In India, Grassroots Initiatives Work to Undo the Period Taboo

For many Indians, lack of access to menstrual products is compounded by entrenched societal stigma. Across the country, women are beginning to make a change.

A sign in Bali, Indonesia, demonstrates stigmatization of menstruation in the Global South. dominique bergeron. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A sign in Bali, Indonesia, demonstrates stigmatization of menstruation in the Global South. dominique bergeron. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

For most people with periods in the Western world, menstruation is something of an afterthought—annoying and sometimes painful, but easily dealt with, and far from debilitating. In parts of the Global South, however, “that time of the month” is not only a serious health concern and financial impediment but also a source of profound social and cultural tension. Over the past two years, grassroots activists have brought increased attention to the plight of menstruating women in India, and begun to envision a future in which well-being and participation in society is not dictated by one’s reproductive cycle.

Shameful attitudes toward menstruation in India are deeply ingrained, and, especially in rural areas, can be actively harmful to women of all ages. Indian women experiencing their periods can be banned from entering the kitchen and preparing food, separated from family members, and removed from religious ceremonies, sometimes on the grounds of theistic tradition: In 2018, many Indian men were outraged at a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court allowing women of menstruating age to visit Sabarimala, a Hindu temple in Kerala dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, who is seen in traditional mythology to be disgusted by the concept of female fertility. Indignation at the ruling reached a peak in January 2019, when one person died and dozens were injured in protests against the judgment.

Equally dangerous, and highly imbricated with traditional views of menstruation, is the pervasive lack of access to sanitary products, which are crucial to keeping women clean and safe during their periods. An estimated 70 percent of Indian women are unable to afford such products, with 300 million resorting to unhygienic options such as newspapers, dry leaves, and unwashed rags. Menstruation is also a key driver of school dropouts among girls, 23 percent of whom leave their schooling behind upon reaching puberty.

Cost barriers can prevent Indian women from acquiring menstrual products. Marco Verch. CC BY 2.0

Cost barriers can prevent Indian women from acquiring menstrual products. Marco Verch. CC BY 2.0

In a sociocultural landscape where natural bodily functions are affecting the human dignity of people with periods, education, outreach, and access are crucial. In February 2018, Indian news outlet Daijiworld reported on one person working toward these goals: the so-called “Pad Woman” of Manguluru, who has been leading a group of young students in her southwestern port to create awareness of menstrual hygiene. The Pad Woman, Prameela Rao, is the founder of non-profit Kalpa Trust, which offers students at the Kavoor government First Grade College materials to manufacture sanitary pads for women in rural areas. The completed pads are distributed free of charge to the colonies of Gurupur, Malali, Bajpe, and Shakthinagar, obviating the need for women to purchase prohibitively expensive mainstream menstrual products. The pads are made from donated cotton clothing, which the students wash, iron, cut, and stitch to create the final product.

In the western state of Gujarat, an organization known as the Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP) is directly targeting period taboos among rural communities. Activists Manjula and Sudha told the Indian magazine The New Leam that, for the girls they have educated in the villages of Karamdi Chingaryia and Jariyavada, confusion and fear regarding menstruation have given way to confidence and clarity. For the AKSRP, which emphasizes gender equality and the societal participation of women, offering rural villagers the ability to make informed choices about their own menstrual health is key. As of The New Leam’s report in April 2019, the non-profit had reached about 60 Indian villages, providing information about sanitary pads of various designs, longevities, and price points.

While pads are a far more hygienic choice than rags or newspaper, they are not the only option: Back in Manguluru, two German volunteers have initiated a menstrual cup project known as “a period without shame.” In their pilot run, Nanett Bahler and Paulina Falky distributed about 70 menstrual cups free of charge to Indian women, as well as leading workshops on effective use for recipients. The cups, which are made of silicone and emptied around twice per day during one’s period, can be used for up to 10 years, making them a hygienic, eco-friendly, and potentially more affordable option for people of all ages.

Manguluru, where Indian and German activists are working to provide menstrual products. Aleksandr Zykov. CC BY-SA 2.0

Manguluru, where Indian and German activists are working to provide menstrual products. Aleksandr Zykov. CC BY-SA 2.0

Such grassroots efforts have been instrumental in chipping away at stigma among Indians in certain cities and villages, but broader change is unlikely without widespread publicity. One potential avenue for increased awareness is the newly released documentary Period. End of Sentence., which follows rural Indian women in their battle against period stigma. To create the film, Iranian-American director Rayka Zehtabchi visited small villages outside of Delhi to inquire after women’s menstrual health, and shot extensive footage of women who have learned to create their own sanitary products. The diligent pad-makers, many of whom are housewives who have never before held a full-time job, sell their creations to locals in their area, educating women on proper use and convincing shop owners to stock the products. By the end of the time span covered by the documentary, the women had set up a factory and manufactured 18,000 pads, earning economic self-sufficiency for themselves and an Academy Award nomination for Zehtabchi.


The work of these Delhi entrepreneurs, along with that of the AKSRP and Pad Woman Prameela, has made a positive difference for countless people—but, according to Mumbai-based journalist and author Puja Changoiwala, education and access must rise above the grassroots level and reach the legislative in order to create enduring change in attitudes toward menstruation. In a piece for Self, Changoiwala suggests that the Indian government should distribute free pads and launch an “aggressive nation-wide awareness program,” engaging celebrities and the press to address the dire consequences of long-held stigma. For anyone in India with a period, such a moment cannot come soon enough.






TALYA PHELPS hails from the wilds of upstate New York, but dreams of exploring the globe. As former editor-in-chief at the student newspaper of her alma mater, Vassar College, and the daughter of a journalist, she hopes to follow her passion for writing and editing for many years to come. Contact her if you're looking for a spirited debate on the merits of the em dash vs. the hyphen.








Sexism, Racism Drive More Black Women to Run for Office in Both Brazil and US

Black women in Brazil protest presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro, who is known for his disparaging remarks about women, on Sept. 29, 2018.  AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

Black women in Brazil protest presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro, who is known for his disparaging remarks about women, on Sept. 29, 2018. AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

Motivated in part by President Donald Trump’s disparaging remarks about women and the numerous claims that he committed sexual assault, American women are running for state and national office in historic numbers. At least 255 women are on the ballot as major party congressional candidates in the November general election.

The surge includes a record number of women of color, many of whom say their candidacies reflect a personal concern about America’s increasingly hostile, even violent, racial dynamics. In addition to the 59 black female congressional candidates, Georgia’s Stacey Abrams hopes to become her state’s first black governor.

The U.S. is not the only place where the advance of racism and misogyny in politics has has spurred black women to run for office at unprecedented levels.

In Brazil, a record 1,237 black women will be on the ballot this Sunday in the country’s Oct. 7 general election.

Brazilian women rise up

I’m a scholar of black feminism in the Americas, so I have been closely watching Brazil’s 2018 campaign season – which has been marked by controversy around race and gender – for parallels with the United States.

Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of Brazilian women marched nationwide against the far-right presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro, under the banner of #EleNao – #NotHim.

Bolsonaro, a pro-gun, anti-abortion congressman with strong evangelical backing, once told a fellow congressional representative that she “didn’t deserve to be raped” because she was “terrible and ugly.”

Bolsonaro has seen a boost in the polls since he was stabbed at a campaign rally on Sept. 8 in a politically motivated attack.

Protests in Rio de Janeiro against Jair Bolsonaro on Sept. 29, organized under the hashtag #EleNao (#NotHim).  AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

Protests in Rio de Janeiro against Jair Bolsonaro on Sept. 29, organized under the hashtag #EleNao (#NotHim). AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

Brazil has shifted rightward since 2016, when the left-leaning female president Dilma Rousseff was ousted in a partisan impeachment process that many progressives regard as a political coup.

Her successor, then-Vice President Michel Temer, quickly passed an austerity budget that reversed many progressive policies enacted under Rousseff and her predecessor, Workers Party founder Luís Inácio “Lula” da Silva.

The move decimated funding for agencies and laws that protect women, people of color and the very poor.

Racism in Brazil

In Brazil, these three categories – women, people of color and the very poor – tend to overlap.

Brazil, which has more people of African descent than most African nations, was the largest slaveholding society in the Americas. Over 4 million enslaved Africans were forcibly taken to the country between 1530 and 1888.

Brazil’s political, social and economic dynamics still reflect this history.

Though Brazil has long considered itself colorblind, black and indigenous Brazilians are poorer than their white compatriots. Black women also experience sexual violence at much higher rates than white women – a centuries-old abuse of power that dates back to slavery.

Afro-Brazilians – who make up just over half of Brazil’s 200 million people, according to the 2010 census – are also underrepresented in Brazilian politics, though sources disagree on exactly how few black Brazilians hold public office.

Three Afro-Brazilians serve in the Senate, including one woman. In the 513-member lower Chamber of Deputies, about 20 percent identify as black or brownWomen of color hold around 1 percent of seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

Black women step into the fray

That could change on Sunday.

This year, 9,204 of the 27,208 people running for office across Brazil are women, which reflects a law requiring political parties to nominate at least 30 percent women. About 13 percent of female candidates in 2018 are Afro-Brazilian.

A campaign ad for Rio city council member Talíria Petrone, who is running for Congress. Facebook

A campaign ad for Rio city council member Talíria Petrone, who is running for Congress.Facebook

In most Brazilian states, that’s a marked increase over Brazil’s last general election, in 2014, according to the online publication Congresso em Foco.

In São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, 105 black women ran for office in 2014. This year, 166 are. In Bahia state, there are 106 black female candidates for political office, versus 59 in 2014. The number has likewise doubled in Minas Gerais, from 51 in 2014 to 105 this year.

As in the United States, Brazil’s black wave may be a direct response to alarming social trends, including sharp rises in gang violence and police brutality, both of which disproportionately affect black communities.

But many female candidates in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second largest city, say one specific event inspired them to run.

In March, Marielle Franco, an Afro-Brazilian human rights activist and Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman, was assassinated – the 11th Brazilian activist to be murdered since November 2017.

Franco’s murder remains unsolved, but she was an outspoken critic of the military occupation of Rio’s poor, mostly black favela neighborhoods. The ongoing police investigation has implicated government agents in the shooting, which also killed her driver.

Her death unleashed an avalanche of activism among black women in Rio de Janeiro, with new groups offering fundraising and political training for female candidates of color.

On Sunday, 231 black women from Rio de Janeiro state will stand for election in local, state and federal races – more than any other state in Brazil and more than double the number who ran in 2014.

Black representation from Rio to Atlanta

Black women may have been historically excluded from Brazil’s formal political arena, but they have been a driving force for social and political change since the country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy in 1985.

Decades before #MeToo, Brazilian women of color were on the front lines of activism around issues like gender-based violence, sexual harassment and abortion.

The March 2018 assassination of Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman, Marielle Franco, spurred a wave of black women running for local and federal office in Brazil.  Reuters/Ricardo Moraes

The March 2018 assassination of Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman, Marielle Franco, spurred a wave of black women running for local and federal office in Brazil. Reuters/Ricardo Moraes

Brazil has hundreds of black women’s groups. Some, including Geledes, a center for public policy, are mainstays of the Brazilian human rights movement. The founder of the Rio de Janeiro anti-racism group Criola, Jurema Werneck, is now the director of Amnesty International in Brazil.

The fact that thousands of black women, both veteran activists and political newcomers, will appear on the ballot on Sunday is testament to their efforts.

As in the United States, black Brazilian women’s demand for political representation is deeply personal. They have watched as their mostly male and conservative-dominated congresses chipped away at hard-won protections for women and people of color in recent years, exposing the fragility of previous decades’ progress on race and gender.

Black women in Brazil and the U.S. know that full democracy hinges on full participation. By entering into politics, they hope to foster more inclusive and equitable societies for all.

KIA LILLY CALDWELL is a Professor of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION

Female Saudi Arabian Activist on Death Row for Peaceful Protest

On August 21, 2018, Saudi Arabian public prosecutors announced that they were considering the death penalty for five Saudi Shia activists. One of the five is Israa al-Ghomgham, a female activist who could become the first woman sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia. Ghomgham, along with four other Saudi Shia activists including her husband, engaged in peaceful demonstrations for Shia rights beginning in 2011 during the rise of the Arab Spring, which led to their 2015 arrests.

Saudi Arabian Flag. Iqbal Osman. Wikimedia Commons

Saudi Arabian Flag. Iqbal Osman. Wikimedia Commons

“Any execution is appalling, but seeking the death penalty for activists like Israa al-Ghomgham, who are not even accused of violent behavior, is monstrous,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, who directs the Middle East sector of Human Rights Watch. “Every day, the Saudi monarchy’s unrestrained despotism makes it harder for its public relations teams to spin the fairy tale of ‘reform’ to allies and international business.”

Responding to peaceful protests with the death penalty is compromising both to proponents of human decency and order, and these actions are symptomatic of a larger illness. If Saudi Arabia is to continue to suppress and murder its own citizens, its actions could lead to its internal combustion. To preserve its tenuous position of prosperity, the Saudi Arabian government must honor the voices of its insurgents—or at least allow them to live.

Saudi Arabia, a desert country in the Middle East said to be the birthplace of Islam, holds a complex position at the pinnacle of capital and culture. It has the world’s third highest national total estimated value of natural resources. It is home to the world’s largest oil company, and it has been the proponent of various reform agendas, significant amount of money invested in solar energy. It is also ruled by the ultraconservative Wahhabi religious movement, which is part of Sunni Islam.

It has shown support for counterterrorism and revolutionary liberal and Arab Spring ideals and has supported rebel forces in Syria and Yemen, but internally it has been a breeding ground for violent forms of radical Islam, placing it at a crux between the most progressive and oppressive sides of the ideological spectrum. The nation’s 32-year-old king, Mohammed bin Salman, has been pushing to modernize his country, opening movie theatres and allowing women to drive for the first time—but his actions towards protestors despite his presentation of liberalism rings eerily close to the actions of Bashar al Assad, Syrian president who also began his reign by encouraging Westernization in Syria before cracking down on protestors and unleashing a bloody civil war. Under Salman, critics of the Saudi Arabian regime have been arrested in scores, and 58 people are currently on death row. Many of these prisoners are women, often arrested for protesting the country’s guardianship system, which places Saudi Arabian men in almost complete control of their daughters’ or wives’ lives.


Israa al-Ghomgham and her husband were arrested on December 5, 2015, and are on trial at the Specialized Criminal Court, which Saudi Arabia installed in 2008 and which has drawn expense criticism from human rights activists, sentencing eight protestors to death in 2014 and 14 in 2016. Currently human rights campaigners are working to secure her freedom and life.




EDEN ARIELLE GORDON is a writer, musician, and avid traveler. She attends Barnard College in New York.

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Nigeria’s First Female Car Mechanic Is Changing the World

Sandra Aguebor is the first female mechanic in Nigeria and the founder of the Lady Mechanic Initiative, an organization that teaches women from diverse backgrounds how to fix cars and become financially independent. In Aguebor's garage, you’ll find tools to fix cars and so much more. 

Scotland Creates £5.2m Initiative for Free Sanitary Products

As part of the growing effort to end period poverty, Scotland provides students with free sanitary products.

University of Glasgow is one of the universities in Scotland now providing free sanitary products to students. Michael D. Beckwith. CC0 1.0

University of Glasgow is one of the universities in Scotland now providing free sanitary products to students. Michael D. Beckwith. CC0 1.0

Only a few weeks ago, the Scottish government announced a £5.2 million ($6.4 million) initiative to provide students with free sanitary products. The scheme is part of a national effort to “banish the scourge of period poverty” by ensuring that no student’s health, studies, or wellbeing are affected by not having adequate access to sanitary products.

Scotland’s action is a first in world history and will provide all of the country’s 395,000 students with free pads and tampons beginning this September.

According to a survey of 2,000 by Young Scot, 1 in 4 people at schools and universities across Scotland have difficulty purchasing sanitary products. Another study by Women for Independence showed that one in five women go through period poverty. Because of this lack of access to period products, thousands miss school or have to make their own sanitary products using rags or newspapers, according to Plan International UK.

In a statement, Communities secretary Aileen Campbell said that, “In a country as rich as Scotland it’s unacceptable that anyone should struggle to buy basic sanitary products.


“I am proud that Scotland is taking this world-leading action to fight period poverty and I welcome the support of local authorities, colleges and universities in implementing this initiative. Our £5.2m investment will mean these essential products will be available to those who need them in a sensitive and dignified way, which will make it easier for students to full focus on their studies.”

The government is partnering with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), Colleges Scotland, Universities Scotland, and the Scottish Funding Council, to make the initiative a reality. Hey Girls, a social enterprise company, is serving as the provider for the scheme. The company’s founder, Celia Hodson, told the Guardian that the initiative is “a real milestone in the fight against period poverty.”

While ultimately the initiative will only be able to serve students, according to Cosla president Alison Evison, “it will also contribute to a more open conversation and reducing the unnecessary stigma associated with periods.”

“Periods are a part of life, they shouldn’t be a point of inequality, compromise someone’s quality of life or be a distraction from making the very most of time spent at university, so this is a positive step,” Susannah Lane, the head of public affairs at Universities Scotland.

Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour MSP and the member responsible for a bill creating a statutory duty for free feminine hygiene products told the press that, “This is another great step forward in the campaign against period poverty. Access to period products should be a right, regardless of your income, which is why I am moving ahead with plans for legislation to introduce a universal system of free access to period products for everyone in Scotland.


“No one should face the indignity of being unable to access these essential products to manage their period.”

 


EMMA BRUCE is an undergraduate student studying English and marketing at Emerson College in Boston. While not writing she explores the nearest museums, reads poetry, and takes classes at her local dance studio. She is passionate about sustainable travel and can't wait to see where life will take her. 

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Women Take the Mic on Nsawya FM

Saudi feminists are giving voice to obstacles against women’s rights in their new radio show.

Illustration depicting the impact of restricted women’s rights because of male guardianship.  (Source: Human Rights Watch. Saudi Arabia: ‘Unofficial Guardianship Rules Banned. © 2016 by Human Rights Watch

Illustration depicting the impact of restricted women’s rights because of male guardianship.

(Source: Human Rights Watch. Saudi Arabia: ‘Unofficial Guardianship Rules Banned. © 2016 by Human Rights Watch

On July 27th, eleven women gave life to Nsawya FM, or Feminism FM, with a simple tweet stating their aim to be the “voice of the silent majority.” Since then, their radio broadcasts have detailed stories of women’s rights abuse with just a laptop, editing software (to disguise the voices of the women sharing the stories), and a microphone. According to Ashtar, a pseudonym for one of the women involved, “the voice of women is revolution.”

And women have been raising their voices. Of the 6.3 million Saudis on Twitter in 2016, 40% were women as found in a study by the Rutgers’s Center for Women’s Global Leadership Report. The same study supported the importance of Twitter in Saudi society by stating that it was the “most effective and influential social network.” This is in part because political leaders monitor Twitter, making political activity more likely to be seen on the social media platform.

Still the potential to be blocked by the government on Twitter—which Nsawya FM states happened temporarily—is why they have chosen the radio: they do not want to risk losing the “archive of [their] thoughts.”

Nsawya FM’s archive consists of submissions by Saudi women of their stories, opinions, and criticisms on women’s rights, such as domestic abuse. The first stories told were of Hanan Shahri and Sara. Both stories highlight the effects of male guardianship: a system where a women’s crucial decisions—including travel, marriage, and studying abroad—are made by a male figure. These guardians can be fathers, husbands, brothers, or sons.

Shahri’s story was widely reported in 2013 after she killed herself following a beating by her brother and uncle and their refusal to allow her to marry her fiancé. Then there is Sara, a university student whose dream to marry her fiancé from Yemen, following approval from her parents, was ended when her brother shot her.

So it is no surprise that women began turning to Twitter to push back against guardianship. In 2016 they coined #AbolishGuardianship to highlight abuse and rally support against it. Within two months, 14,000 signatures had been collected for an online petition against guardianship. Although gradual changes have occurred for women, most notably the ability to drive, male guardianship is grounded in religion and cuts across all socio-economic classes.

But to these 11 women producers and their 2500 audience members there is hope that civilian law might one day replace the Islamic law. They are bringing the stories traditionally protected under male guardianship to light and public criticism.

“Of course [they] are scared,” as Ashtar has also been quoted saying. But their fear is driven by a determination for equal rights. For them it begins with placing the women’s narrative before the public’s eyes: Nsawya FM is making a statement on behalf of Saudi women to the world that they exist.

 

 

TERESA NOWALK is a student at the University of Virginia studying anthropology and history. In her free time she loves traveling, volunteering in the Charlottesville community, and listening to other people’s stories. She does not know where her studies will take her, but is certain writing will be a part of whatever the future has in store.

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Driving Ban Lifted in Saudi Arabia Encourages Feminist Movements

“Aziza Yousef drives a car on a highway in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving, March 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)”

“Aziza Yousef drives a car on a highway in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving, March 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)”

Saudi Arabia, known as the birthplace of Islam, has long maintained a social ban that forbade a woman’s right to drive. This ban prohibited women from the freedom of having a schedule and a life that exists outside the presence of their husbands, a human right that should come with modern life in a 21st century world.

On June 24, 2018, the world’s final ban prohibiting women from driving around at free will was removed in Saudi Arabia. This right, a right that has always existed for men, was finally equalized for women on a global basis. For years, the women of Saudi Arabia have had to fight for equal consideration within their country. While many laws still diminish their capacity to act as an independent, including their inability to withhold a job outside the home, their activism is certainly not a lost cause. Within the past decade, the women of Saudi Arabia achieved two life-changing rights with the authority to vote as of 2015 and, now, the lifted driving ban.

The right to drive is a right that transcends gender. The opportunity to move about freely in the world, even without a purpose, shapes the new reality for women in Saudi Arabia. Beyond the fact that driving laws should not factor in gender, it is an unrealistic inconvenience to modern life. Sometimes things happen, children get sick or a wife goes into labor while her husband is out. Sometimes, going for a drive in the car is exactly what you need, whether that drive is to watch the sunset and release a stressful day or a drive to the hospital in an emergency. These activities do not depend on gender. Rather, they express freedom. They demonstrate life. And all people, men and women alike, have a right to life.  

While the ban removal is monumental for the country, it means something much greater than simply the approval of a woman in the driver’s seat of a car. It brings to light the history of Saudi Arabia and pushes the world forward in its feminist movements. Saudi women have suffered a lack of rights that are commonplace in the majority of the world… So why is it this country is so far behind in their treatment of women? What does the lifting of this ban mean for their future?  

The intersection between the Islamic religion and society largely encourages strict laws regarding a woman’s place in society. Saudi Arabia, as the mecca of the Hajj and housing the most important Islamic tradition, is notorious for several laws that limit a woman’s right to consideration. Consider the fact that women only recently received the right to vote as evidence to this notion. Despite the equal rights momentum they are generating, women are still required to have a male guardian in many situations that usually only require one active individual. These scenarios include the decision to marry, travel outside the country, sign a contract, and others. Many of these laws extend into other countries that were once part of the Islamic empire.

Such laws have persisted on account of long standing religious beliefs and early defined cultural systems. Tradition is hard to reverse and reports of apprehension on behalf of some women and disapproval by some Saudi men come with the territory of change. That said, for the most part, women everywhere are celebrating- especially those who have suffered the silence of being enchained by their husbands rule. In 2017, when the law was first announced to be lifted the following year, women rejoiced…One woman reported to BBC upon this announcement, “I was very, very excited, jumping up and down and laughing. I’m going to buy my dream car, a convertible mustang, and it’s going to be black and yellow!”

There is much that remains to be overcome in the kingdom as their inability to work outside the home and their activism is still punished… In May of 2018, seven women’s rights activists were detained for speaking out against their unequal treatment and charged with working with “foreign entities.” The women were working towards more equality and basic human rights. Their right to free speech is clearly still not permissible behavior… Though the odds are heavily stacked against them, little by little, women around the world are finally finding their voices. They are shifting the world. They are changing their own lives. They are standing up against outdated systems and perspectives that make them small.

The rigorous laws that women are forced to comply with around the world and particularly in the Middle East are being challenged by many movements for equality. Tradition that has long supported the belittlement of a woman’s liberties is evolving. Women that have been silenced, hidden under dark clothing, waiting for their husbands to return from work before leaving the house, are becoming braver, fighting back… and the best part is, the world is finally listening. Silenced voices are now the loudest of all.

 

ELEANOR DAINKO is an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia studying Spanish and Latin American Interdisciplinary Studies. She recently finished a semester in Spain, expanding her knowledge of opportunity and culture as it exists around the world. With her passion to change the world and be a more socially conscious person, she is an aspiring entrepreneur with the hopes of attending business school over seas after college. 
 

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INDIA: In Her Shoes

Rani is a 17-year-old in Mumbai. Like most girls her age, she likes Instagram, boys and good food. But Rani is also the daughter of a sex worker, and she grew up hearing, “a whore’s daughter can only be a whore.” Follow filmmakers Doree Simon and Caz Tanner Film as they explore women’s empowerment efforts around the world in a new original series, In Her Shoes. Episode one features a-day-in-the-life of Rani — who is transcending her circumstances and helping her community along the way.