"We want us alive"

“We want us alive”

By Carolina Buenrostro & Bernice González

Translated by Aline Aceituno

Photograph of Frida Ali, taken from social media. March in Cuernavaca, Morelos. March 8th 2021

March the 8th is without a doubt a very important day for women all around the world, because it recognizes the struggles that women in different parts of the world have faced to overcome the inequalities they endure on a daily basis. Despite improvements for some, there are still millions of women who continue to suffer from gender discrimination, inequity, poverty and violence.

In Mexico, violence related to organized crime and drugs has made structurally vulnerable groups such as women and girls even more likely to suffer from different types of violence. We should mention that since the Covid-19 pandemic complaints about violence against women and girls, as well as feminicides[1] have increased in Mexico. During the first wave alone, between January and March 2020, 964 women were murdered, which represents an increase of 8.3% compared to the same period in 2019. [2]

Photo taken by Alma Berenice González Marín, taken march the 8th 2022 in the march organized by "Red de Colectivas" in the state of Morelos, México The poster says "they sowed fear in us, we grew wings."

In the last years, and as a way of responding to this violence, Mexico has seen the emergence of several groups of women called “Colectivas”, mainly consisting of young women, who have undertaken various actions to raise awareness in regards to gender-based violence, feminicides and human trafficking among other issues that affect women and girls. These “Colectivas” use different slogans such as: “We want us alive”, “Not one less”, “I believe you”, “We exist because we resist” to mention a few. These actions do not occur only on March the 8th, however on this specific day of the year the streets of Mexico are taken by women’s “Colectivas” to raise awareness about the gender-based violence they endure every day and, most importantly, to demand rights and justice.

For feminists groups purple stands for the historical gender struggle for equality and social justice. Green stands for the fight for women´s sexual and reproductive rights. Pink crosses represent women murdered by gender violence.

As this photo reveals, the women and girls express themselves in unique ways; for example, they use   purple and/or green tags and graffities on streets and public areas, wear pink crosses or green scarves while taking the streets in protest [3]. in addition to manifesting and taking over public spaces, the “Colectivas” also present in institutional and virtual spaces through artistic workshops, conferences, and several other awareness raising activities that are also aimed at providing women and girls with tools to help them reduce and eradicate, and face daily acts of violence in their lives and towns.


[1] Feminicides in Mexico’s specific context are recognized as the extreme action of a continuum of gender violence, which entails the murder of women by cruel means (mostly perpetrated by males) due to their historical condition of exclusion (sexual, legal, economic, political). Ultimately these are misogynist crimes, because they are motivated by hate, contempt, pleasure o or a sense of ownership. Attitudes that are tolerated and reinforced by a patriarchal government

[2]  El Universal, Violence against women and girls in times of COVID 19, Retrieved from https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/opinion/antonio-molpeceres/la-violencia-contra-las-mujeres-y-ninas-en-tiempos-de-covid-19

[3] For feminist groups purple stands for the historical gender struggle for equality and social justice. Green stands for the fight for women´s sexual and reproductive rights. Pink crosses represent women murdered by gender violence.

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

"Were tha born in a barn?"

"Were tha born in a barn?"

By Alison Phipps

I was born and grew up in South Yorkshire. A county of dialects and proverbs and poverty. The City I am from – Sheffield – declared itself – like Aotearoa New Zealand – to be a Nuclear Free Zone. We had our own folk traditions, popularised by the singer Kate Rusby in Christmas Carols, of singing at Christmas in the streets in local pubs, local radio stations, into care homes, and community centres – taking cheer and traditional Yorkshire carols into places of hospitality and care.

It was always cold when we sang. I remember layers of scarves protecting my voice and bobble hats and knitted jumpers and stamping my feet on frosty pavements, and collecting coins door to door, and being given mince pies. It was mostly work done by women, the peace making, the caring and community centres, the serving of ale behind the bars, the plating up of mince pies, and it was mum who made sure I wrapped up warm. And mum waiting with a hot water bottle and hot juice when I came back in.

The phrase ‘Were tha born in a barn?’ in Yorkshire dialect accompanied my childhood. I’d often leave doors open as I went in and out and around the house. The family were trying to save on fuel costs so when I did leave the door open freezing cold air would blast through the home. The same with the care homes and community centres and pubs as we all traipsed through intent on singing and forgetting etiquette of door closing to protect one another from the cold.

The question ‘Were tha born in a barn?’ was like a refrain, a constant, non-too-polite reminder, almost a greeting. It brought laughter and action whenever we heard it. Because, no, I wasn’t born in a barn. My next door neighbour delivered me into this world, my Auntie Madge, as I knew her. It was too icy for mum to get to hospital that cold November day or for the midwife to reach our home safely. But when I forgot what has since become an ingrained habit, and left the door open, I was opening us all up to elements that would render us more vulnerable, and also bring conflict in with them.

Peace-making in CUSP is focused on the work of women and on the work of transforming conflicts or potential sources of conflict. Our work with meso-level cultural institutions like theatre groups, reading groups, libraries, cafés, dance companies is work with communities, at grassroots, so close to the drafts – if we think about that metaphor of grassroots more literally. It’s work where the cold air of the temperate zones needs to be kept at bay for the sake of the well-being of all. The scene I describe with Carol Singing around Sheffield is one where much of the cultural labour – dressing up warm, feeding and watering, and visiting – is embedded into cultural routines. This, for me, though, is where the real work of peace maintenance, of conflict prevention takes place.

‘Were tha born in a barn?’ Is a reminder, in earthy humour, of the need to conserve, preserve the peace and warmth of places where life happens. It’s culturally contextual of course. In hot countries doors are happily left open to allow cooler air to circulate, there might not even be doors. Peace making and maintaining peace, is gendered and temperature dependent too. But what I love about the humour in the phrase, the intonation moving towards laughter in the questioning accusation is that humour is what is being used to take away the sting. The Pyscho-therapist Beverley Costa of Pasalo Project https://www.pasaloproject.org/about.html says “we aren’t going to change anything without humour” and I am struck as I read the impassioned, intent, advocating work against gender based violence and femicide, against discrimination and the gender pay gap how vital that element of humour is to gentleness despite it all, to being still within a structure that is strong but which can elicit a change of behaviour.

So International Women’s Day 2022 comes around I’m celebrating the earthy humour, the small acts of maintaining the peace and the way this work, world wide, is largely undertaken by women…. The scarves, the food, the opening and closing of doors.

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

The parallel fight - Echoes of resistance

The parallel fight - Echoes of resistance

By Rajaa Essaghyry 

In Morocco, there is a common popular expression “Lmra Hachak” that can be translated to “woman, with all due respect”. My first reflex was to look at the definitions of the expression “with all due respect” that are suggested by Google. The first one I found is: “If someone prefaces a sentence by saying “with all due respect”, it’s a sign that they are likely to unleash something negative or critical, and sometimes quite vulgar and highly disrespectful[1]. You would probably tell me: Why do we even have to add this sentence after pronouncing the word “woman”?”. Technically, according to some kind of archaic traditions, being a woman is an “insult” or an “aberration”, thus requiring adding this expression so as not to “offend” anyone. It seems that some people in our culture consider that quoting the word woman in an assembly or simply in a conversation would be “vulgar” or disrespectful.

This expression is among many others which reflect the retrograde vision reserved for women in patriarchal societies, notably in Morocco; A series of violent expressions, which are still used today. This is why we are observing the everyday language, in order to identify and re-appropriate certain terms, to finally eradicate several expressions which undermine the dignity of women.

Photo Credit: Dimitris Vetsikas, Pixabay

In the CUSP N+ project (Culture for Inclusive and Sustainable Peace Network Plus), Racines’s team chose to work on the issue of insidious violence against women. We consider that public and private spaces are zones of conflict for women and girls. Nowadays, and more than ever, pointing out the insidious violence against women in Morocco is becoming an absolute necessity. Our work consists in deconstructing the heteronormative discourse, along with the socio-political constructs of femininity and masculinity. We want to expose the different strategies used by patriarchal societies to not only prepare young girls to be dominated, but also to normalize and legitimize gender-based violence. It is simply a matter of exhibiting all the mechanisms put in place in order to hinder women’s emancipation.

Through the CUSP project we are trying to demonstrate that one of the main solutions to have social stability in a country is through guaranteeing equal opportunities and democracy, built by emancipated citizens who are capable of claiming their rights. This cannot be achieved as long as half of the society (women) are deprived of their rights and treated as second class citizens, through discriminatory laws and archaic traditions.

Through a research-action approach, we collected several life stories and testimonies from Moroccan women. Each story denounced different types of insidious violence suffered by women. Each story showed the actions taken by women to overthrow the patriarchal system and its foundations. Each story illustrated women’s resistance and resilience in the face of violence.

Muriel Rukeyser once said: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”. Speaking out, testifying and sharing with the world are in themselves actions of resistance. Freeing the voices is a fundamental step to fight against silence, alienation and violence. Deconstructing the patriarchal system consists in constructing its puzzle, concept by concept, violence by violence, testimony by testimony… don’t we say that knowing your enemy is the key to better fight it? In this case, our common enemy is patriarchy.

By working in the most remote regions of Morocco, we immediately realized that feminism, as opposed to the common beliefs, is not an invention of the West. This latter is perceived to generate subversion.
The feminist fight is happening inside every Moroccan home, every workplace, in public spaces, on social media, … It is everywhere and it is local.

Women are resisting the status quo and historical roles set up by the patriarchy. Their fight can be anarchist, radical, soft, insidious, violent or peaceful. But their fight is omnipresent, and it would simply be a delusion to ignore it. Recognizing this reality is in itself a celebration of women and their fight. Women are rising up and celebrating their daily small victories and battles against the patriarchy.

I would like to end this text with a quote from the American feminist Gloria Steinem that I find very relevant and sums up very well what we should do, each on our own, to further advance the cause and end once and for all with patriarchy: “The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.”[2]


[1] Definition suggested by Google of the expression “with all due respect” https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=45494, (consulted on March 01, 2022)

[2] Quote of the American feminist Gloria Steinem  https://www.equalitynow.org/news_and_insights/gloria_steinem_quotes/ (consulted on March 01, 2022).

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).