Global Roundup: Afghan Women Protest Taliban Takeover, Latin Asian LGBTQ Superhero, Kenya's #VoteADada Campaign, Protests for Same-Sex Marriage in Switzerland, Feminist Art in California

Compiled by Inaara Merani

Afghan women's rights defenders and civil activists protest to call on the Taliban for the preservation of their achievements and education, in front of the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan Sept. 3, 2021.

In Afghanistan, women-led protests in several cities denounced the Taliban takeover and the ways it severely discriminates against women. Women insist they are part of Afghan society and will not be erased. At a protest outside the Defence Ministry on Saturday, Taliban soldiers barricaded in the protesters and then fired tear gas and stun guns to disperse the protesters. 

They stood in front of our protest...They did not allow us to continue our protest, because they want to eliminate the power of women. They don't want to hear from the women… They [govern] as if this country just belongs to men. Women are nothing. It's our country as well. Women are as educated [as men]. How can they remove us from this society? We are a part of this society. We protest to announce: 'we are here.' - Sudaba Kabiri 

Protesters gathered on Saturday after celebratory gunfire was heard across Kabul as the Taliban supposedly took over the last province in Afghanistan which resisted their rule, Panjshir. However, many have rejected these claims and argued that the resistance is still continuing. 

The Taliban have claimed that their new regime has been reformed and will result in more equal rights for Afghan citizens. Kabiri believes this is just a front being put up to gain the support of the international community. Women have been told to stay home for their safety, and just a few weeks ago it was reported that the Taliban wanted women and girls as young as 12 years old to be married off. 

Women will continue to protest in Afghanistan because they have a voice. They will not remain silent in the face of violent oppression. 

On Friday, protesters gathered outside the presidential palace in Kabul, carrying placards with slogans such as, "A society in which women are not active is a dead society," after another protest in the city of Herat on Thursday.

Today was the most dangerous day for us...The Taliban sprayed spice [tear gas] on us, they fired on us, they injured us. They will kill us, until then we will fight for our generation's rights? The Taliban cannot remove, they cannot silence our voice. We are part of this society, this country belongs to us as well. Not only for men. - Sudaba Kabiri 

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The third edition of the graphic novel “La Borinqueña” is out. Courtesy Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez. (NBC News) 

Edgardo Miranda-Rodríguez has created the new Latin Asian superhero in the third issue of the comic book series La Borinqueña. La La Liu is a Dominican Chinese college student who identifies as LGBTQ, and later ends up transforming into a superhero to help out her superhero friend, both harnessing their powers for good. Her friend, La Borinqueña, is an environmentally conscious female superhero who gains her powers from the Indigenous Taíno gods of her Puerto Rican ancestors; she can fly, has superhuman strength, and powers of teleportation. 

Author and publisher Miranda-Rodríguez wanted to spotlight underrepresented Latino communities, especially those of Asian Heritage. The Chinese community in the Dominican Republic has become one of the largest Asian communities in Latin America. Located in Santo Domingo, Chinatown, or Barrio Chino, has thrived. Upon creating the character La La Liu, Miranda-Rodríguez was extremely conscious about the character’s powers and portrayal, especially as a Latin Asian member of the LGBTQ community. 

Oftentimes, when you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, you live in darkness — in your own family, in your own mind, in your own heart — before you have the comfortable space to come out...What I wanted to do with La La is literally make her a bright light — a representation of luminous love.She is a reflection of her best friend but she’s also going to go on to become her own hero in her own way. - Edgardo Miranda-Rodríguez 

Since the series was first created in 2016, Miranda-Rodríguez has strived to create dynamic and diverse characters that reinforce their Caribbean and Indigenous ancestry. The comic book tells the story of Marisol Rios De La Luz, a native New Yorker and Puerto Rican college student. She discovers her powers after exploring caves in Puerto Rico, and later comes to understand the strength of her powers as La Borinqueña. While La Borinqueña fights battles relating to the environment, the political and environmental issues that have severely affected Puerto Rico are highlighted. 

The second issue of the comic book series ended with a large student-led protest against school budget cuts, just one year before Puerto Rico experienced a wave of political instability. In the third issue, the superhero undergoes growth and transformation, learning not only how to harness her powers but also how to build confidence in herself. The author also continued to examine social change, especially student activism. 

I've always recognized the power that young people have, and continue to have, leading social justice movements internationally. From Mexico to China, it's always young people who are leading revolutions and I wanted to reflect that in the book. - Edgardo Miranda-Rodríguez 

After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the author used his art to raise funds for communities across the nation. Additionally, Miranda-Rodríguez and his wife, Kyung Jeon-Miranda, created the La Borinqueña Grants Program, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for nonprofit groups in Puerto Rico. Miranda-Rodríguez is also a co-founder of Masks for America, which has donated 850,000 masks and PPE to hundreds of communities across the US and Puerto Rico. The author is hopeful that the comic book series will thrive, and is interested in the possibility of making La Borinqueña a TV show or film. 

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Fida-Kenya Chairperson Nancy Ikinu (left) during the Women Leadership Conference held at a Nairobi hotel last month. The meeting marked the launch of Vote A Dada campaign aimed at empowering women to compete in the upcoming General Election. Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

The Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya, known as Fida-Kenya, has launched a campaign which promotes the participation of women in political leadership as the 2022 General Election approaches. Named #VoteADada, this endeavor calls for increased women’s participation and representation in the country’s leadership. 

#VoteADada is also dedicated towards creating dialogue and enforcing actions that will contribute to the nation’s minimum of ‘two-thirds’, meaning that two-thirds of elective positions must not be held by individuals of the same gender. This campaign also strives to build the capacity of women who are interested in running in the 2022 elections. 

Last week, #VoteADada was launched during the 2021 Women Leadership Conference in Nairobi. Fida-Kenya Chairperson Nancy Ikinu stated that the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule is still of great concern, and that the push to create this campaign and advance women’s political participation was vital. 

Through the campaign, we will push for the election of women throughout the country in the 2022 election. Women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the rights to equal opportunities in the political, economic, cultural, and social spheres. Therefore, empowering one woman into politics translates to the empowerment of all women, - Nancy Ikinu, Fida-Kenya Chairperson 

Over time, women’s rights organizations in Kenya have created campaigns to address the gender rule and to further women’s political participation. Despite many struggles and Kenyan Parliament’s inability to fully pass the two-thirds gender rule, the community has remained strong and resilient in the face of adversity. 

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Switzerland's LGBT+ community marches in Zurich Pride ahead of a nationwide vote on equal marriage (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty)

Tens of thousands of people and at least 70 LGBTQ+ groups protested for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Zurich on Saturday. Some marched with signs which read “You can do it. Marriage for everyone now.”, while others wrote “Ja, ich will”, meaning “Yes, I do” which is the slogan of Switzerland’s Marriage for All movement. 

The protests came ahead of a national referendum on September 26 on the legalization of same-sex marriage. This same bill has been passed in many other European countries such as Germany, Austria, France and the Netherlands. In Switzerland, same-sex couples can only get official approval for civil unions, which are not on equal footing as marriages. If passed, the referendum would result in the Swiss Civil Code changing “bride” and “groom” to “the engaged” or “two people”. Additionally, same-sex couples would have greater ease adopting children, lesbian couples would have easier access to sperm donations, and foreign partners would not face as many barriers when gaining Swiss citizenship. 

The bill was unanimously approved last year by the Swiss parliament after seven years of drawn-out debate, and is supported by an overwhelming majority of the population. Nevertheless, opponents of the legislation managed to gather enough signatures to challenge the bill and force a national referendum on the issue.

This vote is imperative, acting as the final hurdle for the LGBTQ+ community after years of struggle in a predominantly conservative country. Switzerland lags far behind most of Europe in regards to LGBTQ+ rights. The first law banning LGBTQ+ discrimination was only passed and enacted in February of 2020; this bill was also challenged and a referendum was forced. 

Many Swiss people tend to overrate how modern our country is. It might be rich, but it’s really not modern yet. Anna Rosenwasser, activist 

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“so here records dissolving, fragments in the G.U.T.s” (2019) by Elaine Cameron-Weir (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) launched the opening of New Time: Art and Feminisms in the 21st Century in late August, exhibiting the work of around 150 artworks by more than 75 artists and collectives of generations which explore the nature of feminist art in today’s world. After remaining closed for nine months and delivering online content, the museum was finally able to reopen this year. 

This exhibition is organized around eight themes, inspired by poet Leslie Scalapino’s feminist poem titled New Time: hysteria, the gaze, revisiting historical subjects through a feminism lens, the fragmented female body, gender fluidity, labour, domesticity and activism, and female anger and feminist utopias. 

What I think is prescient and important about this exhibition is how it addresses the notion of feminisms, plural...I think that’s incredibly important in this moment, in particular, to think about intersectional feminism, different types of feminism, and to open up the conversation around, historically, what the term ‘feminism’ has meant, but also what it can mean in the future. - Julie Rodrigues Widholm, director of BAMPFA 

Director of BAMPFA, Julie Rodrigues Widholm, spoke to the importance and value of visiting a museum in-person compared to viewing exhibitions online. 

Often, when you’re looking closely at an artwork, you can see the artist’s gesture, or you can see how carefully they crafted this work...To me, it’s about the human presence that was involved in making the work. You’re sharing the space with the artist by being in the same space as the artwork and the objects. - Julie Rodrigues Widholm, director of BAMPFA 

Available until January 30, 2022, New Time will explore recent feminist practices in contemporary art, demonstrating that 21st century feminism is multifaceted and encompasses many issues, subjects and perspectives. Therefore, feminism cannot be reduced to a single subject or topic; it must be viewed holistically and in an intersectional manner. 

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Inaara Merani (she/her) is a recent graduate from the University of Ottawa where she studied  International Development and Globalization with a minor in Women’s Studies. She is an Ismaili Muslim Canadian who is deeply passionate about human rights, social justice and feminism, and in turn, dismantling the patriarchy and ensuring that all women have safe and equal access to all their rights. She hopes to pursue a career in law so that she can continue to fight for the rights of women and other marginalized groups everywhere. She also enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her beautiful cat. 

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