Monthly Archives: January 2012

  • In my rush to finish things up at WomenCraft, I’ve had to reshoot some of our products. Here is my tiny, portable studio:
  • Trust Women Week – I tried my best to be as much of a participant as I could while being abroad, though I fell a little shorter than originally planned. I was hoping to do a post per day. New goal for next year: 5 solid, pro-lady posts! This year was the first online march for reproductive rights. It garnered over 80,000 supporters. Holler, ladies!
  • Holy Google Reader–I’ve discovered another new blog! Hairpin is a female-run, female-written (though men are welcome to submit!) blog full of humor, insight, and some crafts here and there. It describes itself as “a low-key cocktail party among select female friends. Imagine like we’re pouring you a drink. That you can’t actually drink, because it is inside the computer.” Too funny! Here’s a post called “Are Women People,” on poems from the suffragist movement.
  • Check out these kickass women! NPR’s Weekend Edition featured part of a series of stories on female boxers competing for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. This year marks the first that women will be competing in the Olympics. For more on this, check out Sue Jaye Johnson’s photo essay in the Sunday NYTimes Magazine.
  • I just have this week at WomenCraft, and then I’ll be moving on to Amsterdam, then the U.S. I’m sad to leave this place!





In another reference to Mother Jones, I’d like to share a compelling photo essay by Michael Francis McElroy and Noella May Hebert. Entitled Alone: India’s Farmer Widows, the essay features ten black and white images of women of various ages whose husbands have committed suicide because of an overwhelming water crisis throughout the country.

This leaves women in a vulnerable position, struggling “to support their children, working as landless laborers for as low as 100 rupees ($2) a day. . . ”

While doing some extra reading for this post, I stumbled upon an NGO called Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative. It was started by Arizona State University alumnus, Heather Murphy, in 2008.

WEI seeks to provide “to impoverished women in the aftermath of social epidemics. . .”:
– vocational training
– micro-loans
– voter registration
– community meetings

WEI’s work further convinces me how powerful developing income-generating skills can be. As I’ve learned during my experiences at WomenCraft, women find not only financial independence through entrepreneurship, but also increases in self-confidence and leadership skills.

Women are, the world over, the future. Pay attention to them.

Mother Jones has published an account of the pre-Roe v. Wade era in commemoration of the law’s 39th anniversary.

In the article, Eleanor Cooney recounts her experiences as a young woman, just off to college, and pregnant. Cooney discusses a variety of topics relating to abortion and the pro-choice movement, including the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, which was enacted in 2003.
-See, (R-PA) Rick Santorum
-Also see, (R-PA) Rick Santorum: Jerk for President

Cooney expresses this moment as, “the first federal legal erosion of Roe v. Wade since its adoption in 1973.” She goes on to explain the harmful implications of the law, including the leaving out of exceptions for rape and incest.

Not shying away from the science of abortion, Cooney goes into the process of the partial birth abortion the procedural name of which is D&X. She also explains the difference between all three types of procedures, including D&E (an earlier, more potentially harmful version of D&X) and D&C.

Cooney then recounts tales of friends’ and strangers’ experiences with “back alley abortions”. One woman in particular was left “sterile, violently allergic to penicillin, and. . .’paralyzed and ashamed’ by the experience”. Another died.
At this point, the reader can say, “That’s what she gets,” but I’d like him or her to transcend initial judgment and continue reading.

Cooney goes on to talk about her experience as a young woman, alone, and looking to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. She writes of the expense and difficulty of finding doctors to perform an abortion so late in the pregnancy (three months, I believe). Not only was the search difficult, but she also writes of the sexual abuse and uncalled for judgment delivered by those doctors to whom she reached out for help–inappropriate sexual questioning, no use of gloves, fondling, to name a few.

Despite laws, “demand for abortion continued to grow,” resulting in “several thousand American women [being] treated in emergency rooms for botched abortions, and there were at least 200 known deaths.” Cooney tells readers of the medical profession’s initial push to make abortion illegal, and the turn in opinions of doctors who decided to speak out.

She continues to write:

When a woman does not want to be pregnant, the drive to become unpregnant can turn into a force equal to the nature that wants her to stay pregnant. And then she will look for an abortion, whether it’s legal or illegal, clean or filthy, safe or riddled with danger.

The statement above is what we need to remember. Remember that pregnancy isn’t always a choice. Remember that the consequences of both bringing a child to term and having an abortion are abundant. Know that abortion is not a decision taken lightly on either side of the moral equation. Remember that abortion can be prevented.

This prevention not only includes abstinence (note – in cases of rape and incest, abstinence disappears as a viable option), but also the use of contraceptives like condoms and hormonal birth control.

It is legislation like Personhood Laws and the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, controversial for its specification of which kind of rape would be covered, that threaten the reproductive rights of women in the United States. By limiting access to birth control and putting limitations on the circumstances under which a woman can terminate her pregnancy, politicians (Can I point out that the majority of them are men, now?), the same ones who seek to implement Hands-Off-the-People government policies, seem to be “hands off” unless it comes to women’s bodies.

Don’t agree with abortion? Great. That’s your right.
But keep the option open.

Trust us.

Trust women. 

This week marks the first-ever Trust Women Week. From January 20 (I know, I am a few days late on this post! Forgive me!) to January 27, an online movement to raise awareness of reproductive rights will be taking place. In light of repeated attacks on reproductive rights throughout 2011, it is, maybe more than ever in recent history, so important to make it known to politicians that women care about access to abortion and contraceptives.

In honor of Trust Women Week/Silver Ribbon Campaign, I’ll be posting on topics relating to women and women’s empowerment–from accounts from the pre-Roe v. Wade Era to photo essays by or featuring women to awesome legislation ruling in favor of us ladies.

For now, check out the Trust Women Week website and sign up to join the march for reproductive justice!

I am just over two weeks until leaving Ngara, and it’s becoming a bittersweet experience. On one hand, I’ve had more frustrations in the past three months-legitimate ones-than I’ve had in my entire life. On the other hand, I’ve learned an awful lot (about nonprofit work, about myself) in this short time.

Believe me, it has been short. I am only beginning to get some footing in my community, with the staff, with my Kiswahili (still polepole – “slow”), and with the artisans. It feels like no time has passed at all!

This week was, I am fairly certain, my last Route Week. I’ve mentioned it before, but Route Week is when we travel to villages around the Ngara district to deliver artisan payments, collect products, and give out orders for new shipments.
Up until this week Route has always been something I’ve viewed as exhausting and awkward:

  • Cramming 5 people into a small car to bump and weave along rocky Tanzanian roads–not fun.
  • Awkwardly standing around, trying to communicate while photographing someone who is clearly uncomfortable–even less fun.

This time was different.

  • 1 – We finally got our hardtop fixed while we were in Mwanza. The rides were more spacious and seemed like less of a bad idea as far as the possibility of a breakdown went.
  • 2 – The artisans have met me at least twice now. It really makes all the difference. Once they recognized me, they were much more relaxed and even outgoing around me.
  • 3 – I can kind of communicate with them. This also makes a difference!
  • 4 – Most of the artisans I needed to photograph for the profiles I am putting together were there. It has been quite the struggle to get images in the past, and this has lifted a great weight from my shoulders.

Of course getting photographed is not something that happens for the ladies everyday, so it’s still tough to get them to relax.

I usually try to speak a teensy bit of Swahili (I can only greet, inquire as to how someone is, ask how much something costs, list off numbers, and say goodbye. What a boring conversation!) to them and be super Tanzanian friendly–holding someone’s hand as you talk to them or walk with them is common. I also have a staff member, usually Pastor Aaron or Mama Mpinzile, come with me and talk to the woman to make her laugh or at least loosen up. A big smile while posing for an image is not as common here as it is in the U.S.

My goodness! The images were so nice!
These ladies are truly beautiful, and I am so appreciative of their letting me photograph them.

Here are a few shots:

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. day, take a moment to think about, remember, and appreciate the power of civil disobedience and nonviolent action.

Wish I could be home to celebrate!

I have been craving some kind of creative outlet lately. I’m not sure why–maybe it’s all the time in front of computer screens. Maybe it’s the need to get physical with my camera, with materials: paper, glue, leaves, fabrics.
I spotted a job posting from Fifteen Eleven (remember that nice day back in October?), which has required me to take a look at this blog, my flickr, my pinterest. This review has made me so nostalgic for the days of video and performances, sewing, crafting.

I need it.

To fill the void, I’ve been doing a number of things–

  • Listening to Janet Cardiff’s Walk Book, in which “You, the audience, are in a constant process of development, establishing relationships with outer and inner worlds and engaged in a continual metaphorical reading.”
    Am I weird?
  • I brought a tiny moleskine with me. I’ve been collecting items (gum wrappers, beer labels, junk I find on the ground) to paste in as well as super doodling. Until I can get back to the States where I’ve got more supplies (granted this has made me question the validity of traditional art materials), here’s a view of some favorite pages:

  • I’ve been revisiting, and thus re-critiquing, old work. Here are some goodies from the vault:

    The Fatal Moment
    Beard Envy

    The Bathings


My art. . . is a return to the maternal source. Through my earth/body sculptures I become one with the earth. . .I become an extension of nature and nature becomes an extension of my body.

-Ana Mendieta

(Oh yeah! Remember her?)

This week has been busy at work. I have only a month left (crazy!), so I am sprinting to the finish line with my projects. That means final copies of pricelists, newsletters, and a presentation and individual staff training on social media.

Thankfully I am heading to Mwanza, a city southeast of Ngara, to buy fabric for 2012 products and do some photography. Two of my favorite things!