WBEZ | women's rights http://www.wbez.org/tags/womens-rights Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Political unrest in Iraq http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-08-11/political-unrest-iraq-110629 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP911464245376.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri Al-Maliki, is due to be replaced, but is fighting for a third term despite his loss of support in Iraq and internationally. As the U.S. pressures Al-Maliki to peacefully step aside, it continues airstrikes against ISIL near Erbil.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-political-unrest-in-iraq/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-political-unrest-in-iraq.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-political-unrest-in-iraq" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Political unrest in Iraq" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 11:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-08-11/political-unrest-iraq-110629 Global Activism: SowHope http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-sowhope-108192 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/P1000718 (3) (2).jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F102594517&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: 'Museo Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif; font-size: 15px; line-height: 24px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Former White House photographer Mary Dailey Brown was eager to work for a non-profit focusing exclusively on women, so when she couldn&rsquo;t find one that met her criteria, she decided to start her own. She and her husband, Doug, decided to sell farmland Doug had inherited in order to start&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.sowhope.org/" style="color: rgb(56, 118, 178); font-family: 'Museo Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif; font-size: 15px; line-height: 24px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);" target="_blank">SowHope</a><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: 'Museo Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif; font-size: 15px; line-height: 24px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">&nbsp;in 2006.</span></p><p><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: 'Museo Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif; font-size: 15px; line-height: 24px;">&ldquo;It was like diving off a cliff,&rdquo; Mary says. </span></p><p><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: 'Museo Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif; font-size: 15px; line-height: 24px;">Mary joins us to talk about what it took to get her organization off the ground and what SowHope has been able to accomplish.</span></p></p> Thu, 25 Jul 2013 14:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-sowhope-108192 BBC Assignment: Forced Sterilisation in Uzbekistan http://www.wbez.org/worldview/2012-04-17/segment/bbc-assignment-forced-sterilisation-uzbekistan-98307 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/UzbekSterilization.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In a government effort to control the population, women in Uzbekistan are being sterilized -- often without their knowledge. Many women have fled the country to escape the practice. The BBC <em>Assignment</em>'s <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/crossing_continents/7334433.stm" onclick="window.open(this.href, '', 'resizable=no,status=no,location=no,toolbar=no,menubar=no,fullscreen=no,scrollbars=no,dependent=no'); return false;">Natalia Antelava</a> details the plight of Uzbek women in her documentary, <em>Forcible Sterilisation In Uzbekistan</em>.</p></p> Tue, 17 Apr 2012 10:30:34 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/worldview/2012-04-17/segment/bbc-assignment-forced-sterilisation-uzbekistan-98307 Global Activism: Helping destitute Afghan women become artisans http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-10/global-activism-helping-destitute-afghan-women-become-artisans-93935 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-November/2011-11-10/afghan1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Every Thursday in our <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/globalactivism" target="_blank">Global Activism</a></em> series, we introduce you to a local individual who’s trying to change the world.</p><p>In Dari, the word <em>arzu</em> means “hope.” It’s also the name of an organization that employs Afghan women in remote provinces to weave fair trade artisan rugs. <a href="http://www.arzustudiohope.org/home" target="_blank">ARZU</a> helps women build a better life through access to education, healthcare and job training.</p><p>This holistic support is desperately needed. Afghanistan was recently named the world’s most dangerous country in the world for women, according to a <a href="http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/womens-rights/dangerpoll/" target="_blank">survey</a> by TrustLaw, part of the Thomas Reuters Foundation.</p><p>ARZU founder <a href="http://www.arzustudiohope.org/home/story/team" target="_blank">Connie Duckworth</a> says she's trying to apply her private sector experience to grassroots development.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>To hear more stories of people making a difference, check out the </em><a href="wbez.org/globalactivism" target="_blank">Global Activism</a><em><a href="wbez.org/globalactivism" target="_blank"> page</a>, where you can also suggest a person or organization for the series. Or, email your suggestions to <a href="mailto:worldview@wbez.org">worldview@wbez.org</a> and put </em>“Global Activism”<em> in the subject line. </em>Global Activism<em> is also a <a href="wbez.org/podcasts" target="_blank">podcast</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 10 Nov 2011 17:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-10/global-activism-helping-destitute-afghan-women-become-artisans-93935 Website lets Afghan women tell their own stories unfiltered http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-25/website-lets-afghan-women-tell-their-own-stories-unfiltered-93461 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-25/afghan2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In Afghanistan, women are largely seen as second-class citizens. Under Taliban rule, merely being a woman could be life-threatening.</p><p>While reporting in Afghanistan, freelance journalist <a href="http://mashahamilton.com/" target="_blank">Masha Hamilton</a> saw women marginalized in their families and villages. Upset that women had few outlets for self-expression, she started the <a href="http://www.awwproject.org" target="_blank">Afghan Women’s Writing Project</a> .</p><p>The project connects published writers from around the world with Afghan women who are interested in writing about their lives.</p><p>The response to the project has been overwhelming, and its website has become a rare, living archive on what it means to be a woman in today’s Afghanistan.</p><p>Masha says a gruesome video of an Afghan woman’s execution sparked the idea for the project.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>To read one of the poems Masha mentions in her interview, "Remembering 15," click <a href="http://www.awwproject.org/2010/01/remembering-fifteen/" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 25 Oct 2011 15:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-25/website-lets-afghan-women-tell-their-own-stories-unfiltered-93461 Worldview 10.25.11 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-102511 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/episode/images/2011-october/2011-10-25/afghan1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Before 9/11, American journalist <a href="http://mashahamilton.com/" target="_blank">Masha Hamilton</a> stumbled across a video of Taliban members brutally executing a woman in Afghanistan. The gruesome footage inspired her to create the <a href="http://www.awwproject.org" target="_blank">Afghan Women’s Writing Project</a>, which helps women in the war-ravaged country share their stories. Masha joins us to discuss the unlikely success of the project. Later, we take a look at a new adaptation of <em>A Walk in the Woods, </em>Lee Blessing’s 1988 play about Cold War adversaries who become friends while discussing nuclear disarmament. Originally written for two male characters, TimeLine Theatre Company’s production features actress Janet Ulrich Brooks as the Russian negotiator. And, global cities correspondent <a href="http://www.wbez.org/contributor/barry-weisberg" target="_self">Barry Weisberg</a> tells us how computers have changed the essential nature of cities around the world.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 25 Oct 2011 14:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-102511 Women’s status in the Middle East since the Arab Spring http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-26/women%E2%80%99s-status-middle-east-arab-spring-92466 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-26/AP11083015621.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>As longstanding and repressive regimes are pressured and collapse in North Africa and the Middle East, women’s roles in this new reality garner more and more scrutiny. In many cases, women were critical actors in these revolutions and fought side-by-side with men as bloggers, activists, leaders and logistics experts, but human rights observers wonder how much space there will be for women in the democratization process. Aside from political concerns, women still have to confront institutional misogyny, deep economic inequities and sexual violence with impunity.</p><p>We discuss these concerns with <a href="http://www.hrw.org/bios/liesl-gerntholtz" target="_blank">Liesl Gerntholtz</a>, director of the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 26 Sep 2011 16:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-26/women%E2%80%99s-status-middle-east-arab-spring-92466 Worldview 9.26.11 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-92611 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/episode/images/2011-september/2011-09-26/ap110923131202.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas submitted a letter on Friday requesting U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state. We’ll hear from <a href="http://electronicintifada.net/" target="_blank"><em>The </em></a><em><a href="http://electronicintifada.net/" target="_blank">Electronic Intifada’s</a></em> Ali Abunimah who, in his recent <a href="http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/68268/ali-abunimah/a-formal-funeral-for-the-two-state-solution" target="_blank">article</a> in <em>Foreign Affairs</em> magazine, called the bid for statehood “ill-conceived.” Also, over the weekend, women in Saudi Arabia were granted the right to vote. But as the Arab Spring uprisings reshape the Middle East and North Africa, women's rights advocates are concerned that women are being sidelined from the democratization process. <a href="http://www.hrw.org/bios/liesl-gerntholtz" target="_blank">Liesl Gerntholtz</a>, director of the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, addresses these concerns.</p></p> Mon, 26 Sep 2011 15:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-92611 Ground Shifters: ‘Justice Buried’ in Ciudad Juárez http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-13/ground-shifters-%E2%80%98justice-buried%E2%80%99-ciudad-ju%C3%A1rez-91917 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-13/mexico.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Ciudad Juárez, Mexico gained notoriety in the 1990s for its epidemic of female abductions. Over a decade, close to 1,500 women were disappeared from the border town. Today, reporter Jean Friedman-Rudovsky profiles Marisela Ortiz, an activist who’s spent years in fighting for justice for families of what's known as femicide. <em>The story is part of a series on women and girls in Bolivia and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico called <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ground-shifters-stories-women-changing-unseen-worlds" target="_blank">Ground Shifters: Stories of Women Changing Unseen Worlds. </a>The series is a collaboration between WBEZ and the <a href="http://www.colum.edu/Academics/Institute_for_the_Study_of_Women_and_Gender_in_the_Arts_and_Media/" target="_blank">Ellen Stone Belic Institute</a> for the Study of Women &amp; Gender in the Arts &amp; Media at Columbia College-Chicago. </em><em>Series Executive Producer, Steve Bynum. </em><em>Series Producer/Creative Advisor</em><em>, Jane Saks</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The bustling downtown centro of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico is deceptively festive. Stalls of bright clothes, dance music and colorful sweets line the plaza’s streets. They seem to mock the area’s history.</p><p>In 1993, women in Juárez started disappearing. Most vanished from here, the centro, abducted on their way to or from their night shifts at the maquiladoras, the city’s infamous mammoth factories that churn out cheap goods for US import. Often the women were on company transport buses. They were raped, tortured and killed; their bodies dumped on the city’s outskirts.</p><p>As of 2005, 600 victims had been found of what’s now known as femicide. Another 800 remain unaccounted for.</p><p>Marisela Ortiz says it all began when a student of her student Liliana Alejandra Garcia, went missing. Lilia’s mother, a teacher friend, sought Marisela’s help.</p><p>"At that time, we only focused on finding the girl and then seeking justice," says Marisela. "She had been raped by many men and then strangled to death. Her body appeared 8 days after its disappearence. We made our actions very public and so soon, other mothers and fathers with disappeared daughters asked us to help them in their search. Little by little because of this solidarity and cohesion among affected families, we decided to formalize our efforts. We officially began our organization in 2001—helping and supporting the femicide victims, and the sons and daughers who were orphaned when their mother was disppeared or killed."</p><p>The organization is called Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa. Marisela and co-founder Norma Andrande became the most well known anti-femicide campaigners in Juarez. Their tales inspired Hollywood movies and sparked worldwide human rights campaigns.</p><p>Marisela, a powerful presence with hair dyed auburn, has not stopped to rest since. She still works as a school counselor.</p><p>Her political routine? Take to the streets, talk to government authorities, press conferences and above all, she says, keep up constant pressure.</p><p>This may sound like standard activist fare. But remember, this is Ciudad Juarez: ground zero of the drug war — over 6,000 murders in the last three years, all supposedly drug-related.</p><p>But that’s not always the case, and being in the public spotlight means you are more likely to be consumed by the city’s tidal wave of violence.</p><p><strong>The costs of (not) speaking out</strong></p><p>Last December, a Juarez mother became enraged when authorities let her daughter’s convicted murderer flee the city. The determined mom planted herself in front of the state capital building in Chihuahua, vowing she’d stay put until her government brought her daughter’s killer to justice. A week later, just steps from the seat of government, the mother was gunned down in broad day-light. No one has been arrested. I asked Marisela if she’s scared.</p><p>"Of course I am," she admits. "For those of us who defend human rights, fear becomes an inherent part of your actions. I think if we didn’t feel fear we wouldn’t be human. Fear is necessary but you have to learn how to control your fear so that it doesn’t paralyze you. When someone has taken a gun to your head and said 'you are going to shut up, you are going to stop with these public statements,' it’s terrible. Your life changes completely.&nbsp; You have to say goodbye to many of your normal daily routines. You have to even say goodbye to many of your loved ones because those relationship are never the same again. I felt obligated to separate myself from my daughters. They were under threat too and so I had to say, 'there’s no other choice. You guys have to leave because to live here means constant danger and risk.'</p><p>"I have never considered leaving. I couldn’t do something so incongruent. We are struggling to better this community so how could I abandon something that I have struggled so hard for, something for which I’ve almost had to give my life? I couldn’t. I am not leaving Juarez. Not until I am in a coffin."</p><p>On a chilly winter evening at Marisela’s school, I meet Laura, 17, and Silvia, 15. Oh, and he’s one, Silvia says, nodding her head towards the little guy on her lap. Classes just ended for the day. Students scamper and shout school in the yard. The sisters sit quietly. They wear thick black mascara, and their mother must have been a beauty because they are stunning.</p><p>"Her name was Elena Guadiana," says Laura, recalling her mother. "We know that it was on a Saturday. She went to do extra hours at the maquiladora and she never came back. That’s all we know. My memories of her are fuzzy, almost nothing. I remember things like smells, the smell of burning sugar. But that’s all I remember. Nothing else."</p><p>It’s amazing that Laura remembers anything at all, as she was just 3 years and ten months old when her mom disappeared. The two sisters were essentially raised by Marisela and others in the group.</p><p>Now, they are notably teenagers - with a surface confidence protecting an inner child not much deeper. But their strength is palpable. Over time, they’ve become active members of Nuestras Hijas.</p><p>"This group is important for me," insists Laura. "It’s been very helpful for me to vent things those difficult thoughts. And to know that I don't have to talk about anything and that’s ok, too. With my mother gone, I want to do something so that what happened to her doesn’t happen again. We are here to support others going through what we went through, just as we were supported in our rough times."</p><p>Laura's sister Silvia agrees.&nbsp; She used to want to be a policewoman, until she says she realized police are corrupt.&nbsp; Now she's put her dreams of being an architect on hold to raise her son.</p><p>"I think that in every march, when we go to the streets and hand out flyers, we are making up for what we weren’t able to do for our mom," Silvia says. "That’s what I’ve come to believe and that’s why I do what I do. Now as an adult, I try to do for others what I couldn’t do before."</p><p><strong>Empowering women, changing laws</strong></p><p>Soon the room fills with girls Silvia and Laura’s age.&nbsp; The steel bar door closes and the workshop begins. The workshop leader quiets the group and explains: Few of us have the chance to tell our stories— to find our voice in this city. That’s what we’re doing here for the next few months.</p><p>Marisela told me she started these programs because the battle of Juarez’s women shouldn’t just be about those who are gone — but about empowering those who are still here. Mothers who’ve lost daughters participate too.</p><p>"Some of these workshops are aimed at empowerment," Marisela says. "So that the women starting taking responsibility in society and stop taking on the role of victim that society gives them. They end up stronger in the struggle and better able to support other women. We’ve been able to accomplish this with some of the women, but not with all. This de-victimization work is very difficult. Many women themselves dont want to let go of the victim role because it becomes a refuge for their emotional necessities."</p><p>In the past ten years, Nuestras Hijas campaigns changed Juarez law. Now the state is required to search for a woman who disappears. Before, authorities would simply say: “It’s not illegal to leave Juárez. Maybe she just crossed the border.” And not do anything. The organization has rescued women from human trafficking rings and even managed a few convictions. Over 90% of Juarez’s femicides have gone virtually uninvestigated, let alone with an arrest.</p><p>But international notoriety triggered by grassroots work like Marisela’s likely put an end to the mass maquiladora bus abductions years ago. These women also helped set a daring precedent for those who seek justice in Juarez: fear will not keep us silenced.</p><p>"Here, we are emotionally involved because the majority of us in the organization have been directly affected by the loss of a loved one, a relative and so we have common objectives," says Marisela. "Nothing separates us no matter how different we are. Some did not have the chance to go to school, others [had] few economic opportunities in their lives, [and] others suffer because their families don’t support their activism. None of that has mattered when it’s come to our work. We focus more on our what we can acheive rather than on what we lack."</p><p>Everyone has a theory to explain the Juárez femicide phenomenon. The maquilas brought hundreds of thousands of young women to an already dangerous border town, often alone. They made easy victims. Or, the justice system, saturated by impunity, fed by corruption. Or that Juarez—transformed into one of the world’s largest free-trade zones – made even human life dispensable. Maybe it’s all of this, rolled into one.&nbsp;</p><p>Without clear cause, there is no clear solution. And the problem grows.</p><p>"Frankly, over the last three years, female disappearances have increased 400% and in these last three years is when we’ve seen the highest number of women violently killed," Marisela points out.</p><p>"This has been hidden behind all the other violence of the street war between drug cartels. This has allowed the government to put the femicide issue to the side, though it wasn’t a real priority for the government to being with. They will never give you any real figures. In fact they try to hide the severity of the problem. Impunity is an inherent part of femicide. Femicide is not only the assasination of a woman but everything that surrounds that act, including impunity and institutional violence. Even after these women are killed they continue to be raped by our government institutions."</p><p><strong>Memories, identities buried deep</strong></p><p>Las Lomas are a set of hilly peaks just west of Juárez. The locale serves as the unofficial cemetery for Juarez’s women. It was a preferred dumping ground for their bodies in the 1990’s. I don’t consider myself a particularly spiritual person, but standing there, I felt something around me in the winter breeze; as if their ghosts surrounded me.</p><p>A local told me that police rarely bothered to come up here. Mothers would climb the sandy soil hills looking for—and often discovering—their daughters bodies; mutilated and decayed.</p><p>Today, a built road stretches to the top and nearby residents come on the weekends to enjoy the view. There’s a soccer field for afternoon games. Eight wooden crosses, painted pink, stand off to the side, covered by tall brush. One more, at the top of a high post, leans sideways, barely hanging on. Passersby, even if they do notice, don’t even glance in that direction.</p></p> Tue, 13 Sep 2011 15:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-13/ground-shifters-%E2%80%98justice-buried%E2%80%99-ciudad-ju%C3%A1rez-91917 Ground Shifters: Amazonian Warriors http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-12/ground-shifters-amazonian-warriors-91870 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-12/With Narda and her two sons.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>In the first installment of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ground-shifters-stories-women-changing-unseen-worlds" target="_self">Ground Shifters</a>, reporter Jean Friedman-Rudovsky heads to the Bolivian Amazon basin with Narda Baqueros, a fireball of a woman. Baqueros fights for social justice and equality in one of the most machismo regions in the Western hemisphere.</em></p><p><em>She and her compañeras share tears and laughter, as they strive for economic independence and empowerment in the dense jungle.</em></p><p>JEAN: It’s easy to romanticize the Amazon, especially if you’ve never been there. A National Geographic photo doesn’t convey reality: the heat, the unforgiving soil, disease lurking inside tiny insects, and the hard life of its people.</p><p>[narda ambient]</p><p>JEAN: Today’s challenge: mud. I’m with Narda Baqueros and her two sons, Rider and Alvaro. We’re making our way through the Bolivian Amazon basin, or trying to anyway. In the early rainy season’s loose ground, our motorcycles sink every few hundred feet. Bugs swarm our heads when we stand still. We’re on our way to speak with women activists who survived an armed ambush during a 2008 march for land reform. But what was quite an adventure for me, is just daily life for Narda.</p><p>NARDA: You don’t need to be a millionaire to be happy. You don’t need to be a millionaire to do good. You just need a good heart and good judgment. I’ve always believed in this and I think that’s why I’ve often taken on battles that don’t have anything to do with me, to fight the abuses of this world.</p><p>JEAN: Although Narda is small and round at only about five feet tall, her voice commands attention. She can’t straighten her fingers—a parting gift from decades of manual labor shelling Brazil nuts, the main occupation for women in her town of Riberalta. In 2001, she formed her most recent mechanism for battling the world’s abuses—a collective named OMAB, or the Organization of Bolivian Amazonian Women. It started as an offshoot of the male-dominated workers union.</p><p>NARDA: Even today my friends remember me saying: let’s get out of here. This space is too small for us women. We are going to go farther as only women than what we can do from here. Our first activity was to get together with more women and I taught the few things I knew, resistance strategies, and how to report human or working rights violations. We would meet in the warehouses. I remember many of them didn’t know how to read and write. I would always say that we are part of this society. We have rights too. We can’t wait for our rights to be given to us, we have to demand them, by force if necessary. We have to struggle to win those spaces. They would always say: Ay, I can’t go to the meeting because I have to stay with the kids. I would say: bring them along.</p><p>JEAN: And slowly — the women did. For years, OMAB represented the majority of the Riberalta’s Brazil nut shellers. Now, it’s a catch-all alliance: Narda and her cohorts give sexual and reproductive health workshops, collect testimonies of area human rights violations, accompany women to report domestic violence, protest potentially destructive hydroelectric dams and more.</p><p>Their work would be considered admirable anywhere. But here—where the machismo is like the humidity — thick and sticks to your skin — their efforts are extraordinary.</p><p>Narda brings me to speak with Maira, who co-founded the collective. She’s a very small woman in her 50’s but her speech is rhythmic and soul-full. Narda and I are the only ones in the room, but it sounds like she’s giving a heartfelt sermon to the masses of what it’s like in her world.</p><p>MAIRA: Everyday I’m in these communities, wives load and work Brazil nuts. The men too. But the difference is that when both of them are equally tired, one gets to rest in his hammock and the other has to keep working: bringing water up from a 100 meter well, cooking, peeling the rice or the yucca. Probably the kids are dirty and need to be bathed. There are no husbands who say: oh, don’t worry honey, you cook, while I wash the kids. Or, you do the rice and I’ll do the yucca.</p><p>JEAN: Also too few are husbands who allow political engagement, says Silvia, another OMAB member. She is cooling herself in front of her thatched roof house and shakes her wavy hair away from her eyes while she thinks hard on her reality.</p><p>SILVIA: There is so much machismo. Women can lose their homes for being union leaders. Husbands often don’t understand, don’t support and just don’t get it. When you are a leader, you have meetings. At any moment you can be called in to talk to management or have an internal meeting and you have to be there. When you’re in negotiations or when there are problems, you never stop. That was my life when I was a union leader. I left before dawn to go to work. When I finished I would check in at home to see that my kids were ok and then go back to union business. Often, I wasn’t at home with my family until late at night. It’s really hard.</p><p>JEAN: Silvia and Narda were both forced to choose between la lucha, and their husbands. Silvia is raising five kids without their father, Narda raised three alone.</p><p>JEAN: The two like to recall amusing moments. Normally it’s when Narda gets heated. She once flung her tiny rubber sandal at a distinguished panel because they purposefully ignored her raised hand. A few years ago, she poured Tamarind juice on Bolivian President Evo Morales’s lap because, she says, he tried to claim credit for a community project she and her compañeros built from the ground up. But for every funny story, there are three that make you cry.</p><p>NARDA: Everyone was shocked when we as women started joining in the political protests, when we took to the streets to confront the opposition groups. They would come to beat us down and we women resisted. We have seen our friends die. We’ve seen their children be killed. We have seen them stabbed like in 2008.&nbsp;</p><p>JEAN: Back then, political violence in this area was at its height, recalls Liliana, who we visited that mud-soaked day. She’s 31, and has six kids. The youngest, who’s one, is being lulled to sleep in the hammock swaying at our side. Liliana and other campesinos in a march for land reform were ambushed by armed groups sent by the right wing governor at the time.</p><p>LILIANA: They tried to hunt us down as if we were animals. We had to flee down in the river where we were trapped and that’s when the shooting started. They took no pity. We just ran. Those who couldn’t run — got caught. They were kicked and totally beat up. Kids too, suffering. So many couldn’t cross that river and they started to drown. We got out, but those who didn’t, well I never saw them again. Imagine, my five kids were going to be left without a father or mother.</p><p>JEAN: In addition to taking it to the streets in those days, Narda’s collective helped secure medical attention for the wounded. She traveled 15 hours by land through hostile territory to bring back her niece’s corpse. Belki, who was in her mid-twenties, was killed during that tumultuous time. Narda also ended up bringing home the son of her friend.&nbsp;</p><p>NARDA: When I went for my niece, his body was there too, already dead when I entered the morgue and I recognized him. When I was heading to the plane on my way back, I called my son Alvaro and told him to tell Suela to come to the airport because I am coming back with her son. But she did not know if he was dead or alive. When I arrived I hugged her and said that I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I have brought your son because he was among the dead. These are the times when you just have to swallow all your pain and bury it deep down inside.</p><p>JEAN: These days, Narda’s collective’s work is bearing fruit. It’s most recent accomplishment is Villa Norita, a housing development for Brazil nut shellers and their families.</p><p>NARDA Bueno estamos en la manzana numero 4, lote numero 6 de la urbanización Villa Norita, un programa de vivienda social. Ya estamos con un avance de casi 90%, un avance fisico…</p><p>JEAN: Narda brings me into a nearly-finished brick home, one of 205 in a newly cleared swath of land a few miles outside of Riberalta. Each home sits on a 362 meters squared plot she explains. The houses are 64 square meters, with two rooms, a living room, kitchen and bath. The construction, she says, is 90% complete. She has never owned her own home. But Villa Norita is even more than that.</p><p>NARDA: Villa Norita is not just about owning your own house. It’s about the many of us for whom that dream was unreachable because there were no loan programs, especially not for people like us who had nothing to mortgage.</p><p>JEAN: A recent government program that allows the women to borrow money for housing construction without putting up collateral made Villa Norita possible. As she walks outside, Narda begins to tear up.</p><p>NARDA: Over there in that area where those three blocks merge, that’s where the sports field is going to be. And we are trying to get more land to put in a school and hospital. We are going to keep adding on, improving quality of life with education, health services, sports and more to bring about a new generation of leaders.</p><p>JEAN: There’s still a lot to do — like secure potable water and a sewage system. Narda won’t rest until she gets an embassy or engineering group supply the resources for this vital infrastructure. She sleeps less than 5 hours a night. As it seems the world rests on her shoulders, she receives no salary or stipend. No one in OMAB does. Like almost all activists in Bolivia: their political battles are done in their spare time. Narda, like every other worker or farmer in this country, must make her own living.<br> And that’s not so easy for a known rabble-rouser. She’s been on the Brazil nut industry blacklist for years. So she makes and sells cookies, cakes or jam. She crochets, she sews. She lives on about $125 a month.</p><p>JEAN: Narda’s at it today—seated on a wooden stool, large plastic bowl in lap, mixing batter for a dozen cakes. Her home is like most here: hammock stretching through the living room, an outhouse in the yard. Tomorrow is New Years Eve and Narda laughs as family fills up the house.</p><p>JEAN: But as usual, one person brings her the biggest smile.</p><p>NARDA: I have two grandsons, but Samuel and I have always been very close. I love them both equally but there is something very special about Samuel: you never have to tell him something twice. He’s been at my side in meetings and workshops, since he was three years old. He knows how to negotiate, he talks about women’s equality and he doesn’t care if he steals a few cents from his mom to give away to someone who needs it, even though she gets mad.</p><p>JEAN: Samuel has Narda’s eyes, the small slivers of a quarter moon. Abuela and Grandson share more than this: they are like twins born in different moments in time.</p><p>NARDA and SAMUEL N: y a vos te gustan los hombres que le pegan&nbsp; a las mujeres? S: no, no me gustan. N: que se debe hacer con un hombre que le pega a su mujer? S: Denunciarlo. N: Y a donde? S: a la carcel. N: a la carcel.</p><p>JEAN: Narda asks, “Do you like men who hit their wives right?” “No,” says Samuel. “And what should a woman do if she is hit?” Asks the grandma. “Report him,” Samu confirm. “And where will he end up?” The two conclude: “In jail.”</p><p>JEAN: Narda’s mother was killed when she was seven. Her grandmother raised her and it was that woman, generations ahead of her time in the steamy Amazon basin, who ignited Narda’s righteous fire.</p><p>NARDA: My grandmother always said to me: You don’t have to bow down for anyone. Don’t be scared of demanding your rights. And if you see someone fall, you give them your hand and help them up. If you see someone being stepped on, you push aside the one and you help the other lift himself up.</p><p>JEAN: Narda doesn’t have a granddaughter yet. And yes, Samu will take her battles far. But it’s different, she concedes. I wonder whether Narda’s legacy is, perhaps much broader than her own bloodline.</p><p>NARDA: You know, before, all the union presidents were men. Not any more, now there are women. Before, you wouldn’t see a woman outside working in the streets as a vendor, because it was just a man’s work to earn a wage. Not anymore. Now women leave the house to look for an income. Many are single mothers and they earn their own wage. There are women’s organizations and in protests women are now always present. We are winning this battle. Little by little, but the battle is being won.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>The story is part of a weeklong series on the lives of women and girls in Bolivia and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico called <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ground-shifters-stories-women-changing-unseen-worlds" target="_blank">Ground Shifters: Stories of Women Changing Unseen Worlds. </a>The series is a collaboration between WBEZ and the <a href="http://www.colum.edu/Academics/Institute_for_the_Study_of_Women_and_Gender_in_the_Arts_and_Media/" target="_blank">Ellen Stone Belic Institute</a> for the Study of Women &amp; Gender in the Arts &amp; Media at Columbia College-Chicago.&nbsp; </em></p><p><em>Series Executive Producer, Steve Bynum. Series Producer/Creative Advisor, Jane Saks</em>.</p></p> Mon, 12 Sep 2011 17:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-12/ground-shifters-amazonian-warriors-91870