Nota dari sesi plenari FF

Oleh Alicia Izharuddin.

Pada pagi 26 haribulan November jam 8.30 pagi, Fiesta Feminista membuka tirai kepada sesi-sesi dan bengkel dengan sebuah sesi plenari yang dimulakan oleh Janatharni Arumugam, selaku wakil jawatankuasa penganjur FF. Ucapan beliau mengetengahkan persoalan mengapa acara Fiesta Feminista harus diadakan dengan menerangkan konteks sosial Malaysia yang kini berada di anjung perubahan besar dari segi politik.

Tetapi berubahan besar tersebut dikekangi dengan pelbagi musibah seperti urus-tadbir yang tidak beretika dan penindasan terhadap wanita yang berlaku saban hari. Mengikut Janatharni, Fiesta Feminista adalah satu lagi acara dan sebuah ‘proses’ yang mendesak untuk perubahan yang lebih mendalam lagi di Malaysia dengan meningkatkan penyertaan wanita dalam politik dan urus-adbir, dan memberikan suara kepada golongan yang jarang diberikan peluang bersuara.

Claudia Lasimbang daripada PACOS Trust kemudian membincangkan masalah yang kini dihadapi oleh wanita dari golongan orang asal di Sabah. Pembangunan dan urbanisasi telah mendatangkan banyak kesan negatif kepada cara hidup tradisional wanita orang asal. Misalnya, penukaran hutan kepada pertanian yang tetap menyebabkan penghilangan mata pencarian tradisional wanita. Peluang bekerja wanita orang asal lebih merosot lagi dengan skim pemindahan dan penempatan semula komuniti orang asal disebabkan pembinaan empangan besar di kawasan tempat tinggal mereka.

Antara cabaran-cabaran lain yang dihadapi oleh wanita orang asal termasuklah beban dan tanggungjawab rumahtangga yang meningkat disebabkan kemiskinan, perubahan fizikal dan sosial yang menjejaskan amalan tradisi, dan kuasa politik yang kian mendalam dan menyukarkan wanita daripada mengambil bahagian dan keputusan dalam arena politik.

Pembentangan daripada Winnie Yee, president SAWO, pula menegaskan kepentingan kempen menghapuskan keganasan terhadap wanita di Sabah. Winnie menghuraikan penglibatannya dalam kempen tersebut dengan menceritakan kisah ibunya sendiri yang membanyak memberikan ilham kepada beliau untuk mendirikan SAWO dan berjuang untuk hak-hak wanita Sabah.

Akhir sekali, Smita Elena Sharma dan Shika membincangkan cabaran yang dilalui oleh komuniti Mak Nyah di Malaysia. Pada pendapat mereka, adalah penting sekali bagi gerakan wanita di Malaysia untuk menerima penyertaan wanita-wanita Mak Nyah dalam perjuangan bersama. Masalah transfobia di Malaysia sangat serius dan boleh menjadi satu halangan kepada semangat solidariti gerakan wanita.

Sidang plenari diakhiri dengan sesi soal jawab dengan soalan-soalan tentang bagaimana untuk membuka minda dan menerima seorang ahli keluarga yang kemungkinan besar adalah transgender, mengapa pekerja seks di Malaysia jarang diambil kira dalam perjuangan hak-hak wanita, dan isu kewarganegaraan suku Bajau Laut.

Gender Struggle

This guest post was written by Meena Lakshana. FF welcomes guest posts on feminism, human rights, and democracy in Malaysia. Submit your posts through Tumblr or over email. Or consider becoming a regular blogger for FF.

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I first discovered Judith Butler, the famed theorist of power, gender, sexuality and identity, when I was 21 years old.

I was studying a subject called Representation and Gender in Murdoch University, Perth and had to read a chapter of her book Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.

It had a lasting impact on me, to the point that it changed everything I thought I knew about gender and sexuality.

In a nutshell, Butler questions the way in which we identify ourselves as male or female, about how “natural” masculinity and femininity really is.

She argues our concept of male and female is a social construction that is perpetrated by, among others, norms and conventions.                                                         

An example of this is associating pink clothes with baby girls or blue apparel with baby boys.

Butler says the socially constructed notions of gender are internalised and then “performed”. Through this performance, we garner meaning or our identities.

Therefore, she argues, gender is by no means tied to material bodily facts but is solely and completely a social construction, one that is open to change and can be contested.

What is the point in performing the dichotomy of gender? Butler argues that it is required for the maintenance of the dominant position of sexuality in society, namely heterosexuality.

This was very new for me, for I always had androgynous tendencies since an adolescent.

I loved rock music, not the type of music girls my age would listen to.

I wore long pants a lot, again not something girls my age “performed”.

If there was a phrase that could encapsulate my adolescent years, it would be internal struggle, for I was always at odds with how the girls around me at school behaved and how I was as an individual.

After reading Butler, I realised what constitutes a woman is not a piece of clothing or her ‘feminine’ virtues, because gender is not a fixed notion.

I could listen to heavy metal music and wear a dress.

I could be heterosexual and have short hair.

I could be warm and gracious, and still question the validity of my aunt’s comment that I need to learn to cook because I am “a girl.”

Most importantly, I understood it is not the fault of the girls or me for being the way that we were.

It was the system that we were born into, a dichotomous system that was always trying to impose a world of opposites that we should all fit into.

After four years of coming to terms with my identity, I think there are just some things that are not as clear as black or white, and it would always remain grey.

It is because human beings are such complex individuals, that to place us in a box with neat, clear labels is a suffocation of who we really.

Sukaneka hari Sabtu lepas memang best! Tiga pasukan bertanding dalam tiga acara berlainan dan dihakimi berdasarkan bagaimana peserta-peserta bekerjasama antara satu sama lain serta kemeriahan dan keceriaan setiap pasukan. Setiap pasukan memenangi hadiah untuk ciri-ciri yang berlainan: pasukan pertama paling cekap dan bertanggungjawab, pasukan kedua pula paling inklusif dan beramah mesra, manakala pasukan ketiga paling baik dalam mengikuti peraturan. Tahniah kepada semua yang menyertai acara sukaneka FF dan terima kasih kepada sukarelawan yang menganjurkannya (beng hui, Kathy, Mas, Sue Chong, Tze Yeng)!

Mari Berekspresi! Perempuan & Keadilan

Photos by Gordon John Thomas & Maisarah Reckweg.

On Saturday night, one of the three sessions which was simultaneously held was Mari Berekspresi which was organised by Sisters in Islam (SIS) and facilitated by Shanon Shah and Ayam Fared. The purpose of this session was to encourage participants to share issues through performing arts.

During this session, participants shared their personal experience or stories their heard which touched on inequality towards women. After the performances, most participants could relate to each other and realized that their experiences were similar and cut across the different background they share.

After the sharing session, Ayam Fared facilitated the participants to create their own performances in groups based on the issues that was brought up in the previous session. The facilitator stressed that they are only two things which we need to hold a street performance or performing art:

1) Know your body (its strength and weaknesses).

2) Understand and explore the range of physical expressions of your body.

He later took the participants through a process on how to create their own performing arts and how to bring out the issues of concern through this method. The advantage of performing arts is that we do not necessarily need a hall, a theatre or a specific space to do our performance. It can be anywhere, whether on the streets or during a demonstration or even at a park!

These performances was later performed during Fiesta Feminista’s closing ceremony as well as FF’s Day of Action the morning after.

The theme of our Open Space programme, and the rules of Open Space Technology, in clear and simple terms.

FF Opening Ceremony: “Time for Change”

Photos by Gordon John Thomas. 25 Nov 2011.

Pembukaan ‘Open Space’: Pergerakan perempuan se-malaysia: Bagaimana kita menyokong perjuangan sesama kita?

Oleh Maisarah Reckweg. Photos by Sue Chong.

Bagi Fiesta Feminista kali ini, pihak penganjur telah mengambil inisiatif untuk memperkenalkan teknik ‘open space’ sebagai proses perbincangan dikalangan para peserta. Sebelum sesi perbincangan pertama dimulakan, fasilitator ‘open space’ Syahrul telah menjelaskan akan cara-cara proses ini dapat dipraktikkan.

Open space? Apa itu?!

Open Space Tecnology merupakan model mesyuarat atau perbincangan yang ringkas dan efektif. Melalui penggunaan proses ini, para peserta sendiri yang menetapkan agenda, memilih topik perbincangan dan mengatur masa mengikut keadaan.

Topik perbincangan hari ini

Setelah diterangkan akan proses-proses yang perlu bagi teknik open space ini, para peserta Fiesta Feminista telah menyatakan topik-topik yang ingin mereka bincangkan untuk dua hari ini. Sebanyak empat tempoh masa sudah diaturkan dan lebih 20 tempat mesyuarat telah disediakan. Para peserta diberi kebebasan untuk memilih masa dan tempat yang sesuai untuk mereka.

Antara topik-topik yang akan dibincangkan sepanjang hari ini termasuk bagaimana untuk memperkuatkan wanita akar umbi, hak-hak wanita yang ditinggalkan oleh suami, keganasan terhadap wanita melalui ICT dan bagaimana mengatasi masalah mak nyah dan HIV.

Orientation for FF2011

By Maisarah Reckweg. Photos by Gordon John Thomas.

Once everyone arrived yesterday evening, a brief orientation session was held. The participants were oriented through the process with the assistance of two of FF’s facilitators; Jana and Adib. Aside from getting to know each other, the purpose of the orientation was to give a background and history of Fiesta Feminista. This is in addition to familiarising everyone with the different concepts and principles which FF is based upon.

Here’s to an exciting and productive two days!

FF 2011 Opening Ceremony: “Time for Change”

Tonight’s opening was two hours of fun and skits and dancing. About 120 persons were in attendance, representing 33 different organisations and communities from across Malaysia. Spirits were high, and remained high throughout. One of the emcees for the evening, Freddy, noted in a poem, “Tinggi, tinggi Gunung Kinabalu/Tinggi lagi harapan kami.”

The programme kicked off with a skit from the organisers of Fiesta Feminista, i.e., the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality. “Time for Change” featured an all-too glib MP making (false) promises to nab re-election. Towards the end of one such stump speech, a member of the audience (actually, a representative of one of the six JAG organisations) stood up and announced, with a signboard and a loud voice, that only 10% of all parliamentarians were women. She was quickly followed by a second person who noted that rapes happen every 15 minutes. Nine statements in all were made. Each of the nine persons involved then headed to the stage and proceeded to chase the politician off. Another FF volunteer came on stage and presented a manifesto of sorts for Fiesta Feminista. The English version reads like this (note that the statement was presented in Bahasa Malaysia):

We are Fiesta Feminista. We are a group of feminists who come from various backgrounds but who share a common belief about fighting for justice and equality – gender equality – to create a truly democratic and free Malaysia.

But the struggle for freedom, dignity, and equality is too large for us to take on alone. We need the support of a critical mass of fellow activists. We need a movement. At Fiesta Feminista, we are working to build this movement.

We work to build it by involving new advocates, by adding the voices that are missing or silent in the movement. We work to build it by activating new spaces for dialogue and activism. We work also to build it by challenging the assumptions that we may hold and replacing these with knowledge and self-awareness.

At FF, we try to think in terms of principles even as we act in concrete, local terms. That means we consider how the world works and how it should. We recognise that our actions have an impact on others, and we want that impact to be positive and meaningful, never to reinforce the very system we seek to demolish.

We are against violence and discrimination and seek to address it at all levels: personal, professional, as a community, as a polity. We recognise that the discriminations we face are not the same. We shoulder different burdens, some lighter and others more crushing.

We stand for justice and equality for all persons. We insist on being inclusive and egalitarian. We recognise and work to challenge the various global forces that inscribe and perpetuate inequalities and sow discord among people.

We strive to sustain our world, recognising that it is the most marginal and vulnerable of communities, and it is the women in these communities, that will face the worst consequences of our gross environmental irresponsibility.

We are Fiesta Feminista. This is a statement of our principles. Support our struggle. Join our movement. Together let’s build our world anew.

Hidup gerakan wanita! Hidup rakyat!

Here’s a brief clip from the reading of our statement at the end of the skit. More about the Opening to come tomorrow! Stay tuned!

Kampung Alab Lanas

This village in the interior is five hours from Kota Kinabalu. It has around 560 villages according to a 2008 survey. Most of the villagers earn a living by planting padi, rubber trees or oil palm.

However, the government has been giving away their land to a corporation, which has cut down a huge area of forests and turning them into oil palm plantations.

The village also face problems with electricity as they have to pay RM800 or more for technicians to connect the wires (for two lights and a socket only) to their homes.

Life is tough, but at least they still have a river to cheer things up!

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The villagers, mostly orang Sungai, practice a system called tagal. Under this system, everyone is forbidden from catching any living beings in the river for a certain amount of time, for example three years, or they would be cursed.

The system protects the river’s ecosystem and allow its marine life to grow without interruption for the next few years.

After finding out more about the village, one of the participants—Uma (below, right) from the Women’s Aid Organisation—spoke to the indigenous women about women’s rights and their right to be free from all violence including domestic violence.

Participants also showed villagers a video of Bersih 2.0 and the importance of clean and fair elections. Lena (centre) from Pusat Komas gave a short commentary to help villagers understand the issues at stake.