Author Archives: celinesunyoung

“Can I Also Use the Library?”: Female Students Banned from Library in India

Maulana Azad Library

Maulana Azad Library

Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), which is one of the oldest universities in India, is being harshly criticized because the university has banned women from accessing its main library, Maulana Azad Library (The Times of India). The victimized students were in the Women’s College of AMU, and they were not able to enter the main library on several occasions due to a variety of excuses; such as the road to the library was not safe for girls and female students would distract the male students. (The Star Online)

Interior view of the main library--No female students present

Interior view of the main library : No female students present

The university’s vice-chancellor Zameer Uddin Shah said that more boys (up to four times) would attend if they allow girls to go the library. He also justified the act by saying “The issue is not of discipline, but of space. Our library is packed.” (Mail Online) In the same line with the vice-chancellor, the principal of Women’s College, Naima Gulrez added by saying “Have you girls ever seen the library? It is jam-packed with boys. If girls were to be permitted inside the library, the discipline issue might crop up.” In response to this discriminatory act, students in the Women’s College insisted “If space is a problem, we can just borrow books and not sit in the library.” (The Times of India)

The point is that the main library has higher quality of resources compared to the Women’s College library. The university proudly states that its main library is renowned for its invaluable collections of manuscripts and rare books that are available in oriental languages (AMU homepage). As a graduate student and a woman who is blessed to be able to use great resources of the libraries in university, I could only be on the side of the female students. girls' rightsIf they are also students of AMU, why are they not allowed to enter the main library? Furthermore, I must post a deeper, fundamental question; why do the women need a permit to use the facility in their own university? Why should female students be used as scapegoats to avoid the overcrowding of the library? Why does the university appear to be concerned about the safety of female students, but not about their education? This stance appears to be an evasive excuse to exclude women. The university guarantees the right to education for male students and protects them from being distracted by female students. Female students should have the fundamental right to education as much as male students do. If the university was established with the purpose of cultivating competent people, it cannot deny the right to education for female students any longer.

I would like to close this post with a piece of writing from an alumna of Girl-in-library-380the Women’s College: “The first time I stepped into the Maulana Azad Library, I was awed by its grandeur. More than that, I felt frustration at not being able to reach out to those shelves, browse through books and borrow a tiny bit of that wealth. It is time that the university stops infantilizing and discriminating against its female students, and starts treating them with equal dignity and respect.” (IBN Live)

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Let the Girls Grow: Fighting Teen Pregnancy

Mannequins of pregnant schoolgirls are seen in a shop window at a shopping mall in Caracas

Have you ever seen a pregnant mannequin? If so, you must have seen it in the stores for expecting mothers. At a mall in Venezuela, mannequins of pregnant schoolgirls wearing school uniforms are being displayed. Shoppers who see the mannequins were shocked and as a result, a debate over sex education was provoked (Buenos Aires Herald). The mannequins were set up by two local charities for children with the intention to draw attention to the nation’s adolescent pregnancy rate. This idea was formulated because of the alarming statistics that one girl under the age of 18 is getting pregnant every three minutes and 23 percent of all births come from that age category in Venezuela (Latin Times); the phenomenon is one of the worst in South America. A shopper, Auriselvia Torrealba said “Yes, it’s disturbing to see such sight in a window. But it’s the truth. You see pregnant girls all the time on the streets. So this forces you to think about the problem, doesn’t it?” (New York Post) Although this issue is a subject of taboo in Venezuela, the campaign is playing the role of igniting awareness for the current status of girls.

Teen pregnancy has been a major issue in developing countries. Even it is a girls’ choice toforced marriage get pregnant, teen pregnancy can be detrimental for both the mother and the baby in terms of medical problems as well as mental health problems. In order to avoid the risks, many civil agencies or foundations insist that sex education needs to be improved and parents need to take the subject more seriously (Latin Times). Since sex education can provide the girls with information on various contraceptive measures and knowledge about the human body, the girls are given the opportunity to reduce the rate of pregnancy. Nevertheless, it cannot be a solution in the case of forced marriage. Teen pregnancy results to girls being deprived of not only the right to be healthy, but also the right to be educated. If they get married or give childbirth, they face difficulty in going back to school.

girls not bridesIn addition to improving the quality of sex education, society has to be equipped with the proper systems and networks to provide a safe environment for girls. The more important thing for the girls is the change in overall recognition toward girls/women through the cooperation of parents and communities. Girls are not a tool to help men vent their desires or a reproduction machine, but a being worth valued. If this view is not properly established, gender disparity in education can never be broken. Beyond Venezuela where the attention to girls’ pregnancy was ignited, we have to go the extra mile for all the girls who are suffering from early or forced marriage as well as teen pregnancy to stay healthy and stay in school.

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Our Bodies Are Not Public Property

In a high density region of New York City, Shoshana B. Roberts, a 24-year-old unknown actress, walked around the city for 10 hours wearing jeans and a black T-shirt. A hidden camera was filming Roberts and the reactions of the people in her surroundings. During the ten hours, there were more than 100 instances of street verbal harassment as well as countless winks and whistles (The Washington Post). This filming was processed by Hollaback!, an anti-street harassment advocacy group.

Street harassment is a form of gender-based violence; domestic violence, forced marriage, sexual trafficking (read my fellow blogger iregreaves), femicides (read my fellow blogger danibicknell), and forced prostitution could also be regarded as gender-based violence. Street harassment is defined as unwelcome and unwanted attention of a sexual nature, objectifying and targeting women in particular. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three women has experienced unwanted non-contact sexual experiences. Apparent physical actions can be dealt by law or regulations; however, ambiguous comments and actions such as leering, catcalling, and whistling are not dealt with. catcallThis might be because the unwelcome and unwanted attention is truly subjective, and the degree to experience harassment could only result to individual variability. For example, if a man says “Hey, you’re beautiful,” some women will take the comment in a complimentary manner while others will take it as a form of sexually assault and be offended. Due to the vague characteristic of perception, it is difficult to criminalize harassers and various behavior of harassment; moreover, victims have difficulty raising their voice about street harassment.

The impressive aspect of the video is the attire that Roberts wore. Rob Bliss, who filmed the video, said “we choose the type of clothes that women commonly wear because we don’t want people to say that she wore clothes which invited sexual harassment” (The Huffington Post Korea). I have been told by elders to wear clothes neatly and behave properly to not lure men and become a victim of sexual assault. Whenever I heard such statements and advice, it seemed as if sexual harassment was caused by women’s shortcomings or misjudgments. However, why do men give leering hellos and unpleasant compliments to women that pass by? Why do they pass the buck to how women dress and their behavior, and not take into consideration the form of attention they give to women?

streetharassmentAfter the video released by Roberts caused her to receive numerous rape threats, a fierce debate about the video was initiated. Nevertheless, the video brought forth an important topic that is a commonplace issue and is one that needs to be solved. This video could be a tool for helping women who are in the status of victims be liberated from becoming getting numb about their experience. I hope this effort would show how intimidating the men’s trivial behavior or comments are and bear fruit for women’s right to be safe.

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Effort to Empower Mothers and Girls in Ghana


The Fifth among the Eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

The government of Ghana joined an Advocacy Campaign on Girls’ Education and Maternal Health in Accra, which is the capital and largest city of Ghana. The campaign is part of a United Nations (UN) project aimed at raising the awareness of mothers’ mortality rate during pregnancy and delivery as well as girls’ access to education.

In the first part of the campaign, improving maternal health is one maternal health in Ghanaof the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are eight goals for international development. According to Girmay Haile, who is the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Country Director, about 3,100 Ghanaian mothers (380 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) died during pregnancy and childbirth in 2013 due to postpartum haemorrhage, hypertensive disorders, and abortion sepsis (Graphic Online). Although the maternal mortality ratio in Ghana is decreasing annually, it remains a major issue because aforementioned causes of maternal death are preventable. Under the slogan of “No Woman Should Die Giving Life”, the government and organization officials have a plan to train maternal health service providers to facilitate skilled and safer delivery of babies. However, going beyond the role of conveying knowledge, the government, local communities, and external agencies have to consistently improve the healthcare system and expand benefits of medical treatments.

girls education in GhanaDuring the second part of the campaign, girls’ education is also included in the MDGs in that their education can promote gender equality. Rushnan Murtaza, who is the Deputy Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), focused on enhancement of the transition from primary to secondary education as well as on the increase of access to education (AllAfrica). Under the slogan of “Empowering Girls for a Stronger Ghana,” the government introduces girls to the stories of successful female athletes, organizes girls’ clubs that stress on the topic of teenage pregnancy, and provides girls with sanitary pads against social and physical barriers related to menstrual management. Through these activities, the implementors of the program are looking forward to inspiring girls to enroll and stay in school. The active participation of girls is important for their education. Nevertheless, it remains a challenge to continue girls’ education without the favorable atmosphere of society as a whole.

The Advocacy Campaign on Girls’ Education and Maternal Health seems to be a pivotal starting point for empowering women of Ghana. However, is the launch of the campaign sufficient enough to counter the ingrained factors that lead to maternal mortality and unsustainable girls’ education? In the initial stage of the project, the contributors and assistants should provide a more specific action guides combined with feasible plans that are suitable within the local context and not focus on immediate results solely for the attainment of the goal. Furthermore, teachers, parents, men, and the whole community should exert effort to support and encourage women altogether.

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The Incomplete Career Path of Korean Women

working mom

In The Atlantic, Anne-Marie Slaughter takes issue the promise that women can have it all.

Recently, the issue concerning the re-employment of women has become a topic of debate in South Korea. Following this issue, the term “the woman with career discontinuity” continues to spread throughout Korean society. According to the Herald Business and the Korean Women’s Development Institute, the reasons for women’s career discontinuity are marriage (46.9%), infant care (24.9%), and pregnancy/childbirth (24.2%). The average duration of a woman’s career discontinuity is 9.7 years and if they seek employment again, they are usually given temporary positions.

This issue would not be of great significance if it was arising as an outcome of individuals’ decisions. However, the fact that more than half of the married women experience career discontinuity indicates that the systems in society or social atmosphere are responsible for this issue. It is very common for women to pursue higher education in Korea thus, not only do they attend college but they strive toward graduate education as well. Nevertheless, because of the reality of a patriarchal environment which carries much traditional value in ancient Korea is still prevalent, working mothers may be seen as unfaithful mothers. Thus, as women get married or give birth, they end their careers in order to direct their focus towards their home and children. Aside from this cultural influence, challenging working environments such as the male-centered working systems and employment benefits such as maternity leave has an impact on the women as they try to balance their work and family life.

Although women return to the workforce of Korean society, they have difficulty getting full-time regular positions. Moreover, women cannot reap benefits of increased wage that come from continuous working years due to their career discontinuity. This phenomenon is what has placed Korea’s gender wage gap the biggest among OECD countries.

Women’s conflict between work and family life that arises from their desire to participate at all levels in the social and economic lives has an impact on the low birth rate (1.19 children per woman) in Korea. The low birth rate can lead to a decrease in the working population; thus, negatively influencing the nation’s economy.

The government exerts effort to come up with countermeasures that offer free childcare and part-time jobs for women. In the way that women’s career discontinuity affects nation’s level as well as individual’s level, practical and tangible countermeasures need to be established carefully and public consensus also has to be formed.

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