The Human Impact

A male child is still important for some Nigerian women

For Amaka Okoli, a modern-minded businesswoman living in urban Nigeria with her loving husband Nonso and their daughter, the sex of the baby she’s expecting is irrelevant.

The same can’t be said of her mother-in-law who, in accordance with Nigerian Igbo culture, is desperate for her son to have a male heir and is trying to persuade him to take a second wife, in spite of his reluctance and Amaka’s open opposition.

Amaka is the protagonist of “B for Boy”, the first feature film by Nigerian director Chika Anadu, which was screened at this year’sLondon Film Festival. It is a courageous tale of being a woman and a mother in contemporary Nigeria and of the social pressure that is still put on women to produce a male child.

It’s a movie filled with witty lines and a pungent humour that make its tragic ending a surprise.

From the embarrassing scene at the breakfast table in Amaka’s home, when Nonso’s mother brings in the girl she wants to become her son’s second wife, to the heart-wrenching moment when Amaka is attacked by the women of her husband’s village, who despise her for not letting him take a second wife, the film draws a stark line between modernity and cultural traditions that are hard to circumvent.

Documentary exposes bloody reality of childbirth in the developing world

Under the bright lights of an operating table, 19-year-old Peum lies still as a gloved hand reaches through a long, wide and bloody cut in her belly and pulls a child from her womb.

I had to look away at first – I’d never witnessed a caesarean section before and although I’m only watching it on a computer screen, it’s still gruesome.

Films depicting this sort of scene usually show busy doctors handling instruments, nurses assisting them and the constant ‘beep’ of a heart rate monitor.

INFOGRAPHIC: Egypt’s constituent assembly

CREDIT: Mina Fayek

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Egypt appointed a newconstituent assembly on Sunday, the third since a popular uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

This week, Cairo-based blogger Mina Fayek posted a very usefulinfographic on his blog detailing the composition of the 50-member assembly ordered to review amendments to the constitution signed by Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Mursi, at the end of last year.

Mursi was overthrown in an army takeover on July 3 which sparked violent protests, resulting in the killing of at least 900 people, most of them Islamist supporters of Mursi.

Italy acid attack victim fights back to regain her smile

Lucia remembers a hooded man running away. “He looked at me for an instant, I saw he was holding a can…”

The man runs down the stairs and his footsteps echo in Lucia’s memory. “I told myself a million times that maybe I could have escaped, maybe I could have shielded myself a little better.”

The man is now far away, Lucia sees herself again standing in the doorway of her home as she recounts those terrible moments to Corriere della Sera’s reporter Giusi Fasano.

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.”

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.

New Pope praises women, Italian president ignores them

“Women are the witnesses of the Resurrection and they have a paramount role,” Pope Francis said on Wednesday in his address to tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.

The evangelists did no more than write down what the women saw on the day of Christ’s resurrection, the pope – former cardinal Jorge Bergoglio – told the cheering crowd. He also said that women play a special role in the Church: they “open the doors to the Lord,” the Italian daily La Repubblica reported.

It was an important statement by the newly elected head of the Catholic Church – a tribute to the fair sex and a recognition of the key role women can and should play in the religious sphere of life.

Monique Villa: Being a woman in a schizophrenic male world

This past week, chatting away at the dinner table, I was asked about one of my favorite books. My answer was swift: ‘Il Gattopardo’ -”The Leopard”- the masterpiece of Sicilian writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.

The novel narrates the changes in Sicilian life and society during the Italian Risorgimento, the revolution which led to the abolition of the monarchy and the creation of a unified Italian State in 1861. Central to the story is the idea of change, feared and opposed by the dominant class, but also opportunistically embraced by those willing to re-invent themselves in exchange for a slice of new power. It is Tancredi, the aristocrat joining the revolution to safeguard his family interests, who speaks the novel’s most famous line: “If we want things to stay as they are” – he says – “things will have to change.”

Tancredi’s view is extremely fitting to describe the social status of a generation of women who – from India to Egypt – have enthusiastically embraced change, taking huge risks in the name of education, equal opportunities and progress. But unlike Tancredi, these women have welcomed change in their hearts, and have voluntarily positioned themselves outside traditional schemes. A choice that has given them a different status. These women are a novelty. The mainstream social-context around them hasn’t changed as rapidly as they have.

Divorce may be legal in Morocco, but it’s still controversial

By Maria Caspani

A veiled woman hails a cab late at night on a deserted road in Casablanca, Morocco. As the taxi takes off, the driver asks her what on earth she is doing out alone at such a late hour.

“I was working,” the woman responds as the disconcerted driver asks her whether her husband approves. “I’m divorced,” she says.

For a woman in Morocco, there are few situations that are worse than that of Khadija, the protagonist of “Camera/Woman”, a documentary about a divorced woman working as a camera operator who faces strong discrimination in her community and, ultimately, becomes estranged from her family.

When is rape not considered rape?

I had always thought – naively as it turns out – that rape is when a person forces another person, either physically or by using threats, to have sex and/or when there’s an absence of a clear ‘yes’.

Apparently not.

According to the laws in some of Southeast Asia’s fast-developing nations, rape within a marriage isn’t rape. Or if you go by some of the decisions handed down by the courts, it’s not rape if there isn’t a physical struggle or the perpetrator is in his 60s.

Politicians and law enforcement officials raise doubts that a rape has occurred if the victim and the perpetrator know each other or if the female victim is behaving in an ‘unladylike’ way, for example getting drunk, staying out late or being overly friendly with members of the opposite sex.

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