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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 97 09:32:05 CDT
From: rich%pencil@VMA.CC.ND.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Women's Human Rights in Muslim Societies
Article: 14951

/** headlines: 139.0 **/
** Topic: Women's Human Rights in Muslim Societies **
** Written 1:39 PM Jul 21, 1997 by mmason in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 3:14 AM Jul 17, 1997 by DEBRA@OLN.comlink.apc.org in hrnet.women */
/* ---------- USA: Muslim Women and Rights ---------- */

Discussion on women and human rights in Muslim societies (Worldwide women's group says basic rights common to all)

By Joanne L. Nix, USIA Staff Writer, USIS Wasinginton File, 14 July 1997

[A publication of a U.S. propaganda agency]

Washington—Being able to say what you think is a universal human right. The idea of family values is universal. And women's human rights education is a vital part of the democratization process. That is the policy of the Sisterhood Is Global Institution (SIGI), an international non-profit organization.

Established in 1984 to improve women's rights on the local, national, regional, and global levels, the independent, non-profit organization today maintains an international membership from 70 countries, with a network of more than 1,300 individuals and organizations worldwide as well as branch offices in several regions.

Speaking July 14 before an overflow crowd of men and women at the Middle East Institute in Washington, Mahnaz Afkhami, SIGI's Executive Director, described the Institute's centerpiece project, an educational manual titled Claiming Our Rights: A Woman's Human Rights Education: A Manual for Women's Human Rights Education in Muslim Societies.

The manual was co-authored by Afkhami and Haleh Vaziri, presently a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University's Center for Middle East Studies. It has been published in English, Arabic, Persian and Bengali with Uzbek and Malay versions available soon.

According to Afkhami, despite its inception as a teaching tool for women in the Middle East, South Asia and other parts of the Muslim world, the study guide is currently being used by women's study groups in African and Latin American communities as well.

This is because it presents universal concepts of human rights: women's rights within the family, bodily integrity, sustenance, employment, political participation, and religious freedom.

Afkhami emphasized that the guide addresses women's needs at the grassroots level through discussion topics and role playing using sample soap operas to set up and solve problems similar to those women encounter in their own societies. As a starting point for the educational process, she said, indigenous customs are explored and traditions, myths and texts are utilized.

Afkhami announced that Sisterhood is Global will host an international conference of women this September in Washington. The meeting is designed to assess and interpret the results of the community-based local seminars and to explore education and human rights theories from both a local and universal perspectives.

The conference will also review new communications technology and its potential for integrating comparative cultural and religious education, health data, and other social services as a means for women to express their rights.

According to co-author Haleh Vaziri, the manual is still a work in process. This is because culture is fluid and changing. The approaches to human rights education for women and for men must remain relevant, she said, even though religious principles and dogma remain constant.

Vaziri also stressed that democracy must be gender sensitive. This is because if a woman's rights in the family and a woman's right to food, shelter and security are ignored, the fabric of the entire society will eventually unravel.