Vol. 7, JUNE, 2009
MARIA BASHIR - The first female prosecutor in Afghanistan -

It would be wrong to say that the situation for women in Afghanistan is all bleak, but the statistics do not look good.

Those few women who have tried to break through face tremendous challenges. So imagine the risk being taken by Herat’s chief prosecutor — the first female prosecutor in Afghanistan.

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Photo Credit: Times Online
MOROCCO’S NEW GUIDING FORCE- Muslim Women Being Trained as Spiritual Leaders and Family Counselors
TOBACCO GIANTS TARGETING YOUTH IN DEVELOPING WORLD- One Woman’s mission to protect children from smoking
The first female prosecutor in Afghanistan

It would be wrong to say that the situation for women in Afghanistan is all bleak, but the statistics do not look good.

Those few women who have tried to break through face tremendous challenges. So imagine the risk being taken by Herat’s chief prosecutor — the first female prosecutor in Afghanistan.

Appointed two years ago, Maria Bashir, 38, travels everywhere with six armed bodyguards, funded by the US justice department. Even so, last year a bomb went off in front of her house, killing one bodyguard, and her three children are considered such targets they can no longer go to school.

Photo Credit: Times Online

“Security for women is really, really bad and has worsened in the last 21/2 years, and some, like me, have to risk their lives.”

Barely a day goes by for her without death threats. She shows me a letter that arrived that morning saying “Suicide bombers have come to Herat and you are the target”. She reels off her list of enemies. “They might be insurgents, or people who we’ve prosecuted — killers, thieves, kidnappers…

The problem is we have good written laws, but they are not implemented. I’m trying to change that. If a man beats his wife and she has a hospital report, I will sentence that man to jail. People don’t like that.”


Muslim Women Being Trained as Spiritual Leaders and Family Counselors

In Morocco, Nezha Nassi’s word means something. That’s because Nassi is a murshida, or guide, a female religious counselor recently trained by the country's Ministry of Religious Affairs to teach Islam and offer counseling in mosques, prisons, schools and hospitals - even to make house calls to work through the most intimate family problems.

Nassi is one of about 250 murshidas trained to occupy the same role as male imams, in every sense but leading prayer.

“This is spiritual, moral and physical counseling,” said Nassi.

The program is part of a worldwide movement to elevate the status of Muslim women scholars and leaders, said Daisy Khan, the New York-based founder of Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equity.


Photo Credit: Nezha Massi

One Woman’s mission to protect children from smoking

Nearly half of the world’s smokers live in three countries - China, India and Indonesia - and many are picking up the habit at a very young age.

Dina Kania, a youth advocate for Indonesia’s National Commission for Child Protection in Jakarta, says the industry is aggressively targeting young people through sponsorship. Ms Kania says Indonesia’s government is hesitant to regulate the tobacco industry because of the tax revenue it provides - up to one-tenth of all government revenue in the country.

Ms Kania says without the Government’s help, the issue of smoking has grown too big for parents to deal with. “As parents of course, they do have the responsibility to prevent the children from smoking,” she said. “But we should bear in mind that smoking can no longer be perceived as a private issue.”

Photo Credit: Dina Kania
“Saudi Arabia plans to set a minimum age for marriage.”

Jeddah - A 50-year old Saudi man has agreed to divorce his 9-year-old bride, after the marriage drew international criticism. The child’s mother, who opposed the marriage which took place when the girl was 8 years old, took the case to court last year.

The decision came after months of court hearings, criticism from the United Nations and an international media frenzy about Saudi Arabia’s human rights practices.

“This is a good step and I think the man did it because he was in a lot of pressure from everyone,” Wajeha Al-Huaider, founder of the Group for Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia, told Reuters by telephone.

Al-Huaider, who campaigned for the child, said she hoped the pressure generated by the case would eventually lead to a law banning child marriages.

Photo Credit: Al Arabiya News Channel


“A lot of men are losing their jobs, and the women who enter the market can find jobs.”

Istanbul - Gender and education differences have emerged from Turkey’s record unemployment figures, according to a report by the Center for Economic and Social Research. It shows more women are finding jobs while men with low education have borne the brunt of record-high job losses.

TDr. Gökçe Kolasin of Bahçeşehir University says women’s employment is actually rising despite an overall decrease in employment rates. “As of December 2008, annual growth in nonagricultural female employment has reached 9 percent," the study said. “Such growth is extraordinary during a period of crisis.”

“It looks like a majority of women are entering the labor market through self-employment. They either start working as cleaning ladies, or they start baking things at home and selling them, etc.”

Photo Credit: Hurriyet.com
“It was an easy sell…”

As American forces work to revive Iraq’s tattered farming economy, they seem to have found an effective new weapon. Cows.

At the suggestion of an Iraqi women’s group, the Marine Corps recently bought 50 cows for 50 Iraqi widows in the farm belt around Fallouja, once the insurgent capital of war-torn Anbar province.

The cow purchase is seen as a small step toward reestablishing Iraq’s once-thriving dairy industry, as well as a way to help women and children hurt by the frequent failure of the Iraqi government to provide the pensions that Iraqi law promises to widows.

The early sign is that the program is working. Widows, many with no other income, have a marketable item to sell, as well as milk for their children.


Photo Credit: AminalWorld.com
“Britain’s first Muslim Women Power List aims to recognize the women who are making a difference.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), in association with The Times and Emel magazine, has published the first annual Muslim Women Power List, a celebration of those who are on the way to, or have already reached, the top of their chosen field.

The list is headed by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and Social Action, and Life Peer.

The aim was to create a network of women who could benefit from each other’s experiences in the workplace; women who have shown strong leadership and made a positive difference to their own and others’ work.

“I hope this list will make the rest of Britain sit up and take note – many members of the Muslim community are making a valuable economic and social contribution to our future,” says Trevor Phillips, EHRC chairman.


Photo Credit: Times Online
"No nation can be successful if it invests only in or listens to only half of the population…”

Vital Voices Global Partnership honored courageous women leaders who have overcome poverty, human trafficking, violence against women and other forms of discrimination to promote positive change in their communities.

Each honoree of the 2009 Global Leadership Awards is the protagonist of a remarkable story. Sadiqa Basiri Saleem of Afghanistan, for example, founded the Oruj Learning Center that has established six schools and educated over 2,700 girls to date. Also striving to educate others, Temituokpe Esisi of Nigeria has committed herself to educating those who work for her successful tailoring company Tuopsy’s Enterprises.

Those that were present left with a new-found understanding of the challenges many women face across the globe and a conviction in the power of investing in women’s leadership.


Photo Credit: Vital Voices

General Links:
Empower Peace: http://www.empowerpeace.org/
Global Fund for Women: http://www.globalfundforwomen.org/cms/
Women for Women International: http://www.womenforwomen.org/
Women for Afghan Women: http://www.womenforafghanwomen.org/
Vital Voices: http://www.vitalvoices.org

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