Gender Equality and Female Empowerment in Rwanda
Although Rwanda is considered an impoverished nation, it ranks number four in gender equality. On the same scale, The United States ranks number 49. Interestingly, this shift towards gender equality in Rwanda came as a result of the 1994 genocide.

Before that tragic event, women were usually caretakers and were rarely financially independent or in a position of power. During the genocide, more than 800,000 people died in just 100 days, and most of these individuals were men. This shifted the population to be 60 – 70 percent female and as a result, women were forced into formerly male-dominated jobs.

Government Support of Women

President Kagame led this movement, realizing women were necessary for the country’s recovery because there simply were not enough men to rebuild. The government rewrote the constitution in 2003, encouraging female education and requiring at least 30 percent of positions in parliament to be held by women.

In the first election following this change, the requirement was exceeded with 48 percent of seats going to women. The following election saw an even greater increase with 64 percent of parliamentary seats being held by females. This makes Rwanda number one in a global ranking of countries with the most women in legislature. For comparison, The United States ranks 96 with only 19 percent of seats going to women.

Social Inequality as a Mindset

Despite these great strides towards gender equality in Rwanda, women’s perception at home does not seem to line up with that of their public lives. Girls are still raised to be submissive both in school at home, believing that something as simple as becoming president of a club is reserved only for men.

While they are holding positions of power and becoming economically independent, women still fear speaking out against their husbands and are expected to continue to be the only one to take care of housework and childcare. Many Rwandan women see the term “feminism” as a negative, Western concept.

Unlike most social movements, this change in gender equality did not come from the oppressed group, but from President Paul Kagame. Rwandan women were ushered into positions of power before they truly believed in the movement, and now, they must play catch up with their mindset.

Working to Change Preconceived Ideas

Many organizations are helping to change that perception, starting with female education. Women to Women International has a one-year foundation training program, enabling women to become financially self-sufficient and, subsequently, build the confidence to fight for their rights and equality at home. This organization has helped 76,000 women in the ten years it has been operating.

The Akilah Institute for Women is an all-female college that fosters a more positive learning environment for women, enhancing the skills needed to launch careers in many different fields. The Institute has an 88 percent success rate for graduates. Fawe’s Girls’ School encourages young girls to take STEM courses to overcome the stigma that these classes are generally for men. They work to empower girls to understand their importance and to defend their rights. They also work to train teachers to be more gender inclusive.

Gender equality in Rwanda is far ahead of most of the world, but women must truly believe in their rights for this to be effective. With the next generation being raised in a world where gender does not restrict women from a job and schools encourage female participation and confidence; hopefully, Rwandan women will embrace their newfound power and continue to lead the world in gender equality.

Georgia Orenstein
Photo: Flickr

female entrepreneursIn countries like the United States, female entrepreneurs account for 46.8 percent of the total businesses. The majority of these businesses are classified as small businesses, having fewer than 500 employees, but they generate almost $500 billion in payroll annually. This situation is worse in developing countries since women’s rights are not fully achieved and the opportunities for women to develop their own businesses are much more difficult to come by.

The reasons for Fewer Female Entrepreneurs

Why are there still fewer amounts of businesswomen than men not just in developing but in developed countries as well? Although developing countries may advocate more for women’s economic development, little is actually being done to provide more opportunities to change it. Since women’s failure rates are not that significantly different from those of men, researchers believe that gender bias is at fault and, thus, inhibiting the growth of women in the economy.

There is evidence that suggests that there are many reasons for the differences in the attitude about gender in business. One reason is that women and men often have different socioeconomic characteristics. If economists were to reform education, wealth, family and work status, those differences would disappear.

The Obstacles for Female Entrepreneurs

Africa remains one of the most successful leaders for efforts regarding female entrepreneurs. But, even the most successful countries still lack leadership, capital and professionalism, not to mention the inability to find affordable solutions in regard to childcare.

Countries like Japan have taken these shortcomings and transformed them into positive aspects of the economy. Womenomics is the idea that the advancement of women and economic development are necessarily linked. This philosophy is becoming widespread among developing nations. In Japan, these sorts of reformations can be credited to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Since taking office, Abe has generated a larger female labor force rate than that of the United States.

Some other countries have also made several reformations propelling womenomics. Jordan has increased women’s enrollment in schools by 37 percent. Turning these rates into economic success, however, still remains a challenge. Many studies suggest that economic growth for women needs to be viewed as desirable and attainable for the majority of society.

Female entrepreneurs also struggle with the duality of a society that places more value on a familial lifestyle. For example, a woman may own a business, but her time at work is often limited by her duties at home. Data in developing countries assert that many women leave the business lifestyle to return to familial duties.

A study regarding the results of holding executive positions for women in Norway revealed that the majority of people believe there should be established quotas to include women in management in companies. The results of the pole were 74 percent in favor of those quotas. Later studies showed that as women in the workplace reach a certain age, the stigma associated with their work duties do too.

Curbing the Stigma

Shifting the thought process among thousands of different demographic structures isn’t easy, but it is clear that the majority of the world needs higher female entrepreneurial participation rates. Reforming education, wealth, family and work status are not projects that take only months to complete, rather they need a comprehensive and flexible government that is willing to take on the challenge for years to come.

There are several ways to start thinking about reforming the factors for female entrepreneurs. Creating workshops to propel female economic empowerment is a start. The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is doing just that. They are working to find projects for investment as well as provide training to work under the Women’s Economic Empowerment Index (WEEI).

By ending the stigma associated duties deemed appropriate for females, both developing and thriving countries can further increase the chances of positive economic outcomes. Education and awareness programs are important components to overcoming these gender-related stigmas.

Financial Inclusion

Governmental structure and large economic aid can advance female economic empowerment too. We’ve known for a long time that access to financial services can be a powerful driver to help people lift themselves out of poverty. With a concerted push from governments, the private sector, and multilateral institutions including the World Bank Group, we believe we can close this gap,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in a meeting attempting to accelerate the growth of women’s empowerment.

The World Bank also states that simple financial education can greatly increase the chances of creating female entrepreneurs. There are so many aspects that can improve. For example, according to the World Bank, fewer than 10 percent of women in developing countries own a bank account. Access to financial institutions is an essential part of a successful business, which is why the organization started the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative. This initiative will provide financing opportunities for women who own businesses in developing countries.

Donations from the World Bank Group, education and female empowerment workshops to end stigmas are some of the best ways in which the women can become involved and empowered in the workforce. It won’t happen quickly, but when it does, the economic benefits will surpass previous stigmas surrounding women in business.

– Logan Moore

Photo: Flickr

feminist movement in NicaraguaNicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has been the source of recent uprisings, protests and a nationwide mobilization. Recurrent mishandlings of serious social, environmental and equality issues are causing national unrest that is far from over. The protests are ultimately trying to strike the Ortega administration out of the game. The public has no intention of settling for corruption, oppression and gender inequality. A great part of this movement is the renewed vigor in the feminist movement in Nicaragua.

The History of the Feminist Movement in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is no stranger to the feminist movement. The women’s movement for equality was actually birthed during the overthrow of the repressive Somoza dictatorship. The percentage of women involved in the coup reached a record high. The 60s and 70s gave women the chance to separate themselves from their traditional roles and participate in the struggle of war instead; it brought a revolutionary consciousness to the reality of numerous gender inequalities.

The country is currently pushing for equal rights via an end to gender-based violence and oppression. Women’s equality accounts for fair wages, respect and better opportunities in both education and careers, which are all crucial factors for lifting people out of poverty.

The New Womens’ Movements

Vital to the success of the revolution, women have since materialized the feminist movement in Nicaragua into a national network of feminine support encompassing any and all socio-economic, ethnic and political backgrounds.

A direct response to shifting public policy, The Working and Unemployed Women’s Movement or Maria Elena Cuadra (MEC), was founded in 1994. This independent organization strives to not only defend the human, labor and gender rights of Nicaraguan women but also to help women assert and take advantage of these rights, especially within the legal arena.

MEC brings public awareness about both domestic violence and reproductive health, which are two serious living conditions that can negatively exacerbate the cycle of poverty. The unemployed are given job training and their advocates push political policy that supports economic independence, self-employment and self-management.

A Modern Day Push

It is not uncommon for Latin American countries to revolve around highly macho and patriarchal societies. High school degrees and the pursuit of higher university education are rare in rural communities, and women often drop their studies as a result of pregnancy. Working as a street vendor to provide income for the family is not uncommon; however, even more problematic is the tragedy of families selling off their children into the sex trafficking business due to extreme poverty.

A group by the name Grupo de Mujeres Xitlali was established in 2011 to help relieve these devastating living conditions and empower girls and women of Nicaragua to take hold of their own lives. The organization helps the oppressed women to regain power over their bodies and personal development as well as grow in a space of equality where their rights are actively defended and encouraged.

Similarly, Casa Alianza Nicaragua (CAN) provides great relief to the devastation of global sex trafficking. Opened in 1998 in the capital city of Managua, Casa Alianza provides centers and programs for homeless women and children in need of aid. One of their greatest visions is to provide empowerment to the victims of heinous trafficking and violence through vocational training, family education, housing as well as gender awareness and sexual diversity awareness projects.

One by one and step by step, advocates are building women back up and encouraging them to stand up and stand out. Via essential education, job training and empowerment, women are now getting the attention, awareness, recognition and care that they deserve. Despite a grueling journey under the Ortega administration, the fight continues to be fought.

– Mary Grace Miller
Photo: Flickr

10 Ways Poverty is SexistProminent figures in the world of advocacy, including Bono and Melinda Gates, claim that poverty is sexist in nature. This is also referred to as the feminization of poverty. Global poverty disproportionately affects women in several ways. Women and girls are more likely to be impoverished, less likely to have access to educational opportunities and more likely to struggle with health issues.

How Poverty is Sexist

  1. Girls have less access to education over their lifetime, one of the major ways poverty is sexist. Education helps girls defy traditional gender roles and encourages them to pursue job opportunities.
  2. Attacks on girls’ schools and education discourage parents from sending their daughters to school, fearing for their safety. In countries engrossed in domestic armed conflict, girls’ education often faces targeted attacks using threats, acid, explosives, gunfire, kidnappings or school closings.
  3. Women spend twice as much time as men doing unpaid work such as cooking, cleaning and caring for children. This kind of domestic labor restricts the time women can spend working for wages, finishing their education, learning new skills or opening new businesses. The traditional gender roles are more prominent in developing nations, so this gap is even larger.
  4. Child marriage, which is often driven by poverty, traps girls in a cycle of poverty. Child brides are less likely to finish their education, making them less likely to earn a safe and adequate income. In communities where child marriage is common, girls’ education is often not valued over their roles as wives and mothers.
  5. Women are more prone to poor nutrition over the course of their life, which makes them more susceptible to diseases. Poor maternal health and nutrition feed down from mother to child, resulting in a vicious cycle of lack of nutrition and provisions against diseases.
  6. Land is a crucially valuable asset in rural areas of the world, yet almost 70 percent of the world’s population does not have access to land registration systems. Women are disproportionally affected by land title ambiguity, making them more likely to suffer from poverty and economic insecurity.
  7. Women face significantly greater challenges in gaining access to financial services than men. In developing countries, women are 20 percent less likely to hold accounts at a formal financial institution than men and often face restrictions that require a male family member’s permission to open a bank account.
  8. A lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services and reproductive rights is a form of sexual discrimination that puts women and girls at a higher risk of poverty and limits their economic empowerment. Approximately 225 million women do not use safe and effective family planning methods, most of whom live in 69 of the world’s poorest countries.
  9. Data about global poverty in some of the poorest countries in the world is incomplete and lacking in gender-disaggregated data. There is a major need for gender-disaggregated data in order to understand how poverty is sexist, where and how women and girls are being left behind and how to fix it.

These are only a handful of the many ways in which poverty is sexist. The need for further study of the relationship between poverty and sexism is vital to level the playing field between men and women in the progression of economic and social opportunities.

– Sydney Lacey

Photo: Flickr

enable consumers to fight for female education
There is a proven link between lack of education and rises in poverty numbers. People around the world struggle with poor school systems, denied scholastic access and few academic resources. Illiteracy is directly correlated to poverty, and creates a cycle that is hard to break. The difficulties associated with this crisis are large scale and ones that few individuals feel that they can fix by themselves.

 

The Female Plight

At the brunt of this battle is the female population. Due to gender-based violence, negative stigma within communities and higher rates of poverty, women globally lack education opportunities that are often provided to men.  

Many citizens believe that there is nothing that they can do to help, and rely on the bigger voices to take the lead. But there are companies working to change that and to enable consumers to fight for female education as well.

These companies work to help individuals make a global difference and improve the lives of women and girls who are deprived of an education. Consumers can join the fight to educate, empower and break the cycle of poverty created by females’ lack of schooling and access to it.

Here are a five of the most impactful companies that are working towards educating the world.

 

1. Conscious Step

This sock company supports many different global causes, including their non-profit partner, “Room to Read.” For every pair of “socks that give books” sold, a school book is given to a child in one of a list of targeted countries that struggle with education.

The company especially focuses on communities that need gender equality in their school systems, and work towards enabling girls to achieve an education alongside their male counterparts. Conscious Step also enables consumers to fight for female education through beautiful socks that everyone loves.

 

2. Sseko Designs

The apparel company, which specializes in sandals, works with young women in Uganda to ensure that many can receive a college education. Sseko Designs employs local girls during the nine-month period between the end of high school and potential beginning of college.

The organization then provides the pre-collegiate girls with employment and scholarship opportunities. For each month of their nine months,  50 percent of the girls’ earnings go into a savings fund for college. This savings account not only allows these driven women to further their education, but it also deters them from caving to social pressures to give the money away to family and friends, which would thus continue the poverty cycle.

At the end of employment terms, Sseko provides the involved girls with scholarships matching the amount of their savings by 100 percent. Thanks to their employment opportunities, the company has already sent 87 girls to college, so far.

 

3. Out of Print

A business that sells literature themed products, Out of Print not only donates to literacy programs but for every piece purchased, the company also sends one book to a community in need.

Many of these communities have low female attendance in education due to extremely high rates of gender violence. These products help improve these struggling communities and encourage girls to receive an education so that they can rise above poverty and illiteracy.

The book based company work to enable consumers to fight for female education, bring literacy into poorer communities and spread awareness about the difficulties in high illiteracy rates.

 

4. Bloom and Give

With a specialty in handmade bags, this company sends girls in India to school. The company works to help girls fight against social views and norms that deter them from attending class, and enable them to become educated even through cultural protests. The company donates half of their profits to programs and grassroots movements that work directly with in-need communities.

Bloom and Give’s vibrant bags and other products serve as a way for shoppers to give back globally and also help Indian communities educate girls.

 

5. Naja

This underwear and lingerie company helps educate Colombian children and aid mothers to return to work. Naja, through its “Underwear for Hope” line, employs local single mothers, or female heads of household, and provides their children with books, uniforms, school supplies and all school meals.

The company strives to change the dialogue that makes mothers choose between childcare and employment, and helps its female employees to educate their children. On top of that, two percent of Naja’s revenue goes towards local charities that fund continuing education for these women.

Naja empowers not only Colombia’s women and children to become educated but also empowers consumers to help in the process through their purchases.

 

Every Person Counts

While the education crisis is a global one, each person can make a difference. Educating women does not have to solely ride on the backs of the wealthy and the well-connected. The average person can send a girl to school, teach a girl to read and send a woman to college through conscious purchasing and globally-minded companies.

– Emily Degn

Photo: Pixabay

Female Experience of WarContrary to the title of this article, there is no singular female experience of war. The very statement illuminates one of the issues in historical and contemporary engagement in understanding and analyzing women during wartime. Too often, the intellectual and political community groups women from different countries, ethnicities and religions together to presume they suffer the same wartime experiences. The world sees war through a gendered lens which colors women as victims who idly wait for their husbands, sons and fathers to return home. War is as immediate and tolling for women as it is for men in ways that vary drastically across the board.

Take World War II as an example of the diversity of the female experience of war. The white American woman gained access to the workforce during WWII and momentum in furthering her cause in the feminist movement. Meanwhile, her black counterpart experienced barriers and institutionalized racism. These consequences did not decline until over a decade later. When employed, African-Americans were forced to use separate bathrooms and often worked the lowest-paying jobs despite having high qualifications or manual and cognitive skills. Black men and women accounted for only 6 percent of employees in the American aircraft industry while white women accounted for approximately 40 percent. Despite the pushback, black women used WWII as a platform to herald the inequalities back at home with campaigns such as “Victory Over Racism at Home” and “Victory Over Fascism Abroad”.

Across the Pacific Ocean, the Korean female experience differed significantly from that of women in the U.S. Thousands of Korean (and other southeast Asian) women under Japan’s imperial rule were forced into sexual slavery and served as “comfort women” for Imperial soldiers during WWII. Gross violations of human rights included female genital mutilation, forced abortions and even murder. Under colonization, many women turned to prostitution as a means of survival, adopting the fetishized symbols of orientalism that their oppressors projected upon them. In the eyes of the public, many of these survivors of sexual slavery lost their virtue and thereby their value to their community following liberation from Japan. Their communities ostracized them, forcing them to live isolated lives. In this way, it not only becomes a question of women’s experiences during the war but also their experiences after the war.

In her book, “Bananas, Beaches and Bases,” international relations theorist and author Cynthia Enloe illustrates how women in Jaffna, Sri Lanka played a role as ethnic minorities during the armed conflict between Tamil guerrillas, the government’s military and the Indian army. These women describe how their experiences as women compared to their oppression as Tamils in the Singhalese-dominated nation, penetrating what had been a male-dominated intellectual space. Eventually, these women played a crucial role in the reconciliation period, finding allies in Singhalese feminists and voicing their concerns about the militarized state and lack of female rights. Enloe further notes that these women, who played an essential part in stabilization, were repressed by their husbands who believed their outspoken critique to be outside the parameters of their female duties.

These examples neither serve to pit woman against woman nor seek to rank their experiences, but rather illustrate the diversity of women and the female experience of war. These women as individuals and as participants in a wider community have their own narratives and experiences. Giving them the due diligence they deserve begins with recognizing the diversity of 50 percent of the world’s population and their nuanced participation as both victims, perpetrators and protestors of war.

How do societies break out of masculinized power structures of international politics to acknowledge women as a priority during conflict and post-conflict discussions? It is critical to recognize the many different and extremely nuanced versions of war that women around the world experience. The idealized projection of the ‘female’ is so deeply entrenched that society often glosses over the experiences of women from ethnic, religious and sexual minorities. The female experience of war is extremely diverse, and it is critical that existing international and domestic power structures acknowledge and embrace it.

Sydney Nam

Photo: Google

Global Feminist Companies
From government initiatives to individual campaigns, a wide range of efforts exist to remove obstacles and create opportunities for women and girls in developing countries. Countless global feminist companies have formed in recent decades, offering goods and employment to women and girls in an effort to shift the economic climate in poorer areas of the world.

Below are five global feminist companies helping women and girls in developing countries to pursue education, advance their careers and gain autonomy in their communities.

L.
After working for the Red Cross and the United Nations as a photojournalist and witnessing firsthand the obstacles that plague women’s lives around the world, Talia Frenkel founded L., a one-for-one feminine hygiene company on a mission to provide supplies to women and girls in developing countries. L. distributes donations via female entrepreneurs around the world in order to foster financial independence among women and multiply the company’s global impact. L. employs more than 2,800 women, positioning them to efficiently support their families and achieve agency within their communities.

The majority of donated goods go to girls in countries like Sierra Leone, Nepal and Afghanistan, where many miss school during their periods due to lack of supplies. With an increasing customer following, L. estimates it will donate 50 million products by the end of this year.

Thinx
Thinx, a company specializing in period panties, uses profits to fund the Global Girls Club (GGC). This six-month program hosts girls from ages 12 to 18 to train them on the finer points of human rights, reproductive health and financial independence. Using this multi-pronged educational model, the GGC experience provides young women with practical skills while building self esteem and combating the stigma around menstruation. Attendees also receive donations funded by customers’ purchases, allowing them to stay in school all month long.

The company includes environmentalism as a critical component of its mission, as the reusable nature of the product helps to cut down on waste from disposable goods. In addition, Thinx actively seeks partnerships with health education organizations and plans to continue growing the GGC program with the support of grassroots movements and concerned individuals.

Rallier
Rallier is another company determined to keep girls in school. Every purchase from the New York-based clothing line warrants a donation to Shining Hope for Communities, an organization which uses funds to provide girls in developing countries with locally sourced school uniforms. With this method, humanitarians all around the world can contribute to girls’ successes and simultaneously stimulate developing economies.

Access to uniforms is a major stumbling block when it comes to girls’ education in developing countries. Studies show that providing uniforms to needy students has increased enrollment by 64 percent—and with efforts like Rallier’s, numbers could shift even more dramatically.

Sseko
Uganda-based fashion brand Sseko bolsters women’s higher education by selling sandals, handbags and other accessories crafted by East African artisans. The company has used profits to send 87 promising Ugandan women to university and will send 15 this year alone. Participating scholars spend nine months working for the company to save money before attending school, and Sseko matches each woman’s savings with a scholarship.

Dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty altogether, Sseko’s business model is designed to bolster rather than undermine economies in developing countries. With a keen eye on the future, the company aims to prepare women for leadership roles in order to create widespread gender equality.

Same Sky
Same Sky, a jewelry trade initiative working between Rwanda and the United States, focuses on awarding ethical employment to women in developing countries. In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, where nearly one million people were murdered, systematic sexual violence against women triggered an epidemic of HIV/AIDS while society crumbled. Same Sky set out to repair the landscape of women’s lives in Rwanda by creating opportunities for them to learn a trade in order to support themselves and their families.

Women who work for Same Sky make 15 to 20 times the average wage in sub-Saharan Africa—and they get the opportunity to express themselves while they do it, as attention to “the talents and the passions of the artisans” is a central tenet of the company’s mission. These women do not just benefit from working for Same Sky; they actively contribute to the global growth and creative evolution of the company.

Poverty creates complex obstacles in the lives of women, but global feminist companies like these fight to open doors. With the continued worldwide support of women and girls in need, developing countries are sure to see progress.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Google

Feminist Foreign PolicyAccording to its website, the Swedish government gives gender equality high priority when it comes to foreign aid. Swedish leaders believe fighting for women’s rights is an essential step in establishing a secure and sustainable world. Consequently, they have launched a feminist foreign policy action plan to remove obstacles for women and girls in developing countries.

Since 2015, the nation has revisited and revitalized the initiative regularly. Goals for 2017 focus on increasing rights for female migrants and refugees; creating economic freedom for women via legislation; reducing violence against women; capitalizing on women’s potential to suppress conflict and encouraging sexual and reproductive rights.

A statement on the Government Offices of Sweden’s website details plans to service these goals. Leaders plan to allocate funds through relevant stakeholders, who will utilize aid to combat human rights abuses, endorse women’s financial and judicial empowerment and enact laws that provide women the same rights that men have.

Funds will also benefit initiatives to break down cultural associations between masculinity and violence, encouraging men to act as peacemakers in their homes and communities, as well as bolster movements to provide open access to contraceptives.

Canada has recently adopted a similar feminist foreign policy plan. Like Sweden, Canada recognizes that significant improvements in global poverty over the past few decades have not provided equal benefit to both men and women. To foster equal opportunities, Canada will strategically invest foreign aid in efforts seeking to improve women’s access to resources that can raise them from poverty.

A statement on the Government of Canada website acknowledges the challenges for women in developing countries. The difficulty lies in intersections of deeply-rooted inequality, conflict and consequences of climate change. The statement also highlights that with enough support, women can better help their families and communities.

Human dignity, security, climate action and inclusive governance comprise the core values of Canada’s plan. Their ultimate goal is to reduce poverty and promote economic advancement by empowering women to participate readily in politics, the workforce and their communities.

Canada’s statement also includes plans to involve men and boys by disputing the norms that reinforce gender-based injustice. They also provide an intersectional scope that includes the interests of people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, identities and abilities.

While timeworn power structures cause disproportionate struggles for destitute women and girls, leaders around the globe are eager to eradicate the imbalance. Feminist foreign policy is an essential step toward this goal.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Flickr

New Feminism in Latin America
In the past few years, social justice movements have evolved all over the globe, and a rise in feminism in Latin America is no exception. Women from several countries across Central and South America have formed alliances and staged protests over issues including street harassment, the wage gap, rape and femicide.

Veronica Gago, professor of social sciences at the University of Buenos Aires, notes networks of feminist allies being forged across international borders in Latin America. In addition to organizing marches against gendered injustice in their countries, Latin American feminists work to create spaces where activists can discuss these issues.

Femicide is perhaps the central issue, with a number of countries organizing protests to increase awareness of the thousands of women who are killed by romantic partners each year.

Mujeres de la Matria Latinoamericana (MuMaLa), an influential feminist collective in Latin America, estimated that in 2013, 13 women were killed per day in Brazil. According to data from the Ministry of Health, rates at which women are killed by partners is not only high, but on the rise, and activists are paying attention to this trend.

Feminists in Argentina, where women are killed by partners at one of the highest rates in the world, have been particularly active in the past few years. In 2016, MuMaLa and another major contributor to feminism in Latin America called Ni Una Menos organized a protest following the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl, citing hypermasculine culture as the cause of such violent acts. Women gathered and held an hour-long strike with signs reading, “If you touch one of us, we all react.”

Just last month, feminists in Argentina organized a nude flash mob in which participants marched on government buildings to protest gendered violence. The protest itself was a work of art, featuring a string quartet and percussionist who provided background music for the demonstration. One hundred and twenty women crowded beneath a banner reading “Femicide is Genocide,” cast off their clothing and fell into a pile, later returning to their feet and punctuating the protest with shrieks of rage.

Many Latin American feminists turn to art in order to express their goals, using music, poetry and graffiti to gain the attention of both the government and the public.

Feminism in Latin America manifests in a number of forms. With the continued efforts of collectives like MuMaLa and Ni Una Menos as well as individuals, rates of femicide could decline.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Flickr


Over the past few months, countless feminists have taken to the streets to protest gender inequality. On Jan. 21, women’s marches took place everywhere from Canada to Kenya to bring awareness to such issues as women’s healthcare, female representation in government and ignorance of sexual assault. Advocates of gender equality have begun to recognize similarities in gender disparity from nation to nation, and a new brand of global feminism has entered its nascent stages.

Elif Shafak, a Turkish novelist, notes the ways in which outcry from women in the U.S. echoes that of women in the Middle East. She attributes it to Western surges in populism, a type of appeal that often caters more closely to men than it does to women. This development may explain why women’s healthcare has been trivialized under the current U.S. administration while resources for men have remained untouched.

Shafak encourages women to continue the conversation about these issues and warns them against complacency, insisting that “the future is not necessarily more developed than the present, and sometimes countries can go backward.”

Shafak makes a good point. Indeed, feminist efforts have garnered the attention of leaders around the world. At the 54th Africa Day anniversary event last week, Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama called for keener gender equality efforts, highlighting the issue of girls’ education. New French President Emmanuel Macron made headlines earlier this month when he appointed 11 women to his 22-seat cabinet.

Though many advocates of gender equality are eager to band together and create opportunities for women, others have reservations about the movement and about the word “feminist” itself. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel was asked if she is a feminist at a panel last month, she answered that she would opt for a different label altogether, as there are certain aspects of the movement that she rejects.

In addition, Shafak prefers the term “sisterhood” to feminism, as she believes it to be more accessible to Middle Eastern women.

Whether the movement is called global feminism, sisterhood or something else, its supporters are undoubtedly making progress in drawing attention to issues of gender equality. Regardless of varying preferences among leaders and advocates around the world, persistent conversations about widespread injustice can only serve to forge a more equitable world.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Flickr