Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tale of 2 visions: For and against women

Najia Siddiqi  (Photo via Women in Revolution)
On December 9, the UAE Cabinet made it compulsory for corporations and government agencies to include women on their board of directors.
On December 10, the date chosen to honor the UN General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Najia Siddiqi, Afghanistan's director of Provincial Women's Affairs, was assassinated.
While UAE women are increasingly recognized as active participants in society, their opposite numbers are getting ever more fearful for their lives in such Taliban-dominated countries as Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Sheikh Mo's Twitter page

Sheikh Mo's announcement on Twitter
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed al Maktoum, or Sheikh Mo as we fondly refer to the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced to his more than 1.3 million followers on Twitter: “We have also made a decision to make the representation of women, in all the boards of directors of companies and government entities, compulsory…
"Women proved themselves in many workplaces and today we want them to have a strong presence in decision-making positions in our institutions.”
The UAE joins the likes of Italy, Spain, Norway, Belgium and Iceland, which have introduced board gender quotas and regulations to ensure women are represented on boards of directors.
Prayers before Najia Sididqi's funeral (AFP photo via
Najia Siddiqi was shot dead by two unidentified men while commuting on Human Rights Day in a motorized rickshaw in Mehtarlam in Pakistan’s eastern Laghman province. Hanifa Safi, her predecessor at the Provincial Women's Affairs, was killed when a magnetic bomb attached to her vehicle exploded in July.
The Facebook group Women in Revolution says, “This attack, especially on Human Rights Day, shows that those who killed Ms. Siddiqi have no respect for human rights or the safety of the Afghan people… She was a brave woman and we salute her for her unwavering dedication to women’s rights. Her efforts are remembered particularly since today marks the end of the 16 Days campaign for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.”
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Center for Women's Global Leadership in 1991. Participants chose the dates, November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women, and December 10, International Human Rights Day, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights.
Women in Revolution also feature Fareeda "Kokikhel" Afridi, a Pashtun feminist and women's rights activist in Pakistan who was also shot dead on her way to work in July.
On July 5, 2012, as Afridi left her home in the Khyber tribal area to go to work in Hayatabad a suburb of Peshawar, two motorcyclists, who later escaped, shot her once in the head and twice in the neck. She died in hospital.
Fareeda Afridi (Photo via Women in Revolution)
Afridi was born and raised in the Khyber tribal area, part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), an impoverished semi-autonomous region in Pakistan's northwest, bordering Afghanistan.
She graduated from university with a master's degree in gender studies. While still a student, she founded with her sister, Noor Zia Afridi, the Society for Appraisal and Women Empowerment in Rural Areas (SAWERA), a women-run NGO promoting women's empowerment in FATA. Afridi was critical of the Pakistani government, the Taliban, and the patriarchal nature of Pakistani society. In June, a month before her killing, Afridi told journalists she was being threatened.
Women in Revolution was initiated to support all people fighting for freedom from oppression. “Our guiding light is the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- the first three articles define these as the right to equality, safety and justice.”
Their motto is “We are not here to be silent.”
Their immediate focus is on Syria, intending to provide aid to the Syrian people: to help them survive the winter months first, and then rebuild their country after Bashar al-Assad’s fall.
This is not to forget two teenagers from a conservative and poor area of Pakistan, who have also felt the long arm of the fundamentalist Taliban.
Taliban gunmen shot Malala Yousafzai, 14, in the head on October 9. She survived the shooting and was airlifted to the UK for treatment and the long road to recovery. Hina Khan, 16, is also being threatened and a target.
Malala is a pupil from the town of Mingora in the Swat Valley. She is known as an education and women’s rights activist in the area, where the Taliban have banned girls from attending school.
Hina is also known as an activist for education and women’s rights.
The Khan family is originally from the same Swat Valley area of Pakistan as Malala. It was under complete Taliban control from 2007 to 2009.
Hina and her family were forced to move to Islamabad in 2006 after publicly criticizing atrocities committed by militants.
It is definitely a tale of two visions – one where a country embraces all its citizens and looks to the future; the other ignoring more than half their populations and making violent leaps into the past.
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