Category Archives

Freedom from Violence

What will it take for Women to Come Together to End Oppression and Patriarchy?

  • February 22, 2021
  • Lis Williams

Our February Film Festival concludes this Wednesday, February 24th @ 7:00 p.m. CST.  Our screening this week is... Continue Reading

Our February Film Festival concludes this Wednesday, February 24th @ 7:00 p.m. CST.  Our screening this week is “Rising Power:  Building an intersectional justice movement in the United States.”  

In an increasingly polarized and racially segregated United States, we see the impact of patriarchy through the eyes of Black and Southeast Asian activists living in Madison, Wisconsin. Against a backdrop of anti-Blackness, violence against women, and increasing social and political polarization, we meet M Adams and Kabzuag Vaj, community organizers and co-directors of Freedom, Inc.

What began as a sexual assault support group has grown into a community organization at the forefront of battles over education reform, police brutality, land access and ownership, women’s safety and security, and mental health. In this Fundamental episode, Kabzuag says “Freedom, Inc. exists because there were no organizations serving women like me.”

With Freedom, Inc. Kabzuag and M have cultivated a movement that invites women of color—in particular, Black, Hmong, and Khmer women, girls, queer, and trans people—to tie their own rights to one another. Freedom, Inc. works to equip the communities they serve with the tools and resources they need to uproot our broken system and ultimately build a roadmap toward shared liberation.


Most Americans say it’s now more common for people to express racist or racially insensitive views. Additionally, 2019 saw the most deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming people in the U.S. due to fatal violence, the majority of whom were Black transgender women.

In this Fundamental episode, we learn about grassroots movements led by women and gender non-conforming people of color who confront oppression and patriarchy in the U.S. It highlights the ways people from different backgrounds experience discrimination and focuses our attention on the importance of not placing issues in silos, but instead recognizing how systems of oppression intersect and overlap.

Movements addressing one form of oppression must take others into account. For example, efforts to fight racism must include addressing homophobia, classism, and anti-Semitism, and work to eliminate gender disparities must acknowledge how women of color experience inequality and prejudice differently from white women.

INTERSECTIONALITY: The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. The term “intersectionality” was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a civil rights activist and legal scholar.

Nothing changes if we don’t talk about it.  

Be bold.  Be Daring.  Be AWE-dacious!

How do we prevent children from having children?

  • February 15, 2021
  • Lis Williams

How many of you think it’s a good thing that girls as young as 10 years old are... Continue Reading

How many of you think it’s a good thing that girls as young as 10 years old are getting pregnant?  I think I know the answer.

Our February Film Festival continues with “Girls at the Heart of It:  Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Kenya.”  

In Kenya, anti-rights movements are blocking access to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) for girls and young peoplea critical barrier to girls and young women realizing their full potential.

In this episode, we meet Purity Kagwiria, Executive Director of Akili Dada, an organization that provides education and leadership training to high school- and college-aged girls and young women. We also meet Mary Adhiambo, a young leader and sexual assault survivor in her early twenties who is taking her new organizing skills to the streets, and Mary Anyango, a high school student who is sharing what she’s learned about sexuality and leadership in her own community.

Across Kenya, young people and especially teenage girls are denied CSE and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. According to a 2017 United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report, more than 390,000 10- to 19-year-olds became pregnant in Kenya between July 2016 and June 2017.

Patriarchy and religious and social conservatism are exacerbating the issue: teenage pregnancy is high, along with maternal mortality rates and rates of unsafe abortion. Pregnancy—often a result of a lack of comprehensive sexuality education—is one of the main reasons that girls drop out of school. For girls in Kenya, misinformation on sexuality and gender is coming from many different places: religious leaders, individuals with deep cultural and traditional beliefs, media and news sources, social media, or teachers without the skills or training to develop CSE.

But teenage girls and young women in Kenya are change-makers and leaders. Many of them are advocating for comprehensive sexuality education, educating their peers on their bodies and rights, and working for laws and policies that advance sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is about more than just reproductive health, pregnancy, and sex. A truly comprehensive sexuality education program includes positive, scientific, and nonjudgmental information about so much more, including gender roles and power relations, bodily autonomy, consent, and gender identity (among other important topics).

CSE is an incredibly effective tool to empower girls. A 2019 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report outlines why comprehensive sexuality education is crucial: it leads to improved health; contributes to gender equality; enables young women to understand basic facts about their bodies; encourages young people to think about families and social relationships, and recognize inappropriate behavior; and helps prepare women for healthy, consensual, and pleasurable relationships.

However, CSE is rare, and even basic information about sexual health can be lacking in many places. For example, 48% of girls in the Islamic Republic of Iran believe menstruation is a disease. Likewise, 51% of girls in Afghanistan and 82% in Malawi were unaware of menstruation before they first experienced it.

In the United States, CSE programming varies widely across the country. Currently, just 29 states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia mandate sexuality education, and 39 states mandate HIV education. Although almost every state has some guidance on how and when sexuality education should be taught, decisions are often left up to individual school districts.

Nothing changes if we don’t talk about it.  Join us!

Be bold.  Be Daring.  Be AWE-dacious!

Have You Ever Felt Out of Place or Unwelcome?

  • February 8, 2021
  • Lis Williams

Have you ever felt out of place or unwelcome? Sadly, this is a daily experience for members of... Continue Reading

Have you ever felt out of place or unwelcome?

Sadly, this is a daily experience for members of the LGBTQI community.  And for many, it’s worse.  They live in fear.

LGBTQI+ discrimination is rampant around the globe. As of March 2019, there are 70 United Nations Member States (35%) that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts, with imprisonment as the most common penalty. Indeed, in 37% of these countries, consensual same-sex acts can be punished by life imprisonment. In six countries, a person can receive the death penalty for being found “guilty” of consensual same-sex sexual acts, with three in Asia (Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen) and three in Africa (Nigeria, Sudan, and Somalia).

In 30 states in the United States, LGBTQI+ people are at risk of being fired, refused housing, or denied social services simply because of identifying as LGBTQI+.

Our February Film Festival continues tomorrow, February 10th, at 7:00 p.m. CST as we feature “Living Out Loud:  LGBTQI rights in Georgia.”

In this episode, we meet feminist activist Ekaterine Aghdgomelashvili, a trailblazer for LGBTQI+ rights in Georgia and co-founder of Women’s Initiative Supporting Group (WISG). Eka and the other leaders at WISG focus their work on empowering women and LGBTQI+ people in Georgia and working to advance their rights through political participation, economic empowerment, and cultural exchange.

We also meet Eka T., an aspiring young artist and fellow community activist, in the tense days leading up to a rally for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). Through the eyes of Eka A., Eka T., and others, we see how anti-rights and anti-gender movements are endangering the lives of LGBTQI+ people and seeking to rollback rights gained by the gender justice movement in Georgia.

A 2018 study on hate crimes and discrimination in Georgia found that the majority of Georgians generally think it’s important to protect the rights of minorities—with the exception of LGBTQI+ people.

While officially a secular country, church and state are far from separate in Georgia. LGBTQI+ people in Georgia are the targets of violence and state-sanctioned oppression because of the undue influence of the Georgian Orthodox Church on social and political life in the country. Anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric, led by religious and political leaders, has resulted in homophobic and transphobic violence, discrimination, hate crimes, and murders throughout the country, as well as state-ordered threats against LGBTQI+ individuals and activists. At the same time, LGBTQI+ and feminist movements in Georgia have made gains and have grown stronger over the years.

Don’t miss this eye-opening documentary and discussion.  You are needed and Now is our time!

Be bold.  Be Daring.  Be AWE-dacious!!

P.S.  We will be hosting the Fundamental film series on Wednesdays in February.  It is a joint production from Academy Award-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and the non-profit Global Fund for Women. At a time of unprecedented political uprisings around the globe, Fundamental introduces global audiences to grassroots movements and community leaders who are standing up for our fundamental human rights and working to hold governments accountable for healthier and more just societies for all.

What’s the legal age of marriage where you live?

  • February 4, 2021
  • Lis Williams

What’s the legal age of marriage where you live?  Have you ever considered that question?  In most states in... Continue Reading

What’s the legal age of marriage where you live?  Have you ever considered that question?  

In most states in the U.S. it’s eighteen.  However, in many states it’s legal to get married if you’re younger than eighteen and your parents consent.  For example, with parental consent a girl can be married in…

Massachusetts at twelve!
New Hampshire at thirteen!
Mississippi at fifteen!


Almost every other state in the nation permits children to be married at the age of sixteen if their parent consents.

What century are we living in???

How many of you would like to see your daughter or son married at sixteen? Like they don’t have enough challenges just navigating the teen years.

Although in the United States child marriage is less common, sadly, in many parts of the world it’s accepted as normal.  And in most cases the child being married off has no say in the matter.  Anyone else think it’s time to change that?

You won’t want to miss the kick-off of our February Film Festival tomorrow at Noon CST with our first screening entitled, “Rights Not Roses:  Ending child, early, and forced marriage in Pakistan.

In this episode we meet Rukhshanda Naz, a dynamic human rights attorney and passionate advocate for ending child, early, and forced marriage. Rukhshanda shares how growing up with a mother who experienced early marriage and an elder sister who was forced to marry early informed her own experiences and continues to fuel her activism and professional life today. Rukhshanda and other activists in Pakistan are working together to challenge longstanding cultural norms, push back against religious fundamentalists, and end child, early, and forced marriage in Pakistan.

We also meet Zarmina, who experienced early marriage and safely escaped with support from Noor Education Trust, a grassroots organization that runs shelters for girls while providing legal, medical, and psychosocial services; workshops on gender-based violence and women’s rights; educational classes; and more. Zarmina’s parents arranged for her marriage at age 13 to an older man. He then physically abused her, until her parents discovered the abuse and helped remove her from the marriage.


Child, early, and forced marriage is a truly global problem that cuts across countries, cultures, religions, and ethnicities. Girls experience early marriage in every region in the world, from the Middle East to Latin America, South Asia to the US. One in five girls in the world are said to be married before 18. Over 650 million women alive today were married as children.

Child, early, and forced marriage robs girls of their freedom, education, and dreams and is a deeply entrenched practice due in part to the combination of religious fundamentalism, patriarchy, and cultural and traditional practices. There is a growing awareness among researchers and activists that control of adolescent girls’ sexuality is a driving force behind child, early, and forced marriage and unions. Controlling women’s and girls’ life choices is how the system of patriarchy is sustained.

Don’t miss this eye-opening documentary and discussion.  You are needed and Now is our time!

Be bold.  Be Daring.  Be AWE-dacious!!

P.S.  We will be hosting the Fundamental film series on Wednesdays in February.  It is a joint production from Academy Award-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and the non-profit Global Fund for Women. At a time of unprecedented political uprisings around the globe, Fundamental introduces global audiences to grassroots movements and community leaders who are standing up for our fundamental human rights and working to hold governments accountable for healthier and more just societies for all.