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Women in Kuwait launch online campaign against harassment | Gender Equity News

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Women in Kuwait are defying conservative norms and a culture of “shame” to speak out against harassment for the first time, in a social media campaign sparked by a popular fashion blogger.

Dozens of testimonies about being stalked, harassed or assaulted have emerged online, mainly from the Instagram account “Lan Asket”, Arabic for “I will not be silent”. Statements came from Kuwaiti citizens as well as expatriates, who make up a large sum of the total population.

Kuwaiti fashion blogger Ascia Al Faraj, who has more than 2.5 million social media followers, said in an explosive video uploaded last week that there is a “problem” in the country.

“Every time I go out, there is someone who harasses me or harasses another woman in the street,” she said in the emotionally charged video uploaded after a vehicle sped up to “scare” her while she was walking to her car.

“Do you have no shame? We have a problem of harassment in this country, and I have had enough.”

Faraj’s video sparked a nationwide movement in a country where the #MeToo campaign that took off in the United States in 2017 did not make much of an impact.

Radio and TV shows have hosted activists, lawyers and academics to discuss the issue of harassment and the US embassy in Kuwait also threw its weight behind the women.

“A campaign worth supporting. We can all do more to prevent harassment against women, whether in the US or in Kuwait. #Lan_asket,” it said in a tweet last week.

The embassy also tweeted a striking graphic that illustrates the campaign – images of three women, one unveiled, one with a headscarf and another with her face covered – and bearing the slogan “Don’t harass her”.

Activists have also emphasised that foreign women who make up a large portion of the Kuwaiti population, many in menial roles, are among the most vulnerable to assault and abuse.

‘Intense stories’

Shayma Shamo, a 27-year-old doctor who studied abroad and moved back to Kuwait last year, launched the “Lan Asket” platform after seeing Faraj’s video.

“As soon as I opened the account, the messages started to pour in … from women and girls that have experienced verbal, physical and sexual harassment,” she told the AFP news agency.

“Silence is no longer an option. We must speak up, unite and defend each other because what is happening is unacceptable.”

Faraj said in another video uploaded later that week that she had also received “intense stories” by Indian, Pakistani and Filipina women working in Kuwait.

“The expat community here is incredibly vulnerable and are sometimes harassed at a level that Kuwaiti women will never understand,” she said.

While there has been tremendous support online, the movement has also faced a backlash from conservative voices who say women should simply dress conservatively to avoid harassment.

“If you have nothing good to say, or nothing of substance to add to this discussion … then do not add,” Faraj said in a video posted on her Instagram account.

“We are working towards something that is of benefit to us all,” she said, adding that it is better for everyone in society – men included – if they had access to a way to report sexual harassment in the country.

Meanwhile, Rothna Begum, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said women were coming to the fore in a society where, like many in the Middle East, police often do not take such abuses seriously and the fear of bringing shame to families silences many.

“These accounts being published are incredibly important to give Kuwaitis a sense of what harassment actually looks like and the terrible harm it causes,” she told AFP.

‘Shame’ culture

The Arabic word “ayb”, or shame in English, is a common term in the region used in various contexts.

According to Shamo, “going to the police station is ‘ayb’ and talking about harassment is ‘ayb’” in the local culture.

“As soon as a woman starts to speak about being harassed, the questions from family members start: What were you wearing? Who were you with? What time was it?”

But Kuwaiti women are pushing the boundaries of their society, considered one of the most open in the Gulf region, and where a law against harassment exists on the books, but where discussions about gender-based violence remain taboo.

Lulu Al-Aslawi, a Kuwait media personality whose Instagram feed features her in glossy fashion shoots, said she has been bullied online for the way she dresses.

“Girls don’t speak up over fears of being stigmatised, but we will not stop until we overcome this cancer in society,” she told AFP.



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Zooming ahead: Videoconferencing firm tops analysts’ expectations | Coronavirus pandemic News

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Revenue more than tripled to $882.5m in the fiscal fourth quarter, the company said, surpassing analysts’ estimates.

Zoom Video Communications Inc. projected annual revenue that would top analysts’ estimates, signaling the video meeting service expects to remain a ubiquitous presence in daily life even as the pandemic recedes. Shares jumped about 10% extended trading.

Sales will be as much as $3.78 billion in fiscal year 2022, the San Jose, California-based company said Monday in a statement. While the projected annual revenue growth of 43% is far short of Zoom’s 326% increase in the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, it topped the 37% average estimate of analysts, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Profit, excluding some items, will be as much as $3.65 a share. Analysts projected $2.97.

Investors have feared the software maker couldn’t continue the dramatic growth in 2020 that came as people forced home in coronavirus lockdowns connected remotely on the service to work, school, friends and family.

While Zoom’s stock jumped almost fivefold last year as it became one of the biggest beneficiaries of the pandemic, it had gained just 11% during the first two months of 2021 before surging almost 10% Monday to close at $409.66 in New York.

Chief Executive Officer Eric Yuan has tried to diversify Zoom’s capabilities and add products such as a cloud phone system to appeal to more large enterprises and small- and mid-sized businesses.

“We believe we are well positioned for strong growth with our innovative video communications platform, on which our customers can build, run, and grow their businesses; our globally recognized brand; and a team ever focused on delivering happiness to our customers,” Yuan said in the statement.

Revenue more than tripled to $882.5 million in the fiscal fourth quarter, the company said. Analysts, on average, estimated $811 million. Profit, excluding some items, was $1.22 cents a share, compared with an average estimate of 79 cents.

“In our view, and whether you like it or not, video will continue to remain a core element of our daily lives and further be embedded in work, school, etc. Zoom will clearly benefit and report sustained levels of growth, in our view, and increasingly in the enterprise segment,” wrote Matt VanVliet, an analyst at BTIG, in a note before the results.

Zoom offers video gatherings free for 40 minutes and as many as 100 participants before users are charged for the service. Analysts have focused on the churn, the number of customers who drop monthly or annual subscriptions, particularly among corporate users.

The company said it had 467,100 customers with more than 10 employees, a jump of about 8% from the previous period and topping analysts’ average estimate of 442,570. The company also said 1,644 clients contributed $100,000 in trailing 12-month revenue. Analysts projected 1,474 such large customers.



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