” It would be my endeavor that I am completely impartial in my conduct and I will give opportunity to all members to express their views. There should be meaningful debate in the house. My election to this post showed India’s indication of giving women their due recognition. These are indicators of a genuine intention to make the position of women stronger in India.”
Meira Kumar, India’s First Woman Speaker of the Parliament
Meira Kumar was unanimously elected the Lok Sabha Speaker on Wednesday, becoming the first woman to hold the post. While Congress president Sonia Gandhi proposed her name, and Leader of the House and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee seconded it, leaders of other parties—BJP’s L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj, Trinamool Congress’ Mamata Banerjee, DMK’s T R Baalu, SP’s Mulayam Singh Yadav, JD (U)’s Sharad Yadav, NCP’s Sharad Pawar and NC’s Farooq Abdullah—lent their support to her candidature. With no other candidates, Meira was elected unopposed amidst thumping of desks. She was escorted to the Speaker’s podium by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia and Advani. And in her first action as Speaker, Meira expunged the remakrs of RJD Chief Lalu Prasad and JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav as they engaged in verbal duel. Hailing her election as a historic moment, the Prime Minister referred to his association with Meira’s father, Jagjivan Ram, and said she possessed the wisdom, knowledge and experience which defined his personality.
“Politics is no rocket science,” says Yasmeen Rehman, a woman parliamentarian in Pakistan’s Lower House, adding, “It is not as difficult as it is made out to be.” A new study by Aurat Foundation (AF), a women’s group that evaluates women MPs performance between 2002 t0 2007, is full of praise for female lawmakers. Rehman lead a group of 25 MPs as the most active on the floor of the house in making the most interventions. Women account for 21.6 percent of MPs in Pakistan’s parliament. In 2002, the figure was slightly lower at 21.1 percent. But it still compares favourably with the rest of Asia, where female participation in parliament was calculated at 17.8 percent, by the Geneva-based Inter Parliamentary Union. The global avergage was 18.3 percent in 2008. The year 2002 was a watershed in women’s political representation in Pakistan. For the first time, they got 17 percent representation in both the national and provincial assemblies based on nominations by their parties.
Diplomacy was a man’s world until recently. Women, who constitute half of the world’s population, have slowly but surely made their way to the highest positions in diplomacy. Indonesia is no exception to this global trend. Indonesia’s new ambassador to Ukraine, Nining Suningsih Roechadiat, says gender is no longer an issue in modern-day diplomacy. “More and more women are joining the foreign service. Gender equality is very good in the Indonesian Foreign Ministry. We have three women in the highest rungs of the ministry now,” Ambassador Nining told the Jakarta Post in a recent interview in Jakarta. Nining epitomizes an Indonesian woman. She is a religious person and wears Islamic attire. Like most Indonesians, she mixes religion with modernity. She sent her three children to the Netherlands for their education. She joined the Foreign Ministry in 1975, has worked in Britain and Singapore and has held several positions at the Foreign Ministry and the Office of the State Minister for Women Empowerment.
When six women were elected to Lebanon’s 128-member Parliament in 2005, female representation doubled to an all-time national high of 4.7 percent. This figure falls for short of the 17.2 percent global average and ranks Lebanon 125th out of 136 countries in terms of female parliamentary representation. To rectify this representational imbalance, the 2006 National Commission on Parliamentary Electoral Law Reform (known as the Boutros Commission) suggested that each party list in the proposed proportional representation constituencies include at least 30 percent female candidates. When the Boutros Commission’s proportional representation system failed to be implemented in the Parliamentary Election Law adopted in August 2008, the proposed female quota was shelved. Abla Kadi, coordinator of a UNDP project, believes a quota for female candidates should be implemented temporarily. “We don’t believe in the quota as a permanent solution, but we believe that it will be a stepping stone toward accepting female representatives in parliament,” Kadi said.
When Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly insulted an unspecified female politician recently, he got more than he bargained for. His implied target turned around and sued him. The prime minister’s insult might be considered typical in a country with continuing gender inequality, but that didn’t mean Mu Sochua was going to take it lying down. For 20 years, Sochua has been a voice for exploited Cambodians. As the Vietnam War spread to Cambodia in 1972, the then 18-year old was exiled, with no chance to say goodbye to her parents, who later vanished under the Khmer Rouge regime. She spent 18 years overseas, studying and working in Paris, the US and Italy and in refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian border. Since her return in 1989, she has been hands-on in rebuilding her homeland, first as an activist and now as a politician, focusing on women’s and children’s issues. “I had the choice of being part of the reconstruction of Cambodia and I took that choice,” said Sochua, a member of parliament for the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), the leading opposition to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
Speakers at a pre-budget views-sharing meeting on Tuesday, called for special budgetary allocation for women development in the greater interest of mainstreaming them in the nation-building process. In this regard, they also viewed that withouth enhanced allocation in the budget, development of the vulnerable section of the society along with ensuring their legitimate rights could not be possible. ” There are no rules and regulations to obstruct women to take part in any social development work but the existing social practice has been blamed for creating the hindrance,” they said adding that emphasis should be given on creating a sound working environment for them as they constitute half of the total population. Rajshahi district and Rajshahi University units of Bangladesh Mohila Parishad (BMP) jointly hosted the meeting titled “Want specific allocation in the 2009-2010 budget for women development” at the conference hall of Gender Development and Resource Center.
The United Arab Emirates reiterated before the world community, its determination to continue the march in the path of women revivalism. Addressing the annual full-day discussion of the Human Rights Council women’s human, the permanent representative of the UAE at the United Nations Office in Geneva Obeid Salem Al Za’abi said that since the formation of UAE under the presidency of late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the leadership of the country was fully aware of the fact the women is an equal partner in the process of national development. The leadership of the country, inspired by its faith in gender equality, adopted a strategy of empowering women in cultural, social and economic fields, Al Za’abi said.
In India, teams of “barefoot solar engineers” are bringing electricity to rural villages. The project—- part of a larger campaign to help Indian villagers be self-sufficient–trains women to build and maintain solar energy units. The solar power initiative is run by Barefoot College in Tilonia, a village in Rajasthan, India. Founded by Indian activist Bunker Roy in 1972, the college helps Indian village become self-sufficient and puts special emphasis on developing women’s skills. “Many have been inspired by women in nearby villages who left for Tilonia with hope and returned grasping the power of light,” reports by Sathya Saran in an article for Ms Magazine. “Most of the women are unlettered, extremely poor and often widowed or abandoned. But their eyes blaze with newfound confidence. “Rural women from India, Afghanistan, Ghana and Syria are trained at the college and then dispatched to train other village women—who in turn pass on their knowledge–to construct and run solar energy units.
Three (3) of Telstra’s most senior female executives are urging the thousands of Telstra women to join the 1 Million Women campaign to cut 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, CO2, in the global effort to tackle climate change. As Ambassadors for the 1 Million Women campaign, Telstra’s Andrea Grant, Group Managing Director, Human Resources; Holly Kramer, Group Managing Director Telstra Product Management; and Amanda Johnston-Pell, Executive Director Brands and Marketing Communications are uniquely placed to harness the power of two formidable resources—women and telecommunications—to help reduce Australia’s carbon emissions. As Telstra’s Head of HR, Andrea Grant says care for the environment is a Telstra priority and environmental initiatives have always been well supported by Telstra staff. Telstra is Australia’s leading telecommunications and information services company.
Women make up 70 percent of the world’s poorest people, pointed out Sirkka Haunia, Finland’s chief negotiator. More women die in weather-related natural disasters. ” Seventy percent of subsistence farmers in my country are women,” said William Kojo Agyemang-Bonsu, Ghana’s chief negotiator. “When climate changes rainfall patterns, they will be the ones who will be most negatively affected.” There is no quick fix to overcoming climate change’s sexist tendencies. As several int meeting pointed out, it is akin to a running a marathon or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. “It’s a sad state of affairs when only 16 percent of the scientists in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are women,” said a female member of the IPCC, the body charged with assessing the state of climate change science for policymakers.
Climate change is currently the biggest global health threat, a leading medical journal has said, noting that water scarcity, shifting food resources and extreme weather will drastically affect the world’s poor unless development efforts are stepped up. “We call for a public heath movement that frames the threat of climate change for humankind as a health issue,” said an editorial in The Lancet medical journal. “Apart from a dedicated few, health professionals have come late to the climate change debate.” The poor are more at risk from the connections between climate change and public health, explained the independent research organization, Worldwatch. The indirect effects of water scarcity, shifting food resources and extreme weather now cause about 150,000 deaths each year in low-income countries.
The “silent crisis” of climate change already claims an estimated 300,000 lives a year around the world with annual deaths expected to reach half a million by 2030, a report published in London warned. Rising temperatures due to the changing climate already affected the lives of 325 million people around the globe—a figure set to rise to 660 million or 10 percent of the world’s population in 20 years’ time, the report by the Global Humanitarian Forum (GHF) said. Former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, President of GHF, described climate change as the “greatest emerging humanitarian challenge of our time”, at the launch in London Friday. “Climate change is a silent human crisis”, said Annan. It caused suffering for hundreds of millions of people, most of whom were not even aware that they were victims. The world’s poorest people, particularly women and children, were the worst hit, “although they have done least to contribute to the problem.” The report, entitled The Anatomy of A Silent Crisis was published ahead of preparatory talks in Bonn, Germany, on a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.
Climate change poses potential threat to security that could lead to conflict in the Middle East, a report presented Tuesday at the American University of Beirut (AUB) by Oli Brown of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), says. Brown co-wrote the report, which is entitled “Rising Temperatures. Rising Tensions: Climate Change and the Risk of Violent Conflict in the Middle East”. Brown said the report’s aim was to explore potential connections between climate change and conflict in the region and to generally raise awareness of the issue. He added that IISD had conducted fieldwork on climate change and conflict in West Africa, and that the potential linkages between the two issues were comparatively “more serious” in the Middle East than in West Africa.
Six (6) months before the crucial negotiations on climate change in Copenhagen, African Ministers of Environment meeting here Friday attained a major milestone on the road for combating climate change on the continent. The Nairobi Declaration adopted at the just-ended special session of the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) on climate change highlighted major challenges and opportunities in the negotiations for a more equitable climate regime. The Declaration provides African countries with a platform to make a strong case for support at Copenhagen 2009. The declaration reminded all parties and particularly the international community that increased support for Africa should be based on the priorities for Africa which include adaptation, capacity building, financing and technology development and transfer.
After thirty (3o) years of war and destruction, Afghanistan remains on the bottom of the human development index, with the worst social indicators among women. The way to empower women in Afghanistan’s traditional society is through enhancing their access to primary and higher education inside or outside the country. In the United States and Europe, women were not fully enfranchised as early as last century— until they were able to acquire higher education and became financially independent. Afghanistan has much to do to catch up. Indeed, Afghanistan’s economy could hardly grow on a sustainable basis without half of its population contributing to the reconstruction and development of the country.
A women’s community organization based in Fiji says its report on women, peace and human security shows deterioration in teh status of women across the Pacific. The coordinator of Femlink Pacific says it’ll present the first quarter report for this year to a meeting of regional women’s community media networks. The meeting brings together peace women from Bougainville, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Fiji. Sharon Bhagwan Rolls says she hopes the report prompts Pacific countries to improve women’s security. “When we’re correlating the human security framework if you look at the issue of personal security of women closely linked to that is the issue of violence to women and the threat to women. So rape is high on the agenda of just some of the very real threats that women are living under. You know in Fiji in January the news was the gang rape of a young girl so those are just some of the issues that are coming through not just from our own women media’s network but being reported through the mainstream media as well.”
In Cambodia, five (5) women die every day because of inadequate health care during childbirth–making it a leading cause of death among women of child-bearing age. The government is trying to improve the health services but it is proving a long slow process. Lvea Village, in north-western Cambodia, is a collection of wooden stilt-houses along a dirt track, hectic with dogs, piglets and chickens. Most of the women there have been told to have their babies in the local health centre. So one woman , Low’t, went into labour recently with her ninth child, she made her way there too. Eighty percent of Cambodia’s population lives in rural areas and the public health system is weak. In recent years, the government has made it a priority to strengthen its network of trained midwives. They now attend more than half of all births–a significant increase. Many local clinics function better even if they’re still poorly equipped. But midwives are paid very little—and can be distracted by running private businesses too.
A 22-year old unmarried Bangladeshi woman who was caned 39 times for alleging a neighbour was the father of her son is fighting for her life in hospital, police said. The case has shocked the impoverished Muslim-majority nation, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordering the woman to be shifted from her village home to the capital for proper medical treatment. Local police chief Moshiur Rahman told AFP that the woman, from Comilla, 70 kilometers (43 miles) east of the capital Dhaka, had angered Islamic clerics when she told friends that a neighbour had fathered her six-year old son. They called her and the alleged father to appear before a makeshift Islamic court, but the man denied paternity claim, Rahman said.
The Philippines will deploy more women for the United Nations peacekeeping efforts given this year’s UN theme of greater involvement of women in peacekeeping missions, according to Foreign Secretary Roberto Romulo. “Filipino peacekeepers are recognized by the United Nations for their outstanding performance and tireless commitment to maintain global peace and security,” Romulo said during the observance of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers at the Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday. He assured the UN that woman peacekeepers were at par with their male counterparts.
Challenged by the economic downturn, Rachel Sapoznik knew she had to get creative. Sapoznik, wanted to continue growing revenue at her employee benefits business, but she wasn’t willing to cut staff. Instead, she needed to think strategic. She began looking harder for new customers, selling more products to her existing accounts and creating alliances with other firms who will recommend her services. “I’ve done everything in my power to be proactive, to be out there,” said Sapoznik, CEO of Sapoznik Insurance in North Miami Beach. “If I had debt, forget it.” Her strategy is in line with most women leaders in Florida. A survey released Thursday shows women-led businesses are surviving the recession than most other businesses, according to Florida International University’s Center for Leadership and The Commonwealth Institute South Florida. The reason: women-led businesses traditionally have taken on little debt and therefore have the flexibility to maneuver during tough times. Instead of going to banks for help, women leaders are overcoming challenges by using their own cash from operations to finance growth.
Across Asia women are bearing the brunt of the global economic downturn as export manufacturers shed workers. The United Nations’ International Labor Organization and labor rights groups say Asian governments need to boost social protection programs for women and workers vulnerable to the global recession. Asia’s export-driven growth over the past 30 years had drawn millions of women into the work force, making consumer goods for the world. The work lifted families out of poverty and gave women greater independence and opportunities. Now the global economic downturn means tens of thousands of women are losing their jobs, as slow demand forces factories making everything from clothes to electronics to shut down. Kee Beom Kim, an economist with the ILO, says women in export industries the region are especially vulnerable to the current economic climate. Kim says the consequences are wide ranging.