August marked one year since the Taliban seized control once more, of Afghanistan, sparking widespread fears for women’s rights there, which were severely eroded during the regime’s previous time in power during the late 1990s. Twelve months on, UN Women announced that the agency was committed to continue the struggle for women’s rights in Afghanistan, the only country in the world where girls are banned from going to high school, and effectively barred from political participation. We marked the anniversary of Taliban rule by telling the stories of some of the women who have decided to stay in the country, even though their lives have been turned upside down.
They include Zarina*, formerly one of Afghanistan’s youngest entrepreneurs, who was forced to close her formerly thriving bakery, amid growing restrictions on women-owned businesses; Nasima*, a peacebuilder and women’s rights activists, who was forced to shut down most of her projects, but later managed to restart some initiatives; and Mahbouba Seraj, a veteran rights defender, who vowed to stay on and bear witness to what is unfolding in her country. *Names changed to protect identities
In November, The UN human rights office, OHCHR, condemned the response of the Iranian regime to protestors demonstrating against the government, in the wake of the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who died in police custody in September, after being detained for wearing her hijab incorrectly, according to the so-called morality police. Her death led to demonstrations in many Iranian cities, including protest by high-school age girls. The Iranian government responded by arresting thousands of protestors, including women, children, youth, and journalists.
On 22 November, OHCHR stated that, in just one week, more than 40 people had been killed in protests, including two teenagers, and two days later, the Human Rights Council created a fact-finding mission in relation to the demonstrations. The growing international condemnation of the Iranian crackdown was reflected in the decision by members of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to remove Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on 14 December. The CSW, which meets annually in March at UN Headquarters in New York, is described as the biggest gathering of gender equality advocates in the world.
The climate crisis has been shown to disproportionately affect women and girls. In the weeks leading up to International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on 6 March, we highlighted the ways in which women activists improve their local environment, and help their community to adapt to an increasingly hostile climate.
In May, Cameroonian activist Cécile Ndjebet’s efforts to improve the lives of those who depend on forests were recognized, when she was awarded the 2022 Wangari Maathai Forest Champions Award, which is chaired by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In Cameroon, roughly 70 per cent of women live in rural areas and are dependent at least in part on harvesting wild forest products for their livelihoods. However, in some communities, women cannot own forest land, inherit it if their husband dies, or even plant trees on degraded land.
UN women peacekeepers and police, continued to serve with distinction in some of the most dangerous postings in the world, facing challenges such as threats from terrorist attacks, and violence fuelled by a COVID-era surge in misinformation and disinformation, amid increasing political tensions, and deteriorating security situations. On the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, in May, Major Winnet Zharare of Zimbabwe was presented with the Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award, in recognition of her work with the UN Mission in South Sudan, where she was a strong champion for gender equality and women as decision-makers and leaders. In July, at a historic ceremony in South Sudan, members of the first-ever deployment of UN Peacekeepers from Liberia, including several women, were honoured with the prestigious UN Medal.
Their achievement symbolized the huge turnaround in the fortunes of Liberia, which suffered a brutal civil war in the 1990s and early 2000s, before reaching a ceasefire, monitored by the UN Mission in the country, UNMIL, which also supported humanitarian and human rights activities; and assisted in national security reform, including national police training and formation of a new, restructured military.
Finally, we encourage you to subscribe to amplifyHER, a new series from UN Podcasts, celebrating the work and inspiring careers of some of the most exciting women singers, from around the world. Many women produce art in the face of, and sometimes inspired by, the challenges they face in society, whether related to insecurity, human rights, climate change, inequality, or simply because of their gender. In amplifyHER, we hear directly from talented women singers about their experiences in the music industry, from teenage Thai rapper Milli, to EDM powerhouse Faouzia, and Emel, the voice of the Tunisian revolution.
Source: The UN
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