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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 13 Aug 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Cheated Indian Women Workers Still Stranded In Saudi Arabia

 New Age Islam News Bureau

13 Aug 2014

 Joint Team to Protect Saudi Domestic Labour Rights

 Iranian the First Woman to Snare Maths Prize

 189 Young Saudi Women Languish In Care Homes

 Toronto Arts Program for Young Muslim Women Seeks Funds to Survive

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Cheated Indian Women Workers Still Stranded In Saudi Arabia

13 August 2014

A total of 32 Indian women have been awaiting repatriation for months at a shelter house after recruitment agencies back home conned them into thinking they were being hired for jobs other than domestic servants.

Officials have since been unable to track the recruitment agencies that sent them to the Kingdom, sources said, while the sponsors of these women, who live mainly in Riyadh, are demanding compensation for the expenses they incurred getting these maids hired.

Expenses range anywhere between SR16, 000 to SR40, 000.

These women are losing hope of ever going back home since their sponsors are demanding huge sums of amount that they claim they had spent toward bringing these maids to the Kingdom.

Most of these women are in the younger age bracket and come from southern Indian states, while many are well-educated and speak fluent English.

Some are falling ill, while the condition of Satyavati, another maid at the shelter, is deteriorating, according to sources.

Some of these maids had escaped from their employers within a mere ten days to two months of their arrival.

These women were lodged at a shelter house operated by Interior Ministry in Riyadh, but there may be many more at deportation centers in other provinces.

“I was promised a job as a domestic servant with a decent family in Madinah, so I accepted the offer,” said one woman, who requested anonymity.

“I was desperate to earn SR3, 661 for my daughter’s operation, which is why I came to the Kingdom.”

“I haven’t received a single riyal. How, then, should I be liable to pay the entire cost of the recruitment process.”

“I was compelled to run away because I haven’t been paid in five months,” said another inmate.

“I was brought to this shelter house after working in Al-Ahsa for a few months since I have no documents in my possession,” said Khaja Begum from Hyderabad.

A consular team from the Indian Embassy visits these women occasionally, but have been unable to obtain immigration clearance from the Saudi passports office since employers are refusing to allow them out of the country.

According to a report issued by the Labour Ministry, 65,000 domestic servants absconded from their employers last year alone, almost half of whom are women working as housemaids.

Housemaids from Indonesia account for more than half of all domestic servants in the Kingdom, followed by the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia.

Indian housemaids are expected to flood into the Kingdom, however, following recent agreements.

Most maids run away after being overworked, mistreated or made to live in substandard conditions with poor and delayed pay.



Joint Team to Protect Saudi Domestic Labour Rights

13 August 2014

The Interior and Labour ministries have formed a joint action team to develop mechanisms for protecting the rights of employers and domestic workers, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.

A joint meeting was held at the Labour Ministry on Monday addressing the situation on the ground in centres that harbour female domestic workers, as well as claims filed by these workers against their employers or vice versa, said an official at the ministry’s public relations department.

The Kingdom recently signed agreements with six labour-exporting countries to recruit domestic helpers as part of a comprehensive plan to streamline the domestic service sector.

Labour-exporting countries include India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Nepal, which are working closely with the Kingdom to endorse a historic labour cooperation agreement for domestic workers.



Iranian the first woman to snare maths prize

13 Aug 2014

Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani has become the first woman to be awarded the Fields Medal, mathematics' equivalent to the Nobel Prize.

The professor at Stanford University in California was among four Fields Medal recipients at the International Congress of Mathematicians held in Seoul, and the first female among the 56 winners since the prize was established in 1936.

"This is a great honour. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians," Mirzakhani was quoted as saying on Stanford's website.

"I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years," she said.

Mirzakhani was born in Tehran and lived there until she began her doctorate work at Harvard University. She said she dreamed of becoming a writer when she was young, but she pursued her enthusiasm for solving mathematical problems.

"It is fun - it's like solving a puzzle or connecting the dots in a detective case. I felt that this was something I could do, and I wanted to pursue this path," she said.

Mirzakhani was recognised for her work in understanding the symmetry of curved surfaces.

According to Stanford, the work could have an impact on the theoretical physics of how the universe came to exist.

The prizes are awarded every four years. Wednesday's honours were presented by South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

"On behalf of the entire Stanford community, I congratulate Maryam on this incredible recognition, the highest honour in her discipline, the first ever granted to a woman," said Stanford President John Hennessy on the university's website.

The other three Fields Medal winners were Artur Avila of the National Centre for Scientific Research in France and Brazil's National Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics; Manjul Bhargava of Princeton University and Martin Hairer of the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom.



189 young Saudi women languish in care homes

13 August 2014

 RIYADH — At least 189 young Saudi women are currently locked up inside social care homes in various parts of the country, Al-Hayat newspaper reported Tuesday, quoting a statistical report released by the Ministry of Social Affairs.

The report said 83 of these women are in Abha, 46 in Riyadh, 45 in Makkah and 15 in Al-Ahsa.

It said the crimes of these women include unethical behavior, murder, illegitimate pregnancy, prostitution, violence and aggression, among others.

The report said 59 of these women are secondary school graduates and 42 have completed intermediate school education while 27 of them hold university degrees and three diplomas. Twenty-three women are illiterate with no education at all.

The report said 128 women are single, 29 married, 25 divorcees and seven widows.

It added that the social care home in Abha has 59 unmarried women, 14 divorcees and five widows while the home in Makkah hosts 31 unmarried and six divorced women.

The report said the social care home in Riyadh has 30 single women, three married, 11 divorced and two widows.

Social care homes receive Saudi women below 30 years who are sentenced to imprisonment or are awaiting trial. They are housed in special sections of the homes.

According to the ministry's rules, the detainees can complete their elementary, intermediate or secondary education while in detention. Female teachers from the Ministry of Education give them lessons inside the care homes.

The ministry also provides them with special social and psychological counseling to correct their behavior and turn them into productive members of the community.

The women are also given vocational training to qualify them for various jobs when they are released, the report said.



Toronto Arts Program for Young Muslim Women Seeks Funds to Survive

Aug 11, 2014

by Suzanne Kanso

Outburst, an innovative project which provides space for young Muslim women to explore issues of identity, faith, violence, Islamophobia, and empowerment through free arts programming is crowdfunding in order to continue nurturing marginalized voices.

Back in 2011, Outburst began as a program at Toronto’s Barbra Schlifer Clinic, which offers counselling for women who have experienced violence. For counsellor Farrah Khan, who spearheaded the initiative, art is therapy. “Art is a form of healing,” Ms. Khan says, so by reaching out to these young Muslim women, “we get to heal, connect and tell our stories.”

The program also aims to be inclusive of a diversity of young Muslim women’s voices and judgement is not made on how Muslim a young woman is. If a young woman self-identifies as Muslim either religiously, culturally, or politically, she’s welcome. The project also actively engages young women from across the ethno-cultural diversity of Toronto’s Muslim communities.

Outburst has run educational workshops for these youth to explore everything from poetry, photography, and alternative media. At the same time, participants gain knowledge about violence against women, its root causes, and how to speak out against them.

Outburst receives a grant from Youth Arts PitchThe project has also provided these young women opportunities to get involved with research on issues facing their communities. Project organizers believe that strengthening the voices of young Muslim Canadian women is critical for not only their personal success but also in order for the broader society to gain a better understanding of a group which is often misrepresented in the media. “Let’s face it, where do you come across research symposiums where young Muslim women are the experts on issues that affect their lives,” Shameela Zaman, Outburst’s project coordinator, asked.

Outburst strives to fight Islamophobia by engaging young Muslim women in public education initiatives for agencies offering services to survivors of violence, such as abused women’s shelters. Farrah sees addressing Islamophobia in social services as key to being able to support Muslim women facing patriarchal violence in their communities. “What’s been frustrating about Islamophobia is that you see it play out again and again in how [Muslim] women access services or don’t want to access services,” she stated. This includes services such as counselling for survivors of physical and/or sexual violence. According to Farrah, Muslim women sometimes avoid seeking much needed counselling because they assume, sometimes rightly, that counsellors will judge their culture or just not understand their reality. “They thought people just wouldn’t get,” Farrah stated.

One on-going challenge Farrah identifies among service providers is their perception of religion and personal freedom. Imagine if a counsellor told their Muslim client “it’s okay now that you left your family, you can take off your hijab,” Farrah stated. Outburst’s public education work has helped service providers understand the complexity of Muslim women’s choices in relation to faith, identity, and dress.

But Outburst also provides a safer space for young Muslim women to speak out about issues like violence and gender inequality within Muslim communities without feeling like they are airing the community’s dirty laundry. By demonstrating that there are various ways to be Muslim simply by bringing together a diversity of Muslim young women with artists who themselves represent the diversity of Muslim women’s self-expression, the project aims to “challenge the narrative” that involves policing Muslim women’s choices in terms of clothing, interests, and worldviews. Challenging the Islamophobic notion that Muslim women who choose to veil are oppressed but also confronting ideas within Muslim communities that Muslim women who choose not to veil are immodest is an example of how Outburst hopes to provide a safer space for young Muslim women to feel comfortable just being themselves.

What’s important for Farrah and participants in Outburst is “to create safer spaces for Muslim women to connect to a vision of a world that we want to create, [because] … in so many spaces we feel pushed, pulled, persecuted and punished for who we are or who we are assumed to be.”

To contribute to Outburst’s crowd-funding campaign visit their page on Indiegogo.