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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 24 Jun 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Afghan Women Refugees Resurrected As India's Plastic Waste Warriors

New Age Islam News Bureau

24 Jun 2017

Henna is applied to the hands and arms of a Muslim female customer at the Le'Jemalik Salon and Boutique ahead of the Eid al-Fitr Islamic holiday in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., June 21, 2017. Picture taken on June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Gabriela Bhaskar



 At Women-Only Salon in Brooklyn, Muslim-Americans Prepare For Eid

 Thari Women to Make History by Driving 60-Tonne Dump Trucks in Coal Fields

 Employer Insulted Muslim Real Estate Agent in UK over 'Terrorist Hijab'

 Unicef Hails Special Court For Sexual Crimes Against Children

 Be the Best At What You Do, Daretoinspire Charges Young Muslim Women

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Afghan women refugees resurrected as India's plastic waste warriors

June 24, 2017

NEW DELHI: Farah Naz is used to attracting scathing remarks and disapproving looks from neighbors in her Afghan refugee community as she leaves for work each day.

They tell her she is "not a good woman", what she is doing is "shameful" and that her rightful place is inside her south Delhi home - caring for her sick husband and five children.

But after fleeing the Taliban five years ago - where she was drenched in kerosene and almost burnt alive, her husband was ordered killed, and her children were threatened with kidnap - the 32-year-old refugee woman is past caring what people think.

She is on her way to becoming a business woman.

"I had no choice but to work, and now I am proud," said Naz. "I am feeding my family and changing the view of women in my community, but most importantly I am doing a job which is showing that refugees also can do something good."

Naz is one of five Afghan refugee women who are not only battling traditional gender roles by going out to work, but who have also become unlikely warriors in the Indian capital's fight to curb plastic waste pollution.

The task is immense and 10 hands will not solve it. But this project is gaining international support for its twin roles of addressing India's chronic waste problem and empowering refugee women who often flounder in their adopted homelands.

Employed under "Project Patradya" - an initiative led by Delhi University students - the Afghan women produce and supply edible bowls, cups and cutlery to cafes and ice-cream parlors as an alternative to non-biodegradable plastic ones.

Made from millet and wheat flour, the biscuit-like tableware is gaining popularity in the West as a sustainable, environment-friendly option to disposable plastic utensils, and those behind the initiative believe India is an untapped market.

"We wanted to create a social enterprise model which was not only looking at improving the environment but also had a business plan that could employ excluded communities such as refugees," said 20-year-old commerce student Nishchay Hans.


Hans is one of more than 40 students at Kirori Mal College (KMC) who are part of Enactus, a charity that supports young people across the world work with poor communities and build sustainable, eco-friendly businesses.

Their projects range from creating mobile salons for unemployed hairdressers in Ghana to working with villagers in Malaysia to build home stays - all with the aim of eventually handing over the businesses to communities to run themselves.

With New Delhi generating around 650 metric tonnes (650,000 kg) of plastic waste daily, only 60 percent of which is recycled, KMC students honed in on plastic pollution as a serious and neglected social problem.

They found disposable plastic plates, bowls, cups and utensils make up much of the plastic waste in Delhi's burgeoning landfills, where it can take up to up to 1,000 years to decompose and leak pollutants into the soil and water.

Most of the litter and pollution affecting oceans also derives from plastics. This has dire consequences for marine species, which in turn is harmful for those further up the food chain, including humans, who consume the contaminated fish.

During their months of research, the students visited Delhi cafes and consulted restaurateurs, bakers and customers -- eventually settling on the idea of edible tableware as an alternative to use-and-throw utensils.

The students then approached the city's refugees to join their venture in a move welcomed by the United Nations.

"Not only are refugees learning valuable new skills, they are also part of a meaningful and innovative initiative," said Ipshita Sengupta, policy associate at the UN Refugee Agency.

"Such projects demonstrate that refugees are active members of our society making positive contributions to the communities they live in."


India - a safe haven in a volatile region - is home to more than 200,000 refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom were forced to flee conflict or persecution in neighboring countries such as Sri Lanka, China, Afghanistan and Myanmar.

But the country has not signed the landmark 1951 Refugee Convention, which spells out the legal obligations of states to protect refugees, nor does it have any domestic legislation in place to ensure their basic rights.

As a result, many refugees are vulnerable to harassment and exploitation. They cannot easily access education and health services and endure job discrimination and low pay.

The 11,000-plus Afghan refugees in India fare better than some other poor communities, but many still live hand to mouth.

Opportunities to improve their lives and gain new skills are limited, so when Naz and the four other women were offered the chance to join Project Patradya, they did not hesitate.

Most are the wives of once wealthy businessmen who had good lives in Kabul, but the constant fear of suicide attacks at schools, bomb blasts at markets and death and extortion threats from the Taliban left them with to choice but to flee.

In India now for almost five years, the roles have reversed and these women are the breadwinners - some now widows, others have husbands who are too sick to work or unable to find a job.

They work five hours daily at a charity office, above a hardware store along the bustling narrow lanes of Bhogal market, where they sit around a large table, carefully kneading and rolling dough, cutting and placing it into baking moulds.

As well as making the products, the women are also trained in sales and marketing, meet customers and take orders, with the understanding they will run the business within three years.

Patradya has been in operation for six months and is currently supplying edible tableware to 10 cafes and ice-cream parlors in Delhi, as well as taking online orders.

The women are turning over a small profit, averaging 7,500 rupees ($115) monthly, which is divided equally between them.

"It's just the beginning, so the money is not much," said Hasiba Fata, a 41-year-old mother of four, as she sprinkled flour over the ball of dough in front of her.

"But we are excited about the idea that we can become business women and run our own company, employ other people and also do something for the environment. Maybe it's possible."



At Women-Only Salon in Brooklyn, Muslim-Americans Prepare For Eid

June 24, 2017

Nevien Shehadeh, 19, was one of many Muslim women who chose Le’Jemalik Salon and Boutique in New York’s borough of Brooklyn on Friday to prepare for the Eid al-Fitr holiday. The beauty salon, designed by owner Huda Quhshi to cater mostly to Muslim women, opened in January in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn.

“I actually only started wearing the hijab one year ago,” said Shehadeh, an undergraduate studying math and economics at Fordham University in New York. “I always wanted to, but I wasn’t ready. It was actually during Ramadan last year, one week before Eid that I had this feeling to wear the hijab.” Shehadeh, a Palestinian-American, was with her two sisters, Shireen, 26, and Nisrien, 18, and aunt, Najah, 37. They reminisced about meeting Quhshi two years ago when the beauty entrepreneur was hired to do make-up at a family wedding.

They reminisced about meeting Quhshi two years ago when the beauty entrepreneur was hired to do make-up at a family wedding. Quhshi, 37, said that as a Yemeni-American whose cultural norms often barred women from the workplace, she did not think creating a space where conservative Muslim women could receive beauty services in a comfortable environment was possible. Between Wednesday and Friday, Quhshi said she received 48 customers for Eid services.

“Most salons aren’t all women,” said Shehadeh, who plans to celebrate Eid on a Staten Island beach with her family on Sunday, marking the end of Islam’s holy month of Ramadan. “Here we feel comfortable. We’re not paranoid of someone walking in.” About 3.3 million Muslims live in the United States, according to Pew Research Center data, many of whom will celebrate Eid, one of the two most important festivals of the Islamic calendar.

“The beginning of Ramadan was really quiet. It was so slow. It was to the point that I thought of closing for Ramadan,” Quhshi said. “Then, all of a sudden, we got so many bookings that we have had to turn people away.” When women arrive at the salon, they are invited to sit on a circular, ivory couch studded with jewels.

Saloon doors lead to a private space where customers post-up for pampering in peach and white chairs. Some get their hair cut and colored. Others have their make-up done or hijab styled by Quhshi and her staff of six. A pedicure station operates as a henna haven.

Shehadeh admired her haircut and blow-out in the ornate mirror. “We’re here to get pampered for the holiday,” Shehadeh said. “Even though we don’t show our hair, it feels good to do it for yourself.”



Thari women to make history by driving 60-tonne dump trucks in coal fields

June 24, 2017

In a first in the country's history, Thari women will be employed to drive dumper trucks at the Thar coalfields.

The Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) has reportedly received an overwhelming response for their Female Dump Truck Driver Programme, which the company introduced near the town of Islamkot in Thar.

After a screening process, 35 women have already been shortlisted for different tests in the first phase. The women have been inducted, but will formally begun their employment only after they complete one year of training.

They will then be moved into a regular job, where they will receive "all basic facilities", SECMC said.

“I know it was a difficult decision, but my husband encouraged me to go for it and that’s why I am here," Sawitri, a female candidate who came for the interview, said. Sawitri, 25, is a new mother. She is optimistic about getting selected for the job.

Ganga, another hopeful from Nangarparkar, was of the view that women can do everything.

“Thari women are very hard working. When they can already do stone-breaking for under-construction roads, dump trucks should not give them much trouble,” she said.

When contacted, SECMC chief Shamsuddin Shaikh said: "We had to come up with an out-of-the-box solution to help women benefit truly from the development taking place in Thar."

"It was difficult — we had a lot of skeptics — but we will make it work because the social and economic empowerment of Thari women is the only way to bring Thar out of poverty," Shaikh added.

"We did not expect female candidates to turn up in such large numbers," he confessed.

Sharing further details of the programme, Jahan Ara, an official steering the SECMC programme, said: “A total of 70 women applicants, especially from the low-income group, were interviewed for the job, out of which 30 successful candidates will be inducted into the programme.

"The second phase of the programme has started and around 45 women are scheduled to be screened for the selection of another group of 25-30 women, who will undergo a one-year training program before driving Pakistan’s biggest 60-tonne dump truck."



Employer insulted Muslim real estate agent in UK over 'terrorist hijab'

June 24, 2017

A young Muslim woman in Bury, Manchester was allegedly insulted and humiliated by her employers when she refused to change her black hijab after being told that the garment has “terrorist affiliations”.

The real estate agent, who does not wished to be named, had been working for Harvey Dent for nearly a year when she was informed that as she was moving from the back office “it would be in the best interest of the business for her to change the color of her hijab, due to the supposed terrorist affiliation with the color black”.

When the young women refused the request in a phone call, as she felt that the reasons given were not adequate enough, her male manager brought a bunch of coloured scarfs for her to change into at an office meeting. After the women again declined she says her manager began to turn quite nasty. First he  admonished her for sending a text message to her father and then later on went into a long rant about her not working. When the claimant tried to inform him that she was on her lunch break the manager  said that he did,t care and told her bluntly to “Get the f*** out of here.’’

Humiliated the woman says she left the office and after not hearing back from the firm for a week sent in her letter of resignation.

After passing through this insulting nightmare the women then put her case in front of the Manchester Employment Tribunal which is set to begin a preliminary hearing of it by the 20th of July. In it the women or her lawyers would argue that she was discriminated against on the basis of gender as well as religion and that the firm willfully created an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and offensive environment” for her to work in. If convicted of these charges the Employment Tribunal make Harvey Dean pay “aggravated damages” as well as compensation covering losses of earnings, holiday pay and legal fees.

However according to the women her main interest from the case is not make  financial gain but rather to ensure that the case “serves as a warning to employers that such pressure upon employees is absolutely and categorically unacceptable based upon illogical ideas with no evidence.”

Hate crimes against Muslims are becoming an enduring problem in Western countries with Muslim minorities although rulings by courts and crackdowns by police are increasing penalties for offenders.



Unicef hails special court for sexual crimes against children

June 23, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: United Nations International Children’s Fund (Unicef) Malaysia today welcomed the launching of a special court for sexual crimes against children and the “Permata Room” for the comfort of child witnesses.

Unicef Malaysia representative Marianne Clark-Hattingh, in a statement here, said the launch of the special court was a tangible step towards setting up the systems and structures necessary for protecting the child victims of sexual crimes.

“Unicef is ready to lend our support and expertise to the working committee in order to establish standard operating procedures for handling cases involving child sexual victims,” she said.

Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday inaugurated a special court to handle sexual crimes against children, the first such court in Southeast Asia.

Najib said for a start, the special court at the Palace of Justice would hear cases that took place in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

Meanwhile, the waiting room, named “Permata Room”, was also opened yesterday by the prime minister’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, who is also patron of the Permata programme.

The Permata Room, which is equipped with a television, computers and children’s games, also has a mini library of reading materials suitable for children which were contributed by the Permata Foundation.

Clark-Hattingh said the establishment of the court was also an important step in a series of initiatives needed to ensure that the Malaysian judicial system continues to protect child victims of sexual crimes.

“Additionally, the Malaysian criminal justice system is encouraged to consider additional improvements to court practices for child victims, which include having dedicated judges and prosecutors, clear practice guidelines for them, special procedures for evidence from child victims and witnesses and pretrial ‘directions’ or ‘ground rules’ hearings between judges and counsel,” she said.



Be the best at what you do, DareToInspire charges young Muslim women

24 June 2017

Committed to mentoring youths, especially young Muslim women, Dare to inspire (DTI), an initiative set up to empower, enlighten and elevate young (Muslim) women recently launched its inaugural Mentoring Session.

Theme ‘Empowering the Young Muslim Woman’, the well attended session young women from all walks of life, which held at the Multipurpose Hall, Laroche Leadership Foundation, Gbagada, Lagos, provided a platform for them to observe, interact with and learn from outstanding established women leaders, experienced business people and leading industry experts.

Speakers at the event include the Medical Director/Chief Psychiatrist at Pinnacle Medical Service/Founder Pinnacle Health Radio, Dr. Maymunah Kadiri; Partner and Director of Finance KPMG professional Services, Biola Bada; Founder ARABEL Exclusive Islamic Materials Ltd, Shareefah Andu; CEO, HOME & You Ltd/Interior Designer at Interior Design & Furniture Manufacturing Coy, Feyisola Abiru; Dr. Fatimah Habeebu-Adeyemi, Obstetrics Gynaecologist at Victoria Island Consultancy Hospital/LUTH, and Kafilat Araoye, former General Manager and Group Head, Human Resources, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc.

The Convener, Mrs Bunmi Adebimpe, in her welcome address explained that the reason for setting up the Initiative was to create a platform that will assist young Muslim women to unleash their potentials, break the barriers that have hindered their growth as well as to enhance their skills and competencies and generally to inspire them to develop a positive attitude being the foundation of living a fulfilled and successful life.

She enjoined the young women to learn from the experiences of the speakers to enrich their lives and rediscover themselves for the limitless opportunities ahead.

With the keynote address delivered by Mrs Shareefah Andu, Ms Bada provided tips on how the participants can better manage their finances including how to determine their true net-worth.

Dr Kadiri spoke on how young women can position themselves to take advantage of the emerging opportunities in the country. Mrs. Araoye shared useful lessons on how to build brand and value as Muslim women.

Other highpoint of the event included question and answer sessions, mind games and a three-woman panel discussion to address the topic: ‘Shattering the Stereotypes: How to Find Your Own Voice’.

The panelists, Dr Fatimah Habeebu-Adeyemi; Mrs Feyisola Abiru and Mrs Bimpe Afolabi advocated for the women to be focused and not feel intimidated or limited by any circumstances they may find themselves in.




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