Oct 06
Her eye on the news
'Tiny feminists’

The idea almost seems radical: educating boys on women’s rights and violence against women when they’re young. And yet at the Safe School for Girls, a co-educational school in Rwanda, adolescent boys are learning how to respect and improve the lives of women — and it’s working.

The boys are talking about how to support women and better understand the issues facing them in Rwanda in the after-school program, which is carried out every weekday at 174 schools across the country through Care International and local non-profit organizations. Boys are getting a full-spectrum education, learning about emotional and financial abuse and physical assault, and holding each other accountable for the actions of other men.

“If we happen to see such violence, we report them and make sure the people who have [committed the violence] are judged,” 18-year-old Rini Mutijima told the BBC.

But it’s surprising how fundamental and yet revolutionary this idea is — and how necessary the conversation, not just for Rwanda, but the rest of the world. Young boys learn about issues ranging from menstruation to domestic abuse to gender-based violence, and participate in roundtable discussions. More than 19,000 boys have gone through the schools (not to mention 47,000 girls), which gives a semblance of hope for the next generation.

This reality seems a world away from the Rwandan genocide of 1994, during which half a million women were raped and 800,000 Tutsis were killed by Hutu extremists. Now, more than 60 percent of Rwanda’s Parliament is female — the greatest percentage in national government.

Perhaps an even brighter future starts with a few boys gathered around tables after school, thinking about not just their future partners, but all the women in their lives. As one sixteen-year-old boy said: “It’s my responsibility as a boy to protect my sister.”

Just one question: Can this be taught in every country?

Read the full story at BBC News.


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‘I found a sword!’

Saga Vanecek, 8, is being hailed on social media as the new Queen of Sweden following the youngster’s discovery of what scholars say appears to be 1,500-years-old at the Vidöstern lake in Tånnö, Småland.

“I was outside in the water, throwing sticks and stones and stuff to see how far they skip, and then I found some kind of stick,” recalled Saga in comments made to The Local. “I picked it up and was going to drop it back in the water, but it had a handle, and I saw that it was a little bit pointy at the end and all rusty. I held it up in the air and I said ‘Daddy, I found a sword!’ When he saw that it bent and was rusty, he came running up and took it.”

Saga’s father, Andy Vanecek, said that despite his daughter’s excitement he initially was unconvinced that the strange object was anything other than a branch or disfigured toy. But after speaking to a colleague with an interest in archaeology, he decided to report the find to authorities at the Jönköpings Läns Museum who calculated its origin to the 5th or 6th century AD, pre-Viking age.

“Why it has come to be there, we don’t know,” said museum employee Mikael Nordström about the watery artifact. “When we searched a couple of weeks ago, we found another prehistoric object; a brooch from around the same period as the sword, so that means — we don’t know yet — but perhaps it’s a place of sacrifice. At first we thought it could be graves situated nearby the lake, but we don’t think that any more.”

Saga, who grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota but moved to Småland last year, said that her American roots gave an additional reason to be excited about the find.

“The cool thing is that I’m a huge Minnesota Vikings fan, and this looks just like a Viking sword!” she said.

Read the full story at The Local.


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A 42-year-old former beauty therapist has become the first woman in the U.K. to ever successfully receive a double hand transplant. Tania Jackson, who suffers from ulcerative colitis, a condition that causes inflammation of the colon, suffered complications as a result of the disease in 2015 and contracted sepsis. Her blood became infected, turning her limbs black and necessitating surgery that cost her both hands and three quarters of her left arm in order to save her life. But after a revolutionary 15-hour operation, the mother of three has a new arm, two new hands — and a new lease on life.

“I have all sort of emotions. It was such a major breakthrough [to have the surgery]. I can’t wait to get my life back again and be independent,” said Jackson. “It is just the normal things I am looking forward to most, being able to brush my daughters’ hair and hold their hands. I am so excited for the future.”

Jackson learned about the pioneering procedure while in intensive care following the amputation of her arm and hands after she watched a TV program about Corinne Hutton — the first woman to be put on a hand-transplant register. Jackson soon sought out the nearby Leeds General Infirmary, the only hospital in the U.K. to offer hand transplants, and got herself on the waiting list in 2016. According to consultant plastic surgeon Professor Simon Kay, who has now performed the remarkable procedure on five patients, hand transplants are likely to be more common in the future.

“We had the technology to carry out the procedure thirty years ago but nobody thought the drugs would prevent rejection [of the hand] from the arm. We thought it was impossible,” he said. “I am enormously proud of everyone and I have a privilege to lead the team of 30 people. No transplants are possible without the courage of the patients who donate. If you want to find the real heroes look at them, they are amazing people.”

Read the full story at The Telegraph.


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A French man who slapped a woman and threw an ashtray at her after she told him to “shut up” in response to his lewd comments was given a six-month custodial sentence and ordered to pay his accuser $2,300 on Thursday. The 25-year-old defendant in the case had been seen attacking 22-year-old student Marie LaGuerre outside a Paris cafe in a video that went viral on social media. The man, who had previously served prison time for pimping and violence against his mother, will also be forbidden from contacting Laguerre and be required to attend classes on sexist violence and domestic abuse. If the defendant reoffends within the next three years, the judge ruled, he will incur at least an additional six months in prison.

In a Facebook account of the incident, Laguerre had accused the man of using “dirty language, in a humiliating and provocative manner. I told him to shut up and kept walking away, because I can’t stand this kind of behavior. I can’t keep quiet, and we mustn’t keep quiet any longer,” she recalled.

CCTV footage shows 22-year-old Marie Laguerre reeling after being struck by her harasser.

During the trial, the defendant denied making sexual remarks and claimed that he had only complimented Laguerre’s dress. “There’s not a man who has not spoken to a woman on the street,” he contended.

Laguerre, who set up the website “Nous Toute Harcelement” (We are all harassed) in the wake of the attack in an effort to encourage other women to share their own stories of harassment, has hailed the ruling as “balanced.” In particular, she said, she thought it was important that her harasser would be made to take an anti-sexism course to help enable the possibility of him changing his future behavior.

Read the full story at Yahoo News.


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‘Blaming, shaming’

A South Korean prosecutor whose allegations of sexual abuse against a senior colleague helped jumpstart the #MeToo movement in Korea in January says that she continues to face professional consequences as a result of her decision to come forward — but that she nonetheless still believes that speaking out was the right decision. Seo Ji-hyun, 45, prompted an outpouring of responses — both of support and condemnation — when she revealed that a senior colleague, Ahn Tae-geun had repeatedly groped her at the funeral of another co-worker’s father eight years ago.

After the groping, she said, she spoke to other senior prosecutors who promised her that Ahn would give her personal apology that never materialized. Instead, she was reprimanded, transferred across the country to Tongyeong, a small town on the country’s South Coast, and reassigned to a more junior position. When she made a formal complaint alleging that the move was a retaliatory measure by Ahn, she was again reprimanded by her superiors — this time for allegedly exhibiting disloyalty to the company by causing a fuss.

Speaking to the AFP, Seo acknowledged that she considered going into hiding after coming forward about her experience.

“It felt so shameful that as a prosecutor whose job is to seek justice, I could not even speak out about this criminal act,” she said. “I couldn’t bear it any more. When I decided to speak out on TV — which amounts to social suicide — I was ready to resign and become a recluse.”

Last year, Ahn, was fired from the agency for corruption and indicted for abusing his position to force senior prosecutors into reassigning Seo to a junior position. He has denied allegations of sex abuse, claiming that he was too drunk to remember the events of the 2010 funeral, and was not formally charged for his alleged harassment of Seo as South Korea has a one-year statute of limitations on such accusations.

Seo’s bravery also inspired countless other women to share their own stories — leading to consequences for abusers in positions of power across the country, including former presidential contender Ahn Hee-jung who was acquitted last month of repeatedly raping a female aide after a court ruled that the aide hadn’t exhibited “victim-like” behavior because she had continued to work for him instead of quitting.

Since speaking out, Seo has been on sick leave and she admits that she’s unlikely to ever return to her job as a prosecutor.

“But I don’t regret what I did,” she said. “The long history of blaming, shaming and muzzling victims of sex abuse — instead of perpetrators — should stop here, now.”

Watch video of Seo below.

Ready the full story at The Japan Times.


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