Author Archives: mathewsh

Op-ed: Protesting India’s Inadequate Rape Laws

Savannah Bynum

NEW DELHI, INDIA – APRIL 17: Delhi Women Commission (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal on fifth day of her hunger strike against Unnao and Kathua rape case on April 17, 2018 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The fundamental issues in India can be found in their outdated laws pertaining to what constitutes rape. Rape in India is defined as “penile penetration into the vagina,” which entails that only a man can be the perpetrator and only a woman can be the victim. The Indian Penal Code of 1860, with slight but not overwhelming alterations and updates, solidifies the concept of a gender inequality in Indian law. The pronouns used are female focused and thus enforce only a female victim and assume only a male perpetrator. The laws in place are faulty and provide legal loopholes to be exploited resulting in increasing outrage about the lack of enforcement for crimes of rape in India. It is imperative to shed a light on the atrocities being committed by utilizing contemporary court cases and public reactions in hopes that the pressure will cause the Indian courts and political officials to address and revise these outdated laws.

Conversations have to start somewhere, and in the case of India, the conversation can be seen visually over social media. Following a gang rape and eventual death of a 23 year-old female in Delhi, research was done based on the utilization and implementation of social media as the event and case unfolded. Journalists found that twitter served a helpful role in bridging contact between journalist and urban middle class public who were concerned about the incident and desired to know what transpired

This is a sensitive topic for everyone. It is said, statistically, in India there is a rape reported every 15 minutes, but that is only counting those who report what they have been through, not those who may stay silent. Only 1% of sexual violence is accounted for and reported to the police. And only 10% of married women reported sexual violence, even though it is known that rates of marital rape are much higher.

In Mumbai, India, the rape of a 22-year old woman by five men who claimed to “be on a hunt for a beautiful deer,” galvanized public opinion and outrage. The case was heard in 2023 and caused an uproar within the city about their rape laws. The woman was asked to re-enact a pornographic act that was shown to her on a cell phone by one of the men. This was not the first time these men had done this to a young woman, but none of the victims had ever gone to the police before. This case shows the acts of bored men who seemed to have routinely committed rapes in the same area. Yet nothing had been done to stop them. The seriousness of this kind of crime did not sink in until this case made headlines. Previously, few rape cases were prosecuted and when they were, the perpetrators were seldom punished. For that reason, victims were hesitant to come forward or speak out.In the wake of this case, India did enact changes to their rape laws passing numerous legislative reforms, commonly known as the Nirbhaya Act. The act saw increased penalties for sexual violence, including extending the length of prison sentences and introducing the death penalty in certain cases.

Yet even with the new laws, rapes continued to occur and often the perpetrators were not arrested or prosecuted. But there are multiple cases similar to the one just spoken of, they are not limited to “civilians” and can happen “under the protection” of the police, who have the duty to serve and protect these people. However in most cases this is far from true. For example, a woman in 1972 a woman was raped by drunken police officers while in their custody. This case helped start protests by women in India with support from both male and female experts to demand changes in the government. The latest data from India’s National Crime Record Bureau show around 100 alleged attacks are reported to police each day, or nearly 39,000 in 2016 — a 12% increase from the previous year

Most recently, a young girl aged 16 was kidnapped, taken to a Hindu temple, imprisoned and held captive while she was repeatedly raped by a number of men, one of whom was an elected official. Eight men have been arrested and the outrage is mounting in India over this case. Last week in April of 2018, thousands of women protested in several major Indian cities. Swati Maliwal, chairwoman of the Delhi Women’s Commission (NWC), is staging an indefinite hunger strike to push for stricter laws for rape in India, including the death penalty. It is important for all of us to support the women of India in this fight against rape and all forms of violence against women.

Savannah Bynum studied at Catawba valley community college, and is now completing an anthropology major with a minor in art history at East Carolina University.



Child Marriage in Afghanistan

By Asha Allamby

Soon to be wed Faiz Mohammed, 40, and Ghulam Haider 11, Ghowr Province, Afghanistan. (Photo by Stephanie Sinclair)


Beaten, molested, and imprisoned. These are just a few of the consequences that are all too familiar among child brides in Afghanistan. The majority of these girls have been married off before they are legally able to do so, as was the case with Ghulam Haider pictured above. The combination of poverty and limited education are just a few factors driving the high rates of child marriage in Afghanistan.

Child marriages continue to thrive in developing countries in the African and Southeast Asian regions of the world. Despite efforts from Afghanistan’s government to establish a legal age at which girls can marry, the tradition of child marriages continues to flourish. A girl may be married off young due to costs of bride price, dowry or to settle a blood feud. After decades of war, many Afghanistan families find themselves severely impoverished and feel that their daughters are a financial burden. They may choose to marry them off young to receive a bride price or to pay a low dowry to the groom and his family. Some families cannot afford a dowry so they exchange young female members of the family in an act known as badal. Lastly, when girls are given to other families to settle a dispute, the act is known as baad. This is considered one of the most abusive customs towards young girls. In- laws take out anger on the young bride because she is a constant reminder of a family member they lost.

One of the major hurdles in tackling child marriage in Afghanistan is attempting to close the loopholes around the age for which a child can marry. The laws currently allow a girl to get married as young as 15 with parental consent. Even so, how is it possible most girls get married before the age of 15?

Afghanistan is considered an Islamic state meaning it the government is influenced by Islam. In the Quran, Islam’s religious text, a child is suitable to marry after her first menstruation. The problem arises when a girl as young as 9 has her first menstruation. She is then considered old enough to marry, even to someone old enough to be her father.

Unfortunately, data on child brides can sometimes be hard to retrieve as marriages do not have to be registered to the state in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, 40 percent of girls are married between the ages of 10 and 14. In extreme cases, they were married to someone 50 years older. Once married, child brides often become victims of domestic violence from their spouses and in-laws. They are beaten, raped, neglected and subjected to servitude. If they run away, they may be subjected to imprisonment. Each year 2,400 women turn to self- immolation to escape their abusive husbands. Child brides have profound impacts on their health physically, sexually and psychologically. Child marriage is a clear violation of human rights.

Because Afghanistan is a patriarchal society, men dominate every aspect of women’s lives. This results in child brides not being able to finish their educations. They are cut out of the public sphere and socializing with people their own age. Men, whether their husbands, brothers, or fathers, determine if a child will receive adequate health care during the time of child birth. A girl’s lack of access to health care is particularly alarming during child birth because she is five times more likely to die if she gives birth before she is 15 years old. Child marriages and reduced access to health services has a direct link to the child being malnourished or premature.

One solution to ending the child bride epidemic would be to identify where girls are more at risk of being forced in child marriages so that prevention programs could be started. Additionally, it is imperative that Afghanistan’s government and religious leaders condemn the practice. Child marriage is also continuing to be a viewed as a women’s issue, deterring men from stopping the practice. Men and women alike must be educated about the harm of child marriages. There are currently two organizations dedicated to fighting against forced child marriage. One is Save Your Rights ( ), which works internationally, and Women for Afghan Women (, which works on a broad agenda of women’s rights within Afghanistan. Check them out if you want to get involved.

Asha Allamby is a graduating senior at East Carolina University with a major in International Studies and a minor in Ethnic Studies and Sociology. She intends to get her MS in Social Work so she can further assist disadvantaged minority populations in the U.S and abroad

Southern Africa’s Contraceptive Control

Abigail Detwiller

Puberty is a crucial step as girls prepare for the decisions and responsibilities of sexuality and reproduction.

Faridah Nalubega, a 26 year-old woman intended to have just two or three children, the most she felt she could afford by selling fried fish in Kampala, Uganda, according to PAI, a U.S.-based family-planning advocacy group. But she ended up with six children—in large part, she told PAI, because her husband forbade her to use contraceptive pills and her local family-planning clinic offered no suitable alternative. In this area of Uganda, men often become violent with their partners who show an interest in using contraception.

Two barriers that limit the access to and use of contraceptives is southern Africa are the myths and misconceptions of young people, and the attitudes of adults in these communities. If these can change then the use of contraceptives will increase and the number of unwanted pregnancies will decrease. The first step would be to expand the learning and accessibility of information on the many different methods of contraceptives. The young people need to understand that the myths and misconceptions that they are taught by their peers and adults are incorrect and hold no scientific grounds. If they could meet others who use contraception and ask questions it could be a very good experience for the youth, and for the adults who have the misconceptions. It is one thing to be able to reach the youth, but if you do not change the view ofthe adults have then all the work you did can be easily reversed because of the place they hold in their society over the younger generations. After being able to teach and give more factual based information on contraception they would need to focus more of their time focused on the older generation. If the older generation views contraceptives as bad and refuse to provide the youth with them then all the work teaching the youths would be of no use. The youth would not be able to get the contraceptives so their knowledge would be no help because without contraception’s no matter what they try it will be unsuccessful. Young people are seen by societies around the world as needing to be guided by the older generations to make sure they are not making immature decisions. Though sometimes the problem stems from the older generations decisions that are being forced upon the youth.

In South Africa the traditional view against contraceptive use is held by the men, so if a man does not want his wife on contraceptives then she cannot unless she hides it. Engelman writes that “unfortunately, helping women plan their families stealthily—by using contraceptive injections, for example—is a leading strategy because many male partners believe childbearing decisions are theirs alone to make. Men also tend to want one to three more children than women do, not surprising given who gets pregnant, gives birth and handles most of the child care.” Traditional values are taught to the next generation through multiple ways, but some traditional values are oppressive towards others and should not be implemented. If these traditions are stopped it does not mean that it is lost the tradition will be a part of the people’s history, and generations will be taught why they changed, and how it has helped the people grow. Just because people no longer apply that tradition does not mean they have lost who they are it just means there might have been a healthier way for them to celebrate.

When introducing new ideas and concepts some people can create myths and misconceptions about the information and make it so that the general population is against something without learning all the facts. Most youth are uneducated in the correct procedures, heavily influenced and trusting of their peer members, and so believe false information easily because of misplaced trust. In a study, Ochaco et al. found that “Many fears were based on myths and misconceptions. Young women learn about both true side effects and myths from their social networks” Most myths and misconceptions that were taught to the young girls is that if the use any contraception they will not be able to have children later. By creating these myths and misconceptions many girls are then later pressured to get rid of pregnancies that come from not being able to use contraception’s. To combat the myths and misconception education for both males and females is important. By continuing to go to school both genders will be able to learn the importance of contraception and how big of a role they all play. Though, at the moment, since South Africa is a patriarchal society, females are not seen as important enough to continue their education most of the time passed elementary level.

It is important to teach the younger generations because without access to contraceptives, unwanted pregnancies increase.. Hoopes et al. report that “Approximately one-quarter of women aged 15–19 years in South Africa report having been pregnant. Although teen fertility has mirrored a decline in fertility among all women in South Africa, South African teens experience a birth rate of 54 per 1,000 women aged 15–19 years, twice that of teens in the United States.”

Though Africa has been more progressive in their abortion laws such as, “…nurses and midwives are trained and permitted to perform abortions, paving the road for accessible abortions at conveniently located facilities” (“Common Reproductive Health Concerns in Anglophone Africa.”), many girls have resort to extreme measures to get rid of unwanted pregnancies aborted because of the limited number of professionals.

If men and women are not taught the true information pertaining to contraceptives they will continue to have problems. Traditional values can still be part of who the people are but will just not be implemented. Women deserve the same education opportunities as men. By having these options available the knowledge about birth control will be more widely available and not seen as something bad, instead a positive.

Abigail Detwiller has an associate’s in Science and attends East Carolina University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. After graduation she plans to enroll into a Dental Hygienist program to obtain her license and work in the dental field helping others.

The (Un)Happy Tale of Nigerian Women

Leangei Gomez Nuñez

The PM News (Nigerian News) reported that a man named M.Y. murdered his wife on the 17th of November 2011 for refusing to have sex with him. He was sent to the prison by the Ilorian Magistrate Court [PM News, 2012]

            One in every four women in Nigeria experience domestic violence at some point in their lives. Many have also undergone female genital mutilation,  and eighty-eight percent of young girls have been married too young. All of this violence towards women can be accounted for by Nigerian patrilocal customs. Their customs dictate that women are subordinate to men and must do as their father and husbands command. According to Ifemeje, men expect obedience from their wives and have sexual rights to them. Husbands, therefore, can physically assault and rape their wives if they feel as if a wife is not fluffing her obligations to him. This is a major issue for these women as these forms of violence that they are been submitted to are not seem as a problem but rather normal.

Nigerian women also suffer from female genital mutilation. Female genital mutilation is practiced throughout the country, with the exception of one ethnic group. Different ethnic groups practice different forms of FGM with clitoridectomies being more common in the south and infibulation in the north. According to Okeke, the practice has been attributed to the preservation of chastity, family honor, and protection of promiscuity as well as the control of sexual attitudes.

Child marriage is another phenomenon that has deep roots in the Nigerian customs. The country has one of the highest rates in the world, with 88% of young girls being married before the age of 16. Families believe that by marrying their daughters they will be protected and supported. This, however, puts them as a higher risk to be physically, sexually, and psychologically abused by their partners.

Cultural views and lack of income are said to be the main factors contributing to violence against women. Most Nigerians live in systems of patrilineal kinship with wives moving to live with the families of their husbands after marriage. In this system, men have power and control over women and it is considered normal to physically punish wives if they are not following orders or behaving appropriately. Social customs also dictate that young wives must be initiated into sex often by force or rape. This sexual abuse continues throughout the marriage. Although these are clear forms of abuse, they are not view as problems or crimes because of cultural views regarding gender roles.

Income has also been noted to play a major part when it comes to domestic violence. According to Gage and Thomas, the loss of employment and of the breadwinner role have been noted as a stressor in marital relationships. Women who earn an income are at higher risk of being physically attacked by their husbands. This is because when women become the providers and are more economically independent, men may respond by using violence to keep hold of their hierarchy and compensate for the loss of the breadwinner role.

Although prevention and resolution of violence against women are harder to achieve because many times the acts are not reported, there are many campaigns that are fighting to put an end to these issues. The Nigerian government has implemented policies to out end to them. In 2015, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition act was adopted which prohibits female genital mutilation, harmful widowhood practices, harmful traditional practices and all forms of violence against persons in both private and public life. The state of Ekiti has stablished a Gender-Based Violence Fund to provide basic material support for victims; here they receive free shelter and vocational training. Lagos government has outline plants to establish a Fund to pay for free legal services to women and children suffering violence. Even with government there are still many challenges ahead both legally and culturally.


Leangei Gomez is a Senior at ECU majoring in Anthropology with a concentration in culture and a minor in history. She is graduating in May 2018, and hopes to join the Peace Corp in 2020 before applying for Grad School. Leangei hopes to work in bettering education systems in Latin America and the Caribbean.

What is Female Genital Mutilation and How Do We Stop It?

By Giuliana Davis

            Let’s examine the average 12-year-old girl. Having just starting understanding how men will a play a role in her life, she spends her time day dreaming over the boy she met in school. She enjoys playing with her friends, and experimenting with makeup. She shouldn’t have a care in the world, unless you consider finding a dress for her first formal to be serious business. But this is not the reality for many girls around the world. In many parts of Africa and Asia, the 12-year-old you imagine, is actually spending time preparing herself for a very invasive procedure. She can’t scream, or cry. She’ll bring shame upon herself and her family. If she doesn’t have the procedure, she’ll become a social pariah and men will discard her like a piece of garbage. Every woman she has ever known has been forced to have the procedure. It’s tradition. She’s going to be circumcised. She’ll have her labia majora, minora, and clitoris removed while fully conscious and aware. Depending on where she lives, she may also have her vaginal opening sewn shut, allowing only a small hole for urine and menstrual fluids.

This is a shocking, but very real, glimpse into the lives of thousands of girls ages 12-16 throughout 29 different countries on Earth. And while their cultures consider it to be a necessity, there is absolutely no medical benefit for this procedure. On the contrary, it often causes infection and pain that can be deadly. The most common and severe complication that occurs due to female circumcision is known as obstetric fistulae. Obstetric fistulae occur when a woman is giving birth, but the blockage caused by her sewn vaginal opening causes her to be unable to push. Labor often goes on for days, and the newborn is almost always stillborn. Due to the pressure caused by her attempts to push, and the resistance due to a sewn vaginal opening, the baby’s head presses against the soft tissues inside of the birthing canal, causing a tear between the canal and the bladder or anus. Once she has finally pushed out her stillborn baby, she’ll fall into a deep, exhausted sleep, only to wake up to the realization that she has wet the bed. Thinking it to be a one-time accident, she’ll quietly wait for it to dry, but it never will. She has completely lost control of her bladder, and will forever be incontinent.

In this culture, the incontinence caused by obstetric fistulae is worse than death. These women face a life of shame ahead of them. They are isolated and treated as pariahs, and are forced out of society. They are the Untouchables of Africa. Their husbands want nothing to do with them, and they end up living out the rest of their lives in small huts on the edge of their villages, with virtually no contact with any members of their previous cultures.

But there is hope. Many organizations are taking active roles in the fight against female genital mutilation, and aiding in the recovery of those who have undergone it and may be suffering health consequences:

  • “28 Too Many”- this organization helps on 3 levels. First, they educate those in places like the U.S., who have likely never heard of the practice. Second, they educate influential members of the societies in which FGM is practiced, and encourage them to take a stand against it. And finally, they equip local people and organizations with the tools they need to oppose the practice.
  • “The Day of Zero Tolerance”- this is an international day introduced by the UN in an attempt to globalize the fight against FGM. Education is key, and this day makes it possible for people around the world to become educated.
  • “The Desert Flower Foundation”- started by a model who escaped the world of FGM and came to the United States, the Desert Flower Foundation strives to educate people and encourages governments to pass laws that ban Female Genital Mutilation.

So while the outlook may seem bleak, there is always hope for the future when people take a stand for what they believe in. But it is essential that we don’t just watch other people do the work. Each and every person needs to become part of the fight, because as Desmond Tutu so accurately put it, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Giuliana Davis is a double major in Criminal Justice and Anthropology with a minor in Forensic Science. She hopes to go into the field of forensic anthropology, and her dream is to work with the Smithsonian Institute.


Barriers Facing Women Running for Public Office and The Impact of Gender Quotas

Ellie Waibel

            Women make up about half of the world’s population, yet only make up about 23% of political participation globally. All over the world, the voices of women are being shut out and systematically ignored. In order to be an advocate for voiceless populations, we desperately need women in politics. However, this is more difficult to achieve than it sounds. Worldwide, women are being actively excluded from participation in government through social, institutional, and psychological barriers.

Globally, there is a perception of women as being irrational, emotional, and overall dependent on men. Societal norms push women to be homemakers who are dedicated to cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children. Even when women are encouraged to have careers, it is typically in the education, social welfare, or other “feminine” sectors. When women decide to pursue careers in public office, they are often viewed as neglecting their families and motherly duties. Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s prime minister in the early 1990’s, had to keep her pregnancy a secret in order to keep her political opponents from using it against her. In order to give women a voice in politics, we must end the notion that women are selfish for wanting to pursue a career in public office.

The structural features of political life tend to exclude women from seeking and obtaining positions. Political parties want to present the candidate they believe will maximize its vote, which means they will more often than not choose men. Political parties seek individuals who already have visibility in the community through one’s career, leadership positions, or political roles. Considering community leaders and those typically in leadership positions are disproportionately male, women are put at an even further disadvantage. When women do run for political office, they are often times plagued with intimidation tactics from males. In some countries, women face physical violence for running. According to UN Women 2013, in Pakistan and Nepal, not only are women running for public office subject to physical and verbal abuse, but they also must worry about threats of abduction and murder. In Kenya, candidates running for office often carried concealed knives. They would also wear two pairs of tights under their dresses in order to buy more time in case of an attempted rape. Often times, these women are denied protection by police and law enforcement.

Thanks to a newer trend in politics, gender quotas, more women are finally getting the chance to make a change in politics. More than half of the countries in the world now use gender quotas to assist women in obtaining political positions. The three main categories of gender quotas are: reserved seat, electoral candidate, and political part quotas. Each of them intervene at a distinct point in the electoral process.  Reserved seat quotas have the potential to guarantee women’s representation by ensuring that female candidates will get a minimum number of parliamentary seats. Electoral candidate quotas are implemented by requiring that a certain percentage of candidates on electoral lists are women. Political party quotas reserve a certain percentage of the seats they win to women.

Although gender quotas are an effective way to guarantee women’s participation in politics, not all women have an equal advantage. In the United States, the majority of women political leaders are white. Black and Hispanic women are rarely encouraged to run for political office. In fact, these women are actively discouraged from running. Because minority women are victims of both racism and sexism, they have access to even fewer resources to run for office. This is also true for LGBTQ populations, who do not even have equal rights in every country. On a global scale, gender quotas are viewed negatively by many. Some people believe that female politicians elected through gender quotas will face hostility because they were elected based on gender, not qualifications. They claim that this backlash will make it difficult for female politicians to be given positions of leadership within parties, and might even make it difficult when it comes to passing legislation.

Putting gender quotas in place is only the start to ensuring the participation of women in politics. America, and virtually every other country, still has a long way to go. Social barriers are present in nearly every country, through the general view of women as inferiorand less qualified than men. Until women are seen as more than just homemakers, there will be a struggle with political representation. Political parties must embrace and protect female candidates, as well as local government and law enforcement. We must encourage the young women of our generation to pursue political careers and change history.

Ellie Waibel is currently a junior at East Carolina University, majoring in Social Work, and minoring in Ethnic Studies. After she graduates with her MSW, she hopes to work with foster children.


Child Marriage in Bangladesh: An Ongoing Issue

by Rubia Medina

            Imagine being a fifteen-year-old girl being forced to marry a thirty-two-year-old man because it is what is “best” for you. This is the reality many girls like Nasoin Akhter face on a daily basis in Bangladesh. During the wedding, brides are expected to be both shy and coy even if they have no desire to wed. Many of these girls have dreams of pursuing an education and a career in the future. However, these dreams are short-lived when they are pushed into marriage by a family member. Mothers are usually the ones that are pressuring daughters into marriage at a young age because it is the norm within the community. In order to avoid social scrutiny, girls will be married off before eighteen because no Bangladeshi boy would want a girl older than that.

The social pressures to marry young is one of the reasons why Bangladesh is ranked number four globally in regard to the practice of child marriage. According to Human Rights Watch, 29% percent of girls are married before the age of 15 and 65% of girls are married before the age of 18. Should the family to fail to find a husband for the daughter, either the mother or daughter are harassed until a wedding has happened. Where these young women live can play a role in their likelihood of getting married at a young age. According to Girls Not Brides, 71% of girls living in rural areas are being married off before the age of 18. These girls are often poor areas where their parents cannot afford to send them to school and probably cannot afford to take care of them. In a patriarchal society that is also impoverished, like rural Bangladesh, girls are viewed as a financial burden to the family and they are of no real use to their parents. When it comes down to it, parents would much rather pay to educate their sons. In the minds of the parents, their son will be the one to take care of them in their old. These views prevent girls from receiving education and inevitably prevent them from getting well-paying jobs. These daughters end up being married off at a young age to help ease financial burden and to protect their virginity. Child brides are stuck in a domestic sphere and their young age and naivety leaves them in less than desirable situations.

Once a girl has been married off, she is expected to have sex with her husband in order to give him children regardless of the fact that she may not be fully developed. There is a pressure to have children, especially boys, because they will be the ones to carry on their father’s family name. When forcing young girls to have children before they are fully matured, there can be some complications during the birth, such as the death of the child. Girls that end up giving birth at the age of 14 are five times more likely to lose their baby compared to a woman that gives birth at the age of 20. Babies that are being born to underaged mothers wind up being underweight and potentially die. If the baby makes it past infancy, there are other issues such as stunted growth and being underdeveloped. Outside of having children at such a young age, these young girls are also more susceptible to STDs and STIs. Since parents make the choice to pull their daughters out of school early or not educate them at all, their daughters end up becoming more susceptible to STDs and STIs. In schools, children usually end receiving some form of education about their reproductive health and how to prevent getting STIs or STDs.

In order to combat child marriage, UNICEF ( has been creating various programs in Bangladesh for both parents and children to be a part. In Shorishabari, Jamalpur, teenage boys and girls have the opportunity to socialize with one another twice a week. Allowing them to interact helps bring them together to combat issues like child marriage. Due to Bangladesh being a patriarchy, it is necessary to get the future generation to realize that child marriage is wrong regardless of tradition. On top of bringing boys and girls together, UNICEF also has a Conditional Cash Transfer program. This program targets families that are vulnerable to child marriage and will pay them 12,000 takas ($148) to send their daughters to school. The stipulation is that the daughters have to go to school, they cannot be married off, and the parents have to attend sessions that discuss the impact of child marriage. In order to ensure that families keep their word, there is regular monitoring and assessment of the child. Families will receive two additional payments as long as they follow the program’s guidelines. Educating girls is important because the cycle of poverty will end with them and they can live a better life than their parents did. According to UNICEF, girls that receive a secondary or higher education end up marrying almost five years later than what is considered the norm.

While ending child marriage does seem like an impossible task to accomplish, there are organizations like UNICEF that are dedicated to helping girls get their education and educating their parents on the consequences of child marriage. Battling an issue like child marriage should not stop at the legislative level; this is an issue that needs to also be addressed locally because this practice is so ingrained into the society that it is hard to simply stop. No child should be forced into a marriage they do not want.


Rubie Medina has an Associates in Arts and will be graduating in the summer from ECU with her Bachelor’s in Anthropology and English. During the summer, she will be attending a field school in Peru to explore the issues that the Andean people are facing today. After field school, she will be pursuing her Master’s degree in Public History from SNHU in the fall.




Everyone has a Right to an Equal Education Regardless of Sex!

Christy Vang

            Why is it important that Saudi women should have the right and access to education? According to religious and conservative views, women’s primary duties are being mothers, nurturers, and teachers. However, progressively, women’s duties are more than just that. They help society succeed by preparing future leaders and engaging in the economy and political aspects. Education also paves a way for women to reach equal footing as that of men to a certain extent. Recently, women have just had access to education but conservative views prevent progression from further advancements due to religious views.

Wahabism, the strict orthodox that Muhammad ben Adel Waha formed from the Quran due to the decline in social virtue. Wahabism dictated women’s rights and duties. For instance, coeducation or intermingling of the sexes is not permitted. This created an obstacle for women in education because they cannot be in the classrooms with that of men. Due to a lack of female professors, a solution that they have come up with is videoconferencing. All the female students along with female supervisors are in a separate room where there is a television set that broadcasts the male professor and his male students. In addition, there is a one-way telephone line communication between the male professor and the female students. Female students were only allowed to ask questions. There was no room for discussion nor interaction between both sexes. According to researchers, videoconferencing is not an effective form of education because of lack of participation and communication which inhibits collaborative learning.

Other issues posed by Wahabism that effected women’s access to education is a career in like teaching and nurturing is only allowed for women. Women are often discriminated for pursuing other fields of study like journalism, engineering, geography, and mathematics. A way

to battle this is universities like Riyadh’s King Saud University, established in 1989, allowed

women to pursue fields of study like biology, history, and computer science. Yet, even if women were teachers, their abilities and experiences are ignored. For example, even if a female professor is more experienced than a male, she is required to have the materials for a male professor to review before submission. In 2009, Mrs. Noura Al-Fayez, the first Saudi woman to be Vice-Minister of Education, directed female’s education. This reform allowed the understanding of female’s roles of authority in schools. Furthermore, this allows opportunities of improvements and changes to meet the educational needs of females.

Inequality is still often prevalent not only in education but in Saudi society. This is most likely due to the misinterpretations of the Quran and adoptions of customs dictated by Islamic traditions. The Quran asserts that humankind is made equal regardless if men or women. Furthermore, wives have the same rights as their husbands. However, women still lack any form of political and social power because they must rely on their male guardians to voice their opinions as well as grant them permission to perform anything. The idea of segregation between men and women is not a part of the Quran but an Islamic tradition. Because of the blending of these ideologies, Saudi Arabian culture is complex making progression difficult. For instance, education for both men and women are treated differently by placing them in differential tracking systems that puts them in only certain courses depending on their sex. This limits women’s educational properties because women are only taught women activities that only emphasizes their roles as nurturers, mothers, and housewives.

To further improve women’s educational rights and access, proper translations and interpretations of the Quran is necessary to create one of the reforms for progression. Another reform is having coeducation and intermingling of the sexes to create collaborative learners and allow women the opportunity to pursue other careers outside the public domain. Or, women and men should not have to be put into different tracking systems to determine what courses they can and cannot enroll in. Women should be allowed equal access to education so that future suitable leaders can be created. Without equal access to education for women, society will not be able to advance far without women’s contributions and the collaboration of both sexes.


Christy Vang is currently a senior double majoring in Psychology and Anthropology with a minor in Art at East Carolina University. After graduation in December 2018, she hopes to develop her skills and gain experience in aiding at-risk youth. Shortly after, she hopes to join the Peace Corps.

Lack of Access to Feminine Hygiene Products: A Global Issue for Women

                       Rosalinda Kowalczewski       

            Imagine that time of month coming around, but you do not have any hygiene products to use. Females across the world are shunned and stigmatized about a monthly visit that they cannot control. Imagine young girls budding into puberty who are afraid to go school due to embarrassment. The 250 million girls lacking access to safe menstrual products and the hygienic tools necessary to manage their periods are at risk of losing their futures. Not being able to afford these items should not hinder their ability to study or make a living. Most of us living in Western cultures can go out and easily buy needed products, but in other parts of the world, these products are simply not available or are priced to high to be affordable to any but the rich. This leads many girls to rely on dirty rags or old newspapers which is not sanitary.

In many countries around the world, sanitary items are seen as “luxury items” and not as necessities. For example, girls cannot easily obtain feminine products in the African country of Uganda. Paul Montgomery, a professor at Oxford University, decided to bring reusable pads and feminine education to Uganda to see which would cause a bigger impact in the area. The reusable pads were called AFRIpads. According to Crofts, these were made from polycotton blend fabric and impermeable materials, and because their manufacture does not rely on electricity, workshops could be located in rural settings. An Afripads menstrual kit is designed to last for a year. Montgomery took more than 1,100 girls from ages 10 to 13 in rural Uganda from eight different schools and divided them into groups. Over the next two years the attendance rate of these girls was followed. School attendance improved for the girls who had received pads or education or both while a drop in attendance was recorded for those who received neither. Montgomery concluded that that having access to feminine products does cause a positive change in girls’ lives. Accessible hygien products can be the difference between getting an education and being homebound.

A lack of access to menstrual products is also an issue for some women in the US, particularly the homelss and those in prison. Some shelters do not provide products due to cost or lack of donations. These homeless women, who lack resources, risk infection and health problems. Another American demographic of women with limited access is prisoners. Fettig, for example, reports that for too many incarcerated women, a basic human function has been turned into a monthly violation of basic human rights. In many prisons women are coded for being out of dress and this includes stains. Without products they bleed onto their clothes. When they get punished for these marks they may lose privileges to buy at the commissary, which is where they buy feminine products. This is unfair to many. These different situations are some of the ones menstruating women in America face. They lack the means to get the products they need and suffer from it.

It may seem like this problem is too complicated to solve, but there are some simple steps anyone can take to help. For example, L Menstrual Products,, founded by Talia Frenkel, a photojournalist who worked for the Red Cross and UN, donates a pack of pads to developing nations for every pack purchased by a customer. Their program has grown and spread into stores across the country; they have also included condoms. The organization Freedom4Girls ( provides products and education for girls in Kenya. Alternatively, PATH-Sanitary Pads ( is working to develop new, lower cost hygiene products made from local materials.

There are also feminine product outreaches in America that help the homeless. Fulfilling Destiny ( is an outreach in San Diego, California, that takes donations and volunteers to help the homeless in America. Another way to help girls in school in America is through Helping Women Period ( ). They are an organization who also takes donations to help girls in Michigan by providing pads at school.

While you may not be able to solve this problem, you can make a difference in a girl’s life by donating to these groups. Think about the difference it would make if each month you purchased a pack of pads so that another girls in some far off country could get one too.

Rosalinda Kowalczewski has an associates in Arts and attends East Carolina University achieving a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology with interest in Psychology. She hopes to explore the rest of the world in the future and the cultures it holds.


How One Girl and a Bicycle are Promoting Women’s Autonomy in Saudi Arabia

 Review of the film, Wadjda, by Haifaa al-Mansour

Lizz Grimsley

Ten-year old Saudi girl, Wadjda, is best friends with a boy, wears blue jeans and sneakers under her abaya, and longs for a bike. She is the subject of strikingly different kind of film about Saudi women, written and directed by Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker, Haifaa al-Mansour. This film illustrates the influential role of the media on social institutions and the ways that it can impact how people view the world and think about their cultures.

Saudi Arabia is known for a strict interpretation of Sharia law that oppresses women by denying them the same freedoms and rights as men. As a result, Saudi women have had difficulty breaking out of the restrictive walls built around them. However, Haifaa al-Mansour, shows how the media is capable of challenging oppressive gender roles. It follows the story of a young girl who is interested in purchasing a bicycle that she has seen at a store in her town. Though she is faced with criticism from her family and peers, it does not deter Wadjda from finding ways to save money to purchase the bike. We are also shown an interesting friendship dynamic between her and Abdullah, a young neighbor boy with whom she spends a great amount of time with throughout the movie. As the film progresses, she navigates though her relationships with authority figures in her attempt to understand the world around her. As a result, Wadjda is placed in many situations that alert her to the roles and behaviors traditional Saudi culture views as appropriate for women and girls.

Saudi women have been oppressed by legislation that has denied them the same freedoms and rights as men. This form of systematic oppression has also been responsible for the harsh gender roles and the general mistreatment of women. As a result, Saudi women have little autonomy over themselves or their family units. However, the tides appear to be turning. Windsor reports that In September of 2017, women in the kingdom were finally granted the right drive, and in March of 2018, women who have been divorced were given the right to retain custody of their children without needing to file a lawsuit. But these changes alone are not enough in the fight for equality.

To show audiences the true nature of oppression that exists in Saudi Arabia, al-Mansour uses symbolism throughout the film. One example of this, according to al-Mansour herself, is the bicycle: it is an object that is meant to represent freedom. It is the freedom of adulthood and the freedom of women as separate beings from their male guardians. Thus, Wadjda’s attempts to purchase the bicycle are attempts to gain freedom and control within her own life. By creating an ending where Wadjda owns the bicycle, al-Mansour leaves the audience with a message of hope that things can change for women in Saudi Arabia. Though this is only one interpretation of the film, it has seemed to have a positive impact on the Saudi people. Nikki Baughan quoted al-Mansour in her article, The Reel World, saying “I have a lot of positive feedback from young Saudi women; it means so much to me when they say how much they loved and related to the film.”

As a Saudi woman, al-Mansour had the best knowledge on how to approach the issue of promoting women’s rights. She stated in an interview with Nikki Baughan, “If you try to be confrontational or scream at them about how stupid you think they are, you aren’t going to get through to them. You have to be respectful of the world they come from and present your ideas through that prism.” She said that she wanted her film to reach the average Saudi person, and she knew that she would have to organize her methods in a way that would not deter them. Al-Mansour emphasizes the importance of approaching this social issue with caution instead of as an outsider. Her identity was beneficial in that it allowed Saudi people to trust her and the message she was trying to portray in her film.

Thankfully, her hard work has paid off. Saudi women flocked to watch the film upon its release in 2012 by traveling outside the country. Al-Mansour’s sisters thought the film was “authentic” in the way it depicted the average life in Saudi Arabia. If the goal of the film was to change the perceptions of women and break away from traditional views of women, then Wadjda did just that. As the world inevitably progresses, so do countries like Saudi Arabia. Through social media and educational programs that send their citizens abroad, Saudi people have the opportunity to witness other cultures on a global scale. These interactions will inevitably cause ripples that will disrupt the traditional views imbedded in Saudi cultural practices. Women are being represented in government, legislation is changing, women are being represented in films that point out the flaws of their society. Change may come slowly and with resistance, but with people like al-Mansour advocating for women and girls, their voices are being given a platform that they have never had before.


Lizz Grimsley is a senior at ECU majoring in Sociology and minoring in Anthropology. She plans on graduating in May and has hopes to join the Peace Corps shortly afterwards. She is particularly interested in social issues and understanding how different media sources influence social norms and beliefs surrounding marginalized groups of people.

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