top of page
Interview Bites

Below you will find highlights of interviews already published or previews of interviews we will publish soon. 

Abigail Kajumba

(Uganda, Raising Voices)

I identify myself as an African, and as a black woman, which has its own challenges and its own blessings. I come from a mixed ethnic background, which also came with its cultural nuances… here in Uganda and in the United Kingdom. Now I can say in front of other Ugandans that I am a Ugandan woman, an African woman, a mixed ethnic woman, and in most circumstances at least, I do not feel reactions from my peers or my colleagues. But as a child I felt it. And even now if I go to my hometown in rural Uganda, where the members of the community have less experience with diversity, they might emphatically describe me as a mzungu (foreigner). They assume that I'm not like them because I have lighter skin, due to my mixed ethnicity with a black African father and a white English mother. In the case of the United Kingdom, they described me as a black girl, as an African, with its implications, and I was often perceived as black, and NOT ‘British’, because of my darker skin. At that time even the label ‘Black British’ was not common. That is changing. Now in Great Britain being black or mixed ethnic is not an exception. Nevertheless, there are still challenges of being black, and more so a black woman even in Britain today.

Interestingly, relating to my career leading global nonprofits and International NGOs, across Africa, the UK, USA and beyond; as well as being African and multi-cultural myself, I have decades of work experience managing multicultural, diverse, and global teams. That coupled with my related studies means I have a deep understanding and working knowledge of this ever more global world. In light of that, although my ethnicity and international background was, and still can be, seen as a disadvantage, to the more enlightened, it is increasingly seen as a strength. I have been described as a unicorn. I am happy to identify as a colourful, unique (and ideally flying) unicorn! Mostly, like us all, I am me and for those who know me, that is enough.

 

Ruth Namembezi

(Uganda, Ask Without Shame)

In Uganda, sexual education is not included in the academic curriculum, so very few schools offer it. Young people lack the opportunity to learn about sexuality from school, and even parents shy away from discussing it with their children due to cultural taboos. Most of the youth end up searching for information on the internet or getting it from their peers. Even with the introduction of comprehensive sex education in schools, the government is only emphasizing prevention. For instance, when it comes to STIs, one of the most stigmatized topics, they teach only preventive measures and assume that youth/adolescents are not affected and are safe or healthy. They teach them to prevent STIs but do not cover broader aspects such as testing or treatment.

 

Naomi Tulay-Solanke

(Liberia, Community Health Care Initiative)

I believe that simply increasing the number of women in parliament does not necessarily change societal views towards women. It is important that women in parliament are knowledgeable and informed. Currently, even with the 11% of women that we have in parliament, many of them still hold onto patriarchal values that they need to disregard.

On the other hand, while some women may prioritize their families, their presence serves as inspiration for young girls who have been told that they cannot achieve positions of power. In my opinion, having more women in parliament is a positive step for women overall. However, if we do not address the underlying issues and educate people, we will not make meaningful progress.

Currently, not enough political attention is being paid to the needs of young women in Liberia.

 

Refiloe Seseane

(South Africa, 18twenty8)

I mentioned earlier that women in rural areas need autonomy in four key areas: reproductive autonomy, which includes primary healthcare; economic autonomy; intellectual autonomy and technological autonomy.

Reproductive autonomy involves ensuring that women have access to contraception and family planning services so that they can make informed decisions about having children. Women in difficult positions should not be forced to have children if they are not ready.

Economic autonomy means giving women access to markets and employment opportunities so that they can earn a living and start their own businesses when they are ready. Skilled women can generate income for themselves and contribute to their communities.

Intellectual autonomy involves providing skills training and development opportunities so that women can use their minds to pursue their interests and reach their full potential.

Finally, through technological autonomy women in South Africa’s rural, and other remote areas, can take charge of their lives, achieve their goals and reach wider networks of support.

 

Magdalena Linke-Koszec

(Poland, Her Impact)

Other initiatives and ideas advocated by the members of the government and the party ruling in Poland have affected women's professional careers too. We have heard members of the government saying more or less clearly: professional women cannot be mothers at the same time. Even women's right to express by themselves has been limited. That same trend trying to undermine feminism has been undermining the work of women's organizations trying to help Polish women.

 

Deqo Mohamed

(Somalia, Hagarla Institute)

How can we change our society if a young woman who goes to college cannot see another woman teaching? All the teachers and administrators in these institutions are male. This lack of representation can cause young women to become pessimistic and doubt their worth. They may wonder if they are only getting a degree to become an assistant at a bank or to be seen as a reproductive machine.

 

Daniela Jager and Ms. Lena Diesner

(Austria, Womens Referendum 2.0)

"It is even worse for women of color and immigrants... No immigrant woman, no ethnic minority woman is hired to work at high level of the administration of a big company. Those who hire prefer to choose people who look like them, and who are like them..." (Daniela Jager)

Rugile Butkeviciute

(Lithuania, Women’s Issues Information Centre)

Just recently I met a victim. She told me she wanted to file for divorce. I asked her, why now? You've been suffering this situation for almost fifteen years. And she answered, well, you know, I live very close to my mom, in the same apartment building, and every day we meet, we drink coffee, we drink tea. So, she knows what is happening in my family since the very beginning, but she has always told me that I am the glue that sticks the family together. And she continued, remember that your father did similar things, but I never left him because I wanted you to grow up, you know, with the mom and dad by your side . So, you need to fight for that as well . So, this is what we call intergenerational trauma. It's really a big thing, because it really passes those stereotypes, those traumatic experiences from generation to generation. And that is not the correct way to deal with these issues if we want to put an end to situations similar to that I have just described.  

Marina Meskhi

(Georgia, Anti Violence Network of Georgia)

"Years ago, I couldn’t imagine having a female president in Georgia in my life, however, the president and the chief justice are now female. So, on the one hand, we have women making great strides in Georgia, but on the other, there are still so many problems concerning gender equality."

Amara Montoya and Ms. Irene de la Vega García

(Spain, Romi Serseni)

"Romani women do face more discrimination. It is just that combination of being women and Romani, part of a cultural/ethnic minority. So, Romani women have that extra layer of ethnic cultural discrimination on top of gender... " (Amara Montoya)

"... I agree with Amara. Ethnic and gender prejudice are very dangerous combination in this case. Romani women have to deal with situations that white woman cannot even imagine" (Irene de la Vega García) 

Tatjana Latinovic

(Iceland, Icelandic Women’s Rights Association)

“The fight for women's rights is not against men. It's against patriarchal structures that negatively impact everyone in society. So, there can be a role for men in this fight. Obviously, they are allies. They should listen and not oppose progress and keep their hands off the legislation. So, they should at least not be a part of the problem and be part of the solution.”

Ana Tikvic

(Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nisam tražila Initiative)

“Balkan countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro are countries in transition. Their origin goes back to the end of a conflict that in some cases became an armed conflict and concluded with the end of Yugoslavia. Since then these societies have been trying to create their own state, their own economy. In this long process, they have found issues difficult to deal with: poverty, for example, or gender inequality. We are still building our education system, and in that process we are trying to incorporate sexual education from primary to high schools. Unlike Croatia, unfortunately, Serbia nor Bosnia & Herzegovina have not even begun that process. Very likely, the powerful influence of the Orthodox Church is a very important factor in these two cases.

And not having sexual education in schools is a very important problem since a lot of people don't even know what sexual harassment or gender-based violence are. In many cases, regardless their ages, we have met women not knowing that what they had experienced before coming to us is gender-based violence and therefore they do not know that there are legal ways to stop it.”

Annemarie Heiniger

(Switzerland, l’Association Suisse pour les droits des femmes)

“The fundamental problem is the power imbalance between men and women. The fear of male violence, sexual violence and even feminicide. - This is where we have to start. But who voluntarily gives up power? In addition, there is the unequal distribution of money and, once again, the unequal distribution of care work."

Ursula Nakamura-Stoecklin

(Switzerland, l’Association Suisse pour les droits des femmes)

“This is one of the most relevant challenges the World Health Organization is facing, the enormous gap between wealthy and poor countries. While we are discussing here for example, about completely unnecessary and expensive cosmetic surgery, countries in the global South are lacking the most basic necessities. As the only global organization WHO is committed to universal health coverage. WHO constantly exhorts the financially and economically strong countries to share their resources in the health sector with the beneficiaries. Particularly urgent are the WHO appeals around the Covid vaccinations, where even today in poor countries only about 2% of the population could get vaccinated - and unfortunately so many people have died. WHO engirt itself very much for mental health. Its multilingual manual of practice is widely used in health centers in many countries. WHO consistently advocates for compliance to the Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, as fundamental human right. Prevention, e.g. of unwanted pregnancies, is therefore extremely important. This is only possible thanks to a worldwide knowledge about contraception and family planning. In the case of abortions, it fights for good medical care."

Elena Maquieiara Palmer

(Colombia, Fondo Lunaria)

“Machismo is everywhere here in Colombia, it is very embedded. Sometimes, I have to question myself about certain cultural issues that we accept and suddenly we realized that they are part of this machismo. We can find regional differences, for example Caribbean Colombia has its own machismo, as well as the rest of the regions. In general, a society is machista if it does not grant women the same rights as men have. Inequality is an essential element of this kind of society. There are well-defined gender roles: women must be in the kitchen, at home taking care of the children. Women must be mothers. The new Colombian generations are rejecting these ideas, but still, you can feel it every day when, for example, you take public transportation in Bogota. Sexual harassment is common, still women suffer it every day, and it seems that there is no social rejection. This machismo is embedded in our society, and it is very difficult to change it as fast as we want. It will be future generations that will put an end to machismo. That is my hope"

Myriam Narcisse

(Haiti, Haiti Adolescent Girls Network)

“That’s a question that strikes home because from my experience, violence is something we have to dig deeper into our society in order to address. Women and girls are the ones really bearing the brunt of the inherent presence of violence in every aspect of our daily life. For us as a society to be able to address violence, we have to start with not only developing a culture of peace, but also developing a culture of dialogue. We have to learn to talk to one another. I grew up with spanking and later physical punishment. This is the outward expression of violence but the communication that should happen within families and households is where this should begin. I was very much afraid of my father. I could not dream of going home pregnant because I knew he would literally kill me. In the way I was raised, I was never put in a position that allowed me to navigate the dangers and risks that young women are facing in everyday life. I believe this responsibility starts with women because women are the ones raising boys, and we should seek to prevent the unconscious perpetuation of these stereotypes. When we talk about violence against women, we definitely need to strengthen the law, strengthen the perception and provide resources through the development of our culture. Let’s say you are a victim of violence. How supportive and enabling is the environment to you actually exercising your rights? We cannot agree to disagree and find common ground. Something that is not reflected in our policies and resources is that even if we do not agree to disagree, a woman needs to be able to exercise her rights and to be supported."

Francisa Awa Mbuli

(Cameroon, Survivors' Network)

“I appeared in the national media and I brought the attention of the Minister of Women Empowerment, and she was just like, come to my office and tell me your story. We went there as a group of survivors. The US Embassy brought attention to my work and they called me. From 2015 to 2018 I was honored with the Trafficking in Persons Hero. I was in DC coordinated by the US Embassy in Cameroon and since then I've been the Trafficking in Persons Hero, because I'm still doing exceptionally well with what I'm doing and I love it. I will quote in 2019 at the Obama Foundation Summit, I was fortunate to be on the panel with President Obama, which I told him, What I'm doing is my passion."

**Complete Interview Coming Soon**

Eleuteria Amora da Silva

(Brazil, CAMTRA)

“When I went to Berlin, I saw an ad about shaving, like the Brazilian waxing, which is very famous in the United States too. It’s the idea that you're going to remove all your hair in the name of beauty standards. The hair is there for some reason, probably protection, so what is it that makes us go through that procedure? What kind of pressure are we responding to when we do things like that?

You can also celebrate the beauty of Brazilian women per se, but not without forgetting the legacies of slavery and colonization and what that meant for Brazilians and for women in particular."

Janice Abbott

(Canada, Atira Women's Organization)

“I think we’re still struggling to figure out the education piece and this has to do with a right-wing element in our population that doesn’t want their children learning about gender and relationships in school. They strongly believe that this education should happen at home between parents and children. So that’s definitely a struggle but we are making progress in schools to include all genders and talk about violence against women and healthy relationships. However, I still think we focus too much on intervention and not enough on prevention. We still have quite a way to go but I absolutely agree that the way to end gendered violence is to build healthy children in school"

Cecilia Ananias Soto

(Chile. Amaranta)

"They expect women to be in charge of their houses, of their kids and their jobs at the same time: they have to do everything, they have to be super-women or something like that.  Some try to do it, but at the end of the day, they end up exhausted. The other option is to say I can’t do this anymore and quit your job. That's why you see many women trying so hard to get a job, and many others trying to keep it, and finally staying at home, taking care of the others, taking care of the kids, working really hard without a salary. I don't know a single woman who is doing nothing."


Ekaterina Dimitrova

(Bulgaria, Bulgaria Euro-Atlantic Club)

"Years ago, the EU published a report confirming that girls are interested in acquiring digital skills, in programming coding, even in engineering. But then since they are 13, their participation in workshops or training drops down significantly. It is then when it seems that they think that they should study something different, so somehow, they're discouraged at this point…"


Drishti Pillai

 

(United States, National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum)

"At the same time having a single professor that sort of looks like you, is so powerful, especially if that's not common. I have had one woman of color professor in my entire academic career. She happened to be an immigrant from India, so I feel like that it was the first time in my life that I thought that someone like me could one day be in a space like that, until then, it was unthinkable, but when I saw someone that looked like me lecturing that spoke with the same accent I spoke. It was really powerful, that's why I decided to teach this past semester. I didn't want other students to go through the system, especially women of color, not seeing anyone that looks like them".

Shomy Hasan Chowdhury

 

(Bangladesh, Awareness 360)

“You'll be surprised to know that in the majority of the advertisements for sanitary napkins, the blood drop is usually shown in blue or purple color. Why not red? Why don't we portray things as they are? … These are things that breed the stigma and this wrong perception, so the media definitely has a huge role to play in advancing gender equality.

 

We need to come out of this protective notion, because we do not have to protect girls and women if we can make the environment safe for them. We should rather focus on the source of the problem instead of limiting their independence and freedom.”

Sveto M. Ishoq

(Afghanistan, Ayat & Chadari)

"It doesn't matter the country they come from. There is always this kind of negativity. They always identify me with Afghanistan, where they believe there is no room for peace. This is what they think because that is what they watch and read [in the] media. To change that prejudice is my motivation to develop my projects...


Most of the most popular media comes from the West, so I feel we need more representation from this side of the world to spread our own stories, to offer the opportunity to listen to our own voices. That is what I did when I was studying in China: I represented Afghanistan, Afghan culture, and Afghan women in different platforms. I was invited to different conferences in cities like Shanghai and Hangzhou, and I represented Afghan women and I was happy to do that, because I could give them our own perspective".

Irina Ilisei

(Romania, Plural Association)

"I would like to share the experience Romania had during the Communist regime, when there was no, or very little access to contraception. This was happening mostly if you had good connections and money. Abortion was strongly forbidden. If you were a woman caught having an abortion, actually deciding about your own body, or a doctor, or someone who helps in doing this, you would face 20 years in prison. This actually did not grow the natality rate in Romania, as our dictator back then was hoping. What happened was that women were continuing to do abortions, but with very, very high risks. The actual number is much, much higher, but the “official” number is that 10,000 women died during the Communist regime in trying to have abortions. 

 

So, in Texas, Poland, or in many other places where there is no free access to abortion, the situation will be very similar to that in Romania then. Women will continue to have abortions, but not in a safe way. Women will travel abroad, but who can afford to travel?" 

Milena Kadieva

(Bulgaria, Gender Alternatives Foundation)

"I would start from this basic quote from Simone de Beauvoir who says, feminism is the radical idea that women are people. It is this and I would like to believe it is. For me, feminism is fighting for gender equity and, in addition, is recognizing the different inequalities that exist between men and women. It's more about fighting patriarchy, not all about fighting men”.

Olfat Mahmoud

(Palestine, Palestinien Women's Humanitarian Organization)

"When I was a child, we did not have books not even libraries around. You know, we lived in a refugee camp where we only had our tents. No services, no resources at all. So, every night instead of reading a book before going to sleep, it was our grandparents who told us a story.

They told us stories they had experienced. That’s what’s called oral history now. Since I was five or four years old, I asked them questions about our homeland, I am Palestinian but I don't know Palestine... I'm in Lebanon, so why am I not Lebanese? Their answers helped me understand our problem. It was very nice that they never told me those stories with animosity.  Those stories helped me understand that I am a survivor. I am a refugee, but I’m not a poor refugee. I'm a strong refugee. I don't want to be a victim, I want to be a survivor. And this is a huge difference, when you’re brought up as a survivor than when you are brought up as a victim. So, my grandparents' daily night story made me a survivor and made me strong. They convinced me about the existence of a peaceful way".

 

Abrar Omeish

(United States. School Board Member-at-Large at Fairfax County Public Schools)

"For far too long, historically, the law has been manipulated, designed so that certain types of people may flourish while others are left out. When I came to law school, I learned about cases through history where this manipulation was a reality. Women were excluded from legal spaces for a long time, along with minorities, Native Americans, and others. The law was weaponized against people like that."


Nupur Agarwal 

(India, Evolve Foundation)

"... So it is so important to move out of your comfort zone, move out of your shell, learn new languages, meet new people, discover new challenges and new possibilities. In our culture, we have this expression: “kupamanduka” meaning frog in a well. "Do you want to be a frog in a well? A frog which just knows the boundaries of a well? Or do you want to jump out of the well and become a prince/princess?" 

 

So, one must travel and explore and meet more people and gather more experience and information. A  lot of information today is available on the Internet, books... You can read and gather a lot of information, but only your physical presence and your exposure will leverage more and more experience in your life. Once you combine that experience with the information that you've gathered from the books, I believe you will become a wiser human being, a more impactful human being...".

 

Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi

(Nigeria. Stand to End Rape Initiative)

"In Nigeria, there is a cultural belief that a girl must be a virgin to be considered pure, worthy, and innocent in the eyes of God. Unfortunately, this belief does not apply to men. If a girl experiences any form of violation, especially rape, she is considered unclean and loses the value placed on her virginity. This pressure to remain a virgin and the fear of being viewed as broken, damaged, or filthy can lead to victims of rape remaining silent about their experiences."

bottom of page