Women And Girls: Apple’s New Hijab Emoji Sparks Both Controversy and Hope #pressforprogress #timeisnow #sdgs #globalgoals

“I just wanted an emoji of me.”

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Last year, Rayouf Alhumedhi was sitting in her bedroom in Berlin creating a group chat with her friends when she had a realization:

“The fact that there wasn’t an emoji to represent me and the millions of other hijabi women across the world was baffling to me,” she told CNN.

The Saudi-born teen decided to take action. She created a draft of a hijabi woman emoji and sent it to the Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit responsible for reviewing and developing new emojis.

“I just wanted an emoji of me,” she recalled.

On Monday night, her wish was granted. Alhumedhi found out “just like everyone else” that her emoji had been accepted; her friend messaged her a link to a Buzzfeed article which detailed the plans to release the new emojis in Apple products in the coming months.

Emojis have grown more inclusive over the past years, expanding their catalogue to feature a wide range of skin tones. Beyond the hijab, emoji is set to release gender neutral and breastfeeding women emojis later this year.

Apple’s inclusion of the headscarf-wearing emoji did not come without contention. Some people took to social media to express disapproval of the company’s decision. One user said that, by adding the hijab emoji, the company is expressing “support for the oppression of women.”

Alhumedhi is of the opposite mindset. Her family moved to the German capital from Saudi Arabia – a nation notorious for its oppression of women – when Rayouf was a child. She views the emoji she proposed as a means of increasing representation of Muslim women, and possibly even a vehicle to “indirectly promote tolerance.”

There has been a spike in hate crimes against Muslims since the 2016 United States presidential election. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reports that 15% of the time, headscarves act as the trigger for attackers.

Alhumedhi hopes that the new emoji can help reduce the stigma against hijabs, and illustrate that the millions of women who choose to wear a headscarf are “normal people carrying out daily routines just like you.”

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Women And Girls: These Are the Best Countries to Be a Woman #PressForProgress #TimeIsNow #sdgs #globalgoals

These countries are leading the way in women’s rights and gender equality.

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There’s no country that can boast total gender equality yet, but some can proudly say they’re close.

Data reflected in the 2015 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report shows that more than 96 percent of the gender gap in health outcomes and 95 percent in educational attainment has been closed, while only 59 percent of the gap in economic participation and 23 percent in political empowerment (compared to 14 percent 10 years ago) has been closed. The five countries with the least gender inequality are still only about 80 percent of the way to gender parity.

Despite the great distance left to go, this is significant progress.

Here are the countries that are leading the way in women’s rights and gender equality through equal pay, economic opportunities, political representation, and access to education.

Iceland

Iceland — where the sun doesn’t set in the summer, the ponies are fluffy, and the gender gap is almost closed! The 2015 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report found that Iceland has closed 88 percent of its gender gap — which is not just “pretty good,” it’s actually the best (that the world has to date). Iceland has topped the list for smallest gender gap for the seventh year in a row. The levels of equality in access to healthcare, education, and economic participation and opportunities are close among the top five countries in the report, but Iceland outpaces the pack when it comes to gender parity in politics — with close to 72 percent of the gap closed, it’s more than 10 points ahead of the next closest contender (Finland). Iceland has had a female head of state for 20 out of the past 50 years and women are generally well represented in its political system.

The small country has come a long way from the historic strike of 1975, when 90 percent of the nation’s women went on strike — taking the day off from their office jobs, childcare, and housework — to rally for equal rights.

New Zealand

This small nation, whose sheep population outnumbers its human population, was the first to give women the right to vote in 1893. According to 2015 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report, New Zealand can boast gender parity in access to education, and very nearly equal access to health care. It hasn’t reached perfect parity yet, but it’s certainly fairing better than most countries. New Zealand’s gender wage gap is (relatively) small, at 11.8% this past year — close to half that of the US — and women make up about 30% of its political representatives.

Finland

While women in New Zealand were the first to have to right to vote, Finnish women were the first to be elected to parliament in 1907 — 19 women members were elected. Today, women hold 10 out of 18 parliamentary posts. Finland also has a generous maternity leave policy, allowing women to begin their leave up to 50 working days before their due dates, and offering a maternity allowance for 105 working days — and that offer comes with very few strings attached, students, self-employed and unemployed women can all take advantage of it. But Finland doesn’t just expect women to do all the parenting — paternity leave is offered (and encouraged) for up to 54 working days and also comes with an allowance, which also means that new moms can re-enter the workforce sooner if they choose. Hopefully they’ll soon close the gender gap in equal parenting.

Denmark

Denmark gave women the right to vote in the second iteration of its constitution in 1915 — and more than 20,000 women marched to the palace to commemorate the achievement. More recently, Denmark was rated the best country for women, based on the responses of over 7,000 women who completed US News’ 2016 Best countries survey. Like Finland, Denmark has a flexible parental leave policies that encourage gender parity at home and in the office. It’s healthcare and education systems are “virtually free,” which has equalized access to both. And while Danes are often seen as some of the happiest people in the world, a study found that it’s older women are the happiest of the happiest — so they must be doing something right!

Sweden

Sweden has closed more than 80 percent of its gender gap and is often cited as an example of a nation close to achieving gender parity, perhaps because it reportedly has the “most progressive attitudes toward gender equality,” according to a YouGov poll. Sweden’s policies are similar the other Scandinavian countries — it has a welfare system that emphasizes work-life balance, parental leave policies to support that, and public services that enable men and women to access healthcare, education, and job opportunities equally. Sweden boasts the highest percentage of working mothers in the EU (more than 73 percent in 2014), in no small part due to its generous family benefits, flexible parental leave policies, access to quality education and day care.


It may surprise you to know that some of the most developed countries don’t even come close to the top 10 in gender equality — the UK weighs in at 18, while the US and Canada trail behind at 28 and 30, respectively. Australian women are poorly represented in their political system, putting them at 36, while Japan’s similarly under-represented women land them at 101 (of 145 evaluated in the 2015 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report).

On the other hand, Rwanda and the Philippines come in at 6 and 7, the only developing nations in the top 10, largely due to low levels of disparity in economic opportunities. In fact, Rwanda was the top performing country overall on wage equality for similar work.

No country has the total package yet, though some are farther along in the process than others. What’s more, many are taking active steps toward achieving gender parity. Girls and women deserve equal opportunities to thrive and achieve. Hopefully soon, we’ll be able to declare global gender equality.

Zero Poverty: Ending Extreme Poverty … in a Generation #2030Now #GlobalGoals #SDGs #Poverty #ZeroPoverty

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The Zero Poverty Project

1.3 billion people in our world currently live in extreme poverty.

From The Global Poverty Project:

These 1,300,000,000 individuals live on less than what you can buy in the US for $1.25 per day. You might think this buys more in a poor country than it does here, but actually, it’s a figure that’s been adjusted for purchasing power, which means that anywhere in the world, the $1.25 a day measure buys little more than enough basic food, clean water and cooking fuel to make two simple meals.

In the last 30 years, the proportion of the world’s population that live below this line has halved – from 52% in 1980, to 25% today. That’s a decline from 1.9 billion people down to 1.3 billion people.

At the Global Poverty Project we’re passionate about communicating these amazing achievements, and highlighting the opportunity we have to bring this number down to zero – within a generation.

This post summarizes how we can each play a part in realizing this opportunity – moving a world without extreme poverty from its current status of ‘improbable possibility’, to ‘likely reality’. This list is designed to introduce you to the key themes and issues related to ending extreme poverty.

How we think about extreme poverty

We know ending extreme poverty is a big and complex challenge. It has many causes, and there’s certainly no silver bullet or single solution, but we don’t think that this complexity means the challenge cannot be overcome. There are a huge number of smart and talented people all over the world in charities, business, academia, evaluation organisations,government and think-tanks who are building an evidence base of things that work, things that don’t and why.

The big three issues

To see an end to extreme poverty, there are three big issues that we need to see action on – governance, aid and trade. We know that we have the resources (economic, social, political and environmental) to see an end to extreme poverty. But, right now, the world works in a way that keeps some people poor, which is what we all need to focus on to see an end to extreme poverty.

Improving governance structures can ensure that decision-making works in favour of the world’s poorest people. At present, most discussions about governance are framed in terms of corruption. Rather than treating the problem of corruption as an excuse to stop investing in development efforts, we need to get behind those working in communities to counter corruption: by holding local leaders to account, increasing transparency, and ensuring that laws are applied. Corruption is not only a problem that needs to be tackled in poor countries. In rich countries we need to hold governments and businesses to account for any complicity in the process of corruption, or for unethically undermining poverty reduction through actions like avoiding tax or utilising vulture funds to recover illegitimate debts. We’ve posted more about corruption here, including an interview with leading experts here, or you can see the work being done by corruption-fighting organisations like Global Witness and Transparency International.

Next, we need to make sure that aid that’s given – whether through donations to charities or taxes to government – is spent on programs that really work. Foreign aid won’t end poverty – but it’s a vital ingredient that can be used to make investments in things like health, education and infrastructure – resources needed for countries and communities to lift themselves out of poverty and prevent dependence on aid in the future. We’ve written more about good aid here, here and here.

Ultimately, extreme poverty ends when local communities can trade their way to a better future. The amazing poverty alleviation that we’ve seen in the past generation has been led by countries who have joined global markets: in China 400 million citizens have been lifted out of poverty since 1980, South Korea has moved from aid recipient to aid donor by building industry and creating world-renowned brands, and Botswana has grown faster than any other country in Africa by wisely investing proceeds from its diamond mines. Currently, the potential of trade is limited by the rules which work against poor countries, and will need to be reformed before we will see an end to extreme poverty.

The Elephants in the Room

Beyond these three issues, climate change and resource limitations are the elephants in the room, threatening the potential end to extreme poverty. The impact of these issues can be seen in the Pakistan floods, and in the record food prices which will mean that 1 billion people go to bed hungry tonight. On both of these issues our challenge is distribution, not scarcity. We aren’t running out of food – there’s more than enough food on our planet to feed everyone. The problem is that the world’s poorest people can’t afford to buy enough of it. In order to realize the potential of developing populations, rich countries have to increase their efficiency in resource use, and support clean development.

Our role

All of the opportunities and challenges of fighting extreme poverty outlined above are technically possible and eminently affordable. Our role is to make them politically viable and increasingly probable.

We can make a start with simple changes to the way that we act on a daily basis and by learning more about the issues so we can make informed decisions, especially about the ethics of the products we buy and the effectiveness of the money we donate.

Beyond that, we can help others realise that it is possible to end extreme poverty, that we are already making significant progress, and that practical steps can be taken to overcome the challenges that remain.

From there, it’s about using your voice as a citizen to join the campaigns and initiatives of organisations fighting hard in your local community to change the rules and systems that keep people poor: ensuring that corruption is reduced, that aid is given in appropriate quantities in the right way to the right things, and changing trade rules to give the world’s poorest a fair chance to lift themselves out of poverty.

Most importantly, it’s about recognizing that the movement to end extreme poverty is led by people in poverty themselves. As we reflect on the changes of the last generation, we can look forward a generation and see a real prospect of extreme poverty not existing. Our role is to get behind the world’s poor, give voice to their aspirations, and work as citizens and consumers to make the end of extreme poverty the legacy that our generation leaves on this world.

Simon Moss, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer, Global Poverty Project

Women And Girls: Why Women Need Health Funding Now More Than Ever #GlobalGoals #SDGs #2030Now #SheDecides

Every girl and woman can decide what to do with her body, her life, and her future. #SheDecides

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Access to affordable, quality healthcare is a fundamental human right. Yet around the world, hundreds of thousands of women and girls die each year from a lack of access to healthcare, particularly a lack of access to reproductive healthcare.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 800 women and girls die every single day of pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. The overwhelming majority of these maternal deaths happen in developing countries, and many are preventable.

When Donald Trump took office in January 2017, he reinstated the Mexico City Policy (also known as the “Global Gag Rule”) restricting healthcare funding and making it even harder for women and girls to access adequate reproductive healthcare in developing countries that rely on US foreign aid. In response, the Dutch government launched SheDecides — a global initiative that calls on governments, businesses, and private citizens to step up and fill the funding gap to safeguard women’s health.

What is the Global Gag Rule?

Over the last 34 years, the Global Gag Rule has been alternately suspended by Democratic administrations and reinstated by Republican ones, and millions of people have suffered in the process.

The original policy, established in 1984, prohibits NGOs from receiving US foreign aid funding — from the State Department and the US Administration for International Development (USAID) — if they perform abortions, provide information about abortions, refer patients to other services for abortions, or even advocate for policies that support access to abortion.

This affects medical services offered through clinics run by NGOs, particularly in low-income countries and rural areas where such clinics may be the only form of healthcare available to communities.

How Is Trump’s Global Gag Rule Worse Than Previous Administrations’?

President Trump not only revived the original policy, but expanded its scope.

To be clear, US federal funding generally cannot be used to fund abortion services either within the US or overseas — and this has been the case since the 70s — even when the Global Gag Rule has been suspended.

The Global Gag Rule was last enforced under President George W. Bush’s administration and, as in previous administrations that used the policy, only applied to US family planning funds provided by the State Department and the US Administration for International Development (USAID) — about $575 million. Under the Trump administration, the Global Gag Rule’s restrictions have been extended to all US global health assistance (roughly $8.8 billion), affecting programs that provide HIV/AIDS support, maternal and child healthcare, and prevention and treatment for diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.

This greatly impacts healthcare providers in countries like Kenya, where NGOs operate 15% of clinics, and Nigeria — where 70% of contraceptives were provided by the UN Population Fund, from which Trump has withdrawn US funding, and 25% were provided by USAID in 2015.

What Is SheDecides?

SheDecides is not about changing or influencing domestic policies, it’s about governments, businesses, and individuals stepping up to support these healthcare programs in developing countries in the sudden, devastating absence of US funding support.

It’s also not about abortion.

Above all, SheDecides is about making sure girls and women around the world have access to vital reproductive and sexual healthcare and that they are treated as people with the power and agency to decide what to do with their own bodies.

And that’s about more than just abortion — it’s about access to contraceptives and testing that help prevent HIV/AIDS, obstetric care that improves maternal and infant survival rates, it’s about keeping girls in school.

“Evidence shows that by blocking funding to the world’s largest NGO providers of modern contraception, unintended pregnancies and abortions go up,” Marjorie Newman-Williams, vice-president of Marie Stopes International, an NGO that provides contraceptives and safe abortions through clinics in 37 countries, said in a statement. “As a result, women and girls are less likely to complete their education, have a career, or pursue their dreams for the future.”

Every girl and every woman has the right to decide if, when, and with whom she wants to have children.

Why Do Women Need Access to Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare?

Hundreds of women die every day from complications linked to pregnancy and childbirth, but access to prenatal and postpartum healthcare can save the lives of both mothers and children.

According to the UN Population Fund, “214 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods.” Many of these women lack access to safe contraceptives — which can help prevent sexually transmitted infections like HIV/AIDS — while others lack the information about such resources.

A lack of information, reinforced by gender discriminatory norms, can strip girls and women over the power they should have over their own bodies, putting them at greater risk of sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, early marriage, and unsafe abortion.

To date, SheDecides has raised around $400 million, contributed by governments — including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Norway, and Sweden — as well as organizations like Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and individual donors.

The funds are being managed by Rutgers, a Netherlands-based sexual and reproductive health rights NGO, and will be distributed to organizations impacted by the Global Gag Rule so that they can keep their clinics open and provide necessary sexual and reproductive health services without restrictions.

Women & Girls: The All-Female Army That Inspired ‘Black Panther’s’ Warriors Are Getting a New Show #DahomeyAmazon #SDGs #GlobalGoals

The Dora Milaje were inspired by a real army of women called the Dahomey Amazons.

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Since Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” premiered in February, the superhero blockbuster has smashed records, stereotypes, and the patriarchy.

Its female characters and all-women army, called the Dora Milaje, have been celebrated for their strength and defiance of traditional gender roles. What many audience members may not know is that, though the Dora Milaje are fictional, they were inspired by the Dahomey Amazons, a group of West African women warriors.

And now the Dahomey Amazons are getting their own show.

The show, whose name has yet to be announced, will not only break down barriers through its depiction of powerful women warriors, but will also break down barriers in the global entertainment industry.

US-based Sony Pictures Television and the Nigerian network EbonyLife announced on Thursday that they would collaboratively produce the series — the first time Hollywood and Nollywood have worked together to create a tv show, CNN reported.

The Dahomey Amazons, originally drafted from among captured and imprisoned foreign women, have a complicated history that dates back to the 17th century. The women warriors were also known as the Ahosi, meaning the “king’s wives” because they were charged with guarding the king. But the majority of the women were not treated as wives, and instead were looked upon as soldiers, sisters, and daughters, according to Teen Vogue.

The fierce women are said to be the only all-female fighting force documented in modern history. It’s this legacy that the show hopes to bring to life on the small screen while pushing back against stereotypes about the African continent.

“Our vision has always been to change the narrative about Africa and to tell our stories from our perspective,” Chief Executive Officer of Ebony Life Mo Abudu said in a statement.

Though no timeline for the show’s release has been announced, people are already looking forward to the series and its potential impact.

 

Partnership for the Goals: Foreign Aid Was a Big Winner in the Budget Trump Signed Last Week #2030Now #SDGs #GlobalGoals

Essential programs around the world will receive the funding they need.

 

For months, it looked like US foreign aid would face massive cuts, imperilling programs that support education in disaster zones, food relief in famines, and maternal health.

But, thanks to bipartisan leadership from US Congresspeople and Senators, those concerns have dissipated — for now.

US President Donald Trump signed a federal budget through fiscal year 2018 last week that dispensed with the steep cuts that the administration had called for and nearly maintains existing levels of foreign aid, even increasing funding in various areas.

Funding for foreign aid was $59.1 billion last year and this year it will be $55.9 billion — still a sizable cut, but much less than the $17.9 billion reduction requested by the White House.

Although foreign aid makes up less than 0.5% of all US spending, its impacts around the world are enormous — and enormously positive. Foreign aid has helped increase access to health care around the world, provide quality education to millions of children, and help communities become more resilient to climate change.

By largely maintaining current levels of US foreign aid, essential programs around will receive the funding they need.

Here are five takeaways from this 2018 budget.


1/ Health Funding Increased

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Last year, the Trump administration threatened to cut funding for all maternal health programs through the “Global Gag Rule” and GC mounted the “She Decides” campaign to counter this possibility.

Instead of getting cut by the US government, maternal health programs are getting an additional $15 million to provide women and children with essential services.

Notably, the bill rejects the Administration’s original proposal to eliminate funding for family planning, keeping funding for international family planning programs that are bilaterally funded by the US at $608M

Funding for global health security, which seeks to mitigate the threat of infectious and other diseases, increased by $100 million, and funding for efforts to fight tuberculosis, which has been proliferating around the world, increased by $20 million.

2/ Education Funding Increased

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Funding for the Global Partnership for Education was expected to get cut or stay the same, but it ended up receiving getting an additional $12.5 million on the 2017 commitment, bringing the US total contribution to GPE for 2018 to $87.5 million.

Globally, 264 million children are out of school, either because of conflict and crisis, poverty, a lack of teachers and resources, or some other reason. Girls in particular are prevented from completing their educations because of stigmas and barriers around the world.

GPE is working to ensure children in 89 countries get access to a quality education.

3/ Food Aid Increased

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More than 127 million people were on the brink of starvation last year, and funding calls to stop various famines were made throughout the year.

The US budget responded to this demand by allocating an additional $116 million to Food for Peace, to bring the total US commitment to $1.72 billion.

Food for Peace is a US program that seeks to end hunger around the world.

4/ Various Programs Remained Intact

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The 2018 budget maintained funding for a lot of different programs.

For instance, US efforts to combat HIV/AIDS will continue to receive $6 billion; funding for programs that promote access to water and sanitation stayed at $400 million; and agricultural programs that promote food security will continue to receive $1.93 billion.

5/ There Was Broad Bipartisan Support

Senators and congressman from both major parties stepped up to protect foreign aid funding.

In particular,  we applaud:

  • Hal Rogers, Republican Congressman from Kentucky

  • Patrick Leahy, Democratic Congressman from Vermont

  • Nita Lowey, Democratic Congresswoman from New York

  • Lindsey Graham, Republican Senator from South Carolina

  • And all the members of the Appropriations and State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs committees


It wasn’t all good news, however. A lot of essential programs will be affected by the net $3.2 billion in foreign aid cuts.

For example, $49 million was removed from emergency migration and refugee assistance, a staggering 98% cut. The world is currently facing the largest refugee crisis in recorded history and countries cannot afford to be withholding aid.

The Economic Support Fund, which supports emerging economies and establishes trade partners, was cut by $713 million; diplomacy programs were cut by $890 million; and funds for UN peacekeeping campaigns were slashed by $528 million, meaning other governments will need to pick up the slack.

Foreign aid fared better than expected in the 2018 budget, but this funding cycle will only be covered through September 30, and the negotiations on 2019’s budget, which will start at a 30% cut once again, have already begun.


Quality Education: Malala Returns to Pakistan for the First Time Since She Was Shot #Malala #SDGs #GlobalGoals #2030Now

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She was attacked by the Taliban in 2012, to stop her speaking out for girls’ education.

Malala Yousafzai has returned to Pakistan for the first time since she was shot in the head, in an attack intended to silence her campaigning on girls’ education.

The activist, who is now 20 and studying at Oxford University, was attacked by the Taliban at just 15, in 2012. The group said at the time she was “promoting Western culture.”

Malala met with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in Islamabad Pakistan’s capital city, who welcomed her home and said she has returned “as the most prominent citizen of Pakistan.” Malala then gave a short speech on television.

“It’s the happiest day of my life,” she said in the speech , in tears. “I still can’t believe it’s happening. “I don’t normally cry… I’m still 20 years old but I’ve seen so many things in life. Whenever I travel in a plane, car I see the cities of London, New York and I was told that just imagine this is Pakistan, imagine that you are traveling in Islamabad, imagine that your are in Karachi. And it was never true. But now today I see I am here. I am extremely happy.”

Details of her four-day trip are being “kept secret in view of the sensitivity surrounding the visit,” an official told AFP news agency .

It’s not yet know whether Malala will visit her hometown of Swat, in the north-west of the country, which Malala described earlier this month as “paradise on earth.”

“I have received a lot of support in my country,” Malala told David Letterman, a US talk-show host , in a Netflix special. 

“There is this lust for change,” she added. “People want to see change in their country. I am already doing work there but I want my feet to touch that land.” 

It was in Swat that Malala was attacked, along with two other girls, while they were on a school bus after taking an exam. The gunman asked “who is Malala?” before he fired. She was taken to a military hospital in Pakistan, before moving to the UK to recover.

Malala had previously begun writing an anonymous diary about life under the Taliban rule, at just 11, for BBC Urdu. She became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2014, when she received the award jointly with Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi.

The Taliban, which remains active in the country, have specifically targeted schools and colleges in attacks, reported the BBC , killing hundreds of people.

Earlier this month, Malala penned an open letter  to the 53 leaders of the Commonwealth countries, calling them to ensure girls’ education is on the agenda at the Commonwealth Summit, to be held in London in April.

“Together we are fighting for what has been promised but not delivered for far too long: 12 years of safe, free, quality education for every girl,” she wrote. 

 

 

Women And Girls: 12 Badass Women Who Changed the Course of Human History #TimeIsNow #PressForProgress #WomensDay #WomensHistoryMonth

Women’s History Month is almost over, but these women’s legacies live on.

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As the month of March comes to a close, so too does Women’s History Month — an annual celebration of women’s accomplishments and stories. The past month has seen important strides made toward equality for and by women everywhere.

On March 8 — International Women’s Day — more than 5 million people took to the streets of major cities around the world in the largest-ever ‘feminist protest.’ Later, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, one of the worst countries for women in the world, announced that he believed women were “absolutely equal” to men.

Major companies also joined in, with McDonalds flipping their arches from an “M” to a “W” for women and Barbie creating dolls in the image of powerful women from history.

As the month comes to a close, there is still much work to be done — whether that’s electing more women to office, ensuring gender pay parity, or getting rid of laws that discriminate against women around the world.

And we can look to history for inspiration as we continue to wage these battles.

In honour of the end of Women’s History Month, we are  highlighting some of the powerful, inspiring women who changed the world for the better:

1/ Amelia Earhart

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The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, Amelia Earhart made aviation history — and then disappeared into thin air. While the controversy over where, when, and how Earhart disappeared when she attempted to circumnavigate the globe in 1937 is still a topic of conversation, Earhart’s feats as a pioneer for female pilots should not be forgotten.

In 1932, Earhart completed a 15-hour flight from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, to Derry, Ireland — becoming just the second-person to complete such a trip, and overcoming “fatigue, a leaky fuel tank, and a cracked manifold that spewed flames out the side of the engine cowling” along the way, according to reports published at the time. Her flight set the stage for other female pilots, including Anny Divya, who recently became the youngest-ever woman to pilot a Boeing 777.

2/ Althea Gibson

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Well before Venus and Serena Williams dominated the courts, there was Althea Neale Gibson. Gibson was the first African American to play tennis at Wimbledon, the world’s oldest tennis tournament, which she did in 1950. She would later go on to become the first black woman to play in the PGA Tour, breaking a second color barrier in professional golf.

On and off the court, the multi-sport athlete never cowed to external pressure, once telling reporters, “I am not afraid of any of these players,” in advance of a major tennis match.

3/ Dolores Huerta

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A living legend, Dolores Huerta has organized for labor rights, especially in Latino communities, since the 1950s, and is famous for coining the phrase, “Si, se puede!” (“Yes, we can!”) Her labor activism began with farmworkers in Stockton, California, where she led the Agricultural Workers Association before co-founding the National Farmworkers Association, which was renamed United Farm Workers in 1966.

In her years as an activist, Huerta has fought for voting rights, higher wages, and better working conditions for low-income workers. Even in her old age, she’s become a powerful voice for the voiceless as an activist, speaker, and icon.

4/ Valentina Tereshkova

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Most people have probably heard of the first man on the moon: Neil Armstrong. But what about the first woman in space?

That would be Valentina Tereshkova, a Soviet cosmonaut who in 1963 spent just under three days in space, orbiting earth 48 times. Tereshkova was born to poor, farm-working parents, but would ultimately be honored with the title of Hero of the Soviet Union as well as win a United Nations Gold Medal of Peace, according to Space.com.

5/ Marie Curie

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The first-ever female winner of the Nobel Prize, Marie Curie discovered the elements of polonium and radium, coined the term “radioactivity,” and was the winner of numerous academic and scientific distinctions over the course of her distinguished career.

A noted humanitarian, Curie also used her scientific discoveries to help deliver life-saving electromagnetic radiation techniques to French hospitals during World War I. During that time, she opened a training program at the Radium Institute that helped get other women involved in the response effort during the war, according to IEEE.

6/ Sandra Day O’Connor

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The “notorious RBG” (Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) might not be where she is today were it not for the groundwork laid by Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve as a justice on the US Supreme Court.

O’Connor graduated high school at age 16, and later studied at Stanford University — where she graduated near the top of her class. She was nominated to the US Supreme Court in 1981 by US President Ronald Reagan and served until 2006, a quarter of a century later. In her time on the bench, O’Connor served as the swing vote on major cases, including Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan, when she voted that men should be allowed to attend nursing schools.

7/ Margaret Bourke-White

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Known for her deeply moving portraits, Margaret Bourke-White was the first female documentary photographer to be credited for working with the US Army — paving the way for later generations of female war photojournalists that included Vietnam War photographers Dickie Chapelle and Catherine Leroy. Working alongside US military units in World War II for Life Magazine, Bourke-White did not just capture scenes from the war, but also brought to light the atrocities committed by Nazis at concentration camps in Germany. 

8/ Berta Cáceres

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An environmental activist in Honduras, activist Berta Cáceres was murdered in her own home in an ongoing battle being waged between environmentalists and land developers in Central America. Cáceres, who was 45 when she was killed, dedicated her life to fighting for the protection of the Gualcarque River, a critical food and water resource for the indigenous Lenca population that was threatened by damming, mining, and logging projects.

Cáceres founded the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (Copinh), which is now led by her daughter Bertha Zuñiga — who has also faced armed threats for her environmental activism. Cáceres was one of more than 120 activists killed in Honduras since a right-wing coup toppled democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya in 2009.

9/ Lilly Ledbetter

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Between 1990 and 2015, the gender wage gap between men and women in the United States decreased by more than 50% — from 36 cents to the dollar to 17 cents to the dollar. And while there is still work to be done to bring that gap all the way down to zero (by some estimates it could take more than 170 years globally to close the gender gap), women today can, at least in part, thank the activism of Lilly Ledbetter for the strides made in the past decades.

Ledbetter is the namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2009. Her landmark gender discrimination case, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., was overturned in 2007 because she had filed it more than 180 days after her initial employment. The Ledbetter Act revised this law, amending the 180-day requirement and making it easier for women to file gender discrimination cases and receive the restitution they deserve.

10/ Madeleine Albright

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One of America’s most revered immigrants, having fled Czechoslovakia after it was occupied by the Nazis, Madeleine Albright was the first-ever female US Secretary of State. As Secretary of State, Albright sought to broker peace in the Middle East, strengthen US relations with China and Vietnam, and also made history by meeting with then-leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il.

Her leadership paved the way for not one, but two female secretaries of state in the years since she relinquished the post in 2001 — Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.

11/ Margaret Sanger

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The mother of the modern day movement for birth control, Margaret Sanger’s contributions to reproductive rights are notable for more reasons than one. Sanger’s own mother died during childbirth, after having brought 11 children into the world — a death that, according to American National Biography, Sanger attributed to a combination of multiple child births and poverty.

After leaving the suburbs for New York City in the early 1990s, Sanger went on to write columns for The Woman Rebel and New York Call about female sexuality and rights, and in 1914 was the first to use the term “birth control” in her pamphlet “The Woman Rebel.” Later in life, she founded the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which provided more than 180 million family planning services around the world in 2016, according to its website.

12/ Jane Addams

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An advocate for the working poor, Jane Addams fought to end pernicious child labor in Chicago in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, becoming just the second woman and first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919. Addams opened Chicago’s Hull-House in 1889 as a haven for thousands of Chicagoans that also offered resources from kindergarten classes to an art gallery to an employment bureau.

Throughout her career, she was also the first woman to earn an honorary degree from Yale, which she was given for her charity work, and waged an ultimately unsuccessful anti-war campaign in the lead-up to World War I.

 

Quality Education: This Refugee School Is Giving Hope and Free Education to Kids in Uganda #GlobalGoals #SDGs #2030Now

Children displaced by conflict in surrounding countries find community at Coburwas.

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By Halima Athumani

In 2005, four young Congolese refugees in western Uganda opened a school for kids like themselves, separated from their families when they fled conflict in neighboring countries.

Today, the school boasts about 500 students and continues to provide free education to unaccompanied refugee children or those whose families cannot afford to pay.

The school name is a combination of Congo, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda and Sudan — the countries of origin for refugees living in western Uganda. It was named by its four teenage founders who live at the Kyangwali refugee settlement.

“So, with friends we thought, maybe we can find ways to bring new hope to our community and that’s when we started creating Coburwas international youth organization to transform Africa,” said Joseph Munyambaza, now 27.

The boys did manual labor to raise money. Munyambaza remembers that with the first $150 they earned, they bought textbooks for the initial 16 students.

“We used to work in the community, work for farmers and then they give us small money, which we’d use to buy text books and other materials for the most needy children,” he said. “And among ourselves, we would serve as tutors. We now have our own farms, so we farm and when the crops get ready, we use the products for food.

The school also sells some crops from the farm to cover costs. Families that can afford it are encouraged to pay about $16 in fees. Outside donations help cover teacher salaries.

The first class was held under a tree that still stands in the school compound. The school now boasts four classroom blocks, serving 500 children from lower to upper primary classes.

Many residents who have lived at the Kyangwali refugee settlement for about seven or eight years say they won’t return home to Congo until stability is assured.

Okoboi John Bosco, the head teacher at Coburwas, says the school has helped refugee children build new lives.

“Some of them, as early as this age of theirs now, they are talking of some early projects that they can venture in to help the community,” he said. “So I see there is already a big change that has taken place in their lives, and I think the long term change is yet to come as they pursue their studies. And I believe with such initiatives within the refugee settlements, the best can be achieved from these kids.

Ten-year-old Ketrashatrawori Ibambas, who is in primary six, wants to be a doctor “because the people in this community are suffering from cholera. And they are lacking doctors, so I need also to be a doctor so that I can be able to prevent any other diseases.”

The school may soon see more new students. A fresh wave of communal violence in the northeastern DRC has pushed tens of thousands of Congolese refugees into western Uganda this year. The U.N. says most of the new arrivals are women and children.

Women And Girls: Yes, Forced Child Marriages Happen in the US, Too #TimeIsNow #PressForProgress #SDGs #GlobalGoals

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When 15-year-old Maarib Al Hishmawi refused to marry, her parents beat her and threw hot oil on her.

On Jan. 30, 15-year-old Maarib Al Hishmawi walked out the doors of her high school in San Antonio, Texas, and vanished.

But she wasn’t playing hooky, she was seeking freedom and safety.

In the summer of 2017, Maarib’s parents told her they had arranged for her to marry a man who had offered them $20,000, investigators said. When the teenager refused to be forced into marriage, her parents reportedly beat her, choked her, and threw hot oil on her.

So Maarib stopped protesting, the Washington Post reported.

Once her parents believed that she had accepted her fate, they stopped abusing her, but Maarib had a bigger plan — one that she put into action on Jan. 30.

The FBI has since found the teenager, and she and her five siblings are in the custody of child protective services, while their parents were charged with abuse, according to the Washington Post. The family had moved to the US from Iraq two years ago, the Huffington Post reported.

Shocking as it may seem — Maarib is not alone.

Thousands of children across the US face pressure to enter forced child marriages every year, and most of them are girls, PBS Frontline reported. The nonprofit Unchained At Last estimates that nearly 250,000 children were married in the US between 2000 and 2010 — some as young as 10 years old, according to PBS Frontline.

To date, no state has banned child marriage, meaning that many children can be forced to marry someone before they are ready. While several states have set the minimum age of marriage at 18, legal loopholes in every state allow children to marry before then if their parents or a judge consents to the union, or if they are pregnant.

What’s not required in many of these cases is the child’s consent, meaning that children are being forced into marriages well before they are ready.

Arranged marriages are a common practice in some cultures and are not intrinsically harmful. But as soon as someone is asked to marry another person against their will, the marriage should no longer be considered arranged — it’s simply forced.

According to Unchained At Last, forced marriages are sometimes disguised as arranged marriages in the US. Precise numbers of children forced into marriages is difficult to determine, but the Tahirih Justice Center found 3,000 girls who were forced to marry, or suspected of being forced to marry, under threats of violence or ostracism between 2009 and 2010.

Despite efforts to end child marriage, bills recently proposed in Florida, Tennessee, and Kentucky have all failed to set the minimum age of marriage at 18 without exception. But activists remain hopeful that the US will soon see its first state-level ban on child marriage.