As always, there is a lot going on in Africa these days, and some of it isn’t very rosy. I wish I could bring you positive and uplifting news reports every week, but some weeks, those uplifting stories are much harder to find amid the muck and mire. [TW: discussion of sexual violence after the jump.]
In late January, Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo to mark the second anniversary of their uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak. After this time, nearly 25 cases of sexual violence were reported. Many of these attacks were at the hands of mobs. It isn’t news that Egyptian women suffer frequent sexual harassment and violence, but Amnesty International calls for current President Morsi to address and end these all too common attacks. Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said:
The tactics used by mobs in recent protests is a harrowing reminder of the sexual harassment and assault against women protesters under ousted president Hosni Mubarak. Women have been a vital part of protests and have sacrificed much in their fight for freedom and social justice. [...] Egyptian authorities need to honour their activism and pull out all stops to address endemic violence against women in all echelons of society.
In Somalia, a journalist was jailed for having reported a potential rape. Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, a senior journalist at the Dalsan radio station in Mogadishu, interviewed a woman who alleged that government soldiers raped her. Charged with insulting the state, Ibrahim had already been in jail for 25 days before sentencing. This arrest has been demoralizing for journalists in Somalia, to say the least. The idea that you can be arrested simply for interviewing someone is keeping many from pursuing their work. Somalia remains one of the most dangerous places for journalists to operate, with more than 50 journalists killed in country since 1992. Following last week’s report that Somali women are returning to Mogadishu for business opportunities, this was especially disheartening to read.
In South Africa, a 17-year-old girl was gang-raped and mutilated in Bredasdorp. She died in hospital, and the staff who tried to save her received counseling due to the “horrific nature of her injuries.” Female politicians in the ANC are outraged by the crime. Troy Martens of the ANC Women’s League said:
It is difficult to find reason behind the many different acts of gang rape, child rape, rape of the elderly, corrective rape and male rape. [Women could no longer be] the lone voices crying out against rape. [...] We cannot let another girl or woman suffer like 17-year-old Anene Booysen.
The conflict in Mali continues with further involvement from France, who is now calling on the UN to send peacekeepers. By March, France intends to turn over security responsibilities to African troops, but currently, Mali’s conflict has escalated to a war zone.
From Timbuktu, we can read of Salaka Djicke’s brutal punishment by Islamic extremists for seeing a married man. Although he was married, their courtship would not be considered morally wrong because he was Muslim and plural marriages (up to four) are allowed within Islamic practice. Still, she was caught, he escaped, and she endured 95 lashes in the public marketplace in compliance with Sharia law.
Meanwhile, in Nigeria, a country that has had its own share of dealings in Sharia law, the Women in Technology in Nigeria (WITIN) has started a competition for a mobile phone app. WITIN partnered with the International Telecommunications Union to bring the project to Nigeria which will target Nigerian secondary school girls. Girls will work in teams of five to develop mobile applications–from conducting research to writing pitches for funding to creating business plans. The competition is geared to help young girls realize their potential as creators, developers, and inventors of technology, not just consumers. The winners of the competition will receive $10,000.
And finally, how about some African street fashion? The Guardian wrote an article on Finnish photographer Joona Pettersson’s pictures taken in West Africa, but it made me do some more searching, and the images below are a result of that search.
And here are some photos by Anthony Bila of South Africa: