Kawthar Abdullah was 19 when she fled her home country of Yemen in July of 2015. She left with her sister, who was 15 at the time, on a boat from Aden, a port city on the southern end of the red sea, to Djibouti, a country on the horn of Africa. Her parents, who were in New York, payed $3,000 to smuggle their daughters out of Yemen. Abdullah is 22 now. “We were really on the verge of drowning,” Abdullah said softly in a cafe in downtown Manhattan, while a top 40 pop song played on the speakers behind her. “People took their entire livelihood with them on that boat.”
BY KATHERINE NOEL — Bluts Iyassu Zeru is one of thousands of African migrants living in Israel illegally who have been at the center of national debate since the beginning of the year, when the government declared that all “infiltrators” must leave the country by March 31 or face imprisonment. Though the highest Israeli court halted the deportation plan in mid-March after human rights organizations widely criticized it, the Israeli government has remained unwavering in its push to force the African migrant population out. An estimated 38,000 African migrants have crossed into Israel through Egypt’s Sinai desert in the last 5-10 years, fleeing persecution and ongoing conflict. The vast majority of these migrants arrived from Eritrea and Sudan before 2013, when the Israeli government completed construction of a 152-mile border fence.
Christian Colon When she is not selling tomatoes and kale around her hometown of Kakuma, Kenya, Jane Indeche is working as a housekeeper cleaning and cooking for additional income to take home for her five-month old baby girl. The 5,000 extra Kenyan Shillings, about $50 U.S Dollars, were not enough to compensate the pain Indeche would feel after one of her male employers groped and verbally harassed her for over…
BY MONIQUE LeBRUN — In Haiti, children from poor families become restaveks, which means to stay with in both French and Creole, because their parents can’t afford to take care of them or send them to school. Often families from rural parts of Haiti send their children to live in the city with a distant relative, family friend or a stranger. Families agree to take care of restaveks and pay for their education. But the agreement is almost never kept, according to Haitian activists, NGOs and former restaveks. The estimated 300,000 children are turned into domestic servants and abused, a situation some have compared to slavery.
BY CRISTINA SARNOFF — On a hot, humid, summer afternoon four years ago in the village of Apopa in El Salvador, a middle school teacher arrived home after classes to find her teenage daughter’s body draped across her front door with 13 bullet holes. This was the mark of a notorious and deadly gang. “I never thought this could happen to me,” the schoolteacher said in tears recently. “I’ve witnessed families losing a child to gang crimes before but somehow thought I was immune to it. I’m a schoolteacher and combat nurse. Some of my students even belong to the gangs. God help my children.”
BY MARIE PAULINE GENTRIC — It’s only 3 p.m. but Mary Limonta knows exactly what she and her daughter, Ann, will eat tonight – rice and vegetables. Yesterday, it was the same, and tomorrow, and even after tomorrow, it will be the same too. It’s been like that for a while. Since 2013, Venezuelans like Limonta have been trying to survive the most severe recession and food crisis in the country history. National production and imports have plunged and supermarket shelves are almost always empty. Prices rose 6,147 percent in the 12 months ending in February, according to estimates by the country’s opposition-led National Assembly. In this crisis, women are the ones looking for food. They spend between eight and 14 hours a week in line to get food, according to the report “Mujeres Al Limite,” released by four Venezuelan NGOs in 2017.
BY JUSTIN MAFFETT — In February 2011, Abdul Rahman, then a longtime employee of an American food company operating in Afghanistan, was abducted, tortured, and held for 20 days at the bottom of a well by the Taliban, which had grown suspicious of Rahman’s ties to the United States. After his abduction and eventual release, Rahman was granted asylum in the United States. Today he lives in West Haven, Conn. with his wife and two young children. He was placed here in 2014 with the help of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, better known as IRIS, a non-profit resettlement agency based in New Haven, affiliated with the Episcopal Migration Ministries. Now a safe distance from the dangers of Afghanistan, Rahman is comfortable to reflect on his ordeal as a hostage of the Taliban seven years ago.
BY NICOLE LAFOND — For 66-year-old Uganda widow Pasculina Oming, the quest for farmland that is rightfully hers has cost her an arm. Two, in fact. A widow since 2014 in the Lira District of northern Uganda, Oming has been caring for herself, her seven sons and one mentally disabled daughter by farming the land she inherited from her husband. While federal law in Uganda recognizes Oming as the owner of the acreage, the customs of her local tribe, Iceme, dictate that the land belongs to her late husband’s family. In the spring of 2014, Oming was walking home from the market with her nieces when her brother-in-law attacked her with a “panga” machete, attempting to kill her for what was culturally perceived as arrogance for staking her claim over the land. Oming has received no justice from local courts for the attack, but a Ugandan legal team called Barefoot Law that is working to help rural women gain access to land in remote parts of the country has picked up Oming’s case.
BY CHRISTIAN COLON — “Fue la gota que derramó el vaso,” Spanish for the drop that overflowed the cup. That is how Mauricio Jaramillo described the morning he was kidnapped a year and a half ago on the freeway, heading to his job in Caracas, Venezuela. He parked and made a quick pit stop on the side of road. Company pickup truck still running, Jaramillo opened the driver seat door and headed for the woods. Barely two steps out of his car, two armed men ambushed him, threatened and forced him back inside and took control of his truck. “Inside, that is where it all began,” he said. Jaramillo, clueless to where they were going, arrived to his destination after they drove for what felt like hours. While captured, he was interrogated and extorted. The abduction was the final push Jaramillo needed to leave his native country and seek asylum in the United States.
BY NICOLE LAFOND — Katia Marie Ramos is experiencing depression for the first time in her life. It’s not been fueled by the loss of her home, which, last she saw it, stood in the suburbs of San Juan, Puerto Rico, with nothing left but a few upright walls, loose wires and a tangled tarp for a roof. It wasn’t ignited by the panic she experienced while she rode out Category Four Hurricane Maria in her friend’s home, clutching her four-year-old daughter to her chest. It’s not because she lost her job after the building where she worked as a security guard was destroyed in the storm, or the fact that she had to sell all of her belongings, including her car, in order to purchase a plane ticket to evacuate to the mainland after the storm. Ramos is one of 4,000 Puerto Rican families being put up in hotels in 41 states by the federal government after their homes were destroyed or deemed unlivable by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) when Hurricane Maria struck on September 20. She and her daughter are also one of hundreds of families who will be further displaced when FEMA cuts off their federal transitional assistance next month.
BY CECILIA BUTINI — Each Sunday, in a co-working space just a few blocks from the Capitol in Washington, DC, half a dozen men and women from Egypt meet to discuss the current state of their country and to brainstorm ideas to make an impact from afar, or to help their fellow citizens there. Mostafa Bassim, a 28-year-old with thick curly hair, lounged on a couch in the wood-floored space on a Sunday afternoon, a grave expression on his face as he started to recount the day his life changed. In November 2013, as Egypt transitioned from Mohammad Morsi’s brief presidency to the military rule of general Abdel Fattah El Sisi after a coup, Mostafa was in the middle of a protest in Alexandria, on Egypt’s coast. He wasn’t there to protest, but to take photos for a national publication named Veto. As he got closer to take photos of two police officers arresting and beating a protester, one officer turned to Bassim and started beating him too, he said.
BY MARIE CENTRIC — It’s been 26 years since Osman Chowdhury was almost killed by a gang in Bangladesh and fled to the United States. Chowdhury said he is still scared of being killed when he goes back to his native country. Chowdhury was 24 in 1991, when seven young men attacked him in Chittagong, in Southern Bangladesh, surprising him in second floor government office. They broke his nose and tried strangle him with his tie, he said. Chowdhury managed to escape, ran out to the streets and made it to a police station. “I had to save my life,” Chowdhury, now 52, said with a trembling voice. But the seven attackers pursued him inside the precinct, and officers were afraid of them and refused to press charges, Chowdhury said.
BY JINJIN LONG — Former CNN war correspondent Maria Ressa has been a target of vicious online harassment for the past two years. Following the publication of a feature series mapping the corrosive impact of organized political “cyber troops” in the Philippines; she received an average of 90 hate messages an hour for a whole month.
BY SHIBANI GOKHALE — Twenty-five years after Bhanwari Devi reported that five men raped her to deter her activism, she still awaits justice. Though the attack prompted nationwide protests in India and led to the enactment of a new legislation protecting women from sexual assault in the workplace, Devi’s attackers are yet to be punished.
BY HANIYA JAVED — Among 41 nations, the U.S. is an outlier when it comes to paid parental leave, according to the research compiled by OCED. The International Labour Organisation recommends women be given paid maternal leave. Countries like Sweden, Canada and Norway provide at least 26 weeks of paid leave.
BY DANIEL BEREZOWSKY — “When people talk about things like forced marriage or genital cutting, they like to believe that it is many miles away. They don’t realize that these things happen every day, in their own backyard.”
BY ALISON GONDOSCH — When Canada launched an investigation into the crisis of violence against Indigenous women and girls last year, activists applauded the move. But they say more needs to be done.
BY KYLEE TSURU — Like the community where South Bronx United is based, the club’s demographics are diverse. Players come from 23 countries, nearly all from Latin America or West Africa— and frequently need legal assistance to navigate immigration laws in the United States.
BY ALISON GONDOSCH — In 2016, several Iranian publications were either closed or suspended along with the imprisonment of eight Iranian journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Most of these journalists were charged with propaganda against the state.
BY TANYA NYATHI — In Zimbabwe, 72 percent of the population live on less than $1 a day. Biting hunger, cash shortages, tight liquidity, and collective layoffs are common. According to International Labour Organization, over 80 percent of the population is unemployed. In many families, arranging a marriage for a daughter reduces the number of mouths to feed.
BY KYLEE TSURU — “When people are on the move, or really fleeing, they enter a new environment that is busy and different. It is especially hard for that individual and family to cope if a disability is involved,” said Mica Bevington of Handicap International, an organization that provides aid to people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations living in conflict and disaster zones.
BY HANIYA JAVED — There are as many 5000 Ahmadi Muslims living in the tristate area of New York. Seventy percent of them are Pakistanis, according to Ahmadiyya Muslim Communtiy, USA. The highest numbers of asylum seekers are from Pakistan because of the anti Ahmadi laws and constitutional amendments introduced in 1974 that declared the community non Muslims and made it a criminal offence for them to pose as Muslims.
BY SHIBANI GOKHALE — Although India is home to over 300,000 refugees, it is not a signatory to the United Nation’s Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and has not enacted a law specifically protecting their rights.
BY DANIEL BEREZOWSKY — In a country with an 80 percent Muslim population, homosexuality is considered by many to be dishonorable. But in 1990s, when Sayid was growing up, it was also a crime. As a newly independent state, Kyrgyzstan kept many of the laws of the Soviet Union, including the sodomy prohibition that penalized homosexual acts with up to two years of prison.
BY SUMMER LIN — In Msinga, like many other places in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, fewer than six in 10 women give birth with any trained professional, such as a midwife or doctor in attendance. When complications arise, no one is there to help treat the woman, leading to injuries like fistula or even death.
BY DAVID JEANS — Since 2013, smugglers and human traffickers have lured almost 300,000 Ethiopian and Somali refugees to cross the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden with promises of security and economic opportunities. More than 400 people have died during the journey since 2013, according to the United Nations. But the inflow of refugees poses a complicated exigency for humanitarian efforts working to stabilize the country — as Yemeni’s flee their own country in the opposite direction toward the Horn of Africa.
BY LOUIS BAUDOIN-LAARMAN — For the past two months the Rohingya refugee community in Bangladesh has been anxious and unsettled after the country’s prime minister restated Bangladesh’s intention to relocate the refugees to the barren 30,000-hectare island of Thengar Char in the Bay of Bengal.
BY MARIA MARTINEZ — Samer woke early each morning to go to work, like most people. But each day, Samer feared that he might be killed on his way to his job at the Arab bank in the rebel-held section of Damascus. Each day, Samer was stopped at six government checkpoints. At each stop, the fear of death hung low over his head. It was a long journey to work.
BY SUMMER LIN — Mohamed, a former chef from Syria, can still remember the moment he received the call from the UN telling him that he and his family had been approved to move to the United States. “They said ready or not, you’re going to America tomorrow,” he said in Arabic, through a translator.
BY TANYA NYATHI — Evan Mawarire remembers receiving a harrowing call in May of last year. The person on the other end of the phone spoke in Shona, a dominant dialect among Zimbabweans. “Do you know that that very flag that you have around your neck could strangle you to death?”
BY CHRIS GELARDI — Money from loved ones working abroad has helped many Yemeni families survive a civil war that has left their country on the brink of famine. But without peace, the future looks bleak
BY CAROLINE SPIVACK & ASWINI PERIYASAMY At the UN’s 2016 Commission on the Status of Women, Joyce Kilipo, Mary Jack and Yolette Etienne discuss the difficult reality of being women first responders during times of crisis. For more on women first responders go to Women As First Responders and Women As First Responders in Humanitarian Action. Music C/O Podington Bear
BY ASWINI PERIYASAMY When asked why she became a first responder during Liberia’s Ebola Crisis, Brenda Brewer Moore said she drew her resolve from one of her country’s darkest times, “I lived the majority of my childhood years in Liberia during the civil war and saw the amount of death and destruction that the war caused. And as a child, one thing I promised myself was that one thing that I…
Vietnam debates the issue — unthinkable a decade ago in a country dominated by Confucianism. By DIEN LUONG It was past midnight and Ngo Thi Mong Linh had already gone to sleep when her cellphone suddenly rang. Linh knew all too well what to anticipate from the other end. “A sex worker was urging me to come to rescue her,” Linh recalled in an interview. “Her client robbed her of…
BY BRIAN FRESKOS Shadreck Banda wanted to punish his wife. The couple had gotten into an argument about dinner. Banda wanted nshima, a traditional Zambian porridge, with roasted pork; but his wife, Beatrice Zulu, had foregone the pork and cooked beans instead. After his wife had lain down, Banda erupted into a fit of vengeance, picked the piping pot of beans off the fire and poured it onto her. Zulu…
BY ANNIKA HAMMERSCHLAG When Moroccan-born Nawal el Moutawakel won the gold medal for the 400 meter hurdles at the 1984 Summer Olympics, she became the first woman from not only Morocco, but a Muslim majority country to win an Olympic gold medal. “It changed how people looked at a woman athlete from that culture,” said American Olympian Donna de Varona, who has won two gold medals in swimming and has…
BY SAHER KHAN In the Niger Delta, women, who have the primary responsibility for management of household water supply, are providing dirty water to their families, not because they want to, but because they have no choice. According to UNEP and an Amnesty International analysis, the history of oil exploration in the Niger Delta has contaminated fisheries and polluted groundwater pipes and boreholes that are sources of water in communities…
BY KATHRYN DAVIS Women and girls in Ghana have been victims of sexual assaults and other gender-based violence at some of the highest rates in the world, and Ghanaian officials say they have made little progress in stopping the violence. “We still experience high rates of gender-based violence in many societies globally, Ghana included, violence within families, culture and it defies all of our efforts,” Martha Ama Akaya, Ghana’s UN…
BY SAHER KHAN A petite woman, dressed in black save the white silk scarf wrapped around her head takes her place at the center of a stage. “Do you know what it’s like to represent a billion human beings everyday you walk out of your house?” she asks the audience. “To be looked at as a representation of an entire world religion? It’s exhausting…I’m tired,” she goes on. “I’m tired…
BY JIHYE LEE Critiquing yourself is hard. And imagine if the evaluation is of a decades long effort to fulfill the goals of fighting poverty, inequality and climate change. It’s made ieven tougher because the crucial data and feedback come from the countries whose records aren’t stellar on those issues In mid March, a number of organizations gathered at the United Nations to discuss methods of evaluating the process of…
BY SHANDUKANI OMPHULUSA MULAUDZI Ruth Mumbi was arrested by the police five years ago for what they said was a demonstration to incite violence in her community of Mathare, a slum in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. Mumbi organized a group of women to protest the country’s high maternal mortality rate. More recently however, Mumbi has advocated for the rights of young women who have been arrested after they underwent unsafe abortions….
BY SCOTT SELMER The Bahamas is a favorite tourist destination—famous for its bright blue ocean, white sand beaches and crystal blue skies. However, there is a subculture of crime that may not be well known to tourists or outsiders. The Bahamas leads the Caribbean in the number of recorded rapes of women and girls and ranks among the worst countries in the world for gender-based violence (GBV). Private organizations and…
BY CAROLINE SPIVACK Before Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu in March 2015, Mary Jack helped neighbors on her home island of Tanna reinforce roofs with panaudu leaves and sandbags. But the cyclone turned out to be one of the strongest storms ever to make landfall with winds upwards of 150 miles an hour and left 70 percent of Vanuatu’s 277,000 population displaced. “For women, we were in confusion and overwhelmed by…
BY AZADEH VALANEJAD Seven thousand Yazidi women and girls from the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar were abducted on March 15, 2014 by the Islamic State and forced into sex slavery. Five thousand of their husbands, fathers, and brothers murdered in front of their eyes. Three thousand of those women and girls are still in ISIS’ captivity, according to the UN. Nadia Murad Basee Taha, 21, was one of those…