Global Roundup: Qatari Feminist Activist at Risk, Suicides of Married Women in India, Black Women & Body Discrimination, Holiday Gathering for St. John’s LGBTQ Community, Boxing Star Nicola Adams
Compiled by Samiha Hossain
Noof Al-Maadeed has not been heard from since 13 October. Photograph: Handout via The Guardian
Concern is growing for a young Qatari feminist who escaped domestic abuse to live abroad but returned to Qatar after assurances of her safety. Noof al-Maadeed has been missing since mid-October after returning to Qatar from the UK and human rights activists are demanding Qatari authorities show proof that she is alive, amid growing fears that she has been killed or detained.
Al-Maadeed fled Qatar two years ago documenting her escape on social media, after alleged attempts on her life. She had recently returned to Qatar after being given reassurance by the authorities that she was safe. A Qatari official told the Guardian that al-Maadeed is safe and in good health, but said they were unable to speak publicly due to a request for privacy.
However, Khalid Ibrahim, head of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), and others are concerned as she abruptly stopped posting on social media after telling her followers to fear for her safety if she fell silent. Her supporters starting using the hashtag #whereisNoof, demanding to know why she had disappeared. Ibrahim is certain that she is at “imminent risk at the moment.”
She said that if she is not posting on social media then it means she is dead. So we are just acting based on what she told us to do…The Qatari government can easily prove to the international community that she is alive. They have no proof, and that is of concern for us. - Khalid Ibrahim
Al-Maadeed had fled two years ago after years of domestic abuse from her family. She had to steal her father’s mobile phone to request an exit permit, as Qatari guardianship laws prevent unmarried women under the age of 25 from travelling alone outside the country without the permission of a male guardian.
Her silence for the past few months is deeply concerning and it is important that supporters and activists continue to pressure authorities for answers and accountability.
Image via BBC
A disproportionate number of homemakers in India take their own lives every year. According to the recently released data by the government's National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 22,372 housewives took their own lives last year - that's an average of 61 suicides every day or one every 25 minutes. Experts say that a major reason is rampant domestic violence as well as the oppressive nature of marriage in the country.
Most girls are married off as soon as they turn 18 - the legal age for marriage. She becomes a wife and a daughter-in-law and spends her entire day at home, cooking and cleaning and doing household chores. All sorts of restrictions are placed on her, she has little personal freedom and rarely has access to any money of her own…Her education and dreams no longer matter and her ambition begins to extinguish slowly, and despair and disappointment set in and the mere existence become torture. - Verma Srivastava, a clinical psychologist in the northern city of Varanasi
However, experts also say that suicides are easily preventable with the proper support, both formal and informal.
Chaitali Sinha, who worked for three years in a government psychiatric hospital in Mumbai, counselling survivors of attempted suicide, says she found that women formed little support groups while travelling in local trains or with neighbours while buying vegetables. However, the pandemic has reduced these spaces and opportunities.
According to Dr. Pathare, India largely underreports the number of suicides, so the numbers do not convey the true scale of the issue. He says that suicide is still very stigmatized and not talked about openly. Suicide prevention remains urgent around the world, and it is crucial that it centers marginalized groups that are most vulnerable.
Image via Teen Vogue
Nairobi Williese Barnes made a video for PBS NewsHour to share Black women's stories about body discrimination. The video includes the women closest in her life such as her mom, cousin and best friend, who share their experiences with her – experiences she is all too familiar with.
I believe projects like this are what create a stigma- and stereotype-free image of Black women. It shows that we are beautiful, educated, and well-spoken. We are women with a purpose who want to tell our stories, uplift others, and help raise a better generation than the one before us. - Nairobi Williese Barnes
Barnes was pushed to create this project from the self-consciousness she felt because of her Black features and the criticism from society while growing up.
I was in third grade when my first crush told me, “you’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl!” and 9 years old when a girl embarrassed me by pulling on my braid asking, “is that really your hair?” - - Nairobi Williese Barnes
A study found that Black women with hairstyles like braids or afros were viewed as less professional by participants, while Black women with natural hair were less likely to get a job interview than their white peers, or Black women with straightened hair. Hair discrimination, sizeism and colourism all affect Black women and women of colour. Barnes has experienced many such microaggressions.
Barnes creates a powerful video drawing from her community. She hopes that it empowers and uplifts a new generation of women to feel beautiful and reject Eurocentric beauty standards.
Image via CBC
The LGBTQ Organization Pflag in St. John’s, Canada, hosts an annual event where members of the LGBTQ community can gather and feel welcome during the holiday season. Having this safe space is especially important for those who are not welcome by their family.
Organizer Charlie Murphy says the organization holds meetings and events every month where people can get peer support and talk for two hours. Those two hours can be focused on anything from "needing to be around like-minded individuals or having to talk [about] some pretty heavy topics that might be affecting you and you're just needing someone to talk to or some advice from the community."
However, Pflag recognizes that their holiday event holds a particular importance for the community. Murphy says a lack of support from family can come in various forms including not respecting someone’s pronouns, name, or partner. The situation can make going home a traumatic experience.
Some people just aren't welcomed at home, and that's really hard. Sometimes the whole family is not supportive. And so when we do this annual event, it's more like a 'chosen family' holiday event where everyone is accepted and everyone is welcome. - Charlie Murphy
Murphy also makes suggestions on how people can be supportive towards their LGBTQ family members during the holidays. He mentions using the proper pronouns and names when signing cards or gift tags, buying “gender-affirming” gifts, and buying toys that are not gender-specific.
If a little boy is asking [for a] Barbie doll, don't make a big deal about it.… Let them have it…It's supposed to be a time where you are enjoying each other's company and magic is supposedly happening and everyone's supposed to be really cheerful. So [make] sure that it's special for them. - Charlie Murphy
Image via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge
Black and a lesbian British Olympic boxer Nicola Adams has been fighting sexist stereotypes in the male-dominated sport. A new documentary, "Lioness: The Nicola Adams Story", shows her journey as a trailblazer and the challenges she’s faced in her 25-year career.
We've just been put in a box for so long that whenever a woman does anything that's outside the box it always seems really extreme, but it shouldn't be - Nicola Adams
Adams, 39, became the first woman and first openly LGBT+ person to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing, with her victory at the 2012 Games in London making her a household name.
Adams has also advocated for gender, racial and LGBT+ equality using her platform. She broke barriers in entertainment as part of the first same-sex partnership in British TV show "Strictly Come Dancing" last year, a contest that pairs celebrities with professional dancers to learn Latin and ballroom routines. However, she would have liked to play out heated romances in their dances, as the opposite-sex couples often do.
We need to get past the concept of women (being) seen as sexual objects. I think it will make it a lot easier for lesbians too, because automatically, as soon as someone sees a lesbian... (they're) sexualised straight away. - Nicola Adams
Adams retired in 2019 after she suffered eye damage in a boxing match, so she is now focusing on acting and some other projects. She says her dream role would be a superhero in a Marvel movie. She is still planning to continue talking about her boxing career.
We're not seen as these fragile creatures anymore. We can do so much more than that. And we've always been able to do so much more than that. - Nicola Adams
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.