What is Women’s History Month? A month to commemorate the work of women who have made an unwavering mark on society, created an undeniable legacy, empowered by all that they endured. Let us have a look at a select few as we discover the unique achievements that undoubtedly make them influential women in history. The annual theme for Women’s History Month for 2021 is “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced.” Interestingly, New Zealand was the first nation that granted women the right to vote and one of the pioneers behind this pivotal movement was Kate Sheppard.
Kate Sheppard was the leading force behind the suffrage movement in New Zealand. She was further supported when 65% of women in New Zealand went against the status quo and decided to take the chance to vote in their first election. In 1893, Sheppard and her fellow suffragists gathered the signatures of a staggering number of 32,000 women to demonstrate the upsurge of support for their cause. The Electoral Act 1893 was passed by both houses of Parliament and officially became law on 19th September 1893. As a result of this legislation, New Zealand became the first self-governing country, which granted women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This bold step by Sheppard inspired suffrage movements all over the world. This is the primary reason that us women are able to vote freely in this day and age. The next time you go and vote, take a second to think about the monumental individual and movement that lead to this moment.
Malala made history by being the youngest female to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Her triumph in education and global activism via The Malala Fund, initiated at the age of only 15 was recognised and applauded. The Taliban shot her and left her to die, unaware that they had granted her a louder voice and a much greater platform to be heard.
Malala Yousafzai illustrated at a young age that she is a force to be reckoned with by literally fighting for her education. The infamous Taliban group seized ruling over her hometown Swat Valley, Pakistan in 2008. Malala was vehemently outspoken in favour of education and in opposition of the Taliban. This confidence made her a target. In October 2012, a masked gunman boarded a bus and asked who Malala was and then, narrowly missing her brain, shot her in her left eye. Malala was transported to the UK for protection and underwent several surgeries and rehabilitation. Such a ferocious attack that would leave most 15 year olds in a feeble disposition, yet this only powered Malala’s fight for justice. This lead to the establishment of the Malala Fund in 2013. The Malala Fund advocates for and invests in local activists to ensure that regions where the most girls miss out on secondary education have their rights protected and voices heard.
Helen Keller had a turbulent path to tread in order to attain education, due to physically challenging circumstances. Despite losing her sight and hearing, she became one of world’s leading humanitarians, an author, the founder of ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and an advocate for the deaf and blind. Helen was eventually able to communicate in many different forms, including braille and sign language due to the unwavering support by her mentor Ann Sullivan, a teacher. Helen graduated with a cum laude (Degree with Distinction) at the age of 24. In 1905, she wrote her first book entitled “The Story of my Life” and 1915, she co-founded Helen Keller International. Helen Keller International was founded to combat the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Rosa parks is fearlessness, which is why she was the epicentre of the civil rights movement. On 1st December 1955, she was arrested for refusing a bus driver’s instructions to give up her seat to a white passenger. This act of
Rosa worked together with Martin Luther king, and the civil rights movement was established. Her bravery and steadfastness inspired nationwide efforts to end racial segregation. She was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Award by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
A well-known name in her own right. She is an icon that didn’t survive injustice to achieve the accolades mentioned above, however she left a memoir that has won the hearts of millions. The Nazis introduced several laws and regulations that made the lives of the Jewish community excruciating. In order to escape persecution Anne Frank and her family had to go in to hiding in a place later known as The Secret Annex.
This is where Anne began writing a diary of events that were taking place and her life in the Annex. Unfortunately, the Annex was discovered and Anne was transported to a prison in Amsterdam. Anne eventually contracted Typhus at a concentration camp and died in 1945. However, Anne’s father, Otto Frank, was deeply affected by her writing. He was the only one that survived the war and read that Anne aspired one day to have her writings from the Annex published and dreamt of being a Journalist. Her father upheld her wish and in June 1947, 3,000 copies of Het Achterhuis (The Secret Annex) were printed. This book was later translated into around 70 languages and adapted for stage and screen. Her writings are poignant accounts of her struggle as a girl of Jewish ethnicity, her words have become prominent in highlighting the dangers of prejudice and racism.
These women are not just renowned, they have revived womankind. We speak about women empowerment on various platforms, however it was the actionable steps taken by these five individuals and many alike, that have truly empowered change. Change in hearts, change in nations, change in leaders. Malala’s bravery, Rosa’s determination, Kate’s persistence, Anne’s hope and Helen’s belief, live in our hearts. These women in history define the women we have become and aspire to be today.
World Food Programme suspends food assistance to 1.7 million in South Sudan
Conflict combined with poor weather in South Sudan has led to 7.74 million people facing a hunger crisis.
Despite the country facing food insecurity, the World Food Programme (WFP) has suspended food assistance to 1.7 million people in South Sudan. They require $426 million to be able to feed 6 million people in South Sudan throughout 2022. At the start of 2022, the WFP projected that it would be able to assist 6.2 million people in the country but has failed at achieving this target. This suspension of funding comes at one of the worst times for South Sudan, a newly independent country which not only has been facing internal conflicts for many years but also faced three years of flooding, a localised drought and like the rest of the world, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and soaring global food prices. Therefore, not only is food not available in the country, but it also comes at a much higher price making the country food insecure. This cut also comes at a time where South Sudan is facing lean season, which is the season between planting crops and harvesting them. During this season, food is already scarce.
The suspension of aid by the WFP is due to a funding shortage of $426 million. It is important to note that the primary source of WFP’s funding comes from governments around the world. This funding is entirely voluntary, meaning that the countries have the freedom to cut anytime they wish.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a human rights group recently ruled that the world’s 10 most neglected crises are all in Africa with South Sudan being the 4th most neglected crisis. The Secretary General of the NRC, Jan Egeland said “The war in Ukraine has demonstrated the immense gap between what is possible when the international community rallies behind a crisis, and the daily reality for millions of people suffering in silence within these crises on the African continent that the world has chosen to ignore,”
The hunger crisis the people of South Sudan face is not new, rather food insecurity has been a challenge for years now. In 2017, South Sudan faced a famine and now another famine is predicted by the WFP this year if funding is not organised. Furthermore, South Sudan has recently been facing unrest which has only intensified the issue, leading to brutal violence upon civilians, including targeted attacks, gender-based violence, kidnappings and murders. This has led to nearly 2.3 million people fleeing to neighbouring countries whilst 1.87 million people remain internally displaced. Displacement continues to exacerbate the hunger crisis in South Sudan as many rely on food from their own land, something which is not possible during displacement. Internal conflict has thus meant that people have had to rely heavily on food assistance.
There have been many attempts for a peace agreement in the country, but so far, all these attempts have failed.
Is Rwanda a dumping ground for the UK?
The UK is planning to send its illegal immigrants to Rwanda. In return, the country is paying the Government £120 million in the form of an economic development program. This controversial decision was made to deter any future illegal immigrants from entering the country via dangerous routes.
The East African country suffered genocide and civil war in 1994 and has been trying to recover since. The effort made by the country, however, was halted due to the pandemic.
Only recently, authorities in Rwanda prosecuted opposition members, commentators, and journalists for voicing their opinion. Anyone who doesn’t agree with the government is thrown in jail and threatened, and people have even mysteriously disappeared.
Rwanda is also one of the smallest countries in the world and the rate of population growth is already more than the country can handle. With 10,000 square miles and a population density of more than 1,000 per square mile, starvation and malnutrition is prevalent because the country struggles to feed its growing population. Accusations abound that the government has burned farmers’ fields that could not produce an adequate amount of crops. The country is obsessed with modernising whilst ignoring its internal issues.
Poverty is a huge concern. Its true extent is unknown as the government has been accused of misinterpreting the actual data. Similarly, the education level of children is low with a high drop-out rate.
It’s plain to see that Rwanda is struggling with its own domestic problems, and now the UK is turning the country into a dumping ground for illegal immigrants which will surely set the economy back. The plan has been accused of being unethical and cruel.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Siobhán Mullally talked about the dangers of increased human trafficking when large numbers of people are transferred from one country to another and how easy it is for traffickers to pick vulnerable victims in this situation when they have no control over where they are going. “People seeking international protection, fleeing conflict, and persecution, have the right to seek and enjoy asylum – a fundamental tenet of international human rights and refugee law,” she said. Even Prince Charles, heir to the British throne criticised the decision made by the government calling it “appalling”.
There have also been accusations that the UK is not playing its part in its handling of its refugee problem. Chief Executive of Refugee Action, Tim Naor Hilton said that the government was “offshoring its responsibilities onto Europe’s former colonies instead of doing our fair share to help some of the most vulnerable people on the planet”.
Meanwhile, UK-based non-profits run by Congolese nationals in the Diaspora sent a letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in which they expressed their fear that the money sent by the UK government could be used to propagate the war in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo instead of improving Rwanda.
According to Phil Clark, Professor of International Politics at SOAS University of London, the government of Rwanda could use this deal as leverage. So whenever the government is accused of human rights violations they can threaten to pull out of the deal. Already once, the country has “threatened to pull its peacekeepers out of Darfur when foreign donors were threatening to pull foreign aid out of Rwanda.”
Whilst the focus is on Rwanda violating human rights, the country is known however, for looking after its refugees well enough. The problem is that the UK is using the country to shed itself of its own responsibility while Rwanda is not equipped to deal with a large number of refugees.
The irony of the situation cannot be lost to global observers as, “Only a couple of hundred years ago, the situation was reversed. Ships full of Africans were being forcefully deported from their homeland to Britain, Europe, and the Americas. Now, the descendants of slave traders are paying the descendants of their would-be slaves to take a burden off their hands.”
The world is ageing at a rapid pace and there will be consequences
There are more old people in the world than there are young people. Both developed and developing countries have to be ready to take the huge burden of the rising population of older people.
According to 2019 data from the UN, the proportion of people aged 60 and over will be 1 in 6 by the year 2050. However, a more recent observation by the WHO shows that the world might reach these statistics much sooner; that is, by 2030. And by 2050, the population of over 60 will double to almost 2.1 billion people.
This demographic change has already occurred in some developed countries. In Japan, the median age is 48 years old, and this makes Japan’s population the oldest in the world. By 2060, there will be one elderly person for each person of working age.
Similarly, there are already more people aged 60 and over in Europe and North America than young people under the age of 15. Germany is another example. It is predicted that by 2050 the population of the income-generating population will fall from 55 million to less than 40 million.
The change is greatest in developed countries because of low mortality rates as well as low fertility rates. This means new children are not being born while the healthcare of the country is improving, so people and children live longer.
The data for the population of the world in 2020 already shows that the population aged 65 and older is 727 million, whereas the population under 5 is 677 million.
There are many consequences of this change. The biggest is the increase in the dependent population, which will affect the economy of the country. Most people over the age of 60 are retired, so they depend on pensions while the younger income-generating population is responsible for providing the money through taxes. The taxes will need to increase to meet the demands of the older generation. Not only that, the government has to spend more money on the older generation who don’t earn on their own rather than invest in developing the country.
There will also be a rise in chronic illnesses which will affect the allocation of healthcare facilities as right now there is more focus on infectious diseases. Since there will be an increase in the older generation, there will be even less informal care from the remaining younger family members. Elderly abuse is already an issue, but there will be a rise in this form of abuse as well.
Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said, “There will be very few children and lots of people over the age of 65, and that makes it very difficult to sustain global society.”
Adding, “Think of all the profound social and economic consequences for a society with more grandparents than grandchildren.”
For many reasons, in America, most women are staying child-free or having children later in life. The biggest reason is the expense required to raise children. Since 2007, the birth rate for women in their 20s has fallen by 28%, shows data.
Similarly, in England and Wales, the percentage of women in their 30s without children rose from 18% in 1975 to 50% in 2020.
Unless more work is done to replace the population and prevent population shrinkage by encouraging people to have more children, the economies of many countries need to prepare for a boost from the older population.
“No, Rwanda is not an uncivilised well of darkness”
As deportations go, being shipped off to Rwanda sounds like the lower end of the scale. It has the echoes of Paddington bear’s Darkest Peru.
And yet, all those who have seen the live action film can probably agree that the fictional bear’s Darkest Peru wasn’t really that dark; luscious greenery in a thriving jungle, trees weighed down with oranges perfect for making buckets of marmalade, constant sun, and blue skies. It’s the perfect description of a luxury holiday.. in Africa? Rwanda maybe?
To be clear, Home Secretary Priti Patel’s policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda is not within the confines of British values or even human sense or reason. To spend millions and millions of pounds to deport vulnerable refugees seeking safety four thousand miles away from the apparent beacon of democracy and human rights – that is Britain, by using taxpayers money, seems to defeat the very purpose of sending them out of Britain in the first place. Rwanda, if one is familiar with the events of 1994, and the ever constant threat to the lives of journalists, activists, and opposing political rivals of the government, isn’t exactly a beacon of human rights, democracy, and freedom.
That’s why the European Court of Human Rights – not to be confused with the super-villain that is ‘Europe!’ according to a very loud group of Tory backbenchers – blocked the flight which was to fly seven refugees off to the East African country. Cue the cries of ‘Europe Telling Us What To Do Again’, and lets opt out of that one too – several Conservative MPs called for ties to be cut with the Strasbourg based body.
But just because the legality of a sovereign policy was disputed by the highest court of human rights on the continent, does not mean Britain’s leaders need to throw a strop and exit yet another institution that can hold it accountable for its actions. And just because a policy is draconian and ethically wrong – even the heir to the throne and the Church of England bashed the plans as ‘appalling’ and ‘immoral’ – does not mean that the country which happens to be the designation for said unethical deportation, should be viewed as the uncivilised backwater of the world. It’s almost as if most of the hand wringing of the liberal wing is doubled on hearing that Rwanda is the intended destination.
Patel herself, biggest pusher of the policy, and perhaps in order to justify it, accidentally blurted out some truth to that matter; talking about Rwanda’s past of genocide and recent human rights abuses to the Guardian newspaper, she said that, “It’s scarred the country in the sense that they are rebuilding. If it was France, if we were sending people to Sweden, New York, Sydney, would they (the critics) change their mind? That actually speaks of inbuilt prejudice and, I would even go as far as to say, racism.”
Indeed Patel might have struck gold in identifying the underlying thoughts that exist in the media coverage, and even through the many demonstrations and online petitions which speaks of Rwanda’s less than forgiving record of the impending deportation of refugees.
In the last few days, the word Rwanda has become synonymous with the abuse of human rights, just as Africa has become the poster child for third world poverty and lack of civilisation. Much of that is because poverty is high on the continent and Rwanda does have a murky human rights record; but a lot is because of the portrayal of African countries in Western literature and media dating back to the slave trade of African people. The ‘orientalising’ of Africa is something that is always so unconsciously done. After all, being known not so long ago as the ‘dark continent’ never created the image of a comfortable life, nor of a ‘civilised’ society.
It is true that the leadership of African countries have much to be wished for. But it is precisely in a democracy – one where the votes aren’t rigged by the highest bidder – that a government can reflect the mindset of its people. And for many African nations, including Rwanda where political opposition is often violently quashed, that is not the case. Why is it that the poverty caused by western appeasing, tax guzzling African governments is then applied as a blanket term for the countries as a whole?
Because the perception of poverty – and of education, literacy, all components of ‘civilisation’ – in the eyes of western statistic charts is a number. A man in Uganda with twenty goats and chickens, acres of land with trees producing fresh fruit, sugarcane, and vegetables, probably isn’t very ‘educated’. But he’s able to send all his kids to school and have a heaving table of food with organic homegrown things and without any price tags, for himself and his family every night, without any money leaving the palm of his hand, nor any money entering it. The fact he wakes up at five a.m. isn’t a sign of his difficult uncivilised, impoverished situation, it’s a sign of his work ethic and strength to live a comfortable life that is just different from the western way of living. Lack of money isn’t the only sort of poverty – reliance on it for a comfortable life is too.
In Britain where jobs are getting harder to find and the unemployed are stuck on state handouts, with too much reliance on the latter to make any move towards leaving the cycle of dependence, it is unimaginable that a woman in a place like Kenya can collect hard grass from the sidewalk and bind them to make brooms which she then sells – it’s not much, and there is no way you can glorify capitalism through that. Maybe she won’t have enough to feed her children every night, nor herself. But she is able. Her face, her manners, her way of living does not reflect lack of civilisation or humanity, it does not dignify being labelled as an unable, helpless, illiterate African in dire need of Western rescuing – as is portrayed through western media.
Yes it is true that governments in Africa should spend more on alleviating the result of low or no income, and lack of affordable education – rather than filling their own stomachs – but that doesn’t negate the fact that even without all the comforts of British welfare, the strength and entrepreneurial spirit of the people in countries like Kenya, Uganda, or Rwanda, and so many other ‘underdeveloped’ African countries is unmatched against the ‘civilised’ West who rely on help from the state and without which the cost of living makes it impossible to have a comfortable life.
Only a couple of hundred years ago, the situation was reversed. Ships full of Africans were being forcefully deported from their homeland to Britain, Europe, and the Americas. Now, the descendants of slave traders are paying the descendants of their would-be slaves to take a burden off their hands. It’s not something you can make up and the taste left over is sour to say the least.
Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie put it right:
“If I were not African, I wonder whether it would be clear to me that Africa is a place where the people do not need limps gifts of fish but sturdy fishing rods and fair access to the pond. I wonder whether I would realise that while African nations have a failure of leadership, they also have dynamic people with agency and voices.”
The answer to Adichie?
No, none of these things are so easily realised by those so programmed for centuries to look down upon, enslave, and brutalise the inhabitants of the cradle of civilisation itself.
Illegal Maasai eviction for wildlife hunting
Tanzania to forcefully evict indigenous community in illegal move for wildlife hunting ground
The government of the United Republic of Tanzania is currently planning on removing the Maasai people from their ancestral land in 2022. The land is being cleared so it can be leased to wildlife hunting firm Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC) owned by Dubai Royals and for tourism reasons.
The 1,500 km2 area is located in the Loliondo Division of Ngorongoro District, Arusha Region. Known as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) it is home to many locals who do not want to leave.
If the leasing plan is passed, it will displace around 70,000 indigenous Maasai people and more than 200,000 livestock, according to an urgent alert by the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA). The Maasai were told of this plan in January of this year by Regional Commissioner for Arusha, John Mongella. The forceful eviction is also being condemned by the Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI) organization.
But the land of the NCA is also under threat from other international organisations such as UNESCO and safari businesses. Allegedly posing a threat to ecological sustainability and wildlife tourism, the government of Tanzania believes that the area is overpopulated which could impact surrounding wildlife. The Multiple Land-Use Model (MLUM) was previously developed so the land could be used for more than one purpose. However, there is evidence that in the past this plan has led to serious problems for the locals.
Current protests against the proposed evictions and demarcation of land for conservation have been met with violence. On June 10th police fired on at least 18 men and 13 women, and 13 were wounded with machetes with one person confirmed dead. The protests began back in January.
The eviction of the indigenous peoples is illegal according to Tanzania law and international law and a violation of the Village Land Act of 1999. According to international law, forced evictions are a violation of human rights and can only be allowed in extreme conditions whilst strictly complying with specific standards and legal processes. However, a representative of the Tanzanian government, Malik Hassan Shafi refuted claims of enforced evictions stating that the government would “never hurt its own people it has sworn to protect”, and that anti-government agitators were to blame for the discord.
But a local Maasai leader attending the protest insisted, “We have nowhere else to go. Losing this land will mean the extinction of our community. We have taken care of our environment and lived in harmony with other living and nonliving things. And we are not ready to lose our traditional lifestyle we have lived for times immemorial. ”He added, “Over 70% of our homelands has been taken for conservation and investment reasons. We are appealing to human rights organizations, media and other citizens who value Indigenous human rights to share our plight and put pressure on the government of Tanzania to respect the rights of its citizens, and particularly indigenous people.”
As well as protesting, the Maasai community has also written a letter to appeal to Western leaders for support to stop the forceful eviction, but so far there has been little response. There are fears it could mirror the forceful eviction of Palestinians which was approved by an Israeli court earlier this year.
Israeli Blockade Causes Depression in 80% of Palestinian Children
A recent report put out by Save the Children, titled “Trapped”, shows that four out every five children living in Gaza suffer from depression, sadness and fear. The report followed 488 children and 168 parents and caregivers in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli Blockade of the Gaza Strip began in 2007. Not only did The Israeli government prevent items such as livestock, shampoo and musical instruments from going into Gaza, but they also blocked aid groups from sending basic learning items such as paper and crayons. The blockade severely impacted the area’s economy and restricted travel of its citizens.
800,000 Palestinian children have only ever known life within the blockade, living through traumatic violence by Israeli military and living in constant fear for the duration of their whole lives.
Building upon past research, the latest report by Save the Children shows that the mental health of not only children, but also youth and caregivers, has deteriorated severely since their last report four years ago. The number of children with emotional distress increased from 55% to 80%. The report also showed an increase in children feeling fearful, sad, nervous, depressed and in grief.
More than half of Gaza’s children have had thoughts of suicide, with three out of five children thinking of self-harm.
Many factors have been contributing to the poor mental health of Gaza’s children due to the blockade, such as lack of basic services such as healthcare and other needs. Another study published in 2020, showed high levels of anxiety disorders and PTSD in Palestinians. It reported that they were at a higher risk for these mental illnesses due to continuous exposure to polital violence, prolonged displacement, and limitations of education, professions, financial opportunities and mental health services.
Before the blockade even started, a study was conducted in 2004, under Israeli occupied Gaza, of 403 refugee children living in four camps on the Gaza Strip. The study included that children living in occupation and blockade zones were at high risk of suffering from PTSD.
According to the Save the Children report, 59% of children show signs of speech, communication and language difficulties, even temporary reactive mutism, a sign of trauma or abuse. In the last few years, 79% of children have suffered from bed-wetting.
The effect of these symptoms on the children’s learning, development and social interaction is immediate and long term, warned Save the Children. Jason Lee, Country Director in Palestine for Save the Children, said “The physical evidence of their distress – bedwetting, loss of ability to speak or to complete basic tasks – is shocking and should serve as a wakeup call to the international community.”
Save the Children called on Israel to take immediate steps on lifting the blockade on Gaza and ending the ongoing occupation.
World Food Programme suspends food assistance to 1.7 million in South Sudan
Is Rwanda a dumping ground for the UK?
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