Stories from Quick Reads and Women & Gender
Although southeast European countries are progressive in many other ways, the decline of women's reproductive rights in some Western Balkan countries has been a worrying trend. In Macedonia, several small protests have been held in recent years to demonstrate people's opposition to government involvement in determining public sentiment on issues like abortion and family planning, after the government implemented a national anti-abortion campaign that began in 2011.
In recent years Macedonia has undergone a very subtle, yet dreadfully pervasive deterioration of the situation with women's rights. Mainly unnoticed or overlooked, the government latched on the popular, deeply misogynist sentiment of the suffering mother (a metaphor often used for the country itself) and after the initial surge of promise with the introduction of the gender quotas in 2006 and the adoption of the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, which paired with the history of equal treatment from the previous system led to even higher percentages in female representation in certain areas compared to the EU average, things started moving downwards steadily, without sufficient public resistance.
It can arguably be claimed that the ploy began with the anti-abortion posters and newspaper ads which started littering the public space out of nowhere circa 2006-2007 without anyone claiming responsibility for them…
London based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad won the 2015 Women's Rights Award at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy for her Facebook page “My Stealthy Freedom” this past week. The page invites Iranian women to post pictures of themselves without a Hijab, in defiance of Iran's Islamic laws that enforce compulsory hijab. With over 750, 000 followers, this page has been considered something of social media movement for Iranian women.
Below is a video from her acceptance speech at the Summit:
Kurdish media outlets are abuzz with a photograph of a Peshmerga woman, sitting beside an automatic weapon, breastfeeding her child. The picture has been widely distributed on social networking sites, highlighting the strength of Kurdish women and the resilience of female combatants in the ongoing fight against ISIS.
In contrast to the contentiousness of breastfeeding in many Western countries (most recently in the United Kingdom), Kurdish media outlets have largely welcomed this Peshmerga woman breastfeeding her child, celebrating how the photograph captures her dual roles as a “warrior” and a “nurturer”.
Kurdish Internet users have also praised the Peshmerga woman, whose identity remains unknown. Kemal Taher from Erbil remarked, “I don’t know what to say about this lioness of Kurdistan, wishing them success on the battlefield, May God protect you all”. Shakar Sndy from Sulaymaniyah said, “An example that we’re proud of”.
Marita Seara, blogging for Voces Visibles, invites us to reflect on the suffering of women sexually subdued during armed conflicts. The author recommends us to watch the documentary The war against women, where director Hernán Zin describes rape as real “weapons of war” and confronts us with the reality of victims of these atrocities. Thus, the documentary shows us some figures regarding sexual violence during the most heinous armed conflicts of the last decades:
Bosnia, 1992 a 1995: 40 mil mujeres violadas
Uganda, 1985 a 2006: 4000 niñas secuestradas y violadas
Ruanda, 1994 entre 250 mil y 500 mil mujeres violadas.
República Democrática del Congo, 2008-2013: 200 mil mujeres violadas.
Bosnia, 1992 – 1995: 40,000 women raped
Uganda, 1985 – 2006: 4000 girls abducted and raped
Rwanda, 1994 between 250,000 and 500,000 women raped
Democratic Republic of Congo, 2008 – 2013: 200,000 women raped
Among the most disturbing data, soldiers from Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda confess been militarly trained from very young age to rape women. Just in one of the hospitals in Democratic Republic of Congo, a third of 300 monthly female patients must undergo major genitalia surgery.
As former UN representative in sexual violence Margot Wallstrom points out, raping women during armed conflicts destroy not only personal lives, but also the society, and instills fear within communities victims of genocide for generations.
You can follow Marita Seara on Twitter.
Marita Seara Fernández, who blogs on Mujeres construyendo (Women building), calls for the empowerment of rural woman and explains that according to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 58 million women in Latin America and the Caribbean live in rural areas and 4 and a half million are farmers.
Meanwhile, Seara Fernández claims that although starvation has been reduced, it hasn't been so among women, where it has increased. FAO representative for the region Raúl Benítez stresses the need to empower women in economics and politics, which requires the educational gap and access to farming resources to be diminished. The solution is to stimulate rural women's empowerment:
Esta premisa debe estar considerada a la hora de diseñar leyes y programas determinados. Deben capacitarlas, enseñarlas a sacar provecho de sus recursos y de lo que aprenden. No solo esto, se debe reducir las brechas educacionales y tecnológicas.
This premise must be taken into account when designing laws and programs. They should train women, teach them to make the most out of their resources and what they learn. Not only this, educational and technoloigcal gaps must be reduced.
Thus, the efforts made by Soledad Venegas in Oxaca, México, aimed at empowering rural women throught the access to ICTs, represent an example, that allow access to knowledge about production mechanisms, business and commercial exchange and similar experiencies.
You can follow Marita Seara Fernández on Twitter.
Desireé Lozano, a blogger for the Spanish-language website Voces Visibles (Visible Voices), reflects on the existing limitations on women’s political participation in Venezuela. According to the sociologist Evangelina García Prince, a kind of political apartheid that excludes women from decision-making reigns in the Venezuelan parties:
En los partidos venezolanos, el discurso oficial no incluye una perspectiva de género ni una propuesta de las mujeres sobre las mujeres o de la organización sobre sus frentes internos o externos. Estos esconden la exclusión efectiva de la consideración del tema de la igualdad y la atención a las diferencias de género
In the Venezuelan parties, the official discourse does not include a gender perspective or any proposal from women about women, or a perspective on the organization of their internal and external fronts. These hide the effective exclusion from considering the issue of equality and focus on gender differences.
On the other hand, Sonia Sgambatti, a lawyer and professor at the Central University of Venezuela, explains that there is still a long way to go in this matter. For example, the Chamber of Deputies of the National Assembly of Venezuela consists of 167 deputies, out of which only 31 are women, representing 18.6% of the total:
Con la mirada en el futuro, Sgambatti indica que las mujeres venezolanas deben, con valentía y tenacidad, participar activamente de la vida política y social del país. “Por la tanto debemos exigir a la Asamblea Nacional reformar la Ley Orgánica de Procesos Electorales para incorporar la cuota electoral femenina o promulgar una Ley Orgánica de Cuotas Electorales Femeninas, con el objetivo de lograr la igualdad de género en esta materia”.
Looking ahead, Sgambatti indicates that Venezuelan women must, with courage and tenacity, actively participate in the political and social life of the country. “Therefore, we must demand the National Assembly to reform the Organic Law on Electoral Processes to incorporate a female electoral quota or to enact an Organic Law of Women's Electoral Quotas, with the goal of achieving gender equality in this matter.”
The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo is a film by filmmaker Yaba Badoe:
The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo, explores the artistic contribution of one of Africa's foremost women writers, a trailblazer for an entire generation of exciting new talent.
This feature-length documentary charts Ama Ata Aidoo's creative journey in a life that spans 7 decades from colonial Ghana, through the tumultuous era of independence, to a more sober present day Africa where nurturing women's creative talent remains as hard as ever.
The blog MujeresMundi is an infoactivism project run by Belgium-based Peruvian Xaviera Medina “committed to gender as a key to development”.
[...] Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that Malala is not an isolated case. Education is not an inherent right for girls in many countries, and every day, hundreds of Malalas are threatened for attending to school.
The 2014 Nobel must remind us that Malala Yousafzai is not an anecdotic case, but a everyday reality of thousands of youngster and children around the world.
Mujeres construyendo (Women building) reports about the Campaign Beijing+20 de UN, a small contribution in the fight against gender-based violence. Violence against women isn't just about physical violence, but sexual and psychological violence as well.
According to data provided by UH Women, 120 million girls have been victims of sexual abuse, 700 million women were married while they were still young girls, and 4.5 million of the victims of sexual exploitation are women and girls. In the 21st century, violence against women is still a daily reality:
Esto no es vida, es el infierno. Mientras tú y yo estamos aquí leyendo este post, una niña o una mujer está siendo víctima de violencia en alguna de sus muchas formas, algunas sutiles, otras brutales, pero la realidad sigue siendo esa: la violencia prevalece.
This isn't life, this is hell. While you and me are here reading this post, a girl or a women is becoming victim of violence in one of its many forms, some are subtle, some others are brutal, but the reality remains: violence prevails.
What can we do to fight back?
First, be informed. Second, look for support and report the violence. Third, put pressure on our governments so they comply with laws that protect women. We should also educate younger generations within a culture of peace, put pressure on the media and politicians to raise awareness about this issue, and (why not?) produce our own content, using the digital tools we have at hand.
You can follow Mujeres Construyendo on Twitter.
Marita Seara, who blogs for Voces Visibles (Visibles voices), invites us to reflect on the discrimination that affects girls and teenagers — access to education — and the need of educating our girls today so they can be the empowered women of the future.
According to data backed up by Amenisty International, 41 million girls can't even access elementary education. Illiteracy, child marriage, teen pregnancy are part of a vicious cycle that especially affects our girls. Thus, Latina America isn't exempted from this global issue, mainly about teen pregnancy:
Venezuela ostenta el primer lugar en Suramérica y el tercer lugar en América Latina al ser el país con mayor cantidad de embarazos precoces. De cada 100 mujeres venezolanas que quedan embarazadas anualmente, 25 son adolescentes, de acuerdo al programa de Telemedicina de la Universidad Central de Venezuela.
Venezuela is top of the list in South America and third place in Latin America with the highest rate of early pregnancy. Out of 100 Venezuelan women that get pregnant each year, 25 are teenagers, according to Telemedicine program at the Central University of Venezuela.
Among the causes of teen pregnancy, it's worth mentioning that one-third of unwanted pregnancies are a result of not using protection, and half of the girls affected didn't receive proper sexual and reproductive education before getting pregnant.
So, education is the only way. By educating our girls today, we are empowering women of tomorrow, and therefore, their families and communities.
You can follow Marita Seara on Twitter.