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.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Impact of violence on your daily life--do you take a different route to work or school every day to avoid eve-teasers or dangerous situations?
What's the impact of violence on women & after disasters? What happens to women's and children's security after disasters such as Cyclone Sidr or floods?
What are your stories????
Make a postcard, t-shirt, or video, and/or tell your story to some one.
Around the world, women have to reclaim their spaces and rights on the streets, public spaces, schools, transportation, cyber cafes (w/o other customers viewing disturbing images in the next seat), and and google searches on the internet. Many women face restrictions on their access to education, streets, and finding a secure space in a cyber cafe and internet.
They even have a hard time using their mobiles in a safe and secure way. As I noted in my earlier post, missed calls and/or phishing phone calls can also harass women users. Mobile cameras have been used to take and distribute graphic images of women (see Hana's post).
At the same time, mobile or cell phones can be life lines for battered-abused women; many shelters in USA and elsewhere seek donations of older & unregistered mobiles so that abused women can communicate easily with the shelter or authorities if the abuser blocks her phone usage or to have a safe-secure line. More recently, mobile phones enabled Bangladeshis to communicate with their near and dear ones during Cyclone Sidr.
Another issue on for women to occupy all spaces is eve-teasing--or men's street sexual harassment or molestation of young (any) women who travel their own streets to and from work, school, or their assorted tasks. For an excellent analysis, see Shoma Chatterji's post on eve-teasing in Kolkata and elsewhere in Fighting eve-teasing: rights and remedy.
Eve-teasing occurs in urban areas as well as in rural areas in South Asia and elsewhere although its name varies from country to region. In 2004-5 the Bangladeshi women's group, Mahila Parishad distributed a poster and conducted a campaign against eve-teasing because several young women, students, and even young girls committed suicide owing to social pressures-shame-daily harassment. In 2007, Advocate Habibun Nessa of Naripokkho, reported 29 suicide deaths in the last four years. In some cases the police colluded with the eve-teasers and blamed the women for their own problems. Bangladesh has no laws against eve-teasing, much less respect for women who dare to venture alone or even in groups in the streets.
These pressures also affect women's travels to Nari Jibon, which usually occurs with one or more friends. We've found that if a friend or travel companion stops coming to Nari Jibon , then the other student drops out unless she can find another friend to come to Nari Jibon.
Or two young women students who went out on the streets for a photo assignment and to ride a bus to and from Nari Jibon had to deal with young men who pushed ahead of them and eve-teased. Many times women get on the bus and find that men have taken the 'women's seats and they feel insecure in the packed bus. Photographer Syeeda Farhana captured sequence of Moina and Sathi as they tried to board a bus c. 2005:
The good news is that these women persevered and continued to come to Nari Jibon for English and computer training, pursued their higher education and taken some teaching jobs. Nonetheless many women service holders contend with daily eve-teasing as they commute to and from their jobs and same-same for students as they walk and/or travel to their schools. Eventually, women and/or guardians decide that these pressures are too much and they drop out of school, get married for security, and in some cases commit suicide. Dhaka has tried adding a few women only buses and other countries have tried adding women-only subway cars, but these measures & added buses will not be enough until men start treating women and girls with more respect as they move through and live in various spaces.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Today, 25 November 2007 is International Day Against Violence Against Women and the start of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence (25 Nov-10 Dec).
You can read more about this campaign, history, and get materials from the Center for Women's Global Leadership, [Rutgers University-USA] including the 2007 Take Action Kit & the 2007 International Calendar. This site also contains a library on related resources on VAW and even a map to situate and log your activities. This site has materials in English, Spanish, some French and even Italian.
An interesting ICT action, is Take Back the Tech or Reclaiming ICTs to End Violence Against Women. Link here to learn more about what are the issues of ICTs & VAW From the website: "Both ICTs and VAW affects our capacity to completely enjoy our human rights and fundamental freedoms." This site has materials in French, Spanish, and English.
The website contains daily activities such as ka-Blog (blogathon, postcards, digital story telling, digital media resources, and GIFs to use in your website or blog during the campaign. On today- Day one, today's activity: share a number of your local shelter or resource centre.
Both sites want to hear more about your stories and actions and you can also learn more about actions-stories in other locales-sites.
As readers already know, I have been very interested in Justice for Nadine (survivor of spousal abuse and rape) and Rahela (the late tortured garment worker) as detailed in previous posts and links to websites. Most recently, Abdul Kargo wrote movingly about Nadine's case, "What is a woman worth. " If readers would like to know more about domestic violence issues-support in USA or Bangladesh, see this link. The next hearing for Rahela's case will be in January 2008in Bangladesh.
****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!****
Finally, Bangladesh continues to recover from the Category 5 hurricane, Cyclone Sidr. In such disasters, women have special health and security issues, especially post disaster for women without husbands and children who have lost their parents--suffer from insecurity and vulnerability to abusers and traffickers. I described a few issues here and as Sidr was heading to shore. See also Nari Jibon blog.I will post more on these topics coming days. Meanwhile, go to other previous posts-links on where you can donate for relief efforts.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
After fighting breast cancer for 16+ years, Dr. Rachel A. Rosenfeld passed on 24 Nov 2002, just after I arrived in Bangladesh and started my research fellowship on women workers--a long-time shared interest. I could not attend her funeral or memorial service. Nonetheless, her work and spirit lives on in all of us who some how intersected with her life & path-breaking scholarship on women workers.
University of North Carolina Memorial Page
UNC Biography Page
Friday, November 23, 2007
Post Cyclone Relief: Coordination & Donations to All Flood Affected & Give Food That People Can Eat Now
Relief efforts are underway and millions of dollars of relief pledged, but not yet cash-supplies in hand for the Bangladeshi government, charities, aid agencies, much less for the flood affected people. USA Navy ships approach and/or even docked. One big problem as detailed by reports from BBC, CNN, and other media sources has been uneven coordination of relief efforts and getting relief materials to people who need it including people are not near district offices or received media attention or 'connections'.
Relief efforts are particularly important for women and children excluded from the community, without male partners, and/or ultra poor-geographically isolated. In a series of posts, on 22 November post, Naima Chowdhury writes how traffickers (including local police) are preying on young female orphans who have lost their parents.
Or some cyclone affected women and children are socially excluded from their communities: sex workers. In a repeated update to my earlier post re the sex workers in Mongla, we are reminded that some people affected by this Cyclone and might not be helped by their community and relief agencies. In a 21 Nov 07 post, aid worker, Naima Chowdhury, reported that although the women had advance notice of the Cyclone, local people refused them shelter and aid because of their work. Action Aid has given them chira (puffed rice and dal), but need more aid to continue. The women and their children are facing hard times because they have fewer customers from low activity at the port, she notes, "These women are incredibly poor and also face exclusion from the rest of the community."
As discussed by Sujan, in Dhaka, some people want to do something, but do not know what to collect and how to get it to agencies for distributions. On the one hand, some flood affected people need warm clothes, but on the other hand, how and where will they receive the clothes collected by students in Dhaka? Or will Shawn ever get to distribute his blankets?
Another very important issue is the actual content of relief packets (also a problem in earlier flood relief efforts): some people have received bags of rice and lentils, but have NO pots to cook in or fire to cook with AND no good water. Hence, the demand for food that the people can eat now.
Even during good times, Bangladeshis also survive on a system of loans--from micro-credit NGOs, banks, money-lenders, store credit, and even family members who are paid back when funds come in and/or are squeezed out family [rice] budgets. Many people also have ongoing loans from micro-credit NGOs for their small businesses and loans from banks & money-lenders for replanting their crops already washed away by two summer floods. As before and during post floods, many micro-credit agents demanded payments for interest from flood affected people. What will happen with the micro-credit & hurricane affected people who lost their livestock, business goods, and crops? Demands from banks, money lenders, and business people? According to DhakaShoshor and citing an Amader Shomoy article (Bn) conflicting accounts have developed over whether certain NGOs have continued their collections and/or extent of their relief efforts and the sources of these allegations.
Updated information 26 Nov 07, 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.
Post disaster recovery has both short and long term needs and activities. Already affected people are starting to rebuild, but what are their needs now and later? Donations on the ground and in the pipeline will help with the short-run needs, such as food, water, and shelter. At the same time donations are also needed for the long-term recovery of very poor people who have lost everything. This includes their destroyed crops almost ready for harvest after post summer floods replanting & loans, in their fish ponds, shrimp farming (3rd largest export earner) & business livelihoods, rebuilding of the infrastructures, and such structures such as much needed cyclone shelters. Many of the over 3000 shelters were unusable, overcrowded, or simply not available. As earlier noted by Rezwan, some of the post recovery funds-donations should be directed towards building more shelters.
Such disasters take a very big emotional toll on relief workers, readers, and people who care. Some people might feel a sense of disaster & donor fatigue, especially after the Indonesia Tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and now Cyclone Sidr in 2007 (among others in the Gulf, Pakistan, and even more coming ashore in the Philippines) . BTW, Bangladesh donated $1 million in aid to the USA in response to Katrina!
Even if they know about Bangladesh and its location, others might feel that Bangladesh is an ongoing disaster with floods, political upheavals, and cyclones. I might have thought that, too, except for my stays and work in Bangladesh with resilient people who somehow bounce back and would still give their last grain of rice to a visitor. The problem is that many people on the coast have not a single grain of rice, a cooking pot, fire, or water.
I will leave for later my comments on the gendered nature of disasters and my analyses on patterns of aid, development, population growth that have resulted in large populations living in areas prone to cyclones, flooding, and earthquakes and dependent on export earnings and foreign aid. Or people living in high cost areas prone to regular wildfires or hurricanes (my home insurance rates are still higher from certain Atlantic-Gulf Coast hurricanes and I live far inland).
Hence, the people of Bangladesh and various relief agencies still need your donations. Places to donate can be found in earlier posts, or a convenient listing for people in the USA can be found on the website: www.helpthemsurvive.org This website, generated by an expat's USA company's programmers-staff (M2SYS Technology), lists links for some donors, news updates, and how you can raise awareness in your own community.
As Abdul Kargbo writes on why everyone should care, "Compassion Does not Recognize State Boundaries."
Monday, November 19, 2007
Post Sidr, Dhaka's cyclone baby, men who seek Bangladeshi girls, women, mobile numbers during storms
Given how many people are living in such shelters in Dhaka and other areas affected by the Cyclone, falling trees, flying tin roofs & poorly secured billboards, these were probably common scenes. At the same time, many have commented on how quickly the fallen trees and limbs were cleared by local residents and scavengers in Dhaka neighborhoods (see Shawn's ongoing posts).
Others on the coast had more mixed experiences with trees-branches that saved them, trees that graphically failed as secure shelter in 2007 & 1991 (see Rumi), and now for survivors--downed trees-branches that serve a source of income and fuel.
From a phone call and emails, I heard that Nari Jibon staff and students are fine. As the computer connections improve, more posts will appear soon re their own experiences, including Rafiq's post on his experiences and tense mobile calls to and from his sisters who were on the coast during the storm and his observations on information & preparations (and lack thereof) for Cyclone Sidr.
Finally in a reminder that all people have been affected by this Cyclone and might not always be helped by relief agencies, see Jonathan Munshi's post storm photos from the Mongla sex worker village (brothel) as they struggle to repair their dwellings. In a later post on 21 Nov 07, aid worker, Naima Chowdhury, reported that although the women had advance notice of the Cyclone, local people refused them shelter and aid because of their work. Action Aid has given them chira (puffed rice and dal), but need more aid to continue. The women and their children are facing hard times because they have fewer customers from low activity at the port, she notes, "These women are incredibly poor and also face exclusion from the rest of the community."
Ironically, before, during Cyclone Sidr, and even after, many people were still searching via Google for Bangladeshi girls, women, mobile numbers, sex, night life, etc (as reflected by the site meter readings & referral search terms that I monitor for the Nari Jibon blog and coming from some rather devout places). These links are common to all of us who blog on women's issues, but the international flavour and focus on Bangladeshi females has caught my attention.
Interesting how certain demands do not change even during disasters such as cyclones and floods--as I observed in 2004 floods--where sex workers were expected to show up for work at hotels as were garment workers who traveled to their factories by boat! To these persons searching during storms for female company, get a life, and use your funds to make a donation to one of the relief agencies! To the relief agencies--help everyone--especially those who are out of work b/c the disaster! This is particularly important for women and children excluded from the community, without male partners, and/or ultra poor-geographically isolated. Finally in the same series of posts, on 22 November, Naima Chowdhury writes how traffickers (including local police) are preying on young female orphans who have lost their parents.
I hope that relief will reach all affected persons despite their class, work, social standing, and/or location and that aid officals will pay particular attention to women without partners and orphaned children.
Drishtipat has an updated list of places to donate. As per my post last night re the Elephant-bus photo, DhakaShohor reminds us that the elephants cannot do the recovery work alone.
Please make a donation, no matter how small.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Rezwan provides news, video, and donation sites. Go to the bottom of his post for links.
Zafanoor at her blog, Keep Me Honest, has updates as well as an excellent list of where to donate (at the bottom of her post), including some USA donation sites
Drishtipat discusses what people can do from afar with specific strategies as well as donation links.
Ironically although many donor organizations and countries have made pledges of help (including two US Navy ships steaming toward Bangladesh w/o the knowledge of the Bangladeshi government), the overwhelmed Bangladesh government has yet to ask for formal international help, despite that many people in the stricken coast areas have been in the open, without food or good water for going on three days. Hopefully, assorted sources of help will continue to come and the GOB, donor organizations, and countries can work out distribution and reconstruction plans especially for the immediate needs of the survivors. This has happened bfore: after the 1991 cyclone, Mash & Rezwan describe how several Navy ships-and their angels provided much needed assistance & good will to Bangladesh. Hopefully this can be a repeat visit, good help, and repair some tattered relationships with the USA through some direct face to face contacts and assistance.
Gradually the USA media has begun to report on Cyclone Sidr. An article appeared in my local newspaper in downstate Illinois (Sunday, Nov 18), local TV station, and even my mother in Casper Wyoming, reported seeing an AP- Pavel Rahman picture of an elephant helping to move a bus.
Some USA-international blogs on other topics are gradually providing information and links on this disaster. I encourage all readers to reach out, link, and and inform others about this ongoing disaster and long-term needs for donations and where to donate.
One last piece of good news: Baby Cyclone, (picture from BBC) who was born during the storm and named by his parents-grandmother. As noted by Mash, this little boy was born into and survived the destruction, but will need much help to make it through the aftermath. Like Mash and other bloggers, we hope that the power and information of the internet will generate donations and help for Bangladesh and the surviving but unseen little girls and boys who are the future as well as their families.
Cross-posted Bangladesh from Our View
Friday, November 16, 2007
Non-resident Bangladeshis and allies continue to blog about what has happened and their efforts to reach out and find their near and dear ones despite clogged and downed phone lines. Still not much in USA media or knowledge among many in USA, although the NYT's webpage had a front page story earlier today (now buried to a link).
As always, Rezwan has the latest posts and information in his excellent Third World View (see also his earlier posts), including map of the population density in storm surge and cyclone areas and Dr. Jeff Master's analyses.
Before you decided to donate, contribute to relief efforts, first read Rezwan's insightful post on "How can you help Bangladesh cyclone victims?" where he discusses the limitations of what the Bangladesh government can do, the roles of NGOs in distributing enormous amounts of relief, but also some specific actions that all of us can take to help Bangladesh recover such as buying Bangladesh, raising funds for specific projects, and encouraging our governments do something such as lowering the tariff/import barriers for Bangladeshi garments and knit goods...legislation that has been languishing in the U.S. congress and Senate.
Also check back often to his post because he continues to update, such as this link to Drishtipat-Unheard Voices on how people outside of Bangladesh can help and mobilize.
According to many sources, the death toil from Cyclone Sidr has risen to 1700+ and many more thousands are injured and/or lost their dwellings-livestock-livelihoods amidst the coming Bangladesh cold, collapse of Bangladesh's power grid, and resultant loss of mobile, internet, and phone networks and safe potable water. I have made contact with Nari Jibon staff who are OK and say they are carefully using their electricity and computer backup batteries, but have little or no electricity and no internet connections.
From the Intersection, which provided valuable pre Sidr information, comes Sheril's video plea for more help for Bangladesh and Chris's latest post provides some links to on the scene Care (from Alertnet) , overall updates and working agencies-NGO-maps, and Relief Net reports, click on Bangladesh: Tropical Cyclone links which lead to links for UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs OCHA, Report No. 1 or the storm surge map from Int'l Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies (also working with UN). Other agencies have stepped in as well before and after Sidr.
The good news is that in the seven days preceding Cyclone Sidr's landfall, unprecedented coordination of NGOs and government in evacuations occurred although the numbers of shelters were far less than the millions of persons seeking shelter. Ideally, this prevented immediate high death tolls like in 1970 and 1991, but the ongoing tragedy may be what happens to the millions of survivors--many of whom are injured-- who are living in cold, wet, open air conditions with little or no good drinking water and food.
Once again continue to pay attention to the plight of Bangladesh and the storm affected people through your thoughts, prayers and donations to some of these and your other international relief charities. Hopefully these relief goods and efforts will make their way--directly and quickly-- to the people who need them the most. Again, read Rezwan's insightful post on "How can you help Bangladesh cyclone victims?"
P.S. I just had a long telephone chat with the staff of Nari Jibon Project who have come to the office today despite no electricity and internet connections. Some english students have also shown up for their class and are busy writing their own stories! For more on this conversation and few of their stories go to Bangladesh from Our View. I will post more of their stories on Sunday-Monday if their internet connection is still closed.
Even before Sidr, Bangladesh had been going through political and economic struggles. Bangladesh is still in a state of political emergency with a civilian caretaker government backed by the military. Elections are not planned until late 2008. Essential food prices are up and even before the storm, the government admitted that it had to import rice and other foodstuffs. The garments export sector continues to struggle with competition from China and Vietnam. Ironically, the major export fair Bangladesh Apparel and Textile Exposition (Batexpo 2007) opened on Thursday--right before Sidr arrived to give potential buyers a taste of Bangladesh, its weather, and resilience. The women garment workers are dutiful: in previous, hartals, national emergencies or disasters--flooding--garment workers have somehow arrived at their workplaces albeit by boat.
Finally, perhaps one sign of development/ICT: last night Nari Jibon English teacher and blogger Bipa contacted me on email via her cell phone browser because that was her only power supply for communication during the power outages. She's ok.
I hope that the USA and other international media and bloggers continue to cover this ongoing situation and post Sidr recovery. We will post more stories from Nari Jibon staff and students as we receive them. Nonetheless, the essential thing that people need to use a computer and their mobiles: power! This seems to be in short supply in Bangladesh right now along with safe-drinkable water.
Some parts also crossposted in Bangladesh from our View
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Although the government says its preparations include the shelters built after the previous cyclone, many are asking: What shelters and in what condition? Both Masters and the BBC among others have commented on the limited number of 2500 multi-use shelters and many of them are in poor condition for the millions that need them. Others may have no where to go and as noted in my earlier post and in BBC, refuse to leave their dwellings, animals and families despite a more extensive warning system than in 1970 and 1991. Or some fishing boats seek to gain the advantage against fewer boats and get caught in the storms.
The Government of Bangladesh says that it is ready to deal with the situation much like they have with the floods of 2004 and 2007. Rezwan provides a list of events and preparations. As shown in pictures, many people have already sought shelter. We will have to see how this transpires because besides some warnings and evacuation orders, much of the previous disaster responses and international donor-media attention have occurred much after the event when Bangladesh appealed for help.
Inland, Dhaka residents already were feeling the effects of Sidr. On midday Thursday, some Nari Jibon Project staff told me via e-mail that they had already experienced hard rains, high winds, and much difficulty reaching the project office. Knowledge of the Cyclone and its track was limited to reports in local newspapers and they were shocked to see the tracking links-pictures that I had sent via my previous blog post.
According to Project Director, Rafiq Islam, "It has been raining since morning with onek thanda batash (much cold wind) I have come to office onek kosto kore (much hard effort)". I sent the staff and few students home before they had any further transportation challenges in flooded streets and high winds that send debris and tin roofs airborne. The Project office and classes will be closed until the weather clears. These Dhaka weather conditions occurred, even in advance of Sidr's landfall on Thursday night. Now Sidr is moving onwards through the densely populated southern region to Dhaka as a Category 2 hurricane.
Some newer links Bangladesh & Dhaka, Media updates
Please continue to keep the people of Bangladesh and India in your thoughts and prayers as Sidr continues its path through the heart of Bangladesh.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Despite the enormous toil that Cyclone Sidr may take, other bloggers and I have seen little or no coverage in US media on this impending disaster and catastrophe that may be bigger than previous record storms in especially Bhola 1970 where 500,000 people died and another in 1991, where nearly 140,000 people lost their lives.
Over the last few days, India and Bangladesh have ordered evacuations of coastal areas where millions live in low areas barely a foot or more above sea level (and predicted storm surges of 9-12 feet). At least 10 million Bangladeshi need to evacuate, but Bangladesh has cyclone shelters for only about .5 million people.
Evacuations will not be so easy with roads clogged with poor people trying to leave with their only possessions, animals, and children. Much of the transportation in this area is by boats and launches, which have been stopped by the increasingly high winds and waves ahead of this cyclone.
Much of the evacuation burdens will be borne by women who must keep their children and animals safe & fed as well as themselves in the chaos. They will find their own mobility-safety restricted by these tasks and their own clothing-modesty ahead of storm surges, tidal waves, and floods. Many of the deaths in recent Bangladeshi floods and cyclones have been from women and children who have drowned and of the survivors through disease, little or no drinkable water, and little food or relief.
High winds, rain, and cyclone weather will affect the western and middle parts of Bangladesh until Cyclone Sidr becomes a tropical storm in about three or four more days. This will probably bring more floods to central and southern Bangladesh, which have only begun to recover from the summer 2007 floods as well as high inflation in the prices of essential goods. In urban areas such as Dhaka where just a moderate rain results in much flooding of streets, slums, and living areas owing to poor drainage & waterlogging, even more people will suffer from Cyclone Sidr and its heavy rains, winds, storms, and damage.
This impending landfall affects millions in India and Bangladesh whose lives, homes, and crops will be disrupted, displaced and possibly lost, but also generations of their near and dear ones who have migrated to Europe, USA, and other parts of the world for school, work, and family and who now watch, worry, and wait for news.
Please inform yourself about the eventual path and story of Cyclone Sidr, keep the people in its path in your hearts-prayers, and give so that they can recover from yet another disaster in the stormy Bay of Bengal.
Friday, November 9, 2007
The powerful and wonderful girls & women at the Nari Jibon Project who are learning alternative skills such as literacy in Bangla, tailoring rather than sewing, literacy in English, how to use, write and create with, and repair computers, and finally writing thoughtful posts and taking photos-videos about their lives on the Nari Jibon blogs in English and Bangla. These girls & women are doing all these activities in an affordable, safe, secure, caring environment at Nari Jibon in classes and the women-only cyber cafe!
Why write so much on violence against women?
- until all women are safe, no women are safe (as well as the rest of their society)
- all of us come from women: mothers, grandmothers and we also have aunts, sisters, daughters, and female relatives
- 1/3 women in their lifetime will experience some form of violence-abuse
- nothing justifies such violence against women, children, and men—not assorted rationalizations, misinformation--nothing
- domestic violence is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality
In the words of Audre Lorde (African American poet, writer, teacher, & activist), “your silence will not protect you”:
Audre Lorde (The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action, Sister Outsider.
Let's start speaking up!
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Adhunika and Sakhi-Gen2 invite you to attend the upcoming Domestic
Violence Outreach Initiative Forum.
As reported by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one
in every four women will experience domestic violence in her
lifetime. It is an epidemic prevalent across all communities, and
cultures. It affects individuals regardless of age, economic status,
race, religion, nationality, or educational background. Domestic
Violence is one of the most chronically under-reported crimes and its
impacts last a lifetime.
Domestic Violence needs to be discussed more openly in our communities. It is crucial that we educate ourselves and our communities regarding its prevention and our response to incidents of domestic violence.
Please come out and show our support by hearing Sakhi advocates speak about domestic violence issues and learn how you can help bring an end to domestic violence in our communities.
Here are the details:
Date: Sunday, November 18th
Time: 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Location: World Culture Open Center
19 West 26th Street , 5th Floor (Near the intersection of Broadway
and 26th Street )
New York , NY 10001
Subway: 28th street on the N/R/W Line.
Space is limited so please RSVP by Wednesday, 14th Nov at
About the Organisers:
Sakhi for South Asian Women (www.sakhi.org) is a Manhattan based organization that is committed to ending violence against women of South Asian origin. Sakhi strives to create a voice and safe environment for all South Asian women through outreach, advocacy, leadership development, and organizing.
Adhunika ( www.adhunika.org) is a global volunteer based organization, dedicated to promoting technology usage for Bangladeshi women worldwide. Adhunika aims to bring about social change in the lives of women through the use of technology.
Please sign the online petition for Rahela and encourage your friends,relatives and well-wishers to do so.
If you would like to know more about Rahela's case, see some of the previous posts & links on this blog! Talk with your family, friends, classmates, and co-workers about this case. Also encourage Bangladeshi women's groups and international human rights organizations to follow her and other abused & tortured women's cases in Bangladesh, whose cases rarely been followed and prosecuted after initial publicity. The next hearing on her case will be in the first week of January 2008.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
The good news is that my slightly older kitten Durga has continued to recover and every morning-night chases her younger brother, Madhu, around the house. Here they are trying to sleep it off (Durga-l, Madhu-r). Maybe she's still observing her puja.
Earlier this week, witness(es) in the Rahela (tortured-murdered garment worker) case DID NOT show up in court. According to the Facebook group, Justice for Rahela (and other sources) the court proceedings have been DELAYED until first week of January 2008. Perhaps various petitioners and women's groups in Bangladesh should request a SPEEDY TRIAL for Rahela's case, who died in September 2004.
Today, according to Facebook group, Justice for Nadine, her accused husband, Sajid Huq, a graduate student at Columbia University did not show up for his hearing in New York City in response to his many charges for the abuse/rape of his wife (Nadine). A warrant has been issued for his arrest. Much speculation about where he might have fled. If you know of his whereabouts, please inform the New York City police or authorities where ever you are. Pictures of him can be found on the Justice for Nadine website (as well as her non-photoshopped pictures post abuse).
My thoughts are with Nadine (and her safety) and for the soul of Rahela (and other working women who risk their lives going to and from work and ordinary activities).
Beyond signing up for a Facebook group, here are some other things that all of us (women and men) can do:
- For all of us, reach out to one another and do not suffer alone with abuse or knowledge of abuse (for the sake of honor, izzat, family name or fear of what stories people might say).
- Listen to and believe women, especially the brave ones who speak up despite all the taunts-misinformation hurled at them as well as threats to their families (as has occurred in Nadine's case). Talk with your family and friends about these issues and problems before they occur, during discussions of marriage, and afterwards. Domestic violence still occurs at a much higher rate in Bangladesh than in most other countries; women in the migration-diaspora also experience domestic violence as has occurred in Nadine's and others' cases.
- Provide time and support to organizations in your community-city-country that work on such issues, because many of them need allies-translators-advocates from your own groups. Know about these organizations, because you and/or your friends may need them for information and help. Share this information with your family, friends, blog, and your Facebook wall!
- Work to make sure that Bangladesh and other countries enact and enforce real laws against domestic violence, which leads to many other consequences such as higher maternal mortality, lowered life expectancy among other problems (no such law exists in Bangladesh despite many years-funds-meetings-protests).