This week in women’s rights: No more period shame

This week in women’s rights: No more period shame

We round up the most important women’s rights stories of the week, from all over the world. 

Senator Gloria Orwoba courageously protested period shame in Kenya’s parliament

Kenyan Senator Gloria Orwoba was ejected from parliament after protesting against period stigma and period poverty, by wearing clothing visibly stained with menstrual blood. 

Orwoba said she noticed the stain before entering the building. “Since I am always advocating against period shame, I thought I should go ahead and walk the talk,” she said. 

However, speaker Amason Kingi said she was violating the house’s “dress code,” and asked her to leave halfway through the parliamentary session. 

Fellow Senator Tabitha Mutinda said she found the protest “uncomfortable” and “inappropriate”, adding “you don’t understand if she’s on the normal woman cycle or is faking it, and it is so indecent, because these are natural things that as women we go through.” 

Orwoba responded: “I think I’m dressed as per the standing orders. I’m covered. I have a suit. I have collars. I’m just short of a tie. I’m very disappointed. I’m actually more disappointed because the point of order that is being raised is to try and attack an accident that is natural, because I have stained my clothes. 

“At the end of the day, I want to know why we are discussing this issue that is not even in the order paper. Is it because senators are not women who have periods?  I want to know, because then maybe I shouldn’t be in this house, because I have periods Mr speaker, and on my way here, I stained my dress. Mr speaker, this is the period stigma that is making our girls kill themselves.”

She added, “I am shocked that someone can stand here and say that the house has been disgraced because a woman has her period. The most someone can do is come to me and tell me I’m sorry, are you having period cramps? Shall I give you painkillers? But instead I am being castigated for having my period. So what we need to now talk about is, do women belong in the senate?”

Orwoba has been campaigning for free sanitary towel provision in Kenya, and is planning to introduce a bill to increase government funding for free sanitary pads and female hygiene products in the coming months.

Research shows that 65% of Kenyan women and girls cannot afford these products. Unicef has reported that 10% of teenage girls have had transactional sex in exchange for period products. 

Period shame is also pervasive and has had tragic consequences, such as in 2019 when a 14-year-old schoolgirl killed herself after a teacher shamed her for staining her uniform during her first period. 

Netflix’s first show from Kuwait is about the women who disrupted the country’s stock exchange 

A new Netflix show tells the story of two women working on the Kuwait Stock Exchange in the 1980s. 

Taking place just before Sadam Hussein’s invasion, The Exchange is based on real events, and tells the story of the first women to break the glass ceiling of Kuwait’s male-dominated financial industry. 

Farida is a recent divorcee with a teenage daughter to support, and her cousin Munira works as a clerk in a bank’s trading division. Together they challenge both patriarchal conventions and corruption within the banking sector. 

Nadia Ahmad, one of the creators of the show, has said it is inspired by her mother, who much like Farida was a single mum who entered investment banking to provide for her daughter. It is the first original Kuwaiti show to be produced for Netflix. Streaming started on February 8. 

Cameroon has released 30 detainees after women protested their arrest

Cameroon’s military has released 30 people from detention following protests from hundreds of women, including the mothers of those arrested. 

The 30 young men were arrested in January during raids in Ekona, a town in the south west of the country. Most are students that the military detained for being suspected rebels in the ongoing conflict between the separatists fighting for an independent, English-speaking state, against the French-speaking majority.

After the military stopped family visits and began chasing away people who brought food, the women staged a demonstration, accusing Cameroon’s military of committing abuses, which it denies. 

After their release, several hundred women took to the streets of Buea to celebrate. 

Esther Njomo Omam, director of women-led NGO Reach Out Cameroon, said  women were angry as they were suffering the most as a result of the fighting. 

“The women from Ekona came marching peacefully but angry that women have been bearing the brunt of this conflict,” she told VOA.  “They are the ones who have been burying their children, their husbands. They are the ones who are suffering all forms of ills as a result of the crisis.”

Women in the UK created a record number of new companies in 2022

Women in the UK started a record number of new businesses in 2022, according to research carried out by Natwest Bank and commissioned by the government. 

The report showed that 151,603 companies were launched by women in the past year, up from 145,271 in 2021 and double the numbers of 2018. 

rose review progress report
Source: Rose Review Progress Report 2013, Natwest bank

However, challenges remain, as half of female business leaders and entrepreneurs reported that finding access to financing and investment was still difficult, compared to 40% of their male counterparts.

“It’s a testament to the resilience and entrepreneurialism of female founders that they are creating more companies than ever before,” said Alison Rose, chief executive of NatWest Group.  “By listening closely to entrepreneurs and acting on what they tell us, we will provide backing to help them grow their networks, secure finance and achieve their goals.”

Cape Town’s Equality Court has ordered the city to give women and men the same housing rights 

Cape Town has been ordered to recognise women’s housing rights by the court, following a complaint by the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) and resident Gadijah Abdullah. 

The ruling, handed by the Equality Court, declared the City’s housing policy to be inconsistent with South Africa’s Constitution as it discriminated against women.

Up until now women were not entitled to be beneficiaries of housing built by the local authority as these were solely allocated to men.  They also could not have housing transferred into their names, for example in the case of a divorce. 

The court order now requires the City to transfer the housing units to men and women co-owners equally. The WLC welcomed the ruling, saying it will benefit about 12,000 women. It explained that the policy had led to women being vulnerable to eviction because they had no proof that they were co-owners of the housing units. It added, “Women are prone to homelessness because they could never be eligible for houses under any social housing scheme because they would have benefited under their husbands.” 

Featured image by Freepik

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