CULTURAL PRISONS AROUND THE WORLD

"There is a holocaust happening around the world to
women--you cannot say any longer you don't know."

Oprah

* In Jordan, Morocco and Syria, women who commit
adultery can legally be killed by their husbands.

* In Ethiopia, Lebanon and Uruguay, there are laws
that will protect a rapist from prosecution,
but only if he decides to marry his victim.

* India, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Serbia
still have laws allowing marital rape.

* Women in Kuwait can't vote.

* A wife in Israel can't seek a divorce without
her husband's permission.

* In Pakistan, three out of four women in jail
are there because they were raped. Unless a
woman can produce four male witnesses who saw the
actual act of penetration--her rapist goes free.

* In Bangladesh, authorities estimate three to five
women each are assaulted in what they call acid attacks.

* In the poorest parts of India, girls--some as
young as ten--are sold into prostitution, sometimes
by their own families.

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TERRIFYING ATTACKS

Acid attacks are becoming more common in countries like Bangladesh and India. If a man feels snubbed in any way by a woman or young girl, he seeks revenge by throwing acid on her face and body. The acid melts through flesh and bone, leaving the victim disfigured.

Ten year-old Nurjahan was sleeping peacefully when she became the victim of a brutal acid attack that destroyed her face. She remembers waking up to a terrible burning sensation, and thinking that she was going to die. The acid was meant for her 13 year old cousin, who had rejected the marriage proposal of a 45 year old man.

Half a world away from her own family, Nurjahan lives with a host family in the U.S. while she udergoes a series of surgeries to restore her face. When she returns home, Nurjahan faces an uncertain economic future. In her country, if a woman cannot be married she could starve. Nurjahan is not the only girl in her village who has suffered such an attack, and she says this knowledge is what has given her courage. Still, she hopes that a change will come so that this terrible act does not happen to anyone else.

The Truth Behind the Attacks

Zainab Saldi, activist and founder of Women for Women International, says the intention of the acid attacks is to disfigure the woman's looks, so that no other man will want her.

The woman's family may suffer as well, because an unmarried daughter is an economic burden.

At its heart, the attack is an assault on the woman's father, damaging his "property". The suitor makes the marriage proposal to the father, but takes revenge for a rejection on the innocent girl.

For information on becoming a host family to victims of acid attacks and other crimes, contact
Healing the Children-Florida

CELEBRATING SISTERHOOD AROUND THE WORLD

More about Zainab Salbi

Inspired to Action

"In 1993, my husband and I went to Croatia to see how we could help women survivors of the war there and in Bosnia. We felt very helpless and wanted to do something. It just changed my life, and I decided to dedicate my life to helping women survivors of wars and all kinds of atrocities."

Women for Women

"I started Women for Women International. We match women with women refugees or with women who have survived all kinds of atrocities in their own countries. Each sponsor sends her matched sister $25 a month, along with a letter to start communication links between the two women. The letters are absolutely amazing. We have many women who said they are looking more for the letters even than the money".

Letter from a U.S. Sponsor

'Even though you can't see it, my garden will be yours as well. I'm sending you a flower petal,, a symbol of the garden, and of spring. I noticed that some pansies, which I though would not come back this year, were growing and blooming profusely. I was very impressed with their survival. I guess people are like that too'.

Letter to Zainab

'I thank you very much for loving me before you even know me. I also love you very much. God bless you for sacrificing yourself for me."

Why get Involved?

"I've seen so many women coming to me the first time totally devastated, but over the years I've seen them rebuild their lives. People should be involved to make a difference in someone's life-anybody's life. If we each do something about something wrong in our world, the world eventually will become a better world. We each have individual responsibility to make that difference."

Gratitude

"This had such an emotional effect on me. I go and see these women, and you just can't believe that someone can survive certain things in their lives. I come back and I say, "Who am I to say that I can't help them. What is stopping me?" I'm very passionate about it because they are my inspiration. They keep me going every single day. I've seen so many people who had the life I have now, and it was all taken away for them. I'm so grateful for everything I have for the simple things you take for granted every single day."

For more information about Women for Women International or call 1-800-839-5680.

A SCAR THAT DOESN'T HEAL

Africa is a continent with rich cultural tradion but one ancient ritual has wounded an estimated 130 million girls. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), or female circumcision, evolved out of the belief that a woman's sexuality should be controlled. The procedure involves cutting off the clitoris and sometimes sewint the opening of the vagina shut. Often performed with unsterilized razors and no anesthesia, FGM is excruciatingly painful. Not only do women experience intense bleeding, dangerous infections, and possibly infertility--they also carry emotional scars that may never heal.

Saving her Daughter

"Mary" is from West Africa. When she was 12 years old, five men held her down and cut her genitals with a dull, dirty razor blade. The pain, says she says, was so intense that she couldn't eat, drink, or speak; even to this day, it's painful for Mary to urinate. When her village threated to cut her daughter, Mary sought and received asylum in the United States.

Escaping to Freedom

Fauziya Kassindja had a happy childhood growing up in Togo, a country in West Africa, but her father's sudden death left her in the hands of traditional-minded relatives. They arranged for 17 year old Fauziya to marry a man 30 years her senior and to undergo FGM. Only hours away from being cut, Fauziya escaped and left the country. After waiting 16 months for asylum, she finally became free. Find out more about Fauziya's journey in her book, "Do They Hear You When You Cry?"

. DO THEY HEAR YOU WHEN YOU CRY

by Fauziya Kassindja

A true story of persection, friendship, and ultimate triumph, Do they Hear You When You Cry chronicles the struggles of two extraordinary women: Fauziya Kassindja, who fled her African homeland to escape female genital mutilation only to be locked up in American prisons for sixteen months; and Layli Miller Bashir, a driven young law student who fought for Fauziya's freedom. Here, for the first time, is Fauziya's dramatic personal story, told in her own words, vividly detailing her life as a young woman in Togo and her nightmarish day-to-day existence in U.S. prisons. It is a story of faith and freedom, courage and inspiration.

Women's Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanastan
International Women Rights Action Watch
Women Law & Development International
United Nations Development Funds for Women
International Women's Health Coalition
Zonta International Strategies to Eradicate Violence Against Women and Children
Feminist.com