Ms. Global: Drought in Somalia; Afghan Women Face More Restrictions; Burundi Sees Spike in Femicides; the Crackdown on Egypt’s Queer Community

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.


+ An estimated 43,000 people died in Somalia’s drought last year.

The longest drought on record in Somalia has taken a devastating toll. An estimated 43,000 people died last year in Somalia, half of them being children. For the first half of this year, another 18,000 people are forecasted to die due to this ongoing drought.

As the report by the World Health Organization and the U.N. Children’s Agency states, “The current crisis is far from over.” The lack of rain over the past six years has caused a hunger crisis not only in Somalia, but also in its neighboring countries Kenya and Ethiopia. This crisis is fueled by rising global food prices.

The famine also causes migration. According to the United Nations migration agency, 3.8 million people are displaced, a new record. Many of those fleeing in the region are women and children.

Seeking refuge is often tied to maltreatment and violence for women and children. As Rukia Yaroow Ali, a refugee, told reliefweb, “I came here with nothing, and could not even get food or shelter for my children. I still owe a debt to the man who transported us here. I don’t know how I’m going to pay him.”

Jane Ambale from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) recalls with reliefweb, “In August, a woman came to a health centre seeking help after she was raped by someone who had offered to house her and her children on arrival.”

Last month, a food security assessment revealed that a half-million children in Somalia might experience severe malnourishment this year. The world has to act now or this drought will call for thousands of more victims. Not only the famine must be stopped, but the climate crisis must be understood as a global issue that needs urgent attention or many more people will die at the hands of droughts, floods and fires.


+ The Taliban ban Afghan women from U.N. jobs.

In a recent display of Taliban power, women have been banned from working for the United Nations, effective immediately. The April 5 ruling was described by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and other U.N. representatives as “cruel,” “unlawful” and “an unparalleled violation of women’s rights.” 

U.N. representatives fear the impact of this ban on the organization’s ability to operate amidst the country’s dire humanitarian crisis. The organization has since instructed all local workers, including men, not to report to their Afghanistan offices until further notice. 

Afghan women march as they chant slogans and hold banners during a women’s rights protest in Kabul on January 16, 2022. (Wakil Kohsar / AFP via Getty Images)

This decision comes three months after the Taliban banned women workers from local and international aid organizations. When this decision was released, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs assured U.N. officials that the decree did not apply to them. However, in a meeting with U.N. officials this week, the ministry reversed course and clarified that the ban extends to the U.N. 

“This is a violation of the inalienable fundamental human rights of women,” said a spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. “Female staff members are essential for the United Nations operations, including in the delivery of lifesaving assistance. The enforcement of this decision will harm the Afghan people, millions of whom are in need of this assistance.”

+ Afghan women resume radio show following Taliban shut down.

On April 1, Taliban officials shut down Sadai Banowan, a woman-run radio station in northeast Afghanistan, for allegedly playing music during the month of Ramadan. Sadai Banowan was founded 10 years ago and is the only woman-run station in the country. 

Station head Najia Sorosh denied there was any violation and said there was no need for the closure. She said the Taliban “told us that you have broadcast music. We have not broadcast any kind of music.” 

The one-week ban was subsequently lifted on April 7. Moezuddin Ahmadi, the director for Information and Culture in Badakhshan, said the station was allowed to resume activities after it promised to obey the “laws and regulations of the Islamic Emirate” and stop broadcasting any music. The Afghan Journalist Safety Committee, an organization that promotes press freedom, welcomed the resumption of the broadcasts.


+ An increase in femicide sparks outcry in Burundi. 

The burial of Aline Inarukundo on March 7 has raised concerns over femicide rates within Burundi. Inarukundo, a mother of four, died on Jan. 21 in her home. Her husband, Claude Arakaza, is suspected due to reports of domestic violence. He is currently awaiting trial. 

A report filed in Kirundo Province reveals that eight women have recently been killed by their husbands or partners. The Seruka Center, a local NGO dedicated to assisting victims of gender-based violence, assisted 38 survivors of physical, emotional and economic violence from from Dec. 2022 to Feb. 2023. 

Activists cite Burundi’s highly patriarchal society as a potential explanation for this rise in femicide. “Whenever a man beats, injures, or breaks his wife’s arm or leg in Burundi, he is only punished by being advised not to repeat the act. As for the victim, her mother, older sisters, and aunts advise her to keep it a secret so as not to tarnish [the] couple’s image,” explains Inés Kidasharira, a local women’s rights journalist. She also warns that domestic violence is fast becoming normalized as men continue to go unpunished for their actions.

Burundi passed a law on gender-based violence in 2016, but feminists are calling for an amendment to it, to ensure its adaptation to the current cultural landscape. Emerance Bucumi, chairperson of the Burundi National Women’s Forum, expressed concern about the murder of women and domestic violence. She urged the judiciary and administrative authorities to take action and combat this spread of violence.  


+ Serbia’s women’s movement demands greater change.

In Sept. 2022, the pro-government newspaper Informer published an interview with Igor Milošević, who had served a 15-year sentence for numerous rapes and physical assaults on women.

During the interview, he not only instructed women how to behave while being raped, but also how liberating it had been for him to rob and rape. During the interview he even threatened the woman journalist and said, “If I decide to rape you, I will.”

Despite his misogynist and sexist threats of sexual violence, the stories covering him in the Informer brought him a kind of celebrity status. While Informer journalists tracked all of his steps, they advised women and girls to buy self-defense tools and avoid walking alone at night.

Branca Blizanac, a current history student and co-founder of Belgrade-based women’s collective Ženska solidarnost (Women’s Solidarity), was disgusted and upset with the platforming a rapist — and decided to take action.

To counteract, Blizanac and other members of her collective mobilized women to protest and encouraged them to make their voices heard. Belgrade has already seen five street protests since Sept. 2022. The demonstrations were more powerful than Blizanac had imagined, as hundreds of protestors were showing signs and chanted slogans like “All to the streets! Justice for women and girls” and “The women’s revolution!” 

Ženska solidarnost, which started in 2018 as a Facebook group to share stories about domestic abuse, had not organized events of such significance before.

Looking at the developing protest movement, Blizanac feels both stressed and thrilled. She stated to Al Jazeera, “No woman is responsible for the violence which a man subjects her to. We took that anger to the streets.”

Višnja Baćanović, a gender equality consultant and trainer based in Novi Sad in northern Serbia, remains skeptical. She points out the impact for women in Serbia’s rural areas remains limited as traditions and a lack of access to information are hindering change, and said feminist organizations like Ženska solidarnost need to evaluate what they want to achieve with their actions. Still, she also applauds the collective for raising awareness among young people and disseminating their messages widely by using social networks and educational activities.


+ Gendered disinformation fuels online abuse against women in politics.

As nearly 50 percent of people in India have access to the internet and 467 million people use social media, online abuse against women political leaders has increased. 

While many women politicians are targeted, women from marginalized castes and minority religious communities are often targeted specifically. Female politicians that oppose traditional norms and the government of popular male political leaders often face messages entrenched in sexism.

As Angellica Aribam, the former general secretary of the student wing of the Indian National Congress and the founder of Femme First, explains, “Racism and sexism combine in our cases, and because of my intersectional marginal identity I have been targeted so much. If you see my blocklist on Twitter, it would easily cross thousands.”

Disinformation campaigns that focused on women targeted prominent political figures such as Mamata Banerjee, Priyanka Chaturvedi, Sonia Gandhi and Sushma Swaraj. As the intensity and amounts of such attacks increase, many people have voiced their concerns that actions must be taken. 

As Arti Raghavan shared with #ShePersisted, “Social media just doesn’t simply mirror the structures of the offline world. There is a degree of aggression and toxicity that you don’t see in real world encounters. Large social media platforms should be looked at as polluters operating in a high-risk enterprise that has an identifiable and detrimental impact, and they should have to pay.”


+ Scottish Parliament issues apology over history of forced adoptions. 

Nicola Sturgeon, former First Minister of Scotland, issued a “sincere, heartfelt and unreserved” apology to those impacted by the practice of forced adoption. Between the 1940s and 1970s, thousands of unmarried women across Scotland were sent by their families, social workers, health workers and religious workers to live in religious institutions and give birth in secret. Mothers were coerced into giving up their children and were lied to about the adoption process. It is estimated that 60,000 unmarried women were impacted across Scotland. 

Nicola Sturgeon in Fort William, 2011. (Wikimedia Commons)

“What happened to these women is almost impossible to comprehend,” said Sturgeon, in one of her final speeches as leader. One of those in attendance was Esther Robertson — one of the children given up for adoption in 1961. “It doesn’t erase what happened, but it is an acknowledgment, and that is important,” said Robertson. 

The Scottish government has since allocated £145,000 (approximately $180,000 USD) in funding to provide counseling services for those impacted by forced adoption. Scotland’s statement follows similar moves from other countries, including Australia, Belgium and Ireland


+ Cities become places of resistance for Indigenous people.

Artist, muralist, activist and singer Olinda Silvano, also known as Reshin Jabe in her native Shipibo language, believes in the power of education. In her community of Cantagallo, she tries to fight for her community within the city of Lima.

Olinda Silvano. (Wikimedia Commons)

Currently, the community has no electricity and running water. In 2016, the whole community had burnt down. Since then, they are not handed any property titles as the land is declared as contaminated.

Silvano is determined to support their community. They state, “I want to empower indigenous women—and men as well—to give them opportunities so that they don’t say, ‘I’m not valuable. I am nothing.’ No, we are all valuable, it is up to us to find our courage and our gift.”

Instead of criticizing a person, Silvano believes that everyone can achieve something to support their family and community. Under their leadership, they started an infirmary, opened a community kitchen as well as a craft shop, where women from the community sell their handicrafts.

On top of that, Silvano has traveled locally, nationally and internationally to defend and claim their community rights. They participated in meetings and painted murals.
Their activism makes them who they are, but it also makes them sick. They say, “I love Cantagallo and I love Peru. I am happy to be a Peruvian indigenous woman. I am doing my job, creating my art, and making my country proud. But I am not eternal. At any moment something could happen to me. I am suffering from diabetes because of so many worries about my community.”

The Philippines

+ 106-year-old tattoo artist becomes Vogue’s oldest cover model.

Vogue Philippines revealed Apo Whang-Od, a 106-year-old tattoo artist and indigenous Kalinga woman, as the cover of its April issue. Whang-Od is the oldest person ever to appear on the front of Vogue.

Whang-Od — also known as Maria Oggay — lives in the mountain village of Buscalan. She has been performing the art of hand-tapping tattoos since she was 16 years old and is now considered the country’s oldest mambabatok, or traditional tattooer. She is famous for mastering a 1,000-year-old “batok” tattooing technique using charcoal soot and a sharp stick. The tattoos were once bestowed upon indigenous Butbut warriors. Now, her clientele is primarily composed of tourists. 

The technique can only be passed down to blood relatives, so Whang-Od has been training her grandnieces Elyang Wigan and Grace Palicas. “I’m the only one left alive that’s still giving tattoos. But I’m not afraid that the tradition will end because [I’m training] the next tattoo masters,” said Whang-Od. 

Vogue Philippines editor-in-chief Bea Valdes said staff at the publication voted unanimously to put Whang-Od on the cover. “We believe that the concept of beauty needs to evolve, and include diverse and inclusive faces and forms. What we hope to speak about is the beauty of humanity,” Valdes added.


+ Period poverty is on the rise in Lebanon.

In the face of worsening economic conditions, Lebanese communities are increasingly unable to afford menstrual hygiene products. Since the start of 2022, the Lebanese lira has lost more than 15 percent of its value and 82 percent of the population now lives in poverty. More than half of the women in Lebanon are experiencing the effects of period poverty, as the cost of sanitary products has soared by 500 percent.

Period poverty is defined by the U.N. as “the struggle many low-income women and girls face while trying to afford menstrual products.” Across Lebanon, more than 66 percent of adolescent girls are unable to purchase the menstrual products they need.   

Roof and Roots, a local organization, has been working to address this issue with assistance from ACTED, U.N. Women and the Japanese government. Their advocacy focuses on employing local women to manufacture menstrual products, which are then distributed to community members. Since the organization’s founding, the team produced and distributed 13,500 packs of menstrual products. 

They also aim to dismantle pervasive menstrual and reproductive health stigma in their community. “We need to create safe spaces for adolescent girls to discuss their reproductive health with experts, to allow them to properly discover their bodies and understand the physical and hormonal changes they experience. It is about time for girls to stop being scared whenever they get their periods, and for them to understand how to deal with it,” said Hiba Mohammad Hussein, a local community member and supporter of Roof and Roots.


+ The queer community in Egypt faces a systemic crackdown.

According to Human Rights Watch, LGBTQ+ people in the Middle East and North Africa are experiencing increased digital targeting. “The authorities in Egypt . . .  have integrated technology into their policing of LGBT people,” said Rasha Younes, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. They add, “While digital platforms have enabled LGBT people to express themselves and amplify their voices, they have also become tools for state-sponsored repression.”

Many of the people being arrested have used dating apps such as Grindr, Tinder or WhosHere. As Lobna Darwish, a gender rights researcher at the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), stated to DW, “In 2022, we provided legal aid and documented 19 cases that involved 43 defendants who were arrested based on their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity by the vice police, a department that is specialized in combatting illegal sex work, and later accused of charges including habitual practice of debauchery.”

Carrying cash or condoms is often seen by authorities as enough evidence to justify persecution for engaging in sex work. Often police officers create fake accounts and talk for days and weeks before asking them to bring condoms to their meeting.

While homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt, discrimination based on sexual orientation is common practice. Last year, Egypt’s Ministry of Education made it a priority to combat LGBTQ+ ideas. A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center had found that the majority of Egyptians believed that homosexuality was not accepted by society.

Despite the ongoing dangers for queer Egyptians, dating apps such as Grindr only put up a warning and do not change the way they operate to protect users. As Berlin-based Egyptian activist Nora Noralla, the executive director at Cairo 52, a Cairo-based legal research institute that defends members of the queer community pro bono, states to DW,  “With such a warning, they merely create the illusion of corporate responsibility.”

The imminent danger of police infiltrating dating apps to detect and arrest queer people, has led to many users verifying chat partners through other social media accounts and then using encrypted apps like Signal to continue conversations. Locations for meetings are frequently changed and happen at dedicated safe houses.

Even though the LGBTQ+ community faces difficulties in ensuring their safety, Noralla also shares some hope, “[The] community is growing despite the arrests. Sadly, the environment is not the best, but we are far from crumbling.”

South Africa

+ South Africans protest anti LGBTQ+ law in Uganda.

In March, Uganda’s parliament passed a law making it a crime to identify as LGBTQ+. This new law provides authorities with broad powers to specifically target queer Ugandans, who already face much legal discrimination and mob violence.

The new law not only criminalizes same-sex intercourse, but it makes being LGBTQ+ in itself a crime. As Frank Mugisha, a prominent Ugandan LGBTQ+ activist stated to Reuters, “This law is very extreme and draconian … it [criminalizes] being an LGBTQ person, but also they are trying to erase the entire existence of any LGBTQ Ugandan.”

LGBTQ+ Ugandans are not alone in the fight for their rights. On March 31, many people in South Africa called on Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, not to sign the new law.

PaPa De DeLovie Kwagala, another Ugandan LGBTQ+ rights activist and photographer, protested among a crowd of hundred people outside of the United Nations Information Centre in Pretoria. They told Reuters, “World leaders should put pressure on Museveni to not sign the bill because it’s not only a Ugandan issue, it is an African continent issue.” They continue, “Queer people don’t owe anyone anything, but we also deserve to live just like everyone else. You can’t strip all our rights. This is a world emergency.”

LGBTQ+ Ugandans march at Pride in London, 2016. (Katy Blackwood / Wikimedia Commons)


+ The city of Berlin welcomes topless swimmers, after a discrimination case.

Last December, Lotte Mies, a Berlin resident, had filed an anti-discrimination case with the authorities in charge of the state’s anti-discrimination legislation after she was thrown out of a Berlin indoor pool for swimming topless. 

Mies had interpreted the house rules and concluded that bathing topless as someone with breasts does not violate these rules. To confirm, she also had contacted the pool’s personnel who gave her permission to swim topless. At the pool, staff then asked her to cover up and leave before calling the police.

As Mies told the Guardian, “I felt very humiliated and that my dignity as a human being was discriminated against because I am a woman, so that certain things and premises were denied to me due to unwritten moral codes that men imposed on women that are still in effect today.”

Her complaint sparked a rule change in Berlin’s swimming pool operator, Berliner Bäderbetriebe. They state, “Now it has been laid down that this regulation is always applied in accordance with the principle of equal treatment of all genders. There are no longer different ways of interpreting the common practice, but every guest of our swimming pools now has the possibility to decide for themselves which kind of swimwear they want to wear.”

Doris Liebscher, who is the director of the state’s equal treatment and anti-discrimination agency, welcomed the new decision as it means that everyone regardless of gender will be treated equally and can swim topless, while it provides some legal security for pool staff.

Mies also added, “The main problem with the whole topic is that women are exposed to permanent [sexualization] and this is equated with sexual availability, and they are treated accordingly.”


+ Fewer than one-third of U.N. member states have had a woman leader.  

Recent Pew Research Center reports find that only 59 U.N. member states have ever had a woman leader. The first was Sri Lanka, where Sirimavo Bandaranaike served her first term as prime minister in 1960. While the number of countries that have ever had a woman leader has been on the rise since 1990, the number of women who are actively in office in any given year is increasing at a slower rate. 

Women currently serve as the head of government in only 13 of 193 member states — in nine of those 13 countries, the current leader is the country’s first woman head of government. In any given year, no more than 18 countries have had a woman leader at the same time, although there have been 15 women in 2023 so far. 

Even when women hold political roles, they rarely do so for long — the median time for holding the position is only 2.5 years. Only five countries have had a decade or more of women’s leadership.   

+ Global feminists call for gender apartheid to be classified as an international crime.

Afghan and Iranian women activists are calling for gender apartheid to be classified as a crime under international law. The campaign claims that current legal standards on discrimination against women do not accurately reflect the lived reality of Iranian and Afghan women. 

“Under international law, the crime of apartheid only applies to racial hierarchies, not hierarchies based on gender. This campaign will seek to expand the set of moral, political and legal tools available to mobilize international action against and ultimately end systems of gender apartheid,” said Gissou Nia, one of the human rights lawyers backing the campaign. 

Other signatories of the open letter include Iranian Nobel peace prize laureate Shirin Ebadi; Fawzia Koofi of the Afghan parliament, Benafsha Yaqoobi, a commissioner of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, and many grassroots activists. 

The letter cites the recent Taliban actions to ban women from education and employment in NGOs and the country’s severe dress code as evidence of the discrimination faced by Afghan women. It also says: “In the Islamic Republic of Iran, women are banned from many fields of study, sporting events, from traveling without a male guardian, are worth half a man under the law and are forced to wear compulsory hijab. These bans, and the broader legal systems they belong to, seek to establish and maintain women’s subjugation to men and the state. Violation of these laws can lead to violence, imprisonment and death.”

The authors of the letter claim they are not discriminating against Muslim societies or seeking to impose Western cultural values, but are instead addressing systemic attempts to discriminate against women.

+ The European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health condemns the state of U.S. reproductive rights.

After a federal judge in Texas invalidated the FDA approval of mifepristone, the European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health issued a recent statement denouncing the ruling. The statement stressed the safety of mifepristone and the importance of the pill in lowering maternal mortality and morbidity.

“The fact that this judge reached a verdict that is so far from the established conclusion of the entire scientific community leads to suspicions of a politically motivated ruling that has nothing to do with the pretended noble concern for the health and safety of women,” said the European Society of Contraception.

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U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.

About and

Dominik Drabent is a former editorial intern for Ms. and a Ph.D. student in the Gender Studies program at Arizona State University. He earned his master’s degree in Gender & Women's Studies from Minnesota State University, Mankato, where he also was an instructor. His research interests are queer studies, feminist pedagogy, transnational feminism, the Middle East, Islamic feminism and Muslim sexualities.
Hannah Phelps is an editorial intern at Ms. and a senior at Smith College majoring in government and the study of women and gender. Her interests include educational equity, international law and transnational feminism.