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Sweeping Baba Yagas - Novi Travnik For South Slavic wise women, the broom is fashioned yearly at spring time. The ritual of honoring the Balkan Bird Goddess who nests in the branches whose twigs then become transformed into the broom is considered very sacred

Sweeping Baba Yagas

Categorized in these topics: Baba Yaga Bosnia


I’d wait for her to come out with her broom. The sweeping rhythm seemed to lend harmony to the war torn Bosnian landscape. I asked if I could take her picture. The elderly Bosnian Muslim woman was quite surprised by my request. She demanded that I wait until she changed her head scarf before any pictures were taken. She is one of many sweeping Baba Yagas in Bosnia clearing and cleaning up in the aftermath of a bloody Balkan war.

At each training and trauma treatment in Bosnia, the Kolo Sumejja women are dressed up and their hair carefully arranged. The ongoing challenge for me was to consciously understand that it was I who they weredressed up for and looked forward to.

Feeling so honored that someone asked to take their picture or came to see them specifically is the healing balm given to these women war survivors and war crimes survivors. Despite the trees growing in the bombed out homes, buildings and around the million landmines becoming yesterday’s news and just another old war, these Bosnian women felt visible and empowered by my visits because I asked about their life experiences.

Not asked for their input or their life experiences the Bosnian women during the Balkan war and its aftermath became invisible; collateral damage. A willingness to ask these women war survivors and war crimes survivors about their life experiences is giving them voice.

The wider spectrum of asking is manifesting visibility to the invisible ones who are women and children. Standing as spokespersons on behalf of females, these invisible ones -- victims and survivors of violence -- are you and me. What happens to them happens to you and me.

A creative boldness in my kolo trauma treatment was to ask, to have awe and wonder about the invisible ones. Instead of censoring the women with silence with not being interesting enough, female human rights are easily revealed and made known to the Bosnian women.

There came apoint atwhich I understood that these Bosnian women lived under the misconception that domestic violence and violence against females was a cultural price that was paid in the currency of female lives. South Slavic females, Bosnians, Croatians and Serbians do not realize the price they pay is the enactment of a gynocidal cult practice.

“In Women 2000 - An Investigation into the Status of Women's Rights in Central and South-Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States (Women 2000), the International Helsinki Federation estimated that approximately thirty percent of Bosnian women are victims of domestic violence. The problem is perpetuated by the continuing belief that domestic violence is part of life. As a result, women do not always recognize this violence as a violation of their human rights. “The lack of recognition is the unconscious state women wander in for lifetimes.

UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy reported that more than 60 million women who should be alive today are 'missing' because of violence and other forms of gender discrimination. This was in July 1997. I wondered if that the magnitude of thatfigure is prompting no curiosity or asking about females due to women’s overwhelming fear and denial that violence is occurring everywhere.

Censored with the powerful unconscious state many women are drenched in, we become blind, rendering everything female invisible. We no longer see the women around us, or the 60 million missing females. Women, who were at one time so intrinsic to fertility, contributing to the lush and potent power of the earth, are now made invisible.)

Perhaps, this is why I collect witches and ask if I could take pictures of the elderly wise women cleaning up in the aftermath of a bloody Balkan war. I, too, remember how I did not regard women as having wisdom or viewed that wisdom as something to compete with. So, I did not ask about women’s life experiences for many years. Like many other women I was under the spell, mistaking a gynocidal cult practice for a cultural one.

Not knowing female’s life experiences and not having curiosity about it abhors female human rights and female humanity. How many times have you not asked a woman about her life experience? How many times have you not noticed the older woman or elderly woman as you hurried to your patriarchal demand filled schedules?

As a Serbian daughter of immigrant parents who survived WWII, concentration camps and guerilla fighting, I learned these gynocidal cult practices in my childhood and in the early young adult years rendering myself into an unconsciousness state. I am talking about the same unconsciousness state I see many women in today as;

1. we vote for wars

2. (we accept the) warriors for legislation of uteri and women’s bodies but not penises or male bodies;

3. (we) devote service to organized religions or patriarchal organizations that do not honor or include the female and;

4. (we do ) not hold males accountable for the global slaughters of females and mother earth’s resources. (Males are the ruling representative in ruling governing entities, military and major institutions. Over 90% of perpetrators globally are male.)

The figure of 60 million missing and the current Amnesty International figure that up to one billion women -- one in every three -- had been beaten, forced to have sex or otherwise abused, often by a friend or family member, is enabled further with the unconscious states ensuring the ‘females disappearance’ and gender erasure in full force. Without asking for the invisible ones- the women, this figure of 60 million is easily understood.

In wonder I ask: How did we get to the point that women and children are expendable and erasable­? How did we arrive in a reality in which 1 billion are abused and 60 million females are missing?

In her case study for the humanitarian Challenge in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan, Julie Mertus stated there are 45 million refugees and 80% are women and children. Her book “War’s Offensive on Women,” is compelling and brings visibility to the plight of women. However, many young adult women feel their gender is faring better and treated more equally and fairly today. In this unconscious state the young adult women are making females invisible and shaming other females for being a part of the catastrophic statistic.

In the unconscious state women like coma victims do not register the shocking statistics nor are they able to name their gender reality in today’s violence. The avoidance and unconsciousness involved in not recognizing or seeing gender violence renders it invisible, however, the ever growing catastrophic statistics scream for visibility.

Becoming invisible with their derision towards anything female is more acutely felt when women grow older. Females are unheard and devalued by daughters and sons. What is needed to bring consciousness to the unconscious state are simple twists of fate such as a conversation, awe or wonder which then can expose gynocidal cult practices. In other words, just keep asking women about their life experiences.

I return to Bosnia often to do trauma treatment and training. I refuse to brush them into silence or to erase them into invisibility. I keep asking. Awe and wonder with curiosity follow closely as I tread on new ground throwing away the gynocidal cult practices.

With Mother’s Day I offer some steps into activism that halts the gender violence and invisibility that stains females’ earthwide.

1. How you treat yourself reflects the state and status of females earthwide. When you are asked who you are, do you first state your role as a mother, grandmother, daughter, sister or friend? Do you state what you do for work? None of this is “who you are.” It is what you do, it is about being so busy, so scheduled that avoidance and denial numb you into that unconscious state. No one can be in the moment with all the roles or work that is owned by women exclusively. Who are you in moments between the roles, tasks and job description?

2. What is your life experience as a female? Read Natalie Angier’s Woman: An Intimate Geography and know more about the biological miracles that we are. Other books about female humanity are: The Great Cosmic Mother by Sjoo and Mor, Merlin Stone’s “When God was a Woman,” and “Dance of the Dissident Daughter,” by Sue Monk Kidd. Litter your home, car and workplace with such books, your journals and art that can add balance to a male dominated world. It is about creating a sacred female space. Your own journals voice your life experiences daily authoring females into visibility immediately.

3. March, advocate, say no to violence and war through your donations in time and moneys. Giving your time and money to grassroots organizations for women and feminine issues gives value to females earthwide, while bringing an end to the invisibility females are cloaked in.

Next time you see a sweeping Baba Yaga (elderly woman) notice her. Talk to her and listen to her female experience. This may wake us enough so that we do nothand over the same violent situations to our daughters and sons such as the recurring wars and rapes. Be careful since this may incite your long repressed rage. This rage, however, is feminine social justice and much needed in this world today. Ponder and wonder about the catastrophic statistics such as rape, assault, war crimes, refugees, etc., the victims of which are primarilywomen and children. What does those horrific statistics tell you? Channel the rage into activism so that Mother’s Day can truly be celebrated every day of the year.

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