The images are stunning: portraits of Afghan refugees, most of them women, who escaped violence in their native country, went on terrifying journeys across sea and land, and now endure long waits in Greece for their asylum applications. The photographer, Zahra Mojahed, is herself an Afghan asylum-seeker, one of dozens who have learned photography and filmmaking skills through a program led by ReFOCUS Media Labs.
Mojahed’s photography is featured in an inspiring National Geographic story by 2020 Reporting Fellow Lawrence Andrea from the University of Wisconsin. He writes that students in the program are now “using cameras to speak out about problems in their home countries, tell the stories of other refugees, and empower women who’ve escaped oppression.”
Two other stories just published this week highlight the stark challenges women face across the globe—and what they are doing to assert their rights.
2018 Reporting Fellow Arianne Henry, writing for Global Health Now, notes that the assaults on women in the breakaway Tigray region of Ethiopia that drew international condemnation were part of a much wider pattern of abuse, making Ethiopia one of the worst countries in the world in the rates of violence against women. Henry also details the important work empowering women by groups like Setaweet (“of women,” in the Amharic language) and Alegnta (“being there for you”).
Grantee Safina Nabi, writing for the Indian digital news site Scroll.in, describes the plight of Muslim “half-widows” in Kashmir. Their husbands disappeared during the armed movement for secession that began several decades ago. The women have been in legal limbo ever since, unable to establish that their husbands are legally dead. They are also subject to discriminatory interpretation of Islamic inheritance laws. “But if the government has let them down, Kashmir’s patriarchal society has not been kind to the women either,” Nabi writes. “The cruelest blow has often been dealt by their own families, who have cheated them of a rightful share in the family property.”
Ending such cruelty begins with acknowledging it is happening and making sure that the women victimized by it are empowered to call it out. These stories from across the globe remind us how pervasive these abuses are—and what women are doing to claim their rights.
Grantee Karen Naundorf will participate in a panel discussion this summer at the Globe21 Festival following the premiere of Mara Avila’s film Femicide. One Case, Several Struggles. Naundorf reported extensively on femicide in Argentina, from its impact on families to the gaps in the legal system to address it. Other panelists will include Avila and lawyer Alejandra Castillo. The theme of this year’s festival is cross-border solidarity and collaboration.
This message first appeared in the January 28, 2022, edition of the Pulitzer Center's weekly newsletter. Subscribe today.