Activists in Tanzania have identified a factor that drives many families to force their girls to undergo female genital mutilation — money. According to Seleiman Bishagazi, chairman of the Kipunguni Knowledge Center in Dar es Salaam, families traditionally receive monetary gifts from friends and relatives when their daughters are put through FGM.
“I used to attend ceremonies, and I saw how people were benefiting from this,” he told Gayle Tzemach Lemmon in a story for CNN. “I knew right away they were using FGM as a source of income because people would say, ‘I will build a house after my daughter goes through this.’ They were using girls as capital.”
Similarly, he noted, the older women who performed the cutting ceremonies were also often dependent on the income. Performing FGM or forcing the practice on someone is punishable with prison in Tanzania, but Bishagazi says that many of the country’s poorest consider the risk to be worth it. According to UNICEF, 25 percent of Tanzania’s most impoverished girls and women aged 15 to 49 had undergone FGM — compared to 6 percent of women among the country’s wealthiest citizens.
To help combat the prevalence of the practice, Bishagazi teamed up with the Tanzania Gender Networking Program, a local women’s rights NGO, and started a local farming project. He asked women he knew who perform FGM to stop cutting and make better, steadier money by selling produce from the farm. At least two women agreed to stop cutting and begin working on the project, he said, and parents and women who previously supported cutting began to join in as well. Other Tanzania charities are engaging in similar efforts — for instance by offering women startup capital for small businesses in exchange for helping to stamp out the practice.
Upendo Jackson, a woman involved in the program, said she was forced to undergo FGM against her will by her mother, who bought land with the gifts she received for the ceremony. She said she was able to stop her sister from enduring the same fate by taking her to a police station, but she’s hopeful that empowering women economically could give them greater power in the community — and more options.
“Many people doing FGM are doing it because they’re poor,” she said. “We think we could end it if people could get some capital.”
A number of other young women in the program shared their thoughts on what drives the practice of FGM — including the powerful role played by elders in local communities.
Read the full story at CNN.
Ferah, then a 14-year-old girl, says she didn’t even know who or what ISIS was when the militants took over Mosul in June of 2014. Speaking using a pseudonym to The Associated Press, she recalled being forced to leave her private school, where her favorite class was English, and being forced to stay inside out of fear of militants who threatened girls and women with stoning over the smallest of infractions. She knew of a 12-year-old girl from a nearby neighborhood, she said, who was publicly executed for “adultery” after she was seen on the roof when a boy next door happened to be on his roof at the same time. While her married sisters and her friends fled the city, and her next door neighbors, who she’d known for most of her life, chose to join ISIS, Ferah began to lose hope that things would ever return to normal. Her outlet, she said, was her writing, which she did both on paper and online.
“Suddenly life robs you of what you love, as if it’s punishing you for a crime that hasn’t been committed yet,” she wrote on Facebook. “When you close your eyes, you’ll feel how horrible it is to have your hands chained and be unable to picture your future. You’ll curl up on the ground crying.”
The boredom, she said, was almost as bad as the constant fear. Fearful of her growing depression, she cut red, green, and blue butterflies out of colored pieces of paper, and hung them around her room alongside strings of white fairy lights. She also threw herself into a Facebook journal that swiftly picked up more than 6,000 followers — including a fellow Iraqi girl, Rania, who would become her closest friend. The girls shared an interest in interior design — a career that Ferah had hoped to pursue — and shared pictures of furniture with each other online. Her friendship with Rania, she said, “is absolutely the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced.”
On Ferah’s 16th birthday, July 19, 2016, ISIS cut off Mosul’s internet in order to stop spies from guiding American airstrikes. Alone once more, Ferah focused on writing and sewing as Iraqi forces fought their way toward the city. In January 2017, ISIS occupied her family’s house. Later, as ISIS was driven out of the city after nearly three years of occupation, the militants set fire to the home — destroying all the art, clothing, and writing that she had created. Eventually, however, her room would be repaired — and she would get to meet Rania in person.
Speaking to The Associated Press, she shared stories from her time during ISIS’s occupation, and how she’s moving forward with life now that she finally has her freedom.
Watch video of Ferah’s story below.
Read the full story at The Associated Press.
In 1929, famed author and playwright Virginia Woolf summed it up in one now famous, oft-quoted phrase, “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.” While the magazine’s incredible “Person of the Year” cover honors just a few of the inspiring faces — the “silence breakers” that have opened the floodgates to expose the widespread and relentless tide of sexual misconduct — TIME magazine understands that almost a century after Miss Woolf wrote those words, Anonymous is still a woman.
In the lower left hand corner of the cover, casually placed in from of pop music mogul Taylor Swift, is a lone, black-clad elbow without a face. It’s presence at the table is not a mistake, but rather a tribute to the countless women who have shared their stories of survival anonymously.
“That’s very intentional,” explained Time’s national correspondent Charlotte Alter during an interview on the BuzzFeed News morning show AM to DM. “That’s an anonymous woman who is a hospital worker, who was experiencing harassment and didn’t feel that she could come forward.” Alter went on to explain that the woman had shared her personal story with TIME, but her decision to remain anonymous is a reflection of the thousands of women who feel they can’t reveal their identities for fear of professional or personal ignominy.
Beyond the cover, the TIME feature includes several anonymous photos of participants with their faces turned away from the photographer’s camera; a conscious decision on the part of the magazine to reminder readers that sexual harassment is a travesty that touches no bounds, and that just because someone’s story exists outside the purview of Hollywood, its’ validity is in no way lessened. In its multimedia approach to the story, TIME is also featuring videos of women who aren’t famous speaking out about their ordeals. In the below video, Dana Lewis and Crystal Washington, hotel hospitality coordinators at New York City’s iconic Plaza Hotel, discuss what drove them to ultimately report sexual misconduct in their workplace. “It’s OK to stand up for yourself,” Lewis said, “even though you feel like the world is against you.”
“A huge part of this story is that, as much as the stigma around this has been removed this year because of the Me Too movement, it’s still really difficult for a lot of women to come forward,” Alter added in the BuzzFeed interview. “So we wanted to include people to really reference the risk that these women are taking by speaking out about this.”
Watch the interview with Alter below:
Read the full story at TIME.
In what appears to be a coordinated move, six female senators have simultaneously posted messages to social media to denounce alleged groping incidents by U.S. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, and to call on the embattled Democrat to resign. Senators Patty Murray of Washington, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Kamala Harris of California, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York all issued statements condemning their fellow Democrat, declaring “that this watershed moment is bigger than any one industry, any one party, or any one person.”
“I have spent a lot of time reflecting on Senator Franken’s behavior. Enough is enough. The women who have come forward are brave and I believe them. While it’s true that his behavior is not the same as the criminal conduct alleged against [Republican Alabama Senate candidate] Roy Moore, or Harvey Weinstein, or President Trump, it is still unquestionably wrong, and should not be tolerated by those of us who are privileged to work in public service,” Gillibrand wrote on Facebook.
“As the mother of two young boys we owe it to our sons and daughters to not equivocate, but to offer clarity,” she added. “We should not have to be explaining the gradations between sexual assault, harassment and unwelcome groping. And what message do we send to our sons and daughters when we accept gradations of crossing the line? None of it is ok and none of it should be tolerated. We should demand the highest standards, not the lowest, from our leaders, and we should fundamentally value and respect women.”
Murray, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said in a statement that it was time for Franken “to step aside.”
“I’m shocked and appalled by Senator Franken’s behavior,” she said. “It’s clear to me that this has been a deeply harmful, persistent problem and a clear pattern over a long period of time.” In addition to the senators, Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic National Committee on Wednesday called for Franken to resign in a message posted on Twitter.
The calls for Franken’s resignation come amid yet another allegation made against the embattled senator. According to a report by Politico, a former Democratic congressional aide has accused Franken of forcibly trying to kiss her. The incident took place in 2006, she told Politico, before Franken had made a foray into politics. He was hosting a radio show at the time. The woman, who is the sixth to accuse Franken of sexual misconduct, declined to reveal her name.
The increased pressure on Franken also comes a day after John Conyers, the longest serving member of the House and a civil rights icon, announced that he would retire in the wake of allegations that he sexually harassed his female staffers. In recent days, President Donald Trump and the RNC have also endorsed Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by nine women — including five women who said he molested them when he was in his thirties and they were teenagers. Franken, who has previously said that he would go through an ethics investigation but not resign, has not officially commented on the new calls for his resignation, but said in a message on Twitter that he would “be making an announcement tomorrow.”
Read the full story at Bloomberg.
On Tuesday, Courtney Morse, former intern for longtime congressman John Conyers who resigned amid sexual harassment allegations on Tuesday, became the latest among a string of women to accuse the congressman of misconduct. Morse — who was 20 at the time of the alleged incident—spoke to The Washington Post about her experience and how she believes the former congressman’s decision to resign was motivated by a desire to escape further judgment.
“I thought it was odd that he was driving home an intern. It was out of the way, so it wasn’t convenient,” Morse explained. According to her account, Conyers had volunteered to drive her home one evening and once they arrived at her home, proceeded to proposition her. When she rejected his advances, Morse said Conyers issued what she perceived to be a veiled threat by casually bringing up the then recent disappearance of federal intern Chandra Levy.
Morse’s account has been corroborated by Matthew Salomon, with whose family she stayed with for the duration of her internship. Salomon — who witnessed the encounter — said that he approached the car to confront Conyers but claimed the congressman drove away.
Read the full story at The Washington Post.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has revealed that she has her own “me too” story, telling an audience at the Politico Women Rule Summit in Washington that she believes most women have experienced such moments for themselves.
“I think that is a dirty little secret that a lot of women have had for a long time,” she said. “Many of us — especially I think in the years past — have experienced it.”
Chao added that she wouldn’t go into specifics about what had happened or name her alleged abuser, explaining that “the person is still here, still around” and that she felt it was better for her to let go of the experience than to dwell on it.
“It’s not worth my while to go back and revisit those negative moments,” Chao said. “I will fight for other women. And I will stand up for other women. But of your own — you have got to let it go. Because otherwise, it is too corrosive. It is too negative and it does you a double injury. Because it holds you back.”
Chao, the first Asian-American woman to serve in a presidential cabinet, had previously served as secretary of labor under George W. Bush. She is the one of the highest-ranking government officials to speak out about experiencing alleged sexual misconduct — a reality that is perhaps tempered by the fact that the current president has been accused by at least 16 women of sexual harassment or assault. President Trump, and even the RNC, have also endorsed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by nine women — including five women who said he molested them when he was in his thirties and they were teenagers. In recent days, supporters of Moore have blamed various figures for the accusations against him — including Chao’s husband, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell.
Read the full story at NBC News.
The editors at TIME magazine have selected the “silence breakers,” the women who have come forward with sexual assault and harassment allegations and forced a reckoning in America about the culture of the country’s workplace, as the 2017 “Person of the Year.” The cover of the magazine’s annual features a portrait of actress Ashley Judd, singer Taylor Swift, corporate lobbyist Adama Iwu, Isabel Pascual and former Uber engineer Susan Fowler. The magazine has been selecting a “Person of the Year” since 1927 and editors make their picks based on the figure or figures who influence the world the most “for good or ill.” As TIME magazine national correspondent Charlotte Alter noted on Twitter, the POY “was conceived, reported and written by women. It was fact-checked by women. The video was shot and edited by women. The layout and photo spread were designed by women.”
TIME editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal announced the selection on the Today show Wednesday. He said, “The galvanizing actions of the women on our cover … along with those of hundreds of others, and of many men as well, have unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s.”
Rose McGowan, who has accused Harvey Weinstein of rape and has been one of the movement’s most vocal figures, is also featured in the TIME POY issue. Below, watch a video of her talking about why now is the time for anger.
The momentous cover puts the #MeToo movement fully into the national spotlight. The movement was actually begun 10 years ago by a woman named Tarana Burke. The 44-year-old activist said in a recent interview that “it wasn’t built to be a viral campaign or a hashtag that is here today and forgotten tomorrow.” The movement, however, received new life in October when actress Alyssa Milano, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations posted a call to action on Twitter urging all women who’ve experienced sexual misconduct to share their stories on social media using the hashtag #MeToo. Woman around the nation and the world have heeded her call and the movement, in conjunction with rigorous news reporting on the issue, has resulted in the demise of numerous other high-profile media and entertainment figures, including Louis C.K., Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and Russell Simmons.
Burke and Milano appeared on the Today show Wednesday to talk about the traction the movement has gained in the two months since Weinstein’s alleged crimes were exposed.
“I could never imagine this, I could never have envisioned something that could change the world,” Burke said, adding that she was also sexually harassed.
“As women we have to support each other and stand up and say, ‘No more,'” Milano said.
Read the full story at Today.com.