JASS Blog Archives for June 2014

by JASS on June 12, 2014 on 5:57 am

In recent weeks, much global activism has focused on action towards justice for the over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in April this year.

Under the broad banner of ‘Bring Back Our Girls’, activism has ranged from vigils to marches to engagement with Nigerian diplomatic missions and establishments, for those outside of Nigeria. The most visible face of the campaign, however, remains #BringBackOurGirls, the hashtag that gained purchase with many social media users demanding the safe return of the girls to their families.

‘Charity’ begins at home…

In February, over 2 500 Zimbabwean families were displaced when the walls of Tokwe Mukosi Dam collapsed, causing flooding which is said to have affected tens of thousands of people, many of whom have been relocated to a relief camp in Chingwizi in Zimbabwe’s Mwenezi district.

In the same time that #BringBackOutGirls has reached peak exposure here in Zimbabwe and globally, stories have emerged of girls and women in the Chingwizi camp resorting to using leaves for their menstruation, as well as many other harrowing stories with the winter months steadily approaching, and relief support steadily diminishing.

It has been over three months since the catastrophe and with Zimbabwean (female) activists recently dedicating much energy and effort to #BringBackOurGirls, a quite audible critique has emerged from male commentators.

“Why are you focusing on the Nigerian girls’ plight when you have your own people here in Zimbabwe suffering?” goes the rationale.

The mantra behind all the criticism, of course, is that charity should begin at home, and that activism that first looks ‘outwards’ before assessing the local situation reeks of superficiality and opportunism.

Thinking about Clicktivism…

Additionally, these current critiques beg the question of what effective activism really is. It might seem from the outside looking in that in order to be ‘effective’, activism has to take on an increasingly public and instantaneous face.  With the many tools at our fingertips – from the share/ post/ like buttons that immediately allow us to give real-time visibility to our activism and the  smartphones that allow us to take solidarity selfies – it is fast becoming a reality that one’s activism doesn’t much count if it’s not all over Facebook or Twitter.

At the same time, we must not dismiss the fact that for one’s activism to reach the fever pitch that is dangerously and erroneously becoming synonymous with ‘success’, it must reach a critical mass that includes the ‘right people’. Here we must pause to think of the influence that the likes of Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai, Alicia Keys and P Diddy have had to increase validity of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign among many who might not otherwise have taken much notice of Nigerians’ calls for justice and action.

So could a Zimbabwean campaign for the victims of Tokwe Mukosi be as effective internationally, even locally? Given that Zimbabwe is no longer the hot spot for bad news it once was (of course, bad news still happens, but it is no longer on the instantly visible and almost universal scale of the mid-2000s), and given the state’s continuously articulated distance from the western geopolitical space (the “keep your England and I will keep my Zimbabwe” rhetoric), it seems we might have a tougher time of it.

Bear in mind, too, that there has since been debate and controversy around who actually first brought this hashtag to Twitter; and that there has been public dispute around whose intellectual property it is, and if and how the hashtag changes the situation for the girls. Another thing to remember is that with a population of over 160 million people, Nigeria is over ten times the size of Zimbabwe. What does this mean in terms of Internet and social media users and the differences in reach and visibility? And with increasing global attention on militant Islamist groups, Boko Haram commands more audience than any current issue in Zimbabwe might. These are simple facts.

If I understand it correctly, however, the point being made by critics of Zimbabwean women’s involvement in #BringBackOurGirls is that because there is an absence of overt visibility for what Zimbabwean women might be doing – no selfies, no banners, hashtags and public marches – there is therefore nothing at all being done.

Furthermore, one gets the toe-curling sense that if an issue affects women, it is only women who must act on behalf of the cause. I have been wondering to myself why these concerned male critics haven’t felt an urge to initiate campaigns for resource mobilisation for Chingiwzi rather than sit smugly in their seats and point fingers. Having and not having a vagina does not, and should not, create a ‘them versus us’ scenario; women’s issues are human issues!

And another thing.

Women are not machines.

Women do not come with the capacity to deal with every social issue that affects womankind. To put our collective efforts towards working to a better future for women and girls on trial is both infantilising and non-progressive; for isn’t the ability to choose where and how we invest our time and efforts in the onward struggle one of the freedoms we demand for women?

Better outcomes for women mean better outcomes for society

Women’s movements are made of women with identities; identities that are in flux, in tension, in contradiction and yet few are willing to talk about these issues  in the mainstream context of Zimbabwe’s women’s organising. Instead, by virtue of one’s being a woman (in this description, possessing a vagina and attendant hormones associated with femininity), one must seemingly feel in equal measure the plight of every woman, every issue that afflicts every woman, attend every march, sign every pledge and stand in solidarity with every cause.

If we are to build authentic movements, we must allow women the choice to fit into efforts as, when, and where they see fit. Knee-jerk responses to issues, where the concern may be for visibility over substantive change, only serve to stereotype our efforts as reactionary and superficial, something the women’s movement is already struggling with. At the same time, men need to understand that they are part of the ‘we’, the allies that are needed to push efforts ahead, as better outcomes for women mean better outcomes for the entirety of society.

This blog was written by journalist-activist, Fungai Machirori founder of Her Zimbabwe.

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by Valerie Miller on June 6, 2014 on 10:59 am

Surrounded by the tropical warmth and lush vegetation of Nicaragua, the breezes from Lake Managua and the gardens of Cantera refresh us. This historic popular education center created by women is our beautiful home during this week of reflection and learning. A gathering marked by laughter and tears and thoughtful discussion, 31 women from throughout the region come together to broaden and deepen their leadership, organizing efforts, and collective action. Indigenous and rural women along with colleagues from JASS collaborate to create an alquimia—a transformative process of learning and solidarity—a mixture of singing, dancing and sharing histories, struggles, ideas and the challenges of difficult and changing contexts. In the midst of joy and energy, the pain of personal and political violence surfaces and the group takes time to support each other and renew spirits.

As you enter the meeting room, you feel the magic of the alchemy and reciprocity that is being generated by the group. It is a safe trusting space, ample and alive with creativity and ever-increasing confidence. Its walls are filled with newsprint and multicolored papers and drawings, documenting the reflections of everyone.  Around the room is a circle of women of different backgrounds and generations, women attired in festive colors and fabrics of complex patterns, representing their communities and histories. In the center, beautiful tropical flowers and candles of various colors brighten the space. And in the very center is a large clay pot, a simple container crafted by unknown hands and baked in Nicaragua’s fierce sun to give it strength. It is where we place our ideas, written out on pieces of paper and then read to the group to generate discussion and analysis. With a huge wooden spoon, it is where we stir and mix our thoughts and begin to produce alchemy of collective wisdom. The clay container serves as a symbol of our methodology – the collective building and deepening of knowledge for transformation and action.

We begin each day with a ritual of celebration and meditation. A member of the group shares some special expression from her culture while others kneel down to light the candles so we may honor the light that exists in all of us. We continue with a rich variety of activities such as biodanza, a series of dance movements choreographed to lively music that reflects the energy and joy of life and brings people together in ever-changing patterns and rhythms. Perfect for self-care and renewal!   Another source of energy and inspiration is the sharing of stories of our mentors and ancestors.  We honor their lives of struggle and hope, placing their images and descriptions of their histories on a wall mural that surrounds us. We continue weaving together elements from our heart-mind-body approach so we can integrate our themes and activities in a holistic way—tapping our different sources of intelligence.

We reflect on women’s struggles for rights over the centuries and on how different forms of power operate in our lives from the intimate and private realms to the public. We analyze the forms of power that have oppressed and silenced us as well as those that have supported us and given us life, strength, and courage. We look for ways to overcome the paralyzing tendency to become victims in the face of seemingly never-ending pain and violence. Through an exercise called the Identity Flower we affirm our multiple and intersecting identities and qualities that can give us energy, hope and vitality.

Through debate and discussion, we broaden and deepen our understanding of what it means to be a leader, a concept that was first explored in the previous October 2013 workshop. Small groups then draw their new vision of shared leadership based on more collective, respectful, reciprocal and collaborative relations and compare them with the individual drawings of leadership done in October. The room breaks out in laughter as we begin to discover some of the differences in conceptions, recognizing the importance of the very personal nature of people’s initial drawings. Comments reflect a bit of wonder and new awareness.

Oh dear, look at me, I am standing on a podium—huge and tall—all the other women are tiny sitting at my feet.”

Hmmm, that’s me on the stage, talking down to everyone. Can you imagine?” She begins to chuckle, “I even drew some of the women with small heads, nothing else. I cut off their bodies. I chopped off their heads. What was I thinking?

Self-criticism and reflection in a circle of understanding and support! What could be better?

As we continue to challenge and nurture our developing ideas, we take time toward the end of the workshop to write some major insights down and place them in the magic clay pot, stirring them into a new alchemy.  In this way we strengthen our circles of trust and creativity that increasingly benefit our collective light and synergy.

As one member of the group said, “What’s most beautiful about all of this is that we are defining and enriching the concepts and ideas based on our own different visions and perspectives—ideas from all of us.”

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by on June 2, 2014 on 1:42 pm

Del 10 al 13 de junio se llevara a cabo en Londres, Inglaterra, la Cumbre Global sobre la Erradicación de la Violencia Sexual en Situaciones de Conflicto1 copresidida por la enviada especial del Alto Comisionada de Naciones Unidas para las personas Refugiadas y el Ministro de Asuntos Exteriores del Reino Unido. Para dicho evento han sido convocadas representantes de gobiernos, organizaciones de la sociedad civil, expertas independientes para colaborar en el marco de un programa de actividades sumamente amplio y ambicioso.  

La Cumbre Global forma parte de la “Iniciativa Gubernamental para la Prevención de la Violencia Sexual en Situaciones de Conflicto” encabezada por el Gobierno del Reino Unido, la cual fue lanzada el 29 mayo del 2012, con un plan de acciones que se ha desarrollado por etapas en estos últimos años. Entre las actividades destacamos la Declaración sobre la Prevención de la Violencia Sexual en los Conflictos aprobada por los ministros de relaciones exteriores del G-8 en Londres el 11 de abril de 20132; la Resolución 21063 sobre violencia sexual adoptada en junio del 2013, de manera unánime por el Consejo de Seguridad de Naciones Unidas; y el lanzamiento de la Declaración de Compromisos parar Terminar con la Violencia Sexual en los Conflictos4 que fue presentada el 24 de septiembre del 2013 en el marco de sesiones de trabajo de la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas y que fue acompañada de la promesa de crear un Protocolo Internacional para la Investigación y Documentación de Violencia Sexual en Situaciones de Conflicto.

Fue en este marco que el pasado 12 y 13 de mayo se llevó a cabo en la Ciudad de México, el Seminario Internacional “Tiempo de Actuar. Voces desde América Latina. La erradicación de la violencia sexual, incluida aquella cometida en situaciones de conflicto,” organizado por la Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE), la Secretaría de Gobernación (SEGOB) -a través de la  Comisión Nacional para Prevenir y Erradicar la Violencia contra las Mujeres (CONAVIM)- y la Embajada de Reino Unido en México, al cual desde JASS (Asociadas por lo Justo) tuvimos oportunidad de asistir.

Asimismo, JASS tendrá la oportunidad de asistir a la Cumbre debido a que su Directora Ejecutiva, Lisa Veneklasen, forma parte del Comité Asesor de la Campaña Internacional para Poner Fin a la Violación y la Violencia de  Género en Situaciones de Conflicto. Ésta Campaña  fue creada por la Iniciativa de las Mujeres Premio Nobel con el objetivo de incrementar los recursos destinados a apoyar a las sobrevivientes y lograr la justicia, así como para desarrollar e implementar planes de acción con el fin de terminar con esta deplorable práctica.5

Aunado a lo anterior, estamos con mucho ánimo de asistir pues tendremos la oportunidad de estar acompañadas por Valentina Rosendo Cantú, valiente defensoras de derechos humanos quien a través de su denuncia por las violaciones de derechos humanos de las cual que fue víctima por elementos del Ejército, y con el acompañamiento del Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña “Tlachinollan”, ha logrado evidenciar que es posible poner fin a la impunidad.

Al margen de lo que estaremos informando en las próximas entregas, desde JASS Mesoamerica estamos a la expectativa de los avances y acuerdos que se logren en la Cumbre, pues consideramos que la multiplicación de los esfuerzos orientados a erradicar la violencia sexual en los conflictos cobra especial relevancia para quienes trabajamos en la región Mesoamericana. Lamentablemente, nuestros países tienen una larga historia de violencia sexual, tanto en tiempos de conflicto como en tiempos de paz. Muchos de esos casos permanecen hasta hoy en la impunidad, pese a la incansable lucha de las mujeres que han alzado su voz contra los abusos.  

Y para seguir animando esfuerzos de transformación, destacamos la campaña “Rompiendo el silencio: todas juntas contra la tortura sexual”,  que surge a ocho años de los operativos policiales de 3 y 4 de mayo de 2006 en San Salvador Atenco, Estado de México, a partir de la iniciativa de 11 mujeres sobrevivientes de tortura sexual por parte de agentes policiales de los tres niveles de gobierno; quienes mantienen una denuncia ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, para buscar generar lazos de solidaridad con casos similares. A la fecha, han logrado que defensoras de derechos humanos, denunciantes, unan voces para denunciar a través de la campaña el patrón sistemático de la tortura sexual que enfrentan las mujeres mexicanas que son detenidas por agentes policiales, militares o marinos, en la supuesta protección que deberían proveer a la sociedad. Asimismo, se evidenciará la tortura y la represión como mecanismos de control que ejecuta el Estado.6

Seguiremos informando…

1 Puede encontrar mayor información en: http://preventsexualviolenceinconflict.tumblr.com/

5 Para mayor información sobre la campaña en: http://www.stoprapeinconflict.org/espanol

6 Rompiendo el silencio se estará difundiendo en redes sociales (@CentroProdh y facebook.com/prodh) las próximas acciones y culminará con un foro abierto el 25 de noviembre de 2014. http://www.centroprodh.org.mx/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1181%3Amujeres-de-atenco-lanzan-campana-en-solidaridad-con-victimas-de-tortura-sexual&catid=209%3Afront-rokstories&lang=es

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