Global Roundup: Chad Indigenous Environmental Activist, Afghanistan Women’s Library, Mexico Feminist Anti-Monument, Jamaica Queer Performance Artist, Be Not Afraid of Love: Book on Queer Love
Curated by FG contributor Samiha Hossain
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim speaking in France last year.. Photograph: Courtesy of IISB via The Guardian
With heat, drought and floods wrecking livelihoods and sparking conflict in Chad, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim set out to help villages map and share precious resources.
Chad is on the frontline of the climate crisis, with temperature increases predicted to be 1.5 times higher than the global average rises. In 2020, record rainfall caused a huge loss of food stocks and displaced hundreds of thousands while last year’s floods left more than 160,000 homeless. The changing weather has already wrecked the lives of pastoralists, who cannot milk their dehydrated cattle. Desertification has shrunk farming and grazing lands and nomads such as the Mbororo – Ibrahim’s people – and farmers are being pushed into conflict while government and military land grabs have further reduced access to water.
If you’re born as an Indigenous person, you’re born an activist, because you’re born with the problems surrounding your community. -Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim
Ibrahim is working with communities to produce maps to enable them to agree on the sharing of natural resources. Along with representatives from EOS Data Analytics, she ran workshops with leaders from 23 villages in Mayo-Kebbi Est to map 1,728 sqkm. People added features such as rivers, settlements and roads, as well as sacred forests, medicinal trees, water points and corridors for cattle. Laminated copies of the maps were distributed to each community. She believes it is vital to involve women in the process, not just to ensure their representation, but because of the knowledge they have, such as how to find water in the dry season.
Ibrahim, who at 15 founded the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (Afpat), focused on women’s rights and environmental protection, says seeing community response makes her hopeful. However, she is highly critical of international responses.
We are in a climate crisis, but companies are still digging for more fossil fuels and governments are not making decisions to shift to clean energy. Maybe they call them developed countries, but I call them overdeveloped countries. They get more than what they need to survive in a good way, yet they are not acting fast enough to ensure we can also survive. -Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim
According to Ibrahim, we must start using the name “climate refugee.” She mentions how in Chad, people from the north are migrating to the greener south and others are fleeing to Europe. She also emphasizes the importance of bringing Indigenous peoples into climate change discussions.
If they recognize the science, they must recognize our knowledge. If they recognize our knowledge, we must be at the tables making decisions about the future of our world. -Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim
A new women's library opened in Kabul on Wednesday. Its collection includes more than 1,000 books. (Ali Khara/Reuters) via CBC
Afghan women's rights activists opened a library in Kabul earlier this week, hoping to provide an oasis for women increasingly cut off from education and public life under the ruling Taliban. The more than 1,000 books in the library include novels and picture books as well non-fiction titles on politics, economics and science. The books were mostly donated by teachers, poets and authors to the Crystal Bayat Foundation, an Afghan women's rights organization that helped set up the library. Several women's activists who have taken part in protests in recent months also helped establish the library in a rented shop in a mall that has a number of stores catering to women.
We have opened the library with two purposes: one, for those girls who cannot go to school and second, for those women who lost their jobs and have nothing to do. -Zhulia Parsi, one of the library's founders
Since taking over Afghanistan a year ago, the Taliban have said women should not leave the home without a male relative and must cover their faces, though some women in urban centres ignore the rule. Secondary schools for girls largely remain closed after the Taliban went back on promises to open them in March. Most teenage girls now have no access to classrooms and thousands of women have been pushed out of the workforce due to the growing restrictions and Afghanistan's economic crisis, international development agencies say.
They can't annihilate us from society, if they annihilate us from one field, we will continue from another field. -Mahjoba Habibi, women's rights advocate
Glorieta de las Mujeres que Luchan.AP via ARTnews
Residents of Mexico City are decrying a decision by officials to remove a statue protesting gender violence that had been mounted by activists last year. Claudia Sheinbaum, who serves as Head of Government, had made the call to remove the feminist “anti-monument.”
In 2020, amid a wave of protests that saw monuments toppled all over the world, Mexican activists took it upon themselves to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus that stood on Paseo de la Reforma Avenue. The government had proposed that the statue be replaced with a new work of art honoring Indigenous people by Pedro Reyes. But this plan was quickly condemned by feminists and artists who pointed out that a white male artist may not have been the best person for this job. The pedestal stood empty until activists hoisted their own statue, a purple piece of metal that shows a woman in silhouette with her arm raised. In the back, there is a stand with the word “JUSTICIA” carved on it. It has stood on the pedestal in the roundabout since it was installed in September of 2021.
The statue that will replace it is a replica of The Young Woman of Amajac. Made between 1450 and 1521, the statue was discovered by farmers in Veracruz just last year. Sheinbaum said that she wanted to place a work on the roundabout that would honor Indigenous women.
The women who put the guerrilla statue in place disagree that The Young Woman of Amajac is the correct work to occupy that space. Members of the feminist coalition Antimonumenta Viva Nos Queremos, Antimonument (We Want Us Alive, Anti-Monument) described the decision to place the Amajac work on the roundabout as mere tokenization. Activists claim that the government-approved statue would potentially destroy the meaning that the roundabout took on for Mexican feminists.
They speak of indigenous women, of inclusion, they have a political agenda they must stick to, but there’s no real inclusion. -Marcela, member of Antimonumenta Viva Nos Queremos, Antimonument
The roundabout became colloquially known as Roundabout of the Women Who Fight. It is covered in graffiti bearing feminist statements as well as a wall with names of gender violence victims. The roundabout has become a recurring site for protests and gatherings that have drawn attention to an epidemic of killings of women and girls in Mexico that has become known as femicide.
It’s not about putting up a monument to worship the past, but one to recognize the present fight, all the women who have disappeared. -Érica, member of Antimonumenta Viva Nos Queremos, Antimonument
Simone Harris is a queer Jamaican performance artist who fights for equality and visibility. She has traveled to perform at Berlin's Haus der Kulturen der Welt art center as part of its queer event series, titled "Desire Lines." In addition to legal discrimination, queer people in the Caribbean face increased psychological and physical violence, abuse and oppression. Harris told DW about what it is like to be queer in Jamaica, the influence the church has on attempts at legal reform, and how (post-)colonialism and homophobia go hand in hand in her home country.
Harris says she is “a seventh-generation maroon child, descendant of the Nanny of the Maroons," referring to the freedom fighter Nanny of the Maroons, who is Jamaica's only female national hero. In the early 18th century, the former enslaved woman led the First Maroon War — a bloody confrontation between Jamaica's British colonizers and the former enslaved people on plantations known as Jamaican Maroons. Her ancestry fills her with pride and greatly influences her work.
Harris seeks to explore themes of cultural identification through a queer lens in her work.
As queer people on the island and in the region we're "othered" and existing as the "other," a part of that is you have not contributed to the development of this nation in any way. You are not connected to anything positive or negative. You simply do not exist. -Simone Harris
In her performance at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, she plays a queen's daughter named Lady Blake Ophelia Stratum, whose kingdom is destroyed by newcomers. A clear reference to the culture-destroying power of colonialism. In an attempt to save the traditions and memories of the realm, Lady Blake is sent by royalty on a metaphysical journey through space and time — far from the enemy and across the seas. She lands in post-colonial Jamaica of today. Instead of being treated royally there, she is now an "other" and sets out on a mission to find her tribe — to remember the truths of the ancestors.
Bob Marley sang about mental slavery. We have gotten rid of certain attachments as a colonized nation, but it is clear that we have so much further to go. -Simone Harris
Despite the effects of post-colonialism and the strong influence of the church on the state, Harris remains optimistic about the younger generation and Jamaican society becoming more accepting.
[The younger generation are] not taking no for an answer. Many of them don't even care about labels. For them, it's about more than existing. They want to thrive. They want to thrive in their country and they want to stand up, step up. And for the first time with a united voice, say: 'Listen, we are here and we are going to have a say in how we live here and how we exist here.' -Simone Harris
Mimi Zhu’s debut book released this week, Be Not Afraid of Love, is a meditation on what they learned from queer community after surviving an abusive relationship. Every chapter in Be Not Afraid of Love is based on a different emotion and woven with scenes of Zhu’s relationship to their former partner, ‘X,’ who serves as a focal point for how not to love.
I still believe that passion is a very powerful and central erotic force. At the same time, passion to me was like this possessiveness or obsession. -Mimi Zhu
Zhu first learned about love from their parents. As a child of Chinese immigrants in Australia, possessiveness and love tended to take on inextricable forms. They talk about how Western family dynamics value an extreme form of individuality, while Eastern dynamics take on porous, boundaryless forms to the point where parents regard their child’s body as their own. For example, Zhu shares how their parents were deeply hurt when they got tattoos. The boundarylessness learned at home can be reflected in romantic relationships.
Dancing and celebrating, eating with and feeding queer people of color in this city has nourished me. If I hadn't been in the community here, I would not have written this book. -Mimi Zhu
Ian Kumamoto, who interviewed Zhu on MIC, says that “in a culture filled with so many tragic depictions of queerness, this is one of the few books that illustrates how the answer to broken systems lies in queer communities of color who understand love better than anyone — if only because we’ve overcome the unconditional hate of others.”
FEMINIST GIANT is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
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.