Our biweekly news bulletin on issues related to international women's health and human rights. Click on the headlines to read the full story.
Nigeria abducted schoolgirls: Malala Yousafzai urges action
May 7th (BBC News)
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani women’s education campaigner who survived a shooting by Taliban insurgents, urges the world to not stay silent over the abduction of 200 girls in Nigeria. These girls were kidnapped over three weeks ago by Islamist Boko Haram militants who are strongly against women’s education. The international community has taken action action working to find these girls, including dispatching teams of experts to the country, organizing campaigns such as #BringBackOurGirls, and providing support from international intelligence and satellite services.
Maternal deaths in childbirth rise in the US
May 2, 2014 (The Washington Post)
The United States is one of eight countries in the world that had an increasing rate of maternal mortality. This is most likely due to an increase in the number of pregnant women with diseases, underreported and mischaracterized maternal death reports, and risky pregnancies. Regardless, the United States maternal death rates is almost at the highest in a quarter of a century.
Report on global maternal deaths: United Nations agencies report steady progress in saving mothers’ lives (WHO, May 6, 2014)
Maternal mortality down 45% globally, but 33 women an hour are still dying
May 7, 2014 (By Leila Haddou, The Guardian)
A recent WHO study reports steady progress in maternal deaths; in fact, there has been a 45% reduction in maternal deaths since 1990. Although this is promising, there are still many hundreds of thousands of women dying worldwide due to maternal mortalities. This is primarily due to pre-existing medical conditions including HIV, malaria, obesity, and diabetes as well as death from severe bleeding in childbirth. These articles describe many of the causes of maternal deaths, provides data on the countries with highest maternal deaths, and articulates some preventative measures.
Education Protects Women From Abuse
May 15, 2014, By Olga Khazan (The Atlantic)
This article, in response to the kidnapping of nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls, discusses reasons for why extremists are opposed to empowered women. It cites research that educating women reduces sexual violence, where each additional year of schooling leads to a 1% increase among women who refuse forced sex with their partner and lowers violence by up to 36%. Unfortunately, the Boko Haram kidnapping could lead to Nigerian girls being nervous about attending class, but the article emphasizes that it’s crucial to change social norms and laws in countries with domestic violence. This could be done by partnering with men’s groups to lead to a paradigm change concerning “acceptable” violence against women.
Closing Japan Gender Gap May Boost GDP 13%, Goldman Says
May 6, 2014 (Bloomberg)
Japan is currently working to increase women’s participation in the workforce. According to Goldman Sachs Group, if the gender employment gap were to close and women were to work equally to men, the country’s workforce would increase by as much as 13%. Women currently make up 62.5% of the labor force, which is low in comparison to the majority of other countries across the world, particularly in leadership positions.
Toyin Saraki, Isha Sesay, others pledge to inspire next generation of women
May 6, 2014 (The Guardian)
This May, the Women Inspiration & Enterprise (WIE) Africa Symposium was held in Lagos. The symposium was led by the founder of WIE, Toyin Saraki, and businesswoman Bola Adesola; additionally, it featured many other inspiring women in media, design, television, and philanthropy. The theme of the conference was “The Global Leader” and the aim was to inspire women to shape the “Africa of tomorrow” and change perceptions of women in Africa.
A Point Of View: The Paradox of growing old
May 9, 2014 (BBC News)
In this article, Mary Beard reflects on the way the elderly are treated in society. She analyzes the many faces of aging, where on the one hand, people age in a relatively healthy and affluent process while on the other hand, aging is a long decline to death. Beard also discusses the role of a caregiver in society and causes readers to reflect upon their treatment of the elderly.
Boxer, Menendez, Collins, Kirk, Shaheen Introduce International Violence Against Women Act
May 8, 2014 (Press Release from U.S. Senator Boxer)
California Senator Barbara Boxer is among a group of senators to introduce the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) that makes reducing the levels of violence against women and girls across the globe a US diplomatic priority. This legislation was catalyzed as a result of the recent kidnapping of Nigerian school girls, and works to empower and stop violence against women. The act would, among other things, require the development of a 5 year US global strategy, authorize the US assistance to respond to violence against women and girls, and codify in law many pre-existing acts combatting women’s violence.
Indonesian gang-raped women could be caned for breaking religious laws
May 6, 2014 (The Independent)
An Indonesian woman was brutally gang raped as a punishment for having an affair with a married man. However, this sexual assault is not being taken into her punishment for her crime, and officials are currently determining her punishment, which would likely be caning.
Canada orders extradition to India over bride killing
May 9, 2014 (BBC News)
Fourteen years ago, a Canadian woman was allegedly killed in an “honor killing;” now, officials are seeking justice. The mother and uncle of the murdered women have been extradited to India to stand in trial for this murder, which authorities believe was due to familial anger that the women had secretly married another man rather than the older man her family had reportedly preferred.
Indian Court Says Forced Marital Sex Is Not Rape
May 12, 2014 (By Malavika Vyawahare, The New York Times)
A recent Delhi court ruled that sex between a husband and wife, “even if forcible, is not rape.” Women’s rights activists have been demanding to make marital rape a crime for years, and this recent ruling (in response to a woman seeking the criminalization of her husband who forced her into sex) will bring awareness to the table that forced sex in marriage exists.
Female genital mutilation parties being held in UK, MP told
May 8, 2014 (The Guardian)
This article describes how health care experts have recently been reporting to British Member of Parliament that female genital mutilation parties are being held across the United Kingdom. In these parties, cutters are flowing into Britain and operate on as many as a dozen girls at one time. What complicates the situation is that by the time the place are alerted, cutters are already on the way back to their home country. Authorities are struggling with ways to cope with these crimes.
US female genital mutilation petition collects nearly 37,000 signatures
May 15, 2014 (The Guardian)
24 year-old Jaha Dukureh has created an online petition urging the United States to create a comprehensive plan to end FGM and to aid people who have been victims of this practice. The petition has collected more than 38,000 supporters since Thursday, and has been supported by UN secretary general Ban Ki - Moon. Although the US government outlawed FGM in 1996, hundreds of thousands of women are still thought to be affected by the crime.
Op-eds & Events
Op-Ed: Gender equality starts in childhood – with the chores
May 8, 2014 (By Lucy Fisher, The Guardian)
A new law in Spain forces children to help with different household tasks. What makes this law revolutionary is that the tasks are the same regardless of gender. This gender neutral chore transformation gets rid of many gender stereotypes beginning at a young age, and demonstrates Spain’s commitment to enforcing gender equality beginning in childhood.
EVENT: Women Water Seeds: Advocating for Women Empowerment
May 5, 2014 (República)
A new art exhibit in in Kathmandu titled “Women Water and Seed” highlights the leadership role that women play in farming communities. Organized by Australian artist Fern York, these works demonstrate “advocacy for feminism and human justice along with the conservation of mother nature.”
A roundup of stories related to women's health, development, law, culture and human rights from around the world.