At last, after many months of deliberating the Ctrl.Alt.Shift Podcast is off the ground in conjuntion with the excellent SOAS Radio.

Episode one focuses on gender equality and was done for International Women’s Day which was on March 8.

Check it out at the SOAS Radio website.

Episode 2 should be out at the beginning of April and will centre on Tax Justice. We are hoping it will be bigger and better so watch this space.

Building A Forum For Women In Bangladesh

First appeared on Ctrl.Alt.Shift on 31 January 2011

Discover how women in Bangladesh are learning more about their rights, their purpose and potential power in the home, government and society as a whole. Amy Hall reports…

Traditionally, women in Bangladesh are not encouraged to take part in public life and have less access to education; but increasingly Women’s Forums and savings schemes mean that groups of women have strong voices within their communities.

Christian Aid’s Gen Lomax recently visited Bangladesh and met women involved in groups that work with Christian Aid’s partner organisation CCDB. Perceptions of women’s equality have begun to change since these groups were set up and some Women’s Forums have received training in influencing politics. They have learnt about their rights, and are becoming increasingly demanding towards the local government ensuring that it is more accountable.

The women Gen spoke to found these groups valuable in increasing the voice of women within their community but also in gaining independence as individuals. Mononoma Kunda, 49, is a member of Bashundhara Forum and has been since 1985.

She has received training on rights and advocacy which she put to good use when a powerful neighbour occupied some of her land: “When I joined the forum, I raised my voice and we discussed this problem. We then took this to the local government and they measured the land, and now the man has left!”

Mononoma has not always had this independence though, “My husband did not want me to go to the forum because he wanted me to make meals and stay at home. Sometimes he was very angry. Now he always encourages me. He sees that now I am independent, I earn money and his opinion has changed…We have built faith, love, trust, and now we respect each other. Now I make joint decisions in my family. The forum is our pride.”

Another proud husband is Shakti Kirtoniya. His wife Monika Kirtoniya has received agricultural training via the Sonali Swapna Forum (Golden Dream Forum). “I feel happy that my wife is part of this forum.
Before she just worked at home. But now she has a business and works outside. She earns money which we can spend on our children, on our lives. Now she knows so many things, she has received so much training and is a skilled woman with experience.”

At 16 Nipa Mojumder is already part of the Sonali Swapna Forum. Nipa is not part of the forum, her mother is. Her parents are supportive of her activities and she says that their generation is beginning to change its perceptions. “It is not possible to develop our country if men and women don’t work together… My parent’s generation is very conservative, but now this is changing. They want women to work outside. Previously there were superstitions about everything, now this is changing.”

By organising together women all over the world are raising their voices and becoming active in public life. This empowerment has a positive affect on their families and people around them and seems to be the only way towards sustainable development.

CAS @ Feminism In London

From looking around the room a feminist could look like anyone. The women did not fit the stereotypes all too often associated with the feminist movement, ranging right through the age spectrum, gay and straight and of varied ethnicities.

There was also a significant number of men, not coerced there by women but fully engaged in the issues including those sometimes considered women’s domain – like maternity care and problems with the ‘sex industry’.

There was a workshop for men only on ‘Confronting Privilege’; part of a diverse programme that included feminist parenting, women’s internalised prejudice, reproductive and sexual health and workshops specifically for children.

One of the main attraction of the conference for Ctrl.Alt.Shift was the section titled ‘Reports From The Global Women’s Movement’, a panel of feminist activists, experts who have taken part in struggles around the world.

“If you’re not at the table you’re on the menu”, said Chitra Nagarajan in the day’s opening, and this is especially obvious in many places where war, poverty or corruption have caused dramatic imbalances in power.

Nadje Al-Ali started off talking about the Iraqi movement, where she said in many ways there has been regression in women’s equality. Leila Alikaramis told a similar story from Iran but pointed out, “Now women have showed themselves successfully in public life it is not possible to force them back into the private lives of their home.”

M&S Percy the Sexist Pig protest

Tsitsi Matekaire talked about how despite violence against women and forced marriage by kidnap being prevalent in Ethiopia, women are increasingly organising and fighting for their rights.

Katherine Ronderos also spoke about women’s resistance and told the story of the Feminists In Resistance movement in Honduras – an energetic and compelling campaign against the violence of the recent coup in the country.

Katherine also highlighted how inequality in sexual identity, ethnicity, class and gender is always interlinked and should be tackled in intersections instead of in isolation from each other.

Complex issues were also explored by one of the most exhilarating speakers of the day, Marie-Claire Faray-Kele, recently returned from the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a group who travelled from the UK in solidarity with women who are victims of mass rape, a weapon often used in conflict there.

Marie-Claire painted a damming picture of how the exploitation of natural resources in the DRC by multinational corporations have led to displacement of people and how she thinks the presence of NGOs and the UN is adding to the problems in the country by disempowering women who want to stand up for their own rights.

Every person told an inspiring story of women and men working for gender equality. Cynthia Cockburn, who chaired the section, called on the audience to learn from these struggles of people who are often working in very dangerous and more restrictive situations than our own. As Marie-Claire pointed out “feminism is not just a Western concept.”

Whether in the DRC or on the streets of London many women and men are taking part in the gender equality movement. Lunchtime activism was also squeezed in outside Marks & Spencer in Oxford Circus, as 50 people dressed as ‘Percy the sexist pig’ descended on the store and gave out leaflets calling for a Boycott of the chain after they sub-let one of their buildings (in Bristol) to Hooters.

Feminism in London showed the growth of an inclusive feminist movement in Britain; for around half of the delegates it was their first Feminism in London conference.

The final speaker was Finn Mackay who received a stand ovation for her call to action, but for me movements for equality were summed up by Natasha Walter, who said, “Never stop believing that the future we want will become the present we are living in.”