We are back

We are sorry we have been away for months now! This was due to unavoidable circumstances.

We welcome you to read these two articles and to share your feedback.

  1.  We must Expose how we Really Value Girls and Women in Society By Fiona Mcleod SC:

    ‘Use your voice – in defence of those who are powerless and those who are vulnerable, and to name injustice when you see it, because there is nothing more satisfying than using your learning and your training in the service of others’.

  2. Source: https://womensagenda.com.au/latest/141-australian-barristers-nations-worst-pay-gap-can-done/

  1.  2. The Top 10 Phrases Used by People Who Claim They Are Not Racist By Michael Harriot:

  2. ‘Black people want to be treated like everyone else. We don’t desire to be seen as everyone else. Most African Americans, Mexicans, Jews, etc., love their race and their culture. It is a large part of who we are. We don’t care that you see our color. We just want you to respect it’.

  3. Source: http://www.theroot.com/notracists-be-like-the-top-10-phrases-used-by-peop-1819142064

 

 

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Banning pregnant girls from school is against the laws of Tanzania

by Dinah Musindarwezo

When girls are denied the opportunity to education, it limits their chances to access other opportunities including decent employment, leadership and information and to make informed choices. Girls who drop out of school are also likely to end up in child marriages.

 

Only a few days after celebration of the Day of the Africa Child, the President of the Republic of Tanzania, Magufuli John victimises teen mothers by swearing that during his presidency no teen mothers or young mothers will be allowed to go back to school. Hearing the President’s remarks is disheartening and a disregard of the hard fought gains on women’s and girls’ rights, gender equality and empowerment, including the work done by African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET)’s members in Tanzania.

The women’s movement across Africa and globally have fought hard to guarantee girls the right to quality education. In Beijing’s International Conference on women, 21 years ago, African women championed the rights of the girl child and as a result, one of the 12 Beijing Areas of Action focused on the girl child.

In addition to Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the right to education as a basic right is enshrined in several international and regional conventions and protocols, including the Convention on Ending Discrimination Against Women  (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the African Protocol on the Rights of the Child, Protocol of the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) and Goal 4 of new international development framework – 2030 Agenda/Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) all focus on inclusive and equitable education for all.

All these conventions and protocols focus on the right of boys and girls to access quality and equitable education and put obligations on states that have ratified them to protect, fulfil and uphold this human right.

A particular focus is put on girls’ education due to their vulnerabilities as a result of structural and systematic gender inequalities. Unwanted and early pregnancies are a manifestation of such inequalities and an indication of girls’ vulnerabilities where often the blame is always put on pregnant girls rather than on those who made them pregnant or failed to put mechanisms in place to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Tanzania is a party to the above conventions and protocols and to some extent the government has taken steps towards implementing them.  For example the country has an Education Act, Law of Child Act, both aimed to protect and safeguard the rights of each child including protecting them from discrimination and providing the right to services.

President Magufuli’s remarks indicating his intention to stop girls from going to school is a contradiction to laws and policies of his own country and his government’s failure to fulfil its obligation to protect and safeguard the rights of its citizens, especially the rights of its vulnerable citizens. As  Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Laureate and winner of the Sakharov Prize says, “The true measure of the justice of a system is the amount of protection it guarantees to the weakest”.

Magufuli’s contradictions are further exposed by the Government of Tanzania’s Guidelines on how to enable Pregnant School Girls return to school and resume their duties, adopted in 2016. These guidelines affirm the government’s commitment to reduce the high school drop outs caused by various factors including pregnancies among school girls.  4.4 percent of girls enrolled in both primary and secondary schools dropped out due to pregnancy according to Basic Education Statistics in Tanzania (BEST) in 2014.

While Magufuli takes away the right of teen mothers to choose the type of education they want when he says in his address that teen mothers should go to vocational trainings, sewing or go farm, the Tanzania Guidelines on how to enable pregnant school girls return to school and resume their duties clearly state that its goal is to provide an enabling environment for all pregnant girls to resume schooling after delivery.

Magufuli’s remark to push girls into sewing and farming is to push girls into child labour and reinforces gender stereotypes of gender roles leading to gender segregated jobs. This goes against African Union’s efforts of increasing the number of girls in Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) following recognition of low numbers of girls and women in these fields.

When he took up the presidency, President Magufuli was adamant on fighting corruption to ensure equitable development. This almost made me, and many others people, raise him to the pinnacle of favourable African leaders until his homophobic and sexist remarks started.  What he should know is that it’s impossible to achieve development without achieving gender equality as various researches have shown.  When girls are denied the opportunity to education, it limits their chances to access other opportunities including decent employment, leadership and information and to make informed choices. Girls who drop out of schools are also likely to end up in child marriages.

Africa’s women and girls are extremely irked by president Magufuli’s utterances. He was “the president to watch” for mostly the right reasons until now. As the continent galvanises towards frowning at his leadership intentions, President Magufuli can do the following to redeem himself from this recent retrogressive outburst:

  • Retract his remarks and immediately apologise to Tanzanian women and girls
  • Provide child care facilities for all teen mothers to allow them to go back to school without worrying about who will take care of their babies
  • Address stigma and discrimination towards teen mothers in schools, homes, community
  • Educate himself on the rights of girls and women and his obligation as Head of the State to fulfil them
  • Ensure provision of comprehensive sexuality education as a preventive measure
  • Provide youth friendly reproductive and sexual health services
  • Hold those who make girls pregnant accountable
  • Implement national, regional and international  policies, laws and Conventions/protocols on girls education, gender equality and women’s rights
  • Allocate adequate national budget towards addressing gender inequalities.

We at FEMNET in collaboration with our members in Tanzania and across the continent are committed to supporting President Magufuli and his government to achieve the above.

DINAH MUSINDARWEZO is the Executive Director of the African Women’s Development & Communications Network (FEMNET).     http://www.femnet.co

This article has appeared in the East African and Pambazuka News

Herstory: Soweto uprising and the erasure of Black women

See Thando Sipuye’s brilliant piece celebrating the role of young women in the 1976 Soweto uprising in South Africa and de-crying the erasure of women’s role in the struggle.  He defines this as being consistent with the Euro-patriarchal elitist approach to writing of history and the ideology of male superiority to women dating back to Aristotle.  Read the piece here     The article was originally published in http://www.pambazuka.org

Losing my Religion for Equality

By Jimmy Carter

Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.

I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy – and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

Taken from http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/losing-my-religion-for-equality-20090714-dk0v.html

Happy International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day everyone – this day was first marked in 1909 and is rooted in the desire for socialism and equality for all women.  March 8th marks the day that women marched in Petrograd, Russia, which sparked the 1917 revolution.

To commemorate the day, we present a series of articles and information; and the sad reality is that, despite progress in many areas of life, we are still faced with gender inequality on a global level and in all walks of life.  There is much work for all of us, both women and men, to eradicate all forms of sexism in our daily lives, within our institutions and systems, and in the broader society.

Firstly, to motivate everyone, some inspiring quotes from African women activists are here

For those in Nairobi, Kenya, there is an event today to celebrate International Women’s Day from 12 – 6 pm at Freedom Corner, Uhuru Park with Arts Performances, Exhibitions and Dialogues on on Inequalities and Barriers to Development.  FREE ENTRY!

This year’s theme is “BE BOLD FOR CHANGE”.  Today’s Daily Nation celebrates some bold Kenyan women HERE

Here are some articles, largely focused on sexual and gender-based violence being faced by so many girls and women and several, although not all, about Kenya.  Please click on the stories to read more:

The Real Reasons Women’s Don’t Report Sexual Harassment

Hope for Survivors of Political Violence

No Bed of Roses: The Kenyan Flower Pickers Fighting Sexual Harassment

Is Your Dress Really Your Choice?

For more about International Women’s Day and its’ history: please check the following:

https://www.internationalwomensday.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Women’s_Day

http://www.history.com/news/the-surprising-history-of-international-womens-day

 

“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” Gloria Steinem