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.