Global Roundup: Menstrual Cup Initiative in Kerala, Women Train Drivers in Saudi Arabia, Senegalese Champion of Women’s Rights, Women-Created Rwandan Genocide Film, Yemeni Women Building Peace
Curated by FG Contributor Inaara Merani
Photo via NewsHamster.
Kerala will become the first state in India to allocate funding towards menstrual health, particularly for purchasing menstruation cups for all women residents. This act to support peoples’ use of menstruation cups is part of the state’s annual plan, premised on the idea that sanitary napkins can harm the environment and are not cost-effective for low-income people.
Every month, families in Kerala set aside between 350 to 500 rupees to purchase menstruation products, including sanitary napkins. The cost of menstruating can have damaging impacts on people living in low-income contexts.
The sanitary pads also cause environmental issues as we don’t know a proper method to dispose them yet. To resolve these both issues at once, we decided to introduce the menstrual cup to the women in the panchayat. As the life expectancy of a menstrual cup is around 10 years, the family need not spend a large amount of money every month. – KA Jaya, President of the Palakuzha Panchayau in the Ernakulum district
This initiative will be carried out by the local panchayat (council), in partnership with local actors such as the Kudumbashree Gender Resource Centre. For the upcoming year, 26,000 rupees have been set aside to fund this project. The initial phase of the project will see 100 menstrual cups donated to women within the panchayat. The distribution of menstrual cups will be accompanied by an awareness campaign to educate people on using a menstrual cup, and overall menstrual health.
Around 80 women have already registered for the project, and the panchayat will be conducting a door-to-door campaign to encourage menstruators to learn about the advantages of menstrual cups.
Driver Raneem Azzouz takes her seat at the helm of a high-speed train ferrying pilgrims to Mecca, less than five years after Saudi authorities gave women the right to drive road vehicles - Copyright AFP Amer HILABI. Photo via Digital Journal.
Women in Saudi Arabia were granted the legal right to drive in 2018. The number of women in the Saudi workforce has more than doubled since 2016, and the number of women joining the workforce continues to increase. Saudi Arabia’s Haramain High Speed Railway is one of many companies that created openings for women seeking employment.
Last year, applications for women drivers for the high-speed railway opened; roughly 28,000 women applied for the 32 available positions. This marks the first time that women have ever driven high-speed trains in Saudi Arabia.
However, the unemployment rate for Saudi women is still quite high. Last year, Saudi women’s unemployment rate reached 20.5 percent, compared to 4.3 percent for Saudi men. Although many companies have made allocations for women new to the workforce, there is an extreme shortage of jobs for women interested in the changing Saudi economy.
The challenge has shifted…from encouraging women to join the workforce, to creating a sufficient number of jobs to employ the thousands of Saudi women entering the workforce every quarter. – Meshal Alkhowaiter, Saudi economist
Many people are still critical of women’s move from the fields which had traditionally been the only ones open to them, like education and medicine. It remains to be seen whether rules introduced in recent years barring workplace gender discrimination and easing dress code restrictions can help women overcome barriers to their joining the workforce.
The battle for Saudi women still remains large, and the change that is needed must come from the government, businesses, and Saudi Arabian society at large.
Senegal’s Bineta Diop (pictured above) is known from coast to coast as perhaps Africa’s most formidable fighter for women’s rights and their empowerment. Group Publisher Omar Ben Yedder met her during the recent Africa Industrialisation Week in Niamey, Niger, for this exclusive interview with one of Africa’s most extraordinary campaigners. Photo via New African.
Bineta Diop is known throughout the African continent as one of the most dedicated and passionate fighters for women’s rights and empowerment. Her mother was Marèma Lô, leader of the women’s movement in the Socialist Party of Senegal and one of the continent’s early feminists who was insistent on her four daughters pursuing an education.
Growing up, Diop saw her mother fight for women’s rights and amplify women’s voices, and she knew that she wanted to do the same as she got older. She studied business and international relations in Paris and then spent over a decade working at the International Commission of Jurists, a human rights NGO in Geneva. In 1996, Diop created Femmes Africa Solidarité, an NGO dedicated to preventing and resolving conflicts in Africa and empowering women for leadership in peace-building.
I was doing this work in Asia, in Latin America working with another mentor, Neal McDermott, on issues of human rights. And I wanted to make a difference back home, like my mother had. I’m passionate about women’s rights. It’s transforming society. We can have the Agenda 2063 or Agenda 2030 but as long as we don’t consider women as equal, we will be missing a lot…Women and youth have to be at the centre, at the core. – Bineta Diop
For the last eight years, Diop has been the Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission on Women, Peace and Security. Although she feels that her time in an institutionalized capacity is coming to an end, she will continue to fight and advocate for African women’s rights.
For me, I believe Africa has to take ownership of our destiny. With all that we have seen at the multilateral level, it is time we realise that we need to develop ourselves. No one will come and develop us. That is the reality and we are facing it now. – Bineta Diop
FEMINIST GIANT is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Eliane Umuhire, right, as the shaman Bazigaga, and Ery Nzaramba and Maély Mahavande as the pastor and his daughter who take refuge with her as the genocide rages. Photograph via Handout/The Guardian.
Hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were murdered because of their identity in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Joy Ingabire Moys’s family were among those targeted. Her father, two of his children and a cousin were killed; Ingabire Moys, two other siblings and her mother survived.
Her 14-year-old neighbour, Arifa, a Hutu, was the only neighbour to check on the family. She brought them supplies until they could escape from the city and helped bury their dead.
Ingabire Moys tells the story of the Rwandan genocide 30 years later in her new film Bazigaga.
The film will explore the story of a Tutsi pastor and his young daughter who find shelter in the hut of a feared Hutu shaman, Bazigaga. It is inspired by the true story of Zura Karuhimbi, a Hutu woman who saved more than 100 people during the genocide and was believed to have supernatural powers. The film is also a tribute to all the Rwandan women who helped Moys along her journey.
I was fascinated by the role of women in the genocide…Often you hear stories of women being victims, which they were, but I was interested in the other side. I felt like that’s the story I could tell. I thought this was a great opportunity to pay homage to the Rwandan women who saved many lives, including my own. – Ingabire Moys
At the age of 25, Moys visited the Rwandan genocide memorial which is when she learned of Karuhimbi’s story. After living in the UK for the past 11 years, she wanted to reconnect with her family history. She began to explore the relationship between the pastor and the shaman, which she believes parallels the Hutu-Tutsi conflict.
The film was made in 2020 during the pandemic and shot on Réunion, an island in the Indian Ocean; filming in Rwanda was not an option due to the country’s restrictions. The short film has now been nominated for a Bafta award.
Ola al-Afghbary is the Founder and Executive Director of the Sheba Youth Foundation for Development (Heba Naji/UN Women). Photo via the Interpreter.
The conflict in Yemen, often referred to as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, is now entering its ninth year. Last year, the United Nations mediated a truce, but women and marginalized peoples still remained largely excluded from peace negotiations. In light of this, Yemeni women have engaged in local peacebuilding efforts, demonstrating that the power lies within the people.
Throughout history, women have frequently been excluded from peacebuilding discussions, usually only viewed as victims and never as change-makers. Despite being excluded institutionally, Yemeni women have been very active in local peacebuilding efforts.
Ola al-Aghbary is the founder and CEO of the Sheba Youth Foundation for Development, a civil society organization which empowers youth and women to actively participate in peacebuilding efforts in Yemen. She also created community-led conflict resolution councils in the southwestern city of Taiz. Aghbary is one of the many women working at the local-level to initiate peace discussions and amplify the voices of marginalized peoples.
The women of Yemen do not only want peace, which is what the current discussions are facilitating; they want the oppressive structures that contribute to gender-based violence to be dismantled.
Inaara Merani (she/her) recently completed her Masters degree at the University of Western Ontario, studying Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a specialization in Transitional Justice. In the upcoming years, she hopes to attend law school, focusing her career in human rights law.
Inaara is deeply passionate about dismantling patriarchal institutions to ensure women and other marginalized populations have safe and equal access to their rights. She believes in the power of knowledge and learning from others, and hopes to continue to learn from others throughout her career.