Month: February 2016

Building a movement around Khatna

This is part 2 in a two-part series on FGM in India. Read Part 1 here.  Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or “Khatna”, as it is referred to in India, is practised secretly among the Bohra community. Over the past year, several women from the community have spoken up about the practice while encouraging other women from the community to speak up as well. I speak to Mariya Taher from Sahiyo, an organisation building a movement against Khatna on this issue and their work. “More than a year ago, five women who felt strongly about the ritual of female genital cutting within the Bohra community came together to fight this practise. Each one of us had been working on the topic for many years,” Mariya said. Mariya is a social worker, activist and writer who lives in the United States. The group includes a social worker, a researcher, two filmmakers and a journalist located in different parts of the world; and all of whom had already been speaking out against the practice of Khatna. “As our …

#3 – Giving Birth in Sweden

In this episode of The Mom Pod, Julia Wiklander interviews midwives about the state of maternal health care in Sweden – a country that has been consistently ranked as one of the best places to give birth. She speaks with expecting parents about their preparations, fears and hopes for childbirth and tells the story of her own baby’s birth, together with her husband. Mia Ahlberg, President of the Swedish Association of Midwives states the importance of having a woman centered care during pregnancy and childbirth.  “You always have to listen to her. You should never do anything without talking or asking her if she is comfortable with it. I think this is the most important part of midwifery”. Mia discusses the challenges that the Swedish maternal health care system faces, including limited space in hospitals, the refugee crisis and limited opportunities and choices for women. Maternal health care in Sweden is centered around midwives, and they play an important and natural part of every pregnancy and birth. “Dare to ask your midwife!” encourages Liza Henning, midwife and …

Global Movements Can Fight Slavery

I first learned about the issue of modern day slavery well over ten years ago. It was an unbearably hot and muggy day in the capital city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. As I walked the dusty street from my apartment to a local community center, I noticed something I thought was extremely odd. In the middle of the hot day, there were young girls in a local salon. Many of these girls looked like they should have been in school but instead were being made up like beauty queens. I asked a local friend, “Why are these girls dressing up like beauty queens in the middle of this hot day?” She explained to me that these girls worked at the local hotel and restaurant next door. It was at that moment, I learned the horrors and reality of so many women and girls who are forced to give away their bodies often to the highest bidder. This knowledge was confirmed as I returned home later that evening and walked past girls lined up outside the restaurant. At …

What Kesha’s Case Really Reveals

On February 19th, outlets published a photo of singer Kesha sobbing in a courtroom as a judge revealed she’d ruled against her. In a much-publicized case, the singer had been trying to get a preliminary injunction to allow her to stop recording with her producer, Lukasz Gottwald (better known as Dr. Luke). Kesha has said her producer abused her physically, sexually, verbally and mentally from a young age, allegations which Dr. Luke denies and claims are an attempt at extortion. The ruling sparked an outcry from Kesha’s fanbase as well as support from celebrities like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande. Amid the frenzy of lawsuits, countersuits, hashtags and Hollywood, we’re ignoring the deeper meaning of Kesha’s case. In a case that boils down to he-said, she-said, as Kesha’s does, even strong advocates of feminism have to leave room for a sliver of doubt. What is troubling is who consistently gets the benefit of that doubt. A Big Ask “You’re asking the court to decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry,” said …

Indian women speak out against FGM

This article is part 1 of a two-part series on FGM in India Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is traditionally known to be practised in 30 African countries. According to latest reports from international agencies like UNICEF, it is said that FGM has been done on at least 200 million girls. I recently interviewed Masooma Ranalvi who began a campaign to encourage Indian women from the Bohra community to speak up against the practice. The practice is called Khatna locally and is classified as Type 1 FGM by the WHO. It is estimated that there are nearly 1.5 million Bohras globally who have undergone FGM but numbers on how many have been cut are still unavailable. GG: I read about the campaign India Speaks Out on FGM through the article highlighting the petition in The Ladies Finger. Till I read this article, I had no idea that the practice existed in India. It is usually portrayed as an African issue. Your thoughts? MR: Yes that’s true. It is India’s best kept secret. There is a reason behind …

The Diary of an Indian sex-educator

Her: “Is it possible for you to talk on menstruation and child sexual abuse to young girls?” Me: “Sure! What age are they?” Her: “Studying in Class 5 and 6.” Me: “Great! That shouldn’t be a problem.” Her: “There is one thing though, you can’t talk about sex.” Awkward silence followed. I had no choice but to agree. This was my first encounter with sex-ed. I had been working with a feminist organisation in Hyderabad for a year already. I was 24 years old. I trained on legal rights, human rights and legislations but had not started training on sex, sexuality or reproductive health, for that matter. Those were reserved for experienced trainers. The above conversation was merely an introduction to the long list of conditions sex educators must work with. To prepare for this class in a private school in a posh part of the city, I spent two weeks reading. I read about the human body. I studied how the parts looked. I read books for kids, for adults, for trainers, for teachers …

The Journey from Nursing to Maternal Health Innovation

This article was written by Lindsay Sanders, Communications and Design Fellow at Jacaranda Health, and originally posted on Jacaranda’s website.  There are few people in this world who dedicate their lives to serve others. Most of us bounce around from job to job, exploring new industries, discovering which professions we like and dislike. But not Jacaranda Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Faith Muigai. She knew from a young age that she was committed to one cause: empowering women and families to make positive health decisions. Faith mapped out her professional path to the medical field as a teenager in Kenya. She ambitiously uprooted to the United States when she was 17 years old, working as a nursing assistant to pay her way through college. She quickly rose to the ranks after receiving her Master’s Degree in Nursing and Administration, taking on management and leadership roles from leading organizations like John Hopkins University. After a long journey in the states, Faith headed back to her roots in East Africa to use her skills to help the women and families who need …

CDC’s Infographic and the Double Standard of Behavior

  A man has a beer and is featured in TV commercials. He’s cool, he’s “one of the guys.” But time and time again, women are called out, shamed, and even blamed for the behavior of others for doing the same thing. In 2013, Hong Kong Security Secretary Lai Tung-kwok appealed to young ladies to stop drinking too much because of the increase in rape cases. The Missoula Montana Police Department has a history of blaming rape victims for alcohol use, and Crimewatch creator Nick Ross suggested that “not all rape is rape” when the victim is drunk. Now, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released this infographic in their monthly Vital Signs report. The CDC infographic intends to prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). As the CDC states, “alcohol use during pregnancy, even within the first few weeks and before a woman knows she is pregnant, can cause lasting physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities that can last for a child’s lifetime.” Understanding the harmful effects of alcohol during pregnancy and even the …

#2 – The Zika Virus: A Threat and an Opportunity

Because of the growing worry over the Zika virus and particularly the risks it may pose to pregnant women and their babies, we dedicated the second episode of The Mom Pod to this topic. To explore both the medical side of the virus as well as the connections of this epidemic to poverty, women’s rights and gender equality, Emma interviewed Dr. Anthony Costello, the Director of the Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health at the World Health Organization (WHO) and Alaka Basu, a demographer and a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation. While both interview subjects agreed that the epidemic is of serious concern, particularly to pregnant women and women who lack the ability to control their reproductive choices and therefore might not be able to avoid pregnancy, whether wanted or unwanted – the epidemic also poses an opportunity to amplify and elevate the public discussion about women’s right to sexual, reproductive and family planning services. If there is anything positive to be found from the Zika virus outbreak, it is the fact that …

From Memphis to Oklahoma City: How Black Women have led America’s Organized Anti-Rape Efforts

The Memphis Riots of 1866 are of deep historical significance as they mark the first documented case in the United States on an organized effort to combat rape. After this riot a group of African American Women testified before Congress. These women stood up and stated that a white mob, composed of civilians as well as policemen, had perpetrated a series of gang rapes throughout the riots. There were three documented rapes that occurred during these three days as well as the murder of 46 African Americans. Lucy Smith was sixteen years old when she testified that seven white men, including two police officers, broke into her home and raped her and her friend Frances Thompson. These two women alongside their peers testified before the United States Congress. Their perpetrators escaped any sort of punishment. This injustice and other similar injustices sparked outrage from African American activists including Ida Wells, Anna Julia Cooper and Fannie Barrier Williams. The efforts of these courageous women laid the groundwork for future projects against sexual and gender based violence …