Global Roundup: Brazil Indigenous Activist, India Acid Attack Survivors, Kurdish Immigrant and Human Rights Activist, Two-Spirit Youth Gift-Giving Project, Trans Calendar Celebrates Beauty & Autonomy
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
The activist believes it is vital to have Indigenous presence on social media as a way to “simplify, deconstruct and decolonize culture and what people think of in relation to Indigenous peoples.” She calls it being “digital guerilla fighters.”
Samela produces a lot of educational video content for Instagram and YouTube as she wants to deconstruct and simplify the news. She mentions how conventional media is full of stereotypes of Indigenous peoples and jargon when it comes to laws and legislative bills.
So, our way of creating educational videos to be posted online is born out of this need to make the news more simple, more democratic, so that everyone understands what is really happening. -Samela Sateré Mawé
COP27 was a little different from COP26 because it was happening while Brazil is under a transitional administration, so Samela is hopeful their demands will be heard. She says this time their struggles were about people taking Indigenous peoples into consideration when it comes to these big meetings about the environment, climate change and everything else.
What we brought to the table was this issue of ‘nothing is for us without us,’ so that when people debate about issues relating to our territory, our lives, the biomes we live in and about the preservation of what we have already been preserving for years, it’s only fair that we are included and part of these debates. -Samela Sateré Mawé
The young people of Amazon submitted a letter of intent at COP27 to the Legal Amazon Consortium. It called for demarcation of Indigenous territories, the inclusion of young people by means of a youth council, so that they are consulted when it comes to these big agreements on the global stage. Samela hopes that they can push for more policies tailored towards their people’s needs and more Indigenous representatives in the National Congress as well as in other spaces.
Survivors of acid attacks take part in a seminar in Delhi. There were 176 acid attacks and 73 attempted attacks in India in 2021. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/EPA via The Guardian
CW: violence against women
Hundreds of acid attack survivors are demanding stricter laws against the sale of chemicals, after two men on a motorbike threw a corrosive liquid on a 17-year-old girl on her way to school in Delhi last week. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau data, there were more than 1,000 acid attack cases reported in the country between 2017 and 2021. The main attacker, a boy under 18, bought the acid online. The video of the incident captured by a CCTV camera was widely shared and caused outrage in India, leading to a new campaign to tackle online sales.
In 2013, an Indian high court ruling banned over-the-counter sales of acid to the public and said potential buyers would require a government-approved identity document and provide a valid reason for purchase. Sellers are obliged to retain a record of all sales. The landmark Criminal Law (Amendment) Act came after a campaign led by Laxmi Agarwal, a woman from Delhi who was badly burned in an acid attack in 2005, when she was 15. The campaign won several gains for survivors, including access to rehabilitation.
Since last week’s attack, Agarwal has started a new petition demanding a total ban on acid sales and over 10,000 people signed her petition in just two days.
I shudder to think that this can happen to any girl in this country. -Laxmi Agarwal
Shaheen Malik, an acid attack survivor and activist, has a foundation that helps survivors with legal and medical help. In 2020 she filed a petition in the Delhi high court seeking a complete ban on acid sales, but it is still pending. Her own case has been stuck in legal limbo since 2009, while her attackers still roam free.
It is a matter of grave concern that the acid was procured through an online shopping portal and thrown on a 17-year-old girl. -Shaheen Malik
Shanga Karim poses for a photo in her home with the Renata Shearer Human Right Award. Karim is a former Kurdish journalist and refugee and is being honoured for her work. Photo: Richard Lam PHOTO BY RICHARD LAM /PNG via Vancouver Sun
Shanga Karim, a Kurdish former journalist and refugee, is the recipient of the 34th annual Renate Shearer Award. She is now working on a memoir detailing the challenges Kurdish women face — challenges she is intimately familiar with.
The former journalist fled Kurdistan in northern Iraq in 2015 after reporting on issues such as so-called honour killings, domestic violence and female genital mutilation. She said it was very difficult to leave Kurdistan, her friends and family, but she had a goal, and a purpose: to continue to write.
Writing for me was the thing that helped me. Now I want to help other women find a voice for themselves. -Shanga Karim
Karim describes the experience of immigration as a “coming apart” that was “very hard, very complicated,” an experience in which she felt “totally lost.”
As newcomers, we leave ourselves. We miss ourselves. We must rebuild ourselves, and collate all these to parts to become ourselves again. -Shanga Karim
When she arrived in Canada, she learned that her journalism degree, and experience as editor-in-chief of a feminist newspaper, was not worth much in the country. She worked in construction for several years, getting up at 5 a.m. every day, returning home at 3 p.m. to study English. In 2018, Karim connected with the Shoe Project, a writing workshop designed to help immigrant and refugee women improve their English through storytelling.
When I connected with other [immigrant] women and heard their stories I saw that we were all in the same boat. -Shanga Karim
Although in 2011 Kurdistan passed legislation that criminalized domestic violence and female genital mutilation, international human rights advocates have criticized the government for not enforcing the law. Karim said that telling her own story required courage, but it was healing for her.
When we tell our stories, the borders between people go away. Our stories can be a tool claiming for our rights, for healing, and part of the fight for gender equality internationally. -Shanga Karim
The Renate Shearer Award is presented annually by the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS), the B.C. Human Rights Clinic and the UN Association in Canada Vancouver branch to a group or individual who made a significant contribution to advancing human rights, dignity, and justice. Karim dedicated her award to Mahsa Amini, the young Kurdish woman who died in police custody in Iran after being arrested for wearing an “improper” hijab.
Credit: Getty Images; Elham Numan/Xtra
Sheri Osden Nault is Michif and nêhiyaw of the Charette, Bélanger and Nault families. They are also Two-Spirit and an artist, working with mediums such as sculpture, beadwork and tattooing. Nault finds themself battling stigma as a Two-Spirit person: outside of Indigenous spaces—amongst settler LGBTQ+ people —they find their specific Two-Spirit needs overlooked, whilst within Indigenous spaces, they find themselves excluded from certain communal activities because of their appearance.
I am a non-binary transmasculine-leaning person-—I don’t wear skirts, but because I am perceived as a woman and I won’t wear a skirt, I’m excluded from certain Indigenous ceremonial spaces. -Sheri Osden Nault
In 2020, Nault became concerned about Two-Spirit youth mental health during the pandemic. So, to brighten the days of the young people they had been thinking about, they set out to find Two-Spirit youth who they could send gift bundles to. They compiled a couple of Land Back patches and stickers they had received from artist friends, and some earrings they had beaded themself, and decided to put them together into four gift bundles. They posted a photo of the gift bundles on Instagram with a caption asking for donations to cover the cost of sending the packages to Two-Spirit youth across the country. Nault ended up exceeding their donation goal.
In that first year, Cheekbone Beauty, an Indigenous beauty company—donated 25 box sets of lipsticks. While Nault had initially only planned to send the gifts to four recipients, the high number of donations they received meant they were able to donate gifts to 23 youth in total. Following the success of the first year, Nault decided to do it again in 2021 with their friend, Jess Murwin, helping them to send 52 gifts. This February, they are aiming to send packages to 50 youth. While they are primarily focused on youth in Canada, the team has occasionally sent gifts to the U.S. as well.
Providing Two-Spirit youth with a direct link to their culture is something the Gifts for Two-Spirit Youth has succeeded in: not only does the project follow the tradition seen in many Indigenous nations where gift-giving is sacred, but it also provides the youth with specific items that help to affirm both their Indigenous and Two-Spirit identities. For example, some gift boxes include items such as seeds of medicinal plants, as well as zines instructing how to plant them. Some boxes include makeup. Gifts may also focus on health, and youth can request specific menstrual products to be included in their boxes.
We would never want to just have it be an assembly line of packing up boxes and everything being the same. We really want to keep it individualized and adapted for each of the youth that are going to receive something. -Jess Murwin
Summer Taylor—whose Indigenous name is Niibin—is an Anishnawbe from Ginoogaming First Nation and another Two-Spirit youth who is grateful for the community care they felt when they received their gift. They had been having a really difficult day when they opened their gift and unpacking its contents lifted their spirits.
It was very emotional. It also made me so glad, because I know a lot of Two-Spirit youth do not have the resources in those gift boxes; they’re hard to find. -Summer Taylor
Seeing Gifts for Two-Spirit Youth continue to thrive in the future is something Nault deeply hopes for, not only because it supports Two-Spirit youth, but because it also provides Nault with relief; Nault feels like they have been lifted up in the process of lifting others.
The state of the world is horrible, and when things get overwhelming, I think to myself: ‘It’s okay. I’m gonna collect donations from allies and contributions from community members, and send epic gifts to 50 queer Indigenous youth. And even if everything in the world sucks right now, this cool, amazing thing is gonna happen.’ Being able to focus on that is very therapeutic to me. -Sheri Osden Nault
An all-trans naked calendar is celebrating the beauty, diversity and joy of the community while raising funds for an important cause. The calendar was created by an all-trans team and features 58 models from across the trans community and parts of the UK. It is raising money to secure a space for FORT – a trans/queer-led accessible space in London with a tattoo and massage studio, print workshop, production house, art and print shop – that can be a creative, safe space for LGBTQ+ folk in London.
FORT founder Jamie Boy King, who is the creative director of the calendar, says it was also about trans people coming together to celebrate trans bodies and expressions on their own terms. King reached out to people on Instagram to see who would want to feature, and was soon overwhelmed with the amount of interest. All the while, they wanted to centre authentic, trans joy in a way that honoured individuals while making them feel safe.
I created a little form for people, and it was simple things about what makes you feel at home in your body, what makes you feel hot and euphoric, what do you not want to show and there was language that only a trans person could write to make it really great for trans people. -Jamie Boy King
Graphic designer Aries Moross, who modelled for the calendar, says it was “brilliant” to be a participant because it felt “really thoughtful and intentional”, especially as they are normally on the other side of the camera. Moross explains they did not have trans bodies to look at while growing up, so to think they could be a resource for others was quite moving. They describe how the calendar features trans people who are short, tall, plus size, hairy and “all the combinations of body features” – showing that “our bodies are diverse, and gender is diverse.”
It’s not that we want to be desirable to others – that’s not the intention – to be desirable to ourselves is such an undertaking…There’s this narrative that trans people are always ashamed or want to hide, and this flips that completely being like we’re actually here living our best lives. And the true progression for all of us – cis or trans – is for us to feel happy in ourselves, in our bodies, in our genders. -Aries Moross
The theme of the calendar, which is on sale now, is around trans people “having to do things themselves”, and every single scene was shot in a different room of the abandoned-hospital-turned-guardianship-property King lives in. There is a domestic scene with trans people cooking and cleaning, another featuring a life-drawing session where everybody is trans, a tableau of people fashioning their clothing, and a moving house scene that King says is a “nod to chosen family.”
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.