NEW DELHI, India, March 6 (IPS) – The following opinion piece is part of a series to mark the upcoming International Women’s Day, March 8. Power is an intriguing concept that means different things to different people. Simply put, power is the ability to influence the behavior of others to get what you want. The distribution of power is generally visible in most societies when there is a clear and obvious division between the roles of men and the expectations of women. You can’t talk about power without talking about patriarchy – in which men still hold power and women are largely excluded from it. Women almost always learn power and ambition are two dirty words and shouldn’t be tied to their personality.
In 2020, as the world tried to survive the global pandemic, women around the world were trying to survive a lot more with COVID-19, also sometimes claiming their power and negotiating their spaces in different ways.
In Yemen, Kawkab Al-Thaibani, a women’s rights activist and former director of the Women4Yemen network, lobbied for meaningful participation of women in the country’s current peace process.
“War is the face of toxic masculinity, and it will never give room to women, for women are agents of peace. The war in Yemen is the biggest challenge we face, but the unwillingness of negotiators to include women in the negotiations is another challenge, ”Kawkab mentionned in an interview with IPS News.
“Yemeni women are one of the most resilient groups in society. During this pandemic, businesses run by women have been forced to close, unlike stores run by men. There is discrimination and they think that women-led businesses are not important, although it is very evident now that it is Yemeni women who carry the financial responsibility for the family, ”Kawkab said.
Speaking at the webinar hosted by the United Nations IPS Office in mid-July 2020 on the impact of Covid-19 on women and children, Saima Wazed, WHO Director General’s Advisor on Autism and mental health, and president of the Shuchona Foundation mentionned, “Women are already subject to a double workload which includes unpaid household chores. The pandemic has drawn a common image across cultures of women with jobs that must juggle being a worker, housewife, cook, housekeeper and teacher at night. Those in the informal sector were the first to lose all their choices of what small sources of income they might have. “
One of the other alarming impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been on girls’ education. “11 million girls may not return to school this year due to the unprecedented disruption of education from COVID-19.” According to this report by UNESCO, “This alarming number not only threatens decades of progress towards gender equality, but also puts girls around the world at risk of teenage pregnancy, early and forced marriage and violence. For many girls, school is more than just a key to a better future. It is a lifeline.
Addressing the deeply rooted gender disparities in and through education, Yasmine Sherif, Director, Education Cannot Wait (ECW), says because of the many risks and barriers that continue to prevent girls and adolescent girls from accessing education, in a context where girls are under-represented. , ECW encourages its partners at country level to ensure that at least 60% of affected learners are girls and adolescents. “This positive action to fight against these inequalities involves the promotion of a“ whole child ”approach. It also takes into account their safety, their food security, their physical and mental health ”, Yasmine mentionned at IPS.
“COVID-19 risks damaging much of the progress towards gender equality that I and other activists have spent our lives working for,” mentionned Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland, President of The Elders at IPS. “We are deeply concerned that women seem to already bear the brunt of the socio-economic fallout from COVID-19, and that this pandemic may deepen the gender inequality divide,” said Mary Robinson.
In Turkey, in 2019, 474 women were murdered, mostly by partners and relatives and the numbers in 2020, affected by coronavirus lockdowns, are expected to be even higher. “Women are on the streets and various hashtags have surfaced, domestic violence has increased, almost half of women claim to have suffered some form of physical or psychological violence in their lifetime, mentionned reporter Nazlan Ertan at IPS News.
In Bangladesh, in October 2020, citizens took to the streets, outraged by reports of gang rapes and horrific sexual violence taking place in the country. 975 women were raped in the first nine months of 2020 during the pandemic, 43 women were killed after being raped, and 204 women were tempted to be raped by men in Bangladesh.
“There is a culture of impunity in the country and when it comes to access to justice, corruption continues to be a major obstacle”, mentionned Shireen Huq, women’s rights activist and founder Naripokkho, a non-profit organization that has been working on women’s rights and the impact of sexual violence in Bangladesh since 1983 at IPS News.
“Violence, male domination and male aggression have been around for years, the tendency to glorify the fact that these things did not happen in the past and that it only happens now in our lifetime is not true. Misogyny has been part of our culture, politics and society for centuries, especially throughout South Asia, ”said Shireen.
In Egypt, Mozn Hassan, one of the most outspoken voices on human rights, founder and executive director of Nazra for Feminist Studies, has had a travel ban imposed since June 2016, following incidents of judicial harassment against Nazra for Feminist Studies, in particular summons relating to a foreign financing case.
In an interview with IPS News Mozn mentionned, “Being an independent feminist voice can cost you dearly, targeting by state actors, freezing assets, banning travel, accusations of supporting women to have ‘irresponsible freedom’, or facing threats of accusations that could leading you to life in prisons are just a few examples.
“What is happening to Nazra is a clear example of how patriarchal and conservative individuals cannot accept feminism and feminist acts. I am just one of the other human rights defenders who have been accused of supporting women to have “irresponsible freedom”. Being an activist is difficult, being a feminist is more difficult and being a person who is not part of a social gang is even more difficult in Egypt. It really is a choice, ”Mozn said.
In addition to these pre-existing social, political and systematic barriers to women’s participation and leadership, many new barriers have emerged with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, countries where women hold leadership positions have suffered six times less confirmed deaths from COVID-19 than countries with male-led governments, only 20 countries have women as heads of state and government around the world.
The stories of strong women leaders who walked through their countries through the pandemic crisis will long be remembered and may also change the overall narrative of what a strong leader should look like and behave like – versus recklessness, often pompous and populist male leaders of the world. We are still a long way from fully harnessing the potential of women’s leadership, expertise and intelligence, but that does not prevent women from taking matters into their own hands.
The very nature of power is domination, and women, in their silent or not so silent and resilient ways, have sent the message that they are no longer willing to negotiate this space, they just go ahead and claim it. .
The author is a New Delhi-based journalist and filmmaker. She hosts a weekly online show called Sania Farooqui’s show where Muslim women from all over the world are invited to share their views.
© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service