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Global Roundup: Pakistan Trans Film, African Climate Activists, Remembering Kashmir Trans Icon, Cuba Activists Push for Anti-GBV Law, South Korea Influencer vs Curly Hair Stigma
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Alina Khan, who plays a trans dancer in the Urdu film Joyland. Via The Guardian
Pakistan’s government has lifted the ban on the film Joyland, the country’s official entry for the Academy Awards, paving the way for its nationwide release on November 18.
Before the ban was lifted, the trans star of the film that depicts a love affair between a man and a trans woman had said she was very sad at the government’s decision to ban the movie which is set in the eastern city of Lahore.
Joyland tackles issues of gender and sexuality through the story of a married man who falls in love with a trans dancer, played by trans actress Alina Khan.
Khan calls the character she portrays in the film a “badass, strong-willed, fiercely independent, dominating, outspoken woman.” She was relieved not to play an “oppressed” character “which is the life for most trans people in Pakistan.”
Khan said she was rejected by her family when she came out as trans. Her siblings called her “khusra” – a derogatory term, which was originally used to refer to eunuchs but is also a slur against trans people. But Khan said she had never met a trans person in her life so she did not know what they were like.
Joyland has been hailed on the festival circuit. It was the first Pakistani film to be selected as an official entry at Cannes in May, winning two festival awards and receiving a standing ovation in a packed Salle Debussy theatre. After such international success, Khan’s family welcomed her with open arms.
In August Joyland won best film from the subcontinent at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, last month it received the top award at Zagreb’s film festival and it is Pakistan’s entry for best international feature film at next year’s Oscars, which has received the backing of the Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who joined the film as executive producer.
Tears were trickling down my face while I continued smiling. I don’t know whether the tears were of joy, were for all the hard work that I put in, or for my struggles since I was a child and that continue. For the first time in my life, I felt my talent preceded my gender, I was given so much respect. -Alina Khan
The international success of Joyland has brought Alina Khan other film offers and she is optimistic about the future.
I would like us to be more visible in showbiz as we are very much part of society, like men, women and children are. This film deserves an Oscar … it deserves all the awards out there. I hope I have opened doors for others in our community, to pursue their dreams. -Alina Khan
Climate activists Elizabeth Wathuti, of Kenya, Vanessa Nakate, of Uganda, and Helena Gualinga of Ecuador attend the climate protest alongside the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, May 26, 2022. AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka Via Global Citizen
Elizabeth Wathuti, a Kenyan environment and climate activist, is adamant about the importance of highlighting the emerging voices contributing to the movement, those that might not always get the spotlight, but whose work is crucial.
Many young African climate leaders are using their voices to demand global climate justice and leading on implementing climate solutions in their own countries. Despite their exemplary work and fact that they live and work on the front lines of the climate crisis, they often receive minimal media attention. The voice of every young person trying to make a difference is equally important in the fight against the climate crisis. -Elizabeth Wathuti
Wathuti has highlighted seven climate leaders that she wants everyone to listen to and the amazing work they are doing on the climate action scene. I will be listing three of those leaders here.
Abigael Kima is a young energy expert and climate activist from Kenya. She is the producer and host of the Hali-Hewa podcast (Swahili term for climate). On the podcast, Kima profiles African activists and climate experts, using the platform to unpack complex topics such as a just energy transition, loss and damage, youth participation in intergovernmental processes, and Indigenous rights. Despite having only launched in 2022, the podcast has been featured on Christiana Figueres’ Outrage + Optimism podcast and Climate Home News.
Hamira Kobusingye is a Ugandan climate justice activist fighting for a better world for women and the planet. She sees climate change as a gender and reproductive health issue. She raises awareness about climate change, climate action, and uses social media to reach as many people as possible and empower young women, specifically climate activists, to use their voice.
Ineza Umuhoza Grace is a young eco-feminist, researcher, and climate negotiator from Rwanda. She is the co-founder of the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition — a coalition of over 400 youth organizations from more than 40 countries advocating and taking action to address climate-related loss and damage. Loss and damage refers to the costs of recovering from climate impacts such as extreme storms, rising sea levels, severe droughts, that in turn destroy lives, infrastructure, and economic sectors. She is also the founder of The Green Protector, a Rwandan NGO aiming to increase active youth participation in protecting the environment.
Evidently, women in the Global South are taking important action against climate change from a feminist perspective that understands how it cannot be separated from gender. Despite these women doing the work and being especially vulnerable to climate-related loss and damage, they receive very little attention in the media. It is important to amplify their work and think of climate change from an intersectional perspective.
Photo via BBC News
Last week, Reshma, an iconic trans woman and a singer in Indian-administered Kashmir, died after a long battle with cancer at the age of 70. Her death plunged the region into mourning and thousands attended her funeral in the main city of Srinagar where she lived.
A wedding singer by profession, Reshma injected joy, humour and vitality into the lives of thousands of Kashmiris who live under the shadow of violence and conflict. India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir in full, but control only parts of it. An armed revolt has been waged in the India-administered region for over three decades, claiming thousands of lives.
In Kashmir, happiness is rare. Almost everyone is under stress in one way or another. But Reshma could cheer up anyone with her performance. -Sapna, trans woman in Srinagar
Reshma’s life was also an inspiration for the region's marginalized Hijra community. Hijras – who include trans and intersex people – enjoy a unique position in Kashmiri society presiding over marriages, earning them the moniker "Manzimyoer" or matchmakers. But they also face discrimination, with many of them abandoned by families and subjected to physical and emotional violence. The decades-old conflict has overshadowed their plight and recent advances in trans rights have done little to improve their conditions, says LGBTQ activist and writer Aijaz Bund.
For Reshma, music was always her calling. In 2001, when she decided to take care of her brother’s children after he died in an accident, she needed a better source of income to raise four children. That is what led Reshma to decide to start singing at weddings and become a familiar figure at celebrations
Resham continued to face discrimination and was misgendered throughout her career. But she was and continues to be a symbol of hope for Kashmir's trans population, who are mourning her and remembering her profound impact on the community.
Diana gives an interview in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. ISMAEL FRANCISCO / AP PHOTO via Toronto Star
CW: gender-based violence
Activists in Cuba have been fighting for a law to protect women who face abuse at home. In recent years, visibility of violence against women in Cuba has grown thanks in large part to social media and rising feminist activism. Yet there is no recent public data on acts of femicide, because Cuban law does not recognize it as a separate crime and instead, lumps it in with all aggravated homicides.
Authorities argue that two recently passed measures — the Family Code and a new penal code — are enough to combat the abuse, but activists want more. They are pushing Parliament and campaigning on social media for a comprehensive law that would encourage and protect women who file complaints.
Diana endured screams, insults and confinement for seven years before she ended a relationship with her boyfriend. Though she knew there were institutions and programs in Cuba that handled cases of violence against women, she did not reach out to any of them. She had no faith that they could really protect her.
It’s not just getting beaten. Violence is [also] not speaking to you, ignoring you, restricting you. It was this horrible, extreme level of control. I don’t know why I couldn’t get out of it, flee, find a proper solution. -Diana
Intimate partner violence has gained visibility in Cuba in recent years. The government and the officially recognized organization Women’s Federation of Cuba have taken steps to combat violence against women, creating more than 150 care centers with specialized counseling, legal services for victims and a hotline. In March 2021, the National Program for the Advancement of Women was launched, a sort of official roadmap to empower and promote women’s leadership.
But Diana and other women express their doubts about the scope of these initiatives and say there is still no public policy to effectively care for victims.
The distrust that women have in Cuba is related to the police’s own actions. When they file a complaint, they don’t get the protection they need. Many are revictimized. -Deyni Terry, activist and entrepreneur
For activists, the solution is a comprehensive law that takes into consideration prevention, punishment and the real care of victims. In September, the country ratified its new family code and, in December, the new penal code will take effect. However, activists continue to push for a general law against gender-based violence.
Photo via Allure
Influencers like Chaeso Park are creating a path forward for curly hair acceptance in South Korea. Many Korean people have curly or wavy hair textures — but this is often a well-kept secret as most Koreans opt for the widely popular Korean Magic Straight Perm as opposed to wearing their natural curls. In the rare instances when curly hair is showcased in the Korean media, women are often displayed as being unprofessional, unkept, or in the middle of a life crisis. This limited representation of curly hair in Korea helps to perpetuate the Western, Eurocentric idea that the hair texture is less desirable.
Even in mass media, straightened-out hair is considered more beautiful than curly hair. The fact that there is no curly hair product in South Korea proves that few people care for their naturally curly hair as they are. I grew up thinking that curly hair is something weird and wrong under these specific circumstances. -Chaeso Park
The 25-year-old did not know her natural hair texture until she stopped using chemical hair straighteners four years ago. During this process, Park was inspired by other curly hair influencers like YouTuber and hairstylist Manes By Mell, who Park says helped her break away from the popular Curly Girl Method, which often left her scalp dry and unhealthy.
I liked her boldness in breaking the superstitions that pass in the curly hair community. -Chaeso Park
Park's transition to her natural hair texture eventually led to the launch of her own YouTube channel, Curly Hair Park, which she created as a space where she could share curly hair tips and tricks – now with over 10,000 viewers.
Though Park finds pride in being one of the very few Korean curly hair influencers, she still faces pushback from people that are in disbelief of her natural hair texture. She has also been faced with many uncomfortable situations where her hair is touched without her consent.
Park is currently working on getting her hair license with the hope of one day opening up her own salon. She is also creating her own curl-inclusive hair-care line in South Korea. Ultimately, she is hopeful she can create a shift in Korean culture when it comes to curly hair acceptance.
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.