by Moira Birss
by Moira Birss
by Jemma Williams
It was Christmas day in Fort Portal, Uganda. A large group of people had gathered by the roadside and were all moving in one direction. At the front were the younger men. Many of them carried long, straight sticks, and some also brandished machetes.
As we got closer, the full, brutal picture emerged. The scarlet red of the victim’s scalp was just visible as he tried to break through the crowd and escape. The man ran desperately, covering his face in his hands, but he was surrounded. The men circled him, leaping in for the opportunity to hit him savagely with their sticks. The community followed impulsively. Women and children trailed at the back of the crowd, straining their necks for a view of what was happening ahead.
by Andrea Dulanto
In December 2012, Brooklyn-based artist and writer Cristy C. Road came back home to Miami to read at Sweat Records from her latest graphic novel, Spit and Passion. The autobiographical narrative centers on Road’s early adolescence – growing up working-class, Cuban-American, and queer in the early 1990s.
As she read, artwork from the book flashed behind her on a screen – a surrealistic vision of a young Road flying into the universe with one of her earliest influences, Freddie Mercury of Queen, or the more muted image of her sitting in her bedroom closet, which is decorated with Christmas lights and the Cuban flag.
At intervals during the reading, Road sang and danced to Green Day’s music – a punk-pop band that has been a major influence in her adolescence and throughout her artistic life. Her performance mirrored the exuberance of Spit and Passion, and underscored the complexity of this story of early adolescence.
In many ways, it is a story about surviving alienation and self-doubt. Throughout the book, Road expresses being conflicted about coming out as gay to her family and friends, and particularly about the kind of effect it would have on her sense of Cuban-American identity.
by Lerato Manyozo
Even before we begin talking, Kheliwe* has tears in her eyes. She is HIV positive and still battling to come to terms with the fact that her husband, now deceased, infected her on her matrimonial bed.
“I’m sorry Lerato,” she says, as I hand her some tissue to wipe her face. “It’s been six years since I found out, but each time I think or talk about it, the pain resurfaces. I have forgiven my husband and my naïveté. I have accepted my situation. But I just can’t fight the hurt he inflicted on me. I trusted him with my life; I was so young, so innocent.” With a distant look in her eyes, she begins her narration.
by Michelle Tolson
“The way [Cambodian] women demonstrate is not physical. They use their voices. It is a collection of voices to spread awareness. For men, there is more violence. When someone commits violence against them, they feel like they must fight back, but it is high risk because they can be accused of violence. With a woman’s strategy, we can endure it better. [Our] strategy reduces violence,” said Tep Vanny from her home in northern Phnom Penh.
Vanny hopes to change Cambodian peoples’ thinking about criticizing the government because she is one of the many people threatened with eviction at what was previously known as Boeung Kak Lake. Ten villages used to surround the now sand-filled lake, but three have left, leaving seven, says Vanny. Her address is village number 22.
by Kavita Bedford
The taxi driver laughed, showing all his teeth. “Yes. Just one month ago I helped my friend Janedi* kidnap his wife,” he said. “Sorry, what do you mean kidnap?” I stammered, not sure whether this word had been confused in English. I was on the island of Lombok, Indonesia, catching a taxi from Bandara International Airport to the coastal town of Senggigi. “Here we kidnap the woman when we like her,” he said. I asked him to explain.
“You see, Janedi liked this girl, but she already had a boyfriend. The two of them were in love and had made a secret plan for the girl to be kidnapped at 6 p.m. in the rice fields. But the mistake was her boyfriend told me. I knew Janedi liked her too, so we went to the rice field where they’d agreed to meet a bit earlier. We came on motorbikes and we had Kris (swords). We took her to a hut near Janedi’s house. We told her ‘It’s okay now, Janedi will marry you.’ But she just kept crying. She cried all night. After two nights I called her parents. I told them we had her, and said ‘Do you want her to marry Janedi or come back to the village a ruined woman?’ They had the ceremony two weeks ago.”
“And what about her boyfriend she loved?” I meekly asked. “Too late!” said the fat, charismatic taxi driver with another laugh. “Although, this marriage may not last long. There is a common saying in Lombok that people get married when the rice-barn is full and divorced months later when the rice is finished.”
by Aloosh Devrim
Araa, a 37-year-old mother, dashes through the house, hysterically inspecting one room after the other. She is shivering in panic. She tries to collect as much as she can from the shattered household items.
Here and there she stops, interrupted by a flashback triggered by the memories scattered all around her home. In the devastated TV lounge, Araa had celebrated her master’s degree with her family. In the left corner of her living room, she had cried all night when her husband was posted to another city. Now she stands in the children’s play area of her large living room. She sees glimpses of the last six years of her life with her husband and children.
by Alexandra Marie Daniels
On March 13, 2013 Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio, 76, was elected by the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church to succeed Pope Benedict XVI. Although hailed for both humility and service to the poor, The WIP is republishing the following interview with Pink Smoke Over the Vatican filmmaker Jules Hart in recognition of the continued discrimination women face in the Catholic Church. - Ed.
In a coffee house on Alvarado Street in Monterey, California I sat down with documentary filmmaker Jules Hart to talk about her film Pink Smoke Over the Vatican. Pink Smoke, a story about the controversial movement for women’s ordination in the Roman Catholic Church, is a subject I would normally shy away from. I have actively avoided formal religion for most of my life. But when my friend Rick Chelew, who made the film with Hart, emailed me and said “This is a perfect story for The WIP,” I was intrigued. Pink Smoke Over the Vatican is about the Catholic women and men who have taken a stand, despite excommunication, to put an end to 2,000 years of misogyny, sexism, and silence.
by Urmila Chanam
I had heard about the prevalence of child marriage in India, but Nikita, 11, personalized the institution for me. I met her in a government school in the remote village of Doodiya, eight kilometers from Indore, Madhya Pradesh. Tiny, fragile-boned, and inhibited, she is a student of class six. In other parts of the world, Nikita would have lived the life of a growing child, but here in the heart of India, Nikita behaves like a small lady. She is soon to be married. A child bride at 11 years, soon to tie the knot with a 15-year-old boy, also in school, but certainly not an adult himself.
by Paromita Pain
Susan Mai did not want to die. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer and her doctor prescribed a course of chemotherapy, she knew it was the most that could be done. The very words “cancer” and “chemotherapy” evoke images of sufferers with empty eyes staring out of hollowed faces marked by the havoc of the illness haunt. Yet the experience caused Susan to become a stronger individual. “Of course it’s scary,” Mai says, “but there’s more to it than hair loss or the fact that you can emerge looking very different from the way you went in.”
by Cassandra Stedham
Addiction. What thoughts and images does this word evoke? Sunken eyes, pallid complexion, grinding teeth, fingernails gnawed down to the quick? The bland uniformity of a hospital waiting room? Spoons, flames, lines, tinfoil, smoke, needles. Junkies on their hands and knees searching frantically for an infinitesimal piece of black tar. An uncompromisingly vicious cycle of abuse, regret, and attempts to climb back up out of a dark well with no ladder.
For me, it is all of these. But more notably, it is my brother, born 22 months before me, withered in a hospital bed with tubes and needles growing out of his fragile frame. It is the image of my father resuscitating his blue-faced son, whose heart has stopped beating. It is my mother’s face and voice as she comes running upstairs to wake up my little sister and I, saying in a desperate voice, “We have to go. Something’s wrong.” It is my brother sitting in a jail cell as I dislodge glass shards with my bare, bleeding hands from a sticky pool of Heineken on his girlfriend’s kitchen floor, while she takes care of the baby. It is years of disappointment followed by hope followed by disappointment and so on.
by Stephanie Koehler
Stephanie Koehler is a journalist and photographer residing in California. She also is an advocate for the Rape Crisis Center. The vision of “Female Perspectives on Ending Sexual Violence” is to unite women all over the world to document the pain they suffer as a result of sexual violence and the healing approach they take to grow from victim to survivor. Each installment includes a photo essay of a female survivor and is a platform to tell her story. Stephanie’s vision is to grow this project into an international sexual assault awareness campaign.
Anna, now in her early 30s, has endured many sexual assaults throughout her life. As a survivor of incest, her earliest memories of being abused by her father go back to when she was only four years old. He sexually violated her for most of her life until just three years ago, when she finally severed all ties to her family. Anna grew up in a farming community, where she experienced three additional counts of sexual assault in her teenage years by men from neighboring communities. Both of her two sisters are also incest survivors, one abused by their uncle, and the other abused by their father as well. The sisters have only spoken about their shared experiences with one another on one isolated occasion.
by Alia Turki Al-Rabeo
This week The WIP is privileged to host WIP Contributor Alia Turki Al-Rabeo in Monterey, California for a salon and fundraiser. To introduce Alia to our community, we are republishing her feature article, written in 2010. - Ed.
Unjust Nationality Law Deprives Syrian Women's Children of Basic Rights
Every morning I start my day with the sight of our block’s cutest child Nour rushing to catch a bus to school. This nine-year-old wakes up at dawn as his school is an hour’s drive from home.
by Charukesi Ramadurai
First they promised to lighten and then they promised to tighten. Corporate India has suddenly discovered the vagina and cannot seem to stop talking about it. It all started about ten months ago with a cleanser that promised whitening of the vagina. This should not have been surprising in a land with a fascination for fair skin that borders on the absurd. In India there are whitening products available for the face, the body, and even specific body parts, like the elbow.
by Leslie Patrick
Standing at the 38th parallel that divides the two Koreas is a surreal experience. On the southern side, buses of foreign tourists on day trips from nearby Seoul buy postcards and gawk across barbed wire fences into one of the world’s most brutal totalitarian regimes.
My tiny peek across the Korean Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, into the North left me curious as to what exactly goes on in a country so secretive. North Korea is a land where horrors like public executions and forced abortions still exist, and the constant threat of imprisonment for even the smallest of infractions against the government looms over the head of every citizen.
by Chryselle D’Silva Dias
I was a schoolgirl when I first experienced harassment on public buses in Mumbai. I still remember the red double-decker #361, the conductor with the pock-marked face and thick black moustache not moving an inch to let me get through, pressing himself against me every time I got on the bus. As a 13-year-old, I was horrified, scared, furious, and alone. Missing that bus was not an option – it would make me late for tuitions*, or worse early, where waiting for class to begin meant dealing with even more unwanted attention. One day, though, I had had enough. When the conductor came too close for comfort, I stamped his foot hard. He cried out in pain and complained. “Why did you do that? Can’t you see where you are going?” he asked. “You know why I did that,” I replied. He shut up then, and never touched me again.
by Amy B. Scher
I am on a 21-hour flight, I am disabled, uncomfortable, and in pain. I hate crowds, I get anxious when I cannot escape from a small space, and I am not fond of germs. I am on this flight to New Delhi, India to save my 28-year-old life. I will be there for two months while I receive an embryonic stem cell transplant, treatment that is not available in the U.S. This journey is my leap of faith, my last resort.
by Diane Latiker
After eight children, 13 grandchildren, and two husbands, I was blessed with a passion that fills my soul. My mom raised me to be independent, married or not. She taught me to always stand for something or fall for everything. I took the message literally. The problem was that I was a people pleaser – you know, the one who cannot be happy without others being happy. I stood for everyone’s well being, never giving a thought to my dreams, hopes, or goals in life.
by Katharine Daniels, Executive Editor
One light amongst the darkness of the tragedy that befell Newtown, Connecticut and this nation last week is the collective outrage that persists. In daily conversations with friends and family, throughout the social media, and in the news people are feeling the injustice, the inhumanity, and the vulnerability. Everywhere there is outrage.
Today, in the wee hours of the morning, I lay awake after nursing my youngest son. I found myself repeating over and over the second line of Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer – a prayer commonly heard in rooms of recovery around the world. In this verse, the prayer asks God to give us the “courage to change the things which should be changed.”
by Paromita Pain
Birthdays mark milestones. For Terry Arnold, one birthday changed the course of her life. “I had just turned 49 when one morning I woke up with one breast significantly swollen,” she says. “Soon I went from a cup C to a D and my bra wouldn’t fit.” Today, Arnold is an Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) survivor. She is a passionate advocate speaking out for greater awareness and education about this rare, but extremely aggressive form of breast cancer. It is efforts like hers and other survivors’ that have made IBC part of the dialogue on cancers that affect women.
by Meghan Lewis
In the same week that Ramesh Ponnuru, Senior Editor for the National Review, said that “The pay gap is exaggerated, discrimination doesn’t drive it and it’s not clear that government can eliminate it – or should even try,” a friend of mine found out that she was being paid less than her male colleague who did exactly the same job.
by Leslie Patrick
She smiles brightly as she pushes her walker past me on the garden path. Though her eyes have turned milky with cataracts and age, her gaze is bright. She is tired of fighting. I am about an hour south of Seoul, South Korea in a place called The House of Sharing. Created in 1992, the house is a safe refuge for former Korean sex slaves to live in relative peace, away from the scrutiny of those who would judge them for circumstances they endured as young girls during the Japanese occupation of Korea and World War II.
by Katharine Daniels, Executive Editor
Post last week’s gains for women in the United States Senate and record numbers of women running for seats in Congress this election cycle, the country and the US media has been aflutter with insight and analysis about women and leadership. My attention and thoughts were on women and leadership in the days prior to Tuesday’s historic election as one of The WIP's contributors had just received the International Women’s Media Foundation’s (IWMF) 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award.
by Jemma Williams
The gondola glides smoothly up into the Andean hills on the outskirts of Medellín, Colombia, as I peer through its clean glass windows in fascination at the world below. Slums sprawl over rugged green hills, with informal settlements stretching further and further up into the steep slopes of the mountains. Makeshift houses atop hillsides mesh into one another and the streets are full of activity. Women sit in groups outside brightly coloured houses and barefoot children run over unsteady bridges above dirty streams. The faint beat of salsa music drifts into the skies until it is just barely audible. The contrast between the clean, quiet, and comfortable carriage in the sky and the lively disarray below is dizzying. These cable cars, known as the Metrocable, were built to serve as mass public transport for the communities in the region. Yet they appear not only to have revolutionised public transport for the poor, but are also a powerful symbol of social inclusion in the city.
by Arwa Aburawa
When I first heard about the murder of Nancy Zaboun in Bethlehem on Monday, July 30, all I could think about was that another woman had been let down by the system. A weak and underfunded protection system, which fails to support Palestinian women dealing with domestic violence and abuse in the West Bank, makes women choose between living with their abuser and being trapped in a women's shelter where there is limited education, freedom of movement, or prospects of a better future. And, as a woman of Palestinian heritage, Nancy Zaboun’s murder makes me angry. I am angry that more was not done to protect her from years of abuse and finally murder. I am angry that resources are so poor that women often choose to risk their lives rather than enter a shelter.