Information and stories on social activism.

Zendaya, One of the 5 Influential Young Female CelebritiesHistorical events have underlined the importance people have made when advocating for change. This is especially true with celebrities who have such big platforms to speak up for those unable to. Moreover, female celebrities’ fight for social justice is setting the stage for what has not been said in the past. Here are five mega-influential young female celebrities that have been at the forefront of social justice and activism causes.

Greta Thunberg

Ever since she first skipped school to protest in front of the Swedish Parliament Building, Greta Thunberg continuously inspires an international movement to fight climate change. At just 15 years old, she missed lessons every Friday to go on strike. Greta urged young people around the world to join her cause and strive “to make similar demands in their own countries.”

By December 2018, more than 20,000 students around the world joined her movement. She would continue to embark on other strikes around the world, choosing to travel by train to limit her carbon impact. In September 2019, the U.N. Climate Conference hosted her stop in New York where she spoke on issues regarding climate change and how world leaders needed to do more. Greta has received a multitude of support and was even named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2019.

Millie Bobby Brown

Brown is best known for her role as Eleven in Netflix’s hit show “Stranger Things,” and appears in the new film “Enola Holmes.” In 2018, UNICEF announced the 14-year-old as the youngest-ever Goodwill Ambassador, highlighting her passions regarding social justice issues.

Earlier that year, TIME magazine featured her as one of TIME’s 100 most influential people, making her the youngest person on the list. Her platform gives her the chance to inspire change and lead by example for the younger generation.

Amandla Stenberg

Amandla Stenberg’s activism has been a prominent influence on her acting decisions, coupled with her early rise to fame at age 12. She first appeared as Rue in the hit film “The Hunger Games,” and has also been active on her social media platforms.

Amandla has spoken out about cultural appropriation with a school project Tumblr video, “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows.” She also frequently advocates for human rights, female empowerment and LGBTQ visibility. She received the 2019 Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award and was named TIME’s “Next Generation Leader.”

Yara Shahidi

Starring in ABC’s comedy “Black-ish” and its spinoff “Grown-ish,” Yara Shahidi quickly gained momentum with her stellar performances. She also received prime recognition in the film adaptation of the novel “The Sun is Also a Star.” While accumulating a large social platform, Yara uses her voice to advocate for social change, including feminism and STEM awareness.

In high school, she started her own club that partnered with the Young Women’s Leadership Network, “which provides online mentorship with the goal of ending poverty through education.” Her enrollment to Harvard in 2018, with the goal of double majoring in sociology and African-American studies, garnered Michelle Obama’s support who praised Yara for her social justice advocacy efforts.

Zendaya

Zendaya, a prominent actress who stars on HBO’s hit show “Euphoria,” was recently recognized for her work in the fashion world regarding cultural representation. When working with Tommy Hilfiger to launch Tommy X Zendaya in 2019, Zendaya made it her mission to include more diversity and representation. Zendaya pointed out that, “Everyone needs to be seen and like they are a part of the fashion world. It is much more diverse now, but there can still be more in terms of different shapes, sizes and cultures.”

Whether through film or advocacy, these influential young female celebrities are making the most out of their fame by speaking out against the many injustices that plague society. Their platforms allow them to voice concerns and advocate for the less fortunate. These women may be young, but their voices are anything but small. Watch out for their names, because it goes to show that we will be hearing a lot more from them in years to come.

Natalie Whitmeyer
Photo: Flickr

Domestic Violence in TongaDomestic violence in Tonga, specifically against women, has become the leading type of law infringement. The most prevalent instance occurs in the home, which is especially alarming during a pandemic forcing everyone inside. However, Tonga is taking measures to fight this issue. One way is through the Women and Children Crisis Center (WCCC).

Domestic Violence in Tonga

The amount of reported cases of domestic violence in Tonga has risen over the past five years. Between January and June of 2020, there were about 537 domestic violence reports and 117 issued police safety orders. Out of those, only 99 assaulters faced prosecution.

Tongan women report experiencing physical coercion and control, sexual assault, emotional abuse and physical assault. Police officials state that the chief problem is related to a cultural belief. Tongan men believe they are in a position of power at home and can act however they please because of this entitlement. As a result, women are often scared to report their abuse cases. This is particularly true when husbands, brothers or sons are the perpetrators, as is typical.

Pacific Women reports that three out of four women in Tonga have experienced physical and sexual violence. Relationships can involve abuse as early as day one and continue on for decades, which women often endure. Furthermore, about 85% of women who have suffered from domestic violence are likely to return to the same environments as their attacks. To combat this, the WCCC in Tonga offers an escape for the abused to ensure women are given the protection they need from abusers.

The Women and Children Crisis Center in Tonga

The WCCC was established in 2009 by Director Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki with a group of women and male supporters. The aim was to help those who have suffered from violence. In turn, they gave free counseling and support to victims of domestic violence in Tonga. Further, the WCCC provides 24 hours of free housing to both women and children in the Mo’ui Fiefia Safe House.

When a woman reports her case to WCCC, the volunteers at the organization help guide the victim through the legal process. They explain the amount of time it will take for the victim’s case to reach court and provide information about how and when the police will contact the victim for testimonies. They also educate the victim on the importance of having a medical record when reporting cases like rape. If the woman is willing, the WCCC offers her a platform to voice her experience. The organization focuses on sharing the stories of victims who have used WCCC’s services and how they have benefitted from those services.

Male Advocacy Training

Violence prevention was another main reason for WCCC’s founding. In 2017, the WCCC launched male advocacy training to end violence against women and children and encourage gender equality. The purpose of the training is to educate men on three key ideas: men have control over how they behave in a sexual manner, all sexual activity can only be performed after there is consent on both sides and men are equally responsible for the transmission of sexually active diseases.

The men receive many lessons from knowledgeable speakers to help end the domestic violence in Tonga. Director Guttenbeil-Likiliki said, “In a situation where a woman does not want to have sex but you continue to persist and persuade her to have sex, this is a high-risk situation, as it is considered to be sexual assault or rape.” Melkie Anton, a lead trainer, explains proper relationship roles to male participants. Anton states, “Women are often used as sexual objects,” and when a woman is in a relationship, she must follow all of her partner’s orders. As a result, the man ends up controlling the relationship and may treat the woman’s feelings with disregard. Another learning directive is toxic masculinity. WCCC members detail how issues, such as proving masculinity and competing with other men encourage domestic violence.

Looking to the Future

WCCC members are working toward expanding their organization’s influence throughout Tonga,  particularly through collaboration. The WCCC has partnered with other organizations, such as the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and the Vanuatu Women’s Crisis Centre. The organization even reaches out to Tongan government agencies, including the Ministry of Education. The work of the WCCC, from aiding victims to education to advocacy, is a step in the right direction. With continued efforts, there can be an end to domestic violence in Tonga.

Sudiksha Kochi
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in HaitiHaiti, a small country that borders the Dominican Republic on the Hispaniola island, suffers greatly from poverty. Natural disasters, systemic inequality and diminishing economic opportunities create a dire state of extreme poverty. Specifically, child poverty in Haiti is the major poverty crisis.

Over half of Haiti’s 11.2 million population live on less than $3 a day, and malnutrition affects 65,000 children under five. Many children under 14 — over a third of Haiti’s population — do not have ready access to health care, clean water, food security or the right to fair and decent work. The question stands: What does child poverty in Haiti look like today, and what obstacles persist in ending it?

It’s easy to forget that statistics reflect the experience of real, living people. Please keep this in mind. Considering this, here are five facts about child poverty in Haiti.

The Statistical Perspective

  1.  Caloric and nutritive malnutrition affects nearly a third of children in Haiti. Out of every five children, one child is malnourished and one out of 10 is acutely malnourished. Before the age of five, one child out of 14 will die. Those who live deal with the effects of inadequate food supplies. Poor access to vital nutrients means that children are subject to poor health, growth and development.
  2. Despite Haiti’s free publication education, only half of elementary-aged children are enrolled in school. Millions of disadvantaged parents have very few with little resources to secure education for their children. This is a result of Haiti privatizing 92% of schools.
  3.  Nearly half a million children are orphaned in Haiti. A significant proportion of these “lost” children are exploited for labor in dangerous conditions. “Host households” take in children whose families cannot provide for them. Many of these children — known colloquially as “restaveks” — end up as victims of human trafficking.
  4.  Adequate health care is hard to come by in Haiti. Child immunization has stagnated at 41%. The proportion of children who die before their first birthday has risen by 2% in the last year – from 57% to 59%. HIV, tuberculosis, and a variety of other chronic, crippling diseases ail an estimated 20,000 children in Haiti, and treatment is increasingly difficult to obtain.

COVID-19

Haiti is particularly prone to natural disasters, in large part due to its geographical situation in the Bermuda. A magnitude 7.0 earthquake ravaged the island of Hispaniola in 2010. A slew of tropical storms, hurricanes and additional earthquakes further compromised Haiti. Nearly 10 years later, Haiti still struggles with recovering from its 2010 earthquake and hurricane Matthew alongside dealing with recent social unrest and COVID-19.

Humanitarian aid efforts are nearing an all-time high for the country, but the efficacy of these programs and endeavors has been questioned. The threats of COVID-19 aren’t the only ones Haiti must face. The future is increasingly uncertain for millions of Haitians and their children, due to equipment shortages, lack of qualified health care professionals and a worsening economic climate.

Ways to Help

What is there to do? Explore The Borgen Project’s homepage. From there, it’s easy to email and call representatives and leaders. There is the option to donate to the cause. For free, one can create momentum on social media to raise awareness about the dire situation in Haiti. A number of ways exist to combat child poverty in Haiti; it just takes action.

Henry Comes-Pritchett
Photo: Flickr

 

Period poverty in ChinaThe monthly cost of purchasing menstrual sanitary products is not a small amount for females worldwide. “Period Poverty” refers to the inability to afford access to pads, tampons, or liners to manage menstrual bleeding. A campaign in China, is working on addressing period poverty for its girls and women. However, it still remains a women’s rights issue globally.

The General Problem

The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) reports that around 10% of young women around the world are now unable to afford period protection. FIGO also found that 12% of women have to improvise with devices that are potentially ineffective and unsafe. According to UNICEF, there are more than 500 million females that lack a proper place to change their sanitary protection during their period. Period poverty causes long-term impacts of health and hygiene for girls and women. Time management, the chance of receiving education and employment are also affected by period poverty. All of these factors influence a woman’s lifelong development and wellbeing.

Period Poverty in China

The situation of period poverty in China is not much different. Many women and young girls, especially in rural areas, cannot afford feminine hygiene products. Instead of sanitary pads, impoverished women have to use toilet paper or old cloth. Any available yet unsafe materials on hand — even bark for some women in extreme poverty — are substituted to get through the period. Unfortunately, the lack of basic menstrual knowledge and the common menstruation taboo in China only worsen the situation. It is difficult and embarrassing to practice optimal hygiene with dignity in China. As a result, many girls in rural China skip classes or even leave school once they start menstruating.

Campaign for a lower tampon tax

In recent years, the Chinese public is growing more aware of period poverty in China. They are calling for more affordable sanitary products. Additionally, the public advocates for more humanitarian public health policies that take women’s biological needs into accounts. As of 2020, the Chinese government regulates a 13% sales tax on feminine sanitary products. That is 4% higher than the 9% tax for essential daily necessities such as grain, water and contraceptives.

Many other countries, including India and Malaysia, have either exempted or reduced the tax on sanitary products. They have done so for the sake of gender equality. In response, a couple of online campaigns emerged in China in the past few years. The campaigns appeal for a lower tampon tax in the country.

The “Stand by Her” Project

Before the national public health policy can ameliorate, some philanthropists and social organizations have jumped to the cause. They have stood up first to help the low-income women in underdeveloped regions. So far, the “Stand by Her” is one of the most well-known and large-scale projects that deal with period poverty in China.

Liang Yu Stacey, a 24-year-old Chinese feminist activist, initiated the “Reassurance for Sisters Fighting the Virus” online campaign in early 2020. She aimed to raise money to provide feminine sanitary products for the health care workers fighting against COVID-19. The project then extended to a broader scale and evolved into “Stand by Her.”

“Stand by Her” is a voluntary foundation that coordinates donation, procurement and distribution of hygiene products to under-age girls in impoverished provinces. The foundation regularly sends sanitary pads to women around China. In addition, the project also hands out brochures and holds lectures in middle schools to popularize menstruation and sex education. In the first phase of 2020-2021, the team continues to plan to help more than 6,000 girls from 33 schools across China. Within 3 days of opening the donation portals, “Stand by Her” raised 368,700 RMB (54,500 USD).

The online conversations, campaigns and donations display some positive signals in the area of menstruation. Feminine hygiene is gradually breaking away from the conventional social taboo. Reducing tax on women’s menstrual products would be a win for women’s rights in China.

– Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

EcovillagesGreen growth refers to economic growth through the use of sustainable and eco-focused alternatives. These “green” alternatives benefit both the economy and the environment all while contributing to poverty reduction. Ecovillages are a prime example of an environmentally conscious effort to address global poverty. They are communities, rural or urban, built on sustainability. Members of these locally owned ecovillages are granted autonomy as they navigate a solution that addresses the four dimensions of sustainability: economy, ecology, social and culture.

The Global Ecovillage Network

The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) recognizes that all four facets of sustainability must be addressed for maximum poverty reduction. Solely focusing on the economic or environmental impact will not yield optimal results. Embracing, not eliminating, the social and cultural aspects of sustainability should the aim of all communities in order to move toward a better future.

The development of sustainable communities around the globe is a commitment of the GEN. The organization’s outreach programs intend to fuel greater global cooperation, empower the citizens of the world’s nations and develop a sustainable future for all.

Working with over 30 international partners, GEN focuses on five defined regions. GEN Africa was created in 2012 and has overseen developments in more than 20 communities across the continent.

A Focus on Zambia

Zambia is one the countries garnering attention. Over half of Zambia’s population — 58% — falls below the $1.90 per day international poverty line. The majority of the nation’s impoverished communities live in rural regions.

Zambia’s government addresses these concerns by integrating the U.N.’s sustainable development goals into its development framework. With a focus on economic and ecological growth, Zambia could lay the groundwork for the success of its’ ecovillages.

Planting the Seed

The Regional Schools and Colleges Permaculture (ReSCOPE) Programme recognizes youth as the future keepers of the planet. As well as Zambia, the program has chapters in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The focus is on establishing regional networks to strengthen sustainable efforts. The Zambia chapter along with its 17 newly joined organizations work toward the goal of educating and encouraging communities to find sustainable methods of food production.

ReSCOPE seeks to connect schools and their local environments through the Greening Schools for Sustainable Communities Programme. The program is a partnership between GEN and ReSCOPE and has received funding from the Scottish government. Through education and encouraging sustainable practices, Zambia’s youth have an active role in ensuring future growth.

Greening Schools

Greening Schools strengthens the communities of four schools — the centers of resilience and a source of community inspiration. Beginning with nutrition and food security, students are able to play a part in developmental change. Their hard work includes planting of hundreds of fruit trees. The schools became grounds for hands-on agricultural experience and exposure to the tending of life.

However, the impact was not restrained within the schools. The greening schools inspired local communities to make seed security and crop diversification a commitment. In 2019, these communities “brought back lost traditional crops and adopted intercropping and other agroecological practices.”

As part of their sustainable development goals, the U.N. recognizes the value of investing in ecovillages. Goals 11 and 12 stress the importance of sustainable communities and responsible consumption and production respectively. Educating and advocating for youth to take part in ecovillages addresses this matter.

Coming generations will determine the future, and the youth wield the power to address global concerns like sustainability and poverty. Ecovillages are a great new way to break the cycle of poverty.

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Unsplash

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Global ActivismPrince Harry and Meghan Markle, England’s Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are frequently in the news for their stance against paparazzi and their decision to step back from the British Royal Family in early 2020. But behind the scenes, this famous couple advocates for various matters. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s global activism expands beyond their home countries of the United States and the United Kingdom. They are frequent vocal supporters of global poverty issues, particularly those that affect children.

Meghan Markle’s Activism Before Becoming the Duchess of Sussex

Prior to her marriage to Prince Harry in 2018, Meghan Markle was an outspoken advocate of gender equality in developing countries. She became a U.N. Women’s Advocate for Women’s Political Participation and Leadership in 2015. The following year, Markle traveled to Rwanda and India as an ambassador for World Vision. World Vision is an organization that fights global poverty in children. The experience inspired her to write an op-ed in Time magazine about the effect stigma around menstruation can have on a girl’s future.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Activism

When she married Prince Harry and became a member of the royal family, Markle stepped down from these roles. However, this does not mean she stopped being a voice for those in need. Now, Harry and Meghan’s activism has launched programs and supported charities around the globe that fight to eradicate global poverty. Additionally, they inspire fans of the royals to become advocates themselves.

Their Trips and Projects in Africa

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, along with their young son Archie, took a 10-day tour of Africa. They visited South Africa, Botswana, Angola and Malawi in late September and early October of 2019. While there, the couple announced a variety of projects, including protecting forests, investing in technology and ridding the land of dangerous landmines. The Duchess of Sussex additionally announced grants and scholarships from the Association of Commonwealth Universities. This is an international organization that supports higher education and supports African girls in their journey to university and beyond.

During this same trip, Harry and Meghan met with members of the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) Association. CAMFED is a group of women advocating for girls’ education and global poverty issues throughout Africa. The royal couple used their platform to support these women. In addition, they shared their work with their 10 million Instagram followers.

Activism Work on Social Media

This was not the first time that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s global activism could be seen on their social media accounts. In August of 2019, the official Instagram account for the pair, @sussexroyal, began a series entitled ‘Forces for Change.’ They highlighted 15 organizations that they found inspiring or noteworthy. These organizations include Children International and Plan International United Kingdom. These two groups care and advocate for children living under the poverty line around the world. The simple act of sharing these organizations online spread awareness of the fight against global poverty. It also prompted followers of the Duke and Duchess to support these incredibly important causes.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s global activism continues to inspire their followers and motivates them to take action just as the couple has done time and time again. In April of 2019, weeks before the birth of baby Archie, thousands of fans of the royal family donated to Meghan Markle’s favorite charities as a baby shower gift in what’s now known as the ‘Global Sussex Baby Shower.’ One of these charities is the aforementioned CAMFED. Additionally, this money directly supported global poverty and girls’ education initiatives in Africa.

In April of 2020, the couple announced their new non-profit: Archewell. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has stalled their plans to launch the organization. Once it launches, we can be sure that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will continue the global activism that has defined their two years as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

Casteism in Nepal
Casteism in Nepal is a centuries-old social class system. This system oppresses lower-caste communities and gives power to upper-caste, educated Nepalis. Historically, the caste system justified the subjugation of lower castes, allowing upper-caste Nepalis to use their status to gain security and power. Roughly 260 million people in South Asia are “Dalits,” or members of lower castes, and are therefore treated as ‘untouchable’ by their social superiors. Dalits in Nepal face social, economic, cultural and political marginalization and routinely fall victim to both institutional and structural discrimination. Despite legal provisions intended to eradicate caste discrimination in Nepal, hate crimes and acts of violence against the Dalit community are rampant. The discrimination and violence Dalits experience severely limit their access to equal education, employment and housing opportunities.

Inadequate Legal Protections

After the monarchy was overthrown, the Nepali constitution explicitly banned discrimination “on grounds of origin, religion, race, caste, tribe, sex, economic condition, language, region, ideology or on similar other grounds.” When the Civil Act 1963 emerged, its primary focus was to make caste-based discrimination a punishable offense. The Untouchability and Discrimination Act and the Constitution of Nepal both provide legal protections for Dalits. Yet, discrimination against marginalized communities in Nepal—particularly Dalit people—remains prevalent.

Despite the instituted legal provisions, cases of caste-based discrimination rarely make it to court, much less result in a conviction. In the rare case of a conviction, perpetrators often avoid jail and walk free after merely paying a small fine. “The discriminatory practice of excluding Dalits from all social practice is so deep-rooted that victims have not been able to speak up for their rights which has resulted in such a few numbers of cases in court,” says Durga Sob, President of the Feminist Dalit Organization.

Discrimination Exacerbated by COVID-19

Discrimination against Dalits is embedded in Nepal’s social fabric. COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown have only exacerbated incidents of violence and prejudice. A global crisis such as the pandemic not only exposes existing structural inequalities but also deepens their effects. The lockdown has not prevented violence against Dalits from taking place; there were at least 31 documented cases of physical violence against Dalits during the lockdown period. In particular, an incident on May 23rd in Soti Village, Rukum triggered a nationwide anti-caste movement against casteism in Nepal. The movement, called “Dalit Lives Matter,” is inspired by the “Black Lives Matter” movement in the United States. That day, Nabaraj BK, Tikaram Sunar and Ganesh Budha were murdered in Rukum–a hate crime committed out of caste-based prejudice.

Especially Vulnerable Groups

As previously established, state-imposed discriminatory practices are historically embedded in Nepal’s social fabric. As a result, marginalized communities including Dalits and Indigenous Nepalis bare much of the burden from the country’s political and economic turmoil. According to the Human Development Index, Dalits are the poorest community in Nepal. Over half of Dalits live below the poverty line and 45.5% struggle to make ends meet. Not only are Dalits much poorer than their upper-caste counterparts, but they also have life expectancies and literacy rates below the national average. Dalits routinely lack access to religious sites, face heavy resistance to inter-caste marriages, use separate water sources and suffer many additional forms of discrimination.

Among the Dalit community, women face more violence and marginalization than men. Females are deprived of control over resources such as land, housing, money or education. They are also extremely vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

The centuries-long egregious treatment of the Dalit community in Nepal incited nationwide protests and the “Dalit Lives Matter” movement. To effectively put an end to the violence and oppression of casteism in Nepal, beneficiaries of that system–wealthy upper-caste Hindus in Nepal–must use their privilege to uplift and liberate the Dalit community.

– Shreeya Sharma
Photo: Flickr

Student Philanthropy

While strolling through a college campus, one can expect to see bake sales and advertisements for fun runs or raffles, all aimed at raising money for causes the students care about. Global poverty alleviation is one of the many worthwhile causes students often support. Campus chapters of organizations such as Amnesty International and UNICEF rank among the most popular student philanthropy groups in the country. Additionally, many non-philanthropic clubs and campus organizations, including most sororities and fraternities, involve an element of giving back, thus showing that student philanthropy can fight global poverty.

Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Student Philanthropy

With many U.S. universities making difficult decisions about how to proceed with learning in light of the coronavirus pandemic, many students’ fundraising and philanthropic efforts will have to adapt. Some colleges have decided to operate entirely online, while others are offering a mixture of online and in-person classes.

Regardless of how a university chooses to deliver classes to its students, campus life will not carry on as usual. Clubs will likely have to meet virtually, forcing those with a philanthropic focus to find new ways to conduct their service and fundraising online. This change presents a unique challenge, but a unique opportunity as well.

Student Organizations and Nonprofit Organizations

Ashlyn Stone, a psychology major at Wake Forest University, told The Borgen Project about her efforts to alleviate global poverty. In the fall of 2019, she served as vice president of service in her university’s chapter of Alpha Phi Omega. One of her responsibilities in this role was to coordinate an international hunger relief event with Rise Against Hunger. This organization aligns itself with the United Nations’ Sustainable Goal #2 of Zero Hunger, which is to end world hunger by 2030.

In 2019, Rise Against Hunger packaged more than 538 million meals, serving countries around the world. Much of its focus was on vulnerable regions like Central America, sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. The efforts of Stone and her chapter resulted in 20,000 meals delivered to Nicaragua. Stone attributed her success to implementing “larger and smaller fundraisers throughout the semester to pay for enough food to be packaged.”

Looking to the Future

Stone noted that wide-scale fundraisers like the one she organized will change if students are not on campus. She admitted, “It’s easier to plan these efforts in person. Communication will be harder. We won’t be able to have as many fundraisers. But I’m hoping there are ways that we can still raise money even if we can’t do the hands-on work.” A key component of continuing the fight against global poverty will be raising awareness and organizing fundraisers online.

In this regard, Stone expressed hope and optimism for the future of online student philanthropy: “Our generation is unique because we have the power of communication at our fingertips and we don’t have to go out of our way to make a statement. We don’t want to just sit back and watch the world change, we want to make a difference.”

Addison Collins
Photo: Unsplash

Women's Rights in TurkeyTurkey is located in the Mediterranean between Europe and the Middle East. Once part of the Ottoman Empire, this transcontinental country became autonomous in 1923 and is formally named the Republic of Turkey. After achieving sovereignty, the Turkish government immediately enacted legislation to ensure equality for men and women within politics and society. Despite these reforms, women’s rights in Turkey could still see improvement.

A Brief History of Women’s Rights in Turkey

Women’s rights in Turkey have come a long way since initial equality legislation in 1923. By the 1980s, women’s rights movements had gained more momentum when the Turkish government responded to protests regarding violence against women. In 1985, Turkey ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), thus giving women’s rights issues the political focus they deserve. Through the 1990s, the passage of laws to protect domestic violence survivors granted more fundamental rights to women. However, the Turkish government did not stop there in their fight for women’s rights.

In 2011, the Republic of Turkey—along with many other European countries—drafted and signed a resolution known as the Istanbul Convention to further solidify and protect women’s rights. This resolution provided strict legal action against those who committed violence towards women.  The status of women’s rights in Turkey has improved significantly since 1923, but the existence of said rights are currently at stake.

Women’s Rights Today

On August 13, 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated the government’s plans to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention altogether. Erdoğan explained that the convention’s resolution, “puts a dynamite on the foundation of the family” and is “not legitimate”. His decision has sparked outrage among women’s rights supporters in Turkey as this convention was a major milestone for women’s equality not only in Europe but across the world. Many have taken to the streets to protest Erdoğan’s declaration, but this has not reversed his proposal.

Turkey’s femicide rates have also increased in recent years. Femicide is known broadly as the murder of women and girls, and more specifically is the intentional killing of women simply because they are women. In 2019, 417 women were killed in domestic violence incidents and in 2020, 207 women were killed in homicides. This rise in femicide rates is attributable to both domestic violence and “honor killings”. Honor killings are when relatives or partners kill a loved one if they feel they’ve dishonored them in some way. Turkey has seen an increased rise in honor killings since 2018.

Won’t Back Down

Worldwide domestic violence against women has increased significantly amidst the COVID-19 pandemic—and Turkey is no exception. The recent femicide of 27-year-old college student Pınar Gültekin sparked outrage among women’s rights advocates in Turkey. Many have taken to the streets to call attention to rising femicide rates and domestic violence against women. Protests against President Erdoğan’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention have also reignited in the aftermath of Gültekin’s murder.

Today, activists in Turkey are continuing to support organizations and campaigns working to strengthen and protect women’s rights. There is still much work to do to ensure to protect women’s rights in Turkey.

– Sadat Tashin
Photo: Flickr

Women's Month in South AfricaIn August 2020, South African women celebrated their 65th Women’s Month. The 30-day event originally celebrated for one day on August 9, 2020, commemorates the 1956 march of approximately 20,000 women who protested against the newly enacted laws. These laws required black, South Africans to carry an internal passport and they are part of the legacy of Women’s Month in South Africa.

The legislation, known as the Population Registration Act, perpetuated apartheid by controlling urbanization and maintaining population segregation. Girls and women across the country came together in Pretoria, non-violently congregating in its Union buildings for 30 minutes of silent protest. They also brought a petition against the law, which included 100,000 signatures. This powerful display of strength and unity continues to inspire South African women. Here are a few highlights from this year’s Women’s Month in South Africa.

“This is Gold” Awareness Campaign

Several South African gold producers, including AngloGold Ashanti and Sibanye-Stillwater, used Women’s Month to pivot attention to the key role women play in the mining industry. Specifically, they called for an end to gender-based violence and sexism. The lockdowns caused by the spread of COVID-19 have increased violence against women, an issue already prevalent in South Africa. For instance, sexual assault increased by 10% in 2019 alone and national femicide rates ranked five times the world’s average.

The gold-mining companies sought to help alleviate these issues by appointing more women to higher job positions. Also by demanding accountability from male leadership in their treatment of women and establishing a Women in Mining forum. This forum’s purpose would be to encourage interested women to join the industry. Lastly, these companies called on their stakeholders to use their funds to take action against gender-based violence by reporting these incidents.

Girls Skate South Africa

The organization Girls Skate South Africa hosted an event in Johannesburg, one of the nation’s largest cities. More than 30 girls attended, engaging in activities such as skating and skateboarding at Tighy Park. Because skating is typically considered a masculine sport, Girls Skate South Africa aimed to acknowledge skating’s growing popularity among girls. In this way, they aim to break gender norms by organizing a girls’ skating day during Women’s Month.

Nubian Music Festival

Bonang Matheba, a premier South African television personality, partnered with the Nubian Music Festival to host a virtual concert for Women’s Month. Hosted by Matheba, the event featured a group of talented female performers in the country, including jazz singer Judith Sephuma and singer Lady Zamar. The show was broadcasted live from Sun City a city within Matheba’s home province — and fans could stream it online. Mpho Mathope, the founder of the Nubian Music Festival, praised the event for promoting social unity to a broad audience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All-Female Shakespeare Festival

James Ncgobo, the artistic director of the famous Market Theatre in Johannesburg, enacted an all-female theater event. He noted that COVID-19 did not stifle theater, but simply adjusted it. He chose to highlight speeches by Shakespeare originally meant for male actors but called upon women to perform them. The 44-year-old theater, with more than 300 awards, is famous for producing work that centralizes African voices. This recent production was dubbed “Chilling with the Bard,” and is available on YouTube.

In 1956, thousands of South African women rallied against an unjust law, armed with staggering amounts of signatures and sheer will. Decades later, women in the nation continue to channel their strength, talent and resilience to honor Women’s Month in South Africa and the legacy of generations past.

– Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Wikimedia