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.