Would you mortgage your house to rescue your children from trafficking? Dress as a beggar? How far would you go?
One Indian father traveled 300 miles to find his three sons forced to work in a brick kiln.
READ the unbelievable story here! Let’s work together to end slavery in this generation.
On the side of little girls
Today, in certain countries, to be born a girl is the beginning of a path full of pitfalls – from the practice of infanticide, to lack of education and opportunities – from infancy, girls are relegated to a subordinate role and work to substitute themselves for their mothers in sacrifice to their brothers and future husbands. None of these girls are armed to assert themselves, and when they grow up they are often forced to get married or even worse, into sexual or domestic exploitation.
While in certain countries polygamy is a cultural institution to establish male authority over women, the polyandry practiced in India does not arise from women’s choices. The elimination of girls from birth (or before birth if possible) has increased the gender imbalance in populations. In some regions of India and Asia, the practice of kidnapping girls is rife and the captured girls are forced to marry several men in a bizarre attempt to address their gender imbalance.
‘Education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world.’ – Nelson Mandela
13-year-old Alyssa Carson is determined to be the first person to land on Mars — and NASA thinks she stands a chance. Paul Foreman, from NASA says, “she is of perfect age to one day become an astronaut, to eventually travel to Mars. She is doing the right things, taking the right training, taking all of the right steps to actually become an astronaut.”
Alyssa studies science, several languages and is the first person to attend all three of Nasa’s world space camps. Learn more about Alyssa’s mission via BBC.
Girl Child: Hope and Promise of Mankind
In 2011, a United Nations (UN) resolution established 11 October as the International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC), a day designated for promoting the rights of girls and addressing their unique challenges.
This year’s theme 2014 is to end the cycle of violence hindering their emotional, psychological and physical development. In order to break such tragic cycle, the UN invite to reflect on all the skills, knowledge and resources available to empower any girl child to increase and reach her potential. More importantly, the UN theme 2014 invites each one of us to ensure in our context of influence at local, national or transnational level that girl children live in a safe and supportive environment, conducive to empowering opportunities.
Dr Maria Montessori, a renowned late Italian leader in pedagogy, asserted that children from infancy require respect because they are capable beings and thinking beings. As she put it, “Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future”.
Anne Frank or Malala are girl children who are the utmost examples of what respect can unfold. About Anne Frank, the world bows to her immensity through her writing, which marked mankind with her knowledge, wit and wisdom. She was a giant who has been taken away from this earth because of a cycle of armed violence. Malala was almost taken away from this earth from an ongoing cycle of armed violence.
When Anne and Malala were girl children, their families and friends showed them respect. Such respect, in addition to protection and support have given to the world women like Hannah Arendt, Aung San Suu Kyi, Frida Kahlo, Rita Levi Montalcini and Emmeline Pankhurst to name some outstanding ladies well renowned worldwide. They have been girl children first and foremost. They were provided with a safe and supportive space to learn and grow which empowered them to be the capable and thinking beings they have been.
Nevertheless, there are many women worldwide who are making a difference in any field they decided to practice their talents and passions in, without any spotlight or worldwide acknowledgement from their houses, neighbourhoods, villages, towns or cities.
The most enlightening example for this day is a fictional story portrayed in the movie, called Wadija, directed by the only female Saudi Arabian director, Ms Haifaa Al-Mansour. The movie tells the inspirational and mesmerizing story of a ten-year old girl, Wadija, who lives in the suburbs of Riyadh, the Capital city of Saudi Arabia. She wants to own and ride a green bicycle. Though, on the one side, she cannot afford it and on the other, she is not allowed to ride one as it could compromise her virtue according to cultural and socio-political customs. Wadija shows perseverance and courage as she enrolls in a school competition, which is revealed to be a singular challenge to her in order to achieve her dream of buying and riding a green bicycle.
This insightful movie shows the challenges faced by many girl children nowadays. It is a very powerful tale in its simplicity of gender inequality by showing an artistic instance of narrating a subtle revolution, elusive defiance of female assertion and determination. It shows the unique intelligence and alternative thinking that many girl children own.
How many girl children with invaluable potential to make the difference in human history are still hindered in contributing to it? Their right to live has to be respected.
Paraphrasing Montessori again, a girl child is “both a hope and a promise for mankind”. Such hope and promise have to be protected and valued as assets for the future of mankind.
The Day of the Girl Child is a reminder and a spotlight to expand the lobbying against violence perpetuated against girls. Such a day has the purpose to trickle up and down society that violence against girls is no longer invisible and it is unacceptable in public and private domains.
Source: Stop the Worldwide War on Girls – Photo by Anosha Zereh
A wife as a gift
TO EXPRESS their gratitude to the visiting boss of South Africa’s state broadcaster, traditional Venda chiefs have—according to the Sowetan, a popular daily newspaper—lavished three gifts on Hlaudi Motsoeneng: a cow, a calf, and a beautiful wife. The broadcasting supremo is pictured with his arm around a bare-breasted young maiden, said to be his choice from several on offer, as they surveyed the cattle.
Read the full story here
Why They Stay
Reading the tweets which resulted from the #WhyIStayed campaign were illuminating to stay the least. It shows abuse as a complex issue and one that has prolonged and deep-rooted causes. It is all too easy to distance ourselves from everyday sexism and precursors to control and social desirability even though they are all around us. Billboards objectifying women in order to promote the sale of products and those indicating that women are not capable of making sound decisions are not only damaging because of how entrenched they have become in our society but because of how conventional they are. Girls and young women in their formative years grow up with the normalisation of the gender divide and accept it as the way things are. A recent campaign in Vogue magazine, an effort to seem like a credible voice against violence, intended to highlight the damaging effects of domestic violence but only succeeded in glamorizing the issue.
Yamma Brown, James Brown’s daughter and former victim of abuse, has put it aptly when describing the abuse her mother suffered under the hands of her father – ‘… by the time [my mother] made her decision [to leave], the damage had already been done to me. I’d been programmed to accept abuse as part of life. The pertinent point here being that we live in a society that has normalised abuse or more accurately, normalised gender stereotypes in such a way that we have come to tolerate it.
In most third world countries, the control of women takes a more tangible form such as ISIS kidnapping women for sex slaves or bartered as goods, to the utilisation of tradition to keep women in check by controlling their movements and deciding when and how many children they can have or whether or not they can hold gainful employment. In the developed world, there are very often no physical restraints, but psychological or financial ones.
As with all catastrophes, physical abuse has an often ignored precursor and this is something that all too often goes unacknowledged. Studies by Cascardi et al (1992, 1995) talk about the corrosive nature of emotional abuse, such as fear and coercion, and its role in acceptance. The important thing to note is that there is no ‘typical’ abuse victim. Being of a certain ethnicity, geographical location, social status, income, religion, education or disposition does not increase the probability of being abused. Being black will not necessarily make you more susceptible to domestic violence. Being poor will not expose you to a higher possibility of rape.
However, having been a historical victim or witness to abuse does. Childhood abuse and a history of depression may be risk factors for women in abusive and non-abusive discordant relationships. If abuse and violence have been normalised in a childhood setting, this is more likely to contribute future abusive relationships. In modern relationships, this may not be as clear cut as violence or verbal abuse; surveillance through social media and technology has facilitated abuse in the form of control. Idealised factors of social desirability (Sugarman and Hotaling, 1995) perpetrated by irrational ideals for women further fuel the need for acceptance. Legal rulings such as Burwell v. Hobby Lobby in the US go a long way in ensuring that women know their place as second class citizens by objecting to the provision of contraceptives through health insurance by a proviso on religious grounds.
It always seems to be the same reaction from the media and those fond of victim blaming, ‘Why not just leave?’, ‘Why marry/go out with/tolerate someone like that in the first place?’ This is not only misguided but also dangerous as it takes responsibility and focus away from the perpetrator and places it directly on the victim.
There are a million reasons as to why women being abused chose to stay within violent relationships; personal circumstances, financial barriers, isolation from the community, family obligations, prolonged or historical psychological and emotional duress and the list goes on. Perhaps we should not be asking why women stay but why men hit; and rather make an effort to intervene, report witnessed incidents and change legislation to protect and support those in abusive relationships by erring on the side of the victim. Each situation is different and must be approached differently but one fact remains the same, the violence against women is not a women’s issue. It is a men’s issue. It is everyone’s issue.
Improving health of women, children ‘moral imperative’ – Ban
“For the first time ever, we have the opportunity to end all preventable deaths of women and children within a generation,” Mr. Ban said at the ‘Every Woman Every Child’ event held at UN Headquarters on the margins of the General Assembly’s high-level debate.
Read the full story here
Child bride ‘wed’ on the International Day of the Girl Child
Image from Plan Australia
Much has been said about the wrongness of child marriage – the ill health effects, the psychological trauma inflicted on many of the young brides, sexual abuse, higher infant mortality rates and the contravening of numerous international agreements, conventions and treaties; The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to name just two. Yet worldwide, roughly one in three women were married before the age of 18, some at only 12, or even younger.
The highest rates of child marriage are found to be in South Asia where 46% - that’s nearly half of the women aged 20 to 24 - were married off before 18 years of age. West and Central Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa follow close behind at 41 and 39 per cent respectively. We often think that women and girls in the developed countries are immune to being married as ‘girls’ but it does still happen, if to a lesser extent (it is legal to marry in England from 16 years of age with parental consent or in Scotland without).
The Norway arm of Plan International recently bought the issue of child marriage right into the public’s view by launching a fictional blog – Theas bryllup – in which 12 year old Thea writes about her impending marriage to a 37 year old man named Geir. The uproar created in social media by the blog reverberated around the world and the site picked up 130,000 readers in just one day. Several hundred readers added comments, saying they were horrified, advising the girl that a marriage like this is illegal according to Norwegian laws - some even contacted the police.
Once main stream media got hold of the story, Plan Norway admitted that the blog was part of their campaign to raise awareness of child marriage. The blog site has now been converted to a campaign site advocating for the cessation of child marriage everywhere, and readers can get involved in the campaign by interacting on social media, signing a petition or sponsoring a girl to remain in education.
Now that the International Day of the Girl Child has passed, we shouldn’t stop working to stop this barbaric, and illegal practice that is carried out across the globe. It’s a Girl Thing is a video put together by Plan International highlighting what it is like being a girl in today’s world highlighting issues like child marriage and lack of education, but also celebrating the achievements and steps towards equality that have already been made.
Let’s hope that this International Day of the Girl Child, focusing on Empowering Adolescent Girls and Ending the Cycle of Violence, spurs many of us on to helping end child marriage and allowing each girl around the world to attend school and her reach her full potential.
The dishonourable crime
In many parts of the world simply being born a female puts a child at a significant disadvantage in life. In deeply patriarchal societies violence and neglect is commonly gender based, with many girls being traded for slavery, forced to marry men many years their senior and even being at risk of female infanticide. It was with such inequalities in mind that in 2011 the United Nations declared 11 October the International Day of the Girl Child; a day to unite and acknowledge the plight of the unjustly disadvantaged girl child. The theme chosen for 2014 is “Empowering adolescent girls: Ending the cycle of violence”, a commendable choice given that the rate of ‘honour’ based violence is continuing to rise at a significant pace.
'Honour' based violence is the abuse of a person considered to have brought shame upon their family, and whilst the reasons for attack may vary they predominantly include the refusal to enter into arranged marriage, perceived adultery and the forming of relationships with persons not approved by the family. When such reasons are considered alongside the deep rooted gender biasis of many societies it is clear to see that 'honour' based violence is a real concern for adolescent girls worldwide.
Attacks are typically carried out by the victim’s family, with the most serious cases leading to ‘honour’ killings. Each year there are reported to be 5,000 ‘honour’ killings worldwide [HBV-Awareness], and it does not require much persistence to locate several news stories which report harrowing accounts of such attacks. One recent and upsetting attack has demanded global attention. On 27 May 2014, in Pakistan, 25-year-old Farzana Parveen was bludgeoned to death by members of her family just outside of Lahore’s Grand High Court; the very place she had come to seek justice. There are contradictory reports surrounding whether or not Farzana’s family initially provided consent to her marriage, but suffice to say on the day of her death Farzana had been on her way to Court to make a statement in support of her marriage and one which would contradict her family’s allegations of kidnap and marriage under duress. As she arrived outside Court her family commenced the attack upon her, with reports suggesting that nearby police failed to intervene despite several pleas for assistance. Farzana decided to make her own choice to marry the man she loved, which ultimately and unjustly ended her life and that of her unborn child.
Without doubt, the global media attention on this case has been significant influential factor in the decision to prosecute Farzana’s murderers. Too often perpetrators of ‘honour’ based violence are not formerly charged, and for the few cases that do come before Pakistan’s criminal courts the trial can last many years. Perpetrators will often rely on complex arguments surrounding religious doctrine to justify their actions, despite such violence being forbidden by Sharia law. Regardless the conviction rates relating to ‘honour’ based killings in Pakistan are dismal as the criminal system is such that the murder is not considered an offence against the state, rather it is an offence against the family and/or legal heirs of the victim. Given that the decision to commit an ‘honour’ killing will invariably have been made within the family, the perpetrators will often be forgiven at the earliest opportunity.
The sad truth is that violence against the girl child is practiced to varying degrees in every continent across the globe. In the UK there are 12 ‘honour’ killings each year (HBV-Awareness) and the number of reported cases involving ‘honour’ based abuse is rising rapidly. The issue has always been the ability of developed countries to police such archaic and barbaric practices that are deep rooted in the history of other cultures. The tragic example of Banaz Mahmod, murdered by her family in 2006 despite having previously had her concerns dismissed by the police, led to police forces refocusing and re-educating themselves on ‘honour’ based crimes. Progress has been made since 2006 but it has been slow. In a report published by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (Postcode Lottery: Police Recording or Reported ‘honour’ Based Violence, February 2014) it was noted that some police forces in the UK had failed to implement even the basic measures to protect victims of ‘honour’ based crimes.
It is clear that threats of gender-based violence and ‘honour’ killings are pervasive in all communities, and that more can and should be done to ensure this is brought to an end. In Pakistan there must be redress to the archaic law which allows a loophole for families involved in ‘honour killings’ to premeditate murder and then to subsequently forgive the chosen perpetrator. In the UK we must ensure that ‘honour’ based violence is understood, policed adequately and reportedly thoroughly. Change thus far has been reactive to horrific crimes rather than proactive to prevent the further deaths of innocent victims. So on this 11 October 2014 be sure to recognise the International Day of the Girl Child and advocate against the violence so may will face during their adolescence. Let our collective voice be heard – we will empower our girls.
Media representations of gender alter societies views of reality. Some students from the University of Saskatchewan have put together a rather compelling clip to illustrate why we should be working to change the way gender roles are dictated by the media.
Iranian women call for equality
Image courtesy of Maryam Rajavi Flickr
Given examples such as the tens of thousands of female political prisoners who’ve been tortured in Iranian prisons, the Iranians spring ‘Bad Hijab’ observance – where women are publicly punished for infractions such as showing hair, or the imposed gender apartheid; it is surprising that Iran again hold a seat on the UN’s panel for setting global standards and formulating policies to promote gender equality – awarded in April this year and a second term after initially winning a seat back in 2011.
Despite having held this position on the UN Commission on the Status of Women since 2011, Iran remains one of the worst places in the world when it comes to women’s rights. As Maryam Rajavi says ‘The rule of the mullahs has crushed the rights of women, freedom, culture, family and private lives.’
Maryam Rajavi is the president-elect of The National Council of Resistance (NCRI) - a group that believe in complete gender equality in politics, economics, and in society. They have laid down a Ten-Point Plan outlining various ways that equality can be achieved for the women of Iran. The plan, among other things, advocates for freedom in wardrobe choice, equal rights to inheritance and assets, and the end to all sex trade and sexual exploitation.
The full ten points are given below:
- Women shall enjoy the equal right to have all the fundamental freedoms, including standing for elections, casting a vote, and becoming judges, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or social class – they shall enjoy equal rights to men.
- To combat violence, rape, discrimination and violation of their freedoms, women shall have access to credible judicial remedies.
- Women shall be free to choose their clothing. The law on compulsory veiling shall be annulled.
- Women shall enjoy the right to equal participation in the political leadership of society.
- Women shall enjoy equal rights to men; in respect of inheritance, signing contracts, managing assets and in the labour market, women shall have equal opportunities to men.
- Women shall enjoy the free and equal right to choose their spouse, and freely decide to marry or divorce. They shall also enjoy the right to have custody of their children. Polygamy is prohibited.
- All forms of violence against women, threatening actions or forcibly depriving them of their freedoms shall be considered crimes.
- The sex trade and all forms of sexual exploitation shall be prohibited.
- The mullahs’ Sharia laws will have no place in the Iran of tomorrow, disgraceful and barbaric laws like stoning shall be annulled.
- Women shall have access to social welfare programmes, especially for retirement, unemployment, illness and old age.
Many of the points outlined above are freedoms taken for granted by women elsewhere in the world, and it is almost unthinkable that in today’s world this calibre of inequality is not only able to exist and be perpetuated, but is somehow endorsed by a group who are supposedly championing the issue of inequality across the world.
Coming from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, these girls will have seen unimaginable hardships and unbelieveable situations; yet they stand strong and proud outside a health clinic set up to serve the women of these slums - just as we would like to see many more girls being able to stand this coming International Day of The Girl Child.
Beaten into silence : Attitudes towards Wife-beating in Sub-Saharan African Countries
Despite its horrible consequences, the practice of wife beating has become an accepted way of keeping wives “under control” amongst some traditional African people. Fidgen (2009:1) explains this sad state of affairs in the following way: ‘The majority of women enjoy a beating, because they are made to believe it is part of our tradition.’ According to Maluleke and Nadar (2002:10), the beating received by one such woman, did not only land her in hospital, but she also attempted suicide as a result. It is not only sad to see that, despite our constitution talking about respecting each other’s human rights, the battering and beating of women remain a huge challenge – a challenge that has seen many marriages dissolved in divorce courts and has left many women permanently scarred both physically and mentally. Battered women further experience many emotional and psychological problems.
The acceptance of wife-beating for transgressing certain gender roles has been widespread in many sub-Saharan African countries. Studies have indicated that dominant social and cultural norms create images of ”ideal” women among both men and women that include definition and widespread acceptance of gender roles as well as sanction use of force to enforce these gender roles. Household wealth and education have been identified as the strongest and most consistent negative predictors of acceptance of wife-beating among both men and women. Older men and women are also less likely to justify wife-beating, with men and women in polygamous unions being more likely to accept wife-beating, though the association is not always significant.
Traditional African people are known for respecting their marriage. Even though marriage is so highly regarded, it is astonishing to realise that wife beating has become an extremely common practice amongst them. Few women, including those who are financially independent, have dared to come out and say that they’re being physically abused. Often it is accepted as a natural if regrettable part of woman’s status as her husband’s property. Throughout history women have been subjected to the whims and brutality of their husbands. For instance some societies have the idea that women are foolish and childlike, and need to be beaten to be corrected. In a study conducted in Kenya about 44% of Kenyan women said that men have the right to discipline their wives by beating them. The women who are beaten often feel that it is their fault. Even many matrilineal societies accept men beating their wives as a method of correction.
From a traditional point of view, many men think that wife beating is part of their marital rights and privileges. For example one man who was arrested asked from his cell: ‘I do not understand why I am arrested for beating my own wife’ (Anon 2007:10). This comes from a traditional understanding which views the wife as a chattel along with other property belonging to the husband. Waruta and Kinothi (2000:123) also shared the same as they outlined: “Therefore the men own the women for they bought them, just like shoes, cars or other properties.” Many women, for their part, seem generally to be silent which may, in a sense, make their abusers (husbands) think that they accept their destiny even when they have done them actual bodily harm. The women, too, seem to assume that being battered is part of the marriage package. For instance, Specioza Kazibwe, who was one of Africa’s highest-ranking female politicians in Uganda spoke out about the beatings which she said were responsible for her separation from her husband when she decided enough was enough. Her comments caused a stir in a society where the subject is largely taboo as she explained that “Why should I continue staying with a man who beats me?” Sadly, the reaction to Mrs Kazimbwe’s action was varied in Uganda. Mrs Kazibwe should have kept it in the family, one woman commented, “I come from north of the country, where women are told to respect their husbands even if they are abused or beaten up,” she further added that, “I am happy with the tradition because men are more superior to us and I think, without men, we would not be what we are now.”
Lastly, another significant factor which may be argued to contribute towards this crime is the fact that many sub-Saharan countries in Africa and their different institutions have failed to mitigate wife-beating, and sensitivity to objectively address wife-beating may be tellingly lacking. Though education, economic growth and other factors, can reduce acceptance of wife-beating, the process may be too slow, and for many, too late to make a substantial difference in the near future.