This week in women’s rights: Nobel Peace Prize recognises fight for women’s rights in Iran and Afghanistan

This week in women’s rights: Nobel Peace Prize recognises fight for women’s rights in Iran and Afghanistan

Our global weekly round-up tracking progress on gender equality and women’s rights issues. 

Nobel Peace Prize shortlists women’s rights activists from Iran and Afghanistan 

Mahbouba Seraj, a journalist and women’s rights campaigner from Afghanistan, and Narges Mohammadi, an Iranian human rights activist and lawyer who is currently in prison, have been nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize

Seraj, now 75 years old, fled Afghanistan in 1978 when internal conflict began between the government and Islamic guerillas. She spent 26 years in exile until returning in 2003; when the Taliban regained power in 2021 she refused to leave. Despite threats from the group, she continues to advocate for the rights of women and girls, and runs a network of shelters for women fleeing domestic abuse. 

Mohammadi is deputy head of Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi’s Defenders of Human Rights Center, an organisation that campaigns for the rights of women, minorities and political prisoners in Iran. She has received several jail sentences since 2011 for her human rights work, and is currently in Evin prison for “spreading propaganda”. Since her latest arrest Amnesty International has reported that she is being denied healthcare and has been tortured while held in prolonged solitary confinement. 

In a statement announcing the shortlist, the Peace Research Institute Oslo said, “If the Nobel Committee would like to shine a spotlight on the non-violent struggle for human rights as a contribution to peace, Narges Mohammadi and Mahbouba Seraj are highly deserving nominees to share the prize, based on their tireless efforts to improve women’s rights in Iran and Afghanistan.” 

Kyaw Moe Tun and Myanmar’s National Unity Consultative Council, the International Court of Justice, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Juan Carlos Jintiach, and the Human Rights Data Analysis Group are also on the shortlist. The winner of the award will be announced in October. 

Islamabad gallery celebrates Pakistan’s National Women’s Day with art

pakistan's women's day
Source: Nomad Gallery

Islamabad’s Nomad Gallery hosted an exhibition highlighting women’s rights issues with a special  event on February 12 to commemorate Pakistan’s National Women’s Day. 

Paintings by 40 different artists highlighted domestic abuse, harassment, the protection of property rights, and breast cancer, mental stress and other diseases. Nageen Hyat, the Nomad Gallery director, screened her documentary on issues related to human rights. “We have an amazing collection of art at the exhibition, all to do with equality,” she said. “They are untitled which says a lot about the visual aspect of the work.” 

Hyat, who is also a human rights activist, founded Nomad Gallery in 1984. The gallery’s  mission is to promote the heritage of Pakistan through art and culture, while also promoting human rights and peace. Its program “Art for Social Change” provides skills training and income generation schemes for artists. 

Hyat is also the producer of a 13 episode program about women, professions, culture and taboos, and she is currently making a documentary about the culture and lives of the people of Chitral and Kalasha Valleys in Northern Pakistan. 

Bolivia’s biggest celebration is campaigning to end violence against women

A number of organisations are Bolivia’s national carnival to promote a campaign to stop violence against women and children. 

The carnival is now underway in the city of Oruro, located in the Andean highlands. It is the country’s biggest event of the year and attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world. 

The United Nations, the Bolivian government and the National Confederation of Religious Folk Associations of Bolivia are among the groups working on the campaign, which is using the slogans “Without masks, without violence” and “Depatriarchalizing our parties”, to raise awareness of the problem of femicides and violence against women. 

The initiative includes training for the dancers and musicians participating in the carnival parades, as well as audiovisual and printed resources for people attending the events.

It is part of UN Women’s global “HeForShe” campaign, and is the first time the government is collaborating with the carnival organisers on a campaign to prevent violence.

“Since Pachamama (Mother Earth) takes care of us all, let us all take care of the life of the Bolivian woman,” Minister of Cultures Sabina Orellana said. “Whether in the countryside or the city, it doesn’t matter, she is a Bolivian woman.”

Nicola Sturgeon has stepped down as Scotland’s first minister

Nicola Sturgeon has announced she is resigning from the position of Scotland’s First Minister, a move that has surprised many in Scotland and overseas.

Sturgeon has been in the role for eight years, during which she led numerous efforts to advance women’s rights. Under her leadership, Scotland became the first country in the UK to publish a Women’s Health Plan. She also launched a Workplace Equality Fund to champion equality in the workplace focused on gender, age, race and disability, and she has pushed for psychological abuse to be considered a crime to support survivors of domestic abuse.

More recently she has championed gender reforms to make it easier for Scots to legally change their gender, for which she has been relentlessly attacked by opponents.

In a statement that echoed the resignation speech of New Zealand’s former prime minister Jacinda Ardern, she said: “I’m not expecting violins here, but I am a human being as well as a politician. Giving absolutely everything of yourself to this job is the only way to do it. The country deserves nothing less. But in truth that can only be done by anyone for so long.

“Individual polls come and go, but I am firmly of the view that there is now majority support for independence in Scotland. But that support needs to be solidified, and it needs to grow further if an independent Scotland is to have the best possible foundation. To achieve that we must reach across the divide in Scottish politics.

“My judgement now is that a new leader will be better able to do this. Someone about whom the mind of almost everyone in the country is not already made up for better or worse. Someone who is not subject to quite the same polarised opinions, fair or unfair as I now am.”

Seoul is removing women-only parking spaces

The capital city of South Korea is removing women-only parking spots, 14 years after they were introduced to protect the safety of women in public spaces.

The parking spaces were created after a series of violent crimes against women took place in underground car parks. Seoul’s officials say these spaces are no longer necessary, however critics have pointed out this is another in a series of moves the government has made recently to reverse feminist policies.

In October last year the government announced it was abolishing the Ministry for Gender Equality, and is also planning to remove the term “gender equality” from school curriculums.

In 2021 more than two-thirds of violent crimes committed in the city’s car parks were gender-based including rape, sexual assault and harassment.

Slovenia is commended for improving women’s representation in politics

A new report has commended Slovenia for advances in women’s representation in politics and the economy. 

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women praised the country for its most recent elections, where women represented 40% of members of parliament, and Nataša Pirc Musar was elected as the first female president.  It also noted that Slovenia ranks 12 out of 136 countries in women’s economic participation. 

Introducing the report, Simon Maljevac, representing the Ministry of Solidarity-Based Future of Slovenia, said that 2022 had been a historical year.  Women now comprised 36 out of the 90 deputies elected to the National Assembly of Slovenia following the most recent elections – the highest number in Slovenia’s history. 

The report called the election of a woman president for the first time “a great victory and important symbolic shift towards gender equality.”  

Slovenia’s government is working with NGOs to address gender gaps in STEM subjects including mentorship programmes led by engineers to help girls develop technical skills. 

Work is also underway to tackle domestic violence in Roma and migrant communities, including Roma assistance in schools and training for social workers, schools and the police. 

Featured image: Mahbouba Seraj, UN Geneva 2022 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 // Narges Karim Mohammadi, BBC Persian, Feb 24, 2021 / CC BY 3.0

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