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5 June 2017
Béatrice Huret stood on a beach on the northern French coast before dawn, watching as her lover headed off across the English Channel in a rickety boat. Would she ever see him again? Had she been taken for a ride, used by a man she met just a few weeks earlier to help him fulfil his dream of a new life in England? Would he drown on the way?
As the boat disappeared over the dark horizon, Béatrice returned to her car, her head full of hope but also full of doubt. The 45-year-old had just a couple years previously been a card-carrying member of the far-right National Front (FN), and she was the widow of a policeman who she says was racist. Now here she was helping her migrant lover, Mokhtar, whom she had met in the so-called Jungle migrant camp in Calais, to sneak into Britain. She recounts the story of how her life changed the day she offered a lift to a teenage migrant in a new book titled Calais Mon Amour. Béatrice says that before his death from cancer in 2010 her husband had been one of the huge number of police officers deployed in Calais to keep migrants from breaking into the Channel Tunnel terminal or the ferry port, in their bid to get to the UK. As a policeman he was not legally allowed to join a political party, so he got his wife to sign up instead to Marine Le Pen's FN, which paid her to distribute pamphlets. He came over and very gently he asked me if I would like a cup of tea. She says that, unlike her husband, she was not really racist. But she admits she was worried about "all these foreigners, who seemed so different, and who were getting into France". Béatrice lived with her teenage son and her mother about 20km (12 miles) from the Jungle, but she had never seen the giant shantytown built of tents and shacks on waste ground on the outskirts of Calais. On her way home from work one very cold day in 2015, she took pity on a Sudanese boy and agreed to drop him off at the camp, which at its peak last year was home to 10,000 people, most of whom had fled war or poverty in Africa, the Middle East, or Afghanistan. Then, for the first time, she saw for herself what conditions there were like. "I felt as though I was in a war zone, it was like a war camp, a refugee camp, and something went 'click' and I said to myself that I just had to help," she says. Suddenly migrants were no longer just a word, no longer an abstraction. Béatrice, who works at a centre where young people are trained to become carers, started to bring food and clothing to people in the Jungle, roping in friends and family members to help. Slowly she got to know the camp and its people, ranging "from shepherds to lawyers to surgeons". Then, in February last year, she laid eyes on Mokhtar, a 34-year-old former teacher who had had to flee his native Iran, where he faced persecution, and was ostracised by his own family for having converted to Christianity. Iranian protester at Calais migrant camp (March 2016). She met him just at the moment when photos of him, and of several of his compatriots, were being published in newspapers around the world, because they had sewn their lips together in protest at the appalling living conditions in the Jungle. "I sat down and then he came over and very gently he asked me if I would like a cup of tea, and then he went and made me tea, and it was a bit of a shock. It was love at first sight," she says. "It was just his look, it was so soft. There they were with their lips sewn up and they ask me, do I want some tea?"
But communication was an obstacle, as Mokhtar spoke no French and she, unlike him, had little English. Their solution was to use Google Translate. A romance blossomed and Béatrice offered to put up Mokhtar and some of his friends in her house, ignoring advice from her friends that she was making a big mistake. She was under no illusions about her new lover's goal. Mokhtar had already tried to get to England by hiding in the back of lorries and now he was about to try a change of tack. He and two friends gave Béatrice about 1,000 euros (£980; ,130) and got her to buy a small boat for them. The youngest was vomiting from fear, the toughest one was smoking cigarettes and saying 'Well, if you have to die, you have to die, that's life'. On 11 June last year, Béatrice towed it to a beach near Dunkirk, and the trio of migrants, none of whom had been in charge of a boat before, set off at about 04:00 on a perilous journey across the world's busiest shipping channel. "We dressed them up so they would look like men out on a fishing trip, with fishing rods," she says with a smile. That was the moment when the whole thing might have ended, when Béatrice hoped for the best but worried that she might have been had, and worried that Mokhtar and his friends might even drown. That very nearly came to pass, when the boat started taking water around 06:30, as it approached the English coast.
It was terrifying, but with hindsight there was something comic about it. "The youngest was vomiting from fear, the toughest one was smoking cigarettes and saying 'Well, if you have to die, you have to die, that's life,' and there was Mokhtar scooping out the water and phoning the emergency services at the same time," she says. The British coastguard sent out a helicopter which eventually spotted them and sent a boat out to the rescue. The three migrants were later questioned by immigration officers, and after a couple of days Mokhtar was sent to an asylum centre from where he could finally contact his beloved, who had been waiting anxiously on the other side of the Channel. "He gave his address in Wakefield. I went to see him the next weekend," Béatrice says. And ever since then she has taken a ferry every second week and driven up to see her lover, who is now in a refugee hostel in Sheffield and who has successfully applied for asylum in the UK. They keep in touch via webcam nearly every night. Beatrice on Skype with Mokhtar. So what of the future? The couple have no plans, Béatrice says, noting that "it hurts when you make plans that don't work out. If our relationship ends, then so be it [but] I owe Mokhtar a beautiful love story, the most beautiful one of my life." The story for her does not end on a purely happy note. Last August she was arrested and charged with people smuggling. She laughs when she speaks of the charge, as for her the idea that she was in it for the money is nothing short of ridiculous. She was taken into custody at the same police station where her late husband used to work. Released on bail, she was placed under judicial supervision, and has to report to police once a week, as she waits for her trial to begin later this month. If found guilty, she could in theory be sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined 750,000 euros, though in her case the penalty would probably be less severe. Béatrice has also been put on the government watchlist of people who are deemed a potential threat to the security of the state. Most people on this list are radical Islamists. This too makes her laugh. Was it all worth it? "Yes," she replied without hesitation. "I did it for him. You do anything for love."

Правда ли, что Мальмё - европейская "столица изнасилований"?
24 февраля 2017
Насколько оправданы заявления о том, что Мальмё превратился в криминальный центр Швеции? Тема роста преступности в Швеции, связанного с ростом числа мигрантов, привлекла всеобщее внимание благодаря недавним высказываниям президента США Дональда Трампа. Сторонники этой теории утверждают, в частности: Швеция за последние годы приняла беспрецедентное количество беженцев. Среди них - множество молодых мужчин. После этого в стране, и в особенности в южном городе Мальмё, наблюдался резкий рост числа преступлений на сексуальной почве. "Пропорционально Швеция приняла больше молодых мужчин-мигрантов, нежели любая другая страна в Европе. В Швеции наблюдался невиданный рост числа преступлений на сексуальной почве. Положение дел ухудшилось до такой степени, что Мальмё превратился в европейскую столицу изнасилований", - заявил на днях депутат Европарламента и бывший лидер ультраправой Партии независимости Соединенного Королевства (UKIP) Найджел Фарадж, обсуждая в эфире радиостанции LBC недавние ремарки президента Трампа по поводу терроризма в Швеции.
Попробуем ответить на следующие вопросы: действительно ли в Швеции в последнее время наблюдался резкий рост числа преступлений на сексуальной почве, и увеличилось ли количество изнасилований в Мальмё после невиданного наплыва беженцев? На самом деле в Мальмё, наравне с другими крупными городами в Швеции, - один из самых высоких в ЕС уровней числа зарегистрированных полицией изнасилований пропорционально количеству жителей. Однако это объясняется главным образом строгостью шведских законов и особенностями процедуры регистрации преступлений на сексуальной почве. При этом нельзя сказать, что число зарегистрированных полицией изнасилований за последние годы в Мальмё существенно выросло. Напротив, в сравнении с пиком 2010 года, еще до наплыва мигрантов, оно даже снизилось. Ультраконсерватор оплатил журналисту поездку в "преступный Мальмё" Чего добилось "феминистическое правительство" Швеции? Групповое изнасилование в Швеции транслировали через Facebook Live. Нет возможности провести связь между преступлениями и определенными этническими группами, поскольку подобная статистика в Швеции не публикуется.  Статистика по зарегистрированным случаям изнасилований в Мальмё не выше, чем в других крупных городах Швеции. Что касается роста числа беженцев в стране, то в этой части утверждения действительно соответствуют истине. По данным агентства Евростат, в 2015 году в Швеции было подано свыше 162 тысяч ходатайств о предоставлении убежища. На каждые 100 тысяч населения приходится, таким образом, 1667 мигрантов, желающих получить убежище - среди стран ЕС это наиболее высокое соотношение прибывших к местным жителям. Большинство тех, кто в 2015 году ходатайствовал об убежище в Швеции, - или 11470 человек - мужчины; 45790 из них - в возрасте от 18 до 34 лет. Стало ли больше преступлений на сексуальной почве?
"Преступления на сексуальной почве" - понятие очень широкое. В Швеции оно относится ко всем преступлениям, так или иначе связанным с сексом. Изнасилование - одно из них. Однако к преступлениям на сексуальной почве также относятся и оплата сексуальных услуг, и сексуальное домогательство, и непристойное обнажение в общественных местах, и развратные действия в отношении несовершеннолетних, и торговля людьми. Многие из прибывающих в Европу мигрантов стремятся попасть в Швецию. В 2015 году, когда наблюдался наибольший наплыв беженцев, число зарегистрированных преступлений на сексуальной почве в Швеции снизилось по сравнению с показателями предыдущего года на 11%, число изнасилований - на 12%: в полицию было заявлено о 18100 преступлений на сексуальной почве, 5920 из них были классифицированы как изнасилование.
В 2014 году, напротив, в стране наблюдался рост количества преступлений на сексуальной почве. Как поясняет шведский Национальный совет по предупреждению преступности (Brå), этот рост был связан с ужесточением законодательства годом ранее. Подобное наблюдалось и в 2006 году, после того как в апреле 2005 года вступили в силу новые законы, регламентирующие наказания за преступления на сексуальной почве. С тех пор каждый эпизод сексуального насилия в Швеции регистрируется отдельно. Как на самом деле обстоят дела в Мальмё?
По словам представителя Brå Сюзанны Лекенгорд, это означает, что если кто-то за последний год ежедневно приходил в полицию и сообщал о сексуальном насилии со стороны партнера или мужа, полиция была обязана регистрировать каждое обращение этого человека. Во многих других странах полиция зарегистрировала бы подобные инциденты лишь единожды: одна и та же жертва, один и тот же тип преступления, одна учетная запись. Кроме того, оплата секс-услуг в Швеции с некоторых пор также считается преступлением, регистрируется и учитывается статистикой. Власти Швеции не обнародуют данные об этнической принадлежности и национальности человека, совершившего любое преступление, в том числе и на сексуальной почве.
Покупка сексуальных услуг является в Швеции преступлением. Однако, по данным Brå, с тех пор, как в страну прибыло большое количество беженцев, в коммуне Мальмё существенного роста числа зарегистрированных случаев изнасилования пропорционально численности населения зафиксировано не было. Самое большое число обращений в полицию в связи с изнасилованиями пришлось на 2008, 2010 и 2011 годы - цифры тогда были выше, нежели в 2015 и 2016 годах, когда наблюдался наплыв мигрантов. Более того, статистика по зарегистрированным случаям изнасилований в коммуне Мальмё не выше, чем в других крупных городах Швеции - Стокгольме или Гётеборге. Если сравнивать в международном масштабе
Сравнить международную статистику по числу преступлений на сексуальной почве и изнасилований крайне трудно. Правила полицейского делопроизводства и юридические определения в разных странах мира настолько разнятся, что их сравнение представляется занятием довольно бессмысленным. В 2012 году ООН обнародовала сравнительные данные по числу изнасилований в различных странах: Швеция вышла на первое место в Европе и второе в мире. Шведы обращаются в полицию в связи с преступлениями на сексуальной почве чаще жителей других стран Европы. Тот доклад ООН, однако, не включал в себя данные по 63 странам, вообще не представшим никакой статистики. Речь идет, к примеру, о Южной Африке, которая в предыдущих докладах по числу изнасилований занимала первые строчки. Согласно недавней статистике Евростата, обобщающей данные по 28 странам ЕС по числу преступлений на сексуальной почве, Швеция вновь оказалась в лидерах. При этом агентство предупреждает, что проводить сравнения между странами на основании этих данных не следует - из-за различий в законодательстве, системе уголовного правосудия, порядке регистрации преступлений, показателях отчетности, эффективности работы органов юстиции и правопорядка и типах правонарушений, подпадающих под определенные категории. Следует учитывать, что в последние два десятилетия в шведском обществе шли активные дебаты, призванные повысить информированность населения и убедить женщин непременно обращаться в полицию в случае нападений и домогательств. Неудивительно, что число обращений в полицию в связи с преступлениями на сексуальной почве в Швеции оказалось выше, нежели в других странах Европы.

The man who cycled from India to Sweden for love
20 February 2017
In 1975 a 20 year old Swedish woman called Lotta von Schedvin drove to India with some friends for a few weeks' holiday. While she was there, she met a man in his mid-twenties, called PK Mahanandia, an impoverished art student, who made a bit of cash in the evenings by sketching tourists.

Video : Trafficking victim: 'I was every day raped and blindfolded underground'
21 February 2017
'Anna' was trafficked from Albania into the UK last year by someone pretending to be her boyfriend.

Afghan woman's ears cut off by husband - ViolenceAgainstWomen2017Afganistan.jpg (2)
1 February 2017
Zarina, recovering in hospital, said her husband had tried to stop visits to her parents. A 23-year-old Afghan woman has described to the BBC how her husband tied her up and cut off both her ears in a domestic violence attack in the northern province of Balkh. The woman - Zarina - is now in a stable but traumatised condition in hospital.
"I haven't committed any sin," she said. "I don't know why my husband did this to me." The woman's husband is on the run in Kashinda district following the attack, police have told local media. Zarina told Pajhwok news that the unprovoked attack took place after her husband suddenly woke her up. She was married at the age of 13, and told BBC that "relations with her husband were not good". Zarina complained that her husband had tried to prevent her from seeing her parents, she said in another interview, with Tolo News. She said she no longer wanted to remain married to him. Zarina recovering in hospital (01 February 2017). "He is a very suspicious man and often accused me of talking to strange men when I went to visit my parents," she said. She has demanded his arrest and prosecution. Her account is the latest in a series of high-profile domestic abuse incidents and cases of violence against women in Afghanistan. In January 2016, a young woman, Reza Gul [pictured, below], had her nose cut off by her husband in the remote Ghormach district of north-western Faryab province. Some months later, a woman was critically ill after being nearly beaten to death by her husband. In November 2015, a young woman was stoned to death in Ghor province after she had been accused of adultery. Earlier that year, a young Kabul woman, Farkhunda, was beaten and burned to death by a mob over false allegations she had set fire to a Koran. In September 2014, a man cut off part of his wife's nose with a kitchen knife, in central Daykundi Province, according to police. It is not clear whether he was ever caught. The case of Aisha featured on the front cover of Time magazine in 2010, after the 18-year-old was mutilated by her husband who cut off her nose and ears as punishment for running away. Reza Gul is waiting to be transferred for further treatment in Turkey. The Afghan government has repeatedly tried to introduce laws to protect women from domestic abuse. But President Hamid Karzai during his time in power was unable - or unwilling - to sign off legislation even though it had been approved by both houses of parliament. In 2014, for example, he ordered changes to draft legislation that critics said would severely limit justice for victims. Mr Karzai's successor, Ashraf Ghani, has also yet to give his assent to legislation passed by Afghan parliament late last year. It was drafted to protect women and children from violence and harassment. The latest attack, on a woman called Zarina, was in the Balkh province.

UN condemns 'devastating' Rohingya abuse in Myanmar
3 February 2017
A Rohingya woman in the makeshift house she shares with 6 other refugees at a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Almost half of the Rohingya interviewed by the UN said a family member had been killed. The UN has accused security forces in Myanmar of committing serious human rights abuses, including gang-rape, savage beatings and child killing.
It made the allegations in a damning report compiled after interviews with more than 200 Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh. One mother recounted how her five-year-old daughter was murdered while trying to protect her from rape. She said a man "took out a long knife and killed her by slitting her throat". In another case, an eight-month-old baby was reportedly killed while five security officers gang-raped his mother. An estimated 65,000 members of the Muslim minority community have fled to Bangladesh since violence broke out in Myanmar - also known as Burma - last October. Rohingya face move to Bangladesh island. Rohingya being killed and raped - UN.
Truth, lies and Aung San Suu Kyi
Nearly half of those interviewed by the UN said a family member had been killed. Of 101 women interviewed, 52 said they had been raped or experienced sexual violence from the security forces. Many told investigators that members of the army or police had burned hundreds of Rohingya homes, schools, markets, shops, and mosques. Numerous testimonies "confirmed that the army deliberately set fire to houses with families inside, and in other cases pushed Rohingyas into already burning houses", the report states. Many victims said they were taunted as they were being beaten or raped, with the perpetrators telling them: "What can your Allah do for you? See what we can do?"
Rohingya Muslims "hated and hounded from Burmese soil". UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein said: "The cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable - what kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother's milk? I call on the international community, with all its strength, to join me in urging the leadership in Myanmar to bring such military operations to an end."

The Stunning Transformation Of Michelle Obama  Jan 19, 2017
Michelle Obama's legacy by her biographer - video
8 March 2016
The White House's first black first lady Michelle Obama once told her aides not to "just put me on a plane, send me someplace and have me smile". Peter Slevin, her biographer, talks about her legacy. He looks at the first lady to do a hula hoop on the White House lawn and dance in public to Uptown Funk. Mrs Obama has also taken a proactive stance on education and obesity among young people.

Michelle Obama joins James Corden for 'Carpool Karaoke' - video
20 July 2016
Michelle Obama is joining James Corden in his hit sketch Carpool Karaoke this week. In the latest edition, Mrs Obama was picked up outside the White House and sang a spirited version of Beyonce's girl-power anthem Single Ladies while taking a ride with the British TV host. The US first lady also revealed she hasn't travelled in the front seat of a car for over seven years.

Is Sweden's deputy PM trolling Donald Trump in Facebook photo? - ClimateMinisterIsabellaLovinImitatingTrump2017Sweden.jpg  Trump&6MenApprovalOfAntiAbortionLaw2017.jpg
3 February 2017
Sweden's climate minister Isabella Lovin in a photo posted on Facebook of her signing the country's new climate law, 3 February 2017. Isabella Lovin's photo posted on Facebook is being compared to an image of President Trump. Sweden's deputy PM is causing a stir after posting an image appearing to parody Donald Trump's signing of an anti-abortion executive order. Isabella Lovin, who is also the country's climate minister, published a photo that shows her signing a new law surrounded by female colleagues. The image has drawn comparisons with Mr Trump's photo in which no women were present. Within hours the post was shared and liked thousands of times on Facebook.
"Why is it so difficult to see a picture with just women and not difficult to see a picture with only men?" she questioned. Meanwhile, users of the social media site Twitter have praised what is being described as Ms Lovin's "dig" at the US president. "Love how the Swedish Deputy PM is taking a dig at Donald Trump in her publicity photo for passing climate change law," writes user Ian Sinkins.The comparisons are being made to a photo last month of Mr Trump signing an executive order to ban federal money going to international groups which perform or provide information on abortions. The image of Mr Trump signing the document surrounded by male colleagues was ridiculed on social media.
On Friday, while signing Sweden's new climate law, Ms Lovin urged European countries to take a leading role in tackling climate change as "the US is not there anymore to lead".
Ms Lovin said Sweden wanted to set an example at a time when "climate sceptics [are] really gaining power in the world again". Mr Trump, who has previously called climate change a hoax...The Swedish government, which claims to be "the first feminist government in the world", has also issued a statement affirming that gender equality is "central" to its priorities. "Gender equality is also part of the solution to society's challenges and a matter of course in a modern welfare state - for justice and economic development," the statement reads.

Michelle Obama hits out at Donald Trump
26 July 2016
Michelle Obama opened this year's Democratic convention with a rallying cry for Hillary Clinton and a warning for Republican Donald Trump. The First Lady focused on the responsibility for the next president, the legacy they will leave, and the historical significance of the first female party nomination. She reinforced her support for Hillary Clinton, while making several pointed references about Mr Trump.

Harriet Harman breaks record for long service as MP - video - HarrietHarmanDeputyLeader2007.jpg  HarrietHarman2014.jpg  HarrietHarman2015ElectionCampain.jpg
16 December 2016
Daily Politics looked at some of the highlights of Harriet Harman's career in 2015. Labour's Harriet Harman has become the longest continuously serving female MP, racking up 12,468 days in the Commons. Since Ms Harman was elected in a Peckham by-election in 1982, she has worked with seven different Labour leaders and been acting leader twice.
Friday marks the day she surpasses Gwyneth Dunwoody's record, although the late Labour MP served longer overall in two separate periods. The longest-serving MP is Sir Gerald Kaufman who was first elected in 1970. Gordon Brown and Harriet Harman. Ms Harman was elected as Labour's deputy leader in 2007 - but was not made deputy PM. Ms Harman is a long standing campaigner for women's rights. Harriet Harman and the pink bus. Ms Harman's pink bus attracted mixed responses on the 2015 general election campaign trail. Sacked as social security secretary from Tony Blair's first cabinet, Ms Harman returned to the front bench as solicitor general in 2001 and served in various roles including Commons leader and equalities secretary under Gordon Brown. Ms Harman has served as Labour's deputy leader, under Gordon Brown's premiership, and as acting leader after Mr Brown stepped down following the 2010 general election and in 2015, when his successor Ed Miliband quit. She has long campaigned for more women MPs and more family-friendly policies and has sometimes been dubbed "Labour's in-house feminist", but she has also criticised the number of men in top jobs in the party. And it has been a source of embarrassment to Labour that they have never had a female leader - while the Conservatives have had two. In a speech in Westminster in 2014, Ms Harman admitted she was "surprised" by Mr Brown's decision not to make her deputy prime minister - as deputy leader John Prescott had been under Tony Blair, saying: "If one of the men had won the deputy leadership would that have happened? "Would they have put up with it? I doubt it." Among those congratulating her on Friday was her Labour colleague in the neighbouring London constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood, Helen Hayes, who tweeted: "Thank you for the huge difference you have made, esp for women." Ms Harman thanked her adding: "Much done but so much to do." Mrs Dunwoody, who was 77 when she died in 2008, served for more years overall, having been first elected in 1966 as MP for Exeter. She lost the seat in 1970 but was elected as MP for Crewe in 1974 and remained in the Commons until her death.

First US Somali lawmaker gets 'Islamophobic threats' in taxi

Somali-AmericanLawmakerMsOmar.jpg   Somali-AmericanLawmakerMsOmarInWhiteHouseUS.jpg
8 December 2016
The first Somali-American lawmaker in the US has said she was subjected to "hateful" anti-Muslim threats from a taxi driver in Washington DC. Minnesota Representative-elect Ilhan Omar said the cabbie threatened to remove her hijab during a confrontation on Tuesday. The 34-year-old said the incident occurred just after she attended policy training at the White House. Ms Omar, a Democrat, came to the US as a child from a refugee camp in Kenya. She made history and national headlines last month when she defeated a Republican to gain a seat in Minnesota's state house of representatives. Historic win for Somali-American woman. America's invisible Muslims.
"On my way to our hotel, I got in a cab and became subjected to the most hateful, derogatory, Islamophobic, sexist taunts and threats I have ever experienced," she wrote in a post on social media. "The cabdriver called me ISIS [so-called Islamic State] and threatened to remove my hijab, I really wasn't sure how this encounter would end as I attempted to rush out of his cab and retrieve my belongings. I am still shaken by this incident and can't wrap my head around how bold being (sic) are becoming in displaying their hate toward Muslims. I pray for his humanity and for all those who harbor hate in their hearts."
Ms Omar was attending policy training at the White House. Washington DC's Metropolitan Police Department told the BBC it was not aware of having received any complaint about the incident. "At this time, no report could be located with the name you provided," said Officer Hugh Carew. Responding to an inquiry on her Facebook page, Ms Omar said she would report the incident once she returned to Minneapolis, noting she did not feel safe as the driver knew where she was staying. Ms Omar declined to provide more details, because
"she wants to focus her time in DC attending the trainings, conferences and meetings she has scheduled over the next few days", a spokesperson told the Minnesota Star Tribune.
Election 2016: Muslim-Americans 'grieving' after Trump win. Her election came days after US President-elect Donald Trump accused Somali immigrants in Minnesota of "spreading their extremist views". Ms Omar also serves as director of policy at the Women Organizing Women Network, a group that aims to encourage East African women to participate in civic leadership. Minnesota has the nation's largest Somali community - about 50,000, according to the US Census.

The Swedish physicist revolutionising birth control
7 Aug 2017
Elina Berglund Scherwitzl, co-founder of Natural Cycles. Inventing the first app in the world to be approved as a contraceptive started as a hobby project for Elina Berglund Scherwitzl. The nuclear physicist, who'd been working on the team that discovered the Higgs boson, was tired of using hormonal contraception but wasn't ready to have a baby.
So the Swede set about using her data skills to find an alternative. "Like many women I had tried many different contraception options since my teenage years and hadn't really found a solution that fit me," she explains. "It was in my quest for an effective natural alternative that I discovered that you can see when you're fertile by your temperature, and for me that was really a revelation." The Natural Cycles app tells users when they are ovulating. Using complex mathematics and data analysis, Mrs Berglund Scherwitzl began developing an algorithm designed to be so precise it could pinpoint exactly when in her cycle she would ovulate. This enabled her to map out the days when she would need to use protection, to a much higher degree of certainty than similar "rhythm" or natural planning methods. Close monitoring. She was so pleased with the results that, together with her Austrian husband, fellow physicist Raoul Scherwitzl, she set about founding her own business called Natural Cycles. It offers an app designed to help women around the world with their fertility and contraception needs, by allowing them to collect their own temperature data sets and closely monitor their cycle trends. Birth control. Mrs Berglund Scherwitzl was tired of using birth control but not ready to have baby. Launched in 2014, it now has some 300,000 users, who pay a monthly or annual fee for the service. In the UK a yearly deal costs £50, which includes the cost of a thermometer. The company has attracted m (.1m) in investment and has so far made sales of more than m. However, if it wasn't for the timing of another large scientific discovery, the project may not have got off the ground so quickly. Mrs Berglund Scherwitzl, who was raised in Malmo in southern Sweden, had been working at Cern, the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research. In 2012, after decades of research, the team she was part of finally found the Higgs boson particle, crucial to our understanding of how the universe works. Mrs Berglund Scherwitzl founded the business with her husband Raoul. "A lot is about coincidence and also timing. We had just got married. The experiment was shutting down for a couple of years and I was thinking, 'If I would ever try something outside of physics, now would be the time'. "My husband had always wanted to become an entrepreneur, so he suggested, 'Okay let's leave physics and make this algorithm into an app'." Following several medical trials, their app became the first tech-based device on the planet to be formally certified for use as contraception, in February 2017. It gained approval for use across the EU after getting the green light from the German inspection and certification organisation Tuv Sud. Yet the journey from launch to European certification was "a rollercoaster", she says. An initial approval from the Swedish Medicinal Products Agency was revoked in 2015, amid headlines about the app encouraging risky behaviour among young women in her home country, where the couple had returned to develop their business. 'So naive'
The company was banned from marketing the app for 18 months, resulting in "a big bump in the road" for the growth of the firm. "Since I came from the scientific angle I thought that if I just create a product that's really good, it will sell itself and everyone will trust it. I realise that that's not at all the case," she admits. The entrepreneur wants to support women with their health issues. "But it was maybe good that I was so naive, because if I would have known all the challenges ahead, maybe I wouldn't have dared to do it." The start-up now markets itself as being "as effective as the pill", following one of the largest clinical studies in contraception involving more than 4,000 women, published in the peer-reviewed European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care. The researchers - which included the co-founding couple - found that 7% of women who used the app in a "typical" way (allowing for some human error) got pregnant, compared to 9% taking the pill and less than 1% using IUD coils. Against this background, Mrs Berglund Scherwitzl accepts that her product relies on women sticking closely to the app's instructions and therefore might not be for everyone, not least because it also fails to protect its users from sexually transmitted diseases. The firm now wants to help women with family planning. "Just like the pill we need some effort from the user on a daily basis. But we really hope to be the default alternative if you don't want to use hormonal contraception or IUDs," she argues. While the product is only currently certified in the EU, where its users are concentrated in the UK and the Nordics, it is available worldwide and, despite its earlier controversies has attracted users in some 160 countries.
Mrs Berglund Scherwitzl says that global sales have already shot up since its EU certification was confirmed in February, with the firm already more than doubling last year's turnover of m. Alongside expanding its subscription base of women seeking to avoid getting pregnant, the company is also trying to attract more customers using the app from a family planning perspective - to work out when is the best time to conceive. Visionary couple
Continuing to build their company - which now has 30 employees based in Stockholm - while also caring for a young child has not been easy, she says. However it has guaranteed they spend plenty of time together. "It's our passion and our hobby. At night when we come home and have a glass of wine we talk about our goals and we become a bit more visionary than we have time to do during the work day." That vision involves raising awareness of how technology can be used to tackle issues linked to women's health, something which she says has been "largely ignored because researchers are often men". The pair also hope to increase the number of the app's users in developing countries and nations where religion is a barrier to contraception. "We've come even further than I first hoped, and that's an amazing feeling. But I feel like we should not stop here, she says.
"Now is really the time to grow and reach all these women in the world...Every pregnancy should bring happiness."
На свадьбе в Индии невестам вручили биты для защиты от пьяных мужей

1 мая 2017
Массовые свадьбы - нередкое явление в Индии; как правило, к ним прибегают семьи с небольшим достатком. Несколько сотен невест во время массового бракосочетания в индийском штате Мадхья-Прадеш получили в подарок деревянные дубинки. Министр правительства штата Гопал Бхаргава, вручая полуметровые биты, которыми обычно пользуются при стирке для выколачивания белья, призвал девушек применять их, если их мужья, выпив, попытаются их оскорблять. Таким образом, отметил министр, он хочет помочь бороться с домашним насилием. Но он все же призвал девушек перед применением дубинок попытаться поговорить с мужьями. И уж если это не поможет, тогда "пусть дубинки поговорят с ними". Он сообщил, что заказал для этой цели в общей сложности 10 тысяч деревянных бит. В ходе этой массовой свадебной церемонии такой подарок получили около 700 невест. На всех дубинках была сделана надпись: "Для битья пьяниц", а также "Полиция не будет вмешиваться". Массовые свадьбы - нередкое явление в Индии. Такими церемониями обычно пользуются семьи с небольшим достатком, чтобы сократить расходы на проведение свадьбы.

Женщина или корова: кто в Индии важнее?
28 июня 2017
Неужели женщины менее важны, чем коровы? Этот неудобный вопрос лежит в основе фотопроекта, который буквально "взорвал" соцсети и вызвал ярость местных интернет-троллей в адрес 23-летнего фотографа за то, что тот запечатлел индийских женщин в масках коровы. "Меня беспокоит тот факт, что в моей стране коровы считаются более важными, чем женщины; что изнасилованной или пережившей нападение женщине гораздо дольше надо дожидаться правосудия, чем корове, которую индусы почитают священным животным", - так разъяснил идею своего проекта живущий в Дели фотограф Суджатро Гош. Действительно, Индия часто попадает в новостные сводки именно из-за количества преступлений против женщин, поскольку изнасилование в этой стране происходит каждые 15 минут. "Эти дела рассматриваются в судах годами, прежде чем кого-нибудь осудят, тогда как когда убивают корову, то экстремистские индуистские группы тут же идут и убивают или избивают того, кого они подозревают в забое животного", - говорит фотограф. Фотопроект, как говорит Суджатро, это его протест против растущего влияния групп народных бдителей по защите коров, которые совсем распоясались с приходом к власти 2014 году ультраправой националистической партии "Бхаратия джаната".
"Меня взволновало линчевание в Дадри [поселок в штате Уттар-Прадеш, где индуистские экстремисты убили мусульманина, про которого говорили, что он хранил и ел говядину] и другие подобные нападения на мусульман на религиозной почве со стороны бдителей интересов коров", - говорит Гош. В индийском штате ввели пожизненное заключение за убийство коровы. 
Первое фото было сделано на фоне знаменитого и одного из самых посещаемых мест в Индии - монумента "Ворота Индии". В последние несколько месяцев кроткая корова стала в Индии символом, поляризовавшим общество. Правящая партия настаивает на том, что корова - священное животное и должно охраняться. В некоторых штатах запрещено забивать коров, а против нарушающих этот запрет введено строгое наказание, и теперь парламент рассматривает закон о смертной казни за это правонарушение. Однако говядина - это одно из основных блюд, которое едят мусульмане, христиане и миллионы представителей самых низших каст (далитов или неприкасаемых), и именно они подвергаются насилию со стороны народных бдителей. За последние два года во имя коровы были убиты около 10 человек, причем часто жертвы избираются на основании одних слухов, а на мусульман нападают даже за перевозку коровьего молока. Гош, который родился в Колкате (бывшей Калькутте - городе на востоке страны), говорит, что узнал "об этой опасной смеси религии и политики", только когда переехал в Дели несколько лет назад, и надеется, что этот проект станет беззвучным протестом, который изменит ситуацию. В начале июня Гош, будучи в Нью-Йорке, купил в магазине развлекательных принадлежностей маску коровы и по возвращении начал снимать женщин в этой маске в различных местах - на фоне туристических достопримечательностей, правительственных зданий, у них дома, на корабле, на поезде и т.д. - поскольку женщины уязвимы повсюду. "Я фотографировал женщин из всех слоев общества. Я начал этот проект в Дели, поскольку столица - это центр всего: политики, религии и всех общественных дебатов. Я снял первое фото на фоне знаменитого и одного из самых посещаемых мест в Индии - монумента "Ворота Индии". Затем я сфотографировал другую модель на фоне президентского дворца, третью - на лодке на реке Хугли в Колькате на фоне моста Ховра", - рассказывает автор проекта. В проекте пока приняли участие знакомые автора. Отчего же не сняться на фоне президентского дворца? Пока что все его модели - это приятельницы или знакомые, поскольку, как объясняет Суджатро, "эта тема вызывает настолько обостренную реакцию, что трудно было бы обращаться по этому поводу к незнакомым". Две недели назад он запустил этот проект в "Инстаграме" и получил положительную реакцию: "Он за неделю стал "вирусным" - и все мои благосколонные подписчики, и даже те, кого я не знал, - все его оценили". Но после того, как о проекте написали индийские газеты и поместили статьи об этом на свои страницы в "Фейсбуке" и "Твиттере", началось невообразимое. Некоторые в комментариях начали мне угрожать. В "Твиттере" меня стали троллить; писали, что меня вместе с моим моделями надо отвезти в Соборную мечеть в Дели и там забить, а наше мясо надо скормить женщине-журналистке и женщине-писательнице, которых националисты ненавидят. Они писали, что хотят посмотреть, как моя мать будет обливаться слезами над моим телом", - говорит фотограф. Некоторые даже обратились в полицию Дели с просьбой арестовать автора , обвинив его в разжигании беспорядков. Гош не удивлен этой злобой и признает, что его работа - это опосредованный выпад в адрес правящей партии "Бхаратия джаната". "Я делаю политическое заявление, поскольку этот вопрос имеет политическое значение, но если мы заглянем глубже, то увидим, что индуистский национал-шовинизм всегда существовал, просто за последние два года с этим правительством он вылез наружу". Угрозы не напугали молодого фотографа. "Я не боюсь, потому что я делаю это во имя всеобщего блага", - говорит он. Кроме того, положительной стороной столь широкой популярности его проекта стало то, что он получил огромное количество посланий от женщин из разных уголков земного шара, которые сказали, что хотят поучаствовать в его кампании. Так что корова, как он говорит, продолжит свое путешествие.

The defiance of an 'untouchable' New York subway worker
25 July 2017
Gidla was the first Indian woman to be employed as a conductor on the New York City Subway. The memoir of an Indian woman who was born a so-called untouchable and now works as a conductor on the New York City Subway has been hailed by critics for its unflinching account of caste and family in India. Journalist Sudha G Tilak spoke to Sujatha Gidla about her life story and how it became Ants Among Elephants. In Sanskrit, the main language used by scholars in ancient India and sometimes referred to as the language of gods, her first name means one of noble birth. The irony is laid bare by Sujatha Gidla whose recent memoir speaks of her life and her family and the plight of 300 millions Dalits ("oppressed" in Sanskrit), formerly known as untouchables in India. An expressive personal examination of her life, her parents, especially her mother, grandparents and Satyamurthy, a Maoist uncle who hoped revolution would help improve the caste discrimination his people suffered, Ants Among Elephants has quickly become the toast of critics and readers in America. India's Dalits still fighting untouchability. The New York Times said the "unsentimental, deeply poignant book" gives "readers an unsettling and visceral understanding of how discrimination, segregation and stereotypes have endured throughout the second half of the 20th Century and today". Reviewer Michiko Kakutani wrote that Gidla's family stories reveal how "ancient prejudices persist in contemporary India, and how those prejudices are being challenged by the disenfranchised". The Minneapolis Star Tribune described the book as the "boisterous life of an Indian family that fought the caste system". "Gidla is our Virgil into the world of the untouchables and their acts of defiance; not just as an observer, but as a participant," wrote reviewer Peter Lewis. She is bitten by the revolutionary bug, and bitten hard: arrested by the Indian authorities, tortured, left to rot, released. She has been party to the heights and the depths of living a revolution." Sujatha Gidla with her brother, Abraham. Michael D Langan, a culture critic for, wrote that Gidla breaks away her "indomitable soul" and tells her family stories, adding: "They are not stories of shame, but of grace." Gidla's story is one of personal struggle and a certain freedom she has found in America today. She writes that caste is an accursed state in India, especially for Dalits: "Your life is your caste, your caste is your life." With her memoir, Gidla joins the ranks of India's many Dalit women who are telling stories to be heard and counted in a system that seeks to keep them down. Gidla hails from the Dalit community of Kazipet, a small town in southern Telangana state.
Unflinching look
The 53-year-old subway conductor has been luckier than most Dalits back home, women especially, who suffer unspeakable cruelty, are employed in menial jobs including cleaning of human excreta and are segregated by their communities. Unlike most of her lot, her family was "middle class", thanks to the help of Canadian missionaries in her region who aided in education and offered them religion. Her family was thus Christian and benefited with education. Her parents held jobs as college teachers. Gidla says that proselytization didn't help her lot. "Christians, untouchables - it came to the same thing. All Christians in India were untouchable. I knew no Christian who did not turn servile in the presence of a Hindu." The book chronicles unflinchingly the caste slurs and segregation Gidla and Dalits like her have to endure in India. Separate plates and glasses in eateries; a junior school classmate who refused to eat the sweet she offered; barred from access to the community's source of drinking water; riding a bicycle or wearing sandals and the many rejections of love and opportunities that remind Dalits of their status as social outcastes. Since her teens Gidla was spurred to rebel with her uncle, the rebel Telugu language poet Shivasagar, setting an example. His call to join the Communists and later the guerrilla movement of the region demanding social justice held appeal for the young Gidla.
'Culture of protest'
Gidla admits that she has had it better than many Dalit students who are "driven to suicide" despite securing education under affirmative practices She was able to study physics in an engineering college in south India. She also joined India's top and most sought-after engineering school, the Indian Institute of technology (IIT), as a researcher in applied physics. In Madras (now Chennai) she found most of her classmates clearing the tests to study further abroad. "For me, what was appealing was the idea of America, especially Bob Dylan's music, the culture of protest, and the draw of joining a society where debates on rights and equality could be articulated," she told the BBC.
At 26 she came to America "where people know only skin colour, not birth status", she writes. There are some 300 million Dalits in India. There, she says, she faced racism. And caste was right here too. She says she found "petty caste discrimination" among the Indian community. Yet life was much more liberating. As she says: "If you are educated like me, if you don't seem like a typical untouchable, then you have a choice." Her siblings, too, have left their life behind in India to find livelihoods and build families. Her sister is a physician in America and her brother is an engineer in Canada. Writing the book has almost been a family affair as well, with her mother who was "involved in this book as it is her story too" and her young niece Anagha who wanted to design the book.
'Hindu conductor'
After she was laid off from her bank job in 2009, Gidla took up the job at the New York subway. She was the first Indian woman to be employed as a conductor on one of the busiest mass transit systems in the world. In her job she is often identified as "that Hindu conductor", she says. She is "a novelty", she says, to fellow Indian commuters. And if she hears an Indian language she is familiar with, especially the south Indian language Telugu, she calls out a greeting and watches them in glee "as they do a double take" and smile back. In America, writes Gilda, "people know only my skin colour, not birth status". "One time in a bar in Atlanta I told a guy I was untouchable, and he said, 'Oh, but you're so touchable'."
Jasvinder Sanghera: I ran away to escape a forced marriage

24 February 2017
Jasvinder Sanghera was locked in a room by her parents when she was 16, when she refused to marry the man they had chosen for her. Here she describes how she escaped with the help of a secret boyfriend - but lost all contact with her family as a result. Growing up we had no freedom whatsoever. Everything was watched, monitored and controlled. We understood that we had to be careful how we behaved so as not to shame the family. I'm one of seven sisters and there's only one younger than me so I'd watched my sisters having to be married at very young ages - as young as 15. They would disappear to become a wife and go to India, come back, not go back to school and then go into these marriages and be physically and psychologically abused. And my impression of marriage was that this is what happens to you - you get married, you get beaten up, and then you're told to stay there. My parents were Sikh and Sikhism was born on the foundation of compassion and equality of men and women, and yet here we have women who were treated very differently. My brother was allowed total freedom of expression. He was also allowed to choose who he wanted to marry. But the women were treated differently and that was reinforced within the communities. It's gone unchallenged and it's deeply ingrained. I don't think I was smarter. I just don't know what it was within me. My mother used to say: "You were born upside down, you were different from birth." Maybe she helped me out by saying that, because it made me question a number of things, and then when I was shown the photograph of this man, as a 14-year-old, knowing that I'd been promised to him from the age of eight and being expected to contemplate marriage, I looked at this picture thinking: "Well he's shorter than me and he's very much older than me and I don't want this." And it was as simple as that. But within our family dynamic we were taught to be silent. Saying no to the marriage meant my family took me out of education and they held me a prisoner in my own home. I was 15 and I was locked in this room and literally I was not allowed to leave the room until I agreed to the marriage. It was padlocked on the outside and I had to knock on the door to go the toilet and they brought food to the door. My mother was the very person who enforced the rules. People don't think of women as the gatekeepers to an honour system. So in the end I said yes, purely to plan my escape. And it was as simple as that, because then I had freedom of movement. The only friends we were allowed had to be from an Indian community as well. And my best friend, who was Indian, it was her brother who helped me in the end. He became my secret boyfriend. He saved some money and said, "I want to be with you and I'll help you to escape." He would come to the house at night and stand in the garden and we would secretly mouth things to each other through the window. One day he dressed up as a woman and went into a shoe shop and pretended he was shopping. He handed me a note which said, "I'll be at the back of the house at this time - look out of the window." So I did, and he mouthed for me to pack my wardrobe and I lowered two cases down using sheets tied together, and flushed the toilets so my mother wouldn't hear. And then one day I was at home with my dad, who was at home because he worked nights, and the front door was open, and I just ran out. I ran all the way, a good three-and-a-half miles, to where my boyfriend worked and hid behind a wall and waited for him to come out. He went and got my cases and then picked me up in his Ford Escort and got me to close my eyes and put my finger on a map, and it landed on Newcastle.
Jasvinder, now 51, helps others who are in the same situation as she was. I sat in the footwell of the car all the way so no-one would see me and then when I saw the Tyne bridge I was absolutely amazed by it because I had never been anywhere outside Derby. My parents reported me missing to the police and it was the police officer who told me I had to ring home to let them know I was safe and well. My mother answered the phone and I said: "Mom, it's me. You know, I want to come home but I don't want to marry that stranger."
Her response has stayed with me for the rest of my life. She said: "You either come back and marry who we say, or from this day forward you are now dead in our eyes."
It was only later on when things settled down that I begin to think, "I've done it but where's my family? I want my family." I was missing them terribly. You feel like a dead person walking. My boyfriend used to drive me to my hometown at 3am just so I could see my dad walking home from the foundry. What changed how I felt was the death of my sister, Robina. She was taken out of school at 15 for nine months, married to a man in India, and then came back and put in the same year as me and nobody questioned this at all. But he treated her terribly and when her son was around six months old she severed the relationship. She then married for love and my parents agreed to it because he was Indian - Sikh and from the same caste as us. She again suffered domestic abuse but my parents made it clear that because she had chosen him she had a duty, doubly, to make it work. She went to see a local community leader - they have a lot of power, my parents would have seen his word as the word of God - and he told her: "You need to think of your husband's temper like a pan of milk - when it boils it rises to the top and a woman's role is to blow it to cool it down." When she was 25 she set herself on fire and she died. When she was - I say - driven to commit suicide, that was the turning point for me.  I've learned to live my life with no expectations of family whatsoever. I've never had a birthday card in 35 years and neither have my children. For my children it's a total blank on their mother's side when it comes to family. I've got nephews and nieces that I'll never meet because all of my siblings sided with my parents. I have actually stipulated in my will that I do not want any of my estranged family to be at my funeral because I know the hypocrisy that exists within them. They will want to show their face, but if they couldn't show it when I was alive, I'm not going to give them that privilege when I'm gone. I have three children - Natasha who's 31, Anna who's 22 and Jordan who's 19. You almost live vicariously through your children because you want them to have everything you never had.
My daughter married an Asian man and I was worried - I didn't want this family to take it out on her that her mother was disowned and had run away from home. But thankfully for me my fears were completely unfounded because here was an Indian family that did the exact opposite of what my family did. Starting a charity, Karma Nirvana, in 1993 from my kitchen table allowed me for the first time to start talking about my personal experiences and what had happened to my sister. My family wanted us to never speak about Robina again. Sometimes at Christmas my children would meet these different women at the dinner table - survivors disowned by their family - and they had no idea who would be the next person at our table, but they understood why. The charity will be 25 years old next year. We have helped make forced marriage a criminal offence, we have a helpline funded by the government which takes 750 calls a month - 58% of callers are victims and the others are professionals calling about a victim. We do risk assessments, offer refuge and help plan escapes. We still don't have enough responses from professionals and we've got to try to increase the reporting, but we're getting there. This is abuse, not part of culture where we make excuses - cultural acceptance does not mean accepting the unacceptable. Abuse is abuse. I'm a grandmother now - my daughter's expecting her second child in March. And you know when I look at them I think to myself, 'they're never going to inherit that legacy of abuse because of that decision I made when I was 16.' And that really makes me feel a lot stronger.

Phnom Penh's No 1 ladies taxi scooter agency (in Italy women were driving scooters for years, LM) - fpGirlsScooterTours2017Cambodia.jpg (4)
5 February 2017
In Cambodia's capital, motorbike taxis are everywhere - but it's extremely rare to see women drivers transporting tourists. Those who do are judged harshly. Katya Cengel meets the young entrepreneur trying to change that. When they show up at a Phnom Penh hotel in their tight red T-shirts and skinny jeans, people tend to get the wrong idea about Renou Chea and her fellow Moto Girl Tour guides. "They think we're not 'good girls'," says Renou, a slight 26-year-old with long dark hair. "They think we're 'bad girls'."
It is an important distinction to make in Cambodia, where women, who associate with foreigners are often assumed to be "bad girls" - or women who work in the sex trade.
"Sometimes they think that when we hang out with the men, it's just like for sex or something like that," adds her sister, Raksmey Chea, 23. The Moto Girl Tour website doesn't help, offering motorbike tours of Cambodia's capital by "young and beautiful lady drivers". Because they are all young and beautiful, Renou doesn't understand why advertising this might seem strange. What is strange, at least in this South East Asian country, is women driving tourists. It just isn't done, says Siv Cheng, owner of Phnom Penh-based CS Travel. "Mostly, you see, all moto (taxi) drivers are male," says Cheng. Moto Girl Tour, Photo Left to right: Sreynich Horm, Raksmey Chea and Renou Chea.
Many women drive the little Vespa scooters and Hyundai motorbikes that zip around the city - everyone does - but they don't usually carry tourists. Renou got the idea after an aunt told her about schoolgirls offering a moto taxi service in Thailand. To make sure they kept their reputations safe, the women established a rule - no holding on to the guide
Having ridden a motorbike since high school, and having studied English in college, Renou figured showing tourists around her city would be a fun way to earn money. Having also studied accounting, she no doubt saw a good business opportunity as well. In 2015 almost five million tourists travelled to Cambodia, according to the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism. Renou recruited her younger sister and Sreynich Horm, 22 - both as petite and pretty as Renou - and occasionally a fourth woman to be Moto Girl Tour guides. But before they took their first tourists on board their bikes in early 2016, they had to convince their families that they would be safe. Horm's father worried that a foreigner riding behind her could touch her and do other things to her - things "good" virgin girls should not have done to them. To make sure they kept their reputations safe, the women established a rule - no holding on to the guide, hold the handlebar on the seat behind you instead. When they have night tours and tours outside the city they team up. Still, friends and family often worry about the women carrying around large foreigners. At 4ft 9in (1.45m) and 6st 5lb (40kg), Renou is the "tall" Moto Girl. Her Vespa is more than twice her weight, but she gets upset when people think she can't handle it or heavy loads. For years she has been helping her father with his grocery store by making deliveries on her Vespa. Plus, as a woman, she believes she is actually a safer driver, something Hong Ly, guest relations' manager at Mito Hotel agrees with. Renou would like to see more female travellers in Cambodia. "Tourists like girls who drive slow, not weave in and out of traffic," said Ly, who keeps a stack of Moto Girl Tour brochures on her desk.
The Moto Girls may be on to something. In early 2016 Vespa Adventures motorbike tour-company opened a branch in Phnom Penh and began hiring both male and female drivers, says Alex Meldrum, manager of the Phnom Penh branch. So far the majority of the company's 50 or so customers have been male. An American man founded the original Vespa Adventures in Vietnam. But a Cambodian woman who plans to hire mainly female drivers in the group's other Cambodian location of Siem Reap runs Cambodian Vespa Adventures. Chanel Sinclair, a 31-year-old lawyer from Australia, was both thrilled and comforted to find female tour guides when travelling solo in Phnom Penh for the first time in spring 2016. She was so pleased with the attentive service she received from the Moto Girls, including regular cold water deliveries and help with bartering, that she went on three tours with the group.
Renou would like to see more women travellers like Sinclair, but so far the majority of the company's 50 or so customers have been male. Scottish photographer Ross Kennedy, 44, took a custom tour with the Moto Girls in March 2016. To find more authentic scenes for Kennedy to shoot, Horm went to a region outside the city where her father has family and asked locals' advice. Kennedy's tour began with crashing a wedding in the morning and ended with a Buddhist blessing ceremony in the afternoon. "Those are the memories that make a trip special," Kennedy wrote in an email. In addition to being female, the Moto Girls try to differentiate themselves as well-informed guides who can discuss Cambodian art, history and culture. Finding the right spots are not the only challenges they face. There are the cultural differences as well, like the Indian customer who said "Yes" while shaking his head in a fashion Renou mistook for "No", or the man from New Zealand who screamed when he saw a chicken on the road. On one occasion Renou and her client were so absorbed in their tour of the National Museum that neither heard the alarm sounding the museum's closing. Renou finally glanced at her watch at 17:30, half an hour after closing time. As they raced to the gate, her client promised to book another tour - if she could get them out of the museum. "OK. Fantastic," Renou thought. The locked gate proved a dead end, but some workers were able to find a security guard who let them out. Renou's customer proved true to his word and booked another tour. Other difficulties are in the driving itself. Passengers unfamiliar with riding motorbikes sometimes lean to the left when they should lean right, says Horm. Then there was the tourist who got the wrong idea and asked her out on a date. She turned him down, not wanting to confuse her work with her social life. Plus, she didn't fancy him.

The Afghan girls with silver swords

fpGirlsSelfDefence2017Afganistan.jpg (6)

6 February 2017
Students of the Shaolin Wushu club show their Wushu skills to other students on a hilltop in Kabul, Afghanistan. Led by 20-year-old Sima Azimi, the Shaolin Wushu club practises on a snow-covered mountaintop to the west of Kabul. Developed from ancient Chinese martial arts, the sport of wushu sees these young women moving fluidly, slicing the air with silver swords. Sima Azimi, 20, a trainer at the Shaolin Wushu club, shows her Wushu skills to other students on a hilltop in Kabul, Afghanistan. Students of the Shaolin Wushu club climb a hill as they arrive to practice in Kabul, Afghanistan. Sima Azimi, a trainer at the Shaolin Wushu club, and Shakila Muradi, show their Wushu skills to other students on a hilltop in Kabul, Afghanistan. Latifa Safay (right), Hanifa Doosti (centre) and Suraya Rezai (left), students of the Shaolin Wushu club, take a selfie before practicing on a hilltop in Kabul, Afghanistan. After learning the sport in Iran, Sima won medals in competition and says: "My ambition is to see my students take part in international matches and win medals for their country." Despite the popularity of martial arts in Afghanistan, women's sport is severely restricted. All of the women in the club are Hazara, a Dari-speaking, mainly Shia group. They have generally more liberal social traditions that allow them to practise sports outside the home. Hatifa Rezai , a student of the Shaolin Wushu club, is reflected in a mirror as she adjusts her scarf before her exercise in Kabul, Afghanistan. The girls sit in a circle on the floor. In addition to the regular dangers of life in Kabul, these women face intimidation and abuse. One member, Shakila Muradi, says: "There are many people harassing us, but we ignore them and follow our goals."
Sima Azimi, a trainer at the Shaolin Wushu club, talks with her father Rahmatullah Azimi, in Kabul. Sima Azimi (left), a trainer at the Shaolin Wushu club, eats lunch with her students at a restaurant in Kabul. Sima has been teaching in Kabul for about a year, training at the club's gym with her father. This gym has a large poster of stuntman Hussain Sadiqi, a Hazara martial arts champion who fled to Australia to work in film. Her father declares his pride in his daughter. "I am really happy that I helped, encouraged and supported Sima," he says.

The women banished to a hut during their periods - Video

ViolentCustomsIndia2017.jpg  NepalIndiaMap.jpg  ViolentCustoms2017India.jpg  ViolentCustoms2017Nepal.jpg  ViolentCustoms2017NepalLaxmi.jpg  ViolentCustoms2017NepalMenPriestsDictators.jpg
29 April 2017
An ancient Hindu tradition meaning menstruating women are banished to an outhouse is still alive in western Nepal. Meet those who have to sleep outside every month, and the women fighting to end the practice. Banished for bleeding. The women forced to move out of home when they have their periods. The landscape of Nepal is a geographical staircase, descending  from snow-capped Himalayan mountains, through steep middle hills, to the lush flat plains of the south. In the middle step, in the remote far west of the country, life has changed little over the decades. For 18-year-old Ishwari Joshi, this means doing as her mother and grandmother did before her and leaving her home when she has her period. The practice is called “chhaupadi” - a name for menstruation which also conveys the meaning that a woman is unclean when she is bleeding. “The first time I had my period I was 15. I had to stay out for nine days,” she says. 'We have to sleep outside'. Ishwari's village Dhamilekh clings to an exposed hillside, commanding breathtaking views of high mountains and a low green valley criss-crossed by two rivers. About 100 families live here, snugly squeezed together in three-storey, mud-plastered houses. Cattle sleep on the ground floor, families on the middle, while the top floor is used for cooking. These are tiny spaces, shared by several families, without proper beds or bedding. When the women are isolated here, they can't cook, eat nutritious food, drink from or bathe in the village water source. They are forbidden from touching plants, cattle or men. “It is said that if we touch a cow, they will not give milk,” says Ishwari's friend Nirmala. “We've never seen anything like that happen, but our elders say we must not touch the cows.” Kalpana Joshi, 45, is resigned to her monthly stays in her “chhau” hut, a room little bigger than a crawl space beneath her village shop. “Nothing will happen,” she says, reassuring the younger women who fear attacks by animals and drunk men. A few metres away is the village toilet Kalpana helped build as part of a government drive to stop open defecation.
It's out of bounds to her because it's believed she will pollute the water supply. “We're not allowed to touch the toilet because it's the same water we use at home,” she says. “We have to go to the fields far away from the house where nobody can see us.” After four days in the hut, the village women bathe in a stream an hour's walk away and are “purified” with cow urine. Only then can they return to normal life. Ishwari's mother herding cows. They say chhaupadi is not enforced as strictly as it used to be, telling stories of mothers and grandmothers who were exiled during their monthly bleed. But even this more relaxed interpretation of chhaupadi is too much for some. “I told my parents, 'I won't go, why should I?',” says 22-year-old Laxmi. “My parents got angry, but my brothers understood so they don't mind if I stay at their house,” she says. Laxmi knows her protest is unlikely to continue when she marries and moves into her husband's household, as is the tradition in Nepal. “If the family insists I have to sleep outside, I will have no choice,” she says. “I will be forced to do it.” 'Menstrual blood is a poison'. In the evening twilight, the men in Dhamilekh chat by a fire in front of the village store.
There's talk of the new road that reaches the village - a precarious, narrow rock path prone to landslides during the monsoon. The road was built to bring prosperity. But instead it has meant that village men can no longer earn a living carrying goods on their backs, forcing them to India and the Gulf states to work as migrant labourers. With so many men away, the women are needed more than ever to tend to the cattle and bring in the harvest. But the men still believe in the necessity, and power, of chhaupadi. “I used to get sick if my wife touched me during her period - of course I did,” says 74-year-old Shankar Joshi. A younger man, Yagya, also thinks the tradition should continue, but for different reasons. “In the old days, people might have said the gods get angry and that's why the practice was followed,” he says. “But I believe it's more about keeping a clean environment and health and safety in the house,” he says, noting that village women only have cloth rags to soak up their flow. “Menstrual blood is a poison,” he says.
No-one can pinpoint exactly where the idea that periods are unclean comes from, but it is often attributed to Hindu scriptures. The villagers of Dhamilekh, like 80% of Nepal's population, are Hindus. They look for guidance to priests like Narayan Prasad Pokharel, who sees menstruation as sacred, but also dangerous. “If the woman does not restrict herself, then the impurities that have been in her body could transfer to the man during sexual intercourse. That will result in terrible diseases,” he says. There is even an annual religious ceremony for women to atone for accidentally touching a man, or polluting their environment. During Rishi Panchami, women fast and bathe in sacred water. Chhaupadi may have its roots in religious scriptures, but it's become a widespread social practice. “There are some communities who do it because they put religion as a reason, but there are some communities that do it because they live in places where it's practised,” says Pema Lakhi, a development worker specialising in reproductive health.
“So we've had incidences where even Buddhists are doing it because everyone else is,” she says. In 2005, the Nepalese Supreme Court outlawed the practice of chhaupadi. But, especially in the remote far west of the country, traditions are slow to change. And it's not just the men who think women should remain isolated during their periods. “You have to engage with the mothers-in-law,” says Pema Lakhi. “It's a power dynamic. They make sure their daughters-in-law do it because they had to do it.” City girls. Hundreds of miles to the east of Dhamilekh's steep hillsides is Nepal's crowded capital, Kathmandu. Here children learn about menstruation at school and women can easily buy sanitary protection.
But the taboos surrounding periods have not completely disappeared. Nirmala Limbu and Divya Shrestha are recent graduates in their early 20s. “The rules didn't make sense to me growing up. My mother told me I was not allowed to touch plants, especially fruit trees,” says Nirmala. “I used to keep on touching those plants - none of them died,” she says.
For Divya, getting her period meant being banned from attending a religious festival. “I had prepared everything for worship and had worked all day and suddenly I had my period and everyone said we had to purify everything I had touched,” she says. “It was really sad for me as a young girl. Why should I be called impure. It's a natural thing that every woman goes through.” Nepalese society is changing. Although Nirmala and Divya faced some restrictions, they were mild compared with those endured by their mothers. “When we had our periods, people seemed disgusted by us,” says Divya's mother Sudha. “They would keep us apart. We had to use separate plates, wear different clothes. Nobody could touch us,” she says. When Sudha gave birth to Divya, she decided that she could not put her own daughter through the same humiliation. “Even though my family were angry with me, I didn't listen to them. It was my decision,” she says. Because of her mother's determination, Divya grew up largely without restrictions, believing she could live life normally during her period. “It's built up my confidence,” says Divya. “I've got a better education because of it - I have a better position in society.” In Nepal there are now many girls like Divya who are not held back by taboos surrounding periods. But Pema Lakhi, who runs a programme on reproductive health, says that even in the city, old attitudes can be hard to shift. “I feel the biggest danger comes from educated women,” she says. “It's the woman I can meet at a party in Kathmandu who tells me she doesn't go into the kitchen when she's menstruating. “These are the women who are indirectly perpetuating all of this.” Changing minds. In the grasslands of southern Nepal, health worker Laxmi Malla is mounting a small, but determined, campaign to bring an end to chhaupadi. On the plains - known as the Terai - the huts that women must sleep in during their periods are open-sided, with roofs made of straw. It's not unusual to see three or four women sleeping in one small hut, using old clothing for bedding. There's no protection from monsoon rain, or the snakes that inhabit the long grass. Laxmi works in the area around the town of Dhanghadi. Here plenty of shops sell sanitary towels, but they are too expensive for the village women, who use balls of cloth instead. “They wash, dry and reuse them,” says Laxmi. “I teach them how to wash them properly - to leave them to dry in the sun to kill off bacteria.”
Laxmi's advice on hygiene is readily followed, but when it comes to telling villagers to stop chhaupadi, she's faced angry resistance. “We go door to door,” she says of her campaign which attempts to persuade families that the gods will not be angry if the old ways are abandoned. “It's very difficult. People quarrel with us. They even curse. Most of the time we have to go to villages with the police.” But slowly, over the years, Laxmi has witnessed change in the rural communities she visits. “People are no longer forcing girls to sleep outside,” she says. “I think in our area, the practice of chhaupadi will stop in a year.” Breaking down the huts. Back in the hills of far west Nepal, there has been another drive to end chhaupadi. Over the past two years, the local government and NGOs have helped organise a campaign to tear down the huts in the village of Majhigaun.
Devaki Joshi owns the local shop and was part of the organising committee. “In the old days, people didn't shower or wash their clothes so it was more unhygienic during periods - perhaps this is why chhaupadi began,” she says. “But now at school they have a cupboard with sanitary towels for students.” But not everyone has accepted the change. A few houses down from Devaki's shop, Chiutari Sunar sits outside with her mother-in-law. “We still follow the same practices,” she says pointing to the space beneath the house where the buffalo are kept. It's her new chhaupadi sleeping spot now her old hut has been demolished. “In our house, when we are menstruating, we can't go inside at any cost, no matter what the government says. This is even more important to me than going to the temple.” Even Devaki, who is enthusiastic about the success of her project, admits that some people may never accept the change. “We don't want to hurt the feelings of the older people like my mother,” she says. “We still don't touch them when we have our period.” Lila Ghale, the local head of the government department for women and children, says it may take another generation before chhaupadi is fully eliminated. “We are working with everyone - men, women and even witch-doctors,” she says. “Our culture is patriarchal and many women are illiterate which makes it hard to change things.” And, says health worker Pema Lakhi, changing attitudes is not just about telling people chhaupadi is bad. She wants Nepalese girls to celebrate their monthly bleed. “Who says it is impure? It gives life. We tell women there is power in their periods,” she says. “We tell them there's power in your blood.” (The Power is not in their blood, but in their Sunny Spirits! LM.)

A woman's life in South Africa

13 May 2017
Being a woman in South Africa is like being trapped in a locked room - you can hear someone walking outside and you know they will come in one day and you won't be able to stop them. Nothing can protect you - not the pepper spray in your bag, not the self-defence classes you got as a gift for your birthday when your breasts developed, not travelling in groups, not the saying NO, you've been taught to say, should that day come - nothing. It is learning to be "vigilant" before you even know what it is to feel safe. It is feeling unsafe everywhere, all the time. African societies are built on patriarchy - every young girl grows up knowing that a man is the head, that he is powerful, that he is a go-getter, a conqueror. We are taught to admire these very traits. But dear God I am afraid of you - and with good reason. The statistics in this country are not in my or any woman's favour. They say that one day I, or someone I know, will be your victim. Women hold signs during a protest against ongoing violence against women, in Gugulethu, on May 21, 2016. Last year, women protest took to the streets near Cape Town to protest against violence against women.

Debate over #MenAreTrash in South Africa
12 May 2017
The brutal murder of a woman in South Africa has sparked a debate in the country over gender-based violence. There has been widespread outrage after the burnt remains of a young woman, Karabo Mokoena, were found. People have been using the hashtag #MenAreTrash to highlight the issue. But some are angry with the generalisation.

Наперекор традициям: таджикские женщины с "мужскими" профессиями, Душанбе - WomenBusDriversSadbargSaidova2017Tajikistan.jpg
25 мая 2017
Представления о разделении профессий на "мужские" и "женские" в таджикском обществе сохраняются до сих пор. Стоит ли их делить? Водитель троллейбуса Садбарг Саидова, сварщик Рохила Муродова и тракторист Сайрам Шарипова уверены, что не надо. Однако их истории - скорее исключение из правил, потому что большинство таджикских женщин по-прежнему боятся идти наперекор традициям и общественному мнению. Для наших героинь возможность самостоятельного выбора профессии - огромное достижение, но, прежде чем они смогли им воспользоваться, каждая из них прошла непростой, а порой даже горький жизненный путь. Их пример показывает юным девочкам, что они могут достичь того, о чем мечтают. Садбарг Саидова работает водителем троллейбуса уже семь лет. Садбарг Саидова, 46 лет, Душанбе. Я - водитель троллейбуса. Работаю уже на линии семь лет. Признаться честно, за руль я села от безысходности, просто потому, что в какой-то момент у меня не было другого выбора. Я родилась и выросла в сельской местности. Окончила школу на "отлично", мечтала стать милиционером, но продолжить образование не получилось. На селе в мое время редко кто из девочек после окончания школы поступал в ВУЗ. Нас готовили к замужеству, в этом состояло наше главное предназначение - так нас воспитывали. Мои родители не были исключением, и они придерживались таких же взглядов. Большинство женщин смиренно принимают свою судьбу; тех, кто отвергает принятые веками нормы поведения, очень мало. Вы должны понимать, что ты не просто борешься с традициями, ты можешь обидеть родителей, они могут отвернуться от тебя, а это - самое страшное. Слово старших - закон. Так меня в 20 лет выдали замуж. Согласия моего никто, конечно, не спрашивал. Таковы национальные традиции. Вскоре я родила четверых детей. Но семейная жизнь не заладилась, и мы скоро расстались. После развода я вернулась к родителям. Своей жилплощади у меня не было, мы с мужем жили в доме его родителей. В родительском доме все изменилось. Братья успели жениться, появились невестки, у них родились дети. Стало тесно всем вместе. Я не могла оставаться там и решила попытать счастья в городе. В Душанбе я стала заниматься тем, что умела делать хорошо, - готовить. Устроилась поваром. Сначала в столовой на базаре, потом в заводской столовой. Уставала страшно, получала немного. Как-то один из моих друзей предложил мне пойти выучиться на водителя троллейбуса. Сначала я не приняла это предложение всерьез, потом очень сильно испугалась. Я - за рулем общественного транспорта в городе с оживленным движением? Вокруг машины, народ, смогу ли я с этим справиться? Я, сельская девушка, управляю троллейбусом? Готовить еду, мыть посуду, убирать - это да, это могу, это женское дело, но водить? Испугалась сильно. Дворник по традиции в Таджикистане - женская профессия. Однако решила - попробую. Сколько можно мыть кастрюли и чистить картошку! Поступила на курсы вождения. Проучилась несколько месяцев; постепенно страх уходил, появилась уверенность в своих силах. Вот уже семь лет я вожу троллейбус. Мои дети очень меня поддержали. А вот у окружающих было неоднозначное отношение к моей работе. Мужчины одобрительно относятся к моему занятию, а вот женщины не всегда ведут себя адекватно. Осуждают меня замужние домохозяйки. Они просто не понимают меня. Их обеспечивают мужья, которые решают за них все проблемы. Сами они не задумываются, что жизнь - она разная, и завтра они могут остаться без этой поддержки. И что тогда? Я встаю в четыре часа утра, а в пять уже заступаю на смену. Мой рабочий день заканчивается в шесть, восемь, а иногда и в 11 часов вечера. Это сложная физическая работа, сидячее положение, работа с людьми, у каждого из которых разный характер и настроение, но я должна всегда быть приветливой и собранной. Трудная работа, но мне она нравится. Своим дочерям и сыновьям я не смогла дать образования. У меня не было возможности, но я очень бы хотела, чтобы они получили специальность, профессию. Дочерей выдала замуж. Мой папа сейчас очень меня поддерживает и гордится мной. Он приводит меня в пример братьям; он сожалеет, что когда-то не дал мне разрешения учиться. К сожалению, жизнь не повернуть назад, потому я очень советую родителям: нужно детям давать возможность делать свой выбор в жизни самостоятельно. Девушек в Таджикистане с детства готовят к замужеству, образование не поощряется
Рохила Муродова, 22 года, Куляб. Я - сварщик. Это был мой выбор. На моем курсе в кулябском строительном лицее учатся 27 человек, из них только я одна девушка, а все остальные - мужчины. Мне очень нравится выбранная специальность. Осваивать сварочное дело тоже было нетрудно. Мои родители спокойно отнеслись к тому, что я решила стать сварщиком; это было мое первое решение, принятое самостоятельно. После окончания школы я хотела поступить в вуз, но родители решили выдать меня замуж. Моему мужу моя идея с учебой не понравилась, потому о ней пришлось забыть. Мы прожили вместе два года. За это время у меня появилось двое детей. Муж периодически уезжал на заработки, а я жила в доме его родителей. Свекровь меня невзлюбила, меня часто били, оскорбляли. Я молча терпела все, но свекровь настояла на разводе. Муж не стал перечить матери. Он собрал мои вещи и отвез меня, детей к моим родителям. Просто привез и оставил, сказал, что я им не понравилась, не оправдала их надежд. Без денег, без квартиры, без поддержки. Развод стал поворотным моментом не только для меня, но и для родителей, осознавших свою ошибку. Я понимала, что детей надо ставить на ноги, родителям помогать. Я устроилась на работу продавщицей, скопила немного денег и поступила в строительный лицей. Кондитером, кулинаром, медсестрой, портнихой не хотела быть, а вот специальность сварщика мне нравится. Нужная специальность. В будущем планирую открыть сварочный цех и сама зарабатывать деньги. Женщина это должна уметь делать, а не ждать и терпеть. Многим не нравится мой выбор. Меня осуждают, задают вопросы, но мне безразлично мнение окружающих. Я действительно хочу быть, как мужчина, потому что много в жизни выстрадала. И теперь хочу научиться быть сильной, чтобы защищать себя, детей, родителей. Если бы мои родители не выдали меня замуж, моя жизнь, возможно, сложилась бы иначе. Теперь они раскаиваются, но это уже невозможно изменить. Швея - это еще одна из традиционных женских профессий.
Сайрам Шарипова, 17 лет, Шахринав. Я тракторист-машинист. Я выросла в неполной семье - с мамой и младшей сестрой. Отца у меня нет. Смогла получить девятилетнее неполное образование, а потом пришлось уйти из школы. Нужно было маме помогать по хозяйству, да и денег у нас не было. О поступлении в вуз даже и не думала. Для этого нужно много денег, а их сначала надо заработать. Решила поступить в лицей и выучиться на тракториста-машиниста. Я - единственная девушка на курсе. Девушки редко выбирают специальности, которые в обществе считаются мужскими. Обычно приходят те, у кого сложная жизненная ситуация. Разведенные женщины, нередко девушки, чьи родители находятся в разводе, а дочерей воспитывает мать. Я учусь и работаю. Зарабатываю тем, что привожу товары из города и продаю в родном городке. На мои заработанные деньги мы и живем. Я считаю, что полученная мной специальность очень востребована. В сельских регионах это важная и нужная работа, потому я всегда смогу найти работу и зарабатывать деньги. Многие из моих знакомых и соседей надо мной подтрунивают. Когда я прохожу мимо, они кричат: "А, вот идет тракторист, смотрите, идет тракторист!" Я спокойно реагирую на эти выпады, понимая, что им просто пока повезло и в жизни им не пришлось решать сложные, взрослые проблемы. Мне рано пришлось начать работать, я быстро стала понимать, что маме нужно помогать. В жизни я столкнулась с большими жизненными проблемами, которые научили меня многим вещам. Первое время было сложно осваивать эту специальность. Особенно, когда впервые села за руль трактора. Мне показалось, что машина такая большая… Но потом привыкла и теперь свободно вожу трактор. Пришлось много потрудиться, но я понимала, что, выбрав что-то, нельзя отступать. Я же понимала, что все это я делаю ради собственного будущего, для того, чтобы помогать маме, поддерживать младшую сестренку. Теперь я хочу найти работу по специальности. Я думаю, что многие девушки хотят осваивать мужские профессии, но они боятся общественного мнения, а это неправильно, потому что в трудные времена посторонних людей в твоей жизни нет. Они не придут помочь, не поддержат словом и делом. Нужно брать свою жизнь в свои руки и быть смелее. Когда к нам в первый раз пришли сваты, наши соседи их пытались отговорить. Им сказали, что я учусь среди мужчин, что я - тракторист. "Ну, какая из нее может получиться жена? Вдруг она не девственница?" - говорят они. Я потом долго думала о том, что я выбрала, зачем это было нужно и что плохого в том, что я решила выучиться на тракториста. Они ведь уверены, что женщины, работающие и учащиеся среди мужчин, не могут быть порядочными. Эти стереотипы до сих пор широко распространены в таджикском обществе, они продолжают осложнять жизнь. Пусть говорят. Не нужно бояться того, что думают и говорят о тебе другие. Я научилась не слышать и не думать о них. Главное для меня честная работа и чистые деньги.

Video - How a South Sudanese refugee became a supermodel. Mari Malek came to the US as a child refugee. Now she uses her supermodel status to advocate for children affected by war in South Sudan. 20 June 2017

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13 June 2017
An estimated 86% of the more than 900,000 South Sudanese refugees in Uganda are women and children, says the UN. Massive numbers have streamed in since the brutal civil war at home reignited last July. The flight from violence and chaos, often without time to plan, has left many families separated. Mothers and children run alone. Husbands and fathers are either staying behind to work, fighting, missing or presumed dead. As a result, many women are leading their extended households and communities in Uganda's refugee settlements. With the support of each other, the authorities and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), they are trying to build a life. They didn't plan it, but they now find themselves living in a woman's world. Women walking in Mungula. In many refugee settlements, women are working together to pool their skills and resources.
Members of one of 120 mother-to-mother support groups set up by charity Action Against Hunger near Adjumani, northern Uganda, have established a new kitchen garden outside the settlement of Mungula. In each group, the NGO trains an elected lead mother to teach the others about nutrition, infant feeding, hygiene and staying healthy. Agnes Namadi, 29, explains she has learned about the importance of avoiding illness and malnutrition, and adds: "When you eat cassava it gives you energy and these greens and mangos can give you vitamins." Agnes talks to the group about the importance of eating the right food. Many groups also take on income-generating projects like making soap, keeping poultry or growing extra vegetables, which gives them cash and a communal savings pot from which they can borrow at low interest. They also support each other emotionally and practically. Some of the women in Mungula are longer-term refugees who have married since arriving, while others are alone. Refugees are given basic food rations, which have been halved for all but the most vulnerable, malnourished or newly arrived, because of the new influx since 2016. One staple meal is porridge, to which the mothers add items like ground silver fish, peanut paste or milk added for extra nutrition. "It's important for women to stay together and interact and share ideas," says Agnes. "Women are very strong. Those without husbands might feel isolated, but in the mothers' group they have their sisters."
Group member Keji Roda, 29, fled South Sudan without her husband in 2014. She visited him near the Ugandan border last year and now she's expecting their fifth child. She's also caring for her widowed sister's three children. "What forced me to come was the killings. People were picked from their homes and shot." When she arrived she had to master constructing their house: "I laid the bricks and cut the grass, then sold some food rations to pay men to help." She says her husband is afraid to leave South Sudan. "Most of the husbands who come here are accused by our government of being rebels. Once you disappear there's no going back. I don't know when I'll see him again. Now I just hear the voice through the phone." The Mungula group has started making liquid soap to sell. Action Against Hunger provided the initial start-up materials and is helping them get going with a loans system that will grow their profits before they're redistributed. They make 20 litres of soap at a time, pour it into used water bottles and each sell their own share at 1,000 Ugandan shillings (22p; 28 US cents) per 500ml. So far they've saved 600,000 shillings (£130; 5). Half and hour from Adjumani, in Boroli settlement, Josephine Eiyo (pictured right), lives alone for much of the time. Her son and daughter live with their grandmother in Adjumani, where they go to school, and her husband is missing in South Sudan. Having arrived in 2014, she supports the community by working in a village health team, receiving patients at her home and doing house calls, which takes some pressure off the health centre. A mother has come with a sick child and Josephine does an instant blood test for malaria which comes up negative. "We women have different ways of supporting each other. We can mobilise ourselves and dig a small parcel of land, then next day we do it for someone else. We also help by visiting each other. Whether old or young, we live jointly."
"We ran from our village when fighting began at midnight and people were asleep," says Josephine. My husband had gone away to Malakal, to work. There was no communication between us. I haven't seen him since 2013 - I am thinking that he has died. I've been trying to find him via the Red Cross but they can't get through to him."
Josephine, 30, is paid a flat monthly rate of 34,000 shillings (£7.45) for her health work. To get extra money she also brews alcohol and cooks bread, but it's still difficult to cover food and school fees. "Sometimes we eat rats. You can buy five for 1,000 shillings (22p) then you have something good, and tasty, for your diet. Meat costs 10,000 shillings (£2.20) per kilo, but rats have the same food value so there's no need to struggle to buy other meat." Bidi Bidi refugee settlement.
A four-hour drive west of Adjumani, across the River Nile, is Bidi Bidi. It's now the largest refugee settlement in the world, housing more than 270,000 people since the recent influx which at times neared 3,000 arrivals per day. Uganda's progressive refugee policy means they're all accepted, given a plot of land for a house and garden, and are free to work and travel. In return, the host community benefits with jobs, infrastructure and access to services, although the system is under immense strain. When Action Against Hunger arrived last August, Bidi Bidi was a sea of white plastic UN tents, but refugees are gradually creating homes. Programme manager Joel Komakech says now the emergency is subsiding, refugees are taking leadership roles "to help rebuild their lives". "Undeniably, we see the women taking centre stage in that."
Mother-of-four Rejoice Sunday, 38, arrived in Uganda in September and is already working in Bidi Bidi as a hygiene promoter. She goes house to house checking for latrines, dish-drying racks and washing facilities, and giving breastfeeding advice. Her husband is working in northern South Sudan as a driver. He was away when she fled the fighting in Yei, with her in-laws and four children. They met two lone teenagers en route and have brought them into the family, which she heads. "We are nine now," she says. "As we fled, the soldiers tried to follow us, then the rebels killed one of them - we heard gunshot behind us but just kept going. We thought we wouldn't reach the border... those people have no mercy." Her husband has visited them once to bring money but it's far and expensive. "Coming here without him has been difficult. I haven't experienced this before."
Veronica Yabang, 45, is also responsible for eight other people in her household - her two-year-old twin sons and their older brother, three nephews, her elderly brother and very elderly mother. She doesn't know where her husband is and says "there's no hope of him coming - he has no idea we're here". By the time they were brought to Bidi Bidi, twins Dickson and Daniel were suffering from malnutrition. "They were well nourished at home but when we came here there was a great change in their diet. I saw the signs - their hair was going brown and their eyelashes were lighter. They were admitted to the malnutrition programme and had weekly feeding. Their bones were exposed and I was afraid I could lose a child at any time, but they're doing fine now." As Veronica's mum Christine Kakune has a 77-year-old son, she's estimated to be aged between 90 and 100, but she doesn't know for sure. She also had to be treated for malnutrition after a difficult start in Uganda without enough food. Caring for everyone sometimes takes its toll, says Veronica. "There are times when I don't sleep at night. I am worried about handling all the responsibilities - providing things, taking care of the children and also my mum." Earlier this month the UN said more than one million children have now fled South Sudan, which has the world's fastest growing refugee crisis. "Women and children bear the brunt of this senseless war," UNHCR's Uganda representative, Bornwell Katande, said recently. With "chronic underfunding" tipping the relief effort towards breaking point, a UN summit in Kampala in June will attempt to raise bn (£1.6bn).
With no end to the South Sudan conflict in sight, the refugee situation is unlikely to change soon, but the Ugandan government has vowed to maintain its open-door policy.
Action Against Hunger nutrition officer, Dorothy Namayanja, who works with refugee families every day, says perhaps one could argue the situation is unsustainable.
"But we don't have any choice. They are our neighbours - tomorrow it could be us."

Is it foolish for a woman to cycle alone across the Middle East?

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1 April 2017
When Rebecca Lowe set off solo from the UK for Iran by bicycle, her friends thought she had taken leave of her senses. But although she had to endure gropers, extreme heat and heavy-handed police, most of the people she met were a long way removed from stereotypes. The day I left London to embark on a 6,000-mile (10,000km), year-long cycle to Tehran, I was deeply unprepared. I wasn't fit. I had never used panniers. I had no sense of direction. It was six years since I had last ridden up a hill. But for all my doubts, I was dedicated to the task at hand. My aims were simple: develop enviably shapely calves, survive and shed light on a region long misunderstood by the West. Mostly, I wanted to show that the bulk of the Middle East is far from the volatile hub of violence and fanaticism people believe. And that a woman could cycle through it safely. Not everyone had faith in my ability to do so, however. "We think you'll probably die," one friend told me before I left. "We've put the odds at about 60:40." Others were less optimistic.  A man in the pub said I was a "naive idiot who would end up decapitated in a ditch - at best". A good friend sent me a copy of Rudyard Kipling's If, stressing the importance of keeping "your head when all about you / Are losing theirs". Yet I remained tentatively confident. The region may be politically precarious, but the people I knew from experience to be warm and kind. Crime rates were low and terrorist strongholds isolated and avoidable. Even exposed on a bike, I felt my odds of staying alive weren't bad. I'd chosen a bicycle for its simplicity and slowness of pace, and its immersive, worm's-eye view. On a bike you don't just observe the world but are absorbed within it. You are seen as unthreatening and endearingly unhinged, and are welcomed into people's lives. I set off in July 2015. Over the next four months I inched my way with sluggish determination across Europe. As summer bled into autumn, my stamina gradually grew - along with my thighs. By Bosnia they were formidable. By Bulgaria they had developed their own gravitational field. But leaving Europe was nerve-wracking. I was now outside my comfort zone, in the relative unknown.
In front of me lay Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Oman, the UAE and Iran. Pre-warned about men, terrorists and traffic, I began the Asian leg of my journey with caution. I swiftly relaxed, however. A truck driver stopped just to hand me a satsuma. A cafe owner gave me his earmuffs. Dozens of others offered food, water, lifts and lodgings, and endless varieties of kebab. Throughout the Middle East, it was the same. Doors were forever flung wide to greet this strange, two-wheeled anomaly who was surely in need of help, and possibly psychiatric care. My hosts varied widely: rich and poor, mullahs and atheists, Bedouin and businessmen, niqab-clad women and qabaa-robed men. Every person and community was different, but certain traits linked them all: kindness, curiosity and tolerance. Rebecca meets an Egyptian named Aisha Adham In Sudan, families fed me endless vats of ful (bean stew) and let me sleep in their modest mud-brick houses. One Nubian family gently restored me to health after I ran out of water in the Sahara and collapsed, vomiting and delirious, on their doorstep: the lowest point of the trip, and the only time I experienced true panic. Iranian hospitality felt like a soft protective cloak, omnipresent and ever-reliable. So much wonderful, impractical food was given to me by passers-by - watermelons, bread, bags of cucumbers - that much had to be discarded. Persian culture pulsed with contradictions. On my first day, the police admonished me for removing my headscarf in blazing heat under a tree. Minutes later the officer's sister-in-law was serving me khoresh gheimeh (lamb and split pea stew) in her nearby bungalow. The trip was not all blissfully trouble-free, of course. There were the sex pests, for a start. In Jordan, Egypt and Iran, I was groped, ogled and propositioned with disappointing regularity. In Egypt, one randy tuk-tuk driver got his comeuppance following a juicy bum squeeze by being beaten to a pulp by the police convoy on my tail - my horror at their brutality only outdone by my undisguised glee. In Jordan, a truck driver who'd picked me up following a puncture repeatedly asked for kisses and grabbed my breasts. Fortunately his bravado ceased abruptly at the sight of my penknife wafting ominously close to his crotch. Such incidents angered me intensely, and were often frightening and unsettling. Lechery is hardly a preserve of the Middle East, but there were areas where strains of patriarchy and entitlement ran deep. I realised quickly, however, that these men were not monsters. They were ignorant and often ill-educated. Not to mention severely sexually frustrated within a culture where physical intimacy is shameful and stigmatised. They were more cowardly opportunists than malicious aggressors, and it was usually easy enough to send them scuttling cravenly on their way.
There were certain things no-one could help with, however. The traffic was obscene by Turkey and got progressively worse. The heat was obscene by Sudan - upwards of 40 degrees C - and also got progressively worse.
Toilets were a serious concern. In the remote gold mining regions of northern Sudan, where few women ventured, there simply weren't any. "Look around you," a man at one roadside shack told me, gesturing to the entirely exposed desert behind him. "The Sahara is your toilet." The most worrisome issue, however, was political. Across the region, repression was palpable, and foreign journalists clearly weren't welcome. Don't tell the authorities your profession, I was told, or others would pay the price too. I took this advice - yet it was hard to feel at ease.
Police car in Egypt
In Egypt, ruled by a heavy-handed military regime, tourists were tightly controlled and protected. The police were suffocating in their oversight, escorting me 500 miles (800km) down the Nile and aggressively grilling everyone I met. In Iran, I was given more freedom. Yet foreigners are not permitted to stay with locals without permission, and several of my hosts endured an intense grilling by police. Some of those aware of my profession declined any contact at all due to fear of repercussion. Everywhere I went, security and oppression continually curbed freedom and dissent. In Turkey, pro-Kurdish human rights lawyer Tahir Elçi was killed by an unknown gunman a few days after we met. In Sudan, two students were killed in clashes with regime forces and supporters during my brief stay in Khartoum. In Jordan and Lebanon, refugee camps were visibly struggling to cope with the growing numbers of Syrians fleeing war. The enduring impression was a region in crisis, stretched hopelessly between tyranny and terror. Yet there was light along the way - and that light was the people.
"The world shouldn't judge us by our politics," a member of the Center for Civil Society and Democracy, a Syrian activist group I spent Christmas with, told me. "We hate our politics. We should be judged by ourselves."
And that, for me, is the nub of the matter. The Middle East is a risky place, but the risks are primarily political. Beyond the pockets of conflict and terror highlighted daily in the media lies a broader reality: that of warm, compassionate communities living normal, everyday lives. So is it safe for a woman to cycle alone across the Middle East? With the right precautions, yes. Would I let my daughter do it? Absolutely not in a month of Sundays - are you mad?

Video - Iran election: Women politicians speak out ahead of poll. Although women can't run in the forthcoming presidential elections in Iran, they are active in local politics. We spoke to four women about their experiences. 15 May 2017

'I disguised myself as a man to work in a mine' - video - Africa2017TanzaniaPiliWomanMiner.jpg  Africa2017TanzaniaMiningTanzanites.jpg
15 May 2017
Pili Hussein wanted to make her fortune prospecting for a precious stone that's said to be a thousand times rarer than diamonds, but since women weren't allowed down the mines she dressed up as man and fooled her male colleagues for almost a decade. Pili Hussein grew up in a large family in Tanzania. The daughter of a livestock keeper, who had many large farms, Pili's father had six wives and she was one of 38 children. Although she was well looked after, in many ways, she doesn't look back on her upbringing fondly.
"My father treated me like a boy and I was given livestock to take care of - I didn't like that life at all," she says. But her marriage was even more unhappy, and at the age of 31 Pili ran away from her abusive husband. In search of work she found herself in the small Tanzanian town of Mererani, in the foothills of Africa's highest mountain, Kilimanjaro - the only place in the world where mining for a rare, violet-blue gemstone called tanzanite takes place. An outreached palm with tanzanite stones on it. Maasai herders first discovered tanzanite in 1967 - it's now one of the world's best-selling gems but is in limited supply. "I didn't go to school, so I didn't have many options," Pili says.
"Women were not allowed in the mining area, so I entered bravely like a man, like a strong person. You take big trousers, you cut them into shorts and you appear like a man. That's what I did."To complete the transformation, she also changed her name. "I was called Uncle Hussein, I didn't tell anyone my actual name was Pili. Even today if you come to the camp you ask for me by that name, Uncle Hussein." In the tight confines of the hot, dirty tunnels - some of which extend hundreds of metres below the ground - Pili would work 10-12 hours a day, digging and sieving, hoping to uncover gemstones in the veins in the graphite rock. Miners in the Mererani mine. The miners dig using chisels and fill bags with rubble which are hoisted up to the surface using a rope. "I could go 600m under, into the mine. I would do this more bravely than many other men. I was very strong and I was able to deliver what men would expect another man could do." Pili says that nobody suspected that she was a woman. Pili Hussein tells Outlook's Matthew Bannister how she succeeded in becoming a miner. "I acted like a gorilla," she says, "I could fight, my language was bad, I could carry a big knife like a Maasai [warrior]. Nobody knew I was a woman because everything I was doing I was doing like a man." And after about a year, she struck it rich, uncovering two massive clusters of tanzanite stones. With the money that she made she built new homes for her father, mother and twin sister, bought herself more tools, and began employing miners to work for her. And her cover was so convincing that it took an extraordinary set of circumstances for her true identity to finally be revealed. A local woman had reported that she'd been raped by some of the miners and Pili was arrested as a suspect. "When the police came the men who did the rape said, 'This is the man who did it,' and I was taken to the police station," Pili says. She had no choice but to reveal her secret. She asked the police to find a woman to physically examine her, to prove that she couldn't be responsible, and was soon released. But even after that her fellow miners found it hard to believe they had been duped for so long. "They didn't even believe the police when they said that I was a woman," she says, "it wasn't easy for them to accept until 2001 when I got married and I started a family." Finding a husband when everyone is accustomed to regarding you as a man is not easy, Pili found, though eventually she succeeded. "The question in his mind was always, 'Is she really a woman?'" she recalls. "It took five years for him to come closer to me." Pili has built a successful career and today owns her own mining company with 70 employees. Three of her employees are women, but they work as cooks not as miners. Pili says that although there are more women in the mining industry than when she started out, even today very few actually work in the mines. "Some [women] wash the stones, some are brokers, some are cooking," she says, "but they're not going down in to the mines, it's not easy to get women to do what I did." Pili's success has enabled her to pay for the education of more than 30 nieces, nephews and grandchildren. But despite this she says she wouldn't encourage her own daughter to follow in her footsteps. "I'm proud of what I did - it has made me rich, but it was hard for me," she says. "I want to make sure that my daughter goes to school, she gets an education and then she is able to run her life in a very different way, far away from what I experienced."

Uganda's Punishment Island: 'I was left to die on an island for getting pregnant'


27 April 2017
Unmarried girls who got pregnant used to be seen as bringing shame to their families in parts of Uganda, so they were taken to a tiny island and left to die. The lucky ones were rescued, and one of them is still alive. The BBC's Patience Atuhaire tracked her down. "When my family discovered that I was pregnant, they put me in a canoe and took me to Akampene [Punishment Island]. I stayed there without food or water for four nights," says Mauda Kyitaragabirwe, who was aged just 12 at the time. "I remember being very hungry and cold. I was almost dying." On the fifth day a fisherman came along and said he would take her home with him. "I was a bit sceptical. I asked him whether he was tricking me and wanted to throw me into the water. But he said: 'No. I am taking you to be my wife.' So he brought me here," she reflects fondly, seated on a simple chair on the veranda of the house she shared with her husband. She lives in the village of Kashungyera, just a 10-minute boat trip across Lake Bunyonyi from Punishment Island, which is actually just a patch of waterlogged grass. This is where Mauda Kyitaragabirwe was left to die. At first, Ms Kyitaragabirwe was unsure how to greet me until Tyson Ndamwesiga, her grandson and a tour guide, told her that I spoke the local Rukiga language. Her face cracked into a nearly toothless smile. She held my arm from the elbow, in the tight grip that the Bakiga people usually reserve for long-lost relatives. The slender-built Ms Kyitaragabirwe walks with steady steps and estimates that she is in her eighties, but her family believes she is much older. She was born before birth certificates were common in this part of Uganda so it is impossible to be sure. The island where pregnant girls were sent to die.
"She used to have a voter's registration card from just before Uganda's independence [in 1962]. That is what we used to count backwards. We think she's around 106," says Mr Ndamwesiga. In traditional Bakiga society, a young woman could only get pregnant after marriage. Marrying off a virgin daughter meant receiving a bride price, mostly paid with livestock. An unmarried pregnant girl was seen as not only bringing shame to the family, but robbing it of much-needed wealth. Families used to rid themselves of the "shame" by dumping pregnant girls on Punishment Island, leaving them to die. Because of the remoteness of the area, the practice continued even after missionaries and colonialists arrived in Uganda in the 19th Century and outlawed it. Most people at the time - especially girls - did not know how to swim. So if a young woman was dumped on the island, she had two options - jump into the water and drown, or wait to die from the cold and hunger. I asked Ms Kyitaragabirwe if she was scared. She tilts her head to one side, frowning, and fires back: "I must have been about 12 years old. If you're taken from your home to an island where no-one else lives, in the middle of the lake, wouldn't you be scared?"
Some of the islands on Lake Bunyoyi. There are 29 islands on Lake Bunyoyi, including one that used to be a leper colony. In another part of the region, present-day Rukungiri District, pregnant girls would be thrown off a cliff at Kisiizi Falls. Legend has it that it was not until one of them dragged her brother down with her that families stopped pushing their daughters to their deaths. No-one ever survived Kisiizi Falls. But a number of girls are said to have survived Punishment Island, thanks to young men who could not afford to pay a bride price. Marrying girls from the island meant a dowry-free wife. After her husband took her to his home in the village of Kashungyera, Ms Kyitaragabirwe became a subject of curiosity and gossip. Over the decades, she has become a tourist attraction - her home a regular stop for tourists on the trail of the history of the area.
While discussing her life story, she often stopped talking and stared at her hands contemplatively. At other times, like when I asked how she lost her eye, she was quite evasive, instinctively raising her hand to touch it. The touchiest subject seemed to be the fate of the baby she was pregnant with when she was left to die. "The pregnancy was still quite young. I never had the baby. Back then you could not fight back to defend yourself. If you did, they would beat you up," she says, lifting her head-wrap from her lap to wipe her face. Even though she did not say it outright, I understood what she meant - she was beaten up and had a miscarriage. I have three daughters. If any of them had got pregnant before they were married, I wouldn't blame them or punish them. Punishing girls - known in the local language as Okuhena, from which the island draws its local name Akampene - was an age-old practice. And Ms Kyitaragabirwe would have known about the consequences of a pregnancy. "I had heard about other girls that had been taken to Punishment Island, although not anyone close to me. So, it seems I was also tempted by Satan," she chuckles. She never saw or heard from the man who led her down "Satan's path". However, she had heard, many years ago, that he had died. Of her husband, James Kigandeire, who died in 2001, she said: "Oh, he loved me! He really looked after me. "He said: 'I picked you up from the wilderness, and I am not going to make you suffer'. "We had six children together. We stayed in this home together until he died." Mauda Kyitaragabirwe and her grandson, Tyson. Ms Kyitaragabirwe's grandson, Tyson, works as a tour guide in the area. And while it took decades, she was finally reconciled with her family. She smiled and said: "After I became a Christian I forgave everyone, even my brother who had rowed me in the canoe. I would go home to visit my family, and if I met any of them I would greet them."
Ms Kyitaragabirwe is believed to be the last woman who was dumped on the island, with the practice having died out after Christianity and government became stronger in the region. Still, unmarried pregnant women were frowned upon for many years. Condemning this attitude, Ms Kyitaragabirwe said: "I have three daughters. If any of them had got pregnant before they were married, I wouldn't blame them or punish them. "I know it can happen to any woman. If a young woman got pregnant today, she would come to her father's house and be taken care of. The people who carried out such practices were blind."

Women of Africa: Inspiring Malawi's children with ambition - Video
11 November 2015
Monica Makeya Dzonzi is a co-ordinator at the youth centre in the Malawian city of Blantyre that organises training in computer, sports and life skills. A Unicef Youth Ambassador, she is an inspiration for the children who flock to the Ayise Bangwe Youth Centre. She tells the BBC about how her tough childhood made her determined to get an education.

Bhanwari Devi: The rape that led to India's sexual harassment law

IndiaSexualHarassmentLawBhanWariDevi.jpg IndiaSexualHarassmentLawBhanWariDevi&herHusband.jpg  IndiaSexualHarassmentLawBhanDrPal.jpg
17 March
Bhanwari Devi is a grassroots government worker. Bhanwari Devi is an unlikely heroine. Nearly a quarter of a century after the illiterate, low-caste woman was allegedly gang-raped by her high-caste neighbours in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, she refuses to give up her fight for justice.
It was her case that resulted in the Indian Supreme Court formulating guidelines to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace, but her attackers remain free, cleared of rape charges by the trial court while her appeal has been heard just once in the high court over the past 22 years. In the interim, two of the accused have died. The attack took place on 22 September 1992 and with the passage of so much time, Bhanwari Devi, now 56, no longer remembers the days and dates clearly, but the memory of the assault is still vivid in her mind. "It was dusk. My husband and I were working in our fields when they started beating him up with sticks. There were five of them," she told me when I visited her at home in Bhateri village, 50km (about 30 miles) from the state capital, Jaipur. She ran to help her husband, pleading with the men to show some mercy, but two of the attackers pinned him down, while the remaining three took turns to rape her. The attackers were Gujjars, the affluent and dominant caste group in the village. Bhanwari Devi and her husband, Mohan Lal Prajapat, are from the low-caste potter community, Kumhar. The men were angry with her for trying to prevent a nine-month-old Gujjar girl's wedding a few months earlier. Bhanwari Devi had worked as a saathin (friend) for the state government's Women's Development Programme (WDP) since 1985, says Jaipur-based women's rights activist Prof Renuka Pamecha. Bhanwari Devi shows off her work register
Her job involved going door-to-door in the village, campaigning against social ills - she would tell women about hygiene, family planning, the benefits of sending their daughters to school, and she would discourage female foeticide, infanticide, dowry and child marriages. Rajasthan has a huge tradition of child marriages and thousands of children, many just months old, are married off every year. Bhanwari Devi herself was a child bride - she told me she had been married when she was five or six and her husband was eight or nine. Her campaign against child marriage was not an attempt to challenge patriarchy or fight the feudal mindset, but she was just doing her job. And she knew that meddling in the affairs of the Gujjars could invite a backlash, says Dr Pritam Pal, who headed the WDP's training programme and worked very closely with Bhanwari Devi. But, Bhanwari Devi says, she had no choice in the matter. A protest rally in Jaipur. Massive protests were held in Jaipur with thousands marching through the city streets, demanding justice for Bhanwari Devi. Women's rights activists who helped Bhanwari Devi. Many women's rights activists in Rajasthan have worked tirelessly for years to help Bhanwari Devi. "I told the officials that these people were dangerous and that they would come after me. But they said we had to stop all child marriages and a policeman was sent to stop the wedding. But he came, ate wedding sweets, and left." The family accused her of humiliating them, and still managed to marry off the baby the next day - then seething with anger, they came after Bhanwari Devi. In India's conservative society, even now victims of rape often hesitate to talk about their ordeal because of the shame and stigma associated with sexual crimes. Twenty-five years ago, the situation was worse. "But Bhanwari Devi is nothing if not a fighter," says Dr Pal. When she went public with her complaint, she was accused of lying. Her attackers denied rape and said there had only been a quarrel. A rally was held in Jaipur on 15 December 1995 to protest against the acquittal of the rape accused. When Bhanwari Devi (centre) went public with her complaint, she was accused of lying
Dr Pal says the police treated her with derision, didn't take her complaint seriously and botched up the investigation. Her medical test was conducted 52 hours later when it should have been done within 24 hours, her scratches and bruises were not recorded, her complaints of physical discomfort were ignored. After local newspapers reported Bhanwari Devi's plight and protests by women's activists, the case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India's federal police. The five accused were finally arrested more than a year after the crime, and were charged with harassment, assault, conspiracy and gang rape. While denying them bail in December 1993, Rajasthan high court Judge NM Tibrewal wrote in his order: "I am convinced that Bhanwari Devi was gang-raped in revenge for attempting to stop the marriage of [one of the accused] Ramkaran's daughter, a minor." The judgement acquitting the accused men caused immense outrage in India and globally. Things, however, went downhill for Bhanwari Devi from there. Over the course of the trial, judges were inexplicably changed five times and, in November 1995, the accused were acquitted of rape - instead, they were found guilty of lesser offences like assault and conspiracy and were all given just nine months in jail.
"It was a dubious judgement," says Bharat of the Jaipur-based NGO Vishakha, one of the groups fighting to get justice for her. He cites some of the "bizarre reasons" the judge gave while clearing the accused of rape. The judgement caused immense outrage in India and globally. Massive protests were held in Jaipur with thousands marching through the city streets, demanding justice. Congress party MP from Rajasthan Girija Vyas called the decision "politically motivated". Mohini Giri, who was then head of the Indian government's National Commission for Women, said the court order "ignored principles of justice" and wrote a letter to the chief justice appealing to him to "intervene". Dr Pritam Pal described Bhanwari Devi as a fighter
The state government, which seemed reluctant to appeal against the order, finally challenged it in the Rajasthan high court, but only one hearing has been held in 22 years. Prof Pamecha says justice has remained elusive for Bhanwari Devi, but she is the reason why millions of Indian women are now legally protected against sexual harassment in the workplace. "The state authorities had refused to help her, saying as her employer, they were not responsible since she was assaulted in her fields. We said the government must take responsibility since the attack on her was because of her work."
So a group of activists from Jaipur and Delhi-based organisations filed a public interest petition in the Supreme Court, demanding that "workplaces must be made safe for women and that it should be the responsibility of the employer to protect women employee at every step". Bhanwari Devi's plight was covered by the local media. In 1997, the top court came out with Vishakha Guidelines, laying down norms to protect women from sexual harassment in workplaces. "It was a revolutionary judgement based on the fundamental rights of women. And the guidelines later became the basis for a 2013 law passed by the Indian parliament to prevent sexual harassment of women at the workplace," says Prof Pamecha. "Bhanwari Devi had no direct role in this law, but she was the catalyst for this, she was the main factor," she adds. "Bhanwari is a very brave woman," says Dr Pal. "The couple were ostracised by the villagers who refused to sell them milk or buy their clay pots. Even their families boycotted them. "She didn't even get invited to family weddings. But I have never seen a moment when she said she wouldn't fight. She has always wanted justice." She continues to live in the same village as her attackers. Over the years, she has won several awards for her exceptional courage, most recently being recognised by the Delhi Commission for Women on 8 March, still carrying on her work as a saathin, still hoping for justice. I ask her and her husband if they ever feel afraid? "Not for a minute," she answers fiercely. "Didn't you just walk into my house when you came here today? Would I leave my doors unlocked if I was afraid?" she asks. Her husband Mohan Lal adds: "What is there to fear? They can kill us only once."

Ghana's 'women who code' network
16 December 2016
In Africa - just like other parts of the world - there is a wide digital gender divide. Women are 50% less likely to be working in the area of technology than men. Many organisations, including the United Nations, are trying to address this and initiatives spring up all the time. Focusing on Ghana, the BBC's Africa Business Report wanted to know more about the African women who are using technology to improve their incomes and working lives.
A Woman. The greatest music teacher who ever lived

19 April 2017
Nadia Boulanger taught many of the 20th Century’s greatest musicians. She may have been the greatest music teacher ever, writes Clemency Burton-Hill. “The most influential teacher since Socrates” is how one leading contemporary composer describes Nadia Boulanger. As unlikely as it seems, this unassuming-looking lady of Romanian, Russian and French heritage, who was born in 1887 and lived to the age of 92, did indeed end up shaping the sound of the modern world. Boulanger was the first woman to conduct many major US and European orchestras. Her roster of music students reads like the ultimate 20th Century Hall of Fame. Boulanger was the first woman to conduct the New York Philharmonic and Boston Symphony orchestras. It is no exaggeration, then, to consider Boulanger the most important musical pedagogue of the modern – or indeed any – era. Although her teaching base was in the family apartment at 36 Rue Ballu in the ninth arrondisement of Paris, she also taught in the US and UK, working with leading conservatoires including the Juilliard School, the Yehudi Menuhin School, the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music. With such a contribution, she might also arguably be described as the most important woman in the history of classical music. Not that she’d appreciate attention being drawn to her gender. Being female was, for Boulanger, no apparent barrier to achievement. In addition to her remarkable teaching career, she became the first woman to conduct many of the major US and European symphony orchestras, including the BBC Symphony, Boston Symphony, Hallé Orchestra and New York Philharmonic. Boulanger was also a mentor to Igor Stravinsky and an ardent champion of his music when much of the musical world remained unconvinced of its genius. She was responsible for bringing to life a number of ground-breaking world premieres. Hidden figure? But be honest: have you ever heard of her? Boulanger’s name remains largely unknown outside niche classical music circles, despite the astonishing impact she had on the soundtrack to all our lives, not just in the realm of classical but in jazz, tango, funk and hip-hop. It is frankly unimaginable that a man with a similar degree of influence over 20th Century music would have been so ignored. Musical polymath Quincy Jones, who produced Thriller and has won 27 Grammys and 79 nominations among many other achievements, studied under Boulanger in the 1950s. Yet Boulanger was no shrinking violet. By all accounts she was a fierce, uncompromising and forceful woman: charismatic, loyal and passionate but also complex and complicated. She was riven with envy for her younger sister Lili, a composer of genius who, at 19, had been the first woman ever to win the prestigious Prix de Rome competition but by 24 was dead of intestinal tuberculosis (now known as Crohn’s Disease). Nadia, like Lili, had also entered the Paris Conservatoire to study composition at the tender age of 10, but she never received much acclaim as a composer. After Lili’s death, rather than allowing her talented late sister’s name to fade, as many jealous siblings might have, she made it a mission of her life and career to ceaselessly promote and champion Lili’s musical genius, programming her works alongside more canonical repertoire right up until the end of her career. Boulanger attended the 1910 premiere of Diaghilev’s The Firebird, with music by Igor Stravinsky – she would advocate for his music the rest of her life. But at last year’s BBC Proms, Q, as he is known, told me in all earnestness that he owed everything he was as a musician to his early instruction, in 1950s Paris, under Nadia Boulanger. It tickles me to imagine what Boulanger – who died in 1979 – Boulanger had a singular way of encouraging and eliciting each student’s own voice – even if they were not yet aware of what that voice might be. Prince Rainier of Monaco and Grace Kelly asked Boulanger to arrange the music for their wedding in 1956. For a little old grey-haired French lady, she was also, he joked, terrifying. “She used to tell me all the time: Quincy, your music can never be more, or less, than you are as a human being. Unless you have the life experience and have something to say that you’ve lived, you have nothing to contribute at all… She was strong. Really strong.” We should raise a cheer to the woman who contributed so much, with so little fanfare, to the history of 20th and 21st Century music. Don’t take my word for it. “Nadia Boulanger,” says Quincy Jones, “was the most astounding woman I ever met in my life.” And he’s met a few.

SouthAfricaWomenLearningComputers2017.jpg   SouthAfricaWomenLearningComputers2017CapeTown.jpg

What made these grannies go nude in public?

15 March 2017
The iconic image of mothers protesting in Manipur. This image of a nude protest by a group of Indian mothers and grandmothers stunned the world 13 years ago. Defying all stereotypes, the 12 women challenged the security forces and paved the way for real change on the ground in the north-eastern state of Manipur. Eleven of the mothers regrouped in the state capital, Imphal, recently to speak to the BBC about their unconventional protest. The 12th protester died five years ago. In a large bare hall, they sit on floor mats, many of them in their sunset years. Many are frail and have failing eye sight, one is accompanied by her daughter as she cannot walk unaided. As they start telling me about that day, it's hard to imagine these women carrying out that act of protest. Eleven of the mothers regrouped in the state capital, Imphal, recently to speak to the BBC. The mothers regrouped in Imphal to speak about their unconventional protest. Manorama was gang-raped and killed in July 2004. Manipur has struggled for decades with an insurgency involving several militant groups, and the Indian military has for more than half a century had sweeping shoot-to-kill powers under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Afspa).
The security forces were often accused of rights abuses, but it was the gang-rape and murder of a 32-year-old woman in July 2004, allegedly by paramilitary soldiers, that set the state on the edge. Manorama was picked up from her home at midnight on 11 July by soldiers from the Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force deployed in Manipur to fight insurgents.
A few hours later, her mutilated, bullet-riddled body was found by the roadside. It bore tell-tale signs of torture and rape. The grannies in front of the Kangla Fort where they had staged their famous protest. The Assam Rifles denied any role in her death, but the state witnessed unprecedented anger and at the centre of that was the "mothers' protest".
The women were all housewives, mostly from poor families, and many did small jobs to supplement their family incomes. The oldest was 73, the youngest 45. Between them, they had 46 children and 74 grandchildren. They were also activists (called Meira Paibis, or torch-bearers). They knew each other, but belonged to different organisations. Some of them visited Manorama's family and the morgue where her body was kept. "It made me very angry. It was not just Manorama who was raped. We all felt raped," says Soibam Momon Leima.
Lourembam Nganbi (left) arrived in Imphal a day earlier from her home in Vishnupur, 30km away. The idea of a nude protest was first discussed on 12 July at a meeting of the All Manipur Women's Social Reformation and Development Samaj, but it was thought "too sensitive and radical", says Thokchom Ramani, who was 73 at the time. But at a meeting later in the day of different women's groups, Ms Thokchom mentioned it and believing that "desperate times call for desperate measures", it was agreed that a small group of women would attempt to strip in front of the iconic Kangla Fort, the Assam Rifles headquarters. On the morning of 15 July, the day of the protest, Laishram Gyaneshwari left her home at 5:30am. "I didn't tell my husband or children that I was going to take part in this protest. I had no idea how it would go, I knew I was putting my life in danger and I knew I could die that day. So I touched my husband's feet, sought his blessings and left," she told me. The oldest was 73-year-old Thokchom Ramani. What made these grannies go nude in public? The iconic image of mothers protesting in Manipur. This image of a nude protest by a group of Indian mothers and grandmothers stunned the world 13 years ago. Defying all stereotypes, the 12 women challenged the security forces and paved the way for real change on the ground in the north-eastern state of Manipur. Eleven of the mothers regrouped in the state capital, Imphal, recently to speak to the BBC about their unconventional protest. The 12th protester died five years ago. In a large bare hall, they sit on floor mats, many of them in their sunset years. Many are frail and have failing eye sight, one is accompanied by her daughter as she cannot walk unaided. As they start telling me about that day, it's hard to imagine these women carrying out that act of protest. Eleven of the mothers regrouped in the state capital, Imphal, recently to speak to the BBC. The mothers regrouped in Imphal to speak about their unconventional protest. Manorama was gang-raped and killed in July 2004. Manipur has struggled for decades with an insurgency involving several militant groups, and the Indian military has for more than half a century had sweeping shoot-to-kill powers under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Afspa). The security forces were often accused of rights abuses, but it was the gang-rape and murder of a 32-year-old woman in July 2004, allegedly by paramilitary soldiers, that set the state on the edge. Manorama was picked up from her home at midnight on 11 July by soldiers from the Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force deployed in Manipur to fight insurgents. A few hours later, her mutilated, bullet-riddled body was found by the roadside. It bore tell-tale signs of torture and rape. The mothers revisit the Kangla Fort. The grannies in front of the Kangla Fort where they had staged their famous protest. The Assam Rifles denied any role in her death, but the state witnessed unprecedented anger and at the centre of that was the "mothers' protest". The women were all housewives, mostly from poor families, and many did small jobs to supplement their family incomes. The oldest was 73, the youngest 45. Between them, they had 46 children and 74 grandchildren. They were also activists (called Meira Paibis, or torch-bearers). They knew each other, but belonged to different organisations. Some of them visited Manorama's family and the morgue where her body was kept. "It made me very angry. It was not just Manorama who was raped. We all felt raped," says Soibam Momon Leima. Lourembam Nganbi (left) arrived in Imphal a day earlier from her home in Vishnupur, 30km away. The idea of a nude protest was first discussed on 12 July at a meeting of the All Manipur Women's Social Reformation and Development Samaj, but it was thought "too sensitive and radical", says Thokchom Ramani, who was 73 at the time. But at a meeting later in the day of different women's groups, Ms Thokchom mentioned it and believing that "desperate times call for desperate measures", it was agreed that a small group of women would attempt to strip in front of the iconic Kangla Fort, the Assam Rifles headquarters. On the morning of 15 July, the day of the protest, Laishram Gyaneshwari left her home. "I didn't tell my husband or children that I was going to take part in this protest. I had no idea how it would go, I knew I was putting my life in danger and I knew I could die that day. So I touched my husband's feet, sought his blessings and left," she told me. Haobam Tombi was the youngest protester at 45. Lourembam Nganbi arrived in the city a day earlier from her home in Vishnupur, 30km away. Because of a government-imposed curfew in many parts of the state, there were no buses so she hired a private taxi to reach Imphal and walked the last few miles to the home of Haobam Ibetombi, another of the protesters. "There, we removed our inner garments and just covered our bodies in the traditional Manipuri sarongs so that we could strip easily," she says. Just after 9am, a van began ferrying them to Kangla Fort - it made three trips, carrying the protesters and volunteers, depositing them not at the fort but near enough to get there quickly. Manipuris accuse the Indian army of misusing the sweeping powers given to them under the special law. The women were all housewives and mostly from poor families. "We were crying even before we left. We are women, all we have is our honour. And Manipur is a traditional society, we don't show our bodies. We are uncomfortable even showing our ankles," Mrs Laishram said. The authorities had somehow got wind of their protest and a large number of police, some of them women, were beginning to gather outside the fort. At 10am, the rag-tag bunch walked in twos and threes to the fort gate and before anyone could realise what was going on, the mothers stripped. They threw off all their clothes, beat their chests, rolled on the ground and wept. The women carried banners that read "Indian army, rape us" and "Indian army, kill us". Even though Manorama had been taken away by members of a paramilitary force, most Indians don't know the different branches of the security forces, and so army is used as a loose term to describe them all. Nine women were accused of arson and waging war against the country and were sent to jail. Although there were no leaders, Mrs Lourembam shouted the loudest, chanting slogans in English "because we wanted to shame them in a language they and the rest of the world understood", she said. "I was thinking their action must stop, they must be punished. Women should not be raped anywhere in the world. The women tried to storm the fort, but the soldiers locked the gates. "Two sentries pointed their guns at us. We dared them to shoot us and they lowered their weapons. I think they were ashamed," says Mrs Laishram. Soon, a large crowd gathered and Mrs Thockchom says most people, including many police personnel, were crying. The protest continued for just 45 minutes, but those 45 minutes have had a lasting impact on the lives on the 12 women and the story of Manipur. Laishram Gyaneshwari did not tell her family that she was going to take part in the nude protest. The mothers became celebrities who were feted at neighbourhood receptions. But they were also harassed by an embarrassed government which began a systematic destruction of their offices and organisations. Nine of the women were accused of arson and waging war against the country and were sent to jail for nearly three months. Their protest, however, did have the intended impact of putting the spotlight on the Manipur problem. "The mothers' protest came too late for Manorama, but it played a crucial role in forcing the Assam Rifles to vacate the fort four months later, for the first time since they occupied it in 1949," says Babloo Loitongbam of Human Rights Alert. Manipur is one of India's most restive states. India also promised to look at the demand to repeal Afspa and then prime minister Manmohan Singh promised a "healing touch" to the Manipuris. Thirteen years later, though, Afspa remains in large parts of the state and reports of rights abuses by security forces still come in, but campaigners feel the situation has improved. Along with the 16-year fast by the state's most celebrated activist Irom Sharmila, the mothers' protest has entered the history books. The mothers, however, remain angry. "We are still naked," Mrs Laishram tells me. "We will believe the government has clothed us only on the day Afspa is removed from the whole state."
Thokchom Ramani, at 73, was the oldest protester. Haobam Tombi was the youngest protester at 45. Lourembam Nganbi arrived in the city a day earlier from her home in Vishnupur, 30km away. Because of a government-imposed curfew in many parts of the state, there were no buses so she hired a private taxi to reach Imphal and walked the last few miles to the home of Haobam Ibetombi, another of the protesters.
"There, we removed our inner garments and just covered our bodies in the traditional Manipuri sarongs so that we could strip easily," she says. Just after 9am, a van began ferrying them to Kangla Fort - it made three trips, carrying the protesters and volunteers, depositing them not at the fort but near enough to get there quickly. Manipuris accuse the Indian army of misusing the sweeping powers given to them under the special law.
The women were all housewives and mostly from poor families "We were crying even before we left. We are women, all we have is our honour. And Manipur is a traditional society, we don't show our bodies. We are uncomfortable even showing our ankles," Mrs Laishram said. The authorities had somehow got wind of their protest and a large number of police, some of them women, were beginning to gather outside the fort. At 10am, the rag-tag bunch walked in twos and threes to the fort gate and before anyone could realise what was going on, the mothers stripped. They threw off all their clothes, beat their chests, rolled on the ground and wept.
The women carried banners that read "Indian army, rape us" and "Indian army, kill us". Even though Manorama had been taken away by members of a paramilitary force, most Indians don't know the different branches of the security forces, and so army is used as a loose term to describe them all. Nine women were accused of arson and waging war against the country and were sent to jail. Although there were no leaders, Mrs Lourembam shouted the loudest, chanting slogans in English "because we wanted to shame them in a language they and the rest of the world understood", she said. "I was thinking their action must stop, they must be punished. Women should not be raped anywhere in the world. The women tried to storm the fort, but the soldiers locked the gates. "Two sentries pointed their guns at us. We dared them to shoot us and they lowered their weapons. I think they were ashamed," says Mrs Laishram. Soon, a large crowd gathered and Mrs Thockchom says most people, including many police personnel, were crying. The protest continued for just 45 minutes, but those 45 minutes have had a lasting impact on the lives on the 12 women and the story of Manipur. Laishram Gyaneshwari did not tell her family that she was going to take part in the nude protest. The mothers became celebrities who were feted at neighbourhood receptions. But they were also harassed by an embarrassed government which began a systematic destruction of their offices and organisations. Nine of the women were accused of arson and waging war against the country and were sent to jail for nearly three months. Their protest, however, did have the intended impact of putting the spotlight on the Manipur problem. "The mothers' protest came too late for Manorama, but it played a crucial role in forcing the Assam Rifles to vacate the fort four months later, for the first time since they occupied it in 1949," says Babloo Loitongbam of Human Rights Alert. Manipur is one of India's most restive states. India also promised to look at the demand to repeal Afspa and then prime minister Manmohan Singh promised a "healing touch" to the Manipuris. Thirteen years later, though, Afspa remains in large parts of the state and reports of rights abuses by security forces still come in, but campaigners feel the situation has improved. Along with the 16-year fast by the state's most celebrated activist Irom Sharmila, the mothers' protest has entered the history books. The mothers, however, remain angry. "We are still naked," Mrs Laishram tells me. "We will believe the government has clothed us only on the day Afspa is removed from the whole state."
Женщины-воины: персидские амазонки

В древности власть Персидской империи охватывала почти всю Азию. Соседним государствам было просто нечего противопоставить агрессивной политике Ахменидов, каждое свое слово подкреплявших огромной армией под командованием сильнейших военачальников. К удивлению археологов, ДНК-тесты погребенных воителей двухтысячелетней давности обнаружили, что уже в ту пору женщины упорно боролись за свои права, смело отстаивая позиции на поле боя с мечом в руке. Несмотря на то, что мало кто слышал об этих амазонках, их храбрость, интеллект и героизм вполне достоин отдельной легенды. Томирис, королева-воительница
Томирис считается самой свирепой женщиной из всех когда-либо живших. Эта красотка обладала нулевой терпимостью к тем, кто рискнул посягать на ее территорию, или на ее трон. Мудрая, дикарски жестокая девушка прославилась военными победами. Кроме того, Томирис была известна изобретательными пытками — к примеру, королева заставляла неугодных совершать самокастрацию.
Бану, жена Бабака. В 816 году н.э., Бану и ее муж Бабак возглавляли сопротивление власти арабского халифата, захватившего их племенную территорию. Бану была очень опытным лучником и прекрасным, но жестоким командирам. 23 года продержались они в своей горной крепости, стены которой не мог сокрушить враг. Не проиграв ни одной битвы, Бану и Бабак были преданы доверенным человеком и отданы противнику.
Хавла бинт аль-Азвар - Хавла бинт аль-Азвар была целительницей при армии мусульман, стремившихся распространить слово Аллаха по всей Персии в 7 веке н.э. Во время бушующей битвы против Византийской империи пал брат Хавлы: вне себя от горя, девушка сбросила одежду целительницы, спрятала лицо под зеленым шарфом, схватила ятаган и бесстрашно бросилась в самую гущу схватки. Напор ее был столь страшен, что византийцы попятились, а воодушевленные соратники Хавлы повернули ход сражения в свою пользу.
Апраник, воин Сасанидов - Дочь персидского военачальника выросла в звуках битвы. Апраник пошла по стопам отца и стала профессиональным солдатом, безо всякой протекции поднявшись от простого бойца до командира. В сражениях против Праведного Халифата девушка приняла командование остатками военных сил Сасанидов и несколько лет выматывала врага внезапными молниеносными атаками.
Самси, аравийская королева - Королева Самси Аравийская вошла в историю как бесстрашная воительница, с которой считались даже великие цари соседней Ассирии. Самси наладила торговый путь в эту мощную державу и поклялась в верности ее правителям. Но и такого положения было для девушки недостаточно: Самси объединилась с Дамаском, чтобы вытеснить ассирийцев из региона. Кровопролитная война закончилась полным разгромом для Дамаска, а Самси попала в плен. Вместо того, чтобы казнить девушку, ассирийцы вернули ее на трон, показав свое уважение такой невероятной смелости.
Пантея, командир Бессмертных - Пантея считалась одной из самых успешных командиров в армии Кира Великого. После того, как Кир завоевал Вавилонскую империю, Пантея организовала элитный отряд Бессмертных, бойцы которого внушали трепет врагам одним своим видом. В отряде всегда было ровно 10 000 воинов: погибшие в бою сразу же заменялись новыми обученными солдатами.
Зенобия - Зенобия правила Пальмирой в 1 веке н.э. и была в ту пору одной из немногих людей, рискнувших бросить вызов авторитету Рима. Умными политическими уловками Зенобия смогла нанести болезненный удар великой империи, оставив без продовольственных поставок половину страны. Королева на равных поддерживала отношения с военными и политическими лидерами соседних стран, что в то время было беспрецедентным достижением для женщины.
The woman running 40 marathons in 40 days, BBC News, Sydney, Australia

MinaGuli40 MarathonsIn40DaysAustralia.jpg (4) MinaGuli40 MarathonsIn40DaysYangtzeRiverChina.jpg
27 April 2017
Mina Guli runs a marathon beside Australia's Murray River. Ultra-runner Mina Guli winced in pain in the middle of a cow paddock. Bandages wrapped around her beaten feet, she contemplated the "holes" where her toenails used to be. She was back in her native Australia, but emotionally Ms Guli felt a long way from home. Why am I doing this, she asked herself, of her attempt to complete 40 marathons in 40 days across six continents. But Ms Guli resolved to work through the pain. She laced up her running shoes, pulled on her shorts and shirt, and "got the miles done". "It wasn't a pretty day, there were lots of tears but I got through it," Ms Guli tells the BBC. "I don't run because I enjoy running, I run because I want to raise awareness about water issues." Ms Guli is running along six major rivers. Mina Guli treks up a muddy path near the Amazon River in Brazil.
The lawyer-turned-conservationist is nearing the end of a 1,687km (1,048 miles) journey designed to highlight the amount of water used in consumer goods. "Only 5% of our water that we use is in our household consumption - the rest is in our 'invisible water footprint'," says Ms Guli. She has run her marathons along the Colorado River in the US and Mexico, the Amazon River in Brazil, the Murray River in Australia, the Yangtze River in China and the Nile River in Egypt. She is due to finish the final leg on Monday along the River Thames in London. Last year, Ms Guli, 46, finished an even longer odyssey spanning seven continents. She says the extensive distances and limited recovery time take a toll on her body, no matter how meticulous her preparation. "I look a bit like an old granny after running the first couple of kilometres," she says. Mina Guli looks out at the Colorado River at the Arizona Hot Springs. Mina Guli crosses a bridge over a water canal in Nanxun, China. "When I get up in the morning there's a lot of grimacing, a lot of hobbling. I've taken to doing the first couple of kilometres by myself because I don't want my (support) team to see how badly I'm hurting." Rest is rare to keep the relentless pace, and when she is not running a lot of time is spent flying or driving to the next destination. Along the way she has met with a range of locals - including indigenous leaders, tourism operators and farmers - to talk about the water issues they face. Ms Guli says she is motivated by spreading a simple message: that many countries use water faster than nature can replenish it. In 2012, she founded Thirst, a global charity to educate young people on the topic...

Silicon Valley's women have spoken. Now what? 1 July 2017
Jessica Livingston, right, believes women are forcing change in Silicon Valley. "It's been going on for a while." It's a phrase I've heard a lot since Susan Fowler, an ex-Uber employee, published her explosive blog post that ultimately toppled one of the most powerful chief executives in San Francisco. "I'll tell you - Susan Fowler kicked off a big thing here," says Jessica Livingston, who co-created Y Combinator, the most highly-respected start-up investment programme in Silicon Valley. "That's what you have to understand. This stuff was happening all the time and people were complaining to their confidants and sharing it with their family. No-one was coming forward on the record with 'here's an account of these horrible things that happened to me'. It just felt too scary, a possible career breaker for people. That was the feeling." But that may be changing, if the mood at Y Combinator's Female Founders conference is anything to go by. The annual event is a gathering of would-be and successful female entrepreneurs. And this year it has been given added vigour. Call it, the "Uber in the room". "We couldn't have this conference without referencing it, I mean come on!" Ms Livingston continues. "It's such crazy stuff.
I do think there is an undercurrent in the conference today of 'this is awful stuff that's happening, but it's been going on for a while... and now things are going to change.'"
Dramatic change
Change won't come easy, but for the first time it may be in reach. Avni Patel Thompson says a support network for new entrepreneurs would help. While Uber's crisis has garnered the most headlines, perhaps the more significant fall-from-grace in Silicon Valley this year has been that of Justin Caldbeck, a venture capitalist who just a week ago was accused of several instances of sexual harassment. In the space of two days he denied the claims, then took a leave of absence, and then resigned. Now the investment firm he founded, Binary Capital, has capitulated - with backers removing their support and, crucially, their money. "If you look at the way things have played out over the past week at Binary, there's been a change every single day, and it's gotten more dramatic every single day," Ms Livingston tells me. "To the point where we are feeling like people are responding. People are being held accountable - they're not sweeping it under the carpet." Abuse pattern
Abuse often harbours in situations when one individual holds the key to another's dream: an actress desperate to land that first big role, or an athlete wanting to get closer to the big leagues. In Silicon Valley, it's often an inexperienced entrepreneur, panicking about rent money, and desperate for that first piece of funding that would set them on their way to creating their company. Those early investments, known as seed funding, are make or break. Laura Behrens-Wu says female entrepreneurs seeking their first funding round are most vulnerable
"Pre-seed, before you're part of the network, that's when women are most vulnerable," says Laura Behrens-Wu, co-founder of shipping start-up Shippo, which recently raised m.
"They don't know anyone here yet, they don't have anyone to turn to.
"If someone harassed me today I'd have people to turn to, people who can stand up for me and make sure that this never happens again."
Without that support network, Ms Behrens-Wu argues, the prospect of speaking out against abusers is terrifying and insurmountable.
"When [investors] Google your name, you don't want stories about sexual harassment to be the first thing that comes up.
"[Women are] worried they're being seen as the trouble makers by other people."
Strength in numbers
Filling this support and accountability vacuum could perhaps change things here - something that might give new arrivals in Silicon Valley a strong footing from which to protect themselves.
One suggestion, that I wrote about last week, is a "Decency Pledge" - a code of conduct shared across the technology industry. That has been met with a mixed response. Surely, many argue, people shouldn't have to sign a "pledge" to exercise what should be common decency?
Avni Patel Thompson, founder of on-demand childcare start-up Poppy, says the best solution may be to equip new entrepreneurs with the same kind support network that give more experienced women the strength to come forward and confront unacceptable behaviour.
"Everyone talks about backchannel references, right? I think there are those of us that are plugged into certain networks that have access to that.
"But how do we make that accessible to the people that need it the most, which are the folks that are just getting started and don't know up from down and all these type of things. They're just trying to fight the good fight.
"How can we make some of these things available? That's some of the conversations that we, as female founders, are having."
Added protection
Y Combinator is a tech incubator programme that twice a year takes on a bunch of promising start-ups, gives them about 0,000, and coaches them to potential success. It has spawned several successes, such as Dropbox, Reddit and payments firm Stripe.
And for those lucky enough to get on the programme, it also provides an added layer of protection against possible abuses.
"We will speak up on the founders' behalf, always," Jessica Livingston tells me.
"We've just launched internally an anonymous forum if anyone has faced racism or harassment they can let us know anonymously. We are trying to do things to help."
But looking long-term, a more gender-diverse technology industry is seen as the only genuine solution to this problem.
"I'm always hoping that more women get into the game," Ms Livingston continues.
"We do need to have more female venture capitalists (VCs), and managing director level VCs. Almost all of them are men.
"There are so many things that have to work together to really create change."
Wives wanted in the Faroe Islands

27 April 2017
There's a shortage of women in the Faroe Islands. So local men are increasingly seeking wives from further afield - Thailand and the Philippines in particular. But what's it like for the brides who swap the tropics for this windswept archipelago? When Athaya Slaetalid first moved from Thailand to the Faroe Islands, where winter lasts six months, she would sit next to the heater all day: "People told me to go outside because the sun was shining but I just said: 'No! Leave me alone, I'm very cold.'" Moving here six years ago was tough for Athaya at first, she admits. She'd met her husband Jan when he was working with a Faroese friend who had started a business in Thailand. Jan knew in advance that bringing his wife to this very different culture, weather and landscape would be challenging. "I had my concerns, because everything she was leaving and everything she was coming to were opposites," he admits. "But knowing Athaya, I knew she would cope." There are now more than 300 women from Thailand and Philippines living in the Faroes. It doesn't sound like a lot, but in a population of just 50,000 people they now make up the largest ethnic minority in these 18 islands, located between Norway and Iceland. In recent years the Faroes have experienced population decline, with young people leaving, often in search of education, and not returning. Women have proved more likely to settle abroad. As a result, according to Prime Minister Axel Johannesen, the Faroes have a "gender deficit" with approximately 2,000 fewer women than men. This, in turn, has lead Faroese men to look beyond the islands for romance. Many, though not all, of the Asian women met their husbands online, some through commercial dating websites. Others have made connections through social media networks or existing Asian-Faroese couples. For the new arrivals, the culture shock can be dramatic. Officially part of the Kingdom of Denmark, the Faroes have their own language (derived from Old Norse) and a very distinctive culture - especially when it comes to food. Fermented mutton, dried cod and occasional whale meat and blubber are typical of the strong flavours here, with none of the traditional herbs and spices of Asian cooking. And, although it never gets as cold as neighbouring Iceland, the wet, cool climate is a challenge for many people. A good summer's day would see the temperature reach 16°C. Athaya is a confident woman with a ready smile who now works in the restaurant business in Torshavn, the Faroese capital. She and Jan share a cosy cottage on the banks of a fjord surrounded by dramatic mountains. But she's honest about how difficult swapping countries was at first. "When our son Jacob was a baby, I was at home all day with no-one to talk to," she says. "The other villagers are older people and mostly don't speak English. People our age were out at work and there were no children for Jacob to play with. I was really alone. When you stay at home here, you really stay at home. I can say I was depressed. But I knew it would be like that for two or three years." Then, when Jacob started kindergarten, she began working in catering and met other Thai women.
"That was important because it gave me a network. And it gave me a taste of home again." Krongrak Jokladal felt isolated at first, too, when she arrived from Thailand. Her husband Trondur is a sailor and works away from home for several months at a time. She started her own Thai massage salon in the centre of Torshavn. "You can't work regular hours with a baby, and although my parents-in-law help out with childcare, running the business myself means I can choose my hours," she says. It's a far cry from Krongrak's previous job as head of an accountancy division in Thai local government. But she is unusual in that she runs her own business. Even for many highly educated Asian women in the Faroes, the language barrier means they have to take lower-level work. Axel Johannesen, the prime minister, says helping the newcomers overcome this is something the government takes seriously. "The Asian women who have come in are very active in the labour market, which is good," he says. "One of our priorities is to help them learn Faroese, and there are government programmes offering free language classes." Kristjan Arnason recalls the effort his Thai wife Bunlom, who arrived in the Faroes in 2002, put into learning the language. "After a long day at work she would sit reading the English-Faeroese dictionary," he says. "She was extraordinarily dedicated." "I was lucky," Bunlom adds. "I told Kristjan that if I was moving here he had to find me a job. And he did, and I was working with Faeroese people in a hotel so I had to learn how to talk to them." In an age when immigration has become such a sensitive topic in many parts of Europe, Faeroes society seems remarkably accepting of foreign incomers. Chuen and Karsten have been married for just over a year. They met on a dating website called Thai Cupid. "I think it helps that the immigrants we have seen so far are mostly women," says local politician Magni Arge, who also sits in the Danish parliament, "They come and they work and they don't cause any social problems. "But we've seen problems when you have people coming from other cultures into places like the UK, in Sweden and in other parts of Europe - even Denmark. That's why we need to work hard at government level to make sure we don't isolate people and have some kind of sub-culture developing." But Antonette Egholm, originally from the Philippines, hasn't encountered any anti-immigrant sentiment. I met her and her husband as they moved into a new flat in Torshavn. "People here are friendly, she explains, "and I've never experienced any negative reactions to my being a foreigner. I lived in metro Manila and there we worried about traffic and pollution and crime. Here we don't need to worry about locking the house, and things like healthcare and education are free. At home we have to pay. And here you can just call spontaneously at someone's house, it's not formal. For me, it feels like the Philippines in that way." Likewise, her husband Regin believes increasing diversity is something that should be welcomed not feared. "We actually need fresh blood here," he adds, "I like seeing so many children now who have mixed parentage. Our gene pool is very restricted, and it's got to be a good thing that we welcome outsiders who can have families." He acknowledges that he's had occasional ribbing from some male friends who jokingly ask if he pressed "enter" on his computer to order a wife. But he denies he and Antonette have encountered any serious prejudice as a result of their relationship. Athaya Slaetalid tells me that some of her Thai friends have asked why she doesn't leave her small hamlet, and move to the capital, where almost 40% of Faroe Islanders now live. They say Jacob would have more friends there. "No, I don't need to do that," she says. "I'm happy here now, not just surviving but making a life for our family. "Look," she says, as we step into the garden overlooking the fjord. "Jacob plays next to the beach. He is surrounded by hills covered in sheep and exposed to nature. And his grandparents live just up the road. There is no pollution and no crime. Not many kids have that these days. This could be the last paradise on earth."

 Женский мозг активнее мужского?
Шум подняла работа нейробиологов под руководством Дэниеля Амена (Daniel Amen), опубликованная в журнале Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. В статье описывается большая и кропотливая работа: учёные сравнили результаты сканирования мозга 26 мужчин и женщин, сделанных в Amen Clinics. Сканировали при помощи метода однофотонной эмиссионной компьютерной томографии (ОФЭКТ или ОЭКТ); доктор Амен — большой энтузиаст этого метода, и в его собственной сети клиник его используют, возможно, шире, чем где бы то ни было. ОФЭКТ позволяет, кроме прочего, измерять количество проходящей через некоторый участок мозга крови. Амен и его коллеги установили, что кровоток с женском мозге сильнее чем кровоток в мозге мужчины и когда человек расслаблен и не сосредоточен, и во время напряжённой умственной работы. Разница в показателях невелика, но всё-таки больше погрешности, а размер выборки заставляет верить в то, что эта небольшая разница действительно зависит от пола. Снимки мозга здоровых людей, которых использовали в качестве контрольной группы, подтвердили выводы. сделанные по снимкам пациентов клиник: разница между кровотоком в мужском и женском мозге у этих людей оказалась даже больше.
Cambodia's female construction workers

FemalesConstructionWorkers2017Cambodia.jpg (10)
13 March 2017
Cambodia's construction industry is booming, and high-rises are being built across the capital of Phnom Penh. With the city's population doubling over the past four years, it has begun its transformation into a sprawling metropolis. The industry employs a large number of migrant workers who flock to the capital in search of work. Around a third of these workers are women, and photographer Charles Fox's latest project documents them on the building sites. Some of the women are just starting out, others hone skills learnt in the provinces, while others are from the masses of workers who returned from Thailand in 2014 after a crackdown on illegal migrant workers. Many of these women have come to the capital with their family and friends, relocating to live and work on the building sites. The sites can often be dangerous and female workers can receive lower wages than their male counterparts. Despite this, the women of Cambodia's construction industry are hard-working and driven, remaining resilient to the risks they face.
Sok Korn - A female construction worker. Five years ago, I came to Phnom Penh with my husband and my son. There's no work for us at the countryside. The only thing we can do there is grow rice once a year. But if it were financially possible I would quit my job immediately and return to my village. Then I would take care of my mother and be able to see my other children more frequently.
Heang Sian - Three years ago a divorce and a hospitalisation put me in debt. I had to sell my house and my land, but it wasn't enough to pay all my debts. So I came to the city to work on a construction site. The great thing of working in construction is that here I get paid per week. You don't have that when you work in the factory or in a hotel.
Keng Ev - A female construction worker. I have five children and they and my husband all work in construction.
Nout Sreymom - A female construction worker. Together with my husband I build elevator shafts. Our manager consistently sends us from one location to the other. Sometimes we stay at a project for one month, sometimes for two or three.
Sok Sovanna - A female construction worker. Unlike my friends who work in factories, I prefer working in construction as my whole family is here with me. Yet despite being close to my loved ones I face verbal harassment from male co-workers when they are drunk at night.
Sok Aun - A female construction worker. Its been three years since I arrived in Phnom Penh and I have been working in construction the whole time. My daughter is living with my parents back home in Prey Veng Province. I try to save as much money as possible so my diet is limited. I also sleep at the construction site to save money so I can send it back to my family.
Sok Poeu. A female construction worker. I have worked in construction for almost four years now. I have worked all over Phnom Penh for different construction projects from hotels, apartments to condos. As a female worker here I am verbally harassed by male construction workers, but what to do? I have no other place to sleep. I can't afford any private accommodation.
Sam Nang - A female construction worker. I have worked in construction in Cambodia for about two months now - prior to that I worked in Thailand for several years. As a mother of two, I have to work from early morning to dusk so I can afford to support my family. I have no proper food or time to eat and I feel dizzy a lot of the time.

Валентина Терешкова. "Я всегда смотрю на звёзды".  Mar 5, 2017. Это фильм о женщине отважной и легендарной. Полет и возвращение на Землю. Это было начало ее славы и начало нашей к ней любви. Мы называли ее именем улицы и новорожденных девочек, сочиняли для нее стихи и пели песни. И не только потому, что она была первой. Потому что славу она использовала, чтобы всю свою послеполетную жизнь помогать людям. Валентина Владимировна Терешкова — кандидат технических наук, автор более полусотни научных работ на актуальные темы практической космонавтики. Депутат ГД Терешкова вернула в профессию слуги народа искренность. Мы увидим, как проблемы ярославских избирателей Терешковой становятся ее личными проблемами: Валентина Владимировна помогает с жильем, защищает архитектурные памятники, участвует в жизни детских домов. Мы побываем в самом первом русском театре, труппа которого считает Терешкову своей музой и защитницей. Наши герои — люди, в разные годы общавшиеся с Терешковой, — называют ее великой женщиной. Не только за ее космический подвиг. Но и за то, что у нее, как сказал один из героев нашего фильма, «не снесло крышу», за то, что у нее человеческое сердце и совесть. Дочь Елена во всем поддерживает маму и помогает ей. У Терешкой уже выросли внуки. За плечами старшего Алексея служба в ВДВ, в Псковской десантной дивизии. Сейчас Алексей — студент МГУ. Младший, школьник Андрей, репетирует на скрипке в оркестре у Дмитрия Когана. Мир легко забывает имена своих героев, но это не тот случай.

Nigeria Chibok girls: Eighty-two freed by Boko Haram - Africa2017Nigeria21ReleasedGirls.jpg  Africa2017Nigeria21ReleasedGirlsMap.jpg  Africa2017Nigeria350GirlsInCaptivity.jpg
7 May 2017
Nigeria schoolgirl kidnappings. This file photo taken on May 12, 2014 shows a screengrab taken from a video of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram obtained by AFP showing girls, wearing the full-length hijab and praying in an undisclosed rural location.  Some of the girls pictured in May 2014, shortly after their kidnapping. Islamist militants of the Boko Haram group have released 82 schoolgirls from a group of 276 they abducted in north-eastern Nigeria three years ago, the president's office says. They were handed over in exchange for Boko Haram suspects after negotiations. The girls will be received by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja on Sunday, a statement said. The abduction of the so-called "Chibok girls" triggered a global outcry and sparked a huge social media campaign. Before the latest release, about 195 of the girls were still missing. The number of Boko Haram suspects released by authorities remains undisclosed. The 82 schoolgirls are now in the custody of the Nigerian army and were brought by road convoy from a remote area to a military base in Banki near the border with Cameroon, reports the BBC's Stephanie Hegarty from Lagos. Our reporter says that many families in Chibok will be rejoicing at this latest news, but more than 100 of the girls taken have yet to be returned. Christian pastor Enoch Mark, whose two daughters were among those kidnapped, told Agence France-Presse: "This is good news to us. We have been waiting for this day. We hope the remaining girls will soon be released." It was unclear whether his daughters had been freed. A statement from a spokesman for President Buhari said he was deeply grateful to "security agencies, the military, the Government of Switzerland, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and local and international NGOs" for playing a role in the operation. 'Two blindfolded men in convoy'- The BBC's Stephanie Hegarty reports from Lagos
Information about the release began trickling out on Saturday afternoon. A soldier contacted the BBC to say that more than 80 Chibok girls were being held in an army base near the Cameroon border. At the same time an official working for an international agency, who assisted with the release, said that several armoured vehicles left Maiduguri - the city at the centre of the Boko Haram insurgency - in a convoy to travel into the "forest" to meet the girls. He said there were two blindfolded men in the convoy. The president's office said that the girls were released in exchange for some Boko Haram suspects held by the authorities - but we haven't been told how many. After the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno state, was raided in April 2014, more than 50 girls quickly escaped and Boko Haram then freed another 21 last October, after negotiations with the Red Cross. The campaign for the return of the girls drew the support of then US First Lady Michelle Obama and many Hollywood stars. Last month, President Buhari said the government remained "in constant touch through negotiations, through local intelligence to secure the release of the remaining girls and other abducted persons unharmed".
Many of the Chibok girls were Christian, but were encouraged to convert to Islam and to marry their kidnappers during their time in captivity. Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands of other people during its eight-year insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic caliphate in north-eastern Nigeria. More than 30,000 others have been killed, the government says, and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee from their homes. Boko Haram at a glance:
Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education - Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language. Launched military operations in 2009. Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, hundreds abducted, including hundreds of schoolgirls. Seized large area in north-east Nigeria, where it declared a caliphate. Joined so-called Islamic State, now calls itself IS's "West African province". Regional force has now retaken most of the captured territory. Group split in August after rival leaders emerged.


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