Welcome to our blog! This is a platform where the rich diversity of women's voices can be heard and where we can come together to turn attention on the myriad of issues that affect a variety of women. We celebrate where things are good, and focus a spotlight on areas where they aren't. If you want to write something for this space please just get in touch!

Before sending us your blog, please note: We publish articles that are written by women, pro all women & not for profit in their intention. We welcome lighter pieces as well as articles on more serious issues. There is no specific word count, but most pieces are around the 700 word mark.

Our latest post is by Karla McLaren, Campaign Manager: Women’s Rights in Afghanistan for Amnesty International UK who are campaigning for women in Afghanistan.

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Karla McLaren, Campaign Manager – Women’s Rights in Afghanistan for Amnesty International UK writes

What do you think of when you remember your school days? Playground games of tig? School dinners? Smoking behind the bike sheds maybe? Some of you might have got into fights or been bullied. School isn’t fun for everyone.

It’s unlikely that you had to worry about the chance of being poisoned at school though, or gassed. Or that your teachers could be attacked on the way to registration, because teaching you was considered controversial.

If you were a girl in Afghanistan, those fears would be very real. In the past decade or so the number of girls enrolled at school in Afghanistan has risen exponentially, but the Taliban and other groups still oppose girls’ education: girls schools are attacked, female pupils are poisoned, teachers of girls are threatened, or worse.

Parween is a Headteacher of a girls’ school in Laghman province in Afghanistan. Her son was brutally murdered because of her work teaching girls. Can you imagine the despair Parween must have felt at hearing that news? But despite the loss of her son and continuing threats of violence, Parween refuses to give up on girls’ education.

Women like Parween - teachers and doctors, journalists and civil society activists –are the unsung heroes of women’s rights in Afghanistan. It is these women who go to work every day, not for glory or notoriety, but because they believe in women’s rights and peace, and they are committed to doing everything they can to make life better for Afghanistan’s next generation.

It’s hard to imagine that wanting to help others could be such a risky business. But in Afghanistan even doctors, by definition people aiming to heal others, can be violently targeted.

Dr D. (whose name we have had to conceal for security reasons) is a gynaecologist who has worked with women and girls who have been raped or abused. Because of her work, Dr D’s house was attacked with a bomb which seriously injured her 11 year old son. Months later her 22 year old brother was killed in a grenade attack.

Can you imagine being targeted for helping others? I have asked myself if I would be brave enough to continue working in the circumstances faced by Parween and Dr D. I don’t know the answer.

But I do know that the Afghan authorities and international community invested in Afghanistan have a responsibility to do all they can to protect and support women human rights defenders, who are on the frontline of pressing for respect for human rights.

As a member of NATO, a key donor and diplomatic ally, the UK has significant influence in Afghanistan. They also have a responsibility, which they have committed to under EU guidelines, to support and protect human rights defenders.

The UK should be championing the work of women like Parween and Dr D. We want to tell their stories, so that Afghanistan’s unsung heroes receive the support and protection they deserve.

Find out more about two women's stories here

Women's rights: A teacher's story

Women's rights: A doctor's story

Amnesty International Women’s Rights in Afghanistan


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“He made my life intolerable… saying I wasn’t doing my job properly any more … In the end, it got so bad, he just kept complaining about my work, and he’d never said anything about it before, and saying I wasn’t pulling my weight in the office”. (Davis et al, 2005)

After what seems like years of silence, pregnancy discrimination is fast becoming a hot topic.

The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have all recently come out against pregnancy discrimination with Jo Swinson MP (Minister for Employment Relations) noting that it was “both appalling and illegal. No employer should be able to get away with this kind of behaviour”.

Maria Miller MP (Minister for Women and Equalities) also spoke out when announcing the £1million research into the issue. She declared that, “...it’s unacceptable. I am determined that we tackle these systemic problems which leave women feeling undervalued and penalised”.

But Maternity Action are not celebrating just yet. Whilst the government’s display of concern on the issue is welcome, there is still urgent action they can take if they are serious about ending pregnancy discrimination.

In our new report, ‘Overdue: a plan of action to tackle pregnancy discrimination now’ we examine why justice for women who’ve experienced pregnancy discrimination has become even more inaccessible.

We call on the government to:

    •    Abolish (or at least reduce to a nominal level) the upfront fees for pregnancy discrimination and other employment tribunal claims
    •    Abandon the planned abolition of the ‘questionnaire procedure’ in discrimination claims.
    •    Establish a process for publicly ‘naming and shaming’ employers found by a tribunal to have flouted the law on
         pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
    •    Take urgent and robust action to improve the rate of compliance with employment tribunal awards.
    •    Match its funding of new EHRC research with funding for the specialist information and advice services that pregnant
         women and new mothers need to help protect their rights at work.
    •    Launch a public information campaign aimed at improving both workers’ and employers’ awareness and understanding
         of the law on pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
    •    Send out a clear and strong message to employers that pregnancy and maternity discrimination is unlawful, and
         that a harsh economic environment is no excuse to flout the law.

Join our campaign today!

"I went to the council offices...and said 'Oh my god, I'm pregnant and I've just been fired'. Reality hit. My rent was £250 a week, which I could very easily afford last week. I was so completely distraught... saying I should have an abortion, I can't afford this child." (Davis et al, 2005)

In 2005, three years before the global financial crisis hit, a landmark study by the Equal Opportunities Commission found that each year 30,000 women were forced out of their job.  Eight years on, all the available evidence suggests that figure is now more like 60,000.

Alongside our new report, Maternity Action and the Valuing Maternity Campaign Partners are launching the ‘When I Had My Baby’ campaign.  This campaign aims to shed light on real women’s stories and show the human impact behind the statistics.

If you or someone you know has been treated badly at work because you are pregnant or taking maternity or paternity leave then we want to hear about it.

Here’s what you can do:

    •    Tell your story! 
        
Tell us anonymously by emailing us or share it on our Facebook Wall or on Twitter using the hashtag  #WhenIHadMyBaby
    •    Be creative! 
         Include a photo with your story from your life as a working mum or dad and bring your story to life on our PhotoStory Wall
    •    Spread the word! 
         Share yours and other people’s stories through your own Twitter and Facebook
    •    Keep in touch! 
         Sign up to the Valuing Maternity Campaign News

    


News Index

1)

2) The Unsung Heroes of Afghanistan

3) Overdue: a plan of action to tackle pregnancy discrimination now

4) Just how accessible are the UK's free, universal Health Service?

5) Why We Need Female Role Models

6) Discovering the First Female English Playwright; or, Why We Should Care About Cary

7) Black women, feminism and the view from the outside: #solidarityisforwhitewomen

8) Why hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen went viral in 24h

9) From Sexist Exclusion to Feminist Inclusion: the Art of Pauline Boty

10) Lean In Public Speaking

11) Starting a new business following redundancy

12) equals - Blank Media Collective

13) The Wench Front Interviews Churchill On This, His Fiver Hour

14) Comedy and Continence

15) EverydaySexism

16) Check out our latest storify, by @bluecowmoo

17) Sound Women Festival

18) An invitation to Sky News

19) Why it is Time for a Criminal Offence of Domestic Abuse

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