Wednesday, December 31, 2008

America: Women of the Year 2008

From the Chicago Sun-Times:
"The year 2008 was a bangup one for many women. A woman ran for vice president; a woman nearly ran for president, and in the next administration, women will head the State Department and Homeland Security Department, serve as ambassador to the United Nations and advise President-elect Barack Obama."

So - who's on the list?? You'll just have to read for yourself ....

Female Firsts: Tunisia

From allAfrica:
"Following its 17 th congress, held in Gammarth, North of Tunis on Sunday, the Tunisian Writer's Union elected its Executive Board and at its head, Mrs Jamila Mejri, who becomes the first woman to occupy this function.

Forty three candidates ran for the 10 positions of Chairman of the board and board members. Mrs Mejri and the 9 other members were elected for a three year mandate. The new Chairman of the Union, is a poet and a teacher, her publications include "Memoirs of a bird", a collection of poems in Arabic. She is also the recipient of several literary prizes in Tunisia."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Yummy Mummy Syndrome

From the Sydney Morning Herald:
"The yummy mummy phenomenon inspires passionate responses, from lust and admiration to approbation and contempt. But does it help or hinder women?

It is now more acceptable for women to invest more time in themselves. Martyrdom is not as chic as it used to be. It's OK to take time out for a manicure, a spa treatment, shopping or an exercise class. All of this means that women do not necessarily lose their former selves upon having children - motherhood is no longer only about being devoted to your family.

But reports of "pregorexia" - striving to stay thin during pregnancy - remind us of the dark underbelly of these positive changes. And pregorexia is not the only alarming trend surrounding the yummy mummy phenomenon. "Mummy makeover" is the term used to denote the set of radical cosmetic surgical procedures that women increasingly undergo post-birth. Some mothers claim to find a mummy makeover liberating but both pregorexia and the mummy makeover aim to eradicate the maternal body."

Female Bishops in England

From the Times Online:
"The Church of England has reached an historic agreement on the consecration of women bishops.

After years of struggle to avoid schism, bishops have agreed a formula that enshrines the principle of equality for male and female bishops while appeasing opponents of women’s ordination. The first women bishops could take their place in the Church of England within three years.

The deal, published in a new report yesterday, provides for a class of “complementary” traditionalist bishop for parishes that refuse to accept a woman diocesan bishop."

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bad Hair Day

I know it's a silly question - but have you ever had a bad hair day. One when all you want to do is just cut the whole lot off. I have and, to be honest, frequently do. And, just for something different, today was one of those days.

I have really long hair - but its mutant hair - it literally has a life of its own. Its thick, curly (or straight as it pleases), and frizzes out by two inches when there is rain in the air. You know the look - like you've just had electric shock treatment!.

I grew up with Shirley Temple blonde curls which changed into wavey orange / chestnut and eventually blonde then brunette. One summer it went nearly black. And no, I have had no treatments, colouring, bleaching, straightening, curling, perming, or any other type of hair treatment / conditioning whatsoever. In fact I haven't been to a Salon since I was 14yo - when I asked for two inches off my long hair and came out looking like a recruit for the army! I kid you not.

Anyway, the mutation that calls itself my hair is at the present quite long (I can sit on it) and slightly wavey - and slightly light brunette. And frizzy as rain is in the air. I have been really vain about the length of my hair, growing up as I did with constantly short hair (courtesy of the home haircut by Mum). But today I just really had enough.

So, I proceeded with the "comb over", put the hair in a pony tail (attached to my brow / forehead) and reached for the nearest pair of scissors and cut off three inches (7.5cm). Most of which, I might add was really just split ends. Upon consulting the dust bin, I decided to cut off another three inches - so in total, 6 inches (15cm or half a ruler!).

It was strangley cathartic! And quite liberating. And as I sit here relating this to you, I feel quite pleased with myself. And besides, I've got another week to go before I return to work and I seriously doubt that anyone will really notice!

Safe New Year to you all!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Education To Die For

From The Australian:
"The Taliban has ordered the closure of all girls' schools in the war-ravaged Swat district of Pakistan and warned parents and teachers of dire consequences if the ban is flouted.

In an announcement made in mosques and broadcast on radio, the militant group set a deadline of January 15 for its order to be obeyed or it would blow up school buildings and attack schoolgirls. It also told women not to set foot outside their homes without being fully covered.

"Female education is against Islamic teachings and spreads vulgarity in society," Shah Dauran, leader of a group that has established control over a large part of Swat district in the North West Frontier Province, declared this week.

Teachers said that they had little choice but to comply. The Taliban have destroyed more than 125 girls' schools in the area in the past year.

Mullah Fazlullah - also known as Mullah Radio for his sermons broadcast through his illegal FM radio stations - has long been exhorting people to stop sending their daughters to schools, which "inculcate Western values". Hundreds of girls and women teachers have quit schools as a result.

Since the start of the government offensive, girls' schools have been targeted increasingly by Islamic fundamentalists. The district has 842 boys' and 490 girls' state schools for 300,000 children aged three to nine; only 163,645 boys and 67,606 girls are actually enrolled at state and private establishments, according to official figures.

According to the local authorities, 50 per cent of girls have stopped attending school because of the militants' threats. Hazir Gul, a teacher, said the inability of the authorities to provide protection against attacks had emboldened the Islamists, who burned schools "whenever they want".

Attacks on girls' schools are not confined to the Swat district. In the past two years a further 100 schools have been burnt down in Waziristan and other tribal areas, leaving tens of thousands of children between the ages of five and 15 without education. In many areas, hardliners have established sharia, or Islamic law, and introduced public executions for those who break it."

From the BBC News:
"Taleban militants in the Swat valley in north-west Pakistan have threatened to kill girls who attend school.

This year alone, Taleban militants have destroyed more than 130 schools in the Swat valley. They want to bring in Islamic sharia law in the region. Militant attacks on schools in the region have deprived more than 17,000 students of education.

Although schools for girls have come under attack on numerous occasions in the past, this is the first time Taleban militants have issued a complete ban on girls attending them, the BBC's Ethirajan Anbarasan says.

A Taleban spokesman said the prohibition would remain in place unless and until Islamic sharia law was fully implemented in the region. State-run schools are seen by the insurgents as key symbols of the government. Now the militants have threatened to destroy private schools as well.
These schools are not Islamic religious institutions and the students are taught courses based on the government syllabus.

Locals say the ongoing attacks on schools have dealt a severe blow to education of girls and young women in the Swat valley. Those who can afford it have already moved out of the region, but the poor have no other option than keeping their daughters at home, our correspondent says. "

Read the article by Helene Gayle in the Press Democrat regarding the attack on Afghan girls on their way to school.

Saudi Child Bride

Further to my post "No Divorce for 8yo Girl" comes the following from CNN:
"A group fighting for women's rights in Saudi Arabia condemned a judge Wednesday for refusing to annul the marriage of an 8-year-old girl to a 47-year-old man.

The group's co-founder, Wajeha al-Huwaider, told CNN that achieving human rights in the kingdom means standing against those who want to "keep us backward and in the dark ages."

The Society of Defending Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia, in a statement published on its Web site, called on the "minister of justice and human rights groups to interfere now in this case" by divorcing the girl from the man. "They must end this marriage deal which was made by the father of the girl and the husband."

On Saturday, the judge, Sheikh Habib Abdallah al-Habib, dismissed a petition brought by the girl's mother. The Saudi Justice Ministry has not commented. The Saudi Information Ministry forwarded CNN to the government-run Human Rights Commission."

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Eartha Kitt

From The Age:
"Eartha Kitt, the versatile American singer and actress who died aged 81, mesmerized audiences worldwide for over six decades with her sultry voice and sensuality on stage and screen.

Kitt, whose outspokenness was a mainstay of her career but also led to a self-imposed exile to Europe in the 1960s and 70s after her stinging critique of the war in Vietnam, won two Emmy television awards and was nominated for two Tony awards and a pair of Grammys."

Olga Lepeshinskaya

From the Telegraph:
"Olga Lepeshinskaya, who died in Moscow on December 20 aged 92, was the Bolshoi Ballet's prima ballerina in the 1930s and 1940s and Josef Stalin's favourite performer – rumoured to be her lover, he would bring red roses to her dressing room after performances, and he decorated her four times with the Stalin Prize.

In 2000 Olga Lepeshinskaya was awarded a Soul of Dance prize by the Russian magazine Ballet. She also received various honours from Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Albania and the Philippines.

She was a deputy on the Committee of Soviet Women, and later chairman of the Central House of Art Workers. She regularly chaired the organising committee and jury of the celebrated Moscow International Ballet Competition and withdrew from her public activities only in the last decade of her life. "

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ancient Gynecological Exam

From the Latin American Herald Tribune:
"A group of archaeologists has found in the northern Spanish region of Leon a ceramic lamp dating from the beginning of the 1st century that shows a representation of the gynecological exam performed on a sick woman.

The find is of an oil lamp, "an exceptional piece that illustrates the presence of doctors in the city," and - specifically - a military hospital, the expert said.

On the lamp's surface "appears a very slender woman, possibly affected by a serious illness, like cancer, and a doctor who is performing a gynecological exam with a vaginal speculum," Morillo said."

Obama: not enough women in cabinet

From CNN Politics:
"Some women's groups are disappointed [in Obama's cabinet selection]. Among Obama's strongest backers during the election, they now say they don't have enough seats at the table.

That's because of Obama's 20 announced Cabinet-level posts, five went to women: Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary, Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, Rep. Hilda Solis as labor secretary, Susan Rice as United Nations ambassador and Lisa Jackson as Environmental Protection Agency chief."

And it's not just the women who are angry - the gay and lesbian factions are also disappointed in a number of his selections.

Sonia Gandhi

From Gulf News:
Sonia Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress "has been ranked among the 50 most powerful people in the world by the prestigious Newsweek magazine."

Sonia came in at No. 17.

Raid on activists' offices

From The Australian:
"Iranian authorities have raided and shut down the office of a human rights group led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi as the group was preparing to present an award to a political activist who spent 17 years in prison in the Islamic republic.

Iranian authorities banned Ms Ebadi's Centre for Protecting Human Rights last year, but it has continued to operate from an office in the north of the capital, Tehran.

Ms Ebadi said yesterday that plainclothes security officials and police in uniform had sealed the building where her group was working without presenting a warrant. No arrests were reported.

The prominent activist said her group would continue its work despite the raid. Her group has campaigned for judicial reforms such as banning stoning and cutting off limbs as punishments. It has opposed executions of juvenile offenders.

Ms Ebadi said the building that authorities targeted was bought with money she received after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in2003. A lawyer and human rights and democracy campaigner, she won the prize for efforts that included promoting the rights of women and children not just in Iran, but around the world. She is the first Iranian and Muslim woman to win the award."

No Divorce for 8yo Girl

From the Mail Online:
" A Saudi court has rejected a plea to divorce an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58, saying the case should wait until the girl reaches puberty.

The divorce plea was filed in August by the girl's divorced mother with a court at Unayzah, 135 miles north of Riyadh just after the marriage contract was signed by the father and the groom.

Arranged marriages involving pre-adolescents are occasionally reported in the Arabian Peninsula, including in Saudi Arabia where the strict conservative Wahabi version of Sunni Islam holds sway and polygamy is common."

Magna Carta of Women

From Cebu Daily News:
"The women's bill of rights, passed on third reading at the House of Representatives, will help them to take charge of many aspects of their lives, according to the bill's proponent.

The Magna Carta of Women was approved by the House on December 10.

Under the bill, women will see to it that women are treated equally under the law. They will also be given equal access to education, scholarships, and training, as well as access to information and services on women's healths.

They will also be granted equal rights on issues concerning marriage and family relations.

The Magna Carta of Women will also require government agencies and other organizations to put in place gender and development programs in order to stop discrimination based on gender.

The Commission on Human Rights will be tasked to hear complaints of discrimination against women."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Notable Sussex Women

Helena Wojtczak has a new book out titles "Notable Sussex Women: 580 Biographical Sketches".

For further details of the book and to see who's listed, visit the Hastings Press website.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cleopatra of Egypt

Is this the face of Egypt's Queen Cleopatra.

Read this Mail Online story and decide for yourself.

Cleo Links:

Caroline Kennedy

The big political story from the US has been Caroline Kennedy's interest in taking over the family business of politics - despite having little to no experience.

Political commentators have been comparing Caroline's entry into US politics with that of Sarah Palin, whom many agree to be far more qualified than Kennedy.

So, should Kennedy be given the Senate ticket based upon the family name - or should she earn her position.

My opinion - she should earn it - it would given her more political "street cred" and not seriously impair the political aspirations of many other women who have fought hard for their positions, either within Congress or the Senate.

Jobs for boys - the "old school tie" scenario.

Here's a commentary from CNN's Hank Sheinkopf.

What do others think.

The Prince & the Showgirl

No - not the movie "The Prince & the Showgirl" starring the legendary Monroe, but this could have been the stuff of movies.

From the Mail Online:
"Pat Kirkwood lived for six decades under the cloud of suspicion that she had been the mistress of Prince Philip.

The more she denied the rumour, the more it was believed. Philip himself, adhering to the Royal Family's tradition of declining to comment on matters relating to their private lives, failed to come to her defence. He said nothing, one way or the other, despite her repeatedly imploring him to set the record straight.

And when she died almost exactly a year ago, after 60 distinguished years of stardom, during which she helped to rally the nation's morale in World War II, her life ended devoid of official recognition and without so much as a humble MBE."

Continue reading the Mail Online article and then the wiki entry - and you decide.

More Female Police in India

From VOA News:
"Calcutta Police will be reserving ten percent of the force for women. The decision comes in the wake of increasing violent behavior by women members of political parties. The number of women committing crimes is also increasing. The police therefore must increase number of women in the force to handle women agitators and criminals."

The Destiny of Girls

From Gulf News, a story becoming all too common - while boys are being educated, girls are being taken out of school - if indeed they go at all - to remain home or work.

""Jyotsna's mother said she could not afford to let all three of her children study, so she picked her daughter to work. It is a familiar story in much of the developing world, and particularly South Asia. In India, half the women older than 15 are illiterate, twice the rate for men, and millions of poor girls are pulled out of school to help at home, often when they are 10 to 12 years old.

Usually, though, a quieter discrimination steals a girl's chance to learn. Every day, parents decide, for instance, to buy a bicycle so their son can get to school but refuse to spend money on a book for their daughter."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Women in the Judiciary

Two stories today regarding women in the judiciary.

The election of Judge Donna McDaniel as the first president judge in Allegheny.
From the Pittsburg Tribune Review:
"Allegheny County judges elected their first female president judge Friday by the slimmest of margins -- one vote. McDaniel will serve a five-year term as head of the county court, which has been in existence for about 200 years."

And the appointment of Justice Virginia Bell of the NSW Supreme Court, to the High Court of Australia.
From The Age:
"Justice Bell will become the fourth woman to serve in the court and the third woman on the current court, joining Justice Susan Crennan and Justice Susan Kiefel."

Women's Vote in Ireland

Sunday marked the 90th anniversary of the day Irish women cast their first vote.

From the Belfast Telegraph:
There were certain conditions, however: "...... - they had to be over thirty years of age and land owners, a restriction that wasn't lifted until ten years later in 1928."

My, how things have changed!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ancient Women

Two stories featuring the discovery of the remains of ancient women.

From UB Post / Mongol News:
"An ancient female skeleton discovered along the Tuul River, some 55 kilometers outside Ulaanbaatar, may be more remarkable for when she lived rather than who she was. After examining earrings and rings discovered amongst the remains, Kh. Lkhagvasuren, an archaeologist who heads the Mongolian Historical and Cultural Heritage Center, said this week that the woman was likely a contemporary of Chinggis Khaan. The discovery is an important one for the discipline and for Mongolia as physical evidence from that period remains rare.

While an examination of the skeleton—specifically the skull and waist—revealed that it belonged to a teenage female, not much else is known about the young woman’s life. The body was buried in a wooden coffin—thought in some circles to be a common Mongol practice at the time—and the trinkets found with it suggest the woman was neither wealthy nor powerful in life."

And from Chosun:
"A well-preserved adult female skeleton dating back 2,000 years ago has been unearthed in Yeongjong Island, Incheon."

FEMNET - Celebrating 20 Years

"FEMNET was set up in 1988 by a group of women who had the conviction about the strength of numbers in any transformation or change process. ....... We want to see things change for the better - to have a more peaceful world where the main providers of development aid and humanitarian assistance are not the main producers and distributors of military arms especially small arms that have caused a lot of havoc in all regions in Africa.

When the founders of the African Women's Development and Communications Network (FEMNET) resolved to set up the network 20 years ago they had a dream. They wanted to see to it that every woman in Africa is able to live in dignity, enjoy life free of violence and deprivation and be equal partners in the development of our dear continent Africa and in directing its affairs. They were convinced that the more women from different parts of Africa remained in contact with one another, the more they would learn from each others' experiences, provide support for one another and build a strong women's movement for the development of Africa."

Sarah Webb

Lawyer of the Week
From the Times Online:
"Sarah Webb, a partner at Russell Jones & Walker, acted for Constance Briscoe, a barrister and part-time judge, and Hodder & Stoughton, her publishers, who succeeded in defending a libel action by Miss Briscoe’s mother over allegations in her autobiography, Ugly. "

The Weaker Sex?

'The male gender is in danger, with incalculable consequences for both humans and wildlife, startling scientific research from around the world reveals.

The research – to be detailed tomorrow in the most comprehensive report yet published – shows that a host of common chemicals is feminising males of every class of vertebrate animals, from fish to mammals, including people. "

Laws in Malaysia

"There is a need for native women, particularly non-Muslims, to be aware of their rights pertaining to the family as prescribed under Sabah's native customary laws.

State Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister, Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun, said it is imperative that they acquire such knowledge so that they would know which authority to refer their problems to.

"Muslim women nowadays are well aware of their rights under the family law and they would refer any matters related to marriages and property distribution to the Syariah Court.

"But many non-Muslim women are unaware of their rights provided for under the native customary laws. In fact many do not understand the important provisions as well. Consequently, they do not know where to go when facing family-related problems," she said at the opening of a Family Law Seminar on Native and Customary Laws, Tuesday.

The Legal Committee under the Sabah Women's Advisory Council (MPWS) organised the seminar to create and enhance awareness as well as disseminate legal information on family matters under native customary laws to the participants.

Another objective was to provide a platform to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the Native Court system, including comparing conflicting issues in native laws vis-a-vis Syariah and Civil Courts.

By being aware of their legal rights, Azizah said native women regardless of their religious beliefs can be proactive and would not feel hesitant to take action if necessary. "

EU Prize for Saudi Women's Group

From the Daily Star:
"A Saudi charity which helps divorced and underprivileged women has won a European Union prize for human-rights groups in the Gulf, the Riyadh office of the European Commission said Wednesday. The Al-Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women won the first $7,760 Chaillot Prize over several other rights groups for its range of activities, including preparing underprivileged and under-educated women for jobs, setting up a school for children with Down Syndrome, and assisting needy families, according to the European Commission (EC).

The award was announced to mark the 60th anniversary on Wednesday of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, originally presented to the UN General Assembly at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris."

Women in Zimbabwe

From the Times Online:
"It happened in the blink of an eye and with military precision. At precisely 1pm a handful of women walked to the middle of a busy junction in central Harare and began chanting antigovernment slogans.

Scores of other women lurking on the nearby pavements streamed in to join them, hoisting placards demanding action to end the cholera epidemic.

Within two minutes a demonstration by 200 women was marching exuberantly along a crowded Kwame Nkrumah Street, chanting, singing and handing out flyers denouncing the “corrupt, incompetent and illegitimate” regime of President Mugabe.

Then they vanished, melting back into the lunchtime throng as rapidly as they had gathered. By the time the security services arrived they found only flyers blowing along the pavements. "

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Army of Women

The call has gone out - women world-wide join the call to arms in the fight against breast cancer in 2009.

"Susan Love and the Avon Foundation have teamed up to recruit an Army of Women to help join in research that will eradicate breast cancer, once and for all.

Thanks to the women who have signed up; almost 250,000 women have already been recruited. That's terrific, but if we're going to reach our goal of 500,000 women by the end of 2008, and our ultimate goal of 1 million women, we need many more women to sign up.

This is the time for an all-out grassroots effort. Over the coming holidays, please tell your family members, colleagues, and other acquaintances about the Army of Women and why it's so important that they take part in this incredible effort to end breast cancer.

Signing up is free. What better gift to give womankind than signing up to help find a cure. No one is exempt from breast cancer. If you have breasts, you're at risk (and by the way, men can get breast cancer, too.)"

You too can join up at "Army of Women"

Nahid Raza

Just a brief story of the new exhibition of noted artist Nahid Raza from Dawn.

"She has, for the first time, explored the male anatomy, which comes in as a surprise because in the past women, clothed or otherwise, dominated her works. Someone at the exhibition reminds her of the statement that she gave to the press a few years ago that there is nothing more attractive than a female body."

Beyond the Burqa

From the Seattle Times:
"The [Islamic Fashion] festival opened last week to a catwalk-show audience of Malaysian royal princesses and corporate women who cheered an avant-garde celebration of chiffon and crystals that cast off black burqas, austere abayas and homely head scarves. Shows featured 1,000 outfits by top couturiers from Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Pakistan and the Philippines.

Diverse influences lent a twist to typically loose tunics and serpentine skirts.

Models strutted the festival runway in silver-shot scarves sparkling with Viennese-made Swarovski crystals. Some designers drew inspiration for their evening gowns, prayer clothes, bridal outfits and full-body Lycra swimsuits from Indian Mughal carpet motifs, Spain's Moorish palace patterns and even Moroccan scenes."

I personally don't see why women cannot be both fashionable and modest at the same time. Some of the fashions were truly universally appealing.

Jill Pay

Jill Pay is currently the first woman to become one of British Parliament’s “men in tights”, by taking on the 593-year-old post of Serjeant at Arms.

However, she has found herself in the unique position of being "downgraded" upon attaining her position in January of this year.

From the Times Online:
"The Serjeant’s responsibilities were downgraded by Mr Martin before she was appointed and while Mrs Pay has a grace and favour house in Parliament Street, she is believed to earn about half the £105,000 salary enjoyed by Mr Peterkin.

The post is a Crown appointment, and was agreed by the Queen in January, but there have been reports that Buckingham Palace was unhappy with the way the role has been diminished, and in an unusual act decided not to grant Mrs Pay “approbation” — an audience."

So, debates continues over whether Jill was qualified for the job. But my question is - which job? The job of her predecessor or the downgraded position?

Role of Filipino Women

The Manila Times has posted an interesting letter, written by former President, Fidel Valdez Ramos, entitled "Women in Nation Building".

A few snippets below:
"We Filipinos can take pride in that we are way ahead of other nations in the global struggle for women’s rights—which has been called the world’s longest unfinished revolution.

We of the Philippines have come a long way towards narrowing the “gender gap”—particularly in legal and political terms.

But Filipino women are still a disadvantaged group, and the work of empowering them—of giving them fuller control of their lives and life-choices—and better opportunities of education, self-improvement and livelihood—is a continuing one: crucial and necessary work that is far from over."

Mr Ramos then talks about the strong women in his life who have helped shaped his view on women.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nigerian Women Crucial to Politics

"Today, women are participating more actively in political issues than ever before as a result of political re-awakening and awareness.

Despite the difficulties faced by women in politics, they continue with their political ambition, contributing enormously to political and national development in their own way as the challenges militating against them are not present, although Nigeria is yet to have a female president.

In 1957 during the pre-independence era of Nigeria, a couple of women political activists such as, Mrs. Margaret Ekpo, Mrs. Janet Mokelu and Ms. Young were members of the Eastern House of Assembly. The late Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, though not a full-fledged politician, was a very strong force to reckon with in the politics of the Western Region. And Hajia Gambo Sawaba waged a fierce battle for the political and cultural emancipation of women in the North.

The Babangida era marked a turning point in the history of women struggle in Nigeria, when Maryam Babangida institutionalized the office of the first lady in 1987. She became the first working First Lady and launched the "Better Life for Rural Women" program. Other women who have made impact in the country's political scene include, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala former minister of finance, who saved the nation records of billions of Naira as a result of her hard working nature as a public officer. Mrs. Obi Ezekwesili also laid a land mark in the history of Nigeria politics. Prof. Dora Akunyili, the NAFDAC boss has also performed credibly; leading the fight against adulterated pharmaceutical drugs, her name can never be forgotten in the annals of history."

Women still have a long way to go in obtaining larger representative numbers in government - but at least they have they feet firmly in the door.

Benazir Bhutto

Word on the street is that former Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, will be posthumously awarded the UN Human Rights Award on 10th December 2008 - UN Human Rights Day.

According to sources, the President of United Nations General Assembly, Mr Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, is in the process of informing President Asif Ali Zardari who took over the reins of Pakistan People’s Party as its co-chairman after Ms Bhutto’s murder.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Very Wicked Woman

Could this be an image of one of the Renaissance's most notorious women???

From the Herald Sun:
"A mystery painting held by the National Gallery of Victoria for 43 years is being hailed as a "revelatory" portrait of the infamous, incestuous Italian Renaissance woman Lucrezia Borgia.

The mystery of the portrait has finally been solved, more than four decades after the gallery took possession of it as a work by an unknown artist, featuring an unknown subject.

The gallery today revealed the woman in the portrait is Lucrezia Borgia, captured by famed Renaissance artist Dosso Dossi (circa 1486-1542)."

And from The Australian:
"The oval painting, purchased by the gallery in London in 1965, was titled Portrait of a Youth, by an unknown northern Italian painter.

It had baffled every expert on the subject since it came into public view during the later 20th century and it was always assumed it was of a young male."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Queen Sesheshet

From Reuters Africa:
"The pyramid, found about two months ago in the sand south of Cairo, probably housed the remains of Queen Sesheshet, the mother of King Teti, who ruled from 2323 to 2291 BC and founded Egypt's Sixth Dynasty, Zahi Hawass told reporters.

"The only queen whose pyramid is missing is Shesheshet, which is why I am sure it belonged to her," Hawass said. "This will enrich our knowledge about the Old Kingdom."

The Sixth Dynasty, a time of conflict in Egypt's royal family and erosion of centralised power, is considered to be the last dynasty of the Old Kingdom, after which Egypt descended into famine and social upheaval. Archaeologists had previously discovered pyramids belonging to two of the king's wives nearby, but had never found a tomb belonging to Sesheshet."

From ABC News:
"Hawass said he believes the pyramid belonged to Queen Sesheshet, who is thought to have played a significant role in establishing the 6th Dynasty and uniting two branches of the feuding royal family. Her son, Teti, ruled for about a dozen years until his likely assassination, in a sign of the turbulent times.

Still, only about a third of the Saqqara complex has been explored so far, with recent digging turning up a number of key finds. The last new pyramid, found here three years ago, is thought to belong to the wife of Teti's successor, Pepi I."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ann E Dunwoody

Or ... General Dunwoody.

Ann Dunwoody has achieved what no other woman has - she has attained the rank of 4-Star General with the US Army. And this she has done after 33 years of service.

From BBC News:
"She said no one was more surprised than she and her husband. "Behind every successful woman there's an astonished man," she added.

There are 21 female generals, most of them one-star, in the US army. Women make up 14% of the army's active-service strength of more than 500,000 soldiers.

She is now head of the Army Materiel Command, in charge of weapons, equipment and uniforms for the army.

Women are barred from combat roles but have been allowed in the last two decades to serve in a wide variety of other positions."

A much deserved "well done Ann!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Miriam Makeba - "Mama Africa"

Miriam Makeba - the "Voice of Africa" - has passed away in Italy.

Miriam was performing at a concert in the Italian town of Caserta, when she collapsed. She later died of a heart attack.

Miriam, born in Johannesburg in the 1930a, was the first black Africa woman to receive a grammy award - this was in 1965 - and she shared the honour with Harry Balefonte.

Miriam was the headline act at Melbourne's Commonwealth Games Arts Festival in 2006.

The loss of such a woman and performer will be felt world-wide.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Helene Berr

The war-time diaries of a young French girl are being published.

Helene Berr was a young Jewish girl, living in Paris at the time of the German occupation, during World War II.

She kept a journal of her time in Paris until her capture and imprisonment. Although she and her family could have escaped and thus saved their own lives, they chose to remain behind and assist in the escape of young Jewish children.

The Telegraph has a three page article:
"She began writing in April 1942, when she was 21 and life was still relatively good for prosperous professionals like the Berrs.

But their initial belief that they would be protected by their centuries of Frenchness was pitifully eroded - first as they were forced to wear the yellow star, then as friends and colleagues were rounded up and stories filtered back of death and degradation.

They were arrested and deported to Auschwitz on her 23rd birthday, March 27. Antoinette Berr was gassed and her husband, Raymond, an inspiration to the other internees, was poisoned.

Hélène survived the death march from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen. Sick with typhus, she was beaten to death because she was too weak to get up from her bunk for reveille."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Woman Brutally Murdered

From The International News:

"Women from different walks of life here Tuesday strongly condemned the brutal murder of 17-year-old Taslim Solangi, who was thrown to dogs and was forced to give birth to her premature baby in Khairpur.

While talking to ‘The News’ they expressed their extreme reaction against the barbaric act and severely criticised government and Non-Government Organisations (NGO) for just raising slogans and doing nothing in practical.

Sabiha Aftab, a woman working at a private organisation, said that the incident was mocking the Constitution of Pakistan according to which such acts were unlawful and deserve severe punishment.“The culprits should be hanged to death so that nobody in future would ever dare to commit such horrendous crime,” she said, adding that the culprit should be hanged publicly for a lesson.

Another woman Ayesha Saleem said that a woman could better imagine the pain that the poor woman (Taslim) had gone through during forced delivery. “The people who were involved in the act should not be given the status of human beings as they are worst than animals in their practices,” she said.

She termed the incident the most shocking and barbaric that could ever happen in the face of this earth as far as the human rights especially the women rights are concerned.Fayeza Shah, a housewife, said that it was failure of our state that such incidents were taking place. “What our law enforcement agencies for?” She said.She said that it appears as if we were living in the time before the advent of Islam. “There is no rule prevalent here except the rule of jungle,” she said.

Maria Hafeez said that the silence over such issues by the government and other law enforcing agencies have increased such incidents. “The politicians and members of civil society just raise slogans for their own benefit, but nothing has been done so far,” she said.

Maria quoted the example of a previous barbaric incident in which five women buried alive and nothing has been done so far to punish the culprits. “The political workers and NGOs staged protests just to get fame through media and after that they preferred to sit quite,” she said.

Javeria Musa said that it was unfortunate that we were living in a society where women were treated worst than animals and nobody including the government ever bothered to take initiatives to curb such incidents in future.“It is the time when government and civil society organisations should join hands to take some solid steps to discourage such practices by properly pursuing the cases and punishing the culprits,” she said.

Javeria said that although the president of Pakistan has taken notice of the bone-chilling incident, yet he should also properly pursue the case to ensure punishment to the culprits involved in the incident."

Somali Woman Stoned to Death

From The Star:
"Somali Islamists have stoned to death a woman accused of adultery, witnesses said, the first such public killing by the militants for about two years.

The 23-year-old woman was placed in a hole up to her neck for the execution late on Monday in front of hundreds of people in a square of the southern port of Kismayu, which the Islamist insurgents captured in August.

Stones were hurled at her head and she was pulled out three times to see if she was dead, witnesses said.

"A woman in green veil and black mask was brought in a car as we waited to watch the merciless act of stoning," one local resident, Abdullahi Aden, told Reuters.

"We were told she submitted herself to be punished, yet we could see her screaming as she was forcefully bound, legs and hands. A relative of hers ran towards her, but the Islamists opened fire and killed a child."
Islamist leaders at the execution said the woman had broken Islamic law. They promised to punish the guard who had shot the child in the melee around the execution.

"We apologise for killing the child. And we promise we shall bring the one who opened fire before the courts and deal with him accordingly," one unnamed Islamist leader told the crowd.

The European Union's presidency condemned the stoning."

Edit (2/11/08): Reports have been coming in over the weekend that Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, the woman stoned to death for adultery after reporting she had been raped, was only 13yo.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Govt. Guilty of Slavery

In Niger, a young woman who has spent the past 12 years as a slave, has been successful in her action to take the country of Niger to court for failing to protect her.

From The Independent:
"A West African regional court of justice convicted the state of Niger today for failing to protect a 12-year-old girl from being sold into slavery in a case anti-slavery campaigners hope will set a precedent.

The regional ECOWAS Court of Justice ruled that Niger had failed in its obligations to protect Hadijatou Mani, who says she was sold into slavery in 1996 for around $500 and regularly beaten and sexually abused.

The Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), based in neighbouring Nigeria, upheld Mani's claim that the state had failed to protect her from slavery.

But the court, which has been sitting in Niger's capital Niamey to hear the case, dismissed a second plank of the case, which accused the government of legitimising slavery through customary laws that campaigners say discriminate against women.

London-based Anti-Slavery International says 43,000 people are enslaved in Niger despite the practice being officially outlawed in 2003. Activists say slavery is also common in other countries in the region, including Mauritania and Sudan. "

From the Times Online:
"Hadijatou Mani was sold into slavery at the age of 12. She was beaten, raped and even imprisoned for bigamy after she married a man other than her “master”.

Astonishingly her story is not that rare in Niger, but now it has a happy ending. In an historic ruling that will resonate across West Africa, where slavery is still rife, Ms Mani won a landmark case yesterday against the Niger Government for failing to protect her.

Ms Mani was sold to a man called Souleymane Naroua when she was 12 for about £300. For the next ten years she was forced to carry out domestic and agricultural work. She was raped at the age of 13 and forced to bear the children of her “master”.

In 2005 Ms Mani's “master” freed her and gave her a “liberation certificate”, but when she left him and tried to marry another man he claimed that they were already married. A local court found in her favour and she went ahead with the wedding.

For generations the children of a slave automatically became the property of their parents' “master”. Ms Mani said that one of the reasons she turned to the international court was to secure the freedom of her two children and ensure that they did not have to suffer the same fate."

From the International Herald Tribune:
"Slavery has long been tolerated in Niger. The Niamey government outlawed the practice in 2003, but it continues in the remote reaches of the vast, arid and impoverished nation that straddles the Sahara.

Antislavery organizations hailed the decision as an important victory against deeply entrenched social customs.

The Community Court of Justice, the entity that found Niger guilty, is a judicial arm of Ecowas, a political and trade group of West African nations. The court, which can sit in any of the member nations, was created in 2000 and has made a number of important rulings."

From BBC News:
"Now the former slave from Niger has won a landmark case against her government, which a regional West African court found had failed to protect her.

The court has ordered the government to pay her 10m CFA francs (£12,430; $19,750) in compensation.

The ruling could have broad implications for countries nearby where slavery is still practised, including Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Mali, according to observers.

Human rights organisations say more than 40,000 people are still in slavery in Niger, though the government says this figure is exaggerated.

Most live in conditions little changed over centuries, forced to look after animals or domestic work such as cooking and cleaning without pay.

Born into an established slave caste, they inherit a status from their mothers that it is almost impossible to shake off.

Romana Cacchioli, Africa Programme Coordinator for Anti-Slavery International, says this form of slavery began centuries ago when North African Berbers and Arabs raided the settlements of black Africans to the south and enslaved them.

Ilguilas Weila, head of the local human rights group Timidria, said the situation in Niger had barely changed since the country announced that it was banning slavery.

Slaves are kept in humiliating and degrading conditions, he said. They can be beaten, sold, or given away as wedding presents."

Let us all hope that this court ruling does have far-reaching consequences.

Famous Five

No, not the book series by fictional author, Enid Blyton, but five famous female spies.

Who are there - here is the list according to CNN:
1. Mata Hari: Margaretha Geertruida Zelle MacLeod (1876--1917) - Having spent time in Java with her husband, Captain Campbell MacLeod, Margaretha returned to Holland and sued for divorce. To make ends meet she took up exotic dancing and the name Mata Hari (meaning "the light of day" in Malay). With her sensual performances becoming the attraction of the major European cities came the men and the gifts for her favors. Many of these favors came from royalty and high-ranking French and German military officers.

2. Noor Inayat Khan: Khan was born in 1914 and at a young age moved with her family first to England and then to France. In 1940, Khan, along with her mother and sister, escaped back to England just before France surrendered to Germany. On September 13, 1944, Khan and three other female British spies were executed by the Nazi SS. In 1949, Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross.

3. Belle Boyd (aka "La Belle Rebelle"): In 1864, Confederate president Jefferson Davis asked Belle to carry letters for him to England. The Union Navy captured her ship, but the officer in charge fell in love with Belle and let her escape. The officer, Lieutenant Samuel Harding Jr., after being courtmartialed and discharged from the Navy, traveled to England, where he married Belle.

4. Elizabeth Van Lew: After developing a hatred for slavery, Elizabeth returned to Richmond and freed all her family's slaves. She also went so far as finding where her freed slaves' relatives were and purchased and freed them also. When the citizens of Richmond found out that Crazy Bet was an act, they shunned her. However, at her death, the state of Massachusetts placed a memorial marker on her grave.

5. Sarah Emma Edmonds (or Was It Frank Thompson?): In 1861, Frank (Sarah) enlisted in the Second Michigan Infantry and over the next two years not only fought in a number of Civil War battles, but also served as a spy for the Union Army. Solders in her unit called Frank "our woman" because of his feminine mannerisms and his extremely small boot size. However, none of her comrades ever figured out that Frank was really Sarah.

Who would have made your top five list.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Woman in Berlin

From The Age:
""Frau, komm"They mean "woman, come" and for an estimated 2 million women and girls at the end of World War II, it was the precursor to savage, multiple rapes.

Now Germany is searching for survivors of the hideous orgy of abuse committed by soldiers of the Soviet Red Army. The quest began in the same week as a film called A Woman in Berlin opened to the acclaim of critics.

The film is based on a book of the same name by Marta Hillers, an autobiographical account originally published in the 1950s, which describes her experiences between April and June 1945.

Most have hidden their agony and shame since those terrible days in 1945, when girls as young as seven and grandmothers as old as 90 were attacked by hordes of drunken, depraved and diseased soldiers.

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin saw rape as a weapon to crush German resistance. Whole legions of women lived in shattered, bombed-out buildings, skulking in the ruins like rats as the Soviet troops came for them. Suicides soared and Catholic priests in Berlin and other cities occupied by the Soviets counselled on abortion.

After more than 60 years, academics have begun recording the experiences of the victims. Since Monday, nine survivors have begun speaking to researchers with Professor Phillipp Kuwert of Greifswald University. "A systematic scientific processing of the trauma released by the rapes and the long-term silence over them is missing in our knowledge about them," he said.

In conjunction with the Cologne-based Medica Mondiale association, which works with traumatised women, his team hopes to interview hundreds of survivors for a lasting record of what occurred.

After starting their research in and around Berlin, the team will move to Ukraine and other areas of Eastern Europe to get the testimony and experiences of victims of German wartime rapists in the Nazi army and the SS.

But it was in eastern Germany in general, and in Berlin in particular, that rape became a sinister weapon in modern warfare."

Roberta O'Brien

Lieutenant Commander Roberta O'Brien is set to make history nest month when she takes command of the Irish Naval ship, the LE Aisling.

From the BBC News:
"A native of County Tipperary, Lt Com O'Brien is currently serving at Irish naval headquarters at Haulbowline.

Her appointment comes four years after a woman was first given command of a ship in the Royal Navy. Lieutenant Charlotte Atkinson assumed command of the HMS Brecon in 2004.

Lt Com O'Brien joined the naval service after leaving school and was one of two female cadets commissioned in 1997. She served as navigator on a 25,000-mile voyage to Asia on the LE Niamh in 2002.

An Irish defence department plan to replace three of the naval service's eight ships, including the Aisling, has been put on hold.

A department spokesperson said the lifespan of the ships would have to be extended."

Return of the Queen or King?

Chris Ayres from the Times Online reports on the latest royalty news out of Hawaii:

".... American monarchists are not lobbying for the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, but to be governed by one of the native Hawaiian descendants of Queen Lili'uokalani, deposed with the help of US troops in 1893 - a dastardly act for which President Clinton apologised."

Howeverver there are to rivals heirs to the long-vacant throne - Her Majesty Mahealani Kahau, and His Highness Akahi Nui.

Chris continues: "Supporters of both have attempted to storm the Iolani Palace in Honolulu and reoccupy it in recent weeks - a tactic marred only by King Nui's inability to locate the throne room. Queen Kahau went so far as to establish a government-in-exile in the palace's grounds, passing fantasy laws to dissolve the state and confiscate all banking assets.

The official state agency of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has gone so far as to lobby for federal legislation that would give native Hawaiians a form of self-government while returning some of their ancestral lands."

From The Star Online:
"Asean, China and other Asian countries should set up a network to collect and share data to prevent international crimes against women.

The network would also promote education and economic empowerment of women, said Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen.

She said gender issues had to be put into mainstream national and international planning €“ not in sideline discussions.

Dr Ng said women’s issues had to be the mainstay of most international meetings between governments and not just at women-led forums.

“It is obvious that to initiate change on gender-related issues, there must be discussion and agreement among all related parties, particularly our male counterparts, if gender equality is to achieved,” she said.

On the Malaysian scene, Dr Ng said women here were still under-represented in Parliament and the private business sector €“ with the number not even touching 30%.

Women representatives accounted for only 26.7% in the Dewan Negara and only 10.8% in the Dewan Rakyat.

Dr Ng said there were only two women Cabinet ministers and six women Deputy Ministers. Women members on boards of directors had dropped from 9.9% in 2005 to 5.3% in 2007.

“Initiatives are being intensified to create awareness among political leaders, the legislative and judiciary and high-level management officials,” she said at the second China-Asean High Level Women’s Forum on Tuesday."