The Human Impact

Actor, dressed as woman, feels Egypt’s sexual harassment

Would men stop sexually harassing women, or at least understand what it feels like to be verbally and physically abused, if they were to experience it themselves?

One TV programme in Egypt has looked at the issue of sexual harassment by doing just that.

“Awel el Khayt” – roughly translated as “The Thread” – is a seven-episode series aimed at covering longstanding socio-political and economic problems in the north African country.

A team of 17 staffers works on the programme – a co-production between Belail Media Production and Consulting and Egyptian TV network ONTV.

In a recently aired 30-minute episode titled “Sexual Harassment in Egypt”, young actor Waleed Hammad took to the streets of Cairo dressed as a woman in order to experience harassment firsthand.

Could there be another female F1 driver? Susie Wolff thinks so

When Susie Wolff first got behind the wheel of a race cart as a young girl, the experience didn’t give her the thrills.

“My first time out on the race track, I remember carts flying past me – much quicker – and this little boy – really aggressive – hitting me as I was going past,” she said.

She thought about giving up but her father – a racing enthusiast – encouraged her to be persistent and the second time around young Wolff was thrilled by the speed, the adrenaline and the competitive spirit of racing.

India’s drought: A natural calamity or a man-made one?

It’s that “Will they? Won’t they?” time of year in India. The annual monsoon season is due and – given that the country’s mostly rain-fed agriculture makes up 15 percent of gross domestic product, with hundreds of millions of Indians dependent on it – these rains are a serious business.

Before its onset in June, right through the end of the season in September, we track the monsoon’s trajectory, pore over data, question forecasters, speak to pundits – all in hope of getting an accurate analysis on whether India will receive timely and adequate rainfall.

This year, initial forecasts predict an average amount of rainfall.

However, for some states like India’s drought-hit western regionof Maharashtra, even if the rains are plentiful, it won’t solve itswater crisis.

Egyptian police blamed for inaction in wave of sexual attacks

Attacks on female demonstrators in Cairo’s infamous Tahrir Square in recent months have forced the issue of sexual assault back on the agenda in Egypt, with victims and rights groups accusing the authorities of inaction.

Since the start of the year, many cases of rape and sexual assault have hit the headlines, sparking a global public outcry. They include at least 19 women who were attacked on the second anniversary of the revolution on Jan. 25.

Hania Moheeb, a 42-year-old journalist, was attacked during demonstrations in Tahrir Square in January. The pattern of aggression used by the assailants appears to be a recurrent one.

Disasters, emergency aid and the “third gender” in Nepal

When cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes and other disasters strike, women and children, the elderly and disabled are usually reported to be those most affected and most vulnerable.

The particular problems that one group of individuals face at such times seem to be greatly under-reported.

Did you know, for example, that gay men in Haiti were denied food aid after the 2010 earthquake because ration schemes were aimed at women, and no women were registered in their households? Or that transgender people in Pakistan were denied entry to IDP camps after the floods because their ID papers did not match their appearance?

Saudi Arabia launches first campaign to stop violence against women

 Saudi Arabia has launched its first visual campaign against the abuse of women, designed to encourage female victims to come out of hiding and to have a global impact at a time of change in the kingdom.

The advertisement shows a woman wearing a full veil or niqab, her made-up eyes staring out from the heavy cloth with one of them blackened and bruised.

Underneath, a caption reads: “Some things can’t be covered – fighting women’s abuse together.”

“Urinating in dams” to solve India’s drought? Minister faces backlash

As India’s western state of Maharashtra reels from the worst drought in over four decades and millions of people face the risk of hunger, a top official has sparked outrage with a crass, insensitive joke that he should urinate in the region’s empty dams to solve water shortages.

Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra and former irrigation minister, referred in a speech last weekend to a poor drought-hit farmer who had been on hunger strike for almost two months to demand more water.

“He has been fasting for the last 55 days. If there is no water in the dam, how can we release it? Should we urinate into it? If there is no water to drink, even urination is not possible,” Pawar told the gathering, who responded with much laughter.

Fiery activist persuades Gambia to ban FGM

Gambian rights activist Isatou Touray has dedicated her life to ridding her country of female genital mutilation (FGM). In return she has received death threats, been imprisoned and suffered repeated harassment.

But Touray has good news. This year, the tiny West African country is finally set to pass a law banning the brutal ritual, which causes horrific pain and long-term health and psychological problems.

Around 78 percent of women and girls in Gambia are thought to have undergone FGM, which is practised by seven ethnic groups in the predominantly Muslim country.

Margaret Thatcher – Iron Lady but not feminist icon

Margaret Thatcher is famously on record as saying she didn’t think there’d be a woman prime minister in Britain in her lifetime. She, of course, eclipsed her own expectations and became the country’s first, and so far only, elected female leader.

But a feminist icon she was not – as many commentators have pointed out.

“Her notion of women’s rights – to compete, fight, and succeed on equal terms with men – did not fit the orthodoxies of contemporary feminism,” Paul Vallely said in the Independent.

During her 11-1/2 years in power, Thatcher appointed only one woman to her cabinet – Janet Young, who became leader of the upper chamber, the House of Lords – and Douglas Hurd,  foreign minister and interior minister under Thatcher, was quoted as saying that feminist ideology “left her cold”.

A devastating fire displaces an already displaced population

In early March, I visited two refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border to report on the challenges facing refugee women and girls and was struck by the enthusiasm of students I met in Ban Mae Surin, a camp set in a remote but picturesque setting along the Mae Surin river.

The students were part of the Karenni Further Studies Programme and were rehearsing a group dance for International Women’s Day celebrations on March 8.

On that day, they learnt the dance moves for a song that calls for the elimination of violence against women and girls. Despite the sweltering afternoon heat, the four dozen or so students – and some alumni – practised non-stop.