” Today the challenges that we face as women are not easier than the challenges we have been facing for decades. Women in Iraq have overcome difficulties while their men went to war (against Iran) in the 80’s and we continue to face challenges. God willing as we were able to overcome those difficulties and even though politics is new field for us, we will prove ourselves here as well.”
Abba Faraj, one of the almost 4,000 women candidates in the just concluded Provincial Council elections in Iraq.
The face of Islam Abbas Faraj, 36, isn’t among those on the campaign posters that blanket the walls of Iraq’s Diyala province, a stew of Sunni and Shiite Muslim Arabs and Sunni Kurds north of Baghdad. She’s a woman on a mission, but some things are just too risky. Last August, Iraq’s Shiite-dominated security forces raided the government compound where her husband, Hussein al-Zubaidi, a member of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party and the head of the provincial council’s committee, was sleeping. They killed the governor and hauled her husband away. They accused Zubaidi of connections to terrorism, and Faraj hasn’t seen him since. That day settled her fate: She decided to run for office and fill her husband’s shoes, to use politics to get him releasd.
Whether a quota system to increase the number of women in parliament is needed is always a hotly debated subject. The Indonesian Government has made accommodations for a quota system, as stipulated in Law 10/2008 on the general elections. Article 53 states, “Lists of provisional legislative candidates submitted by a political party must ensure that 30 percent of the nominees are women”. Article 55 states, “The list must ensure that of every three legislative candidates, at least one of them is a female candidate.” Critics say the law is not strong enough to support a quota system as it does not guarantee women seats in parliament. It is about securing women’s candidacy only. But even the latter may not work properly as there is no sanction on those who do not apply the 30 percent quota.
When it comes to female participation in Politics, Japan lags far behind other nations. If Japan is going to catch up with the countries that boast a high percentage of female politicians, women must create a nationwide movement, according to panelists at a symposium advocating more women in politics. ” It is something that has to be fought for and refashioned by each generation”, Kari Hirth, an official of the Norwegian Embassy in Tokyo, said in a symposium held Saturday in the capitol sponsored by the Tokyo Alliance based, Alliance of Feminist Representatives.
Information Minister Sherry Rehman highlighted the political progress of women in Pakistan, saying their representation in politics was higher than in some developed democracies. Sherry was addressing the Oxford Union Society during a conference on the under representation of women in politics—“where all the women?”. She said although the electoral politics in Pakistan had not matured to western level, Pakistan was a good example of being the first Islamic nation to have a woman as Prime Minister, referring to the late Benazir Bhutto. She said Benazir, as a student at Oxford, broke new grounds in 1977 when she became the union’s first Asian female president.
When economic times get tough, research shows it pays to be a female politician. Women tend to attain office in times of economic hardship—which could help Queensland’s Anna Bligh on her way to becoming Australia’s first elected woman premier. Bligh, who gained the top job when Peter Beattie retired in September 2007, faces her first election before September. Queensland University of Technology PhD researcher Mary Crawford, who was labor’s federal member for Forde from 1987 to 1996, said the world’s climate and financial crises came at an advantageous time for Bligh. “Research suggests that while women politicians don’t pursue a different style, voters perceive their interests are different–that they are more likely to be concerned with the daily concerns of people, like jobs, food prices, education and so on,” Crawford said.
Kenya’s poor record of improving percentage of women in decision-making positions has come under scrutiny, but its neighbours are doing significantly better. In 2007, a constitutional amendment that would have created 50 special seats in for women in parliament was thrown out due to lack of quorum to vote on it. The country came close to passing a law reserving positions for women at all levels of decision-making when such measures were included in a draft constitution drawn upon by a National Constitution Conference in 2003 and 2004. But the draft document was rejected in 2005 referendum—due to widespread dissatisfaction with the Kibaki government of the time rather than specific opposition to the clauses on women.
The Mahila Congress Committee in India has demanded Party President Sonia Gandhi to field 50% women candidates in Chhattisgarh for the upcoming general elections. Akhil Bharatiya, Mahila Congress Committee General Secretary and state-in-charge Nalini Chandel told media persons yesterday that Mrs. Gandhi favored of maximum participation of women in politics. Ms. Chandel, who reached here to take part in Chhattisgarh Mahila Congress Committee’s Executive Meeting, expressed hope that the party will provide better representation to women in Lok Sabha polls. A demand was being made to provide five out of 11 Lok Sabha seats in the state to women.
A severe heat wave across south-eastern Australia last week resulted in the deaths of more than 60 persons and precipitated a breakdown on electricity distribution and public transport systems in the states of Victoria and South Australia. In South Australia, at least 31 “sudden deaths” in two days were believed to be attributable to the extreme heat conditions. In the capital city, Adelaide, residents have already endured four straight days of temperatures over 43 degrees Celsius (110 Fahrenheit) with the level predicted to remain above 35 degrees Celsius until the end of this week. In Victoria, police said that at least 30 people had died from heat stress. The state capital Melbourne experienced three consecutive days of more than 45 degrees Celsius, the first time such a situation has been recorded since 1855.
Myanmar’s devastating cyclone and Central China’s earthquake drove up the annual disaster death toll, causing most of the fatalities and making 2008 one of the deadliest years for natural disasters so far this decade, the United Nations said. At least 235,816 people lost their lives in 321 disasters around the world last year, said UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR). “Almost the entire bulk of the deaths is explained by only two events, Cyclone Nagris and the Sichuan earthquake’, said Debarati Guha-Sapir of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, which compiled the figures for the world body.
On Saturday, 28 March, at 8:30pm local time, more than 1,000 cities across the world will turn off their lights for one hour–Earth Hour—sending a powerful message to decision makers that we want an international agreement to reduce global warming by the next UN climate meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009. “We all need to join this global environmental action to voice our collective concern about climate change and to show world leaders we are serious about securing a Global Deal on climate in less than 11 months time”, said Julia Marton-Lefevre, Director-General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Earth Hour 2009 aims to reach one billion people in more than 1,000 cities, including businesses, governments and communities. The campaign is expected to produce the largest-ever groundswell of public support.
Environment groups, led by Greenpeace, staged a protest on Monday in front of the House of Representatives to ask lawmakers not to act on a bill that would fund, rehabilitate and re-open the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP). House Bill No. 4361 or ” An Act Mandating the Rehabilitation, Commissioning and Commercial Operations of BNPP,” authored by Representative Mark Cojuangco and supported by Representative Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, appropriates $1 billion and is intended to respond to the energy problems in the country. But Greenpeace campaign manager Beau Baconguis said that the bill did not only seek the revival of BNPP but also the establishment of a national commercial nuclear power program.
Glaciers around the globe continue to melt at high rates. Tentative figures for the year 2007, of the World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, indicate a further loss of average ice thickness of roughly 0.67 meter water equivalent (m.w.e.). Some glaciers in the European Alps lost up to 2.5 m.w.e. The new still tentative data of more than 80 glaciers confirm the global trend of fast ice loss since 1980. Glaciers with long-term observation series (30 glaciers in 9 mountain ranges) have experienced a reduction in total thickness of more than 11 m.w.e. until 2007. The average annual ice loss during 1980-1999 was roughly 0.3 m.w.e. per year. Since 2000, this rate has increased to about 0.7 m.w.e. per year.
His Royal Highness Prince General Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, yesterday called for more sustained efforts to deal with the aftermath of the flashfloods and landslides that hit the Sultanate last month. The Chairman of the Natural Disaster Council said there was much more room for all agencies concerned to improve their respective action plans in reducing the risks from disasters. His Royal Highness, addressing a meeting amongst National Disaster Council members, ministers and senior government officials, suggested the formulation of a short and long term action plans to ensure mitigation efforts cover all of the nation’s and public’s interests.
As many as 250 million people in Africa may not have enough water to meet their basic needs by 2020 because of climate change, a specialist in poverty, environment and climate change said. “The day to day impacts of climate change, such as higher temperatures and erratic rainfall, are increasing many people’s vulnerability to hazards.” Charler Ehrhart, the poverty, environment and climate change network coordinator for CARE international, told policy-makers and representatives of pastoralists from the Horn, eastern and central Africa, at a consultative meeting on ways of mitigating the humanitarian effects of climate change on pastoral areas.
An increasing number of Muslim women in Indonesia are choosing to divorce their husbands rather than continue in a polygamous marriage, data from national Islamic courts show. The courts recorded that in 2006 there were nearly 1000 cases of divorce resulting from wives’ disagreeing with their husbands marrying another woman, an increase from figures in prior years. Director for Islamic guidance at the Ministry of Religious Affairs Nasaruddin Umar said he believed the number of divorce cases linked to disputes over polygamous marriages increased again in 2008 and would continue to rise throughout 2009.
Secretary General Ban ki-Moon today encouraged top government officials from around the world gathered in Guatemala City to push for greater progress on gender equality, stressing that women’s empowerment is key to realizing other major international development targets. “If all of you gathered here today resolve to put the rights, priorities and contributions of women and girls at the top of the development agenda, we can make real progress in helping all people in society,” Mr. Ban told the Second Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Alligned Movement on the Advancement of Women.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) of India will include in its budget for 2009-10, to be released on Tuesday, a separate booklet devoted to the development of women and child. With an aim to bring women into the mainstream, the civic administration has charted out projects and policies to upgrade and fulfill the needs of Mumbai women. “As per the directives of the State Government, we have prepared a gender budget and it will be presented along with the main budget on February 3, ” Additional Municipal Commissioner Anil Diggikar said.
A lawyer for an Iranian activist says police detained the woman while she was campaigning for equal marriage rights for women. The lawyer says Nafiseh Azad was detained Friday while collecting signatures for a two-year old campaign pushing for equal rights for women in marriage, divorce and inheritance. Attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh said Sunday that collecting signatures is not illegal. Over the past three years, however, Iranian authorities have detained many women seeking equal rights.
Women may have “come a long way, baby” in voting and politics, but not so when it comes to treating heart diseases. There is still a huge gender gap for women with respect to diagnosing and treating heart disease. Study after study, even within the past three years, has shown that women are not diagnosed as quickly as men, nor are they treated with recommended medications and procedures as often as men. And perhaps, that’s why when women are finally diagnosed and treated, they don’t fare as well. Cardiovascular disease kills more women than men every year—-and almost 10 times more women than breast cancer, according to the American Heart Association. So where is the advocacy, the indignation, the walks for a cure?
Expressing concern over the increasing gender inequality in the country, President Pratibha Devisingh Patil of India urged the medical fraternity to follow highest standards of professional ethics and discourage “gender identification test” without any compromise. Delivering an address after launching the Apollo Hospitals, Bengaluru “The International Hospitals” here today the President appealed to the doctors, “at no stage gender of the foetus should be disclosed.” Expressing concern over the increasing number of female foeticide, Mrs. Patil said it had created a challenge of social imbalance in the country.
Liberia’s President, Ms. Hellen Johnson Searleaf last week talked to section of women leaders from Africa and Asia on her experiences as first African woman President. In the first series of dialogues leading to an international colloquium to be held in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, she had interaction with women leaders under the theme, “Overcoming Barriers to Women’s Political Leadership”. The Liberian President, however, admitted there is serious limitation for women to excel in public life because of lack of education in almost all African countries, including her own Liberia whose illiteracy level stands at 30%, majority of those illiterate being women.