Welcome to “Women Around the World: This Week,” a series that highlights noteworthy news related to women and U.S. foreign policy. This week’s post, from November 13 to November 20, was compiled by Anne Connell and Katherine Hall.
Women and violent extremism
In the aftermath of the attacks in Paris carried out by the self-proclaimed Islamic State group, understanding women’s role in extremism---including the association between the oppression of women, instability, and terrorism---is increasingly timely and important. A complex web of factors continues to draw some women from varied backgrounds to join the ranks of the Islamic State. Yesterday, a young woman died when she set off an explosive vest as French police raided an apartment building in search of militants associated with the Paris attacks. Elsewhere this week, new Islamic State brutalities against women were discovered. Kurdish forces uncovered a mass grave of over 70 Yazidi women in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, which was ruled by the Islamic State for over a year until extremists were driven out by Kurdish troops earlier in November. The discovery marks the latest atrocity in a long line of documented rapes, forced marriages, and deaths of Yazidi women and girls in Islamic State stronghold territories. Over the past year, Islamic State forces have kidnapped upwards of seven thousand young Yazidi women in part of a campaign against the ethnic minority that United Nations investigators state may amount to acts of genocide.
Family law reform in Tunisia
Tunisia’s parliament took another step towards gender equality this week by adopting a law that allows women to travel with their minor children without authorization from the children’s father. The World Bank finds that reforms to family law---which governs divorce, inheritance, child custody, and, in some cases, proper identification documents–-are correlated with more girls attending secondary school, more women running businesses, and a closing of the gender wage gap. The recent changes in Tunisia and neighboring Morocco have demonstrated that progressive family law is achievable in Muslim-majority countries and can coexist with Islamic courts. Since the 2011 adoption of a new constitution post-Arab Spring, Tunisia has also set a regional example for women’s inclusion in national politics: quotas for candidate lists in national elections have resulted in a steady rise of women in parliament, and Tunisia became the first country in the region to lift all restrictions on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2014.
New risk report highlights role of women in food security
The WorldRiskReport 2015, a comparative evaluation of global food security and disaster risk in 171 countries, was released this week. It cited hotspot regions of risk in Oceania, Southeast Asia, Central America, and the Southern Sahel—where the majority of the so-called V20 (most vulnerable) countries lie—and noted that women and children in these areas are especially vulnerable. However, the report also stressed the positive role that women can play in building food security in their communities. This adds to the wealth of existing research on investment in women and girls in agriculture.