Month: August 2013

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If You Aren’t Married, You’re Incapable of Raising Your Own Child

Of the 200,000 Korean children who have been adopted overseas since 1953, 89% were born to unwed mothers. Single mothers in South Korea have little autonomy when it comes to decisions regarding their children, are highly stigmatized, and lack support from their communities and from the government. They have a difficult time finding employment and childcare in South Korea. A survey found that unwed mothers in South Korea felt the most prejudice after homosexuals in the country. Another survey found that 60% of South Koreans believe unwed mothers “lack judgment and a sense of responsibility.” Until May of 2012, the South Korean Ministry of Health & Welfare included the following definition of unwed mothers on its website: “…usually low levels of education, with an unstable job. Lives by herself or in a boarding house, has open and impulsive sexual values. A person whose socioeconomic situation is low, and who lives apart from her parents.” Keeping in mind this negative perspective of single mothers in South Korea, it is not surprising that South Korean laws regarding …

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Why We All Need to Stop Talking About Miley Cyrus

By now, everyone has seen – or heard so much about they might as well have seen – Miley Cyrus’ performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. While it would be easy to dismiss the flurry of subsequent outrage as an overreaction to a largely inconsequential matter, there are deeper implications at play. Miley’s performance has pushed all the wrong buttons and, more importantly, has led to all the wrong reactions. It is immediately apparent that Miley Cyrus’ performance was, at best, inappropriate and, at worst, sexually exploitative. For those who missed it, a barely-legal Miley Cyrus, who rose to fame as the squeaky-clean Disney heroine Hannah Montana, spent six minutes pretending to lick Robin Thicke and imitating sex with a foam finger in a nude bikini, surrounded by giant teddy bears. All of this underscored by the fact that the performance was set to Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’, which has been given the dubious honor of ‘rapiest song of the summer’. Immediately, there was an outcry over what it meant for feminism, what message it …

Woman in Mathare slum. Image Courtesy: Creative Commons on Flickr.

FREE MATERNAL CARE IN KENYA

According to the recent statistics from the World Health Organization, at least one woman dies every minute due to complications related to pregnancy or childbirth around the world. This equals almost 300 000 women ever year. A functional health system equipped with skilled personnel is key to saving women’s and children lives. Improvement of maternal health is enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals as one of the essential prerequisites of development and poverty eradication. In Kenya, the maternal deaths currently stand at 488 per 100,000 deliveries. President Uhuru Kenyatta announced during the Madaraka Day celebrations that women will have access to free maternal services countrywide in public hospitals starting June 1st. The government made budgetary arrangements of US $50,000 for free maternity and prenatal care to mothers giving birth in public health institutions with an aim of reducing maternal and prenatal fatalities. In addition, the government also waived the US $0.25 charge for registration. Treasury had already released US $12,500 for the first quarter, April to June, to buy additional equipment such as delivery beds and incubators. And in a Press …

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Sexual Violence is a Global Epidemic – And none of us are immune

Recently, my social media feeds were  overwhelmed with posts about this CNN iReport story by Michaela Cross. The piece recounts her experiences with sexual harassment as a Western woman in India during her Study Abroad term. From inappropriate stares to uninvited physical approaches, most of what she describes I can relate to as a Western woman who recently returned from India after a year living in the City of Bangalore. I, too, felt the eyes on my body every time I stepped out in India. I was approached by men I didn’t invite into my space, men who refused to leave, men who got uncomfortably close. I was groped and followed. I was the object of crude comments. Every time I wanted to go out, I felt restricted because of my sex. In India, the term ‘eve-teasing’ is used to describe public sexual harassment of women – and it happens all the time. For every negative experience though, there were ten positive ones. My time in India was marked more by wonderful encounters than by negative ones – …

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Palestinian Women Under Occupation

We are done with the tears we are on to the next step. We have to stay strong because we are fighters. It is our land.  – Mariam,* Palestinian, 17 years old. Recently I was lucky enough to attend the Joint Advocacy Initiative– Journey for Justice of the YWCA of Palestine and the YMCA of East Jerusalem. Journey for Justice brings together young people mainly from YMCAs and YWCAs all over the world to experience and share the reality of life under occupation with Palestinian youth. For nine days, we joined Palestinian youth and traveled around occupied Palestine to witness the effects of Israeli occupation. It is often said that women and girls suffer the most in conflict and war, as reports of abuse, murder and sexual violence are rampant. In Palestine, the effect of the conflict and occupation on women and girls takes a different form. Mariam, a Palestinian young woman, described returning home in 2003 after visiting their dying grandfather in the city of Nablus. Along with her 37-week pregnant mother, two younger siblings, …

Photo by Sara Sultan under Creative Commons license.

Dancing with the Fighters

This is a guest blog post by Sabiha Ashraf, Pakistani painter and artist. The post has been modified since it was first published. This post has the goal to raise awareness of the current fundraising tour in USA of Pakistan’s National Health Forum, to raise funds for Koohi Goth Hospital in Karachi, Pakistan. See more here. Sheema Kermani is a dancer. Shershah Syed is a doctor.  They are fighters from Pakistan. Both have waged a ceaseless crusade for decades in a country they cling to as home, despite threats against their lives. If you live in any of the 12 cities they have targeted in USA, you stand a good chance to meet them. The doctor and the dancer are amazingly alike in their crusade of social activism, aimed to create awareness in a society sickened by all the ills, which plague third world countries. Both Sheema and Dr Shershah Syed have won recognition at home and abroad for their achievements in their respective fields as they continue their war for women’s rights, which, as Sheema says, are human rights. Under the banner of a women empowering organization, Tehrik …

Panel discussion on Race, Feminism and Activism - by BarrowCadburyTrust on Flickr

A call for intersectionality in the feminist debate

Quite early in my life I felt and spoke out like a feminist. I didn’t know what a feminist was, let alone know that this feeling and way of being was in fact called feminism. It was in my final year of high school I learnt the term feminist and about the feminist movement. Suddenly, I had a name for my constant behaviour of speaking out on injustices against women, minorities and what I perceived to be injustices in my society. As I became more immersed in this new identity and new group of like-minded people, I realised my references were very white and that there were several areas of conflict with my culture and heritage. I was a white feminist in a black woman’s body. I had little understanding of the concept of intersectionality of race and always argued women’s rights and topical debates from my white feminism vantage point. I have since learnt that one can’t talk about feminism, particularly of women’s rights, outside of race and class. Black women and by extension, black feminism, is …

Photo by Pep Bonet for SEED Community

SEED Community works to empower girls in South Africa

The SEED Community was founded in 2011 to provide higher educational opportunities for girls and women from challenging economic backgrounds in developing countries through affordable loan programmes. At SEED, our objective is to create the opportunity for girls to take the future into their own hands and at the same time plant the seeds for somebody else’s future and growth. We are working in South Africa with girls at the grass roots level offering interest free, higher education loans and work opportunities through our SEED School Mentoring Programme. Our community support structure provides a framework for girls to complete their studies, repay their loans, and be independent, active contributors to society. We do not view the funding for the girls’ education in isolation, but rather as part of a broader social context.
 However bright, capable and motivated the girls are, many face social and economic difficulties preventing them from entering and/or completing their higher education for a variety of reasons, including the following: Every 27 seconds a girl in South Africa is raped. More than …

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Go! Girl Guides

Being a woman is a form of art; we often must grapple with issues – biological, social, personal and professional – that men never have to worry about. Never is this more true than while traveling. When on the road myself, I often found myself hunched over computers in hostels, furtively googling specific information on what other women had thought about the safety of a certain place, what hygienic facilities were available, or commiserating with others in a pharmacy about the lack of tampax. A travel aficionado herself, Kelly Lewis had similar experiences and realised that despite the number of travel series there were on the market, there were none written exclusively for women. And so, in 2011, Go! Girl Guides was born. Armed with gutsiness and a webpage, Lewis amassed a group of feisty travel writers to chronicle their experiences and explore the world from a distinctly female perspective. The writers at Go! Girl Guides write about traveling as a woman with unflinching honesty. As well as reviews of where to go, what to …

An artist's outline of the day's discussions.

Governance for Health Roundtable Event: Women’s Leadership in Health Systems Management

Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Governance for Health in Low and Middle Income Countries Roundtable hosted by Management Sciences for Health’s (MSH) Leadership, Management and Governance (LMG) Project at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. The Roundtable aimed to further the conversation surrounding good governance within businesses and organizations – particularly in regards to health systems management. As demonstrated by the attendees who represented a wide range of cross-cutting issues, good governance impacts everything – from women’s leadership to technological innovations to global health. Governance is a life and death decision. When you get it right, you live. When you get it wrong, you die. ~ Jono Quick, MD, CEO of MSH Dr. Kate Tulenko, Senior Director for Health Systems Innovation at IntraHealth International, was first to speak about the importance of women’s leadership in health systems governance. Tulenko emphasized that women usually are first to come into contact with health systems as they – typically – are the primary caregivers for their children. Therefore, more women must ‘sit at the …