International Women’s Day: Boko Haram Girls And Syrian Refugees Among The Forgotten Fighting For More Than Most

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‘International Women’s Day’ (IWD) is an event of celebration for many as people remember the great strides still to take towards full gender parity, but honour hard-won campaigns that saw women win the vote, receive better political representation and begin bridging the pay gap.

Outside Britain however, thousands of women are fighting simply for the right to self-determination. Often-forgotten, their bid for safety and control over their own bodies is a bitter struggle most have never known.

Human Rights Watch has urged people to use IWD as a chance to recommit to support those still subject to oppression and violence.

Women are showing solidarity with their peers worldwide

Schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram to Isis sex slaves; from refugee mothers fleeing Syria to persecuted transgender women in Jamaica are all reminders there is still much work to be done.

“We have a lot to celebrate on International Women’s Day – the world has never been a safer, more equal place for women and girls,” the charity’s women’s rights division director, Liesl Gerntholtz, told HuffPost UK.

“But, there is still much that needs to be done to ensure that all women and girls benefit from progress.

“We should spare a thought for the women fleeing wars and conflict who don’t know where they will sleep tonight or how they will feed their children.

“For the millions of girls still at risk of female genital mutilation and child marriage; the women who cannot decide when and how they have sex or make decisions about the most intimate aspects of their lives; and the women and girls whose unpaid labour fuels communities and countries.

“For these women, we need to recommit ourselves to ensuring that their rights are protected and they can enjoy the same freedoms as the rest of the world.”

To recognise the plight thousands of women across the globe are still facing, we’ve highlighted five groups still fighting for a lot more than most on International Women’s Day.

  • 1
    Boko Haram’s kidnapped girls
    The quest to find and rescue over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted by terror group Boko Haram in April 2014, has shown little signs of progress.

    Intelligence services in the country are stumped and have already “tried to do as much as they can”, a UN under-secretary general Babatunde Osotimehin has said.

    The captured girls – aged just 15 to 18 when they were taken – are likely being used as cooks, servants and sex slaves, a foreign affairs journalist working in Africa understands.

    But even though Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian President, said over three months ago he was willing to negotiate with Boko Haram for the girls’ release without any preconditions, no leads have resulted in their release yet.

    It is suspected they are being remain hidden in underground bunkers.

  • 2
    Refugee women fleeing Syria
    Santi Palacios/AP
    Amnesty International has lambasted governments and aid agencies for “failing to provide even basic protections” for the thousands of women refugees.

    “After living through the horrors of the war in Iraq and Syria these women have risked everything to find safety for themselves and their children. But from the moment they begin this journey they are again exposed to violence and exploitation, with little support or protection,” the charity’s international crisis response director, Tirana Hassan, said.

    In the Calais ‘Jungle’ migrant camp women make up around 10% of the camp’s population. A heavily guarded camp for them has only 100 beds – and they filled up long ago.

    “They said there is no place for me with the women, I have to sleep in the men’s area,” Hannah, one of three Syrian women living outside the guarded enclave, told The Guardian.

    In southern Europe, It is estimated around 55 percent of the people at the Greek Idomeni camp – which borders Macedonia and was designed for 2,000 people – are women and young girls.

    Despite having fled war and destitution, many of them are susceptible to abuse, financial exploitation and being pressured to have sex by people smugglers or security officials.

  • 3
    Islamic State sex slaves
    Many women remain captive and subjected to horrific ordeals on a daily basis, held by terror group Isis, also known as Islamic State (IS).

    One woman who managed to escape their clutches has recalled giving birth while she was held as a sex slave then being forbidden to feed her newborn son.

    When the boy cried out in hunger, their captor beheaded him in front of her, the Mirror reported.

    Another woman, a Yazidi, told of seeing a 12-year-old girl get “raped without mercy”.

    She was one of more than 5,000 women captured and enslaved back in August 2014 when militants attacked the city of Sinjar, in northern Iraq.

  • 4
    Trans women in Jamaica
    Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays
    The Caribbean island nation of Jamaica, a former British colony, was described by TIME magazine in 2006 as “the most homphobic place on earth”.

    But the country’s record on hate attacks committed against people who identify as transgender is similarly chilling.

    In 2012, The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights claimed that discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression was widespread in Jamaica.

    The high-profile murder of Dwayne Jones, a 16-year-old boy who was forced out of his family home for being too effeminate and killed on a night out for wearing women’s clothes, is just one of the stories.

    Homeless trans Jamaican women have spoken out about being persecuted and chased down the street by police for their lifestyle, while others have begged their family members not to refer to them by their female name in public.

  • 5
    ‘Femicide’ victims in Honduras
    Esteban Felix/AP
    The mother of a slain beauty queen grieves over her daughter’s coffin in Santa Barbara, Honduras

    Honduras, labelled one of the most dangerous countries on the planet outside a war zone by news agency AFP, is a place where a woman is murdered every 13 hours.

    Violence against women is so common there that it has a special name: “Femicide.”

    Sixteen women were murdered during BBC presenter Stacey Dooley’s short trip to the Central African nation back in October to investigate some of the worst places in the world to be a woman.

    “It’s another brutal murder,” the journalist says on camera, witnessing a corpse being recovered. “This is the 865th body they’ve had here in four months.”

    “It starts to become just numbers and then when you see the bodies, that is someone’s mum, that is someone’s baby, it’s impossible to understand how they can live with this.”

There are countless other examples of where women are still fighting for basic human rights, but these samples serve to demonstrate just how far the world has to go towards achieving anything for millions of women to celebrate about.

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today. Through features, video and blogs, we’ll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you’d like to blog on our platform around these topics, email with a summary of who you are and what you’d like to blog about

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