New Age Islam News Bureau
06 February 2021
• Iran’s Khosrowyar among Women Football Stars Changing the Game
• UAE Leads Countries Advocating Women's Rights At Global Level
• Hopes and Fears of Mother-To-Be in Afghanistan
• Pakistani Jirga Stops Bajaur Women From Visiting World Bank Centres, Saying It Was Against Local Customs And Traditions
• Egypt’s Listed Companies Still Poor In Female Representation At Highest Levels: Board Diversity Index 2020
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Wearing Hijab: Dressing Modestly Is Not Just For Muslim Women
February 06, 2021
"The hijab is a part of me where I feel powerful and confident because I am 100 per cent myself," Ms Awamleh told the ABC.
"It allows me to be who I am and the freedom to dress as I want."
A professional fashion designer in Melbourne, Ms Awamleh has been working to normalize the wearing of hijabs and "modest" fashion.
She said dressing modestly was not just for Muslim women.
"I have this vision where I want to empower women to dress elegantly and powerfully, and it doesn't matter whether you wear a hijab or not," Ms Awamleh said.
"I think women are beautiful, with hijab, and without hijab, there's no difference."
Ms Awamleh's work has featured at various fashion shows, including Melbourne Fashion Week, and she said she was often the only designer who specialized in hijab and modest fashion.
She said there needed "to be more conversations" in the fashion industry addressing Islamophobia and tackling misconceptions.
"I see no difference with a woman who chooses to dress modestly and another woman who doesn't want to dress modestly," Ms Awamleh said.
She said once people knew how "special" the hijab was for Muslim women, it would help to end the stigma surrounding it.
Ms Awamleh added a rise in Islamophobia shouldn't prevent a woman from wanting to wear a hijab.
"You shouldn't let anything stop you," she said.
But in a week celebrating World Hijab Day, Sarah, who only wanted her first name used, said she had a different experience of wearing a hijab in Australia.
The first day she arrived in Australia as an international student was the start of her experiences of "hijabophobia".
At the airport, Sarah said authorities started to follow and question her after passing through immigration.
"More than one person kept asking for my passport over and over again," she said.
Sarah said she felt "targeted" and didn't notice it happen to anyone else.
She said she continued to face discrimination after nearly two months of living in Australia and eventually decided to take her hijab off.
"It didn't make sense to me, it was sad," she said.
"I guess some people are brought up in a way that they're not familiar with Islam.
"I understand it can be strange, it's normal to be scared of strange things."
Many Muslim women around the world are working to challenge the notion that the hijab is a sign of oppression.
"For me, it is a religious obligation, but it also represents my identity as a Muslim woman and a symbol of empowerment for women," said Laura Abdul Fattah, an ambassador for World Hijab Day in Australia.
The day aims to show solidarity with women in hijab by giving people from all faiths and backgrounds the opportunity to have a first-hand experience of wearing a hijab.
According to World Hijab Day research carried out in Europe, the US and Australia, 71 per cent of women who wear hijabs have experienced discrimination.
"It's about creating awareness and the meaning of hijab, while providing a chance for people to listen to the experiences of Muslim women," Ms Abdul Fattah said.
Rania Shafiq, 48, converted to Islam when she was 16.
After travelling to Indonesia and Malaysia when she was younger, she said she realized that Islam was a "beautiful" religion she wanted to be a part of.
"I just absolutely loved their way of life and their way of thinking and the kind of commitment and responsibility to each other," Ms Shafiq said.
But Ms Shafiq was "wary" about what other people might think of her, and took her time deciding whether she would wear the hijab.
"I just got to a point where I thought 'look this is me', and I don't feel comfortable not doing this, this is who I want to be," Ms Shafiq said.
"I just decided one day to go to work wearing the hijab and it was amazing.
"I can't imagine not wearing my hijab now."
Her family was initially hesitant but soon realized Ms Shafiq was the "same person", who was "more comfortable" in herself.
Ms Shafiq lives in Alice Springs where there isn't a very large Muslim community.
After the Christchurch attacks in New Zealand, her husband said it might be worth her considering taking off her hijab so she wouldn't stand out.
"I said to him, I would never take it off, this is who I am, and I feel like it's almost the opposite of being oppressed," she said.
"It's very liberating to actually not have to hide and be able to say 'look, this is who I am'."
Iran’s Khosrowyar among Women Football Stars Changing the Game
February, 06, 2021
She is the first female coach in the Iranian National Women’s League. The 33-year-old moved to Iran from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she was born, to join the national football team at the age of 17. She went on to become a coach for U-14, then eventually U-19 teams.
Khosrowyar scouted girls from rural areas and pushed to put the team in international competitions, globalvoices.org reported.
In 2011, her team was disqualified from a second-round Olympic qualifying match because of the competition's ban on wearing the hijab.
After three years of campaigning, women were allowed by FIFA to wear a “head covering for religious reasons,” and so “Kat” and her team finally got permission to compete internationally again.
UAE Leads Countries Advocating Women's Rights At Global Level
February 6, 2021
The United Arab Emirates is at the forefront of the countries advocating women's rights at the global level through a series of initiatives and programmes aimed at supporting and empowering women in many societies and countries.
The UAE tops advanced ranks on many global indicators related to supporting women's rights and empowerment, as well as its unprecedented achievement globally in achieving equality in parliamentary representation during the 16th legislative chapter of the Federal National Council.
On the UAE's efforts supporting women at the global level, the initiatives and efforts of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union (GWU), President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation (FDF), should be highlighted first as Sheikha Fatima is considered the first champion of women worldwide thanks to her efforts in this field.
For many years, Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, sponsored, presided over and supported a group of specialised conferences in the Arab, international and Islamic worlds to empower women and enhance their stature.
Under the generous patronage of Her Highness, the UAE hosted in October 2019 a ceremony and symposium for the launch of the 'Arab Document on Women's Rights in the UAE', organised by the Federal National Council in cooperation with the Arab Parliament, in appreciation of the pioneering role of the UAE and its record of civilisational achievements in the process of empowering women.
Since the establishment of the UAE federation in 1971, the UAE has been keen to join international conventions on women's issues and protecting their rights, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 2004, the Convention on Working Hours in Industry in 1982, and the Forced Labour Convention in 1982, the International Convention on Labour Inspection in Industry and Trade in 1982, the Night Work (Women) Convention in 1982, the Convention concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value in 1996, and the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention in 1996 And the Convention on Minimum Age for Admission to Employment, in 1996.
The UAE has a strong and growing relationship with UN Women, as it was a member of the UN Women Executive Board between 2013 and 2018, and assumed the presidency of the Executive Council of UN Women in 2017.
The UAE has provided the UN Women - since its inception in 2010 - with financial support amounting to about US$26 million, to strengthen its efforts to empower women worldwide, make the country ranked first in the Arab world and tenth in the world.
The UAE opened a liaison office for the UN Women in Abu Dhabi in 2016, under the generous patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, and in partnership with the General Women's Union.
Since then, UN Women Liaison Office for the GCC has launched the "Women Peace and Security Training Programme". The programme aims to prepare female military officers for UN peacekeeping operations and increase the pool of female military officers (both in terms of numbers as well as geographic diversity), create peer-to-peer networks among female military officers to provide support during future deployments and drive the strategic objectives of UN Security Council resolution 1325, with particular attention to the importance of capacity building and training.
Education is considered essential for women's economic empowerment, and according to the World Economic Forum 2014 report on the gender gap, the UAE has been able to achieve equality between men and women in educational attainment, as 77% of Emirati women enrol in higher education, representing 70% of university graduates.
During its membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council, the UAE highlighted its fundamental belief that women and men are equal partners in society, promoting the equal right to education by every girl. In June 2017, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously passed a draft resolution put forth by the UAE during the 35th session of the Council in Geneva on the right of girls to receive an education. The resolution called upon states to eliminate obstacles to girls’ education, including discriminatory policies, poverty, tradition, religious considerations, or financial hardship. It also called for additional action to ensure the safety of girls outside the school perimeter against sexual violence and threats posed by terrorist groups.
The UAE also initiated a joint statement by 75 countries at the Human Rights Council in June 2014, which condemned attacks on girls because they attend or wish to attend school. The UAE led in the unanimous adoption by the Council in September 2014 of a resolution to convene a panel discussion at the Council's session in June 2015 to share lessons learned and best practices on realizing the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl.
Hopes and Fears of Mother-To-Be in Afghanistan
February 06, 2021
KABUL — A mother in Afghanistan has been talking about the hopes and fears for her unborn daughter in a country where the birth of a girl can often be a curse rather than a blessing.
Women and girls, in particular, often suffer abuse at the hands of men in a male-driven society where boys are sometimes valued above girls.
Arfia Omid works for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Afghanistan where one in three girls are married before their 18th birthday and only 19 percent of females under 15 years old are literate.
She has written this letter to her unborn child.
“My lovely baby, I haven’t met you yet, but I already know how beautiful you are — with your dark eyes, smiling face, soft, brown hair and golden heart. I have dreamed of having you my entire life.
I count the days and nights until I will finally hold you in my arms and love you as much as I can. Now you are only seven months and I can feel you when you move. ‘Naughty daughter’, I laugh quietly to myself.
Do you know, before you were even in my womb, I went to buy clothes for your brothers, and I saw a baby girl’s dress in the market? I stopped there for a while and wished to God to give you to me. You know what? I bought that dress. I knew that my next child would be a girl. I can’t wait to see you in it; you will be an Afghan princess.
But with all the happiness and excitement that I have, I am also nervous for you and your future in this country. I hear such sad stories about Afghan girls, but I also see how strong they are — so do not be afraid. You will also be strong.
Together, we will help more women realize their promise and potential. This is my dream for you.
The suffering of Afghan mothers
Afghanistan is a tough place to be a girl. Just two months ago, I cried for a mother who had just given birth to a baby girl. The father killed his wife because she delivered a baby girl.
He escaped with the baby. I really can’t process the suffering and fear this mother endured. She had the most painful time delivering her baby — I know how hard it is for a woman to deliver at home without any healthcare facilities.
Then, after enduring labor and birth, she waited for her husband and relatives to congratulate her. Instead, her partner killed her with his own hands.
Nobody knows where the baby is — or if she’s alive. I worry about how she’s surviving without breast milk. Or if her father really cares for her, or if he sold her?
I hear such sad stories about Afghan girls, but I also see how strong they are — so do not be afraid. You will also be strong
I thank God that our circumstances are different. Your father loves you, as I love you. And your brothers love you. Together, we will protect you.
When I went for the sonogram with your father, the doctor asked me, ‘What do you want? A boy or a girl’?
I said, ‘I want a baby girl’.
She said, ‘Do you know, you’re the first mother I hear that wants a girl’? Then she told me that the woman who came before me came from a remote area. She told the doctor that if this time she gives birth to a girl, her husband will leave her and get married to another woman.
‘Luckiest baby and mother in Afghanistan’
My little girl, I know that we are the luckiest baby and mother in Afghanistan. And I want you to know that things will be better for you than they were for me, just as they were better for me than for my mother.
When my mother gave birth to me, she did so in a poor family. We didn’t even have our own home. When she was in second year of university, your uncle was born.
Despite her hard work and dreams, she couldn’t continue her lessons. She sacrificed her life to support and protect her children.
So, years later, I found a way to thank her.
When I was in second year of university, I searched for a month and found her documents from the Ministry of Higher Education and her university. Then, I sought a permission letter from the Ministry to support her to join a private university.
I gave her the registration paper of the new university as a gift for Mother’s Day. I remember, she cried and laughed at the same time.
She joined the university and graduated with her diploma just two years later. I can’t tell you how proud I felt. That day, she was the happiest woman in the world.
So, my lovely daughter, your grandmother is your reason to hope and to believe in change. Every day, Afghan women like her battle against the odds to bring their dreams to life. They empower each other, hand-in-hand, step-by-step.
You will join that tradition, as I did. Together, we will help more women realize their promise and potential. This is my dream for you. And just as I turned my mother’s dream into reality, I think you will breathe life into mine.
I think about this at night when you keep me awake with your wriggling. I pray to God for a future where women and men have equal rights; and for blessed peace so I can send you to school without fear. I pray for your health and happiness. Mostly, I pray for you to be bold and courageous.
And you will be because you’ll be standing on my shoulders, my darling.
With love, Your mother, Arifa”. — UN News
Pakistani Jirga Stops Bajaur Women From Visiting World Bank Centres, Saying It Was Against Local Customs And Traditions
February 6, 2021
BAJAUR: Elders of Warah area of Mamond tehsil here on Friday banned the women from personally collecting monthly stipends from centres set up by the World Bank under a cash grant scheme.
The decision was made at a jirga in Sawi area, with the participants making it clear that women personally visiting the centres every month for collection of stipend under the Child Wellness Grant was against local customs and traditions.
The elders said they had repeatedly requested the programme management to either give the amount to the men or arrange female staff at the centres operated under the Sada-i-Amn programme of the bank, but to no avail.
The jirga decided that no woman would be allowed to visit the centres from today (Saturday). It was also decided that if any tribesman allowed his female family member to visit the said centres he would be fined Rs10,000.
The elders also announced to collect Rs10,000 from the family of any woman telephonically calling to the local FM radio stations.
Egypt’s listed companies still poor in female representation at highest levels: Board Diversity Index 2020
February 4, 2021
More than half of Egypt’s listed companies have at least one member in their Board of Directors that is female, as of 31 July 2020, compared to 47% in 2019.
Despite the rise, the fact that it is so slight indicates that more effort is still needed by companies listed on the Egyptian Exchange (EGX) to increase female representation at Board level.
The figures were outlined in the Board Diversity Index, a new report released by TheBoardroom Africa (TBRA), in partnership with the Women on Boards Observatory at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and the EGX.
The index tracks the number of listed companies’ boards by country, and identifies all board seats filled by women. At the same time, it also monitors the number of women filling Chairperson and other executive positions. Research to date covers publicly listed boards across 11 African countries, including Egypt.
As of July 2020, among the 242 EGX-listed companies, women hold only 10.8% of board seats. Although this figure represents a 0.7% increase in 2019, the Board Diversity Index shows that women are rarely included in the governance and management of some of Egypt’s most notable companies.
Key sectors assessed in the 2020 Board Diversity Index include, but are not limited to: banks; energy; industrial goods; shipping; textiles; travel and leisure; and utilities.
Amongst these sectors, the textile and durables sectors have the highest percentage of female board directors, with two out of eight companies having more than 30% of their director positions filled by women.
However, in terms of the aggregate number of women, the energy and support services sector outperforms all sectors, with 23% of all directors in the energy sector being female. “Women hold 10.8% of the board seats of the EGX-listed companies, with an increase of 0.7% from 2019,” according to the report.
The report said that 53% of companies have at least one woman on their boards, compared to 47% in 2019.
It showed that 10.3% of EGX listed companies ranked as “top performers” with respect to gender diversity, with 30% or more of their board seats held by women. The top three performers, with 60% of their board positions held by women, are: First Investment Company and Real Estate Development; Marine & Oil Services (SAE); and El Orouba Securities Brokerage.
Meanwhile, the report showed that women make up 3.9% of CEOs/Managing Directors, 8.7% of COOs, and 2.1% of CFOs, on Egypt’s listed boards.
Commenting on the role of stock exchanges in promoting gender diversity, Mohamed Farid, Chairman of the Egyptian Exchange, said, “The EGX is fully committed and aware of the impact that greater inclusivity could have in building competitive, value-creating companies and therefore resilient and inclusive economies.”
“To that end, we have collaborated with the AUC Women on Board Observatory to promote stronger board governance for listed companies, build a Board Ready Women database, offer board placement services to listed companies, develop an annual monitoring report for women on boards as well as providing corporate governance awareness and training programmes,” Farid added.
He noted that these programmes are designed to embed a gender component to highlight the benefits of board diversity. Moving on to close the gender gap, all listed companies are now required to put at least one woman on their boards, he added
Commenting on the methodology, Marcia Ashong, Founder and CEO of TBRA, said: “TheBoardroom Africa has undertaken a robust analysis of boardroom gender diversity in Egypt and 11 other African states over the past three years, by analysing board composition through public declarations of executives and officers.”
She added, “This year, we’re delighted to count the Women on Boards Observatory and the Egyptian Exchange as partners who understand the strong link between gender diversity and good corporate governance.”
Over the last decade, Egyptian women have made significant strides in access to rights, education, and the labour market.
While Egyptian universities turn out more female graduates than male, those gains have failed to translate to equitable representation in the workforce and at the highest level of leadership, the boardroom.
Ghada Howaidy, Founder of the Women on Boards Observatory and Associate Dean for Executive Education and External Relations at AUC’s School of Business, noted the significance of the 2020 Board Diversity Index.
She said, “Good corporate governance helps firms improve performance, drive growth, and manage risk.”
Howaidy also said that, to be truly effective, a board requires a diversity of skills and perspectives. The Board Diversity Index shows that many EGX-listed companies are true gender diversity champions, but that there is still much work to be done.
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