Global Roundup: IWD Protests in Mexico & Pakistan, UN Tells Canada to Address anti-Indigenous Gender Discrimination, Students vs Homophobia, Arab Women Activewear Entrepreneurs, Queer Wellness Fest
Curated by FG intern Lydia Georgison
Women take part in a protest to mark International Women's Day in Mexico City, Mexico March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Raquel Cunha
Mexico City- An International Women’s Day rally in Mexico on Tuesday drew thousands of protestors who marched against violence and streamed past the capital’s presidential palace and national monuments.
Women have accused President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador not doing enough to stem the rise in femicides.
Mexico City police said they seized Molotov cocktails, weapons such as bats and hammers and fireworks from protesters in the afternoon.
The authorities had erected a protective metal barrier around the National Palace, the seat of government where the presidential family lives, and other historic buildings ahead of the protests.
Protestors wrote, “MEXICO FEMICIDE” in towering white letters on the black metal cordon in front of the National Palace, which faces the Zocalo main square, the stage for many significant demonstrations.
According to government figures, Mexico recorded 969 femicides last year, up slightly from 949 in 2020. Activists say the actual figures are most likely much higher, and some estimate that ten women a day are killed because of their gender.
Protestors chanted, “Women united, will never be defeated,” as they arrived near the National Palace on Tuesday, waving white flags. Others, wearing purple bandanas for the region’s feminist movement or green in support of abortion rights, marched down one of Mexico City’s main avenues holding banners and posters with feminist slogans.
Friday Moreno, 21, a student who said that abusive teachers had scarred her upbringing, said she believed she had a duty to march so that other young girls would be spared similar experiences.
Although I feel privileged because I live in a safe area, no one can guarantee that one day I will not disappear. - Friday Moreno
Adriel Vazquez, 20, marched wearing a white dress that she had stained with red paint, symbolizing what she described as “the blood that has run through Mexico that no one has paid attention to.”
We are tired of this. I am scared to go out every day. I am scared to simply be a woman in Mexico. - Adriel Vazqez
Under Canada's Indian Act, the federal Government maintains that indigenous people must have “status Indian” registration as for access to rights and benefits. Photo: Unsplash/Galen Crout via UN
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CESAW) has called on Canada to fully address long-standing gender-based discrimination in its Indian Act, which continues to affect tens of thousands of descendants of Indigenous women.
In the findings, the Committee found that, by being prevented from passing their indigenous status onto new generations, J.E.M.- a matrilineal indigenous descendant from a long line of leaders of the Capilano Community- and his children, were victims of violations rooted in the discriminatory nature of Canada’s Indian Act, the primary law used to administer Indigenous peoples.
The committee cited the case of J.E.M., whose grandmother was a member of the Indigenous Squamish Nation in British Colombia. She was forcibly taken from her community and placed in a residential school to assimilate her and other Indigenous children into Euro-Western culture.
His grandmother was made to learn English and practice Christianity and later married a non-Indigenous man, which according to the Indian Act, meant that she was no longer Indigenous.
The entire issue stems from the disrespect of Indigenous people’s fundamental right to self-identification. - Corinne Dettmeijer
Under the Act, the “status Indian” registered with the federal government is a condition for gaining access to rights and benefits, such as health-care services, financial support for education, the rights to reside on Indigenous territories and hunt and fish on Indigenous traditional lands.
Before 1985, the Indian Act contained explicitly discriminatory provisions against women, including taking away their status if they marry non-Indigenous men. Since then, despite numerous legal challenges, Canada has only amended the discriminatory provisions with piecemeal changes rather than ending the discrimination entirely.
As J.E.M. is a disenfranchised matrilineal Indigenous descendant, he was denied his Indigenous identity until 2011, when he could only recover limited status.
And it was not until 2019 that J.E.M.’s children were recognized as Indigenous. However, under the Indian Act, they will not have the right to freely pass their Indigenous status on to the next generation.
It is further exacerbated by the unequal criteria by which men and women are permitted to transmit Indigenous status and identity to their descendants…Descendants of Indigenous Indian grandfathers would never have lost their status and have always been able to pass on their status to their children, - Corinne Dettmeijer
After multiple failed attempts to challenge the Indian Act in Canada, J.E.M brought his petition to CEDAW, which declared provisions of the Indian Act discriminatory to the descendants of disenfranchised Indigenous women.
The committee recommended that Canada provide appropriate reparation to J.E.M. and his children, including recognizing them as Indigenous people with total legal capacity and allowing them to transmit their Indigenous status and identity to their descendants freely.
It also called on Canada to amend its legislation to enshrine the fundamental criterion of self-identification and to provide registration to all matrilineal descendants on an equal basis to patrilineal descendants.
Aurat March protesters mark International Women's Day in Islamabad [Farooq Naeem/AFP] via Al Jazeera
About 2000 women rallied on International Women’s Day in the Pakistani city of Lahore despite efforts by authorities to bar the protest and withdraw security for an event frequently the target of violence. The Aurat Marches have received fierce backlash since they were embraced in deeply conservative and patriarchal Pakistan four years ago.
In a society where women have been shot, stabbed, stoned, set alight and strangled for damaging family “honour,” critics accuse rights activists of promoting liberal Western values and disrespecting religious-cultural mores.
Non-violent counterprotests, dubbed “hijab marches,” were also staged by women from conservative religious groups in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad, where participants called for the preservation of Islamic values.
In the eastern city of Lahore, city authorities urged organizers to cancel the rally over safety concerns, threatening security would not be provided. However, following a legal challenge, the Lahore High Court ruled the event could go ahead, and authorities agreed to provide protection.
The women marched through the streets in a jovial atmosphere, chanting slogans such as “Give women respect” and “End the patriarchy.”
Student Sairah Khan, 23, cited recent high-profile cases of brutal violence against women “without consequences” for her attendance.
In Karachi- Pakistans’s largest city, about 1000 women gathered in a festive atmosphere, with organizers conducting security checks as police stood by idly.
We have only one slogan: ‘Equal wages, protection and peace’, - protestor
In the capital city of Islamabad, about 200 women rallied outside the city’s press club.
We have come to raise our voices and highlight our issues. - Fatima Shahzad.
They were outmatched by more than 400 counter-protests from conservative religious parties. But organizer Farzana Bari pledged, “ We will continue to assert ourselves.”
These are the women who refused to bow down. – Farzana
Students gather at Flagler Palm Coast High School March 3 to protest Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Credit: Courtesy of Jack Petocz via Xtra
After more than 500 students protested Florida’s infamous “ Don’t Say Gay” bill last week, the 17-year-old who organized the statewide walkout was suspended from school. Jack Petocz, a junior at Flagler Palm Coast High School, says he organized the March 3 protest to message that students won’t stand for discrimination against their peers.
More than 18 schools across the state took part in last week’s demonstration. At Petocz’s Palm Coast campus, the rally was held in the school’s football stadium, where students gathered around Petocz holding Pride flags as he spoke on a megaphone.
It was really inspiring to see everyone partake. I never envisioned how many students would come that day. – Jack Petocz
The walkouts took place seven days after House Bill 1557, officially known as the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, passed the Florida House in a 69-47 vote. The legislation claims to give parents more agency in decisions regarding what their children are being taught in schools, but LGBTQ2S+ advocates have taken issue with language that would ban “classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in certain grade levels.”
The bill passed the Senate 22-17 and is headed to the desk of the Governor. Ron DeSantisu, who is expected to sign it. If made law, its proponents say it would only impact students in “primary grades,” but opponents of the bill say it’s so vaguely written it could be far more sweeping.
This is not the first time Petocz has rallied against the anti-LGBTQ2S+ policy this year. In February, he protested the Flagler County School Board’s decision to ban All Boys Aren’t Blue, a memoir chronicling author George M. Johnson’s upbringing as a Black, queer youth. The book has been removed from school libraries in at least 15 states, according to South Florida Gay News.
Petocz was officially suspended for violating student conduct, stating that the students can be suspended for participating in disruptive actions that interfere with school operations.
Petocz wants to meet with DeSantis to discuss the bill, which will go into effect on July 1 if signed into law. Petocz believes this legislation is part of a broader movement to limit LGBTQ2S+ visibility, and he says he will keep doing anything it takes to fight it.
This will inherently make queer people taboo by limiting their existence in public schools…As a gay person myself, this bill will hurt my community. - Jack Petocz
Nathaly Daou stands in a textile shop as she looks for cloth to fabricate sportswear in her studio in Beirut, Lebanon on February 16, 2022. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Ibrahim Chalhoub
Businesswomen from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon are launching their activewear brands, facing down gender taboos and economic challenges during the pandemic.
Finding affordable fabric for Nathaly Daou’s sportswear line during Lebanon’s economic crisis has been a challenge for the 36-year-old entrepreneur, one of several women making strides into the activewear sector in the Middle East and North Africa.
We had all these imported brands, but I wanted to do something special – something different. - Nathaly Daou
She launched her line “NATUSUAL” in August 2020- weeks after Beirut’s devasting port blast and nearly a year into the financial collapse that has put more than three-quarters of Lebanon’s people below the poverty line.
The currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value over the last three years, meaning imported fabrics either quintupled in price or were no longer available. Rampant power cuts across the county delayed production by months, and the banking sector had effectively collapsed, cutting off potential financing for her fledgling business.
She hunted down affordable fabrics across the city, spread news of her line through her pole-dancing network, and initially pieces in Lebanese pounds to keep them affordable.
Across the Middle East and North Africa, just 5% of formal firms are women-led. For every female entrepreneur, there are another six women who want to start a business but do not manage to achieve their goal.
According to the World Bank, small and medium-sized enterprises led by women in the region have long struggled to access sufficient financing, and the situation has became “even more dire” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tunisian business owner Fatma Ben Soltane, who launched her sportswear line Fierce in 2019, has struggled to scale up due to a credit crunch during the pandemic.
She did access some funding through Flat6Labs Tunisia, an accelerator programme and early-stage venture capital fund backed by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation arm and supported by the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative.
It's so much more difficult to access financing than pre-COVID. I'm trying to get credit to open a big two-level flagship store for Fierce, but it's taking too much time. Fatma Ben Soltane
For Saudi designer Eman Joharijy, inspiration came from her love of exercising outdoors. The former financial professional said she wanted to run and cycle outside. Still, Saudi’s conservative norms mean women wear loose robes known as abayas and cover their hair- making exercise difficult.
The usual skin-tight leggings and t-shirts on sale at shopping malls would not do, so Joharijy designed a “sports abaya” for herself in 2007.
The loose, cotton, one-piece garment had long sleeves, pockets, zippers, and cinched legs- and came in blue instead of the conventionally black robes.
Little by little, I went from being the joke of the town to the trend of the town – and the sports abaya became a new niche…I wanted to give women more access to the public space to say, we are here, and we can do anything. - Eman Joharjy
Via Out and Wild LGBTQ Instagram
The UK’s first-ever wellness festival for queer, questioning and curious women and those who are non-binary is set to take place in Wales this summer during the 50th anniversary of Pride. Out & Wild promises three days and nights with dozens of wellness activities, such as sports, spoken word, poetry, wild swimming, comedy and music- in a safe and supportive space.
The festival will be from June 10-13 in Pembrokeshire; it will offer camping, glamping and space for caravans while providing a platform for queer female and non-binary talent who are often underrepresented at UK festivals.
Polly Shute, the co-founder of Out and About LGBTQ, who will be hosting the festival, explained how Out & Wild had been designed to be an inclusive, safe, and supportive space to explore new activities and experiences.
The response we have had to date has been incredible. From the quality of the sponsors and partners coming on board to the range of experiences taking place, and the talent that will be performing – not to mention the support we have had from the Welsh government, which has awarded us a three-year grant as part of its commitment to being the most LGBTQ-friendly country in Europe. We are excited to be able to offer three days packed with amazing experiences, all designed by and for queer, questioning and curious women and those that are non-binary. – Polly Shute
Although the full line-up has yet to be announced, Out & Wild has already confirmed singer-songwriter Marieke, whose acoustic, folk-infused tunes have won a legion of fans across Wales, and retro-pop and country chanteuse Kaysha Louvain. And for those who enjoy eco-activism, there are cult favourites Fossilheads who will be performing their acclaimed climate crisis cabaret.
Lydia Georgison (she/her) is a first-year student at the University of Ottawa. She is passionate about becoming a feminist by learning and broadening her knowledge of topics that have to do with feminism. She spends most of her time studying in the field of criminology.
Lydia strongly believes the key to excellence within society is listening and learning from everyone’s opinions. She suggests that the key to a peaceful and accepting community is the result of educating ourselves on controversial topics.