yo ladies!

So long...

June 25, 2011 | Kim Milata-Daniels | Comments (1)

This project has been a wonderful learning experience, and one that's allowed for friendships and collaborations, celebration and love. It's time to move on though - feel free to keep in touch.

Moving Forward
Rainer Maria Rilke

The deep parts of my life pour onward,
as if the river shores were opening out.
It seems that things are more like me now,
That I can see farther into paintings.
I feel closer to what language can't reach.
With my senses, as with birds, I climb
into the windy heaven, out of the oak,
in the ponds broken off from the sky
my falling sinks, as if standing on fishes.

On being a woman

June 13, 2011 | YoLadies |

By Meltem Arikan


I always find discriminations such as, being a woman in Turkey, being a woman in Germany, being a woman in United States or the conditions of women in Turkey, conditions of women in Holland, very disturbing. Whichever country they are from, women have been living under the power of male dominated system and the imposed laws of this system for thousands of years.The issues could be relatively less or more problematic, this does not change the fact that women from all around the world are essentially facing the same issues.

Did you ever hear questions such as, what are conditions of men in Germany or how is it like to be a man in Africa? You cannot hear any of them because men own this world.

I've always made mistakes. I've always ignored myself. Why do I have this feeling of guilt, never understood. I am always guilty. Everything is ruined by me. These mousy and passed away feelings of mine. As if my nerves are pulled back. Pulled backwards. Within a vague time. Within vagueness... I've always tried to be strong, but always remained as weak. The more I dive deeper, the more I feel suffocated. I cannot breathe. Isn't there anyone who can help me? Isn't there anyone who can hear my voice?

In fact, we are all women trying to be heard in the men's world. However, over the last few years, it is not that easy for us to make our voices be heard anymore. In this century, we are in a transition period from the analogue world to the digital world and many countries are struggling for their freedom by risking their lives and many people in other countries are facing with new limitations.While the culture of fear widens its boundaries, the silence gets heavier and heavier day after day.

Slyly fed furiousness inside me...
My body composed of flesh and bones as if it turned into glass...just about to be broken...could I fix it? Could I fix my past or the future?
Let's say 'enough' I shouted. Would anybody hear me? My voice. A voice of a woman... Woman voice is equivalent to silence, right?

Women's alienation from their bodies and restriction of their demands for freedom begins when men constrain women to veil. It follows as women to approve that they can seduce men's sexuality and mislead them. It is imposed on women that men will use violence and rape women when even a strand of their hair is seen. 'Only women can break the male dominated system'; could this be the hidden fact lying under all this? Why are not men suggested to pull themselves together but women are subjected to hide their bodies and their femininity? For hundreds of years men are living with unveiled women and do not rape them openly. So how come women are always a source of risk in societies where women and men are forced to live socially separated. While these generated fears estrange women from their bodies, men are also scared away by the projection of women having seductive potentials. Men can only dominate women by fear, so they are indeed the only ones who can make the explanations...

I do not know anything about it but recently I am being aware of something. I am pretty sure other women know nothing about it as well. I am being aware of my body, which was destroyed with history. I am struggling to reunite it with my mind. When the mind stays independent from the body it dives into an abysm. My awareness is so fragile like a cotton yarn it can suddenly fade away and disappear. But if you hold that thin yarn really tight then it turns into a thick rope. Otherwise the thin yarn drifts away, taking you with it.

I believe, women should undress themselves to be able to exist. Although, undressing oneself needs great courage and responsibility. But societies are in need of overdressing and they fear from nakedness because nakedness also means transparency. Today, some Islamic fundamentalist women not only overdress themselves but also define hiding behind veils as freedom.

When women are told to have three children, when women without veils are being liken to a house without curtains either to rent or for sale, when discussions about raped women's guilt for wearing low cut dresses are carried to newspapers, when hearing the increasing voices of those demand for religious marriages to be legal which allows men to marry four women, I, as a woman, become more and more furious. For other women to keep silent and sometimes for them to acknowledge these statements hurts me deeply. Being a woman in male dominated system is painful.

Here in deep emptiness I am without a beginning or an end. My hand, my arm, my leg full of scars by being dispersed backwards and forwards.
My tears are so very heavy I am tired of hiding... My screams are like a puny headache. Reality petrifies when mind is prisoned in fear... A tiny stone between cinders, a flutter of a little hooked fish. Chords are doomed to be muted when ears are deaf... just like being a woman...

For me hope is the struggle of women for existence and to be able to exist. However, the sociocultural climate created by the male dominated system condemns women to have unhappy lives by driving them to have fake hopes.
These kinds of hope have turned into curse for me and for all women who want to exist. We are facing the results of these curses everyday. The male dominated minds are claiming that they struggle for the violence against women but cannot discriminate how they use the greatest violence on women by doing politics over women bodies. The politicians must move their politics, ideas and hands off from women bodies. As a woman, saying NO to every kind of violence against women is inevitable for me. For this reason I will continue to struggle against this.

If I cannot exist as a woman, I will become a slave, I do not accept being a slave.

It must be approved by all of us that there are no differences between a woman's body from New York and another woman's body from Turkey or a man's body from Turkey and another man's body from New York.

For thousands of years, the world has boundaries drawn by the male dominated system. It is time for women to say NO marginalisation created by boundaries. We must establish a common woman culture in the new world order.

Connecting with the Editor: The Yemen Times

May 25, 2011 | YoLadies |

This was originally published on the 50 Women Project Blog by the amazing Jessica Buchleitner. Thanks, Jessica, for sharing and bringing this story to our attention.

By Jessica Buchleitner

It was, undoubtedly, the nature of the article on the International Women's Media Forum that I read about her which prompted me to contact her.

I read countless news articles every day: some not to their entirety, and others I find myself reviewing repeatedly. Many of these articles concern the series of revolutionary and utterly astonishing uprisings occurring in the Middle East in recent months.

Not to say that what is happening in other parts of the world is uninteresting. I pay attention to these things as well. Yet the protests and uprisings are infectious mainly because of the long oppression citizens of these societies have found themselves involuntarily subjected to. Who wants to live their entire lives in a tent on the streets? What chronically unemployed adult wants to sit back and observe politicians and officials gaining insurmountable wealth above the rest of the population? What person wants to be subjected to extensive humiliation by such officials? My point is: I don't blame the citizens of these countries for their anguish.

One particular quote told to me by another woman interviewed for "50 Women" stands out in my mind when I see these uprisings and speaks for the current circumstances in societies across the Middle East: "In order to gain wisdom and to be reborn, one must first lose everything".

Ultimately what I am referring to is that everything must be uprooted in the peace process in order to change. Old world leaders must be ousted, cities overtaken and the failing systems removed. In theory it sounds like a walk in the park yet the road to positive change is one of hardship, sacrifice and extensive cost. I watched at the beginning of 2011 as the Egyptian revolution unfolded and the protesters held steadfast and determined in Tahrir Square subsequently following brother nation Tunisia.

One such revolution receiving remarkably less news coverage in the United States were protests and uprisings in Yemen.

What most don't realize is that the Yemen uprisings followed the initial stages of the Tunisia uprisings and occurred simultaneously with the Egyptian revolution. Which brings me back to the article that I read on the International Women's Media Forum.

I discovered it one morning while reviewing their Courage in Journalism Award winners. Scanning the page, I learned of Nadia Al Sakkaf, Editor in Chief of The Yemen Times, the only objective and English speaking newspaper in Yemen; a newspaper acting as a veritable connector of Yemen and the rest of the world. The article was about some of the current hardships and setbacks the newspaper has suffered as a result of the tumultuous political environment in Yemen. In the brief article, Nadia talks about the challenges she and her loyal staff of reporters face daily in the wake of the revolution for change. Moved on many levels by Nadia's courage and strength in navigating such a stirring sea of political and economical turbulence, I felt an unyielding desire to connect with and interview her.

yemen TimesSo I did.

Arising with the sun on a Saturday morning, I checked my world clock to see the time in Amann,Jordan. Noticing it was evening in her local time, I dialed her local number via skype and connected with her voice to voice from half a world away. There we were- two passionate and persevering female voices joined by a simple internet connection.

Nadia Al Sakkaf is one revolutionary woman. In addition to carrying an MSC in Information Systems Management and a BE in Computer Science, she has also worked for OXFAM GB in their humanitarian Programs and was the first recipient of the Gebran Tunei Award in 2006. Nadia has been Editor in Chief of The Yemen Times since 2005 and is paving the way in a leadership role for other women journalists in Yemen and other countries in the Middle East.

The Yemen Times is so near and dear to Nadia because it is a family business, started by her father in 1990 and wielded from his vision to be a global citizen and to bridge the gap between Yemen and the rest of the world. Today it is the only independent English newspaper in Yemen reporting on every activity of the country's current revolution.

Being a revolutionary in the realm of journalism and media has a heavy price tag. Nadia explained that her father was previously abducted and imprisoned for his involvement and the paper was closed more than three times between 1991 and 1999 when after his tragic passing, Nadia's brother stepped in and took over until 2005. Smashing stereotypes, Nadia assumed the position of Editor in Chief in 2005.

"Its interesting because Journalism is such a new profession for many Yemeni women. Still the culture does not generally accept women working in public positions but I have seen so much fascination for this profession grow. Women who decide to be journalists in Yemen are still facing the glass ceiling- its very difficult for them to climb up the ladder and become managers".

Nadia further explained to me the many reservations people had about her becoming the Editor in Chief since she was young . They did not feel that she would be able to handle the job- yet she has with grace and strong determination to keep her father's legacy alive. Now in one of the most difficult times, Nadia forges on with the belief that if she does not do her job- nobody will.

Currently, the paper faces challenges from power outages to phone and email threats. The objective or unbiased approach of the paper angers members of certain political parties. In Yemen, as Nadia explained, there is biased reporting from both sides, the opposition side and government side.

Even coverage of the protests have produced insurmountable challenges to reporters on staff. As protests escalate, so do the weapons used in clashes with security. Nadia explained that past protesters have used sticks or knives until recently progressing to the use of live bullets. The danger to reporters in these situation is they cannot act as a bystander to the effects of the situation. In doing their jobs, they become part of the action. When a reporter stands to cover a protest, he or she can become shot directly or victim of bullet ricochet. Thus, it is becoming more difficult for media to hide from attacks during such events.

"Once one of my reporters was there and said that a man next to him was shot. He was a bit traumatized because it could have been him. Its true and we all know that its true. Anytime I send another one of my reporters out my hand is on my heart waiting until they come back to the office so that I know they are safe. The problem is we cannot NOT send them. Its like, if we don't tell the story who will?"

Sympathizing with her concerns, I asked Nadia how she gets through each day in this environment. She explained to me much of her strength comes from the international community and the many people who responded to her previous IWMF article offering to help.

"You know Jessica, I feel that the international community believes in us. For example, those emails and you calling me now, we share those and we talk about those in our meetings. Some of them we even print out and say 'Look. There is a person who is praying for us'. I received an email from someone in Japan and it said 'I am praying for you' and that was amazing!"

I asked Nadia several questions about the revolution in Yemen and its significance to the Yemenis society. I felt strongly about hearing her perspective on the situation- as a citizen of Yemen, as a journalist, as a woman and as a mother.

Poverty, Nadia emphasized, is the reason many Yemenis are disgruntled. Over forty percent of the population lives in extreme poverty. In fact,Yemen ranks 152 of 177 countries listed on the Human Development Index and of all the Arab states,Yemen has the lowest HDI rank. An alarming ten percent of the current work force are children who are often forced to drop out of school in order to support their families. Perhaps this is one explanation of the looming amount of illiteracy in the Arab nation- an astonishing 54 percent of the population age 15 or older according to the World Bank. ( note: figures are different depending on the source or report)

In Yemen, Nadia explained articulately, there are a lot of injustices. Not only are large amount of citizens poor, but they also live under corruption and humiliation. Politics also until this year, was mainly the business of the elite and intellectuals not the layperson. As of 2011, this has drastically changed.

We discussed the Mohammed Bouazizi incident as the trigger to the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Bouazizi was a Tunisian vegetable vendor who set himself on fire in protest when his goods, which he allegedly purchased on credit due to poverty, were taken and he was harassed by a municipal official. Nadia pointed out to me that many people in Yemen are similar to Bouazizi in that they do not have much to live for and thus have nothing to loose which, in turn, lends strong legitimacy to the current revolution.

"I know so many Yemenis who would sell a kidney just to go abroad- I am dreaming of the day where the Yemenis don't even think like that because they want to stay in their own country and they feel appreciated" Nadia explained. "This is a very unbelievable time in history. It is much turmoil now, but I hope that the turmoil results in something much more prosperous in the end. I often explain it as a delivery- like we are giving birth and we are in the delivery room. It's a long labor but I can't wait for the baby to come out and take care of it and for it to become an important person".

Nadia believes she would not be strong without the loyal and dedicated team at The Yemen Times. Perhaps she does not realize what I see in her, but I see an enduring progressive soul, who genuinely and sincerely cares for the betterment of her country and its people. Her commitment and belief reveals itself in her reporting, her advocacy and her dedication to The Yemen Times and its mission.

It was a gift to speak with Nadia. I will never forget our conversation for the rest of my life. Here I was connecting with another person from across the world, whose country has been in my thoughts and prayers. It is my sincere hope that Yemen and the other Arab nations can finally attain for their citizens the change they deserve. Noone wants to live the way some of these citizens are forced to sustain. Noone wants to be subjected to the same humiliation Bouazizi was- a humiliation so deep and severe it forced him to self-immolate. I understand the anger which leaks from poverty and oppression. Now their voices are heard around the world just as I heard Nadia's through that simple article. For Nadia's voice is one beyond what we read in news reports- she is an influential part of Yemen's media and part of the present activity in the country. She is the woman in charge of the greatest link between Yemen and the rest of the world.

"This revolution, although it is a defining moment for Yemen, it's also an opportunity to unveil the other faces of Yemen and to break all the stereotypes. I am glad in a way that this has happened, even if it has happened this way. I am glad that the world knows more about Yemen and other Arab countries. You are hearing the names of cities that you never would have heard in your life had this not happened so it's brought the world together"...

Support The Yemen Times in their mission. Connect with them on Twitter or Facebook.

A Trail of Ashes

We'd like to introduce writer Isela Washington, as she writes about the struggles and freedoms of recovery.

By Isela Washington

No words can describe the pain and despair I was in a year ago. I was dying. My soul was trying to escape from this body of a carcass it had been inhibiting. It seemed that I was the only one who could hear the muffled screams in my head.

I wanted to be happy and there were brief moments in my life as such. But I was never at peace. I was never okay in my own skin. No one hated me more than myself. I could not come to terms as to why my life was in such distress and chaos when I had everything that I had wanted.

I was married to a very loving, caring, funny and compassionate man. I had kids that other parents envied. I had in-laws that genuinely loved and cared for me. I had a great job. And while we we didn't have anything fancy, there was nothing that I was wanting or needing. There were moments in my life that I felt that my life just couldn't be any better.

I grew up with a father who was an alcoholic and a drug addict. My mother was very young and a victim of abuse, herself. Even though I suffered all sorts of abuse from my parents, I was able to conceal that from everyone. School was my refuge. I excelled through my school years and I loved how I was praised for good grades and my involvement with clubs, from school teachers. I was someone there. At home, I was nobody. I believed every hateful word my parents said to me, just as much as I believed every praise at school. At a very young age, I resigned to the idea that my life was going to be anything else than the way it was. I used to pray that my mom would leave my dad and stay away from him. But each time she would return and it would only get worse. I just knew that if we no longer lived with him, I would finally be happy.

My mom left my dad when I was 14. Surely, I was about to finally experience happiness. That dream was short lived. It actually never came. I was still living in fear of what this man could do to me and so I fathomed the idea that the only way that I would discover what being happy was all about was if he ever died. Three years later, on the night that we buried my father, I was getting my stomach pumped at the hospital with tar for trying to kill myself. I don't know why I did it; wasn't I supposed to be happy now that he was gone once and for all? I graduated the following year and I came to the realization that the only way that I would be happy was if I left my family. They were all my problem. Of course they were! And so I joined the military and left the country. I was exposed to a new culture, new people, money, men...all these things just came to me, but the more I searched for happiness in these, the further off I was from it.

After many failed relationships, I finally found the happiness I had so much longed for... in a man. He appeared fascinated by me. And I felt the same about him. Not only did I want him; I needed him. Little was I to know that 14 years later, he would be just as eager to divorce me, as much as he wanted to marry me, or that he would come to despise me just as much or more as he once loved me.

Shortly before we were married, I returned to the states with him to meet his family. I was in love! His family sat at the dinner table and they ate and talked and laughed...together. From that very moment, I just knew that I was going to be happy all the time. My happiness was guaranteed in acquiring his family. The next 14 years were good and bad. I remember more good than bad, but if you ask him, he'll probably tell you there were more bad than good. I couldn't tell you how or when, but not only was I no longer happy, I was more depressed than ever before in my life and I didn't understand why. It wasn't soon after that I started to blame my husband for my unhappiness. We had our problems, as any other married couple, I suppose. I had a very forgiving husband, all the while, I was slowly and steadily pulling him into my warped mind. He wasn't a bad husband, but I was convinced that he was the sole conspirator to my unhappiness.

Today, I can tell you that not only have I found happiness, but I am finally at peace. I have left a trail of ashes which has lead to this resurrected life that I now have.
In the issues to follow, I plan to share with you what happened to get me to the point of desperation, what I had to do in order to free myself from the bondage of myself and how I maintain a life of peace and harmony.

SlutWalk Dallas

April 23, 2011 | YoLadies | Comments (8)

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know about the furor that's been raised by a Toronto police officer when he suggested that women can avoid being raped by not dressing "like a slut." In response, women in Toronto organized SlutWalk to demonstrate that what a woman wears has nothing to do with rape, whether it's considered "slutty" or not.

Elizabeth Webb, a rape survivor, was inspired to organize a SlutWalk in Dallas. A huge number of women and men from the area gathered to support a woman's right to safely wear whatever they want, without fear that she'll be accused of "asking for it" if she is sexually assaulted.

This message is one of the most important that needs to be shouted loud and clear. Victims of rape are still, even in 2011, accused of asking for it a variety of reasons, the main one being her clothing. The fact is that any type of clothing, even a burqa, could theoretically be considered sexually attractive by someone. After all, rapists aren't exactly known for following the norm. It's not only unfair but dangerous to assume that clothing can instigate a violent sexual attack on anyone.

Kudos to the Toronto "sluts" for starting the ball rolling, and to Elizabeth Webb for keeping up the fight in Dallas.

Check out the slideshow of the Dallas SlutWalk participants!