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Expat wanderer

Arab World Most Unequal in World for Women: UNESCO

FROM Lebanon’s Daily Star:

Screen shot 2014-03-10 at 4.24.14 PM

BEIRUT: The Arab world is among the most unequal regions in the world when it comes to gender and education, according to a new report released Monday by UNESCO.

The Education for All Global Monitoring Report studied gender imbalances in education across the globe, finding that 100 million women in low- and middle-income countries were unable to read a single sentence. The report concludes that not a single goal set by the U.N.’s Education for All initiative will be reached by the 2015 deadline.

According to the report, it is projected that by 2015, only 70 percent of countries will have achieved parity between the sexes in primary education and 56 percent will have achieved parity in lower secondary education. The report calls for immediate efforts to address this gap and ensure equal access to education for both boys and girls.

In the Arab world, girls make up 60 percent of children out of school, the largest percentage of any of the regions in the report, including sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, that number has not budged since 1999, indicating little if any progress.

“The Arab world is the region that is lagging most behind in that respect,” the study’s author, Pauline Rose, told The Daily Star by phone from London. “The reasons are largely cultural.”

Cultural biases are compounded by poverty, Rose said, explaining that many poor families in countries like Yemen can only afford to send some of their children to school, and they see their male children as a better investment for the family.

“They are more likely to get a return on their son’s education, because they expect them to get work and give more back to the household,” Rose, who is the outgoing director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report, said.

In some countries in the region, such as Syria, violence has interrupted education for all children, but it is more likely to adversely affect girls than boys.

“In insecure contexts, girls are more likely to be subjected to sexual violence, and parents are less likely to let them go to school if they have to worry about them walking through the streets,” Rose said. “This is in addition to whether there are any schools.”

Even the seemingly bright spots in the report, such as that educated Arab women make 87 cents to the dollar men make – above the global average – are likely evidence of other socioeconomic inequalities.

“I think the reason for this is a very high selection bias,” explained Rose. “If you are a woman who gets a job, you are likely be from a better-off family, to have connections.”

One of the domino effects of having fewer girls in school is that the Arab world suffers from a shortage of female teachers in a region where segregated education is common and even preferred, especially in the same rural, disadvantaged areas where female teachers are needed most.

The two moderate success stories from the region were Iraq and Turkey, which both managed to close their gender gaps in education with teacher training and other targeted programs.

Even lower income countries can shorten this gap by reorganizing resources, Rose insisted. The key is to convince countries that girls’ education benefits not only women, but also the society as a whole, leading to lower birth rates and higher survival rates among mothers and children.

Several strategies that have yielded positive results in some countries include giving stipends to families for sending their girls to school; providing scholarships to girls, especially for secondary school; and recruiting teachers from underserved areas who are more likely to stay and understand the culture.

“In West Africa, one of the things that helped is that religious leaders and community leaders have mobilized to encourage parents to send girls to school. Poverty is still affecting girls more. … This is where cultural and community mobilization comes in, and it’s not very costly.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 10, 2014, on page 9.

(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

March 10, 2014 Posted by | Education, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Middle East, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues | | Leave a comment

Yemeni Girl Escapes Child Marriage

This little girl is lucky; she has a sympathetic uncle who protected her when her own mother, twice, tried to sell her into marriage.

She is an amazingly articulate and resourceful little girl. I look forward to seeing the woman she grows into, safe under her uncle’s care. I love it that he convinced one prospective husband that she was not modest enough to be his bride 🙂

This is from AOL/Huffpost

In a bone-chilling three minutes, a young girl who evaded child marriage tells the world that she would “rather die,” than be forced to undergo an arranged marriage.

After learning that her parents had plans to marry her off to a wealthy suitor, brave Nada al-Ahdal of Yemen risked her life and fled to the refuge of her uncle. The precocious little girl, who saw how her teenage aunt took her own life after being abused in an arranged marriage, shared in a harrowing translated video the cruelty of the child bride practice.

“I would have had no life, no education. Don’t they have any compassion?,” Nada asks. “I’m better off dead. I’d rather die [than be forced into a marriage].”

According to NOW News, Nada’s uncle, Abdel Salam al-Ahdal, a montage and graphics technician at a TV station, has protected his niece from being married off twice. Nada’s parents first accepted an offer from a wealthy expatriate, but al-Ahdel intervened and told the prospective groom that Nada was not nearly modest enough for him, in order to “scare him off.”

“When I heard about the groom, I panicked,” he told NOW. “Nada was not even 11 years old; she was exactly 10 years and 3 months. I could not allow her to be married off and have her future destroyed.”

When Nada’s mother tried once again to marry off her daughter against her will, Nada — despite threats that she could be killed — fled to her uncle’s once more, and filed a complaint with the police. She’ll now be living with al-Ahdal permanently.

But such forced marriages, like Nada’s, are on the rise across the globe.

According to a World Vision study released in March, more child brides are being led into arranged marriages due to an increase in global poverty and crises. Parents who live in fear of natural disasters, political instability and financial ruin look to arranged marriages as a way to save their struggling families.

Every day, 39,000 girls, younger than 18, will marry, according to the World Health Organization.

“Women have no rights to give an opinion in the family,” Humaiya, a 16-year-old from Bangladesh who managed to escape marriage, told The Huffington Post in March. “My father didn’t listen.”

Nada, whose video on YouTube has already garnered more than 2 million hits, hopes that the world will hear her message loud and clear.

“They have killed our dreams. They have killed everything inside us,” Nada said in the video. “This is no upbringing. This is criminal, simply criminal.”

July 23, 2013 Posted by | Character, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior | , | Leave a comment

Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, Supporting Family with Book Proceeds

This tiny little 10 year old girl, who knew she didn’t want to be married, and stuck to her guns, has had a life-long effect, changing the laws in Yemen so that a woman must now be 18 to marry. On the other hand, if the legal age before was age 15, how on earth was she allowed to marry at age 10?

Divorced Before Puberty: Former Child Bride
New Book
by Amy Hatch (Subscribe to Amy Hatch’s posts) Mar 5th 2010 10:30AM

From AOL News: Parenting

Divorced at age 10. Credit: Amazon
Nujood Ali walked into a Yemeni courtroom and asked to see a judge, because she wanted a divorce. This may seem like a common tale of marital dissolution, but Nujood Ali was just 10 years old when she defied the cultural traditions and walked out on the husband who was more than 20 years her senior.

Nujood, now 12, chronicles her journey from child bride to celebrated hero in her new autobiography, “I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced.” Ghostwritten by French newspaper reporter Delphine Minoui, the book details how the young girl shocked citizens of her native Yemen after she walked out on her arranged marriage to a motorcycle delivery man. Nujood’s father married her off to the man for a dowry of $250, and for two months she begged her husband every day to return her to her family.

He refused, and so Nujood decided to take action. One afternoon, when her mother sent her on an errand, Nujood took a bus into the crowded capital city of Sanaa. She then hailed a taxi to the courthouse. Not knowing what else to do, she sat on a bench outside a courtroom all day, until a judge noticed her lingering in the empty hallway. He asked what she needed, and the girl said simply, “I came for a divorce.”

Now, two years later, the girl tells Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times that she is back in her home land and is supporting her family with the royalties from her book, which spent five weeks at the top of the bestseller list in France. Her brothers, who once criticized her for shaming their family, seem to have no problem with their sister now that Nujood is the family breadwinner, Kristof writes.

“They’re very nice to her now,” Khadija al-Salami, a filmmaker who mentors Nujood, tells the Times. “They treat her like a queen.”

Nujood’s story isn’t just one in which a single child takes a stand and changes her life. The preteen’s courage set off a domino effect in Yemen, where very young girls are routinely sold into marriage. Following Nujood’s successful divorce petition, two girls, ages 9 and 12, also filed to legally end their marriages. Her ordeal also prompted Yemen’s lawmakers to increase the age of consent for marriage from 15 to 18.

Nujood has been honored and feted by journalists in many countries, and, on a visit to Paris last year, even met with France’s Human Rights Minister, Rama Yada, and Urban Affairs Minister Fadela Amara, with whom she discussed the problem of child marriage.

What are Nujood’s feelings on marriage now? She tells Time magazine she “no longer thinks about marriage.”

March 8, 2010 Posted by | Biography, Books, Character, Cultural, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Marriage, Women's Issues | | 6 Comments

Not Happy Ever After

Things are not happy for this brave little girl who took a taxi across town to sit in the judge’s chambers so that – at 10 years old – she could ask for a divorce.

I can imagine her family is NOT happy – she got her divorce, but her proverty-striken family had to compensate her aged husband $200 – a fortune for a poor family.


From CNN World News

Yemen (CNN) — It is midday and girls are flooding out of school, but Nujood Ali is not among them.

We find her at the family’s two-room house in an impoverished suburb of the city where Nujood is angry, combative and yelling. Tension surrounds the home like a noose.

After much arguing with family members, Nujood finally grabs her veil and agrees to sit down with CNN. Her presence is grudging, although CNN had got permission in advance to see how the girl who rocked a nation by demanding a divorce was shaping up.

Nujood is very different from the girl we first met nearly two years ago. Then, there was no doubt the 10-year-old was every inch a child. She was the very portrait of innocence: A shy smile, a playful nature and a whimsical giggle.

That picture was very much at odds with the brutal story of abuse she endured as a child bride who fought for a divorce and is now still fighting. Watch as Nujood remains defiant.

Nujood says she remains relieved and gratified that her act of defiance — which led to appearances at awards shows and on TV — had paid off.

The story was supposed to end with the divorce and an innocent but determined girl allowed to fully embrace the childhood she fought so hard to keep.

Instead, there has been no fairytale ending for Nujood.

There was, though, a stunning transformation. Nujood went from being a victim and child bride to a portrait of courage and triumph. Her inspirational story was told and re-told around the world, but at home all was not well.

In the fall of 2008 Nujood was recognized as Glamour Magazine’s Woman of the Year, alongside some of the world’s most impressive women. She even attended the ceremony in New York and was applauded by women from Hillary Clinton to Nicole Kidman.

There is a tell-all book which is to be published in more than 20 languages, and the author says Nujood will receive a good portion of the royalties.

Nujood’s strength was celebrated by complete strangers. But what did all the fame do for the one person it was meant to transform?

“There is no change at all since going on television. I hoped there was someone to help us, but we didn’t find anyone to help us. It hasn’t changed a thing. They said they were going to help me and no one has helped me. I wish I had never spoken to the media,” Nujood says bitterly.

There was never going to be a fortune. Generous people have donated thousands so Nujood could go to a private school, but she refuses to attend, according to Shada Nasser, the human rights lawyer who took on the child’s divorce case.

“I know Nujood was absent from the school. I spoke with her father and her family. And I ask them to control her and ask her to go every day to school. But they said, ‘You know we don’t have the money for the transportation. Don’t have the money for the food,’ ” says Nasser.

She believes Nujood is being victimized by her own family because they believe Nujood’s fame should bring them fortune.

Nujood’s parents say they’ve received nothing, and in the meantime Nujood stews wondering out loud how everything turned out this way.

“I was happy I got divorced but I’m sad about the way it turned out after I went on television,” she said adding that she feels like an outcast even among her family and friends.

Nujood was pulled out of school in early 2008 and married off by her own parents to a man she says was old and ugly. And yet, as a wife, Nujood was spared nothing.

“I didn’t want to sleep with him but he forced me to, he hit me, insulted me” said Nujood. She said being married and living as a wife at such a young age was sheer torture.

Nujood described how she was beaten and raped and how, after just a few weeks of marriage, she turned to her family to try to escape the arrangement. But her parents told her they could not protect her, that she belonged to her husband now and had to accept her fate.

CNN tried to obtain comment from Nujood’s husband and his family but they declined.

Nujood’s parents, like many others in Yemen, struck a social bargain. More than half of all young Yemeni girls are married off before the age of 18, many times to older men, some with more than one wife.

It means the girls are no longer a financial or moral burden to their parents. But Nujood’s parents say they did not expect Nujood’s new husband to demand sex from his child bride.

To escape, Nujood hailed a taxi — for the first time in her life — to get across town to the central courthouse where she sat on a bench and demanded to see a judge.

After several hours, a judge finally went to see her. “And he asked me, ‘what do you want’ and I said ‘I want a divorce’ and he said ‘you’re married?’ And I said ‘yes.'” says Nujood.

Nujood’s father and husband were arrested until the divorce hearing, and Nujood was put in the care of Nasser.

Indeed, it seems the judge had heard enough of the abuse to agree with Nujood that she should get her divorce.

But based on the principles of Shariah law, her husband was compensated, not prosecuted. Nujood was ordered to pay him more than $200 — a huge amount in a country where the United Nations Development Programme says 15.7 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day.

Khadije Al Salame is working to help Nujood get her life back. Now a Yemeni diplomat, 30 years ago she too was a child bride. But when she left her husband, she did not have to endure the publicity that now haunts Nujood.

She said: “It’s good to talk about Nujood and to have her story come out, but the problem is it’s too much pressure on her.

“She doesn’t understand what’s going on. She’s a little girl and we have to understand as a media people that we should leave her alone now. If we really love Nujood then we should just let her go to school and continue with her life, because education is the most important thing for her.”

To get her divorce, Nujood showed a character and strength not easily expressed by women in Yemen, let alone a 10-year-old child bride. But she will need to muster all that strength and more if she’s to finally reclaim her life.

Nujood told us she thought the divorce would be the end of her struggle and she’s still angry that it turned out to be just the beginning.

August 27, 2009 Posted by | Education, Family Issues, Marriage, Women's Issues | , | 5 Comments

Aidan Hartley’s Zanzibar Chest


I started Zanzibar Chest in December, and could not get into it. It was interesting, but at first the tone was . . . I don’t know, maybe pompous? Something in the tone put me off, and yet I didn’t put it back on the bookshelves, nor did I give it away. It sat on my bed table while I attacked lesser works, more enjoyable fare. Then, one day, I just knew it was time to try it again, and this time, I could hardly put it down.

Born in Kenya, just before the rebellion, Aidan Hartley spent his life mostly in Africa. He skillfully interweaves three main story lines – the life of his mother and father, the life of his father’s best friend and his own life as a news correspondent.

This is not a joyful book. It is not inspirational. It is a tough, hard look at the people who cover the news, and the toll it takes on their lives. It is a story of drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of what they are observing, the comraderie of gallows humor and surviving the intensity of living through life-threatening moments together.

He covers some truly awful events. He covers the wars in Somalia, and in Rwanda. He covers Kosovo and Serbia. He is sent into some of the most dangerous and awful of places. He pays the price.

In his Zanzibar Chest, he takes us with him.

I will share a couple quotes with you, and if you are sensitive, please stop reading now. This book is not for you. It is almost not for me, except that sometimes I think we need to come face to face with just how awful reality can be to put our own lives right, to set appropriate priorities.

“I can’t put my finger on exactly how death smells. The stench of human putrefecation is different from that of all other animals. It moves us as instinctively as the cry of a newly born baby. It lies at one extreme end of the olfactory register. Blood from the injured and the dying smells coppery. After a cadaver’s a day old, you smell it before you see it. From the odor alone, I could tell how long a body had been dead and even, depending on whether brains or bowels had been opened up, where it had been hacked or shot. A body would quickly balloon up in the tropical heat, eyes and tongue swelling, flesh straining against clothes until the skin bursts and fluids spill from lesions. Flies would get in there and within three days the corpse might stink. It became a yellow mass of pupae cascading out of all orifices and the flesh literally undulated beneath the clothes. The tough bits of skin on the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet were the parts of the body that always rotted away last. As living people, these had been peasants who had walked without shoes and worked hard in the fields. A man who had been dead seven days reeks of boiling beans, guava fruit, glue, blown handkerchiefs, cloves and vinegar. After that he starts to dry out into a skeleton until he’s almost inoffensive . . .

The dead accompanied me long after Rwanda. It was months before I could order a plate of red meat served up in a restaurant. I smelled putrefaction in my mouth, or in my dirty socks, or as sweat on my body. I imagined what people I met would look like when dead. . . “

These guys all suffer from Post traumatic stress syndrome, they deaden themselves with drug and alcohol, and they are totally addicted to the adrenalin rush their job gives them. Living on adrenalin takes a huge toll – on their health, on their mental health, on their relationships, on their belief in goodness. They are the witnesses to the enormity of man’s inhumanity against one another.

In another quote, the author tells us:

“It was impossible for latecomers to comprehend the evil committed here but the British military top brass were still so scared of what their soldiers might see and what it would do to their minds that they sent a psychiatrist to accompany the forces to Rwanda. Bald Sam and I were amazed at that. We laughed about it. A shrink! It seemed extravagant. But the truth is that we stuck close to that man for days. We said it was all for a story, but really it was about us. The psychiatrist, whose name was Ian, told us his special area of interest was the minds of war correspondents. I could see Bald Sam squirming with happiness at all the attention, and I felt quite flattered myself. . . .

. . . for years I did endure some sort of payback. I have to try every day to prevent the poison that sits in my mind to spread outward and hurt the people I love. Sometimes I can’t stop it and I wonder if in some way the corruption will be passed on from me to my children.”

Toward the end of the book, the author tells us how hard it is to give up this adrenalin-news-junky life:

“Whenever I see a news headline to this day I half feel I should board the next flight into the heart of it. I’d love to get all charged up again and I could write the story with my eyes closed. I’m sure the sense that I’m missing out while others get in on a great story will never completely pass. . . The sight of people committing acts of unspeakable brutality against others fills a hole in some of us. The activity is made respectable by being paid a salary to do it, but there is a cost.”

This is not a book I really wanted to read, but it is a book I will never forget. Hartley doesn’t spare himself in the telling of this tale. He takes us with us and shows us all of it, and all of his own warts along with the tale. Would I recommend this book? Not for the sensitive, not for those who don’t want to look at the dark side. Between idyllic sequences on the beaches near Mombasa, in the hills of Kenya and Tanzania, in the dusty deserts of Yemen, there are some very intense and bloody moments. This is non-fiction, it is a documentary, it is a slice of the real life one man has seen, and that to which he has been witness. Read the book, and like him, you pay a price. You carry images in your head that you can’t forget, and a sorrow for our inability to solve our differences peaceably.

(Available in paperback from for $10.88. Disclosure: Yes, I own stock in

February 20, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Biography, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Kenya, Living Conditions, News, Political Issues, Spiritual, Tanzania | , , , , , , , | 8 Comments