Month: April 2014

I Demand Justice

Recently, I was walking in my neighborhood in Lagos, Nigeria, with my sister and my father. As we walked, I explained to them my fears of walking through the streets when it was so dark. My sister confidently replied, “We will be safe if anything happens because we have a man to protect us.” This should not be the case. Men should not have to protect women from violence. In many communities, women and girls need protection because violence against them is so prevalent. According to the World Health Organisation, 35% of women and girls around the world will experience intimate partner or non-partner violence in their lifetime. Every two minutes, a woman is sexually assaulted in the United States. That equates to 30 women every hour, and 7,200 women every day. In a recent post by blogger Diane, I learnt that some girls in India are born into brothels and are “bred” for a life of abuse, exploitation and violence. Violence against women and girls must stop. When I hear stories of girls who experience violence and stigmatization, I …

Her Story, Her Dream

Written by: Fonda Sanchez, Founder of Education for Equality International  If we listened to the voices of women and girls, what would we hear? How would their stories make a difference? While completing my graduate practicum with an NGO that focuses on increasing primary school enrollment and literacy rates for girls in Rajasthan, India, I had the privilege of meeting a young girl named Rekha. During field visits, I met many teen girls who had completed primary school, but were not enrolled in secondary.  Rekha was fourteen and recently married to a young man a couple years older than her. As is custom for many new brides in India, she went to live with her new husband and his family. Upon arrival into the family, Rekha’s in-laws prohibited her from continuing her education. She did not expect that early marriage would result in lost opportunity. Rekha’s husband had never completed secondary school and therefore her in-laws would not allow her to attend. In other words, as a young girl they did not want Rekha’s education level higher than …

Protecting Mother Earth and Her Women

Each year on April 22, the world recognizes the importance of environmental protection through various events and demonstrations. Earth Day first started in 1970 and its importance has gained strength each year as we collectively face the realities and repercussions of climate change. Within its movement, a separate undertaking has taken shape that stems from women’s rights. When it comes to climate-related disasters, women of the world tend to suffer more than men. This is not to say that men do not feel like effects of climate change and natural disasters. In March 2014, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification projected that “by 2020 an estimated 60 million people could move from the arid desert areas of sub-Saharan Africa towards North Africa and Europe.” Perhaps even more troubling: “By 2050, 200 million people may be permanently displaced environmental migrants.” Many developing countries are vulnerable to natural disasters (i.e., floods, earthquakes, tsunamis) and extreme weather can lead to problems with water access, sanitation, crop shortage, disease, and even death. Organizations like the Global Fund for …

FGM Fight turns legal in Egypt

In 2012, Unite to End Violence against Women campaign declared the 25th of every month Orange Day. For two years, individuals, organizations, activists, men, women and girls have been raising their voices to say no to violence. TODAY, on #OrangeDay wear orange & share #UNSG ’s report on conflicted-related #sexualviolence http://t.co/6yCdAFOhQw http://t.co/vTvV9t4Mjw — Say NO – UNiTE (@SayNO_UNiTE) April 25, 2014 Women and girls experience violence in war and conflict settings, in their homes and at the hands of strangers. Sexual assault, female genital mutilation, early marriage and forced prostitution are some of the atrocities that girls and women face on a daily basis. Will the violence stop? Is there justice for women and girls? Justice may become a reality for some girls in Egypt. In a tragic, landmark case, Raslan Fadl, a medical practioner, is scheduled to be tried for the death of thirteen year old Sohair al-Bata’a. The death was reportedly the result of an allergic reaction to penicillin. However, the primary procedure she had undergone was female genital mutilation.The existence of the trial is as …

Sweden, is this as far as we’ll come with gender equality?

Earlier this year the World Economic Forum released The Global Gender Gap Report for 2013. The report ranks countries on national gender gaps with economic, political, educational, and health-based criteria. The report was created in 2006 and is used as an estimate for a country’s level of gender equality as well as national competitiveness. The information shows most countries are making slow progress in closing several gender gaps. The Nordic countries continue to dominate the top 10 list with highest levels of gender equality. Iceland (moved up from 4th place in 2006) Finland (moved up from 3rd place in 2006) Norway (moved down from 2nd place in 2006) Sweden (moved down from 1st place in 2006) Philippines (moved up from 6th place in 2006) Ireland (moved up from 10th place in 2006) New Zealand (remains at 7th place since 2006) Denmark (remains at 8th place since 2006) Switzerland (moved up from 26th place in 2006) Nicaragua (moved up from 62nd place in 2006) This list of rankings reveals a rough picture of the level of gender equality in various countries. For several years, the Nordic countries, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark have been seen as role models in implementing policies …

Why You Should Care

Gladys Kalibbala, an award-winning journalist from Uganda, was a panelist last night, along with Jessica Yu, Academy Award winning film maker, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Head of UN Women, at the UN Foundation event, Why We Care: Stories of Reproductive Health and discussion of the film Misconception. Gladys left Africa for the first time to attend the premiere of the film she was featured in at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday night, and to be a panelist at the event last night. Gladys developed the column, Lost (and Abandoned) Children, for Vision Group in Uganda. Gladys writes the stories of abandoned children to shed light on the issue and to make an attempt at reconnecting them with their families. In her community, children are often left at schools, in taxis, and at hospitals because their parents are desperate, and cannot provide for them. At the discussion last night, Gladys was able to solve a common reproductive health debate, in an instant, through a powerful and heart-wrenching story. At population or reproductive health conferences, and in policy-making debates, opposing camps cannot come …

Why We Must “STEM” the Glass Ceiling

One of the things that I really strongly believe in is that we need to have more girls interested in math, science, and engineering. –Barack Obama, February 2013 Some of you may have read U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Huffington Post op-ed on the ways gender equality in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields can be achieved. This op-ed, entitled “Increasing STEM Education for Our Nation’s Women” focuses on the rather bleak scene of STEM industries that was underscored by the alarming lack of women pursuing STEM-related careers in the United States. Gillibrand highlights that in order to enhance visibility of women in STEM, societies must make a two-fold investment in mentorship and education. Only through using the vehicles of education and mentorship to “advance the role and exposure of STEM” to women, Gillibrand argues, can “women stop referring to themselves as “the only woman” in their physics lab or only one of two in their computer science jobs.” The gender gap in STEM does not exist in the United States alone; it affects developed and developing countries alike worldwide. While perusing …

Meet the Girls Ending FGM

Girls are perfect, just as they are. Yet over 125 million girls and women bear scars that suggest the contrary. Every minute five girls are held down and subjected to excruciating pain. Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting (FGC), is the harmful practice of partially or totally removing a girl’s genitals. Girls who are cut face emotional trauma and long lasting health complications. It is a strange paradox that many celebrate ‘cutting season’ with big parties and lavish gifts. FGM is the norm for a large majority of the developing world. Thanks to a new wave of media attention and two daring young women, I now understand more about FGM. This understanding began with Leyla Hussein’s BAFTA nominated film The Cruel Cut. From impassioned women’s rights activist and mother Leyla, I learned that FGM is happening right on my doorstep. An estimated 23,000 British girls are at risk of being cut. FGM is more prevalent than current figures suggest, due to immigration and the hidden nature of this crime. As global efforts to end FGM …

The Oppression of Women Exists Everywhere

In my previous blog post, The Rise of Islamophobia and the Feminist Debate, I discussed how the populist far right in Western countries tend to blame Muslim men and Islam as the only oppressors of women.  I argue that the oppression of women is a global phenomena that does not exist in just one culture or religion and that the oppression of women exists everywhere. “The oppression of women is our century’s greatest injustice,” is what Sheryl WuDunn calls it in her TED Talk. In this lecture Sheryl describes the oppression of women as a global phenomena connected to poverty and development, Sheryl argues that the greatest moral challenge of this century is gender inequality. I think this lecture is very inspirational and I fully agree with her. Women’s rights are one of the most important issues the world faces today, in all societies, cultures and religions. All around the world women are oppressed and neglected their rights. It is a problem we should not underestimate. The lack of women’s rights is a global problem. The global oppression of women just takes different shapes in different countries, …

Feminism and Motherhood in the Nordic Countries

This week, Girls’ Globe is highlighting examples of Nordic feminism. The Nordics – Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland – are often thought to represent the model for gender equality in terms of education, health care, political and civic participation, and equality in the workforce and pay. One area where the Nordics are also considered trailblazers is maternity and family support – something that is inherently interlinked with feminism, gender equality and women’s empowerment. It is easy to assume that there is controversy between motherhood and feminism – becoming a mother means giving up part of your independence, and almost everywhere in the world, the primary caregiver is still considered to be the mother. This inevitably means that women end up sacrificing their careers – or at least slowing down their career development – for the sake of starting a family. Women should not have to  choose between career and family any more than men – and some of the policies in place in the Nordic countries represent ways to support women’s empowerment and gender …