“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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.