Afghanistan held its first social media summit this week in Kabul, the first in a three-part project. The summit - entitled "Paiwand," meaning "connection" in Dari - was organized by local digital media agency Impassion Afghanistan and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
About 2.4 million Afghans, around 10 percent of the population, have access to the internet, and around 1.7 million use social media, primarily Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Google-Plus. There are some 700,000 Facebook users alone, and 10 percent of them are women. The growth in internet access since the collapse of the Taliban is striking, but many Afghans still live in rural areas with no reliable electricity supply, and internet resources are not always available in local languages.
Despite obstacles, youth are finding ways to use social media forums to express themselves and start online campaigns for social change. A video about sexual harassment in Kabul went viral this summer. Luisa Walmsley, a Kabul-based independent information and communications technology sector and business development consultant who was a panelist at Paiwand said, "young educated Afghans see the Internet as a really powerful way to solve those problems poverty, illiteracy, lack of quality education, and more, and social media as a tool for discussing the solutions."
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .