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Human Rights » Women's Courage

Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights’

The “Women-Only” Approach Versus the “Family Empowerment Approach”: Egypt as a Case-Study

March 7th, 2011

The access to basic financial services that Islamic Microfinance offers empowers Muslim women in giving them a new dimension in life and feeling of self-worth. However, while this ability of Microfinance to provide rural women with micro-loans in gender-segregated societies is laudable, working with Muslim women in particular raises the issue of interfering with social, cultural and religious codes. The Qur’an encourages men and women to play their respective roles in society, by ensuring the economic and social wellbeing of the family: “Men shall have a share of that which they have earned, and women a share of which they have earned” (Qur’an, VI, 32).

Hence, the “women-only” approach typical of conventional microfinance is not always followed by Islamic Microfinance Institutions (IMFIs) that try to adhere to Islamic principles and values while providing customers with loans. IMFIs overcome this problem by shifting their focus from “women empowerment” to “family empowerment”, which is also promoted by the Qur’an. While this kind of an approach might be met by criticism, it must be understood that it is a very culture-specific approach that mostly caters to male-dominated societies.

The “women-only” approach does weaken the institution of the family by sending both the male and the female out to work, giving them both the feeling of being the breadwinner for their family. But besides this, this approach is also prone to many risks posed by traditional male-dominated societies. In these societies, the funds provided to women for investment in their enterprises are often usurped by the male members of the family, while the women consequently end up carrying the burden of repayment and of their business independently.

In a Muslim country like Egypt, which was the first MENA country to sign the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Microfinance has had a great impact on women’s empowerment in the country. In 2008, a national survey carried out by Planet Finance (NGO) evaluated the impact of microcredit as well as the perception of this impact: “During the focus group discussions, women unanimously stated that the loan had had a positive effect in terms of their image in their communities; they are also more self-confident and their children appreciate what they do. Their projects have allowed them to have a better life in general (“National Impact Survey” 86)”. Despite being a male-dominated Muslim society, Islamic Microfinance accentuates women empowerment.

47 percent of Egypt’s microentrepreneurs are women; 88 percent of these women operate home-based businesses and only 28 percent operate non home-based businesses. Despite these circumstances wherein women are allowed to realize their entrepreneurial skills and abilities out of their home, 45 percent of women have noticed a positive change in their life, in terms of education and economic possibilities, whereas 86 percent of women have experienced a positive impact in terms of personal autonomy (V. COSTA – H. MAKHLOUF – P. MAZAUD).


Costa, Valentina. Makhlouf, Hala. Mazaud, Perrine. “Women’s Empowerment through Islamic Microfinance in Egypt”. MESCI 2009-2010.

The Role of the Rural Development Scheme (RDS) in the Development of Women Entrepreneurship Under Islamic Microfinance

March 7th, 2011

Looking at the RDS as a case study in the development of women entrepreneurship in Bangladesh by means of Islamic Microfinance, we can analyze the role of the burgeoning industry in poverty alleviation, and women empowerment in particular. The RDS is a provider of Microfinance services in Bangladesh, following the rules set by the Islamic Shari’ah. The RDS caters to the investment needs of the agriculture and rural sector; its target market segment include destitute women and distressed people. The RDS is an investment project that conforms to social responsibility fort he downtrodden in the rural areas as its prime priority. It uses depositors’ funds in interest-free ways in rural areas where downtrodden people are susceptible to interest-based groups.

90 per cent of the RDS’ customers are women; the project is currently being operated in about 2200 villages in 45 districts through 21 branches, with a recovery rate of approximately 99.7 per cent.

The cardinal principle of the Scheme is the ‘Group Approach’, Allah loves those ‘who conduct their affairs by mutual consultation’ (Al-Quran 42:38). For all decision-making activities, this mutual consultation is given high priority. The scheme works with each member of the group guaranteeing other members’ investments, and once the investment is approved, the investment (along with a percentage of the profit earned by the business) needs to be paid back by the client in 45 equal weekly installments.

This model has worked really well in terms of the scheme serving as a great source of empowerment for its women customers (who are also the majority of its borrowers). Since the establishment of the RDS, there has been a positive impact on women’s income, decision-making skills, and in reducing overall gender disparity in Bangladesh. Moreover, the group approach adopted by the RDS works really well with women because women in general find it easier to identify with organizations that essentially reflect feminine qualities such as relationships, interdependence and cooperation. An article written by Mahmood Ahmed on the RDS also points out that that scheme has seen a really high repayment rate because women are more likely to repay loans than men, owing to their “mother-hood” skills that they have developed while looking after their husbands, children, and families at home. This hypothesis particularly applies to the women and culture of Bangladesh.

RDS is therefore one out of the many Islamic Microfinance models that has proven successful in alleviating poverty and empowering women by means of granting them interest-free loans.

What Does It Mean For Women To Be “Empowered” And Does Empowerment Compromise The Viability of Microfinance Institutions Worldwide?

March 3rd, 2011

Microfinance has had a positive impact on the status of women globally. What does it mean for women to be “empowered”?

According to the State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign 2001 Report, 14.2 million of the world’s poorest women how have access to financial services through bank, Microfinance Institutions (MFIs), NGOs, and other such institutions. These women belong to the 74 percent of the approximately 20 million of the world’s poorest people that are now being catered to by MFIs. This means that most of these women have access to the ‘loan’ they need to start or invest in their own enterprise; also, most of these women have great repayment records despite the financial problems they run into on a regular basis. So then, is it a good idea to lend money to the poor, and more specifically to poor women? What does this money do for them in terms of their ‘empowerment’?

The word empowerment is difficult to define precisely; yet, it is easy to pin-point an example of empowerment when we see one:

Snapshots of Empowerment:

  • Nury, an illiterate Trust Bank client at AGAPE in Colombia, formerly too shy to speak to strangers, became the treasurer for her Trust Bank.
  • A group of widows in Bali received loans from WKP to start simple projects raising pigs. Over time, they grew in confidence and solidarity and expanded to form a pig-feed cooperative that became the major supplier for their village.
  • Hanufa, a member of CODEC in Bangladesh, defends her rights against an illegal divorce but ultimately decides that she is better off on her own. “I can walk on my own shoes now.”

A lot of different terms have been associated with empowerment: self-reliance, self-respect, self-enabling to reach potential, development of self-worth, and so forth. Empowerment is definitely the goal of many MFIs worldwide; these institutions help women that have previously experienced little or no power, make choices that impact their lives forever. By providing these women with basic financial services, and a loan to become an entrepreneur, they have a tremendous impact on this empowerment process.

Even though MFIs with a strong focus on empowerment have been criticized to have lose their operational viability and sustainability in the process, this has been proved wrong by many MFIs with the same women-empowerment focus. Working Women’s Forum (WWF) in India, for example, is fully financially sustainable and offers a range of nonfinancial services, including organizing women in the informal sector to achieve better wages and working conditions. WWF also empowers poor women through its institutional structure by training them to act as health promoters and credit officers in their neighborhoods. Therefore, MFIs with a strong focus on empowerment maintain very high levels of operational and financial sustainability, suggesting that a great deal can be done to enhance women’s empowerment even within the constraints of financial sustainability.


February 3rd, 2011

In a recent speech at Stanford, young alumni, social media guru, and designer of new specie of modern diplomacy, Jared Cohen, addressed the importance of social media in international relations. He noted that in his experience as a traveler and anthropologist in the Middle East while studying at Oxford, he learned that “technology thrives in the world biggest messes.” [1] [2]

Cohen believes that in desperate situations, such as atrocities or in oppressed societies where people have no means of open communication, people turn to whatever medium they can, often becoming quite creative and inventive in their strategies. For example, he observed that in a marketplace in Iran people had developed a method by which they could randomly send text messages to others in the area. Why would people want to do that, he thought? In his mind, it made more sense to just speak, not via text, and not to complete strangers. However, in a society where people cannot openly converse (especially amongst different social groups, or genders) this random text methodology became a powerful tool of expression. [1]

Social media is not a one-way communication, it’s an open ended communication, like a giant conversation, and anyone can participate (anonymously, with an alias, or as identified) regardless of whether they are part of a larger organization or just an individual. [3] Social media revolutions unite people making an individual somewhere in the world feel like they are “one of us,” a group in unity fighting for something, expressing their opinions, and interacting. [3] Deanna Zant, media technology specialist, refers to the movement as spheres of influence: if all people (or rather their positions) are like one bubble, then via social networking these bubbles collide becoming more visible creating spheres of influence they otherwise would not have. [3] Anyone now has the power to tell his or her story.

Recent uses of social networking technologies—from Haiti to Iran, Moldova to Egypt—have upheld this theory to the fullest. In these environments, social media has transformed the way people disseminate information, express opinions, and mobilize in solidarity against oppressive situations.

After the earthquake in Haiti, hundreds of thousands of people utilized text messages and social media to reach out to the outside world for help. Organizations like the State Department, Pentagon, and humanitarian groups turned to these calls for help (via the monitoring of Facebook and Twitter and the creation of a help number ‘4636’) to help locate survivors and coordinate intervention and aid methods. [4]

Egypt (the hot key word on the street for the past week) has been touted as a prime example of the power of social media to empower people to take a stand against oppression. A Facebook page about the organized protests quadrupled in followers over a two-day period, reporting over 80,000 followers—regardless of a government block. [5]

The question we need to ask now is not only what power does social media have to empower individuals to respond to human rights, but also, how can we (as future policy makers, health professionals, or entrepreneurs) best use social media to better understand and respond to these new voices?

Social media is a powerful tool for women—who in many societies do not have a voice and are not invited to participate in political discussion. The internet, and networking sites can play a huge role internationally in empowering women and allowing them to both have access to information and education tools and to voice their opinions and concerns to the world, in hopes of garnering support and pushing forward their agenda when it otherwise could not gain fruition.

More investigative research must be done on social media as a strategy for empowering women; the new online feminist movement could be the best method for changing social norms regarding women’s voices in many societies.


[1] Jared Cohen @ Stanford University—event

[2] Schmitt, Rick. “STANFORD Magazine: May/June 2010 Features Diplomat Jared Cohen.” Stanford Alumni Association. Web. 04 Feb. 2011. http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/2010/mayjun/features/cohen.html.

[3] Video, interview: Deanna Zandt: Media Technologist and Author of “Share This!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=448seGaQ5qk

[4] Gentile, Carmen. “Cries for Help via Text Messages Are Used to Direct Aid to Haiti.” New York Times Online. The Nw York TImes, 20 Feb. 2010. Web. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/21/world/americas/21text.html?_r=1&th&emc=th.

[5] Lister, Tim, and Emily Smith. “Social Media @ the Front Line in Egypt – CNN.” Featured Articles from CNN. 27 Jan. 2011. Web. 04 Feb. 2011. http://articles.cnn.com/2011-01-27/world/egypt.protests.social.media_1_social-media-twitter-entry-muslim-brotherhood?_s=PM:WORLD.

“What Emergency?” Keep on Killing Them, We’ll Keep on Hiding It…

January 27th, 2011

Mexico is in the midst of what NGO’s call a “gender emergency.” At the same time, politicians are fighting to keep the facts hidden. [1]

The country has regions where the war on drugs has really taken a toll on civilian life (especially that of vulnerable populations like young women)— due to the increasing levels of violence the state of affairs is of international concern.

Ciudad Juárez has been plagued by drug wars and simultaneously high crime rates for the last decade. There was a spike in media coverage in the early 2000s regarding the high rape instances on the Mexico border, then again when the impact came to a peak in the midst of President Calderon’s decade-long war on drugs. [2] The militarized anti-drug cartel battle has taken over 34,000 lives (over 17,000 this past year alone). [2] In addition to these losses, record numbers of female deaths unrelated to the drug wars have been recorded—though not necessarily brought to attention nor dealt with in the public sphere. These female deaths are a byproduct of the culture surrounding drug cartels.

What we see is a phenomenon of increased attention on the cartel wars and decreased interest in the spikes of violence happening as a corollary of drug-controled social order. The statistics are dreadful: femicides in Ciudad Juárez rose by 130% between 2009 and 2010, resulting in over 430 (reported) deaths [2] —and this is supposedly in the aftermath of international condemnation of the state of affairs. The sad truth is, nobody knows how many women have been killed as a result of the violence in Ciudad Juárez since the start of the problems in the 1990s. Government reports claim numbers in the hundreds (data complied according to number of remains found), while other figures reach the thousands. There is no reliable data.

Ciudad Juárez has historically had a horrible reputation for crimes against women. Two decades ago, the region began to register an “alarming number of cases of women tortured, murdered, or disappeared.” [1] In turn, the international community put pressure on the government to fight to protect women’s rights, issuing over 200 recommendations for how to proceed with legal and political means to assure the matter was not overlooked. [1] The Mexican government then began focusing on curtailing drug activity as a means of strengthening the rule of law. In effect, the opposite has happened. The overzealous focus on one issue, resulted in an almost blatant ignorance of others.

In order to curb focus on the drastic figures about femicide in the region that threaten the fabric of political reform attempts, the corrupt authorities have resorted to falsifying reports and purposely misclassifying murders. The truth regarding crime rates is so stark that exposing it would severely damage the protected image of government figures. In fact, the government of North Mexico is in direct battle with the NGO’s seeking to bring attention to these human rights atrocities by declassifying them. [1] Authorities believe revealing the truth threatens the governments legitimacy. Others argue, however, that the methodical suppression of information is actually the root cause perpetuating this violence: as long as it is hidden, the message is that it is acceptance.

True Stories on the Ground: “It’s Open Season!”

Marisela Escobedo Ortiz led a campaign to expose the murder of her daughter by abuse by her boyfriend, a cartel leader; the campaign got so much momentum it was brought to trial. [2] During this time, she received daily death threats, but she kept fighting for justice. That justice seemed to come when judges ruled in her favor–then at the last minute, the decision was overturned, and consequently the activist herself was murdered. [2] This sent a direct signal to others fighting for justice—to stay away. To continue the trend, not long after Marisela’s murder, Susana Chavez (a feminist poet responsible for the phrase “Not One More Death!” —the slogan of the Juarez women’s movement) was found murdered with her hand cut off. [1] These are two (public) stories; hundreds of others just like them exist. Women are abused nearly daily in the region. Continued violence is happening, and there are no ramifications for the injustice, no legal consequences, no political outcry.

Activists pushing the injustice against women agenda are being silenced by fear.

The world cannot turn a blind eye to what has been happening for over two decades—to what continues to happen and will continue to happen unless the culture is changed and a rule of law is imposed to protect women.

When I was a senior in high school I write a “shocking” article for the school newspaper discussing these same atrocities. It terrifies me that four years later as a senor in college I am revisiting the same topic, and the state of affairs has only worsened.

How can we get involved? What can we do differently than what we have already done?

Watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbFixUgJkVA


[1] Carlsen, Laura. “The Murdered Women of Juarez « Eurasia Review.” Eurasia Review. Web. 27 Jan. 2011. http://www.eurasiareview.com/analysis/the-murdered-women-of-juarez-20012011/.

[2] Camareno, Rodrigo. “The War on Drugs’ Female Victims.” The Guardian | Guardian.co.uk. Web. 27 Jan. 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jan/24/mexico-usa-women.

Women as a Tool: Sexual Violence in War & its Consequences

January 20th, 2011

With increased media attention being drawn to human rights abuses, the world has become increasingly aware of the ancient practice of rape as a tactic in war. While some suggest that the seeming increases in incidents have to do with an increase in awareness, studies show that the actual data suggests that systematic rape is becoming more common as the nature of warfare has changed. [1] There has been a spike in civil wars, along ethnic and religious lines, in which civilians (and not states) are the primary targets. Furthermore, according to the UN, women and children are disproportionately the key victims. By attacking these populations, the enemy penetrates the basic building blocks of society: family and community. [1]

A few notable statistics from the past decade:

• By 1993, the Zenica Centre for the Registration of War and Genocide Crime in Bosnia- Herzegovina had documented 40,000 cases of war-related rape. [2]

• Of a sample of Rwandan women surveyed in 1999, 39 percent reported being raped during the 1994 genocide, and 72 percent said they knew someone who had been raped. [2]

• Based on the outcomes of a study undertaken in 2000, researchers concluded that approximately 50,000 to 64,000 internally displaced women may have been sexually victimized during Sierra Leoneís protracted armed conflict. [2]

The statistics are frightening, and the tales dreary. In upcoming blog posts I will delve into personal stories and analysis of these particular cases, but what I would like to turn our attention to is the aftermath of this systematic torture on the individual’s health and psyche.

In Bosnia, for example, women who were impregnated by Serbs were said to be held captive to preclude them from seeking abortions. In one city alone, somewhere around 100 babies were born in January, all conceived from systematic rape — the International Red Cross estimates actual numbers of babies born to rape each month, not reported, to be much higher. [1] These births were the result of systematic rampage rapes, women and children held in captivity as sex slaves, and rapes in war camps. While the physical experience of rape is debilitating enough, the long-term consequences, on the women, the babies, and the communities are devastating. For this reason, rape is a powerful tool in war that penetrates deep into the social core of a nation and into the livelihood of its people.

Some of the consequences of rape include: physical harm to the victim (i.e.: lacerations, tears, broken bones), the spread of diseases (such as HIV), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), long-term depression and anxiety, mental symptoms (fear, suppression, insomnia and lack of appetite, difficulty concentrating, apathy, impotence, low feeling of self-worth), increased psychological arousal/inability to control feeling and bodily functions, sexual difficulties, and changed social capability (i.e. isolation or inability to communicate). [3] & [5]

With regards to PTSD and depression, The National Women’s Study found that over 30% of national rape victims suffer from PTSD—given that rates of PTSD for victims of war and witness to violence are significantly higher, the statistic is considerably increased. Within the US, 33% of rape victims report having serious thoughts of suicide; they are 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs. [4] Again, one can only imagine the consequences of war rape to have more extreme effects.

Further, there is a grave cultural stigma associated with rape in many cultures, so much, in fact, that it leads women to flee, be abandoned by their families and/or communities, commit suicide, or to be killed by their family members in disgrace. [5]

When rape is associated with war, the social effects are even worse because the woman is seen as penetrated by the enemy. The child (if there is one) is thus a byproduct of the enemy’s domination; this is especially heinous in wars of ethnic or religious nature.

Rape as a tool of war is sadly becoming more commonplace. While there has been more media attention, documentation, and human-rights abuse follow-up, the powerful impact of this dangerous long-term tool remains an unparalleled strategy. Sadly, in far too many cases, there either is no documentation, or no justice. The medical follow-up for rape victims remains very low, and again, social conditions preclude women from seeking any sort of medical attention, especially when it comes to mental heath problems. The question of how to prevent and treat victims of rape remains an important and difficult one.


[1] Brussels, Belgium. UNFPA. Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in War and Its Aftermath: Realities, Responses, and Required Resources. By Jeane Ward and Wendy Marsh. 2006. Symposium on Sexual Violence in Conflict and Beyond.

[2] Broken bodies, broken dreams: violence against women exposed. Jeanne Ward – Zana Briski – Lisa Ernst – UN. Office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA). Integrated regional information networks (IRIN) – 2005.

[3] “Consequences of Rape.” Marraiage and Family Encyclopedia. 2011. Web. http://family.jrank.org/pages/1351/Rape-Consequences-Rape.html.

[4] “Mental Health Impact of Rape.” Welcome to the Medical University of South Carolina. Web. 20 Jan. 2011. http://www.musc.edu/vawprevention/research/mentalimpact.shtml.

[5] “Rape.” Civic, Peace and Democracy Education (A Project by Pharos E.V.). Web. http://www.dadalos.org/int/menschenrechte/Grundkurs_MR3/frauenrechte/warum/verge.waltigung.htm.

Image Source: http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=503.

Translating Political Ideals into Human Reality: Bridging the Gap Between Law and Practice in the Promotion of International Women’s Rights.

January 13th, 2011

“Millions of women throughout the world live in conditions of abject deprivation of, and attacks against, their fundamental human rights for no other reason than that they are women.” Human Rights Watch [1]

On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a landmark text which proclaimed the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. The document asserted a firm belief in certain fundamental freedoms that every government should both respect and protect, among them: the right to life and liberty; health and wellbeing; education and self-expression [2].

On December 18, 1979, the General Assembly added a new dimension to the canon of international treaties on human rights: The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) reiterated the “truths” upheld in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; however, it took this conviction a step further by underscoring the urgent need to conceptualize the vision of fundamental human rights in the context of both men and women. The convention’s opening preamble “affirms the principle of the inadmissibility of discrimination and proclaims that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms… without distinction of any kind, including distinction based on sex” [3].

These declarations put forth by the preeminent international body, the United Nations, seem to speak to some form of universal consensus on, and commitment to, women’s rights. However, the global reality offers a much starker depiction of the story: women’s continued struggle to actually claim these freedoms and access the rights guaranteed to them. These rights are being systematic denied in two ways. The first form, one we are most familiar with, is blatant government transgression of human rights: In 2009, Afghanistan – a signatory of both the UDHR and CEDAW– ratified “Shia Family Law,” allowing for marital rape and child marriage in Shiite populations [4]. In Pakistan, a woman is raped every two hours and gang-raped every eight hours, according to the country’s independent Human Rights Commission [5]. Pakistani laws and customs, which punish the victims of rape instead of the perpetrators, exacerbate this tragedy: Who report rape are often accused of adultery, an offense punishable by flogging and stoning [6].

The second form, however, is more insidious. Despite government efforts to internally promote ideals of women’s rights, their laws lack teeth in the face of societal norms or adverse socioeconomic conditions: In 2002, the People’s Republic of China passed the “Population and Family Planning Law,” prohibiting sex-selective terminations of pregnancy for nonmedical purposes [7]. However, a culture that traditionally espouses the value of sons over daughters, combined with often extreme poverty, has effectively crippled the law and prevented its enforcement. These forces often act as superseding powers, acting informally to constraint well-intentioned policies from taking root.

Through the course of this blog, I intend to grapple with the apparent disconnect embedded in international laws and domestics constitutions that often offer the promise of equality, but not the reality of its achievement. Using case studies of various countries, I will demonstrate how culture, tradition, and socioeconomic conditions act as de facto institutions that redefine the law and direct its enforcement, often to the detriment of women. While exposing the failures and shortcomings of these governments, I also hope to applaud the victories won by external actors – transnational corporations, grassroots organizations, the media—in grounding the law and making its goals tangible within disparate societies. On the individual level, I also hope to analyze how education, access to health care, and financial independence can inform and empower women to become champions of their own rights and to succeed.

Universal human rights cannot be achieved until their realms of influence extend beyond words and into deeds:

“Gender equality must become a lived reality” – Michelle Bachelet, Former President of Chile.



[1] Women’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/en/category/topic/women

[2] The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

[3] Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, United Nations: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/text/econvention.htm

[4]“Afghan Women Protest Marital Rape Law, Men Spit and Stone Them,” Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) News (2009): http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2009/04/16/afghan-women-protest-marital-rape-law-men-spit-and-stone-them.html

[5] “Pakistan Votes to Amend Rape Laws,” BBC News (2006): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6148590.stm

[6] “Pakistan: Women’s Rights Unchanged, IRIN News (2001): http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=13844

[7] Population and Family Planning Law of the People’s Republic of China (Order of the President No. 63): http://www.gov.cn/english/laws/2005-10/11/content_75954.htm

Shaping Women's Lives: War, Mental Health, and the Power of the Media

January 13th, 2011

The role of women in war is closely tied to cultural context of their society, thus examining women in specific wartime situations reveals a lot about gender relations and human rights. More importantly women’s perspectives in war shed light on the human aspect of conflict. Investigating women’s stories can be extremely illuminating and instructive (Hunt) —yet, it is rarely the focal point in media coverage, and even more rarely the topic of academic research in conflict studies. The effects of war are not only short-term, but also long-term. War changes social constructs, allowing for social renaissance, but also leaving deep scars on its victims.

As author and journalist Ammu Joseph argued in her lecture and essay on Women, War, and the Media, “the gender angle to war coverage cannot be seen exclusively in terms of reports on violations of women’s right to physical security, including rape, sexual harassment, and sexual exploitation—widespread and serious as these tend to be.” (Neiman Reports). While theses offenses are decisive considerations that deserve in-depth study, they do not tell the complete story. Merely “reporting” on these violations misses instrumental nuances in the war-time experience for women, and hence lacks a deeper dimension. Joseph goes on to argue that the “gender angle” must take into account “women’s heightened experience of violence and trauma during periods of conflict—both physical and psychological, both within the home and outside it.” (Neiman Reports). She points out the need for coverage of several burdens (economic, social, and political) placed on women during times of political tension.

This blog seeks to do a holistic investigation of the issues facing women in war-time situations, and women dealing with the consequences of war. There will be specific emphasis on the role of the media in disseminating information on women’s conditions in war and the rhetoric media sources use to shed light on the critical consequences of war. I have a particular interest in the emerging power of social media as a tool to empower women faced with atrocities and burdened by gender norms and social rules. I would also like to emphasize the connections between women’s involvement in war, media coverage, and international policy. Lastly, I aspire to follow up on Dawnee Hunt’s call to “listen to women’s stories” as an educational tool for policy makers. My hope is that this blog will highlight unique perspectives and sources and will explore the issues associated with gender issues, war, mental health, media, and modern policy from multiple lenses.


Hunt, Swanee. This Was Not Our War: Bosnian Women Reclaiming the Peace. Durham: Duke UP, 2004. Print.

“Nieman Reports | Women, War and the Media.” Nieman Foundation. Web. 13 Jan. 2011. .