Sunday, June 29, 2014

Benghazi women’s rights activist Salwa Bugaighis murdered


My life as a woman, belongs to the whole community.
And as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatsoever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die.
For, the harder I work, the more I live.
I rejoice in life for its own sake.
Life is no "brief candle" to me. 
It is a sort of splendid torch which I have for the moment.
I want to make it burn as brightly as possible
Before handing it on to future generations.


UN Women strongly condemns the assassination of the Libyan leader and women’s rights advocate Salwa Bugaighis. Today we join millions in mourning the loss of a sister and courageous human rights defender. I am personally outraged and deeply saddened by this brutal murder.

Salwa was killed soon after casting her vote in the Libyan election, a right she fought for as a member of the National Transitional Council during the 2011 revolution.

Salwa worked with Karama, a grantee of the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality, training activists and leaders and promoting women’s political participation in Libya.

She played a key part in the development of the new Libyan Constitution. Many UN Women colleagues knew her in these roles, and as an active participant in the Commission on the Status of Women. We will miss her and express our deep condolences to her family and friends.

Salwa Bugaighis was a brave leader who advocated for the human rights of her people. With her passing, we are once again reminded of the threats to the hard-won gains for women and girls around the world. In many countries, women who participate in politics or activism face intimidation and violence.

UN Women calls for urgent action to bring the criminals who perpetrated this cowardly act to justice.

The murder of Salwa Bugaighis breaks our hearts, but it will not break our determination to advance peace and women’s full and equal participation in all spheres of life, in every country in the world.

UN Women Executive Director condemns assassination of women's rights activist in Libya
Statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women
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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Jane Goodall

This video highlights Dr. Goodall's life and impact for people, animals and the environment. From her ground-breaking research with the chimpanzees of Gombe, to her world wide efforts to promote conservation this video highlights the power of how every individual can make a difference.

Dame Jane Morris Goodall, ; born Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall on 3 April 1934) is a British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace. Considered to be the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees, Goodall is best known for her 45-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots program, and she has worked extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues. She has served on the board of the Nonhuman Rights Project since its founding in 1996
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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Equity or Equality ?

Equity or equality is a current debate among women’s groups  from around the world as they link up and prepare  for the great UN debates and decisions that are taking place with regard to Sustainable Development Goals,  the Post 2015 Development Agenda as well as the forthcoming celebration of Beijing plus 20 in 2015. Through the emails that are circulated on the subject, one can see the debates among women on the usefulness of supporting the concept of equality versus adopting the use of the concept of equity. The latter is seen as based on the principle of fairness and as addressing inequality and the realities of women’s lives; while the  former is seen as merely promoting equal or same opportunities as that enjoyed by men. The conclusion is that equality may just continue to perpetuate inequality. 

I would like to add to this discussion. In the debates by the women’s groups,  the meaning that is given to the concept of equality is outmoded. The concept of equality that the CEDAW Convention prescribes and as used by the CEDAW Committee is substantive equality. This concept of equality goes beyond equal opportunities or what is known as formal equality. 

Those who prescribe the concept of equity over equality do so because they say that equity requires that each person is given according to their needs; they believe that if you speak of equity instead of equality it will be clear that the objective is not treating women the same as men but more importantly, giving women what they need. Equality on the other hand they say, stops at giving same opportunities to women and men but does not guarantee that women will be able to access these opportunities due to pre-existing/ existing inequalities that women experience.  This shows a misunderstanding of what equality means especially since the advent of the CEDAW Convention.

Under this Convention, substantive equality is the goal to be achieved in all spheres. To achieve this, the obligation of the State extends   beyond a purely formal legal obligation of equal treatment of women with men. In fact under article 2 of the Convention, states have the dual obligation of incorporating the principle of equality in the law (formal equality) and ensuring as well, the practical realization of the principle of equality.  Hence a purely formal legal approach is not sufficient to achieve women’s de- facto equality with men, which is substantive equality. It is not enough to guarantee women treatment that is identical to that of men which is the provision of equal opportunities. Rather, biological as well as socially and culturally constructed differences between women and men must be taken into account and under certain circumstances, non-identical treatment of women and men will be required in order to address such differences. This includes a redistribution of resources and power between men and women favouring women.  (CEDAW Convention article 4.1 and General Recommendation 25) If this is not done then such inaction or neutral or identical treatment of women and men is discrimination against women under article 1 of CEDAW as the practical enjoyment of equality as a right would have been denied to women. Discrimination includes any treatment that has the effect of nullifying the enjoyment of human rights by women in all spheres, though such discriminatory effect was not intended. (Summary of article 1 of the CEDAW Convention).  

Equality and the practical enjoyment of it by women, is a universal value, a legal standard and goal and a human right. In fact, without equality, human rights would have no meaning. It is equality that demands that human rights is for all regardless of sex, status, origin, descent, location, sexual orientation and gender identity.   Equity is a not a standard or a goal. It is subjective, discretionary and arbitrary. It is fragile as a policy if used as a stand -alone concept without it being linked as a means to achieve the goal of equality.   

It can also be used against women. During the debates when the Beijing Platform was drafted in 1994/1995, Muslim countries and the Holy See and its followers from Latin America strongly argued for the use of the term equity and resisted the term equality. For them, women and men could not be valued equally. They demanded the use of the term equity, as in their view, this term justified greater resources and power skewed in favour of men on the basis of their god- given and immutable responsibilities   as providers and leaders.  Equity was used to give men according to their "need". The determination of need itself is political and value driven. But the conservative forces did not get their wish during the Beijing Platform debates as the Human Rights Caucus argued heatedly and long against the term equity. The Beijing Platform adopted the term equality.  We will be retracting the hard won conceptual gains made in our understanding of equality twenty years ago if we now say the concept of equality is not useful. Equity cannot stand alone or be used interchangeably with equality.

 By Shanthi Dairiam - IWRAW AP Founder & Board of Directors

(For an elaboration of this subject see "Equity or Equality for Women? Understanding CEDAW's Equality Principles". IWRAW Asia Pacific Occasional Paper Series. No.14.

 22 June 2014

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Sudan - Woman Condemned to Death for "Apostasy," Released after International Pressure

Meriam Ibrahim was released from Omdurman Woman’s Prison today after an appeal court found her not guilty of the charges of 'apostasy' and 'adultery'.
© AFP/Getty Images
23 June 2014 - “Today’s ruling is a small step to redressing the injustice done to Meriam. However, she should never have been prosecuted. Meriam was sentenced to death when eight months pregnant for something which should not be a crime. ” Sarah Jackson, Deputy Africa Director at Amnesty International
Today’s release of Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a Christian Sudanese woman sentenced to death by hanging for ‘apostasy’ and to flogging for ‘adultery’, is a step towards undoing the horrific injustice visited on her, said Amnesty International today.
Meriam was released from Omdurman Woman’s Prison today after an appeal court found her not guilty of both charges. She is now with her husband and her two children.
“Today’s ruling is a small step to redressing the injustice done to Meriam,” said Sarah Jackson, Deputy Regional Director at Amnesty International. “However, she should never have been prosecuted. Meriam was sentenced to death when eight months pregnant for something which should not be a crime. Furthermore, her abhorrent treatment, including being shackled, violated international human rights law against ill-treatment.”
Meriam’s case attracted more than a million Amnesty International supporters to take action calling for her immediate and unconditional release.
“Amnesty International would like to pay tribute to all those who contributed to this massive showing of support,” said Sarah Jackson. “Their letters showed the Sudanese authorities that people around the world were outraged by Meriam’s ordeal”.
“Amnesty International will continue to urge the Sudanese authorities to repeal provisions that criminalize acts of apostasy and adultery so that nobody else in Sudan has to endure the same ordeal as Meriam and to establish a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing the death penalty.” 

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Monday, June 23, 2014

International Campaign to End Gender Discrimination in Nationality Laws

Twenty-seven countries worldwide continue to discriminate against women in their ability to confer their nationality on their children on an equal basis with men. Gender discrimination in nationality laws contravenes Article 9(2) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and can lead to statelessness when fathers are stateless or also unable to confer their nationality on their children. In addition, over 60 countries deny women equal rights with men to acquire, change or retain their nationality, including the ability of women to confer nationality on their non-national spouses. Such provisions contravene Article 9(1) of CEDAW.
Women’s inability to pass on their citizenship to their children and spouses puts huge financial, psychological and physical strains on families, often resulting in an intergenerational spiral of destitution and depression.
Statelessness resulting from gender discrimination in nationality laws can have serious and far reaching consequences, often leading to violations of fundamental human rights. Stateless people face many barriers and obstacles: without citizenship or identity documents they may be unable to own or rent property, secure formal employment or access services such as public health care, education and social welfare benefits. Statelessness impacts individuals' ability to marry and couples' decisions to start a family.
Equality Now, the Equal Rights Trust, Tilburg University Statelessness Programme, UNHCR, UN Women and the Women’s Refugee Commission have formed a steering committee to lead the International Campaign to End Gender Discrimination in Nationality Laws. Organizations and agencies are invited to join the Campaign Coalition.


The campaign aims to eliminate gender discrimination in nationality laws.

Core Activities

Build a Coalition: The Campaign will build a wider coalition of interested stakeholders, including UN agencies, international, regional and local NGOs, academics and civil society partners.
National Advocacy Strategy: In consultation with regional, national and local organizations, the Campaign will develop national advocacy strategies for law reform in target countries. The Campaign will reach out to local, national and regional NGOs, human rights and women’s rights civil society organizations, national human rights commissions and other government and nongovernmental entities in countries that maintain discrimination to identify potential entry points for promoting change.
Global Advocacy Strategy: The Campaign will develop a global advocacy strategy which will support national-level advocacy. This will include advocacy targeted at key government missions at the UN and national governments, providing information to relevant UN Treaty Body and special mechanisms, and mobilizing additional UN and civil society actors. For example, members of the Campaign have written to the Minister of Justice in each country to highlight the issue and the need for reform. In addition, the Campaign is being launched at the Human Rights Council in June 2014, which many governments will be attending. Equality Now, with the support of the Women's Refugee Commission, has submitted a statement to the 26th session of the Human Rights Council, Ending sex discrimination in citizenship and nationality laws.
Pledges at Beijing +20 Review: Under the Beijing Platform of Action – the outcome of the 1995 Beijing Women’s Conference – governments pledged to remove gender discrimination from all their laws with a target date of 2005 set for achievement of this goal. The Beijing +20 review will take place during the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2015. Through joint coalition letter-writing and targeted advocacy, the Campaign will continue to encourage relevant governments to reform discriminatory nationality laws by making time-bound pledges leading to and during the Beijing + 20 review event. States which have recently reformed their laws can also play a supportive role, encouraging other governments to follow suit. Implementation of these pledges will form the on-going work of the Campaign in 2015 and beyond.
Technical Assistance to Local Partners: Training, technical assistance and advocacy support will be provided to local civil society organizations such as women’s groups and human rights organizations to support their efforts at promoting reform in nationality laws. Grassroots mobilization is deemed vital in securing changes in nationality laws that still discriminate on the basis of gender.
Identify “champion” countries and “ambassadors”: Identify countries that have recently reformed their nationality laws to remove gender discrimination who could be “champions” in their region and/or internationally and encourage other countries to follow suit. Identify high-profile individuals who could serve as “ambassadors” for the cause of removing gender discrimination from nationality laws.
The International Campaign was launched in Geneva on 18 June 2014 at a side event of the 26th session of the Human Rights Council session

Reports and Resources - Reports

UNHCR, 2014
(available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic - 2014 updated report forthcoming)
Women’s Refugee Commission and Tilburg University, 2013
UNHCR, March 2014
January 2012


For more information, or to join
the campaign, contact:
Rachael Reilly
Geneva Representative
Women's Refugee Commission This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Amal de Chickera
Head of Statelessness and Nationality Projects
The Equal Rights Trust This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Jacqui Hunt
London Director
Equality Now This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Radha Govil
Legal Officer (Statelessness)
UNHCR, Geneva This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dr. Laura van Waas
Statelessness Programme
Tilburg University This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Beatrice Duncan
Policy Advisor, Constitutional and Access to Justice
UN Women

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Nigeria - Eight Pregnant Girls/Women Rescued From "Baby Factory"

Eight pregnant ladies including teenage girls have been rescued by the Ogun State police command at an alleged baby making factory located at number 9 Sebanjo Crescent, off Fabolude Busstop, Akute area of Ifo local government of Ogun State.

The police also arrested a middle aged man and a 26 year old woman running the factory.
While parading the suspects at the Ajuwon Divisional Police Headquarters, the Ogun State Commissioner of Police, Mr Ikemefuna Okoye, described the development as inhuman, insisting that the command would get to the root of the matter.
The suspects are expected to be transferred to the state criminal investigation department for through investigations.
The structure which housed the hostages appeared as residential building but the latest discovery by the police revealed that a baby making factory was domiciled in the house, where teenage girls were made to part with their babies after delivery and a token given.
The 26 year old woman, Angela Chigoeze, who claimed to be operating a divine herbal clinic, has been arrested as the one in charge of the illicit operation which sold babies for an alleged sum of 300,000 Naira (about 1,800 dollars).
“If they give birth, I will sell the child for 300,000. I sell it to women that cannot give birth,” she said.
The state’s Commissioner of Police said the arrest was made possible through information by some residents, adding that the police was on the trail of other accomplices.
Baby factory is gradually becoming a business in Nigeria. There have been discovery of similar factories in the eastern part of Nigeria.
The discovery of a baby factory in Imo State in December 2013 led to the banning of all non-governmental organization operating under the platform of motherless babies’ home.

About 24 persons were also arrested in January at a Baby factory uncovered in Ilu-Titun, a town in Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State by the Officers of the Nigeria Immigration Service in the state.
Website Link Includes Two Videos.
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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Forbidden Voices: How to Start a Revolution with a Computer


Forbidden Voices: How to Start a Revolution with a Computer, A film by Barbara Miller, Switzerland, 2012, 96 minutes, Color, DVD, Subtitled

Their voices are suppressed, prohibited and censored. But world-famous bloggers Yoani Sánchez, Zeng Jinyan and Farnaz Seifi are unafraid of their dictatorial regimes. These fearless women represent a new, networked generation of modern rebels. In Cuba, China and Iran their blogs shake the foundations of the state information monopoly, putting them at great risk.

This film accompanies these brave young cyberfeminists on perilous journeys. Eyewitness reports and clandestine footage show Sánchez's brutal beating by Cuban police for criticizing her country's regime; Chinese human rights activist Jinyan under house arrest for four years; and Iranian journalist and women's advocate Seifi forced into exile, where she blogs under a pseudonym. Tracing each woman's use of social media to denounce and combat violations of human rights and free speech in her home country, FORBIDDEN VOICES attests to the Internet's potential for building international awareness and political pressure.

Women Make Movies

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Help Zeynab Jalalian Receive Proper Medical Attention

Zeynab Jalalian, a 30 year old Kurdish activist who has been convicted and sentenced to death by an Islamic Revolutionary Court in Iran for allegedly being a member of the Kurdish political party. Her trial only lasted a few minutes. Based on her membership of a Kurdish political party, she was accused of Fighting against God and was given the death penalty. 

After a long period of follow-ups with the judicial authorities and not being able to receive answers, the Supreme Court overturned the death sentence and changed it to life in prison. 

Ms. Zeinab Jalalian who is now in the Kermanshah Central Prison - known as Diesel-Abad Prison In Iran - is maintained with a severely deteriorated internal bleeding and infection, bowel problems, due to the daily beating and torture by the prison authorities in a detention center in Kermanshah's Intelligence Service. Despite her illness the authority are still refusing to give her proper treatment and transfer her to the hospital. Which is killing her slowly and a painful death.
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Wednesday, June 18, 2014


GENEVA (16 June 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo, warned that persisting and new challenges still obstruct efforts to promote and protect women’s rights and gender equality, and called for the adoption of different norms and measures to fight violence against women around the world.
In her latest report* to the UN Human Rights Council, Ms. Manjoo noted that the absence of a legally binding agreement at the international level to address violence against women, and the shift from gender specificity to gender neutrality in States’ responses to violence against women are among the main challenges to be addressed.
“The systemic, widespread and pervasive human rights violation, experienced largely by women, demands a different set of normative and practical measures to respond to and prevent it; and importantly to achieve the international law obligation of substantive equality,” the human rights expert stressed.
Her report highlights other continuing challenges to address violence against women, including the persisting public/private dichotomy in responses to violence against women; the shift in focus to a men and boys agenda; the failure of States’ to act with due diligence; and the lack of transformative remedies to address the root causes of violence against women.
“Twenty years after the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of violence against women and of the establishment of my mandate, I am encouraged by the milestones achieved in advancing women’s rights and gender equality, at the national, regional and international levels,” Ms. Manjoo said.
“Despite this progress,” she noted, “both persisting and new sets of challenges hinder efforts to promote and protect the human rights of women, largely due to the lack of a holistic approach that addresses individual, institutional and structural factors that are a cause and a consequence of violence against women.”
She also pointed out that the current austerity measures have had a disproportionate impact, not only in the availability and quality of services for women and girls victims of violence, but more generally, in areas such as poverty reduction measures, employment opportunities and benefit schemes.
“Such Issues affect women disproportionally,” the Special Rapporteur underscored.
“It is important to recognize that the reduction in the number and quality of specialized services for women does impact the health and safety of women and children, and further restricts their choices when considering leaving an abusive relationship, thus putting them at a heightened risk of re-victimization,” the UN expert stressed.
Ms. Manjoo urged States to prioritize violence against women in their national agenda, and called on Governments to reflect on the gaps in the international normative framework to address violence against women, with a view to enhancing monitoring, evaluation and accountability.

Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Manjoo also holds a part-time position as a Professor in the Department of Public Law of the University of Cape Town. Learn more, visit:
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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Afghan Women’s Six Point Petition to the Front-Runners of the 2014 Presidential Election

We, of the 117 women-led organizations that work for women’s promotion and empowerment and more than 3000 Individual members of Afghan Women’s Network working in all 34 provinces, call on you, the finalists of the Presidential election, to endorse AWN’s Six Point Petition. The petition outlines a plan for a just Afghanistan wherein women and men enjoy equal rights and protection under the law.We recommend the following six points based on consultations with women’s groups across the country reflected in Afghan Women Vision 20241.
Endorsement will indicate a commitment to reflect the recommendations outlined below in your action plans, policies, and commitments for your five-year term, should you be elected.Commitment should include concrete steps for advancing implementation ofthe National Action Plan for Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA), Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) Law, and other national and international commitments that have been adopted over the last decade and reinforced by commitments made in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework(July 2012).
Continue the implementation and close monitoring of the “National Education Strategic Plan”. Observe the“Increasing of Girls Enrollment toPrimary and Secondary Education” policy. Sensitize school curriculum to reflect commitment to women’s rights and a violence-free culture that promotes a just and peaceful society. • Allocate a specific budget for women’s expanded access to higher education nationally and internationally. Plan and implement long-term strategies for professional capacity building of female and male schoolteachers and university professors. 1Women Vision 2024 launched in pre 8th March (2014) event in Kabul is consultative paper of Afghan Women’s Network which reflects on hopes and inspiration of Afghan women for future based on the reflection of past.
Address high mortality rates of mothers and infants. Maintain basic health centers in remote areas, while improving hospital standards in cities. • Provide capacity to public health facilities to counter violence against women by effectively collecting and documenting evidence while also providing immediate medical and psychological support. Increase the number of trained gynecologists and midwives in the provinces and capitol by provide scholarshipsand other incentives.
Political Leadership:
Safeguard quotas for women’s political participation in the parliament, senate, and provincial councils. Commit to ensure 25% of political posts including cabinet, local government, ministries, embassies and international missions are filled by women. Institute short-term and long-term programs for the recruitment of women in key and decision-making positions. • Allocate specific funds for implementation of commitments made under the “Afghanistan National Development Strategy” and “National Action Plan for Women” to recruit and promote women to in all level of civil services, ensuring a minimum of 30% women.
Justice and Judicial:
Affirm a commitment to implement the EVAW law, as per Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework endorsed July 2012. Increase the appointment of women to key judicial and legal positions, ensuring a minimum of 25% women in all related institutions. Appoint a minimum of one female judge to the High Council of Supreme Court. • Support women’s shelters and legal aid centers addressing the needs of women affected by gender-based violence.Sensitize and equip the Afghan National Police to address violence against women, including explicit focus on building the capacity and resourcing of the Family Response Units.
Peace and Security:
Cultivate a commitment to developing national security forces that are inclusive, representative of the Afghan population, and able to address the security needs of both women and men. Create an enabling environment for the recruitment, retention, and security of women in the Afghan National Police. Build the capacity of women police to serve in oversight and leadership roles. Require instruction on human rights, women’s rights, civilian protection, and gender-based violence in the Police and Army Training Academies. Involve women at all levels of decision-making related to the peace process, including women in the peace efforts at the community level, on the High Peace Council, Provincial Peace Committees, and civil society. Address the needs of women in the families of fighters who have chosen to reintegrate. Ensure the inclusion of women in the vetting of potential reintegrates, related community recovery, and local grievance resolution. Finalize and implement the “NationalAction Plan on Women, Peace, and Security” to fulfill Afghanistan’s obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

Develop and enforce women-friendly labor laws and employment policies in both government and the private sector. Support women entrepreneurs as a means of enabling broader economic development. • Ensure a minimum of 25% of businesses in all National Industrial Parks already in use or soon-to-be established, are women owned. • Recognize women’s roles in the agricultural sector and expand their access to basic inputs such as seeds and fertilizer, as well as transportation to and from markets.
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Can Mothers Stop Terrorism?

Social scientist and activist Dr Edit Schlaffer affirms so. She tells Nona Walia why mothers have the power to stop radicalisation of their children, and make this world a peaceful place.

Recent reports suggest that the Boston Marathon bombers' mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, had a fair knowledge about her children's radical ideas, though she may not have known about the act of terror. The question is had she known, could she deter her sons from their deadly plan? Dr Edit Schlaffer may answer in the affirmative. The Austrian social scientist and gender activist believes that a mother can curb conflicts and extremist ideas within her family. Through her organisation, Women Without Borders (WWB), she tirelessly advocates empowering women as the biggest agents of change in every society. Her more recent project, Sisters Against Violent Extremism (SAVE), is the first global women anti-terror platform that encourages women, especially mothers, to deter violent terrorist activities and radicalisation of their children. "Mothers are strategically located at the core of their families and are, therefore, typically the first to deal with their children's fear, resignation, frustration and anger," says Schlaffer. Excerpts from an interview:

How effective can a mother be in stopping extremist thinking within her family? I have learned during many of my encounters with women around the globe that the potential of mothers has thus far been neglected in counter terrorism strategy. The primary focus has rested instead on military operations, intelligence and law enforcement. Since women — and mothers in particular — possess the unique ability to recognise early warning signs of radicalisation in their children, they can play a key role in curtailing violent extremism. First and foremost, mothers have to be equipped with the necessary knowledge and self-confidence to become active players in the security arena. This is where our work starts: we aim at sensitising mothers to make them aware of their potential in influencing and guiding their children's lives, and in preventing them from engaging in terrorist activities.

How can a mother stop her child from taking the wrong path? Children tend to listen only to their mothers when they see them as figures of respect and authority. Yet in many of the communities within which we work, this is not always the case. We therefore focus on concepts of self-confidence, competence and empowerment. Mothers need to first establish a position of authority within their families; a child only respects the mother when her position is not challenged by her husband or friends or society as a whole.

You have worked with mothers of suicide bombers. Are they just helpless bystanders? During my recent visit to the West Bank, I talked to a woman by the name of Salma, a mother of two adolescent boys. The tragedy of her eldest son Ali — who turned himself into a live bomb — still looms over her. Today, Salma admits that something was terribly wrong. Confronted with this situation for the first time, she turned to her husband for advice, who in turn told her that women have no place in politics. Much later, she learned that two of her close neighbours shared her concerns. They too lacked the courage to speak up and the space to voice their concerns. Salma responded to her loss by creating a safe space for mothers in her own home, where she could encourage open communication and help foster deeper mother-son relationships. Mothers like Salma are challenging the notion of Palestinian mothers who welcome their sons' martyrdom. Salma embodies the new heroes combating violent extremism at the frontlines.

So strengthening of the mother-son bond is essential to end conflict? Yes. For instance, Esther Ibanga, a Christian pastor and community leader in Nigeria is currently working with us on bridgebuilding activities. Following the violence between Christians and Muslims on the Jos plateau in recent years, she decided to do something particularly courageous: Esther went against her own constituency by reaching out to both sides and calling for an end to the bloodshed. By engaging with both sides, she began to see similarities between the two antagonistic religious communities. She became close to Khadija Hawaja, an Islamic scholar and community leader. Esther realised that they were both mothers who shared the same pain and dreams. Today, they work tirelessly to show the human face of the 'other side' and to create safe havens in their homes and communities.

You have interacted with the mother of convicted 9/11 terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui. What is the personal face of public terrorist tragedies? Zacarias was the first person to be convicted in the US for his involvement in the 9/11 attacks. His mother Aisha reached out to the 9/11 victims' family members after the attacks, a unique gesture in an atmosphere of global hostility and fear. Aisha has spoken passionately about the need to break the cycle of revenge, and engaging mothers worldwide in their search for alternatives. She emphasises that Prophet Mohammed celebrates mothers; he insists that their role is vital in the upbringing of their sons in accordance with the values of true Islamic teaching that does not preach hatred or violence.

What are the driving forces in stabilising an insecure world? We are currently launching 'mother school' programmes around the world, from Tajikistan to Indonesia, from Northern Ireland to India. The programme aims to e q u i p wo m e n with the appropriate tools to raise delicate issues within their families. In India, for example, a woman named Archana Kapoor has founded a community radio station in Mewat, Haryana, that reaches 5,00,000 listeners. Poverty, isolation and marginalisation make the population susceptible and prone to violence. We need to stop conflict at the very root; that will stop the making of a terrorist at the core of the family level. "Women — and mothers in particular — possess the unique ability to recognise early warning signs of radicalisation in their children. They can play a key role in curtailing violent extremism"
By Nona Walia
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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Free Mahnaz Mohammadi

Mahnaz Mohammadi, Iranian women's rights activist and filmmaker arrested in notorious Evin prison (Via Anna Julia Müller-Funk) On Saturday, June 7, 2014, the Iranian women's rights activist and filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi was again arrested.
 She has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison for "endangering national security" and "propaganda against the Iranian regime." She has been advocating for (women’s) human rights in Iran for over 15 years. Beside others she played a leading role in the "One Million Signatures Campaign," which aimed to abolish Iranian laws that discriminated against women. Mahnaz Mohammadi has contributed to numerous films as a director, producer and actress. 
Her films "Travelogue" (2006) and "Women Without Shadows" (2003) were shown at various international film festivals. The former accompanies a train with Iranian refugees, that leaves from Tehran train station every Thursday to Istanbul and returns empty to Iran. In her award-winning work "Women Without Shadows" she portrays an Iranian facility for mentally ill women and its patients. Mahnaz Mohammadi has worked with a wide variety of well-known Iranian directors, among others Rakhshan Bani-E'temad. In their remarkable film "We are half of Iran's population" (2009), in which Mahnaz Mohammadi participated as the producer and assistant director, the demands of Iranian women’s rights activists are highlighted. In the film "Ephemeral Marriage" (directed by Reza Serkanian) that was shown in Cannes in May 2011 ) Mahnaz Mohammadi played the leading character. Her presence at the Cannes festival however was prevented by the Iranian regime by the confiscation of her passport. 
In a message that was read to the audience Mahnaz Mohammadi describes her situation: "I am a woman and a filmmaker, two things that are sufficient to be treated like a criminal in this country." The film has been awarded with several prizes for its critical depiction of Iranian gender relations. Mahnaz Mohammadi has been arrested several times due to of their political and artistic activities; most recently in the summer of 2011, when she was detained for over a month in notorious Iranian Evin prison. After her release on bail on 28 June 2011, Mahnaz Mohammadi continued under close state observation by the intelligence, her passport was withheld by the court and the ban to work as a filmmaker remained upright since 2009. Her heath has severely deteriorated during her last detention. 
In 2011 she was eventually released, also due to international pressure. Previously, she was imprisoned in 2007 and 2009; in 2009, together with the internationally renowned, prosecuted and convicted Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi and Rokhsareh Ghaem-Maghami, as well as a number of other human rights defenders, which commemorated the killing of demonstrators during the protests in 2009 on a Tehran cemetery. In the previous years her home was repeatedly searched by intelligence, personal items, work equipment and film material were confiscated regularly.
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Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Father Burned His 13-Year-Old Daughter to Death for Walking Home With a Boy

A man in Tunisia has been accused of burning his 13-year-old daughter to death after she walked home from school with a boy in her class.

The girl, a middle school student named Aya, spent nine days in the hospital before succumbing to her fourth-degree burns on June 7th.

Her father has since been arrested.

Tunisia Live reports that her murder is believed to be an “honor crime” — a killing made when a relative is perceived to have brought shame to the family.

Though common in Pakistan and Syria, the website reports that honor killings are “almost unheard of” in modern-day Tunisia.

A social media movement in the country has launched in response to the killing, with activists calling for greater news coverage of the incident.

“I cannot believe that this case could fall into oblivion,” said one blogger in a Facebook post, translated from French into English by Tunisia Live. “What happened is an unacceptable crime. Further, the reactions of some people who justify this barbaric act reflect the degree of ignorance that prevails in the country.”

Local supporters have planned a march in solidarity for Aya on June 19th. The event page states that her murder is symbolic of a society that “continues to demonize the female gender.”

That statement isn’t far from the truth. Honor killings are an atrocity that, more often than not, are committed against women. Even in contemporary society, these honor crimes still occur regularly.

One study found that the attacks have actually risen over a 20-year period from 1989 to 2009, either signifying a real increase in killings or a greater willingness to report them.

In order to make sure murders like Aya’s don’t keep happening, things need to change.

In 2013, there was a 226-page study published on the world’s Muslim population. Researchers surveyed people from 23 countries, and those from Afghanistan and Iraq were most in support of honor killings.

In fact, people from nine out of the 23 countries approved of honor killings. That means the majority of Muslim communities in nine nations believe it’s okay to murder your own family member.

Still, we can’t place the blame on the Muslim community. People of all backgrounds around the world are guilty of violence against women.

It’s a terrible violation of human rights, but sadly, many women who fall victim to these killings aren’t aware of their own rights.

In Afghanistan alone, 90 percent of women aged 15-49 believe it is okay for their husbands to beat them under certain circumstances. The statistics are similar in other countries where these honor killings occur.

To end these horrific occurrences, we need to educate women about the power they actually have — and to educate men about the importance of women’s rights.
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Tajikistan: Making the law on domestic violence a reality for women

The NGO “Nasl” in cooperation with the Center of Human Rights in Sohgd area conducts the trainings aimed at increasing knowledge on the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence. The trainings  are addressed to the representatives of local authorities as well as the medical workers, police and teachers who are obliged to report whenever they witness or suspect violence against women or girls. The participants of the trainings learned about the law itself and how to use it in practice to prevent the acts of violence and to effectively help the women victims of violence.

The Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence was adopted in December 2012 by the Parliament of the Republic of Tajikistan. However, there is still a lot to be done to make this law a reality for all of Tajikistan’s women.

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Friday, June 13, 2014

NEPAL: Women demand end to sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is on the rise in Nepalese cities
KATHMANDU, - Sexual harassment is an everyday issue for women in Nepal, particularly in urban areas. Although exact numbers are unavailable, activists say the problem is on the rise and are demanding change. 

“Harassment is all over Nepal against women and the problem is big. It’s more of a problem where more people live, but it really is everywhere, and it is growing,” said Pratiya Rana, 22, a university student, and a volunteer and participant, in the country’s recent “Walk for Respect” demonstration, the Nepali version of Toronto's SlutWalk, the international protest movement. 

Rana was harassed by a gang of local men in a village an hour from the capital, Kathmandu. “They pushed and shoved me and one man grabbed my breasts and asked me for sex,” she told IRIN. 

Women dressed in short skirts and leggings carried signs demanding change toward sexual harassment in public spaces and in the workplace.  

“The country is in two worlds - young and old - and we young women want change. We demand the government protect the rights of women,” Rana said. 

This will prove difficult in Nepal, a male-dominated, patriarchal society of 30 million where there is no real legislation to protect women, gender divisions are traditionally rigid and female empowerment initiatives are limited. 

In April, around 500 women and men marched through central Kathmandu to publicize the rights of women. Their goals, published in a statement, were “to sensitize the greater problem among youths as well as other people, [of] teasing and sexual harassment”. 

The women talked of verbal harassment, being solicited for sex, groping, pushing, and sexual violence, including rape. 

They also called for greater awareness of the few existing laws and policies to protect women, citing the Nepal Public Offences and Penalties Act of 1970, which says that “any activities or action that carries in it a sexual nature both verbally or physically” is harassment. The penalty is a US$120 fine and sometimes jail, but the legislation is rarely enforced. 

A new bill, proposed in 2012, which states that perpetrators of sexual harassment in the workplace could face up to three months in jail and a fine of nearly $300, is waiting to be discussed by lawmakers. 

Photo: Joseph Mayton/IRIN
Some lawmakers say women should cover up
Nepal has yet to agree on a new constitution and with a 27 May deadline fast approaching - the 5th to date - many believe it will be some time before the bill on sexual harassment in the workplace is passed. 

“I think people will see this [workplace legislation] as minor and it will be pushed back until we have new elections, and who knows when those will be,” said Rana. 

Commentators say even with new legislation convictions will prove difficult. Many legislators in the Himalayan nation blame the growing sexual harassment problem on women and what they are wearing. 

“If one wears vulgar dresses and appears unnatural and gets stared at by people around, who is to be held guilty?” lawmaker Sunil Prajapati asked in response to a question about the bill. 

“First, they attract and excite others, and then if comments are passed they call it sexual harassment - it is not fair. The outfits and behaviour the society cannot digest should also be considered punishable,” he argued in a speech in parliament. 

Female lawmakers who give credence to the idea that what a woman wears is a matter of debate, makes things worse for women, said Rana. 

“What if we are wearing short skirts and no leggings? Does that mean we can be groped, touched and violated? This is ridiculous thinking, and something that should not even be discussed,” she said. 

Lawmaker Yashoda Subedi noted the importance of greater public awareness and said she believes a middle ground can be achieved in order to create legislation against the perpetrators of sexual harassment. 

“We must be aware of what we are wearing, and Nepali society is not the West. I understand this,” Subedi said. “But at the same time, if a woman is dressed inappropriately, words from people on the street and stares are not something she should get angry at.” 
23 May 2012 (IRIN) 

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Heroines of the Arab World

Twelve women challenging their societies to change the status quo.

Sixteen-year-old Amina Filali became a cause célèbre for Moroccan women's rights activists when shecommitted suicide by swallowing rat poison after she was forced to marry her rapist in accordance with a court order. Her act triggered a human rights campaign -- including a sit-in outside Parliament, a petition, and a Facebook group -- to repeal Article 475 in Morocco's penal code, which allows men to escape punishment for crimes if they wed their victims. One week after Filali died in the northwestern city of Larache, hundreds of women's rights advocates filled the streets in the capital, Rabat, to protest the retrograde law.

Computer security consultant Manal al-Sharif made headlines in May 2011 when a colleague filmed her driving a car in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, as part of her advocacy campaign for Saudi women's right to drive. The video was posted on YouTube and Facebook, and it soon spread like wildfire. Four days later, about 600,000 people had already watched the footage. Although officials jailed her for nine days as punishment for breaking the prohibition on female drivers in Saudi Arabia -- the only country in the world with such a ban -- her actions successfully galvanized a rare bout of popular protest in the kingdom. On June 17, several dozen Saudi women got behind the wheel to repeat Sharif's act of defiance.

On March 9, 2011, Salwa el-Husseini, Samira Ibrahim, and Rasha Abdel Rahman were just peaceful protesters at a sit-in at Tahrir Square -- a small group of thousands who had gathered to protest against the ruling military regime. But that changed when they were arrested by the Egyptian military along with 15 other female activists, strip-searched, and subjected to "virginity tests" in which the hymen is forcefully penetrated to check for blood. The three broke long-standing social taboos by speaking out about their treatment: Husseini agreed to be filmed as she recountedwhat happened at a news conference, while Abdel Rahman gave graphic details of her abuse in court. Although a military tribunal cleared the doctor who performed the tests of all charges, Ibrahim won a major victory when a Cairo administrative court heard her case and banned virginity tests on female detainees in military prisons.

Pediatric consultant Najwa Fituri is in charge of treating premature babies at the al-Jalaa maternity hospital in Benghazi, Libya, but when the revolution against Muammar al-Qaddafi descended into a bloody civil war, she heeded a new calling: smuggling drugs to treat anti-Qaddafi fighters. A member of the female empowerment group Women for Libya, Fituri hopes to be part of a new generation of Libyan women. "If [women] are qualified, they should be leaders of Libya," she told the BBC in December. "Everyone has the right to dream."

Without the perseverance of human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh, the world would be even more in the dark about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's killings and torture of civilian protesters. Her daily reporting on the Assad regime's atrocities -- which she posted to her website, the Syrian Human Rights Information Link -- served as a critical source for foreign media. Although forced to go into hiding in March 2011 after the government accused her of being a foreign agent, Zaitouneh was awarded the Anna Politkovskaya Award for her human rights activism in a conflict zone, and she was a co-recipient of last year'sSakharov Prize for Freedom of ThoughtForeign Policy also honored her in 2011 as one of its top 100 Global Thinkers. "I'm very proud to be Syrian and to be part of these historical days, and to feel all that greatness inside my people," she said in a video accepting the award. "We highly appreciate all the help … of those who supported us in any way around the world."

As one of the few Tunisian activists to blog using her real name under the regime of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, linguistics teacher Lina Ben Mhenni was risking her safety even before the uprising against the Tunisian regime began. Although herblog -- as well as her Facebook and Twitteraccounts -- were censored under Ben Ali, Ben Mhenni forged ahead with her reporting during the early weeks of the uprising as the only blogger present in the cities of Kasserine and Regueb when government forces violently cracked down on protesters in the Sidi Bouzid region, regularly posting photos and videos of the violence. Today, Ben Mhenni continues to publicly condemn the widespread corruption in the current government. "The majority of young people do not feel any change at all and I think that they are right," she wrote in an October 2011 op-ed for the Guardian. "To talk of a revolution we have to cut totally with the past and with the old regime."

The sharp rhetoric of Asmaa Mahfouz played a crucial role in galvanizing the Egyptian revolution's massive protests in Tahrir Square. The activist and co-founder of the April 6 Youth Movement famously posted avideo to YouTube challenging Egyptians to join her in Tahrir Square on Jan. 25, 2011, to protest the human rights abuses of President Hosni Mubarak's regime: "If you think yourself a man, come with me on Jan. 25. Whoever says women shouldn't go to protests because they will get beaten, let him have some honor and manhood and come with me."
Mahfouz may have helped topple Mubarak, but she still attracted the ire of the military junta, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), that came after him. In August 2011, she was court-martialed by the SCAF and charged with inciting violence, disturbing public order, and spreading false information through social media. Later that year Mahfouz was honored for her persistence when the European Parliament named her a co-recipient of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

Tal al-Molouhi symbolized the Syrian regime's repressive policies long before the revolutions of the Arab Spring. A high school student who blogged poems and wrote articles advocating for Palestinian causes and a more just Syria, Molouhi was arrested in 2009 for her writing. The Arab blogosphere denounced her arrest as an example of the capricious and fanatical crackdown on free speech in Syria. In February 2011, Molouhi -- who was brought into court chained and blindfolded -- was sentenced to five years in prison. "This is my Homeland, in which I have a palm tree, a drop in a cloud, and a grave to protect me," says one of herpoems. "My master: I would like to have power even for one day to build the 'republic of feelings.'"

Known as the "Mother of the Revolution" in Yemen, journalist and activist Tawakkol Karman emerged as a leader of the Yemeni protest movement after Tunisian activists ousted their president, Ben Ali, in January 2011. In addition to organizing student rallies in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, Karman led mass protests calling for the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime, including an Egypt-inspired "Day of Rage." A grassroots organizer and the chairwoman of Women Journalists Without Chains, Karman wasawarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, becoming the first Yemeni to win the prize and the youngest Peace Prize laureate.

Asma al-Ghoul is not your typical Palestinian activist. A secular feminist who writes for the Ramallah-based newspaper Al-Ayyam and blogs at AsmaGaza, Ghoul is known for her vocal denunciations of violations of civil rights in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, catching the media's attention when she walked on a public Gaza beach with a mixed-gender group in 2009. When she publicly denounced her uncle -- a senior Hamas military leader -- in an article, he threatenedto kill her. After she was beaten by Hamas security forces in March 2011 while trying to cover rallies calling for Hamas to reconcile with Fatah, an international outcry prompted the Hamas government to apologize and promise an investigation.


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