Thomson Reuters Foundation

tw most of this article is white non-swers speaking over swers of colour.

Sex workers’ groups in India say not all women in the trade are victims or trafficked sex slaves
By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI, Jan 31 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Sex workers in India have slammed a global conference on the abolition of prostitution, saying campaigners for the end of the sex trade failed to recognise some women were prostitutes out of choice and not due to coercion, trafficking or force.

Participants at the Delhi conference - including former sex workers from South Africa, Canada, India and the United States - have been sharing stories of sexual slavery and calling for an end to prostitution by punishing clients, pimps and traffickers.

But sex workers’ groups in India said there was a difference between voluntary sex work and sexual exploitation, and that not all women in the trade are victims or trafficked sex slaves.

“We are against anyone who does not recognise us as human beings who can take our own decisions,” said Kiran Deshmukh, a sex worker from Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad, a collective of sex workers from India’s western state of Maharashtra.

“Making us victims with no agency is a violation of our human right to work in sex work. By ‘abolishing’ us they are not helping us - they are ignoring our need to work and earn a living with dignity.”


Albino Children in Tanzania Targeted by Body Part Hunters

Children born with albinism in Tanzania live in constant danger of being attacked by people looking to profit from superstitious beliefs. About one in 20,000 people is born with albinism, lacking pigment in their hair, skin, and eyes. In Tanzania, according to reporting from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, albino body parts are highly valued in witchcraft and can fetch a high price: “Superstition leads many to believe albino children are ghosts who bring bad luck. Some believe the limbs are more potent if the victims scream during amputation, according to a 2013 United Nations report.” Reuters also notes, “The United Nations estimates about 75 albinos have been killed in the east African nation since 2000 and have voiced fears of rising attacks ahead of this year’s election, as politicians seek good luck charms from witch doctors.“ Reuters photographer Carlo Allegri recently documented the lives of several Tanzanian children receiving care in New York after being brutalized in their home country.

Meet Arunachalam Muruganantham, the man who risked everything he had to improve women’s health in rural India. Muruganantham was saddened to learn that most women and girls in his community couldn’t afford sanitary napkins and abandoned their daily routines such as school and work during menstruation. He invented a machine to make low-cost sanitary towels and sold the machines to women-managed self-help groups who now work as manufacturers, sellers and customers.

“To all the women across the globe, do not forget the power god has gifted you with. Take that power and believe in yourself more than anything.” He said. “You [women] are the glue that binds people together; you have the power to bring peace into this world.”

Read more via Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Gillian Anderson campaigns against modern slavery

In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Hollywood actress Gillian Anderson has said that slavery is alive and well in every city in the world.

She said modern slavery was a $150bn business and urged governments and big business to do more to ensure there was no slave labour in supply chains.

She appeared with Monique Villa, CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation and organiser of the international Trust Women Conference in London.

Ms Anderson also talked about her role in Sold, a film based on the true story of a survivor who was trafficked from Nepal to a Kolkata brothel as a young child.
Here's How Cuba Is Fighting Homophobia... With Music
"Through music we fight for our rights," a lesbian hip-hop duo says.

According to Odaymara Cuesta from the lesbian Cuban hip-hop band Krudas Cubensi, there’s a gay person in every family in Cuba. But a lot needs to change in Cuba before its lesbian,gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens are able to expose their true identity without fear of discrimination in an island nation once notoriously hostile toward them, she said.

“Cuba is a very misogynistic country and it’s hard to be a lesbian or queer person here,” Cuesta told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Havana. “Even though the new generation is more open and tolerant, we need to be better educated about same-sex relationships and LGBT rights.”

In the early years after 1959 revolution, homosexuality was seen as counter-revolutionary and Cuba’s socialist rulers sent gay people to correctional labor camps.


TW for child marriage

How Morocco’s Islamic Women Preachers Are Leading A Social Revolution

“Girls are “like a timebomb ready to explode and ruin the family’s reputation,” the Moroccan jewelry trader tells his customer as she admires a display of necklaces.

The solution is to “get rid of this bomb” by marrying your daughters off as soon as you can, he explains.

His customer, Hannane, replies firmly that Islam does not advocate child marriage and that women can also play an important role outside the home.

Hannane is one of a new generation of female religious leaders, known as morchidat – part of a quiet social revolution in the North African country.

Their groundbreaking work is the subject of a British film, “Casablanca Calling,” which will be showcased on Tuesday night at an international conference on child marriage in Morocco’s famous port city.

The morchidat were introduced in 2006, partly in an attempt to counter Islamist radicalism following suicide bombings that rocked Casablanca in 2003.

The hope is that these female spiritual leaders can both encourage a more tolerant Islam and improve the position of girls and women in Moroccan society.

“The morchidat are a rare experiment in the Muslim world,” the film’s Moroccan associate producer Merieme Addou told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“It’s the first time in a Muslim country that a religious role has been given to a woman.”

The morchidat give guidance to women and young people in mosques, schools, orphanages, hospitals, prisons and rural villages.

But Addou says they have their work cut out as they try to overcome the many problems facing Moroccan society.

“So many cultural traditions – from early marriage to women’s education - have become confused with religious teaching and it is challenge to separate them in people’s minds,” she adds.”

Read the full piece and watch the video here

Narotan Singh didn’t think there was anything wrong with staring and commenting on the attire of his female passengers, until he took a class on gender sensitivity. “We used to think ‘I only had a little look at what she was wearing’ or 'I only made that comment for her own good’ but now we realize that it’s really none of our business and we should not judge women, but respect them.”

Singh is one of 40,000 auto-rickshaw drivers in Delhi who participated in the course created by the charity Manas Foundation to challenge attitudes about gender equality.

Read more via Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Hundreds of nuns trained in Kung Fu are biking the Himalayas to oppose human trafficking
This is the fourth such journey they have made to spread messages of gender equality, peaceful co-existence and respect for the environment.
By Nita Bhalla, Reuters

“When we were doing relief work in Nepal after the earthquakes last year, we heard how girls from poor families were being sold because their parents could not afford to keep them anymore,” 22-year-old nun Jigme Konchok Lhamo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We wanted to do something to change this attitude that girls are less than boys and that it’s okay to sell them,” she said, adding that the bicycle trek shows “women have power and strength like men.”

More here.

A horrifying story out of India: a 24-year-old woman is recovering after pimps allegedly beat, branded and chopped off her breasts because she refused to be sold for sex. The woman was trafficked to Bhiwandi, where a female brothel owner and two other men tried to force her into prostitution. Police have arrested the brothel owner and are looking for the other two suspects. 

Read more via Thomson Reuters Foundation.


All across the world, males are advocating for gender equality in powerful and unique ways. Here are five extraordinary examples:

-Mali singer Bafing Kul, who writes anti-female genital mutilation messages into his lyrics. 

-Plastic surgeon Dr. Mohammad Jawad, who repairs facial injuries of Pakistani women survivors of acid attacks.

-Ziauddin Yousafzai, who travels the world with his daughter, Malala, to advocate for female education.

-Arunachalam Muruganantham, who prevented women living in rural India from having to endure social restrictions during menstruation by inventing a machine that makes low-cost sanitary pads.

-Reverend Timothy Njoya, a Kenyan cleric who founded Men for the Equality of Men and Women to challenge men’s perceptions of what it means to be a man in his country. 

Read more about these men via Thomson Reuters Foundation.  

Santadevi Meghwal, a 19-year-old woman from India, has defied tradition and rejected a marriage arranged when she was just a baby. “I was 11 months old when I was married off,” she said. “I want to study and become a teacher.”

Meghwal now faces a fine of $25,000 for rejecting the marriage. She is working with a local charity to bring legal action against the village council who imposed the fine.

Read more via Thomson Reuters Foundation

Education activist Malala Yousafzai called on world leaders to give 12 years of free schooling to every child following the ‪#‎WorldEducationForum‬ in South Korea, saying this was critical for girls.

“Every day my sisters all over the world are fighting to take their place in the classroom,” said Malala. “They want to be the best they can be and give back to their communities and the world.”

Read more via Thomson Reuters Foundation

Lejla Damon was born on Christmas Day 21 years ago. It should have been one of the happiest days for her mother. But outside the confines of the hospital in Bosnia, a brutal war raged on. Lejla’s mother, a Bosnian Muslim, had been raped by a Serb - one of up to 20,000 women raped during Bosnia’s 1992-95 ethnic war. After her mother agreed to give her up for adoption, Lejla was adopted by two British journalists and brought to Britain where she grew up.

Today, Lejla is a spirited young woman who has just finished a degree in advertising and has returned to Bosnia several times to research the impact of a war that has killed over 100,000 people for a documentary. Not long after filming wrapped up, she found out that her birth mother wants to meet her.“Do you still feel the same as you did 21 years ago?” Lejla wants to ask her birth mother. “Do you know who raped you? Have you been able to move on with your life?”

Read more via Thomson Reuters Foundation.

16-year-old Alvina Noel died giving birth several days after she was forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM). In an effort to crack down on the practice, Kenya has launched a hotline to rescue girls from FGM and child marriages, as well as a prosecution unit to prosecute the crimes.

Christine Nanjala, head of the anti-FGM prosecution unit hopes the hotline will speed up the department’s work. “The line is on 24-7,” said Nanjala. “Any time you make a report, (a staff member) will attend to it, document it and then we react.” 

The unit has already charged two guardians with the murder of a 13-year-old Maasai girl who bled to death in April after being cut and is also investigating Alvina’s death.

Read more via Thomson Reuters Foundation

Afghan refugee teacher Aqeela Asifi has dedicated her life to educating children in Pakistan despite the challenges and minimal resources. She guided a thousand refugee girls through their primary education and has been honored with the 2015 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.

“When you have mothers who are educated, you will almost certainly have future generations who are educated,” she said.

Read more via Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Reports of crimes against women in India increased by 26.7 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year. Now India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh wants to set up special police units across the country to properly investigate and ensure speedy justice for survivors. A third of the officers will be women to help instill confidence and encourage more women to come forward.

Read more via Thomson Reuters Foundation

Eight years after Nepal’s civil war ended, hundreds of rape survivors still suffer in fear and silence with no access to justice, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports. Activists called on the government to take action to encourage women to come forward and to scrap a legal requirement that rapes be reported within 35 days. 

“Justice and reparations for women who suffered sexual assault is long overdue unfinished business from the civil war,” says HRW South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly.

Read more via Thomson Reuters Foundation.