Religion and Culture - Africa

Ester Abeja, who was abducted by Lord

UGANDA: Post War Reconstruction Ignores Victims of Sexual Violence

Ester Abeja has experienced both physical and emotional atrocities. She was captured by Uganda's feared rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and was forced to join them. But not before the soldiers made her kill her one-year- old baby girl, by smashing her skull in, and then gang raped her.

Edith Nawakwi is the only female candidate to run for president in Zambia

Q&A: ‘Men Have Failed Zambia, Now Is the Time for a Woman’

In Zambia's highly patriarchal society Edith Nawakwi, 52, has broken a few records on the political scene over the last two decades. And she broke another one on Sunday by being the only female candidate to file for nomination to run for president in Zambia's upcoming elections.

SOUTH AFRICA: Failing Women as Maternal Mortality Quadruples

Only six sub-Saharan African countries have failed to reduce the number of women dying in childbirth over the last two decades. High-spending South Africa is among them, with maternal mortality rates more than quadrupling since 1990. Human Rights Watch researcher Agnes Odhiambo says this is largely due to a lack of accountability.

This young woman from Makeni dropped out of school when she had her first child at 16. Credit:  Anna Jeffreys/IRIN

Sierra Leone Facing Facts of Teenage Pregnancy

On Apr. 5, the United Nations Children's Fund will launch a report on teenage pregnancy in Sierra Leone. Teenage pregnancies account for 40 percent of maternal deaths in the country, and the report comes as public health authorities recalibrate strategy to address a problem that endangers both mothers and children.

Peggy Kapanda with her extended family: her own three sons and two young cousins she has also taken into her home. Credit:  Jorrit Meulenbeek/SNS

ZAMBIA: The Extended Family – Blessing or Burden?

Peggy Kapanda has bad memories of the time she spent living with her uncle when she was young. She was treated as a second-rank child. But this only motivated her to do a better job herself. At her small home in John Laing compound, in Zambia's capital Lusaka, she and her husband take care of two other children in addition to their own three young boys.

The New Egypt: Leaving Women Behind

Marwa Sharaf el-Din, an Egyptian law PhD candidate at Oxford University, spent part of International Women's Day in Tahrir Square this afternoon to perform Zajal, a popular traditional form of Arabic poetry.

UGANDA: Kato Murder Re-ignites Gay Rights Debate

For the government of Uganda, the timing of David Kato's death couldn't have been more unfortunate. Kato was killed on Jan. 26, a national holiday to commemorate the ascent to power of the ruling National Resistance Movement party.

SOUTH AFRICA: Rising Leader With Her Feet on the Ground

Zanele Magwaza-Msibi is a woman with a mission: to serve the people of South Africa. She is poised to become leader of South Africa's newest political party, the National Freedom Party (NFP), after breaking away from the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), where she served as national chairperson.

Drumming at a chinamwali session. Credit:  Jorrit Meulenbeek/INSP

Women’s Initiation in Zambia: Dancing in Bed

Staying in Chawama, a compound outside Zambia's capital Lusaka, I spent many an evening chatting to the local women as they sat outside and cooked on their charcoal braziers. It intrigued me how a lot of the gossip would come back to one topic: the importance of 'chinamwali', the traditional initiation training most Zambian women go through before they get married.

Domestic work: essential yet undervalued... Credit:  Ray Mungoshi

SOUTH AFRICA: Violence, Exploitation Fail to Dissuade Female Migrants

Since arriving in Cape Town five years ago, Erina Manyene (not her real name) has eked out a meagre living picking up shifts doing laundry and cleaning other people's homes in the city's leafy southern suburbs.

ZIMBABWE: Sixteen Days of Activism Not For All, Say Police

Hundreds of residents from civil society organisations marched in the streets of Bulawayo on Dec. 1 to mark the 16 days of Activism Against Violence Against Women and Girls . But sex workers and members of gay groups were barred by police from joining the demonstration.

Commemorating the 10th aniversary of a declaration abandoning FGM in the town of Malicounda Bambara: progress elsewhere has been slow. Credit: Heba Aly/IRIN

Slowly Winning Fight Against FGM in Northern Senegal

The harm done by female genital mutilation is still enormous in Podor, a city in the north of Senegal, say officials at the local hospital. While the practice is declining slightly, some religious leaders in the region still support it.

ZIMBABWE: Uncertainty Over Women’s Place in Police Force

Women continue to join the Zimbabwe Republic Police, despite mixed reactions to their presence in law enforcement and allegations of abuse by fellow officers.

Private Linda Mensah patrols the city of Buchanan with the Ghanaian Battalion of the United Nations Mission in Liberia. Credit:

Female Factor Key to Human Rights

Gender training for peacekeeping operations "is not something you do for two weeks before you go for deployment," says Florence Butegwa, UNIFEM representative to the African Union (AU) and U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

Darfuri refugee: a national coalition is seeking to reform Sudan

SUDAN: Rape Is Not Adultery

Women in the Sudanese region of Darfur have been raped with impunity since the start of the conflict there in 2003. Now a campaign to reform the rape law is gaining momentum in the country, promoted by Alliance 149, a national coalition born in late 2009.

Indian peacekeepers drilling in Liberia. Credit:  Christopher Herwig/UN Photo

India’s Female Peacekeepers Inspire Liberian Girls

It is break time at the Victory Chapel School in Congo Town. Children dressed in their royal blue uniforms with bright yellow and white trim fight to get under the shade of the only mango tree in the yard. It is the start of the dry season and the scorching sun will soon be almost unbearable to stand in.

DEVELOPMENT-NIGER: Selling Sand to Survive

It's a trade that requires no capital, only courage and endurance. A group of 200 women are making ends meet - sometimes even a bit more - by selling sand.

Anne-Marie Goetz:

Q&A: Creating Momentum for Women’s Participation

Women's movements have played a critical role in creating political space for female participation in politics around the world. In fact, there are more women in government today than ever before.

A mother visits a reproductive health clinic in Ghana. Credit:  Elana Roth/NYU Livewire

GHANA: Quietly Extending Options to Women

Juliana Kweais has a small scar on her bottom lip, from the first time she witnessed an abortion. The sharp blow to her mouth was delivered by her grandmother, after the then-13-year-old Kweais had asked why her auntie had given "birth" to a bloody sack.

Melissa Steyn:

Q&A: Defining – and Defying – the ‘Most Proper Way’ to be Sexual

"The Prize and The Price - Shaping Sexualities in South Africa" is the first book of its kind in South Africa to unpack the ideology behind the enforcement of "acceptable" versions of sex, gender and sexuality.

COTE D’IVOIRE: Independent Candidate Pledges Reconciliation

Presidential elections in Côte d'Ivoire, scheduled for Nov. 29, were postponed until February or March 2010. Among the candidates who will try to take advantage of some additional time to campaign will be the sole independent candidate, Jacqueline Oble.

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