Women & Leadership Links

Sourced by Meredith O’Connell

 
 
At least nine Iranian women political prisoners have gone on a hunger strike to protest snap body searches and abuse by prison guards at the main prison in Tehran, according to an Iranian opposition website.

The kaleme.org reported late Wednesday that the women started the strike after female guards at Evin prison in northern Tehran carried out unannounced inspections that included body searches, beating and verbal insults of the prisoners.

The report said the prisoners were mainly political activists and journalists convicted in the wake of mass street protests that followed the disputed 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The website says the strikers have demanded an apology and guarantees that the guards would not undertake similar actions in the future.

Their strike coincides with that of internationally renowned human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been refusing food in the same prison since last week to protest mistreatment by authorities.

 

 
[Arab] women have refused to let the fight for gender-equality be side-lined. In October 2011, a group of four Arab women from Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt started a Facebook page entitled Uprising of Women in the Arab World. While women in Lebanon are not necessarily fighting the same laws as Saudi women, they are finding strength in unity and using it to gain attention online.

The group says in their mission statement that “[it is] time for women and men to unite against the oppression of women in the Arab world.”

 
A truly grassroots movement that started as a small wave is now making headlines around the world. To mark the movement’s one-year anniversary, the page administrators urged people from around the world to post pictures of themselves holding messages to express their support for Arab women’s rights. People began to take notice, and today the page has over 43,000 followers. The photos (many of which are now going viral on social networks) came from all over the world, from women and men of all religions and backgrounds.
 
Under dictatorships, gender inequality is too often seen as an unimportant detail in comparison to the big picture. In many revolutionary movements, marginalised individuals such as women and minorities are first offered hope for change, then end up facing the same discrimination after dictators have been toppled. They are told to wait, to be patient, and that their time will come.
 
This is wrong. Women’s rights are at the heart of human rights, therefore any pro-democratic claim simply cannot side-line half the population. Change for the better must be change for everyone, or it will ultimately be change for no one.
 
 
Women in China have a lot more opportunities in business because it is “not gender-based, it’s merit-based,” says one of China’s top female businesswoman.

Jennifer Li, CFO of Baidu, the world’s largest Chinese-language search engine, sometimes referred to as “China’s Google,” adds that China is a very female-friendly business environment.

“The society is very open and many companies create a level playing field when it comes to employment,” adds Li, who controls the corporate functions of a company worth nearly $32 billion.

[Says Jennifer Li] “First, don’t think that being a woman is a big deal. If you are sensitive about ‘I am a young Asian woman,’ that noise is coming into the professional setting. Focus on the issue. Focus on what we need to do here, not who we are. Measure yourself only by the standard that you deliver specific work objectives.”

 
In Europe this week, issues around women’s advancement and empowerment have been high on the agenda. The European Parliament’s economic affairs committee voted down the nomination of Luxembourg’s Yves Mersch to the European Central Bank board, calling for his candidacy to be withdrawn. It was a protest over the lack of women in top EU posts. Also, the EU’s Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, who is intent to impose an EU-wide quota for women on supervisory boards, looks likely to have to go with a watered down proposal to be presented mid-November. Debate on these issues is important precisely because it puts the issue of gender inequality on the table. It draws attention to the danger of having so few women at the top and encourages focus on the improved business benefits of engaging women, for individual organizations and the economy as a whole.

Organizations today would never think of not investing in high growth markets like China and India. Yet they are still dragging their heels when it comes to investing in women, despite it being a win-win situation for the global economy, organizations and women themselves. This is not just a human rights issue — it makes absolute business sense. Research conducted throughout the world shows gender balance in top positions contributes to improved competitiveness and better business performance.

Some companies are already investing in women and thereby betting on a brighter future — for a workforce just waiting to blossom, for emerging economies whose development depends on this new talent, and, of course, for their own financial growth. In the current economic climate there really is no longer any excuse to not be investing in one of the largest untapped economic engines. You cannot flick a switch overnight but the private sector has a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to lead on these issues.

 
 

Women in Limuru will today hold demonstrations to protest rape of one of their colleagues who has died. The woman was raped by street boys.

The women took issue with the provincial administration, police and the Limuru Municipal Council for failing to protect them. The women said police do not conduct patrols.

They said that many women who work in Limuru textile and food markets have been harassed by street boys. “When you wake up early in the morning, many of us are harassed by street urchins. Many women have been raped but they shy away from speaking out,” said a trader. At the same time, they accused the council for not clearing nearby bushes which surround the bus park saying that they act as hide out for criminals.

However Limuru District Officer Michael Kang’ethe has said that the police are on high alert and that they have embarked on a crack down on the criminal gangs. He said security will soon be restored in the town and urged the women to be calm.

 
 

Parents unable to educate their children in rural Nepal often send their daughters to work as domestic help in return for schooling. But girls complain of mistreatment and an inability to concentrate on school, if employers permit them to attend at all. Experts cite poverty, political instability and a lack of awareness about child labor as root causes. Although laws here forbid child labor and government officials say a national plan has helped halve the number of child laborers, activists say that eradication requires a vigilant society and economic empowerment of the poor.

Approximately 1.5 million children under 16 are engaged in income-generating activities in Nepal, according to the Rapid Assessment Report 2012, a recent update of the Ministry of Labour and Employment’s last study conducted in 1998.

Ffity-seven percent of the 313 domestic child laborers identified in a 2012 sampling of 10 districts, including Kathmandu, were girls, says Krishna Prasad Dawadi, undersecretary for the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

One out of every five households in Kathmandu has a domestic child worker, he says. Employers prefer to hire children because they can pay less for their work, can easily control them and can lure them with the opportunity of education. Children have reported cases of severe violence, such as having hot food thrown on them, being burned with a hot iron or being taken advantage of sexually.

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