Thursday, March 20, 2014

Luisa Futoransky´s galaxy: When women move together there the past and the future are present, the unsung are sung


At the reception of the Club Concordia in Vienna the warm and friendly tones of writers chatting fill the air. The little bar is open and coffee is the more popular order as this is mid - morning.

The service is excellent today on 6th March 2014 when they are here to celebrate International Women´s Day before the actual day dawns.
Dorothea Macheiner

As in every year, Austria PEN has made a considerable effort to celebrate women in their own words and presence. 

It is an earth shaking collection of voices they have. Susanne Dobesch http://goo.gl/ccM2Ww, the Secretary General of PEN Austria steers the course introducing all the speakers. In 2013 she wrote this essay "I am Malala" for the launch of Time to Say: No! http://goo.gl/7dcBwu

This year, Helmuth Niederle, PEN Austria President has edited Macheiner´s novels published by Løcker who display books by various authors. She had already welcomed us in the early morning and asked a few of us to present. I presented "Women as Constitution: The relevant rage" 

There is a day long symposium and the theme is Mulieris Mundi, Women of the World. http://goo.gl/nZwsE6.  
EtelaFarkašová


In Vienna the home of many conventions as varied as the Ozone layer, Multilingual extracts and Diplomacy as well as Road Signs is where in 1991 the Women Committee of PEN International formally became a a PEN standing Committee. The idea was mooted in New York in 1986. 
Ishraga Hamid
Among the guests is an international panel consisting Dorothea Macheiner http://goo.gl/AhDYvq  (Austria)  Diana Raznovich http://goo.gl/5GKar2(Argentina), Ishraga Hamid  http://goo.gl/nrvKEa(Austria), Erna Pfeiffer (Austria)http://goo.gl/KFgKOF , Etela Farkašová  áhttp://goo.gl/UIrdXZ(Slovakia) and Philo Ikonya http://goo.gl/9jzk4r (Kenya/Norway). 

In 2014, PEN Austria is announcing a new publication: Black Orphea which will be launched in June and which has joined the title of this blog. Two novels by Dorothea Macheiner are launched today. Ishraga´s I am a black Austrian as well as Philo Ikonya´s Invincible Nubia; Adios Lampedusa, will also be launched in June. 

I move around happy to have stirred the rage. It is noticeable for me that a new energy has come into the space. Well, I see a strong woman and I hear her voice. 

I am drawn to listen and introduced to Luisa Futoransky who has just arrived. I can see that she is in her element. Suddenly only the two of us are talking as happens when people are on a break and taking a bite. The other two leave us and are meeting more people. Luisa asks me where I come from. I answer her. To my surprise she begins to talk about Afrika using the pronoun "We". "Well, we got independence but remained in colonial ..." 

She trails off in my mind as I am struck by that fact. I might have been distracted but I have never heard someone who is not from Afrika include herself in a dialogue about Afrika. The "We"  inclusion struck me. I listened and then there was silence. Poetic silence. Maybe then I heard her words from the poet below in Spanish the last few lines of which I translate roughly: 

Recurring rhyme

It hums
vocalises
it hits the chest
tells of ballads
eternal 
goodbyes and unions
the maritime walk
agreements
bats fly by buzzing
not angels
Who will tell me that 
I do not want to see myself 
in The Shout of Munch ?
To exist passion needs a witness
a passerby
a cannibal
the weapon of autumn is
the uproar of clarity

Munch- The Shout
Rima reincidente
canturrea
vocaliza
se golpea el pecho
relata baladas
sempiternos
adioses y fusiones
el paseo marítimo
los acordes
los murciélagos pasan rasantes,
no los ángeles.
¿Quién me referirá que no quiero verme
en "el grito" de Munch?
Para existir la pasión exige un testigo
un pasante
la caníbal

arma de otoño es
la estrepitosa lucidez

http://www.letralia.com/114/letras05.htm

Later I read her article among many others in the UNESCO Courier http://goo.gl/24xfHQ and saw that she is always walking in the "We" of women and the world. I am inspired. The "Stars in her personal galaxy" are many women some of whom we have not heard of much. But continents are also in there of course. Women break all sorts of barriers. Society needs them at the helm. The world does. The earth too. 

It is wonderful to see in this "We" something I always dream of. If we who know hardship, rejection and love and exiles of many forms could use the love part to hold hands even if in words the world would change. That discrimination might lead to more solidarity is a dream. That those who experience it might annul other forms of discrimination of any one. With our imagiNATION we can change much.

Here is a woman who has created her universe of thought and is sharing it with voices that were not amplified enough in their time. So that I can say as a Namibian proverb I like quoting goes: The future is behind us the past in front. How does one who has learned to see the future in the past behave? Well this is key for all of us. For there is a tendency to think of the women today and to measure much according to the ones we know only. 

But now in the present, Luisa is pensive. Maybe she is thinking about South Sudan right now. The Central African Republic, Egypt, Tunisia and Nigeria. I have told her I come from Kenya and she looks intensely. Well, we are here about women and in no land can we say women are where they ought to be, and later I hear her speak about FGM quoting the work of Waris Dirie.

And she has known many lands. This has taught her to break stereotypes. Luisa was born in Argentina but left her land in 1976 before the military junta took control. She has lived in the USA, China, Japan and Italy in a span of seven years, before settling in Paris. On this journey of her life she learned to get sustenance from other women´s lives. She sings them still. A hummingbird. Here is an interview ´the itinerary of a hummingbird´http://goo.gl/kbrhyf

She can list so many but on this day she spoke about Else Lasker- Schüler described as a foreigner in her own land and Janet Frame.
You can read the full story in the Courier link above.

It was moving to hear Futoransky talks about these women. And yes, straight to the breaking of stereotypical ways of looking at women. So many will think they must be either this way or that.
Well, she describes Else in the Courier as " A mix of contrasting characteristic - surrender and arrogance, rebellion and submission". Else was passionately committed to her poetry.

Amazing to hear about how Else overcame so many contradictions and her successes at last. Rejected during the Nazi period and then today having Germany, where she was born and Israel, where she was buried, "each claiming that she is their national poet!" Frame received many awards and was nominated many times for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Very deeply moving is the story of Janet Frame. To cope with rejection and tragic circumstances, to attempt suicide and to find support to live as an author from Frank Sargeson who helped her travel and write is a long journey. Mental illness and stigma to overcome as well as the tedious search for the real diagnosis. Is it schizophrenia or something else? 

Janet was helped in that by Alan Miller a doctor. But she had suffered many electronic shocks for treatment and her internment was to her prison.

What a journey in writing and fighting for Janet Frame. All those obstacles overcome. And yet when she was recognized with awards, she did not forget the women who were also struggling by her side.

A humble background and her two sisters drowning and an epileptic brother. What an amazing sister of Clotel! And what a feeling of being in touch with this galaxy through Luisa Futoransky. A chance to hear many hummingbirds. This reminds me of late Wangari Maathai Nobel Peace Prize winner. "I will be a hummingbird," She said. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGMW6YWjMxw.


Luisa Futoransky was born in Buenos Aires in 1939. She is a poet, journalist, essayist and translator. She is the author of The Duration of the Voyage (Editorial Junction Press, San Diego, USA; 1997). She has written three novels, more than eight poetry books and two book length essay books. Her works have been translated into English, German and French. She lives in Paris. She has received prestigious awards such as French Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and a Grant from the Guggenheim Foundation.http://goo.gl/rkIgpA

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Time to Say:NO! Gang rape prescribed for punishment is not even medieval! It is inhuman!

A Village Council sentenced a girl to gang rape in West Bengal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bengal

(Apologies it was not Bangladesh as earlier reported here) Also note that in the link the word 'alleged' is used. We have no source of authentication but we know these things do happen. 

Her case did not get deep media attention and so some have wondered if it is for real.

 In many Village Councils there are no women. When women became chiefs in some villages, rape was punished more severely. It was so in Ndumberi, Kiambu in Kenya. Is a world in which decisions on crimes affecting women a moral world?

http://goo.gl/du839q

Time to say: No! to this village council and a No! from all over the world. For this is lack of wisdom.
A woman and a man love. They are both tied to trees in punishment. Her family, whose parents are exposed to this humiliation are not able to pay the fine for the punishment and she is given to another kind of death. Gang rape in punishment.

Clotel's Sisters join Taslima Nasreen is saying No!

http://freethoughtblogs.com/taslima/2014/01/27/a-woman-was-gang-raped-her-crime-she-fell-in-love-with-a-man-outside-her-community/

Sheer shock is what one experiences upon hearing the news.
There is no use wishing it is not true. It is. A woman has been sentenced to gang rape in Bangladesh. Why would anyone make up such a story if not true?

Past stories about women caught up in very unjust situations fade into insignificance. How did it happen that not even one person, one man failed to see that this could not be and stand up against such a punishment? 

It beats the mind. A man was disgusted and asked, why would one want or wish to see even their semen mix with other or those organs? How bad can it get?

So stories heard before about punishing women literally fail us. Might there be so many other unreported cases? What if? Will the responsible media follow up this story and find out more. 

Will laws in defence of women and girls, and that is guarding society, be implemented without more pressure? And international pressure at that, for sometimes the lone voice drowned in an environment in which people hear no one else just does not work.

Long struggles

For women have fought for ages even where it is assumed they were silent. 

 Editing Black Orphea- an anthology that is soon to be published-
we read a letter against Female Genital Mutilation written on 25th December 1931. 

The letter from Ngo ya Tuiritu, which means The Girls' Shield is in the volume Women Writing Africa, Eastern Africa a publication of The Feminist Press in New York. It addressed to the Local Native Council South Nyeri is written in Kikuyu. It is a letter opposing Female Genital Mutilation.

It contains the reasons why. 

1. " ...we get astonished because they (men) do not give birth and feel the pain and even some die and others become infertile, and the main cause is circumcision.

2. Because the main cause of the issue of circumcision should not be forced. People caught like sheep; one should be allowed to cut her won way of either agreeing to be circumcised or not without being dictated on one's body. (Kenya now outlaws FGM by law but that is not to say it is not practised)...

6. Now, what we ask from the government, because Gikuyu men have more power than women, is that women be assisted in their complaints by the government to avoid further suppression.
                                                                            The letter was translated by Joseph Kariuki Muriithi


Without protection, the knife would have been turned to a girl who refused to be cut in a film with the condition that she would not be circumcised. The film SAFA is on the life of Waris Dirie of the Desert Flower Foundation in Vienna http://goo.gl/gbt3FN is well known.  

So far the actor-girl who plays Waris has been protected. And yet, not without some pressure from some even if she acted in a film in which she rejected the cut. 

It is noted that the usual pressure did come up from her grandmother in the past. What does this tell us? This is a terrible custom that not only refuses to die even hard but also resurrects in many communities. Scientists are yet to work out why this happens. This Foundation is based in Vienna. 

In the meantime the government of Norway and other EU countries are spending much money helping women who got cut under this custom to get surgical surgery for restoration. 

These women, mainly from Eritrea and Somalia, do this only if they have support from their families as NRK radio reported last week. And this support is not always given because this custom has very strong guardians in different communities. So powerful are they that it is alive and kicking also in the Central part of Kenya where women started fighting it as early as 1928. 

Although a different topic deserving more space, for Clotel´s Sisters, there is a direct correlation between this custom and male dominance in political positions. Recent comments from some powers in Central Kenya, again used as an example, are supported by many people. This is an advanced place, where single mothers are supposed to walk with their heads down. s

There is always a reason for putting women down and even if FGM culture cheats women that after the cut they become powerful, to the deep individual psyche, it says: Hate the dearest part of you, hate pleasure. For the clitoris is cut to reduce female feelings and stop her apparently from going to other men. The contradiction is that it is men who have insisted in having many wives now and in the past. 

The persistence of FGM and very degrading comments on women sometimes making headlines, reminds me of a grass that used to invade our land and which my Mother was always uprooting. Every time she dug really deep and got the latest shoots out but when we came back to the land, the grass was always back. In time, however, she conquered. 

It is time that women got over and done with this so that sights can be set on other issues. Yes, cultures sometimes do change almost overnight. It depends on the moral authority of those who call for the change. In this case, such a person or spirit lacks.

Or should we say that the many people who speak out about this speak out now and again and are not supported constantly enough by both the media and the political powers and so, it becomes an issue to cover from time to time especially on International Women´s Day. Of course we know this also calls not just for big voices but persistent grassroots work. And there are many women at work to even help girls physically escape from homes that are about to have them mutilated. They are taken to school. It is information on such that is not often heard too.

I dream about the disappearance of this custom in Asia and in Africa as well as other major world cities where immigrants cut their own. One day, gone! Yes, gone! It is not impossible. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Where silence reigns supreme: No First Lady ever told us she was raped, No....

Oprah Winfrey and many other celebs spoke out.
Rape is not confined to the poor, the weak and voiceless. It should never be without voices of the powerful. It cannot be handled by them alone. In our times we let it be that way. Does this matter? Would their voices make a difference? Going public is not all that it takes. It is the truth about what is said.

In the post-poll violence of Kenya in 2007/08, many women were raped. Some of them contracted the HIV/Virus. I was once in the company of nine women from Garissa area who were raped as they looked for firewood. 

They were elderly women with their daughters. They went public and came to Nairobi to speak to media as then social media was not that active. We were proud of them. Their voices mattered as those of women raped at any time. 

In 1991 when a Chicago Tribune writer was asking why celebrities were going public on rape and other forms of abuse, the emphasis was not on rape but on the celebrity. Too bad. But the main thing about the article is that it dwells on the liberation of one and many others that follows such disclosure.  http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-05-29/entertainment/9102170974_1_confession-marilyn-van-derbur-atler-victims
Maya Angelou, renowned poet
No one can fail to notice something. Going by examples of persons like Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, speaking out should help shake our foundations and build our society giving it some dignity.

Besides it beats every rapists haven. "Don't tell anybody! Never open your mouth about this!" Even when they do not say it, they live in the hope that this will never be spoken about. And if it happens in the family, they in silence keep all silent. 

Rapists are not strange mad guys without a face or tradition. Most of them have not done it once or twice. They get a way with it. Rape is not confined to a lost village somewhere in the unknown regions of your country.


If there is any speaking, it is in hushed tones and not allowed to go beyond the walls. So a rapists first defeat is to hear that the person they raped speaking. It is too see Liz* taken out of the pit and surrounded by the world that is asking questions. To hear that the Chief Justice of Kenya, Dr Willy Mutunga, spoke out about this case. That it took such power to deal with it.

I wish some more people with big possibilities could also engage for such cases, even if they were not raped themselves for it is the duty of all. And they should play their part. 

Rape is now continuously discussed in he context of a case in the general discourse. We bring it out more often when a person who has been raped is not found between linen sheets.  Whiteness reigns in those beds. Families keep mum in the middle classes.  We fight more when a case is publicised and this helps. But perhaps we need more honesty. Rape persists and the impunity that goes with it. We are not hearing enough voices of the perpetrators even in lands where they are rehabilitated, telling us why they went that way and why they would train others never to do that.

Faceless we lose. The caged bird dies. Silent we are buried. Where are the voices of the powerful who rape? Who are raped? Will any president stand up? First Lady?

It appears that rape always happens to the unknown, the helpless. This is one of the terrible mistakes we make. That means that rape easily become faceless because we have to create a face for it each time it happens but almost just as often actually, destroy the face after the case is over.

We make cases. And these are important. I know we are in the Sixteen Days of Activism but what are we not doing right? We have been here before. Back and forth. It is 2013, 2015 is round the corner. We said we shall deliver by 2015. Where is the invigoration of movements against violence happening? I have not felt it in Norway. And they tell me daily in the news that violence is taking root here, theft. But both theft and rape are treated as waves that come and go. To fight rape permanent faces, living faces, signs and all are required. If not we create face that come and go, becoming masks of the past. I have never seen this sign anywhere else except in Nairobi where CREAW, pioneered it.



Photograph: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images
 Rape continues. People in positions of power and influence are too comfortable to come out on rape. Power must speak truth. Women should never be disempowered when they tell their story. Telling is part of winning. Speaking it out from the point of view of a survivor.

The alternative cannot be that women have to run away from villages, cities and countries. The torture of women such as Liz is painfully eloquent yet. Sixteen- year- old Liz was raped and dumped into a pit latrine by six men in Kenya. There was an uproar, a demonstration and yet... I know.

I know that we buried many little girls before. Defiled and killed. I write about their "tottering little steps".  They could not speak for themselves.  There are many for whom the silence is large and it looms ever larger. Nothing can liberate us from abuse if we do not speak our truth, speak it out. This is not negotiable. It is basic. 


In Kenya, we have also fallen prey to regionalising sexual crimes. I know that in some areas statistics can point to increased levels. We point at that country, that region in that country and so on. The bad news is that sexual abuse is not a problem of some areas or certain groups of people. And the violence that comes with it can be ugly and in large dimensions in any place in the world. 

Every time we hear about one case in a country seen as developed, we take it that this is the odd thing. Yet sociologists tell us all the time that most rape happens in the families and on very familiar ground.

It is just that no powerful men speak out and say: I rape. No First Lady, nor other powerful women say: I was raped. We are grateful to a few media personalities such as Oprah Winfrey and poet Maya Angelou for their voices. Their example has influenced and healed many.

Speaking out is not just voicing. It depends on if one is talking about immediate or abuse as a child. It requires some orientation and help at time. The problem is, a girl such as Liz is hit with something terrible that she cannot handle alone. 

From being a happy and free girl, she was turned into someone who would or should fear to face people and speak out. It was wonderful that she got support. She needs help. She needs to know and feel that many people, the world is angry about her rape. 

There are people who take speaking out lightly. It can be cheapened but even so we must find ingenious ways of telling our stories so that they help make a difference. Listening deeply to these stories is vital. 

People are not encouraged to go public if raped. We love stigma issues, secrecy gone wrong. I found on the web a woman whose conscience was tormenting her to go public. She wanted to so badly but then she knew that this could lead to the loss of her job in the United Nations. This is was a tornado  in my direction. 

I return to the point and say that no politician (usually they are male) does speak out on this, unless he is hounded down at the level of accusation and then does his best to avoid the issue completely. No persons of repute have gone there easily, not even those who teach us that it is important to confess our sins. Priests and pastors. 

But this is not only confined to individuals. Powerful societies suddenly stand up as the most pure and they who can never be so base in the world. So that three years ago shocking as it was, the revelations of abuse  in the Catholic Church astounded us.

Can we stop it? Where should this be loudest? Can we really make people suffer more by inventing discrimination against those who speak out on rape today? That a person cannot dare say: I was raped because their payslip will go? That is a new rape.

Levels of violence may differ, but where has there not been rape? Churches, Universities? At the UN? On red carpets? At the White House? any house?

For a long time, someone kept telling me about the, yes, very disturbing revelations from the Catholic Church mainly. After some months, the same person told me how it was obvious that this was not confined to the church only. We spoke about Austria.

Very near you, in you or somewhat connected to you is an abused child, not matter what gender, woman, no matter what age. The cases that are covered by the media are but a pointer to what levels of inhumanity people can fall. We have to come to terms with it, speak out. For the most disturbing thing about abuse in its many forms is not that it is always unknown but that it is covered up, mostly by authorities. And we are not talking about allegations. 

Many people heard about the case of the rape of the medical student who was also killed in Delhi. The media kept the case in focus. Then the vital words began to trickle in. This was not so rare in India, in fact, it was rather the incredible norm. The country's activists spoke about reviewing the Constitution of the country which it was said, was still the law of colonial times. 

Kenya has had legal reforms on sexual violence. Njoki Ndung'u, now a High Court Judge was the face of this reform. And yet, a court dared give six men who violated Liz a punishment that included just cutting grass. It was then the Chief Justice intervened. Why this?

No persons of repute have gone there easily, not even those who teach us that it is important to confess our sins. Priests and pastors. 
Politicians? Hardly.






                



      


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Helmuth Niederle speaks out on the Malala publication Time to say: No! Amazing stories of victorious women


Philo Ikonya and Inger Haug front
Women walk to the unveiling of the statue of Katti Møller in
Hamar as part of Norway's centenary on universal suffrage 2013.
There is no doubt that people get moved when they see someone struggle to make it despite great opposition. We like to see winners. One cannot win without opposition. Not even in a football match.  That is a great thing. It gives meaning to victory. 

  Frida Kahlo ( Mexican, 1907- 1954)
Frida Kahlo

            
              Mexian Frida transformed a debilitating accident
              that left her with chronic pain into an opportunity.
              She painted. She was expressed herself powerfully
              and got international acclaim. She was only 15. Her
              plans to become a doctor were shattered. She painted
              to excellence and married Diego Riviera and moved to 
              top artistic company. Her works depict the struggles of
              women and their power.            


 Stories of girls such as Helen Keller and Ann Frank. The latter has moved the world for years. Her writing touched our hearts as young people. 


Hellen Keller
I can almost 'smell' the feeling of my spirit being raised from somewhere in me reading her with sorrow and joy. And then it would rise and spread all through my chest and I would rise up like mist, gently but full of life. Have you ever imagined smoking the best of air? Well you do not need to smoke it. Just inhale it and there is life. I think I could feel my soul breathing and growing to the point of explosion of joy and power. 

And like Helen Keller so many others. I know I felt writing, not just read it when I met the Bronte sisters. The works of Jane Austen. These women 'said' something to me just for being women. There was an air of ... of creation and power in power. Just beautiful.
19th C poets and novelist. The Bronte Sisters. Like George Eliot they had
to use male pseudonyms
to be read
But in opposition the opposite occurs too. Some people aim to choke one up. What can you say of a French minister or Member of Parliament who shows off today because he is macho? It happened last week in 2013. How? He was cheering another one who in Parliament clucked like a chicken when a woman member was contributing. Clucked like a chicken? Yes. And yes they laughed at another one who came to work in a dress. Today in France despite all that history of feminism that you know and of course just common sense and good manners. 

What then do you say about a Kenyan elected Governor of Nairobi and a Senator slapping the elected Nairobi Woman Representative? It is in such pathetic taste. People called for his resignation and others were torn in different ways. Why fight for her they asked when so many women are being beaten at home and no one is lifting a finger? This logic is sick especially when it comes from some writers. Does it make any pain better not to relieve any other pain? Is elected representative not you who is represented? All of them in thousands of comments blamed the woman. Blamed for from going to bed to every other thing they could find. Like they had never heard of Eve and Adam.

I found this interview with Dr. Helmuth Niederle who sometimes contributes to The Sisters of Clotel. President of Austrian PEN he invented a projected online and in actual book on Malala Yousafzai. 

Now you might assume that this is so normal because Malala was shot by Taliban? No. It is not. Many were asking what for? But many others responded with many poems that made a thick book. Poems from people young and old from all over the world. The following interview was done by Anna Lorca.


Helmuth Niederle Austrian poet and novelist/Translator 
Anna Lorca (AL)

Good evening Dr. Helmuth Niederle, thank you for accepting this invitation for my new magazine.

Helmuth Niederle (HN)

Welcome. Please do not use my title. You can just call me Helmuth Niederle but spell it correctly. It is often misspelt.

AL
My name too is often written without the r and you know that means mad in Spanish! I understand. 
HN
I know. People and names. But we come from different backgrounds and some names are hard to spell. 
AL
I begin. Helmuth, what did you study?
According  to Wikipedia http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmuth_A._Niederle you have written and/or edited over 30 titles. What or who inspires you?

HN
I studied non-European, European cultural anthropology, art history and sociology and finished with a PhD. It may sound a bit simple, but life inspires me. It is not all based on study. As a young child I created my own books and hang them in a line in my room. This is probably because I am curious and want to know everything. And when I brought something to experience, I discover that there is much more that lies behind it. This incites my curiosity again. This is am endless but fascinating circle.

I am inspired to write by different things. The occasion for a story or a poem may appear very simple: The smile that spreads across the face of a child can develop into a story, the beam in the eye of the beloved woman may be reflected in a poem: joy about the beauty of the moment or anxiety due to an impending loss. And between these two poles on a spectrum spanning thousands of possibilities.

AL
How did you come up with the project Time to Say: No!

When I was a few years ago in a camp in Sierra Leone women saw who had been abused as sex slaves by the rebels, and the hopelessness felt was inherent to the situation, I knew that I would – when getting the opportunity – I would have to raise my voice. The impression of this unholy alliance between male dominance and embossed corrupt politics never left me. I can not forget how on the streets of Manila women and children gathered the cigarette butts with their hands. Even the sound of the blows on the bare skin of women in India I will never forget. With all that in mind I heard of Malala Yousafzai. She wanted nothing more than just go to school to learn. She did not argue because of boyfriend or because of another clothes. She wanted to learn the art of reading and writing, to be able later to decide for herself. The attempted assassination of her gave me the idea: Time to Say: NO! We have to learn something from history. One big lesson is that we have to speak out for one another. Ann Frank is one of the most referred to victim of the Shoah. This was against humanity. Unspeakable evil. Millions of Jewish people were killed. One human matters too. MalalaThis girl's life was almost gone...But this evil was thwarted for some reason.
I always had the opinion that there exist ideas that arrive directly from some humans. It is as if something has to happen sometimes for some of these ideas to be released to heal the world. 

AL
Earlier you and I talked about Helen Keller and Frida Kahlo. 

Were those accidents in their lives? Blindness and a tragic accident? Or were they moments that open invisible doors among humans? A flock of ideas? These are ideas with wings that land right in the heart and brain. So I compare them to a flock of birds. When I heard about Malala's shooting, I felt it was a moment of impending loss and that we had to gain something from it. She was recovering gradually and I thought about her. I had conversations about her life with Philo Ikonya. She embraced the idea that we could try to solicit poems from the whole world. It became a PEN Austria and PEN Kenya project edited by the two of us. It was good to share the work with someone who is driven by commitment to working for human rights. I translated all the poems into German. 
AL
 Were you surprised at how the world will respond to a good idea? It was an acclaimed success with children and adults contributing. How did you achieve that?

HN
That authors would write, I had no doubt. But that there were so many, that surprised me! The eagerness with which they sought to get involved was a gush of global energy. From people of over 70 years to teenagers. Also that voices would rise from other continents, was surprising. The project worked because people agree to openness. Suddenly the boundaries were repealed: It was not a project of the North to the South, not one that would teach the men or the women. There was no conflict between black and white (the color templates to mention). Time to Say: NO! was the call for respect for human dignity. And it was open to all languages. There was also no hegemony of languages! Only one piece was given destination: violence against women is unacceptable. Basta. There is nothing to discuss.


AL
But the world is complex and ... we find violence returns

HN
This is one reason for all the work, but there are besides of the many minor and major reasons still a significant one: When one sees the world, you would like to contribute to the completion of this world. Even if those options that are available are very small ones, one would not stand aside! Take for an instance the expulsion of man from Paradise seriously and you have to recognize that we are all displaced from our homeland. And if that is so, why do we make each other's lives so difficult? No one is completely at home here on earth.  But I'm sure many before me have worked on the humanization of the world and after me many are working on it. As such, I find myself in good company. It makes sense to work best with the tools that they know how to handle and that is in my case, language in all its facets. I Translate books from English to German.

AL
What was your experience in co-editing the big volume?

I can only say that the project is not completed. Often we will find the moment in which: Time to Say: NO! fits extremely well. We must only never forget, if we want to speak to the world, then we need to find the words that the world can understand. Poets are good at that. We published some young ones that had not written before. I think of a young boy from Oslo who signed his poem as Leo. He wrote: 

The teacher told me to say yes, 
so here I go: 
It is Time to say: No!  

Where there is freedom we can differ without fear. Where there is a need we must respond. It is human nature. That is, we need to make books that strike a very different tone than it is usual. Urgency. No condescension, but a plea for humanity. Without you, Philo Ikonya's contribution, that would not have been possible. Therefore the final word is 'thanks to all those who contributed. I heard Malala in an interview thanking all those who write about her and who listen and I knew we are there, gray and dark haired with Malala. A big THANK YOU to Philo for her commitment too. 
AL
But are there not things to say NO to in Europe? Are we guilty of always seeing the mess far from us?

HN
There is a high wall set against women and not just a glass ceiling. Abusing women is common even in high places like Parliaments. It is despicable. Who are these men? Did they not crawl out of the womb of a woman (a quotation of the classical playwright Friedrich Schiller)? Maybe they climbed down from the moon.

AL
One in France cheered for macho men and said they will always be. Europe pauses as clean and saintly?

Maybe there is an iron law: In every society there is a residual set of mentality that one cannot fix in some people.