Monday, November 23, 2015

The Beja People of Sudan...

The Beja are an ethnicity which inhabits Sudan, as well as parts of Eritrea, Egypt, and the Sahara desert. They are the original inhabitants and descendants of the Ancient Egyptians. They speak the Beja or To Bedawie language and their population numbers around close to 2.5 million. The misconception that the Ancient Egytians were white stems from Europeans documenting the history of Egypt after the conquering and colonizing began at the end of the 19th century. Even though the influence of Arabic cannot be denied Beja poetry is still highly praised, and that the claims over the Beja land are only valid when expressed in Beja, are very strong social factors in favour of its preservation. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Women’s Rights Activists in Myanmar Receiving Death Threats From Extremist Buddhist Monks

If there’s one thing that can unite the religions of the world, it’s misogyny. It seems even Buddhist monks in Myanmar have gotten on the “send death threats to female activists” train; making life even harder for women’s rights activists there who have a hard enough time dealing with the fact that there’s not even a word for vagina in Burmese, let alone equality.
A group of female activists is attempting to educate women about sexual health, and that very simple act is turning them into enemies of the state. Buddhist monks who are members of the Ma Ba Tha organization, loosely translated into English as the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, have been sending death threats to the activists in an attempt to silence them and preserve the taboo nature of female body parts and sexuality. The Guardian explains how deep the taboo nature of women’s bodies goes in Myanmar, particularly around the subject of menstrual blood:
Garments that have come into close contact with a woman’s lower half, such as the traditional htamein (a wraparound skirt worn by most women in Myanmar) or underpants, are considered unclean, even after they have been washed. They are also believed to have the ability to rob men of their hpoun – a concept that could roughly be translated as “masculine power”.
As such, it is taught that these items of clothing should never be hung in a place where men will have to walk under them. It is also unacceptable to wash men’s clothes in the same bowl or machine as women’s garments, for fear of contamination or loss of power.
One such women’s rights group, Akhaya Women, was founded by Daw Htar Htar, who talks about how important it is to teach women about their sexual selves:
The traditional view in Myanmar is that women’s genitals are dirty, which leads to degrading views about women in general. When society degrades women no one respects them. Sex education is important in teaching women to value themselves.
Lucy Stevens, a social researcher at Akhaya, explains:
For many women, this is the first time they have been able to talk about their bodies freely without fear of judgment. This experience helps women develop a positive relationship with their body, build self-confidence and recognise their right to exercise ownership over it, as well as freedom from discrimination in the home and in public.
In spite of much of Myanmar’s outdated, misogynistic attitudes toward women, women’s rights activists like those at Akhaya have been holding workshops devoted to women’s sexual health. Meanwhile the Ma Ba Tha are growing in political power, having recently supported getting laws passed that tell women whom they may or may not marry as well as other “race and religion” laws that technically apply to everyone, but disproportionately affect women, because of attitudes like the above.
If you’d like to show solidarity with the local work these women are doing,Akhaya’s website has contact information. Send them a note showing your support, or ask about other ways you can help! Because there won’t truly be gender equality until there’s gender equality everywhere.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Women In A Cafe...

Women in a Cafe, painting by Hafidh al-Droubi, 1960

Sunday, September 27, 2015

This Kiss ...

                                   Photograph taken by Esteban Ignacio in a protest in Chile in 2011 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Better Identification of Viking Corpses Reveals: Half of the Warriors Were Female...

Shieldmaidens are not a myth! A recent archaeological discovery has shattered the stereotype of exclusively male Viking warriors sailing out to war while their long-suffering wives wait at home with baby Vikings. (We knew it! We always knew it.) Plus, some other findings are challenging that whole “rape and pillage” thing, too. 

Researchers at the University of Western Australia decided to revamp the way they studied Viking remains. Previously, researchers had misidentified skeletons as male simply because they were buried with their swords and shields. (Female remains were identified by their oval brooches, and not much else.) By studying osteological signs of gender within the bones themselves, researchers discovered that approximately half of the remains were actually female warriors, given a proper burial with their weapons.

It’s been so difficult for people to envision women’s historical contributions as solely getting married and dying in childbirth, but you can’t argue with numbers—and fifty/fifty is pretty damn good. The presence of female warriors also has researchers now wondering just how accurate the stereotypes of raping and pillaging actually are:
Women may have accompanied male Vikings in those early invasions of England, in much greater numbers than scholars earlier supposed, (Researcher) McLeod concludes. Rather than the ravaging rovers of legend, the Vikings arrived as marriage-minded colonists.

In many ways, this discovery is well-timed with the recent uproar over Thor becoming a title for both sexes instead of an exclusively male name. Fingers crossed this means that pop culture could start including more female warriors than just Sif and Lagertha (from The History Channel’s Vikings, above). Just so long as they’re not wearing boob plate armor.

Because, as we're always re-learning, women have always fought.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Haratine Woman from Ahel Tissint...

Mauritania is consistently ranked as the worst place in the world for slavery, with tens of thousands still trapped in total servitude across the country. This practice, despite officially being criminalized, continues to be sustained by the systematic marginalization of Mauritania's large Haratine population. The situation is especially precarious for Haratine women, who are discriminated against on account of both their gender and ethnicity.

Friday, September 11, 2015


no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbours running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won't let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it's not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn't be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i've become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.
-Warsan Shire