Global Roundup: Indonesian All-Women Conservation Group, Ugandan Activist on Being Left Out of COP26, Attacks vs LGBTIQ Groups Up in Bulgaria, Food Bank Run By Nigerian Migrants, Filipino Comedy Duo
Compiled by Samiha Hossain
Coral Catch Gili Air's all-women coral restoration team. Photo courtesy of Coral Catch via Global Voices
A grassroots environmental group, Coral Catch Gili Air, recently received a grant to fund an all-women conservation team to train women from all over Indonesia on how to plant, breed, graft, and garden corals.
They’re based on Gili Air, part of the Gili island chain in central Indonesia. Some parts of its reef have been negatively affected by dynamite fishing, coral bleaching, coastal development, inefficient waste management, anchoring, boat traffic, and earthquakes.
The group’s founder Rose Huizenga believes that sustainable development and women’s empowerment both go hand in hand. She says that the ocean research and conservation fields have historically been dominated by men, like many other scientific fields. A recent study by Women in Ocean Science showed that 78% of the women respondents had experienced sexual harassment in marine science.
I believe that empowering women and promoting gender equality is crucial to accelerating sustainable development. To truly learn to live in harmony with our environment, women need to be as much a part of shaping our collective destiny as men. For me, female empowerment is not about excluding men, but about raising the voices of women. - Rose Huizenga
For the eight participants of this group, the program allows them the opportunity to take coral conservation methods back to their hometowns. For instance, participant Aulia Zeintrinanda plans to move to Nusa Lembongan, Bali, so she can partner with some NGOs to start her own coral restoration project after this program.
Another participant, Cynthia Fildza Radiputri, believes in the importance of environmentalism being inclusive.
After completing this training I want to share all my knowledge, my experience, my story to all my friends, my colleagues, my social media friends, influence them to do the same thing to [promote] sustainable marine life and environmentalism. Empowering and inspiring more women from various backgrounds: job, statuses, skill, ability, competency, religion, etc. No matter [who] they are, they can collaborate and contribute to the protecting ocean project. - Cynthia Fildza Radiputri
Coral reefs are vital for environmental protection, providing food and medicine, and a driver for tourism worldwide. These women are playing an important role on both a national and local scale.
Climate activist Vanessa Nakate speaks during the Fridays For Future march on last Friday in Glasgow, Scotland. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images via NPR
The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, which took place in Glasgow, Scotland, brought together negotiators, government representatives, businesses and activists to discuss how to tackle climate change. Ugandan Activist Vanessa Nakate told NPR that many climate activists like herself from the global south continue to be pushed to the side.
I think it's not just my experience. There are many activists from the global south who have been sidelined at the conference. - Vanessa Nakate
This kind of experience is not an unfamiliar one for Nakate - when she was at another summit last year in Switzerland, she was cropped out of a photo by The Associated Press where she was the only Black woman among the five who were photographed.
After the photo was published, Nakate tweeted: "You didn't just erase a photo, you erased a continent, but I am stronger than ever." She also posted a video asking the question: "Does that mean that I have no value as an African activist, or the people from Africa don't have any value at all?" Her experience in Switzerland also influenced the title of her new memoir, A Bigger Picture. My Fight to Bring a New African Voice to the Climate Crisis.
Nakate talks about the importance of learning about the climate crisis from voices that are on the front lines, which especially includes activists from the global south.
...We have seen how continuously activists from the global south, who are speaking up from the most affected communities — their voices are not being platformed. Their voices are not being amplified. Their stories are being erased ... This is a problem. We can't have climate justice if voices from the most affected areas are being left behind. - Vanessa Nakate
Nakate also notes how climate, gender, race and other factors are intrinsically linked, which can especially be seen in communities like hers in Kampala, Uganda. There, women are at the frontlines when disasters happen. For example, they are forced to walk very long distances to look for water for their families in case of extreme water scarcity.
Nakata believes in the power of young people and their ability to create change and have their voices heard.
Many times, young people think that they need to have so many resources or they need to have a specific kind of voice or a specific kind of support. When I started my climate strikes, I only had like a marker, like a pencil to write my sign ... so that was the first thing that we used to go to the climate strike, and we just kept on sharing on social media. So I think it's really important for young people across the world to know that you are not too small to make a difference. - Vanessa Nakate
Pride parade in support of LGBT rights in Sofia, Bulgaria, June 2021. Emil Djumailiev djumandji / Alamy Stock Photo via Open Democracy
Gloriya Filipova shares with Open Democracy the recent rise in attacks against the LGBTIQ community in Bulgaria. Last month, the Rainbow Hub was brutally attacked by a group of nationalists led by a far-Right presidential candidate known as Boyan Rasate.
The attack opens many questions. How will we recover as a community? What led to this attack? When will the country’s institutions take the issue of anti-LGBTIQ hate crimes seriously? - Gloriya Filipova
Despite 20 years of activism, Bulgarian law still doesn’t recognize anti-LGBTIQ attacks as a hate crime. Because Rasate is a candidate for the elections on November 14, he automatically had immunity from prosecution, which meant that it was impossible to press charges against him. However, after a protest on November 1, the immunity was removed. He was charged with hooliganism and minor bodily injury. The prosecutor wanted to keep him in custody, but the city court released him on bail. The court argued that “being permanently arrested would hinder his election campaign”, which would violate the public interest and the opportunity for Bulgaria’s citizens to have an informed choice.
Filipova notes that there have been many anti-LGBTIQ attacks this year, as it is an election year.
The LGBTIQ community has been used as a scapegoat in each round of elections – the country’s far-Right parties are targeting us in order to mobilise the conservative vote. - Gloriya Filipova
She also notes that most anti-LGBTIQ attacks are prosecuted as hooliganism, which is not the same as a hate crime. She believes that the necessary legislative changes must be made by authorities not only to prosecute such crimes but also to prevent them.
Hate crimes are also crimes with a message. In this case, the message is: “We hate and will hurt LGBTIQ people.” This creates fear, not only for those directly targeted; it ripples through the whole community. - Gloriya Filipova
Photo: KATE STANWORTH via BBC
A group of Nigerian women are preparing to open a food bank for African migrant families on the Italian island of Sicily. It’s organized monthly by Osas Egbon to assist those unable to feed themselves because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The initiative is part of the work done by the Women of Benin City, a group Egbon founded in 2015 with other women who were victims of trafficking to Italy. Many of them come from Nigeria's Edo state, the capital of which is Benin City, and were forced to be sex workers to pay back their traffickers.
According to Egbon, they serve up to 40 families each month. Those who receive these much-needed donations include a young mother who was trafficked from her home in Nigeria to work in forced prostitution in Italy. She paid off her traffickers after meeting her partner who, like many African migrants, relies on informal work.
Egbon has noticed that the demand has surged since the pandemic, as many have lost their jobs and sources of income. Thus, families have been forced into extreme poverty. Many are undocumented and cannot access any support in Italy.
Egbon is doing important work to support families whose precarious situations have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. The food bank is run on a voluntary basis and Egbon relies on her contacts and pulling in favours when she can. It is urgent that migrant families receive more support in ensuring their basic needs are met at the very least.
SISTERS AND COMEDY DUO SARI AND CHI ESTRADA. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SARI AND CHI ESTRADA via VICE
Sisters and comedy duo Sari and Chi Estrada released a video in September where they sing with straight faces and an acoustic guitar about what it would be like to have a penis. The video has since garnered over 28,000 views on YouTube and been reposted on social media with hundreds of comments.
The lyrics are a mix of Filipino and English and ponders things like what they’d name their penis if they had one, and what it’s like to pee on plants. Chi said they were inspired by their experience of period pain to write the song.
The sisters have grown up observing that comedy and pop culture in general is dominated by men. They recall hearing statements like “women aren’t funny,” which they believed themselves for some time.
Even locally, the comedy scene is male-dominated. Most comedians here are straight or gay men. At times, it felt like there wasn’t a place for me in the local comedy scene. - Sari Estrada
Today, the duo is using their experiences as women to break through the scene. In another novelty song, they sing about the awkward experience of bringing a boyfriend home to meet the family. As they gain popularity, their comedy has also become about connecting and empowering others to express their authentic selves.
They’re currently working on an EP, which will be released on Spotify. They also have a podcast and other videos in the works.
Now that we’re pursuing comedy, something I hope for as a female comedian is that a domino effect happens. There may just be other ladies who have been curious about comedy, but have been hesitant to try it out for the same reasons I had. Maybe seeing fellow females on stage would lessen their fears and doubts. - Chi Estrada
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.