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18 posts tagged women's rights

Development experts have long known that educating girls is one of the surest ways to improve life for everyone in poor countries. Yet the path to school has not been smooth for many girls—especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Over the past 17 years, however, the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) has delivered high-quality education to millions of girls across 35 African countries. The secret to FAWE’s scale and impact, say its leaders, is its flexibility.

Ironic thing about this article:  it is only accessible via paid subscription (which a budding social entrepreneur like me cannot afford.  Does anyone who reads here have access?)


The Merman Girls’ Orphanage is a small, unimposing little house a little way up into the foothills of Kabul. Here 29 girls share 26 beds in cramped rooms and range in age from 3 to 18. I first met them last month at a lunch arranged by a friend. After initially being shy, the 300 balloons we took with us soon turned the tidy restaurant into a littering of rubber fragments and a bunch of giggling wrecks. Adults included.

These girls are not all orphans. Some have been abandoned by their families, some have widowed mothers who can’t afford to keep them. 3 year old Nazaneen was found severely malnourished, while her best friend Fawzia, also 3, lost her parents in an airstrike. Shellshocked, she has only recently begun talking.

After lunch we piled onto a 70s bus left over from the hippie trail. Stumbling to communicate through my awful Dari and their much better, but shy, English, I passed the time by teaching everyone thumb wars and the ‘Johnny, johnny, johnny, johnny whoops’ finger game most famously used by Lennon on the Magical Mystery Tour bus. I suppose it was the aesthetics of the bus that brought it to mind.

At Kabul Zoo, the girls lit up a sad series of cages and lingering dodgy men by their enthusiasm, delight and their determination to teach me the Dari names for each animal. An ostrich is a ‘shetor-morgh’ literally a ‘camel-chicken’. Then we visited the ferris wheel, sadly stationary due to Kabul’s electricity problems, and had a ride on the swing boat.Naturally, the operator tried to rip us off, but he hadn’t counted on the fearsome director of the orphanage.

This was the same tough lady who had denied the father of three girls at the orphanage access to them after he forcibly reclaimed his daughters to pay off gambling debts.

A week after the zoo, I went back to visit the girls at their home. The tiny space they have is brightened by stickers and posters of Bollywood actresses. Sitting round, I was struck at how politely, but deeply, hungry they all were for affection. As two teenagers did my hair, two 9 year olds blew on my recently painted nails and a 6 year old ran around with the orgami crane I’d made her out of an old newspaper, the 3 year old on my lap turned to me. Looking sincerely into my eyes she whispered ‘Johnny, johnny, johnny, johnny, whoops, johnny, johnny, johnny’.

Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.

Daniel Burnham, Chicago Architect (1846-1912) via Daring Fireball (via mikehudack)

Nice quote (& general sentiment) but I think it will be our daughters and granddaughters who are going to do things that will stagger us.  If there is one thing the world has neither seen nor experienced, it is women reaching their full potential (i.e. full parity).

Afghan women lead protest against government corruption

(via latimes) (via care2)

Mexico’s pink taxis cater to fed-up females

Better than a burqa.  Now can we get them in NYC, please?  Thanks.

Women’s rights activists are aghast at the cars’ sugary presentation and said the service does not address the root of the harassment problem.

"We are in the 21st century, and they are saying women have continued worrying about beauty and nothing more," said Vianeth Rojas, of the Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Puebla. "They are absolutely not helping eradicate violence against women."

LOL! Freakin’ activists! The taxis are a proactive start.

to clarify my stance on the issue of women’s rights under islam:  i am, as always, for freedom of choice.  without this basic right, we are less than human.  outlawing the burqa is just as much a crime as requiring its use.

Much of the program’s energy is devoted to educating Saudi men that they no longer have the right to beat their wives and children, and it seems to be having some effect. This spring, the program organized a series of town hall-style meetings in cities around Saudi Arabia; Princess Adelah’s participation ensured that local officials attended. During a meeting in Abha, a city on the Red Sea, a senior judge argued that a husband sometimes needs to beat his wife — if she spends too much money shopping, for instance. The uproar from the women in the audience, and critical coverage by the local press, were signs that such attitudes are no longer acceptable.

Saudi Arabia’s Small Steps for Women - TIME

It’s insane that these things need to be done. Insane that these conversations must happen, and that they must be conversations. But Saudi society is clearly changing. This is meaningful. This means that we are not going to be subject to perpetual war. This war will have an end. It will take time. But it will have an end.

(via mikehudack)

If you want women to drive, send the men to driving school

Iman al-Alqeel, editor of Hayat, a conservative magazine for Saudi girls.

Saudi Arabia’s Small Steps for Women - TIME

(via mikehudack)

speaks volumes.  we’ve got to read between the lines a bit more if we expect to win.

For several decades women inside the secret services were restricted to administrative and secretarial roles. But in 1967 a young archivist living in India with her diplomat husband started carrying out small assignments for MI5. In London in the early 1970s, she put her name to an open letter demanding promotion. “Why can’t women be officers like the men?” it read. Two decades later, Stella Rimington became the first female director general of the Secret Service.

After retiring in 1996, Rimington went on to become a non-executive director of Marks & Spencer. In a novel use of her surveillance skills, she eavesdropped on customers while stalking the supermarket’s aisles, reporting her findings to HQ.

Rimington is the inspiration for Judi Dench’s “M” in the Bond films. Rimington has called the portrayal “startling”, adding that it was: “Really very good. She even holds her hands the way I do.”

From Top secret: a century of British espionage (via gauntlet) (via mikehudack)


During the week in which we had arranged an interview, Lisa Nooristani, CEO of Mutaharek Construction Company, received a death threat letter from the Taliban. It warned her not to continue in her successful construction building and absolutely not to appear on any media. Nonetheless I am publishing a photograph of her face and will shortly be producing a short video piece on her as part of a series on Afghan Businesswomen. Why? Because she insisted. I asked her several times if she would like to call off the interview and told her that any film I took would be broadcast not only all over the web and potentially picked up by major broadcasters like CNN and Sky, but also likely be picked up by Afghan media.

I met her at the gates of the US military run Provincial Reconstruction Team base in Nurestan. She had wanted to drive through the gates in her car, but as their scanner was down, the gate guards wouldn’t let her so she stomped up the steep hill to meet me smiling as she huffed and puffed. I later learned she had recently had a C-section to deliver her sixth child.

We had a pre-interview chat with a local interpreter providing the bridge that her sparse English and my even sparser Dari lacked. Open-faced with features that at once were younger and older than her 28 years, her voice was quiet and her eyes fixed on mine with a firm kindness.

“I have visited countries like Iran and Pakistan. I even went to America. I saw how these countries are, how they’re developed, how women are developed. And I was happy because I saw how we are all human. But then I was sad because I didn’t know why my country couldn’t be like that. Why is my country destroyed?”

“Those threat letters I received, they obviously upset me because these people are my people, they’re not Iranian or Pakistanian, they’re Afghan. They’re my brothers and I still respect them. But I’m not afraid of their threatening letters.”

She added, “If they kill me, then at least my children will be proud of me”.

She was married at 14 and told me how she didn’t stop crying all day. A couple of days later, sitting in her home, surrounded by her children, I looked at photos of her wedding day. Her young face caked in make-up, she was the only one not smiling.

Yet, her marriage has been successful. Her husband supports her completely and tells her he regards her as his ‘brother’. As un-romantic as this may sound to western ears, to an Afghan woman, this is a high compliment. Lisa laughs as she tells me how people talk about her husband, saying ‘he isn’t a man. He allows his wife to talk with foreigners. Look! She talks with them, she sits with them’. She smiles as she says, ‘he doesn’t listen to this kind of talk. He knows his wife is working for her homeland’.

I can’t emphasise enough how inspiring this sweet, kind and determined woman is. And how brave she is for talking to me. ‘I want to improve the condition of Nurestani women’, she says several times during the interview. She tells me how bad conditions are for these women: how they’re not allowed to even wash without asking their husband for a piece of soap; how they’re expected to keep on working even while they’re giving birth; how they deliver babies in the middle of the forest while gathering wood, cutting the umbilical cord with a blunt chopping knife.

“I just want support. Not only for me but for all women and especially Nurestani women.”

Staff Sgt. Patricia F. Bradford, left, and Specialist Jennifer M. Hoeppner attended a briefing before going on patrol.

via Women at Arms - Living and Fighting Alongside Men, and Fitting In - Series -


This is General Khartoum; the ANA’s only female soldier at this rank. An ex-paratrooper with over 500 jumps under her belt, President Karzai made her General when he came into office, probably as a gesture towards women’s rights.

She’s equally a fearsome and gentle lady, with an almost child-like quality. We did a couple of photoshoots of her: one just on a mobile phone. She spent a good hour, ordering around her NCOs to get the right wires and Bluetooth-enabled phones so I could transfer them for her. It’s not vanity, though. She hardly has any photos of her or her grown-up son. The only photograph of her in her paratrooper days is cut from a newspaper and pinned to her wall.

Married at 14, she lost her husband at 16, leaving her with a new son. Joining the army under the Russian-backed Communist party, she flourished as a para until the Taliban regime took her away from the army. Now she oversees the training of new recruits from her office, which is plastered with posters encouraging gender equality. One reads ‘Men and Women are each the wing of a bird. A bird cannot fly with just one wing’.

I suspect she’s been relieved of most active duty and stands as only a symbol, a talking point for politicians trying to prove women’s rights exist in Afghanistan. However, there are several women coming up through the ranks and, equal rights aside, with the high casualties the ANSF suffer, it can be thought of as purely a practical measure to allow women to serve in the ANA.

Former President Jimmy Carter issued a statement Sunday announcing he is leaving the Southern Baptist Church due to their treatment of women. Carter has been a devout Southern Baptist for more than sixty years, but differs ideologically on points where the religion justifies the subordination of women. His announcement comes after the Elders, a group of world leaders with which Carter is affiliated, released a statement on the issue of discrimination against women and girls by religion. In his statement, Carter calls “on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women.”

Carter sees women’s inferior position within religion as a problem among many faiths. He wrote that , “the male interpretations of religious texts and the way they interact with, and reinforce, traditional practices justify some of the most pervasive, persistent, flagrant and damaging examples of human rights abuses.” He also says that religion justifies male superiority and promotes “the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime…[and] also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.”

Go, Jimmy!~

Recognition for WWII Women Pilots

American Forces Press Service reports that President Obama signed a bill last week to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Air Force Service Pilots of World War II, the first women in American history to fly military aircraft.

From 1942 to 1943, more than 1,000 women flew in the unit, and 38 of them made the ultimate sacrifice in performing its mission. The Women Air Force Service Pilots, known collectively as WASPs, participated in instructor piloting, towing targets for air-to-air gunnery practice, ground-to-air anti-aircraft practice and transporting personnel and cargo, among other tasks. In total, the women flew more than 60 million miles on American missions. But until recently, the women had not been recognized for their contributions.


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