Category Archives: Women

Mandela’s granddaughter Ndileka uses social media during lockdown to help abused women

Screenshot_2020-04-23 Mandela's granddaughter uses social media to help abused women
Ndileka Mandela speaking at her book launch in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 2019. George Elize/Handout via Thomson Reuters Foundation

JOHANNESBURG, – Ndileka Mandela was at her home in Johannesburg, South Africa, just before the start of a national lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus, when she got the call.

A container filled with 10,000 sanitary pads for rural South African girls would not be able to leave Geneva due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a donor told her.

“My heart was so sore. These girls are stuck at home, there is no income to buy food let alone sanitary pads. Their dignity and their health are at stake,” she said in a phone interview.

Ndileka, 55, Nelson Mandela’s oldest grandchild, has committed her life’s work to tackling the challenges South African women face – mainly violence and period poverty – and fears the coronavirus pandemic will heighten inequalities.

Since the lockdown started on March 27 she has been using social media to communicate with women stuck indoors with abusers, to let them know they are not alone, and to encourage them to call police hotlines for help.

A few days into South Africa’s lockdown, local media reported that a 14-year-old was raped and murdered in Soweto township in Johannesburg with her body so badly brutalised that her family could only identify her by her clothes and birthmark.

“What makes men like this?” asked Ndileka.

Ndileka’s own experience of surviving a rape in 2012 further catapulted her towards advocating for women’s rights.

“I wanted to show people that even your partner can rape you,” said Ndileka, who shared her story about being raped in her own bed on Facebook in 2017 as part of the #MeToo movement and was messaged by hundreds of women sharing similar stories.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200423110334-of0jz/

 

India PM Modi hands over his social media accounts for Women’s Day

Screenshot_2020-03-05 India PM Modi hands over social media accounts for Women's Day
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets the media prior to the BRICS summit in Brasilia, Brazil November 14, 2019. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS

NEW DELHI, – India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hand over his social media accounts on Sunday to celebrate inspiring women on International Women’s Day, months after facing criticism over a series of high-profile rape cases.

With more than 50 million followers on Twitter, Modi, 69, has one of the biggest followings on social media among world leaders.

“This Women’s Day, I will give away my social media accounts to women whose life & work inspire us. This will help them ignite motivation in millions,” Modi said in a tweet on Tuesday.

He asked people to share entries of such women using the hashtag #SheInspiresUs, which became the top trending topic on Twitter about an hour after he posted his tweet.

His support for the March 8 event came after he faced flak for failing to check violence against women following a series of rape cases late last year that triggered mass protests.

In November, a 27-year-old vet was raped, suffocated and her dead body set alight on the outskirts of the southern city of Hyderabad.

Another rape victim was set on fire and killed by a gang of men, including her alleged rapists, in December.

In the same month, a court sentenced a former lawmaker from Modi’s ruling party to life imprisonment for raping a teenager.

These cases highlighted India’s grim record of sexual violence against women despite enacting some of the world’s toughest laws after the gang rape of a Delhi student on a bus in December 2012, which sparked global outrage.

One woman reported a rape every 15 minutes on average in India in 2018, according to government data released in January.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200303094604-h0hgs/

 

Bangladesh’s first female Middle East ambassador hopes to help abused women workers

Screenshot_2020-02-26 Bangladesh's first female Middle East ambassador hopes to help abused women workers
ARCHIVE PHOTO: Garment workers listen to speakers during a rally demanding an increase to their minimum wage in Dhaka September 21, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

DHAKA, – Bangladesh’s first woman ambassador in the Middle East is hoping her appointment will help female migrant workers in the region, with a mission to build a shelter at the embassy in Jordan for women labourers facing abuse or exploitation.

Nahida Sobhan, 52, a career foreign service officer who has worked in Rome, Kolkata and Geneva, starts this week as ambassador to Jordan that recruits thousands of Bangladeshi female workers monthly for its garment industry and as maids.

Bangladesh ranks among the top countries sending its citizens to work overseas, with about 700,000 Bangladeshis finding jobs abroad each year but some end up cheated and become victims of abuse after being promised jobs. “There are certain issues that woman migrants do face and I will try my best to solve those,” said Sobhan, adding that she was keen to set up a shelter at the Bangladeshi embassy in Amman for women workers like those set up in Saudi Arabia and Oman.

“When you are serving … it doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman … but it is true that if a Bangladeshi woman falls in trouble, she will be more comfortable to open up to a woman,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Jordan is home to more than 100,000 female Bangladeshi workers, mostly poor women from rural areas, and is the second ranking destination for Bangladeshi women workers after Saudi Arabia, according to government data.

But recruitment is largely carried out by unofficial brokers, which opens the door to trafficking and exploitation.

Last year at least 1,500 Bangladeshi women returned home from Saudi Arabia after being abused, an increase from 2018 when about 1,300 returned, according to Bangladeshi charity BRAC.

Neither the government nor charities have recorded the numbers returning from Jordan although activists and government officials said they received far less complaints from Bangladeshi migrants in Jordan compared to Saudi Arabia.

“In 2019 we received about 20 to 25 complaints from Bangladeshi workers in Jordan and they were mostly related to wage issues. They were not paid properly,” said Lily Jahan, chairman of BOMSA, a Bangladeshi migrants rights group.

“Some of them were beaten when they protested. We informed the government about these cases.”

Sobhan described the labour laws in Jordan as “supportive” and said migrants didn’t face “severe difficulties” there but this would be a focus of her work.

“I won’t say that there are severe difficulties, but there still are certain issues and I will try my best to solve these,” she said in an interview at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Dhaka before leaving for Jordan.

Remittances from migrant workers are key for Bangladesh’s economy, making up the second-highest source of foreign currency earnings after clothes manufacturing, government data shows.

Sobhan, whose previous role was as the director general of United Nations wing of foreign office, said the government wanted to promote as many female ambassadors as possible.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200220105620-ysjrs/

Lipstick to learning: Canada’s indigenous women using businesses to end violence

Screenshot_2020-01-23 Lipstick to learning Canada's indigenous women using businesses to end violence
Jenn Harper, founder of the indigenous women’s social enterprise ‘Cheekbone Beauty’, poses for a photo in Toronto, Canada on 16 January 2020. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Belinda Goldsmith

TORONTO, – When Jenn Harper dreamed of a young native Canadian girl in lip gloss she knew she had found a way to help her community.

The dream in 2015 prompted her to set up Cheekbone Beauty from her kitchen, a cosmetics brand with products named after successful North American indigenous women that gives 10% of profits to a fund to help educate children on reserves.

Harper is one of a rising number of indigenous women in Canada setting up businesses that aim to have a positive social impact, with many focused on aboriginal women who have faced shocking levels of violence for decades.

She said she set out to build a social enterprise that would inspire aboriginal youth, particularly girls, among whom suicide rates are up to six times higher than non-indigenous youth.

“I am using lipstick as a platform to raise awareness about what is still happening to indigenous young people,” Harper, 43, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview, wearing a hot pink lipstick from her Warrior Women range.

“We want to change indigenous youth by showing them they are worthy and (should) not feel shame about their history.”

Harper said her drive was personal. Her grandmother Emily Paul was one of about 150,000 indigenous children taken from their families between the 1840s and 1990s and put in residential schools to assimilate them in Euro-Canadian culture.

She described how her family, like many others, had never dealt with the impact of the government policy that ripped apart families, causing addiction and abuse issues, which in turn led to trans-generational trauma.

Harper said she ended up battling alcohol problems for years until she finally became sober in 2014. Her brother killed himself at the age of 32 about four years ago.

HOPE FOR YOUTH

She said her brother’s support for her setting up a business to provide hope to indigenous youth gave her to courage to quit her job in sales last year to focus on Cheekbone Beauty that she runs from a home office, ensuring all products are Eco-friendly.

Last year she appeared on “Dragon’s Den”, the national TV show where entrepreneurs pitch to investors, and in 2018 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invited her to join a round table of female entrepreneurs.

“Getting sober and setting up my business I realised how important it was to share my story with other indigenous women and help others transform,” said Harper, a mother of two from St Catharines in the Niagara region of the province of Ontario.

 

 

http://news.trust.org/item/20200117141752-jubir/

Women step forward in push to nurture African climate scientists

Screenshot_2020-01-14 Women step forward in push to nurture African climate scientists
Women farmers tend their fields at the Tjankwa Irrigation Scheme in Plumtree District, 100km west of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, September 18, 2014. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Busani Bafana

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, As a child, Kenyan meteorologist Saumu Shaka helped out on her parents’ small farm growing maize and pigeon pea – and learned how the weather can hold food producers hostage.

“Looking back, the yield has declined over the years,” said Shaka, 28, who works with the Kenya Meteorological Department.

A decade ago, her parents would get 25 sacks of maize from their six hectares in Taita Taveta County, southeast of Nairobi.

Today that has dwindled to five bags at most, because of erratic rainfall that can also spur crop-destroying pests.

As climate change fuels extreme weather and threatens harvests, Africa needs more scientific expertise to help small-scale farmers adapt, especially women who tend to be hit worst, said Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, director of Nairobi-based group African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD).

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women represent nearly half of farmers in Africa and produce up to 80% of basic food crops.

They are also largely responsible for preparing, storing and processing food.

But in many cases, the FAO says, they have limited rights, mobility and access to resources, information and decision-making power, making them more vulnerable and less able to adapt to climate change impacts than men.

“This means women’s continued under-representation in climate change research is no longer acceptable,” said Kamau-Rutenberg, noting that few have opportunities in science education.

AWARD is leading the One Planet Fellowship, a new initiative that will train 630 African and European scientists to use a gender lens to help African smallholders adapt to climate shifts, unusually offering Africans the opportunity to serve as mentors.

Under-investment in African scientific research capacity means “we still don’t even know the specific ways climate change will manifest … in Africa,” said Kamau-Rutenberg.

In September, the three-year career development programme welcomed its first cohort of 45 fellows from Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi, Benin, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Togo, Mali, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso – over half of them female.

The aim is to “set an example and dispel the myth that there are no African women scientists ready to step into leadership”, Kamau-Rutenberg added.

AWARD collaborates on the initiative, worth nearly $20 million, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, France’s BNP Paribas Foundation and Agropolis Fondation, the European Union and Canada’s International Development Research Centre.

‘FIRSTHAND EXPERIENCE’

As one of the inaugural fellows, Shaka is seeking home-grown solutions to the challenges faced by farmers like her parents, who are battling to grow enough food on a warming planet.

Her research focuses on cost-effective “climate-smart” agribusiness techniques to help young people boost jobs and food security, which she will promote on social media platforms.

African scientists “have firsthand experience and solutions that are practical and applicable to their societal set-ups within their individual countries”, she said.

Women scientists, moreover, are better able to understand the specific challenges in designing community-tailored solutions to help fellow women, said the senior meteorologist.

Droughts and floods, for example, impose a health burden on women, who have to walk long distances in search of water and stay alert to the risk of waterborne diseases, she noted.

Pamela Afokpe, 27, an AWARD fellow from Benin, said “in-continent” experts could relate to the needs of African farmers more easily.

Afokpe, a vegetable breeder with East-West Seed International, is working to get more farmers growing indigenous leafy vegetables in West and Central Africa by helping them access high-yielding varieties resistant to pests and diseases.

Up to now, a limited number of African experts have contributed to the landmark scientific assessments published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which synthesises research and guides policymakers.

Out of 91 lead authors of the 2018 IPCC special report on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, only eight were from Africa, as were just a tenth of the 783 contributing authors.

South Africa’s Debra Roberts, co-chair of a working group for the IPCC ongoing sixth scientific assessment report and the first female co-chair from Africa, said the panel’s work showed tackling climate change required all of society to respond.

“Women have different lived experiences and views on the problems and solutions,” she said.

“We need to hear those voices if we are to be able to identify context-relevant solutions from the scientific literature. There is no one-size-fits-all,” she added.

Over the IPCC’s three decades of operation, there have only been three female co-chairs, two of them on the current report, she noted. “We have a long way to go still,” Roberts told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

ENERGY PRIORITIES

Women also need to be involved in the practical design of climate solutions, such as expanding off-grid solar power and clean cooking, which can reduce drudgery and minimise health issues linked pollution, said agricultural experts.

As forest loss and climate change make resources scarcer, women have to go longer distances to gather fuel-wood, which puts additional pressure on their time, health and personal security, said Katrin Glatzel, a research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Dakar, Senegal.

In Mali, a public-private partnership has provided 1.6 million people with more efficient stoves, reducing pollution by half compared to a traditional three-stone fire, she noted.

Glatzel said it was important to include and empower female scientists and farmers in the switch to cleaner, modern energy, so that their concerns could be addressed.

A 2019 survey by charity Practical Action in rural Togo found women prioritised energy for pumping drinking water and processing crops, while men favoured mobile-phone charging and heating water for washing, she noted.

In northern Benin, meanwhile, a solar-powered drip irrigation system means a cooperative of 45 women now fetches water one or twice a week rather than daily, she added.

Bringing women on board with technological innovation for rural energy services is key “to ensure that end products meet their needs and those of their families”, she said.

 

 

 

http://news.trust.org/item/20200113072646-hrp53/

Bangladeshi women recount stories of abuse in Saudi Arabia

94551B09-5E65-4CDB-88F7-8CB32E9D716DAccording to Bangladeshi authorities, nearly 50,000 female workers went to Saudi Arabia until the end of September this year [Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera]

Dhaka, Bangladesh – Shirina Begum was no stranger to sleeping on an empty stomach. For days on end, she had to consume “bhater mar” (the starchy water poured off cooked rice) to quell her hunger after feeding her two children and ailing husband.

Growing up in the small Bangladeshi village of Namorikari in Lalmonirhat, which often faces seasonal famines, 29-year-old Begum struggled to make ends meet.

With no cultivable land at her disposal and living in a house made of straw, she seemed destined to live her life on subsistence.

Then one day, she heard that one of her neighbours was going to Saudi Arabiato work as a housemaid.

“I was told that she would make around 20,000 taka ($235) a month and only needed to spend 40,000 taka ($471) to go to Saudi Arabia,” she told Al Jazeera.

“I decided to borrow money from a local moneylender and go to Saudi Arabia to work there,” she said.

In May this year, she started her journey, leaving behind her family. Her agent told her that she would only need to cook for a family of four in the city of Al-Kharj.

She later found out that the family had six members and her duties also included cleaning, washing and other household chores.

“It was a tough job for $235 a month. I needed to work for 14-15 hours straight. It was hard for me to understand their language [Arabic]. I also couldn’t cook to their taste. I didn’t have any access to a phone, so I couldn’t talk to my family back home,” she said.

“They also beat me with a stick sometimes.”

Begum said she was also sexually assaulted by the eldest son of the family, which spurred her to run away.

“I was sleeping in the kitchen. Suddenly I realised someone was trying to get on the top of me. I screamed loud but he shut my mouth with his hand. Then he molested me. At one point, I applied all my force and he was compelled to leave me,” she said.

The next day, she mustered the courage and fled to the nearest police station. As she did not have proper immigration papers, she spent nearly four weeks in prison until she was able to return to Bangladesh with 20 others in late October with the help of Bangladeshi embassy in Saudi Arabia.

“I was treated like an animal inside the prison,” she said.

“I was able to work for only four months and I got salary of just two months. Now I am in debt as I can’t pay back to my loan sharks.”

Begum is among the nearly 50,000 women who went to the Gulf country for work until the end of September this year.

According to government figures, more than 300,000 female workers have travelled to Saudi Arabia since 1991, but many of them return with stories of abuse and exploitation.

In the last four years, at least 66 Bangladeshi female workers died in Saudi Arabia, 52 of them committing suicide.

Attempted suicide

The story of Dalia Akhter, another migrant who worked in Saudi Arabia, ended with a broken limb.

Akhter, a resident of Gendaria outside the capital Dhaka, was told she would be taking care of an elderly woman in the town Ad-Dilum in Saudi Arabia in exchange for $266 a month.

However, she woke up to the harsh reality when she reached there in July 2018. Long working hours, rude behaviour and physical abuse were everyday experiences.

“I had to work from 5am to 10pm every day without a break,” she said.

“The Malkin (her female employer) used to beat me with a stick when I could not understand her instructions. I felt helpless and trapped,” she said.

After she refused to continue working for the family, she was “sold” to another family, Akter says. Under the Saudi “kafala” – or visa sponsorship – system, a migrant worker’s residency permit is tied to the “sponsoring” employers whose written consent is required for the worker to change employers or leave the country under normal circumstances.

Akter’s working conditions got worse. The new family was even harsher on her than the previous one, she says. She jumped from the roof of the three-storey house in an attempted suicide and broke her leg, after which her employer left her with the Bangladeshi embassy in the capital, Riyadh.

After living in a safe house in Riyadh run by the Bangladeshi embassy for three weeks, Akhter was sent back to Bangladesh this September, her leg permanently incapable of healing.

“Before going to Saudi Arabia, I used to work in garment sector. Now with a broken leg, I have become a burden to my family,” said Akhter.

Bangladesh’s garment sector, the South Asian nation’s biggest export earner, employs millions of women.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/bangladeshi-women-recount-stories-abuse-saudi-arabia-191107111307106.html

The South Asian women trafficked to Kenya’s Bollywood-style bars

DanceLatest figures from Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission showed 43 women and girls were repatriated from dance bars in Kenya [File: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters]

Nepali beautician Sheela* did not think twice about ditching her salon job when she received a call offering seven times her salary to work as a cultural dancer at a nightclub in Kenya.

It did not matter that the 23-year-old woman from a village in the Himalayan foothills had never heard of the East African nation.

Or that she had no experience as a dancer, had never met the owner of the club and was not shown an employment contract.

With elderly parents to care for and medical bills to clear after her brother suffered a motorcycle accident, the offer of a monthly salary of $600, with food, housing and transport costs all covered, was a no-brainer for Sheela.

“[But] it was not what I expected,” said Sheela, who was rescued with 11 other Nepali women from a nightclub in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa in April where she danced on stage from 9pm to 4am getting tips from male clients.

“I was told that being escorted everywhere by the driver, not leaving the flat except for work, and not having my passport or phone, was for my safety,” added Sheela, who did not want to give her real name, at a safe house in Mombasa’s Shanzu suburb.

An increasing number of women and girls are leaving South Asian nations such as Nepal, India and Pakistan to work in Bollywood-style dance bars in Kenya’s adult entertainment industry – many illegally – according to anti-trafficking activists and police.

There is no official data on the numbers but the results of police raids, combined with figures on the repatriation of rescued women, suggest scores of women and underage girls are victims of organised human trafficking from South Asia to Kenya.

Latest figures from Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) showed 43 women and girls were repatriated from dance bars in Kenya and neighbouring Tanzania in 2016-2017.

Spotlight on rising trend

The owner of the Mombasa club, Asif Amirali Alibhai Jetha, was charged with three counts of human trafficking, accused of harbouring victims for the purpose of deception, using premises to promote trafficking and confiscation of passports.

The Canadian-British national denied the charges in court, pleading not guilty, saying the women were in Kenya of their own consent and legally employed as cultural dancers at a business with no erotic dancing or sexual exploitation.

He is currently on bail awaiting the next court hearing.

The so-called mujra dance bars are common in India. Here, young women dance to Bollywood music for money from male patrons. These bars have mushroomed in cities including Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, where there are countless Kenyans of South Asian descent.

Police and anti-trafficking groups have repeatedly voiced concerns that some of these private clubs are used as a front to ensnare women and girls, some in sex slavery, with women forced to pay off loans by erotic dancing or having sex with clients.

Sheela and the other women rescued from the Mombasa club told the Thomson Reuters Foundation they were not forced to have sex with customers.

In Kenya, many local women and girls are promised good jobs only to be enslaved in domestic servitude or forced into prostitution – often in the sex tourism industry.

Kenya is home to about 328,000 modern-day slaves – about one in 143 of its population – according to the Global Slavery Index by the Walk Free Foundation, an Australia-based rights group.

Police raids

In recent years, police raids on mujra bars uncovered organised human trafficking from South Asia to Kenya, a trend highlighted by the United States in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.

“The raids have helped us understand the modus operandi of traffickers in Kenya who have agents overseas to recruit women for them,” an official from Kenya’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) said on condition of anonymity.

“They are offered jobs as cultural dancers and given around one month’s salary in advance. But when they arrive, their movements are restricted and they have to do erotic and sexually explicit dancing – and often have to have sex with clients.”

Such victims enter Kenya either on a three-month tourist visa on arrival for South Asians or on a special temporary work permit for cultural performers, according to the DCI official.

Sheela and the other 11 women rescued in Mombasa said they came to Kenya separately over the past nine months on flights through India and Ethiopia arranged by the club owner.

In court testimonies, the women, aged 16 to 34, said they were told to carry hand luggage only and tell immigration officials they were visiting friends or family in Kenya.

The women worked every night, were given stage names, and were expected to earn about $4,000 each a month in tips.

“We didn’t get the tips as they were for the boss,” said Meena*, 20, who did not want to give her real name.

“But the top performing girls would get bonuses of 20,000 shillings [$200], 30,000 [$300], and 50,000 [$500] if they met their targets.”

The women told the court their passports were taken and they did not know the location of the club or their accommodation. They were repatriated to Nepal in July.

“This whole thing has been terrible,” said Sonia*, 24, who did not want to give her real name, the day before she left. “I should never have come – it was a mistake. All I want to do is go home. I never come to Kenya again.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/south-asian-women-trafficked-kenya-bollywood-style-bars-190808085054217.html