Saturday, November 21, 2009

Voices from the Past

As I continue to organize and declutter my files on South Africa I have pulled the file labeled, "correspondence." This is a file that documents my contacts. While it is dated there are actual letters that I have saved.

Below are two, one from Sharon Pratt at the Family Marriage Society of South Africa and Jane Keen at the Women's Support Centre. My basic philosophy is to be very intentional in sharing research findings with informants as a courtesy. I am all too aware of folks that obtain degrees as a result of individuals and never even bother to share their final papers etc.

The final letter is from the Rev. Bob Steyn, minister at the Unitarian Church in Cape Town and dated January 8, 1994. He has since died and so the letter has sentimental value since he was so kind to me.

Dear Qiyamah: This is just a short note to express our deepest gratitude for your excellent presentaion at our In-service Training Programme on Thursday 22 September 1994. The staff were both challenged and encouraged to continue to work in this very difficult area of domestic violence. We wishyou every success for the future and hope that somehow we will be able to maintain the contact. Best regards, Yours sincerely, S. Pratt (Mrs.) Manager of the Domestic Violence Team at Family Marriage Society of South Africa. Cape Town Office

Another letter from Jane Keen, Coordinator of the South African National Institute for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of Offenders (NICRO) reads as follows:

17th January 1995
Dear Qiyamah, Thankyu so much for your letter which arrived today. It is lovely to get feedback and see that things are going so well for you. I am glad your visit was such a positive experience for you. We certainly enjoyed it and hope that you will maintain contact.

Thins are beginning to get going here at the satart of the new year but staff wise we are a little depleted. Debbie has gone back to Canada (as expected) and Penny has moved to Rape Crisis (their gain and our loss). Politically things continue to move int he right direction, albeit slowly, and ther is more of an openness to deal with domestic violence.

All the best for '95 - in your new job, your studies and your lecturing! Please keep in touch. With best wishes from all of us at the centre, Jane Keen, Coordinator: NICRO Women's Support Centre.

Dear Ms. Rahman: Forgive the delay in replying to your letter aboutr coming to South Africa. Life has been fairly hectic. I am not sure of the urgency because you do not say when in August you want to come to SA. Tony Baker has sent me a copy of his letter to you. Eric Heller-Wagner has not had your letteer because his address has changed. I have filled him in and he has a possible suggesgtion which I shall include below.

The YWCA Hostel int he City Bowl area could put you up after mid August. They are fully booked until August 12, but have vacancies after that. The cost is R55 a day for dinner, bed and breakfast. Thi is very reasonable in local terms. The accommodations and the the food are good. Eric Heller-Wagner says a woman colleague of his in the Department of Sociology at the University of the Western Cape, a predominantly black university where Eric is teaching now, hs been trying to find a woman to share her house. He does not know how far she has got. He will let me know. That is all I can come up with at this time.

I have vivid memories of Atlanta. I had a brief spell at the Atlanta Gazette during the Civil Rights campaigns in 1963 as part of my Nieman Fellowship programme. My wife, Marie, and I shared with close American friends and colleagues their shock and grief when John Kennedy was assassinated and felt ourselves very close to them.

I have discussed your research plans briefly with Eric who says he will be happy to help you with suggestions and advice as far as he can.

Please let me know if I can be of further help. Our telephone number is 21-461-1410. You would have to add the 0 and the international code at the beginning when you dial. We do not have a fax machine but we do have an ansering machine. We look forward to meeting you.

Bless you and take care, Bob Steyn

Failed Attempt to Return to South Africa

I researched and wrote a proposal to the Fulbright Institute as a way to return to South Africa in 2007. My focus at that time was to integrate gender studies and religious studies through some basic courses like women and religion and violence against women and the faith community. The proposal was not successful. I submitted applications in 2006 and 2007. The format below is Fulbright's:

While I have no regrets I still very much would like the opportunity to return. As a minister with a focus on interfaith social justice issues I would be interested in exploring how the vareious faith communities work together to address the issue of violence against women and what that looks like.

State of Proposed Research
Qiyamah A. Rahman, South Africa – Women’s Studies and Religious Studies
New Directions in Gender /Women Studies and Religious Studies: Interdisciplinary Curricula Development Utilizing African Feminist Pedagogy in Historically Black Universities in South African

Introduction - Entering the twenty-first century with the weakest higher education system in the world will surely not bode well for Africans in the global knowledge economy. Despite these overwhelming challenges, African Higher Education (AHE) in South Africa is in the midst of some exciting initiatives.
I was born in 1948, the year that apartheid came to power and so I have grown up with, watched, worked for, prayed for and witnessed the dismantling of apartheid. Forty-six years later, I was in South Africa in 1994 conducting research on violence against women when they held their first democratic elections. This research project is my personal contribution to the new South Africa.

Description - New Directions in Gender /Women Studies and Religious Studies Programs: Interdisciplinary Curricula Development Utilizing African Feminist Pedagogy in Historically Black Institutions in South African is a one year project designed to develop interdisciplinary curricula utilizing African feminist pedagogy. African feminist pedagogy approaches learning as a liberatory process and the classroom as a site of resistance. It is a revolutionary process of teaching and learning that is counter hegemonic and emphasizes critical thinking and awareness
The gender/women’s studies and religious studies in South Africa, specifically Historically Black Universities (HBU’s), often tend to comprise separate and distinct disciplines. However, Historically White Universities (HWU’s), in particular, The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Religious Studies Department has recently launched a Project titled, “Religion in a Globalizing World” that includes gender studies, human rights, globalization and post-colonialism. Additionally, the African Gender Institute at the UCT obtained Ford Foundation funding to support a programme of intense capacity building with African-based researchers focused on gender, sexuality and politics. A distinctive strength of the proposed research project is to further development of multidisciplinary expertise in gender/women’s studies and religious studies at HBU’s. The lack of an interdisciplinary approach poses a unique opportunity to initiate and encourage collaborative efforts. Ultimately, the globalization of knowledge dictates that universities be able to reconfigure their educational and research efforts based on forming interdisciplinary teams of scholars. Furthermore, the gender/women’s studies focus of South Africa’s Higher Education’s production of knowledge has primarily addressed access, participation and gender equality in educational leadership, but has failed to sufficiently consider and generate research on gender/women’s studies curriculum and pedagogical strategies. Hence, this research project generates needed research on both gender studies curriculum and on pedagogical strategies. Preliminary research suggests that religious studies at HBU’s have not for the most part made adequate room for gender analysis. Thus, this research will foster collaboration between gender/women’s studies and religious studies to develop an interdisciplinary approach which will expand opportunities for faculty and students.

Implementation - Phase I begins with an assessment at the University of Cape Town’s Religious Studies Department and the African Gender Institute to determine how these departments have evolved over time and what was required to do so. The University of Cape Town appears to have both a strong and well funded Gender/Women’s Studies Department and Religious Studies Department that potentially can provide direction for HBU’s as they consider and conceptualize interdisciplinary approaches within their unique frameworks. There is the potential for partnership and cross-fertilization between HBU’s and HWU’s to promote interdisciplinary gender/women’s studies and religious studies courses that ultimately represent a viable partnership between resource rich institutions and those with fewer resources.
Phase II – Upon completion of the assessments I will review the data and develop a survey instrument to be administered to staff, faculty and selected members of the student body at designated HBU’s. The intent is to gather information pertaining to the culture of the programs, including structure and curriculum, mission statements, and the feasibility of creating two or three interdisciplinary courses. Additionally, the data will identify what level of professional development currently exists for instructors and if there is a need for increased exposure to curriculum development, teaching pedagogy and methodology. Also, compiling syllabi from various institutions will determine what, if any, interdisciplinary courses currently exist. Some preliminary investigation has already identified two courses that appear to be commonly taught in GWS: “Women and Religion” and “ Violence Against Women.”
Phase III, identifies an HBU as a test site for an interdisciplinary course between gender/women’s studies and religious studies. Further, course curricula for the top two to three courses identified by the feasibility study will be developed and one course selected as a team taught with a South African co-hort at an HBU.
Phase IV is dependent upon future funding generated to convene a 3-5 day “teaching clinic” with the teaching staff of the HBUs. Workshops on some of the following topics are proposed: Integrating and teaching Gender/Women’ Studies and Religious Studies (RS); Overview of Gender/Women’s Studies and RS resources; the use of African Feminist Pedagogy for GWS and RS; Updates and Developments in Curriculum Development for GWS and RS; Forming Partnerships and Identifying Research and Teaching Grants to Strengthen Learning at HBUs in GWS and RS and Available on-line resources and How to Access them.

Contacts - In preparation for this research project I have contacted the University of Cape Town, Historically Black Universities, the University of South Africa, African American Institute (South African Office); The Council on Higher Education and SisterLove, Inc.

Bringing It Home: Domestic Violence as a Human Rights Issue

(This "mother and child" statute are located inside Holy Cross Church in Back of the Yards in Chicago, IL where Father Bruce Wellums serves. The generic images of women as loving mother and fierce protector while positive can be highjacked to promote militarism and encouragement of patriotic zeal during times of conflict and war.)

Bringing It Home: Domestic Violence as a Human Rights Issue
By Rev. Dr. Qiyamah A. Rahman
DV is an important issue facing women and children in this country
as well as an important human rights issue. Today, in our global village, hundreds of thousands of women and children experience violations of their right to live with respect and dignity and free from fear. No one at home or abroad deserves to be hit, beaten, threatened, humiliated, or otherwise subjected to physical or emotional harm. Articles 1, 3, 5, 12 and 28 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948 describe some of the rights to which we are all entitled, rights which are often denied in a battering relationship. Article 1 states, “all human beings are born fee and equal in dignity and rights, Article 3 states, “Everyone has a right to life, liberty and security of persons”; Article 5 reads, “No one shall be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;” Article 12 states, “No ones hall be subjected to arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. Article 28 reads, “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”
The global movement for human rights and democracy has had a
profound effect on citizens around the world. International human rights standards are based on the principle of universality, that is, that human rights standards apply equally to all persons and all nations.
Recognition of violence against women as a human rights issue places power in women’s hands, puts responsibilities on governments and international bodies, and takes excuses and power away from those committing the abuse. Women can now say that they have a right to freedom form violence, and now their words are more likely to spur government action. Governments are obligated to respond to women’s demands to be free from violence, to take steps to prevent violence, and to adopt measures to punish perpetrators when women’s human rights are violated. Neither the state nor the batterers can argue anymore that it is “just a private matter.” By seeing the problem as one of human rights, the world community has flatly rejected this argument. The UN and its components andother regional and international bodies are also obligated to treat violence agains women seriously and as a human rights issue. Women activists worked for decades to achieve international recognition of violence against women as a human rights issue. When the UN first began addressing the problem, neither “women” nor “human rights” were mentioned. Instead, the UN talked only in terms of “domestic violence” and “violence in the family.” Guess where the education, the coalition building and advocacy and pressure came from to change this? If you guessed women’s groups you guessed right.
The first major breakthrough was in 1992 when the UN set up a committee charged with monitoring how the Women’s Convention is observed and implemented. This committee articulated for the first time in an international setting that dv is indeed a human rights violation and they detailed the responsibilitgies of governments to stop the violence. None of this would have been possible had women such as yourself were not taking care of business back home in the state coalitions and serving in the trenches in shelters. Three important actions occurred as a result of women’s advocacy efforts:
1. the specific inclusion of violence against women in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, that is, the report of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, 2. The UN’s adoption of a specific declaration on violence againstg women, also in 1993, and 3. The 1994 appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur, a global fact finder, on violence against women.
Yet every day, women are murdered, beaten, raped, traded as chattel, denied their basic human rights and marginalized around the world. Women cannot reach their potential and participate in the development of their countries if their basic rights to safety and dignity are violated.
While American society has been slow to recognize violence against
women as a pervasive social issue, rather than a personal one, it has only been in the last thirty years that shelters have evolved as a way to help women escape violent relationships. Institutional responses to abuse of women is still at best uneven and thus inadequate. There are still serious knowledge gaps in society’s understanding about the problem. Prosecution and conviction rates of offenders still remain relatively low despite civil protection orders available in every state. The ultimate task contends male allies at Men Stopping Violence in Atlanta, is to prevent domestic violence from occurring in the first place. The key they believe is to shift from reacting to individual incidents of violence, and focus on changing the social, behavioral, and environmental factors that support violence. The full participation of communities is vital to engender a sense of ownership of the problem. That begins by conceptualizing the issue of domestic violence as a human rights issue which brings it fully into the international agenda as governments grapple with what it means to provide full protection under the law for all citizens, including half the world’s population.

South Africa Memories

(picture of Theaster Gates, recently performing some of his spoken word in Chicago, IL. Theaster studied at the University of Cape Town many years ago before I visited in 1994. I dedicate my memories of South Africa to him and all the black Americans whose curiosity, intellect, love interests,sense of service and varied motivations prompted them to travel to South Africa. I believe we have all been touched by this powerful example of individual and social transformation.

In my small apartment I have a huge box of papers that I have dragged around since my visit to South Africa in 1994. The voices of the people that I talked with; the women whose stories I have held with the intention of sharing them. I have not been able to bring myself to discard this box of memories. It is time to tell these stories. So the purpose of this post and future ones is to empty out my box and bring it all together to honor that experience and bring some closure to that part of my life once and for all as the year concludes and new phases unfold in my life.

In the Beginning
Over the past twenty plus years gender-based violence has been the focus of my research and career interests. Initially I worked as a social worker in direct services, including counseling battered women and children and conducting separate groups for women and batterers, transitioning to administrative positions and eventually directing the Family Violence Program for the State of Georgia. I was personally motivated to understand family violence, an issue that afflicted my own family, as it does so many others. I continued my personal activism and education as a social worker over the years and pursued additional degrees in Africana Women’s Studies and Religious Studies. I was ordained as a Unitarian Universalist community minister in 2007 which reflects my wholistic approach to serving body, mind and spirit. My membership in national and international organizations is indicative of my interdisciplinary and global perspectives that have been influenced by the Africana Women’s Studies Department at Clark Atlanta University and the Center for Women’s Global leadership Institute.

In the summer of 1991 I attended the Institute where our key contribution as a global “think tank” was reconceptualizing the issue of violence against women as a human rights issue. That campaign has been carried and translated all around the world. I later wrote an essay titled, Reconceptualizing Violence Against Women as a Development Issue that was published by the Association on Women’s Rights in Development Newsletter and appears on the website of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. Grants from the United States State Department and Rockefeller Foundation allowed me to conduct six months of field research on gender-based violence in Ghana in 1996. I conducted focus groups and researched culturally specific forms of gender-based violence, including, trokosi, female circumcision, child brides and widow rites. In addition, I prepared the women’s section for the United States State Departments “Country Report” highlighting the status of women in Ghana with a focus on the joint efforts between the Embassy and NGO’s to eradicate trokosi and female circumcision.

My research and teaching interests include women in development, Africana Women’s Studies, liberation theology, gender based violence and postcolonial feminist theory and social change movements. All of my academic interests are practitioner based focusing on the real and lived experience of women. Writing from the particular standpoint of a black female scholar and activist that came to voice during the
1970s, my research on violence against women in South Africa has drawn on several conceptual frameworks, including feminist/womanist theory, postcolonial feminist and social movement theory. I have delivered many lectures and presentations on the basis of my field research in South Africa in 1994. Born in 1948, the year that apartheid came to power, I have grown up with, worked and prayed, for and finally witnessed the dismantling of apartheid.

Violence against women has captured prominent attention on women’s global agendas as a result of the pervasive gender-based violence. The movement to end violence against women in South Africa and the advocacy efforts that shifted the issue of woman abuse from a feminist/womanist agenda to a public policy agenda in the Republic of South Africa from 1994 to present times is still an interest of mine. I have been exposed to some of the pioneer work of South African scholars such as Desiree Hanson, Amina Mama, Matshilo Motsei and Anna F. Steyn.

Some of the foci of my research interests are: 1) the evolution of the movement to end violence against women between the years 1994 (when I was last there) to present times; 2) the reform of the criminal justice system’s approach to woman abuse; and 3) the role of race and culture in woman abuse in South Africa. The three conceptual frameworks that I think are most helpful in undersanding woman abuse in South Africa are: feminist/woman theory, postcolonial feminist theory and social movement theory. Because this is a complex problem requiring multiple approaches, I believe it requires the breath offered by these three conceptual frameworks. The intersection of these theories, situated within the context of a post colonial contemporary nation-state like South Africa, effectively interrogates the study of women’s conditions and thus provides a more comprehensive framework to examine and understand the relationship of women to the state, gender relations and the social movements that challenge prevailing social norms. I draw on my earlier research conducted on violence against women in South Africa, and compare and contrast the progress or lack of same between the years 1994 and 2008.

My goal should I be able to return to South Africa one day is to obtain primary and secondary sources, including archival and documentary materials, organizational files, newspapers, journal articles and research reports to update my existing research. It is my intention to write essays for to the Journal of Pastoral Theology, and the Oxford University Press Journal, housed in the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Johannesburg, I expect to finalize a monograph that I have almost completed. This would allow me to give voice to women whose stories I have carried around for twenty five fifteen years. The completion of this important research can potentially make a contribution to the growing body of scholarship on violence against women in South Africa. What I offer is my personal, professional-practitioner and academic experiences which have enabled me to compile a unique syllabus exploring the diverse forms of gender-based violence from the perspective of a non-traditional scholar activist.

And so this work begins with this first post.

Question: Whatgift have you been procrastinating on that is waiting to be offered to the world? What unique story can only you share with the world? What would it take to help free that gift?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Our Stories Can Save Our Lives!

(this winter scene depicts the pending winter time weather that lies right around the corner here in Chicago.)

For the last week I have been escounced at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa, Canada attending the Unitarian Univeralist Ministers Association Convocation. The Convo meets every seven years. This years theme, "Tell a Tale...Touch a Life...Transform the World" attracted over 400 religious professionals that included ministers and seminarians.

Telling the truths of our lives is a way to touch each others hearts. The following excerpt from the Convo Planning Committee provides insights into how the transformative power of storytelling can be utlized to empower our lives:

"The art of storytelling is not a lost art. It may recede to corners of tea
and coffee houses, and dinner parties in this fast paced world of electronic media. But, we believe the transformative power and beauty of story telling is needed now more than ever in worship across all faiths. We belive that in hearing each other's story, we hear a version of truth that is deeply personal, and potentially life saving."

Another highlight from Convo is my attendance at the Story Telling Cabaret, not as an audience participant but as a story teller. I told the story of the Blind Begger Bedanius. It went well and it motivated me to continue my story telling efforts.

A number of workshops were offered that included: preaching, worship, anti-racism,diversity, clergy ethics, systems theory and spiritual direction. We have had wonderful worship, good food and delightful collegial conversations. I have gotten some work related tasks taken care of. It has been good and I am ready to return home.

I also was able to spend a couple of hours at the National Gallery of Canada. The gallery included contemporary art, an outside garden, a water court, Inuit art, European art, prints, drawings, library and archives and photographs. Of course I was not able to see everything but it was so renewing to view the beautiful art.

Question: What have you done recently for your professional contacts as well as the need to indulge in the visual arts? How have you nurtured your spiritual practices?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah

Monday, November 2, 2009

Coming Home

The beauty of these flowers depicts the beautiful and rich experiences that the City of Philadelphia and its residents bestowed upon me this week during my spontaneous visit. Thank you Philadelphia and all my helpers along the way!Thank you to my spirit of imagination that pushed me past my comfort zone where everything did not have to be all planned out before proceeding. Had that been the case I would have missed all the great people and experiences!

Coming Home
My title for this post is taken from South African playwright, Athol Fugard. I first met Fugard and saw my first Fugard play back in the late 80s/early 90s. Those many years ago I was honored to facilitate a discussion with young teens in Atlanta and Fugard after they had viewed his play through the Settlement Institute.

He is a prolific playwright and his repetoire includes: No-Good Friday, Non-Gogo, Blood Knot, Hello and Goodbye, People are Living There, Boesman and Lena, Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act (I know it was not this one because it includes nudity and I would remember that!); Siswe Banzi is Dead, Dimetos, The Island,A Lesson from Aloes, "Master Harold"...and the boys, The Road to Mecca, A Place with the Pigs, My Children! My Africa!; Playland, Valley Song, The Captains Tiger, Sorrows & Rejoicings, Exits and Entrances and Victory.

Kenny Leon was the Artistic Director of the Atlanta Theatre at the time. He is remembered for reaching out to audiences that would usually not have the opportunity or exposure to theatre. As a result more poor folks from historically marginalized groups were showing up at the theatre. He has gone on to bigger and better things (as they say!). It was also wonderful to see his chocolate face in the upper echelon of the theatre scene in Atlanta.

Coming Home
Last night I had the honor of viewing Coming Home at the Wilma Theater in Philly.( I was able to get $45 tickets for $25. Students are subsidized and can receive "rush" tickets 30 minutes before opening.

Coming Home featured Patrice Johnson as Veronica, Lou ferguson as Oupa, and Nyambi Nyambi as Alfred Witbooi. The two child actors were Elijah Felder who played Mannetjie at age 5 and Antonia J. Dandridge who played the same character at an older age. It was a great two and a half hour play! It rounded out my trip to Philadelphia.

This is one of those posts on the run as I prepare to head to the airport to return to Atlanta. Watch this blog for more follow-up.

Question: How are you stifling your creativity? Where do you need to let go and experience the messiness of life?

Question: What is the difference between being in the moment - letting it happen? and simply needing to have some organization in your life?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah