Aida is 14 years old and a survivor of the Taliban assaults in northeast Afghanistan, near Kunduz, the city the Taliban attacked at the end of September and the United States bombed on Oct. 3.
“I cannot go to my school or the center where my college entrance exam study program takes place. Nobody is letting their daughters go to school or other places now because it is not safe,” Aida wrote. “For instance, one day I took my books and I went to my school to catch up with my lessons, but there was hardly anyone in the streets, especially not girls. I thought there would be many students when I went to school that day, but there were only two teachers and a cleaning woman. When they saw me and my sister, they started laughing at us. I was so disappointed.”
She continued, “I asked one of my teachers why there were no students and if we could study. She said ‘You are crazy.’ She said I should not come to school because the security situation is the worst ever. My sister and I left and went home. I miss my school and my classmates. I miss my lessons. I want my school to start again.”
A woman in Iraq, believe it or not, established an “underground railroad” for women fleeing ISIS, the sect best known for posting videos of public beheadings and off-camera kidnapping, raping and selling women. Yanar Mohammed has spent the last year keeping the shelters open and safe from police and government officials, who treat them as if they were illegal. She recently appealed to the United Nations to help, but has yet to hear back. The number of Iraqi women kidnapped by the militant group has climbed to 4,000, of which 3,000 come from the Yazidi religious community in northern Iraq, she said. For two years, ISIS has been organizing a systematic campaign of human enslavement and the trafficking of women and girls to fund themselves, including in government-controlled areas. The Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq runs eight shelters in Baghdad, Karbala and Samarra harboring over 50 women. Mohammed estimates that the number of women who have fled ISIS is close to 15,000 right now. The organization plans to open another shelter soon for Yazidi women, a minority in Iraq whom are major target of ISIS.
The participants in Di Ding Hua are all female domestic workers, most in the "middle years," 30 to 50 years old. The theater began four years ago when Yan Chengmei joined the Home for Female Migrant Workers in Beijing. There, she began to think about a forum for domestic workers to tell their stories. In short order, the domestic workers began gathering in an office turned into a rehearsal space on Saturdays, their one day off, to learn theater technique and to write and stage stories about their "bitterness and happiness," said Yan. The name Di Ding Hua comes from a tiny purple wildflower, described in a signature poem written by an early participant: "Earth flower … scatter petals to the ground, you refuse to be mediocre, keep pursuing the dream … always striving to be stronger.”
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, an autonomous court in Costa Rica, hears allegations of human rights violations in the Americas and Caribbean. Four female judges served out of its total 35 since its establishment in 1979. After she heard complaints from other attorneys, Viviana Krsticevic, executive director for the Center for Justice and International Law, did a little research. Even the official court of the United Nations has only had four female judges out of 106 since it launched in 1945. Meanwhile, Krsticevic found that the Geneva-based International Criminal Court, formally established in 2002, makes the others look good by comparison: women hold 14 of its 40 posts. Its office of prosecutors is now lead by a woman, Fatou Bensouda.
Krsticevic says that these courts “are deciding issues of war and peace, genocide, on the scope of human rights protections and it is troubling that women would not be a part of those decisions."
Not one to let sleeping gender bias lie, Krsticevic's Center for Justice and International Law launched the "Campaign for Gender Parity in International Representation," or GQUAL. The campaign's first stop was the United Nations headquarters on Sept. 17 during the General Assembly plenary session. Ambassadors to the U.N. from Argentina, Costa Rica, Norway, Panama and Sweden signed a pledge at the event to nominate an equal number of men and women whenever the opportunity arises.
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