Tag Archives: gender

The right to own a clitoris

3 Jun

Mayar Mohamed Mousa was her name. She was 17 years old. Just like her twin sister, who went under the knife right before her. She survived. But Mayar didn’t. Last Sunday, Mayar Mohamed Mousa died from complications in a private hospital in the Egyptian city of Suez when a female doctor surgically removed her clitoris. Mayar’s mother is a nurse.

Just let that sink in a for a moment.

A female doctor and a female nurse agreed to perform female genital mutilation (FGM) on two perfectly healthy teenage girls. Were even willing to risk the closure of the hospital, jailtime and not to mention the girls’ lives. And all that to remove their external sexual organs. How messed up is that?

And what’s even worse: Mayar and her twin sister are far from an exception. Even though the procedure was officially banned in Egypt in 2008, a staggering 94% of married women have been exposed to FGM and 69% of those women agreed to the same procedure being carried out on their daughters, according to a survey by the Egyptian Health Ministery in 2003.

Why?? Not for religious reasons. Not for hygiene. But simply because people believe this is how it should be. ‘It helps keep girls calm’, I once heard someone say. ‘It’s our culture’, according to others.

Fact of the matter is that today, according to UNICEF, at least 200 million girls and women living in 30 countries have undergone FGM. Of all those girls and women, the highest number are from Egypt: a staggering 27.2 million.

So why do people not talk about this more? Mona Eltahawy, author of Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, offers a very simple yet painful explanation: ‘Something that hurts so many girls and women is kept silent and taboo because it has to do with our vaginas and with sex. The biggest obstacle in the global fight against FGM is the reluctance to talk about the practice.’

So let’s break the silence. Let’s amplify the voices who are challenging this harmful misogynistic practise. Let’s start by remembering the names of the victims who do not live to share their stories. Let’s keep their memory alive.

Mayar Mohamed Mousa was her name. She was only 17 years old.

 

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Why bother?

11 Apr

Do you know that feeling, that you’d rather not watch the news? Because all it seems to bring are tales of sorrow, suffering and shameful selfishness? Bombings, refugee crisis, Panama papers, abortion debate, US elections.. sometimes it seems like we are not moving forward at all, but rather flipping back through the darkest pages of history.

And the weird thing is: the truth is often more absurd than the most far fetched conspiricy theory. So sometimes, it seems a whole lot easier to become a pessimist or an escapist than a pro-activist. To think: ‘why bother’ and go shopping instead. Been there, done that (and have the closet to prove it). But does it change anything, really?

Fortunately, I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by lots of optimists, who, like me, believe that change does not just occur; it’s a verb: you have to just do it. Like the people behind the amazing ‘Harmony for Peace‘, whose annual concert at the Peace Palace in The Hague I will be hosting this month, with talented kids from all over the country performing together in the name of peace and cross-cultural understanding.

Or my wonderful coachee Saskia Stolz of the Power of Art House, who developed Moving People, to give refugees a face and voice, which she is presenting at Harvard, Yale and Columbia this week. You GO girl!

Or gender equality expert Jens van Tricht, founder of Emancipator, who will join us at the Gender @ The Lighthouse programme at Haagse Hogeschool for the Gender for Dummies event this week. Tell me: how often do you get the chance to hear a MAN talk about gender equality?

And speaking about gender equality, I will go back to my home town later this month, the lovely village of Bathmen, where I will join Vrouwen van Nu to talk about my book (S)hevolution and what we can do to change the world ourselves. Because isn’t that the best remedy in days of despair and devastation: being the change we want to see in this world?

And to the sceptics, who doubt whether all this will make any difference, who still say: why bother? Let me ask you this: when did doing nothing ever change anything?

Without change, no butterflies!

(S)hevolution!

6 Oct

Hul Shevolution

Around this time two years ago, I was about to realise a BIG DREAM. I addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations as Dutch UN Women’s Representative, where I was calling for a Shevolution, a radical change in our attitudes towards male/female imbalance.
Now, two years later, I am about to realise another BIG DREAM; on October 15, I am launching my first book: (S)hevolution, de eeuw van de vrouw (the century of woman).

Women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, earn 10% of the income and own 1% of the property. I say: time for a revolution. In (S)HEVOLUTION I argue for a radical change of direction. Not because it is the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do. Investing in women pays off, both socially, economically and politically But what is needed to get this (S)hevolution started? And what can women- and men- do themselves? Read all about it in my book.

Do you want to join me at the book launch on October 15th (5-7 pm, in Amsterdam)? I have 3 spots on the guest list to give away. Want to be one of those 3? Send me a tweet using #shevolution, comment on this post or send me an e-mail (info@thechangeagent.nl) and tell me why you think this world is ready for a (S)HEVOLUTION. And who knows, we may be raising our glass on the 15th!

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