Global Roundup: Afghan Women Demand Rights, Australian Pole Dance Collective, S.Asian Women & Queer Folx Anthology, Emergency Contraceptives in Japan, Childbirth Stories from BIPOC Manchester Mothers
Curated by FG Contributor Inaara Merani
Afghan burqa-clad women hold placards as they protest for their right to education, in Mazar-i-Sharif on August 12, 2023. (Photo by Atef Aryan / AFP). Inquirer.net.
Two years after the fall of the Afghan government, the Taliban returned to power and has since banned 1.1 million girls and women from attending schools and universities. Many women and girls have fled for their safety and well-being, but millions of women continue to live under the harsh rule of the Taliban.
Yesterday, the UN’s global fund, Education Cannot Wait, launched a campaign to elevate the voices of Afghan girls who have been deprived of their basic right to education. This campaign features a series of heartbreaking, yet determined testimonies from Afghan girls whose lives were upended when the Taliban came back to power. This operation plans to raise global awareness of the issue via social media over the next month, continuously amplifying the voices of Afghan girls to the global stage, leading up to when world leaders gather for the UN General Assembly on September 18 and 19.
Women and girls have not stopped protesting their right to education, in Afghanistan and abroad. The international community, however, has not done much to support the millions of people struggling under the Taliban’s rule. The hope is that this campaign will deliver a strong message and will encourage world leaders to act on the Taliban’s human rights violations.
This campaign is meant to bring the attention of the world again to the girls in Afghanistan, and (their) education issues. Afghanistan seems to be forgotten. – Somaya Faruqi, engineering student who fled Afghanistan
CLUB CHROME REHEARSALS. PHOTO BY ALEX DUBOIS (FAINT AGENCY). Vice.
In 2020, Australia’s first pole dancing collective showcasing queer, BIPOC, and sex worker artists opened. Also created to combat the domination of pole by cis white women, Club Chrome was founded during Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdown by Linhqu, a queer Vietnamese-Australian former stripper.
Pole dancing grew from the labour of POC strippers, and yet the image of pole dance – often rebranded as ‘pole fitness’ – is whitewashed and removed from its sex worker roots…The same whitewashing and sex worker erasure is also seen in queer spaces. Additionally, the nature of sex work exaggerates the structural privileges inherent in our society, privileging white, thin, cis-passing bodies above all else. We seek to upend these dynamics by platforming POC, visibly queer, and sex worker artists that are usually erased from images of pole dance in studios and in clubs. – Club Chrome
Since its creation, the collective has performed at a number of shows and venues across Australia, showcasing queer excellence at many well-known events. After a few years open performing around the country, Club Chrome made its international debut in Singapore and the UK in 2022. There is also now a Singaporean chapter of Club Chrome as a result of the group’s international work.
The group also regularly runs workshops so that members of the Club Chrome community can collaborate with other movement artists, musicians, designers, photographers, and videographers.
Earlier this year, Club Chrome put on the show Fxckery, a one-hour production where eight of the collective’s dancers performed onstage across three poles. Each dancer used their own lived experience at the intersection of queerness, sex work, and BIPOC identity to explore sexuality, gender, the gendered expectations of pole dance, and art and community.
By centering our queer, POC, and sex worker bodies as vessels of our lived experiences, Fxckery has become a joyous celebration of queer sensuality and a call to claim the right to self-representation both individually and collaboratively. We invite you into this intimate space where we explore what it means to be human, to be sexual and to be queer. – Club Chrome
Source: Amazon/Feminism in India
Yaari: An Anthology on Friendship by Women and Queer Folx is a celebration of friendship in all its form, presented by the narratives of women and queer people from South Asia. Produced by Yoda Press and edited by Shipla Phadke and Nithila Kanagasabai, this collection spanning nine sections presents the perspectives and experiences from many, asks questions about boundaries, and discusses the importance of friendship.
The book dives into a number of important topics pertaining to friendship such as intimacy, motherhood, navigating grief, post-pandemic resilience, acknowledging privilege, and more. Each section is not very long, but is comprised of a number of diverse forms of contributions.
For example, Section I Love, Friendship, Intimacy begins with an essay that looks at friendship through a South Asian feminist perspective. Written by Subha Wijesiriwardena, a feminist activist and researcher from Sri Lanka, the piece discusses the journey of feminist activism which can lead to friendship, placing friendship as the most intimate and deep form of love. Section VI, on the other hand, asks difficult questions about life and friendship. Raju Baehara talks about being a bad queer friend and Ritika Gupta discusses friendship and autism.
The other sections feature more works from South Asian women, with friendship as the constant theme throughout this anthology; each section is diverse and distinctive. This unique publication is a heartwarming read that discusses the joys of friendship, the complexity of ethics of care, and the changing nature of friendship due to the politics of everyday life.
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Demonstrators during a Women's Day march in Tokyo, Japan, on March 8, 2023. Nicholas Takahashi/Bloomberg/Getty Images/CNN.
In March, Japan’s health ministry approved the country’s first abortion pill, which marked a significant step forward in the reproductive justice movement. The over-the-counter medication consists of two types of pills and are said to be most effective if taken within 72 hours of unprotected or unsafe sex. Up until this point, only surgical abortion during the first nine weeks of pregnancy has been available in Japan using painful and unsafe methods.
Just a few weeks after the medication was approved, the sale of emergency contraceptives without prescription, on a trial basis, was approved. At this time, the rules require women who have experienced sexual assault to attend a clinic or hospital for an emergency contraceptive prescription.
More than 70 other countries have provided access to abortion medications for decades, highlighting the lack of action and priority taken by the male-dominated parliament and medical community. Japan took 40 years to approve oral contraceptives, but only six months to approve the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra.
Although the trial over-the-counter sales of emergency contraceptives is a step forward, some women have voiced their concerns about whether it is genuine. Yumi Mori finds it troubling that the government would implement this medication via a trial instead of fully rolling it out, maybe suggesting that their intention is to prolong the procedure instead of making it available immediately. She, and many others, believe that the reason for the trial was the patriarchal nataure of Japanese society, and they fear that this plan will not help them move forward.
From left, Imani Chimo, Naomi Pemberton and Anita Mbabazi are behind the oral history project. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian
As part of an oral history project, the experiences, cultural practices, and traditions of Black and Asian women during pregnancy and childbirth will be preserved in an archive in the British city of Manchester. This project was launched by Holding Her Space, a community organization that supports new mothers and expecting mothers from minority ethnic backgrounds, in order to create culturally competent resources and provide education through the creative arts.
The project, titled “Untold Stories of the Village” will document the generational stories of childbirth from women of African, Caribbean, and South Asian communities. It is being funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and will be stored in the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Centre, with the hope that it will remain in the archive for the next 50 to 100 years.
We have been working in the community for a few years now, specifically with Black and Asian women to provide better access, better experiences and better outcomes for them. Through that journey, we’ve had so many stories shared to us from previous births, even from our mum’s mum’s generation of how things used to be. So we thought it would be a really good idea, because we’ve never seen it done before. – Naomi Pemberton
Naomi Pemberton, founder and director of Holding Her Space, highlighted the fact that Black women are four times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than white women, and mixed ethnicity women and Asian women are twice as likely. The lack of cultural awareness and compassion has taken the lives of countless women of colour, and this archive strives to create a collection that will support new and expecting mothers.
Inaara Merani (she/her) recently completed her Masters degree at the University of Western Ontario, studying Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a specialization in Transitional Justice. In the upcoming years, she hopes to attend law school, focusing her career in human rights law.
Inaara is deeply passionate about dismantling patriarchal institutions to ensure women and other marginalized populations have safe and equal access to their rights. She believes in the power of knowledge and learning from others, and hopes to continue to learn from others throughout her career.