Women's History Month: Resources to Understand Gender and Displacement
March is Women’s History Month. Last Tuesday, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, we introduced the concept of intersectionality, and the multiple and complex experiences that women on the move face as a result of their gender, in addition to their status as an asylum seeker, migrant, or refugee.
Grasping the multi-faceted experience of women in the various phases of migration is not easy. Displacement and gender issues are two complex issues, and the lived experience of these is unique to each woman and girl.
This week, we have put together a list of resources that we believe can help us all educate ourselves. These books, movies, articles, and projects by women who have lived displacement themselves allow us to read, hear, see their perspective of these issues. At EMA, we strongly believe that the best way these issues should be approached and studied is through the voices and accounts of the people directly affected, who are willing and able to share them. In this case, the voices that need to be highlighted are those of female asylum seekers, migrants, and refugees.
Below is a list of the resources we have selected. Different women, with different stories and ways of telling them - all provide us with the opportunity to understand and see the obstacles that women and girls on the move have and continue to overcome through hope, strength and resilience.
Books you cannot miss
“The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You” by Dina Nayeri. The author, a refugee from Iran, simultaneously tells her own story - first as a girl, and now as a woman on the move - while opening up a large and important conversation about refugees’ experiences. What Western countries often expect from refugees is their gratitude for being welcomed. Dina Nayeri reminds her readers that “It is the obligation of every person born in a safer room to open the door when someone in danger knocks.”
"We Are Displaced” by Malala Yousafzai. A refugee from Pakistan and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, Malala tells her own story, as well as the stories of nine other displaced people around the world.
“The Girl Who Smiled Beads” by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil. Clemantine, who had to flee the civil war in Rwanda as a young girl, looks beyond the label of “victim” and recognizes the power of the imagination to transcend even the most profound injuries and aftershocks of displacement.
“Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian, My Story of Rescue, Hope and Triumph” by Yusra Mardini. Yusra was forced to flee her home in Syria as a teenage girl. With her sister, she faced the perilous journey from the Turkish coasts to the Greek islands by sea, When the boat where she, her sister and 20 other people started to sink off the coast of Lesvos, Yusra and her sister, both professional swimmers, were able to save all the passengers. Where Europe Must Act was also founded, this book tells the story of Yusra and of so many others who embark on this same journey everyday.
Movies and documentaries
“For Sama” directed by Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts, 2019. This documentary film tells the story of an eighteen year old girl, then journalist, who lives through five years of the Syrian conflict started in 2011. With her then husband, one of the few doctors left in Aleppo, she gives birth to a child she names Sama. As she raises her daughter through war and displacement, Waad documents their daily life in Aleppo and their difficult decision to leave and seek safety elsewhere, knowing they leave behind innocent victims of war. A trailer is available here. For Sama was released in 2019, and has since won many awards for best documentary.
For Sama. Source: IMDb
“I Do Not Live Here” by Rae Ceretto, 2020. This short movie highlights the voice of a refugee from Honduras who is filmed in Mexico but attempting to reach the United States with her three children. The movie is available here.
“We Should All be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This now renowned author whose work explores her own perspective as a Nigerian immigrant, talks about what feminism in this century means. More than anything, she emphasizes the need for all people to actively counter those social norms and gender constructs that allow inequality between men and women to continue to exist. The Ted talk can be watched here. The talk has also been transformed into a short essay, and was published as a book with the same title.
“On the things we left behind” by Saredo & Surer Mohamed. Daughters of Somali refugee parents, Saredo and Surer talk about their own experiences of leaving home and starting all over in the “afterlife of war”. You can listen to this short podcast here.
“Refugees on air” by Sarah & Maya Ghassali. A Melbourne-based podcast, Sarah and Maya Ghassali, twin sisters from Syria, use this platform for refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrants to tell their stories and share their voices. You can find their podcast here, as well as on other podcast platforms.
People to follow
Sarah Mardini, sister of Yusra Mardin, author and Olympian mentioned above. After being a refugee on the Greek island of Lesvos, Sarah returned to Lesvos as a Search and Rescue volunteer, and providing immediate support to new arrivals on the island with a volunteer-based organization. Amongst 20 other humanitarian workers, Sarah is now facing trial and risks several years in prison. Accused of smuggling and abetting illegal immigration by Greek authorities, she continues to use her voice to speak for humane reception and protection of refugees. Follow her on Instagram and support the campaign Free Humanitarians on Instagram or through their website: https://www.freehumanitarians.org/.
(In the photo: sisters Sara and Yusra Mardini. Source)
Jaha Dukureh, a human rights activist now, who was subjected to Female Gentila Mutilation (FGM) in Gambia, her home country. Jaha speaks out against this harmful practice that millions of girls undergo, often just days or weeks after birth, in many countries across Africa and Asia. Jaha Dukureh left Gambia for the US as a young girl for an arranged marriage, and has sincebecome an activist, anti-FGM campaigner, and UN Goodwill Ambassador for Africa. A video about her story is available here.
You can follow here on Instagram and her organization Safe Hands For Girls on Twitter.
Milene van Arendonk, an activist, humanitarian, and storyteller from the Netherlands, who uses photography to start conversations about social issues, document migration and stories of refugees and displaced people all over the world. You can find her photos on Instagram or on her website.
“On Ukraine’s front lines, women endure the war alone” by Sara Cincurova and Guillaume Binet. This photo report by Al Jazeera (published before the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine) shows the life of women who, often alone, have endured the conflict between Ukrainians and Russian-backed separatists on the Easter border of Ukraine since 2014. This photo story is a reminder of the impact of conflict on women.