Egypt

Egypt: an ancient civilization known for the Nile that divides it’s country into two and the rich history that lies among the Pyramids of Giza.

Despite the Arab Spring in 2011, the arid, Arab nation has still seen political and economic unrest because of its lack of resources and inherent discourse. The civilian’s dissidence and old ways have left their artifacts as well as their female counterparts in the past. According to the Telegraph, “the situation for women has worsened in Egypt since the 2011 revolution”.

The 2015 World’s Women report found that more than 80% of girls between fifteen and nineteen in Egypt have been victims of female genital mutilation (FGM). Overall about 97% of young women experience FGM. In Egypt, about 125 million girls are believed to be victims, and about 60% of all Egyptian women believe FGM should continue. Above all, despite being banned in 2008, FGM has remained a custom and societal norms have strongly contributed to the continuation of this practice.

FGM among several other societal standards have caused Egypt to have one of the largest gender gaps based on the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Gender Gap Report.

According to a United Nations study completed in 2013, about 99.3% of women studied reported that they have previously been sexually harassed. You read that correctly: 99.3%. The same report found about 96.5% of Egyptian women studied were physically assaulted in addition to the sexual harassment they had experienced.

The settings of the sexual harassment encounters reported during the study was anywhere from public transit to malls. Some of the sexual harassment noted in the study was being touched, hollered at, stalked, men exposing themselves, etc. Of the women studied, about half reported experiencing sexual harassment on a daily basis, whereas about 75% reported being harassed once a month. About 85% of all the sexual encounters they had experienced bystanders did nothing to support or stop the harassment from occurring.

Egypt is inherently unique in that its women are similarly educated to its men, and have somewhat equal access to health care, but still are consistently ranked one of the worst places to be a woman. It comes down to economic opportunities, political participation, and what goes on inside homes that the government can’t necessarily control.

Egyptian law began criminalizing sexual harassment in just 2014. Even though its astonishing that this was just recently passed, this law is a major stepping stone to securing safety for women during their day to day lives. However, even though this law has been enacted, doesn’t mean the government will enforce or uphold this law— that will take a few years to determine.

Many women decided to support the 2011 revolution in hopes that its outcome would bring a lift to their position in society. The Thomson Reuters Foundation suggests otherwise. In fact they cite that because of a rise in islamic groups, conflict, and instability, there has been a rise in Discriminatory laws and trafficking.

However, this seemingly step back in progress has not stopped Egyptian women from speaking out and advocating against a lot “anti women” of the cultural practices, especially FGM. Nawal El Saadawi is one of the most widely known female activists in Egypt.

She is a victim of FGM and has since criticized the practice in several of her forty published books. Saadawi is trying to explain to the world what FGM is and how despite a recent law banning its practice, it was only passed because a film was creating showing its brutality.

Despite being put on the fundamentalist death list, and going to jail, Saadawi continues to speak out and show the world what is really happening to women in Egypt.

Saadawi has also spoken out against religious modern fundamentalism and described the islamic veil as “a tool of oppression for women”. Further in her interview she continued on by saying “There should be no veils and no nakedness either. The veiling and the nakedness of women are two sides of the same coin. It is the same oppression at work”. Hearing an opinion like this so staunch and blunt from the an activist in the muslim community was almost unbelievable to me.

Learning about Saadawi and the women of Egypt has opened my eyes to a problem I never knew existed. It parallels many Western countries in that even though there may be equal opportunity in education and health care, there are still several obstacles needing to be climbed, whether its paid family leave or abolishing FGM once and for all. FGM is fueled by money and many in Africa especially are victims of the procedure. By educating ourselves on topics that the media may not cover as readily, we are helping cover the issue; knowledge is power. Because of the film covering FGM, the Egyptian law makers banned FGM, now it’s their job to actually enforce it.

“Men are always fully clothed and go unveiled, Why?!”- Saadawi

Pakistan

Pakistan: a country created out of divine right for Indian muslims has faced turmoil despite its recent birth in 1947. Through its existence, Pakistan has become a religious haven for millions with the largest place of islamic worship in the world.

However, Pakistan, despite its inherent beauty and lush culture between the Indian Ocean and Himalayas, is often associated with the death place of Osama Bin Laden, terrorism, the death of journalists by religious groups as well as the treatment of its women.

Experts supported by the Thomson Reuters Foundation poll, ranked Pakistan the third most dangerous country for girls in the world in 2011. With about 1,000 or more women and girls alike murdered in so called “honor killings” each year and about 90% of all women in Pakistan reporting domestic violence in their homes, the ranking of third worst in the world seems not so unreasonable, but the growing list of staggering statistics only gets longer.

The literacy rate for women in Pakistan is a mere 45% compared to men which have a 69% literacy rate, leaving especially rural women unable to claim their daily justice, or a fair space next to their male counterparts.

Rape victims isolate themselves from society in fear of hurting her family’s honor. As a result, many rapes go unreported, and women instead of shedding light on the issue, augment the reality of the problem at hand and overlook their necessary duty to report the crime.

Welcoming a female baby into the world does not cue excitement in Pakistan, however, the patriarchy within its society has grown alongside the country’s population. Pakistan’s women face a reality far more complex than religious oppression and theocracy. Pakistani women are treated as less than, left uneducated and poor, fighting for respect, not even equality— basic human rights.

Yet, many female rights activists, including one of the most famous teenage champions of equal education have emerged from the Pakistani Swat Valley— none other than heroine Malala Yousafzai.

Malala’s father, Ziauddin, supported her education and was determined to provide her with every opportunity a boy could obtain. As an educator himself, Malala would go to school and be treated fairly under his roof despite her gender.

As Malala grew, so did her love for learning and exploring. Yet, when she turned ten, the Taliban entered her valley and took control (2007). They banned televisions, music and began enforcing public executions to those who disobeyed the new sanctions. Yet matters seemed to only get worse as  in December of 2008, the Taliban prohibited girls from going to school.

The implications and violence continued to spread along her beloved valley, causing Malala to begin blogging about life under the Taliban for the BBC under a coded name, “Gul Makai”. She soon was featured in a short documentary for the New York Times with her father about their life under the Taliban and protecting female rights to an education in Swat Valley.

However, her bravery would prove to put a target on her back. When she was just fifteen, a masked gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the face. A bullet would not even silence Malala.

Six months later, after multiple surgeries, months of rehabilitation, she would put on her school uniform and would go back into a classroom. Violence would not prevent Malala from using her voice, it would only help increase her volume.

July 12th was named ‘Malala Day” by the U.N. and has become a beacon for change and hope for vulnerable girls all of the world struggling to go to school. She has continued championing for girls around the world despite tragedy and violence.

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world”- Malala

She has become a teenage icon for feminists all across the world and even wrote a book about her life in Swat Valley called I am Malala. She has also started a charity with her father called the Malala Fund. In Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Lebanon, and Syria girls typically miss secondary education which led the organization to champion free, safe, and quality education in those areas.

Some Pakistani women like Malala have begun drawing attention to the growing gender gap within Pakistan’s borders— others are afraid of the repercussions. However it’s not just Pakistani citizens realizing these issues within small towns like Swat Valley, it’s you and I and anyone who has access to Malala’s book, BBC blog or New York Times documentary.

As women and men who have access to an education, it is our job to not only learn about the growing gender crisis within Pakistan and all over the world, but also help those like Malala who are working to bring down the obstacles, and allow girls to freely and safely attend school. It is our duty to support activists like Malala in their journey, no matter what may stand in their way.

Honduras

Honduras: one of the least developed nations in Central America has continued to build its history instability, poverty, crime, and military rule. Its citizens have grown accustomed to gang violence, drug wars, and extortion despite ongoing calls for reform and recent elections. The World Food Bank states about 1.5 million of Honduras’ 8.5 million people face food insecurity.

Today, Honduras has the highest murder rate per capita in the entire world, a rate almost double that of the second highest (Venezuela). The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that about 90.4 murders are committed out of every 100,000 people, in other words, every 1,000th person loses their life. A main victim of these murders are tourists, journalists, and most among those, women.

According to the United Institute for Democracy, the number of female murders increased 263.4% from 2005 to 2013— a hike unlike any other country. The United Nation has called the “femicide” rate in Honduras the highest in the world. Every sixteen hours, a woman is murdered. The UN also reported that only about 5% of all sexual violence and “feminized” cases were ever investigated in 2014.

Out of shear trepidation, women emulate submission and inferiority at the hands of gangs who use scare tactics to control their daily tasks such as walking, talking or dressing. Essentially, men perpetrate violence and leave women to cower in the streets in honest fright of being attacked.

According to ABC News, Honduras is “one of the most dangerous places on Earth to be a woman”. The story of female homicides in Honduras came to the forefront of newspapers with the news of Miss Honduras’, Maria Jose Alvarado, and her sister’s murder. Despite her sister’s boyfriend being found guilty for their murders, the government claimed they were involved drug trafficking as justification.

Despite all the violence, the government has been approaching the situation with a “look away” kind of approach. In 2014, the Honduras’ government discontinued an emergency phone line for female violence victims and in conjunction began to decrease funding for women’s rights groups.

Despite the increasing stability of the Honduran government, the state of women exhibit quite the opposite. The societal patriarchy lacks human decency, morals, and leaves me to question how women in Honduras can barely walk the streets without looking over their shoulder, not for a pick pocket, but for an attacker ready to take their lives.

Women receive lower incomes and experience greater food insecurity despite their large role in the agricultural labor force. They are denied from productive assets such as land, technology, and financial services.

I concede this issue is one not to be solved overnight, but it is one that needs to be addressed and discussed as every sixteen hours that goes by another woman is lost the ongoing cycle. So what is being done to protect the women of Honduras today?

Well, the United States has begun letting in large numbers of female immigrants from Honduras due to drug and gang related violence. Organizations like Project Hope have been helping women in Honduras with health awareness and finances since 1993. The program has helped more than 63,000 women and 56,000 children through health awareness programs and microcredit. Women through the organization receive access to essential health information as well as personal savings mechanisms.

The viscous cycle of submission stems from the daunting drug crimes that have taken the Honduran economy down the tubes. In order to further stabilize the country and protect women, the Honduran government needs to start funding not just protections for women, but also even more restrictions for gangs. Yes, this may sound clear and obvious and you probably think they’re already doing this. Sadly, no. Despite the new President’s cries of reform and acknowledgment of these issues, many of the statistics quantifying these issues have not wavered. Yes, the implementation of hands off change may take more time, but why not use our hands to inflict the necessary changes required to protect not just Honduran women and children, but the victims of all drug related crimes, poverty, and lack of food security.

The instability of Honduras has left women in serious danger with no where to turn but to submit to a culture where they are flagged as negligible. Helping organizations like Project Hope and lobbying for more funding and reform is all necessary for catalyzation, but first and foremost, we must all begin by simply initiating conversations about not just the problem at hand but how to solve many of the ongoing Honduran issues, while keeping its women safe. Brining people to the United States certainly would provide a safe haven for victims, but it is only temporary fix to a decade old problem. The corruption, crime and poverty is not going to be fixed by bringing people to the United States. It starts with us advocating for the women of Honduras in open forum and conversation because if we don’t, who will?

Yemen

Yemen: an Arabic country ravaged by Civil War and poverty with corruption so rampant, it’s people lack the necessary water stores to keep their families hydrated.

Over the past two years, Yemen citizens have manifested battle grounds; it’s people divided on two sides, the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the Houthi rebels.  Since Hadi’s presidency, al-Qaeda attacked Yemen

on several occasions, a separatist movement began in the southern part of the nation, corruption has increased as well as unemployment and food insecurity, leaving citizens in a state of division despite their Shia or Sunni background. Yet with more than twenty million people in need of humanitarian assistance, and 8,600 casualties since 2015, the state of Yemeni women lie in the balance.

With limited access to health care, education, and economic opportunities, men perceive and treat women with great inferiority.  In 2014, USAToday ranked Yemen “The Worst Country for Women”. According to USAToday, Yemen’s female to male income ratio is tied for 8th worst in the world at a shear 0.28. Comparing women to men: 74% of men are involved in the labor force compared to 26% of women; 83% of men are literate, yet one in every two women in Yemen can read a book.

These figures display a gender gap so vast— a country in turmoil— with a long way to go. Yet, the education, or even, the literacy needed to propel this gap closer together embodies an ongoing problem; with a very large gender gap in educational opportunities how can Yemeni women overcome the obstacles to combat how they are perceived by their male counter parts?

Before discussing possible solutions, how severe is the gender gap in education specifically speaking? Well, men typically receive on average five to nine years of education whereas women obtain about one to three years. The lack of educational opportunities leaves women with one path: to their homes to take care of their families. However, education is only one issue fostering the gender gap.

UNICEF surveyed human rights abuses in Yemen during 2006. They discovered the magnitude of ongoing child marriage problem within the country. UNICEF found that 52% of all Yemeni women married before age eighteen, and 14% before age fifteen. The United Nations Development program attributed child marriage as a contributing factor to the growing gender equality and reduced maternal mortality. Looking more specifically at Yemen’s mortality rate, seven women die each day due to childbirth complications— overall one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

However, the women of Yemen have overcome their gender gap in several respects by helping the war efforts on both sides as activists, caretakers, photographers, physicians, writers, and every profession in between. Women have led several demonstrations demanding freedom, social justice, and democracy to provide their children—daughters and sons alike— with a better Yemen, however, women remain marginalized and discriminated against.

Safer world,  the Center for Applied Research in Partnership, and the Yemen Polling Center released a report in mid 2017 analyzing how Yemeni women have been affected by the conflict. The report found that despite the devastation and tragedy catalyzed by the conflict, overall women have performed in new roles and feel “empowered” by their new societal opportunities.

World War I provided similar opportunities to American women. During the early 1900’s while men went off to war, women penetrated beyond societal bounds by starting to work in factories. By penetrating beyond their stagnant role as homemakers and entering the workforce, women proved not only were they instrumental in American success, but worthy colleagues. Looking at the Yemen conflict in this light, civil strife may prove to be a stepping stone, signifying the closing of the gender gap in Yemen.

By delivering supplies to war zones, aiding the sick, helping the wounded, manning checkpoints, and even smuggling arms have brought women to the forefront of the conflict.

Today, several organizations dedicate their time and resources to aiding women of Yemen; one of which being Global Giving. The organization works to restructure the patriarchal hierarchy within small Yemen communities through leadership training programs. By overcoming conflict, starting new businesses and going to school, women can help overcome cultural attitudes that leave one in every two women without a book. The organization has already reached about 127,000 Yemeni women in rural parts of the country. Also, Global Giving works alongside tribal leaders to provide trainings and host educational programs, teach entrepreneurship and conflict resolution techniques as well as distributing health messages.

Organizations like Global Giving provide hope and facilitate prosperity in a place where its citizens remain in the cross fire of revolution. It is our job as citizens of the United States to recognize large gender gaps overseas in countries like Yemen, but also, devise solutions and continue to point out these issues despite the ongoing distress within the region. Being an American woman, I cannot imagine living in a war-torn country, let alone a place with a gender gap so vast.

America

America: the super power, the democratic dominant, and not to mention, the catalyst of global change, however, women aren’t even mentioned in its governing documents and have had the right to vote for less than 100 years.

The news continues to discuss the evolution of women in America: the quintessential feminist and the growing support behind women in the work place, but what has definitely evolved while it has also remained stagnant.

Being a woman in America revolves around the struggle of global privilege with a struggle to evolve. Looking at the international sphere, women in America have obtained rights: rights to an education, freedoms, more safety and liberties that are granted to any women in most other countries, specifically in more impoverished places, and we women of America understand that notion and are thankful for it everyday— well at least I know I am. I know that everyday I thank my lucky stars I have the ability to sit in a classroom; I have the potential to go out, and not only start a family, but begin a successful career.

But that doesn’t mean being a woman in America is by any means easy or full of privilege. It simply describes the struggle of being in a place with so many opportunities and not enough hours in a day or energy to fight every battle. Or rather, plenty of opportunity, but a lack of means to actually achieve much of the high places men have been able to obtain.

Women here are expected to juggle the life of a career and a family, and a happy husband, and if all points aren’t up to “American” standards, you’re questioned, often looked down upon for not being able to do it all. But most distinctly, looked down upon by other women. Women of America today illustrate modern super heroes: not your typical Marvel comic. Women keep their problems to themselves and drive harder and harder to get the job done at home and in the workplace: no complaints or whining, the job is simply to keep every plate spinning, everyone smiling, and exceed  expectations in all you do to keep the phrase “like a girl” a thing of the juvenile past.

American women today amplify a progression in quicksand. Directly adhering to the expectations of tomorrow by accomplishing the impossible, however, sinking to girl-on-girl hate and low level tactics of climbing the corporate ladder. Yet, it seems as though women have started to inhibit each other in this expanding of expectations: holding each other back, rather than bringing each other forward. Competition. That’s the culprit. And not only the competitive nature of females, but the lack of “we” and more of an emphasis on “I” in most scenarios.

Feminists of today have put an emphasis on several issues women of our nation face today, primarily in reproductive health and resources. The advocacy for female rights here in the United States are miles ahead of most countries, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of the issues Women of America are facing today.

Most importantly, women of the USA have yet the break the glass ceiling on a number of issues, whether its having a female president or only 5% of all Fortune 500 CEOs, the exemplars just have yet to arise. But, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

Peru

Peru: a South American nation with a culture lush as the Amazon but just as old as the Incan empire…

In Peru, woman represent about half the population, but they lack equality in the work place and home as a result of their society’s discrimination and prejudice.

About one in every three women from rural areas are illiterate in comparison to one in every ten men, leaving women behind in the nationally sphere. Also, about 36% of rural females graduate from secondary school.

Seven of every ten women have experienced gender violence of some form. Out of the South American continent, Peru reports the second greatest amount of rapes.

“Peru is a country of rapists”- Indira Huilca, a congressional representative for Lima.

The Pontificial Catholic University in Lima found that 24.9% believe women provoke their own sexual assault.

During the dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori, about 300,000 women were sterilized— even though his dictatorship ended about 15 years ago, his sentiment remains around the country.

Peru’s ombudsman’s office in 2015 held a study that found about 81% of the cases studied involved no measures taken to defend survivors. In addition, in about 24%of those cases, women who went for aid were murdered by the person they had alerted the authorities about.

According to another study, by La Católica University, it was estimated that at least 23% of women between the ages 18 and 29 in Peru had been touched inappropriately on public transport.

Peruvian women have been internally protesting within their country as “a cry against impunity”, said the country’s women’s minister. Over 50,000 people took part in the Lima march. The march itself was orchestrated to educate the international community about the femicide epidemic within Peru.

Women marched not only to educate the world, but to also proclaim their top agenda in solving the issue of protecting vulnerable women due to the judiciary systems frequent failure.

Many external organizations as well have been formed to help Peruvian women. The Sacred Valley Project in particular works to board and provide supplementary education for young women in low income families located in remote areas of the Andes so they can further their secondary education. The organization itself has helped give Peruvian women 22 years of education, 15,840 hours of safe travel, 11,880 meals for the year, and 12 jobs for local community members with the sole purpose of helping the future women of Peru.

Another organization Peruvian Hearts, works to help women reach their full potential through educational opportunities, mentorship, service, and structured empowerment classes. The organization proves financial scholarships, peer groups, and daily English classes.

Women from all over the world as well as the female Peruvian population have begun to raise their voices. The staggering statistics and wealth of studies reporting the ongoing tragedies against women in Peru are in surplus.

However, it is important to point out that several gender equality laws have been recently passed, the laws are in place, but the point of the matter is the country’s legislators have yet to apply the laws they have passed. How can progress be enacted if the country’s government won’t even follow through with their own laws?

 

 

 

Works Cited

Collyns, Dan. “Women in Peru Protest against Rising Tide of Murder and Sexual Crime.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 13 Aug. 2016, www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/aug/13/women-peru-protest-rising-tide-murder-sexual-crime.

HOOP, Author Lucas from. “Closing the Gender Gap in Peru.” Helping Overcome Obstacles Peru, 7 July 2015, www.hoopperu.org/2015/closing-gender-gap-in-peru/.

“Our Mission.” SACRED VALLEY PROJECT, sacredvalleyproject.org/mission-statement/.

Peruvianhearts.org, www.peruvianhearts.org/whatwedo/peruvian-promise/.

“Project Peru.” Women in Peru, projectperu.org.uk/about-peru/women-in-peru.htm.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo also known as the DRC: a country ravaged by civil war and corruption with a crime rate so high, it’s civilians are left at the palm of devastation.

Rich with resources, the DRC is essentially overflowing with agricultural products and in valuable minerals like gold and also others that are used in electronics. Despite its wealth of resources, the DRC has experienced overwhelming exploitation causing major disputes over control of these key sources of wealth.

Since 1996, the country has been left in shambles following the civil war, several rebellions, and thus hence, civilian strife. These factors have catalyzed the unraveling economy and increasing rates of malnutrition among its citizens.

Females have continued to face higher rates of poverty and violence during this time of continued conflict. Rape and sexual assault has been used to terrorize women and their families.

It’s estimated that every hour about 48 women are raped. About 12% of its countries women are victims of rape. The Guardian estimates that about “1.8 million women out of the country’s population of 70 million people have been raped”.

In the DRC, abusers are able to live their lives without consequence of their actions. “…rape against women is so common that the perpetrators are not pursued by the authorities”, according to news.com.au.

In a country where it is considered safer to be a soldier than a woman, women all of the world have the distinct duty to rise up and help our sisters.

After reading all about the DRC and learning of its rape culture, I couldn’t help but brainstorm a few ideas on how to help the women of the DRC.

  1. Public Condemnation
    1. We must encourage people of the Congo to tell us their real stories. Without their accounts, it is impossible to truly convey the severity of current issues. If they won’t fight for their rights, how can we help them?
  2. Global Effort
    1. We as an international community must come together and start the conversation. We have to open the door and discuss how wrong the rape climate in the DRC is. Without opening our arms, the women won’t know they are being heard; they need to know they have a world supporting them.

Talking about the issues at hand are not the only way to draw attention to this issue. Several organizations have been established for the sole purpose of shedding light on the ongoing issues plaging the DRC through hands on advocacy and raising money.

Women for Women is one of those organizations. They serve more than 91,000 women in the DRC by helping women earn and save money, gain educational opportunities, and create support networks.

Organizations like Women for Women are working to initiate workforce training for women in the DRC. Though, this is only the beginning. The work has just begun— for the women of the DRC and the international community of both males and females.

Adetunji, Jo. “48 Women Raped Every Hour in Congo, Study Finds.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 12 May 2011, www.theguardian.com/world/2011/may/12/48-women-raped-hour-congo.

“DR Congo Country Profile.” BBC News, BBC, 13 July 2017, www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13283212.

Jwaterworth. “Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Women for Women International, 1 Aug. 2017, www.womenforwomen.org/what-we-do/countries/democratic-republic-congo.

India

 

Photos taken by Lyndsey Addario

 

India: a south Asian crossroad populated to the brim with a class system so rigid it’s citizens cannot escape its grasp.

On average, forty five percent of Indian women are married before age eighteen, my current age. For centuries, Indian women have been taught to be a man’s wife and their children’s care giver.

Men are given more food, superior clothing, and better education. Young women are instructed to do household chores simply because cleaning animal dung may be more productive to the family unit than going to a good school like their brothers.

According to a 2011 study by the Lancet, about twelve million baby girls have been aborted for the fear of families having to pay a dowry.

Being female is synonymous with financial burden.

In India, once engaged, the wife’s family is to give her husband a dowry: a large sum of money. Although dowries have been outlawed, they are still extremely common.

A poll of three hundred seventy gender specialists from across the world voted that out of all the G20 nations, India is the worst place to be a woman. One of those polled, Gulshun Rehman, a health program development advisor at Save the Children UK stated, “In India, women and girls continue to be sold as chattels, married off as young as ten, burned alive as a result of dowry-related disputes and young girls exploited and abused as domestic slave labour.”

Living in a world where you are expected to be a financial liability and birth children is seemingly almost unrealistic to me. In American, women are given the privilege to reach for the stars. Whether that means going to med school, or getting married at age thirty five, women in America are given the option of choice— endless paths adjacent to those of men— yet these paths tend to be shorter than those of our male counterparts.

According to catalyst.org, for every one hundred male births, eighty nine girls are born. Women earn fifty seven percent of what their male counterparts make for fulfilling the same work.

Almost eighty percent of the Indian population is Hindi. With a religion centralized on worshipping female goddesses, it is hard to comprehend the societal roles women play—hypocrisy.

Indian culture has been marked since ancient times as rigid and resistant to change. But India is democratic— it’s modernizing— yet many of its country’s women still face a fate so old they’re ancestors died for the same reasons.

As India begins to develop at a faster rate, economic and social inequality has catalyzed modern feminist issues such as sexual assault in public transit or the workplace. New problems arise as women all over the Indian subcontinent attempt to tackle an issue so large, yet half it’s population doesn’t recognize the issue. Action is being taken, action will be taken, movement will occur— it’s only a matter of time.

 

Pidd, Helen. “Why is India so bad for women?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 23 July 2012, www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jul/23/why-india-bad-for-women. Accessed 17 Sept. 2017.

Udas, Sumnima. “Challenges of being a woman in India.” CNN, Cable News Network, 12 Jan. 2013, www.cnn.com/2013/01/12/world/asia/india-women-challenge/index.html. Accessed 17 Sept. 2017.

Venessa. “Women in the Labour Force: India.” Catalyst, 4 Aug. 2017, www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-labour-force-india. Accessed 17 Sept. 2017.
“Women’s Situation in India.” Saarthak, saarthakindia.org/womens_situation_India.html. Accessed 17 Sept. 2017.

Saudi Arabia

 Photos taken by Lynsey Addario

Women of the world may speak different languages, but we all use the same tone. In this blog, I plan to examine the lifestyle of women from five different regions of the globe, one country in each post. In this post, we’ll take a short trip to a large Middle Eastern power.

Saudi Arabia: an Islamic kingdom stretching along the Arabian Peninsula governed by conservative laws— a culture so profound oil runs through its veins.

In 2016, Saudi Arabia was ranked 141 of 144 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report— based on schooling, welfare, economic, and political involvement.

Living as a female in Saudi Arabia remains structured, guided, and controlled by traditional Islamic values. Women abide by a male guardianship system; regulations that mandate women to have the consent of male guardians to complete daily tasks like opening a bank account or even obtaining a passport.

Reading the discrepancies between American and Saudi customs as a woman, my hands instinctively clutch my sides. Are there similarities? Yes, but differences persist, highlighting the distinctions between two wealthy societies.

In Saudi, women do not drive. Women do not interact with men outside their family unit. Women do not swim in public pools. Women do not drink alcohol. Women do not try on clothes while shopping. Women do not disobey laws that have governed their ancestors for centuries, despite an evolving world around them.

Restaurants serving men and women have eating areas with dividers. One area is for single men, and the other for women, children and any close male relatives. Males and females who are not related are not permitted to be in public together.  Fast food restaurants employ gender partitions doubling as menu signs.

Females who consider themselves devout, traditional Saudi’s do not view the aforementioned decrees as ill willed or limiting. Instead, these guidelines are seen as ways to keep their culture pure and in line with their Islamic customs.

Women lead lives regulated by rules, but the guidelines are beginning to shift. Women have begun to speak out asking for relaxing of some centuries old traditions.

In 2015, women were able to run and vote for the first time in Saudi elections, yet only 130,000 females voted alongside 1.35 million male.

In 2017, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud began allowing women to receive education and health care without the consent of her male guardians. Women can now represent themselves in court without the presence of a male guardian and participate in workforce as Saudi works to expand its economy.

In a time of modern feminism, Saudi women have begun to question how to maintain their heritage, but also adapt to the present. Despite ongoing global shifts towards modernization and secularism, Saudi men and women have remained sheltered, and untouched by time. The resistance to change, has left Saudi women at a crossroads— religion and country or liberty and equal rights.

With a culture so beautiful, guided by religion and prayer, Saudi women regard their lifestyles as necessary for the kingdom and more importantly, for Islam, but at what cost?

 

 

Gorney, Cynthia. “The Changing Face of Saudi Women.” National Geographic, 19 June 2017, www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/02/saudi-arabia-women/. Accessed 4 Sept. 2017.

“Saudi Arabia’s women vote in election for first time.” BBC News, BBC, 12 Dec. 2015, www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35075702. Accessed 4 Sept. 2017.

“Seven things women in Saudi Arabia cannot do.” The Week UK, 27 Sept. 2016, www.theweek.co.uk/60339/nine-things-women-cant-do-in-saudi-arabia. Accessed 4 Sept. 2017.

Sharman, Jon. “Saudi Arabia to let women work and study without man’s permission.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 6 May 2017, www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudi-arabia-male-guardianship-relax-women-work-study-gender-equality-a7721641.html. Accessed 4 Sept. 2017.