Category Archives: Women’s Issues

Her name was Jyoti Singh Pandey

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india-rape-protest-afp-670 (1)

On December 16th in Delhi, India, a 23-year old female student and her male companion boarded what they thought was a public city bus. The unauthorized driver and his five friends were the only other people aboard, and they are now being charged for the brutal assault, rape, and murder of the woman. The details of the attack were beyond gruesome, and this case has sparked public outrage in India as people have taken to the streets by the tens of thousands to demand justice and equality. As sickening as this individual case is, it has thrust women’s issues to the forefront and has forced India to search internally for why the rape, violence, and sexual assault on women is something to be put up with rather than reprimanded and prevented. Here are some of the issues that one will find.

Patriarchy – India is a deeply patriarchal society, and women are viewed as lesser value than men. As proof of this, sex-selective abortion and female infanticide are widely practiced and have skewed the gender ratio in India significantly. This can have dire consequences, as having fewer women causes increased trafficking for forced marriage and prostitution – and so the cycle of abuse continues. As an article in The Guardian put it, “There is therefore a huge need for a change of attitudes across society starting, with how families regard and protect their women and how old traditional societies can be weaned away from male domination. That will take a long time.”

Blame the victim – It is common in India for the media and government officials to blame the recurrence of rape on the decisions of the victim. For example, a state legislator from Rajasthan suggested that one way to stop rapes would be to change girls’ school uniforms from skirts to pants. Many have also said that women should know better than to be out so late at night. Since women are now becoming more economically equal with men in India, they are showing new independence in their careers and liberated private lives – yet they should be covering their legs and staying inside after dark? These are the types of conflicting messages that are finally being questioned.

The “Shame” factor – Due to the patriarchal attitudes and traditional caste hierarchies present in India, when a woman is raped she is viewed by society as used, ruined, and a disgrace to her family. As a result, sexual assault is often minimalized and goes unreported. In 2011, 80,000 rape cases were reported in Great Britain, population 62 million, where 24,000 rape cases were reported in India, population 1.24 billion – You do the math.

On that note, the victim’s father bravely decided to release her name to the public yesterday, with this statement: “My daughter didn’t do anything wrong. She died while protecting herself. I am proud of her. Revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived these attacks. They will find strength from my daughter.”

Her name was Jyoti Singh Pandey. She is a symbol for this movement, but one of many. And we can only hope that her case has been the desperately needed spark that can ignite true, deep, thorough change in gender equality in India. Time will tell.

-Marina

 

Sources:

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/31/mourning-for-rape-victim-recasts-new-years-eve-in-india/

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=168339419

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20910661

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/our-voices/the-foreign-desk/gang-rape-case-reveals-the-real-india-and-the-glimmers-of-change-8436922.html?origin=internalSearch

http://www.todayonline.com/World/EDC130103-0000010/The-larger-fight-for-womens-rights-in-India

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Top 10 Posts of 2012

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Special thank you to YOU, our readers! Without your faithful support, this blog would not be possible. Also thank you to our incredible blog writers who not only wrote beautiful work, but helped us shape the blog into what it is today. You rock!

Here are the top 10 most visited posts of 2012.

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1. An Exclusive Interview with Indian Designer and Illustrator Shilo Shiv Suleman

“For Sex Workers, I think art can be deeply transforming and healing. Nothing has healed me, no “guru” has taught me, like my art has.” -Shilo Shiv Suleman

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2. What We Love: Collage

“We’re falling in love all over again with collage – paper collage, fabric collage and anything and everything in between. Artists far and wide, widely recognized and little known have used this technique for ages (the impulse to collect, recombine and transform draws on something deeply human, I think). Here is a sampling of what’s possible when you grab some left over fabric or paper, thread a needle or get down and dirty with a glue stick…”

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3. What does Sisterhood Mean to You?

“And the most important thing [sisterhood] taught me is that this love can be shared. I have come to see how easily sisterly love can thrive within all of our female friendships.”

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4. People with Sisters are Happier

“I’m inspired by examples of sisters who take care and love each other. I’m also inspired by women who are driven by a sense of sisterhood and feel that all women are their sisters. In my experience in India, Anchal’s artisans showed me the spirit of sisterhood with their affection and desire to make me a part of their community.”

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5. Have You Heard What’s Coming?

“If you haven’t heard yet, Anchal will be launching an incredible collection of one of a kind scarves, both straight and circle. The beautiful Kantha stitch holds 5 layers of saris together, creating a warm but light feel. The coolest part, is that each side is a different print, meaning each scarf is double the fun.”

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6. Inspired by the Suffragettes

“Facing imprisonment and other forms of persecution, the suffragettes rarely backed down. Even to the point of intense weakness, they led hunger strikes. During World War I they took on more traditionally male roles and proved they could pull their weight. All with the vision of casting their vote and being counted as citizens.”

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7. The Truth About “Girl-on-Girl Hate”

“I want to focus on the major internal causes for disliking other women. For every woman, this is a deeply personal question and it can take a lot of honest self-inquiry. A lot of it can be ugly. […] The whole point of enlisting these internal causes is to stop blaming larger society and start taking personal responsibility about the way we feel towards other women. In the end, the way we feel towards other women boils down to how we feel about ourselves. Here is what we can do..”

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8. Mehndi (Henna): Origins & Myth

“I recently attended a Hindu/Catholic wedding ceremony and saw the bride with her hands and feet decorated in bright orange/ brown henna designs. These designs, called Mehndi, are not new to the western wedding scene. Many women in the US and other western countries have adopted this tradition, as a matrimonial celebratory adornment. But I was curious, where did these designs come from? What does the tradition actually mean? Mehndi is beautiful, yes, but are there deeper meanings, myths, and origins?”

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9. The Place Where Design Can Save the World: Thoughts from Women in Design

“I am reaching out to women in design and learning just what motivates them to become movers and shakers – not only in the design world, but in the world world. […] The responses I got were incredible! Give a designer constrictions (like a two sentence limit) and she’ll blow you out of the water. “Take that!” she’ll say as she whips up something amazing out of nothing. I’m so glad to share the work of these four women with you. Here’s hoping you find inspiration in their words.”

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10. Men Fighting for Women

“…I hope to bring light to men who share our passion in fighting for the rights of women. Photojournalist Walter Astrada has spent much of his career focused on violence against women across the globe. Astrada’s photography topics range from “Sexual Violence in Eastern Congo” to “Femicide in Guatemala.” One of his most notable projects is “Undesired, ‘Missing’ women in India,” a documentary on the sex selective practices in India. […] It’s important to remember that gender equality should not be a fight led solely by women, but by men and women alike.”

Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013…
-Colleen

What Every Girl Should Know About Her Paycheck

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Infographics are a cool way to present facts in a visually stimulating way, and these infographics give a crystal clear picture of where we stand and how we are being affected by inequality in the workforce in the United States.

see-jane-earn

My take aways:
• We are slowly and gradually moving in the right direction (81 cents compared to 76.9 cents to the dollar in 2010 – alright!)
• In order to stay even or even get ahead of men, women often have to make lifestyle sacrifices – no marriage and no kids, while men don’t. Can we have it all?
• Women are smart enough to use education to get even – and ahead! Go us!
• While 81 cents is an improvement, check out what it means to us long term (2011):

What were your take aways?

– Marina

4 Ways You Might be Dissing Yourself

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Most women strive to come across as confident and competent in their careers and relationships. But do you know the messages you might be sending without even realizing it? Studies show that women fall back on certain “feminine” communication behaviors that could have negative effects on their perceived credibility. The fact that these behaviors are even labeled as feminine is a major part of the problem. Without realizing it and in order to avoid being “masculine”, women adopt certain behaviors that undermine their own initiative. Our intentions are good, but the effects can be undesirable – so lets try to break these habits!

1) Qualifying – A common speaking technique used by women to counter balance being direct. Examples: “I could be wrong, but…”, “I think this seems like a good idea.”, and “Does that make sense?” Of course there is nothing wrong with being candid with people and asking questions, but if you feel definite about something, why use the disclaimer? Drop the question mark and stand firmly for your point.

2) Chit – chat – Talking to fill gaps to make you and everyone around you more comfortable. This may be a part of your personality and charm, but it can come off as unprofessional – at work people are likely looking for the bottom line. Chatting and giggling your way through a conversation isn’t just making people feel more comfortable, its making you look less credible.

3) Small voice – How often do you hear a man described as “soft-spoken”? I’ll answer – not often. Of course part of the reasoning for this is biological, but there are definitely other social and learned factors. In trying to maintain femininity, women may adopt an artificially breathy, smaller, even sexier voice without realizing it. Women with louder voices can be considered abrasive and displeasing, but a soft-spoken woman is perceived as nonthreatening and unconvincing. Assert yourself, ladies!

4) “Feminine” E-Communication – There are a few patterns of communication through email that women use to soften the blow of negative feedback and ease conflict. Emoticons, exclamation points, and typed representations of sounds (ex. hmmm, sooo, grrr) are used to convey the feelings and emotions in your words. Your intention is to better direct your audience to your meaning, but often these can make you come across as childish and incompetent. My advice is to just to be aware of when you use these and to whom you’re sending them.

Now before getting defensive, I have a confession – I have been guilty of all of these! And this doesn’t mean that I have to change myself or my personality. But now that I am aware of how my communication patterns can be interpreted, I know I might be sending mixed messages, and I’m going to be conscious of it and attempt to monitor them. And look at it this way – with small changes we can begin to re-write the definition of femininity from wilting and apologetic to confident and strong!

– Marina

For more interesting topics about communication and women, visit www.PsychologyToday.com and read gender communication specialist Audrey Nelson’s blog, He Speaks, She Speaks.

Political Power of Women

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Whether or not women voted for red or blue this past Tuesday, the 2012 Election showed that women were a tremendous force to contend with in this country. Making up 53% of the electorate , the women’s vote was hard fought and hard won. It is the opinion of every talking head, pundit and speculator that President Obama’s victory was carried, in part, by women. The Guardian calls the 2012 election “[a] decisive a moment in feminism as there has been.” Throughout the campaign the candidates were clamoring for our vote, hoping to sway us one way or another, finally realizing that our opinions are worth the fight.

On the global scale, this is not the case. Rarely do women enjoy the same consideration as we did during this election cycle. And while the participation of women in politics is growing, their leadership and contributions go mostly unrecognized. The gains that women have made on the global political stage are largely uneven. While women represent half the population, they only hold a fraction of the political positions worldwide. It is common for decisions that will affect women and their families to be made without their input.

“When women are discriminated against in the political arena, their experiences, talents, and perspectives are shut out of the policy decisions of our democracies, and prospects for a better world are shortchanged.” – Melanne Verveer

By investing in the education and empowerment of women, Anchal takes a stand to make sure that women have the tools to make their voices heard. Anchal’s work is taking on the Millennium Development Goal #3 to “Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women” by providing a decent livelihood, educational training, and healthcare. Who knows how far a woman can go with these opportunities!

As this election shows, when women come together they have a huge impact in national decision making. I am excited to be a part of an organization that is fostering the potential for our artisans to make changes in their communities, states, and country.

-Lizzy

1. “Exit Polls anatomize Obama win”, The BBC, 07 Nov. 2012, 07 Nov. 2012, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-20240375>
2. Brockes, Emma “Why Obama Won The Women’s Vote” The Guardian, 07 Nov. 2012, 07 Nov. 2012, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/07/why-obama-won-womens-vote>

3. Verveer, Melanne. “Women as Agents of Change: Advancing the Role of Women in Politics and Civil Society.” U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, 09 June 2010. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <http://www.state.gov/s/gwi/rls/rem/2010/142953.htm>.

Social Enterprise and Health Care: Serving the Poorest of the Poor

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Although I usually write about advancements with regard to social entrepreneurship and women, I ask that you forgive me as I digress and write about a phenomenon led by a (gasp!) man. (Seeing as how they do represent 50% of the population perhaps we ought to give them credit where credit is due…) I digress mainly because health care is an issue that I am passionate about; there’s no greater gift than being able to improve the quality of someone’s life so that they might reach their full potential and live a fulfilling life.

While in India I had the opportunity to meet David Aylward, the Senior Advisor for Global Health and Technology at Ashoka*. Says Aylward, “We need to shift from a sickness focus to a wellness focus.” That means understanding how outside factors like diet, sanitation and environment contribute to one’s health. Also important is the need to focus on patients and not doctors and hospitals. Why? “In the developing world they don’t have the doctors and the facilities.”

Enter technology: roughly two billion people have mobile phones. Innovators, such as Aylward, are looking for ways to use mobile phones as a means to store and collect data, information and connections. Aylward and others who are working in this field hope to someday connect diagnostic services and monitoring devices to cell phones of people in rural areas, allowing them to self-diagnose without ever setting foot in a hospital or paying to see a doctor. For example, earlier in his career while working with mHealth Alliance his company gave a grant to an individual who had invented a plastic lens that cost about $2 to put on a cell phone. Then, after taking a picture of a person’s eye, it produced a prescription for eyeglasses. “That’s where groups like social enterprises and Ashoka fellow set-ups come in. They create entities that can test these kinds of systems and devices in the field, figure out what works, what doesn’t, feed that back into the global network that we have created and are creating.” However, it is imperative that these services become sustainable. Once the right devices, systems and products have been found or created, the challenge becomes distributing everything throughout the world at a low price that people in developing countries can afford. Although a daunting task, Aylward has hope; “
By analogy, if you look at what happened with wireless, here you have devices that got very inexpensive, and service that got very inexpensive. Therefore people in the poorest parts of the world are now paying cash so that they can have access to information. We need to do the same thing in health.”

However, there are a few caveats to this intersection of health and technology. First is the fact that cell phones can’t conduct operations, limiting long-distance communication. Also, several people argue that a cell phone can never truly replace the touch of a highly trained specialist and could even lead to misdiagnoses. Lastly, many people in rural developing areas are not literate, posing problems with medicine or injections once those products have been received by a village from a neighboring clinic.

-Brittany

Sources:
http://gthoughtsfromthemiddlekingdom.blogspot.com/
http://www.changemakers.com/blog/innovating-toward-healthier-world

*Ashoka is a nonprofit organization that supports the field of social entrepreneurship. It was founded by Bill Drayton in 1981 to identify and support leading social entrepreneurs through a Social Venture Capital approach with the goal of elevating the citizen sector to a competitive level equal to the business sector.

We are all Malala

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Last week on October 9th, when Malala Yousafzai was returning home from school on her school bus in Pakistan, masked gunman boarded the bus, shouted for her to reveal herself, and proceeded to shoot her in the head and neck. She is now in a critical care unit in Great Britain and is said to be in a stable condition.

Why would the violent Islamic extremist group, know as the Taliban, target one single teenage girl? What could have demanded their attention to this degree? Why do they feel so threatened by a young girl?

Malala’s transgressions against the Taliban were simply this: openly advocating for a girls right to attend school and receive an education.

Here is brief timeline of Malala’s fight for education:

January 2009: Malala began writing an anonymous blog for BBC in which she recounts the Taliban practicing full control over her home in Swat Valley, and the forcing shut and blowing up of hundreds of girl’s schools.

March 2009: Malala went against Taliban law and continued to pursue her education, and utilized the media that reached out to her to give education for girls a voice in Pakistan. She and her father participated in a documentary for New York Times called Class Dismissed.

Summer 2009: Malala, age 11, committed to being a politician and not a doctor like she had planned.

“I have a new dream … I must be a politician to save this country. There are so many crises in our country. I want to remove these crises.”

November 2011: Malala was awarded the International Children’s Peace Prize for continuously speaking out for girl’s education. She became more nationally recognized, and both she and her father received multiple death threats from the Taliban if they did not stop speaking out against them.
“I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.”

Summer 2012: Taliban spokesperson said they are “forced” to act, and the leaders unanimously agreed to kill Malala

October 9, 2012: The assassination attempt of Malala

It is an utterly tragic chain of events, and it’s sickening to think that this is the extent to which some will go to keep women from their basic right to education. But Malala has ignited a fire. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this week, Malala is “very brave in standing up for the rights of girls” and that the attackers had been “threatened by that kind of empowerment.” The assassination attempt of this teenage girl has sparked worldwide sympathy and outrage. On October 15th the United Nations launched a petition using the slogan “I am Malala”, demanding we call on international organizations to end gender discrimination and ensure the world’s 61 million out-of-school children are in education by the end of 2015.

By advocating for educational rights for women, Malala has turned a small problem for the Taliban leaders into a much bigger one. And if you don’t believe me, you can ask Malala’s former classmate:

“Every girl in Swat is Malala. We will educate ourselves. We will win. They can’t defeat us.”

-Marina

**As of this morning it was reported that Malala is now able to stand with help, and is communicating by writing. Though not out of the woods yet, this is tremendous progress for an incredibly brave young woman.

More info here:
Pakistani Schoolgirl Shot by Taliban Is Showing Progress, NY Times
Her ‘Crime’ Was Loving Schools, NY Times
Malala Has Won, NY Times
Malala Yousafzai will ‘inspire a new generation’, BBC
A 14-year-old Pakistani girl’s brave fight against the Taliban: A timeline, The Week