Category Archives: Pre-departure

The Development Prison: escaping gender, LGBT and sexuality silos

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Participation, Power and Social Change Research at IDS

Stephen_Wood200Stephen Wood

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to participate in a live Guardian Development panel discussion on sexuality and development issues. It was a fascinating experience, bringing a rich set of mainly Southern voices to bear on a wide-ranging set of topics.

What became apparent throughout the discussions were that two issues are beginning to gain traction amongst those operating within this field: the risk that many facets of sexuality advocacy may be drowned out due to a focus upon LGBT rights and the retreat into a silo mentality by those working on gender and sexuality.

In these past few weeks, the frenetic pace of sexual rights activism has cranked up a notch – the obvious homophobic developments in Uganda, Nigeria and Russia, but also continual attacks on abortion, sex workers rights and women’s bodily autonomy. For those active in these movements, the sheer intensity of keeping…

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Al Jazeera’s Report on Kamlaris

Video

http://aje.me/1anSQtg

I wanted to share this video as it’s an eye-opening piece on the injustice being done to young girls in Nepal, to this day. Please share with others.

Gram Vikas: Clean Water Breaks Down Barriers

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Going to join in with this! http://charitywater.org/september/

Girls' Globe

Walking through villages in Northeast India, I was astounded and dismayed by the devastating impact of the water and sanitation crisis. My path quickly became a Indian woman’s journey as I walked miles to the nearest water source. Shallow and open contaminated wells awaited me at the end of the trek. I sat and listened to women describe their need for clean water and desire to have proper sanitation facilities.

Gram Vikas-Woman cleaning the toilet roomMy mission to empower women to gain access to clean water and proper sanitation took me to the rural and poor state of Orissa. What I discovered was something remarkable. Clean water was flowing freely from taps in people’s homes, women were bathing their children in well-built bath houses and children from different castes were playing together outside. Men and women were sitting together in community meetings discussing water and sanitation, economic growth and trade for their community.

In reality, many…

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Norwegian National and the rape case in the UAE

Thank god someone finally did something to help her. And lucky for her that she’s from Europe and highly visible. Not impressed with Rori Donaghy’s comment that the only response should be to change the travel advice. Travel advice or not, women resident in the UAE – and in countries with similar laws across the world such as Pakistan and Bangladesh – will continue to be punished for daring to be a victim of sexual assault. Obviously it was their fault for being female in the first place!

And whilst the perpetrator fails to receive any sentence for the crime of rape, his punishment for extra-marital relations (or similar) is also often less severe than the woman’s. Emirates Centre for Human Rights, do something more assertive than re-writing the travel blog for the UAE, and try to be part of a lasting change in attitudes towards women.

A decrepit English girl in the Bangalore marathon

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So rather than starting from where I left off after another extended absence, I’m instead going to fill you in on recent events. 

Today I ran in the Bangalore 10K Marathon with the other SICHREM staff and volunteers, though we participated in the unfit people’s version called the Majja Run – just under 6km. Despite the relatively short distance, and the early start time of 8:30, it was still so swelteringly humid that repeated bottle tipping onto my own head barely staved off heat exhaustion. However, Sowmini (a fellow volunteer, and now my steadfast friend) and I did still run in stops and starts, with a dramatic sprint finish to full paparazzi and random onlookers. 

Extremely pleased with ourselves, we sat down to a celebratory (and complimentary) pack of apple, biscuits, and plain bun(?) to recover. I’m impressed that I even managed to run at all, though my knees have been giving me the horrible feeling that tomorrow will be the time to suffer.

Before the race itself, we entered into the costume competition. Never one to pass up the opportunity to don fancy dress, I’d suggested that we gather the required 10 people to attire themselves along a certain theme, and aim for the 75,000 rupee prize. A week after the idea sprouted, several trips to Shivaji Bazaar, and two frantic days of glueing, sticking, papier mache-ing, and painting later, we emerged as the ‘Human Rights Defenders a.k.a. Avengers’. Each character had their slogan sign – “Right to Life”, or “Right to Education” – and looked pretty stunning up on stage at 7:30 in the morning.

Though we had an illicit DC member in the gang – Superwoman – we stuck to the Marvel Universe overall, with Silver Surfer, Wolverine, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, Hulk, Captain America (that plaster of paris shield look fantastic!), Loki and Thor, whom I played. The biggest compliment I received was from a little boy no more than six, who came up to me in the street when I was already wearing full helmet, armour, and cape, and asked, “Are you Thor!?” 😀

Now I’m just sitting at home nursing my aching calves, and waiting to hear the results. 

Pre-departure

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Well the date is nearly here, and I keep swinging between extreme excitement and not wanting to go at all. I know that will pass once I get there though.

I’m all packed (my poor suitcase was pleading with me not to stuff anything else in), and I only have to pick my visa up tomorrow. Last minute I know, but I had to go home for Christmas, and the visa office is in central London. I’m very certain it’ll be fine though, so I only have to collect it. *fingers crossed*

I went on a final shopping trip for drug supplies – read plenty of diarrhoea tablets and suncream – and thought I better try on the shalwar kameez suits I had had made during my last trip to India before packing them. Turns out this was a wise move, as I am no longer tiny, meaning 2 of my outfits would have just been for decoration!

I started reading the British government’s travel advice pages earlier today as well, which made me a little more nervous than I really needed to be:

Around 700,000 British nationals visit India every year. Between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012, 322 British nationals required consular assistance for the following types of incidents: 107 deaths; 67 hospitalisations; and 39 arrests for a variety of offences.

And also:

There is a high threat from terrorism throughout India. Terrorists have targeted places in the past which westerners are known to visit including public places such as restaurants, hotels, railway stations, markets, places of worship and sporting venues.

Now that is something which I already knew, but it’s a little disconcerting when they give you all of the graphic statistics. The site then goes on to mention specific areas, which for South India focuses thus:

Female travellers should observe and respect local dress and customs. There has been a series of high-profile incidents in Goa of alleged rape against foreign nationals, including Britons. See our Rape and sexual assault abroad and Your trip pages.

Oh yay. Still, the advice on what to do if caught in a tropical storm or earthquake was quite helpful. At least I can feel prepared in the face of a natural disaster, even if I am in danger of mugging/sexual assault/violent political protests/bombings at all other times.

It makes me smile though – I’d really like to read other country’s perspectives on the British threats to foreign travellers. As far as I’m concerned, India is a safe country if you’re streetwise and sensible about where and how you travel around. No less dangerous than a night out in Nottingham. And to be honest, they’re far more polite about it in India.

So despite this little bit of scaremongering, I’m feeling very geared up to go, which I always take as a good sign. I just want the day of my flight to be here. I’m killing time learning how to use my camera before I go, as I’ve never actually looked at the manual, and always find it frustrating to be in the perfect set-up for a good photograph only to be foiled by my ignorance of what the aperture button does. Here’s to a day of learning!

Protests and vigils for India rape victim – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English

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The Indian rape victim has now died of her internal injuries induced by the metal rod the rapists used on her. I actually feel sick that this could ever be allowed to happen.

Protests and vigils for India rape victim – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English.

Are women safe in India? – Inside Story – Al Jazeera English

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Just a quick one before Christmas Day descends. I was on Aljazeera and saw this video on another horrific crime committed against a woman in New Delhi. All of the issues discussed in this short film remind me of the research I did for my dissertation, and why I want to go and volunteer for a human rights charity.

It made me so angry, and I’m now more ready to leave for India than ever. See for yourself why.

Are women safe in India? – Inside Story – Al Jazeera English.

Four Weeks And Counting

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Wow, what a fantastic week! It began last Thursday with my fundraising evening at Design Orchard in Brigg. The lovely ladies there had very kindly agreed to open the shop late on my behalf, allowing my guests access to not only their shop, but free coffee and cake. I would then get 10% of whatever profits they made from the sale of shop goods on the night.

After heavily flyering for the event, and posting numerous ads in the local papers (as well as forcing flyers onto anyone who bought a raffle ticket) I was expecting a decent turn-out. However, the weather turned foul during the afternoon, and when I arrived Brigg was dead. I wasn’t too discouraged, eagerly setting up my beautiful display of hand-made decorations (if I do say so myself) and all the raffle prizes I’d managed to acquire free of charge.

In the end though, only one family from the village, and my mum and her friend, turned up. For this reason I decided to postpone drawing my raffle until I’d gathered a few more people to buy tickets, and where there would be a good crowd to attend.
I therefore went to several of the local pubs asking about quiz nights, and found success with The White Hart in Brigg. Arriving with my trusty collection bucket (pictured in an earlier post) and all my raffle tickets – pre-folded by my nan – I sat in wait for all the people who’d agreed to come.

No one turned up.

After about half an hour of panicked calling to my various friends, I just decided to get on with it. Once I actually got up and started selling raffle tickets, with Andy the landlord’s helpful announcement on my behalf, I did a roaring trade and had some very interesting (if that’s the word) conversations with some men in knitted reindeer jumpers, and a man who practically lived in the pub who bought £20 worth of tickets! After the raffle was drawn, and the winners spent anxious moments deciding between which wine bottle to grab, I spent an entertaining half hour chatting to two older gentlemen about travelling and the state of the world in general, and received some invaluable advice on testing wine quality. A life-long skill I’m sure.

I managed to make a further £75 throughout the evening, bringing my total for the raffle to £173! It was such a fantastic evening, and I want to thank both Design Orchard and The White Hart again for all their support and generosity. Here’s to next week’s fundraising event, at another pub quiz!

Fear of Falling

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Today was the day of my dreaded ordeal – the bungee jump!

After several problems in trying to reach Bray Lake via public transport, and having to be rescued by my friend with a car, we arrived to see a huge crane where people were already jumping off. There were queues of people who had jumped/were waiting to jump/watching people jump, so there was quite a good atmosphere building.

In the run-up this week I’d been getting so nervous, and my rising trepidation didn’t ease as I walked toward the crane. However, after seeing several others jump, and gradually losing the feeling in more and more of my cold toes (we had to take our shoes off), I just wanted to get it over with. I was almost slightly excited as I was helped into my waist and ankle harnesses, and stepped into the crane basket.

When we rose up to the top though I looked down and started to become afraid. The guy up there with me opened the gate of the basket and told me to step toward the edge. I tried to step back and began to realise I might not be able to go through with it. He was having none of it though, and made me cross my arms over my chest before tipping me out into the open air below before I even knew it was happening.

I think I probably screamed the whole way down, with my eyes screwed tight shut. I don’t think you realise quite how fast the ground comes toward you when there’s nothing but air in front of you. It’s one thing to enjoy free-fall at Thorpe Park when you’re strapped into a chair, but incomparable to the absolute fear of dropping with no rope beneath you, and no cushion of hydraulics. Once the rope caught me, it was actually quite enjoyable, but I don’t think I’ll ever be doing it again. One experience is enough!

Here are some photos from before and after my jump, and a very short video taken just before the camera batteries ran out.

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See the video here.

Please, please, please, don’t let me have become mentally scarred for no reason – if you have yet to sponsor me, go to donatetoabigail.blogspot.co.uk. Everything that is fund-raised goes toward helping cover accommodation and visa costs for the duration of my stay. This volunteer placement is entirely self-funded, and I need your help in order to carry out vital research for the fantastic charity SICHREM.

Thank you for all your help, and I hope you enjoyed witnessing my pain!