In today’s WDD, we’re paying tribute to the trailblazing war journalist Marie Colvin, who was killed while reporting in Syria six years ago this week. In other news, a state in India is offering free breast implants to poor women, Somaliland is set to outlaw FGM, and a study has revealed the truth about how women were represented in film in 2017.
Remembering Marie Colvin on sixth anniversary of her death
This week marked six years since the death of world-renowned journalist Marie Colvin, who lost her life after being hit by a shell in Syria in 2012.
As a veteran war correspondent, Colvin was utterly fearless in her approach to reporting from some of the most dangerous places on earth. Working for The Sunday Times from 1985 until her death, the American journalist covered global conflicts whenever they broke out. At the time of her death she was the only journalist for a British publication reporting from inside the besieged Syrian city of Homs.
It was this dedication to the job that made Colvin stand out. While reporting from hostile places, she was known to help those around her: in East Timor in 1999, she was credited for saving the lives of 1,500 women and children who were trapped in a compound by Indonesian-backed forces.
Colvin wore an eyepatch after losing the sight in her left eye in a grenade blast in Sri Lanka in 2001, and said that the incident only strengthened her dedication to protect innocent lives and report the truth.
“My job is to bear witness,” she said. “I have never been interested in knowing what make of plane had just bombed a village or whether the artillery that fired at it was 120mm or 155mm.”
Indian state offers free breast implants to poor women
The south Indian state of Tamil Nadu has become the first in the world to offer free breast implants and breast reduction surgery to residents who would not otherwise be able to afford it.
The free service was launched this week at a clinic in Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu. “If we don’t offer [the procedure for free], they may opt for dangerous methods or take huge loans for it,” said Dr C Vijaya Baskar, the state’s health minister.
Dr V Ramadevi, the head of plastic surgery at the Chennai clinic, said that women with large breasts sometimes experienced back pain or received unwelcome attention when they went out in public, while others felt their confidence would be boosted by breast implants.
“There is a psychological benefit,” she said, adding: “There is no reason this surgery should be restricted from the poor.”
Dr S Elango, a former public health director for Tamil Nadu, argued that state funds should be used for tackling disease. “It is sad we are now focusing on beauty instead of life-saving surgeries,” he said.
Read more on this story at The Times of India.
Fewer women protagonists in 2017 films compared to 2016, study finds
Female characters featured prominently in some of last year’s biggest films, from Wonder Woman to Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Beauty and the Beast. However, a new study has revealed that the overall number of female protagonists in films actually went down in 2017.
The report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found that major studios generally failed to support female-dominated films in 2017. Women made up less than a quarter (24%) of the protagonists in the year’s highest grossing films, a decline of 5% from 2016.
Researchers also found that cinemagoers were more than twice as likely to see men on the big screen than women, and that male characters were allowed to speak significantly more than female ones.
There were some welcome improvements in terms of racial diversity on screen, with more women characters of colour in the top 100 films of 2017 than ever before. However, the statistics showed that Hollywood is still a long way away from embracing anything close to equal representation on screen.
Read more on this story here.
Country with one of the world’s highest FGM rates set to ban practice
Activists in Somaliland are rejoicing after the state’s parliament moved to officially outlaw female genital mutilation (FGM).
“We are very optimistic that this policy will get the approval of the cabinet, as the president has previously showed commitment to this issue,” said Abdirahman O Gaas, executive director of the Somaliland Network Against FGM/C. “It is likely parliament will pass the law since there is no significant conflict between the stakeholders.”
The decision to ban the practice – which 98% of women aged 15-49 in Somaliland are estimated to have undergone – comes after two out three types of FGM were prohibited by a fatwa (religious decree) for being against the Islamic faith. It’s part of a new wave of legislation providing women with more protection, including a regulation to criminalise rape.
“It’s a step in a good direction,” said Ayan Mahamoud, Somaliland’s representative in Britain and the Commonwealth. “Although we are not completely satisfied with the fatwa, having it will help the legislation to go through parliament and will save many young girls from abuse.”
The Guardian has more on this story here.
Throughout 2018, Stylist is raising the profiles of brilliant women past and present – and empowering future generations to follow their lead – with our Visible Women campaign. See more from Visible Women here.
Images: Rex Features / iStock