Women And Girls: 7 Feminist Laws Iceland Has That the World Needs #feminist #feminism #globalgoals #sdgs


By a lot of measures, Iceland is the best place to be a woman. Iceland starts gender equality lessons in preschool. The country has not just one, but three, laws protecting women at work. Sick of media, treating women as sex objects? That doesn’t fly in Iceland, where a law bans gender discriminatory advertising. Plus, the country was the first to ban strip clubs for feminist reasons.

Overall, the Nordic country has a near perfect score on the gender-equality scale. For eight years, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report ranked Iceland No. 1 on its list of countries actively closing gaps in gender equality. In 2009, Iceland became the first country to completely close the gender gap in education and health. And in 2016, Iceland was 87% of the way to closing the gender gap in all sectors.


Clearly, Iceland is leading the way, so what are the policies and standards in place that the rest of the world is looking up to?

Here are seven laws and standard practices that support women’s rights, and penalize gender discrimination.

1. Women’s Equality Is Literally Protected by Law 

The Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men is the reason gender equality is a hallmark of Icelandic culture. The law, established in 2000, was revamped in 2008 with the overarching goal of reaching equal rights through all paradigms of society. This law includes information on gender equality for government and businesses to follow.

Within the law there are nine defined areas of gender discrimination. It identifies differences between indirect and direct gender discrimination, acknowledges gaps in wages, and recognizes that gender-based violence is detrimental to society.

The law draws out a roadmap to achieving gender equality, even including language on changing negative gender stereotypes. Within the law are 35 articles outlining specific policies on everything from outlawing gender discrimination in schoolbooks and the workplace to buying goods and services.

2. ‘Equal Pay For Equal Work’ Is Mandatory, Almost

When Icelanders found out it would be another 122 years before they closed the gender pay gap at the current rate, that was unacceptable. Lawmakers took action, announcing on International Women’s Day that Iceland would require companies to prove they pay employees equal rates for equal work, or pay the fine.

Parliament is expected to pass the bill becoming the first country to make gender wage discrimination illegal. After passing, the government expects the law to roll into effect by 2020 in an effort to close the gender wage gap.

Currently women make between 14-18% less than men. But the country is soon to ending the last bit of gender inequality in the workplace.

“We want to break down the last of the gender barriers in the workplace,” said Thorsteinn Viglundsson, Iceland’s social affairs and equality minister. “History has shown that if you want progress, you need to enforce it.”

3. Companies’ Boards Must Include At Least 40% Women


After the shocking corruption and financial collapse in 2009, the government made an effort to include more women in seats of power to reduce corruption. They also prosecuted those responsible for the financial crisis, unlike in the US.

Article 15 of the Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men states that no public company board or government council or committee may have less than 40% gender equality.

The law also states that any company with more than 25 employees must have a gender equality program in place, which will review goals every three years.

 4. Best Parental Leave Policy in the World 

Iceland has the best maternity/paternity policy in the world. The official law, created in 2000, is known as the Icelandic Act on Maternity/Paternity and Parental Leave. The law itself was amended in 2006 increasing parental leave from six to nine months. The government covers parental leave for birth, adoption, and foster care for all employees in Iceland, even those who are self-employed paying 80% of earned salary to new parents. Parents split the time of leave equally to ensure children grow up with equal care from both parents, and workplaces are balanced. The policy is truly the gold standard of parental care.

5. From Preschool to College, Kids Learn Gender Equality Matters  

After kids grow up with equal time from parents, gender equality lessons don’t stop. Article 23 of the Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men mandates that gender equality must be taught in schools throughout all levels of education.

That means from early education through university, which is free, all sports, classes, and forms of schooling must include and practice gender equality. Iceland has no time for sexist books or assignments either.

The law states: “educational materials and textbooks shall be designed in such a way as not to discriminate against either sex.” So you would never see an assignment, like the school in Utah, which forced girls to go on dates with male classmates, telling girls to “keep it to yourself” if they feel fat.

6. Paying For Sex Is Illegal. Stripclubs Are Illegal. Prostitutes Are Victims. 

Paying for sex is illegal in Iceland. It has been for decades. The difference, however, is in 2007 the government amended the law arguing that most people who turn to soliciting sex have no other option or were coerced by others.

So instead of penalizing victims of poor circumstances who are often forced into prostitution, the law places criminalization on those who pay for sex, and third parties involved.

The country also banned stripclubs in 2009 for feminist reasoning. The revised law states no business may profit from nudity of employees. The law passed with full support in parliament.

“It is not acceptable that women or people in general are a product to be sold,” said Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir who proposed the ban on strip clubs.

This applies to public advertising too. No ad may belittle any gender or go against the country’s fierce mission to achieve gender equality.

7. There Is a Magical ‘Ministry of Gender Equality’ 

Ironically, the caveat to achieving gender equality for Nordic countries is taking it for granted.

“Our biggest challenge is taking equality for granted. We relax too much. We think everything is done for good. This worries me,” said Gro Bruntland, Norway’s first female prime minister.

Fortunately, in Iceland, there’s a ministry to complacency on gender equality.  The ministry of gender equality, as in Harry Potter, is magic. But unlike the fictional novel, this ministry is real.

The country created agency to check and balance progress on advancing equality as part of a revisions to the Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men. The agency includes a three part council which includes the Equal Status Council, the Complaints Committee, and a new Centre for Gender Equality.

Together these agencies research, advertise, advocate, and check laws on gender equality. Their goal is to create a legal, cultural, historical, social and psychosocial approach to gender equality.


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


Good Health & Well-Being: Why It’s Critical That Women Lead the Fight Against Neglected Tropical Diseases #GlobalGoals #SDGs #2030Now

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by these potentially devastating diseases.


There is a group of diseases which affect 1.5 billion of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people, even though we already know how to treat or prevent them.

They’re collectively known as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

These diseases are devastating. They cause disability and death. They also have a disproportionate impact on women and girls. Women catch NTDs more and they suffer the physical effects more — especially during pregnancy and childbirth. And yet women are often less able to access medical help.

One of these NTDs, schistosomiasis, also known as snail fever, or bilharzia, is a disease caused by parasitic flatworms that can infect the urinary tract or the intestines.

For women, urogenital schistosomiasis is a common gynaecological condition in Africa and a consequence of having the schistosomiasis infection. This is significant because it can cause pregnancy complications, and leads to an increased risk of HIV transmission. It costs less than 25p to treat a girl for schistosomiasis and prevent this condition.

Women in the affected communities are the ones who have to clean and cook, working with contaminated water. They are often taken out of education to care for sick family members, younger children, and to look after the household. All of these factors result in women and girls being disempowered, stuck in a cycle of poverty and disease with no voice, exposing them further to NTDs and their consequences.

Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases  is a dedicated coalition of partners who are committed to ending these diseases of poverty, and are working to ensure that no one, including women and girls, is left behind.

As well as experiencing the burden of NTDs, women are also playing an increasingly crucial role in the ongoing fight against them.

Zanzibar is already showing the invaluable role that women can play in communities to combat NTDs.

Dr. Fatma M. Kabole, Zanzibar’s minister of health, shared how women are increasingly playing the vital role of community drug distributors.

“We give them the capacity to do their work,” Kabole said. “So just by doing the mass drug administration [providing the community with medicines] which happens here twice a year, it gives them that confidence.” 

Kabole said the aim is to provide the communities with awareness, and they have very good success stories in the communities with people now understanding that the tablets do help them.

“Women feel left out sometimes,” she continued. “So when you train them and say we are helping our own communities, they love the work that they are doing. And if you see the way they mingle with the children, and with the community, that keeps me going really.” 

One of the women working as a community drug distributor in the country is Tamasha, who was chosen by her community’s leader for the role and has been a part of the project in her community right from the start.

“The people cooperate very well, they’re very happy to be with me,” she said. “They know that I’m a good person. I know I’m helping my community. People are getting well, so I’m happy doing this.” 

And, as well as empowering women in the community, the drug distribution programmes are helping women suffering from the diseases.

elephantiasis_flickrImage: Flickr/Peretz Partensky

Mtumwa Juma is one of these. Juma has lymphatic filariasis (LF), otherwise known as elephantiasis. It’s a parasitic infection spread by mosquitoes. It targets the body’s lymphatic system, and can cause severe disfigurement, pain, and disability.

People who suffer from LF often lose their livelihoods because they are unable to work, and they can also experience knock-on psychological effects such as depression and anxiety.

“After getting the medicines from the government my life is good, I’m not worried anymore,” said Juma. 

Thanks to the treatment, Juma is healthy enough to cook chapati, to sell them, and raise money to support her children.

“I’m just a normal person, like any other people so that makes me happy,” she added. 

According to a report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in April last year, in areas where community directed distribution (CDD) was introduced, “an increasing number of women attended meetings, spoke out, and were then selected as community implementers.”

“Over time, women also became more outspoken, participated more actively, and demanded to be assigned responsibilities,” it added. 

As well as reaching women, these programmes are also creating the opportunity to educate children, to help them change their behaviour to reduce the risk of contracting NTDs.

According to Faiza, one of the community workers who helps educate children, they “become very good ambassadors.”

“They take the message to the parent, and the parent at least learns something from the children,” she explained.

For Kabole, and for Zanzibar, the work has been invaluable.

“I understand that my people are living in a very, very difficult situation,” she said. “But now the diseases have been reduced a lot. At least these people can enjoy life like any other people in the world.”

Last year, the UK made a commitment to protect 200 million people from NTDs, leading the way in putting an end to these devastating diseases.

In the run-up to the Commonwealth Summit, to be held in London in April, we’re asking the UK government whether they’re still on track for this commitment, and whether they will recommit to transforming the lives of these 200 million people at the summit.


Women And Girls: Child Marriage Remains Rampant in Nigeria – But Some Girls Are Taking Action #TimeIsNow #PressForProgress #SDGs #GlobalGoals

Nigeria has the largest number of child brides in Africa.


By Chika Oduah

KADUNA, NIGERIA — In a village in northern Nigeria, teen wives gather on mats spread out in the dirt just outside the chief imam’s home. They talk about their initial reactions to getting married.

“I had no interest in it at the time. I was just doing my own thing. Marriage was not on my mind until when God wished it was time,” says 16-year-old Fadilah Bello. She’s the boldest of them, talking freely and coaxing on the others.

“Well, of course you would be nervous or scared. You cry on your way to your new home because you are leaving your parents and you don’t know where you will be taken to,” said Sahura Misbahu. She got married three years ago. She thinks she’s 15; she doesn’t know her husband’s age.

“Had it been I had a choice, they should have given me a year to graduate from school but since this was what the parents wanted, I had no other choice,” says the 15-year-old chief imam’s daughter, Aisha Ahmed.

Nigeria has the largest number of child brides in Africa, according to the U.N. Children’s Fund. The practice is most prevalent in the predominantly Muslim north where conservative Islamic groups staunchly resist efforts to criminalize child marriage. Most girls accept whether they want to or not, but times are changing.

“We are seeing more and more girls running away from child marriages,” says Hajia Rabi Salisu, the founder of Arrida Relief Foundation and owner of a children’s home in Kaduna.

She and other activists want states in the north to criminalize marriage before the age of 18. A prominent activist, Salisu says her advocacy has put her at loggerheads with Muslim groups and she regularly receives death threats.

“I sleep in a different home almost every night because my life is at stake simply for trying to protect the lives of children,” she told VOA.


Rahmatu Ibrahim and Naja’atu Abdullahi, both 14, didn’t know each other few months ago. But their similar circumstances brought them to Salisu’s children’s home.

“I was being forced into an arranged marriage,” said Rahmatu. “That was why I ran away. I don’t love him and I don’t know him. I had never seen him before. A date was set and a day [before] the wedding, I ran away.”

Naja’atu, whose parents watched her leave, wants to focus on her education.

VOA met Sumayya Musa in another village in Kaduna State. A sprightly 18-year-old student, she has defied the expectations placed on her by the community.

“My father wanted me to get married when I was 13, but my mother said no, because she was in support of my decision to further my education,” she says. “People here in this village laugh at me because I am not yet married. They gossip and sometimes I used to cry. But the moment I remember the advantage of my studies, I stop crying.”

Nigerian lawmakers have been debating marriage customs for decades. The federal 2003 Child Rights Act mandates that both parties be at least 18 to marry, but it’s left for states to ratify the act and most of the states in northern Nigeria have not.

Muslim rights groups have been meeting with northern state lawmakers to express their concerns. Some activists propose a minimum age requirement of 15, but the idea offends Awwal Tesleem Shittu, a member of the Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria.

He says that according to Islam, a girl’s readiness for marriage cannot be determined by her age.

“A girl of 13 years old, if she is not physically okay, maybe she doesn’t have a sound mind, she could not comprehend, she could not differentiate between right and wrong, she is not fit for marriage. She is not ripe for marriage,” he says. “A girl of nine years, if she is sound, she is physically okay, she can go in, because in Islam there is no barrier to that.”

The Quran specifies that girls can marry once they reach maturity, which some conservative scholars define as puberty, while other Muslim communities and scholars accept 18 as the age of maturity.


The #ChildNotBride hashtag began trending in Nigeria in 2013 after a senator and former governor, Ahmad Sani Yerima, was accused of marrying a 13-year-old. Yerima denied the accusation but declined to reveal the age of the girl in question. Yerima also supported a legal amendment to consider any married girl, regardless of age, an adult before the law.

The 2014 case of a 14-year-old girl in Kano who admitted to killing her 35-year-old husband with rat poison again brought child marriage under scrutiny. Police said the girl’s father forced her to wed. The murder charges were eventually dropped.

Rights activists say it is poverty, not religion, that drives parents to marry off their young daughters.

“They just want to take these girls off their hands as fast as possible,” said activist Mustapha Wakil, who notes that economically disadvantaged parents have been accepting unusually low dowries – as little as 3,000 naira, the equivalent of $8. Parents used to demand at least 40,000 naira, or $112.

Wakil is campaigning for his state of Yobe in northern Nigeria to pass the federal Child Rights Act because he says the current state statutes on marriage are confusing, in particular clauses differentiating betrothal and consummation.

In a village outside the Kaduna state capital, 14-year-old Basira Bello, is preparing for her wedding. She’s a shy one, but she managed to say that she’s excited because all of her friends are already married.

Soon, she’ll marry Salihu Amiru, about 20 years her senior.

“I do not want men to be looking at her and if I allow her to continue with school, men will be looking at her as she walks to school or even the men in the class. I can’t allow that,” he said.

He wants to have children as quickly as possible; he’s hoping to have many daughters.

As for the runaways, Rahmatu and Naja’atu, they just want to hold on to their childhoods a little while longer. They are attending school and hope their families will one day forgive them for running away.

Clean water & Sanitation: The World Won’t Have Gender Equality, Until It Fixes Water Inequality #GenderEquality #SDGs #GlobalGoals #PressForProgress #TimeIsNow

In many families, the burden of collecting water falls to women and girls.


By Carolynne Wheeler

What could you do with an extra five hours in your day?

Get some more sleep? Maybe hit the gym? Read that book you’ve been meaning to start?

For women all over the world, an extra five hours a day would be a rare gift.

As we mark World Water Day, it’s worth realizing that for a family of four living without clean water available close to home, five hours is the amount of time required for collecting water – a burden most often borne by women and girls, who are usually tasked with the difficult and sometimes dangerous daily chore.

Some 844 million people don’t have access to clean water close to home – that is, water from a clean source within a 30-minute round trip. Even at this distance, a family trying to gather the WHO-recommended minimum 50 liters (13.2 gallons) per person would spend five hours a day lugging 20-liter jerrycans to and from water points. That adds up to 76 days each year.

Take a moment to consider all of the other things that can be accomplished in 76 days a year. It isn’t hard to see that spending so much time just fetching water means girls miss school and fall behind. It means women are less able to work or otherwise support and care for their families. And it means families are more likely to make do with whatever they can find – leading to higher rates of illness from drinking dirty water and adding further to the caring duties of the women in those families.

This creates a deadly cycle of poverty which becomes almost impossible to escape, as girls who drop out of school become more at risk for early marriage, and they, in turn, have children who miss out on education and marry too young.

WaterAid’s State of the World’s Water 2018: The Water Gap reveals Uganda, Niger, Mozambique, India and Pakistan are among the countries where the highest percentage or largest number of people cannot get clean water within a half-hour round trip; in many of these countries, there is also a significant wealth gap in accessing water, where most or all of the wealthiest will enjoy household connections even as the poorest still struggle. In all of these countries, the burden of water fetching lies predominantly with women and girls, limiting economic prospects and prosperity.

Consider the example of Niger, one of the world’s least developed countries as assessed by the U.N., and a country where 44 percent of people live in poverty. More than half of the population doesn’t have access to clean water close to home.

A women’s rights activist and photographer from neighboring Nigeria, Aisha Augie-Kuta, recently traveled to Niger with WaterAid to document the struggles of the community of Norandé, in the volatile Tillabéri region, which regularly endures both flooding and drought, and pollution from the river, as well as political instability and occasional militant attacks. This community on an island in the Niger river has historically relied upon the river for drinking water and all other needs, and has struggled with high rates of child illness.

“Norandé was very dry. Everything was brown and gray. There is so much water in the river nearby, but it is not clean,” Augie-Kuta said, describing the visit as a trip back in time compared to her modern home in Abuja.

“The importance of water for women is huge,” Augie-Kuta said. “The girls in the village told me that before their school had a decent toilet, they would not go to school during menstruation, but that now they can attend lessons all month.”

With climate change likely to exacerbate the challenges faced by this community and so many others like it, there is much more to be done.

We cannot achieve gender equality as long as there is water inequality. The absence of this basic life necessity holds women and girls back from realizing their potential. We know what the solution is. It’s time to get to work.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of News Deeply.

This July, world leaders will meet in New York for a review of the United Nations’ Global Goal on water and sanitation, which aims to reach everyone, everywhere by 2030. WaterAid is calling for recognition that the U.N. Global Goals are everyone’s responsibility to deliver; for urgent action at all levels; for the inclusion of water, sanitation and hygiene in plans and programs around health, education, nutrition and gender equality; and for responsible environmental management that ensures enough clean water is protected and preserved for communities’ basic needs.

Women+Girls: 35 Black Women Are Running for Office in Alabama in 2018 #Women #SDGs #GlobalGoals #WomenInPolitics #Politics #Alabama


Women In Politics

Call it the Doug Jones effect — or call it something else — but these women are taking the reins.

Maybe it was Democrat Doug Jones’ surprising victory over Republican Roy Moore in the United States Senate runoff election. Maybe it was the success of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements at lifting up women’s voices around the world. Maybe it was a combination of both.

But a wave of political change is coming to the United States — and it’s being led by black women.

In the state of Alabama, where one in four people are black, an unprecedented number of black women — more than 35 — are running for some form of elected office in 2018, NBC reports.  

Nationwide, less than 5% of jobs in Congress, statewide executive offices, and state legislatures are held by black women, despite black women making up more than 7% of the US population. Only one black woman — Rep. Terri Sewell — has ever been elected to federal office in the state of Alabama.

But if the new numbers coming out of that state is any indication, this could soon change.

“This place that was so resistant to change, where, now, a group of women who were looked down upon and dealt first-hand with the vestiges of slavery and segregation are the ones who can lead us forward — it’s monumental,” Quentin James, who works for a PAC that aims to increase the number of black people elected to office in Alabama, told NBC.

On the frontlines of state and local Alabama political races, black women are showing the importance of equal representation, regardless of race, background, or gender.

These women include everyone from Audri Scott Williams, 62, a first-time candidate running for Congress in Montgomery to Rep. Terri Sewell, who is running for reelection in Congress for the fifth time, according to the NBC report.

Mordi Ibe Foundation campaigns on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, and goal number 10 — reduced inequalities within and among countries — calls for “the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.”

Both inside and outside of Alabama, black women — who vote at higher rates than any other demographic — still face significant challenges in running for office.

Of the nation’s 100 largest cities, just three black women serve as mayor, and no state has ever had a black woman serve as governor, according to Emily’s List, an organization that helps women run for elected office.

“It’s so important that we step up, that we show the nation that we can lead,” Jameria Moore, who is running for a judgeship at Jefferson County Probate Court, told NBC. “This is an opportunity, that’s how I look at it.”

Women & Girls: Saudi Arabia Has Given Women Opportunities — But Its Human Rights Record Remains Abysmal #SDGs #GlobalGoals #SaidiArabia

There are still dozens of capital offenses in Saudi Arabia.


As Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visits the United States, he’s advertising what seems to be a new, progressive Saudi Arabia.

Women are “absolutely” equal to men, he declared in a “60 Minutes” interview, and went on to describe the new rights women enjoy in Saudi Arabia, including the right to drive, pursue new careers, run for office, and more.

These steps toward gender equality have been described as harbingers of a new era of openness and tolerance.

But looking beyond these headline-grabbing moments — many of which remain unrealized — the Saudi Arabia of 2018 doesn’t look much different than it did in years past.

Prince Salman has introduced an ambitious “Vision 2030” plan that seeks to transform the country’s economic and civic realms, but in the past few years the kingdom’s human rights abuses have only been intensifying.

Take the war in Yemen.

Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has led a US-backed coalition to defeat the Houthi rebels who gained power during the country’s civil war, creating what has been called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world by the United Nations.

More than 10,000 civilian deaths have been recorded throughout the war, the majority from coalition airstrikes.

Many of these airstrikes have targeted weddings, funerals, and family gatherings, as has been vividly recounted in the New York Times, The Intercept, and the New Yorker.

Such indiscriminate bombing has largely destroyed Yemen’s infrastructure, leading to a lack of water and sanitation throughout the country, which has, in turn, caused an unprecedented cholera crisis affecting more than a million people.

The Saudi-led coalition has also blockaded ports throughout Yemen, preventing humanitarian aid from reaching communities and deepening a famine that affects millions of people.

This blatant disregard for human rights is mirrored back in Saudi Arabia.

Executions in the country have doubled over the past eight months as a crackdown on dissent sweeps the country. Recently, Indonesia unsuccessfully tried to stay the execution of a migrant worker who was allegedly coerced into admitting that he murdered his employer.

There are dozens of capital offenses in Saudi Arabia, including homosexuality, atheism, and adultery.

Migrant workers, who have for years faced routine employment abuses, are being deported by the hundreds of thousands.

Meanwhile, dozens of humans rights advocates are serving long prison sentences.

Earlier this year, Prince Salman allegedly ordered the detention of scores of wealthy businessmen and seized their assets.

And while Prince Salman said that the country is close to achieving gender equality, the reality is that women are still second-class citizens who, for a staggering array of everyday activities, need to first get male permission, and who face segregation in restaurants, clothing stores, and in most public spaces.

When a woman took a picture without a face covering last year, for example, she received countless death threats.

In his “60 Minutes interview,” Prince Salman said, regarding women’s rights, “we have come a very long way and have a short way to go.”

Every new right for women in the country is undoubtedly important, but, in reality, the country has come a short way and has a long way to go.

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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


Civil Union, Partnership, Peace & Justice: Why Not Being Able to Get Divorced Is a Women’s Rights Issue in the Philippines #Women #HumanRights #SDGs #GlobalGoals

Costly annulment fees, no child support, and no rights to assets — a new bill hopes to change that.


This article originally appeared on Women’s Advancement Deeply. You can find the original here.

MANILA –When Amy Perez-Castillo tried to separate from her husband, she had to tell the courts she was psychologically unwell. It wasn’t true, but it was the only way she could get a legal separation in the Philippines, where divorce is against the law.

Her husband had walked out when their son was a baby. “Since the birth of my son, I have been the only financial contributor to his life,” Perez-Castillo says.

But it took 10 years of court proceedings before the successful TV and radio host, actress and now mother of three was granted an annulment.

“My first lawyer suggested I go through psychological evaluation, but I did not want to because of how it would affect my career, and more importantly, I needed to be classed as ‘normal’ to get custody of my son,” she says.

“Three years into the process, I was denied annulment by the supreme court. When I tried again for annulment, I had to admit to psychological incapacity.”

Apart from having to admit to something that wasn’t true, she says the process cost her dearly. “It’s hard to say how much I paid in the end, maybe more than half a million pesos [USD $10,000].”

The Philippines is the only place in the world, outside the Vatican City, where divorce is illegal. But a bill working its way through the House of Representatives could change that.

On February 21, The Act of Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage passed committee stage, and will be debated in Congress’s next plenary session.

The bill consolidates several divorce bills filed before, all seeking to allow the dissolution of marriage and address the concerns of couples in failed marriages. This version represents a landmark: By getting through committee stage, it has progressed farther than any previous attempt at legalizing divorce.

If passed, the bill would provide official separation for couples with irreconcilable differences in cases of abuse or where the couple is already de facto separated. Perhaps most importantly for women, it provides guidelines for the division of assets, financial support for the children of divorced parents, and payment of damages to “the innocent spouse.”

Ending a Marriage Without Divorce

For the 40 million married couples currently living together in the Philippines, filing for an annulment or legal separation is a lengthy process that can drag on for years, often with unsuccessful results. Today, options to end marriages are available, but they differ from divorce in important ways.

In an annulment, the couple must prove that either or both of them are psychologically incapacitated.Infidelity, physical or mental abuse, and irreconcilable differences are not taken into account in an annulment proceeding, and physical violence is not considered a sufficient reason to annul a marriage.

Legal separation allows parties to live apart, but does not legally end a marital union and therefore does not permit remarriage.

A voided marriage is considered invalid from the beginning. Reasons for voiding a marriage can include either party having an incurable sexually transmitted disease or cases of mistaken identity.

Parties can file for divorce in only one case: if they are among the estimated 5 percent of the population that is Muslim and is governed by the Code of Muslim Personal Laws.

Too Poor to Separate

Women are worst affected by the lack of divorce legislation. Representing 49.4 percent of the population but only 34 percent of the workforce, according to statistics provided to News Deeply by the Philippine Statistical Authority, they are rarely the breadwinners in a family.

The majority rely on their husbands financially, and most are reluctant to file for an annulment or legal separation because of the practical and financial implications – separated women often find they can’t support their families.

“Some women are afraid to separate from their husbands, especially if they have children who are still in need of financial support and are dependent on him,” says Clarissa Castro, an attorney specializing in family law cases.

“Worse, if they have no conjugal assets to partition, the woman will definitely be at a loss once the marriage is severed, because the obligation to give support also ends,” she says.

Helaria Legaspi, 58, married when she was just 15. Three years ago, she went to the local council to get an annulment after finding out that her husband was having an affair. But she soon discovered she would not be able to pay.

“It was just too expensive for me to even dream of. There was no way that I could afford it, so I never went back,” Legaspi says.

“I have heard of annulment scams: lawyers quoting $10,000for an all-inclusive annulment package granted by the court. But the documents are forged and they leave women in financial ruin. I thought I would be scammed, so I thought better to just leave it.

“We are poor, and the options available to us are anti-poor, we cannot afford them.”

If passed, the bill before parliament would provide state lawyers for those who can’t afford the costs associated with a divorce.

Opting Out of Marriage

In a typical year, civil courts will grant about 10,000 annulments, the office of the Solicitor General told News Deeply.

The Philippine Statistical Authority said that 6,304 petitions were filed to end marriages in Manila in the first nine months of 2017, a 23 percent decrease on the year before, with women filing slightly more than half of the petitions.

But there has also been a 20 percent decrease in reported marriages,they say, with younger generations opting for cohabitation instead of an expensive celebration that they cannot afford, followed by a relationship arrangement that can’t be left if it breaks down.

A Work in Progress?

In an overwhelmingly Catholic country, the church wields enormous influence and is clear on its view that marriage is a contract and a sacrament.

But for many women, the divorce bill is long overdue, and the current options available to them are inadequate. Three in five Filipinos are in favor of introducing divorce legislation.

“Filipino women require a quick and affordable process,” Perez-Castillo says. “The costs of an annulment must be addressed, and the government needs to do more to support single mothers.”

“Divorce is a deterrent to working on differences,” said a pastoral statementissued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, reiterating its position against the divorce bill. “Marriage is and ought to be a work in progress.”


Gender Equality: “Focus, Inclusion & Diversity” The US & Saudi Arabia Met — & Not a Woman Was In Sight #Women #Politics #SDGs #GlobalGoals #WomenInPolitics

Women weren’t given a seat on either side of the table.


US President Donald Trump and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, met over lunch on Tuesday — noticeably missing from the table? Women.

Neither the Trump administration nor Prince Mohammed’s delegation included a single woman.

Saudi Arabia has been widely criticized for its treatment of women and gender discriminatory policies, but despite having a restrictive male guardianship system in place, the Middle Eastern kingdom actually ranks higher than the US when it comes to female representation in parliaments, according to the World Economic Forum.

Women in Saudi Arabia have only been allowed to vote and run for office since 2015, but the country’s 20% quota for women in parliament has quickly increased their presence in its government.

In the US, women hold just 105 of 535 Congressional seats, though a record number of women are running for office this year, NPR reported.

Over the past year, Prince Mohammed has spearheaded sweeping social and economic reforms in Saudi Arabia as part of the “Vision 2030” plan, including incremental improvements in women’s rights. In a recent interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” the prince said that he believes women are “absolutely” equal to men, surprising many with the strong statement.

But actions speak louder than words.

The absence of women on both sides of the table during Tuesday’s meeting showed that neither the US nor Saudi Arabia can claim to have full gender equality yet.

In Saudi Arabia, most restaurants are segregated by gender. Women are required to sit in designated “family” areas and use a different entrance, keeping them separate from all-male dining parties. This cultural practice is not mandated by the Muslim religion, but gender segregation in public and at meals has been practiced in Saudi Arabia since the 1980s as a result of a move toward stricter, more conservative interpretations of Islamic law.

As some have pointed out, it’s possible that women were not included at the lunch meeting because of this cultural practice; however, gender segregation typically places women in positions of lower priority and power and can be discriminatory against them.

The Trump administration has also been heavily criticized over its lack of diversity — both in terms of race and gender.

Improvements in women’s representation in politics around the world have been slow.

In the last two decades, the number of women in parliaments has doubled — but women still account for just over 20% of representatives, according to the World Economic Forum.

Experts have said that women’s participation in politics is key to developing more inclusive, peaceful, and equitable societies. Ensuring that women have a seat at the table helps to increase the diversity of voices and issues discussed at the table so that policies can effectively address the needs of all people.