Mother Pelican
A Journal of Sustainable Human Development

Vol. 7, No. 6, June 2011
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
Home Page


Status of Gender Equality in Society


This supplement is a digest of recent events and significant contributions to fostering gender equality - and human development - in various secular cultures and institutions. With so much going on, the selected items are the editor's choice. The following sections are included in this page:

1. Global Summit of Women 2011 - Istanbul, Turkey
2. Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media
3. Advancing Toward the Equality of Women and Men
4. Women as Key Players in Climate Adaptation
5. Girls Speak: A New Voice in Global Development
6. Gender, Humiliation, and Global Security
7. Tracking a Protocol on Gender and Development
8. The Custom of Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan
9. Yoani Sánchez and the "Generation Y" Blog

The promotion of gender equality in society is a slow and painful process, and it is barely beginning to unfold worldwide. But it is a dynamic process, one in which progress begets progress. It is important to stay tuned to relevant news coming from all world regions and all world cultures. The Google News box displayed to the right may be helpful. Readers can enhance their web sites with their own version of this box - which is continuously refreshed as significant events are reported - by going to Google News, clicking on "Add a section," and follow simple instructions under "Create a custom section." This is a free service, but you must register in order to use the customization tool.

If you know about recent developments that should be mentioned in this page, please write to the Editor.

1. Global Summit of Women 2011 - Istanbul, Turkey

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (center) at the award presentation and closing ceremony of the 2011 Global Summit of Women.

Visit the
2011 Global Summit on Women
web site
UN chief urges men to champion
the cause for gender equality

UN News Centre, 7 May 2011
Reprinted with Permission

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today challenged men to champion the cause for the empowerment of women, saying they remained "second-class citizens", often subjected to violence in many societies, despite the important gains made in improving their participation in social, economic and political affairs.

"I believe that unless you change mentality and behaviour of men, it will be very difficult to change this situation," said Mr. Ban in an address to the Global Summit of Women in Istanbul, Turkey, where he was honoured with the Women's Leadership Award in recognition of his efforts to promote gender equality. He noted that he was the first man to receive the award in its 21-year history.

"So, beginning from me as the first man to receive this, I sincerely hope that there will be many more men who will receive this award," said the Secretary-General, recalling that he had in 2009 launched the Network of Men Leaders to combat the scourge of gender-based violence.

The Network brings together current and former politicians, activists, religious and community figures – including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho – to combat the global pandemic.

He said the UN has, during his tenure as Secretary-General, focused on health care, especially through a global strategy for women's and children's health to save at least 16 million lives by 2015, recognizing that access to health care remains inadequate or unavailable even though it is critical for building stable, peaceful and productive societies.

On the empowerment of women within the UN system, Mr. Ban told the summit that the number of women in senior management positions had risen by 40 per cent over the past four years.

"I am working hard to break down barriers for the advancement of women by tearing down this glass ceiling at the United Nations," he said.

On the latest developments in North Africa and the Middle East, the Secretary-General told the summit that he has been urging leaders there to listen to the voices of women and the youth when they engage in dialogue with those calling for political reform.

"I never failed to mention women in the Arab world because I know that women in the Arab World must be emancipated, and they must be given equal rights. Women who have fought for gender equality know that the battle does not end there. The battle does not end until there is no discrimination, against any human being, on any grounds. The battle does not end until all people can enjoy a life of dignity," said Mr. Ban.

"I am counting on you, women leaders from around the world and from all walks of life, to work with me to realize this goal. I am asking world leaders, and I am asking business leaders, and I am asking women leaders to work together to achieve that goal where everybody, men and women, without any fear of violence, without any fear of discrimination can work in harmony and in dignity as human beings," he added.

Women’s participation crucial for democracies, UN officials stress

2. Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media

Gender and Media Diversity Center
Johannesburg, South Africa
Status of Women in the News Media

International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF)
Gender Links, 5 May 2011
Reprinted with Permission

IWMF launches the global glass ceiling report

A groundbreaking report on media houses in more than 500 countries has found that almost three quarters of top media jobs are held by men.

The Global Report on the Status Women in the News Media, produced by the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) looked at newsrooms in 60 countries, finding that men occupy the vast majority of media jobs internationally.
The IWMF commissioned the study to closely examine gender equity in the news media around the world. The full report was unveiled at the International Women Media Leader's Conference in Washington DC. A powerful gathering of nearly 75 women media executives from around the world analysed the report and voted on a plan of action to "level the playing field" for women in newsrooms in their home countries at the 25 March conference. The conference was hosted by the IWMF and George Washington University's Global Media Institute.

In this long-awaited extensive study, researchers found that 73% of the top management jobs are occupied by men. Among the ranks of reporters, men hold nearly two-thirds of the jobs, compared to 36% held by women. However, among senior professionals, women are nearing parity with 41% of news-gathering, editing and writing jobs. The new global study shows women in 26% of the governing and 27% of top management jobs.

"It is crucial to have top management involved in decisions on these policies (to improve the status of women in newsrooms)," said Kjersti Sortland, managing editor of Norway's Verdens Gang, which was named one of the model companies of its region in the global study. "We agreed on having 50/50 gender equality and a strict policy on how to get there," including evaluating managers on this."

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) General Manager and Editor-in-Chief Jennifer McGuire recalled how an early producer of CBC's As It Happens (Karen Levine) decided the show "sounded too male....She started tracking voices on air" and shaped policies to change that. "Good intentions are not enough," said McGuire. The CBC was named a model company for working women by researchers in the global study.

"For the first time we have scientifically collected evidence that offers a true picture of the very real challenges faced by women working in the media industry," International Women's Media Foundation Executive Director Liza Gross said. "Women in every region of the world still face many barriers - whether it is lower salaries than their male counterparts or lack of access to decision making jobs in the newsroom."

The IWMF study covering 170 000 people in the global news media found a higher representation of women in both governance and top management within both Eastern Europe (33% and 43%, respectively) and Nordic Europe (36% and 37%, respectively), compared to other regions. In the Asia and Oceania region, women are barely 13% of those in senior management, but in some individual nations women exceed men at that level -- in South Africa women are 79.5% of those in senior management. In Lithuania women dominate the reporting ranks of junior and senior professional levels (78.5% and 70.6%, respectively), and their representation is nearing parity in the middle and top management ranks.

The global study identified glass ceilings for women in 20 of 59 nations studied. Most commonly these invisible barriers were found in middle and senior management levels. Slightly more than half of the companies surveyed have an established company-wide policy on gender equity. These ranged from 16% of companies surveyed in Eastern Europe to 69% in Western Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.

3. Advancing Toward the Equality of Women and Men

Advancing Toward the Equality of Women and Men

Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity (ISGP)
8 December 2009

To dowload the report, click here

Establishing the equality of women and men in society is a matter of vital importance to human advancement and one which has occupied the minds and driven the efforts of many people. Undoubtedly great advances have been made over the years in promoting this principle through the contributions of feminist thought and numerous individuals and groups acting in different
Visit the Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity (ISGP)
social spaces around the world. Yet, despite these efforts to accord women full equality with men, numerous challenges still exist.

In this document the Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity draws attention to a few of these challenges and examines them in the light of certain principles and aims that can potentially shape our responses to them. The thoughts offered here are a result of the endeavors of the Bahá’í community, since its inception, to put into practice the principle of the equality of women and men in its activities worldwide and the Institute’s decade-long efforts to generate learning and gain insights about issues of global concern in collaboration with others.

The purpose of this working document is to invite dialogue and reflection on the challenges that face everyone who is actively contributing to the cause of the equality of women and men, as a means of advancing collective efforts toward the realization of this goal. The ideas conveyed here presume that the equality of men and women is a fundamental truth about human reality and not just a desired condition to be achieved for the good of society. The reality of the human being is his or her soul; and the soul, we firmly believe, has no sex. Men and women exhibit physical differences that undeniably influence some aspects of how they experience the world. Yet, in their essence, in their qualities and potentialities, in those aspects that make human beings human, men and women are without distinction. Neither can claim superiority over the other. "Women and men have been and will always be equal in the sight of God" (Bahá’u’lláh). It is therefore imperative that the equality that already exists as a spiritual truth be expressed ...

To keep reading .... click here.        

The following is one of the many treasures the reader can find in the teachings of the Bahá’í tradition:

Two Wings of a Bird: The Equality of Women and Men

4. Women as Key Players in Climate Adaptation

Women as Key Players in Climate Adaptation
JotoAfrika, Eldis, Issue 6, March 2011
Published under a Creative Commons License

Global debates identify the need to mainstream gender into climate change analysis, in relation to risk analysis, perceptions of vulnerability, experiences and coping mechanisms. The justification for this is that gender often dictates who gains and who loses in environmental disasters.

A London School of Economics study of disasters in 141 countries shows that gender differences in deaths from natural disasters are directly linked to women's economic and social rights. Where women lack basic rights, more will die from natural disasters than men; where they enjoy equal rights, the death rate is the same. Further statistics reveal the real issues around gender and climate change adaptation. Women provide up to 90 percent of rural poor people's food and produce 60-80 percent of the food in most developing countries.

But women are insufficiently represented in decisionmaking processes on climate change, for example community adaptation and mitigation strategies. Women must be included, because they can contribute different perspectives and experiences. Continue reading ...


ENERGIA: International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy
Published under a Creative Commons License

ENERGIA's goal is to contribute to the empowerment of women - both rural and urban - through a specific focus on energy.

ENERGIA is the international network on gender and sustainable energy, founded in 1995. We work in Africa and Asia through and with our regional and national gender and energy networks. We work from the contention that projects, programmes and policies that explicitly address gender and energy issues will result in better outcomes, in terms of the sustainability of energy services as well as the human development opportunities available to women and men.

Founded in 1995 by a group of committed women who provided energy inputs to the Beijing Conference on Women, ENERGIA was to act against the inadequate recognition of gender issues as a legitimate area of concern in energy policy and practice at that time. ENERGIA works from the contention that projects, programs and policies that explicitly address gender and energy issues will result in better outcomes, in terms of the sustainability of energy services as well as the human development opportunities available to women and men.

Growing strong as a network

The network has grown into a strong, dynamic, and active body, and has become the institutional base from which actions were taken to integrate gender issues into energy access policies and projects. There now are 22 national gender and energy networks, coordinated by National Focal Points, of which are 13 in Africa and 9 in Asia. These two regional networks are led by Regional Network Coordinators, with support and backstopping from the International Secretariat, which is hosted by ETC Foundation in the Netherlands and which is responsible for overall management and coordination of activities of the network.

Expanding scope of work

These activities have expanded over time. During the initial years, ENERGIA News, a magazine on gender and energy issues, was the main product and 'backbone' of the network. Later, the network has earned a clear visibility and standing at the international level, through participation and active contributions to international policy events, advice on gender and energy issues to international institutions, and substantive research on the subject. ENERGIA was successful in putting gender and energy issues on the agendas of multilateral and bilateral development agencies in the energy sector. ENERGIA has grown in influence through its international policy influencing and advocacy activities, and its knowledge centre on gender and energy.

Change in direction of activities

Over time, ENERGIA has been faced with demands for technical advice on how to integrate gender concerns into energy projects and into national policies. As the available generic gender tools did not appear to be appropriate for the energy sector, ENERGIA developed unique training modules and tools to promote gender mainstreaming in the energy sector. In more recent years, it is increasingly being realized that greater attention to the needs and concerns of women in energy policies and programmes could help governments promote overall development goals of poverty alleviation, employment, health, education and women's empowerment. One of the principal barriers for ENERGIA has been the lack of gender and energy expertise at all levels, capable of providing assistance on gender integration and mainstreaming into policies and projects.

This has led to a change in direction of ENERGIA's activities since 2007. Where until then the majority of activities were directed at the international level, now the majority of activities take place within member countries. This change was led by a strong voice of ENERGIA's membership, who successfully called for more impact within their countries. The four main strategies along which ENERGIA is currently working are:

1. Capacity building
2. Gender mainstreaming in energy projects/markets
3. Policy influencing
4. Networking

With these strategies, ENERGIA made another shift: that from mainly showing why gender mainstreaming is crucial, to mainly demonstrating and building capacities of how to mainstream gender into energy projects and policies.

ENERGIA's unique approach is to combine capacity building of network members in Africa and Asia with applying the acquired skills and knowledge in policies and projects.

See also the Dimitra Project: Gender, Rural Women, and Development

5. Girls Speak: A New Voice in Global Development

Girls Speak: A New Voice in Global Development

Margaret E. Greene, Laura Cardinal, and Eve Goldstein-Siegel
International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)
Washington D.C., 2010

Photo courtesy of the
Coalition for Adolescent Girls
The Girls Count Agenda for Action is an initiative of the Coalition for Adolescent Girls. It does more than uncover adolescent girl-specific data. It is also shaping an ambitious, far-reaching but practical agenda for global action.

The agenda's goal? Unleash the power of the 600 million girls in the developing world to change their lives, their communities and nations. For those who shape policy, design programs and allocate resources, the agenda highlights concrete steps they take in their arenas of influence, today.

It starts with 10 Actions that apply across all sectors, then goes deep into critical areas for girls, like health and education. As we understand more about girls' lives, opportunities and barriers, the agenda will likewise grow and change. Its latest update can always be found at the Coalition for Adolescent Girls web site.


1. Listen to girls and learn about their aspirations, and engage them in decision-making processes

Shift the paradigm from working for adolescent girls to working with them as partners. Listen to the girls' unique insights into their lives and work alongside them to achieve their goals. Cultivate girls' voices and engage them in developing, executing and evaluating programs and services.

2. Engage families, teachers and traditional leaders as girl champions

Build a network of community-based local girl champions that prepare the terrain for long-term, sustainable change. Create an enabling environment that facilitates girls' socioeconomic development, participation and self-expression.

3. Provide safe and inclusive community spaces where girls can develop and raise their voices

Designate safe space areas and times when girls can meet, talk, play and learn, away from community and family pressure. Educate local officials and institutions about girls' rights and hold them accountable for when girls are excluded from public spaces—from sports fields to community centers to police stations.

4. Give girls public platforms to amplify their voices

Include girls' voices at institutions, in media, at events and in campaigns. Provide girls with a platform to voice their opinions, and work with them to strengthen and amplify their voices.

5. Change social norms that stifle girls' voices

Deliver true long-term change by addressing the most powerful silencer of girls: harmful social and gender norms that govern all aspects of a girl's life, from family to education, health care and livelihood. Commit to change those discriminatory norms in all interventions, across all sectors, through innovative solutions and collaboration.

For more on the Girls Count Agenda for Action, click here.

6. Gender, Humiliation, and Global Security

Gender, Humiliation, and Global Security:
Dignifying Relationships from Love, Sex, and Parenthood to World Affairs
Foreword by Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu
Evelin Lindner, HumanDHS, 2010
Source: Evelin Lindner

The Gender, Humiliation, and Global Security book is being "highly recommended" by Choice as follows (in July 2010): "In this far-ranging, sometimes brilliant book, Lindner (Columbia Univ. and Oslo Univ.) studies the social and political ramifications of human violations and world crises related to humiliation, defined as the enforced lowering of a person or group, a process of subjugation that harms or removes the dignity, pride, and honor of the other.

A "transdisciplinary social scientist," the author charts how humiliation--and its antidote, love--are conditioned by large-scale, systemic social forces such as globalization. The force of this book resides in its construction of a compelling, compassionate alternative to the psychological effects of humiliation on gender and sexual relations, parenthood, and leadership. For Lindner, this alternative is not only love but also its psychological correlate, humility, both of which can become the basis of the social, political, and cultural change necessary to reform the harmful global tendency toward humiliation.

Lindner's philosophy is avowedly non-dualist and rooted in ancient Eastern wisdom. A powerful follow up to her Making Enemies: Humiliation and International Conflict (CH, March 2007, 44-4114), this book appears in the "Contemporary Psychology" series; it will be indispensable for psychologists, humanists, and political scientists and invaluable to policy makers. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals. -- M. Uebel, University of Texas" (Choice is a publication of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association)

The launching of the World Dignity University initiative is scheduled for 24 June 2011. It will take place at the University of Oslo in Norway, 10.00-12.00, Klubben, 2nd floor, University Library Georg Sverdrups House, Blindern. You may also watch this event online as a guest. For more information, contact the World Dignity University.

7. Tracking a Protocol on Gender and Development

Sources: SADC & Gender Links, South Africa

Tracking the SADC Protocol on
Gender and Development

Mukayi Makaya
Southern African Development Community

Published by Gender Links, 10 May 2011

Dear Colleagues - Welcome to the 16th edition of Roadmap to Equality! tracking progress toward the implementation and ratification of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

In South Africa the countdown to the local government elections on 18 May is heating up, with all political leaders calling for people to come out in their numbers and exercise their democratic right to vote. Party lists have been finalised and it is disappointing to note that there is no province that has more than 40% women candidates. These are the last elections in South Africa before 2015, the deadline in the SADC Gender Protocol for gender parity in decision-making.

Also in South Africa, increasing reports of violence against sexual minorities is an ongoing concern. Following the brutal murder last month of a 24-year old lesbian, Noxolo Nogwaza, it seems the South African government is finally taking action to end homophobic violence. This was followed by an announced from the justice and constitutional ministry that it is setting up a task team to tackle hate crimes against gays and lesbians.

During the recently held second Gender Justice and Local Government Summit in Johannesburg, Mozambique activists flagged the important challenge of gender and climate change in the wake of recent floods in Mozambique and the effects the aftermath has on women. Women groups and activists sought to garner regional support from the Alliance to force the Mozambique government to engage with the local civil society organisations working in the area of climate change and disaster management in order to come up with workable solutions for women.

In Zambia, the women's movement recently rejected the country's draft Constitution noting it was devoid of women's rights issues as outlined in the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development and the AU Protocol on Women's Rights in Africa. Further, the Constitutional Bill was defeated as opposition Members of Parliament refused to support it. The Green T-Shirt movement launched by the Non-Governmental Organisations' Coordinating Council and its members also protested the lack of women's rights issues in the rejected draft.

The Alliance team is busy preparing the SADC Gender Protocol 2011 Barometer. The report is an update of the 2010 Barometer, tracking progress made on implementing the SADC Gender Protocol provisions since the Baseline report of 2009. The Alliance convened a March meeting of its Steering Committee and the regional research team to prepare for this project. One new and exciting feature in the upcoming report is a budgeting and costing element, which will set out costing for each provision. The report will also feature regional case studies that demonstrate the SADC Gender Protocol at work.

Strengthening of the Alliance remains an ongoing process and we are pleased to share that we recently convened two successful Alliance caucus meetings of the Alliance national networks in Maputo and Windhoek. The meetings helped strengthen the Alliance national focal points in both countries. This will reinforce the work of the Alliance at national levels, as well as strengthen advocacy efforts to push governments to implement the Protocol ahead of the August Heads of State Summit in Angola.

In order to remain fresh and relevant to the issues in your country and our region WE NEED YOUR INPUT! To make contributions and comments or get information, please write to the Alliance or the Alliance Officer. We request that all contributions be submitted by the 20th of each month


8. The Custom of Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan

Bride Kidnapping: A Tradition Or A Crime?

Farangis Najibullah
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
21 May 2011

Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036, USA

Some 200 people took to the streets in a northern Kyrgyz province earlier this week to protest the longstanding practice of bride kidnapping.

The custom -- in which single young men kidnap their bride of choice and pressure them to agree to marriage -- is not uncommon in Kyrgyzstan.

But bride kidnapping has recently come under sharp criticism in the Central Asian country after two kidnapped brides committed suicide in a matter of months.

The site of this week's rally, the northern Issyk-Kul Province, is home to the two suicide victims -- Venera Kasymalieva and Nurzat Kalykova, both 20-year-old students.

The rally, dubbed "Spring without Them," was organized by local women's NGOs and other activists and held in the town of Karakol. During the protest participants called on authorities and community leaders to put an end to the old tradition.

Bride kidnapping is officially a criminal offence in Kyrgyzstan, where the criminal code stipulates a maximum three-year prison term for bride-kidnapping.

In reality, however, few cases reach the courtroom, and those who are tried for bride-kidnapping usually walk away after paying a small fine.


Although bride kidnapping is officially a crime in Kyrgyzstan, few cases reach the courtroom (illustrative photo from the Kyz Korgon Institute, an Kyrgyz NGO that campaigns to eliminate the practice).

Between 68 and 75 percent of marriages in Kyrgyzstan take place with bride kidnapping (photo courtesy of Jackie Matthews).

"Once bride-kidnapping was characteristic mostly to rural areas, but it has become widespread everywhere, including the capital, Bishkek," says Gazbubu Babayarova, founder of Kyz Korgon Institute, a nongovernmental organization that campaigns to eliminate the tradition of bride-kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan.

"Our researches indicate that between 68 and 75 percent of marriages in Kyrgyzstan take place with bride kidnapping."

Babayarova says economic hardship is one of many reasons behind the recent rise of bride kidnapping, as many families try to avoid paying dowries and wedding expenses. But it is by no means the only motivation.

"It is encouraged by parents of the boys," Babayarova says. "And sometimes, boys are afraid of asking the girls' permission. They think it's easier just to kidnap her, because they are afraid maybe she will refuse. 

"Another reason is that even if there is a law, it's not being implemented. Since the kidnappers go unpunished, bride-kidnapping is happening again and again."

How It's Done

According to the tradition, when a Kyrgyz man, usually in his twenties, wants to get married for the first time, he picks a bride and starts to arrange her kidnapping.

The man and his friends seize the young woman in streets, sometimes using violence, and forcibly drive her to the captor's family home. The rest is left to female relatives of the man, who try to persuade the kidnapped woman to marry her captor.

The woman is put under enormous pressure, including physical violence, but in the majority of cases, the captor refrains from rape, Babayarova says. 

If the woman finally agrees to marriage, the family of her potential husband puts a white kerchief on her head, and asks her to write a letter to her parents. They take the letter to the bride's family to ask their daughter's hand in marriage and arrange a quick wedding ceremony.

While the groom's relatives take part in "choosing" and arranging the kidnapping of their future daughter-in-law, the potential bride and her family do not usually know the captors or their intentions until after the kidnapping takes place.

Many brides follow tradition and simply accept their fate. But some of the marriages born from bride-kidnapping fall apart and for some -- like the two young students in Issyk-Kul -- this can bring a tragic end.

"She Wasn't Ready for Marriage So I Kidnapped Her"

Kalykova's acquaintance, Ulan, once asked her if she wanted to marry him. Kalykova and her parents refused the marriage proposal but they didn't predict Ulan would not take no for an answer. 

Late one evening in November 2010, Kalykova 's parents came home from a dinner party to find their daughter had gone missing. Days later, they found out that Kalykova has been kidnapped by Ulan, who was now asking their permission to conduct a marriage ceremony.

The parents brought Kalykova back home. But under constant pressures from relatives, Kalykova and her parents eventually accepted the marriage proposal.

The marriage didn't last long -- Kalykova committed suicide just four months later.

Despite the outcome, Ulan sees nothing wrong in his approach to marriage.

"We were friends with Nurzat for three years before our marriage. I wanted to marry her, but she always postponed it. Perhaps she wasn't ready," Ulan told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service.

Ulan doesn't hold himself responsible for his wife's suicide. 

"We lived alright, we were friendly," he says. "To this point, I don't understand what possibly could have gone wrong."

Authorities say they have launched a probe into Kalykova's case but it is unclear whether Ulan will be charged with kidnapping. 

Organizers of today's rally in Karakol called on authorities to enforce existing laws to punish men who opt for kidnapping as a means of finding a wife.

In a tearful address to participants, Venera Kasymalieva's father, Oken, said his daughter's kidnapping ruined his family's life.

I call on young men to refrain from kidnapping, he said. "I don't wish any young girl to commit suicide in the future. My wife died suddenly five years ago, and that's why my daughter [Venera] was like a mother to my younger kids."

Abaz Jyrgalbekov, a 20-year-old man who also joined the rally, says not all Kyrgyz men support the kidnapping tradition. 

It's a way for insecure men to get girls, Jyrgalbekov says. "Who usually kidnaps a woman? Guys with no self-confidence; who are afraid that a girl doesn't like him."

"I want to marry in a normal way," he adds.

9. Yoani Sánchez and the "Generation Y" Blog

Click on the book cover:
Courtesy of Generation Y
Yoani Sánchez
Courtesy of Fotos desde Cuba
Oscar Elías Biscet
Courtesy of Wikipedia
A Role Model:
Yoani Sánchez, Cuban Blogger

Note: This article about Yoani Sánchez is based on a review of her book, Havana Real: One woman fights to tell the truth about Cuba today; her blog, Generation Y; and The Voice of Cuba on the Internet, an article about her by fellow blogger Pedro Luis.

Welcome message in the Generation Y Blog

"Generation Y is a blog inspired by people like me, with names that start with or contain a "Y". Born in Cuba in the '70s and '80s, marked by schools in the countryside, Russian cartoons, illegal emigration, and frustration. So I invite, especially, Yanisleidi, Yoandri, Yusimí, Yuniesky and others who carry their "Y's" to read me and to write to me."

About Yoani Sánchez

From the back cover of her book: "Yoani Sánchez is an unusual dissident: no street protests, no attacks on big politicos, no calls for revolution. Rather, she produces a simple diary about what it means to live under the Castro regime: the chronic hunger and the difficulty of shopping; the art of repairing ancient appliances; and the struggles of living under a propaganda machine that pushes deep into public and private life. For these simple acts of truth-telling her life is one of constant threat. Shehas been kidnapped and beaten, lives under constant surveillance, and can only get online - in disguise - at tourist hotspots. But she continues on, refusing to be silenced—a living response to all who have ceased to believe in a future for Cuba."

Background - Cuba and the Cuban Revolution

The Cuban revolution started in the 1950s as a revolt against the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, and had strong popular support after the Batista government crumbled 1 January 1959. But the new leader, Fidel Castro, turned out to be another dictator and one willing to use violence against anyone who might oppose his absolute power. Now, after 50+ years of "revolutionary government," Cuba is a sad example of how extreme socialism is as bad as extreme capitalism, and for the same reason: "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" (Lord Acton). Any significant concentration of power without checks and balances - whether supported by economics or politics - inevitably leads to abuses of authority and utter disrespect for human rights. Many Cubans have resisted, and continue to resist, the Castro dictatorship. Thousands have died in the struggle for freedom and democracy in Cuba; and thousands have suffered, and continue to suffer, violent persecution and prison terms. Others continue the struggle, notably Yoani Sánchez and, just to mention another name, Oscar Elías Biscet, a human rights advocate who was recently released after several years in prison and is currently nominated for the 2011 Noble Peace Prize.

More about Yoani Sánchez (by her translator, M. J. Porter)

"Yoani Sánchez, a University of Havana graduate in philology, emigrated to Switzerland in 2002. Two years later, she decided to return to Cuba, but promised herself she would live there as a free person and started her blog, Generation Y, upon her return. In 2008, Time Magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World; it named Generation Y one of the "Best Blogs" in 2009. Spain honored her with its highest award for digital journalism, the Ortega y Gasset Prize.

"She has also been named one of the "100 Most Notable Hispanic Americans" by El País (Spain). In 2009 she became the first - and so far only - blogger to interview President Barack Obama, who commented that her blog "provides the world with a unique window into the realities of daily life in Cuba," and applauded her efforts to "empower fellow Cubans to express themselves through the use of technology." In 2010 she received the World Press Freedom Hero award from the International Press Institute, and was named a "Young Global Leader" by the World Economic Forum. She lives with her husband, independent journalist Reinaldo Escobar and their son Teo in a high-rise apartment in Havana, overlooking Revolution Square.

What about gender equality in Cuba?

Here is Yoani's answer: "There are many ways of being ostracized. Along with racism, here [in Cuba] we have discrimination based on social origin, the stigma of ideological affiliation, and exclusion for not belonging to a family clan with power, influence, or relationships. Not to mention how you are patronized in a macho society if you have a pair of ovaries hidden in the middle of your belly." (Havana Real, pp.169-170). So much for gender equality under Cuban socialism!

The Generación Y blog is online in Spanish (here) and in English (here). A team of volunteers supports Yoani, and other Cuban bloggers, with translations from Spanish to twenty languages including English, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. Also worth visiting: Portal desde Cuba, Voces Cubanas, Fotos desde Cuba, Revista Voces, Veritas, and CubaNet.


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