Thursday, 14 November 2013

Women's Rights in the Arab World - Egypt worst country for women

Women were supposed to be one of the prime beneficiaries of the Arab Spring, but they have instead been some of the biggest losers, as the revolts have brought conflict, instability, displacement and a rise in Islamist groups in many parts of the region, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Thomson Reuters Foundation's third annual poll of gender experts gives a snapshot of the state of women's rights in Arab states three years after the Arab Spring and as Syria's conflict threatens further regional upheaval. Surprisingly, Egypt tops the list of 22 Arab states as the worst country for women. Yes,  Egypt!  Not Syria, Yemen, Somalia or Saudi Arabia as you might have expected, but Egypt. The country achieved such dismal position in the poll because of
sexual harassment, high rates of female genital cutting and a surge in violence and Islamist feeling after the revolution toppled long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

"We removed the Mubarak from our presidential palace but we still have to remove the Mubarak who lives in our minds and in our bedrooms," Egyptian columnist Mona Eltahawy says in an article about the poll by Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"As the miserable poll results show, we women need a double revolution, one against the various dictators who've ruined our countries and the other against a toxic mix of culture and religion that ruin our lives as women."

Iraq ranked second-worst after Egypt, followed by Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen. Comoros, where women hold 20 percent of ministerial positions and where wives generally keep land or the home after divorce, came out on top, followed by Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar.

The poll by Thomson Reuters' philanthropic arm surveyed 336 gender experts in August and September in 21 Arab League states and Syria, which was a founding member of the Arab League but was suspended in 2011.

The poll assessed violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy.

Visit this page for full coverage of the poll and for more information, read this great article by RTF's Tim Large.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Inspiring Immigrants - the Africans are making an impact

Sada Mire at Dawaale site/Courtesy of Sada Mire

Immigrants are rarely portrayed positively in the British media – and those from Africa face special challenges.  Yet, far from sponging off social benefits, many are making significant economic and social contributions both in the UK and Africa. When I decided to look into this, I found dozens of remarkable African immigrants, who have gone on to become leaders in education, health, fashion and business – and are having a real impact.

Some have combined the expertise they have gained in the UK with their local knowledge and contacts to establish successful development projects in Africa. Others have set up foundations to support infrastructure projects across the continent.

In the UK, many have launched social projects to cater to the health, education and employment needs of African immigrants. Their organisations often target some of the most disadvantaged communities. They are having an impact because they know first-hand what challenges immigrants face when they come to the UK and how to reach out to them.

African diaspora entrepreneurs are also shifting the development agenda – at home and abroad – away from traditional aid and toward financial investment and structural improvement that will bring sustainable benefits to local people. And women hold senior positions in many African diaspora organisations, leading the way for other sectors.

Here is my article for Positive News, profiling some of these doers from the African diaspora and looking at what they’ve achieved. 

There is Sada Mire, Somalia’s first and only archaeologist. She has founded
Somalia Horn Heritage Association and believes that national heritage is a human right, crucial to a nation's sense of itself even during a time of conflict and famine.

Mary Mosinghi, a Ugandan teacher, co-founded Africare, a charity that looks after people living with HIV/AIDS in the UK and Uganda. She says: “Being based in the UK has enabled Africare to transfer robust and effective skills to Uganda communities by supporting productivity, policy development and training, and analysing performance.”

And Daphne Kasambala, from Malawi, created Sapellé an online ethical boutique
offering original fashion and accessories in beautiful African tribal prints and African inspired styles, sourced from brands, social enterprises and artisans from all over Africa. She says: “Africa doesn’t only have natural resources. It has a wealth of talents and the capability to create things that are desirable. We just need the infrastructure to reach global markets.”

Then there is Everjoice Makuve, who was raised as an orphan in Zimbabwe, but managed to found Widows, Widowers and Orphans Relief and Development Trust International to combat the root causes of social deprivation and poverty, which had affected her so much. WORD provides support and education to refugee communities in the UK and to women and children in Zimbabwe.

And Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, from Sierra Leone, who founded the War Trust for Children after the war, as well as the real estate development enterprise Idea-UK in Sierra Leone. She want long-term development that can make a lasting difference, providing access to new business models, jobs and wealth creation.

Read my Positive News article on these inspiring African immigrants.