In the Trump administration’s proposed mass slaying of any and all programs the United States financially supports in terms of human rights, one in particular is troubling for women around the world—and it’s an angle media have missed in their reporting.
Grace sits staring vacantly ahead, her hands tightly clasped in her lap. She is 16 years old but has a tiny frame that makes her look no older than 13. Underneath her checkered school dress, a small bump sticks out. In four months’ time, she is due to give birth to her stepfather’s child.
Nargez* was 14 when her father arranged her marriage to a 55-year-old stranger who offered a large amount of money. After years of sexual and physical abuse, she fled with her brother’s help and sought safety in his home. But when she tried to file for divorce, her husband pressed charges against her for running away and against her brother for helping her. They were sentenced to seven years.
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.
Earlier this month, Amnesty released a report detailing allegations of government-sanctioned abuses in the two buildings of Saydnaya military prison outside of Damascus, between 2011 and 2015. The findings show a systematic policy of mass executions, torture and deprivation of food, water, medicine and medical care, which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
On December 14, 2016, 23-year-old feminist activist Débora Soriano de Melo was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat in a bar in São Paulo, Brazil. There was evidence that the young activist suffered sexual abuse that same night. Detectives suspected Willy Gorayeb Liger, a manager of the bar, in the assault and called for his arrest on rape charges.
After her husband died, Margaret, 55, saw no alternative but to sell her body in order to feed her four children. She would walk down to Lake Victoria every day to buy fish to sell in the market. But first she had to have sex with a fisherman. For at least the past two decades, fishermen at Lake Victoria have demanded sex before selling their catch to female fish traders.
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.
When Luna Watfa refused to reveal any information to her interrogators, they took her son, 17, and threatened to torture him. “They put my son’s hands behind his back, his T-shirt over his head and they took him,” she says.
Wars fought because of ethnic hatred often seem to be more brutal than others. This is just a personal observation, having studied many. Just look at Rwanda, whose 1994 war saw between 250,000 and half a million women raped, often with objects and often publicly, in order to spread maximum humiliation and terror.
The recent Lancet Series on Maternal Health confirms a well-established reality: The majority of preventable maternal deaths continue to occur in areas affected by humanitarian crisis, largely as a result of poor maternal care. But this reminder is also accompanied by a chronic offense. Contraception is not given the spotlight it deserves.
In 2003, Yanar Mohammed decided she’d had enough. The war in Iraq was picking up steam, and she didn’t want to sit idly in Canada as her home country’s women and girls were being victimized in the turmoil. So, she packed up her bags and moved back to Baghdad to find a way to help.
Godeliève Mukasarasi promised God that if her children survived the Rwandan genocide of 1994, she would perform charitable acts. They lived. Soon after, the then 35-year-old social worker and mother founded SEVOTA, or Solidarity for the Development of Widows and Orphans to Promote Self-sufficiency and Livelihoods, a support group for women in the small Rwandan village of Taba.
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.
Mary Elias, of Laje village in Malawi’s southern Zomba district, speaks in metaphors. “We are carrying both water cans,” she says of the situation for single mothers in drought-ridden Malawi—meaning that women with children but without partners are solely responsible for feeding, clothing, and educating their progeny. Already a Sisyphean task in a country the United Nations Development Program regularly ranks in the top 20 poorest on earth, this has become nearly impossible in the past few years.
Juba, South Sudan—In the Gumbo area of Juba, the capital of South Sudan, prostituted women are struggling to survive. Dozens of women who used to wait for clients are now going after them in markets and other busy areas of the city.
Yagna Ibrahim is a woman who has a presence that is difficult to ignore. She strides into the room with grace and confidence, pulls out a chair, and sits down next to her friend and fellow women’s rights activist, Rabia Musa.
The air is stuffy by default. Soap, especially laundry soap, is usually a rare commodity among refugees. Add to the muddle of unwashed smells a buzzing from black flies, nearly 100 degree heat, and dark, polyester clothes that cover from head to toe, and life inside a makeshift container on the Greek island of Samos is an unpleasant one, thick with defeat.
On September 16, Nadia Murad, a 23-year-old Yazidi survivor of ISIS captivity, was appointed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as the Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. It was the first time the UN had bestowed the title on such a survivor.
Within the first few days after Sandra Moreno’s daughter, Ana Paula, disappeared in 2009, Moreno reached out to a TV crew a few blocks from her home in the lower-middle-class neighborhood of Carapicuíba, in the Brazilian state of São Paulo.
In the middle of the Pacific Ocean lies the tiny, remote island of Nauru, which has come under scrutiny recently by the media and human rights groups. The Australian government, which provides direct aid to Nauru, uses the island to hold asylum seekers who have traveled to Australia by boat.
Imagine a health center that is open, stocked with vaccines and fully staffed, in a region where measles is known to be endemic. But only three children are vaccinated every month. Would you then conclude that measles is not a big problem? Would you accept the job as done?