Friday, April 15, 2011

Feminist Action Alert: The 12th AWID International Forum: April 12-22, 2012, Istanbul, Turkey

What follows was a press release sent to me.

AWID Banner

The 2012 AWID Forum Website is now Online!
The 12th AWID International Forum:
Transforming Economic Power to Advance
Women's Rights and Justice
April 19-22, 2012 | Istanbul, Turkey

Visit the new 2012 Forum website and find out more!

The 12th AWID International Forum is fast approaching. In a little over a year close  to 2,000 women’s rights leaders and activists from around the world will come together to strategize, network, celebrate, and learn in a highly charged atmosphere that fosters deep discussions and sustained personal and professional growth.

The 2012 Forum will take place April 19-22, 2012, in Istanbul, Turkey. AWID is very excited to announce that the Call for Proposals and the 2012 Forum Website are now available in English, Spanish, French and Turkish!

Visit the AWID 2012 Forum website and find out more about the Forum theme, how to submit a proposal, submission guidelines, logistical information and answers to frequently asked questions.

You can also find downloadable Word and pdf versions of the Call for Proposals.

Please send us your feedback on the website to and check the website regularly for frequent updates on Forum 2012 preparations including fundraising information.

Interview with Writer born in Ghana, raised in the U.S. and now living in Ghana, Meri Nana-Ama Danquah

 From Please click on the title to link back.

Ghana's literary icon: Nana-Ama Danquah

Kent Mensah, AfricaNews editor in Accra, Ghana 
Meri Nana-Ama Danquah is gifted with the prowess of playing with words which compels one to continue to read her works and even call for more. The native Ghanaian is versatile and her literary works exude professionalism. She authored the groundbreaking memoir, Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman's Journey Through Depression.
Meri Nana-Ama Danquah
She also edited three anthologies: Becoming American: Personal Essays by First Generation Immigrant Women, Shaking the Tree: New Fiction and Memoir by Black Women, and most recently, The Black Body. Danquah's writing has been featured in several magazines and newspapers - The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Village Voice, Allure, Essence, Emerge and Los Angeles Magazine. caught up with her in West African nation of Ghana to tell us all about herself and her profession:

Briefly tell us about yourself

Wow. Where to even begin? I was born in Ghana and raised mostly in the United States. I am now based primarily in Accra, Ghana. I'm a mother, an avid reader, an actress, an author, an editor, and a ghostwriter. Hopefully by 2012 I'll be able to add filmmaker to that list.

Obviously, you’re a woman with many hats. Which do you enjoy doing most?

That's like asking a parent to choose which one of their kids he or she loves the most. Each one of the things I do contains a spirit and a magic all its own and, as such, offers its own unique joy and satisfaction.

What motivates you to write?

The need to continue eating and paying bills. Just kidding. Well, maybe I'm being a little serious. I don't think most writers have the luxury, financially or creatively, of being motivated. By that I mean most professional writers, people who are publishing or trying to publish, cannot afford to write only when the "spirit" hits them or when they suddenly find themselves inspired. Completing a full length work requires discipline and hard work, not just inspiration and talent. Also, I think most writers have a backlog of projects. If I didn't have to worry about money for survival and I could devote every hour of every day to my writing, it would still take me more than one lifetime to get through all the ideas for stories, books, plays, and movies that I have floating around in my brain. And as if that's not bad enough, I get new ideas every week so the "to do" list keeps getting longer!

Any role models?

Ah, another "impossible" question. I started out as a poet. In that genre, I admire the work of Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde, Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver, Kim Addonizio, Yusef Komunyakaa, LeRoi Jones, Kofi Awoonor, Kofi Anyidoho, and Reetika Vazirani. In fiction and nonfiction my tastes are quirky and inconsistent, I can talk more about individual books than individual writers. The Stone Boat by Andrew Solomon is brilliant, as is Drown by Junot Diaz. Edwidge Danticat's Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work really spoke to the core of who I am in a way nothing has since, perhaps, Eavan Boland's Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time. Danzy Senna's Where Did You Sleep Last Night? taught me a lot about the importance of honesty in a writer's work and the price we must sometimes pay for it. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche's Purple Hibiscus, Helon Habila's Waiting on an Angel, Aminatta Forna's The Devil That Danced on Water, and Sefi Atta's Everything Good Will Come are all breathtaking and they have taught me to not be afraid to write about Africa, in my way and on my terms. I'm anxiously awaiting the May 2011 publication of Catherine McKinley's book Indigo: In Search of the Color That Seduced the World. I've read the first few chapters and was blown away. It's an important and powerful book.

Take us through your leisure time.

People call me a workaholic but I don't see myself that way. I have been blessed with the ability to make my living doing what I most love, so shutting down the computer at 5pm and calling it a day is not as appealing an option for me as it is for some workaday folks. I will often spend my evenings and weekends reading or writing, not because I have to but because I want to. I want to finish that poem or that story and I can think of no place else I'd rather be than at my desk. I also enjoy spending time with my daughter. When she's home from university, she and I hang out a lot. We go to the movies, we travel, we go shopping, we eat out at restaurants or we just sit around and talk. She's got a great sense of humour so we do a lot of laughing together. I have a very small group of girlfriends in Accra, and in Los Angeles, and in Washington, D.C. and in New York. I spend a good deal of time in all of those places. Wherever I happen to be, I always make time to see my sister-friends, as I call them. If I'm dating or in a relationship with someone I will, of course, spend some of my leisure time with him as well.

Which subject(s) interest you most and what are your reasons?

I like to say that I know a little bit about everything in general and a whole lot about nothing in particular. Every subject fascinates me, especially if the person who is teaching or speaking with me is clearly passionate about it. That said, I'm more fascinated by some things than others. I often say that I'm not political but that's not entirely true. I'm extremely political, but not in the way that people use the word these days; I'm not political in the US's Republican/Democrat way or Ghana's NDC/NPP way. Party politics, in my opinion, can be narrow and destructive, with people getting so caught up in the game of one-upping the other side that they forget entirely that their purpose is to serve their constituents and citizens and to do what is in their best interest. I'm more interested in grassroots politics, in everyday people becoming active and realising that they are empowered to navigate their own future and the future of their land. To that end, I'm interested in issues of social justice, especially ones that concern themselves with ending violence against women, exploitation of children for labour, trafficking of human body parts, eradicating poverty and bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots. I try to do my part to raise awareness about these issues. My reasons? I'll answer that by quoting the English statesman, Edmond Burke, who said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Among all your writings/books which is your favourite and any particular reason for that?

Once again, it's like asking a parent to choose their favourite child. I'm sure that even if the parent could offer up the name of one child, the answer would change the next day to the name of one of his or her other children. I am proud of all the work that I've done. There are times when I'm more drawn to one than the others but that changes so quickly and often that it's impossible to label any of them a favourite.

Meri Nana-Ama Danquah Photocredit: Korama_A_Danquah
Photo credit: Korama A Danquah

Are writers born or created? Explain.

You're asking me? How would I know? I can only speak for and of myself...and in that case the answer is, "Both." I believe I was born with my love of language, but it was nurtured by all of my mentors, many of whom are people I've never met, authors of books that changed my life and that drew me deeper into this desire to put pen to paper. I also studied. I took independent workshops, I went to formal school programmes.

Who is your audience?

My audience is whoever picks up my work and reads it. The whole point of reading is to be introduced to a world of the author's creation, to see the world from his or her point of view. I would venture to say that it is every writer's wish to have an audience that is beyond his or her wildest imagination, comprised of people who may seemingly be the most unlikely to be drawn to the author's work.

On the average, how long does it take you to complete a book?

When I'm ghostwriting, I can complete a client's book in as little as a few months. The downside, though, is that it means my own work has to be placed on the back burner. Because of this, it has taken me over ten years to complete a book of prose. I'll be spending the months of May and June at a writer's colony in the US to finish that manuscript.

Whose memoir are you hoping to pen one day?

As a writer of literary nonfiction/memoir, I have no desire to pen anyone's memoirs except my own.

How would you describe your style of writing?

I'm the wrong person to ask that question. My job is to write. I'll leave the reviewing, critiquing and describing to those whose job it is to do such things.

When should we expect your next major book?

My next book should be out by 2012, insha'Allah [God willing].

Dissociation and Trauma: Notes on the Effects of Atrocity in an Atrocity-denying Society (focus: prostitution)

image of a white man with his head in the sand is from here

One point of view put forth by many people across region and religion, across era and ideology, is that the individual person is one entity. I'd argue this is oversimplistic in two regards and that the implications of holding to this belief put women in many forms of misogynistic danger.

1. Any individual in a social world is also part of that larger world, and reflects back to that world it's own dominant viewpoints and perspectives. We come into worlds that tell us who we are, for example. And once we are told who we are, we belief and absorb much of those messages, however erroneous or destructive they are.

One example of this, is the use of the term "b*tch" or "sl*t" or "wh*re" for some women. There is an idea out there--a profoundly male supremacist one, that SOME women are those terms ALL THE TIME, and that OTHER women are those terms SOME OF THE TIME. I'd argue no woman is any of those terms any of the time, but I come up against men and women who disagree with me on that. Including feminist-identified women. Far more often, it is anti-feminist men who want to build a case against SOME women--such as women in systems of prostitution, or women who don't obey men, or women who speak their minds, or women who enjoy sex, or women who want sex a lot, or women who can engage in casual sex and not be too concerned about the feelings of their sexual partners.

The sexism and misogyny, and often racism and classism too, embedded in these terms and in their usage, indicates a general willingness to accept what the Master tells us about who women are, by accepting what the Master tells us about who SOME women are. To accept that SOME women are b*tches, sl*ts, or wh*res is to imply that all women can be, and also that it is impossible for all women not to be.

I cringe when I hear women use those terms about other women. I get furious when I hear men do it, and I generally call men out on it.

2. There is another idea that individuals have whole selves, speak in one voice, have one dominant point of view on matters, and that their actions indicate an inner integrity. This means that when someone acts one way, we often assume "that's the truth of who they are" as if there's only ever one truth of who someone is.

I find that assumption to be so deeply flawed as to be absurd. As someone who is a multiple trauma-survivor, I can tell you that the unified mind theory is bogus. Integrity is more illusion that reality, particularly if we grow up in a society in which ethical integrity is non-existent, such as in the U.S.

Trauma survivors find many ways to cope, adapt, and organise their lives so as to avoid coming into contact with material from the past or present that must be shut away.

I cope by blocking out some feelings while consciously experiencing others. When something traumatic happens, I'm quite adept at putting away enough feelings to allow me to keep functioning, and then later--hours, days, weeks, or years later--feeling what was put aside. This makes me quite handy in emergencies, such as when someone breaks a bone or experiences another form of trauma. I'm good at staying calm in the face of such upset, while other people I know just get overwhelmed immediately. I had a job where things like this could happen, and my co-workers would often want to "get Julian" when something serious happened to those we worked for--namely, young adults.

This means that if you ask me how I feel about something that has happened recently, I might have differing answers depending on when you ask. This doesn't mean I don't have some sort of moral or ethical compass. It does mean that only parts of me can show up at any one time, and who you speak to will likely be those parts. To assume "there's only one voice or opinion or experience" of something is to not really get what disability from trauma does to a person.

For those of us who have varying disabilities, such as those caused by physical as well as psychic trauma, most of which is usually social and political--even a dog bite is a social event, if people are responding to you and the dog during or after the bite. If people immediately explain to you that the dog was afraid of you, what then do you do with the fact that your experience was that the dog was the aggressor, not you? If you're told "you shouldn't have walked so close to the dog", then how much are you being blamed for the bite?

I'll segue from that example to another. Men procuring women. 

In the world I live in, if a woman approaches a man for sex, it is assumed she welcomes whatever comes next. The sex he has in his mind to have is projected onto her as the sex she welcomes having. Never mind that she may not want most or any of the kinds of sex he has in mind to have with her. Never mind that she may be dissociated, and only part of her is wanting contact with him at all.

When I realised that it was always only part of me that was present when I was approaching a man for some kind of attention or contact, and different parts of me were present when I was approached for contact from a man, I realised "full sexual consent" was a meaningless term for me, in my life. I could not and cannot give "full sexual consent" because I don't generally know all of how I feel about something right away.

Most women in prostitution enter those systems at the age of thirteen, on average, globally. Most of those thirteen (more or less) year olds are survivors of multiple forms of economic, social, and family trauma, and those traumas are bound up in larger systems of abuse--whether the system be capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, cultural colonisation, or genocide.

How is it then, that men think approaching a woman for sex, or being approached for sex, automatically means she is giving full consent for what follows. How can he know that? The point here isn't to say women cannot give informed consent. It is to say that any man who arrogantly proclaims that he only has consensual sex is deceiving himself and living in profound denial about how the multiple worlds of trauma survivors really works, usually if not always.

I've recommended to a heterosexually active men (HAMs) I know, that they not engage with women sexually, because it is so very painfully clear that they do not responsibly and ethically engage the women they have sex with--such as to care to find out what forms of trauma they have survived, to have compassion for the complexities such trauma causes, and the concern to know how they survived it. Most men, I find, do not care to know this about anyone, including themselves.

I recommend that most if not all het men stop being sexually active if they cannot know or willfully refuse to find out to what degrees women are survivors of sexual or other trauma. And, it should go without say, this means that any het man who chooses to procure, rent, or buy a girl or woman inside a system of prostitution is guilty of a human rights violation, and a sex-specific crime, whether the violations or crimes are recognised as such by the larger society he lives in. Because the odds are high that he's attempting to economically or politically exploit a human being to meet his own needs without regard for her own well-being.

To those who argue that prostitution is victimless, I'd like to remind you that most prostitutes were thirteen when their pimps first raped them or welcomed other men to rape them. And if you want to believe multiple rape survivors who are being pimped are free to choose to have sex with you, you're living in such profound denial of reality that you really have no business being sexual with anyone at all.

Chances are that you know men who will argue that some women are "for sex", by which they mean that some women are "wh*res" or "sl*ts". And if you believe that, you're likely to regard specific groups of women as having less rights to dignity and respect, and less inherent dignity and respect, than the lower levels of each that men generally assume women have who aren't categorised by those misogynist terms.

To any man or boy reading this: if you hear any male use those terms about anyone who is female, please tell them to stop it, and explain why it's sexist as hell for them to do so. Simply ask them how many men they know who are sl*ts, b*tches, and wh*res--not in a haha funny ("that dude is my b*tch") way, either. But in the way that results in prostitutes being raped and murdered with no one caring at all. In a way that makes all girls more vulnerable to rape inside and outside the home. In a way that makes women across region and race vulnerable to sexual harassment and sexual assault wherever they go, however they dress, and whatever they do for a living.