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Posts Tagged ‘Human rights’

Happy International women’s day! To those of you who are unfamiliar, International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women all over the world.

International Women’s Day (IWD) has been observed since in the early 1900’s – a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialised world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. International Women’s Day is a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender parity.

World-renowned feminist, journalist and social and political activist Gloria Steinem said, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights”. Thus International Women’s Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like globally and locally.

As a woman, for me, IWD is a day to celebrate the achievements of our gender, past and present. Whether it’s Ida B Wells, the African-American journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, feminist, Georgist, and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement, or Ada Lovelace, Countess of Lovelace was an English mathematician and writer, or even the Egyptian Lotfia ElNadi who was the first African woman as well as first Arab woman to earn a pilot’s license. All these women have paved the way in their respective fields so that we have the rights we do today – The right to vote, to work, to represent others in government. And the rights we still fight for – rights to make decisions for our bodies that are unrestricted by taxes on female hygiene products, abortion laws or FGM practices. It is our responsibility not only today, but every day – to ensure we work to maintain our rights and that they are given to women all over the world.

As a Muslim woman, IWD means reflecting not on the turbulence of the past year but also on the greater history of Muslim women throughout time and the skills and qualities our role models have pursued and possessed in order to persevere. Muslim women are the visible targets for increasing islamophobia and angry outlets of ignorance and fear. Muslim women are required to navigate not only the cultural stigma of being female in whatever country she is from, but also the social stigma that is increasingly pervasive in our globalised society in its many forms online, on the street and in government policies. Muslim women navigate the patriarchal interpretations of the Quran to understand and abide by the rights afforded to them in Islam in the face of ‘well-intentioned’ men and sometimes women who feel a responsibility to subjugate them under the guise of religious instruction. Muslim women navigate the social stigma attached to their dress code and resist the western hegemony that believes it has the right to dictate what women should wear and how they should act. Campaigns, events and even trending twitter hashtags such as the #dearsister hashtag are crucial to enlightening and empowering Muslim women through the sharing of knowledge to dispel the fear that comes from ignorance.

As an Australian woman, IWD is a time to reflect on the prevalence and severity of violence against women in Australia. On average at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia. One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15. One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence. One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. One in four Australian women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner. Women are five times more likely than men to require medical attention or hospitalisation as a result of intimate partner violence, and five times more likely to report fearing for their lives. Of those women who experience violence, more than half have children in their care. Eight out of ten women aged 18 to 24 were harassed on the street in the past year. Domestic or family violence against women is the single largest driver of homelessness for women, a common factor in child protection notifications and results in a police call-out on average once every two minutes across the country. The combined health, administration and social welfare costs of violence against women have been estimated to be $21.7 billion a year, with projections suggesting that if no further action is taken to prevent violence against women, costs will accumulate to $323.4 billion over a thirty-year period from 2015 to 2045.

Australia – we have a moral and ethical responsibility to ourselves and our society to be better. To do better. Violence against women in any form is unacceptable, and the growing evidence that women with disabilities are more likely to experience violence and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience both far higher rates and more severe forms of violence compared to other women is a sad testament to the state of our society. We must urge our government to take action and put in place measures to ensure Australia turns back from this alarming growth and stays on track to becoming a safer and healthier environment for women of all ages, ethnicities and abilities.

As a woman of Bangladeshi heritage, IWD is a time to celebrate the achievements of great women my country has produced such as Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, a Bengali writer, educationist, social activist, and advocate of women’s rights who was and is considered the pioneer feminist of Bengal. It is also a time to reflect on the continuance of child marriages, the giving and taking of dowry, domestic violence, rape, acid attacks and sexual harassment. From the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich, women in every strata of Bengali society whether at home or abroad face challenges as a result of being a woman. A working women, a thinking woman. According to a recent PwC report, Bangladesh’s economy is likely to grow at the fastest rate after Vietnam and India in the next 34 years. Let’s work to ensure our attention to developing security, education and rights for women grows at a greater pace.

International Women’s Day has been occurring for well over a century – and continues to grow from strength to strength. For International Women’s Day 2017, we’re asking you to #BeBoldForChange. Call on the masses, call on yourself and help forge a better working world. A more inclusive, gender equal world where every girl and every woman has the freedom to try, aspire and achieve.

Happy International Women’s day 2017!

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It saddens me that I have to write this blog entry. It shames me as a human being that such acts take place in our world, a world of human rights, progress, equality and kindness to all. And yet, it happens. And it needs to be discussed so that no more victims shy away in shame and their perpetrators go unpunished.

The moment I got to Bangladesh I was guarded constantly by my aunt, uncle, father or cousin (male). As a woman who roamed freely in and around Sydney city this was frustrating enough without the obvious impositions on my privacy as well. When asked for an explanation I got the following stories which left me open mouthed and sick to my stomach. The first was relayed by an aunt, who, upon hearing me say my mum worries too much replied, why shouldn’t she dear? The world is not what it used to be, even men are not safe these days let alone women going out alone. Only the other day I read in the paper of a young doctor who paid a house visit in a village nearby and had to stay the night at the patient’s house. During the night the guard of the house knocked on her door, she thought something must be wrong so she opened the door and the guard tried to rape her, when he was unsuccessful he slit her throat.’

This is not an isolated case. Rape has become increasingly prevalent in the subcontinent. Another case was relayed by a friend who is an intern. Another intern at the same hospital was on night shift on the top floor of the hospital and was raped by her fellow interns and guards. Victims of rape and their families are so ashamed they hardly ever follow through and press charges and these heinous crimes go unpunished. Soon after, the now infamous case of the Delhi gang rape hit headlines. When I first saw this news air on BBC, I couldn’t believe my eyes. A moving bus, a city like Delhi… this didn’t happen behind closed doors.  The public watched. And they did not react. Humanity died on this day.

Rape is such a taboo word. Gang rape even more so. People say it in hushed tones and avoid discussing it in front of children. What good is that if such a cruel act happens in Public?! Why are women so unsafe in such a modern and educated world? One of these women wore hijab, the other was quite old, the other with her boyfriend. These men do not look at what a woman is wearing or doing or saying.. they do not consider anything but that she is a female and they are sick and twisted! What are we doing wrong that such disgusting things have to be borne by women who have done nothing wrong?!

Education is the key. These men… if they can be called that were never taught to respect women. They were never taught any manners, they were never taught right and wrong. If they were, then they would never have done something so despicable. In a country where the female population outweighs the male, it is still the male that is taught to be the master, it is still the male shown in movies that aggressively chases the girl. It is still the female objectified and revealed in media and advertising. This is the culture and society which breeds such filthy acts. A society in which woman are objects to be attained, not respected. In which woman are things to be defiled and not humans to be treated with kindness and respect? This is the society we live in. And we call ourselves human.

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I blame the media. As a freelance journalist I am ashamed that Journalists do not do more to bring to light such acts and ensure through proper coverage that these acts are properly punished. I blame the education system for failing to teach men and boys to respect women. To respect the sex that bear them, nurse them, feed them and take care of them. I blame the families who fail to teach their sons that a woman is someone’s mother, someone’s sister, someone’s wife.

While I thank God that I live in Australia everyday, even here women experience domestic and sexually aggressive violence.  FaHCSIA reorts that “Around one-in-three Australian women have experienced physical violence and almost one-in-five have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15. For certain groups, this statistic may be much higher.” The Australian Government though, has made a concious effort in recognising and dealing with this issue. Who can forget the “To violence against women, Australia says No.” ad campaigns that flooded our televisions and raised awareness of White Ribbon? Information on The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022 (the National Plan) is widely available and transparency is key to educating society on such an important issue. This is what countries of the subcontinent need. India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and even the Maldives need education, policy reform and most importantly a root culture change in their way of thinking and addressing rape and issues of violence against women to avoid any more cases like the Delhi incident.

This woman has not died in vain. She has brought to light an act which thousands of women endure all over the world. US soldiers defile women in Iraq and Afghanistan on a regular basis. No one says anything. In Syria, Women are raped, tortured and left to die, their brothers and fathers shot in front of them and no one says anything. A small article in the last pages of a newspaper does not do justice to the pressing issue of the DEATH OF HUMANITY! 

May Allah swt safeguard us and our loved ones, May He keep us on the right path and allow us to speak out and act out for what is right. Ameen.

A girl lights candles during a candlelight vigil for a gang rape victim who was assaulted in New Delhi, in Kolkata

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December 2012 saw me travel around Bangladesh doing all sorts of stuff! This post is going to be quite long and eclectic in its collection of topics but I hope you enjoy it. This holiday was kind of disappointing in that it wasn’t what a typical holiday used to be. All my cousins were either overseas or busy with work so the regular caram sessions, late night antakshari rounds and endless gossip was non-existent. It might be a testament to my age but this holiday was more about networking, dinners and meeting new people which was fun too!

My main tasks in Bangladesh were to do the following which I talk about in my other post:

1. Complete the handover of incubators and phototherapy units Probasy had raised funds for all year
2. Find out more about what Prothom Alo trust does
3. Meet with the people at Muslim Aid to see what they do and how Probasy can help
4. Meet with the team at D.net behind their info lady campaign
5. Go to Bhola on a teaching campaign as part of Co-Id. The NFP founded by Fred Hyde.

My first week in Dhaka made me re-evaluate all my plans with the news disseminating warnings of hortals and protests which had become so innovatively disruptive that they now lit fires in the middle of the roads and smashed windscreens of moving buses and cars. The second hortal I witnessed saw the mindless killing of Biswajit Das. The net exploded with criticism of the government and media “Biswajit was stabbed to death after falling prey to violent clashes between the student wing of the political party in power and that of the opposition. It has been alleged that taking him to be a member of the opposition party, the cadres of the government’s youth wing beat up Biswajit and then repeatedly stabbed him with sharp weapons in broad daylight and full public view. Later, the youth died on the way to the hospital. The shocking event took place on 9 December, 2012, during an 8 hour road blockade programme organized by the opposition.”

This was only the first in a series of events and stories I heard and saw which opened my eyes to the reality of a Bangladesh the people living there try so hard to communicate to us NRBs (non-resident Bangladeshis). Working, moving around, getting things done in Bangladesh is next to impossible. Even planning two things in one day is too much to ask for. I was so disappointed with how everyone acted and reacted in a country that has so much to offer and be self-sustaining. I also saw hope though, I met some remarkable individuals working for some great organisations striving to make a real difference. While I was unable to make a trip to Sylhet all the other things on my list were successfully ticked off and the NGOs were amazing… but more on that later.

Before I get to the amazing work being done in Bangladesh I have to mention the events which took place in Bangladesh while I was there which set the context for what Bangladesh has become. These are set out in more detail in my other post on Rape. Having set this context in which men and women are unsafe in the streets for no good reason, you can see why Bangladesh has become once again worthy of the title so aptly given.

Once known as the bottomless basket case, Bangladesh was so named due to the endless stream of donations pouring into the country which disappeared without any improvements to the country or its people. When France donated millions through the Food for Work program to build and improve Bangladesh’s roads as well as give rural families a proper income, it was a great idea that worked properly for only a short while before some bright spark decided it was easier to just pocket all the money. To this day Bangladesh runs on donations. I would go so far as to heartbreakingly call my country one that is run on begging. The US, Australia, the UK, and China are the biggest donors to Bangladesh and millions of dollars are poured in to alleviate poverty, improve nutrition, healthcare and infrastructure. 95% or more of this money never reaches the people. It is used to line the pockets of the rich who go onto weekend shopping sprees in Singapore or to buy luxury cars and houses in forging countries while more and more of the poor become ultra poor.. or dead.

This scenario is only aided and abetted by the ridiculous and farcical politics of Bangladesh. Just thinking about it makes me angry. Two women with no credentials, no history of success and only their male relations to give them any credibility have lasted decades in a feud which sucks the life and liberty out of Bangladesh. Even a caretaker government couldn’t salvage and restore order. Politics is prevalent in every aspect of life in Bangladesh, be it trying to get a job, booking a hall for a wedding, trying to buy a house or car. It’s just crazy. And it’s making the people crazy. The bangalis I once knew who laughed and smiled and showed endless hospitality in the most adverse of situations are now narrow minded and self serving. Not only do adults act this way, they teach it to their kids. On 16th December, Bangladesh’s Victory Day celebrations were in full swing and in the spirit of celebration I gave some chocolates to a group of kids standing in the street outside our house. There were about 6 of them aged between 5 to 10. All of them tried to grab as many chocolates as they could. I said that if they didn’t take one and move aside that no one would get any but alas there was no brotherhood or love between these children. It was a ‘I’ll take what I can and run’ mentality that I saw all too prevalent in their adult counterparts. When I went to Bhola to teach at the schools run by Co-Id, the teachers and students alike were more focused on what gifts we had brought than what we were saying.

It is truly disappointing to see such a beautiful fertile country with such wonderful people being degraded to fighting over menial things as the politicians and the wealthy suck the life and resources out … literally. Bangladesh is floating on gas and yet gas is not available in homes almost all day, being siphoned off and sold to other countries. This is the context for the work I am about to relay. If your still with me and despairing.. don’t. There are organisations like Prothom Alo Trust, D.Net, Muslim Aid and Co-Id that are trying their best to lift Bangladesh out of the hole it’s dug for itself.

Chartiy in Bangladesh has details on what I saw, where I went and who I spoke to so please have a read if you are interested and contact me for any information. Their work is truly inspiring and restored faith in me that there are people in Bangladesh who think beyond their own pockets and the here and now. Bangladesh is a lush and plentiful country which produces so much that its inhabitants should have hearts as big as their rice fields. It is a shame that this is not the case. I hope the next time there is cause for me to visit my birthplace again, it will be to witness a better Bangladesh.

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