Child marriage is decreasing in many parts of the world, with global rates dropping substantially over the past decade, according to The New York Times, largely because of progress in South Asia. Yet in Nepal, one of the region’s poorest countries, activists say these marriages are on the rise in some villages.
Nepal’s government is moving forward with a campaign to combat the practice, but serious challenges loom, activists say. In rural areas, for instance, some local elected officials who publicly oppose the practice still marry off their children as teenagers. In addition, literacy rates are low, while mobile phones and social media have made it easier to find partners, the Times reports.
Further, some villagers see the practice as economically necessary, according to the Times. Every year, for example, hundreds of thousands of men leave Nepal for construction jobs in the Persian Gulf to earn money for their families. Poorer families see logic in marrying their daughters to boys before they head abroad.
With villages devoid of men, “families need girls to take care of the elderly and handle household activities,” said Tarak Dhital, an activist in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital.
Girls are often taken out of school once they start to menstruate, a sign to some families that they are ready for marriage.
“It is so hard to change people’s thinking,” said Ram Bahadur Chand, an official with Nepal’s child welfare board. “They do not see that child marriage destroys their futures. It is a kind of violence.”
Read the full story at The New York Times.
Nearly 200 CEOs have signed an open letter declaring the recent spate of abortion bans bad for American business.
Signatories include the heads of Twitter, Bloomberg, Glossier, Slack, and Yelp, alongside Women in the World speakers and business leaders Diane von Furstenberg and Audrey Gelman. And while we don’t feel great about a human rights issue being decided on the basis of profit margins, there’s no doubt that the more noise being made on this, the better.
Turning to the battle at ground level, Shelley O’Brien is our newest hero. The Michigan hotel owner is offering free stays to women who have to travel out of their state to to have the procedure.
PUTTING UP A FRONT
Could America’s Ann Taylor stores be secret feminist headquarters?
No doubt, writes Olga Khazan in a hilarious new essay on the empowering upside to basic dressing.
As Khazan points out, in a world where Mark Zuckerberg is deified for wearing the same gray hoodie each day, we should also be celebrating all the Ann Taylor women out there, who “choose to dress somewhat boringly so they can apply their energies elsewhere.”
IKEA MANUAL FOR DICTATORS
Don’t miss today’s episode of the podcast TBD with Tina Brown, which features Tina’s interview with renowned Turkish journalist Ece Temelkuran.
Temelkuran’s new book, How To Lose A Country, lays out the seven-step playbook being used by populist leaders around the world–or as she calls it, an “Ikea manual for dictators.”
The new interview covers Trump’s creep towards autocracy, Temelkuran’s battles with online trolls (“It was like having a swordfight with ghosts.”) and why we tolerate lies from our leaders.
SOUNDS GOOD TO US
A decision in Delhi to make public transport free for all women has sent India into a tizzy.
With women’s voter turnout finally equalling men’s this year, detractors have labelled the plan an opportunist stunt ahead of upcoming city elections.
However on the other side of the debate (where you’ll find us), Delhiites are celebrating the initiative as a victory in the fight to make women feel safe and welcome in public spaces and to encourage more women to join the workforce.
THE BLOODLUST CONTINUES
Saudi Arabia reportedly plans to execute an 18-year old boy for taking part in protests including some when he was just ten years old.
The sickening news arrives as equal rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul suffers in prison, following a PR stunt trial in March that convinced some easily fooled media outlets she was halfway to freedom. In April, Loujain’s sister told a hushed Women in the World audience about the torture and trauma her sister was enduring in prison.
As for America’s response? President Trump again ignored human rights abuses in the kingdom when he bypassed Congress to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia last week.
WE’RE ALSO TRACKING
“The heads of my department branded me with a scarlet letter.” The Google employee who organized last year’s global walkout has quit the tech giant, citing punishment for her activism.
“I didn’t want to play a long-suffering Indian woman whom everyone called chubby.” Mindy Kaling has opened up about creating The Mindy Project, and about what’s coming next.
108 Women’s World Cup players have shared how they balance being professional athletes, often with second jobs.
Law firms have been warned to ditch their “rigid and archaic traditions” if they want to secure female talent and end the exodus of women attorneys switching industries in search of more compassionate maternity policies.
Japan’s health and labor minister has spoken out in defense of employers who require women to wear high heels to work, saying he sees it as “necessary and appropriate.”
Takumi Nemoto made the comments in reference to a recent petition from women who want the government to ban workplaces from forcing high heels on their female employees. “It is socially accepted as something that falls within the realm of being occupationally necessary and appropriate,” Nemoto told a legislative committee on Wednesday, according to The Guardian.
The women’s petition is part of the “KuToo” campaign — a play on words from the Japanese kutsu, meaning shoes, and kutsuu, meaning pain — launched by actor and writer Yumi Ishikawa.
In a tweet earlier this year, Ishikawa had complained about being required to wear high heels for a hotel job, and the tweet went viral, prompting the campaign, according to The Guardian.
Ishikawa told reporters after a recent meeting with ministry officials, “Today we submitted a petition calling for the introduction of laws banning employers from forcing women to wear heels as sexual discrimination or harassment.” She added that a female government official had said she was “sympathetic to our petition.”
A similar petition against mandating high heels at work was signed by more than 150,000 people in the UK, according to The Guardian, when receptionist Nicola Thorp was sent home by accounting firm PwC on her first day of work in May 2016 for wearing flats.
In 2015, the director of the Cannes film festival apologized in the wake of a controversy over women being denied access to the red carpet for not wearing high heels, according to The Guardian. The festival kept the dress code, despite a protest from Julia Roberts, who went barefoot the next year.
Read the full story at The Guardian.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a plan to invest around $1 billion annually to support the health of women and girls around the world, saying, “All women, no matter where they live, should have access to the safe, quality health care they need.”
Speaking at the Women Deliver conference in Vancouver on Tuesday, he said, “By investing in sexual and reproductive health rights and maternal, newborn, and child health, we can build a more just, equal, and prosperous world.”
Starting in 2023, around $527 million of the annual investment will be allocated to sexual and reproductive health rights, The Hill reports.
The investment comes at a time when a number of U.S. states are moving to severely restrict or ban abortion. Trudeau has spoken out about the movement, saying, “Obviously we are deeply disappointed by the backsliding on women’s rights that we’re seeing in some places around the world, including some American states.”
He added that Canada “unequivocally” supports a woman’s right to choose.
Watch video of Trudeau’s 2017 appearance at the Women in the World Summit below.
Read the full story at The Hill.
In a candid and wide-ranging interview with Variety, Ellen Pompeo and Taraji P. Henson opened up about the obstacles they’ve faced in their acting careers, including pay inequity and difficult environments on set.
Pompeo, who stars as Meredith Grey on the ABC series Grey’s Anatomy, discussed the challenges of doing 15 seasons of the show. “The first 10 years we had serious culture issues, very bad behavior, really toxic work environment,” she said. “But after Season 10, we had some big shifts in front of the camera, behind the camera. It became my goal to have an experience there that I could be happy and proud about, because we had so much turmoil for 10 years. My mission became, this can’t be fantastic to the public and a disaster behind the scenes.”
So she and the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, decided to address the situation and “rewrite the ending of this story,” Pompeo said. “That’s what’s kept me.”
She noted that actor Patrick Dempsey left the show in Season 11, saying, “The studio and network believed the show could not go on without the male lead. So I had a mission to prove that it could. I was on a double mission.”
Henson, who plays fan favorite Cookie Lyon on the Fox series Empire, discussed the decision to take the role, describing her mixed feelings when she first read the pilot. “I thought, the NAACP, they’re going to get me for this one,” she said, explaining that Cookie “calls one son who’s gay the F-bomb, and she beats one son with a broom. This is something that has never been shown on national television — certainly not by a black woman. When you’re a person of color, you have to be careful about the roles you pick. You want to uplift the people. Once I got past the fear, I was able to really see her.”
Pompeo replied, “I think that Caucasian actresses don’t understand the nuanced struggles that you have as a black woman, and the roles you choose — what you’re sidestepping, what you want to make sure gets out there. It’s a whole different layer of difficulty that I certainly didn’t understand when I started my show.”
Both women talked about pay as well, with Henson saying pay in Hollywood isn’t necessarily about talent. “It’s about money: Are you bankable? I had to continuously prove that,” she said. “I’ve been trying to prove and improve. I was asking for half a million. I didn’t get paid that until I did my first Tyler Perry film. He was the first person who paid me $500,000. I was never in a position where I could not take a job. By the grace of God, they have all been really good characters. But it was never a situation where I was like, I’m not going to do that. Now, I’m finally there.”
When Henson asked Pompeo if she and Dempsey got paid the same when the show began, Pompeo said, “He was being paid almost double what I was in the beginning.”
Read the full story at Variety.