Change and freedom for women
“In our community, we agreed that our daughter will marry our neighbour once she’s mature. But when I saw the early marriage clip, and I remembered what happened to me, I gained a little bit of strength to fight for my daughter and stop what happened to me happening to her.”
This comment from Yolande*, a viewer in Algeria, highlights why SAT-7’s ministry to women is so important. Early marriage is just one of many distressing social and cultural practices that impact girls and women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Domestic violence against women is common; confinement to the home normal in many places; and millions of women and girls are subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Women’s rights and freedoms are denied to varying degrees in different countries – most notably now in Afghanistan. “Since the Taliban takeover, girls in my homeland have been deprived of the most basic freedoms such as education and sport,” shares Mariam*, a SAT-7 PARS viewer from Afghanistan.
In Iran, nationwide protests broke out last September following the death of Mahsa Amini in custody, who was detained by the country’s morality police for not wearing the hijab properly. In the harsh crackdown that ensued, hundreds of women and girls were killed by the Iranian security forces and a series of raids were launched on girls’ schools.
In this challenging and often brutal context, SAT-7’s programming on satellite television and digital media activities for women aims to:
- help women and girls recognise their individual value in God’s eyes
- give them a platform to make their voices heard
- strengthen their families and communities
- equip women to challenge negative social attitudes and effect positive change.
The challenges for women in Iran and Afghanistan have increased dramatically in the past year, and SAT-7’s Persian channel has been standing alongside them in their desire for change and freedom.
Popular live show Insiders promotes women’s empowerment and gives them a platform to discuss topics that are widely treated as taboo in Persian culture.
A recent episode investigated the forces locking women into a vulnerable position in society, including unequal access to education and employment. It also explored how exposure to domestic violence, child marriages, and confinement to the home are on the rise now that women’s rights have been further curtailed, especially in Afghanistan. Program guest Mahdieh Golrou, an Iranian social activist, added that in Iran alone there were 700,000 child mothers.
“Despite all these deprivations and limitations, we are witnessing the resistance of brave women in Iran and Afghanistan in pursuit of their legal rights,” said Insiders presenter Hengameh Borji.
Feedback from male viewers highlights their support for women and their desire to see them treated with dignity and respect. This has also been seen very powerfully in the protests in Iran, where men and women have stood together under the slogan, “Woman. Life. Freedom”.
Kian*, a male viewer, wrote:
“Thank you for the topic you have selected – a discriminatory view of women is simply unacceptable in the modern era. A society that does not value women is heading towards destruction, and unfortunately, the way that these people view women does not respect their human dignity. They have effectively made women into objects for sale and there is nothing said about genuine love and faithfulness.”
Women in Türkiye also face significant challenges, most notably gender-based violence: over 300 women were murdered in the country last year, and almost 40 per cent are subject to domestic violence. In July 2021, Türkiye withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, a European Council treaty that commits its signatories to protecting women against all forms of violence and eliminating all forms of discrimination against women. Türkiye’s withdrawal, which the authorities attributed to the convention’s incompatibility with Turkish culture, has been seen by the international community as a backward step in protecting vulnerable women.
SAT-7 is reaching out to Turkish women through, among other programmes, You Are Not Alone, which provides expert support for viewers facing difficult situations, particularly domestic abuse. The program offers legal advice and details of organisations that can help. It also highlights the effects of discrimination, and how women can overturn its effects on their mental and spiritual health.
“The existence of ministries like SAT-7 in this country gives us confidence and makes us feel that we are not alone,” a woman in Türkiye told SAT-7, keeping her name anonymous.
“Please pray that the program will be watched by the Turkish-speaking women who most need to hear its messages,” says Nicole Thoma, Development Officer for SAT-7 TÜRK. “Pray that God will guide them to know their true worth that comes from Him. Pray also that men watching, who are our vital partners in this work, will be moved by the messages too.”
*Names have been changed for security purposes.