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Global Roundup: Angola Drought & Pregnant Women, Korea Women Short Hair Campaign, Nigeria LGBTQ Fasion Industry, Tattoos Celebrating North Africa Queer Women’s Sexuality, South Asian Immigrant story
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Pregnant patients receiving food and medical assistance while waiting to give birth at Casa de Espera in Cunene, Angola [Israel Campos/Al Jazeera]
Angola is struggling with its worst climate crisis in 40 years and it severely affects the lives of its pregnant women. The below-average rainfalls in Angola, especially from 2018 to 2021, have triggered severe food shortages and deaths of livestock in parts of the region. The United Nations says this is the worst climate crisis in 40 years in the Southern African country.
Two days after delivering her sixth child this August at Casa de Espera, a public health facility in Cunene, southern Angola, Victoria Luis was still so anxious that she couldn’t sit still or sleep properly. The delivery had gone well. But the 32-year-old farmer, who walked 30 km from her village of Tshiketiengue which has no hospital, could not wait to go back home to her five other children – the youngest only two years old. Luis was worried that the children, who were being looked after by her neighbours, would have nothing to eat due to the latest episode of a recurrent drought.
Drought-related challenges such as hunger and wildfires also often make it difficult for some pregnant women to access hospitals in a country where traditional births are still favoured in some parts. The scarcity of food and water in the area has also been another incentive for pregnant women to make it past these challenges and head to Casa de Espera, now seen as the last resource in the region. So queues of expecting mothers waiting to be admitted are now common there.
It was designed to receive only pregnant women with health issues and complications, so that they can be assisted before giving birth. But with the climate crisis here, we see that many women only want to be admitted here because of the food assistance we provide. -Wilca Ndapandula, Casa de Espera head
Local experts say while the drought has affected many people in rural areas, the effect has been more critical for women.
With the drought, women face many challenges as they are expected to provide for their children. Thus, a lot of them, sometimes even pregnant, are forced to go to neighbouring Namibia to do domestic work and be able to obtain some financial resources. -Alice Peso, manager of Action for Rural Development and Environment (ADRA)
Women also have to walk long distances in search of clean water and food. The women at the heart of the crisis say they have no idea when things will change for the better for them and their children being born into the situation.
People stage a rally supporting feminism in Seoul in 2022. Photo: AP
South Korea is seeing growing online anti-feminist harassment and a recent series of assaults targeting women, especially those with short hair, but women are fighting back. A few weeks ago, South Korean middle school student Lee witnessed a friend with short hair getting harassed by a group of male teenagers on a bus in Yongin city.
We were sitting on the bus on our way home. They approached her, giggling and said: ‘Are you a feminist?’ She then moved to the door to get some distance from them, but they followed her, and tapped her on the hands as if they were forcing her to let go of the bus grab handles she was holding. -Lee
Lee and her friend found the situation intimidating, but nobody around them said anything or tried to intervene. Lee said she heard the boys using terms she could not understand, which she assumed are widely used in male-dominated online communities.
In Seoul, a middle school teacher surnamed Kim said she spotted some boys associating short-haired women with feminism at school last month. When she asked them where they learned such ideas, they simply replied, “internet”. Kim said she often feels hesitant to bring up topics of gender equality and feminism in class for that reason.
I was baffled … Not all boy students are like that. But I can sense there certainly is a widespread antagonism towards the word ‘feminism’ among the young male generation. -Kim
Most recently, there was a late-night assault by a man in his 20s against a short-haired woman working at a convenience store. The attacker identified himself as a member of the antifeminist Man on Solidarity group, and roughed up the victim on the assumption that her short hair meant she was a feminist, who he believed “deserves to be assaulted”.
The incident prompted an online campaign encouraging women with short hair to share their photos under #women_shortcut_campaign. Many women with short hair have been sharing their photos through Instagram, X, formerly known as Twitter, and other social media platforms.
A model for Nigerian designer Emerie Udiaghebi's Mea Culpa collection (Photo courtesy of Emerie Udiaghebi)
For their SS/24 collection titled Mea Culpa, Emerie Udiaghebi, a young Nigerian androgynous fashion label, ventures into the world of religion, and how conflicted they used to feel growing up as queer and Christian. The collection, built by Udiaghebi, who is a nonbinary designer, is a way for them to add colors to the lackluster they’d felt growing up with a religious background, translating their many experiences into garments they’d have loved to be in while growing up.
[It] tackles every single feeling, and every single thing it means to be human. There’s love, there’s lust, there’s sadness and they are all open to a range of interpretations. This collection was my interpretation, but with garments. -Emerie Udiaghebi
For members of the country’s queer community, fashion is more than just a collection of fabrics and garments; it’s a means of empowerment. In a country where LGBTQ individuals often face discrimination, violence and social stigmatization, clothing serves as a powerful tool for self-expression. The ability to choose what to wear can therefore be a liberating act, allowing queer individuals to challenge stereotypes and embrace their authentic selves.
You see, every outfit I put together has a purpose, a message and a little rebellion against the ordinary. It takes a keen eye to notice that I’m not just getting dressed; I’m crafting a visual narrative. -Babatunde Tribe, nonbinary Nigerian stylist, freelance model and artist
Fashion week events in Nigeria have presented themselves as a safe space for the queer community to dress expressively. Queer City Media and other organizations have also organized fashion events that celebrate queer identities and challenge stereotypes. These events provide a platform for designers and models to express their creativity while advocating for LGBTQ rights.
Under the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, same-sex marriage and any form of public displays of affection between individuals of the same sex are banned. The SSMPA not only perpetuates discrimination; but also extends its reach into clothing choices, placing queer people at risk for expressing themselves through what they wear. Nonetheless, designers, artists and activists are using clothing to raise awareness and advocate for LGBTQ rights.
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IMAGE: KHADDOUJ BARGHOUT
Netherlands tattoo artist Khaddouj Barghout thinks that erotic tattoos aren’t only meant for a man’s arm. They should be reclaimed for – and designed by – women, as a celebration of female sexuality. Barghout, 24, is a self-taught queer visual artist of Moroccan descent who started tattooing two years ago. In her work, Barghout explores female sexuality, the female body and how society still looks down on women who dare to express themselves as sexual beings. VICE spoke to her about tattoos, painting, and why it’s important to make sensual images of women from a woman's perspective.
Barghout talks about her latest exhibition Sappho and her Friend, which was about the perception of female love, intimacy and sexuality between women within the North African culture.
When people see depictions of two women, they often assume they’re friends or roommates. I even noticed this during the exhibition: While visitors were looking at paintings of two women, I asked them what they thought they were looking at, and many of them said “sisters”. And when they saw more sensual depictions of women, lots of visitors assumed the artist behind them was a man. -Khaddouj Barghout
Barghout also mentions how she believes getting a sensual tattoo is part of reclaiming one’s sensuality. She says a lot of North African and Asian women come to her to get tattooed and it might be because there aren’t many people with her roots who do this work.
One tattoo that has stayed with me is the one of the mirror with two vulvas in it. I think it’s so beautiful that she wanted and dared to do this. And it also gives me hope that a time will come when more and more women will dare to express their queerness. -Khaddouj Barghout
Barghout often gets slut shamed because of her works and has been stalked and attacked. She is careful to keep her address and phone number private. However, the harassment ignites a fire in Barghout and reinforces how important it is for her to keep making this art.
I don't make these paintings and tattoos for men. If men feel so appalled by my work, it says something about how women are still perceived today. Apparently we are still not used to a woman's body being portrayed from a perspective other than the male gaze. -Khaddouj Barghout
Meera Sethi's "Outerwhere." (Toni Hafkenscheid)
Outerwhere is one of two exhibitions featuring Canadian artist Meera Sethi's work, including 12 winter coats whose inner linings have been altered and adorned by Sethi. It’s inspired by her experience driving and seeing a woman dressed in a sari, bundled up in a thick, heavy winter coat.
Her sari was just peeking from the bottom of her coat. That contrast of something so gorgeous and sensual, and often quite colourful and shiny, with this dark grey coat on top — it was quite fascinating, just this stark contrast. -Meera Sethi
Seeing other women in saris, swaddled in thick winter coats, got Sethi thinking about how the winter coat is one of the most important items of clothing for newcomers from warmer climates. This ultimately informed the process of putting together Outerwhere. Sethi also thought about the way the garment offers interior and exterior protection. The practical dark colour outside protects the body from outdoor elements, whereas the inside lining offers an intimacy that's tender.
Each coat tells its own story. Some of those stories are personal; some are more shared. And some are a combination. Together they tell the story of diasporic experiences. I could have kept going. There's no end to what we carry with us, what we leave behind and what we long for. But I stopped at 12. -Meera Sethi
Her other exhibit Cotton Exchange features two sets of painting series unpacking her thoughts around the garment and textile industry, and how fast fashion is constructed. One set of paintings depicts clothing worn by garment workers from South Asian countries, such as Bangladesh, as they protested the working conditions that led to deaths in the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013. Cotton Exchange also features a seven-panel mural inspired by another one of Sethi's pandemic projects: growing a cotton plant at home. Her desire to capture the plant developing the natural fibre led Sethi to a travel podcast episode set in Mumbai that explored the history of cotton in the city and the presence of a 1936 Art Deco bas relief sculpture on the historic Cotton Exchange Building in Mumbai.
Samiha Hossain (she/her) is an aspiring urban planner studying at Toronto Metropolitan University. Throughout the years, she has worked in nonprofits with survivors of sexual violence and youth. Samiha firmly believes in the power of connecting with people and listening to their stories to create solidarity and heal as a community. She loves learning about the diverse forms of feminist resistance around the world.