Twee onvergetelijke tentoonstellingen op komst.

Vanaf half september tot na sinterklaas worden er twee onvergetelijke tentoonstellingen gehouden door mij en mijn collega Eveline van de Putte.

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Van 15 september tot en met 26 oktober is UNFORGOTTEN te zien in de Domkerk in Utrecht. Daarna zal deze tentoonstelling van 10 november tot 7 december te zien zijn in Café & gallerie Quirky in Den Haag.
UNFORGOTTEN is een tentoonstelling met de beste foto’s uit ons bestand van 18.000 foto’s die we in het kader van het Headwind project gemaakt hebben in Nepal, Sikkim (India) en Nederland. De foto’s laten het leven van de vluchtelingen uit Bhutan zien in de kampen in Nepal en gaat in op de resettlement van hun waardoor zij in enkele jaren in diaspora worden gebracht.

  • 15 september – 26 oktober
    Domkerk Utrecht
    Project presentatie en vernissage met live muziek op zondag 23 september om 12.30u.
  • 10 november – 7 december
    Café & galerie Quirky, Tasmanstraat 128 Den Haag
    Vernissage en fundraising dinner (traditioneel Nepalees-Bhutaanse schotel) met live muziek op zaterdag 10 november om 18.00u.
    Reserveren gewenst. Prijs: €20 waarvan €5 gedoneerd wordt aan de Empowerment Foundation voor het Headwind project.


Reserveren is gewenst en kan op 070 3808502 of info@cafequirky.com

* In English *

From September 15 until October 26 UNFORGOTTEN, the photo exhibition, can be seen at the Domchurch in Utrecht. UNFORGOTTEN will be brought there in co-operation with the Domchurch Citypastoraat.
Special presentation of Headwind and UNFORGOTTEN is on Sunday September 23rd at 1 PM.

From November 10 until December 7 UNFORGOTTEN will travel to Cafe & gallery Quirky in the Tasmanstraat 128 in The Hague. The vernissage on Saturday November 10 will be followed by a fundraising dinner at 6 PM. Cost €20 of which €5 is donated to the Empowerment Foundation’s Headwind project. Reervations needed and can be made at 070 3808502 or info@cafequirky.com.

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Eve teasing.

It’s fairly common in South Asia. Due to the changing society and increase of women’s liberties it is all to common now in countries like India, Pakistan and Nepal for women to travel without male company. Many men in those countries cannot handle situations where women prove to be independent and some of these men (and boys) become harrasive. Eve teasing is the term used for their sexually abusieve behavior.

Eve teasing relates of course to the Biblical Eve and the word teasing to a playful thing, which it for obvious reasons is not. Over the past few weeks I’ve been working in Nepal, in the southeast Terai and due to the way we work we often used public transport. Two western women, one of them dressed European style and the other dressed Nepali style but still very obvious European white women. Most of the days and most of the travels are without incidents and also most of the days and travels men noticeably observe and watch. Not much ado about anything.

And then, one day, there’s a local bus ride from a provincial town to a refugee camp. The bus is crowded, over crowded as the busses always are. It is by all means the quickest way of transport in that location although one would probably not think so according to the speed of the vehicles. It’s the big bus, not one of the small ones and after a few stops the thing is completely filled with people standing against each other, leaning over and trying to grab anything that can hold them upright while the bus bumpes it’s way along te road. And we are of course noticed.

Most people don’t even react, some of them look at us and children gaze. Older women smile when they see us and younger women look curiously. Old men have no interest but the other man gaze. Except for one. The guy starts throwing remarks. Friendly at first as if he’s trying to charm us but after a while he continues with his remarks in a flirtatious way. Some people laugh. Some remarks are in Nepali and not in English, presumably he thinks we do not understand his Nepali. He is right as far as my European dressed curly haired companion is concerned but I do understand some words. They are sexually loaded remarks.

No one interferes and he seems unable to get more attention than a few laughs from other young men and a couple of giggles from teenager girls. Still, his remarks were pretty indecent as the whole of his behaviour was. The only reasons for it being two western women traveling in the same bus he was in. He could have stayed silent. But he didn’t.

This time there were no others to jump in on his attempts to be ‘funny’. This time there were many women on the bus and only few men. So this time it all stayed at a harmless level. Quite different from another instance earlier last year when I solely walked the streets of a little town during a bhanda, a general strike. At that instance I came into a situation where young men in their early adolescense started throwing remarks at me. Mind you, I was dressed Nepali style as usual at the time. Still they started of from the other side of the street making remarks. First it were words but within minutes some of the were shouting remarks at me. A few of the remarks I understood as I do understand some Nepali. I was being ‘Eve teased’. Not in a ‘funny’ way like on the bus but in a more agressive and intrusive way. I didn’t quite understand what happened at the time but now I know that it was one of those examples of harrasment that many women in South Asia experience when moving in public without male company.

Both instances of Eve Teasing were relatively mild but both of them unwanted. Both instances were sexually loaded and directed at me and both instances were examples of sexual harrasment as in both cases it wat unwanted and intrusive.

Now, after months living and traveling in the region I know more and now I realize how deep the unease of a lot of men is when they see women in public without a male companion. I also understand now that social change and women liberation in countries like Nepal and India has come at a consequence that society has not been able to handle. Men simply seem not able to accept women being emancipated.

Now ofcourse this all is quite different from the experiences we’ve had in working with the great guys who were helping us with our work. They are the modern guys. The ones who act normally and do not fool around. They support and enjoy working together and gender is not an issue with them. But outside this amazing group of guys there are so many men in Nepal and India who seem sexually frustrated. Harrasing women is an evil in society that is unfortunately all to common. Bollywood enforces that as society is constantly flooded with gender traditional images on television. Films, commercials and even music underline an overly heterosexual and gender biased mentality in a culture that is changing rapidly but does not yet understand the importance of female independency and emancipation. Eve teasing is just part of that. It should be fought against as much as possible.

Alice © 2012

2011, a review.

It’s two weeks after the demise of 2011. A good moment for a quick review of my life in that year.

First of all, I’m getting used to realizing that part of my life actually is not following the western calendar but the Nepali calendar which means that this review is some three months too early. Anyway 3.5/12(2067)+8.5/12(2068)=2011 in a somewhat nonmathematical way the reality of last year but for the sake of readability and because I just happened to live in Europe until last year let’s review the past twelve months as the 2011. Thing is, 2011 has become a very surprising year in almost all aspects of life. So much has happened and although some things were really bad most of the year has brought me happiness. Reviewing is not an easy thing in my life as it might very well become a rollercoaster reading experience so I will try to stay chronologically correct.

End of 2010 I had started working on the Headwind project (then Atma project) to bring myself to Nepal and become useful for society in a place that is not as selfish and egocentric as the west. At the same time I had to experience a conflict in the lesbian scene in the Netherlands that pretty much made me sick to my stomach and desiring even more to let it all go and go elsewhere. Little did I know of what would happen.

In january the Atma Project turned into a project for filming a documentary and the decision was made to make a research trip to Nepal and hopefully to ‘a refugee camp’ to find out if making a film would be feasible. We left in February with three team members and it became an amazing trip. We did see a camp, we talked to UNHCR and affiliate organizations and we decided to go on with the filming. That is to say we decided I would continue filming. One team member couldn’t cope working in Nepal. In March we returned to Holland.
Back in Holland that lesbian thing had become worse and so did my disgust with it. It’s not nice to see how a friends business is destroyed by cybercrime and idiots spreading false information on the internet and in the scene. It’s even worse to find out that most lesbians and even some lgbt organizations swiftly hopped on the crucifixion bandwagon pushing for the destruction of an honest business and not caring one bit for the person who runs it. It became the downfall of many lesbian ‘icons’ for as far as I am concerned. So I wrote about that shit.

Then on March 22 the Goldhap camp in Nepal burned down and I just had to leave for Nepal to go to the site as soon as possible. Which meant that I left for Kathmandu in April and stayed there until August. That whole summer including the monsoon I worked and filmed there. I wrote my novel in June (to be published within a couple of months) and I came back with almost all the footage I had set out to get. I visited three major camps including the unfortunate Goldhap camp and the huge Beldangi refugee camp. I gained friendships with amazing people and in the end I lost my heart in Nepal. In August I returned, in love with the country, the people and a woman that I’d met. I had not intended to fall in love, but I did. Still I didn’t know if the feeling was mutual in spite of the special friendship we already had developed. From September disaster (relative disaster that is) struck. The investments for the film had been high and financial support extremely low basically draining my last financial means to the extend that I had to leave my house. Eviction, a traumatic experience.

But I found out that friends do exist and to my great surprise within weeks I found a much cheaper and much nicer place to live. Within a group of people in a beatiful city house and for the first time in ten years I really felt at home. Home is not about the roof above the head but about the people one lives with. A great lesson to learn. And although the financial troubles were big, and still are unsolvable, I felt much happier. The filmwork was in good progress although the Dutch shooting took much longer than anticipated. And then after a couple of month filled with homesickness for the beautiful Nepal countryside and missing my dear friends there all of a sudden that phonecall was there. My co-producer / co-director suggesting me to travel to Nepal and India to escape the grey Dutch winter.

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I knew it was my chance to do extra fieldwork of the things I had missed and, more important, to find out wether my love was something that could be mutual. To find out if she loved me too. So we went on December 10. Back to Kathmandu, back to Jhapa, Damak, the camps, the little farm, to my love. The trip to Nepal and India was amazing. A true adventure shared with the best travel and working companion imaginable and resulting in more than 10.000 photo’s, 8 hours of great video and in the end with a new love in my life. December has been the best month in the year for me which is in itself miraculous as I tend to hate that month.

So it worked out pretty well. And here I am now, fresh in the new year, counting the days before I can travel back to Nepal and start a new life, living together with my love in Kathmandu for at least half of the year and maybe longer when we’re smart. Only months before the release of Headwind, the documentary and the publication of not one but three books. Only months before I will be able to hold her again with the solid intention to start sharing life again.

In the meanwhile that gruesome Dutch lesbian community affair had escalated into the courtroom and end of the coming week a verdict will be read by a judge against one of the people who’ve been rightfully accused of setting up a slanker campaign to kill some other woman’s business. I’m curious wether justice will be done.

As for me, this year will be different from other years, this year I will divide my life between time in my country of birth and time in my country of love. This year will be the year that I am finally done with the biggest perils in my life and restart into another stage of my life with better, more important and more creative work and for the most of it together with that one woman I love so much.

2011 has been a miracle, 2012 is going to be magic!

Alice © 2012

Beeldhouwer gezocht.

Ik zoek een beeldhouwer. Om een standbeeld te maken. Voor op een gigantische sokkel zodat het gemakkelijk gezien kan worden. Een standbeeld voor Anuradha Koirala omdat deze vrouw als geen ander verdiend om alle aandacht te krijgen.

Anuradha Koirala is een Nepalese vrouw van 61 jaar die weliswaar ongeletterd was toen ze slachtoffer van vrouwenhandel werd maar die het gelukt is om te ontsnappen aan haar kwelgeesten. Ze is de moeder Theresa van de slachtoffers van vrouwenhandel in Nepal. In 1993 heeft ze samen met onderwijzers, journalisten en maatschappelijk werkers en mensenrechtenactivisten Maiti Nepal opgericht. Doel was en is om meisjes die slachtoffer zijn geworden of dreigen te worden van trafficking te onttrekken aan de vrouwenhandelaren en een nieuw bestaan te geven.

Vrouwenhandel (vooral jonge meisjes soms al vanaf 5 jaar) is het gruwelijkste probleem in Nepal. Tegenwoordig haalt Maiti Nepal 50 meisjes per dag uit de bussen die de grens met India over gaan. De meisjes worden in de bordelen in India tewerk gesteld en vaak door verhandeld naar landen als Australië en het midden oosten. Ze worden gedwongen tot prostitutie onder afgrijselijke omstandigheden. Velen lopen HIV op en velen overleven het leven in de bordelen van Dehli en Calcutta niet. Naast de 50 geredde meisjes per dag zijn er zo’n 100 die niet gered worden. Per dag.

De meisjes raken getraumatiseerd, geïnfecteerd met HIV en al in de vroege pubertijd zwanger met alle gevolgen van dien. Ze moeten vaak 20 tot 25 mannen per dag ‘bedienen’. De meisjes die gered worden, vaak ternauwernood voor de grens of door invallen van Maiti Nepal in samenwerking met de Indiase politie in de Indiase bordelen, zijn zo zwaar getraumatiseerd dat er nauwelijks met ze te communiceren valt. Maiti Nepal onder leiding van Anuradha Koirala geeft ze een veilig thuis, medische en psychologische zorg.

Anuradha en haar mensen voeren een ongelijke strijd maar geven niet op. Elk gered meisje is een gered leven wat hun betreft en gelukkig is er inmiddels internationale erkenning aan het ontstaan. Vorig jaar werd Anuradha tot ‘hero of the year 2010’ gekroond door CNN en de Amerikaanse regering heeft de organisatie een donatie van $500.000 voor twee jaar geschonken. Als het dan toch over cijfers heb ik er hier nog paar. Maiti Nepal heeft inmiddels zo’n 12.000 meisjes gered en meer dan 1.100 vrouwenhandelaren weten te pakken waarvan er 415 veroordeeld zijn en 725 hun zaak afwachten in een cel. In groepjes van vijf ex slachtoffers worden inmiddels 10 van de 26 grensovergangen met India bewaakt. Elke groep redt zo’n vijf meisjes per dag.
Buiten dat echter is deze vrouw in het westen beperkt bekend en dat mag best veranderen. Wat mij betreft hoort ze aan het rijtje Gandhi – moeder Theresa te worden toegevoegd.

Mijn verblijf in dit overigens prachtige land heeft me duidelijk gemaakt onder welke omstandigheden en met welke beperkingen jonge meisjes opgroeien. De kansen op voldoende onderwijs zijn voor de meesten niet al te groot. Maar al te vaak moet door armoede besloten worden om de twee extra jaren die na de middelbare school volgen en die essentieel zijn voor vervolgopleidingen niet te volgen. Diezelfde armoede maakt dat in een gezin met meerdere dochters het lastig is om een huwelijkspartner te vinden. Immers in deze samenleving zijn gearrangeerde huwelijken nog altijd de regel en daarbij hoort dat de ouders van de bruid een bruidsschat doneren. Met weinig geld is die bruidsschat een onmogelijkheid. Om die reden worden jonge meisjes nogal eens meegegeven aan vrouwenhandelaren wat dus vaak gelijk staat aan uitgestelde moord. Natuurlijk is armoede geen excuus voor het exces van de meisjeshandel in Nepal. Ook de traditionele niet vrouwvriendelijke cultuur is geen excuus daarvoor. Het is dieptriest te moeten vaststellen dat de politieke rammelkast Nepal tot gevolg heeft dat de overheid uitblinkt in ineffectiviteit in alle gebieden van de samenleving. Milieu, infrastructuur, veiligheid, onderwijs, gezondheidszorg, het zijn allemaal probleem gebieden. Maar het voornaamste achterliggende probleem is een cultuur die nog veel kenmerken van een middeleeuws tijdperk kent. Het gebrek aan respect voor de rechten van minderheden en vrouwen is een ingebakken gebrek gevoed door een eeuwenlange deken van traditioneel Hindoeïsme en een onmenselijk kastenstelsel.

Wat niet wil zeggen dat er in dit land geen mensen zijn die onder die deken vandaan gekropen zijn, integendeel. De jongere generatie is veelbelovend en vrouwen als Anuradha Koirala zijn een voorbeeld voor een ieder. Dat is de reden dat een standbeeld voor haar bepaald op zijn plaats is.

Alice © 2011