China Tells Women to ‘Go Home and Live Well’

Beijing Urging Women to Quit Their Jobs, Focus on Family

Sophie Richardson

China Director

On August 21, Chinese women’s rights activist Wu Rongrong went to a police station in Shanxi province to check on her application for a travel permit to Hong Kong, where she has been accepted to graduate school. Police denied her application because Wu—one of the “Feminist Five”—was detained in March 2015 for her role in a campaign against sexual harassment. Adding insult to injury, an officer told her, “Don’t continue to go to school. What’s the point? Go home and live well.”

Poster hung in the Beijing marriage registration office reading, “Being a good housewife and good mother are women’s biggest achievements.”

© screenshot from Weibo

Despite claims to gender equality, Chinese authorities are sending that same “go home” message to women across the country. Continue reading……

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Women Become Governors In Kenya

For the first time in the history of Kenya, six women have been elected to key positions in the  East African country’s  governance structure, in the just concluded elections.

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Joyce Laboso, Member of Parliament representing Bomet and the  Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and  two former cabinet Secretaries, Annie Waguru and Charity Ngilu have become the first women to become Governors in the country.

Indeed, Laboso trounced the incumbent to emerge Governor of Bomet.

This without doubt, is a challenge to other African countries, where women  have stepped up  agitations to occupy  key positions in Government. Read more…….

 

Similarly independent candidates,  Mohamed Kuti of Isiolo and Ndiritu of Muhritihi of Laikipia also won Governorship seats in their respective states.  Read more……

Read this from Commission crowd

UN Secretary-General’s Message for International Women’s Day

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Women’s rights are human rights. But in these troubled times, as our world becomes more unpredictable and chaotic, the rights of women and girls are being reduced, restricted and reversed.

Empowering women and girls is the only way to protect their rights and make sure they can realize their full potential.

Historic imbalances in power relations between men and women, exacerbated by growing inequalities within and between societies and countries, are leading to greater discrimination against women and girls. Around the world, tradition, cultural values and religion are being misused to curtail women’s rights, to entrench sexism and defend misogynistic practices.

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Women’s legal rights, which have never been equal to men’s on any continent, are being eroded further. Women’s rights over their own bodies are questioned and undermined. Women are routinely targeted for intimidation and harassment in cyberspace and in real life. In the worst cases, extremists and terrorists build their ideologies around the subjugation of women and girls and single them out for sexual and gender-based violence, forced marriage and virtual enslavement.

Despite some improvements, leadership positions across the board are still held by men, and the economic gender gap is widening, thanks to outdated attitudes and entrenched male chauvinism. We must change this, by empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world.

Denying the rights of women and girls is not only wrong in itself; it has a serious social and economic impact that holds us all back. Gender equality has a transformative effect that is essential to fully functioning communities, societies and economies.

Women’s access to education and health services has benefits for their families and communities that extend to future generations. An extra year in school can add up to 25 per cent to a girl’s future income.

When women participate fully in the labour force, it creates opportunities and generates growth. Closing the gender gap in employment could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. Increasing the proportion of women in public institutions makes them more representative, increases innovation, improves decision-making and benefits whole societies.

Gender equality is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the global plan agreed by leaders of all countries to meet the challenges we face. Sustainable Development Goal 5 calls specifically for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and this is central to the achievement of all the 17 SDGs.

I am committed to increasing women’s participation in our peace and security work. Women negotiators increase the chances of sustainable peace, and women peacekeepers decrease the chances of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Within the UN, I am establishing a clear road map with benchmarks to achieve gender parity across the system, so that our Organization truly represents the people we serve. Previous targets have not been met. Now we must move from ambition to action.

On International Women’s Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Source : UN Women

Congo-Kinshasa: Lack of School Drives Girls Into Armed Groups in Eastern Congo – Charity

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Dakar — Dozens of armed groups in eastern Congo prey on locals and exploit mineral reserves, and girls forced to join militia groups for food, money and protection

Girls in conflict-ravaged eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are joining armed groups because they cannot afford to go to school, while former girl soldiers struggle to return to class amid stigma from their communities, a charity said on Monday.

Many girls in the region join militia groups to obtain food and money, to seek protection against violence, or because their families cannot afford to pay their school fees, according to a report by Britain-based Child Soldiers International (CSI).

Eastern Congo is plagued by dozens of armed groups that prey on locals and exploit mineral reserves. Millions died between 1996 and 2003 as a regional conflict caused hunger and disease.

Around a third of all children in armed groups in the country are estimated to be girls, who are often married off to militants and are vulnerable to abuse and rape, activists say.

“It is deeply shocking that, because their families cannot afford to pay school fees, some girls see joining an armed group as their only option, and decide to throw themselves in harm’s way,” said Isabelle Guitard, director of programmes at CSI.

While primary education is free and compulsory by law, most schools in Congo charge fees for books and uniforms, CSI said.

“Despite the horrific abuse the girls go through while with armed groups, it is the rejection from their families and communities which distresses many of them the most,” Guitard told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from London.

While civil society groups have had some success in getting boys out of armed groups and into reintegration programmes, this shame and fear of rejection back home has kept many girls in the bush, according to CSI’s report.

“If we leave the group, we’re going to be targeted … so many girls accept and continue to live with their bush husband,” said one of the 150 former girl soldiers interviewed by CSI.

Most of these girls said going to school was the best way to regain acceptance from their communities, and that it helped them to deal with trauma suffered while with the armed groups.

CSI said it was working with local partners to help former girl soldiers go back to school, provide catch-up sessions and literacy classes for those who have never been educated or who are too old to start.

Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Ros Russell

Source : Thomas Reuters Foundation(London)

How Women Drive Nonviolent Movements for Change

Women’s Roles as Strategists and Organizers is Often Hidden

By:
Fred Strasser

In 2004, when Iraqi political and religious leaders tried to roll back a longstanding law asserting broad rights for women, thousands of Iraqi women mobilized to defend it and to enshrine their rights in the constitution. They marched, wrote protest letters and lobbied the U.S.-led coalition then ruling the country. Carla Koppell, then with the Institute for Inclusive Security, suggested to political analysts evaluating Iraq’s spreading insurgencies that the women’s campaign was a type of activism that U.S. policy should support. But the analysts were dismissive, Koppell recalled in a discussion last week at the U.S. Institute of Peace. “They said, ‘Oh, that’s just women who haven’t taken up arms yet,’” Koppell said. “Yeah. That’s kind of the point, isn’t it? And women were the majority of the country.”

Women march in a protest by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, more than 30 years after the group led a campaign that helped topple Argentina’s military regime. Photo Courtesy of Flickr/AHLN

The analysts’ dismissal of the women’s campaign (which eventually prevented the abrogation of the women’s rights law) reflects a frequent failing, said specialists at the USIP discussion. Governments, institutions, media and others often underestimate the power of nonviolent movements to make social and political change, and the role that women play, they said.

“There is a long global history of women’s leadership of nonviolent action,” said Koppell, now a USIP specialist on peaceful resolution of conflicts. “Women are more willing to cross conflict lines, they have a greater hesitance to move to violence. Women find less space in formal institutions, and in many cultures, the foundation that women have to build on is as peacemakers—and that sets them up for leadership,” she said.

“There is a struggle for the soul of political activity.” — Sandra Pepera, National Democratic Institute.

Nonviolent movements attain their objectives 54 percent of the time, as opposed to a 25-percent success rate for those that employ violent tactics—and they draw citizen participation that is 11 times greater, pulling diverse skills and networks into campaigns for social or political change—said Marie A. Principe of the Woodrow Wilson Center. She cited the 2011 book Why Civil Resistance Works by USIP scholar Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth of the University of Denver. Principe is the author of a USIP-commissioned report, “Women in Nonviolent Movements,” released in draft form at the discussion.

The greater citizen participation in nonviolent movements implicitly improves the engagement and leadership of women, who form half of any population. Chenoweth and fellow Denver professor Marie Berry are now researching 400 mass movements from 1900 to 2014, to learn whether they achieve more peaceful or successful outcomes when women are in leadership roles, said Stephan, who moderated the conversation.

There is no question, though, that women play critical, and distinct, roles in organizing nonviolent tactics that include strikes, boycotts, vigils, marches and sit-ins, said the panelist, whose perspectives incorporate experience in the arts, activism, policy and scholarship.

Principe recounted historical examples, collected in her research, that show how women’s leadership has wrought nonviolent change in recent decades:

  • Regimes may fear popular disapproval if they visibly use force against certain women, an advantage in Argentina for the middle-aged “Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo” who began dissent against military rule in the 1970s. The mothers’ weekly marches to protest the forcible ‘disappearance’ of their children in the junta’s “Dirty War,” spearheaded popular resistance that helped topple the regime.
  • Women can play on stereotypical sex roles to goad men to action. Egyptian activist Asmaa Mahfouz made a video in 2011 that helped spark the revolution that brought down the dictatorship of President Hosni Mubarak. “If you think of yourself as a man, come with me on January 25” to protect girls protesting Mubarak’s rule, the video demanded.
  • Women as leaders often are overlooked by repressive forces. After Poland’s communist government arrested most leaders of the (almost all-male) Solidarity labor movement in 1981, seven women hid those still free, established underground networks, published the organization’s main clandestine newspaper and maintained the movement’s momentum.
  • Women can organize with consistency and patience. For three years before the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, triggered by Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white man, a black women’s political caucus in Alabama had been laying the groundwork. Historical accounts largely miss that fact, focusing instead on the subsequent boycott leadership of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

Palestinian women were instrumental in the planning and organization that led to the First Intifada, the largely nonviolent resistance movement against Israeli rule in the Occupied Territories, said filmmaker Julia Bacha. Her nonprofit organization, Just Vision, has spent four years making a film on the uprising, and co-hosted the discussion at USIP, along with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

The Palestinian women’s role was not accidental, Bacha said. In the 1970s and 1980s, four left-wing parties within the Palestine Liberation Organization had created all-female bodies that went into rural areas and refugee camps asking women what their needs were. That effort, begun with 25 women, created a network that reached 3,000 within a year and 10,000 by the onset of the revolt. Women could play on gender stereotypes for invisibility, for example avoiding close scrutiny at checkpoints, and could carry out resistance such as distributing leaflets along with families’ bread supplies.

Women lost their political power when the male leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization returned from exile in Tunis, Bacha said. “I think we see the unfortunate consequences of that today,” she said.

The question for the panel to explore was how women of diverse backgrounds have navigated nonviolent action to make change and “make the invisible visible,” Kathleen Kuehnast, USIP’s senior gender advisor, said in opening remarks.

That is the technology-driven goal of an India-based project called SafeCity. It gathers crowd-sourced data to reduce sexual harassment and violence by men in public spaces in cities including Mumbai and Delhi, said the group’s managing director, ElsaMarie D’Silva. SafeCity collects reports of harassment and aggression—notably through social media, e-mails, phone calls, and surveys—to create maps of “hot spots” where women face the most serious problems. The information has the reinforcing effect of getting women to share previously hidden stories that in turn produce more information, D’Silva said.

“If something is undocumented, in my opinion, it didn’t happen,” D’Silva said. “And if it didn’t happen, why would the authorities show any urgency to do something?”

Police, confronted with the data, shifted patrols to counter the aggression, D’Silva said. SafeCity has taken direct action, too, painting the text of laws against harassment on public walls in areas where the crime has occurred, such as outside a university in Delhi. At one harassment “hot spot,” activists painted pairs of watching eyes on a wall with messages warning men that local women would not be intimidated. The tactic served to “shrink the comfort zones of the perpetrators,” and aggression subsided, D’Silva said.

Social movements like those highlighted in the USIP report are likely to proliferate worldwide amid growing disillusion with traditional forms of political engagement, said Sandra Pepera, the National Democratic Institute’s director for gender, women and democracy. The number of such campaigns are at a record, she said, and the consequences are not entirely predictable.

“Clearly, there is work to be done on how nonviolent social movements are going to impact our politics,” Pepara said. “There is a struggle for the political soul of democratic activity. If we don’t start thinking about how these movements engage with some form of structured, political negotiation, compromise, are we likely to end up in a situation where nobody know the rules, and then it’s basically, ‘My gun is bigger than your gun?’” she said.

Source : USIP

Nigeria: Officials Abusing Displaced Women, Girls

Press release

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Abuja — Government officials and other authorities in Nigeria have raped and sexually exploited women and girls displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram. The government is not doing enough to protect displaced women and girls and ensure that they have access to basic rights and services or to sanction the abusers, who include camp leaders, vigilante groups, policemen, and soldiers.

In late July, 2016, Human Rights Watch documented sexual abuse, including rape and exploitation, of 43 women and girls living in seven internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. The victims had been displaced from several Borno towns and villages, including Abadam, Bama, Baga, Damasak, Dikwa, Gamboru Ngala, Gwoza, Kukawa, and Walassa. In some cases, the victims had arrived in the under-served Maiduguri camps, where their movement is severely restricted after spending months in military screening camps.

“It is bad enough that these women and girls are not getting much-needed support for the horrific trauma they suffered at the hands of Boko Haram,” said Mausi Segun, senior Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them.”

Four of the victims told Human Rights Watch that they were drugged and raped, while 37 were coerced into sex through false marriage promises and material and financial assistance. Many of those coerced into sex said they were abandoned if they became pregnant. They and their children have suffered discrimination, abuse, and stigmatization from other camp residents. Eight of the victims said they were previously abducted by Boko Haram fighters and forced into marriage before they escaped to Maiduguri.

A situational assessment of IDPs in the northeast in July 2016 by NOI Polls, a Nigerian research organization, reported that 66 percent of 400 displaced people in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states said that camp officials sexually abuse the displaced women and girls.

Women and girls abused by members of the security forces and vigilante groups – civilian self-defense groups working with government forces in their fight against Boko Haram – told Human Rights Watch they feel powerless and fear retaliation if they report the abuse. A 17-year-old girl said that just over a year after she fled the frequent Boko Haram attacks in Dikwa, a town 56 miles west of Maiduguri, a policeman approached her for “friendship” in the camp, and then he raped her.

“One day he demanded to have sex with me,” she said. “I refused but he forced me. It happened just that one time, but soon I realized I was pregnant. When I informed him about my condition, he threatened to shoot and kill me if I told anyone else. So I was too afraid to report him.”

The Boko Haram conflict has led to more than 10,000 civilian deaths since 2009; the abductions of at least 2,000 people, mostly women and children and large groups of students, including from Chibok and Damasak; the forced recruitment of hundreds of men; and the displacement of about 2.5 million people in northeast Nigeria.

Irregular supplies of food, clothing, medicine, and other essentials, along with restricted movement in the IDP camps in Maiduguri, compounds the vulnerability of victims – many of them widowed women and unaccompanied orphaned girls – to rape and sexual exploitation by camp officials, soldiers, police, members of civilian vigilante groups, and other Maiduguri residents. Residents of the Arabic Teachers Village camp, Pompomari, told Human Rights Watch in July that the camp had not received any food or medicines since late May, just before the start of the month-long Muslim fast of Ramadan.

Restricted movement in the camps is contrary to Principle 14.2 of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which provides that internally displaced people have “the right to move freely in and out of camps and other settlements.”

In some cases, men used their positions of authority and gifts of desperately needed food or other items to have sex with women. A woman in a Dalori camp said residents get only one meal a day. She said she accepted the advances of a soldier who proposed marriage because she needed help in feeding her four children. He disappeared five months later when she told him she was pregnant.

Victims of rape and sexual exploitation may be less likely to seek health care, including psychological counselling, due to the shame they feel. Fewer than five of the 43 women and girls interviewed said they had received any formal counseling after they were raped or sexually exploited. A medical health worker in one of the camps, which has 10,000 residents, said that the number of people requiring treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections has risen sharply, from about 200 cases when the camp clinic was established in 2014 to more than 500 in July 2016. The health worker said she believed that many more women could be infected but were ashamed to go to the clinic, and are likely to be suffering in silence without treatment.

The Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) has direct responsibility for distributing aid, including food, medicine, clothes, and bedding, as well as managing the camps. Its national counterpart, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), supplies raw food and other materials for internally displaced people to the state agency under a memorandum of understanding.

Aid workers have warned since early 2016 that displaced women have been forced to exchange sex for basic necessities and that various elements, including members of the security forces in northeast Nigeria, have been subjecting some of them to sexual and gender-based violence. A Rapid Protection Assessment Report published in May by the Borno State Protection Sector Working Group, made up of national and international aid providers, identified sexual exploitation, rape, and other sexual abuse as major concerns in nearly all 13 camps and several local communities hosting displaced people in and around Maiduguri.

Following his visit to Nigeria in August, the United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, said Nigeria’s government had “a tendency to downplay the problem of sexual violence and abuse” of internally displaced people. He expressed concern that this tendency “constitutes a hidden crisis of abuse with fear, stigma and cultural factors as well as impunity for perpetrators leading to under-reporting of abuse to the relevant authorities.”

Human Rights Watch wrote to several Nigerian authorities in August requesting comment on the research findings. The minister of women affairs and social development, Senator Aisha Jumai Alhassan, promised in a meeting with Human Rights Watch on September 5 to investigate the allegations and then respond. Her response has not yet been received at time of writing.

“Failure to respond to these widely reported abuses amounts to severe negligence or worse by Nigerian authorities,” Segun said. “Authorities should provide adequate aid in the camps, ensure freedom of movement for all displaced people, safe and confidential health care for survivors, and punish the abusers.”

Victims’ Accounts

Movement Restrictions, Food Shortages Fuel Sexual Abuse

Most of the victims interviewed lived in camps for displaced people. While victims living at the Arabic Teachers’ Village camp said they were allowed to leave the camp for about eight hours daily, victims from other camps said that their movement was severely restricted. The women and girls became victims of rape and sexual exploitation when they accepted offers of friendship or marriage from men in positions of authority.

Rape

A 16-year-old girl who fled a brutal Boko Haram attack on Baga, near the shores of Lake Chad, northern Borno in January 2015, said she was drugged and raped in May 2015 by a vigilante group member in charge of distributing aid in the camp:

He knew my parents were dead, because he is also from Baga. He would bring me food items like rice and spaghetti so I believed he really wanted to marry me. But he was also asking me for sex. I always told him I was too small [young]. The day he raped me, he offered me a drink in a cup. As soon as I drank it, I slept off. It was in his camp room.

I knew something was wrong when I woke up. I was in pain, and blood was coming out of my private part. I felt weak and could not walk well. I did not tell anyone because I was afraid. When my menstrual period did not come, I knew I was pregnant and just wanted to die to join my dead mother. I was too ashamed to even go to the clinic for pregnancy care. I am so young! The man ran away from the camp when he heard I delivered a baby six months ago. I just feel sorry for the baby because I have no food or love to give him. I think he might die.

An 18-year-old girl from Kukawa, a Borno town 112 miles from Maiduguri, the state capital, said that a member of Civilian Joint Task Force – a self-defense vigilante group working with government forces in their fight against Boko Haram – initially gave her privileges, including passes that allowed her to leave the camp, but then raped her:

The man started with preaching, telling me to be a good Muslim girl and not to join bad groups in the camp. He then sent his mother to propose to me, which convinced me that he was serious. He allowed me to go outside the camp when necessary. When he asked me to visit his newly allocated room in the camp, I didn’t see any reason not to go because I felt safe with him. He gave me a bottle of Zobo [locally brewed non-alcoholic drink] and I immediately felt dizzy and slept off. I don’t know what happened thereafter but when I woke up he was gone and I was in pain and felt wet between my legs. For three days I could not walk properly.

Some weeks later I fell very ill, and was told at the hospital that I was pregnant. Then everyone turned away from me: [He] refused to help me, and my step-mother who I lived with in camp pushed me out, saying I was a disgrace. I reported [him] to the police in camp several times but they have not done anything to him because they work together. Whenever I see him, I wish something terrible will happen to him. It is because of him that I have lost everything. I don’t even think the baby will last because she is always crying and I can’t cope. I pray that God will forgive me for neglecting the baby but I am helpless.

Sexual Exploitation

A 30-year-old woman from Walassa, near Bama, about 43 miles west of Maiduguri, said that she fled into a nearby wooded area after Boko Haram fighters killed her husband and abducted her daughters, ages 12 and 9. She stayed there for three months, hoping to find a way to rescue her daughters, until Nigerian government soldiers arrived in the area and the fighters escaped with their captives:

A few weeks after soldiers transported us to the camp, near Maiduguri, one of the soldiers guarding us approached me for marriage. He used to bring food and clothes for me and my remaining four children, so I allowed him to have sex with me. He is a Hausa man from Gwoza. That is all I know about him. Two months later he just stopped coming. Then I realized I was pregnant. I feel so angry with him for deceiving me. When he was pretending to woo me he used to provide for me, but as soon as I agreed and we began having sex, his gifts began to reduce until he abandoned me. Now my situation is worse as the pregnancy makes me sick, and I have no one to help me care for my children.

A woman from Bama living at the same camp said:

The soldier showed his interest by bringing me food and clothes. He used to wear the green army uniform and carried a gun. I accepted him because I needed help to take care of me and my four children. Feeding in the camp is only once a day so you have to accept any help that comes. We started having sex in my camp tent – my sister who was sharing it with me left – or at night in the open field where soldiers stay in the camp. Five months later when I realized I was pregnant and told him, he stopped coming. I have not seen him since then. I feel so ashamed because my neighbors talk and stare at me. I cry whenever I think about him. I delivered the baby two months ago but he is also suffering – I eat once a day so [am] not producing enough milk to breast feed him well. Things are so bad in the camp, there is not enough water or food.

An 18-year old girl from Baga said when she met a member of the Civilian Joint Task Force in the camp, she felt she could trust him because he is also from Baga:

He took me from the camp to a house on Baga Road so we could meet freely. I stayed with him in that house for about one month. Then I fell ill, and went to a clinic. The people at the clinic asked for the person I was living with, and invited him. That was when they told him I was pregnant, and he accepted the pregnancy. But immediately [when] we came out of the clinic he took me to a man to abort the pregnancy. I refused and he said if I would not abort we should separate. Then I moved to the camp. I gave birth almost a year ago but the man has refused to take responsibility. Some months ago he followed the military to catch Boko Haram far from Maiduguri. Even when he visits his two wives in the camp he never asks for me and my baby. I go outside the camp to beg so that we can survive.

A 25-year-old woman at from Dikwa said that when she fled Boko Haram’s attack on the town, she lived with her brother in a rented apartment in Maiduguri. When he was no longer able to feed her and her three children, he took her to the camp where he handed her over to camp elders. One of these elders, a local government employee – who are often financially better off than most displaced people because they receive salaries – proposed marriage and regularly brought her food and money. But the marriage did not materialize, and he began to shun her when she became pregnant. He continued to ignore her when she delivered twins and asked him for money to pay for her midwife. The woman said:

If I have a gun, I will shoot him. It is because of him that people call me and my babies names. I am so ashamed that I cannot participate in camp activities and keep to myself because of the jeers.

A 17-year-old girl said that a young man she knew took her home to his grandmother when she arrived Maiduguri from Dikwa in mid-2014:

He told me he wanted to marry me, and his grandmother referred to me as her grandson’s wife. I lived with them, cooking and cleaning the house, until a month later when he disappeared for weeks. The grandmother asked me to leave, promising to come to the wedding… It was a lie. I did not know it but I was already pregnant. Maybe she already saw the pregnancy signs and I was too young to understand. I heard the grandson fled the town because he heard I have given birth. Now I have been left alone to fend for the baby. I don’t know if any other member of my family survived the Boko Haram attack on Dikwa.

Restricted Movement

A 32-year-old woman from the Damasak said:

Life is terrible here in this camp. For the past three days we have not eaten because there is no firewood to cook the food. To make it worse, they will not even allow us to go out to fend for ourselves. Most times you have to beg the camp officials to intervene with the guards before they will give you the pass to go out. Why will you refuse if any of those people ask you for marriage? You have to survive.

Another camp resident, a 47-year-old mother of eight from Abadam, a northern Borno town, said:

We used to get food at least twice a day when I first arrived at the camp in 2014. But now, sometimes we get nothing at all. We can’t even buy food ourselves because they will not let us go out. My relatives in the town have to plead with camp officials for hours before the officials will agree to let them give us some money or foodstuff from the little they have.

A 20-year-old widowed mother of one at a camp for displaced people said:

I have been refusing marriage proposals from the men in camp because I see how they are deceiving others. I am just not sure how long I can remain in this situation. The last time I ate was four days ago when the one cup of maize I was given finished. I am suffering because I have no husband or anyone else to assist me.

A 16-year-old single mother of one in the same camp said:

Life is difficult in the camp, hardly enough to eat. There is food but whoever gets it, gets it. We are not allowed to go out to find work or get extra food. Sometimes I go to the kitchen to scrape pots to get something to eat. They distribute tickets, some get tickets and some don’t get. If you don’t get a ticket you get no food. The IDP elders distribute the tickets, so they distribute amongst themselves, they make sure their families get first. Usually distribution of tickets take place at odd times such as at midnight.

If you are not married, you hardly get anything that comes in. Women who have husbands insult us: “If you want to eat in [this camp], you should get married in [the camp] so husbands can get food for you.”

Military Screening Centers

Displaced women from several communities re-captured from Boko Haram by the Nigerian army, including Baga, Bama, and Gwoza, told Human Rights Watch in Maiduguri that the Nigerian military operated screening centers where they interrogated local people to determine how much involvement they had with militants. While some women are screened in a few days, others are interrogated daily for months before being released to a camp. Witnesses said the interviewees were separated by gender, but that male soldiers interrogated everyone.

A woman who escaped her Boko Haram abductors in Sambisa with her three children while four months pregnant described their reception after an eight-hour trek back to her home town of Bama, then under government control:

Soldiers were already back in Bama when we arrived. They took us to a primary healthcare center near the entrance into Bama to search and question us. We thought they would soon let us go, but they locked us with other women (about 20 people) for more than three months. They bring us out one by one every day to ask whether we joined Boko Haram freely or they forced us. Many of us were naked or in rags until about one month later soldiers took us to town to search for clothes among the burnt ruins of houses in the town. I was very ill because of the pregnancy. After the third month passed they drove us in lorries to Maiduguri, and dropped off sick ones like me in the hospital.

A 20-year-old woman who was abducted in Gwoza by Boko Haram, and then escaped, said:

I was three months pregnant from the Boko Haram fighter that raped me when I escaped Gwoza with my three children. Our relief on arriving at Maiduguri after a two-day trek was crushed when soldiers arrested us. They took us to Giwa barracks, where we saw up to 300 other women and children. Soldiers used to question us every day until my children and I were released four months later.

There appears to be at least one other screening center around Maiduguri, Human Rights Watch found. A 17-year-old girl from Dikwa was held in a place she described as “a compound with about five buildings just before you enter Maiduguri proper.” She was allowed to receive visitors for the month she was there before being cleared by the military to enter Maiduguri.

Lack of Mental Health Support for Victims

Many of the women and girls interviewed said that their experiences affected their psychological well-being. Some said they had difficulty sleeping, and deliberately isolated themselves to avoid insults and slurs. Many also said they felt constantly angry with their abusers, wishing they could harm them in retaliation. None said they had professional counselling.

A 30-year-old woman from Gwoza said:

I feel sad all the time. I am always thinking about all the bad things that have happened to me. Sometimes I cry; at other times I try to resign to my fate. But it is hard. My neighbors in the camp encourage me to pray. That is all I can do, pray.

A 16-year-old rape survivor said she was always thinking about death, and wished she had the courage to kill herself:

Nobody comes to this camp to talk to us. We IDPs only have one another, but even that is hard because you do not know who to trust. If you tell them your secret pain or shame, they can use it to mock you later.

A 28-year-old woman who survived rape and became pregnant by a Boko Haram insurgent said she developed hypertension from constantly thinking about her ordeal and imagining ways she could take revenge on him. Doctors have told her during hospital visits outside the camp to stop thinking about the past so she can get better. She was not referred to a counselor.

Source : Human Rights Watch

Market Women In Edo Shut Benin-Lagos Expresssway Over N1.2million rent per shop

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Hundreds of protesters on Monday barricaded the the Uselu/Ugbowo section of the Benin-Lagos highway to protest the moves by the leadership of the Egor Local Government Area council of Edo  state to relocate traders.

The protesting women who carried placards, were noticed at both sides of the  highway, this disrupted vehicular movement.

They vowed never to move to the newly built lock up shops, because of the high rental cost.

Already council officials have commence the removal of the make shift stalls of the traders.

“What am I selling that you will force me to pay over a million naira for a single store? I believe they should consider the worth of our businesses individually.

“Where do you expect a woman who sells only crayfish or tomatoes to get such a ridiculous amount of money to pay, when in actual fact most are in dire need of additional funds to grow their businesses,” One of the traders lamented.

”They want to force us to go into the stores and we have told them that we cannot afford the stores; that is why they are destroying our businesses.”

“When the plan to construct these lock-up stores came up, they (Council) told us that the prices will be pocket friendly, especially to some of us involved in petty trading.

“But what do we have now, N1.2 million for a store is a price that most of us cannot afford; there is no way many of us can afford that now.

“Even if the country’s economy was okay, how do you expect a woman who sells only salt and Maggi to generate such,” another trader questioned.

Africa: Rwanda Third Best Place to Be a Girl in Africa

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The Girls’ Opportunity Index report by Save the Children has ranked Rwanda the third best country in Africa to be a girl and 49th globally out of 144 countries studied.

The report released on Monday, just a day before the International Day of the Girl which was marked on October 11, considered five indicators including rates of child marriage, adolescent fertility, maternal mortality women MPs and lower-secondary school completion.

The report states that while most countries are struggling to achieve gender parity among members of parliament (MPs), Rwanda tops the table with 64% of female, followed by Bolivia and Cuba. In contrast, only 19% of MPs in the United States of America (USA) are women and only 29% in the United Kingdom.

USA, the world’s largest economy, was ranked 32nd behind Algeria as 31st globally and first in African followed by Tunisia which is ranked 33rd globally.

The world’s best five countries to be a girl are Sweden, Finland, Norway, Netherlands and Belgium. Germany is ranked 12th, UK 15th and France 18th. Other big economies like Russia and China are not on the ranking.

Niger was ranked the worst (144th), followed by Chad, Central African Republic, Mali and Somalia as the last five countries. In the region, Kenya was ranked 97th, Burundi 107th, Tanzania 118th while Uganda was 120th. Singling out the US in particular, the report stated that not all rich countries are doing as well as they could for their girls.

“There are things where we do not shine on the U.S. side,” said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children. One major example she pointed to was female representation in national government.

The US was hurt by relatively high rates of teenage pregnancy and maternal mortality compared to other countries in the same income bracket. Fourteen women died per 100,000 live births in the US in 2015 compared to only three deaths in Poland, Greece and Finland. Women hold 19.4% of the 535 seats in the US Congress while in Sweden, by contrast, women make up 44% of the MPs.

The report indicated that one girl under 15 is married every seven seconds in the world, revealing the scale of the threat posed by child marriage to education, health and children’s safety. “Girls as young as 10 are marrying to much older men in countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, India and Somalia,” reads the report.

Source : Rwanda Focus

African Women Meet At Mount Kilimanjaro to Demand Rights

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Rwandan rural women, together with their counterparts from various countries on the continent, will today convene at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in an effort to advocate for unrestricted women’s rights to land and other natural resources across the continent.

Participants from Rwanda say they are taking part in the cause as a sign of solidarity with women from parts of Africa that continue to be discriminated against with regard to land ownership.

Officials believe that the ‘Kilimanjaro initiative’ offers a unique window of opportunity to unify and amplify the struggles of rural women across Africa.

The three-day event starts today in Moshi town. The women will climb Mountain Kilimanjaro as a sign to show their difficulties in land ownership.

A group of ten women was selected to represent women from various rural cooperatives countrywide, according to James Butare, head of programmes and policy at Action Aid, which is supporting the initiative.

He said the event is expected to be the largest rural women’s land rights assembly ever seen at the foot of Mountain Kilimanjalo.

Women will share experiences on identifying and addressing key barriers to women’s land rights such as early marriage, poor access to information, and unfair inheritance, among others.

Butare said that, while Rwanda has actively promoted equal rights on land, it is worthwhile to share experience with women from elsewhere on the continent, learn from them and share success stories.

Speaking at a news conference in Kigali over the weekend, Butare said that the event is important as it brings together women from various countries to share experiences.

“This is a solidarity action because, if women have land problems in some countries, women elsewhere are also affected. In Rwanda, we have reached 50 per cent when it comes to women rights to land ownership while others still claim just 30 per cent, this would be an opportunity for us to share experience while also learning from each other,” he said.

With 2016 declared by the African Union as the Africa year of human rights with a particular focus on the rights of women, women movements believe that it is time for action.

“At the meeting women will produce a charter on demand for fair and equal rights and the charter will be presented to the African Union and United Nations for action,” Butare noted.

Esperance Nyirahabimana, who hails from Karongi and one of participants, said they expected to learn a lot from the gathering.

“Though land rights in Rwanda have been promoted and women given equal rights as men, the main challenge we still have is a culture where some women still fear to claim their land rights and where some people have a misconception that both women and men can not have equal rights to property,” she said.

“We shall learn from others how this can change.”

The event will be attended by women from 20 African countries.

Catheline Katundu, Action Aid’s land policy manager, said ” The women gathering at Mount Kilimanjaro are saying ‘enough is enough’, we cannot continue to build our nations upon land that is then pulled from under us when it suits the whim of big business, an uncle seeking inheritance or local government.”

A recent research study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation indicated that less than one quarter of agricultural land in developing countries is controlled by women, while low female access and control of land significantly obstructs access to financial assets.

Source : The New Times

Zimbabwe: Women Demand to Meet Chihuri, Give Police Chief Up to This Week to Probe Police Brutality

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A WOMEN’ rights lobby group, Justice for Women Zimbabwe, has demanded that Police Commissioner General, Augustine Chihuri, should meet them lest they drag him to the courts over the harassment of children and women by police officers.

In a letter delivered at the police commissioner general’s offices, in Harare, Friday, Justice for Women Zimbabwe said if Chihuri fails to address their demands they will approach the courts for recourse.

“If for any reason you are unable to meet our representatives on the proposed date, communicate to us a date and time on which you will be able to meet them, a date no later than 12 October 2016 as our issues are of an urgent nature,” the letter said.

It added, “We are prepared to haul the police force and Ministry of Home Affairs before the courts if our demands are not addressed.”

Coordinator of the women’s group, Coezett Chirinda, said they wanted Chihuri to order an investigation into several cases of women and children who were abused by the police.

“Concerned by the increasing levels of violence against women in Zimbabwe, and being aware of the direct and indirect role the Zimbabwe Republic Police has played in the recent assault and torture of female activists, and concerned that this trend is going to persist if nothing is done to bring this wanton violation of our rights to an end, seeking to bring culprits involved in the recent perpetration of violence against women to justice we are questing for a meeting with your esteemed office,” wrote Chirinda in her letter to Chihuri.

The demand for an urgent meeting with Chihuri came days after another human rights watchdog, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, reported that police in the month of September alone tortured 117 innocent activists including women and children.

According to the forum, there were cases where spouses and children of wanted activists were subjected to beatings by the police when the law enforcement agents would have failed to locate their targeted persons.

Source : New Zimbabwe