What women want

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In Recognition of international women’s day: 8 March

The Al Jazeera Magazine asks women across the world what one thing would improve their lives.

Feminism – it has its celebrity champions, media missionaries and vitriolic detractors. But have the voices of those who most need representation been lost in the discourse, and is the movement at risk of losing touch with the issues that define the lives of the majority of the world’s women?

In the March issue of the Al Jazeera Magazine, we ask women across the world what one thing would improve their lives and the lives of those around them. When combined, their answers create a feminist manifesto of sorts; their stories a reminder of the work still to be done.

They come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, subscribe to different religious and political creeds and represent a range of racial and sexual identities. Some define as feminists; others shun the label. But whether they want an end to FGM or the right to dress as they please, more women in boardrooms or more in the temple, this is what empowerment looks and feels like to them.

(Here are some of their stories. Download the Al Jazeera Magazine for more.)

In this issue:

 Juliana and me   

“Juliana was thought to be 16 or 17 on the day she was held down while an old woman who was legally blind cut at her genitals with a razor blade – although her family couldn’t say for sure, because in this remote part of Kenya, no record was ever made of her birth.”

Photojournalist Mariella Furrer tells the story of Juliana, a Samburu girl doctors later said was probably no older than 12, whose most extreme form of FGM she witnessed.

The surgeons of Mogadishu

“Half way down the dimly lit main hallway of Mogadishu’s Banadir Hospital, a sign indicates the entrance to the delivery ward. It reads: ‘Women are not dying of diseases we can’t treat. They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.’

Journalist Michael Onyiego and photojournalist Adriane Ohanesian go inside the delivery rooms and operating theatres of a Mogadishu hospital to meet the Somali women surgeons fighting to save the lives of their countrywomen.

A home for Sofia

“The 23rd of January slum is home to Carla and her daughter, as it was to Carla’s mother and grandmother before her …. Carla says her daughter is no longer scared of the men with guns. Even the rabbit-sized rat that crosses their path doesn’t seem to bother her. But Carla hasn’t given up dreaming of a better future. ‘I just hope the that the fourth generation of my family doesn’t grow up in the slum,’ she concludes with tears in her eyes.”

Journalist Alicia Hernandez and photojournalist Santi Donaire meet a single mother struggling to build a better future for her daughter far away from the slums of Caracas. 

 

‘My body is a dictatorship’

“My meeting with Mildred Apenyo began with me asking her to describe what a typical Kampala street feels like for a woman. ‘It is a sexual space,’ is her immediate response. ‘Every time a woman walks out of her house she can expect to receive at least five unwanted interactions …. Perhaps you might have had a bad day at work, maybe your mum has died – and then somebody adds that indignity to you.’

Photojournalist Edward Echwalu meets the Ugandan woman encouraging others to reclaim control of their bodies as rates of street harassment rise.

 

A right to exist

” ‘I’ll tell you the story of how we left Syria,’ Dina begins. ‘We got to the last Syrian checkpoint before the border point. ‘Where are you going?’ they asked me. ‘To Lebanon? You can’t go. [The border guard] forced my kids out of the car and pointed his gun at them. He cocked the gun and pointed it at my kids.’ Her voice breaks and tears roll down her cheeks, but Dina continues. ‘The driver tried to calm him down. The border guard said, ‘No, I’ll gun you down and every single one of these kids.’ We got back in the car. I looked at whatever money I had and gave it to him, begging, kissing his hands.'”

Journalist Maya Gebeily and photojournalist Felipe Jacome meet the Syrian mothers fighting to secure a legal identity for their children born in the midst of war. 

Mother Justice

“We ran into a group of military officers near Rwanda. They asked us if we preferred rape or death. I was totally paralysed. It was as if I was outside of my body, as though it were happening to someone else. We told them to do what they wanted. They chose rape.”

Journalist Raquel Villaecija meets the Congolese lawyer waging a war on rape during conflict.

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