Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Female Genital Mutilation: Seeking Answers

Fadumo Korn, activist and author of the book Born in the Big Rains: a Memoir of Struggle and Survival in Somalia
GaIDI members at Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC), Brandeis University took the opportunity to mark V-Day by calling attention to female genital mutilaion (FGM) and attempt to seek answers that plague humanity. This event titled, Female Genital Mutilation: Seeking Answers was held on February 15, 2007. It was coordinated by Rajashree Ghosh, Visiting Scholar, WSRC and other GaIDI members and supported by Shulamit Reinharz, Director WSRC. The 'V' in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina. As a global movement (marked between Februray 1 and March 8),V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop worldwide violence against women and girls, including rape,battery, incest,female genital mutilation (FGM) and sexual slavery. According to World Health Organization estimates, about 132 million girls have been subjected to FGM. Most live in African countries or in several practicing cultures in the Middle East and Asia. The present-day African diaspora has exported the tradition to Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Tobe Levin, President of FORWARD – Germany, an international non-governmental organization that works to advance the sexual and reproductive health and human rights of African girls and women [see http://www.forwarduk.org.uk or, in German, http://www.forward-germany.org] faciliated the event. Tobe brought with her a special guest. Her name is Fadumo Korn, the author of Born in the Big Rains: A Memoir of Somalia and Survival. Having undergone circumcision at the age of seven in Somalia Fadumo has written a book that is a brutally honest, politically sensitive and a bold addition to literature on global women’s health. A half hour television documentary on Fadumo's life titled Ich war ein Nomadenkind (My childhood as a nomad), directed by Juliane Schuhler was screened. Fadumo read excerpts from her book in German and Tobe translated it in English. WSRC Scholars, students and faculty from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management participated in the discussion on FGM that ensued after the book readings. Gladys Maida from a local community organization, REACH (www.reachma.org) was also present. For some pictures please visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42433998@N00/sets/72157594575251808/

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Day of Learning on Women

Ruth Halperin-Kaddari addressing the gathering
February 6 marked the launch of the Haddasah Brandeis Institute's new Project on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law with a Day of Learning on Women, Gender Equality and Jewish Law in Israel. Dr. Lisa Fishbayn, Director of the Project on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law and Chair, Gender and International Development Initiatives (GaIDI) Committee organized this event. It was co-sponsored by the Brandeis International Centre for Ethics, Justice and Public Life and the GaIDI of the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Centre. Dr. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, director of the Rackman Centre for the Advancement of Women's Status at Bar Ilan University and a member of the UN expert Committee of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, began the day with a lecture on Women's Rights and the Politics of Divorce. Dr. Halperin-Kaddari explained that women suffer disadvantage under Jewish law in Israel because they are caught in the middle of a struggle for control between civil and religious authorities. She urged the development of new halakhic remedies to assist women who were being subjected to extortion by their husbands in order to receive a divorce. The lecture was followed by the screening of two films, Cohen's Wife and Mekudeshet, made by orthodox Israeli women about the impact that Jewish family law has on their lives. The day ended with a panel discussion on Women and Jewish law in Israel featuring Dr. Halperin-Kaddari, Rabbi Susan Fendrick of the Mandel Centre at Brandeis University. For some pictures, please visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42433998@N00/sets/72157594565423033/

Monday, January 29, 2007

Invisible Mexicanas

On November 30, 2006, Brandeis’s second day of recognition of 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women, WSRC Director Shulamit Reinharz and Scholars/GaIDI members Louise Lopman, Maria Carter and Rajashree Ghosh presented INVISIBLE MEXICANAS.

The three-hour and well-attended event at the WSRC included a film, music, poetry reading and discussion about the experiences of thousands of women who work in the assembly-for-export maquiladoras (sweatshops) in the NAFTA-generated industrial free trade zones in Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, México.

The new documentary film, ”Maquilapolis,” by Vicky Funari and Sergio De La Torre, portrayed, from the women workers’ perspective (the people with the cameras), their daily struggle to survive and how they move beyond that struggle and organize for change in the maquiladora owned by Panasonic.

During the refreshment break the audience listened to music (in Spanish) by Los Tigres Del Norte, inspired by the “women of Juarez.”

Marjorie Agosín, poet, activist and Wellesley College Professor, read excerpts from her recently published book of poetry, Secrets in the Sand: The Young Women of Juárez, which brings attention to the hundreds of women of Ciudad Juárez, most of whom are indigenous and who work in the maquiladoras and have been murdered and disappeared, with impunity, in the past decade.

The discussion which followed included the event organizers, the audience, and special guests from Amnesty International and National Latino Independent Producers.This event exemplified the WSRC motto, “Where Research, Art, and Activism Converge,” and it portrayed Mexican women at the other end of the spectrum compared to the Mexican women in the photography exhibit of Daniela Rossell’s “Ricas y Famosas,” that was in the WSRC gallery at that time.