The week after she handed in her AK47 rifle, Patricia found out she was pregnant. Patricia had been a rebel fighter in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, for 14 years. Last month, she was one of 7,000 rebels to hand in their weapons in a low-key ceremony that marked the end of the armed struggle.
Guatemala City—It’s not a stretch to say that the reproductive rights of women and girls are not fully recognized in Guatemala. On top of that—or perhaps because of it—Guatemala has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in Latin America, where one in three girls becomes a mother before reaching the age of 18, according to a 2014 UNICEF report.
With this morning’s news that the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing at the UK’s Manchester Arena Monday night, the obviousness of the target begins to make a sick kind of sense.
Thirteen-year-old Jane* lived in Melito Porto Salvo, a village in Calabria, a region that is commonly referred to as Italy’s toe. She was young, confused, and lonely after her parents decided to separate. Like many children in this situation, she struggled to make sense of her new world. All of that changed when she met 19-year-old Davide Schimizzi in the summer of 2013. Their romance filled an emotional void in her life.
Once known as a refugee-friendly nation, Kenya is becoming more resistant to taking in people who have been forced to flee their homes. That means added challenges for the nonprofit Heshima and the refugee girls it supports, says executive director Alisa Roadcup.
Throughout the conflict in DRC, children have been abducted and made to serve as soldiers. While most are male, it is estimated over a third are female, used mainly as domestic and sexual servants, but sometimes as fighters. Now an NGO has released a report showing that many of the girls weren’t enlisted by force.
Little girls returning to school in Fallujah “have nothing to fear,” said Nahla al-Rawi as a few security officers dusted off a chair for her in the partially rehabilitated main hospital. Al-Rawi, 48, is a member of the Anbar provincial council, which is tasked with inspecting and overseeing public facilities such as schools and hospitals.
“Education is important because it builds a person’s mind, and the mind will build the future,” says Ethar, a 15-year-old Syrian girl with a winning smile. Explaining why going to school is important to her, the teenager, who fled Aleppo with her family four years ago, is unwavering in her conviction. Now living in Gaziantep, Turkey, she attends a school for Syrian refugee children.
Here was yet another family flung across the sea from Syria sitting in an air-conditioned, yet still stuffy, container that is their temporary home on the island of Samos in Greece. With so many of them having made it to the country together, the Al-Ghateb family stood out from the hundreds of single men and mothers with children at the camp.
“My friend, my friend!” Two little Syrian girls come running toward me as they see the camera around my neck. These two words are part of their limited English vocabulary, a language they are being taught in school at the Vathi refugee center—known as a “hot spot”—on the island of Samos in Greece.
Post-conflict development efforts cannot afford to forget about adolescent youth. While all youth face certain challenges in adolescence, girls are constrained in different, and often more detrimental, ways than boys, particularly in post-conflict settings.
The mountains of Itombwe are home to some of the rare gorillas of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. An area about the size of Rwanda and Burundi put together, the Itombwe Plateau is one of the poorest parts of one of the poorest countries in the world. It is also home to 23,785 adolescent girls, according to Maman Shujaa, a women’s empowerment organization based in the South Kivu capital of Bukavu.
Dirty white gates fronted the detention center on the Italian island of Lampedusa, a tiny speck between Sicily and Tunisia, where 71 women were being held. Beyond the bars, I could just make out laundry hanging from the building in which they were housed—maybe 100 yards away—a yellow scarf, a hot-pink piece of cloth.
The end of June was hot and dry in Lampedusa, as summer always is. The week I spent on the island of an estimated 5,000-6,000 Italians there was a very separate center of town for a population of 771 people.
The British government is scrambling to find three of its female citizens traveling to join the ranks of foreign recruits to the Islamic State (IS or ISIS). These young women are not alone. According to one recent study, more than 500 women from Western countries have traveled to join the extremists in Iraq and Syria.
On May 28, 2014, most Indian newspapers ran front-page stories about two teenage girls, cousins, who had been hanged in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh after being allegedly gang-raped. Some papers also printed the disturbing image of the girls’ bodies hanging from a mango tree in their village. The public display of the young girls, wearing blood-stained clothes and riddled with thorns, caught India’s attention.
On April 14, nearly 300 Nigerian girls were abducted from their dormitories in a school in the northeastern town of Chibok. But this is hardly the first time Nigerian children have been kidnapped en masse for the purposes of sex—in fact, Nigeria is the birthplace of a sex-trafficking pipeline that leads directly to Italy.
It wasn’t easy growing up as a teenage Muslim girl, with a father who thought he owned your body just because he put a roof over your head or food on the table. Not just that—this was a Muslim man who perverted the teachings of his own religion to justify the sexual abuse that he inflicted upon me, his own daughter.
With the story of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by an extremist group in Nigeria hot in the news, we spoke to the BBC about why coverage of such violence against women and girls in conflict is so sporadic—and what can be done to make a lasting difference once and for all in the media and in the lives of those affected around the world.
Eight million people and counting have watched a video featuring an 11-year-old Yemeni girl named Nada al-Ahdal. From what looks like the seat of a car, she talks about why she left home because, she says, her parents tried to marry her off. Al-Ahdal talks about the “innocence of children” and the consequences—including suicide—of being force-married to an older man at such a young age.
“They didn’t hit her, but they ruined her.” That’s how a young woman named Maimouna described the gang rape of her 16-year-old neighbor in Mali, according to a new report from Save the Children. The NGO has transcribed interviews with witnesses such as Maimouna and with dozens of firsthand survivors to illustrate their latest findings.
Her name is Amina. She is a teenage girl. A man in her country, Tunisia, thinks stones should be thrown at her until she dies because she posted a photo of herself on a website. Because she is a woman. Because she had the audacity to make a comment about her own body, and to photograph her body, and to use it to share her ideas with others.
Not every survivor wants to talk about rape. We know that many women and men choose to keep their stories private, be it to move past their abuse internally or, perhaps more often, to avoid being shunned or re-attacked. We also know that open conversation about sexualized violence is something whole societies still grapple with: From Sudan to the United States, it is only in the last few decades that a respectful public dialogue has begun. It is that much more important, then, to recognize historical examples—the few instances in which women did come forward despite a climate that was likely even more judgmental than today’s.
Safa Sankari, a member of our Syria team, spoke at the UN on July 18 as part of a presentation of our first findings of a data analysis of our crowdmap of sexualized violence in Syria. Sankari, who is Syrian-American, is the co-founder and president of the Syrian American Medical Society’s Michigan Chapter Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps in the humanitarian and medical needs of Syrians. WMC’s Women Under Siege Director Lauren Wolfe also spoke. You can read her testimony here.