Recent Resources for Feminists
Egypt: Slightly edgy new peace marks high hopes of a golden era for women Print E-mail
 Sunday Magazine ~ May 15, 2016

After the Arab spring

By Vaishna Roy

 'Egyptian women were the secret behind the success of the last two revolutions'. Evenings come alive at the Khan el-Khalili souk in old Cairo (Vaishna Roy)

A hundred days into its new Parliament, and Egypt seems to be settling down into a slightly edgy peace tempered by pragmatism and lots of sheesha

Dalia Youssef is wearing a midnight blue sari and bangles that look like gunghrus. She has just been recognised as a “woman of substance” at a function held at the Indian Embassy in Cairo by Ambassador Sanjay Bhattacharyya. Youssef is one of a record 89 women in Egypt’s new Parliament, which has just completed 100 days. “This is a golden era for Egyptian women,” she says at an interview later that evening, sparkling with enthusiasm. Not many of her compatriots might go so far, but one still smells the sweet fragrance of hope in a country battered by dismal economics.  

There’s a foreign currency crunch and ballooning fiscal deficit, but the most obvious face of the crisis for visitors is, of course, the dramatic decline in tourism. Giza on a weekend is deserted; shop fronts are festooned with forlorn belly-dancer outfits and dusty galabiyas; and in Cairo Museum we can spend all the time we want with King Tut. Accounting in 2010 for almost 12 per cent of GDP at USD 13 billion, tourism is now a mere USD 6 billion. Political clashes, the murdered Italian student Giulio Regeni, and finally the crash of the Russian plane in Sinai; they’ve all played a role.

But Egypt is fighting back, looking at Bulgaria, Latin America, India and China for arrivals. Adel El Masry, director, International Tourism Department, says he wants to boost Indian arrivals by 30-35 per cent. Already, we see straggly Indian and Chinese tour groups, the latter incessantly striking profile-picture poses. Egypt loves Bollywood, so Indians are greeted with a familiarity bred in movie halls. Salmaniac fan clubs are legion, Indian soap stars I haven’t heard of are household names, and 3,000 Egyptians play Holi each year.

The Desert Road from Cairo to Alexandria is flanked by giant hoardings of stylish women in off-shoulder evening gowns sipping mango juice or buying insurance. The sands have been reclaimed for miles on end by warehouses, factories, Carrefours and housing estates. This massive infrastructure investment and urban expansion helped Egypt limp back to a 4.2 per cent growth in 2014-15; double that of the previous four years.

This is perhaps why everyone ­ from taxi drivers to journalists to shopkeepers ­ is still keeping faith with Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, their sixth president, who might rule with the proverbial rod but who has brought much-needed peace after the two revolutions of 2011 and 2013.

‘Stability’ is the magic mantra. It has convinced many citizens to overlook the absence of some essentials of a liberal democracy that could otherwise have made them restive. In the week leading up to April 25, the date celebrating the liberation of Sinai from Israel, there was palpable unhappiness and some protests against the return by President Sisi of two islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi Arabia. Dissidents and journalists were, however, arrested in a pre-emptive exercise, with only the weekly Al-Ahram gently criticising this silencing.

There were rumours of a demonstration on April 24, but when we, a band of visiting journalists, walked up to Tahrir Square, it was just another balmy evening with children buying balloons and families drinking kahwa on the grass. We sat down with our own glasses. But we had been seen filming and talking with locals, and suddenly a posse of policemen descended and whisked us off to a courtyard two streets away where a senior officer sat drinking tea. It took much talking and displaying of government invitations before we were let go, albeit with a shadow who tailed us through that evening. The government is clearly skittish, but the anxiety that the rag-tag opposition might yet fuel another millioniya (million-man march) is shared by most citizens, and they rationalise that the President is just being “careful”.

There’s a general sense of wanting to give Sisi a fair shot at getting Egypt back on the rails. Mohamed Elmasry, writing in The Egyptian Gazette, talks of how power cuts and queues for bread and fuel have practically disappeared, and the streets are safe again. Hassanein Mahmoud, a student of History and a guide, explains, “We wanted to give the Muslim Brotherhood a chance to rebuild Egypt. But they kept talking about Paradise. We want a government that shows us material difference now; the hereafter will take care of itself.”

Religion, he continues, is between him and god. “Let the government worry about roads, industry and jobs.” It’s significant that this is being voiced in a country which has a considerable number of Salafists, and which gave birth to the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, which in turn spawned dozens of Islamic fundamental groups. But within Egypt, such groups have always been forced to live underground. When they did surface, as in 2013, it didn’t last long. Youssef says, “I think our culture is repulsive of fundamentalism.”

Women like her are pushing the envelope further. In 2014, Egypt got a new Constitution, which unequivocally states that men and women are equal. Previously, they were held to be equal if it did not conflict with the Shariat. The victory was followed by another this year, when Egypt enacted one of the most remarkable reforms in the Muslim world ­ granting women the same right of divorce as men. Only Tunisia in the region allows both men and women to end a marriage.

According to Youssef, Egyptian women were the secret behind the last two revolutions, and came from all walks of life ­ mothers, wives, students and businesswomen. “It was Ramadan. I remember we would go down to Tahrir Square and we would sit on the pavement and share our food. The cause drove us. Even women who would never participate, women from high society, even they came,” she says, eyes glittering with emotion.

Youssef ran for elections from a village 60 km north of Cairo in the Monufia governorate, becoming the first woman from her district to win. This year, Egypt initiated a one-time coalition arrangement under which men, women, youth and disabled people fought under one banner, thus creating an extremely diverse Parliament. But diversity brings its own problems: with 19 parties, 361 independents and no simple majority, there are in effect 380 different agendas, with much debate and little consensus. Clearly, they are still trying to find their feet. As Youssef says, “We have over 100 parties but none of them yet has the confidence of the street.”

Despite these teething troubles, one thing comes through clearly. Egyptians are fiercely proud that they threw out fundamentalism, seeing their country as a sort of last stand against extremist Islam. You see couples wearing tight jeans and cuddling along the Nile. You can wander the streets at midnight and eat feteer from a streetside kiosk. Men and women smoke sheesha endlessly in the crowded coffee houses, and the fashionable party till 4:00 am. al-Qahira, the victorious city, is alive and awake well into the night.

The writer was in Egypt by invitation of the Egyptian tourism department.

Anne Elizabeth Moore & Co-feminist Artists: Threadbare: Clothes, Sex, and Trafficking Print E-mail

Threadbare: Clothes, Sex, and Trafficking

by Leela Corman, Delia Jean, The Ladydrawers, Melissa Mendes and Anne Elizabeth Moore

$13.95 paperback, 160 pages, 6x8, 2 color interior (8.10 oz)
Published May 3, 2016
ISBN 978-1-62106-739-9

About Threadbare:
Ever wondered who makes your clothes? Who sells them? How much they get paid? How the fashion and sex industries are intertwined?

Threadbare draws the connections between the international sex and garment trades and human trafficking in a beautifully illustrated comics series. Anne Elizabeth Moore, in reports illustrated by top-notch comics creators, pulls at the threads of gender, labor, and cultural production to paint a concerning picture of a human rights in a globalized world. Moore's reporting, illustrated by members of the Ladydrawers Comics Collective, takes the reader from the sweatshops of Cambodia to the traditional ateliers of Vienna, from the life of a globetrotting supermodel to the warehouses of large clothing retailers, from the secondhand clothing industry to the politics of the sex trade. With thoughtful illustrations of women's stories across the sex and garment supply chain, this book offers a practical guide to a growing problem few truly understand.

Featuring the work of Leela Corman, Julia Gfrörer, Simon Häussle, Delia Jean, Ellen Lindner, and Melissa Mendes.

About the Author:

Anne Elizabeth Moore
is a former co-editor of Punk Planet, the founding editor of the Best American Comics series, and the author of Hey Kidz! Buy This Book: A Radical Primer on Corporate and Governmental Propaganda and Artistic Activism for Short People and Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity (The New Press). She has written for Bitch, the Chicago Reader, In These Times, The Onion, The Progressive, and Chicago Public Radio WBEZ’s radio program 848. She lives in Chicago.

Threadbare's Commendations

India: Rukmini Rao laments the raw deal of women farmers at Women Farmers’ Rights Forum Print E-mail
 Monday May 2, 2016

‘Women farmers need a fair deal’

Staff Reporter
V. Rukmini Rao, founder of Gramya Resource Centre for Women, addresses a meeting of women farmers at Yerpedu near Tirupati on Sunday.­ (SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT)

Though the population of women on the earth is roughly 50 per cent, the fact is that they still have little access to their own landholding. When farmers are finding it hard to eke out a living, the plight of the women among them is even more disturbing. It is unfortunate that women are still treated as aliens in the agricultural market yards.

The market committees are filled with men and market yard premises do not have even toilets. Such factors turn women away from farming,” says V. Rukmini Rao, Director of Gramya Resource Centre for Women, Secunderabad.

In an interview to The Hindu , Ms. Rao lamented at the fate of women farm labourers who continue to work up to the last days of pregnancy. These women attend to their domestic chores and also don their role as a farmer thus working for extended hours. In sharp contrast, women in the government sector get twelve-week maternity leave at the State level and six months at the national level, she noted.

Ms. Rao was here to participate in the two-day district-level consultation programme held under the aegis of Forum for Women Farmers’ Rights -- Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch (Makaam)and Rythu Swaraj Vedika (RSY), in association with SV University’s Centre for Women’s Studies. The meet concluded on Sunday after taking stock of the situation of farmers, analysing the impact of government policies and the State’s response to the facts gathered at the ground level.

We strongly suggest the use of local inputs such as initiatives to support women to have their own seed production and storage facility to bring down the input cost,” she said.

Stressing the need for support to landless women, she also suggested formation of a gender desk as is in vogue in Gujarat, a single window system to address women’s issues.

SVU professor D. Usha Rani, Uma Shankari of RSV, Women’s Initiatives (WINS) director R. Meera suggested gender sensitisation in government departments, besides recruiting women at key levels in the agricultural and extension wings to address to the issues of the women.

Consultation programme under the aegis of Forum for Women Farmers’ Rights ends

Australia: For the first time in decades, women able to miss running gauntlet of pro-life protesters Print E-mail
 Monday May 2, 2016

Women avoid pro-life protesters for the first time in decades

By Beau Donelly
Police question a man outside the East Melbourne fertility clinic on Monday. (Penny Stephens)

Police have questioned an elderly man who flouted new laws aimed at stopping protesters from harassing women outside abortion clinics.

The man was spoken to by two police officers after reports he was praying outside the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne about 4pm.

Laws passed last year making it illegal to harass people within 150-metres of abortion providers came into effect on Monday.
Leader of the Austrlaian Sex Party Fiona Patten outside the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne. (Penny Stephens)

For the first time in 25 years, the group of anti-abortion protesters who have picketed the Wellington Parade abortion clinic six days a week were absent and women were able to enter the building without first being forced to run the gauntlet.

"Usually we have patients coming in who are crying, we may have partners who are angry, we might have children who are upset," clinical psychologist Susie Allanson said on Monday. "Today has been delightfully uneventful."

But shortly after speaking to The Age, police were called to the clinic after reports a man was praying outside. A Victoria Police spokesman said officers explained the new legislation to the man and that he left voluntarily.
Women seeking help from the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne have in the past had to walk past chanting anti-abortion protesters. (Rebecca Hallas)

The man, believed to be a founding member of the Helpers of God's Precious Infants, spoke to police for about half an hour.

Dr Allanson has previously reported that protesters from the Helpers of God's Precious Infants have followed, threatened and intimidated women and their partners outside the clinic. She said the group, who carry pamphlets and graphic images of dismembered fetuses, had also in the past verbally abused, stalked and intimidated her staff.

In 2001, the centre's security guard Steven Rogers was shot dead by a pro-life protester.

A bill introduced by Sex Party MP Fiona Patten last year made it illegal for anti-abortion protesters to harass or film people coming or going from abortion clinics, with heavy penalties for those who break the law.

"I went to the clinic today and was very pleasantly surprised that people were adhering to the new regulations," Ms Patten said. "I saw patients accessing and exiting the clinic freely and without being morally judged by protesters. It's very pleasing to see the law working and that finally the rights of the patients will be respected."

Ms Patten said she and a handful of pro-choice supporters would stand alongside the ant-abortion group on Tuesday morning, where they recently started protesting on sitting days, to support their right to protest. "If you want to change the abortion laws in this state the place you campaign for that is at the Parliament House," she said.

In a statement, the Helpers of God's Precious Infants said its members were peaceful and that the new law imposed "draconian fines and possible jail term for merely being present or offering a pamphlet to those who wish to receive it".

"It must be the first law of its kind in Victoria to criminalise peaceful activities", the group's spokeswoman, Tanya O'Brien, said.

"It is arrogant for the Victorian Parliament to join with the abortion industry in passing an unconstitutional law to deny pregnant women any knowledge of the type of assistance that is available to them from the Helpers."

The group, which also maintains a presence at clinics in Carlton, Richmond and St Alban, said it aimed to expand its activities in the future.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy said last year that women accessing legal abortions had had their privacy invaded and been subjected to verbal and psychological abuse for too long.

"This abuse has included yelling, holding up images of fetuses, physical intimidation and, on occasions, violence," Ms Hennessy said. "This abuse is designed to humiliate and shame women who are accessing a legal and legitimate medical procedure."

Afghanistan: Kerry Jane Wilson, empowering women for 2 decades, abducted in Jalalabad Print E-mail
 Friday April 29 2016

Australian aid worker kidnapped in Afghanistan


MATT WORDSWORTH, PRESENTER: For the past 20 years, an unsung Australian hero, Kerry Jane Wilson, has been dedicated to the most dangerous of missions, empowering women to make their own way in life in war-torn Afghanistan in direct opposition to the edicts of the Taliban.

Yesterday the 60 year old aid worker was kidnapped from her work compound in Afghanistan's east amidst an escalating security crisis in the country.

Local authorities are questioning Kerry Jane Wilson's employees about their involvement. The fear is she could be transported to Pakistan, where hostages are often held for years for ransom or used as leverage for a prisoner exchange.

Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop reports.

PROMOTIONAL VIDEO: Zardozi trains Afghan women and sells their fabulous products here in Kabul. With the money, refugee women send their children to school and feed their families.

BRIAN WILSON, FATHER: For the past 20 years, she's been running her own NGO, which empowers women. It tries to get women out of the home, virtually incognito, as it were, and to get outside and to learn to do business. This means getting the husbands online, showing them how exactly to handle money, to bargain with men, and to carry out small business. This, of course, is not very popular with Taliban, which doesn't see the role of women doing that sort of thing.

SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP, REPORTER: Kerry Jane Wilson has earned a reputation in Afghanistan as a fearless and humble local hero. Her dedication landed her in deep strife yesterday on a visit to her offices in Jalalabad in Afghanistan's troubled east.

TONY LOUGHRAN, SECURITY CONSULTANT: She was operating within her own particular compound. A group of people came in dressed in military garb, combats, which is not unusual for Afghanistan. And they literally walked in there as if they were military, and allegedly took her.

SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Kerry Jane Wilson was due to leave Afghanistan today to visit her father in Perth. Instead, he got the call he'd always feared.

BRIAN WILSON: The Department of Foreign Affairs phoned me up and told me, and said they'd keep me in touch. But they knew no more than I did. All they knew was that she'd been kidnapped. I presume that, if she's going to be a hostage that it would be in a bargain, as it were, for something rather going to happen. We don't yet know what their demand will be, but presumably you don't harm a hostage, because a dead one is no good at all.

REPORTER I: Do you know about her welfare?

JULIE BISHOP, FOREIGN MINISTER: That is our priority to ensure that she is well, that she's being treated well, and so that's what we're focusing our efforts upon, working with the local authorities and our embassy in Kabul, of course, is deeply involved in this matter.

REPORTER II: Do you categorically rule out paying a ransom?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government does not, as a matter of policy, pay ransoms for kidnappers.

TONY LOUGHRAN: You can't rule out the possibility of money being demanded. Obviously money talks in certain places like that.

SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Last week, a Taliban attack on a high-security intelligence compound in Kabul, one of the deadliest in their 15 year insurgency, stoked fears of a deteriorating security situation.

Crisis consultant Tony Loughran, who regularly works in Afghanistan, believes the Taliban or local criminals are behind the kidnapping of Kerry Jane Wilson.

TONY LOUGHRAN: The groups that could be behind the kidnapping, OK, are regional kind of crime consortiums. They're actually in it themselves; they can move people around quite quickly. They know for a fact they can get money from individuals.

It is an increasing business within Kabul, and within Afghanistan in particular. So these are the things that we need to kind of safeguard against. Again, you've also got the actual Taliban element as well, that would see this as a great opportunity for not only a PR stunt, as well to see where they can get saturated media coverage, but also for the actual ransom itself if there is a payment being made.

SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Only a year ago, Kerry Jane Wilson made a plea for money to help the women of Afghanistan.

KERRY JANE WILSON (PROMOTIONAL VIDEO): We need your help. For the trade fairs, for training more women, and to buy a vehicle that doesn't use so much oil and doesn't break down in the middle of the road.

SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Kerry Jane Wilson's 4th is now calling on her to maintain the resilience she's become known for.

BRIAN WILSON: Jane, do your level best and come back safe and sound.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop reporting.
Friday April 29 2016

8 suspects detained for abduction of foreign woman

By Zeerak Fahim

JALALABAD (Pajhwok): Eight men were arrested by police on charge of their involvement in the kidnapping of an Australian female employee of a Non-governmental Organization (NGO), in eastern Nangarhar province, an official said on Friday.

Attaullah Khogyani, the governor’s spokesman, had told Pajhwok Afghan News the abducted employee had come from Kabul to Jalalabad, the provincial capital, and stayed at Spinghar Hotel. The woman was abducted on Thursday morning from the local office in the 4th municipality district of Jalalabad.

Eight employees of the tailoring and embroidery office were held by police on charge of being involved in the abduction of the Australian lady, Khogyani said adding police have been interrogating from the detainees.
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