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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 11 Aug 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Radical Muslims Suspected In Acid Attack on British Teens

New Age Islam News Bureau

11 Aug 2013

Because of high population growth in Pakistan, the absolute number of illiterates has increased. -Photo by White Star



 UAE Women Should Not Shun Male Doctors, Experts Urge

 Female literacy in Pakistan: Development in reverse

 Somalia: ‘Women Carry Axes’ for Safety at Mogadishu’s Liido Beach

 Sexual predators in Saudi Arabia on the prowl

 African Communities Abandon Female Circumcision, But It’s Not Over: UNICEF

 Police Arrest One in Brutal Bandung Murder Case

 President Zuma Urges Women to Participate In Economy

 Afghanistan's Pioneering Female MP Seeks Asylum As Progress for Women Unravels

 Kenya's Kiplagat Makes History in Women’s Marathon

 Economist Analia Schlosser, Focusing On Women and Policy

 Beirut Designers Make Fashion Statement with Abayas

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Radical Muslims Suspected In Acid Attack on British Teens

Mike Pflanz Zanzibar, Gordon Rayner, Victoria Ward

Aug 11, 2013

Two victims of an acid attack in Zanzibar were being treated in a specialist burns unit in London on Saturday as police were ordered to arrest a radical Islamic preacher suspected of inspiring the assault.

Kirstie Trup and Katie Gee, both 18, were taken to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital by ambulance as soon as their medical evacuation flight landed.

Ms Gee's mother, Nicky, said the families had been through a ''terrible ordeal'', and a friend said the girls were ''as well as can be expected''.

Ms Gee sent a tweet to friends from her hospital bed saying: ''Thank you for all your support x.''

Suspicion grew that a hard-line Islamic group called Uamsho might have inspired the attack. The group, which wants Zanzibar to become independent from Tanzania and impose strict Muslim rules, is thought to be behind leaflets distributed recently telling Muslims to prepare for ''a call'' to action.

Uamsho is suspected of being behind an acid attack in November on a moderate imam and the shooting dead of a Catholic priest in February.

This is an unidentified image released by the family of one of the two British teenagers attacked with acid in Zanzibar

Father Cosmas Shayo, parish priest of St Joseph's Catholic Cathedral, whose predecessor, Father Evarist Mushi, was murdered, said: ''These people are dedicated only on bringing chaos to further their aims.''

One of Uamsho's key supporters is Muslim cleric Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda, who has been urging Muslims to rise up ''like in Egypt''.

Tanzania's director of public prosecutions, Elieza Feleshi, said: ''Such behaviour is intolerable. We hope the police will exercise their powers wisely and arrest Ponda.''

As the two friends arrived back in London, Mrs Gee said: ''I am worried sick. I am just glad she is home. We spoke this morning and she said she was OK. I can't say any more.''

Ms Gee's family released a picture of her injuries, showing burns to her chest, neck and lower face.

The teenagers, who were on a month-long break volunteering for a charity when two men on a moped threw acid over them, suffered injuries to their faces, hands, legs, backs, necks and chests.

Moments after they were attacked in Stone Town, Zanzibar, they ran into the Babu Cafe on the waterfront, said Noonan Babu, the restaurant owner.

''[Ms Gee] came in crying and shouting, 'my face, my face, my face', and she ran straight to the toilet to splash herself with water,'' Mr Noonan said.

''My staff and other people helped her by giving her big bottles of water from the fridge to cover herself with and wash off the liquid. It was all over her. [Ms Trup] ran straight to the sea to try to wash it off.''

Ms Trup's father, Marc, said the teenagers were well aware of the need to dress modestly and had been told not to wear any symbols of their Jewish faith.

Zanzibar police Chief Mussa Ali Mussa said seven people had been questioned about the attack but no one had been arrested.

Tourism Minister Said Ali Mbarouk said anyone providing information leading to the arrest of the assailants would be given 10 million Tanzanian shillings ($5000).

''We have to work harder to make sure that Zanzibar is safe for visitors and citizens,'' he said.



UAE women should not shun male doctors, experts urge

Ola Salem and Jennifer Bell

Aug 11, 2013

ABU DHABI // Cultural and religious sensitivities still keep women from seeking medical advice from specialised male doctors, physicians say.

Many avoid invasive examinations in the absence of a female gynaecologist or radiologist.

But religious officials and doctors are urging women not to worry about gender when it comes to health matters.

"Most patients, they want to see a female gynaecologist, a female radiologist or a female surgeon," said Dr Saad Ghazal-Aswad, the former senior consultant in the obstetrics and gynaecology department at Tawam Hospital.

"The problem is that in the UAE, about 90 per cent of radiologists are male and male surgeons outweigh women four to one.

"They are a rarity - especially for female breast surgeons."

Dr Ghazal-Aswad said that of his patients, between 5 and 10 per cent said they would not return for treatment if they could not see a female specialist.

A study into women's choices of obstetrician and gynaecologist in the UAE, published in a Scandinavian journal, found that of 508 patients attending the obstetrics and gynaecologic services of Al Ain Hospital, 439 - 86.4 per cent - preferred female physicians. Reasons given included privacy, religious and cultural beliefs.

An American Palestinian cited similar reasons for preferring a female doctor. She has made repeated trips to NMC Hospital over the years searching for one. "I actually go home if I don't find a female gynaecologist available," she said.

Dr Karim Elmasry, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology at Mafraq Hospital, also said some female patients were uncomfortable seeing a male doctor, especially if their husband was present.

"I cannot say it is not an issue," he said, and cultural attitudes were part of the problem.

But Dr Ghazal-Aswad said it was slowly changing. "More and more they want to see an expert in the field, regardless of gender," he said.

While he believes women should overlook gender when seeking medical help, he said patients had the right to see a female specialist if they preferred, and that hospitals should offer more options.

"The patient should have the right to choose," he said.

Dr Elmasry said it was important only that the patient was comfortable, regardless of the gender of her doctor. "It is a confidence-building measure," he said. "You explain to them what you are doing and what you are about to do in order for the patient to know what to expect.

"Quite often if you take the time with a patient and get them to understand then they are often fine with you.

"The priority is getting the best care possible."

Dr Bachar Abduh, an obstetrics and gynaecology specialist at Al Noor Hospital on Airport Road said communication was vital.

"I try to help the female patients in every way, and tell them what I want to do, what she needs to do," he said. "If she is OK with me, we will do an ultrasound.

"She has the full right to go to the doctor she wants. I try to convince her we are here to help. When they know you are here to help, 90 per cent come out happy and do not go to the female doctor."

He said ultrasounds allowed for less invasive examinations, leading to more women accepting treatment from male doctors.

Those who usually preferred a female were Asian Muslims, and some Arabs, he said.

Dr Abduh said education was the key to resolving the issue and stressed the importance of seeking out a qualified physician, rather than choosing by gender.

"Look for the perfect doctor, skilled and honest," he said. "This is not a business. If you do not find someone you are comfortable with, go find another."

Dr Ahmed Al Moosa, first preacher at the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Awqaf, said Islam did not constrain women.

"There is no objection at all for her to go to the male gynaecologist," he said. "A woman can go to any doctor she feels comfortable with and who is better."



Female literacy in Pakistan: Development in reverse


 August 11, 2013

Education is considered a fundamental human right and an essential ingredient for individual as well societal development. Article 37-B of the Constitution of Pakistan, given under the heading ‘Promotion of social justice and removal of social evils’ reads as follows:

The state shall “remove illiteracy and provide free and compulsory secondary education within minimum possible period.”

Recently, under the 18th amendment, a new sub-clause 2-A, pertaining to Right to Education has been added, which reads: “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to 16 years in such manner as may be determined by law.”

In addition to these constitutional provisions, Pakistan is also signatory to many international treaties and conventions which obligate it to provide equal access to education to all of its citizens without any discrimination on the basis of gender, race and ethnicity. Apart from other indirect provisions, two important conventions are worth mentioning: the 1990 Jomtien World Declaration on Education for All (EFA) and the Dakar Framework for Action 2000.

The Jomtien Conference reaffirmed the right of every person to receive education, which satisfies his or her basic learning needs. This declaration announced the six goals of EFA, which are to be achieved by the year 2015. These EFA goals include expanding early childhood care and education; providing free and compulsory primary education for all; promoting learning and life skills for young people and adults; increasing adult literacy by 50 per cent from the level of 1990; achieving gender parity by 2005 and gender equality by 2015; and improving the quality of education for all.

The Dakar Framework of Action (Senegal, 2000) was adopted in which the international community once again recognised illiteracy as a priority issue; it set a number of goals to be achieved by the year 2015. By signing these two documents, the international community, including Pakistan, affirmed their commitment to eradicate illiteracy within a stipulated period of time. It is believed that illiteracy not only hinders the development of individuals’ full potential and their participation in a democratic society, but also has repercussions for the rest of their lives. It affects personal and family life of the individuals, deprives them of the benefits of development and hinders the enjoyment of other human rights.

The Dakar Framework of Action not only announced eight goals, commonly known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) pertaining to various aspects of human life, but also set measurable targets and indicators to monitor progress of the societies in this direction. Out of these goals, two exclusively relate to education.

Goal two pertains to achieving universal primary education, and the relevant target reads “ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015”. Attainment of this target requires an increase in the net enrolment ratio of children at the primary level and improving the completion rate of primary schooling.

Goal three encourages the international community to promote gender equality and empower women; it reads “eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005 and at all levels by 2015”. Achievement of this target requires improving the ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education.

Twenty-three years down the road since the declaration of EFA, and just about two years away from the target year 2015, it is high time to assess Pakistan’s achievement and progress in this direction, particularly with reference to universal education and gender parity. According to MDGs, Pakistan was expected to achieve 100pc net primary enrolment rate by 2015 and 100pc completion/survival rate to Grade V by the same year.

In terms of literacy, it was expected to achieve overall 88pc literacy rate for 10+ years aged population. To achieve steady progress in this regard, Pakistan announced three education policies in 1992, 1998 and 2009 and a number of development plans, including National Plan of Action 2001-2015 and Education Sector Reforms (ESR).

These policies and plans set different dates to achieve the millennium development goals. The National Plan of Action on EFA (2001-2015) declared to achieve increase on the following indicators by 2005.

Literacy from 49pc to 60pc:

Net primary enrolment from 66pc to 76pc

Middle school enrolment from 47.5pc to 55pc

Secondary school enrolment from 29.5pc to 40pc

Higher education enrolment from 2pc to 5pc

The Medium Term Development Framework (MTDF) 2005-2010 set the target to achieve 77pc net primary enrolment ratio, 80pc completion/survival rate to Grade V and 77pc overall literacy rate for 10+ years population by 2010. Similarly, in terms of gender equality, Pakistan was expected to achieve full gender equality in primary enrolment ratio as well as youth literacy by the year 2015. The relevant target set under MTDF was to achieve 0.94 Gender Parity Index (GPI) for primary enrolment and 0.85 GPI for youth literacy.

The analysis of available data reveals that progress of Pakistan toward achieving the MDGs is not only unsatisfactory; rather highly disappointing. We are not only far away from achieving these goals by 2015 rather under the current pace of development these goals seem to be totally unachievable.

Although the literacy rate in Pakistan has increased over the years but because of high population growth, the absolute number of illiterates has increased. At present, the literacy rate of 10+ age population as well and the net enrolment rate at the primary level is about 58 and 68pc respectively, with higher gender disparity index in literacy rate than in primary enrolment rate.

The overall literacy rate is higher in Punjab and Sindh, with lowest in Balochistan. Similarly, the lowest literacy and enrolment rates are observed in the female population in Balochistan. The achievement of MDGs requires an expansion of primary education opportunities for children and reducing the drop-out rate. In post-9/11 era, Pakistan received a lot of aid for various sectors, including education. There was a huge campaign of increasing educational opportunities for different age population.

However, the available statistics about primary schooling in Pakistan reveals a negative trend. This is particularly true for female literacy rate in the country. As discussed earlier, to fulfil the commitments made by the government of Pakistan for achieving MDGs, Pakistan was expected to achieve full gender equality in primary enrolment ratio as well as youth literacy by the year 2015.

However, literacy figures recently released by the Unesco Institute for Statistics reveal that absolute number of female illiterates has risen from 31,101,011 in 2005 to 32,106,848 in 2009. That is, about one million females were added to the illiterate lot. On the other hand, it is encouraging to note that there was a decrease of about 0.6 million in the number of male illiterates during the same period. However, this has resulted in an increase in gender disparity.

This is mainly because of the faulty education policies during the previous regime. Available data indicates that during the Musharraf government, instead of expanding primary education in the public sector, the number of primary schools decreased from 159,330 in 1998-99 to 156,400 in 2009-10. His government implemented a devolution plan and accordingly the primary, middle and secondary education was devolved to the district governments. This was done on the pretext that the decentralisation process would enable the district governments to effectively manage the education system. However, the devolution policy resulted in decreasing the enrolment rate, especially in the public-sector schools and closure of about 3,000 schools during the last decade.

Primary schools are the basic unit of education and an important instrument for imparting literacy and basic education. These figures also reveal that despite increase in primary age population, primary schools were not increased proportionately. Instead, higher expansion in middle and secondary schools was achieved. Against about 29pc increase in the primary school population, about 2pc decrease in the number of primary schools has been observed during the same period.

If the same trend is continued, this will be in total defiance of the MDGs and Pakistan will never be able to achieve the MDGs’ targets, particularly in the case of the female population. Taliban are condemned for eroding female schools in Fata, Swat and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but what if the government does the same thing in the name of rationalisation policy or uses other pretext to close public schools? n

The writer, former dean Faculty of Education, University of the Punjab, works as an independent consultant in the field of education.



Somalia: ‘Women Carry Axes’ for Safety At Mogadishu’s Liido Beach

August 11, 2013

Mogadishu — As Mogadishu’s Liido beach became a popular spot, where young men and women are predominant during the holidays, women began last Friday to carry axes to the beach for protection, Garowe Online reports.

Photographic images taken from Liido resort beach shows women holding axes in their hands after young men commenced earlier last month to terribly offend the girls who come the beach to enjoy with their family members in the vicinity’s buzzing and pulsating atmosphere.

One of the women who spoke to Mogadishu media near surf rolling onto white sand beach said the girls are offended and angered by “rude men” who try to sometimes harass them sexually and the men always seek to interact with the girls sometimes to the girls’ dislike, the women reported.

Apart from the visiting young women, women also sell ice cream, cold drinks, bananas and home-baked bread at dunes’ base to generate some profits for their businesses.

Following growing concerns about women’s safety, Banadir regional administration deployed police forces to the resort to prevent any violent activities which could pose threats including rape to young women during the holidays.



Sexual predators in Saudi Arabia on the prowl

Aug 11, 2013

It is not a subject about which people like to speak. Most decent Saudis find the idea that women and juveniles are sexually harassed here in the Kingdom to be distasteful, even hard to believe.

It will therefore come as a shock to many that in a single year almost 2,800 cases of grossly improper behavior or worse have been reported to the authorities. Given the natural reluctance, not to say fear of women and young people to come forward and report what has happened to them, it is likely that these official figures do not represent the full extent of the problem.

Indeed, if experience in other countries is any yardstick, it is generally only a minority of victims that comes forward. Thus the incidence of this sexual harassment here in Saudi Arabia is probably higher than the eight cases a day that result in official complaints.

Any temptation to believe that these crimes take place by and large among expatriates should be resisted. The official statistics released this week show that the majority of reported cases, some 60 percent, involve attacks on Saudi females and juvenile males. They range from verbal abuse to physical interference and rape.

It seems that the position of young people is becoming increasingly precarious. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there may be sophisticated networks of criminals who groom and compromise boys and girls, forcing them into the evils of prostitution. There are also cases where the victims have been assaulted by taxi drivers, in whose vehicles they have been traveling alone.

Riyadh, according to these official figures, had by far the largest number of harassment cases — some 650 in a 12-month period — with Jeddah having only 250. However even though some might argue that the capital, as the most populous and cosmopolitan city in the Kingdom, might expect to top this list of shame, it is important to understand that the statistics bear more careful analysis. They probably do not indicate for instance, if the higher number of reported harassment cases has not come about, because of a greater willingness among people living in Riyadh to go to the authorities with their complaint.

Statistically Yemenis appear to be the worst offenders, who are shown to have been involved in some 50 cases of female harassment and 40 crimes in which juvenile victims were lured into horrific events. Thereafter in descending order, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Syrians were convicted of these sex crimes.

It would of course be entirely wrong to react in a xenophobic way to these revelations. Though the number of these sexual harassment cases appears to be rising, even allowing for the many likely unreported cases, they are still the exception. The majority of Yemenis, Egyptians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis live blameless and hardworking lives here in the Kingdom. They also undoubtedly feel deep shame and repulsion at the crimes of their fellow countrymen.

So what therefore is to be done about the dangers of sexual harassment facing women and young people? For sure the courts should hand out the severest sentences to all those convicted of these deplorable crimes.

But those at risk can do something themselves to ward off the risk of inappropriate behavior. At its simplest, woman and children should always travel with a chaperone. Sometimes however, this is not possible. In such circumstances, there is another means of protection available. Virtually everyone in the Kingdom now owns a cell phone. Setting up a speed-dial to relatives, friends or the police is a simple matter.

Communications technology offers even more than this and with it, a business opportunity for entrepreneurs. A single panic number, programmed to alert a central control room could trigger an immediate alert. With smart phones, locating the person who is in danger is a relatively straightforward.

However, perhaps the best protection against sexual harassment is education. This of course is particularly true of young people. Some schools already have “Stranger Danger” training, to help children spot risks and avoid becoming involved with potential predators. But this sort of awareness raising needs to be rolled out in schools as a matter of course. On top of this responsible parents have a duty to their young people and the females in their household, to try and avoid as far as possible any of them finding themselves in dangerous or compromising situations.

Unpleasant though this whole issue is, it will not go away if it is ignored. The answer is to confront sexual harassment stoutly, encouraging victims to come forward by recognizing that they are indeed victims, not somehow complicit in what has happened them. Once the sexual criminals see that they have every chance of being discovered and brought to justice for their crimes, they are likely to think twice about their loathsome behavior.



African Communities Abandon Female Circumcision, But It’s Not Over: UNICEF

August 11, 2013

A new report by UNICEF finds that the practice of female genital cutting (FGC), which started centuries ago, has been declining in Africa. But even where laws now forbid it, circumcising girls by removing part or all of their external genitalia continues. In this century, some 30 million girls remain at risk.

Many organizations, including Aid for Africa member Tostan, whose name means “breakthrough,” have been working to end this practice, which can cause death, puts mother and child at risk during birth, and leads to additional chronic health problems for a woman.

Why does the practice persist? Molly Melching, the executive director of Tostan, which has been working since the 1970s to end FGC and child/forced marriage in West Africa, explained at a recent meeting that genital cutting is an entrenched tradition that is society-wide in many African countries. Many women are unaware of the grave risks and believe that their daughters will not be marriageable without it. The result: ending genital cutting by narrowly focusing only on the practice has not worked. For social cohesion, it takes an entire community to make the decision, according to Melching.

So when women, men, young children, and teenagers from 30 villages in the West African nation of Mali gathered on the banks of the Niger river this past June to publicly declare the abandonment of FGC and child/forced marriage in their communities, there was much to celebrate. Similar declarations were made in May by 92 communities in Guinea and in June in Senegal and The Gambia by more than 280 communities.

Tostan had worked with members of these communities to help them better understand their basic rights, the rights of women and a woman’s right to make decisions affecting her health. Using storytelling, theater and other shared events, communities were able to come together to discuss democracy, human rights and health and make shared decisions on genital cutting and other issues.

The UNICEF study found that where FGC is practiced, most women think it should end. Even so, many chose the traditional path. With 30 million girls still at risk, there is still much to do.

Aid for Africa is an alliance of 85 U.S.-based nonprofits and their African partners who help children, families, and communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Aid for Africa’s grassroots programs focus on health, education, economic development, arts & culture, conservation, and wildlife protection in Africa.



Police Arrest One in Brutal Bandung Murder Case

 August 11, 2013

A man allegedly confessed to the brutal murder of a 34-year-old woman in Bandung police said on Saturday as officers tried to determine the motive behind the woman’s death.

“Someone has admitted [to the crime],” National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Ronny Sompie told the Indonesian news portal “We’re developing the confession.”

Officers did not believe the man’s confession and are investigating the matter further, Ronny said. He declined to identify the man.

Franciesca Yofie was seen walking out of her house on security camera footage on Tuesday when two men grabbed her by the hair, dragging her behind a motorbike for a half-kilometer before stabbing her in the head, police said.

She was found by local residents and transported to Hasan Sadikin Hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. Police suspect Franciesca was killed out of revenge. Investigators are looking for clues in her social media accounts, police said.

“We assumed this sadistic murder was planned before because the victim was tailed to her house,” West Java Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Martinus Stimpul told the Indonesian news portal

Franciesca worked as a branch manager at Verena Multi Finance, where she spent part of her job dealing with debt collectors.

Before her death, Franciesca was feuding with an unknown individual who visited her mother’s grave in April. She wrote on her Facebook account “when she was still alive she asked you to go and did not want to see you.

“Even two weeks before her death she told me how upset she was with you and asked me not to let you come to her grave. How dare you come to her grave.”



President Zuma Urges Women To Participate In Economy

August 11, 2013

By Gabi Khumalo

President Jacob Zuma has encouraged women to participate actively in the economy as entrepreneurs and as workers depending on their choice and circumstances.

Speaking at the National Women’s Day commemoration held at Thulamahashe Stadium on Friday, Zuma told the thousands of South Africans who packed the stadium to capacity, that the country has specific objectives for women’s empowerment.

“We want to promote access to land ownership by women in order to promote food security for many households in distress. We want young women to develop their self-confidence and to seize leadership opportunities.

“Women should play a role in the ongoing pursuit of all these goals and should not just be beneficiaries. More girls must take up science, technology, engineering and mathematics and more education opportunities must be made available for women and girls,” said Zuma.

South Africa celebrates 100 years of the contribution of women to the struggle for liberation and also in building a better South Africa.

Whilst challenges and gaps still remain, a lot has been achieved to work towards the emancipation of South African women of all races in the past 100 years.

Women Empowerment

With regards to women’s access to decision making positions, the South African Parliament which had a mere 2.7 per cent representation of women before 1994, now has 42 per cent since the 2009 democratic elections following a consistent improvement after each election.

“This puts our country in the fourth position worldwide with regards to women’s representation, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2012. We have 13 women Cabinet Ministers and 16 women Deputy Ministers. Out of nine premiers, five are women, which means the majority of provinces are governed by women,” Zuma noted.

He acknowledged that the government has not reached the 50/50 parity goal, but progress is being made towards that destination.

“More must still be done to promote equality in the public sector but even more work in the private sector which continues to lag behind. The Commission for Employment Equity Annual report 2013 indicated that white males occupy 80% of top management positions in the private sector.

“At senior management level, white males account for 69% of all positions. Thus the achievement of equality at both race and gender levels remains stagnant in the private sector. Government is finalising work on the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, which will enforce gender equity compliance within both government and the private sector,” he said.

Besides leadership at decision making level, Zuma added that government judges its success in terms of access to basic services such as quality health care, education, safety and security, water, sanitation, electricity, roads and housing which reach the majority of South African women.

Zuma also called for an end to the violence and the abuse of women and girls, reiterating that government’s commitment to the fight against women and child abuse continues to rank high in its priorities.

“We announced earlier this week the reopening of sexual offences courts so that we can deal decisively with those who commit crimes against women and children. The courts will complement the work of the police Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences units.”

Conviction rates continue to improve in crimes committed against women and children. A total of 1 194 life sentences were handed out by the courts to offenders between 2010 and 2013.

For crimes against children below 18 years, the conviction rate was 75 percent during the last financial year and for crimes against women 18 years and above the conviction rate was 83 percent.

Emancipation of Women

Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana noted that the country’s Constitution is the foundation upon which all initiatives towards the total emancipation of women are grounded.

“We are pleased to note that in this year our government has undertaken to ensure that women will be prioritised to access land. As a Department, we are working with rural women and are giving support to many rural women’s cooperatives, in partnership with the DRDLR and our traditional leaders.”

With regards to violence against women, Xingwana said the department remains confident that the strengthened and integrated approach coordinated by the National Council Against Gender Based Violence will go a long way to address the scourge.

She said the strengthening of law enforcement measures, particularly the re-establishment of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units within the SAPS will go a long way in fighting this scourge.

“We also commend our courts for the life sentences that will serve as a deterrent to perpetrators of heinous crimes such as rape of women children and people with disabilities including lesbian women. This shows that government is serious in dealing with this scourge,” she said.

She also commended the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development for re-launching the Sexual Offences Courts which will help cut the backlogs of sexual offences cases.

“I am pleased to also announce that the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill is under consideration. We believe that the Bill will go a long way towards enforcing programmes aimed at empowering women in South Africa.”

Thulile Ntuli, 25, said that progress has been made with regards to women empowerment as through government programmes, she and other women, have been exposed to skills to improve their lives.

“Government avails opportunities, especially for us young women, through skills development and its up to us to grab them and use them wisely. There is so much progress since we’ve seen democracy, especially now, where government ensures that more women are exposed to education and acquiring skills, which were previously dominated by men,” said Ntuli.



Afghanistan's pioneering female MP seeks asylum as progress for women unravels

By Rob Crilly, Kabul

Aug 11, 2013

Noor Zia Atmar, a young activist and then one of the country’s first woman MPs, travelled the world with her colleagues to show that things were changing.

That was three years ago. Now, she lives in a shelter for battered women, the victim of an abusive husband - and a symbol of the way progress in women’s rights is unravelling as the West withdraws and more traditional conservative values return to the fore.

“Women are in a worse condition now. Every day they are being killed, having their ears, noses cut,” said Ms Atmar, 40, speaking in a strong, clear voice, her eye make-up hidden behind dark glasses. “It is not just women in villages - it is also people like me.”

Progress in women’s rights is frequently hailed as one of the great successes of Nato’s coalition, the International Security Assistance Force. But as it marks its 10th anniversary on Sunday, campaigners say Ms Atmar’s case is one of several examples that show how reforms are coming undone.

Not only are conservatives agitating to close women’s shelters, which they describe as whore houses, the country’s parliament is considering a change in the law to prevent relatives testifying against each other. That would effectively make prosecutions for domestic violence all but impossible.

Under the Taliban, girls schools closed, women were banned from working outside the home and were forced to wear the burka.

It was a difficult time for Ms Atmar’s family. Her father, an engineer, had died when she was young, but her mother had fought hard so that she might receive an education. Those years, she said, helped her develop the mental toughness necessary to become a campaigner in a conservative country.

The family fled to Pakistan on the day the Taliban marched into Kabul - along with millions of Afghan refugees - returning only after they were ousted by the US-led invasion that followed al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks in 2001.

She first worked for community groups, travelling to remote villages to help women find education and health care.

Then came elections in 2005, under a new constitution that was drafted with American guidance and which guaranteed the rights of women and minorities. At the time, the polls were hailed as a decisive break with the Taliban’s medieval mindset.

More importantly, so far as Ms Atmar was concerned, it also guaranteed a quarter of the seats for women, offering her chance to take her local message of women’s empowerment to a much wider audience.

Her campaign was run on a tight budget. At one point she sold a gold necklace to keep things moving but managed to win a seat in the women’s section.

It was a heady time, filled with optimism, according to Ms Atmar. She helped push through landmark legislation banning 22 acts of violence against women and still has the visa stamps in her passport from her visits to the UK, India, Turkey and France where — along with other female legislators — she was welcomed as the embodiment of the new Afghanistan.

But things began to change for her and for Afghanistan, she said, at about the same time she got married, towards the end of her five-year term as an MP.

Unable to compete with her rivals’ war chests in what she said was an increasingly corrupt campaign, she lost her bid for re-election in 2010. And it gradually became clear that her husband, a businessman who she had hoped would support her career, did not share her ideals.

He refused to let her leave the house and at one point banned her from using the phone. “He would get drunk and demand I remove his shoes. Then he would shout at me to put them back on, over and over. If I refused he would beat me. It was torture,” she said.

“He would come to me the next day and apologise but then at night he would do it again. Finally I asked for a divorce.”

For most Afghan women, products of a conservative society where even without the Taliban they appear in public only beneath the billowing folds of a sky blue burqa, divorce is not even an option - and even in the more liberal atmosphere of the capital, Kabul, Ms Atmar’s family disapproved. They insisted she do anything but seek a divorce.

“They saw my face bruised, and scars from the knife, but they told me it was a traditional society, that I would bring shame on the family,” she said.

When she sought out a lawyer anyway, they abandoned her, leaving her to fend for herself.

Home has been a shelter for the past two years. She said she was uncertain about what the future might hold. Informal approaches to the British embassy had ended with a curt message that asylum was not available for victims of domestic abuse.

“They said that would open the doors to too many women to come,” she said.

Ironically, the Nato effort to secure Afghanistan from the militants over the past 12 years, assisted by Western aid donors, has done much to open other doors, by helping girls into education and ensuring that women have a voice in society. Maternal mortality has been slashed.

However, campaigners say that this year there have been a string of reversals for hard-fought women’s rights. As the West scales down its involvement, a conservative society is gradually reasserting itself through parliament, overturning quotas and legal protections which many see as imposed by the US.

Earlier this month, another symbol of women’s emancipation was shot dead by gunmen. Lieutenant Islam Bibi had defied threats from her own family to rise through the ranks, becoming the most senior female police officer in Helmand Province.

In May, the Wolesi Jirga — the House of the People, the lower chamber of Afghanistan’s national assembly - revised the country’s electoral law, as its conservative-minded legislators ditched the guarantee that at least a quarter of seats in each of 34 provincial councils be reserved for women.

And the parliament has never actually ratified the law, drafted by Ms Atmar and her fellow pioneers, setting penalties for rape, child marriage and baad - the giving of girls to resolve disputes. It was pushed through by presidential decree, but a recent attempt to make the law more enduring by securing parliamentary approval was abandoned after 15 minutes amid stiff opposition and accusations by male MPs that it was un-Islamic.

Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said new wording of the criminal procedure code would also prohibit relatives of a defendant being questioned against the accused. It would make it all but impossible to prosecute people who beat, forcibly marry or sell their female relatives, he added.

“While Afghan officials give lip service to women’s rights at the UN, the president, parliament and courts are actively undermining those rights,” he said. “Afghanistan’s foreign donors should be loud and clear that they won’t stand by while Afghan women’s hard-won rights are swept away.”

But the leverage that western donors have enjoyed over recent years is already waning, and as Afghanistan prepares for greater independence from foreign military and financial support it may fade completely away.

Many fear that an Afghan government that is focusing on its own survival is preparing the ground for a peace deal with the Taliban, and is more interested in shoring up support among conservatives than in pushing through reforms.

At the end of next year international combat troops will have completed their withdrawal. And Ms Atmar, and other Afghans like her, wonder whether that means the world will forget about Afghan women all together.

“It will be a huge tragedy if this happens,” she said, wrapped in a black overcoat, her head covered by a scarf. “We must remove fundamentalism from Afghanistan. The world should remember that the fire from here might not reach their country, but the smoke will.”



Kenya's Kiplagat makes history in women’s marathon

Aug 11, 2013

MOSCOW: Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat became the first woman to retain the marathon world title when she eased home on Saturday to earn the first gold medal on the opening day of the World Athletics Championships.

The 33-year-old — only 20th in the Olympics last year — timed 2hr 25min 44sec to take gold ahead of long-time leader Valeria Straneo of Italy (2:25.58) while Japan’s Kayoko Fukushi took bronze (2:27.45).

Kiplagat said that she was extremely happy to have made history.

“I’m delighted I was able to defend my title successfully. I got confident I was going to win at the 40km mark when I upped my pace,” she said.

Straneo, whose career took an upward turn after having her spleen and gall bladder removed in 2010 describing the operation as similar to giving birth, said she hadn’t even thought she would win a medal.

“I am the surprise of the day I never thought I would win silver. I just spoke to my two boys, who are six and seven, on the phone but I am not sure they actually watched me on TV,” said the 37-year-old.

Fukushi too was more than surprised at finishing third.

“I wasn’t aware that I was third until I entered the stadium! It made the experience all that more enjoyable,” said the 31-year-old.

Olympic champion Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia never featured on her return to competition after being knocked over by a wheelchair competitor during this year’s London Marathon and was one of 23 not to finish in what were testing conditions.

Straneo set the pace from the off but was closely watched by the pursuing pack of 11.

This included three Ethiopians — Aberu Kebede, Meselech Melkamu and Feyse Tedese — and Kiplagat’s team-mate Valentine Kipketer, the Mumbai Marathon champion.

The group had been reduced to seven at the 10km mark with the 37-year-old Italian still leading from Melkamu. However, Japan’s 35-year-old 2004 Olympic champion Mizuki Noguchi’s hopes of a remarkable title looked to be over as she had been dropped by the lead group.

Kiplagat was back in 15th place some 29sec off the leaders, but the Kenyan moved up a gear and edged her way back into contention.

Within a couple of kilometers she had hauled in the septet — including Kipketer and compatriot Lucy Kabuu — and joined the leading pack as they passed the Kremlin.

Straneo, who was eighth in the Olympics, was still the hare at the 15km mark, while the Kenyan trio and Ethiopians Melkamu and Tadese and Japan’s 2006 Asian Games 10,000m champion Fukushi looked content to tag along in her wake.

The medallists looked to be settled at the 30km mark as Fukushi was dropped, leaving Straneo still in front while Kiplagat and Melkamu tucked in behind her.

However, Melkamu, fourth in the London Marathon this year, also hit a wall and shortly afterwards Straneo was left alone with Kiplagat.

Melkamu wasn’t to even have the consolation of a bronze as she pulled up and retired from the race after being passed by Fukushi, who trailed the two leaders by more than a minute after 35km.

Kiplagat, having allowed Straneo to set the pace, finally made the decisive move just after the 40km mark, and this time the Italian had no answer, contenting herself with the silver.



Economist Analia Schlosser, focusing on women and policy

Aug 11, 2013

JERUSALEM — Cultural concerns don’t necessarily stop Israel’s Arab women from working. The lack of affordable day care does.

Longer maternity leave for Austrian women might keep them in the labor force longer. And girls in areas of India with more sex-selection abortions are less likely to be malnourished.

These are some of the discoveries by Argentina-born economist Analia Schlosser of Tel Aviv University, whose research has been cited by the Bank of Israel, the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Israel extended its free day-care program more widely after a policy debate that included Schlosser’s work, and a group lobbying for mixed-gender classes used her studies to show their benefits. Schlosser, who often chooses topics related to women or gender, says she went into economics rather than mathematics because she wanted to be involved in practical policy questions.

“Women are more interested in things connected to this world, less theoretical things,” said Schlosser, 38. “I try to find a causal effect. This is one of the things that links all my research.”

Schlosser, who spent a year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and two years at Princeton University, is a rarity in Israel. Only two of the 19 faculty members in her economics department are women. At Hebrew University of Jerusalem, only one of 26 is female. The comparable rate in the U.S. is 20 percent.

Schlosser’s work on gender separation in schools produced new information for public policy makers in Britain and the U.S. and led to other studies, said co-author Victor Lavy of Hebrew University, who hired Schlosser as a research assistant when she was an undergraduate.

“All of her work touches upon important questions of public policy,” Lavy said. “I see her among the leading economists in Israel doing empirical work, very careful empirical work.” Lavy helped arrange for Schlosser’s year in Cambridge, Mass., at MIT as a doctoral student, and her two years at Princeton in New Jersey as a post-doc.

The 2011 article concluded that a higher proportion of girls in classes improves academic outcomes for both boys and girls and lowers disruption, violence and teacher fatigue. It was used by Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, an Israeli group dedicated to fostering “tolerance and openness in Orthodoxy,” in lobbying against the trend of increasing gender separation in Israel’s state religious elementary-school classes.

“I’ve cited this study in lectures and in parlor meetings,” said Shmuel Shattach, executive director of the Tel Aviv-based group. “It’s a very serious piece of research.”

One of the main reasons women are rare in Israeli economics departments may be that to get a job, economists need to travel to the U.S. to do their doctorate or post-doctoral work. Partners and children can make that more difficult, according to Schlosser.

“Most of the action is there,” said Schlosser, who herself became a mother for the first time last year.

“Sometimes you feel more lonely, because there aren’t very many women around,” Schlosser said. “When you go out to dinner, it’s all men and you. I didn’t have a female role model to follow. I do see younger women asking me for advice, and I think it’s nice.”

Schlosser says the degree of care she strives for in her research - using several methodologies and trying to be self- critical - may be gender-related.

“Women are much more careful,” Schlosser said. “When they want to say something, they want to be 200 percent sure. So they recheck from all different angles, to make sure that what they see in the data is what it is.”

She doesn’t intend that necessarily to be a criticism of men. In fact, it could be that women are sometimes too cautious, she said: They tend to take longer to publish, which also could be a result of family obligations. The end result can be a slowdown in their careers.

So far, gender hasn’t hindered Schlosser, who in 2010 was chosen to be a member of the Young Scholars Forum of the prestigious Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

Born in Buenos Aires, Schlosser, whose mother is a psychologist and whose father worked in the software industry before becoming a school principal, studied in Jewish schools. She first became interested in economics in high school.

“I liked math a lot, but I wanted something connected to the real world,” she said. “So the connection between math and more applied things is what got my attention. I didn’t want to study pure math; I wanted something more useful.”

After briefly attending a public university in Argentina, Schlosser decided to move to Israel, where her sister lived. Residual fear of police and mistrust of the government also may have played a part, she said. While she is too young to remember her homeland’s junta, in which human-rights organization say as many as 30,000 people disappeared and thousands of others were kidnapped and tortured, some of her parents’ friends were among those who vanished.

In Israel, Schlosser studied economics and statistics at Hebrew University, eventually becoming a research assistant to Lavy and to Joshua Angrist, who became her Ph.D. advisers.

“She is one of the best applied micro economists in Israel,” said Angrist, who now teaches at MIT. “She’s a very good empiricist. Her work is very careful and, in the end, very convincing.”

It was her work with Lavy and Angrist that gave Schlosser the appetite to become a scholar. “It was the first time I saw what research is,” said Schlosser, whose other research also was done with co-authors. “I saw how professors live, the fact that you can study all the time, learn new things, do research on whatever you’re interested in.”

As a Ph.D. student in 2005, Schlosser became interested in Israeli-Arab women, the group with the lowest labor participation in the country by far. Only about 20 percent work, compared with more than 70 percent of Jewish women, according to the International Monetary Fund.

“I saw children’s enrollment in preschool was pretty low, and I asked why and I was told there was no market for that,” Schlosser said. “I tried to think whether having those institutions would help them, whether standard economic models would work for everyone.”

By studying the gradual implementation in several towns of a law providing free child care from age 3, Schlosser found that expanding this resource raised labor participation. The Bank of Israel and the OECD used the study to advocate making child care more widely available. After mass social protests in the summer of 2011 over the rising cost of living and the financial difficulties faced by the middle class, the government extended the program to the entire country.

In a 2011 article, Schlosser researched the effect of changes in Austrian government benefits on mothers’ post-birth careers. When maximum parental leave was extended from one year to two years, mothers did take longer to return to work, but there was no detrimental effect on their employment or wages five years later.

In a study on India, she focused on the impact of sex- selective abortion. The results showed that an increase in the practice of prenatal sex selection across regions is associated with a reduction in the prevalence of girls’ malnutrition.

Girls who are born “because they are wanted are being treated better,” Schlosser said. Her policy recommendation is that the government provide economic incentives for families with girls, which some regions already are doing.

Schlosser’s most-cited work was co-written with Lavy and Angrist and was part of her doctoral thesis. They studied the effect of large families on the educational and economic attainment of children; in a sense, whether there is a tradeoff between quantity and quality.

Using data on Israeli families, Schlosser found no evidence that size had negative consequences on an individual’s educational attainment, labor-force participation or wages. The only difference was that girls from larger families tended to marry sooner.

Schlosser now has to balance family and career. A nanny cares for her son while she works. Her parents, who moved to Israel last year, also help, she said.

“I see how tired I am and how demanding motherhood is, even if I have a supportive partner and the most ideal conditions I can think of,” said Schlosser, who earned tenure before her baby was born. “It’s not that it’s impossible, but things slow down a lot. I have started to say no to a few things.”

Motherhood also has stopped her from traveling, which she says is very important in looking for scientific collaboration, attending conferences and presenting papers. For fathers, the situation is not the same, she said. Her husband, a brain researcher at Ben Gurion University of the Negev’s medical school, holds both an M.D. and Ph.D. and is also an academic.

“You can’t go against biology,” she said. “There are small biological differences, which actually make a big difference.”

Still, Schlosser said, she would encourage younger women economists to go into academia.

“You can find a way to do it,” she said. “You can find a balance.”



Beirut designers make fashion statement with abayas

Aug 11, 2013

Beirut designers are updating the traditional abaya for a more modern look.

The abaya, a traditional Islamic garment usually worn over clothes, still remains popular among women in Lebanon despite the introduction of Western fashion at the turn of the 20th century.

Artisanat Waked is one design house which continues to specialize in abayas, reported Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star Lebanon reported this week. Unlike the black, head to toe coverings often seen in the Gulf, the Lebanese designs use traditional colorful fabrics and embroidery.

Nadine Waked testifies to the continued popularity of the garment.

“Brides love them ... for the honeymoon. Women like to wear them in the evening when they have guests. Some wear it over a swimsuit for the beach. It’s sheer, so you can also just wear it around the house,” she told the Daily Star.

A growing demand both in Lebanon and in the West, where the garment is usually referred to as a caftan, has pushed local abaya makers to modernize their craft.

Artisanat Waked was started thirty five years ago selling abayas, tablecloths and shawls. Now Nadine and Rola Waked, daughters of the original owner, have rebranded the company with the slogan “Feel history in a trendy way.”

“We as young people want to further the fashion trends, but we cannot forget the importance of this kind of craft,” Waked said.

Their products mix traditional crafts and dress, using motifs and patterns from all corners of the Middle East. They modify some of the styles for the modern customer with shorter skirts and sleeves, modern prints, lighter fabrics and a brighter color palette.

Another designer, Khozama Naamani Dbaybo, also combines traditional and modern motifs. A chartreuse abaya with an open pink floral jacket was inspired by a Turkish TV series dubbed in Arabic, while her best-selling abaya features the hand of Fatima in jeweled studs.

The abaya, better known as the caftan in its Western modifications, has become a staple garment for some Western designers.

A recent design by Oscar de la Renta which cost $1,500 dollars recently sold out on high-end online retailed Net-a-Porter.

This international interest in traditional dress means Artisanat Waked and other abaya designers have been able to break into international markets.

Their designs are sold in Myknonos, Singapore, France and Romania, as well as in other Arab countries like Kuwait.

Nadine Waked sees their designs as a bridge between Western fashion and conservative Islamic dress.

“In Saudi Arabia, they go to many big occasions like the suhoor or the iftar (meals during Ramadan) and sometimes in Dubai they go on their boats or to the beach wearing my caftan with a slip underneath to make it more conservative,” she told the newspaper.

“In Europe or in Brazil, the women wear it to the beach or over their bathing suits with no slip.”