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Compassion In Kenya

Compassion-CBO

Compassion CBO

Compassion CBO, was formed to eradicate poverty through education and sustainable development among women living in the slums and rural areas of Kenya and to rehabilitate orphans and vulnerable children.

Survivors In DR Congo

Bahati-with-group

COFAPRI

COFAPRI is registered in Bukavu in the eastern Democratic Rupublic of Congo The organisation empowers women through encouraging income-generating activities such as the rearing of livestock.

Grassroots News

Safe World Field Partner, work directly with issues such as poverty, health-care, marginalisation, FGM, child marriage, and education.

Asha Leresh

How Asha Survived the Unnecessary Cut

Asha’s luck came when Samuel Siriria Leadismo, the Director of Pastoralist Child Foundation and his team visited her village, creating awareness about female genital mutilation (FGM) and sexual reproductive health....
Handwashing

Washing Hands to Improve Health in Rural DR Congo

COFAPRI organised handwashing sessions for school children and mothers in rural villages, with the aid of educational DVDs kindly supplied by Thare Machi Education. The word has begun to spread as neighbours are now prompting each other to wash their hands.
Safe Spaces

Safe Spaces Crucial for Women's Self-Reliance in Rural DR Congo

Increased security helps women become self-reliant and less financially dependent on their husbands. This improves the situation for the whole family and also means the women are less vulnerable to abuse.
Towards womens empowerment

DR Congo: Men's Inclusion in Women's Empowerment Benefits Everyone

It remains very important within communities for men and boys to be educated regarding the rights of women and girls, including their proper, fair and respectful treatment. When the women and girls become empowered, it is the whole community that benefits.
Margaret from Kiambu Support Group

Nairobi cancer survivor has hope at last

Margaret is among many women Compassion CBO trained in 2015. She has survived breast Cancer 2 times.

New Womens Magazine for Cameroon

The first edition of the Women for a Change Magazine is now available.

News, Interviews and Blogs

Under-reported issues affecting women and children. Exclusive interviews, articles and blogs by Safe World Correspondents and Content Partners

Compensation Claims Board 2

The Need for Victim Compensation Programmes - Pakistan and Globally

Globally, victim compensation programmes play a significant role in providing assistance to the victims of violence... however, in Pakistan we are lacking any such programme. It is high time to take serious note of the issue and develop a strong referral…
Lizzy and Victoria

Peace, Dialogue & the Ripple Effect: #RISING16 Global Peace Forum

Perhaps the most inspiring session for me came towards the end of the two days and was entitled ‘Bring back our girls – the forgotten victims of conflict’... We heard the CEO of International Alert, Harriet Lamb, and Victoria Nyanjura - who was kidnapped by…
Olutosin 2

Olutosin Adebowale: To America With Love

Once upon a time in my country, Nigeria, there was a ruler who was dreaded by many... We resisted and said No to every oppressive action or word to any weak or voiceless Nigerian... This is the time to stand firm on what has held the world together - Love.
Berlyne Ngwalem Ngwentah

Berlyne Ngwentah: 'The Biggest Cheerleaders of Women are Women'

All the most prominent, biggest community and feminist movements to alleviate the sufferings of women and girls and support women’s involvement in education and leadership have been championed mostly by women...
Jen 9

Promoting Misogyny, Zenophobia, and Bullying... is.... Nasty

I cannot ever vote for anyone who promotes misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, zenophobia, homophobia... It would be a mockery of my life... dishonoring my elders who have endured the many injustices of racial animosity, my friends who've experienced the same...
Women united

Women United for a Better Community in High Andean of Peru

“Women United for a Better Community” is a new group of grassroots women in the Ayacucho Region at the South High Andean of Peru, recently created by Estrategia, a National Grassroots women's organization. The grassroots women require to be heard and get the…

Egyptian-womenPhoto by Mona Seif - 'Egypt & Libya one hand, strong chanting'

February 2011

naomi-wolfNaomi Wolf

Among the most prevalent Western stereotypes about Muslim countries are those concerning Muslim women: doe-eyed, veiled, and submissive, exotically silent, gauzy inhabitants of imagined harems, closeted behind rigid gender roles. So where were these women in Tunisia and Egypt?

In both countries, women protesters were nothing like the Western stereotype: they were front and centre, in news clips and on Facebook forums, and even in the leadership. In Egypt's Tahrir Square, women volunteers, some accompanied by children, worked steadily to support the protests – helping with security, communications, and shelter. Many commentators credited the great numbers of women and children with the remarkable overall peacefulness of the protesters in the face of grave provocations.

Other citizen reporters in Tahrir Square – and virtually anyone with a cell phone could become one – noted that the masses of women involved in the protests were demographically inclusive. Many wore headscarves and other signs of religious conservatism, while others reveled in the freedom to kiss a friend or smoke a cigarette in public.

Supporters, leadersMother-and-baby-in-revolutionPhoto by Mona Seif

But women were not serving only as support workers, the habitual role to which they are relegated in protest movements, from those of the 1960s to the recent student riots in the United Kingdom. Egyptian women also organised, strategised, and reported the events. Bloggers such as Leil Zahra Mortada took grave risks to keep the world informed daily of the scene in Tahrir Square and elsewhere.

The role of women in the great upheaval in the Middle East has been woefully under-analysed. Women in Egypt did not just "join" the protests – they were a leading force behind the cultural evolution that made the protests inevitable. And what is true for Egypt is true, to a greater and lesser extent, throughout the Arab world. When women change, everything changes - and women in the Muslim world are changing radically.

The greatest shift is educational. Two generations ago, only a small minority of the daughters of the elite received a university education. Today, women account for more than half of the students at Egyptian universities. They are being trained to use power in ways that their grandmothers could scarcely have imagined: publishing newspapers - as Sanaa el Seif did, in defiance of a government order to cease operating; campaigning for student leadership posts; fundraising for student organisations; and running meetings.

Indeed, a substantial minority of young women in Egypt and other Arab countries have now spent their formative years thinking critically in mixed-gender environments, and even publicly challenging male professors in the classroom. It is far easier to tyrannise a population when half are poorly educated and trained to be submissive. But, as Westerners should know from their own historical experience, once you educate women, democratic agitation is likely to accompany the massive cultural shift that follows.

The nature of social media, too, has helped turn women into protest leaders. Having taught leadership skills to women for more than a decade, I know how difficult it is to get them to stand up and speak out in a hierarchical organisational structure. Likewise, women tend to avoid the figurehead status that traditional protest has in the past imposed on certain activists – almost invariably a hotheaded young man with a megaphone.

Projection of power

In such contexts – with a stage, a spotlight, and a spokesperson – women often shy away from leadership roles. But social media, through the very nature of the technology, have changed what leadership looks and feels like today. Facebook mimics the way many women choose to experience social reality, with connections between people just as important as individual dominance or control, if not more so.

You can be a powerful leader on Facebook just by creating a really big "us". Or you can stay the same size, conceptually, as everyone else on your page – you don't have to assert your dominance or authority. The structure of Facebook's interface creates what brick-and-mortar institutions - despite 30 years of feminist pressure - have failed to provide: a context in which women's ability to forge a powerful "us" and engage in a leadership of service can advance the cause of freedom and justice worldwide.

Of course, Facebook cannot reduce the risks of protest. But, however violent the immediate future in the Middle East may be, the historical record of what happens when educated women participate in freedom movements suggests that those in the region who would like to maintain iron-fisted rule are finished.

Just when France began its rebellion in 1789, Mary Wollstonecraft, who had been caught up in witnessing it, wrote her manifesto for women's liberation. After educated women in America helped fight for the abolition of slavery, they put female suffrage on the agenda. After they were told in the 1960s that "the position of women in the movement is prone", they generated "second wave" feminism – a movement born of women's new skills and old frustrations.

Time and again, once women have fought the other battles for the freedom of their day, they have moved on to advocate for their own rights. And, since feminism is simply a logical extension of democracy, the Middle East's despots are facing a situation in which it will be almost impossible to force these awakened women to stop their fight for freedom – their own and that of their communities.


Naomi Wolf is the author of seven books, and has toured the world speaking to audiences about gender equality, social justice, and the defense of liberty in America and internationally.

Naomi's Website