Global Roundup: Türkiye Women's Post-Earthquake Resilience, Spain Masked Feminist Rally, Afghan Women Medical Students Underground, Kenya Fishwerwomen, Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage in Estonia
Curated by FG Contributor Inaara Merani
Participants are holding UN Women kits that contain sanitary products and basic supplies for women at the Young Women Support Center in Malatya. Photo: The Community Volunteers Foundation
Young women in Türkiye have found resilience and empowerment through a program that provides gender equality training for women affected by earthquakes. In the aftermath of the earthquakes that disrupted Turkish societies in Kahramanmaraş in February 2023, this program has become a strategic and useful tool in advancing gender equality in Türkiye.
Created by the Community Volunteers Foundation (TOG) in partnership with UN Women, the Gender Equality Mainstreaming Program is an 18-month training program, for youth aged 17 to 25, which aims to raise awareness about topics such as gender equality, positive discrimination, nonviolent communication, safe relationships, the women's movement, fundamental gender concepts, methods of combating violence, and more.
Though this program existed prior to the earthquakes, last year's natural disaster prompted the TOG to reevaluate gender disparities and gender equality progress. The organization’s analysis revealed that the Kahramanmaraş region was experiencing significant disparities, including low women's employment rate, high rates of informal employment in agriculture, widespread early and child marriages, and a severe lack of women's representation and participation in local government.
We observed that there is an increased burden on young women in the aftermath of the earthquakes. Young women found themselves taking on the care responsibilities for the elderly, disabled and children. This, in turn, made it challenging for them to continue their education or pursue employment. Moreover, they lost spaces for socializing. To address these issues, we established support centers for the psychosocial well-being of affected youth, particularly young women. – Hazal Günel, Gender Equality Programs Specialist at TOG
In collaboration with the Unilever-owned hair care brand, Elidor, the TOG established Young Women Support Centres in Adiyaman, Hatay, Kahramanmaraş, and Malatya to promote gender equality in a number of ways. In addition to the training program, these centres have provided spaces for young women to study, socialize, engage in activities, and increase their awareness on gender equality and how to empower themselves and one another.
As part of the Gender Equality Mainstreaming Program, 300 young individuals will receive training in the coming months.
A group of feminist activists in Spain gathered this week in Madrid outside the Ministry of Equality building to protest the systemic oppression that women battle daily. Dressed in white dresses and masks, this symbolic protest was not just a statement, it was a call for societal change.
The protesters revealed a chilling statistic during their rally: 100 women in Spain were killed in 2023 because of their gender, yet only 55 of these murders were acknowledged in the government's official reports. This discrepancy fuelled the activists' cause.
This rally is part of a larger movement in Spain, which calls for women's rights and gender equality. The rally also served as a platform to raise awareness and to push for progress about current issues impacting women in Spain such as gender-based violence, wage disparities, and reproductive rights.
Lima and her classmates from medical school before the ban on women's further education was ordered in Afghanistan a year ago [Al Jazeera].
Since the Taliban banned women and girls from attending school in Afghanistan, millions have paid the price. Young women and girls across the country have been forced to stay home, away from education and the workforce, and many are being pressured to marry young. Women across the country, however, have found a way to meet in secret in order to carry out their studies despite the Taliban's restrictions.
Last December, when the Taliban banned higher education for women, thousands of women's studies were abruptly interrupted. Women who qualified as doctors, nurses, and other medical workers were permitted to continue working, but no new women were permitted to enter any professional fields or undertake training.
Lima, who had a lifelong dream to practice medicine, was just weeks away from completing medical school when the ban was instituted and has since been unable to finish her schooling. Like many other women, her hard work was cut short, but she has not given up. Many women in Afghanistan have managed to work around the restrictions, continuing to study online or on their own, and finding secret internships and residency opportunities.
It’s like a refreshment for my studies, for my knowledge. This is the best way for me to do something for my goals. – Noor, Kabul medical student
While these secret study sessions, internships, and residencies have advanced Afghan women medical students' training and skills, the path forward and is still slightly unclear. These opportunities are costly and are unofficial – there is no way to know how this might end for these students. Despite the outcome, these women are determined to finish their schooling and training by any means necessary.
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Amina Ahmed (centre), known as ' Mama Octopus', and some of the fisherwomen she leads. Photograph: Peter Muiruri. (The Guardian)
Off Kenya's remote Pate Island in the Lamu archipelago, a team of fisherwomen is led by Amina Ahmed, otherwise known as "Mama Pweza" (mama octopus). The women are from the nearby Shanga-lshakani village, and these brave women entered this profession as a means of improving their families' livelihoods.
The women have also helped preserve stretches of the ocean from over-exploitation and coral degradation. They did this by closing off an octopus fishery for four months - one which is a critical source of food and income in the area. Due to illegal and destructive fishing methods, reefs and nesting sites have been over-exploited and damaged, leading to a decline in fishing populations, and thus has negatively impacted the local human population.
Defying local customs, the women that work with Mama Pweza have demonstrated that not only men can fish and not only women can take care of domestic duties - it can work both ways. Additionally, their efforts have shown how women can contribute productive and innovative solutions. Now, for every octopus sold, 30 shillings are saved by the women's association. The group has already collected enough to build a nursery school, and to purchase two fishing boats to access fishing grounds farther offshore.
We work with men to restore damaged coral so that our fishing sites can be more productive. A healthy coral means even the men will find more fish. So everybody benefits. – Amina Ahmed
Estonian president Lauri Hussar (third from left) at Baltic Pride 2023, which was held in Tallinn, Estonia (Facebook). (Pink News)
Last year in June, Estonia became the first former Soviet republic to legalize same-sex marriage after a 55 to 34 vote in the nations parliament. On New Year's Day this year, the law officially came me into force.
Laws provide clarity and influence our attitudes. I hope that unfounded fears will recede and that critics of this decision will realise that what is being taken away is not something that is being taken away, but something very important that is being added for many of us. – Signe Riisalo, Estonia's minister of social protection.
LGBTQ+ couples in Estonia can now register their marriage applications online, a historic first for the country. Prior to this, couples were able to register for civil unions, but were never permitted to legally wed. It is believed that the first applications will be processed and certified by early February.
Many local and regional political and social leaders have lauded the nation's progressive decision. Estonia's newly implemented law is in stark contrast to its nearby neighbor, Russia, which has recently cracked down on same-sex activity and LGBTQ+ content and programming. After the law was passed in June, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas sent a message to other Central European nations emphasizing the importance of promoting love and marriage, while also recognizing that it would be a difficult road ahead.
For the LGBT+ community, it is a very important message from the government that says, finally, we are as equal as other couples, that we are valuable and entitled to the same services and have the same options. — Keio Soomelt, project manager for the Baltic Pride festival.
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.