JASS Blog

by Srilatha Batliwala on November 23, 2016 at 3:43 pm

Four years ago, a young girl – Januba – from an impoverished family in a village in Tamilnadu, a province in the heart of southern India, finished middle school thanks to the determination and sacrifice of her mother, who had never attended school at all. Januba had done exceedingly well and her teachers encouraged her to go on to high school. Alas, there was no high school in the village, but Januba’s determined mother enrolled her in the high school in a town some ten miles away. Januba’s mother had been a longstanding member of a local women’s movement that had analyzed and fought against misogynistic customs and traditions, established their own parallel “women’s courts”, and simultaneously empowered the women through micro-credit and improved livelihood opportunities.

The matter came to the attention of the customary council that governed the affairs of the religious group that Januba and her mother belonged to. Throughout India, such clan/caste/religious councils continue to have sway over the members of their communities, even though they have no formal or legal authority within India’s constitutional and governance framework. They cross the line constantly, in the worst ways. Yet the government has failed to curb the power of these councils, even when their rulings and decrees violate national laws and constitutional rights, except in rare cases when their atrocities hit the headlines – such as hanging couples who had married across caste lines, for example. 

In the area where Januba lived, the religious council had issued a decree that no girl should be sent to school after she reaches menarche (roughly around the age of 12 or 13). Girls should stay at home, learn cooking and housework, until they were married. When Januba’s mother refused to obey their edict, the council members sent a posse of thugs to their house. Januba’s father was beaten up while Januba and her mother were tied to a tree and whipped. They were threatened that if they continued to defy the council’s orders, they would be executed. Januba’s terrified father fled from the village and has not been heard of since. 

Januba and her mother also fled, but to another part of the province, where she promptly enrolled in the local high school, while her mother did daily wage work to support her. No one knows where Januba or her mother now live – they have never disclosed their location, only that they are alive and well.

This is what women crossing the line means to me. I bow my head in salutation to Januba and her mother. I bow my head in silent salutation to all the women around the world who cross the line.

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by JASS on September 9, 2016 at 10:29 am

By Maureen Kademaunga

The fires we light are not fires to set alight police cars, they are small cooking fires we make in our township backyards to feed the children when there's no electricity.

The fires we light are not fires to set alight our neighbor's small-time business, they are rare passions we ignite in each other to soldier on, set up vending stalls and make a living against all odds.

The fires we light are not fires to torch public buildings, they are rare passions we ignite in our little children's hearts to get up and learn something new even when we know their future stands uncertain.

The fires we light are not fires to burn our flag or bring shame to our beautiful Zimbabwe, they are small fires we put together on Jozi's street corners to keep warm while we cross the border and engage in a useful trade.

The fires we light are not fires we sit around and laugh, they are fires we sit around at a relatives funeral and mourn our dysfunctional health services and the life it purloined.

The fires we make, we the women of Zimbabwe, tell our daily story of struggle.

We are sorry Sir, if our small fires make for space for political talk that makes you uneasy.

We are deeply sorry our dear leader, if our small fires have ignited, in our people, the passion and fiery that will consume you.

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by Daysi Yamileth Flores Hernandez on September 7, 2016 at 12:32 pm

The skies wept as together we received the month of September in the town of La Esperanza, Honduras. Hundreds of visitors brought with them hearts that beat to the rhythms of their struggles, their love and the many colors of their dreams; they brought their cameras, drums, pens, and the united cry to demand once and for all: Justice for Berta!

The force and the conviction of our presence can be felt not only in this town, but in every community, in every river, in every voice, in every mountain, and even in far-off places where solidarity has grown and today comes together to remind the world that it has been #6monthswithoutJustice.

The COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) welcomes us with open arms, and with the care and hospitality of taking us into their home without regard for where you come from or what your issue is. They know we're here to support their struggle, which is our own. They know we are honoring Berta and honoring COPINH. On arriving, beautiful images of Berta's face appear as if to say: "I'm here!"  And your soul winces because the pain of her physical absences hurts like glass cuts to the heart, but then her voice is right beside you as you read her words on a banner: "The right to be happy is very subversive and that's why we should all aspire to be happy", and you see again her broad smile, her laughter, her jokes, her dances... Her love and her passion for life are right there in front of you!

With this spirit of love—so distant from the logic of "development"—we begin today to walk together to demand a permanent halt to the Agua Zarca project, an independent commission investigation into Berta's assassination, and an end to the exploitation of Mother Earth and the persecution of those who care for her and defend her. I have my hat ready, woven proudly by the women of La Cuchilla, a township declared mining-free, who like all the women in these parts have come here today to demand Justice for Berta!

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