Seremos Ley

Hola Amigxs!

Now I am entering week three here in Argentina and I finally got in contact with some people involved in the struggle and the movement for the legalization of abortion about conducting interviews with them. So for this week I have scheduled three interviews, the first one tomorrow. The nerves are a bit shaky but it will hopefully be fine.

Tomorrow I will conduct an interview with a women involved in the “National Campaign for the legalization of abortion” (La campaña nacional por el aborto legal seguro y gratuito) and then later during the week I have two interviews with two medicine students who are organizing an open and free course at the medicin faculty about abortion and it being a problem of public health care. Since the practice of abortion is illegal the medicin students does not get trained in how to address the issue of abortion and how to talk about it.  The organizers of the course states that the purpose of the course is to provide academic and practical tools that are needed in order to confront the reality, a reality where where people that are able to get pregnant do have abortions .  The penalization of the practice imply that women realize abortion in unsafe and clandestine manner, which makes it a problem of public health care. I believe that it is an important aspect and action  in the struggle for the legalization to also provide professionals with the tools they need in order to help women.

During the weekend I had time to enjoy some fiesta. A cultural center in the city had a LGBTQ festival that where arranging performances and concerts that raised awareness to the trans and non binary artist scene. It was really fun and so nice and open energy at the place. It makes me glad that there are places like this where everyone is welcomed and the hegemonic way of understanding gender is challenged and deconstructed.

During Sunday evening I went to a book release event. A student from the journalist faculty presented her book “Seremos Ley” that is a result from her bachelor thesis. The book presents various stories from the women engaged in the movement for the legalization of abortion and especially women engaged in the “socorrismo”. Las socorristas is a group of women that help and accompany persons that wish to have an abortion in the process, so that they are able to have a safe and abortion. This national network of help or first aid, which is the translation of socorrismo into english,  has become extremely important to the struggle for legalizing abortion. Every year this network help and accompany around 5,000 women to have safe abortions.

During the event there were some beautiful live music but also a discussion talk and presentation of the book by the author. Women who had been interviewed for the book where also there and together they presented a interesting discussion of the their work and its importance for the struggle.

The book Seremos Ley which in English means “we will be ley”.

Picture of the talk where the author presented her book and then some live music.

The call for abortion can be found in many different places, for example in the bathroom of the place where they held the party, there I found these stickers.

 

 

Talking to volunteer fighters

This week I conducted quite a lot of interviews with people who enrolled voluntarily to various military battalions. We talked about their motivations for voluntary enrollment, as well as their experiences in both civilian and combat zone. Moreover, I met and interviewed the friends and mothers of fallen soldiers. This helped me to get a better insight into the motivations of volunteer fighters. I have to say that these meetings were very emotional, and especially the interviews with the mothers of fallen soldiers were very difficult to conduct. The stories that they told me were very tragic and sensitive. It was very difficult to hold tears during some of the interviews.

I was invited to the environmental event by some volunteer fighters. The purpose of this long planned project was to plant trees in commemoration of fallen soldiers. The event took place in the Maksim Gorkiy park, in Odessa. After the planting of trees was completed, the participants of this event mingled and enjoyed drinking tea with some Ukrainian sweeties. During this mingle, I was acquainted with more volunteers, as well as their friends and relatives. Consequently, thanks to these contacts my schedule is full with planned meetings for the upcoming weeks. I will conduct more interviews with volunteer fighters, and even participate in a celebration event.

Tree planting with Donbass war veterans in commemoration of fallen soldiers
Planted trees in commemoration of fallen soldiers in Donbass
Together with volunteer fighters and their friends

The tenth of April some residents of Odessa were celebrating the 75th anniversary since the liberation of the city from German occupation. To my surprise, the city administration of Odessa and some governmental structures supported the organizers of this event. However, this event was not welcomed by all residents of the city having in mind the Soviet nostalgia evoked by this commemoration. On this day, the police was mobilized in great numbers to prevent violent actions.

10th of April, in front of the monument to an unknown sailor in Odessa
April 10 – in front of the monument to an unknown sailor in Odessa
Celebration on the “square of 10th April”
Soviet remnants
Together with Ukrainian Guard of Honor in the “Park of Victory”

I was also invited to Rukh’s office in Odessa by the former volunteer fighter who works there. Rukh is people’s movement and a political party that mostly attracts Ukrainian nationalists. I have met many Ukrainian volunteer combatants who support right wing political movements and parties. However, it is important to mention that these nationalists differ from those in Western Europe and Scandinavia. My encounter with Ukrainian nationalists was always nice, and at least out of my experience, I can conclude that these people express civic nationalism rather than ethnic. I would call these Ukrainians passionate patriots and not radical far right nationalists as some call them in various media outlets. These are people who love their country. They welcome all ethnicities who respect the sovereignty of Ukraine.

Rukh’s office in Odessa

This was all from the city of Odessa. See ya next week!

Kwaheri Zanzibar

It’s safe to say that during two months in Zanzibar, I’ve experienced some very unfortunate situations. Everything from getting robbed and injured to getting typhoid fever my last two weeks. But nonetheless, I’ve enjoyed this time to the fullest and wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. For me, this MFS has been both a personal journey as well as it has benefitted my studies and given me an incredible eye-opener to a whole different culture. I’ve made friends from all over the world, learned some Kiswahili, lived 5 minutes from the most beautiful sea and in the heart of a UNESCO heritage city. Most valuable of all, I’ve gotten to collect data on one of the most interesting places in the world.

 

 

I now have 8 weeks of observations and several interviews done, which I concluded in the last week. To be honest, studying colorism has been a bit tricky, something I knew would be a difficult topic to discuss from the get-go. In many cultures, it’s not common to speak about the discriminatory practice and it is not viewed as a form of internalised racism. Approaching people with my subject has therefore been a challenge as many people were of the idea that it’s simply evident that being of lighter skin is better and more beautiful. I’ve discovered that colorism, in fact, does affect women in various ways, be it in unconscious or conscious. Some of my interviewees witnessed being teased in school for the color of their skin, received nicknames based on their skin complexion and overall, described that women with lighter skin color have it much easier in several settings. At the same time, I learned that the revolution in Zanzibar and the unity of the people has, according to my observations and my interviews, led to colorism not being as palpable on the island archipelago as on the mainland of Tanzania.

I’m thankful for SIDA for giving me this opportunity and in general, thankful that I live in a country that has the means to be able to provide young generations with this type of life-changing experiences. I’m thankful for all the friendships I made,  my interviewees who so kindly offered me their time , the staff at SUZA who not only taught me swahili but also helped me understand the culture of Zanzibar and assisted me with knowledge and help in all my endeavors. My journey ends here for now, but I will definitely be back soon. Asante sana Zanzibar, you have changed me forever.

 

 

First interviews and participant observation within the Right Sector

Another week in Ukraine came to an end. A week ago approximately 30% of Ukrainians voted for a comedian Volodymyr Zelensky. Most of my Ukrainian acquaintances here said to me that they voted for Zelensky. They believe that the elections were conducted transparent and democratic. I have also met some people who think that it is not the right time for Ukraine to play democracy during the ongoing crisis. Therefore, they support the current “conservative” president Petro Poroshenko who will compete with Zelensky for the presidency. The second round of the elections will be held by the end of the April. Meanwhile, Poroshenko and Zelensky will engage in debates to win the minds and hearts of their voters.

This week I became acquainted with the Right Sector’s activities more closely. I met some key individuals within the organization and had an interesting conversation about the motivations of volunteer fighters. I met people who have recently returned from the frontline, but also with those who plan to depart soon. Two interviews were conducted this week. A lot more interviews are planned for the uppcoming weeks. I make use of the snowball sampling technique and I strongly recommend it to everyone who use interviews as the data collection method.  With the help of snowball technique I am constantly introduced to new people thanks to the social network of my research participants. Although I have arranged many meetings for the next week, the saturation point seems to be far away . So, to answer my research question I will need to get multiple insights on the phenomenon of voluntary enrollment in military battalions.

Together with the members of the Right Sector
Confiscated items with Russian or Soviet symbolic

I have also engaged in the activities of the Right Sector and made my first participant observation in the field. The Right Sector plays an active role not only in the conflict zone, but also in somewhat relatively peaceful settings of the everyday life. For instance, I followed with the members of the organization to Bessarabia in South Ukraine, close to the Moldavian and Romanian border. This trip played a preventive role and counteracted the attempt of a certain church to be incorporated into the Moscow Patriarchate. There is an ongoing competition and tension between the Moscow and Kiev Patriarchates. Both compete for the control of the churches located on the Ukrainian territory. According to some members of the Right Sector, churches that belong to Moscow Patriarchate take their orders from Russia and frequently engage in conspiracy to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty. Consequently, this trip was aimed to impede the possible conversion of a particular church to the Moscow Patriarchate. Fortunately, everything went without violence, though similar events in the past usually resulted in unpleasant incidents.

A conversation with the church abbot
Ukrainian police during the manifestation in front of the church
With proponents of Kiev Patriarchate in front of the church

Later on we had a lovely picnic in the forests of Bessarabia where everyone mingled. During this mingle I was introduced to some former volunteer militias whom I plan to meet and interview next week.

With the members of Right Sector during the picnic

Lastly, I would like to mention about the politicized and militarized stand posters that can be encountered in the streets of Odessa. These posters carry agitational character and express ideological aspects of the confrontation between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian exhortations. The frequently encountered slogans remind people about the Russian agression, while other posters inspire for voluntary military enrollment. There are also posters that glorify the actions of the Soviet Union during the World War Two, especially the victory over the so called “Fascist” occupation. Despite these conspiratorial posters, the Ukrainian people live with the hope for a peaceful future.

A poster in Odessa calling for the volunteer enrollment to the army
A poster that reminds people about the Russian aggression
The poster text says: 75th anniversary of the liberation of Odessa from Nazi occupation

It was all for this week and I will be back with more stories next week!

Вибори Президента України – Ukrainian Presidential Elections

My second week in Ukraine was very successful and progressive. I eventually met my contact person at the I. I. Mechnikov Odessa National University. We discussed the purpose of my study and my contact person expressed her readiness and willingness to help with possible practical issues in the field. The fact that the I. I. Mechnikov Odessa National University and Malmö University are partner universities made me even more comfortable. Nevertheless, I did not like the remnants of Soviet bureaucratic procedures such as unnecessary long waiting times for solving very simple things. Moreover, the  existing hierarchy with varying power relations that one has to deal with is another shortcoming of the post-Soviet educational system.

I. I. Mechnikov Odessa National University

After the efforts of my gatekeeper in the field, I was introduced to the key informant within the Right Sector. I also met the head of  the Right Sector and described my project in detail. Thanks to these contacts, I will hopefully meet and interview some volunteers who will soon depart to join the military squads in Eastern Ukraine. Some of these volunteers have already been at the frontline, and some others are recent recruits. It is very exciting to interview these fighters and to get insight about why they join the non-state paramilitary batallions and squads instead of the regular Ukrainian army. These interviews are planned to be conducted earliest next week since the whole country is getting ready for the presidential elections.

The Ukrainian elections will take place tomorrow, March 31. Although there are plenty of candidates in this presidential race, people are skeptical about these elections.  Most Ukrainians are convinced that their country is still far away from honest, just and accountable elections. Some are indifferent and don’t want to waste time on something they can’t influence. This indifference is explained by the influential role of high ranking oligarchs in the country who usually have the final word.  Recently, I had a conversation with a taxi driver who told me a real life story about his experience of Ukrainian elections. This middle aged man went to one of the municipal electoral boards to confirm his participation in the upcoming elections. However, his name was not found in the voting list, whereas the electoral comission found his dead father who was registered as a voter. The man just laughed and said nothing when I asked him whether this incident was an accident, a technical error or a deliberate strategy!?

The poster of the current president Petro Poroshenko

Regardless the distrust towards their politicians, considerable number of voters support Yulia Tymoshenko who can become the first ever woman president in the history of the post-Soviet Ukraine. Tymoshenko’s campaigners told me that Ukraine needs a new hand, a new breath, a new start, and finally a mistress who will rule the country differently from her masculine predecessors.

Yulia Timoshenko’s electoral tent

I really wish Ukrainian people  successful elections and I hope that these elections will be held without any violence!

Focus Group Interviews

My week in Lokichar was highly eventful and went a lot better and much quicker than I thought. I was introduced to my contact person there through Friends of Lake Turkana who came to see me as I arrived to plan our week and the interviews.

The plan was to interview 3 local tribes affected in different ways of the extractives, as well as other key people and one of the managers of the oil company operation in the area. We managed to hold focus group discussions/interviews with the tribes and the information collected has created a good foundation for my work. We also visited a couple of sites holding hazardous waste and collected information regarding the impact of this on the environment and living standards of the nearby tribes.

I was invited to and participated in an information meeting for CSO’s by the oil company, however the interview I was going to have with one of the managers kept getting cancelled and postponed and it later came to my knowledge that the person in question had deliberately been avoiding me. Through some further contacts made during my stay in Lokichar this was later resolved after I had left and the person in question have now confirmed with me that he will agree to having a meeting which will take place after the new year.

I have had to reschedule a lot and re-plan my visit due to Christmas Holidays. After the 12th of December (Jamhuri Day, the day Kenya celebrate becoming a republic) most people go on leave return after the new year. However, before this I had to go down to Nairobi to extend my visa and fly back up to attend a 2 day conference which I will write about in my nest post.

 

 

Lucia and finished interviews

Lucia!

So I have finally completed all my interviews. I had aimed for 10 but with some difficulties of getting students to agree for interviews I ended up with 8. I am starting to stress a little about finishing it all in time and working hard analysing my material and writing. (So hard I forget to do my updates here haha).

 

Me, my translator Priya and two of the students from MAVA

 

Today is Lucia and I’mm both struck with a cold, making my brain work all slow, and homesickness. Since I have been away from home over Christmas a few times before I came prepared. Other times I have been able to go to IKEA for my homesickness treatment, but India only have one store in the country hahah.  So, this time, to save some time trying to search for ingredients I brought dry yeast and “pärlsocker”. I am planning to do some cinnamonbuns and saffronbuns (lussebullar). Hopefully it turns out okey. The house where I stay doesn’t have a proper oven though. Which is not a common thing to have in India. They usually make do with just a gas stove.  Wish me luck!

One great thing (among many) about doing my thesis here in India is the marvelous option of ordering food through an app. It is cheap and I can pretty much chose from whatever restaurang in the area. This saves me great time. Like instead of cocking I can 100% focus on writing…. or watch youtube videos…. or sit for 40 mins deciding what I want to order and then wait another 40 mins for delivery… you all know how it goes. And did I mention dessert.

Anyways! It is for sure time to pick up some speed to finish this in time.
Christmas is around the corner and so is deadline!!

One more week has passed

And a week goes so fast in Kampala, especially if you are sick, as I (Wictoria) have been. Now we are done with almost half of the interviews. Our plan is to do the rest of the interviews next week, but we dont know if this is possible yet. It’s not always so easy to find nurses to interview at the hospital because they have a lot to do. But the interviews are very interesting so all the struggle is worth it.

Carl

Besides, the interviews we also had the time to visit a handicraft market in Kampala. It was nice, but it’s the same things as everywhere else in East Africa. I love the crafts, but if you seen one shop – you’ve seen it all. We also had some fresh passion fruit juice at a café. That is to die for here. The best thing you can drink in Uganda!

I had to visit another hospital on Thursday, so now I been a patient as well. My stomach haven’t been so nice to me so I needed to visit a doctor. I got some antibiotics and worm medicine. The doctor said that here in Uganda everyone should take worm medication every 6 month because you get worms in the food you eat even though you are careful. So both me and Carl bought the medication and took like the cats we are. I feel a little bit better now when the antibiotics are over, but now entire fine. So, I have to evaluate tomorrow or Tuesday if I have to go back to the hospital if it’s not getting any better. Well, life outside of Sweden has it’s downsides aswell…

Wictoria

The plan for next week is just work and no fun. Maybe visit a tailor and make some new clothes, but our friend Halima is trying to find out if her friend can find time for us. This is the holiday season so eveyone makes new clothes so all the taylors are so busy!
Until next time!

Bye,

Wictoria and Carl

Train traveling, interviews and transcribeboredom

Time is flying by! It is easy to forget to update! A lot has been going on.. I had my birthday and went out of town for some celebrations. I have managed to complete five interviews all of a sudden. I am also getting more and more comfortable going on the local trains even if the train as such is not a one of comfort. If you are unlucky with the timing in the mornings and evenings when all of Mumbai also want to go on the trains.. yeah.. well, then you do your best to even manage to get onboard. Put your bag in the front, tackle the door from the side, try to get hold of the doorhandle and squeez your way up. And don’t be afraid to use them elbows your mother gave you cos you need them. At least I am a little taller compared to the majority which is an advantage. This week however I didn’t even make it further in the train than just to stand by the door. And here in India the door does not close.. Exciting to say the least… I wanted to take a picture but then it would have been for the price of losing my phone. Anyways, I try to avoid peakhours as much as possible. It is just not worth the bruises and the sweating and the stares I get from looking like the lost tourist that I am. However, I feel pretty proud about managing this good haha!

 

Pictures from my trip to Gorai, outside of Mumbai, for my birthday

 

So as I said.. I have now conducted five interviews and have five left to go. It has been a little difficult to get hold of students and still trying to get the remaining interviews confirmed. I have transcribed two of them and it takes sooo much time. 50 min becomes 11 pages of text and about 4-5 hours of work.  The other three interviews have been in hindi where I have had the help of an interpreter. So waiting for her to give me a more detailed translation for the interviews before I can transcribe them aswell. But part from this tedious transcribing all this is fun. To meet people and learn new things. I am so thankfull to be able to do all this!

Until next time!

Take care,

Petronella

Surprises and endings in Gulu (for now)

For the past weeks, I have been finishing up my field study, recovered from malaria, visited Kampala, and enjoyed my last time in Gulu (my home away from home). Last Friday, I even went further North to Kitgum and visited the Memory and Peace Documentation Centre. It is the only one of its kind and founded by the Refugee Law Project. It is very interesting to visit as it contains important information on the previous armed conflicts in Uganda as well as a library. I want to thank, Jerry Oyet, for showing us around, explaining everything, and answering all our questions. Most impressive exhibition to me was the one showing a copy of the letter written by Joseph Kony himself. On our way back to Gulu, we stopped at Aruu Falls. A gigantic and beautiful waterfall with a rainbow. It is definitely worth the visit although you must be very careful about when and how you hike down to the bottom of the falls.

Kitgum Memory and Peace Documentation Centre
Letter written by Joseph Kony, the LRA commander in chief
View from the top of Aruu Falls from where we hiked to the bottom.
Aruu Falls, wild and beautiful.

  

I am very satisfied with the results of my 9 weeks in Gulu. I have successfully conducted 30 interviews of 30-90 minutes each with both former abductees and community leaders, professionals from different NGOs, and a district official. I am looking forward to writing the thesis and sharing it with all my friends here, at home, and abroad.

I have a lot of mixed feelings leaving Gulu and all the warm-hearted people, I have been so fortunate to meet here. I cannot give enough thanks to those who welcomed me to their homes, shared their personal stories, hopes, and challenges with me, and to my friends who have made it so hard for me to leave this beautiful country. Lastly, none of this would have been possible without the support and encouragement of my local partners, in particular, Hope and Peace for Humanity as well as People’s Voices for Peace and War Affected Networking and Betty Children Foundation. You inspire me and gives me hope that, together, we can work for a better tomorrow. If anyone wishes to support Hope and Peace for Humanity’s upcoming project which will empower 150 female victims of violence, the Global Giving Platform will boost any contributions made on Wednesday the 20th of June.

Yesterday, my friends from Hope and Peace for Humanity also surprised me with lunch, kind words, a gift and a maize roasting at night. It left me speechless. You are truly the BEST, and I will miss each and every one of you. Now, I am heading off to bounty beaches, drinks, and 2.5 weeks of holidays in Tanzania before going home to Denmark/Sweden.

Roasting of maize on my last night in Gulu
Hope and Peace for Humanity (HPH) family