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.


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 ?


  • joan

    This is wonderful !
    Love to women from every corner of the world

  • I am very moved by these poems. They have a well of emotion and light of change. Congratulations to the poets and the organizers of this jam session

  • Saw your blog a day after March 08…we also celebrated it together with some migrant women in the city of Cologne under the theme…we celebrate, we demand…
    but this poetry jam is really a unique way of celebration.

    Warm regards



  • The image of a woman with so many golden threads lingers in my mind. And so often, gold is buried beneath dust; treasures of the earth. I hear from all these postings the plea to be noticed for the beauty within.

    A great collection of thoughts celebrating those women who still must struggle to be noticed as precious gold.

    Blessings to all!


  • Ina Davis

    Woman Jam touched my heart as we in South Africa also understand to certain degree the difficulty Women have to be acknowledged as an Indepedant intelectual special human being.

    Take courage to all the woman in the word. You “rock” like we say in South Africa.

    God Almighty Bless All

  • Congratulations to all the winners. These poems are moving and show that women throughout the world share many of the same sensibilities and concerns.

    go women!

  • I wrote a small note about this in my blog…
    Thoughtful and beatiful poems. Great initiative that should be repeated every year… Maybe?

  • I wrote a small note about this in my blog…
    Thoughtful and beautiful poems. Great initiative that should be repeated every year… Maybe?

    The link of the post.

  • The link of the post.

  • wonderful, uplifting, hopeful, beautiful, powerful!
    thank you
    bright blessings

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