Global Roundup: Women against patriarchy in Zimbabwe, USA, China, Lebanon and India

Compiled and written by Samiha Hossain

Esther Zinyoro (left) and an expectant mother. Esther made her home a maternity ward to help women left desperate by a doctors’ and nurses’ strike in Zimbabwe in 2019. She delivered 100 babies in her flat. via The Guardian

The healthcare sector in Zimbabwe is suffering due to deteriorating infrastructure, a shortage of drugs and low staffing because of a general strike by frontline workers following COVID-19. As a result, pregnant women are being forced to pay bribes before being helped by healthcare workers. For instance, Aurage Katume would have lost her unborn baby had her mother not paid the midwife a bribe. This experience led her and another woman, Melody Mapani, to take city authorities to court and force them to reopen 42 clinics. 

Since only a few clinics are operational, this has resulted in rampant corruption from healthcare workers who are giving priority treatment to those paying US dollars which employers are pocketing - Katume’s lawyers 

A delay in care and non-attendance by these clinics has led many babies and mothers to die. There is an increase of backyard delivery homes and home deliveries, which poses a higher risk for the mother and child. Pregnant women are “tossed from one clinic to another without due care” and have to stand in long lines where social distancing is not possible. 

The global pandemic has only exacerbated already existing inequalities for women. It is therefore no surprise that women are bearing the consequences of a crumbling healthcare sector. Healthcare is a human right. These deaths are preventable - maternal health must be prioritized. Fuck capitalism and patriarchy, which treat women and children’s lives as disposable.

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Photo: Getty Images  via Vogue.com

Joe Biden is poised to clinch the state of Georgia, which hasn’t given its 16 electoral votes to a Democratic president since Bill Clinton in 1992. And he has the visionary efforts of Stacey Abrams to thank.

The Yale Law School graduate, tax attorney, romance author, and former Georgia state representative became a rising star when she ran for governor of her home state in 2018, but she also lost that election to Brian Kemp under a cloud of what appeared to be racially motivated voter suppression. According to an Associated Press investigation on the eve of the election, Kemp, then Georgia’s secretary of state, mass-canceled more than a million voter registrations between 2012 and 2018, and in the run-up to the tight gubernatorial race, froze an estimated 53,000 registrations, a majority of them belonging to African American voters.

When Abrams lost by just shy of 55,000 votes, she told Vogue: “I sat shiva for 10 days. Then I started plotting.”

Abrams doubled down and became one of the country’s preeminent voting rights activists, launching the nonprofit Fair Fight to combat voter suppression. Building on the efforts of New Georgia Project and others, Abrams and Fair Fight registered a staggering estimated 800,000 new voters since 2018 and helped squash suppressive policies like “exact match,” which had required registrations to precisely match voters’ licenses down to the hyphen, or else risk being tossed out.

45% of those new voters are under the age of 30. 49% are people of color. And all 800,000 came on the rolls after November ’18, which means these are voters who weren’t eligible to vote for me but are eligible to participate in this upcoming election - Stacey Abrams

After encountering racially driven voter suppression, Abrams has risen up to make sure that, next time, people of color could vote in historic numbers.

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Photo: Shutterstock via South China Morning Post

In China, where women account for over half of university students, a growing number of women are becoming stay-at-parents. This is the case for Cai Ning, a mother with a PhD, who spends her day caring for her sons and doing housework. Cai says she feels undervalued, taken for granted and judged by others. 

According to the World Bank, the “labour force participation rate” for women aged 15 and above in China has been declining, from 79% in 1990 to 60% in 2020. Usually, as a country’s GDP grows, more households can afford to have a single breadwinner - women typically being the ones to stay home. The women that do work, face labour market gender discrimination and take on the overwhelming majority of household labour and childcare work. Furthermore, many women prefer to work outside the home, as China has a lack of policy support for housewives.

[the rising number of educated housewives is] progress only when there are policies in this country to guarantee housewives’ basic rights, to acknowledge their unpaid work and to allow them not to be totally dependent on their families - Dong Xiaoying, a women’s rights lawyer in Guangzhou

Care work is work. Childcare is work. Household labour is work. Emotional labour is work. These forms of work should not be disproportionately performed by women. Yet, because they are, patriarchy continues to devalue and dismiss them. Women should be able to choose freely whether they wish to work outside the home or inside. Regardless of their choice, they should not face discrimination or a lack or protection and rights. It is important to note that for many, the concept of “choice” is an illusion, as they cannot afford to be a housewife and not work. 

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A still shot of the main character Hoda in Lebanese director Farah Shaer's short film Shakwa. Photo courtesy of Farah Shaer via Reuters

In Lebanon, marital rape is not a crime. Filmmaker Farah Shaer recently debuted her film “Shakwa” (translates to “complaint) at Egypt's Gouna Film Festival, which depicts the challenges Arab women face when reporting domestic and sexual violence. The film follows a young women who tries to to file a rape accusation against her abusive husband and is met with her credibility being questioned among various other legislative and bureaucratic challenges. Shaer is no stranger to films dealing with controversial yet important subjects - her 2019 film "Soukoon" was about abortion within marriage. 

Through these films and through shedding light on these stories, (my aim) is one day that those in power will listen to us - Farah Shaer

For the first time, in 2014 Lebanon passed legislation to protect victims of domestic violence. The law “criminalises a spouse's use of threats or violence to claim a "marital right to intercourse"”, but falls short of criminalizing marital rape itself. Shaer also mentions the barriers to reporting abuse such as acquiring medical proof, which is costly and difficult for poor and less-educated women.

Films like Shakwa are a powerful way to start conversations and push decision makers in the right direction when it comes to women’s rights. Shaer is not afraid to portray the very real experiences of women in her country, despite the backlash it may receive. Her work is a great example of resistance against patriarchal fuckery which believes it owns our bodies.

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Photo via Feminism in India

Roshni is a 22-year-old woman who lives at home with her parents, three sisters, a brother, and a niece in Delhi, India. She is the first girl from her village to be enrolled for university -  she is pursuing a Masters in Hindi Literature. Roshni also supports her family financially, as most members are unable to work due to health issues. This is just the beginning of her accomplishments, Roshni is also an inspiring social activist. Her passion for activism started at a young age when she joined a women’s organisation and distributed pamphlets on topics such as menstrual and reproductive health and domestic violence. A few years later, through months of collective resistance, they were able to successfully demand new public toilets, the installation of dustbins and proper toilet flush facilities, as well as regular cleaning. 

I wish that every marginalised girl in this basti, in fact, every marginalised girl under the sun, continues to strive to make this world a better place. We need the world to stop pointing fingers at us. It’s time to organise and think not as individuals but as a society - Roshni

During COVID-19, Roshni has worked to collect funds, buy, ration and distribute packets to those in need and provide financial support to those that are sick during lockdown. Although Roshni loves the activism and organizing she does, she also expresses sadness at not having time to experience “college life” between all her commitments. Roshni shows that through collective local action, tangible impact can be achieved. At the same time, I dream of a world where young women no longer need to work so hard and give up so much just to secure basic necessities for their communities. 

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Samiha Hossain (she/her) is a student at the University of Ottawa. She also works with survivors of sexual violence in her community from an anti-oppressive and trauma-informed perspective. 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.