We are 4 days into the 16 Days of Activist Against Violence Against Women which dates back to 1999. Fourteen years of days and weeks where the world supposedly focuses on violence against women will end on Human Rights Day, the 10th December. In Durban the 17th UN Climate Change conference begins today and continues until 9th December. So much activity!
The campaign to end violence against women hardly mentions [here I think I am being generous] the violence unleashed by changes in climate and environmental degradation; land grab by investment bankers in New York and London; the purchase of large tracks of land by governments such as Saudi Arabia Kuwait; gentrification or rather ethnic and class cleansing of urban spaces. Is it really that difficult to make the connections by providing a broader more realistic interpretation of violence against women? Abahlali baseMjondolo go some way to doing this
We are in the middle of the Sixteen Days of Activism to end violence against women and children. Many conferences are being held. There are many discussions on television. Yet who will stand with the poor, with poor women and their children, when the state or private landowners send out the police or security guards to evict them, demolish their homes and steal their building materials? We do not see or hear from all these NGOs that are talking about the rights of women and children when the state and private landowners use violence to deny poor women and their children the right to a home.
and speaking to the Climate Change gathering..
Last night after heavy rain some of our shack settlements were flooded leaving shack dwellers, stranded, hopeless and with all their belonging swept away through floods. We have had enough shack fires already. We have had enough rat bites. We have had enough electricity disconnection. We have had enough of being excluded from the rest of our society and today the storm, the full force of what extreme weather does to the poor, proves itself to the world during the first day of the Conference of the Parties.
Whose interests will this Conference of the Parties serve if the poor are outside busy dealing with effect of the floods which are the direct result of our vulnerability to bad weather in the shacks? How can the world begin these talks without going and experiencing the effect and the reality of how the change in climate will affect the people in Durban whose lives are already most precarious? This morning the rich woke up in their houses dry and safe while many poor people faced more disaster. Today it is clear that these talks will take us no where if they ignores the reality that those who will suffer the consequences of the change in climate the most are the poor. So, excluding the poor in these talks will not help any of us.
Worth reading on environment and violence is a Social Text interview with Rob Nixon on his book “Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor”.
There are other voices excluded from the 16 Days and Climate Change – lesbian voices, queer voices, gender non-conforming voices, transgender voices. The 16 Days is turning out to having very normative notions of gender mixed with mainstreaming of particular types of violence now normalised violence. So here we sit / stand with on the one side violence normalised and on the other a violence that is invisible.
My dear friend Mia who contributes regularly to this blog is at this very moment hiding in the hell hole that is East London [West, North, South London, its all a hell hole if you dont walk the acceptable face of gayness, blackness or any other ‘ness’ you care to come up with] imprisoned in her home – well its not a home since a home is supposed to be a place of safety and sanctuary. The daily assault of transphobia as it intersects with misogyny and racism, have infiltrated her private space to the point where it is not safe to turn off the lights and snuggle in a duvet to try and get some much needed sleep after the transphobic racist violence of London bus journeys. On top of this betrayals by people [I wont refer to them as friends] who dont dont want to be involved. So why are you even there if you are incapable of speaking? Mia writes that silence speaks a different language in this case a language of lies and betrayal. Do you think your silence will protect you when I’m gone? Dont you realise on that day they will come for you too? The next step is the madness diagnosis and being clamped in a racialised transphobic straightjacket with a direct route to the Maudsley, and dont think you are immune from this ending either.