Ms. Global: Arab World Gets Its First Female Head of State; Historic Trans Representation in Germany; Islamophobia in the U.K.

The U.S. ranks as the 19th most dangerous country for women, 11th in maternal mortality, 30th in closing the gender pay gap, 75th in women’s political representation, and painfully lacks paid family leave and equal access to health care. But Ms. has always understood: Feminist movements around the world hold answers to some of the U.S.’s most intractable problems. Ms. Global is taking note of feminists worldwide.


Czech Republic

There are a record number of women running for office in the Czech Republic, drumming up hope as the October general election draws closer. Even though there are significantly less candidates than the last election cycle, women make up 30 percent of those running. Some Czech female politicians, such as Green party politician Magdalena Davis, believe that gender quotas should be established to ensure equality in politics

Bangladesh

It has taken approximately five years—since 2016—for the Bangladeshi government to convict six men for the killing of prominent gay rights activist Xulhav Mannan and his friend, Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy. The anti-terrorism court sentenced the six men, who were a part of a militant Islamist group associated with al-Qaeda, to the death sentence in August and aquitted two other suspects.

This ruling is a step in the right direction to address the numerous attacks against atheists, intellectuals and activists by militant groups in Bangladesh. However, some activists wish that the court sentenced the men to a life sentence rather than the death penalty.

Tunisia

Najla Bouden Ramadhane is the Arab world’s first female prime minister, the Tunisian government confirmed on September 29. Tunisia’s President Kais Saied declared the appointment as “historic … an honor for Tunisia and an homage to Tunisian women.” Ramadhane will step into the role with the background as a professor of geosciences and director general at the Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research, which oversees World Bank programs. 

Najla Bouden Ramadhane meets with Tunisian President Kais Saied. (Twitter)

Qatar

In a disappointing turn of events, none of the 26 female candidates were elected in the Qatari legislative elections that took place on October 2. A number of the women expressed their frustration with the pushback they received from both male citizens and the male-dominated Shura Council.

Aisha Hamam al-Jasim, a nursing manager who ran for office, proclaimed: “I’m strong, I’m capable. I see myself as fit as a man…if you want to see me as weak, that’s up to you, but I am not weak.”

Germany

In a historic win for trans representation in Germany, two transgender women representing the Green Party—Tessa Ganserer and Nyke Slawik—won seats in Parliament following the elections on September 26. Both intend to ensure greater trans rights in legislation, with Slawik advocating for an action plan to improve anti-discrimination laws and Ganserer pushing to make it easier for transgender individuals to change their names on identification documents. 

However, Germany’s new parliament, the Bundestag, still suffers from poor representation with only 34.7 percent of members being women—primarily from the Green Party since they ensure gender parity in their party electoral lists. One journalist has called for other parties to take suit and for the establishment of a women’s quota in the German Parliament.

Iraq

The proportion of female candidates has fallen from 28 percent to 18 percent in Iraq’s recent election cycle, even though there is a constitutional reservation of a quarter of the parliamentary seats for women. A number of female candidates report being pressured to not campaign by the political opposition and societal backlash, pointing to a trend of abuse and intimidation against female politicians in the country. The government has taken some steps to combat these issues, instating a hotline for women candidates and the possibility of reporting directly to judicial investigators to bypass police involvement. 

Bahamas

In the general election that took place on September 16, Bahamas elected a record number of seven women candidates to the House of Assembly, with one incumbent member Glenys Hanna-Martin winning the support of 75 percent of her constituency—the fourth-highest number of votes out of all candidates ever. This is an improvement from the previous administration, where only five out of the 39 elected members of Parliament were women. 

Mexico

On September 7, Mexico’s Supreme Court voted to decriminalize abortion. Before this ruling, a woman in northern Coahuila state could be placed in prison for up to three years for receiving or aiding in an illegal abortion. Many attribute this historic win to the number of female politicians who have been elected in politics and to the increasing awareness of over one million unsafe abortions that have been performed each year in Mexico.

France

Anne Hidalgo, the socialist mayor of Paris, announced on September 5 that she will be running against Emmanuel Macron for the French presidential bid. If she wins, she will be the first female president of France. “The Republican model is disintegrating before our eyes,” Hidalgo stated. “I want all children in France to have the same opportunities I had.” 

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo in April 2013. (Philippe Grangeaud / Flickr)

Meanwhile, French Health Minister Oliver Veran announced on September 9 that the French government will be giving free birth control to those 25 years and younger. 

Congo

A World Health Organization commission report on Tuesday uncovered sexual abuse and exploitation by the agency’s employees working on the ebola outbreak aid campaign in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 2018 to 2020. Investigators identified 83 people alleged to be involved, of which 21 were W.H.O. employees and proven to be involved. The commission shed light on the shady recruitment practices, insufficient training and excessive red tape for misconduct reporting that created the conditions for abuse that many women endured, including but not limited to exchange sex for employment and other basic needs

U.K.

During a debate at Westminster Hall, Labour MP for Coventry South—Zarah Sultana—spoke about what it has been like to be a Muslim woman in the public eye.

“I have discovered that to be a Muslim woman, to be outspoken and to be left wing is to be subjected to this barrage of hate. It is to be treated by some as if I were an enemy of the country I was born in. As if I don’t belong,” Sultana explained. The speech helped to illuminate the hate speech and violence that Sultana has endured. In doing so, the Communities minister, Eddie Hughes, has stated that he is committed to working towards outlining and defining islamophobia.

Japan

Fumio Kishida, former foreign minister is now the prime minister of Japan—taking over the role from Yoshihide Suga. Kishida is advocating for a “new capitalism,” for companies to distribute their wealth to middle class workers, improving their relationship with China among other promises.

At the same time, two women—Sanae Takaichi and Seiko Noda—were unsuccessful in their campaigns to lead Japan’s Democratic Liberal Party. Despite their loss, their campaigns were influential in a male-dominated political sphere.

Afghanistan

Making headlines across the world as the first female journalist to interview the new Taliban leaders, Afghan television anchor Beheshta Arghand has had to flee the country in fear of her safety as the all-male Taliban government began to crack down on female journalists and other women in the workforce. With the help of Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai she, along with her family, has evacuated to Qatar.

Additionally, many Afghan journalists associated with U.S. funded media continue to experience anxiety about their safety

The Taliban has further encroached on women’s rights in Afghanistan by banning co-education, ordering that girls would no longer be allowed to sit in the same classes as boys in universitieseffectively depriving girls from higher education since universities are unable to hold different classes. They have also announced a ban on women’s participation in sports, driving sportswomen into hiding in response to threats of violence from Taliban fighters.

International

With the COP26 climate summit approaching, Greta Thunberg critiqued the ways in which countries are making meaningless and far-off commitments to combatting the climate crisis. In a speech at the Youth4Climate summit in Milan, Italy she referenced their plans as, “Blah, blah, blah.”

Meanwhile, with the new appointment of Sima Sami Bahous as the executive director of U.N. Women, more than 50 former staff members have written an open letter to make sure she addresses the importance of international gender equality. Among their requests is to spend the first 100 days of office listening to female activists and leaders.

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About and

Juliet Schulman-Hall is an editorial fellow for Ms. and a senior at Smith College. She is majoring in English language & literature, minoring in sociology, and concentrating in poetry. Her beats include caregiving, mental health and disability advocacy, and criminal justice reform and abolition. Follow her @jschulmanhall
Leela de Paula is an Editorial Fellow at Ms. and a junior at Smith College studying government and gender studies. Her academic interests include global feminism, international politics and feminist legal theory. She calls many continents home.