Global Roundup: The NGO Rescuing Women and Families, Business Woman creates the first Black-Female Owned Podcast Network, Pakistan’s first Blind Diplomat
Curated by FG intern Sayge Urban
Photo from REALS via New York Times
REALS (Reach Alternatives) is a nonprofit organization based in Japan. Since its founding in 1999 by Rumike Seya, it has focused on conflict prevention and peacekeeping in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Currently, the NGO is working to rescue women and families, including from Afghanistan, which has been experiencing violence and life-threatening food shortages since the Taliban took over last summer.
When I was 17 years old, in high school, I saw a photo, taken in a refugee camp, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 2 million Rwandan people had fled. It was during a time when I was complaining a lot about my life. I realized there was only one camera between myself and the photo, but there was huge difference in life. - Rumike Seya
In Afghanistan, REALs has received more than 800 requests for evacuation. It has focused on rescuing women and providing aid to the women who remain in any way possible. Since the dramatic decrease of charter evacuation flights last September, REALs has been working on securing other exit routes for women and families. For women who stay, REALs has been providing aid to pregnant women who fear being captured should they go to the hospital. Female doctors are being sent to individual homes to allow these women to get the treatment they need safely and effectively.
Once women and families are prepared for evacuation, REALs lines up secure countries that can provide people asylum, including the U.S., Australia, and Europe, making sure to determine which relocation area will prove the best fit for each woman or family. REALs will prepare all documentation needed for the evaluation, and should the refugees not have means of financial backing, REALs raises money to provide financial support for transportation and visa fees to ensure safe travels.
REALs has provided food aid for around 15,400 people, including women-headed households.
As of March 2, 2022, this organization has evacuated 184 people from Afghanistan, and are in the process of evacuating 150 more. Additionally, they have 400 to 500 people waiting for their cases to be processed.
An example of a woman the organization has helped is a 19 year old who was working as a women's rights activist and journalist, which made her vulnerable to threats and assaults from the Taliban. REALs stepped in and was able to help relocate her out of the country. The woman, like many others, wants to return if the situation in Afghanistan improves and she is safe enough to do so.
None of the work of REALs would have been possible had it not been for its president, Rumike Seya. She says that although there are challenges to being a woman in relief work, there are also times when being a woman is an advantage.
“In Afghanistan, I didn’t have a direct harassment, but I had to be careful. For example, during meetings with Afghan officials, I didn’t speak because I knew women are not supposed to speak in public. I was trying to be culturally sensitive.But there are also roles that only women can play. And that is the motivation for me to continue. When we work with women who were raped or attacked, they are afraid of talking to men even if they are from humanitarian organizations. But when I go there to talk to them, they open up. - Rumike Saya
Photo via Afro News
Angel Livas is the first Black woman to own a podcast network that offers programming across all major platforms. The ALIVE Podcast Network launched in February to listeners on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRadio.
Livas, a Washington D.C.-area business woman, said the inspiration for her podcast network came from a desire for a place where the voice of Black and brown podcasters could be amplified, not canceled. She said she noticed a trend from major corporations when it comes to Black podcast hosts.
They were controlling what they could say, what they couldn't say. If they were doing well, they were still being cut. - Angel Livas
The Alive Podcast Network plans to use a subscription model that allows listeners to “capture messages, share those messages, and build with their community”. Livas has also said the podcast feels like a win for both hosts of color and their listeners.
Livas was a 2022 NAACP Image Award nominee for producing the hit podcast “Under Construction w/Tamar Braxton.,” which Livas said helped promote mental health awareness. The show, hosted by TV Reality Star Tamar Braxton, was nominated for Best Lifestyle and Self Help Podcast.
“The Devil Is a Lie”, Alive network's first original program, has been climbing the Apple Podcast Charts. All of Alive’s shows can be found on all major podcast platforms.
Livas has over 20 years of experience in the media and entertainment industry. She began her career back in 2000 while working on WHUR 96.3 FM, a radio station in Washington, D.C.
I’m a storyteller at heart, and I feel like everything that I do is always to help people live their best lives, which is essentially why the podcast network is called ALIVE. We’re actually challenging people to not only live but to be alive, to be passionate about the work that you’re doing to be able to do it with purpose integrity. - Angel Livas
Photo courtesy: @PakistanPR_UN/Twitter via Arab News
Saima Saleem is a counselor at Pakistan’s permanent mission to the UN in New York. She became Pakistan's first blind civil servant when she joined the Foreign Office in 2008. She lost her sight around the age of 17 due to a rare genetic disorder of the eye.
Refusing to let stereotypes and challenges of a woman living with a disability hold her back, Saleema persevered and earned her spot on the council, forever changing the ways of the council.
I was the first visually impaired who joined not only foreign service but the civil service of Pakistan. After that it gave encouragement to a lot of blind students to aim for that and aspire to do something that they always wished to do. - Saima Saleem
Before her admission, persons with disabilities could only be employed as civil servants in sectors such as information, post commerce, and trade. She objected to their rules, during her exam.
I told them that civil service is about competence, merit and equal opportunity. If I manage to secure a good position and am eligible for joining foreign service, then there shouldn’t be a bar on the basis of my disability. - Saima Saleem
The same disorder also caused vision loss in Saima’s brother. He went on to become Pakistan’s first visually impaired civil judge in 2018.
Most challenging thing for me was, if I may say it, a challenge to make our society and the system understand that it is not your disability that matters rather it is your ability that counts…I want to be a source of awareness for so many people around who would need more information and understanding of the challenge. - Saima Saleem
Saleem made headlines last year when she addressed the UN General Assembly with a fierce speech in support of the right of Kashmiris to self-determination.
I, as a diplomat, was doing my official commitment and responsibility. Perhaps what made it a little special, was my own passion to work for them (Kashmiris) and my own conviction that they are experiencing one of the gravest human tragedies that is unfolding in the 21st century. - Saima Saleem
Sayge Urban (she/her) is a student at the University of Ottawa currently studying Psychology. She has a passion for writing and speaking out on issues she cares about and strongly believes in the power of words and the weight they hold. She is keen to use her voice and platform to bring awareness to the troubles and triumphs women face and is determined to use her voice to highlight those who cannot and do not have the resources to speak up.
Sayge is a firm believer in the unity of women across the world and the power they hold collectively and wants to use her time at FEMINIST GIANT to learn about the issues most pressing to women as well as they ways she can best be of help.