Men in Black

By Jaimee A. Swift

April 28, 2016

Men are polishing one digit to help stop violence against children

For every heart-wrenching news story we come across, there’s always a bright spot we can focus on as well. Here, we provide some of the good, the bad—and the ugly—situations that have taken place across the world lately, shedding light on what’s working, what isn’t, and what still needs to be done to make the world a safe place.

The Good

It is estimated that 125 million girls and women globally are living with the effects of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), which is most widespread in parts of Africa and the Middle East. Around a quarter of women in Nigeria have experienced FGM/C. However in May, the government of Nigeria took a federal stand against it, banning the practice once and for all. This historic move also signifies a landmark moment in pressuring other African nations to follow suit and take action against FGM/C.

When Michel Chikwanine was five years old, rebel militiamen kidnapped him from a soccer field near his school in the Democratic Republic of Congo. For his initiation into the army, he was forced to kill his best friend. In spite of these horrific experiences, Chikwanine has found a way to reconcile with his past by creating a graphic novel called “Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls are Used in War,” a work he hopes will give young people greater context and awareness of the use of children in war.

In the wake of war, South Sudan’s displaced women stand tall. Facing grim conditions, South Sudanese matriarchs are rebuilding communities and families by helping survivors relax and socialize in refugee camps. Here, they help raise children who have been orphaned, create social groups for women to build their own businesses in the camps, and also lead faith-based services to uplift the spirits of those who have lost everything in the war.

Men are getting mini-manicures for a great cause—to end sexual and physical violence against children. After learning that the vast majority of all sexual violence against children is perpetrated by men, Elliot Costello created the Polished Man campaign, which encourages men to paint a single fingernail to raise awareness against child abuse.

This year marked a historic feat for women and girls around the world. In September, global leaders agreed on the new Sustainable Development Goals, and the fifth goal focuses on achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls by 2030. Women and girls are leading the agenda and demanding that their needs and rights are taking center stage.

Movemeber is an event where men grow mustaches in the month of November to raise awareness about men’s health issues. Created by the Movember Foundation, the group’s focus is to redefine the notion of masculinity, and as part of this year’s campaign, they asked a transgendered man named Jeremy Wiggins to participate in the movement for the first time and to document in a video what it means for him to be a man.

The Bad

When girls have their periods in western Nepal, they are forced to eat, sleep and stay outside. A tradition known as chaupadi, deems women unclean and untouchable when they are menstruating; they are even prohibited from touching their family members while on their periods.

Of the 781 million adults over the age of 15 estimated to be illiterate, 496 million of them were women according to the World’s Women 2015 report released by the United Nations Statistics Division. This means that two-thirds of the adults who cannot read are women, which presents a serious hurdle in achieving the global goal for gender equality.

Over 35 women came forward to tell their stories about how they were sexually assaulted by American comedy icon Bill Cosby. Despite their brave efforts, some survivors were mocked and even threatened by many who did not believe their testimonies.

The Ugly

Add this to the list of harmful practices being forced on adolescent girls. In an effort to stop sexual harassment, rape, and impregnation of their young relatives by delaying the signs of puberty, some adults are flattening girls’ breasts with hot stones and metal. The practice, which is known as “breast ironing,” is a widespread tradition in Cameroon, several other West African countries and is now continuing in the United Kingdom.

Marcela, 15, was found slumped on the corner of a street in El Salvador. She was assassinated and murdered by a gang member. This is the story of many girls in El Salvador who are affected by turf warfare and acts of revenge by rival gangs. Unfortunately, both girls and boys are caught in the middle of this violence, and in a blink of an eye, disappearing.

After abducting hundreds of Yazidi women and girls from their homes and selling them into sex slave markets last August, ISIS is now forcing the women they captured and raped to also have abortions.