JASS Blog Archives for April 2013

by Rosanna Langara on April 30, 2013 on 2:12 am

“Our lives are not dependent on our governments. Many governments actually fail to do their duty. They just leave the women and the people to struggle alone,” says Dina Lumbantobing of JASS Southeast Asia. 

In a bid to address the continuing exclusion of civil society organizations (CSOs) and social movements from government processes, hundreds of activists and grassroots leaders joined the Global Civil Society Organizations (CSO) Forum on the Post‐2015 Development Agenda held last March 23-24, 2013 in Bali, Indonesia.

In 2000, world leaders came together to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration, with nations “committing to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and setting out a series of time-bound targets – with a deadline of 2015.” These are known as the millennium development goals (MDGs) – key themes of which include: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women.

For the past 13 years, most Asian governments boast of significant improvements especially in poverty reduction. But recent estimates peg that of those people living below the poverty line, 950 million are in Asia-Pacific. In addition, almost sixty-five percent or 518 million of the world’s adult illiterates reside in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the 2012 Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report. As for gender parity in education, 68 countries still have not achieved gender parity in primary education, and girls are disadvantaged in sixty of them.

What should have been a genuine interest and commitment to achieve these MDG goals has become mere lip service and application of mechanical approaches and solutions. Though not explicitly declared in the forum, the “globalization” framework or the “neoliberal paradigm” is a failure.

Civil society organizations (CSOs) from the Asia-Pacific increasingly demand not just consultation, but a more meaningful participation in the crafting of a global development agenda. CSOs’ call is to be “engaged as an equal partner in all political processes to co-determine a bold, transformative and people-centred framework.” In the Global CSO event, women’s presence was markedly very strong. Sealing women’s voices was the drafting and release of a Women’s Caucus statement which registered women’s demands for a more equitable, just, gender-fair and inclusive development framework post-2015.

One of JASS Southeast Asia’s pillars, Dina Lumbantobing, took part in the drafting of the statement as she participated in the global dialogue on behalf of the Executive Council of the Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE).

The Women’s Caucus’ statement can be used by women everywhere, especially for Southeast Asia, as reference to demand for the new paradigm post-2015. This event can contribute to the improvement of women’s condition in the region.  But although Southeast Asian women can use these platforms and agreements to our advantage, these are not enough. We have two more years to go before 2015 and many things can happen. We all know the ‘clever style’ of rich countries to avoid their promises,” says Dina Lumbantobing.   

While there have been some steps forward to meet some of the MDG targets and to spur efforts to focus on poverty reduction, undeniably, significant work remains to be done.

According to estimates, half of the world’s population lives on less than US$2.50 per day, and nearly one in seven people live in hunger while one in five suffer from obesity. The wealthiest 20 per cent of the world enjoy more than 80 per cent of total world’s wealth, while the bottom 20 per cent share only 1 per cent.

“We can definitely learn from the statements and also from other sources on the failure of MDGs and other target such as Education for All, to be more focused on the importance of gender perspectives, education and lifelong learning, especially for women,” adds Dina. 

The Women’s Caucus was led for the most part by the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD). Part of the Women’s Caucus statement reads:

The current development model, which gives corporations control over our natural wealth, water and resources, as well as technology and intellectual property, while depriving women of land and food sovereignty, undermines gender equality, sends communities into conflict with governments, increases militarization, and women's vulnerability to violence and economic shock. This must change.

 
The new development framework must recognise that patriarchal systems and practices are a major impediment for development. Ending violence against women and girls and promoting democratic empowerment and leadership of women at home, in the community, nationally and internationally is a fundamental prerequisite for women’s rights enjoyment, gender equality, sustainable development and genuine democracy.”

This is where JASS, as a force that drives feminist organizing efforts in the region, play a crucial role.  No matter how effective or ineffective women are at influencing our governments to adopt more people-centred policies, of greater magnitude is the strength of women’s and people’s voices. Apart from amplifying women’s voices, JASS can also play an instrumental role in knowledge building especially to gauge if MDGs are effective and are rooted in women’s needs.

“The impact that we want to create is not only through the statements that we make in these fora, but also, and more important, how hard and solid we are on the ground and in the women’s movement to convince them,” concludes Dina.  

Governments make decisions that leave women and marginalized peoples excluded. In the final tally, when governments fail the people, it is the people who suffer. It is only fair for women, along with other marginalized sectors of society, to claim spaces and platforms such as the Global CSO Forum to make their voices heard.

Photo Credit: Nila Wardani

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by JASS on April 30, 2013 on 12:00 am

Escrito por Wala Nalungwe, joven activista feminista de Zambia que coordina el proyecto de la Academia de Liderazgo para Mujeres Jóvenes en Youth Vision Zambia, aliada de JASS.

“¿Lucharían ustedes por los derechos de las trabajadoras sexuales?”, pregunté hace poco a un grupo de mujeres jóvenes en un taller feminista. La mayoría de las mujeres del grupo se sentían evidentemente incómodas con la mera idea de interactuar con trabajadoras sexuales como parte del movimiento feminista. “La Biblia dice claramente que el trabajo sexual está mal”, dijo una participante que estaba decidida a “reformar” a las trabajadoras sexuales. Agregó: “Trataría de ayudarles a abandonar esa vida y a rehabilitarse”. Otra dijo: “Yo no trabajaría con ellas, ya que eso les alentaría a seguir con ese trabajo, que está mal”.

Mi frustración fue aumentando al escuchar las opiniones del grupo. Me recordaban cuán dividido está el movimiento feminista en Zambia y la forma en que excluimos a las trabajadoras sexuales de la labor de organización y de nuestra agenda. También me sorprendió la selectividad con que aplicamos los valores cristianos. Por ejemplo, nadie se oponía a las relaciones sexuales prematrimoniales. Se podía hablar del sexo, pero no del trabajo sexual.

Las trabajadoras sexuales son pecadoras porque profanan su cuerpo, que es el templo de Dios, cada vez que ejercen su profesión con distintos hombres. El trabajo sexual es degradante y explotador.” - Mujer joven activista

El activismo en torno al trabajo sexual permanece en la periferia del movimiento de mujeres de Zambia y rara vez es tema de conversación cuando las mujeres se organizan para luchar por la justicia social en Zambia. Para alcanzar la igualdad y la inclusión, que son principios feministas fundamentales, es necesario que aunemos las voces de todas las mujeres a fin de que podamos formar parte de una visión de cambio, sea que propugnemos mejores políticas y leyes, que proporcionemos orientación y servicios de apoyo o que estemos luchando por el acceso a los recursos. El movimiento feminista tiene que hacer suya la lucha de cada mujer, sin moralizar ni juzgar. Como las trabajadoras sexuales constituyen uno de los grupos más marginados de la sociedad, ya que sufren discriminación como mujeres y como trabajadoras sexuales, deberían estar en primer lugar en nuestra agenda.

Las trabajadoras sexuales son seres humanos y, como cualquier otra persona, tienen derechos humanos con arreglo a acuerdos nacionales e internacionales. El derecho a la vida, la seguridad, la libertad de expresión, la acción política y el acceso a la información y a servicios básicos de salud y educación es tan importante para las trabajadoras sexuales como para cualquier otra persona. Nadie debería perder esos derechos humanos debido al trabajo que hace.” - Wala Nalungwe

Toda persona tiene derecho a una vida sin violencia. Sin embargo, en Zambia, como en muchos otros lugares, las trabajadoras sexuales son insultadas, acosadas y agredidas regularmente por los clientes e incluso por la policía, que sabe que hay pocas probabilidades, o ninguna, de que la sociedad los condene o de que tengan que rendir cuentas de sus actos ante sus superiores. Estas agresiones contribuyen a la vulnerabilidad física de las trabajadoras sexuales, así como a su mala salud y a su cinismo con respecto a las autoridades y a los proveedores de servicios sociales. Las trabajadoras sexuales también suelen ser víctimas de delincuentes que se aprovechan de su renuencia a denunciar ataques a la policía por temor de que las maltraten o las insulten aun más. Cualquiera que sea su condición jurídica, las trabajadoras sexuales merecen vivir sin agresiones físicas y sexuales, como cualquier otra persona. Sin embargo, con frecuencia se pasan por alto estos derechos o se los deniega.

El mito de “salvar” a las trabajadoras sexuales de ellas mismas…

Con demasiada frecuencia se presenta a las trabajadoras sexuales como seres humanos dañados que necesitan que los rescaten, sin agencia o capacidad de acción ni poder personal, o como “malas mujeres” que es preciso reformar. La razón que alegan algunos para criticar el trabajo sexual como ocupación es que “ninguna mujer normal elegiría el trabajo sexual; si lo hace es porque sufrió abusos de niña o le gusta demasiado el sexo”.

En Zambia, la mayoría de las intervenciones, si no todas, para mejorar la vida de las trabajadoras sexuales se centran en reformarlas y en buscar otras formas de ganarse la vida. La clase económica baja y la falta de oportunidades de empleo son solo algunas de las razones por las cuales las mujeres optan por el trabajo sexual. El feminismo consiste en ampliar las opciones para las mujeres y permitirles que tomen decisiones sin coacción y sin que las juzguen. En vez de tratar de reformar a las trabajadoras sexuales, tenemos que concentrarnos en crear entornos en los cuales las trabajadoras sexuales puedan dedicarse a su profesión si correr riesgos y tengan poder de decisión con respecto a las condiciones del servicio, es decir, entornos en los cuales las trabajadoras sexuales puedan gozar de sus derechos, incluidos el acceso a la atención de salud y a la educación y el fin de la discriminación, los estigmas y la violencia.

En Zambia hay poca tolerancia de las diferencias en las formas de pensar, las experiencias y las decisiones. Hace poco, Paul Kasonkomona, enérgico defensor de los derechos humanos, fue arrestado después de defender en un programa de televisión el acceso de las trabajadoras sexuales, los presos y las minorías sexuales a la atención de salud. La reacción fue rápida: el jefe de policía de Zambia anunció que Kasonkomona había sido arrestado por “incitar al público a participar en actividades indecentes”. Es hora de que el movimiento feminista de Zambia defienda sus principios. Como feministas, estamos luchando contra los sistemas que perpetúan las relaciones desiguales de poder entre hombres y mujeres. Eso significa luchar por los derechos de todas las mujeres, incluidos los derechos de las trabajadoras sexuales y las minorías sexuales. ¡Los derechos de las trabajadoras sexuales son derechos de las mujeres!

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by JASS on April 18, 2013 on 6:47 am

Written by Wala Nalungwe, a young Zambian feminist activist who is also the Coordinator for the Young Women’s Leadership Academy Project at JASS partner organisation, Youth Vision Zambia.

“Would you fight for the rights of sex workers?” I asked a group of young women in a feminist workshop recently. For most of the women in the group, there was a clear discomfort with even the idea of working with sex workers as part of the feminist movement. “The Bible clearly says that sex work is wrong,” said one participant who was determined to ‘reform’ sex workers, “If I did work with sex workers, I would try to help them to be rehabilitated from that life.” Another said “I wouldn’t work with sex workers as that would be encouraging them to remain in their field of work which is wrong.”

I grew increasingly frustrated with the opinions coming from the group. It reminded me just how divided the Zambian feminist movement is, and how we exclude sex workers from our organising and agendas. I was also struck by how we are selective in the way that we apply our Christian values, for example, no one opposed sex before marriage. Sex was up for discussion, just not sex work.

 Sex workers are sinners as they defile the temple of God which is their bodies whenever they engage in their trade with different men, sex work is degrading and exploitative. ~ Young woman activist

Activism around sex work remains at the periphery of the Zambian women’s movement and sex work is seldom the focus of discussions when women organize for social justice in Zambia. Equality and inclusion, fundamental feminist principles, require that we draw together the voices of all women so that we can be part of a vision for change – whether we advocate for improved policies and legislation, or provide counseling and support services, or fight for access to resources. It is up to us as a feminist movement to embrace the struggles of every woman without moralizing and judgment. Since sex workers are one of the most marginalized groups in society – discriminated against as women and as sex workers, they should be at the top of our agenda.

Sex workers are human beings and like any other human are entitled to human rights under national and international agreements. The right to life, safety, free speech, political action and access to information and to basic health and education services is as important to sex workers as to anyone else. No one should lose these human rights because of the work they do. ~ Wala Nalungwe

Every person deserves the right to live a life free from violence yet, in Zambia as in many places, sex workers are routinely insulted, harassed and assaulted by clients and even by police who know there is little or no chance society will condemn them for it or that they will be held to account by their superiors.  These assaults contribute to sex workers’ physical vulnerability, poor health and cynicism toward legal authorities and social service providers.  Sex workers are also often targeted by criminals who prey on their reluctance to report attacks to the police out of fear of suffering further injury or insult.  Whatever their legal status, sex workers deserve as much safety against physical and sexual assault as any other persons, yet, these rights are often ignored and actively denied them.

The myth of “saving” sex workers from themselves…

Too often sex workers are portrayed as damaged human beings with no agency or personal power, in need of rescuing or as “bad women” who must be reformed. For some, their reasoning for criticizing sex work as an occupation is that “no normal woman would engage sex work by choice its either she was abused as a child or she just loves sex too much.”

In Zambia, most if not all the interventions for the improvement of the lives of sex workers are focused on reformation and alternative ways of earning a living. Low economic status and lack of employment opportunities are just some of the reasons for women choosing to engage in sex work. Feminism is about expanding women’s choices and allowing them to make those choices free of coercion and judgment. Instead of focusing on reforming sex workers, we need to focus on creating environments where sex workers can engage in their profession safely and have the power to make choices about their conditions of service. An environment where all sex workers can enjoy their rights, including access to health care, education, and an end to discrimination, stigmatization, and violence.

Tolerance for difference in Zambia – views, experience, and choice – is low. Recently, outspoken human rights activist, Paul Kasonkomona, was arrested after appearing on television advocating for access to healthcare for sex workers, prisoners and sexual minorities. Backlash was quick to follow with Zambia’s police chief announcing Kasonkomona’s arrest for “inciting the public to take part in indecent activities.”  It’s time for the Zambian feminist movement to stand up. As feminists we are fighting the systems that perpetuate unequal power relations between men and women, this means fighting for the rights of all women including the rights of sex workers and sexual minorities. Sex workers’ rights are women’s rights!

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