Empowerment

Written by Pin Marin I have long dreamed of living in a “prosperous” Cambodia – where everyone contributes to the country’s development, where women and men are active and equal participants, and where we finally attain peace and justice.
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This issue of Making Change Happen examines the threats, challenges, strategies and aspirations of indigenous and rural women within the greater JASS community. Why this focus? There is plenty of evidence to indicate that indigenous and rural women are facing increasing difficulties throughout the world.
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Beyoncé has the internet abuzz, but this time it’s not just about her music and the groundbreaking launch of her new album—it’s also about whether or not she is a feminist. From academics to culture bloggers, community activists to girls who never thought about or used feminism in a written sentence before—and many feminists around the world—black, white, young, old, African, Latina, men, women—everyone’s chattering about whether Beyoncé is a feminist. 
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What a gathering! I just got back from the JASS leadership course in Nicaragua with some 34 women activists from Mesoamerica—that part of the Americas that reaches from Panama all the way up to Mexico and everywhere in between.
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I will never forget the day I decided to cut my hair. I remember taking my walk of courage to the beauty salon seven years ago. I walked in and the lady who usually braided my hair stood in shock when I said “Cut it all off, please!” It took months of deliberation to declare this statement. It was one of the most difficult but liberating decisions I had ever made for myself. I had spent too much time trying to achieve or maintain what I have to define as, ‘beauty markers’. I had had enough!
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When I first met Siti Harsun, my impression was of a quiet girl and a warm smile. But I soon learned not to be fooled by her appearance. Beneath her gentle manner, Harsun is a fierce organizer. Once our discussion turned to food security, her soft voice became fiery and filled with indignation.
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It’s not easy to identify yourself as a feminist in Zambia. You risk violent backlash or isolation in your community, workplace, and relationships. For Nana Zulu, her first contact with JASS in 2009 raised the question: What does it mean to be a feminist in Zambia today?
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"I’m willing to join more protest actions and even be detained every week just to get women’s and the people’s message across,” says Abigail Extremadura, a Filipino woman activist who was arrested in a demonstration on the eve of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) commemoration. Upon the vigilance of fellow women activists from GABRIELA, Abigail was released the following day. Undaunted, she once again partook in the IWD protest marches; this time, with more intense commitment.
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