Friday, February 26, 2010

Oral Testimony on the Power of Women and Girls

Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, spoke before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women's Issues of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (there needs to be an acronym for that) on the 23rd of February. Watch her address to the committee as she advocates for the powerful agents of change and development that are the women of Afghanistan.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits the Middle East

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent tour through the Middle East has prompted much discussion, including conversations about women’s rights in the region.

Before embarking on her trip, Secretary Clinton spoke at the International Conference on Afghanistan in London on January 28, where she spoke about women’s roles in bringing change to Afghanistan:

“I also believe very strongly, as is apparent in what I say about this issue, that women have to be involved at every step of the way in this process. To that end, I unveiled our Women’s Action Plan. It includes initiatives focused on women’s security, women’s leadership in the public and private sector; women’s access to judicial institutions, education, and health services; women’s ability to take advantage of economic opportunities, especially in the agricultural sector. This is a comprehensive, forward-looking agenda that stands in stark contrast to al-Qaida’s recently announced agenda for Afghanistan’s women, attempting to send female suicide bombers to the West.”

This excerpt, along with Clinton’s full remarks from the event, can be found here.

Although women’s rights and leadership were discussed at the Afghanistan conference, the New York Times reports that while in Saudi Arabia on February 16, those subjects did not come up when Clinton visited a women’s college in Jidda. “Maybe because it was Hillary Clinton, people wanted to ask her about issues bigger than whether Saudi women can drive,” student Duaa Badr suggests. Check out the full article here.

Finally, while Clinton’s comments about Iran “moving toward a military dictatorship” picked up plenty of media coverage, it is a recently proposed “Family Protection” bill in Iran that has angered the Iranian women’s website Change for Equality (also known as One Million Signatures.) The bill would allow men in Iran to take additional wives without the knowledge or consent of their first wives. Change for Equality is collecting signatures for a petition here. For more coverage of the protest against the bill, check out recent coverage in the New York Times.

Half the Sky Event

Celebrate International Women's Day on March 4th at a special one-night event presented by CARE and inspired by stories from the New York Times bestseller "Half the Sky". Featuring musical performances, celebrity commentary and the world premiere of "Woineshet," a short film by Marisa Tomei and Lisa Leone. Also with appearances from India.Arie, Maria Bello, Diane Birch, Michael Franti, Dr. Helene Gayle, Angelique Kidjo, Nicholas Kristof, Marisa Tomei, and others. Join in the effort to help women and girls everywhere turn oppression into opportunity at select theaters on March 4th, 7:30pm. For more information, look to the NCM Fathom site.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Malalai Joya: A Woman Among Warlords

Violation of human rights and oppression is ubiquitous, but "war is no gentle tool for transnational social engineering". Certain aggressive activists and feminists insist that waging war will improve the status of women in Afghanistan. Although modest gains have been made for women since the fall of the Taliban, their situation remains frightening and uncertain.

Malalai Joya, a women's rights activist in a country where few women's rights exist to begin with, informs Westerners: "Your governments have replaced the fundamentalist rule of the Taliban with another fundamentalist regime of warlords." The claim that the US and its allies have brought justice, democracy and women’s rights to Afghanistan “is all a lie, dust in the eyes of the world," says Joya.

Malalai's life is marked by more than just the average oppression, second-class citizenry, and social scrutiny that most Afghan women experience. Joya has been the target of 5 assassination attempts since 2003. At one time the youngest member of parliament in Afghanistan, Malalai now lives on the run. Constantly in danger, she hides beneath a burqa when traveling at home as do many women - in addition to her 5 body guards.

It isn't without reason that her life seems to be so valuable. Malalai has been writing and speaking out around the globe about the situation of the Afghan people during last decade. Joya published her memoirs A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice in Fall 2009, revealing the many tragedies of her country, most notably the lingering plight of women. She recently spoke at Brown, MIT, Harvard, and Emerson as part of her book release to raise awareness about the real implications of U.S. occupation in Afghanistan; a timely appearance considering President Obama's decision to increase troop presence by 30,000 in the past months.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Afghan Women's Writing Project

Allowing women a direct voice in the world: The goal of the AWWP is to encourage Afghan women to share their stories - a luxury rarely afforded to them without the fear of threat. Originally conceived by author Masha Hamilton during a trip to Afghanistan in 2008, the program connects Afghan women with talented women authors and teachers in the United States in secure online classrooms.

Change Our Story by Shogofa

I am one who faced those opposing my studies,
Humiliated by those who said
"A girl can't do anything."
I am one forced to accept the reality of today,
trying to be strong.

I am one who bent to my family's wishes,
Sacrificed my dreams in quietness.
But who still dreamt of success
Beyond reach.

I am one who dreams of peace, but am caged,
Desires to fly, but am female,
Still, I am one who flies against the wind of our time
And beats the challenge.
I am one who believes these black clouds will change into Spring.

I am one who vows to stop the tears of those who suffer from being women.
I am one who will free women whose dreams aren't
Already killed by their cages, women who still desire to fly.

They hide their stories behind their tears
They are not allowed words.
But I will tell their stories, and change our story.
I am one whose voice of today promises tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Indonesia and Australia Absorb Illegal Refugee Overflow

The number of Iraqis and other refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and Burma fleeing to Indonesia has greatly increased from 369 in 2008 to 2,504 in 2009. Refugee candidates applying to the UNHCR for resettlement must wait in a first country of asylum to be processed. Indonesia is a choice location due to the ease with which tourist visas can be procured. Additionally, a thriving human smuggling business provides transport for asylum seekers from Malaysia to Indonesia by boat. When the wait is months or even years, desperate refugees can pay up to $8,000 instead to be transported to the northernmost shores of Australia, thinking the chances of resettlement are better. Host countries struggle to deal with the problem of illegal refugees, while meanwhile refugees labor for freedom and a better life.

Because Good Stuff Happens

From peace negotiations in the Karabakh conflict to Ohio cheerleaders raising spirits to fight cancer, our world is filled with positive stories of hope, courage and change. Finally, there's a website devoted to telling these stories:

It's a chronicle of human achievement and positive news. What's better than that? The site went live yesterday, and already it's on my list of top five favorite news sites. Check it out, become a Facebook fan, and help founder Jarod Gordon succeed!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Mobile Cinema Helps Women in Mali

Outdoor screenings of films about children's and women's health travel from village to village in Mali to encourage dialogue about the harmful effects of female genital mutilation/cutting or FGMC.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Combating Maternal Mortality in Afghanistan

UNICEF developing a midwifery training program countrywide to help reduce one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in rates in the world.
In addition to the risks attributable to lack of transportation and familial/cultural issues, most women abide by the ban for attending male doctors which means that for 6 million child-bearing aged women, there are fewer than 16,000 skilled midwives. The new program aims to train female community health members in life saving delivery skills

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Girl Effect

The Nike Foundation, in conjunction with other organizations such as the United Nations Foundation and the Coalition for Adolescent girls, created The Girl Effect - a domino-like strategy that begins with young women and ends with a better world.

Although little research has been done about the impact of investments in girls on economic growth and the well-being of communities, the potential benefits are endless. When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as opposed to only 30 or 40 percent reinvested by men. With more than 600 million girls living in developing nations, there's a lot of opportunity for growth. Tune into The Girl Effect and become part of the movement that just might save the world.

Women Make Music in Herat

Afghan musician Jawad Tabesh runs a music training center dedicated to educating women in Herat despite threats from religious fundamentalists. Consisting of only a small room in an old apartment building, the center is a haven for the 10 women who dare to pursue their passion for music. However, Tabesh fights an uphill battle against conservative Islamists who believe singing is forbidden for women. Despite the struggle to secure funding and support, Tabesh is determined to keep providing an oppressed generation of women with the opportunity to pursue their creative desires.

Monday, February 01, 2010

OHCHR Opens Online Discussion: Women and Human Rights

February 1-28th: The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights launches online discussions aimed at identifying good practices contributing to the realization and advancement of respect, promotion and protection of Women’s Human Rights. Each week will be focused on a sub-theme.

Week 1 | National legal frameworks
Week 2 | Accountability
Week 3 | Access to justice
Week 4 | Summary, wrap-up and observations

Join the discussion on Women's Human Rights this month.

Screening of "View from a Grain of Sand"

Directed and Produced by Meena Nanji, award-winning "View from a Grain of Sand" was shot in refugee camps of Pakistan and the war-torn city of Kabul. Three remarkable Afghan women lead us through the maze of Afghanistan's complex history, informing this examination of how international interventions, war and the rise of political Islam have stripped Afghan women of their freedom over the last thirty years.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the director.
First Parish Church, UU, 10 Parish St, Meetinghouse Hill, Dorchester, MA 02122
Thursday, February 11, 2010
6:30pm - 9:30pm