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International women’s day

What really needs to be talked about on March 8

A woman sorts red chillies near Gandhinagar, India in this Feb. 25 photo.  (Ajit Solanki | AP)


A woman sorts red chillies near Gandhinagar, India in this Feb. 25 photo. (Ajit Solanki | AP)

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International Women’s Day is a time for the world to celebrate the different women’s rights movements that are taking place around the world. It’s when Oprah quotes and pictures of Malala Yousafzai will be posted on social media with this year’s theme, #PressforProgress. In 2018, we are bound to see a lot of talk about the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements that started last year. The entire theme is meant to ask for a change in the way societies and governments deal with sexual assault.

While these movements deserve attention and need to be talked about, many other women’s issues are being largely ignored by Western media. These too deserve their time in the spotlight that IWD could offer.

“I would argue that it is very privileged, as well as hypocritical, to turn a ‘blind’ eye to international women’s issues because feminism cannot operate without exercising the practices of intersectionality or inclusion,” said Bridget Cybulski, a junior majoring in women and gender studies. “By believing that women’s issues do not occur outside of the U.S., we are not building coalition and not moving forward as feminists.”

Women are discriminated against, ignored, belittled and dehumanized in certain parts of the world. The problems that plague women in other countries are unique and demand to be talked about. As we #PressforProgress this March 8, don’t forget the other women who need their stories to be heard.



The justice system in Venezuela has largely ignored and underplayed gender-based violence. Many women who have been victims of rape and assault have slipped through the cracks in the judicial system, with women facing greater human rights issues throughout the country. The government’s lack of transparency during domestic violence and rape proceedings has outraged many advocacy groups.

Healthcare is seen as a luxury throughout Venezuela, leaving many women to get sterilized in order to not face a pregnancy where they don’t have access to a doctor. A lot of women, desperate for an income, will even start doing sex work. This can put them in danger, making them vulnerable to the sex trafficking industry, according the United Nations. The women are lured away with the promise of making more money, only to be forced to work as sex slaves with little to no pay.

Many activists have called on the government to better respond to women’s issues. Whether that be through prevention education or providing harsher legal ramifications to abusers, many want Venezuela to respond in a timely and accurate manner to the issues at hand – starting with the government responding to the thousands of violence complaints that have been reported to authorities but never made it to court.



The idea that big-is-beautiful is echoed throughout the country of Mauritania – with serious implications. Young girls are sent away to special camps to practice leblouh, or intensive force-eating. The girls have to maintain a 14,000 to 16,000 calorie-a-day diet in order to gain weight quickly before they get married, which can be between the ages of 12 to 14.

Forced to eat about four meals a day, the girls are beaten, tortured and humiliated so that they will keep eating until they are sick. If they throw up, they are forced to eat their own vomit. The leblouh camps exist around the country, and parents pay hundreds of dollars to have specialists force feed their daughters for months on end. In Mauritania, the bigger the girl is the more mature and beautiful she is said to look, making her ready for marriage. Though a lot of young girls are not interested in gaining weight, their parents force them into leblouh so that they can enter them into arranged marriages.

The long-term implications of force feeding can be harmful and, at times, deadly. Eating such a high-calorie diet and taking medication to help gain weight can cause heartburn, stomach problems, kidney failure, diabetes, depression and asthma. While the government has officially condemned leblouh, it is still seen as a normal practice in Mauritania.



In Morocco, abortion is completely illegal unless the woman is married, and there is often a physical threat to the mother and the husband even if they approve the abortion together. A pregnancy outside of a marriage is considered a huge scandal in the country, leading many women to seek out back alley abortions.

Many illegal abortions are carried out each day, according to a professor and gynecologist at Les Orangers hospital in Morocco who spoke with Al Jazeera. Whether it is through unqualified doctors or by themselves, women seek to terminate their pregnancies and end up with serious complications from the procedures.

Groups are now pushing for change in Morocco, asking for comprehensive sex education to be taught in schools and for laws to be changed to allow for more flexibility when it comes to abortion procedures. For now, nonprofits and organizations have popped up around the country to help single mothers find shelter and provide for their children while gaining job skills so they can work while unmarried.




Virginity tests take place directly after a wedding in India. The bride and groom are ushered into a hotel room, given a white sheet and forced to consummate their marriage as the family waits outside. When they are done, the family inspects the white sheet. If the woman bled during intercourse, she is seen as a virgin. If she doesn’t, then they believe she had sex before marriage and she is shamed by her family and community, and her husband can choose to annul the marriage.

The practice has been demeaned as humiliating for the women involved. They are seen as “impure,” their husbands can shun them, and some women are even beaten because of the “shame” that they caused to their families. The idea that a woman must bleed during her first penetrative intercourse has been widely discredited by doctors as nothing more than a myth.

Many young couples have opposed the test and refuse to participate, though it still affects many women across the country. Women are harassed and berated at their weddings, and entire communities will have nothing to do with a bride who did not pass the virginity test. Many are hoping that through education and persistence, the virginity tests will no longer be a part of marriage in India during the future.



Despite the original effort in 2001 by the Afghan government to educate girls in the country, an estimated two-thirds of all Afghan girls do not attend school. According to a 2017 Human Rights Watch study, the government provides more schools to boys than they do for girls at all levels, and in half of the country’s provinces females make up only 20 percent or less of teachers. This creates issues for girls whose parents will not let them be taught by male teachers.

Despite the law that states education is required until class nine, many in Afghanistan haven’t received any form of education. Schools for women can be spread out across the country, making it nearly impossible for some to be able to access the school if they live in a different village. Girls are also kept at home because of cultural values that do not place emphasis on their education, and roughly a third of all Afghan girls are married before they turn 18.

There are families who have taken action to be able to educate their daughters, however. Donors have started community-based schools that take place in homes to allow for young children, mostly girls, to receive an education even when a government school isn’t accessible. Other groups are advocating for the government to increase the national education budget to allow for more schools to be built throughout the country.



In 2014, the world rallied around Nigeria after Boko Haram kidnapped over 275 girls from a boarding school. Now, there are 110 girls who are missing in a near-identical attack on the Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi in the Yobe state.

The first reports by the Nigerian government said that dozens of girls were rescued after the attack on the school, but later it was announced that no one had been rescued by the Nigerian army. The government said on Feb. 25 that there are 110 students who remain unaccounted for after the Boko Haram raid on the girls school. Authorities claim the insurgents raided the school looking for food and abducted the girls while there.

While 76 girls were rescued and two were found dead on Feb. 21, many fear that the still-missing girls will be taken into captivity, beaten, tortured and possibly forced to marry their captors, similar to what happened to the kidnapped girls in 2014. Not much has been said by the Nigerian government about where the missing girls could be, but parents are joining the “Bring Back Our Girls” movement in order to bring attention to the kidnappings.


Graphics by Ally Zacek

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