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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 30 Oct 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Needlework By Female Artisans In Pakistan’s White Desert Reaches Royal Courts Of Arabia

New Age Islam News Bureau

30 October 2020

 • Dr. Sara Jeza Alotaibi,  Saudi Female Director Won A Major Leadership Award

• Afghan Negotiating Team Discusses Women Role in Peace Process

• How Arab Women Are Using Digital Skills To Find Work Despite The Coronavirus Pandemic

• Muslim Women In American Politics: Their Voices Are Finally Being Heard

• UK Govt: British Women Strip-Searched In Qatar

• Driving School In Taif Keeps Women Waiting To Get Behind The Wheel Legally

• Hadaf’s Program Nominated For Global Awards For Gender Equality In Technology

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 Needlework By Female Artisans In Pakistan’s White Desert Reaches Royal Courts Of Arabia

Zulfiqar Kunbhar

October 30, 2020


Craftswomen in Khooh Kapni village in the Achro Thar desert near Khipro, Sanghar district, Sindh province in Pakistan. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)


KHIPRO: Naaji Meghwar, a middle-aged artisan in a desert village in southeastern Pakistan, said that she was looking forward to going shopping for her family before the upcoming Diwali festival this year.

For a change, she can make her own decisions about how to spend money: The 10,000 rupees ($62) that she makes each month from needlework is hard-earned and all her own.

Meghwar — from Pakistan’s Achro Thar desert, known for its white sand dunes and saline lakes — is one of dozens of local women who have turned the craft of thread work into a means of financial independence, and whose elaborate embroidery designs are now admired and appropriated abroad, with regular orders from royals in the Middle East.

“This Diwali festival in mid-November, I have planned shopping for my family from my embroidery work savings,” Meghwar told Arab New, referring to the Hindu festival of lights, celebrated each year in the impoverished desert whose population of 300,000 people is majority Hindu.

“This financial freedom is because of money in my hand, as I don’t have to be dependent on male members of the family,” the artisan said.

Things are about to get even better for Mehgwar. With winter approaching, she and her colleagues are expecting a rise in orders for their richly detailed tapestries.

“Normally winter is peak season for local orders because of wedding season and dowries,” she said.

Demand for the embroidered pieces also rises in winter with the arrival of migratory birds and foreign hunters, who come mostly from Arab countries to hunt rare desert birds such as the houbara bustard. They also buy local craft.

“Achro Thar normally hosts dignitaries from royal families of the United Arab Emirates for hunting,” Malhar Chaniho, a local Arabic translator, who organizes hunting trips, told Arab News. “During the past 20 years, I have purchased countless homemade items, especially rugs and shawls on the demand of

royal guests.”

Needlework from Achro Thar is vividly colored with geometrical and wildlife motifs and comes in many variations.

Aari embroidery, for example, is popular for its fine and delicate threadwork and usually decorates scarves. Ralli work, with interlocking circles and stepped square patterns, appears on bigger items such as quilts and bedcovers.

These decorative handworks have international appeal as gifts. Allahyar Muhammad Khan Keerio, a resident of Achro Thar’s Sanghar district, said that he had spent 30 years working as a driver in Madinah and always took embroidered pieces with him as gifts when he returned to Saudi Arabia.

“During my stay in the Kingdom as an expat and now as a frequent visitor, I take local handicrafts as souvenirs for my family and friends and for former Saudi bosses,” he said. “For my next Umrah trip, I have already placed some handicrafts orders to take as gifts.”

Because handicraft from Achro Thar is unregulated, it is hard to pin down how much of it is sent abroad and whether the women artisans are paid fairly for their work.

“This women-led craft is of high potential but remains undocumented,” Ashiq Hussain Khoso, head of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan’s Hyderabad branch, told Arab News. “In personal and individual capacity, women-made products from Achro Thar go to Middle East, Europe and US.”

But the TDAP, he said, was planning to “uplift” desert craftswomen and help them to capture the online market. Indeed, in an impoverished region where most are illiterate and internet access is scarce, the craftswomen say all that they need is the government’s help in getting rid of middlemen.

“Government should establish purchasing centers where it can buy embroidery work and sell elsewhere and give us due payment,” said Khadija Samoon, an embroidery master from Dodhar village, who used to work with the Sindh Rural Support Organization.

As she sewed brightly colored patches onto a black tunic, she said: “In the absence of government infrastructure, women artisans are at the mercy of private vendors.”


Dr. Sara Jeza Alotaibi,  Saudi Female Director Won A Major Leadership Award

October 30, 2020


Dr. Sara Jeza Alotaibi, Director General of the Women Branch of the Institute of Public Administration in Makkah Region


This week, Dr. Sara Jeza Alotaibi, Director General of the Women Branch of the Institute of Public Administration in Makkah Region, was given the prestigious Women Leader of the Year Award 2020 at the level of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, marking yet another milestone for Saudi Arabian women.

The award was presented to her in Dubai during the 8th annual GOV HR Summit, known as the region’s biggest public sector knowledge sharing platform for HR professionals to connect, create tools, and implement more sustainable models. Upon receiving the award, Dr. Alotaibi expressed her gratitude to King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman for their unlimited support to the advancement of women across the Kingdom.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Dr. Alotaibi was previously Dean of Library Affairs, as well as Associate Professor in Web Technologies as the Faculty of Computing and Information Technology at Taif University in Saudi Arabia. She is also the founder of the Saudi Lady Geek group, was a visiting researcher in Web Lab at University of Southampton, and is the innovative creator of Finger ID, a unique system designed to provide users with access to distributed systems through fingerprint.

Aside from her rich career in education and computer sciences, she is also a published author, with a wealth of published papers under her belt, as well as three books in the IT and technical fields. She has also received various local and global awards, and has also been recognized by a variety of institutions and professionals including Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, The World Congress on Internet Security Conference, and Saudi Shura Council, amongst countless others, with awards including ‘Distinguished Achievement Award’ and ‘First Excellence Award’.


Afghan Negotiating Team Discusses Women Role in Peace Process

By Mohammad Arif Sheva

29 Oct 2020

KABUL, Afghanistan – Following a series of consultative meetings on “various strata”, a virtual meeting was held Wednesday between members of the Afghan Negotiating Team and members of the United Voice of Afghan Women for Peace Policy (UVAWPP), said State Ministry for Peace in a statement.

“The State Ministry for Peace facilitated the group’s [UVAWPP] activities and the meeting was organized to connect them with the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” said Alema, Deputy Minister of Human Rights and Civil Society, at the meeting.

Sayed Sadat Mansoor Naderi, State Minister for Peace, including members of the team affirming the statement, said such meetings have been held to widely involve the views and suggestions of women in peace negotiations.

“The Ministry acts as a link between all active structures in the negotiation process as well as the implementation of the agreement and is responsible for facilitating and ensuring the systematic relations of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan with the people, in which women have a valuable role,” Naderi added.

According to Naderi, at least four female members of the negotiating team were able to have a comprehensive and inclusive voice for women in the process, urging all women activists must play an important role in this regard.

“It is an important point that every action and decision we make in the peace process affects the destiny of 16 million women in Afghanistan,” Zohra Motahari, Deputy Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) exclaimed.

Meanwhile, Fatema Gailani, a member of the negotiating team, said the diversity of the team could have affected the unanimity; but their common aspirations for a united and democratic Afghanistan have led them to do the right thing, which ensures the inclusiveness of the delegation.

“The negotiating team’s approach and decisions are innovative and are based on the Islamic and democratic values we believe in,” Gailani added, according to the statement. “We will work for the success of the negotiations according to the criteria and expectations of the people and the confirmation of the final result will be with the people of Afghanistan.”

The United Voice of Afghan Women for Peace Policy (UVAWPP) has been formed by civil society and women’s rights activists in Kabul and provinces, which bids to protect women right and their achievements of the past two decades during the Afghan peace process.


How Arab women are using digital skills to find work despite the coronavirus pandemic

30 October 2020

As COVID-19 swells the ranks of unemployed women in the Arab world, surging demand for digital skills could help many of them find work in a region where only one in four women has a job.

The pandemic has taken an especially heavy toll on retail, tourism and hospitality jobs traditionally held by women, but experts say those able to retrain could tap into growth areas like digital marketing, e-commerce and online customer support.

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“This is a tremendous opportunity. These are areas where you can reskill someone relatively quickly,” said Jasmine di Florio, senior vice president at Education for Employment (EFE), a job training non-profit for young people in the Middle East and North Africa.

“We need to teach young women all kinds of digital skills but we also need to continue to teach them human skills - things like empathy, teamwork, leadership... (that) are in even greater demand now because so much is going digital.”

The fourth industrial revolution - a term referring to the new era of digital advances that is changing the way people live and work - is expected to double job opportunities for women in the region by 2030, according to a 2020 McKinsey study.

Many women are already finding new opportunities - sometimes by putting their new-found tech skills to work in jobs where they have an innate edge over men.

One of EFE’s trainees, Walaa Shahahdeh, who has her own business repairing smartphones, said her services were in high demand among women in her conservative Jordanian community who did not want men seeing personal photos on their devices.

“Technology is constantly evolving. You have to keep up to date... because new devices keep coming out and repairs will never stop,” said Shahahdeh, 30, who comes from the Tafileh governorate in south-central Jordan.

“Because of high usage during coronavirus due to remote learning and work from home, devices are breaking down more often and I’m getting more calls.”

‘Two divides’

The pandemic is expected to push 700,000 Middle Eastern women out of work in 2020 - about 40 percent of the 1.7 million total jobs expected to be lost, according to aid organization Oxfam.

That is despite women in the Middle East and North Africa only accounting for a quarter of the workforce - the world’s lowest rate of female participation in the labor market.

In hard-hit countries like Lebanon, where an Aug. 4 explosion compounded the impact of a financial crisis and COVID-19, the number of unemployed women in June 2020 was up 63 percent compared with figures from 2018 and 2019, according to UN Women.

New job prospects could provide some relief, though the additional burden of unpaid work - such as childcare and supervising remote schooling, is likely to widen the digital gap between men and women in Arab states.

That could mean retraining is even more of a challenge for women, said Manuel Langendorf, a researcher on digital transformation in the region.

“People may have access to the internet but still you will find a lot of families across the region that don’t have multiple laptops or desktop computers,” said Langendorf, adding that men often have priority when using family devices.

“That also affects the way women will be able, and are at the moment able, to upskill or reskill.”

The digital gap between men and women in Arab countries had already increased from 19 percent to 24 percent between 2013 and 2019, according to the International Telecommunication Union.

Gender differences in internet access vary widely across the region, and within countries too.

Women in rural areas face “two divides at the same time” and risk missing out on a lot of the promising job prospects of the evolving digital economy, Langendorf said.

“Most of the digital economy across the region is based in urban areas... so the talent is drawn to that but people who don’t live there have (fewer) opportunities to participate and learn from that knowledge exchange,” he added.

‘A blessing’

The switch to distance learning during the pandemic has made it easier for many people to access training and study programs, however.

When lockdowns came into force in March, EFE across the region quickly shifted its training online, adding new components focused on digital and social media skills.

Following the change, women’s enrollment rose to 65 percent on some courses, up from the usual 50-50 split between men and women.

Menna Fathy, 23, who lives in the Egyptian port city of Suez, some 130 kilometer (80 miles) from the capital, said being able to access the training remotely had been an unexpected boon.

“If I had to travel to Cairo every day for a month it would have been draining. The online option was a blessing,” said Fathy, who found an insurance job at a bank soon after.

Even though private-sector employers have been badly affected by the pandemic and opportunities are scarce, there is still value in helping women gain skills today, di Florio said.

“We found a surge of youth and women who want to keep learning even if they know they’re not going to get a job tomorrow,” she said.

About 44 percent of women in the region cited limited policies on work-life balance as the main obstacle for keeping a job and said policies that let them work remotely and receive digital training were priorities, the McKinsey report found.

EFE’s trainees have been learning to market their skills online and use freelance platforms to find part-time work, helping connect women seeking flexible jobs with employers.

“The gig economy can really work for them,” di Florio said.

“But we need to make sure that they’re getting paid a living wage and that they have access to all potential opportunities and customers on those platforms.”


Muslim women in American politics: Their voices are finally being heard

October 29, 2020

The Prophet Muhammad said, “Whoever witnesses something evil, let him change it with his hand, and if he is unable then with his tongue, and if he is unable then with his heart, but that is the weakest form of faith.” Nothing simpler could explain the surge of Muslim women running for governmental positions. During this election, diverse voices across the nation are expressing their political beliefs and representing their communities.

Even in the early days of Islam, Muslim women played an instrumental part in the politics of the day.

“Many women contributed to public knowledge and to the intellectual development of Muslim society and its laws,”Associate Professor of Anthropology, Patricia Sloane-White, stated in an email. “In the early to mid 20th century, many women were notable and outspoken political activists, calling for women’s empowerment, education and reforms in family law.”

A prime example of such women in today’s time is Madinah Wilson-Anton, a Delaware Democrat running for state representative in the 26th Representative District. One of the main issues she discusses is education.

“I went through private school, public school, charter school and when I was in public school, I saw that public schools were underfunded,” says Wilson-Anton. “But, I was pretty young, so I recognized that there was an issue when I was down working in the legislator.”

In addition to education, Wilson-Anton believes in the importance of representative voices in the community she lives in and diverse voices in general.

“Being a woman of color, being a woman, being Muslim, there are a lot of issues that affect the communities that I’m apart of,” says Wilson-Anton. “I think it’s really important that we have someone from the community at the table talking about these issues. Every policy issue affects all of us in some way. Women’s issues are all issues. Black people issues are all issues. So, it’s important that we have diverse voices in all those conversations.”

Not only is Wilson-Anton a black woman but she is also a Muslim woman. For Wilson-Anton, her faith is a driving force to improve the community she represents. But she also understands the stereotypes she may face because of this faith.

“I think if you look at the teachings of the prophet and how their community at that time governed themselves, it’s just very obvious that it’s important to be involved in public life,” says Wilson-Anton. “Also, it sends a message, when people see a Muslim woman involved in public life. ‘Well, maybe my stereotypes about Muslim women aren’t accurate.’ The idea that Muslim women are quiet and at home, that they don’t have a voice, they’re oppressed and all that, I don’t know how anyone could look at me and say that.”

The message Wilson-Anton carries with her is simple: “Your voice is necessary.”

There are many women just like her who are increasing the presence of Muslims in politics. According to a 2017 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, Muslim Americans are 1.1% of the total U.S. population, which makes them one of the most underrepresented groups in America. However, according to The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), 34 Muslims were elected in 2019. Currently, there are two Muslim women in Congress, Representative Rashida Tlaib and Representative Ilhan Omar.

This mobilization of Muslims is explained by Islamic Studies Professor Muqtedar Khan as either a response to President Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric or the political activism of women of color.

“Women in general became very active. In 2018, the Democrats took back the house and a lot of people attribute that to the political activism of women of color,” says Khan. “It is part of that same trend that you see, that the last two or three years have seen, enhanced in parliament are women of color. Muslim women are a part of that.”

Most of the Muslim women who are running side with the liberals because that is where most of their support lies. An example is Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, which was highly inclusive of Muslims. For instance, Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, became the first Muslim campaign manager for a major party in the U.S. presidential campaign.

“We can only increase in terms of political engagement; you’ll see more and more especially with the new generation, the second and third generations of American Muslims from immigrant backgrounds,” says Khan. “Regardless of what happens in the current election, you will see more Muslim participation.”

As Muslim participation rises, the voices of Muslim women will continue to increase as well. America will begin to see more politicians like Sadaf Jaffer, the current mayor of Montgomery Township, New Jersey. Young women like Wilson-Anton and Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, New Jersey’s first Muslim woman to run for Congress, are evidence of a sweeping change of representation for not only Muslim women but all women.

Although there are many stereotypes about Muslim women and their role in public life, the surge of Muslim women running of office proves that it can only go up from here. According to Professor Sloane-White, Muslim women will continue to have a profound influence on politics.

“They prove that there is nothing in Islam that prevents women from taking their God-granted roles as strong leaders and public figures committed to human equality and social justice.”


UK govt: British women strip-searched in Qatar

October 29, 2020

LONDON: British authorities have formally registered concerns with Qatar following reports that two women who are UK nationals were strip-searched in Doha.

The forced medical examinations were carried out in Doha airport after authorities discovered a newborn baby in a bin.

This, it is claimed, prompted them to conduct “urgently decided” intrusive examinations, described as “absolutely terrifying” by one of 13 Australian women on a flight to Sydney who were subjected to them.

The British women were part of a group that was forced to disembark flights before having their underwear removed for a female medical professional to carry out an examination assessing if they had recently given birth.

The complaint was registered by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which said in a statement: “We are providing ongoing support to two British women following an incident in Doha. We have formally expressed our concern with the Qatari authorities and Qatar Airways and are seeking assurances an unacceptable incident like this cannot happen again.”

Australian officials said passengers from 10 flights leaving Doha on Oct. 2 were subjected to the ordeal.

“The advice that has been provided indicates that the treatment of the women concerned was offensive, grossly inappropriate, and beyond circumstances in which the women could give free and informed consent,” said a spokeswoman for the office of Australia’s foreign minister.

Sources familiar with the incident have said the newborn is alive and in care, and the mother has not been identified.


Driving school in Taif keeps women waiting to get behind the wheel legally

October 29, 2020

TAIF — A female driving school in Taif has called on female drivers to avoid medications that cause drowsiness while driving.

"If driving a car is part of your schedule for the day, avoid taking drowsiness-causing drugs to ensure your safety and the safety of others," the school said in an awareness poster.

The call comes at a time when a number of women complained about a long waiting list for getting driving licenses.

There are around 23,000 women who are waiting to get driving licenses after submitting their applications at the school. The school has so far issued only 1,200 licenses during the last 10 months, at a rate of 4 licenses per day.

According to one of the applicants, she applied for the license six months back, and her turn has not come yet. She received the timing for the level tests only recently.

Others expressed their apprehensions regarding the delay in getting a license, saying that the entry of middle persons resulted in delaying the entire process. They say that the school issues only a limited number of licenses even though it has dozens of vehicles designated for training and other facilities to carry out tests for a large number of applicants.


Hadaf’s Program Nominated For Global Awards For Gender Equality In Technology

October 29, 2020

RIYADH — The Hadaf Academy for Leadership program, an affiliate of the Saudi Human Resources Development Fund, has been nominated for EQUALS in Tech Awards for 2020.

The global awards recognize initiatives that work to bring gender equality to the digital world.

“Hadaf” Academy for Leadership program made it to the top 25 out of the total 340 applicants for the global awards.

The annual awards are organized and presented by the EQUALS Global Partnership — a network of 100+ organizations, companies, UN agencies, and research institutions — whose founding partners include the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), UN Women, International Trade Centre, GSMA, and United Nations University. Together, the partnership works to bring the benefits of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to women and girls and to help women succeed in the tech sector.

The awards are given in the following categories:

Access: Initiatives related to improving women’s and girls’ digital technology access, connectivity, and security

Skills: Initiatives that support the development of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills of women and girls

Leadership (in two subcategories):

1. Initiatives focused on promoting women in decision-making roles within the ICT filed

2. Initiatives promoting women’s leadership in technology small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs).

Hadaf's program has been nominated for the award for promoting women’s leadership in technology in SMEs.

The program, which was launched in May last year, aims to prepare the future leaders in the private sector in line with Saudi Vision 2030 and achieve quality nationalization by providing innovative and high-caliber leaders.

The program provides them with knowledge, IT capabilities, and skills needed for the 21st century labor market, as well as providing human capital for the benefit of national organizations.




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