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Global Roundup: Kenya Senator’s Period Protest, Telehealth for Indian Sex Workers, Counselling for Ukrainian Refugees, 1st Queer Latina Federal Judge in Puerto Rico, Dalit Women's Rights
Curated by FG Contributor Inaara Merani
Senator Gloria Orwoba was asked to leave halfway through a senate session for 'violating the dress code'. Photograph: Courtesy of Gloria Orwoba/The Guardian.
Amidst a campaign to provide free sanitary products to menstruators in Kenya, Senator Gloria Orwoba attended a senate meeting in clothing stained with fake menstrual blood, sending a message about the importance of widespread access to sanitary products. Although she did not anticipate her protest to reach beyond the Senate, it has now received widespread public attention and sparked an online hate campaign against Senator Orwoba. This campaign included criticism from people uncomfortable with seeing how menstruation truly impacts people everyday, who called her act of protest shameful and questioned her leadership position. She was also asked to leave the senate meeting for violating the house’s dress code.
Senator Orwoba’s act of protest speaks volumes about the urgent need to provide menstrual products to people across Kenya, in the most urban and rural of areas. Despite the backlash, she has remained strong in her stance and will continue advocating for menstruators across Kenya.
It is important to be shameless…The biggest impact is that we got men talking about periods – and that breaks cultural barriers to some level,” she said. “Period shaming starts with the man and the boy, because they have been brought up to believe that if a woman happens to have a stain, it's an appropriate response to laugh at, or castigate her – and then the woman has been taught that they need to go into hiding. That's the unlearning that we need to do. – Senator Gloria Orwoba
From 2004 until 2017, Kenya introduced a law which required the government to provide free sanitary products to all menstruating students, however only a small number of girls were assisted during the programme due to an insufficient budget and corruption within the distribution channels. Menstruating students miss around a week of school when they get their periods because many lack access to safe and affordable sanitary products.
More than half of all menstruating people in Kenya cannot afford to purchase menstrual products, and around 20 percent of these individuals turn to homemade options like toilet paper or cloth. 2020 numbers from the Kenya Ministry of Health suggests that only 46 percent of women and girls in rural areas have access to disposable menstrual pads.
Photo via The Hans India.
“Phone Maadu” was a telehealth initiative that was developed in Karnataka, India during the COVID-19 lockdown to provide sex workers with easy and anonymous access to healthcare services. It was created by Ashodaya Samithi, a civil society sex worker-led organization which advocates for the decriminalization of sex work and also address the human rights violations inflicted upon sex workers.
Phone Maadu connects sex workers with doctors using anonymous phone calls and texts, to ensure the safety of the individual seeking medical attention. Many of the app’s users prefer anonymous phone calls because it provides confidentiality and the ability to express themselves openly.
With Phone Maadu (conceived by and or the community), we can speak whole-heartedly and it is all confidential. – Devika, sex worker
Ashodaya Samithi has a community of over 8000 sex workers in Karnataka, and is committed to continuing this endeavor. There have been talks about expanding the service to other Indian provinces to provide sex workers across the country with free medical assistance, however the organization is worried about funding and is currently looking for more financial support. With some changes to the Phone Maadu app underway, the Ashodaya Samithi collective is hoping to increase efficiency and raise funds locally.
Anastasia Bacico runs a salon that provides beauty services and psychological support to Ukrainian refugees and local women in central Moldova. Photo courtesy of Gender Centru/UN Women.
From the day the war began in Ukraine, Anastasia Bacico began helping Ukrainian refugees in Moldova navigate their new lives, and helped them find accommodations, food, and personal hygiene products. But she slowly realized that the women refugees were under a high level of stress and needed emotional and mental health support as well, which led her to create a salon which provides Ukrainian refugees with free beauty services and counselling.
Most men have remained in their country, and women are involved in an ongoing struggle here—they have to do their best to acquire food, hygiene products, clothing and various other services that they and their children need. – Anastasia Bacico
The program is supported by the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF), which is also supporting 20 other women-led organizations in Moldova. These initiatives promote women and girls’ leadership in peacebuilding efforts and offer humanitarian assistance to women and girl refugees.
The salon offers women refugees the opportunity to relax and speak with a psychologist, if they’d like, to ensure their emotional needs are being met. This initiative also offers refugees the opportunity to connect with one another, which can be a healing process.
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Credit: Judicial reporting, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons/Be Latina.
Last week, Gina Méndez-Miró was confirmed as the 100th judge in the federal district court in Puerto Rico by the Senate Democrats under the Biden Administration. Méndez-Miró’s appointment marks the first time a queer Latina has served on this court in Puerto Rico, making it a historic first.
Méndez-Miró previously served as a Puerto Rico appeals court judge, but will now step into this new role with her expertise and experience. Many individuals have taken to social media to congratulate Méndez-Miró on her appointment, all commenting that it was very well-deserved.
Judge Méndez Miró is a first-rate jurist, with absolute sensitivity, deep empathy and a great sense of justice…Puerto Rico must feel very proud of her career and performance, as I know she will continue to do from this new position. – Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of LGBTQ rights gorup Puerto Rico Para Todes
The US Senate voted 54 to 45 in favour of Judge Méndez-Miró, and now she awaits her judicial commission. The approval of Méndez-Miró into the federal judiciary is part of the Biden administration’s plan to reshape the judicial branch to reflect the country’s demographics.
Parwati Parkhi, is a shop owner and re-elected ward representative for the Dipayal Silgadhi municipality in Doti, Nepal. Photo via Womankind Worldwide.
Parwati Parkhi was just 12 years old when she was married as a young Dalit woman in Nepal. Growing up as a young married woman, she was abused by her husband and her in-laws and she barely had any money to her name. She never thought that society would accept her or treat her well, given her identity and the perception of Dalit women in Nepal.
When she was still young, Parwati heard about local training for Dalit women to learn about their rights. She attended skills training courses where she learned how to sew, which allowed her to create her own business and make her own money. This sense of financial independence gave her the chance to help other Dalit women.
In 2017, Parwati ran in the local elections for a ward member position in the Doti district, and she won. She and 7000 other Dalit women entered politics for the first time and caused a massive shift in the representation of women, and especially Dalit women, in decision-making and political spaces.
I have done a lot for women in my community already. I have always involved women in various activities. I have helped teach adult education to women. All the women know how to write their names now. I have done lots of social work. I worked with HIV+ women. I have spoken up against gender-based violence. Since being elected I not only speak for myself, but I can fight for the rights of others now. I am proud to be at this position today where I can support other Dalit women. – Parwati Parkhi
In the beginning, it was difficult for many of these women as they were illiterate and unable to meaningfully engage in decisions. After attending the leadership training and skills-based training, they were able to figure out how they could still meaningfully contribute and voice their opinions.
Parwati has fought for the rights of Dalit women in a number of ways, and wants to continue empowering other Dalit women to be aware of their rights and stand up for themselves. She encourages all Dalit women to be politically active and to get an education, and to understand how much they are capable of.
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.