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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 6 Oct 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Over 100,000 Sex Slaves in Turkey, Half Are Children: NGO

New Age Islam News Bureau

6 Oct 2013

Jisr al-Zarqa women in the classroom Many never made it through elementary school. Photo by Rami Chelouch


 British Imams Willing To Marry Girls of 14 in Secret

 The Pakistani Refuge Rescuing UK Girls from Forced Marriage

 Child Marriages in Malaysia on the Rise

 Queen Elizabeth invites Malala to Buckingham Palace: Report

 Women to women, Canadians reach out to Afghanistan at Victoria event

 Empowering Pakistan women: ‘Cheap start-up loans will cut poverty’

 Restaurant Staffer 'Hides' Bacon in Muslim Woman's Straw

 In An Impoverished Israeli Arab Town, Women Are Learning the ABCs of Leadership

 Quotas and Women in Egyptian Politics

 A Girl from Paradise': Documentary on Malala's Story Set to Release in Canada

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Over 100,000 Sex Slaves in Turkey, Half Are Children: NGO

Oct 6, 2013

There are over 100,000 women working as sex slaves in Turkey, of which half are children, a non-governmental organization has revealed in an extensive report on prostitution in the country.

Up to 3,000 prostitutes work in brothels located in 55 of the 81 provinces of Turkey and 15,000 other registered prostitutes work with an official document, according to the report prepared by Şefkat-Der, a civil association founded to help marginalized segments of society.

The most shocking aspect of the report, however, is that the number of women selling sex on the streets has climbed to over 100,000, half of whom are children. It stated that many underage girls from impoverished families, especially in eastern and southeastern provinces, had become victims of the "prostitution mafia."

Vulnerable children who have been the victim of abuse inside their own family, orphans, and mentally challenged children are also often prey for organized crime rings.

The report added that women up to the age of 60 are working in brothels.

Şefkat-Der attracted media attention last spring when it filed a petition to Parliament to ask for permission to open a brothel employing males, in protest at brothels where women are employed.

For Şefkat-Der and women's associations, the fact that there are more brothels in Turkey than women's shelters has long been a cause of criticism of both the state and local government.



British Imams Willing To Marry Girls of 14 in Secret

6 October 2013

Religious leaders appeared willing to agree to perform underage marriages at some mosques across the UK, an ITV investigation has discovered.

Two undercover reporters called 56 mosques for Exposure to ask whether they would perform the marriage of a 14-year-old girl.

Two-thirds of those contacted refused to perform the marriage, and many of them made clear they found the request abhorrent. But 18 of the respondents spoken to agreed.

An undercover reporter called the Al Quba Mosque and Shahporan Islamic centre, in Manchester, posing as a single mother who wanted to have an Islamic marriage, known as a Nikah, for her 14-year-old daughter.

The Imam at this mainstream mosque, with a congregation of one thousand, told her "that's not going to be a problem".

The Al Quba Mosque and Shahporan Islamic centre and the Imam were approached for comment but have not responded to the programme.

Around 400 schoolchildren – mainly girls from South Asian communities - are forced into marriage every year in the UK, according to official Government figures.

The vast majority of forced marriages of British children happen abroad, according to official statistics. But the Exposure investigation has been told by experts in the field that children as young as 10 are being forced into marriage in the UK.

"Meera" said she was married in the UK when she was 15-years-old.

She told the programme she found the experience so devastating that she has not been able to tell her friends or family, and she remains trapped in her forced marriage, 40 years on.

Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the CPS North West, told Exposure that "forced marriage is probably the last form of slavery in the UK". He said:

The law in this country is very straight forward, that you can’t marry until you’re 16, also that you can’t engage in sexual activity consensually until you are the age of 16.



The Pakistani Refuge Rescuing UK Girls from Forced Marriage

By Jerry Sullivan

6 October 2013

Almost half of forced marriages involving Britons come from the Pakistani community. Amid calls from charities for the government to do more to keep track of how many children are forced into marriage during school holidays, a shelter in Pakistan is providing refuge for some of those who have managed to escape.

At a secret address in Islamabad surrounded by security, Khalina Salimi runs a refuge that has become a lifeline to girls and boys who have escaped forced marriage in Pakistan.

Ms Salimi is the director of Sach (Struggle for Change) - and she and her team of caseworkers deal with the rescue, rehabilitation and repatriation of girls and boys from around the world.

In the last year they have helped approximately 40 children and young people - 21 of whom came from the UK.

Recent estimates suggest more than 5,000 people from the UK are forced into marriage every year and more than a third of those affected are aged under 16.

Some of the calls for help that Sach receives come from embassies and consulates that need assistance. Others come from the children themselves.

"No one case is the same," says Ms Salimi. "Sometimes we might get a call from them and if they are able we ask them to go to a shop and then we will go and get them," she says.

"Sometimes we are alerted to a wedding which is being held in public. We would not take a car there because we might be noticed, so we take public transport to the event, and then we grab the girl and run, run, run."

'Solitary confinement'

Ms Salimi, a sociologist, set up Sach in 1994. Initially the victims were too scared to come and seek their help - now they receive thousands of calls annually.

Nineteen-year-old "Nazia" is typical of the young people helped by Sach. She was brought to Pakistan from the UK by her parents, ostensibly for a holiday. But when she arrived, they asked her to marry her cousin.

When she refused, Ms Salimi said, "She was kept in solitary confinement for a couple of days without food." When she still refused to marry him, they gave her an overdose of pills, so that it would appear that she had taken her own life.

However, her boyfriend in the UK had grown suspicious when he had not heard from her - and contacted the police. They liaised with the authorities in Pakistan and she was brought to Sach.

The living room at Sach is bright and airy - furnished to make new residents feel at home. Connected to the living room is a kitchen, which Ms Salimi says can also be a therapeutic tool for the girls and boys, who are often devastated by their experiences.

"If they like cooking then they can do that to make themselves a bit happier. They can cook for themselves and give themselves some structure and feel busy."

In the bedrooms, the beds are neatly made with a teddy-bear nestled between two pillows, ready to comfort the next resident.

"They don't know how long it is going to be that they will have to stay here, so we try and make it as homely as we can," says Ms Salimi.

Many of the young people will be traumatised from their experiences - and Sach uses psychologists, physiotherapists and doctors to help determine what the young person might need.

However, her boyfriend in the UK had grown suspicious when he had not heard from her - and contacted the police. They liaised with the authorities in Pakistan and she was brought to Sach.

The living room at Sach is bright and airy - furnished to make new residents feel at home. Connected to the living room is a kitchen, which Ms Salimi says can also be a therapeutic tool for the girls and boys, who are often devastated by their experiences.

"If they like cooking then they can do that to make themselves a bit happier. They can cook for themselves and give themselves some structure and feel busy."

In the bedrooms, the beds are neatly made with a teddy-bear nestled between two pillows, ready to comfort the next resident.

"They don't know how long it is going to be that they will have to stay here, so we try and make it as homely as we can," says Ms Salimi.

Many of the young people will be traumatised from their experiences - and Sach uses psychologists, physiotherapists and doctors to help determine what the young person might need.

Ms Salimi says that the safety of the girls or boys, as well as the staff is paramount. Sometimes it is necessary to change their appearance.

"If they look modern, then we might give them a makeover to make them look more traditional. If they are more traditional with the Hijab, we try to take them to the parlour and change their hairstyle, change their shoes, everything.

"It is very, very dangerous for them escaping from home and there is always a danger of being identified."

Other than makeovers they have to be careful when travelling to the airport. When they arrive back in the UK, the next stage of their uncertain future will begin.

But those - like Nazia who is now back in the UK - are the lucky ones. The organisation has been involved in investigations around the murder of teenagers who were being forced into marriage.


The UK's Forced Marriage Unit and charities working in the field say that although Pakistan may have the biggest number of forced marriages it is by no means the only country. This is an issue that crosses every border, religion, race, age and class.

Teenagers like Sara - not her real name - are all too aware of this. She was meant to be married off to a man twice her age in India over the summer.

"In exchange for [a] dowry he was going to give me land, a house, gold and all the wedding expenses," she said.

Sara says it made her feel like an object - "like being sold or exchanged".

She managed to escape to a refuge in the UK before the wedding.

School holidays

Aneeta Prem from the Freedom Charity, which helps raise awareness of forced marriage in schools, says it is vital that the government keep accurate numbers of children who fail to return after school holidays.

"At the moment the records are really sketchy - last year we asked for the figures and we were told by the education authority that no figures were being kept nationally," she says.

"They need to be collated nationally for us to know the scale of the problem and what we are really looking at."



Child Marriages in Malaysia on the Rise


6 October 2013

PETALING JAYA: In Malaysia, girls under the age of 16 cannot legally drive or buy cigarettes. They can’t even watch certain movies or go clubbing. But they can marry – lawfully at that.

And many are increasingly doing so, according to statistics from the Malaysian Shariah Judiciary Depart­ment (JKSM).

In 2012, there were around 1,165 applications for marriage in which one party, usually the bride, is younger than the legal marrying age. The Shariah Courts approved 1,022 of them. This is an increase from the 2011 record, when some 900 marriages involving at least one Muslim minor were approved.

As of May this year, JKSM received 600 marriage applications, of which 446 had been approved.

In Malaysia, the legal minimum marriage age is 18, but it is 16 for Muslim girls. Those aged below 16 can marry with the consent of the Shariah Court.

Malaysia, along with over 90 other countries, adopted a United Nations resolution to end child, early or forced marriages, at the Human Rights Council last week.

However, JKSM’s data shows that child marriage is very much rampant in Malaysia.

Sisters in Islam said it was shocking that child marriage still existed in the country because of loopholes in the marriage laws and a continuing belief that girls should be married off once they reached puberty.

“We stand by the UN findings that child marriage is harmful to children and girls, in particular, are vulnerable to abuse, health problems, difficulty in accessing education and loss of childhood and adolescence,” said SIS legal officer Kartina Mohd Sobri.

Given the significant number, the Government needed to review the provisions in secular, customary and Shariah law that currently permitted girls under the age of 18 to marry, said United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Malaysia programme adviser Saira Sha­meem.

“We need to develop alternatives and more progressive options that will allow our young to achieve the fullest extent of their potentials.

“There is also a risk to the physical health of girls who marry and conceive too early.

“As a result, we have under aged girls in Malaysia today who die of maternal health complications during delivery,” she said.

“This is unacceptable, and efforts must be taken to provide genuine alternatives and life-saving choices to these young people.”

According to Islamic Development Malaysia Department (Jakim) director-general Datuk Haji Othman Mus­tapha, getting married at an early age “is not forbidden in Islam but the marrying couple have to be mature enough to understand that with matrimony comes great responsibility”.

“The couple has to know if they are prepared for married life and if they are equipped with the right knowledge, especially what it means to be a husband or wife in Islam. Most importantly, they need to understand the real reason why they are marrying,” he said.

“If it is just to satisfy their sexual desires, they need to know that it will not lead to a happy and lasting union.”

He pointed out that Section 8 of the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act stated that the minimum legal age for Muslim boys is 18, and a Muslim girl is 16.

“Those younger are allowed to marry with the written permission from the Syariah Court after both sets of parents put in an application to formalise their nuptials,” he pointed out.

“Marriage and starting a family is a big responsibility, one that is not to be taken lightly,” Othman said, conceding that the question of whether young people today were able to handle marriage at an early age did arise.

“But the Shariah Court will do a thorough assessment of their readiness,” he said, adding that the Shariah Court would also do a check on the parents before giving its approval.

Chief Shariah Judge and Malaysian Judiciary Department director-general Tan Sri Ibrahim Lembut declined to comment.



Queen Elizabeth invites Malala to Buckingham Palace: Report

By Web Desk / Reuters

 October 6, 2013

LONDON: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has invited Malala Yousafzai to Buckingham Palace, The Sunday Times reported.

The invitation comes amidst speculation that Malala will be named the youngest winner of the Nobel peace prize this week.

The report stated that the Queen was impressed by Malala’s bravery and inquired about her health from Pakistan High Commissioner in the United Kingdom.

Malala was shot by the Taliban in Swat for campaigning for girls’ schooling.

She was recently awarded the RAW in WAR Anna Politkovskaya Award and is also among the favourites for the Nobel Peace Prize, which will be announced on October 11.


Malala and a Japanese author who writes about alienation and a fractured modern world are tipped as Nobel Prize winners ahead of the annual awards.

She is a favourite for the peace prize among experts and betting agencies.

“I have Malala Yousafzai on top,” Kristian Berg Harpviken, director of Oslo-based peace research institute PRIO, told reporters. “The EU (European Union) got the prize last year and the EU prize was poorly understood and fundamentally questioned in many quarters.”

One obstacle could be her age. Tawakkol Karman, a Yemeni human rights activist and youngest winner to date, was 32 when she received the prize and some experts argue the prize would overburden such a young woman.

Malala is living in London and still facing Taliban threats.



Women to women, Canadians reach out to Afghanistan at Victoria event

October 6, 2013

About 200 women from across the country are expected to gather at the Delta Ocean Pointe Hotel in Victoria on Friday and Saturday to discuss ways to support women in Afghanistan.

The Victoria 2013 Symposium of the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan) will feature about a dozen speakers, including Sally Armstrong, a member of the Order of Canada, journalist, human rights activist, and author of a number of books on the struggles of Afghan women.

There are about 25 members of the Victoria chapter, said Amanda Eyolfson.

“We fundraise for general education and books and libraries in Afghanistan,” Eyolfson said.

There are about 1,000 members in 13 chapters across Canada and 100 of those are expected to attend the symposium. Another 100 seats have been reserved by members of the public.

The keynote speaker is Lauryn Oates, the organization’s projects director, whose focus is on international development, women’s rights and education in conflict zones.

“We’re working on behalf of women and girls in Afghanistan,” Oates said.

Many of the members are in Afghanistan helping to give girls and women there a better life through a dozen education projects, she said.

The conditions there are “astronomically better” than they were a decade ago, Oates said.

“There’s been a lot of change in urban areas, especially,” she said.

“Women have rejoined public life. Girls’ schools have reopened, with 3.5 million girls in kindergarten to Grade 12.”

There’s still a long way to go since more than half Afghan girls are not enrolled in school, she said.

“Violence against women is still very common here and there’s still a lot of resistance [to change] in government and in families,” Oates said.

The violence most often comes from within families and stems from a historic power balance where males have more power than women, Eyolfson said.

“We do teacher training, we run schools, we support an orphanage, we have literacy classes for adult women and out-of-school girls,” Oates said.

The message the organization wants to send is the importance of standing by the women and girls of Afghanistan, she said.

“I think most of the time, people get exposed to the violence and the war and the really grim side of the news, and they don’t hear about all the progress that’s been made,” Oates said.

Many are worried about what will happen when international forces withdraw in 2014.

“We’re at the midnight hour, a critical time of the intervention and all of these gains are at risk if the international community turns its back on the country,” she said.



Empowering Pakistan women: ‘Cheap start-up loans will cut poverty’

October 6, 2013

LAHORE: Empowering women and youths to start their own businesses would bring down both poverty and unemployment, and this is what the Punjab government is trying to do by offering cheap loans, said Finance Minister Mian Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman on Saturday.

Addressing a reception here at Javed Park, the minister said that the loans would help women and youths start small business and cottage industries. Rehman said that the chief minister was determined to improve public healthcare and so the Health Department budget had been raised and Rs7.5 billion had been allocated for free treatment and medicine at government hospitals.



Restaurant Staffer 'Hides' Bacon in Muslim Woman's Straw

6 October 2013

A Muslim woman says bacon was planted in the straw of her iced tea by restaurant staff after she sent back a salad containing bacon bits.

Nicole Queen, 32, was dining at a TGI Fridays restaurant in Texas and wearing a headscarf when the incident occurred.

"We sent my friend's salad back because it had bacon, didn’t make a big deal and the server fixed it. He was tense as he served us and didn’t dare smile or show a personality," she said in a Facebook post.

"[A]t the end of our lunch a diff waitress finished our check. She asked if I would like a to-go cup of ice tea. I said sure and she presented me with a foam cup and straw already in it...

"I got in the car and took off the top wrap and took a sip, instead of tea I got a mouth of BACON!"

Horrified, the woman returned to the store to confront staff.

"I took both my kids out of the car, loaded them in the double stroller and marched back in the building with my cup and the bacon on top of the lid.

"I asked for the manager and told him what happened and his reply was just deny deny deny. Oh I don’t think anyone did that on purpose... Really? So someone accidentally stuck bacon into the straw and stuck in my cup and placed the wrapper back on top, for the girl in the scarf?"

Queen, who is a Muslim convert married to a Jordanian national, told local radio the incident made her feel like a minority for the first time in her life.

"Whether [you're] Muslim, Christian, or Jewish don’t ever just accept something like this and say nothing," she said. "They put bacon in the wrong girl's straw.”

The restaurant chain has launched an investigation into the incident.



In an impoverished Israeli Arab town, women are learning the ABCs of leadership

6 October 2013

Every Wednesday afternoon, a group of women from the town of Jisr al-Zarqa, located on the Mediterranean coast near Caesarea, meet, and, with eyes gleaming, dare to dream together of a better future. These women − among them Nadia Najar, Heifa Jourban, Libia Amash, Kfiya Amash and Munira Trukman − are members of the local women’s leadership group, and their dream is both for women in general and also for their neighbors in this town, one of the poorest, most deprived and neglected places in Israel. But above all, they dream for themselves.

A few weeks ago, the group and their moderator, Huneida Asaf, a social worker and feminist activist, met to discuss the municipal elections to be held across the country October 22. Asaf encouraged them to talk about the psychological obstacles that deter Arab women from entering politics and contesting for public positions. An ancillary theme was the personal price the women pay when they try to challenge the social, political and economic power relations in their society. Nevertheless, Asaf found that there were some present who do dream of careers in politics.

The women were surprised and delighted to learn that MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) is running for the Nazareth mayoralty and agreed that she stands a good chance of being elected. But when asked whether they thought there were any Jisr al-Zarqa women who are, for example, capable of running and fulfilling the position of local council head, they laughed in embarrassment. Despite the skepticism, however, they all agreed that it would be a good idea.

“The men take control, they want their power to be intensified through politics,” one participant said, adding, “If a woman were elected, she would look after the interests of all the women.” Another participant promised that if there were two equally good candidates, a man and a woman, she would back the woman.

The leadership program in Jisr was established two years ago, after a similar project that was created three years beforehand in the nearby town of Fureidis. Both endeavors are an outgrowth of the establishment, in 1989, of the Israeli Movement for Equal Representation of Women (which goes by the acronym SHIN), in protest of the overall exclusion of women from political and public leadership positions, according to the organization’s website. Among other things, the movement, founded by social anthropologist Dr. Esther Hertzog, assisted Yael German in her successful bid to become mayor of Herzliya in 1999. In 2008, Hertzog joined forces with Ibtisam Mahameed, a feminist and social activist from Fureidis, and, with the aid of a grant from the British-based Clark Foundation, embarked on a women’s empowerment project in the town.

Following a basic course in feminist awareness, the women of Fureidis asked for instruction that would train them for careers in baking, sewing and glass painting, as well as English lessons. A few eventually set up small businesses, while others found jobs or enrolled in academic studies. There was also a political aspect to the Fureidis initiative, Hertzog explains today: In the previous municipal elections, in 2008, candidates there sought the women’s support, and Mahameed herself won a place on the local council.

The project was then expanded to encompass Jisr al-Zarqa, and despite initial suspiciousness and reservations on the part of some women, according to Hertzog, they became a cohesive group. “A vibe of lively activity, on behalf of the community and women, too, was felt throughout the town, and the local council also cooperated,” she notes.

Jisr was not selected by chance: The choice, Hertzog recalls, was made in part because of its proximity to the wealthy community of Caesarea, whose residents built a wall to set their town off from the Arab one. “It is sickening to know that Jisr is so debased and ostracized. It is a situation that calls for change,” she asserts.

Despite all the good will and efforts on behalf of the members of the Jisr group, it turned out that the major obstacle to self-improvement was the shame felt by the women themselves. Furthermore, Hertzog notes, “the men didn’t like the idea of the women going to study.” She and her colleagues decided not to engage in frontal battles. “Already in Fureidis the approach was that we do not take the offensive. In the beginning, we did not talk about women’s leadership, but looked for neutral terminology.”

Astonishingly, many of the women in Jisr turned out to be illiterate. These women, in their thirties or forties, were born long after the state’s establishment and entered school after the enactment of the state’s compulsory-education law. However, many of them spent little, if any, time in elementary school. About 70 of the women in town, out of about 12,000, are currently being taught reading and writing in Arabic − the second such group in Jisr to acquire literacy.

Cafe for women

Raja Jamil Aman, a 37-year-old Jisr native who did not complete elementary school, says she had long wanted to learn how to read, but was never given the opportunity. Her daughter, the youngest of her four children, who is now in elementary school, accompanies her mother to evening classes in Arabic. “Since I started to learn Arabic,” Aman says, “the children have become closer to me. I help them with whatever I can, and they read together with me. I feel that they are now much prouder of me.”

Her husband at first found it difficult to accept the idea that his wife would return to school, but she was adamant, and her persistence paid off. “My husband promised me that after we were married I would be able to take driving lessons, but that was soon forgotten,” Aman relates. “I still want to learn how to drive, but he has not yet agreed. Now he thinks that it’s good that I am learning in school. After I learn how to read in Arabic, I want to learn Hebrew and English, too.”

Forty-three-year-old Aisha Jourban, now attending Arabic and Hebrew classes twice a week, shows me an old photo of children in first grade, sitting in rows next to the teacher.

“This is me,” she says, pointing to a girl with a serious expression on her face. “I am angry here. This is the only grade I completed in school. My mother had 12 children, and now she says I didn’t want to go to school. That is not true − I loved school. It used to be that when we received a letter in the mail, I cried. My husband would read the letter and I had to ask him to read it to me. Until these courses began. They changed my life ... Now I rely on myself.”

Jourban can now read and write in Arabic and Hebrew, and is proud of being able to help her daughter with her homework in Hebrew. Her ambition is to become a teacher, or maybe to open a cafe for women: “People here say that is wrong, that women should not go to cafes. Why not? Our town has to progress. I am also taking driving lessons. Nothing will stop me.”

Huneida Asaf, the Jisr group’s moderator, who lives in the western Galilee village of Mi’ilya and has a master’s degree in gender studies, steers the discussion gently but firmly in certain directions.

“The process here,” she notes, “is above all one of developing critical thought − [about] why the women are where they are and how they feel about their place in the society. This has to come from a personal place, from personal experiences. We start by creating a cohesive group, and from there it develops into doing and changing. It’s even harder for the women of Jisr, because this is a very poor community, with large families.”

The transformation in local public opinion that has come about in the two years since the leadership project began in Jisr was evident at the ceremony for the first graduating class. Some of the husbands who attended had initially objected to the whole undertaking and had even tried to create obstacles, Hertzog says. She agrees with the observation that the widows and single women in the group enjoy a larger degree of freedom and, in the absence of husbands who might hamper them, find it easier to seek and discover ways to fulfill their potential.

A case in point is Munira Trukman. Wearing gray tights, with unruly − and uncovered − hair and light makeup, she looked like an alien sister from another planet among the other women at the ceremony, who were covered from head to foot in heavy dresses and hijabs. Trukman, a single woman and a painter, happily adopted the image of the outsider who is allowed to say whatever she pleases, including what other women would not dare say out loud. But Trukman is also the first to acknowledge that the role she has undertaken is complex. “In Jisr, it is easier to walk about with your head covered,” she observes.

According to her, the dire economic situation of most local families has serious consequences for women’s education. “Most of the women work as cleaners, and their children are unable to stay in school,” she explains. “Some of the women did not go to school, because their parents wanted them to stay home and look after their younger siblings so that they [the parents] could work. So the women ended up without an education. No one asks what we want. We have always been deprived, because otherwise, our men would be kept from growing.”

Noted Wadfa Amash, coordinator of the women’s program in town, which has won the support of the council head: “From early on in our life we get used to the fact that the men are the ones who decide, not the women. Many times the women do not have a voice to decide. But things are getting better.”

What Trukman and Amash want most of all, they said, is for women to start wanting things for themselves. Their great fear is that the budget will run out and the project will be shut down, or that the local council will terminate its cooperation.

Meanwhile, at the recent meeting of the group, Asaf urged participants to decide whether they wanted to do something ahead of the election, and cautioned that the present council head, who supports their program, might be ousted. She suggested that they draw up a list of demands to be put to all the candidates for council head, and that they insist on a commitment to fulfill them, in return for the women’s support. Said Hertzog, listening from the side: “For example, you could say: If your list of candidates does not include a woman, we will not vote for you.” The women apppeared stunned. Asaf tried to mollify them: “It will take time before we get into the council, but it’s important to make a start.”

Trukman admitted that she would like to run for council head, but in another 10 years. On second thought, she said, maybe in the next election, in five years. Meanwhile, the 2013 municipal election is looming, and even Hertzog’s account of how Yael German − who is today health minister and an MK from Yesh Atid − was elected mayor of Herzliya despite being totally unknown just months before the election was not enough to persuade the Jisr woman that it’s possible.

In the end, they drew up a demand for the candidates to agree that a woman be appointed to the Jisr council whose task will be to defend women’s rights. “Only one woman?” Hertzog asked, and they all burst out laughing.



Quotas and Women in Egyptian Politics

6 October 2013

Earlier this week, Egypt’s Constituent Assembly, charged with amending the country’s constitution, announced that 25 percent of municipal seats will be reserved for women. There is no word yet on when municipal elections will be held, or if a similar quota will be established for parliament, but the move is a positive step toward improving the low political participation of women in the aftermath of Egypt’s revolution.

During the last years of the Mubarak regime, benefiting from a law that set aside sixty-four seats for women, female representatives held 12 percent of parliament – the highest level ever in Egypt. Some claim that this quota system only undermined the legitimacy of female parliamentarians and did little to further women’s rights in the country. But it at least brought women to the table – something Egypt’s post-revolutionary governments have failed to do. The transitional government led by Egypt’s military declined to include any quota for women and as a result, less than 2 percent of the post-revolution parliament was female.

This stands in contrast to other Arab states, where post-revolution electoral laws successfully brought more women into the new political systems. Both Tunisia and Libya employed a “zippered list” model — alternating the names of male and female candidates on electoral lists, which effectively guarantees that women will win seats. As a result, women won 23 percent of parliamentary seats in Tunisia and 17 percent of National Assembly seats in Libya. In Egypt’s post-revolution elections, on the other hand, parties were only required to include one woman on their lists, and most pushed female candidates toward the bottom. As a result, few women were elected.

In response, women’s rights organizations in Egypt have waged an extended campaign demanding proportional representation, fearing that a simple majority electoral system will keep women out of politics. Indeed, there is evidence that first-past-the-post systems have an adverse effect on female representation. The municipal quota is a hopeful indication that the Assembly is listening to women’s concerns. Women also have some role in drafting the new constitution: 10 percent of the fifty-person Constituent Assembly is female, an improvement compared to the 2012 Assembly, which included only five women and was more ideologically conservative. Although small in number, the female delegation in the current Assembly is reportedly outspoken and progressive when it comes to women’s rights.

Still, it is up for debate if quotas are the best way to support women’s political activity. Iraq’s 25 percent quota for women in parliament has had mixed results. Quotas can undermine female candidate’s legitimacy and, once in office, women still face discrimination and countless barriers preventing them from influencing legislative decisions. Furthermore, the presence of women in parliament does not necessarily mean that they will have uniform stances on women’s rights. In the last Egyptian parliament, half of the female representatives were from the conservative Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.

All this proves that a quota system is by no means a panacea. But as many Arab women activists and politicians argue, it can be an essential first step to increasing women’s political participation. Having a voice at the table — even if it is quiet — can be better than having no voice at all.



A Girl From Paradise': Documentary on Malala's story set to release in Canada

October 5, 2013

MINGORA: The first documentary film on the life of iconic Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai is going to be released in Canada this week.

The film, titled ‘A Girl From Paradise’, will then journey from Canada to China, to Europe and then to USA.

The documentary has been directed and produced by award-winning Pakistan-Canadian Journalist Mohsin Abbas who, along with his crew, spent nine months in Pakistan, United Kingdom and Czech Republic, interviewing a wide range of people during its shooting.

The film is reported to have some very rare and exclusive footage of Malala Yousafzai.

“It focuses and explores how the failure to silence Malala has inspired men, women, and children, not only in Swat Valley but beyond the borders of Pakistan.

It opens with a focus on Malala Yousafzai, Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan, the three Swat girls, shot by Pakistani Taliban for advocating education for girls.

“The documentary focuses the struggle of Malala: the mayhem in Swat and how she advocated for girls education in its midst, how her struggle became a symbol for the fight of education across Pakistan,” he said.

The teenager from Pakistan’s Swat Valley is an outspoken and articulate advocate of education in her country.

He said that girls make up the majority of the world’s 61 million out-of-school children and they are less likely than boys to enter primary education.

“Pakistan’s literacy rate is among the lowest in the world and the number of children out of school is the second highest while it spends seven times more on its military than on education,” said Abbas.