Pakistani workers from NGOs perform during an anti-rape protest in Lahore on September 14, 2013. Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
Reading up on the horrific news about the rape of a 5 year old girl in Lahore, Pakistan, I came across this really interesting photograph at the top of an article. Having spent the earlier half of my life in Pakistan, I have seen many rallies about different issues, many of which lead to destruction of other people’s private properties, burning and looting of shops, breaking car windows and burning effigies or tires on main roads.
This is the first time I have seen an element of creative theatrical performance as a way to protest physical and sexual violence against women and girls. I think part of the reason is that people in that region are very much tired of seeing violence in daily lives, and so they adopt more and more peaceful means of protesting. Another more interesting part is that the demographics of politically engaged people are changing. Unlike 10-12 years ago, more urban, middle and upper class youth are becoming politically and socially active now.
I believe that is a good sign, because it means a whole generation of people that was perviously detached from social and political change is now engaged. There is more pressure on the old structures, politicians, political parties and rulers to listen to younger (and fresher) perspectives. It means that there is hope for change, and perhaps a more peaceful future.
I’ve always been interested in music as a tool for changing people’s thoughts, behaviors, and identities. That’s why I loved Mann ke Majeeré, Breakthrough’s very first project, which used music to break the silence around violence against women. Here are some other musicians who use music to change society and end violence.
Liberian musician Takun-J writes songs that speak to people’s experiences in his country, and has been a strong advocate for women and girls. He worked with PCI Media Impact to produce a transmedia campaign against gender-based violence, including “Song for Hawa,” based on the true stories of sexual violence survivors. He continues this work as a Gender-Based Violence Reduction Ambassador for Liberia.
Recording artist Morley works with youth using music for conflict resolution and dialogue facilitation. She also spreads a message of global women’s empowerment through songs like “Women of Hope” and through promoting organizations like A Call to Men, GEMS, and V-Day.
Know more musicians or music projects that are creating positive change? Leave a comment!
Check out the Women’s Campaign Fund, an awesome organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in elected office in the United States! WCF speaks to Breakthrough’s mission of taking bold action for equality by helping women run for office at all levels, to be the change they wish to see. WCF supports women candidates from all parties, at all levels of government, and focuses especially on candidates who support reproductive health choices for all. Take a look at some of WCF’s powerful programs!
Ms. Representation is WCF’s sassy, tell-it-like-it-is email news brief that distills the latest news about women in politics. Read the latest issue and sign up to stay current on the fight for equality!
I’ll be working at WCF this fall with a Political & Programs Fellowship. I’m excited to contribute to their work, as I have to Breakthrough’s!
She Who Tells A Story: Women Photographers at the MFA
Newsha Tavakolian, Listen
Last week the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston opened “She Who Tells A Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World,” an exhibition that showcases the work of twelve contemporary Middle Eastern women photographers. The photographs range from composed images to photojournalistic explorations, and were taken from Lebanon to Iran.
According to the MFA website, the artists “have tackled the notion of representation with passion and power, questioning tradition and challenging perceptions of Middle Eastern identity.” While this is certainly true of the women in the exhibition, whose work can be previewed here (http://www.mfa.org/exhibitions/she-who-tells-story), the act of questioning one’s own identity and representation can be tacitly commonplace.
Newsha Tavakolian, a photographer based in Iran whose work appears in the exhibition, explains to the New York Times, “The obstacles I have faced are not so special, nor have they been overall specific to me: my sisters, my friends and even my mother and grandmother all have to deal with limitations written up in laws or demanded by culture.”
As the photographers focus their lenses on the quotidian female experience, the small ways in which women challenge their prescribed roles emerge. For viewers in the United States, perhaps this is one of the most pertinent takeaways: What complications, injustices and compromises are lurking under our daily female roles? What are we doing to challenge them?
I’m Anita SenGupta, a recent graduate of New York University, where I studied Economics and Chinese language. My curiosity drives me, and has taken me from New Delhi to New York, college classes to the New York literary scene, and now, from economic development work to an internship at Breakthrough.
What caught my eye about Breakthrough was its unique, modern, and wholly important approach. Breakthrough puts the heart at the center of human rights issues, and its work reminds us all to do the same. It’s an inspiring philosophy, and I’m excited to learn from everyone here!
At Netroots Nation 2013, a technology-centered conference for nonprofits, I met several innovative activists harnessing the power of tech to protect human rights. Check them out!
Katherine Maher works for Access Now, a human rights organization that helps protect a free and open internet for human rights advocates, activists and members of civil society around the world.
Shauna Dillavou directs CommunityRED, which develops secure technologies to protect citizens who report violence in their communities. She’s holding a hackathon next week to create tools for reporters surviving the drug war in Mexico.
Sabrina Hersi Issa is CEO of Be Bold Media and co-founder of End Famine. During the famine in Somalia, her team found that the best tech tools for delivering their aid were not social networks or apps, but family networks and paper records.
Caitlin Howarth worked with the Satellite Sentinel Project using satellite images to map evidence of mass atrocities in Sudan. She argues that “crisis mapping” tools need accountability, but have great potential to prevent human rights violations.
Do you know of any work that combines tech and human rights? Let us know!
… the voices of black women are not often in the debate on pornography… I wonder whether it is because we do not believe pornography is as important as white feminists do. That is not to say that we do not think that pornography is not important – we do – but the realities of our lives are different.
We have so much that we need to fight against – the sexist, racist, heteronormative immigration and asylum system, negotiating that line between not playing into racist assumptions of black communities and violence while speaking out about violence against women and girls in our communities, police brutality, the racism and sexism our children experience and trying to find ways to build their sense of possibility while reflecting the reality of British society, the hyper visibility of black women in the public sphere as objects for discussion and debate – by black men, by white men, by white women but not by black women and of course the poverty that black women continue to disproportionately experience.
Now there are black women working on gender, race, sexuality and pornography but they are rarely contacted when events on pornography are organised. If a black feminist is asked to speak, she is usually an afterthought when organisers realise they need a black woman on the panel. Now, this is not limited to pornography of course. The mainstream feminist movement is improving in terms of inclusion and reflection of a range of women’s realities but so much more needs to be done to ensure the perspectives and realities of not just black women, but also disabled women, trans women, asylum seeking women and others are placed at the centre of mainstream feminist organizing.
Professor Mireille Miller-Young in an interview with NPR said that people of color in porn are paid less which, “reflects the ways in which black bodies have historically been devalued in our labor market since, you know, slavery to the present.”
Pornography is not the most comfortable thing for some of us to talk about, but it can be the place where our worst stereotypes stick. Would people of color be paid less, or seen as “taboo” with white people, if there wasn’t a history of this same behavior? Stereotypes in porn are just as harmful as stereotypes in our day to day life, and are worth talking about.
“As a longtime global women’s-rights activist, I see the perils of this kind of injunction every day in my work. I’ve seen over and over how this culture of “toxic masculinity”—the same culture that encourages men to “stand your ground,” no matter the consequences—enables all manner of violence, including violence against women.”—
Good thing masculinity is not inherent but rather learned - and I’m sure with the support of men we can build a healthier model of masculinity that will serve as a solution to the problem of violence against women.
Why Do All The Girls Who Save The Day Only Look A Certain Way?
"While I’m loving the uptick in ass-kicking of the female variety, it makes me wonder where the variety is — for instance, why does a dystopian future only involve two to three black people? Was there some worldwide racist disease? If there was, it must have been called the Hollywood Producer virus…" - Joseph Lamour (Upworthy)
Don’t you think it’s time we had more diversity in Hollywood?
I’m Annika Christensen, a 2013 graduate of Barnard College, where I studied American Studies and Political Science with a focus on U.S. international relations. I believe media and culture can create political change within and across national borders, and hope to amplify culture’s presence in policy throughout my career.
I am thrilled to be working with Breakthrough to promote human rights and women’s rights through cutting-edge pop culture. I am excited to build my social media experience and contribute to this great organization while looking toward the next challenge.