Category Archives: Women’s Rights

Leaders of fraternal organizations choose to join Nepal’s new revolutionary party


June 22, 2012

Jayapuri Gharti Magar – leader of All Nepal Women’s Association (Revolutionary)

Two thirds of the leaders of groupings under the old UCPN(M) have joined the new revolutionary Maoist party in Nepal, led by Mohan ‘Baidya’ Kiran. These groups (also called ‘sister wings’) include leaders of the Maoist women’s organization and  most of the national liberation fronts.

“The sister wings represented suppressed communities that the Baidya faction has always stood for while Pushpa Kamal Dahal had said that he had dug his own grave by forming ethnic fronts in the party. So it is natural for the chiefs of sister wings to spurn Dahal,” said Santosh Budha Magar, chief of the Magar National Liberation Front.

The article originally appeared at MyRepublica.

20-Odd Chiefs of Sister Wings Join Baidya’s Party


KATHMANDU, June 21: With only one-third of the UCPN (Maoist) central committee members joining the newly-formed CPN-Maoist led by Mohan Baidya, one would have speculated that only a few lower rung leaders would follow suit. But, this has been proven wrong.

Almost all the chiefs of around three dozen sister wings — considered the backbone of the mother party — of the UCPN (Maoist) have joined the new party. They had sided with Baidya ever since the beginning of the rift in the UCPN (Maoist). This has left only around a dozen chiefs of sister wings in the mother party.

“The sister wings represented suppressed communities that the Baidya faction has always stood for while Pushpa Kamal Dahal had said that he had dug his own grave by forming ethnic fronts in the party. So it is natural for the chiefs of sister wings to spurn Dahal,” said Santosh Budha Magar, chief of the Magar National Liberation Front.

YCL has remained inactive after the formation of the People´s Volunteers (PV) led by Netra Bikram Chand. Its chief Ganesh Man Pun has supported Dahal. Similarly, of the three regional organizations — Madhesi Liberation Front (MLF), Bheri-Karnali Liberation Front (BKLF) and Seti-Mahakali Liberation Front (SMLF) — only SMLF chief Lekhraj Bhatta remains with the mother party. BKLF chief Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma and MLF chief Krishna Dev Singh Danuwar have joined forces with Baidya.

Similarly, chiefs of almost all the professional organizations have also joined the new party. Of them, Chitra Bahadur Shrestha, chief of All Nepal Peasant Federation (Revolutionary), Shalikram Jamakattel, chief of All Nepal Trade Union Federation, Himal Sharma, chief of All Nepal National Independent Students Union (Revolutionary), Amar Tamu, chief of Tamu National Liberation Front, Ram Charan Tharu, chief of Tharu National Liberation Front, Suryaman Dong, chief of Tamang National Liberation Front, Hitaraj Pande, chief of Sahid Pariwar Samaj, Deependra Pun, chief of Ghaite Yoddha Pariwar, Khim Lal Devkota, chief of All Nepal Intellectual Association, Gyandera Kumal, chief of Kumal National Liberation Front, Shree Jabegu, chief of Limbuwan National Liberation Front and Mukti Pradhan, National Human Rights Concern Center, have stayed with the mother party. Of them, Kumal, Jabegu, Pradhan and Devkota are close to the faction led by party Vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai.

The chiefs of sister wings joining Baidya´s party are Jayapuri Gharti Magar of All Nepal Women´s Association (Revolutionary), Gunaraj Lohani of All Nepal Teachers Association, Tilak Pariyar of Nepal National Dalit Liberation Front, Ishwar Chandra Gyawali of United All Nepal People´s Cultural Federation, Suresh Ale Magar of Indigenous Nationalities Federation, Maheshwar Dahal of Revolutionary Journalists Association, Mangal Bishwakarma of All Nepal People´s Health Workers Association, Ekaraj Bhandari of Association of Fighters Disappeared by State, Shiva Kattel of National Industries and Commerce Federation and Jayandra Bahadur Chand of Republican Sports Federation.

Likewise, Rukma Lamichhane of Nepal National Employees´ Organization, Santosh Budha Magar of Magar National Liberation Front, Takma KC of Nepal National Professors´ Organization, Padam Rai of Kirat National Liberation Front, Bharat Chepang of Chepang National Liberation Front, Chun Bahadur Thami of Thami National Liberation Front and Bartaman Rai of Rai-Danuwar National Liberation Front have also joined the new party.

Similarly, Raman Shrestha of National Lawyers Council, Bishnu Pukar Shrestha of Campaign for Human Rights and Social Transformation Nepal, Laxman Pant of All India Nepal People´s Rights Forum, Deependra Kumar Chhantyal of Chhantyal National Liberation Front, Nagendra Dhimal of Dhimal National Liberation Front and Pawanman Shrestha of Newa National Liberation Front are the other chiefs of sister wings joining CPN-Maoist.



Philippines: Hail to the Women Revolutionaries! Salute to the Mothers of the Oppressed!


The following statement below was originally published by the Communist Party of the Philippines

Veronica Makabayan
Southern Tagalog Southern Tagalog Chapter – MAKIBAKA (MAKIBAKA)

May 12, 2012

“I realized that I am not the mother of my children only, but the mother of all the children of the oppressed peasantry…”

Pamela Jane ‘Ka Sol’Lapiz
Revolutionary Martyr of the New People’s Army
April 1966 – April 2012

Traditionally, the second Sunday of May is always commemorated as Mother’s Day, throughout the world mothers are remembered of their heroic deed. Thus the revolutionary forces of MAKIBAKA express its highest regards to all of its members who were mothers and those women who chose to be mothers of the oppressed. This occasion might be a bourgeois initiated commemoration but the fact that we’re going to commemorate this special day with the revolutionary mothers and martyrs makes all the difference. We will always treasure the undying compassion of mothers and women who have served their life for the revolution and the Protracted Peoples War.

All along in our semi-feudal and semi-colonial mothers are stereotyped to be at home attending the needs of her husband and children, and in some harshest condition they become the submissive servant of the entire family lineage.

Along with the pace by pace advancement of the Protracted People’s War, we sow the seeds of the revolution in the so-called basic unit of the society. We splinter to pieces the remnants of the old society and as we establish the new society brought by the National democratic Revolution, we build with a stronger foundation and equality amongst its members.

We give our highest salute to the revolutionary women cadres, red fighters, red commanders, and members of the revolutionary organizations. They have continued to break the traditional mothers that the patriarchal society have thought us, they are women and mothers without homes to tend, they are mothers with children to fed but have continuously feeding children whom were literally homeless and have long been forgotten by the US backed government. Their undying vocation for the revolution made them mothers of the oppressed peasant, workers and the broad masses. These are mothers that though not with their children physically, have preserved their families and have guided their children to be children of the revolution.

MAKIBAKA-TK also pays tribute to the entire revolutionary martyr, the mothers who unselfishly shared their time, love and life for the revolution and its children. Ka Soli, Ka Sol, and other martyrs have not only made their children orphan but they orphan the revolutionary forces and the masses that have considered them as their mothers also. Thus, our cause to liberate the country from imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism will carry on to be aflame by their children and its generation, until our nation democratic aspirations have reach its completion.

Iraqi woman, Shaima Alawadi, beaten to death in California


March 25, 2012

A woman from Iraq who was found beaten, lying in a pool of blood in her in El Cajon, Calif., home next to a note saying “go back to your country,” has died and police are investigating her death as a possible a hate crime.

Shaima Alawadi’s  17-year-old daughter found her unconscious on the dining room floor of her home Wednesday. She was taken to the hospital and put on life support, but she was taken off life around 3 p.m. Saturday.

“Our understanding is that she was beaten and she was hit with some kind of a tool about 8 times in the head. She was knocked on the floor and was found in a pool of blood,” said Hanif Mohebi, the director of the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Alawadi was a 32-year-old mother of five children, ranging in age from eight to 17.

“A week ago they left a letter saying this is our country not yours you terrorist, and so my mom ignored that thinking it was just kids playing a prank,” Alawadi’s daughter, Fatima Al Himidi, told ABC News affiliate KGTV. “But the day they hit her, they left another note again, and it said the same thing.”

Al Himidi told KGTV the intruders did not steal anything from their home, and the only motive must have been hate.

“A hate crime is one of the possibilities, and we will be looking at that,” Lt. Mark Coit said, according to The Associated Press. “We don’t want to focus on only one issue and miss something else.”

Al Awadi immigrated to the United States from Iraq in the mid-1990s.

There is a large Iraqi population in El Cajon, Mohebi said, and its members often face “discriminatory hate incidents.”

“Our ultimate goal is that whoever did this is brought to justice,” Mohebi said.


A Question on Prostitution and the Revolutionary Left: My response to Meghan Murphy’s analysis


By B.J. Murphy

The question of prostitution has been a matter of debate throughout the progressive and revolutionary left for many years. To engage this topic as unbiased as possible, I must first admit that, as a white male, I cannot say that I am the best subject to take on this particular question under the personal perspective of the oppressed: that of women, who are predominantly not white.

They are the victims of a racist, capitalist system. And it was Karl Marx who correctly stated, “…the abolition of the present system of production must bring with it the abolition of the community of women springing from that system, i.e., of prostitution both public and private.” Though, Marx had only addressed the question of prostitution through the understanding of overthrowing capitalism and the Bourgeois State, not what is to be done by that of the revolutionary left while capitalism is still the current socio-economic system.

And that is where I and Meghan Murphy differ on the question of prostitution. She had written a brilliant article, “Why Does the Left Want Prostitution to be ‘a Job Like Any Other’?“, which was published by the People of Color Organize! blog. And I say brilliant, despite my objections, because she made a definitive argument by furthering the question of prostitution under a class analysis.

Having said that, there is a question within the question of prostitution that I do not believe Meghan had answered, at least not openly. That question is: what are we, of the revolutionary left, to do in regards to prostitution while under the capitalist system? She presents a slight, alternative idea known as the “Nordic Model,” in which correctly points out that women usually fall victim to prostitution due to poverty, racism, and sexism. As a result, legal assistance is provided to that of prostituted women instead of locking them up.

The problem with this, though, as the article states quite clearly in the very first paragraph, is that the question doesn’t directly address capitalism as being the reason for said social problems. Instead, the “Nordic Model” wishes to address this problem without addressing capitalism at the same time; it doesn’t want to address the fact that, even as you may provide services for women, under capitalism the problems will continue, regardless of there being safety nets.

What the “Nordic Model” essentially tells women is that, ‘while we’re not going to necessarily end the very system in which inflicts these very problems on you, nor are we going to try and end the system of exploitative and oppressive pimping, we will be there for you when you fall victim to prostitution.’

Is this what we really want for women, whether they be Black, Brown, or white? As someone of the revolutionary left living under this capitalist system, I cannot come to terms with this ideal in which doesn’t address, nor provide solutions to, the question of prostitution. The long-term solution to prostitution is the overall solution to capitalism: socialism! But when it comes to the short-term solution – a temporary solution as the capitalist system remains – the “Nordic Model” only partially answers the question.

Yes, we should provide services for women who suffer from poverty, racism, and sexism. Though, we also must prevent Pimps from harming our women as well through the exploitative and oppressive nature of criminalized prostitution. In fact, the question of prostitution is in correlation with that of the question of drugs under a class analysis.

While we can say that drug use will more than likely decrease exponentially, and quite possibly diminish completely, after the overthrowing of capitalism, to keep drug use criminalized would be to continue oppressing the victim, regardless if you provide services or throw them into prison. It still doesn’t address the questions of poverty or racism, in which drug use directly relates to that of prostitution.

Instead, as is for drug use as well, the temporary solution to prostitution under the capitalist system is this: legalization! It’ll be the only way in which to, 1) end the exploitative and oppressive work of Pimping, and 2) get women off the streets and into a regulated, protected environment of sex work – at least for those who wish to continue selling sex as their means of earning wages. The “Nordic Model” should also be applied to the extent in which we provide services to all women,  addressing the questions of poverty, racism, and sexism.

Those who are not in the business of providing sex for work tend to assert that it’s nothing more than, “about providing pleasure for one party (the male party) without any regard for the woman with whom you are engaging in this supposed ‘sex’ with,” as was so claimed by Meghan Murphy in her article. And while it may seem as simple as this for those of us who are not in the line of work that provides sex for wages, I believe it to be far more complex.

An ex-sex worker had addressed this question, herself, in which she stated:

“Anna van Heeswijk states that prostitution is not a job like any other, but why should it not be? Why should I be condemned by society and left unprotected just because I wish to work with my genitals rather than my hands or my brain? They are my genitals and I should be free to choose to do whatever I wish with them. There is a serious problem in society of negative attitudes towards sexual women, whether they charge for sex or not. Women as chattels may not be written in the legislature any longer, but we are still not free to own our own sexuality. The recent slut walks were a reminder that women are still judged as somehow deserving of attack if they fail to conform to the sugar-and-spice-and-all-things-nice straight jacket imposed by some men and so-called feminists alike.”

She had also addressed the problems with the “Nordic Model”, or as she called it the “Swedish Model”, stating that it’s incorrect to conclude the model in being a “success”, and that the model is wrong in claiming all acts of sex work is violent, in which is, “unsupported piece of propaganda which seeks to encourage patronisation and infantalisation of the many sex-workers who voluntarily choose to earn their living through sex work.”

The violence of sex work isn’t that of the mere act of having sex for money, per se, but the violence in which Pimps inflict upon women and the violence of the Bourgeois State as they release their attack dogs – cops – to raid union-protected establishments in which allow women to have sex for money.

And so, if we are to truly end the violence of sex work, then we must target the violent predators – pimps and police – and not the victims of racist pimp- and state-orchestrated violence! We must legalize prostitution, get women off the streets, end the business of pimping, and end the racist business of state-orchestrated aggression toward women, who are predominantly that of color, and instead toward that of the pimps themselves. Only then will we, of the revolutionary left, be able to address the question within the question of prostitution as we continue our struggles against the capitalist system.

The lives of Women in Col. Gaddafi’s Libya


November 7, 2011

Muammar Gaddafi: "I promised my mother to improve the situation of women in Libya."

The world might do its worst to malign him, but one virtue amongst many will stick out: that Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi took good care of women. Not only did he support them, he also believed in their abilities and emancipation, moreover in a society where being a woman is not always fully appreciated.

For example, Gaddafi highlighted his female bodyguards as a symbol of his belief in women’s emancipation and their role in the defence of their country.


Central to the Al Fateh revolution was the empowerment of women. The Jamahiriya government made efforts to advance female emancipation. It encouraged women to participate in Libya’s political life and several cabinet posts were allocated to them. Women were also able to form associations.

Bouseyfi Kulthum, Libya’s first female pilot, told that Gaddafi changed the social taboo that closed the space for women.


Under Jamahiriya government women also made great strides in employment, with improved access to education and acceptance of female paid employment. In 1970, a series of laws regulating female employment were passed, including equal pay for equal work.

By 2006, employment for Libyan women was estimated at 27%, a relatively high percentage for an Arab nation. Working mothers enjoyed a range of benefits designed to encourage them to continue working even after marriage and childbirth, including cash bonuses for the first child and free day care centres. A woman could retire at the age of 55, and she was entitled to a pension.


During the last decade of King Idris’ rule, females enrolled in primary education were only between 11-19%. However, in 1969, education was made a right. And by 1990, the figure stood at 48%. Women’s enrollment in higher education stood at 8% in 1966, but reached 43% by 1996, equal to that of males.


Under Jamahiriya government child marriages were banned and the minimum legal age to marry placed at 18. Since 1973, Libyan women have had equal rights in obtaining a divorce. There were also gender-friendly women’s laws passed on marriage and divorce.

Military academy

Gaddafi established the Tripoli Women’s Military Academy in 1979 to advance women’s emancipation. The female soldiers passed through this academy.

“I promised my mother to improve the situation of women in Libya,” he said at the time. His mother, a Bedouin tribeswoman born when Libya was an Italian colony, was unable to read or write.

“Without the leader, women in Libya would be nothing,” Fatia, a 27-year-old bodyguard trainee in Tripoli, once told a researcher.

“He gave us life. I am ready to die for him. He is a father, a brother and a friend to whom you can confide. You have no idea how humble he is.”

Facts on women in Libya

• Women are never confined to their homes while their husbands, fathers and brothers go to work. Gaddafi forbade restricting women’s mobility.

• Women have full rights to drive cars (unlike their sisters in Saudi Arabia). Women also keep their passports. In several Arab countries, a woman’s husband holds her passport so she cannot travel outside of the country without his permission.

• No person can force a Libyan woman to marry any man.

• The Imams are expected to protect the woman from abuse by relatives.

• A Libyan woman can leave a marriage any time she chooses.

• If a woman enters a marriage with her own assets and the marriage ends, her husband cannot touch her assets. The same is true of the man’s assets.

And this is how the same women are treated by the NATO rebels who claim they protect civilians and want to install “democracy”, report by AfriSynergy’s T. West:


Evidence found of pro-NATO massacre in Sirte, Libya


NTC government turning back the clock on women’s rights

By Derek Ford
October 29, 2011

In Sirte, 53 decomposing bodies were found in a hotel used as a prison by NTC forces. The victims appear to have been summarily executed and some have been identified as pro-Gaddafi fighters.

The U.S. government and NATO countries used alleged human rights violations as a pretext for the war on Libya. These allegations were later proven false by numerous human rights groups, including Amnesty International. Now evidence has surfaced pointing to human rights violations committed by the pro-NATO Libyan rebels.

Human Rights Watch announced on Oct. 24 that they had discovered 53 decomposing bodies at a hotel in the city of Sirte, which rebels were using as a prison. Evidence indicates that many or all of the victims appear to have been summarily executed. Some of them had their hands tied behind their back, bullet holes were found in the ground and spent rifle shells were strewn about. Many were shot in the head. Several have already been identified as Gaddafi supporters.

The UK Defense Minister said that the mass killing may be a war crime but that it would be “virtually impossible” for Britain to investigate, although Britain, along with the United States, played an integral part in the war.

Quryna, a local newspaper in Sirte, reported on Oct. 26 that 267 bodies of Gaddafi supporters were buried in a mass grave. The story, which cited the Red Cross, said that the bodies were found throughout Sirte and its suburbs and had been buried by the NTC.

Just days before these gruesome discoveries, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen reiterated the imperialists’ line. He told the press at NATO headquarters in Brussels that “Our military forces prevented a massacre and saved countless lives.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Throughout the seven-month war, pro-NTC rebels were notoriously brutal. Peter Bouckaert, of Human Rights Watch, said that “This latest massacre seems part of a trend of killings, looting and other abuses committed by armed anti-Gaddafi fighters who consider themselves above the law.”

NTC attacks women’s rights

On Oct. 23, as Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of the NATO-backed National Transition Council, was officially declaring Libya “liberated” he also announced that Libyan law will now be in accordance with sharia. While sharia law can be interpreted in various ways, Jalil singled out Libyan laws on divorce and marriage in his speech: “The law of divorce and marriage … This law is contrary to sharia and it is stopped.”

Previously in Libya, women were allowed to marry and divorce freely and polygamy was outlawed. After divorce, women left marriages with their previous assets, the family home and generally all joint assets. These practices will now be abolished and polygamy and secret marriages will be legalized.

This may be the first of many laws to turn back the clock on women’s rights in Libya. Under Moammar Gaddafi’s government, women were highly educated and well-represented in all occupations, including positions in the government. This is the liberation that NATO has brought to Libya.


Letter to the Occupy Wall Street Movement : Fight Racism, Sexism, LGBTQ oppression


By Larry Hales
October 19, 2011

These are hard times. There doesn’t appear to be any respite coming soon. The political atmosphere has shifted in response to the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression. This crisis, because of how the changes in technology, communication and production have made the world smaller, is global in its impact.

Corporations and financial institutions on Wall Street have become profitable again. Their profits were made possible by the more than $16 trillion in tax money doled out to them by Washington and because they have shed millions of jobs, ripped up workers’ contracts, forced concessions down the workers’ throats and because they make those left with a job work harder and produce more in less time.

There are cutbacks at every level of government — cuts to education, health care, housing, federal nutrition programs and other vital social services. Government workers are being laid off and their collective bargaining rights curtailed in places like Wisconsin — the birthplace of public sector unions — and in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana to name a few states.

These are hard times, confusing times, where, no matter which political party the heads of government at the local, state and federal level answer to, the common program is for cutbacks, cutbacks, cutbacks for the workers and the poor and tax breaks, subsidies and bailouts for the corporations and the rich.

But times change. The political atmosphere shifts in response to real events. It has once again. The Occupy Wall Street movement, like the uprising in Wisconsin earlier in the year but on a grander and broader scale, has awakened youth and students, labor — all sectors.

It has grown from seeds planted by the conditions of accelerating poverty, joblessness, disenfranchisement and frustration with a political system that favors the wealthy elite. Perhaps this movement’s greatest achievement to date is that it has opened up new, broad, vitally needed political space.

It rose suddenly and brazenly, goaded on by threats and intimidation. It shows no sign of waning. This movement has captured the imagination of people the world over who have been waiting, hoping that the roots lurking just under the soil will push upward.

But where does it go from here?

The United States was created from the destruction of the societies and the way of life of the original inhabitants of the North American continent. The wealth of the country stemmed from this destruction of the lives of Indigenous peoples, the enslavement of Africans, the seizure of half of Mexico, the colonization of the land of sovereign nations such as Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the Philippines, the corporate grab of the Western Hemisphere.

Indigenous people, the descendants of African slaves, the offspring of the people from the northern half of Mexico, the people of Puerto Rico continue to live in the United States and suffer the effects of centuries of genocide, slavery, land theft and racist policies that have been pervasive throughout U.S. history.

Drawn into the U.S. are people who left their homelands because of war — be it the war in Iraq that has raged for eight years; the war in Afghanistan that has persisted for ten; the wars more than one generation ago in Vietnam and Korea — or economic warfare imposed on their countries through the so-called North American Free Trade Act, structural adjustments or austerity — all emanating from Wall Street.

We, the overwhelming majority, comprise the working class. It is a multinational class that speaks many languages, has many different cultures, customs, beliefs and religions.

For the movement to grow, it has to accept the peculiar history of the development of the U.S. What we all want is an equal, just society with an equitable distribution of wealth, one where people are not exploited and where young people are not thrust into Wall Street’s wars for profit and plunder.

But that society does not yet exist.

A broad movement must be multinational, in solidarity with all people and their issues, against racist repression, sexism, homophobia, and in support of the struggles of people who suffer disproportionately under this oppressive system.

While in general the conditions heaped upon all of our class are bad, Black, Latinos/as, Indigenous people and other people of color suffer higher rates of unemployment, poverty, lack of access to health care, in addition to regular oppression and repression.

The attacks against immigrant workers, the raids and deportations, the attacks against Muslims and the attacks against Black people — be they in the form of police brutality, incarceration or police occupation of communities of color — must all be seen as attacks against a sector of the working class.

As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Unity and solidarity are needed.

Any grouping that seeks to scapegoat immigrants, Muslims, people of color is no friend of the working class. It is instead doing the bidding of Wall Street by attacking the most dispossessed, most disenfranchised. Any opportunists who think that demagogy against Wall Street that serves a racist, sexist or homophobic perspective must be given no quarter. Our class is diverse and we must always be aware of its diversity.

This movement will grow and can be transformative. We will learn what works and what doesn’t. We will learn lessons from our mistakes and our victories, and we will march forward.

An Injury to One Is an Injury to All!

All Power to the People!

Hales is an organizer of the national student struggle against austerity; an Occupy Wall Street, anti-police brutality and anti-war activist and a member of Fight Imperialism Stand Together.


Somali women demand justice for two women on trial for material support of terrorism


October 19, 2011

Somali women at Minneapolis protest holding sign reading "To help my country is not a crime" (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Minneapolis, MN – More than 60 Somali women assembled outside the Federal Courthouse here, Oct. 19, in support of Hawo Mohamed Hassan and Amina Farah Ali, two Somali humanitarian workers who are charged with providing ‘material support for a foreign terrorist organization.’

The two women, who raised money to help destitute people in their homeland, are accused of helping al-Shabab, an Islamist organization that fights to free Somalia from foreign domination.

The jury is still out on the case.

Mick Kelly, of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression states, “These women have done nothing wrong. They worked hard to help people in need. They deserve the support of everyone who cares about justice.”


Mermaid or Whale? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, not the size of your body


October 5, 2011

This little story, in its many forms, has been making the internet rounds again. Whether there actually was a gym in Paris (as the original tale goes), with such a sign in the window, has yet to be determined. To be healthy is what matters: not how thin or how curvaceous our bodies are, but how strong, fit and well we keep them – be they petite or full or anywhere in between.

French model, Tara Lynn

Recently, in a large French city, a poster featuring a young, very thin and tanned woman appeared in the window of a gym. It read:


A middle aged woman, with children all grown, and a life well-lived, responded publicly to the question posed by the gym.

To Whom It May Concern:

Whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, sea lions, curious humans). They are powerful and wise. They have a fabulous social life, stuffing themselves with shrimp as they frolic the sunset hours away. Whales play and swim in the seas, visiting amazing places like Patagonia, the Barren Sea and the coral reefs of Polynesia. They speak and sing to each other in a language no one else has been able to master. Whales are wonderful musicians and are featured on many recorded CDs. They have an active sex life – both for pleasure and procreation – and birth adorable whale babies. Whales are incredible creatures and have virtually no predators other than humans. They are loved, protected and admired by almost everyone in the world.

Mermaids do not exist.

But if they did, they would be lining up outside the offices of Argentinean psychoanalysts due to identity crisis: Fish or human? They would the kill men who came too close, have no sex organs, and be unable to bear young. Yes, they would be lovely, but potentially lonely.

The choice is perfectly clear to me – I want to be a whale.

We are in an age when media instills in us that the only beautiful people are the skinny people. That those who carry around an extra ten pounds are lazy, dumb and unattractive. Yet, I prefer to enjoy an ice cream now and then with my kids. I love a good dinner with a partner who makes me shiver, and a drink out with my friends. With time, we gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom – our heads cannot hold anymore and it simply must be distributed to the rest of our bodies. See, I am not heavy… I am enormously cultured, educated, and happy. I am fit. I am strong. I am healthy. But I will never be skinny.

And beginning today, when I see my curves in the mirror I will tell myself, “My goodness! Look at how amazing I am!”


Banmujer: Benefitting Over 300,000 Venezuelan Families Since 2001



Last week, Banmujer celebrated its 10th anniversary (YVKE)

One of Venezuela’s most important public institutions created to assist impoverished women through micro- credit lending celebrated its 10-year anniversary last week.

Banmujer first came into existence on September 21, 2001 as government run bank with the specific purpose of funding socio-productive business initiatives for women in particularly dire economic conditions. Since that time, the women’s bank has granted more than 138 thousand micro-credits, benefiting over 300,000 families in the country, Banmujer President Nora Castañeda said in an interview last week.

“Poverty has a woman’s face. This is even more evident when you look at the statistics that indicate 70 percent of world’s poor are women”, Castañeda said.

According to the bank’s president, the institution is currently active in 335 municipalities around the Caribbean country and 90 percent of Banmujer’s clients are women. Since it’s founding, more than 20,000 jobs have been created through the bank’s initiatives while in 2011 alone, the funding institution has provided more than 6,000 micro-loans to groups and individuals for productive projects.

Much of the assistance is not confined to money, the official pointed out, but rather includes a holistic program of training and assistance to help ensure the success of a particular project.

“The Women’s Bank isn’t just about granting micro-credits. It’s also about granting free, non-financial services such as education and training, technical assistance, as well as guidance before, during and after the approval of the credit.

The overall objective is to guarantee women can pay the credit and carry out their project”, Castañeda affirmed. With respect to the role of women in society, the public servant corrected a commonly held misconception in Venezuela that associates the fight for women’s rights with advocating for female supremacy.

“Housework should be done by both the man and the woman, just like community and socio-productive work. We’re not trying to substitute men. What we want is a more democratic society where men and women live in conditions of equality”, she said.

As for political will, Castañeda praised the efforts of the Chavez government to prioritize the issue of economic empowerment as a way to combat the feminization of poverty.

“The national government has been facilitating the organization of the people to be sovereign and protagonistic through the development of economic activity…Women have gained a lot with this revolution and that’s why we’re working for the elections in 2012 so that Chavez stays in power”, she declared.


Marcos Parra, Coordinator of Banmujer’s Urban and Semi-Urban Agricultural program informed last Monday that the women’s financial institution has funded more than 1,200 projects designed to increase food production and sovereignty in Venezuela. Historically, about 22 percent of Banmujer’s projects have been destined towards the South American nation’s agricultural sector.

Parra informed that many of the credits have been approved for the cultivation of crops in the areas surrounding large metropolitan centers such as Caracas. Vegetables such as spring onions, cilantro and lettuce comprise the bulk of community production while in some areas, small scale animal husbandry has also been funded.

The bank has also been providing a stimulus for the government’s initiative “Productive Lawns” to encourage residents to take advantage of small urban spaces of 100 to 500 square meters for local agricultural production and consumption.