#024: A Quiet Revolution
As far as I can remember, New Year's Day has always been my favorite day of the holiday season. There is nothing quite like the glow of hope and determination in people's eyes as they plan to make the year ahead the best one yet. Here at Empower46, the push to keep you informed of women's rights across the continent will remain relentless; I hope to bring you good news.
Thank you for letting me take a breather over holidays; but we are back in it. Remember to tell a friend about the newsletter and know that I am always keen to hear from you.
Here's to a prosperous 2019. May all beautiful things come-
A Quiet Revolution
A stunning article in the New York Times reveals women's willingness and ability to exert more control over their lives and marriages, demonstrated by higher rates of divorce in the more conservative parts of West Africa. Unlike previous generations, younger women in Niger and Northern Nigeria who were often married off earlier in life are taking back their lives by seeking divorces in sidewalk Islamic courts. While there are several catalysts behind the rise in divorce in these regions (such as higher exposure to media, women's legal ability to initiate divorce etc.), note that across the board in West Africa, the total divorce rate remains 'relatively stable'.
With cited reasons ranging from financial difficulties, to maltreatment, and even to downright incompatibility, it appears that young women in these societies are increasingly determined to carve a path for themselves - with or without husbands.
Read for: “They want to choose whom and when to marry, not be pushed into marriages like so many generations of women before them. They demand respect and, better yet, love, speaking openly of wanting a healthy sex like. And when their husbands fall short, women are the ones driving this new culture of breakups."
Not to be left behind in the wake of the #MeToo movement, two female Senegalese activists, Ndambaw Thiat and Olivia Codou ignited the country's own campaign to call out sexual harassment and abuse. With #Nopiwouma (Wolof for 'I will not shut up') launched on Twitter, they sought a unique approach and more muted response to #MeToo, given the greater reticence surrounding sexual abuse in Senegal. They also created a Google Form forum for women to anonymously share their experiences. With a growing cultural openness about sexual harassment and abuse, the goal remains to break the silence not just for the more privileged with easy access to the internet, but for the vast majority of women in Senegal who do not.
Read for: "For 90% of people that write in, it's the first time they've talked about it. Many may have told their parents when they were young, but were asked not to speak out because it was going to impact their family's reputation."
~ YOU SHOULD KNOW
- IRIN: In South Sudan, Girls Forced into War Face Double Standards in Peace
- Cato Institute: How Markets Empower Women: Innovation and Market Participation Transform Women's Lives for the Better
- Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: What Tunisia can Teach the United States about Women's Equality
The Price of a Daughter
Despite the outlawing of child marriages in 2016 (an alarmingly recent year no less), the rate of child marriages in Zimbabwe have not curbed. As Zim's economy continues to crumble, families (particularly in the rural areas) turn to marrying off young daughters in exchange for brideprice which may come in form of food, money or livestock. The statistics are heartbreaking: about one in three girls gets married off before her 18th birthday.
This Guardian article, carefully wrought by Nyasia Chingono, sheds light on the issue through the lens of two young girls who, after being married off, are suffering from fistula due to labour complications. Fair warning: it is painful to read but highly insightful.
Read for: "Her father, a poor farmer, had promised to fund Maureen's secondary school education, but when the time came, he could not raise the money. Marrying off his daughter was a quick fix. Maureen swiftly fell pregnant and was still 13 when she gave birth after spending hours in labour. "
One for the Men
The importance of male allies in the fight towards gender equality cannot be understated. Therefore, my little heart soared to learn of the all-male South African group that are fighting against toxic masculinity. The Young Men Movement meets biweekly to discuss and drive modern conversations about masculinity in this age: educating one another against violence towards women, calling out bad behaviors in other men and changing the understanding about what it means to be a man societally.
Change comes from within gentlemen - it's the surest way.
Read for: "Members participate in open discussions designed to restore a 'safe environment for women'...this involves having open debates about self-awareness, exploring how the men behave and how they carry themselves."