Women fighting Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism with trips to Auschwitz, Suzanne Nakache and Samia Essaba. Photo © Thomas Haley/2019
Tanzanian Girls Need Support, Not Threats, To Avoid Pregnancy
Meet the French Women Fighting Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism with Trips to Auschwitz
Top UK Firms ‘Still A Long Way’ From Hitting Targets For Women In Senior Roles, Study Finds
Dubai Coffee Shop Manager Abuses Female Staff
Man Rescues Fiancée from Fake Cop Rape Attempt in Dubai
Award-Winning Writers Coming To Dubai for Emirates Airline Festival Of Literature
Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau
Tanzanian Girls Need Support, Not Threats, To Avoid Pregnancy
November 13, 2019
Teenage girls in Tanzania are routinely excluded from school if they become pregnant and are prevented from returning to complete their education. Yet a recent case in the Rukwa Region involving over 200 pregnant girls dropping out of school in six months, shows even this is not the worst outcome girls may face.
The threat of criminal prosecution continues to be wielded by government officials trying to find a solution to the escalating rates of teenage pregnancy in the country, up by 4% between 2010 and 2015. In the case from the Ruwka Region in West Tanzania, a local councillor told reporters that if men impregnating underage girls were going to be arrested and prosecuted, the same approach should be applied to the girls who had become pregnant.
This story is not new. In January 2018, five schoolgirls were arrested in Mtawara Region. The girls were eventually released and charges were dropped, but this incident brought international attention to Tanzania’s high rates of pregnancy.
Pregnancy at a young age presents various social and economic challenges. These include stigma, discrimination and risk of poverty. Punitive laws which prevent pregnant girls and young mothers from remaining in school reinforce these by closing off opportunities to improve economic outcomes as well as reinforcing shame and social exclusion.
A 2017 Human Rights Watch report estimated this policy has contributed to 1.5 million adolescents being denied access to education in Tanzania in 2017. In November 2018, the World Bank pulled $300 million in aid funding from the Tanzanian government. The organisation’s spokesperson cited unease with the country’s barriers to girls’ education that the policy represented.
The link between acquiring a secondary education, and outcomes such as expanded choices, opportunities and economic independence is well documented. Girls in Tanzania see education as key to their own personal aspirations around work as well as being intrinsically valuable. Yet World Bank data shows that girls’ completion rates at lower secondary level have dropped 6% since 2012.
Tackling this decline requires addressing barriers girls face to enrolment and retention, such as economic conditions and social inequalities. Yet reports like the one from Rukwa Region suggest that a hardline, punitive stance on teenage pregnancy in Tanzania isn’t going away any time soon.
Indeed, President John Magufuli, who was elected in 2015, has continued to reiterate support for the 1963 law which allows schools to ban girls once they become pregnant.
The root of the problem
It’s unlikely that the threat of arrest will reduce teenage pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy rates in Kenya, for example, are significantly lower at 18% compared to 27% in Tanzania, according to the latest Demographic and Health Survey. They have also not risen in the way that rates in Tanzania have. The Kenyan government actively encourages girls who have given birth to return to school. Kenya also has significantly better educational inclusion than Tanzania, despite Kenyan girls facing similar socio-economic constraints and pressures.
In contrast, the most recent large-scale data on teenage pregnancy from the Demographic and Health Survey in 2015/16 showed that more than one in four teenage girls in Tanzania had become mothers, increasing by 4% since 2010.
The justification for exclusion of pregnant teenage girls is that they are a “bad influence” on other students. This notion is echoed in calls for the arrest of pregnant girls by government officials; their pregnancy is treated as evidence of a moral failing, and they are at risk of contaminating others.
Yet a major factor driving rates of teenage pregnancy is a lack of social and economic capital, which makes girls vulnerable and forces them to seek out relationships which offer them the support they need to survive. Risk of pregnancy is increased by a lack of knowledge about contraceptive methods, and its inaccessibility – teenage girls in Tanzania have the lowest contraceptive use rates in East Africa.
What research tells us
My research shows that social networks like friendships and links to the community can be sources of support and solidarity for girls. These generate social capital which enables them to resist pressures around sex and relationships. Friendships with like-minded students and support systems in the wider community, including church groups, helped girls to feel confident about pursuing goals that mattered to them and to reject sexual relationships they did not want.
Excluding girls from school cuts them off from these forms of social capital. What’s more, the threat of arrest reinforces the stigma and shame around early pregnancy by framing it as a criminal act.
It’s likely to be girls who are already disadvantaged that will further suffer from this type of action. Given the unmet demand for contraception in Tanzania, the average age of first pregnancy is 19.5 years old.
In addition, girls from the poorest socioeconomic backgrounds are twice as likely to be married before the age of 18 compared with those in wealthier families. And in rural areas, 32% of girls become teenage mothers compared to 18% in urban centres.
Instead of expelling and arresting schoolgirls, the government must pay attention to the drivers of teenage pregnancy, which are entirely overlooked in current punitive policies. Youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services can help girls to avoid pregnancy, but gender inequality and poverty intersect in ways which increase the likelihood of girls getting pregnant while still in school.
Girls suffer from particularly high drop-out rates due to the demands of childcare, cooking and domestic chores that eat into their time to study. At secondary level, students must also pay fees for various items, even in state schools. Families that don’t recognise the value of educating their daughters are reluctant to fund their schooling. This means girls must make money themselves. Poverty is a significant driver of transactional sex in exchange for gifts and money amongst young women, which puts girls at risk of pregnancy because of the lack of negotiating power over condom use that characterises these encounters.
Rates of teenage pregnancy and childbirth in Tanzania are only likely to increase if action isn’t taken to help girls overcome challenges like these, rather than marginalise them further.
Tanzania ratified the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals and made a commitment to “leave no one behind” by addressing structural drivers of inequality in an integrated way. But if current trends continue, Tanzania will fail to meet these targets and fail a generation of the most vulnerable girls.
Meet the French women fighting Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism with trips to Auschwitz
12 November 2019
That is thanks to Samia Essaba, a high school teacher, and Suzanne Nakache, a Jewish former pharmacy owner, and the women’s group Langage de Femmes, or Women's Voices, which they founded in 2017.
Essaba, a Muslim, is an English teacher in a high school in the rough Paris suburb of Noisy-le-Sec, while Nakache used to run a pharmacy in the ethnically mixed 20th arrondissement of the capital.
They came together to fight the tensions that they saw around them in their daily lives between Muslims, who number around five million in France, and Jews, whose community is about half a million strong. Their mission - to combat the anti-Semitism and Islamophobia that blights French society.
With France in the throes of its latest national frenzy over Muslim women’s clothing, this time the headscarf, and amidst a rise in anti-Semtic attacks, they have their work cut out for them.
They aim to bring together women who otherwise would have little chance of ever meeting or hearing each other’s point of view.
“We have women who wear the headscarf, cleaning women, executives from big companies, Jewish women who wear wigs, Christian women from posh areas, and secular women,” Nakache said when The Local met her at a meeting of the Anglo-American Press Association of Paris.
They hold film screenings, social events, and excursions to bring these women together and let them talk and bounce their ideas and opinions off each other.
“We even had a comedy evening where there was a Jewish, a Muslim, and a Christian comic on stage,” said Nakache.
The results have been heartening, according to Essaba.
One woman in the group was a Christian who was verging on Holocaust denial in her speech but after meeting her Jewish counterparts soon saw the error of her ways.
Holocaust denial is a recurrent problem the charity faces. At school kids are taught about the murder of six million Jews during World War II, but at home some are exposed to speech that questions the reality of the Holocaust.
France is in the midst of its latest controversy over Muslim women's clothing. Photo: AFP
Essaba recalls that when the Al Qaeda attacks on New York took place in 2001, a handful of kids in her class - she had many Muslims in her school but few Jews - commented that in the Twin Towers that collapsed "there were Jews, and the Jews control the stock market."
That was when she decided to become an activist.
“I realised I could no longer be deaf to prejudice,” she said.
Her activism eventually led to her teaming up with Nakache, who was born into the Jewish community in the former French colony of Algeria.
The most striking initiative over the past couple of years has been the group’s annual trip to Poland to visit Auschwitz, arguably the most notorious of the many death camps the Nazis set up in various European countries under their domination.
“We wanted to show what hate leads to,” said Nakache. “That was the fate of Jews then but it might be Muslims tomorrow.”
In 2018 they had around 60 women with them on the charity’s first trip to Auschwitz, and that figure more than doubled to 150 in the trip there in February this year.
And donors are queuing up to give money to what they see as a good cause: Paris city hall, Société Générale bank, the Paris Shoah Memorial centre, and the Paris regional council are among those who have contributed.
Another Auschwitz trip is planned for next March, and again those who cannot afford the €380 fee to cover expenses will be subsidised by other people on the trip or by donors.
“We plan to take Jewish and Muslim women from Israel on the next trip,” said Nakache.
Langage de Femmes rejects any attempt by French politicians or political parties to use it for their own ends, and for that reason its members did not attend a march in Paris last weekend against Islamophobia.
Essaba and Nakache know that the situation is so fraught in France they can only make a small difference.
Nakache for example acknowledges that in some city districts across France Jewish kids cannot attend state school as they would be subject to insults and even physical assault, and their parents end up sending them to Jewish schools instead.
But they plan to keep on trying.
Top UK firms ‘still a long way’ from hitting targets for women in senior roles, study finds
Staff and agencies
13 November 2019
The number of female directors at top UK companies has increased over the past year but a “step-change” in representation is still needed, according to a new report.
The Hampton-Alexander review, an independent body analysing female business representation, called for more women to be appointed as executives in its report for 2019.
Sir Philip Hampton, chair of the review, said that although progress has been made, the number of women in senior leadership roles below board level is “still a long way” from reaching targets.
He added that its target for 2020 will only be met if half of all appointments this year go to female candidates. The report said a “step-change is needed” to match these forecasts.
The latest report shows 32.4% of all FTSE 100 board positions are held by women, up from 30.2% last year, while 29.6% of all FTSE 250 roles are held by women, up from 24.9% last year.
However, the independent group said “not all companies are making the same efforts”, highlighting that there is an “obvious” gap between those working to improve gender balance and those “doing little”.
Mr Hampton said: “This is the penultimate Hampton-Alexander report and we enter our final year with great momentum behind us. If this progress continues into 2020, our targets for women on boards will be met.
”Whilst this is a key indicator of change at the top, strengthening the number of women in executive positions is critical to achieving long-term gender balance.“
The review said a core priority for 2020 is to further reduce the number of company boards with just one female director present.
Denise Wilson, chief executive of the review, said: ”Strong foundations have been laid and significant progress has been made since the journey began in earnest in 2011.
“The very senior jobs were always going to be the hardest of challenges, however a stronger focus is now required at every stage of the appointment process to address the reasons why top jobs aren't going to women.”
Dubai coffee shop manager abuses female staff
November 12, 2019
Ali Al Shouk, Senior Reporter
Dubai: A coffee shop supervisor went on trial at the Dubai Court of First Instance after he was accused of sexually abusing an employee several times by inappropriately touching and kissing her.
According to official records, the 26-year-old Filipina victim, who was working at the shop at Jumeirah Lake Towers since 2018, was molested by the 31-year-old Egyptian defendant for about one year. But she reported him to the police in September this year.
“He used to pull me towards him and touch my body. Once he sat me on his legs. I was afraid and didn’t report the incidents because I was new at work and he threatened to terminate me from my job,” the Filipina victim said in records.
She argued that she did not in any way provoke him.
Finally, she reported the incidents to the head of human resources at the company who in turn informed the management. The defendent’s actions were then established on surveillance cameras and the incident reported to Dubai Police.
Dubai Police arrested the defendant who has been charged with sexually abusing the Filipina.
The verdict is expected on November 19.
Man rescues fiancee from fake cop rape attempt in Dubai
September 04, 2019
Ali Al Shouk, Staff Reporter
Dubai: A Nepali man, stopped by fake cops while walking with his fiancee in a Dubai street, managed to rescue her after the men dragged her into a car in a failed rape attempt, a Dubai court heard on Wednesday.
In April of this year the 27-year-old Nepali was walking with his fellow countrywoman in Al Quoz after midnight when three men stopped and posed as police before asking the couple for their ID.
The men held the Nepali man by force and dragged his fiancee into the backseat of a nearby car.
“I saw him put my fiancee inside the car and she was crying for help,” he said. “I know that they were trying to rape her so I managed to escape from them, but one of them hit me with a cricket bat. I ran towards her and rescued her from the hands of the attackers and we both fled,” he added.
The Pakistani defendants escaped and Dubai Police rescued the couple.
“I want them to be punished with the maximum penalty for what they have done to me and my fiancee,” said the Nepali, who works as a lifeguard. “I was so upset with what happened, as if I hadn’t managed to escape then they would have raped my fiancé,” he added.
Meanwhile, his 25-year-old fiancee said that one of the defendants dragged her to the empty car.
“I yelled at him and said that police don’t treat women like this,” she said. “He muzzled my mouth and pushed me into the back seat of the car. He tried to take off my trousers and hugged me, but I kept resisting him. My fiance rescued me and then we ran to the main road asking for help from other people,” she added.
The three defendants stole a mobile phone, credit card and Dh60 from the victims. Aged between 26 to 31, the trio were charged with posing as police, theft, attempted rape and assault.
The trial has been adjourned until October 2, while the defendants remain in custody.
Award-winning writers coming to Dubai for Emirates Airline Festival of Literature
November 13, 2019
DUBAI: The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is back, and it’s bigger than ever. Kicking off on Feb. 4 until 9 at the InterContinental, Dubai Festival City, the annual event has an exciting program lined up for the region’s bookworms.
The festival will bring together an array of celebrated names in the literature world under one roof, including TV presenter, cook and bestselling author Nadiya Hussain, explorer Ranulph Fiennes, visual artist and children’s book author, Oliver Jeffers and TV astronomer and space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock. What’s more, the UAE’s first Emirati astronaut Hazzaa AlMansouri will also make an appearance.
Ahlam Bolooki, the festival director for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature said in an official press statement: “With the stellar line-up for the 2020 Festival, there is no better place to search for the answers, whatever your question may be. We have writers to entertain, inspire, challenge and excite people from all walks of life and of all ages.”
Tickets will be on sale to the public from Nov. 14.
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