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Global Roundup: Period Poverty in Africa, Honduras Femicides, Scotland Edinburgh Fringe, Ireland Black-led Ball, Palestinian Women DJ Workshop
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
People protested in June in Ghana about period tax
The BBC surveyed nine countries in the African continent to see how affordable period products are and found that many cannot afford sanitary pads. While Ghana was the country with the least affordable menstrual products of those they surveyed, women across Africa are struggling with period poverty – something activists are trying to change.
In six of the countries studied by the BBC, women on the minimum wage have to spend between 3-13% of their salary to buy two packets of sanitary towels containing eight pads. Joyce, a 22-year-old Ghanaian, cannot afford to buy what she needs when she's on her period. As an assistant in a grocery store, she was previously able to afford sanitary pads. However, after the government increased taxes on sanitary products, she could no longer afford them. The price rises caused women to protest outside Ghana's parliament in June 2023. Joyce has since had to resort to sex work.
The only person available to help wants sex before he gives me the money. I have to do it because I need pads for the month. -Joyce
Many menstrual health activists say removing "tampon taxes" is one way to help women inch closer to accessing and affording period products. They say that governments still look at such products as luxury items, rather than consumer goods or basic necessities, meaning the tax imposed on them is akin to a "luxury tax", imposed on items considered non-essential. These taxes are usually higher than on basic goods. In South Africa, Nokuzola Ndwandwe, a menstrual hygiene activist, has been working to get VAT scrapped on period products since 2014. In April 2019, she managed a "monumental victory" when the government scrapped the 15% value added tax on sanitary pads and announced free sanitary towels in public schools.
Marakie Tesfaye is a founder of Jegnit Ethiopia, a movement for uplifting women and girls that has been pushing for tax exemptions and has been distributing reusable pad kits to girls in Ethiopia. She notes the rippling effects lacking access to menstrual products can have on a girl’s life.
We found data that showed girls in Ethiopia would miss as much as 100 days in a school year calendar, and when they missed school we noticed several things would happen. They would fall behind, repeat a class because they had no catch-up classes, drop out and get married or work as domestic workers, with little chance of ever advancing their education. -Marakie Tesfaye
Activists in countries around Africa continue to fight to end period poverty so women like Joyce do not have to resort to desperate measures just to get menstrual products.
We are suffering, I want to beg our government to remove the tax on pads. The truth is we are going through a lot just to menstruate. Why should I beg or starve myself just to menstruate? I think it is not fair at all. -Joyce
This mother of three in Cortes, Honduras, has moved several times to avoid an abusive ex-partner with gang connections. She was one of several Hondurans The Globe and Mail interviewed to understand the scope of gendered violence in the Central American country. PHOTOGRAPHY BY MELISSA TAIT
CW: gender-based violence
Ana Cruz, the director of the Asociacion Calidad de Vida, opened the shelter 27 years ago in Tegucigalpa. Back then, she was hearing about women trying to report intimate partner violence to authorities, only to be turned away – facing harsher abuse when they returned home. She wanted to give them a place to go instead. Since then, she’s seen the violence become more severe, and that need has only grown. Last year, five women showed up to her shelter missing a hand owing to a machete wound inflicted by a man.
We see the aggression increasing because there’s no jail, no penalty and there’s impunity. We suffer a lot of danger because of being a woman. -Ana Cruz
A UN report found that among 11 Latin American countries, Honduras had the highest rate of femicide in 2021, with 4.6 cases per 100,000 women. Women’s organizations estimate that 90 per cent of Honduran femicides go unpunished. Human Rights Watch said in a recent report that Honduras’ justice system has suffered political interference for years – and that laws hindering prosecutors’ capacity to investigate “have enabled impunity for corrupt acts that contribute to human rights violations.” In addition, women across Honduras described the country’s deep religious conservatism as influencing both how authorities respond to violence against women, and why women feel they must endure abuse.
A 31-year-old woman who stayed at Ms. Cruz’s shelter said she sought help after being drugged and raped by a hotel employee while staying at a resort in Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras. But even after reporting the crime, there have been no consequences for the perpetrator.
Because of our culture, I have been called responsible because I was carrying condoms, I was travelling alone and I was drinking alcohol celebrating my birthday. - 31-year-old woman
Women who support victims of violence persevere – often placing their own safety at risk. Zoila Lagos, a 70-year-old activist in Choloma is a co-founding partner and general co-ordinator of Asociacion de Apoyo Mutuo Honduras, which provides support for women suffering abuse. Owing to its high level of gang activity, the area of Choloma they work in is considered the most violent in the city. She uses her home for the headquarters of their work – but wishes they had funding that would allow her to rent an office. In some cases, they have helped women report abuse to police, where they are made to feel responsible for the violence they’ve endured. Ms. Lagos said they teach the women not to listen to those words, and to fight for their right to file a complaint. Through her organization, she said, she’s saved lives. She wishes, though, that the government would act to prevent violence in the country.
It doesn’t matter if they are approving laws that aren’t being applied or enforced. A lot of women are being murdered and nobody is in jail. -Zoila Lagos
LGBTQ+ Edinburgh Fringe performers Kathy Maniura, Larry Owens, Celya AB and Dan Tiernan.
LGBTQ+ performers have spoken to PinkNews about how the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has become a magnet for queer talent to grow and find a community. Over the course of its 76-year history, Scotland’s Edinburgh Fringe has become renowned as a space where LGBTQ+ artists can thrive. This year, there are dozens of shows by LGBTQ+ performers, from a puppet and drag show about Princess Diana, to a musical biography of Alan Turing and a play about the history of trans men.
Comedian Kathy Maniura is spending the next few weeks living with two Norwegian clowns and pretending to be a paper straw, showcasing her character comedy show Objectified.
There’s stuff you’ll see here that it would be hard to imagine seeing anywhere else. It is the most exciting thing, just going into a room and being like: ‘I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen in the next hour’. -Kathy Maniura
The rising hostility towards the LGBTQ+ community has, this year, made its way to the Fringe, however. British drag performer Aida H Dee, who is hosting a Drag Queen Story Hour for children, has seen her posters targeted with anti-LGBTQ+ stickers, while anti-drag bigots claimed they would protest against the opening event in their hundreds – eight people showed up.
Overall, performers see Edinburgh Fringe as a place they can be themselves and not have to play into any queer stereotypes.
It feels like our rights are under threat. It feels very important that queer people are able to be completely themselves and express themselves, and to have safe spaces to do that. -Kathy Maniura
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Queer ballroom dancers pose wearing fabulously styled outfits, the first Black-led ball is coming to Ireland in September. Twitter @kiraserpentine
Together in partnership with the Haus of Schiaparelli, the Black Queer Book Club is hosting Ireland’s first-ever Black-led ball. The fundraising event will take place next month in Dublin. Inspired by New York’s queer ballroom culture, the theme of the night is ‘Royalty’. This evening will centre Black queer joy and the divine power of the most marginalised of groups like Black trans women. Dancers are encouraged to fully embrace the regality and divinity of LGBTQ+ people of colour by wearing their best styles as they strut down the runway. In traditional ballroom fashion, competitors will walk or dance down a catwalk, competing for prizes.
Queer royalty is subversive. It is gender defying. It is revolutionary. We welcome queer people of colour and our allies to embrace opulence…glitter, rhinestones, feathers, velvet, silks, lace! Regale us with your most luxurious drip, the envy of whole kingdoms! -Organizers
Haus of Schiaparelli was named after the legendary fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. The house draws inspiration from her fearless audacity and flair and aims to push the boundaries of artistry and self-discovery. Ireland’s Black Queer Book Club is a community-led collective and safe space for people of colour to read, learn and grow together in their shared radical politics. The supportive community began meeting in 2020.
The whole evening promises to follow the rich tradition of ballroom culture while pushing the boundaries of artistry and self-discovery, and organisers promise that this First Ball of the Season is only the beginning.
Participants in Nour Palestina's DJ workshop at Sabreen, occupied East Jerusalem. (Alice Austin)
DJ, producer, and activist Nour Palestina led a three-day workshop for Palestinian women in Sheikh Jarrah on how to DJ. Ask any of the women why they’re here and they’ll all cite Nour herself: she’s an inspiration to each of them, having dedicated her career to platforming those most marginalized in Palestinian society through her electronic music, documentary filmmaking, and workshop facilitation.
For this event, Nour teamed up with Future Female Sounds, a Copenhagen-based all-female non-profit that empowers women through music. Around 33 women applied to take part, but those living in the West Bank were unable to access it because they do not have permits to enter Israel.
Nour was born in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. She moved with her family to Canada as a teen, but that only calcified her connection to Palestine. In Canada, Nour was repeatedly surprised by the ignorance surrounding Palestinian history, so she made it her life’s mission to share it. She began DJing in 2014 and gave herself the moniker Nour Palestina, so that her work would always be inseparable from her homeland.
I decided on that name right away. And I got a lot of backlash from people saying I should establish myself first — but I said no. I’m Palestinian, and I’m going to use my platform to talk about Palestine. -Nour Palestina
Nour’s dream is to help connect Palestinians in the diaspora with their homeland, whether through music, activism, or film. Over the years, Nour helped set up a community radio station in Amman with Berlin-based station Refuge Worldwide, and launched the Refugee Chronicles project, where she interviews Palestinian elders in camps across Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan. After this workshop in Sheikh Jarrah, Nour will head back to Jordan to run a five-day workshop with Palestinian children in a refugee camp — one of three camps in Jordan that have not been granted refugee status, meaning its inhabitants have zero rights and do not receive services from the UN Relief and Works Agency.
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.