Day 9. Stories of Women*: Untitled

 My story is about helping others to protect their personal boundaries. 

It should not and shall not be necessary to intervene when others are trying to set boundaries, but unfortunately it is – even in countries with self-proclaimed equal rights. Not everybody takes a no for what it is, a NO! 

Two years ago, I went to a small town for an October festival with three of my girls and a bunch of locals. All ages were represented: young teenagers, college kids, adults and elderlies were participating. Everybody was dressed up in October outfits, except for my friends and me. But that played no difference; we got a warm welcome and were immediately part of all the festivities. 

After a couple of beers, the dance floor was lit, and we joined in on the dancing. Some of the teenage boys we were talking to before asked if they could join us and of course they could, why not! But really fast they got close. Really close. I was fast enough to tell them that the deal was to dance and nothing else, the responses from the boys was to call me old and boring and started to ignore me and went on to hoovering around my girlfriends. 

We were all very visible uncomfortable with the situation. But nobody did anything; I guess we were trying to ignore them. Then one of the boys lifted his arm to put it around one of the girls and then he just pulled her toward his body. She responded by twirling herself out of his grab, said “no thank you” and kept on dancing. But he did not understand, and he tried again. And again. And then again. It was like we were frozen. I think we all were so shocked of the fact that nobody in this big hall would help us or stand up for us. I started noticing that all of the attention was aimed at four girls and four boys on the dance floor; we were unwillingly center of attention. People that were old enough to be our parents and whom had kids at the festival, just looked at us. I was mortified. Why would nobody step in? One thing was clear, we needed help to get out of this situation.  

In the next moment, I did something so out of character, that I almost didn’t believe that I was in control. At that point I had enough, so I grabbed one of the boy’s arms when placed on my very uncomfortable girlfriend’s shoulder, pulled it behind him and asked without wanting a response “Did you not hear her say NO? You know the word and hopefully you know that it’s not okay to keep going when someone says no” I kept my grip on his arm and I walked him away from the dance floor. While everybody was looking. Then I told him to stay away from us until he was grown enough to respect women and their boundaries. He looked shocked. I don’t think that any girl or woman has ever been so confrontational towards him. He walked away, and I returned to the dance floor.  

But after 15 minutes I noticed some boys walking up to the dance floor. And they were looking at us and they whispered with each other. My friends started noticing as well and we decided to leave the dance floor. We went outside where a lot of people were talking and smoking. And suddenly we hear: “It’s her! The tall, blonde one! She dragged me off the floor”. We turn around and a group of ten boys or so is staring at us. One of my friends’ whispers, “Let’s go inside. They won’t do anything inside”. Nobody else outside did anything or said anything. So, I couldn’t help myself and I asked the group of boys if the one boy had told them why I dragged him of the floor.  One of them yelled back in response “Oh, come on! Don’t be that girl. You were drinking, and dancing AND you talked to him. It’s your own fault. You want it, you know you do!” Then I got into an argument with three of the boys about respect. Meanwhile people were just looking, even though they got more and more aggressive and got closer and closer. After a while my girlfriends spoke to me, but I did not hear what they said, so I turned my head around to look at them and then one of them pulled my arm almost so hard that I fell. Why? Because one of the boys were throwing a fist at me, at the same time as I turned my head. 

When did a “no” turn into a fistfight? In what world is that okay? Why did nobody step in? Every girl has the right to her own body. Her body does not exist for the purpose of serving boys and their needs when they say so. But apparently in a small town in Denmark all of this is okay. Nobody stepped in. Nobody said anything. But everybody should have: because it’s not okay to ignore another human’s boundaries. We should all help each other to say “NO!”  

Simone Strandsbjerg, 24, Student, Denmark 


Day 8. Stories of Women*: How long will we be oppressed by men? 

This is a question each woman should ask herself because women have suffered for thousands of centuries on the hands of their counterparts, men. As we approach the 16 days of activism against women abuse, I take this opportunity to get my voice heard. The objective is to empower and inspire women who still struggle to be independent from oppressive men. My story will cover matters of religion, tradition, relationships as well as social implications that have been the fuel to the blazing flames of oppression and abuse against women. 

Firstly, I believe religion [here I refer to Christianity which is predominant in Swaziland] has played a major role in supporting patriarchy. This is a system whereby a man is given absolute powers at the expense of a woman. A woman is expected to adhere to whatever a man instructs her to do without question. The old testament has compiled many laws and stories which portray women as nothing but mere objects for men. In Genesis the first story of creation sheds a glimpse of light as far as my argument is concerned. Genesis has the first of the two narratives relating the creation of mankind. Adam is created first, then its only when Adam gets lonely that God decides to create Eve. This is exactly where even men of the cloth derive the interpretation that women were created to serve men with loyalty and respect, to be entertainers (sexually and otherwise) in the world of men. 

Secondly, tradition also contributed hugely in undermining women’s rights. Before the bible came to Africa, Africans were guided by oral traditions (folk tales) which were passed down generations through the word of mouth. These traditions were what constituted the African religious beliefs, practices and wisdom. Traditions created a culture. African cultures may vary but they are almost the same, in theology they are known as African Traditional religions. They all put women under the control of men. When it comes to management in the household, village, government, judiciary, church, sports etc., women are placed at the back seat. Men run everything; from funerals, ceremonies like weddings and most social gatherings. In my observation it’s clear that male domination is a disease that has been passed from generation to generation through traditional beliefs, norms and practices. 

Thirdly relationships too are controlled by culture, for example; in many cultures [ as is the case in Swaziland] men can take more than one wife which brings hell to any woman. The polygamous Swazi King, Mswati has over a dozen wives now and he keeps on adding. The bible too has not saved the situation when you look at the fact that David and Solomon, God’s favourite kings in biblical history, had many wives. It gives men the authority to put their wives through the most monstrous experience of sharing a man. Culture dictates when and how to get involved in a love relationship as well as how a man and a woman is expected to behave. It gives man the absolute powers in a relationship, he dictates what is to be done and what not. Men hate the idea of a woman getting a job because it makes them feel insecure. Men are taught to be brave and be fighters while women are taught how to love a man, to be a servant who is loyal and scared of her man. Such a status quo has led to the widespread abuse imposed on women by men since donkey years ago. Women don’t have a voice in a world dominated by men. Men are groomed to be warriors and fight for themselves, but little is done to help them deal with emotions like anger. This could be the reason why men explode into violence every time a woman tries to break her silence. Women are trained to be tender, emotionally strong and loyal, to arm them for the unfair status quo. 

In addition to that we have the social issue where women are portrayed as inferior compared to their male counterparts. It is believed that women’s brains and body aren’t brilliant and as strong as men. That is why it’s rare even today to find a woman in leadership. Women are reduced to spectators and followers in a world led by men. Government officials, judges, lawyers, pastors, principals, politicians etc., the majority is men. This gives women an unfair competition in the corporate world. A widow can’t support her kids unless she finds another man who will help her with the kids. When my father quit his job in the mines my mother had to defy the odds and break the cultural barriers by going to work in the sugar cane fields just to ensure we acquire education [education is not free in Swaziland]. I’m currently doing a Bachelor of Science at University of Swaziland. The society is the driving force behind oppression of women. My mother got ridiculed and vilified for leaving my father at home to work for us. The sad part is that even women blamed her too.  

In conclusion, I would say it has been argued though that women only have themselves to blame because they don’t support each other. I will agree and disagree. My take is that, women are to blame because they don’t support one another instead they are busy competing for attention from men and the public wearing skimpy clothes exposing their nakedness in the name of freedom. They look down upon each other they gossip about each other, but I see it because of my above arguments where I pointed out that women are taught to be men’s amusers. They want to please men. I disagree because the whole patriarchal system allows a small chance for women to hold meetings and discuss their plight. Women need more than a miracle to get their voice heard they need to shout so loud until the Babylon walls can’t stand it no more. I look forward to seeing them crumble down and fall before my eyes, so I could pronounce true freedom. WOMEN NEED TO TEACH THEIR OWN MALE KIDS TO RESPECT A WOMAN AS AN EQUAL NOT A SUBORDINATE. I THEREFORE, URGE EVERY WOMAN TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I don’t want women to take men as enemies but remember that they are also victims of the system. It is the system that is in control of their thoughts and actions. what they do is what they were taught, what was instilled trillions of days of their lives. It’s hard to teach an old dog some new tricks that is why I suggested that we start teaching our gospel of gender equality to children and the youth. Teach them real love and enlighten them on human rights. 

Swaziland is Africa’s last absolute monarchy led by polygamous King Mswati. Political parties have remained banned by the monarchy since 1973. A total disregard of human rights and the crackdown of human rights defenders who call for multiparty democracy is endemic in sustaining the royal dictatorship. Religion, and culture/tradition is used to socially control the gullible masses. The brutal police force is used suppress those calling for change. 


Day 7. Stories of Women*: As a Woman* in Engineering

Since I was little I wasn’t the “typical girl “, I loved playing with Lego, doing taekwondo and helping my father with technical activities. From an early age it was clear to me that I can do anything in the world by my own effort. 

The older I got, the more I realised that this mindset isn’t really represented in the majority of the society. What, for me, appeared normal as a child, became an uncertainty as an adult. All of a sudden it wasn’t “normal” anymore. In my high school years, I studied technical studies, when somebody asked me about it I often got a surprised look: “What? How many girls* are studying that with you? “And the answer was and is still, far too few! 

A related experience was, when I was waiting with an electric-drill in front of my grandmother’s apartment and an elderly man said to me: “Girl, be careful. Don’t hurt yourself! Let it be and ask a man to help you” He couldn’t know that I already managed my moves and built all the shelfs by myself. But, does he need to know that? Shouldn’t it be taken for granted that we women* can do such things? 

Many of my colleagues had similar experiences. One of them told me that when she was 13 years old she went to an excursion with her orchestra. She was the youngest, the average age was around 50. One of the older men approached her at the beginning of the journey and complained that all the women leave the orchestra around their 20s to go study. In his opinion, this was a disgrace because he thought that women should get married before they past their mid-20s and then start planning for a child.  Well, I think there should not be a choice between being a successful woman or a mother. The goal should be a stable childcare system to empower women and to get more female CEOs! 

In many internships, I also have faced the obstacles that women* go through. In my second internship I worked at a construction firm at  a steel factory. We did restoration work. The internship was fantastic, but within the whole company area there was no women’s* restroom there was only bathrooms for men* and most of them included a shower. As a teenager, one feels very uncomfortable to go to the men*s bathroom where you could even look into the showers. So I had to cross the whole place (approx. 10 min) to get to the office, and once there I had to change my shoes because it was forbidden to go through the place with working shoes. I had to change them every time. The whole process took at least 25 minutes every time. A simple separation of showers and restrooms would have solved that problem easily. 

At my last internship I worked in a construction site, I loved it! It was a very technical internship, the place and people were nice, overall it was a great experience except the fact that I was the only woman* in the whole group. At beginning I didn’t notice absence of litter bins in the toilets until I got my period. Where should I put it? I thought, “At the toilet of the construction site and trust that it doesn’t clog? Where do you put the packing?” Questions and problems a little litter bin in the restroom would have easily solved. And now for all not women* reading this – a bin is a necessity in every toilet! 

But, also, little things like the gazing from the male colleagues after you pass through, sometimes too much, that you try to walk through a big circle around them and even then you hear the comments behind you, making you feel uncomfortable in your everyday life. 

How is it to sit as a woman in an auditorium with 90% men*? Do you feel constraint? I would say at the beginning of my student days, yes! Definitely! But eventually you get used to the deficiency. 

To hear jokes about women*, mother-in-law, or similar is unfortunately very common. But not only jokes, the everyday life at the university is full of discriminative statements. For example, you often hear as a woman* you get easier questions at the oral exams, or in general, pass easier due the way of their dressing. It happened to me. For a full month I studied every day for an oral exam and my male colleague tried to ‘encourage’ me by saying: “Don’t worry, as a girl you will pass anyway“. I dress the same way my male colleagues do. Jeans, shirt, sack coat – Jeans, blouse, blazer. Same outfit! The cliché of the miniskirt and all exists merely due to university-porn movies! I study as much as others or even more to pass my exams only with my knowledge. To pass exams with knowledge is the best counter against all these prejudices. 

But not only the daily life at the university gets difficult, also going out often gets pretty difficult. Last summer semester I made a date to go with somebody to a Party. I came to the party with 5 study colleagues directly after the class. We had fun and it was a very nice evening. Suddenly, I remember I arranged a date with somebody earlier. Where was he*? Didn’t we agree to meet here? I looked at my phone and saw three unanswered messages – “Hi, are you already there? “, he responded “I see you but there are only dudes* with you” and the third one was: “I would like to talk with you, but I don’t dare with all the dudes* around you.“ This shows clearly how timid men* become when you are surrounded by other men*.  

Even more shocking is when I go out with my female* friends, we have at least had 2 negative encounters with men* every time, they approach us in a disrespectful way or even touching us without our consent. Often we go home earlier because it is upsetting and we are distressed by the atmosphere. But why is it like that? Are men* scared to be unpleasant when other women* are present? Shouldn’t this fact be totally irrelevant? Shouldn’t they behave normal regardless of whether they talk with men* or women*? Yes, they should! Women* don’t need be protected by men* – women* need men* to find it logical to behave in a respectful manner! 

Despite all these absences there is also bright times, the sorority between women* in engineering studies is enormous, you find very fast friends and you help and support each other. I think until this comfortable feeling emerges. 

A few months ago I was invited at a friend’s home. When I wanted to go to the toilet, the door didn’t lock, no matter how hard I tried. My friend only said, this had already been the case since three weeks but he didn’t know how to fix it. So I offered my help, he helped me to lift out the door and I adjusted the door hinges. And after 5 minutes the door was able to be closed again. After that I also put together his coffee machine and explained to him how to use double-sided tape. Since that day he calls me for every technical thing he needs done and asks for my help. Last week for the first time in his life we put together a cupboard and he didn’t need to call a contractor to do so. All of that, because women* can also help you with technical issues. To all the readers out there, next time something in your house needs a technical hand; ask one of your female friends to help you! This reproduction of cliché is not helping to transform the cliché pictures in some people’s head. 

For all women*, who read this text – Don’t discourage yourself! Only with more women* in engineering and in leading positions this problem will be solved. Because if more women bring themselves to make the step into engineering, men* and women* can finally support each other.  

Day 6. Stories of Women*: The Pink Tax

המס’ הורוד

כפי שכבר רובנו היטבנו להבין, עולם העבודה שונה עבור נשים. נשים משתכרות פחות, הסיכוי של אישה להתקדם בעבודה הוא פחות מזה של גבר, אישה לרוב נאלצת לחלק את זמנה בין המשרה השניה, הבית. זו ללא השכר,התנאים הסוציאליים לרוב, וכן המשרה שמציבה במהלך הקריירה תקופות של מעין משברים זמניים נשים נאלצות להפסיק לעבוד (חופשות לידה, מחלות של ילדיה וכו’), והמביאה לשיקולי עלות-תועלת אצל מעסיקים המביאות לתפיסת נשים כפחות פרודוקטיביות ומשתלמות.

חוסר השוויון בעניין הזה הוא בלתי נתפס, אבל לצערנו לא די בכך -המס’ הורוד מצביע על כך שנשים משלמות יותר. חצי מהאוכלוסיה מצופה, ולעתים נדרשת לשלם תוספת תשלום המכונה המס’ ורוד, שמשמעותו תשלום נוסף על מוצרים מסוימים בשל היותם נשיים.

עלות של מוצרים לא הופכת לאי שוויונית כשאישה “הופכת לאישה”, אלה מלווה את חייה מינקות, ואולי עד הגיל השלישי. עוד בהיותה ילדה העלות של צעצועים יקרה יותר, כך עולה מהסקר של ניו יורק. בהמשך כנערה, מתחילה לרכוש טמפונים ופדים המוגדרים כמוצרי מותרות ועל כן מחויבים במס’. עם ההתפתחות הטבעית מגיע הצורך בחזיות, הלבשה תחתונה ותחתוניות, שעלולים להגיע למאות שקלים, תלוי כמה התפתחת. בזוגיות כשהם מעוניינים לקיים יחסים, מצופה מנשים לרכוש על בסיס קבוע גלולות, טבעת, ובמקרים מסוימים התקן רחמי למניעת הריון. בגיל השלישי, נשים מצופות לתרום יותר לגידול הנכדים, ולחוות חלק גדול ונשנה מתפקידי האימהות. מה שמחד יכול להוות הנאה וסיפוק ומנגד עולה כסף.

לאורך כל התקופות מצופה כמובן לשמור על קו אסתטי, אם זה בהסרת שיער, איפור,ביגוד מוצרי טיפוח לשיער וקרמים, כל אלה כמעט תמיד עולים לה משמעותית יותר. כך למשל חברת old navy  נתפסה על גבייה של בין 15-15$ יותר לנשים בplus size. לפי מחקר שנעשה בניו יורק על 800 מוצרים בגדי נשים ב6 קטגוריות שונות נמצאו יקרים יותר, כאשר בקטגוריית הלבשה תחתונה העלות גדולה בכ-29%. צעצועים של ילדות יקרים בלמעלה מ10% משל ילדים.

מי שלא משלמת בכסף משלמת בסנקציות חברתיות על האופן שבו היא בוחרת להיראות, מה שלא משאיר הרבה בחירה.

לא רק שכל ההזדמנויות לקנות האלה ממש יקרים מדי לשאת, אלא שלא מדובר בעניין זמני. פדים וטמפונים נרכשים כמעט ע”י כל הנשים בגיל הפריון ונחשבים כמצרכי מותרות החייבים במס’, על אף התכיפות וההכרח שבשימוש. גם מונית הביתה בשעה מאוחרת ועוד רשימה ארוכה של שירותים ומוצרים, לא מגיע הלילה שזה הופך להיות בטוח ללכת בסמטאות חשוכות, והמענה היקר נשאר כורח המציאות.

מחד, מופנית כלפי נשים ציפייה מסוימת לאסתטיקה, לטיפוח, אינסטינקט אימהי שנותן מענה לילד עוד לפני שהוא אומר את צרכיו, ולכל אלה יש מחיר לא קטן. מנגד, ברוב המדינות כיום המדיניות היא לרוב אי-לקיחת אחריות חברתית על מתן מענים לנשים, ואף מסגור וסת כבעיה של נשים שיש להסתיר, עד כדי מחלה, ולפתור לבד, שלא נאמר בבושה.

אז למה זה עובר חלק? זה לא סוד שנשים הן הקונות המרכזיות של משק הבית וככאלה בעלי חברות תופסים אותן. הן קונות לעצמן, לבית לילדים ולבעלן. התפיסה היא שהן מחפשות מוצרים יותר אסתטיים ולכן יהיו מוכנות לשלם יותר, וכך יהיה גם מי שמוכן לספק את הסחורה. אין זה מקרי שהמוצרים היקרים יותר הם בדיוק המוצרים שמצופה חברתית מאישה לצרוך – מוצרי היגיינה ואסתטיקה, ביגוד, אף לילדים. כי של מי האחריות כשהילדה נראית מוזנחת?. המנגנון בנוי היטב על תשתיות של סוציאליזציה של נשים לשנוא את עצמן ולחשוב שהן אינן מספיק ושעוד מוצר אחד, מספיק מדויק, יביא אותן לאחיזה חזקה יותר בפשוט להיות בסדר.

אז בואו נבחר מוצרים כחולים,

בואו נגלה את החברות המפלות על בסיס מגדר בניגוד לחוק.

בואו נפעל לשינוי המדיניות במדינה שלנו, ובואו נפסיק לדחוק קושי של נשים החוצה מסדר היום בתירוצי יש דברים חשובים יותר לעסוק בהם.


Pink Tax

As most of us already know, work is different for women. Women earn lower salaries, their chances of receiving promotions are more limited than men. Women often have to divide their time between the two jobs, while one is the household that has no wage or social benefits. In addition, there are also periods of temporary ‘crises’ in which women have to stop working (maternity leave, children’s illnesses, period each month and so on.), therefore women are considered less productive and not as worthwhile. This leads to cost-benefit considerations among employers.

The inequality is inconceivable, but unfortunately that’s not it. Half of the population is expected, and sometimes is required, to pay an additional payment called the Pink Tax, which means additional payment for certain products only because they are feminine.

The cost of products is not the only inequitable matter when a woman “becomes a woman,” this accompanies her life from infancy, and perhaps until they are elderly as well. The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs released a study comparing the prices of over 800 products. As a female child the cost of toys is more expensive. Later, as a girl, she begins to purchase tampons and pads that are defined as luxury items and are therefore subject to tax. With puberty, comes the need for bras, lingerie and petticoats, which reach high prices and depends on each woman’s personal growth. Later on, when in a relationship, they are expected to purchase contraceptive pills, and in some cases a uterine contraceptive device. When they are older, women are expected to contribute more to raising their grandchildren, and to experience a large proportion of the mothering roles. On one hand this does bring pleasure and satisfaction, but on the other hand costs money.

Throughout their life, it is expected from women to maintain an aesthetic look and habits, whether it is hair removal, makeup, clothing, hair products and different creams, all of which almost always cost significantly higher than other products defined as necessities. For example, according to research conducted in New York on 800 products, women’s clothing from  6 different categories were found more expensive, whereas in the lingerie category the cost was about 29% higher. Toys designed for girls were 10% more expensive.
Those who choose not to pay the monetary price, pay a social price for the way they choose to look, which does not leave much choice to them to choose not to give in to society’s demands.

Not only are all these social expectations too expensive to fulfil, but it’s also not a temporary condition. Tampons and pads are purchased almost by all women who are fertile, and still is considered a luxury item, although the frequency and necessity in these products. Also a late-night taxi is included in the long list of services and products, and although it is not safe to walk late at night, this necessity has become expensive.
On the one hand, women have a certain expectation to fulfil regarding aesthetics or maternal instinct to a child’s needs. On the other hand, in most countries today, the policy is usually not to take social responsibility and provide solutions, and menstruation is framed as a problem of women which must be concealed, as if it was some sort of embarrassing illness.

So why do everyone ignore this and let it happen? It is no secret that women are the sole buyers of the household and owners of companies perceive them this way. They buy for themselves, for their houses, for their children and their husbands. The perception is that they are looking for aesthetic products and therefore will be willing to pay more for them, and there will be someone who is willing to supply the goods. It is no coincidence that the expensive products are precisely the products that women are expected to consume – hygiene and aesthetics, clothing, and even children’s products. Because who’s responsible when a child is neglected?. The mechanism is well built on the socialisation infrastructure of women to hate themselves and to think that they are not good enough and that if they consume one more product, it will bring them to feeling more than just simply ok.

So let’s choose blue products,
Let’s make discriminatory societies on a gender basis against the law.
Let’s act to change the policy in our country, and stop pushing women out of the agenda on the pretext that there are other more important things to deal with.

Day 5. Stories of Women*: Untitled


Soy una abogada y militante feminista del Paraguay. Pasé tres años en la cárcel por un crimen que no cometí. Mi caso se convirtió en uno paradigmático, porque como pocas veces, se hizo justicia.

Fui acusada de asesinar a mi esposo en el año 2011, y estuve en la cárcel del Buen Pastor durante tres años. Sin embargo, he sufrido violencia intrafamiliar desde el 2008. He sufrido golpes y maltratos del que en ese entonces era mi esposo. Habiendo realizado las denuncias a las autoridades pertinentes, igual la violencia y el calvario continuaron. En uno de los ataques que sufrí, mi ex esposo me atacó con un arma de fuego, y en un forcejeo él terminó herido y finalmente perdió la vida.

La fiscalía me acusó de homicidio doloso, y pidió una pena de 30 años de prisión. La situación federó a una cantidad importante de activistas y ciudadanos alrededor de mi libertad, y mediante la incidencia y la presión y de un trabajo laborioso y sacrificado de un equipo de abogadas y abogados, finalmente se logró que la Corte Suprema de Justicia, por unanimidad me absuelva.

Considero que la participación es importantísima porque por falta de información muchas veces las mujeres no podemos zafar de una situación que es considerada como normal. Es igualmente importante la ayuda mutua y la sororidad, así como el apoyo ciudadano.

Es cuando hablamos con las personas que nos damos cuenta que en realidad nosotras estamos siendo víctimas. En varias charlas que estoy realizando, la gente se me acerca para decirme que había sido ellas eran víctimas, recién al acceder a la información se dan cuenta de eso.

Lo que me tocó vivir hizo que asuma un compromiso. Si yo pasé por todo eso, otras mujeres también están pasando por lo mismo, o muchas podrían sufrirlo en el futuro. La ayuda que recibí por parte de la ciudadanía, que luchó por mi libertad, hizo que yo también quiera luchar contra la violencia machista.

Todos los días se ven casos de feminicidio, es por la propia convicción que decidí luchar, porque hay que ir ganando espacios. Mi caso rompió un esquema tradicional, porque les cuesta a las mujeres acceder a la justicia.

La unidad por todos los derechos es el único camino para lograr victorias en contra del sistema machista. El problema de la violencia machista tiene que ser combatido desde la educación primaria, para lograr cambios estructurales. Actualmente estoy incursionando en política en el Partido País Solidario, y pugnando por un escaño en la Cámara de Diputados, ya que los cambios estructurales se darán si copamos los espacios, y con políticas públicas a nivel nacional.

Esta es una problemática no solo a nivel nacional, en Paraguay muere una mujer cada 8 días por casos de feminicidio. No debemos renunciar a nuestros derechos, debemos acudir a pedir ayuda donde corresponde, no se sientan solas, porque si nos callamos, nos exponemos a nosotras mismas.

Lucia Sandoval, abogada y militante feminista del Paraguay


I am a lawyer and a feminist activist from Paraguay. I spent three years in prison for a crime I did not commit. My case became a paradigmatic one, because as a seldom case, justice was performed.

I was accused of murdering my husband in 2011, and I was in Buen Pastor prison for three years. However, I have suffered intrafamily violence since 2008. I have been beaten and abused by my husband at the time. Having made the reported it to the relevant authorities, the same violence and the ordeal continued. In one of the attacks I suffered, my ex-husband attacked me with a firearm, and in a struggle, he ended up injured and eventually lost his life.

The prosecution accused me of intentional homicide, and requested a sentence of 30 years in prison. The situation united a significant number of activists and citizens. Through advocacy and pressure and a laborious and sacrificial work of a team of lawyers, finally, the Supreme Court of Justice unanimously acquitted me.

I believe that participation is very important because, due to lack of information, women often cannot escape from a situation that is considered normal. Mutual support and sorority, as well as citizens support, are equally important.

It is when we talk to people that we realise that in reality we are being victims. In several talks that I am doing, women come to and tell me that they have been victims too. Only when they have access to information they realise that their situation is not normal.

What I had to go through led me to make a commitment. If I went through all that, other women are going through the same thing, or many may suffer in the future. The help I received from the citizens, who fought for my freedom, made me also want to fight against sexist violence.

Every day we see cases of femicide. It is because of my own conviction that I decided to fight, because we have to gain more spaces. My case broke a traditional scheme, because it gave women access to justice.

Unity for all rights is the only way to achieve victories against the sexist system. The problem of sexist violence has to be fought from primary education, to achieve structural changes. I am currently entering politics in the Partido País Solidario, and fighting for a seat in the Chamber of Deputies, since the structural changes will occur if we take the space, and with public policies at the national level.
This is a problem not only at the national level. In Paraguay, a woman dies every 8 days due to femicide. We must not renounce our rights, we must ask for help, do not feel alone, because if we do not speak up, we expose ourselves to continued violence.

By Lucia Sandoval, a lawyer and a feminist activist from Paraguay.

Day 4. Stories of Women*: Why parental leave is (also) a male issue

When I first met the man who later became my boyfriend, he told me “If I ever become a father, I want half of the paternity leave”. I was ready to marry him then and there. Finding a man – even in the liberal and equal Denmark – who wants to take on at least half of the responsibility for the children, can be hard. I knew he was a keeper.

Why child care is just for women in Denmark 
Let me just fill you in on the situation in Denmark. We had the first law on maternity leave in 1901 granting women working in the industry the right to four weeks of maternity leave including social benefits and excluding the stigma of the help for the poor (which would strip you from your democratic rights). Quite a breakthrough. In 1908 women were granted child custody over their own children (until then the father had the sole custody over the children, and the mother were not even considered to be a sovereign individual until 1899). The maternity leave was gradually expanded to cover all women and cover a longer period. Not until 1984 were men specifically included in the legislative framework on parental leave.
We had our last law on parental leave in 2002 expanding it to 12 months separated as this: The mother is granted 4 weeks before the birth and 14 weeks after. The father is granted 2 weeks. The remaining 32 weeks are to be shared between the parents as they see fit.

It’s not enough to talk the talk 
Back to my boyfriend and me. One thing is having the right opinions. Another thing is sticking to them when life puts them to the test.

As any average academia couple, we haven’t gotten around to having children yet. Statistically we ought to. Both of us passed the 25 year-mark several years ago and the last time I went to my gynecologist, there was a printed abstract from a new research showing that the ability to reproduce decreases rapidly after 25. Thank you very much. But my ovaries are really none of your business.

I have many friends who have had the idea of sharing the parental leave equally. Then life happened, and for a number of reasons it just seemed more fit to let the mother have the majority of the leave. Maybe her job was more flexible, her paycheck smaller and hence the difference in income for the family less, or it just felt better that way.
The average Danish father has 4 weeks of paternity leave. So much for letting the families split the 32 weeks among them. 2 for daddy and 30 for mommy.
But this is not a family issue. This is societal structures keeping mothers and fathers in old fashioned roles within the family

Uneven parental leave affects the father… 
When fathers don’t spend much time with their newborns it not only affects the bond between father and child it also affects the fathers’ position vis-à-vis the mother in the eyes of the law. Having most of the parental leaves often expands into having most of the child’s sick leave days and participating in more parent-school-conversations and the like.
If the parents gets divorced and ends up fighting over the custody of their children the decision will often be based upon which parent have the strongest ties to the child – which can be argued is rather subjective. But one thing which can be calculated and objectified is the number of weeks on parental leave and the number of child sick leave days.
Therefore, fathers often loose the fight for child custody. If the parental leave was split more evenly so would the child custody.

…and the working mother 
The consequences for the mother are just as severe. Having longer parental leave with one or more children highly affects the connections to the labor market, and thereby jeopardizing female career advancements. Studies show that men who take longer parental leaves are rewarded with higher pay or promotion while women are placed at the back of the line after a long parental leave.

Furthermore, the retirement savings of women are smaller because they are connected to years of employment and the lifetime income of women are considerable smaller than that of men due to longer periods of parental leave. The inequality created through old fashioned and uneven parental leave law has ripple effects on the entirety of the lives of mothers.

The societal expectations grant young men a head start 
Let us make a thought experiment: Let us assume that the academical background and experiences of my boyfriend and I were the same: exactly the same merits. And we were to apply for the same position. Would we have equal opportunity of getting the job? We should have.
But in reality, the employer would favor my boyfriend over me because of the expectation that my boyfriend is less likely to take a large amount of the parental leave when we have children. Economically probably very rational. But very unfair.

This inherent expectation in employers is giving young men a head-start on the labor market and creating an unfair disadvantage for women.

A reformation of the current law guaranteeing both the father and the mother one third of the parental leave and leaving one third to be shared would definitely increase fathers share of parental leave and child care.

My boyfriend and I are ready to fight with his former boss for his right to take half of the parental leave. But it would be great to have a legislative framework as support in that battle.

Disclaimer: This essay only focuses on the issues around parental leave concerning hetero parents. If we take same sex couples and rainbow families into account, the number of problems with the Danish law on parental leaves arises drastically.  

Day 3. Stories of Women*: Untitled

At seventeen I just wanted to die
And to deal with the pain I got drunk and I got high
See, I was missing this boy, he was the love of my life
But he was living on the other side –
Of the world, and every day I woke up scared that he’d killed himself
Cause all we ever did was killing ourselves.

So when my cousin got married, of course I was feeling it
Made me too damn emotional, so at some point I stopped feeling it
Well the thing is, I stopped feeling anything at all
Instead I drowned my thoughts in wine and some schnapps
I didn’t realise that there was a point where I should have stopped
– and there was this “sort-of-cute-guy” and he just wouldn’t shut up
So when he offered me a cigarette I said “let’s go”
And I guess it would be naïve to say I didn’t know
on the way to his car in which direction this would go.
When he kissed me I guess I enjoyed the distraction
But then his hand started going in a different direction
– and I guess he expected a different reaction.

I said “there is no way in hell I will let you do this”
But the thing is, he kept going through this
And the truth is I let him do this.
Cause I was too drunk to care
Damn it, I was too depressed to care
I didn’t feel a thing. I didn’t move. I didn’t say stop.
But the thing is – I think I didn’t want to do this.

So when we finally got back to the wedding reception
My mum caught me crying, cause he didn’t use protection
The next morning she drove me to the pharmacy
But I threw up the pill that was supposed to help me

And I played it cool.
Told my friends what had happened alight
Cause I guess it is quite a good story, right?
To lose your virginity at a wedding in a car at night.

It’s two years later and everyone is screaming “Me too!”
And I am so angry, cause who the fuck did this to you?!
But I never felt like I meant myself too…
Until it started sinking in drop by drop
And I did everything I could to make it stop

Told myself that I was crazy and that you can’t just decide
Two years later that something wasn’t right
So I kept pushing the thought aside…

See, I thought I fighting for them and not me
And it took me two and a half fucking years to see
That maybe it also happened to me

No. It can’t be true, cause it didn’t even hurt
(that much) and there’s a million other girls who have had it so much worse
And I didn’t say no. I didn’t say a word.
But it’s 11 am and I am crying in the bathroom at work.
No, I don’t get to do this, I don’t get to cry
I don’t have the fucking right!
So why am I suddenly feeling this pain inside?
No. This didn’t happen to me.
I am sure it didn’t cause it cannot be.
Cause this isn’t how we defined rape in this society.

Cause they will never blame the guy who was like six years older
And he’d fuck me when we both weren’t sober
And every second I just wanted it to be over

No, if I told them they would just blame me
Just like I am blaming myself
Cause I should have just said stop
I should have cried for help

Hey, I am not saying that I was raped that night
I am just saying that maybe this wasn’t exactly “alright”
That maybe this wasn’t his god-damn right
That maybe this wasn’t how I wanted this to happen
That maybe this wasn’t who I wanted it to happen with

Hey, I just wish this wouldn’t happen every single night
All around the world, to girls who can’t even stand upright
Even less pick up a fight
Man, please tell me how good this must feel like
For you and your weak ass, who apparently can’t get a girl when she’s sober
Who doesn’t ever remember her name when it’s over.

But not anymore, our time has come to take over
And I will not rest until this world is a better place for our daughters to grow older
Man, I am writing this because your time is fucking over.

Day 2. Stories of Women*: Untitled

I was young and in love. He was 19 and in college. I thought it was such a boost to my social status to date someone who was in college and in a rock band. Who wouldn’t want that? I was only 15 when we met. He had been playing basketball in our community park and I was teaching catechism in the nearby church. I was naive and wanted to be in love. I approached him one day and asked for his number and we started texting. He said he had only broken up with his girlfriend and wasn’t ready to date. I was okay with that. We became friends and I thought maybe he’d learn to like me.

A month had passed; he started seeing me in a different way. Maybe he was starting to like me. Alas, just like that, he did. We were hanging out by the park, that night and he told me he liked me. It was music to my ears. I told him I’ve always liked him. He held my hand as we were sitting by the bleachers of the community basketball court. We talked about everything, our hopes and dreams. I felt like maybe I can be part of his plans eventually.

It was young love. Well for me it was. We went on dates, mostly at night as I escaped from my house because I was not allowed to have a boyfriend. After all, I was little miss perfect. We spent those nights just talking and making out. And months had passed, and he started wanting more. He asked to hold my boobs and I felt uncomfortable but he said that’s what happens in relationships. He was my first boyfriend so I wouldn’t know. Against the no screaming in my head I let him touch me in all places. Not long after that he started initiating intercourse. At first he let me suck his dick and I felt scared because I didn’t know how to do it. He pushed me on the floor and commanded that I knelt in front of him. He pulled my hair and told me to open my mouth and stuck his dick in my mouth. I tried sucking him but then he slapped me saying what I was doing was wrong. I was so scared. I was shaking. This was the first time he hit me. When I got home I brushed my teeth several times to get the taste of his dick out of my mouth. But I can still feel it in my throat. I threw up in my bathroom just thinking about it. That night was so traumatic I cried myself to sleep. I wanted to text him that I didn’t like what was happening. He told me it was my duty as his girlfriend to please him. I apologised.

I didn’t know why I did; I didn’t feel sorry at all. I was in love with him or at least I was infatuated with him. The next night he said he wanted to fuck me, I said I wasn’t ready. Again he slapped me, pushed me on his bed and started taking my clothes off. At that point I was already shaking. As he kissed my body, I froze and tears just started running down my cheeks. And just like that he thrust his erected dick into me. I was screaming inside but my voice was gone. I wanted to stand up and run away but my body would not cooperate. My body betrayed me and it was my fault for even meeting him again that night. After he came, he told me to put my clothes on and he’d take me home. I sat in the shower that night just crying and shaking. I was disgusted with myself. This wasn’t how my first time was supposed to be like. After that night, I didn’t reply to his texts.

Then I started receiving threats like “what would people think when they find out little miss perfect is not a virgin anymore?” or “do your friends know you’re a slut?”. I got scared so I kept meeting with him and we’d have sex every time. Every time I would do something wrong he would punch me or slap me. I started wearing a jacket to school to hide the bruises. It became a trend but what they didn’t know that inside I was dying. I was dead. It went on for months when he would threaten me and physically hurt me and I let him. He would say it’s my fault for being a shitty girlfriend.
One day I finally got the courage to tell him that I didn’t want it anymore. That it was over between us. I wanted to leave. But, he pulled my hair, dragged me into his room and started beating me and when I wasn’t resisting took my clothes off and fucked me. I was young and in love but I knew that love wasn’t supposed to hurt. I cried myself to sleep every night and during the day acted like everything was fine. I played the part of little miss perfect perfectly.

At that point, I didn’t use my phone anymore. I just wanted to disappear into thin air. One day, I got a friendster message from him saying, “I am breaking up with you. You are a shitty girlfriend and I don’t want you anymore. Besides, my girlfriend and I have gotten back together.” Just like that it was over. But the nightmare did not end. I felt betrayed and hurt and lost and angry. He was not even sorry for what he did. I felt like the world was closing in on me.

My world completely fell apart. I started harming myself, slashing my wrists. It felt like I wanted to escape this world. The black hole was eating me and I was letting it. But, I stopped myself, I started coming to terms with the past and focused on moving on. I continued to be little miss perfect. Besides, it was only a few more months until my high school graduation and I got to leave that place and try to forget all the pain. So I did, after graduation I went away, and never looked back. At university, I started being active in women’s rights. I realised that what happened to me, was rape. I never gave consent. I was threatened, I was abused.

I felt the guilt of having done this to myself that it was all my fault and thought about all the what ifs, what if I hadn’t approached him? What if I just left him and walked away. Up to this day only my closest friends know what happened that year. Even my parents don’t know. I was never really ready to tell anyone. I was scared of what the world would think. It’s been more than 10 years but it still haunts me. I am hoping that by sharing my story, young women would not let any guy guilt or threaten them into doing sexual acts just like that. We go through hell and we survive. Surviving just doesn’t end when the acts end. I hope that one day I will completely heal from this dark moment in my past. Healing is a long process but it get’s better.