Most people in the United States automatically equate November with Pilgrims & “Indians” and Thanksgiving, and while the tide of cognizant adults is turning, there are still millions of people in the USA who do not acknowledge our country’s horrific, genocidal, colonial history. I’ve written about Native American women’s activism in the States before, but today I want to bring your attention to Native American Heritage Month, and a few things you can do to help improve the lives of Native Americans still reeling from centuries of slaughter, forced migration, forced assimilation, and modern political policies like forced sterilization that deepen the mistrust indigenous folks have against white colonizers. While we all might not be able to give back the land our ancestors stole, there are a number of other things we can do to support our Original American neighbors. Today is also the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the kickoff of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
While the sentimentality of a holiday to show gratitude for what we have is nice, we can’t deny the roots of Thanksgiving, which is why many Native American families and activists see the holiday as anything but something to be thankful for. The most important thing you as an individual can do to combat the mistruths we’re taught in school is to educate yourself and others as to the realities facing Native communities on a daily basis. It’s also important to be honest with children of all colors and races about the origins of our country and our holidays. One way to show your support for indigenous communities is to wear red on Friday, November 27th, and use the hashtags #NativeLivesMatter and #IdleNoMore on social media.
Native children, as they have under the Bureau of Indian Affairs for decades, also face incredible obstacles in achieving an education. Suicide rates amongst Native youth are astronomical, but all young people of color are much less hopeful to live to age 35 than their white peers. With South Dakota frequently taking Native American children from their families to place them in foster care (because the state earns money for every child under state care) the Lakota People’s Law Project is demanding that President Obama take action. You can sign their petition here.
Another petition you should sign is this one to stop the flooding of Winnemem Wintu’s last sacred location. While Obama has been lauded by many as a leader on environmental issues for not allowing the Keystone XL pipeline project to be built, there’s always room for improvement, and a delegation of more than 45 indigenous leaders from across the continent are making their way to Paris for the UN Climate Talks. Environmental issues are a major factor impacting the health, sovereignty and survivability of many Native American tribes. The President is also the target of demonstrations this weekend to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier, an American Indian Movement (AIM) activist charged with the murders of two FBI agents and the fierce AIM activist Anna Mae Aquash.
Unfortunately, despite an incredible history of strong, warrior women and equality for all sexes/genders in many Native cultures throughout the continent, murders of Native American and First Nations women are still rampant and sex trafficking regularly occurs with impunity. Follow the controversy with #MMIW which stands for missing and murdered Indigenous women. Native American women also deal with domestic violence and sexual assault at astounding rates. No better example of “the personal is political” exists than that of environmental degradation of fracking in North Dakota and its impact on the levels of violence against women and girls in the area. But Native women definitely aren’t giving up; they’re fighting back by creating safe spaces like Tewa Women United, the Four Directions Clinic on the infamous Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and the first-ever Native American birthing center, planned to open in New Mexico within three years. With only 14 Native American certified midwives throughout the entirety of the US, you can see why such a project is necessary–donate to it here.
I owe my initial understanding and appreciation of other cultures to an elementary school classmate’s family. They are Me-wuk, and in my small public school in Northern California, took every opportunity they could to educate our class and our school. Native dancers came and performed for us and we took field trips to learn about them. Officially replacing the derogatory name “Digger Indians” placed on them by the invading gold miners, Miwok became the tribe’s official name in 1924. Although I have written before about how language shapes our realities, and I talk a lot about the importance of naming, labels and respecting identities, many readers may not know that I have a degree in Linguistics. I’ve studied 7 languages, including two indigenous languages, Nahuatl–the language of the Aztecs, and Miwok. Studying indigenous languages is a revolutionary act, especially because of the abhorrent relationship between Native Americans and their languages that white colonizers perpetuate to this day.
Studying a new language can give us a totally new understanding, by making us view the world through a different lens. In the course where I studied Miwok, other students were studying other languages, and I learned that many Indigenous languages group nouns based on shape–round, flat, long, etc. It’s also important to consider that many Native cultures understand their actions as affecting Seven Generations, and thus feel personally and politically obligated to take both their ancestors’ accomplishments and their offsprings’ futures into account. One way to ensure that Native Americans in our communities are not “in the past tense” is to do whatever we can to keep their unique languages from dying.
Marie Wilcox (right), the last fluent speaker of Wukchumni
National Geographic’s Enduring Voices Project shows that two areas of the United States are currently suffering from high to severe threat levels for the extinction of unique Indigenous languages, although even languages like Lakota with 6,000 speakers are still not safe. The Pacific Northwest is home to 54 Native languages, but many of them are on the verge of dying out completely. A Canadian project working to combat this is First Voices, which maps and archives Indigenous languages with soundbites and written dictionaries. Further down the coast the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival work with UC Berkeley to document languages, and also created an incredible Master Apprentice Program for individuals to learn directly from speakers of Native languages. The other area of the United States where Indigenous languages are threatened with extinction is the Oklahoma-Southwest region, home to 43 different languages, including Euchee, a language isolate, meaning it doesn’t belong to any language family. Euchee only has five remaining speakers–to donate to the Euchee Language Project consider a recurring gift to Cultural Survival.
I know I’ve included a lot of plugs for donations in this post, but really it’s the least you could do. The Dolores Project homeless shelter could use your help as well. If giving money is totally not an option at this point though, supporting Indigenous artists in all media is a good place to start. You can play the unique Never Alone, the first Alaska Native videogame, buy fashions from these Native designers instead of appropriating their themes from big box stores, listen to these seven rising Native American musicians, learn from this intrepid mapmaker and his incredible work, and support Matika Wilbur’s photography with Project 562. If you’re in Santa Fe in mid-August, be sure to check out the Indigenous Fine Arts Market. There are also tons of Native American authors you can read and learn from. Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach was really poignant for me. If you’d rather watch your storytelling, here is a list of 84 films by and about women of color, and if you’re branching further south, 4 documentaries about indigenous Mexicans. Now go forth, and dismantle colonialism!
Photographer Matika Wilbur (c) Tulalip News
1 Comment | tags: #16Days, #IdleNoMore, #MMIW, #NativeLivesMatter, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, AIM, Alaska Native, American Indian Movement, Anna Mae Aquash, Bureau of Indian Affairs, California, Colonialism, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Eden Robinson, Euchee, First Nations, Genocide, Iñupiaq, Immigration, Indigenous, Indigenous People, Indigenous women, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Keystone XL, Lakota, Lakota People's Law Project, Language, Leonard Peltier, Marie Wilcox, Matika Wilbur, Miwok, Monkey Beach, Nahuatl, Native American, Native American Heritage Month, Native American women, Never Alone, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pilgrims, Red Power, Refugees, South Dakota, Tewa Women United, Thanksgiving, Winnemem Wintu, Wukchumni | posted in (Dis)ability, Environment, Post-Conflict/Disaster, Race/Ethnicity and Activism, Sex/Sexuality/Reproductive Justice, Strategic Nonviolent Action, Violence Against Women
As October draws to a close the observations of my friends and co-workers are ringing in my ears: cancer is a by-product of life, and we should be focusing on things we can prevent, like domestic violence. Most people are unaware that in addition to being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month, hence why there are so few purple ribbons to be seen amongst the sea of pink, but purple goes with your pink ribbons just fine.
Obviously no one likes cancer and my friends are no exception, their respective points though–that death is an inevitable part of life and that we should try to heal social issues with social action rather than medical issues with social action–challenge the accepted social norm that causes even burly NFL players to don the “feminine” color pink so that more women will detect breast cancer early. Nevermind that men can and do get breast cancer too…. Despite the NFL’s Crucial Catch Program, there’s a stark contrast between pink-supporting players like Johnny Manziel who recently avoided any legal or NFL discipline after police dash-cam footage showed him schmoozing away a domestic violence incident, and pink-resistant players like William Gay who was fined for wearing purple cleats in honor of his mother who was murdered in a domestic violence incident when he was a child. Thank Gay for his brave action here.
Manziel sporting a pink “Breast Cancer Awareness” towel
The truth is breast cancer kills an estimated 40,290 women and 440 men in the US each year, while 1.3 million women and 835,000 men each year are victims of physical intimate partner violence. Lung cancer is the deadliest form of cancer by far, killing more people every year in the US than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined, but Lung Cancer Awareness Month (November) is barely a blip on our collective media radar. Maybe breathing just isn’t sexy enough.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying mastectomies fit into the mainstream ideals of sexiness either… but oh those reconstructed breasts! And there’s nothing wrong with public awareness campaigns for any serious health issue, the problem I have with BCAM is the pinkwashing–claiming to care about breast cancer while selling/promoting products that are carcinogenic.
Breast cancer survivor Barbara Ehrenreich explains in the documentary Pink Ribbon, Inc., “‘We used to march in the streets. Now you’re supposed to run for a cure. Walk for a cure, or jump for a cure. The effect of the whole pink-ribbon culture was to drain and deflect the kind of militancy we had as women [who] were appalled to have a disease that was epidemic, yet we didn’t know the cause of.'”
Understand the history of the Pink Ribbon and its campaigns, and Think Before You Pink. If you truly want to make a difference in the lives of the 1 in 8 women who will develop breast cancer, try this:
- Create an Early Detection Plan and encourage your loved ones to do the same. Knowing what is normal for your own body through monthly self exams (but not right before or during menstruation), annual clinical breast exams, following the revised mammogram guidelines and speaking up to your doctor about any changes to your breasts including itchiness, redness, swelling, change in shape or size, as well as lumps or unusual discharge.
- Donate to Planned Parenthood–their breast cancer screenings and treatments save the lives of folks who would otherwise not be able to afford healthcare.
- Hold a fundraiser to help provide mammograms for people who are struggling to afford them.
- Support organizations who are fighting to challenge the way we think about breast cancer, like Metavivor and Breast Cancer Action which advocate for finding a cure, the National Breast Cancer Coalition that has a strategic plan to end breast cancer by 2020, and the National Women’s Health Network which pushes for the inclusion of more women in clinical trials.
- Challenge people and campaigns aimed as “saving the ta-tas” instead of saving the person with cancer. Understand that many people (~30%) who detected their breast cancer early still went on to die from metastatic breast cancer.
- Learn the facts about early detection campaigns for all kinds of cancers, and work to mitigate the racist, classist, transphobic and heterosexist effects a lack of healthcare and lack of awareness create.
- Support research for alternative treatments like Phoenix Tears.
- Don’t buy pinkwashed carcinogens!
If you want to make a difference in the lives of the 1 in 3 women who will face domestic violence in their lifetimes:
- Donate to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and your local domestic violence shelter. Money is great but local shelters could always use toiletries like shampoo, soap, tampons, diapers etc., and clothing as well.
- Speak out against police brutality and domestic violence within police families.
- Call your Representatives and encourage them to support the SAFE Act.
1 Comment | posted in (Dis)ability, Environment, Race/Ethnicity and Activism, Sex/Sexuality/Reproductive Justice, Strategic Nonviolent Action
After well over two years with Austin Women’s Health Center providing abortion care and reproductive healthcare to the women of Texas I learned many lessons I’d like to share with you, dear reader, and to leave for myself as a reminder why I must always remain in the fight for Reproductive Justice and bodily autonomy. It was a lot to learn, and will be a lot to take in, so bear with me.
Austin Women’s Health Center
- All women have abortions. Every age. Every race. Every religion. Every class. Every marital status. Every sexual orientation. Every ability. Every education level. Everyone has abortions. Period.
- If someone does not want to be pregnant she will go to extreme lengths, even risking her health or life, to terminate the pregnancy. All the ridiculous laws do is make it more difficult for women to obtain a safe, timely abortion.
- October 3rd 2014 was the worst day of my life. On that day my colleagues and I were forced to call, and face, patients who had scheduled abortion procedures with us to tell them the state of Texas would not allow it. We referred them to what was (and could be) the only provider in Austin-Planned Parenthood, and providers in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. It was utterly heartbreaking and many times many of us erupted into tears alongside our patients, because even though we were not the ones needing an abortion, we were also furious that Texas had allowed this to happen.
- While the cost of an abortion in Austin this year has gone up for the first time since the 1970s, the $600-1,200 it costs to have an ultrasound and terminate a pregnancy is insurmountable for so many individuals and families.
- Many, many women have more than one abortion. And that’s totally ok.
- A majority of women who have abortions already have children. They get it, they know how emotionally, physically and financially draining parenting is.
- The range of emotions around abortion is as varied as the human experience. For some women their abortion is the most difficult, tragic thing they have ever done; for others the idea of being pregnant is laughable and therefore their easy decision comes with overwhelming relief. I’ve learned that people who have abortions feel like they don’t have the right to grieve because they are choosing to end their pregnancies. This is just so wrong on so many levels. There is no “should” when it comes to emotions.
- Women expect to be treated like shit by their healthcare providers, both their abortion provider and their regular doctor, because they chose abortion.
- It takes an especially thick skin, a sick sense of humor, and a fierce passion to be an abortion provider, whether you’re “just answering phones” or the MD performing the surgery.
- All people deserve quality healthcare from providers who respect their choices and their knowledge of what is best for themselves, their families and their lives.
- Adoption is not an alternative to abortion. Adoption is an alternative to parenting. A huge number of women who have abortions do so because they do not want to be pregnant.
- The smallest bit of kindness, whether from healthcare providers, from friends or family, or just in general conversations about abortion, can make a huge difference to someone facing an unplanned and/or unwanted pregnancy. Try compassion, I promise, you’ll like it.
- A majority of folks who have abortions were using birth control when they got pregnant. I’ve talked to patients using every single kind of birth control from the pill to vasectomy.
- Don’t trust doctors who tell you that you cannot get (someone) pregnant. The human body is an incredible thing and folks who were told that their endometriosis or bike accident as a kid meant they would never have children can and do. Tubal ligation and vasectomies can and do heal. The only way for sexually active folks to prevent all pregnancy is to only engage in homosexual sex. Now if only we could prevent rape….
- The Republican Party does not care about women’s health, nor respect our individual autonomy as human beings, therefore if someone votes Republican they are saying that they too do not care about human rights. If you think that women deserve to make their own medical choices, that all consenting adults have the right to marry whomever they love, and that education and medical care should be prioritized over border patrol and prisons, it’s time to vote with your conscience.
- Laws restricting abortion, birth control, cancer screenings and access to general reproductive healthcare are not really about women’s health given that abortion is one of the safest procedures in the country. Hell, they’re not even about abortion, or god, or the church, they’re about greed. Forcing women to give birth to children they cannot afford ensures a cheap labor force by perpetuating the cycle of poverty. This ties into for-profit prison systems, lack of solid public education, etc. The whole thing is disgusting.
- Women trust their doctors… and the internet. Factual, reliable, medically accurate information around abortion and its risks is not easily accessible, especially when doctors are forced by the state to lie to their patients.
- Women who have abortions for medical reasons are generally truly heartbroken. They are not looking for understanding or blessings from the Religious Right but silence would be appreciated.
- Protesters just piss people off. With the exception of umpires, referees and prison guards I can’t think of any other profession where people are yelled at and have their lives threatened just for doing their jobs.
- A huge number of anti-choice protesters and outspoken opponents of abortion have had abortions!
- Most patients who choose to view their fetal tissue after a surgical (machine vacuum aspiration) abortion are shocked by it. Early in the pregnancy, under 9-10 weeks or so, they are shocked by how small it is. Later in the pregnancy they are shocked by what they can identify. As we know many of the photos of fetuses that end up in protesters’ signs were late-term miscarriages so don’t think that at 12 weeks you’re dealing with a newborn, but being able to identify appendages and facial features is normal. Viewing the tissue is an incredibly personal decision, and one that most patients don’t even consider, but anyone reading this who is going to have an abortion, I strongly encourage you to ask yourself what it is you’re hoping to gain from viewing the tissue, and prepare yourself for what you might see.
- The medical abortion, abortion pill, Mifeprex, Mifepristone, RU-486, Misoprostal, Cytotec or Cyto–whatever you want to call it–is a long, drawn out process for many people. I would not choose it unless a surgical abortion was unobtainable but for many people, this very safe, very effective method of termination is the preferred choice. For women who live in places where abortion is illegal or practically unobtainable Cyto may be a lifesaver.
- The ONLY good thing about a mandatory waiting period and Texas’ requirement that the same doctor who will perform the abortion is the one who does the ultrasound is that it gives patients a chance to meet the staff and the doctor and take some of that initial fear of the unknown away.
- Many women do want to see their ultrasound, some even want a copy of it. There are medical reasons for ultrasound dating of the pregnancy, but politicians want to force women to have –and view– vaginal ultrasounds to embarrass, humiliate and shame them. Does humiliating someone into becoming a parent sound like a good idea to anyone?
- The sentimentality around getting “a picture of the baby” and the fetal “heartbeat” are overwhelming. We forget, or were purposely never taught, that a single cell can beat like a heart in a petri dish, so the idea that a five-week embryo has a “heartbeat” does not mean what politicians want us to think it means.
- LMP vs. conception: When dating the pregnancy the doctor want to know when the FIRST day of a woman’s last menstrual period was, thus LMP. Doctors date pregnancy from this point, not from when a patient thinks conception was, because the date of sex ≠ the date the egg was fertilized. Sperm can live in the human body for up to three days, that’s why Plan B can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex (but seriously the sooner you take it the more effective it is!). Therefore when your doctor tells you that the pregnancy is measuring 6 weeks and zero days, that means roughly one month from intercourse. And at that point the embryo is about the size of a single grain of rice.
- Most people feel the need to justify their decisions to the staff at abortion clinics because there is so much stigma around abortion. While I love hearing people’s stories, and they all matter, why you’re having an abortion is none of my business, all I need to know is that you don’t want to be pregnant right now.
- Women will always have abortions. BIRTH CONTROL WILL FAIL, partners will change their minds or leave or die, pregnant folks will change their minds, illness will come up, jobs will go away, partners will be abusive, etc. Even for women who planned to get pregnant, things can and do and will always come up that make continuing the pregnancy a non-option. Abortion will always be a necessity.
- I want science to figure out a way to put a pause button on pregnancy. Of course if the pregnancy is with the wrong person or there are health reasons or if someone simply doesn’t want children pausing it won’t do any good, but if someone just wants to finish school, or get ahead in their career, or make enough money to pay for diapers, being able to pause the pregnancy could reduce the number of abortions.
- No one gets pregnant to have an abortion.
- Not wanting to be pregnant, or not wanting to parent, or not wanting to be pregnant or parent *right now* does not make you a bad person. Sometimes… a lot of the time, abortion is the responsible choice.
2 Comments | tags: Abortion, Reproductive health, Reproductive justice, Reproductive rights | posted in (Dis)ability, Environment, Post-Conflict/Disaster, Race/Ethnicity and Activism, Sex/Sexuality/Reproductive Justice, Strategic Nonviolent Action, Violence Against Women
#Day15 of #16Days focuses on another Caribbean country, the islands of The Bahamas. Shockingly 45% of all homicides in the 20 years leading up to 2012 could be attributed to domestic violence in the islands. The government, under the Ministry of Social Services, does operate the Bureau of Women’s Affairs which presumably handles the Assistance for Persons Experiencing Domestic Violence where assistance is free to those who are willing to comply with the eligibility requirements: willingness to attend and participate in counseling and “willingness to share information.”
The government also offers community development like support groups and classes for the disabled in Braille and sign language, counseling, rehab and welfare services including rent assistance and discounted daycare. A two-day Symposium on Gender Equality and the Law in The Bahamas was held in September of this year, yet a constitutional referendum has been ongoing since 2002 to try to make citizenship laws and gender equality in The Bahamas more in line with the 21st Century. You can find a document outlining laws in The Bahamas regarding sexual assault and domestic violence here.
Of note is the legal definition of spousal rape: “Any person who has sexual intercourse with his spouse without the consent of the spouse —
(a) where there is in existence in relation to them — (i) a decree nisi of divorce; (ii) a decree of judicial separation; (iii) a separation agreement; or (iv) an order of a court for the person not to molest or co-habit with his spouse, or any other order made under Part II; or
(b) where the person has notice that a petition for judicial separation, divorce or nullity of marriage has been presented to a court, is guilty of the offence of sexual assault by spouse and liable to imprisonment for a term of fifteen years.” Yet the sentence for “unnatural connection with any animal” is twenty years….
According to the US Department of State 2013 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in The Bahamas “The law does not provide women with the same right as men to transmit citizenship to their foreign-born spouses. The law also makes it easier for men with foreign spouses than for women with foreign spouses to transmit citizenship to their children but more difficult for unmarried men (even if able to prove paternity). The law does not include gender as a basis for protection from discrimination. Women were generally free of economic discrimination, and the law provides for equal pay for equal work.” Additionally, pregnant girls in state-run schools are removed and put into special programs until after they give birth, and “The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, although girls may marry at 16 and boys at 17 with parental permission.”
There is no specific law protecting persons with physical or mental disabilities from discrimination in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. Provisions in other legislation address the rights of persons with disabilities, including a prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability. Although the law mandates access for persons with physical disabilities in new public buildings, authorities rarely enforced this requirement, and very few buildings and public facilities were accessible to persons with disabilities. Advocates for persons with disabilities complained of widespread job discrimination and general apathy on the part of private employers and political leaders toward the need for training and equal opportunity. In one case authorities denied access to public educational facilities for a mentally sound child with only physical limitations confining him to a wheelchair.
Societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals occurred, with some persons reporting job and housing discrimination based upon sexual orientation. Although same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults is legal, the law defines the age of consent for same-sex couples as 18, compared with 16 for heterosexual couples. No domestic legislation addresses the human rights concerns of LGBT persons. LGBT NGOs can openly operate in the country. The 2006 Constitutional Review Commission found that sexual orientation did not deserve protection against discrimination. LGBT NGOs reported that LGBT persons faced some discrimination in employment, and victims were frustrated at the lack of legal recourse.
Stigma and employment discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS were high, but there were no reports of violence against persons with HIV/AIDS. Children with HIV/AIDS also faced discrimination, and authorities often did not tell teachers that a child was HIV-positive for fear of verbal abuse from both educators and peers. The government maintained a home for orphaned children infected with HIV/AIDS.
All Saints Camp claims to be a refuge for those affected by HIV/AIDS in The Bahamas but the US Human Rights Report cited deplorable conditions and extremely substandard care. Their Facebook page argues that they do not have access to government funding but through the generosity of donors “the daily life at ASC has become worth living on a very very basic level – to maintain this goal is a constant and revolving challenge for all involved.”
The Bahamas Crisis Centre is not easy to find online, and their Facebook page doesn’t offer a lot of insight either, but they do operate a 24/7 hotline at 242-328-0922. It’s difficult to gauge how active they are currently but it looks like they have participated in a number of community events from toy drives for children at Christmas, to their Silent Witness Campaign to Take Back the Night. They and others throughout the Caribbean are listed here under Caribbean Crisis Centres and Women’s NGOs. Similarly elusive is the Bahamas LGBT Equality Advocates, or BLEA, but it is unclear what their role is or how they go about advancing equality.
Unfortunately for a country facing incredible amounts of gender-based violence and general inequality there are few organizations or resources there to help. Let’s hope the situation in Nigeria–for the last day of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence–is less bleak.
Leave a comment | tags: #16Days, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, All Saints Camp, Bahamas Crisis Centre, Bahamas LGBT Equality Advocates, BLEA, Clothesline Project, Domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, LGBT, marital rape, Sexual Abuse and Assault, Sexuality, Silent Witness, spousal rape, Symposium on Gender Equality and the Law in The Bahamas, Take Back the Night, Violence against women | posted in (Dis)ability, Race/Ethnicity and Activism, Sex/Sexuality/Reproductive Justice, Strategic Nonviolent Action, Violence Against Women
As one of two places in Asia where English is the primary language, Singapore takes center stage on #Day13 of #16Days of Activism. Arguable one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world with a population nearing 5.5 million, the government of Singapore encourages multiculturalism, and recognizes English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil as official languages. Singapore shines in some areas–like boasting the lowest infant mortality rate in the world and being the world’s most religiously diverse nation–and lacks in others–there is no minimum wage in the country and all public gatherings of five or more require police permits.
While reporting of domestic violence and the collection of statistical data related to gender-based or interpersonal violence has been difficult to assemble in Singapore, estimates currently state that nearly one in 10 women in Singapore were victimized at some point in their adult lives, and more than one-third of the survivors surveyed were afraid for their lives during the most recent incidence of violence. There are a handful or organizations on the 277 square mile island nation dedicated to helping everyone live free from fear and violence.
We Can! Singapore “uses interactive theatre, intimate workshops, and collaborative projects to reach out to individual Change Makers as well as community groups, provoking thought and discussion on the less obvious forms of violence against women…. [and] builds on the belief that change can be achieved when people recognise the problem of violence against women as their own, know that there is a better alternative, and feel empowered to make that change happen.”
A number of organizations exist that specialize in aiding folks with disabilities. The Asian Women’s Welfare Association “strives to empower caregivers and caregiving families of the disabled, the elderly as well as the chronically and terminally-ill through the provision of information, training and support programmes. We also work with caregivers to advocate for more caregiver-friendly policies, support and services for caregivers and their loved ones.” Care Corner operates Project START– Stop Abusive Relationships Together which aims to “provide community-based services for mentally incapacitated persons of family violence, and/or vulnerable persons with disability, etc. Care Corner Project StART handles various types of complex family violence cases that comprise of high risk. Care Corner Project StART provides family protection intervention work in the west and south region of Singapore.”
The National Council of Social Services “with the goal of enhancing the quality of social services for the disadvantaged, works closely with VWOs [Voluntary Welfare Organizations] to build their organisational capabilities for better management and delivery of social service programmes.” NCSS operates:
- Family Service Centres
Family Service Centres (FSCs) are a key community-based focal point and social service provider for families in need. The objectives of FSCs are to promote and improve the social well-being of every individual in the family, at every stage of life. FSCs are staffed with social workers and other professionals to provide a helping hand.
- Single-Parent Family Support Services
The objectives of a Single-Parent Programme are to support and promote the psycho-emotional well-being of single-parent families towards stability, growth and acceptance of the new family unit. The services provided include family casework and counselling, support groups, programmes for children, and public education.
- Services for Remarriages and Step-families
The holistic programme helps remarried couples and their families cope with their new roles and adjust in their reconstituted families. The services provided include family casework and counselling, support groups, programmes for children, and public education.
- Family Violence Prevention and Intervention Programme
The Family Violence Prevention and Intervention Programme aims to help victims, perpetrators and witnesses of family violence. It also aims to create greater awareness in the community about issues on family violence through public education and outreach. The programme involves services ranging from remedial services to preventive and developmental programmes. These include casework and counselling, group work, and workshops.
- Counselling Services
Counselling services aim to help those suffering from psychological issues, anxiety, and behavioural difficulties arising from relationship problems, addictions, bereavement and lifestyle pressures. Counselling helpline services are also available to provide a listening ear to anyone who needs to talk about their concerns. Information and referral are also available for those with specific needs.
- Suicide Prevention Service
Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) provides confidential 24-hour emotional support by trained volunteers to people in crisis, thinking of suicide or affected by suicide.
- Aftercare Case Management Service
The objective of the aftercare case management service is to facilitate the reintegration of ex-offenders into families and the society. Such service also aims to harness greater community resources in efforts to reintegrate ex-offenders.
The aftercare case management service assists ex-offenders in attaining employment/job training, securing accommodation, developing social support and coping skills, and attaining a positive lifestyle.
The Singapore Council of Women’s Organizations is the umbrella over 57 organizations in the country. Their aims and objectives include:
- To co-ordinate and act as a federation for women’s organisations, and to bring together all women leaders of Singapore;
- To create opportunities for member organisations to share information and collaborate with each other;
- To identify areas of common interest , and purpose, and furthering these through unified effort;
- To foster friendly relationships, goodwill and understanding amongst women, irrespective of origin, race, or religion;
- To provide leadership and work positively towards peace and understanding throughout the world by actively participating regionally and internationally with other like-minded organisations which subscribe to similar aims and objects;
- To promote and improve the status of women in Singapore in all fields, and where necessary, seek legislative and policy changes to ensure justice and equal opportunity for women as embodied in the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
- To serve as a resource centre for information about women in Singapore and carry out research and training programmes that will benefit women;
- To provide direct and support services that address the needs of women in Singapore, with special focus on the needs of vulnerable women.
PAVE–the first family violence specialist centre in Singapore– was created with the goal “to promote a healthy community, free from violence through improvement, collaboration and advocacy.” They provide counseling services, support groups, referrals, safety planning, help with obtaining protective orders, public education, research and training. They can be reached at 6555 0390.
AWARE– the Association of Women for Action and Research- is “Singapore’s leading gender equality advocacy group” whose aim is to “remove all gender-based barriers so as to allow individuals in Singapore to develop their potential to the fullest and realise their personal visions and hopes.” They do this through research and advocacy, education and training and by providing direct support services. AWARE operates the Sexual Assault Care Center Monday through Friday from 10am-midnight, the Helpline for survivors of domestic violence Monday through Friday from 3pm-9:30pm at 1800-774-5935 and a Free Legal Clinic. They also have a ton of great information on their website, including safety planning, getting a restraining order and contact information for a number of other organizations in Singapore dedicated to ending violence against women and promoting gender equality.
With all these great resources available for survivors of abuse and domestic violence in Singapore hopefully soon their human rights record will be on par with their education and healthcare system. If anyone knows of organizations within Singapore that are working directly on the justice system there please share them in the comments! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the remaining few days of #16DaysofActivism!
Leave a comment | tags: #16Days, (Dis)ability, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, Asian Women's Welfare Association, Association of Women for Action and Research, AWARE, Care Corner, Domestic violence, National Council of Social Services, PAVE, Projectt StART, Race, Singapore, Singapore Council of Women's Organizations, Violence against women, We Can! Singapore | posted in (Dis)ability, Race/Ethnicity and Activism, Sex/Sexuality/Reproductive Justice, Strategic Nonviolent Action, Violence Against Women
#Day7 of #16Days falls on World AIDS Day. According to UNAIDS Jamaica’s current strategy to combat HIV/AIDS is “Making Human Rights Real” but despite huge successes from the program–“Since 2004, with the introduction of antiretroviral treatment, AIDS-related deaths in Jamaica have dropped by 41% and mother-to-child transmission of HIV has fallen from 25% in 2004 to below 5% in 2011”–budget cuts from the government could hinder that progress. And despite being slightly out-of-date the Ministry of Health does advertise free HIV & Syphilis testing at mobile clinics and is working to empower women to be “smart women” and have condoms at hand.
The smart women of Jamaica are banding together in many ways. Jamaica Youth Theatre has crafted a two-minute video in the hopes of helping to Stop Violence Against Women to add to their repertoire of socially conscious flicks on everything from unintended pregnancy to sexual assault to HIV. Do Good Jamaica is a network of non-governmental and community based organizations (like Women’s Media Watch Jamaica and the Association of Women’s Organizations in Jamaica) that help in all kinds of ways.
In March Jamaica had the honor of hosting the second annual Caribbean Conference on Domestic Violence and Gender Equality. The conference looks like it was a fantastic learning and networking opportunity as it had clinical training for healthcare providers, training for activists using social media, a workshop on “Gender and human rights-based programming to address gender-based violence (GBV) and HIV in LGBT communities,” and discussions on the historical roots of gender-based violence in the Caribbean, disaster and violence against women, best practices in gender mainstreaming, the challenges of dealing with police officers who are abusive to their partners, the role of male engagement in ending gender-based violence, and much more.
Popular Jamaican dancehall artist Ishawna made headlines in October when she disclosed to the public that her well-known ex-fiancé had been physically abusive, and to the surprise of many the country rallied around her, empowering other men and women to speak out against domestic violence. The unfortunate level of violence in Jamaica is not limited to intimate partner violence but violence against children and other community violence is rampant as well. Jamaica’s domestic violence law can be found on the Ministry of Justice website but the Bureau of Women’s Affairs seems to be much more 21st Century as it “is mandated to mobilize the Government to address the problems that confront women, given the impact of patriarchy and sexism.”
One group fighting ferociously to update Jamaica’s laws regarding domestic and sexual violence is the 30-year-old Woman Incorporated. They also operate the country’s national Crisis Center Hotline at 929-2997 for survivors of domestic or sexual violence, and participate in advocacy and public awareness campaigns. This article explains how the laws surrounding rape within marriage have changed over the years, but at the time of publication marital rape is still not criminal in Jamaica. Other laws they are working to change include the definition of rape/sexual abuse of a child, as well as laws regarding parental rights when accusations of child abuse are at hand.
Women’s Resource and Outreach Center is another organization in Jamaica promoting gender equality and combating violence against women; one way they do this is by advocating for quotas through the 51% Coalition. They also organize trainings to empower women in leadership roles:
Under a programme funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), WROC executed a training programme ‘Strengthening Women’s Leadership in Jamaica (SWLJ)’, which was designed to address concerns highlighted in a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funded gender research project that showed that little progress has been made in the last decade for women serving on boards and commissions in Jamaica. Training sessions were conducted with ninety three ladies for appointment to public and private sector boards and commissions as well as school boards. A database with the profiles of the 103 ladies trained was later developed and a printed publication was presented to key public and private sector organizations/leaders.
Though there aren’t a huge number of organizations or resources in Jamaica dedicated to ending gender-based violence, it looks like the ones who are there are doing great work. Let’s hope many more future leaders get a head start soon too!
Leave a comment | tags: #16Days, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, Bureau of Women's Affairs, Caribbean, Caribbean Conference on Domestic Violence and Gender Equality, Crisis Center Hotline, Do Good Jamaica, Domestic violence, Ishawna, Jamaica, Jamaica Youth Theatre, Sexual Abuse and Assault, UNAIDS, Violence against women, Woman Incorporated, Women's Media Watch Jamaica, Women's Resource and Outreach Center, World AIDS Day | posted in (Dis)ability, Post-Conflict/Disaster, Sex/Sexuality/Reproductive Justice, Strategic Nonviolent Action, Violence Against Women
#Day2 of #16Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence showcases resources available in the United States to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. We are fortunate in the US to have many, many local programs dedicated to helping survivors of these human rights atrocities, and these national organizations can help you locate them if needed.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline has been highlighted here many times before. From their website:
Operating around the clock, seven days a week, confidential and free of cost, the National Domestic Violence Hotline provides lifesaving tools and immediate support to enable victims to find safety and live lives free of abuse. Callers to the Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) can expect highly trained experienced advocates to offer compassionate support, crisis intervention information and referral services in over 170 languages. Visitors to this site can find information about domestic violence, safety planning, local resources and ways to support the organization.
The Hotline is part of the largest nationwide network of programs and expert resources and regularly shares insight about domestic violence with government officials, law enforcement agencies, media and the general public. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a non-profit organization established in 1996 as a component of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network has been highlighted here as well. They describe themselves as:
the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization and was named one of “America’s 100 Best Charities” by Worth magazine. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org) in partnership with more than 1,100 local rape crisis centers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.
The Polaris Project which I have not had the pleasure of writing about before.
Polaris, named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the U.S., disrupts the conditions that allow human trafficking to thrive in our society. From working with government leaders to protect victims’ rights, to building partnerships with the world’s leading technology corporations, we spark long-term change that focuses communities on identifying, reporting and eliminating trafficking networks. Our comprehensive model puts victims at the center of all that we do — helping survivors restore their freedom, preventing more victims, and gathering the data to pursue traffickers wherever they operate.
Unparalleled expertise. Relentlessness. And an innovative spirit. This is how Polaris eradicates the slavery networks that rob human beings of their lives and their independence.
Freedom happens now.
The United States is also privileged to host such amazing organizations as ADWAS– The Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Project, The Shalom Task Force, The National Human Trafficking Resource Center and Love Is Respect, plus hotlines for every state in the nation, plus many territories like Puerto Rico. While we still have a long way to go before we’re rid of this scourge, the ever-growing number of resources available to help survivors live free from violence is definitely something to be thankful for.
1 Comment | tags: #16Days, #VAW, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, ADWAS, Domestic violence, Love Is Respect, National Domestic Violence Hotline, NDVH, Polaris Project, RAINN, Safe Helpline, Shalom Task Force, USA, Violence against women | posted in (Dis)ability, Race/Ethnicity and Activism, Sex/Sexuality/Reproductive Justice, Strategic Nonviolent Action, Violence Against Women
Today kicks off #Day1 of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence! Everyday I’ll be showcasing resources in different countries that help people live lives free from violence. The Pixel Project has a fantastic running library of Tweets with the contact information for various domestic violence and sexual assault hotlines around the world. Follow them @PixelProject, use #16DaysofActivism or just #16Days, get ready to #OrangeUrHood, and like them on Facebook.
They have some awesome posts about ways you can participate in stopping the epidemic that is domestic violence, like:
16 Ways to Stop Domestic Violence in Your Community
16 Ways You Can Support a Survivor of Domestic Violence
16 Films About Violence Against Women
16 Ways Men Can Help Stop Online Violence Against Women
16 Ways to Help Your Local Domestic Violence Shelter
16 Tech Innovations That Help the Movement to Prevent and Stop Violence Against Women.
1 Comment | tags: #16Days, #VAW, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, Domestic violence, Gender, Violence against women | posted in (Dis)ability, Race/Ethnicity and Activism, Sex/Sexuality/Reproductive Justice, Strategic Nonviolent Action, Violence Against Women
As longtime readers will know, for the past two years I have worked for two different causes I am equally passionate about. People who aren’t my co-workers are often surprised by how much I love the work I do. I believe everyone should have the opportunity to pour themselves into doing what they love, and fighting for something they believe in, so with that in mind I’ve compiled a list of not-for-profit organizations, both in Austin and elsewhere, so that any of you, dear readers, who want to commit yourselves to working for change, can have a starting block from which to do so. Keep in mind a lot of non-profits or non-governmental organizations may only have volunteer positions or internships, but it’s a great way to gain experience and get your proverbial “foot in the door.” Don’t forget to check your local Craigslist and Idealist listings too. In no particular order, here’s a partial list (come back soon for more!) of organizations I have bookmarked on my computer to get you started:
Survival International– The global movement for tribal peoples’ rights
Native Planet– Preserving Cultures, Empowering People.
Minority Rights Group International– Working to secure the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples.
International Women’s Tribune Center– Connecting women globally for social change
Population Action International– Healthy Families, Healthy Planet
PeopleFund– Creating economic opportunity and financial stability for underserved people
Equality Texas– Envisioning a state where all Texans are treated equally, with dignity and respect
The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation– Transforming the lives of urban children living in poverty through better health and education
Foundation Communities– Creating housing where families succeed in Austin and North Texas
Guttmacher Institute– Advancing sexual and reproductive health worldwide through research, policy analysis and public education
Fellowship of Reconciliation– Working for peace, justice and nonviolence since 1915
CARE– A leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Travis County– Speaking up for children who have been abused or neglected
Open Democracy– Free thinking for the world
Transcending Boundaries– Providing education, activism and support for persons whose sexuality, gender, sex, or relationship style do not fit within conventional categories
National Network to End Domestic Violence– Dedicated to creating a social, political and economic environment in which violence against women no longer exists
Colorlines– News for action
Women’s Information Network– Democratic. Pro-choice. Women.
World Pulse– Connecting women’s voices to transform our world
Mama Cash– Giving grants to women’s girls’ and trans rights groups that are working to change the world
The Peace & Collaborative Development Job Board– one of the premier sites in the world focused on international development, peacebuilding, humanitarian relief, social entrepreneurship, international affairs and more
The Center for Health and Gender Equality (CHANGE)
The Association for Women’s Rights in Development– an international, multi-generational, feminist, creative, future-orientated membership organization committed to achieving gender equality, sustainable development and women’s human rights
The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault– to create a Texas free from sexual violence
The National Domestic Violence Hotline– Over 17 years of advocacy, safety planning, resources, and hope
3 Comments | tags: employment, job, jobs, meaning, NGO, non-governmental organization, non-profit, not-for-profit, Purpose | posted in (Dis)ability, Environment, Post-Conflict/Disaster, Race/Ethnicity and Activism, Sex/Sexuality/Reproductive Justice, Strategic Nonviolent Action, Violence Against Women
October 19 is Love Your Body Day, something I’ve been celebrating since I was introduced to the concept in college at San Diego State University by the courageous members of the National Organization for Women. Erin Matson, NOW’s Action VP had this to say about body image and loving yourself. And while I very much appreciate Meghan McCain’s courage in posing for the NOH8 Campaign and openly discussing body image issues, the photo chosen by Hollywood NOW to showcase their Celebrity Host could not possibly fit any tighter into the media box of what women in America are supposed to look like. Welcome to the 2011 Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival.
Many issues arise when talking about body image, especially for women; and for all we (especially feminists) talk about personality and intelligence and inner-strength being more important than outer-beauty… the truth is, in every society, women are judged on outward appearance.
From men in America and the UK navigating body image standards set up by advertising and the porn industry to transsexuals in Iran fighting stigmas of “abnormality” to young girls in Cameroon being subjected to breast ironing to the more than 100 million girls and women worldwide suffering the effects of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), unfortunately our bodies are battlegrounds.
Eating disorders affect more than 10 million people a year in the US alone, so think twice before you praise someone for loosing weight. Eating disorders affect women, girls, boys and men around the world, with silverchair’s frontman Australia-native Daniel Johns being one of the most recognized male celebrities suffering from anorexia anywhere. Because of the incredibly unhealthy body images fed to us by the media cosmetics is a multi-BILLION dollar industry and rates of plastic surgery to “beautify” everything from earlobes to vaginal labia are skyrocketing.
So, as always, I want to give suggestions for you to improve the world around you. How can we fight the Ariel complex of altering our bodies and loosing our voices to be attractive?What can you do to promote realistic body images of real people? Speak up! Learn to accept that hundreds of body types exist and are natural; don’t give in to media standards fueled by capitalist greed designed to make you spend money; demand that stores carry your size clothes and shoes whether you’re a naturally tiny size 0 or a naturally curvy size 20; look up to real people around you for inspiration, your teachers, parents, and mentors, not airbrushed and nip/tucked celebrities; if someone tells you you’re ugly/fat/unloveable/don’t-fit-neatly-into-the-claustrophobic-boxes-built-by-the-media, tell them to fuck off; and send sexist ads into Ms. Magazine’s No Comment section. Understand that differences, especially body differences like sex, (dis)ability and race, are beautiful!
Finally, what’s the most important thing you can do? Love your body! “The moment we choose to love, we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love, we begin to move toward freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others.”- bell hooks
2 Comments | tags: Body image, Cameroon, Daniel Johns, Eating Disorders, Erin Matson, Iran, Meghan McCain, National Organization for Women, NOH8 Campaign, Transsexual, United States, Violence against women | posted in (Dis)ability, Race/Ethnicity and Activism, Sex/Sexuality/Reproductive Justice, Violence Against Women