Vol. 1, December, 2008
Woman of the Month
Shada Nasser - Helping Child Brides Break Free - "I believe in being a lawyer to help people.”

In April 2008, Yemeni Human Rights lawyer Shada Nasser helped 10-year-old Nujood divorce her 30-year-old husband. “I and Nujood, we opened this big window for all other girls,” Nasser says. “Nujood’s case is going to change a lot of things, and will better the lives of hundreds of young girls who live in the countryside.”

Today, Nasser takes other girls’ cases for free and works to help raise Yemen's legal age for marriage. Both Nasser and Nujood received a Woman of the Year Award from Glamour magazine.

Learn More...

Photo Credit: Glamour
Women in the News
ROBINA MUQIMYAR - Breaking Barriers - An Afghan Woman making Olympic History
ZAINAH ANWAR - A Sister Steps Out
QUIET REVOLUTION IN BAMIAN, AFGHANISTAN - Taliban Gone, Bamian Women Test Limits
N.G.O. Watch
Helping Child Brides Break Free
“I believe in being a lawyer to help people.”

“When I got married I was scared,” remembers 10-year-old Nujood Ali. “I didn’t want to leave my family and siblings.” In her home country of Yemen - a deeply conservative Middle East Muslim nation - this situation isn’t uncommon.

Yemeni lawyer Shada Nasser had long opposed the practice of early marriage when, in April 2008, she got a chance to do something about it.

Arriving at the courthouse one day, Nasser was told about a young girl who had come to court alone. She met Nujood, who told her that she was desperate, she was regularly beaten and raped; she wanted a divorce.

Photo Credit: CNN/Yemen Times

Nasser says she was appalled by Nujood’s story. It was unheard of for such a young girl to get a divorce, but Nasser didn’t hesitate to take the case. “When I spoke with her, I [felt] like she [was] my daughter,” Nasser recalls. “I hugged her and said, ‘Don’t be afraid. I will help you and you will take the divorce.’”

After Nasser took Nujood’s case, reporters packed the courtroom. When the judge dissolved the marriage, the story made headlines around the world.
Since then, Nasser has volunteered to help other young brides, and is working to raise the legal age for marriage in Yemen.


Breaking Barriers - An Afghan Woman making Olympic History
“I hope I can open the way for the Afghan women, I will never ever forget this moment in my life.”

Beijing, August 2008: 22 year-old sprinter Robina Muqimyar did not have a qualified trainer, she had no sponsor, and she came from a country ruined by war. She grew up under hard-line Islamist rulers, who would not allow girls to play sports. Little wonder that she did not win a medal at the Beijing Olympics.

But Muqimyar, the only woman among four athletes representing Afghanistan at the Games, has surely won something: “This is important. The women in Afghanistan will know they can do anything, if there is hope in the heart,” she said. “Standing on the track, I feel like a winner.”


Photo Credit: GALLO/GETTY
A Sister Steps Out

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - After two decades of hard work, Zainah Anwar is proud that she is leaving Sisters in Islam as one of the strongest advocates of Muslim women’s rights in the country. Zainah cannot accept the idea of a God who is unjust to half the human race “simply because they are women.”

Sisters in Islam seeks to challenge the hold that conservatives and traditionalists have on interpretations of Islam in Malaysia . It also assists individual women in their struggles against the at times oppressive courts in Malaysia ..

In 2008, Anwar decided to step down to give way to young blood to continue the fight for Muslim women’s rights. But hers will be a tough act to follow. Zainah herself remains on the board of SIS. She concurrently serves as project director for the SIS-initiated global movement for justice and equality in the Muslim family.

She is also tries to bring awareness of their rights in Islam to girls in universities or upper secondary schools.

Photo Credit: SAMUEL ONG / The Star
Taliban Gone, Bamian Women test Limits

Bamian, Afghanistan - Far away from the Taliban insurgency, in this most peaceful corner of Afghanistan, a quiet revolution is gaining pace.

Women are driving cars - a rarity in Afghanistan - working in public offices and police stations, and sitting on local councils. There is even a female governor, the first and only one in Afghanistan.

In many ways this province, Bamian, is unique – but the changes in women’s lives here are also an enormous step for Afghanistan as a whole. And they may point the way to broader possibilities for women, eventually, if peace can be secured in this very conservative Muslim society.

Nahida Rezai was the first woman
to join the police force in Bamian.
Photo Credit: NYT
“In our twentieth year, distributing grants is as rewarding as it was on day one…”

San Francisco, October 29, 2008 - The Global Fund for Women, the world’s largest foundation exclusively dedicated to the advancement of women’s human rights, announced their September 2008 grant docket last month of almost $1.7 million to 121 grassroots women’s groups in 60 different countries.

The grants, ranging from $2,000 to $75,000, will go towards ending gender-based violence and building peace, and expanding women’s political and civic participation.


Photo Credit: Global Fund for Women
“We want to make it a leading international institution.”

29 October, 2008 - The Riyadh Women’s University, which is designed to become the world’s largest institution of higher learning exclusively for women, will have 13 colleges, including those for medicine, dentistry, nursing, naturopathy and pharmacology and a 700-bed hospital. The project will be completed by 2010.

The university is supposed to play a big role in promoting women’s education in the Kingdom. “The project also aims at improving the condition of Saudi women and enabling them to participate in the country's development process efficiently.”

Princess Al-Jowhara bint Fahd is president of the university and says it will usher in a new era in higher education for women in Saudi Arabia.


Fighting for Muslim Women’s Rights
“Sharia is fair, but it is the wrong interpretations that are the problem. Male judges often don't understand the principal goals of sharia.”

October 2008 - some of the world’s leading Islamic feminists have been gathering in Barcelona for the third International Congress on Islamic Feminism, to discuss the issues and problems women face in the Muslim world.

Some of the women taking part in the conference explained the problems in their home countries, and where they hoped to make progress.

Their aim is the construction of a new civil society worldwide, based on a culture of human rights and Qur’anic values such as democracy, social justice, freedom of conscience and gender equality.


Photo Credit: BBC

General Links:
Empower Peace: http://www.empowerpeace.org/
Global Fund for Women: http://www.globalfundforwomen.org/cms/
Women for Women International: http://www.womenforwomen.org/
Women for Afghan Women: http://www.womenforafghanwomen.org/
Vital Voices: http://www.vitalvoices.org

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