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Global Roundup: Feminist Community in Ukraine, Marching for LGBTQ Rights in India, Tajik-Russian Singer, Afghan-Canadian Documentary, First Sikh Judge in the US
Curated by FG Contributor Inaara Merani
FemApartment residents Mira, left, and Veronika chat with Katya (seen from behind), a coordinator at the NGO Feminist Workshop who helped find shelters in Lviv for displaced activists, women and children. Photo via Amandas Ong/Al Jazeera.
Feminist Workshop is a grassroots-led NGO that educates and conducts seminars and other activities on social issues that affect women. When Russian forces invaded Ukraine last year, the organization secured housing for 23 women and children who had lost their homes, and also accommodate internally displaced women activists.
Through a program called FemApartment, the organization was able to provide housing for displaced individuals and get the residents involved in social activism. To qualify for residence at FemApartment, women had to be willing to volunteer to support others affected by the war, and have some activism experience. According to Katya Dovbnia, coordinator of Feminist Workshop, these requirements were “in line with the organisation’s ethos that feminism tackles a wide range of social injustices.” (Ong)
I’m really happy that I came to Lviv because there are so many creative professionals here who just want to do something good for society…And most importantly, I can be myself in this place – it’s not just a shelter, it’s where I can learn from other women and help people around us, together. – Mira Kapitan, copywriter and hip-hop artist
Women and children at FemApartment residences are provided with household and hygiene essentials, as well as a weekly food basket. The organization also covers the cost of rent for its residents, supported through online fundraising and grants from European NGOs.
At first it feels like there’s nobody waiting for you, and that nobody really needs or wants you here…But then you realise that feminism is like a big machine, it works well when every woman decides to be one small part of it. – Ivanka Kutsenk, volunteer for non-profit Lviv Vegan Kitchen
Photo via GayTimes.
Over 2000 people, members of the LGBTQ community and activists alike, marched through the streets of New Delhi on Saturday to advocate for equal marriage rights at the Delhi Queer Pride March. This was the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic that advocates were able to meet in such large numbers.
Individuals carried Pride flags, balloons, and signs while dancing to drums. They walked for more than an hour towards the Jantar Mantar area, near India’s Parliament.
It’s good, it’s fabulous, Because we are here to celebrate ourselves, and after three years. – Vishal Rai
This protest comes at a time when India’s Supreme Court is hearing petitions to grant legal recognition to same-sex marriage. Although the practice has not yet been legalized, the Supreme Court struck down a colonial-era law in 2018 which punished queer relationships with 10 years in prison.
The leading petition was submitted by queer couple Supriyo Chakraborty and Abhay Dange, who argue that the denial of same-sex marriage is a violation of equality for all. The second petition was filed by Parth Phiroze Mehrotra and Uday Raj, who have argued that the denial of same-sex marriage violates articles of the constitution. Each of these petitions are currently being deliberated by the Supreme Court, and activists are hopeful that the court will rule in favour of equality and love.
If the petitioners, as a same-sex couple, enjoyed access to the civil institution of marriage, they would not face untold practical difficulties, both vis-a-vis each other and their children…The denial of the fundamental right of marriage to persons like the petitioners is a complete violation of constitutional law. – excerpt from one of the petitions submitted to the Indian Supreme Court
Screenshot from Manizha's YouTube channel showing her latest song, “Now or Never” about a young rural Kyrgyz woman learning to play ice-hockey
Manizha is a Tajik-Russian singer who frequently speaks out about and sings about issues that are considered taboo in Russian and Tajik society. She discusses the rejection of patriarchy, a woman’s place in traditional societies, the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, and the recognition of Central Asian immigrants who have remained invisible in Russia.
Manizha was born in Tajikistan, however, her family fled to Russia during the civil war. In Russia, she began to create music, eventually becoming a hip-hop singer. Her music combines Tajik, Russian, and English, and she has been praised internationally for her work.
In her latest music video, Manizha sings about how Kyrgyzstan is where girls learn to play ice hockey and become empowered. The song “Now or Never” was released in October, using a mix of English, Russian, and Kyrgyz. The music video depicts a young girl who must complete daily chores at home, which have typically been attributed to women, who then finds the courage and power to learn ice hockey and join Kyrgystan’s only women’s ice hockey team.
Directed by Manizha and produced by a number of women, including Kyrgyz filmmaker Aya Ibraeva, this music video tells a beautiful story about a form of resistance to the patriarchy. Manizha’s experiences have led her to take up coding, which is a profession that is still dominated by men, to support herself and her family. She continues to advocate for important social issues through her music, and also through her daily acts of resistance.
Afghan girls hold an illegal protest to demand the right to education in a private home in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 2, 2022. (Ebrahim Noroozi/The Associated Press) Photo via CBC.
In a new documentary released in December, Frozan Rahmani tells a story about courage and hope for women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. This 16-minute film documents the stories of many women in Afghanistan who have been affected by school closures over the years.
More than 25 years ago, Rahmani lived in Kabul and attended school as a young girl until the Taliban rule began. She recalls listening to the radio every day, waiting for the announcement that her school would reopen. After more than five years and once the Taliban regime was first overthrown, Rahmani was able to return to class.
However, the Taliban have once again taken control of Kabul and although Rahmani now resides in Canada, she fears for the safety and rights of her friends and family in Afghanistan. The journalist was forced to flee Kabul in 2016 after she began investigating corruption allegations, commenting that she could not sit still when the Taliban emerged victorious last summer. She could not watch the slow eradication of women’s rights and the progress that had been made in the Taliban’s absence. She arrived in Canada in 2016, not knowing a word of English.
Using her own money, time, resources, and contacts, she began to remotely document the disintegration of women’s rights under Taliban rule. The film includes stories from women who experienced the impacts of the Taliban reign years ago, as well as young girls who are living through it today. One story belongs to a young woman named Farhat, who was in school last summer but is now banned from attending.
Now she’s banned from going to school, I remember the same situation I was in 25 years ago…When I was banned from going to school, in that time, I was not silenced as a teenage girl. - – Frozan Rahmani
The Taliban had initially promised to respect women’s rights in Afghanistan and allow them to continue on with their lives in society, however, most of these promises have been slowly stripped away. In December, the Taliban banned women from attending university.
Activists are still engaging in discussions with the Taliban to continue urging for women’s rights.
It is very important that this kind of work is done because we will not know what's going on otherwise [in Afghanistan]...I would say this is one of the reasons why we should keep talking to the Taliban, keep engaged with the Taliban, so that we know what is going on. If they are completely isolated, we abandon them, along with the people of Afghanistan, the very poor, ordinary Afghans. – Nipa Banerjee, Canada’s former head of development aid in Afghanistan
Photo via ShethePeople.
Monica Singh just made history as the first woman Sikh judge in the United States. Singh was sworn in as a Harris County judge after working as a trial lawyer for 20 years. She has also worked with local, state, and national civil rights organizations.
Singh was born in Houston after her father immigrated from India to the US in the early 1970s. As a woman of Asian descent, she experienced difficulty when she began her law career. At the time, the profession was dominated by men, mostly white, and many could not properly pronounce her name.
I am excited about the community getting the spotlight, and people asking who are the Sikhs and why does it matter. – Monica Singh
Growing up, she was particularly interested in the civil rights movement because it was huge for her to see people standing up for a movement that would bring change. Instead of choosing to pursue careers in engineering or medicine, as many Sikh children in the US did at the time, she chose to pursue law.
Singh currently sits on the board of directors of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, the Texas Lyceum, and the Sikh Coalition where she is also a trustee.
Inaara Merani (she/her) recently completed her Masters degree at the University of Western Ontario, studying Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a specialization in Transitional Justice. In the upcoming years, she hopes to attend law school, focusing her career in human rights law.
Inaara is deeply passionate about dismantling patriarchal institutions to ensure women and other marginalized populations have safe and equal access to their rights. She believes in the power of knowledge and learning from others, and hopes to continue to learn from others throughout her career.