At a recent meeting, I was introduced to the term rematriation. Hearing the word sparked the further realization of how steeped in patriarchal terms our language is. The backlash resonates. Only fairly recently we’ve seen the inclusion of a gender designation after name on various online platforms. However that may solve somebody’s issues, I don’t need to know – and why would anyone insist I do?
We’ve accepted a culture of aggressive winning, with attendant violent words and phrases: conquer, annihilate, slap down, beat, vanquish. Sports in particular relish this vocabulary. There are no friendly competitions. Too much money and power at stake.
Also consider the rampant use of negatives, from the quotidian “Don’t forget”, “Don’t be late” to the more chastising: “Don’t quit” or “Never Leave a Fallen Comrade Behind”. Our brains withdraw from warnings and shaming but tend to hold on to positive input like “Stay Safe” and “I know you’ll do your best” and “Bring everyone home.” See Woman Warrior Code.
It’s a life practice to examine our words. They have enormous power. Wielding that power for better or for worse is our choice.
In 2022, 274 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection. This number is a significant increase from 235 million people a year ago. Devex estimates that donors provided
17.2 billion – less than half of the 37.7 billion needed. And that doesn’t include development assistance.
International humanitarian aid is Big Business, involving the U.N., multi-national corporations, international NGOs, Governments, and an assortment of foundations and individuals.
The question “Who gives what to whom?” plunges one into a dizzying array of analyses.
And then there are scary rumors about millions gone missing in a pipeline leaky with corruption, poor accounting and accountability, and just plain incompetence.
In my little corner of this mess, I’m troubled by organizations whose largesse creates cash flow challenges for small community-based organizations like Women’s Centers. An example: a well-meaning foundation ships a bunch of equipment but requires the recipient to pay customs clearance and transport costs to their location. Never mind that all of the equipment is available locally. Why not just send the cash – avoiding all the drama of international shipping, and feeding a national economy in recession.
Then there’s the tragically hilarious conundrum of USAID, wringing its hands over how to localize aid, but evidently not willing to part ways with old buddy U.S.-based INGOs working in the so-called developing world.
Baraka Women’s Center can knit together an astonishingly effective national program to empower Kenyan women. But no joy from the monied in Kenya. For now, an productive local asset advances, but much more slowly than the needs of the women it could serve. A generous infusion of cash changes everything. Often the obvious is not.
The extreme drought of the mid-seventies in California taught me to conserve water for the rest of my life. It’s a behavior habit, and sometimes an annoying duty.
I cringe when people in movies turn on a faucet and run water for minutes as they stare at the mirror. It will be much harder to conscience such waste when great masses of humanity are in ugly protracted battles for drinkable water. Humans usually die after three days without any water.
My experience in Africa showed me the dark side of undependable water. People get greedy and charge punishing prices and then sell nastier qualities of water as if they were pristine.
Highly objectionable latrines are common, particularly in urban slums. People get charged each use and there is no flush. The smell of human waste pervades the air within about a fifty-foot radius, depending on the breeze, if any. The less motivated simply squat in the ditch that runs through the narrow alleys between houses.
I fault Africa for not making the excretory process a little less hazardous for women. Just a toilet seat would help in almost every situation. But then nobody would keep it clean, or would squat on the seat and break it. Unfamiliar luxury item.
The subject of water has bedeviled me for two decades. It’s time for me to swim upstream against prevailing denial. I hope we do not experience global water wars, although there are many conflicts already on the boil.
Water Wars – Global
From a report on ReliefWeb.org. [Source: adelphiOriginally published 21 Aug 2017 ]
“Water is limited. The global demand for freshwater has been growing rapidly due to population growth and greater affluence. At the same time, climate change and environmental degradation are altering the regional and seasonal availability and quality of water. The resulting competition over water use may lead to conflict and sometimes violence, though researchers emphasize that it is rarely the lack of water as such that fuels conflict, but rather its governance and management.” [Emphasis mine].
“Ten case studies from ECC Factbook analyze the linkages between water and conflict. They look at various pathways through which water and security are connected and outline different attempts to find peaceful solutions.” [I will cite only two in this episode.]
1. Dispute over water in the Nile Basin The Nile basin features significant conflict over access to and rights over the Nile water resources among its eleven riparian countries. The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), founded by 9 out of 10 riparian countries in 1999 with backing from major donor institutions, has achieved some successes in its attempts to strengthen cooperation. Yet, since 2007, diverging interests between upstream and downstream countries have brought negotiations to a standstill, pitting Egypt (and, to a lesser extent, Sudan) against upstream riparians, especially Ethiopia. In 2015, trilateral negotiations between these countries over a major dam under construction in Ethiopia led to a framework agreement that may, in time, prepare the ground for a broader agreement. Read more.
2. Water shortages and public discontent in Yemen As a consequence of severe mismanagement, Yemen’s water availability is declining dramatically. The impacts on the people are unequally distributed, and corruption and nepotism are at the core of this imbalance. This has increasingly frustrated the disadvantaged, with water scarcity playing a role in fueling the political and security crisis in Yemen. Read more.
There’ll be two more global water sit reps in next episode.
Water Wars – US
Florida, Georgia, Alabama
For more than three decades, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida have disputed the use of two shared river basins—the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) and the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT). These river systems are used to meet multiple needs, including drinking water, power generation, agriculture, aquaculture, navigation and recreation.
The “Tri-State Water Wars” litigation began in 1990 when Alabama sued the Corps to prevent it from providing additional water to metro Atlanta from Lake Lanier and Allatoona Lake. Although the dispute has evolved and changed over time, it has focused on legal challenges to the Corps’ plans for managing the ACF and ACT Basins and a direct challenge in the United States Supreme Court by Florida regarding Georgia’s water use in the ACF Basin.
The record-breaking drought in California is not chiefly the result of low precipitation. Three factors – rising temperatures, groundwater depletion, and a shrinking Colorado River – mean the most populous U.S. state will face decades of water shortages and must adapt.
According to Food and Water Watch’s report: “Agriculture accounts for 80 percent of the water used in California. In 2018, farms across the state used an estimated 7.9 trillion gallons.”
Not every water-intensive agriculture operation in California is connected to animal farming, but most are, including alfalfa farms supplying feed to livestock and industrial dairy operations.
The Howl We Do It / Full Moon Sisters Movement has not caught on (yet), probably a tad too visceral in 2012. But here I am, ten years later, revisiting the idea because it’s in-your-face enough to gain traction.
Excerpts from the first blog post in 2012:
A young mother in Congo, the “rape capital of the world,” offers a detailed account of a horrendous gang rape in front of her husband, who is then murdered. The trauma ends her early-term pregnancy. Her legs are shot so many times that one must be amputated.
This woman, made a penniless beggar by the horrific assault, painfully tells her story with no likelihood of receiving emotional support. A note at the end of the article states that her “identity has been concealed for security reasons and because rape carries strong social stigma in the region.”1 As if there is a place in world where rape does not carry a stigma.
And, from around the world, statistics that vary widely from source to source:
A woman born in South Africa stands a greater chance of being raped than of learning how to read.
A UK study concluded that between 75 and 95 percent of rape crimes are never reported to the police.
In the US, victims 12-years and older survived a total of 125,910 rapes or sexual assaults. (2009 statistics). At least 50% of victims never report to police.
My question: Why haven’t women taken to the streets, raging en masse to end the trauma meted out to them and their sisters around the world? How could we possibly be cowed into silence?
It makes me wanna howl. I tried it one night. Alone on the rooftop, I ended up whimpering quietly like a wounded pup. To be honest, it scared me to summon that primal noise. But, when I got with a few other women, at night, at the beach, we could let go. Out there, maybe nobody heard us but we could hear ourselves growling, yipping, barking and howling our pain, our protest. It felt like releasing a grievance that, unspoken, would eventually main my soul.
Think of The Howl as pro-woman activism, as public theater, a compelling aural reminder that women will not suffer quietly the violence inflicted on them.
The full moon, the symbol of women’s rhythms, is the perfect occasion for The Howl.
Imagine the reaction of urban (or suburban or rural) neighbors to a few minutes of women howling every time the full moon rises. Then, The Howl ripples through time zones around the world.
The first couple times, folks are wondering WTF and perhaps feeling a little nervous. We state our message clearly through public media and blogs and social media and even on street corners: The Full Moon Sisters – a global movement – howls every full moon around the planet until the violence and rape and laws controlling our bodies stop.
Today – Ten years later:
Howling sounds threatening if you mean it to. And that’s good, considering the egregious violations imposed on women. Howling rises from the locked room in women’s hearts, the place where we are worthless. Howling asserts we are more valuable than all the shit we endure.
It’s not over when we lose, it’s over when we quit. New tactics required.
Some tribes in Sudan have skin the color of deep night. Some Asians and Scandinavians have skin the color of pure porcelain. But the vast majority of humans are wrapped in an epidermis that runs an amazing gamut of hues from brown to beige.
We have no choice in the matter of our color. It is our inheritance, no more alterable, except for the travesty of skin bleaching, than our ancestral lines, all of which trace back to the first humans in Africa.
Our cultures enforce attitudes about skin color. In her extraordinary book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson argues convincingly that this identifier is arbitrary. Nonetheless, It defines whether our lives are privileged or marginalized.
One identifier transcends – or could transcend – these limits. Throughout history, most women have been relegated to “second class” status. In our deepest selves, we share doubts and fears about our value and adequacy, despite all the evidence of women’s innate and unique power. Most of us share some of the traumas of rape, domestic violence, ill treatment at the hands of health providers, barriers of abortion, and disparities of pay. We know the prevalence and persistence of these traumas across all female-dom. Our dark side – competitiveness – has been no small part of keeping us stuck. Women of all colors have much more to gain as allies, but too often that seems a bridge too far.
In their book From Here to Equality, Kirsten Mullen and William (Sandy )Darity Jr. set forth in harrowing detail all the missed opportunities to define and instill racial equality in America, particularly after the Civil War. The endless predations arising from white supremacist thinking are unforgiveable, and they persist.
We’ve made glacial progress in refuting American’s original sin of slavery. Action for reparations – achieving acknowledgement, redress, and closure – is the only way we can salvage a sane society.
In my life, as a beige woman, I find myself standing back as I watch the discovery and consolidation of power among my brown sisters. It’s damn well time. Their rejection of alliances is, however, often grieves me.
I’m committed to finding my place in achieving women’s ascendance, most particularly, for women of color. A quote from a forgotten source is one touchstone: “Hate your oppressors and you’ll be forever enslaved by your memories.” But what is more difficult: forgiving or forgetting?