Women & Girls: This Woman Was Raped by a Family Member at 15 —& Now Fights for Children Who Have Survived Sexual Assault #SexualViolence #ForcedSex #SDGs #GlobalGoals

Brisa de Angulo is the CEO and founder of Breeze of Hope, and a survivor of sexual violence.

Survivors is a new series focusing on people who have lived through extremely difficult circumstances and come out the other side stronger and more determined than ever to help bring about change. These people are an inspiration, and exemplify just how strong the human spirit can be.

Brisa de Angulo is the CEO and founder of Breeze of Hope, a Bolivia-based nonprofit that works with children who have experienced sexual violence and incest. The organization has provided legal services, social assistance, therapy, and other services to more than 1,500 children in Bolivia since its foundation in 2004.

Bolivia has the highest rate of gender violence in Latin America, Huffington Post reports — and according to government statistics, 87% of women experience sexual violence from a family member. De Angulo herself experienced this form of abuse by a relative when she was a teenager.

This is her story. 


[When I was 15], a family member, who was also a youth pastor, came to live in my house and he started to sexually abuse me. Then he started raping me.

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There was a lot of intimidation and threats to keep silent.

So, I continued to be silent for many months — for eight months —  where he would repeatedly rape me almost daily, several times a day. He would threaten that if I didn’t allow him to rape me, he would rape my little siblings.

In that process, he also threatened that if someone found out what was happening, everything would collapse. [My parents] worked with children, human rights, women’s rights, and so he would use that as a threat, saying, ‘How would your parents feel that they’re trying to protect other people out there but in their own home I’m raping their own child?’

I knew that would have been devastating for my parents, and he used that to keep my silence.

I went into a very deep depression. I dropped out from school. I developed bulimia, and then I developed anorexia. I tried to commit suicide twice. My life was just going downhill. My parents had no idea what was happening, but it was devastating for them. They knew something was wrong, but they didn’t know what.

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In one of those suicide attempts, they found out what was happening and that’s when we decided to take my case to the judicial system. That’s when the second wave of our victimization started because everyone wanted to silence me. My house was set on fire twice. It was stoned. I was kidnapped, almost killed several times. There was a lot of intimidation from the judicial system, and from the community, because I was one of the first adolescents to take my case for rape to trial.

[The prosecutor] threatened to put me in jail if I continued to talk about what happened to me. The judges did not want to take my case. It jumped from one court to another — and they ended up sending my case to the agriculture court, where they deal with cases of animals and plants. I wasn’t even considered a human being.

I had to take my case several times to the constitutional court and I had to go through three trials because of all the mistakes that they made in the process, and on the third trial my aggressor escaped. And so he is a fugitive of justice and he’s being searched for by Interpol.

But in that process, I realized that I wasn’t alone — that there were a lot of girls who were going through what I was going through. There were a lot of children who were silently suffering in their own homes, the majority by family members or someone they know, and with no place to go. I had the support of my mom and dad and brothers and sisters, but most of these girls didn’t have anyone. I didn’t want them to go through what I went through.

So, I decided that I would use the rest of my life to try to make the process a little bit easier and safer for children. At age 17, I started the only program for children who have been sexually abused in the entire country of Bolivia. That was in 2004, and so far we have been able to provide free legal, social, and psychological services to over 1,500 children.

When we started, the conviction rate for sexual crimes was 0.2%, and from the hundreds of cases that we’ve taken we have a 95% conviction rate. So it’s totally gone the other way. And in the last three years, we’ve had a 100% conviction rate.

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We have lawyers take their cases all the way from the beginning to any appeals or anything that has to happen, and then we have a social worker that works with the families. We know that most of the children have a family that will intimidate them or try to keep them silent, so we work very hard with the social worker to make sure that the family has the knowledge and can provide the support that the [child] needs to continue the process of healing.

Then we also provide therapy, but our therapy process is very broad. We provide different types of therapy — art therapy, music therapy, yoga, meditation, play therapy, cognitive therapy — so that every child can find their own way of healing.

So it’s very child-centered. We’re a team dedicated to be there for the children and our advisory board is comprised only of children. They’re pretty much telling us what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, what they want to change. It’s a center where it’s pretty much driven by survivors.

When I started speaking up, 14 or 15 years ago, I was the only one speaking and it was very lonely. It’s very exciting to see other women to gain the control and shatter the silence and the conspiracy of silence and say, “Hey, we are here and we matter and this is what happened to us.”

I feel that most sexual abuse has been thrown under the rug, so even though a lot of us know that it’s happening, it’s not visible. We need to continue uniting voices and show that this is a big problem and put the shame where it belongs, not on the victim, but on the aggressor.

This battle has been happening for a very long time and the changes are very small and very short and sadly we have people in power who don’t see the need to really work on this. There are other more pressing needs in their minds: infrastructure, wars, whatever. Although there’s a lot of consciousness within society about the topic I think we’re still looking at many, many, many more years for actually seeing a dramatic change. It’s not just changing laws. It’s changing the whole conception of how we see the world, how we see children, how we see women.

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Until we change [and start] seeing them as human beings and respecting them and acknowledging them as subjects of human rights, the world is not going to change. We may change some laws and we may change some things, but when push comes to shove we’re going to fall into our old habits.

For me, to see that because of my efforts a child can get justice is extremely healing. There is nothing more rewarding and exciting than to see one of these children, who have been so broken, to have dreams again and smile again. I always tell people that if someone offered me a $10 million job, there’s no way I would take it, or even consider it, because there’s nothing in this world that can provide me with the joy and satisfaction of children smiling again and dreaming again.

We’ve created a society of wounded healers where it is our wounds that heal each other.

 

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Women And Girls: Twist! The Truth About the Secretive Practice of ‘FGM’ In Canada?! {SHOCKER} #InternationalWomensDay #PressOnProgress #TimeisNow #WomensDay

When Tasneem was a little girl — either 6 or 7, as far as she can remember — she was taken to the home of a woman she didn’t know, along with three other girls her age. They had been told they were going to a party.

The little girls sat waiting as, one by one, they were brought into a separate room to be cut.

“I just remember that each girl went into the room and it was so scary,” Tasneem told Global Citizen. “The actual process I don’t remember, maybe I’ve blocked it off or something, but I do remember going there with these friends and that happening.”

Tasneem is now a 55-year-old woman from Canada’s reformist/progressive Dawoodi Bohra community and a member of the Association of Progressive Dawoodi Bohra of Ontario (APDBO). She agreed to speak with Global Citizen, along with fellow member Zainub and Tasneem’s niece Khadija, under the condition of anonymity, about their experiences with cutting. Their names have been changed to protect their identities.

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Both Tasneem and Zainub underwent female genital mutilation in their home countries before coming to Canada. Now, they want FGM stopped.

“I remember very well,” Zainub said, interrupting the silence that fell after Tasneem finished her story.

Zainub is 58 years old. Originally from Kenya, she experienced FGM around the same age as Tasneem before coming to Canada too, both around the age of 9.

“I wasn’t told I was going to a party,” she chuckled. “I was kept home from school and I was alone.”

She paused.

“I remember the razor,” she said.

It would be years until either of the women would speak about this, to anyone.

“I do remember sitting…on the low stools on the floor, the stools are maybe about two inches high, and you sit there, I didn’t have any [pants] on…there were my mom and maybe two others there, one was a healer…and I just remember the razor and I remember it hurt — it hurt.”

And then, as a little girl, she sat in front of a coal stove, where she was told to wait to heal by the warmth of the fire.

“And then my mom said, ‘Don’t mention this to anyone’ and that was it.”

Just as their stories suggest, Tasneem and Zainub are not alone in their experiences.

More than 200 million women and girls have experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) around the world.

 

For many Canadians, FGM is a foreign term, a procedure not everyone knows about or cares to look into, unaware that it may be taking place in their own backyard.

FGM is exactly what it sounds like. It is the cutting of a little girl’s vagina — and that little girl’s age could range anywhere from infancy to 15 years old.

There are four types of FGM. Type I is called a clitoridectomy, which removes the clitoris. Type II is called an excision, which is the removal of the clitoris and the labia. Type III is an infibulation, this is a procedure that narrows the vaginal opening.

The last type, Type IV, refers to all other harmful procedures, including nicking, pricking, stretching, scraping, or using acid to mutilate parts of a girl’s genitals.

FGM is not a religious practice.

What it is, is an issue affecting women and girls in Canada and around the world.

Canadian girls are being taken out of the country to have it performed, and immigrants in the country are not being provided with support to cope with issues that may arise even years after FGM has taken place.

The State of FGM in Canada

The subject of FGM in Canada was thrown into the spotlight in the summer of 2017, when news broke about a 2016 study authored by anti-FGM organization Sahiyo . The study revealed that women had undergone the practice within Canadian borders.

The study surveyed 385 women around the world — primarily from the Dawoodi Bohra community — and found that of those women, 18 (5%) lived in Canada and had all undergone FGM, and two had had the procedure in Canada itself.

FGM was added to Canada’s Criminal Code in 1997 under Section 268 in the form of “aggravated assault.” Anyone involved in FGM can be charged — parents who willingly participate in or plan for the practice, for example. It is also illegal to take children out of the country to have the practice performed, a concept known as “vacation cutting.”

The Criminal Code indicates that any person who commits aggravated assault could face imprisonment for up to 14 years.

And yet — there has never been a criminal prosecution on FGM in Canada.

Still, there are other ways Canada has tried to respond to the problem of FGM outside of prosecution.

Canada announced a commitment of $650 million to sexual and reproductive health and rights in July 2017 — an investment that includes funding for initiatives to respond to sexual and gender-based violence, such as FGM.

Violence against women is addressed in Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence, and the government provides support for community organizations that address violence like FGM.

More specifically, the government granted $350,000 to Table de concertation pour les organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes , an organization working to raise awareness about FGM and support its survivors.

But aside from that, there is little support provided for FGM-specific initiatives, and no concrete research to gauge the actual number of cases in Canada.

The Government Response

The Canadian government announced in response to the Sahiyo study that it would look into FGM, according to an investigation by the Toronto Star.

In July 2017, an internal report from Canada Border Services Agency was leaked. It indicated that FGM practitioners were “almost certainly entering Canada” to engage in the practice, Global News reported.

Together, the series of reports showed that FGM was a serious and growing problem in Canada.

Around the same time, a working copy of Canada’s new citizenship guide was obtained by The Canadian Press and it no longer listed a warning against FGM as an illegal practice. The change sparked debate by Tory Immigration Critic Michelle Rempel, who brought it to the House of Commons and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself in November, 2017, and ultimately led Canada to reverse course .

In January, 2018, the federal government once again announced that the citizenship guide would include a warning against FGM , further proving its significance within Canada.

“We don’t have a lot of instances of prosecution because it’s a practice that happens in silence and one of the key ways to combat it is raising awareness,” Rempel  “One of the key deterrents is arming women with an understanding that the practice has no health benefits and that it’s not tolerated… And for me, the citizenship guide is an excellent opportunity to do that in Canada.”

The Minister of Health’s Office declined an interview on the subject of FGM in Canada, stating that FGM was a criminal issue and not related to health

The Prime Minister’s Office also declined an interview.

Célia Canon, press secretary for the Office of the Minister of Status of Women, provided a statement on behalf of her office, saying in December that “no final decisions” had been made about the wording in the guide.

The recent wavering over the citizenship guide reveals a major flaw in Canada’s approach to dealing with FGM: uncertainty over whether to even talk about it.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

“If we can’t even say this is wrong, how do help women that have had this happen to them?” Rempel asked, criticizing the silence surrounding FGM in Canada and around the world.

Approaching FGM in Canada requires a holistic response in the same way as other issues that only affect women, according to Rempel. That means dealing with the crime, but also the victim and other potential victims. Even if a practitioner is prosecuted and sent to jail, it doesn’t change the fact there were countless victims already, she explained.

“We failed to prevent it happening to them and then we have no way to support them in the aftermath,” Rempel said.

What it boils down to, whether it’s from an activist perspective or a political one, is the need to shine the light and spread awareness.

“How do we address this from a Canadian development or aid perspective if we’re not even going to talk about it at home?” Rempel asked.

Rempel suggests implementing a plan into Canada’s Strategy to Combat Gender-Based Violence, putting emphasis on this specific issue by creating a plan for awareness and outreach, including increased training for law enforcement officials, as well as general training on how to handle people who might report cases of FGM.

In her mind, there needs to be set ways for the Canadian healthcare system to support survivors.

“Criminalization plays a role, but not the only role”

“Criminalization plays a role but it doesn’t do justice to the whole process of having to abolish FGM,” said Sally Ogoe, a 28-year-old FGM scholar who grew up in Ghana and moved to Canada when she was 25 to complete her masters.

While in class one day, Ogoe was shocked to hear that there were instances of FGM in Canada. She had known about it back home, as it was a cultural practice that was discussed in school, but even there she had never known anyone who had experienced it. In school, her teachers had spoken of it as a practice to be abolished, a social issue that held the country back.

 

Upon hearing about FGM in Canada, Ogoe dove into the subject for her thesis and produced a paper about how criminalizing FGM failed to put an end to the practice , an idea echoed by others involved in FGM research.

“I think it has to be more than that because immigrants coming into the country have also their own cultural practices, they also have things that they identify with — how [some] people might see FGM might be different than those who have gone through it,” she said.

The threat of FGM in Canada was divulged in an email from Elaine Cukeric from the federal government’s Vulnerable Children’s Unit in June 2015 to a Canadian consular official in Nairobi, Kenya, as reported by the Toronto Star.

“Based on the limited information available, it is possible that a few thousand Canadian girls are at risk, some of whom will be taken overseas for the procedure,” Cukeric wrote.

Her unit was reaching out to Africa, the Middle East, India and Pakistan where FGM is widespread, asking for information on dealing with the practice.

Although difficult to track, cases do exist in Canada.

In fact, a friend of Tasneem’s took her Canadian daughter to the UK to undergo FGM decades ago, back in the 1970s. While there were no specific FGM laws then, the anecdote shows how long this cultural practice has been going on, secretly, among people living in Canada. And while she declined an interview, this serves as anecdotal evidence that vacation cutting is all too real.

“Criminalization plays a role, but not the only role,” Ogoe said.

While there are a number of reasons women might feel pressured to follow the ritual — in some communities, FGM is a cultural practice that acts as a sort of rite of passage that all girls go through, for others, it’s required for marriage — not all women want to participate in it or perpetuate it.

Criminalization can work as a support tool — an inarguable excuse for why not to go through with FGM —  for women who do not want to continue the practice with their daughters. The law steps in to back them up, and informs them of their rights in Canada, Ogoe explained.

But criminalization can also hamper efforts to eliminate FGM. Girls and women may fear getting their relatives in trouble or having to testify in court against their own parents.

“Nobody wants to subject a child to, you know, having to be a witness in front of a court…and to break up families,” Sahiyo cofounder Shaheeda Tavawalla-Kirtane said. “Somebody will have to go to jail, and somebody will have to testify…”

And then, of course, there’s the added factor that many of these cases are not reported, thus making it hard to penalize.

This is an idea that was addressed in the Office of the Minister of Status of Women’s statement too.

Canon, the office’s press secretary, explained the complex nature of addressing FGM in the statement, saying that the people affected are from varied backgrounds and could already be marginalized as immigrants or due to poverty.

She explained that victims and those at risk could be reluctant to reach out for support.

However, criminalization can be an effective deterrent.

“I almost think a certain amount of fear is good so that they don’t even think about doing it,” Zainub said. “The example in Australia was really good and I think that will deter a lot of people…in all countries, because that awareness is very much there, I think, within the community now.”

The example she is referring to is Australia’s first female genital mutilation trial and conviction, where two young girls from the Dawoodi Bohra Shia Muslim community testified. A former midwife, their mother and a Dawoodi Bohra community leader were sentenced to a maximum of 15 months in prison.

But aside from instilling fear, Zainub stressed that punitive action is not the best way to help with the elimination of FGM.

“Other than this event, there was nothing wrong with my upbringing or my family or the whole family environment or anything like that,” she explained. “In my case if my mother had been, you know, apprehended or…jailed or something, [it] would have been completely unfair to her…She’s a wonderful mother and she did nothing wrong really.”

Zainub’s mother was, as many other mothers, just doing what she thought was right. FGM is often carried out by women in the community, who believe it to be the right thing to do.

“It’s the older generation, they just did what they were told… They didn’t know any better,” Tasneem said.

Zainub, Tavawalla-Kirtane, and Tasneem all stressed the importance of education and awareness in ending the practice of FGM.

“I don’t know why it’s done to be honest, in our community, I really don’t,” Zainub said. “Other than just control and keeping certain rituals…because it’s a very exclusive community and they try to keep a lot of secrets…so this is another way of keeping it all…it’s just a form of control really.”

Working with The Community

This idea of “not talking about it” is a big one, and not just in Canada.

Prior to the conversation for this reporting piece, Tasneem and Zainub had not even told one another about their experiences with FGM.

“It’s not discussed openly. In fact, some of my girlfriends have just talked about it last year, and they said it was the first time,” Zainub said.

But now, Tasneem said the conversation is more open within their community and she’s spoken to the men in her family about it too.

“I was talking to my husband and he goes, ‘You know what, I didn’t even know this thing existed,” she said. “Frankly, I never told him!”

Tasneem said as the women in her community become more progressive, they are having more and more conversations about FGM.

“We’re able to talk about it because it’s wrong. And it needs to be stopped,” she said.

These conversations are doing more than just opening dialogue. They are helping put an end to the practice for good.

Now 25, Tasneem’s niece, Khadija, was born in Canada. She’s also part of the APDBO, but she did not undergo FGM like her aunt did because her mother put an end to the practice.

“One of the things you have to remember is, in our culture…the older generation says something, and the younger generation listens,” Tasneem said.

“So with my sister when she had her kids…If my mom had told my sister, ‘Look you have to do this, because it’s required by our religion…I’m not sure my sister could have refused,” Tasneem explained.

But once her mom understood that FGM was not required under Islam, she was completely against it, Tasneem said.

This meant that her grandchild, Khadija, was never subjected to FGM in Canada or taken abroad.

As with Khadija, Tavawalla-Kirtane was spared the pain as well, as her mother became a staunch activist against FGM.

“My mom was not only able to tell my relatives, ‘Don’t do it [to me],’ but able to encourage a few members of my family to not do it to their daughters…She was able to bring about that change,” Tavawalla-Kirtane said.

With Sahiyo, Tavawalla-Kirtane works to empower communities with information about FGM. She talks about the harms associated with the practice and tries to convince them to abandon it altogether.

The organization works with anyone who might be involved — cutters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, men — to explain the lack of health benefits and to reverse the societal pressure some might feel to carry it out.

“It is kind of ironic,” she said, “It’s a patriarchal practice that is…pushed forward by the women in the family.”

And that is why talking about FGM is so important.

Zainub and Tasneem’s mothers both said they wouldn’t have put their children through FGM had they known better at the time.

And Khadija and Tavawalla-Kirtane are perfect examples of how new generations are using awareness as a huge deterrent of FGM — their mothers put an end to the practice by choosing not to have them cut.

Having said that, it is very important to note that this is this still happening, all around the world, and for some, it seems like an non-negotiable ritual.

Zainub and Tasneem’s families were both excommunicated from the mainstream Dawoodi Bohra communities in their home countries for being outspoken.

“The mainstream, they basically try and control everything you do, and they were wanting to control all the affairs…[of] the community as well,” Tasneem explained.

Some of the people in Kampala, including Tasneem’s parents, decided they had had enough and they separated from the mainstream. When Tasneem’s family came to Canada, they were asked to join the mainstream, but her parents had strong beliefs and values and so opted against joining.

As more people arrived in Canada, the progressive community grew to become the group it is today. Formally the association was set up in 1985, but before that groups would get together for events and special occasions.

But the women explained that many people are put under pressure to conform and listen to the community leaders telling them what’s best, and that can mean performing FGM.

“I think the root cause is the amount of control this community and the leaders have on the community — the hold,” Zainub said.

“Even today it happens everywhere, even in this country,” Zainub said. “They still use this excommunication, they still use that tool,’ You should do this, you should wear certain clothes…’ and they know that people are fearful, our friends who stayed within the mainstream, they’ll say, ‘Yeah we understand everything is going wrong, but you know I have to stay within, otherwise I will be broken away from my community, from my family.'”

Emphasizing Citizenship

Zainub, Tasneem, Tavawalla-Kirtane, and Ogoe all said that one intervention that can help in preventing FGM is an emphasis on Canadian citizenship.

Dr. Gillian Einstein, faculty member in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto, found in a research study of 14 Somali women who were cut that all considered “wanting to be Canadians” as a reason for putting an end to the practice of FGM in their families.

(Einstein refers to the practice as female genital cutting, or FGC, in order to avoid the implication of the word “mutilation,” she said. Her research focuses specifically on the neurological effects of the procedure and she does not pointedly discuss the practice from a cultural perspective — but because she has worked so closely with these women, she’s been part of broader conversations.)

When women feel part of Canadian culture, and want to identify as Canadian, they are less likely to want to perpetuate FGM, Einstein found.

“And realizing that they’re part of this culture, and that in this culture they don’t have to do it,” she said.

To that effect, Einstein points out that having FGM outlined in the citizenship guide was probably really useful for newcomers because of this.

Putting an End to FGM Using A “Canadian Approach”

Admittedly, FGM in Canada is not an easy issue to tackle. Data and analysis is lacking, but so too is awareness.

“Research in itself is not that simple. What are you going to do, for every practicing community are you going to check a child, to see if they got it done or not done, how do you interview them? Is it the government’s right to interview children and parents, and ask them whether they got it done?” Tavawalla-Kirtane said.

It also cannot just be about criminalization and citizenship. The country needs to focus its efforts on improving support for survivors and families, as well as improving education on FGM in Canada — and not just from the standpoint of what it is.

Professionals need to be trained to address it when it’s reported, teachers need to be trained to spot a child who may be at risk or who has already undergone it, medical professionals need to be prepped on how to sensitively care for someone who experienced FGM.

But for right now, a step in the right direction is the inclusion of a warning on FGM as a crime in Canada’s citizenship guide, and focusing on urging world leaders to enact and support the implementation of laws that protect girls and criminalize FGM. Help end this harmful practice for good.

Clean Water And Sanitation: The Trump Administration Just Made a Decisive Step to Provide Safe Water And Sanitation Globally

Proving that collective action matters more than ever

Despite the rise of isolationist rhetoric on American soil, the US government is showing that global water remains a strong national priority — very welcome news for some of the most vulnerable citizens on the planet

In 2014, the Water for the World Act recognized the importance of water, sanitation, and hygiene, requiring the creation of a Global Water Strategy by 2017. On Nov. 17, only one month behind the statutory deadline, USAID and the State Department released the whole-of-government Global Water Strategy.

The Global Water Strategy tackles key risks presented by lack of adequate WASH (water and sanitation health), including the many related health problems from neglected tropical diseases, stunting, diarrhea, and other issues.

The strategy is guided by four primary objectives: increasing sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation services, and the adoption of effective hygiene behaviors; encouraging the sound management and protection of freshwater resources; promoting cooperation on shared waters; and strengthening water-sector governance, financing, and institutions. The US will focus its efforts on countries that seem to have the best opportunities, as outlined in the original 2014 legislation.

This strategy is a collective and comprehensive vision for global water security, developed through the efforts of over 17 US government agencies and departments, along with input from both the public and private sectors. It marks a crucial step forward in ensuring that all global citizens have access to lifesaving water and sanitation.

Water security is essential to disease prevention, economic growth, and state security. In the words of the Global Water Strategy, “Water is an entry point to advance core democratic values around equality, transparency, accountability, women’s empowerment, and community organization.”

And the report is right. Any and all global issues that we face necessarily include a fight for the basic human right of clean water for all, a cause that Mordi Ibe Foundation campaigns on. 

As US President Donald Trump said:

“Water may be the most important issue we face for the next generation.”

Clean Water & Sanitation: Doctors Finally Acknowledge Period Pain Is as PAINFUL as a ‘HEART ATTACK’ #ItsBloodyTime #EndoMetriosis #Endo DEAR MEN LISTEN!!! No Jokes

An article in which a male doctor called period pain “almost as bad as having a heart attack” is going viral on social media and raising an important question from women around the world:

Why didn’t you listen to us before?

In the original article, published by Quartz two years ago, University College London reproductive health professor John Guillebaud said cramping pain is as “almost as bad as having a heart attack.

When the article resurfaced on social media, women responded with a mixture of anger that it took a man’s statement to legitimize their concerns and relief that their symptoms might be taken more seriously.

The article also prompted a column in Marie Claire, which acknowledged the doctor for accurately depicting dysmenorrhea — the clinical term for menstrual cramps — but decried the need for a man to validate and confirm women’s experiences.

“Although we know that [period pain] can feel like you’re being repeatedly punched in the stomach from the inside out, explaining this to other people (read: generally men) can feel like a lost cause,” wrote columnist George Driver. “Ignoring women’s pain has been a concerning medical practice for, well, forever, with research showing that doctors generally take it less seriously than men’s.”

Around the world, at least 20% of women and girls experience dysmenorrhea painful enough to disrupt their daily life and as many as 176 million women experience endometriosis, a painful affliction where tissue typically found in the uterus grows on other female reproductive organs and peels.

But, the Independent reports, there has been little research related to period pain, which means doctors often ignore or discount women’s complaints.

Women on social media have compared their period pain to childbirth or like a “blender is slowly ripping my insides to pieces.”

But it seems that, finally, men are starting to listen.

Clean Water & Sanitation: 23 Countries With Best and Worst Water Supplies (2016 list) let’s go! Will water be the cause of WWIII?

In Afghanistan, only 13 percent of the population has access to clean water.

Only 2.5 percent of the world’s water is fresh, drinkable water. Every year, snow melts off mountain peaks and runs into rivers, which feed into lakes. This water accounts for such a small percentage of earth’s surface — it’s no wonder wars have been waged over water, and some speculate water will be the cause of WWIII.

These renewable sources are vital to all life on earth. Unfortunately, water as a renewable source is not distributed equally. Small island nations and arid countries have to import bottled water from other water rich countries or invest in expensive infrastructure such as desalinization plants.

Other options in water-scarce regions often fall on the shoulders of the world’s most vulnerable populations, like girls with limited access to education. Girls and women in arid countries, like Afghanistan — where only 13 percent of the population has access to clean water — spend countless hours missing school to collect water.

Here is a list of some of the world’s most water-abundant and water-deprived countries, according to the World Bank and United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization’s most recent data.

Best

1. Brazil

2. Russia

3. Canada

4. Indonesia

5. China

6. Colombia

7. United States

8. Peru

9. India

10. Myanmar

Worst

All of the “worst” countries have no renewable fresh water sources. As less fresh water is available to people around the world, helping small countries like the sixteen listed invest in the latest innovative infrastructure to access clean water is key to breaking the cycles of poverty.

Many of these countries rely almost completely on importing bottled water, at a high cost for both citizens and the environment. Technology to clean water improves every day, especially with creative youth working to make change . Let’s share this technology, to increase water wealth throughout the world.

However, it’s not just about looking at the countries without their own sources of water. Countries abundant in water must also be held responsible at a global level to keep the world’s water clean.

1. Bahrain

2. Kuwait

3. St. Kitts and Nevis

4. Maldives

5. Malta

6. Antigua and Barbuda

7. Qatar

8. Barbados

9. United Arab Emirates

10. Grenada

11. Dominica

12. Cape Verde

13. Djibouti

Reduced inequalities: Yes, Slavery Still Exists — These Countries Are the Worst Offenders. {Shocker!}

The cover story in the latest issue of the Atlantic is a personal history titled “My Family’s Slave.”

The author, Alex Tizon, goes on to chronicle just that — how his mother in the Philippines was gifted a slave when she was 15, how she brought that slave with her to the United States, and how that slave remained a slave for his mother’s entire life, working all day and night without pay, unable to have a social life and enduring endless abuse.

The story is harrowing in its candid exploration of one slave’s experience and its description of how one family managed to normalize slavery through profound denial

But it’s also a disturbing reminder of how slavery still exists all around the world.

Globally, there are an estimated 45.8 million slaves, a greater number than at any other time in history, according to The Global Slavery Index. The refugee crisis currently roiling the world is also fueling the market for child slavery .

Slavery takes many forms, but sexual, labor-based, and human trafficking are the primary modes.

Here are the five countries that hold 58% of the world’s slavery population.  

*INDIA

Total slave estimate: 18,354,700

Rate of slavery: 1.4% of population

Top forms of slavery: Agriculture, bonded labor, domestic work, and sex work.

“There are many people in the village who were working with me as a bonded labor,” said one survey respondent for The Global Slavery Index. “I was physically and sexually assaulted when I was working in the field. I had also threat on my life and on my family. I was also threatened that I had to leave the village.”

*PAKISTAN

Total slave estimate: 2,134,900

Rate of slavery: 1.13% of population

Top form of slavery: Bonded labor for industries such as brick making. More than 20,000 brick kilns operate in rural Pakistan, preying on illiterate and desperate laborers who get trapped in illegal debt programs. If the laborer dies, his or her children are forced to assume the debt load and get trapped in slavery.

*BANGLADESH

Total slave estimate: 1,531,300

Rate of slavery: .95% of population

Top forms of slavery: Men are forced into labor, and women are forced into marriage. Oftentimes, men are captured, drugged, beaten, and enslaved, where they are then sold off as temporary workers. Forced marriage, meanwhile, often entails a life of abuse and poverty.

*CHINA

Total slave estimate: 3,388,400

Rate of slavery: .25%

Top forms of slavery: Sexual slavery and other forms of forced labor. The gender imbalance caused by China’s now-defunct one-child policy creates a demand for foreign brides who are forced into marriage. Because the women are often illegally in the country, they have little legal recourse. Further, there is widespread societal support for this system.

*Uzbekistan

Total slave estimate: 1,236,600

Rate of slavery: 3.97%

Top forms of slavery: Forced labor. Each harvest season, the government forces tens of thousands of people into cotton fields.

International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation #FGM #SDGs #FemaleGenitalMutilation

What is FGM?

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a practice that involves altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons, and it is internationally recognized as a human rights violation. Globally, it is estimated that 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM. Although FGM is declining in the majority of countries where it is prevalent, most of these are also experiencing a high rate of population growth – meaning that the number of girls who undergo FGM will continue to grow if efforts are not significantly scaled up.

To promote the abandonment of FGM, coordinated and systematic efforts are needed, and they must engage whole communities and focus on human rights and gender equality. They must also address the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences.

UNFPA, jointly with UNICEF, leads the largest global programme to accelerate the abandonment of FGM. The programme currently focuses on 17 African countries and also supports regional and global initiatives.

FGM refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external  female genitalia or other injury the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is a deeply entrenched social and cultural norm in many places.

The practice can cause short- and long-term health complications, including chronic pain, infections, increased risk of HIV transmission, anxiety and depression, birth complications, infertility and, in the worst cases, death.  It is internationally recognized as an extreme violation of the rights of women and girls.

In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the first-ever resolution against female genital mutilation, calling for intensified global efforts to eliminate the practice. In 2015, FGM was included in the Sustainable Development Goals under Target 5.3, which calls for the elimination of all harmful practices.

Yet FGM remains widespread. In 2015, an estimated 3.9 million girls were cut. And because of population growth, this number is projected to rise to 4.6 million girls in the year 2030, unless efforts to end FGM are intensified. If FGM continues at the current rates, an estimated 68 million girls will be cut between 2015 and 2030 in 25 countries where FGM is routinely practiced and relevant data are available.

Why is FGM still practiced?

In every society where it is practiced, FGM is a manifestation of deeply entrenched gender inequality. It persists for many reasons. In some societies, for example, it is considered a rite of passage. In others, it is seen as a prerequisite for marriage. In some communities – whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim – the practice may even be attributed to religious beliefs.

Because FGM may be considered an important part of a culture or identity, it can be difficult for families to decide against having their daughters cut. People who reject the practice may face condemnation or ostracism, and their daughters are often considered ineligible for marriage. As a result, even parents who do not want their daughters to undergo FGM may feel compelled to participate in the practice.

Encouraging abandonment

Collective abandonment, in which a whole community chooses to no longer engage in FGM, is an effective way to end the practice. It ensures that no single girl or family will be disadvantaged by the decision. Many experts hold that FGM will only end through collective abandonment.

The decision to collectively abandon FGM requires a process in which communities are educated about FGM, and then discuss, reflect and reach consensus on the issue. The health and human rights aspects of FGM should feature prominently in these dialogues, and local and grassroots organizations should play an important role in raising awareness and educating communities.

fgm1

When communities choose to abandon the practice, they often participate in a collective public declaration to keep their girls uncut, such as signing and circulating a public statement or hosting festivities to celebrate the decision. Neighbouring communities are often invited to these events so they can see the successful process of abandonment, helping to build momentum for collective abandonment elsewhere.

Medicalization

About 1 in 5 girls who have been subjected to FGM had the procedure performed by a trained medical professional. In some countries, this number is as high as 3 in 4 girls.

FGM can never be “safe” and there is no medical justification for the practice. Even when the procedure is performed in a sterile environment and by a health care professional, there can be serious health consequences immediately and later in life. Medicalized FGM gives a false sense of security. Trained health professionals who perform female genital mutilation are violating girls’ and women’s right to life, right to physical integrity and right to health. They are also violating the fundamental medical mandate to “do no harm,” and it represents a threat to efforts to abandon the practice.

UNFPA is working to mobilize health workers, including midwives, to resist social pressure to perform FGM, and serve as advocates for prevention and protection in the communities they serve.

What UNFPA is doing?

In 2008, UNFPA and UNICEF established the Joint Programme on FGM, the largest global programme to accelerate abandonment of FGM and to provide care for its consequences. This programme works at the community, national, regional and global levels to raise awareness of the harms caused by FGM and to empower communities, women and girls to make the decision to abandon it.

Now in its third phase of implementation, the Joint Programme has helped more than 3.2 million girls and women receive protection against FGM and specialized care services. Some 31.6 million people in more than 21,700 communities in 15 countries with high FGM prevalence have made public declarations to abandon the harmful practice. And the Joint Programme helped 17 governments set up national FGM response mechanisms. Following intensive capacity development initiatives, there have been more than 900 cases of legal enforcement to date.

UNFPA also helps strengthen health services to prevent FGM and to treat the complications it can cause. UNFPA also works with civil society organizations that engage in community-led education and dialogue sessions on the health and human rights aspects of the practice. The Fund works with religious and traditional leaders to de-link FGM from religion and to generate support for abandonment. And UNFPA also works with media to foster dialogue about the practice and to change perceptions of girls who remain uncut.

With the support of UNFPA and other UN agencies, many countries have passed legislation banning FGM – including, in 2015, Nigeria and The Gambia – and developed national policies to achieve its abandonment.

Meet Our Founder: Www.JoelMordi.Com

The Mordi Ibe Foundation campaigns on the Global Goals, including Goal No.5, for gender equality. including an end in discrimination and sexual violence against women.

Partnerships For the Goals: Women, Transgender, Queer, Indigenous, and All Oppressed People Need to Come Together to FIGHT HATE, Say Activists

The feminist movement needs to forge relationships with all oppressed people — including transgender, queer, and indigenous populations — to form intersectional alliances.

Activists and campaigners have on Thursday come together to call for collaboration between all movements that demand social change.

“There’s a rise of the right-wing, hate is the new common sense,” Indian lawyer and human rights activist Vrinda Grover, told the audience during a panel discussion on re-assessing women’s rights at the Thomson Reuters Foundation Trust conference in London.

“There is nothing like a common enemy to strengthen the relationships between those who are oppressed,” asserted another panel member, Colombian reproductive rights consultant Monica Roa. “This is the time to come together to connect the dots.”

Bahrain human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja agreed, saying: “We need to have intersectionality in our struggles.”

The diverse panel included people fighting for women’s rights from the US, Bahrain, India, and Latin America, and spanned a vast range of issues — including child marriage, family planning, and domestic violence — and how we can come together to move forward in these areas.

“People don’t know what a big problem child marriage is in America,” said panellist Fraidy Reiss, the founder of Unchained at Last, the only non-profit in the US dedicated to helping women escape or resist arranged and forced marriages.

Read more: Child Marriage in America NOT AS RARE AS YOU THINK!

“In just the 38 states that actually track marriage ages, more than 160,000 children, some as young as 10, were married, and almost all were married to adult men,” Reiss continued. “I thought legislators just didn’t know. But that’s not the case unfortunately. They do know. What’s preventing these laws from passing is very simple. It’s misogyny.”

“If you can solve misogyny, you can figure out how to end child marriage in America,” she said. “The entire world needs to end child marriage.” 

Reiss also highlighted the “hypocrisy” of the US “telling the rest of the world to end child marriage,” through reports such as a Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls — a report launched in March 2016.

“The report defined marriage before 18 as a human rights abuse, and shook its finger at the rest of the world saying they were forcing girls into adulthood before they were ready,” said Reiss. “And at the same time, it’s legal in all 50 states in the US. Twenty-five states don’t even set a minimum age for marriage. And that puts the US in line with Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.”

While most US states have set 18 as the legal marriage age, every state has loopholes that still allow for children under 18 to get married — for example, in the case of pregnancy, or with parental approval.

The panel also discussed the recent law change in Saudi Arabia that will all women to legally drive in the country as of next year.

“A lot of people are applauding Saudi Arabia for giving women the right to drive in 2018,” said Al-Khawaja. “But driving is not the biggest issue. It’s only the very tip of the iceberg.”

She added: “They’ve done it the way they do everything else. There was no awareness campaign. There was no attempt the change the social construct that they’re created. [There was nothing to ensure] that women in Saudi Arabia are not going to be attacked by their spouses, by their family, by their community, for driving.”

Al-Khawaja said the biggest problem for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia is the guardianship system — which dictates that women must be accompanied by a male guardian such as their husband, father, brother, or even son, in order to apply for a passport, travel outside the country, get married, exit prison, or access healthcare.

Read more: Proposed Iraq Law Would Allow Girls as Young as 9 to Marry

As well as calling for greater intersectionality between movements, the panellists said that a greater presence of women is needed in the human rights arena.

“We need more female legislators,” said Reiss, “more people like [murdered British MP] Jo Cox. And we need to not let the small things go, but to keep pushing and keep pointing out misogyny and patriarchy wherever we see it and never give up.” 

Al-Khawaja reiterated the point, saying: “We need to change our discourse around women. We say, women took part in the revolution, they joined the protest, as though they’re not naturally meant to be there on the frontline.”

“Women human rights defenders are some of the strongest, most inspirational women I have ever met,” she continued. “They do not need saving. They need support, they need to be heard, and recognised for the heroes that they are.”

The Thomson Reuters Foundation Trust Conference is a two-day conference on human rights, particularly addressing the issues of modern slavery and re-assessing the rights of women and girls.

Meet Our Founder: Www.JoelMordi.Com

The Mordi Ibe Foundation campaigns on the Global Goals, including Goal No.5, for gender equality.

 

 

Women & Girls: Manchester Bombing Was An Attack on Women and Girls, Says Leading UK Prosecutor

One of the UK’s leading prosecutors has spoken out about the “50 shades of violence” faced by women and girls both in Britain and around the world.

Nazir Afzal, the former chief executive of the association of police and crime commissioner (APCC) for England and Wales, campaigns “openly and tirelessly” for women’s rights — prosecuting honour killings, acid attacks, and human trafficking to name a few.

And on Thursday, he said that only by eliminating violence against women can we eliminate violence from our societies.

“We have to recognise that if we eliminate attacks on women and girls, we can keep ourselves safe from terrorism and other criminality,” Afzal told the audience at the Thomson Reuters Foundation Trust Conference in London, citing the attack on the Manchester Arena during an Ariana Grande concert in May.

“That was a concert by a female artist, that young women attended,” he said. “That was an attack on women and girls.” 

Following the attack, Afzal said that he wanted to speak out publicly, as a Muslim man he felt that it was his duty to address the issue.

But when the board of the APCC advised him against appearing on the BBC topical debate show “Question Time”, he stepped down from his position as chief executive in protest in order to appear on the programme.

Read more: Proposed Iraq Law Would Allow Girls as Young as 9 to Marry

“It’s important to recognise that nobody should stop you from speaking up, no one should tell you that you can’t say something,” he told the audience. 

Afzal pointed out the possible irony of a man speaking at a conference on re-addressing the rights of women and girls. But, he said, that’s how it should be, that men need to be a part of the conversation.

“We [men] are the bloody problem. We need to understand what it is that we are doing, and what we can do to make women throughout the world safer,” he said. 

“There is no community in the world where women and girls are safe. This is all about control and power. Men don’t want to share power,” he added.

Read more: These 2 Issues Are the Main Obstacles in the Fight to End Modern Slavery, Campaigners Say

Afzal listed just a few of the dozens of types of violence that women and girls around the world face on a daily basis: infanticide, FGM, child and early marriage.

“You name it, we will do it you,” he continued. “We have more than one acid attack a day in this country, and invariably they are women being attacked. That is not third-world, developing country stuff, that is the UK. And that’s because men think they can do it, that they can get away with it.” 

Afzal has supervised the prosecution of the perpetrators of more honour killings than anyone else in the world, and said that he was “honoured” that victims felt able to tell him what their attackers had done to them.

“Ultimately this is about misogyny. Men deliberately confuse masculinity with misogyny. They think that being violent makes us masculine.

He said that finding a solution is “about tackling the root causes of this behaviour, and that is patriarchy and misogyny.” 

But he said that these issues aren’t only the underlying causes of the initial violence, but are also the underlying causes in a lack of justice for female victims.

“When a woman makes an allegation, she’s asked what were you wearing, why were you in that room, why didn’t you report it sooner,” he said, referring to the escalating reports of sexual assault everywhere from Hollywood to the House of Commons. “That is misogyny. That is patriarchy. And that is the obstacle that we have to overcome.” 

 

Read more: This Heroic BBC Presenter Rescued a 13-Year-Old Schoolgirl From FGM in Kenya

“I believe in human rights,” Afzal continued, “the rule of law, that each and every one of us has the same rights as the person next to us, and we should not tolerate anything that diminishes that.” 

“Too many men think they can get away with this, and too many men do get away with this,” he said. “But [finding a solution] starts with believing and acting upon your belief. Not simply going away and thinking, somebody else will deal with it.” 

The Thomson Reuters Foundation Trust Conference is a two-day conference on human rights, particularly addressing the issues of modern slavery and re-assessing the rights of women and girls

Meet Our Founder: Www.JoelMordi.Com

The Mordi Ibe Foundation campaigns on the Global Goals, including Goal No.5, for gender equality. which campaigns to achieve equal rights for women and girls worldwide.

 

Environment & Climate Action: 15,372 Scientists Just Signed a Letter Calling Climate Change Impact ‘Catastrophic’

”Earth with all its life is our only home”

More than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries released a letter earlier this week warning about the escalating dangers of climate change.

The letter is meant to reaffirm another letter signed by more than 1,700 scientists 25 years ago. The nearly 10-fold increase in signatories illustrates the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change and the urgency that is needed to address it.

“Since 1992, with the exception of stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse,” wrote the authors of “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” which was published in the journal Bioscience

The scientists go on to enumerate the many ways that the environment is deteriorating. The burning of fossil fuels, industrial agriculture, and deforestation are the primary drivers of climate change and ecological decline, but overpopulation, growth-focused economies, pollution, overfishing and hunting of threatened species, and more, are all playing a role.

A sixth extinction has already begun, the scientists warn, and unless scientific advice is heeded, “many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.”

To reverse these grim trends, the group makes it clear that governments have to act fast. The only way that will happen, they write, is through overwhelming public pressure.

“To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual,” the letter says. “This prescription was well articulated by the world’s leading scientists 25 years ago, but in most respects, we have not heeded their warning.”

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The Mordi Ibe Foundation campaigns on the Global Goals, including Goal No.1, No poverty and .Goal 13, Climate Action. MIF helps create public pressure on a range of issues connected to extreme poverty

The letter points to the regeneration of the ozone layer as a sign that the world can come together to protect the planet.

The global decline in extreme poverty is another reminder that astounding things can be accomplished through political action, according to the scientists.

The best hope for action may be through the Paris climate agreement, which is the first-ever global arrangement for fighting climate change.


There are several key actions that can be taken on a collective scale to improve the environment and slow climate change, the letter argues.

Restoring marine, terrestrial, and aerial environments, retaining natural forests and grasslands, reducing food waste, and rewilding areas will help animal and plant populations recover and increase carbon absorption by the natural world.

The scientists also urge the widespread adoption of plant-based diets to prevent pollution and resource-depletion from the meat industry.

Reducing fertility rates, divesting from fossil fuels, investing in green technologies, and reducing inequality are other critical components of climate action, the letter argues.

“Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out,” the letter concludes. “We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.”