Do not keep ignoring the voice of the Venezuelan people

By Beatriz Borges

CEPAZ has a strong focus on women’s and reproductive rights. As a member organization of the Kota Alliance, CEPAZ is sponsored by the Anna-Riitta and Fritz Fuchs Fund for Reproductive Health.

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236  Venezuelan social and human rights organizations: “Do not keep ignoring the voice of the Venezuelan people”

Given the crisis generated by the beginning of Nicolás Maduro’s second presidential term following an irregular electoral process and the decision of the National Assembly to promote a democratic transition on January 23rd; we, a group of Venezuelan social and human rights organizations, wish to share the following message with our colleagues of the region and the world:

A sector of the international public opinion has simplified the conflict in Venezuela as tension between the government of Nicolás Maduro and the government of Donald Trump. We are conscious of the geostrategic importance of Venezuela given its abundant natural resources. We are also perfectly conscious of contemporary history in Latin America. Our country is subject to interests, of various kinds, of the United States, but also of other countries like Russia, China, and Cuba.

We value and appreciate your worry about the possible consequences of the wrongful intervention of some of these powers over our daily lives. We just ask that you do not ignore, in your opinions, the situation of the Venezuelan people and their desire and aspirations over what their destiny should be. Those of us who participated in massive protests in 60 cities and towns in Venezuela and in 230 cities throughout the world on January 23rd did so because we have the firm conviction that the current government impoverishes us, violates our rights, and forces us to leave the country. When we want to express ourselves, the government ignores our voice, imprisons us, and kills us, as demonstrated by the 29 people who have been killed so far in the context of protests by police and paramilitary groups. The government prohibits us - common citizens - from choosing what our destiny should be, in many ways. The Venezuelan people want to express themselves sovereignly in free, democratic, and inclusive elections, recuperating the capacity to promote change in a civic and peaceful manner, guaranteeing the exercise of all its rights without any type of discrimination. 

We appreciate the support that anyone wants to provide in our fight to recuperate our voice. Please, do not keep ignoring it while exclusively echoing just one of the parts involved in this conflict.

Subscribe: 

 1) A. C. Centro de Animación Juvenil

2) A.C. H1NNOVA 

3) A.C. Las Brisas siempre Brisas

4) A.C. Médicos Unidos de Venezuela 

5) A.C. Radar de los Barrios

6) AC Banauge. 

7) AC Queremos Elegir

8) Acceso a la Justicia

9) Acción Campesina 

10) Acción Solidaria

11) Asociación Civil Conquistando la Vida (Aconvida)

12) Actívate,  Anzoategui

13) Alfa Ciudadana

14) Alianza Venezolana por la Salud

15) Amigos Trasplantados de Venezuela 

16) Aquí Cabemos Todos

17)) Asamblea de Educación

18) Asociación Civil Centro de Desarrollo Integral Sucre.

19) Asociación Mujeres en Positivo por Venezuela

20) Asociación Civil “VIVE”

21) Asociación Civil Fuerza, Unión, Justicia y Paz (FUNPAZ)

22) Asociación Civil General Juan Guillermo Iribarren (ONG)

23) Asociación Civil Gente del Petróleo

24) Asociación Civil Mujeres en Línea 

25) Asociación Civil Perijá

26) Asociación Civil Trabajemos Juntos por un Mundo Mejor 

27) Asociación Civil Uniandes

28) Asociación Civil Vida y Luz (Asoviluz) 

29) Asociación de Profesores Jubilados. Upel Maracay.

30) Asociación Mujer Voz y Vida

31) Asociación por la Vida / Mérida

32) Asociación Psicodehu / Mérida

33) Asociación Venezolana para una Educación Sexual Alternativa. AVESA

34) Asociacion Larense de Planificacion Familiar

35) Aula Abierta 

36) Asociación Venezolana de Servicios de Salud de Orientación Cristiana (AVESSOC)

37) Brigadas Azules

38) Caleidoscopio Humano

39) Canada Venezuela Democracy Forum 

40) Caracas Ciudad Plural

41) Casa de la Mujer Juana Ramírez  La Avanzadora, Maracay

42) Catedra DDHH Universidad Centroccidental Lisandro Alvarado. UCLA

43) Cátedra de la Paz / Universidad de Los Andes

44) Centro Comunitario de Aprendizaje(CECODAP)

45) Cedeso. Centro de desarrollo social. 

46) CENFISS.  Centro de Filosofía para la Investigación Stanislao Strva 

47) Central Sindical Unión Nacional de Trabajadores de Venezuela UNETE 

48) Centro de Acción y Defensa por los Derechos humanos (Cadef) 

49) Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Metropolitana 

50) Centro de Formación para la Democracia (CFD Venezuela)

51) Centro de Justicia y Paz - CEPAZ 

52) Centro para la Paz y los DDHH UCV 

53) CIIDER (Cooperación Internacional e Integración para el Desarrollo y el Esfuerzo Regional)

54) Ciudadanía Activa 

55) Civilis Derechos Humanos

56) Clima21 - Ambiente y Derechos Humanos 

57) Colegio de Enfermería del DC

58) Colegio de Profesionales de la Enfermería del Estado Anzoátegui

59) Colegio de Profesores de Venezuela seccional Táchira

60) Colegio de Psicólogos Edo. Miranda

61) Comisión para los Derechos Humanos del estado Zulia (CODHEZ)

62) Comisión de Derechos Humanos de la Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Políticas de la Universidad del Zulia 

63) Comisión Nacional de DDHH de la Federación de Colegios de Abogados de Venezuela del Estado Táchira

64) Comisión Nacional de DDHH de la federación de Colegios de Abogados de Venezuela – Mérida

65) Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos de las Federación del Colegio de Abogados del estado Lara

66) Comisión para los Derechos Humanos y la Ciudadanía CODEHCIU

67) Comité de conflicto intersectorial del estado Sucre

68) Comité de derechos humanos de La Guajira

69) Comité Paz y Trabajo

70) Conciencia Ciudadana A.C 

71) Confederación Sordos de Venezuela ( Consorven )

72) Consejo Comunal TEBRIPAR

73) Convite AC 

74) Cooperativa Caribana / Mérida

75) Creemos Alianza Ciudadana – Libertador

76) DDHH "Justicia y Paz Aragua" 

77) Defensa UCV

78) Diálogo por Venezuela-Francia.

79) El Venezolano newspaper

80) El Zulia Recicla

81) Elades Venezuela 

82) Epikeia Observatorio Universitario de Derechos Humanos

83) Epix.com.ve

84) Escuela de Formación Obrera "Priscila López" 

85) Escuela de Vecinos de Venezuela

86) Espacio Humanitario

87) Espacio Público

88) EXCUBITUS derechos humanos en educación.

89) Federación de Asociaciones Venezolanas en ESPAÑA FAVE

90) Federación de Colegios de Bioanalistas de Venezuela

91) Federación de Profesionales y Técnicos de las Universidades Nacionales de Venezuela (Fenasipruv)

92) Federación de Asociaciones de Profesores Universitarios de Venezuela (FAPUV)

93) Federación Nacional de Sociedades de Padres y Representantes -Fenasopadres-

94) Federación Nacional de Trabajadores de la Salud FETRASALUD

95) Foro Penal

96) Foro Penal capítulo Barcelona-España

97) Funcamama

98) Fundación "5aldia" Venezuela

99) Fundación Aguaclara

100) Fundación Alberto Adriani

101) Fundación Arts World Millenium 2010

102) Fundación Casa Mocoties

103) Fundación CELTA

104) Fundación CIIDER 

105) Fundación Cultural Girón

106) Fundación de Ayuda al Niño con Cáncer 

107) Fundación Incide (Sucre)

108) Fundación Linda Loaiza 

109) Fundación Mavid Carabobo

110) Fundación para el Debido Proceso FUNDEPRO 

111) Fundación Reflejos de Venezuela

112) Fundación Tovar sin fronteras

113) FundaRedes

114) Fundación Venezolana y de América Latina (Fundaval)

115) Gente del Deporte

116) GobiernaTec

117) Grupo de Caminantes GUATEK

118) Grupo de Trabajo sobre Asuntos Indígenas (GTAI)  - ULA Mérida

119) Grupo La Colina 

120) Grupo Social Cesap

121) Guaicaypuro Sociedad Organizada

122) Hannah Atendt Observatory Cap. USA. 

123) Humano Derecho Radio Estación 

124) Humanos 2.0

125) Innova Scientific SAc Perú 

126) Instituto de Altos Estudios Sindicales INAESIN

127) Instituto Venezolano de Estudios Sociales y Políticos-Invesp

128) Justicia y Paz OP Venezuela 

129) Justicia, Encuentro y Perdón 

130) La Urbina Activa

131) Laboratorio Ciudadano de Noviolencia Activa

132) Laboratorio de Paz

133) Lex et Agape

134) Liga Merideña contra el Sida

135) Madres y Padres por Los Niños en Venezuela

136) Manifiesta.org

137) Médicos por la Democracia

138) Monitor Social A.C. (Estado Nueva Esparta) 

139) Movimiento Caminando con Claret / Mérida

140) Movimiento Sindical de Base MOSBASE

141) Movimiento Vinotinto

142) Mujer y Ciudadanía A.C.

143) Mujeres de Sucre. Cumana

144) Obra Redentora Mercedaria

145) ObserLatInf

146) Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad de Los Andes

147) Observatorio Electoral Venezolano (OEV)

148) Observatorio Global de Comunicación y Democracia (OGCD)

149) Observatorio Hannah Arendt

150) Observatorio Penal Mérida

151) Observatorio Penal Mérida OPEM DDHH

152) Onda Feminista

153) Organización StopVIH

154) Oswaldo Cali Fundación - Seguir Viviendo

155) Padres Organizados de Venezuela 

156) Participación Venezolana-Georgia (Atlanta, USA) 

157) Pensamiento Tachirense en Acción, PENTA.

158) Prepara Familia

159) Pro2

160) Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos (Provea)

161) Proiuris

162) Promoción Educación y Defensa en DDHH - PROMEDEHUM 

163) Proyecta Ciudadanía A.C 

164) Proyecto 860

165) Psicólogos sin Fronteras Venezuela

166) Red Acción y Defensa Por Los Derechos Humanos - Capitulo Carabobo ( RADDH) 

167) Red Acción y Defensa Por Los Derechos Humanos - Capitulo Cojedes ( RADDH) 

168) Red Defendamos la Epidemiología  Nacional 

169) Red Electoral Ciudadana (REC)

170) Red Nacional Asamblea de Ciudadanos Carabobo

171) Red Nacional de Asambleas de Ciudadanos

172) Red Organizaciones Vecinales de Baruta

173) Red de Activistas Ciudadanos Barinas

174) Redes Urbanas

175) RedesAyuda 

176) RedOrgBaruta

177) Revista SIC del Centro Gumilla

178) RVG+ (Red Venezolana de Gente Positiva)

179) Sindicato Nacional de Profesionales Administrativo de la Universidad de Oriente ASPUDO

180) Sindicato Único de Telecomunicaciones del Estadio Anzoátegui (SUTEA)

181) Sindicato Único Nacional de Empleados Públicos Profesionales Técnicos y Administrativos del Ministerio de Salud SUNEP-SAS

182) Sinergia, Red Venezolana de Organizaciones de Sociedad Civil

183) Sociedad Hominis Iura (SOHI)

184) Sociedad Venezolana de Puericultura y Pediatria

185) Somos Ciudadanos Organizados (SOCIO)

186) SÚMATE

187) The arTEA Project

188) Transparencia Venezuela

189) Una Sampablera por Caracas

190) Una Ventana a la Libertad 

191) Unidos X Baruta

192) Unión Afirmativa de Venezuela

193) Unión Canario Venezolana UCVE

194) Unión Vecinal para la Participación Ciudadana A.C 

195) Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (UCAB)

196) Universitas Fundación

197) Venezuela te necesita 

198) Venezolanos Activos Doral

199) VenMundo / Boston

200) Vicaria de DDHH de la Arquidiócesis de Barquisimeto

201) Voluntarios la Pastora

202) VotoJoven

203) Amigos Trasplantados de Venezuela

204) Coalición de Organizaciones por el Derecho a la Salud y la Vida (Codevida)

205) Fundación Pro Bono Venezuela

206) Azul Positivo (Acción Zuliana por la Vida)

207) Academia de Ciencias Físicas, Matemáticas y Naturales

208) Unidad Investigación de Género Universidad de Carabobo

209) Mulier

210) Caracas Organizada

211) Asociación Afecto Venezuela, contra el maltrato infantil 

212) Cendif-Universidad Metropolitana

213) Médicos Unidos De Venezuela

214) Fundación Centro Gumilla 

215) Psicología y DDHH (PSICODEHU)

216) Escuela de Comunicación Social Ucab Guayana

217) Asociacion de Profesores de la UCV (APUCV)

218) Red por los Derechos Humanos de los Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes (REDHNNA)

219) Fundación Cristiana para la Liberación Popular (Fundimma)

220) Red de Activismo e Investigación por la Convivencia REACIN

221) PROADOPCION, A. C.

222) Instituto Progresista Venezolano
223) Orpanac
224) Asociación Venezolana para la Hemofilia
225) Asociación CAUCE
226) Piloneras
227) Justicia y Proceso Venezuela (JUYPROVEN)
228) FUNDECI Fundando Derechos Civiles y Equidad.
229) Sin Mordaza
230) Opción Venezuela
231) Wainjirawa

232) FUNDAMUJER

233) Observatorio Venezolano de los Derechos de las Mujeres

234) Fundación Mate con Arepa
235) Pensamiento crítico y Subjetividad

236) Superatec

Photo credit: Getty Images

Femicide in Latin America

By Nayara Lima

In Latin America, there has been significant progress over the last years with access to education and work, as well as the increase of the active engagement of women in relevant and top positions and roles at work and in politics. Yet, figures and data concerning violence towards women in Latin America remain extremely high and worrisome. This violence against women sometimes leads to extreme expressions, such as rape and femicide.

Femicide is broadly defined by the World Health Organization as the intentional murder of women because they are women[1], and is usually and generally divided into 2 types, depending on the identity of the perpetrator and his relationship with the victim: intimate femicide, which is the murder of a woman committed by a current or a former partner (husband, boyfriend) or a family member; and non-intimate femicide, which is the case when a woman is murdered by someone who does not have an intimate relationship with the victim. No matter the motives that might be invoked by a man for murdering a woman (jealousy, honor, denial in accepting a break up,  etc.), femicide cases have a particular feature in common: they are typically committed in situations where women have less power, or fewer resources to protect themselves from the murder. According to Women’s Aid[2], in the vast majority of the femicide cases analyzed, women have been murdered by their intimate partners, rather than by random violence where they were not targeted specifically just for being women.

Latin America has the highest femicide rates in the world. According to the ‘Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and Caribbean’ (Note for Equality N. 27) issued by the referred UN’s Commission in November 2018[3], at least 2,795 women were victims of femicide in 23 countries of Latin America and Caribbean in 2017. El Salvador is at the top of the list as the country with the highest rate of femicide in Latin America and Caribbean, with more than 10 murders  for every 100,000 women.

A remarkable case called global public attention in 2015 in Argentina, when a 14-year-old girl called Chiara Páez was found dead and buried in the garden of her 16-year-old then boyfriend’s house. She was pregnant and had been beaten to death. This shocking crime motivated thousands of women in Argentina to take to the streets in protest against femicide, sparking a movement called “Ni Una Menos” (“not one less”). This, along with other previous or later cases and initiatives, forced many countries to modify their domestic laws in order to turn femicide into a specific crime.

In Latin America, in particular, these high rates of femicide are often times attributed to the rooted culture of machismo, which has generated what activists call a continuum of patriarchal behavior – a social system in which men hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property.

We urge nations as a whole and politicians in particular to take a serious look into the problem and to put in place public policies and measures to secure legal and adequate protection and access to justice for women and also to make men appropriately accountable for these crimes. If they are not enough for preventing femicide permanently, these actions could at least contribute to the reduction in the number of cases of violence towards women.


[1] For a more complete analysis of the World Health Organization on the topic in Latin America, see: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/77421/WHO_RHR_12.38_eng.pdf;jsessionid=B9E581B5380CDE2E10A07249AAD8937C?sequence=1.

 [2] For more details on the assessment made by the Women’s Aid, see: https://1q7dqy2unor827bqjls0c4rn-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/The-Femicide-Census-Report-published-2017.pdf

 [3] For a complete version of the document, see: https://oig.cepal.org/sites/default/files/nota_27_eng.pdf.

The writer is a Kota Volunteer from Brazil.

Source: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/03/argenti...

Women in Brazil fighting for Human Rights and Against Bolsonaro

by Nayara Lima

Protest against Bolsonaro in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Protest against Bolsonaro in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Jair Bolsonaro won a run-off election in October 2018 and will take office as president of Brazil on January 1, 2019 for the coming 4-year term. Bolsonaro, who has been elected for successive tenures as a congressman since 1991, is well known for his extremist views and racist, misogynistic and homophobic remarks that undermine minority rights, as well as for his controversial endorsement and praise of abusive practices carried out by authorities under the military dictatorship, which led the country for decades in the recent past.

Bolsonaro, who has four sons and one daughter, has mentioned on several occasions that his only daughter was born due to a moment of “weakness”. He has said that women should be paid lower salaries compared to men because they “get pregnant”, and even commanded women to stop “whining” about femicide. In 2014, during a heated discussion with his  fellow congresswoman Maria do Rosario, he told her that the only reason he wouldn’t rape her was because “she did not deserve it”.

Women United Against Bolsonaro

All the popularity and support recently gained by Bolsonaro has been opposed and resisted by movements that have sprung up during the campaign, some of them led by women, such as “Mulheres Unidas Contra Bolsonaro” (Women United Against Bolsonaro).

The women’s campaign launched on Facebook in early September 2018, right before the election, called on women from all political backgrounds to come together “against the advancement and strengthening of machismo, misogyny, racism and homophobia and other prejudice”. This organization, which uses a closed Facebook group as its headquarters and is meant for only those who identify as women, witnessed its membership rising up to almost 4 million members in about three weeks. The group is aligned with the #EleNão (#NotHim) movement, which also emerged during the electoral campaign and called on Brazilian voters to vote against an openly sexist candidate that disseminates hate and authoritarian speech towards minorities in general, and women in particular.

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In late September, a week before the first round of the elections, thousands of people took to the streets and marched in several cities across Brazil, as part of a number of protests under the leadership of “Women United Against Bolsonaro” movement. As a result of such protests, Bolsonaro’s candidacy has attracted international attention and was even referred to as an example of the trend seen globally of the emergence of populist and extremist politicians.

In Brazil, Latin America’s largest democracy, women represent 52.5 percent of the electorate. But while it has already had a female president, Dilma Rousseff, in 2011-2016, it remains a deeply patriarchal country. Women were given the right to vote in 1932, a lot later compared to the rest of the world, and feminist movements were restricted from organizing during the country’s military dictatorship.

Brazil is one of the most violent countries in the world for women, with nearly 4,500 deaths and more than 60,000 rapes this past year alone, according to the Brazilian Forum for Public Security, a nonprofit group. Brazil also remains a deeply religious country and a increasingly conservative one at that.

Although it is still the most populous Catholic country on the planet, evangelicals have been growing at a rapid pace in recent decades. Many of them oppose gay rights and abortion. In Brazil, one woman dies every two days of complications from illegal abortions, according to the Brazilian Ministry of Health. Bolsonaro’s campaign, which includes keeping abortion illegal, and his victory showed how far the country has yet to go when it comes to basic universal human rights.


The Brazilian Backdrop

Behind this frightening backdrop was a story that has become alarmingly common among the world’s democracies; the rise of the populist movement. Brazil is experiencing a moment of intense and unusual polarization after a tumultuous few years, when the country was emerging from its worst-ever recession, which is to a great extent usually attributed to mismanagement and wrongdoings perpetrated throughout more than a decade while the Worker’s Party was ahead of the country, under the leadership of former Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) and Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016).

A broad investigation called Operation Car Wash has revealed an intricate corruption scheme in the government on a larger scale than anyone expected. Lula has been convicted and is currently serving time in prison for corruption (and is a respondent in several other judicial proceedings). His successor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached and, as a result, the country was handed to her Vice-President, Michael Temer, who is also under investigation.

Protest against Bolsonaro in New York City.

Protest against Bolsonaro in New York City.

Against such backdrop, Brazilians were, and are, anxious for any changes whatsoever in the domestic politics scenario. After all the years of corruption under the Workers Party long tenure, it’s not very far-fetched that for some Brazilians, voting for Bolsonaro was much more a matter of pushing and keeping the Workers Party out of office than anything else.


The Rise of Bolsonaro

Bolsonaro took advantage of the situation and used it for his benefit. Despite long being a peripheral figure who has authored only two laws in a 27-year period serving as a Congressman, Bolsonaro’s campaign has both benefited from and contributed to the political divide. His campaign was pretty much built around and focused on a promise that, under his administration, Brazil would be cleaned out of corruption, whilst the most “traditional” family values (some rooted in religious dogmas) would re-assume the relevance and spotlight that Bolsonaro and his supporters so much praise. And he would do that by disrupting and putting an end to the long-standing common practice in Brazil of distributing positions in Ministries, public companies and the like among allies and even political adversaries to obtain support and majority needed for implementing the measures and reforms intended. In order to gain more support during election times, Bolsonaro was fast in presenting the left-leaning Workers Party as the public enemy to be fought against. Such a strategy was successful in this regard and a great turnaround has happened, with many people who were already disgusted and disillusioned with the Worker’s Party adhering to Bolsonaro’s campaign.


What now?

Protest against Bolsonaro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Protest against Bolsonaro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Considering Bolsonaro’s praise of Brazil’s former dictatorship and his comments on race, women, and homosexuality, opponents voiced concerns that his victory could ultimately represent a threat to relevant victories and progress attained in the past decades in respect to human and minorities’ rights in the world’s fourth largest democracy.

Just a few weeks after being pronounced as the winner in the Brazilian presidential election, Bolsonaro and his inner-circle started to announce names of members of the team who, together with Bolsonaro, will be in charge of the country’s business and affairs as of January 2019. However, as some of the names chosen for his team are already announced, it seems that the choosing process is inconsistent with Bolsonaro’s campaign promise to break out the chains and connections with traditional parties, given that some of the names are of politicians who either have been convicted or are under investigation for wrongdoings and corruption practices.  

In spite of the results of the election and of any threat that his election may represent towards minorities’ rights, it is not yet clear whether Bolsonaro and his team will effectively be able to put in practice all the measures and actions promised along his entire vociferous campaign.

But one notable thing that the latest Brazilian presidential elections showed us all, is that women played an extremely important role and that they are out and up again, perhaps stronger than ever, in a somewhat of a revamping of the preceding feminist movements that contributed to and allowed so many recent women’s conquests. The “Women United Against Bolsonaro” is a good example of that, as are other feminist initiatives spread recently across the whole world, such as the Women’s March.

The “Women United Against Bolsonaro” movement has suffered massive attacks from Bolsonaro’s followers, with some of their messages incorporating actual physical and life threats against whoever is behind or supporting such a movement. Yet, this is certainly one of the largest feminist mobilizations ever organized in Brazil. The Facebook group is still active and its members keep fostering and strengthening feminist networks. As the name of the group hints, when working and demanding in an organized and united manner, women can better position themselves to stand strongly for their rights and beliefs, aiming at reaffirming a political view as to a more respectful, ethical, equal and inclusive society.

Protests against Bolsonaro in over 300 cities around the world in September, 2018


The writer is a Kota Volunteer from Brazil, who is herself an active member of the movement.

The Dignity Project - the Voices Of A New Generation

By Rhea Bhandari

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"The stories we tell literally make the world. If you want to change the world, you need to change your story. This truth applies both to individuals and institutions."

-Michael Margolis

With everything that’s going on in the world right now, storytelling might be one of the only few tools that work effectively to cut through the noise and reach the audience. The French filmmaker Jean Luc Godard says, “Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form." Storytelling is not just important because people don’t have time to consume information in other ways, it is essential because, if done right, it brings the emotion across. We use stories to make sense of our world and share that understanding with others and raise awareness around it.

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This fall, I had the pleasure of working on a project that does exactly that. The Dignity Project is a New York based collaboration between The Kota Alliance, Saba Ismail of Aware Girls and Florence Montmare,. The program was supported by Eileen Fisher Community Partnerships and by the Lower East Side Girls Club. The project empowers young women to become agents of change by creating their own expression through digital storytelling. The ultimate goal of the project is to end violence against women, and to protect women’s rights.

For four weekends, five strong and talented girls ages 15-18 came together to share their individual stories and the causes they stood for. The young South Asian women - Amira, Mahiyat, Ishrat, Sadia, and Elizabeth - came into the project with such different perspectives of what it is like to be a South Asian woman in today’s world. Each of them had distinctive lenses that they used to talk about women, their lives and struggles. They contrasted from focusing on global warming to code-switching, digging deep into the day to day life of a Brown woman, to teenage pregnancy and even religious stereotypes.

During the first sessions we discussed the gender stereotypes a lot.

During the first sessions we discussed the gender stereotypes a lot.

Being a Brown woman myself, I very well recognized some of the struggles they pointed out. I was amazed during the process about the level of articulation and creativity that they had - and it showed clearly in the way each film was crafted. The narration, sound and the choice of film shots made the artwork real and personal, just like the young women who created them.

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Knowingly or unknowingly, they are trying to push against the idea of being colorblind. The mentality of colorblindness can only result in erasing the individualism of people and can be detrimental to the preservation of their rich culture. The Dignity Project celebrates the uniqueness of their culture, and empowers young women to be their authentic selves.

Their stories are important to tell, not only for those who get to relive them, but for those who can listen and learn from them. Stories allow everyone to express all of their identities and be proud of themselves, just as they are.

What the project taught me, is that this generation has the power to affect change. I can’t wait for all that they have to offer to the world!

The writer is a Kota Volunteer from India, who is doing her master’s program in the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

The Kota Alliance is screening the short films made during the project at Lower East Side Girls Club on 12/15/2018 2pm - 4pm.. During the event, besides seeing the products of their work, the participants of the program will receive a certificate of graduating from the program. RSVP to the screenings here.