Ilona Sābera – portfolio

blogging, journalism, semiotics, short stories


Leave a comment

Educated women in India face more violence

In India I met and interviewed a strong and outspoken woman. She is very honest about suffering and abuse she has faced, but she does not lose hope and is fighting for change.

“If you ask any women, whether it is a women in power or a women in poverty, each have their stories of violence and pain,” says Moumita Biswas, executive secretary of All India Council of Christian Women.

Moumita is often vocal and direct in her statements on various types of violence. Being part of women’s wing of National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), her work involves advocacy on gender justice, women theology, minority and indigenous women’s rights.

National Council of Churches in India represents 14 million protestant and orthodox Christians. After Hinduism and Islam, Christianity is the third largest religion. There are 24 million of Christians of various denominations, around 2,3 percent of the total population.

In the video, filmed at by Henry Martin Institute of Interfaith studies in Hyderabad, Moumita tells her personal story of violence and sexual abuse and sheds light on what it is to be a woman in India.

“Always I am labelled as a fighter woman. Even if you are strong and bold, you are labelled and stigmatized. I sometimes felt, if I kept quiet, I would have faced less violence,” executive secretary admits. She manages to defy every stereotype. In addition to her professional achievements, Moumita is a single divorced mother, taking care of her eight years old daughter.

On various occasions executive secretary of women’s wing of NCCI has had to reaffirm – violence against women is present in any circumstances, disregarding social or professional background or wealth.  Victims are often blamed for the violence they face, rather than their perpetrators. A number of times women in leadership positions are being forced to adopt male behaviour or their views are not taken into consideration.

While education is considered the leading indicator of improving women’s status, sociological research shows that it might not be the only obstacle. According to a recent study, Indian women who are more educated than their husbands, earn more, or who are the sole earners in their families are more likely to experience violence from their partners than women who are not employed or are less educated than their spouse.

Churches in India have a great role as civil society organisations.  Moumita has been working on various initiatives to raise awareness on sexual harassment, child protection and gender justice education. Her aim is to “end the culture of violence”. All India Council of Christian Women launched this year a 365 days Zero tolerance to gender Based violence: Make it happen now! The campaign included activities to honor women police officers and ask for women-friendly police stations, men speaking about positive masculinity and highlighted the 16 Days of Activism against gender based violencea and White Ribbon movement – men led initiative to end violence against women.

Increasing rape rate has put India among the most dangerous countries for women. The Delhi case where 23 year old woman was gang raped on a private bus and died of injuries later caused local and international outrage and protests against the state negligence in 2012. The girl went out with her male friend and took a bus after several rickshaw drivers refused to take them aboard. In a number Indian cities taxis refuse passengers a short distance drive as this will not bring a high fare. As part of Thursday’s in Black campaign women’s wing of NCCI approached rickshaw drivers in Calcutta asking to always take women aboard in the evenings. “We don’t need big money to do this. Out of ten drivers we have spoken to, five will remember”, executive secretary is optimistic.

In addition to social outreach, Moumita is a theologian and uses scriptures as a reputable reference and empowerment tool. She interprets Bible from a woman’s perspective addressing such taboo topics as menstruation and hygiene, women trafficking and prostitution, sexual violence and divorce. She leads Bible studies as a professional performer and audience is taken by her empathy and ability to step into women’s shoes. “Our theology must change,” Moumita affirms, referring to dominating interpretation of scriptures.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Latvian artists’ performances focus on disputable urban developments in Riga

While central part of Rīga, the capital of Latvia, is a renown tourist attraction with its Medieval Old Town and the largest number of Art Nouveau buildings in Northern Europe, Rīga’s suburbs are not so tidy. Only few bus stops out of downtown and cityscape becomes more confusing – post-soviet industrial legacy blending with new commercial ‘developments’, some of which causing ecological and financial disasters. For example, to provide a new building for the State Revenue Service (Valsts ieņēmumu dienests), the former government of Latvia signed a corrupt deal with private property developers and is now paying 532 thousand euros of taxpayers money in monthly rent (6,4 millions per year). And yet the same institution is asking citizens not to avoid taxes? This can happen only in Latvia.

Latvian performance artists this year decided to bring into spotlight places in Rīga which have seen many alterations during the course of history and recently are facing the inevitable consequences of profit-driven ‘development’ where just governance or sustainable and healthy environment is not a priority. In five performances called “The last picnic” (Pēdējais pikniks) starting in early spring and ending late autumn, organised by sculptor Gundega Evelone and friends, artists called participants for the last outdoor meal in various unusual places before they are completely converted for commercial of residential purpose.

I had a chance to take part and produce couple of videos from ‘the 3rd last picnic that took place between Mežaparks and Čiekurkalns districts in Rīga this July.

Photo credit: Ilona Sābera

Buildings in the background appearing in the middle of nowhere like mushrooms in the forest, the one on the right is the State Revenue Service still spending millions for taxpayers money in rent. Photo credit: Ilona Sābera.

 

Photo credit: Ilona Sābera

In this photo, taken from the opposite side, there are the old and the new building (blue) of TEC-1, the first heath power-plant in Latvia. The old part built in fifties is now a legacy of large scale industrialization taking place across the Soviet Union. Photo credit: Ilona Sābera.

 

In the first performance, Marta Elīna Martinsone is reading poetry by the famous Latvian Facebook cat Tors Traktors about a very emotional and sarcastic pet.

 

In the second performance, Gundega Evelone is telling a story about the sad face of a seagull with detached wing that was dying for three days alone in a harbor. The artist asked participants to make a viking burial boats to remember the heroic seagull.

 

Latvian proverb says: “Don’t cut the branch you are sitting on,” meaning do not damage the useful resources, such as the environment. In the third performance Alise Šaburova falls off the tree as she was sawing the branch she was sitting on. Alise falls into a swamp that was created unintentionally by engineers wanting to dry the surrounding land by closing a rill into the underground water pipes. But the rill violently broke out creating a wild sewerage swamp.

 

Video and photo materials from all five ‘Last picnics’ are displayed at National Library of Latvia in a retrospective exhibition organised by Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art and dedicated to one of the first Latvian multimedia artists late Hārdijs Lediņš. The exhibition, opened to public a couple of weeks ago, is available till 30th December.

Last picnics are buried in this symbolic 'summer coffin.' Photo credit: Didzis Grodzs.

Last picnics are buried in this symbolic ‘summer coffin.’ Photo credit: Didzis Grodzs.


Leave a comment

Videos for European Commission’s DG of Interpreation

Visitors to the 2012 Job Day talk about their experiences of trying out interpreting in our practice booths.

What are the social and health benefits of learning languages and how can speaking several languages make life more interesting? We interviewed Itesh Sachdev, professor of Language and Communication at SOAS University of London. His research focusses on the benefits of multilingualism.


Did you know about the complexities of multilingualism in Malta? English, Maltese and even Italian are all used to communicate with other islanders. There have been significant changes in the status of the Maltese language since Malta joined the EU: “We didn’t have a culture of translation. The fact that Maltese is an official language [of the EU] has created something which actually didn’t happen before. I think it has given Maltese more status in peoples’ minds. It is no longer the language of the poor and uneducated. I think the ideal for a country like Malta, which is tiny, is that our heritage should be a heritage of bilingualism. We should be giving our children a possibility of growing up with a minimum of two languages, which for us was always a reality,” explains Dr Sandra Vella, senior lecturer at the Institute of Linguistics, University of Malta. To find out more, watch our interview with Dr Vella and Professor Ray Fabri, Chairman of the Institute of Linguistics at the University of Malta.

Arabic might not be an easy language to learn, but it can lead to many opportunities in the West and the East. It is one of the official languages of the United Nations and has 295 million native speakers worldwide. In Europe there is an interest in learning more about Islamic culture and tradition; learning Arabic is an integral part of this. “Language can open paths for understanding and for dialogue between world’s civilizations” comments Dr Imran Alawiye, the author of ‘Gateway to Arabic’, a series of textbooks for teachers and students.


Leave a comment

Ēģiptes revolūcijas gadadiena

Tie ir svētki tikai Musulmaņu brālībai un Augstākajai militārajai padomei. Jaunie aktīvisti, kas aizsāka tautas sacelšanos pirms gada, neuzskata, ka tā vainagojusies ar panākumiem un turpina cīņu par brīvību un taisnīgumu nākotnes Ēģiptē.