m an athlete myself&quot; Photo: facebook #NotAnObject" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Fe-Male placard reading "I'm not a prize for men athletes, I'm an athlete myself" Photo: facebook #NotAnObject </span></span></span></p> <p>In Lebanon, the legal framework does in some ways support women’s rights; women are legally entitled to economic rights, full suffrage, and the right to run for office. But the reality is different: women often struggle to take out loans and are virtually excluded from decision-making positions in both public and private sectors. In response, more young women have also been joining major political parties and launching innovative campaigns to address the social norms that prevent women from claiming their rights. It helps that Lebanon is online and connected; as of the end of 2014, <a href="http://www.internetworldstats.com/">80.4% of the population used the internet</a>, with Facebook dominating the social media market . “Sell your products, Not her body” is one of these online campaigns, started by the young feminist organization <a href="http://www.fe-male.org">Fe-Male</a> which aims to shed light on all types of gender discrimination. </p> <p>In India, the high profile <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/naila-kabeer/grief-and-rage-in-india-making-violence-against-women-history">sexual assaults</a> targeting women have since 2012 incited backlash and penal code reform. In 2013, the Indian government revised the Criminal Law to strengthen the laws on sexual offences, including specific provisions on sexual harassment and acid attacks, though <a href="http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-women-groups-protest-anti-rape-ordinance-1796191">some women’s rights organizations felt the law did not go far enough</a>. India has one of the fastest growing populations of internet users and has become a place for campaigning, shifting societal norms, and advancing women’s rights causes. FRIDA has partnered with the South Asia based Fearless Collective, a South Asia based collective of artists, activists, photographers and filmmakers who use art to replace fear with empathy specifically exploring themes of gender and sexuality. Starting in Indonesia, we’re working with <a href="http://fearlesscollective.tumblr.com/">Fearless Collective</a> to host <a href="http://youngfeministfund.org/2016/05/fearlesslyfrida-in-indonesia-a-photo-essay/">workshops and public art creation events</a> around the world, to bring attention to issues of gender based inequality and violence. By using online networks to publicize the public art pieces across countries and networks, Fearless Collective is able to amplify the community level work in ways that wouldn’t have been possible ten or even five years ago. </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/Transvoice_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Transvoice_0.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'>"I am as you are": members of the young feminist group Transvoice in front of their wall painting in Bogor, West Java. Photo: Fabrice Bourgelle </span></span></span></p> <p>In South Africa, despite strong laws that protect LGBTI rights, persistent homophobia in communities (and amongst law enforcers) mean that those who identify as LGBTI are often at risk; “<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/07/26/opinion/26corrective-rape.html?_r=0">corrective” rape</a> of <a href="http://www.osisa.org/buwa/south-africa/classify-%E2%80%98corrective%E2%80%99-rape-hate-crime">black lesbian women is common</a>. <a href="https://www.facebook.com/HolaAfrica/?fref=ts">HOLAAfrica</a>, founded in 2012, has responded to this crisis by creating online dialogue and a community on Facebook for young South Africans expressing diverse sexualities, gender identities and feminisms online.</p> <p>The use of these new tools and initiatives ought to inspire new funding streams that will help women’s organizations understand the conditions under which young women's rights activists are successfully using new technologies to demand their rights from the state and shift social norms in their communities. New technologies are gendered, in that those who have privilege (based on gender, race, identity, class, wealth, power or access) to use technology and devices to their advantage can have a louder, stronger voice in public and private spaces. </p> <p>We need more information - and more information sharing - about when and how young women are using new technologies to demand their rights and create alternatives to state services and protections. We need better funded platforms to link young feminist activists to each other so they can learn from each other’s work. We need to fund more online and physical spaces between young feminist activists so that they can quickly and safely talk to each other about what strategies 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/501857/SKIRTS Nairobi.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/SKIRTS Nairobi.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'>Members of Socially Keen Individuals Redefining Tech Spaces (SKIRTS) at a digital security meeting in Nairobi. Photo: SKIRTS</span></span></span></p> <p>And, we need to generate more knowledge and understanding around how employing new technologies expose young women to new kinds of risk, and more information around successful risk mitigation strategies. This fits into a broader conversation about identifying more funding - and new funding streams - to advance young feminist organizing, and ensure the sustainability and growth of the feminist and women’s movements that are working on the frontlines for gender justice. </p> <p>In my work, I’ve seen the remarkable collective power of young feminist activists who use technologies to amplify their voices across communities, states, and regions. The platforms and tools we currently have at our disposal can enable those voices to go farther and to have even greater impact. Figuring out how to best enable and support that to happen, while ensuring safety, is a critical next step. </p><p><strong><em>Members of FRIDA are joining thousands of activists at the forthcoming AWID Forum</em> <a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/">Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice</a>, <em>8-11 September, Bahia, Brazil. &nbsp;We are running a <a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/program/feminist-internet-exchange">feminist internet exchange</a>, and a feminist tech hub with Mexican feminist organization Palabra Radio to broadcast a radio programme and podcasts during the Forum&nbsp; to amplify women and trans* people’s voices. See a full schedule of FRIDA's involvement on our </em><a href="http://youngfeministfund.org/2016/08/building-feminist-futures-frida-the-13th-awid-forum-brazil/">website.</a></strong></p><p><strong>openDemocracy 50.50 will be <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016">reporting daily</a> from the Forum<br /></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/jennifer-radloff/african-cyberfeminism-in-21st-century">African cyberfeminism in the 21st century </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fatimah-kelleher/future-is-%E2%80%98smart%E2%80%99-but-is-it-equal-african-women%E2%80%99s-digital-agency">The future is &#039;smart&#039; but is it equal? African women’s digital agency</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ruby-johnson/pulse-of-young-feminist-organising">The global pulse of young feminists organising</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/what-does-transforming-economic-power-mean">What does transforming economic power mean?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson-deepa-ranganathan/defending-ourselves-defining-rights-of-girls">Defending ourselves: defining the rights of girls </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson/claiming-rights-facing-fire-young-feminist-activists">Claiming rights, facing fire: young feminist activists </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/visible-players-power-and-risks-for-young-feminists">Visible players: the power and the risks for young feminists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson-devi-leiper-o%27malley/young-feminists-resisting-tide-of-fundamentalisms">Young feminists: resisting the tide of fundamentalisms</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson-marisa-viana/our-bodies-as-battlegrounds">Our bodies as battlegrounds</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/contesting-patriarchy-as-governance-lessons-from-youth-led-activism">Contesting patriarchy-as-governance: lessons from youth-led activism</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 Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women and power gender justice everyday feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Chloe Safier Fri, 26 Aug 2016 06:52:27 +0000 Chloe Safier 104868 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The distance travelled: Beijing, Hillary, and women's rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/marion-bowman/distance-travelled-beijing-hillary-and-women%27s-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Hillary Rodham Clinton will need to listen to the voices of women working at grassroots on the frontline, and be prepared to use her power, should she win, to defend the human rights defenders.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published by openDemocracy in April 2015</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/HillaryBeijing.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/HillaryBeijing.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hillary Clinton, before the 2015 premiere of "Makers: Once and for All", chronicling the lead up to U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Credit: Julie Jacobson / PA Images</span></span></span></p><p>So Hillary is running again. And the campaign against her has also taken off, with her gender and her record on women’s rights part of the story. How far will Clinton go this time in positioning herself as a champion of women? </p><p>On the morning of Hillary Clinton’s low key announcement that she is running for President for the second time, potential Republican rival Senator Rand Paul weighed in with a CNN interview, managing to patronise her as a woman in the same breath as saying it would be wrong to patronise her. He said it would be ‘sexist’ to suggest that Clinton deserves not to be treated aggressively in the political fight ‘because she’s only a woman’.</p> <p>Clinton herself avoided a gender-based strategy in her 2008 bid for the Democratic nomination but this time, she is building it <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/4/10/8383283/hillary-2016-campaign-gender-strategy">into her campaign</a>. An ‘<a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/02/grandmother-in-chief/385238/">America’s Grandmother</a>’ theme has emerged to improve Clinton’s appeal to voters and the campaign is <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/live/2015/apr/12/hillary-clinton-announces-2016-presidential-campaign-iowa">prioritising</a> women and young people, emphasising the chance to make history by putting the first woman President in the White House and leading on policies such as equal pay and paid leave as part of her broader programme on improving the incomes of workers and reducing inequality.</p> <p>In the years since her earlier Presidential bid failed and Clinton became the world’s most powerful diplomat as Obama’s Secretary of State, she felt able to be more vocal on gender. She launched the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review initiative, making the <a href="http://www.state.gov/s/dmr/qddr/">empowerment of women</a> one of the objectives of US diplomatic missions abroad. The Clinton Foundation, which Hillary runs with husband Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea, recently launched the ‘No Ceilings’ project, an initiative to inspire and advance the <a href="https://www.clintonfoundation.org/our-work/no-ceilings-full-participation-project">full participation</a> of women and girls around the world, and in a recent television interview marking twenty years since the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing she said: ‘In the 21st century, the biggest piece of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05nz2r1">unfinished business</a> is the full rights of women and girls and that’s what we should be focused on.’&nbsp; </p> <p>The <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/">Fourth World Conference on Women</a> held in Beijing in 1995, attended by more 30,000 activists, was a landmark breakthrough for women’s rights, and Clinton’s part in it cannot be underestimated. She was First Lady, not an elected official, but nevertheless her speech proclaiming ‘<em>women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights</em>’ was electrifying, not just for what she said but for the fact that there was someone with real influence in the White House prepared to say it. </p> <p>The speech put the moral and legal force of the <a href="http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/">Universal Declaration of Human Rights</a> in the service of women. Running for the nomination and possibly being a candidate, and even elected President next year, once again places Clinton, and progress on women’s rights, in a historic position at a time when real political will could make all the difference.</p> <p>Since Beijing, while the UN itself has devoted more attention to the status and conditions of women and some progress has been made, there have also been alarming developments. Violence against women has become an undeniable and widespread universal reality, and speaking out against it no longer a taboo, as it once was.&nbsp; Everything from rape as a weapon of war to sex trafficking to female genital mutilation (FGM) are far better understood, acknowledged and addressed in public discourse and policy. </p> <p>But even in the midst of progress at this level, the tide of violence has continued to rise and a special brand of violence has come to the fore: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malala_Yousafzai">violence</a> against women and girls who defend human rights such as Malala Yousafzai - now a Noble Peace laureate - and Salwa Bugaighis, a Libyan lawyer who played a key part in the Arab Spring and who was <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lindsey-hilsum/desolation-and-despair-in-libya-murder-of-salwa-bugaighis">murdered</a> in her own home last year as Libya descended into jihadist conflict.&nbsp; </p> <p>The challenge is no longer simply to promote women’s rights themselves. There is an additional struggle: to fight the backlash and protect the women who defend all human rights. Whether it is because of the rise of religious fundamentalism, the spread of criminal networks, the land grabs of corporations or the inertia, resistance or weakness of governments, women who promote human rights have very little protection from the powers and forces they challenge, and as a result their own lives are often at risk. Even when not in mortal danger, such women are regularly and extensively targeted around the world through judicial harassment, travel bans, threats, smears and detention as <a href="http://www.awid.org/Get-Involved/Urgent-Actions">evidence</a> gathered by the <a href="http://www.awid.org/">Association for Women’s Rights in Development</a> shows. </p> <p>A new front has opened up: the defence of women human rights defenders which is to be the subject of the <a href="http://www.nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative’s</a> biennial conference in the Netherlands April 24-26. </p> <p>As with so much in the political sphere, the struggle for progress at the highest levels hinges on language and ideas. As a new concept, ‘human rights defenders’ first gained currency in a UN resolution in <a href="http://www.ishr.ch/news/un-declaration-human-rights-defenders">1998</a>, then in <a href="http://www.awid.org/Library/First-Resolution-on-Protecting-Women-Human-Rights-Defenders-Adopted-at-the-UN-Amid-Strong-Conservative-Opposition-to-Already-Agreed-Rights">2013</a>, the General Assembly adopted a resolution specifically on protecting <em>women</em> human rights defenders. The resolution was a breakthrough but was a hotly contested matter with difficult negotiations about the final wording on several flanks. The resolution expressed the UN’s ‘grave concern’ about the risks and violations that women human rights defenders faced. But initial drafts contained contentious references to issues including matters of sexual and reproductive health, reproductive rights and sexuality that were later dropped in the final text. Key points that would have strengthened the text were excluded as a result of opposition voiced by a number of states from Africa, Asia and the Vatican.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>When the resolution was adopted four global rights organisations issued a <a href="http://www.ishr.ch/news/un-adopts-landmark-resolution-protecting-women-human-rights-defenders">statement</a> saying: ‘It is deeply regrettable that this last minute consensus came at the expense of a crucial paragraph containing language calling on states to condemn all forms of violence against women and women human rights defenders, and to refrain from invoking any customs, tradition or religious consideration to avoid obligations related to the elimination of violence against women.’ </p> <p>The focus now is on implementation. Nicole Bjerler of Amnesty International’s UN Office in New York said: ‘The resolution urges states to put in place gender-specific laws and policies for the protection of women human rights defenders and to ensure that defenders themselves are involved in the design and implementation of these measures,’ adding that ‘effective implementation of such measures by states will be key to enabling women human rights defenders to carry out their important and legitimate work.’</p> <p>This week's Nobel Women’s Initiative conference is designed to move from international resolution to action, building support for women human rights defenders and developing strategies for real progress on the ground through looking in detail at case studies from different regions around the world.&nbsp; Topics include digital and internet security, funding, media training, climate change and the protection of natural resources and the environment, and the monitoring and documenting of specific threats against women. </p> <p>The conference is an essential move in keeping up the pressure to make governments and other agencies take action, not just make resolutions. The issue could so easily slip off the agenda otherwise. The Nobel Women's Initiative have pointed out that recent studies, echoed by <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx">findings</a> of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, demonstrate that women environmental activists and women protecting land against mining and other resource developments are often facing the highest level of risk, and that 'to date, governments are doing very little to address their specific needs.' </p> <p>&nbsp;At the recent meeting of the UN <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw59-2015">Commission on the Status of Women</a>, a Political Declaration was issued that failed to include a reference to women human rights defenders. Lydia Alpizar, Executive Director of the Association of Women’s Rights in Development, did not let it pass unremarked in her <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/lydia-alpizar/csw-vital-need-to-defend-women-human-rights-defenders">speech</a>. '<em>A vital prerequisite for the continuity of the achievements and the future progress of our work is the integrated protection and prevention of violence against women human rights defenders in all our diversity,’ she said. ‘It is a shame that all language on defenders was removed from the Political Declaration.'</em></p> <p>Alpizar added: ‘This is the moment; there are important opportunities before us. This is the moment when we must have all resources needed - the political commitment and the action - to achieve real transformations.’ </p> <p>With Hillary Clinton declaring her candidacy for the Democratic nomination on a gender-inflected programme, the distance travelled from Beijing is considerable. The possibility of having a woman with power in the White House who at least has a track record in women’s rights, and who could yet have the political commitment, is a historic opportunity. </p> <p>The Nobel Women’s Initiative is providing the route through for the voices of women at the grass roots and in the frontline to be raised and amplified. Hillary Clinton will need to do more than campaign, but to listen to them and be prepared to use her power, should she win, to defend the human rights defenders. </p><p><strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong><em><em>Marion Bowman will be reporting for 50.50 from </em>the </em><em><a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative</a><em> </em>conference on the defence of women human rights defenders, 24-26 April. </em><em><em>Read more <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers</a> attending </em>conference.&nbsp; Read <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8432/all">previous years' coverage</a>.</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/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/lyric-thompson/best-time-to-be-born-female-worst-to-be-feminist-advocate">The &quot;best time to be born female&quot;: the worst to be a feminist advocate</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/lives-of-endurance-sanitizing-crime-against-girls">Lives of endurance: sanitizing crime against girls</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson/claiming-rights-facing-fire-young-feminist-activists">Claiming rights, facing fire: young feminist activists </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lydia-alpizar/csw-vital-need-to-defend-women-human-rights-defenders">CSW: the vital need to defend women human rights defenders </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> 50.50 50.50 Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights women and power gender justice gender feminism 50.50 newsletter Marion Bowman Wed, 27 Jul 2016 08:35:36 +0000 Marion Bowman 92159 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A revolution for our times: Rojava, Northern Syria https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rahila-gupta/revolution-for-our-times-rojava-northern-syria <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Travelling in Rojava is to witness a revolution experimenting with a form of stateless, direct democracy with women’s liberation, race and class equality at the heart of it. Part 1. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Part One.</p><p>When the ‘Arab Spring’ spread to Syria in 2011, Bashar Al Assad withdrew most of his forces from the predominantly Kurdish areas of Northern Syria to concentrate his firepower on the rebel forces in the South. The political freedoms of the Kurds had been heavily restricted by Assad, expressions of Kurdish identity were criminalised and their demographic density was diluted by Assad’s ‘Arabisation’ policy in which Arabs were resettled in Kurdish areas. The Kurds took advantage of Assad’s distractedness; under the direction of PYD (Democratic Union Party) which was influenced by the ideology of ‘democratic confederalism’ propounded by Abdullah Öcalan, jailed leader of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) across the border in Turkey, the Syrian Kurds set up a secular and ethnically inclusive, genuinely bottom-up democratic system. It is valiantly defended by men and women soldiers (YPG/YPJ) against ISIS which is unsuccessfully attempting to erode its Southern border.</p> <p>This is part one of the diary I kept on my recent visit to Rojava:</p> <p>I am making preparations for going to Rojava, the Kurdish enclave, in Northern Syria against a backdrop of anxious family and friends, mostly anxious about bombs and shrapnel, while some are concerned that I haven’t informed the British foreign office and may be arrested as a potential terrorist. I am relying on my press card and history of journalism in the UK for my ‘get out of jail’ card. Meanwhile I’m more worried about reported shortages of electricity and water. I am going there to research my forthcoming book, <em>Why Doesn’t Patriarchy Die?</em>, co-written with Beatrix Campbell. I have discovered that there is a revolution going on (in the middle of a war?!) which both ideologically and in practice puts women in the driving seat.&nbsp;&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/535193/WP_20160303_12_33_22_Pro.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/WP_20160303_12_33_22_Pro.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="409" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em>Commander and spokeswoman YPJ Womens' Defense Units, with Amina Ossa, Foreign Affairs, Rojava. Photo: Rahila Gupta</em></p><p><span>I have to fly to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan (Kurdish Regional Government) and then take a four hour drive to the border at Peshabur on a road that skirts Mosul, the ISIS stronghold in Iraq. This is the only part of my journey that worries me. But the journey turns out to be dangerous for very different reasons: the driver smokes at least 20 cigarettes; jiggles around and sings along to a Hindi film DVD that plays on a small screen on his dashboard so his eyes are rarely on the road even when overtaking; simultaneously juggling a phone and munching on the cashew nuts I offer him which leaves only his little finger on the steering wheel. When I see a plume of smoke in the distance and mime an explosion saying ‘bomb?’, a universal word, the driver goes ‘Naaah’.</span></p> <p>The next worrying thing is the border. I had been told by almost everyone connected with Rojava that the KRG is making it very hard for people to cross because they are opposed to the revolution. I have written as often as is polite to the border control. The first email says I can cross if I have a press card but can only go once. The second email says in English that the rules have changed and under the new rules I would not have been allowed as a freelancer but "edition happened after agreement” so they would honour the arrangement. The border is ‘manned’ by a young woman, who asks me why I am going to Rojava. When I say to research a book on why patriarchy doesn't die, she asks what patriarchy means. When I explain it, she says “good, I hope it dies and never comes back”. This is what they must mean by soft power – she is gentle and lovely but would have no reservations in applying the rules.</p> <p>She then walks me to the border. The border is the river Tigris.&nbsp; &nbsp;For some reason, it brings a lump to my throat. &nbsp;I have never been to a physical international border before unless we consider airports to be such. You can see Syria across the river; a little ferry takes people back-and-forth for free. Not everything is commodified here – one of many correctives to my Western mindset. We wait for about ten Syrians to load about sixty bits of luggage. There are more people returning to Rojava than leaving, an indication that it has a refugee problem of its own which is little known in the West. When we get to the other side, the contrast couldn’t be sharper – a steep bank from the river’s edge covered by slippery pebbles and small rocks with families sitting and waiting with their luggage – compared with the smooth concreted over jetty on the Iraqi side. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/Peshabur.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><em>Border crossing, Peshabur, Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo: Rahila Gupta</em></p><p>With great difficulty I manage to clamber up with my two rucksacks wondering how I’m going to lug them to the top whilst anxiously scanning the faces of the men hanging around to see if anyone looks like they are waiting for me. As my hosts in KRG had so little English, I have come across equipped with just a name, Mr Karawan. I have no idea what I will do if Karawan doesn’t materialise. My hosts, <a href="http://peaceinkurdistancampaign.com/">Peace for Kurdistan</a>, who have helped organise the trip have told me that I will be totally taken care of in Rojava. But nobody takes the slightest bit of interest in me apart from a helpful young man who sees me struggling with my luggage and carries it up for me. &nbsp;What I don’t know at this point is that Karawan is the head of the border service and is unlikely to come to the water’s edge to pick me up. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/Semalka crossing2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p><em>Border crossing, Semalka, Rojava, Northern Syria. Photo: Rahila Gupta</em></p><p>This was to be a constant feature of my trip. One person would deliver me to a point in my journey with scant information, made more precarious by lack of a common language and then I’d wait, mouthing a name to anyone who’d listen and hope for the best. So I go to this desultory looking hut and throw the word "Karawan" at the man inside, he looks like he knows and I feel instant relief. I am directed to put my luggage in a van. Looking around I see how undeveloped this place is, the work of reconstruction of the revolution is already noticeable. In the distance I see a makeshift bridge which has lorries travelling in both directions, evidence that there is some border trade going on although I am told later on that the KRG has imposed a trade embargo. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/Semalka crossing.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p><em>Border crossing, Semalka, Rojava, Northern Syria. Photo: Rahila Gupta</em></p><p>As I get into the van, a random woman comes and shakes my hand and kisses me on both cheeks repeating warmly "welcome to Rojava", a greeting that is also repeated raucously by the driver of the van and the family that he is transporting. I’m immediately on a high. The road is uneven and rocky but in less than a quarter of a mile I am dropped off again at a half finished brand-new building and told to wait there and someone will take me further. Here I meet Daham Basha who speaks a little English which gets better as the day progresses. He is there to sort out my entry clearance. When I mention the name “Karawan”, it’s like saying “open sesame”; suddenly I go from being a random visitor to a guest. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/Karawan.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p><em>Karawan, in charge of border control. Rojava, Northern Syria: Photo: Rahila Gupta </em></p><p>I get taken in to see the head honcho, the man in charge of border control. He spends the next couple of hours discussing world politics with me through Daham’s translations. Where in the world would the head of border control give me the time of day? I put to him my theory that once the Kurds have destroyed ISIS, the Americans who are providing air-cover ever since the <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-kobani-idUSKBN0KZ1F920150127">battle of Kobanî</a>, will turn on them because their ideas are dangerous to Western capitalism. Either things are lost in translation or his glasses are even more rose tinted than mine – he says that the alliance with the US is strategic, that they need the Kurds, that without US support they would lose even more people to the conflict. I say I am not criticising them for the alliance, just pointing out the dangers. He says that the Rojava revolution has the potential to influence the US, Russia and even the world. I ask him how come Rojava has brought the US and Russia on the same side when they are bitter enemies. He crinkles his eyes and laughs heartily. He says they want to live in peace with all their neighbours, they have no beef with anybody, not even Israel. He talks of the dangers of sectarianism, of Sunni versus Shia, of how the US has encouraged and promoted political Islam and then I hear a surprising analysis: what the US labels “Arab spring” in Syria is mostly an opposition organised by the Muslim Brotherhood and armed by the US. I object that there are democracy loving secularists in the FSA (Free Syrian Army). But I sense a deference in Daham, a reluctance to argue with his boss even though he’s just conveying my arguments. So I don’t push my point of view.</p> <p>I ask Karawan about his female counterpart. Daham thinks I’m asking if he is married. &nbsp;No, I’m talking about the much vaunted gender equality of co-leadership between men and women. Karawan says they couldn’t find a woman for this post out here on the border. I ask if it’s a question of money – perhaps there’s not enough work for two people. He brushes that off airily saying money is not important where principles are concerned but I persist – an economy has to be viable. When pressed, he says the border makes money - fees on entry and taxes on goods. Yet later Daham tells me that they have no Wi-Fi because they have used up their allowance of 40GB a month.</p> <p>Then Daham takes me to lunch in the staff canteen where a couple of YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) fighters, celebrated for their courageous release of Yazidi women and children trapped by ISIS on <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/sep/11/women-taking-on-isis-iraq-yazidi-female-fighters">Mount Sinjar</a>, wearing colourful headbands enter in military fatigues. There is a YPG/YPJ outpost nearby. I discover that Karawan is ex-YPG (People’s Protection Units), a soldier with a prosthetic leg, although I hadn’t noticed. I also find out that he earns the same as Daham and 16-year-old Mohammad&nbsp; who served us tea (less than $100 a month). </p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Equal pay1(2).jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p> <em>Daham Basha, border control officer with Mohammad, tea server. Photo: Rahila Gupta</em></p><p>I am in the presence of a revolution. I had been raised in a Communist household where adult conversations had soared with aspirations for another world even though, unknown to me, &nbsp;the Soviet Union experiment had begun to sour by then with the invasion of <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/4/newsid_2739000/2739039.stm">Hungary</a>. I never thought I would have the opportunity of seeing a revolution unfold in my lifetime, especially not after the bottomless consumerism and individualism of life in the neo-liberal West makes equal pay sound like a fantasy. I feel privileged. And I haven’t even left the border.</p><p><em><strong>This is the first article by Rahila Gupta in a six-part series from Rojava, to be published throughout April and May 2016 on&nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050">oD 50.50</a></strong> <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/marion-bowman/writing-new-feminist-text-for-our-times">Writing a new feminist text for our times </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/evangelos-aretaios/rojava-revolution">The Rojava revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/beatrix-campbell/why-doesn%E2%80%99t-patriarchy-die">Why doesn’t patriarchy die?</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-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 Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 Revolution in Rojava 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy gender 50.50 newsletter Rahila Gupta Mon, 04 Apr 2016 09:45:33 +0000 Rahila Gupta 101076 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Berta’s struggle is our global struggle… https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba-kate-kroeger-tatiana-cordero/berta-s-struggle-is-our-global-struggle <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Berta Cáceres’s assassination is a painful reminder of the way in which a trinity of corporate, government and military interests creates a tapestry of capitalist power structures, making for an often deadly struggle.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>"We women are an incredible force that breathes life into the world." - </em>Berta Cáceres</p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/nota-principal Berta.jpg" alt="" width="460 " /></p> <p class="Default"><em>Berta Cáceres, assassinated 3 March, 2016. Photo: Consejo Civico de Organizaciones Populares e Indigenas de Honduras – COPINH</em></p><p class="Default">On the 3rd of March, Berta Cáceres, a prominent Honduran-Lenca feminist and Indigenous rights defender was assassinated in her home by unidentified assailants. A Lenca Indigenous woman, Berta worked indefatigably to advocate for the rights of the Lenca people. Her compassion and commitment led her to cofound the Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations (<a href="http://www.copinh.org/">COPINH</a>) in Honduras in 1993. For twenty-three years she led environmental and land rights campaigns against megaprojects, most recently against the controversial Agua Zarca hydroelectric project for which she <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/20/honduran-indigenous-rights-campaigner-wins-goldman-prize">won</a> the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015. Berta was also a mother of four. </p> <p>In May 2013, Urgent Action Fund-Latin America supported COPINH twice with a security and protection grant (a collective form of protection, secure communication and mobilization), and more recently with an advocacy grant to demand the end of Berta’s criminalization. With the support of UAF-LA and international pressure and solidarity, Berta was released from persecution. </p> <p>In August 2015, UAF-LA held the Regional Convening on <a href="http://www.urgentactionfund-latinamerica.org/#!i-c-m-a-encounters/cvp4">Defenders of Life against Extractivism</a> as a strategic space for&nbsp; organising, exchanging tactics, building capacity and solidarity. Berta was in attendance and <a href="http://www.fondoaccionurgente.org.co/#!territorioadefender/c13zr">stated</a> that women human rights defenders (WHRD) challenging extractivism are in essence challenging the dictatorship of big capital, coupled with a patriarchal culture that positions the female body as a contested site of struggle. Women human rights defenders become the main victims of persecution, threats, harassment and sexual harassment, as an expression of a misogynist cultural pattern. </p> <p class="Default">The assassination of such a vocal and passionate WHRD with a clear grasp of the complex issues at play in the challenge against extractivism and for Indigenous people’s rights is, tragically, not an anomaly. Berta had received countless threats against her life and was granted precautionary measures by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. </p> <p class="Default">According to <a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/how-many-more/">a study by Global Witness</a>, at least 116 environmental activists were killed in retaliation for their activism in 2014 alone. A stunning 40% of those killed were Indigenous people. Last October at the 156th regular session of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, Urgent Action Fund - Latin America joined with the <a href="http://www.justassociates.org/">Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders</a> and others to register its profound concern over the high number of women who have been attacked in Latin America over environmental conflicts. These include the assassinations of <a href="http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Union-Leader-Assassinated-in-Colombia-20140830-0024.html">Edith Santos</a>, who organized oil workers in 2014 in Colombia; the killing of the environmentalist <a href="http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/6990">Fabiola Osorio</a> in 2012 in Mexico; the death of <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/19/conservationist-murders-costa-rica-threaten-eco-friendly-reputation">Kimberley Blackwell</a>, a Canadian environmentalist working in Costa Rica in 2012; of <a href="http://www.ghrc-usa.org/Resources/UrgentActions/PolochicValleyEvictions.htm">María Margarita Chub Ché</a>, who was murdered in 2011 in Guatemala in front of her two small children; of <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2009/12/29/anti_mining_activists_killed_in_el">Dora Alicia Recinos</a>, who was shot and killed in 2010 while pregnant for her work on an anti-mining campaign in Honduras; and of too many others. UAF - Latin America and its sister organizations in the region called on the Inter-American Commission to take immediate steps to recognize and to improve the security of women activists who defend the environment. </p> <p>The testimonies brought forward during the session documented how destructive mining projects, among other extractive industries, are threatening both environmental health and the stability and wellbeing of local communities. As communities have organized to protect natural resources and their rights to their land, they have found themselves in the line of fire. </p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/DRC_mining.jpg" alt="" width="460 " /></p> <p><em>Monitoring water pollution in the mining region of Lubumbashi, DRC. Photo: Observatoire d’études et d’appui à la responsabilité sociale et environnementale.</em></p><p>The trend of violence against environmental activists is also significant across Africa, where women environmental activists are facing a plethora of well-documented direct violations in their work, including threats of murder, kidnapping, threats to their families; forced disappearances; imprisonment; sexual violence; and defamation or spurious lawsuits. Yet women continue to be at the forefront of environmental campaigns. With UAF - Africa support, in the Niger Delta women are deeply engaged in <a href="http://feministtaskforce.org/2013/02/02/landmark-victory-in-the-niger-delta-for-rural-women/">campaigns</a> against the Shell oil company; in the Democratic Republic of Congo women environmentalists are collecting and monitoring data on water pollution caused by mining; and in <a href="http://allafrica.com/stories/201305230420.html">Tanzania</a>, women leaders in Mtwara are opposinge construction of a mega-gas pipeline that would run through their community.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>These stories continue to resonate around the globe. In 2015, UAF <a href="http://urgentactionfund.org/2015/12/defending-land-and-community-women-on-the-frontlines-of-climate-justice/">convened</a> women who are on the frontlines of environmental work in the Philippines and Indonesia and facing great personal risk in their activism. They came together to share their struggles, their strategies and their achievements, drawing strength from one another.</p> <p>One of the women was <a href="http://urgentactionfund.org/in-our-bones/eva-susanty-hanafi-bande-eva-bande/">Eva Bande,</a> a resilient Indonesian activist who was jailed for four years for protesting against the logging of native trees from her community’s land and the establishment of palm oil plantations that resulted in the loss of livelihoods for local farmers, as well as property damage. Eva was ultimately <a href="http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2014/12/10/jokowi-grants-clemency-human-rights-activist.html">granted clemency by the President of Indonesia</a>, but during her imprisonment, her three small children and husband suffered in her absence. UAF provided funds to relocate them closer to her prison which was 14 hours away, and supported the successful campaign for Eva’s release. Eva and her Indonesian colleagues were joined at the convening by activists from the Philippines, including <a href="http://urgentactionfund.org/in-our-bones/wilma-tero-mangilay/">Wilma Tero Mangilay</a> who is an activist protesting illegal logging operations. As an Indigenous woman, Wilma educated herself on the rights and protections accorded to Indigenous peoples and joined a local Indigenous rights organization. She became more visible at the frontlines of protests, and like Eva, she was targeted for her activism. Two defamation cases were brought against her in a&nbsp; legal battle she could ill afford. She many days in court, and ultimately brought her own lawsuits against the mining companies, as well. Her activism paid off and she was successful in stopping their work. At the convening, women exchanged tactics and strategies and were given training in techniques of self-care to help them continue their activism in a sustainable way. </p> <p>The three Urgent Action Funds continue to support women environmental activists through our signature rapid response grants. On 17 March 2016, together with our grantees and partners, we are <a href="http://urgentactionfund-africa.or.ke/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/UAFs-CSW-WHRDs-ADVERT_001.jpg">presenting</a> this work at the 60th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Additionally, we are calling on allies of women’s movements, of environmental movements, and of peace and justice everywhere, to support the following demands:</p> <ul><li><em>We call on the Netherlands Development Finance Company to immediately withdraw its financing from the Agua Zarca project, the project that was opposed by Berta Cáceres and her community. The Netherlands, which has invested in women’s rights and in environmental initiatives for many years, should, at minimum, want no association with a venture tainted by an assassination charge. Additionally, the Agua Zarca project was initiated in violation of ILO Convention 169, without prior consultation or consent of the affected communities.</em></li><li><em><br /></em></li></ul><ul><li><em>We call for truth and justice. We join many organizations and governments in calling on the Honduras government to undertake a prompt, thorough, and fair investigation into Berta Cáceres’ murder and to hold those responsible accountable.</em></li><li><em><br /></em></li></ul><ul><li><em>We call on all member states participating in the 60th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women to take steps to affirm the right of citizens to engage in peaceful campaigns to protect the environment and to protect activists from violations of their human rights. We ask them to specifically consider the experiences of women who defend human rights and the environment, and to take concrete steps to address the additional risks they face.</em></li><li><em><br /></em></li><li>Berta was a dear friend, a grantee and partner to women’s rights organisations and activists like ourselves. She was a fierce voice for the Lenca people of Honduras, the environment, women’s rights and LBTQI rights across the globe. She once <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/03/honduras-berta-caceres-murder-enivronment-activist-human-rights">told</a> the <em>Guardian </em>newspaper,<em> “We must undertake the struggle in all parts of the world, wherever we may be, because we have no other spare or replacement planet. We have only this one.”</em> </li></ul> <p>Her violent death is a painful reminder of the powerful trinity of corporate, government and military interests, creating a tapestry of capitalist power structures that makes for a very challenging, often deadly, struggle. To quote the eloquent <a href="http://quotha.net/node/2686">statement</a> released by Berta’s mother and children, “<em>Berta’s struggle was not only for the environment, it was for system change, in opposition to capitalism, racism and patriarchy."</em> </p> <p>Berta will live on in our hearts, minds, and actions! May her soul rest in peace and power. </p><p><em>On 17 March the UAF will host a session at the UN CSW : <a href="http://urgentactionfund-africa.or.ke/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/UAFs-CSW-WHRDs-ADVERT_001.jpg">Supporting Wo</a></em><em><a href="http://urgentactionfund-africa.or.ke/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/UAFs-CSW-WHRDs-ADVERT_001.jpg">men Human Rights Defenders Working on Extractives: Experiences from the Grassroots. </a><br /></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/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</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/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/ch-ramsden/cop21-overarching-narratives-real-lives">COP21: overarching narratives, real lives</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofutawamba/at-margins-of-visibility-recognising-women-human-rights-defenders">At the margins of visibility: recognising women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 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/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/ndana-bofu-tawamba/awake-to-challenge-african-women%27s-leadership-at-beijing20">Awake to the challenge: African women&#039;s leadership at Beijing+20</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ruby-johnson/pulse-of-young-feminist-organising">The global pulse of young feminists organising</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> </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 Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 UN Commission on the Status of Women 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 newsletter feminism gender justice violence against women women and militarism women and power Ndana Bofu -Tawamba Tatiana Cordero Kate Kroeger Wed, 16 Mar 2016 09:27:33 +0000 Kate Kroeger, Tatiana Cordero and Ndana Bofu -Tawamba 100631 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Guilty: what the Sepur Zarco trial means for women’s rights worldwide https://www.opendemocracy.net/yifat-susskind/what-sexual-slavery-trial-in-guatemala-means-for-women-s-rights-worldwide <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Survivors of wartime sexual violence in Guatemala have secured a landmark victory in the Sepur Zarco trial: a win for international human rights in a domestic court. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/IMG_0872.jpg" alt="Women sitting on chairs" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women survivors in the courtroom of the Sepur Zarco trial in Guatemala City. Photo: Camila Urrutia</span></span></span>By now, the words “Sepur Zarco” should be on the tip of the tongue of anyone with even a passing interest in international human rights. This landmark trial, charging two former military officers with sexual slavery inflicted during Guatemala’s civil war, concluded on February 26 with a guilty verdict against the perpetrators <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/03/guatemala-justice-sepur-zarco-sex-slavery-victims-160303072107762.html">sentencing them to 360 years imprisonment</a>—a blow against impunity and a step towards justice for the survivors. &nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/IMG_0991.jpg" alt="Man in hand-cufff with policer officers" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Former base commander Esteelmer Reyes Girón charged with sexual and domestic slavery and forced disappearance. Photo: Camila Urrutia</span></span></span></p><p>This is a human rights victory, but a question remains: what does the Sepur Zarco trial mean for survivors of all forms of wartime sexual violence beyond Guatemala’s borders? The trajectory of this case helps point to an answer. &nbsp; </p><p>In 1982, after the army abducted and killed their husbands, assailants returned to kidnap <a href="http://www.ghrc-usa.org/our-work/important-cases/sepur-zarco/#sepurzarcohistory" target="_blank">a group of Mayan indigenous women in eastern Guatemala</a>. Soldiers destroyed the women’s homes and farms, and raped them in front of their surviving family members. Eleven of the 15 women testifying in this trial were held captive at a base near the community of Sepur Zarco. They were made to cook and clean for their captors. Soldiers forced them to report for “shifts” where they were repeatedly raped. For some, this went on for months; for others, it was years.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/IMG_1157.jpg" alt="Women sitting in rows" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mayan women sit in solidarity with the survivors during the #SepurZarco trial in Guatemala City. Photo: Camila Urrutia</span></span></span></p><p>These violations occurred during the most brutal period of Guatemala’s 36-year war. Under the leadership of <a href="http://antiwar.com/blog/2013/01/29/us-backed-guatemalan-dictator-to-face-charges-of-genocide/" target="_blank">US-backed President Efrain Rios Montt, Guatemala’s indigenous population was targeted with massacres, forced displacement and systematic rape as a tool of genocide</a>. The rape and sexual slavery these women survived was not incidental to this campaign of violence. It was a core tactic, mobilized specifically to inflict trauma, terrorize their communities into submission and to obliterate their people.&nbsp; </p><p>And now, the women of Sepur Zarco have testified against their captors in a <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/29/guatemala-military-sex-slavery-trial-civil-war-sepur-zarco" target="_blank">breakthrough trial</a><strong><em>. </em></strong>For the first time, anywhere in history, sexual slavery has been tried as a war crime in a national court in the country where the crime was committed. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/IMG_0940.jpg" alt="Three women sit holding signs" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Law students in the courtroom of the Sepur Zarco trial in Guatemala City. Photo: Camila Urrutia</span></span></span></p><p>The distinction of the move to a national court is crucial. Yes, sexual slavery has been previously prosecuted in an international tribunal as a war crime and a crime against humanity. The <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2001/02/18/world/bosnian-war-trial-focuses-on-sex-crimes.html?pagewanted=all" target="_blank">first time</a> was in 1996 when eight Bosnian Serb soldiers were indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia for sexual slavery against Muslim women. &nbsp; </p><p>But there have been few successful prosecutions of any war crimes of sexual violence since then, whether in a domestic or international court. Perpetrators know this. In many cases, <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/02/world/iyw-guatemala-gender-violence/" target="_blank">including Guatemala</a>, the resulting impunity allows violence against women to become normalized long after conflict ends.&nbsp;</p> <p>This lack of prosecutions reflects a major weakness of the international human rights system: namely, justice hinges on the political will of the powerful. When the interests of the most monied and influential are protected through corruption and violence, what chance does a lone individual stand to advance justice for crimes committed against her? Compounding this is the cloak of silence surrounding any crime involving sexual violence, and the marginal status of women—particularly poor and indigenous women—in most societies. &nbsp;</p> <p>This is the vital point that the Sepur Zarco trial illustrates: the best chance to overcome the obstacles above lies in a robust civil society with a central role for grassroots women’s organizing. The trial was the outcome of the work of indigenous women, rights activists, legal scholars and practitioners, forensic archaeologists and a diverse panoply of local civil society actors who have laboured for nearly a generation. They gathered testimonies, documented evidence, held street protests and vigils, and pushed for legal charges to be filed. </p> <p>Women’s civil society support for the survivors of Sepur Zarco was coordinated by a coalition of three major women’s organizations – la <a href="http://unamg.org/">Unión Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas</a>, el <a href="http://ecapguatemala.org.gt/">Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Acción Psicosocial</a>, and <a href="http://www.mujerestransformandoelmundo.org/">Mujeres Transformando el Mundo</a> – which came together as the <a href="http://www.alianzarompiendoelsilencio.com/" target="_blank">Alianza Rompiendo El Silencio</a><span> y Impunidad (the Alliance to Break the Silence and Impunity)</span>. The survivors were bolstered by international women’s rights organizations that sent representatives to sit in the courtroom in support the women of Sepur Zarco. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/IMG_0759.jpg" alt="A six-woman panel sits beneath a banner." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>In particular, the <a href="http://www.progressive.org/news/2016/02/188584/first-two-guatemalan-soldiers-convicted-wartime-sex-slavery-case" target="_blank">presence of prominent supporters in the courtroom</a> helped to off-set the intimidation tactics of the defence. During the trial, defence lawyers and pro-military groups in Guatemala <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/01/guatemala-sexual-slavery-sepur-zarco-military-officers-jailed" target="_blank">called the survivors “prostitutes” and “liars”</a> and labelled the lawyers and civil society groups who support the women of Sepur Zarco as “terrorists.” &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the vitriol of the defence and the local right-wing media, the Guatemalan prosecutors steadfastly advanced their innovative strategy: to apply international human rights law on crimes of wartime sexual violence, as <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/WRGS/Paper_Prosecution_of_Sexual_Violence.pdf">established by international tribunals’ precedent</a>, and moreover, to apply them through a domestic court. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/IMG_0654.jpg" alt="An outdoor, sculpted space" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Memorial to the victims in the Sepur Zarcon trial. Photo: Camila Urrutia</span></span></span></p><p>But it’s survivors with the courage to testify who brought this legal strategy to life. Meanwhile, the Alliance to Break the Silence ensured that women had the counselling, human rights training and accompaniment they needed to step forward, and the international presence in the courtroom gave women the assurance that the world was watching. This multi-pronged, transnational partnership is the key to a winning model for advocates seeking to advance international human rights at home.&nbsp; </p><p>Consider the varied contexts in which this partnership model can be activated. In Iraq, it means strengthened opportunities for women to hold their government accountable for its <a href="http://womensenews.org/2015/10/un-told-iraqs-hidden-womens-shelters-in-jeopardy/" target="_blank">ban on vital women’s shelters</a> providing refuge for women fleeing ISIS sexual slavery. It could empower women in Rwanda who can <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-35070220" target="_blank">no longer turn to the International Criminal Tribunal</a> to devise new collaborative strategies to seek justice for the atrocities they have suffered.</p> <p>Now, Guatemalan women activists are considering next steps. Engracia Mendoza is part of MUIXIL, a grassroots organization of Indigenous Ixil women war survivors. “This is an emblematic case in our pursuit of justice in Guatemala,” she remarked. “All of us women who suffered violence in those years are inspired to receive this news. This verdict gives us hope that this will create pressure for other cases to be taken to court.”</p> <p>&nbsp;Survivors standing alone can and do raise their voices to demand their rights. But the guilty verdict of the Sepur Zarco trial shows that a partnership of empowered survivors working with human rights and legal advocates—as well as international rights organizations—gives survivors of sexual violence in conflict an even stronger chance to realize justice.</p><p><em>Read our <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/international-womens-day-2016">series of articles</a> for International Women's Day 2016 </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/nadje-alali/sexualized-violence-in-iraq-how-to-understand-and-fight-it">Sexualized violence in Iraq: how to understand and fight it</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fateful-marriage-political-violence-and-violence-against-women">The fateful marriage: political violence and violence against women </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lauren-wolfe/when-does-violation-of-womens-bodies-become-red-line"> When does the violation of women&#039;s bodies become a &quot;red line&quot;?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sasha-hart/rape-marriage-and-rights">Rape, marriage, and rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariella-sala/forced-sterilization-and-impunity-in-peru">Forced sterilization and impunity in Peru</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/religious-minority-women-of-iraq-time-to-speak-up">Religious minority women of Iraq: time to speak up </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/what-will-it-take-to-end-violence-against-women">What will it take to end violence against women? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melanie-cura-deball/un-peacekeeping-blue-banner-for-hope-or-red-flag-for-abuse">UN peacekeeping: blue banner for hope, or red flag for abuse?</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"> Guatemala </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 Guatemala Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 International Women's Day 2016 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter feminism gender justice Sexual violence women and militarism women's movements Yifat Susskind Tue, 08 Mar 2016 08:00:03 +0000 Yifat Susskind 100311 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hope's song: my companion in life's journey https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/hope-chigudu/hope%27s-stories <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On my way from Zimbabwe to Amsterdam I shared a seat with a man called Musi. He was curious about how I became a feminist and wondered if I was not borrowing western ideology...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>Two weeks ago, I was on my way to Amsterdam to attend a gathering of ‘Nobel Women Initiative’. I shared a seat with a man called Musi. He was one of those curious passengers who start a conversation by complimenting you on your T-shirt but then goes on to ask you about your mother, where you are going and what you do for a living. I told him I was a servant of women, going to join my sisters in discussing strategies for defending women activists; those that defend other women. <br /></em></p> <p><em>I had hoped that he would be put off by my deliberate use of the word ‘feminists’ but he was not. Instead he wondered if I was not borrowing western ideology, and was curious about how I became an activist and a feminist.</em> </p> <p>Below are the anecdotes from the story that I shared with him. </p> <p>In my ‘Bakiga’ tribe when a woman produces a baby girl, it’s taken for granted that she will be a feminist leader. The mother teaches her a song that equips her with tools and strategies she needs to stay safe and healthy, to create memories that give her something to look backward to with pride, and look forward to with hope, joy and peace.&nbsp; It’s not just any song; it’s a soul song, a companion to life’s journey with elements that she should nurture. The song discourages what makes her smaller/invisible, less human but encourages what makes her visible, powerful and strong. It ignites fire within her so that she is able to fight patriarchy and its brutality. The song gives her the energy to stand up and challenge stigma, taboos and denial about sex and sexuality, tolerance for violence against women, and some of the most humiliating and degrading practices that subjugate women.&nbsp; The song emphasises the importance of creating a vision for her own life development, reflection and going forward wisely. &nbsp;It teaches her to take a moment everyday to love herself by appreciating who she is and nurturing her own sources of inspiration. </p> <p class="NoSpacing">The song described above has leadership instructive messages, proverbs that enrich the soul and riddles that make a little girl stop and think. </p> <p>The soul song is reinforced by different practices that train her to walk wisely in the world. </p> <p>For example, the little girl is given exercises that teach her to remain alert, to continuously read her world and to respond creatively so as to create wholeness. Later on this teaching becomes a tool that reminds her to identify all major forms of exploitation, oppression, human rights violations and discrimination, including male domination, class exploitation, homophobia, imperialism, racism, corruption, authoritarianism, fundamentalism, and traditionalism and fight them. </p> <p class="NoSpacing">The little girl is taught the power of passion as a driver of change by being introduced to toys and puzzles that she is likely to fall in love with, and games that nurture and build passion and those that destroy it. Later in life, she uses this experience to be passionate about whatever she gets involved in and her passion communicates itself to others. She works with dedication and commitment, with a big emphasis on quality and creativity, really working towards what matters for her and the people she cares about. </p> <p class="NoSpacing">The importance of deliberately celebrating small as well as big victories in her personal life is taught at a tender age. When she achieves a small thing, it’s treated as a huge cause for celebration. She is told that celebrating herself and others is energising and is one way to combat the discriminatory systems against happy girls and women found in society, academia, the media and the art world. </p> <p class="NoSpacing">The young girl is taken to a family field to cultivate alone (not as child labour but as a form of learning). She works hard on her own and at the end of the day, is tired but with little progress. The following day, she is allowed to choose other young people to cultivate with to lessen the burden. Naturally, she chooses her friends but the mother insists that she should work with many different people, even the ones she is not close to. Gradually she learns to appreciate that each person is different and hence to embrace contradiction, hold the polarities and an open free space for other voices. &nbsp;She also learns that different people have different strengths. Some can cultivate and do it well, others clear the ground, another group makes food and yet others are entertainers who make the task easier and enjoyable. The experience teaches her that by bringing all their energies together, a bigger ground is covered; the task is made lighter with lots of laughter, reminding each other of the richness and diversity of their existence. This collective style of work challenges the competitive nature of capitalist societies.&nbsp; </p> <p class="NoSpacing">The mother continues to push her to create space for herself to be alone, and enjoy the power of solitude, to really understand that she is a political human being. Her mother emphasises the importance of self care and well being no matter how busy she is.&nbsp; She assesses that a fragmented body produces a culture of fragmentation where every thing gets split into pieces; self, relationships, time, work, and friendships. In a collective, lack of self care makes individuals chew each other and eventually chew whatever they are working on. The little girl is reminded that every moment, everything she does matters because that is how she creates the future. </p> <p class="NoSpacing">It does not matter if she is an only child, she is taught to appreciate the power of walking with sisters, believing in them, accompanying each other on life’s uphill patriarchal journey.&nbsp; Later on in life, as an activist and feminist, she carries the lessons into adulthood and is able to appreciate the advantages of alliance-building with and among other human rights defenders across issue, sectors, and identity and how to use this to protect each other. She also learns that alliance building requires constant learning and relearning, developing a common language, strategies and tools. </p> <p class="NoSpacing">Every evening, she sits with the family and is taught to listen attentively. Listening as a political act, paying attention to people and while she speaks, doing so assertively, looking authority figures straight in the eye without batting an eye lash, stating her position and values strongly and allowing others the choice of agreeing or resisting. Even if others disagree, she is encouraged to seize her power, take a stance and not carry a victim mentality. Of equal importance is the transformation of relationships between her and her parents and ‘big’ and ‘little’ sisters from patriarchal/matriarchal dominance to one of equity and mutual respect. In fact she is encouraged to call her parents by their real names. It is believed that this promotes equality. </p> <p class="NoSpacing">From a tender age, the little girl carries her entire story of transformative feminist ancestors. These stories provide role models to inspire her to take action, individually and collectively. Storytelling also provides an opportunity for her as an activist to reflect on her life and the lives of other women, and achievements as well as challenges, and to display her talents as story teller, artist and analyst. </p> <p class="NoSpacing">As a child, she is allowed time to have lots of fun; to run joyfully in the wind, and let the body stretch to its full height&nbsp; She learns that women can be all and everything, at all ages. It is up to her how she behaves; not necessarily to win the approval of others, but for her own dignity, pleasure and self-respect, while being respectful of others.&nbsp; Her mother repeatedly tells her to infuse herself and her movement(s) with a deep sense of humanity and love, of possibility and of a consciously chosen future. </p> <p class="NoSpacing">I was about to explain that this was my story, that I learnt activism at my mother’s feet but I heard someone snoring.&nbsp; Sisters, it was Musi. </p><p><strong><em>Hope Chigudu was attending the the </em></strong><strong><em><strong><em>Nobel Women's Initiative conference: 'Defending the Defenders' , April 24-26. </em></strong></em></strong><strong><em><strong><em><strong><em>Read more <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers.&nbsp;</a></em></strong></em></strong>Marion Bowman and Jennifer Allsopp reported </em></strong><strong><em><strong><em>for <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050">oD 50.50</a>.&nbsp;</em></strong></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="/content/flying-with-hope">Flying with Hope</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/egyptian-storytelling-vessel-for-power">Egyptian storytelling: a vessel for power </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/she-left-me-gun-on-story-telling-and-re-telling">She Left Me the Gun: on story-telling and re-telling</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/saratu-abiola/re-imagining-ourselves-music-film-and-representation-of-nigerian-women">Re-imagining ourselves: music, film and the representation of Nigerian women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/audio/jane-gabriel/by">Women and Memory: “I’m the Story” </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie-slavenka-drakulic/slavenka-drakuli%C4%87-violence-memory-and-nation">Slavenka Drakulić: violence, memory, and the nation</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/jo-egan/singing-backbone-women%E2%80%99s-stories-of-northern-ireland">Singing the backbone: women’s stories of Northern Ireland</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> </div> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Equality Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights women and power gender justice gender feminism 50.50 newsletter Hope Chigudu Sat, 16 May 2015 07:07:33 +0000 Hope Chigudu 92687 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Security is not just CCTV: valuing ourselves is security https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/marion-bowman/security-is-not-just-cctv-valuing-ourselves-is-security <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It feels as if the entire world has been given over to the most perverse notions of 'safety' &nbsp;that are really about death and destruction, cruelty and conflict, grandiosity and greed.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>It was a classic image of protectiveness. The figure of a soldier stood, fatherly, silent, unyielding, over a seated woman, small, lovely, smiling. But it was not how it seemed. The soldier was a full-scale replica of one of China’s Terracotta Warriors, one of several being used as ornaments in a country house hotel in the Netherlands. The woman was Dicki Chhoyang, a Tibetan politician who was leading a discussion at the 2015 Nobel Women’s Initiative conference on human rights.</p> <p>The image was poignant, for China has illegally and forcibly occupied Tibet for 65 years and the armour-clad warrior of an ancient Chinese dynasty, with his clenched fists ready to grasp weapons, loomed over Chhoyang reminding us that what is often passed off as protection in the relationship between women and men and between countries is really control. </p> <p>As in gender relations, so in international affairs. ‘Security’ is everywhere in official circles yet increasingly it feels as if the entire world has been given over to the most perverse notions of safety, notions of ‘safety’ that are really about death and destruction, cruelty and conflict, grandiosity and greed. From 9/11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq (ostensibly to win a war against terror but which have merely spawned ISIS and more violence), to increased efforts by the EU to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/juliana-wahlgren/securitisation-not-response-to-deaths-at-sea">control borders</a> in response to the Mediterranean migrant crisis, while hundreds of traumatised and terrified people die,&nbsp; governments around the world keep proving incapable of understanding what real human security is made of.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>It’s a point not missed at the Nobel Women's Initiative conference underway in the Netherlands. The people in the room listening to Dicki Chhoyang and her panellists were there to explore how women who promote and defend human rights can be protected. </p> <p>They started with hugging. Each person, and they were mostly women, was asked to hug the people next to them. I hugged Zaynab El Sawi, who recently had to leave Sudan because the women’s resource centre she helped run for 17 years was finally raided and closed last year by the government. ‘We had been training thousands of women and youths to be human rights activists,’ she said. ‘They said we were creating a generation that doesn’t match the ideology of the government. They couldn’t tolerate us anymore. They took everything, our bank account, our computers, our library.’ I shared another hug with Heli Bathija on my left, a Finnish doctor who represents the Global Fund for Women. Hope Chigudu, a founder of the Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network and the first moderator for the day, chided everyone so that the conference could begin: ‘Once women start hugging they will never stop.’</p> <p>This was not just conference group dynamics or New Age warm fuzzies. This was about women taking care of themselves and each other and keeping people alive. The theme of the conference this weekend is ‘<em>Defending the Defenders! Building Global Support for Women Human Rights Defenders’</em>. Chigudu’s first statement after everyone had sat down again and fallen silent was: ‘When we are being threatened, who will defend us? We have to defend ourselves.’</p> <p>There was an unremitting focus on this reality. Research by the Swedish <a href="http://www.kvinnatillkvinna.se/">Kvinna Till Kvinna</a> Foundation found that the women who face the most hatred, threats or violence are those working on violence against women, gender equality, gender stereotypes, LGBT rights, sexual violence, militarism, and corruption and organised crime. Fourteen percent of their survey’s respondents had survived murder attempts. Panellist Lisa VeneKlasen of <a href="http://www.justassociates.org/">Just Associates</a> painted a picture of the problem around the world: ‘What we see now is patriarchy and capitalism on steroids.’&nbsp; Sima Samar of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said: ‘The global war on terror and the emphasis on security has closed the space for activists to challenge power. When any woman confronts power, the closer they get, the more dangerous it is.’ While they spoke, a slide show silently rolled through on big screens either side of the platform, picturing women such as Ummaya Gabbara, women’s affairs adviser to the mayor of her town in Iraq , killed on 22 June 2014 defending it from ISIS; Nasseb Miloud Karfana, a television journalist in Libya killed for doing her job on 29 May 2014; and Farida Afindi, executive director of a human rights group in Pakistan, shot dead in cold blood on 7 July 2014.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Despite obligations on governments that are members of the UN to keep women human rights defenders safe, the women believe their own networks are their own best hope. ‘Networks are a historical tool of feminists,’ said Marusia Lopez of IM Defensoras. ‘Security is not just CCTV! Valuing ourselves is security.’ Since 2010, 39 women human rights defenders have been killed in MesoAmerican countries, she said. Women there have built networks in four countries which have varied activities, from registering attacks to supporting the self-care of women. ‘Women can go to a safe place and have some rest,’ she said. ‘We should recognise our own need for health and wellbeing, so each network has a small team assisting on health and healing.’ Such shelters and safe houses are replicated elsewhere. A system of Bamboo Huts has been created in Manipur, India, where an armed conflict has raged, forgotten by the international community and denied by the Indian government, for decades. ‘People bang with stones on lamp posts to warn women that armed men are coming,’ said Binalakshmi Nepram of the Manipur Women Gun Survivor Network. </p> <p>Yanar Mohammed, of the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, said that setting up shelters itself is risky. When she was preparing to set up the first one in Baghdad, the campaign against it claimed it would encourage women to be promiscuous. Then in 2003, in an internet café, she received an email. In the subject line was ‘Killing Yanar Mohammed within days.’ ‘It was like an electric shock.&nbsp; I was too scared to cross the road from the café to go back to the office,’ she said. ‘I just had to go home and hide.’ She now lives in secret locations in both Iraq and Canada. ‘But we kept going and now there are six shelters including one for Iraq’s LGBT. We have tens of thousands of supporters in Iraq and thousands internationally. Women are not weak. They do not need defending, they just need to be supported and acknowledged. The future will be ours, it’s just a matter of when.’</p> <p>The weekend’s conference had opened with inspirational speeches by three of the six Nobel Peace laureates behind the Nobel Women’s Initiative. After Northern Ireland’s Mairead Maguire and Iran’s Shirin Ebadi came the US’s Jody Williams. Williams approached the podium haltingly. She said she was in pain from a bad back. She was weary. ‘I don’t have the fiery energy of Shirin or the global love of Mairead. I just want to thank you for coming,’ she said laconically. ‘This is a lovely place and that’s not an accident. We need to nurture ourselves so we can continue the struggle. We are in beautiful surroundings because we want you to have the space to breathe and enjoy yourselves, to take care of yourselves. You are here to learn from each other, the things that have worked and the things that haven’t but,’ she said,’ take time to look at the ducks on the pond and the leaves on the trees coming into life because when we forget the glory and beauty of the world we lose hope.’</p> <p>Under the dead-eyed gaze of the Terracotta Warriors, guarding the power of their ruler even in death, Dicki Chhoyang later told how she had met Yanar Mohammed for the first time over breakfast and, making conference small talk, asked where she lived in Canada. ‘I can’t tell you that,’ said Mohammed, ‘because it’s where I go when I get death threats.’ And they just carried on drinking fresh orange juice and eating lovely food off fine china at a table spread with crisp, fresh table linen as the spring birds sang outside in the morning sunshine.&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em>Marion Bowman is reporting for <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050">oD 50.50</a> from the </em></strong><strong><em><strong><em>Nobel Women's Initiative conference: 'Defending the Defenders' , April 24-26. </em></strong></em></strong><strong><em><strong><em><strong><em>Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers</a> framing and addressing the discussions.&nbsp;</em></strong></em></strong>Read <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8432/all">previous years' coverage</a>.</em></strong></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/jody-williams/defending-defenders-daunting-challenge">Defending the Defenders: a daunting challenge </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-reigniting-embers">Women human rights defenders: reigniting the embers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <a href="/5050/brigid-inder/tribute-to-joan-kagezi-murder-of-human-rights-defender">A tribute to Joan Kagezi: the murder of a human rights defender</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/in-memory-of-sabeen-mahmud-%E2%80%9Ci-stand-up-for-what-i-believe-in-but-i-can%E2%80%99t-fight-">Sabeen Mahmud: “I stand up for what I believe in, but I can’t fight guns”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofutawamba/at-margins-of-visibility-recognising-women-human-rights-defenders">At the margins of visibility: recognising women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/audrey-huntley/breaking-one-of-canada%27s-best-kept-secrets-it-starts-with-us">&quot;It starts with us&quot;: Breaking one of Canada&#039;s best kept secrets</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/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/alice-welbourn/positive-women-human-rights-defenders">Positive women human rights defenders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leila-alikarami/challenges-faced-by-women-human-rights-defenders-in-iran">Iranian women human rights defenders: challenges and opportunities </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> 50.50 50.50 Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 Nobel Women's Initiative 10th anniversary 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick UN Resolution 1325 - 15 years on 50.50 newsletter feminism fundamentalisms gender gender justice violence against women women and militarism women and power women's human rights women's movements Marion Bowman Sun, 26 Apr 2015 07:45:27 +0000 Marion Bowman 92278 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iraq's female citizens: prisoners of war https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/iraqs-female-citizens-prisoners-of-war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Iraqi woman human rights defender Yanar Mohammed spoke to Jennifer Allsopp at the Nobel Women’s Initiative <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/our-blogs/defending-the-defenders/?ref=18">conference </a>about grass-roots responses to the atrocities women are facing under ISIS. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On the second day of the <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/meet-the-laureates/shirin-ebadi/">Nobel Women’s Initiative</a> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">conference</a> on building global support for women human rights defenders, the 100 participants delivered a sobering and urgent message: history is still repeating itself. Watching the military-industrial complex wreak havoc in the Middle East, reflected Shirin Ebadi, holder of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, is like ‘rewinding a movie’. Women human rights defenders from across the globe were in agreement: the incalculable suffering of the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria have taught us, once and for all, that bombs lead to suffering, and never peace. </p> <p>In her keynote speech, Shirin reflected on what a different world might have looked like if, in response to the atrocities of September 11th, the United States and its allies had built schools in Afghanistan in memory of the victims instead of retaliating with war and occupation. ‘You can’t fight an ideology by bombing it’, she told us, speaking of the heinous war crimes currently being committed by the Islamic State. ‘If a terrorist is taken out, his children will replace him. We must throw books not bombs’.</p> <p>One participant who knows first-hand the horrors that come from forgetting history, and from erasing women from history in particular, is Yanar Mohammed, co-founder and Director of the <a href="http://www.owfi.info/EN/">Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq</a>. I spoke to hear about the situation in her country 12 years after I first marched for peace in London, and 12 years since the war on terror began.</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/ooooo.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Yanar leading a women&#039;s rally in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. Photo: Roj Women&#039;s Assoc."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/ooooo.JPG" alt="Yanar leading a women's rally in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. Photo: Roj Women's Assoc." title="Yanar leading a women&#039;s rally in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. Photo: Roj Women&#039;s Assoc." width="400" height="267" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yanar leading a women's rally in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. Photo: Roj Women's Assoc.</span></span></span></p><p>Jennifer Allsopp: <em>Yanar, what is the situation of women’s human rights in Iraq right now? </em></p> <p>Yanar Mohammed: The new update of 2014-2015 is, of course, the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nadje-alali/sexualized-violence-in-iraq-how-to-understand-and-fight-it">attack of ISIS</a>. But this is rooted in recent history. It is the direct result of all the politics that came into Iraq with the occupation. The US empowered the Shi’a Islamic political groups and marginalised a big part of the country who were recognised as Sunni people. It was only to be expected that the next step would be for the sectarian religious dynamics to surface, for one religious group to be fighting another religious group. The leading members of ISIS were either tortured in US military prisons or in the prisons of the Shi’a government which the Americans put in place. When you torture a person for long periods you might get a very passionate human rights defender but most probably you will get a beast whose only concern is to seek his revenge in the best way possible. And that’s what happened with <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Bakr_al-Baghdadi">Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi</a> who was in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Bucca">Bucca prison</a>, being tortured by the Americans and being prepared for his next role in life, head of ISIS. Before 2003, none of us knew which part of the country was Sunni and which part was Shi’a. This was something new to Iraq and we are reaping the results at this point. Women’s wellbeing has paid the price.</p> <p>As well as the crisis of ISIS we’re dealing with other fallout from the last war, like the ongoing crisis of Iraqi orphans. There are <a href="http://www.alternet.org/story/70886/occupation%27s_toll%3A_5_million_iraqi_children_orphaned">5 million</a> Iraqi orphans of war, and tens of thousands of them have been trafficked in the last decade. Five million orphans growing into teenagers is a very big difficulty for any society. Young women growing into situations with no parents are usually material for exploitation in the brothels. Many do not have proper identification papers. Although the law is not against giving them papers, whenever they go to any governmental establishment and ask for them they are asked to bring their father or their brother, when they don’t have anybody. They reside in the worst houses in Iraq and they are exploited on a daily basis because they do not have access to citizenship. It’s been more than 10 years since this started. The exploited female teenager’s right to citizenship is a major, major issue. </p> <p>JA: <em>Before the emergence of ISIS, were things improving at all for women in Iraq?</em></p> <p>YM: We saw some relative peace in the previous years, relative in the sense that the capital was in control and the major cities had peace, but the religious parties always held the upper hand. They didn’t let a single year pass without surprising us. The last time was in 2013 when the Ministry of Justice announced their intention to introduce the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/erin-evers/women%E2%80%99s-rights-under-threat-in-iraq">Al Jaafari law</a>, which is the Shi’a Islamist law for personal status that rules family life. This law would allow the marriage of a 9 year old girl, the humiliating treatment of women in matters of marriage and divorce, and generally to treat women like objects, not as human beings. This law is hundreds of years old and they wanted to make it a reality for us now; they want to abort hundreds of years of improvement in Iraq. </p> <p>JA: <em>How did the women’s movement respond?</em></p> <p>YM: We demonstrated. We spoke over our radio. We have a community radio in Baghdad called Al Musawat, which means <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/4/27/iraqi-shiites-protestproposedfamilylaw.html">Equality radio</a>. We spoke out very strongly. We had slogans that said ‘we will not allow you to rape our young daughters’. We explained to the public what the law means and we were able to gather quite some opposition against it so that the government eventually had to announce that it will not be passed “at this point”. They say it needs to be amended, but this is an excuse for them to hide the draft of the law. Eventually we were ordered to close the radio on the pretext that our “registration was not complete”. So yes, even before ISIS, the government’s attack on women’s rights and women’s status in law kept us busy. </p> <p>JA: <em>How has the women’s human rights movement in Iraq evolved in response to ISIS?</em></p> <p>YM: When ISIS took over the Northern city of <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/10/iraq-sunni-insurgents-islamic-militants-seize-control-mosul">Mosul</a> in June last year, which is the second biggest city in the country, that was a landmark for us all, that really was a landmark. We felt: the government is not the only oppressor of women, there is a new group which has emerged and which has turned gigantic, which is claiming a big part of the country. We were aware that the political situation was not secure and that our safety was not guaranteed. Many of us have our families in the parts of Iraq which ISIS has taken over. My father’s family is from the city of Telafar, which was taken by ISIS, and I have thousands of relatives who are homeless now. </p> <p>And what has ISIS done to the women in the cities they have conquered? Direct enslavement, humiliation and turning women into concubines to be bought and sold. This was something nobody expected to see in Iraq. In the beginning, in 2003, there was the Iraqi resistance, which didn’t want the US occupation, then they developed Al Qaeda, but even then it was never this monstrous, this inhumane and as misogynistic as what we’re seeing now under ISIS. </p> <p>We began immediately contacting the women in Mosul and in the other cities that were occupied. We set up a network of women in that city to whom we speak continuously. We try to be in touch with their difficulties and to be of use to those who face direct attacks. We also set up a coalition for ending the trafficking of Iraqi women and we came up with two recommendations. The first one was to gain legal status for our shelters for women and the second recommendation was that the Iraqi government recognise the Yazidi women’s enslavement and their status as prisoners of war who have been tortured by the enemy, and to give them benefits as such. We have had many wars with other countries and when a prisoner comes back they get many benefits, they get a house, they get a salary and we want the Iraqi government to do this for the Yazidi women so that they can have the social status that would allow a good future, a good family and a good status in society. </p> <p>The women of Yazidi faith in my country have witnessed the most horrific practices, things that not many women in modern times have seen. A few months ago, I made a trip to the Kurdish part of the county, to where the women who were <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/mariz-tadros/religious-minority-women-of-iraq-time-to-speak-up">enslaved by ISIS</a> had run away. I sat down with women in the Kadhiya camp and asked them about their experiences. A girl as young as 15 had been bought and sold more than ten times, from one ISIS fighter to another. She was raped by all those men. I asked her, “what was your most difficult moment during those two months that you were detained there?” She said, “it was the moments when one man would be selling me to the other and they would stand around me and look at me as a piece of meat on which they would be jumping the next day”. She told me that one of the fighters who had bought her would pray daily; after he finished prayer he would come and rape her. She told me stories that I would never expect to hear in a country where people were used to living peacefully with each other. We did have dictators, we did have times of war but it never reached the point where one person, or a group, would be attacking another group and would be enslaving all the women of that group.</p> <p>JA: <em>Are your recommendations being recognised, is the coalition having an impact?</em></p> <p>YP: We’re still working on it. We started the coalition in its embryonic shape last September but in January and March the campaign picked up and we are beginning to see some results. The campaign has many aspects but the shelter is the most important one. At the very start of the war on Iraq our organisation made it known that we intended to start a shelter for women at risk, but the government did not allow us to do that, they said it was illegal. But from that time until now, with the support of our sisters in the international community and with the support of some actors like the Dutch government and the EU, we have been able to do it anyway. We’ve set up three women’s shelters in Baghdad and two in Karbala for the refugee women who are escaping ISIS, in addition to one LGBT shelter in Baghdad. So although they try to illegalise our sheltering activity, in practice we’ve persevered and we’ve been able to multiply them. This is crucial. It means that, at this moment, when a woman feels threatened by honour killing, by domestic abuse and political oppression, they are knocking on our doors and they know there is the network that will protect them and be there for them. </p> <p>We see different kinds of things. Two months ago a woman came to me, her name is Zainab. She was in charge of a meeting hall in Baghdad and she’s extremely good looking. She was accused of being corrupt and of taking bribes by some officials who wanted to have sex with her. So they put her in prison, they made her go through very humiliating treatment, and when she left prison she felt she was threatened. She came and knocked on our doors and asked if we could protect her. So she is staying with us in one of our shelters and her daughter comes to visit her from time to time. </p> <p>JA: <em>And what’s the next step for you? What would you like to see happen in the next year?</em></p> <p>YM: In the next year I would like to see a law legalising women’s shelters in Iraq. I would like to see our radio being opened again as a result of the pressure that we’re putting on the governmental body that could allow this. I would like to see the Iraqi government guarantee social insurance for the Yazidi women who were enslaved and to recognise their status as prisoners of war.</p><p><strong><em>Jennifer Allsopp is reporting for 50.50 from the </em></strong><strong><em><strong><em>Nobel Women's Initiative conference: '<a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/our-blogs/defending-the-defenders/">Defending the Defenders</a>' , April 24-26. </em></strong></em></strong><strong><em><strong><em><strong><em>Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers</a> framing and addressing the discussions.&nbsp;</em></strong></em></strong>Read <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8432/all">previous years' coverage</a>.</em></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/nadje-alali/sexualized-violence-in-iraq-how-to-understand-and-fight-it">Sexualized violence in Iraq: how to understand and fight it</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/religious-minority-women-of-iraq-time-to-speak-up">Religious minority women of Iraq: time to speak up </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nadje-al-ali/iraq-gendering-authoritarianism">Iraq: gendering authoritarianism</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"> Iraq </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 class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 North-Africa West-Asia Iraq Civil society Conflict Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Editor's Pick UN Resolution 1325 - 15 years on 50.50 newsletter bodily autonomy fundamentalisms gender gender justice violence against women women and militarism women and power women's human rights women's movements Jennifer Allsopp Yanar Mohammed Sun, 26 Apr 2015 07:33:27 +0000 Yanar Mohammed and Jennifer Allsopp 92275 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sabeen Mahmud: “I stand up for what I believe in, but I can’t fight guns” https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/in-memory-of-sabeen-mahmud-%E2%80%9Ci-stand-up-for-what-i-believe-in-but-i-can%E2%80%99t-fight- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sabeen Mahmud alleviated intellectual poverty until the day she was murdered, 24 April 2015. In an interview with Karima Bennoune in 2010 Mahmud explained why she founded a politico-cultural space in Karachi.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/25/world/asia/outpouring-of-grief-and-anger-as-pakistani-activist-is-gunned-down.html?partner=rss&amp;emc=rss&amp;_r=0">Sabeen Mahmud</a>, founder of the NGO <a href="http://www.t2f.biz/">Peace Niche</a> and director of Karachi’s cultural institution, T2F, was <strong><a href="http://www.dawn.com/news/1178159/at-peace-sabeen-mahmud-laid-to-rest-in-Karachi">assassinated</a></strong> on Friday night while leaving the centre with her mother, who was also gravely injured in the attack.&nbsp; T2F had just hosted an event about human rights in Balochistan, and Sabeen had reportedly been receiving threats. </p><p><strong>This interview is published today in memory of Sabeen Mahmud <em><br /></em></strong></p> <p>Karima Bennoune<strong>: </strong><em>What made you decide to found T2F?</em><strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>Sabeen Mahmud<strong>: </strong>I was studying in Lahore, and when I came back I was working in technology. But my mother works for an educational non-profit.&nbsp; This sense of social justice and standing up for what you believe in started becoming a part of everyday life for me, just thinking about what, as individuals, we are supposed to do about issues that confront society.&nbsp; I finished college, after trying to drop out for four years, unsuccessfully. I started working. By 2006, I was getting very restless and wanted to do something in development. The companies that were our large clients – Unilever, Shell, - I realized that I am helping them sell more toothpaste or more oil and I am angry about what they are doing in certain parts of the world. It started getting more difficult to reconcile my ideas around activism with the work I was doing. </p> <p>I am deeply interested in arts and music and technology and science. So, I thought, how about creating a space that would be able to host all kinds of events, would be a talent incubator, a platform for emerging artists, graphic designers, singers, poets, or other people who don’t have a platform?&nbsp; Then, I thought, when we talk about how young people are the future, what are we doing to create future leaders?&nbsp; We are not challenging them.&nbsp; </p> <p>There were coffee shops, but a lot of them were expensive. It was very businesslike. You go and have your meal and leave. Coffee houses used to be centers of intellectual activity and discourse.&nbsp; I know that was decades ago, but surely people still have things to say. </p> <p>In Pakistan, we don’t have bars. How are people supposed to meet new people? Then, one day I just decided I would do this. I wanted to set up a non-profit not to make money but to make meaning, with a quadrangle for theatre, and other things around it. But, we didn’t have money. It was a crazy idea. My uncle had sent some money. My mother and grandmother and I live together - three generations of women. I took the money my uncle sent and set up T2F which stands for “the second floor” because it was on the 2nd floor of a building. </p> <p>KB<em>: When did you open your doors, and how? <br /></em></p> <p>SM<strong>:</strong> May 13, 2007.&nbsp; It took a few months to set up.&nbsp; If you tell someone you’ve set up an NGO, no one is going to come.&nbsp; You want to reach out to young people. I wanted to think about how we could be self-sustaining. People will come here and sit for six hours and have one cold drink. And that does not make a space like this function. But others will come and just drop off a 1000 rupee donation. We operate on an honor code. People who understand and value will keep eating and drinking. Others will sit here all day and not even order that one cup of tea. The landlord served us notice in 2009. We had to vacate.&nbsp; And then somebody wrote about it in the newspaper and this wonderful man donated these two floors to us. It is rented out to us for 1 rupee a month. It took 9 months to build. I took loans, begged, borrowed and stopped just short of stealing to keep going. My mother said, “what are you doing?” I have developed gambler’s nerves. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>What is the mission of T2F today? <br /></em></p> <p>SM<strong>:</strong> Changing minds does not happen in a week – especially with regard to the kinds of issues we were talking about at the forum you attended here on combatting violence against women with new technology [Take Back the Tech]. You do not get people to start thinking a certain way because you sat down one day and talked about it. What may be obvious to you and me is anathema to another person. You need that time and that engagement to hear out the other person as well as to present your viewpoint. Amartya Sen spoke of the many faces of poverty. Intellectual poverty alleviation is what we do. We work in three areas: 1) arts and culture, 2) science and technology and 3) advocacy. </p> <p>We are open every day from noon to 10 PM. Initially, in the original space there was just me and I used to be in for 14 hours a day. Today, we have Hindus and Muslims and Christians working together. They sit and eat together. </p> <p>KB<em>: How do you keep T2F going?</em> </p> <p>SM: I do not earn any money from this. I work nights in graphic design and technology consulting to pay my bills. When I say nights, it is actually in the middle of the day, and it could go on until 3 in the morning. I remember this one project we worked on - an interactive CD on <a href="http://www.faiz.com/">Faiz Ahmed Faiz</a>, a revolutionary Pakistani poet. I spent 30 days and nights in the office. I only went home to bathe. I used to be of the opinion that we can convert one day into two, if we work non-stop. Now, it is all catching up. I am 36. </p> <p>We have a few volunteers and interns, and a lot of young people, and I feel so maternal to them. This is exciting because you feel the hard work pays off - like these “First Fridays” that we instituted. The first time we did it someone from one of the leading radio stations came and he heard these two sisters who were playing together for the first time in public, and they were on the radio the next weekend. </p> <p>KB: <em>What have been some of T2F’s most memorable events? <br /></em></p> <p>SM: No matter what happens, I am a geek.&nbsp; So, one of my favourites was with a guy who was the first Pakistani to get an application into the Apple apps store, and about his approach to business and risk. The people he hires are supposed to dedicate a certain percentage of their time to work for social justice. That was one of my favorites.&nbsp; But, we have had over 250 events [as of December 2010]. Another really memorable event had to do with Faiz Ahmed Faiz.&nbsp; We got his daughter on the phone, and then an Indian singer and a Pakistani singer.&nbsp; They’re both very famous. They sang and told stories on Skype. We were able to use technology and show you can bridge boundaries in this way.&nbsp; Music transcends everything.&nbsp; If you go to our website, the events page has an archive back to 2007. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>What do you feel you have achieved here?</em><strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>SM<strong>:</strong> I have no grand illusions. I was brought up in a home where my mother’s focus was changing one teacher at a time, by changing the way she thinks. My mother was rebellious from the day she was born. She is not a get-out-on-the-street-and-protest kind of person. Instead, she has done incredible work in government schools changing mindsets. It takes so long and it takes so much effort. I am who I am because of her, undoubtedly. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>To what extent has the issue of fundamentalism impacted your work?</em></p> <p>SM<strong>:</strong> There are certain buzz words, “combatting fundamentalism through fashion,” that get attention, publicity, donor money. We have never done anything like that. We try to quietly go about our business. By its very nature, we are doing all those things. But, you don’t have to shove it down people’s throats. Or give press releases to that effect. “We have had twenty musicians so we have changed everything.”&nbsp; We have changed nothing. We gave twenty people an opportunity to breathe for two hours. Maybe they would never be able to do that otherwise, and I am very happy we were able to do that for them. And, I hope they can find ways to do that for other people. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>How dangerous is your work? <br /></em></p> <p>SM<strong>:</strong> I stand up for what I believe in. But I can’t fight guns. I know that much, and nothing is worth dying for.&nbsp; You have to live for these causes. We do things on the blasphemy law and we do things on AIDS. You have to take calculated risks. </p> <p>You were asking about fundamentalism. We did this thing recently on the <a href="http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/2013/08/28/blasphemy-in-pakistan-why-is-asia-bibi-still-in-jail">blasphemy laws</a>. The people who were sending us the speakers said you might not say it in the title. I said, “all our lives we have been fighting against this.” We’ve marched on the streets for it. What will happen? We are talking about its [the blasphemy law’s] repeal. It is important to talk about this. Those kinds of risks we are happy to take. More people need to stand up. </p> <p>There are people from the [security] agencies who come. It’s quite clear they are from the agencies.&nbsp; I am sure a dossier has been prepared somewhere. They attend.&nbsp; They say, “don’t take my photograph.” They have a cup of tea.. You just have to work within what you have, and try and do as much as you can. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>How has the broader security environment in Karachi affected you?</em></p> <p>SM: There are days when the guys can’t come to work, because there is no transport. We can cancel an event or have it the next day. We have had to close down on occasion. There have been riots, there have been strikes. The security situation has always been <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/09/karachi-violence_n_2267057.html">awful</a> in Karachi. </p> <p>But, this year [2010], Karachi has had a lot of violence. What upsets me is there is a huge gun shop at the end of the lane. It is awful. There is talk of a de-weaponizing Karachi campaign. But, I feel it is a battle we can’t win. We should focus where we can attain some victories, and feel empowered to move on. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>What battles do you want to focus on?</em></p> <p>SM: The blasphemy law is something that I really want to see gone in my lifetime. We need more people to rise up and take a stand.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>Sabeen Mahmud defied terror in multiple forms to champion the right to culture.&nbsp; She embodied the spirit of the line from Faiz Ahmed Faiz which insists that “tyrants… cannot snuff out the moon, so today, nor tomorrow, no tyranny will succeed.”&nbsp; </p> <p>Though she is gone now, Sabeen’s light – which she bequeaths us all - cannot be snuffed out either.&nbsp; </p> <p><em>Karima Bennoune interviewed Mahmud at T2F in December 2010 while doing research for the book “<a href="http://www.karimabennoune.com/">Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism</a>.</em><em>”</em></p><p><em><strong>This interview is published as a hundred women human rights defenders meet with Nobel Peace laureates at the Nobel Women's Initiative <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/our-blogs/defending-the-defenders/">conference on 'Defending Human Rights Defenders !</a> in the Netherlands, April 24-26.</strong>&nbsp;</em><strong><em><strong><em></em></strong></em></strong><strong><em><strong><em><strong><em>Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers</a> framing and addressing the discussions.&nbsp;</em></strong></em></strong></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/jody-williams/defending-defenders-daunting-challenge">Defending the Defenders: a daunting challenge </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</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 class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lydia-alpizar/csw-vital-need-to-defend-women-human-rights-defenders">CSW: the vital need to defend women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yifat-susskind/women-defenders-preventing-rape-as-weapon-of-war">Shelters without walls: women building protective infrastructures against rape </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</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> </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"> Pakistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Karachi </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 class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Karachi Pakistan Civil society Culture Democracy and government Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights violence against women gender justice fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter women's work Karima Bennoune Sat, 25 Apr 2015 11:46:01 +0000 Karima Bennoune 92271 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women human rights defenders: reigniting the embers https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-reigniting-embers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The profile of today’s front line activist is different to that of the freedom fighter of old. We need to see her in her wholeness. Jennifer Allsopp reports from the <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/our-blogs/defending-the-defenders/">Nobel Women’s Initiative conference</a> in the Netherlands.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>When you think of the word freedom fighter, the image that comes to mind for many is that of a confident, charismatic, lone man. This is the image I grew up with. At university, my wardrobe proudly boasted both Martin Luther King <em>and </em>Mahatma Gandhi T shirts, and my diary had their words scrawled in quotation marks. At 18 I headed to Cuba as the history that I’d read told me that I’d find my heroes in the military museums there – I didn’t. Back then I hadn’t realised that I could find heroes in the present. At school you’re taught that everything important was done by men, in the past, and that it was often bloody and violent. We didn’t even learn the word Suffragette, and the Northern Ireland peace process was totally off the curriculum. We heard a bit about a woman called Margaret Thatcher, but I decided not to pursue that relationship as, let it be said, I found scant inspiration there. In short, I grew up in a world without women human rights defenders. </p> <p>Heroic men like King and Gandhi, along with others, have become such an engrained part of global rights culture that they now stand alone as cultural icons, devoid of context. As a group of modern day human rights defenders convened in the Netherlands today for the opening of the <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/meet-the-laureates/shirin-ebadi/">Nobel Women’s Initiative’s</a>&nbsp;fifth conference, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015"><em>Defending the Defenders: Building global support for WHRD</em></a>, it was clear that if we want activists to thrive and continue to inspire, this context is all too important. We need to look beyond the Disney image of a hero, said Ambassador Kees van Barre, as he welcomed the international delegation. Well, obviously. Look around, we all agreed. </p> <p>A quick glance at the 100 international activists around the room revealed the following:</p> <p>Today’s woman human rights defender is mobile. She needs freedom to travel, to find safety in exile, and to keep her identity. </p> <p>Today’s women human rights defender believes in a right to know the facts of what is happening and a right to access media.</p> <p>Today’s woman human rights defender knows that the philosophy of human rights is peace, not war.</p> <p>Today’s woman human rights defender takes time to remember the women who have lost their lives fighting for our human rights.</p> <p>Today’s woman human rights defender sees human rights as constantly evolving and believes that no government can take these rights away from human beings.</p> <p>Today’s woman human rights defender knows, to cite <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/meet-the-laureates/mairead-maguire/">Mairead Maguire</a>, Nobel Laureate from Northern Ireland, that ‘we’re at a point in history that is going to be really revolutionary’. She continues, ‘there’s so much war, death, destruction, abuse, military, abuse of rights, and it’s spreading, that somehow we have to make a quantum leap into a new way of thinking.’</p> <p>And today’s woman human rights defender knows that women will play a leading role in this new way of thinking.</p> <p>The contemporary female freedom fighter is, to sum it up in the words <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/julienne-lusenge">of Julienne Lusenge</a>, activist from the Democratic Republic of Congo, multifaceted. She exists not as a portrait in history books but in a vibrant, constantly shifting, precarious context. She comes with or without kids, with or without access to broadband, and in a range of countries. She may be operating in her home country, on a global stage, in exile, in hiding or in prison. In their unity of passion these women could not be more different. ‘People in this room’, announced Liz Bernstein, Executive Director of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, ‘are front line defenders taking extraordinary risks every day on behalf of communities’. Their mode of action varies. Some challenge fundamentalisms, some fight big business, some protect the planet and its people: but together they work every day to protect women's rights and human rights. ‘We’re peace people, environmental people, human rights defenders: but don’t limit me with a label for I am many things’, says Mairead.</p> <p>Existing alongside this creative difference are a set of fundamental challenges that are common to many of today’s women activists, who operate in a climate of risk and intimidation. Recent years have seen a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">raft of measures</a> at the International level to recognise and support their work. But it became clear in today’s plenary that these measures, designed in the halls of Brussels and New York, are all too often failing to be effective on the ground. </p> <p>The measures are noble in their intention, says Julienne: they seek to offer protection to women at risk. But they’re failing for one main reason and that is their inability to see activists as working in a context, and to see the women themselves as three dimensional. These women are not stand-alone figures to be championed in isolation: they are part of families and local and international networks, the preservation of which are fundamental to their cause. </p> <p>The main concern for Julienne is her family. It’s not good offering to protect me and leaving my family at risk, she explains. Her warning is all too familiar to some in the room. At today’s plenary, Iranian Nobel Laureate <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/meet-the-laureates/shirin-ebadi/">Shirin Ebadi</a> who was awarded the prize for her tireless fight for justice and democracy as the first female judge in Iran, recounted how her husband and son had been imprisoned directly after she was forced to flee: ‘they couldn’t get to me so they got to them instead’. </p> <p>A second way in which the protection framework for women human rights defenders is failing, participants shared, stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of their mission. Even when things get difficult, ‘as a woman human rights defender I don’t have the right to lose hope’, says Shirin. ‘I need to continue’. ‘What I need’, adds Julienne, ‘isn’t just a safe room but somewhere where I can continue my work. I need the resources and tools to keep going, then I can protect <em>myself</em>’.</p> <p>The core problem for other women is lack of access to even basic protection resources. With finite places available, be it in <a href="http://www.eidhr.eu/files/dmfile/FinalEUHRDReportMasterVersion.pdf">temporary safe houses</a> funded by the European Union or the Netherlands’ new ‘<a href="http://www.sheltercity.org/index.php/en/human-rights-defenders-eng">shelter cities’</a>, a tricky question arises: who is it that defines whose human rights deserve protecting over others? Who makes the decision about whose life is most valuable to the cause of protecting human rights? </p> <p>One participant from Manipur, India has been consistently denied support. The <a href="http://www.stoprapeinconflict.org/campaign_member_threatened_in_manipur_india">conflict</a> in her region is still not recognised by the national government or by the international community. ‘Everything is on paper for human rights defenders, especially women’, she says, ‘but it really doesn’t exist’. For women in Palestine too, the media blackout means that support isn’t being delivered, says Mairead. She’d like to see more resources to protect women human rights defenders there, and to ‘hear President Obama say that 70 years of suffering for the Palestinian people is enough’.</p> <p>For other women the problem relates to the accessibility of the frameworks. Julienne reflects that the guidance for documenting sexual violence which came out of the much-anticipated international <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/sexual-violence-in-conflict">#TimetoAct</a> summit in London in 2014 remains completely useless for many women. ‘For a start, many activists need to learn to read it to be able to use it’, she smiles up wearily. ‘If they really want to help victims then we need the means to disseminate it in our communities’. </p> <p>As I head to bed after the first day of the conference I’m struck by Julienne’s warning about the disappointment that can come with international meetings, ‘the initiators who set up the #TimetoAct project left the day after the conference’, she explains, ‘we don’t feel the continuity. There will always be yet another forum, yet another summit on sexual violence and it doesn’t change the lives of victims. It’s a ballet of summits at the international level, but to the women, what do I tell them? What does it serve?’</p> <p>The conference here, she explains, is different. It’s a unique opportunity for women working on the frontline to come together for the purpose of mutual learning. ‘We’re always talking about “taking things to the higher level, the higher level” but we need to look to the lower levels too to make it work.’ ‘For yes’, she reflects, ‘the fire of the London summit has burnt to embers. Then, it’s gone.’</p><p><strong><em>Jennifer Allsopp is reporting for 50.50 from the </em></strong><strong><em><strong><em>Nobel Women's Initiative conference: 'Defending the Defenders' , April 24-26. </em></strong></em></strong><strong><em><strong><em><strong><em>Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers</a> framing and addressing the discussions.&nbsp;</em></strong></em></strong>Read <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8432/all">previous years' coverage</a>.</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/jody-williams/defending-defenders-daunting-challenge">Defending the Defenders: a daunting challenge </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofutawamba/at-margins-of-visibility-recognising-women-human-rights-defenders">At the margins of visibility: recognising women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 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/leila-alikarami/challenges-faced-by-women-human-rights-defenders-in-iran">Iranian women human rights defenders: challenges and opportunities </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/5050/audrey-huntley/breaking-one-of-canada%27s-best-kept-secrets-it-starts-with-us">&quot;It starts with us&quot;: Breaking one of Canada&#039;s best kept secrets</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yifat-susskind/women-defenders-preventing-rape-as-weapon-of-war">Shelters without walls: women building protective infrastructures against rape </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/distance-travelled-beijing-hillary-and-women%27s-rights">The distance travelled: Beijing, Hillary, and women&#039;s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/hidden-women-human-rights-defenders-in-uk">Hidden women human rights defenders in the UK</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> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 Nobel Women's Initiative 10th anniversary 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women's human rights women and power women and militarism violence against women gender justice feminism young feminists Jennifer Allsopp Sat, 25 Apr 2015 07:27:33 +0000 Jennifer Allsopp 92268 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Mairead Maguire: breaking the silence on Palestine https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mairead-maguire/mairead-maguire-breaking-silence-on-palestine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Palestinian women human rights defenders and peace makers, in resisting the injustices being perpetrated upon their people, deserve our support and we must each do what we can to break the silence.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>About 10 years ago, Doctor Mona El-Farra, one of Palestine’s greatest woman human rights defenders, visited Northern Ireland.&nbsp; Dr. Mona lives in the occupied Gaza strip, and she came to share with us the story of occupied Gaza and its people. Many people in the audience were moved to tears on listening to the painful stories of ongoing collective punishment of war and bombardment by the Israeli military upon the civilian population of Gaza. The majority of Gaza’s Palestinians are children and under the age of 2l years of age. Collective punishment of a civilian population breaks the Geneva conventions and is a war crime. What struck me was Dr. Mona’s comment ‘every single person in Gaza is completely traumatized by so much violence and war.’</p> <p>Today this collective punishment by Israeli Government policies goes on. Why has it lasted so long? The Palestinians have been most cruelly punished by Israeli policies of occupation, war and destruction. They say that ‘silence’ is golden but in the case of Gaza and Palestine, the ‘silence’ of the world regarding the plight of Palestinians, especially little children, shows a lack of&nbsp; moral and ethical leadership by the international Community. It behoves us to ask ‘why is President Obama not saying: ’70 years of Israeli occupation is enough – it is time for Peace for the Palestinians’?</p> <p>I believe, as do many people, that Palestine is a key to peace in the Middle East.&nbsp; Its occupation by Israel, is a sore in the body politic of the whole Middle East, and effects many people around the world. As long as it remains unresolved there will never be hope for peace for Palestinians, Israelis, or anyone else.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; But what can be done to turn this painful situation for all concerned around, where is the hope?</p> <p>I believe we must look to the Palestinian women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and peacemakers, and take their lead and guidance as to how best we can support and help them in their painful and dangerous work for human rights and freedom for Palestinians.</p> <p>As women living in the midst of an Israeli occupation, built on an apartheid system, Palestinian women know the high cost emotionally/psychologically/ physically and financially of the Israeli Military occupation and wars. Their solutions include working for an end to the repression and occupation, the right to self-determination, and a Palestine built on human rights and international law that deserves the support of fair-minded people around the world.&nbsp; </p> <p>Palestinian WHRDS and peacemakers, in resisting the injustices being perpetrated upon their people, deserve our support and we must each do what we can to break the silence. We can applaud and totally support their ‘spirit of resilience and their nonviolent peaceful civil resistance’. Palestinian women human rights defenders are an example to us all, showing by their lives how&nbsp; human dignity and equality must be won,&nbsp; by replacing fear with courage, hate with love, war with peace, enmity with friendship.&nbsp;&nbsp; Palestinian women know that the Israeli people are not their enemies, but it is the unjust policies of an Israeli Government they strenuously and courageous oppose.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Another form of violence faced by Palestinian women is the injustice of patriarchy, within which women’s voices are often silenced not only in Palestine, but in many countries.&nbsp; However, Palestinian women human rights activists know that whilst working for Freedom for Palestine, they must also work for individual human rights and freedom for themselves and their children.&nbsp; Freedom includes the civil rights of health care,&nbsp; development, etc., The women of Palestine, as have all women everywhere, a right to freedom of conscience, personal choice, and the right for their choice to be respected by religious, civic and political authorities.&nbsp; Particularly in the area of health care, it is important to affirm women’s moral autonomy in making healthcare decisions, and ensure they will have the means to follow their decisions in their lives.</p> <p>In spite of so many problems, there is hope, and Palestinian women human rights defenders and peacebuilders are the very bearers and channels of the hope and change that is already happening in Palestine. We global women help the Palestinian women human rights defenders by letting them know that we love them, we hear their voices, and knowing many Palestinians cannot leave their country, we will be their voices and tell their story to the outside world. We know their suffering and we take inspiration from their courageous spirit of nonkilling and nonviolent resistance.&nbsp; We know Palestinian women are great peacemakers simply because they give their lives each day, in service of their families and communities. This is the soul of peacemaking.&nbsp; Palestinian women human rights defenders are the custodians, carriers and transmitters of the moral and ethical values and standards of what it means to be truly human. How difficult, some would say impossible, it must be to teach the values of love, forgiveness, kindness and nonkilling whilst living in the midst of military occupation, siege and war. In my many visits to Palestine, I have witnessed in abundance all these values lived fully by the women of Palestine, and I have been touched and inspired by their lives.&nbsp; </p> <p>As the Nobel Women’s Initiative&nbsp; meets in the Netherlands this weekend to&nbsp; discuss how to protect women human rights defenders, I hope we can agree that breaking the silence on Palestine, and insisting that people have a right to know what governments are doing in their name, is a way in which we all, especially journalists and the media can help. We too can support the Palestinian nonviolent movement and respond to Palestinian civil society when they ask us to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign to help end the Israeli military occupation.&nbsp; We can especially pledge to support the ongoing Palestinian and Israeli&nbsp; human rights and peace movements for justice, believing that genuine diplomacy, dialogue and listening brings us to a new understanding of each other, and is the only way to peace.</p> <p>Let us hope too that the Israeli Government will begin to give leadership for peace by turning away from occupation, militarism and war, and by opening the door to diplomacy, give hope to the people of Palestine, Israel, the Middle East and the world.&nbsp; </p><p><strong><em>Women Nobel Peace laureates have gathered with a hundred women human rights activists for this year's&nbsp;</em></strong><strong><em><strong><em><a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/our-blogs/defending-the-defenders/">Nobel Women's Initiative conference</a>: 'Defending the Defenders'&nbsp; in the Netherlands, April 24-26. </em></strong></em></strong><strong><em><strong><em><strong><em>Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers</a> framing and addressing the discussions. </em></strong></em></strong>Jennifer Allsopp and Marion Bowman are reporting for 50.50 Read <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8432/all">previous years' coverage</a>. <br /></em></strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</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/jody-williams/defending-defenders-daunting-challenge">Defending the Defenders: a daunting challenge </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-reigniting-embers">Women human rights defenders: reigniting the embers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofutawamba/at-margins-of-visibility-recognising-women-human-rights-defenders">At the margins of visibility: recognising women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/brigid-inder/tribute-to-joan-kagezi-murder-of-human-rights-defender">A tribute to Joan Kagezi: the murder of a human rights defender</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yifat-susskind/women-defenders-preventing-rape-as-weapon-of-war">Shelters without walls: women building protective infrastructures against rape </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leila-alikarami/challenges-faced-by-women-human-rights-defenders-in-iran">Iranian women human rights defenders: challenges and opportunities </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</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/audrey-huntley/breaking-one-of-canada%27s-best-kept-secrets-it-starts-with-us">&quot;It starts with us&quot;: Breaking one of Canada&#039;s best kept secrets</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/distance-travelled-beijing-hillary-and-women%27s-rights">The distance travelled: Beijing, Hillary, and women&#039;s rights</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="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lindsey-hilsum/desolation-and-despair-in-libya-murder-of-salwa-bugaighis">Desolation and despair in Libya: the murder of Salwa Bugaighis </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/yakin-erturk/quest-for-gender-just-peace-from-impunity-to-accountability">The quest for gender-just peace: from impunity to accountability </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> </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"> Palestine </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 class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 North-Africa West-Asia Palestine Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 Nobel Women's Initiative 10th anniversary 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Continuum of Violence Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Highlights women's movements women's human rights women and power women and militarism violence against women gender justice gender feminism Mairead Maguire Sat, 25 Apr 2015 07:24:03 +0000 Mairead Maguire 92266 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A tribute to Joan Kagezi: the murder of a human rights defender https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/brigid-inder/tribute-to-joan-kagezi-murder-of-human-rights-defender <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Joan Kagezi was a lead prosecutor in high profile cases in Uganda, including against a former LRA commander and those accused of terrorism. She was shot dead in front of her children last month.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On 30 March, at around 7.30pm, Joan Kagezi, Senior Principal State Attorney in Uganda, was murdered by unidentified assailants, who opened fire on her while she was driving home from work. </p><p>In the most ordinary of circumstances, Joan had stopped at a fruit stall on her way home when she was shot twice by gunmen on a motorcycle.&nbsp; Three of her four children were in the car with Joan at the time of the attack and witnessed the brutal murder of their mother.</p> <p>Joan was head of the Directorate of Public Prosecution’s (DPP) war crimes and anti-terrorism division and in this capacity she was, at the time of her death, the lead Prosecutor in a high profile terrorism case, involving suspects in the 2010 terrorist bombings in Kampala. The case was strong and Joan was formidable.&nbsp; </p> <p>Just a few days before her death, Joan had shared with a colleague that she had not liked the way one of the accused in the case was staring at her during a recent court session. She said she felt that he was looking at her in a menacing way and it made her feel uncomfortable. Earlier in the case she had asked the presiding judge to not allow the accused to sit in the public gallery but rather to have them seated together within the Court room. The Judge had refused her request stating that it would injure the health of the accused to do so.</p> <p>Joan Kagezi was a long-time friend of the <a href="http://www.iccwomen.org/">Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice.</a>&nbsp; She was softly-spoken with a calm, unflappable demeanour which belied her steely and unswerving determination and her sharp prosecutorial mind. Working with Joan generated hope that post-conflict Uganda was on the right track and that its judicial system, although struggling, might rise to the challenge. Maybe our work together helped all of us believe that despite the longevity of the conflict and the pain, torment and suffering of multiple generations of northern Ugandans, justice, truth and reconciliation, or something akin to these aspirations, may yet be possible.</p> <p>We met Joan in the course of our legal monitoring and advocacy work regarding prosecutions associated with the LRA-related conflict before the International Crimes Division (ICD) of the High Court of Uganda.&nbsp; </p> <p>As head of the DPP’s war crimes and anti-terrorism division, Joan was the lead Prosecutor in the latter stages of the ICD <a href="https://www.ictj.org/publication/pursuing-accountability-serious-crimes-uganda">case against Thomas Kwoyelo</a>, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who was charged with the war crimes of murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and destruction of property, amongst other acts. Notably, there were no charges for gender-based crimes in this case despite Kwoyelo’s rank within the LRA and the multiple sources describing the militia’s practice of assigning abducted girls and young women to commanders for sexual and domestic purposes. It is also noteworthy that no charges were brought under the Ugandan ICC Act although some of the incidents for which Kwoyelo is charged are also incidents which have been the subject of ICC investigations.&nbsp; We worked very closely with Joan on these issues. She was receptive to our advocacy and supportive of the inclusion of sexual and gender-based crimes in the ongoing investigative and prosecutorial priorities of the ICD. She informed us last year that she was hopeful that the next round of LRA-related cases would likely include charges for these crimes. </p> <p>The larger challenge in the Kwoyelo case was his application to the Ugandan Amnesty Commission and potential eligibility to be pardoned under the <a href="https://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl-nat.nsf/0/7d2430f8f3cc16b6c125767e00493668/$FILE/Ugandan+Amnesty+Act+2000.pdf">Amnesty Act</a>. More than 24,000 certificates of amnesty have been granted to ex-combatants under this act, and prior to the Kwoyelo case, no one who had applied for amnesty had been denied. </p> <p>The Women’s Initiatives and our partners, especially the Greater North Women’s Voices for Peace Network (<a href="http://blog.witness.org/tag/gnwvpn/">GNWVPN</a>), have been persistently vocal in critiquing the failure of the Act to include amnesty conditions regarding requirements for: truth telling; a confession - individuals are not required to make a full declaration of the acts they had committed or the incidents they may have witnessed; the exclusion of certain crimes including sexual and gender-based violence from qualifying under the amnesty regime; and an apology to direct victims of their crimes and those in the broader community affected by their actions.&nbsp; In practice, the Amnesty Act has provided a blanket immunity from prosecution for sexual violence and other crimes, for the entire period of the Ugandan LRA conflict. Many in the community are critical of the Amnesty Commission which appears to them to provide support to former perpetrators, while no support is provided by the Government and district councils to victims/survivors. In addition, according to the GNWVPN, even amongst those granted amnesty the treatment is unequal with former LRA commanders treated considerably better than those abducted, especially the female abductees. </p> <p>This was an issue we discussed at length with Joan who was sympathetic to the situation of victims/survivors. She shared our concerns that the Amnesty Act was impeding prosecutions and hindering the accountability demanded by victims/survivors, desperately needed by communities as part of the reconciliation process and guaranteed under the Juba Peace Agreements. </p> <p>Joan’s chance to address this came when the Ugandan Constitutional Court ruled in 2011 that Kwoyelo was eligible for amnesty and ordered the legal proceedings against him to cease and his immediate release from detention. In response, the Attorney General appealed this decision to the Supreme Court and in the subsequent hearing the DPP, with Joan as lead Prosecutor, challenged the decision by the Constitutional Court. The DPP argued that the Amnesty Act did not prevent it from prosecuting crimes within its jurisdiction, that Kwoyelo did not qualify for amnesty because he was captured and had not surrendered, and that the DPP had not discriminated against Kwoyelo by prosecuting him even though other commanders, including those more senior, had been granted amnesty in the past.</p> <p>Those of us working on this issue had been waiting for the Supreme Court judgment since 2012. Finally, on 8 April 2015, a week after Joan’s murder, the Supreme Court issued its <a href="http://www.ulii.org/files/uganda%20v%20kwoyelo%2020001.pdf">ruling</a> finding that the Act does not impinge upon the prosecutorial powers of the DPP and that the DPP had not discriminated against Kwoleyo because it is within its purview to consider each amnesty application in its own right. This clears the way for the case against Kwoyelo, the first in relation to the 25 year LRA-related conflict, to resume. </p> <p>Perhaps most importantly, the Court provided much needed guidance and clarity regarding the crimes for which amnesty cannot apply. While not applicable in the Kwoyelo case, the judgement implicitly recognises acts of sexual violence as war crimes and grave breaches under <a href="https://www.icrc.org/ihl/WebART/380-600169">Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention</a> as crimes for which an individual would not be eligible for amnesty. This is a ground-breaking judgment within the Ugandan context.</p> <p>Although no longer alive at the time of the decision, this ruling and its important clarifications is one of Joan’s most important legal legacies.</p> <p>In a conversation with Joan last year, I shared with her my dream to hold a residential institute in northern Uganda for young women formerly abducted by the LRA including former female child soldiers. Her face beamed as she said this was ‘a noble pursuit’ and immediately asked if she could have three places at the institute for young women she had met during her work at the DPP. We hope to one day be able to offer this institute to young women and when we do, the opening will include a tribute to Joan Kagezi, an advocate for gender justice and a Ugandan hero. </p><p><strong><em>Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers</a> framing and addressing this year's <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/our-blogs/defending-the-defenders/">Nobel Women's Initiative conference </a>theme: 'Defending the Defenders'.&nbsp; Jennifer Allsopp and Marion Bowman are reporting live from the conference, 24-26 April,&nbsp; for 50.50. Read <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8432/all">previous years' coverage</a>.</em></strong></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/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-reigniting-embers">Women human rights defenders: reigniting the embers</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/ndana-bofutawamba/at-margins-of-visibility-recognising-women-human-rights-defenders">At the margins of visibility: recognising women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yifat-susskind/women-defenders-preventing-rape-as-weapon-of-war">Shelters without walls: women building protective infrastructures against rape </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leila-alikarami/challenges-faced-by-women-human-rights-defenders-in-iran">Iranian women human rights defenders: challenges and opportunities </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/marion-bowman/distance-travelled-beijing-hillary-and-women%27s-rights">The distance travelled: Beijing, Hillary, and women&#039;s rights</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/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</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="/5050/lydia-alpizar/csw-vital-need-to-defend-women-human-rights-defenders">CSW: the vital need to defend women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/audrey-huntley/breaking-one-of-canada%27s-best-kept-secrets-it-starts-with-us">&quot;It starts with us&quot;: Breaking one of Canada&#039;s best kept secrets</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"> Uganda </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> 50.50 50.50 Uganda Civil society Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Continuum of Violence Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Highlights women's human rights women and power violence against women gender justice gender 50.50 newsletter women's work Brigid Inder Sat, 25 Apr 2015 07:03:33 +0000 Brigid Inder 92264 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Defending the Defenders: a daunting challenge https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jody-williams/defending-defenders-daunting-challenge <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Women human rights defenders are under attack. The Nobel Women's Initiative <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/our-blogs/defending-the-defenders/?ref=18">conference</a> convenes today to deepen the understanding of the risks, and to develop strategies to strengthen efforts to defend the defenders. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Some of the people most at risk in the world are those who dare to work to promote and defend the human rights of us all. Not surprisingly, because women are always among the most vulnerable in a world that still chooses to treat us as beings with something less than an equal status with men - and because their very act of speaking up and taking action against authority is a threat to the patriarchal status quo - it is women defenders who are most frequently under threat and attack. They need and deserve our support. </p> <p>Some 120 women who work to protect and promote human rights around the world are meeting in the Netherlands from April 24 to 26, at the 5th biennial <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/our-blogs/defending-the-defenders/?ref=18">conference</a> convened by the Nobel Women’s Initiative. Many of the women coming to the conference are those we have met and worked with through Nobel Women’s Initiative delegations to the Thai/Burma border, to Palestine/Israel, to Liberia, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the Tar Sands of Alberta, Canada, and to Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala.&nbsp; </p> <p>The purpose of these various trips and others, in their essence, is to gather evidence and first-hand stories of the impact of escalating violence against women and their rights, assess the role and response of governments and regional bodies, and evaluate ways of supporting women who are organizing to protect themselves and their communities.&nbsp; We are coming together in the Netherlands to deepen our understanding of the most recent risks for activists, and to strategize about how to strengthen efforts to defend the defenders.&nbsp; It is a daunting challenge. </p> <p>Human rights activists around the globe tackle a wide range of issues, from defending the right to life and human dignity, to the defense of land rights and the environment, to socio-economic justice and to disarmament and arms control. Human rights defenders promote and defend freedom of speech and association as well as denouncing torture, forced disappearances and extra-judicial executions. And these name only a few of the areas they tackle.&nbsp; </p> <p>With our rights under attack - either directly or by being eroded over time - women defenders are more vulnerable than ever. </p> <p>When they stand up to protect and promote human rights in countries all around the world, women defenders are frequently subjected to intimidation and persecution, defamation campaigns, criminalization and illegal arrests. They endure cruel and inhumane treatment, rape, forced disappearance, murder, threats against themselves and their families, robbery and home invasion and destruction.&nbsp; </p> <p>Once women human rights defenders speak on behalf of others, nothing in their own lives is sacred any more - including the security of their family members. </p> <p>Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, despite the high rhetoric and resolutions of the UN, governments and high-profile/powerful individuals alike - both about human rights and defending the defenders - that rhetoric rarely trickles down to meaningful action for people working on the front lines where rights are most under attack, and impunity for the violators, despite some inroads, seems virtually inviolable.&nbsp; </p> <p>Women everywhere are tired of hearing governments offer up new reports or new commissions or special positions created to “study” violence against women and come up with recommendations to address the problem. Women in Mexico, for example, reported that the government simulates compliance with international treaties and norms on preventing and addressing violence against women rather than make real changes. </p> <p>International treaties and norms, domestic laws and new reports and recommendations are worth less than the paper they are written on if they are not enforced and implemented. </p> <p>And it can be worse than that. Governments are more than willing to turn a blind eye to human rights violations if defending our rights gets in the way of either “national interest” or economic interests. In the competing arenas of government policies, economic power and money, and the human and civil rights of people around the world, our rights are almost always the first to go. And often as the erosion of human rights escalates, so does the rhetoric about their importance and/or the importance of “balancing” human rights with threats against “security.” </p> <p>Defending human rights can be life threatening for anyone taking the risk, but women fighting to defend their land and way of life in the face of huge economic interests - such as extraction industries and oil and gas interests - are increasingly vulnerable.&nbsp; In mid-April, Global Witness released a new report, “<a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/campaigns/environmental-activists/how-many-more/">How Many More?</a>”, indicating that at least 116 environmental activists were murdered in 2014, almost double the number of journalists killed in the same period, and that indigenous communities are the hardest hit.&nbsp; </p> <p>While the report does not indicate how many of those 116 activists were women, it is safe to say that many were. Another report on climate justice and women’s rights notes that while there is a lot of money for work on climate and the environment, <a href="http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/04/millions-of-dollars-for-climate-financing-but-barely-one-cent-for-women/">little of it goes to support women</a>.&nbsp; At the same time the report states that women environmental activists are very vulnerable because they tend to work at the grassroots community level, and the threats against them are mostly undocumented. </p> <p>Widespread violence against women and women human rights defenders is a top priority not only for humanitarian reasons, but because it represents a serious violation of human rights, and clearly demonstrates governments’ non-compliance with two fundamental obligations: to guarantee the safety and rights of their citizens and to eliminate discrimination.&nbsp; </p> <p>Too many women human rights defenders have suffered this violence, and countless numbers who have refused to remain silent have lost their lives as a result. When governments fail to protect, we carry the collective responsibility to fight for human rights and justice. Women human rights defenders are under attack and international support and solidarity is crucial in defending the defenders, and also in pushing governments to demonstrate the political will needed to bring about real change in people’s lives.&nbsp; </p> <p>We must build enough public awareness and pressure to force governments to do what they should be doing anyway - and that is protecting and promoting equality and the human rights of us all. </p><p><em><strong>Jody Williams and sister Nobel laureates will be speaking at</strong></em> <strong><em>the </em></strong><strong><em><a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative</a><em> </em>conference <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/our-blogs/defending-the-defenders/?ref=18">Defending the Defenders !</a> 24-26 April.&nbsp; Jennifer Allsopp and Marion Bowman will be reporting from the conference on 50.50.&nbsp; Read more <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers.</a></em></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/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</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/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/lydia-alpizar/csw-vital-need-to-defend-women-human-rights-defenders">CSW: the vital need to defend women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jody-williams/jody-williams-true-path-to-nuclear-non-proliferation">Jody Williams: The true path to nuclear non-proliferation </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yifat-susskind/women-defenders-preventing-rape-as-weapon-of-war">Shelters without walls: women building protective infrastructures against rape </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/distance-travelled-beijing-hillary-and-women%27s-rights">The distance travelled: Beijing, Hillary, and women&#039;s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson/claiming-rights-facing-fire-young-feminist-activists">Claiming rights, facing fire: young feminist activists </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leila-alikarami/challenges-faced-by-women-human-rights-defenders-in-iran">Iranian women human rights defenders: challenges and opportunities </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/audrey-huntley/breaking-one-of-canada%27s-best-kept-secrets-it-starts-with-us">&quot;It starts with us&quot;: Breaking one of Canada&#039;s best kept secrets</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/jane-gabriel/laureate-jody-williams-telling-it-like-it-is">Laureate Jody Williams: telling it like it is</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp-jessica-nhkum/daring-to-speak-militarism-and-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-in-burma">Daring to speak: militarism and women’s human rights in Burma</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/naomi-vulenywa-barasa/kenya-women-who-stand-to-be-counted">Kenya: the women who stand to be counted</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amel-gorani/sudanese-women-demand-justice">Sudanese women demand justice </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/positive-women-human-rights-defenders">Positive women human rights defenders</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ndana-bofutawamba/at-margins-of-visibility-recognising-women-human-rights-defenders">At the margins of visibility: recognising women human rights defenders </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> 50.50 50.50 Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 Nobel Women's Initiative 10th anniversary 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Nobel Women's Initiative AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women's human rights women and power violence against women gender justice gender 50.50 newsletter women's work Jody Williams Fri, 24 Apr 2015 07:45:33 +0000 Jody Williams 92233 at https://www.opendemocracy.net At the margins of visibility: recognising women human rights defenders https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ndana-bofutawamba/at-margins-of-visibility-recognising-women-human-rights-defenders <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Every small act that stands up to patriarchy or to inequality, whether it is asking to go to school, or refusing to marry the man her father chooses, is an act of women's human rights defense.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The term “women human rights defenders” (WHRDs) is one that is often measured or judged by a woman's occupation, the educated strategies she employs, or her level of involvement. A woman's visibility on national, regional and international human rights media platforms and conferences often wins her recognition as a WHRD, rather than her small-scale daily activism challenging patriarchal religious and cultural norms and attitudes that subordinate, stigmatize, and restrict women’s potential to thrive. </p> <p>WHRDs span all levels of activism, joined together by their mutual concerns for achieving justice, liberty, peace, inequality and inequity. They manifest in diverse forms; from community and traditional leaders, market women, teachers, mothers, grandmothers, daughters, and LGBTI activists who defend social and economic rights -&nbsp; to indigenous women, lawyers, journalists, and academics to advance political and civil rights. </p> <p>These are defenders who are often overlooked because they don’t fit neatly into the orthodox or ideal definition.&nbsp; Whether as an individual or collective, in the private or public arena, these women are fracturing patriarchal attitudes, systems and structures that are embedded in every facet of our lives. It is vital that human/women’s rights organizations and the international community remain nimble and forward looking in recognising these women as WHRDs. </p> <p><strong>International definition of women human rights defenders <br /></strong></p> <p>Although women’s rights activists have spoken out for their rights and the rights of others for centuries, WHRDs were only given official recognition on an international level by the adoption of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.justassociates.org/sites/justassociates.org/files/uploads/english/documents/final_joint_press_release_whrd_281113.pdf">first-ever resolution on WHRDs</a> by the United Nations General Assembly’s Third Committee in December 2013. It was however deeply troubling that the resolution failed to seize an opportunity to call on States to condemn all forms of violence against WHRDs, and to refrain from invoking any customs, tradition or religious consideration to avoid obligations related to the elimination of violence against women. </p> <p>According to the <a href="http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/">Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRDIC)</a>, the term WHRDs encompasses both women active in human rights defence who are targeted for who they are, as well as all those active in the defence of women's rights who are targeted for what they do. </p> <p class="NoSpacing">Globally, WHRDs are on the front line in the promotion and protection of human rights. They are protesting against the widespread violence against women and children; they are seeking justice for the countless victims of human rights abuses and their relatives; they are raising their voices to be freed from violence; they are leading daring and bold initiatives enabling other women, including victims and survivors of sexual abuse, to reclaim their power and own their lives. Because of this, WHRDs worldwide encounter a range of gendered violations and threats carried out by their families, friends, communities, religious and cultural fundamentalists, state and other shadow forces. </p> <p>Attacks against WHRDs continue to be an impediment to their work. They are faced with threats, stigma, arbitrary arrest and detention, violence, including sexual violence and rape, and even death. The nature of the violations committed against them, including psychological, digital and economic violence, is often a manifestation of deep seated discrimination and gender inequality. The threats against WHRDs have an extended effect of targeting their families and friends. In many countries, violence and the threat of violence have been utilized to intimidate and expel women from the public sphere especially women’s civic and political participation. </p> <p>In recent times, authorities in many countries have been steadily taking action to obstruct the work of WHRDs. The recent persecution of seven and five WHRDs in <a href="http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/27877">Egypt</a> and <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/05/guardian-view-chinese-women-rights-free-feminists">China</a> respectively is illustrative of the extent of reprisals against those that seek to uphold the basic tenets of human rights.&nbsp;Their incarceration, inhumane public vilification and judicial trials, based on scant and dubious evidence, is a well-orchestrated mechanism bent on serving a warning to dissuade other defenders from debating and questioning what is believed by some to be violations of their liberties, freedoms of association and speech. </p> <p><strong>Re-defining women human rights defenders</strong> </p> <p>There are several progressive women’s rights organisations and activists that have been courageous enough to push the envelope and re-contextualise and broaden the discourse on the definition and categorization of who falls into the category of a WHRD. <a href="http://www.urgentactionfund-africa.or.ke/">Urgent Action Fund-Africa (UAF-Africa)</a>,&nbsp;a consciously feminist and women’s human rights pan-African&nbsp;Fund, supports a diverse spectrum of WHRDs - many of whom would not ordinarily identify themselves as human rights defenders - to develop individual and joint strategies for their own security, enabling them to continue their human rights work. </p> <p>While traversing the African continent, I have encountered goose pimple-raising and extraordinary examples of invisible and unsung WHRD giants. Their courageous, resilient and out of the box quest to achieve justice and liberty for themselves and their communities has not only prompted me to write about it, but challenged me to be consciously inclusive in my analysis and praxis when it comes to leveraging inspirational narratives of women at the margins of visibility. The quest and overzealousness that I have to share what I know and have experienced through others, in order to generate knowledge, provokes catalytic conversations while demonstrating grit and the burning need to achieve social change in seemingly impossible situations is formidable in breaking boundaries. In doing this I have also adapted to a newer way of being, viewing the world and acting. Below are stories of some of these heroines, who have gone on not only to shift power relations between women and men, but also reconfigure the social architectural structures and systems that bind women and the state, culture, and other patriarchal inhibiting factors. </p> <p><a href="http://www.margaretdongo.com/">Margaret Dongo</a>, is a Zimbabwean politician, human rights activist and former freedom fighter. As an elected Member of the Parliament of Zimbabwe, Margaret unreservedly spoke for marginalized Zimbabweans. In 2006, Margret took upon herself the huge task of challenging Zimbabwe’s Guardianship of Minors Act in the Supreme Court after the Registrar General barred her from assisting her son to apply for a passport. The Act deemed the father of marital children as their only legal guardian thereby implying that the mother could as well have been a minor herself! Margaret partnered up with the <a href="http://www.zwla.co.zw/">Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association</a> and mounted a vigorous and protracted legal battle that argued that&nbsp;Zimbabwean government wrongly and unlawfully denied married women the right to facilitate their minor children acquire legal identification documents. </p> <p>As a result of her activism, in 2010 the court&nbsp;ruled that both men and women who are custodians of minor children can assist&nbsp;their children to obtain legal identification documents.The burning feminist principle of <em>“The personal is always political”</em> and social justice agenda for women like Margaret is never about whom one is waging battle against, but rather about bringing precedent setting substantive and life transforming benefits to all when the battle is won. </p> <p>Another humbling story is of a Ugandan woman homemaker whose promising and bright 14 year-old daughter was customarily married off to a 57 year-old man as a replacement for her sister, who passed away during childbirth. The mother was disturbed by this turn of events as in this particular case she would have lost two of her daughters to some of the common vices on the continent; high and inexplicable maternal morbidity and wife inheritance, in this case of an under aged daughter! In her wisdom, the mother consulted with her sisters to assist her daughter to run away from the old man. Her sisters were not convinced that by running away the family would end the ritual of wife inheritances, as other daughters within the family would be posited as replacements. The mother then decided to take her goats, chickens and many bags of grain that symbolised her status of wealth to the old man who was living with her daughter. With luck on her side, the man accepted the material goods and allowed the girl to go back with her mother while he looked for another woman, of his choice, to marry. That 14 year-old girl managed to finish her studies and she is now a practicing lawyer in Uganda, fighting to bring about justice and visibility to the untold forms of agency women in different circumstances face. In my view, this mother and her daughter are also WHRDs in their own right! </p> <p>One instructive case of women defying the patriarchal odds and setting new legislative and customary law precedence, took place in rural Botswana. In October 2012, the <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-19924723">High Court of Botswana</a> passed a landmark decision that struck down a customary law that denied women the right to inherit on the ground that it was contrary to the Constitution of Botswana.&nbsp;The provision that was held unconstitutional was a customary law, which provided that, in matters of intestacy, the last-born son of the deceased inherits the family property, and daughters - &nbsp;regardless of their birth position within the family - may not inherit.</p> <p>Ms. Edith Mmusi and her three sisters brought this case to court to dispute their nephew’s claim to their deceased father’s home and demanded that they vacate it.&nbsp; Their nephew, Mr. Molefi Ramantele, argued that he had a right to inherit the property and evict his aunts because his father had been the last-born male child of the deceased and was entitled to the family home under Ngwaketse customary law.&nbsp;The Customary Court and Customary Court of Appeal had ruled in favor of Mr. Ramantele.&nbsp; The sisters subsequently appealed with the High Court who ruled in their favor.</p><p>In Sudan, Meriam Ibrahim, showed extraordinary determination and courage when she was sentenced to death for apostasy and adultery for consciously marrying into and practicing Christianity. Her case mirrored that of many Sudanese women suffering under the yoke of political and religious fundamentalism, and how Sudan’s legal system often displays patterns of selective enforcement of the law - singling out women, ethnic minorities, and activists with punishments out of all proportion to the alleged crimes committed. (Following an international outcry Meriam was spared the death penalty and moved to Italy with her family) </p> <p>In these four cases, women, whether in their individual capacity or as a collective, contested and confronted patriarchy in all its manifestations. These women defied systems and structures that serve to subjugate and oppress them. They vehemently opened floodgates for other women in positions to challenge patriarchal and normalized human rights violations to pursue their rights, freedom and liberties - making them WHRDs even if that is not their conscious or primary intention. </p> <p>How different are these women from, say, Malala Yousafzai, who was attacked &nbsp;for advocating an education for herself and others? Yet, because of the strength it takes to defy culturally entrenched systems and the punishment that that entails, she is hailed today as a global WHRD. I celebrate her bravery and yet find myself conflicted in thinking that it remains our responsibility to both celebrate women whom we see on mainstream media as well as those who are invisible, whose brave actions have equally powerful effect in changing how communities view women at the local level. The WHRDs spectrum will continue growing and as much as possible, there should not be a scale of who is a bigger defender than the other because that fragments the women’s rights movement. The point is and should be that there is power in our diversity, and whatever comparative advantage one brings to strengthening our movement and helping us claim more rights, the better. </p> <p>As feminists we have to strive to be more inclusive, and recognize that the personal is political and the political is personal. Every small act that stands up to patriarchy or to inequality, whether it is asking to go to school, or refusing to marry the man her father chooses is an act of women's human rights defense and an act that puts them at risk of violence and retribution. It is with these seemingly simple small acts that have the domino effect to change societies and cultures.&nbsp; It is therefore imperative for us WHRDs and other interested stakeholders, wherever we find ourselves, to continue pushing the envelope in broadening the concept of who we perceive to be women human rights defenders. &nbsp; </p> <p><strong><em>Ndana Bofu-Tawamba will be speaking a</em></strong><em>t</em> <em><strong>the <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative</a> conference on the Defence of Women Human Rights Defenders, 24-26 April.&nbsp; 50.50 will be reporting live from the conference.&nbsp; Read more <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers.</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;</strong></em></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/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lydia-alpizar/csw-vital-need-to-defend-women-human-rights-defenders">CSW: the vital need to defend women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/distance-travelled-beijing-hillary-and-women%27s-rights">The distance travelled: Beijing, Hillary, and women&#039;s rights</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/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/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">Women human rights defenders: activism&#039;s front-line</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ruby-johnson/claiming-rights-facing-fire-young-feminist-activists">Claiming rights, facing fire: young feminist activists </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lindsey-hilsum/desolation-and-despair-in-libya-murder-of-salwa-bugaighis">Desolation and despair in Libya: the murder of Salwa Bugaighis </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fatou-sow/secularism-at-risk-in-subsaharan-secular-states-challenges-for-senegal-and-mali">Secularism at risk in Sub-Saharan secular states: the challenges for Senegal and Mali</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> 50.50 50.50 Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights women and power violence against women gender justice everyday feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Ndana Bofu -Tawamba Thu, 23 Apr 2015 07:27:48 +0000 Ndana Bofu -Tawamba 92191 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Women human rights defenders: protecting each other https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sarah-marland/women-human-rights-defenders-protecting-each-other <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With the continued failure of the UN to implement the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders twenty years after it was passed, women human rights defenders are still their own best support and protection network. &nbsp;&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In 2012 the Women Human Rights International Coalition released a <a href="http://defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/WHRD_IC_Global-Report_2012.pdf">report</a> on the growing threats faced by women around the world working to defend human rights. The rise of fundamentalisms, militarism and conflict, globalization and neoliberalism, crises of democracy and governance, patriarchy and heternormativity, are the key contexts that overlap and combine to put women human rights defenders at particular risk. In 2015, these risks have increased dramatically across the world, but systems to keep women human rights defenders safe are lagging far behind.</p> <p>At the 59th Session of the <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw59-2015">Commission of Status of Women</a> (CSW) in New York last month, a persistent theme raised in panels was that in the absence of protection from the UN, regional bodies and national governments, it is the networks of women human rights defenders themselves that provide protection. These networks have become vital in both raising international awareness and drawing attention to the issue, but also for the women themselves in recognition of their work and for building solidarity with global movements. </p> <p>Without these networks, change is impossible. </p> <p>So why, in 2015, almost two decades after the <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/Declaration.aspx">UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders</a> (DHRD) that puts the obligation on states to create an enabling environment for human rights defenders and ensure their protection, do women still have to rely on each other to stay safe? Our research shows that most countries do not provide <a href="http://defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Our-Right-To-Safety_FINAL.pdf">holistic</a> protection measures to guarantee the personal security of WHRDs, although some countries- particularly in Latin America, have taken steps in the right direction. Elsewhere women have little or no access to the UN mechanisms that should offer them protection. On 14 September, 2013, Chinese defender Cao Shunli disappeared at Beijing International Airport on her way to Geneva to attend human rights training. Her health declined severely while in detention and she received no medical attention. Cao died in Beijing hospital from organ failure on 14 March, 2014, after six months in detention.&nbsp; </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/cao-shunli--644x362-1.JPG" alt="Photo of a woman" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cao Shunli</span></span></span>WHRDIC research shows the <a href="http://defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Our-Right-To-Safety_FINAL.pdf">urgent need</a> to address the enhanced risks and challenges faced by women rights activists, who face risks that are specific to their gender and additional to those faced by men. Harassment and attacks against them take gender-specific forms - with violence and threats often sexual in nature. As women's role at frontline of human rights defence becomes more visible to those who perceive them to be active outside feminine roles, the&nbsp; contexts in which violence against them - and their democratic rights becomes <a href="http://defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/WHRD_IC_Global-Report_2012.pdf">increasingly pervasive</a>. </p><p>It seems that nothing has changed for the better in the twenty years since the Declaration on Women Human Rights Defenders. The situation is clearly worse. Panellists at the CSW described how the civil society space in which they can work is shrinking. Maryam Alkhawaja from the <a href="http://www.gc4hr.org/">Gulf Centre for Human Rights</a> said there is trend of crackdowns on WHRDs in the gulf region that include judicial harassment across the region to oppress WHRDs. She also highlighted the sexual, physical and psychological torture used against women defenders. Shehnilla Mohammed from the <a href="http://iglhrc.org/">International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission</a> said that threat level for women defenders in Africa is very high - especially for those working on LGBTI rights. They find themselves brutalised in the context of rising religious fundamentalisms, and women defenders of sexual rights face grave violence, rape, torture and murder.&nbsp; Sara Garcia from <a href="http://agrupacionciudadana.org/">Citizens' Organization for Decriminalising Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion</a> in El Salvador, which advocates for decriminalisation of abortion, uses the press and TV news to confront fundamentalists and their work. Nimalko Fernando, President of the <a href="http://imadr.org/">International Movement Against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism</a> (IMADR) from Sri Lanka, reported being slandered and attacked because of her work defending rights, including discussions on the radio about how to kill her. </p> <p>The alarming increase in violence against WHRDs and violations of their rights demonstrates the importance of strengthening protection mechanisms and support networks across the globe. What is clear is that women defenders find themselves in the absurd position whereby State parties are first and foremost responsible for both violations against them - such as <a href="http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/2015/04/10/whrdic-urges-egyptian-authorities-to-drop-charges-against-azza-soliman/">judicial harassment</a> in Egypt and <a href="http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/2014/09/12/alarm-at-reports-of-violence-against-leyla-yunus-in-prison/">detention</a> in Azerbaijan, and for their protection. In a panel on the implementation of the 2013 <a href="http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/16session/A-HRC-16-44.pdf">Resolution on Women Human Rights Defenders</a>, Maryam Akrami from the <a href="http://www.awn-af.net/">Afghan Women’s Network</a> said that UN resolutions without implementation are useless, and that the UN needed to hold governments to account for systematic targeting of WHRDs. </p> <p>Where there are mechanisms for protection, they don’t necessarily meet the specific needs of women human rights defenders. An integrated concept of security that goes beyond the physical protection of the individual, but integrates physical and psychological wellbeing of WHRDs, their families and their organisations is urgently needed. Such protection must recognize the&nbsp; gender-specific nature of the violence WHRDs face and that the kind of support that is required is holistic, and includes things like childcare and health care. Prevention is an essential component of protection, and change to the structural patterns and circumstances that put WHRDs at risk is essential. This holistic support will only happen if it takes into account an <a href="http://defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Our-Right-To-Safety_FINAL.pdf">analysis</a> of the intersectionality of WHRDs identities. </p> <p>In this environment, it is networks of Women Human Rights defenders that help WHRDs respond to their situation and put pressure on the perpetrators.&nbsp; Some of the strategies used by networks include increasing visibility through public campaigns such as the one to release five young Chinese feminists after they were <a href="http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/2015/04/08/whrdic-urges-chinese-authorities-to-release-five-young-feminists/">arrested</a> for organizing against sexual harassment; strategic alliances with other national and international organizations; accompaniment to defenders at risk;&nbsp; and - in the face of extreme danger - lowering the profile of activities to avoid drawing attention. </p> <p>The importance of this international solidarity was repeated throughout the CSW. Reine Alapini Gansou, Special Rapporteur on <a href="http://www.achpr.org/mechanisms/human-rights-defenders/">Human Rights Defenders at the African Commission on Human and People's Rights </a>&nbsp;said that continuing to work together and network with other WHRDs for better protection is vital. Mozn Hassan from Nazra for Feminist Studies highlighted the need for establishing networks amongst activists. ‘We have recently formed a <a href="http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/2015/03/13/put-protection-of-women-human-rights-defenders-into-practice/">coalition</a> of women defenders in the Middle East and North Africa, to give a voice to the women in the region,’ adding that ‘Such cooperation amongst defenders is needed to counter the majority narrative on women in public space, which is so frequently restricted.’ </p> <p>Networks can and do provide broad <a href="https://www.justassociates.org/en/ally/mesoamerican-women-human-rights-defenders-initiative-im-defensoras">documentation</a> of violations and identify trends nationally, regionally and globally. We can mobilise when a defender is at risk and use the resources of all the agencies ranging from the UN and diplomatic engagement, to social media and trial observation. The WHRDIC has 32 member organisations bringing together mainstream human rights, women's rights and sexual rights organisations and networks from the Global South and North. Since 2005, the WHRDIC has been systematically &nbsp;&nbsp;monitoring women human rights defenders, and has developed mechanisms and policies protecting the rights of women human rights defenders at the national, regional and international levels. </p> <p>Regional networks also play a vital role in the protection of WHRDs. <a href="https://www.justassociates.org/en/ally/mesoamerican-women-human-rights-defenders-initiative-im-defensoras">IM-Defensoras</a> works with of 300 women defending rights and their organisations, providing activists with the resources and support needed to address security concerns and strengthen and sustain their activism over the long-term. The network is a key source for <a href="https://www.justassociates.org/sites/justassociates.org/files/violence_against_women_human_rights_defenders_in_mesoamerica_-_summary_findings.pdf">data and analysis</a> on violence against WHRDs form a gender perspective and can rapidly mobile network members and influential allies for strategic engagement with governments and international human rights organisations.” </p> <p>Similarly, the newly established <a href="http://nazra.org/en/2015/03/founding-statement-coalition-women-human-rights-defenders-middle-east-and-north-africa">Coalition</a> of WHRDs from the MENA region says that they “believe in the tremendous power that comes from feminist coalitions and from the passion that drives women human rights defenders to work for different complex causes in a region rich with a history of their struggles in both private and public spheres.” They identify that there is “a deep need for a regional coalition that expresses the voice, convictions and the presence of women human rights defenders and that stands against any attacks they may face from regimes, societies, or occupying forces.” </p> <p>The growing women human rights defenders’ movement affirms and validates the essential work of women defenders, while recognising the unique threats faced by women in their human rights work. This movement of&nbsp; women working at frontlines enables women human rights defenders around the world to discuss tactics and successes, as well as share resources. Crucially, the movement provides a global network of support and solidarity, and the ability to band together and demand action when a particular defender is under threat. </p> <p>With the continued failure of the UN to implement the DHRD twenty years after it was passed, women human rights defenders still find that they are their own best support network. As Hina Jilani, former UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of Human Rights Defenders said " There is no better protection for women human rights defenders than the <a href="http://defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Our-Right-To-Safety_FINAL.pdf">strength and support</a> of their own movement,” </p><p><strong><em>Read more <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers</a> attending the </em></strong><strong><em><a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative</a><em> </em>conference on the defence of women human rights defenders, 24-26 April. Jennifer Allsopp and Marion Bowman will be reporting live from the conference for 50.50. Read <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/8432/all">previous years' coverage</a>.</em></strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</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/yifat-susskind/women-defenders-preventing-rape-as-weapon-of-war">Shelters without walls: women building protective infrastructures against rape </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <a href="/5050/leila-alikarami/challenges-faced-by-women-human-rights-defenders-in-iran">Iranian women human rights defenders: challenges and opportunities </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/audrey-huntley/breaking-one-of-canada%27s-best-kept-secrets-it-starts-with-us">&quot;It starts with us&quot;: Breaking one of Canada&#039;s best kept secrets</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/visible-players-power-and-risks-for-young-feminists">Visible players: the power and the risks for young feminists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/5050/charlotte-bunch/remembering-sunila-honouring-women%E2%80%99s-human-rights-defenders">Remembering Sunila, honouring women’s human rights defenders</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/women-defenders-of-human-rights-good-great-and-gutsy">Women defenders of human rights: the good, the great and the gutsy </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/emily-bowerman/our-duty-to-stranger-remembering-helen-bamber">Our duty to the stranger: Remembering Helen Bamber</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/afiya-shehrbano-zia/being-malala">Being Malala </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> 50.50 50.50 Civil society Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Highlights women's movements women's human rights women's health women and power violence against women gender justice gender everyday feminism Sarah Marland Thu, 23 Apr 2015 07:24:45 +0000 Sarah Marland 92011 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Awaiting justice: Indigenous resistance in the tar sands of Canada https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/melina-loubicanmassimo/awaiting-justice-%E2%80%93-indigenous-resistance-to-tar-sand-development-in-cana <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Nation of the Lubicon Cree is on the frontlines of environmental destruction, as it challenges the forces behind resource extraction and environmental and cultural genocide, and seeks justice for all. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On April 11, 2015 there were dozens of rallies across Canada demanding true leadership to deal with the climate crisis we face around the world. The federal Harper government continues to be a climate laggard refusing to address the need to reduce our carbon emissions and violate Indigenous peoples rights with its zealous pro-tar sands agenda. For the first time in Quebec, Indigenous peoples led the march to show our resolve to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth and demand justice. As I stood before a crowd of 25 000 people from across Canada, I spoke of the contamination, despair and detrimental impacts my family and many other communities face from resource extraction happening in our homelands of Northern Alberta. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/Melinafindingoilspill.jpg" alt="Woman holds an oil-covered branch in front of an oil spill" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Melina finding oil in water from an oil spill in Lubicon traditional territory. Photo: Joe Whittle. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Due to being an Indigenous activist who speaks out against environmental destruction I have been labelled by the Canadian government as an “adversary”. Both “Aboriginals” and “environmentalists” were labelled as such in 2012 when secret government documents were accessed through the Freedom of Information Act. And now the Harper government is taking this to yet another extreme by attempting to pass an anti-terrorism law called Bill C-51. which includes targeting the “anti-petroleum movement” as “extremists” because they oppose “critical infrastructure” projects like the tar sands and tar sands pipelines. This bill is an attempt to silence people who do not agree with the Harper government and can be used to target and criminalize democratic peaceful protest movements. Over 100 legal experts expressed deep concern calling the bill “a dangerous piece of legislation” and addressed an <a href="http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/open-letter-to-parliament-amend-c-51-or-kill-it">open letter</a> to all members of parliament to amend Bill C-51 or kill it. It is legislation like this that makes it difficult for people to not be scared into silence, and for people like me who believe that we need a just transition to renewable energy and engage in peaceful protests that may be seen as criminal in the eyes of the Canadian government. But this history is not new for us as Indigenous peoples here in Canada. It is the continuation of&nbsp; neo colonialism seen now in the form of resource extraction, environmental and cultural genocide. </p> <p>The traditional territory of my ancestors and my Nation of the Lubicon Cree covers approximately 10,000 square kilometres of low-lying trees, forests, rivers, plains, and wetlands – what we call muskeg – in northern Alberta. For three decades, our territory has undergone massive oil and gas development without the consent of the people and without recognition of our treaty &amp; Indigenous rights, which are protected under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. </p> <p>In the 1970s, before this encroachment on the land began, my father's generation and my grandparents’ generation survived by hunting, fishing, and trapping throughout the region. Back then, and even into my own generation, people were still living off the land. I remember going out on the trapline, and I remember when the water was still good to drink. But as oil and gas have come through the territory, that’s changed. </p> <p>Currently there are more than 2,600 oil and gas wells in our traditional territories. Over 1,400 square kilometres of leases have been granted for tar sands development in Lubicon territory, and almost 70 per cent of the remaining land has been leased for future development. </p> <p>Where there once was self-sufficiency, we are seeing increased dependency on social services as families are no longer able to sustain themselves in what was once a healthy environment with clean air, clean water, medicines, berries, and plants from the Boreal. Our way of life is being replaced by industrial landscapes, polluted and drained watersheds, and contaminated air. And it's very much a crisis situation. </p> <p>In the North, we are seeing elevated rates of cancers and respiratory illnesses as a consequence of the toxic gases being released into the air and water. And while over $14 billion in oil and gas revenues have been taken from our traditional territory, our community lives in extreme poverty and still lacks basic medical services and running water. </p> <p><strong>Unceded territory</strong> </p> <p>Canada’s treatment of the Lubicon has been repeatedly condemned by the United Nations, and UN Special Rapporteur Miloon Kothari has called for a moratorium on oil and gas in Lubicon territory. </p> <p>On March 26, 1990, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that Canada’s failure to recognize and protect Lubicon land rights violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In 2006, the United Nations Human Rights Committee again called on Canada to address outstanding land claims in Lubicon territory before granting further licences for economic exploitation, yet this resource extraction is still happening. </p> <p>In 1899, when Treaty 8 was officially signed in northern Alberta, treaty commissioners overlooked the Lubicon Cree due to their remote and hard-to-reach territory. The Lubicon people therefore never ceded their traditional territory to the Crown. This has led to a precarious and unstable relationship with both the provincial and federal governments as both have continuously undermined the sovereignty of the Lubicon people. For decades the Lubicon have tried to settle these outstanding land disputes, but unfortunately it serves the government’s interests to keep the Lubicon land claim outstanding due to the territory’s rich oil and gas deposits. </p> <p>When the construction of an all-weather road began in the early 1970s, the Lubicon people started to contest the encroachment of their traditional territory as multinational corporations began to exploit the land. For the 14 years that followed, the Lubicon attempted to assert their rights through various court proceedings at both the provincial and federal level. By 1988, the Lubicon concluded that it was necessary to use other means of direct action so their voices and message would be heard. </p> <p>On October 15, 1988, the Lubicon people erected a peaceful blockade, which was successful in stopping oil exploitation of the territory for six days. Only then did Alberta Premier Don Getty meet with the Lubicon chief and agree to a 243-kilometre reserve under the Grimshaw Accord. </p> <p>Despite this agreement, the Canadian government offered the Lubicon substandard conditions in the land settlement agreement. Even Premier Getty described the offer as "deficient in the area of providing economic stability for the future." </p> <p>Unfortunately, due to the take-it-or-leave-it approach of the federal government, the land claim negotiations continued from 1989 until 2003 when the talks broke down completely and both parties walked away from the table. To this day, the Lubicon Cree have been unable to settle a land claim, which has drastically hindered their ability to protect themselves and their traditional territory from further exploitation and destruction. </p> <p><strong>The Rainbow Pipeline rupture</strong> </p> <p>On April 29, 2011, a rupture in the Rainbow Pipeline resulted in a spill of about 4.5 million litres of oil in our territory – one of the biggest oil spills in Alberta's history. When the pipeline broke, oil went down the corridor and into the forest, but the majority of it was soaked up into the muskeg, which is like peatland moss and takes thousands of years to be generated. The muskeg is not an isolated system. It's not "stagnant water," as the government claims. It's actually a living, breathing ecosystem that supports life and is connected to all the water in the region. </p> <p>On the first day of the spill, the school was not notified. When students started to feel sick, they were evacuated from the school under the assumption that it was a propane leak. When they got outside into the field, they realized that the problem was throughout the community. </p> <p>The first week of the spill, community members experienced physical symptoms: their eyes burned, they had headaches, they felt nauseous. We were told that air quality was not a problem, even though Alberta Environment didn't actually come into the community until six days after the spill. This is problematic since the government granting permits for this type of development to happen, often without the consent of the people, has an obligation to take care of those whom they are directly putting at risk. A lot of people were left wondering what they should do, and if pregnant women and small children should even be in the community. </p> <p>The Rainbow Pipeline is now 45 years old. When it broke in 2006 and spilled 1 million litres of oil, the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board stated that stress and corrosion in the pipeline's infrastructure contributed to the spill. Five years later, 4.5 million litres spilled in our traditional territory. We're also seeing pipeline breaks like this in other parts of North America, from Kalamazoo, Michigan, to the Kinder-Morgan spill along the West Coast. Will it ever end? </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/OilSpillpic_0.jpg" alt="White-suited workers knee-deep in oil" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Workers cleaning up the Rainbow pipeline spill in Lubicon territory. Photo: Rogu Collecti / Greenpeace. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>How many more communities have to be put at risk for this type of development, and who is really benefiting? What are we leaving to future generations? We need to shift away from a fossil fuel-based system and push for renewable energy systems that enable us to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining. </p> <p>For over a century now, the Lubicon Cree’s rights have not been protected or respected. For decades the Lubicon have led local, national, and international lobbying efforts to fight for what is inherently theirs and to protect their right to their land and to clean air and good water. But despite years of raising awareness and increasing exposure, the Lubicon people still wait for justice. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/HealingWalk.jpg" alt="People hold a 'Stop the destruction - start the healing' banner" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tar sands impacted community members in a walk of prayer for the land. Photo: Keepers of the Athabasca. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>However, over the past decade of speaking out and demanding justice I have seen a great shift in how our struggles are perceived. Now people from all walks of life are beginning to stand together and seek justice for those first and foremost impacted on the frontlines of environmental destruction. Now more than ever, people are working together as we know that the fate of humanity is wrapped up in our collective fight for a better, more just world for all. </p><p><em><strong>Melina Laboucan-Massimo will be speaking a</strong>t</em> <strong><em>the </em></strong><strong><em><a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative</a><em> </em>conference on the Defence of Women Human Rights Defenders, 24-26 April.&nbsp; 50.50 will be reporting live from the conference.&nbsp; Read more <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers.</a></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/elizabeth-grant/harpers-bizarre-why-canadian-pms-antiterror-legislation-is-bringing-home-fear">Harper&#039;s Bizarre: anti-terror legislation targets Indigenous women </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 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/madhu-malhotra/pahari-indigenous-people-dispossessed">The Pahari indigenous people: dispossessed</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/srilatha-batliwala/what-does-transforming-economic-power-mean">What does transforming economic power mean?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lisa-veneklasen/citizen-action-and-perverse-confluence-of-opposing-agendas">Citizen action and the perverse confluence of opposing agendas</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"> Canada </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 class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Canada Civil society Culture Economics Equality Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women's human rights women's health women and power gendered poverty gender feminism 50.50 newsletter young feminists Melina Laboucan-Massimo Wed, 22 Apr 2015 07:27:33 +0000 Melina Laboucan-Massimo 92086 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "It starts with us": Breaking one of Canada's best kept secrets https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/audrey-huntley/breaking-one-of-canada%27s-best-kept-secrets-it-starts-with-us <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A coalition of women human rights defenders in Canada is demanding an end to state complicity, and a culture of impunity in the genocidal violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirited people.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Canada is not often seen as a place where widespread human rights violations against the Indigenous population occur on a regular basis. Much of the international community’s perception of this country is still that of pristine nature and polite inhabitants with health care. </p> <p>In fact Canada’s Indigenous population is over policed and under protected, both men and women are over incarcerated at rates much higher than the non-Indigenous population and face police violence and deaths in custody all too often. But our own mainstream media is finally no longer able to ignore one of this settler-colonial project’s best-kept secrets: ongoing genocidal violence against the Indigenous population - and more specifically the targeting of Indigenous women, girls, trans and two-spirited people.</p> <p>Never before has the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women commanded public and media attention to the degree that it has in the last year with demands for a national inquiry coming from multiple actors: community leaders, family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, as well as opposition parties. Various reports from national and international human rights organizations have cast light on the complicity of Canadian police and not only their failure to adequately prevent and protect indigenous women and girls from killings, disappearances and extreme forms of violence, but also to investigate and solve these crimes and in some instances be themselves the perpetrators of the violence. </p> <p>In February 2013, Human Rights Watch, a US based human rights group, released its alarming <a href="http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/02/13/those-who-take-us-away-0">report</a> on the relationship of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Indigenous women and girls in Northern BC, entitled, <em><a href="http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/02/13/those-who-take-us-away-0">Those Who Take Us Away</a>: Abusive Policing and Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and Girls in Northern British Columbia, Canada</em>. Some of the examples of human rights violations committed by members of this national police force in towns across the north documented include: pepper-spraying and tasering of young girls, strip-searches by male officers, a 17-year-old punched repeatedly by an officer who had been called to help her; a 12-year-old attacked by a police dog and injured due to excessive force used during arrest. “Human Rights Watch heard disturbing allegations of rape and sexual assault by RCMP officers, including from a woman who described how in July 2012 police officers took her outside of town, raped her, and threatened to kill her if she told anyone”. </p> <p>In 2014, after Dr. Maryanne Pearce shared research she had gathered over a 7-year period entitled an <a href="http://www.ruor.uottawa.ca/handle/10393/26299">Awkward Silence</a>,&nbsp; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police released their won <a href="http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/pubs/mmaw-faapd-eng.pdf">National Operational Review</a> report on the issue of "Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women". They put the numbers of murdered Indigenous women between 1980 and 2012 at 1,017, and cited another 164 as missing under suspicious circumstances, with some cases dating back to 1952. Activists and community members believe these numbers to be low and point out that inadequate tracking of ethnicity of victims and problems with RCMP methodology in identifying Indigeneity, indicate that many women would not have been recognized as such. While Indigenous women make up only 4.3 % of the total female population, they represent 16 % of all female homicide victims over more than three decades according to the report.</p> <p>More recently, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which is affiliated with the Organization of American States, also weighed in publishing a damning 127-page <a href="http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/reports/pdfs/Indigenous-Women-BC-Canada-en.pdf">report</a> in January 2015 that named police failure and systemic discrimination against Canada’s Indigenous community as contributing to the plight of missing or murdered indigenous women, and that poverty is at the root of the violence. </p> <p>This scrutiny on the part of international organizations goes back to the grassroots organizing efforts of community groups in the country in particular in British Colombia that have been working to raise awareness on the issue for over 25 years. </p> <p>It was the deafening quiet in mainstream society around this crisis that prompted the founding of <a href="http://www.itstartswithus-mmiw.com/">No More Silence</a> in Toronto, Ontario over 10 years ago<em>. </em>I was approached by Barbara Williams, a white woman ally, and we formed the coalition in 2004. Having lived and worked in Vancouver’s downtown eastside in the late 90s when serial killer, Robert Picton, was on his rampage, I was inspired by the many grannies and aunties who had been working in the <a href="https://womensmemorialmarch.wordpress.com/">Women’s Memorial March organizing committee</a> since 1991. The march affords an opportunity for the community to come together and grieve while holding ceremony at the sites where women were killed or disappeared from. When Picton, who had been arrested and released in 1997 and had then gone on to kill 18 more women, was facing trial on 33 murder charges, the Toronto group began to hold a ceremony on February 14th at police headquarters in solidarity with the Vancouver march, and to point out that serial killers like Picton are far from aberrations and that state complicity - and a culture of impunity - are real and ongoing factors in this crisis. We understand the violence to be rooted in ongoing colonization, land theft and termination policies. The same attitudes that prioritize destruction of the land and natural environments to facilitate resource extraction are at the heart of the racism and sexism that result in the deaths and disappearances. </p> <p>Our first call stated: <em>"On February 14th we will come together in solidarity with the women who started this vigil 15 years ago in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and with the marches and rallies that will be taking place across this land. We stand in defense of our lives and to demonstrate against the complicity of the state in the ongoing genocide of Indigenous women and the impunity of state institutions and actors (police, RCMP, coroners’ offices, the courts, and an indifferent federal government) that prevents justice for all Indigenous peoples."</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/541754/IMG_2107_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="February 14th Strawberry Ceremony for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, trans and two-spirit. Photo: Peter Kernaghan"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/IMG_2107_0.jpg" alt="February 14th Strawberry Ceremony for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, trans and two-spirit. Photo: Peter Kernaghan" title="February 14th Strawberry Ceremony for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, trans and two-spirit. Photo: Peter Kernaghan" width="400" height="267" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>February 14th Strawberry Ceremony for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, trans and two-spirit. Photo: Peter Kernaghan</span></span></span></p><p>No More Silence chooses to be at police headquarters in order to highlight the impunity that Canada affords killers of poor and marginalized women – women not deemed worthy of state protection, and Indigenous women who are targets of the genocidal policies inherent to a settler state. </p> <p>"<em>We do not ask for the state’s permission in doing so and instead honour the sovereignty of the Indigenous peoples that have shared the caretaking responsibilities of this land for thousands of years. Family members are given the opportunity to share and Wanda Whitebird (Bear Clan and member of the Mi’kmag Nation) leads the community in a strawberry and water ceremony. No More Silence chooses to practice ceremony in honouring our missing sisters both as an act of love for those who are gone and those who remain behind to mourn as well as an assertion of sovereignty</em>."<em> <br /></em></p> <p>The Canadian government has consistently refused demands for a public inquiry, which would acknowledge the gravity of the crisis. An inquiry or commission could at the very least establish a public record, and if led and informed by family members and Indigenous women themselves, examine more than the root causes that are already known but go a step further and shed light on why the almost 700 recommendations made on this subject in over 40 reports have not been implemented. More importantly, however, in my view is the need of family members for answers in unsolved cases. The under-investigation and police negligence in their duty of care needs to be revealed for what it is, and can only be done so if records are shared.</p> <p>All of us in No More Silence are well aware that the violence inherent to settler colonialism will only end with decolonization and thus prioritize community capacity and relationship building to this end. Collaborating with the <a href="http://www.nativeyouthsexualhealth.com/">Native Youth Sexual Health Network</a> and <a href="http://familiesofsistersinspirit.tumblr.com/">Families of Sisters In Spirit</a> we have created a community-led database. Read more about our <a href="http://www.itstartswithus-mmiw.com/">values</a> here.</p><p><em><strong>Audrey Huntley will be speaking a</strong>t</em> <strong><em>the </em></strong><strong><em><a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative</a><em> </em>conference on the Defence of Women Human Rights Defenders, 24-26 April.&nbsp; 50.50 will be reporting live from the conference.&nbsp; Read more <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers.</a>&nbsp;</em></strong><strong><em> <br /></em></strong></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/elizabeth-grant/choir-of-lost-voices-murder-of-loretta-saunders-and-canadas-missing-women">A choir of lost voices: the murder of Loretta Saunders and Canada&#039;s missing women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-grant/missing-and-murdered-am-i-next">Missing and murdered: Am I next? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-grant/missing-women-unequal-lives-in-canada">Missing women: unequal lives in Canada</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-grant/harpers-bizarre-why-canadian-pms-antiterror-legislation-is-bringing-home-fear">Harper&#039;s Bizarre: anti-terror legislation targets Indigenous women </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/elizabeth-grant/whats-in-name-lot-if-you%E2%80%99re-talking-aboriginal-title">What&#039;s in a name? A lot if you’re talking Aboriginal title</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"> Canada </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 class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Canada Civil society Culture Equality Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 Continuum of Violence Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick bodily autonomy gender gender justice Sexual violence violence against women women's human rights women's movements young feminists Audrey Huntley Tue, 21 Apr 2015 06:45:33 +0000 Audrey Huntley 92048 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iranian women human rights defenders: challenges and opportunities https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/leila-alikarami/challenges-faced-by-women-human-rights-defenders-in-iran <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If President Rouhani honours his promises and 'de-securitises' the general atmosphere, the work of women human rights defenders could lead to significant and tangible change towards ensuring human rights for Iranian citizens.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>More than fifty Iranian women human rights defenders are currently behind the bars in Iran. They are spending their lives in prison because they refused to be silenced: whether in voicing their political and religious beliefs, raising their ethnic demands, or simply challenging gender-related restrictions that are imposed on them as women.</p><p> In order to silence women human rights defenders and prevent them from working together, the state has employed different methods. Threats, interrogations, arrests and jail terms have been the fate of tens of women who have organized gatherings, written articles in criticism of discriminatory laws, given interviews or taken part in seminars, despite none of these activities being illegal. A number of these individuals have been acquitted, and others have been handed suspended jail sentences; some, however, have received heavy sentences. </p> <p><a href="http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/cases/iran-bahareh-hedayat">Bahareh Hedayat</a> is a student activist and a human rights defender, currently serving her nine and a half years’ sentence on the false accusation of propaganda against the state. Her only “crime” is promoting human rights and democracy in Iran. &nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/18/iranian-film-maker-mahnaz-mohammadi-jailed-colaborator-bbc">Mahnaz Mohammdi</a> is a filmmaker sentenced to five years of imprisonment because of her activities to advance human rights. <a href="http://www.amnesty.org.uk/iran-help-us-save-zeynabs-sight#.VSaqS_nF8Ro">Zeynab Jalalian,</a> a 33-year old Kurdish citizen who was initially been sentenced to death for her so-called ‘political’ activities. Her death sentence has now been commuted to life imprisonment. <a href="http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2014/12/hakimeh-shokri/">Hakimeh Shokri</a>, a member of the “Mourning Mothers” (a group of women who have lost their children in political crises) was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of “propaganda against the state,” and “acting against national security” for her human rights activities and participation in peaceful gatherings. </p> <p>The cases of women human rights defenders are considered to be political ones, and therefore come under the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts. Despite the constitutional and legal requirement for courts to conduct hearings in the presence of a defence lawyer, in practice many women’s rights activists are denied this right and placed on trial without access to a lawyer. It is obvious from the provisions of Iran’s Constitution and the Criminal Code that for a crime to be proved, the criminal act must be defined as such in the existing law. </p><p>There is no legal basis for convicting human rights defenders merely because of their activities.</p> <p>Although traditional and patriarchal practices are an important barrier to the activities of women human rights defenders, state repression may represent the main obstacle to their activities. In line with the theory of the <a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/opinion/opinion-article/archive/2007/may/26/article/who-is-accused-of-being-a-threat-to-civil-security.html">“Velvet Revolution”, </a>most social and human rights activists - including women human rights defenders - are seen as a threat to national security for attempting to bring about a velvet revolution and the overthrow of the government. In fact, the hardliners within the government have assumed that these women were their political opponents and have done their best to control, confront and repress them. Women human rights defenders have repeatedly declared that they do not want to bring down the regime in Iran. On the contrary, they are challenging the status quo because they are passionate about their country and their Iranian identity. </p> <p>The persecution and arrests of women human rights defenders has become more serious after the presidential elections of 2009, the aftermath of which forced some prominent women human rights defenders to leave the country, and reside in Europe or the United States. Unfortunately, those who prefer to stay in the country and continue their struggles under the current political situation have no platform to voice their demands, and no space to freely carry out their peaceful activities. Although they have reorganised and changed strategies to be able to continue their tasks, state repression has had a negative impact on their activities. </p><p>Despite severe pressure imposed by the government, women human rights defenders in Iran have been largely successful in broadening their allies by taking <a href="http://www.icanpeacework.org/the-one-million-signatures-campaign-an-effort-born-on-the-streets/">their demands into the street</a>, and contextualising <a href="https://tavaana.org/en/content/one-million-signatures-battle-gender-equality-iran">the concept of human rights in the everyday life</a> of those who have experienced discrimination. Therefore pressure from society, and especially from women, may eventually compel the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, and the administration of President Rouhani, to revise the <a href="http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/ir00000_.html">Constitution</a> and other relevant laws such as civil and criminal codes to ensure human rights for Iranian citizens. </p> <p>Hassan Rouhani, who was elected president in June 2013, has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nayereh-tohidi/iran-small-window-of-hope">promised</a> to “de-securitise” the general “atmosphere,” and to promote “justice” and “civil rights.” Rouhani, a moderate conservative cleric, was the only candidate to promise the establishment of a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/2013/06/130621_mgh_ir92_rouhani_women_demands_hosseinkhah">“Women’s Ministry” </a>to push the implementation of strategies and programmes designed to advance women’s status in a structured and consistent manner. However, these promises are yet to bear any fruits. </p> <p>President Rouhani requires the cooperation of other power centres in the country to compensate for earlier setbacks in the struggle for human rights. It remains to be seen to what extent he will risk his carefully constructed relationship with powerful stakeholders such as the Supreme Leader, over human rights issues. Whether Rouhani becomes involved in the advancement of human rights in general, and women’s rights in particular, or not, the important step forward for women human rights defenders is the newly-found and tentative openness of the public space which was denied to them during the past eight years under President Ahmadinejad. To engage the public in her demand to guarantee the human rights of Iranian citizens, since October 2014, <a href="http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2014/10/sotoudeh-protest/">Nasrin Sotoudeh</a> a prominent human rights defender, has been carrying out a sit-in in front of the Tehran Bar Association in protest against the Iranian government’s persecution of dissident voices, and the increasing control over the Bar Association and Judiciary. A number of human rights defenders have been joining her in urging the Iranian government to ensure the human rights of dissidents. </p> <p>If President Rouhani honours his promises and ‘de-securitises’ the general atmosphere, the work of women human rights defenders could lead to significant and tangible changes in the human rights situation in Iran. This development could help Iran to improve its human rights record in the international arena. </p><p><em><strong>Leila Alikarami will be speaking a</strong>t</em> <strong><em>the </em></strong><strong><em><a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/">Nobel Women’s Initiative</a><em> </em>conference on the Defence of Women Human Rights Defenders, 24-26 April.&nbsp; 50.50 will be reporting live from the conference.&nbsp; Read more <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers.</a>&nbsp;</em></strong><strong><em> <br /></em></strong></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/yakin-erturk/iran-%27bloody-stain%27-on-nation">Iran: a &#039;bloody stain&#039; on the nation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/framework-of-democracy-is-human-rights-law">The framework of democracy is human rights law</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/haideh-moghissi/troubling-parallels-hopeful-differences-iran-women-and-arab-spring">Troubling parallels, hopeful differences: Iran, women, and the &#039;Arab spring&#039;</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/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/afiya-shehrbano-zia/being-malala">Being Malala </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 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/lindsey-hilsum/desolation-and-despair-in-libya-murder-of-salwa-bugaighis">Desolation and despair in Libya: the murder of Salwa Bugaighis </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">Opposing political Islam in Tunisia: Mohamed Brahmi&#039;s widow speaks out</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/progressive-muslims-in-world-of-isis-and-islamophobes">Progressive Muslims in a world of ISIS and Islamophobes</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"> Iran </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Iran Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Continuum of Violence Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Editor's Pick women's movements women's human rights gender fundamentalisms feminism 50.50 newsletter Leila Alikarami Mon, 20 Apr 2015 07:03:27 +0000 Leila Alikarami 91997 at https://www.opendemocracy.net