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Social Issues
Inspiring And Thought-Provoking Reads And Links About Women And Girls
March 7, 2014
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Tomorrow is International Women's Day, an opportunity to reflect on the progress made toward gender equality around the world, and refocus our attention on how much further we still have to go.

We'll have more about some inspiring Canadian projects tomorrow, but to launch you into the weekend, we've rounded up some things to read, watch, look at and listen to about the state of women in the world today.

This morning, the New York Times columnist (and red chair alum) Nicholas Kristof tweeted out an update to his moving 2006 story about Aisha Parveen, a poor woman in Pakistan who was the victim of sex trafficking. The hopeful update to his story?

Along with his wife Sheryl WuDunn, Kristof wrote a book about the oppression of women and girls in the developing world called called Half the Sky, which was turned into a four-part PBS documentary and in turn a global campaign devoted to "turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide." Here's the documentary's trailer:

Next week marks the 40th anniversary of Free to Be You and Me, a hugely influential 1974 TV special promoting gender equality and tolerance that grew out of a popular album and book. On Buzzfeed, Doree Shafrir has an in-depth Q&A with Marlo Thomas, the actress and social activist behind the project about how the world's changed since Free To Be You And Me — and how it hasn't.

Here are the show's opening titles, set to the song "Free To Be... You And Me" by The New Seekers (note the many high-profile guests in the credits):

And here's one of the most famous sequences, "William Wants A Doll":

Slate has an article about "landays," short poems written by girls and women in Afghanistan, often to express frustration with their place in society, as in this couplet about gender roles:

When sisters sit together, they always praise their brothers.
When brothers sit together, they sell their sisters to others.

Poet Eliza Griswold and photographer Seamus Murphy have teamed up to produce a new compilation of the poems called I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays From Contemporary Afghanistan.

One of the important issues in Canada today is the disproportionate number of missing and killed native women. Holly Jarrett has launched a petition for a national public inquiry into the matter, in honour of her cousin Loretta Saunders, a 26-year-old Inuk student who was working on a thesis on the issue when she was found dead last month along a New Brunswick highway.

The Match International Women's Fund, which supports women's rights organizations around the world, released this infographic about women's rights in support of Women's Day:

One of the projects Match International funds, is Boxgirls, a Kenyan program that teaches self-defence and female empowerment to young women. Here's a CBC Radio story about it:

To head off any questions about whether we really need International Women's Day, the Independent has a damning compilation of statistics about why it's still important.

In the New York Times last year, Eileen Pollack wrote a fascinating article about an issue for developed countries: the continuing bias against women in the sciences, even in the age of strong equal rights protections.

Only one-fifth of physics Ph.D.’s in this country are awarded to women, and only about half of those women are American; of all the physics professors in the United States, only 14 percent are women. The numbers of black and Hispanic scientists are even lower; in a typical year, 13 African-Americans and 20 Latinos of either sex receive Ph.D.’s in physics. The reasons for those shortages are hardly mysterious — many minority students attend secondary schools that leave them too far behind to catch up in science, and the effects of prejudice at every stage of their education are well documented. But what could still be keeping women out of the STEM fields (“STEM” being the current shorthand for “science, technology, engineering and mathematics”), which offer so much in the way of job prospects, prestige, intellectual stimulation and income?

Finally, if you haven't seen the latest Google Doodle, which features women from around the world offering International Women's Day greetings in many dozens of languages, it's worth a watch:


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