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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 17 Apr 2022, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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In A First AIMWPLB Hosts “Roza Iftar” For Muslim Women At A Lucknow Mosque

New Age Islam News Bureau

18 April 2022

• The Female Soccer Players Challenging France’s Hijab Ban

• Egypt Celebrates The Graduation Of 1st Female Drivers Of Subway Trains

• Outrage As Footage Shows French Police Assaulting 2 Women Wearing Hijab

• Dozens Of Mothers Of Prisoners In Gaza Denied Access To Sons

• Kerala: Christian Woman In Relationship With Muslim Man Asked to Appear in High Court

• Princess Reema, Al-Qasabi Highlight Crown Prince’s Remarkable Role In Elevating Status Of Saudi Women

• Presidency Provides 3 Million Litters Of Zamzam Water To Female Visitors Of Grand Mosque

• Bilquis Edhi — Pakistan’s ‘Mother Of Orphans’ Who Saved Thousands Of Babies From Infanticide

• Egypt, USAID Discuss New Programmes For Women’s Empowerment

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL:   https://www.newageislam.com/islam-women-feminism/aimwplb-roza-iftar-lucknow-mosque/d/126817

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In A First AIMWPLB Hosts “Roza Iftar” For Muslim Women At A Lucknow Mosque

 

All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board president Shaista Amber organised the Roza Iftar at Ambar mosque (Sourced)

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Apr 17, 2022

In a first in the state capital, president, All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board, Shaista Amber organised a ‘Roza Iftar’ for the women of Rising Beyond The Ceiling (RBTC), Uttar Pradesh Chapter, at Ambar Masjid here on Saturday.

RBTC shines a spotlight on Muslim women’s contributions to nation-building in a variety of ways and professions. It aims to make Muslim women’s stories more visible, provide positive role models for future generations and boost young women’s confidence and ambition in all spheres.

On the occasion, Muslim women also offered “Namaz” in the mosque. A separate wing is attached to the mosque premises for women to pray there. The Iftar get together was attended by RBTC, UP, coordinator Sabiha Ahmad and media coordinator Mohsina Mirza. Other eminent members who graced the occasion included Arjumand Zaidi, Lubna and Maryam Khan.

Sabiha Ahmad said she was extremely happy to see the arrangement made for Muslim women to offer prayers in the mosque. “They no longer need to go to some temporary place to offer prayers,” she added.

Speaking to media, Mohsina Mirza said, “All of us have prayed for peace after the ‘Namaz’. We have all prayed that our children continue to get their due and there is an atmosphere of happiness everywhere in our country.”

Source: Hindustan Times

https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/lucknow-news/up-roza-iftar-hosted-for-muslim-women-at-a-lucknow-mosque-101650217273247.html

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The Female Soccer Players Challenging France’s Hijab Ban

 

Les Hijabeuses is an informal group of hijab-wearing women who play soccer together in an effort to draw attention to a French policy they say drives Muslim women out of the game.

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By Constant Méheut

April 18, 2022

SARCELLES, France — Every time Mama Diakité heads to soccer game, her stomach is in knots.

It happened again on a recent Saturday afternoon in Sarcelles, a northern suburb of Paris. Her amateur team had come to face the local club, and Diakité, a 23-year-old Muslim midfielder, feared she would not be allowed to play in her hijab.

This time, the referee let her in. “It worked,” she said at the end of the game, leaning against the fence bordering the field, her smiling face wrapped in a black Nike head scarf.

But Diakité had only fallen through the cracks.

For years, France’s soccer federation has banned players participating in competitions from wearing conspicuous religious symbols such as hijabs, a rule it contends is in keeping with the organization’s strict secular values. Although the ban is loosely enforced at the amateur level, it has hung over Muslim women’s players for years, shattering their hopes of professional careers and driving some away from the game altogether.

In an ever more multicultural France, where women’s soccer is booming, the ban has also sparked a growing backlash. At the forefront of the fight is Les Hijabeuses, a group of young hijab-wearing soccer players from different teams who have joined forces to campaign against what they describe as a discriminatory rule that excludes Muslim women from sports.

Their activism has touched a nerve in France, reviving heated debates on the integration of Muslims in a country with a tortured relationship with Islam, and highlighting the struggle of French sports authorities to reconcile their defense of strict secular values with growing calls for greater representation on the field.

“What we want is to be accepted as we are, to implement these grand slogans of diversity, inclusiveness,” said Founé Diawara, the president of Les Hijabeuses, which has 80 members. “Our only desire is to play soccer.”

The Hijabeuses collective was created in 2020 with the help of researchers and community organizers in an attempt to solve a paradox: Although French laws and FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, allow sportswomen to play in hijabs, France’s soccer federation prohibits it, arguing that it would break with the principle of religious neutrality on the field.

Supporters of the ban say hijabs portend an Islamist radicalization taking over sports. But the personal stories of Hijabeuses members emphasize how soccer has been synonymous with emancipation — and how the ban continues to feel like a step backward.

Diakité began playing soccer at age 12, initially hiding it from her parents, who saw soccer as a boys’ sport. “I wanted to be a professional soccer player,” she said, calling it “a dream.”

Jean-Claude Njehoya, her current coach, said that “when she was younger, she had a lot of skills” that could have propelled her to the highest level. But “from the moment” she understood the hijab ban would impact her, he said, “she didn’t really push herself further.”

Diakité said she decided on her own to wear the hijab in 2018 — and to give up her dream. She now plays for a third-division club and plans to open a driving school. “No regret,” she said. “Either I’m accepted as I am, or I’m not. And that’s it.”

Karthoum Dembele, a 19-year-old midfielder who wears a nose ring, also said she had to confront her mother to be allowed to play. She quickly joined a sports-intensive program in middle school and participated in club tryouts. But it wasn’t until she learned about the ban, four years ago, that she realized she may no longer be allowed to compete.

“I had managed to make my mother give in and I’m told the federation won’t let me play,” Dembele said. “I told myself: What a joke!”

Other members of the group recalled episodes when referees barred them from the field, prompting some, feeling humiliated, to quit soccer and turn to sports where hijabs are allowed or tolerated, like handball or futsal.

Throughout last year, Les Hijabeuses lobbied the French soccer federation to overturn the ban. They sent letters, met with officials and even staged a protest at the federation’s headquarters — to no avail. The federation declined to comment for this article.

Paradoxically, it was Les Hijabeuses’ staunchest opponents who finally put them in the spotlight.

In January, a group of conservative senators tried to enshrine the soccer federation’s hijab ban in law, arguing that hijabs threatened to spread radical Islam in sports clubs. The move reflected a lingering malaise in France regarding the Muslim veil, which regularly stirs controversy. In 2019, a French store dropped a plan to sell a hijab designed for runners after a barrage of criticism.

Energized by the senators’ efforts, Les Hijabeuses waged an intense lobbying campaign against the amendment. Making the most of their strong social media presence — the group has nearly 30,000 followers on Instagram — they launched a petition that gathered more than 70,000 signatures; rallied dozens of sport celebrities to their cause; and organized games before the Senate building and with professional athletes.

Vikash Dhorasoo, a former France midfielder who attended a game, said the ban left him dumbfounded. “I just don’t get it,” he said. “It’s the Muslims who are targeted here.”

Stéphane Piednoir, the senator behind the amendment, denied the accusation that the legislation was aimed at Muslims specifically, saying its focus was all conspicuous religious signs. But he acknowledged that the amendment had been motivated by the wearing of the Muslim veil, which he called “a propaganda vehicle” for political Islam and a form of “visual proselytizing.” (Piednoir also has condemned the display of the Catholic tattoos of the P.S.G. star Neymar as “unfortunate” and wondered if the religious ban should extend to them.)

The amendment was eventually rejected by the government’s majority in parliament, although not without frictions. The Paris police banned a protest organized by Les Hijabeuses, and the French sports minister, who said the law allows hijab-wearing women to play, clashed with government colleagues opposing the head scarf.

The Hijabeuses’ fight may not be a popular one in France, where six in 10 people support banning hijabs in the street, according to a recent survey by the polling firm CSA. Marine Le Pen, the far-right presidential candidate who will face President Emmanuel Macron in a runoff vote on April 24 — with a shot at a final victory — has said that if elected, she will ban the Muslim veil in public spaces.

But, on the soccer field, everyone seems to agree that hijabs should be allowed.

“Nobody minds if they play with it,” said Rana Kenar, 17, a Sarcelles player who had come to watch her team face Diakité’s club on a bitterly cold February evening.

Kenar was sitting in the bleachers with about 20 fellow players. All said they saw the ban as a form of discrimination, noting that, at the amateur level, the ban was loosely enforced.

Even the referee of the game in Sarcelles, who had let Diakité play, seemed at odds with the ban. “I looked the other away,” he said, declining to give his name for fear of repercussions.

Pierre Samsonoff, the former deputy head of the soccer federation’s amateur branch, said the issue would inevitably come up again in the coming years, with the development of women’s soccer and the hosting of the 2024 Olympics in Paris, which will feature veiled athletes from Muslim countries.

Samsonoff, who initially defended banning the hijab, said he had since softened his stance, acknowledging the policy could end up ostracizing Muslim players. “The issue is whether we are not creating worse consequences by deciding to ban it on the fields than by deciding to allow it,” he said.

Piednoir, the senator, said the players were ostracizing themselves. But he acknowledged never having spoken with any hijab-wearing athletes to hear their motivations, comparing the situation to “firefighters” being asked to go “listen to pyromaniacs.”

Dembele, who manages the Hijabeuses’ social media accounts, said she was often struck by the violence of online comments and the fierce political opposition.

“We hold on,” she said. “It’s not just for us, it’s also for the young girls who tomorrow will be able to dream of playing for France, for P.S.G.”

Constant Méheut reports from France. He joined the Paris bureau in January 2020. @ConstantMeheut

Source: New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/18/sports/soccer/france-hijab-ban-soccer.html

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Egypt celebrates the graduation of 1st female drivers of subway trains

April 18, 2022

The company operating the third subway line RATP Dev Mobility Cairo celebrated the graduation of the first batch of female subway train drivers to work on the third green line, where the training took place in cooperation with the Transport Ministry and the Administration of National Authority for Tunnels (NAT).

Essam Wali, head of NAT, explained that training female drivers will contribute to adding more effective Egyptian cadres to one of the most important national and vital projects related to facilitating the lives of citizens, and will contribute to providing more real opportunities for young people to work.

He added that cooperation with RATP Dev Mobility Cairo achieves the objectives of the authority and the Transport Ministry in general, due to its global expertise in the transport and communications sector to the Egyptian market, through its role in operating and managing this vital facility, which depends on highly trained cadres, where more than 90 percent of them are appointed from Local cadres trained at the highest level.

For his part, Wadii Bouchiha, CEO of RATP Dev Mobility Cairo, said that the women who passed the training and tests for the position of “train driver” underwent high-level training and tests to measure their suitability to lead the metro and ways to control it.

Bouchiha said that this step is a historical precedent that has not occurred in Egypt before. He added that the company is working to develop the metro operating system and pay attention to raising the level of maintenance, in addition to adding more technology features within metro stations to provide the best services to metro users, and transfer these experiences to Egyptian workers in the metro sector.

Special trainings for train conductor applicants are based on dealing with different train technology, and they are trained on how to deal with different scenarios that the driver may encounter while driving the train. The trainees are subjected to practical training on simulators.

Source: Egypt Independent

https://www.egyptindependent.com/egypt-celebrates-the-graduation-of-1st-female-drivers-of-subway-trains/

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Outrage as footage shows French police assaulting 2 women wearing hijab

Alaattin Dogru

17.04.2022

Footage that showed the French police assaulting two Muslim women wearing headscarf has triggered anger across social media.

In the footage recorded on April 14, the French police use disproportionate force against the two women with hijab in the middle of the street in the Asnieres-sur-Seine city, beating one of them and trying to push the other to the ground.

As the police punched one of them in her head, the woman recording the video footage is heard saying: "Hey, I'm recording, let her go. He slapped (the woman) and hit her."

Later, the woman who recorded the incident got out of her car and went to the police to say that she had recorded it.

"Yes, I hit her, I have the authority to do this," said the police officer.

Islamophobic attitude

While harsh police treatment sparked outrage on social media, users called the French police "Islamophobic."

The statement attached to the footage on social media claimed that the police officers were stuck in the traffic and turned on the siren to move forward.

Meantime, the women with headscarves, who had the right of way, tried to cross the road, but the police officers got out of the car and did not allow them to pass and beat them.

The Paris Police Department said on social media that the police patrol team turned on the siren to respond to a vehicle breaking the rules, and despite the urgency, the two women tried to cross the road, "disrespecting the police and angering them."

The situation spun out of control as the crowd was involved in, and the police would file a complaint against the two women, it added.

Source: Anadolu Agency

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/outrage-as-footage-shows-french-police-assaulting-2-women-wearing-hijab/2565983

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Dozens of mothers of prisoners in Gaza denied access to sons

HAZEM BALOUSHA

April 18, 2022

GAZA CITY: As she gets older, the Palestinian Fayza Abu Al-Qumboz becomes more afraid of dying before she can once more embrace her son, Majed, who has been in Israeli prisons for 16 years.

On April 17, when Palestinians commemorate Prisoners’ Day Abu al-Qambuz, 73, along with dozens of mothers of prisoners in Gaza who have been denied access to their children in Israeli prisons for nearly 6 years, feels more grief.

The last time Abu Al-Qambuz visited her son, Majed, in Nafha prison was in 2016.

Israeli forces arrested Majed, his two brothers, his brother-in-law and about 40 members of his family and neighbors during their invasion of Al-Shojaeya neighborhood, east of Gaza City, in August 2006. They released most of them at different times, but sentenced Majed to 19 years in prison, on charges of belonging to the military wing of Hamas.

Majed’s mother said that she was able to visit him for the first time in 2012 after the so-called “dignity strike” that the prisoners held. She went in accompanied by his daughter Zina and his son Youssef, and recalls with pain that visit: “Majed was shocked and in disbelief that Youssef, who had not yet been born at the time of his arrest, was brought to the prison at the age of six, while his feelings were more emotional towards Zina, whom he had last seen as a baby.”

Although human rights institutions have obtained a judicial decision to re-allow visits to prisoners after they were stopped during the pandemic, the decision excluded about 70 Palestinian prisoners belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

For many years, Majed’s mother participated in weekly activities in front of the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza in solidarity with the prisoners, but illness and the inability to walk have prevented her from participating recently. “I am afraid to die before seeing Majed free,” she said.

Various institutions and organizations organize special events on Prisoners’ Day in support of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons.

Israel prevents visits to Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners in an attempt to pressure Hamas to release four Israelis it has been holding.

Najat Al-Agha, longs for the embrace of her son Diaa, who has been in Israeli prisons for 30 years.

Diaa, now aged 46, belongs to the Fatah movement led by President Mahmoud Abbas. He was supposed to be released in March 2014, under an agreement that paved the way for the resumption of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, but Israel did not abide by it.

Despite the past three decades, which have exhausted her health by moving between visiting prisons and participating in activities in support of prisoners, Al-Agha, 71, is still clinging to the hope of freedom for her son.

“The occupation forces arrested Diaa, who was 16 years old, and sentenced him to life imprisonment, and since then I miss the true joy of any occasion. Even food no longer has any flavor due to his long absence behind bars,” she said.

She was one of the few mothers who were able to visit their sons in prisons last month. “Israel prevented me from visiting him for five years, and although I was sick on the day scheduled for the visit, I told myself I will visit him even if I had to crawl. My wish is to kiss and cuddle him before I die.”

About 5,000 Palestinian prisoners are held in the Israel’s prisons, including about 220 prisoners from Gaza, most of who were arrested before the signing of the Oslo agreement between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel in 1993.
Source: Arab News

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2065196/middle-east

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Kerala: Christian Woman In Relationship With Muslim Man Asked to Appear in High Court

April 18, 2022

New Delhi: A Christian woman who is in an interfaith relationship with a Muslim man has been asked to appear before the Kerala high court in connection with a habeas corpus petition filed by the woman’s father.

The woman, Joisna Mary Joseph, is in a relationship with Shejin, a member of the DYFI, the youth wing of the ruling CPI(M). While her parents have filed a police complaint, the couple has said they are in a consenting relationship.

According to The News Minute, Joseph has been asked to appear before a division bench of the Kerala HC on April 19.

Joseph, who is a nurse in Saudi Arabia, had come to Kerala to get married to a man chosen by her family. But she and Shejin decided to get married by exchanging garlands on April 9. On April 12, they submitted an application to get their marriage registered under the Special Marriages Act. They will have to wait for 30 days before the marriage can be registered.

Joseph’s family has filed a missing person complaint, even as the couple has denied the family’s allegations.

On April 12, Joseph and Shejin appeared before a court in Thamarassery, which allowed them to live together, according to The News Minute.

Shejin clarified that the marriage is a natural culmination of their love affair and the controversy was ‘unnecessary.’

Their relationship had snowballed into a major political controversy after a district CPI(M) leader accused Shejin of “love jihad”, the conspiracy theory which claims that Muslim women marry women of other faiths to convert them to Islam.

A section of the Christian community in Thiruvambady, including nuns, staged demonstrations against the couple’s relationship.

CPI(M) district secretariat member George M. Thomas supported the allegations of ‘love jihad’. After the party’s district leadership intervened, Thomas told the media that his words were “conveniently twisted” by communal forces to suit their version of inter-religious marriage as ‘love jihad’. However, the marriage has hurt the sentiments of the Christian community, the Left leader claimed.

Denouncing Thomas’ remarks, P. Mohanan, CPI(M) Kozhikode district secretary, said on April 13 that his party has never referred to inter-religious marriages as ‘love jihad’.

“Love Jihad is a term used by the RSS and Sangh forces to attack religious minorities. The CPI(M) has already made its stand clear on the topic. Marriage is the choice of individuals and the legal system of the country permits adults to get married according to their choice,” he said.

He said Thomas’ controversial remark supporting the ‘love jihad’ charges should be seen as a slip of the tongue and the former MLA was also convinced of the mistake now.

Mohanan also said the DYFI leader could have informed the party leadership about the marriage plan and avoided unwanted controversy.

The CPI(M) district leadership is organising an explanation meeting at Kodencherry this evening as the controversy over the wedding refused to die down despite the couple denying ‘love jihad’ charges.

Source: The Wire

https://thewire.in/law/kerala-christian-woman-in-relationship-with-muslim-man-aksed-to-appear-in-high-court

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Princess Reema, Al-Qasabi highlight Crown Prince’s remarkable role in elevating status of Saudi women

April 17, 2022

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States Princess Reema Bint Bandar and Minister of Commerce Dr. Majed Al-Qasabi highlighted the remarkable role of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman in elevating the status and prestige of Saudi women within a short span of time.

They noted that the decision to allow women to drive and give them more participation in commercial activities are the two major areas that were handled effectively by the Crown Prince in this regard.

Attending a program on MBC television channel, Princess Reema said that Saudi Arabia has made giant strides with regard to participation of women in trade, and enacting laws related to women’s empowerment in the Kingdom.

She pointed out that Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman had asked about the actual reason for the low status of Saudi Arabia in the World Bank report, despite all the great efforts made by the Kingdom to upgrade the status.

Princess Reema elaborated that a team headed by Al-Qasabi made great efforts and worked hard to raise the status of women and that has already been achieved within a short period of time.

Referring to the role of Crown Prince in this regard, she said: “The Crown Prince spoke to all of them to find out, ‘Where is the failure?’, and asked them: Have we really changed women’s lives in a radical and institutional way? Have we seen this change and is it sufficient?

“The Crown Prince explained to them that the efforts to empower women had not to be made for the sake of the World Bank, but rather to further improve the standard of living of Saudi women.”

She highlighted the remarkable achievements that have been made in this regard under the directive of the Crown Prince.

For his part, Al-Qasabi recalled that after his appointment as minister of social affairs in 2015, his daughter asked him when will a woman drive a car, claiming that it is one of her rights.

He replied that women’s driving is important, but there are more important issues to be addressed, and I understand that this will happen within seven to 10 years.

Al-Qasabi explained that after a while, the Crown Prince was asked when will a woman be allowed to drive? The Crown Prince replied then that women would start driving in the coming year.

He also noted that the infrastructure must be prepared, such as teaching women to drive and preparing driving schools, in addition to other related procedures and regulations.

The Crown Prince also drew attention to the fact that women were not present in the public security sector and their presence limited to only certain office jobs.

Al-Qasabi indicated that he did not expect the goal would be achieved in such a short period of time but it was accomplished.

After the decision to allow women to drive, the Crown Prince met them and was assured that no problems would occur, stating that the community had accepted it successfully as the issue now was more social than religious.

Source: Saudi Gazette

https://www.saudigazette.com.sa/article/619475/SAUDI-ARABIA/Princess-Reema-Al-Qasabi-highlight-Crown-Princes-remarkable-role-in-elevating-status-of-Saudi-women

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Presidency Provides 3 Million Litters Of Zamzam Water To Female Visitors Of Grand Mosque

April 17, 2022

MAKKAH — The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, represented by the Women Affairs Agency at the Grand Mosque, has provided around 3 million liters of Zamzam water to female visitors of the Grand Mosque in praying areas allocated for women during the first quarter of the holy month of Ramadan.

Assistant President for women development affairs Dr. Al-Anoud Al-Abboud said that the number of bottles distributed daily in those praying areas reached 9,320 in addition to the water pots, containers and mobile cylinders.

The administration seeks to provide special mechanism and tools related to Zamzam water at women praying areas in the Grand Mosque and affiliated facilities by 70% during the month, providing containers at 34 women praying areas in the Grand Mosque.

It follows up on providing 20 carts for new cups at women praying areas throughout the month based on the status and sanctity of the Zamzam Well and its impacts on Muslims, which represents a high concern in securing water delivery for female worshippers according to the easiest and best ways. — SPA

Source: Saudi Gazette

https://saudigazette.com.sa/article/619474/SAUDI-ARABIA/Presidency-provides-3-million-liters-of-Zamzam-water-to-female-visitors-of-Grand-Mosque

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Bilquis Edhi — Pakistan’s ‘mother of orphans’ who saved thousands of babies from infanticide

PIA KRISHNANKUTTY

17 April, 2022

New Delhi: Nurse, humanitarian and philanthropist Bilquis Bano Edhi, a towering figure in the field of social welfare in Pakistan and often referred to as the ‘mother of orphans’, passed away at 74 in Karachi’s Aga Khan Hospital Friday due to health complications.

Following her death, Pakistan’s National Assembly passed a resolution recommending that she posthumously receive the country’s highest civilian award, the Nishan-e-Pakistan, for her “unparalleled services to the country”.

During her lifetime, Bilquis was conferred the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service in 1986, which she received along with her husband and philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi. She was also recognised with the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice in 2015.

Bilquis served as co-chair of a Karachi-based non-profit, Edhi Foundation, the world’s largest volunteer ambulance network which also oversees homeless shelters and rehabilitation centres among other services. It was founded by her husband, who died in 2016.

One of the hallmarks of Bilquis’ work was the ‘jhoola’ (cradle) project — the placing of metal cribs across Pakistan in an attempt to fight infanticide, specifically female infanticide.

On Saturday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also conveyed his condolences. “My sincere condolences on the passing of Bilquis Edhi. Her lifelong dedication to humanitarian work touched the lives of people across the globe. People in India too remember her fondly. May her soul rest in peace,” he tweeted.

In 2015, Bilquis had received praise from PM Modi after helping Geeta — a differently-abled woman who had accidentally crossed over to Pakistan a decade ago — return to India. At the time, Modi had announced that India would donate Rs 1 crore as a token of appreciation to the Edhi Foundation. However, Bilquis’ husband Abdul reportedly declined the PM’s offer, with a spokesperson of the foundation saying that the humanitarian did not accept aid from governments or institutions.

Born in Gujarat, she migrated to Pakistan

Bilquis was born in Bantwa, located in Gujarat’s Junagadh, on 14 August, 1947 — the eve of India’s independence. She, along with her family, however, moved to Pakistan during Partition.

With a strong passion to serve humanity, she joined the Edhi Foundation as a teenager, according to a Dawn report. A nurse by profession, she worked in the foundation’s maternity clinic.

The Edhi Foundation had been founded in 1951 by Bilquis’ soon-to-be husband Abdul Sattar Edhi, who was nearly twenty years her senior. One of the only social welfare programmes in Pakistan at a point in time, it served as a critical haven for people during sectarian riots in Karachi between 1947 and 2007, wrote British author and journalist Jan Goodwin in her book ‘Price of Honor: Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World’.

In her book, Goodwin explained: “Edhi’s two hundred and fifty ambulances are the only ones that will brave the explosive violence and heavy gunfire”. This was also around the time that General Pervez Musharraf had begun his crackdown on militants in Karachi, she further wrote.

‘Jhoola’ project

In 1965, Abdul and Bilquis got married. This was after seven women had consecutively turned down Abdul’s offers of marriage, wrote journalist Peter Osborne in a 2011 report for The Telegraph.

Bilquis eventually took over the reins of the Edhi Foundation’s maternity clinics and philanthropic projects related to women. Abdul created an affiliate organisation to the foundation specifically for such issues, and named it after Bilquis. After Abdul’s death in 2016, Bilquis took charge of all of the foundation’s operations.

One of Bilquis’ most recognised works is the ‘jhoola’ (cradle) project.

The foundation placed ‘jhoolas’ (cradles) outside Edhi homes and centres across the country to counter infanticide, especially female infanticide, as well as neglect and abandonment of babies, especially girls, in Pakistan.

Some of the cradles carried signs that read ‘Do not kill the innocent baby. Do not make the first sin worse’, wrote Goodwin. Babies left in these cribs would eventually be taken into the foundation’s custody and care, after which adoption arrangements would be made.

This service reportedly saved over 42,000 unwanted babies in Pakistan.

However, the book ‘The Dynamics of Conflict and Peace in Contemporary South Asia’ (2020), edited by Japanese professors Minoru Mio, Kazuya Nakamizo and Tatsuro Fujikura, explained why the project received pushback from religious clerics when it was first instituted.

Some clerics understood it as a service that “was encouraging people to bear children out of wedlock”. However, after the project proved to be of valuable social service, people became comfortable coming forward to hand over babies themselves to officials at Edhi centres, wrote the authors.

It is therefore no surprise that Bilquis is often referred to as the ‘mother of orphans’.

Last January, Bilquis was named ‘Person of the Decade’ along with human rights rapporteur of the United Nations Professor Yanghee Lee and the US ethicist Stephen Soldz.

Impact Hallmarks, an international body that conducted the process of conferring the award, described Bilquis, Lee and Soldz as having “stretched and segmented the top of the decade’s impact hallmarks and the opinion poll’s top ‘triarchy’ as well”.

Source: The Print

https://theprint.in/world/bilquis-edhi-pakistans-mother-of-orphans-who-saved-thousands-of-babies-from-infanticide/919650/

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Egypt, USAID discuss new programmes for women’s empowerment

April 18, 2022

Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat met with Leslie Reid —Director of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) mission in Egypt — as part of discussions to approve the Economic and Social Empowerment Programme for Women between the government and USAID.

The programme aims to enhance cooperation in the field of women’s empowerment and revitalise their role in achieving development as per the country’s development vision and the 2030 National Strategy for Women Empowerment.

Al-Mashat said that empowering women is a key focus in many strategies for joint action with multilateral and bilateral development partners, as the government is endeavouring to enhance the role of women in society and empower them economically and socially, improving their access to economic opportunities, and changing the traditional image of the role played by women, which will be reflected in promoting inclusive and sustainable growth.

The minister explained that the economic and social empowerment programme for women that will be implemented aims to improve the work environment for women in the private sector, increase the percentage of financial inclusion, reduce unhealthy practices towards women, stimulate high-growth sectors to provide greater job opportunities for women, and support equality between the sexes, thus reducing the gap in the labour market.

Al-Mashat emphasised the value of the strategic relationship between the government and USAID, noting that Egypt signed grant agreements worth $125m with the organisation last November, including $17m for the basic education sector, $31m for the Egyptian-American Higher Education Initiative, $13m for improving health outcomes, and $5m for agricultural and rural development businesses.

She continued that these agreements aim to open horizons for women’s participation in various fields to enhance the inclusive economy, increase growth rates, and achieve sustainable development.

For her part, Reid said that USAID appreciates its partnership with the Egyptian government in various areas of development through ongoing programmes and projects, stressing that empowering women is one of the main goals being worked on between the two sides.

It is worth noting that during the past two years, Egyptian-American relations witnessed several developments, as in 2020, seven grant agreements were signed with USAID worth $112m, in addition to seven new grant agreements that were signed in November 2021 worth $125m in various fields such as education, higher education, science and technology, agriculture, health, economic governance, trade, and investment.

USAID’s historical cooperation portfolio in Egypt has recorded more than $30bn since 1978 in various sectors, most notably health, population, and education, while the portfolio of projects signed since 2014 has reached about $1bn.

Source: Daily News Egypt

https://dailynewsegypt.com/2022/04/18/egypt-usaid-discuss-new-programmes-for-womens-empowerment/

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