Saturday, May 2, 2015
Friday, May 1, 2015
As another French Muslim schoolgirl is sent home by teachers for wearing a long skirt, Shelina Janmohamed, explains why it's time to tighten the bonds of sisterhood.
In 2009 the journalist Lubna al-Hussein was arrested in Sudan for wearing trousers. Under the country's penal code she was guilty of wearing 'obscene outfits' in public and fined $200.
Sudanese journalist Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein
For women here the story was reported as something at best ridiculous, at worst outrageous - something that we didn't need to worry too much about because they it was happening in a faraway place to women of far away cultures.
But these sorts of draconian measures are getting closer to home and it's time for all women to worry. When what we wear can bar us from the ordinary activities like going to school, the office or just simply outdoors, we need to sit up and tighten the bonds of the sisterhood.
I'm talking about France of course, where last month a girl was sent home twice from school for wearing a long black skirt, which she bought from French high street shop Kiabi for €13. She was punished because the school deemed the non-descript skirt to be a 'conspicuous' sign of religion.
France's strict secular laws ban the display of any 'ostentatious sign of religion' from official public spaces like schools. This includes items like a headscarf, a skullcap or a large cross. But this 15-year-old was not wearing a headscarf when she entered the school, her misdemeanour was the black maxi skirt.
Nor is this an isolated incident. In total around 130 schoolgirls were sent home last year for wearing long skirts across France.
To me it's clear that her punishment is because she is Muslim and reeks of discrimination: it's about who she is - not what she did. Any other pupil could have worn the same skirt. Someone else decided that they didn't like her wearing a long skirt and told her to go home.
Earlier this week Twitter creaked under the strain of the hashtag#JePorteMaJupeCommeJeVeux (‘I'll wear my skirt how I like’) as people around the world took to social media to react to this outrageous situation. After all, how does a skirt have a religion? And to those arguing that she should have changed and come back – what should she have changed into? What could be more innocuous than a long black skirt? And was the underlying message that more flesh needs to be on display?
There's a separate discussion to be had about the rights and wrongs of the French ban on veiling. But you don't need to support or even like the niqab or hijab to see this should be a red flag for all women. The ban and now skirt-gate sets a worrying precedent that we women can once again be stopped from our ordinary day to day activities, prohibited from our rights such as an education, because someone else decided they don't like the way we look.
The image of a temping job advert on LinkedIn a few months ago
If you think that the increasing pressure placed on how Muslim women appear in public is their own fault, and nothing to do with the pressures our society places on women generally to conform to a particular look or be excluded, think again. It wasn't long ago that women were prevented from wearing trousers in offices. Even today the unspoken code that women should wear short skirts in male environments still persists (see image above).
Women are constantly fighting the pressure to conform to a particular body image. One of the biggest challenges is to avoid the early sexualisation of our young women and to give girls the confidence to project their own image. Yet here we have a girl doing exactly all of that and she is told that because she is wearing a long skirt she doesn't conform to our idea of what a schoolgirl ought to look like. Because of course all schoolgirls should look like sexy Britney Spears. I jest of course.
Women are also repeatedly forced to conform to other homogenous ideals to be accepted. In America, several schools have banned black children from wearing their afro hair natural.
In 2006, the Baltimore Police department banned cornrows, dreadlocks and twists deeming them to be “extreme” and a “fad” – this is despite them being the most practical style to certain hair types. The US army only recently revoked the same ludricrous ban, after much protesting from campaigners.
All of these denials of women's difference, self-expression and womanhood need to be stitched together and seen as part of the same onslaught on the ways women are allowed to present themselves in order to be accepted in the public domain.
Don't be distracted by the argument that this is to save Muslim women. Women's rights have too long been sacrificed at the altar of 'saving' other women. History shows us that this way danger lies and we must be vigilant.
At the end of the 19th century, the British consul general in Egypt Lord Cromer claimed we should be running that country to save Egyptian women from the “fatal obstacle” of Islam. The Egyptians should be "persuaded or forced" to become "civilised" by disposing of the veil. You might think he was the embodiment of the women's rights movement but when he returned to the UK he set up the Men's League for Opposing Women's Suffrage, which tried, by any means possible, to stop women getting the vote.
Six year ago Lubna al-Hussein said that the prosecution for wearing trousers was 'insulting'. It was insulting in Sudan and now it's insulting in France. As a Muslim woman I'm not going to stand for being punished for wanting an education, or working in an office or just going about my business in an outfit I should be free to wear. I'll damn well wear my skirt exactly as I please and stand shoulder to shoulder with my French sisters at the top of a very slippery slope. I hope you’ll join me.
Actress Salma Mumin was on e.TV’s The Late Nite Celebrity Show to talk movies, life in the spotlight and shooting sex scenes.
Salma recounting her days before her status now revealed; “Back in High School I had so much interest in entertainment to the extent that I ended up becoming the entertainment prefect. There was this guy who worked with our school canteen who was also a light man with Venus Films. I told him how interested I was in acting and he told me he worked with this production house and that he could hook me up with them.
“The day came and he took me to Abdul Salam Mumumi. At the time Venus was working on Crime to Christ and I was a little girl coming out of school. I was so excited and wanted it more. I started auditioning more and the disappointments were more. They tell you they will call you back and you sit around waiting for them till you get tired. “Later I landed this role and things took off. AA Production shot Passion and Soul and Frank Rajah casted me as a Nanny. “It hasn’t been easy because it came to time I early gave up but I loved the acting so much I couldn’t walk away. The actress from Upper West responding a question related to sex scenes in movies said.
“How can you shoot a romantic movie without a sex scene? How possible is that. You have to show some stuff. You have to let your viewers know what’s happening."
She also revealed her celebrity crush is still Peter from P Square but reacting to a fans plea for her to marry BET winner Sarkodie, the actress screamed; “I love Sarkodie, if he will marry me I will marry him too.”
In what could be described as an emotional meeting that evoked memories of the past, the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II has invited descendants of the late Prempeh I to visit Kumasi and connect with their extended family.
The Asantehene took advantage of his visit to the islands at the invitation of the President of Seychelles as special guest of the 5th international carnival to meet the descendants of the late Prempeh I.
Nana Agyemang Prempeh I was taken to the Seychelles Islands in January 1896 after surrendering to the British forces under the command of Sir Francis Scott.
The king who had earlier won two battles over the British was moved to the island with 50 others including his mother, three wives and his children. For 28 years he was held in captivity but was released to return to Ghana in 1924 under a special arrangement with the British authority to return as an ordinary man. He died in 1931.
But some of his descendants stayed in the Seychelles and have never been to Ghana. On the sidelines of the Asantehene’s visit to the island, the descendants including great granddaughter of the Prempeh I, Princess Mary Prempeh Marimba struggled to put words together in a meeting with the Asantehene.
“My first son Andrew, Dennis and Suzzy my only daughter are extremely proud to meet you today, very sentimental, very emotional and I do not know what to say, I want to say me and my family are grateful to meet you for the first time,” Mary enthused.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu who celebrated his sixteenth year on the golden stool said he has always been eager to visit Seychelles and to abreast himself with where the descendants of Prempeh I were living.
“When we sit in Kumasi we feel that attachment because we know you are here and for 115 years since the late King was brought here, we have not forgotten that Seychelles is one of our homes,” Otumfuo responded.
He indicated plans are already in motion to facilitate the visit of the descendants to Ghana and Kumasi to enable them reconnect with the family back home. Meanwhile, the Asantehene attended the Seychelles Anglican Church where the late Prempeh converted into Christianity and was baptized.
Together with other prominent chiefs, the mayor of Kumasi, Kojo Bonsu and the Tourism and Creative Art Minister, Elizabeth Ofosu Agyare were taken through photo exhibition depicting the life of Prempeh I and his family on the Seychelles Islands.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Togo's defeated opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre says he considers himself the new president, rejecting official election results.
Earlier, Togo's official election body declared President Faure Gnassingbe the winner, with a provisional 59% of the vote.
Mr Fabre, who gained 35%, told AFP news agency the results were a "crime against national sovereignty".
Observers from the African Union said the election was free and fair.
Mr Fabre's party, the opposition Combat for Political Change (Cap 2015), said the results bore "no resemblance to those compiled from reports collected in polling stations by its representatives".
West African regional leaders led by Ghana's President John Dramani Mahama have been attempting to mediate the dispute, having arrived in the capital Lome on Tuesday.
President Faure Gnassingbe's family has ruled Togo for 48 years.
Mr Gnassingbe has ruled since the 2005 death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema.
On Monday Mr Fabre called for a delay in announcing the results, citing widespread irregularities.
The final results still need to be confirmed by the country's Constitutional Court.
Turnout was around 53-55%, according to Ceni - at least 10% lower than the last elections in 2010.
The 2005 elections were overshadowed by fraud allegations and violent protests which left at least 400 people dead.
Last year, opposition protests failed to bring about constitutional changes limiting the president to two terms in office - a move that would have prevented Mr Gnassingbe from standing.
Togo's GDP has more than doubled since 2005 and economic growth reached 5.6% in 2014.
But critics say the benefits have mainly gone to a wealthy minority, while most ordinary Togolese still suffer from high poverty and unemployment rates.
The wait for artisans of Suame magazine to manufacture a car is now over, as the Suame Magazine Industrial Development Organization (SMIDO) has officially launched its first car.
The " SMATI Turtle 1" car was made and assembled at the Suame Magazine ITTU by local artisans.
Artisans comprising auto mechanics, electricians and welders amongst others, at the Suame Magazine; one of the biggest industrial hubs in West Africa, have over the years been criticized for their inability to manufacture a functional car despite their enormous skills and expertise.
But after several attempts, the artisans have finally assembled a new version of what looks like a Kia truck or pick up.
Like the Kia truck or pick-up which is a carrier of heavy goods, the SMATI Turtle 1 has been built to perform heavy duty tasks.
The "Turtle 1" car was built in a three-month period with funding from Aardschap Foundation of The Netherland.
"Being a turtle, it may not be the fastest car in the world, but it can grow very old. Above all, it is robust, strong and functional," said the President of Suame Magazine Industrial Organization, Sarpong Boateng.
Mr. Boateng said the artisans and mechanics can even do better if the government offers them the needed support and stop paying lip service to industrialization.
The car was made in 2013 but was taken to Holland by the funding partners, for promotion and testing.
Melles Smets, leader of Aardschap Foundation said the Turtle 1 car received massive attention when it was sent to Holland.
"Tourists from several European countries came just to see a car made in Ghana," he said.
He hinted the Foundation's preparedness to assist more local artisans to make a second attempt at manufacturing other cars.
The car is made to carry heavy loads. The design is ideal to bring farm products from the farm to market centers.
The front fenders are specially designed to carry additional load.
The Turtle 1 is a strong and mechanically simple design, capable of driving on rough roads mostly found in Ghana and the African sub-region.
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