Changing Senegal One Woman At A Time

SISTER FA IS SENEGAL’S MOST FAMOUS RAPPER and a role model for youth. She’s also a determined and outspoken activist who campaigns against FGC (Female Genital Cutting).

Sister Fa was herself a victim of genital mutilation, and is using her voice to raise awareness to end the practice of FGC. Her career and activism have always gone together: in 2008, Sister Fa took her tour “Education without Mutilation” through the villages and cities of Senegal, using her music to speak out about ending female genital mutilation.

In this interview, she talks about why FGC, while outlawed in Senegal since 1999, is still carried out in some communities:

A documentary about her life and work, Sarabah, shows the singer returning to her native village to engage with the women in her community. The film was recently honored at the Movies That Matter Festival.

Learn more about Sister Fa and watch a clip from Sarabah:

3 Ways to Celebrate International Women’s Day

SMALL, MEDIUM, LARGE: for the most part, that’s how we’ve set up the world (let’s ignore XL, XXL, etc., for the moment). What, you ask, does S, M, L have to do with International Women’s Day?

You can approach International Women’s Day by taking a small, medium, or large step for women’s empowerment. You decide—in fact no positive action is too small or too large—the key is to take some action, because everyday is “woman’s day.”

Here are three ways you can celebrate International Women’s Day:

1. Volunteer your time and skills to help women. In two clicks you can find a volunteer opportunity by going to VolunteerMatch. Enter your zip code and choose “Women” as your category. Examples of volunteering opportunities available today are business mentoring or joining in a Run/Walk for cancer research—you can even volunteer “virtually” for many, many organizations that need you today.

2. Use your voice to be an advocate for women’s rights. We’ve all seen the power of social networking. You can use Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking tools to raise awareness for gender equality, women’s health, or whichever cause you’re passionate about.

Alternatively, you can also join with others in member organizations like the Association for Women’s Rights in Development.

3. Invest in women’s futures worldwide. Women need resources to ensure their security and help build equality. To get you started, here’s just three organizations supporting community- and women-led groups worldwide:

Global Fund For Women

Women for Women International


How will you celebrate International Women’s Day?

The Truth About Women & Violence

Maimuna Galgano, NO, 2007, Pakistan.

WHY IS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN allowed to continue? When confronted by the fact of women and violence, we experience “a kind of blindness,” writes the curator of Off The Beaten Path: Violence, Women and Art, on view at the Chicago Cultural Center. The exhibition aims to make us see the truth about women and the violence they experience every day.

Thirty-two international contemporary artists from 25 countries contribute photographs, video, and installations. The artist’s message is never obvious but always incisive, such as Maimuna Galgano’s piece, “NO,” where a simple dress form and wedding veil calls attention to the practice of bride burning.

Not all the pieces are about women as victims, however. In a video installation, Eva Sussman updates The Rape of the Sabine Women and shows how women can be a force for positive change; and Mona Hatoum’s work calls all women to stand up against violence:

Each section in the exhibition shows how violence is, unfortunately, still present in every aspect of women’s lives: as individuals, in domestic life, as part of their overall culture and community, and politically. But by interpreting this fact through art we can start to cut through our blindness and take action.

You can “walk through” a tour of exhibition at Art for Change’s website. For more information, visit the Chicago Cultural Center.

Sudan: What Lies Ahead For Women?

SUDAN’S REFERENDUM THIS MONTH IS PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT FOR WOMEN: they make up about 65 percent of the population in South Sudan, but lack the necessary political representation necessary to stop violence, discrimination and abuse.

Many women voting in Sudan last week are eager for separation, seeing in an independent South Sudan the opportunity for greater freedom and rights.

But progress towards that goal may be harder than ever. In December, over 60 Sudanese women’s rights activists were arrested for protesting the lashing of a woman by police. (The video of the flogging was widely reported).

How you can help:

Stand with Sudanese women at Women for Women International.

Related articles and reports:
The SIHA Network (The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa) is an advocate and supporter of women’s organizations. Read their reports on Sudanese women and democracy.

Open Democracy’s piece explores The Sudan referendum and women’s citizenship.

How Engaging Men Will Help Achieve Gender Equality



THE LINK BETWEEN GENDER EQUALITY AND DEVELOPMENT will be at the center of talks next week when the U.N. gathers to discuss progress on the Millennium Development Goals. Gender Equality impacts all the MDGs, including maternal and child health, HIV/AIDs prevention, and poverty reduction.

But if women are the key to the other MDGs, what’s keeping the world from establishing gender equality?



Goal #3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Discrimination against women and girls takes many forms, “including gender-based violence, economic discrimination, reproductive health inequities, and harmful traditional practices,” according to the UNDP. Many of these issues are directly impacted by the role and influence men exert over women’s lives.

It is vitally important that men and boys become partners in the promotion of gender equality. The International Center for Research on Women published a report about engaging men and boys to achieve gender equality, stressing the need to support programs that address men’s social behaviors. The study also recommended collaborations between groups that work with women and girls and those organizations that help men and boys.

What will you do today to promote gender equality and empower women?


Promundo is a Brazil-based, international NGO working to promote gender equality and stop violence against women, children, and youth. One of the group’s initiatives is the The Men and Gender Equality Policy Project.


This edition of “Millennium News” about gender equality is produced by teens who live in Nairobi:

This is the third in a series of posts examining each of the eight Millennium Development Goals.

Top Tweets for Activists (Week Ending Aug. 20)

Welcome to Top Tweets for Activists: a selection of the week’s best tweets, blog posts, media, and news stories.

If you’d like to suggest a topic or news story, please leave a link in the Comments.


From June 7 to 9th 2010 young people gathered in Washington D.C. for the Women Deliver Conference. Amnesty International Mexico asked young men and women about their main concerns on Sexual and Reproductive Rights in the framework of the National Network to Stop VIolence Against Women and its Demand Dignity Campaign. From @WomenDeliver:


Indigenous Rights/Borneo: Fight against Kaiduan Dam, Sabah @j_rubis

Indigenous Rights/Rapa Nui/Chile: Indigenous activists occupy govt property in Easter Island @Amnesty


What are the root causes of poverty? @FuturityNews via @PamFR

Why do some people think that poverty is easy to fix? @damselfish

Poverty Group Honest About Its Work; How Rare Is That? @freefromhunger


France Racism and Politics: Immigration & Citizenship @globalvoices

Pakistan If all you know about #Pakistan is what you see in the media, please give this a read @jterziett

Food Insecurity Food supplies most at risk in Afghanistan, Africa @alertnet

Sudan Avoiding the Train Wreck in Sudan: U.S. Leverage for Peace. New @EnoughProject report via @jonhutson

What Does Democracy Mean for Women in Afghanistan?

Photo: © Jodi Bieber/Institute for TIME

THE IMAGE ON THE COVER OF TIME MAGAZINE this week is the disfigured face of a young woman, Aisha, a victim of the Taliban. Time‘s article argues that the situation for women in Afghanistan will only get worse if there is a negotiation for peace between the U.S. and the Taliban.

With or without a U.S. presence, however, the daily lives of women have not improved. As this July 14th report from Human Rights Watch states, the war against women never ended.

Rachel Reid, Afghanistan researcher for HRW, writes,

The Afghan government should have women’s rights at the center of the reintegration programs. But the experience of the past nine years has been one of hasty deals and impunity for serious crimes. And with the need for an exit strategy weighing heavily on the minds of U.S. policy makers, there’s a strong chance that justice and principle will once again be sacrificed.

It is more important than ever to listen and hear the voices of women in Afghanistan. The Afghan Women’s Writing Project, founded in 2008, publishes the essays and stories of Afghan women. Participants write in secret and their work is posted anonymously.

Here is an excerpt from “The Meaning of Democracy,” written by Roya:

We experience Democracy when a man doesn’t beat his wife for not having a son, when a young girl dares to go to school in provinces like Kandahar, Ghazni, and Paktia, when a female doctor works safely in a hospital in an unsecure and remote area, when a woman teaches school in Bamyan, when a sister works in a bank in Kabul, when a mother is a university teacher—and when I take my pen and write, when I am not only an Afghan woman, but an Afghan woman writer.

To read more of the writing of Afghan women, visit