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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 29 Oct 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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‘Women in Cyber Security’ Initiative to Boost Role of Saudi Women

New Age Islam News Bureau

29 Oct 2019

Participants and visitors were introduced to technical and digital aspects of cybersecurity in an event in Dammam. — Okaz photo


Francophone Woman Attacks Hijabi Moroccan at Sufi Festival in Fez

Educating Girls May Be Nigeria's Best Hope against Climate Change

Alya Mooro Attempts To Give Middle Eastern Women In The UK A Voice With 'The Greater Freedom'

Drivers of Change: The Women’s Economic Empowerment Global Summit to be held in Sharjah in December

Sharjah to Host Second Women’s Empowerment Event

Christmas Comes Early for Women in Turkey’s Western Burdur Province

World's Worst Places to Be A Woman: South Sudan, DRC, Mali, Libya, CAR

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




‘Women in Cyber Security’ Initiative to Boost Role of Saudi Women

October 28, 2019

ABHA — The General Department of Cybersecurity at King Khalid University recently organized a program titled “Women in Cybersecurity” initiative to enhance the opportunities for Saudi women in the fields of cybersecurity and information security.

Several cybersecurity specialists attended the event, which aimed at all those interested in cybersecurity from within and outside the university, to achieve the university’s mission of social contribution through the optimal utilization of its resources. This also aimed at realizing the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 in order to enhance the role of women in various areas needed by the labor market.

As part of the three-day initiative, a pavilion was set up to introduce technical and digital aspects to interested students, and the initiative concluded its activities at one of the commercial complexes in Abha.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Saqar, general supervisor of the General Department of Cybersecurity at the university, said that the initiative is the first phase of a management program, while the second phase, which is meant to provide support, orientation and training to women, will be launched soon for a full year. Through these outputs, other programs and training courses will be held in the following year.

For her part, Amira Al-Ahmari, supervisor of the initiative, stressed that the aim of the program is to raise the percentage of women in the field of information security. This is in view of the statistical reports showing low percentage of women in the fields of information security and cybersecurity in the labor market around the world.

It is noteworthy that more than 200 women have benefited from meetings with specialists in cybersecurity during the initiative, in addition to a large number of interested women and visitors to the pavilions of the initiative at the university.



Francophone Woman Attacks Hijabi Moroccan at Sufi Festival in Fez

By Morgan Hekking -

Oct 28, 2019

Rabat – During a roundtable discussion at the 12th annual Fez Festival of Sufi Culture on Tuesday, October 22, a French-speaking audience member ordered another attendee to remove her hijab before posing a question to the panel.

Before a shocked panel of scholars, headed by the festival’s director Faouzi Skali, a predominantly French audience looked on as the Moroccan woman defended her right to wear the hijab. 

Nearly every day of the Sufi festival, Skali held roundtable discussions at Riad Dar Batha, a cultural center owned by the French Institute in Fez.

Tuesday’s roundtable theme was “the practice of non-violence on a daily basis.”

After the panel’s speakers concluded their points, Skali invited the audience to come forward with questions and comments.

A woman wearing a hijab held the microphone. She was poised to ask the panel a question when another woman in the audience interrupted her.

In French, the woman told her to remove her hijab before speaking. While the nationality and ethnic origins of the woman are unknown, her accent suggested to other audience members that she lives in France.

Unsurprisingly, chaos ensued.

“You don’t have the right to tell me what to wear,” the Moroccan woman exclaimed in French, as other audience members began to stir.

“We’re in a Muslim country,” she continued. “Even if we weren’t in a Muslim country, it’s my right to wear the hijab.”

As the argument between the two women heated up, the Muslim woman rose to her feet—not in an act of aggression, but to make her presence known and her voice heard above the clamoring audience.

Skali, who seemed to know the Muslim woman personally, asked her to calm down so the panel could address the issue in a diplomatic manner.

The Muslim woman excused herself to Skali in Darija (Moroccan dialect), but returned her focus to the French woman: “This is an Islamic festival, and you’re telling me to remove the hijab?”

A case of ironic elitism

Attendees at a festival of Islamic culture in a Muslim country may have been surprised to hear such comments on the hijab.

While Sufi culture has a focus on individuality and introspection, the attack on the Muslim woman’s personal choice was, at the very least, anachronistic.

It’s unlikely that the French woman left Riad Dar Batha that morning with a refreshed view of the hijab. The Muslim woman, on the other hand, left Riad Dar Batha carrying the weight of a publicized, personal attack.

This case of ironic elitism at the Fez Festival of Sufi Culture highlighted the disconnect between its organizers’ agenda and the outlook of some of its attendees.

A history of discrimination

This instance of a French woman making discriminatory remarks against a hijabi Moroccan during a scholarly discussion of non-violence in daily life is perhaps linked to the rise of Islamophobia in France.

France is becoming a hotbed for Islamophobia, according to a number of media sources, social analysts, academics, and activists.

In addition to discriminatory laws enacted under the cloak of secularist ideology, there is a growing prevalence of anti-Muslim sentiment among French political parties, and hate crimes against Muslims.

Despite France’s strong political and economic ties with Morocco and other Muslim countries, the discriminatory legacy of colonialism has carried on into the modern age, especially as France now faces an unprecedented number of Muslim refugees and migrants.

France prides itself on its cornerstone secular ideology, or “laicite:” the strict separation of religion and state. This prohibits all religious symbols—including those found in clothing and accessories—in public schools.

The recent history of French mobilization against the hijab began in 1989 when three Muslim girls were suspended from school for refusing to remove their heardscarves during class.

15 years later, French parliament passed a law in 2004 barring Muslim students from attending classes while wearing the hijab.

In 2010, former president Nicolas Sarkozy banned the full-face veil from all public spaces in France.

“Anti-burkini decrees” infiltrated public debate during the summer of 2016 as French mayors worked to prohibit Muslim women from wearing swimsuits that covered their bodies completely.

Each of these controversies stem from the narrative that “the hijab is an oppressive tool used by Muslim men to hide and silence Muslim women,” says Al Jazeera contributor Rokhaya Diallo.

Most recently, a member of France’s National Rally asked a Muslim woman to remove her hijab at a plenary meeting of the Regional Council of Burgundy-Franche-Comte on October 11. The woman was accompanying her son on a school trip.

French public figures responded by calling upon president Emmanuel Macron to denounce Islamophobia in France, in an open letter published on October 16 in the French newspaper Le Monde.

The incident at the roundtable on Tuesday is eerily similar to that which took place at the plenary meeting, but with a crucial difference in context.

While derogatory remarks towards Muslims are unfortunately commonplace in France, it is startling to see Islamophobia rearing its ugly head at an Islamic festival in a Muslim country.



Educating Girls May Be Nigeria's Best Hope against Climate Change


OCT 29 2019

THE CALL-AND-RESPONSE IS ENTHUSIASTIC, rising above the sound of a fan whirring furiously in the corner of the room. About 50 women stand in a circle around the song leader, who pounds the air with an invisible hammer. When she gets to the second verse—"I will hammer with two hammers!"—she pumps both arms up and down, and the rest of the women follow. By the fourth verse, their feet have joined in, stomping the ground, and by the fifth, everyone is bobbing their head up and down too. As the song ends, the room erupts in laughter.

It's a typical day at the Center for Girls' Education. On this hot, breezeless afternoon in May, in the third week of Ramadan, most of the women are fasting, but their infectious energy gives no hint of this.

The Center for Girls' Education (CGE) is located in a plain, single-story building on the campus of Ahmadu Bello University, in the northern Nigerian city of Zaria. Its offices are sparse: a big table, a few desks, a couple of computers. For large meetings, everyone sits on mats on the floor. The concrete walls are bare, save for sheets of paper scrawled with motivational messages like "Work Hard, Have Fun, Make a Difference."

The purpose of today's meeting is to give some visitors an overview of the organization, and it began with the center's director, Habiba Mohammed, leading the staff in a "love clap" to make the visitors feel welcome: "[clap clap] Mmm, [clap clap] mmm, [clap clap] mmm, [clap clap] we love you." Then staff members take turns introducing themselves. When it's her turn, Mohammed says, "One thing I want you to remember about me is that I am still a girl."

At 50, Mohammed isn't exactly a girl, but with her friendly, open smile and generous laugh, she exudes youthful energy. Her statement seems meant to convey how closely she identifies with the girls CGE serves.

Over the past decade, CGE has helped thousands of impoverished adolescents in northern Nigeria stay in school or gain the skills they need to enroll. A joint program of the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley and the Population and Reproductive Health Initiative at Ahmadu Bello University, the center operates seven projects made possible by funding from institutions including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Malala Fund. Thanks to such philanthropy, the center is growing fast. In 2016, its Pathways to Choice project expanded beyond Kaduna State into two other northern states. Another project, the Adolescent Girls Initiative, aims to reach 30,000 girls in at least three more states by the end of the year through a partnership with the United Nations Population Fund.

"In Nigeria, we have 10.5 million out-of-school children," Mohammed says. "We are always hoping to help whoever wants to support girls, wherever that person is, even if we have to climb mountains or swim oceans."

Since its inception, the Center for Girls' Education has grown to a staff of about 70—nearly all of them Nigerian women, the majority of them Muslim, enabling the organization to fluently navigate northern Nigeria's culturally conservative, mostly Muslim, rural villages to promote girls' education. The organization's local connections have allowed it to shift cultural norms without violating them as it advances the health and well-being of women and girls, and by extension entire communities.

The center's success has broader implications too, as climate change starts to bear down on one of the world's most populous nations. A large body of research confirms that when girls are educated, their families and communities are more resilient in the face of weather-related disasters and better able to adapt to the effects of climate change. Educated women have more economic resources, their agricultural plots reap higher yields, and their families are better nourished.

Staff members don't tend to think about their efforts through the lens of climate change; nevertheless, they are helping to prepare the region to cope with, and try to avoid, the worst impacts of global warming.

THE CENTER FOR GIRL'S EDUCATION was founded in 2007 by US medical anthropologist Daniel Perlman. Northern Nigeria has some of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, and Perlman had been conducting research in and around Zaria on ways to prevent women from dying during childbirth. Maternal mortality is a multifaceted problem, but early marriage has been shown to be a significant factor—globally, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for 15-to-19-year-old women. In the communities where Perlman was doing his research, the average age of marriage for females was about 15, and sometimes girls would marry as young as 12.

Perlman found that while most families considered keeping girls in school a viable alternative to marriage, few were willing or able to enroll their daughters past primary school. Nigeria's government-run schools are free except for registration fees and the cost of uniforms and supplies; for the poorest families, however, these expenses are prohibitive. The quality of education is also notoriously poor. One mother told Perlman that even though her daughter had graduated from secondary school, she didn't know how to read or write, and the mother had decided not to send her younger daughters. According to Perlman's research at the time, a quarter of the girls in the communities surrounding Zaria dropped out during the final years of primary school, compared with just 5 percent of boys. Of the girls who graduated from primary school, only a quarter went on to secondary school.

CGE set up its first program in the village of Dakace, a dusty collection of buildings inhabited by subsistence farmers and day laborers near Zaria. There, the center organized a handful of what it calls "safe spaces"—girls-only after-school clubs where 12-to-14-year-olds work with a mentor on reading, writing, math, and practical life skills. The hope was that with the extra support, girls would improve their academic performance at school, and families would be motivated to keep them enrolled, thus delaying marriage.

At first, the safe spaces were a hard sell. Mardhiyyah Abbas Mashi, an Islamic scholar and the chair of CGE's board, led the center's community-engagement efforts in Dakace. She met with the sarki—the village chief—and the local imam to enlist their support. A tall, elegant woman, Abbas speaks with calm authority. "As a teacher in Arabic and Islamic studies, and as a Hausa [the dominant ethnic group in northern Nigeria], I know the culture. I know the religion. So that is why we go to the community and we talk about the importance of girls' education in Islam," she says. "The very first commandment that came to the Prophet was to read. In Islam, knowledge is compulsory for you whether you are a man or a woman."

The sarki and the imam agreed to the plan, but others in the community remained suspicious. Rumors flew: The real purpose of the safe spaces was probably to teach family planning, the point of which, everyone knew, was to get Muslim women to have fewer babies in order to reduce the Muslim population.

The sarki, Saidu Muazu, called a community meeting to address people's fears. "I made them understand that there are a lot of boys continuing with their education, but girls are not continuing," Muazu says, "and that when a girl has an education, she will make a better person in her home, in the community, and everywhere she finds herself." Eventually, a small group of parents agreed to enroll their daughters in the safe spaces.

Amina Yusuf was one of those girls. Despite having just finished primary school, she could barely recite the alphabet, let alone read a book. At the government-run primary school she had attended, she had been in classes with as many as 300 students. It was chaos. To maintain order, instructors would beat the students with sticks.

By the time Yusuf began attending a safe space at age 12, many of her friends were married. "I thought it was just a normal way of life," she says. But her mother had received some education as a girl, and her father thought she should as well.

The safe space was held three afternoons a week. Unlike Yusuf's teacher at school, the mentor knew her by name; if Yusuf didn't understand a lesson, the mentor followed up with her individually. Plus, the snacks were good.

Yusuf would come home from the safe space and teach her seven siblings what she had learned and also share tips with her mother, like how to keep a clean kitchen so no one got sick. Her parents were impressed. In the past, her father had not paid much attention to her, but now he pointed her out to others, saying, "That's my daughter."

Mohammed was a mentor at one of the first safe spaces in Dakace. At the time, she was a teacher at a secondary school. Sometimes she had up to 90 students in a class, and she was also raising eight children. But in her first weeks as a mentor, she was taken aback by how difficult it was to work with the 15 12-year-olds in her safe space. They were unruly, and fights broke out, often for trivial reasons such as someone's hand accidentally brushing someone else's. "Whenever I came back home after my safe space, I had terrible headaches," Mohammed recalls. "I'd think, 'Should I continue this work? Am I really meant for it?'"

Mohammed had grown up in a family of three girls and one boy. Her mother had always encouraged her and her sisters to do their best. "In Nigeria, if you have a girl child, people tend to look down on you, thinking that you have not gotten a boy child that will carry the name of the family, but my mother always made us understand that a girl can do what a boy can do," Mohammed says. "Even when I was married and I was going to school, my mother was always there to support me, helping me in whatever way she could."

Thinking about this made Mohammed feel a deep responsibility to the girls in her care, despite the challenges of the work. She and the other mentors began meeting regularly to swap stories and advice, in essence forming a safe space for one another. Gradually, the girls' behavior began to improve.

Over time, the center's mentors, who are all volunteers, have gotten better at helping adolescent girls with little to no real education. They've incorporated movement, storytelling, and singing into their lessons to teach basic literacy and numeracy skills. It has been a quietly radical experiment, this refusal to give up on girls from the poorest families.

Maryam Albashir joined the program as a mentor in 2010 and is now a team leader for CGE's Transitions Out of School project. "One good thing about working with this center is you learn to accommodate everybody, whether or not you are of the same status, wherever you are from," she says. "We don't really have that in our schools in this country. You get spanked; you get punished. However the teachers want to treat you, they treat you. We were supposed to enroll about 30 girls in a school, but the principal rejected them, and her reason was that she didn't see people of their caliber coming into school. She didn't give them a chance; she just defined them."

In Dakace, Muazu says, there has been a big shift in attitudes toward girls' education. "People within the community started seeing the impact in the girls, so they got impressed. Right now, the number of girls who are in school is more than the number of boys because of the help from the center."

Girls who have graduated from the safe spaces frequently stay on and become what the center calls "cascading mentors." Now 22, Yusuf works on a CGE project called the Girls Campaign for Quality Education, which teaches girls how to advocate politically for better access to education. She is enrolled in college and is studying science education. She is not married. "I want to make sure that I marry a man who will allow me to continue my education," she says.

Perlman believes that the Center for Girls' Education is succeeding in its original goal of decreasing maternal mortality: According to his research, the age of marriage for girls who participate has been delayed by an average of 2.5 years. But even if this were not the case, he would deem the program a success because of the way it has transformed the lives of girls like Yusuf. His data shows that 80 percent of the girls who went through the program in its first few years went on to graduate from secondary school. Now 70, Perlman still travels to Zaria frequently to collaborate with Mohammed and other staff members on program design and implementation. "Even old white men can be allies," he likes to say, "as long as they understand that the people who have the problem have the solution."

NIGERIA IS THE SEVENTH-MOST-POPULOUS nation in the world, with just over 200 million people living in an area roughly twice the size of California. And it's growing fast—Nigerian women have, on average, five children. By 2050, the country is projected to have the third-largest population, with more than 400 million people, the vast majority of whom will be under the age of 24. Tens of millions of young people will need education and employment opportunities along with basic services like sanitation and clean water. Without these, they will be mired in poverty and vulnerable to extremism in a country that already contends with Boko Haram and other terrorist groups.

Add to this list of challenges the impacts of climate change. Nigeria's northern border is perched on the edge of the Sahel, the semiarid belt that stretches across the southern rim of the Sahara Desert. By 2050, average temperatures in the Sahel could rise by as much as 2°C. Hotter temperatures will mean drier soil that retains less moisture, and this will make it harder to grow food, especially for subsistence farmers.

Yusuf Sani Ahmed, an agricultural expert at Ahmadu Bello University, says he already sees the signs of climate change in Zaria. "The temperature can be 44 Celsius, which is high, and the streams are becoming drier and drier." Because the water table is low, he says, there's less vegetation, and livestock have become thin and malnourished.

Ahmed is on good terms with the herders whose cattle graze near his fields, but he says that shrinking arable land coupled with too much development is exacerbating conflicts between farmers and herders throughout the north; violent clashes are on the rise. "There's less available land, and also not much is growing because things are drier," he says. "It is so competitive."

Girls' education plays an indirect but crucial role in helping to alleviate these complex problems. The book Drawdown—a compendium of strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—places girls' education at number six on its list of the 100 most effective solutions to climate change. Aside from helping communities become more resilient, girls' education has a significant effect on population growth. "Women with more years of education have fewer, healthier children and actively manage their reproductive health," the Drawdown researchers say, noting that, on average, a woman with 12 years of schooling has four to five fewer children than a woman with no education.

In a report for the Brookings Institution, Christina Kwauk and Amanda Braga call girls' education "one of the most overlooked yet formidable mechanisms for mitigating against weather-related catastrophes and adapting to the long-term effects of climate change." But they also warn that fixating too much on population growth in low-income countries can be fraught with ethical problems. "For one," they write, "it places the cost for reproductive decisions on girls and women in the Global South while ignoring other anthropogenic factors that contribute to climate." For example, the average American produces 16 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, while the average Nigerian emits only .55 tons.

Ultimately, improving girls' access to education around the world helps address the strain that an increasing number of people places on fragile resources—for example, arable land and fresh water—in a way that advances basic human rights for women and girls. "If universal education for girls were achieved tomorrow," Kwauk and Braga write, "the population in 2050 could be smaller by 1.5 billion people."

HABIBA MOHAMMED STANDS before a group of about 20 girls in a dim room with mud-brick walls in the village of Marwa, not far from Dakace. She is a guest at today's gathering, and she leads the girls in a call-and-response about going into labor and giving birth. While she sings, she trembles, grabs her back as if in pain, and doubles over. The girls imitate her gestures, their pink, red, blue, and green hijabs billowing.

This safe space began less than a year ago. The mentor, Khadijah Mohammed (no relation to Habiba), says that when they started, none of the girls could write their names. "Now they can write their names, the name of their community, their parents' names, and so many other things," she says. Most of these girls have never been enrolled in school; now they are preparing to take a placement exam to enter primary school. "They have ambitions now," Khadijah says. "Some of them want to become doctors, some teachers. They have hope for their future."

Today's lesson is mostly a review of reproductive health—hence, Habiba's call-and-response. "How do you know when you are pregnant?" Khadijah asks. "Once you are pregnant, when should you go to the clinic?" The girls talk over one another to answer.

CGE's safe space curriculum includes a field trip to a medical clinic. For many students, it's the first time they've been to one. Sometimes this is because the nearest clinic is far from where they live. Their families' low social status can also interfere. "When they go to the hospital, they don't feel very confident with the workers, so they don't get what they want," Khadijah says. On the field trip, the girls talk to nurses, doctors, and women who have just given birth. "Some of [the students] are very shy to the doctor during that visit," Khadijah says, "but some of them are confident. They ask questions."

Operating in a religiously conservative area, CGE does not explicitly teach family planning. Nonetheless, the girls who take part in the safe spaces are more likely to use birth control than those who don't, partly because of the greater exposure to information they receive in school.

In their study, Kwauk and Braga also argue that higher levels of education are associated with strong measures of agency—or, "the ability to make decisions about one's life and act on them to achieve a desired outcome, free of violence, retribution, or fear." For this reason, girls' education complements family-planning services, which on their own aren't always effective.

Despite the efforts of CGE and other organizations working to advance girls' education, fewer than one in three girls in sub-Saharan Africa attends secondary school. Advocates say that if some climate-adaptation funds—which are often focused on expensive, highly technical solutions—were delivered to organizations that educate girls, this low-tech, equity-focused response to climate change could rapidly scale up.

But for Perlman, Mohammed, and others at CGE, that isn't really the point. Their work is, above all, about fostering female agency. The center has flipped the script that usually accompanies Western-led aid and development programs in poorer nations. Female education isn't an instrument to some other goal—it is the goal, with the broader environment representing a kind of co-benefit. And this is exactly why it works.

"Something has really taken place to make people better," Mohammed says, "and it is helping more girls to be able to have the support of their parents to allow them to continue schooling and to really achieve something with their life."



Alya Mooro Attempts To Give Middle Eastern Women In The UK A Voice With 'The Greater Freedom'

Hafsa Lodi

Oct 29, 2019

Dressed in an elegant black jumpsuit, Alya Mooro sits on a brown leather sofa at The Union Club in London while reading from her debut book, The Greater Freedom: Life as a Middle Eastern Woman Outside the Stereotypes.

Her outfit is by Jordanian designer Nafsika Skourti – a fitting choice for the occasion, as in both her social commentary and this book, she has been vocal about her desire to support and campaign for modern, middle-ground Middle Eastern women.

Throughout The Greater Freedom, Mooro expertly weaves together personal anecdotes with research and statistics to compile a book about uncovering her identity as an Egyptian-born Londoner, fittingly described as “part memoir, part social exploration” by Amazon, its publisher.

“Where are you from?” the author is constantly asked, as an inner dilemma ensues about whether she identifies more with her Egyptian heritage or British citizenship.

“I am both and neither,” she concludes to the reader. “Having to compartmentalise one’s life” is “strange” and “unpleasant”, she writes. Instead, she explores the ways in which her western culture and Egyptian heritage influence her outlook on life.

As a fellow female journalist with Eastern heritage, also raised in the West by moderately liberal parents, I found myself relating to many of Mooro’s experiences, questions and ambitions – not to mention the fact we both were Avril Lavigne fans before turning to hip-hop and are both awake by 7am, crafting lengthy to-do lists, feeling a burst of accomplishment once each task is ticked off.

Ours is a generation of second and third-culture women who are numerous, and in her book, Mooro’s stories are intertwined with discussions with fellow “hybrids”, or Middle Eastern women in the UK – anonymous sources referred to as Samira, Dunya, Mariam and Haifa, who hail from Egypt, Oman, Iraq and Kuwait.

“It’s a style of writing I’ve been doing as a journalist for years, providing alternative narratives and telling the stories that are not in the mainstream, ones that are true to myself and the people I know,” Mooro tells The National. “I’m a big believer that the world is changed by examples far more than it is by opinions, so I wanted to give a human face to the conversation and in doing so, hopefully humanise the issues addressed and make them more relatable.”

Mooro says she is an “invisible immigrant” and “invisible Muslim”, since she doesn’t appear like the stereotypical characters of these labels. While she touches on topics of faith, she doesn’t delve into them deeply. “I don’t particularly care to wade too far into this subject,” she writes, calling it “sticky” and “nuanced”. She says Chapter 10, titled “When you are ‘technically’ Muslim”, was the most challenging to write.

“I woke up to the fact that I was a feminist slowly and then all at once,” she writes, and though much of her book highlights social injustices rooted in her own culture, The Greater Freedom isn’t by any means a literary attack on her religion or ethnicity. She points out that in America, women were allowed to vote only in 1920.

“It took around two years to write The Greater Freedom, from inception of the idea to publication. I turned 30 as I finished writing the book, which felt very poignant, as writing had enabled me to unpick so many of the ideas and ways of being I had adopted almost by osmosis – from what I term in the book the ‘invisible jury’,” referring to the greater Arab society, who in her experience, equate the prospect of their children being westernised to them being “ruined”.

This invisible jury contends that Muslim Arab women should marry Muslim Arab men, as opposed to those of other religious or cultural backgrounds, and ensures ‘marriageability’ should be the top priority of Arab girls. Readers learn that in the UK, the average bride is 35, but in the Middle East, one fifth of girls are wed before they turn 18. “Regardless of other achievements or accolades, women in the Arab world are expected to first fill the roles of wives and mothers before all others,” writes Mooro. Needless to say, this contrasts starkly with the ideals embedded in her European upbringing.

Numbers and statistics add weight to Mooro’s words. Only 24 per cent of women in Arab countries work outside the home. Divorce rates in Egypt have risen by 83 per cent in the past 20 years, while in the UK, 42 per cent of marriages end in divorce. Her writing is also interspersed with colloquial Arabic words and phrases: readers learn that the word for an unmarried woman in Arabic is “ahnes”, which is a branch that withers and becomes useless.

Marriage doesn’t top Mooro’s list of priorities. “I was never the girl who fantasised about marriage and children. It sounded like a jail sentence to me … despite what Beyonce preached, I never believed he had to put a ring on it in order to prove he liked it,” she writes. “In my opinion, true happiness and independence are achieved when we are true to ourselves, not once we prefix our names with ‘Mrs’.”

Mooro frequently diverts to social media, where she conducts polls and interviews on platforms such as Instagram. Through Instagram’s Stories feature, she asked her Middle Eastern followers if they felt pressure to marry – more than 80 per cent said yes. “Being active on social media has always come very naturally to me – and to many of my generation,” Mooro tells me. “It felt like a no-brainer to engage with my followers about the subjects I was tackling and to get their opinions. Demographically, many of my followers are Middle Eastern women who live around the world, so it made perfect sense to tap into that pool of people.”

Throughout her book, Mooro bares her soul. But though it all may make her vulnerable to her culture’s “invisible jury”, Mooro describes her writing experience as “cathartic”.

“I don’t really feel like the experiences belong to me, any more,” she says. “They belong to the reader and to the book now; they exist as bridges to the points I am trying to make: that we should all be free to make our own choices, and to have the greater freedom – whatever that may look like.”



Drivers of Change: The Women’s Economic Empowerment Global Summit to be held in Sharjah in December

October 28, 2019

Sharjah: ‘Drivers of Change’, the Women’s Economic Empowerment Global Summit (WEEGS) will take forward the important conversations on women advancement and empowerment in both economic and professional domains, in its upcoming second edition to be held on December 10,11 in Sharjah.

More than 1,000 participants will come together at the Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre (JRCC) in Sharajah. They will discuss issues related to women’s empowerment and gender equity with advocates, governmental, non-governmental and private sector representatives, and academics, who can influence global policies, inform grassroot actions, boost women’s career prospects in all fields and advocate the formation of inclusive work ecosystems.

Being held under the patronage of Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), WEEGS is organised by NAMA in collaboration with UN Women. The theme, ‘Drivers of Change’, reflects the summit’s dedication to bolstering discussions with international decision-makers, developing current strategies, potential opportunities and case studies that enhance equitable opportunities for women in all sectors.

Sustainable plan

Through its programmes and pillars, the second edition of the summit seeks to create a sustainable action plan, with the focus being placed on key aspects that support ‘Drivers of Change’, most notably gender-responsive procurement, women’s participation in global value chains, Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP) and women’s access to finance and funding.

Drivers of change will address labour market challenges women face.

The summit’s theme, ‘Drivers of Change’ was inspired by the challenges that women face in the global workplace, and will shine light on how fully harnessing women’s potential will create a more stable, prosperous future for the region.

Women make 21 per cent of labour force in MENA

A report published by the World Bank indicates that “currently, women make up only 21% of the labour force and only contribute 18% to MENA’s overall GDP. Had the gender gap in labour force participation been narrowed over the past decade, the GDP growth rate in MENA could have doubled or increased by about US$1 trillion in cumulative output.”

Through the two-day discussions guided by the WEEGS 2019 theme, NAMA seeks to reinforce regional and global efforts to find effective and sustainable solutions for women’s economic inclusion.

Globally as well, qualitative studies and evidence-based reports on gender equity and empowerment of women and girls reveal that ground realities are plagued by deep trenches of inequality between men and women.

The summit will highlight the importance of reviewing legislation, internal regulations and policies of government and private entities while also emphasising the need to bring together all initiatives and efforts working towards the common goal to make a difference and drive change.

The summit’s theme also points to global trends that are driving efforts towards furthering women’s partnership and their pivotal role in new non-traditional sectors and emerging markets, particularly in view of technological advancement, high education rates and the skillsets that enable women to join the labour market.

NAMA vision

Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA, pointed out that WEEGS will evaluate women’s achievements in various economic sectors at the national, regional and global levels. “The summit aims to develop relevant action plans and best practice mechanisms as well as identify strategies, which will widen the scope of these achievements and take them to more advanced levels,” she said. NAMA is a Sharjah based non-profit organisation that believes that women are important human capital and works towards advancing them

“We look upon women in the region and the world as a united, coherent community. This vision is enshrined in our strategic partnership with UN Women and civil society organisations in many countries. It aligns with our belief that women are an indispensable human resource for the development of every nation. By helping create a better entrepreneurial ecosystem for women and enhancing their skills, we can really boost their role in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals,” added Reem BinKaram.

The debut edition of WEEGS 2017 had forged local and international partnerships to promote and support gender equity. It brought together 14 local and global entities that pledged to take action and provide economic environment that support women through the implementation of Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) that were launched by UN Women.



Sharjah to Host Second Women’s Empowerment Event

October 28, 2019

Sharjah: The Women’s Economic Empowerment Global Summit (WEEGS) will be held under the theme ‘Drivers of Change’ for its second edition, to be held December 10 to 11 in Sharjah.

Held under the patronage of Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), WEEGS is organised by NAMA in collaboration with UN Women.

More than 1,000 people will come together at the Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre to exchange experiences and network with high-profile officials and thought leaders on women’s empowerment.

Through its programmes, the summit seeks to create a sustainable action plan, with the focus being placed on key aspects that support ‘Drivers of Change’, most notably gender-responsive procurement, women’s participation in global value chains, Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP) and women’s access to finance and funding.

The summit will highlight the importance of reviewing legislation, internal regulations and policies of government and private entities while also emphasising the need to bring together all initiatives and efforts working towards the common goal to make a difference and drive change.

Reem Bin Karam, Director of NAMA, said: “The summit aims to develop relevant action plans and best practice mechanisms as well as identify strategies, which will widen the scope of these achievements and take them to more advanced levels.”

“We look upon women in the region and the world as a united, coherent community. This vision is enshrined in our strategic partnership with UN Women and civil society organisations in many countries. It aligns with our belief that women are an indispensable human resource for the development of every nation. By helping create a better entrepreneurial ecosystem for women and enhancing their skills, we can really boost their role in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals,” she added.



Christmas Comes Early for Women in Turkey’s Western Burdur Province

October 28 2019

The thrill of the Christmas celebration has already grasped locals in Turkey’s western Burdur province but in a different way. Some 300 women have started working hard to prepare at least 650,000 Christmas wreaths which will be exported to countries such as Britain, Germany, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and probably the United States until December.

“So far, we have sent 50 trucks, every each carrying 9,000 Christmas wreaths. Nearly 650,000 Christmas wreaths are exported in every season, and it corresponds to an export volume of 1.5 million euros,” exporter Adnan Aksoy told daily Hürriyet.

The business of producing Christmas decorations in Turkey started in the neighboring Mediterranean province of Antalya 20 years ago, according to Aksoy.

Local women in the district of Bucak earn 100 to 150 liras ($17.5 to $26) in a working day during which they usually make around 30 wreaths.

“There are some women making 50 to 60 wreaths a day. The process takes place in cooperation with the forest directorate,” said Aksoy, adding that men in the women’s families collect the materials for the wreaths in the nearby forests.

“This year, we have received demands from the United States for the first time. We also sent samples to the Maldives and the Seychelles. We have realized exports to Japan for the first time,” he added.

Every one of wreaths includes parts from 15 plants such as cranberry, scarlet firethorn, rosehip, eucalyptus, cornelian cherry, hawthorn, Greek strawberry tree, Persian lilac, date palm, Mediterranean smilax, ivy and ornamental pepper.

Forest waste such as pinewood waste, pinecones and cypress branches are also used to make the wreaths.

Production takes four months

In total, Turkey expects at least $10 million in revenue from Christmas wreath exports.

Generally, local firms start to collect orders in August, and the production of these decorative objects by housewives continues until the first week of December.

Production of these ornaments has become an important industry in Antalya since the 1990s. The wreaths produced in the Mediterranean province are exported to more than 20 countries, including the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Slovenia, Japan, Canada and China.

In Turkey, which is a Muslim majority country, Christmas is marked by small Christian minority communities, including Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians.

However, big celebrations take place especially in the big cities to mark the New Year.

The country also is home to the St. Nicholas Church, also known as the church of Santa Claus.

St. Nicholas is believed to have lived and died in the area of Demre in Antalya in the fourth century. The church containing his tomb was built some two centuries later.



World's Worst Places to Be A Woman: South Sudan, DRC, Mali, Libya, CAR

Oct 29, 2019

South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Mali and Libya were listed as some of the worst countries in the world, for one to be a woman.

Research organizations Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security and Peace Research Institute Oslo said the state of women’s rights has improved in some 60 countries, but in deteriorated in many war-torn nations.

The researchers looked at 167 countries since 2017 when the first Women, Peace and Security Index was compiled, weighing variables such as access to bank accounts, jobs and security.

Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan and Iraq were the other countries at the bottom of the ranking.

The new research found deterioration in women’s lives was often linked to security, which worsened in almost 50 countries.

As to legal reforms, Moldova moved up 22 places owing to changes in its sexual assault laws.

Saudi Arabia persisted in having the most extensive legal discrimination against women, followed by Yemen, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Syria.

The report said legal discrimination means about 2.7 billion women globally are restricted from working in the same jobs as men.

Best place to be a woman

The researchers however said it was not “all doom and gloom” around the world, for the state of women’s rights.

According to the findings, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Austria are among the best countries in the world to be a woman.

Rounding out the top of the list were United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Sweden and Netherlands tied for ninth place, followed by Canada.

“There are important areas of progress. It’s not all doom and gloom,” said Jeni Klugman, managing director of the Georgetown Institute and lead author of the index.

More female leaders

Gains were strongest in women’s access to financial accounts, either mobile or at conventional banks, in fewer discriminatory laws and through increasing legislative representation.

“A national election can bring about big changes, both positive and negative,” Klugman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We have a number of countries which boosted the share of women in their national legislatures. We also had several countries which went the other way,” she added.

Iceland lost its top spot from 2017 after elections brought a drop in the number of women in parliament.

The United States inched up to No. 19 from No. 22 two years ago, in part due to 2018 elections when a record number of women were elected to Congress. But Klugman said the United States continues to lag in the area of domestic violence.

The research is intended to inform and inspire action, Klugman said, noting that the factors it weighed are integral to the global development goals adopted unanimously by the United Nations in 2015.

“It’s not like it’s something we invented out of thin air. It’s something which is grounded in those long, hard-negotiated agreements, so we’re holding them to account for that.”

The U.N. adopted 17 goals, including gender equality and an end to hunger, poverty and other ills, to be achieved by 2030.




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