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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 25 Feb 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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World Bank highlights Saudi progress in women’s legal reforms

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 February 2021

 The Kingdom’s strong performance comes as a result of a raft of reforms implemented last year to further expand female participation in the economy. (Reuters/File Photo)


• Time to ensure women get fair chance in science

• The Yazidi Women Who Do Not Want to Be Known

• Police force trials anti-grab hijabs that have already been rolled out to female officers in New Zealand in bid to recruit more Muslim women

• Annual lecture honours three Black Muslim women leaders

• Grad student honoured as Inspiring Arab Woman

• Travel restrictions eased for Saudis married to non-Saudis

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



World Bank highlights Saudi progress in women’s legal reforms

February 24, 2021

The Kingdom’s strong performance comes as a result of a raft of reforms implemented last year to further expand female participation in the economy. (Reuters/File Photo)


JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia continues to make notable progress in women’s economic inclusion and empowerment, according to a World Bank report.

The World Bank Group’s “Women, Business and the Law (WBL)” report, released on Feb. 23, showed that the Kingdom scored higher than last year on a global measure of legal reforms to boost gender equality.

On a scale of one to 100, Saudi Arabia scored 80 in 2021, up from 70.6 in 2020.

The increase in performance was notable in five indicators on which it scored at the top of the scale: Mobility, workplace, pay, entrepreneurship and pension.

These scores put Saudi Arabia on a par with many advanced economies with long traditions of women’s legal reforms.

The Kingdom’s strong performance comes as a result of a raft of reforms implemented last year to further expand female participation in the economy.

Saudi Arabia equalized women’s access to the labor market, lifted restrictions on their employment in sectors previously considered unsafe, and eliminated a ban on women’s night work.

Last year’s report ranked Saudi Arabia as the world’s top reformer in advancing women’s economic participation for 2019, a recognition of the legislative policies the country established to boost female participation in the workforce, which it aims to increase from an average of just under 20 percent to more than 40 percent as part of Vision 2030.

Commenting on the report, Majid Al-Qasabi, commerce minister and chairman of the National Competitiveness Center, said that the Kingdom’s performance reflects King Salman’s commitment to enabling Saudi women to fully participate in the social and economic development of the country. It also reflects Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to ensure an effective whole-of-government approach to implementing women’s legal reforms.

Saudi Arabia’s reforms build on changes implemented since the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, including lifting restrictions on women’s mobility, equalizing access to public services, guaranteeing equal benefits in the labor market, and instituting protections against harassment in the workplace and in public spaces.

The WBL, a yearly publication by the World Bank Group, assesses women’s legal reforms in 190 countries, using an index with eight indicators: Mobility, pay, parenthood, assets, workplace, marriage, entrepreneurship and pension.


Time to ensure women get fair chance in science


February 25, 2021


A student at Khalifa University Abu Dhabi conducts an experiment in the university’s fluids and low speed aerodynamics lab. (Khalifa University)


I was not fond of physics when I was in school, although I was very much aware of its importance as a subject, having grasped the significance of gravity, the atom and the theory of relativity. On the other hand, I did enjoy biology and chemistry, dissecting frogs and mixing chemicals in the lab. I was also good at math, algebra and geometry.

At one point, I considered going for a scientific field of study or becoming a doctor like my father wished, but I did not think I could tolerate the bloody part of medicine. And female members of the family who had pursued a degree in science or math either became teachers or stayed at home without work after graduation due to the limited job opportunities for women. Many women also drop out of medical school and other scientific fields or leave work after getting married and having children. Generally, fewer girls go into scientific fields compared to the humanities, business or the arts.

But things have changed considerably for women during the past 10 years, with more colleges in computer science and engineering, in addition to medicine and medical sciences, opening up. There are more job opportunities too, especially under Vision 2030, which identified female empowerment and gender equality as one of its main objectives.

However, women around the world still face many hurdles during their education and careers in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

On Feb. 11, we celebrated the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Unlike in previous years, this time we felt the critical role of science and medicine in our lives first-hand. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, scientists and medical personnel have been fighting the virus, advancing our knowledge of it, and developing techniques for testing and vaccinating against it, all while also treating and caring for the infected. And female scientists and doctors have been at the center of this effort. The scientists who developed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were a husband and wife team.

Nevertheless, just as the coronavirus disease has had a negative impact on women’s family life and employment, it has also had a significant negative impact on women scientists, particularly those in the early stages of their career. This will contribute to widening the existing gender gap in science and will reveal the gender disparities in the scientific system, according to UNESCO. At present, fewer than 30 percent of researchers worldwide are women.

According to UNESCO data from 2014 to 2016, only 35 percent of all female students around the world select STEM-related fields in higher education. Globally, female students’ enrolment is particularly low in information and communications technology (3 percent), natural science, mathematics and statistics (5 percent), and engineering, manufacturing and construction (8 percent).

UNESCO has called for new policies, initiatives and mechanisms to support women and girls in science. In order to do that, we need to understand the factors that deter women from pursuing careers in STEM. Among these factors are gender biases, social norms and expectations influencing the quality of the education girls receive and the subjects they study. This gender disparity is a serious problem in all countries, especially as STEM careers are often referred to as the “jobs of the future,” driving innovation, social well-being, inclusive growth and sustainable development. Scientists will play a key role in addressing the challenges of food security, climate change, clean energy, health, water and sanitation, in addition to our everyday lives and activities through computers and gadgets. It is imperative that we encourage girls and women to enter STEM education and careers, and continue in the field.

Statistics show there has been an incremental increase in the enrolment of female students on STEM degree courses, but this is not translating into a greater presence of women in high-level decision and policymaking roles. According to recent studies, 41 percent of Ph.D. students in STEM fields are women. Among these, just 28 percent are on the tenure track. Disproportionate differences in the share of women researchers also exist at regional and national levels. In regions such as Central and Eastern Europe, the Arab world, Latin America and the Caribbean and Central Asia, women make up between 39 percent and 48.5 percent of researchers. In North America, Western Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and the Pacific, and South and West Asia, the figure is between 23.1 percent and 32.9 percent.

It is interesting to note that many Arab and Muslim countries are doing much better than many Western countries of the Global North, such as Switzerland, Germany, the UK and Norway, which is extremely encouraging and reassuring that investment made in women’s education can have a great dividend in terms of socioeconomic transformation.

According to UNESCO, 34 to 57 percent of STEM graduates in Arab countries are women. They make up 64 percent of Jordanian students in the natural sciences, medicine, dentistry and pharmacy, as well as 60 percent of engineering students in the Gulf (compared with only 30 percent in the US and Europe). Irrespective of these numbers, the translation of STEM graduates into a skilled workforce and high-level decision-makers is marred by various dropouts. In Arab countries, the average proportion of women scientists stands at 17 percent. This persistent problem in higher education and academia is the “leaky pipeline” — a term that refers to the disproportionate rate at which qualified women leave science as they move up the educational and career ladder. Globally, women account for only 16 percent of managers in the information technology industry, 3 percent of CEOs and 20 percent of chief financial officers.

According to experts who participated in a webinar organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) last year, this dropout rate is due to various reasons, including: Work-life balance conflicts, a hostile environment from coworkers, gender discrimination, relatively few professional development opportunities, especially in fieldwork, and a lack of role models and mentors.

Participants in the OIC webinar recommended enhancing national policies that encourage girls and women to enter STEM fields of education by investing in quality, inclusive education, and investing in major potentials for science, technology and innovation as strategic engines for economic growth. They also recommended increasing early orientation and awareness on the importance of STEM for girls, as well as providing training programs for marginalized and disadvantaged girls and women to integrate them into the various available professions and projects. It is also important to highlight, promote and reward women achievers in the field. As a result, the OIC last week launched a platform on its website and social media celebrating women scientists in its member states.

Maybe if I had more encouragement and support and knew the potential of studying any of the STEM fields, I would have had a different career.

MahaAkeel is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. Twitter: @MahaAkeel1


The Yazidi Women Who Do Not Want to Be Known

By Zana Omer, Namo Abdulla

February 25, 2021


In this Feb. 12, 2020, photo, Malak Saad Dakhel, 11, is anointed by a holy man inside a Yazidi shrine as she is welcomed home by her relatives after her escape from Syria, in Sharia, Iraq.


AL-HOL CAMP, SYRIA - At this camp in northeastern Syria, women are often seen wearing niqab, the dress that ultra-conservative Muslim women wear to cover their entire bodies, except for their eyes.

Nowadays, this religious attire serves another purpose: hide the identities of as many as 250 Yazidi women who were forced into sex slavery by Islamic State in 2014 after the terror group took their small town of Sinjar in northern Iraq.

Al-Hol is Syria’s largest camp for refugees and internally displaced persons, with a population of roughly 62,000. The United Nations says more than 80% of its residents are women and children.

Many of the camp’s female residents survived the 2014 genocide in Sinjar, where IS killed most of their brothers and fathers but kept them alive, forcing them to convert to Islam and marry its jihadist members. As a result, many of the women became mothers raising children fathered by members of IS.

More than six years later, many of these women prefer to be known as IS wives rather than members of the ancient religious group they were born into. They fear that by revealing their identities, they could permanently be separated from their children, according to experts and Yazidi survivors.

That fear remains, despite a decision made in 2019 by the Yazidi Supreme Spiritual Council to allow children born to IS fighters to live within the secluded community, reversing a previous stance the council held on the issue.

A Yazidi female survivor, who identified herself only as Layla, recently unveiled her identity to authorities.

“The Yazidi women all heard that if they returned to Sinjar, they would lose their children,” Layla told VOA. “Because of our children, we hid ourselves. However, when the decision was made that we can keep our children, I revealed myself.”

Jabir Jendo, a Syria-based researcher on the Yazidis, explained a dilemma from which Yazidi women have suffered.

“These women have children, and the fathers of these children are IS terrorists,” he said. “That has caused a problem for these women. They either had to abandon their children and return to their families or stay with their children and live the way they do now.”

Mahmoud Rasho, a member of the Syrian Yazidi Council, is helping to identify the Yazidi women who remain in hiding and wants to reassure them that they can continue to live with their children.

“We have information that some Yazidis are indeed inside the camp,” Rasho told VOA. “We are working to get those women out of the camp in phases.”

VOA talked to other female Yazidi survivors who said that despite returning to their communities, they continue to worry about their children’s futures, growing up with the stigma of being born to IS militants, also known as ISIS.

Some figures show an increase in suicide among Yazidi survivors. On Tuesday, Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced that at least 13 Yazidi survivors have committed suicide so far this year.

“The suicides are believed to be linked to the trauma caused by the Yazidi genocide at the hands of ISIS, the difficult living conditions inside the(displacement) camps, lack of prospects for the future, and economic and social problems,” the KRG said.


Police force trials anti-grab hijabs that have already been rolled out to female officers in New Zealand in bid to recruit more Muslim women

24 February 2021

A police force is trialling anti-grab hijabs in a bid to encourage more Muslim women to join its ranks.

Leicestershire Police has given the hi-tech headwear to a Muslim officer with a view to rolling them out to female colleagues on the front line.

The hijab is made from a sports fabric and fastened with magnetic buttons which allow for quick release if a suspect attempts to grab it.

The hijab is designed to sit comfortably with police issued headwear such as caps and radio ear pieces.

A team spent 16 months designing the new-look hijabs at New Zealand's Massey University College in Wellington.

New Zealand Police introduced them into its uniform last November and they are now expected to be rolled out to forces in the UK.

Detective Constable Yassin Desai, joint chair of Leicestershire Police's Association of Muslim Police (AMP), said: 'We saw the New Zealand hijab and liked the look of it so got in contact, built a really good relationship and have been trialling it for a number of weeks.

'We have had several failed attempts to get the right product but we are very hopeful with what we have seen so far.

'If everything goes well and the necessary tests and approvals are met then we could be rolling this out in Leicestershire.

'I have also been talking to other forces in England and Wales and the Home Office about it being a national solution for emergency services and frontline staff.

'It's really important for our Muslim officers who wear the hijab. Operationally, a standard hijab is needed.

'It looks professional, uses very similar material to our current police uniform and has relevant design and safety features.

'More importantly it will help attract other Muslim females to become police officers.

'It will also help to provide role models to the community to show them they too can follow a career in policing.'

Student Officer Khadeejah Mansur, who joined the force in October, is trialling the new-look hijab.

She said: 'Wearing the hijab had made me very comfortable and complements my uniform very well, it is comfortable and far from restricting.

'I am able to conduct my training just as well as everyone else and still be covered.

'I believe it is important to have it as part of our uniform to make other Muslim females aware that Leicestershire Police caters to all individual's needs, especially with our uniform.

'Once fellow Muslim females see myself as a frontline hijab wearing officer, I hope it will inspire them to look at a career in policing as there are no restrictions or setbacks.'

Deb Cumming, Senior Lecturer within the School of Design at Massey University in New Zealand, created the hijab with colleague Nina Weaver.

She said: 'The hijab fits the head and neck shoulder area for freedom of movement and rigorous performance with contoured panels and reinforced zones for durability, access for communication device and quick release fastening system for safety reasons.

'It is made from a technical sports fabric which is light to wear, antibacterial, moisture wicking and robust. We carried out extensive wear trials to ensure the hijab was fit for purpose.'


Annual lecture honours three Black Muslim women leaders


FEB 24, 2021

On Saturday, Rutgers professor and anthropologist Donna Auston held a talk titled “If It Wasn’t For the Women: The Activist Legacies of Louise Little, Ella Collins and Betty Shabazz,” which highlighted the contributions of the three leaders to the civil rights movement.

The Zoom webinar, which started at 6 p.m., is the third annual lecture honoring the life and work of Malcolm X — who is also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz — and Betty Shabazz.

This year’s event took place on the 56th anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination and was sponsored by the Muslim Leadership Lab at Dwight Hall at Yale in partnership with the Muslim Life Program at the Yale Chaplain’s Office. The lecture explored the impacts that Little, Collins and Shabazz left on their communities and broader society.

“We want to begin to think about Black women’s perspectives in a different way.” Auston said during the talk. “I would like to try or implore us together to begin to take these women out of the margins and move them into the center. And help us to understand them not just as accessories to Malcolm’s legacy, but actually creators of it.”

The lecture was introduced by Abdul-Rehman Malik, director of the Muslim Leadership Lab, and Yousra Omer ’22, president of the Yale Muslim Students Association.

Malik founded the Muslim Leadership Lab in 2018 to promote advocacy amongst Muslims and their allies both at Yale and in the broader New Haven community. The lab holds workshops, discussions and readings of religious and contemporary texts.

During the first half of the event, Auston summarized the lives and contributions of the three women.

Little, who was fluent in multiple languages, organized for the Universal Negro Improvement Association, a national group focused on Black empowerment. She directly engaged with white supremacists who came to her house when she was pregnant with her son, Malcolm X.

Shabazz was raised largely sheltered from racism as a child and experienced extreme discrimination while in college in the South. Despite this, she became a nurse, raised six daughters and later received a doctorate in education.

Finally, Collins owned real estate with her sisters and helped many of her family members migrate north during the Great Migration. She founded a school in Boston, worked as a secretary to a New York City representative and, later, became the guardian of her half-brother, Malcolm X, who was in foster care.

In the second half of the event, Auston opened up the floor to questions. Humera Khan, an attendee from the United Kingdom, said that she “really empathized” with the women described in the talk. Khan and her late husband have been activists for decades.

“This is something I’ve been fighting for myself,” she said. “You can’t overlook the contribution that women make, the choices women make in being the nurturers, in being the supporters, in being the ones who are facilitators, the ones who are picking up the pieces.”

According to Malik, the annual lecture series was started in 2019 to remember Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X and to “think about what their legacies have looked like and could look like.” The first lecture — which was led by Sylvia Chan-Malik, an associate professor at Rutgers University — focused on revolution and the uncovering of Black female stories. The second lecture, led by historian Rasul Miller, was about Black radical activism inspired by post-Malcolm X Muslim movements.

“We’ve tried to keep the lecture contemporary and lively and speak to the moment,” Malik told the News. “Leadership isn’t something that’s rarified for the privileged, but each and every one of us expresses and can express leadership in our families, our communities, in our societies, in our neighborhoods.”

Sheikh Nahiyan ’24, an attendee, said that he appreciated hearing from Auston, noting that a lot of what he learned was “totally new.” According to Nahiyan, this lecture provided a new perspective that he had not gotten before due to the lack of Muslim-focused classes at Yale.

Auston mentioned that while progress has been made in uncovering the histories of these women — such as a recently published biography of Betty Shabazz — there is still much work to do. She added that she “learned a lot” while doing research for the lecture. As a Black Muslim woman, she describes studying the histories of the three women as relevant to her own life.

“Part of the impetus for the talk for me is my own questions,” she said in an interview with the News. “I have to be able to figure out how to make the generality [of faith] work for my specificity. And these women provide very good examples of how it might be done.”

A recording of the event is available on the Dwight Hall at Yale Facebook page.


Grad student honoured as Inspiring Arab Woman

February 24, 2021

By Chelsea Hylton

If you have met Claudia Ramly, a UW–Madison second-year PhD student in the School of Education’s Department of Educational Psychology, you know that she is a compassionate and outgoing learner.

Even after only speaking to her for about 15 minutes I could instantly grasp the feeling that Ramly is well-deserving of the Women in Business Arabia’s “365 Inspiring Arab Women” selection.

Ramly came to UW–Madison for graduate school, attracted by its outstanding research labs and well-known education psychology department.

Back in December Ramly found out that she was selected to be one of the 365 Arab Women after a friend nominated her.

“I was very very surprised. I had actually forgotten about it,” she said.

Ramly was selected because in 2018 she created the “Hidden Gem Walking Tour,” a tour that showcases the Gemmayzeneighborhood in Beirut, Lebanon. Gemmayze is a town full of historic architecture and has been able to preserve its French, Ottoman, and Lebanese character even after the civil war in Lebanon.

“We will reveal through 11 stops, the hidden gems in architecture, theater, art, and history as we walk down Gouraud Street and through the Sursock Quarter,” says the Hidden Gem Facebook page.

The walking tour is paused now, due to COVID and Ramly being in Madison finishing her studies.

Ramly for a time as a  training and education specialist for medical devices. While she was stationed for her company in Lebanon she discovered Gemmayze. Ramly was not a complete stranger because she had grown up in Lebanon as a child.

“While I was in Lebanon there were a lot of traffic jams by the office and so I would park my car in a neighborhood close to my office and just go for a walk,” she said.

While on her walks, Ramly discovered Gemmayze’s beautiful and historic architecture. Gemmayze is the name of a tree that is no longer in that neighborhood but Ramly became interested and wanted to learn more.

She wanted to document the history and allow people to experience the same things she did. Looking back now, she is grateful that she did, as Gemmayze suffered a terrible bombing that severely damaged most of the neighborhood.

“There was a very big explosion that took place in the Beirut Port. After the explosion a lot of people who had seen pictures of my walking tour were so glad I was able to document it,” she said.

She was also selected for this award because of her work creating the virtual “Lean International Women Circle.”

“Being an international student in Madison and being away from home and I felt a bit disconnected,” she said. “I wanted to create a group for international women who were away from their homes  to talk about different topics that affect the group.”

Ramly says that she wants to encourage other people and not just students to take different opportunities because they might have a huge impact on your life.

“Saying yes to those opportunities will open up a lot of things. Even if you don’t feel ready, just showing up and being willing to learn is good,” she said.


Travel restrictions eased for Saudis married to non-Saudis

February 24, 2021

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia's General Directorate of Passports (Jawazat) announced on Wednesday the lifting of travel restrictions for Saudi men and women who are married to non-Saudis.

The higher authorities have issued an order that enables Saudi women married to non-Saudis to travel with their husbands or join their husbands who are abroad after submitting proof of marriage to officials at the departure points directly.

The order also allows travel for Saudi men who are married to non-Saudi women if the latter reside outside the Kingdom due to work or other conditions that do not enable them to come to the Kingdom to join their husbands, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Jawazat stated that in the event that a Saudi citizen is unable to submit documents that prove the wife’s presence outside the Kingdom and her inability to come to the Kingdom, he can apply for a travel permit through the “Absher” electronic platform with attaching all the required documents, in order to facilitate the procedures for obtaining a travel permit.

The new initiative is in implementation of the directives of the higher authorities regarding procedures for traveling abroad and coming to the Kingdom during the period of suspension of international flights ever since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The Ministry of Interior has decided to lift the temporary travel ban and resume all international flights effective from May 17.



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