Global Roundup: Girl Child Day Mexico March, Afghanistan Women Documentary, Hip-Hop Musical on Suffragists’ Struggle, Empowering Women in Somali Community, Memoir on Trans Joy
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Photo via La Prensa Latina
Ahead of International Day of the Girl Child on October 11, dozens of women and girls marched in Mexico’s Chiapas state on Saturday to put violence, inequality and discrimination faced by women in the country in the spotlight. Protesters walked to the city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas’ central park carrying banners and balloons, and white handkerchiefs on their wrists as a symbol of peace. They carried slogans such as “I have the right to play without fear,” “Fight for girls” and “We are a girls’ club and we deserve respect,” demanding for visibility and respect.
The protesters were also accompanied by a group of children and men who supported the march, with banners that read: “Respect for women” and “Stop discrimination and violence against women,” among others.
Jennifer Haza, director of Melel Xojobal, a children’s rights organization, said this march is held every year in order to highlight the problems in Chiapas where 21 percent of girls aged three to 17 years old do not attend school. She also said that the state has the second-highest number of pregnancies of girls under 15 years of age in the country.
According to statistics from the National Survey on the Dynamics of Household Relationships 2021, 20 percent of the population of women aged 15 and over have experienced situations of violence at school throughout their lives in Chiapas. The organization also reported that between 2018 and 2022, a total of 1,220 girls aged between one and 17 disappeared, of which 76 percent were aged between 12 and 17 years. These statistics are horrific and likely do not paint the full picture, but the women and girls protesting are demanding that these issues be taken seriously.
© ITV Exposure
CW: gender-based violence
British-Iranian correspondent Ramita Navai was in France last week to present the premier of her documentary "Afghanistan: No Country for Women," a harrowing look at life under the Taliban. Often using a hidden camera, she witnessed the daily struggle women face to stay alive. It is one of several films screened as part of the annual week-long event, celebrating the work of war correspondents from around the world.
It is November 2021, just a few months since the Taliban took back control after the US-led military coalition pulled out after more than 20 years in the country. The economy is in tatters, most women have lost their jobs and only a few schools have reopened, despite promises made by the Taliban. Wearing a veil over her head, Navai and her director-cameraman Karim Shah travel to Herat in western Afghanistan. They meet a family whose adult daughter has gone missing. She was last seen entering a police station to help her friends who had been arrested for so-called "immoral behaviour.” The young woman, known as “Maryam” is eventually able to send a letter to her family, describing the interrogation and abuse with a taser gun.
The investigation led the journalists to a jail, where women are being held without trial or charge. Navai was granted access to the women’s wing, where she brought a hidden camera. She was able to exchange some words with Maryam.
My heart was beating doubly fast as that moment. Luckily, Karim, being a man, was able to chat to the guards and distract them so they didn’t notice me turning on my equipment. -Ramita Navai
In the northern town of Faizabad, girls and women are being forced into marriage with Taliban soldiers, much older than themselves – “a fate worse than death,” one anonymous male witness tells the journalists, describing his cousin’s experience. Female suicides are also on the rise since the Taliban came back to power.
I was always fearful that the people who took risks to speak to us would get into trouble. -Ramita Navai
In March 2022, Navai met the chief of the Ministry of Vice and Virtue, which replaced the Department of Women’s Affairs. He did not want to appear in the same shot as Navai, who very boldly confronted him with the allegations of abuse and torture she uncovered. Like all the other officials interviewed in the documentary, he insisted any claims of abuse are false, and no man would mistreat a woman if he were following strict Islamic law.
Despite this bleak outlook, Navai reiterates that there are pockets of resistance, even in the tiniest of forms.
The singer Beverley Knight, here performing at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games closing ceremony in August. Photograph: Alex Pantling/Getty Images via The Guardian
Soul singer Beverley Knight is playing suffrage leader Emmeline Pankhurst in a new production which celebrates Pankhurst’s lesser-known daughter, Sylvia. “Sylvia,” which premieres at the London theatre from January, is a hip-hop musical looking at the life of a “feminist, activist, pacifist, socialist and rebel” who changed the lives of working women and men across the world.
In a lot of ways we still haven’t moved on. Women are still held in subjugation. We still have mansplaining, we still have gender violence. Look at the Sarah Everard case, all the conversations that were a ripple effect from that. -Beverley Knight
The show portrays November 18, 1910, Black Friday, where the women who marched on parliament, led by Emmeline, were battered and a couple of them later died from the extent of their injuries.
Sylvia was expelled from the Women’s Social and Political Union for her insistence on involving working-class women in the suffrage movement. She was a fervent Labour supporter and conflicted with her mother, Emmeline, and her sister Christabel, who felt that suffrage could best be achieved through the efforts of middle class women like themselves, and who wanted to divorce the suffragette movement from any party politics.
It’s a metaphor for so many things that are going on right now…The way that the poorer sections of society are disenfranchised and removed from what goes on in the social and political circles, how they’re easily passed over and disregarded – Kwasi Kwarteng and Liz Truss, I’m looking at you! - Beverley Knight
Directed and choreographed by Kate Prince, the musical follows in the style of Hamilton by telling a historic story in a new, imaginative way that will hopefully draw in younger and more diverse audiences.
It’s massively significant [that the Pankhursts are being played by two Black women…] Emmeline says in the show: ‘Fall down seven times, get up eight’, and that becomes a rallying cry. I really get behind that. Women’s power was so feared that the establishment did everything it could to crush those voices. So the message is: own your power and be proud of it. - Beverley Knight
Image: Yvonne Deeney via Bristol Post
Nimo Ibrahim is the founder of Bristol Somali Women’s Group, a charity that empowers women and helps them to open up about the issues they are facing. Poverty, language barriers and family pressures are just some of the factors that make it difficult for Somali women to seek support.
It’s very difficult for a Somali woman to ask for help, they have a stigma attached to it. They really have to trust you. We were brought up as girls to be quiet and not be hard so it’s very difficult for them to ask for help and that’s where we come in. -Nimo Ibrahim
Ibrahim volunteers as a support worker, helping to empower women in her community. Following the pandemic, the UK has seen a rise in mental illness and domestic abuse. Ibrahim wants to now make these issues a central focus. She feels it is important for Somali women to be able to talk about these issues and provide a safe space for women to express themselves freely.
After coming out of an abusive relationship herself, Ibrahim has an understanding of the issues that some women in her community are facing. She tried for many years to keep her marriage, concerned about the impact a separation would have on her children.
It’s a belief that is put in our heads that if you’re married you should stay, no matter what. Domestic abuse is real, mental health is real and it’s something that we really need to focus on when it comes to our community. -Nimo Ibrahim
Bristol Somali Women’s Group has been active in the city since its inception in 2015. Although Ibrahim's current focus is on domestic abuse and mental health, at its core the group’s ethos is one of empowerment at every level. They have held various drop in sessions and events over the years to provide a space where women can come together, socialize and build up their support networks.
It has been a struggle for Ibrahim, who at one point did not have enough money to get a bus into the city centre and had to walk there and back with three young children. She sees the ongoing struggle particularly for single parents like herself who have to financially support their children in Bristol alongside family in Somalia.
It is powerful to see a woman use her struggles to uplift other women in her community. Organizations such as Bristol Somali Women’s Group are vital so that women can support each other.
Oscar Diaz; LittlePuss Press
CW: sexual abuse
Cecilia Gentili has published a memoir Faltas: Letters to Everyone in my Hometown Who Isn’t My Rapist. Gentili is a legendary activist and performer whose work on issues like trans health care, HIV/AIDS policy, and decriminalization of sex work have made her a pillar of New York’s queer community.
The book is structured as eight letters. Gentili writes to her father’s mistress, a childhood friend, her mother, her grandmother, the town midwife; even her abuser’s daughter. She writes to people who treated her with cruelty and care, with good intentions and neglect. And she writes about her abuse. But she refuses to address her abuser, a man referred to only as “Miguel,” directly.
Gentili writes that Miguel began raping her when she was six, and continued through her adolescence. But Miguel also saw Gentili for who she was: a girl. The result is a painful and impossible tension. “He saw me as I was,” she writes. “He saved my life and ruined it forever.”
Them spoke with Gentili ahead of the release of the memoir. Gentili talks about how important therapy was in her healing journey.
For ten years, this was the most important topic of my therapy sessions. I talked about drugs, and my relationships, my life as a sex worker, blah, blah, blah. All of that was important. But the main reason for my therapy was my history of sexual abuse. But then, with this book, I was ready. When we finished the edits, I called my therapist, and I said, “I’m good. I’m good. I want to try to not be in therapy.” -Cecilia Gentili
She also discusses how she wants to move away from trauma narratives solely when it comes to her story.
I encounter this need from cisgender people to focus on, and even salivate over, trauma. It helps them feel good about themselves, knowing that someone else’s reality is really fucked up. Right? I guess that’s what it is. Or it’s portraits in the media. Most trans characters are going through a lot of shit. And I’m not taking away the terribleness of our lives. But part of my narrative is about the joy. -Cecilia Gentili
Gentili emphasizes that her book is not trying to create social change, it is just one story. However, she wrote it amid recent legal and political] attacks on trans people, especially trans youth in the US – so she hopes cis people read her book and see the importance of validating the identity of trans children.
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.