Last June, a woman set herself on fire about every three days in Herat, Afghanistan. According to Afghanistan’s presidential advisor on health affairs, an estimated 2,400 women were burning themselves alive nationwide, every year, due to depression. Almost all self-immolation in Afghanistan follows marriage, with half of the victims 15 years old. Throughout history, people have burned themselves in public as a form of protest but the burning brides of Afghanistan do not walk into the streets with kerosene and matches — they do it alone, at home.
Read more via Colors Magazine.
This week, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia signed a pact that outlines the rights of foreign domestic workers in the kingdom. For the first time, Indonesian maids working in Saudi Arabia will be guaranteed a monthly wage, time off and contact with their loved ones. Though human rights groups agree that this is a step in the right direction, they also argue that the pact fails to address counter-allegations that are often directed at maids who complain to authorities about being abused.
Read more via CNN.
Mobs attacking women on the streets in Uganda for wearing perceived indecent clothing - its about sexual violence and harassment. Be outraged!
WGEF clients are planning a march and community discussion on International Women’s Day around this serious issue, violating the dignity and safety of women and girls.
Forced Adoption: the fight for an apology.
At the height of the 1960’s more than 16,000 babies were adopted in the UK and Ireland- many against the will of the birth mother; thousands more in the decades that followed.
This awful abuse of power echoes the more well documented stories in Australia; for which the former Priminister Julia Gillard later took responsibility, on behalf of government, and issued a formal apology to the tens of thousands of people who were affected between the 1950’s and 1970’s.
“”Today, this Parliament, on behalf of the Australian people, takes responsibility and apologises for the policies and practices that forced the separation of mothers from their babies which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering,” she said at Parliament House in the capital Canberra.
"We deplore the shameful practices that denied you, the mothers, your fundamental rights and responsibilities to love and care for your children."
As in Australia, Women who became unmarried mothers in the UK and Ireland were not seen as the victims of bad luck but were often pathologised as “emotionally disturbed” and as a “moral degenerate”; an unsuitable parent. Paradoxically, the woman who gave her baby up for adoption was thought to be redeemed somewhat and judged mentally healthy and emotionally stable. Add to that the then much stronger influence of religion and the role of society in coercion becomes more of a reality.
On the practice in Australia Julia Gillard recognised the women had been;
"Given false assurances…forced to endure the coercion and brutality of practices that were unethical, dishonest and in many cases illegal."
The UK and Irish Governments, or Catholic Church, have yet to too hold their hands up and deliver the apologies owed, despite the evidence that what was going on clearly amounted to an illegal and illicit baby trade.
These women who were forced to give up their children were not unlike you or I, they just had the misfortune to grow up in a different era. Their capacity as parents was not tested or quantified and certainly not diminished in reality by their single status. They commonly had no previous conditions or convictions which might stand against their ability to care for their child and so for the sole ‘crime’ of being unmarried, these women and their children were condemned by Government and Society, sentenced to separation, misery and severe emotional scaring.
These women are now looking for an apology from the British and Irish governments and the recognition of the violation they sustained to their Human Rights both by the government that failed to represent and protect them and medical profession in particular, who clearly betrayed their duty of care to both mother and child and misused the power given to them for people in their care.
Many women have come forward to share their experience and their pain, in the hope that they may finally receive the acknowledgement that they have so long been denied and the apology they have so long been owed.
The new film ‘Philomena’ has brought this unspeakable tragedy to light and protestors for this apology, at the scene of the premiere, confirmed their hope that it would bring their plight to the forefront of the British conscience.
Unmarried mother Philomena Lee was forced to give up her son to Irish nuns, who sold him on to rich Americans. For decades she tried to find him. She at last tracked him down five years ago only to find that he had died, but not before a desperate and futile bid to find her.
One cannot undo what has been done but a government apology, backed by funding to help those women who have silently fallen apart over the years, is vital. An apology might seem a superficial gesture to younger generations but to the mothers, deprived of motherhood, fighting for it, it offers peace and atonement.
FGM, education and the health of generations
Aside from the far reaching physical effects experienced by a girl, or woman, who has undergone FGM, the other consequences of this bodily violence will affect her for the rest of her life, and probably her children too…
As FGM is often part of a girl’s initiation rites into womanhood, once completed the girl is seen to enter the world of women. She is welcomed into the life of adults and passing through this form of introduction to the adult world gives her new found honour and respect, something that confers responsibilities and an end to childish ways. As such, the trappings of a girl’s life are ‘put away’ and abandoned for the new world that has opened to her – time for play, dolls and toys (if there were any) and education are forsaken for the responsibilities that come with being a woman.
With the severing of ties to childhood and education, these girls chances are also severed, opportunities narrowed, for better health, higher incomes and a brighter future for themselves and their future children.
Having abandoned schooling and begun working in the fields or spending time helping support her family, girls who tread this path are far more likely to find themselves married well before the age of 20 and bearing their first children in their teens. This increases their chances of dying from pregnancy related complications, the likelihood of their babies dying before the age of 5 years, and interestingly of contracting numerous STI’s, not least of which HIV/AIDS. But if she manages to avoid these pitfalls, the road is still not at all smooth for her ahead.
Having left school before accomplishing basic literacy and numeracy, these girls/women are less likely to be aware of health services available for them and their children, or understand good health practices like hygiene, STI prevention and nutrition. Their ability to negotiate better living conditions or understand and utilize government policies or NGO support systems to better their lot is seriously hampered and thus the cycle of poverty and difficult lives is perpetuated.
Although these girls and subsequent women may not agree to the cutting they were subjected to, and not wish this for their daughters; the social pressure, lack of education and knowledge of groups who support these feelings or wishes makes it unlikely that they will be strong enough or supported sufficiently to stand up against the tide of tradition.
Female Genital Mutilation, or Cutting, is therefore not just about cutting a girl or woman physically; it is cutting her chances of a better life, cutting her out of a brighter future, cutting the community she is part of down and cutting her children’s futures away, slowly but surely one razor slice at a time.
IWI will celebrate International Women’s Day this March 8th at the Timberyard in Covent Garden, London. Come and join us for an evening spent with like-minded people, learning more about what we do, why we do it and how you can join in!
For the first time in history, a small village in Afghanistan has its first female high school graduates. The Afghan government touts female enrollment as one of its biggest achievements, though the numbers reveal a different story. While 66 percent of girls attend primary school, compared with 92 percent of boys, the share of girls attending secondary school drops to 26 percent. A 2013 study of literature books for fifth and sixth graders revealed that almost all the stories and illustrations contained only male characters. The study asked, “Perhaps part of the reason it is hard to find girls in Afghan classrooms is…women and girls are hard to find in textbooks?”
Read more via Al Jazeera America.
IWI celebrates International Women’s Day on March 8th
Confirm your attendance, get directions and see who else is going to be there at our Facebook Events page
Why did Mrs X die? A story of maternal mortality rates