it all started with survival

February 1, 2009 § 4 Comments

it kind of all started when the progressive organization i was working with, christian peacemaker teams told me that i could no longer work with them full time because i was going to be a mother.  that if i did work with them part time my healthcare and other benefits would be dropped.

i started to miscarry a couple of days later.

a couple of weeks after that i put in my resignation.

i realized that the reason that i was not of high value as a global activist worker when i chose to become a mother was because in the communities in which we worked, the mothers, especially the mothers of young children were not considered to be very important by global activists.

even though  in that organization, we had claimed to solidarity organizing, stand with the oppressed, and accompaniment of communities under the threat of violence, we focused primarily on the work and leadership of men in the community.  now, most of the local men with whom we worked were fathers of multiple children, often young children.  we barely looked at the leadership of women in the community, not to mention mothers, not to mention mothers of young children.  the assumption was that those mothers would be too busy to deal with issues ‘outside of the home’.  as if the war zone was in the streets, didnt cross the threshold, as if ‘womens work’, the work of caretaking, sustaining lives and community, were less threatened by violence and war than ‘mens work’ and mens lives.

before i got pregnant i was trying to focus on community women, but got the message continuously that this focus was a side project.  something to look at when there wasnt real community organizing work happening.

shortly after my miscarriage, i traveled to eastern congo to do research on the war there.  and el compa and i focused our research on congolese women’s experiences.  on rape survivors.  on daughters voices.  on mother leaders.  all we had to do was scratch the surface of patriarchy, insist that there must women leaders and we would like to talk to them…and i met some of the most amazing women doing some of the most edgy work to re-build community for themselves, their families, their children.

i know it is a cliche to write, but our month in the eastern congo changed my life.

in our activist work we often center the experiences of men.  of male prisoners.  of male casualties and survivors of violence.  we celebrate male martyrs and we support male community leaders.  and when we think of mothers organizing our imaginations tell us that the only things they organize are the dishes and laundry.  bedtimes and breakfast.

but in communities globally, and the more that these communities are under the threat of violence, women, mothers and daughters, must emerge as leaders in the community in order for the community to survive.

and we as media makers, as community organizers, as activists, as cultural workers must actively support community women’s leadership, these revolutionary mamas if we are to support the survival of communities.

a couple of years ago when i was working as a broadcast journalist in the west bank i found myself in one of those fucking conversations that make me want throw heavy objects at not-so-innocent boys.  canadian super boy give a long and superficial lecture to our palestinian co-worker about what is ‘real news’.  ‘just the facts’.  just the number and names of those killed in the conflict.  and if that means that 95 percent of our news focuses on men…well, that is just the way it is.  that isnt sexism.  just some lives are more important than others.  just some forms of violence are more important than others.  and if we change the way that we share stories about the occupation then we as a news agency wont be taken ‘seriously’.


it really didnt start with my pregnancy.  or miscarriage.  it started long before that.  when we decided/accepted that caretaking is not central to communities resisting violence.  when we decided that shooting ourselves in the leg was better than learning how to stand together.

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§ 4 Responses to it all started with survival

  • joyfullysubversive says:

    Maia, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know they said that to you. I wish I’d been able to hang out with you before you left (I was really sick and having pain flare-ups), we should compare notes sometime.

    I love reading your blog.


    Amy K.

  • Derek says:

    I wonder if their Christian belief system had something to do with this. Sadly, there’s been incredible sexism in most monotheistic religions since their inception.


  • K says:

    Thanks for your message. I have been in Colombia for 6 years, given my all to the good fight and now that I am focusing some of my fighting energy on our baby that is on the way… my work is questioned. Human rights orgs often seem to forget that we are human as well. That women´s rights, reproductive rights, etc should be embraced.
    Once again, thanks for you reflection.

  • mama says:

    thanks for your comments. i do think that there is alot of sexism (internalized and externalized)– there is also the idea that serious human rights work cannot be done by people who believe in caretaking…alot of machismo and individualism…
    @amy we definitely need to compare notes…i think there is some real work to be done in terms of accountability for human rights organization and their workers…
    @derek…god monotheism and sexism is like a ball and chain…
    @k and the strange thing is to work in cultures where children are so highly valued and the hr org’s that work there are so anti-child…and anti-mother…

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