Middle East and Africa

Love on Girl’s Side of the Saudi Divide

Enter the world of 18 year old Alia Otham and her contemporaries- the world of the Saudi Arabian teenage girl. It is a place where, according to Katherine Zoepf, “separation between the sexes in Saudi Arabia is so extreme that it is difficult to overstate”. Women exist in their own universe, one where their only contact with the outside world occurs in women-only stores, spas, and even travel agencies. This ridged social segregation completely alienates young women and girls from any contact with men.  These girls have had such little contact with men over the course of their lives that by the time they reach marital age and their showfa- or “viewing” with their future husband- they have begun to think of men as something of a separate species, one that is to be respected and feared.

Zoepf, Katherine. “Love on Girls’s Side of the Saudi Divide.” New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/13/world/middleeast/13girls.html?_r=1&oref=slogin (accessed June 18, 2008).


A Quiet Revolution in Algeria: Gains by Women

The nation of Algeria has achieved what is almost unheard of in the Islamic community: a surge of equality for women. According to this New York Times article, women now make up a substantial part of Algeria’s work force and even dominate the high paying industries of law and medicine. The phenomenon is possible because men have recently been opting out of attending universities in lieu of leaving the country, and women are taking their place.

According to the article, this surge of equality has “snuck up” on the Algerian people during a period of political instability. Interestingly, this modern equality for women has come hand-in hand with increased religious fervor in the Algerian female population. Women say that by adopting religion and covering their heads they have freed themselves from scrutiny by men. A female city bus driver comments that she faces much less criticism when she covers herself. In many areas of Algeria women are even delaying marriage and having children to pursue their careers.

The new Algerian gender equality could be the country’s driving force for social change. Recently, Algerian people have lost faith in the government which is corrupt and unstable. The religious extremism which brought the current government into power is losing force as women begin to exert their power over Algeria.

Slackman, Michael. “A Quiet Revolution in Algeria: Gains by Women.” New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/26/world/africa/26algeria.html?_r=1&oref=slogin (accessed June 23, 2008).


Sex Abuse of Girls is Stubborn Scourge in Africa

Africa is one of the world’s regions that is notorious for its disregard of women’s rights, but an acknowledged aspect of the African gender-gap is the consistency of sexual abuse. This epidemic became part of the daily lives of many African girls. This article from the International Herald Tribune chronicles the story of Kenia Moravelo’s pursuit of justice. She, like many other African girls, was brutally raped by a relative. In Kenia’s case it was her uncle, Justin Betombo, whom she was staying with in order to receive a better education. In 2002 Betombo raped Kenia and threatened her with death if she told anyone about the incident. The rape destroyed Kenia’s digestive system. Eventually she had to drop out of school, and for six months she lived in misery and sickness. Finally, she was able to get in contact with her parents who were able to take her to a doctor. Unfortunately, Kenia’s wounds continue to completely debilitate her body.

Kenia’s parents have been seeking justice for their daughter for four years but the efforts have been fruitless. The police interrogated Betombo until a confession was illegally obtained, but a few days later he was released and the police claim that no records of his confession exist. This is an example of how corruption conquers justice.

Many African girls face this frightening fate and worse because many of their families have no money to hospitalize their daughters or pursue justice of any kind.

LaFraniere, Sharon. “A Quiet Revolution in Algeria: Gains by Women. International Herald Tribune http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/12/01/africa/web.1201madagascar.php (accessed June 23, 2008).