Thursday, 24 April 2014

News for Today

Contributed by Ana Maria Guerra
A Delhi street where sex workers are forgotten (India)

'Stop Telling Women to Smile' (US)

Does Kenya have the courage to lead on women's rights in Africa?

Why prison isn't working for women (UK)

'Rampant discrimination' in India's schools

230 girls abducted in Nigeria still missing

Hundreds of Civilians Killed in South Sudan Ethnic Massacre: U.N.

Arizona Governor Signs Bill Allowing Suprise Inspections of Abortion Clinics (US)

The Domino Effect Between Climate Change and Women Farmers

Contributed by Karol Arámbula:

'23 ways feminists have made the world better for women' (PolicyMic):

'With eyes on possible Clinton run, questions on room for other women' (The New York Times):

'More Italian women are choosing to have no children' (Wall Street Journal):

'The trouble with 'women should be reading now' lists' (Slate):

'Researchers learn how women feel after a false-positive result from a mammogram' (The Huffington Post):

'More women freezing their eggs for career growth, finding the right partner' (CBS News):


By Aastha Kapoor

Watching another person rise in life or office becomes the talk of the town. But in case that successful person is a woman who is reaching heights, not everyone takes it in the right spirit. There are reasons and excuses- that she doesn’t deserve the success; maybe someone is doing favours or maybe she is sleeping with the boss-it could be anything but her abilities or her hard work or her painstaking efforts. In case, the girl has got a pretty face, there is no comeback at all- any pretty girl has to be dumb. Similarly a woman who chooses to continue her job after the birth of her new-born is labelled as a ‘bad mother’. A woman who smokes or drinks alcohol is looked down upon while it is somehow acceptable/okay when done by a man. Likewise a woman boss who is strict to get the work done is authoritative in nature but a man with similar behaviour is displaying leadership qualities. In all scenarios, the parameters of judging a man and a woman are mostly different. In brief, anything at all that doesn’t sync with the conventional methods is wrong and the blame 
game must start.

All the generalisation stamped on a woman’s forehead only speaks of how much work is yet to be done as a society to get rid of the inequality that exists between both the sexes. These stamp holding people are not even the orthodox ones who have had little exposure to the global network and modern outlook towards world. These notions are held by many doctors, engineers, accountants and consultants-in short by everyone who forms a part of our community. Isn’t it sad when a girl eating lunch with her guy friends is frowned upon and labelled as the ultra-modern-type. Unfortunately the “I don’t care” attitude towards such people is also not the solution. The crux of the issue is how quickly and easily does our mind form a negative opinion and insults a woman who is trying to live her life on her own terms and leading a free and independent life. This entire slut shaming and blaming, at some point must stop because it later forms the root of bigger issues. Rape in itself is more than just sexually overpowering a girl; many convicts claim to commit the crime to prove their superiority status over the so-called-weaker gender.  Until both the genders are seen as equals and the psychological mindset of the society is brought in order, there is no moving forward. Just as Albert Einstein rightfully said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”


Wednesday, 23 April 2014

News for Today

The Power Princess: Ameerah Al-Taweel and Her Work For Women's Rights


Ameerah Al-Taweel's story starts like a Disney script: Raised by her divorced mom and her grandparents in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, she landed the opportunity of a lifetime at age 18, when she requested—and got—an interview with Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal for a school paper. Their 10-minute meeting turned into two hours. "We just clicked," she says. He was equally smitten, and nine months later they wed. In most fairy tales that's where the credits would have rolled—with Al-Taweel a bona fide princess, married to one of the 30 richest people in the world. But for her, it was just the beginning: "I didn't want to be that girl who's not doing anything," she says. "I wanted to make an impact."
It wasn't easy. "This is a country where most employers require that women get their guardian's permission to work and where the testimony of one man equals that of two women," says Betty Bernstein-Zabza, senior policy adviser at the Secretary's Office of Global Women's Issues at the U.S. Department of State. "Public appearances are not something many wives do." Still, Al-Taweel stepped into the spotlight, cohelming Prince Alwaleed's charity, the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundations, and becoming a vocal advocate for women's civil rights—including the right to drive, inherit equally, and retain custody of children after divorce.
This being real life, though, and not a fairy tale, there was another wrinkle: Al-Taweel and the prince divorced last year. It was an amicable split (she still calls her ex her "best friend" and "mentor"), and Al-Taweel never thought of stepping back into private life. Indeed, she's taken to the global stage, working with everyone from President Bill Clinton to Jordan's Queen Rania and the British royal family to advance the rights of women in the Middle East. "Ameerah's advocacy on behalf of Saudi women has provided a tremendous contribution to how we think about the rights of girls and women around the world," says Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation. And Al-Taweel keeps her issues front and center by asking her nearly one million Twitter and Instagram followers to stay involved, most recently by donating vital supplies to Syrian refugees—supplies she then took to the camps herself. "Saudi women are doing incredible things, and we're making progress all the time," she says. "I want to be the one women look to when they tell their daughters, 'Look, she got a divorce and see what she's doing now? She's an independent woman. She's doing something good for her country. She's a role model.'"
Her words to live by: "Throw yourself to the edge that you're always scared of. Try being independent; do it your way. You'll love it."

This story appeared in the May issue of Glamour. Look for it on newsstands April 15, or subscribe now for instant access to the digital edition.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

News for Today

Contributed by Suyog Shelar

Iran President Rouhani urges equal rights for women

Russia’s First Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill Under Consideration by Duma

Contributed by Karol Arámbula:

'Young women trade sex to support children in Dominican Republic' (Journal Star):

'In Iraq, women fight to keep rights on campaign trail' (The National):

'Women writers on the 'day my life changed' (Boston Globe):

'Rouhani: Iran's women not second-class citizens' (Times of Israel):

'How Bollywoord is failing the women of India' (Forbes):

'Hilarious memoirs by women' (USA Today):

I don't...but I do.

By S. Vaishnavi
"I don't want to have a daughter.
I don't want another individual to go through everything I did. I don't want someone to be doubting, double-checking everything she does because she is supposed to be the 'good girl'. The well mannered, all-adjusting, non-opinionated tool. I don't want my daughter to be 'that girl' who wears 'unacceptable' clothing, talks 'unacceptable' language, behaves 'unacceptably' with boys, enjoys surplus 'unacceptable' freedom, cries too 'unacceptably' much, laughs too 'unacceptably' loud, eats too 'unacceptably' often, lives too 'unacceptably' fulfilling a life.

I don't want another human to go through the torture my family made me go through. I don't want another person in the world to hate their own blood. I don't want another face looking at herself in the mirror, claiming she is uglier than the rest and she hates herself when in fact external beauty is arbitrary, internal beauty is underrated, and mixing up the two is common. I don't want to see someone who dons makeup because she thinks she is ugly, eats celery because she thinks she's fat, is always apologetic because she thinks she's perpetually wrong. I don't want another part of me to suffer embarrassment that she never deserved, just because she was born with female parts. 
I want a daughter.
I want a daughter so I can raise her among people who support her, feed her empowering thoughts, free her from the backlash of being female, tell her she is equal to every man. I want a daughter so that I can tell her that being 'manly' is not better than being 'feminine', that she can fly, she can soar, as long as she is willing to spread her wings, no one can stop her. I want a daughter so there can be another human in the world proving that we women are not meek, we women are not tools, we women are not dressed up dolls with no opinions. I want a daughter so that I can teach her how to do things that are otherwise 'unbecoming'. I want a daughter so we can laugh loudly, run around gracelessly, eat voraciously, love wholeheartedly. I want a daughter so I can tell her that her body is completely up to her, that no one other than she has the right to decide what it wants to go through. 
I want a daughter so that she can grow up learning that a 'prince charming' is not always the end goal of life, like the disney movies show it to be. I want a daughter who offers to split the cheque, who is not afraid to ask a man out, who does not subscribe to today's notions of what is 'manly'. I want a daughter who will appreciate people for who they are rather than for how much of their gender roles they fit into. 
I want a daughter because I know what insecurities she might face, and I will at every step of the way erase those for her. "

Monday, 21 April 2014

Turkish Activists Say Their Country Is Sliding Backward On Women's Rights


ISTANBUL -- There are few things that shock Pinar Ilkkaracan, one of Turkey’s most prominent women activists. For three decades, she has battled what she describes as stifling sexism and stubborn politicians. But in 2010, in a revealing moment she says still haunts her, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Ilkkaracan and dozens of representatives from Turkey’s top women’s organizations that he simply does not believe in gender equality. It was a shocking blow to her lifetime of work.
"Turkey is going in a very bad direction," Ilkkaracan, co-founder of a leading women's rights NGO, said with an air of defeat. "Erdogan is becoming more and more dictatorial. As long as he is here, it’s very clear: things will get worse for women."
In the '80s and '90s, a blossoming women’s movement emerged in Turkey, leading to protests against gender-based violence and the creation of new human rights groups. But the situation for Turkish women remains grim.
Last year, Turkey was rated 120 out of 136 countries in terms of gender gaps in education, health, politics and economics by the World Economic Forum. Its rates of violence against women, some of the worst in all of Europe, doubled from 2008 to 2012, according to the parliamentary Human Rights Commission. The country is also wracked by startling rates of child brides -- nearly 7,000 girls were married between the ages of 13 and 17 over the past decade, according to a survey by a women's rights group. And as of 2012, only about a third of women in Turkey had jobs, less than half the average in the European Union.
Many activists at high-profile women's organizations here say women's rights will only continue to decline under Erdogan, who preaches Islamist values and has emboldened a religious conservative class in Turkey. Though his approval rating has fallen over the past year, he is likely to maintain a strong grip on the country in the coming years, either by remaining prime minister -- if his party abolishes term limits and allows him to run for a fourth term -- or in the less-powerful role of president. A majority of deputies in his ruling party on Thursday reportedly threw their support behind a potential presidential campaign, and Erdogan has vowed to increase the power of the position.
Advocates like Ilkkaracan, who frequently stage protests and write articles in popular Turkish media outlets, point to Erdogan's stance on abortion as a prime example of his push to limit women's rights. Although in 1983 the government legalized abortion up to 10 weeks after conception, Erdogan announced a plan two years ago to ban all abortions after four weeks of pregnancy.
"There is no difference between killing a baby in its mother's stomach and killing a baby after birth," Erdogan said at a conference in 2012. "No one should have the right to allow this to happen."
Now, many Turkish women say they cannot get abortions in state hospitals and are forced to go to expensive private clinics. One Turkish woman in her late 20s, who spoke to The WorldPost on condition of anonymity, said she recently had to go to a private clinic to get an abortion and paid 500 Turkish liras, or roughly $235. She says that other women have paid double that amount -- about half of the average annual disposable income for Turks in 2012, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute.
"No other [Turkish] government has been so radical against women," said Ilke Gokdemir, who works at Mor Cati, or Purple Roof, an organization to combat violence against women.
Gokdemir's organization runs one of the only independent shelters in Turkey for women fleeing domestic violence, which she and other activists say is one of the country's biggest problems. Although the government passed a law to combat domestic violence in 2012, it has not been effectively enforced, they say.
"Instead of concentrating on protecting women who suffer from domestic violence, the government concentrates on how they can make the laws more in line with their conservative ideology," said Ilkkaracan, whose NGO is called Women for Women's Rights. "There is a difference between what is happening in the legal sphere and everyday life. The laws aren’t being implemented."
Though activists say the government has several dozen shelters for women, Gokdemir laments that they are ineffective. She says she has heard about many cases in which state shelters sent women back to abusive households, forced them to send their children to social services, and denied them access to their cell phones (oftentimes their only means of communication).
"These are prisons for women -- just another violent environment," she said.
According to government data, 802 women were killed from domestic violence over the past five years and 28,000 were subjected to violence last year. Gokdemir, on the other hand, says that women’s organizations she works with have much bleaker numbers. She estimates that three to five women are killed every day in Turkey, most of them victims of domestic violence.
Women's advocates say there are crucial steps that need to be taken to curb violence against women: implementing effective legislation, educating women on their rights, supporting their economic empowerment, and pushing them to the forefront of political discourse, a conversation largely dominated by men. The movement cannot move forward without progress in the political sphere, says Zafer Berkol, chairwoman of KADER, a prominent Turkish organization pushing for equal representation of men and women in politics.
"Politics are so important. Why? Because politicians decide. Men make laws," she said.
The Peace and Democracy Party, the main Kurdish party in Turkey, has made notable strides to include women in politics, like recently instituting a party rule that top positions must be shared by a man and a woman. Rezan Zugurli, a member of the party, was elected last month as the country's youngest mayor at 25 years old -- a move that Berkol says is a step forward for the younger generation. Still, she says, the future looks bleak if Erdogan and his party remain in office -- which many Turks see as a fait accompli -- and continue to work against women’s empowerment.
"There is no democracy, neither in politics nor in social life," she said, looking back on 20 years of activism. "And it’s getting worse and worse."
As the country approaches the presidential elections, Berkol's group is organizing seminars and community-based projects to educate women on the political process as well as their rights within their homes and Turkish society as a whole. She says that more than ever, her fight is an uphill battle.
"At times, I feel like I don’t belong to Turkey," she said, shaking her head at the state of her country. "Like my spirit doesn’t belong here."