It’s not always used as a platform to spread awareness about gender equality – Kazakhstan is known to have beauty pageants on International Women’s Day, while Russian women get flowers that may be poor compensation for inequalities they habitually face. But International Women’s Day, March 8, is generally a moment to celebrate the kaleidoscope of roles that half the world’s population takes on every day. Much of the news is good: Women continue to push into the higher echelons of the working world and get stronger legal protections, such as the just-renewed US Violence Against Women Act. But issues such as violence, inequality at work, and traditional expectations and cultural practices, such as child marriage, confront women on every continent around the world. Here is a sampling of challenges women faced this year:
It’s not always used as a platform to spread awareness about gender equality – Kazakhstan is known to have beauty pageants onInternational Women’s Day, while Russian women get flowers that may be poor compensation for inequalities they habitually face. But International Women’s Day, March 8, is generally a moment to celebrate the kaleidoscope of roles that half the world’s population takes on every day. Much of the news is good: Women continue to push into the higher echelons of the working world and get stronger legal protections, such as the just-renewed US Violence Against Women Act. But issues such as violence, inequality at work, and traditional expectations and cultural practices, such as child marriage, confront women on every continent around the world. Here is a sampling of challenges women faced this year:
The UN declares an International Women’s Day theme each year. This year’s focus? “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.” The story of Malala Yousufzai, the schoolgirl shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban for advocating education for girls, reminded the world that the promise of girls’ education and safety in rural Pakistan – among other places – has not been met. The Monitor’s Ben Quinn wrote that when Malala was transferred to a hospital in Britainfor treatment, for some of the diaspora in the UK, the attack “struck a chord in parts of society where traditional attitudes, in particular those carried over from rural northern Pakistan, still manifest themselves through resistance – in a minority of families – toward education of girls.”
Not long after the world caught its breath from the Malala incident, gruesome news from Indiaenergized the international dialogue on violence against women: The case of a young woman brutally gang raped on a bus and left for dead in New Delhi, brought the issue to the forefront in a way that may yet be a game changer for India and other countries. In India, thousands of people protested and pressured the police and government to speed up the sluggish judicial system process in cases for rape, known to drag on for years. It also may have helped spur a movement in Indonesia – though still small – to take to the streets to protest offensive remarks from an Indonesian high court judge who “joked” that women might enjoy rape. Much has been made in the past couple of years of the important role women can play in revolution. But there has been a dark side of that participation: InEgypt, women who dare to go out to protest the government, as the Monitor’s Kristen Chick reports, have faced profound threats to their safety:
Tahrir square has become a terrifying place for women as sexual assault becomes more common and violent. But fed up, civilians are making it their job to prevent it and rescue women from attacks.
Several groups have formed, organizing to prevent such attacks, rescue women who are attacked, and raise awareness about an issue that is not often openly addressed.
And encouragingly, hundreds of volunteers created an organized effort to respond to the escalation of assaults against women in Tahrir.
As women battle such violence across the world, what motivates change?
In Latin America, a region where emerging economies are increasingly paying attention to GDP output, Sara Miller Llana looks at whether a first-of-its-kind study that quantifies the intergenerational price tag of domestic violence could motivate policy-makers, where other efforts have failed.
Women in business
Women are breaking taboos and boundaries globally by forming businesses in the face of significant cultural resistance.
Female entrepreneurs like Myassar Issa in Ramallah, West Bank, are gaining a new sense of independence as the family breadwinner. Her husband has two other wives and can’t provide for her and her three sons, reports the Monitor’s Christa Case Bryant.
Since Mrs. Issa’s shop opened with a microfinance loan of $1,400 two years ago, she has repaid that loan and gotten another, doubled her merchandise, and is saving money for her sons to get married.
Statistics of female participation in business are hard to come by, but estimates that women entrepreneurs are increasing in number and today represent 5 to 10 percent of business owners in the formal sector and 30 percent in the informal sector.
Still, they have a long way yet to go. The issue of equal pay for equal work, especially among educated women in the workforce, is a common battle:
Colombia-based Monitor correspondent Sibylla Brodzinsky reports:
Even with an educational advantage, women are still mostly employed in lower-paid occupations inLatin America such as teaching, healthcare, or the service sector, like restaurants. Comparing men and women of the same age and educational level, [an Inter-American Development Bank] study found that men earn 17 percent more than women do in Latin America. That number is actually down from 25 percent in 1992, but the pace at which the gap is narrowing remains slow.
When it comes to the higher-paying fields such as law, architecture, and engineering – where women hold just a third of the jobs – the gender gap widens to 58 percent.
Part of the problem is that the majority of the better-paying jobs available for high-school graduates in the region are culturally associated with men, says Isabel Londoño, an education and gender issues specialist in Bogota, Colombia.
In Europe, Italian women are more likely to get a temporary contract than a male with the same education level, reports the Monitor’s Giulia Lasagni, And since women are overrepresented in temporary jobs, which were the first to be slashed during Europe’s recession, they typically have suffered more.
Despite significant progress, selling social reform to large segments of the population can be a major problem in many countries. In Afghanistan, even after 10 years of various education and political efforts as well as investing millions of dollars into the country to sell social reform, the status of women remains low. Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a call for change with a report in 2012 that highlighted the ongoing issue of women who are arrested and imprisoned for fleeing abusive family situations.
The authors advocated that the Afghan government stop imprisoning such women. Putting women in jail for this is not supported by the Afghan penal code or Islamic law, HRW officials argued at a press conference for mostly Afghan journalists. The threat of imprisonment also discourages women from reporting abuse or trying to leave dangerous situations.
That human rights officials were met by a few concerning responses from journalists, considered to be among the most educated in the country, highlighted just how high the hurdles may be, Tom Peter reports:
One local reporter asked, “If this is not considered a crime and it becomes rampant in the society and everyone does it, don’t you think that in a society like Afghanistan it will lead to a kind of anarchism here and everything will get out of control? What will be the consequences?”
And still, women and advocates for women’s rights press on, lead by example, and win small victories, even in very traditional societies. In Nepal, for example, the custom of chaupadi forces menstruating women to sleep outside of their homes:
For generations here, menstruating women have slept outside of their homes, in small sheds or in the family stable. They are considered impure and untouchable, so they cannot enter the house or touch communal water or food. The activist, Dhurbar Sunar, is not having it: “I think this is a social crime in terms of women’s rights,” he says.
Mr. Sunar is the Project Coordinator at Samabikas, a local organization pushing to abolish chaupadi here in Achham district and elevate women’s status. They work village by village, declaring them “chaupadi free” as they go.
Another small victory, reports Christa Case Bryant from Saudi Arabia, is the effect of sports on girls in the very traditional country. Though girls are not permitted to play in the presence of men, and it’s still very much kept quiet:
“Sport is … a small window [into change],” says businesswoman Lamya Al Abdulkarim, who recently helped launch a new girls’ soccer program in Saudi Arabia.
The official and societal resistance stem from concerns that female participation in sports will erode Saudi norms, including modest dress and segregation of the sexes. …The skills the girls are learning on the field have translated into bigger wins: One player has been recruited by a female investment fund manager, who says that the strategy, tactics, and quickness honed on the soccer field would be key assets in reading the stock market.
And it’s a broad shift in attitude that is being cited as one of the keys to a quietly promising drop in the rate of violence against women in the US. The rate of partner-to-partner violence dropped 64 percent between 1994 and 2010, according to a US Justice Department report, The Monitor’s Whitney Eulich reports:
“Many in the field cite a broad shift in attitudes that began in the 1980s and ’90s, crediting public awareness campaigns, national legislation protecting victims, and subsequent training of police and prosecutors to recognize intimate partner violence as a crime, rather than as a private matter.
Source: YAHOO NEWS.
Christian Science Monitor