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Monday July 10, 2017
• Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
• The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
• Procedures can cause severe bleeding as well as complications in childbirth increased risk of newborn deaths.
• About 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.
• FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
• In Africa an estimated 101 million girls 10 years old and above have undergone FGM.
FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death. FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.
Who is at risk?
Procedures are mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15, and occasionally on adult women. In Africa, more than three million girls have been estimated to be at risk for FGM annually.
The practice is most common in the western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, in some countries in Asia and the Middle East, and among migrants from these areas.
Cultural, religious and social causes
The causes of female genital mutilation include a mix of cultural, religious and social factors within families and communities.
• FGM is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl properly, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.
• FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behavior, linking procedures to premarital virginity and marital fidelity. FGM is in many communities believed to reduce a woman’s desire for sexual acts.
• Though no religious scripts prescribe the practice, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support.
• Religious leaders take varying positions with regard to FGM: some promote it, some consider it irrelevant to religion, and others contribute to its elimination.
WHO efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation focus on:
• Building evidence: generating knowledge about the causes and consequences of the practice, how to eliminate it, and how to care for those who have experienced FGM;
• Increasing advocacy: developing publications and advocacy tools for international, regional and local efforts to end FGM within a generation.
WHO is particularly concerned about the increasing trend for medically trained personnel to perform FGM. WHO strongly urges health professionals not to perform such procedures.
Those who believe they can change the world are the ones who actually do, and Reham Ahmed, an avid believer in community service is determined to bring change to her poor neighborhood of Al Marg in Cairo. Together with a team of volunteers, the 24 years-old business administration graduate, is conducting a survey among young people in the neighborhood and analyzing the social ailments that are hindering their progress. Based on the findings, Ahmed founded “Dekka,” the first neighborhood cultural center that serves free of charge young people in her community, between the ages of 15 and 30. Ahmed is confident that culture and art are a big part of the cure for their social ailments.
Dekka, was initially founded as a library and book club in October 2015, in a small rented room, to spread awareness and restore hope in the hearts and minds of young people and help them rediscover themselves through reading and knowledge. As the idea evolved to include more activities like music, arts and handicrafts, Ahmed rented an apartment earlier this year to accommodate the increasing number of visitors. However, a bigger place translated in more investments beyond her means. Focused on her dream to develop Dekka as a cultural beacon in her neighborhood, the persistent young woman didn’t give up. Her mother who stood beside her daughter and encouraged her to proceed with the project since it was just an idea in her head, stepped in to help her with the finances available to her.
Reham also invited Rahma Mohsen, her long life friend, to join the project. A true believer in the power of books and knowledge herself, Rahma became a big supporter of the project, both financially and emotionally. A full time college student, Rahma helps as much as her time and schedule allow, which leaves managing the place to fall on the shoulders of Reham, the oldest and more experienced member of the team. Reham organizes the cultural and musical events, brainstorms with the team of volunteers that assist her for the upcoming events, communicates with the speakers, prepares for their presentations and currently she is developing the program for the children’s summer activities.
While many are elated with the new project and view it as a beam of hope, others are cautiously watching with cynicism. Reham admits that marketing Dekka to young people, which depends heavily on the word of mouth, is not as easy as they had anticipated.
“Young people in our neighborhood are not used to be provided with such activities and services within close proximity from where they live, and that makes them skeptical about our standards in comparison to other places that offer similar services, which they have to travel long distances to reach. But once they come to Dekka, they appreciate what we offer and they return back. The growth is taking place gradually and organically. And that’s what makes Dekka an interesting adventure.” Reham said.
But with the diversity of activities offered, the founders are confident that its growth is imminent. And in spite of the difficulties and challenges Reham faces, she urges young women to never let go of their dreams. “To let your dream die in front of your eyes is a crime you commit against yourself. Keep your dreams alive and work hard to achieve them.”
And when asked about her dreams, she answered, “I want Dekka to become a big library and beacon for enlightenment and knowledge in my neighborhood and the areas around it. By benefiting the community, I am also benefiting myself. Through the activities offered at Dekka, I am learning about arts, culture, and music and most important I get the opportunity to read more books and meet inspiring people. Spreading awareness and hope, and sharing one’s knowledge to enrich others is what I truly believe in, and what I aspire to do.”
Reham also hopes that as Dekka grows, so would its library, which so far includes a limited number of books for the use within the premises. The library depends heavily on donations of new and used books. As the library expands, young people will be allowed to borrow books. Other than donating books, Dekka invites people with success stories to share their experiences and knowledge with its young visitors, to inspire and motivate them.
*Dekka is an independent entity with no political affiliation
To donate books call: 011- 4191-3922, and a representative will come and pick them.
By: Alexandra Kinias
Caption: A Child Bride In Afghanistan. By: Stephanie Sinclair,winner of UNICEF photo of the year 2007
While most eight years old girls go to bed dreaming of doll houses, ballet classes, crayons and scrapbooks, princesses in sequence dresses and tiaras, nightmares keep others awake in fear that the sunlight of the new day will rob them of their childhood; in one of the most heinous crimes that are still committed to humanity: Underage Marriages. Unfortunately in regions where it is practiced, communities keep a blind eye on these illegal marriages, which in reality legalize pedophilia, prostitution, rape and human trafficking.
Children forced into marriages is not a new phenomenon and neither is it an exclusive practice to one religion, culture or region. Though child weddings are illegal (almost) everywhere, none the less they are spread throughout the globe in most of the Sub-Saharan African countries, from North Africa to South Asia, from the Indian Subcontinent to the Middle East and across the ocean to North America.
This practice that is still embedded in a lot of cultures was a politically motivated practice thousands of years ago to secure ties between regions and tribes andresolve family feuds, but there is no excuse for it to be practiced today other than selfishness, greed and ignorance. Today Child Marriages are sparked by poverty, ignited by sexually sick societies and protected by religious scholars and tribal leaders. And in such regions where social customs and traditions are still powerful, law is never enforced to stop these marriages that steal away these unfortunate girls’ childhoods and leave them as human wreckage. No one is spared and no one is rescued to describe this horrific experience.
Poverty is the main reason that young girls are forced into marriage. They are regarded as financial burden. Their only use is to be traded off like a commodity than stay in the family and expect to be fed. With the money the family receives, it is able to sustain its living until another daughter is sold. The older the girl gets, her price decreases and thus marrying the daughters before puberty is more profitable.
In April 2008, the ten years old Yemeni girl Nujood Ali became famous when she obtained a divorce and her book became a bestseller. Her story flashed headlines worldwide and prompted calls to raise the legal marriage age in Yemen to 18 years old. Unlike India and Egypt where the laws restricting underage marriage are often ignored, countries like Yemen and Saudi Arabia have no minimum age for marriage.
Nujood’s was also sold into marriage because of her family’s poverty. After she ran away and wrote her book, her brothers criticized her for shaming the family, but after her book started generating income, the shame was forgotten and she is treated like a queen, by the same brothers.
Girls as young as eight years old are snatched from the safety of their family home and forced to quit schools. In many cases their groom’s house is located in other villages and they are uprooted from their community and live in isolation. Once they are married, they become a domestic aid to their in-laws where they spend their days cooking and cleaning, often subjected to abuse and violence. Those who don’t expire because of sexual intercourse at this young age are traumatized by the experience. If they refuse, they are raped by their husbands. As they reach puberty and before their bodies are fully developed, they would go through a cycle of repeated pregnancies, as contraceptives are uncommon in their communities. Early pregnancies and child birth are the main cause of fatalities of young mothers and their babies in underdeveloped countries. The babies who make it into the world are malnourished and underdeveloped. By the age of twenty, most of these girls have severe feminine problems that often lead to hysterectomies, and their bodies eventually give up. Unable to fulfill their martial obligations, their husbands simply discard them like old rags and seek new wives, and the cycle starts over again.
These abandoned girls who are forced into marriages are victims of illiteracy, slavery, sexual abuse and domestic violence. They are left alone to face the perils of their disgusting cultures. Yet with all the social damage they experience, on their shoulders lay the burden of upbringing the future generation of children who were breast fed their misery, agony and exploitation.
Child brides are yet another aspect of how degrading women are looked upon in certain societies where they are viewed only as sex objects and breeding machines. It is not a coincidence that such illegal marriages thrive in societies with low respect for women. These societies that are still struggling to survive are unaware that they will never advance while their women are deprived from their rights and their daughters’ rights are being violated.
Someone has to be held accountable for these stolen lives. The road to combating this crime is long and paved with thousands of years’ old traditions that will not be easily eradicated. But we can no longer sit in the bleachers and watch in silence as more virgins are sacrificed and their innocent blood is spilled on the matrimonial alter.
Editorial by Alexandra Kinias
1. LAOS: One Woman’s Mission to Free Laos From Millions of Unexploded Bombs
Thanks to Lao-American Channapha Khamvong’s efforts, the United States will be spending $12 million to get rid of millions of unexploded ordnance in Laos, up from $2.5 million ten years ago. From her little office in Washington D.C., Khamvongsa has been able to raise money and awareness about the contaminated country. Laos is littered with live, hidden cluster bombs from 580,000 American bombing missions half a century ago. They are forgotten leftovers from “the Secret War,” one of the most severe air campaigns in history. Over the past five decades, the explosives have killed 8,000 people and wounded 12,000, who have mistakenly detonated the bombs. With this increased budget for clearing teams, Khamvong hopes that with continuous efforts and hard work, the Laos countryside maybe cleared of these bombs over the next few decades.
2. IRAN: My Stealthy Freedom: Women in Iran Step Up Hijab Campaign by Filming themselves Walking in Public with their Heads Uncovered
When Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad started the Facebook page, My Stealthy Freedom, to give Iranian women an opportunity to share their photos without the hijab (head veil), she had not anticipated that it would become a women’s movement. In a country where the Islamic law forces women to wear the veil in public, the social media gave the Iranian women a voice to express how they truly view the hijab.
And with the momentum that My Stealthy Freedom campaign has gained, women in Iran are not just sharing their photos without the hijab, but the campaign is expanding as women, in defiance to the laws of the land, are now filming themselves walking in the streets of Tehran in broad daylight without their hijab, according to a report in the The Independent. Watch video below or click here to view it.
3. CANADA: Woman Recounts Being Attacked on Montreal Subway ‘For Wearing Hijab’
MONTREAL — Hanane Mehdi was taking the subway to work in downtown Montreal on Tuesday, as she does every day, when she says she was the victim of a racist attack as reported by Montreal, Canada-based Le Journal de Montreal reported.
Hanane Mehdi, who was taking the subway to go to work, was aggressed for wearing the Islamic veil by another woman. She was told to “return to your country” by a woman who later hit her in the face.“She started hitting me in the face, which got all red. I felt her hitting me from behind until people got involved,” Mehdi said.Talking about the incident, Mehdi’s daughter Marwa said: “I was so scared I was sick.“I didn’t know it could happen to my mother and I almost cried because I love my mom and I don’t want that to happen to her.”Following the incident, Mehdi, who did not return to work since the attack, filed a complaint against the woman.An investigation is under way as police review surveillance camera footage.
4. JAPAN: Japanese Police Make Arrest Amid String of Acid Attacks on Women
In four separate incidents in the city of Takasaki, Japan, four women who went shopping in the center of the city became victims of acid attacks. They all reported that that they felt a burning sensation on their legs and feet before realizing that acid was thrown on their bodies. Five days after the attacks, the Japanese police arrested a suspect in connection to the crime. The arrest came two years after Tatsujiro Fukazawa, 40, was accused of filling his female co-worker’s shoes with hydrofluoric acid. The victim had denied Fukazawa’s romance and as a result she lost the tips of her toes. Fukazawa was sentenced to seven years in jail.
Acid attack on women worldwide is on the rise. Women are targeted mainly by jealous perpetrators in revenge to denying or refusing their romantic approaches.
5. ISRAEL: Israeli Robi Damelin and Palestinian Bushra Awad have A Plan for Peace
Robi Damelin and Bushra Awad are two mothers living on opposite sides of a bitter conflict. Both women have lost sons to the fighting between Israel and Palestine. And both are determined to channel their grief into a force for change.
When they first met, they exchanged hostilities, but when they showed each other the photos of their sons, they bonded immediately, as they cried together realizing that neither of them was responsible for the death of the other’s son.
Damelin and Awad hope to repair the strife between Israel and Palestine—not through peace negotiations, but through compassion.
Left as a widow with no income, while still pregnant with her daughter, Sisa Abu Daooh had to join the workforce to provide for her little family. Restricted by the traditions of her village in the southern governorate of Luxor that opposed to the work of women, Daooh was left with no other choice, but to disguise as a man to be able to find a job, a role she mastered for more than four decades. She wore men’s clothes and worked as a labor carrying bricks and cement bags at construction sites and polishing shoes. In her words she said that she preferred to work such jobs than becoming a street beggar.
The war on skinny is fought in the heart of the fashion capital, Paris. The French parliament is debating a law that would ban extremely thin models and to punish the agencies that recruits them. In France 30,000 – 40,000 people suffer from anorexia, mainly teenagers. The high pressure on models to stay thin is causing a lot of complications to their health as well as it is promoting an unrealistic body image and normalizing an unachievable physical appearance. Doctors in France are hoping by the end of 2015 to have no more anorexic models on the catwalk.
Germany, home to the biggest Turkish community outside of Turkey has been witnessing social unrest since France has banned the wear of hijab (head scarves) in schools in 2003. And with the rise of Islamophobia in Europe, Muslim Germans like elsewhere in Europe have been feeling the pressure, especially when it came to their women covering the heads. The ruling of the German courts to allow teachers to wear the hijab in schools, as long as it doesn’t conflict with the school activities or cause disruption in the schools. This ruling was welcomed by the Muslim community.
The violence against women that is spreading across India is leaving no woman safe; neither women’s’ age, social or religious stature protect them. In less than a week after the airing of the BBC documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ about the rape endemic that is wiping the country, the news reported the gang rape of a 74-years old nun. The mother superior was attacked and raped by a gang of robbers in the convent of Mary and Jesus school which is located 80 Kilometers away from Calcutta. Even with their faces captured on camera, the robbers are still at large. This incident is just one in a long chain of events that the BBC documentary shed the light on in a culture that harbors the criminals.
The BBC documentary was banned in India as many excerpts in the documentary encourage violence against women, according to the Indian officials. In an interview for the documentary, the man who was convicted in the gang rape and murder of a girl in 2012, showed no remorse for the crime and put the blame on girls for being raped. “A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night,” he told the BBC. “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Boy and girl are not equal…Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes.” He suggested that they [men] “had a right to teach them a lesson.”
But instead of shedding the truth on what is really happening in India and how society views women, the officials decided to cover it up.
To achieve the goal of their spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to double the population of Iran to 150 million in the next 50 years, Iranian women will be facing more setbacks. A law had already been approved in the parliament that restricts accesses to contraceptives will soon be in effect. An amendment to the bill will include the ban on sterilization and end subsidies on contraceptives. And another bill that will go before parliament next month will require employers to give job priority to men and women with children. Amnesty International has raised the concern over these bills that are reducing Iranian women to baby making machines. These laws will also be stripping women the rights of making their own decisions about their bodies and lives. Not to mention that the restriction of the use of contraception will force many women into unsafe backstreets abortion clinics.
Former first lady of Ivory Coast was sentenced to 20 years in jail on charges of crimes against humanity. Gbagbo was convicted Monday for her role in carrying out crimes against humanity following post-election violence in 2010 which left more than 3,000 people dead.
Sweden has recognized that prostitution is an institution of inequality. And since 2009 and in an effort to combat it, Sweden has criminalized buying sex while decriminalized selling it – putting the criminal burden on the buyer, not the prostitute. As a result, street prostitution dropped to half. The success of this law has encouraged other countries to follow the Swedish model. Criminalizing the purchase of sex has been fully adopted in Norway and Iceland and partially adopted in Korea, Israel, Finland, and the United Kingdom. France may also consider passing this law.
This law also gives supports to the prostitutes. Parallel to criminalizing the buyer, Swedish NGO’s are assisting prostitutes who want to get off the streets. These NGOs have funds that offer these women education and work possibilities.
An interview with Rashid Ghazi, executive producer and director of Fordson
By: Alexandra Kinias .. article published in Kalimat Magazine.
At the 7th annual Traverse City Film Festival, Michael Moore recommended that everyone in the country should see the film ‘Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football.’ The feature length documentary tells the inspiring story of a high school football team as it prepares for its big game, played during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, while its players are fasting. As the film follows the preparations for the game, it also peels the layers of this working class community living in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn. Through the eyes of the team players, their coaches, fans and families, the movie exposes the lives of the community and how its members are holding to their faith and living the American dream, while struggling for acceptance after 9/11.
‘Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football’ won the U.S Jury Award for best documentary and was described by Academy award winning director Michael Moore as powerful, intelligent and moving. Interestingly enough, the movie was turned down by all television networks in the US, and the film makers failed to secure a television distributor in North America. HBO, TLC, PBS Independent lens and Oprah Network were among the networks that rejected it.
“I am a Muslim myself who grew up playing sports in Ramadan. It was back in 2004 when I heard the story about this high school football team, playing the semifinals in the Michigan playoffs–Ramadan in 2004 was in November–and they were playing football and fasting. These Muslim kids inspired me to tell their story. They had to be of Arab descend, practicing their religion and playing an all American game of football.” Rashid Ghazi, executive producer and director, said in a question and answer segment about what had inspired him to make the movie.
Fordson High School is located in Dearborn, MI, which has the largest single concentration of Arabs in one city outside the Middle East. The first Arab immigrants landed in Dearborn over one hundred years ago. Arab Americans became an essential part in the tapestry of the city. They started businesses and were highly involved in politics. A century later, Dearborn is the only home to tens of thousands of Arab Americans who constitute the largest ethnic group in the city. Consequently, ninety eight percent of the students in Fordson, the public school built by Henry Ford in 1922, are Arab Americans. However, the safe haven that the community members strived to build for themselves and their families for ten decades was shattered on 9/11. Although the residents of Dearborn were shocked by the events of the horrific attacks, as did everyone else in the country, within hours, Arab Americans were left to feel responsible for the attacks, by mere association to the 19 hijackers. Such accusations shook the foundation on which their community was founded.
“Throughout my life as I growing up, the stories of Islam in the news were either about violence, conflict, war or terrorism. The images we had of Arabs were the ones in the Middle East—screaming or burning the American flags—or the negative stereotypes [of villains] that were portrayed in books and movies.” Ghazi said.
Ghazi, a Muslim of south Asian descent, felt that most Americans neither understood Islam or Arabs, nor had compassion for either the Arabs living in the Middle East or the ones living in America. He concluded that the reason for the lack of empathy and understanding was because Americans didn’t know any Arabs or Muslims. “This was my inspiration to make a documentary, to service as bridge and to provide fellow Americans with more knowledge and information about Muslims and Islam.” Ghazi said.
Despite that ‘Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football’ is a film about an immigrant community of Arabs that tries to confirm their American identity, while struggling to reconcile their Arab heritage, the film was neither accepted in Al Jazeera documentary festival or Dubai International Film festival. In fact, Ghazi explained, the film was rejected by all the festivals in the Middle East.
‘Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football’ was independently produced by Ghazi and his wife Selma and entirely funded by them. “We didn’t want any organizations funding the movie because we wanted it to be a truly independent project. We didn’t want anybody to even think that there is an agenda behind some organizations propping the film out.”
It took him several years to get the rights to make the film. After rejecting the idea for a long time, Fordson board of education and the football coach finally agreed to grant the film makers the approval to shoot inside the school.
“Our persistence finally paid off with the coach, especially that he saw that our intentions were good.” When asked why the idea of filming a documentary about Fordson football team was initially rejected, Ghazi explained that residents of Dearborn are weary of the media. Media get in the community, tape one thing and then provide a completely opposite message. However, after multiple meetings with the board of educators, they gave the production team a green light after seeing that their intentions were not to misrepresent who they are as a community.
Ghazi saw that a documentary would be more truthful in telling the story than a feature movie. Moreover, it is politically incorrect to have a feature movie like ‘Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football.’
“Hilary Clinton honored us at the state department and spoke about the film in celebration for Muslim athletes. Yet, a lot of people don’t want to hear positive stories about Arab Americans. A negative environment exists. On the surface everything seems fine, but underneath it all there are still push backs to our film. Our film doesn’t criticize others to show positive stories of Arabs, but just the fact that we are showing positive stories of Arabs is not what we should be up against right now.”
Domestically, the film is publicly screened around the country in schools, community centers, local theaters and nonprofit and educational institutions. Internationally, the film was aired in Holland, and was bought by television networks in Brazil and Israel, and will air in twenty five more markets, outside the Middle East. “I originally thought that one of the local networks would pick up our film immediately because of what it is and how well it was received by critics. I still think that the biggest disappointment was not to secure wide television distribution in the US,” he said.