Female Artists in Rio Promote Women’s Rights Via Painting

Before leaving her home each day to teach art to children, Mariluce Maria de Souza must factor in extra time to account for the shootings and other eruptions of violence that occur daily in Alemao, Rio de Janeiro’s largest complex of slums, or favelas.

The 35-year-old mother sometimes has to cancel a session teaching painting to children because the journey to class is just too dangerous. Through the project called Favela Art, the self-taught artist requires that her students attend school and study hard in return.

Souza has become an example of empowerment for girls and women in the slum, who often face domestic violence and workplace discrimination.

“Sometimes the mothers, who are mother and father at the same time, don’t have the time to give the kind of attention that five, six or seven children need,” Souza said.

Like many Latin American countries, Brazil has deep problems with gender-specific violence. The Brazilian nonprofit Mapa da Violencia says nearly five in 100,000 women are killed each year, giving the country one of the world’s highest homicide rates for women.

The situation is even worse for black women, many of whom live in slums. Between 2003 and 2013, the annual number homicides of black women jumped 54 percent, according to Mapa da Violencia.

“We use the graffiti to demand the end of violence against women,” said Maiara Viana Rodrigues, a 25-year-old who said that as a teen she was sexually abused by a man in her neighborhood.

To make her point, the member of Afrograffitteiras, a group working to empower black women, on one recent afternoon painted graffiti exhorting: “Viva! You, Woman!” on a wall in a Rio suburb.

Along with rejecting physical violence, the female artists say they also want to shine a light on psychological abuse, unequal access to education and health care, and less pay for women doing the same job as men. 

Lya Alves, who recently painted a mural of a black woman on a wall in Rio’s renovated port area, says feminism has lost much of its meaning since the 1970s, when women fought against being considered sexual objects.

“Nowadays the media promotes” the sexual objectification of women, she said. “Is that helping to obtain a better education, a better salary?”

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Nike to Launch High-tech Hijab for Female Muslim Athletes

Nike will launch a hijab for female Muslim athletes early next year, becoming the first major sports apparel maker to offer a traditional Islamic head scarf designed specifically for competition, the company said on Wednesday.

The head covering, marketed under the “Pro Hijab” brand, is designed to allow athletes to observe the traditional Islamic practice of covering the head without compromising performance.

Made from a lightweight, flexible material, the hijab is expected to hit stores shelves in early 2018, Nike said in a statement.

In recent years, the hijab has become the most visible symbol of Islamic culture in the United States and Europe. Many Muslim women cover their heads in public with the hijab as a sign of modesty, but some critics see it as a sign of female oppression.

With sensitivities over immigration and the perceived threat of Muslim extremism running high, the head scarf has led to attacks against Muslim women. At the same time, the hijab has evolved in a symbol of diversity that Nike has embraced.

The Women’s March on Washington, held the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, used the face of a woman wearing a hijab in an American flag pattern as its promotional image.

Muslim athletes visiting Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, just outside of Portland, have complained about the difficulties of wearing a hijab while competing, according to the company.

The company consulted with Muslim women athletes from around the world, including Middle Eastern runners and cyclists, in the designing the hijab.

Other companies have also set their sights on hijab sales to Muslim athletes.

Last year, Danish sportswear company Hummel unveiled a soccer jersey with an attached hijab for the Afghanistan national women’s soccer team.

Non-professional women Muslim athletes have used athletic hijabs made by smaller companies.

But Nike’s annual net sales in the billions and its reach in popular culture can do more to bring Muslim athletes into the fold, said Amna Al Haddad, a Nike sponsored weightlifter from the United Arab Emirates who consulted on “Pro Hijab.”

“[It will] encourage a whole new generation to pursue sports without feeling there is a limitation because of modesty or dress-code,” Haddad said.

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Nigeria’s Kaduna Rivals Lagos in Growing Hip-hop Culture

Lagos has long been known as Nigeria’s pop culture hub. It’s the home of Nigeria’s film industry, Nollywood, as well as many of the country’s top musicians and artists.

But a group of rappers and fashion designers is creating a scene of their own in Kaduna, in northern Nigeria, some 600 kilometers from Lagos. Kaduna’s is the new center of Nigeria’s growing hip-hop culture.

 

DJ Jakes Tudu is cranking out jams on his weekly radio show, playing the latest tunes from local rap artists.

 

Hip-hop music has taken over Nigeria’s pop music scene. Rappers like Morell, DJ AB, Kheengz, and Classiq are part of a new generation of rappers. They hail from Kaduna and they’re trying to put their city on the music map.  

 

On the surface, Kaduna is a quiet conservative city. But there’s another side of it. Here, music artists like Kevin Words are becoming local celebrities. DJ Jakes is a huge fan of Words.

“Stepping into the Kaduna music industry you have to listen to the likes of Kevin Words because a lot of people out there have this stereotype or this mindset that Kaduna artists or the Kaduna industry is full of mediocres, but when you hear people like Kevin Words, trust me, you want to sit up,” DJ Jakes says.

Ibrahim Ilyia, 28, is another rapper from the streets of Kaduna. He goes by the stage name IBI. One of his most recent hit songs, Alhamdulillah, fuses the local Hausa slang with American hip-hop style.  

 

“When I was young I used to listen to rap a lot and I fell in love with rap music and right now I do rap music because I love it,” Ilyia says.

Most rappers in Nigeria, Ilyia says, end up going to Lagos to make it but Lagos, in his opinion, is passe.

 

“I’m not actually against people going to Lagos, but if Kaduna people can just build themselves alone, reach a certain level, I mean Lagos is nothing. We’ll counter them.”

So, he works hard, putting pen to paper to write rhymes and trying out new lyrics with sample beats. He’s good at free-styling, too.

 

The music is just one part of hip-hop culture. Fashion is also important. Kaduna is fertile ground for young ambitious designers.

Hussena Raji is the CEO of Mummy’s Fashun. Her clothes are an edgy blend of urban and African.

“I decided to blend hip-hop because that’s what’s selling in the market. Almost everybody wants to wear and feel like it. So we try as much as possible to make everything look it,” says Raji.

Patrick Yamai, 24, is another designer combining different looks with his fashion label YKP Clothing.

 

‘I just felt there was a space in the fashion line that had been neglected. It’s either fully African or it’s fully English, or fully corporate, but I had this dream of fusing the two. Something you can wear to the club and still wear to the office. So I tried to fuse African and urban together to see if it can go and the reception has been wonderful. We’re doing clothes that are African but you can wear it with a sneaker and still look cool, that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said.

   

Yamai is an accounting graduate while DJ Jakes studied architecture in school. But they each found their calling in this local scene.

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Tech Companies Respond to Alleged CIA Hacking Tools

Major technology firms say they are moving to fix any vulnerabilities in their operating systems, a day after WikiLeaks released documents pertaining to an alleged CIA hacking arsenal capable of spying on people through microphones in mobile phones and other electronic devices, such as smart televisions.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Apple said it already had addressed many of the issues identified in the WikiLeaks documents, but said it would “continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities.”

“We always urge customers to download the latest iOS to make sure they have the most recent security updates,” Apple said.

 

Samsung made a similar comment, saying it was aware of the report and “urgently looking into the matter.”

“Protecting consumers’ privacy and the security of our devices is a top priority at Samsung,” the South Korean electronics company said.

According to the WikiLeaks documents, the CIA identified weaknesses within the software used by Apple, Google, Microsoft and other U.S.-based manufacturers; but, instead of informing the companies of the vulnerabilities, the CIA “hoarded” the exploits, leaving people open to potential hacking.

“By hiding these security flaws from manufacturers like Apple and Google the CIA ensures that it can hack everyone; at the expense of leaving everyone hackable,” WikiLeaks said in a statement accompanying the release of the documents.

The CIA would neither confirm nor deny the legitimacy of the documents, although WikiLeaks boasts a nearly perfect record on the authenticity of the documents it publishes.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, White House Spokesman Sean Spicer likened the WikiLeaks release to recent information leaks from within the White House, and said it should serve as “a cause for concern” for all Americans.

“I think the idea that we are having these ongoing disclosures of national security and classified information should be something that everybody is outraged about in this country,” he said. “This is the kind of disclosure that undermines our country, our security and our well-being.”

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UN Expert Urges States to Work Towards Cyber Surveillance Treaty

The world needs an international treaty to protect people’s privacy from unfettered cybersurveillance, which is being pushed by populist politicians preying on fear of terrorism, according to a U.N. report debated on Wednesday.

The report, submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council by the U.N. independent expert on privacy, Joe Cannataci, said traditional privacy safeguards such as rules on phone tapping were outdated in the digital age.

“It’s time to start reclaiming cyberspace from the menace of over-surveillance,” Cannataci told the Council.

With governments worldwide demanding data from firms such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter, it did not make sense to rely entirely on U.S. legal safeguards, and creating an “international warrant” for data access or surveillance would unify global standards, he said.

“What the world needs is not more state-sponsored shenanigans on the Internet but rational, civilized agreement about appropriate state behavior in cyberspace,” the report said. “This is not utopia. This is cold, stark reality.”

Cannataci was appointed as the first “Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy” in 2015, following the uproar caused by revelations by Edward Snowden, a former U.S. security contractor who once worked at the U.S. mission in Geneva.

His report was submitted last week, before the latest publication by anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks of what it said were thousands of pages of internal CIA discussions of hacking techniques of smartphones and other gadgets.

The United States did not react to Cannataci’s report, but many countries welcomed it and agreed that online privacy standards should be as strong as offline standards.

China’s diplomat at the Council said rapid technological advances and the “drastic increase worldwide in the violation of privacy” made it urgent to enhance protection, while Russia’s representative said Cannataci’s report was “extremely topical”.

Venezuela, Iran and Cuba all welcomed Cannataci’s work and criticized international surveillance.

A draft legal text was being debated by activists and “some of the larger international corporations” and was expected to be published within a year, Cannataci said.

In his report, he criticized populist laws that intruded on privacy in the name of fighting terrorism.

He said such sweeping but unproven powers were based on fear alone, and compared them to U.S. President Donald Trump’s order restricting travel from six Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

“The level of the fear prevents the electorate from objectively assessing the effectiveness of the privacy-intrusive measures proposed,” he wrote.

“Trying to appear tough on security by legitimizing largely useless, hugely expensive and totally disproportionate measures which are intrusive on so many people’s privacy – and other rights – is patently not the way governments should go.”

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