Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Women and the Afghan elections

I'm on this group's listserve, having met a number of their
representatives at an Islamic street fair in New York.
For a further look at the heinous treatment of women that continues,
and will keep on keeping on after the election, no matter who wins,
see our AP story: Women activists condemn Afghan marriage law

Wonderful Supporters of WAW [Women for Afghan Women],

Writing this quickly because internet keeps failing. Security is
really bad in Kabul. Yesterday there were 2 suicide bombings and
6 rockets attacks. Today 5 suicide bombers were holding up a bank in
the city. They were killed along with 4 police men. And I have
been hearing the sounds of rockets all day today but the media is
not allowed to report on any violence until after the elections.

I have been under a lot of stress lately. I have over 100 staff
members and 112 people in our shelters to keep safe.

For the past two weeks, our staff have stayed in the office and we
have not been doing home visits to clients. Starting today our
centers are closed, and staff has been asked to stay at home. I've
asked our drivers to take the cars home with them so if there are
any emergencies, they can get to the shelter fast.

We currently have 68 women and 12 children in the Kabul shelter and
32 women and 4 children in the Mazar shelter. Last night the police
called us and referred 2 new cases to us.

We have tried to ensure the participation of women in the elections.
We have helped many women (our clients who are living at home
rather than in our shelters) get registered to vote. I have also
encouraged our staff to vote on election day.

We cannot take the women from the shelter to vote on election day.
It will simply be too dangerous. Also I don't want people in the
neighborhood to find out that a lot of women are living in one

I will try and send another update soon. Thank you all for caring
about this beleaguered country and it's women and girls. Please
pray for us during these terrifying days.

Manizha Naderi
Executive Director, Women for Afghan Women

Monday, August 10, 2009

My girl Toto's back in town

It was great Friday night seeing Toto la Momposina and her merry Tambores at the Queens Theatre in the Park, and it’s been great to see the Queens Latino Cultural Festival back in the groove this year of presenting top artists from throughout the Latino world in this, my borough, which boasts the largest concentration of Latinos in the Big Apple (or Gran Manzana, as they say).
Toto forces me into the cliché: She just gets better with age. Maybe it was the venue—last time I saw her, near on 10 years ago, it was at the more imposing Town Hall in Manhattan—maybe because as I get better or worse with age, she’s become nothing if not inspirational, a role model of how to stay gorgeous, sensual, spirited and—here comes another cliché—eminently young at heart.
Gigging the world over—you’d think she was homeless rather than a proud palenquera from Colombia’s northeastern panhandle—she carries with her her message as torchbearer for the traditions of her country and her people, Afro-Indio-Colombians. Toto maintains her rusticity; she’s like a pre-urbanized Susana Baca, a less buffed icon of the unsung history and contributions of African people in South America.
Toto was born into cantadora lineage: women keeping the traditions through healing, midwifery, political savvy, farming, and of course, song and dance. And that legacy infuses all of her, including her electric smile, her sensuality-- unabashed at over 60 now--and her good natured rule over her super musicians aging from their 20s to could-be “jubilados” (retirees).
The audience, too, was seduced from the first flash of that smile and her head cocked haughtily on high, her swooping skirts and her bossy and beguiling contralto. They were waving their straw hats and arms like streamers and were dancing in the seats.
I can’t wait for her next visit, predictably not for some time, though. Toto’s scored major success in Europe, but never here outside her Colombian homies. And the next show after that, and still the next one. But, at the rate she’s going, she may be still bringing the house down after I’m long gone!