Global Roundup: Dr. Stella Nyanzi at Reykjavik Dialogue, Black Women-Owned Travel Agency, Resilience of Maharashtra Nashik Women, Black Trans Archive, Yucatán Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Compiled by Inaara Merani

The feminist scholar and activist Dr. Stella Nyanzi joined last month’s Reykjavik Dialogue to speak about the roots of violence against Black African women.

Dr. Nyanzi is well-known for her radical activism and outspokenness against the patriarchal institutions in Uganda. Last year, she was released from prison after almost 15 months of incarceration. Her “crime”: writing a poem about the Ugandan president’s mother’s vagina. Dr. Nyanzi campaigned to become a member of the Ugandan parliament earlier this year. Soon after the elections, she forced into exile in Kenya after her family faced threats and violence. 

As a young girl who grew into a bold loud-mouth woman, I have survived gender-based violence perpetuated publicly by state agents, institutionally by misogynistic organizational structures, communally by society members and privately by patriarchs in institutions of socializations I was either born into or subscribed to. And so my submissions to this historical panel are subjective because as a recovering survivor, I am devoted to organizing against gender-based violence, against both women and girls. - Dr. Stella Nyanzi 

At the Reykjavik Dialogue: Renewing Activism to End Violence Against Women, Dr. Nyanzi highlighted the ways colonial and racial historical legacies of feminist justice have contributed to the ongoing epidemic of violence against women around the world. She spoke about how Black African women are subjected to many forms of violence, including physical and sexual violence, and how this mentality of ‘Black African women being lesser than others’ has been passed down from the colonial era. 

Black African women were flung at the bottom of the racial and gender taxonomies, often relegated as passive, silent and grateful recipients of interventions, delivered by saviors and rescuers in white cream-coloured and mixed skin pigmentations. - Dr. Stella Nyanzi 

Black women have been expected to remain silent and submissive in the face of these oppressive measures. Dr. Nyanzi argued that the history of silencing Black African women must always be considered in the fight to end violence against women because this silent oppression has been a root cause of this epidemic. She concluded by stating that Black African women must reclaim their strength and their voices in order to heal and fight back. And in doing so, racial and colonial histories must never be forgotten. 

Watch Dr. Nyanzi’s speech:

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Photo courtesy of https://soullifetravel.net/ (Photo credit: Judith Finn) (BELatina)

Sadie Jordan and Emily Orgias recently founded the first Black and women-owned travel agency in Costa Rica. After years of advising family and friends about travel in the region, the duo decided to open their own travel agency in order to highlight the authenticity and cultural value that the Caribbean holds.  

With more than 15 years of travelling and a decade of experience in the travel industry, Soul Life Travel is an amalgamation of Jordan and Orgias’ passion for authentic trips which focus on sustainability. The ethos of Soul Life Travel contrasts with the irresponsible tourism in the Caribbean which poses threats to local culture, especially in Costa Rica. 

We believe that sustainable travel is both possible and essential, which is why we craft exciting tours that highlight, not harm, the essence of places you visit...Our personal connection to the region not only enhances our expertise and commitment to the local community but also motivates us to carefully design tours that are tailored to every desire in your dream trip. - Sadie Jordan and Emily Orgias 

When people travel to the Caribbean, there are many unknown cultural factors which Soul Life Travel aims to highlight and help people to understand. The goal of this agency is to bring people together around culture, wellness, and adventure. Jordan and Orgias also created this agency to show Black and brown people their cultures, because there are many aspects of Afro-Caribbean culture which resonate with people around the world. 

We want people to have a holistic view of the country and not go on the traditional travel circuit,” Sadie told Travel Noire. “It is paramount for us to showcase the Caribbean coast because, historically, it’s been out of the travel and tourism circuit. We want to make sure that a lot of our dollars are going back to that area so locals can reinvest in their own companies. - Sadie Jordan and Emily Orgias 

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Sunita Pardhi who had come to the well with her son [Tanvi Deshpande/Al Jazeera]

In the state of Maharashtra in Nashik, India, tribal women must rappel down a 60-foot deep well to fetch water for their everyday needs. Despite the danger and the risks that this journey poses, this is the only source of water in the community and it is a task which must be done. 

For five months of the summer every year, women in the Thakur caste must rappel down this well, spending hours collecting water at the bottom of the well. The Thakur caste is one of Maharashtra’s tribes and in the Bardechi Wadi community, fetching water is considered a woman’s responsibility. Without safety nets in place to protect their health and economic status, these women remain in a vulnerable position in which they are systematically exploited. 

For just a single day’s use of water, it can take women anywhere from four to six hours to fill their pots of water. This task is repeated every day because there is no other source of water for this community. This water extraction mostly takes place at night, around 10pm, which has detrimental impacts on the physical and mental health of these tribal women. 

Rappelling down this well to fetch water does not mean that women are exempt from completing other household chores. During the day, women complete their housework and then travel to the well to collect water for hours. The patriarchal systems in place have made household chores and collecting water a woman’s job, with men remaining the traditional ‘breadwinners’ of the family. 

Men think filling water is a woman’s job. If a man is seen carrying pots of water, people will laugh at him and ask him if his wife is punishing him for something he did, - Nivrutti Pardhi, a villager who has been fighting to find a solution to the scarcity

Residents of Bardechi Wadi attribute the issue of water scarcity to poor water conservation and the lack of support from the region’s politicians. Despite their resilience, the women of Bardechi Wadi should not be subjected to this treatment and the government must implement measures which bring water to the community, rather than community members having to fetch water. Additionally, groundwater has been exploited in the region because of farming practices, resulting in the lack of water resources. 

In light of the challenges faced by Bardechi Wadi women in their pursuit for water, a pipeline was sanctioned. Much of the construction of the pipeline has been created, but it has yet to function. Officials say that the pipeline will begin working next year, which means that dozens of women will continue to put their lives at risk in order to obtain water for the day. 

It felt like the administration was waiting for someone to die before they did something. I will believe the work is complete only when I see it with my own eyes. - Hiraman Khoskar, Maharashtra state assembly legislator 

Video:

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Photo of Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley by Samuel Smelty (them.us)

Artist; animator, and archivist Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley is determined to reverse the erasure of Black trans people through her new project The Black Trans Archive.

When we look back in the archives to remember ourselves, it’s almost impossible to find anything about us. - Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley

When trans people are able to find information about the history of the community, it often focuses on the violence inflicted upon them rather than their resilience and the beauty that the community holds. The Black Trans Archive is an interactive experience, taking the form of a video game. Visitors can interact with the content in real time and can make their own contributions to the process. This project was also designed so that this content can never be erased, allowing the legacies of the Black trans community to prevail. 

There is nothing in The Black Trans Archive code that can or will in the future be erased, be deemed ‘inappropriate,’ or hidden within the algorithm...We cannot be erased again, so it’s important that we, as Black trans people, take it into our hands to record and archive each other. - Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley 

Historically, archives of marginalized communities have come in the form of studies, highlighting elements of these communities that cis people find most interesting. Brathwaite-Shirley is challenging this norm by using the archive as a way to make space for members of the community who have been excluded. Rather than leaving the content up to an outside observer, she will be asking Black trans people what they would like to see included and the stories that they would like to tell. 

This archive will ultimately change the way that people interpret the history of the Black trans community, and will pave the way for a new method of interactive history. This archive will be accurate, authentic and true to the Black trans community. 

​​There is nothing new about us or what our experience has been. What is new is that we have a voice now. The internet has given us a chance to be us, to record ourselves and the individual language to describe ourselves, and provided a way to build communities. - Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley 

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Supporters of the bill with a rainbow banner outside the legislature on Wednesday. (Mexico News Daily)

In a groundbreaking move, the Mexican state of Yucatán has legalized same-sex marriage and banned conversion therapy. Yucatán’s Congress voted 20-5 in favour of legalizing same-sex marriage, modifying the state’s constitution to redefine marriage as any “free and voluntary legal union” between two people.

Previously, marriage in Yucatán was defined as a union between heterosexual couples. LGBTQ+ couples were forced to apply for an ‘exception’ if they wanted to get married. Additionally, Yucatán’s Congress has historically rejected measures to legalize marriage equality. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the LGBTQ+ community last week, which forced the congress to repeat the vote, resulting in the legalization of same-sex marriage. The organizations Indignación and Colectivo PTF Yucatán urged the government to publicize the new laws to ensure that same-sex couples would not continue to face discrimination when seeking a marriage license 

[T]oday they have finally done their job of repairing the damage to the LGBTQ+ community by legislating in favor of the recognition of their rights to equality and non-discrimination in the form of marriage and cohabitation,” the groups said in a joint statement, before lauding local lawmakers for holding the debate in an “open and transparent way. - Indignación and Colectivo PTF Yucatán 

In the same hearing, Yucatán’s Congress also unanimously voted to criminalize conversion therapy. Medical practitioners or other individuals who are found guilty of this crime can now face up to three years in prison, and this penalty can be doubled in cases where minors are involved. 

Yucatán is now the 22nd state in Mexico to legalize same-sex marriage, following Sinaloa and Baja California. Given that the Supreme Court ruled in favour of same-sex marriage, it is possible that the remaining 11 states in Mexico will move to legalize same-sex marriage as well. Durango, Sonora, Tamaulipas and Veracruz are all expected to approve same-sex marriage by the end of this year. 

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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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