Remember the women

Today is Remembrance Day, the day that the regina mom learned was set aside to honour our war veterans, those who fought so we could have peace.  What no one mentioned during her upbringing was the hundreds of thousands of women who suffered as a result of gendered power during times of war.  No one taught her that rape is a weapon of war.

Warring groups use rape as a weapon because it destroys communities totally, says Major-General Patrick Cammaert, former commander of UN peacekeeping forces in the eastern Congo. “You destroy communities. You punish the men, and you punish the women, doing it in front of the men.” Adds Cammaert: “It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in armed conflict.”

Rape has been a dishonourable camp follower of war for as long as armies have marched into battle. In the 20th century, perceptions of rape in war have moved from something that is inevitable when men are deprived of female companionship for prolonged periods to an actual tactic in conflict. The lasting psychological harm that rape inflicts on its victims has also been recognized: Rape is always torture, says Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Yes, rape is always torture.  The Amnesty International report, LIVES BLOWN APART, explores some of the horrors experienced by women and girls in war-torn regions

In most of today’s wars, civilian casualties far outnumber those of armed combatants. Women and men both suffer human rights violations in conflicts, such as unlawful killings and torture. However, the particular ways in which women are targeted for violence, or are otherwise affected by armed conflict, are usually overlooked.

Women and girls are more likely to be the target of sexual violence, especially rape. Women face extra, sometimes insurmountable, obstacles to obtaining justice, because of the stigma attached to survivors of sexual violence, and women’s disadvantaged position in society. Whether civilians or combatants, refugees or displaced people, the impact of war weighs particularly heavily on women.

In this report, Amnesty International shows some of the ways in which conflict affects women, and the many different roles which women play in conflict. Women are not only victims and survivors, but also activists, negotiators, peace-builders and human rights defenders. Attempts to address the human rights consequences of conflict, including its particular effects on women, can only be comprehensive and long-lasting if women play an active part in rebuilding society at all levels.

Last month, more than 100 countries agreed  to endorse the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The declaration holds that sexualized violence in conflict is in direct violation of international humanitarian law (IHL) and declares that the perpetrators should be pursued and arrested no matter where they are in the world. The declaration also calls upon signatory member states to do more than raise awareness to the issue and to provide better support not only to the victims but to national and international efforts to prevent and respond to sexualized violence in conflict.

80 nations refused to sign the Declaration, including Burma/Myanmar.

The international community, eager to praise these reforms, has neglected to call Burma out on its sexualized violence problem, ignoring the ingrained culture of impunity that has allowed sexualized violence to flourish for decades. The military regime that came to power in a 1962 coup has used rape, particularly against women in the ethnic and border regions, as a way to quell opposition movements and retain control. A weapon of war, the practice is typically employed to keep communities compliant by sowing fear and humiliation and punishing and interrogating those who would support opposition groups. Sadly, the Burmese military junta’s campaign of widespread and systematic sexualized violence continues unabated today.

And, shortly after that, the Government of Canada spoke out about violence against women in times of war.  But, the government refuses to provide funding through its international development program to help women who survive the atrocity and find themselves pregnant as a result and seek to terminate the pregnancy.

Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch is blasting the “abhorrent” practices of rape as a weapon of war and the forced marriage of young children in the developing world.

But she’s defending Canada’s refusal to fund any aid projects that might help the victims of such barbaric practices obtain abortions.

Leitch, who was at the United Nations on Friday to celebrate the UN’s International Day of the Girl, told The Canadian Press that Canada needs to target its aid efforts and has chosen to focus on pre- and post-partum maternal and child health.

How much does the regina mom despise her country of origin right now?  As one who has experienced rape, survived it and come out the other side of it, even though it did not take place in a war zone or a time of war, you can bet it’s more than a little.  The multiple impacts of rape are horrendous, without war thrown into the mix.
AI notes that the consequences of sexual violence experienced by females include “serious and chronic medical problems, psychological damage, life threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS, forced pregnancy, infertility, and stigmatization and/or rejection by family members and communities.” Few victims of sexual violence have access to health care in their time of need.
We must do more to end the global war on women.

Child Poverty

the regina mom lives in Saskatchewan where the rate of child poverty among Indigenous children is at 55%!  Disgusting!

From bad to worse: visualizing child #poverty in Canada #cdnp... on Twitpic

 

Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan is apparently not so good for Indigenous Peoples, is it?

SWG’s Funding From #YQR Almost All Restored

the regina mom has been on retreat with a bunch of writers at her favourite monastery.  Yes, she knows it’s rather odd for a feminist to be hanging out with Catholic monks, but she finds their worship of the Virgin Mother to be very interesting…

 

Anywho, she has learned that the Saskatchewan Writers Guild has been granted special ‘transition funding’ amounting to 90 percent of what the City of Regina had provided before.  (Apparently, there are some readers on Council.)  Regardless what happens in the next go-round of grants, according to trm‘s source, the City of Regina Writing Award will be funded and may even be increased.   It’s been separated out from the ginormous pool of money being shared around amongst a bajillion cultural and social justice groups.

 

Well done, writers!  We can breathe a sigh of relief.  For now.

 

.

#YQR axes funding to Literary orgs

It appears to the regina mom that the City of Regina would rather fill that new pie in the sky, outrageously overpriced, not yet built football stadium with ticket-buyers than fund events for writers in the Queen City.  The Vertigo Series, Coteau Books and the Saskatchewan Writers Guild will receive nothing, as it stands. From the member newsletter, eBriefs:

SWG NEWS

City of Regina Slashes Literary Funding

For many years the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild has successfully applied to the City of Regina for about $24,000 annually to assist with literary programming in Regina. This year, our funding request was denied in its entirety.

SWG is one of at least three literary organizations denied funding by the City of Regina grant program. Coteau Books and the Vertigo Reading Series have also been cut. The rationale provided for the cuts is that the SWG application “scored low in the area of community need.” We have been advised that SWG also scored low in the area of “financial need.”

Meanwhile, performance, film and music organizations that run festivals generating ticket sales have received more funding than in previous years.

The Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild has a rich history of literary programming in Regina, some of which we have provided for over thirty years. We offer a wide array of free programming to writers and the public, raise literary awareness, raise writers’ profiles, and enrich the lives of hundreds of people, including key identified targets of youth and Aboriginal constituents.

A new application process that groups all disciplines and former community grants into one is partly responsible for the cuts. The literary arts and the community will suffer heavily in Regina this coming year.

As a result of these cuts, beginning August 1st or earlier, the following Guild programs will be affected and/or suspended:

·         City of Regina Writing Award (sponsored by the City for 32 years)

·         Words in the Park (3 years)

·         Writer-in-Residence at a Regina school (10+ years)

·         First Nations Reading series (5+ years)

·         Signature Reading series (15+ years in various editions)

·         Aboriginal Storytelling Month (2 years)

·         Aboriginal History Day/Month (4 Years)

·         Talking Fresh (11 years)

·         Regina Workshops (25+ years)

·         Apprentice Readings (15+ years)

·         Windscript Launch (4 years)

·         Playwrights Reading series (5+ years)

·         Historic Walking Tours (4 years)

Guild staff will be meeting with the City Community Consultant responsible for the grant programs on Tuesday next week to see if there are any options for alternate funding. We will inform you of the results shortly thereafter.

We encourage you to contact Regina City Council to voice your concerns about literary arts being cut from cultural funding, and to raise their awareness that the literary community is strong and viable, and this programming serves an important community need. You may email Regina City Councillors and/or Mayor Michael Fougere at the following link:

http://www.regina.ca/site/contact/contact-your-city-councillor/

trm has already let her Councillor, Shawn Fraser, know about this abomination.  He’s a good guy and has not heard about it but is looking into it.  However, it would be very useful for people “from away” to chime in and let Mayor Fougere know how they feel about the big #YQR #fail!

Notes from #CNFC2013 Part 3

Carrying on in the series of Notes from #CNFC2013 Part 1 and Part 2, here is Part 3, the final piece from the session, “Ownership: Stories and Lies,” with Kate Braid and Tyler Trafford, moderated by Myrna Kostash at the 2013 Creative NonFiction Collective’s annual conference in Banff.

the regina mom struggles with how to describe Tyler Trafford.  He is not your average writer.  And his story is not your average story. He explained that at a young age he became enthralled with the classic hero’s journey, thanks to his mom’s reading of great literature such as The Old Man and the Sea.  It became his way of understanding the world.

And then he went on to talk about lies.  He said, “Lies help you feel the truth, help you express the truth for other people.”  And he took it further, to show how Kate Braid had used a lie in her book, Journeywoman.  She uses an extended moment, a psychological reality, to detail a fall, taking time to notice all around her as it happened.  He named that as a lie because, in fact, the fall would take only 1/8th of a second — and he provided the math for it, too!  It’s a necessary lie, one that is fundamental to the truth of the story.

In his book, Almost A Great Escape, Trafford tells his mother’s story, a story he had to unravel after her death.

 

He  uncovered her lie  —  what she had kept hidden  —  all her life.  It’s an amazing story and another book on trm‘s To Read list.  And it’s an interesting concept, this lying bit.  Poets and fiction writers are expected to tell lies in their work.  But to suggest that creative nonfiction writers also do so seems to go against the grain of what nonfiction is about.  But his examples — in Braid’s work and in his own — harken back to what Kostash spoke of in her opening remarks to this session, that bit about the anxiety in society about nonfiction.

What lies will the regina mom tell in order to make her nonfiction stories true?  She knows how to do it in poetry and fiction, but to transfer that to nonfiction is an interesting concept, to say the least!  Perhaps they’re already there, lying in wait (pun not intended), for her to discover.  Oh, her editing process is going to be a lot more fun now, that’s for sure!

 

Notes from #CNFC2013 Part 2

Further to the regina mom‘s Notes from #CNFC2013 Part 1 here is part 2, detailing the session, “Ownership: Stories and Lies,” with Kate Braid and Tyler Trafford, moderated by Myrna Kostash at the 2013 Creative NonFiction Collective’s annual conference in Banff.

 

trm knew of Kate Braid’s work as a poet, having been introduced to her Georgia O’Keefe poems at the Sage Hill Writing Experience more than a decade ago.  She did not know that Kate Braid was also a nonfiction writer and so listened intently during the presentation about her latest nonfiction work, Journeywoman: Swinging a Hammer in a Man’s Worldtrm knows women who work in trades and technologies.  In fact, when she first became active in the women’s movement, she met many women involved in Saskatchewan Women In Trades and Technologies (SaskWITT), women who, like her, were part of the women’s coalition that came about during the end of the Devine years.

 

But back to Braid, who said that memoir writing is not the same as autobiography.  Rather, it tells part of a life.  She said she struggled with finding the stories that mattered and added to it as she went along.  Wisely, she had kept a detailed journal and was able to reference her notes.  Her first draft took more than 25 years to write and was over 1,200 pages!  Eventually, it was carved to a book, thanks to her editor who was able to see the narrative.

 

She said her intent was to be emotionally honest about her experience in the construction trade, about that time in her life, and found that the tense she chose to use, present tense, afforded her the best means of doing so.  The past tense tended to pull her away from the story.  She also said that a memoir’s success depends on the author showing what s/he has learned and referenced Myrna’s opening remarks about memory being like a computer.  “Memory is a backseat driver who wants control,” she said.  Truthtellers, of both emotional and literal truth, she added, are essential to credibility.

 

Her advice, which comes from Beat poet, Allen Ginsberg, is what the regina mom tries to do, that is to “write as though no one is ever going to read this.”  Easier said than done, but doable.  Still, Braid knew people would read her book and so she changed some people’s names to protect them.  She asked herself if names were essential to the story and, in instances where they were, she sent out chapters to those named and sought their feedback.  trm is thinking she may well have to do that with her Sask women’s movement essay, presuming it ever gets written, that is.

 

Braid spoke about her fear and how it stopped her from writing over and over again.  At one point she was paralyzed for years and it got even worse after she submitted the manuscript to her publisher!  But once she was able to figure out who she was writing the book for, the tradeswomen who went through what she went through, it was easier.  She decided she was providing a baseline of what it was like to be a woman working in the trades.  She knew the book wanted to be written, knew it had to be written.  She wrote various versions of it — scholarly, lighthearted, for example — and finally got it written.

 

trm can’t help but wonder about the women who, when she worked at the YWCA, were apprenticing in the trades and remodeling various locations in the building.  How many of them faced ridicule and insult once they completed their training?  How many even completed the training?  Certainly, working as part of an all-women crew would be very different from working as the only woman on a construction crew!  And trm bets they’d love to hear Braid read from her book, so she’s going to do what she can to get Kate Braid to Saskatchewan for a reading in the near future.

 

Notes from #CNFC2013 Part 1

Further to a previous post about the Creative NonFiction Collective’s annual conference in Banff, the regina mom offers the following notes from Myrna Kostash’s opening words to the session, “Ownership: Stories and Lies,” with Kate Braid and Tyler Trafford.

Myrna began the session talking about nonfiction and memory.  “What is a memory?” she asked.  There’s been a lot of work done around memory and she suggested that each time you think about a memory, the memory changes.  “How many iterations of it are there?” she asked.  She compared memory to a computer file that is opened, changed and saved back onto the computer hard-drive, making a case for false memories.

This fits entirely with what trm has been thinking as she works on her Wolverine Creek essay.  Each of her visits to St. Peter’s Abbey, where she fell in love with the creek and began the essay, have morphed into one big long hodgepodge of memory.  She has become entirely reliant on other sources, including the memories of others which, she now understands, can be as unreliable as her own!  So, she’s looking forward to The Art of Memory with Seán Virgo taking place at St. Peter’s College this summer.

Kostash went on to speak about the “anxiety” that society has about nonfiction.  That’s a whole new think for trm! This essay helped her get her head around it and was a useful read when trying to understand something else Kostash said, almost in passing.   “Every journalist knows that what he [sic] does is morally indefensible.”  It’s a disputed quote, but it got trm thinking about another essay she’s trying to write, one about the Saskatchewan women’s movement 1985 to the present.  She has much to say, much to work though, but it feels too much like venting, too much of what a good essay should not be.  But now that she thinks about it it might be the route through to completing that first draft!

So that was the first ten minutes of the session. More to come!

A brief overview of CNFC 2013

the regina mom lives in interesting times.  Sometimes she feels very blessed by that.  At other times, not so much! This is her feel-good post.  She’s finished an amazing residency at the Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre, is working in her new role as Co-chair to bring forth the 2013 version of the Cathedral Village Arts Festival  and is busy with more than a couple writing projects.

And, trm had the great pleasure of attending the Creative NonFiction Collective’s Annual Conference at the amazing Banff Centre this past weekend. *  Not knowing many people in the organization, she’s been a bit nervous about going.  But the confidence the residency delivered and knowing  that writer-friends, Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail and Myrna Kostash, would be there helped her decide to go.  What a great decision!

At the Meet’n’Greet, she met the aforementioned friends as well as another, Lorri Neilsen Glenn, whom she’d befriended at the Sage Hill Writing Experience more than a decade ago, and laid the foundation to build others over the weekend.  She was very moved by the Member Readings that evening and wished she hadn’t been so tired from her early morning travels to enjoy them more, as well as to participate, herself.

Then, on Saturday morning, the regina mom felt her cylinders beginning to charge first, when Myrna spoke about memory.  “How many iterations of it are there?” she asked and then compared it to a computer file that is opened, altered and closed again, creating a possible false memories.  And then, while Kate Braid spoke about her book,  Journeywoman: Swinging A Hammer In A Man’s World, the energies really hit hard!

It was only the beginning because still to come was Tyler Trafford talking about lies in nonfiction and how they serve to deliver Truth, the plenary on the current status of digital publishing with former Saskatchewanian, Steven Ross Smith, literary agent, Don Sedgwick, and web editor, Allison McNeely, and the Master Class on organizing research, with Lynne Bowen followed by Karen Connelly‘s inspiring keynote address.  the regina mom had not anticipated that address as being one that would get her political attention but when the word “totalitarianism” was followed by an explanation of the Harper government’s attack on Library and Archives Canada, she pulled out her notebook and started paying close attention.

Saturday night’s celebration of the Reader’s Choice Award featured readings from nominated works by the nominators and not the nominees, so that was particularly interesting.  And Sunday morning saw CNFC members gather for their Annual General Meeting to talk about the business of the organization, including a probable website re-do and next year’s 10th Anniversary conference, to be held in Calgary.  the regina mom will see you there!

_____

* more to come

That’s done!

A month can zip right by when one is engaged in community and writing!  As of Saturday, the regina mom completed the in-person requirements as writer-in-residence at the Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre.  A great Regina Beach and area crowd turned out to the launch of TALES FROM THE LAKE so if you’re interested watch for more about that over at This hot place.

Over the month, a couple of young friends I worked with on the Ryan Meili campaign have given birth and, thanks to a Facebook conversation about diapers, the regina mom remembered this poem, posted here in honour of the new babies, Thomas and Sasha.

Clothesline chat

    for June

She is not ashamed to hang
her toddler's diapers on the line, even
though neighbouring lines boast
like‑aged children are potty‑trained.

She smiles to the other mothers
shakes and clips moist white flags
to the wire despite decades old decrees 
children be free from diapers at precisely age two.

She visits another mother, helps 
move a table to the basement where 
on a wooden clothes rack 
diapers drip dry.

c. Bernadette Wagner

(And posted with gratitude that the times have changed.)

the regina mom has writing news!!!

the regina mom is very happy to report that she’s been selected to serve a one month term as a writer-in-residence!  Check it out!

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