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Global Roundup: Zimbabwe Domestic Workers Repatriated After Abuse in Oman, Taliban Deal Two Blows to Women and Girls Rights in Afghanistan, Egypt Clinic for Survivors of FGM
Curated by FG intern Sayge Urban
Via New Zimbabwe
There are reports of several Zimbabwean women currently trapped in Oman in abusive working conditions under the Kafala visa sponsorship system. The Kafala system of employment is an arrangement that ties domestic workers to their employers who bring them to Oman to work from other surrounding areas. It prohibits the workers to leave before their contracts expire, tying the workers to the employers with no means of escape.
Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the United Arab of Emirates (UAE) told media that the women are underpaid, forced to work 18 hour days, not allowed to leave their houses, denied sufficient food and have had their passports taken away.
Some of the challenges that they are facing include working for between 15 to 18 hours per day with no rest; no off days even when one is sick; salaries are not paid in full or on time; being forced to work for large extended families’ confiscation of passports by employers; physical assaults and verbal abuses; confinement to the house for long periods of time; denial of adequate food as well as the inability to leave an employer and work for another one before the end of their two-year contracts. - Lovemore Mazemo, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the UAE
The Kafala system has been described as abusive and exploitative by Human Rights Watch which has proposed the abolishment of the system. Nick Mangwana, Zimbabwe’s information secretary, has said that the Zimbabwean government is working to repatriate the women.
Government is seized with the issue of repatriating 30 Zimbabwean ladies who traveled to Oman to work as domestic workers under a ‘sponsorship’ programme known as the Rafaela system. This is servitude and the public is warned against traveling to work under this arrangement. It’s slavery. - Nick Mangwana, Zimbabwe’s information secretary
Photo via Toronto Star
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers refused to allow dozens of women to board several flights on Friday, including some overseas, because they were traveling without a male guardian. The women were left displaced at Kabul international airport after being denied entry onto their flights, both international and domestic.
Some of the women detained were dual nationals returning to their homes overseas. By Saturday, some of the women had been given permission to board the planes, however by the time permission was granted, they had already missed their flights.
The airport president and police chief, both from the Taliban and both Islamic clerics, planned to meet with airline officials on Saturday. It is unclear whether the Taliban will accept air travel in the future for women, following the order issued months ago in which women traveling more than 72 kilometers are required to be accompanied by a male relative.
Infuriating many Afghans is the knowledge that many of the Taliban of the younger generation are educating their girls in Pakistan, while in Afghanistan women and girls have been targeted by their repressive edicts since taking power.
This latest assault on women’s rights in Taliban-run Afghanistan denying women air travel, came just days after the all-male religiously driven government broke its promise to allow girls to return to school after the sixth grade.
In Kabul last Wednesday, more than two dozen girls and women staged protests in front of the Ministry of Education following the reversal of the reopening of schools for girls. Thousands of girls had eagerly arrived back at school, the same day but merely hours after finally being allowed back to school, the ministry announced a policy reversal, forcing the girls to leave the school.
Protesters were seen in front of the education building chanting “Open the schools! Justice, justice!” and carrying school books and banners that read “Education is our fundamental right, not a political plan.” The women marched but then later dispersed as the Taliban fighters arrived at the scene.
Protests in regards to women’s rights began weeks after the Taliban rounded up the leaders of initial demonstrations held after they returned to power in August. After the second institutionalization of the Taliban’s power, the group promised the protection of women’s rights and press freedom in news conferences following the takeover of Afghanistan last year.
Even the Prophet [Muhammad] said everyone has the right to education, but the Taliban has snatched this right from us. - Nawesa at the demonstration, which was organized by two women’s right group
With its refusal to reopen schools, the Taliban has pushed back 20 years of gains made by the country's women, pushing them out of government jobs, unable to travel unaccompanied, and removal of education.
On Saturday at the Doha Forum 2022 in Qatar, Roya Mahboob, an Afghan businesswoman who founded an all-girl robotics team in Afghanistan, was given the Forum Award for her work and commitment to girls education.
In an interview after receiving the Doha Forum award, Mahboob called on the many global leaders and policy makers attending the forum to press the Taliban to open schools for all Afghan children.
The robotics team fled Afghanistan when the Taliban returned to power but Mahboob said she still hoped a science and technology center she had hoped to build in Afghanistan for girls could still be constructed.
I hope that the international community, the Muslim communities (have not) forgotten about Afghanistan and (will) not abandon us…Afghanistan is a poor country. It doesn’t have enough resources. And if you take (away) our knowledge, I don’t know what’s going to happen. - Roya Mahboob
Image via Al Jazeera
TW: violence against women in the form of Female Genital Mutilation
Egypt has its first ever clinic that offers multidisciplinary treatment for survivors of Female Genital Mutilation. Dr Reham Awad and Dr Amr Seifeldin launched Restore in June 2020. Awad is a plastic surgeon who completed her master’s degree in clitoral reconstruction and Seifeldin is the first cosmetic gynaecologist in the Middle East who specialises in vaginal and genital reconstructive surgery.
The clinic has helped survivors of FGM like Maryam, a 28-year-old Egyptian master’s student of anthropology, who vividly remembers the day in which she underwent cutting. At the age of 11, a “da’ya”, which is a traditional midwife, was brought to her home in Alexandria by her mother and aunt. The woman told Maryam to lie down on her bed and spread her legs, where she was then daubed with an anesthetic cream inside her as the woman grabbed a razor blade she had cauterized with a flame .
I don’t remember the moment itself but I remember after, the woman gave that piece of me, wrapped in gauze to my young aunt and told her to bury it, and that way she would meet a wonderful bridegroom. I felt I had sacrificed something of myself, just for my aunt to find a husband. - Maryam
Maryam, similar to over 200 million women world wide, had undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), which involves partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other cutting for non-medical reasons. This procedure is often carried out by other women, most of whom have no medical training.
Maryam’s name has been changed to protect her privacy. She felt her entire life that “something was missing”, swearing that no other girl in her family would undergo this procedure, feeling that she could never return to “normal”. That is, until her boyfriend informed Maryam of Restore.
Currently, there are several other medical centers around the world that will do restorative surgery for FGM survivors, however Restore is the first clinic in the world to offer survivors non-surgical therapies too.
Upon the arrival of a new patient, there is an extensive examination. If the main problem is psychological or sexual trauma, the patient is referred to psychosexual counciling, however if it is functional the patient will undergo non-surgical therapy. Surgery is the last resort.
Only 40 percent end up doing surgery and around 20 percent either don’t need treatment or we can help through sexual education and psychological therapy, while the rest we offer non-surgical therapies…I consider every woman that comes into our clinic a person that we have treated, because even if she didn’t need treatment, she needed someone to reassure her that she is normal and that she won’t suffer. The psychological aspect is definitely the most important. Dr. Reham Awad
Maryam has said that she felt this from the very start of her treatment.
Just knowing there was something that could be done gave me such a boost and both Dr Reham and Dr Amr were very careful to explain everything to me and we explored all my options. - Maryam
Maryam suffered from Type-2 FGM of the four types, in which the clitoral hood was taken off and part of the top of her clitoris was removed, resulting in scar tissue forming and damaging her labia minora.
We can’t reconstruct the part that has been removed but since the clitoris is a 8-12 cm organ with only one part removed during circumcision, we can remove scar tissue and change the course of the remainder, then enhance sensitivity and blood flow with a series of shots to the clitoral body. - Dr. Amr Seifeldin
With encouragement and support from her boyfriend, Maryam opted to undergo the surgery, but was met with financial complications. A majority of the women who come to the clinic are from underprivileged backgrounds, and face similar financial complications. Luckily in Maryam’s case, a donor stepped in just in time.
It is said that sensation can improve about 80 percent in most cases, according to Siefeldin, but the success rate for psychological well-being is more than 90 percent.
I’ve had one woman literally slide off the operating table and start dancing for joy and it’s incredible to see how it boosts women’s confidence, gives them a sense of wholeness, and even better a relationship with their parents who had forced them to undergo the operation. - Dr. Amr Seifeldin
According to a UN survey conducted in Egypt in 2021, there has been a decline in the number of FGM cases in the country. Egypt’s Social Solidarity Ministry has said 52 percent of women aged 13 to 17 in the country were victims of FGM, compared with 90 percent recorded among their mothers’ age group. Dr Awad believes a toughened law against FGM is a step in the right direction, but that not enough is being done to help survivors reverse life affects.
Ideally we would like to have satellite clinics everywhere in Egypt and a training center for doctors from all over Africa to come train with us. It’s good to work on prevention, but we can also do something for those already living with its effects. - Dr. Reham Awad
I feel like I’m starting over. Like I am back to who I was before this happened to me. I hope more women will go to Restore. - Maryam
Sayge Urban (she/her) is a student at the University of Ottawa currently studying Psychology. She has a passion for writing and speaking out on issues she cares about and strongly believes in the power of words and the weight they hold. She is keen to use her voice and platform to bring awareness to the troubles and triumphs women face and is determined to use her voice to highlight those who cannot and do not have the resources to speak up.
Sayge is a firm believer in the unity of women across the world and the power they hold collectively and wants to use her time at FEMINIST GIANT to learn about the issues most pressing to women as well as they ways she can best be of help.