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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 21 Nov 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Belarus Bans Headscarved Photos for IDs and Passports

New Age Islam News Bureau

21 Nov 2014

Photo: Indonesian Muslim Pageant Challenges Western Beauty Contests


 India: U.P. Khap Leaders Ban Jeans, Mobiles for Girls

 Tunisians Are Shaken as Young Women Turn to Extremism

 Young Afghan activist Hasina Jalal wins 2014 N-Peace Award

 Indonesian Muslim Pageant Challenges Western Beauty Contests

 India: Muslim, Tribal and Dalit Women Demand a Sub-Quota within Women’s Reservation

 Lagos Hijab Saga: Muslim Women Urged To Uphold Islamic Ethics

 France Probes Why Women Are Paying More than Men

 Saudi Women Moving Up the Career Ladder

 Women’s Entrepreneurship Day celebrated in Bangladesh

 Saudi Princess Ameerah: It’s Tough Being in the Public Eye

 Global Summit in Morocco Celebrates Women Entrepreneurs

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Belarus bans headscarved photos for IDs and passports

World Bulletin/News Desk

21 Nov, 2014

Muslim women’s in Belarus are now banned from having any photos on ID cards showing them with the headscarf.

In the capital city of Minsk, the Religious and National Interfaith Commissioner Council that is tied to the government in their annual general meeting came to some agreements. Amongst these was the decision that will affect Muslim women whereby the headscarf will be banned in all official photos.

Dmitry Levchenko, the President of the Domestic Residency Department said that no photographs of scarves or hats will be accepted on identification cards or passports. Levchenko also pointed that in 2008 a decision was made that photographs of women with their headscarves will no longer be accepted on passports.

The Mufti of Belarus Ali Varanovich who participated in the meeting stated that Muslim women must wear their headscarf and that this was something that all sects within the Islamic community agreed upon, that this issue of photographs would be a serious issue that cannot be resolved any other way and that this ban will effectively  give way to distrust between the Muslim community and the government.

This view was not supported by other members in the council. Council President Leonid Gulyako confirmed that they will comply with the decision of the Residency Department.



India: U.P. Khap Leaders Ban Jeans, Mobiles for Girls


21 Nov, 2014

A declaration asking people in general to not use social media platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp was also made.

A panchayat attended by former khap heads in the Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh issued a Talibani diktat instructing girls not to wear jeans and to avoid using mobile phones.

A declaration asking people in general to not use social media platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp was also made.

The declaration issued by the Mahapanchayat, organised in the Shoram village of Muzaffarnagar to discuss social reform, will be implemented in 46 villages of the district.

The khap leaders were pretty vocal about what they called the “negative” impact of mobile phones, WhatsApp and jeans on girls.



Tunisians Are Shaken as Young Women Turn to Extremism

21 Nov, 2014

TUNIS — Leila Mustapha Saidi returned home on a recent day to find her daughter Henda missing, along with her computer. Mrs. Saidi, who had watched her daughter grow religious and “obsessed” with the conflict in Syria, said she feared she had run off to join Islamist fighters there.

Instead, the police called four days later. Her daughter Henda Saidi was holed up in a house outside Tunis with a group of suspected insurgents. A day later, security forces stormed the house. Of six people killed in the raid, five were young women.

“They classified her as a terrorist,” Mrs. Saidi said bitterly.

After more than two years of mounting attacks and assassinations, Tunisians are no longer surprised by shootouts between gunmen and anti-terrorist units, even in the capital. But the standoff in which Ms. Saidi was killed nonetheless shocked many here for the sheer number of women involved.

It has also driven home the fact that — nearly four years after events in Tunisia set off the Arab Spring, and with presidential elections Sunday — the lure of extremism has touched virtually every part of society, men and women, the poor and the comfortable alike.

It has reached even the relatively affluent district of La Marsa, where the Saidis live in a pretty house with arbors of flowers in an enclosed front garden. Henda was the third person from her high school to die for the Islamist cause in the last year, teachers and acquaintances said.

“We are all uncomprehending,” said Linda Ben Osman, an art teacher who worked at the high school several years ago and knew Ms. Saidi. “These were smart kids, kind kids, ready for life — very beautiful in the case of Henda.”

“The youth are desperate, I think,” Ms. Ben Osman added. “Before Syria and ISIS,” she said, referring to Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, “people self-immolated, or took boats to escape to Europe and died in the sea.”

She and others consider the outburst of extremism to be a reaction to the authoritarianism of Tunisia’s former ruler, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, whose overthrow ushered in a free-for-all democracy.

Radical Islamists released from prison and returning home from exile were quick to exploit the new freedoms, taking over mosques, setting up associations, and recruiting thousands of young followers. Tunisia has been grappling with a surge of Islamist extremism since.

“We were in some sort of prison,” Ms. Ben Osman said. “The former president worked to keep our minds closed. When freedom came, people didn’t understand it. And maybe it did not bring what people wanted, and they look for it elsewhere.”

Young women have been as susceptible as anyone. In an interview, the interior minister, Lotfi Ben Jeddou, said all the women killed in the October raid were in their late teens or early 20s, and had joined the insurgent cell over the past several months. “They were educated,” he said.

Government officials said the women had refused to surrender, even using two children as shields. One small girl was shot in the head. Two men were also in the house; one was killed and one wounded.

Barely a week after burying their eldest child, Ms. Saidi’s parents sat at home stunned at the turn of events.

Mrs. Saidi said she could not bring herself to view her daughter’s body when it was brought home for the funeral. Her husband, Hedi Saidi, left the house and refused to attend the burial. “I could not accept the fact that it was my daughter,” he said. He criticized the government for hastiness in shooting at a house with women and children.

The Saidis described their daughter as highly principled but sometimes stubborn. “My daughter was a good girl, a hardworking student,” Mrs. Saidi said. “I do not think she was unjust. She did not do any wrong to anyone.”

Ms. Saidi, a 21-year-old law student, had become radicalized, and they knew she often hid her true intentions from the family, they said.

“For a year and a half she kept a system so we would not notice when she left,” Mr. Saidi said. “She was always reading, on the Internet, painting in her room.”

Ms. Saidi’s former high school French teacher, Dejla Abdelhamid, posted a heartfelt message on Facebook lamenting her death and wishing she had done more to prevent her being lured into extremism.

“Henda Saidi with her long fair hair, her radiant smile,” Ms. Abdelhamid wrote. “Her death is our failure, and the failure of a whole society, and in some part it is my failure as a teacher who fell short, missed something.”

Her post received a storm of comments, some accusing her of leading Ms. Saidi into radical Islam when they saw from her photo that she wore a veil. After Ms. Abdelhamid called on Ms. Saidi’s grieving parents, a colleague berated her for visiting the family of a terrorist.

“People do not know what is happening,” Ms. Abdelhamid said in an interview. “People are scared of each other.”

“The youth are lost, they do not have a reference,” she added.

She had met Ms. Saidi on the street a year after she had graduated from high school, she said. When she saw that she had abandoned her jeans and makeup and was dressed in the full black covering and gloves often worn by radical Muslims, Ms. Abdelhamid burst into tears. Ms. Saidi nevertheless seemed happy.

“She just smiled,” her teacher said. “I did not feel she was the girl who was lost.”

Ms. Abdelhamid attributes the turn to extremism by Ms. Saidi and others to the forced secularization under the dictatorship, which she says has left Tunisians ignorant of their religion, and now easily misled by radical preachers who have rushed in with new ideas.

“It’s like a tsunami we have not had time to understand,” she said. “We have to teach them to defend themselves in a solid way.”



Young Afghan activist Hasina Jalal wins 2014 N-Peace Award

21 Nov, 2014

Hasina Jalal, a founding member of the National Association of Afghanistan Civil Society and board member of Freedom Message Newspaper is one of the five young women in Asia who recently won the 2014 N-Peace Award. She was recognized as the winner in the category of Public Vote for Untold Stories-Women Transforming their Communities.

Other winners in the same category were from  Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.

In winning the award, Hasina demonstrated that young women in Afghanistan are capable of contributing to peace and development despite the many social, economic and political obstacles and the enormous threats to their security.

Recent events in Afghanistan witnessed women activists and defenders of human rights being assassinated by enemies of the people. In the culture of Afghanistan, a young women like Hasina is not expected to play active roles in public life, much less become an activist.

Hasina’s focus is to help raise the voices of young women through her leadership in education and training of youth, promoting partnerships and collaboration among women’s groups, advocacy, and capacity building of non-profit organizations.

She works to bring together the voices of people who are being marginalized by violence, poverty, and isolation. She believes that collective power of the dis-empowered is key to equality, democracy and a peaceful and more progressive life for all.

As co-founder and board member of the Afghani weekly Freedom Message Newspaper, an activist tabloid that exposes abuses of women’s rights and promotes freedom of expression, tolerance and understanding of democratic principles and laws on human rights, Hasina encourages women in communities to write their news and opinions about their lives.

Through speeches and direct engagement with the people, Hasina amplifies the clamor for attention to the lives of people who have less in life.  She is a real inspiration to the next generation of women leaders in the country. She could be reached at:



Indonesian Muslim pageant challenges Western beauty contests

21 Nov, 2014

PRAMBANAN, Indonesia - An eclectic mix of women from around the world will compete in the finale of a pageant exclusively for Muslims in Indonesia Friday, seen as a riposte to Western beauty contests.

The women, who include a doctor and a computer scientist, are set to parade in glittering dresses against the backdrop of world-renowned ancient temples for the contest in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

However the 18 finalists are required to wear the Muslim headscarf and will be judged not only on their appearance, but also on how well they recite verses from the Quran and their views on Islam in the modern world.

"We want to see that they understand everything about the Islamic way of life - from what they eat, what they wear, how they live their lives," said Jameyah Sheriff, one of the organisers.

The World Muslimah Award first drew global attention in 2013 when organisers presented it as a peaceful protest to Miss World, which was taking place around the same time on the resort island of Bali.

While it remains popular in some countries, British-run Miss World has faced frequent accusations that it is degrading to women, and a round in which contestants pose in bikinis has been a lightning rod for criticism.

In an effort to appease hardliners, Miss World organisers axed the bikini round for the Bali edition, but the event still sparked demonstrations from Islamic radicals who dubbed it a "whore contest".

'Headscarves not scary'

British contestant Dina Torkia said she hoped this year's World Muslimah Award would not only provide a contrast to Western beauty pageants, but would also dispel prejudices against Islam.

"I think the most important thing is to show that we are really normal girls, we are not married to terrorists. This scarf on my head isn't scary," she told AFP.

However the 2014 pageant has faced challenges, with seven finalists dropping out and others struggling with Indonesia's complex bureaucracy to obtain visas.

Most who pulled out did so because their families did not want them to travel alone, Sheriff said.

The Indian contestant missed her initial flight as she was being questioned by officials who were suspicious of a woman travelling alone and wearing a headscarf, although she managed to get on a plane later.

Others have gone to great lengths to take part in the fourth edition of the event, with Masturah Binte Jamil quitting her teaching job in Singapore after her employer would not give her time off to participate.

Organisers hope to present positive role models for Islamic women around the world and the contestants, who are aged between 18 and 27, include a computer scientist from Tunisia and a newly qualified doctor from Bangladesh.

But not everyone was enjoying the final rounds, with Britain's Torkia saying her initial optimism had turned into disappointment.

"I came into this competition hoping that I would leave with my faith increased, but so far it's been a lot about promotion and media and looking nice," she said.

Friday's finale caps a lengthy process, which included an online audition followed by two weeks of events in Indonesia.

During their time in Indonesia, contestants have visited orphanages and nursing homes, and had their pictures taken at Borobudur, a famous Buddhist temple close to Yogyakarta, Java's cultural heart.

The finale takes place on a stage against the backdrop of Prambanan, a ninth-century complex of Hindu temples on the island of Java that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hosting the event at a Hindu site was a conscious decision to show that Muslims are accepting of other religions, organisers said.



India: Muslim, Tribal and Dalit Women Demand a Sub-Quota within Women’s Reservation

21 Nov, 2014

Coimbatore: Putting an end to saffronisation of education and history; justice and rehabilitation of riot victims; enactment of laws to punish acid attack culprits; stopping forceful sterilization of women and immediate stopping of false propaganda of ‘Love Jihad’ are among the eight resolutions passed at the ‘Awakening’, the first national conference of the National Women’s Front.

But the most important resolution passed during the conference held on November 16 was a demand for a sub-quota for Muslims, Dalits, tribals and backward class – within the quota for women’s reservation. Successive governments have failed to implement the 33% reservation for women in elected bodies.

“We believe that a mere implementing 33% reservation will not be sufficient as the women belonging to Muslims, Dalits and OBCs are the most backward sections, most marginalized among the Indian women. We want a sub-quota within the women’s reservation because we feel that most of the places/posts would be occupied by women from the upper caste (and) there won’t be anybody to represent the Muslims, Dalits and tribals,” Fareeda Hasan, general secretary of the National Women’s Front, told

“The reservation should be designed in such a way that women belonging to all sections especially the marginalized ones, receive due representation. The conference demands the central government to present the women’s reservation bill in the upcoming winter session and introduce a sub-quota within the reservation for these women,” the resolution said.

The conference also demanded repeal of draconian laws such as AFSPA and closure of Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant and withdrawal of cases against the activists in the cases related to the anti-plant struggle (the last two resolutions). The gathering of Indian women saw women representatives from Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Rajasthan, a release from NWF said.

The Conference was presided over by NWF national president Shahida Aslam, who also inaugurated the event. Calling it as a “major mile stone” for women activism in India, Aslam urged the women to realize their potential and strive towards establishing equality, justice and peace in the country.

The key note speech was delivered by NWF national vice president Fatima Alima, who highlighted various issues faced by women in India and the need to immediately search a solution for these grave problems. It was followed by guest speeches by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, national secretary, Popular Front of India; Kavitha, a social activist from Kerala; Prof Nazni Begum, vice president, SDPI; AS Ismail, state president, Popular Front Tamil Nadu and Dahlan Baqavi, state president SDPI.

Video messages from prominent activists such as Kavitha Krishnan, secretary, All India Progressive Women’s Association, Delhi; Prof Nandini Sundar, Delhi School of Economics, New Delhi and Prof Safia Amir, Hamdard University, Delhi were played out afterwards.

NWF national committee member Asiya Maryam and the general secretaries of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu announced the conference resolutions, which were passed unanimously, the release added.

“We plan to submit it (the resolutions) to the Central government,” said Fareeda Hasan.

Muslim, tribal and Dalit women demand a sub-quota within women’s reservation

The detailed resolutions passed at the ‘Awakening’ Conference organized by the National Women’s Front at Hazrat Begum Mahal Maidan, Coimbatore on November 16, 2014 are:

1. Stop saffronisation of Education and History

Since the BJP led government has come to power there has been strong efforts by the fascist groups to wipe off India’s multi-cultural history and replace it with a RSS version of Hindutva focused history. The fascist onslaught is not just limited to history but even the education syllabus is being targeted to suit the RSS agenda. Such an attempt to play with the country’s history and influence our future is a very serious threat to the pluralistic and secular values of our country. The conference demands the central government to immediately curb all steps and plans to saffronise the history and syllabus.

2. Justice and rehabilitation to riots victims

Our country has witnessed numerous riots against the minorities since independence. The Muslim community has been on the receiving end in most of these riots and Muslim women have always been the prime target. During the Gujarat riots in 2002, Muslim women were subjected to the most heinous crimes which have continued even in recent riots such as those at Muzaffarnagar. It is indeed unfortunate that the country has failed to condemn these crimes against Muslim women. The culprits of these riots are still roaming freely which has only encouraged them to carry out such crimes. The conference demands the state and central governments to review all cases of communal riots since independence and ensure justice and rehabilitation to the victims of these riots.

3. Sub quota for Muslims, Dalits, tribals and backward classes in women reservation.

The Political reservation for women is being discussed since a very long time but successive governments have failed to implement it. The 33% reservation for women in elected bodies will indeed be the first step towards solving the problem of under-representation in our country’s political system. We believe that a mere implementing 33% reservation will not be sufficient as the women belonging to Muslims, dalits and OBCs are the most backward sections among the Indian women. The reservation should be designed in a way that women belonging to all sections especially the marginalized sections receive due representation. The conference demands the central government to present the women’s reservation bill in the upcoming winter session and introduce a sub-quota within the reservation for women belonging to Muslims, Dalits, Tribals and OBCs.

4. Enacts law to punish acid attack culprits and protect victims

Acid attack has become one of the most common types of physical attack on Indian women. The recent years have seen a steep rise in such cases. As per reports there has been 800 acid attack cases registered from 2007 to 2013. India accounts for 10% of the total acid attack cases in the world. Even after the rise in the cases of acid attack we can see acids being easily available and accessible in the market. There can be no doubt that the victims of acid attacks have to undergo physical and psychological pain which has an impact on the victims for their entire life. The conference demands the central government to enact strict laws to end this inhumane crime and curb the availability of dangerous acids. We also demand the government to introduce relief and rehabilitation for the victims of acids attacks.

5. Stop forceful sterilization and punish the government authorities involved.

The recent incident of deaths due to sterilization in Chattisgarh has brought before the country the dark agenda of forceful sterilization. As per the reports it is clear that there was the pressure from the Chhattisgarh state government on the health authorities to carry out extensive sterilization campaigns. This is indeed a serious violation of women rights and reminds us of the Emergency era. The conference demands the central government to punish the government officials involved in this incident. We also demand the government to ensure that such forceful policies of sterilization is not enacted by any state governments in future.

6. Repeal draconian laws

In a democratic country there is no place for anti-people draconian laws. Such laws are a violation of the democratic and judicial rights of a citizen. It is unfortunate that in our country we see laws like UAPA and AFSPA being used against our own people. Such draconian laws are mostly used against marginalized sections such as the tribals, Dalits and Muslims. There have been numerous cases of misuse of these laws. It can be noticed that there is a strong lobby inside the government and armed forces backed by the MNC corporate who have blocked all attempts to repeal these laws. We strongly believe that such laws will only act as a tool to oppress and silence the voices against injustice. The conference demands the central government to immediately repeal laws like UAPA and AFSPA and ensure that no such laws are framed in future.

Muslim, tribal and Dalit women demand a sub-quota within women’s reservation

7. Love Jihad is a false propaganda and must be stopped immediately

Love jihad is a new agenda coined by Sangh Parivar based on concocted stories and rumors. This agenda was used by the BJP for political benefits in places which had assembly elections scheduled. The fascist groups have always used various issues to divide the Indian society on communal lines and Love jihad is one of such false propaganda. In 2009 the Karnataka police had openly declared that Love Jihad is non-existent. This false propaganda has already caused much mistrust between the two communities and created an atmosphere of suspicion in the country. Such a situation is very dangerous for the Indian society. The conference demands that all the state governments and also the central government should intervene in this issue and punish the groups who are propagating this false propaganda.

8. Close down Koodankulam nuclear power plant and withdraw cases against activists

Nuclear plants are one of the most dangerous man made threats. There have been many major accident incidents around the world caused by nuclear plants. There is a steady decrease in nuclear plants in countries such as US and France. Unfortunately India is the new selling market for world uranium. Australia accounts for 23% of world uranium deposits but it doesn’t have a nuclear plant. The state and central governments have backed nuclear plants due to the pressure from international energy MNCs. Even the most developed countries have failed to manage the nuclear waste generated from these plants. We have also seen diseases such as cancer spreading due to radiation. The conference demands the central and state governments to close down the Koodankulum plant. We also demand the Tamil Nadu state government to withdraw all the cases against the anti-nuclear plant activists. We urge the central government to scrap all future projects of nuclear plants in the country.



Lagos Hijab Saga: Muslim Women Urged To Uphold Islamic Ethics

21 Nov, 2014

SEQUEL to the recent controversy on Hijab usage in Lagos State public schools, the Chief Missioner, Istiqomah Muslim Forum (ISMUF), Taofiq Abayomi, has enjoined the Muslim women to uphold their integrity and exhibit the moral teachings of Islam in their quest for Hijabagenda.

Abayomi, in a chart with The Guardian recently, berated the government’s position on the ban of Hijabin public schools, but urged the Muslims to pursue the course without any form of violence.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye, had at a press conference on May 14, 2013 placed a ban on the use of Hijab and head scarf by female Muslim students in public schools in Lagos State.

The Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN) took the matter to court seeking to vacate the ban placed on Hijabby the state government.

Justice Modupe Onyeabor in a suit filed against the government by the MSSN, Lagos State Area Unit, through their lawyer, Chief Gani Adetola-Kazeem (SAN), held that the ban was not discriminatory. The judge held that Nigeria’s ‘secular’ nature as provided by Section 10 of the Constitution must be preserved by the government.

The joint Muslim Forum has therefore described the victimization of a Muslim woman for using Hijabas a breach of Section 38 (i) & (ii) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution. The African Union Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights proclaims in Article 4, Clause 1 & 2 that “Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person.”

The provisions of Article 18 of the United Nations Charter and Articles 9 and 14 of the European Treaty of Human Rights and Articles 18 and 19 of the Treaty of Civil and Political Rights also criminalise religious profiling.

Abayomi however argued that the government should allow those students interested in Hijabto use it, and everybody should be allowed to dress accordingly and decently in line with the human right provisions in the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He wondered why Lagos State decided to ban Hijab in public schools, urging the Muslim women to let people know the beauty of Hijab and use it in a “very beautiful way”.

“We should not allow the judgment to discourage students from using hijab. They should continue to use it outside school premises till Allah will shed the light of using Hijabinto the lives of the government and they will know its importance.

“We should keep away from making violence because of hijab, so that they will not blemish Islam,” he urged.

He stressed that: “Using Hijabis not about covering your head and still dress indecently. It is about covering your head and cover the whole body with respect for yourselves and for Islam.



France probes why women are paying more than men

21 Nov, 2014

PARIS — Hair salons do it, dry cleaners do it, and so do department stores selling health and beauty products. Now France wants to know why, for some goods and services, women seem to be paying more than men.

The question was first taken up by a group of French activists inspired by a study that found American women overpay hundreds of dollars a year for the same products. The activists persuaded the Economy Ministry this month to launch an in-depth study to determine what price differences exist in France, the reasons behind them and which sectors are most affected. Findings are expected early next year.

A quick look by The Associated Press at haircut prices and store aisles in Paris found some disparities. Haircut: women 43 euros, men 26. Roll-on deodorant: women 2.04 euros, men 1.96. Shaving gel: 2.87 euros in a pink canister, 2.39 in a blue one.

“Honestly, like many women I had noticed it and then I moved on to other things,” Pascale Boistard, France’s minister for women’s rights, told The Associated Press in an interview. “It is a fact that this happens in everyday life and with products that are commonly used. These disparities mean that by the end of the year, the sum is not negligible.”

New York City and California have outlawed the practice of charging differently for products or services according to gender, and in California companies face fines up to $4,000 if they’re caught breaking the law. In New York city, periodic sweeps have found nail salons go in a different direction, charging men more for manicures, pedicures and waxing. The EU requires member countries to have legislation ensuring men and women are treated equally but does not specify how.

In France, activist group Georgette Sand — named tongue-in-cheek after French author George Sand, who used a male pseudonym to be taken more seriously as a writer — is encouraging contributions to a photo blog of products priced differently according to gender. It now includes entries for painkillers, face lotion, even pepper-spray canisters. Even the youngest customers are affected — a pink plush bear costs 8 cents more than its blue counterpart.

The group took its cue from a California state government study that found American women on average pay $1,300 more than men every year for identical products. Consumer Reports found similar disparities in 2010.

“It’s a first victory if people are asking themselves the question when they walk into a store and compare prices,” said Gaelle Couraud of Georgette Sand. “What we’re asking for is the end of gendered marketing, that prices be determined not by the sex of the purchaser but by the function of the product or the service rendered.”

Monoprix, one of the French chains targeted by the campaign, responded by explaining that the price differences had nothing to do with the sex of the customer.

“The differences in price between products referenced for women and men can be explained by their intrinsic characteristics and their sales volumes,” the company said in response to a petition signed by 40,000 consumers.

The CEO of L’Oreal, speaking at a press conference on the day the government announced its study, questioned the premise entirely, saying he thought people were “inventing something.” And Fabien Provost, artistic director of the Franck Provost group of hair salons, said it makes no sense to charge women and men the same amount for what is essentially a different service.

That view got some legal backing elsewhere in Europe: This month, a Danish appeals court threw out a 2012 ruling that barred different haircut prices for men and women, saying a women’s cut is “so technically more demanding that it is the reason for the price difference.”

In the United States, the California and New York City laws remain outliers. The issue went up to the Supreme Court, where lawyers argued unsuccessfully for the abolition of different tariffs for clothing for men and women.

“We don’t want to create a unisex world. It’s boring and it’s not accurate,” said Michael Cone, one of the lawyers in the tariff case. “It has to be that the gender discrimination is wrong.”



Saudi women moving up the career ladder

21 Nov, 2014

SAUDI working women have passed several milestones over the past few years and are making excellent contributions in the Kingdom’s development and economic growth.

Many women in Saudi Arabia hold key positions and have proved their capabilities and leadership qualities. They no longer require men to represent them or speak on their behalf.

Over the last three decades, women have been at the forefront of development in the fields of education, innovation and empowerment. However, many of these women still face the age-old problem of men who want to keep them under their control, Al-Riyadh newspaper reported.

Laila Al-Hilali, the former deputy mayor in charge of the Women’s Services Section at Riyadh Municipality, said Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has empowered women by allowing them to take up key positions in administrative and consultative bodies.

“This has given them immense opportunities to play a significant role in various fields. Saudi women have been able to perform excellently thanks to two major initiatives taken first by the late King Faisal and then by King Abdullah,” she said.

“It was King Faisal who took a firm decision in favor of women’s education. The second initiative was by King Abdullah when he took some major steps in empowering women by offering them key governmental positions, as well as granting them seats in the Kingdom’s Shoura Council, the right to vote and the right to contest municipal elections,” said Al-Hilali.

According to Al-Hilali, most of the powers given to women depend on the mood and temperament of men and not on the intelligence, talent, entrepreneurship and decision making abilities of women.

“As women in key positions, we face challenges and have to engage in a tough battle to prove our capabilities. I was successful in transforming the women’s section with six employees into a services agency and not just a department. I thus became the first deputy mayor for women’s services,” she said.

Al-Hilali thanked the mayor for his support, adding that her accomplishments are due to him as he provided his total support and expressed complete confidence in women.

“I am of the view that women can achieve in key positions if they have the opportunity, willpower, motivation and freedom to take advantage of available opportunities in the best possible way,” she said.

Al-Hilali said women could be successful in the workplace if they show themselves to be challenging, enterprising and enduring.

“For a successful career, they should be able to take decisions, sound decisions that is, and exercise managerial skills. They should also be flexible and open minded,” she said, while cautioning female leaders that they should be serious in utilizing their capabilities in the best possible way.

Nouf Al-Ajami, former director of the department for women at the Saudi Credit and Savings Bank, said winning the confidence of male superiors is important for women to move up on the career ladder.

“Most often it is the temperament of their male superiors that plays a decisive factor with regard to women being appointed to key positions,” she said.

Al-Ajami also drew attention to the fact that on certain occasions, women are entrusted with bigger responsibilities without appropriate executive powers and, as a result, they fail to accomplish their given tasks or make a proper impact. She also said it is unfair to take powers away from women when there is a change at the top of an organization.

Al-Ajami said that though Saudi women have realized a number of successes over the past few years, there are still many women who lack confidence and are hesitant to take up key positions.

“Such women should be provided with training in handling daunting tasks while holding key administrative positions such as crisis management, decision making in difficult situations and shouldering responsibilities without running away from them,” she said.

Hana Al-Rokabi, a senior Saudi television broadcaster, described attempts to marginalize Saudi women from key positions and taking away their powers as a form of “guardianship”.

“There are some in society who are not in a position to digest the very idea of women holding key positions and taking decisions on their own. Even though these men always talk about allowing women to hold key positions in accordance with their qualifications and abilities, they will always try to marginalize women,” she said.

Al-Rokabi is of the view that a Saudi woman who has the vision and ability to make sound decisions can do well in her career as well as in performing her duties as a mother and wife.

“There are some women who are not successful but this is also true of some men. It is essential to change the public’s mindset. People think women are incapable of performing properly when in senior positions,” she added.

Nora Al-Fayez achieved something revolutionary in the Kingdom when she became deputy minister of education for girls’ affairs. She was the first woman to be ever given a ministerial position in the Kingdom.

“As a minister, I have the same powers that are enjoyed by the deputy minister for boys’ affairs. There are several key positions awaiting Saudi women. The role for women in key positions was very limited in the past but now there are several such positions awaiting qualified Saudi women,” she added.



Women’s Entrepreneurship Day celebrated in Bangladesh

21 Nov, 2014

The inaugural Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) was celebrated yesterday at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the US, along with 144 countries across the world including Bangladesh.

The event, organised in partnership with the US Department of State.

Wendy Diamond, an entrepreneur, humanitarian, pet-lifestyle expert and animal advocate, is the CEO and founder of the WED. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his support to promote the day as well. Global partners for the day include PricewaterhouseCoopers, BNP Paribas Bank, Nestle, Microsoft, United Nations Foundation, PVBLIC Foundation, and Global Partnership Forum.

The mission of the WED is to celebrate, support and empower women worldwide. The main initiative is to engage women and men globally to pledge their support with a female-owned business.

Bangladesh celebrated the day along with the world yesterday. With Naila Husain Chowdhury as the WED ambassador from Bangladesh, the core team from the country includes Rubina Husain Farouq, Vidiya Amrit Khan, Tootli Rahman and Tareen Hossain Manju.

A round table discussion was featuring 50 successful woman entrepreneurs from all sectors in the country. The keynote speakers at the event were Rokia Afzal Rahman, president at the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ann Barrows McConnell, director at the American Center in Dhaka, Rubana Huq, managing director of the Mohammadi Group, Tasmima Hossain, editor of the fortnightly magazine Anannya and former member of parliament, and Dilruba Ahmed, principal at Little Jewel’s School in Chittagong.



Saudi Princess Ameerah: It’s Tough Being in the Public Eye

21 Nov, 2014

Being in the public eye and the ‘threatening’ feedback it brings has been the biggest challenge faced by the Saudi Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel.

Al-Taweel is a Saudi-based philanthropist, entrepreneur, fashion icon, public speaker, and the CEO of Time Entertainment Holding, which comprises of four companies that invest in Arab youth in the media and technology industry.

The biggest challenge she has faced is being in the limelight, “when your cause becomes bigger than yourself,” she told Al Arabiya News.

“The downside is that you don’t spend much quality time with the people you love even though God knows you are trying,” Al Taweel said.

Her busy schedule is not the only challenge, with her outspoken nature having attracted the ire of some of Saudi Arabia’s conservatives.

Al-Taweel is a prominent women’s rights advocate, and has appeared in the global media to speak out against the status of women in Saudi Arabia and the broader Middle East and North Africa.

“I get a lot of negative feedback, sometimes threatening feedback,” she said.

Despite receiving negative remarks from some, she said her belief in her “cause” and the other positive feedback for her work is what keeps her going.

Volunteering initiatives

Al-Taweel is also the chairwoman and co-founder of Tasamy Social Initiatives Center, a foundation that funds and facilitates volunteering initiatives across Saudi Arabia.

“When we first started Tasamy we noticed that in Saudi Arabia there are only 800 NGOs,” said Al-Taweel.

“When we did our research on why young people don’t want to start their own NGOs or be part of the non-profit scene, they all said ‘it is not going to make money. It’s unsustainable. It’s not going to be good enough for me. I’d rather be in government or the private sector’,” Al Taweel added.

But many young Saudis have now started their own NGOs, after going through Tasamy training programs.

It was through Tasamy that Hamza Iskandar – who started #fightcancerwithasmile, a hashtag that went viral in Saudi Arabia – was able to establish his Cancer Fighters’ Support Center.

Mohammed Saad, a visually-impaired young Saudi who boasts at least 26,700 followers on Twitter, started an NGO with the help of Tasamy to help train visually-impaired people on how to use social media.

“We are the ones who just go there and say ‘Why not? Why can’t you do it?’,” Al Taweel said. “So we just give them more guidance. We are like the backwind for them… We hope that in the next couple of years we will have many more success stories.”

Wired Women

Al-Taweel participated in “Wired Women”, a panel discussion held on Wednesday at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit. She spoke about the positive role social media has in evolving the business environment in the region and in involving more women.

Read also - Women and social media: ADMS highlights success stories.

Social media has provided a “free platform” for women to enjoy an “equal opportunity” to express themselves in a way the “real world” does not guarantee, said Al-Taweel.

“Social media has absolutely no criteria. Everyone can participate and anyone can start a discussion and a hashtag,” she said.

Social media has opened people’s minds, with many conservative scholars “who used to be against women speaking” now debating with women on sites like Twitter, Al-Taweel added.

“It is now even giving the woman an opportunity to send [the scholars] a message and to raise her voice,” Al Taweel said. Likewise, scholars are given the opportunity to change preconceptions about women sitting at home, and not have a voice.

Speaking about struggles that keep women in the region from joining the workforce, Al-Taweel spoke of the “double-burden syndrome, where [women] have to take care of our homes and also have careers.”

“Women tend to make the toughest choice of staying at home and taking care of their children,” she said. She added that the ratio of women in top management executive committees and boards is less than 1 percent in the GCC and the Middle East – the lowest in the world.

“It is even more difficult for women to be in the media,” Al Taweel added. “I feel that the reason why you don’t see many women in the media is that media as an industry is completely exhausting. You have to be on 24/7.”

But she is optimistic, given that she sees more women joining the media workforce.

“I see progress… I see women starting their own production hubs, their own [advertising] agencies,” said Al Taweel.

“If we just keep complaining that we don’t have jobs… and we sit at home and do nothing, my children are going to be complaining. And their grandchildren are going to be complaining. And we are going to be in an endless cycle,” she said.

“It’s easy to say that things are difficult… and that you are just a drop in the sea. But you and a million other drops can create a wave that can change our society.”



Global summit in Morocco celebrates women entrepreneurs

21 Nov, 2014

The fifth Global Entrepreneurship Summit kicked off in Morocco’s resort city of Marrakech with a celebration of “Women Entrepreneurship Day,” discussing the role of women in free enterprise, economic growth and job creation.

The three-day summit, held in partnership between Morocco and the United States, brought together more than 3,000 business leaders and politicians from around the world, with a focus on the role of technology in innovation and entrepreneurship.

In opening remarks, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker noted the economic benefits of women’s engagement in free enterprise, the challenges facing female entrepreneurs, and American efforts to support women business leaders globally.

Pritzker said “too often” women lack access to funding, training, information and communication technologies in order to launch start-ups and grow their businesses.

Women in many parts of the world, she said, are hampered by a business culture where it is unacceptable to fail in one venture and start another.

“Such a culture needs to change,” Pritzker said, highlighting the U.S. government’s role in support such change.

Meriem Bensalah Chaqroun, chairwoman of the General Confederation of Moroccan enterprises, noted the growing role of women in the Moroccan business environment, and the challenges facing them in the wider Middle East.

“The major challenges facing women in this region include education, acceptance in the market, and the need for special training,” she told Al Arabiya News.

“Morocco, with its reforms and modern banking system, has the potential to lead the region in women entrepreneurship.”

Bassima Hakkaoui - Moroccan minister of solidarity, women’s rights and the family - told Al Arabiya News that funding is the biggest challenge facing aspiring women entrepreneurs.

“We have to overcome the masculine mentality that sees the field of entrepreneurship and of obtaining funding as an area exclusive to men,” the Islamist minister said.

“Banks are still largely hesitant to fund women’s free enterprises. As such, we find many women discouraged to engage in business ventures,” she added.

Panel speaker Lamia Boutaleb, CEO of Capital Trust Group (Morocco), said women entrepreneurs need to have the “determination to survive” in a male-dominated business environment.

“Entrepreneurship isn’t only about dreams, but more about surviving the challenge for a long time with limited resources,” she said.

Shazia Saleem, founder of ieatfoods UK, spoke of the importance of ethics for successful free enterprises.

“If you have the intention of having a big bank account and luxury yachts, you’ll never be satisfied. For successful business, you have to be ethical about what you do,” she said.

The event invites women entrepreneurs to present pitches for planned businesses. A panel of judges evaluates the proposals, and finalists compete for more than $10,000 in prizes and support opportunities.