Despite the obstacles, women are the future of our planet

Despite the obstacles, women are the future of our planet

Despite the obstacles, women are the future of our planet
Protesters call on the UN to take action against the treatment of women in Iran on November 19, 2022. (AFP File)

Women have made great strides globally to secure greater rights, respect, and opportunities, despite theocrats in states like Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Iraq doing everything they can to reverse this arrow of history.

In a double whammy for women, the Taliban have barred them from both university education and NGO work, in addition to a previous ban on them attending secondary school. In addition to being a crippling setback to women’s life chances, the exclusion of so many breadwinners—the half of the population who should be economically active—is a catastrophe for a country already in economic freefall. Around 150 humanitarian agencies have already suspended their operations following the loss of a significant proportion of their workforce.

It is impossible to overstate the dehumanizing psychological impact suffered by professional women who rose from senior positions overseeing sizeable teams of staff to being imprisoned in their homes, forced to cover themselves from head to toe, and surviving at the whims of male tutors, with all hopes summarily turned off, as if they were nothing. The women say it’s like their souls have been ripped out.

Despite the fact that Islam calls for women to be educated and respected, the regressive theocrats in Afghanistan and Iran simply hate women and seek to exclude them from the public sphere.

In Iran, women-led protests have raged for months against a regime bent on repressing both male and female citizens. Every one of those poor innocent executed men has mothers, sisters, wives, who are now suffering the utmost agony. Some detainees have gone on hunger strike to protest the lack of medical care and subhuman conditions. A quarter of the world’s imprisoned women journalists are held in Iranian prisons.

The situation for female prisoners has also reached crisis levels in Lebanon, where detained mothers have no access to formula or medication. A high proportion have not even seen their cases, with almost 80 percent of the prison population in pretrial detention. Prison occupancy across the country is 323 percent unsustainable.

Thousands of families have already fled Lebanon and experts warn of a collapse in the birth rate as women choose “optional infertility” because having children has become unaffordable. Between 2017 and 2021, births decreased by 25 percent. With the value of the Lebanese pound collapsing, the average cost of delivering a baby is over $800, assuming there are no complications. Young families must bear the costs of diapers, milk, medicines, and immunizations, if such items are available.

Despite more than 80 percent of the population living in extreme poverty, less than 5 percent of Lebanese households receive government assistance. About 80 percent have a member who has lost their job since 2019. Women were typically the first to be excluded, as businesses relentlessly downsized.

Meanwhile, entities such as Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen and Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi in Iraq have vigorously sought to deny the intrinsic role of women in the region’s vibrant cultural heritage, while trying to turn these nations into carbon copies. dysfunctional groups of the Islamic Republic. Women activists and journalists have been terrorized and murdered by gangsters seeking to exclude women from their deserved roles in society.

Throughout Africa, Daesh and Al-Qaeda have brutally repressed women in areas under their control, in conflict with the strong roles that matriarchs have typically played in many traditional African societies.

In Ukraine, each side in the conflict has suffered some 100,000 casualties, inflicting unimaginable suffering on countless homes. With Ukrainian men deployed to icy fronts, wives and children have scattered across Europe to face precarious futures.

Elsewhere, however, there is a proliferation of enormously exciting opportunities for women. In Saudi Arabia, female participation in the workplace has doubled in five years, from 17 to 34 percent. Last week, the Kingdom appointed its fourth and fifth female ambassadors following the path blazed by Princess Reema bint Bandar, the ambassador to Washington. A Saudi women’s national soccer team has been established over the past year, and last week FIFA appointed Saudi Arabia’s first female international referee, Anoud Al-Asmari.

The freedoms and rights that women enjoy are precious and vulnerable and should never be taken for granted, especially when Hezbollah, Daesh, the Ayatollahs and the Taliban are working so hard to turn back the clock.

baria alamuddin

I was recently in Bahrain, where I found a climate of irrepressible optimism about the opportunities that were opening up for women. Girls dominate many faculties at the region’s universities and excel in key subject areas. A new generation of female role models demonstrates how women can lead and set the highest standards. In this context, I am immensely proud of my friend, the lawyer and academic Prof. Rangita de Silva de Alwis, for having been elected to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in June.

The biggest battle we have to fight is against passivity and disconnection. When I was a student at the American University of Beirut, hardly a month went by without us mobilizing on behalf of one global cause or another. Maybe we were naive, maybe we couldn’t have the impact we hoped for, but we were passionate and believed in our duty to try to change the world.

Such aspirations are rare these days. Israel’s far-right leaders can hardly keep quiet about their ambitions to gobble up every square inch of Palestinian territory, but where is the Arab world? Where is the democratic West? Where are the Palestinians themselves?

Iranian women burned their hijabs in extraordinary acts of bravery, but the world can hardly muster the motivation to follow the events, let alone take action or affirm our solidarity and common commitment to freedom from tyranny.

The freedoms that women in fortunate parts of the world already enjoy were not freely given to us. Historic women activists risked jail, disgrace, or even death to win the right to vote, to work, to participate in government, and to win our rightful place as equals and sometimes superior to men. Self-confidence is a crucial factor in preparing women to seize their well-deserved opportunities with both hands.

The freedoms and rights that women enjoy are precious and vulnerable and should never be taken for granted, especially when Hezbollah, Daesh, the Ayatollahs and the Taliban are working so hard to turn back the clock.

Our surest means of protecting our own privileges and opportunities is to do everything in our power to ensure that our sisters around the world can live similarly blessed existences, for no society on earth can prosper unless its women are empowered. to fully play its role.

Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is an editor for Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News.

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