Online Media Project Creatively Highlights Women’s Human Rights

Simona has on a short, beaded necklace and a white shirt. She looks to be about 70 years old, and has a dark stripe painted across her eyes. She is staring calmly into the camera. She looks strong.

This is Simona, an resident of the Ecuadorian Amazon, and an incredible activist. She is one of nearly 300 women who, in 2013, embarked on a 219 km protest march to Quito demanding that the Ecuadorian government spare indigenous ancestral lands from aggressive oil and mining policies. Handwritten around her photograph, is Simona’s description of herself and her work:

“My name is Simona. This is our land. This drawings are symbols of the richness that exists in the jungle. We live well here. We have been fighting for our land for 35 years. This government doesn’t have a conscience. That’s why they violate our rights. But we are not going to stand down. Even if they surround us, our communities are going to stand strong.”

I found Simona’s (and her many comadres‘ in action) story in the online media project, Imagining Equality: Your Voices on Women’s Human Rights. This project is an effort to shine a light on the state and future of women’s human rights around the world – through women’s art and voices. The pieces come from all around the world, and many of them focus on Latina feminist issues.

A young brown women looks into the camera. She has dark, short, ringlets, is wearing a big purple scarf, and large circular wooden earrings.You can read about some of the other women and girls who marched with Simona here. While you’re there, check out Suhaly Bautista’s “A Ribbon Around a Bomb,” a photo series of women in Bautista’s life that embody “multi-issue lives.” For her, the artistic process was as much about thinking about representation as it was about creating images:

“In the process of creating these images together, my muses and I are challenged to consider who we are, what we have to offer our communities, and what we deserve as human beings, as well as to compare that against what we actually have.”

Two brown women standing. The woman in the forefront stares angrily to the side of the camera, behind her, the other woman holds up her hands with the words "No rape" written on them.Of course, you’ll also have to spend some time enjoying María María Acha-Kutscher’s image series Indignadas. Acha-Kutscher, a Peruvian-Spanish visual artist, creates pop art style drawings of photographs taken from protests. Portraying almost exclusively women, this is her effort to centralize women within social movements, by elevating their work into a medium that is socially understood to be more “legitimate” than others: art. In her piece, Acha-Kutscher says that she wants “the series to serve as a memory bank that shows future generations that social changes throughout history were made by women and men together.” For more of her wonderful (I’m a big fan) work, check out the Indignadas Facebook page. 

I could go on, but I’m going to let you check out the project yourself! 

21. August 2014
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In Latin America, Cultural Tourism Can Mean Survival for Women of Color

An indigenous woman in Colca Canyon, Peru. She is wearing a colorfully embroidered hat, vest, and long sleeve shirt. She is standing in front of a stand selling scarves and sweaters.

This is one of my favorite photos that I have taken recently, and I paid for it.

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook  you know that I am currently traveling through Peru with my family, visiting Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Colca Canyon. For some members of our group, the natural beauty of this mountainous country is by far the biggest draw. Though this is a stunning aspect of our trip, the best part for me are the people – particularly the women – I have met. Considering that the populations of the places we have traveled through are mostly indigenous, I’ve been thinking a lot about how these communities are forced to live off of what some people call “heritage commodification.”

Heritage commodification, according to Wikipedia  is “the process by which cultural themes and expressions come to be evaluated primarily in terms of their exchange value, specifically within the context of cultural tourism.”

One can see this phenomenon at work anywhere there is tourism or museums. However in my experience traveling through Americas, heritage commodification often falls on the shoulders of women of color. From Salvador, Bahia where Afro-Brazilian baianas put on layered white dresses to sell acarajé to tourists, to Chiapas, Mexico  where Zapatista women solemnly guide visitors through their Comunidad Autonoma, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where brown women pose with tourists in full carnaval regalia, women seem to be in charge of holding what is culture, and learning to sell it. This involves a lot of uncompensated performance work – posing, selling, smiling, hawking – in the hopes that someone will buy a drink, a scarf, or a photo. Obviously, this is quite different than encasing one’s culture in glass and charging an entrance fee to see it. Continue Reading →

18. August 2014
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The Vagina of Guadalupe

From left to right: an image of a vulva and labia with the Virgin de Guadalupe superimposed over it darker and darker.

Wow. Mind blown anyone? Found at Mujer Bonita es la Que Lucha. For more great images check out their blog, or hop over to my Facebook page.

25. July 2014
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Anti-immigrant protesters in Murrieta rely on sexist & racist stereotypes

First published at Feministing.com.tumblr_n83oqq5Nvr1qk6lmzo1_1280-662x1024

In response to the increasing influx of migrants crossing the border into the U.S., a group of protestors blocked three buses filled with migrant women and children from entering the local Murrieta Border Patrol facility. The protests have continued for weeks, and the buses – which came to Murrieta in order to relieve overcrowded facilities in south Texas - are now being rerouted to San Ysidro.

These anti-immigrant protestors are using some of the oldest – and worst – stereotypes in the white supremacist, misogynistic handbook to attack people who even the UN has recognized as refugees fleeing violence. The chants and signs coming out of Murrieta range from sexist to xenophobic to violent.  Continue Reading →

22. July 2014
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Street Art to End Violence Against Women in Brazil

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Image Credit

I’m such a fan of ARTivism, and this is a great example of it. In this PBS News Hour, learn about women and men who are using street art in Brazil (which is legal) to speak out against violence against women. Featured in the spot is Panmela Castro, a street artist and a survivor, has become internationally known for her work raising awareness about this issue. She started Rede Nami (Nami Network) to provide courses and spaces for other women to raise their voices through urban art. Learn more about her work at their website.

18. July 2014
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How women in Brazil are fighting back against street harassment

Indignadas

First posted on Feministing.com.

A few months ago, the Brazilian Research Institute published a report documenting that 65 percent of Brazilians believed that if a woman showed too much skin, she deserved to be raped. Before that, Adidas created a shirt that promoted the World Cup through the objectification of women’s bodies. Developments and increased militarization for upcoming mega-events continue to hurt primarily women of color, as seen in the horrific killing of Claudia Silva Ferreira back in March.

The struggle for women’s human rights in Brazil is real, but as the World Cup looms ever closer, let’s resist the temptation to believe that Brazilian women are victims who need saving. Brazilian women are creatively fighting back.  Continue Reading →

16. July 2014
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Favelas: Where the Non-Citizens Live

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Photo Credit: Michael Jerome Wolff

On his blog this week, my good friend Michael looks a little deeper into the history of Brazil’s urban ghettos, also known as favelas. These communities have obviously spent a lot of time in the news in the past year as favela residents were among the most affected by World Cup development projects.

Michael breaks down the notion that favelas sprang up out of necessity as the rural poor migrated in droves to the urban coasts of Brazil, escaping drought for the pull of new urban jobs.

It is not free to live in a favela. To move to an established favela is, like in almost any other community in the Western world, to submit to a regime of private property. You save or borrow money to buy a plot of land, and you build, buy, or rent a structure you can call home. The difference is only that the state is not there to sanction or protect your right of ownership. This function is instead left to informal authority structures, if they have developed, or otherwise it is left to the winds. Favelas, then, are simply the black market of private property, and like most black markets, they serve as a lubricant to ease the friction of a normatively biased legal system that contradicts social reality on the ground.

He argues that although Brazil has a surprisingly progressive constitution, the country still operates on a “slave-era model of social organization, today adapted ineloquently to a ‘middle class’-driven mode of economic development.” This means that in order for the economy to function, certain people have to be considered non-citizens (many of whom who literally do not have the papers to prove their citizenship). By doing this, the Brazilian government is able to justify denying these people the basic human rights guaranteed them in the constitution.

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Photo Credit: Michael Jerome Wolff

Only outside the law can they continue to have poor healthcare, live in squalor, and attend inadequate schools.  Only outside the law can they remain faithful to a time-tested system of social values that guarantees their destitution today and for many generations to come.   And it is outside the law where we find the favela, an alternative living arrangement for so many millions of people ill-prepared to live as equals among their more privileged countrymen.  Society demands just such a loophole in the framework of a progressive democratic constitution.

Lastly, Michael notes that Brazil has made some major strides towards extending services and rights to the marginalized, particularly favela residents. This will certainly make a huge effect on many lives, but these policies are not enough to eradicate the system of urban marginalization Brazil depends on.

Read the entire post and check out more of his beautiful photography. Then, learn more about the history of domestic workers and slavery in Brazil, and the effect of favela pacification on women.

14. July 2014
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