The WRAP #50- Women’s Rights are Human Rights, Broadening our way of thinking, and 60 Seconds with Sarah Shakour

One month into 2017 and there is already so much to reflect on, discuss, lament, and debate.

Donald Trump’s transition into power saw an unprecedented uproar in the form of women-led rallies and protests around the world.

It seems Trump and his almost all-white, all-male Cabinet are determined to implement legislation that affects not just women’s health and reproductive rights in the USA, but across the globe. This month we explain why we all need to continue to use intersectional feminism to make sure each and every woman’s voice is heard on the matter.

We also take a look through the intersectional lens at the recent Australia Day billboard fiasco and what it means to recognise all forms of racism and discrimination.

Lastly, our 60 seconds with Sarah Shakour, a self-confessed Harry Potter nerd and mental health worker.

We are also happy to announce our upcoming NETFA forum. As part of the National Education Toolkit for FGM/C Awareness (NETFA) Project, MCWH will be hosting the third National Forum ‘Foundations for Change’ on 24th March 2017 at the Woodward Conference Centre in Melbourne. It will feature international guest speaker Ms Amina Warsame from Network Against FGM/C in Somaliland and will look at ways we can use international learnings and translate them into local solutions. You can register your interest on the Facebook events page and we will keep you posted once tickets go on sale.

Until next time,
The WRAP Team

Women’s Rights are Human Rights

Image: Women's March Toronto via: Now Magazine

Image: Women’s March Toronto via: Now Magazine

Those of us who support women’s reproductive rights watched with horror this month as the clock was suddenly turned back on women’s access to health care. Several days into Donald Trump’s presidency the ‘Global Gag Rule’ was reinstated, a signature on a dotted line on a document in the US, which in effect prevents non US-based organisations and health care workers in a range of different countries around the world from providing information to women about abortion services.

There is now a real concern that the health of women will be seriously compromised due to this limitation on their access to information, knowledge and services. Indeed, any barrier placed in the way of women knowing more about their bodies, rights and health takes us right back to a time when knowledge was feared and women’s empowerment was seen as a sign of witchcraft.

Fortunately, there are other signs that we are not still living in those days with respect to women’s rights: on 21 January, 673 Women’s Marches took place in a world-wide protest involving an estimated 4.78 million people. The marches in our own cities of Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney all shared in the collective call to restore our minds and reproductive parts back to the present day.

The marches were inclusive and intersectional; they united around a common goal of creating a society in which all women, without exception, are free to live their lives in safe and healthy environments. Perhaps, as always, Angela Davis most eloquently summed up the meaning of the marches when she said that the women’s marches represented the promise of feminism.

The ticking clock, so often associated with a woman’s reproductive system, takes on a new meaning in the context of the times we live in. There are forces pushing the political clock on women’s reproductive rights backwards, whether it be through new legislation, by limiting resources and funding to women’s health, or by progressively shifting responsibility for women’s health care from the community to the individual. Now, more than ever, let’s hold on to the fact that women’s reproductive health is, literally, what keeps the world ticking over. It needs to be valued.

Broadening our frame of thinking

Image via: newtownproject.com.au

Image via: newtownproject.com.au

It might just be another public holiday for some but for many more, Australia Day is becoming a topic of growing debate. The question being, why should it continue to be a national day of celebration when it more accurately signifies the colonisation and subsequent massacre of the Aboriginal people?

The Australia Day promotional billboard of the two young girls wearing hijabs, which were taken down following death threats has highlighted what is at stake when we see an issue from within a limited vantage point, and lacking an overarching framework.

The problem, supposedly, was that the billboard didn’t accurately reflect ‘Australia Day’. For the vocal minority, it was a case of political correctness gone mad and that Muslims (especially those wearing hijabs) do not, cannot and should not represent what it is to be Australian. The backlash immediately elicited a counter response about Australia’s diversity and the benefits of multiculturalism.

Yet, as the Change the Date protests have shown, the subsequent crowd funding raised to reinstate the billboard (however well-intentioned), ignored the facts of Australia Day and the reality of Indigenous lives since the arrival of the First Fleet. It’s a case of recognising one form of racism and discrimination at the expense of another: in speaking out against Islamaphobia we’ve failed to see that there’s also another group of people who are affected by other forms of racism. In effect, Aboriginal people fell through the cracks of the counter-protest and became invisible.

Kimberlé Crenshaw refers to this inability to recognise who might be implicated and affected by a problem as a ‘trickle-down approach to social justice’ because the frame for understanding injustice is limited. The frame, as Crenshaw urges, needs to be an intersectional frame so that it will allow us to think about how every social problem impacts all members of a group. Especially those made vulnerable by various power dynamics and processes such as racism and sexism.

As for Australia Day, intersectional thinking will allow us to broaden our understanding of not only what it means for all Australians but also how Aboriginal Australians have been and continue to be impacted by racism, sexism, and colonisation in all its multiple and overlapping forms.

So whatever you decide to do on Australia Day next year, whether it be celebrating, protesting or advocating, it’s important to think about who you’re doing it for and who needs to be doing it with you.

60 seconds with Sarah Shoukor

Sarah Shoukor

Mental Health Support Worker and Hogwarts School Graduate

If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?
If I had a magic wand and was able to attend Hogwarts (still waiting for my acceptance letter) I would build a Hogwarts in every country for children to be accepted for who they are and what they bring.

What is your best quality or attribute?
Loving me for who I am and always being honest with me, even if the truth hurts sometimes.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
Do not try and fit into a box. Embrace where you come from and what it has taught you, as well as what you will learn living in Australia.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
I’m always questioning where I fit in. I feel torn between two cultures: am I Iraqi or Australian? What does it mean to belong to these cultures? It was particularly hard being in high school, starting new friendships and sometimes not being able to fit in because you feel that you won’t be accepted for who are.

What are you reading right now?
The Nawal El-Saadawi Reader.

If you could invite any woman, (dead or living) to dinner, who would it be and why?
Nawal El-Saadawi- she is an Egyptian feminist novelist, critic and human rights advocate. She wrote about physical and psychological hardships women in the Middle East faced. She challenged the “traditions”- particularly writing about sex and women.

Simply being in the same room as her would make me feel more empowered. I would also want to thank her for challenging traditions and for giving a women a voice.

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
My mother, as she has taught me resilience and confidence. She sacrificed a lot to provide my sister and I with a comfortable and safe life. I wish I had enough time to explain how amazing she is. I think you will have to meet her to see for yourself, as words are not enough.

She was always brave and I learnt to be determined from her at a young age. She always made sure my sister and I were looked after, even when crossing the border with us being under the age of 7, and with my father in another country. She had to build a life for us in Lebanon without any support and I never heard her complain or saw her give up.

Name a book or a film that changed your life
The Harry Potter books changed my life. It was my safe place as a young person who was adjusting to a new life in a new country. They taught me to believe in my abilities, to never give up no matter how hard it gets and to be welcoming of different people.