In the wake of the horrific gang rape (*tw) that resulted in a young woman’s death last week in India, major protests have been going on, in the face of police violence, in spite of a justice system stacked against the women… In protest after protest women are standing up to the violence against them. I have no words to describe how I feel reading about this and seeing the images, I am in awe of them, and I don’t understand why we all aren’t out in the street right now. Really lacking the words, so here are some pictures.
Maria Santos Gorrostieta became mayor of the town of Tiquicheo in 2009, when she was only 33 years old. She recognized the risks as her town was located in the state of Michoacan one of the many battlegrounds in Mexico where cartels, police, and the government are fighting for control.Michoacan is also prized for its access to the Pacific where cocaine from South America and synthetic chemicals from Asia are brought into the country.
While she only served for two years, during that time she was the target of two assassination attempts. The first, in October 2009, she was the subject of the ambush. She survived but her husband was killed. In January 2011, she escaped another attempt but this time she was shot numerous times. After the second attempt she held a press conference showing her wounds and talking about her injuries.
After her term ended last year it seemed all would be over but on November 12, 2012, Ms. Gorrostieta was taken from her car, while her five-year-old daughter sat there, and was beaten in public. While she pleaded that her daughter not be harmed she was dragged away into another car. (Her daughter was left alone, screaming in her mother’s car.) On Saturday, November 24, Maria Santo Gorrostieta’s body was discovered. She had been handcuffed, beaten, tortured and killed.
She was 36 years old. She leaves behind three children.
Note: According to the BBC, two dozen Mexican mayor have been murdered since 2006.
Sources: The Daily Telegraph, The Huffington Post
(Top image: Facebook photo of Maria Santos Gorrostieta, courtesy of idigitaltimes.com. Bottom image: Maria Santos Gorrostieta showing her wounds from her second assassination attempt is courtesy of arklatex912project.wordpress.com)
New Revolutionary Women post!
Known as India’s Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi stole from
the rich and gave to the poor. Her story evolved from being a member of a “lower” Indian caste, being forced into marriage at the age of 11, being raped and tortured… First by her husband, then by the police, and later by upper-caste members of her village. She escaped, and took revenge upon her tormentors (she stabbed her husband and dragged him out to the village square; later, she shot dead the villagers who raped her).
She proceeded to fight the caste wars as a field revolutionary, was charged with crimes and went to jail, and later on entered politics representing the lower-caste Samajwadi Party as an MP. Hated by some, she was a hero and a legend to the many she represented.
Phoolan Devi was assassinated in 2001 by three masked men in New Delhi.
Ibtisam Mara’ana is a Palestinian-Israeli documentary filmmaker, perhaps best-known for her film Paradise Lost, considered to be the first film to be made from the perspective of a Palestinian woman. She is the founder of Ibtisam Films, a documentary film production house.
Mara’ana was awarded the Dalai Lama’s Unsung Heroes of Compassion award in 2009 for her social and political activism for peace and on behalf of battered women in Arabic society.
View an interview with Mara’ana about her work:
Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera
For Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, being an LGBT rights activist means the daily threat of violence, imprisonment, and death. In Uganda, homosexuality is punishable by long jail terms, and violence is common. Her colleague, David Kato, was murdered last year because of his activism and voice against Uganda’s discrimination.
Nabagesera is widely recognized for her fearless human rights activism as founder of the LGBT rights organization Freedom and Roam Uganda.
It’s unusual for a woman to be a leader in Afghanistan but Zarifa Qazizadah has become the country’s only female village chief through force of personality and determination to get things done – even if that means cross-dressing, wearing a false moustache and driving around on a motorbike at night.
“I tell the men of the village, all I want is your prayers,” she says. “When you have a problem, I’ll speak to the government on your behalf and whenever there is any disturbance at night-time, I’ll pick up my gun and come to your house to see what’s going on.”
When the mother of 15 first sought political office, and told local men she wanted to connect the village to the electricity grid, they laughed.
That was in 2004. She lost the election, but she got the electricity all the same, and two years later the men asked her to apply for the post of head of the village – Naw Abad in the country’s northern Balkh province.
Now she guards the electricity supply with a vengeance, and if anyone wires their home up and starts stealing it, they have to watch out.
“I can’t let that happen because we have to respect the law,” she says.
Women in Power in Afghanistan
- Habiba Sarabi became the first female governor in Afghanistan in Bamyan province in 2005
- Fawzia Koofi was the first female deputy speaker of the Afghan parliament
- One quarter of the seats in the Afghan parliament are reserved for women
- Qazizadah is not the first woman to have held the position of village chief – another woman in a nearby village beat her to it, but she recently died
“When something happens in the village at night and I have to react quickly, I’ll put on men’s clothes and ride my motorbike.”
Women in rural Afghanistan are rarely seen riding motorbikes alone and Qazizadah disguises herself, with the clothes and a fake moustache, to avoid attracting too much attention.
She has also been known to come to the rescue of her villagers by wrestling Jeeps out of ditches with a tractor.
“She does the type of work that even men are not capable of doing,” says Molavi Seyyed Mohammad, one of her local supporters.
Qazizadah does not take “No” for an answer.
To keep her promise to voters on the electricity supply, even though she failed in her bid to get elected to parliament, she travelled to the Afghan capital, Kabul, with her four-year-old daughter and went straight to the home of the Minister for Power, Shaker Kargar, demanding to speak to him.
He agreed to see her the following day in his office, and by the end of the meeting he had given his consent.
There was one problem – the village itself had to pay for the posts and cables.
Qazizadah, who had already sold some of her jewellery to pay for the trip to Kabul, borrowed money wherever she could and remortgaged her house to raise the necessary capital.
Only one third of Afghanistan’s population have access to electricity
Five months later, everyone in the village had electricity in their home. “It was only then that people recognised what I’d done and started to pay me back,” she says.
The income from the electricity system was poured into construction of a new bridge over a dangerous river, connecting the village with a major road.
Qazizadah also sponsored the building of Naw Abad’s first mosque. Unlike most mosques in the country, it is designed so that men and women pray together.
“When people saw the work I was doing on these projects, they would start to join in,” she says.
“Now people can pray in their own village and the local boys don’t have to go so far to learn how to read the Koran.”
All this is a profound achievement for a woman who was married at 10 years old – and just 15 when she became a mother.
For much of her young adult life, she lived in a very remote village with her husband’s family where, she says, she was little more than a servant.
During Taliban rule, she moved to the regional capital, Mazar-e-Sharif, with her husband, where she had her first taste of community work, volunteering to help parents get their children vaccinated. Covertly, she helped teach young girls to learn to read.
Now aged 50, with 36 grandchildren, she is head of the local women’s council, as well as village head, and hosts large meetings of local women in her home, encouraging them to follow her example.
“I was just a housewife like you,” she told a group of 50 women at one of her recent gatherings.
“But today I can have a meeting with 1,000 people. I can meet and discuss issues with authorities. In Western countries, women can become presidents. These women are brave and they can achieve a lot.”
Zarifa Qazizadah spoke to Outlook on the BBC World Service. Listen to the programme here.
Here are 16 of some of the most awesome women in the movement to end violence against women. We hope that they will inspire you as much they do The Pixel Project team:
Female Role Model 1: Anuradha Koirala – Nepal
Anuradha Koirala, CNN Hero 2011 and human trafficking activist, founded Maiti Nepal, a nonprofit which saved more than 12,000 women and girls from sex trafficking and prostitution, when she escaped an abusive relationship that left her with three miscarriages. After the relationship ended, Koirala used a portion of her $100 monthly salary to start a small retail shop to employ and support displaced victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence. Maiti Nepal was her brainchild for giving voice, legal defense and rehabilitation to victims of sex trafficking. The group also takes in rape and domestic violence survivors, as well as abandoned children. “The hardest part for me is to see a girl dying or coming back with different diseases at an [age] when she should be out frolicking,” Koirala said. “That’s what fuels me to work harder.”
Female Role Model 2: Betty Makoni – Zimbabwe
Betty Makoni is the founder of Girl Child Network Worldwide and a CNN Hero. As a survivor of child abuse and rape, Betty founded GCNW to educate and empower Zimbabwean girls. Her work has forced her to flee Zimbabwe for the United Kingdom where she continues to run Girl Child Network Worldwide, bringing her model of empowering girls from the ground up to numerous countries across the world. Betty’s incredible story has been captured in a poignant documentary, Tapestries of Hope, by Michealene Risley. Betty said: “We focus on girls to transform them from being like a passive victim to the “masculine” qualities that we want because… it’s all about standing tall. This is what we teach boys: a man is strong. We can say to the girls the same: a girl is strong”
Female Role Model 3: ‘Bibi’ Ayesha – Afghanistan
18-year-old ‘Bibi’ Ayesha had her ears and nose chopped off by her abusive husband and was brought to the United States to undergo facial reconstruction surgery. While in the United States, she bravely shared her pre-surgery face with the world by going on the cover of Time magazine. Aisha’s portrait is a powerful and visual Teachable Moment that inspires and galvanises all of us to work towards eliminating violence against women wherever we are in the world and with whatever skills and tools we have at hand.
Female Role Model 4: Brenda Isabel – Kenya
Brenda Isabel, a young Kenyan survivor of sexual violence, turns her personal tragedy into communal good by starting a centre to help other young Kenyan women house their dreams and is working to make it self-funding by starting a business to make eco-friendly sanitary pads. Brenda wants to help change things by empowering other young women like her with education and life skills. She recently launched her own programme called The Human Relations Trust. What an inspiration and a great example of being able to move beyond the pain and to turn pain into a force for good! To learn more about Brenda and her amazing initiative, you can watch a video about her work here.
Female Role Model 5: Esther Chavez Cano – Mexico
The late Esther Chavez Cano began her distinguished work against violence against women in Mexico after she retired as an accountant. Profoundly shocked by the lack of police attention to the brutal killings of the women of Cuidad Juarez, she founded the March 8 Organisation to bring together campaigners protesting at the violence perpetrated against women in the area. She collected articles on the murders from local papers for several years, and distilled the reports into facts and figures that could be used to hound the police services and embarrass politicians. As her list of victims grew, so did her tenacity. In 1999 she opened the Casa Amiga shelter and rape crisis centre, which now helps thousands of women each year, free of charge.
Female Role Model 6: Holly Kearl – United States of America
For ten years Holly Kearl has addressed gender-based violence and women’s equity issues, starting with volunteer work at a local domestic violence shelter during her senior year of high school. Tired of strange men whistling and honking at her, calling out to her, following her, and grabbing her when she was alone in public, Holly wrote her master’s thesis on gender-based street harassment and how women were using online websites to combat it. In 2008 she founded an anti-street harassment website and blog and began working on an anti-street harassment book. In Aug. 2010, her book came out and it is available online: Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women
Female Role Model 7: Iana Matei – Romania
Iana Matei is Romania’s leading advocate and activist for the end of the sex-trafficking of girls and women. Until a few years ago, Ms. Matei’s shelter here was the only one in Romania for victims of traffickers, though the country has been a center for the trade in young girls for decades. In 1990, as Romania was emerging from Communism, she participated in daily street protests and eventually fled to and resettled in Australia where she earned a degree in psychology and worked with street children. In 1998, she moved back to Romania where she began working with street children and eventually rescuing underaged girls from prostitution and sex trafficking under dangerous conditions.
Female Role Model 8: Julia Lalla-Maharajh – United Kingdom
Julia Lalla-Maharajh, founder of the Orchid Project, was volunteering in Ethiopia when she came across the scale and extent of female genital cutting there. She was determined to do something about this. When she returned to London she volunteered with FORWARD to discover more about organisations working in this field. She was able to appear on the Plinth in Trafalgar Square spending her hour raising awareness about FGC, putting on and taking off 40 t-shirts to represent countries where FGC is practised and cutting the petals of 40 red roses. Following this, she entered the YouTube/World Economic Forum competition, the Davos Debates. In a global vote, she won and went to Davos, to hold a dedicated debate with the head of UNICEF, Amnesty International and the UN Foundation.
Female Role Model 9: Kathleen Schmidt – United States of America
Kathleen Schmidt survived a childhood and brutal first marriage full of abuse to go on to a happy second marriage and a full life dedicated to helping others. Kathleen tells her story in the book, Escaping The Glass Cage as a way of sharing her strength and experience with others to show them that there is hope. She is also the founder of Project Empowerment, a weekly Blogtalkradio show where she interviews experts, survivors and leaders in the movement to end violence against women and domestic violence about their work and solutions to this seemingly intractable problem.
Female Role Model 10: Layli Miller-Muro – United States of America
Layli Miller-Muro is the Executive Director of the Tahirih Justice Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting women from human rights abuses through the provision of legal aid and public policy advocacy. Miller-Muro founded the organization in 1997 following her involvement in Matter of Kasinga, a high-profile case that set national precedent and revolutionized asylum law in the United States. Fauziya Kassindja, a 17-year-old girl who had fled Togo in fear of a forced polygamous marriage and a tribal practice known as female genital mutilation, was granted asylum in 1996 by the US Board of Immigration Appeals. This decision opened the door to gender-based persecution as grounds for asylum.
Female Role Model 11: Lisa Shannon – United States of America
Lisa Shannon founded the first national grassroots effort to raise awareness and funds for women in the DR Congo through her project Run for Congo Women. They have sponsored more than a thousand war-affected Congolese women through Women for Women International. These women are raising more than 5000 children. She traveled solo into Eastern Congo’s South Kivu province for five and half weeks in January- February 2007, and again in May 2008. Prior to Lisa’s travels through Congo, was named a “2006 Hero of Running” by Runner’s World Magazine and O, The Oprah Magazine wrote, “Lisa Shannon read our report—and started a movement.” Lisa presently serves as an ambassador for Women for Women International.
Female Role Model 12: Olivia Klaus – United States of America
Filmmaker Olivia Klaus spent nine years creating “Sin by Silence,”a documentary on women in the United States sentenced to prison for killing their abusive partners. Klaus volunteered to work with the group Convicted Women Against Abuse (CWAA)—the subject of the film—after a friend in an abusive relationship turned to her for help. She named her film after something Abraham Lincoln once said, “To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of men.” She said: “This is my way of protesting and breaking the silence.” Klaus believes that anyone can get involved with stopping violence against women – from being there for a friend to volunteering for a shelter to protesting for legislation.
Female Role Model 13: Rana Husseini – Jordan
As a Jordanian woman journalist writing for The Jordan Times, Rana Husseini focused on social issues with a special emphasis on violence against women, as well as the brutal crimes that are committed against Jordanian women in the name of family honour. Her coverage of and dedication to ending this unjustified practice against women helped raise national awareness on a topic that is traditionally considered taboo. Until The Jordan Times began reporting on so-called crimes of honour, the local press shied away from addressing the issue. The government responded by introducing legal changes that suggest tougher punishments for perpetrators of such crimes.
Female Role Model 14: Roya Shams – Afghanistan
Roya Shams is a 16-year-old Afghan girl who walks to school every day to get her education, regardless of threats of violence from her neighbours and community. Roya is not only determined to learn and to finish high school, but she intends to go on to university and get a degree. She then plans to stick her neck out even further: in a country where a woman is easily cut down for having the nerve to speak up, the burning ambition of Roya’s young life is to become a politician. “We have to study,” she insists. “We have to show them the way.”
Female Role Model 15: Sunitha Krishnan – India
Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, born in 1969, is an Indian social activist, a gang rape survivor and Chief Functionary and co-founder of Prajwala, an institution that assists trafficked women and girls in finding shelter. The organization also helps pay for the education of five thousand children infected with HIV/AIDS in Hyderabad. Prajwala’s “second-generation” prevention program operates in 17 transition centers and has served thousands of children of prostituted mothers. Prajwala’s strategy is to remove women from brothels by giving their children educational and career opportunities. Krishnan and her staff train survivors in carpentry, welding, printing, masonry and housekeeping.
Female Role Model 16: Waris Dirie – Somalia
Waris Dirie is a Somali model, author, actress and human rights activist working to end female genital mutilation (FGM). Waris underwent FGM as a child and at the age of thirteen, she fled her family to escape an arranged marriage to a much older man. In 1997, Waris left her modeling career to focus on her work against FGM and was appointed UN Special Ambassador for the Elimination of FGM. In 2002, she founded the Waris Dirie Foundation in Vienna, Austria, an organization aimed at raising awareness regarding the dangers surrounding FGM. In January 2009, the PPR Foundation for Women’s Dignity and Rights’, was jointly founded by Waris and French tycoon François-Henri Pinault (CEO of PPR) and his wife, actress Salma Hayek. Waris has also started the Desert Dawn Foundation, which raises money for schools and clinics in her native Somalia.
Just came across this a few months later… Just as relevant as ever. If you do nothing else, see Asmaa’s video clip.
We are, each of us, functions of how we imagine ourselves and of how others imagine us, and, looking back, there are these discrete tracks of memory: the times when our lives are most sharply defined in relation to others’ ideas of us, and the more private times when we are freer to imagine ourselves. […] it occurred to me that if others have so often made your life their business — made your life into a question, really, and made that question their business — then perhaps you will want to guard the memory of those times when you were freer to imagine yourself as the only times that are truly and inviolably your own.
— We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch
The passage above from Philip Gourevitch’s gorgeously written book about the 1994 Rwandan…
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This week, a Facebook friend published a record of how she was detained by Israeli security, held, and questioned for hours. Her crime? Political activism on behalf of Palestinians and against Israel’s occupation of that nation. Not surprisingly, some of the responses she got were belittling ones, “boo hoo, you’re quite the martyr, having spent three whole hours in security!”, blatantly ignoring the fact that she was being intimidated, threatened, sexually harassed, her freedom curtailed… Also (as she alluded to in her article) she has had other more intrusive run-ins with Israeli security.
As a matter of fact, she is well-known to Israeli security forces because of her activism, but as long as her politics are on the “wrong” side, she is to be belittled, and reduced to a whining little girl, rather than the intelligent, political woman she is.
Well, this story has moved me to do a little whining of my own.
I must admit that while I am also an outspoken, strong, intelligent, and political woman, I have never been arrested for it, or threatened, or tear gassed. I’ve had shouting matches with police, been shoved by them, threatened as part of a group… But so far, I’ve escaped their notice as a focal point. Until, that is, the dreaded FACEBOOK police.
This week, the Tel Aviv Pride Parade campaign kicked off. Lo and behold, it is entirely based on nationalistic ideas and imagery. Homonationalism is a problematic concept anywhere, but in Israel it takes on special significance, given the sharp divides between Jews and Arabs (whether citizens or not) and the treatment of other marginalized groups.
The reproduction of hegemonic power structures into the “LGBT” community is an ongoing issue. I am fond of calling the LGBT center the “gay-white-man center”, that’s how obvious and blatant the marginalization is. All the men in positions of power there are quick to deny it, and point at the one or two women in the room (somehow, never named, never quoted, never heading up any important projects…). But even the two token white lesbians, does NOT an “LGBT” community make. Nor does it encourage any idea of commitment to equality when Ethiopians, Palestinians, any non-Jews (unless they are cute European gay guys), trans folk of any ethnicity, and others are continually made to feel unwelcome.
So back to the Pride campaign. Based on and inspired by the ultra-nationalist idea of celebrating Israel’s independence, just using the rainbow flag… A white-Jewish-male-gay-guy-spokesman felt obliged to note that “this is not meant to promote nationalist sentiments, and community members from minority sectors are included and invited to participate in the parade.”
Well, um. Yeah. Minority sectors = Arabs, right? How kind of you!! I mean, it doesn’t really matter how unfriendly you make it for Arabs, as long as you then add a disclaimer in the small print.
(To put this in context, Arab supreme court justice Salim Joubran was excoriated by Knesset (parliament) members and the public recently for not singing the national anthem (which calls for the *Jewish* national state), and as this is being written, the latest outrage around Arabs (and other minorities) being entirely excluded from Israel’s upcoming Independence Day ceremonies.)
So, back to me, and Facebook. I made a poster/caricature of the Gay Center similar to this one:
It’s not about the WHITE, it’s about the PRIDE, dummy!
Having gotten carried away with my own annoyance at the Center, and my desire to point out the ridiculousness in their assertions of inclusion, I disregarded the fact that Facebook runs bots on your pictures, and can pick out certain symbols. They immediately flagged the klansman, and blocked me indefinitely, putting a dent in my political activism as well as my social life!
So now I know what it feels like to be singled out by the police for my activism for social justice. And just for kicks, here is another draft of the idea.