Welcome to the WomanStats Blog!

The WomanStats Blog is an offshoot of the WomanStats Project. This project, begun in 2001, has both a research and a database component. Our research explores the linkage between the security of women and the security of states and the international system. To that end, we have constructed the largest compilation of information on women in the world: over 290 variables for 174 countries. The WomanStats Database is freely accessible online; click on our homepage link above. The purpose of creating a WomanStats blog was to allow project personnel to bring to the attention of readers interesting (and sometimes appalling) facts concerning women, and also to allow them to reflect upon their experiences extracting data for the project. Use the links to the right to access our RSS feed, sign up for email updates, and add our feed to your site. Other functions on site include search, comments, and ShareThis. The posts below are for 2009 and are listed newest to oldest, and we have archives and categories links to the right to assist you in finding particular posts. Enjoy!

The Value of a Mother's Labor

As an introductory note, I learned a lot about this initially from Dr. Hudson’s course and by the book  by Marilyn Waring on unpaid domestic labor.  In my recent work I have seen a lot of different examples of how a country feels about the labor that women contribute.  In Albania, if a woman has six children, she can retire after 30 years of work.  In Austria, each child a woman has counts as four years toward retirement.  In the United States, well, I can retire when I’m 65 and have done my fair share of the work with the men, as far as I know. 

Now that I’m a mother, much of my time that was formerly used in work and study at school is now given to my daughter.  To save the government the time of figuring it out, I sat down and figured out what my income would be if my labor as a mother counted as a paid job.  When looking at a career, an introductory pay at the low end of the scale would average around $14.00 per hour.  Here is my average life in a 24 hour period:

Clock In              Clock Out             Amount of Time           Activity
3:30                        4:00                        :30                       Early Morning Feeding
8:45                        9:20                        :35                       Morning Feeding, Diaper Change, Clothe baby
10:00                     15:50                       5:50                     Housewifery*
17:00                     20:30                       3:30                      More Housewifery
23:00                     24:00                        :30                       Midnight Snack
Total Hours Per Average Day:     11

So, about eleven hours per day is devoted to taking care of house and home, and that’s for a student that gets to take frequent breaks because of an amazing husband.  At this rate, I should earn a monthly salary ($14 x 11 hours x 7 days x 4 weeks) = $4,312.  If I got paid overtime, it would be increased to $4,900.  That’s almost $60,000 per year.  Not bad, I say. 

Now here’s a question for you: where are my social security benefits?  I hate making what I do sound like merely a career, because I am working at things that I love and enjoy, but it IS labor.  Someone has to do it – either I do it myself or I find a substitute (aka babysitter or day care) to watch over my daughter.  I am on call nearly all hours of the day to fulfill my duty as milk producer, bum wiper, and source of constant, complete love, security, and support.  I love my job, but it is work.

*Housewifery is an all-inclusive term describing various household duties including but not limited to: nursing, changing diapers, taking out the stinking garbage, sanitizing the home, giving baths, checking the mail, cooking for the family and for members of the neighborhood, organizing the paperwork, taking care of bills, talking to other mothers about advice on raising children, trying this advice and giving your own, entertaining child in efforts to educate them so they’ll be brilliant one day, encouraging husband in his daily duties, saving the world anonymously, etc.

Posted by GKD on 7 December 2009; Maternity Matters, Women (General)


A Glimmer of Hope in US Asylum Recommendation

I first started following the story of Rody Alvarado in July.  She is a woman who has shown great perseverance and courage in fleeing her abusive husband in Guatemala.  According to court records, she was married to her husband when she was sixteen, and she became pregnant shortly after.  Because her husband wished to induce an abortion, he beat her to the point of dislocating her jaw.  Additionally, she reported instances in which her husband broke mirrors and windows with her head in addition to repeatedly punching, slapping, and kicking her.  After enduring the violence for ten years, she fled to the United States to seek asylum.

She is not the only woman with this story.  Another woman, identified only as L.R., was severely abused by her common-law husband in Mexico whom she was first assaulted by when she was a teenager in a high school where he coached P.E. classes. He coerced her into living with him, repeatedly raping her at gunpoint and threatening to harm her sister’s children. Her life was also threatened when she became pregnant; her husband soaked her bed with kerosene while she was sleeping and lit it on fire.  She too eventually fled to the U.S. in search of protection and asylum.

According to U.S. asylum policy, seekers must prove that they have a well-founded fear of persecution if they are returned to their countries by virtue of being a member of a particular race, religion, nationality, social groups, or having a certain political opinion.  While some argue that women fleeing domestic violence are adequately able to seek asylum by being a member of a particular social group, many argue that the current policy does not afford enough protection for gender-related concerns.  It does not seem likely that the actual policy will change, but important precedents can be set in offering asylum to women fleeing gender-related persecution.

Such a precedent was recently set in the case of Rody Alvarado.  When she brought her case forth for asylum initially, she won, but her victory was overturned in an appeals court.  The Attorney General then threw out the appeals court decision, but she did not grant Ms. Alvarado asylum. Finally, the Obama administration recently recommended asylum for Ms. Alvarado’s case.  While she has not formally been granted asylum yet, she most likely will be.  However, although she will likely win this battle, the time that it has taken has caused her to lose something very precious: her children.  Because she couldn’t take her children with her when she fled, they were raised by her husband’s parents.  Her escape from abuse is therefore bittersweet as it came at the loss of time spent with her children.  However, assuming that she is granted asylum, this would set an important precedent in recognizing that women do comprise a particular social group which is vulnerable to violence and persecution.  There is definitely still work to be done, but I, for one, am proud of the step my country has made towards offering women like Ms. Alvarado and L.R. protection from horrific violence. Hopefully, this precedent will facilitate in quicker resolution of asylum cases involving domestic violence so the women involved will not sustain such great personal losses and will be better able to gain healing and peace of mind.

For more information on Rody Alvarado and L.R.’s stories, check out: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/30/us/30asylum.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=asylum&st=cse, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/16/us/16asylum.html?scp=3&sq=asylum&st=cse

Posted by AK on 7 November 2009; Positive Change


Sierra Leone's Maternal Mortality

Sierra Leone has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world. Research and observation by Amnesty International reveals that reasons for the hauntingly high number of deaths include lack of adequate and reputable healthcare centers, lack of trained doctors, shortage of medicine and supplies, lack of structure in all medical systems, lack of transportation, lack of education, and lack of money. The lack of money plays a major role in families’ decisions not to seek professional medical help as soon as a problem occurs. The report repeatedly mentions examples where the family waits until death is mere hours away before approaching the obstacles of transportation and hospital fees.

The health system in Sierra Leone is not regularized, which allows medical attendants to charge whatever price they feel like and often refuse lifesaving treatment until they have been paid. Because attendants are often not paid a salary - or if they are it is often a sum not worth counting - the only way attendants can make a living is by charging those seeking medical help large bills. Whole communities are known to come together to help pay the tab, further impoverishing the family and community. The situation only worsens by the observation that even when the money is gathered and transportation is finally secured, there often is not a doctor present or adequate resources available to help the mother. But there is a problem more fundamental and ultimately deadly for women in Sierra Leone. This insidious issue manifests itself in many of the interviews conducted among families that have experienced maternal deaths. It is common in these interviews for the man – the decision maker in the patriarchal society of Sierra Leone – to mention that he simply did not feel he had the money to take the wife to the hospital. So he didn’t. Or the fees were too high to keep her at the hospital. So he just took her back home. Or transportation was too hard to locate. So he didn’t bother. Or the hospital would charge him an extra fee to take care of her body if she died there. So he brought her home to die for free.

Beyond the failings of the government to supply adequate health care for mothers in need is the damage being done within families and communities regarding the lives of mothers. A price has been put on the lives of these mothers who are suffering and in need of medical attention – a price that is sickeningly often considered far too high to actually be paid. And so the number of maternal deaths continues to climb. While it would be heartless to put all the blame on families who desire to help the mother but are truly impoverished, it would be an injustice to many other women of Sierra Leone to not mention the devastating affect their lack of decision making power and monetary capital is having on their lives. For many of these women, the price, in fact, for lack of power within the family and money is death.

In the report, Amnesty International offers many suggestions and carefully outlines how the government can help fix the broken medical system and thus improve the lives and rights of women. However, they do not address how women can gain ground within the home and be more than a burdenous price as they struggle through a situation they clearly did not put themselves in alone. Pregnancy takes two and the choices regarding the lives of those involved should be considered by two as well. I supply my own solution that education is key to creating change at the foundation. As women in Sierra Leone become educated, on health, family planning, science, literature, math, etc., they will be better equipped to be a force within the home and community. The positive externalities of such education have potential to decrease the maternal death rate, which the report firmly advocates is a problem that is completely capable of being solved. An educated populace should reflect that life is so much more than a monetary inconvenience, in Sierra Leone and throughout the rest of the world.

Information from the Out of Reach: The Cost of Maternal Health in Sierra Leone report by Amnesty International.

Posted by RFZ on 6 November 2009; Maternity Matters


Reflections on China

October 1 was the sixty year anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. This event made me think about how women’s lives have changed in China since then. The misogynistic practices of traditional China are well known: foot binding, concubines, female infanticide, patrilocality, arranged marriages, and more. When the Communists took charge they had to fight many of these traditional practices that literally and figuratively bound the women of China, especially in the rural areas. Pro-women rhetoric was strong because women were seen as an important revolutionary force. Once the Communists took charge, laws were passed that illegalized the traditional means of female subjugation listed above. Women were also given the right to vote and run for office. However, Chinese Communism was based on Marxism, which did not advocate a women’s movement separate from the proletariat workers’ movement because it would divide attention from the most important goals. This made it easy to hinder real progress in women’s rights.
The economic reforms that Deng Xiaoping initiated in the late 1970s had great repercussions for the situation of women. Under Mao everyone was supposed to suffer equally; under Deng, however, everyone had to look out for themselves as the economy opened up, making women more vulnerable. It was also at this time that the differences between urban and rural women began to be much more divisive because the class gap began to get much wider.
The opening up of China has brought technology and wealth, which means that female infanticide has mostly turned into sex-selective abortion. Laws have sought to prohibit screening but enforcement of this law has been weak and the practice continues to be widespread, especially in rural provinces where the one child policy has exaggerated the value of boys. This has caused a severe imbalance in the ratio of men to women (100 girls to 116.9 boys in 2000), which becomes a huge societal problem when they are old enough to marry.
Because of this, and because many girls leave to find jobs in the city, a trade has grown in trafficked brides, including children, since the 1980s. Foreign women from surrounding countries are even being trafficked in as brides; they are particularly vulnerable as they may not speak the language or understand the customs. Many of these brides are sent to remote villages where it is difficult to escape. In 1993 the government admitted that 40,000 trafficked brides had been rescued—now add that to the number not found, and fast-forward two decades during which the problem has grown even greater.
We are living in a large city and I have not seen any overt discrimination again women, although it is really hard to see the “real” China as a foreigner with poor Chinese skills. However, I have noticed the economic freedom of China being manifested in lots of colorful billboards filled with gorgeous, thin, pale-skinned female celebrities advertising a certain plastic surgery hospital. The TVs in the metro play commercials for skin whitening creams made by familiar Western companies marketed exclusively towards women (In the US we want to be as tan as possible but here they want to be as white—when we took pictures for school they Photoshopped us to look sickly pale). A friend also commented that although Chinese women do not bind their feet anymore, the fashion is to wear ridiculously high heels on the uneven, cracked sidewalks instead.

However, there is no doubt that China has also made progress. For an uplifting read, look at this article about the Care for Girls program that started in 2000 in order to combat gender discrimination and the harmful son preference. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-07/08/content_346700.htm

Posted by MIR on 26 October 2009; Women (General)


Sendler's List

There are many heroes of the Holocaust.  One of the most famous is Oskar Schindler.  However, there are many unsung heroes of the Holocaust as well, whose stories are only recently coming to light.  I would like to share one such story with you, even though she never wished to claim the title “hero.”

Polish-born Catholic social worker Irena Sendler was part of the Polish Underground during World War II in German-occupied Warsaw.  A sympathizer with the Jews previous to the war, she was suspended from Warsaw University for three years for opposing the prewar ghetto-bench system (the official segregation of the seating of students).  With the German invasion of Poland, she began her underground efforts.  She joined Zegota (The Council to Aid Jews) using the code name “Jolanta,” and was appointed to head its children’s section.  Since she worked with the country’s Social Welfare Department, Irena got special permission to enter the Warsaw Ghetto on a daily basis to check for typhus, which the Germans were fearful would spread beyond the ghetto’s borders.  She brought in illegal supplies for the suffering Jews. 

A young mother herself, Irena faced the difficult task of talking Jewish parents into giving up their children, knowing that the only other option was death.  She networked with other social workers (who happened to be mostly women) to smuggle babies and children out of the ghetto in toolboxes, coffins, suitcases, burlap sacks, trolleys, her ambulance, and through the sewers and other outlets within the ghetto.  With help, she placed them in families, orphanages, and convents.  She obtained forged papers for the children and even diverted German occupation funds to support the children in hiding, obviously at great personal risk.  She encoded the children’s Jewish and new Polish identities on pieces of paper and placed them in a jar that she buried in the backyard of a co-conspirator.    

Even when she was caught and tortured by the Gestapo, Irena never gave in.  She was sentenced to death but rescued at the last moment by a member of Zegota, who bribed a guard to secure her freedom. After the war, she dug up the jar she had buried, now filled with the identities of 2,500 children, hoping to reunite them with their relatives, most of which had been executed.  The new Communist government persecuted and imprisoned Irena, suppressing any recognition of her and other courageous anti-fascist partisans (who were mostly anti-Communist as well).  Irena's story was forgotten for a time, but in 1999, three teenage girls researched her story for a high school project after reading a short article on her in a 1994 U.S. News and World Report.  When they discovered she was still alive and living with relatives in a modest apartment in Warsaw, they wanted to meet her.  Their visit with her and the play they wrote about her rescue efforts called “Life in a Jar” helped the world to finally open its eyes to Irena’s efforts and sacrifice.  Her story has been spreading ever since.  

In 2007, a considerable amount of publicity surrounded Irena’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Although she did not receive it, in that same year Irena was officially honored as a national heroine by the Polish parliament.  She could not attend, but one of the children she had saved, now grown, read a letter from Irena to those present. "Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory,” she wrote.  "Over a half-century has passed since the hell of the Holocaust, but its spectre still hangs over the world and doesn’t allow us to forget the tragedy.” Irena passed away in May of 2008 at the age of 98.

I am amazed.  A woman with such a difficult task set before her would have to have astonishing stamina on so many levels—mental, emotional, physical, spiritual…A fitting tribute to her is impossible to write.  But I feel that one of the most important things to remember about Irena’s story is how the efforts of one person can change thousands and thousands of lives.  The children she rescued will ever be grateful, and their children’s children as well.  I will ever be grateful to women and men who, like Irena, courageously stand for right even when so much of the world chooses merely to stand by.  Thank you, Irena, for helping us to never forget.  I cannot thank you enough.

For more information about Irena Sendler, visit http://irenasendler.org/ or read her 2005 biography by Anna Mieszkowska called Mother of the Children of the Holocaust: The Irena Sendler Story.

youn irene Irene, young at left, and in 2005 at right irene2

Posted by ASF on 18 October 2009; Iron Women


Has the Revolution Begun?

            There I sat in my Psychology personality class— plagued by and disenchanted with the discussion of Freud's personality theory. To stimulate class participation Dr. Nelson has students brainstorm— shout out facts and theories of the psychologist assigned for the period. In reference to Freud the phrase "sexist" nearly left my lips when a fellow (male) student shouted out "he was sexist against women!" Yes! So refreshing. It is fairly commonplace that a feminist would be at odds with Freud. In fact feminism and Freudianism mark the polar opposites of the gender debate. According to Freud women are fated to forever envy the male genitals and hate their mother for it. His views are obviously sexist; yet acknowledging that they are such has for so long been a taboo infiltrating western society. Certainly Freud is criticized in the broad scope of psychology academia, however, I theorize that this recognition is beginning to be vocalized at our conservative campus of BYU. This was evident by my classmate's bold remark about a dead white psychoanalytic that was previously dubbed "untouchable" and "beyond criticism".
            The fight against sexism was not only evident in that one student's remark, but I have noticed repeated incidences where women and men have proclaimed a call for equal respect for the sexes. In the same personality class mentioned above my female professor continuously addresses gender. In fact, with every issue we discus the particular psychologist view of women! Systematically gender issues and sexism are being addressed and both genders point out that sexism is a huge flaw in many philosophies.
            In contrast, a female professor of different class made quite a sexist remark, and a student's response was perfect. She was attempting to explain why the IRB considers pregnant women to be a "Potentially Vulnerable Population". She exclaimed that reasons include: first, their body is physically altered and more susceptible to harm; and second, that researchers might not want to test pregnant women because they are "a little crazy." This statement reinforces centuries of sexist beliefs about the inevitable incompetence of pregnant women and their societal placement next children and handicaps. A pregnant student in the front row fiercely exclaimed, "I am pregnant, and just as competent as I was before I got pregnant." Amazing! The class was silent . . . the teacher mumbled something about her emotions when she was pregnant . . . and class moved on. It was moving that this pregnant woman defended herself in spite of the potential repercussions. 
            A similar event occurred just last Wednesday in yet another one of my classes. The male teacher was attempting to get the classes' attention and several classmates (all female) and I were discussing the previous exam. In a joking matter the professor singled out our discussion group and said, "Oh they're just girls." Immediately I blurted "were just girls?" The girl behind me jumped in, "what does us being girls have to do with talking. The entire class was talking." A third female student piped up, "Do we get extra credit for the teacher being sexist?" Wow! The professor nervously chuckled. I know he is a really good professor, and I know he never meant to degrade women, but my peers and I called him on it and I believe that this is what needs to happen. If we do not recognize sexism in our culture, then we will never defeat it.
These stories illustrate my belief that students (even at BYU!) are becoming more aware of the sexist undertones prevalent in western cultures (and pretty much every culture). The great thing is that they are beginning to speak up. More girls are participating in class discussions. Students are calling professors and prominent figures out on sexism. This is the generation who will change the world for women and I want to be a part of it.  

Posted by ALA on 14 October 2009; Positive Change


Asha Hagi Elmi

            Today I had the opportunity to shake the hand of a truly amazing woman. BYU’s Kennedy Center for International Studies hosted Asha Hagi Elmi, a peace activist in Somalia. She recently won the Clinton Global Citizen Award and the Right Livelihood Award. Elmi has been devoted to peace-making in Somalia. During a time when women had no voice and were not represented, Elmi formed the Sixth Clan, in which women from the five traditional clans come together to represent ALL Somali women. In 2004, she was elected to the Transitional Federal Parliament of the Republic of Somalia, and served in this post until 2009. Furthermore, Elmi’s efforts extend beyond the political sphere in her foundation of Save Somali Women and Children.
            In her presentation, Elmi focused on her work within the Sixth Clan and its formation. She started out by saying that while progress has been made, women are still fighting to be equal partners. But this fight is unlike those common to the land of Somalia. This is “a quiet revolution, but a revolution nonetheless,” in which the most powerful tools are words and wisdom. Women are agents of change. Elmi organized women across clan lines. While the men where out in the bush fighting, the women were united by the common goals of peace and women’s rights. These women, wives of warlords, women of different clans, and even poets, were able to come together to discuss the peace process. Not only were the women capable of coming together, but they did so without a mediator. Both of which the men NEVER did. Why is this important? It shows that women can think it terms that go beyond clan lines. The women are connected. They are all wives and mothers. They know that the women and children are both the first and last victims of war. And this is what has made the Sixth Clan successful. While the five traditional clans fight over power-sharing, the Sixth Clan focuses on the issues. These women come from warring clans but speak with one voice for the promotion of peace, education, and economic independence.
            Even with the formation of the Sixth Clan, women still had a long way to go. While men were busy grappling for power, the women made the seemingly small change of altering the wording in the interim charter. Instead of the sole “he” that would be elected, the charter now reads “he/she.” Something so simple made a world of difference. There are now 33 female MPs and 3 ministers in the Transitional Government. Through the work of Elmi and the Sixth Clan, women now have a political voice in Somalia.
            So what now? There is so much to learn from Elmi’s work in Somalia. Additionally, there is still so much that needs to be done. While they may have a political voice, not all women are in the position to be elected to parliament. Policies must first be implemented on the ground. Elmi said that the most important factor in empowering women is education and economic independence. The civil war made many women the breadwinner of the house. This in turn gave them more say in family decisions. When asked what prepared and enabled her to perform in her leadership role, Elmi said she had “a unique mother.” It is so important to understand the role of mothers. Mothers teach their children! Elmi was educated and this made her qualified to lead this revolution. Noting that the uneducated women were often used as tools to promote the men’s political agenda, Elmi again emphasized the importance of educating Somali women. Now that they have a political voice, Elmi is making sure that women are aware of their rights.
            Something amazing has happened in Somalia. Women are participating in the political arena. Women are no longer ignored. They are no longer sitting on the sidelines. They are united under the Sixth Clan. They have a new identity that knows no clan lines: womanhood. I met the catalyst in the bloodless revolution of Somalia. I met Asha Hagi Elmi.
            After her lecture I went up to shake her hand and thank her for the inspiration she instilled within me. She must have been touched by my sincerity because she smiled, thanked me, and reached up to brush my cheek. I found myself shocked by her reaction. Her motherliness caught me off guard, but now I understand that it is part of her identity, part of what made it possible for her to unite the women of Somalia. Yes, Elmi is a politician; yes, she is a peace activist; yes, she is a wife; but above all, she is a woman.

Posted by KA on 11 October 2009; Iron Women; Positive Change


The Case of Zainab: A Call to Abolish Ignorance and Claim Victory

Welcome to the worst TRUE story nightmare you have ever heard.

PAKISTAN - Zainab Zia, age 24, innocent victim:
• Raped by her brother-in-law, Mohammad Ali (member of the MQM party)
• Zainab and her sister, Shehla Zia, went out to file a complaint but were stopped by the mother “who wished to resolve the issue at home”
• Zainab and Shela got into a heated discussion with Ali, and the two girls were tied up and acid and kerosene thrown on them. Fortunately the girls were rescued before they were lit on fire.
• Girls tried to file a report, but were blocked by MQM leaders.
• Threats from militant MQM members were given to the girl’s family; as a result the girls lost support of their family.
• In October, the chairman of MQM Union Council used his authority to arrange for Zainab and Shela’s forced admittance into a psychiatric hospital. They were forced to flee to a shelter.
• Mr. Saleem Qaudri, a family friend, volunteered to protect Zainab. Because of legal and cultural reasons, they were forced to marry and Zainab became his one of many wives in polygamy.
• Mr. Saleem Qaudri was arrested on charges of rape, kidnap and theft. He was fortunately released when he showed the marriage certificate.
• Zainab’s rape case finally goes to court, the investigation is suspended and Mohammad Ali and his comrades are let go on bail – all on the request of the MQM.
• Zainab asks for police protection and her request falls on unsympathetic ears. No protection is granted.
• Zainab goes to the high courts, where the investigation was stopped by the MQM and local police, and the case was dropped.
• Zainab gives up the law and holds a press conference. Two days later Zainab's husband, Qaudri, and his guests were attacked in a Latifabad restaurant. Police intervened but refused to register a case. Neither did they accept the report of Qaudri's medical examination.
• The original case of rape and acid-throwing is now pending in Session and District Court no. 6, Hyderabad, with no progress made.

Is your mouth hanging wide-open? This is not an isolated case in Pakistan. Let me repeat, this is not an isolated case in Pakistan. Something must be done to end this disgusting government corruption and complete lack of police enforcement. Not only is this not an isolated case in Pakistan, but women and girls are victims just like Zainab all over the world.

As the New York Times stated in their recent issue about women, this is the century of the rise of women and their victory over inequality and injustice. I believe this is true. Awareness, information, and free access to this information is KEY in this fight. Knowledge is important not only for personal wisdom and edification, but also a prerequisite to effective policy-making and on-the-ground work. Recently, the press has come out against the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as many of their projects have been ineffective due to a lack of understanding the problem, both contextually and practically (lack of data and information). So, what is to be done to obtain this information?

When I code stories like this for the WomanStats Database, I feel a little less helpless: I feel like I am actually doing something for Zainab and others like her. If it weren’t for the WomanStats project, Zainab’s voice would be lost in the cosmos of the many thousands of internet blogs and reports. WomanStats take these women's experiences and immortalize their names and their stories in the Database, which will be accessed by thousands of researchers and policymakers.

acid attack Acid attack victims speak out.

My blog today is a wake-up call - a call to all reading this to spread the word about the cause of women. Spread the cause, and tell them about WomanStats. Tell your friends, neighbors, everyone on your email list, co-workers, etc. about these issues facing women. I know that many wish to live in a “bubble” and see the world through “rose-colored glasses,” but this would not only be an apathetic, ignorant route, but also a destructive one. Destructive not only in Pakistan, but also in your own backyard.

Have courage. BELIEVE you can make a difference, and let the knowledge of Zainba and many women and girls just like her spread in every ear. Then, and only then, when knowledge is cultivated, will there be a victorious change.

Posted by JF on 30 September 2009; Education, Please; WomanStats


The Mechanics of Relational Submission

I wish to discuss the topic of common acts of submission that can be found in many relationships between men and women. Last month, I became engaged in an interesting experience and conversation. During lunch time a couple was sitting down to lunch in my apartment. The young man forgot his sandwich and made the statement, “Woman, get my sandwich for me”. At this point I had two decisions as I saw her begin to get up and proceed to get his sandwich, one to either ignore the situation or to speak up in behalf of this young lady. In my normal manner, I chose the latter of the options. I stated that she did not need to get his sandwich for him and that he was perfectly capable of retrieving what he himself forgot. I then proceeded to give them this explanation:

The use of the term, “woman” was the point of the contention, to my mind. In biological terms, the young man had correctly stated the sex of the young lady. However, the problem resided with the usage of the terminology. By stating “woman” to the young lady, the young man wanted to parade his dominance in the relationship to all those present and especially to the young lady. He wanted to let her know that he is dominant character in the relationship, thus his needs and wants came before hers. To many this should be a clear warning sign of a relationship with future problems. It should never be necessary to show dominance in this type of relationship due to the simple fact that both needs and wants of both the man and woman are equal in importance and must be satisfied through cooperation and sacrifice. The use of dominating labels and titles between a man and woman in a relationship do nothing but to degrade trust and cooperation.

The clear effects of such labeling and domination behavior are clearly shown by the young woman’s reactions. First, she began to complete the task order by the young man, showing submission to his will. Secondly, and the more shocking of reactions to my mind, is the lack of support or voice from her when I corrected the young man. She sat there quietly, almost embarrassed that another had to step in an act of prevention. During my explanation she laughed and giggled with him so as to show that she did not want to upset him by agreeing with me. The young woman showed clear signs of submission and lack of will. Sadly, many of the people who will read this know other women who are suffering in a submissive relationship. The question I pose is why women submit to this or choose to be in these types of relationships. As a young man, other men tell me to go to the gym and gain muscle because women love to feel safe and protected by a strong man, but yet many of these men feel the need to use this power not to protect but instead to dominate the woman in the relationship. I feel strongly that this is wrong and unhealthy, and I support the understanding that a relationship is a partnership of understand and love towards one another’s needs and wants to create harmony and trust, not domination. But the question remains, why do women submit?

Posted by MGH on 17 September 2009; Even in America; Thinking About Men; Women (General)


Technical Intermission


Honduran Feminists Protest Coup

During the three months that I was in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on my internship, every single day I would walk past the United Nations building. However, one day I walked past and saw this:

It was a protest, led by the self-proclaimed feminists of Tegucigalpa, against the military coup that took place on June 28. As a quick recap, Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, ousted president of Honduras, was awakened by soldiers the morning of June 28 and put on a plane to Costa Rica. The arrest happened in response to a referendum pushed by Zelaya to ask the public to support a constitutional assembly. Opponents accused the ousted president of trying to abolish term limits and extend his rule, like Chavez did in Venezuela, and the Supreme Court voted that the referendum was illegal. However, Zelaya went against the ruling and decided to hold the referendum anyway, prompting his arrest and unceremonious exit from the country the morning of the would-be referendum.

Since then, Mr. Zelaya has tried to regain his presidency through international diplomacy: he has jetted around Central America and the United States, addressing the United Nations and attending regional summit meetings. As of now, however, the de-facto government of Honduras established by Roberto Micheletti has refused to recognize Mr. Zelaya as president and in fact has several warrants out for his arrest, despite international sanctions towards the usurper government of Honduras.

While obviously there are many sides to the crisis in Honduras, I found it interesting that the feminists in Honduras supported Zelaya. In fact, it made me wonder whether I should be supporting him as well. Although he was heavily criticized by many for his close association with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, most of his reforms (such as raising the minimum wage and lowering the price of gasoline) directly benefited the poor. Women and indigenous groups, of course, are the poorest people in one of the poorest countries, since Honduras is the third poorest country in Latin America and the second poorest country in Central America.

Above all, it was interesting to note that the military’s reaction to the “feminist protest” was so different from its reaction to all the other protests that were occurring at the same time. Perhaps it was the artsy posters; perhaps it was the fact that they all carried flowers. Whatever the reason, while all the other (male-dominated) protests were carefully watched by the army, whether by land or by air, this protest happened with nary a military man in sight. Suffice it to say that one of the biggest challenges for poor/women in Honduras is being heard and recognized.

Posted by VN on 12 August 2009; Women (General)


The Weight of Weight

I recently watched the Nova Program, “Dying to be Thin,” ( http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/thin/ ) which chronicles the epidemic of anorexia bulimia in the United States. It was a fascinating exploration of the psychology and societal influences surrounding these disorders. I was surprised to read in a recent WUNRN, that the latest reports are implicating genetics rather than society as the main cause for these diseases. “No one knows what triggers eating disorders. Emerging studies point to altered brain signals, but it is tricky to decipher whether the defective biochemistry is a cause or a result of poor eating. The reigning theory is the same as it is for so many syndromes with no known cause: some people are born with genes that make them highly vulnerable to environmental stimuli. ‘Genetics loads the gun, and environment pulls the trigger,’ is what the experts always say at the eating disorder conferences, said Caitlin Scafati, a recovered anorexic. And yet no one has identified the genes” (http://health.nytimes.com/ref/health/healthguide/esn-eating-disorders-ess.html?ref=health ).  

I feel that we as a society are running further and further from taking responsibility for the consequences of our actions; particularly, our need for instant gratification and our inappropriate emphasis on bodily appearance. There may be genetic predispositions, but that doesn’t really solve the problem of society’s focus on being thin. At the supermarket, of the 15 available magazines in the check–out isle, at least 11 have a cover page tag line relating something about weight.  Call me crazy, but I think that any person living in a society with this kind of all encompassing focus on the body would have to be living under a rock to escape the effects of this coercive influence. So while genetics may play a role, I feel like this article is suggesting we focus on the genetic answer rather than fixing the environmental input.

In the Nova special, several young women and older women were interviewed who currently are or had struggled with these disorders. They discussed the modeling industries shift from typical sizes to a Twiggy–like world, where everyone tried to become the body type that this iconic 1966 model. Since this time, the focus on the being thin has really spiraled out of control.

I certainly feel that I have been affected by this trend. I have never had much confidence in my body or appearance. I don’t dislike myself, but I would never think of my body as beautiful without really concentrating on the functions and not appearance of it. I feel that too many women all around us have been taught as I have by the world and by the things that influential women in our lives may have said about their bodies. I think degrading ourselves and our appearances while praising another has become an everyday occurrence in the life of the average American woman. There is no embrace of what nature has endowed us with, no regard for the unique beauty that so many different body shapes bring to the human family; instead, there is overarching struggle to lose weight, if you have lost some, lose more, if you are thin already, hate your lack of boobs, hate your face structure, hate something, because the only way to fit in is to do so. What a terrible game we are all party to!

I remember traveling in Europe some years ago. I stopped at the Louvre and enjoyed much of the artwork on display, when I got to the renaissance paintings I was pleasantly surprised to find that just behind the Mona Lisa, there was another painting. It had several knights picnicking with various women, all scantily clothed. Typically, I would launch right into the morality of the painting or the inequity between the men and the women, but as I read about this piece of art, the caption told that this painting was praised in its time for its exceptional depiction of beautiful women. The ideal renaissance women if fact; now, picture in your mind the ideal Renaissance woman…if she has anything less than average breasts, roundy hips, and two to three rolls of extra weight on her stomach, you have been thinking of the wrong type of woman. I LOVED THIS PAINTING. I was so encouraged, because these women looked healthy, they looked youthful, they looked alive, and they looked like me. It would have been easy to look at this and rue God for bringing me to earth at this time and not in time for me to kick it back with my renaissance picnicking sisters. But I am glad to be here NOW, I am glad to start a new trend in my life, I am glad for the opportunity to teach my daughters, friends, and women that I can be me, and be happy too.

I am coming up on my wedding. The part I have dreaded more than any other is being in that fancy dress all day in front of so many people and having everyone tell me how beautiful I look. NOW WHY WOULD I DREAD THAT? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? AREN’T WOMEN SUPPOSED TO LOVE THOSE KINDS OF COMPLIMENTS? I dread them because inside I have never let myself believe them. But, I have decided to think differently of myself. Since watching this Nova documentary, I have realized that though I may not find myself starving or vomiting daily, I have been sustaining a regular inflow of negative thoughts regarding my body for years. WHY? I have decided now is the time to change all that, and ladies…gentlemen…I invite you all to do the same. Now is the time to change. First our minds…then perhaps…the next generation!

Posted by RB on 4 August 2009; Even in America; Coping Strategies


Legalizing is Not a Solution

There are a lot of people out there who think that the course of legalizing some sort of illegal act or institution will solve problems because of its regulation.  People have made this argument for marijuana, pornography, other types of drugs, and prostitution.  However, I would like to see all those who feel strongly about this issue to take a good, long look at what the Netherlands has done to itself. Their grand idea of legalizing prostitution has not led to greater protection for the men and women who are involved in the market, but has led to a greater demand for the market and created a lot of tolerance for illegal activity that the legal boundaries can't keep up with trying to regulate it.  The result: skyrocketing rates of various types of prostitution, greater drug use, greater appearance of gangs and crime, greater incidents of illegal sexual activity, and the saddest part of all, a HUGE black market that sells female prisoners who are victims of international sex trafficking (http://www.sharedhope.org/files/demand_netherlands.pdf). Here are a few highlights from this report you may want to see:

"The General Ban on Brothels (Bordeelverbod) law was lifted on October 1, 2000, making prostitution and pimping legal occupations in the Netherlands with removal of each from the penal code.
Since then, Amsterdam’s Red Light District (in Dutch, de Wallen) has become a multi-million dollar business, with a yearly turnover of €83 million ... Instead of curbing and deterring sex crimes, the legislation had the opposite effect, resulting in the expansion of commercial sex markets into a larger, concealed market in the hands of Albanian and Turkish organized crime groups, Moroccan pimps, and many other criminal entrepreneurs.

In response to proposals by the head of Amsterdam’s largest political party to discourage women from marketing themselves in windows, several commercial sex venues in Amsterdam’s Red Light District held an open house on February 18, 2006, and again on March 31, 2007, with the intent to “de-stigmatize” and promote the Red Light District locally. Free drinks were provided and the event was widely publicized.

Legalizing prostitution was infused with the idea of the articulate prostitute, who should get rights and better working conditions. But that image is incorrect…Two thirds of prostitutes are foreign, most often illegal and nobody is registering. The Amsterdam police has a portfolio with 76 violent pimps operating on de Wallen [Amsterdam’s red light district]. Often they stand at the corner, counting the customers of ‘his’ woman, to subsequently collect the money. It is very difficult for the police to get a case. Pimping is allowed, but exploitation and violence of course are not. But the women do not file reports or retrieve them later on.

Earnings: The girls will not reveal to whom they give the money. We know that they can make about €500 per night. Those who work for a “loverboy” cannot keep any money for themselves. Those who work for a pimp from Eastern Europe pay about 75 percent to the pimp and keep the rest ... Dutch and East European prostitutes have tattoos with the names of their pimps. This makes it a bit easier for the police, but the pimps don’t realize that. The African girls start off with a debt of €40,000; if she pays that back, she is “free.” If you calculate that those 237 women all pay €125 per day for a room, and earn about €500 of which, based on evidence, little if any of it is kept by the woman or legally filed for tax purposes. That’s €625 total a day, €3125 per week, a little over €1 million in one year, just from one girl.

Recruitment and Transportation: ...The average age is over 40. Most of these women have been here for many years, have their Dutch papers and work to keep up their financial needs. Some ladies are over the age of 60 ... Most of [the African woman] work on fake passports. They are a closed group. They like to pray and want to have books and bibles, but will never tell their stories. East European girls are also closed and don’t dare tell their stories to the police. Most of the Dutch girls have come by way of pimps, so-called “loverboys.”

Conditions:  Most girls live in apartments owned by the traffickers with connections in Amsterdam. Most African girls live in the Bijlmermeer. As long as the girl has a pimp she is not free to come and go. You can see that with the Dutch girls, you see them walking with their “protectors”, but the Africans don’t have “protection” around them and they are afraid. The South Americans are free to come and go. But what is freedom if your whole family is relying on your income? These women are always under pressure from their family, parents, or children to provide financially. One woman told me that she resembles a terrorist because she sacrifices her life for her family.

Buyers: The clients are between the ages of 18-75, with the majority being middle-aged men. Some women have regular clients, and they know more about the client or the family situation. But for the majority they have no relationship. They say that clients buy sex so they can get something from them that they cannot get from their wives. Others say they are just crazy or lonely."

This was especially interesting:  "In 2005, Thomas Cook Tours, a well respected tour company based in London, initiated a walking tour of the Red Light District in Amsterdam open to all ages, even children. The two hour tour promised to take tourists 'deep into the famous red light district accompanied by a reliable and trustworthy guide, offering a fascinating insight into the oldest profession in the world!” ... The tour raised a public outcry over the commoditization and exploitation of women ... A British organization called The Truth About Rape led an email campaign to stop the Red Light District tour and eliminate the promotion of the Red Light District by Thomas Cook Tours. It cited the Thomas Cook Tour website language: 'Of course, no visit to Amsterdam would be complete without a night-time visit to the famous Red Light District. One of the oldest and most beautiful parts of the city, the narrow, cobbled streets of this quarter fill with hordes of tourists on weekends and holidays. All come to gawk at the surreal display of scantily clad women who pose in the purply-red glow of their black-lit shop windows. Not unlike a bizarre zoo, the Red Light District is an unmissable experience, as attested by the packs of roving young men, couples holding hands, giggling groups of women, and busloads of Japanese tourists toting cameras. Spectacle notwithstanding, real business is done here at a steady pace, and those seeking a slightly more authentic experience should head for the area on a weeknight.' In December 2005, The Truth About Rape added to their website the announcement that their campaign against Thomas Cook Tours was successful as the company had “updated” their website as of December 12, 2005, to remove the offensive tour description. A current review of the Thomas Cook website reveals only a single mention of the Red Light District as merely a tourist attraction with no details—a far departure from the promotion of the tour before the December 2005 update. Furthermore, the tour itself seemed to be unavailable by Internet— another change since December 2005. However, other tour operators continue to promote and host the walking tours of the Red Light District. Their promotional materials clearly state, however, persons under 18 years of age are not permitted on the tour."

From this case, it seems silly for those who claim that legalization solves a problem.  You don't solve a problem by deciding to be okay with it.

Posted by GKD on 31 July 2009; Insane Laws; Numbers


One Small Voice That Packs a Powerful Punch

My sister likes to surf the net a lot and she recently shared something with me that I want to share with all of you. Sixteen-year-old Dallas Jessup from Vancouver, WA has been in the news fairly recently—and for no small accomplishment. She’s a high school girl who’s concerned with the safety of other girls and she’s created a program that is quickly catching across the country and across the world. It’s called “Just Yell Fire.” Registered as a lethal weapon in the state of Washington for her training in Taekwondo and Filipino Street Fighting, young Dallas is combating rape, abduction, and murder rates among women by teaching them to fight back against predators and sexual assault. When she was only 14 years old she created an instructional video called “Just Yell Fire: The Movie” that can be watched and downloaded for free on the internet. It’s a course that teaches 10 techniques that even a 100-pound girl can use to fend off a 250-pound attacker. To date, more than 950,000 copies of it have been downloaded in 44 countries across the world. Sadly enough, the film is called “Just Yell Fire” because yelling “FIRE!” is more alarming to onlookers than yelling “RAPE!” I’ve only seen parts of the video so far, but I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen. Especially for those of us who have lived more sheltered lives, it’s a fantastic start to learning self-defense in a real-life situation—Hollywood just doesn’t compare to a video like this. Fox news called the movie “the most important film your daughter will ever watch,” and I agree.

Since her film, Dallas has created the Just Yell Fire non-profit foundation with a four-program strategy, including the movie, seminars at schools, training teachers/coaches/etc, and lobbying. After hearing about the child sex trade in India, she traveled there and to other countries with the Just Yell Fire program, which has also become an accredited course at MIT. Dallas also published a book this year to inspire youth activism. It’s called Young Revolutionaries Who Rock: An Insider’s Guide to Saving the World One Revolution at a Time. On her television interviews, Dallas has often been asked what motivated her to start all of this. She mentions outrageous rape statistics in the US and how she wasn’t willing to sit by and just let it happen. After seeing the murder story of a young girl near her hometown on the news, she figured, “Seeing that I can help girls, there’s no reason I shouldn’t.” She says that if she fights for somebody’s rights, and somebody else in another part of the world does too, then combined, we can change the world. Her vision: "A girl can go to the mall - without fear, a girl can go to a party - without risk; and a girl can just walk home - without dying. That's the world we're creating with Just Yell Fire."

Her one small voice has certainly packed a powerful punch! What a great example to the rest of us. Here’s the website—please show it to as many people as you can! http://www.justyellfire.com/index.php

Posted by ASF on 25 July 2009; Positive Change; Iron Women


The Mother Child Education Foundation of Turkey

I recently attended a presentation by AÇEV, or the Mother Child Education Foundation in Turkey, a wonderful NGO that has vastly improved both adult and early childhood education in Turkey.  In Turkey, approximately 52 percent of adults are primary school dropouts.  In some poorer regions, one out of every two women is unable to read or write.  Combining uneducated or illiterate mothers, poorly educated fathers, and compulsory education that begins at age seven amounts to a majority of Turkish children beginning primary school with extreme disadvantages.  AÇEV believes that children need to obtain a better preschool education at home if they are going to be successful in school and have a chance at succeeding in life. One of AÇEV’s programs, the Mother Child Education Program, puts mothers in a Mother Support Program that addresses reproductive health and family planning and then educates them on cognitive development for children about to enter primary school.  The program aims to close the gap of socio-economic disadvantages and prepare children for school.  The achievements of this program are impressive: it was able to reach over 265,000 mothers and children.  Research focusing on the Mother Child Education Program has shown that not only did the children of the mothers who had gone through the program become more academically successful, continuing their schooling for longer and obtaining better-paying jobs as adults, but that the participating mothers changed their own lives.  They communicated more effectively within their homes and experienced increased self-confidence regarding their parenting skills. 

The program also affected the husbands of these mothers.  When a father saw his wife teaching his children, he was able to acknowledge the importance of his wife and the importance of his children’s education.  Imagine the impact on the view of women for the boys and girls whose mothers were able to prepare them for school and who were able to help them with their homework.  From a Woman Stats’ point of view, AÇEV is doing much to further women’s equality in Turkey.  They also have programs that teach women to read and write, giving them power and freedom within a male-dominated society.  Attending this presentation and learning of the results of simple programs like this reinforced my belief in the ability of mothers to affect a society through the teaching of their children. Learn more at http://www.acev.org/index.php?lang=en

Posted by LES on 18 July 2009; Education, Please; Positive Change


CEDAW Ratification

The U.S. is one of seven states yet to ratify CEDAW. This puts us in good company with Iran, North Korea, and Sudan. President Jimmy Carter signed the treaty in 1980, and since then it has come up for ratification several times in the Senate, but the session always ends before the time comes to vote on it. In addition, there are many groups that are vehemently opposed to the treaty, and work hard to ensure that it will not come before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and be voted on.

I never understood this, but I also never before tried to understand their view. A few months ago someone emailed me at the Parity account questioning the Church's view on feminism and women's rights, specifically stating that the Church has come out against CEDAW. I looked into this further, and there has never been any official statements about the treaty. On the other hand though, there have been individual Church leaders who are outspoken against it. I actually had a run-in with one such Church leader here in DC; he never really gave me a satisfying answer though as to why the treaty was so threatening and would ruin America if signed. I wanted to find out more, so I started with reading all the way through the treaty. Although I have coded many different country reports, I never deliberately and thoroughly read through the document looking specifically for articles that may be offensive to LDS individuals or others. I was sure I would find a statement on access to abortion, perhaps one on contraception? I was sure these issues might be the controversial ones I was after. CEDAW does discuss family planning in the context of allowing women to "to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to hove access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights" (article 16.e). I don't find that too controversial in my opinion. It protects women from forced sterilization, forced abortion, rape, marital rape and forced pregnancy. I'm pretty sure I'm pretty opposed to all of those things.

If it's not abortion and contraception that are the big controversial items on the agenda, what are they then? I did a little Googling and found a group called the "Concerned Women for America." They put out a document delineating all of their reasons for opposing CEDAW. I won't go into all of them here in this blogpost, but you can find the entire article at http://www.cwfa.org/articles/1971/CWA/nation/index.htm. It's from 2000, but I imagine they still have the same views on most of the issues. I also don't imagine these are the reasons that all the anti-CEDAW groups give, but it's the only one I could really find and I'm at a loss to think of reasons on my own.

Their big issue they address first is the altering of gender-stereotyped roles in a society and especially within the family. CEDAW requires states take all appropriate measures "to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women" (Article 5.a). Um, is there a problem here? Even in the United States, we could stand to change our cultural patterns a little bit as to not marginalize women and mothers. For example, even though women work as many hours as their husbands in the formal sector, they are still expected to come home and maintain the household in what is known as a "second shift." CEDAW urges men to assume more family responsibility and share equally in household labor. CEDAW to the opponents disrupt the traditional family life that America places so much value in. But when that traditional family life discriminates against and marginalizes women, how can we support such an institution? I'm all for marriage and family, but I'm not for this "traditional" perspective that grants authority to the husband and father and forces the mother into subordination. Men and women are equal partners, I believe, that work together in a family to seek the best outcomes for all members. They both should have the same opportunity for education, employment, and the chance to impact the world and their communities.

I don't how much we can actually apply what the CWFA's views on CEDAW are to what the views in the LDS Church are. The CWFA insist that women should not get equal pay as men because they don't have the same qualifications, education, and experience; the free market to them regulates wages and thus there is no problem with a wage gap as it would accurately reflect how much men and women really deserve. On the contrary, a study done at a business school somewhere placed two identical resumes in front of employers and asked them how likely they are to hire the person and at what wage. Consistently, with an IDENTICAL RESUME, the employers would be less likely to hire women, even less likely to hire a mother while paying the woman less and the mother even less. On the other hand, they would hire the father more often and at a higher wage than a fatherless man, woman, or mother. As women close the gap in university degrees and experience in the workplace, we cannot justify a wage gap using the free market argument.

CEDAW ensures so many wonderful rights and privileges that women are lacking both in our country and elsewhere. If you don't want to believe me, read the text of the document yourself
(http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/cedaw.htm). Although if the treaty ever gets ratified, the U.S. will surely put in stipulations (reservations) that it is not bound my most of the provisions and laws
will probably not really change, it's a step in the right direction. Imagine our country with better protection from rape and domestic violence, access to family planning and education, re-written textbooks with a gender perspective, more women in our legislative bodies, access to appropriate health care with choices, maternity leave! There are so, so many areas where we are lacking. CEDAW addresses this issues and seeks to provide solutions. The U.S. needs to ratify CEDAW and find some better company among the other nations of the world that do not include dictatorships and failed states. Only then can we be a force to improve women's rights worldwide.

Posted by CPC on 17 July 2009; Women (General); Even in America


A Second Chance: Women Taking Their Lives Back

Last week I watched a video clip from ABC News about honor killings in Pakistan (http://vodpod.com/watch/1445016-five-pakistani-women-buried-alive-in-group-honor-killing?pod=womennewsnetwork). It was leaving me feeling rather depressed when halfway through it switched to a completely different story. In the city of Lahore an anonymous foundation has set up a beauty parlor just for women. The interesting thing about this establishment, however, is that the group hires women who have been disfigured by acid attacks. They give them free training, pay them a salary, and pay for their surgeries. I thought this was a great idea—acid attacks often leave women isolated from society but this group was pulling them back in.

My current research is on trafficking victims, and from reading human rights reports I know that many countries do not make sufficient efforts to reintegrate women who survive this ordeal. So I wondered, is there anything like this out there for trafficked women? A Google search led me to an article from Dhaka, Bangladesh where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) began a pilot reintegration project in 2008 (http://visitdhaka.blogspot.com/2009/04/coffee-shop-of-freedom-for-trafficking.html).They opened up four “coffee shop[s] of freedom” called Kafé Mukti that employ former trafficking victims from shelters in the city. Zakia K. Hassan, an IOM officer in Dhaka, said, “The society usually isolates these women. By making them self-reliant we want to give them back their dignity and lost status in the society. Creating acceptance is also a goal.” The workers are trained in management and accountancy and grants are also available for them.

These coffee shops are part of an IOM project called “Prevention and Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking in Bangladesh.” This reintegration technique seems like it would take away some of the helplessness and stigma of being a “victim” because the women are in active control of their situation and their futures. I hope they have similar projects going on in other countries, or that the success of Bangladesh will prompt more.

Posted by MIR on 11 July 2009; Positive Change


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