Tag Archives: news on women

Young women fight the ‘Talibanisation’ of rural Pakistan

Much attention has been focused on the process of radicalisation of young men in the areas of Pakistan that border Afghanistan. Peshawar, the town near the border between the two countries, is infamous for being the centre of a vibrant industry and trade in homemade guns. For more than two decades, violence has become the dominant currency of almost every aspect of life in this area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, once known as the North West Frontier Province.

So it takes remarkable courage for a 16-year-old girl to decide to challenge how this culture of violence was reinforcing and strengthening the oppression of women. Eight years on, Gulalai Ismail, now a poised 24-year-old, is running two programmes of work – one on gender empowerment and the other on peacebuilding – from her home in Peshawar, where she grew up. Brought to London by Peace Direct, Ismail was talking to youngsters about her work.

“I set up Aware Girls when I was 16 because all around me I saw girls being treated differently to boys. My girl cousin was 15 when her marriage was arranged to someone twice her age; she couldn’t finish her education while my boy cousins were [doing so]. This was considered normal. Girls have internalised all this discrimination – a woman who suffers violence but doesn’t say anything is much admired in the village as a role model. A good woman submits to her husband or father.

“Aware Girls raised awareness of equal status. We did training that women have human rights, and taught leadership skills and how to negotiate within their families and with their parents to get education and to have control over their own lives.”

Ismail is well aware of how the position of women has deteriorated over the course of her life. “Peshawar used to be very progressive, but after “Talibanisation” it became much more conservative and life is more difficult for my younger sister than it was for me. Just going out to the market is difficult because of the sexual harassment.”

That kind of harassment makes organising training for young women particularly difficult. Ismail and her staff have to strive very hard with communities in the villages where they work to build trust that if daughters attend the training they will be safe. Parents worry that their daughters will be “westernised” and forget their “cultural values”. For a recent training course on political leadership to help boost the participation of women in politics, Aware Girls had to organise 20 local community meetings to identify the 30 girls who eventually went on the course. Working in remote rural areas requires considerable patience and time, but Ismail is not interested in the easier option of working only in urban areas.

It was the gender work that came first, but Ismail soon realised the close relationship between gender and peace. “In training, a woman told the story of how her 12-year-old son was taken away to Afghanistan by the militants, and 10 months later he was dead. That made me think that we must stop these young people joining the militants.”

The result was the Seeds of Peace network, which Ismail set up last year and which has trained 25 young people. They, in turn, will train another 20, to slowly expand a network across 10 districts of the province. She believes each person can reach 500 young people to promote tolerance and challenge extremism.

“They identify young people in the community who might be vulnerable to militants and they organise study circles to discuss the causes and consequences of conflict and the history of Talibanisation. We talk about tolerance for people of other faiths,” says Ismail.

Almost every aspect of children’s upbringing is affected by extremism. Even the school textbooks urge children to be ready for jihad, says Ismail, and all around are songs and films that glorify war, martyrdom and violence.

“Seeds of Peace aims to give another perspective by getting people to think about human rights. Peace is not just the absence of war, it is about respect and tolerance – and women have an important role in educating their children.”

Ismail is well aware that her work challenges the Taliban’s power, and that brings dangers. She is also aware that there are huge political issues involved in the radicalisation of the region where she lives, but believes that a grassroots community challenge to a culture of extremist intolerance is also a crucial part of the search for peace. Both high-level political negotiation and community participation are required in conflict resolution.

Peace Direct’s Ruairi Nolan backs up Ismail’s analysis of a peace process, using the analogy of political negotiation as the bricks and community engagement as the cement that hold the bricks together. Pointing to Northern Ireland’s experience, he suggests that several decades of community peacebuilding was a crucial precondition to the success of the political process that culminated in the Northern Ireland agreement.

At international conferences, Ismail has met counterparts from Uganda, Sri Lanka and many other parts of the world. Despite the very different forms of conflict, she can see plenty of similarities in the work they are doing – and she says that gives her hope.

Malaysia: Women vital source of resources – Yong

Deputy Works Minister Datuk Yong Khoon Seng has termed women as Malaysia’s vital source of human resources to spur its development.

He thus called on more women to assume leading roles to help the country achieve further breakthroughs.

“Women of today are no longer confined to the roles of wife and mother. Many of them have excelled in many areas such as politics, finance, industries and education,” he told a dinner marking the Kuching and Samarahan Divisions Chinese Women Association’s 63rd anniversary last Saturday.

Yong, who is Stampin member of parliament, said it was quite obsolete to insist that only a certain gender should serve in selected industries, particularly in this modern era.

He stressed that for as long as a person had the capability, the issue of gender should not get in the way.

“If the person has great knowledge in a certain field and is capable of discharging the duty, we shall by all means support the person to lead,” he said.

He noted that the women association was one of the earliest community-based organisations (CBOs) in the city.

Given its history, the association had played its part to elevate the social status of women besides enlightening them on their rights, he said.

He hoped that it would persevere in its undertakings so as to be able to organise more healthy programmes for members and the communities.

During the dinner, the association through Yong also handed out ‘angpow’ and goodies to eligible elderly members.

http://www.theborneopost.com/?p=130610

Only 7 women make it to Kerala state Assembly

Women got a raw deal once again in Kerala politics with just seven female aspirants getting elected to the state Assembly, the same as the last time.

The outcome has strengthened a general belief that Kerala is not yet free from “male-hegemony”, despite the state being projected as a role model for women empowerment.

The first Kerala Assembly in 1957 had six women members, when politics was dominated by men in most parts of India.

Out of the seven elected women this time around, the ruling UDF has just one representative, Congress’ P Jayalakshmi, who was part of the list drawn up by AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi. Jayalakshmi, elected from Manathawadi (ST) segment in Wayanad district, is among the ministerial probables as the only woman member on the ruling side.

According to T N Seema, Rajya Sabha member and leader of CPI-M’s women wing AIDWA, it can’t be glossed over that generally there is an “anti-women” attitude in all spheres in Kerala.

“As in other fields, male-hegemony is deep-rooted in politics also. No party is free from this,” Seema told PTI.

Women empowerment has gained some momentum at the local bodies level where 50 per cent of the seats are reserved for women.

But women who excel in politics and governance are not allowed to go beyond a certain level by the male-dominated leadership of major parties, she said.

The six women MLAs of the LDF are K K Lathika, P Ayisha Potty and K S Saleekha, all from the CPI-M; E S Bijimol, Geetha Gopi from the CPI; Jameela Prakasam of the JD(S).

Geetha Gopi, Jameela Prakasam and Jayalakshmi are first-time MLAs while the other four are into their second stint as legislators.

A total of 78 women candidates including Independents tried their luck at the hustings.

While the LDF fielded 14 women candidates, including 10 from CPI-M, three CPI and one JD (S), the UDF offered seats to 8 and the BJP fielded 14 women.

However, UDF partners like the IUML and the Kerala Congress (M) did not field any woman candidate.

Prominent women who fell by the wayside include 92-year old Gowri Amma of JSS, a component of the UDF, in Cherthala in Alappuzha district.

The grand old lady of Kerala politics and once firebrand Communist, Gowri Amma has been part of most of the Communist ministries from 1957 to 2006. She left the CPI-M in the 1990s and floated JSS.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/only-7-women-make-it-to-kerala-state-assembly/articleshow/8367555.cms

Malaysian Women Third Advanced in Asia/Pacific

Women in Malaysia continue to rank as one of the highest scoring countries around the Asia/Pacific region. They are feeling more confident and positive about the role they play within the business and economic environment according to the research study.

According to the fourth annual MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement 2008, released by MasterCard Worldwide today, Malaysia’s score rose to clinch third highest within the Asia/Pacific region, drawing a score of 76.89. Around the region, the overall Index score across the 13 Asia/Pacific markets surveyed dropped from 73.24 in 2007 to 70.38 in 2008.

The MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement measures the socioeconomic level of women in relation to men using four key indicators;

  • Two showing the ratio of female to male participation in the labor force and tertiary education, are based on source data from national statistics bureaus.
  • Two based on survey data, measuring female and male respondent perceptions of whether they hold managerial positions and earn above median income. These subjective factors are a gauge of how positively or negatively respondents feel about their place in the workforce.

The resulting total Index figure obtained is a combined calculation of these indicators showing how close or how far women in each market are to being equal to men. A score under 100 indicates gender inequality in favor of males while a score above 100 indicates inequality in favor of females. A score of 100 indicates equality between the sexes.

Within the four indicators, Malaysia’s score are as follows:

  • tertiary education (135.02)
  • labor force (59.0)
  • managerial position (65.91) and
  • above median income (47.62).

“Malaysia continues to be a key market in encouraging the evolution of women as consumers and as influencers changing the socio-economic dynamics across Asia/Pacific. Malaysian women seem to be closing the gap with men in the socio-economic arena. These are subjective indicators which gauge how positive the respondents feel about their place in the workforce. The scores indicate that Malaysian working women are more confident and self-assured,” said Georgette Tan, vice president, Communications, Asia/Pacific, Middle East & Africa, MasterCard Worldwide. “As they become more educated and qualified, evolving in tandem, the workplace has become more inclusive with greater opportunities for women to attain roles in management and leadership.

The MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement Across Asia Pacific

Across the 13 Asia/Pacific markets, the Index scores ranged from a low of 49.83 in Japan to a high of 86.82 in the Philippines. Hong Kong took second place at 77.37, closely followed by Malaysia in third place 76.89.

In South-East Asia, positive sentiment amongst women was clear. Four out of the six markets surveyed, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, achieved an uplift in 2008 on their 2007 total Index scores. In the remaining two markets – The Philippines and Singapore – only a very slight decline was recorded over the same period.

In the rest of the Asia/Pacific region, five of the seven markets saw a decline. The greatest of these were in New Zealand, China and Taiwan, suggesting that women’s positive sentiments in these markets are on the wane. By comparison, Hong Kong and Japan illustrated a very slight uplift.

Largely, the decline in this year’s Index score for the region was the result of fewer women considering their work roles ‘managerial’ or their income ‘above the median’ than they did one year ago. The Index found that across the region, the number of women considering themselves in managerial positions fell from 56 women per 100 men in 2007 53 in 2008. Meantime those considering their income to be above the median fell from 68 women per 100 men to in 2007 to 59 per 100 men in 2008.

“While women continue to close the gap in achieving parity with men in the areas of labor force participation and tertiary education, women’s self-perception regarding the subjective factors of the Index – managerial positions and above median income – have continued to dip for the second year in a row. This appears to indicate that women are feeling less confident about their current status, and whether due to the economic, political or social landscape, the direct result is that men’s confidence and resulting advancement is increasing to fill the gaps,” said Tan.

“As women continue to enter the labor force and seek tertiary education, new avenues are opened up for their employment and their careers. However, in 2008 it appears that women continue to perceive themselves as not receiving the same opportunities as men. This, combined with the shifting economic climate, has negatively affected the scores pertaining to the self-perception of women, resulting in a lower MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement score.”

When speaking about the results of the Index, President of The Global Summit of Women Irene Natividad said “The MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement clearly shows that business and Government leaders in the Asia Pacific region should pay as much attention to lifting women off the “sticky floor” of entry-level employment, where women feel trapped, as they do with helping them break the ‘glass ceiling’ of senior management.”

The Global Summit of Women is an annual forum bringing women leaders in business, government and enterprises of all sizes together for exchanges of best practices in advancing women’s economic opportunities worldwide.

MasterCard has devoted extensive resources to developing a deeper understanding of the women’s segment in Asia/Pacific. The findings from this fourth MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement highlights that there is still much to be done in terms of improving women’s self-perceptions.

MasterCard is committed to empowering women through initiatives such as its U21 Global Scholarship for Women in Travel and Tourism, which was launched in 2006 to provide working women professionals a program to develop their leadership skills and realize their full potential in the area of travel and tourism. The program comprises 20 scholarships for the U21Global Executive Diploma of Business Administration that can articulate into The University of Nottingham MSc in Tourism and Travel Management.

MasterCard has also released a series of consumer and travel reports on women, found at www.masterintelligence.com – an online repository of MasterCard’s proprietary research.

Some Key findings of the MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement:

Labour force participation

  • There are now three quarters as many women working in the Asia/Pacific region as there are men. Over the four year period since MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement began, the Asia/Pacific Index score for Labour force participation has very slightly increased across all markets – from 75.07 in 2005 to 76.78 in 2008.
  • Vietnam’s economic growth is perhaps driven by women, because the market’s indicator score for women’s participation in the labour force reached 93.77 in 2008. This means there are now 94 women for every 100 men in the labour force in Vietnam – the nearest to parity of any market in the region.
  • The next market with a large participation of women in the labour force is New Zealand where the indicator score in 2008 was 88.29. This means there are 88 women to every 100 men in the labour force in New Zealand. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, Malaysia’s data reveals the lowest rate of women’s participation in the labour force with 59 women to every 100 men.

Tertiary education participation

  • The total Index score for Asia/Pacific for the number of women in tertiary education this year was 93.15 – or put another way there are 93 women for every 100 men in Tertiary education across Asia/Pacific. In each of the four years since the Index began this number has risen slightly indicating that women’s participation in tertiary education is edging closer to parity all the time.
  • Most impressive of all was the figures for this indicator in Malaysia. Here, more women in tertiary education than men with 135 women to every 100 men. The Philippines also returned some very positive figures with 116 women to every 100, Thailand at 107 and New Zealand’s at 103.

Personal perception of participation in managerial positions

  • Across Asia/Pacific the results for the number of women who perceive themselves to be in managerial positions has consistently decreased since 2006 and in 2008 has reached a total Index score of 52.85. This means that in 2008 across Asia/Pacific, over half as many women believe they are in managerial positions as men.


Personal perception of participation in managerial positions / continued

  • Women’s perception of their participation in management positions has decreased across seven of the thirteen markets in Asia/Pacific in 2008 (Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, the Philippines and Singapore) and increased in six (Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam).
  • The most dramatic drop for this indicator was in China where the 2007 indicator score of 71.27 dropped to 55.94. This means that in China in 2008 there are now only just over half as many women (56 women to every 100 men) as there are men who perceive their roles to be managerial.


Personal perception of income level being above median

  • Women’s perceptions that they were earning above the median income has decreased across the region. In 2007 the total Index score for Asia/Pacific was 67.8 meaning there were 68 women per 100 men who perceived their income to be above the median. In 2008 this indicator score has decreased to 59.
  • The most dramatic drop in perception regarding salary was in Taiwan where in 2007 more women perceived that they earned above the median wage than men (113 women to every 100 men). In 2008 this indicator score has dropped to only 68 women per 100 men.
  • In New Zealand a similar decline also took place. In 2007 the indicator score was 97.46, this meaning that 97 women per 100 men thought they earned more than median income. But in 2008 this dropped to less than half as many women as men as New Zealand received a new an indicator score of only 42 women per 100 men.

The full report, which provides details on the scores for the four indicators by market, can be found at the website www.masterintelligence.com

Source: http://www.adoimagazine.com/newhome/index.php?view=article&catid=1%3Abreaking-news&id=2915%3Amalaysian-women-third-advanced-in-asiapacific&option=com_content&Itemid=2

Political Parties Frustrating Women

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) wants women representation in political parties increased.

According to the UN, political parties are frustrating women in accessing powerful positions and resources.

It warned that democracy would not take root if the parties continued oppressing women.

This was at the opening of the UNDP-funded three-day workshop to campaign for increased women participation in political parties. It was organised by the Forum for Women in Development.

Representing the UNDP resident representative, his deputy, Sam Ibanda, said: “There is an urgent need to ensure that women become visible in the party structure to enable their voices be heard.”

The workshop was attended by women from UPC, FDC, CP, DP, NRM and JEEMA parties.

The UN said although the Government had made a significant achievement in establishing democratic governance since 1986, more women needed to be involved.

“Uganda can now boast of 32% representation of women in Parliament, but this is still a small proportion of the elected leaders,” the organisation noted.

The UN said multiparty politics had provided an alternative space for women to engage in politics, but added that few were represented on the national party structures.

The women complained that they are used as a campaigning chip by their parties to garner support from the population and relegated thereafter.

They said political party manifestos are filled with grand ideas about women issues, yet none of them are fulfiled.

MP Nabillah Nagayi (Kampala Woman) said political parties were using the “Women’s Leagues” just to appear politically correct.

Rebecca Atengo (Woman Lira) said parties use women to manipulate other women.

“We want justice and fairness. We are either being manipulated or being used to manipulate other women to support things they don’t understand,” Atengo lamented.

Source: http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/13/687446

Online Women Bulletin, July 5, 2009

WOMEN IN POLITICS

India: Dalit , Muslim Women Bodies For Sub-Quota For Women in Bill

Contending that the Women’s Reservation Bill in its present form will benefit only those from affluent sections. Dalit and Muslim bodies demanded a sub-quota for women from weaker sections to ensure fair representation. At a convention in New Delhi, representatives of the All India Milli Council, the Muslim Welfare Organization, Dr B R Ambedkar Sewa Dal and Samajik Nyan Morcha among others said a quota without a sub-quota will augment inequalities in the country and fail to serve its purpose. “While we welcome the proposal of reserving seats form women, we strongly believe there should be a provision ensuring that Muslim and Dalit women, who are the most backward in the country and need representation, get their due share in proportion to their population,” said Manzoor Alam, General Secretary, All India Milli Concil. Alam said in its present form, the bill will further strengthen and empower, “the already educated and economically empowered ladies” and those who belong to families with political background

Lebanon: Where’s the Woman’s Place?

If you think Lebanon is a complicated place, the state of Lebanese women’s political participation should be no surprise. Lebanese women won the right to vote and to participate in national elections in 1952, 19 years b efore women in Switzerland. Yet, today, political participation by Lebanese women remains dismal at the national level. In the June parliamentary elections, only 12 women ran for office and only 4 were elected out of 128 seats. Since suffrage, in fact, only 77 women have served in Lebanon’s parliament. The reasons are complicated but male domination if the country’s politics is one major reason. Another is that political parties are f ocused in sectarian interests, marginalizing women’s voices.

Fiji: Interim Government Approves New Women’s  Groups

Fiji’s leading women’s advocacy group says a new interim government endoresed women’s group will not take the place of existing institutions. In a statement, Fiji’s interim government says the new “Fiji Women’s Federation”, will be the advocate for, and representative of, women’s rights in the country. The coordinator of one of the longest serving women rights groups, the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, Shamima Ali, say previous governments have tried and failed to create something similar, ” Often these things have fallen by the wayside because of lack of funding, lack of the political will of the government”, she said. The interim government says the membership of the federation will be nade up of women’s non government organizations, which meet a set criteria. But no detail of what that criteria is has been made public. Ms. Ali says the federation’s creation won’t mean groups like the Crisis Centre, vocal critics of the interim government, will be sidelined.

Iran: Women Leading the Charge for Change

Iranian women’s visible presence in protests over their country’s political turmoil is likely to strengthen the cause of opposition leader Mr. Hussein Mousavi. That became clear this weekend after 26-yeald Neda Agha-Soltan was shot in the chest while attending a protest rally. The video of her  bloody death on Saturday has circulated in Iran and around the world and prompted an outpouring of sympathy. President Obama in a White House press conference said, “We have experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the street. While this lost is raw and extraordinary painful, we also know this: Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.” Ms. Agha-Soltan apparently wasn’t a political activist but has become a stirring symbol of anti-government movement. And her gender seems to be heightening worldwide sympathy for the protesters.

Indonesia: Head Scarf Emerges As Political Symbol

The three (3) parties competing in Indonesia’s presidential election next week have plastered the city with campaign billboards and posters depicting, predictably, their presidential and vice presidential choices looking self-confident. But one party, Golkar, has also put up posters of the candidates’ wives next to their husbands, posing demurely and wearing a Muslim head scarves known here as jilbabs. The wives recently went on a jilbab shopping spree in one of Jakarta’s largest  markets and published a book together titled, “Devout Wives of Future Leaders”. Most polls suggest that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of the Democratic Party will be reelected  next Wednesday’s vote, after running a smooth campaign based on his economic policies and a popular anticorruption drive. Despite television debates, the personality-driven campaigns have focused little on differences over policies or ideas, except regarding the wearing of the jilbab.

Nepal:UK’s Permanent Secretary For International Development Interacts With Constituent Assembly (CA) Members

The Permanent Secretary at the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), Minouche Shafik, who concluded a two-day visit to Nepal on July 1, met women constituent assembly (CA) members at the Center for Constitutional Dialogue (CCD). During the meeting, Shafik heard about women’s role in the constitution-writing process and the challenges they faced in a traditionally-male dominated society. The CA members hoped to make the most of their numbers in the CA (33% of the total seats) by ensuring greater equality for women, including in access to state resources such as education and health care, teh DFID in Kathmandu said. Shafik reiterated DFID’s willingness to continue to contribute to making the voice of women and other marginalized groups heard, such as by sharing international experience of women’s role in parliament.

Mongolia: Draf Law on Gender Equality Presented

Government Cabinet Secretary Chief B. Dolgor submitted Friday a bill to ensure gender equality to Parliamentary Speaker D. Demberel. Mongolia has joined a number of international treaties and pacts, including international pacts on civic and political rights, on economic societal and cultural rights, a convention to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, a convention on women in politics, as well as the 1993 Vienna Convention. These make Mongolia responsible for creating a favorable legal environment to refute any acts and customs allowing gender discrimination, satisfying and guaranteeing equal gender rights equality and equal attitudes, taking required measures and approving relevant legislation. Mongolia’s government action plan for 2009-2012 includes drawing up a bill to ensure gender equality.

GENDER IN CLIMATE CHANGE AND DISASTER RISK REDUCTION

UN Habitat’s Executive Director Wins Prestigious Environmental Award

UN Habitat’s Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka has been named one of the three (3) winners of the 2009 Goteborg Award, the prestigious “Nobel Prize in Environment”. The Goteborg Award now celebrating its tenth year conferred its jubilee prize of one million Swedish Kroner (USD 126,775) to be shared equally between Mrs. Tibaijuka, Mr. Enrique Penalosa, the former  mayor of Bogota, Colombia, and Mr. Soren Hermansen of Samso, Denmark, who was named by Time Magazine as 2008 Hero of the Environment. Last year’s winner included Mr. Al Gore the former US Vice President and global environment champion.

West African Sub-Region Vulnerable To Climate Change

Dr. Edward Omane Boamah, Deputy Minister of Environment, Science and Technology said that the Western African Sub-Region would be the most affected region by climate change, as long as it remained one of the poorest in the world. He said over the last three or four decades, impact of climate change has revealed the region’s vulnerability and stressed the need for consensus actions to reduce the looming danger. Droughts, floods and storms are likely to increase, not only in frequency but also in intensity. Rainfall patterns are still changing and in coastal areas, sea level rise and rising temparatures will threaten coastal areas and ecosystems”, he said. He emphasized the prospective impacts on society and economies across the sub-region were likely to be huge, thereby negatively affecting all sectors and groups of people with women, the poor and marginalized being the most affected.

Ordinary Men and Women Will Pay Price of Addressing Climate Change

The leader of Caritas Internationalis, the international consortium of Catholic relief agencies, warned in a recent address that attempts to address climate change will reduce the standard of living of the “ordinary men and women of the developed world”. Secretary-General Lesley Anne Knight said that “even if it is too early to say for certain that man-made climate change is causing an increase in humanitarian emergencies, one thing is certain: If it continues, it most certainly will”. She grants that there is disagreement over whether the increasing scale and frequency of climate-related humanitarian emergencies can be scientifically attributed to man-made cliamte change. But a number of points are clear: We are witnessing an increase in climate-related emergencies. Increasing climate vulnerability is making some parts of the world more susceptible to climate-related disasters. Factors such as poverty and conflict are making populations more vulnerable to the effects of climate-related disasters.

Irish Women Act on Climate Change in Africa

The Women of the ICA are helping to raise funds for the stoves and are also off-setting the carbon footprint–all through this green, women-focused initiative. With the help of a part-EU funded Irish NGO, “Vita”, these stoves are now being installed in homes in rural Eritrea. And as part of its drive to encourage innovation and green programmes, the European Commission Representation in Ireland hosted a meeting in Dublin this week, between the designer of this innovative stove, the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, and “Vita”. The ICA was presented with a letter of thanks from the Eritrean Women’s Union for agreeing to help women in Eritrea achieve today what the ICA did in Ireland in the 1950’s. The letter was presented by Dr. Debesai Ghebrehiwet, who is the designer of the award-winning stove.

OTHER NEWS

Afghanistan: Women Battle Heavy Odds in Struggle for Freedom and Dignity

Rona Tareen sits among the many couches lining her Persian carpeted office and, with the press of ink-stained thumbs, allows what some Afghans consider sacrilege: letting a young woman move away from her husband with her family in Kabul. Tareen, a mother of six and women’s affairs director for the province of Kandahar, where Canadian forces are based, oversees many family judgments in a country steeped in patriarchy. Afghan women—particularly in the volatile south, where the Taliban was born—rarely appear in public without burkas and often show deference to the opposite sex, lowering gazes to the floor, almost shrinking when a man approaches. Given that some hard-line Islamists believe the Koran decrees women to be subservient to men, improving conditions for women in a war-torn country with one of the world’s lowest literacy levels requires more than education. It requires social engineering.

India: The Cases of Human Trafficking

As per the women and child development estimates, 3 million women in India fall prey to trafficking annually in the country and 40% of these are minors. The country needs to face its moment of truth. India has been placed on the US human trafficking tier 2 watch list for not doing enough to curb human smuggling. “Whatever makes a man a slave takes half his worht away”, Pope said. Indeed,  a human trafficking is a modern day slavery where human beings are exploited by treating them like commodities for profit. It is contrary to the fundamental belief of all societies that people everywhere deserve to live in safety and dignity. Victims of human trafficking who comprise of young children, teenagers, men and women are subjected to involuntary servitude and sexual slavery by force, fraud or coercion. Human smuggling, especially of women and children has become a matter of serious national and international concern.

Pakistan: Women in Fata Find A Voice

In a small recording studio in Peshawar, Asma rushes around with a minidisc recorder. She has to finish editing a news bulletin and make it back to her home in Nowshera before it gets dark. “If I do not get the bulletin done in time for this evening show, the station will not let me continue as a radio journalist”, she says. “But if i do not get home on time, then my parents will not let me continue working either”. Asma is one of the 15 reporters for Radio Khyber, a Jamrud-based FM radio station, and one of the few legal media outlets in Pakistan tribal belt. The station, which is supported by the Fata Secretariat, aims to counter the extremist, pro-jihad and anti-West programming that is typical of dozens of illegal radio stations run by hard-line clerics throughout the tribal agencies.

Bangladesh: Prime Minister Seeks UN Help for Improving Health and Women Empowerment

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has sought enhanced assistance from the United Nations for improving child and maternal health and empowering the women folk in the country, as she listed some setbacks in the population sector in recent times. She made the call when Representatives of UNFPA in Bangladesh Arthur Erken on the eve of the World Population Day , paid a courtesy call on her. The Prime Minister reiterated her government commitment to establish social-safety net through creating huge employment opportunities and empowering women, providing quality health services to people of all walks of life, particularly to mothers and children. She said in line with the dream of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of building a healthy nation, the last Awami League government had taken a project of setting up 18,000 community health clinic across the country and some 4,000 of the clinics were made functional in full swing.

What Is the Role of Women in Indian Politics?

India should work towards empowering women economically — through microfinance programs — and also encourage greater participation of women leaders in panchayats, or village councils, writes author Shoba Narayan in this opinion piece.

The ink-stained polls of the world’s largest democracy have delivered their verdict and India waits with bated breath to learn whether Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s second administration will be different than the first. While India exults after yet another peacefully concluded election, one question remains: What is the role of women in Indian politics? The answer is both big and small. Typical of India, it contains contradictions.

On the one hand, India falls in the lowest quartile with respect to the number of women in parliament (9.1%). Even the UAE, with 22.5%, has more women representatives, according to the UN’s 2008 survey of women in politics. That said, the recently concluded 15th Lok Sabha elections have delivered a record 59 women as members of Parliament, the highest since independence, raising their parliamentary participation to 10.9%. Seventeen of these women are under 40. And representation of women leaders at the grassroots level in India is nearly 50%, especially since the passing of the 73rd amendment in 1992, which allotted one-third of all seats to women. The panchayati raj, that bedrock of rural government, has fostered more and more women participants and leaders. (A panchayat is a five-person elected village council.) Some states, like Karnataka, had inducted women into rural politics even before it was mandated by the constitution. Several states, including Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar and most recently, Uttarkhand, have allotted not just the required 33% of panchayat seats for women but increased it to 50%.

Beating the Odds

The rise of Indian women as panchayat leaders is a spectacular achievement given that India has one of the worst records with respect to the way it treats the female sex. Malnourished, suppressed, uneducated, violated and discriminated against, Indian women have the odds stacked against them. Even birth is a hurdle, thanks to widespread female infanticide in rural areas. But for every Saroja who will be married at 13 because her mother, a devadasi (prostitute) in Chikanahalli Village, Karnataka, cannot afford to pay a dowry, there is a Lakshmi, who is serving her second-term as the panchayat leader of Kadinamala village in Kotagiri district. There is a Kenchamma of Nereleke gram panchayat in rural Karnataka, who survived life threats during her two terms as council leader. An illiterate Dalit, Kenchamma could not read or write. Perhaps as a result of her personal travails, she made sure that she brought education to all the children in her village, including a disabled child.

Talking to these women is a lesson in humility. Instead of the outrage and anger that urban feminists project, these women panchayat leaders speak with clear-minded realism about opportunities and costs. For many women, attending a panchayat meeting means sacrificing a day’s wage. It means assuming leadership for the first time in their lives and then subsuming it at home to serve in-laws and husband. For Kenchamma, it meant leaving her one-year-old son to other caregivers while she learned the ropes of politics.

Ask these women about political reform, and their answers reflect concerns that every women and mother can relate to. They focus on three things: healthcare, education, and the funds to make these two things happen. Kenchamma, a trained midwife, established health camps to improve awareness among the villagers. She also knew from personal experience that, often, it is the mothers who neglect their health the most. Simplistic as it seems, solving health and education is a common thread among panchayat leaders, whether they are men or women. The third concern is figuring out how to save or raise enough money to accomplish their goals.

Most villagers — in India and across the world — either don’t go to banks or don’t have access to them. Instead, they borrow from each other, buy jewelry and save in what Melinda Gates calls, “risky and inefficient ways” in a recent piece she wrote in Newsweek. For most of these villagers, a child’s illness, even something as treatable as malaria, can wipe out several months of savings, sending a family spiraling deeper into debt. The answer, according to the Gates Foundation — no slouch when it comes to solving global problems in an accountable manner — is “bringing safe financial service to the doorsteps of the poor.” As a means to that end, the Foundation has pledged $350 million for microfinance, whose beneficiary is primarily women.

Microfinance and Economic Empowerment

Geeta, 32, would be a typical candidate. An orphan at age three, Geeta was raised by her elder sister. She didn’t go to school and was married to an alcoholic uncle when she was a teenager. Today, she works as a housemaid in Bangalore to feed her family of four: Her husband, her two sons and herself. Geeta’s life goal is to educate her two sons. But she lives in a cycle of debt — borrowing to repay past loans, to make annual school payments for her sons, to cover family events like weddings and every time someone in the family falls sick. Geeta, it so happens, works in my house.

Two years ago, Geeta heard about Janalakshmi, a microfinance company, from some women in her neighborhood. She joined a group of women and borrowed Rs. 30,000 (about $600) with the understanding that they would help each other not default on interest payments and take turns reaping the benefits of the loan. Each group has a leader who guarantees the interest payment to the microfinance institution and in turn, the leader invites women she trusts into the group so that they can borrow larger amounts. For now, Geeta’s microfinance loan is only allowing her to pay back her previous debts, but she dreams of the day when she can borrow enough money for a down payment on a home.

More and more entities are recognizing the power of micro-loans and how they can elevate an entire segment of society. And the route to the underserved is frequently through women, thanks to models based on Grameen Bank and others. Chennai-based Equitas, for instance, only works with women. In March, The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) launched Stree Shakti, a platform for training women entrepreneurs at all levels of Indian society. Goldman Sachs’s ambitious “10,000 Women” program aims to train and develop women entrepreneurs across the globe by pairing them with resources in the West. In all these cases, women serve as the lynchpin for programs, whether they are rural Self Help Groups (SHG) or global programs that aspire to foster entrepreneurship.

Microfinance is not the only answer to solving the poor’s problems but it is one good way to help women help themselves. Women self-help groups are burgeoning all across India, and study after study shows that they successfully impact women and bring them out of poverty. In an article that appeared in the December 2007 issue of UNDP’s Poverty in Focus, researchers Ranjula Bali Swain and Fan Yang Wallentin of Uppsala University in Sweden examine the link between microfinance and women’s empowerment using household sample data collected from five states in India in 2000 and 2003. Their results “strongly demonstrate” that there is a clear link between women’s participation in a Self Help Group (SHG) and their empowerment.

The good news, at least in India, is that these microfinance initiatives are reaching bigger swathes of the underserved. The Indian School of Microfinance for Women (ISMW), for instance, goes one step deeper into the problem. Based in Ahmedabad and chaired by social activist and SEWA founder Ela Bhatt, the school recognizes that borrowing money is only one part of the triangle. Among other things, the school teaches women how to deal with the money they borrow through capacity building workshops, networking and providing knowledge resources. Simply put, it takes Goldman Sachs’s global vision for women entrepreneurs and translates it into a deeper regional focus. The school’s website lists ‘hand-holding’ as one of its goals. Participants of micro-credit schemes are taught financial planning and investing techniques that they can use on the ground and in their business.

While microfinance works to eradicate poverty, the next generation of Indian leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, has made social sectors its calling card. The rural development portfolio, which traditionally was one of the less-prized posts, has now vaulted to the top of the pecking order, thanks in large part to the Gandhi family which has aligned itself with the aam admi (poor people) in both its campaigning and future promises. When Manmohan Singh was asked in a recent television interview if he had any regrets about areas that he couldn’t concentrate on in his first term that he would focus on in his second term, he said, “I’d like to work on agriculture, education and rural health.”

Reforming Education

Panchayat women leaders have been especially active in bringing education to their villages even though they are frequently held hostage by caste politics and quotas. Rural education is a quagmire of poor policies that nobody in government seems to have the will to change. The recent Administrative Reforms Commission repeats a long-standing recommendation that the selection of school teachers in rural schools be delegated to each panchayat instead of making it state-wide and therefore subject to caste-based selection. Deploying state-selected teachers to rural schools in areas where they have no caste-based affiliation makes it a losing proposition from the get-go, according to some experts. Detractors contend that delegating teacher-selection to each panchayat will make it subject to bribes and corruption. But as one official in the Administrative Reforms Commission put it, small-scale rural corruption (with some accountability) is better than the large-scale corruption (with no local accountability.)

Panchayat leaders who don’t have a say in the kind of teachers their village-schools attract end up focusing on infrastructure and other issues within their purview. Women panchayat leaders talk about building separate bathrooms for girls, which studies have shown will reduce the number of female drop-outs after puberty. They bring safe drinking water to their students. All these are not just palliatives, but are necessary developments in rural education.

It is easy to be cynical about yet another federal election that promises improvements to local government and to the lot of women. This time may be different, not just because of the number of women in parliament and the panchayats, but also because Rahul Gandhi, a rising star in Congress politics, is tapped to oversee the rural government portfolio. One can only hope that the Gandhi scion will free the portfolio of its state-level stranglehold and pass along more power to the people. Non-partisan economists have long called for decentralized local governance as the only way to speed up the impact of reforms. To that, I would add two other objectives: wider access to micro-loans as an enabler, and genuinely empowering women in local governments to succeed.

—Published: May 21, 2009 in India Knowledge@Wharton

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124643926385978759.html

OnlineWomenBulletin, 20 June 2009

she said

“Many people in Morocco believe in change, in a better tomorrow and we, women have what it takes–talent and energy along with so many others. Women know more than men how to organize. They are more patient, stronger. They are also more reasonable and more attentive to the needs of children, women and men.”

Koutar Benhamou, a woman candidate in Morocco’s Municipal Elections

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Morocco: Election To Mark Another Step for Women

She’s young, at ease in Arabic, French or English, travels, love scuba diving, campaigns in a T-shirt and jeans and is bent on winning a seat in Morocco’s municipal elections on Friday. Kaoutar Benhamou, who turns 34 the same day, says she embodies modern Morocco. But she is also riding the kingdom’s latest wave to promote the role of women in this conservative Muslim state. For the first time, the government stipulated a 12 percent quota for women in Friday’s municipal polls–a major leap over the 0.58 percent or 127 women, now holding local council seats across the country, according to interior ministry figures. “I’ve never been involved in politics before,” says Benhamou, behind the wheel of her white four-wheel drive vehicle as she drums up support in the town of Bouknadel, 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of the capital, Rabat. She is running for the new, reformist Authencity and Modernity Party or PAM, an alliance of five smaller groups facing a first electoral challenge it views as a litmus test for general elections three years away.

Bangladesh: To Increase Women’s Seats in Parliament to 100

Even as Indian political parties fail to reach a consensus over the Women’s Reservation Bill, Bangladesh is all set to increase by more than double the number of reserved seats for women in parliament. “The number of reserved seats for women in parliament will be increased to 100 and there will be direct election in these seats,” Finance Minister A M A Muhith told the House while presenting the budget for 2009-10 yesterday. The women MPs have so far been nominated by political parties on the basis of the proportion of their representation in parliament. At present, only 45 seats are reserved for women in the Bangladesh parliament. Muhith said in line with its election commitment, the Sheikh Hasina government has started working to ensure recruitment, promotion and placement of women in top positions of the administration, armed forces, autonomous bodies, educational institutions and judicial service.

India: Parliament Might Have 33% More Women

An Indian parliamentary standing committee on Law and Justice, headed by Rajya Sabha Parliamentarian Sudarshan Nachiappan (Congress),  has found acceptable a proposition to increase the number of seats for women in parliament by 33 percent. Since reserving seats for women in parliament, and for state legislatures, had always been a skewed issue in India, the parliamentary panel emerged with the solution while examining a reservation bill pending in the Rajya Sabha (upper house). People like Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and Janata Dal (JD) chief Lalu Prasad opposed the plan because there was no quota for women from the lower castes. However, the panel could not complete its report because of the Lok Sabha (lower house) elections, and would now work with members of the new lower house to resume work on the plan. Acceptable: The idea of increasing seats in teh Lok Sabha was also supported on the grounds that the strength of the House was fixed at 545 when India’s population was 300 million. However, the figure had now swelled to over 1 billion. Hence, an increase of 33 percent seats would result in better representation for the people.

Australia: Gillard Hopeful For Equality in Politics

It won’t be long before being a woman in politics is no big deal, says Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Australia’s highest-profile woman politician says it won’t be long before female politicians get no extra attention for their gender. “In the time I’ve been interested in politics going back of course, through the Fraser government, the Hawke government, Keating government, Howard government, now into Rudd government….a lot has changed for women in politics,” she told Sky News on Wednesday. “It’s much more usual for women to be in politics, we’re there in greater numbers. I think there is still some level of differential attention but it is changing very quickly.”

Lebanon: A Dwindling Show by Women in Politics

A seductive woman looks out from the billboards that line Beirut’s highways proclaiming, “Be Beautiful and Vote”, one political party’s appeal to women in this beauty-obsessed nation’s upcoming parliamentary elections. Women’s rights activists have fumed that the ad is demeaning. An opposing party has put up billboards with a more feminist message, “Be equal and vote,” though featuring, of course, an equally sexy model. A lingerie brand jumped in with its own mock election ad: a woman in silky underwear urging, “Vote for me”. Lebanon’s election campaign is full of women–except where it counts. Only a handful of women are among the more than 580 candidates vying for parliament’s 128 seats, and after Sunday’s voting, the number of women in parliament is likely to drop to four, down from the current six. Lebanon may look like one of the most liberal countries in teh deeply conservative Middle East but patriarchal attitudes still reign, women activists say. Women’s poor showing also reflects a wider problem: although Lebanon has the trappings of a modern democracy, its politics are dominated by former warlords and family dynasties. Often only each clan’s appointed heirs—usually men–stand a real chance of getting elected.

South Africa: Woman Shakes Up Racial Politics

Helen Zille has a sharp tongue and a short fuse, and she doesn’t dodge a fight. In apartheid times, she enraged South Africa’s white rulers and lately she has ruffled South Africa’s black political establishment. Having won plaudits as Mayor of Cape Town, she is now leader of the main opposition and her province’s premier–a striking example of democracy at work in a country that is ruled by blacks but leaves room for white  politicians like Zille. In the April provincial election, Zille won just over 51 percent of the vote to seize control of the wealthy Western Cape province from the African National Congress, breaking the ruling party’s monopoly on power. In voting for the national parliament, her Democratic Alliance party’s share rose to nearly 17 percent and helped deny the ANC its coveted two-thirds majority. Now the 58-year old workaholic says her goal is to run Western Cape so well that voters will be persuaded to ditch the ANC in other provinces. “The Western Cape will set an example for democracy in South Africa,” she told cheering supporters after the results were announced.

Canada: Women in Politics Take Center Stage

Progress is slow but sure for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Standing Committee for Increasing Women’s Participation in Politics, as the number of female representatives in local government’s increased by one percent in 2008, from 22 percent to 23 percent. The goal of the organization is to reach a plateau of 30 percent—consistent with a United Nations directive on women in democracy that determined that 30 per cent was the minimum number or “tipping point” required for women to have an effective voice. While politics may be gender-neutral, the issues are not. For example, female politicians tend to be more effective when it comes to representing women’s issues like childcare, playgrounds, facilities for nursing mothers, etc. At the committee’s presentation in Whistler on Saturday, standing committee chair Pam McConnell, listed the committee’s  main achievements the past year—including notably, the promotion of the group as a full standing committee within the FMC framework.

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Gender Issues Gain Momentum at Climate Talks in Germany

Communication lines with Mother Earth have become complicated. Our practices of thousands of years are becoming difficult, implored an indigenous man from Bolivia, on behalf of his government’s delegation, as Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) met from 1-12 June in Bonn, Germany, to advance negotiation of a climate change framework for post 2012. References to the human dimension of climate change and the policies needed to address it are increasingly common at the ongoing UNFCC international climate change talks, expected to culminate in an agreement at the Conference of Parties (COP-15) in Copenhagen, Denmark in December. Gender advocates, indigenous peoples, labor representatives and the youth have become increasingly visible and coordinated in their efforts to build awareness of the human face to climate change, as well as the need to include all stakeholders in designing and implementing an effective response. And, governments are increasingly reflecting these aspects in submission to the text under negotiation.

Women Are The Energy Decision Makers

While Congress is contemplating a new energy policy, American women are paying the electric bills at home and making the critical decisions on energy use in their homes and businesses, according to the national Women’s Survey on Energy and the Environment, the first in-depth women’s survey on attitudes and awareness about energy. The nationally representative survey of 801 women 18 years or older, commissioned by Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) in collaboration with the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment (WCEE) shows that women want the country to move toward clean energy sources and more than half (57%) are even willing to pay $30 more per month for it.  Yet they don’t completely understand the electricity sources we use today, the impact of electricity on clean air and what is causing global warming.

From Early Warning To Early Action in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is the most vulnerable country in the world to tropical cyclones. In addition, mortality risk from cyclones is approximately 200 times higher in developing countries like Bangladesh. The combination is deadly, for both lives and livelihoods of those living in coastal areas of Bangladesh such as Noakhali. Changes in cyclone behavior have also been noted: they are impacting further inland over a greater geographic area, with increased frequency and severity, probably attributable to climate change. At the same time, effective early warning systems have been shown to save thousands of lives. The cyclone that ravaged the coastline in 1970 killed 500,000 people. In 2007, cyclone Sidr killed 3,000, a difference in death toll that is largely attributed to effective disaster preparedness measures such as the Bangladesh Red-Cresecent’s Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) and the British Red Cross co-funded Building Community Disaster Preparedness Capacity (BCDPC) project implemented with European Commission funds. The project, running for the past 3 years, supports 85 communities along the coastal areas of Bangladesh to develop their capacity towards disaster preparedness and response, with focus on addressing the specific needs of women and children.

Climate Change is Pushing Malawi Further into Poverty, Women Are Hit Worst

Climate change in Malawi is pushing people further into poverty and women are suffering most, according to a new report from international agency, Oxfam today. The report, The Wind of Change: Climate Change, Poverty and the Environment in Malawi, says that an increase in temperatures and intense rain in Malawi over the past 40 years has led to drought and flooding, causing shorter growing seasons, poor crop yields, food shortages, hunger and the spread of disease in a country where 29 percent of people already live in extreme poverty. As women have multiple roles in Malawi as farmers, child carers, providers of food, water and firewood, they are affected most by the changing climate according to the report. Women’s weak position in Malawian society also means that generally they have less access to income and credit and no voice in decision-making, making it difficult for them to find other sources of income or influence action on climate change in Malawi.

Human Rights Council Holds Panel Discussion on Climate Change and Human Rights

The Human Rights Council held a panel discussion on the relationship between climate change and human rights during which participants raised a large number of issues including the barrier that climate change posed to development in some countries; how climate change impactedon the right to life, food, safe water and health, home , land, properties, livelihoods, employment and development; and how the poor in the developing countries were the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and the responsibility of developed countries which had caused the climate change to help them mitigate climate change effectes. Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, in an opening statement, said climate change posed an immediate and far-reaching threat to people and communities around the world. The human impact of climate change was not only related to environmental factors but also to poverty, discrimination and inequalities. The human rights perspective, focusing on the right of everyone to dignified life based on the fundamental principles of inequality and discrimination, was particulary well-suited to analyze how climate change affected people differently.

China’s Toxic Harvest: Noxious Chinese Dryway Believed To Contain Smokestack Contaminants

Since late 2008, media coverage of problems resulting from toxic drywall imported from China has increased rapidly, with more details unfolding. This substandard drywall can be found in as many as 25,000 homes in 13 states in the USA. As homes sustain corrosion in electrical wiring, HVAC units, and even jewelry, their owners experience a myriad of illnesses and symptoms. The effects are particularly hazardous to children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with pre-existing respiratory illness.

Maldives Debates on Climate Injustice at UN

UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday debated, in full-session, on the impacts of climate change on full enjoyment of human rights, especially in vulnerable countries. The debate tabled by the Maldives, sought to portray climate change not solely as a scientific issue, but also as a matter of global injustice and human rights, with the poor and vulnerable suffering because of the pursuit of wealth in richer parts of the world. During the debate the Maldives presented a joint statement on behalf of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) outlining the massive negative impacts of global warming on their communities, calling on large emitting States to honor their international legal obligation not to interfere with the enjoyment of human rights in other countries, and urging UN human rights mechanisms to hold such countries accountable. US, EU, Brazil, China, Canada, Mauritius, Bhutan, Uruguay, UK, Russia, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, Philippines, Indonesia and around thirty other States took part in the debate.

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Fiji: Workshop Calls for Laws To Halt Abuse of Women

A workshop on violence against women has sparked calls for legislation encompassing all abuse against women. The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre hosted the Pacific Regional Meeting on Violence Against Women in Fiji last week with 60 attendees from 11 Pacific countries. The Deputy Coordinator of the Centre Edwina Kotoisuva says the links between human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault of women are strong. She says there is much support for an integrated approach in terms of legislation to combat the issues.

Iran: Women on Front Line of Street Protests

The iconography dominating global television coverage of Iran’s biggest demonstrations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution is stunning; women are on the front line of the protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s allegedly frauduletn re-election. It is no surprise. They feel most robbed by his “stolen” victory. “We feel cheated, frustrated and betrayed,” said an Iranian woman in a message circulated on Facebook. Iran’s energetic female activists are using the social networking site to mobilize opposition to Mr. Ahmadinejad. Iranian women also have a dynamic presence on the country’s blogosphere– the biggest in the Middle East–which they are using to keep up popular momentum against the election outcome. Many Iranian women will suspect that a prime reason the election was “stolen” was to keep them in their place. To the regime, their demands for equal rights are inseparable from the opposition’s drive for greater democracy.

Saudi Arabia: A Vow To  Help Women

Human Rights Watch said Friday Saudi Arabia has pledged to improve women’s rights by eliminating gender discrimination. Human Rights Watch said in a release Saudi Arabian leaders have agreed also to attempt to end the country’s current system of male ownership of women and grant women in Saudi Arabia a full legal identity. “Saudi women have waited a long time for these changes,” Nisha Varia, deputy director of the non-governmental organization’s women’s rights division. “Now they need concrete action so that these commitments do not remain words on paper in Geneva, but are felt by Saudi women in their daily lives.” The decision by Saudi Arabian leaders came during a review by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Human Rights Watch said members of the UN recommended in February that Saudi Arabia attempt to improve the rights of the country’s female population.

Turkey: Women’s Groups Urged Mobilization on Gender Equality

Women’s organizations have called for gender equality education for all in society starting from the top levels, including the President and the Prime Minister, and down to the bottom, including private citizens, police officers, judges and prosecutors in the wake of a landmark European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decision that punished Turkey for failing to provide its citizens with bettter protection from domestic abuse. Hulya Gulbahar, chairwoman of the Association for Educating and Supporting Women Candidates (KA-DER) said society needs to be educated on the issue of gender equality to overcome domestic violence. “There must be gender equality education for the whole of society including the President and the Prime Minister,” she said speaking at a press conference organized by the TCK Woman Platform, which had successfully lobbied for changes in the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) to protect women’s rights. Gulbahar added that all ministries should be mobilized to guarantee gender equality.

Pakistan: 56 Percent Women Get Share in Property

According to Gilani Research Foundation survey, 56 percent Pakistanis believe that women in Pakistan get their share in family property while 44 percent claim of women not receiving their due property share. A nationally representative sampleof  men and women from across the country were asked, “In your view, do women in your household or in families around you get their legal share as prescribed by the Islamic Law (Shariah)”? The data reveals that an equal percentage of both men and women believe that women in their family or in other families receive their proper amount of share as prescribed in Islamic Law. It is also seen that a proportionately higher percentage of urbanites that ruralites and respondents from higher income groups have claimed that women in their families or in families around them are given their proper share in the family’s property.

Uganda: Brides Pay Price of Being Bought?

The chilling story of Nathan Awoloi, a hunter from Palisa district in Eastern Uganda who allegedly forced his wife, Jennifer Alupot, to breastfeed puppies, has triggered Ugandan women activists into calling for outlawing the long held tradition of bride-price. Apparently, Awoloi claimed he had paid his two cows which were previously giving him milk to feed his puppies as bride price to his wife’s family, he reasoned that the bride should breastfeed his dogs. The bizarre incident has since led women activists to claim that the practice of bride price has dehumanized, enslaved and trapped women in the hands of men. They wan the ministry of Justice and parliament to push for laws regarding gender equality and bride price to change people’s attitude. The activists are convinced the practice is no longer fashionable.

Malaysia: More Women Choosing Entrepreneurship As Career

More women in Malaysia are choosing entrepreneurship for a career despite the various challenges they face such as lack of financial support and competitiveness in the market, Deputy Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun said. She said the government was concerned about these challenges and the relevant ministries has tasked to identify the factors which impeded one from progressing in business. Chew said 99 per cent of the small and medium enterprise companies in the country were involved in the services, manufacturing and agricultural sectors and women owned 16 percent of the companies, primarily in the services sector. 

Women parliamentarians keen to see Women’s Reservation Bill through

brinda karat

After President Pratibha Patil declared that the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in the parliament is among the top ten priorities of Prime Minister Manamohan Singh’s government, women politicians are hopeful that their 14-year-old demand will be fulfilled soon.

  “Women have been waiting for this since the last fourteen years. We have heard many assurances but we hope that this time the government is going to deliver on the assurance. As far as my party is concerned, 100 percent support is assured the day they bring the bill into parliament for passage,” Communist Party of India politburo member Brinda Karat said.

Karat also said that the 50 percent reservation for women in village governing bodies, Panchayats should be implemented at national level.

Congress party leader Girja Vyas said the women’s reservation bill is on top of the Congress led government’s agenda.

“The manifestos of many political parties talk about women empowerment. Especially the Congress Party has it in their manifesto. It is in the 100 days agenda of the party so it has to be fulfilled,” Vyas said.

Amar Singh, general secretary of regional Samajwadi Party, however, echoed the sentiments of his party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Yadav had said that his party would not be able to support the bill in its present structure.

“With the present structure of the bill, we will not be able to support it. The government may still pass it because they have the required number. But we will not support it. The careers of many establish leaders will be destroyed as their seats can be lost due to women reservation,” Singh said.

http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/india-news/women-parliamentarians-keen-to-see-womens-reservation-bill-through_100200910.html

OnlineWomenBulletin 07 June 2009

she said

” 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

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India: Meira Kumar Becomes First Woman Speaker

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.

Pakistan: Women in Parliament Push for Space

“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.

Indonesia: New Female Envoy to Ukraine Vows To Boost Economic Ties

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.

Lebanon: Quota or Not

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.

Cambodia: Mu Sochua, One of Cambodia’s Precious Gems

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).

Bangladesh: Special Budgetary Allocation for Women Development Demanded

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.

UAE: Continue To The Path of Women Revivalism

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.

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India’s Electrifying Women

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.

Telstra Women Join “1 Million Women” on World Environment Day

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.

Climate Change is Sexist

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 Now “Biggest Global Health Threat”

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.

Climate Change Claims 300,000 Lives A Year, Report Warns

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 Threat To Mid-East Security

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.

Africa Plans New Strategies To Combat Climate Change

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.

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Afghanistan: The Way Forward For Afghan Women

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.

Fiji: NGO Says Report Show Deterioration of Pacific Women’s Status

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.”

Cambodia: Women in Health Battle

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.

Bangladesh: Single  Mother Caned Over Paternity Row

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.

Philippines: Sending of More Women Peacekeepers

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.

USA: Women Led-Firm Coping Better With Recession

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.

Asia: Women Workers Hit Hard By Economic Slump

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.