#TooIntoYou campaign

#TooIntoYou campaign

 

WOMEN

#TooIntoYou campaign

paper heart breaking
Darius Apetrei

7th April 2021

 

Women’s Aid’s latest campaign, #TooIntoYou, launched in February 2021, is a campaign targeted at young people (aged 18-25) to help them identify unhealthy patterns in relationships and to aid them in reaching out for help. Research conducted by Women’s Aid has shown that: ‘1 in 5 young women, aged 18-25, experience intimate relationship abuse including emotional, physical and sexual abuse.’  

 

Women’s Aid, set up in 1974, is an Irish organization dedicated to raising awareness and aiding women who are victims of domestic violence. They provide a variety of services to women who are experiencing domestic and intimate relationship abuse, including court accompaniment, advice and information services, and housing support services. Another critical part of the work that Women’s Aid is engaged in is raising awareness of domestic violence, through campaigning and advocating on behalf of their clients in policy creation.  

 

There are a number of features of this campaign which make it specifically relevant to young people. The first striking aspect of the campaign is it’s clear and effective design in its leaflets, its social media and its website. Upon typing ‘Too Into You’ into Google, the first result is a dedicated website, laid out in a clear manner, with a number of different tabs depending on the information you are looking to acquire. These tabs include simple infographics, such as the ‘Spot the Danger Signs’ poster, to legal advice, to first-hand accounts of intimate relationship abuse written by young women.  

 

One of the most effective aspects of their website is the feature that allows visitors to complete a quiz designed to determine whether their relationship is healthy or unhealthy. The quiz is compiled of 10 different questions that tackle four key areas of relationship abuse: 

  1. Sexual abuse: ‘Have they ever forced or pressured you to do anything sexual that you didn’t want to do?’ 
  2. Physical abuse: ‘Do they ever hit, kick, or shove you?’  
  3. Online abuse: ‘Do they send you constant messages checking up on you when you’re not with them?’, ‘Do they ever go through your phone or laptop to see who you’ve been talking to?’, ‘Have they ever posted or shared any explicit images or videos of you online?’,  
  4. Coercive control/emotional abuse: ‘Does your partner complain that you don’t spend enough time with them?’, ‘Do they say anything about how you dress?’, ‘Do you feel like you are being watched or monitored by your partner?’, ‘Do you feel afraid to disagree with them in case they get angry?’, ‘Do you feel afraid to break up with them for any reason?’ 

This feature is a quick and effective method to allow site visitors to determine the healthiness of their relationship; ideal for a younger audience. The quiz draws attention to behaviours that may not initially seem like relationship abuse, such as coercive control or online abuse. The quiz also allows for answers that appear ‘less extreme’ – answers that some users may not believe to be intimate relationship abuse such as ‘Sometimes, they get annoyed at me if they don’t know what I’m up to’ as opposed to ‘Yes. They are always messaging me – they have to know what I’m doing and where I am every minute of the day’.  

 

When completing the quiz and choosing only these ‘middle ground’ answers, the same answer pops up as if one was to choose the most ‘extreme’ answers each time ; ‘If it feels wrong, it probably is’. This message is crucial to communicate to young people – that no matter the severity of the behaviours, the behaviours are still wrong in themselves, and that no one should feel even slightly unsafe or worried in a healthy and respectful relationship. 

 

The campaign also highlights that intimate relationship abuse and violence can occur in all types of relationships, even non-cohabiting partners – another aspect of the campaign which makes it especially relevant to young people. Their CEO, Sarah Benson, states: “We need to remember that you do not need to be living with a partner for them to target and abuse you when this can be achieved through digital and online means. The abuse can beam right into your home. This kind of abuse can disproportionately impact young adults. 

 

“Many mainstream depictions of domestic violence depict older couples living together, with the abuse occurring in the home. Most young couples, between the ages of 18-25, do not cohabit, and so abusers in these relationships often come up with different means of controlling their partner.”

Online abuse, by nature, can be all consuming and feel inescapable – in the modern age you are rarely without your phone, meaning that your abuser has access to you at all times. The #TooIntoYou campaign incorporates these important points into their campaign, making it especially relevant to young people. On the ‘Legal Protection’ section of the #TooIntoYou website, the opening sentence explains the changes that have been made to the Domestic Violence act which make a huge impact to young people in abusive relationships; ‘Recent changes to the Domestic Violence Act mean that you can now apply for a Safety Order in any intimate relationship – you do not have to be married or living together.’ 

 

The campaign makes an emphasis on the different mechanisms which abusers use when they do not live with their victims – specifically examining the issue of online coercive control. According to Women’s Aid, 1 in 5 young women have suffered intimate relationship abuse, and out of these women, 50% experienced online abuse. On one of the #TooIntoYou posters, one victim’s account of online abuse reads: ‘What had been several texts a day became an avalanche and it came to the point that I felt sick every time I heard the buzz of the mobile because I knew it was probably him.’. The campaign highlights different signs of both online abuse and general coercive control throughout their website, including under ‘The Ten Key Signs of Intimate Abuse’. This infographic is extremely helpful as the majority of it deals with non-traditional types of relationship abuse – coercive control and online abuse – types of behaviours that younger people may not view as relationship abuse.  

 

The campaign also has an entire section on their website dedicated to keeping yourself safe as a young person online. This section is presented in a very clear format, with the introductory paragraph beginning with the words ‘Online abuse is real abuse, and it’s not ok’. It includes explanations of how to keep accounts and your phone private, how to block abusers on varying social media sites, and procedures for what victims can do if they feel their account has been hacked/spied on.  

 

The #TooIntoYou campaign deals with the recent issue of image-based sexual abuse (IBSA). There has been a worrying rise in IBSA among young people over the last few years. Research conducted by Women’s Aid has shown that; ‘Half of young women abused by a partner experienced online abuse including having intimate images taken and shared without their consent.’ This troubling phenomenon came to light in the most recent ‘nudes leak’ in which a discord server used by up to 500 Irish men was exposed to be sharing over 140,000 intimate photographs of young women and underage girls (according to the Victims Alliance). This horrific discovery led to the creation of new legislation in December 2020, the ‘Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020’, nicknamed ‘Coco’s Law’, which makes the act of sharing a person’s intimate images without their consent a crime. The #TooIntoYou campaign directly tackles this phenomenon. They deal with IBSA in their quiz, with Question 5; ‘Have they ever posted or shared any explicit images of videos of you online?’.  

 

The site also has an entire section dedicated to giving victims a step-to-step guide on what to do if their intimate images or videos have been shared without consent. This includes how to report content, whether it be on a pornographic site or a social media site, and how to report these instances to the Gardaí. This advice goes on step further, also addressing those who receive unsolicited explicit images – such as the sharing in male group chats of intimate images of women.   

 

Overall, this campaign makes an extremely effective attempt at reaching, interacting with, and educating its intended younger audience. It brings awareness to types of abuse that are rampant among young people, such as online abuse, image-based sexual abuse, and coercive control in a clear and effective way.  

 

 If you have been affected by any of the issues spoken about above, do not hesitate to get in touch with Women’s Aid for advice and support.

 

 

Featured photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

 

It’s a revolution, a bleedin’ revolution

It’s a revolution, a bleedin’ revolution

 

WOMEN

It’s a revolution, a bleedin’ revolution

tampons
Ciara Mulgrew

31st March 2021

 

Scotland’s done it. New Zealand’s done it. Will Ireland be next?

 

Period poverty is the inability to access period products due to lack of finances or accessibility, and it is still a major issue in Ireland. People still have to choose between period products and other essentials. They have to wear pads or tampons for longer than recommended. Many people still do not have access to period products in their educational facility or workplace.

 

Senators Rebecca Moynihan and Lorraine Clifford-Lee brought this issue to the Seanad early this year, with the proposal of two separate bills. Clifford-Lee’s bill is a one-line bill on the provision of free period products, whereas Moynihan’s bill is said to be an inclusive and comprehensive period product bill, which will place legal obligation on the state to provide a variety of free period products in schools, universities, and public service buildings. Moynihan’s bill is a model of the Scottish period product bill and it states that the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, will be obligated to partake in a campaign to inform people where they can get these products.

 

Outside of these political initiatives, Anytime of the Month (ATOTM), a student led initiative, is leading the way in the fight against period poverty. These students run workshops for universities, schools, and businesses all around Ireland to inform them about the issue of period poverty, and help them to implement measures to prevent period poverty in their educational facility or workplace. They also sell badges and stickers, which can be displayed to show people you are a ‘friendly stranger’ who can be approached for period products. All profits from these sales go to organisations working directly with people who are most affected by period poverty, such as Doras and Thomond House.

 

STAND News caught up with ATOTM team members Amy, Aine and Rachel to find out more about the need for period workshops and to hear their opinion on the introduction of a period product bill.

 

“Menstruation has become so stigmatized that it is rarely talked about. Due to this fact, period poverty is also unheard of for many people who do not menstruate or have not experienced period poverty.”

 

Menstruation has become so stigmatized that it is rarely talked about. Due to this fact, period poverty is also unheard of for many people who do not menstruate or have not experienced period poverty. Amy emphasised the importance of educating people about period poverty as “so many people either have no idea what period poverty [is] or think that it is not a problem in Ireland, when in reality period poverty is all around us, we just might not see it.”

 

A survey conducted by ATOTM highlighted that 75% of participants admitted they have worn period products longer than the recommended time of 3-4 hours due to a lack of accessibility or funds. Accessibility problems are not only an issue in schools and universities, but also in workplaces. Aine told us that having access to period products in your workplace “can lead to happier and healthier workers, which is ultimately the goal of any business.” Employees would “no longer have to worry about having period products with them and will never find themselves in an uncomfortable situation if they do not have one, which unfortunately happens every day.”

 

This study also found that 35% of the people surveyed were unable to access period products due to a lack of accessibility or funds. The provision of free period products in public spaces would significantly reduce this figure, as it would cut down on lack of accessibility and those who do not have the finances for period products would also be able to access them. Rachel spoke on how excited the team is about the period product bill. She said their “main goal from the very start of [their] initiative has been to alleviate period poverty within Ireland, a bill like this would ensure that this objective could and would be achieved.”

 

From the results of the ATOTM survey, it is clear that period poverty is an issue experienced by many in Ireland. It is an issue we all need to be aware of whether we menstruate or not. Anyone can support this cause through the purchase of a badge or sticker, or through participation in the ATOTM workshop. This workshop is open to all educational facilities and business willing to show their support in the alleviation of period poverty. Through participating in this workshop and displaying the ATOTM logo, schools, universities, and companies can show their staff members and customers that they supply free and easily accessible period products.

 

 

 

Featured photo by Natracare on Unsplash

 

Is the kidnapping crisis in Nigeria exposing performative activism?

Is the kidnapping crisis in Nigeria exposing performative activism?

 

WOMEN

Is the kidnapping crisis in Nigeria exposing performative activism

bring back our girls protest in nyc
deepthi suresh stand news

16th March 2021

 

In April 2014, 276 female students were kidnapped by Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group, from a secondary boarding school in the northern Nigerian village of Chibok. The incident caused outrage in Nigeria and a movement to rescue the schoolgirls garnered international support. The hashtag #bringbackourgirls was shared all across the world, being used over one million times within the three weeks following the incident. It was posted by a wealth of celebrities and public figures, from Michelle Obama to Amy Poehler. In the 7 years since the abduction, some of the girls have escaped or been freed, however, many are still missing.

 

Considering the outcry on social media that this incident attracted, you would be forgiven for thinking that this kidnapping was an aberration. However, this is not the case. In fact, according to a recent report by SBM Intelligence this kidnapping “provided inspiration for subsequent heists”. At the end of February this year, 317 girls were abducted from another boarding school in northern Nigeria. While these girls were thankfully released, this incident was just one in a series of mass kidnappings that have occurred in recent months at schools in the region. In December, 300 boys were abducted from a boarding school, an incident that shared similarities with the Chibok abduction. Since December at least one kidnapping of this kind has occurred every three weeks.

 

“the international attention that surrounded the Chibok kidnapping has not been recreated, even as the situation surrounding abductions in Nigeria has arguably worsened.”

 

Due to an economic crisis in Nigeria, kidnappings have become a growth industry. The perpetrators are often armed gangs or bandits. Some kidnappings are linked to Boko Haram, while other groups use abductions as an easy way of making millions of naira. A countryside largely left to the mercy of militants, ineffective government policy and policing, along with the accessibility of arms has all led to the increase in kidnappings. While it is usually denied that payment of ransom has occurred regarding these kidnappings, these denials lack credibility. Not only is this a lucrative endeavour for criminals, but also for corrupt officials who have been reported to skim money off the ransom price. Criminals have learned that abduction pays and is often met with no consequences. Many in Nigeria want the government to provide protection and stability to prevent these kidnappings instead of having to pay the bandits. Poor school children are the perfect target for kidnappers because they attract such attention and thus the government will go to great lengths to try and get them returned to safety. Children are also helpless victims and the boarding schools regularly targeted are situated on the outskirts of towns, often with little or no security. International outcry did draw attention to the plight of the Chibok girls and force President Goodluck to act. However, it also may have made the girls more valuable to Boko Haram and the publicity it received likely inspired the copycat kidnappings we are seeing today.

 

 

And yet the international attention that surrounded the Chibok kidnapping has not been recreated, even as the situation surrounding abductions in Nigeria has arguably worsened. It seems that the #bringbackourgirls campaign is a perfect example of performative activism. Celebrities and public figures jumped on the bandwagon of the cause du jour but failed to commit themselves to the larger battle against the political instability and socio-economic deprivation that has allowed these kidnappings to continue. It is clear from the lack of comparable social media campaigns, that despite their claims in 2014, many celebrities and public figures are not committed to the long-term activism and pressure needed to improve the situation in Nigeria. This lonely work seems to have been left to campaigners in the country.

 

Kidnappings are not only a threat to the safety of children, they are also a barrier to education. Even after being released, many children who have been abducted do not return to education, and are stigmatised within their community. Parents may also be wary of sending their children to school as kidnappings become more prevalent. Additionally, states in northern Nigeria have closed public schools in the wake of abductions, putting hundreds of thousands of children out of school. For some this will be the end of their schooling, with young girls sometimes married off during disruptions like this. These kidnappings are depriving a generation of Nigerian children of their education.

 

Despite the international outrage and promises from the Nigerian government that they would all be returned, it is estimated over 150 of the Chibok girls are still missing. While many are still advocating for their release, collective society seems to have forgotten about them and the hundreds of other school children whose lives have been forever changed by abduction. It is apparent that a one-off campaign will not stop kidnappings in northern Nigeria, instead activism needs to continue, even when it may not be trendy anymore.

 

Featured Photo from Michael Fleshman on Flickr

The first female Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

The first female Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

 

WOMEN

The first female Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

Dr.Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
deepthi suresh stand news

15th March 2021

 

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian-American economist and international development expert, made history on the 1st March when she was appointed as not only the first woman, but also the first person of African ethnicity to be the Director-General of the World Trade Organization. The WTO is an organization which allows governments to negotiate their trade agreements, and settle disputes regarding their trade. The Director-General, although they hold no formal power, is a necessary role and is essential for advancing global trade as well as global cooperation. The position was made vacant when the sixth Director-General Mr. Roberto Azevêdo stepped down in May of 2020, a year before his term was to expire. Her term as Director-General will last until 31st August 2025.

 

Okonjo-Iweala was born in 1954 in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State, Nigeria and is the daughter of Professor Chukwuka Okonjo, who was the King from the Obahai Royal Family of Ogwashi-Ukwu. She relocated to the United States in 1973 where she studied at Harvard University, graduating three years later with a bachelor’s degree in economics. She successfully completed her PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in regional economics and development in 1981. As well as this, she is also the recipient of many honorary degrees from an array of universities including Trinity College Dublin and Yale University.

 

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a powerful woman who has taken part in an array of projects which have proven to have positive effects. As well as being chosen as the Director-General, Okonjo-Iweala has 30 years of extensive political experience, serving two terms as the finance minister of Nigeria, the first term being July 15th 2003 to June 21st 2006 and the second term being from August 17th 2011 to May 29th 2015. She was also Nigeria’s foreign minister from June 21st 2006 to August 30th of that same year, the first woman to ever hold these two positions. During her first term, she was successful in wiping out $30 billion of Nigeria’s debt during negotiations with the Paris Club of Creditors. During her second term her main goal was to improve transparency with the government, leading this movement. This resulted in the establishment of the Government Integrated Financial Management System (GIFMS), the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Management System (IPPMS) and the Treasury Single Accounts (TSA).

 

Okonjo-Iweala was the former managing director at the World Bank during her 25 years employed there as a development economist. Here she is most notable for initiatives which she put in place in order to assist low-income countries, a well-known success being the raising of almost $50 billion in 2010 for the World Bank’s fund which catered towards the poorest countries, the International Development Association.

 

“During her first term, she was successful in wiping out $30 billion of Nigeria’s debt during negotiations with the Paris Club of Creditors.”

 

The COVID-19 pandemic saw Okonjo-Iweala being anointed as the African Union COVID-19 Special Envoy. She is responsible for international finance needed to help combat the pandemic, as well as being chosen as the WHO Special Envoy for Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator. She has, since being anointed, publicly expressed her plans to combat COVID-19 at a global level, with the use of international trade and the use of the WTO, in terms of both economics and health. Okonjo-Iweala says: “One of … top priorities that I have, that I’m passionate about, is how can trade and the WTO play a stronger role in bringing solutions to the Covid-19 pandemic, both on the health side but also on the economic side.” She is aware that global and fair trade is an essential aspect of the global pandemic, and with her experience in the industry and her expertise, she is well suited to this title. She has announced her future plans to ensure the vaccines will be handed out equally, regardless of the country’s wealth.

 

The appointing of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a major milestone when it comes to the inclusion of minorities in global trade and will continue to encourage more marginalized groups to pursue careers in the field of international trade. Her success in achieving this spot has been encouraged and overall received in a positive light. The inclusion of minorities will help for a more inclusive future in not just this industry, but hopefully in other industries which may have been previously white and male dominated. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s history making position and her drive to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic whilst in this organization opens a more hopeful future, s her aims have been welcomed and supported with open arms. We can’t wait for what Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has in store for the world.

 

Featured Photo from World Trade Organisation on Wikipedia Commons

International Women’s Day 2021: Who inspired us over the past year?

International Women’s Day 2021: Who inspired us over the past year?

 

WOMEN

International Women’s Day 2021: Who inspired us over the past year?

fka twigs in concert
ellen mcveigh

11th March 2021

 

Looking back over the most unexpected and unprecedented year in living memory for people all over the world, it is important to remember all the loved ones, jobs and other life experiences that have been lost during the pandemic. But days like International Women’s Day also allow us to reflect on the opportunities for change that have been afforded by the complete overhaul of our day-to-day lives. The STAND News Women’s Section looks back over the change-makers and revolutionaries who have made a difference, however small or big, to our lives this year.

 

Eileen Flynn

2020 was a year of reckoning for people across the world about some of the injustices in our society which had been bubbling under the surface for many many years. During the summer, when Ireland as a nation was exploring the experiences of different marginalised communities, Eileen Flynn became the first Traveller woman to enter the Oireachtas when she became a Senator in June 2020. A fierce advocate for both Traveller and women’s rights, Flynns short tenure in the Seanad has already proved that the activism which she has dedicated her life to is at the heart of her role as a Senator.

 

Flynn grew up in the Labre Park halting site in Ballyfermot, and over the past decade has been involved in activist organisations such as the Irish Traveller Movement, and the National Traveller Women’s Forum. In November 2020 Flynn was elected as chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Key Issues Affecting the Traveller Community. Despite claims by some members of the political community that Flynn was a ‘token’ nomination, it is clear that she is a genuine force for change in the Oireachtas. She is a strong and necessary presence not only for the Traveller community, but for the fight for equality in Ireland as a whole. People like Flynn highlight exactly why opening up a seat at the table is the only way of truly improving the lives of Irish Travellers, and her passion and dedication to her heritage and to equality is sure to make Ireland a better and more welcoming place for everyone.

 

Agnes Chow – By Alisha Lynch

In recent years, Beijing has tightened restrictions on Hong Kong’s freedoms, enforcing a national security law that gives China extensive power to censor critics and prosecute activists. In spite of these turbulent times, Agnes Chow has fought tirelessly for Hong Kong to become an autonomous democracy. As a teenager, she started her social advocacy, campaigning against proposed reforms to the national curriculum that were deemed “nationalist brainwashing.” This was eventually abandoned by the Beijing government.

 

She has since been a key figure in the 2014 Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, and two years later she co-founded the pro-democracy organisation Demosisto. In August 2020, Agnes Chow was one of a handful of critics and activists detained under Beijing’s infamous new security legislation. Her supporters have nicknamed her “Mulan,” after the legendary Chinese heroine, with media outlets declaring her a ‘Goddess of democracy’. Agnes has exuded strength in times of adversity, dedicated herself to benefit the greater good and has dared to attempt the impossible in Hong Kong. It is no wonder why Agnes Chow, now only 24 years old, has inspired people across the globe, and why she featured on the BBC 100 Women 2020 list.

 

“Having a female leader does not mean anything for women’s rights. We need a change in the system, and genuine democracy” – Agnes Chow

 

Stacey Abrams

One of the most important events of 2020 was of course the US Presidential Election, which saw the defeat of Trump and the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The state of Georgia, historically a red state during presidential elections, turned blue in 2020 and may have handed the election to Biden, due in large part to the efforts of Stacey Abrams. Abrams has been a campaigner against voter suppression, particularly in her home state of Georgia. Her work to counter the disenfranchisement of, particularly black, voters in Georgia increased the turnout in the 2020 Presidential election and helped to swing the state. Her organisation Fair Fight Action, founded in 2018, has been credited with turning not only Georgia blue, but also crucial states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

 

Abrams’ commitment to democracy for the most disadvantaged people in her community is an inspiration for the type of America that could be possible under President Biden. While the past four years of Trump’s presidency and the increasing prominence of far-right elements in US politics, figures such as Abrams create a path for a more inclusive political project in the US, and a future in which every person can feel represented and heard in the democratic process.

 

Alok-Vaid Menon – By Róisín O’Donnell

Alok-Vaid Menon, known also as Alok, is a gender non-conforming artist, writer and performer from the United States. They have published two books, including Beyond the Gender Binary in 2020. Alok’s central commitment is to start conversations about the limiting and destructive impact of the gender binary. Celebrating Alok on International Women’s Day is about more than recognising our need to expand our understanding of gender; it is about the right to define, evolve and claim central aspects of ourselves, beyond stereotype and category.

 

One of the most interesting and compelling aspects of Alok’s work is how they draw on history to reveal the presence and power of transgender and non-binary people across time and culture. They emphasise the legacy of colonisation and a historical adherence to category that was as much about race as gender. Our current circumstances can make us feel increasingly atomised, but Alok’s activism and work provides important lessons for this moment. For them, the power of the everyday is essential to their work, embodied, in part, by their beautiful outfits. It involves a recurring commitment, often in the face of violence, to expression and authenticity. Alok makes clear it goes beyond how we present; it is about continually engaging in conversation and connection.

 

Alice Wong

The coronavirus pandemic was originally posed as the ‘great leveller’ this time last year. But it soon became clear that this was not the case, and that in fact the virus was simply widening the cracks in society which some communities of people had been falling through. One of these communities is disabled people. While disability activists have been gaining visibility in recent years, the coronavirus pandemic really pulled back the curtains on how many countries around the world have been failing their disabled citizens. Alice Wong is a disability activist who has been trying to raise awareness of the extra burdens placed on people with disabilities both during the pandemic and before.

 

In June 2020, she edited an anthology, Disability Visibility, which brought together dozens of personal essays from people with a variety of disabilities. She has been active in campaigns for vaccine access for disabled people in the US, and in raising awareness for the isolation and fear experienced by high-risk people who have been shielding for almost a year now. She has spoken and written about the idea of which lives were seen as disposable during the pandemic, and the danger of rhetoric which passes off the deaths of disabled or high-risk people from Covid-19 as a necessary sacrifice.

 

Kamala Harris – By Ruby Cooney

Kamala Harris made history in November of 2020 when she became the 49th vice president of the United States of America. Not only is Kamala Harris the first female in the role of vice president, but she is also the first Indian and African American to hold the post. In her early career she worked as a deputy district attorney fighting cases involving gang violence, drug trafficking and sexual abuse before becoming California’s attorney general. She then served as a United States senator as a member of the Democratic Party.

 

Kamala Harris is a big advocate of women’s issues such as reproductive rights and introducing the Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act ensuring “that women get the care, support, and knowledge they need.” Kamala Harris stepping into the role of vice president of the United States of America represents monumental progress and change in a society where racism and misogyny continues to exist. In her victory speech, Kamala Harris credited the women who paved the way for this moment, saying “Tonight, I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision—to see what can be unburdened by what has been—I stand on their shoulders.” Representation is hugely important in high positions of power, showing that this is achievable to young women of colour all around the world.

 

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last” – Kamala Harris.

 

 

Why a Saudi women’s rights activist was deemed harmful to national security

Why a Saudi women’s rights activist was deemed harmful to national security

 

WOMEN

Why a Saudi women’s rights activist was deemed harmful to national security

hands driving
olivia moore

23rd February 2021

 

The Saudi Arabian feminist activist Loujain al-Hathloul has been released from prison on probation after serving nearly 3 years on charges of spying and conspiracy. Al-Hathloul is one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights activists, known for her vocal opposition to the law which prevented Saudi women from being allowed to drive. She was instrumental in the Women to Drive Movement, which fought to tackle this ban, as well as being vocally opposed to the male guardianship of women. Al-Hathloul was arrested in May 2018 alongside eleven other women’s rights activist, just weeks before the driving ban was lifted. Many of the women who were arrested were released on bail, charged with criminal records, with many more women being arrested in further weeks after the first swoop.

 

In Saudi Arabia in 1957 a ban was implemented which forbade women from being able to drive and to obtain driving licenses, with many people believing there was no need for women to be able to drive as they are unable to travel anywhere without a male guardian. In Saudi Arabia, the rights of women and men remain extremely divided, with this being the last country in the world where women were not legally allowed to drive. While there was technically never a formal or official ban on women being unable to drive, the ban on obtaining a driving license effectively meant that they cannot legally drive. The driving ban was ultimately lifted on June 24th 2018 after King Salman, the ruler of Saudi Arabia issued a special decree which granted women permission to get legal driving licenses.

 

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has seen many milestones when it comes to achieving gender equality. 2013 saw women being able to partake in sport as well as compete in the Olympics, 2018 was the year women were able to watch football in a stadium. 2015 saw women being able to run for elections in local councils, Loujain al-Hathloul ran in November when it was officially legal, but her name never appeared in any of the ballots meaning people could not vote for her. While the male guardianship laws are still in place, the past couple of years have seen a relax in these rules, but women still need permission from a man for many things, whether it be her father, husband, son.

 

“The courts continue to deny these accusations saying there is no proof she was ever transported to the places she says she was abused.”

 

Al-Hathloul was detained on May 15th 2018, and for the first ten months of her detainment, she did not face any charges or trial, and for the first three months, she was refused any access to communicate with a lawyer or her family. Al-Hathloul was subject to immense abuse during her detainment, claiming she was ‘beaten, waterboarded, given electric shocks, sexually harassed, and threatened with rape and murder’. The courts continue to deny these accusations saying there is no proof she was ever transported to the places she says she was abused. Her family say these have been dismissed by an appeals court and that she was offered freedom if she lied and said she did not endure any abuse while in prison. Al-Hathloul’s hearing occurred on the 28th December 2020, over two and a half years after she was detained and held in a maximum security prison. The Saudi Court found Loujain al-Hathloul guilty of spying with foreign parties and conspiring against the kingdom and sentenced to five years and eight months in prison. The court ultimately suspended two years and ten months from her sentence and stated her start date to be May of 2018, when she was first arrested, meaning that she only had to serve three more months at the time of her hearing. The Saudi Kingdom repeatedly denied the reason she was arrested for her part in campaigning for women’s right to drive but for her part in a campaign to undermine the royal family. Her sister believes this idea was based on her contact with foreign journalists and the accusations she applied to work at the United Nations as well as her contact with foreign diplomats and the media.

 

Loujain al-Hathloul was released on the 10th of February of this year and was granted by probation by a judge in Riyadh after serving a total of 1,001 days in custody. Her case was backed up by a strong global campaign which was supported by her relatives and groups, such as Amnesty International. Her sister uploaded pictures of her to Twitter announcing she has been released and is not at home. Despite her being released from prison, Loujain’s freedom is far from achieved and still a distant hope. She is unable to discuss and talk to the media, she is unable to leave Saudi Arabia due to her five year travel ban as well as the authorities having the right to re-arrest her, regardless of the situation. Her story has gained global attention considering her mistreatment of in prison and the removal of her basic human rights while she was detained, in which she organised a hunger strike in protest to the conditions which she was subject to in October of last year. The charges in which she received have been referred to as “spurious” by the UN and not fitting as she was exercising her rights to freedom of expression. Her release has been extremely welcomed and a milestone in women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, but her case is still ongoing and has not ended quite yet.

 

 

Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash