Tag Archives: politics

EGYPT: Women Get Help on Road to Parliament

Egypt elected the first Arab woman to parliament in 1957, but in the half century since, the most populous country in the Arab world has gone from being a leader in women’s political participation to a lagger.

“Many Arab countries went ahead, but Egypt stayed behind,” says Hoda Badran, head of the Cairo-based Alliance for Arab Women (AAW).

Female parliamentary representation has declined since 1984, when women occupied 36 of the 458 seats in the People’s Assembly, the lower house of Egypt’s parliament. Women secured just nine of 454 seats in the last legislative election in 2005. Only four women were elected, the rest were appointed by the president.

Experts attribute the decline in political participation to social and cultural barriers imposed by a patriarchal society, reinforced by a wave of Islamic fundamentalism that swept across the Arab world in the 1980s. Conservative groups held that women should stay at home and manage the family, and sought to impose many limitations on women.

“Political parties, which are supposed to school women, do not give women training, do not put them on their lists and have not backed their campaigns,” Badran told IPS. “At most they just put them on a women’s committee, segregating them from other committees and the mainstream work of the party.”

The few women who do run face obstacles in raising campaign funds, and are vulnerable to the violence and thuggery that typically accompany elections in Egypt. Female candidates have reported being physically intimidated by their opponents, or subject to smear campaigns against their reputation.

New legislation and civil society programmes aim at increasing female representation in Egypt’s parliament, but it could take decades to dismantle the social and cultural obstacles. Unfortunately, says Badran, progress usually requires direct intervention.

Since 2003 Egypt has seen its first female judge, a female university president, and several female cabinet ministers. All were appointed by President Hosni Mubarak in an effort to kickstart women’s political participation.

Earlier this month, Egyptian legislators passed a bill that allocates 64 parliamentary seats for women, increasing the number of seats in the People’s Assembly to 518. The “positive discrimination,” to be applied in general elections due in 2010, ensures women will hold a minimum of 12 percent of seats in the next legislature, up from 1 percent in the current one.

Quota systems have been applied in over 70 countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America to develop the capacity and competency of women in decision-making fields.

Egypt applied a 30-seat quota for female MPs in 1979, but repealed it in1988 after its constitutionality was challenged. Women’s organisations have applauded the reintroduction of the measure, though some have voiced concern about its form and implementation.

Nehad Abu El-Komsan, chairwoman of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR), has lobbied for a quota for 15 years, but worries that the current system, where women will campaign individually in specially designated constituencies, only reinforces the notion that women should compete separately from men. She favours a proportional list system, where each party would field a minimum number of female candidates as part of its electoral slate.

“A proportional system would guarantee that women are not isolated; they would be part of the group,” she says. “And this would force the parties to look for active women candidates, and to train women and support them at all levels.”

The new quota system is to be applied for two legislative terms, or 10 years, which some argue is not long enough to change deep-rooted conservative views on women’s roles. “It needs at least a generation to change attitudes,” says Abu El-Komsan. “You cannot expect it to happen overnight.”

On the positive side, Badran points out, the quota will guarantee women more representation in the lower house – hopefully enough to have an impact. “The issue here is what kind of women are going to be elected to these 64 seats,” she says. “Our role as NGOs will be to work very strongly and eagerly between now and the election …”

An AAW programme launched last year is preparing to send a group of women to Britain to receive training as campaign managers for female political candidates. The “nucleus of campaign managers” will work with 20 women selected from various Egyptian political parties, who will be trained and supported in their candidacy in the upcoming election.

“We are creating a group of professional campaign managers who will manage the campaigns of the 20 women as a start,” says Badran. “(They will) be working afterwards for any kind of election, not necessarily for parliament, but also for labour unions and the various syndicates.”

The National Council for Women (NCW), headed by first lady Suzanne Mubarak, established its own project to enhance women’s political participation in 2003 through its Center for the Political Empowerment of Women (CPEW).

The UNDP-backed programme aims at developing the skill set of potential female candidates, improving the legislative and oversight knowledge of women MPs, and raising awareness of the importance of women’s participation in political life. A separate programme to enhance the performance of women in parliament and local councils was added in 2006.

“(Local) councils are the preliminary institutions for nurturing cadres, who will be capable of handling the responsibilities of leadership, because of their presence among people at the grassroots level,” Mubarak said during a conference in March.

Why is it important to support female parliamentary candidates? Badran sees women’s political participation as critical to addressing key developmental issues. “There is a correlation between the number and quality of women in parliament and the type of legislation which comes out of the parliament,” she says.

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=47391

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Women’s Rights in Pakistan: Descending into Darkness

mukhtar_mai Mukhtar Mai, a leading Pakistani women’s rights advocate, gained fame for the way she courageously stood up to traditions that violated her human rights. Online, one can find plenty of information about her – her gang rape, her recent marriage, her strides for women’s rights and education, and the harassment that she has faced from Pakistani government officials. While her past is now known around the globe, her future, in light of the Multan Electric Power Company’s June 11 raid on the Mukhtar Women’s Welfare Organization, remains uncertain. With the exception of coverage by Nicholas Kristof’s blog (“A Hero’s Ordeal in Pakistan“), Ms. Mai’s current dire situation in Pakistan is not well-known. The latest harassment towards Ms. Mai, which within the context of previous incidents was obviously not an isolated event, must mobilize the public to demand action from the Pakistani government.

On June 11, 2009, the Multan Electric Power Company raided the MMWWO in Meerwala, Pakistan, and disconnected all electricity to the grounds, falsely accusing the organization of stealing electricity despite records proving they have paid all bills in full. MMWWO and hundreds of families in the surrounding area were without power for several days. Today, while the power to the surrounding area has been restored, the MMWWO grounds, which house the Mukhtar Mai Girls Model School, Women’s Resource Centre, and Shelter Home for battered women (whose premises was raided despite the fact that men are strictly prohibited), are still enduring blistering temperatures. According to MMWWWO employees who were witnesses, the power company officials claimed that the raid was ordered by Abdul Qayyum Jatoi, the Federal Minister for Defense Production. This raid has significantly hindered the ability of Ms. Mai’s organization to carry out its important human rights work, providing services for vulnerable women, girls and boys.

In 2002, Mukhtar Mai was gang-raped on orders of a traditional village council as punishment for acts allegedly committed by her younger brother. Instead of suffering in silence, Ms. Mai fought back and testified in a rape case against her attackers and is now a leading Pakistani women’s rights activist. The case is now before the Supreme Court after a lower court granted the convicted men’s appeal. Hearings for the supreme Court case have repeatedly been delayed, but her attackers remain imprisoned and her case is pending.

The June 11 incident is only the latest in a series of harassing incidents carried out by government officials to dissuade Ms. Mai from seeking accountability for past crimes and carrying out her work. Throughout the court proceedings, Ms. Mai has faced harassment by government officials, most notably by Minister Jatoi. In 2006, he visited Ms. Mai to ask her to reach a compromise with her attackers. In 2008, he again pressured Ms. Mai to drop the charges against her attackers, allegedly insisting that if she proceeded with the case, he would ensure a verdict in favor of her attackers. Most recently, in February 2009, Minister Jatoi’s associates engaged in a media campaign against Ms. Mai, stating that her attackers are innocent and that the entire case is a “fraud” and a “western agenda.”

Since 2002, Ms. Mai’s record of promoting human rights has put her in danger. To date, no government action has been taken to ensure Ms. Mai’s safety and ability to continue her advocacy. She and her colleagues bravely continue their work, in the darkness and sweltering heat, but the government of Pakistan must step up its commitment to her organization and to the Pakistani women for whom they demand rights. Today, Human Rights First joins other non-governmental organizations in demanding an end to the Pakistani Government’s harassment of Mukhtar Mai. You can find out more and take action here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/human-rights-first/mukhtar-mai-pakistani-wom_b_219553.html

‘Violence against women in politics exists in many forms’

Women rights campaigners and political activists have said women politicians in Nepal suffer from violence of one form or the other.

Speaking at an interaction programme on ‘Spectrum of Violence against Women’ organised in the capital on Thursday, the activists deplored the prevalence of violence against women in Nepali society, underlining the need to increase the participation of women to fight discriminations. According to them, domestic violence accounts for 80 percent of violence against women.

Former minister and CPN-UML leader Sahana Pradhan said Nepali women should actively participate in politics to break the “monopoly of male politicians”. She maintained that the ordinance passed by the last session of the parliament is not compatible with international standards.

Similarly, former deputy speaker of the parliament Chitra Lekha Yadav stressed the need for fair politics that would allow equal space to men and women. She added that Nepal lost a historic opportunity of electing the first woman speaker in South Asia.

Likewise, president of All Nepal National Free Students Union (ANNFSU) Ram Kumari Jhakri said low participation of women in politics is directly related to lack of economic opportunities for women. She also expressed dissatisfaction over the absence of women in decision making level in the political parties.

source: http://www.nepalnews.com/archive/2009/jun/jun18/news08.php

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

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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

‘Mrs Mousavi’: Artist who could be Iran’s First Lady

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Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of moderate presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, is breaking the mould in Iranian politics by campaigning openly alongside her husband for next month’s election.

If Mousavi, a former prime minister, is elected president in the June 12 vote, the Islamic republic may get its first “first lady” in decades who would have a strong public profile like her peers around the world, observers say.

Despite playing a key role in the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the US-backed shah, Iranian women have had but a token presence in politics under the three-decade rule of conservative clerics, with just a handful of parliament seats and two cabinet posts.

Many Iranians have no clues what their presidents’ wives look like, as heads of government, even the reformist Mohammad Khatami, mostly kept their spouses out of the spotlight and shied away from appearing with them at political events or on foreign trips.

But with a prolific academic and artistic background, Rahnavard is to many a household name in her own right, especially those who studied at Tehran’s all-women Al-Zahra university, where she was chancellor for eight years.

Since her husband announced his bid for the presidency, she has appeared at most of his campaign rallies and has given numerous speeches, notably criticising Iran’s treatment of women, especially under hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“It is very ordinary, natural, sensible and religiously-accepted” for a president’s wife to have an active and visible role alongside her husband, she said in an interview with popular youth weekly Chelcheragh this month.

An admirer of her namesake, the Prophet Mohammed’s daughter Fatemeh Zahra, Rahnavard has for years been an advocate of equal rights for women and called for their economic empowerment and a change to Iran’s laws deemed as discriminatory to women.

The 64-year-old grandmother, whose husband served as Iran’s last premier before the post was abolished in 1989, has said that mothering three daughters has made her more sensitive and concerned about women’s issues.

Despite appearing in public in the traditional black chador favoured by conservative women, she sports flowery headscarves and bright coats underneath, and says she did not wear the Islamic veil until her early 20s.

The sculptor and painter says she enjoys rap music and her favourite accessory is a bohemian handbag adorned with Iranian tribal motifs.

Rahnavard has slammed Iran’s tough police crackdown on “un-Islamic” attire over the past three years as “the ugliest and dirtiest patronising treatment of women”.

At a pro-Mousavi rally in Tehran on Saturday, she urged young supporters to vote for a new government that will “not have political and student prisoners” and one that will fulfil the wish of “removing discrimination against women.”

In 2005, shortly after Ahmadinejad’s election, she invited Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi to speak at Al-Zahra university — a move which did not go down well with hardliners who condemn Ebadi over her criticism of human rights in Iran.

Rahnavard was replaced as university chancellor less than a year later.

She met Mousavi at one of her exhibitions in 1969. The two shared a love of the arts and a common cause of overthrowing the shah.

In 1976, as the former regime stepped up its pressure on political dissent, Rahnavard left Iran for the United States with her two children and returned shortly before Islamic revolutionaries seized power in 1979.

She holds a PhD in political science and served as an advisor to Khatami, who was president from 1997 to 2005. She has also been a Koran researcher and authored several books on art and politics.

A picture of Rahnavard and Mousavi leaving a rally holding hands has been circulating in cyber space, sparking positive comments on many blogs — although conservatives frown upon public displays of affection even between married couples in Iran.

Source: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ivPLFO0uBvov3-JgMdGiZYjFySSg

OnlineWomenBulletin 7 Feb 2009

she said

” Today the challenges that we face as women are not easier than the challenges we have been facing for decades. Women in Iraq have overcome difficulties while their men went to war (against Iran) in the 80’s and we continue to face challenges. God willing as we were able to overcome those difficulties and even though politics is new field for us, we will prove ourselves here as well.”

Abba Faraj, one of the almost 4,000 women candidates in the just concluded Provincial Council elections in Iraq.

 

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Iraqi Women Candidate Runs to Make Change In Her Life and In Her Country

The face of Islam Abbas Faraj, 36, isn’t among those on the campaign posters that blanket the walls of Iraq’s Diyala province, a stew of Sunni and Shiite Muslim Arabs and Sunni Kurds north of Baghdad. She’s a woman on a mission, but some things are just too risky. Last August, Iraq’s Shiite-dominated security forces raided the government compound where her husband, Hussein al-Zubaidi, a member of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party and the head of the provincial council’s committee, was sleeping. They killed the governor and hauled her husband away. They accused Zubaidi of connections to terrorism, and Faraj hasn’t seen him since. That day settled her fate: She decided to run for office and fill her husband’s shoes, to use politics to get him releasd.

Quota for Women in Indonesia Necessary

Whether a quota system to increase the number of women in parliament is needed is always a hotly debated subject. The Indonesian Government has made accommodations for a quota system, as stipulated in Law 10/2008 on the general elections. Article 53 states, “Lists of provisional legislative candidates submitted by a political party must ensure that 30 percent of the nominees are women”. Article 55 states, “The list must ensure that of every three legislative candidates, at least one of them is a female candidate.” Critics say the law is not strong enough to support a quota system as it does not guarantee women seats in parliament.  It is about securing women’s candidacy only. But even the latter may not work properly as there is no sanction on those who do not apply the 30 percent quota.

Women Still Largely Absent from Politics in Japan

When it comes to female participation in Politics, Japan lags far behind other nations. If Japan is going to catch up with the countries that boast a high percentage of female politicians, women must create a nationwide movement, according to panelists at a symposium advocating more women in politics. ” It is something that has to be fought for and refashioned by each generation”, Kari Hirth, an official of the Norwegian Embassy in Tokyo, said in a symposium held Saturday in the capitol sponsored by the Tokyo Alliance based, Alliance of Feminist Representatives.

Women in Pakistan Well Represented Politically

Information Minister Sherry Rehman highlighted the political progress of women in Pakistan, saying their representation in politics was higher than in some developed democracies. Sherry was addressing the Oxford Union Society during a conference on the under representation of women in politics—“where all the women?”. She said although the electoral politics in Pakistan had not matured to western level, Pakistan was a good example of being the first Islamic nation to have a woman as Prime Minister, referring to the late Benazir Bhutto. She said Benazir, as a student at Oxford, broke new grounds in 1977 when she became the union’s first Asian female president.

How Hard Times Help Women in Politics

When economic times get tough, research shows it pays to be a female politician. Women tend to attain office in times of economic hardship—which could help Queensland’s Anna Bligh on her way to becoming Australia’s first elected woman premier. Bligh, who gained the top job when Peter Beattie retired in September 2007, faces her first election before September. Queensland University of Technology PhD researcher Mary Crawford, who was labor’s federal member for Forde from 1987 to 1996, said the world’s climate and financial crises came at an advantageous time for Bligh. “Research suggests that while women politicians don’t pursue a different style, voters perceive their interests are different–that they are more likely to be concerned with the daily concerns of people, like jobs, food prices, education and so on,” Crawford said.

Increasing Women’s Participation in Government

Kenya’s poor record of improving percentage of women in decision-making positions has come under scrutiny, but its neighbours are doing significantly better. In 2007, a constitutional amendment that would have created 50 special seats in for women in parliament was thrown out due to lack of quorum to vote on it. The country came close to passing a law reserving positions for women at all levels of decision-making when such measures were included in a draft constitution drawn upon by a National Constitution Conference in 2003 and 2004. But the draft document was rejected in 2005 referendum—due to widespread dissatisfaction with the Kibaki government of the time rather than specific opposition to the clauses on women.

Field 50% Women Candidates in India’s General Election

The Mahila Congress Committee in India has demanded Party President Sonia Gandhi to field 50% women candidates in Chhattisgarh for the upcoming general elections. Akhil Bharatiya, Mahila Congress Committee General Secretary and state-in-charge Nalini Chandel told media persons yesterday that Mrs. Gandhi favored of maximum participation of women in politics. Ms. Chandel, who reached here to take part in Chhattisgarh Mahila Congress Committee’s Executive Meeting, expressed hope that the party will provide better representation to women in Lok Sabha polls. A demand was being made to provide five out of 11 Lok Sabha seats in the state to women.

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Heat Wave Kills 60 People in Australia, Triggers Power and Transport Chaos

A severe heat wave across south-eastern Australia last week resulted in the deaths of more than 60 persons and precipitated a breakdown on electricity distribution and public transport systems in the states of Victoria and South Australia. In South Australia, at least 31 “sudden deaths” in two days were believed to be attributable to the extreme heat conditions. In the capital city, Adelaide, residents have already endured four straight days of temperatures over 43 degrees Celsius (110 Fahrenheit) with the level predicted to remain above 35 degrees Celsius until the end of this week. In Victoria, police said that at least 30 people had died from heat stress. The state capital Melbourne experienced three consecutive days of more than 45 degrees Celsius, the first time such a situation has been recorded since 1855.

Myanmar Cyclone and China Quake Drive Up 2008 Global Disaster Toll

Myanmar’s devastating cyclone and Central China’s earthquake drove up the annual disaster death toll, causing most of the fatalities and making 2008 one of the deadliest years for natural disasters so far this decade, the United Nations said. At least 235,816 people lost their lives in 321 disasters around the world last year, said UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR). “Almost the entire bulk of the deaths is explained by only two events, Cyclone Nagris and the Sichuan earthquake’, said Debarati Guha-Sapir of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, which compiled the figures for the world body.

Earth Hour, Two Months Away

On Saturday, 28 March, at 8:30pm local time, more than 1,000 cities across the world will turn off their lights for one hour–Earth Hour—sending a powerful message to decision makers that we want an international agreement to reduce global warming by the next UN climate meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009. “We all need to join this global environmental action to voice our collective concern about climate change and to show world leaders we are serious about securing a Global Deal on climate in less than 11 months time”, said Julia Marton-Lefevre, Director-General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Earth Hour 2009 aims to reach one billion people in more than 1,000 cities, including businesses, governments and communities. The campaign is expected to produce the largest-ever groundswell of public support.

Anti-Nuke Plant Rally in the Philippines Held at the House of Representatives

Environment groups, led by Greenpeace, staged a protest on Monday in front of the House of Representatives to ask lawmakers not to act on a bill that would fund, rehabilitate and re-open the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP). House Bill No. 4361 or ” An Act Mandating the Rehabilitation, Commissioning and Commercial Operations of BNPP,” authored by Representative Mark Cojuangco and supported by Representative Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, appropriates $1 billion and is intended to respond to the energy problems in the country. But Greenpeace campaign manager Beau Baconguis said that the bill did not only seek the revival of BNPP but also the establishment of a national commercial nuclear power program.

Global Glacial Melt Continues

Glaciers around the globe continue to melt at high rates. Tentative figures for the year 2007, of the World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, indicate a further loss of average ice thickness of roughly 0.67 meter water equivalent (m.w.e.). Some glaciers in the European Alps lost up to 2.5 m.w.e. The new still tentative data of more than 80 glaciers confirm the global trend of fast ice loss since 1980. Glaciers with long-term observation series (30 glaciers in 9 mountain ranges) have experienced a reduction in total thickness of more than 11 m.w.e. until 2007. The average annual ice loss during 1980-1999 was roughly 0.3 m.w.e. per year. Since 2000, this rate has increased to about 0.7 m.w.e. per year.

Brunei’s His Royal Highness Calls for Sustained Steps to Deal With Flood Aftermarth

His Royal Highness Prince General Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, yesterday called for more sustained efforts to deal with the aftermath of the flashfloods and landslides that hit the Sultanate last month. The Chairman of the Natural Disaster Council said there was much more room for all agencies concerned to improve their respective action plans in reducing the risks from disasters. His Royal Highness, addressing a meeting amongst National Disaster Council members, ministers and senior government officials, suggested the formulation of a short and long term action plans to ensure mitigation efforts cover all of the nation’s and public’s interests.

Pastoralist Grapple With Climate Change

As many as 250 million people in Africa may not have enough water to meet their basic needs by 2020 because of climate change, a specialist in poverty, environment and climate change said. “The day to day impacts of climate change, such as higher temperatures and erratic rainfall, are increasing many people’s vulnerability to hazards.” Charler Ehrhart, the poverty, environment and climate change network coordinator for CARE international, told policy-makers and representatives of pastoralists from the Horn, eastern and central Africa, at a consultative meeting on ways of mitigating the humanitarian effects of climate change on pastoral areas.

 

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Women Reject Polygamy, Choosing Divorce

An increasing number of Muslim women in Indonesia are choosing to divorce their husbands rather than continue in a polygamous marriage, data from national Islamic courts show. The courts recorded that in 2006 there were nearly 1000 cases of divorce resulting from wives’ disagreeing with their husbands marrying another woman, an increase from figures in prior years. Director for Islamic guidance at the Ministry of Religious Affairs Nasaruddin Umar said he believed the number of divorce cases linked to disputes over polygamous marriages increased again in 2008 and would continue to rise throughout 2009.

Progress on Gender Equality Will Mean Improvements For All in Society—UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon

Secretary General Ban ki-Moon today encouraged top government officials from around the world gathered in Guatemala City to push for greater progress on gender equality, stressing that women’s empowerment is key to realizing other major international development targets. “If all of you gathered here today resolve to put the rights, priorities and contributions of women and girls at the top of the development agenda, we can make real progress in helping all people in society,” Mr. Ban told the Second Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Alligned Movement on the Advancement of Women.

Exclusive Budget Slot for Women

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) of India will include in its budget for 2009-10, to be released on Tuesday,  a separate booklet devoted to the development of women and child. With an aim to bring women into the mainstream, the civic administration has charted out projects and policies to upgrade and fulfill the needs of Mumbai women. “As per the directives of the State Government, we have prepared a gender budget and it will be presented along with the main budget on February 3, ” Additional Municipal Commissioner Anil Diggikar said.

Iran Detains Women’s Rights Activist

A lawyer for an Iranian activist says police detained the woman while she was campaigning for equal marriage rights for women. The lawyer says Nafiseh Azad was detained Friday while collecting signatures for a two-year old campaign pushing  for equal rights for women in marriage, divorce and inheritance. Attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh said Sunday that collecting signatures is not illegal. Over the past three years, however, Iranian authorities have detained many women seeking equal rights.

Women Still Second-Class Citizens When It Comes To Treatment of Heart Disease

Women may have “come a long way, baby” in voting and politics, but not so when it comes to treating heart diseases. There is still a huge gender gap for women with respect to diagnosing and treating heart disease. Study after study, even within the past three years, has shown that women are not diagnosed as quickly as men, nor are they treated with recommended medications and procedures as often as men. And perhaps, that’s why when women are finally diagnosed and treated, they don’t fare as well. Cardiovascular disease kills more women than men every year—-and almost 10 times more women than breast cancer, according to the American Heart Association. So where is the advocacy, the indignation, the walks for a cure?

President Expressed Concern Over the Increasing Gender Inequality

Expressing concern over the increasing gender inequality in the country, President Pratibha Devisingh Patil of India urged the medical fraternity to follow highest standards of professional ethics and discourage “gender identification test” without any compromise. Delivering an address after launching the Apollo Hospitals, Bengaluru “The International Hospitals” here today the President appealed to the doctors, “at no stage gender of the foetus should be disclosed.” Expressing concern over the increasing number of female foeticide, Mrs. Patil said it had created a challenge of social imbalance in the country.

Education, Key for African Women to Overcome Barriers

Liberia’s President, Ms. Hellen Johnson Searleaf  last week talked to section of women leaders from Africa and Asia on her experiences as first African woman President. In the first series of dialogues leading to an international colloquium to be held in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, she had interaction with women leaders under the theme, “Overcoming Barriers to Women’s Political Leadership”. The Liberian President, however, admitted there is serious limitation for women to excel in public life because of lack of education in almost all African countries, including her own Liberia whose illiteracy level stands at 30%, majority of those illiterate being women.