Au Revoir, Montreal!

DAWN Canada's Legislation, Policy and Service Responses to Violence against women with disabilities and Deaf women team met for day two of our national in person planning meeting. It was an energizing and exciting conversation despite my jet lag and night of little sleep. My body does not like to go to bed early! The are so many intersections between this contract for DAWN Canada and my other projects. I think the coming months are going to be amazing and filled with synchronicity! 

I had a small walk around old Montreal this evening when I went off to find sushi for dinner. The sun was going down and the architecture was gorgeous. I did not bring my canon camera, but here are a few photos of the adventure taken with my phone.. 

Tomorrow I have one last meeting at the DAWN office and then I head to the airport to go through international security and find my way to Amsterdam. Unbelievable. Tomorrow will be spent going over the reports that have been written by CCD and partners as well as a little time on my PhD comp. I am feeling so inspired for that work and need to make the time to write! 

Not sure that I will be writing tomorrow, so see you all in Amsterdam!! 

Jewelles

Hello from Montreal and the first leg of my trip!

It's been a long couple of days, but our first day of meetings in Montreal with the Legislation, Policy and Services Responses to Violence Against Women with Disabilities and Deaf Women in Canada team! 

We spent a long day going over early findings and planning for next steps for the project. I cannot wait to meet with my own Provincial Regional Action Teams (PRATs) in November! There is so much work to do and it amazing to hear from other provincial coordinators and researchers, as well as from our national DAWN team. There is so much I cannot say, but I will say, after a day of bumps, I had an amazing dinner with the team and I am excited to see what tomorrow brings as we map out our next steps in this project. 

Leaving you with a picture of Bonnie Brayton (DAWN Canada Exective Director and long time friend), and I at the lovely restaurant Vieux-Port Steakhouse where the server and kitchen staff ensured that I had a lovely allergy free meal! (and even a lovely appetizer!). The hotel where I am staying--The Hotel William Gray--is beautiful and doing a great job in accommodating those of us visiting. 

thank you Montreal! 

Interview with AMI Contact Podcast

I was recently interviewed for AMI Contact to speak about disability, parenting and custody. You can hear the full podcast here.

AMI Contact is an award-winning weekly documentary program covering social issues and historical events with a focus on accessibility and disability.

Legal Workshops | Cerebral Palsy Association of British Columbia

Beginning in January 2015, the Cerebral Palsy Association of British Columbia will be offering workshops on legal issues affecting people living with cerebral palsy. This program will offer new, targeted resources and education that are both practical and specific, and intersect both the law and living with a disability.

Next Workshop: Representation Agreements on Saturday, April 11. This workshop is free; however, you must register. Click here for information.

Transition Learning

Transition Learning. Done Yet?

"Back in 2007, I graduated and received my Master's Degree in Women's Studies from Simon Frasier University. At that time, I was seven years into higher education and the pursuit of learning. I completed that degree by landing myself in the hospital for a week."

Written by Jewelles Smith.

(Article found on pages 14 and 15)

Quote by Arundhati Roy

“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”

--Arundhati Roy, The Cost of Living

Living With Disability—And Recession (Blog Post Published for the Women's Media Center)

Blog Post Written and Published for the Women's Media Center

by Jewelles Smith 11.03.2009

The U.S. Congress designated October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. From an international perspective, the author explains how economic hard times are particularly harsh for women with disabilities.

As national governments and institutions struggle to emerge from worldwide recession, the voices of women and members of minority groups are glaringly absent from discussions. Women like me who are living with disabilities are doubly silenced.

First, our issues are not addressed by an ableist society; and second, many women’s organizations do not address the specific concerns of disabled women in an economic crisis. Women With Disabilities Australia calls us the Forgotten Sisters. As governments create billion dollar packages to bailout big business, many smaller grants and funding sources that are essential to our livelihood and well-being are being cut or delayed to compensate for deficits.

As a woman living with disability, I have worked hard to situate myself in employment that is flexible for my health; stimulating and within my field of education and expertise; and that financially supports my sons and me. As have others with disabilities, I’ve been able to find that work mostly in the non-profit sector. Unfortunately, due to the economic downturn, the NGO supporting my primary contract had to lay me off suddenly in January 2009. Seeking new employment, always a challenge for someone in my situation, is almost impossible during a recession. I heard from one NGO after another—their funding has not come through or has been cut as the government cuts corners to meet its bailout promises. As a consultant without unemployment benefits, the difficulty of my job search is compounded by my struggle to provide shelter and food for my sons as I face poverty, potential homelessness, and loss of medical supports and medications.

Even in a normal economy, women with disabilities experience one of the highest rates of unemployment, higher than disabled men, and greater than non-disabled women. The reasons why are often complex. Myths held by employers and society at large lead to hiring practices that exclude persons with disabilities from even entering the work force. During an economic downturn, companies may believe that hiring disabled persons will cost an exorbitant amount of money when, in fact, most persons with disabilities require few accommodations that are generally inexpensive. Further, studies have shown that too many employers favor keeping male employees during layoffs as they are still seen as the “breadwinners.” There is little consideration for the impact that a loss of income will have on a family in a woman-headed household. “The World Global Survey” in 2005, cited by the European Women’s Lobby, found that 40 percent of respondents believed men had more right to a job during layoff periods than women.

According to the UN Enable Factsheet on Persons with Disabilities, a “2004 United States survey found that only 35 percent of working-age persons with disabilities are in fact working, compared to 78 percent of those without disabilities.” Further, the study found that “two-thirds of the unemployed respondents with disabilities said they would like to work but could not find jobs.” Employers who are not educated in accommodation/accessibility issues might erroneously believe it is too expensive or complicated to make workspaces accessible and therefore miss out on the value women with disabilities bring to the workforce. In fact, according to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the average cost to create an accessible space is less than $500. Statistics show that once hired, persons with disabilities have a much longer retention rate.

In comparison to men, women with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be unemployed and experience further discrimination once hired. According to Arthur O’Reilly, writing for the International Labour Organization: “When women with disabilities work, they often experience unequal hiring and promotion standards, unequal access to training and retraining, unequal access to credit and other productive resources, unequal pay for equal work and occupational segregation, and they rarely participate in economic decision-making.”

In a time of economic crisis, most “solutions” offered up focus on traditionally male-dominant work sectors including the auto industries; bank and finance; and construction. That leaves out the self-employed and small businesses, where women often work, as well as NGOs and work that is part-time or shared, or in sectors such as the arts and travel. “Many of these jobs are hired through contract or by project and lack the protection and security provided by larger industry,” says Carmela Hutchison, president of DAWN-RAFH Canada, a network for women with disabilities. “Perhaps there should be tax incentives to employers to provide similar benefits.”

By excluding a large part of the employable population from the discussion on how to move forward and out of the recession, nations will not be able to reconstruct their economy fully. Hiring practices and bailouts that exclude women with disabilities will only reinforce discriminatory practices. Not only will nations lose out on the skills and experience of this population, but formerly independent and self-sufficient workers will become dependent, destitute and isolated.

I am hopeful that my own situation will turn around. I am learning from this experience and collaborating with other women with disabilities, single parents and the NGOs that we work for to find a more workable solution. In the future we hope to have a mechanism in place when the economy turns so that government bodies—both national and international—bring all members of society to the table when deciding how to generate economic stimulus and viable employment.

Women with disabilities who want to work have a right to paid employment. According to international and national human rights laws, we are guaranteed access to education and employment as part of our basic human rights. Especially during times of economic downturn, it is imperative that vulnerable populations and their contributions to the economy and society are not forgotten as panicking policy makers scramble to hold the market up. Excluding specific groups, whether by ignorance or with purposeful discrimination, is unacceptable.

July 6, 2014

“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”

--Arundhati Roy, The Cost of Living

Ancestor Project

by Jewelles Smith 06.16.2012

Senta Anna Schramm

Ancestor Project: Senta Anna Schramm

Senta Anna Schramm Basserman Fuller Straga

b. August 31, 1933 d. July 18, 2012

My Oma (Grandmother) was one of the most influential women in my early years. She was born in Ulkebøl, Sonderjylland, Denmark on August 31, 1925.

Frederik VIII

In 1933, she came to Canada, traveling on the Frederik VIII which left Copenhagen, Denmark on March 17, 1933 and arrived in Halifax, NS Canada March 26, 1933.

Her family lied about her age to save money on the fare. The Lutheran Church paid for the trip. Senta’s family had come over ahead of her, a fact that affected her the rest of her life.

Upon arrival in Canada, she joined her family in Toefield, Alberta, Canada. This is the story as told by her younger sisters, however, my grandmother told me on numerous occasions that she did not live with her parents and sisters much of her childhood. She had five younger sisters. Henny was born in Denmark or Germany, depending on the source of information. Her other four sisters were born in Canada. All the records that I have been able to locate are related to historical information about her mother and grandparents. There is almost no information available about her father. The story is that he was a fisherman from Germany working in Denmark and that her mother was a farm worker. They conceived Senta before they were married in Denmark. I am still unable to locate the records on this marriage and her birth.

Senta Anna with Fred Basserman

Senta had severe asthma and numerous other health issues, perhaps related to her bout of tuberculosis in 1947. She also had heart problems and diabetes. She was cognitively alert up until her death in 2000.

She was married three times. However, she lived with, but did not marry, my grandfather (Mervin Skundberg).

Fred Basserman: married in 1943- separated 1946/7 and divorced 1955.

This was an arranged marriage  (by her father) when she was 19.

Fred Basserman was reported to be abusive.They had two children (boys) together

Senta Anna with Marvin Skunderberg

Mervin Skundberg:

They became a couple shortly after Senta was released from the hospital for her Tuberculosis. They separated in 1952 when my dad was approximately two years old.

C. Alfred Fuller: They married in 1956.

Senta Anna with Alfred Fuller

My Oma once shared with me that she and Alfred had negotiated their marriage, not long after my grandfather left her with the three boys. Grandpa Fuller wanted two children of his own (they had a girl and a boy together). He adopted my father, but not the older two boys. She was widowed in December 1975 when he died from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Senta Anna with Anthony Straga

Anthony Straga:

They married in 1976/7 (approximately).

He was much younger than her and survived her when she died in 2000.

Why She is my Shero Ancestor:

Senta was hospitalized in 1947 for one year when she contracted tuberculosis. While she was sick in the hospital, her mother was caring for the boys. The family, thinking she was going to die, began to disperse her belongings and make plans for the care of her children. She was so outraged by this that she recovered—that was her story that she shared with me. Unfortunately, this led to a lot of bitterness between my grandmother and her family over the years. She never got over feeling abandoned by them when she was left in Denmark as a child and several other occurrences over the years contributed to the bad blood.

She raised five children, sometimes alone. She took me in and helped me to get through the criminal court case against my stepfather when I was eleven. I had been in foster care and she decided that the best place for me was with her. She displayed a tenderness towards me that I had rarely experienced in my life, including one time when I had the flu and was terribly sick. She sat with me, holding my hair, as I was ill. She stayed beside me  over several days until I was recovered. That was such a cherished memory, and such a lesson on how to show tenderness to the ones you love. The year I spent with her was so important, as she allowed me to have a space where I could recover and process the trauma that I had experienced prior to living with her.

Senta Anna in later years

Senta raised me to be a strong woman. She and I did not always agree, but she encouraged me to be opinionated and to push at boundaries. She was politically engaged, especially in her 40s and 50s. She had to be – she lived outside of the parameters of her time. She ended an abusive arranged marriage, had a child (my father) outside of marriage,  survived a life-threatening bout with Tuberculosis, entered into a negotiated marriage with a much older and kind man, and, after being widowed, she married a much younger man and lived with him until she died.

I often ponder the last conversations she and I had. One was with regard to my decision to have a tubal ligation after the birth of my youngest son and third child. She was very much against this decision and felt that it would impact my prospects of marriage in the future. We also discussed my entrance into university. She was very proud of me for taking this step. I wish she had lived to know that I eventually finished  my Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Arts and Social Sciences degree. I wish she knew of the work I do for women’s human rights and disability human rights. Finally, we discussed the terrible rumours (started by one of my cousins) that she had, until that point, heard and believed. She used some of that last conversation to “set things right” as she said. She apologized to me for believing these lies and for speculating with others while not actually discussing them with me, the subject. This act taught me much about her own sense of right and wrong. She could have died and never said a word to me. That she made time to speak to me meant so much.

Sometimes her advice seemed archaic to me, especially in the context of her encouragement and love for me; however, she was never wrong. She lived to see me start my university year. She was very much aware of social and political activism and although I did not realize it at the time, her outspokenness with regard to politics came through and inspired me, as did her fortitude and determination to live the life put in front of her.

 

CEDAW Week

CEDAW Week: May 28-June 1-Weekend Thoughts by Jewelles Smith / 06.03.2012

I am exhausted and so overflowing with information that I am sure will take weeks, if not months, to digest. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I have in attending this 6-week Institute on Women’s Human Rights. This past week our class more than doubled as we had women join us for an intense introduction to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). We covered its principals, Optional Protocol, General Recommendations, and studied examples of how CEDAW is used in specific cases; I have gained so much insight into how I can use this Convention in connection with ICRPD and my own work in the area of Human Rights for women who live with disabilities.

We had such incredibly inspiring Speakers all week. I feel like my world has stretched out to all corners of the earth and that the possibilities for change are tangible. The world is a scary space of conservatism and backlash, yet despite this push against them, women are stronger than ever. Their determination is fuelled by their connections to their communities and the possibilities we see around every corner, in every square, on every march/walk and citizen eruption of protest. I am leaving this week rejuvenated and inspired.

Speakers this week included: Dr. Martha Morgan,  Alda Facio, Denisse Tamin Rosenfeld, MA, and of course, Angela Lytle, M.Ed.

After the first day of Workshops and Lectures, we gathered together for a short reception. Many members of the community and university came out, and I met Yin Brown, Program Officer of Advocacy and Alliances. We also gathered at the end of the week for a lovely meal and visit post-CEDAW week. I cannot state often enough what an incredible opportunity it is for so many women human rights activists from throughout the globe to gather and share our stories. The formal and informal discussions will lead, I am certain, to many long-term relationships and future collaborations in projects and activism.

During this entire week, we have all been aware of the struggles going on across this country for student rights, especially in Quebec. Further theactivism against the proposed Federal budget has been in the forefront as well. Knowing that the Canadian government is dismantling so much of what has made Canada a great example of Human Rights Equality is disheartening, however, the voices of dissent that have risen and joined forces keep hope alive. To those in the front and on the streets: Be Strong.To those in the political arena: Canadians are being mobilized and we will not stand for our country to fail to live up to its obligations.

“Forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”–bell hooks

 

Weekend Post

by Jewelles Smith / 05.27.2012

The first week of WHRI is completed and I feel much rejuvenated after sleeping most of yesterday (Saturday). The jet lag and asthma/allergies really caught up to me by the end of Friday. I also had an exposure to an allergen in the classroom and had to use my asthma nebulizer. I think the most distressing part of allergies is the complete lack of control I have even when I try to do everything I can to inform people. I realize that no one deliberately exposes another human being, My allergies are not the same as another’s and this is the most dangerous aspect of allergies – as well versed as I am with allergies, I know I have been guilty of inadvertently exposing others. Due to the sometimes lethal consequences, this is one of the most isolating aspects of my own dis/ability struggle. Environmental exposures are impossible to fully account for. I had to start the prednisone as provided by my specialist part way through the week. I am hoping to circumvent antibiotics and the inevitable mayhem on my body.

Some highlights of my week outside of the Institute included attending the Teamsters‘ strike and standing on the picket line at Vaughan (Ontario). It was great to talk to the workers and hear their concerns and their commitment to labour rights. I got to talk to my sons a couple times. I miss them so much, yet I would not give up this opportunity for anything and am so thankful that I have John, such a supportive person in my life, to make this six weeks possible.

Friday I participated in the yoga session. Post yoga, I felt disengaged from myself for a few hours. I find my body’s limitations distressing. Most of my right side simply does not respond to the movement, yet my left side seems to respond pretty well. Now with the injury to my foot, I feel very unbalanced, literally. I wonder about doing movements where I only use one half of my body, will this create more imbalance in my body? Some of the movements that required me to lay on my back, I could very much feel the area at my tailbone where I have injured myself so badly when I took the fall down the basement stairs a little more than a year ago. A big concern though deals with the meditative part of the yoga experience. A lot of my PTSD therapy is trying to remain engaged and mindfully in the moment/experience. It is far too easy for me to disassociate myself from my current experiences. The distress that years of abuse marked on my body are still very powerful, despite years of personal work and therapy. However, I am fully committed to participating in the yoga aspect of the Institute – I am stubborn that way. Despite that, I do need to remain personally committed to keeping my connection and awareness strong.

The last two days of the instructional week, I did not post. This is not because I did not write something down, it was just that the posts weren’t very coherent and, as they didn’t rhyme, I couldn’t pass them off as poetry.
Some of the memorable highlights of Thursday and Friday included:

  1. continued lecture on Human Rights by Alda Facio, a lecture by Dr. Angela Miles in which she discusses “the Burning Times” and her chapter: “North American Feminisms/GLobal Feminisms–Contradictory or complimentary?”.
  2. We met Martha Morgan who will be attending the CEDAW week which starts tomorrow.
  3. On Thursday we watched “The Burning Times
  4. In the evening I read Maria Mies article “Colonization and Housewifization“.

On Thursday evening we read “Towards Neo-Patriarchy” by Paola Melchiori in anticipation of Alda’s lecture and I wanted to expand a bit on this. The invisibility of women’s current discrimination, not so much in the laws but rather an internal acceptance of the patriarchy’s framing of the issue regarding “choice” or lack of choice. This is the source of the backlash against women who have gained so many rights over their bodies and their reproductive rights. Currently there is a backward slide where “[a] renewed attack is conducted for the absolute need to control women’s choices on their bodies, not only by religious people but also by the most laic scientists and politicians, in the name of civilization and moral values” (p 5). According to Alda: The patriarchy exists in the culture now, not so much in the laws. There is violence but at the same time you realize there is “love” after. It is difficult to see the patriarchy because there are so many men in our lives that we love. We do not want to “blame” these men. There is a challenge in describing patriarchy without falling into a dichotomy that does not really exist.

This really hit home when think about the last conversation I had with my Oma. She was so afraid for me, saying, “But Jewelles, no man is going to want you if you cannot have his children.” And she was not wrong, in many ways. Although I live my life as an independent woman, and I strive for equality in my own life, too often, there is a disconnect from my own beliefs on equality and the reality of the world we live in. There have been men who seemed to be amazing persons, yet on the subject of children, they “wanted their own“. I remember being terribly sad that my Oma could not see that I wanted equality and I remember thinking how backward she was. Yet, in fact she was a realist. As much as she wanted me to have an independent life and make my own decisions, her own history had taught her that the reality of the current world we live in is much more complicated that the idealist “right” to equality. I may have that right, but it took a very long time for me to meet someone who wanted a relationship with me, as I am, and with my children, as they are. The need to have their “own” children is a sad reflection in our culture where the concept of ownership is still very prevalent in the actions with regard to the relationship of men and their families. Still today, for men seeking a “serious” relationship with a woman, too often her potential ability to provide children genetically related to the male defines how far the relationship will develop. My answer to my Oma at the time remains the same, although I have learned that my belief and feelings are not reflected in society in general: “But, Oma, I have two beautiful, healthy boy children. And I am a strong, kind, loving, intelligent woman–why would a man not want to be part of my family?!”

One of the articles we were referenced by Dr. Angela Miles, was Adrienne Rich’s commencement address to Smith College in 1979. “What does a Woman Need to Know?”. A copy of this can be found in Rich’s anthology of Prose: Blood, Bread and Poetry. In her lecture on Friday, Miles discussed Rich’s concept of the “Eye of the Outsider” and the relevance this has to feminism today. Rich wrote: “Gradually those flashes of insight, which at the times could seem like brushes with madness, began to demand that I struggle to connect them with each other, to insist that I take them seriously, it was only when I could finally affirm the outsider’s eye as the source of a legitimate and coherent vision, that I began to be able to do the work I truly wanted to do, live the kind of life I truly wanted to live, instead of carrying out the assignments I had been given  as a privileged women and a token” (5-4). I could not find a copy of this article online, but I highly recommend taking the time to read it if you can get your hands on the book.

I keep coming back to the Conscious Communication Credo statement to “Stand our ground without taking ground from others.” How can we ensure that all women’s voices are heard and that rifts are dealt with via communication and comprehension of each woman’s particular struggle? How do we maintain the strength of women’s voices and yet not for one minute forget that what each of us needs is not the same, but our individual gain is a gain for all women? I have spent much time this week pondering these and other pertinent questions. The reality is that too often we either feel silenced by our sisters or, even worse, not listened to. Yet at the root of our struggle we are all seeking to find equality, even if this equality looks different for each woman. However the solution is not to ignore our gender, but to embrace and define our femininity. We need to find the words to address our concerns, by meeting together and opening our ears to the stories of our sisters and collectively determining how to resist Androcentrism. A couple weeks ago I attended an incredible conference on Mothering. In the forum, “What do Mothers Need” held prior to the conference, so many women spoke of their struggles, especially in the current neoliberal context. When the opportunity to openly discuss our concerns in a closed room was before us, it was interesting to see the disconnects being aired as well as the connections that were being made. I believe that we as a movement need to keep the aforementioned statement in mind in all our dealings with one another: “Stand our ground without taking ground from others.” This is a subject that I believe I will be returning to again and again. I hope to have conversations with women who recognize this as a place to build from.

There are other thoughts and ideas swimming through my head. I will address them, but for a time will continue to ponder. What about mentorship in the woman’s movement? How can we address the disconnection that seems to be occurring between the generation of 30 years ago, and the new leaders in our movement? How do we connect with one another to hear our herstory?  How can we use mechanisms such as international law to address the continued barriers that women face worldwide? The idea of holistic knowledge–where do I stand on this?

I am hoping that this course and the inevitable reflection that stems from it will allow me to solidify a coherent position on these issues.

Journal

By Jewelles Smith / 05.23.2012

“It’s time we start talking. Sooner or later, the stress of the work gets absorbed into our hearts, minds, bodies, and into the movement as a whole. Without the time and space to reflect and recover, it stays there. Eventually it takes the form as breakdowns, strokes, heart disease, cancer, suicide.” –Jane Barry

Today we continued the discussion of International Human Rights Treaties and how they function. Last night for homework we were to read a series of articles on self-care, yoga and meditation. In the afternoon we watched the documentary film: “The Vienna Tribunal”. I decided to share a poem I wrote in 2007 on the action of “bearing witness” to another person’s trauma. Up front, this poem is deeply personal and potentially triggering. I have attached it at the end of this post.

The readings last night actually triggered me. I have had an aversion to yoga and meditation for a long time, stemming from therapy sessions in which meditation, that is, meditation where one clears the mind, caused me to flash back. Yoga, I have attempted, but I believe the instructor at the time did not take care in her instruction, and as my joints hyper-extend and I tend to be the type of person to “over-do it”, I ended up injured and in pain. I did not attend the first yoga session, but I am going to attempt to attend the next one and observe.

Of the reading package for last night, I particularly was moved by two of the articles. The first was Jane Barry’s: “What’s the Point of the Revolution if we Can’t Dance”  and “An Exploration of Self-Care: Excerpt from ‘Self-Care and Self-Defense Manual for Activists”—by CREA New Delhi.

The film, although incredibly difficult to watch due to the raw content of the lived experience of the women speaking about the violence they have experienced, was powerful. These women, all came together in 1993 to draw attention to the violence that women all over the world endure. Too many do not survive to tell their stories. Their slogans: “Violence against women is a human rights violation” and “Women’s rights are human rights” became the rallying call. From this amazing Tribunal came the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  (http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/text/econvention.htm)

A popular tribunal is called to draw attention to or bring awareness to a violation  issue. It took two years for the women to gather all the stories and put together the Vienna Tribunal. There were so many statements that resonated in me. One being: “terrorism against women” a term used to describe the systematic and worldwide violence and discrimination against women. The film ended with the following quotation: “There is still much work ahead…”

The poem at the end of this post was inspired by the act of professionals who bear witness daily in their work. As I listened to Alda talk today about her experience the day of the Tribunal. So many people sat for the full hours as story after story was told about the violations they and/or their sisters had done to them. Alda stated that her body actually hurt for days from holding all the pain of the women. It is imperative that we as a movement take the time to care for our selves, our health, our bodies.

Two final thoughts from Alda regarding the current state of the movement: “we live in societies that do not know their histories” and “how do we sustain the feminist movement?” These are thoughts that I have pondered often in the past year. We need to record the histories of our movement, we need to teach the upcoming generation where we have been, where our sisters who lived before us have been and what our thoughts on the future of women’s rights.

“We have to change the culture of activism and heal ourselves, so that we can begin to heal others. When this cultural shift take hold, our movement will become truly unstoppable.” Jane Barry

Bearing Witness: Jewelles Smith, May 31st, 2007:

For every second of this assault I think I can run… and I can

I chose to sit here for you
To bear this pain with you
For this moment
I will bare my body to be there for you
As you did for me
This memory purge
Brace and bare
I listen and share
A choice I make each time

Hurt—ears rings—eyes blur—jaws tight
Bear witness
Sit here
Hold myself
Hold myself
Hold it in
Clench my hands together
The assault of your words

I choose to share your story with you
[we] this moment of pain it is my choice to
Remain in this room
I will to listen
I will listen
I listen
I stay
Hold on
I can smell the past
Smell semen
Spilling
Taste blood
Inside my mouth dripping
From my nose

I can hear you
Voice moving on …moving through
[hold on] lean forward. Lean into the telling
>speak<
Ears pop

I will witness this for you. We witness
Yes
You did survive this
You survived. You lived. Pieces of you floated through
I sit. Feet firm on the floor
I cringe. Close my eyes
In my head, the burn
Sting thump
Of a plastic, wooden, electric cord spoon whip
Lined up directed swooped in
So much too much
Burns
I sit. I cannot sit
I will to sit
For you [I will hear this for you]
I sit for you
I witness this happened
For you. For me. For us.
Hear you. Believe you. [With both ears].
Hold on. Hold my hands together. Firm.
I have borne this telling with you
Witnessed this telling with you
Witnessed with you
Like me
You too have survived
We
Yes we have survived
And here in this room we have
Witnessed the surviving

other links:

http://broadrecognition.com/opinion/towards-a-feminist-yoga-practice/

http://www.un.org/rights/dpi1772e.htm

http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/pages/c172.shtml

http://www.onf-nfb.gc.ca/eng/collection/film/?id=31722