Book or Play: Asking for it under review

Book or Play: Asking for it under review

The book: the origin of everything

Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It follows a teenage girl named Emma who is raped by a group of football players at a party in her hometown. 

One of the strengths of Asking For It is that the protagonist, Emma, is definitely not a “nice girl.” She’s unlikeable, arrogant and slut shames other women at the beginning of the book. This was an excellent choice on O’Neill’s part:in the end, the reader doesn’t feel sorry for Emma because she’s a lovely, likeable person, they feel bad because what happened to her should never ever happen to anyone.

In her small town in County Cork, Emma has significantly less power than her attackers. They’re stars of the local GAA team, and are held on a pedestal, seeming that nothing can touch them. The book has a lot of commentary on the patriarchy. Characters say things one would often see posted by anonymous accounts on Twitter under articles regarding assault. “Girls are all the same. Get wasted and get a bit slutty, then in the morning try and pretend it never happened because you regret it.” 

Emma’s attackers post images of the assault on a Facebook page called “Easy Emma.” Emma is completely unable to escape the situation, and it’s difficult and painful to read about because you want to help her. She doesn’t have a good support system at home or in school and it’s hard to watch her crumble.

O’Neill is an exceptional writer. There’s many moments and pieces of writing in this novel that will stay with the reader. Emma thinks, “My body is not my own anymore. They have stamped their names all over it.” This is such an incredibly powerful quote, one of several in the novel. It’s striking how real the teenagers sound in their way of acting and speaking. The events of this novel feel like they could happen in any town.

Asking For It should be required reading in secondary schools in Ireland as consent is such an important subject matter. This book is an essential read for young people in Ireland and across the world. It made O’Neill one of leading voices of feminism in Ireland.


The play: another immersive experience

The stage adaption of Louise O’Neill’s award-winning 2015 book Asking For It returned to the Gaiety Theatre during the month of October. This nauseatingly authentic play illustrates the life of the beautiful, queen bee Emma O’Donovan, whose life is torn up before her eyes after becoming the victim of a gang-rape and subsequent social media attack. This harrowing production artfully and poignantly depicted the all-too-common mentality victim-blaming prevalent of people in Ireland and beyond. 

The beginning of the play with its narration of Emma and her friends, going about their daily life, is a situation all too familiar for the majority of the audience, filling the viewer with even more dread about what we all know is to happen next. The characterisation of Emma as not so sympathetic an individual makes this even more striking. Despite the fact that we could go so far as to dislike her during the early part of the play, we nevertheless are filled with empathy for her when the aggression occurs.

The second half of the play is utterly disturbing and distressing. We see Emma and her life after the incident. She is a shell of her former self; a shadow. The difficulties caused to her parents by the situation also result in some fantastically moving and upsetting interactions that are sure to touch the viewer right where it hurts. During the final scene the room is filled with this deafening silence, and the tense emotion is absolutely tangible. There is almost an unwillingness to applaud at the end – how could one show appreciation for such an agonisingly excruciating event?

Aisling Kearns deserves chief credit for her captivating portrayal of complicated Emma. However, the energy and ultimate genuity afforded to the stage by each actor is a work of genius and has afforded thousands of audience members the invaluable opportunity to challenge the harmful attitude of rape-culture and to ask the question “Is anyone ever asking for it?”


Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash


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Larissa Saar completes her three part series discussing the implications of climate related displacement, this week discussing how the issue has impacted the people of Tuvalu.

The Pacific Island state of Tuvalu is one of 58 Small Island Developing States, and one of 13 independent members of the group situated in the Pacific Ocean. It is considered to be among the most vulnerable states to climate change worldwide, due to an elevation that is 1.83 metres above sea level on average. Across its islands, that together have an area of 26 square kilometres, there are 10,000 inhabitants that are under threat with sea levels in the region rising at 5mm per year since 1993, with total rise by 2030 predicted to be between 7 and 18 cm.

By 2004, leaders of the world’s fourth smallest country had been warning that the islands might soon become uninhabitable, falling on deaf ears for over a decade at that time already. While most scientists agree that the rise in sea levels will lead to erosion of the islands coast lines, exacerbated by increasing vulnerability as a result of the destruction of corral reefs, 15 years ago some scientists argued that storms and higher waves might actually transport sediments and make the islands grow. Increasingly severe cyclones, tropical storms, high tides and droughts, however, make this scenario unlikely, with sea water beginning to leak from the ground in the late 1990s, unrelated to any rainfall in the region, making the rising sea levels visible to anyone that visits.

Tuvalu has been vocal in pushing New Zealand and Australia to accept climate refugees, and in 2002 New Zealand established a quota program that allow Pacific Islanders to immigrate, albeit with only a maximum of 75 Tuvaluans per year. Nonetheless, ten years ago, New Zealand had already hosted 4,000 Tuvaluan citizens, with 10,000 remaining in Tuvalu. The Church of Tuvalu at the time purchased 10 acres of land outside Auckland to accommodate migrants coming in the future, as Tuvalu is predicted to be uninhabitable by 2050. While a plan by the Tuvaluan government in 2002 to sue the United States and Australia over excessive carbon emission in front of the International Court of Justice was abandoned, the country has taken other measures to adapt to the rising threat. Together with the United Nations Development Programme, in 2017 it launched the Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project, funded with $36 million from UNFCCC’s Green Climate Fund and an additional $2.9 million from the government of Tuvalu.

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Image courtesy of Tomoaki INABA via Flickr


Tropical Cyclone Idai devastates South-East Africa

Tropical Cyclone Idai devastates South-East Africa


Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall in Beira, Mozambique overnight from 14 to 15 March, after the area had already seen severe flooding caused by the storm, which began early March 2019. Idai has caused significant damages to schools and health facilities, crops, water supply, sanitation facilities, housing, and other personal property, according to the UN Resident Coordinator in Mozambique. Most significantly, it has increased the risk of displacement, leaving the most vulnerable in the society without protection. The World Food Programme (WFP) has started responding to the crisis, despite roads that are blocked due to mudslides and destroyed bridges slowing down relief efforts.

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In neighbouring Zimbabwe, there were at least 31 deaths and more than 100 missing right after landfall of Idai. These numbers have risen to 139 deaths and 189 missing, with 4,300 displaced by 21 March. In Malawi, there were 122 deaths already on 13 March, before the landfall, and more than 80,000 displaced persons.

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Image courtesy of Denis Onyodi via Flickr


Crackdown on Zimbabwe Protests

Crackdown on Zimbabwe Protests


On 12 January 2018, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government announced a 150% increase in fuel prices nationally.

In response, Zimbabwe’s main labour organisation, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, called for a three-day strike or, ‘stay-away’ which resulted in widespread protests. As a result, the government shut down all internet services which led to an information-blackout across the nation and global community about what exactly was going on in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean government then deployed military and police forces in a what has been described by Amnesty International as ‘the most brutal crackdown in Zimbabwe’s recent history’ leading to several reports of extreme human rights violations. It has been confirmed that 343 people have been injured during and after the arrests.

Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy regional director for Southern Africa said,

‘’Killings, reports of rape by military personnel and widespread arbitrary arrests of many protestors, have cast doubts on hopes that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government might mean a better future for Zimbabweans where respect for human rights is the norm.’’

To date, 17 people have been killed by military personnel, more than 1,000 people have been arbitrarily detained and are being brought to court in trials that do not meet fair international fair trial standards. There have been at least 13 cases of rape and sexual assault against women by police and military officers.

Witnesses have reported torture of protestors, such as being made to roll in sewage or the ashes from burnt tyres.

Doctors reported that 78 of people treated had suffered gunshot wounds, 4 had bite marks from dogs that authorities had set on them, and many more had been kicked with boots, beaten with wooden logs or dragged across tarmac during arrests.

Authorities have also targeted political and social activists during the crackdown. Evan Mawarire, local pastor and activist who has been outspoken about corruption in Zimbabwe since the reign of Mugabe, was arrested on 16 January in his home in Harare. Arrested by 12 police armed with AK-47s, Mawarire was charged with “inciting public violence and subverting a constitutional government”, but was granted bail after two weeks in jail.

In an attempt to stop the violence, Oxfam, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have sent President Mnangagwa an open letter urging him to ‘show commitment to human rights’ and to meet the spokespersons for each group at his earliest convenience.

A spokesperson for Amnesty International has asked that the international community challenge the Zimbabwean authorities. “Other members of the international community also have a role to play, including those that embraced president Mnangagwa’s ‘new dawn’. The time has come for them to take an unequivocal stand and publicly condemn the escalating human rights violations in Zimbabwe.”





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Image courtesy of DIRCO via Flickr


Lack of funding in Madagascar puts school children at risk of going hungry

Lack of funding in Madagascar puts school children at risk of going hungry


In the urban shanty areas of Madagascar, the World Food Programme (WFP) School Feeding Programme encourages children to attend school. Meals provided at school help to improve studies, and encourage parents to send their children to school, as some are not able to provide sufficient food for their families.

The WFP works in Madagascar to combat acute and chronic malnutrition, providing school meals as well as assisting smallholder farms by encouraging local food markets and building capacity to improve crop quality.

The current lack of funding in the WFP is threatening increased hunger in the poorest parts of Madagascar, where 1 in 2 children are severely malnourished. Southern Madagascar is severely impacted by drought; many rely on this school feeding operation to supplement food shortages. The WFP notes chronic malnutrition as a major health concern in the country.

The Anosy, Androy, and Atsimo-Andrefana regions in Madagascar’s south, are especially impacted by drought and food shortages. Forty percent of the 300,000 primary school children who rely on the WFP school meals, have had to go without this academic year.

With the average cost to feed one child for a year sitting at $50 USD, the WFP is seeking an additional $4 million USD to resume its school meals programme to full capacity, and continue providing meals to school aged children for the remainder of the school year.

Southern Madagascar’s hunger crisis originates from its exposure to natural disasters, including drought and floods. Continually rising temperatures and the increase in extreme weather due to climate change are likely to exacerbate the situation.




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Image courtesy of Valerian Guillot via Flickr


UN delivers aid to 40,000 in Rukban

UN delivers aid to 40,000 in Rukban



On 30 January 2018, Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, delivered an address to the United Nations Security Council on the affairs to date in Syria. The address detailed the dire needs faced by those displaced by conflict in Syria, and the harsh conditions for those in settlement camps like those near Rukban, asking for the support of all parties to ensure the convoy a success.

On February 5, 2019, marked as the largest ever humanitarian convoy, the United Nations in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), delivered aid to a remote settlement in Rukban of over 40,000 people, located near the south-eastern Syria-Jordan border. The camp last received aid in November 2018, with conditions deteriorating since then.

The settlement, which has been referred to as ‘make-shift’ by UNOCHA, received food and nutritional supplies, medical kits, waste/sanitation/hygiene (WASH) materials, winterization supplies, and other core relief items. The settlement also received vaccines for children, along with education kits and toys, as the majority of the camp’s displaced are women and children.

The UN and SARC will also conduct a survey of the settlements’ residents, to gather information regarding their wishes and priorities in order to determine future solutions to their displacement, and facilitate returns to normal life where desired. Aid in these types of situations is only a temporary solution at best, as many of the tens of thousands who call the settlement home, have been there for over two years.

The UN continues to urge all parties to allow safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access to all people in need in Syria, in line with their obligations under International Humanitarian Law. See UNOCHA’s video detailing the importance of the convoy here.



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Image courtesy of UN Photo via Flickr