She is La Directora, OYE Adelante Jóvenes in El Progreso, which provides scholarships to high risk youth and with volunteers from around the world, OYE conducts arts-sports-communication programs. This week I will meet with Las Panchas, a group of young female video-makers. I will post more pictures-videos of El Progreso (a large suburb outside of San Pedro Sula) as they become available.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
She is La Directora, OYE Adelante Jóvenes in El Progreso, which provides scholarships to high risk youth and with volunteers from around the world, OYE conducts arts-sports-communication programs. This week I will meet with Las Panchas, a group of young female video-makers. I will post more pictures-videos of El Progreso (a large suburb outside of San Pedro Sula) as they become available.
Monday, December 17, 2007
"Those of you who call us bad
You made everything bad
Now let me take
my own responsibility"
(thanks to Saif for translation)
Dec 17 is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Since 2001, I have been working with various groups of sex workers in Bangladesh, mostly in Dhaka with women evicted from the area brothels in the late 1990s who ended up on the streets, women have worked the streets and cinema halls, and finally hotel and residential sex workers. All of these women have inspired and challenged me in my research and activism in Nari Jibon over time & in their offices, living &work spaces, conferences, and together sharing rides, tea, food, and mehndi.
I want to speak about the consequences that I have observed stories and testimonies heard, and photographed and their implications for sex workers' lives during their sex work and as they may age out of and/or leave sex work.
Many sex workers, particularly in the brothels and streets, have experienced violence from their sardanis (madams), mastans (thugs), police, and officials (military, special police, etc) and customers, including beatings and head injuries. Many women have knife slashes on their arms to mark them as sex workers. Many public officials insist on sex without payment with the threat of arrest, if the woman does not comply. In previous times of campaigns against crime-corruption, street based sex workers have been harassed by police, military personnel, and I can only imagine what has been happening in the Caretaker State of Emergency.
Even more women experience violence within the hotels and residential settings when customers refuse to use condoms thereby exposing women to a variety of illnesses as well as economic sanctions, if the women refuse. They also face violence from the customers, staff, and muscle men around the hotels and residential areas.
Sex workers also experience violence in the street and in their neighborhoods as they go to and from their dwellings. Many hotel and residential women live some distance from where they do their work and travel in burkha to protect their identities from those in the streets. Several times per month, the local media report that a woman's body has been found--in the street, hotel, or hidden--depending on the location--someone has murdered a sex worker.
Over time, from these beatings and violence, many sex workers have cognitive problems very much like those people with head injuries--memory loss, confusion, inability to solve problems and/or learn new skills as well as ongoing illnesses from life on the street.
As discussed by Dr. Jana of Durbar in Kolkata (also worked in Bangladesh), Bangladeshi and other societies do not give sex workers the space to live their lives and/or take alternative- different paths because they are always reminded of their work by their scars, beatings, head injuries, and experiences by others as well of denial of their basic human rights. In all my time in Dhaka, I could not find a single micro-credit NGO that would give loans to sex workers. Many sex workers end up with little or no savings but have children, medical, and living expenses. Older sex workers need living places. If the sex workers seek other skills and more education, they may experience learning challenges from their work and living conditions. For example, one student at Nari Jibon came for classes and could not use the computers because her neighbors had beaten her when she came back from the training programme. Furthermore, as reported earlier in my blog, sex workers at the Mongla brothel area had problems finding shelter against Cyclone Sidr and getting subsequent relief.
Some NGOs have provided assistance--such as Concern, CARE, Action Aid, Naripokkho, but their assistance often depends on grant cycles.
Over time, sex workers have developed their own organizations--Ulka, Durjoy, and Sex Workers' Network-- to advocate for the rights of sex workers, an end to violence against them (including evictions from brothels during the coldest months), and rehabilitation before evictions.
One of the oldest organizations, Durjoy, firstname.lastname@example.org has established a day care center among other activities, but funding for their drop-in centres-safe spaces ended b/c misguided USA donor regulations that refuse support of any group that does not actively denounce sex work or signs such a pledge. For a video on the consequences of this regulation, see "Taking the Pledge"this video includes testimony by Hazera of Durjoy (last segment): .
Within the past five years, Sex Workers Network email@example.com has emerged and seeks to organize all types of sex workers, including brothel women.
For more information about these two organizations, you can contact these two dynamic women-leaders (Bangla-speaking):
Momataz Begum, President / cell : 01724 517574, (on the right with glasses, pictured below in Daily Star article) (you can also contact the leader of Ulka, Parul, through her) or
Sahanaz Begum, General Secretary / cell : 01819 404850
Sex Workers Network of Bangladesh
122 P.C. Culture, Road # 0, Block- Ka, Shamoly,
Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207, Bangladesh
Another email contact is: firstname.lastname@example.org, who conveyed these images to me.
So on this day, I join the call to eliminate violence against sex workers in Bangladesh--my friends and acquaintances-- and elsewhere. Eid Mubarak!
For an international online vigil see: http://www.swopeast.blogspot.com/
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Bijoy Bhai e Mr. Bunny
Besides Victory Day, another significant event occurred on 16 Dec 1971: the birth of Md. Ripon Miah Sarkar, also known as Mr. Ripon, driver & logistics person to many foreigners bideshis, proud father of two daughters, devoted husband, uncle mama to many, and driver-business owner. Despite a struggled life where he had to stop school at class 5 to support his mother, he has worked very hard to develop and educate himself and build his driving business. Without his expert driving, translation, logistical support, and ability to work-drive with many different kinds of people on six of my seven trips, I would not have been able to do my research. If you are interested in his driving services, you can contact me and/or the Nari Jibon office.
daughter 1, 2, wife
Ripon and daughter 2
This resilient country--Bangladesh--has survived despite many natural and human-made challeges.
This past week has been marked by many media pieces on the historical events leading up to and during the Liberation War, the birangana women--raped and tortured by Pakistani forces and collaborators during the war and later ostracised as they lived in their own country. Many articles recalled the intellectual and cultural martyrs murdered by Pakistani forces and their Bangladeshi collaborators in the two days preceding Pakistan's surrender. The
This is also a time of mixed feelings with nearly one year of the Caretaker government (backed by the Military), no elections until end of 2008, the continued sufferings of survivors of Cyclone Sidr as detailed by reports on BBC, who have fallen off the international and local media's radar.
You can read more about these historical events in Mash and his historical documents, and some current perspectives in some profound columns by Rumi and incisive analysis (and good flag graphic) by Rezwan.
Monday, December 10, 2007
At the end of 16 days of blogging to eliminate VAW, today was Int'l Human Rights Day. Today Global Voices has an interesting discussion of the Elders and their new Campaign, Every Human has Rights. BTW, I hope that Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elder, and Grameen Bank President, Dr. Md. Yunus will consider giving Cyclone Sidr devastated borrowers --predominately women--a longer break from their micro credit debts-payments than until March.
Take Back the Tech wants us to revise & recast /or take steps to feministing Wikipedia by adding our research & sources. I hope that any posters will do this carefully and mindfully b/c Wikipedia can be a very powerful resource. Unfortunately too many students in my classes are just cutting and pasting Wikipedia as their own work without doing the necessary research and work. I hope that people who have built my bridges and did my surgery have not just looked it up on Wikipedia.
For those who have been following the Justice for Nadine saga (and ignoring the many other cases of domestic violence and VAW in our own communities), I strongly encourage you to read Abdul Kargo's concluding and profound essay (and esp the last three paragraphs): Lessons Have Been Learned. Now it’s Time to Pick up the Pieces and Move On., on this saga, and also in response to 157 comments (including 3 by me) on his earlier post, What's a Woman's Worth Meaured Against.
He concludes: "Accept that it happened. Acknowledge that it was terrible. Then pick up the pieces and move on. That’s what I intend to do."
My concluding remarks--on this case until he's arrested and had his day in court: alleged abuser and rapist Sajid Huq, is still a fugitive, wanted by New York City on these felony charges. The warrants for his arrest remain open. Until there is justice & safety for Nadine and other abused women from their abusers, none of us will be safe from the Sajid Huqs of the world.
I hope that all who have participated in this saga will reach out to one another and their communities to end this violence-adda-gossip and support those activists and ordinary people who are doing the hard-difficult-everyday work in this area.
****Check out a new resource from January 2008: New Blogsite OUT AGAINST ABUSE to educate and organize the South Asian Community about domestic violence-gender abuse--please read, comment, and discuss this resource!****
Last but not least:
- Please check out the today's and earlier VAW posts on Bangladesh from Our View (English) and Amader Kotha blogs (Bangla). These young women (and men) give me hope.
- Best wishes e doa to Sheikh Rumana for her surgery & tara tari recovery so she can return to her work for women migrants' rights
- To Shawn about making a difference btw, the voting is still open on his contest video.....'To Phil, From Bangladesh'--and in second place.
- All those bloggers who have posted on VAW and the 16 Days Campaign
- Those unnamed, cannot be named for their safety, and not so famous people doing the hard work to make sure that all of us have human rights
Sunday, December 9, 2007
The Take Back The Tech folks have a neat set of Portable apps to make your on-line activities safer and more fun. Given that many women (and men) around the world can only access computers and the internet via cyber cafes, safe and secure computing is a must. In the not- so- recent past (heck, some of us actually used punch cards), if we wanted to move from computer to computer. we would use large/small diskettes to transfer data (who has a disk drive any more, much less zip or jaz disks), and now we can use USB memory keys (including very tiny ones) or even external hard drives with 160 gb or more are the size of an index card and about 1/2 in or 1.27 cm thick. All this mobility means more chances for viruses and spyware to migrate around and with us as we move from computer, in particular, in countries such as Bangladesh, which has very poor anti-virus software, especially the self-updating kind. Hence give Take Back the Tech portable apps-toolkit a try you will need a memory key or flash driver with 1gb free space and/or a portable hard drive.
as to the cats (kittens-half sib blue point balinese):
left: durga right: mahdu
appraise how they change the computer settings, walk on the keyboard & delete kbw's operating system files, dec 07
left: durga right: madhu
Monday 10 dec 07, Human Rights Day
Saturday, December 8, 2007
I would like to highlight the contributions of A.K.M. Saiful Islam, a sociologist-researcher who has worked with me in Bangladesh on domestic violence issues, and developed & field-tested the domestic violence brochure on Bangladesh resources on domestic violence (Bangla e English) as part of his research assistantship for an ALO-USAID grant on domestic violence 2003-5 (with Drs. Mahmuda Islam, Dhaka University, Ainon Mizan, SIUC, and myself. He has co-authored with Dr. Rifat Akhter, myself and others working with qualitative and quantitative data. Currently he is finishing his dissertation on women's NGOs and domestic violence networks with me at SIUC while working full-time in Canada. I've appreciated Saif's ally work with various groups in Bangladesh, tastefully challenging people, especially men, on some of their beliefs about VAW, women, and men, and his careful interviews with activists and organizations. Among other people, he also deftly steered me through my assorted research projects, action meetings, visits, in particular, during our Bangladesh time in 2004-2005 all while recovering from dengue fever, taking care of his son with his wife and assorted family obligations, e. g. supervising his brother's wedding after being away from Bangladesh for about six years. Oh, did I mention, he's a good cook, too!
Saif conducts a focus group discussion of the domestic violence brochure with the English 2 class at the Nari Jibon Project office. Dhaka, 2005. all photos, kbward
Dissemination meeting of domestic violence brochure at CEDAW organization network meeting. Men getting ready to take pledge against VAW. A.K.M Saif Islam on right (yellow shirt & tie). Salma Khan and Dr. Mahmuda Islam, middle, blue sari, ALO-USAID Domestic Violence Grant co-PI, Dhaka 2005).
Saif and his son Ilan, Dhaka 2004-2005.
Some Post Cyclone Sidr Update: Will the Micro-Credit Installment -Collection Non-Interest Loan Plan Really Stand Up?
TWO THREE long weeks have passed since Cyclone Sidr roared ashore in Bangladesh and killed at least 3400+ people, injured many more, and devastated land, businesses, and futures. Many people have documented the profound losses, experiences, reflection, need for massive relief-fundraising now & better coordination of relief and such fundraising, and in the future, extensive reconstruction efforts. The United Bangladesh Appeal have launched the Sidr Victims' Compensation fund for survivors along with other donors' appeals. Nonetheless the Bangladeshi English media and blogosphere continue to have fewer reports on relief, but these few continue to report higher than expected damage estimates, disparities in relief distribution & recovery including safe water, requests for more donor funds by the CA, and also new loans given to a big micro-credit NGO to expand its activities, while at the request of the CA and Army Chief, key microcredit-NGOs announced suspension of installment collections.
Speaking of survivors: what about compensation, cancellation of micro-credit debt for Sidr's dead victims, and repayment pressures on struggling survivors???? More conflicting stories have appeared since I first posted this story at the end of November. As my long title shows, the stor(ies) still are unclear. At first, the media reported that some NGO staff members had been pressurizing borrowers for interest-loan payment. These borrowers had survived Cyclone Sidr, but lost their businesses-capital-customers and could not make repayments.
Then starting from 5 December onwards, the CA and Army Chief have asked NGOs to tell their field staff to end the pressure and to forego payments at least until March and one newspaper opined that the NGOs should take these actions upon themselves, too. The CA and Army Chief also asked the Bangladesh Bank to consider waiving agriculture loan payments and disburse approved loans. Have the micro-credit field staff gotten these messages?
As of that previous week, no. As I wrote before, on Nov 26 the Caretaker government had asked NGOs not to demand loan repayments right now from cyclone survivors. Nonetheless, in a Daily Star article, Bilkis Begum would like her tk 80,000 microcredit debt cancelled because she feels like repayment is at least one year away. Md. Yunus of Grameen Bank explains why such debts cannot be cancelled, but that GB would offer 'interest free loans' tk 10,000 towards rebuilding account holders' houses, more time to pay off their debts and offers of new loans, e.g, more debt.
Then on 27 Nov 07, the Daily Star reported that micro-credit NGOs may have to cancel tk 600 cr (tk six billion) loans because of rules that if borrowers died, then their debts must be canceled. According to this article "In 12 south and south-western districts, some Tk 1,159 crore in loan remains outstanding with 15 lakh people, with 42 microcredit organisations operating in the region."Over 1227+ borrowers have died leaving the NGOs with many debts to cancel. These NGOs included Grameen Bank, BRAC, ASA, organizations affiliated with PKSF, and other smaller organizations.
Another official commented, "Although the microcredit providers are not going to make an announcement of the write-off right now, they might finally write the loans off since the small borrowers lost most of their houses, businesses, and other assets". Other officials indicated that they did not want to announce any more plans because people who could repay their loans would try to have them canceled, but they had advise their staff to 'suspend' their collection efforts from cyclone affected borrowers for the time being.
These debt cancellations will impact the micro-credit sector, but to what extent will only be seen over time. Critics have noted that many NGOs have used micro-credit operations as money makers among their other activities. Last year, as New Age noted about a World Bank report most NGOs survive and run their programs on micro-credit interest and not local donations (for bn version or full report) . Others have complained that although national offices made announcements about suspension of collection, often this message failed to trickle down to field staff who were under pressure from higher levels to collect loans.
Finally, this past week of 1-7 Dec 07, the national NGO offices gave their post Sidr plans. Grameen Bank announced suspension of installment payments for Cyclone Sidr survivors until end of June 2008 and interest free ‘realisable’ loans, and other interest free loans for rebuilding houses, livelihoods (which still increase debts), and cancellation of debts and return of savings to families of debtors who perished in Cyclone Sidr. ASA and PKSF announced similar packages. More recently BRAC announced that it would write off loans of tk 100 crore, discontinue installment collection until March, and provide loans to recover economic livelihoods. Interestingly, a few days earlier, BRAC announced a new $55m unsecured loan of seven years to expand taka microfinance from a consortium of international lenders . There have been no reports on what the smaller micro-credit NGOs will do about their loan write-offs for borrowers who died in Cyclone Sidr and/or borrowers-survivors who may be unable to service their loans given the lost of their businesses, dwellings, and customers. Or their viability: since most small NGOs have depended on loan repayments to fund their activities how they will continue to fund their programmes?
Nonetheless, by all accounts of the devastation in the coastal region, many surviving borrowers may never be able to recover much less with the micro-credit debt burden and pressurization on the survivors' backs. One author noted recently that in some areas so much food had come that some younger workers sold the excess food to meet other living needs and did not want to work in reconstruction. Further, his respondents’ “experience pertaining to default in payment of installment was not pleasant.” From this, readers-activists might ask: could surviving micro-credit debtors have to sell relief food-materials to make payments now and/or when installment collections resume?
Some previous micro-credit researchers has noted that often times women loan recipients skimped on food and household expenses to make their payment, e.g. eating their installments. Will the additional loans & debt to stimulate economic recovery be enough, especially if customers have no funds to make purchases from micro-credit businesses? What will happen to the borrowers and NGOs once the no- installment period passes and their debts-service have continued to accumulate through the interest free loans? This is how NGOs have padded their repayment rates—by giving more loans to pay off old loans and/or borrowers have taken multiple loans and/or borrowed from smaller micro-credit NGOs to pay off debts to larger NGOs. How long can borrowers--especially women borrowers-- and small NGOs in cyclone stricken areas survive these payment patterns?So what is/are the real situations throughout the Cyclone Sidr area in regard to micro-credit installments and relief; for NGOs & survivors-borrowers?
note: this is a revision-update of a 28 Nov 07 post
cross-posted in Drishtipat
Friday, December 7, 2007
On Day 13, the Take Back the Tech crew invite you to get geeky and try on some different add-ons for Firefox that enable you to add post-type notes via Shift-shapes and make and share comments with friends who have this add-on installed. Have fun!
I want to hightlight the brave & frank video made by Nari Jibon's computer teacher and blogging coordinator, Taslima: Monowara Begum who faced domestic violence after marriage
In this Bangla video on YouTube, Monowara tells about the domestic violence that she experienced from her in-laws. You also see her printing the english alphabet and showing what she has learned at Nari Jibon. Some english narrative about Monowara's life is included in this post, including her resilence through loss of one daughter, birth of two sons, estrangement, and reconcilation with her husband, and her Bangla and hopefully tailoring education at Nari Jibon.
This video was originally posted on Bangladesh from Our View blog and is Nari Jibon's contribution to the 16 days campaign to eliminate violence against women.
Nari Jibon's blogging activities are supported in part by Rising Voices-Global Voices, which seek to expand citizen media around the world through small seed grants. You can link to the Rising Voices website to read more about blogging projects in Bolivia, Colombia, Sierra Leone, and Kolkata.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Often we have to scurry through disturbing images to get to more redeeming images and sites on the internet. Some times when pursuing the sitemeter links to our blogs, we can see purient search terms that certain readers use and end up linked to our blogs-sites. We can turn around and use these terms (girls, women, mobile, sex) or a certain alleged abuser-fugitive's name on our own sites of resistance.
The Take Back the Tech folks would like to see images that disturb, annoy, amuse, or inspire you from the internet or websites.
For day 12, I want to blog about some images-posts that inspired me. Yesterday, I included a variety of positive gifs and website images about VAW (those blinking gifs are still in my eyes). Today I link to three posts from Sheril Kirshenbaum, a gifted marine biologist, writer, musician, and advocate for women in science, environment, and for people around the world and Cylone Sidr, a category 5 hurricane that devastated much of Bangladesh three weeks ago.
In one of her most recent The Intersection posts, she wrote about how young women scientists had won the top honors at the Seimens Competition in Math, Science and Technology. This post had a great picture of one of the female winners wide-mouthed in surprise, happiness? These young women scientists inspire me (a sociologist) as well as Sheril's writing and advocacy for all kinds of water-fish-environmental issues (go to The Intersection for more of these posts).
Sheril has also written a thoughtful post on how she decided to change her blog picture to the current picture and representations of women scientists, for example, marine biologists. She discusses the tension about appearances, contents, and women defining themselves and parental input on our pictures-images. I sent her post to the Nari Jibon office to inspire some of the young and future computer students.
Finally, three weeks ago, I started reading Sheril on The Intersection when I was searching for information on Cyclone Sidr as it bore down on Bangladesh, but with little international media attention. Chris Mooney and The Intersection had the horrifying radar pictures of Sidr, and then Sheryl posted her motivational blogcast on how Bangladesh needs your help. Bangladesh still needs all of our help because the relief and reconstruction efforts are still ongoing, but international media attention has drifted away to the latest news (see some of my earlier posts on how to help and Nari Jibon blog coverage). Sheril's blogcast inspired and motivated to me to continue writing about Bangladesh, disasters, the cyclone, and about how disasters can lead to women and girl children's insecurity.
I look forward to seeing more of these articles and the Take Back the Tech images!
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
heads-up--some blinking graphics today!
Today, the Take Back the Tech site calls for taking-moving any of your stencils-designs-mottos outside, including putting mottos such as Take Back the Tech on your papers, posters, t-shirts, mugs, pets (!) and so forth. Thinking about translating these mottos into assorted languages. I'm working on getting Take Back the Tech into Bangla.
You can see other activities and mottos from all regions of the world on the Take Back the Tech site. For some reason, my Balinese kittens have resisted taking on such mottos & blinking GIFs even in cute photo-ops, and have decided to sleep peacefully on my lap in solidarity with this campaign rather than walking on the keyboard (their favorite activity).
In looking around other sites, I've found some other interesting links and gif files. On Ultra Violet and a post on missing women in Indian history (a site for young feminists and a gorgeous header) , there are other file links: Open Democracy's 50:50VAW and gender blogs.
This eye-catching butterfly reminded me of some brilliant blue (and black) ones that I saw in New Zealand in 2002. See also this link for some other interesting gender blogs and campaigns.
UNFPA also has a campaign page including a story on the five most underreported forms of gender-based violence and an interesting GIF-graphic of hands that links to a list of 16 types of gender-based violence and how UNFPA is addressing them.
These are just some graphics that have caught my sociological attention, which must now return to more mundane tasks of reading seminar papers rather than blog surfing....
be safe, warm (snow and ice over much of northern USA), and a productive-creative activist--offline, too.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Another way of taking our activism offline is through Clothesline Projects. According to the Clothesline Project site, this action started in Massachusetts USA in 1990 and has been adopted in many states and countries. Survivors and people who have lost loved ones to VAW design their t-shirts using different paints, markers, threads, and materials. Different colors of T-shirts are used to represent different types of VAW:
- WHITE for victims who have died as a result of domestic violence
- YELLLOW or BEIGE for women and children who have been battered or assaulted
- RED, PINK or ORANGE for women and children who have been raped or sexually assaulted
- BLUE or GREEN for women and children survivors of incest
- PURPLE or LAVENDER for women and children attacked because of their sexual orientation/identification.
In my home town, the Carbondale IL Women's Center has held annual Clothesline Projects where they display t-shirts made by survivors and/or people who have lost or had loved ones deal with VAW. They hang the T-shirts on my university walkway where students must pass to go to and from class and the student center. They also display them in other public places and at VAW and "Take Back The Night" marches and demonstrations during October, Domestic Violence Awareness month . These displays are very stark reminders of VAW and its effects on survivors, families, partners, friends, and loved ones.
They also publish this warning about computer safety for women whose abusers may be monitoring their computer use.
Safe stenciling, clothesline chats, and computing!
NEW BLOGSITE OUT AGAINST ABUSE TO EDUCATE AND ORGANIZE THE SOUTH ASIAN COMMUNITY ABOUT DOMESTIC-GENDER ABUSE--PLEASE READ, COMMENT, AND SHARE THIS RESOURCE
In regard to (lack of) Justice for Nadine:
Her alleged abuser and rapist, fugitive Sajid Huq, missed a second court date on 3 December in New York City. An erstwhile Columbia University graduate student, he has been absconding since missing his first court date (1 Nov--warrant issued). Meanwhile, he (and his friends) have been posting his rationalizations for his abuse-rape on various blogs via a variety of names. See for example, in mid November, the excellent post on the case by Abdul Kargo and the ensuing comments--some by Sajid et al in T'ings 'n Things "What is a woman's worth measured against?". See my own recent post on the case and coverage in Bideshi Blue and other posts-links in the last month.
You can read more about this case on the Justice for Nadine facebook page, 9,411 and counting members from around the world, including pictures of Nadine post assault and also picture of Sajid. Pls inform the police and/or call 911 if you see him.
My thoughts are with Nadine and her family-friends during this difficult time.
Beyond this case, please reach out: listen and learn more and join community discussions and programs on domestic violence and violence against women VAW such as OUT AGAINST ABUSE ...where ever you are.
Monday, December 3, 2007
I would like to acknowledge the very important research and policy-advocacy work of
in keeping women migrant workers and their remittances-earnings safe among other aspects of migration. She is affiliated with RMMRU (Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit) and is Professor of Political Science at Dhaka University in Bangladesh. Over time, she has utilized research to let us know about the lives and experiences of women migrant workers and improved banking & migration policy to to make migration and remittances safer for all. In her published research and policy work she has:
- She wrote, Transcending Boundaries: Labour Migration of Women from Bangladesh (2001 UPL press) on women who migrate for work outside of Dhaka to the Middle East and elsewhere, their experiences, and as the impacts of their work and remittances back in Bangladesh on their families, dwellings and saving. Many women earned more by other overseas work and felt empowered, but she called our attention to the situation that some women's families and husbands had eaten-spent their earnings on their own land-businesses rather than saving the money and/or investing in the women's names. Others could not find as lucrative jobs when they returned to Bangladesh. She also noted the need for training women workers who went overseas as garment and domestic workers. She's also published reports on on women who work in Middle Eastern Garment factories (RMMRU website).
- Her dissertation dealt with the various practices and excess interest-rates, charges and structures of NGOs in the micro-credit sector. see Siddiqui, Tasneem. 2000. "Growth and Sustainability of the NGO Sector in Bangladesh." biiss Journal 20:524-549
- Researched and generated changes in Bangladesh government, banking, and NGO transmission policies on remittances of overseas wages so that more remittances have transmitted through safe-secure channels of banks & NGO banks rather than the informal and more costly hundi channels (with Dr. Chowdhury Abrar-co-founder of RMMRU). Earlier no one had a good accounting of the high level of remittances, which have now grown to be the biggest inflow of net earnings in Bangladesh. (Garments' net earnings are decreased by import bills for fabrics.) After these changes, more money came to family members and workers' accounts as well as foreign reserves for the government. Previously banks and micro-credit organizations charged high service fees and had slow transmission times for remittances, especially given the reliance of many banks on paper ledgers and disinterest in such funds. See the RMMRU website for a list of all the publications and training programs.
- Challenged some activists' assertions and stereotyping of women migrant workers as trafficking victims. She's published a Bangla book on trafficking along with many articles and book chapters. Many women migrant workers chose to migrate abroad, especially for more lucrative work in factories in Malaysia, Bahrain and also for domestic work. After some accounts of sexual & household worker exploitation, the government of Bangladesh forbid until recently any migration of women under the age of 35 to the Middle East for domestic work. Even then these women needed the permission of their husbands and/or fathers to go for work. Still in response to some donor funds and anecdotal claims, some NGOs portrayed all women migrants as trafficked and/or sex workers/sexually exploited. This disturbed many migrant women workers who felt shamed by such assertions. These assertions in 2004, nearly put Bangladesh on the Tier III of the USA government's trafficking sanctions. Dr. Siddiqui, Dr. Chowdhury, and RMMRU among other NGOs such as Farida Aktar & UBINIG successfully countered these claims and the threat of sanctions ended. Some women continue to be trafficked to India and elsewhere, while others migrate willingly for many different kinds of work.
- She has developed training manuals for combating trafficking and irregular migration.
- She has encouraged migrant workers groups such as WARBE to incorporate gender issues and women & men migrants' training and returning counseling; she has also encouraged women's migrant worker groups such as BOMSA and their training programs.
- She has fought the excess recruitment fees and visa paperwork fees charged by employment agencies as well as regularising migration guidelines, agencies, government bureaus, and programmes.
- She has generated valuable data and insights on the potential and actual diaspora of expatriate Bangladeshis' capital and investment in Bangladesh
- RMMRU has provided extensive training of Bangladeshi and regional researchers on migration-click here for more details.
- She has served as coordinator for SAMReN, South Asian Migration Resource Network
Mobility Patterns and HIV Vulnerability in Bangladesh (relevant for World AIDS day) &
Decent Work and International Labour Migration from Bangladesh (ILO)
Nearly all the reports and materials mentioned below are available (many PDF) from the RMMRU website.
I have known Tasneem since 2001, when she came to a Democracy Workshop at Southern Illinois University (my school and after my first trip to Bangladesh). She, her research, and impeccable valuable advice/insights have inspired me and my students ever since along with the hospitality & excellent tea of her home (my home away from home), including her gracious collaborator (and spouse) Dr. Chowdhury Abrar.
During these 16 days of Eliminating VAW, I'm very grateful for researchers-activists such as Dr. Tasneem Siddiqui.
International Migrant Day March, 2002
Kathy Ward ( blue baseball hat-shades-blue salwar kameez); Dr. Tasneem Siddiqui on right, t-shirt, purse, light brown sari; women migrant workers
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Today, I want to acknowledge the unnamed teams of women (and some men) of mid range staff and NGO '"aides" who actually do the work in the VAW projects, who carry out the day to day operations, who are the people who answer the doors, phones, emails, keep our spaces safe & healthy & pick up our stuff, make our tea & cook our meals.
They write the web pages and code for our operations; translate documents, work the night and day shifts, conduct the outreach and interviews for research, crunch endless numbers and statistics, code narratives, pore over and compile newspaper clippings on VAW, type and deliver the grant applications and then keep track of the accounts for the final reports.
These same people count the number of days-nights stayed in shelters, services given, and reconcile the financial accounts, go to courts and deal with police, counsel survivors who may or may not go back to abusive situations, may die and/or escape and thrive. They burn out & grieve.
All these persons do the every day work that keeps the programmes running, but relatively unseen by government officials, elites, programme executive directors, and others in the media, political hearings, and journals, but known by those who utilize these services. These staff members rarely move into or from upper level management positions from NGO to NGO .
Also what of the lowly paid staff, often without benefits and who work according the funding and political vagaries and whims of politicians, government officials, and donors who don't want to fund women's safety and empowerment? So that women can can talk back, have choices that they can make about where and how to live and love with their near and dear ones, walk and/or live & love without fear and/or even to go to school for skills and to make a living w/o having their education funds suddenly withdrawn in change of government or safety net policies.
So let's make herstory by acknowledging women's unpaid, informal, and formal labors, how we have replicated some of these unequal gender-race-class-sexuality relations in our VAW and women's programmes, and how women's work-subsidy keeps our livelihood and capitalism in gear. By funding programmes and women's work that enable women-children-families to make choices and thrive rather than 'better than nothing." Also acknowledge the men who work in these projects as allies, speak up to their male peers when we are not around, and do the right thing, because.
Hence, my enormous gratitude and debt to the supervisors and fieldworkers on my research projects on domestic violence & women workers among others, the staff at Nari Jibon Project, and all the students and respondents who have patiently shared, waited and dreamed for a better day and life.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Let's talk about SAFE sex! AIDS has made its way into a variety of communities-gay men, heterosexual men and women, blood transfusions, and injectable drug users, and now migrant workers and truckers who move across regions and countries. However the majority of people living with AIDS are heterosexuals and increasingly women, many of whom lack the knowledge and power to insist on safe sex with their partners.
For example, in many cultures, men visit sex workers and then the men refuse to wear condoms. Some sex workers have made organizations and compaigns to insist on condom usage, such as in Thailand or India. At the same time, if the sex workers are unorganized in such a campaign, "No Glove, No Love", then they face economic pressures to insist that their customers wear a condom because the customer can move on to the next sex worker.
Or women trafficked and/or migrated to India or the Middle East and in sex work may have the same problems and can return HIV positive and face the social stigma from their previous activities and HIV infection.
Migrant workers--men and women--become HIV positive during their construction and domestic-sex-care work(s) and are deported back to their country of origin, for example, Nepali women or Bangladeshi male -female migrant workers, who in turn infect their wives-husbands.
Although the levels of HIV infection are still relatively low for Bangladesh sex workers, I am very concerned about their high client loads and low condom use by clients. For Bangladeshi sex workers in hotels, they may see 8-10 customers per day and really increase their risks of STDs and HIV, if the customers refuse to wear condoms.
In turn, the male customers go home and have unprotected sex with their wives--who due to social practices about sex within marriage--may not be able to ask their husbands to wear a condom b/c this would acknowledge his sexual activities outside of marriage. VAW mean that husbands and male partners may sexually assault wives and girlfriends who are unable to use safe sex protection and/or birth control and hence risk STDs, HIV infection, and unwanted pregnancy.
Other researchers have discovered that MSM (who have sex with men) in Bangladesh and other countries often are married, too, according to heteronormative social pressures to marry and procreate.
And the cycle of infections go on largely because we do not talk about or insist on SAFE sex with our partners. The central players in this story are the men who refuse to have safe sex-use condoms with their assorted partner(s). The people who have the most problematic sex histories are also the most likely to lie about their precautions, HIV status or even get tested, even if the facilities are available, which are very few in countries such as Bangladesh. Testing continues to carry shame-stigma for many people, hence, the publicity surrounding celebrities and politicians getting HIV tests.
During my time in Bangladesh, I have talked with sex workers how about to educate and motivate men for more condom use and created this safe sex poster. This poster stars Mr. Bunny, driver Ripon's rear view mirror-toy, because no men would hold or pose with condoms for this type of poster. I found that we could use Mr. Bunny in a variety of educational poses, storytelling, and situations.
Mr. Bunny has two condoms in hand and some taka tucked into in his little vest & lungi attire. In Bangla, Mr. Bunny says: "I have condoms and money. Let's make love. Smart rabbits always wear-use condoms."
Hence, on World Aids Day, let's talk about Safe sex with our partner(s), friends, family, and others. Let's also remember the people who have passed on as well as the large numbers of people living with AIDs around the world, and particularly in Africa and South Asia who are trying survive without access to the expensive anti-viral medicines used by people in the North.
Friday, November 30, 2007
As you can imagine, I am very proud of them, especially when they came to the Nari Jibon office in Dhaka on Saturday, 17 Nov, not quite 48 hours after the Cyclone Sidr stormed across Bangladesh and left the office-classes without electricity or internet connections. And they came for English and other classes and started handwriting their stories in English and Bangla, went out and talked with people and took photos, uploaded their stories and photos when the power & internet came on a few days later, and now they are accessible via the Internet to you.
Consider making a Sidr donation. Rumi tells of the sad story of Eachi’r Ma and her late daughter, and also encourages you to donate to the Sidr compensation fund to be set up via United Bangladesh Appeal, to provide funds to survivors. If you prefer another venue, check out the links in previous posts and making a donation for relief efforts, which will be going on for a long time.
If you are interested in knowing more about Nari Jibon Project, you can click on the links on the lower right side-blue box of your screen and/also the important link--donation--these young women and staff with support for their computer, language, tailoring, and training activities. They take classes in English, Computers, Bangla and Tailoring--all for nominal fees--and have access to the secure Nari-only cyber cafe (along with other women customers). Consider giving a donation-gift in your own or someone's name so that a meritorious but poor female can take a class, have safe transportation, and class supplies (a list of needs-donations-gifts is available on request, but uploaded soon at www.narijibonusa.org).
Today, I focus on building assorted knowledge, action, and movements to end violence against women VAW. I also encourage you to map and locate your sources of resistance, albeit everyday acts of speaking up, knowing how to find and work with allies in your household, classes, workplaces, streets, and communities such as local women's centers-shelters, to knowing that VAW often travels transnationally in our socio-emotional-economic and family luggage as we move to different households, places and even continents. These situations also affect the newly arrived wives, tourists, military personnel, and migrant workers--domestic, child care, and service workers as well as international students, ICT workers, etc-- in our communities and on deployment. For example (and these examples are taken from real cases):
- Some women have found themselves in transnational webs of domestic violence when they move to the West or North to marry someone who in turn isolates and abuses them. When they file charges or complain, then their husband's family members pressurize the women's family members with false cases so that their daughter will drop the case.
- The abuser can hold dual passports and commits his abuse in countries with few or no laws against domestic violence and flees to his other country. The woman survivor & children live in fear of his return trips and ongoing abuse-harassment by her estranged-divorced huband's family.
- Some women with new citizenship in the North have returned to their country of origin to settle divorces and family matters. They find themselves and/or their children kidnapped and abused by their estranged husbands and in-laws. Their family members have to appeal to their embassies or High Commissions for help...and....
VAW also follows assorted military and peacekeeping activities, too, where the protectors can end up as abusers as seen in many military actions by USA and UN Peacekeeping forces. Women military personnel also experience VAW and/or as seen recently Iraq, in the chaotic psych-ops facilities, a few have administered abuse themselves. In turn, when the military and peacekeepers return to their home countries, they bring some of this VAW with them and their spouses and families are affected, too.
VAW also follows the tourism, entertainment, and R & R industries that sprung up around military bases as well as international donor funded tourism and business projects. Many of the industries employ women as domestic, entertainment, and sex workers, who have little control over the terms and conditions of their work places, passports, and earnings, but the promise of higher earnings than in their countries of origin.
Another alarming trend is the VAW in 'mail-order brides as well as women brides from men's countries of origin. Many clients in USA women's shelters are women from other countries--Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe-- brought to USA by men who wanted docile women rather than 'assertive USA women', and in turn the husbands abused their new wives in this strange land. Or newspapers in the North and South are filled with ads of transnational partners (esp men) seeking wives from their country of origin. The new wives--often with limited language skills or resources-- are brought to the USA and abused by their new husband and maybe their in-laws. They feel trapped because they are in USA on spouse visas, feel shame, and/or do not know what to do. Two developments in the USA are visa available to women who have suffered abuse and/or the "U" visa that can be sought by abused women who report their abuse to the police. Women in this situation should see the advice of their local women's program and/or immigration lawyers.
Finally, many domestic and childcare workers migrate, accompany elite families--business or diplomatic staff-- and/or are trafficked to other areas. in these work situations, they have little control over their work conditions, working in 24/7 days and also suffer sexual and physical abuse from their employers, employers' family members, or others. These "global" women do not see their children in their countries for many years. Often we learn of these women in our communities when they escape from their employers' homes often with injuries or only the clothes on their backs.
National and international laws-policies on domestic violence and VAW have been very slow in addressing the increasing transnational nature of VAW. Likewise, many advocacy programs may not have the contact with programs in other countries and knowledge of different laws and remedies.
So today--look around your life and note the sources of support and allies and provide volunteer time, including translation, and donations to them. Such programs who are very dependent on donations, grants and government support, which does not always fund women's real empowerment and escapes from abuse and poverty. In our transnational lives, we also need to know of and support international initiative and programs that work with migrant women, workers and family members and reach out to workers who are trapped in abuse as well as charge their abusive employers.
If you would like to see the reports of actions in this 16 days....go to the Take Back the Tech site day 6 and follow the directions and/or Map It. Or go to the 16 Days campaign website and the International Calendar of Activities and/or Resources links. Finally, I have omitted references the above points, but I can provide documentation for these points and/or you can go to the resource pages on the above websites.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
The digital divide and VAW has often meant that women did not have access to the internet, video, and related media much less the tools to make and upload these media. When they did have access, they were often confronted with less than positive images. Now more women and male allies are making their own videos and media clips and posting on popular sites.
For example, in the Justice for Rahela campaign & other cross- posts this fall, a Youtube video on Rahela made available many video and visual images of Rahela as she struggled to live and name her assailants in the month before she died in September 2004. Many of us had never seen her before except in maybe a newspaper clip.
Thanks to a blogging grant from Global Voices-Rising Voices, computer and english students & staff at Nari Jibon Project (and four other locations) have had the opportunity to and learn how to write blog posts and also to use digital and video cameras. To date, they have posted video on the Bangladesh floods, & a homeless woman who gave birth in a garage and pictures of street girls, beggars, slum women rebuilding after Cyclone Sidr, including a mother nursing her child born during Cyclone Sidr, among other images. This past week, Computer Teacher Taslima (brown burkha) gave a digital camera and video training workshop for blogging students and staff (see stories and photos).
As their skills grow, I hope to see more blogs and video blogs on their perspectives as young women growing up and finding their way through the streets, schools, and lives amidst eve-teasing and VAW prevalent in Bangladesh (and elsewhere, too). Meanwhile I will scramble to keep up with their advances in technology and blogging.
Finally, I will leave you with a very haunting video with some [warning graphic-disturbing] photos of violence from the 1971 liberation war and the song, Bangladesh, as sung by Joan Baez. These words-song always move me (to tears) and to step up my efforts to end suffering where ever it may occur. Please see also the Drishtipat on Women of 1971, their campaign for restitution from Pakistan, and their varied experiences and stories as freedom fighters, grandmothers, mothers, daughters, students and children, including the thousands of Bangladeshi women raped by Pakistani soldiers and collaborators).
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
It's been TWO long weeks since Cyclone Sidr roared ashore in Bangladesh and killing at least 3400+ people, injuring many more, and devastating land, businesses, futures. Many people have documented the profound losses, experiences, reflection, need for massive relief-fundraising now & better coordination of relief and such fundraising, and in the future, extensive reconstruction efforts. Now the United Bangladesh Appeal has launched the Sidr Victims' Compensation fund for survivors.
Speaking of survivors: what about compensation, cancellation of micro-credit debt for Sidr's dead victims, and repayment pressures on struggling suvivors???? More conflicting stories have appeared. At first, the media reported that some NGO staff members had been pressurizing borrowers for interest-loan payment. These borrowers had survived Sidr, but lost their businesses-capital-customers and could not make repayments.
As I wrote before, on Nov 26 the Caretaker government has asked NGOs not to demand loan repayments right now from cyclone survivors. Nonetheless, in a Daily Star article, Bilkis Begum would like her tk 80,000 microcredit debt cancelled because she feels like repayment is at least one year away. Md. Yunus of Grameen Bank explains why such debts cannot be cancelled, but that GB would offer 'interest free loans' tk 10,000 towards rebuilding account holders' houses, more time to pay off their debts and offers of new loans, e.g, more debt.
Then on 27 Nov 07, the Daily Star reported that micro-credit NGOs may have to cancel tk 600cr (millions of taka) loans because of rules that if borrowers died, then their debts must be canceled. According to this article "In 12 south and south-western districts, some Tk 1,159 crore in loan remains outstanding with 15 lakh people, with 42 microcredit organisations operating in the region." Over 1227+ borrowers have died leaving the NGOs with many debts to cancel. These NGOs included Grameen Bank, BRAC, ASA, organizations affiliated with PKSF, and other smaller organizations.
Other official commented, "Although the microcredit providers are not going to make an announcement of the write-off right now, they might finally write the loans off since the small borrowers lost most of their houses, businesses, and other assets". Other officials indicated that they did not want to announce any more plans because people who could repay their loans would try to have them cancelled, but they had advise their staff to 'suspend' their collection efforts from cyclone affected borrowers for the time being.
This debt cancellations will impact the micro-credit sector, but to what extent will only be seen over time. Critics have noted that many NGOs have used micro-credit operations as money makers among their other activities.
Nonetheless, by all accounts of the devastation in the coastal region, many surviving borrowers may never be able to recover much less with the micro-credit debt burden and pressurization on the survivors' backs.
Finally, although much attention has been given to the coastal survivors, residents of the mid-sections of Bangladesh also spent a scary night among the destructive winds-rains of Cat 3 Sidr in Dhaka, especially poor people in slums. Some staff and students of Nari Jibon continue to give their first person accounts of Cyclone Sidr in the Nari Jibon blog such as Sujan's, Rafiq's, and Taslima's posts. A hat tip to Research officer Sujan, who has continued to blog about relief and some of his photos of a nearby slum were shown on CNN-international this past week. Please check out these posts in English and Bangla! See Rezwan's summary of both english & bangla blog coverage.
I'm also very glad that Shawn has returned to Dhaka. You can read about some of his experiences while on the coast. I hope to hear more after he rests, recovers, and socio-emotionally digests some of his harrowing time on the relief journey.
An ongoing case that exemplifies these issues is the media and less than critical blogosphere coverage of a domestic violence-rape case filed in New York City in September against a Bangladeshi graduate student, Sajid, who allegedly beat and raped his wife, Nadine. He failed to show up for his court hearing in NYC in beginning of November and is a fugitive, who has continued to blog under his and a variety of fake names. Rather than to deny the charge, in his trail of blog posts-emails, he has described-justified his behaviors, which originally resulted in his arrest by NYC police. In turn, he has made a series of allegations about Nadine, none of which would stand as a defense against his abuse and rape charges in USA courts.
Concerned about the brutality and events in this case, others set up a Facebook page, Justice for Nadine, which provided support & information & post-abuse photos about her case and has responded to Sajid's et al ongoing postings. Soon they refused to get into point-counterpoint discussions and ceased responding to an onslaught of emails and pseudonym posts by Sajid et al. Missing from most of these blogs--any understanding of issues surrounding marital rape, domestic violence, and the gender power dynamics. Instead, many of the posts read like adda or gossip.
After an initial flurry of posts in October, most bloggers had ended their coverage until the middle of November when, Abdul Kargo wrote an excellent post, "What Is a Woman’s Worth Measured Against? Blogger Kargo has thoughtfully and deftly dealt with the variety of comments-issues generated by his readers and the reappearance of Sajid et al, who closed down his blog about the time Kargo wrote his post. During this month, some of the comments by Sajid et al have become repetitive intellectual excuses for his criminal behaviors and insulting language directed toward Nadine and those who seek an end to VAW. Others have challenged such comments, discussed the dynamics of VAW and responses when women speak up. They called for a change in in the nature of the comments posts and more community action to combat VAW. Today, I posted this comment #99, which expresses my sentiments on this case and the thread:
From 25 Nov-10 Dec is the International 16 Days Campaign to Eliminate Violence against Women. Today—day four—asks people to look at their media (blogosphere) for coverage of violence against women and to note sensationalistic coverage & posts. As we’ve seen in this ongoing thread and other blog coverage, these ‘discussions’ ignore that most rapists & abusers know their victims; in such posts, abusers and some bloggers reduce the case to titillating & entertaining details, and ignore the unequal power relationships in rapes and domestic abuse that result in lingering physical, socio-emotional injuries and even death.
As reflected in others’ comments, I also encourage people to educate themselves more about these issues and get in involved community discussion and action such as recently initiated by Adhunika and Sakhi in NYC.****Check out a new resource from January 2008: New Blogsite OUT AGAINST ABUSE to educate and organize the South Asian Community about domestic violence-gender abuse--please read, comment, and discuss this resource!****
For more info about the 16 days campaign:
and to use ICT-blogs to end violence against women:
Finally, I reiterate the points that I made in comment #5 in early November:1. Sajid is a fugitive, who skipped his court hearing over charges filed in USA (they will not be transferred to Bangladesh!). Next hearing date: 3 December.
2. None of his posts-rationalizations about his USA felony charges will work in any USA court defense.
3. Any people who have been hiding him from police and the court can be subject to charges of obstruction of justice.
4. If Sajid is on a student visa at Colombia University and has not been attending classes because he is in hiding, then he is violating the terms of his student visa and subject to deportation. Immigration and SEVIS are probably very interested in finding him, too.