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Malawi Empowers Children to Fight Sexual Abuse


New Age Islam News Bureau

20 Nov 2016

Photo: No means no. Ujamaa, a small Kenyan charity, is teaching Malawi's schoolkids to fight perpetrators of sexual abuse [Hannah McNeish/Al Jazeera]


 I Have Nothing Else But India: Taslima Nasrin

 Pakistan: Financial Independence of Women Urged

 Muslim Women Group Empowers IDPs with N3.5m

 New Daughters of Eve Book Explores 'Shared Heritage' Of Hijab Head Covering

 Muslim Youth Learn To Tell Their Own Stories at Media Literacy Workshop

 Indian-American Woman’s Car Attacked after Miscreants Mistook Her Bandana for Hijab

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Malawi Empowers Children to Fight Sexual Abuse

19 APRIL 2016

Chimoya, Malawi -  Small fists fly towards throats, knees jerk from under pinafore dress hems up to groin level and two-pronged fingers shoot for the eyes as high-pitched shrieks of "No!" echo through the playground at Makankhula primary school.

"We use the knee to hit the groin of the assailant, to disable him, and then we run," explained Alinafe Kambalane, who teaches self-defence to girls in 46 schools across Malawi's Dedza district.

"They have to shout 'No!' and they have to run away," Kambalane added, beaming  with pride as her little warriors spring to life.

It is peculiar to watch the faces of otherwise shyly smiling girls harden into scowls or grimaces - eyes sharpening or widening in defiance - as they picture imaginary aggressors.

But in this small slice of southern Africa, where six exasperated child protection workers glumly described the rape of minors as "a social norm", "normal", "the norm" or "just culture", putting the power to stop it in children's hands is a necessary reality.

Empowering children to fight sexual abuse

In little over a year, and with only 50 instructors, small Kenyan charity Ujamaa has trained almost 25,000 Malawian children to fight the sexual abuse that is commonly committed by those they most trust.

"Most girls are raped or sexually assaulted by people they know," according to Martin Ndirangu, who runs Ujamaa's Malawi project. "Boyfriends or partners, family members and teachers being among [the] highest perpetrators."

Ujamaa's six-week programme - split into weekly, two-hourly sessions - covers self-awareness, self-respect and defence skills.

Being told that the unwanted fondles and forced sex acts constitute abuse comes as a revelation to many children.

Fazani Alikangel, 14, said the catcalls from married men which started two years ago on her way to school were "traumatising". Like the groping boys at school, she didn't know how to stop them.

Tiyamike Thole, 17, ended years of abuse thanks to what she learned at Ujamaa. One day, she simply poked one of the group of boys waiting to grab her on the walk home from school in the eye.

"The others said, 'What happened to you? How did you become this fierce?'"

The boys tried another day and she poked one again. Since then they have backed off.

Godfrey Ateftali, 17, said Ujamaa skills helped him to stop a rape on his way home from school.

"I used my voice and said, 'Hey! Police are coming!' and the boy left the girl and ran," Ateftali said.

Backed by the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, the Ujamaa network, which started in some of the Kenyan capital Nairobi's toughest slums, now extends to more than 250 schools across seven districts.

At the end of the course, Ujamaa gives pupils details of referral services, which include an anonymous rape survivors' group.

Child rape

Preliminary findings from Ujamaa's Malawi survey of 11,460 girls under 18 show that on average, one in five has been raped. The figure - currently under validation by John Hopkins University in the US - in two Malawian districts is one in three.

Many girls tell Ujamaa instructors the "shocking stories" that they are too afraid or ashamed of telling friends or family, Kambalane said.

"They live with the trauma inside them for years," and when the confessions come tumbling out, Kambalane cannot show pity, in case they clam up again.

Despite the stigma surrounding rape, there is little anonymity elsewhere.

Local newspapers are filled with sex crime reports that give the names of victims or their parents, schools and villages. Reports about teachers impregnating students, police officers raping girls in custody - including those who might be placed there to escape sexual abuse at home - paedophile magistrates, and molesting stepfathers are widespread.

Yet child rape  in the form of incest or by community members can be deemed acceptable in the name of "cultural practices".

In some areas, fathers are known to sleep with their daughters if their wives refuse sex or fall sick, or to determine how much to charge for her "lobola", or dowry.

Parents might marry off their young daughters to older men without the girls' consent under a practice called "kupumbira", in exchange for a tokens such as a hoe or to pay debts.

Men justify the rape of innocents - especially virgins - to "cleanse" sicknesses, including HIV, clear curses, or bring fortune, and of widows to make sure the death of their husbands doesn't extend to other men.

As for fighting back, "there have been people opposing this as it's not respecting your elders," said Brendan Ross, who sits on Ujamaa's board.

Rape: Malawi's most reported crime

Malawi's female magistrates and police recently voiced concern about the spike in cases of rape, which last year became Malawi's most reported crime.

The increase  in reports could be a positive sign of parents wanting to put abusers behind bars rather than keep the matter quiet.

Unicef is trying to encourage more people to report abuses by bringing social workers, police, medics and a justice officer under one roof in One-Stop Centres.

At the centre in Malawi's second largest city Blantyre, 90 percent of abuse cases are sexual.

Speaking above the screams of a small girl in reception, social worker Winnie Salama said that she often has to send rape victims back home, even when she knows that it is not physically and psychologically safe.

"When you just start doing it, you just want to take everyone home with you," including the infants, she said.

But there is nowhere for any of them to go, no matter how small.

"It's been years now and I don't see anyone doing anything about it," Salama said.

Dorothy, 14, came to the centre with her mother to provide the necessary medical evidence and police report about the elderly man who raped her on her way to the family's outside toilet.

But the police didn't come and the man hasn't been arrested.

"I feel so bad when I see him around [the neighbourhood]. I want him to be arrested as what he did to me affected me deeply," she said.

Killed cases

"The most vulnerable age group is aged 9 to 13," said the centre's police officer Emmanuel Kalumbu, who only has the power to refer cases to the local police station and not to make arrests.

He sees the few child rapists that police hear about, arrest and have evidence to convict, walk free from trials or receive a sentence of a few months.

"They need to be punished and given stiffer penance so that we can say, 'OK, we are trying to protect our children'," Kalumbu said.

"There's no link between what is happening in the court and the One Stop Centre," said child justice officer Godfrey Chavula.

Last year, he saw "twenty-something cases a month" at the Blanytre centre. Only 45 made it to court.

Corruption and chronic delays often kill cases, as witnesses drop out or families opt to accept bribes from rapists rather than pay them to officials.

The uncle of Elisa speaks in strained tones as he talks about his niece, an HIV-positive orphan and the victim of two rapists by age 12.

The first, "gave her 50 kwacha (US 10 cents) and told her not to tell anyone or he would kill her with a knife," he said.

The second, a neighbour who attends the local church, repeatedly lured Elisa to his home and raped her. Once, he gave her 20 kwacha. The next time it was seven macadamia nuts. They still see him at church.

Both men have children. Neither man used a condom, and the family used the centre's services to gather the necessary medical and police evidence.

With pleading eyes, Elisa's uncle asks how he can keep her safe from sexual predators. "It's killing me," he said.

Through a two-way mirror, centre staff watched the latest victim, aged seven, being ushered into a brightly-coloured and well-stocked playroom. She looked utterly lost, staring into the distance and frowning as a sibling of another victim babbled and clonked toys together.

Prevention key to curing 'global rape epidemic'

Ujamaa believes that only prevention can cure a "global rape epidemic" that in poor countries such as Malawi, equates to hundreds of thousands of victims a year.

"There's no system in any country that could deal with that caseload," said Ross, adding that per pupil, Ujamaa costs "the equivalent of a vaccination".

The classes are often a gift that keeps on giving.

Thole has already taught her "proud mother" and step-sister what she learned so that they can also benefit. In Kenya, half the female pupils had used their skills to prevent sexual assault within a year, and rape incidences in Ujamaa schools fell by almost half.

"I feel a lot more powerful now, even in my studies, and that I can say, 'No'," said Alikangel, the 14-year-old pupil.

When asked to demonstrate, she adopted the eye poke pose.



I have nothing else but India: Taslima Nasrin

PTI | Nov 20, 2016

NEW DELHI: Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin says she had to intentionally defy all bans and threats to return to India despite being forced to leave as she has "nothing else but India", which she hopes will encourage free thought one day.

She also wishes that neighbouring countries learn from India's example and be inspired on knowing the meaning of freedom of speech.

She expresses these thoughts in her memoir "Exile", translated from the original Bengali version "Nirbasan" by Maharghya Chakraborty and published by Penguin Random House.

In fact, she wrote "Exile" nearly five years ago.

In the book, Nasrin mentions the series of events during her seven-month struggle "leading to my ouster from West Bengal, then Rajasthan and eventually India, my house arrest, and the anxious days I had had to spend in the government safe house, beset by a scheming array of bureaucrats and ministers desperate to see me gone".

She says she was then like a lone, exiled, dissenting voice against the entire state machinery with only her wits and determination at her disposal.

"Despite being forced to leave, I have eventually cocked a snook at all the prohibitions and bans and threats, and come back to India. I have come because I have nothing else but India, and because I hope India will one day truly encourage free thought.

"I wish to live in this country and be allowed the freedom to express my opinions even if they are contrary to others. I wish for the neighbouring nations to learn from India's example and be inspired, they who yet do not know the meaning of freedom of speech," she writes.

Nasrin, however, says it is not that she had a completely stress-free life in India as old threats have continued and taken on new forms.



Pakistan: Financial independence of women urged

November 20th, 2016

QUETTA: Acting Governor and Speaker of Balochistan Assembly Raheela Hameed Khan Durrani has emphasised the need for taking practical measures for financial independence of women, adding that women could protect their rights by making themselves financially independent and strong.

Addressing a ceremony held under the aegis of Aurat Foundation, an NGO, here on Saturday, she said: “We all will have to play our due role to ensure complete financial independence for women.”

She stressed the need to launch campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of women’s rights.

She said that goals of progress and prosperity could not be achieved until women were made part of the mainstream to take part in the development of the country.

She said that society would have to end taboos which put hurdles in participation of women in mainstream life.

“The stakeholders will have to create space for women to take part in economic, trade and business activities,” she said.

Ms Durrani said that she would continue her role for legislation on protection of rights of women.

Later, she distributed certificates and prizes among participants of the ceremony.



Muslim women group empowers IDPs with N3.5m

NOVEMBER 20, 2016

Sani said that the fund was used in organising various skills acquisition trainings and the purchase of sewing, shoes and bag making machines for the IDPs in Durumi and Kuchigoro camps

A Coalition of Nigeria Muslim Women under the auspices of Women in Da’awah, has spent N3.5 million to empower Internally Displaced Persons in FCT with various skills.

The Vice Ameera of the group, Ramatu Sani, announced this at the graduation of 184 IDPs from its skills acquisition Programme on Saturday in Abuja.

Sani said that the fund was used in organising various skills acquisition trainings and the purchase of sewing, shoes and bag making machines for the IDPs in Durumi and Kuchigoro camps.

According to her, out of the N3.5 million, the Women in Da’awah contributed N2.5 million, while Media Trust donated the sum of N1 million respectively.

Sani listed other skills acquisition training offered to the IDPs to include cellphone repairs, bead making, soap and pomade making among others.

Sani said that it was the responsibility of every believer to assist people who were affected by one form of disaster or the other because government alone could not do it.

Sani said: “We are here to touch the lives of people, who are in dire need of assistance, especially women who are displaced.

“Once you empower a woman, you have empowered the society.”

She appealed to well-spirited Nigerians to support the IDPs to better their lot with a view to ensure their reintegration back to their destination.

The vice ameera urged the beneficiaries to utilise the skill gained to be self-reliant and pass the knowledge to other.

Speaking on behalf of the beneficiaries, Sarah Cosmas, an IDP from Biu Local Government Area in Borno State, who learned shoe and bag making, expressed appreciation to the organisation for the kind gesture.

Cosmas also expressed readiness to go back to her home if adequately supported by the Federal Government.

She said: “We are very interested to go back home



New Daughters of Eve book explores 'shared heritage' of hijab head covering


A PROJECT embracing the use of head covering as a “shared heritage” has culminated with an illustrated book which is due to be launched later this month.

The Daughters of Eve project led by Nuzhat Ali, was funded through the National Lottery and brought together women from the Abrahamic faiths to share their stories and experiences of head coverings and other aspects of life from their respective faith groups.

Bana Gora, chief executive of Bradford Muslim Women’s Council said the project helped to challenge the perception that head covering was unique to Islam.

She said: “The hijab, as a part of the Muslim faith, has been heavily politicised over recent years, not only in the UK, but across Europe.

“Questions around whether the wearing of religious symbols in public should be allowed and the banning of the hijab in certain places led us at the Muslim Women’s Council to think about how we could reclaim the narrative from the media and the politicians.

“It was also important to us that the perception that head covering was solely an Islamic tradition was challenged and the shared heritage of head coverings was celebrated in order to help people understand and question their attitudes towards it.

“In order to achieve this we brought together women from the Judaic, Christian and Muslim faith backgrounds.

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“We feel that the women not only reclaimed the narrative, but have taken ownership and redefined it.

“It’s not just a piece of cloth.”

Ms Gora said the project was an enjoyable voyage of discovery with the reasons for women covering their hair far more diverse and thought-out that first understood.

“For much of the time it is personal choice. I choose not to wear one because it doesn’t suit me. Even my mother tells me so,” she added.

“Although the conversations and interviews recorded in this book started off about head coverings, it was perhaps inevitable that discussions would go on to the shared struggles of women within their own faith and within wider society.

“MWC’s aim was to enable women to realise the shared common heritage that is not currently commonly realised: the public perception of head coverings is the Islamic Hijab, we wanted other faiths to learn of their own heritage of head coverings as well as the common shared heritage, and through their learning of the common heritage, develop better interfaith and community relations.

“Head covering and face covering may signal a particular identity of the wearer.

“Such an identity may be based on religious affiliation, but also different types of resistance: to sexual objectification, secular values, or religious and ethnic discrimination.

“Importantly, the discussed literature highlights the fact that very often, women actively choose to cover.

“This is not surprising when we consider that in many historical contexts, head covering was seen as a sign of high status, whether in economic or spiritual sense.”

The book Daughters of Eve is priced at £15.99 and is available through the Muslim Women’s Council.

It is hoped that the book will also be available in book stores at a later stage.

The launch will take place at the National Media Museum on Tuesday, November 29, from 5pm.

Contact MWC for reservation details.



Muslim youth learn to tell their own stories at media literacy workshop

Nov 19, 2016

Quebec judge had no legal basis for asking woman to remove hijab, higher court says

Developer vows to go ahead with Muslim housing project despite Quebec premier's opposition

A group of Muslim youth spent their Saturday at a workshop learning about Islamophobia and the media.

The event, organized by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, is meant to help young Muslims push back against negative stereotypes.

"I feel like there is a really one-dimensional perception of Muslims: they're all really conservative, they're very insular, they keep to themselves." said Rudayna Bahubeshi.

A Muslim herself, Bahubeshi works with the InSpirit Foundation, one of the groups that partnered in hosting the workshop.

She describes herself as "a non-visibly Muslim woman," meaning that since she isn't veiled, her religion isn't immediately identifiable at first glance.

"I don't necessarily come into spaces and receive those same reactions as perhaps the veiled women in my family do, and that's also really troubling because we have very similar politics," she said.

Shazlin Rahman, who also works with InSpirit, says that teaching young people about stereotypes and how Muslims are portrayed in the media is an important part of the national conversation.

"We are always put in a position of defending ourselves," she said. "The diversity is really vast in Canada and I'm a part of that diversity."

Death threats for speaking out

Haroun Bouazzi, co-president of Muslim and Arabs for a Secular Quebec, was invited to speak at the workshop.

He's been vocal in the media for several years addressing issues of Islamophobia, but speaking out isn't without its own set of risks.

Developer vows to go ahead with Montreal-area Muslim housing project despite opposition

Bouazzi says he receives thousands of hateful messages online, including death threats.

Haroun Bouazzi is the co-president of Muslim and Arabs for a Secular Quebec. (CBC)

"I went three times to the police for very specific and clear death threats like, you know, 'a bullet between your eyes' or people who would like to stone me to death or hang me."

"And in all these cases, so far, no one has been convicted for any crime."

Reacting to Trump's election

Many say they're concerned Donald Trump's victory in the recent U.S. presidential election could re-kindle identity politics north of the border.

"Our politics are echoing a lot of the same hate and the same troubling ideas, whether it's Kelly Leitch's discussions of wanting to one-on-one interview all immigrants, to ensure everyone has Canadian values," said Bahubeshi.

Kellie Leitch takes a few pages from Donald Trump's playbook

Nadia Naqvi is a high school science teacher and second generation Canadian. She says she chooses to stay positive, and embody the change she wants to see:

"I use my tools as a mom, as a teacher, as a productive member of society who wants to move forward and continue to live in Canada that is my home — not make it my home, it is my home."



Indian-American woman’s car attacked after miscreants mistook her bandana for hijab

November 20, 2016

A 41-year-old Indian-American woman has been racially attacked in the US state of California after a bandana on her head was mistaken as a hijab, the latest in a series of assaults following Donald Trump’s win. Nicki Pancholy was on her ‘peace walk’ when on return she found her car window shattered, her purse gone and a note calling her a “Hijab wearing b****,” and asking her to “get the f— out.”

Pancholy is not Muslim, nor does she wear a hijab. She is a Rajasthani and has been battling Lupus, which caused hair loss, and put the bandanna on her head as protection from the sun, NBC news reported. “When I saw it, I was in shock. That someone would feel so much hate to do this. I realise that this is the climate after this election. But I didn’t realise someone would be so ignorant and in so much pain to cause so much harm,” she said.

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“I was wearing a bandana over my head, not because I am religious, but because I am protecting my scalp from the sun because I have lupus, an inflammatory autoimmune disease that can damage tissues and organs, she added. She had been hiking in Mission Peak (just north of San Jose) every morning for 65 days straight before this happened, it said.

“I didn’t know who was watching me. I would like for the violence to end with me,” she added. “Many of our neighbours, friends, and family fear the current climate in our country, and we must do our best to make sure everyone is respected,” Raj Salwan, Freemont City Councillor-elect said.

Police are investigating the note as a hate crime and auto burglary as her windows were smashed and someone stole her purse and checkbook, it said. Pancholy is just one of a growing number of people across the country, even in the Democratic stronghold of the Bay Area, to fall victim to hateful harassment since Trump was elected president.

Last week, a Muslim student’s hijab was allegedly ripped off and her hair pulled down by a classmate at a school in Minnesota. The Southern Poverty Law Center has noted a marked increase in hateful acts across the country since Trump has been elected. As of Monday, the hate-tracking group has found 437 reports of hateful intimidation or harassment since November 9.




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