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Why I Find The ‘Support’ Of Hollywood’s Humanitarians Meaningless

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Actors George Clooney and Meryl Streep sing together off stage during a performance at "An Evening of SeriousFun Celebrating the Legacy of Paul Newman" event in New York March 2, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT) - RTR4RU64
George Clooney and Meryl Streep. Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson.

I think what we have to acknowledge is that no matter who wins the Democratic primary, four-hundred refugees drowned escaping the historical superstructures of imperialism, neoliberal intervention, and destruction through proxy wars created by the U.S. to exploit devastation. We have to acknowledge that these wars are mass manufactured by the U.S. and the old club of colonial allies who now operate the global exchange rates in order to justify military spending sponsored by drone attacks, alongside a famine-inducing harvest of speculation and hyperinflation of food markets. Four-hundred human beings from Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, children and women perished.

Four-hundred refugees drowned while your favourite Hollywood humanitarians were hosting a political table party in the neoliberal selection section for Hillary Clinton to the tune of thirty to three hundred thousand dollars a plate. Nonetheless, Clooney knows it’s wrong. He acknowledged in an interview that it was wrong. But he did it anyway. It’s like throwing tear gas at children fleeing ethnic cleansing, economic devastation, and war. You just follow orders. It’s wrong, but, you do it anyway.

When Clooney makes his next documentary about himself advocating for Darfur divestment, perhaps he can illuminate the connection of multinationals with the money they hide that they got out of the most exploited nations, colloquially known in international relations lingo as ‘developing nations’. He could tell us that they helped fuel the chaos and degradation and deprivation, the mass rape, the murder and individual displacement of humans and violations of human rights knowing that it was wrong, but..they did it anyway. He could mention that the child soldier who was brainwashed to rape women couldn’t have done it without Hillary’s pushing CPSA waivers which President Obama was quick to endorse, and not just in the Sudan, but in Yemen, Nigeria, and the Congo.

Oh, look, it’s like ‘Hamilton’ on Broadway, whitewashing ‘his-story’ by honouring a man who didn’t necessarily own slaves, but when the slave question conflicted with his ambitions of American prosperity, or ‘property rights’, he was quick to endorse the rights of the plantation owners. He knew it was wrong, but.. At least, we can all rap about it now and ignore the nuisances and nuances of the nexus between history and contemporary affairs.

Last week, the Women of the World Summit held a conference and facilitated a pseudo polemical debate on ‘What is the future of women in Islam?’ I am not sure the answer to that question, or why one religion fleeing the constant militant revival sponsored by the neocolonial chorus of bullets brokered the number one arms dealer to the world—arms that also somehow, in some way, sometimes, make their way home—was called out in particular. The answer to the question though—”What is the Future of Women in Islam”—most likely rests somewhere at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, and in the uprisings of women caught between the targeting of their bodies by policies pursued by the guests of honour at the summit which included: Laura Bush, whose husband and his cabinet helped create ISIS while it pushed abstinence policies on Africa for aid to cover the exploitation of poverty manufactured by the U.S. in Africa galvanising mass anti-LGBTQ sentiments; Hillary Clinton, who needs no introduction; and neoliberal policy architect for the NGO exploitation system of the 21st century who also supported the war in Iraq, Thomas L. Friedman.

What would Thomas Friedman’s postulations be without someone there to push into position an orchestration of theory into practice, for the financial benefit of multinationals, the devastation of entire nations, societies, and cultures. Thankfully for him, Christine Lagarde the managing director of the IMF was also an honoured guest at the summit. Still, we need someone to deflect the public’s attention with a celebrity who people identify with activism in action or, rather, inaction. Who better than Meryl Streep—”we’re all African”— who was there to cheer on Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s robustly, intellectually lacklustre performance at the event championing U.S. and European foreign policy through a narrow-scope Islamophobic sentimentality to win the hearts and minds of the fearful.

Yes, the same sentiments that ushered waves of liberation, exploitation that guided four-hundred refugees to the bottom of the ocean, was championed at a summit for women. How else would we discuss the largest human rights crisis in the world—violence against women—without the conversation on the patriarchal system being a screen for the patriarchal system. Yet, when Ayaan’s positions were brought into contention by Barkha Dutt, she had to shut Dutt down rather than bring into contention her pale reasoning. You also had Megyn Kelly who helped justify the Bush regime’s invasion creating the deplorable outcomes in Iraq and helping to guide the modern day ‘Holocaust’ of Muslim’s that, as in all conflicts, disproportionately, intentionally affects women.

Wait. Would Syria be the modern Holocaust or would Darfur, Rwanda, Somalia, Congo, Iraq, Sudan, Central African Republic, the Rohingya peoples? I loose track of my genocides, but one commonality is that wherever the neoliberal policies or neoconservative policies go, from Laos to the Rwandan genocide, ethnic cleansings, internal instability, and a refugee crisis follows. Concurrently, the IMF, the U.S. coddled by the silence of its mass media, and U.S. NGOs show up with celebrities to raise huge amounts of money sanitising the political reality, which I am certain someone must know of and understand. But they choose to make it apolitical, anyway.

I wonder what thirty to three hundred thousand dollars a plate would do for the future of a few Muslim women escaping U.S. and international policies in their own countries. I wonder what it would do for women waving their fists in the air standing up against patriarchy, misogyny and corruption supported by the U.S. in their own countries. I wonder how thirty to three hundred thousand dollars might afford a better option than a rubber raft across oceans of the lacklustre ability to speak up, stand up and hold up human rights as far as a few Muslim women on rubber rafts on perilous journeys. I wonder how far thirty to three hundred thousand would go towards surviving that journey, providing food for a refugee camp, or supporting the brave Muslim women on the ground around the world fighting back against history in Benghazi, in Iraq, in Somalia, in Ethiopia, in Bangladesh, in Mexico and in Honduras. I know George; it’s easier to be the hero in ‘Syriana’, the film, than ‘Syriana’, the conflict of a generation. It’s easier to walk through a mirage of altruism devoid of the conditions than standing up for something when it actually, really counts.

I wonder, though, what the future of women in non-Muslim countries is like? In Seattle, Washington, Ingrid Lyne Renton was cut up and thrown in a recycle bin just a week ago. Is that not cause for revolution? Delta Meghwal was allegedly raped and murdered at her college; does this alone not call for a revolution? It’s happening all over the world. Australia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and yes, even in Justin Trudeau’s Canada. It is happening to aboriginal women, Black women, Dalit women, trans women, Muslim, Hindu, atheist and Roman Catholic women. Isn’t it time Clooney, to change the paradigm, to pitch in on the ground, where the grass shakes as brave women flee the policies of a culture that knows it’s wrong but does what it does anyway? Just hope the public, who knows it’s wrong and stands up, doesn’t exercise a new cultural consciousness at the box office the next time you release a film.

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  1. Nandini

    The truth spoken and spoken well. They bring the wars and then they sing and dance and even a shed a few tears. Their solutions as fake as them.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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