Women Hold Up Half the Sky: A Poetry Jam

In celebration of International Women's Day, Rising Voices grantee and Nari Jibon founder, Kathryn Ward, came up with the idea of a friendly poetry competition among Rising Voices bloggers. Participants of the ten citizen media outreach projects were given a week to write and submit their poems related to the theme “women hold up half the sky.”

Ten poems were submitted from Colombia, Bangladesh, and Madagascar. Of those ten, the following three featured poems were selected by Dr. Ward and her poet friend to be featured in commemoration of women around the world.


“Paceñita / Cristina Quisbert


by Sufia-734 of Nari Jibon

(Originally written in Bangla – Translated by Kazi Rafiqul Islam)

Time has come now
To stand for that we need
Not equality, but priority.
We want to open our heart
Express our mind
For that we need
Not equality, but priority.
Fathers can be cruel even
Mothers cannot.
Mothers can sacrifice
Fathers cannot.
That is what women are
We can do everything.
Combating with sorrow
Win happiness.
No more shall we endure injustice
No more shall we remain within the four walls.
Time has come to open ears and eyes
To protest against unfair deeds.
For that we need
Not equality, but priority.

construction nari 9 baridharacc.jpg

Women road repair crew, Kathryn Ward, Dhaka, 2004.

by Poupoune of FOKO from Toamasina, Madagascar.

(Originally written in Malagasy – Translated by Mialy Andriamananjara)


Vatolampy fehozoro ny nehivavy, ka zava poana raha tsy misy azy
Eny fa ny fo fanfahy dia atolony avokoa,ary miaraka @ dia ho tody ny soa
Herin'ny tokan-trano anie izy hatramin'izay, koa dera sy laza no atolotray
Indro anefa ireo zava bitany, hojoro ho mandrakizay, ka tsy ho toy ny rozy malazo ho dinganinay
Vola sy harena tsy misy raha jerena, fa raha lavitra anao dia ssento sisa atao
Anaovana hery setra sy verin-jo tanteraka, anefa dia mitalaho any @
Voninkazo midoroboka mamirapiratra tahaka riva, 

Koa masoandro mamiratra tokoa anie isika,
Izay mitondra fahasambarana sy fifaliana, 
Hoan'ireo rehetra maminitsika

Women are Building rocks

without them there is only void

They give with heart and soul

and with them good things are in reach

They are the strength of the home

We offer women glory and praise

Their accomplishments will stand forever

Unlike wilting roses we step over

Wealth and money we cannot see

Away from them sighs engulf me

Violated they are and rights are stripped from them

But they complain underneath

Flowers blooming and gleaming in evenings.

May we be shining suns

Bringing joy and happiness

To those we cherish and love.


Poem by: Camila Urrea Morales (Colombia)

Translated by: Carolina Vélez López of HiperBarrio.

En un principio, aún incierto, apareció la mujer, un ser creado fibra a fibra de azúcar, adornado con tanto hilos dorados como sentimientos, un ser que se derrite con cada palabra que infunde fuego en ella, y que se enfría, levantando la pared más fuerte, con aquellas que llegan como témpano ante ella. Luego, aparece aquella cubierta que es más que piel, una cubierta conductora de emociones, de latidos, de vibraciones. Y apareció la mujer, y con ella la dulzura de las cosas hechas con la delicadeza que nada más se encuentra en ese ser.

In a beginning, uncertain yet, appeared the woman, a being created fibre by fibre of sugar, adorned with so many golden threads as emotions, a being that melts down with every word that infuses fire in her, and that freezes, raising the strongest wall, with those that arrive like icebergs upon her. Then, that cover appears, it's more than just skin, it's a conductor of emotions, of beatings, of vibrations. And the woman appeared, and with her the sweetness of the things made with the delicacy that can only be found in that being.

Finally, in a class all its own, a coordinator of the FOKO project in Madagascar, who prefers to go by the pseudonym SipakV, submitted this poem in Malagasy and English.

“Lehilahy iza no ho tamana amin'izao”
-Tsia ange fa izy no te handeha
-Ka tsy handeha ve izy
Vehivavy nilaozambady ianao
Manala baraka anay
Manala baraka fianakaviana
Jereo ity volonao
Jereo ity tarehy
Jereo ity sakafo 
Jereo ity trano mikorontana
Lehilahy iza no ho tamana amin'izao
-Koa mba efa niezaka ao re
Ny volo notapahina, natao plaquage
Ny tarehy nohosorana diloilo manitra
Ny sakafo niezahana hatsiro isan'andro
Ny trano ampirimina
Kanefa ange Ikoto sy Ikala
Mitaky fitiavana sy fikarakarana
Ny sakafo adino eo ambony fatana
Ny trano voakorontana
Angaha misy hitany akory
Izy anie ka mody alina
Mamom-behivavy hafa sy toaka
Domelin'ny hatezerana
Fa ratsy hono ny fiainanay
Ratsy taiza hono ny ankizy
Ratsy tarehy hono ny vadiny
Vehivavy hafa hono no tadiaviny
Koa dia ny fahareseny no vonoiny
Vonoiny amin'ny tavako sy ny vatako
Vonoiny isan-kariva fa tsy mety voafafany
Tamin'ny farany teo efa tonga ny fokonolona
Dia nohafatrafarana aho hoe
Vehivavy ka mihareta
Mihareta hatramin'ny farany
Fiharetana eto an-tany
Hatramin'ny nikororosian'ny lanitra eo ambony
Tonga teo ingahy mompera nilaza hoe
Tsarovy Victoire Rasoamanarivo
Fa tsy fahasambarana any ankoatra anie no tadiaviko
Fa mba kosa filaminana ho an'Ikoto sy Ikala
Tonga ianao androany ry Neny ka hoe
Efa izy no anjara
Fa vono olona ve no fetra
Ary fanagejana no lahatra
satria ho aiza moa
Fa izaho dia vehivavy tsy miasa?
Ka dia aleo re ry mama…
- Jereo ity volonao
Jereo ity tarehy
Jereo ity sakafo 
Jereo ity trano mikorontana
Lehilahy iza no ho tamana amin'izao…

“What man would stay ?”

- No, but he is the one who left

- Wouldn't he leave

You are an abandoned woman

Shaming us

Shaming our family

Look at your hair

Look at your face

Look at your cooking

Look at your unkept house

What man would stay ?

- I did my best

I cut my hair, straightened it

I put perfumed cream on my face

I tried my best cooking every day

I straightened the house

but Ikoto and Ikala

Wanted love and care

He did not even notice

He came home late every night

Drunk on women and alcohol

Dumb with rage
Because our life sucks

Our kids misbehave

His wife is ugly

And he wants to beat up his loss

Erase it on my face and body

Erase it every night with no luck

Last time the neighborhood committee came

And gave me advice

You are a woman

Resign yourself

Tough it out until the end

When the sky comes crashing down on you

And the Reverend Father came by

Remember Victoire Rasoamanarivo he said

But I am not looking for happiness in the next world

But peace for Ikoto and Ikala is what I seek

You came today mother and said

he is my lot

Violence my destiny

Prison my fate

because where am I to go

Jobless woman

So mother let me…

- Look at your hair

Look at your face

Look at your cooking

Look at your unkept house
What man would stay ?


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