By ELEANOR HEDGES DUROY, age 10

Girls learning in their classroom in Afghanistan. PHOTO: Asian Development Bank
Girls learning in their classroom in Afghanistan. PHOTO: Asian Development Bank

Women around the world have made huge gains in terms of equality, but women still face many struggles every day. Women and girls in countries around the world are victims of crimes such as trafficking, rape, domestic violence and discrimination. There are also women around the world who do not get the opportunity to have the lives they want or to pursue their dreams and career goals because they are not treated equally by their society and their governments. This is just as much of a problem in North America and Europe as it is in Asia and Africa. Women and men are working hard to make women’s rights a priority in many different countries.  Here are few examples of current events that are happening in women’s rights.

Women and Girls in Science and Math

14-year-old Areej El Madhoun of Gaza won the Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic Competition in Malaysia in January of 2013. PHOTO: Unknown
14-year-old Areej El Madhoun of Gaza won the Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic Competition in Malaysia in January of 2013. PHOTO: Unknown

North Africa and the Middle East

Did you know that there is a Women in Science Hall of Fame?  It was created by the United States Department of State in 2010. It honors women from North Africa and the Middle East who have made important scientific discoveries or contributions to science. The women who are chosen to be in the Science Hall of Fame have become role models for girls and show them that they can choose science as a career. Dr. Boshra Salem is the most recent women to be chosen for the Hall of Fame. She studies arid lands in Egypt and has worked on resource conservation projects.

Gaza and Palestine

Recently, a 14-year-old girl from Gaza, Areej El Madhoun, won the international Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic Competition in Malaysia. She competed against 2,500 children from 10 countries. Areej is a refugee from the war in Gaza and she lives in the Jabalia refugee camp.

Women and Girls in Politics

Fawzia Koofi, a prominent Afghani politician and author who is working to become Afghanistan's first woman president. PHOTO: U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan
Fawzia Koofi, a prominent Afghani politician and author who is working to become Afghanistan’s first woman president. PHOTO: U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Fawzia Koofi wants to be the first female president of Afghanistan, and she is campaigning hard to reach her goal. Although she has many supporters, her dream to run for president is a very dangerous one. She knew when she first entered politics that her life might be in danger. There are people who have threatened to kill her. Her mother, father, two of her brothers and her husband have all died during the years of war in Afghanistan. She has two daughters who both believe in their mother but are afraid that she may be killed by people who oppose her. Fawzia Koofi wants to make a difference for her country. She has written a book about her life, and she hopes that people read it and that they support her goals to make Afghanistan a good place for her daughters to grow up in the future.

South Korea

There is a brand new president in South Korea. Park Geun-hye became the first female president of South Korea on February 25, 2013. Fifty-two percent of voters in the country voted for Park Geun-hye. Geun-hye is the daughter of a past South Koren president, and some people have criticized her for not paying attention to human rights and for not planning to follow through on her campaign promises. She wants to help South Korea and North Korea work better together in the future.

Women and Girls Working to Help Others

Girls on a school field trip in New Delhi, India. PHOTO: International Food Policy Research Institute
Girls on a school field trip in New Delhi, India. PHOTO: International Food Policy Research Institute

Children’s Peace Prize Nominees from Ghana and India

The Children’s Peace Prize is a prize that is given to children who work to help other children in their communities. In 2012 there were two girls nominated for this prize. Amina is from Ghana and she is 16 years old. She helped organize the “Achiever’s Book Club,” which works to make sure that girls receive a good education and that they are not taken out of school to work. Amina talks to government officials and tries to convince them to make changes to protect girls’ rights.
Another nominee was 15-year-old Anwara from India. Anwara has helped prevent trafficking of girls in her community. Trafficking involves exploiting people by transporting, selling and treating  them as if they were objects. Anwara has met with government officials to help prevent early marriages of girls and to make sure that girls are able to stay in or return to school.
A boy named Kesz won the 2012 prize, but it is important that two of the nominees were girls. Perhaps a girl will be the winner of the Children’s Peace Prize next year.

Afghanistan Women’s Writing Project

A woman named Masha Hamilton started a writing project for women in Afghanistan so women could tell the stories of their lives to people all over the world. She hopes that women in Afghanistan will become stronger and more self confident as they write, and that people in the rest of the world will read their writing and understand what it is like to be a woman living there. The women have posted poems, stories and other writing here:  http://awwproject.org

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Girls reading in their schoolyard in Laos. PHOTO: London Public Library
Girls reading in their schoolyard in Laos. PHOTO: London Public Library

On January 30, 2013, US President Barack Obama signed a presidential directive which says that gender equality for women and girls around the world is a priority for his administration and the country. Even though he made this declaration, the United States remains the only democracy that has not signed the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). CEDAW was adopted by the UN in December 1979. To ratify the CEDAW a country must say that it will work to give civil rights and legal status to women, which means that women have the right to be active in politics, to attend school, to work at the job they choose, to have the right to choose who they marry and to have other personal rights. A country that ratifies CEDAW must also make sure that women have the right to have safe pregnancies and maternity leave, to choose when they want to be pregnant, and to raise all their children, both sons and daughters. Finally, countries who sign CEDAW must commit to working to change the ideas about the role of women in their society, and to teaching that women and men have the same rights to work in the home or outside of it and share the responsibility of taking care of children and working in the house. About 100 countries have already ratified CEDAW. It is good news that US President Barack Obama has signed a directive, but ratifying CEDAW could make a bigger difference for women inside and outside the United States.