Tag Archives: Women’s rights

Day 25- SisterSong

To the readers who know me personally, the lack of discussions surrounding sex and reproductive rights and health has probably been puzzling. Sex, sexual rights, and sexual health are some of the areas about which I am most passionate. As Jean Kilbourne states in Killing Us Softly, sex is both more important and less important, than the advertising industry shows. I have not delved into sex/sexuality yet because it is such an intense topic and I have to be mentally prepared for it. Sunday’s blog will go in depth into the fight for sexual/reproductive rights in the US.

Today I want to introduce you to SisterSong, an amazing organization that is “building a movement for reproductive justice.” Reproductive justice is one of my favorite phrases in the English language. Put simplyRJ is “the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights.” In other words, reproductive justice explores women’s sexuality and reproductive health while fighting for individuals’ rights to make fully-informed decisions regarding every aspect of life from education to employment to the environment.

SisterSong is a Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. I know that all sounds really hippy feminist, and it is, but hear me out.  Let’s break it down: women of color includes any and all women who are marginalized by the imposed, socially-constructed racial heirarchy in the US, usually anyone who is not or does not appear to be white and does not benefit from the privileges of whiteness; reproductive justice, again, is a social movement that seeks to teach an understanding of sexual and reproductive health and rights issues as it relates to the framework of oppression women face in the US, including poverty, racism, ableism, ageism, and homophobia, in addition to sexism; finally, collective underscores the need for solidarity amongst women to not fall prey to the imperialist tactic of divide and conquer, as SisterSong explains: doing collectively what we cannot do individually.

The Goose Story explains members’ clear committment to the work they are doing and how vital a community of support can be. The SisterSong community includes Southern RJ Activists, the Latina Encuentro, Trust Black Women and these member organizations. SisterSong also produces Collective Voices, “the only national newspaper addressing reproductive health created and distributed by and for women of color….” They also recommend these publications and articles.

July 14-17 this year SisterSong will host its 2011 Let’s Talk About Sex Conference in Miami Beach. The theme this year is Love, Legislation and Leadership. Sistersong also offers three different levels of RJ training which are aimed at audiences of 10-20 people.

If you would like to support the work SisterSong does to end racial oppression and sexism you have a few options: you can register for their training sessions so that you will be more prepared and able to discuss RJ with anyone who will listen; you can donate to Trust Black Women to help continue the fight against racist billboards aimed at shaming black women into not asserting their right to choose; you can donate to help preserve Mother House, the historic home offices of SisterSong in Atlanta, Georgia; or you can donate to SisterSong’s Women of Color Scholarship Program to ensure that “women of color, working class communities, immigrant communities, and young women and students” have access to information and services surrounding SisterSong’s work.

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Day 17- Take Back the Night

In the past two days we have seen how ordinary articles of clothing can be catalysts for change, and can help break down barriers by promoting people to ask questions. Any conversation that educates someone as to the gender inequality in a given society or the dangers of gender-based violence is a good one, and Take Back the Night (also known as Reclaim the Night) has been promoting survivors of violence to break the suffocating silence since at least 1975. These events are held all over the world in recognition that women’s rights are still in jeopardy.

The idea behind this life-changing event is for women (and men) to gather together after dark, share their stories of violence, literally light up the night (with candles), and reclaim their right to be in public at night. You can find the history of the event here. TBTN is also a forum for survivors to realize that they are not alone in facing violence. 

As an undergrad at SDSU I had witnessed (and marched and chanted slogans in) one TBTN event before I had the courage to take the mic at the second event my sophomore year. I, oddly, have no fear whatsoever of public speaking but standing up and telling the microphone and everyone who was on the other end of it the hell I faced as a survivor of child sexual abuse and incest was terrifying. I felt exposed, like a gaping wound. I tried to fight back tears but as my mother says, sometimes tears are the necessary lubricant for painful words.

Once my story had been told and all of these people, these strangers, now knew that I was a survivor, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off me, I felt liberated. And everyone at the event touched a caring hand to my shoulder, or hugged me through a layer of their own tears, telling me they felt the same way, and thanking me for telling their story.

Take Back the Night changed my life. It was the first time I ever identified myself as a survivor of incest; a word which still makes my stomach flip and my skin crawl. I participated in the subsequent events on campus throughout my college career but never again felt the need to speak up. Of course, I raised my voice as we marched around campus and “Our bodies, our lives, our right to decide!” has served me well in pro-choice rallies too.

The cornerstone of TBTN is local events where ordinary citizens have the courage to speak up and show that they are sick and tired of being fearful. The TBTN Foundation welcomes submissions of local events and will add them to its national calendar. Normally these rallies are held near the end of April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (and Child Abuse Prevention Month). They are often held in conjunction with a number of other activities including Denim Day and the Clothesline Project.

Many groups and organizations participate in Take Back the Night, including universities, women’s groups, LGBTQAI associations, local shelters, religious organizations, and men’s groups who speak out against violence against women. If you are interested in finding a local event to participate in or volunteer for, or if you want to create an event, go here. If you need help dealing with a violence experience, here are some useful resources.


Day 14- Women’s Activism in North America and Oceania

North America and Oceania may seem like a strange pairing, but especially because much of the activism of the women in the United States has already been covered, grouping some of the original commonwealth countries–Canada, Australia and New Zealand–together seemed logical. Oceania is comprised of dozens of small island nations that make up Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia, in addition to Australia and New Zealand. Not to diminish the rights and struggles of the peoples of small nations or under foreign control but for our purposes, any location we consider will be an independent country with a population of more than 100,000.

Australia: The land down under is paying tribute to four women who have pushed to advance gender equality in Australia by immortalizing them in stamps: Germaine Greer, Eva Cox, Elizabeth Evatt, and Anne Summers will all be awarded the Australian Post Australian Legends Award for 2011. Last year Australia elected it’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who is currently on the losing side of public opinion with regards to marriage equality. Fifty-seven percent of Australians support marriage equality but she remains opposed to it. This page offers interesting insights into other battles women, especially migrant women, in Australia have historically faced.

New Zealand: The first nation in the world to grant all women the right to vote, in 1893, and to elect a transgender person to parliament, in 1999, New Zealand prides itself on a (slightly misleading) image of gender equality. The youngest person ever elected to the NZ parliament (and editor of the below mentioned book written by women of the Solomon Islands), Marilyn Waring, recollects her journey to political power here. Issues of domestic violence, the gender wage gap, underrepresentation in politics, and discrimination against the indigenous Maori people all still affect Kiwi women. And while the LGBTQAI community in New Zealand does enjoy most human rights, including some representation in government offices, marriage and adoption are still hurdles to be overcome.

Fiji: An innovative technique for raising awareness of young, rural women’s issues in Fiji, Tonga and the Solomon Islands is coming through community radio in Fiji. A weeklong training session, held annually, was arranged by FemLINKPACIFIC, which also address issues of disability, and peace and security through their inclusive, and intelligent approach. FemLINKPACIFIC’s Executive Director is personally breaking the silence around women’s health issues in Fiji by blogging with humor and poignancy about her experiences with breast cancer. Recently, Fiji islanders have had to deal with significant political violence, and Christian extremism which left women without governmental allies in the fight against domestic violence. Marital rape and lack of decision-making capabilities also leave many women in Fiji without a say in their own contraception and pregnancy options. Despite these obstacles, the women of Fiji have a long history of virulently demanding their rights

Papua New Guinea: In a country where sorcery is blamed for deaths caused by AIDS, women suffer tremendous violence in the name of eradicating witchcraft. Nearly 2/3 of women in Papua New Guinea experience domestic violence at some point in their lives and fully half of all women there are raped, partly because there are no laws against these crimes. Sometimes crime goes the other direction and men and boys are victimized, showing how seriously a culture of rape affects everyone involved. But women in Papua New Guinea are courageously combating both physical violence and the spread of HIV though activism. Environmental issues such as mining, logging, fisheries, and palm oil production also have a significant impact on the lives of women in Papua New Guinea and so they speak out about those issues too.

Solomon Islands: The voices of the women of the Solomon Islands have rarely been heard, either within their country or by outsiders, but the book Being the First broke that cycle of silence. Women in this island nation have been an integral part of the use of restorative justice in peacebuilding after years of ethnic tensions and violence. Violence against women is a serious issue in this country and women have been vital in PeaceWomen to combat injustices. Young women in Solomon Islands are also speaking out about climate change and its disproportionate effects on women and indigenous peoples. The women of the YWCA are also critical in the fight for equality.

Samoa: Transgender activist and community leader, Dr. Vena Sele, has continuously fought for equality while expressing one of the traditional gender roles in Samoa as a fa’afafine. Some Samoa bloggers are taking on tradition by speaking out about taboo subjects. This article explains current laws with regard to human rights in Samoa, and this article is a witty explanation of how damaging misconceptions can be.

Tonga: At least one women’s rights activist in the Kingdom of Tonga has raised concerns that the November 2010 election of Lord Tu’ivakano was not the victory for democracy that it was touted to be. Women activists have every right to be weary of the men in politics in Tonga, especially since the country refused to ratify CEDAW and the newly appointed Police Minister was previously charged with assaulting his wife. The Women and Children Crisis Center WCCC, a Mama Cash grantee, is one group working to change the acceptability of domestic violence in Tonga. They have been internationally recognized for their work and won the Pacific Human Rights Award in December 2010, and the Global Social Change Film Festival & Institute Activist Award for their work in the film Paradise Glossed: Women, Violence and ‘The Friendly Islands’

Canada: One look at Amnesty International’s Canada blog shows how determined Canadian women are in fighting for all women’s rights everywhere. Canada is a much more liberal, accepting and equal society than are we to the south, but no nation is perfect. Gender-based violence and blatant discrimination, including uninvestigated disappearances, against indigenous people still rock Canada on a regular basis. The government has not done much to address these inequalities but activists continue to speak out. On a side note–if you are a Canadian reproductive rights activist, age 19-30, go here to participate in a survey, please.

Mexico: While the Mexican government is sending women to jail for having an abortion, the femicides of Juarez, Mexico have been a disgrace to the world for years. More than 1,000 women have been killed there in the past 18 years. Many groups including Women of Juarez and Nuestras Hihas de Regreso a Casa (which has pages in many languages), fight to end the impunity in the brutal rapes, torture and murders of the women of Ciudad Juarez. Aqui hay un gran coleccion de articulos sobre los feminicidios. Y aqui Patricia Sanchez-Espinosa escrita que Ni Una Más será aceptable. And despite activists who speak out against this overwhelming violence being murdered as well, women in Mexico and around the world continue to raise their voices for justice for these women.

Enough of the violence against women- not one more!

Join the discussion for the next 7 days as we explore the many forms of violence against women and the incredible activists and organizations that are working to change the world.


Day 13- Women’s Activism in South America

Yesterday’s discussion explored women’s activism in Central America and the Caribbean; today’s post will look at women in South America; and tomorrow we will see how women in North America combat injustice and inequality. Together, Mexico, Central America and South America make up what is commonly referred to as Latin America, with Brazil being the only non-Spanish-speaking country included in this grouping. South America also includes three areas that are not historically “Latin,” Suriname where Dutch is the official language, English-speaking Guyana, and French Guiana which is an overseas territory of France. Every nation in South America has a history of indigenous peoples and conquest. Today we will learn how women on this continent fight for their human rights.

Colombia: In one of the countries with the most internally displaced people in the world, civil war has raged since the 1960s and women participate in every group in Colombia, violent or not. Ruta Pacifica is one women’s group working for peace. Women’s voices are often silenced when they protest for peace or human rights, by both left- and right-wing guerilla forces and sometimes even the government, all of whom use sexual violence to intimidate. Sadly, violence against women, especially women protesters, has escalated to assassinations in Colombia. Unionists, and journalists are also frequent targets of violence in Columbia.

Venezuela: Venezuela’s controversial president, Hugo Chavez, has many supporters, and dissenters, among women but the Venezeulan bourgeoise that thrives on the misogyny of the beauty industry is among his most virulent opponents. Sadly, for a country with one of the most gender-competent constitutions in the world, there are only two women’s shelters. In any case, the country’s capital, Caracas, hosted this year’s Global Grassroots Women’s Conference to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. These articles offer a balanced insight into the reality of life for ordinary Venezeulans.

Guyana: While Guyana has had a female president, politics in the country are still very male dominated. In honor of International Women’s Day Guyana’s Prime Minister addressed some of the obstacles women there face in achieving gender equality. This piece chronicles some of the important milestones of women’s rights in Guyana.

Brazil: Even though women in Brazil are not well represented in politics, November 2010 saw Brazil elect it’s first female President, but her candidacy and the race to the election was not without controversy over reproductive and social justice issues. Women’s groups in Brazil, possibly drawing inspiration from their newly elected President, are coming to understand the importance of organization and activism across all spectrums. Afro-Latina feminist activism in Brazil has deep roots that continue to inspire women there to fight for their rights, and disabled women activists in Brazil continue to fight for visibility and mobility there.

Peru: The quota systems in place to include women in government in Peru have proven to be ineffective, with women elected as puppets for male politicians. On the other hand, women in Peru are proving to be vital to ensuring the genetic biodiversity of the country’s food supply and protecting the country’s environment. Indigenous people in Peru have been the driving force behind holding everyone accountable for their environmental impact. Sadly, women’s bodily integrity has been a major issue in Peru, with women fearing for their safety if they bike to work, a number of women being sterilized against their will and women resulting to a national hotline for how to self-induce abortion because it is illegal there. This hip-hop artist is single-handedly taking on racism against the many varied peoples of Peru, and sexism through her music. One young Canadian woman tells her story of Peru here

Bolivia: 28% of Bolivia’s parliament seats are filled by women and half of President Evo Morales’s cabinet is women. Despite widespread violence against women (only in 2010 did the legal sentence for murdering a women finally equal the sentence for murdering a man!) and particular hardships for rural women, Bolivia’s President (oh how I love feminist men!) has pushed for gender equality and women’s land ownership. On International Women’s Day activist Maria Galindo was arrested for spray painting “No quiero ser la madre de Dios, de ese Dios blanco, civilizado, y conquistador” (I don’t want to be the mother of God, of this [masculine] white, civilized, and conquering God.) Go here for an academic analysis of the patriarchy of Bolivia.

Chile: The current leader of UNWomen, former Chilean President Michele Bachelet’s election in 2006 was a sign of hope for the women of Chile. In February of 2010 a massive earthquake struck Chile, and women were as much a part of the recovery process as they were victims of the tragedy. After the earthquake the government hired thousands of people to help rebuild and restore normalcy, but now the government says there is no room in the budget for these jobs. To demand the government continue to employ people to help in the earthquake recovery process 33 women in Chile have occupied a non-operational mine and are staging a hunger strike. Other activism takes place to combat forcible sterilization of HIV+ women and support feminist theology and women’s roles in spirituality.

Uruguay: La Maleta Roja (the Red Suitcase) is an organization in Uruguay that helps liberate women’s sexuality. Other women, including activist Maria Esther Gatti de Islas, have helped liberate political dissenters from government-forced disappearances. The Instituto Nacional de las Muejeres and Cotidiano Mujer are following in Gatti’s footsteps and continue to fight for women’s rights in Uruguay.

Argentina: Uruguayan activist Gatti also worked closely with the Madres de Plaza de Mayo and Argentina to fight for the rights of los desaparecidos. In July, 2010 Argentina became the first country in Latin America and the only country in the Western Hemisphere, besides Canada, to recognize marriage equality. The activist group Las Juanas is hoping to incite the writ of Habeus Corpus to legalize abortion in Argentina and also fights against femicides. Some activists have been attacked for merely starting discussions about contraception and abortion. Other activists fight against human trafficking, showing that the situation for women in Argentina needs improvement but the women there are not afraid to take on that work.


Day 12- Women’s Activism in Central America and the Caribbean

Central America and the island nations adjacent to it in the Caribbean Sea are often an unknown or forgotten part of the world. The biodiversity and fragile, supple ecosystems of these countries are under attack but so too are the people of this region. The high rates of violence in Central America and the damaging effects of climate change in the Caribbean mean that everyone here is on high alert. Two organizations that operate around the world to help women, but are particularly active in Central America are Vital Voices, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association and MADRE. Though I will attempt to find as much as possible in English, a number of the links today may be in Spanish, if they are, it will be clear.

Guatemala: The murder rate in Guatemala is 49 of every 100,000 people. Frighteningly, it is not the highest in the region. But the rate of violence against women in this Central American country was enough to prompt a United States federal court to rule that immigration officials should reconsider the asylum request of a woman because she would suffer violence and possibly death if she returned to Guatemala. But some Guatemalan women are using activism within the US to demand a review of America’s policies. Norma Cruz, founder of Fundacion Sobrevivientes, “staged a hunger strike in front of the US Supreme Court to protest the illegal adoption of stolen children from Guatemala….”

Belize: A relatively new country, Belize’s social stratification is a complex web of ethnicity and race. Gender based violence is also problem in Belize, one of the many countries last year to participate in the UN’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence. The other major problem for Belize is destruction of its ecosystem: Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world but the delicacy of this ecosystem means that any changes in the global temperature or sea levels can be disastrous.

El Salvador: In a country plagued by civil war, internal terrorism and political violence, it may be hard to imagine that life for women is more dangerous after the peace accords were signed, but it’s true for El Salvador- the country with the highest murder rate in the world in 2009. In a country where women’s average salary is 28% lower than men’s, rates of murder and rape of women rose after the war. Salvadoreños also deal with US intervention, especially when it comes to mining, on a regular basis. Go here to send support to activists from Cispes El Salvador who have received death threats because of their vocal objections to US intervention there. Unsurprisingly, LGBTQAI rights in El Salvador are also under attack, but Entre Amigos (in English) is not afraid to stand up for what’s right.

Honduras: Lower than El Salvador but higher than Guatemala, Honduras’s murder rate is 67/100,000 inhabitants. The 2009 coup that expelled the former-President has left women in political limbo, but they are still in the streets demanding their human rights. Activists in El Frente are frequently targeted for their participation in anti-Lobo (the new President) demonstrations. If you are interesting in participating in a training session for the health and safety of activists fighting for the rights of sweatshop workers in Honduras, go here.

Nicaragua: The feminist movement in Nicaragua has the same generational aches and growing pains as the women’s movement in the US but some young Nica women are actively working to make the label “feminist” a positive one. Women’s rights activists in Nicaragua have been persecuted by the Catholic Church but support letters from Amnesty International followers gave them the strength to continue their fight. This page concisely explains women’s grim reality in Nicaragua. This blog highlights the work of one of my colleagues who is volunteering his time to help the street children of Nicaragua.

Costa Rica: Many unique international organizations working for women’s rights operate out of Costa Rica, including the Feminist International Radio Endeavour (FIRE), and the UN-mandated University for Peace which offers a MA in Gender & Peacebuilding. Also in CR the Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres and the Centro de Investigacion en Estudios de la Mujer Universidad de Costa Rica are working academically to shape and improve women’s realities.

Panama: Panama’s first lady, on International Women’s Day, called for a nonviolent revolution to bring about gender equality in the country. Gender based violence and poverty are two major concerns for Panamanian women, in addition to “unequal access to education, and lack of political activism.” But many women in Panama do take to the streets in a different form of activism.

The Bahamas: Spousal rape and the ability to transfer citizenship to their children are two of the most contentious issues Bahamian women are fighting against and for, respectively. Part of the frustration of feminists in the Bahamas comes from women simply following men’s lead in politics. Rest assured though that if and when Bahamian women stand up for their rights, they will not be denied.

Cuba: The Revista Mujeres highlights the work and inequalities women face in Cuba today. One of the most vocal groups in Cuba Las Damas de Blanco visibly protest the government’s detention of their sons and husbands for their own political protests.

Jamaica: Homophobia is Jamaica has garnered the ire of LGBTQAI activists in the US but activists in Jamaica have their own hands full battling “corrective rape” of lesbians and violence against women in general. Racism is also still prevalent in Jamaica, but activists are speaking out against that too.

Haiti: Poor Haiti. Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, diseases, and violence have marked Haiti’s recent history, with women suffering the most for it. Haiti lost three of its most influential women’s rights activists to the 2010 earthquake. The women who made rape a crime in Haiti, only in 2005, would have been heartbroken to hear the tragic tales of sexual violence in the makeshift camps that were constructed after the earthquake. Those women left behind continue to fight against violence, and rape (including testifying at the UN Court of Human Rights) and to have their voices heard. This year’s V-Day campaign also alerts the world to the plight of women in Haiti.

Puerto Rico: Although this island is not an independent nation, and is in fact, under the authority of the US, Puerto Rican women face unique challenges. This Master’s thesis by Matthew Perez of Ohio University explores the intersectionality of oppression that Puerto Ricans face. Activists in Puerto Rico two years ago seized the capital in a peaceful protest to decry the laws there that they say promote female submission to men and violence against women.

St. Lucia: The St. Lucia Crisis Center has participated for years in activities to bring about an end to violence against women, including AIDS awareness workshops. One of St. Lucia’s most vocal women’s rights activists, Flavia Cherry, spoke out about discrimination she has faced from the Minister of Gender Relations because of her political association.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines: As in the US, many, if not most rapes in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a tiny island nation in the Caribbean Sea, are not reported. But when a female police officer accuses the Prime Minister of rape and the charges are dropped without investigation, it is too disheartening. This article is a good recent historical summary of the obstacles women face in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Trinidad and Tobago: The environment is one area that has been difficult for female activists in Trinidad and Tobago to break into, but Yvonne Ashby has managed to make her voice heard. Gender and feminism in the black power movement are explored in this essay, and at least one activist in this country has been harassed by the police for her vocal objections to the treatment of children and women. Trinidad and Tobago’s female Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, has promised that this year the country will establish a national Commission on the Status of Women, hopefully this will help address the concerns of the women and activists of Trinidad and Tobago.


Day 9- Women’s Activism in Africa

A composed satellite photograph of Africa.

Image via Wikipedia

North Africa has been in the news recently for its people’s uprisings. Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt are all currently in very precarious situations but the people of these nations, men and women, have shown that they want democracy and are willing to give their lives to earn it.

Sub-Saharan Africa is largely ignored by America unless the political events that occur will affect the US, such a high-profile oil spill in Nigeria which could raise gas prices in the States. The tragedies and travesties of the rapes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the upheaval in Sudan and its Darfur region, and the poverty and desperation in Somalia go largely unnoticed by American news outlets and the American people.

Today I’d like to give a sample of what women (and feminist men) are doing across the African continent to advance social justice and true equality.

Liberia: The women of Liberia bravely stood up against dictator and war criminal Charles Taylor and helped bring about an end to their country’s brutal civil war in 2003. Their story was told in the 2008 documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell. Subsequently Liberia elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female head of state in Africa. An all women UN peacekeeping unit from India still provides inspiration for Liberian women and shows them that women can do or be anything they set their minds to. Today the women of Liberia are still working for peace in their region and in the world. These women are raising their voices for the women of neighboring Ivory Coast.

Cotê d’Ivoire: In honor of International Women’s Day, and to protest the killing of women protesting Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to recognize the November 2010 elections, thousands of Ivorians marched yesterday in an event that left three men and one woman dead.

Nigeria: Last year at this time women in Nigeria were protesting a religious massacre. Last week (2 March 2011) Nigerian women found themselves protesting the presence of cattle herders on of their farm land. In February a small group of women protested the imposing of a female candidate into a federal position for which they elected a man. These women recognize that simply because a candidate is a woman does not necessarily mean she will represent women or fight for women’s rights.

Sudan: Women in Sudan, especially in the Darfur region, understand what it means to be completely ignored and have their rights denied. In the recent referendum however, women turned out in large numbers to show their support for the cessation of Southern Sudan. OftenSudanese women’s stories go untold, but small groups of women are slowly finding their voices and demanding justice. For the second time in two weeks a group of women staged protests against the government’s detention of protesters.

Ethiopia: One of my favorite feminists, native Ethiopian Billene Seyoum Woldeyes, is helping to bring gender equality to her motherland through her blog Ethiopian Feminist.

Kenya: Wangari Maathai is perhaps one of the most well-known women in the world. The 2004 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in the Greenbelt Movement, Maathai continues to improve the world around her both through her environmental activism and her women’s rights advocacy.

Uganda: One of Uganda’s favorite journalists, Rosebell Kagumire, covers stories and brings attention to everything from vote rigging to violence against women, both in Uganda and around Africa, in her blog.

Somalia: Women in Somalia suffer under some of the worst poverty in the world. Often left without a means to support themselves, many women-heads-of-household work all day and resort to begging to feed their families, often going hungry themselves. Despite this, Somali women make the time to protest the lack of women in parliament and push for higher quotas.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Because of the efforts of the V-Day campaign the atrocities committed in the DRC have been given at least a little public attention in the US. The widespread use of rape in the DRC as a weapon of war has drawn the sharp criticism of the UN and organizations around the world, like Amnesty International. The women of the DRC have joined forces with these international organizations and demanded safety and dignity.

Mozambique: While Mozambique is making significant progress in gender issues, one of the most dire problems women there are fighting against today is climate change. Because of the feminization of poverty and the differential affects of climate change, rising sea levels and land degradation on women, the people of Mozambique have begun to pay attention to solutions that specifically address women’s relationship to the environment.

Namibia: Forced sterilization of women is not a new concept, but HIV+ women in Namibia who were sterilized without their knowledge or consent have demanded justice. Staging sit-ins with the slogan my body, my womb, my rights thousands of women have shown their support and raised their voices in solidarity with their HIV+ sisters.

South Africa: The shameful “rape capital of the world” (a title South Africa dubiously shares with the DRC) has come a long way since apartheid, but the country’s lesbians are constantly at great risk. So called “corrective rape” of lesbians in South Africa has reached epidemic proportions with police refusing to take complaints seriously, but women around the world have demanded an end to this inhumane practice.

To learn more about women’s roles and rights in Africa, visit Solidarity for African Women’s Rights, Human Rights Watch, All Africa, Women of Africa and the newly formed UN Women.


Day 7- Waves of the Women’s Movement in the US

Feminist suffrage parade in New York City, May...

Image via Wikipedia

First Wave: The first major organized women’s resistance to sexism and patriarchy in the US sprung out of the abolitionist movement. White women who opposed the institution of slavery soon realized that they were also suffering inequalities under the racist, sexist, classist system of government in the United States. The defining moment of the First Wave was passage of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1920 that gave women the right to vote. The victory of the 19th Amendment came after decades of hard work and struggle, including educating the public with writings by and about (upper-class) women’s status, marches, protests, fasting, and intentional arrest and imprisonment. Unfortunately, the women (and men) who had been working so hard for women’s suffrage in this time could not sustain the momentum of social change, and thus, the next “wave” of the women’s movement would not come for another 40 years.

Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Sarah Grimké, Angelina Grimké, Carrie Chapman Catt, Alice Paul, Victoria Woodhull, Sojourner Truth, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Ida B. Wells, Margaret Sanger, and Lucy Burns, among thousands of other women whom history has forgotten, forever changed the way Americans viewed women’s participation in politics and the “public” sphere.

Second Wave: The Women’s Liberation Movement, or Second Wave of Feminism, came about in a tumultuous time for American history. Women in the US had been on a roller coaster of freedoms and limitations since the First Wave had crashed: the Roaring ’20s brought, for the first time, women’s votes into play, and the advent of jazz culture and the flapper allowed women unprecedented freedoms in appearance and behavior; the Great Depression of the 1930s following the Stock Market Crash was a poignant example of how the feminization of poverty works;WWII in the 1940s brought white women into the workforce like never before; the baby booming 1950s saw that women returned to the domestic sphere to try to achieve the June Cleaver ideal that society demanded; and the 1960s kicked off the Second Wave with the oral contraceptive pill made available in 1961 and Betty Friedan’s surprising (albeit racist) critique of women’s roles in 1963 with The Feminine Mystique.

During the 1960s and 1970s organizations were formed that changed the way women viewed themselves and each other but the major victories of the Second Wave came in the form of legislation designed to give women more equal opportunities on par with men, and gave women (at least on paper) autonomy over their own bodies. JFK’s Commission on the Status of Women, the Equal Pay Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Griswold v. Connecticut, Eisenstadt v. Baird, Title IX, the passage of WIC in 1972, Roe v. Wade, the 1974 Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the 1974 election of Elaine Noble in Massachusetts as the first openly gay person to serve on a state legislature; Taylor v. Louisiana, Nebraska passing in 1976 the first law against marital rape, and the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act are just some of the important legal battles won for women’s equality during the Second Wave.

Important individual or non-legal milestones include 50,000 women participating in Women Strike for Peace in 1961, “Sex and Caste” written by Casey Hayden and Mary King in 1965, the National Organization for Women forming in 1966, the 1968 protest of the Miss America Pageant (which incorrectly coined the phrase “bra-burners”), The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) forming in 1968, Our Bodies, Ourselves published in 1970, the August 26 1970 Women’s Strike for Equality, Gloria Steinem‘s 1972 founding of Ms. magazine and the National Women’s Political Caucus and the opening of the first battered women’s shelter. Sadly the consumerism of the 1980s lead many to believe that feminism was “dead” and no longer necessary. This, combined with the loss of hope after the failure of the US to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, caused the Second Wave to slowly trickled away.

Third Wave: The relatively few women who were still fighting the good fight in the 1980s became the backbone of the Third Wave. Recognizing that the views presented previously were overwhelmingly homogenous and exclusionary, women of color feminism, womanism and other more inclusive and worldly views of in/equality came to the forefront. Women of color who felt marginalized during the Second Wave began to demand their voices be heard and their opinions valued: Gloria Anzaldua, bell hooks, Audre Lord, Beverly Smith, Barbara Smith, and Cherríe Moraga, to name very few.

The Third Wave is an ongoing process which I am proud to be a part of. The discussion of feminisms can be contentious but for me the simple definition is one who believes in the equality of all people, while recognizing that until and unless (all) women are equal to men, justice cannot be achieved. It is also necessary, however, to fight against racism, ableism, classism, homophobia, ageism, environmental degradation, militarization, and animal abuse. I fully believe in the power of strategic nonviolent action (SNVA) to bring about social justice and equality.

What You can do to Advance Equality:

1) VOTE! Women did not work their asses off for decades so you could forget to make your voice heard on election day.
2) Educate yourself–about the women who made the freedoms you enjoy possible, about your national/ethnic ancestors and their ancient views of women, about the laws that affect your rights as an individual, about strategic nonviolent action, and about anything and everything else!
3) Educate those around you: Tell anyone who will listen what matters to you, what needs to change, and how they can help.
4) Get together: There is power in numbers and “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”- Margaret Mead
5) USE STRATEGIC NONVIOLENT ACTION!

Tomorrow’s entry for International Women’s Day(!) will kick off a week of discussion of women’s use of SNVA around the world while focusing on the women of the recent Arab revolutions.


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