Global Roundup: Black Former PP Employee vs Institutional Racism, Pakistan Pregnant Women Struggle After Floods, South Africa Queer Imam, W Africa Girlhood Film, 1st Greek LGBTQ Oral History Project
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Image via @thehotnessgirl
A Black former employee of Planned Parenthood in the US put the organization on blast this week for what she describes as racism and mistreatment inside the powerful institution. Nicole Moore was Planned Parenthood’s Director of Multicultural Brand Engagement from January 2020 until she was fired in November 2021. She filed a lawsuit this week in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.
According to the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood does not live up to its tagline to “Care. No matter what,” and instead has turned its back on Black employees who have reported instances of a hostile work environment, including unfair hiring and promotion practices. A portion of the lawsuit reads:
Instead of addressing the issues, Planned Parenthood has doubled down by punishing employees of color who dare to speak up, pretextually disciplining them and creating working conditions so intolerable that they are effectively forced to leave.
Moore’s lawsuit claims that one of her supervisors, Rachel Moreno, the Vice President of Brand and Culture, was “inexplicably hostile” toward her, shutting down her ideas and intentionally blocking her path to success. One of Moore’s Black colleagues co-signed her complaints, saying she and other Black employees “experienced hostility from Moreno.”
The lawsuit claims that Black women expressing their frustration were considered hostile. Black women also maintained a heavier workload and were “held to a higher standard” than non-Black coworkers.
This is not the first time Planned Parenthood has been accused of mistreating employees of color. Moore’s suit also mentions a 2020 BuzzFeed News report on claims of racism and hypocrisy inside Planned Parenthood. But lawyers for the organization are quick to contradict those claims.
Moore stands by her claims and hopes her suit will “shed light on the fact that racism at Planned Parenthood directly impacts the access and quality of reproductive health care that Black women receive around the country.”
These allegations are especially troubling considering the recent overturning of Roe v Wade and how it will disproportionately impact Black women and women of colour. We must hold non-profit and so-called feminist organizations accountable and remember that historically, they have played a role in perpetuating harm towards marginalized women and gender-diverse people.
Shakeela Bibi who is pregnant stands beside her tent at a relief camp for flood victims, in Fazilpur near Multan, Pakistan, Sept. 23, 2022. via VOA
Pregnant women are struggling to get care after Pakistan’s unprecedented flooding, which inundated a third of the country at its height and drove millions from their homes. Many now live in tent camps for the displaced, or try to make it on their own with their families in flood-wrecked villages and towns.
Women have lost access to health services after more than 1,500 health facilities and large stretches of roads were destroyed. More than 130,000 pregnant women need urgent care, with some 2,000 a day giving birth mostly in unsafe conditions, according to the United Nations. Experts fear an increase in infant mortality or health complications for mothers or children in a country that already has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Asia.
The biggest shortage is female health care workers, medical supplies and medicine. Resources are another challenge. What are the government’s priorities? Are they willing to spend the money? -Rasheed Ahmed, humanitarian analyst at the U.N. Population Fund
Organizations are doing what they can. For instance, a Karachi-based NGO, the Mama Baby Fund, has provided 9,000 safe delivery kits, which include items for new-borns, across Sindh and Baluchistan provinces, as well as antenatal and postnatal check-ups for 1,000 women. Ahmed says that pregnant women have different needs to the rest of the displaced population, needs that are not being met by state efforts. He has heard about women miscarrying because of mental stress, the physical stress of displacement and relocation.
The rate of child marriages is also likely to increase. Some parents marry off their daughters as a way to obtain financial support from the boy’s family so they can rebuild their homes. Others fear for the safety of their girls in displaced camps and believe marrying them off will protect them from abuse or secure their future. Also, the destruction of schools in the floods closes off other options; some girls who would have gotten an education or possibly gone on to work will stay at home instead.
Imam Muhsin Hendricks at Masjadul Ghurbhh mosque in Cape Town. Photograph: Matjaž Tančič/The Guardian
Muhsin Hendricks, often called “the world’s first openly gay imam,” wants to help LGBTQ+ Muslims in South Africa reconcile their sexuality with their faith. He is an imam at Masjidul Ghurbaah – a mosque belonging to the Al-Ghurbaah Foundation, a non-profit that provides support services to Muslims who are marginalized based on sexual orientation, gender identity and belief. At the mosque, there are more women than men and no gender segregation.
Hendricks has provided a queer safe space for prayers, counselling and Muslim marriage ceremonies since 1998, a defiant role that saw him exiled from the faith by local Islamic leaders in 2007. Undeterred, he continued to spread the message that being gay and Muslim are not incompatible, and is now the subject of a new documentary film, The Radical, which has its European premiere in Berlin this weekend.
Having a space where you can experience your culture and religion without severe homophobia is very appealing. You have a spiritual space where you feel, ‘I’m at home.’ -Muhsin Hendricks
Hendricks makes TikTok videos – all sparkly filters, exaggerated looks to camera and the occasional song – with messages about love. He started making them to connect with people during the pandemic, encouraged by his daughter. His current activism projects include creating online videos in Urdu and Hindi discussing LGBTQ+ Muslims. He is also preparing three-month multifaith training courses with the Global Interfaith Network, which will take place soon in Kenya and Nigeria.
Bolstered by this exposure, Hendricks is cautiously optimistic about the future for queer Muslims in South Africa, despite being aware that he is a lone figure. He talks to the few other gay imams around the world, such as Australia’s Nur Warsame and US-based Daayiee Abdullah, but remains the only one in Africa.
I came out when I was 29, but these days people come out when they’re 16. There are more safe spaces available and information. I’m hoping there will be more queer imams, so when I’m no longer around we can continue to exist and grow. -Muhsin Hendricks
Image courtesy of Oluwamuyide and Owusu. Pictured: Co-directors Ife Oluwamuyide (left) & Claudia Owusu (right) via okayafrica
Longtime friends and collaborators Claudia Owusu and Ife Oluwamuyide have released a debut short film Ampe: Leap into The Sky, Black Girl to highlight the beauty within girlhood in West Africa. Okayafrica spoke to the two women about their debut film and the power that women have when they join forces.
‘Ampe’ is considered to be of Ghanaian descent, though various versions of the game exist across the continent. The girls split themselves into two teams of high-jumping, power-kicking badasses, intended on defeating the frenemy in front of them. The game is set for empowering girls and is seen as a coming-of-age activity and a powerful tool for building community and self-esteem.
Owusu and Oluwamuyide’s narrative documentary illustrates the game’s ability to push young girls into believing in their own power and demanding space in a world that encourages them to shrink themselves. The short film features a series of intimate conversations between women of all ages – ranging from primary school girls to leaders of female sports in Ghana.
Oluwamuyide says that it was important for them to make sure their subjects felt comfortable sharing their lives and sharing stories, and experiences. Owusu spent three months in Ghana before they began filming and even during the development stage, they were having pre-interviews with these women and also primary school girls.
We didn't hesitate to share our experiences with them, whether it be how things were when we played this game or that game, just really being able to just interact with them candidly over food, over dining tables, inviting them into our homes and just really creating that relationship first and just being girls. I think that was really the fun part of it, just gathering together and being girls. -Claudia Owusu
For Oluwamuyide and Owusu, the idea of space and community is very important – something which creating the film solidified.
We want other young Black girls to pick up their cameras, pens, whatever the case, and contribute to the narrative lineage in their communities as well. We want Black girls to be able to point and see themselves, and their friends. We want them to move in between time and age and have the space to reflect on who they are now, and who they aspire to be. -Claudia Owusu
Both women want Black girls to have a space where they can go and be vulnerable and be their full selves. They mention how often, Black girls have to grow up too fast. They hope that the film is a catalyst for Black women to reconcile with their childhood self. In addition, they hope to continue to collaborate with other Black women-led organizations around the world.
Hella Tsaconas and her friend Vagia Georgali will be launching the first Greek LGBTQ oral history project in the form of a podcast – Queer Athens. They had noticed that many LGBT+ people in Athens know surprisingly little about the history of LGBTQ activism and organizing in Greece.
We also knew that LGBTQ people and allies abroad know even less about the fascinating and impressive history of queer history and culture within Greece, nor about the current state of LGBTQ rights and protections. -Hella Tsaconas
Tsaconas says that she has had countless conversations with American and Canadian queer people who are shocked to find out that same-sex marriage is not legal in Greece. Neither is joint adoption by same-sex couples. Not until 2015 were civil partnerships amongst same-sex couples legally recognized in Greece. It was also in 2015 that Syriza, the progressive political party, passed the first legislation establishing name and gender change procedures for trans people.
Georgali spent her 20s committed to queer activism and community building work in Athens and Tsaconas spent hers studying and then teaching LGBTQ history, feminism, and queer theory in academic spaces. They are invested in the project of archiving living history and creating a more formal yet widely accessible resource that people can use in a number of ways: to reduce stigma, increase acceptance, educate people, and build community.
This summer, they announced the project, built a website, assembled a team, and began recording interviews with prominent Greek activists and LGBTQ community members, some of whom have been involved in gay life in Athens since the 1970s. Tsaconas says that the most challenging aspect of launching and building Queer Athens has been securing funds to cover their material needs and to compensate those who have spent hours helping them. The first episode of Queer Athens will air on November 9.
We’ve been absolutely humbled by the supportive response. People have been eager to donate their time and skills to help make the project a reality. The exuberant reactions we hear when we talk to people about the project confirm what we thought when we decided to start working in the first place: this is something that the LGBTQ community in Greece wants and needs. -Hella Tsaconas
Samiha Hossain (she/her) is a student at the University of Ottawa. She has experience working with survivors of sexual violence in her community, as well as conducting research on gender-based violence. A lot of her time is spent learning about and critically engaging with intersectional feminism, transformative justice and disability justice.
Samiha firmly believes in the power of connecting with people and listening to their stories to create solidarity and heal as a community. She refuses to let anyone thwart her imagination when it comes to envisioning a radically different future full of care webs, nurturance and collective liberation.