Global Roundup: #MeToo in China, COVID19's Impact on Women, Elliot Page Comes Out as Trans

Compiled and written by Lauren MacDonald

Protesters displayed posters in support of Xianzi outside court in Beijing/ AFP via BBC

A sexual harassment case against a powerful Chinese media figure has begun in Beijing, with his accuser calling it a major moment in the country’s nascent #MeToo movement.

Zhou Xiaoxuan - also known online by her nickname Xianzi - has taken one of the country's most prominent TV hosts to court, accusing him of sexually harassing her in 2014.

Zhou was among a wave of people who came forward in 2018 when an emerging #MeToo movement rocked China. She accused the prominent television host Zhu Jun of groping and forcibly kissing her when she was an intern at the state broadcaster CCTV in 2014.

When she initially reported the case to the police, she says she was told that speaking out would affect the image of the state broadcaster where Zhu worked and hurt the feelings of those who admired him. Zhou hopes that with the news of her case moving forward, more women will be encouraged to speak out. 

Ahead of the hearing, which will not be public, Xianzi told the BBC that whatever happens, she will have no regrets.

If I win, this will encourage many women to come forward and tell their stories; if I lose, I'll keep appealing until justice is served - Xianzi

About 100 people gathered outside the Haidian District Court in Beijing on Wednesday to show their support for Xianzi. Many were carrying posters with the word #Metoo on them. "We wait with you for an answer from history," another sign read.

I saw people holding slogans to support Xianzi, I felt excited and moved to see people here to support each other…The whole #MeToomovement is an inspiration to me, making me realise that things which made me feel uncomfortable before were wrong, it wasn’t because I was being too sensitive - Yang Ruiqi, a third-year university student

China’s first civil code, passed in May, expanded the definition of sexual harassment, but many women are still reluctant to come forward and it is rare for cases like this to make it to court.

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The COVID19 pandemic is exacerbating already existing inequalities around the world. It is hitting women especially hard, and more so women who are in living in poverty. The United Nations and other global bodies have warned that progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment could be reversed as a result of the virus. The World Bank estimates that the current crisis will wipe out the last five years’ gain in the fight against global poverty, with some 40 to 60 million people falling below the poverty threshold in 2020.

The Amal Center in Morocco is a non-profit that aims to provide women between the age of 18-35 with work and language skills as a way to help them out of poverty. Founder Nora Fitzgerald Belahcen explained how the center is working to help those hit the hardest by the pandemic.

In Morocco, the economic crisis descended upon us since day one of the mandatory lockdown imposed on 22 March, where those already teetering on the edge of subsistence saw their livelihoods wiped out overnight. At Amal Center, with our centers and normal programs shut down, we found that our role as a civil society organization dedicated to female empowerment pivoted completely. Training in the culinary arts now seems like a distant reality. Instead we have refocused on providing relief assistance to families who were severely affected economically by the lockdown - Nora Fitzgerald Belahcen

The center launched a relief campaign called “Hope for 1000 families” that drew over $100,000 in raised funds, twice its target amount, which allowed them to distribute food baskets to 2300 families over a period of three months. 

We gave food away as fast as we could, feeling like we were faced with a bottomless gulf to fill. Even with lockdown restrictions lifted, our heavily tourism-based economy is gutted for the foreseeable future, leaving hundreds of thousands of Moroccans without jobs. 

It’s not entirely the pandemic that is the issue; the pandemic really only exposed systemic inequalities that make women so vulnerable to disaster. Poverty is cyclical and difficult to break, without dramatic systemic change it is very difficult to do so. What is happening to women in Morocco echos the experience of many others around the world. Now is the time for action to be taken to support the most vulnerable. 

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Africa’s low death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic may look like a triumph, but behind the numbers lies a hidden tragedy as the virus impacts women’s access to healthcare.

The low death toll has been attributed to a number of possible factors, such as the young population on the continent, the experience several countries have in fighting other epidemics, or the possibility of cases being unreported. What certainly has gone under the radar though is the effect on women’s health.

Healthcare systems across Africa were already stretched thin and broken, the pandemic only worsened this. Author Oley Dibba Wadda, whose mother died of Covid and who explains that she and her husband almost lost their lives to the pandemic too, lists several reasons for why the pandemic is hitting especially hard women’s health on the continent and in her country The Gambia.

For example, lockdown means that maternal deaths could rise because women are forced to give birth at home and not get the specialist care they might need. During the Ebola outbreak in 2014-2016, there was a huge rise in maternal mortality rates in West Africa.

Let us learn – and quickly – from previous experiences so that we can stop the Covid-19 pandemic’s effects from reaching more widely into our healthcare systems. Instead of undermining our health systems, we must use it as a catalyst to effect change where we can. To educate women on how to safely undertake caring roles. To bring healthcare into the heart of our communities where it can make a difference. And to finally stop a practice that endangers our girls throughout their lives - Oley Dibba Wadda

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Elliot Page in The Umbrella Academy. BY CHRISTOS KALOHORIDIS/NETFLIX. 

Umbrella Academy actor Elliot Page has come out as transgender in a heartfelt letter posted to his Instagram. Page, who was nominated for an Oscar for their lead role in the film Juno, has been an advocate for LGBTQ rights. Trans author Chase Strangio celebrated the actor’s announcement.

And though we all know too well that the mere existence of highly visible trans people does not change the material conditions under which most trans people live — since every day there are new announcements made about why our lives and bodies are legitimate terms of debate and terrains for violence — having someone so highly visible say, ‘I see you. I love you and I will do everything I can to change the world for the better,’ is comforting - Chase Strangio

Intertwined with his coming out, Elliot used his platform to draw attention to the horrific violence trans individuals are constantly subjected to around the world. On a day where he was aware that all attention would be directed at their body and statement, he used the attention to hold state officials accountable. Like in many other moments of his professional career, Elliot uplifted the LGBTQ community through his message stating “I love being trans”. 

I love that you are trans, too, Elliot; I love our beautiful trans community. I look forward to building more spaces for people to feel big and messy and nonlinear, and more spaces where we all feel free to claim the beauty of their authentic selves - Chase Strangio

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Lori Campbell is the winner of the 2020 Women of Inspiration Indigenous Leader Award. (Submitted by Lori Campbell) Via CBC

Lori Campbell has won the 2020 Women of Inspiration Indigenous Leader Award. Campbell is the director of Waterloo's Indigenous Student Centre, and adjunct lecturer of Indigenous studies at St. Paul's University College.

As a young Indigenous, queer woman, many years ago I didn't see people like me represented in leadership positions or in senior-level positions, and it's hard to imagine being something when you can't see yourself reflected in those roles - Lori Campbell

The Women of Inspiration Awards honour a diverse collection of women of all ages from across industries. Now in their seventh year, the awards have recognized the achievements of more than 1,000 women.

So what I guess the impact might be is that other young women from all walks of life in particular Indigenous, Black, people of colour and the LGBTQ community see themselves represented and also see themselves as leaders - Lori Campbell

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Lauren MacDonald is a third-year student at the University of Ottawa studying International Development and Globalization with a minor in Women's Studies and a settler on traditional Mi'kmaq land. Looking to pursue a career in urban planning/community development, she is interested in gaining as much feminist knowledge as possible in her academics to help build more healthy and equitable communities in the future. She is delighted at the opportunity to shed light on everything feminism around the globe through FEMINIST GIANT!