Thursday, February 20, 2014

Strike, Dance, Rise!

Sign from HKU's OBR event, Feb 14
One in three women will experience some form of gendered violence in her lifetime. Given that women make up over half of the world’s population, that’s more than one billion women who will face things like physical abuse, sexual abuse, economic injustice, exploitation, and discrimination.

One Billion Rising is an international event aimed at raising awareness throughout the world of the violence perpetrated against women. It is the brainchild of Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler, who asked what would happen if one billion people came together to speak out against gendered violence. This year, people in over 200 countries (and territories) held events!

On February 9th, I spent 6 hours dancing outside in the cold and rain. (side note, I don't recommend this. Half of my office ended up out sick the next day!) Despite the challenges the weather produced, we still had a fantastic turnout  of about 1500 to the event. Most OBR events take place on Valentine’s Day (V-Day), but Hong Kong’s event was moved up because the majority of migrant women can only attend on Sundays. We had about 1,500 participants, including Filipino, Indonesian, Sri Lankan, Nepali, and Thai migrants, Hong Kong locals, and other expats from around Hong Kong. Migrant groups worked for weeks to practice the dance, and it was great to see all of their hard work pay off! We were also honored to have Monqiue Wilson, a Filipina actress and one of the international directors of OBR, who came all of the way from the Philippines to participate in our event. 

This year’s theme was “One Billion Rising for Justice,” and served as a platform for women throughout the world to speak out on issues affecting them. Our OBR focused both on issues facing migrants in Hong Kong and on the specific case of Erwiana, an Indonesian worker who was tortured by her employer for months before being sent home. 

During Hong Kong’s OBR event, one of my coworkers at the Mission quoted a Filipina poet in her speech: “To be a woman is to be at war.” Migrant workers face an intersecting (a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw) series of injustices: they face poverty, social and racial discrimination, joblessness in their sending countries, separation from their families, and exploitation from their employers and recruitment agencies. These injustices make up the lived experiences of migrant workers, and they must be understood as interlocking oppressions–they cannot be pulled apart as separate issues, but rather each affects the others. One Billion Rising was a wonderful opportunity for migrants throughout Hong Kong to draw attention to these issues and to share their experiences in a meaningful way.  

Cold, wet Mission interns
Personally, I hope that OBR continues on for years, and that it is indicative of a larger trend of standing up against injustice and gendered violence. It's certainly inspiring to watch!

Check out the video from the event:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kung Hei Fat Choi, y'all!

Happy Lunar New Year from Hong Kong! Chinese New Year is one of the biggest celebrations in Hong Kong, and it's on par with Christmas in the U.S. as an important family holiday. There are many traditions surrounding the holiday, such as giving of red envelopes of money and going to the flower market. 

On the first day of Chinese New Year, I went to the famous parade in Tsim Sha Tsui. Performers came from all over the world to march, and I saw groups from Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, Australia, and even the Washington Redskins cheerleaders! 

On the second day, I did something I never thought I'd be able to do in Hong Kong–strawberry picking! The Bethune House clients and I went out to the New Territories to an organic strawberry farm. I was surprised to learn that well over half of the land in Hong Kong is undeveloped, but it was a very nice change of scenery from the super-crowded city I normally see!

Strawberry picking
(Incidentally, New Territories is a bit of a misnomer. The "New" was new in 1898, but I suppose the name stuck. This is the part of Hong Kong that was lent from the Mainland on a 99-year lease.  The border to China is only about two MTR stops from where we got off!)

Fanling, Hong Kong

Afterwards, Katie, Will, and I went to the Mariner's Club to watch the fireworks. Will's boss, the Rev. Stephen Miller and his wife the Rev. Catherine Graham, were kind enough to host us at their apartment, which has one of the best Harbour views in Hong Kong! 

The Chinese New Year fireworks are spectacular... and 20 minutes long!
On Monday, I went back to the New Territories to go to the Wishing Tree. Legend has it that if you write your wish on paper and throw it into the tree, it will come true if it stays. The higher up it lands, the more likely it is your wish will come true. If it falls, your wish was too greedy. The paper is tied to (plastic) oranges for weight. My understanding is that this tree is actually plastic as well, as the old one broke under the weight of all of the wishes in 2005. Still, what a fun tradition! 

The Wishing Tree
CNY charms for sale
We've now entered the Year of the Horse, which is my year! Apparently, it's bad luck to be in your own astrological year, but I'm told there are things you can do to help keep the bad luck at bay. Another interpretation is that it will not be so much bad luck as a year of serious self-reflection and growth. That has certainly been true for the past few months, so here's to continued growth! 

Happy New Year! 

In peace,


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