Global Roundup: Sheikh Jarrah Women's Resistance, Art vs Anti-Asian Hate, Ecuadorian Women Restore Fragile Ecosystem, Protesting Femicides in Puerto Rico, Lithuanian Artist Supports LGBT Community

Compiled by Inaara Merani

Muna and her father Nabil standing next to a wall graffitied with 'We will not leave' in Arabic (MEE/Aseel al-Jundi)

Palestinian women’s resistance to Israeli violence has been at the forefront again during the protests against the forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem.

Women of Sheikh Jarrah are fighting in different ways to save their neighbourhood from Israel’s plan to appropriate and take over the land which Palestinians have lived on for generations.  

I will take it upon myself to chain myself in my room should they raid our house to forcibly expel us. I will not leave my home in Sheikh Jarrah - Muna al-Kurd.

Muna al-Kurd’s family is one of four that were threatened with forced expulsion in the most recent round. As the only journalist in Sheikh Jarrah, she has made herself readily available to news outlets, documenting the daily human rights violations committed by Israel. Two months ago, she created the hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah to raise awareness about Israel’s planned expulsions of Palestinian families and gather support for people in the neighbourhood.  

Forty-three Palestinians were forced out of Sheikh Jarrah in 2002 and others again in 2008 and 2017, their homes taken over by Israeli settlers.. Muna’s father Nabil al-Kurd, 77, has lived in this neighbourhood since 1956 on land provided by the Jordanian government to UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees. Nabil’s father, Sa’eed, lived in Haifa until Israel expelled him and his family in 1948.

In 2009, an Israeli court partitioned Nabil’s home and gave part of it to Jewish settlers.

I grew up in this house and saw settlers take my home - Muna al-Kurd

Women in Sheikh Jarrah have attended resident meetings and participated in decision-making processes. Additionally, they stand in solidarity with activists by attending hearing sessions at Israeli courts and closely monitor the ongoing legal battle. 

Nuha Attieh is a nurse in Sheikh Jarrah who has felt unsafe since the evictions in 2008. During the fasting month of Ramadan, Attieh has shifted the focus to activists by offering them tea, coffee, and cookies to make them feel safe and at home.

Nuha Attieh holding the cookies she has prepared to offer activists (MEE/Aseel al-Jundi)

Muna and Nuha are just two examples of many women in Sheikh Jarrah who are standing up against the violent Israeli forces, by raising awareness and offering support to activists. As the situation in Sheikh Jarrah worsens, the efforts of these women should not go unnoticed. Their refusal to stand down against Israeli forces and stand up for their community is inspiring. They are the foundation of this neighbourhood, and their work is supporting Palestinians across the region.

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Image via Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya 

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya is an Asian-American artist, based in Brooklyn, who is using her art to combat the heightened anti-Asian hate that Asian Americans have experienced since the beginning of the pandemic. Phingbodhipakkiya wanted to recognize the lived experiences of Asian-Americans over the past year, and send a reminder to residents of New York that the city needs the community, and they will not be giving up anytime soon. 

Her art series I Still Believe in Our City is a public awareness campaign which is a testament to the beauty and resilience of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) communities. Across the city, colourful images of Asian-American women are accompanied by powerful statements such as “I am not your scapegoat”, while many simply say “I Still Believe in Our City”. 

The bright colors are certainly strategic to make people stop in their tracks and think about whether or not they realize that racism against Asian-Americans is real. We’re not making it up - Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya

Prior to becoming an artist, Phingbodhipakkiya studied neuroscience and worked at an Alzheimer’s research lab, where she searched for ways to utilize her artistic skills to make scientific research more accessible. This transformed into an idea to make her art ‘invisible visible’ meaning that she uses her art to illustrate things that are physically hard to see, such as the racism experienced by communities of colour. 

I Believe in Our City was created after Phingbodhipakkiya experienced three separate incidents of targeted racism. She discovered that this racism was not concentrated in one area of New York, but rather it was spread across the city. This motivated her to exhibit this art across the city, since anti-Asian hate has been so widespread. The campaign debuted on election day last year, and has since been seen across the city, translated into the five languages used most commonly by Asian-Americans who are statistically more susceptible to attacks (Tagalog, VIetnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean).

The artist wanted to centre women in this art series, after discovering that Asian-American women had reported 2.3 times more attacks than men. Phingbodhipakkiya envisions a world where Asian-American women will see themselves in the women that she has depicted. Despite the anti-Asian rhetoric, she is hopeful that this sense of allyship and resilience will lead Asian-Americans to a better future.

Like women everywhere, Asian-American women have always been powerful and had a voice, but we have not always been empowered to use our voices - Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya 

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Zoila Dolores Piedra Guamán is a farmer and homemaker from Puculay, in the Azuay province. Photo: UN Women/Jerónimo Villarreal

The páramo is an ecosystem in the Andes, in Ecuador, which is currently experiencing a climate crisis due to the expansion of the agricultural sector, desertification, and overgrazing. This ecosystem’s health is also linked to the health of those living in the area. Although many men have abandoned the damaged lang, mothers, daughters, and sisters have stayed to care for their families and take care of the land. Most are indigenous and do not have any formal schooling; they only have the cultural traditions which keep them connected to the páramo. 

In the Azuay province, around 86 women from the five communities meet regularly to listen and learn from one another, exchanging knowledge and experiences about the management of their land and natural resources. If the páramo is left unprotected, it may no longer be able to produce the fresh water which flows into the Amazon. 

With the support of UN Women, women in the region have endured a comprehensive intervention which highlights women-led sustainable production. The program aimed to dismantle stereotypes against women, and also sought to empower women to participate in decision-making processes. 

The páramo project shows us that without women, it’s not possible to talk about solutions to climate change and sustainable development - Bibiana Aido, UN Women Representative in Ecuador

Since the completion of the project in 2019, the women who received training have continued to practice sustainable methods of farming, and have taught others in the community how to ethically grow food, while also taking care of the ecosystem. The women who were initially part of the training openly promote sustainable agricultural production, participate in political activities, and have increased bodily autonomy, as well as their autonomy of resources. They will continue to promulgate these sustainable methods of farming, with the hopes that these methods will be widely practiced.  

From the leadership workshop, I learned to participate more in the spaces that I represent, to speak without fear, and to not be afraid to make mistakes - Edita Ortega, member of the Bayán Parish Council.

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People gather at the Teodoro Moscoso bridge in order to protest and demand justice for the most recent feminiced against Keishla Rodríguez and Andrea Ruiz Costas, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on May 2, 2021. Photo by Alejandro Granadillo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Last week, hundreds of Puerto Ricans gathered to protest against the prevalent femicides in the nation. These protests came as two more women were added to the growing list of femicides in Puerto Rico. Last year, at least 60 women were killed; 21 women have already been killed this year. It is estimated that, on average, a woman is killed in Puerto Rico every seven days.

The last few days have been really difficult. This has hit really close to home, the situation with the latest disappearances and murders of women. I think it’s important that we’re heard. That’s why we’re here. The greater our voice, the louder and further we’ll be heard. It’s important - Andrea Reyes 

Protestors plastered the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge with names and photos of women who had been murdered, and also shut down the bridge which runs across the San José Lagoon. This lagoon is where Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz was found dead on May 1. Just one day before Ortiz was found, Andrea Ruiz Costas was discovered half-burned. This space of protest became one for grieving, but also to empower one another to continue to fight against the epidemic of femicides in Puerto Rico. Protestors waved purple flags, a colour used by advocates to rally against gender-based violence. Everyone in attendance joined in chanting “if they touch one, they touch us all”. 

Gender-based violence in Puerto Rico is widespread and pervasive. Too many women have had their lives taken away from them. As femicides continue to occur, Puerto Ricans will continue to protest to denounce the violence being committed, as well as the state’s inability to act on this prevalent issue. 

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Source: Erikas Malisauskas, 2021

Erikas Malisauskas, an artist in Lithuania, has raised over $6000 for LGBT organizations by compiling a number of homophobic messages that were sent to a member of parliament who advocates for LGBT rights. The piece titled “Hate Speech Cloud” comprises 400 messages in the shape of a cloud, each promoting hate speech and discrimination against the LGBT community. 

Tomas Raskevicius is a well-known politician, and has been the first gay rights activist elected to parliament in Lithuania. Everyday, he receives messages like these on social media, but they are amplified when he speaks publicly in support of policies geared towards the LGBT community. The amount of threats he receives, however, do not stop him from speaking out and continuing to advocate for the LGBT community. 

My goal was to monetise the hate speech. Now everyone who wrote the hateful messages to LGBT people has contributed money towards LGBT causes - Erikas Malisauskas 

The irony is astonishing. These individuals took time out of their day to send homophobic and hateful messages to a member of parliament, and now those same hateful messages will support the LGBT community in Lithuania. Formed into the shape of a cloud, Malisauskas explained that clouds dissipate, just as this hate speech will. This artwork will be a constant reminder of the abuse that the LGBT community endured, as well as the progress that the community will continue to make in Lithuania. 

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Inaara Merani (she/her) is a recent graduate from the University of Ottawa where she studied  International Development and Globalization with a minor in Women’s Studies. She is an Ismaili Muslim Canadian who is deeply passionate about human rights, social justice and feminism, and in turn, dismantling the patriarchy and ensuring that all women have safe and equal access to all their rights. She hopes to pursue a career in law so that she can continue to fight for the rights of women and other marginalized groups everywhere. She also enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her beautiful cat. 

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