50.50 Our Africa https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/9694/all cached version 12/06/2018 10:06:53 en Copts of Egypt: from survivors of sectarian violence to targets of terrorism https://www.opendemocracy.net/mariz-tadros/copts-egypt-sectarian-violence-terrorism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Recent bombings mark a new era in the religious targeting of Copts – one which is qualitatively different from previous patterns of sectarian violence.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-30882638.jpg" alt="Funeral of victims of Tanta city church bombing." title="Relatives cry at the church blast victims&#039; funeral in Tanta city" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Funeral of victims of Tanta city church bombing. PA Images. All Rights Reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>It is customary for Copts – Egypt’s roughly 9 million strong Christian population<strong> </strong>– to celebrate Palm Sunday at church, waving palm fronds and singing joyful chants that go back to ancient times to commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, days before his crucifixion. They did not expect the service to be interrupted by bodies being ripped apart. </p> <p>On 9 April 2017, in the second largest church in the city of Tanta, a suicide bomber approached the alter and blew himself up. At least 29 people were killed and 71 injured, some gravely. Three hours later, a suicide bomber tried to enter St Mark’s Church in Alexandria where Pope Tawadros, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, was presiding over a service. The man was stopped by police, and detonated his bomb outside. At least 18 people died, with 35 wounded.</p> <p>The Copts comprise roughly 10 percent of Egypt's population and are enraged over the state’s failure to ensure churches are safe places for worship. The recent attacks also recall another inside a church in Cairo on 11 December 2016, which killed <a href="http://www.almasryalyoum.com/infographics/details/919">26 people, mostly women, and injured 49</a>. </p> <p>These are not the first church bombings targeting Copts in Egypt: on 1 December 2011, a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12101748">bomb was planted in the Church of Two Saints in Alexandria</a> where many congregate to mark the New Year in prayer. It killed more than 20 people and injured more than 70. But the bombings in Cairo, Tanta and Alexandria are different from previous attacks in significant ways – and they were each preceded by threats from ISIS. </p> <p>In 2015, ISIS <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mariz-tadros/are-we-all-beheaded-copts-outrage-in-libya-0">beheaded 21 Copts in Libya</a> and warned that it would target the “crusaders” – Christians – and the Coptic Church. It then struck in December 2016 in Cairo; ISIS <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/13/islamic-state-cairo-church-bombing">claimed responsibility</a> for this bombing and vowed to “continue war against the apostates.” In February 2017, ISIS <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ab845e18-fcec-11e6-8d8e-a5e3738f9ae4">murdered seven Christians in Sinai</a> and described Copts as its favourite “prey,” calling for further killings. Then, the Palm Sunday bombings occurred. (Again, <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ab845e18-fcec-11e6-8d8e-a5e3738f9ae4">ISIS claimed responsibility</a>).</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563303/PA-30888168.jpg" alt="Headlines report on April bombings. " title="Headlines report on April bombings. " width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Headlines report on April bombings. PA/Richard B Levine. All Rights Reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>Details of the attacks over the last year also suggest careful orchestration. They share similar tactics: the use of explosive belts by prepared suicide bombers. And they were each timed to occur when churches were packed with worshippers – to maximise civilian suffering and break morale.</p> <p>The Copts have long endured ebbs and flows of persecution and integration and are a strong, resilient and fairly cohesive community. Over the past four decades, the rise of political movements with aspirations of instating an Islamic State, governed by their interpretations of Sharia, has posed the greatest threat to their equal citizenship – and have threatened social cohesion more broadly. </p><p> Under Mubarak, state security services were complicit in failing to prevent assaults on the Copts – intervening too late when sectarian assaults occurred and enforcing informal “reconciliation meetings” which <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Copts-Crossroads-Challenges-Inclusive-Contemporary/dp/9774165918">denied Coptic victims of assault access to justice</a> in courts.</p><p>Assaults on Copts <a href="http://www.ids.ac.uk/publication/decrypting-copts-perspectives-on-communal-relations-in-contemporary-egypt-through-vernacular-politics-2013-2014">increased markedly</a> after the 2011 revolution. The political rise of Islamists, and a general state of lawlessness, has increased Copts’ vulnerability. Petty everyday disputes assumed a sectarian character. There were mobilisations against the construction and repair of churches, or for the closure of existing ones. New kinds of targeting emerged such as the kidnapping of Copts in return for ransom and the imposition by criminal groups and individuals of “special levies” on Copt businesses.</p> <p>In June 2013, Copts received <a href="http://www.mei.edu/content/brothers-and-copts">public and private warnings</a> that they would incur the wrath of Islamists should they dare protest against Muslim Brotherhood affiliated President Morsi’s regime – but they joined demonstrations regardless, and paid a heavy price for doing so. In August 2013, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mariz-tadros/egypt%e2%80%99s-scorched-earth">pro-Morsi factions looted and torched dozens of Christian places of worship</a>, assaulting Copts and their property. </p> <p>Again the December 2016 and April 2017 bombings of churches mark a new shift in the religious targeting of Copts that is qualitatively different. The actors, ways of striking and intended outcomes of attacks have all expanded. ISIS has vowed to pursue a campaign of annihilating the Copts and with every bloody terrorist attack they believe they are progressing towards that goal. </p> <p>We are no longer dealing with local Salafi groups obstructing Copts from praying in a local church or fanatical mobs burning Christian homes and property or even a state that resorts to divide and rule policies to detract attention from its governance failures. ISIS is not a national entity – it is a global actor, well-networked and resourced with a wide array of splinter cells across borders. </p> <p>The attacks by Islamists in Egypt over the past half century were undertaken by individuals and groups who wanted to either contain the Copts or put them in their place – subservient to Muslims. Those involved rarely went so far as to put their own lives at risk. The recent suicide bombings are different: these attackers will do anything to inflict as much harm as possible.</p><p> Previous incidents of sectarian violence – with the exception of the pro-Morsi assault on Copts, their property and places of worship in August 2013 – have been largely local acts. ISIS strategy in targeting Copts is on a much grander scale. Copts have moved from being survivors of erratic incidents of local sectarian violence to targets of a global terrorist network.</p><p>The targeting of the Copts by ISIS should be seen as part of a broader geostrategic plan to eliminate religious pluralism – and the Christian element of it – in the region. International human rights organizations should recognize that what the Copts are facing are acts of terrorism not just “sectarian violence.” This is a significant distinction, which has been overlooked by some. </p><p> In response to the bombings this week, <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/04/egypt-authorities-must-address-sectarian-violence-not-abuse-emergency-powers/">Amnesty International</a> issued a press release proposing “Addressing sectarian violence requires genuine political will to end impunity and provide protection.” The latter is an appropriate measure for addressing every day forms of sectarian violence against Copts, but the idea of impunity to a suicide bomber who has torn himself to pieces is redundant. &nbsp;</p><p>It is to be expected that ISIS will strike again, targeting Copts not only in Egypt but also in neighbouring countries (as they did in Libya) and in the diaspora in Europe, the US and Australia. It is not so much that the situation is that “<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/09/explosion-egyptian-church-palm-sunday-service-kills-13-injures/">Egypt’s security situation has rapidly deteriorated</a>” but that threats are now of a scale and intensity that is dramatically greater than at any other time before. </p><p> Three police officers heroically gave their lives blocking the suicide bomber from entering the church in Alexandria this month, but there were – and continues to be – major flaws in the security system’s protection of churches. The security service needs to be held accountable for its performance. But if future targeting of Copts are to be mitigated, international cooperation is also needed.</p><p>We further owe it to those who have been killed, injured, and lost loved ones to stand together against the politics of omission. </p><p>Prominent commentator Fahmy Howeidy has asserted: “I am against the idea that the targeting of churches – as awful as it is – amounts to a targeting of Copts and their persecution.” His rationale is that ISIS do not generally target society but focus on those in authority. The evidence Howeidy offers is that “we have never heard of terrorist operations targeting coffee shops or residential areas or shops or malls.”&nbsp; </p><p>The reason why ISIS did not strike at the public venues mentioned by Howeidy is that they are likely to be populated by Muslims and Christians alike, unlike the churches. Howeidy’s narrative feeds the politics of denial by implicitly negating that Copts are part of Egyptian society. </p><p>When Howeidy claims that ISIS assaults are ultimately politically-motivated – not religiously-driven – acts, he is contributing to the politics of omission by denying that this violence is tied to ISIS viewing Copts as infidels and idolaters. It is bad enough to experience terrorism, it is worse when you are denied the recognition that the only reason you are a target is because you happen to be, in the eyes of the perpetrators, following the wrong religion.</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/mariz-tadros/are-we-all-beheaded-copts-outrage-in-libya-0">Are we all beheaded Copts?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/disembodying-honour-and-exposing-politics-behind-it">Disembodying honour and exposing the politics behind 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"> Egypt </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 Egypt 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Our Africa fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Mariz Tadros Tue, 11 Apr 2017 17:23:26 +0000 Mariz Tadros 110056 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Without global solidarity the women’s movement will collapse https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nazik-awad/without-global-solidarity-women-s-movement-will-collapse <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Borders are closing across the world, blocking women from the Global South both from seeking refuge, having a voice and working on global gender justice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div style="color: #666;font-size:110%;;margin-bottom:30px"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women"><img style="float:right;width:auto !important" src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/5050-uncsw2017-d-140x80px_1.png" /></a><p style="background-color:#f7f7f7;padding:10px;margin:0">This article is part of our <a style="color:#333;text-decoration:underline" href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/un-commission-on-status-of-women">coverage</a> of the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women, New York, March 2017</p></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/PA-30571275.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/PA-30571275.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'>Halima Muzammil is one of many displaced women in Sudan, a country that the UN says is on the brink of genocide. Credit: PA Images/TNS.</span></span></span></p><p>In the wake of rising populism and authoritarianism in many countries where democracy and human rights used to prevail, women rights and gender justice are in danger of losing ground like never before. The xenophobic policies that aim to build walls and close borders are harmful to many, but for millions of women around the globe it could be no less than a death sentence. These policies are not closing the borders in the face of terrorists. They are killing the hopes of women who are fleeing wars, terrorism and other authoritarian regimes. Those women once dreamt of safety and security for themselves and their children. They will now be forced to endure more violence and terror.&nbsp; And while US President Donald Trump’s travel bans <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/sanam-naraghi-anderlini/trump-s-slap-in-face-of-lady-liberty">stamp the seal</a> on what we can expect from his policies and views toward Muslims and migrants, they also have a dangerous effect on our ability to push for global gender justice.</p> <p>As women from the Global South, we were already facing major challenges to enter the United States in any capacity; especially those from the countries now banned by Trump's executive orders. For example, women refugees from Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya already wait up to three years to be vetted by the American Migration authorities. We already face problems applying for visas to attend United Nations meetings or to engage with US-based women groups, deterring many from even attempting it. </p> <p>This year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women, coming after President Trump’s travel bans, only worsens an ongoing trend. Women from the Global South have been denied access to the UNCSW for the most racist and xenophobic reasons over the years. A group of women from Sudan, one of the countries now banned, was denied the visa in 2014. They reported that the main reason was that the migration officer didn't like their accent and broken English. He said to them, "If you can't speak English well, why are you going to the United States and what are you going to do in the United Nations?" A member of the group replied, "The United Nations is a global ground and we are allowed to speak any language we can."&nbsp; One of the women said that "he denied us the visa not knowing that some of those women are witnesses of war crimes and genocide. He did not know how hard they worked to arrange this opportunity. They were trying to make the voices of their sisters heard, those who are facing mass rapes every day. Their hope was to demand justice and protection for the victims at home, and ask for international solidarity and support."&nbsp; Another member said that "the migration officer only saw those colored women with broken English as not more than potential asylum seekers or illegal migrants. He did not just deny us the visa; he silenced the voices of those women victims of war we were representing."&nbsp; </p> <p>While the world is facing the worst refugee crisis in modern history, many countries are stepping back from their commitments to basic human rights under the pressures of right-wing populism. The international community is tragically failing to protect over 60 million displaced people, of whom 70 to 80 percent are women and children. Women’s rights to security and protection are being compromised, as more countries are adopting closed border policies. The situation of women refugees in camps or in urban settlements is an extension of the horrifying circumstances they left at home. Sexual harassment, rape, human trafficking and discriminating working conditions are all risks faced by women and girl refugees while waiting for resettlement in a second country.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/populations/adolescent-girls/research-and-resources/373-refugee-girls-the-invisible-faces-of-war">Young women</a> and girls waiting for resettlement are exposed to child marriage, early pregnancy and denial of basic education.</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/Afghan refugees.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Afghan refugees.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'>Afghan refugees rally against Trump, racism and their living conditions outside the US embassy in Athens on January 21, 2017. Credit: PA Images</span></span></span></p><p>According to the <a href="http://reporting.unhcr.org/population">United Nations High Commission of Refugees</a>&nbsp;only a hundred thousand out of 21 million refugees are being resettled every year; this is less than 0.5 percent of the numbers of refugees in the world. More than half of the refugees and displaced peoples in the world are women and girls, while the <a href="http://blogs.cfr.org/women-around-the-world/2017/02/03/how-trumps-executive-order-harms-women-refugees/">United States Homeland Security</a> admitted that 72 percent of the refugees entering the United States are actually women and children. Therefore, the question remains, what is the USA and Europe afraid of? Are they afraid of vulnerable women and sick malnourished children? </p> <p>One such woman, now affected by the <a href="http://www.smh.com.au/world/donald-trump-freezes-refugee-program-orders-new-vetting-for-entry-20170128-gu0id6.html">ongoing freeze</a> on the American refugee program, is that of Aziza * from my home country, Sudan. Aziza is an activist and victim of mass rape, twice. She survived mass rape by Islamic jihadists in her home country of Sudan back in the 1990s. When the fundamentalist Islamic regime in Sudan incited war again in her region in 2011, she decided to speak out and started an organization helping displaced women. That’s when she was arrested and gang raped again. She had to flee the country carrying her psychological and physical wounds, hoping to find refuge and support. After waiting for four years she was finally referred to be resettled in the United States by the UNHCR. But President Trump's executive order came to stop the whole process, which has forced her to continue to work as a maid to feed her five children in a very hostile environment in Egypt . Her only hope was to be able to regain her life, and to be in a position where she can continue to claim justice for herself and for her people.</p> <p>The accomplishments of the women’s rights movement over the last five decades are now in danger from closed borders and rising intolerance. Gender justice cannot be achieved without the strength of <a href="https://www.globalfundforwomen.org/travel-ban/#.WM5OHZ-xXqA">women’s solidarity</a> around the world. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/58c03cabe4b0a797c1d397ca">Women’s rights</a> groups all over the globe are challenged to fight; not just for the causes they support, but for their mere existence. Authoritarianism, fundamentalism, populism, and terrorism are dominating more countries every day, while women’s rights groups find their workspace shrinking locally and globally. Grassroots women’s movements in conflict and unstable countries are being suffocated under hostile working conditions. Without the solidarity and support from more established women groups in the developed countries, the women’s movement will slowly vanish, and lose all ground gained over the last decade.</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/without change.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/without change.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>International Women's Day, March 8, 2017, New York City. Credit: PA Images / Erik McGregor</span></span></span></p><p>Therefore, open borders for women’s movements does not just mean access to engage in international venues and learn from other women’s experiences. It also means hope, the right to be free as equal humans and to have a voice. Hope for change and hope for justice, which can only be claimed through women’s solidarity. </p> <p>Women in solidarity are undefiable. Consequently, women activists decided to do what they know best: to resist. Dozens of women groups recently <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/opendemocracy-5050/no-borders-on-gender-justice">organized campaigns</a>, signed petitions and rallied in the Global South to demand open borders for gender justice and women’s rights. Hopefully this new wave of the women’s movement will lead the world out of hatred and xenophobia into a better future for all.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>*Aziza is not her real name.</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/lisa-davis-yifat-susskind/standing-our-ground-at-un-commission-on-status-of-women-csw">Standing our ground at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sanam-naraghi-anderlini/trump-s-slap-in-face-of-lady-liberty">Trump&#039;s slap in the face of Lady Liberty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <a href="/sophie-giscard-destaing/where-is-gender-sensitive-humanitarian-response-to-protecting-women-refugees"> UN CSW: ending impunity for gender-based crimes against women refugees </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/time-for-fifth-world-conference-on-women">Time for a Fifth World Conference on Women?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-reeve/pr-profit-and-empowering-women-in-garment-industry">PR, profit and ‘empowering women’ in the garment industry</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/stephanie-sugars/queer-and-trans-issues-are-sidelined-again-at-united-nations-csw">Queer and trans issues are sidelined again at the United Nations CSW</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karin-attia/who-run-world-girls-not-at-un-csw">Who runs the world? Girls! Not at the UN CSW</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"> South Sudan </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 South Sudan World Forum for Democracy 2017 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Gender and the UN 50.50 Women's Movement Building UN Commission on the Status of Women 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 newsletter feminism gender justice women and militarism young feminists Nazik Awad Thu, 23 Mar 2017 14:07:28 +0000 Nazik Awad 109636 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Internally displaced women: social rupture and political voice https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/lucy-fiske-rita-shackel/internally-displaced-women-social-rupture-and-political-voice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Displacement is social as well as geographical. Women’s welfare and survival depends significantly on their social relationships; displacement destroys this resource.</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_0268.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Internal displacement, North Kivu, DRC. Photo: Authors"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/IMG_0268.JPG" alt="Internal displacement, North Kivu, DRC. Photo: Authors" title="Internal displacement, North Kivu, DRC. Photo: Authors" width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Internal displacement, North Kivu, DRC. Photo: Authors</span></span></span>Displacement is at its highest level since records have been kept - over 60 million people world-wide are currently displaced from their homes and communities. Most media and popular attention in the developed world is focused on the Syrian refugee crisis which has produced <a href="http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php">4.8 million</a> refugees in its neighbouring region alone in the five years since violence erupted. While Europe struggles to decide how to respond to the <a href="http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/asylum.php">1.1 million</a> Syrian refugees that have so far arrived on its shores since 2011, there is another population, hidden from view, that makes up two thirds of the forced migration iceberg. People internally displaced, that is, forced from their homes and communities but still within the borders of their country, make up slightly more than <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/latest/2016/6/5763b65a4/global-forced-displacement-hits-record-high.html">40 million</a> of the 60 million figure cited. </p> <p>Internally displaced people (known as IDPs in the field of forced migration) have similar experiences to refugees - their departure was forced by conflict or disaster, there was rarely time to plan their move, take possessions with them, say good-bye to loved ones or plan a destination. IDPs may end up in IDP camps (we are familiar with the images of tents and tarpaulins emblazoned with humanitarian logos) or less visibly dispersed among urban slums such as Birere in Goma (DRC) eking out a living however they can.</p><p>The urban displaced generally receive little help. They rely on conflict-affected social networks and are often exposed to <a href="http://fscluster.org/sites/default/files/documents/nrc_goma_case_study_web.pdf">exploitation, homelessness and violence</a>. People displaced into camps often get basic aid from international NGOs, but are subject to the regime of camp organisers - sometimes an NGO, as is most common in <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/training7part10en.pdf">DRC,</a> and sometimes <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/The-International-Response-to-Internal-Displacement-in-the-DRC-December-2014.pdf">the military</a> as was more common in <a href="https://justiceinconflict.org/2012/04/09/a-genocide-in-northern-uganda-the-protected-camps-policy-of-1999-to-2006/">northern Uganda and Sri Lanka</a>. Encamped IDPs often have restricted mobility and little opportunity for autonomy or income-generation - factors which often lead to despair and dependency with long term impacts.&nbsp;</p> <p>International responses tend to focus on geographical displacement and respond to immediate survival needs, including when displacement last <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2015/01/28/10-years-after-humanitarian-reform-how-have-internally-displaced-persons-fared/">years or even decades</a> as in Colombia, Uganda and DRC. What is under-recognised is the social displacement - the expulsion from social and kinship networks which make life both possible and worthwhile. When we look at displacement through a social rather than geographic lens, we begin to see how displacement differs for men and women.</p> <p>During fieldwork conducted in 2014 and 2015 for a <a href="http://www.justiceforwomen.net.au/">research project</a> exploring <a href="http://www.justiceforwomen.net.au/">women’s experiences of justice</a> after mass violence in DRC, Kenya and Uganda we met a great many displaced and formerly displaced women. They prompted us to think differently about displacement.</p> <p><strong>Gender norms trigger the displacement of women</strong></p> <p>Internally displaced women in eastern DRC (where a <a href="http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/conflicts/profile/democratic-republic-of-congo">recent study</a> estimated that 1,152 rapes occur every day) explained that pre-existing gender norms mean that families may disown a woman who has experienced sexual violence. A 41-year old mother described her experience of social exclusion ‘…before being raped my health was very fine and I had sufficient means. After rape, my husband left me… Even if he comes, I am unable to satisfy his needs, so <a href="https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/bitstream/2123/15628/2/DRC%20Full%20Report.pdf;">I am nothing in the society.’</a></p> <p>The social meaning attributed to a ‘raped woman’ causes catastrophic consequences and frequently means that she is rejected by her spouse, family and community. In patriarchal and fragile states such as the DRC, women’s welfare is not seen as a state concern, but rather is determined by their relationships with fathers, husbands and sons. It is the men in their lives that enable them to access food, shelter, protection and a secure place in society. Rejection by families, some women explained, means expulsion from social networks essential for life.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a group of women in an IDP camp in Rutshuru commented, ‘When the family gets aware that you have been a victim of that act, no one can draw near you… they will only be rebuking you saying they do not want you to approach in order not to contaminate [them<a href="https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/bitstream/2123/15628/2/DRC%20Full%20Report.pdf">]… they hated us because of the act we were victim of</a>.’</p> <p>NGOs are spreading information about the ‘<a href="http://www.dhhr.wv.gov/oeps/std-hiv-hep/needlestick/Pages/Post-ExposureProphylaxis(PEP)FAQs.aspx">72-hour-rule’</a> - that getting medical help within 72-hours of rape can avert pregnancies and infections, and women are taking great risks to reach a medical clinic within the time-frame. But there is little evidence of attempts to engage community and religious leaders in beginning the long, slow process of attitude change so that women who have been raped need not be victimised again through social expulsion and stigmatization. The focus is on physical, not social needs.</p> <p><strong>Damaged social relations last for years</strong></p> <p>Broken or damaged social networks caused by experiences of persecution and displacement can have a long-term impact on women’s place in communities. Uganda’s twenty-year war between the government and Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) caused massive internal displacement - <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/latest/2012/1/4f0718269/unhcr-wraps-worlds-biggest-idp-operations-uganda.html">1.84 million</a> people at the height of conflict. The Ugandan government forced almost the entire population of Acholiland, the epicentre of LRA activity, into over-crowded, poorly serviced IDP camps for over ten years. Men and women were not permitted to farm their lands and were dependent on aid from international agencies for survival. Camps were usually erected around military bases and followed strict rules such as curfews and restrictions on movement which made it impossible to continue important family and cultural rituals. The focus was on meeting the material survival needs that resulted from losing their homes, farms, businesses and livestock. Little or no attention was paid to the immense damage done to the social fabric of Acholi communities.</p> <p>Alternate economies emerged in the IDP camps, economies that centred on alcohol, violence and sex. Elders lost their status and sometimes their lives (<a href="http://www.who.int/hac/crises/uga/sitreps/Ugandamortsurvey.pdf">around 1000 people died</a> each week in camps at their peak, many of whom were infants and elderly). Years of encampment have taken a profound toll on people, one woman described feeling like<em> </em>‘a prisoner of <a href="https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/bitstream/2123/15630/4/Uganda%20Full%20Report.pdf.">war in my own homeland’</a>.</p> <p>The war has now ended, the camps have closed and people have returned to their land. But, in the words of ‘Annabel’, a 40-year old widow, most villages in Acholiland today are struggling with men who ‘continuously drink and they don’t do anything productive and they don’t do anything to <a href="https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/bitstream/2123/15630/4/Uganda%20Full%20Report.pdf.">help their families</a>.’ Everywhere we visited women told us that their male relations are ‘deeply addicted to alcohol’, refuse to work in the fields, and that domestic and public violence is ‘rampant’. Women traced a direct causal line between encampment and their present experiences. As Faith, a widow and mother of four children explained: ‘Yes, indeed there is a great link between the experiences of camp life and the problems the people are <a href="https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/bitstream/2123/15630/4/Uganda%20Full%20Report.pdf.">facing up to today.’</a> </p> <p>Camp life shattered social and cultural norms which would previously have prohibited much of the drinking and violence, as well as profoundly damaging the social institutions that today are failing to restore justice, dignity and order.&nbsp;</p> <p>While there has been some assistance for returning IDPs to resume livelihood activities, there has been little attention paid to the repair of social relationships. This has left women and children bearing the burden of work, violence, and poverty, with little power to establish a political voice.</p> <p>How we think about displacement guides how we respond to it. The geography of displacement is important, but it is only one part of the experience. The social elements of displacement are too easily relegated to the category of ‘higher needs’ or a luxury to be addressed when conditions permit. But social relationships are fundamental, and if we want to reduce displacement and ensure successful return and healing, the international community needs to think and act differently.</p><p><strong>Read more in-depth articles on migration on oD 50.50's platform edited by Jennifer Allsopp:</strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-people-on-move"><strong>PEOPLE ON THE MOVE</strong> </a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/bina-fernandez/precarious-migrant-motherhood-in-lebanon">Precarious migrant motherhood in Lebanon </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yasemin-mert/dangerous-journeys-women-migrants-in-turkey">Dangerous journeys: violence against women migrants in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/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/vicki-squire/humanitarian-corridors-beyond-political-gesture">Humanitarian Corridors: beyond political gesture</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/sexual-violence-access-to-justice-and-human-rights">Sexual violence, access to justice, and human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/gender-war-and-peace">Gender, war and peace: &quot;We the people.&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/leila-ullrich/doing-gender-justice-in-northern-uganda">Doing gender justice in northern Uganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/still-no-woman-at-helm-UN">Still no woman at the helm of the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/will-sky-fall-when-big-ngos-move-south"> Will the sky fall when big NGOs move south?</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 class="field-item even"> 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"> 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 Uganda Democratic Republic of the Congo Conflict africa 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter gender gendered migration violence against women women and militarism women's health Rita Shackel Lucy Fiske Wed, 08 Feb 2017 16:30:27 +0000 Lucy Fiske and Rita Shackel 108218 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Uganda’s unsung heroes of refugee protection https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/georgia-cole/uganda-s-unsung-heroes-of-refugee-protection <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As responses to refugees and asylum-seekers become a multi-million dollar endeavour globally, everyday acts of kindness continue to keep refugees alive and maintain their dignity, even in the face of death.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/pppppp.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Kampala. Photo: author"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/pppppp.jpg" alt="Kampala. Photo: author" title="Kampala. Photo: author" width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kampala. Photo: author</span></span></span>T</strong>wice a week, the flight tasked with carrying bodies back to Eritrea departs from Uganda’s Entebbe airport. With tens of thousands of Eritreans in the country’s capital, many in relatively precarious positions, this service is in demand. Six weeks ago, it took a young man, most likely killed in a motorbike accident in the city’s busy streets. The following Thursday, it carried the body of another young Eritrean: Kifilit Yemane*.</span></p> <p>Nobody knows exactly why Kifilit, a healthy 34 year old, died; there was no money available for a post-mortem. He’d complained of feeling ill early in the day and went to rest. Somebody brought him some hot milk which he vomited up, and then he lay down and died. &nbsp;</p> <p>A week before this, I had entered a small sandal shop in Kampala to interview him. His story of why he found his way to Kampala was in <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/eritreans-flee-conscription-and-poverty-adding-to-the-migrant-crisis-in-europe-1445391364">no way exceptional</a>. After defying an order from his manager at the construction firm he had worked at in Eritrea, life had become increasingly hard for him. Recast as a political dissident, he spoke of the security forces slowly honing in. Fearing indefinite imprisonment at best, Kifilit had fled the country.</p> <p>Leaving Eritrea, however, had never been his wish. He had fought in the 1998-2000 <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-36515503">border conflict</a> against Ethiopia, and served in national service with no thoughts of exiting the country for over a decade. His decision to flee arose from what he considered a direct threat to his life, he stressed, not the understandable yearnings for a life beyond the shackles of <a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/baobab/2014/03/national-service-eritrea">indefinite national service</a>. </p> <p>Afraid of what lay in Libya and the Mediterranean, he had travelled to Uganda. This was a land that welcomed refugees, he had been told, allowing them to live, work and move freely. The <a href="http://blogs.worldbank.org/nasikiliza/engendering-hope-ugandas-progressive-policies-on-refugee-management">country’s openness towards refugees</a>, particularly relative to its regional neighbours, has been widely noted. The <a href="http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Office%20of%20the%20Prime%20Minister%20-%20Statement%20following%20the%20verification%20process%20in%20some%20of%20the%20settlements%20-%2013.12.2016.pdf">latest statistics</a> from the Ugandan Government suggest the country may host 865,000 refugees. With a total population of around 40 million, that constitutes over 13 times more refugees per capita than the <a href="http://www.redcross.org.uk/What-we-do/Refugee-support/Refugee-facts-and-figures">UK</a>.&nbsp; </p> <p>What has been less widely noted, however, is that the government’s much lauded openness appears to come with a price tag for some, leaving the protection of these refugees largely a community affair.</p> <p><strong>Cash-for-status</strong></p> <p>It was only after three homeless months that Kifilit was informed about where and how he could apply for refugee status in Uganda. He had secured lodgings in exchange for helping at a local bar, and the neighbour there took the time to explain to him how the system worked. </p> <p>Several months later, his application was rejected. Unable to source the documents from Eritrea that evidenced crucial parts of his claim, the Ugandan authorities deemed his case ‘not acceptable’. As one staff member at the Ugandan government’s refugee directorate flatly told me, ‘they don’t have reasons for leaving their country’, so how can they expect refugee status? This was used to explain the low recognition rates for Eritreans in Uganda, which the same individual mused could not exceed 10%. Kifilit had appealed against this decision, but was not optimistic.</p> <p>The only other route to refugee status, acknowledged by multiple staff working at the refugee directorate, is a well-timed payment to the right members of staff. $700 – the cheapest going rate for a registered acceptance letter and refugee I.D. card – was, however, well beyond his means. </p> <p>While many of those working with refugees had treated him with respect, he made clear to stress, the business minds of a few have turned the acquisition of a refugee ID card in to a racket for Eritreans. From registering for asylum, through securing an appointment to discuss their claims, to acquiring the status itself, all the Eritreans I spoke to in Uganda had been asked to part with cash. This is in offices peppered with signs reading ‘refugees and asylum seekers are NOT supposed to pay for any service.’ When I called the ‘corruption hotline’ they recommend affected refugees to ring, the phone repeatedly went unanswered.&nbsp; </p> <p>Without family members outside of Eritrea to send him remittances, refugee status – and a secure, legal route to employment &nbsp;– &nbsp;were largely foreclosed to Kifilit. It was nonetheless better to ‘live with hope’, he suggested, than to get another inevitable rejection letter too soon. </p> <p><strong>Communities as ‘the first and last providers of protection’</strong></p> <p>With Uganda’s formal systems failing him, Kifilit had spent his first three years in Kampala surviving off donations from fellow asylum seekers and Ugandans. The first few months had been particularly hard. With no friends or relatives already in the city, and having exhausted his funds moving to Uganda overland from Asmara, he found himself sleeping rough. After three days without food, a Ugandan woman had knowingly placed a bag next to him containing a fresh chapatti.</p> <p>Later on, after some brief periods of casual labour, he had found a job at the shoe shop where we met. His salary there was modest: his employees did not need additional labour, but had seen him struggle to find an income. They had also given him free lodgings in the workshop behind the shop. </p> <p>Kifilit stressed his relief at having finally found some reliable work. Though he had been desperate to begin ‘a real life’, complete with education, a family and a home that was more than a friend’s couch, he was aware that having found any employment without the legal right to work was a blessing. </p> <p>This is especially so in a city like Kampala, where formal unemployment rates – especially of the youth – are high. In 2016, the <a href="http://www.ubos.org/onlinefiles/uploads/ubos/ULFS/ULFS%202015%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf">Ugandan Government estimated</a> that 1 in 6 under 30s were unemployed. Of the working age population with a job, 85% are in informal employment. When a distraught Ugandan man with an amputation above the right elbow interrupted our interview to recount his struggle to pay his daughter’s hospital fees, Kifilit and my Eritrean translator quickly dug around for some shillings. I commented that I was not confident that people would have responded that way at home in Britain. Everybody should be helped to survive today, they said, as then tomorrow, together, you can start the struggle again.</p> <p>When he suddenly died the next day, a few hours after leaving the government’s refugee directorate where he had been helping another Eritrean to process their claim, he left behind no family, no money and no way of confirming his Eritrean citizenship. The assurances of those he had befriended in Kampala, or knew from back in Asmara, were not the documents needed to ensure his legal repatriation to Eritrea. For that, other friends – those with no pressing protection needs of their own – approached the Embassy of his government: a government seen by him as a one-man-show towards which he could only express immense disappointment and anger. </p> <p>Beyond this, $5000 had to be found to cover the costs of his return to Eritrea for burial. While his friends called contacts off his retrieved mobile phone to ask if anyone could donate, his local Church held a collection and wealthy Eritreans anonymously came forward with more sizeable contributions. Even with Christmas approaching, and Eritreans regularly called upon by family members and friends to send through money, it took under a week for this sum to be found. </p> <p>With formal systems of protection increasingly unaffordable and inaccessible, every part of Kifilit’s experience in Uganda was shaped by friends, strangers and local communities who went out of their way to assist and care for him. Whenever he could, he too had tried to reciprocate. While this is clearly not an experience shared by all, with anti-immigration rhetoric periodically surfacing in Ugandan politics, Kifilit’s message had much wider applicability. As responses to refugees and asylum-seekers often become multi-million dollar endeavours, everyday acts of kindness keep thousands alive and guard their dignity, even in the face of death. </p> <p>Towards the end of our interview, I asked Kifilit what would be the best solution to his situation. While many answered that resettlement would be only feasible option for them right now, he instantly replied that if the situation changed, he would return to Eritrea tomorrow. One week later, on a plane from Entebbe and in circumstances not of his choosing, he did. This was due to the unrequited acts of a diverse community in Uganda who clearly believed that charity must start wherever people are forced to make home. In death just as in life, they kept his dreams alive. </p> <p><em>* Kifilit’s name has not been changed. He specified that he did not wish for anonymity and hoped that he might, one day, find his story being useful on the internet. &nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/georgia-cole/refugee-or-economic-migrant-join-dots-theresa-may">Refugee or economic migrant? Join the dots Theresa May</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/500-eritreans">500 Eritreans</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/vicki-squire/humanitarian-corridors-beyond-political-gesture">Humanitarian Corridors: beyond political gesture</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/selam-kidane/eritrea-generation-in-flight">Eritrea, a generation in flight</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lily-jay/deaths-deportations-and-arrests-violence-against-migrants-in-morocco">Deaths, deportations and arrests: violence against migrants in Morocco</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/bina-fernandez/precarious-migrant-motherhood-in-lebanon">Precarious migrant motherhood in Lebanon </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/fernando-betancor/mourning-hymn-of-republic">Mourning hymn of the Republic</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/happy-kinyili/to-meet-nothing-that-wants-you-violence-against-migrants">&quot;To meet nothing that wants you&quot;: violence against migrants </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/leila-ullrich/doing-gender-justice-in-northern-uganda">Doing gender justice in northern Uganda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lucy-hovil/israel-refugees-not-welcome">Israel: refugees not welcome </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 class="field-item even"> Eritrea </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 Eritrea Uganda africa 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick Georgia Cole Wed, 11 Jan 2017 16:05:51 +0000 Georgia Cole 108045 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Precarious migrant motherhood in Lebanon https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/bina-fernandez/precarious-migrant-motherhood-in-lebanon <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ethiopian migrant domestic workers who give birth to children in Lebanon are caught in a trap between the struggle to bring up a child with no legal status, and the difficulty of exiting the country.</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/lll.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Beirut. Photo: Wikicommons"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/lll.jpg" alt="Beirut. Photo: Wikicommons" title="Beirut. Photo: Wikicommons" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Beirut. Photo: Wikicommons</span></span></span>Rubka* is an Ethiopian migrant worker in Lebanon who is a live-in domestic worker for Tete Mona, an elderly Lebanese woman. Rubka also manages a ‘garderie’ for Tete Mona&nbsp;<span>–</span><span>&nbsp;an unregistered daycare where around 7 Ethiopian migrant women pay Tete Mona USD100 a month for daycare for their children aged between 1 and 6 years. The mothers all live and work locally, and drop their children off in the morning and pick them up as soon as they have finished work. The children are fed their lunch, and spend most of the day watching children’s TV and/or playing with each other in the small space.</span></p><p>It is primarily Rubka who looks after all the children – so she does domestic work and childcare; but this arrangement works for her too, as it allows her to also look after her three-year old son, Yafit (which she would not have been able to do in a ‘regular’ contract job as a domestic worker). Recent changes to laws affecting migrant workers in Lebanon combine racial and gender biases to put women like Rubka and their children in extremely precarious positions.&nbsp;</p><p>Yafit’s father is a Syrian man with whom Rubka had a relationship. Although this man is named as the father on the birth certificate, he was married with other children and soon after Yafit’s birth, he left the country. Yafit is a lively boy whose light-skin and long curly hair make him look Arab, rather than Ethiopian. This resulted in a harrowing encounter with the police. Yafit explains, ‘Once when I was with him on the street, when he was very young, the police stopped me and asked ‘Whose baby is this?’. “He’s mine.” “No, he’s not.” We started to argue. “Where is the paper to prove that you’re the mother?” “What is this paper that you want me to bring?” “So you’re roaming around without papers with someone else’s child? How do we know that you’ve not stolen him?”<em>’</em></p><p>It was only when the police phoned Rubka’s employer who vouched for her that she and Yafit were released. After that, she struggled for two years to get a copy of his birth certificate from the hospital, and to register his birth. While she was able to obtain a copy of his birth certificate, she had difficulties registering his birth, because she was asked for a marriage certificate, which she did not have. Without this registration, and given her irregular status, she understands that she will not be able to get Yafit into school, even with Tete Mona’s support.</p><p>Rubka therefore decided to try to take Yafit and return to Ethiopia; the only course of action she felt open to her was to pay a police a bribe of USD250 to be taken into detention, then deported. She wanted to take Yafit with her to prison, as she feared being separated from him and being deported without him, but she was unsure of whether she would be allowed to, and whether he would be able to survive the gruelling conditions of the detention centre.</p><p>Two weeks later, I heard that Rubka was in the detention centre. Yafit was staying with Tete Mona, who now had another Ethiopian migrant domestic worker (MDW) working for her and the daycare. However, Rubka could be in detention for a while before she can return to Ethiopia with Yafit, as the time it will take to process her case is entirely unpredictable, and contingent on the support of the Ethiopian Embassy in Lebanon. She is hoping that the Ethiopian Embassy will accept her claim that Yafit’s father has left the country, and support&nbsp;<em>laissez passer</em>&nbsp;papers for Yafit, so that he can leave with her once her deportation orders come through.</p><p><strong>Common tales of precarity</strong></p><p>Rubka’s story as a migrant mother in Lebanon is similar to that of many other Ethiopian migrant domestic workers (MDWs) who bear children while they are in Lebanon. Lebanon has been a destination for MDWs since the 1980s, and while initially Sri Lankan women were numerically dominant (to the extent that the word ‘Srilanki’ became almost synonymous with domestic worker), by 2015, there were 73,098 Ethiopian women who constituted 47% of the 154,757 documented MDWs according to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.labor.gov.lb/_layouts/MOL_Application/Cur/stat1-2015.pdf">Ministry of Labor, Lebanon</a>.</p><p>The majority of Ethiopian MDWs are young, unmarried women in the sexually active and reproductive age group of 18-30 (unlike MDWs from Asia who often tend to be already married with children before they migrate). There is therefore a greater likelihood of Ethiopian women forming relationships and having children.</p><p>Officially, according to the terms of the Unified Contract signed by MDWs, they are not allowed to marry, become pregnant or have children while in Lebanon, yet there is a sizeable population of women migrants with children who often have ambiguous legal status. According to a representative of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.insanassociation.org/">Insan Association</a>, an estimated 15% of the MDW population have children in Lebanon. The numbers could therefore range between 20,000 and 30,000. The majority of MDW mothers with children in Lebanon have irregular migrant status, which may pre-date their pregnancy, or in some cases, have been propelled by it. Although MDWs are not allowed to register a civil marriage, some couples enter into a religious marriage (usually officiated by an Islamic Sheikh).</p><p>The Lebanese government’s restrictions on MDWs' rights to legally marry and have children has the unintended counter-effect of propelling these women and their children into irregular status and precarious single motherhood. Aida and Emebet are two such mothers who started out on regular contracts as domestic workers. They met and married Sudanese men, but after a few years Aida’s husband was deported and Emebet’s husband died, after which their residence statuses lapsed into irregularity. They live together with their three daughters, and both work part-time jobs as domestic workers, taking turns looking after the children. As Aida describes: ‘We help each other, pay the rent, and look after our children&nbsp;<span>–</span><span>&nbsp;in the morning I take them to school, she brings them back in the afternoon. We have a programme. Helping each other, we live together.</span><em>’</em></p><p>They live a precarious life, with incomes that are barely enough to meet the costs of rent, school fees, and keeping themselves and the girls fed and clothed. They face the constant risks of being arrested, held in detention and deported.</p><p><strong>Degrees of precarity</strong></p><p>The likelihood of single motherhood and the degree of precarity Ethiopian migrant mothers face depends to a great extent on the nationality, marital and migrant status of the men with whom the women have relationships, with four observable trends.</p><p>First, a very small number of Ethiopian women who have married Lebanese men, become Lebanese citizens and are consequently the most secure.</p><p>Second, more commonly, Ethiopian women marry and have children with Sudanese men living and working in Lebanon. Some of these Sudanese men have been successful in their applications to register as asylum seekers with UNHCR; if married to the Ethiopian woman, she and her children are considered his dependents and they are eligible as a family for eventual resettlement in a third country through the UNHCR.</p><p>Third, some migrant worker couples have managed to ‘buy’ their sponsorship papers and regularize their residence status as ‘freelancers’ (although they are technically infracting the law). This is what the husbands of Aida and Emebet did, at least initially. Until 2014, in cases where the father was a documented migrant worker and the couple had marriage documents, their children could be registered for residence permits with the General Directorate of the General Security (GDGS), the administrative body that controls immigration in Lebanon. The renewal of residency permits of children below 4 years old was permitted without cost and after 4 years, the&nbsp;extension of the residency permit was <a href="http://www.insanassociation.org/en/images/Shattered%20Dreams-%20children%20of%20migrants%20in%20Lebanon.pdf">dependent</a> on school enrollment.</p><p>Fourth, and most precarious, are women like Rubka who have entered into relationships with men of different nationalities (Syrian, Egyptian or Sudanese) who are irregular migrants themselves and/or are unwilling to marry them. The children of such relationships often have ambiguous legal status if their father refuses to acknowledge them. The Ethiopian government requires documentation of paternity to register the child as Ethiopian, and requires the permission of the father in order to allow the child to travel out of Lebanon on&nbsp;<em>laissez passer</em>&nbsp;papers. For many such women, the only form of documentation of their child’s existence is a baptism certificate issued by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Lebanon.</p><p>The legal status of children is therefore contingent on the migration status of their parents.</p><p><strong>Registering births</strong></p><p>Migrants in Lebanon are at a disadvantage in registering their children with authorities. A&nbsp;<a href="http://www.insanassociation.org/en/images/Unprotected%20Childhood%20Report%20-%20INSAN.pdf">survey by Insan Association</a>&nbsp;found that while 0% of Lebanese children are not registered, 10% of children of documented migrants and 63% of children of undocumented migrants are not registered. Migrant workers who have children born in Lebanon and manage to keep them in the country (particularly those that are undocumented) have very few alternatives in terms of childcare since they have neither the family networks nor the resources to arrange for their care needs. Migrant mothers in Lebanon usually cannot afford better quality childcare services given their low salaries. Further, as the Insan survey showed, 56.7% of children of documented migrants and 55.2% of children of undocumented migrants do not attend school. This stands in&nbsp;contrast to Lebanese children, <a href="http://www.insanassociation.org/en/images/Unprotected%20Childhood%20Report%20-%20INSAN.pdf">(100%)</a> of whom are reported to be attending school.</p><p>In 2014, in a covert attempt to control what was seen as a burgeoning problem, the GDGS began obstructing the renewal of residence permits of children of migrant workers. Although GDGS did not make public any policy directive regarding non-renewal, civil society organizations noticed that this was systematically happening even when both parents were regular migrants working in Lebanon and had not had previous problems registering their children. Further, in October, 2014 GDGS also attempted to disallow any relationships engaged in by MDWS by requiring employers to ensure that no migrant worker under their sponsorship marries any person whether foreign or Lebanese while on Lebanese territories (GDGS Public Notice No. 1778 dated 10/10/2014).&nbsp;<span>The Ministry of Justice overturned this latter directive in July 2015&nbsp;due to </span><a href="http://www.insanassociation.org/en/images/Shattered%20Dreams-%20children%20of%20migrants%20in%20Lebanon.pdf">lobbying pressure</a><span> from civil society stakeholders and the media.</span></p><p>Although the advocacy of Lebanese civil society actors prevented the deterioration of the already precarious situation of migrant mothers and their children in Lebanon, the situation continues to violate the rights of migrant children under the Child Rights Convention (which Lebanon has ratified), many of whom are, in effect, stateless, and without access to education.&nbsp;<span>Migrant women workers and their children are thus the victims of racist and gender biased immigration rules, forced into informal and dangerous survival strategies and deeper marginality.</span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span><em>*All names have been changed in this article to protect anonymity.&nbsp;</em></span></p><p><em><em>This article is based on research conducted by the author with Ethiopian women migrant workers in Lebanon between June and September 2016. </em></em></p><p><em><span>The research was presented at '</span><a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2016/11/families-on-the-move">Families on the Move</a><span>', a conference on migration, gender and family relations, co-organized by UN Women and&nbsp;</span><a href="https://www.nyu.edu/">New York University</a><span>,&nbsp;</span><a href="http://sps.nyu.edu/">School of Professional Studies</a><span>,&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.scps.nyu.edu/academics/departments/global-affairs.html">Center for Global Affairs</a><span>, to inform UN Women’s upcoming flagship report&nbsp;Progress of the World’s Women: ‘Families in a Changing World’.&nbsp;</span></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/christina-lomidze/georgian-migrant-mothers-never-to-return-home">Georgian migrant mothers: never to return home?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ramya-ramaswami/why-migrant-mothers-die-in-childbirth-in-uk">Why migrant mothers die in childbirth in the UK </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/tracey-reynolds-umut-erel/migrant-mothers-creative-interventions-into-citizenship">Migrant Mothers: creative interventions into citizenship </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/sarah-el-richani/lebanese-women-and-full-citizenship-rights-mesh-of-patriarchy-politi">Lebanese women and full citizenship rights: a mesh of patriarchy, politics and confessionalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/victoria-lupton/lebanon%27s-refugees-resisting-hegemony-through-culture">Lebanon&#039;s refugees: resisting hegemony through culture</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marissa-begonia/hope-of-migrant">Hope of a migrant</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yasemin-mert/dangerous-journeys-women-migrants-in-turkey">Dangerous journeys: violence against women migrants in Turkey</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/transnational-marriage-abandonment-new-form-of-violence-against-women">Transnational marriage abandonment: A new form of violence against women? </a> </div> </div> </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"> Lebanon </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ethiopia </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 Ethiopia Lebanon 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick gendered migration gender justice gender 50.50 newsletter Bina Fernandez Wed, 11 Jan 2017 15:08:01 +0000 Bina Fernandez 108039 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Are we all beheaded Copts? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mariz-tadros/are-we-all-beheaded-copts-outrage-in-libya-0 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by ISIS in Libya associated with a broader political project of cleansing the region of religious minorities? Would this not deserve demonstrations of solidarity?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The beheading of 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians by ISIS on February 15 has triggered widespread international official condemnation. Human Rights Watch has <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/16/libyaegypt-murder-egyptians-war-crime">condemned</a> this atrocity as a war crime. However, the language is sufficiently opaque&nbsp; as to leave room for missing the point of who these civilians were and why they were targeted: “Egyptians – particularly those of Coptic faith and truck drivers carrying goods back and forth from Egypt – have been targeted for abduction or killing in Libya around a dozen times since late 2013”. Invoking Copts and truck drivers (even if non-Copt) implicitly suggests that they are both vulnerable to abduction and killing. Is this framing informed by an absence of knowledge of what is happening in Libya, or strategic - intended to underplay the explicit targeting of civilians on religious grounds?&nbsp; </p><p>An audit of the incidents of kidnappings that were announced in the Egyptian press since 2013, most of which were confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gives an unambiguous picture of what is going on. </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/521587/INfoTAble.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/INfoTAble.png" alt="Table of data" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Compiled by Akram Habib</span></span></span>Libya has for many decades been a country which has received hundreds of thousands of Egyptian migrants in search of livelihoods. While not all Egyptian residents in Libya are low income earners, it is likely that the majority are. Certainly, the twenty one beheaded Egyptian Christians fit that category. They came from a remote village in Minya, one of the Upper Egyptian Governorates with a low human development profile and high levels of poverty. Many Egyptians, Copts included, have often held low paid menial jobs in Libya, whether as day labourers or street vendors, with their poverty increasing their vulnerability. However, even when they are not in economically vulnerable situations (such as the doctor and his family who were murdered, see table above), they have still been targeted. </p><p>From the table above it is clear that of the 1,125 cases of kidnapping, only the Christian have been killed (though there may be more who were taken hostages, the whereabouts of which are unknown, undocumented in the media). This comparison of the predicament of captured Egyptians suggests that there is a pre-meditated plan of eliminating those who happen to be Copts on the basis&nbsp; of religion. The selective killing of the Copts, and the release of the others can&nbsp; only be explained by the will of the assailants. The BBC for example, reports that <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/arabic/middleeast/2015/01/150104_egypt_warning_travelling_libya">eyewitness accounts</a> in one incident of kidnapping involved the armed group which dashed into a house full of Egyptian workers and asked whether there were any Christians among them, seized them, and left the rest. </p> <p>In view of the long history of Egyptian Christian migrant labour to Libya, why are they being targeted now? Writer Salwa El Zoghby provides an <a href="http://www.elwatannews.com/news/details/665044">astute analysis</a> of the main drivers of the religiously-mediated targeting.&nbsp; She suggests that these attacks have taken place predominantly in the centre and east of Libya which are areas characterized by the near absence of state authorities,&nbsp; prevailing chaos, absence of rule of law and widespread circulation of weapons. It is in these areas that Islamist militias have established strongholds, and found the conditions that have empowered them to target Christians on ideological grounds. She also points that these Islamist jihadi groups have been responsive to the announcement by <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansar_al-Sharia_%28Libya%29">Ansar Al Sharia</a> ( Libya) in February 2014 of an economic reward for anyone who clears Benghazi of any Christian presence. There is also a performative dimension to how ISIS has captured the beheading of the Copts on video, in line with its other videoed assassinations in Iraq and Syria. By beheading Egyptian Christians, as opposed to their Muslim counterparts, ISIS assumes (wrongly) that it is not alienating Muslims and is only enforcing their message of zero-tolerance policy towards those whom it believes to be infidels. </p> <p>Certainly all of Libya has suffered as a consequence of the disintegration of any functional state, the country now being the centre of geopolitical power struggles between different contenders: the US, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Italy - and the list goes on. </p> <p>There is also a vendetta between the Egyptian leadership and the Islamist movements which has its roots in the overthrow of President Morsi through a popular uprising that was followed by military intervention. There are a number of concentric circles which are underpinned by complex <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/alison-pargeter/libya%E2%80%99s-downward-spiral">historical and contextual power dynamics</a> that have spill over effects on socio-political relations on the ground. </p> <p>However, to reduce the transparent targeting of Copts on religious grounds to an unfortunate fallout of a messy and chaotic situation is to deny the diffusion of an ideologically driven political project which is intended to clear the middle east of its religious minorities, and liquidate religious pluralism. Christians, being the largest religious minority in the middle east, become an obvious target, though not the only ones. There are strong resonances in the modalities of religious cleansing deployed by varied Islamist militant groups and ISIS in Iraq, Libya and Syria. The kidnappings, imposition of ransoms, the ultimatums of conversion to Islam or death in Syria and Iraq, have amounted to religious and ethnic cleansing according to the UN. A recently released <a href="http://in.reuters.com/article/2015/02/04/mideast-crisis-children-idINKBN0L828E20150204">UN report</a> produced by the UN body responsible for reviewing Iraq's record for the first time since 1998, denounced "the systematic killing of children belonging to religious and ethnic minorities by the so-called ISIL, including several cases of mass executions of boys, as well as reports of beheadings, crucifixions of children and burying children alive". </p> <p>So where does this leave us? In speaking with some progressive academics, social justice advocates, human rights activists, I have sometimes noted a certain reluctance to recognize this phenomenon as ideologically driven, or to analyse the particular modalities of violence identified above as associated with religious targeting of non-Muslim groups in the Arab world. This is not due to lack of evidence (UN, Amnesty International and others have released reports, UN officials have already spoken of a genocide in Iraq), but to the invisibility of the nature of these outrages in our debates. I do not claim to understand why, but here are some propositions. </p> <p>First, many proponents of post-colonialism have repeatedly reminded us that colonial powers have used the “religious minority card” in order to divide and rule. Moreover, in some instances the entanglement of missionary movements with the imperial powers’ political agendas, and their privileged position in society, has left a rather infamous legacy of Muslim-non-Muslim relations. However, this history has left a number of unfortunate imprints on contemporary discourses around religious minority matters in Muslim majority contexts in the middle east. The first is that it generates the false assumption that the middle eastern Christians are all remnants of the missionary movement, rather than ancient denominations founded in the first four centuries AD. like the Copts, predating missionaries by millennia. Second, it <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mariz-tadros/religious-minority-women-of-iraq-time-to-speak-up">ignores</a> the very ancient non-Abrahamic religions whose ancestry goes back thousands of years and who are also at risk of extinction (the Zorastrians and Yazidis being cases in point). Could this past generate a reluctance to raise issues of religious diversity in case they smack of support of neo-colonialism?&nbsp; </p> <p>Second, many progressive western activists and thinkers are rightly conscious of their positionality - namely how they are perceived in the Arab world. There is a fear among some that appearing to be defending religious pluralism in the middle east would be equated with the American hegemonic project, often perceived to be strongly aligned with right wing Christian lobby groups. However, it is precisely the role of the US in aligning, supporting and nurturing militant groups in Libya, Iraq and Syria as a catalyst for the current existential threat to religious diversity in the region that we need to bring to the forefront. There is no longer a “western us” versus the “Muslim rest” – the entanglements of the US in deals and manoeuvrings with Islamist militants, not least in Libya, Syria and Iraq cannot be overlooked. </p> <p>Finally, our dread of&nbsp; Islamophobia at a time when right-wing political parties with racist overtones are on the rise in Europe, should not allow us to be cowed into the avoidance of anything to do with the&nbsp; “Islamic zone” in the name of political correctness. This reluctance to differentiate between the followers of the faith, and those who mobilize violently in the name of religion, may be a basis for exercising self censorship. It is what Bassam Tibi has termed Islamophilia: refraining from criticizing political Islamist groups so as not to offend. One classic example of this is raised by Professor Elizabeth Prodromou, who argues that there is a reluctance to talk about the contemporary political project of the instatement of an Islamic Caliphate. She <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-elizabeth-h-prodromou/a-basketball-guide-to-mid_b_5507894.html">argues</a> that skeptics from the middle east have been concerned understandably that the subject of ISIS formation of a new Islamic Caliphate “is freighted with neo-Orientalist attitudes and neo-imperialist designs, and critics in the US scholar-practitioner community have worried justifiably about the neo-conservative and neo-liberal ideological posturing and policy blowback embedded in the topic. However, considered skepticism and principled criticism need not foreclose historically-informed analysis and prudent policy planning”. </p> <p>We need the courage to reflect, discuss and debate how we can carve a space that would allow us to engage with religious pluralism issues in the middle east head on, without equivocation, and without falling into the traps of easy stereotypes and reductionistic explanations. </p> <p><strong><em>This article was first published in February 2015 with the title: Are we all beheaded copts?: Outrage in Libya</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/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 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="/alison-pargeter/libya-hard-road-ahead">Libya: a hard road ahead </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/alison-pargeter/libya-tests-of-renewal">Libya: tests of renewal </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lindsey-hilsum/is-that-what-we-fought-for-gaddafis-legacy-for-libyan-women">Is that what we fought for? Gaddafi&#039;s legacy for Libyan women</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Libya </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 Libya Civil society Conflict 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick patriarchy fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Mariz Tadros Mon, 12 Dec 2016 08:27:33 +0000 Mariz Tadros 90646 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Since I gave you a phone it’s not rape https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/guilaine/since-i-gave-you-phone-it-s-not-rape <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As evidence of UN peacekeepers’ sexual violence against Black African women and girls grows, media reporting and research reinterprets this as ‘transactional sex’, through the logic of colonialism.</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/Predatory Peacekeepers2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Predatory Peacekeepers2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: Predatory Peacekeepers</span></span></span></p><p>A few months ago, the campaign&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23predatorypeacekeepers">#predatorypeacekeepers</a> started on social media. It followed a report from a Canadian AIDS charity accusing <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/politics/the-vile-sex-abuse-by-un-peacekeepers-is-leaving-the-united-nati/">UN and French troops in the Central African Republic (CAR) of sexually abusing at least 98 girls</a>.&nbsp;The damning report alleged that three girls had been tied up and forced to have sex with a dog, that one of the victims subsequently died and that many of the abuses were orchestrated by a French General. Since publication, more victims have come forward. Many spoke of degrading sexual acts including soldiers urinating on the victim’s body or in her mouth.</p> <p>Allegations of <a href="https://mediadiversified.org/2016/04/12/the-uns-good-vs-bad-narrative-clears-the-way-for-sexual-violence-and-impunity/" target="_blank">sexual misconduct by UN soldiers have been </a>documented in most of the countries where UN peacekeeping troops serve. However, what seems striking in CAR is the alleged involvement of senior officers and the age of the victims.&nbsp; In December 2015, an <a href="http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/centafricrepub/Independent-Review-Report.pdf" target="_blank">Independent Panel</a> produced scathing findings on the way the UN had responded to the allegations in CAR. It identified systematic failures and highlighted a culture of impunity, inadequate investigatory mechanisms and unsatisfactory structures to support victims. &nbsp;There has been no public update by the UN on the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the Panel.&nbsp; The few prosecutions have exclusively been of (Black) <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/04/peacekeepers-trial-sex-abuse-car-160405040318812.html" target="_blank">African Peacekeepers</a>. &nbsp;White predatory peacekeepers, it appears avoid accountability.</p> <p><strong>‘Transactional sex’ and fallacy of consent</strong></p> <p>Both social and legal definitions of rape are centred, if only partly, on the notion of consent. One way to nullify rape is to establish consent or to effectively blur its boundaries. This is achieved in relation to the victims of predatory peacekeepers when sexual relations between Black/African women and UN soldiers are described as transactional. In ‘transactional sex’, one party gets sexual access to another person’s body in exchange for gifts and/or other goods. &nbsp;As there is a material gain (usually for the women) consent is thus deemed to be present.&nbsp; Any quick internet search reveals that the media has been awash with headlines of transactional sex.</p> <p><a href="http://jezebel.com/un-peacekeepers-having-transactional-sex-with-locals-is-1710590278">Women in Haiti and Liberia are selling sex to United Nations peacekeepers in exchange for aid and lifestyle improvements like cell phones and church shoes.</a></p> <p>‘<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-33089662">UN peacekeepers 'barter goods for sex'</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/06/un-peacekeeping-transactional-sex-haiti/395654/">A Humanitarian Mission Becomes a Disaster: A forthcoming report documents United Nations workers exchanging relief goods for sex.</a></p> <p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/06/16/u-n-peacekeeping-and-transactional-sex/?tid=article_nextstory">U.N. peacekeeping and transactional sex</a></p> <p>Reporting sex in exchange of goods, and luxury goods and/or mobile phones, in particular does more than imply consent. It invites public judgements around the morality of the victims and, reproduces ‘misogynoirist’ associations between black womanhood and materialism. This taps into implicit prejudices and bias and reduces cognitive dissonance. The last link above, by Cage, refers to a <a href="http://www.nyu.edu/projects/beber/files/Beber_Gilligan_Guardado_Karim_TS.pdf">research project</a> conducted in 2012 on the prevalence of this so called ‘transactional sex’ in Monrovia (Liberia) during the civil war. The study estimates that 58 000 women aged between 18 and 30 had engaged in ‘transactional sex’ with UN&nbsp;personnel at some point and that over half were below 18 on the first occasion. &nbsp;Despite this, the words rape or consent are notably absent in this piece. &nbsp;Similarly, allegations in Haiti involved children but again media reports of ‘transactional sex’ were written with no reflection on the presumption of consent.</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/Predatory Peacekeepers.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Predatory Peacekeepers.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="646" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: Predatory Peacekeepers</span></span></span></p><p>Age differences are a major source power differential, which is just one of the reasons why sexual offences against minors are specified in most penal codes.&nbsp; Given that such offences exist in most nations it is extraordinary that the potential that such acts might be sexual abuse of children is rarely broached. &nbsp;In addition to age, a number of contextual constraints should lead to questions about the validity of consent. &nbsp;</p> <p>The power differentials - social, legal, institutional and even symbolic - between the Black/ African women and UN soldiers create a number of barriers to their capacity to give meaningful consent.&nbsp; Differences in ‘social class’ and geo-political positioning, in race, in emotional vulnerability – let’s not forget we are talking about women in war or otherwise environmentally precarious zones – soldiers’ holding and/or having access to heavy artillery and guns, each and cumulatively make consent impossible to give freely. Presumably, it is for these reasons that the UN <a href="https://cdu.unlb.org/Portals/0/PdfFiles/PolicyDocC.pdf">banned its peacekeepers from engaging in ‘transactional sex’</a>. </p> <p><strong>Whiteness and the rape-ability of Black/African girls and women</strong></p> <p>An intersectional approach is needed to grasp the particular sexual subjugation of Black/African women by western or western commissioned men, and the media’s apparent determination to impute consent onto them. It also avoids a decontextualized account which unwittingly reproduces violence in ways central to the white patriarchal colonial order: here African and Black woman appear as inferior and subordinated, yet that very subordination is rendered invisible. This process normalises gendered and racialised violence whilst making it impossible to name whiteness as the key underlying structure. </p> <p>But, whiteness is engaged here. It is engaged in the structural invisibilisation of the Black/African victims and in the failure to hold white perpetrators to account. It is engaged in the presentation of Black bodies as sites for white expressions of sadism and sexual perversion, and in the reproduction of gendered racialised hierarchies.&nbsp; The social construction of Black women’s sexuality as ‘promiscuous’ and depraved has a long colonial history which continues to lead to an unwillingness, conscious or otherwise, to protect black girls/women’s bodies from sexual assault and rape.</p> <p>At the core of our presumed suitability for violent sexual consumption or rape-ability, is not only our constructed hyper-sexuality but also ideas of dirt and impurity – markers of course of our inhumanity – victims of predatory peacekeepers could be perversely sexually violated and soiled (with urine) because their bodies were deemed impure. &nbsp;This implicit responsibility is both the cause and effect of their worthlessness.&nbsp; And so, sexual contact with men constructed as superior, as noble saviours willing to touch the Black body, cannot possibly be violent. &nbsp;Rape almost becomes envisaged as a gift, which should be gratefully received.&nbsp; Indeed this dynamic is symbolised and materialised by each so called ‘transaction’. One may even wonder, had there been no crude act of violence or no report of women and girls being tied-up, whether the term rape might even have been used at all in CAR.</p> <p>Under colonialism African childhood and womanhood were aggressively denied as part of a conscious effort to dehumanise. Remnants of this system of oppression continue to shape the treatment of black people today, with those at the bottom of the hierarchy of blackness, being the most disposable. &nbsp;Indeed, the impunity which surrounds the abuse by western men of third world black bodies exemplifies this. Speaking of ‘transactional sex’ is, therefore, both a vehicle for old colonial notions and a way for predatory peacekeepers to resist accountability for their rape and sexual exploitation of children and of vulnerable women. However, given that <a href="https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/95euxfgway/InternalResults_160118_BritishEmpire_Website.pdf">recent evidence</a> suggests almost half of the British public sees colonialism as something to be proud of and, that about a third consider that ‘we talk too much about the cruelty and racism of Empire, and ignore the good that it did’, then no doubt mass murder/mutilation can be offset against any purported ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/shortcuts/2016/jan/20/empire-state-of-mind-why-do-so-many-people-think-colonialism-was-a-good-thing">economic development’</a>. Under this logic, perhaps being given a mobile phone can be seen to constitute consent and even rape can be offset against ‘<a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-peacekeepers-abuse-idUSKBN0OQ2CP20150610">lifestyle improvements’</a>.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p><em>Read more articles on openDemocracy in this year's</em><strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days: Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. </a></strong><em>Commissioning Editor: Liz Kelly<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/madeleine-rees/immunity-and-impunity-in-peace-keeping-protection-gap">Immunity and impunity in peace keeping: the protection gap</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 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/anne-marie-goetz/preventing-violence-against-women-sluggish-cascade">Preventing violence against women: a sluggish cascade?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/stopping-sexual-violence-in-conflict-gender-politics-in-foreign-policy">Stopping sexual violence in conflict: gender politics in foreign policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/politics-of-human-rights-and-united-nations">The politics of human rights and the United Nations</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <a href="/jessica-dawn-wilson/is-there-real-commitment-to-women-peace-and-security">Women, peace and security: the UN&#039;s rhetoric-reality gap</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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> </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"> Central African Republic </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 Central African Republic 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women and militarism violence against women Sexual violence feminism bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Guilaine Kinouani Fri, 25 Nov 2016 09:03:33 +0000 Guilaine Kinouani 107048 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 Egyptian women: depression or oppression? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sophie-anmuth/egyptian-women-depression-or-oppression <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Women continuing to push for change in Egypt are bearing the psychological toll of a rigid post-revolution politics and society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>“When there is no school, my family keeps me at home and it’s like a jail. I have been depressed for a very long time now, but they would not allow me to seek help,” explains Hagar (not her real name), a 23-year old student of literature and philosophy from Cairo university. “My father beats me up because he disagrees with my ideas on everything, society and politics. The only way out I can see is to try and escape marriage and leave the house, even though for the moment I can’t even so much as suggest the idea to my family.” Hagar is one of the many Egyptian women who suffer from depression or other psychological disorders, stemming from a desire to shake off the weight of tradition and expectation from their families and society.</p> <p>Tension within families has mounted over recent years in parallel with Egyptians’ struggles for freedom, as young women seek independence and agency over their own lives and bodies. Comments can be commonly heard to the effect that for religious reasons, a woman is not free to dress or behave in any way she wants—of course, people say, this should also apply to men, yet for social reasons the burden invariably falls more heavily on women.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/A Tahrir Square protest against the Military Trial for civilians, September 2011. Credit - Oxfamnovlb.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/A Tahrir Square protest against the Military Trial for civilians, September 2011. Credit - Oxfamnovlb.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Tahrir Square protest against the Military Trial for civilians, September 2011. Credit: Oxfam Novib. </span></span></span></p><p>“Most girls may leave the family house only when married. Marriage is a compulsory institution, that perpetuates the patriarchal system,” says Sohila Mohamad, who seven months ago founded Femi-Hub, an organisation to help women make transitions to an independent life. However, she notes that contrary to her initial expectations of focusing on job or flat-hunting for young women, they have first had to deal with what makes them want to flee the house: namely, “their fathers, husbands, brothers— cases of domestic violence, emotional, physical, sexual abuse.” There is a sense that controlling female behaviour or venting frustration on women close to them has become a second-best for many Egyptians who feel dispossessed of control over their own lives. At the root of this dispossession are&nbsp; entrenched economic and political factors, but these social and familial dynamics have come to mirror Egypt’s military regime (the only system of rule the country has known for decades), relying on relationships and power structures of force and obedience.</p> <p>Egypt’s high levels of domestic and gender-based violence, including mass sexual assault, are <a href="https://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/circles-of-hell-domestic-public-and-state-violence-against-women-in-egypt">well documented by human-rights groups</a>, with almost fifty per cent of married women reporting abuse (though the majority of cases go unreported). Mostafa Hussein, an Egyptian psychiatrist, says that this has in turn lead to post-traumatic stress disorder among victims or the uncovering of existing psychological problems, triggering latent anxieties and insecurities. Hussein recalls an extreme case several years ago during his residency at a state hospital, when a poor family from Cairo brought their catatonic 12 year-old daughter to the burns department. The girl had already been taken by her family to see several sheikhs for her condition after she stopped speaking and became completely expressionless. The sheikhs had attempted various traditional healing treatments, culminating in one administering burns to her hand in order to “snap her out” of her state. The wound was so bad it brought them to the hospital, where ICU doctors instructed the family to take their daughter to the psychiatric ward. </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/Femi-Hub logo and slogan &#039;Living, home, freedom&#039;. Source - Femi-hub Facebook page.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Femi-Hub logo and slogan &#039;Living, home, freedom&#039;. Source - Femi-hub Facebook page.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="169" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span> <br /> “The understanding of mental health problems is not widespread in Egypt,” Hussein says. “People from uneducated backgrounds would rely on religious figures before thinking of psychologists or psychiatrists—but it happens in all walks of life”. As he explains, after three weeks of medication, his adolescent patient started talking again and finally told the staff her story. “Her family wanted her to get married and she was already living in an abusive environment, with probably an incestuous relationship in the family,” he recounts. Monthly check-ups after her release showed gradual improvement, but after the third month, the young women began displaying troubling signs again. “We found out that they had chosen her another husband. She stopped coming to the ward after that.”<br /> <br /> There are no statistics documenting mental health issues in Egypt. Psychiatrists suggest that a perceived increase in mental health problems could be linked to the fallout of the country’s political struggles, as well an increased overall awareness of the issue—albeit still among a limited class of people. And while awareness of mental health is growing, broader knowledge of and access to healthcare has yet to take hold. (Anecdotal reports of mental health problems seem to be reflected in <a href="http://www.madamasr.com/sections/politics/egypt-no-help-suicidal">statistics which indicate that Egypt witnessed 400,000</a> attempted suicides in 2011— quadruple the number recorded the previous year.) <br /> <br /> Yet for fellow psychiatrist, Nabil el Qutt, the issue is bigger than therapy. “It requires social change,” he says. El Qutt recalls one of his recent patients, describing an attractive and intelligent student of politics and economics who he diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and depression. She was suicidal and self-harmed, but after attending his clinic for several months, following individual and group therapy and taking antidepressants, she appeared better. She found a job while studying and started a relationship. However, a year after she stopped coming to see El Qutt, her mother called to say she was self-harming and had again attempted suicide. He called her several times to fix an appointment but she never showed up. “The conflict was between her and her family, her uncle more precisely, who was controlling everything she did. I told her mother to let her live more freely but to no avail,” he recalls. </p> <p>“This young woman had taken part in the 2011 uprising, if she hadn’t, maybe she would have adapted more easily to the society,” El Qutt speculates. “Many think they are depressed, but depression is about internal conflict. They actually live in an oppressive society, with an oppressive government. All the people who supported democratic change and saw their dreams crushed may feel that they suffer from depression, when they are reacting to external circumstances.”</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/Protestors in Cairo denounce President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, July 2013. Credit - AFP PHOTO, GIANLUIGI GUERCIA.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Protestors in Cairo denounce President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, July 2013. Credit - AFP PHOTO, GIANLUIGI GUERCIA.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'>Protestors in Cairo denounce President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Credit: AFP / Gianluigi Guercia. </span></span></span><br />There are many young women who participated or were swept up in the years of political activity that flowed from the toppling of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Ideas circulated freely and crossed the borders of class, religious and political beliefs. Quietly, without necessarily joining a women’s rights movement, many also claimed a greater degree of independence. Some battled for the apparently simple right to go out with their friends—but, even then, the curfew issue was frequently unbreakable. Some want to live alone, which is an often unattainable goal but made easier if a women works or studies in a different city from her family. Many have also refused arranged marriage (or <a href="http://egyptianstreets.com/2014/11/23/arranged-marriages-in-egypt-haven-or-last-resort/">“gawaz salonat”</a>) or insisted on determining their own degree of religiosity. But the country has since 2011 undergone push-back on some fronts, with the new lives that were almost obtained snatched away from Egyptians. Many sense that with its free-falling economy and several years of chaos and political repression, Egyptian society is generally tenser, and more violent. This perception may also stem from the fact that people have now actively asserted themselves and demanded their rights, which many (especially from lower social classes) may not have done in the past. </p> <p>Hagar also credits the 2011 uprising with what she describes as a shift in her beliefs and personality— a “metamorphosis” into who she really is. Aged seventeen at the time of the revolution, she like many others from her generation, recounts how the events reshaped her worldview. She began questioning everything, from the propaganda she would hear on TV to the rules and protocols she was instructed to obey by her family and society. “By nearly jailing me at home they think they are protecting me until I get married,” she explains, “but I don’t see getting married as my goal in life. Very often your parents prevent you from doing something not because they’re first and foremost convinced it is wrong, but because they’re afraid of what the people would say.” <br /> <br /> Hagar can tell her mother about her professional dreams of becoming a journalist, but other subjects are off-limits for her conservative interlocutor: smoking, for example, is taboo, while the prospect of sex before marriage would see Hagar deemed out of her mind. Many young women say they are puzzled at their mothers’ reactions—mothers who at their own age worked three jobs, came home late, or themselves decided not to wear the hijab. Some attribute this shift in perceptions of women’s role to successive waves of conservative religiosity: first inspired from Saudi Arabia for Egyptian families who either fled Sadat or migrated to the Gulf for work, and later by a post-Iraq war wave of opposition to the West. </p> <p>In this environment, Hagar feels compelled to lie in order to live according to her principles. Explaining her decision to remove the veil (which she was obliged to wear from age twelve) two years ago, Hagar says that she at first didn’t tell her parents that she was taking it off outside her home, but grew increasingly unhappy at the sense that she was living a double life. “So I started talking to them about it, trying to convince them with logical arguments. But it didn’t work so I keep hiding it from them. They first accused me of having become a Christian, then an atheist,” she says. “I can’t talk at all to my father, who acts as if he would like to beat me into submission.” Since the day Hagar got into an argument with a father over a pro-regime TV host who she despises, he stopped talking to her. “He expects me to apologise for my opinion. He thinks the internet and the university ruined me.”<br /> <br /> Nonetheless, even Hagar thinks that with time, things might improve. She expects that she will find a job and leave home—that she will face tremendous opposition from her family, who may not talk to her for a while, but that eventually they will concede. She knows of Femi-Hub and has heard other stories of women managing to live independently, despite enduring extreme initial hardships.</p><p>Another patient of Nabil El Qutt is one such reason for hope. The daughter of very conservative parents, the young pharmacist joined a leftist party and stopped veiling. Her parents railed against everything she did, and even took her to a doctor for a virginity test. She sunk into severe depression and began self-harming. Nonetheless, she eventually managed to leave her family home and no longer felt the need for therapy. She even convinced her mother leave her own emotionally-abusive husband.</p> <p>It is in these outcomes that some silver-lining can be found for the present conflicts. “Domestic violence and gender-based oppression may not have increased recently, but it feels like it because we do talk more about it,” Sohila Mohamad says.&nbsp; For her, women no longer feel as ashamed about coming forward about the oppression they face or the psychological toll it takes on them. There is more social awareness, and more solidarity. More women seek help and in turn help others, unwilling to spend their lives in despair.</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/zainab-magdy/egypt-reality-too-dark-in-which-to-glimpse-hope">Egypt: a reality too dark in which to glimpse hope? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/day-you-catch-fish-speaking-out-on-domestic-abuse">The Day You Catch the Fish: speaking out on domestic abuse</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/egypt-space-that-isnt-our-own">Egypt: a space that isn&#039;t our own</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/egyptian-women%27s-rights-no-time-for-dissent">Egyptian women&#039;s rights: no time for dissent</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/egyptian-women-performing-in-margin-revolting-in-centre">Egyptian women: performing in the margin, revolting in the centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/hania-sholkamy/why-women-are-at-heart-of-egypt%E2%80%99s-political-trials-and-tribulations">Why women are at the heart of Egypt’s political trials and tribulations</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/hania-sholkamy/from-tahrir-square-to-my-kitchen">From Tahrir square to my kitchen</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/egyptian-women%27s-rights-no-time-for-dissent">Egyptian women&#039;s rights: no time for dissent</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chitra-nagarajan-shannon-harvey-adam-ramsay-ezekiel-incorrigible/activists-talk-menta">Activists talk mental health</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/power-of-storytelling">The power of storytelling </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"> Egypt </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 Egypt 50.50 Gender Politics Religion Women and the Arab Spring 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy gender justice fundamentalisms feminism 50.50 newsletter Sophie Anmuth Mon, 26 Sep 2016 11:24:31 +0000 Sophie Anmuth 105502 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Refugee women in the UK: Pushing a stone into the sea https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/beatrice-botomani/refugee-women-in-uk-pushing-stone-into-sea-0 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From personal experience I know that arrival in the UK for asylum seekers does not signal safety, but reform is a ‘chaser game’: refugee women are pressuring the Home Office to improve decision making and end detention, says Beatrice Botomani.<strong> <br /></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In&nbsp;2012, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/katie-nguyen/raped-or-tortured-women-_b_4686015.html">6,071&nbsp;women&nbsp;</a>came to the&nbsp;UK to seek asylum, representing around one third of total applications. Many of these women, like those who came before them, have suffered unimaginable hardship upon arrival in the UK having been stripped of their dignity. Many have been placed in <a href="http://refugeewomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/WRWDetained.pdf">indefinite detention</a>, a context in which, this weekend, a 40 year old woman <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/mar/30/yarls-wood-immigration-centre-detainee-dies">died</a>. </p> <p>My experience as a refugee woman in the UK has taught me many things about injustice, among them, that women need to work together to make change. For as Baroness Helena Kennedy QC said in 2012: “while there is now greater awareness of the problems women face, there remain deep-seated areas of discrimination and there is none greater than in the field of asylum and immigration.”<strong><em> <br /></em></strong></p> <p>Thousands of refugee women, in the asylum system, and inside and outside of detention, struggle in the UK each day, their minds filled up, saturated and overwhelmed with questions that have no answers. They ask themselves, why us, refugee women? Why are we treated as animals?&nbsp; Why are we treated like criminals?&nbsp; Why are we treated as if we have no feelings? Why, why, why refugee women? Why are they –&nbsp; and perhaps, why are you, Reader – indifferent? </p> <p>Our questions correspond to an endless list of hardships. It is estimated that around <a href="http://refugeewomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/WRWDetained.pdf">one third</a> of women who sought asylum from persecution in the UK in 2012 were held in indefinite detention for committing no crime; thousands of asylum seeking women are going hungry as I write; others struggle on around <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/amanda-gray/poverty-human-rights-abuse-in-uk&amp;sa=U&amp;ei=n5s0U9bIKaO00wWV34DwCw&amp;ved=0CAYQFjAA&amp;client=internal-uds-cse&amp;usg=AFQjCNGaHsGNkr36xXoLdPQP1iqaW35c2g">£5 a day</a>. From personal experience I know that arrival in the UK for asylum seekers does not signal safety. We stand amazed and astonished at how our lives have become other people’s property. <a href="http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=341">G4S</a>; <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/sep/14/detainees-yarls-wood-sexual-abuse">Serco</a>; <a href="https://contact-ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/organisation/immigrationremovalcentres/">Reliance</a>: private corporations fight to control our bodies.&nbsp; Detention, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nancy-bonongwe/seeking-asylum-ending-destitution">destitution</a>, <a href="http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/human-rights/asylum-and-borders/asylum-support-and-right-work">bars on employment</a>: instead of getting answers, the list of questions becomes more complicated as refugee women move through the asylum system in the UK. </p> <p>While other sectors are looking forward to new developments and to better their lives, unafraid to close their public offices to go outside and strike for more money and against poor conditions, refugee women face constraints mobilising. Yet refugee women are fighting to confront these questions with answers that we have ourselves devised. </p> <p><strong>Why Refugee Women</strong> </p> <p><a href="http://www.whyrefugeewomen.org.uk/">Why Refugee Women</a> is organisation that was founded in the UK in 2010 to answer crucial questions that have long fallen upon deaf ears. The organisation represents the voices of and supports dignity and respect for refugee women in the Yorkshire and Humberside region in the North of the UK. Our work is regional, but our message is universal.</p><p> Why Refugee Women is not a new idea. It builds on the valuable work of other organisations which are passionate about refugees and asylum seeking women, many of whom have spoken out on <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/people-on-move">openDemocracy 50.50</a>. This work includes Asylum Aid's <a href="http://www.asylumaid.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Charter.pdf">'The Charter of Rights of Women Seeking Asylum'</a> and&nbsp; various campaign work and good practice recommendations from organisations like <a href="http://refugeewomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/WRWDetained.pdf">Women for Refugee Women</a>, the <a href="http://www.csel.org.uk/">Centre for Emotions and Law</a>, Women Asylum Seekers Together (<a href="http://www.wast.org.uk/">WAST</a>), <a href="http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/policy_research/policy_work/influencing_women_project">Refugee Council</a>, <a href="http://www.nrcentre.org.uk/">Northern Refugee Centre</a>, <a href="http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/">Rape Crisis</a> and <a href="http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/coping-with-destitution-survival-and-livelihood-strategies-of-refused-asylum-se-121667">OXFAM</a>. All of this work argues that refugee women should be treated with fairness, dignity and respect.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>Why Refugee Women was formed largely in response to regional developments that shaped the lot of refugee women. In 2010, Migration Yorkshire published a key policy document entitled the ‘<a href="http://www.migrationyorkshire.org.uk/?page=refugeeintegrationstrats">Regional integration strategy for refugees and asylum seekers’</a>. The strategy notes that “certain groups of refugees and asylum seekers experience further disadvantage, for example due to their gender…and therefore require specific actions to ensure equality.” Though it is officially recognised as a problem, many of us felt that there was not enough mention of women's issues and needs throughout the paper; we felt not enough was being done to ensure women experience the extra care needed by public authorities.</p> <p>Since 2010, Why Refugee Women has made great progress at the grassroots level. We’re training women to speak out on the radio, have created a Charter, a website and run countless outreach session to make local organisations aware of the situation of women refugees. But the more we strategise to mount the fight, the more new and worse issues emerge. The uphill task of maintaining pressure on the Home Office quality of decision making remains our staple; as does the fight against detention. We know this is a chaser game. It will take strong hearts and a formidable force, united, to push the rock into the sea. You can see this in our work on decision making and detention.</p> <p><strong>Decision making</strong> </p> <p>In 2012, on 30th November, Why Refugee Women launched a report in which many of our members participated entitled “<a href="http://www.refugeewomen.com/images/refused.pdf">Refused: The Experiences of denied asylum seekers in the UK”</a>, published by Women for Refugee Women. By launching it in our home area in Yorkshire and Humberside we sought to bring more awareness to the region. After all, this is our community. The issues raised in the report included poor decision making for gender based claims, poor quality legal services and advice provision; high levels of destitution and poverty; detention, deportation and poor health issues, especially in relation to mental health. </p> <p>Poor decision making is the root cause to all the sufferings asylum seekers go through. There are many factors that contribute to the quality of decision making starting from the day an asylum seeker walks into the Home Office premises to seek asylum.&nbsp; We outlined the detail in a<a href="http://ramanujam1.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/home-affairs/130416%20Asylum%20written%20evidence.pdf"> report</a> submitted to a Parliamentary Committee as evidence of weaknesses in the asylum process in UK (p.681). </p> <p>Our campaigning on decision making aims to empower women first by giving them the information they need, educating them about their rights and about the whole asylum process, its expectations and outcomes at every stage.&nbsp; We began this process last year when we conducted region-wide <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/">CEDAW</a> (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women) workshops that aimed at unveiling one tool that is not widely known to grassroots women, but which is very powerful. The workshops aimed at informing women refugees and asylum seekers of their rights as human beings; empowering and inspiring them to take their stand against all forms of discrimination; and strengthening their confidence in fighting for their rights. This awareness brought out some strength in women, knowing that there are some international laws, conventions and treaties that protect them as well as children and other vulnerable groups.&nbsp; The workshops attracted heated discussions of the contrary treatment that asylum seeking women and refugees receive in this country.&nbsp;<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>Yet we cannot improve decision making without undermining the <a href="http://www.trust.org/item/?map=female-asylum-seekers-struggle-against-uk-culture-of-disbelief">culture of disbelief</a>. We will continue to challenge the Home Office’s assumption that asylum seekers are liars. Not many women in our world have the chance to escape the torturous and murderous cultural practices to which they may be subject: FGM; forced child marriage; forced sterilisation. As a result, many women die young. It’s a tragedy to see that those who managed to escape are seen as liars because they cannot evidence their claims, and neither can they prove their persecution. Me and my sisters, we find ourselves asking, why can’t you believe us?&nbsp; If these things happened to a British woman, what would they say?&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>Legal representation</strong> </p> <p>Legal representation is essential for holding decision makers accountable. For the truth is that while asylum seeking women take solicitors as Gods, it is shocking to see that some of them are not keen to assist us.&nbsp; Many never take us seriously. Worse still, they accept to represent us, only to dump our cases months or even years later if they fear any less than a 50% chance of a positive outcome.&nbsp; Will they win, they ask. Can they gamble on us? </p> <p>Most solicitors never communicate with their clients, they expect a client to take a proactive role calling them or walking on foot to their offices.&nbsp; You can never get through to their numbers and you cannot go to see them without an appointment.&nbsp; How do they expect a destitute woman to phone or board a bus to go to their offices when she never handles any cash?&nbsp; Because of poor quality legal representation, a number of women we know have missed their appeal time limit, court dates and some never knew that their cases were refused until they were detained. Our legal representatives need to change their attitudes. They need to ask, like us, why refugee women? </p> <p>To address this issue we are training volunteer researchers who have the knowledge and skills necessary to help asylum seekers secure adequate legal provision and legal aid. </p> <p><strong>Detention <br /></strong></p> <p>Now I have this platform I will use it. For Reader you also need to know that things are getting worse for refugee women in detention every single day. This is why Why Refugee Women joined the national campaign on ending the detention of asylum seeking women: <a href="http://refugeewomen.com/campaign/">#SetHerFree</a>.&nbsp; A recent research report by our London-based sister organisation Women for Refugee Women revealed the hidden plight of women asylum seekers detained in Britain, as <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/refugee-women-in-uk-fighting-back-from-behind-bars">documented</a> by Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanm on this site.&nbsp; It exposed that female rape and torture victims are being locked up indefinitely: beautiful, energetic women end up suffering from depression and being intimidated by male guards. Almost 2,000 women were detained in 2012 and the figures are escalating day by day.&nbsp; </p> <p>It is a double torture to suffer rape, persecution and being subjected to account, re-tell and re-tell these experiences in agony to someone who has no sympathy for you.&nbsp; From the word go, we are paid back with disbelief and marginalisation; and thereafter we’re taken to detention where we are kept indefinitely. We are arguing that these women are not criminals, why can’t they be kept in communities? Detention is costly for the government and extremely distressing for women. What is more, we know our communities love us. This is why our cities are <a href="http://www.cityofsanctuary.co.uk/">cities of sanctuary</a>. </p> <p>At the launch of this report on 29th January, 2014, Baroness Helena Kennedy spoke out again that the findings of this report are “a source of profound shame to Britain.” </p> <p><strong>Moving forward</strong> </p> <p>Our campaigns will be run within the next three years and progress will be reviewed and evaluated annually to see if the rate of positive decision making is improving or not; and whether, quite simply, there are no more women in immigration detention.&nbsp; We’re committed to staying strong, and to taking a ‘multi-angle’ approach in our research and our work, addressing multiple issues affecting asylum-seeking women, including the patriarchal approach that is the foundation of law. </p> <p>We’re not going anywhere; we will maintain pressure on the UKBA and other agencies to put the experiences and needs of asylum-seeking women at centre stage in their discussions, procedures and practices in order to improve decision making. Of late, yes, there has been transition upon transition, changes upon changes, movement upon movement, as if asylum seekers are just a parcel that can be thrown wherever one wants to be. Our feelings are never considered. But until this changes, the questions will remain, and we will keep on pushing the rock into the sea: Why? Why? Why Refugee Women?</p><p><span><em>This article was first published in March 2014 in the series&nbsp;</em></span><em><span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/people-on-move">People on&nbsp;</a></span><span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/people-on-move">the Move</a>, oD 50.50's migration, gender and social justice dialogue, edited by Jennifer&nbsp;</span><span>Allsopp.</span></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/refugee-women-in-uk-fighting-back-from-behind-bars">Refugee women in the UK: fighting back from behind bars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/natasha-tsangarides/pregnant-detained-and-subjected-to-force-in-uk">Pregnant, detained, and subjected to force in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/jerome-phelps/is-there-alternative-to-locking-up-migrants-in-uk">Is there an alternative to locking up migrants in the UK?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anna-dixie/double-standards-dispersal-and-pregnant-asylum-seekers-in-britain">Double standards: dispersal and pregnant asylum seekers in Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amanda-gray/poverty-human-rights-abuse-in-uk">Poverty: a human rights abuse in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nancy-bonongwe/seeking-asylum-ending-destitution">Seeking asylum, ending destitution</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/warsan-shire/conversations-about-home-at-deportation-centre">Conversations about home (at a deportation centre)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nikandre-kopcke/anti-immigrant-sentiment-time-to-talk-about-gender">Anti-immigrant sentiment: time to talk about gender?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marissa-begonia/hope-of-migrant">Hope of a migrant</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/kate-nustedt/what-happened-to-me-here-thats-what-broke-my-spirit">&#039;What happened to me here. . . that&#039;s what broke my spirit&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/kate-blagojevic/justice-in-uk-back-to-1930s">Justice in the UK: back to the 1930s? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/eiri-ohtani/isa-muazu-hunger-striker-and-us-monster">Isa Muazu, the hunger striker and us, the monster</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Bradford </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Bradford UK Equality Refugee Week Refugee Week - highlights 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change women's human rights women and power violence against women gendered migration gender justice 50.50 newsletter Beatrice Botomani Fri, 23 Sep 2016 17:27:33 +0000 Beatrice Botomani 80862 at https://www.opendemocracy.net On freeing Kenya's pastoralist communities from discrimination https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/from-local-to-global-and-back-again <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An interview with Justine N. Leisiano on her work defending girls’, women’s and disabled people’s rights in the semi-nomadic pastoralist Samburu community.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Woman.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Woman.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="375" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Justine N. Leisiano, human rights defender and Director of RACEP.</span></span></span></span></p><p class="p1"><strong>This article is part of 50.50's</strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016"><strong> in-depth coverage</strong></a><strong> of&nbsp;the&nbsp;2016 AWID Forum&nbsp;being held on&nbsp;8th -11th September in Bahia, Brazil.</strong></p><p><span>Justine N. Leisiano was one of the first people I met at the 13</span><span>th</span><span>&nbsp;AWID International Forum, as we navigated our way to the opening plenary together. Then and over the following days we talked about her vision (the forum theme is ‘feminist futures’, after all), her work and her experiences over the past days at the forum. Her very personal experience encapsulates so much of AWID in that it is intensely local but highlights many overarching concerns of the global feminist movement.</span></p> <p>Justine, who is from Samburu County in northern Kenya, is at AWID as part of the <a href="http://www.fimi-iiwf.org/">FIMI</a> International Indigenous Women’s Forum delegation. FIMI networks Indigenous women leaders in Asia, Africa and the Americas; at the AWID Forum, alongside Indigenous women from other parts of the world, Justine took part in the FIMI-organised panel ‘Dialogue of knowledges: Indigenous women human rights defenders, working against discrimination and for the prevention of violence’. Together they shared their knowledge and experiences as human rights defenders in their communities.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>There are so many positive things about the Samburu community, explained Justine, including how they have preserved their religion and culture. I asked what specific aspects of Samburu culture were the most important to her: “there is much more of a community than you might find [elsewhere]. At the end of the day you do not each go alone to your separate houses, you gather together, maybe around the fire, and you discuss what has happened in that day. If someone has a problem, they will bring it to the whole community and the community will solve it together.”</p> <p>This is something Justine reiterated the following times we met. “[Samburu people] still carry most of their culture and tradition,” of which, she measures, “80% is good, 20% is harmful.” Of the good, “people are united, and there is the spirit of the religion which means there is no destruction of nature, we respect nature” including the animals which are integral to their livelihood, though much of this, she notes, is being threatened by climate change. In addition, “the language is still there, the way of dressing is very beautiful –” she gestured to her necklace, “– we somehow look like the Egyptians!” Justine suggested that because Samburu people have migrated over time, they may well have been in Egypt and influenced Egyptian styles. “Some of the religious practices are similar.” Indeed, Samburu history extends even further back than Ancient Egypt: “we are the birth of all humanity, everything comes from Samburu-Maasai.”</p> <p>What about the role of women in her community? “That is the harmful part.” The Samburu community is highly patriarchal, reinforced over generations; gender inequality and stereotyping are entrenched norms, influencing the socialisation of young people and their attitudes. Justine cites violence against women including female genital mutilation (FGM), early marriages and forced marriages, and points to her data which shows 50% of girls leaving school due to ‘poverty, forced marriages and [becoming orphaned].’ Meanwhile men who perpetrate violence have near impunity.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Justine is also deeply concerned about violence against people with disabilities, especially children and women. As a trained teacher with an additional diploma in teaching children with special educational needs (SEN), Justine has witnessed the conditions in which children with disabilities grow up, hidden away and, in an area where 73% of the population live below the poverty line, often lacking basics such as clothing. Infanticide is common, and Justine believes that the key to preventing this lies with women: “it is the men who kill the children, so if we can empower the mothers then they will be able to put a stop to it.”</p> <h3><strong>Community Empowerment Programme</strong><span>&nbsp;</span></h3> <p>Like me, this is Justine’s first AWID forum, though it is not her first international conference, having attended the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2015. This took place in what sounds like a packed two years in which Justine undertook a diploma in Women’s Leadership through FIMI and, with a small grant of KSh 300,000 (£2,235), set up her own organisation called Ramat Community Empowerment Programme (RACEP), provided skills training for women and mediation for schools to include girls and children with disabilities, and continued to work as a teacher – in fact, a headteacher – in a school for children with SEN.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>At the end of our first conversation, Justine gave me her business card. She described how the logo summarised the work of RACEP: pointing to the bottom left, “there is the girl child – she is wearing traditional clothes – she is not in school;” on the right, “there is the disabled child, with the mother; and all of this,” she circles the background, “is in the context of the homestead, the community.”<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/IMG_20160911_021736.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/IMG_20160911_021736.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="342" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>RACEP logo.</span></span></span></span></p><p>Justine characterises her strategy, in the hard-copy information and funding proposals she has brought to AWID, as ‘an ecological approach to the prevention of violence against women and girls.’ The ecological approach recognises that people exist within a social and structural environment and its pressures, including patriarchy. So RACEP will work in 18 public schools with 720 boys and girls as they enter adolescence to unpick their assumptions about dominant masculinity. RACEP will work closely with school leaders and train teachers from all 18 schools to run ‘gender clubs’ and a transformed social studies curriculum (the first step being a ‘gender training manual’), supported by officials from the Ministries of Education and Gender and trained young adult facilitators. Church leaders, journalists and professionals with responsibility for child protection will also be targeted.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>At the same time, Justine has plans to build an Empowerment Centre which would provide education, training and employment opportunities for local women. She envisions ‘a Kenya where pastoralist communities live free from any form of discrimination against them’ and within them, looking also to ‘the eradication of negative traditions that affects the girl child and women.’</p> <h3><strong>What next?</strong></h3> <p>As we finished our final interview and I started packing away, Justine suddenly looked at me sharply and checked, “have you noted all the challenges?” She is relentlessly positive when she talks about her work but also methodical and structured in her thinking, so the change of tone caught me off guard despite it not being out of character for her to want to check that everything is captured fairly. I hesitated, “I’ve noted the funding and resourcing” – aside from the grant which provided training and resources for a small community project to enable mothers to earn an income, RACEP has as yet received no funding. When it does, Justine will be able to reduce the time she spends at her school and pass some of those responsibilities on.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Justine considered this and nodded, “If we also had more materials that we could share with women, for example information on gender-based violence.” She looked in the direction of the AWID conference rooms, “these things exist here” and she hopes to share in the wealth of knowledge and tools produced by other women here.</p> <p>As someone who does so much, and therefore takes on a personal burden for the many aspects of the work she does, I wonder what Justine does to avoid burnout. It is an issue, alongside self-care, that has been raised every day in talks, workshops and plenaries. Justine admits that some days she worries about her school and their ability to continue; while the government ensures that children are provided with an education<em> </em>(indeed, Justine has submitted a proposal to the government to expand the school)<em> </em>it does not ensure that they are fed or that the buildings are kept up.</p> <p>“Some days I think, ‘this food is going to sustain them tomorrow, [but] what of the day after?’” When new children enrol in school (“most of the children…are still naked”) she quickly rallies support from her friends to find clothes for them. She also takes on an emotional burden to support mothers who are themselves exhausted and struggling to keep up.</p> <p>Justine visibly relaxes when she explains, “in the evening I go to my inner self and make myself very strong.” She gives herself space to think and make considered decisions about how she will get through the following day and the needs it will bring. No longer feeling overwhelmed, “I make plans then and I talk to people for food, medicine, clothing.”<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Patriarchy, violence against women, disability rights, climate change: “these things are all related” and AWID offers a chance to connect and explore similarities, tactics and tools. For Justine, the collaborative space that AWID Forum opens up is the best part of it all. “AWID has been so important for me. You have got time here to interact with so many people – to tell, listen – it has been very educative, I am learning a lot from people telling…their experiences.” It evokes for me the ‘politics of friendship’ offered in the first plenary session. “It is encouragement,” says Justine, to hear about how women have overcome similar challenges elsewhere. “We have a very bright future.”</p><p class="p1"><em>All images by&nbsp;Ché Ramsden</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p class="p1"><em>Ché Ramsden&nbsp;will be reporting daily for 50.50 from the AWID Forum.&nbsp;</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 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter gender justice Ché Ramsden Sun, 11 Sep 2016 09:48:50 +0000 Ché Ramsden 105256 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Clasificar cuerpos, negar libertades https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/ch-ramsden/clasificar-cuerpos-negar-libertades <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>La clasificación es un instrumento de opresión. Este artículo, que examina el abuso dirigido a Caster Semenya, anticipa el tema del Foro Internacional AWID (8-11 setiembre): “Integridad corporal y libertades”. <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/5050/ch-ramsden/classifying-bodies-denying-freedoms" target="_self">English</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/557099/Jasonwhat.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/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'>Museo del apartheid en Johannesburgo.Flickr / Jasonwhat. Algunos derechos reservados. </span></span></span></p><p>Yo era una adolescente cuando acompañé a mi abuela por Navidad a llevar cajas de galletas a cada uno de los primos maternos que todavía le quedaban. A pesar de que la nuestra es una familia extensa, siempre hemos estado muy unidos; así que me sorprendió que la última caja fuera para una tía que no conocía."¿Quién es Dawn?"</p> <p>"La hija de tía Evelyn". Tía Evelyn era la hermana de mi bisabuela; había una vieja fotografía de familia en el comedor de casa en la que figuraba Evelyn siendo todavía un bebé.</p> <p>"No sabía que tía Evelyn tuviera hijos."</p> <p>"Se casó con un hombre blanco, así que ellos no conocieron nunca al resto de la familia."</p> <p>Durante los siguientes veinte minutos escuché la típica historia sudafricana de una familia dividida por las clasificaciones del apartheid. Mi tía Evelyn consiguió pasar por blanca durante toda su vida adulta; vivía en un área blanca y ocultó sus antecedentes familiares a sus vecinos blancos y a sus hijos. Mientras, sus otros familiares tenían la clasificación 'de color'. &nbsp;Al presenciar el trato recibido por su hermana negra bajo el apartheid, incluyendo un traumático <a href="http://www.sahistory.org.za/article/forced-removals-south-africa">deshaucio</a>, imagino que entre las emociones que debió experimentar Evelyn había el temor a ser descubierta.</p> <p>Al parecer, a mi bisabuela de piel clara también le animaron a casarse con un hombre blanco, pero ella se enamoró de un hombre oscuro. Sus dos hijas mayores tenían la tez como su madre, pero mi abuela más oscura y su padre no visitaban a sus parientes blancos para no 'avergonzar' a mi tía Evelyn y a su marido ante sus vecinos blancos. Resulta que Dawn ni siquiera sabía de la existencia de algunos de los otros beneficiarios de nuestras cajas de galletas hasta que cumplió cincuenta años.</p> <p>Yo estaba atónita; cuando llegamos a destino entregué las galletas a mi nueva vieja tía blanca en silencio, lo cual es muy poco característico en mí. En el camino de vuelta a casa, le fui dando vueltas a la otra realidad de la familia de Evelyn. "Pero ¿los niños no hacían preguntas? Si sabían que tenían una tía y varios primos, ¿no se preguntaban acerca de tu padre y de tí y el resto de la familia? ¿No sabían donde vivíais? "</p> <p>"Bueno, seguramente pensaban que su madre no pertenecía a una familia muy unida." Pero sí: pertenecía a <em>nuestra</em> familia. Mi abuela lo resumió así: "El apartheid fue una locura."</p> <p><strong>Clasificación</strong></p> <p>Si relato esta historia es porque ilustra el hecho de que la clasificación tiene y no tiene sentido a la vez. Que la <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pencil_test_(South_Africa)">prueba del lápiz</a> sea una herramienta legítima del gobierno es indicativo de que el sistema de clasificación es algo extraño e irreal. Para muchos sudafricanos, nuestras historias y experiencias demuestran cuán arbitrarias son las fronteras raciales y, a la vez, cuán tajante es el corte y cuán profundamente se siente.</p> <p>A principios de septiembre estaré en Brasil para cubrir el <a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/">13 Foro Internacional de la Asociación para los Derechos de la Mujer y el Desarrollo (AWID)</a>. Uno de los temas generales de este foro es 'Integridad corporal y libertades' y estoy deseando participar, junto con 2.000 activistas feministas y académicas de todo el mundo, en serios debates sobre nuestras identidades y sobre las realidades vividas y experimentadas a través de nuestros cuerpos. El cuerpo sigue siendo un centro clave de conflicto de las luchas feministas, ya que son muchas las intersecciones de las clasificaciones del cuerpo humano que impactan en nuestra libertad y existencia misma.</p> <p>La clasificación es un instrumento de opresión; y la opresión, por supuesto, tiene sus raíces en el poder y no en hechos. Los sistemas de clasificación del apartheid, respaldados por una <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_racism">biología y una moral</a> corruptas, nos recuerdan que la raza es algo que se construye – una mentira social. El sistema que utilizamos para clasificar el sexo no es distinto: el sexo es un <a href="http://www.xysuz.com/what-is-intersex/">espectro</a> y, sin embargo, insistimos en una clasificación binaria. En los casos en los que a regañadientes ser acepta “intersexual”, o una tercera categoría similar, como alternativa a la clasificación hombres-mujeres, las personas intersexuales siguen sufriendo la negación de su <a href="http://ilga-europe.org/what-we-do/our-advocacy-work/trans-and-intersex/intersex/events/3rd-international-intersex-forum">derecho</a> a la autonomía y a la determinación corporal.</p> <p>De hecho, añadir 'intersexual' como tercera opción clasificatoria - en lugar de reconocer un amplio y complicado espectro que socava cualquier noción de categoría sexual - refuerza el sistema que trata de controlar y oprimir. No pude dejar de sentir que este era el caso cuando observé la intolerancia y el abuso hacia Caster Semenya al ganar la medalla de oro olímpica en los 800 metros lisos.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/PA-28431942 (1)_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="278" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Caster Semenya celebra la victoria en la final de los 800m en los Juegos Olímpicos de Río. Mike Egerton/PA Images. Todos los derechos reservados.</span></span></span></p><p>Desde que ganó el oro en el Campeonato del Mundo de 2009, el talento deportivo de Semenya ha sido objeto de especulación, acerca de si ella es demasiado masculina como para que se le permita competir contra otras mujeres. Jennifer Doyle <a href="https://thesportspectacle.com/2016/08/16/capturing-semenya/">relata</a> cómo disfrutaron los expertos con 'la emoción barata de descubrir a un raro intruso' bajo 'sus anchos hombros, su peinado, su forma de vestir, su sexualidad – su masculinidad femenina, negra y rara.’</p> <p>En 2009, sin su conocimiento (y por lo tanto sin su consentimiento), a Semenya <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/21/sports/21runner.html?scp=1&amp;sq=sex%20test%20runner&amp;st=cse">se le sometió</a> a pruebas médicas para comprobar su "elegibilidad" para competir como mujer. De nuevo sin su consentimiento, la Asociación Internacional de Federaciones de Atletismo (IAAF) confirmó públicamente que esas pruebas se estaban llevando a cabo. Posteriormente se informó que Semenya tenía 'hiperandrogenismo', es decir niveles de testosterona superiores al ‘promedio’ femenino.</p> <p>La respuesta de la IAAF fue <a href="http://www.runnersworld.com/olympics/why-the-womens-800-will-be-the-most-controversial-race-at-the-olympics">adoptar</a> un reglamento sobre el hiperandrogenismo, con el objetivo de evitar que las mujeres con altos niveles de testosterona producidos por su cuerpo de manera natural pudieran participar en competiciones, norma que fue luego <a href="http://www.tas-cas.org/en/general-information/news-detail/article/27072015-cas-suspends-the-iaaf-hyperandrogenism-regulations.html">suspendida</a> por el Tribunal de Arbitraje en 2015, tras la denuncia presentada por la velocista Dutee Chand. Así pues, Semenya pudo competir en los Juegos Olímpicos de Río sin alterar sus hormonas naturales. Pero sus competidoras, la IAAF y el Comité Olímpico Internacional <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/23/caster-semenya-olympic-spirit-iaaf-athletes-women">cuestionaron de nuevo</a> la legitimidad de que lo hiciera.</p> <p>Las preguntas sobre el género de Caster Semenya - específicamente, las que buscan reclasificar su género o poner en duda su condición de mujer –, por inocentes que parezcan, lo que hacen es reforzar las estructuras de opresión. Cuando se plantean cuestiones de "equidad" o "legitimidad", la feminidad de Semenya termina casi siempre vinculada a su color de piel.</p> <p><strong>Negrogínia</strong></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/threeathletes.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/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'>De la izquierda a la derecha, Francine Niyonsaba (Burundi), Caster Semenya (Sudáfrica), Margaret Wambui (Kenia).Jae C. Hong / PA Images. Todos los derechos reservados. </span></span></span></p><p>Cuando los detractores de Semenya se refieren a un "problema" con su participación en pruebas femeninas, siempre nos invitan a que miremos cómo es ella – recurriendo invariablemente a prejuicios raciales. Lynsey Sharp, que finalizó sexta en la prueba olímpica de 800m en Río, dijo entre lágrimas, en una <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/21/lynsey-sharp-criticises-obvious-hypoadrogenous-women-having-bein/">entrevista</a> posterior a la carrera, que "el público <em>puede ver</em> lo difícil que es" (la cursiva es mía) competir con Semenya y las otras medallistas Francine Niyonsaba y Margaret Wambui. Joanna Jozwik, que finalizó la carrera en quinto lugar, <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/olympics/rio-2016-joanna-jozwik-caster-semenya-800m-hyperandrogenism-a7203731.html?cmpid=facebook-post">insistió</a> en que las medallistas "tienen un nivel de testosterona muy alto, similar al de un hombre, y es por ello que <em>se ven cómo se ven</em> y que corren como corren" (la cursiva es mía).</p> <p>Jozwik fue todavía más explícita: "Me alegro de haber sido la primera europea, y la segunda blanca [en cruzar la línea de meta]." En otras palabras, las medallistas son negras y rápidas (aunque no batieron ningún record) - ahí radica el <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/21/lynsey-sharp-criticises-obvious-hypoadrogenous-women-having-bein/">“obvio”</a> problema de Sharp y Jozwik. Cabe señalar que Jarmilla Kratochvílová, la mujer blanca que posee el récord mundial de 800m, <a href="https://twitter.com/JJ_Bola/status/767343793251254276">no</a> ha tenido que hacer frente a especulaciones similares sobre su condición de mujer.</p> <p>Al cuestionar la elegibilidad de las medallistas para ocupar su puesto como mujeres, Sharp y Jozwik hicieron gala de un mito racista al menos tan antiguo como el colonialismo y la trata trasatlántica de esclavos: el mito de que las mujeres negras pertenecen a una categoría física distinta a la de las mujeres blancas y que sus cuerpos se adaptan mejor a la dureza del trabajo físico que el de los blancos.</p> <p>En su <a href="https://mediadiversified.org/2016/08/19/its-not-about-the-genes-stupid/">artículo</a> 'No se trata de genes, estúpido', Ahmed Olayinka Sule examina la reciente fascinación con los genes de los velocistas jamaicanos y la pseudociencia racista que la acompaña. Se trata, según él, de ‘una verión moderna del estereotipo del negro salvaje’. El racismo científico – combinado, en el caso de Semenya, con sexismo científico - sigue siendo utilizado para enmascarar y justificar la intolerancia en los Juegos Olímpicos, 80 años después de que Hitler enrojeciera de ira ante la victoria de Jesse Owens en los Juegos Olímpicos de Berlín.</p> <p>Como contraste, Olga Khazan <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/08/caster-semenya-and-the-abnormal-olympic-body/496724/">señala</a> que los ‘pies ultra flexibles de Michael Phelps... se convierten en “aletas virtuales" al nadar’ y, sin embargo, su ‘cuerpo de pez' no crea alarma alguna ni motiva acusaciones de que no debería permitírsele competir con otros hombres. Asimismo, Jennifer Doyle <a href="https://thesportspectacle.com/2016/08/16/capturing-semenya/">nos recuerda</a> que la nadadora Katie Ledecky, que compite en los 1.500m estilos, ‘se encuentra ya en el franja de tiempos de los hombres' y aunque '[sus] cualidades técnicas son mucho más espectaculares que las de Semenya', su condición de mujer nunca ha sido puesta en tela de juicio.</p> <p><strong>#CasterNoSeToca</strong></p> <p>Las acusaciones de clasificación de género errónea sólo han afectado a mujeres deportistas, especialmente cuando provienen del Sur Global. Es sorprendente que más feministas no hayan levantado la voz contra la injusta vigilancia de los cuerpos de las mujeres, aunque esto se debe probablemente a que dichos cuerpos ya se ven afectados por el racismo.</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">informa</a> que "en los Juegos Olímpicos de Londres [en 2012], cuatro atletas mujeres, todas entre los 18 a 21 años y procedentes de zonas rurales de países en vías de desarrollo, fueron señaladas por tener altos niveles de testosterona natural." Posteriormente, las cuatro mujeres se sometieron a cirugías de 'feminización'. Los “altos” niveles de testosterona de Semenya son un foco de atención, pero los hombres con niveles de testosterona más altos de lo normal no son objeto de examen.</p> <p><em>#HandsOffCaster</em> (CasterNoSeToca) comenzó a ser tendencia en los medios sociales sudafricanos al acercarse los Juegos Olímpicos, como respuesta al renovado interés en Semenya. Dados los tratamientos físicos invasivos a los que se han sometido algunas atletas mujeres, el lado físico –“¡no se toca!”- resulta muy apropiado. La privacidad y la autonomía física de Semenya ya fue invadida con anterioridad, por lo que #HandsOffCaster es también una firme advertencia: ¡basta ya! Los exámenes médicos son invasivos, lo son por partida doble cuando se realizan sin consentimiento, y lo son por partida triple cuando los resultados se filtran a los medios de comunicación y se publican.</p> <p>Para la ceremonia de clausura de los Juegos Olímpicos de 2016, cada país envió a un abanderado al centro del estadio de Maracaná en Río de Janeiro: fueron los 'héroes de los Juegos’. Caster Semenya fue elegida para llevar la bandera de Sudáfrica como heroína de su país y yo me sentí orgullosísima por ello.</p> <p>El equipo de Sudáfrica podía haber optado por su compañero Wayde van Niekerk, &nbsp;que ganó una medalla de oro y batió el récord mundial de los 400 metros lisos masculinos, pero la presencia de Semenya en esta parte de la ceremonia demostró la unidad y la fuerza del equipo sudafricano. Su propia presencia en la arena olímpica en ese momento desafió a los intolerantes que preferirían que ella no existiera, ya sea porque creen erróneamente que la homosexualidad es algo no africano, ya sea porque, al igual que la IAAF, su desinformada comprensión del sexo y del género se ve alterada por la combinación de hormonas perfectamente natural de la atleta. La gran <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/olympics/caster-semenya-controversial-abroad-a-hero-at-home-in-south-africa/article31480265/">popularidad</a> de Semenya en Sudáfrica fue sin duda la guinda de un hermoso pastel.</p> <p>Puede que el simbolismo no ofrezca una representación verdadera o incluso significativa de la realidad, pero era importante que esto ocurriera. Sirvió como recordatorio de que Sudáfrica no sólo apoya a Semenya, sino que la eleva a la categoría de heroína. Esperamos que Semenya pueda vivir la vida que nació para vivir, que pueda elegir y amar abiertamente, y competir libremente a nivel mundial junto a otras atletas.</p> <p>El éxito de Caster Semenya y el apoyo que recibió de Sudáfrica en los Juegos Olímpicos me llevan a mí también a apoyarle, lista para el foro <a href="http://www.forum.awid.org/forum16/">AWID</a> y dispuesta a participar en ‘futuros feministas’ compartidos. En nuestro camino hacia la recuperación del cuerpo en todas sus expresiones, negarse a cumplir con los estrechos y opresivos sistemas de clasificación es un paso esencial en la ruta de la liberación. El programa de AWID promete ser inclusivo y multidisciplinar y contribuir a "la construcción del poder colectivo de los derechos y la justicia '- ver <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016">aquí</a>.</p><p><strong><em>Este artículo fue publicado por primera vez en openDemocracy 50.50 como parte de la serie: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/awid-forum-2016">AWID Foro Feminista Futuros</a>: La construcción de poder colectivo de los derechos y la justicia. &nbsp;Bahía, Brasil 8-11 septiembre.&nbsp;</em></strong></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Brazil </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 DemocraciaAbierta Brazil Civil society Democracy and government Equality latin america AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Our Africa bodily autonomy feminism gender gender justice sexual identities Ché Ramsden Mon, 05 Sep 2016 15:32:49 +0000 Ché Ramsden 105120 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 Trans women and feminism: the struggle is real https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/trans-women-and-feminism-struggle-is-real <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>At the centre of the troubled relationship between trans women and feminists are the questions of who gets to be a woman and who gets to call themselves a feminist. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Starting a trans feminist movement in Africa has been a blessing and a challenge. I am saying this as a leader and a founder of </span><a href="http://transfeminists.org/">Social, Health and Empowerment Feminist Collective of Transgender Women in Africa&nbsp; </a><span>(S.H.E),&nbsp; a pioneering organisation working on trans women’s issues utilizing a feminist lens. S.H.E was founded in 2010. The reason I locate this as a blessing is merely to recognise that we are talking about trans women and feminism – an opportunity for engagement. My calling it a challenge is to denote the deeply troubling history between trans identities and feminist discourse. This discourse has never been institutionalised before, all we knew when I founded this organisation/movement was</span><strong> </strong><span>about its troubled relationship with feminism, and so taking on the role of purposefully engaging, debating and dialoguing about the issues facing transgender women, have not been favourably received, at least not by everyone.</span></p> <p>The lack of recognition of trans women’s issues as being important to the women’s and feminist movement(s) is not only purported by civil society. Donors and development agencies are a part of the problem. </p> <p><em>“I am sorry to inform you, however, that we are unable to support your efforts. As you may know, we are a grantmaking foundation that supports&nbsp;women’s groups working to advance the human rights of women&nbsp;and girls. Although your activities may be related to&nbsp;women’s issues, in light of our criteria and the large number of requests we receive, we&nbsp;must balance the limited resources that we have available against the many needs expressed by&nbsp;women&nbsp;worldwide”.&nbsp;</em> </p> <p>This paragraph is taken from a very real conversation with a donor to whom we applied for funding to support core costs in our work. Some elements of this email are indicative of the fact that trans women’s issues are not necessarily recognised as women’s issues – <em>“Although your activities may be related to women’s issues, in light of our criteria and the large number of requests we receive, we must balance the limited resources that we have available against the many needs expressed by women worldwide”. </em>This generic statement is probably one that the donor uses to respond to many applications for funding, but should never be one used to decline a funding application from the trans women led organisation. Essentially, when the funder responded saying that our issues are related to women’s issues, to us, that meant that our issues are not “real” i.e. cisgender women’s issues, and therefore the funding applications from “<em>women”</em> are more legitimate to receive funding. We acknowledge that our interpretation is just one of a number of interpretations that could possibly come from this statement. </p> <p>In starting to challenge transphobia and hateful rhetoric in feminist discourse, we took the road less travelled<strong>. </strong>&nbsp;Following very directly from and closely related to the tension described above,&nbsp; I wish to venture into a fierce debate on who gets to be a woman, and who gets to call themselves a feminist. I think this sentiment is the centre of the troubled relationship between trans women and feminists – it is all centred on trans women’s courage to call themselves women, even in a very hetero-patriarchal society. </p> <p>Cisgender feminists’ argument in favour of the exclusion of trans women from women only spaces has always employed body politics as a tactic to justify their exclusion. This is evident in the famous picture of lesbian feminist activist Cathy Brennan holding a picture that says: “sorry about your dick”, Germaine Greer reducing trans women’s gender experience to the requirement of having a “smelly hairy vagina” as a mark of womanhood. In sharp contradiction to this, Sheila Jeffreys asserts that: “The newly carved out orifices of male bodied transgender people do not resemble vaginas; they create new microbial habitats in which infections develop and cause serious smell issues for their owners”, ultimately reducing trans women’s experience of gender affirmation to the attainment of a “surgical fuckhole” according to Jeffreys.</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/cathy-brennan-tweet.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/cathy-brennan-tweet.jpg" alt="" title="" width="300" height="201" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lesbian feminist activist Cathy Brennan holding a an image saying "sorry about your dick" . Credit: avoiceformen.com</span></span></span></p><p>The irony of claims made by feminists such as Germaine Greer, Sheila Jeffreys and Mary Daly, to name a few, about womanhood being defined by being born and raised a woman as being a prerequisite for femininity, is that in African society a feminine “boy” suffers so much more oppression than any cisgender girl – a statement I am making by first hand experience. </p> <p>Being forcefully male acculturated in a hyper masculine patriarchal society is one of the worst life experiences – there are no benefits or privileges from being raised as a trans woman in African society. </p> <p>I really also want to stray from using oppression as a framework to define womanhood because it is offers a severely limited definition of womanhood, and it is largely contextual. I always say to people that I understand my oppression throughout my life in two ways: the oppression of being a feminine boy growing up and the oppression of just identifying and “passing” as a woman in South Africa, a country with a well documented history and current context of violence against women. </p> <p>Unlike my white trans woman counterparts, I grew up during the apartheid struggle, with no internet, so I went through life just believing that I needed to be a woman in my entirety, no encouragement or support – being transgender is not looked upon favourably in most African societies, and I have lived through a lot of hypocrisy – not being good enough to be a girl in everyday society but good enough to style everyone’s hair, clean their houses, and raise their children. All of these issues having meaning with regards to my position in society. Not taking away from any woman’s experience but basing the definition of womanhood on being born and raised as a woman is a severe limitation on the definition of womanhood, and it should never be used to justify any form or shape of exclusion. </p> <p>Violence against trans women is pervasive, particularly against trans women of colour. Violence against trans women is institutionalised – from the family to the medical establishment, to incarceration. &nbsp;A trans woman in Zimbabwe was <a href="http://planettransgender.com/zimbabwe-trans-woman-arrested-stripped-by-police-for-using-the-ladies-room/">arrested for using a female bathroom</a>.<strong> </strong>&nbsp;A trans woman from Uganda was attacked and <a href="http://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20151118_beyonce">severely beaten</a> for being seen as the “face of homosexuality” in Uganda.&nbsp; A trans woman in Cape Town was <a href="http://www.thenewage.co.za/trans-woman-murdered/">killed</a> for being herself.<em> <br /></em></p> <p>Sadly, these women’s experiences will not make it into country reports submitted to United Nations agencies because they are not seen as “women’s issues”. There is very little programming to address the violence targeting transgender women because there is just not enough funding going to trans women led organisations.</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/IMG00393-20130307-1526(1) (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/IMG00393-20130307-1526(1) (1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>There are a number of further issues I want to emphasise, the first being that trans women’s health issues have been severely misplaced through research and programmatic efforts of the ‘men having sex with other men’ approach<em>.</em> Health initiatives, including research efforts, that seek to enrol trans women should be respectful and culturally appropriate enough to at least afford trans women the right to self determination. </p> <p>Data collection efforts on women’s health issues should be inclusive of trans women and the health disparities that they face. Data collection on women in their diversity is very much a feminist issue. </p> <p>There is acknowledgement that the debate on who is a woman is ongoing, but it would be refreshing if mainstream feminism started moving away from body and gender policing as a strategy to justify the exclusion of trans women from feminist and women’s only spaces. I am hopeful that we can work towards the imagination of an inclusive feminism. The time is ripe for the creation of a safer feminism underpinned by inclusivity. </p> <p>This article is written very much from the perspective of a trans woman who leans toward the gender binary and was never meant to capture the complexities of gender non-conforming people in feminist discourse. However, I would like to imagine that gender non conforming folk experience their own complexities, struggles and controversies with/in feminist movement(s). </p> <p>As stated in the <a href="http://tsq.dukejournals.org/content/3/1-2/272.extract">African Trans Feminist Charter</a>, as trans women we see no division in the issues affecting ALL women including abortion, sex work, maternal and child health, and a number of other issues. These are all women’s issues, trans and cis women alike. </p> <p>In my travel to the 2016 AWID Forum next week, we ask of other feminist and women’s movements to engage with us in building collective power for all women <em>- </em>a truly inclusive women's movement that is mindful of the issues facing trans women, including but not limited to health, social and economic justice and reform. </p> <p><em>L.Leigh Ann van de Merwe will be speaking at the forthcoming 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/ray-filar/questioning-imperative-to-be-gendered">Questioning the imperative to be gendered</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Our Africa temp 50.50 Editor's Pick sexual identities gender justice gender feminism bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter L. Leigh Ann van der Merwe Fri, 02 Sep 2016 07:13:58 +0000 L. Leigh Ann van der Merwe 104990 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Stay Woke: sustaining feminist organising in an uncertain world https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/awono-okech/stay-woke-sustaining-feminist-organising-in-uncertain-world <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Autonomous feminist spaces must be guarded jealously. They are an important lifeline for feminists to re-charge and breath in a world that remains hostile to women’s freedom. We must stay woke.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CSL2ceuUAAENOKC_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/CSL2ceuUAAENOKC_0.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'>Women march #FeesMustFall, South Africa. Photo: zelamartin.com</span></span></span></p><p>Take ten! Every time I have confronted an empty page on my computer in my struggle to write this article, it is due to a battle with the recurrent thought that <em>there is nothing new to be said about the challenges confronting feminist movements today. </em>Whether in Africa, Asia or Europe, if asked what are the three challenges feminists face in their contexts, they would without a doubt raise: the shrinking financial base for feminist organizing; the increasing closure of space for social justice mobilization accompanied by enhanced state surveillance; the resurgence of right wing groups and religious fundamentalisms - whether they are Muslim extremists, occupation forces, or prosperity churches flourishing across many African countries. Granted, specific issues such as violence, access to basic services such as water, food, electricity and reproductive health care, plus adequate infrastructure, access to efficient and effective justice systems and jobs would also emerge. However, the linkages between the absence of these basic freedoms to what are deemed the main challenges are clear. </p><p>In addition, a long-term historical view also leads to the conclusion that what we see today are manifestations of “old” problems. The tactics may have changed in a new and evolving global environment, which means that the tools available to patriarchy have become more sophisticated even if the message has remained basic at its root - maintain male supremacy and the structures that allow that. The paper would be done. It would also be corroborated by existing reviews on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/ndana-bofu-tawamba/awake-to-challenge-african-women&#039;s-leadership-at-beijing20">Beijing Plus 20</a> and the ubiquitous <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/owg.html">Sustainable Development Goals</a> conducted by frontline women’s rights organisations that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/lyric-thompson/girls-speaking-truth-to-power-at-un-global-2030-agenda">tirelessly lobby</a> their governments for shifts on women’s rights in Addis Ababa (African Union), New York (United Nations) and their various capitals. Whilst recognising the specificity of contexts and historical dynamics that shape feminist organizing, at the root of my analysis is that the challenges feminist movements, organisations and activists face in their respective countries, cannot be disconnected from global discourses.</p> <p><strong>Security, the state and extremism <br /></strong></p> <p>First, these global discourses are increasingly framed by securitization, which gives license for greater state intrusion into citizen’s lives. As governments coral citizens around the notion of securing them from the now ubiquitous threat of diverse reincarnations of Al Qaeda, women are mobilized as mothers to contribute to de-radicalising young men. Consequently, the spaces occupied by women are re-written through public narratives that re-assert conservative performances of hetero-normativity – hunter/gatherer, security/nurture models. As national investments towards security increase, remaining stagnant or non-existent are the resources necessary to address daily security threats that women face, specifically, violence in the public and domestic sphere. The absence of adequate infrastructure, human resources and a commitment to seeing change for women’s security remains. This occurs even though intellectual conversations have since expanded to recognize <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Human-Security-implications-Routledge-International/dp/0415473381">human security as a useful framework</a> in as far as it recognizes that the threats that citizens face today are not only always externally generated, but are also informed by governments actions. </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/BnrvMUSCYAAyM6E.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/BnrvMUSCYAAyM6E.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Marching in Kenya 2015. Photo: FEMNET</span></span></span></p> <p>In the context of securitized discourses, challenging extremism has become a metaphor in some contexts for opposition and dissenting voices. In 2013, after the <a href="http://issat.dcaf.ch/Share/Blogs/African-Security-Sector-Network/Beyond-Westgate-Security-and-Accountability-in-Kenya">massacre of people at Westgate</a> in Nairobi by individuals allied to Al Shabaab, I travelled to Burundi on a work assignment. On arrival in Bujumbura, I observed the heightened security measures at the airport and remarked to my host that I was curious about the factors that had led to this. My host remarked that a week before our arrival a group of about 100 people had been rounded up as suspected Al Shabaab members. In the larger scheme of states that are considered to be at threat of Al Shabaab attacks, Burundi ranks low, despite its large troop-contributing role in the African Union Mission to Somali. It turns out the 100 suspected terrorists were individuals that were challenging the incumbent’s regime. It is no surprise therefore that Burundi imploded in 2015, despite existing internal warning around the nature of statecraft. Countering extremism has stalled, sometimes unsuccessfully, conversations about the national project as is evident in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Kenya and Egypt. The threat of “external forces” is used to mask internal problems that provide the basis for often broadening national disgruntlement. In all these instances women, their bodies, their autonomy is positioned as central to either re-claiming the national project through controls over their reproductive and productive capacities or through violence to discipline any attempts at subversion and reclamation of hard won freedoms. </p> <p><strong>The forces of capital <br /></strong></p> <p>Second, the forces of global capital have led to increasing, if not an overwhelming interest by “big business” in women as under-served and therefore a “constituency” that must be captured. Inequality and its resolution are constructed as the need for investments making cents. “Womenomics” is based on women’s value to communities, which basically translates to women share wealth. Coca Cola Foundation among others shore up data to support this assertion through <a href="http://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/5by20/infographic-unleashing-the-economic-potential-of-us-women-entrepreneurs">statements</a> such as these: “women invest 90% of their wealth into family and communities” or if “US businesses were their own country they would be the 5th largest GDP in the world”.&nbsp; “Women as the next economic frontier” is informed by the need to decrease economic dependency by the global South on larger economic blocs. “Developing countries” need to be self-sustaining, which requires all hands on deck. Business interest in women is not intended to deal directly with the power structures that isolate women in their diversity. The costs of women giving back, or cushioning societies where states and social protection systems fail or are absent, are not a focus of this model. In fact, it proceeds from the assumption that “women giving back” is natural and is how we are wired, and it is on that basis that investments are made. It takes the path of least resistance: money, economic empowerment and business catalyse financial growth within the powerful systems that foster inequality. It is also worth noting that while there is more money targeted at women generally, the money available to women’s movements comprehensively addressing gender inequalities is shrinking. &nbsp;There is a discernible pattern in the ways in which US money is being managed. Money is channelled to businesses, subsidiary organisations and mentors associated with the pledging organization. </p> <p>Third, contemporary feminist organizing has to confront erasure. The kind of erasure that allows Barrack Obama’s “you cannot play with half your team on the bench”, which is phrase from a speech made in Kenya in 2015 to become the go to quote to explain inequality. The <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/linda-burnham/1-feminism">erasure</a> that makes <em>Lean In</em> the most important reference book for understanding the meaning of success despite its glaring assumptions about how race, class, age, geography determine the basic guidelines of how we should lean in. The erasure that makes TED talks read as more accessible, so simple, so clear, whilst muting feminist histories, knowledge building in academic spaces, in participatory research groups, through our organizing, documentation projects and oral herstory initiatives that have foregrounded the nature of patriarchy. That the intransigence of patriarchy is reliant on the simplicity of its message is well known to feminists. However, the erasure project packaged as “simplify your message”, “build better alliances”, wants us to believe that dismantling patriarchy is not about disentangling visible and invisible networks that operate within institutions, language, codes, discourses, hidden and covert messages. Yet we know, this is what it is about. This work is hard, it is draining, it is soul breaking and it is never simple. This work requires theory building and grounding movement work in theory, which in the feminist universe has never been disconnected from our lives and our work. It is work that cannot be reduced to lean in, engage men, cost violence and big data. </p> <p>Having recognized the ways in which these three factors influence our movements, I conclude that it is in contexts in which there is regression, closure and even fatigue that the most powerful forms of resistance arise. I would like to highlight some of the insights I took away from watching university students in South Africa fight for the right of the black majority to have quality education. I believe there are important theoretical, mobilization lessons despite the complexities that are bound to be present given context and history.</p><p><strong>#</strong><strong>FeesMustFall</strong></p><p>On 9th March 2015 what is now known as the #RhodesMustFall protest movement begun at my former alma mater, the University of Cape Town (UCT). Led by the black student community, the one-month protest presented a set of demands to the university administration that were symbolically represented in the demand for the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes. Cecil Rhodes was a British imperialist whose views around capital, labour and land, led to the disenfranchisement of the Black population in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe as he led the accumulation of vast diamond resources at the expense of the local populace. </p> <p>Substantively, the student’s demands were framed by a historical and structural analysis of the nature of higher education specifically and education generally in South Africa. In this regard, racialised and exclusionary university systems are reflective of and expand exclusionary practices that affect the black majority in South Africa. These energies percolated across South Africa in 2015, crystallizing in the collective call (#Open Stellenbosch, #DecoloniseRhodes) for free, decolonised and therefore equitable access to education through the #Fees Must Fall movement. Inevitably, the business models of running institutions of higher learning and by extension the service conditions of workers became key areas of interrogation. The Fees Must Fall movement re-centred a decade old <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Mama%2C+Amina.+2003.+%E2%80%9CRestore%2C+Reform+but+do+not+transform%3A+The+Gender+Politics+of+Higher+Education+in+Africa%E2%80%9D.+JHEA%2FRESA+Vol.+1+(1)+pp.+101%E2%80%93125%3B+Ajayi%2C+J.%2C+Goma%2C+L.+%26+Ampah+Johnson%2C+G.+(Eds.).+(1996).+The+African+Experience+with+Higher+Education.+Oxford%3A+James+Currey%3B+Accra%3A+Association+of+African+Universities.&amp;ie=utf-8&amp;oe=utf-8&amp;client=firefox-b&amp;gfe_rd=cr&amp;ei=MSCzV6eIEsnv8Ae2qoG4CA">debate</a> about the state of higher education specifically and education generally in Africa. If education and a sufficiently skilled and educated populace are deemed as drivers of socio-economic and political growth in Africa, then <a href="http://eppi.ioe.ac.uk/cms/Default.aspx?tabid=3345">resolving the massive exodus of young people</a> to institutions of higher learning in the Global North and subsequent skilled labour must be resolved. At the heart of these conversations is a return to the circumstances that informed the decay of higher education in Africa – the Structural Adjustment Programmes proposed by the World Bank in the 1990’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/501857/2(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/2(1).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The women of #FeesMustFall, South Africa. Photo: zelamartin.com via Mpho Mahlakametsa (Twitter)</span></span></span></p> <p>Much like the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, the energies emerging from #FeesMustFall reflect the crisis of public resource distribution to basic public goods, whether it is education, health or the social contract (governing) and concomitant accountability to the citizens. The diversity of engagement strategies adopted by citizens to hold states accountable even in difficult and dangerous circumstances is a clear illustration of organizing despite the state on the one hand and the role of technology in connecting issues and actors across the globe on the other hand. It also points to the evolution of organizing from one that focused on formal, registered entities to sporadic, issue based, multi-generational mobilization. However, there are three things important things to note from these movements. First, is the power and resurgence of youth mobilization; second, the intersectional and structural nature of the analysis that #FeesMustFall (FMF) organisers in particular brought to their work and finally the intransigence of patriarchy. </p> <p>First, the idea that young people in Africa are apolitical and disinterested in shifting the ways in which <em>real politik</em> is conducted has been dismantled. &nbsp;FMF in particular illustrated young women playing frontline roles in leading, mobilizing and occupying space. It brought to the fore the importance of freedom as currency. For young women specifically and women generally, the notion of freedom is critical to defining their interaction with formal power, since the lack of it limits the possibilities for access. Young women tend to move out of the youth bracket faster than their male counterparts of the same age and same marital status who continue to <a href="http://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?paperID=69170">negotiate youth-hood</a> despite marriage. The burden of household responsibilities, marriage and children often allocated to young women restricts women’s mobility. The lack of mobility limits young women’s networks and resultant social capital. These are the vectors of freedom I am referring to, diverse forms of freedoms that allow women to access spaces that are consistently re-constructed to exclude them. Second, the women involved in FMF were consistent in their insistence in protecting freedom FMF was the consistent in calling out sexism, homophobia and hetero-patriarchy when it reared its face including the efforts to erase women’s leadership. Being present to the moment of exclusion and making it visible was also a factor of the ways in which technology was deployed and the ability for alliances to be built across the continent on the matter. Finally, whilst recognising the difficulties that are bound to exist within political organising, watching FMF from afar drove home the meaning of being an ally to a movement. As a movement started by students and later working in solidarity with contract workers, the students were clear that they were the voices and everyone else needed to be in solidarity with and not become voices for their organising. By understanding young women as political actors, discourses on the nature of society in its broadest and most specific terms are opened up. Critically these uprisings have pointed to the fact that acute under-representation or inactive participation of youth (in their gender and class diversity) in formal decision-making institutions and processes (other than voting) form the basis of systemic contradictions that spur youth movements. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>#FeesMustFall. South Africa. Photo: zelamartin.com via Pam Dlamini</span></span></span></p> <p>It is in the context of resisting the erasure of labour, bodies and thought that violence emerges as a tool to discipline women. For FMF, these were moves emerging within the movement and not necessarily by state agents as occurred with the virginity tests on women at Tahrir Square. Violence from within or without has the net effect of curtailing women’s public participation and subverting women’s agency through persistent sexual harassment. Nadia Taher <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nadia-taher/we-are-not-women-we-are-egyptians-spaces-of-protest-and-representation">writing</a> on Egypt observes the impact of these tactics through a shift in the language deployed by women during later protests at the height of Mohamed Morsi’s tenure. “Women as mothers, daughters and sisters” became safer, culturally acceptable identities that would legitimize women occupying public political space and making demands for change alongside others. </p> <p>It therefore follows, and this is my final point, that when so called progressive spaces stifle opportunities to truly dismantle patriarchy but instead sustain and propagate structural oppression; the importance of autonomous feminist spaces cannot be over stated. They are an important lifeline for feminists to re-charge and breath in a world that remains hostile to women’s freedom. Autonomous feminist spaces must be guarded jealously. We must stay woke. </p> <p><em>Awino Okech will be speaking at the forthcoming 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/ch-ramsden/south-africa-white-fear-back-anger-and-student-protests">South Africa: white fear, black anger and student protests</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lyric-thompson/girls-speaking-truth-to-power-at-un-global-2030-agenda">Girls speaking truth to power at the UN: the global 2030 Agenda </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/anne-marie-goetz-joanne-sandler/women%27s-rights-have-no-country">Women&#039;s rights have no country</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/capitalisms-bright-third-billion-future">Capitalism&#039;s bright &#039;Third Billion&#039; future? 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More holistic, rights-based policies are required.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/MaasaiTraditionalBirthAttendants.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/MaasaiTraditionalBirthAttendants.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Meeting with Maasai traditional birth attendants. Photo: Bernard Paul Muyanda. ACORD</span></span></span></p> <p>Pastoralist women in many parts of Africa, including <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2989/16085906.2016.1148060">Northeast</a> Africa and <a href="http://journals.lww.com/jaids/Fulltext/2009/06012/251_Migration,_Pastoralists,_HIV_Infection_and.156.aspx">Nigeria</a>, face many cultural practices which increase their vulnerability to HIV. At the current International AIDS Conference in <a href="http://www.aids2016.org/">Durban</a>, despite it taking place on the same continent, there are no sessions or abstracts listed in relation to pastoralists at all. I would love to be there to raise awareness of pastoralist women’s rights myself, but with no funds available to travel, register or stay there, I am glad to be able to write about some of the issues they face here.</p><p>In Tanzania, the Maasai, Sonjo, Hadzabe and Mang’ati people number about <a href="http://catalog.ihsn.org/index.php/catalog/4618">170,000</a>, 51% of whom are female, living across 14,000 km. Whilst seeking to preserve their culture despite modern world pressures, they still embrace a system that denies most women and girls basic human rights. Lack of inheritance rights leave widows and their children very vulnerable when a man dies. In addition, pastoralist women lack access to political power or representation and frequently have development policies imposed upon them. </p> <p>Tanzania has a 4.7% adult HIV prevalence rate, with 60% of the 1.3 million adults being women. Traditional practices which can increase HIV transmission include polygamy; female genital mutilation with un-sterile instruments; home-based childbirth with traditional birth attendants (TBAs) who are unskilled in modern sterile practices; early and forced marriages by older men where a young girl has no chance to say no to unprotected sex.&nbsp;Traditionally, girls do not attend school because they marry soon after their 12th&nbsp;birthday, despite primary education in Tanzania being compulsory and both primary and secondary education being free.&nbsp; </p> <p>These cultural <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3830632/">practices</a>, gender inequalities and inadequate knowledge for most women – and men - about sexual and reproductive health (SRH) issues and HIV transmission limit their decision-making abilities regarding when to have sex, whether or not to use a condom or other contraceptive methods, whether or not to get pregnant, and whether or not to get tested for HIV or other STIs. </p> <p>Deprived of rights to access basic needs such as healthcare, or a balanced diet, women are also particularly vulnerable to domestic violence, as their fragile socio-economic systems worsen. Furthermore, men and women face different challenges in living with HIV and AIDS, in access to health and support services, and with regard to stigma attached to the epidemic. Women have much less time and much less opportunity than men to access services. </p> <p>Whilst laws do <a href="http://www.lexadin.nl/wlg/legis/nofr/oeur/lxwetan.htm">exist</a> to prevent violation of women’s and children’s rights, their enforcement especially in Ngorongoro District is problematic. For example, whilst female genital mutilation and early FGM and ECM are illegal, pastoral communities still practise them in ceremonies involving long periods of preparations, huge numbers of girls, and traditional leaders and local community members. So HIV transmission through these routes continues. </p> <p>To be effective, HIV and SRH services have to be accessible for all. Although public health facilities are free, such services are often underutilized and not available in all facilities. Other factors also affect SRH services, including demographic, economic, social and cultural dynamics, power relations and gender inequity, discrimination, sexual and domestic violence among others. For example, most public SRH programmes have focused uniquely on maternal and child health, but have left out other important populations including men, adolescents, and women who are not pregnant or mothers. These services have also focused more on the health facility level and have largely ignored other critical socio-cultural and economic barriers to accessing SRH information and services, such as women’s ability to buy condoms or negotiate their use. </p> <p>Health providers, particularly those providing SRH and HIV services, have not been trained to interact with the community groups in a way that takes into account the traditional cultural taboos facing women and adolescent girls, people with disabilities and women heads of households - or the newer taboos of stigma and discrimination facing people living with HIV. Thus the education they provide is not tailored to meet their needs, realities and concerns. </p> <p>For example, although the government of Tanzania is encouraging all women to have their babies at health facilities, in Ngorongoro almost 60% of births still occur at home with support from traditional birth attendants owing to long distances and other cultural, reasons and much work is needed to strengthen their skills and knowledge about how to protect everyone from HIV, while assisting women in home delivery. For instance, some birth attendants who are in high demand may have been diagnosed with HIV themselves, but are still having to conduct home deliveries without access to appropriate protective skills or equipment. </p> <p>Meanwhile, most women, adolescent girls and young mothers have insufficient information on peri-natal transmission of HIV and safe motherhood. Only 38% of women with HIV who are on anti-retroviral treatment (ART) reported that their clinic discussed family planning with <a href="http://www.acordinternational.org/acord/en/our-work/where/tanzania/reaching-the-poorly-served/">them</a>. &nbsp;Available contraceptive prevalence data indicated a rate far below the national average. Women usually seek contraceptive advice from their husbands - who often know nothing and instead may mislead and prohibit its use. There is thus a great need to empower women to make informed choices about their SRH, giving them more autonomy and greater confidence to engage with structures and institutions that are critical to ensuring equitable access to services. </p> <p>Much has been done to prevent and respond to SGBV issues within the district through key duty bearers, including police, judiciary, frontline health workers, police, members of human rights organizations, religious leaders, traditional leaders, media representatives, women councilors and local leaders. They have jointly developed a working group, work plan and terms of reference for their network. Yet much is still needed, to involve male community leaders to gain trust and motivate community members, including men who are the key perpetrators, strengthening the capacity of the SGBV district network members and increasing community awareness. </p> <p>Reducing vulnerability to SGBV and HIV and mitigating their effect raises many challenges that require linkages with interventions on gender and livelihoods, while promoting integration of SRH services and HIV, to ensure universality of information and services. </p> <p>This requires investment in the socio-economic development of women, men, children, household and communities at large. Decisions to invest in them should thus be taken by policy makers who are responsible for socio-economic development and not only by those responsible for health.&nbsp; The mainstreaming of SRH and HIV into development programming, centered specifically on the nomadic lifestyle and culture of these pastoralist communities, is critical in enhancing their access to human rights. </p> <p>Due to stigma attached to adolescent sexuality, there have also been pockets of opposition to youth access to SRH information and services, for fear of promoting promiscuity. Yet I believe young people are the potential agents of change; they need better information for their SRH, and skills to embrace their own local culture and to change what hurts them (domestic violence, FGM, early and forced marriages). Much has been done which is stimulating great debate about cultural practices among youth groups. There is great need for supporting and engaging the young generation as agents for change, in particular by supporting school-based and out-of-school programmes on SRH, human rights, SGBV and HIV/AIDS. </p> <p>In addressing cultural and gender barriers to accessing to SRH, it is of paramount importance to support training programmes such as <em><a href="http://steppingstonesfeedback.org/index.php/page/Resources/gb?resourceid=85">Stepping Stones</a></em> which uses a holistic rights-based approach. The training will work specifically with traditional structures and traditional leaders (both male and female), as well as with service providers. These include birth attendants, ngarimuratanyi who practise female genital mutilation, women and male elders, community volunteers, as well as health workers, youth workers and teachers, and ‘SGBV value chain actors’. This process will enable us to identify. Once sensitive social and cultural practices are identified, we can then develop a dialogue for action on which practices should be modified or changed in order to reduce vulnerability to HIV and other SRH issues; on how to change attitudes towards women’s rights; and ultimately on how to tackle the cultural barriers to accessing better tailored HIV services. </p> <p><em>Read more articles articles on our platform:</em><strong> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-aids-gender-and-human-rights">AIDS, Gender and Human Rights</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/hivaids-and-holistic-healthcare-can-spirituality-and-science-meet">HIV, AIDS and holistic healthcare: can spirituality and science meet?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ida-susser-zena-stein/bioinsecurity-and-hivaids">Bio-insecurity and HIV/AIDS </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/hajjarah-nagadya/aids-targets-fear-factor">AIDS targets: the fear factor </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ending-HIV-ideology-vs-evidence-at-UN">Ending HIV: ideology vs evidence at the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marama-pala/nobody-left-behind-lives-of-indigenous-women-with-hiv">Nobody Left Behind? The lives of indigenous women with HIV</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/hajjarah-nagadya/uganda-social-impact-of-hiv-criminal-law-0">Uganda: the social impact of HIV criminal law</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sindi-putri/indonesia-facing-life-with-hiv">Indonesia: facing life with HIV </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn/accepted-mishaps-faith-healing-hiv-and-aids-responses">Accepted mishaps? Faith healing, HIV and AIDS responses</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anonymous/hiv-homophobia-and-historical-regression-where-next-for-uganda">HIV, homophobia and historical regression: where next for Uganda?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/susana-t-fried-alice-welbourn/confinement-of-eve-resolving-ebola-zika-and-hiv-with-women-s-bodi">The confinement of Eve: resolving Ebola, Zika and HIV with women’s bodies?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/hiv-witnessing-realisation-of-raw-human-rights">HIV: witnessing the realisation of raw human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nell-osborne/against-coerced-sterilisation-resounding-victory-in-namibia">Against coerced sterilisation: a resounding victory in Namibia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/susan-paxton/positive-and-pregnant-in-asia-how-dare-you">Positive and pregnant in Asia - How dare you</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tanzania </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Tanzania 50.50 AIDS, Gender and Human Rights 50.50 Our Africa women's health gendered poverty 50.50 newsletter Glory Mlaki Tue, 19 Jul 2016 08:27:33 +0000 Glory Mlaki 103967 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Oscar Pistorius: shooting to kill https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/oscar-pistorius-shooting-to-kill <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Can a white man be morally absolved if it is decided that he meant to shoot an ‘imaginary black intruder’ rather than his girlfriend? Apartheid and patriarchy underpin Pistorius' trial. Part one. Part <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/oscar-pistorius-south-african-story">two</a>. Part <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/reeva-steenkamp-justice">three</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This is the first article in a three-part series by Ché Ramsden exploring feminist issues surrounding the Pistorius trial, how they intersect and their implications in a South African context. Read <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/oscar-pistorius-south-african-story">part two</a>. Read part <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/reeva-steenkamp-justice">three</a>. The series was first</em> <em>published at the time of the original trial, and is republished here as Pistorius is sentenced to six years in prison for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp following the prosecution's appeal to the Supreme Court to re-examine the first verdict in which Pistorius was found guilty of manslaughter.</em></p><p>In 2012, amputee sprinter and Paralympic gold medallist Oscar Pistorius <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/18911479">made history</a> by competing at the Olympics. Six months later he was dominating headlines again following his arrest for shooting his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, who died at the athlete’s home on Valentine’s Day 2013. The state prosecution and Pistorius’s defence lawyers spent a year analysing evidence and constructing cases which have been presented over the past three weeks in a murder trial with unprecedented media coverage (which prompted a <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/oscar-pistorius/10660023/Oscar-Pistorius-trial-to-be-broadcast-on-TV-rules-South-African-judge.html">trial</a> of its own before Pistorius’s trial began).</p> <p>A morbid public fascination with the trial has it functioning as a reality show in part, with cameras installed into the courtroom to allow for television broadcast alongside constant <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/oscar-pistorius/10660023/Oscar-Pistorius-trial-to-be-broadcast-on-TV-rules-South-African-judge.html">live audio broadcast</a>, and the gallery satiated with technology-armed <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/oscar-pistorius-trial-case-turns-into-a-bizarre-safari-following-the-tracks-of-a-wounded-lion-9177409.html">press</a>. Pistorius, of course, was a celebrity prior to the start of the trial, hence some of the fascination which focuses on an <a href="http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/simpson/simpson.htm">OJ-style</a> suspense story: will the famous athlete, seemingly against all the evidence, be cleared of murdering his partner? Pistorius has admitted killing Steenkamp, but claims that she was not his intended target.</p> <p>Rather, Margie Orford <a href="http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/simpson/simpson.htm">locates</a> an ‘imaginary black stranger’ at the heart of the defence case, which has positioned itself so that the trial hinges on whether or not it is ‘reasonable’ to have suspected an intruder assumed capable of such violence that it is, in turn, reasonable to shoot through a closed door at close range in self-defence. The prosecution, on the other hand, argues that Pistorius deliberately killed his girlfriend in an act of domestic violence. Yet in both depictions of Pistorius, he is capable of shooting to kill; I would argue that this places him within a context of violence perpetrated by the socially powerful, and links the cases of the prosecutors and his defence.</p> <p><strong>The case of the invisible intruder</strong></p> <p>Crime is high in South Africa. Though you are at more personal risk from someone you <a href="https://africacheck.org/factsheets/a-guide-to-crime-statistics-in-south-africa-what-you-need-to-know/">know</a>, there were <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2013/02/23/world/africa/south-africa-gun-violence/index.html?iid=article_sidebar">16,766</a> reported break-ins in 2012 and, according to the South African Police Service, residential burglary increased by over <a href="http://www.saps.gov.za/resource_centre/publications/statistics/crimestats/2013/downloads/crime_statistics_presentation.pdf">3%</a> from 2012-13. As a result, middle-class South Africans sleep beside panic buttons, lock car doors before driving out of the garage, skip red lights at night, and live behind security sensors, burglar bars, spiked high gates, with outside walls advertising alarm systems to deter would-be intruders. <a href="http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/south-africa">4%</a> of South Africans legally keep guns in the house. (And the problem with guns in the home – legal or not – is that that gun-related killing or injury is more<a href="http://www.news-medical.net/news/20100204/Guns-in-homes-can-increase-risk-of-death-and-firearm-related-violence.aspx"> likely</a> than if there were no gun in the house.) Pistorius’s defence is believable because the ‘imaginary black intruder’ is, indeed, at the centre of the middle-class South African imagination – the crime rate is high, and so is the fear.</p> <p>Pistorius lived in the midst of a high-security estate which had no history of robbery, although ironically the <a href="http://www.news-medical.net/news/20100204/Guns-in-homes-can-increase-risk-of-death-and-firearm-related-violence.aspx">motivation</a> to live in these complexes is excessive and continued fear of one. It is telling that his neighbours’ instinct was to <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/1220546/pistorius-trial-reeva-couldnt-have-screamed">telephone</a> &nbsp;the security company, <a href="https://twitter.com/SmithInAfrica/status/440829477187096576?refsrc=email">worried</a> about their own house being invaded by the intruder they assumed to be attacking their neighbours, rather than telephoning the police to report a suspected crime next door. In this context, a man who might assume his girlfriend has been abducted rather than suspecting she has taken herself to the bathroom, someone too afraid to make a sound before shooting in case he is shot first, become believable scenarios. A trigger-happy tragedy is a credible result of the incessant fear which drives people to barricade themselves in and seemingly value their property more highly than human life, on the assumption that some intruder also values their property more than their lives. This is what makes Oscar Pistorius’s defence so frightening: to those of us who witness (and partake in) middle-class South African paranoia, it is plausible.</p> <p>South Africa is notorious for its high crime rate. Yet amidst the fear surrounding the imagined intruder, we are at risk of ignoring the fact that women are more at risk from the men they do know – particularly their partners. Imaginary foes are not the threat; domestic violence is a very real and widespread phenomenon and, statistically speaking, a ‘reasonable’ explanation for Reeva Steenkamp’s death.</p> <p><strong>We need to talk about domestic violence</strong></p> <p>With at least <a href="http://allafrica.com/stories/201203271076.html">60,000</a> women and children victims of domestic violence every month, the World Health Organisation reports that South Africa has the highest incidence of domestic violence in the world. According to 2009 statistics, <a href="http://www.mrc.ac.za/policybriefs/everyeighthours.pdf">every 8 hours</a> in an act of ‘intimate femicide’ an ordinary South African woman is killed by her partner; in 17.4% of these cases her death is gun-related.</p> <p>Despite its name (and Reeva Steenkamp’s location when she was killed), domestic violence is not exclusively something which takes place behind the closed doors of a family home. It is, however, an issue we confine to the ‘domestic’ sphere; that is, the private realm of the family, where issues are ‘personal’ and not public or political. Therein lies our downfall. Up to <a href="http://www.saps.gov.za/resource_centre/publications/statistics/crimestats/2013/downloads/crime_stats_analysis.pdf">61% of women</a> in South Africa under the age of 50 report surviving physical abuse by an intimate partner during their lifetime. This is over a quarter of the entire under-50 population, and must be a matter of public concern. Yet despite the <a href="http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/acts/1998-116.pdf">Domestic Violence Act</a>, of the small proportion of cases which are reported, in an even smaller proportion is there a conviction, as <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYoBJ8CwtM8">highlighted</a> by People Opposing Women Abuse.</p> <p>Members of the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) have been present at Pistorius’s trial and sitting with Reeva Steenkamp’s mother, June, when she attends. It is a powerful image, to see them standing in solidarity with June Steenkamp: while there is uncertainty about what the verdict will be, she is a grieving woman who has lost her daughter, and the Women’s League representatives alongside her are a reminder that her personal tragedy is, tragically, not unique. The ANCWL demonstrated outside Pistorius’s bail hearing last year, protesting the prevalence of domestic violence and the athlete’s seemingly <a href="http://www.anc.org.za/wl/show.php?id=10081">special treatment</a>, which has given his case an aura which wrongly sets it apart from too many other, similar cases.</p> <p>Violence against women by their male partners is a worldwide problem which does <a href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/">not know</a> barriers of colour and class. The way in which that violence is reported does, however, thanks to the dark depths of colonial and apartheid consciousness and its intersection with patriarchy. As Heather McRobie has <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/heather-mcrobie/gender-violence-in-media-elusive-reality">articulated</a>, media reporting on the death of Reeva Steenkamp have focussed on the fact that she was a white law student-turned-model concerned about gender-based violence, as though this somehow makes her death more tragic. At the same time that the world’s media has become transfixed by the goings-on inside one courtroom, in the next room a case concerning a black model killed by her boyfriend is receiving very <a href="http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&amp;objectid=11221329">little attention</a> by comparison. Thanks to structural racism and its intersection with patriarchy, we are doubly blind to domestic violence when black women are being harmed. Triply so when she is poor.</p> <p><strong>Silenced victims</strong></p> <p>Through its exceptional media coverage, if Pistorius’s trial can highlight something about South African society, it highlights the power structures which dominate it: that is, rich white men rule. It is Pistorius’s own testimony which will provide the only first-hand account of what happened the night his girlfriend died, and it is Oscar Pistorius who is commanding the attention of the international press.</p> <p>The media reaction to the Pistorius trial shows a white man at the heart of this story, displacing his victim. We are fascinated by his fears, and will seemingly morally absolve him if it is decided that he meant to shoot a black intruder rather than his girlfriend. Even the ‘crime of passion’ narrative lets him off the hook; traditionally it is a discourse which excuses domestic violence on the grounds of temporary insanity. It has the effect of victim-blaming: <em>if the woman</em> had not been suspected of having an affair, for example, her partner would not have harmed her in his moment of weakness (during which he was, ironically, strong enough to kill her).</p> <p>Whatever the outcome of the trial, the powerplay is not limited to South Africa, despite its particularly high rates of crime and domestic violence. In the past year, the high-profile killings of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/23/geraldo-rivera-trayvon-martin-hoodie_n_1375080.html">Trayvon Martin</a> and <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/19/mark-duggan-lawful-killing-inquest-verdict">Mark Duggan</a> were legally justified as acts of self-defence because even unarmed black men are imagined to be capable of extreme violence. Women <a href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/">across the world</a> are silent victims of domestic violence. The silencing of marginalised groups is perhaps why Paddy Power can be audacious enough to take <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/oscar-pistorius-paddy-power-prompts-outrage-by-offering-money-back-if-he-walks-bets-on-murder-case-9163814.html">bets</a> on the Pistorius trial’s outcome.</p> <p>Because he does not exist, the black intruder Pistorius allegedly imagined cannot testify to the validity of his illusory presence, or how dangerous he may have been had he been real. Because she is dead, the female victim Reeva Steenkamp – and three South African women daily who are silenced through death at the hands of their partners – can only speak to us through the underwhelming evidence of an autopsy. Instead, the judge must rely on the testimony of a rich white man: the most powerful voice there is.</p> <p>The judge, unenviably, has to decide whether Pistorius’s defence is ‘reasonable’. As a society, if we are to have any semblance of justice or hope of it in the future, we urgently need to recognise the structural racism which continues to pervade South Africa, valuing white bodies more than black ones. It is also only reasonable to suggest that we need to start having conversations about domestic violence, in which women affected by domestic violence have a safe space to speak, and we can start preventing deaths rather than reacting to the high-profile ones.</p><p><em>This series was originally published in October 2014</em></p><p><strong>Read more articles on 50.50's platform <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-our-africa">OUR AFRICA: women's critical analysis and resistance </a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/oscar-pistorius-south-african-story">Oscar Pistorius: the South African story</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch-ramsden/south-africa-white-fear-back-anger-and-student-protests">South Africa: white fear, black anger and student protests</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/reeva-steenkamp-justice">Reeva Steenkamp: justice?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/shereen-essof/south-africa-patriarchy-paper-and-reclaiming-feminism">South Africa: patriarchy, paper, and reclaiming feminism </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/blog/5050/violence_and_masculinities">South Africa: Violence and Masculinity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/chantelle-de-nobrega/nelson-mandela-who-tells-story">Nelson Mandela: Who tells the story? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/feminism-of-patriarchy-in-egypt">The &#039;feminism&#039; of patriarchy in Egypt</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/heather-mcrobie/gender-violence-in-media-elusive-reality">Gender violence in the media: elusive reality</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amrit-wilson/gender-violence-narendra-modi-and-indian-elections">Gender violence, Narendra Modi and the Indian elections </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chantelle-de-nobrega/south-africa-gender-equality-and-morality-as-citizenship">South Africa: Gender equality and morality as citizenship</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/mandela-towards-non-sexist-south-africa">Mandela: towards a non-sexist South Africa</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"> South Africa </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 South Africa 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women and power violence against women gender justice gender 50.50 newsletter Ché Ramsden Wed, 06 Jul 2016 16:33:27 +0000 Ché Ramsden 80634 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Disembodying honour and exposing the politics behind it https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mariz-tadros/disembodying-honour-and-exposing-politics-behind-it <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The reaction to the public stripping of a Coptic grandmother in Upper Egypt reminds us of the power of popular campaigns to shame those who use embodied concepts of honour politically.</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/Soaad_Thabet.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Soaad_Thabet.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="322" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Soad Thabet</span></span></span></p><p>On the 20 &nbsp;May 2016, Soad Thabet, a Coptic Egyptian seventy year old grandmother was forcibly taken from her home by a mob of men, <a href="http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2016/05/28/Christian-woman-stripped-naked-marched-through-streets-in-rural-Egypt/6851464465901/">stripped entirely&nbsp; of her clothes and paraded</a> in her local village of Karam Abou Omair in Minya, Egypt </p> <p>The act of stripping this Coptic woman in public was a chilling reminder of the act of stripping what infamously became known as the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtPFHw65aIs">blue bra woman</a> in Tahrir Square in December 2011. The drivers, dynamics and details of the two incidents are strikingly different, but they bear in common the elevation of these two women to iconic figures who, through their bodies laid bare, exposed the shame of the perpetrators and the powers which they represent. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/393192_209680109117096_1318118693_n_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/393192_209680109117096_1318118693_n_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Set El Banat, 'blue bra woman'. Image: facebook</span></span></span></p> <p>Soad Thabet was stripped by a mob of Muslim men incited to avenge the alleged rumour of an affair between her son and an ex-wife of one of her assailants. The intention behind her stripping was to humiliate and denigrate not only her own family, but send a signal to the rest of the Coptic community of the power of the Muslim majority in the village to collectively punish and humiliate. </p> <p>The blue bra woman was stripped by the army when the military police had embarked on an operation to clear Tahrir Square of the revolutionary protestors and their tents, and in the process many men and women were brutally attacked. The sexual violence that the blue bra woman, whose identity remains anonymous but who became dubbed by the revolutionaries as <em>Set El Banat</em> (in the vernacular, suggesting a woman in a league of her own) <strong>- </strong>was exposed to in the form of forced nudity in a national square was intended to terrorize women from participating in demonstrations.&nbsp; </p> <p>In both instances, the political motivation behind the assaults on Soad Thabet and The blue bra woman was beyond question. Soad Thabet had reported threats to the police the night before she was assaulted and had asked for protection in view of the growing warnings her family had received of their predicament if they do not leave the village. The fact that she and her family refused to flee made them a target of sectarian-motivated assault. The blue bra woman and the other women and men had stood their ground and refused to vacate Tahrir Square when grave warnings from the military were issued. </p> <p>In both instances, the perpetrators enactment of “punishment” on women’s bodies were underpinned by the attempted appropriation of embodied concepts of honour and shame. In Upper Egyptian communities, as with other traditional societies, assaulting elderly women, in particular mothers (let alone exposing their bodies) is considered a source of deep shame not only for the survivor of assault, but for her entire family and in this case, all the Copts in the village. In the case of the blue bra woman, this young activist body was captured on video and publicized in both national and foreign media. It was supposed to be a signal on the shame that will face any family who allows their female members to defy the army. </p> <p>Yet in both instances these women became national icons of resistance, though not explicitly under a feminist banner. Soad Thabet spoke out publicly and openly against police complicity and the mob assault, shaming the authorities who tried<strong> </strong>to deny her exposure to forced nudity. Copts and Muslims initiated a campaign that went viral and culminated in a parliamentary inquiry into the performance of the Ministry of Interior. At the very least, the attempts by Al Azhar, Egypt’s most prominent Islamic institution and highest authority, and local officials in Minya to press for an informal “reconciliation” which would effectively obfuscate the possibility of any recourse to justice via a fair trial have been blocked. </p> <p>In the case of Set El Banat, the incident generated the largest women-led protests that the country had seen since roughly one hundred years earlier, in 1919 women Egyptian women organized and led street demonstrations against British colonialism. </p> <p>Though in both instances of stripping in 2011 and 2013, the crises did not propel a process of security sector reform, in the case of Soad Thabet, it forced President al Sissi to <a href="https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2016/05/26/muslim-mob-strips-and-beats-elderly-woman-torches-christian-homes-in-egypt.html">publicly apologize to her “and to Egyptian women”</a>. &nbsp;In the case of Set El Banat Field Marshall Tantawy was also forced to issue an <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/8969555/Egypt-10000-march-in-protest-at-woman-dragged-half-naked-through-street.html">apology</a>.</p> <p>While views may differ on whether such apologies represent a victory or not, they had in effect displaced the social tendency to blame the accused. In the case of Soad Thabet, there were strong attempts to deny her exposure to forced nudity and an attempt to insinuate that this was a case of family feuds, even when <a href="https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2016/05/26/muslim-mob-strips-and-beats-elderly-woman-tor">shouts of driving the infidels</a> out of the village were made while she was being stripped. In the case of the blue bra woman, military sympathsizers questioned whether a respectable woman shouldn’t have been wearing more layers of clothing under her abbaya &nbsp;(a wide and broad cloak covering the full body]) and there was <a href="http://www.albayan.ae/one-world/news-reports/2011-12-23-1.1560120">no condemnation</a> of the incident from the Muslim Brotherhood.</p> <p>But in both cases, there is a subtle politics of accountability going on. In the case of Soad Thabet, the uproar took on the slogan suggesting that every Egyptian had been stripped, as a sign of solidarity and empathy.&nbsp; In the case of Set El Banat, though her identity remained anonymous, in the protests that followed, a main slogan was “Raise your head high, you are more honourable than those who trampled on you”. The accountability in question involves chipping at the normative values and norms that prop up perpetrators and allow them to get away with using women’s bodies as sites for breaking their opponents. It is no longer possible to rely on community notions of a woman’s body being the site of shame, when people collective organize and celebrate these women as heroines. By mobilizing large sections of a population to speak out against those responsible for these acts, it creates a moral accountability reversing the norms of shame and honour. </p> <p>While sexual violence exists across a broad spectrum and has complex political, economic and social structural drivers in any society, these two incidents (Soad Thabet, Set El Banat) are important because they elicited a show of unity across a broad set of social and political actors (even if there is a silent majority). These junctures are important because they destabilize the entrenched social norms upon which political non-accountability thrives. They also propel their own processes of making constituencies speak out against violations. Shortly after the incident of Soad Thabet, more sectarian assaults on Copts followed, yet <a href="http://www.wataninet.com/%d8%a3%d8%ae%d8%a8%d8%a7%d8%b1/%d8%a7%d9%84%d9%87%d9%85%d9%88%d9%85-%d8%a7%d9%84%d9%82%d8%a8%d8%b7%d9%8a%d8%a9/%d8%a7%d9%82%d8%a8%d8%a7%d8%b7-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%b9%d8%a7%d9%85%d8%b1%d9%8a%d8%a9-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%a3%d9%85%d9%86-%d9%8a%d8%ae%d9%8a%d8%b1%d9%86%d8%a7-%d8%a8%d9%8a%d9%86-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%ad%d8%a8%d8%b3/537106/">scrutiny of the security apparatus</a> has become more open and hostile from the disaffected. </p> <p>Yet while the blue bra woman received much attention in western feminist and human rights circles, Soad Thabet did not. Though accountability on political and social grievances are deeply intertwined, a western rights agenda that focuses narrowly on struggles around very specific political freedoms fails to capture the full array of ways in which people engage in accountability struggles.&nbsp; </p> <p><em>The details of the mass mobilization after the stripping of the blue bra woman and its relationship to broader justice struggles involving collective action can be found in the author’s new book, <strong><a href="http://syracuseuniversitypress.syr.edu/spring-2016/resistance-revolt.html">Resistance, Revolt and Gender Justice</a></strong> published by Syracuse University Press.</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/zainab-magdy/egyptian-women-performing-in-margin-revolting-in-centre">Egyptian women: performing in the margin, revolting in the centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zoe-holman/state-complicity-in-sexual-abuse-of-women-in-cairo">State complicity in the sexual abuse of women in Cairo</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/nadia-taher/we-are-not-women-we-are-egyptians-spaces-of-protest-and-representation">&quot;We are not women, we are Egyptians&quot;: spaces of protest and representation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fear-and-fury-women-and-post-revolutionary-violence">Fear and fury: women and post-revolutionary violence</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/zainab-magdy/day-you-catch-fish-speaking-out-on-domestic-abuse">The Day You Catch the Fish: speaking out on domestic abuse</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/mariz-tadros/are-we-all-beheaded-copts-outrage-in-libya-0">Are we all beheaded Copts?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heidi-basch-harod/embracing-shame-turning-honour-on-its-head">Embracing shame: turning honour on its head</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heidi-basch-harod/shame-and-honour-re-appropriated-women-finding-their-voices">Shame and honour re-appropriated: women finding their voices</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/samira-shackle/acid-attacks-showing-my-face-raising-my-voice">Acid attacks: showing my face, raising my voice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/pragna-patel/use-and-abuse-of-honour-based-violence-in-uk">The use and abuse of honour based violence in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/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> </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"> Egypt </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 Egypt Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building AWID Forum 2016 50.50 Gender Politics Religion Women and the Arab Spring 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick feminism fundamentalisms gender gender justice patriarchy violence against women Egypt in the balance Mariz Tadros Tue, 05 Jul 2016 08:45:33 +0000 Mariz Tadros 103429 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The back way to Europe: Gambia’s forgotten refugees https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/alexandra-embiricos/back-way-to-europe-gambia-s-forgotten-refugees <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The distinction between a refugee and other irregular migrants coming from the Gambia is hard to maintain in a country where a lack of democracy is accompanied by failures of economic and political governance.&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/lllllllppp.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Rome, Italy. Photo: Mohamed Keita"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/lllllllppp.jpg" alt="Rome, Italy. Photo: Mohamed Keita" title="Rome, Italy. Photo: Mohamed Keita" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rome, Italy. Photo: Mohamed Keita</span></span></span>The Gambia, a tiny coastal nation in West Africa trimmed by white sand beaches and surrounded by Senegal on its land borders, is full of contradictions. A flourishing tourism sector stands in contrast to widespread poverty, unequal access to services, and Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s erratic leader who has been creating<a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/04/21/the-worst-dictatorship-youve-never-heard-of-gambia/?utm_content=buffer90931&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=facebook.com&amp;utm_campaign=buffer"> headlines</a> in the run up to the December Presidential elections. Human rights abuses are widespread, real and deadly in the Gambia. The situation for <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/04/gambia-yahya-jammeh-protests-uprising-solo-sandeng">activists</a>, <a href="http://allafrica.com/stories/201604190929.html">politicians</a>, and<a href="http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/gambia-free-ailing-journalist-alhagie-ceesay-arbitrarily-detained-for-8-months"> journalists</a>, is getting increasingly precarious, aggravated by an abortive coup attempt in December 2014, where three soldiers were <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/press-releases/2015/04/gambia-soldiers-sentenced-to-death-in-secret-trial-must-not-be-executed/">sentenced to death</a> in a secret trial.</p> <p>Yet in the tumultuous landscape of European refugee politics today, irregular migrants from West Africa are at the bottom of the food chain, most likely to be dismissed as ‘economically’ driven migrants searching for a better life. In fact, the distinction between a refugee and other irregular migrants coming from the Gambia is <a href="http://africanarguments.org/2016/05/04/between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place-gambians-tackle-fortress-europe/">hard to maintain</a> in a country where a lack of democracy is accompanied by governance failures impacting the entire country on a political as well as economic level.</p> <p>“I was beaten real bad. I was electrically shocked. My arm broke. They hit me with a gun on my forehead. I was nearly dead,” says journalist and refugee Baboucar. “You are free if you support the President. But if you are a human rights activist, or you are a journalist, or you are a politician, you are oppressed.”</p> <p>Forced to flee the Gambia, Baboucar remains in Senegal, considered under EU law as a ‘safe third country’. By staying in Senegal, Baboucar is the exception, not the rule. From 2013 to 2014, Gambian asylum applications in Europe rose by 198%. With a population of only 1.9 million, Gambian nationals made up 5% of the total 153, 850 people who arrived by sea to Italy, and 10% of Italy’s asylum applications <a href="https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiv4c7VgeTMAhViCMAKHWIkDUYQFggdMAA&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fdata.unhcr.org%2Fmediterranean%2Fdownload.php%3Fid%3D528&amp;usg=AFQjCNFgyKVTTNYcp8-5-Xl9Y7XktLQBeQ">in 2015</a>. Comparatively, UNHCR figures show that there are only 41 recognised Gambian refugees in Senegal, with 177 asylum applications pending in 2014. In 2015, the number of Gambians lodging asylum claims in Senegal was even less, with only 102 applications. The huge disparity of figures suggests that the majority of Gambian refugees and other irregular migrants continue their journeys Northwards.</p> <p><strong>Secondary movement to safety</strong></p> <p>The phenomenon of onwards movement from certified safe third countries poses a significant challenge for the EU protection system. Receiving countries tend to view asylum seekers who have travelled long and convoluted routes as more opportunistic and thus <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/27/theresa-may-criticised-for-compassion-quota-in-asylum-strategy">less worthy</a> of protection. To get to Europe, Gambians must take the long and clandestine ‘back way’, beginning with the Western Saharan route in Senegal, and ending with the Central Mediterranean route from Libya to Italy, where <a href="http://www.fmreview.org/destination-europe/laczko-singleton-brian-rango.html">80% of deaths</a> in the Mediterranean occur. Countless others disappear into <a href="http://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/africa/libya">Libyan immigration detention centers</a>, or into the sands of the Sahara. Still, the rationale goes: the more countries the individual has passed through, the more opportunities to rebuild a life in safety have been cast aside.</p> <p>This argument disregards the very strong push factors motivating individuals to continue their journey onwards. For Baboucar, life in Senegal is fraught. “If I’m certain that I would feel safe in Senegal and I would have a good career, I would stay. But right now, I feel hopeless here.”</p> <p>Although Senegal is party to the <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49da0e466.html">1951 Refugee Convention and the accompanying 1967 Protocol</a>, refugees in Senegal face continual hardship. The Senegalese asylum system is paralysed by a lack of personnel and a highly inefficient process. At the start of <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/566584fc9.html">2014</a>, 182 Gambians requested asylum, but only 40 cases had been processed, and 27 granted refugee status. Hardly surprising, given that one member of the <a href="http://www.ofadec.org/BROCHURE.pdf">National Commission for Eligibility</a> (NCE) is responsible for the preliminary screening of applicants. Although Gambians are granted refugee status at a higher rate than other nationalities, many chose secondary movement over a chaotic asylum process that can take years.</p> <p>Senegalese asylum law does not specify how long an application should take, and it is common for asylum seekers to wait up to three years for their application to be processed. In the mean time, asylum seekers are left to fend for themselves. “I don’t get anything, I don’t have any support,” says Djibril, a refugee. Without the ability to legally work during their application, and no support to speak of, some see taking the ‘back way’ as their only option. “A former Gambian soldier [persecuted by the regime] was living on the streets for one month,” says Ebrima, who works in an NGO providing assistance to Gambian refugees. “He asked for my help, so I gave my own money to help him pay rent. &nbsp;He was suffering from post-traumatic stress…He said he’s going to take the back way.” Even after asylum status has been granted, problems arise. Senegalese banks and employers rarely recognise the legitimacy of refugee identity cards, depriving access to the labour market, which pushes individuals into illegal work and makes them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.</p> <p>Beyond the structural problems Gambian refugees face within Senegal, many of them simply feel unsafe in the country. Reports of abduction and intimidation are widespread. “I receive calls to my mobile phone, telling me they are coming to find me,” says Awa, “I had to change house many times in Dakar.” Several Gambians say they managed to escape abduction attempts by men they believed were part of the <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/09/17/gambia-two-decades-fear-and-repression">Gambian National Intelligence Agency</a> (NIA). Reported sightings of potential NIA agents outside the National Commission for Eligibility acts as a strong deterrence to submit asylum applications for Gambian refugees already living in fear, where President Jammeh’s iron grip extends across the porous Senegambian borders. Indeed, Jammeh has accused Senegal on several occasions of “<a href="http://thepoint.gm/africa/gambia/article/jammeh-accuses-senegal-of-harbouring-gambian-dissidents">harbouring dissidents</a>”. Moreover, the culture of fear in Senegal has traumatised Gambian refugee populations to the extent that they are weary of attending gatherings with other Gambians. “I don’t trust anyone,” says Djibril, “there are a lot of spies working for the Gambian government in Dakar.”</p> <p><strong>So what is being done?</strong></p> <p>Southern Europe is feeling the pressure of increasing irregular migration flows from North Africa. As deportations from Greece come into full effect under the <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/03/refugee-crisis-eu-pitch-plan-turkey-160318041007574.html">EU-Turkey</a> deal and smuggling networks from Turkey begin to falter, Italy is seeing a surge of arrivals by sea. Italian Prime Minister Renzi’s recent ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/barbara-spinelli/migration-pact-not-fit-for-purpose">Migration Compact’</a> proposes to adopt similar mechanisms to control undocumented African migration to their shores by signing deals with third countries on the African continent. Renzi’s proposal ignores initiatives that have already attempted this method – the Valetta Summit’s 1.8 billion Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, for example. Rather than creating new and expensive ways to tackle irregular migration, creating incoherence in terms of policy goals as well as being highly inefficient, efforts should be put in place to improve those already existing.</p> <p>Secondly, bilateral and multilateral agreements with countries of origin or transit tend to focus on border management rather than on a policy of protection for vulnerable migrants. In turn, migration patterns shift towards more treacherous routes. Until 2010, Gambians on the way to Europe travelled via Senegalese coastal towns, such as Kayar and Joal-Fadiouth, hoping to board pirogues (wooden boats) to the Canary Islands. However, after a bilateral agreement was signed between Spain and Senegal, Frontex increased its border patrol on the Western Mediterranean, acting as a strong deterrent for Gambians. Since then, the ‘back way’ has become the primary route for migration, at <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36178582">huge costs</a>. </p> <p>In the case of the Gambia, many do not fit the narrow definition of a refugee under the 1951 Convention. The complexity of mixed migration flows in the Gambia is aggravated by a culture of the ‘back way’, where many young men see the perilous route as a viable alternative due to its prevalence in society. “It came to the point where half of my football team had gone [the back way]” says Djibril. Importantly, the interlinking of a dire economic situation and a culture of fear within the country are key push factors for migration regardless of whether individuals have personally experienced persecution. </p> <p>Rejecting asylum applications on the basis of <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/10/19/italy-quietly-rejects-asylum-seekers-based-on-nationality-advocates-say.html">nationality</a> or rapid filtering of ‘refugee’/ ’irregular migrant’ in the pre-identification process in EU <a href="https://www.irinnews.org/news/2016/04/13/how-italy%E2%80%99s-flawed-hotspots-are-creating-thousands-%E2%80%9Cclandestini%E2%80%9D">‘hotspot’</a> systems, is tantamount to denying desperate people their constitutional right to asylum. Although the hotspot system was framed as essential to speed up the relocation scheme, efforts at their usual dismal lows with only 190 asylum seekers relocated from Italy in 2015.</p> <p>Rather than acting out a politics of exclusion at huge costs, a protection-based system needs to be put in place. In this sense, Europe, safe third countries such as Senegal, and countries of origin such as the Gambia all have their parts to play. Attempting to block migrants through beefed-up border controls or <a href="http://www.afdb.org/en/news-and-events/article/afdb-board-approves-us-8-2-million-senior-loan-for-medical-clinic-in-the-gambia-13007/">development hand-outs</a> to corrupt countries with dodgy human rights records, will not prevent desperate people from fleeing. Secondary migration of Gambian refugees would be reduced if Senegal had an asylum system that was fit for purpose, in order for it to be truly considered a ‘safe third country’. Investing in capacity building of the Senegalese asylum system, as well as supporting NGO’s work providing basic goods and services for refugees and asylum seekers is a good place to start. </p> <p>Yet the root cause of the flight also needs to be acknowledged. Withholding aid packages from Yahya Jammeh’s regieme (as the <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-gambia-eu-aid-idUSKBN0OX2HZ20150617">EU</a> did on the grounds of human rights violations) could put pressure on the regime to enact positive change. However, recent <a href="http://mgafrica.com/article/2016-04-16-senior-gambian-opposition-figure-dies-in-custody-after-leading-protest-against-president-jammeh">developments</a> suggest that neither financial pressure nor directives demanded by the Office of the High Commission of Human Rights (OHCHR) during the latest Universal Periodic Review, is enough to induce change in the Gambia. </p> <p>“If have the opportunity to start my life over, I would.” Baboucar says, “wherever I feel safe, I don’t chose, even if in Asia, or South America. That is the number one priority for me. Number two: get a good education, because if you don’t learn, oh you’re going to suffer."</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/nando-sigona-and-jennifer-allsopp/mind-gap-why-are-unaccompanied-children-disappearing-in-thous">Mind the gap: why are unaccompanied children disappearing in their thousands?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/georgia-cole/refugee-or-economic-migrant-join-dots-theresa-may">Refugee or economic migrant? Join the dots Theresa May</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/jerome-phelps/eu-must-not-leave-greece-to-solve-migration-crisis">The EU must not leave Greece to solve the migration crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nina-perkowski/more-frontex-is-not-answer-to-refugee-crisis">More Frontex is not the answer to the refugee crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/faultlines-refugees-and-law">Faultlines, refugees, and the law </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/refugee-crisis-demilitarising-masculinities">The refugee crisis: demilitarising masculinities </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"> Gambia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Italy </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 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 Italy Gambia International politics europe africa 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter Alexandra Embiricos Thu, 19 May 2016 09:24:17 +0000 Alexandra Embiricos 102203 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Furthering freedom of religion and belief in Muslim-majority countries https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/khadija-moalla/how-to-further-freedom-of-religion-and-belief-in-muslim-majority-countries <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ballot boxes before a culture of toleration for diversity of beliefs takes&nbsp;root in the minds of people can make things worse. Secularization and freedom of religion are a precondition of democracy. </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/Regional Report picture- Morocco group shot sub-regional religious leaders training.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/Regional Report picture- Morocco group shot sub-regional religious leaders training.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="182" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Imams in Morocco ready to address developemental challenges. Photo: author's own</span></span></span></p><p>In Western Europe, it took years of bloodshed and long religious wars to settle the contentious dispute around whether rulers should rule by the authority of God or by that of the people. It is only when consensus was finally achieved around the idea that the authority of the state ought to be located in the people, that secularization gradually took hold, forming the backbone of the emerging liberal democracies in these countries. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The same religious fanaticism that sowed the seeds for these medieval wars motivates today’s violent extremist groups, like Al-Qaeda and Daesh, in the global war they are waging in the name of God: from Chechnya to Nigeria and from Afghanistan to California going through Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Belgium and France. &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/501857/1(3).JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/501857/1(3).JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="204" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Muslim and Christian leaders issuing the Cairo Declaration, 2004.</span></span></span></p> <p>The devastation these groups are spreading around the world is in part due to the fact that democracy has been “exported” to - or “imported” by - many developing countries before the battle for secularization and religious freedom was won. Most leaders, especially those in the exporting countries, do not recognize sufficiently that the fight for secularization and religious freedom is still a main item on the agenda of these countries, and do not appreciate that secularization and religious freedom are essential pillars to a country’s peace and prosperity.&nbsp; </p> <p>Full enjoyment of freedom of religion and belief is the mark that a new culture is taking root in people's minds and hearts, by which they finally come to realize that there are no absolute truths and that “<em>on every subject on which difference of opinion is possible, the truth depends on a balance to be struck between two sets of conflicting reasons,</em>” as <a href="http://www.econlib.org/library/Mill/mlLbty2.html">John Stuart Mill</a> wrote in his defense of the sovereignty of people over their own minds, i.e., their freedom of conscience. Full enjoyment of religious freedom and belief becomes a reality only when everybody understands that nobody has the right to kill anybody in the name of any absolute truth. </p> <p>Religious freedom and a culture of toleration of the diversity of beliefs and opinions is a precondition of democracy because democracy is nothing but a covenant among people to rule themselves as born equal in their physical and mental capabilities, and in their right to their own truths. Access to the means of a comfortable living for the vast majority of citizens is an equally important condition for the flourishing of democracy. The scourge of poverty and the despair created by long-term, chronic unemployment turn people into easy prey to preachers of extremist interpretations of divine revelations.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Seen through the lenses of the “<em>Spiral dynamic</em>” model, first developed by social psychologists Clare Graves and Susanne Greuter and later expanded by Ken Wilber, most Muslim-majority countries, which were colonized by Western powers, were still in the “<em>Tribal stage</em>” of their development at the start of colonization. After they gained independence, they found themselves propelled artificially to the “<em>Modern state”</em> stage without having gone through the natural process by which Western countries moved beyond tribalism and established themselves as strong, secular nation-states. They chose a <em>sui-generis</em> form of governance mixing Sharia laws and Sharia courts with modern institutions that have all the bells and whistles of liberal democracies, topped up by allegiance to all sorts of international conventions on human rights. Yet they continue to turn a blind eye to traditional tribal customs such as female genital mutilation/cutting, forced and early marriage and other crimes done in the name of God.</p> <p>The emergence of movements like Daesh is now threatening these fragile states, as their declared aim is to eradicate religious freedom and restore the authority of “God” in the conduct of human affairs.</p> <p>With this complex historical backdrop in mind, the battle for religious freedom in Muslim-majority countries calls for the following: </p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; To facilitate and support the opening of the debate about secularism and freedom of religion. Judging by the experience of Tunisia this is not going to be easy. <em>Bourguiba,</em> the leader of the Tunisian Liberation movement, was a staunch believer in laïcité, and although he had the courage to promote a family code granting equality of men and women under the law - in flagrant contradiction with traditional Islamic jurisprudence - he nevertheless had to accept that the new Constitution acknowledges that Islam is the religion of the state. Fifty five years later, no one in the Constituent Assembly charged with writing a new constitution, after the popular uprising of January 2011, dared to question its first article. Not only that, but religious freedom is, in many respects, more restricted today than under the previous regime - with some women being pressured to wear the hijab for fear of losing their jobs - notwithstanding the stronger language in the new constitution affirming all forms of freedom of conscience. </p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; To promote and facilitate the start of a related discussion about whether political parties can be constituted on religious grounds. Some of the parties affiliated with the movement of the Muslim Brotherhood are rumored to want to convert themselves into civil parties. This is to be welcomed as long as they genuinely intend to re-align themselves on the principle of secularism and as long as they are willing to open a conversation about some of the traditional interpretations of Islam that legitimize the call to arms to impose a religious state and oppose universal human rights - in particular those of women. </p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; To support the spread of a culture that embodies universal values by building trust and promoting critical thinking. The spread of such culture will help people take a personal stand against all harmful traditional practices and the overbearing patriarchal system. Large scale change in many region depends on the active participation of religious leaders, the guardians of values and cultural norms. It is vital to engage them into debates about universal human rights and religious freedom, while respecting their commitment and ethical views. In this respect, the <a href="http://www.kosmosjournal.org/article/transformational-leadership-in-the-arab-region/">remarkable work</a> done with Muslim and Christian religious leaders to bring them on board combating the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Middle East and North Africa is worth emulating. &nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; To support and promote international cooperation in solving the major economic and environmental challenges facing the world today because sustainable development and peace cannot flourish in the swamps of poverty, unemployment and social exclusion. Responding to developmental challenges requires a human accord that surpasses all religious and denominational variations. It must be an accord that derives from spiritual heritage and mobilizes courageous responses. It is an accord that inspires something greater and deeper than any challenge! </p><p><em>Read more articles on our platform</em>: <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism">Frontline Voices against Muslim Fundamentalism<br /></a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yasmin-rehman/islamist-terrorism-chilling-echoes-of-pastor-niemoller">Islamist terrorism: chilling echoes of Pastor Niemoller</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 class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/freedom-of-expression-sacred-right">Freedom of expression: a sacred right</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sophie-giscard-destaing/gender-and-terrorism-un-calls-for-women-s-engagement-in-countering-viol">UN calls for women’s engagement in countering violent extremism: but at what cost? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/are-we-all-beheaded-copts-outrage-in-libya-0">Are we all beheaded Copts?</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"> 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 Civil society Culture 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick secularism patriarchy gender fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Khadija Moalla Tue, 03 May 2016 07:33:45 +0000 Khadija Moalla 101777 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Will the sky fall when big NGOs move south? https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/will-sky-fall-when-big-ngos-move-south <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>INGOs moving their HQs to the Global South will not alter the management problems with international development and human rights work, manifest in elitist decision-making and unequal resource distribution. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>In November 2015, the&nbsp;Guardian ran a&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/nov/16/big-ngos-africa-amnesty-oxfam-actionaid?CMP=share_btn_tw" target="_blank">story</a><span>&nbsp;about how international&nbsp;NGOs (INGOs), such as Amnesty International and Oxfam&nbsp;are relocating their headquarters to the global&nbsp;south. This comes across as a novelty, in an age where most international development organizations, including the United Nations, are headquartered in Europe and North America, with the notable exception of Action Aid, which moved its head office to South Africa roughly a decade ago.&nbsp;In the piece, several INGOs discuss their impending relocation southward in a self-congratulatory tone.</span></p><p>The article begins poetically: “A hurricane is blowing through the world of international development and when the dust settles, the landscape is going to look entirely different.”</p> <p>Will it? These shifts are described in revolutionary terms, but we fear&nbsp;that they will not&nbsp;alter the management problems within international development and human rights work, manifest in elitist&nbsp;decision-making and unequal resource-distribution. For the fact that organizations are often microcosms of larger-scale inequality, we would urge INGOs to ask themselves tough management questions as they move to tropical locales. </p> <p>Specifically, these questions include determining the impact of their presence on a given location, how their access to resources (including human resources) in that location (e.g. brain drain and “poaching” of talent from local civil society), as well as the extent to which staff composition affect their perspectives and assumptions. </p> <p><strong>Will the resources follow? <br /></strong></p> <p>The Association for Women’s in Development (AWID)’s 2006 report <a href="http://www.awid.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/assessing_resources_and_role_of_donors_fundher.pdf">“Where is the Money for Women’s Rights”</a> paints a vivid pictures of how finances are dwindling for smaller women’s rights organisations and grassroots groups, in favour of funding fewer, larger organizations. The money seems to have dried up for social justice and development, particularly when it comes to women’s human rights. According to AWID’s report, about half of women’s rights organisations that were surveyed reported that they receive less funding than they did five years prior<strong>.</strong> More than half of these organizations reported that it is harder to fundraise than it was ten years before.</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/Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 12.54.18.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 12.54.18.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>South African feminists attending AWID. Credit: laurieadamsflickr. All Rights Reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p>This leads us to question to what extent funding larger INGOs s benefits local groups and organizations, particularly as these groups ‘go local’ establishing relatively independent local offices, a phenomenon that has been underway for some time. More importantly, will having more HQs based in the global south affect funding proportions? Often, larger organizations absorb funding at the expense of the very organisations that they purport to nurture and capacitate. Moreover as they relocate to the South they bring salary scales that attract skilled workers out of the local non-profit sector, as has been <a href="http://thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(08)60937-X/fulltext">ubiquitous in the health sector</a> in which health care professionals are drawn away from national health care systems and into the arms of INGOs<strong>. </strong>They also<strong> </strong>often also bid for funding from their local base, in competition with local groups. As long as the resources flow in the same direction, the question of physical location remains irrelevant.</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/Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 12.38.39.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/535193/Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 12.38.39.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="365" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em>Women re-foresting the Itombwe rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Neema Namadamu</em><em>.</em></p><p>So much has shifted since the era during which Oxfam, Amnesty International, and others were established. Everything has changed, including power dynamics between the Global North and South, development approaches, and economic growth, the third wave of democratisation in Africa, and an educated population that can challenge dominant narratives. We cannot continue business as usual. We need voices from the underground. </p> <p><strong>Replicating seats of power</strong></p> <p>Also, we have burning questions about the human resource implications of this move southward. Will the hiring be local and equitable? Will the pay scales persist along the dual salary scale model, applied according to who is a “local” or “international” staff member? Will the move encourage the sort of privileged expatriation that confers authority to a northern expert (a position strangely reminiscent of colonial emissary)? Will the top echelons of these organizations’ hierarchies continue to be occupied mostly by westerners who carry out the knowledge-based and decision-making functions? Will support roles (administrative, ICT, etc.) consist mostly of “local” staff? </p> <p>Will these INGOs recognize the irony of trading one capital for another? Will it be apparent that within this same Nairobi or Johannesburg, one can sip a latte as nonchalantly as they would in Islington, divorced from local interests? &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Toward alternative models </strong></p> <p>Decentralization has already been a lively experiment across the global women’s rights movement. Several women’s rights organizations, including the Young Feminist Fund (FRIDA), the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), and Urgent Action Fund-Africa (UAF-Africa) have adopted the virtual organisational model, the practice of hiring staff based in various geographic locations. This virtualisation represented a radical revamp for the latter two organizations, both of which were originally founded and based in North America. Decades after their founding, these organisations could have settled into an expression of “<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-we-need-to-talk-about-white-feminism_us_55c8ca5ce4b0f73b20ba020a">white feminism</a>,” a loaded term used to describe a women’s rights movement ruled unilaterally by elite, northern women. </p> <p>At UAF-Africa, a pan-African feminist Fund (and autonomous offshoot of its sister Fund Urgent Action Fund - Global) we have spread our staff across the African continent, from Cairo to Harare, and have observed the benefits and challenges of going virtual. This model, though complicated by time zone differences, connectivity issues, and organisational registration questions, encourages a more inclusive spread of voices and communities rather than privileging a single location and culture. &nbsp; </p> <p>For instance, in our recent experience, the inclusion of a staff member originating from and based in the Middle East has drawn us closer to the Arab Feminist movement, resulting in exciting connections and support to feminist activists based in the Middle East and North Africa.</p><p>Through our wide reach, we linked to <a href="http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/members/fondation-ytto-pour-lhebergement-et-la-rehabilitation-des-femmes-victimes-de-violence/"><em>Fondation YTTO</em></a> in 2012, a Moroccan women’s rights organization that organized a caravan of women for equality and against child marriage, when they and other feminist organizations lost government funding at the same moment that the government prepared a bill to lower the legal marrying age. The caravan moved through very isolated rural areas, sounded the alarm on the situation of girls who are victimized by child marriage, and allowed them to make a documentary using the testimonies of girls and families. They were able to conduct a large national and international advocacy campaign, which denied all arguments presented by the government to legitimate a child marriage bill. This was a significant connection. </p> <p>Of course, the virtual model is neither the only or best model for women’s rights and international development work. There are myriad unexplored ways in which advocates, campaigners, researchers, and funders could plug their agendas into diverse realities. Ultimately, there must be a more radical re-evaluation and decentralization of the geography of social justice, beyond maintaining unipolar power centres.</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/angelika-arutyunova/womens-human-rights-watering-leaves-starving-roots">Women&#039;s human rights: Watering the leaves, starving the roots </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/gender-politics-of-funding-women-human-rights-defenders">The gender politics of funding women human rights defenders</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 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feminism gender gender justice Valerie Bah Tue, 01 Mar 2016 12:27:33 +0000 Valerie Bah 100078 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Stability Sandwiches: the control of street entrepreneurs in Sisi’s Cairo https://www.opendemocracy.net/leila-zaki-chakravarti/stability-sandwiches-sandwichat-il-istiqrar-control-of-street-entrepreneurs-i <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG ></o> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:TrackMoves ></w> <w:TrackFormatting ></w> <w:HyphenationZone>21</w:HyphenationZone> <w:PunctuationKerning ></w> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas ></w> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:DoNotPromoteQF ></w> 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mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-ansi-language:EN-GB; mso-fareast-language:EN-US;} --> <!--[endif] --><!--StartFragment--> The post-Sisi drive to restore and sanitize public space in Cairo is as much about keeping disadvantaged and vulnerable groups ‘in their place’ within the social order as about restoring stability.<span style="font-size: 11.0pt; font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-fareast-font-family: &amp;amp;amp; mso-fareast-theme-font: minor-fareast; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: &amp;amp;amp; mso-bidi-theme-font: minor-bidi; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA;"></span><!--EndFragment--> </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Immediately after the removal in 2013 of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Government, one of the newly re-instituted military regime’s first moves was a <em>tat’hir </em>(purification) programme to purge Cairo’s streets and public spaces of all traces of <em>fawda wi sawra</em> (<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/takeovers-and-makeovers-using-landscape-to-re-write-history-in-post-revo">revolutionary chaos</a>). This involved not only sweeping up the litter and debris from all former protest sites, and painting over the plethora of posters and revolutionary graffiti covering many of the city’s “<a href="http://wallsoffreedom.com">Walls of Freedom</a>”. It also included clearing away the revolution’s ‘human detritus’ - the protestors, squatters, and the large numbers of predominantly young and aspiring Egyptians who, faced with the collapse of the economy in the post-Mubarak turmoil, had taken advantage of the disappearance from the streets of most of the police to move into street-trading - hawking anything from cheap plastic jewelry and modish sunshades to snacks and nibbles..</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558870/WallsOfFreedom copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558870/WallsOfFreedom copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="315" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em>Street art of the Egyptian revolution. Egyptian Chronicles. </em><em>All rights reserved. </em></p><p><span>These upstart “Entrepreneurs of the Revolution” had established their vigorous </span><em>commerce a la valise</em><span> presence as a new post-revolutionary reality in the everyday life of many of Cairo’s commercial and more affluent residential districts.</span></p> <p>On my first post-Arab Spring return trip to my family home in Egypt in 2011, I had discovered one such entrepreneur colonising the pavement along the railings to my back garden, conducting a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/entrepreneurs-of-revolution-jockeying-for-livelihood-and-security-in-pos">flourishing street café business</a> selling <em>ful</em> (stewed fava beans – Egypt’s most popular dish). </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558870/Leila-Umbrellas.gif" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558870/Leila-Umbrellas.gif" alt="" title="" width="460" height="338" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span></span></p><p><span>Imam, as he soon introduced himself to me, found that the popularity andsuccess of his street business gave him an undisputed </span><em>ism</em><span> (‘name’ and commercial reputation) in the neighbourhood. For this reason, his abrupt disappearance in the summer of 2015 was as surprising as his appearance had been 4 years previously. On this visit, as I flung my window and shutters open on my first morning back in my childhood flat, I was greeted by the unusual tranquillity of an almost bygone era. All traces of Imam’s business had gone: not only the milling crowds of customers, but also all the clutter and paraphernalia of his street café, along with the broken down bus and four battered cars which he had ‘parked’ to permanently reserve his roadside slot.</span></p> <p>At first I assumed that he must have been among the many street traders whom the military authorities had offered the <a href="http://gu.com/p/4bdhg/sbl">stark choice</a> of either ceasing business altogether, or else moving <em>en masse</em> into an approved government location in a former sports stadium selected primarily for its ease of policing and control. However it did not take long for me to find out from local shop workers that Imam had instead chosen to bring his life as a street-vendor to an end by regularising his business within a rented <em>mahal</em> (shop). He was now, as one of the locals put it to me with a broad grin, selling <em>sandwichat il Istiqrar</em> (“Stability Sandwiches”) – a satirical reference to Imam’s having ‘gone straight’ by invoking the Sisi’s regime favourite propaganda theme of “Stability”.</p> <p>Imam’s choice of new location is in a nearby <em>souq</em> (shopping area), strategically located at the junction of one of Cairo’s arterial tramlines. It is home to many of the neighbourhood’s established food suppliers including Heliopolis’ oldest <em>baladi</em> bread bakery, a fish stall, a local dairy and cheese shop, a coffee shop famous for seducing the entire street with its powerful aroma of roasted beans, as well as shops selling Egyptian biscuits, nuts, dried fruits and boiled sweets. Other than a huge new red banner emblazoned <em>Imam El Fayoumi</em> (Imam from Fayoum – an oasis town some 100 km from Cairo), very little else appears to have changed between Imam’s ‘before’ and ‘after’ incarnations. It is as if the progression has necessitated taking all his colourful and somewhat tatty street paraphernalia –his cart, pots and pans, rickety tables and chairs, and even the faded <em>shaabi</em> (common, lower class) beach umbrellas - and setting them up all over again on the pavement outside his new <em>mahal</em>, providing a colourful contrast to the dilapidated shop fronts along the arcade. Within the one room which completes his new establishment, the walls have been painted a deep, dark crimson, giving the interior a somewhat makeshift atmosphere.</p> <p>Imam is instantly recognizable by his grubby apron and the central position he commands at his <em>ful</em> cart on the pavement. Taking breakfast orders on his mobile phone with one hand, with his other he is vigorously ladling beans into individual enamel dishes and polythene takeaway bags, mashing them up and spooning on oil, and other dressings – all with the theatrical gestures typical of his craft. The customers in and around his new <em>mahal</em> seem to me to be sparser than the crowds who thronged his former pavement café. But he nevertheless seems to have increased his staff. Gone is the pair of skinny, relentlessly over-worked child labourers of his former street days, and in their place is a new team of strapping teenagers brought in from Fayoum, dressed in uniforms in the colours of the Barcelona football team, their swagger completed with sporting baseball caps worn stylishly back to front.</p> <p>Imam greets me with a huge smile and a warm handshake, insisting I return at the end of the shift for a catch-up. His initial comments reflect pride in his new establishment:</p> <p class="blockquote-new">“I started <em>min mafish</em> (from nothing), leaving my home town in Fayoum at the age of seven – to find myself in the world as a <em>ragil bita’ ful </em>(ful man). <em>Ful</em> became my <em>san’a</em> (trade). Now I’m thirty-three, so its taken me a good twenty-six years to acquire these four walls.”</p> <p>Yet almost immediately, Imam expounds on some of the complications involved in the progression from his former precarious street existence to his more established current position. He describes how although the saving grace of his new premises is the safe storage provided for his equipment during the night, the hard grind of <em>akl eish</em> (‘eating bread’ ie making a living) is forcing him to work hours just as long, if not, longer than during his street days. <em>Harakit il souq</em> (the dynamic of the market) remains sluggish, and Egypt’s economic recovery continues to be slow, so he has been forced to divide a long working day into two shifts offering different services: from 4am – 4pm his establishment operates as a traditional <em>ful</em> shop, but from 5pm – 12pm the tables and chairs are moved inside (and the dark walls suddenly make sense) as it is transformed into a Cairo <em>ahwa</em> (café), complete with communal <em>shisha</em> (hubblebubble) smoking facilities and satellite TV, where football matches provide the main draw and attraction for social gatherings of local and passing male customers.</p> <p>He describes how his cost base has risen sharply. Official charges for the commercial rents and rates he now has to pay (in contrast to the ‘free’ accommodation and water he used to benefit from when operating from the pavement at the end of my garden) constitute new burdens. Commercial rents in the relatively upmarket <em>souq</em> to which he has relocated are reputed to vary between 7,000 to 15,000 Egyptian Pounds (equivalent to £700-1,500) a month – compared to the going rate of 4 Egyptian pounds for a bowl of <em>ful,</em> or an evening <em>shisha</em>. Water and electricity bills, as well as business taxes, add other significant (and rising) costs before he can turn any kind of profit. Less visible is the pressure to deploy <em>shatara</em> (streetsmart guile and cunning) over credit – an imperative for any successful business in the <em>souq</em>. This involves not only obtaining credit from suppliers and extending it to regular customers, but also more subtle, sometimes dubious, stratagems, such as striking back-door deals with the local supermarkets and traffic wardens, to cover potential fines for their customers who park illegally in the street when shopping, so that they can be attracted to his <em>ful</em> cart on their way out. Even darker and more hidden costs include the backhanders he needs to continue to pay to the extensive and complex network of officials and security men who previously assisted him to secure his illegal position in the public space of the street, and continue to demand <em>sabuba </em>(payoffs), despite his regularised location. Imam tries to take a laidback approach to these demands:</p> <p class="blockquote-new">&nbsp;“Let’s not talk about the usual political stuff – we can just say that, as the youth of this country, our thought is that we want our situation to be <em>kwayissa</em> (good), and our country a <em>kwayissa</em> place to live. It’s why I made a point of paying the exorbitant rents to become <em>multazim</em> (legitimate). When I was on the street my entire livelihood was solidly dependent on keeping the <em>muwazafin</em> (civil servants, officials) <em>mitzabatin </em>(sweet). But all of us are affected these days when the economy is frozen and nobody is keeping proper working hours. The same forces make a habit of creeping up again - and that translates into trouble (implying blackmail). As a law-abiding trader, I expect the municipality to give me some space. So their just turning up to help themselves constitutes a breach of justice. Anyway, my personal policy is to get over these hassles without getting into fights, so I just pay them off.”&nbsp;</p> <p>As well as drastically increased costs, Imam also finds himself having to deal with significant shifts in his client base brought about by his new location and business model. His aim remains, as it was on the street, to attract customers (both phone-in and walk-in) from <em>kul il mustawayyat</em> (“all walks of life ”, underlining the diversity and inclusive spirit of his client base), so that the resulting business buzz gave him a high degree of visibility and a strong <em>ism</em> presence in the market. But both his visibility and his <em>ism</em> (name and reputation) have clearly dipped since his move, for two distinct albeit related, reasons. The first reflects the community’s hostility towards Imam’s Fayoumi teenage waiters. He may have brought them in from a town only 100km away from Cairo, but to the locals (market traders and customers alike) they remain migrant ‘rustics from the sticks’ - while the child labourers he previously employed had at least been local urchins. The second reason relates to perceived changes in the class and gendered features of his enterprise. By also operating as an evening café, his business is seen as a distinctly more ‘masculine’ space than the comparatively gender-neutral environment of his former street operation. This has deterred his female customers from coming to his new premises, all the more so since many of his new male customers are seen as <em>labbat</em> (yobs, good for nothings) who give his establishment an insalubrious air by hanging around smoking and laughing noisily late into the night.&nbsp;</p> <p>Compounding his problems with increased costs and a dwindling customer base, Imam also&nbsp;<span>finds himself having to face significantly increased competition. The most immediate threat comes from the waves of Syrian refugees who have moved into many Cairene neighbourhoods to escape the turmoil of their country’s civil war – sometimes in concentrations sufficient for whole streets in affluent areas to be informally renamed as </span><em>El Sharei El Suri </em><span>(Streets of the Syrians). And whereas even a year ago official and government-supporting TV stations characterised Syrian refugees as a </span><a href="http://www.madamasr.com/sections/politics/tv-presenter-under-fire-disrespecting-syrian-refugees">menace</a><span>, more recently political capital has been sought by recasting them as the vanguard of the hordes of ‘foreign investors’ promised to arrive to take advantage of Egypt’s restored </span><em>istiqrar</em><span> (stability) and purportedly revived economy.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>As well as drawing strength from their tight familial and clan networks within the diaspora, the new Syrian food shops have been astute in their marketing, emphasising through their packaging and displays that the food both sold and produced on their own premises is <em>nidif</em>&nbsp;(clean). This is important not only in view of current public health scares about <a href="http://www.foodnavigator.com/Regions/Middle-East/Egypt-rocked-by-dog-and-donkey-meat-scandal">contaminants in foodstuffs</a> from Egyptian factories, but also as an astute verbal echo of Sisi Government propaganda lauding the post-coup<em> tat’hir </em>programme. Thus, in contrast to the cheerful and chaotic clutter of Cairene grocery or food outlets, Syrian shops typically display neat rows of clean, shiny new jars piled with olives, pure virgin olive oil, and pickles. Traditional cooked foods are meticulously wrapped in transparent polythene containers, all referred to as prepared <em>heik fil beit </em>(‘back at home’) produce. This distinctively Levantine Arabic colloquialism evokes wholesome domestic female labour undertaken by the womenfolk of the shop owners’ families. The owners in turn maintain a prominent, conservatively dressed presence on the premises as they closely supervise the smartly groomed and polite young bachelors from their families who directly serve the customers. The visible and reassuring male presence combines with the complete absence from the premises of any of their womenfolk to reinforce the self-perceptions and aspirations of the <em>souq</em> and its female customers (local housewives and working shop girls alike) as to what married life and an enterprising working life should be like.</p> <p>The Syrian shops have thus rapidly developed their own <em>ism</em> for being not only <em>nudaf</em> (clean) but also <em>muhtaramin</em> (respectable, in the conservative sense of being ‘proper’ and ‘morally correct’). And these upmarket attributes are, of course, the precise opposite of the class, gendered and moral associations attached to Imam’s new establishment. The marketing payoff was clearly evident in the higher prices which the Syrian merchants were successfully charging, as well as in their higher volumes of trade.</p> <p>Aside from higher costs, new competitors and his customers’ perceptions of his new establishment which seem to be working against him, Imam is also having to fight a subtle, but nevertheless immediately palpable, sense of discrimination from the more long-established traders and businessmen of the <em>ahl el souq</em> (‘family’ of the souq). The traders comprising the <em>ahl</em> are astute social classifiers, constructing and operating an intricate internal hierarchy which governs the day-to-day social distinctions and commercial operations of their <em>souq</em>. Traditionally it had been conservative social criteria such as ‘origin’ and ‘family’ which had valorised the rank and hierarchy of a particular establishment’s <em>ism</em> within the <em>ahl el souq</em>. More recently, in line with the neoliberal trends of late Mubarak-<em>biznis</em> (business) Egypt, it is the power of hard cash which moves a community of traders to reach consensus on their internal hierarchical order, and in particular on designating the ‘family elders’ who keep the peace. Thus currently at the top of the pile is a successful butcher who has diversified into a range of subsidiary commercial enterprises including a thriving real estate agency, and who personally holds the leases to an entire street of shops – supported by a tier of craftsmen whose networks and knowledge of the market enable them to extend effortlessly from one business stream and location to another, steadily drumming up increased profits from new sources. </p> <p>&nbsp;<span>As the latest entrant, Imam is at the bottom of the pecking order according to both the traditional and the newer criteria. His origins are provincial, as his shop banner “Imam </span><em>el Fayoumi</em><span>” explicitly declares – and he is equally upfront about how he started life </span><em>min mafish</em><span> (from nothing). He is also still at the early stages of building his new business, struggling to meet his increased costs and reduced customer demand. And he is finding that, by moving into a </span><em>mahal</em><span>, many of the</span><em> souq</em><span>’s deeply rooted social prejudices and inequalities – which were kept somewhat at bay during his more liminal, yet also more prosperous, street trading days - have resurfaced and intensified in the </span><em>ahl</em><span> </span><em>el souq</em><span>’s discriminatory calibration of his new </span><em>ism</em><span>:</span></p> <p class="blockquote-new">“The traders around here see me as a weaker opponent, an outsider moving into their space. Many of them, including the new faces, are <em>nas teqila</em> (‘heavies’) with hard cash. Their shops are pathways to circulate their cash in the system, so even if they don’t see a customer for a week, it doesn’t make any difference. They have other resources on which to survive. But <em>ehna mish wilad hadd</em> (we are sons of nobodies), with no <em>diyya</em> (support, backup). Inequality runs deep here, and it’s considered outrageous that with my background I nevertheless make something of my life.”</p> <p>&nbsp;<span>Imam’s lack of any </span><em>diyya</em><span> is exacerbated by his solitary position as the only former street trader in his new location. Unlike the street traders who moved into the government-sponsored sports stadium, he has no support network on which to draw when it comes to getting a ‘voice in the system’, or resisting undue pressure. This has left him vulnerable when dealing with the forces (social, commercial and official) stacked against him in his chosen </span><em>souq</em><span>.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>It thus seems clear that, despite the trappings of commercial progress in Imam’s business trajectory, the transition is far from complete – and his economic position remains just as precarious, perhaps even more so, than when he was running his street café. This leads me to reflect on his motivation for moving in the first place. From enquiries among local neighbours and shopkeepers I soon get a sense of how ‘pull’ factors were heavily outweighed by some heavy ‘pushes’. I was told, often with undisguised glee, how local residents had inundated the municipality with fierce letters of complaint that his<em> folkloree&nbsp;</em>(the English word taken into Arabic as a rather affected urban colloquialism) street café was disfiguring their comparatively affluent neighbourhood. A juicier twist was added when, at the reported ‘top level’ intervention of a retired Chief of Police whose flat overlooked Imam’s street business, the post-coup manager in charge of running the municipality was said to have received urgent orders <em>min fuq </em>(‘from above’) to <em>yinadaf il sharei’</em> (‘cleanse the streets’). Another account had it that Imam had been evicted four times, before finally being threatened with five years in prison if he continued to squat in the street.&nbsp;</p> <p>As these conflicting accounts accumulated, I came to see Imam’s ‘expulsion’ from the neighbourhood as providing a prime example of how the post-coup regime’s drive to restore and sanitise the streets and public spaces of the city is not simply about restoring <em>istiqrar</em> (stability). It is as much about keeping disadvantaged and vulnerable groups not only ‘in their place’ within the social order, but also pushing them back into ‘their spaces’ within the city landscape, so that the relatively affluent no longer have to rub shoulders with them. Underlying all this seems to run an even deeper current of ‘punishing’ the Entrepreneurs of the Revolution for their temerity in ever having challenged the status quo in the first place.&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/leila-zaki-chakravarti/from-strongman-to-superman-sisi-saviour-of-egypt">From Strongman to Superman: Sisi the saviour of Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/remembering-contesting-and-forgetting-aftermath-of-cairo-massacres">Remembering, contesting and forgetting: the aftermath of the Cairo massacres</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/entrepreneurs-of-revolution-jockeying-for-livelihood-and-security-in-pos">Entrepreneurs of the revolution: jockeying for livelihood and security in post-Arab Spring Cairo</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/takeovers-and-makeovers-using-landscape-to-re-write-history-in-post-revo">Takeovers and makeovers: using the landscape to re-write history in post-revolutionary Cairo</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/madame%27s-story-renegotiating-cairo%E2%80%99s-informal-service-sector">The madame&#039;s story: renegotiating Cairo’s informal service sector </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/maid%27s-story-renegotiating-cairo%E2%80%99s-informal-service-sector">The maid&#039;s story: renegotiating Cairo’s informal service sector </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/chez-morsi-palace-petitioners-and-street-entrepreneurs-in-post-mubarak-e">Chez Morsi : palace petitioners and street entrepreneurs in post-Mubarak Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/tale-of-two-cities-blood-football-and-politics-in-egypt">A tale of two cities: blood, football and politics in Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/football-religion-and-politics-in-egypt">Football, religion and politics in Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/performing-masculinity-football-ultras-in-post-revolutionary-egypt">Performing masculinity: the football ultras in post-revolutionary Egypt</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"> Egypt </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 Egypt 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 newsletter Leila Zaki Chakravarti Wed, 27 Jan 2016 12:33:45 +0000 Leila Zaki Chakravarti 99271 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Day You Catch the Fish: speaking out on domestic abuse https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/zainab-magdy/day-you-catch-fish-speaking-out-on-domestic-abuse <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Violence is manifested in so many ways, yet it is always the violence that comes within the domestic space that leaves many women silenced, especially when the violence leaves no physical scars.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>"<em>The Day I Ate the Fish</em> is very personal," says Aida El Kashef, Egyptian filmmaker.</p> <p>Aida was born in Cairo, in 1988, like me. Almost a month ago, she launched a crowd funding campaign on <a href="https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-day-i-ate-the-fish-directed-by-aida-el-kashef#/">Indegogo.com</a> &nbsp;to fund her first long film: a documentary on Egyptian women behind bars for killing their husbands. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/Aida.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p> <p><em>Aida El Kashef, Egyptian filmmaker. Photo: filmmaker's own</em></p><p>During the past year, and happening too close to home as they say, the interference in arts and culture spaces in Cairo and other Egyptian cities has been causing alarm, and at times stirring fear of what accusations the state could lay your way as you receive foreign funding for a film or an exhibition. Crowd funding became the alternative. People are supporting initiatives of this sort because it is one of the few things you can do under the circumstances we are living in during these times where taking precautions is a must. You could be so easily one of the thousands imprisoned with no just trials in the past two years. </p> <p>You don’t need to know the people to support an artistic project or to be personally affected by the outcome of it. Yet something about El Kashef's film was personal. Perhaps it was too personal, more personal than I would want it to be.</p> <p>I haven't killed anyone….<em>yet</em>.&nbsp; We've all said that someday jokingly.&nbsp; And yet, not many people have actually held a knife up to someone, or kept a pair of kitchen scissors close to the bed, just in case. As I watched the first <a href="https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-day-i-ate-the-fish-directed-by-aida-el-kashef#/">video</a> that was posted for the campaign of <em>The Day I Ate the Fish </em>I realized that I related to the back-stories of these women and to that sensation of anger: that rage of wanting to kill someone for hurting you, the rage that makes you wish that this person would die. &nbsp;</p> <p>For years I've lived with this feeling towards my father. As I write this, I am ashamed. I do not even fully comprehend what I am ashamed of: the fact that he is hateful or that I hate him. For almost two decades now, I've lived in a terrible fear of him, a fear that lived despite accomplishments, successes, love, and the joy of feeling yourself closer to who you really are. This fear lurked deep inside me, like a fish festering in rotten waters, feeding on insecurities and moving in the dark, when you are alone, to make itself visible and present and always there. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/H.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p> <p><em>'H'. Photo: Facebook, courtesy of the film director&nbsp; </em></p><p>As the crowd funding campaign moved on, releasing <a href="https://vimeo.com/73516681">videos</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/TheDayIAteTheFish/?fref=ts">photographs and posts</a> on Facebook about the film, the cast, the crew and the women behind bars, I felt more personally about it to an extent of wanting to shut it all out. There is something in each and every woman that is hauntingly familiar, that reminds me of myself, and yet they are so unique in their own experiences, that we can't really even begin to find similarities. H, one of the characters in the film, who refused to show her whole face all along the filming days, insisted on acting scenes out. I imagined if I would do the same if I was in her place. </p> <p><em>You love living in this drama, don</em><em>’</em><em>t you? That's what she said, not waiting for an answer. She has already decided that I am being dramatic.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>You think you're on the stage? You think you're doing one of your plays? He said that in the most malicious way possible. It was 2010, and that was the last time he actually managed to hurt me physically. I had opened the door to the apartment and screamed for the neighbors to come and help us. He pulled me away from the door violently, slapped me across my face twice and dragged me from my hair, pulling quite a lot of my hair out. My scalp was swollen for a week. After that he tried, but I had learned to hit back. He is, I think, scared of doing that again. </em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>Maybe H acts out the scenes from her story because she never got to stand on a stage. Maybe that is her way of pulling herself out of all that had happened. Eventually I know that I cannot lock myself with H in an equation of affinity because we are all so specific. </p> <p>These women Aida films, they've all killed their husbands. Why? That is what she's trying to get to, to look beyond their crimes to understand why women would kill so close to home. To kill so close to home, you must be pushed beyond your limits, beyond your capacity as a human by someone within this home.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/11219305_783959271712763_8546691044186908102_n.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p> <p><em>Still from 'The Day I Ate The Fish'. Photo: courtesy of the film director.</em></p><p>I don’t know statistics on domestic violence in Egypt or the whole world, nor do I have any specific numbers of casualties and victims. A very large percentage of women all over the world are killed by someone close to home. Depending on how a specific society thinks of the word "abuse" and "violence" and "aggression", these rates and numbers will vary. Depending on the economic, social, racial, and educational factors that govern households and communities, these numbers will rise and fall. Some of the abused in certain spaces and moments in time will tragically not become even numbers because what happens to them is not seen as abuse. As if it isn’t violence till you're dead, or sexually abused. I think I know well enough that no numbers will ever amount to those actually abused in households all over this country. </p> <p><em>Don't use that word. Abuse is a very big word. He isn't sexually abusing you.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>I always tell my students not to generalize. But sometimes generalizations speak for truth more than any statistics can.There are so many women who go through domestic abuse and they do not even realize it. The abuse that is so obvious, so scarring that it cannot be escaped is what will be granted the heaviness and terrifying nature of the word. Those who are emotionally, verbally and psychologically abused on a daily basis by family members - just because this isn't considered abuse or because this isn't seen as abnormal behavior in many communities - exist much more than we think, more than we know of, much more than we want to know. </p> <p>You live in fear. This fish lurking deep within you grows larger, it shuts out any glimpses of possibilities of getting out, and you feel trapped. You are swallowed whole by it. Once you're in the fish's belly, you will feel that this is where you are destined to end. </p> <p>One of the faces of the women Aida filmed with crosses my mind. Her voice singing softly to the camera filming her. Perhaps her way out of the belly of the fish that swallowed her has been to kill. Not just to catch that fish, but to kill your abuser so that your fear has no chance of ever coming to life again. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/12191781_774835765958447_5936096490195081770_n.png" alt="" width="400" /></p> <p><em>Still from the film 'The Day I Ate The Fish'. Photo: courtesy of the director.</em></p><p>I have stopped – for most of the time – wanting my father to die. I am rather now at a moment when I feel that I can grasp my fish in my hands, slippery and slithering as it is, and look at it. I know deep down that I have it in my hands and that it cannot go anywhere without my knowledge. I wanted him to die because I hated him. But hate is a very big word, and I cannot claim to hate him. I think the confusion of realizing that you are at times unable to hate, is what pushes women at times to think that perhaps this may not be what it is. Maybe, the scars will heal with the knowledge that it wasn't abuse. </p> <p>There is something almost angelic in the stills and short videos of the women Aida filmed, wearing white, just white, and speaking softly. I think of them, and I think of the moments when I thought that if I could, I would, because at that moment all my hurt would go away. I would get scared and cry myself to sleep. </p> <p>Domestic abuse is a worldwide epidemic. But at the end of the day, what police force do you have to back you up in Cairo, Alexandria, or Assiut, when you're a women fleeing an abusive house? What judiciary system will take account of how your body and psyche were abused when you are sentenced to life for killing your abusive husband? You have nothing to back you up. At the end of the day, these women have killed their husbands out of fear or would have ended up killing themselves in a moment or in the long run, all along their lives. </p> <p>When you hold this reality up to the &nbsp;jokes on women working on any level for other women and for women's rights, stereotyping them as 'organizations of wild, ferocious women,' the irony is too much to take. </p><p>When the sentences have been given, how many people will think of a killer this way, how many will look beyond, to the back-stories of this woman's life when she wasn't afraid to catch the fish?</p><p><em>Read more articles in this year's series for </em><strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days Activsm Against Gender Based Violence&nbsp; </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/zainab-magdy/egypt-reality-too-dark-in-which-to-glimpse-hope">Egypt: a reality too dark in which to glimpse hope? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/preventing-violence-against-women-sluggish-cascade">Preventing violence against women: a sluggish cascade?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/women%E2%80%99s-human-security-rights-in-arab-world-on-nobodys-agenda">Women&#039;s human security rights in the Arab world: on nobody&#039;s agenda</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zoe-holman/state-complicity-in-sexual-abuse-of-women-in-cairo">State complicity in the sexual abuse of women in Cairo</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/jack-in-box">Jack in a Box</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/natalia-antonova/can-russia-confront-horrors-of-its-domestic-violence-epidemic-0">Can Russia confront the horrors of its domestic violence epidemic? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/harriet-burgess/ireland-policing-domestic-violence-in-times-of-austerity">Ireland: policing domestic violence in times of austerity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-and-domestic-violence-mapping-damage">Austerity and domestic violence: mapping the damage</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/women-in-prison-cycle-of-violence">Women in prison: the cycle of violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/it-takes-broken-bones-authoritarianism-and-violence-against-women-in-hungary">&quot;It takes broken bones&quot;: authoritarianism and violence against women in Hungary </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/angela-neustatter/changing-behaviour-of-male-perpetrators-of-domestic-violence">Changing the behaviour of male perpetrators of domestic violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/liz-cooper/who-cares">Violence against women in Spain: who cares?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/hannana-siddiqui/ending-stark-choice-domestic-violence-or-destitution-in-uk">Ending the stark choice: domestic violence or destitution in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/chulani-kodikara/domestic-violence-in-sri-lanka-power-of-alternative-discourse">Domestic violence in Sri Lanka: the power of alternative discourse </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/guns-war-and-domestic-battlefield">Guns, war and the domestic battlefield</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/zainab-magdy/egyptian-women-performing-in-margin-revolting-in-centre">Egyptian women: performing in the margin, revolting in the centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/liz-cooper/no-more-%E2%80%98machismo%E2%80%99-domestic-violence-in-political-arena">No more &#039;machismo&#039;: domestic violence in the political arena </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/%E2%80%9Cdon%E2%80%99t-talk-to-me-about-war-my-life%E2%80%99s-battlefield%E2%80%9D">&quot;Don’t talk to me about war. My life’s a battlefield.&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-gallagher/global-slavery-index-seduction-and-obfuscation">The Global Slavery Index: seduction and obfuscation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/women-at-war-in-country-in-peace-ghana">Ghana: women at war in a country at peace</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/patriarchy-and-militarism-in-egypt-from-street-to-government">Patriarchy and militarism in Egypt: from the street to the government</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sarah-green/british-democracy-and-women%27s-right-to-live-free-from-violence">British democracy and women&#039;s right to live free from violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/mutilating-bodies-muslim-brotherhood%E2%80%99s-gift-to-egyptian-women">Mutilating bodies: the Muslim Brotherhood’s gift to Egyptian women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/egypt-politics-of-sexual-violence-in-protest-spaces">Egypt: the politics of sexual violence in protest spaces</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/masculine-violence-call-of-duty-or-call-for-change">Masculine violence: call of duty, or call for change?</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"> Egypt </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 Egypt Continuum of Violence 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Highlights bodily autonomy feminism gender gender justice patriarchy Sexual violence violence against women women's movements Zainab Magdy Mon, 07 Dec 2015 10:09:27 +0000 Zainab Magdy 98205 at https://www.opendemocracy.net COP21: forget 'the future', we need a more radical present https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/cop21-climate-marches-future-now <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As COP21 meets, people around the world already realise the devastating impacts of climate change. Instead of acting for 'the future', we need to reimagine a better here and now.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Pre-schoolers at Clare Ellis Brown Pre-Primary in Durban, South Africa hosted a sustainability-themed concert for family and friends on Saturday 28 November. In the midst of the city, they boast a recycling project, a permaculture garden, a worm farm, and also house a chicken and two rabbits – helping to connect the children with nature and building a sense of appreciation and wonder at the natural world. At their performance, the children also handed out fliers for the city’s Climate March, one of thousands which took place around the world this weekend before the twenty-first annual session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) which opened in Paris on Monday 30 November. They sang Glenn Lehmann’s ‘I Am The Earth’, which ends:<em> <br /></em></p> <p><em>We share the future</em><em><br /> Stand side by side<br /> One Earth, one people<br /> We’ll turn the tide<br /> And in the future<br /> They’ll say with pride<br /> One Earth, one people<br /> We turned the tide<br /> Side by side</em></p> <p>These children are too young to remember it, but four years ago their city, Durban, hosted COP17 which, at the time, was the <a href="http://unfccc.int/meetings/durban_nov_2011/meeting/6245.php">second-largest</a> meeting of its kind. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) hailed it as ‘a breakthrough’ because the conference operationalised the <a href="http://cancun.unfccc.int/cancun-agreements/significance-of-the-key-agreements-reached-at-cancun/#c45">Cancun Agreements</a> reached the previous year: to reduce carbon emissions, help developing countries deal with climate change, and keep the average global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, President of COP17, said in her closing statement, “what we have achieved in Durban will play a central role in saving tomorrow, today.” </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/4179745870_ba5f5bdcb6_z.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p> <p><em>Climate change march. Photo flickr: Attlla Babo</em></p><p>When I think back to my own childhood, a generation ago, I remember a lot of talk about the future being in our hands. Our class would plant a tree for Arbor Day at the beginning of each September, and we would learn about recycling. Especially in the summertime, we were made aware of the hole in the ozone over the Antarctic, which threatened to stretch over the tip of South Africa as it became alarmingly large in the mid-late 1990s. It was caused by the release of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) found in aerosols and refrigerators, and it <a href="http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v6/n11/full/ngeo1968.html">affected our regional weather</a>. (Ozone depletion is different from climate change, which is caused by greenhouse gas emission, but is similarly man-made and has disproportionally affected the southern hemisphere.) We stopped using aerosols and slapped on more sunscreen. We were safeguarding our generation, ‘the future’. </p> <p>The concept of acting to save ‘the future’ – or, as a substitute, ‘our children’ – tends to pervade rhetoric around important decisions. It can be a powerful way of giving significant choices due gravitas, but it can also distract us from the reality of these choices. Because, of course, ‘the future’ never arrives. I feel sad when I think about another generation of children having to think on the same terms mine did: continuing climate change, with successive governments failing to achieve effective action, and increasing instability. </p><p><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/15125185210_69f4114afa_z.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p> <p><em>Climate change march. Photo flickr: Garry Knight</em></p><p>Yet there is a new sense of urgency about climate change. Our present is at threat as much as the future. Arctic summer sea ice is melting <a href="http://www.wwf.org.uk/what_we_do/tackling_climate_change/impacts_of_climate_change/">faster than predicted</a>, there has been an increase in droughts, floods, storms and hurricanes, and fresh water sources are drying up. The <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/AR5_SYR_FINAL_SPM.pdf">Fifth Assessment Report</a> of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects further warming if greenhouse gas emissions continue, affecting surface and ocean temperatures, sea level and&nbsp; the global water cycle. I think this is what I found particularly moving about the concert at Clare Ellis Brown Pre-Primary; the children were singing about being in a moment, now, when the tide is turning – it is no longer a distant vision that we are working towards. </p> <p><strong>The radical present <br /></strong></p> <p>In his 2004 polemic, <em>No Future</em>, queer theorist Lee Edelman rejects the ‘reproductive futurism’ which drives mainstream discourse. He posits instead that queer politics should embrace an alternative radicalism which insists on a better here and now. This was on my mind when, back in London, I joined the <a href="http://climatejusticejobs.org.uk/">People’s March for Climate Justice and Jobs</a>. Many UK-based activists had intended joining the planned march in Paris; after this was cancelled, they focused again on London, which was one of the largest of the worldwide demonstrations with about 50,000 people taking part. </p> <p>I spoke to John Hoggett, who organised a Queer Bloc on London’s march, for LGBTI people “and anyone who falls under the ‘queer’ umbrella.” John’s been involved with climate activism since the turn of the millennium, when the <a href="http://www.campaigncc.org/aboutus/whatwedo">Campaign against Climate Change</a> (CCC) protested outside the US embassy in London after George W. Bush rejected the Kyoto Treaty. “That was a really effective thing to do, to pull climate activists together in the UK,” explains John, and he goes on to describe how, after getting involved, he organised a ‘Queer Time’ every evening at Reclaim the Power and Climate Camp. “People said they liked that non-macho space – that slightly safer space. Having that space helps people link together and get organised, and think about other things.” John tells me that after the first Queer Time, later that year when Student Pride was sponsored by BP, queer activists covered themselves in pink shower gel to protest the pinkwashing that was going on. </p> <p>“The idea of queer people organising around climate change is really important.” The activism at Student Pride is indicative of this. “There’s a stream in modern queer politics which recognises that there’s been a lot of assimilation which has benefitted mainly white, mainly upper- and middle-class, mainly men” – here John mentions Lord Browne as an example, former CEO of BP and current Partner at Riverstone (which co-owns of <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/23/cuadrilla-to-appeal-against-fracking-refusal-by-lancashire-county-council">Cuadrilla Resources</a>), who authored the 2010 <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-browne-report-higher-education-funding-and-student-finance">Browne Report</a> recommending the cap on tuition fees be lifted. He is clear that he doesn’t want to make “a vicious personal attack on someone, that’s not productive,” but he can imagine a light-hearted action which highlights that “for most LGBT people, having people who are out and doing these things, that’s not forwarding the movement we are part of. All of this is not acceptable, it’s not acceptable to me.” Having a Queer Bloc on such an important march is one way of showing this. </p> <p>I asked John what his hopes are for this year’s Climate March. He’s been on every Climate March in London since that first Kyoto Rally in 2001, and he explains that they are an effective way of raising the media profile of the COPs and surrounding climate activism. It is also a good way for campaigners involved with direct action to be seen and taken seriously by big-name NGOs like Avaaz. “These sort of marches…need loads of organisations on board, bringing in lots of other people. Around Copenhagen [COP15, in 2009], the march got big again, because loads of NGOs got on board. What’s really disappointing is that the NGOs can disappear again afterwards, like they did around Copenhagen.” He also hopes that organisations focused on climate change will look at joining with the anti-austerity movement and the peace movement, “because these issues, they’re all linked.” </p> <p><strong>Linked issues <br /></strong></p> <p>Climate change, like austerity and war, disproportionally affects those without power, particularly women and the poor (indeed, <a href="http://unfccc.int/gender_and_climate_change/items/7516.php">70%</a> the world’s poor are women). UN Women Watch <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/climate_change/">highlights</a> that this is partly because ‘women in rural areas in developing countries are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood’ – so any depletion of these resources due to climate change will impact them – and partly because women’s access to decision-making structures compounds these effects. As Asad Rehman from Friends of the Earth told us in London, “the great injustice is those who are least responsible for our crisis have to deal with its impacts.” </p> <p>If the politicians who meet at COP21 will not represent those most affected, the message from the marches this weekend is that their concerns must be amplified in other ways. In London, indigenous people led the front of the march (with a banner, ‘indigenous peoples defending mother earth’). A ‘die-in’ was staged to represent the deaths caused by climate change, predominantly in the Global South. Friends of the Earth’s CEO, Craig Bennett (“the time to act is now!”) was followed on stage by a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woztm7h4JMA&amp;feature=youtu.be">group</a> of indigenous activists from the Sami community in Sweden, whose way of life is threatened by climate change. </p> <p>‘The future’ of climate change which was envisaged when I was a child – the drought, famine, storms and flooding – became a reality some time ago. It is experienced daily around the globe, and felt most keenly by those who have lost their way of life and their loved ones. COP21 is another opportunity to reprioritise the way more powerful humans think about our planet and all the people who inhabit it – and, through the unprecedented support for climate marches around the world, this has already started outside of the conference centre.</p><p><em><strong>Ché Ramsden will be reporting from Cop21 in Paris for openDemocracy 50.50 </strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/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/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/melina-laboucan-massimo/energy-democracy-building-solar-dream-in-tar-sands-nightmare">Energy democracy: building a solar dream in a tar sands nightmare</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/climate-change-and-false-gods-moloch-and-biblepunchers-in-us">Climate change and false gods: Moloch and the bible-punchers in the US </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/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 even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/politics-of-myth-making-beasts-of-southern-wild">The politics of myth making: &#039;Beasts of the Southern Wild&#039;</a> </div> <div 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/srilatha-batliwala/what-does-transforming-economic-power-mean">What does transforming economic power mean?</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"> South Africa </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Science </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 UK South Africa Civil society Science 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change gender justice 50.50 newsletter Ché Ramsden Mon, 30 Nov 2015 10:03:27 +0000 Ché Ramsden 98034 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ghana: women at war in a country at peace https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/yakin-erturk/women-at-war-in-country-in-peace-ghana <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The absence of war does not necessarily imply peace for women. The binary opposites of war and peace obscure the continuum of violence women experience as a result of patriarchal gender structures.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>The agenda for women, peace and security <br /></strong></p> <p>The <a href="http://wps.unwomen.org/en">Global Study</a> on the implementation of Security Council Resolution <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/wps/">1325</a>, women, peace and security has reiterated that the “participation of women at all levels is key to the operational effectiveness, success and sustainability of peace processes and peacebuilding efforts.” Civil society actors as well as states have increasingly been focusing on gendered aspects conflict-affected settings and on women’s role in peace efforts. </p> <p>The adoption of SCR 1325, including seven subsequent resolutions on women, peace and security has evolved into an impressive international normative framework that expands the due diligence obligation of states and other stake-holders in combating violence against women. Its impact so far, despite the shortcomings in implementation, has been phenomenal in recognizing and empowering women’s peace movements across the globe and in engendering the security sector which has traditionally been distant to the international gender equality agenda. </p> <p>However, the question remains; how relevant is the binary of war and peace from the perspective of women’s realities in many parts of the world? Are women at peace in countries that are technically in peace? </p> <p><strong>The case of Ghana <br /></strong></p> <p>Ghana is a country technically in peace. As such, despite extreme poverty, deep inequality among various segments of society, including women and men, widespread violence and injustice Ghana is rarely on the international agenda. The realities of the vast majority of women are all indicative of a war in the making. </p> <p>The underlying assumption is that war is not spatially or temporally bounded and that the gendered aspects of war are a continuum of the gendered aspects of peace. Therefore, the fact that a war in its conventional sense does not exist does not imply peace for all. As Carol Cohn has <a href="http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745642451">written</a>, “weapons of violence, and representations of those weapons, travel through interlocking institutions – economic, political, familial, technological, and ideological.” </p> <p>Ghana is an ethnically, linguistically, culturally and religiously heterogeneous society, which results in variations of social convention and customary practice. There are also considerable economic disparities between the coastal regions and the marginalized northern parts of the country. However, the strong patriarchal normative framework and the principle of male supremacy are prevalent in both matrilineal and patrilineal communities. Although social attitudes are gradually changing, especially in rural settings, women continue to occupy a subordinate and dependent position to men in virtually every domain of life. </p> <p>Diverse forms of violence against women are a widespread phenomenon despite the relatively promising legal framework and other measures. </p> <p>The use of violence, to enforce patriarchal control over women enjoys widespread social acceptance. Women victims of violence are often expected to silently endure abuse. Women who report their husbands or other family members to the authorities may be ostracized from the family and the community. Some of the most striking forms of violence women are subjected to are presented below.&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>Trokosi ritual servitude <br /></strong></p> <p>Some communities in the southern Volta Region and certain districts of the Greater Accra Region still practice a custom that was outlawed in 1998, which involves ritual servitude and sexual exploitation of girls. The <a href="http://www.amazon.com/TROKOSI-Linda-M-Gillard/dp/161579851X">custom</a> requires a family to offer a virgin daughter as a <em>trokosi</em> (slave/wife to the gods) to a traditional fetish village shrine to ward off the punishment of the gods for crimes or moral wrongdoings committed by a family member. The misdeeds for which atonement is sought may often date back generations. </p> <p>A girl designated to become a <em>trokosi</em> is usually committed at a very young age (6 to 10 years old) to the shrine, where an initiation ritual betrothing the girl to the gods is performed. The ritual establishes a relationship of spiritual bondage between the girl and the shrine. From the moment of her betrothal, the <em>trokosi</em> must wear special insignia indicating her status and outsiders are prohibited from having any sexual contact with the girl. If a man sleeps with a <em>trokosi</em>, his family is believed to have incurred the wrath of the gods, therefore, must also offer a virgin daughter to the shrine. Meanwhile, the man who had sexual relations with the <em>trokosi</em> is ritually “purified” and the girl remains a <em>trokosi</em> at the shrine. </p> <p>Once a <em>trokosi</em> reaches puberty, the shrine’s fetish priest (<em>tronua</em>) sleeps with the girl to consummate the marriage between her and the gods. Daughters born from such sexual relations also have certain obligations to the shrine. </p> <p>After serving several years at the shrine, a <em>trokosi</em> may be released from servitude if her family pays for a special ceremony. Released <em>trokosi</em> are allowed to marry, but are often unable to find a husband. If a <em>trokosi</em> dies during her servitude, her family is expected to replace her with another girl. </p> <p>In 1998, the government passed a law against ritual servitude (among other things), criminalizing the practice of <em>trokosi</em>, however there have been no prosecutions under the law. Most government officials are under the impression that the practice has since almost vanished. Yet, information from various sources indicates the opposite at the practice continues to thrive.&nbsp; According to <a href="http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/alldocs.aspx?doc_id=13920">reports</a> there were at least 23 shrines in the Volta Region and 3 in the Greater Accra Region, which still accepted <em>trokosi</em>. </p> <p>In many districts, the local authorities are reluctant to enforce the law against ritual servitude, fearing a popular backlash. Some also seem to fear adverse spiritual consequences for themselves. While a number of central state institutions, including the Commission on Human Rights, Administrative Justice, and the Ministry for Women and Children’s Affairs have taken a strong stance against the practice of <em>trokosi</em>, there are many elected politicians who fail to publicly denounce it in order not to alienate key constituencies. </p> <p class="ListParagraph"><a href="http://internationalneedsgh.org/gh/">International Needs Ghana</a> (ING) and NGOs have led efforts to liberate <em>trokosi</em> and put an end to the practice. According to ING’s own estimates 3,500 girls have so far been liberated and 50 shrines have stopped accepting <em>trokosi</em>. ING seeks to liberate <em>trokosi</em> with the cooperation and consent of affected communities and shrine priests. Communities willing to cooperate are provided with much needed development infrastructure such as schools and boreholes. Shrine priests are encouraged to accept livestock or monetary donations, instead of girls, from families seeking to appease the gods. Once agreement is reached, a ritual is performed to break the spiritual bondage tying the <em>trokosi</em> to the shrine. Liberated <em>trokosi</em> are provided with the skills to reintegrate into ordinary life at the ING Vocational Training Centre.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p class="ListParagraph"><strong>Female genital mutilation </strong></p> <p class="ListParagraph">Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been traditionally practiced by several ethnic groups from northern Ghana as well as by immigrants from neighboring countries, where FGM is highly prevalent. In 1994, Ghana criminalized the practice. Since then, successful prosecutions of those performing FGM have been reported especially from the Upper West and Upper East Regions. In 2007, parliament further strengthened the law against FGM by increasing the maximum penalty to 10 years of imprisonment and extending the range of persons who can be prosecuted for involvement in an act of FGM. Officials at all levels of government, including the President, have also publicly condemned FGM. </p> <p class="ListParagraph">While there are indications that the practice of FGM in Ghana may be declining as a result of these initiatives, new cases continue to be reported. Civil society organizations and medical practitioners note that FGM is increasingly performed on younger girls, who are less likely to resist or report the crime. Some families apparently also send their daughters abroad to have the procedure carried out with impunity. Officials have stated that the Ghanaian law banning FGM does not apply extraterritorially; therefore it is not possible for the Ghanaian authorities to take action against its citizens who perform FGM in a neighboring country, even if they find out about such cases.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p class="ListParagraph"><strong>Violence in the context of child labor - kayaye</strong></p> <p class="ListParagraph">Child labor is prevalent and many rural families living in extreme poverty send their daughters to urban areas to live with more affluent families, where they serve as domestic workers in exchange for shelter, food and sometimes a minimal income. The ILO (2004) found that most girl domestic workers started their work between the ages of 11 and 16 and worked 8 to 12 hours per day without sufficient rest, which would imply that they are engaged in one of the worst forms of child labor as defined by <a href="http://www.ilo.org/ipec/Campaignandadvocacy/Youthinaction/C182-Youth-orientated/C182Youth_Convention/lang--en/index.htm">ILO Convention No. 182.</a></p><p class="ListParagraph"><img src="//opendemocracy.net/files/s30897.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p> <p><em>Kayaye in Ghana. Photo: Ghana Mama</em></p><p>Girls also migrate on their own from impoverished areas in the north to the big urban centers in the south, where they work in the markets and streets as head load carriers (<em>kayaye</em>) or in other jobs. Most of the girls are only 10-14 years old when they first migrate. An estimated 90 % of the girls are illiterate and they typically migrate to escape extreme poverty and lack of other options. Many girls also see the <em>kayaye</em> experience as an opportunity to acquire the dowry they will need to get married later on in life. </p> <p>Family problems, including exploitation and abuse, are often additional factors pushing girls to leave their homes. It is an old tradition for families who are not socio-economically well off to send especially their girl children to live with relatives who are better off; it was traditionally meant to meet the children’s basic needs and foster family solidarity and kinship ties. However, with the erosion of social convention underlying such relationships among families, today these children are often exploited and abused by their relatives and some sought salvation in working as <em>kayaye</em>. </p> <p>The girls who head south migrate often with the knowledge and consent of their family. Once they arrive in the urban centers, the <em>kayaye</em> have to work and live on the street, under dangerous and miserable conditions. Being vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, they often have to seek the “protection” of older street boys in exchange for sex. As a result many end up getting pregnant outside marriage and are often ostracized when they return to the north as single mothers. There are reports that indicate that organized networks increasingly approach impoverished families to recruit girls as <em>kayaye.</em> </p> <p>Some girls abandon <em>kayaye</em> work altogether and are fully drawn into Ghana’s growing child prostitution sector, which increasingly also seems to cater to foreign child sex tourists. Girls have reportedly also been trafficked and subjected to commercial sexual exploitation in other West African countries and Western Europe. While the government has reacted by adopting a comprehensive Human Trafficking Act in 2005, still more needs to be done to enforce the Act and strengthen Ghana’s anti-trafficking cooperation with neighboring countries. </p> <p><strong>Violence against women accused of “witchcraft”</strong><em> <br /></em></p> <p>Belief in supernatural forces is quite widespread and deeply rooted in Ghana and there are many cases especially in rural areas, in which women—and occasionally men —are accused of practicing witchcraft to bring harm to members of their family or community. Being accused of practicing witchcraft is a very serious charge that can have grave consequences. Accused women are often driven violently from their homes and communities, physically assaulted and, in extreme cases, also murdered. </p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/7096738847_924efa77f6_z.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p> <p><em>Gambaga Outcast Home for "witches". Photo: flickr</em> </p><p>Despite its serious ramifications, an accusation of witchcraft can be easily triggered. A community member may dream that a certain woman is a witch or an adverse event may occur in the community that cannot be explained, such as a suspicious or unexpected death of a community member. In such instances for various reasons a person will be made a scapegoat with witchcraft allegations. In some cases, witchcraft allegations seem to be deliberately directed at women who are successful and are seen as a threat to the patriarchal order. </p> <p>Violence against women branded as witches is reported from all regions, but the practice is more visible in the north due to the existence of so-called “witches’ camps”. This misleading term refers to settlements established with the consent of the local community, where women accused of witchcraft, and in some cases family members who flee with them, can seek refuge and protection from persecution by their own community or family. In that sense, a witches’ camp is a protection mechanism comparable to a women’s shelter in the contemporary sense. </p> <p>For instance, the settlement in Gambaga (East Mamprusi District, Northern Region) is officially called the <a href="http://presbyterian.ca/2012/12/06/reclaiming-their-dignity-ghanas-witch-camps/">Gambaga Outcast Home</a>. Its origins are said to date back to 1900s, when a local <em>imam</em> took pity on the women accused of witchcraft and provided them with refuge in a field nearby the village. Eventually, the local chief (the <em>Gambarana</em>) assumed this protective role. The <em>Gambarana</em> is thought to have special spiritual power to determine whether a woman is a witch or not. It is also believed that he can purify witches and extinguish their supernatural powers. </p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Ghana_cadilar kampi.jpeg" alt="" width="400" /></p><p><em>Witches camp, Ghana. Photo: author's own.</em></p><p>The local population in Gambaga interact with these women, since tradition holds that the local gods neutralize a witch’s power to practice her craft once she comes to Gambaga. Nevertheless, a certain stigma remains and women accused of witchcraft can usually only engage in certain limited income-generating activities such as firewood collection that do not require contact with the villagers. Since these women also lack the support of their own family, they are completely destitute. </p> <p>There are national level programs that provide support to women outcasts and facilitate their return to their own villages and normal lives.&nbsp; However, since the convictions of the local population about witchcraft are very strong, these programs do not question the very notion of witchcraft, but rather address the social and spiritual dimensions of each individual case in negotiating the home communities to allow the women to occasionally visit her family and eventually to fully remove the woman’s supposed witchcraft powers and reconcile her with her community. </p> <p class="ListParagraph"><strong>Situation of widows</strong></p> <p class="ListParagraph">While customary law denies women the right to inherit, it obliges the heirs of the deceased to maintain his widow and children. In many cases, however, not even this obligation is respected and those invoking customary inheritance rights evict widows from their homes. The Intestate Succession Law seeks to protect widows against eviction by making it a criminal offense to evict a widow or her children from the family home within the first six months of the husband’s death. Unfortunately, this protective norm is often wrongly interpreted as permitting evictions after six months have passed. </p> <p>Several communities practice levirate marriage/widow inheritance, requiring the widow to marry (formally or informally) her late husband’s brother as recourse. In other communities, the woman is “inherited” by one of the sons born to another wife of the deceased husband. These marriages are more than a social support arrangement for the widow, since the man is permitted to have sexual relations with the widow. The children born from these relations are considered to be the deceased husband’s, and thus, are often neglected by their biological fathers. Widow women are in no position to refuse such arrangements. </p> <p><strong>Joint responsibility for change <br /></strong></p> <p>The realization of commitments to gender equality made under the Constitution and the state’s international obligations remains a serious challenge in Ghana, where women’s subordinate position is maintained through discriminatory and harmful practices. The Domestic Violence Act of 2007 marks an important step forward, but more needs to be done to support women’s empowerment and change mindsets in society. </p> <p>Constitutionally recognized traditional authorities and the customary law, which wield considerable influence over the populous, often pose additional challenges for the advancement of women. The state authorities and civil society, with the support of the international community, need to engage and, where necessary, compel the customary system to fully respect the rights women and girls are entitled to under the Constitution and international law. </p> <p>High levels of poverty and the external debt burden limit the government’s margin of operation to prioritize the allocation of sufficient resources for universal basic education, gender parity in education and the economic and social development of marginalized regions and districts. The international community has a responsibility to support the government’s efforts to promote gender equality and eliminate violence against women through targeted funding and technical cooperation, further debt relief and, perhaps most importantly, fairer terms of trade.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p><em>This article stems from a chapter addressing women's realities in Ghana in the author's book <a href="https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10153233614693211&amp;id=59143448210"><strong>Violence without Borders</strong>. </a>The book was first published in Turkish in 2014, and will be published in English by the Women's Learning Partnership in March 2016.</em> </p> <p><strong>Read more articles in openDemocracy 50.50's series on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-based-violence">16 Days Activism Against Gender Violence</a></strong></p> <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/yakin-erturk-and-jennifer-allsopp/due-diligence-for-womens-human-rights-transgressing-conventio">Due diligence for women&#039;s human rights: transgressing conventional lines </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/reeva-steenkamp-justice">Reeva Steenkamp: justice?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/gender-violence-in-media-elusive-reality">Gender violence in the media: elusive reality</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fear-and-fury-women-and-post-revolutionary-violence">Fear and fury: women and post-revolutionary violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ruth-rosen/we-will-not-be-beaten">&quot;We will not be beaten&quot; </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/sexual-violence-access-to-justice-and-human-rights">Sexual violence, access to justice, and human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/preventing-violence-against-women-sluggish-cascade">Preventing violence against women: a sluggish cascade?</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/heather-mcrobie/it-takes-broken-bones-authoritarianism-and-violence-against-women-in-hungary">&quot;It takes broken bones&quot;: authoritarianism and violence against women in Hungary </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/margaret-owen/hidden-lives-of-child-widows">The hidden lives of child widows </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zoe-holman/state-complicity-in-sexual-abuse-of-women-in-cairo">State complicity in the sexual abuse of women in Cairo</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lorna-gledhill/fleeing-fgm-bodies-on-frontline">Fleeing FGM: Bodies on the frontline</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nasheima-sheikh/ending-female-genital-mutilation-in-uk">Ending female genital mutilation in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/anne-marie-goetz/stopping-sexual-violence-in-conflict-gender-politics-in-foreign-policy">Stopping sexual violence in conflict: gender politics in foreign policy</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/adelaide-mazwarira/ending-violence-against-women-challenge-of-translating-words-into-action">Ending violence against women: the challenge of translating words into action </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/naila-kabeer/grief-and-rage-in-india-making-violence-against-women-history">Grief and rage in India: making violence against women history? 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</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"> Ghana </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 Ghana 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Continuum of Violence 16 Days: activism against gender based violence 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 newsletter bodily autonomy feminism gender justice gendered poverty patriarchy violence against women Yakin Erturk Wed, 25 Nov 2015 09:27:33 +0000 Yakin Erturk 97889 at https://www.opendemocracy.net South Africa: white fear, black anger and student protests https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch-ramsden/south-africa-white-fear-back-anger-and-student-protests <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Student protests across South Africa have heralded a new generation of political activists. ‘Born free’ into democracy, they are frustrated at the slow pace of transformation in higher education.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>As October 2015 drew to a close, international media attention focused once again on South Africa as Oscar Pistorius was released from jail after serving 10 months of his five-year sentence for killing Reeva Steenkamp. Fewer column inches were dedicated to the student protests which reclaimed movement politics for the ‘born free’ generation, those born after the fall of the apartheid government in 1994. </p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/22457088881_d51dc0e99d_m.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p> <p><em>"Our voices will not be silenced", mass meeting on UCT campus, 22 October 2015.</em></p><p>On the day of Pistorius’ release to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest in his luxury home, one student protester carried a&nbsp;<a href="http://cdn.mg.co.za/multimedia/slideshows/2015/10/28/Posters_Fees_Must_Fall/600_450/feesmustfall_4169.jpg" target="_blank">placard</a>&nbsp;that read, ‘Oscar is walking free but students are being arrested by fees!!’ </p> <p>The protests speak – or, more appropriately, shout – to a lack of transformation in South Africa in twenty one years of democracy, something which was also revealed through Oscar Pistorius’ case. </p> <p>As I described in my&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/oscar-pistorius-shooting-to-kill" target="_blank">first article</a>&nbsp;in oD 50.50’s Oscar Pistorius trilogy, Pistorius’ defence (which Judge Masipa believed) is that he killed Reeva Steenkamp believing both of their lives to be at risk from an intruder. He claims that he thought he was protecting her from an imagined, violent stranger, implicitly a black man. Margie Orford&nbsp;<a href="http://www.timeslive.co.za/opinion/2014/03/03/imagined-threat-of-a-black-stranger-at-heart-of-defence" target="_blank">locates</a>&nbsp;this argument as a manifestation of swart gevaar – literally ‘black threat’, shorthand for a security risk posed to white people by the majority black population. ‘Under apartheid,’ writes Orford, ‘swart gevaar was used to excuse any and all kinds of violence.’ In Pistorius’ case, it was used to explain an excessive four gunshots at close range by a white man protecting his home and girlfriend.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p><strong>Swart gevaar, white fear <br /></strong></p> <p>Although it means ‘black threat’, swart gevaar is actually about whiteness: it casts the Black ‘other’ as an unknown but violent quantity, and centres white feelings of fear in this narrative. White fear is a feature of post-apartheid South Africa as much as it was a pillar of apartheid, one of the threads of history which ties the present to the past. It manifests blatantly, as in the Pistorius defence argument, as well as subtly, weaving its way into concepts such as ‘meritocracy’ and dessert which ignore the&nbsp;<a href="http://mg.co.za/article/2014-02-06-khaya-dlanga-is-a-post-racial-south-africa-possible" target="_blank">intersections</a>&nbsp;between race, gender and the chances of academic or economic advantage. </p> <p>In an education setting, we find whiteness centred not only in what is studied&nbsp;&nbsp;(the curriculum) but how it is studied – for instance, the&nbsp;<a href="http://thoughtleader.co.za/athambilemasola/2015/08/31/luister-black-skin-a-burden-in-stellenbosch/" target="_blank">language of instruction</a>&nbsp;(despite South Africa’s 11 official languages, English and Afrikaans dominate education), the ethnic demographics of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bdlive.co.za/national/education/2015/05/18/campuses-changing-slowly--and-unevenly" target="_blank">staff</a>&nbsp;who teach it, and the fees which&nbsp;<a href="http://ewn.co.za/2015/10/19/FeesMustFall-The-trending-conversation" target="_blank">outprice</a> poor students and would-be students, who are predominantly Black. </p> <p>In this way Black lives, languages and experiences are deemed unworthy – of being voiced, studied or included. Whiteness remains dominant, so any challenge is a threat: this is swart gevaar. </p> <p>When white privilege is challenged, it triggers a fear which Robin DiAngelo coins&nbsp;<a href="http://www.alternet.org/culture/why-white-people-freak-out-when-theyre-called-out-about-race" target="_blank">white fragility</a>, an ‘inability to handle the stress of conversations about race and racism…that prevents anybody from moving forward.’ DiAngelo describes a typical reaction, ‘tone policing’, whereby ‘white people…[dictate] criteria about how people of colour give us feedback’ – further centring white experiences at the expense of Black ones. </p> <p>On this theme, a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/cerimaj/posts/10153103906065925" target="_blank">meme</a>&nbsp;is circulating South African social media in which a young, smiling white woman repeats those clichés which indicate white fragility: ‘Apartheid / is in the past’; ‘Why are you making this / about race?’; ‘White privilege? / But I’m not rich’; ‘Racism is over / just work harder’. These sentiments may seem mild compared to assertions of&nbsp;<a href="http://citizen.co.za/837701/afriforum-heads-to-union-buildings-over-afrikaner-students-issues/" target="_blank">Afrikaaner privilege</a>&nbsp;or more violent reactions (including the man who allegedly pulled&nbsp;<a href="http://allafrica.com/stories/201510201841.html" target="_blank">a gun</a>&nbsp;on protesting students in Grahamstown), but they subtly uphold the systematic racism which devalues Black lives. </p> <p><strong>The forgiveness legacy</strong> </p> <p>In part, white feelings – such as fear – continue to be centred in South Africa due to the emphasis placed on assuaging these feelings during the transition from apartheid. </p> <p>When the foundations of the New South Africa were laid, the dreams and aspirations for a post-apartheid South Africa were cemented with the notion of forgiveness. Particularly through the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/acts/1995-034.pdf" target="_blank">Truth and Reconciliation Commission</a>&nbsp;(TRC), Black South Africans were encouraged to forgive the white sins of the past and move forward as part of a ‘<a href="http://www.anc.org.za/show.php?id=3132" target="_blank">rainbow nation</a>&nbsp;at peace with itself and the world.’ Testimonies were heard, apologies made and forgiveness proffered. Madiba even shared his&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1993/" target="_blank">Nobel Peace Prize</a>&nbsp;with apartheid president F.W. de Klerk. </p> <p>This was part of a process which Archbishop Desmond Tutu has&nbsp;<a href="http://theforgivenessproject.com/stories/desmond-tutu-south-africa/" target="_blank">described</a>&nbsp;in his Forgiveness Project as being as, if not more, important to the person doing the forgiving as to those forgiven. ‘Remaining in that state [of anger and hatred] locks you in a state of victimhood,’ he explains, and forgiveness acts as the catalyst to ‘move on’. The personal, possibly spiritual benefits of forgiveness seem to be only one aspect of transformation; they do not balance the realities of poverty, or a painstakingly slow pace of material change. </p> <p>However, ‘forgiveness’ seemed to become an end in itself, and this continued to erase the pain and anger experienced by Black people under apartheid. </p> <p>Nelson Mandela became something of a poster boy for this brand of forgiveness: if he could spend 27 years imprisoned and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/nelson-mandela-forgiveness-south-africa-apartheid-528153" target="_blank">extend dinner invitations</a>&nbsp;to his captors, then other South Africans should follow his example and forgive their oppressors. The fact that Mandela’s approach was actually more&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/jul/03/guardianreview.books7" target="_blank">nuanced</a>&nbsp;has been whitewashed. Mandela was instead,&nbsp;<a href="http://africasacountry.com/2013/12/three-myths-about-mandela-worth-busting/" target="_blank">wrongly</a>, adopted as a Hollywood symbol of non-violence and transformation. This portrayal was cemented by blockbuster films like&nbsp;<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1057500/" target="_blank"><em>Invictus</em></a>,<em>&nbsp;</em>the plot of which actually revolved around a white man, Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, and his journey into the New South Africa, for whom the Mandela character serves as a godlike moral compass. </p> <p><strong>Black anger</strong> </p> <p>Forgiveness has not effected transformation; as a narrative, it requires the same suspension of disbelief as to imagine that Morgan Freeman is the real Nelson Mandela. It has served to centre white experiences,&nbsp;de-emphasising a history of Black pain in favour of assuaging white fear. The real benefactors of forgiveness are those who were aided by apartheid; not only do they continue to benefit from history, but thanks to the forgiveness narrative they can do so guilt-free. Meanwhile, although Black pain, and anger, are as normal a part of South Africa as white fear, there has not been the same attention given to assuaging it. </p> <p>During the recent protests, a number of placards riffed on the same theme: ‘My parents were sold a dream in 1994. I’m here for a refund!’ </p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/IMG-20151023-WA0001.jpg" alt="" height="381" width="263" /></p> <p><em>1994 ANC election poster. Photo:ANC</em> </p><p>This year South African student movements voiced this pain, and organised to challenge the lack of transformation in universities.&nbsp;<a href="http://rhodesmustfall.co.za/" target="_blank">Rhodes Must Fall</a>&nbsp;at the University of Cape Town (UCT) agitated for the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes from campus and pushed for&nbsp;<a href="http://uct.ac.za/dailynews/?id=9126" target="_blank">decolonisation</a>&nbsp;of the institution. Open Stellenbosch released a documentary,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sF3rTBQTQk4" target="_blank"><em>Luister</em></a>, about the racism experienced by students of colour at Stellenbosch University. The&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCityGJCaYI&amp;feature=youtu.be" target="_blank"><em>#RhodesSoWhite</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em>documentary likewise explores themes of structural oppression at the university currently known as Rhodes. Activity culminated in a National Shutdown at the end of October against unaffordable tuition fees, co-ordinated by students at universities across South Africa under the umbrella&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FeesMustFall" target="_blank">#FeesMustFall</a>. </p> <p>By rejecting the forgiveness narrative, student movements have demanded a more concrete alternative. This includes accessible, free education, a staffing body which is&nbsp;<a href="https://africacheck.org/reports/how-many-professors-are-there-in-sa/" target="_blank">reflective</a>&nbsp;of South Africa, and a curriculum which engages with society rather than Eurocentric ideals – as Thato Pule, UCT student and member of Rhodes Must Fall&nbsp;<a href="http://uct.ac.za/dailynews/?id=9126" target="_blank">puts it</a>, “does UCT respond to the needs of Khayelitsha?” </p> <p>So far in 2015, UCT’s statue of Rhodes has indeed&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-32236922" target="_blank">fallen</a>;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sabc.co.za/news/a/f34ab8004a505d2d8388db6d39fe9e0c/Zuma-announces-0-fee-hike-20152310" target="_blank">fees</a>&nbsp;will not increase next year at any university; formal conversations about decolonisation are taking place; the University of Witwatersrand (<a href="http://www.enca.com/south-africa/wits-agrees-end-outsourcing-workers" target="_blank">Wits</a>) and&nbsp;<a href="http://allafrica.com/stories/201510290514.html" target="_blank">UCT</a> are committed to ‘insourcing’ workers, thus providing security for all university staff.&nbsp;&nbsp;The student movements have already ensured more rapid transformation of the university curriculum. For example, at the University of Johannesburg, there will be&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bdlive.co.za/national/education/2015/10/29/uj-to-include-compulsory-courses-on-african-philosophy-anticolonialism" target="_blank">compulsory courses</a>&nbsp;on African philosophy and anticolonialism. The Decolonise UCT Law movement also secured a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/decoloniseuctlaw/photos/a.798800376874847.1073741828.798013170286901/840081126080105/?type=3&amp;fref=nf&amp;pnref=story" target="_blank">change</a>&nbsp;to UCT’s jurisprudence course, to include critical race and feminist theories. </p> <p>Not only is the movement effective, in itself it is inspiring. For a start, is led by women. Shaeera Kalla and<a href="http://www.destinyman.com/2015/10/21/time-out-with-student-leader-nompendulo-mkhatshwa/" target="_blank">Nompendulo Mkhatshwa</a>, the respective outgoing and incoming presidents of the Wits Student Representative Council, ignited #FeesMustFall. </p> <p>Their concerns are intersectional, extending beyond fees to broader issues of access, including&nbsp;<a href="http://www.afropunk.com/profiles/blogs/op-ed-no-azania-without-black-women" target="_blank">patriarchy</a>,<a href="http://mg.co.za/article/2015-10-28-students-march-on-sars-reserve-bank-and-treasury#.VjIXCj3cqKk.facebook" target="_blank">capitalism</a>, and rights for the most&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thedailyvox.co.za/treating-workers-like-human-beings-is-not-possible-in-a-university-run-like-a-capitalist-business/" target="_blank">vulnerable</a>&nbsp;members of the university community,&nbsp;<a href="http://mobi.iol.co.za/#!/article/i-m-living-off-r100-varsity-cl" target="_blank">outsourced workers</a>. #EndOutsourcing was the renewed rallying cry of student protesters once a 0% fees increase was secured for 2016. Students now stand in solidarity with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thedailyvox.co.za/it-took-middle-class-students-to-win-the-rights-of-workers-at-uct/" target="_blank">workers movements</a>&nbsp;as they continue to demand&nbsp;<a href="http://theconversation.com/five-trends-south-africas-universities-must-reject-if-they-really-want-change-49452?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+October+21+2015+-+3677&amp;utm_content=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+October+21+2015+-+3677+CID_b9620bd8c97f74f76f2f4131e7cb5529&amp;utm_source=campaign_monitor_africa&amp;utm_term=Five%20trends%20South%20Africas%20universities%20must%20reject%20if%20they%20really%20want%20change" target="_blank">better</a>&nbsp;from their higher education institutions and the government. </p> <p>The student-led mass movement of 2015 has heralded the political awakening of a generation which has realised they were not all ‘born free’, and a reawakening for the country which was moved by student activism in&nbsp;<a href="http://africanhistory.about.com/od/apartheid/a/Soweto-Uprising-Pt1.htm" target="_blank">1976</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://sahistory.org.za/township-uprising-1984-1985" target="_blank">1984-5</a>. </p> <p>Before the government decided to listen to student demands, in scenes that should have ended with apartheid, students were met with teargas, rubber bullets and arrests. Twenty three protesters from UCT who peacefully marched on Parliament had their bail set at R1m – the same set for Oscar Pistorius when he was charged with murder. </p> <p>Apartheid-era&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theconmag.co.za/2015/10/29/feesmustfall-democracy-under-fire/" target="_blank">tactics</a>&nbsp;were employed, including state-sanctioned police brutality and threatening activists with charges of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2015-10-22-feesmustfall-was-high-treason-on-the-cards-for-arrested-students/#.VjaG9U1i9jp" target="_blank">high treason</a>. Furthermore, the value of Black lives to the police was obvious when only a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.citizen.co.za/827670/uct-protesters-call-for-white-human-shield/" target="_blank">white human shield</a>&nbsp;would prevent police violence. </p> <p>The government’s initial response betrays their fear. This reveals that they have joined the ranks of those who benefited from apartheid: structurally privileged, but precarious. Perceiving a threat to their power, and overreacting. They might remember Mandela’s own advice to South Africans: “If the ANC does to you what the apartheid government did to the ANC, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the apartheid government.” </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%C3%A9-ramsden/south-africa-after-mandela-beyond-rainbow">South Africa after Mandela: beyond the rainbow</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/chantelle-de-nobrega/nelson-mandela-who-tells-story">Nelson Mandela: Who tells the story? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/oscar-pistorius-shooting-to-kill">Oscar Pistorius: shooting to kill</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/oscar-pistorius-south-african-story">Oscar Pistorius: the South African story</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/reeva-steenkamp-justice">Reeva Steenkamp: justice?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/chantelle-de-nobrega/south-africa-gender-equality-and-morality-as-citizenship">South Africa: Gender equality and morality as citizenship</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/mandela-towards-non-sexist-south-africa">Mandela: towards a non-sexist South Africa</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/hoodah-abrahamsfayker/litigating-for-equality-in-south-africa-muslim-marriages">Litigating for equality in South Africa: Muslim marriages</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shereen-essof/south-africa-patriarchy-paper-and-reclaiming-feminism">South Africa: patriarchy, paper, and reclaiming feminism </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/isobel-frye/south-africa-values-we-fought-for">South Africa: the values we fought for </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"> South Africa </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 South Africa Civil society Democracy and government 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter Ché Ramsden Mon, 02 Nov 2015 19:45:33 +0000 Ché Ramsden 97318 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Refugee or economic migrant? Join the dots Theresa May https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/georgia-cole/refugee-or-economic-migrant-join-dots-theresa-may <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The compartmentalisation of individuals into the categories of economic migrants <em>or </em>refugees obscures the fundamental ways in which these two groups are intimately related through remittance economies.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/22.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="British Home Secretary, Theresa May (Ken Jack/Demotix)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/22.jpg" alt="British Home Secretary, Theresa May (Ken Jack/Demotix)" title="British Home Secretary, Theresa May (Ken Jack/Demotix)" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>British Home Secretary, Theresa May (Ken Jack/Demotix)</span></span></span>With the prevalence of </span><a href="http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/CoIEritrea/A_HRC_29_CRP-1_Chapter_I_II.pdf">reports</a><span> in the </span><a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/eritrea/11556045/Why-so-many-migrants-flee-Eritrea-the-worlds-10-most-repressive-regimes.html">media</a><span> documenting the horrendous conditions faced by individuals within Eritrea, and </span><a href="http://www.unhcr.org/5465fea1381.html">several thousand</a><span> leaving the country per month, a pertinent question is who remains in the country and why?</span></p> <p>Conversations with colleagues and friends in Eritrea last year, in the context of wider research in Asmara on Eritrea’s historical relationship with its refugees in Sudan, often turned towards people discussing why they had <em>not</em> left the country and claimed asylum elsewhere. For many, their rationale was simple: because somebody they knew already had. Those that had already left now constituted the “lungs” whose remittances kept those within the country alive. </p> <p>It was not uncommon for individuals to fully attribute their survival to the periodic transfers of money from those “outside”. And what would happen if that flow dried up? All of their dependents – whether brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, friends and wider relatives – would have to rethink the feasibility of remaining in Eritrea. Many reasoned that the only solution would be to themselves cross the border and leave their country.</p> <p>For many reasons, such an outcome is undesirable. Every stage of the onward <a href="http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/610225/Migrant-crisis-Mediterranean-named-the-world-s-DEADLIEST-crossing-for-refugees">journey</a> carries dangers, such as <a href="http://www.refworld.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/rwmain?docid=5142d9692">human trafficking</a> through the Sinai Desert, or the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/09/03/magazine/migrants.html?_r=1">precariousness</a> of crossing the Mediterranean in unseaworthy vessels, and no stage contains any certainty of accessing protection or employment. Leaving Eritrea also forfeits individuals’ automatic right to return unless they sign a <a href="http://www.tesfanews.net/uk-home-office-changed-policy-on-eritrean-asylum-seekers/">‘letter’</a> of apology at an Eritrean Embassy and pay the 2% income tax required by citizens living abroad, and as such their rights to assets within the country. As UNHCR has cautioned in the past, it potentially places their relatives and friends at risk of being accused by the Government of assisting their escape and being punished through imprisonment, fines or substitute forced conscription. </p><p>For others, love for their country runs deep and they do not wish to leave it after its hard-fought struggle for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eritrean_War_of_Independence">Independence</a> which ended in 1991. The hope is that its current <a href="http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/eritrea/overview">challenges</a> are temporary, and that individuals can get by until the economy and employment opportunities recover. Their desire to stay put is nonetheless inseparable from the ability of others around them to move. </p> <p>Many of the those individuals that we stop from entering Europe, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11703636/Calais-migrants-Britain-to-build-huge-fence-at-Channel-Tunnel-port-in-France.html">barricade</a> in camps in Calais, or <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2015/sep/16/first-refugees-head-for-croatia-after-hungarys-border-crackdown-live-updates">ping pong</a> between European Member States on an increasingly frequent basis are therefore part of complex transnational coping strategies that challenge the value of drawing an absolute distinction between the ‘economic migrant’ and the ‘genuine refugee’. </p> <p>This relationship is clearly something that has been missed by the UK Home Secretary, Theresa May. In a speech this week that the right leaning Telegraph <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11913927/Theresa-Mays-immigration-speech-is-dangerous-and-factually-wrong.html">described</a> as ‘awful, ugly, misleading, cynical and irresponsible’, she suggested that those who make it to the UK through their own initiative are somehow less deserving candidates for assistance, protection and ultimately refugee status than those who remain closer to their countries of origin. In doing so, she sets up a ‘<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/06/guardian-view-on-theresa-may-conservative-party-conference-speech-nasty-party">false choice’</a>: either we can help those individuals who make it to Europe <em>or </em>we can instead concentrate our efforts on the more ‘vulnerable’ individuals effectively waiting their turn in refugee camps in countries of origin. The similarities to Tony Abbott’s discussions of ‘undeserving’ ‘<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/05/queue-jumpers-and-boat-people-the-way-we-talk-about-refugees-began-in-1977">queue jumpers’ and ‘boat people’</a> in Australia is uncanny. The ex-Australian Prime Minister has always <a href="http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/nope-nope-nope-tony-abbott-says-australia-will-not-resettle-refugees-in-migrant-crisis-20150521-gh6eew.html">been clear</a> that “If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door”.</p> <p>On the one hand, and as is regularly discussed, penalising individuals for their mobility by suggesting that reaching Europe somehow makes them less deserving of refugee status abrogates our responsibilities under the 1951 Refugee Convention. Young, fit, mobile women and men are similarly victims of war, repression and persecution, especially in situations of forced national conscription and generalised violence. Owning a smartphone does <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/surprised-that-syrian-refugees-have-smartphones-well-sorry-to-break-this-to-you-but-youre-an-idiot-10489719.html">not mean</a> that you do not face persecution.</p> <p>On the other hand, a distraction from understanding the problems faced by individuals in Europe and at its frontiers right now has been our obsession with how to categorise them, purely according to their status in the immediate ‘here and now’. As Professor Roger Zetter <a href="http://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/news/new-state-of-the-art-report-on-protecting-forced-migrants-by-emeritus-professor-roger-zetter">continues to argue</a>, the fixation on labelling detracts from the real protection obligations that states have towards individuals. Beyond the fact that why people move is always a <a href="http://compasanthology.co.uk/mixed-migration/">mixture</a> of voluntary and involuntary factors, the compartmentalisation of individuals into the categories of migrants <em>or </em>refugees obscures the fundamental ways in which these two groups are intimately related. As is so clear in Eritrea, by mitigating against the worst depravities of the state and its market, those individuals who can leave become ‘economic migrants’ precisely to protect their families and friends from becoming refugees. <a href="http://www.fmreview.org/fr/node/270?text_size=large-text">Human mobility</a> is thus at the heart of protection.</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/ggggggggggggg.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Eritreans protest in Liverpool, 2015 (Right to Remain)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/ggggggggggggg.jpg" alt="Eritreans protest in Liverpool, 2015 (Right to Remain)" title="Eritreans protest in Liverpool, 2015 (Right to Remain)" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Eritreans protest in Liverpool, 2015 (Right to Remain)</span></span></span><span>Plans by the EU to </span><a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/03/24/uk-eritrea-eu-aid-idUKKBN0MK1I220150324">reduce</a><span> the numbers of individuals leaving Eritrea through development aid and trade agreements therefore epitomise the absolute inability for policy-makers to join up the dots between those leaving the country and those staying behind. </span></p><p><span>First – and quite simply – when it is the violence perpetrated by a state which is resulting in their citizens’ choosing to leave, channelling aid through those very same institutions seems to fundamentally miss the point.</span></p> <p>Second, <a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/09/17/uk-europe-migrants-eritrea-idUKKCN0RH1MU20150917">millions of pounds</a> worth of pledges of development aid (as has been the case in Eritrea) is often nothing compared to the <a href="http://mgafrica.com/article/2015-05-29-remittance-in-africa-where-does-it-go">scale of remittances</a> that many states receive through their diaspora, especially when pledges do not necessarily ever materialise. Remittances are not only <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-22169474">quantitatively greater</a>, but also <a href="http://www.thisisafricaonline.com/Perspectives/Why-remittances-work-better-than-aid?ct=true">qualitatively more effective</a> at assisting local populations and catalysing their development. Whilst evidence therefore abounds about the importance of remittances and the value of facilitating these global flows of money, the celebration of remittance economies seems to have remained detached in the popular media from the broader debates on migration and asylum.&nbsp;<span>Linking these three debates is nonetheless critical.</span></p><p>Images of young women or men sat on the <a href="http://www.irinnews.org/report/101533/migrants-limbo-in-spain-s-african-enclave">fences at Melilla</a> or boarding trains in Europe often invoke the label ‘<a href="http://www.irinnews.org/report/101533/migrants-limbo-in-spain-s-african-enclave">economic migrant’</a>, as if to dismiss the critical importance of their journeys. Explanations seem to suggest that it is because of these ‘economic migrants’ that the EU is incapable of providing more support to more ‘deserving’ and ‘vulnerable’ individuals elsewhere.&nbsp;<span>On the contrary, and alongside the fact that on too many occasions individuals do </span><a href="http://www.haaretz.com/news/israel/israel-denies-asylum-to-eritrean-refugee-in-first-state-response-to-application.premium-1.526960">not get access</a><span> to the protective refugee status that we have a responsibility to provide, in certain situations it is entirely because of these ‘migrants’ that other individuals in their networks are not forced to become ‘refugees’. In allowing certain individuals to stay put, they prevent whole families from having to cross militarised borders, board ramshackle boats or pay huge fares to be smuggled in appalling conditions overland. Remittances provide a lifeline, both to individuals who remain within countries that are experiencing high degrees of violence, persecution and state failure, and for individuals who wish to remain in refugee camps near their country of origin.</span></p> <p>Unlike the false dichotomy established by Theresa May, the two groups are not involved in a zero-sum game whereby the benefits accrued by one group come at the direct cost to another. And neither do entire families necessarily wish to make the treacherous journey to Europe; the risks from war and displacement may be mitigated by one or two members of the family being actively encouraged to pre-emptively travel further afield in search of employment. </p> <p>In denying particular individuals the opportunity to provide financial support to friends and relatives outside of Europe, our policies and approaches therefore put an ‘or’ in the ‘migrant/refugee’ debate. We can either welcome individuals as economic migrants, <em>or</em> deny them this opportunity and welcome more of their friends and relatives as refugees. We should not be forcing individuals – such as the Eritreans discussed above – to go down the latter route because we have denied them access to the former. If we are going to draw a line between ‘economic migrants’ and ‘refugees’ then it should go directly from one to the other, not down the middle.&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="/5050/500-eritreans">500 Eritreans</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alex-glennie-and-glenn-gottfried/migration-and-development-question-of-barriers">Migration and development: a question of barriers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/nina-perkowski/more-frontex-is-not-answer-to-refugee-crisis">More Frontex is not the answer to the refugee crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/faultlines-refugees-and-law">Faultlines, refugees, and the law </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/academics-stand-against-poverty/refugee-crisis-open-letter-from-academics-stand-against-poverty">The refugee crisis: an open letter from Academics Stand Against Poverty</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/whos-afraid-of-global-poor">Who&#039;s afraid of the &#039;global poor&#039;?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/mariagiulia-giuffr%C3%A9-cathryn-costello/crocodile-tears-tragedy-and-responsibility-i">&#039;Tragedy&#039; and responsibility in the Mediterranean</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"> Eritrea </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 Eritrea economics europe africa 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change 50.50 newsletter Georgia Cole Thu, 08 Oct 2015 12:21:37 +0000 Georgia Cole 96657 at https://www.opendemocracy.net AIDS targets: the fear factor https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/hajjarah-nagadya/aids-targets-fear-factor <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>HIV is not just a health issue but a multi-sectoral issue that requires many different players. Is the UNAIDS HIV '90-90-90' fast-track initiative in Uganda achievable?</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/ICWGlobalChair&amp;DeputyVancouver2015.jpeg" alt="Two women stand next to one another in front of a microphone" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>ICW Global Chair Martha Tholanah (l) and Deputy Marama Pala (r) at the International AIDS Conference. Photo (c) Alice Welbourn</span></span></span>UNAIDS has announced that by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV should know their HIV status, 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV should receive sustained&nbsp;antiretroviral therapy (ART), and 90% of all people receiving anti-retroviral therapy should have achieved viral suppression. By 2030, these targets are all raised to 95%. This is goal of the <a href="http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/campaigns/World-AIDS-Day-Report-2014">Fast Track</a> initiative. </p><p>Many countries have welcomed and embraced this ambitious target, but the question is whether it is possible to do so.&nbsp; This is a target that everyone wants to achieve if we are to reduce HIV prevalence, but are we ready as countries to achieve this? In order to do so, people have to be tested, have to start treatment at some stage, and have to adhere to treatment, once started, for life. There are many serious hurdles they can meet along the way.</p> <p>Testing is the first area of concern. We all know that early treatment can reduce rates of onward transmission by 90% in theory, because if people with HIV are able to adhere to their treatment our ‘viral load’ should drop to an undetectable level, meaning that we cannot <a href="http://i-base.info/htb/24904">pass</a> on our HIV to anyone else – as if we should ever wish to. But how many countries have been successful in putting all people in need of ART on treatment? In Uganda, for example, over 1.5 million people are living with HIV but only 564,453 were on anti-retroviral therapy, as indicated in a 2013 HIV and AIDS Uganda country progress <a href="http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/country/documents/UGA_narrative_report_2014.pdf">report</a>. This same report revealed that only 71.7% of the total number of pregnant women tested for HIV were given ARVs during their ante-natal <a href="http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/country/documents/UGA_narrative_report_2014.pdf">care</a>. Thus we can see that some children will have been born with HIV, which will in turn create a bigger gap between the targets and reality.</p> <p>In many health facilities with a huge number of pregnant women and very few health workers, group pre-counselling and testing is practised as opposed to individual counselling followed by testing - which is what is meant to happen. One-to-one counselling is only offered just before handing over the test results. Group-counseling is in the form of a health talk. This is not adequate enough for someone who is testing for the first time. Because of the impersonal nature of group - as opposed to one-to-one-counselling - women are often not prepared for what may be ahead of them. This has created an environment where many women run away before receiving their test results, and others do not carry on taking their drugs after being found to be HIV-positive.</p> <p>Violence in the form of stigma and discrimination is also becoming a chronic characteristic in many settings. It stands as another serious barrier to achievement of this ambitious target, both in healthcare facilities and in families and homes. </p> <p>The fear of testing is very real. Both men and women fear taking the HIV test because they do not want to be seen and gossiped about. Those who already know their status are afraid to start their medication and often hide while swallowing the drugs. This kind of fear has hindered adherence to treatment and leads to the failure to suppress the virus in their bodies. Violence and the fear of violence also marginalises people living with HIV and undermines the national prevention and treatment efforts. &nbsp;Until society understands that HIV is like any other disease, that it can be manageable and no longer a death sentence as it was previously referred to, the threat or reality of violence can also mean that this ambitious target may instead become a nightmare to haunt us.</p> <p>In addition, donors are reducing their <a href="http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/Uganda-faces-tough-choices-as-donors-cut-aid/-/2558/2235888/-/2i5qc1/-/index.html">funding</a>, and in Uganda we have failed to increase our domestic funding for health. In the 2015/2016 financial year, only 7% of the national budget was allocated to <a href="http://www.into-sa.com/countries/UG/news/revised-budget-2015-2016-focusses-on-energy-and-transport">health</a>, which is less than the Abuja target which proposed that countries allocate 15% of their national budget to <a href="http://www.who.int/healthsystems/publications/abuja_report_aug_2011.pdf?ua=1">health</a>. We are very concerned that this will not be sufficient to achieve the Fast Track target if donors continue to reduce their funding while at the same time Uganda is not increasing the domestic funding.&nbsp; </p> <p>Uganda is also still reporting cases of a lack of supplies. There are stock-outs of ARVs, despite the 2013 WHO treatment <a href="http://www.who.int/hiv/pub/guidelines/arv2013/en/">guidelines</a> that recommend starting all people living with HIV whose CD4 counts are below 500 on ART. In addition, there are regular stock-outs of testing kits even though they are obviously essential as an entry point to HIV treatment.</p> <p>Viral load testing in most of the low-income countries is still a dream. People are not even aware of what a viral load is, and are not in a position to pay for the test anyway. The test is widely charged for in Uganda although it is supposed to be free if donated by PEPFAR. There are just a few men - and even fewer women - in Uganda who are able to pay an amount of $50 to have their viral load tested. Until this service is made free for even the poorest people to access it, people won’t check their viral load, and it will be hard to understand whether the virus is being suppressed and whether the global target is being achieved or not.</p> <p>So even though we know that about 550,000 of us so far have started HIV treatment, without routine viral load screening we have no idea how many of us have been able to adhere to treatment and thus have an undetectable viral load. Even the phrase "achieving viral suppression" - the one normally used by donors and policy makers - puts the blame on our shoulders if we don’t achieve it.</p> <p>&nbsp;How fair is this allocation of blame?</p> <p>Criminalisation also plays a part here. <a href="http://www.hivjustice.net/topic/lawsandpolicies/punitive-laws-and-policies/">Countries</a> have passed laws that criminalise intentional HIV transmission and attempted HIV transmission, despite the fact that we are still advocating for voluntary HIV testing. Such punitive laws are more likely to deter people further from accessing health services, including HIV testing. People work out quickly that no one needs to leave a trail that will be used by the law to count him or her out - and this includes pregnant women. People in these environments are therefore now more likely not to test, and are also likely not to go for treatment because according to our new law in Uganda, you can be convicted if you know your HIV status.</p> <p>It is vital that people understand that HIV is not just a health issue but a multi-sectoral issue that requires many different players. The more people tag it to individuals, the more we need to talk not just about overcoming HIV and AIDS as a non-curable disease, but about overcoming violence against people with HIV in the form of stigma and discrimination. </p><p><em><strong>Read more articles on the long running 50.50 platform <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-aids-gender-and-human-rights">AIDS, Gender and Human Rights </a></strong></em></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/anonymous/hiv-homophobia-and-historical-regression-where-next-for-uganda">HIV, homophobia and historical regression: where next for Uganda?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/hajjarah-nagadya/uganda-social-impact-of-hiv-criminal-law-0">Uganda: the social impact of HIV criminal law</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn-louise-binder/compulsion-versus-compassion-hiv-treatment-for-women-and-children">Compulsion versus compassion: HIV treatment for women and children </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ida-susser-zena-stein/bioinsecurity-and-hivaids">Bio-insecurity and HIV/AIDS </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/martha-tholanah/hiv-disclosure-changing-ourselves-changing-others">HIV disclosure: changing ourselves, changing others </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/louise-binder/no-test-no-arrest-criminal-laws-to-fuel-another-hiv-epidemic">No test, no arrest: criminal laws to fuel another HIV epidemic</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/silvia-petretti/hiv-in-italy-epidemic-continues-growing-among-women">HIV in Italy: the epidemic continues growing among women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/aziza-ahmed-jennifer-gatsi-mallet/sterilisation-fight-for-bodily-integrity">Sterilisation: the fight for bodily integrity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn/accepted-mishaps-faith-healing-hiv-and-aids-responses">Accepted mishaps? Faith healing, HIV and AIDS responses</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/absence-of-evidence-does-not-mean-evidence-of-absence">Absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/aziza-ahmed/is-evidence-all-it-will-take">Is evidence all it will take? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/susan-paxton/positive-and-pregnant-in-asia-how-dare-you">Positive and pregnant in Asia - How dare you</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/baby-rivona-oldri-mukuan/global-mechanism-regional-solution-ending-forced-sterilisation">Global mechanism, regional solution: ending forced sterilisation </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/end-to-aids-not-through-medication-alone">An end to AIDS?: Not through medication alone</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/positive-women-human-rights-defenders">Positive women human rights defenders</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ida-susser/microbicide-success-feminism-is-essential-to-good-science">A microbicide success: feminism is essential to good science</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ida-susser/hiv-fight-for-trade-related-intellectual-property-regulations">HIV: the fight for trade related intellectual property regulations</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> <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 Uganda Civil society 50.50 AIDS, Gender and Human Rights 50.50 Our Africa temp 50.50 Editor's Pick women's health violence against women bodily autonomy 50.50 newsletter Hajjarah Nagadya Mon, 27 Jul 2015 08:39:36 +0000 Hajjarah Nagadya 94702 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Doing gender justice in northern Uganda https://www.opendemocracy.net/leila-ullrich/doing-gender-justice-in-northern-uganda <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The efforts of NGOs and international organisations to gradually nudge post-war northern Uganda towards a ‘gender just society’ ignore the fact that gender equality also has real enemies.</p> </div> </div> </div> <blockquote><p>‘<em>The microcredit was the biggest benefit I received. It gave me dignity and made me</em> <em>respectable. I can even afford to make myself beautiful. Without that, I couldn’t have found a</em> <em>husband. Nobody wants to marry a woman who was raped, but he finds me beautiful</em> <em>because I can take care of myself.’</em></p></blockquote> <p>So reads the <a href="http://www.trustfundforvictims.org/sites/default/files/media_library/documents/pdf/ICRWTFVExternalProgEvaluation2013Final.pdf">statement</a> of a female survivor of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) who had received economic assistance by the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV), an international organization (IO) that helps the victims of the 20 year civil war that raged in Northern Uganda between 1987 and 2008. The TFV’s report claims that SGBV survivors said that this assistance helped them to see themselves as <a href="http://www.trustfundforvictims.org/sites/default/files/media_library/documents/pdf/ICRWTFVExternalProgEvaluation2013Final.pdf">‘real women’</a> again.</p> <p>When I asked a gender specialist what survivors like the woman quoted above mean when they say they feel like ‘real women’ again, she replied:<em> ‘For her, this is the idea that she can be seen in her society as a woman who has value; now for better or worse this means that she can find a good husband. Her value as a woman is determined by her desirability to men. Well that is the same in a lot of cultures including mine [USA]. For her, this made her feel normal again</em>.’</p> <p>This reply left me somewhat puzzled. Does that mean it is pointless to change features of sexist culture in Northern Uganda, which we have not managed to eradicate in ‘Western’ societies? Or does it imply that the ideas and aspirations of SGBV survivors should guide our understanding of what ‘gender justice’ means after war? </p> <p>The transition from war to peace often has complex and contradictory consequences for women. On the one hand, research suggests that women’s experiences of SGBV are frequently <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/cynthia-cockburn/%E2%80%9Cdon%E2%80%99t-talk-to-me-about-war-my-life%E2%80%99s-battlefield%E2%80%9D">continuous</a>: while violence against women peaks during times of conflict, it persists after conflict, especially in the form of domestic violence. In a <a href="http://justiceandreconciliation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/SGBV-Baseline-Report-Summary-WEB.pdf">study</a> on female survivors of conflict-related SGBV in Northern Uganda, 90 out of the 97 survivors interviewed said that they still face the same threats of sexual violence as in the past. </p><p>On the other hand, it is often claimed that war creates ‘a gender <a href="http://oxfordindex.oup.com/view/10.1093/0199291926.003.0019">dividend</a>’ as women take on more responsibilities during wars as providers for their families, as workers or even as warriors thereby destabilizing traditional gender roles. As a civil society representative in Kampala told me: ‘<em>During the war, gender roles shifted. Women were more active within the camps. Even if it was only a small garden, they would plant something. Men were just there to wait for people to bring food and they got used to it. And now, they are back and are still waiting for food. Women have taken up this strong role of providing food for the family but now the men are starting to question this power that the women have.’</em> </p><p>Domestic violence is <a href="///C:\Users\hert3769\Downloads\accs---northern-uganda-conflict-analysis-report.pdf">prevalent</a> today in Northern Uganda possibly because of these changing power dynamics and what has been referred to as the ‘<a href="http://ijtj.oxfordjournals.org/content/1/3/433.abstract">identity</a> crisis’ of men. Yet, despite these complexities, many practitioners prefer to focus on the ‘gender dividend’ of war and how it can be used after the conflict to create more ‘gender-just’ societies.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/14538269298_d5fe0644d4_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/14538269298_d5fe0644d4_z.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mary Karooro Okurut, Minister of Gender, Labour & Social Development, Government of Uganda, at Girl Summit 2014. Photo via DFID</span></span></span><span>Indeed, many of the NGOs that swamped Northern Uganda, after the civil war ended between 2006 and 2008, came with the mission to exploit this ‘gender dividend’ in order to ‘</span><a href="https://www.ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ-Uganda-GenderBriefing-New-2014.pdf">empower</a><span> women.’ Yet, what does ‘empowering women’ actually look like in post-war Northern Uganda and what can these organizations contribute to it?</span></p> <p>I discussed these questions with a few people working for ‘gender justice’-focused NGOs in Uganda. They told me that their work of ‘empowering women’ is difficult because many women primarily want communal acceptance and reintegration. An NGO worker told me: ‘<em>and in any event most women will be reluctant for that [transformative] approach. They tell you:“what do you want from me? I’m already a pariah. Now you want to add another burden</em>?”’ </p><p>There are often tensions between what such women think is good for them and what the NGOs think is good for them. Yet, many NGOs want to have their cake and eat it: they want a ‘victim-centered approach’ that is participatory and takes victims’ perspectives and needs into account. But they also want to build a society that corresponds to their human rights-based ideas of gender equality.</p> <p>But women in Northern Uganda have good reasons to be skeptical: while measures to achieve gender justice may be in their long-term interest, they are often not perceived to be in their short-term interest. And when you depend on your community for your day-to-day survival, short-term thinking is a rational strategy. Besides, people in Northern Uganda had to learn that while NGOs promise long-term visions such as gender justice their operational planning is short-term too. Often, these organizations are not there long enough to see structural changes through. When I visited Gulu, a town in Northern Uganda, in 2014, many of the NGOs that came after the war had already left or considerably reduced their presence. </p> <p>Yet, the NGOs that work in Northern Uganda are not naïve either. They acknowledge that doing ‘gender justice’ is not easy. The political will required for enforcing laws on gender equality is often lacking among governing elites. These organizations also face practical challenges such as acquiring long-term funding to support structural changes. </p><p>They say that you need to do a lot of community sensitization and awareness-raising to persuade men and women that ‘gender justice’ is in their interest. They say that you also have to enlist the stakeholders of the traditional order such as elders, religious and traditional leaders as they remain powerful and are seen as legitimate by many people including women. If you want to achieve anything, you cannot simply ignore them. But overall and over time, the efforts of these organizations in Northern Uganda go in the right direction. Or do they?</p> <p>This is far from clear at this point. For one, there is little agreement in Northern Uganda what, exactly; the ‘society’ is that needs to be transformed. After all, societal structures were eroded in the course of 20 years of war. In addition to horrific crimes perpetrated by the Lord Resistance Army (<a href="http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/30726/">LRA</a>) that ripped communities apart, the Ugandan government displaced over 1.7 million people in Northern Uganda and forced them to live in so-called ‘protective villages’ as part of its military <a href="http://gemba.sdsu.edu/~abranch/Publications/Ethics%20and%20International%20Affairs%2021.2,%20Summer%202007--Branch.pdf">strategy</a>. </p> <p>These crammed camps nurtured new socialization dynamics that alienated people from their communities. As one interviewee told me: ‘<em>In the camp of course, it was about survival, because our gardens, our fields were left behind and we were surviving on the little relief from the World Food [sic], and the little that we struggled to get, that one you cannot spread all over, it means it is for you and your immediate family members so this is how our social fabric broke up.’</em></p> <p>Indeed, many people in Northern Uganda see the high rate of violence against women as part of a larger social order problem rather than the result of changing gender roles. They blame the erosion of communal structures during the war and especially the diminishing respect for elders and the weakening of traditional justice institutions, for crime and the rise in land conflicts. They long for the old order that supposedly afforded more protection for women. </p> <p>In Gulu, I arranged to meet one of those stakeholders of the ‘traditional’ order, a priest. His church hosts a centre to ‘empower women,’ especially former girl abductees, by offering them vocational training. Women can choose between becoming ‘tailors’ or ‘hairdressers’. They have to pay fees for these vocational courses ‘to avoid the spirit of getting free things inculcated by the war in northern Uganda.’</p> <p>While emphasizing the importance of women's empowerment, the priest also suggested that one of the main challenges for the community is that young people do not respect their elders anymore. After our interview, he distressingly confided in me that he was not even sure the young women from the church’s centre would still kneel down in his presence. He then waved a young woman over to demonstrate this ‘degeneration of morals’ to me, but to my embarrassment the young woman immediately kneeled down.</p> <p>In fact, there is a lot of ambiguity in the way the stakeholders of the traditional order talk about the need for societal transformation. A representative of the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, an organization that seeks to ‘<a href="http://www.arlpi.org/women-empowerment">mainstream</a> the empowerment of women’ in all of its activities, lamented that nowadays, women who return to their father’s house after a failed marriage or the death of their husband are often chased away with their children. </p><p>This was very different in the ‘good old times’: ‘<em>if you are my sister and you went to your home but your marriage did not work, and then you came back home my father would say, “you are also our daughter…we as your brothers, we will construct for you a hut, this is where you will stay, this is where your death will find you.”’ </em>From this perspective, a ‘transformative’ Northern Uganda has to go backwards in order to go forward.</p> <p>Other local and international actors want none of that. They see ‘culture’ and ‘tradition’, rather than the war and its consequences, as the biggest problem for women. In their eyes, traditional justice rituals look more like mechanisms for reproducing patriarchy and male power rather than mechanisms for creating social order. They criticize the way these traditional justice mechanisms deal with rape as a ‘pollution of the spirits’ rather than as a crime. Perpetrators are ‘<a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/17531055.2012.664705">cleansed</a>’ in the course of a public ritual rather than punished. The rituals are usually performed by male <a href="http://justiceandreconciliation.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Gender-and-Generations-in-Acholi-Traditional-Mechanisms-Web.pdf">elders</a>. </p> <p>A psychologist who is working with victims of the conflict in the villages of Northern Uganda even argued, in an interview with me: ‘<em>From my point of view, there is no justice for women [in Northern Uganda]. The lack of justice is not because of the war but because of the culture. Culturally, when you marry you go to the clan of the husband where you count [for] nothing. Justice you can only have if you have the capacity to bribe the police...It is not a war issue.’</em></p> <p>However, the NGO/IO claim of slowly but surely nudging Northern Uganda towards transformative justice does not only ignore different visions of how a ‘transformed’ society should look like. It also creates a pseudo-harmony of interests and values where there is often a real clash. For example, the UN gender discourse is now all about the societal benefits that gender equality brings for everyone: men and women. In the 2011 <a href="http://www.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/media/publications/en/unwomenthegenderdividend.pdf">report</a> ‘The Gender Dividend: A Business Case for Gender Equality’, UN Women cites research that shows that ‘across 134 countries, gender equality correlates positively with per capita Gross National Product…’</p> <p>The UN Women’s ‘HeForShe’ solidarity campaign that became widely known through Emma Watson’s speech at the UN <a href="http://az668017.vo.msecnd.net/sitestorage/dist/content/uploads/2014/08/HeForShe_ActionKit_English.pdf">claims</a> that ‘when women are empowered, the whole of humanity benefits. Gender equality liberates not only women but also men, from prescribed social roles and gender stereotypes.’</p> <p>The rationale of the campaign is that if only we enlisted men and boys as ‘advocates and agents of change’ in this common struggle against gender stereotypes, gender equality would be well within our reach. The main obstacle for gender equality is that people do not understand that we are all victims of gender roles constructed by an unspecified society. </p> <p>Yet, this gender discourse masks the extent to which gender inequality is not simply the result of ignorance and lack of understanding. It is also the result of deliberate oppression of women by some men and the fact that the majority of men has vested interest in perpetuating gender roles and their inscribed inequality. </p> <p>For example, many government officials, community leaders, elders and male family members in Northern Uganda see their power and ownership of land threatened by measures to achieve gender justice. The psychologist I interviewed claimed, ‘<em>A woman who is beaten up with panga </em>[in Northern Uganda]<em>, if she reports it she may risk to be killed. Even the NGOs that defend women’s rights for example FIDA, they assess the situation to consider if their intervention can put in further danger the woman.</em>’ If war creates a ‘gender dividend’ at all, it is not one that can be easily exploited. </p> <p>But NGOs often seem blind to these tensions. They emphasize the importance of involving traditional leaders in their gender strategy and call on them to reform justice rituals to allow more women participation. Yet, these optimistic calls for reform sit uneasily with the admission by the same organizations that traditional leaders are often reluctant or unable to actually change traditional practices.</p> <p>What if radical change such as ‘gender justice’ requires real struggle rather than gradual nudging? What if you cannot talk the traditional power holders into change but have to wrestle power from them? In fact, this seems to be implicit in the way many NGOs/IOs complain about the lack of political will at the local and national level. Why then, do they continue with ‘business as usual’? </p> <p>The problem for these organizations is that they are institutionally and ideologically constrained from being agents of real political and socio-economic struggle. Institutionally, the operations of many international and local organizations that rely on external funding depend on finding an arrangement with the status quo powers: the national government and local elites. Ideologically, the pervasive charge of neocolonialism means that political change that is associated with external, ‘Western’ support is perceived as unacceptable. </p> <p>Don’t get me wrong: awareness-raising about gender constructs and women’s rights is good.&nbsp; But it may not be enough. Transforming societies may require acknowledging that all good things: tradition and reform, victims’ aspirations and women’s empowerment, a victims-centered approach and a human rights-based approach, order and justice do not always go together. </p> <p>There are tough trade-offs and inconvenient choices to be made and not everyone will be a genuine ‘agent of change’ in transformative justice. The jury is still out on the ‘gradual nudging’ approach of international organizations, but there should at least be a more honest debate on how ‘gender justice’ also has real enemies who may talk the talk but not walk the walk.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/margaret-gyapong-sally-theobald/sexual-and-reproductive-health-issue-you%E2%80%99ve-probably-never-hear">The sexual and reproductive health issue you’ve probably never heard of….</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/hope-chigudu/hope%27s-stories">Hope&#039;s song: my companion in life&#039;s journey </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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 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/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/jessica-horn/avoidable-injustices-way-to-prevent-violence-against-women">Avoidable injustices: the way to prevent violence against women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/fatimah-kelleher/women%27s-voices-in-northern-nigeria-hearing-broader-narratives">Women&#039;s voices in northern Nigeria: hearing the broader narratives </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amina-mama-yaba-badoe-salem-mekuria/african-feminist-engagements-with-film">African feminist engagements with film</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/jessica-horn-simidele-dosekun/feminist-africa-putting-africa%E2%80%99s-feminist-thinking-on-intellectua">Feminist Africa: putting Africa’s feminist thinking on the intellectual map</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/hala-al-karib/sudanese-women-you-can-beat-us-but-you-cannot-break-us">Sudanese women: you can beat us but you cannot break us</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-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 Uganda 50.50 Women, Peace & Security Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy temp 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights gender justice feminism 50.50 newsletter Leila Ullrich Thu, 23 Jul 2015 18:15:02 +0000 Leila Ullrich 94703 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Those who believe in freedom: Yara Sallam https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nelly-bassily/those-who-believe-in-freedom-yara-sallam <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Yara Sallam is starting the second year of her sentence in Qanater Women's prison outside Cairo. She says, "I do not feel any regret or self-defeat, the prison is not inside me."&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/YaraPortrait.jpg" alt="Photo of a young woman" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" width="240" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yara Sallam</span></span></span>Yara Sallam is starting her second year of detention in an Egyptian prison. No mother ever wants to see her child in prison, but Rawia Sadek is not letting her daughter's incarceration bring her down. </p><p>For over a year now, Sadek has tried not to let the multiple security checks inside the jail, the uncomfortable waiting-time in the visiting room, or the fact that her daughter is even being called an inmate ruin the precious hour-long visits she has with her daughter. Sadek has also been writing about Yara and all unjustly detained prisoners in Egypt via social media and posting photos of her daughter along with the hashtag <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/freeyara">#FreeYara</a>.</p> <p>Yara is a 29-year-old women’s human rights defender from Egypt. Before she was detained, she was a transitional justice researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (<a href="http://eipr.org/en">EIPR</a>). On June 21, 2014, twenty-three young activists, among them Yara and six other young women, were arrested for protesting against a draconian anti-protest law. </p> <p>The law was introduced in 2013 to prevent anyone from protesting without permission from the government. Ironically, Egyptian President Abel Al Fattah el Sisi’s current government wouldn’t be in power if brave and defiant young Egyptians hadn’t taken to the streets in protest to oust then President Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/YaraSallamKhaledSaidProtest.jpg" alt="Young woman holding a banner with Arabic text on it" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" width="240" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yara at a Khaled Said protest</span></span></span>Yara, as it turns out, wasn’t actually taking part in the <a href="http://news.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/21/activists-arrested-in-cairo-at-march-against-protest-ban/?_r=0">unsanctioned protest</a> when she was arrested on June 21. In fact, she was with her cousin, buying a water bottle inside a shop when they were arrested. Authorities released her cousin, but after police discovered that Yara worked with EIPR, she was referred to the prosecutor.</p> <p>Yara and the 22 others activists who were arrested on that day have now completed over a year of their two year sentences. The Egyptian Appeal Court's judgment handed down in December 2014 stipulates that their sentences will also be followed by two years of police surveillance. </p> <p>The <a href="http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/observatory/">Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders</a> is a joint programme of the <a href="https://www.fidh.org/International-Federation-for-Human-Rights/north-africa-middle-east/egypt/stifling-egyptian-civil-society-sexual-violence-by-security-forces">International Federation for Human Rights</a> and the <a href="http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/observatory/">World Organization Against Torture</a>. Last December, the Observatory said in a statement that it considers that these activists are languishing in jail “solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly” and that their arbitrary detention and sentencing “only aim to sanction their legitimate human rights activities.”</p> <p>&nbsp;“Yara is an honest person, and she was raised to do the right thing and everything she does, she does with passion. She cares not only about herself but is always thinking about others in everything she does.” That’s how Sadek describes her daughter.&nbsp; Being a lawyer isn’t just a career Yara chose – it’s a calling.&nbsp; Sadek remembers: “I used to tell Yara ‘you’re a lawyer’ but she would reply ‘No mum, I’m a rights defender.’ Even when she was just 14 years old, she was involved in an organization that defends children’s rights.”&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Yara and 5 of the young women detainees who were arrested on June 21 2014 share a cell inside Qanater Women’s prison, 19-kilometers North of Cairo. When Sadek visited with Yara on June 9, Yara was feeling good that day. “Of course, there are times when she’s not happy, and not feeling good about her situation. But this time, she was happy and laughing,” she says.</p> <p>At first, Sadek was afraid for Yara. She knows <a href="https://www.fidh.org/International-Federation-for-Human-Rights/north-africa-middle-east/egypt/stifling-egyptian-civil-society-sexual-violence-by-security-forces">cases of abuse are rampant</a> at the hands of state security forces and in Egyptian prisons. She feared that they would treat her badly or sexually abuse her in prison but Yara has confirmed that this has not happened.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Losing one’s freedom without justifiable cause is not easy, but Yara is strong. In a letter from prison she wrote: "I do not feel any regret or self-defeat, the prison is not inside me.” </p> <p>Much like <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCZyNkvJA30">Mahienour El Masry</a>, a well-known political activist who is currently detained in Alexandria, Yara is trying to make her time in jail meaningful. When a group of human rights defenders visited Qanater prison, she and <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/sanaa-seif-symbol-revolution-1322091272">Sanaa Seif</a> (another well-known young activist who campaigned against military trials for civilians in Egypt) insisted on bringing attention to the case of a young woman who has been unjustly placed in solitary confinement. They also complained about the overcrowding in the prison. </p> <p>When a prison warden asked Yara if they were treating her well, she told him that she was treated fine, but that others were not. “That says everything about Yara and about how she cannot stand idle in the face of injustice,”&nbsp; says Sadek, “I can go on and on about how wonderful my daughter is.” </p> <p>Radwa Medhat has worked as a colleague with Yara in the EIPR team and they are close friends. Medhat says that she is the most caring, thoughtful, funny, compassionate friend that anyone can have. “Yara's time in prison is by far my worst nightmare and it has been going on for over a year now.&nbsp; It means the disappearance of a very close friend and a colleague and it's the ongoing feeling of guilt accompanying anything I do or enjoy.&nbsp; It's also the ongoing question of why her not me.&nbsp;To me nothing makes sense without her.” </p> <p><strong>Prison hasn’t changed Yara <br /></strong></p> <p>&nbsp;“We don’t like prisons but we are not afraid them.” That’s a quote from Mahiehour El-Masry that Sadek holds dear to her heart. That quote keeps her grounded.&nbsp; She says that a year in prison has not changed her daughter because Yara knows she did nothing wrong. She adds: “They are wrong for imprisoning her. They are the ones who don’t respect the law. The charges against her are fabricated.”</p> <p>A friend of Yara’s, who was recently released from prison, jokingly told Sadek: “Prison is nice. Tell Yara she should tell the guards that prison is nice.” So, on one of her visits with Yara, Sadek gave her the message. Yara thought about it for a second and replied: “If I was outside of these prison walls, with everything that’s happening in the country, I would have felt guilty and helpless so, in that respect, maybe it’s ok that I’m in prison.”</p> <p>Yara and the other young women serving the same sentence have remained cellmates, but many of the young women - who were associated with the Muslim Brotherhood for example -&nbsp; are treated differently. They are separated and placed in cells with other offenders.</p> <p>Inside and outside Egypt’s prison walls, injustice persists. More stories of <a href="https://news.vice.com/article/college-students-in-egypt-keep-getting-arrested-disappeared-and-killed">young Egyptians</a> being arrested, disappearing and being killed keep surfacing. It’s almost hard to keep track of them all. Sadek says " they are not just numbers or random names. They all have faces, stories and feelings that we should know about. Yara says she knows people keep her story in the media but she wants all detainee stories to be just as talked about, if not more. Yara wants all those unjustly detained freed.” </p> <p>Egyptian activists held <a href="http://egyptsolidarityinitiative.org/prisonersolidarity/">two days of international solidarity actions with Egyptian political prisoners on June 20-21</a>. They want to see an end to repression and worldwide-support for the various campaigns to free political prisoners in Egypt. Putting pressure on the Egyptian government to immediately end the&nbsp;<em>&nbsp;</em>repression of protests, free political prisoners, stop the disappearances, conduct fair trials for all and put an end to abuse, torture and executions has never been more important than now. </p> <p>Sadek doesn’t want her daughter or any of her cellmates to spend another year behind bars. She hopes for an early release without getting her hopes too high. She has to in order to keep going. As Yara and others continue to serve unfair and unjustified sentences, Sadek says her daughter is grateful for all the people who have continued to stand by her, support her, talk about her and pray for her. </p> <p>Those who believe in freedom in Egypt have never rested. The fight continues.&nbsp;&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/zainab-magdy/egypt-reality-too-dark-in-which-to-glimpse-hope">Egypt: a reality too dark in which to glimpse hope? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/patriarchy-and-militarism-in-egypt-from-street-to-government">Patriarchy and militarism in Egypt: from the street to the government</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/maha-abdelrahman/report-thy-neighbour-policing-sisi%E2%80%99s-egypt">Report thy neighbour: policing Sisi’s Egypt </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/from-strongman-to-superman-sisi-saviour-of-egypt">From Strongman to Superman: Sisi the saviour of Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/hoda-elsadda/egypt-battle-over-hope-and-morale">Egypt: the battle over hope and morale </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/nadia-taher/we-are-not-women-we-are-egyptians-spaces-of-protest-and-representation">&quot;We are not women, we are Egyptians&quot;: spaces of protest and representation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fear-and-fury-women-and-post-revolutionary-violence">Fear and fury: women and post-revolutionary violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/hoda-elsadda/article-11-feminists-negotiating-power-in-egypt">Article 11: feminists negotiating power in Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/egypt-tale-of-two-constitutions">Egypt: a tale of two constitutions</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/feminism-of-patriarchy-in-egypt">The &#039;feminism&#039; of patriarchy in Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zainab-magdy/egyptian-women-performing-in-margin-revolting-in-centre">Egyptian women: performing in the margin, revolting in the centre</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/leila-zaki-chakravarti/entrepreneurs-of-revolution-jockeying-for-livelihood-and-security-in-pos">Entrepreneurs of the revolution: jockeying for livelihood and security in post-Arab Spring Cairo</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </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 Egypt 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Our Africa temp 50.50 Editor's Pick women and power fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter young feminists Nelly Bassily Thu, 23 Jul 2015 14:33:09 +0000 Nelly Bassily 94548 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Addressing global taxation and gender equality https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/patita-tingoi/addressing-global-taxation-and-gender-equality <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The increased call on countries to maximise local revenue in order to finance their own development agenda adds to the urgency of&nbsp; making sure that domestic resources are tailored towards achieving gender equality.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The <a href="http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/ffd3/">third Financing for Development conference</a> currently underway in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, provides a historic opportunity to insist on financing that is gender-responsive and fit to deliver on both <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/">long-established</a> and <a href="https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgsproposal.html#goal5">newly won</a> commitments on women’s rights. In order to deliver on the ambitious agenda for achieving gender equality and women’s rights, pledges and commitments must be matched by resource allocation. At same time the structural, systemic global policy and power imbalances and incoherencies that exist need to be overcome.</p> <p>The increased call and emphasis on countries to maximise local revenue in order to finance their own development agenda is of critical importance, and adds to the urgency of working to make sure that domestic resources are&nbsp; tailored towards achieving gender equality and must be responsive to women’s needs and priorities. </p> <p>There are major concerns by women’s lobby groups that <a href="http://www.awid.org/es/node/3587">tax systems are biased against women</a>, and that <a href="http://www.awid.org/news-and-analysis/tax-justice-and-human-rights">contemporary tax reforms may increase the incidence of taxation on the poorest women</a> while failing to generate enough revenue to finance the fulfillment of human rights, including women’s rights. This is evident in the <a href="http://www.eurodad.org/taxjustice">decrease of taxes paid by corporations globally</a> through tax evasion and exemptions, and the increase in value added tax on basic commodities. </p> <p>Governments have not paid sufficient attention to how tax policies and tax reforms may interact with gendered social norms. Governments, especially those in developing nations where people are in dire need of social services,&nbsp; have failed to prioritise the most crucial public investments such as water, education and healthcare, and have instead prioritized investment on extractive industry projects - as documented by Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, in her <a href="http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G14/033/74/PDF/G1403374.pdf?OpenElement">report on human rights impact of fiscal and tax policy</a> based on country studies. This kind of social engineering prioritises the needs of capital markets over the welfare of citizens. </p> <p><strong>Illicit financial flows</strong></p> <p>Illicit financial flows rob governments of resources, reducing capital which translates in to lost opportunities for advancing economic and human development for women and vulnerable groups in developing countries. A <a href="http://www.uneca.org/sites/default/files/PublicationFiles/iff_main_report_26feb_en.pdf">report by the Mbeki Panel on illicit flows</a>&nbsp; states: <em>“Over the last 50 years, Africa is estimated to have lost in excess of $1 trillion in illicit financial flows. This sum is roughly equivalent to all of the official development assistance received by Africa during the same timeframe. 2 Currently, Africa is estimated to be losing more than $50 billion annually in IFFs.”</em> </p> <p>Although there is a call to increase the amount of <a href="http://www.oecd.org/dac/stats/officialdevelopmentassistancedefinitionandcoverage.htm">Official Development Assistance” (ODA)</a> from 0.7 % in the <a href="http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/ffd3/">financing for development negotiations,</a> these should be advocated for hand in hand with calls to block the loopholes allowing the outflow of financial resources from developing countries if they are to make any headway in mobilising the needed domestic resources for development. </p> <p>A report by Christian Aid, <a href="..\Downloads\dtaxes.pdf&amp;ei=vISmVZHUA9PY7AavsquQDw&amp;usg=AFQjCNGGh6zGzTfOPytjOgZ8P-biOx6u4w&amp;bvm=bv.97653015,d.ZGU">Death and taxes: the true toll of tax dodging</a>, found that while 60 billion dollars a year was required to finance Millennium Development Goals in Africa, the amount lost through illicit financial flows was <em>three times more</em>.&nbsp; A further report by ActionAid UK, <a href="http://www.actionaid.org.uk/news-and-views/tax-change-could-end-hunger">Accounting for poverty: how international tax rules keep people poor</a>, calls for a change in international tax rules to make it easier for poor countries to detect and clamp down on tax dodging.&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>Taxation and gender equality <br /></strong></p> <p>Research conducted on the relation between <a href="http://samples.sainsburysebooks.co.uk/9781136980251_sample_828004.pdf">Taxation and Gender Equality</a> shows that across low-income countries, about two-thirds of tax revenue is raised through indirect taxes. In contrast, across high-income countries, indirect taxes account for only about one-third of tax revenue, with the remaining two-thirds coming from direct taxes. In low-income countries, personal income tax accounts for just over a quarter of tax revenue, while in high-income countries, it accounts for over a third of tax revenue. This means that developing counties raise more revenue from taxing consumption than taxing income and wealth. This affects women in two ways. First, research has shown that spending habits of women especially those in poor parts of the world are made on procuring basic needs for their families. Commodity taxing in the form of VAT and other indirect taxes increases the cost of these very basic products like cooking oil, sanitary towels, maize, flour, etc making essential items more expensive for women. The failure to tax the wealthy through corporate tax for example means that governments collect less revenue and tend&nbsp; to cut expenditure related to social services. Targeting consumption to raise taxes instead of corporate tax is a classic case of increased taxation on the poorest women, and there is a critical need to develop international mechanisms that prevent corporate tax exemptions as well as ensuring that corporations pay their fair share of taxes. To this end, there is a push by many scholars, civil society organizations and women’s organisations under the <a href="http://wwgonffd.org/">Women Working Group for Financing for Development</a> (WWG on FfD) as well as developing nations to have “an intergovernmental tax body with universal membership under the UN that will ensure a democratic discussion and decision-making about tax issues not only […]to reduce tax competition but also to contribute to the expansion of developing countries’ fiscal space” as the latest <a href="https://wwgonffd.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/realizing-rights.pdf">WWG on Ffd recommendations</a> demands.&nbsp; </p> <p>Whereas on the national level, equitable and progressive tax systems<em> </em>are critical to the achievement of adequate domestic resources to advance women’s rights - including access to adequate public services, at the international level corporate transparency there must be a binding obligation to ensure the corporate sector is held accountable for negative impacts of their taxation policies, illicit financial flows and tax evasion. The on-going <a href="http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/ffd3/">UN Financing for Development negotiations</a> taking place in Addis Ababa this week should recommend implementation of a ‘country by country reporting’ obligation for multinational corporations to publicly disclose their profits as part of their annual reports for each country in which they operate. To facilitate this, a global intergovernmental tax body for automatic exchange of information on tax should be established, and the developed nations under the <a href="https://www.oecd.org/about/">Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development</a> (OECD) umbrella must lead from the front in pushing for its establishment. Such a system must be designed in a way that allows meaningful participation from all stakeholders, who should be allowed to receive information automatically even though they might not yet have the capacity to send the same information back.</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/liz-nelson/gender-and-tax-justice">Gender and tax justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/maggie-murphy/g20-and-corruption-why-gender-matters">G20 and corruption: why gender matters </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/susan-harris-rimmer/gender-at-g20">Gender at the G20</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/helen-szoke/why-g20-needs-to-tackle-gender-inequality-brisbane-and-beyond">Why the G20 needs to tackle gender inequality: Brisbane and beyond </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-defining-economic-citizenship">Women defining economic citizenship </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"> Ethiopia </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 Ethiopia 50.50 Our Africa temp gendered poverty gender justice 50.50 newsletter Patita Tingoi Wed, 15 Jul 2015 12:03:27 +0000 Patita Tingoi 94455 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In celebration of African literature: Africa Writes 2015 https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/in-celebration-of-african-literature-africa-writes-2015 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For the past 6,000 years, Africans have been writing. Africa Writes 2015, a three-day festival in London, explored the continuation of this tradition in all its contemporary forms.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>‘Stories are revolutionary and rebellious things’ – Ben Okri, Africa Writes 2015</em> </p> <p>From 3-5 July 2015, the Royal African Society held the annual Africa Writes festival at the British Library. A series of talks, themed discussions, keynotes and Q&amp;A sessions, intermingled with performances and book-browsing, the festival was a celebration of creativity as well as a guided discovery of current African writing. </p> <p>The festival takes place in the British Library each year, but this year the significance of the space seemed heightened by the growing Rhodes Must Fall movement, which has quickly spread from the <a href="http://rhodesmustfall.co.za/">tip of the African continent </a>&nbsp;to academic institutions <a href="http://africasacountry.com/rhodes-must-fall-at-oxford-too/">in the UK</a>. Rhodes Must Fall calls for the decolonisation of education, starting with the dead white men symbolically prized both by our monuments and in our reading lists, and leading to the transformation of our institutional structures. </p> <p>Given that the British Library has its history in the bastion of colonialism that is the British Museum, using the space for Africa Writes felt important. At the end of this year’s festival, when we were enraptured by Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor’s belly-achlingly hilarious, heartbreakingly moving play, <a href="http://africawrites.org/eventsprogramme/sunday-by-joy-gharoro-akpojotor/"><em>Sunday</em></a>, about a young Nigerian Christian who comes out to her mother and grandmother on the day of the London Pride march, I was struck again by the significance of the venue. The British Library is at its most relevant when powerful, intersectional conversations like these take place. When Gharoro-Akpojotor was asked where she wanted to see <em>Sunday</em> staged in the future, she spoke about churches, maybe taking the play to Nigeria, and the audience shouted back at her, ‘everywhere! This play needs to be seen everywhere!’ </p> <p><strong>Africa, writing since 4000 BCE</strong> </p> <p>Two days earlier, Wangui wa Goro opened the festival with the reminder that writing originated in Africa, in the form of Egyptian hieroglyphs. Africa Writes went on to explore and enjoy a contemporary canon of literary work, rooted in history and blossoming across the continent and the diaspora. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/20150705_132030.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/20150705_132030.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Book stall at Africa Writes 2015</span></span></span></p><p>From the translation symposium (on the theme of love), which included singing, recitations and discussions about the uniqueness of languages and the universality of love, to the performance of <em>Sunday</em>, Africa Writes took us through many worlds. Ancient history, the recent past, and conjectured futures. Publishing houses, digital collectives, oral literatures, academic discourse. The myth of Afropolitanism (‘I don’t know why some cities are called cosmopolitan, African villages are cosmopolitan!’ said Ghanaian writer Nii Ayikwei Parkes). The <a href="http://africawrites.org/category/eventsprogramme/">programme</a> was varied, and events rolled from one to the next with a lot of laughter and debate. </p> <p>The debate was largely discursive rather than combative. When the panel on literary magazines was asked by Nana Yaa Mensah of the New Statesman who they would regard as ‘competition’, Ndida Kioko (editor of Jalada) didn’t know how to answer her. ‘There is no competition,’ she hesitated, eventually, before shrugging. People might get annoyed with me at times, admitted Billy Kahora (editor of <a href="http://www.kwani.org/publications/kwani-journal.htm">Kwani?</a> and Associate Editor of Chimurenga Chronic), but he too shrugged it off, saying ‘I don’t have time [to engage].’ There is space for everyone. </p> <p>There is also space for literature to expand its influence and reach. Writer and academic Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire suggested that we should ‘humanise what we teach’ by using literature across every subject. He puts this idea into practice as a lecturer of Human Rights Law, and says that students find it more engaging to learn through reading literature than dry textbooks. </p> <p><strong>Observing the ‘white gaze’</strong> </p> <p>Twice during the festival, I heard Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire recount his experience of working with Writivism to launch Jennifer Nansubunga Makumbi’s <a href="http://jennifermakumbi.net/?page_id=17"><em>Kintu</em> </a>in Uganda in 2014. An epic based on oral history, the narrative shifting between 1750 and 2004 as it processes the past, <em>Kintu</em> had won the Kwani? Manuscript Prize and was published by the Kenyan publisher. Despite its popularity elsewhere on the continent, and despite having a Ugandan author, Writivism didn’t have grand hopes for sales in Uganda because of the trope, as he characterised it, that ‘Ugandans don’t read, and they don’t read fiction.’ Yet at the Writivism Kampala festival, <em>Kintu </em>sold out. And <em>Kintu </em>kept selling out. It is now a Ugandan bestseller, having sold thousands of copies. </p> <p>Both times he told the story, Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire went on to say that <em>Kintu</em> is unknown in the West – it doesn’t have a Western publisher, it won’t be found on the New York Times bestseller list, ‘but that says nothing about its success.’ There are quality stories being written, published and read on the continent – which provides a large, international audience in itself – that do not reach the West. Bibi Bakare-Yusef, founder of Cassava Republic Press, pointed out that there is nothing inherently wrong with this fact; it is only an issue because ‘symbolic legitimisation comes from the West.’</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/20150705_160531.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/20150705_160531.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The dedication in Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi's Kintu</span></span></span></p><p>Goretti Kyomuhendo, author and founder of the African Writers Trust and FEMRITE, said that in her experience this desire for ‘symbolic legitimisation’ meant that many young African writers she works with are not content with being bestsellers in Africa, because ‘they still have this sense that the West is the centre of gravity when it comes to publishing.’ ‘They want a piece of that cake,’ she said, characterising the ‘cake’ as ‘what Chimamanda has.’ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, of course, has global first-name recognition, three much-acclaimed bestsellers and a book of short stories, Western prizes, a film adaptation, a viral TED talk sampled by Beyoncé, her voice and words heard by pop-culture audiences around the world. It is difficult to see this ‘cake’ as anything but legitimised by the West. </p> <p>The panel discussion on ‘Observing the White Gaze’ grappled with what this Western legitimisation means for African writers and readers today. Ayo Sogunro, whose <a href="http://ayosogunro.com/">blog</a> is one of the most widely-read in Nigera and whose debut self-published book,<em><a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18756653-the-wonderful-life-of-senator-boniface-and-other-sorry-tales" target="_blank">The Wonderful Life of Senator Boniface and Other Sorry Tales</a></em>,&nbsp;sold 3,000 copies within a month, said that whatever your sales figures are like, ‘when people back home hear you have won the Caine prize, the Booker prize, it suddenly makes you special.’ Young writers have to grapple with an internalised white gaze twice over, then; first, as writers, to move away from the notion that only Western acclaim can provide legitimisation, and second, to write for an African audience that prizes Western acclaim nonetheless. </p> <p><strong>The colonial literary system</strong> </p> <p>At the start of the panel, Ayo Sogunro speculated what African writing would be like without the presence of the white gaze (i.e. without Western imperialism): there might now be certain dominant regional languages (such as Arabic, Swahili, Zulu), a localised publishing industry, African oral histories would have spread and, as a result, ‘Africa would be much more aware of its own rights.’ He went on to explain that currently, ‘the average American high-school student knows less about Shakespeare than the average African high-school student, but knows much more about American history.’ Later, Bwesigye bwa Mewsigire concurred, ‘people still read Shakespeare before Achebe.’ I also noticed, when I bought my own copy of <a href="http://jennifermakumbi.net/?page_id=17"><em>Kintu</em></a>, that the Ugandan bestseller’s dedication, to the author’s grandfather, father and aunt, also remembers Shakespeare’s significance. </p> <p>Toni Stuart, a South African poet, contributed from the audience with a discussion of Thando Mgqolozana’s decision to depart from what he termed the ‘colonial literary system’ in South Africa. The West is present in South Africa, Toni Stuart argued, in the legacy of apartheid structures which still pervade the publishing industry and readership. She brought illustrative statistics used by Ben Williams at a recent debate, ‘Decolonising the Literary Landscape’, at the University of Witwatersrand: only 1m South Africans (of a population of 53m) buy books, spending R2bn a year (£103m); they buy international bestseller fiction like James Paterson, Afrikaans literature, local non-fiction like cookbooks and sports biographies, occasionally politics, and Christian titles; local English fiction and poetry does not sell; of the top 88 books in the country, only <a href="http://panmacmillan.co.za/catalogue/to-quote-myself/"><em>To Quote Myself</em></a>, at number 87, is written by a Black writer, Khaya Dlanga. </p> <p>South Africa has eleven official languages, Toni Stuart reminded us, yet the literary system is dominated by English and Afrikaans texts, by Western and White authors. The system distorts the local readership, too: NGO-funded libraries (which Mgqolozana terms ‘fake libraries’) don’t have books in local languages. This has an obvious exclusionary impact. </p> <p><strong>A voice to be reckoned with</strong> </p> <p>In almost every panel I attended at Africa Writes 2015, there was some discussion about why African writers write and publishers publish. There was a recurring theme: the writers or publishers felt an urgency to write or publish something which represented them or their readership. ‘There is so little out there about us,’ said Frances Mensah Williams at the launch of her debut novel, <a href="http://www.jacarandabooksartmusic.co.uk/book/from-pasta-to-pigfoot/"><em>From Pasta to Pigfoot</em>.</a> Likewise Kiru Taye, who writes romances, recalled herself as a teenager reading through the night wanting to locate herself in the text. A. Igoni Barrett’s satirical novel <a href="http://www.vintage-books.co.uk/books/0701188561/a-igoni-barrett/blackass/"><em>Blackass</em></a>, about a Lagosian who wakes up one morning as a white man, was inspired by his anger at being looked as ‘as different’ when travelling outside of Africa. From a publisher’s perspective, Bibi Bakare-Yusef described Cassava Republic Press as ‘interested in African writers interested in themselves.’ The sentiment was perhaps best summed up when Kinsi Abdulleh, editor of SCARF literary magazine, recalled Binyavanga Wainaina’s advice to her, ‘you want a voice and you want a voice to be reckoned with? Do it yourself!’ </p> <p>This refrain – to locate a missing voice, and to use it – was echoed, too, in some of the strains of Ben Okri’s ‘Meditations on Greatness’ talk. While ‘images of success in the West do not reflect African writers,’ he also said that greatness has a ‘disregard for limitations.’ The role of writers is ‘to work on our minds…to challenge our perceptions of reality,’ and in many ways, I would argue, simply by writing stories, publishing or self-publishing, reaching readers through digital, radio waves or one of the traditional printed forms, African writers are offering their readership an alternative to the Western dead-white-men canon. Every story, then, becomes ‘revolutionary and rebellious,’ to use Okri’s words. </p> <p>On the final day of the festival, there was a perfect summation of the power of literature not only to ‘awaken us into ourselves,’ in Ben Okri’s characterisation, but, in doing so, to connect us to the world beyond ourselves. When A. Igoni Barrett explained that because he wanted to be read by Nigerians, he writes for them, it prompted an audience member to respond, ‘hearing you speaking about writing for Nigerians makes me want to read your stories so I can understand more about Nigerians – and I’m Ugandan.’ It was an illustration of how important a growing, living canon is, to connect readers to themselves and to others.</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/amina-mama/pan-africanism-beyond-survival-to-renaissance">Pan-Africanism: beyond survival to renaissance?</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/chantelle-de-nobrega/nelson-mandela-who-tells-story">Nelson Mandela: Who tells the story? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/fatin-abbas/year-of-boomerang-frantz-fanon-and-arab-uprisings">Year of the boomerang? 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Schistosomiasis is a waterborne disease, caused by worms that use aquatic snails as their intermediate hosts, and is particularly common in communities living near freshwater lakes, ponds and streams. Owing to the close association with water for washing, bathing and drinking, infection can be a daily occurrence but it can also occur in seasonal drier environments where people are made more vulnerable through necessary and life giving interactions with infested water. </p><p>Urogenital schistosomiasis - also referred to as female or male genital schistosomiasis (FGS and MGS) -&nbsp; is common, and even universal in some communities. It is thought that between about 100 and 120 million people are suffering from FGS and MGS which is causing damage to their urinary and reproductive systems. Adolescent girls and women with FGS can experience bleeding and stigmatising discharge from the vagina, genital lesions, nodules in the vulva as well as general discomfort and pain during sex. The damage that FGS causes also include sub-fertility, miscarriage and can effect vulnerability to HIV and the Human Papilloma virus.&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>Misunderstood, under-researched and under-reported</strong></p> <p><a href="https://www.bcm.edu/people/view/b1846a47-ffed-11e2-be68-080027880ca6">Peter Hotez</a> estimates that globally there are approximately 67-200 million cases of&nbsp;<em>S. haematobium </em>infection among girls and women.&nbsp;Further estimates that between&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10720558" target="_blank">33% and 75% of girls and women with&nbsp;<em>S.&nbsp; haematobium</em>&nbsp;infection also suffer from FGS</a>&nbsp;in their lower genital tract would indicate that between 20 million and 150 million girls are affected, possibly making it one of the most common gynaecological conditions in sub-Saharan Africa. But unfortunately it is misunderstood, under-researched and under-reported to the extent that we have little concrete information on prevalence in different countries, inadequate diagnostic systems, and little guidance on how to prevent, manage and treat it.</p> <p>We know that FGS is estimated to reduce a woman’s fertility by up to 75%. The links between FGS and HIV are also well established. <a href="http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2809%2961111-9/abstract">Stoever and colleagues</a> argue that up to 75% of girls and women infected with FGS develop often irreversible lesions in the vulva, vagina, cervix, and uterus, creating a lasting entry point for HIV. Their appraisal of <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16470124">Eryun Kjetland’s</a> research in Zimbabwe showed that women with FGS had a threefold increased risk of having HIV. In a recent review of the evidence <a href="http://journals.plos.org/plosntds/article?id=10.1371/journal.pntd.0001396">Pamela Mbabazi and colleagues</a> argue that: </p> <p><em>“Studies support the hypothesis that urogenital schistosomiasis in women and men constitutes a significant risk factor for HIV acquisition due both to local genital tract and global immunological effects.” </em></p> <p>Hotez believes that preventing female genital schistosomiasis in sexually active women throughout many rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa could have a significant effect on HIV transmission.</p> <p><strong>The situation in Ghana</strong></p> <p>In Ghana schistosomiasis increased with the development of the Upper Volta Dam. The Ministry of Health’s Neglected Tropical Disease Programme has a mandate to tackle schistosomiasis, which it does through the distribution of the medicine praziquantel through schools, community programmes, and health centres. But detailed clinical research on urogenital schistosomiasis in Ghana is limited. In 2011 a survey conducted by <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3090093/">Yirenya-Tawiah et al </a>&nbsp;to determine the prevalence of FGS in people that live near rivers in the Volta Basin calculated prevalence at 10.6% (42/395). Their study also looked at the problems that women with FGS were experiencing. Vaginal discharge and itching were the most frequently cited reproductive health issue, other symptoms included lower abdominal pain, irregular menstruation, post-coital bleeding, pain during and after sex, miscarriage and infertility. </p> <p><strong>Why hasn’t more been done?</strong></p> <p>Given the number of people affected, and its harmful effects, it is astonishing that there hasn’t been more of a focus on this urogenital schistosomiasis before. Diseases that affect the poorest and the most marginalised tend not to be high on the agendas of policy makers. If you couple this with the fact that tackling urogenital schistosomiasis means discussing intimate issues such as sexuality and stigmatised areas of health such as infertility the reluctance to deal with the issue is clearer. Nonetheless such dialogue is needed to determine the full extent of the problem on-the-ground.</p> <p>In Ghana we can see promising signs that there is an openness to tackling urogenital schistosomiasis. But we can foresee some challenges in taking this work forward. The Neglected Tropical Disease programme receives funding from the government (primarily for salaries), and from donors including USAID (in part via technical support channelled through FHI 360, the Volta River Authority and Sightsavers). This is often linked to donor priorities and as yet no donors are championing FGS. Donor norms sometimes require systematic reviews of the evidence prior to action. In this case the need is arguably great although the evidence – from Ghana at least – is limited.<strong> </strong>Other major challenges are the up hill task of integrating FGS into the public health system and getting enough praziquantel tablets to cater for all endemic communities. This can range even to the provision of treatment to pre-school-aged children where first signs of FGS can be found.</p> <p>Health workers at all levels - from district health officers, to front line health workers such as community health workers and volunteers - are often over stretched and juggling multiple responsibilities. FGS and it multiple manifestations is one more ball to keep in the air. Furthermore action in this area would mean that different areas of the health sector would need to work together in a concerted fashion which is currently lacking. A call for greater cross-sectoral action is very clearly needed.</p> <p>FGS is potentially a sensitive, private, and possibly stigmatising condition and messaging needs to be geared to the realities of women’s gendered experiences. This requires in-depth research to explore the context and community discourse surrounding FGS symptoms and the development of appropriate referral and treatment strategies that are accessible to all women and girls regardless of where they live or how much money or resources they can access. In so doing, strengthening the surveillance and tailored interventions of reproductive health services is something we should all welcome.&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>A future agenda for action</strong></p> <p>In January an <a href="http://fgsworkshop.org/about/">International Scientific Workshop on Neglected Tropical Diseases</a> brought together world leaders in the field of schistosomiasis, HIV and paediatrics –with a view to keeping a spotlight on urogenital schistosomiasis in Ghana. This will include: </p> <p>- Bringing different communities together for action<strong>: </strong>Engaging all directors of health services, including the Public Health, Family Health (Reproductive Health) and Institutional Care divisions of the Ghana Health Services in the country through presentations and dialogue. Developing joint action so that maternal, sexual and reproductive health and HIV services have the skill set to prevent, diagnose and treat FGS. </p> <p>- Training<strong>: </strong>Advocating for the inclusion of FGS in training sessions at national, regional, district and community levels including in in-service training and refresher trainings for health care workers.</p> <p>- Getting FGS on the radar<strong>: </strong>Ensuring FGS is on the radar of relevant health staff such as clinicians, public health officers, obstetricians and gynecology consultants, nurses and community health workers.</p> <p>- Action at the community level<strong>:</strong> Conducting research to explore how women understand the symptoms of FGS, who they consult and their treatment seeking pathways. Developing appropriate community messaging and engagement strategies through women’s groups, queen mothers, Traditional Birth Attendants and networks of Community Drug Distributors and community health workers to maximise appropriate referral, identification and treatment. </p> <p class="ListParagraph">- Starting treatment younger<strong>:</strong> Periodic and regular treatment with praziquantel from when children are first infected should prevent the development of genital lesions due to urogenital schistosomiasis. But at the moment most praziquantel treatment programmes are focussed on school-aged children and there may be a need to start even earlier than this and make sure people of reproductive age get the care that they need.</p> <p>- Making available diagnostics, surveillance tools and resources for management of urogenital schistosomiasis<strong>:</strong> Given how little we know about the illness this will include working with counterparts in other countries to share learning.</p> <p>- Intensifying multi-sectoral collaboration<strong>: </strong>For example working with the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, The Ghana AIDS Commission and the education sector. </p> <p>We hope that those working on health in other similarly affected countries will take up the challenge, and that donors can be persuaded to investing more in investigating this neglected issue which has the potential to touch many lives.</p> <p><em>The following people also contributed to this article: Benjamin Marfo, Mike Yaw Osei-Atweneboano, Kate Hawkins, Sheila Addei, Alexander Adjei, Adriana Opong, Russell Stothard and Samantha Page.</em></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/tooni-akanni/confronting-ebola-in-liberia-gendered-realities-0">Confronting Ebola in Liberia: the gendered realities</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn-leah-teklemariam/panzi-hospital-critical-pulse-for-justice-peace-and-health">Panzi hospital: a critical pulse for justice, peace and health</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ida-susser/microbicide-success-feminism-is-essential-to-good-science">A microbicide success: feminism is essential to good science</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn-simidele-dosekun/feminist-africa-putting-africa%E2%80%99s-feminist-thinking-on-intellectua">Feminist Africa: putting Africa’s feminist thinking on the intellectual map</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/alice-welbourn/is-there-future-for-women-living-with-hiv">Is there a future for women living with HIV? </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"> Ghana </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 Ghana 50.50 AIDS, Gender and Human Rights 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick women's health gendered poverty Sally Theobald Margaret Gyapong Mon, 06 Jul 2015 06:02:09 +0000 Margaret Gyapong and Sally Theobald 94078 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 Libya: "Rejoicing at our bloody democracy" https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/jennifer-allsopp-zahra%27-langhi/libya-rejoicing-our-bloody-democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For sustainable peace, the UN must refuse to sanction militarism as the default response to unwanted migration and invest in grassroots women and youth human rights defenders.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Today, the United Nations enters a new chapter in its military history. It will discuss a new </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/10/eu-considers-military-attacks-on-targets-in-libya-to-stop-migrant-boats">Security Council resolution</a><span> that seeks authorisation for a mission to bomb boats used by human traffickers and smugglers in the Libyan waters of the Mediterranean. If it passes, which it likely will, overnight, militarism will be sanctioned as the default policy response to unwanted migration to Europe.</span></p> <p>The proposed military mission would be led by Italy and involve some 10 EU states including Britain, France and Spain. The resolution has been drawn up by Britain in response to unprecedented refugee flows from the North of Africa which have been coupled with a huge death toll due to the curtailing of search and rescue operations. There is no denying that some kind of action is necessary to save lives: the stretch of water long known as Europe’s graveyard has become a bleeding blot on our conscience in recent months, with over <a href="http://mashable.com/2015/04/20/mediterranean-migrant-crisis-2015/">1,600</a> deaths alone this year.</p> <p>Rather than learning the lessons of recent history, and of heading calls from organisations such as <a href="http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/restart-the-rescue?sourcecode=P15001011&amp;utm_campaign=restarttherescue&amp;utm_medium=ppc&amp;utm_source=restartrescueppc&amp;sissr=1">Save the Children</a> to fully and systematically ‘restart the rescue’, however, EU member states have opted for militarism as their primary solution to the ‘migrant crisis’. In their <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/mariagiulia-giuffr%C3%A9-cathryn-costello/crocodile-tears-tragedy-and-responsibility-i">recent analysis</a> of the EU plan for action, lawyers Mariagiulia Giuffre and Cathryn Costello conclude that acknowledgement of responsibility is nowhere to be seen.</p> <p>The mass influx of refugees from conflict-ridden countries is nothing new, as is all too familiar to the developing countries in the global south that continue to host <a href="http://www.unhcr.org.uk/about-us/key-facts-and-figures.html">86%</a> of the world’s refugees. But Britain seems genuinely perplexed that its botched ‘military intervention light’ in Libya would result in anything other than stability.</p> <p>At the centenary <a href="http://www.womenstopwar.org/">conference</a> of the Women’s International league for Peace and Freedom in The Hague, I spoke to Zahra’ Langhi, co-founder and director of the <a href="http://lwpp.org/">Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace</a> about alternatives to militarism and pathways to stability to Libya.</p> <p>Jennifer Allsopp:<em> Zahra’, as a peace activist inside Libya, what’s your perspective on Europe’s response to the ‘migrant crisis’?</em></p> <p>Zahra’ Langhi: It’s simple. They want to stop immigration, and as always, the approach of the international community is militaristic. But securing the borders is not militarising the borders, it’s quite different. What the international community don’t seem to understand is that it’s one cycle. When you stabilise Libya everything will be better. At the moment a lot of people are not thinking about the human rights of the immigrants because they’re not even thinking of human rights at all. Human rights in a situation like Libya has become a luxury – the primary goal is staying safe and surviving.&nbsp;</p> <p>We know that the trafficking of immigrants comes with the flood of arms, with drugs, all together, and so the answer is not militarising the borders. We need a holistic approach with development plans in areas in the peripheries around the borders. But the problem is that even when the international community says it wants a ‘political solution’, their political solution is not humanitarian, it’s not about dialogue, it’s not thinking of the sustainability of their approach, not thinking holistically. We need a feminist approach, an inclusive approach to the crisis, not just the ‘migrant crisis’, but the crisis of instability in Libya as a whole. It all comes together: immigration, terrorism, trafficking, gender-based violence. They need to understand that it comes together. Now they will take a stand on the smuggling and they will not address the other issues. And that’s the problem.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p><em>JA: What would a feminist response to the instability in Libya look like?</em></p> <p><span>ZL: We believe in nonviolent resistance and in countering violent extremism with development, education, and with addressing the issue from the standpoint of human security. And this requires a strong guarantee from the international community to reconstruct our cities. Because if you come home and find your home is destroyed, anyone can join a militant group. So if we don’t address these issues, we will be failing people.</span></p><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/libyan women&#039;s platform_4.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Libyan Women&#039;s Platform for Peace"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/libyan women&#039;s platform_4.jpg" alt="Libyan Women's Platform for Peace" title="Libyan Women&#039;s Platform for Peace" width="300" height="201" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Libyan Women's Platform for Peace</span></span></span></span></p><p><span>All of the ingredients are there, and we’re waiting to be heard. We’ve drafted a </span><a href="http://www.el-karama.org/content/libyan-womens-platform-for-peace-releases-a-crisis-response-strategy-to-achieve-stabilization-in-libya-at-the-59th-session-of-csw">14 point crisis strategy</a><span> which we presented to the </span><a href="http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw59-2015">UN Commission on the Status of Women</a><span> that links everything together. We worked with Libyan ex-pats, Libyan community leaders on the ground, women and young men, they came from Benghazi, from Tripoli, and we developed the first plan of its kind. The plan isn’t idealistic, it’s rooted in our experience. It says we need to challenge the whole framework of peace building. It’s about bringing an alternative, sustainable, inclusive peace.</span></p> <p>Peace is at the centre of our thinking, but we recognise that you can’t ignore the people who are shelling us, they need to be stopped. The problem is that, when it comes to arms, there’s a huge hypocrisy in the international community. The international community haven’t wanted to lift the arms embargo because the argument goes that with a lifting of the embargo, arms might go into the hands of the extremist groups. But we keep trying to tell them that they have been going into the hands of extremist groups for over four years now and nothing is being done about it! At the moment everybody, the government, the militias are getting arms but it’s not monitored, it’s not budgeted. If you lift the embargo it will be monitored and we can have a say. It’s happening anyway. This is what we’re trying to tell the UK mission in the UN Security Council. Lift the embargo –with conditions, and I stress this. </p><p>We want to monitor the budget. At the moment they’re taking from the budget and they’re not paying anything into education and reconstruction and it’s not at all transparent for the people. We don’t want to be another banana republic, another militaristic country. We’re saying, ‘have focus groups and ask us how we want our security sector reformed’. We want it based on human rights, but we want it to be built the way we want it. So we’re not saying we don’t want an army. We want reintegration into the army, but this is a moment for us when we need to have a voice.</p> <p><em>JA: Can you tell me a bit about the history of the women’s peace movement in Libya?</em></p> <p>ZL: Salwa Bughaighis was the first woman to come out on the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libyan_Civil_War_%282011%29">17th of February</a> 2011 in front of the court to call for a democratic Libya where there is rule of law, where there are human rights, dignity and social justice. Later on she joined the national and transitional council. She resigned in protest because there wasn’t enough representation of women, and we cofounded together the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace in October 2011, before the killing of Gaddafi. <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/kkkooooo_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Salwa Bughaighis, National Dialogue"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/kkkooooo_0.jpeg" alt="Salwa Bughaighis, National Dialogue" title="Salwa Bughaighis, National Dialogue" width="240" height="144" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Salwa Bughaighis, National Dialogue</span></span></span>The movement was founded to establish inclusive democracy and &nbsp;gender equality, and it’s basically about human rights and gender mainstreaming security sector reform. First we were involved in the electoral process, which resulted in women winning 17.5% in the first election ever in 52 years. Salwa then became the deputy president of the National Dialogue Preparatory Committee. She travelled Libya to call for peace and national dialogue.</p> <p>When we managed to change the roadmap and have another parliamentary election she went back to Benghazi to cast her vote and that vote <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-28031537">cost her her</a> life. Ironically, three hours before her <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/lindsey-hilsum/desolation-and-despair-in-libya-murder-of-salwa-bugaighis">assassination</a> I wrote something on Facebook saying democracy without women is a hypocrisy and it’s true. However, democracy with no arms control is a worse hypocrisy. Salwa participated in the democracy, in the democratic process that day. There were clashes, there was no control, no government system. Arms were flooding in, there was no demobilisation, nothing, and so it was meaningless. And so she got killed. And so we had the international community celebrating the completeness of the elections that day, and just one line saying they’re sorry for the brutal assassination of Salwa and so you see they were rejoicing at our bloody democracy. Democracy needs to exist in a safe environment. But it seems that the international community’s intervention in Libya, which was categorised as ‘light model intervention’, was only about regime change, and not building institutions and introducing democracy in a sustainable manner. It was rushed through.</p> <p><em>JA: And what’s the current profile of the Libyan peace movement?</em></p> <p>ZL: Many are involved in a peace movement without even realising it. We talk about human security, but you don’t need to introduce this to people, it’s what they want, it’s their priority, it’s about creating safe passages for them, about access to electricity and water; an absence of explosives. There are many internally displaced Libyans, especially in Benghazi, who are really suffering. The city has been completely deserted and left to the militias firstly, and now to ISIS. And so young Libyans feel that the international community deserted them. You need a crisis response strategy or a disaster recovery plan and all the international community is saying about it is calling for a political solution between political factions and not thinking of how to make this peace agreement sustainable.</p> <p>Peace isn’t about NGOs it’s about communities. You can only make it sustainable if you incorporate grass roots actors from the beginning. In peace negotiations civil society is seen as something apolitical, but it’s not, civil society has a political message of dissent. This stereotype of the&nbsp; international community and the UN mission is part of the problem, the fact that the international organisations always like to deal with structured organisations that know how to write proposals, speak English etc. It's a syndrome of ‘NGOanisation’. </p><p>There needs to be funding for grass roots activists to implement their work on the ground. We’re doing what we can with limited resources. Where there are no schools at the moment women’s movements help with education, or with health problems, but it’s not enough, they need resources. What I worry about is that because these resources have not come the whole population became at the beginning politicised and now they’re more nihilistic and losing faith not only in the process but in human rights. Many activists have fled the country and they are in Tunis, in Cairo, in Istanbul and they are working hard to try and support Libyans inside.</p> <p><em>JA: You’ve said at this conference that women human rights defenders are the missing link in peace and security.</em></p> <p>ZL: Yes, exactly. And they need protection to do their work. We cannot operate in a climate of impunity. Part of our campaign is to say that ‘<a href="http://www.el-karama.org/justice-for-salwa">justice for Salwa is justice for all</a>’. We operate under huge risks. We’re calling for two components. Firstly, ending impunity. In the case of Libya it’s the implementation of the resolution 2174, which has not yet been implemented because of the UN Security Council state members. It calls for punishment for warlords who have committed war crimes. And there’s a travel ban, freezing of assets and it ends with the International Criminal Court. As colleagues here have said, we need a comprehensive change in how the international community sees peace making and it needs to include the democratisation of the UN Security Council. It all ties together. This is why we’re keen to build a strong network with our sisters, working under other governments, to make this change.</p> <p>The other part goes hand in hand with ending impunity and ensuring protection for human rights defenders. Because after the assassination of Salwa many people were scared and there was no one to protect them, even when they fled the country. We need more funding and new ways of funding our work. The international community needs us, these people at the grassroots are the agents of change. So much more thought needs to be given to how to protect human rights defenders and how to secure their role in peaceful transitions. I think we need to invest in an international law to give them a status. It’s not enough to say ‘participation of women’. We need recognition. At the moment they only seem to recognise the work of those who take up arms! We need support. Otherwise it’s all a hypocrisy.</p> <p><em>JA: You are part of peace negotiations hosted by the UN in Algeria. Do you feel your message is being heard?</em></p> <p>ZL: So far we have had two meetings and for us it was to push for an agenda of human rights and I think a lot of our points were incorporated: impunity, the human rights aspect, however, I am critical of the process as a whole. I think the international community is confused about democracy and about militarism. This is an interesting and unique moment in history when all of us, not just our societies alone, are questioning democracy, democratic tools and we are trying to think out of the box because so far we’ve been seeing failures of the blueprint. They won’t say, hold on, you could have democracy though a process of dialogue. That it could be extended for several months or years and be an inclusive process and give it a real push and a mandate. My problem is that &nbsp;I doubt that the agreement that will come out from this dialogue will work because there’s no clear mandate, and it’s linked with the drafting committee process which is failing in Libya.</p> <p>I wish people would read <a href="https://www.dropbox.com/s/4pewzg38nwdoxhg/Libyan%20Women%E2%80%99s%20Platform%20for%20Peace%20Releases%20a%20Crisis%20Response%20Strategy%20to%20Achieve%20Stabilization%20in%20Libya%20at%20the%2059th%20Session%20of.pdf?dl=0">our plan</a>.</p><p><em>Zahra' Langhi spoke to Jennifer at </em><em><em>WILPF's <a href="http://www.wilpfinternational.org/">Centenary Conference</a> in the Hague on 'Women's Power to Stop War'.</em></em><strong><em><strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong></em></strong><em>Read more interviews and articles from the conference in 50.50's series <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/women%27s-power-to-stop-war">Women's Power to Stop War.&nbsp;</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/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 even"> <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 odd"> <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 even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/5050/lindsey-hilsum/is-that-what-we-fought-for-gaddafis-legacy-for-libyan-women">Is that what we fought for? Gaddafi&#039;s legacy for Libyan women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/robin-lloyd/speaking-truth-to-power-at-un">Speaking truth to power at the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/creating-peace-manifesto-for-21st-century">Creating peace: a manifesto for the 21st century</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="/cynthia-cockburn/world-disarmament-start-by-disarming-masculinity">World disarmament? Start by disarming masculinity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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> </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"> Libya </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Benghazi </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 class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Benghazi Libya Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Equality International politics Borderland crisis 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders Women's Power to Stop War 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter feminism gender justice women and militarism women and power women's human rights women's movements Zahra' Langhi Jennifer Allsopp Mon, 11 May 2015 13:07:08 +0000 Jennifer Allsopp and Zahra' Langhi 92693 at https://www.opendemocracy.net