Around the World in Feminist News


7/20/18 - We step back from chaos in the U.S. and take a global view. Protests at the World Cup in Russia. The politics of globalization and migration on and off the pitch. In China, the government is cracking down on women organizing online. In Nepal, menstrual stigma risks the lives of women and girls. In slightly better news, women in Egypt are working to end gender-based violence, starting with the men who drive cabs and tuk-tuks.

Transcript below.

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Producer: Gina Delvac

Hosts: Aminatou Sow & Ann Friedman

Theme song: Call Your Girlfriend by Robyn

Composer: Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs.

Associate Producer: Destry Maria Sibley

Visual Creative Director: Kenesha Sneed

Merch Director: Caroline Knowles

Editorial Assistant: Laura Bertocci

Ad sales: Midroll


Russia: Hidden Flag / Pussy RiotWorld Cup protests

China: Women factory workers’ networking group shut down

Nepal: Menstruation taboo leading to deaths / ZanaAfrica

Egypt: Iman El-Mahdi of CARE Egypt / Circles of Change program

TRANSCRIPT: Around the World in Feminist News



Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.

Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.

Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.

Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman. On this week's agenda we take a little trip around the world from a feminist angle, something we don't do often enough, first to Russia where we talk about political implications of the World Cup and some of our favorite protests at the games, to China where women faculty workers are getting their networking group shut down, to Nepal where menstruation taboos are leading to the deaths of girls and women. And finally to Egypt where we learn about an amazing program to combat street harassment.

[Theme Song]


Aminatou: Hello!

Ann: I'm kind of foggy. It's early. I listened to myself on that intro and I'm like oof.

Aminatou: You sound great to me.

Ann: Thanks boo-boo. How's it going?

Aminatou: Yeah, you know, it's good. Just trying to live my life.

Ann: I have to tell you that I'm wearing the result of what I feel like is your influence in my life which is to say I finally purchased a Kimpton Hotel robe on the Internet.

Aminatou: Yes! Man, you could've just grabbed one from my house. You know I have three right? [Laughs]

Ann: I know but here's the thing. I wanted . . .

Aminatou: I did not buy three. Three separate people know how much I love them and gifted them to me.

Ann: Having a good robe collection when you work from home is actually kind of dangerous.

Aminatou: [Laughs] It is a problem in my life, but you know what? I manage. Well, you know, speaking of amazing things you can have on your body is up and running and so many people have been buying things.

Ann: Oh my god.

Aminatou: So if you want the world's softest t-shirt, you want some Shine Theory swag, that's the place to go.

Ann: And we're going to have a few new items rolling out slowly and deliberately as we build this little corner of our business slowly. So yeah, so stay tuned for more new great stuff. Other reminder is can you believe it has been three months since our Bleeding For Amina blood drive? What?

Aminatou: Yes! I can believe it. I feel great. [Laughs]

Ann: All those hundreds of pints of blood have been coursing through you. Just kidding.

Aminatou: Vampire blood.

Ann: So I did my follow-up donation and I've got to say it kind of felt even better than giving at the blood drive because it was like I could go on my own time. I went with a pal so, you know, blood donation buddy situation. So anyway, just a reminder to those of you who gave in April and May that we would love to have you give again. And we're not keeping track now. This is just like honor system/buddy system.


Aminatou: That's great.

Ann: What are we talking about today?

Aminatou: Girl, we are talking about . . . [Laughs] Existential crisis, you know? We're talking about poop again. Just kidding.

Ann: No way. We're now talking metaphorically about poop.

Aminatou: Can we talk about poop for two seconds?

Ann: Sure.

Aminatou: Did you get many text messages from all of our friends about their different poop habits? Because I did and it made me so happy. [Laughs]

Ann: I also got texts from a lot of friends with kids who were listening with their kids in the room, which shout-out to those of you who parent while listening to CYG, and about how their kids are like "Are they talking about poo? Like what?" Like they were just shocked and semi-scandalized.

Aminatou: I . . . yeah. It made my day so, you know, everybody talk to your friends about your poop habits. It might could save your life.

Ann: Yeah. We definitely -- and our inbox is incredible at this moment I have to say, the poop updates in our inbox.

Aminatou: I know. It made me really happy to hear from people about poop. So maybe we'll revisit it soon.

Ann: Yeah. And also shout-out to those of you who wrote about your friends with colon cancer or other kinds of big, serious health stuff related to that episode. Shout-out to people who replied with their own public bathroom pains and struggles. We are reading and seeing you.

Aminatou: Right.

Ann: And shout-out to the bike messenger in Seattle who was like "I've pooped in every skyscraper in downtown Seattle."

Aminatou: That was like the best email. [Laughs] Where she's like "I know every bathroom downtown."

Ann: Amazing.

Aminatou: You're my shero for sure.

Ann: Yeah, shout-out to all of you.


Aminatou: Okay, the thing we're talking about today is I guess feminist news around the world?

Ann: A global lens if you will.

Aminatou: A global lens. Let's go country-by-country. What've you got first?

Ann: Oh my god. Well I have to say I have been having this experience reading the news which is partially to do with the fact that the World Cup was in Russia. I'm thinking a little bit differently about countries with oppressive and authoritarian regimes that squash dissent and reading the news from those places with a different mindset than I feel like I did even a year ago. So there were definitely a few op-eds out of Russia that were like "Hey, guess what? As you are tuning into this global, ostensibly apolitical sporting event in this place don't forget what the people who actually live in this country are subject to. Especially LGBTQ people who live in this country, but really anyone who wants to personally express something that is not a view the government loves."

Aminatou: Right. Well one of the coolest protests that happened at the World Cup was did you see this? The hidden flag protest?

Ann: No, tell me about it.

Aminatou: It's these six international activists who are also soccer fans. God I hate saying the word soccer so much. Who are . . .

Ann: You can say football. We know what you mean.

Aminatou: Football. Who are also football fans. They basically color coordinated their jerseys to be rainbow-colored because you know in Russia it is illegal to show a rainbow flag.

Ann: Oh my god, that is so brilliant.

Aminatou: So you should look this up, the Hidden Flag Project. They're great. And this -- it is really hard. Like I talked to a couple friends who were in Moscow who are LGBT folks and are also football fans and global capitalism makes it so hard to be an honest person in the world. Something as community-oriented as the World Cup still has so much that is fucked up about it, you know? It's like Russia 100% bribed their way into hosting this World Cup. 100%. FIFA is a corruption engine. It's like bad news. And then you think about the fact that LGBT folks around the world also want to watch football and they're not allowed to fully express themselves, and then you think about Russian people, Russian people who are LGBT, and how much worse it is for them there. And to have this competition that comes in that is, you know . . . I love the World Cup. It is my favorite time every four years. Like the best, best, best.


Ann: Bigger than like global tennis? Let's be real.

Aminatou: 100% bigger than global tennis.

Ann: Which is saying something for you.

Aminatou: Global tennis is all year. Yeah, it's like saying a lot for me. But, you know, World Cup is . . . like I like it more than the Olympics. You know, it's like the next World Cup is in Qatar which is not known to be a beacon of freedom either in the Middle East and actual slave labor is being used to build the stadiums over there.

Ann: Yeah.

Aminatou: It's one of those things that it really shines a mirror back on me on the things that I enjoy because it's really easy for me to not participate in American football, you know? Because I justify it every which way, like one, I didn't grow up with it. Two, it's actually barbaric, you know? And people are having concussions and dying and black bodies are being exploited and I can be really smug about that. But, you know . . .

Ann: Right. Like not a fan smugness. Yeah.

Aminatou: Right. But examining the actual -- you know, the politics of the sport I love so much is . . . that's hard for me.

Ann: Yeah, totally. As you know I float like a fine film above all sports fandom. Like it's not really my thing anywhere. But I did -- anything with kind of a geopolitical angle, or I'm always interested in stories, particularly in this World Cup but all the time, about immigrants and the role of who gets recognized as being from a country when they're just trying to live their lives there versus when they are winning games for them on the field. Like those aspects of the World Cup are things that I'm very, very tuned into and really enjoy like huh, how are you going to square this circle, you know?

Aminatou: Right.


Ann: Like those questions, yeah.

Aminatou: Right. Like the fact that France is becoming more and more hostile to immigrants but literally they win world tournaments because of immigration.

Ann: Right.

Aminatou: It is infuriating. And I mean that's true pretty much all over the world but watching this particular squad, like this particular French squad, and watching Macron love watching the games on the background of he just came back from a tour of Africa, it's actually very weird to watch him play basketball at my old school. It made me very emotional weirdly. I was like oh, is this how Americans feel all the time? But anyway . . .

Ann: Like seeing your past pop up in the news?

Aminatou: Right. Seeing your past pop up in the news all the time But he made these very derogatory remarks everywhere in Africa like admonishing people for having too many children, admonishing people for immigration, all of this stuff. And then one week later here he is losing his mind at this squad of black and brown folks leading his team to global domination on the soccer pitch -- on the football pitch.

Ann: Right. And I mean it's also just every . . . even on the basic level of like the commentary, like this player's parents were born in this place but he was raised in that place and he plays for this team now. It's such an illustration of how normalized migration should be. This is not like a weird thing to be born to parents who are from somewhere else then migrate somewhere, to like a third country yourself.


Aminatou: Well especially not weird when that country is known for being a colonial asshole superpower, you know what I mean? [Laughs]

Ann: Oh my god, I'm eyeball emojiing so hard right now. Exactly, yeah.

Aminatou: You know? It's just one of those things that I'm like fans, if you don't want African people you should've never went to Africa, you know what I'm saying? Like Belgium . . .

Ann: Right, like you have inextricably linked yourselves.

Aminatou: Right. Belgium, if you don't want Congolese and Rwanda people all over your country you should've never went over there. [Laughs] This is the legacy. You know, it just . . . the hypocrisy is so much and the jig is sky-high. It's the same in the United States where all these white people who are like "I'm American!" I'm like mm-hmm, which one of your ancestors stole a chicken and came over here fake-protesting religion, you know? Everybody is just such a hypocrite about what it -- like global migration is not a new thing. The other thing that drives me nuts when we talk about conversations about immigration and migration, it's like forgetting that for most black people in the United States they are not a product of some sort of happy migration story.

Ann: Totally. Totally.

Aminatou: Actually yes, whenever I see these "We're all immigrants! Immigration is great!" it's like hmm, this is true for a lot of people. It is not true particularly for a lot of people as well. So yes, immigration is great and it's wonderful but some people were forced here so learn about the history of enslaved people. But even in Europe that the like migration trends that people talk about, a lot of them are not happy stories. Like people weren't like "Oh my god, I would love to come to the Paris suburbs and work in this pujo factory." It's like no, literally people had to because of the way the global economy was structured.

Ann: Right. Yeah, and that's the sort of thing too where this is so interesting to me because it's just like on the level of news or on the level of how politicians respond to it, like light touch cultural as opposed to like heavy policies about capitalism and racism and big, big ongoing centuries-old problems. It's basically the equivalent of Macron being like "Oh my god, we love this winning team!" It's the same thing as watching Trump administration officials at at Mexican restaurant, or try to. You know what I mean? It's like this sense of like . . .


Aminatou: You know, I would not go that far. [Laughs]

Ann: Vibe-wise. Vibe-wise.

Aminatou: I'm going to let you have it. Ugh. You know, it's also the kind of thing where sports is . . . I think that sports people have it right that you can tell global stories through the lens of sports and human stories through the lens of sports but also they fail at it every single time, you know? In the sense where . . . so Croatia is one of the teams that ends up in the final. They have this incredible story. Decades ago they had a war and now a lot of those kids who grew up in the war are competing on a global level to the point where they're almost going to take this World Cup home. So it is this very feel-good story. Their president is a woman. She came to every single game wearing the Croatian jersey and flew herself in coach.

So the media stories around that are like hats off to the president of Croatia. She attended very Croatian match at the World cup, she travels in economy class, and she sits with the fans. So it's like this feel-good story. Then none of them tell you she's actually from the far-right party in her country and that all of these choices that she's making are actually, you know, they're part of upholding Croatian nationalism and into the founding myth of Croatian nationalism. Which to be fair I don't know a ton about and that is not my country and I do not -- like Croatia does not make me lose sleep, you know? But just watching how something like that, like the sports people miss -- the sports reporters miss all the time because they're too busy telling you this feel good story of it's almost like oh my god, feminism, this is great or whatever. And you're like actually shit is hella fucked up in Croatia right now and you are not telling the story you're supposed to be telling.


Ann: Yeah, I mean I guess that's what I'm getting at in terms of there are certain boundaries drawn around the kind of low-key banter that happens in-between, like in the breaks during the game. And I think that that is where it's like it's not cool to be like "By the way, 145 million Russians live in a supremely oppressive state." Like you know what I mean? That's . . .

Aminatou: That would be cool actually.

Ann: I know.

Aminatou: I would watch for that commentary. I really would because . . .

Ann: I'm just saying it doesn't happen, or at least not what I heard. Now granted I did not watch every game. Maybe someone is hearing a different commentary than I was.

Aminatou: Right. I mean that's definitely not happening on Fox News, let me tell you. And it is . . . it's just very infuriating between the truth is your average soccer fan is actually very woke. And also if you think about it nationalism is more than 50% of the reason that people love soccer, you know? Like that's the problem. And so there's so much more to discuss there. Anyway we are all complicit in global capitalism. It's hard. But see you at the World Cup in four years.

Ann: It's true. And shout-out to the fine women of Pussy Riot for their screaming and running on the field as well. Shout out to the Hidden Flag folks.

Aminatou: I don't know, Ann. It was like a very ill-timed protest that cost Croatia an opportunity on the pitch so I don't know man. [Laughs] I'm just kidding.

Ann: I don't know. I'm like I can't even . . .

Aminatou: I'm just kidding, like clearly.

Ann: I love that -- yeah. I truly, because I have so little interest in the actual sport, I'm like I don't even know. I obviously watched all of this, all of the relevant political stuff, in clips and news articles later. I was not like "What's happening on the pitch?" [Laughs]


Aminatou: No, I was watching it and I was so irritated. I was like what is this? And also it was so -- yeah, it was really actually fascinating how they showed it because on the channel that I was watching you saw like one person run on the pitch. I didn't realize that it was four different people. And they pulled back all the cameras at that point and started doing commentary on something else where you're like wait, the game is literally stopped. There are people trying to high-five the players but you're talking about this other dumb thing. And you could tell that the presenters were actually very irritated by it. They were like ugh, what is going on here? It wasn't until later that you found out that it was a Pussy Riot protest. That would've been an amazing opportunity actually to discuss what was going on and instead that is not what happened.

Ann: Right. This could be a protest by any number of people who are offended by things that this regime has done, right? Just like a speculative commentary which is what they do about all kinds of other things, right?

Aminatou: Right.

Ann: Like I wonder what's going on here. Let's share some stats about the context for this game.

Aminatou: Right. You know, so four members of Pussy Riot were sentenced to 15 days in jail and banned from attending sporting events for three years after they participated, according to ABC News, in "A dramatic on-field protest during the World Cup final in Moscow." That was not dramatic. Calm down.

Ann: I mean I feel like any on-field protest during the World Cup is by definition dramatic. I think that that is what that is referring to.

Aminatou: You know the thing too is there is a rich history of streakers in this kind of competition. [Laughs] So the minute I saw people I was like god, just keep your clothes on. This is not what's happening. And it's like oh, this is different. Got it.


Ann: Yeah. If it exists that there is someone who's doing commentary over a game that is about political context in addition to stories of the players and things like that I would so listen to that. That is a sporting commentary I would tune into.

Aminatou: I know. Where are my woke sports people?

Ann: I know. What are all these soccer podcasters doing with their time? I'm like, you know, get a political scientist from the nations who are playing each other and get them to discuss in real-time as the game happens. I would be so there for that.

Aminatou: Listen, somebody already wrote about how soccer explains the world. But really it's just a theory of globalization. It's not really a woke sports model so . . .

Ann: That's what I mean. I want people from the nations who are playing each other to be in dialogue and give some context for what's happening in their country right now, not like one armchair guy from America being like "Globalization is real." Although that's also true.

Aminatou: [Laughs] So true. Well on one hand fuck capitalism. On the other hand my team won so, you know, this is just what it's like to be . . . this is what it's like to be a human being in 2018.

Ann: Was France your number one pick? Was that your team from day one?

Aminatou: Always. Always, always, always. It's very hard in my house because growing up I was the only France supporter for a long time. And here's the thing: France has historically not been a great team and everybody in my family are big Brazil supporters. And some of it, it's like geopolitical bullshit nonsense. So for years I was made fun of for being a France fan but it has paid off. Won in '98, won in 2018, so in 20 years I will be vindicated again.

Ann: Oh my god, that is a slow schedule for vindication. Good luck.

Aminatou: [Laughs] Listen, 20 years is literally four tournaments. It's fine.


Ann: I mean I get that but also 20 years. Like what are our lives going to be like in 20 years? Like that is . . . I mean I can't. I can't even.

Aminatou: Me, I'm probably going to be coaching a football team. [Laughs]

Ann: Oh my god, how great would your kit be? It would be the best.

Aminatou: Caftans. Caftan on caftan on caftan.

Ann: Ugh, billowing on the sidelines.

Aminatou: That's what will happen. That's right, billowing on the sidelines and yelling. Yelling at the refs. It's going to be amazing.

[Music and Ads]


Ann: Okay, moving on to elsewhere around the world shall we do some quick hits of what's going on everywhere else?

Aminatou: Let's do it. What's going on in China, Ann?

Ann: Okay. So I was reading this article in Quartz about how on Weibo these female factory workers in China had created this group whose name translates to Pepper Tribe which I love.

Aminatou: Love it.

Ann: I know. Anyway, it's a forum where they have 20,000 women or followers who are essentially just talking about their struggles in the workplace which are factories in China. They're basically like "These are the rights we want. This is the money we want." Som pretty basic organizing stuff that I clicked on this article because I'm like oh yeah, how many of these circles am I in in my corner of the world, right? In my corner of the Internet. Last week the account was permanently blocked basically meaning none of these women can network or speak to each other this way anymore. And I just like -- there's something about reading these articles where I was always like yeah, it is horrible that you do not have the freedom to organize like people everywhere. But there's something about it where I'm like I'm really relating to it on a level of what is the near future for me and my life and the kind of organizing that I do? There was some kind of thing about seeing this parallel structure to a thing that's very common in my life which is like women talking in a closed, online forum.

Aminatou: Yeah.


Ann: And being like that is not being allowed to exist. And, you know, it's like I don't have a ton of info about it. But that sense that I was kind of saying earlier about reading international news with a different eye under this administration is a real experience that I'm having. And yeah, so quick hit. Quick hit from China about women trying to organize for better labor practices in factories.

Aminatou: What's going on in Nepal?

Ann: I don't know, you tell me. [Laughter]

Aminatou: This scam doesn't work.

Ann: I'm like I'm not going to summarize all the global news we're reading. You've got tell me what's going on in Nepal.

Aminatou: I know. I loved it. I was just going to be like picking countries out of my ass and be like "Ann, what's . . ."

Ann: You're just going to put the microphone down and walk away. [Laughs]

Aminatou: "Ann, what's going on in Micronesia?" And meanwhile I'm making lunch.

Ann: What if I were right on top of my Micronesia news and knew the number one piece of feminist news from Micronesia? God, I aspire to be that woman really.

Aminatou: Oh, listen, shout-out to Micronesia. We'll be there for you. So this very depressing article in the Times a couple of weeks ago basically had to deal with a corner in Nepal that's deep in the Himalayas where women are banned from their homes every month when they get their periods because they're considered polluted, toxic, and there's an oppressive regime that's evolved around this taboo. So it's interesting, like we haven't talked about menstrual politics on the show I think in a while. And the context in which we usually talk about menstruation in the western world is always like "Well, give us -- we want tampons." There's a lot of snarky period art that happens. And reading this was such a reminder that menstruation is still a real taboo and that in parts of the world it's a life-and-death situation. Everything from women who can't go to school because they're having their periods, then now in this case in rural Nepal girls who are literally being sent to period huts in the middle of nowhere where they're dying from smoke inhalation and snake bites because people are just too scared to talk about menstruation. It's just we really need more conversations about menstrual taboos because it's actually -- it is killing women on so many levels.

Ann: Yeah, and this story stuck out to me too because I know certainly us privately, and definitely on this podcast in the past, we've joked about like "Oh my god, how great would a menstrual hut be? How wonderful would it be to just sequester yourself when you're in the throes of it?" And I was just like . . .

Aminatou: Yeah, I know. They actually have them in some places and it's like forced.

Ann: Exactly. And when I read this article I was like oh wow, okay. Like check your perspective on this one in a real way.

Aminatou: Yeah. And again, you know, it just ties back . . . the thing that this ties back in too for me is this idea that people think also about periods as this very neat three-day event that women go through, right? Where it's like in this case what happens to the woman who has abnormal bleedings or the woman who has complications? So, you know, the practice itself is so barbaric and it is so awful but it is also so completely misunderstood how women's menstruation works. And the female reproductive system is not understood anywhere in the world. This is not like a developing country versus like a developed country thing. It's truly like people do not understand or care about how the female reproductive system works and there are deadly consequences to it like all around the world.


Ann: Right. And it's not even not understanding how it works; it's like willfully wanting to marginalize it. Like I think that's what gets me. It's not like "Oh no, we're not really sure what this means." It's like no, no, we have no desire to normalize or understand this as an experience. It's like I . . . anyway, so I'm not going to be making menstrual hut jokes for a while is what I'm trying to say.

Aminatou: Yeah. This article is very sobering. We'll link to it in the show notes and, you know, it's such a reminder to me to look up more organizations that do -- that work in menstrual hygiene management, and really think more about making that a recurring donation situation. So I'll do some research and let everybody know. If you listen to the show and you know organizations that do incredible work beyond just giving pads to people but the actual work of changing the taboo we would love to hear about that.

Ann: Right. And ZanaAfrica which we did a fundraising campaign around a couple of years ago I believe does some of this kind of taboo fighting work as well.

Aminatou: You're right. You are right.

Ann: We'll link to them but always eager to hear about other organizations that are working not just on a level of direct services but kind of a cultural level of trying to fight the taboo that's really the root of the problem.


Aminatou: Yeah. And I would really encourage everybody to read this -- the article that we're going to link to because the woman who is central to the story is a feminist. She led birth control classes and she encouraged women to stand up for themselves all over the world and she still fell victim to this terrible taboo.

Ann: Right. Yeah, and it's a reminder that you can kind of be doing this work and understand something -- have like a lens on it that is an amazing feminist lens and not feel personal shame and still be affected in a very real way by the broader cultural shame around an issue. Okay, speaking of . . .

Aminatou: Wait, I was going to pick another country.

Ann: Oh, oh my god. Spin the wheel.

Aminatou: Tell me what's happening in Egypt.

Ann: Oh my god, okay, speaking of orgs that are doing amazing work [Laughter] a few weeks ago I had a conversation with Aman Amaldi (?) who's the Circles of Change program coordinator in Cairo. And basically what they're doing is educating cab drivers and Tuk Tuk drivers about sexual harassment awareness. And it's like -- it's one of those things that seems small numbers-wise, you know? It's like oh wow, how many cab drivers or how many people have you spoken to? But also I find a lot of hope lately in this kind of program that is like we're going to start on a small, interpersonal level and try to work up and outward from them. So listen to Aman talk about that program.

[Interview Starts]

Ann: Aman, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.

Aman: Thank you very much for having me on.

Ann: So when I heard about Circles of Change I was so interested in this approach because I think in every country in the world women who are working to get more free are sometimes confused or sometimes conflicted about how to involve men in that and what that looks like. And I'm curious to have you describe a little bit about Circles of Change and where the idea for that effort came from.


Aman: No, I completely agree with it, with what you're saying. I mean for so long [0:34:08] has been focusing on actually tackling gender-based violence among the Egyptian women living and Egyptian girls living here in Egypt. But then it struck us like we've been focused on empowering women and raising awareness to combat gender-based violence for so long but then it struck us if men are the perpetrators then why are we not engaging them in the solution? So CARE has then decided to embrace a more holistic approach and engage the power holders who are actually the men and boys as part of the solution.

Ann: Yeah, so maybe talk a bit about what the program actually does and which men and boys you're engaging with specifically.

Aman: Right. So through Circles of Change CARE has initiated the one pilot with 21 Tuk Tuk drivers which is the three-wheel vehicle in Egypt and it's used for transportation. In some areas it's in fact the only transport option for these women and girls so they have to use it but they're constantly getting harassed in these transportation options. So the program then decided to utilize therapy gender-training street campaigns, community awareness raising, and continuing trainings to actually educate men and boys and equip them with the tools to become agents of change within their communities. So the first step that we do is an art therapy and it's an entry point. We use clay axing and drawing and begin to focus on these men and women for them to just express themselves and reflect on perspectives that are directly and indirectly linked to violence and healing. It's a confidential and safe space for them to open up, share their feelings, and begin to build trust among each other. The main idea of it is to actually have a platform for expression.

Through the art therapy one of our participants, he actually realized that his violence stems from his father -- sorry -- who used to electrocute him as a form of violence. But through art therapy he actually began to draw whenever he felt angry or frustrated and that actually helped him to then begin dealing with violence in his life and actually seek towards change. So that's the first part is art therapy.


There are then the ten gender trainings and it focuses on providing them and building their self-esteem and then providing alternatives to stereotypes and gender roles. And then working towards promoting behavioral change. So we go through a cognizant behavioral cycle and we work on their thoughts first leading to their behavior and actions and we begin to challenge their thoughts and that ultimately then changes their behavior. It's a very powerful tool to force behavior change.

In order to actually step up and leverage their newly adopted perception into action they then carry out street campaigns among their community members. They tell them that they were harassers initially but they have gone through behavioral change and they're the ones who now want to become allies for ending gender-based violence among women. So it's a very courageous step for them to step up and actually admit they were harassers or perpetrators of violence and now they're ready to have more of a role of ending gender-based violence. And they're the ones who actually now carry out awareness-raising activities within their communities. We have managed to change these men and boys from perpetrators of violence to actually allies of women and girls and they're actually the ones currently advocating for ending violence against women.

Ann: So what is the . . . success rate seems like a weird term to use but it seems like it would be difficult to have 100% of the men who you're attempting to reach be receptive to this. So I'm just wondering if, you know, what percentage of the men in the program go on to bring these views into their communities? Or who really embrace them and decide to become active?


Aman: No, your point is completely valid. We can't just assume that everyone is going to be accepting of that idea which is why we've had dropouts through the cycle and we've had for example men who after the street campaigns they don't want to then join volunteering units. Like for them that's enough and that's the stuff that they just want to swap out and they don't want to continue the cycle. And that's very acceptable and very understanding, especially as we live in a community -- or the world right now in all fairness -- there are a lot of economic pressures that men go through and it's very understandable why they wouldn't want to continue.

So we've had dropouts throughout and we've had people who wouldn't want to continue and people who resist the idea. All of that we have engaged in. But actually the 27 Tuk Tuk drivers that I'm talking about are the ones who fully completed the cycle through our first pilot. So they're the ones who initially, from the start to the end, they are the ones who are continuing with us and the ones who are currently right now, even after the pilot has ended, they're the ones who are on the streets carrying out awareness activities among the community members and so on and so forth.

Ann: And does that look like private conversations? Are they . . . I mean because I think a lot about how, you know, there are many men who say things among other men that they would never say in the company of women, you know?

Aman: Yes.

Ann: And some of the problems with how pervasive harassment and sexism are come from the fact that we as women don't always see who is encouraging this behavior, or it's hard for us to know who is on our side so-to-speak or who is actually following through on their belief. And so I'm curious about what are some of the specific moments or scenarios that you help these men become aware of? Do you actually say "If another man says this then here's another good thing to say in reply?" Like how specific do you get with them?


Aman: Right. Actually parts -- you know, parts of our street campaigns, which is the third step that they undergo, so basically the cycle has five concrete steps. So as I said the first is our therapy, gender training, street campaigns, community awareness raising, and continued trainings. So on the third step of the circle, the street campaigns, before they go out in the streets and admit that they were perpetrators of violence and now they have changed and now they want to raise awareness among the community, before doing that stuff they undergo specific trainings of how to speak to people on the streets, what are replies they can use, and actually they begin thinking of possible scenarios or possible replies that they could get from men on the streets or like women they would speak to. So it's very . . . they're provided with very precise trainings on possible replies that they could get from their communities, how they could react to that, how to manage their anger, how to speak in a tone that's very convincing. You know, what's the body language they should use? Putting themselves in others' shoes and understanding what they're coming from.

So they're provided with very specific techniques and trainings and all of these in order for them once they're out in the communities and once they provide community awareness raising, they're provided with tools that they can actually utilize to raise their community's awareness.

Ann: Right. I know that there are now for men who have been through the program a sticker or something they can put on the taxi to say that it is safe or that they have been through this program. And so talk a little about that in the way you are helping women to identify men who are associated with Circles of Change.


Aman: Yes, right, that's so true. After they go through the cycle they are provided with stickers that they can place on their vehicles that actually declares their vehicles harassment-free zones. And through that women actually now, they know their specific numbers and they call them on their phones to ask them for rides to and from their home, to and from work, to the market, and they ask them to drop their girls off at school. So that has actually been yielding these Tuk Tuk drivers income which has actually been helping for them to decrease their violence behavior and to actually lead behavior change within their community. Because the economic pressure is also eased for them at the moment.

So instead, you know, in the beginning when we started the woman . . . all was . . . all saw Tuk Tuk drivers as harassers, as drug addicts. But now to have the 27 Tuk Tuk drivers that women actually in fact call to use their services, even if they see them on the streets while having other customers, they wait for them to drop off their old customers and then return to them to pick them up. So the amount of trust that has been built has actually been very beneficial for both sides and for the Tuk Tuk drivers has actually been an economic empowerment component for them that has been yielding them more income.

Ann: That's so smart I think because obviously we as women understand that we would prefer to give our business to people who are not going to harass us, right?

Aman: Of course, yes.

Ann: It's so logical.

Aman: Yes. I mean and they don't realize . . . the thing is that when we began working with these Tuk Tuk drivers they didn't realize that their behavior would then lead to women not wanting to ride with them and not using their services. For them it doesn't make sense because for them Tuk Tuk is the only transport option for these women so they're going to have to use it either/or. So right now after we have gone through the cycle and to see that they have been getting more income because they're respecting women and they're dealing with her appropriately and they're not giving her any harassment looks and, you know, they're treating her as they should be, as an equal to them, they're then getting more money. So that aspect, you know, it has helped them to realize that their global change is good for them but also for their community as well.


Ann: Yeah, that's amazing. Do you think this is something that . . . you know, obviously the program itself is probably tailored to the city or the culture. Do you think this is something that could work elsewhere? In other countries?

Aman: Yes, definitely. I mean the pilot focused on tackling sexual harassment among Tuk Tuk drivers but actually through the pilot we realized that gender-based violence is everywhere. One in three women in the world face gender-based violence. So we believe -- and studies have shown, CARE's studies on the pilot, have shown that it can be actually replicated and it can be potentially to impact all gender-based violence across all sectors which is what CARE wants to do. So CARE Egypt right now, we are planning to license the program and curriculum to a variety of implementers in order to actually create a sustainable program at scale. So we want to transform the current pilot to a transferable, scalable training program to international and local NGOs in Egypt, the private sector, and to other regional NGOs. Then potentially to the international community. I mean we all face gender-based violence. As I said one in three women face gender-based violence in the world so it's very crucial to actually repeat and scale up this pilot because the power holders in the situation and the main target are these men and boys. So it's very crucial that we engage them into a cycle that will also change them and also leads to awareness within their communities. That cycle is very crucial in order to actually decrease gender-based violence among women.


Ann: And what would you say to people, back to my very first question, what would you say to people who say "Listen, why are we giving resources to men who are the problem when we should be giving resources to women who face the negative effects of this behavior?"

Aman: First of all CARE as well as many international and local NGOs have been focused on the woman and empowering her to actually decrease gender-based violence. But we always keep telling women dress that way. You know, attend a self-defense class so you can defend yourselves. And of course that's very important and we get it. It's very crucial to raise women's awareness and empower them in order to decrease gender-based violence. But on the other hand it's very important to be working on both domains. It's not either/or. And CARE at this moment has actually established a full cycle and it has concrete steps and it has a very explicit time frame. We have seen the impacts of it and it's very inspiring and should be -- we believe it should be scaled up to impact all forms of gender-based violence across sectors.

Ann: Aman thank you so much for chatting with us about this program. I'm super excited to hear about the great results you're getting.

Aman: My pleasure. It has been great. Thank you very much.

[Interview Ends]

Aminatou: That was great.

Ann: Yeah. Really incredible and also nice to end on kind of a posi note on our global tour here.

Aminatou: Also good reminder that people from all over the world listen to the pod. Obviously a ton of Americans do, that's fair, but you know, I think that part of good feminist citizenship is knowing what's happening to our siblings all over the world and engaging with more than just the news that's around us. Because 1) it puts a lot of things in perspective but also I think it's crucial to learn resistant tactics from people everywhere and also realize, you know, we're intrinsically linked in trying to get free.


Ann: Okay, amen to that. I'm just going to say I'll see you on the Internet all over the world.

Aminatou: I'll see you on the Internet. A special shout-out to everybody who listens to CYG outside of these United States. I love all of you. And you, I'm going to see you in person next week.

Ann: Oh my god, I can't even wait. I'm so happy about it.

Aminatou: The best.

Ann: The best.

Aminatou: The best, best, best. I'm going to go snack shopping for us. I'll do some recon. I'll do some recon.

Ann: Oh, yes.

Aminatou: I'll remember to get popcorn. Ugh.

Ann: Bye.

Aminatou: You can find us many places on the Internet, on our website, you can download it anywhere you listen to your favorite podcasts, or on Apple Podcasts where we would love it if you left us a review. You can email us at We're on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at @callyrgf. You can subscribe to our monthly newsletter The Bleed on the Call Your Girlfriend website. You can even leave us a short and sweet voicemail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. Our theme song is by Robyn, all original music is composed by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs, our logos are by Kenesha Sneed, and this podcast is produced by Gina Delvac.