Information and news about woman issues

It is no secret that social entrepreneurship is a growing industry. Especially in Western Europe and the United States, business-minded and socially-conscience individuals are merging their missions and making a difference. “The U.K. is certainly a great testing lab for social enterprises,” U.K. based start-up Ogunte’s Servane Mouazan told The Huffington Post. “But Europe in general is certainly very open to the concept and it’s a great movement to be part of.”

Mouazan began her social entrepreneurship network 12 years ago, and from the start noticed something unique: only women were joining.  Though this may come as a surprise to many in an industry that tends to be male-dominated, Mouazan recognized an innate connection.  “There’s this sort of natural tendency of spotting things that are not going well around us and willingness to transform them, to fix them,” Mouazan says, giving women a more pointed interest in her social enterprise.

Thus, Mouazan created Ogunte, a network organization designed to foster the skills of women and enable them to start their own social enterprises. According to the group’s website, Ogunte and its “Make a Wave” incubator program have already assisted more than 2,750 women, conducted research with 120 women social innovators globally and catalyzed 7 International Women’s Social Leadership Awards for impactful women social leaders.

Female social entrepreneurs are making strides outside of the U.K. as well.  The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report on social entrepreneurship analyzes and compares social venture activity across various world regions based on demographic factors such as age, education, work status, and gender. According to the report, the gender gap is not as high in the social realm as it is with the traditional commercial business route. In fact, women are surpassing men in social venture start-ups in Malaysia, Lebanon, Russia, Israel, Iceland, and Argentina.  The ratio is about even in the United States, China, Finland, and Latvia.

Why is it important to foster women’s social entrepreneurial skills? “By taking women out of the shadows, balancing gender equity, equipping them, and connecting them to influential stakeholders, we grow the pool of entrepreneurial opportunities,” says Ogunte’s mission statement. “We boost local and global welfare and we help them to have a positive social impact on their wider networks.” Cultivating women’s social innovation breaks traditional barriers and benefits individuals – both men and women – all around the globe.

Mallory Thayer

Sources: The Huffington Post, Global Entrepreneurship Monitor
Photo: Vintage 3D

Cancer Cases
The World Health Organization (WHO,) guardian of international health statistics, released new numbers last week indicating a major upturn in the number of cancer cases worldwide.

In 2012, 14.1 million people received cancer diagnoses in 184 countries across the globe, a nearly 10 percent increase from 2008. Unfortunately, this rise translates across the board to mortality rates as well, which saw a similar 9.3 percent increase over the same period.

Lung cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer round out the three most common forms of the disease, comprising 13 percent, 11.9 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively, of the aggregate number of diagnoses.

Breast cancer has seen the most rapid acceleration of any other manifestation of cancer and continues to be the leading cause of cancer deaths among women. In 2012, over 6.3 million women were living with cancer diagnoses from the previous five years alone. Incidence increased 20 percent from the beginning to the end of that five-year period (2008-2012); 1.7 million women received initial diagnoses in 2012.

Unfortunately, the mortality rate for this common cancer has not slowed down, increasing by 14 percent in the study period.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) forecasts the upward trend of aggregate cancer incidence will likely continue through and beyond the year 2025. By that time, over 19.3 million new cancer cases will lob on to the current cancer burden each year.

The increase is not inherently problematic for global health: these statistics reflect an aging global population and the planet’s sustained population growth. As more adults celebrate birthdays in their 70’s and 80’s, it follows that more are alive to receive diagnoses of cancer, a disease largely believed to arise from the effects of aging on the error-prone process of cellular reproduction.

Similarly, advances in technology have increased the accuracy and applicability of diagnostic techniques. Early detection of cancer raises incidence rates but ultimately benefits cancer patients by improving outcomes.

Unfortunately, inequalities in global death distribution fall unfavorably on developed nations. The WHO estimates over 55 percent of all cancers and nearly 65 percent of all cancer deaths in 2012 occurred in lesser-developed regions of the world. The IARC expects that this trend will continue (and likely deteriorate) as 2025 approaches.

Dr. David Foreman, Head of the IARC Section of Cancer Information, urges the global community to “develop effective and affordable approaches to the early detection, diagnosis, and treatment” of cancers in the developing world. Funds allocated toward research and development in these areas will likely generate significant returns on investment; each year, cancer-related deaths and disability cost the global economy $1 trillion in economic losses.

If properly managed, the recent rise in cancer cases will inspire focused improvements in cancer control strategies that will bridge the gap between morbidity and mortality, improve outcomes for the developed world and turn the trend on its head.

– Casey Ernstes

Sources: The American Cancer Society, Voice of America, International Agency for Research on Cancer
Photo: News at Jama

There are few books that have the power to change the way we think about the world. “Half the Sky,” by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, is one of those books. Long after the reader closes the cover, they might find themself pondering the carefully chosen facts interspersed with heart-wrenching anecdotes from women around the world. The picture that emerges is nothing short of shocking.

The authors find that “more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century. More girls are killed in this routine “gendercide” in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century.”

Let that sink in for a minute. How is it possible that this routine violence against women has not made bigger headlines? Part of the reason, Kristof and WuDunn argue, is that there has not been any one large, catastrophic event to focus on, like a war. Rather, the killing and discrimination against women is an ongoing occurrence.

Another part of the reason may be that, in many societies, women are just not as important as men. Female babies are considered unlucky; female babies are less likely to receive medical attention; female children are less likely to receive adequate nutrition and education. The list goes on. And, until recently, it seems that female victims have been less newsworthy than their male counterparts.

But however slow on the uptake, the international aid community is, in recent years, prioritizing women’s rights. In 1994, the Violence Against Women Act was signed by Bill Clinton, and in 2008 the United Nations declared rape a war crime, just to name a few examples of progress. Indeed, as horrific as many of the women’s tales are, “Half the Sky” is an inspiring book. Women are not the problem, but the solution.

This is true across the board. Microloans given to women are both empowering and, often, financially successful. Providing women with more education not only increases their ability to provide for themselves, but also decreases pregnancy and increases the likelihood that women will seek medical treatment during pregnancies.

The fact still remains that women aged fifteen through forty-four are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. But the picture painted in Half the Sky is not one where men are the villains and women the victims. In many cases, women are perpetrators of discrimination and violence. For example, many owners of brothels that engage in forced prostitution are women.

Ultimately, gender-based violence and discrimination are not such over-whelming issues that we ought to resign in defeat. Yes, the problems are often complex and require cultural solutions rather than a quick technical or financial fix. But not always. There are many examples of incredible people who make huge differences. Edna Adan started a hospital in her homeland of Somaliland. The Edna Adan Maternity Hospital provides maternal healthcare for impoverished women, treating problems like obstetric fistulas that are rare in developed countries but it is estimated the between 2.5 and 3 million women worldwide suffer from fistulas.

An obstetric fistula is the result of prolonged or obstructed labor. Pressure from the fetal head cuts off blood flow to the mother’s organs, causing tissues between body organs to die. This often leaves a hole between the bladder and vagina through which urine drips uncontrollably. Aside from being painful and vulnerable to infection, fistulas are hugely stigmatizing, and often destroy families.

While we are not all trained medical professionals, there are many ways to help. Pressure from the United States has often been one of the most effective ways to accomplish reforms internationally. When the U.S. cares about something, economic incentives are often attached. If the U.S. were to make women’s rights a priority, the situation for half of the world’s population would likely improve significantly.

Claire Karban

Sources: Worldwide Fistula Fund, Half the Sky Movement
Photo: San Jose State University

World map
The traumatized collective consciousness of the Serbian people is understandable given the war and strife the country has experienced in recent decades. These events coupled with pervasive poverty and patriarchal cultural norms have created a disturbing trend of domestic violence. A recent article by the Associated Press highlights that 54% of Serbian women have faced domestic violence in their lifetime. This statistic is extremely shocking compared to the 30-40% of women worldwide who have faced abuse and 25% in the United States.

The AP provides two harrowing accounts of violence. One account focuses on Mica, a woman who set her husband on fire after enduring years of abuse. The husband died of his injuries several days later in the hospital. The other describes a Serbian veteran who killed 13 relatives and wounded his wife in a mass shooting spree. The husband’s violent tendencies, typified by his habitual beatings of his wife, were never reported to authorities.

One of the major reasons that violence has perpetuated within Serbian society is the presence of deeply rooted patriarchal social norms. The image of the strong Serbian man and the submissive woman is a generally held view as opposed to an egalitarian relationship found in more liberal societies. This deeply held belief coupled with severe economic misery only compounds the problem. When frustration is pervasive, violence tends to follow.

There is also a severe lapse of authority with regards to Serbian officials preventing instances of abuse and prosecuting those responsible. Although the Serbian government has recognized the problem by enacting targeted legislation, the recent economic crisis has drained budget resources to the point that adequately funding these legal mechanisms is troublesome.

Furthermore, local authorities have shown a complete lack of interest in seriously prosecuting offenders to the fullest extent of the law. Most cases are resolved with warnings to the perpetrators. Shockingly, UNDP has discovered that the vast majority of cases involving domestic abuse resulted in the prosecutor failing to even interview the victim and the perpetrator 79.5% of the time. And 66.7% of the time criminal charges were dismissed, citing lack of evidence. It seems as though tolerance for this type of violence is rooted not only within individuals but within the public institutions charged with punishing perpetrators.

UNDP has created a project to help solve the crisis of domestic violence. The Integrated Response to Violence against Women in Serbia is attempting to change these deeply held beliefs within the country by creating preventative programs such as youth education on gender equality and gender based violence, programs aimed at reaching out to perpetrators, and campaigns focused on raising public awareness and altering stereotypes.

The Associated Press points out that perhaps awareness for this problem is gaining traction among authorities in Serbia. For instance, in the case of Mica, the judge issued her a minimum sentence of five years in jail for the murder of her husband. The judge even seemed to show sympathy for all the years of abuse she endured.

Zack Lindberg

Sources: UNDP

Last week, Venezuelan Gabriela Isler became the sixty-second Miss Universe. The twenty-five-year old won the title during the greatest economic downturn in her country’s history.

Venezuela possesses the largest known oil reserves in the world but nearly 60 percent of its population is considered poor. Inflation continues to plague the country, rising to over 50 percent in the last year alone. And the current exchange rate has fallen to 6.3 bolivars for each U.S. dollar.

In an effort to combat the economy, President Nicolás Maduro mandated that prices be lowered in stores around the country. The mandate is the result of the government’s recent decision to grant Maduro power to rule by decree without legislative support.

Moreover, the country’s national debt has increased in recent years. Recent figures estimate that Venezuelan business owners owe between $700 million and $1.2 billion to their Panamanian suppliers.

In spite of its economic woes, Venezuela has continued to lend support and resources to maintain its participation in the Miss Universe pageant. Isler became the seventh Venezuelan to win the coveted title on November 9.

Along with the other contestants, Isler stayed at the Crowne Plaza World Trade Centre in Moscow whose accommodations cost between 6,500 to 95,000 rubles or $197 to $2,900 USD per night. Several candidates arrived as early as October 21 to prepare for the event.

The 86 participants also enjoyed products from a variety of luxury sponsors including IMAGE skincare, Yamamay swimsuits and Chinese Laundry shoes.

As the newest Miss Universe, Isler was asked to unveil a $1 million swimsuit designed by Yamamay for the occasion.

– Jasmine D. Smith

Sources: The Guardian, BBC, IB Times, Miss Universe

Abu Dhabi

1. Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak

Also given the honorable title of “Mother of the Nation,” Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak is known as a “champion of women’s rights,” who has played a pioneering and leading role for women both locally and internationally.  She is the third wife of the late founder and first president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan.

Sheikha Fatima started her work in the 1970s by launching a nation-wide campaign against illiteracy, with a particular emphasis on the need to educate girls, and establishing the first women’s society in the country, the Abu Dhabi Women Development Association.  Since then, she has worked tirelessly by establishing over thirty associations, chairing tens of organizations, launching scores of initiatives and campaigns, and hosting and patronizing countless conferences and forums.  She is currently the Supreme Chairperson of the Family Development Foundation, Chairperson of the UAE Women’s General Union, and Chairwoman of the Supreme Council for Motherhood & Childhood.

In recognition of her work on women’s issues, she was granted the Marie Curie Medal by UNESCO.  She has also been awarded for her humanitarian and refugee work, for which she has been presented with a shield written in gold from the UN High Commission for Refugees, as well presented with the Global Humanitarian Personality Award, from the World Heart Group, for her efforts to help the sick.


 2. Sheikha Fatema Bint Mohammed Bin Zayed

Following in her grandmother’s footsteps, Sheikha Fatema put her compassion into practice as a young university student.  She is the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi (and the granddaughter of Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak).

In June 2010, while studying in university, she found herself deeply moved by the poverty still afflicting Afghanistan.  She decided to take action and partnered with a local Afghan firm, Tanweer Investments, to create the Fatima bint Mohammed Initiative (FBMI).  The organization is dedicated to addressing the 42% poverty rate in the country “by providing resources, compassion and the opportunity for impoverished women to free themselves from economic hardship and take a leading role in Afghanistan’s future.”

FBMI is unique because it embraced skills Afghan women already possessed, carpet weaving and spinning, and provided them with further vocational training and the resources they needed to become key industry players.  Indigenous wool is used in order to enhance the value of the product and guarantee 100% Afghan origin.  In addition to employing 3,000 low income Afghans (70% of whom are women), FBMI also offers the families healthcare and education services.

Since its inception, over 10,000 carpets have been produced and sold worldwide, providing sustainable economic development for more than 18,000 individuals.  FBMI has received numerous awards in recognition of its achievements, including the DOMOTEX Middle East Special Recognition Award and Sustainable Interior Design Initiative of the Year in 2011.

 – Rifk Ebeid
Sources: FBMI, The National, Arab Youth Awards, Alowaisnet